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FORTY SHILLINGS FOR THE FRANCHISE.

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FORTY SHILLINGS FOR THE FRANCHISE. BY MARIE WINTON EVANS. VI. Dinner, in prison, was served at the early hour of 11.45 a.m., and was heralded by the entrance of a wardress with an order to get your plate ready." She then selected two tin cans from a large tray borne by two prison women, and, placing these, with a brown roll, on my table, closed the cell door with the customary bang. Peering cautiously into these cans, I discovered in one a peculiar kind of pea-soup—with strings of something resembling meat floating on the surface- and in the other two dirty-looking unpeeled potatoes. There was no knife nor fork, and, for a time, I thought the distribution of these articles might be within the sphere of duty of another attendant, and I had a feeling of disgust when I realised that prison regulations compelled the use of fingers only in eating the food. The enforced return of the primitive habits of savage life is a conspicuous feature of our prison discipline, and throws a flood of light upon the national character. So devoid is the national character of any innate sense of the decencies of life that what we are pleased to term good manners is an acquired habit-the privilege of the ruling classes. It is a veneered exterior, claimed as the monopoly of the favoured few. So completely are these acquirements recognised as the hall-mark of class distinction, that, when Society has a section of humanity at its mercy-like the pauper class, or the criminal class-these are withheld as rigorously as the principle of liberty itself. The stamp of inferiority has to be unmistakably inflicted upon the criminal, therefore the privilege of conforming to the amenities of life must be withheld, a forfeited right. Here, in our prison system, we find the national character naked and unashamed. The soup provided for us had a sickening smell, and after attempting to taste it by means of a wooden spoon that had no bowl, and resembled a child's toy spade, it had to be rejected. The potatoes were both decayed in parts, and, as the soup was too nauseating to be taken, the meal proved very insufficient, and my hunger, which by this time was keen, had to be appeased with the bread. The dinner hour was, for the prisoners, the most peaceful part of the day, for it was the only time when we could read, write, or rest without fear of constant intrusion. When that hour was over, the clanging of the heavy keys, and the slamming of doors, began again, this time to order us to put your tins outside." Although these tins were collected by third division prisoners, who do all the necessary work and drudgery connected with the prison, it would be relieving us of an opport- unity for official tyranny to allow these cans to be collected from our tables therefore we had to place them on the floor outside the cell door, whence they were then picked up by the women attendants. So keen is the official mind to inflict trivial indignities wherever possible. Soon afterwards the librarian came on her round, followed by two women bearing between them a basket of selected literature from the prison library. I learned from her that a first division prisoner could borrow one book every week but an examination of her stock left me undecided as to whether I should avail myself of this privilege. The range was limited, and the standard was low, but however I compromised by selecting a bound volume of magazines, and the number of the book, together with the date of entry, was entered on my library card. Afterwards, on turning over the leaves of my borrowed volume, I found a great number of them had been exorcised by the prison censor; and other pages, where the official mind had presumably been uncertain about the advisability of expurgating, were so covered with the prison stamp as to make reading impossible. While I was employed in looking through my book, the prison chaplain paid me a visit, and satisfied himself that my training in the rudiments of education had not been entirely neglected. He endeavoured to impart a little moral instruction, but finding I was not a very receptive pupil, he departed with the hope that the period of my sentence would be spent in a profitable manner Soon afterwards came another interrup- tion, and we were ordered to go down to exercise." As there were too many of us to take exercise in the same courtyard, we were divided into two groups, and the group to which I was attached was marched into a triangular yard—the base of the triangle being formed by the store-room, and the apex being the tower of the castle In this tower was situated the furnace for heating the building, and women were busily employed in carrying heavy baskets of coal and coke, and in feeding the furnace. Other prisoners, employed in other kinds of work, constantly passed to and fro, and all had wardresses in attendance. All the prisoners wore the same sullen look of helpless, enforced submission. They evinced no sign of curiosity at the sight of new faces, and showed no interest in anything that was going on around them, outwardly seeming to have succumbed to a state of dogged resigna- tion to the inevitable. Along the three sides of this triangle ran a paved pathway, and at distances of about six feet apart, we paced here for an hour, superintended by two wardresses, who enforced silence and saw that we did not get too near each other. Those who failed to maintain the regulated pace, fell in, and had to keep moving inside the triangle. At the end of an hour, during which we manoeuvred by means of gestures and whispers, to keep up a sort. of communication with each other, we were marched back again into our cells, and ordered to close the doors. Shortly afterwards the visiting magistrate came on his round, accompanied by a war- dress, to receive complaints or requests. But, as my experience of prison discipline was so short, I had no particular grievance to lay before him, and no request to make. Then came another wardress bringing round the newspapers, each first division prisoner being entitled to two, daily. But although I occasionally received those for which I asked, as a rule I had to accept those that were given. Afterwards, however, I learned that prisoners could, through the medium of a wardress, exchange papers with each other. The long, weary waiting of the previous day, the short night's rest, and the constant interruptions by officials all day, had so fatigued me that I resolved to take down the plank bed, and lie on it, as a preferable alternative to lying on the floor. No sooner, however, had I laid it on the floor, than a wardress opened the door, and ordered me to replace it. I endeavoured to explain to her how the fatigue of the previous days, and the short rest of the previous night, had tired all of us; but an appeal to her better nature was unavailing, and she curtly replied that that was no reason why I should infringe the regulations. Repeating her order to replace the bed, she remained while I obeyed.

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SOUTH WALES BUSINESS NOTES.

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