(continued from Part 1)
Crowfeather was almost asleep when he heard a key turn in the lock of his cell. The door opened and an uncovered lantern shone light on the face of his father, the head jailer. The older man stepped aside from the door and motioned him out.
“Come on, son. I volunteered for the first watch tonight; no one else is around. You can leave and no one will stop you.”
Crowfeather stood up but did not approach the door. “Why are you doing this?” he asked. “They will kill you.”
“It is my guilt to bear, son,” the jailer said. “Your crimes are because of me and although I tried to evade them with the name O’Keefe, I will always be Henry Robins: your father and a thief.”
“I have not seen you in many years,” Crowfeather persisted. “You are not to blame for everything I have done since then. You were right when you said that you did not teach me to counterfeit. I am a man now, father. I can stand on my feet, as you see.”
“If you will not go for justice, then go as a last gift to your father,” the jailer said. “Go and reform your ways. It took a ruined knee to teach me honesty, but it will not for you, I hope.” He tossed a small pouch to Crowfeather, which clinked as he caught it.
“Come with me then,” Crowfeather said, moving towards the door at last. “There is no reason why you should stay here to undergo punishment. Let us go together.”
The jailer was already shaking his head, a sad smile on his face. “I would just slow you down, and in any case, the guilt must be paid. Go and sin no more. I will stay.”
* * *
Crandell, the deputy jailer came in to take the second watch of the night and found the head jailer not at his post. He walked the corridors and saw that the last cell door was slightly ajar. Inside he found the head jailer, sitting alone on the stone bench.
“Where is the prisoner?” Crandell asked in alarm.
“He is gone. I let him go. He was my son.”
“You are mad, sir! This is treason. You will be put to death.”
“Even if they transfer his punishment to me, I will take it calmly,” O’Keefe said.
“Do not even say such things,” Crandell said. “I would glad kill you here with my sword before I let you go through something that terrible.”
“Do not do that,” O’Keefe said. “Then the guilt would pass to you, since it would be seen as the murder of an innocent man. No, let me do this: the guilt must be paid.”
* * *
A month later, in a city fifty miles away, a man walked into an inn looking for work.
“What your name?” the innkeeper asked, sizing the man up with a critical look.
“Gabriel Robins,” the man said. “I just came in from the hill country. I can do anything you need me to do. I’m just looking for some good, honest work.”
“Well, there’s plenty of that around here. You can get to work mucking out the stables, if you wish. Hey, if you’ve just come from the hills, you must not have heard the news about the king’s head jailer. They beheaded him a week or so ago after he released one of his prisoners. They say his face shone with joy right before the axe came down. Do you know what his last words were?”
“He said, ‘May God bless him.’ Now what do you think of that?”
April 17th, 2013 at 12:10 pm
Sad story but enjoyable write.
April 17th, 2013 at 12:18 pm
🙂 I’m glad he didn’t get the oil, and that his son kept to his word.
Great ending. 🙂
April 17th, 2013 at 5:04 pm
That would have been pretty horrific. Even I’m not that hard on my characters. 🙂
April 17th, 2013 at 12:36 pm
Enjoyed this read very much…..Makes me want to read more! Touches the heart. paula
April 17th, 2013 at 5:04 pm
Thank you. 🙂
April 17th, 2013 at 1:06 pm
Very touching. I enjoy redemption stories, no matter how sad. Thanks for writing this.
April 17th, 2013 at 5:04 pm
Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.
April 17th, 2013 at 2:23 pm
April 17th, 2013 at 5:03 pm
Thank you. 🙂 *modest bow*
April 17th, 2013 at 3:45 pm
amazing end david but this greedy heart would have loved if they both were about to walk away! 😦
April 17th, 2013 at 4:59 pm
Yeah, me too, in a way, but I think this made a better story. I do edit these stories later for other uses so if you have any criticisms or suggestions, let me know anytime, for any story.
April 17th, 2013 at 5:20 pm
Thought Crowfeather would not leave the prison, but at least he kept his word in the end..such an engrossing story..Is it set in the 19th century?
April 17th, 2013 at 5:27 pm
I pictured it set in the middle ages, although I tried not to make any specific references to time period. Boiling as an execution was used in England up to the 16th century, I believe.
April 17th, 2013 at 11:29 pm
Just right. Thanks for another great story, David.
April 18th, 2013 at 12:22 am
Even though I had hoped for the jailer/father to get away too, it was a noble, righteous and very brave thing he did, but with a very sad ending to his death, but new start for his son. Sad, but I can see all that happening in a historical time period. Was the son and father American Indian, or Irish? I was just wondering what their real ethnic origin was. Great story, David.
April 18th, 2013 at 8:55 am
It took place somewhere on the British Isles, but I purposefully left it vague to keep from having to make it historically accurate. Glad you liked it though.
April 18th, 2013 at 9:22 am
Yes, and I did not even know it was based on a true story. That makes it all the sadder.
April 18th, 2013 at 9:48 am
Ah, I didn’t mean to make it sound like that, sorry. No, it was purely fiction. I just meant in my mind I set it there.
April 18th, 2013 at 11:53 am
Oh, Ok. Got it now. 🙂 So happy for the two characters that just stepped off the stage, alive and well. 🙂
April 18th, 2013 at 8:53 am
I liked it. I didn’t understand why counterfeiting was to be punished by boiling in oil when letting a prisoner go was beheading, though. Beheading is practically humane. I wonder what murder would have been punished with. And if one committed several crimes, which punishment would they choose? Just thinking… I would do anything to not be boiled in oil. (Or in anything else, actually.)
April 18th, 2013 at 9:47 am
Boiling was a common punishment for counterfeiters back in the day. If letting a prisoner go was treason, that has some pretty bad punishments for it too, but kings would often be generous for people who had served them well and reduce the sentence to beheading. I didn’t want anything too bad to happen to him.
April 20th, 2013 at 1:13 am
Great story……I enjoyed it…..:)