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The father, by a great effort, got on his knees and prayed him to spare the child as the last request of a dying father; but the jailer spurned him with his foot and quitted the cell, closing the iron
door with a bang, and turning the ponderous key in the lock.
The poor father fell by the side of his wife, and both began to sob and bemoan the fate of their child, when another prisoner, called Gypsy Meg, who was scrubbing the corridor, came down to the
door of their cell and, rattling on the bars, whis. . pered:
“Don't ye go to givin' up in despair, gent and lady, for deliverance is coming. I heard of it."
“What mean you ?” asked Montreville.
“I don't know what it means; but Madge hear new prisoner talk. Just come—say all prisoners for debt be sent to America. Oglethorpe do it.”
The strange, incoherent words of Gypsy Meg could not be understood by Montreville and his wife, until next day, when Colonel Oglethorpe, attended by an American youth of fifteen or sixteen years, came to look upon the wretched family. Oglethorpe had seen many objects of misery and compassion; but never had he seen as deplorable a sight as this. Strong man as he was, he was melted to tears. He had known Montreville in better days and knew that a nobler being never lived. He had disappeared suddenly from social and business circles, and he had not seen or heard of him until he found him in this loathsome dungeon.
While the dying parents were listening with joy to the deliverance which had come for their child, Noah Stevens stood gazing into a pair of large dark eyes, which beamed upon him with soft tenderness. Soft eyes in that prison were like diamonds in a heap of rubbish. The face of the little maid was pale and haggard. She was clothed in rags, sur
rounded by filth and all that was unlovely, yet the windows of the soul were bright, clear and pure.
It was too late to save the parents; but, by promising to transport the maid to the new colony, her freedom was given her. Three days later, Charles Montreville and his wife breathed their last, and their benefactor had them buried in the same grave.
To the English government, Oglethorpe proposed to plant a colony of these unfortunate prisoners for debt in the unoccupied country below Savannah. His colleagues readily assented, and, in his report to the House of Commons, he laid his scheme for the colony before that body. Thie plan had the advantage of securing a promising domain to the British crown, which otherwise might fall to the Spaniards in Florida. The colony would also relieve the South Carolinians from danger, besides taking from prisons and placing in homes a large class of worthy British subjects. The king and parliament favored the project. American colonization had already proved fruitful to the English government. An appropriation was made for the object, and, on the 9th of June, 1732, the king granted a charter for founding the colony of Georgia; the name being given as a compliment to King George II., the reigning monarch of Great Britain.
Twenty-one “noblemen and gentlemen ” were entrusted with the management of the new settlement, who were constituted “ Trustees for settling and establishing the colony of Georgia.” One of these trustees was Oglethorpe. To them was given the powers of legislation for the colony for the space of twenty-one years, at the expiration of which time, a permanent government was to be established by the king, or his successor or successors, in accordance with British law and usage.
The great philanthropist, who had managed and planned this scheme for the benefit of the unfortunates of his realm, tendered his services to accompany emigrants and assist them in making their first settlement. Never did any project more completely commend itself to the hearts of the British people. Donations from all ranks and classes were freely given to assist the emigrants in planting comfortable homes in the wilderness. A generous gift was made by the Bank of England, and the House of Commons, from time to time, voted money, amounting in the aggregate, in the course of two years, to one hundred and sixty thousand. dollars. The trustees chose Lord Viscount Percival as president, and a code of regulations for the colony, with agreements and stipulations, was speedily prepared. Everything being in readiness, thirty-five families—amounting to one hundred
and twenty emigrants, men, women and children, sailed from Gravesend for Georgia in the ship Anne, of two hundred tons burden, on the 6th of November, 1732. Oglethorpe, who was commissioned as the first governor, went with them, and the Rev. Mr. Shubert, of the Church of England, also accompanied them as their spiritual guide. The trustees of the colony, in the hope of growing silk in Georgia, sent with these emigrants a dozen Piedemontese silk-workers.
Noah Stevens, who had indirectly been drawn into the plans of the colonists of Georgia, became so deeply interested in the scheme that he forgot his lofty ideas of graduating at Oxford, and determined to accompany them. His long line of noble ancestors had been colonists, and he inherited some of their spirit and fire. Writing to his father of his determination, he received a letter giving assent, and when the good ship Anne sailed from Gravesend for the southern shores of North America, he was one of the passengers.
The heart of the young American had been touched with all he had seen in London. The iron fetters of the debtor prisons had entered his very soul, and he shuddered when he thought of them. As the vessel bounded over the waves, he felt constrained to say:
“ America is the home of free. There are no