I do not know how much salvage there is in these
two boys. I hate to say it in their presence, but what is there to look
forward to? I do not know but what your Honor would be merciful if you
tied a rope around their necks and let them die; merciful to them, but
not merciful to civilization, and not merciful to those who would be left
behind. To spend the balance of their days in prison is mighty little to
look forward to, if anything. Is it anything? They may have the hope that
as the years roll around they might be released. I do not know. I do not
know. I will be honest with this court as I have tried to be from the beginning.
I know that these boys are not fit to be at large. I believe they will
not be until they pass through the next stage of life, at forty-five or
fifty. Whether they will be then, I cannot tell. I am sure of this; that
I will not be here to help them. So far as I am concerned, it is over.
I would not tell this court that I do not hope
that some time, when life and age has changed their bodies, as it does,
and has changed their emotions, as it does,--that they may once more return
to life. I would be the last person on earth to close the door of hope
to any human being that lives, and least of all to my clients. But what
have they to look forward to? Nothing. And I think here of the stanzas
"Now hollow fires burn out to black,
And lights are fluttering low:
Square your shoulders, lift your pack
And leave your friends and go.
O never fear, lads, naught's to dread,
Look not to left nor right:
In all the endless road you tread
There's nothing but the night."
I care not, your Honor, whether the march
begins at the gallows or when the gates of Joliet close upon them, there
is nothing but the night, and that is little for any human being to expect.