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Arkansas Catholic
Litlte Rock, Arkansas
January 6, 1923     Arkansas Catholic
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January 6, 1923
 

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Thirty-six THE GUARDIAN A Lesson in Christmas By Colin O'Neil cure pardon for Nichols, for Judge (Written for N. C. W. C. Christmas Rhimer realized that he had involun-I Service) tarily placed his wife's illness as a[ Judge Joseph Rhimer--the Honor- barrier in the way of .that decision. I able Justice Joseph Rhimer of the Su- He had not relished the thought of J preme Court of the tate of New Nichols attempting to carry out at I York--might have been mistaken for this time the threat he had made fir- the traditionally genial figure of the lteen years ago from the dock. Yet I Man in the Moon, as he stood under because' he had determined not to ,be the green paper bell that hung above swayed by that slim selfishness, N.ich- the center window of the bay that ols was free. commanded a view of the town. The As he sat by his wife's bedskle in judge's home, set upon the height of that early evening the picture of a the hump-backed hill that was the I man'S emancipation ran through his spine of the little Hudson River town,' gave oportuity to envisage the sprawl- mincl. He couht see Robert Nichols, a dim, black figure bending against ed streets, which, now, half-submissive, tile white veil 'of the snow, hurrying to assaulting winter, apeared with lf.om the grim walls of the prison. tkeir small, unmelted mounds of snow Even after fifteen years, and with the and mud, like a macled proof pulled passage of hundreds of the captives by a drunken printer. The snow fell of society before him, he could re against the window in increasing member the face of Nichols; the st quantity which promised that the tling black eyes, tile high forehead, morrow--Christmas Day--would not the beak nose and sinister mouth. Now disappoint the greeting-card expecta- he could see it, grey as the prison tions. A grocery agon, burs'tihg walls, the eyes sunken and dull, the with its load, chugged laboriously up mouth fierce. That wa the Nich the hill, its tires slipping in ever ? l ypu after prison life. The Juigv other turn on a rail of the single- knew it, knew all types. Nichols track trolley line, its hood sweating would seek vengeance on Society. It melted snow-drops in comic parody might have been wiser to have re- of winter. The street, otherwise, was frained from interceding. For to deserted--although green paper bells, Nichols the voice of society was the similar to that bobbing restlessly as voice of the judge .who had sentenced the judge's round  head touched it, him. Judge Rhimer had taken his were in every window, chances in order to give Robert Nich- The atmosphere 'was unquesti, on- ols a chance. ably Yuletide, even if the dull lead He had taken an unusual interest " of the clouds foretold nothing of joy; in Robert Nichols. The man's case yet nobody could ever by any possi- had been exceptional, and the death bility have mistaken Judge Rhimer of his poor wife and disposition of re1  Santa Claus. Perhaps his some- the little three year old,laughter were what pudgy face might have been items duly recorded in the Judge's forced to the resemblance by skillful attachment of the required quantity small black book. And Nichols' threat of white whiskers; but the whiskers was not omittedalthough its ira- would certainly have been needed print was so deep and bold upon the for the judge's mouth and chin were Judge's memory that it scarcely need- ed memorandum. not altogether genial; eighteen years on the bench with a never-ending pro- The lamps were ,lit and the cloucis cession of always erring and some- knitted thicker and thicker quilts el times atrocious humanity had stif- snow. It was, indeed, Christmas Eve. fened what had once been pliable. But Streams of muffled figures hurried the judge's eyes, large and grey and through the streets, package laden; placed neatly in extraordinarily i sleigh bells tingled and youngsters wrinkled surroundings,, while not lbattled with the winter element. readily and persistently smiling, con-I A party of men stopped at Judge rained something more welcome than IRhimer's house, depositing there a che ready and persistent smileallarge sack of toys and eatables which quiet, probing light that penetrated/the Judge at first declined; but the spokesman reminded His Honor of his I everything in the eyes opposed to it, Jpromis e to play Santa Claus that ev-] good and bad. He was speculating before that win- ening at one of the city s few public dew; wondering whether he was jus- institutions. Judge Rhimer, by this l tiffed in the telephone conversation time obsessed with the portents of he had just had with the Governor of the night, demurred; but, his promise the State. The Governor had not en- was his promise; and as he finally thusiastically granted Judge Rhi- assented a strangely humorous gleam reef's request. The Governor was a Ughtened his face. young man of considerable prospects The committee departed with echo- in national politics, and this business ing salutations, and the Judge ate a of pardoning convicts had elements listless 'din.net, alone. His wife slept of danger on the eve of an election peacefully above. He permitted the year; especially where murderers servants to absent themselves for were concerned. Governors must re- their last minute Christmas errands. fleet upon such things. Now he sat silently in his front room, Judge Rhimer, perusing the little smoking one of the long stogies for I black book he kept always in the top which he was infamous in chambers i drawer of his study desk, had decid- Nichols' lean face appeared again, l ed that the thing must be done. The It might be a precaution to telephone time had arrived; even if it had ne- the police station and have an officer cessitated a personal visit to the Gee- on guard outsitte the house. Patrol- ernor with the most cogent appeal-- man Sheedy was passing now, thump- the thtng must be done. He had sac- ing his nightstick playfully in the rificed the liberty of other men whose mounting snow and glancing, as he freedon he had intended to gain for always did, towards the Judge's house them this,year as a Christmas gift, in in instinctive respect for authority order to have this pardon granted, that earned respect. But Judge Rhi- Every year in early Nvember the met dismissed the thought; deep in judge consulted the little black book his soul he had the comforting Chris. which contained a summarized record tian Conviction that hurt or death in of the men and women it had been his e good cause was martyrdom. What- duty to subject to punishment at the ever might befall he had done his hands of the commonwealth. Every duty by his fellowman according to Year at about the same time Judge his lights. Rhimer addressed his appeal to the The clock striking ten aroused the :reigning Governor. judge from a troubled doze, dimly   year, he had requested but one suggestive of important funerals. The i2:: lardon. He had desired many. There house was becoming chilled,in the ab- i; were, for instance, those two lads con- sence of the servants. Challenging i ' vieted of burglary at Newburg. They ibis bravery, Judge Rhimer trudged had served two years at Auburn; out of the room and through the kit- whichseemed almost sufficient. But chen made his way to the cellar they were very young; they could af- glad that an electric switch enabled ford another year of correction with- him to light up that heatful cavern out aly substantial injury to their before advancing through it to the future. The request that the Govern- furnace. He heaped it high with coal or had granted with no marked will- and, smiling thinly at his sneaking been a test--something sense of heroism, returned to the floor test for the Judge. I-Ha above. closed together as he e- His over-stimulated mind imagined membered the harsh voice of Robert the stealthy approach of a black, bent Nichols from the dock--Nichols whom figure with a face like the stone of a he had sentenced to prison for life. gey prison wall and hae in its heart. It had been a threat, a desperate Coming into the psssage way the threat. udge Rhimer could recall Judge floundered and seized a help. the man's pale, distorted face, his ful stair rail. For the grey face he q,uivertng white fist and the awful had dreamed of was pressed against i htmh in the ourt room as the threat the window of the first front door. Even in that moment Judge Rhimer quickly recovered Judge had wanted to curse the himself. Slowly, but withouf hesita. defense for not having tion, he advanced through the first advld his elient'to expect th doorway to the street door as the muffled bell buzzed. Two black eyes e prln doors were swing- stared eagerly at his approach, and alm to. return Robert Nichols to a mouth like a line of steer opened as had not seen for fifteen if to emit a curse. The Judge threw open the door' and Robert Nichols, of complaint reacbed bent and shivering, staggered pas: I abovo.t It wu his sick him. His eyes gla.tM wildly and fixed with worry; he a hawk-like hand emerd from the to. .  was, really, the coat podmt; but he thrust it in agait. that worritd him mint; St haa Judge Rhimer"s back was ,turned in atost decisive factor in the the act of closing,the do0r| this seem. hm: b dotermtmLtion to me- ed to halt the nviet'a immediate in. I tent. The Judge looked at him with i calm, penetrating eyes that belied his apprehension. "Step inside that room," he said gently, imiicating the room adjoining the front living roomhis library. His visitor's mouth did not appct to open so much as that the lips fell apart. "You know who I am?" he grunt- ed. "Yes," the Judge replied evenly. "l know you and where you have come from--and why you are here." It seemed like a snarl on the con- viet's face. But he oheyed the Juflge and went into the library. The dim light could not hide the utter pitiful- ness of his condition. Neatly enough clad, although insufficiently, his frame appeared wasted. Mud-grey hair, prison-clipped, showed under the edges of his hat; his face was angry with pallor and his eyes were bitter points. He surveyed the room uneas- ily, as if suspicious of witnesses and assailants. "I'm quite alone," the Judge ex- plained, seating himself in a rocker by his reading desk. "Take off your hat and sit down. I've been expect- ing you." The convict looked at the Judge in surprised doubt. Then he burst out in words like one who had suddenly found the gift of speech after en- forced dumbness. "I saw the cop at the end of the block," he blurted. "That's why I came straight to the front door." "I'm glad I was on hand to open it for you myself," said the Judge, pleasantly. The convict, in a mechanical act of respect, swept his hat off; his bullet head was scarred and threatening. He laid two bluish, hard hands on the desk and spoke harshly at the Judge. "I don't want none of that,' 'he warned. "You know what I'm here for. Fifteen years I've waited for this, and I'd have done it the min- ute I set eyes on you. I ain't afraid of any chair after fifteen years. You know what I want first. You're clev- er, ain't you; but I'm goin'to get it from you."- His brow clouded threatingly; he beat aside the Judge's calm gaze by the sheer violence of his stare. "You had better sit down while I" talk to you," the Judge invited. But the convict swung away from the ta- ble, stood as erect as years over a compulsory work bench permitted, and glared defiance. A loud and happy Christmas greeting exchanged between passers-by came dimly into th'em. " "Robert Nichols," the Judge said sJowly, leaning forward in his chair, fingers inerclasped, the light showing his profile dignified and judicial, "you were sentenced by me fifteen head slightly wrinkled with pain. "I years ago to prison for life. You lasked her to write you." killed a man in the heat of passion I "Well," Nichols mocked, "ask her and the jury found you guilty of! murder in the first degree with a lWhat replies she got. Just one: "Quit i your kiddin' on a prison postcard" strong recommendation for mercy." "But the letters continued," said the Nichols stood, hearing the cahn re- cital with a frozen snarl. "I sent you to prison for life," the Judge proceeded. "Not to the elec- tric chair." "You would have if you could," Nichols blurted. "Why didn't you do itinstead of hell for life?" "Robert Nichols," the Judge went on. "Your attorney probably advised you that the sentence would be not more than ten years. But I am not that kind of a judge." "You" oaths rushed to Nichols' trembling lips; but the Judge's even voice went on "Your attorney was not your judge. I was; I had a duty to per- form, and I did it. Now, Robert Nichols, you have been released, par- doned, before you expected it. You are not an old man, as years go forty-five. You can still make some- thing of your life." "If you think a sermon will save yours," Nichols sneered, and a hand plunged in his pocket. Judge Rhimer winced. He did noL relish even an ex-convict's lur. "You don't realize Nichols, that you are a zortunate man." A dry laugh answered him. "Yes," Nichols mocked, hoarsely. "Fifteen years in hell. Nobody to see me. Wife dead; kid gone, God knows where, and you bribing some sister this or that to write me holy letters to convert me. Think I don't know your game. You knew I was goin' to get out--so you thought this nun, or whatever she is, could give a corre- spondence course in forgive and for- get." He laughed again, bitterly. "I have no idea what the good wo- nmn wrote," said the Judge, his fore- Nelson Frank L.M. Samuel FRANK'S Dry Cleaners, Clothes Pressers and Dyers KING'S HOME-MADE PIES Made by KING DRUG CO. Sixteenth and Gaines LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS 308-310 W. THIRD STREET Phones 4-2142--4-2143 Duo fold Style-Plus Underwear Clothes GANS CLOTHING CO. "The House of Values" 108 Main Street LITTLE ROCK, ARK. Manhattan Shirts Packard Shoes Time is divided so you have eight hours for sleep; you like good clothes but they don' rest you. The most important thing for your health is good rest. This you can obtain by using one of our MATTRESSES. Insist on goods iff this line. 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