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Adoniram Judson: Bruised But Not Forsaken

from The Story of Baptist Missions... Chapt. 15 by G. Winfred Hervey
A Mince-pie as a reminder of Home—Little Maria brought to the Death Prison—Verses on the occasion—The Hardships of the Prisoners increased—Their execution momentarily expected—The Governor of the North Gate—His disclosure of his attempt to save the prisoners from execution—The hostility of the Queen's brother—Mr. Judson attacked with a slow fever—The British Lion brought to the Prison in his royal cage—Permitted to starve to death—Mr. Judson gets permission to occupy the vacated cage—Mr. Judson translated to the Inclosure of the Governor of the North Gate—His removal to the Prison of Oung-pen-la—Mrs. Judson kept ignorant of time of his departure—Sets off to find him—The miseries of his Journey to the Prison—Mr. Judson preferred death to life—A Bengali saves him from perishing by the way—The prisoners expect speedy execution—Mrs. Judson's afflictions—Burmese girl taken down with Small-pox—Mr. Judson attacked with Fever—His wounded feet—Mrs. Judson at length very sick—Mr. Judson hobbles about from house to house to beg nursing for little Maria—The prisoners pass from great fear to great hope—Good news from Ava.

Adoniram JudsonOne day Mrs. Judson thought she would try and surprise her husband with something that would remind him of home. She hit upon the project of making for him a mince pie. But how could she make it? By the help of buffalo beef and plantains, she contrived something that looked like the pie he had, in brighter days, eaten in Plymouth and Bradford. The dinner was that day sent to the prison by the hand of a servant. She had intended it in all kindness; but when he saw it, memories of home overpowered him. He bowed his head upon his knees and wept like a child.

After the birth of Maria, her mother was absent from the prison for twenty days together; then the pale, puny infant was brought to its father to see and kiss for the first time. When Mrs. Judson reached the prison, her husband met her at the door. The interview sank deep into Mr. Judson's heart, and after they parted, he composed in his mind a number of touching verses addressed to his infant daughter; of which the following lines are a part:

"Why ope thy little eyes?
  What would my darling see?
Thy sorrowing mother's bending form?
  Thy father's agony?

Wouldst mark the dreadful sight
  Which stoutest hearts appal:
The stocks, the cord, the fatal sword,
  The torturing iron mall?

No, darling infant, no!
  Thou seest them not at all;
Thou only mark'st the rays of light
  Which flicker on the wall."

When little Maria was nearly two months old, her mother was one morning shocked by a message from her husband, saying that he and the other white prisoners were put into the inner prison in five pairs of fetters each; that his little bamboo room had been torn down, and his mat and pillow had been taken away from him by the jailors. Why this return to former severity? The news that Bandula had been defeated, and that the British army had left Rangoon and was advancing on the capital.

The situation of the prisoners was now very distressing. More than a hundred of them were shut up in one room, without any ventilation except through the cracks in the boards. It was the beginning of the hot season, and from excessive perspiration and loss of appetite, the white prisoners looked more like the dead than the living.

They now expected death. One evening a whisper went from one to another that they would be led out to execution that night at three o'clock. The effect on the prisoners can be better imagined than described. None of them were inclined to go to sleep. At length the hour of doom appeared at hand. They grew more and more sad. Some one suggested that they pray together, and Mr. Judson was requested to lead their devotions. Then he and probably each of the others prayed apart. And still they waited. Doubting and fearing, they yet watched every movement in the prison. At length they began to hope that the hour had passed, and that they had been deceived. Finally the door opened. The jailor came in, and they saw it was morning. They had indeed been cruelly deceived; whether through malice or mistake they could not learn. The head jailor made sport of their miseries.

Driven to desperation, Mrs. Judson determined to see the Governor of the North Gate, and although she had been forbidden to ask of him any favors for the prisoners, she boldly advanced into his audience-room and addressed him in a strain of pathetic expostulation. The old official's heart was melted, and he wept like a child. "I knew," said he, "you would make me feel. I therefore forbade your application. I do not wish to increase the sufferings of the prisoners. When I am ordered to execute them, the least that I can do is to put them out of sight." Three times, he said, he had been told by the Queen's brother to execute the white prisoners secretly. But he had refused to do so. He declared that he could not release the prisoners from their present confinement, and she must not ask it.

After continuing in the inner prison more than a month, Mr. Judson was attacked with a slow fever. About this time the prisoners were astonished by the arrival of a lion in a cage, which was placed in the prison yard, close against the principal building. The keepers would not give the animal any food. Was the poor starving lion a prisoner also? He really was. A year before the war, the King had received from some foreigner the present of a lion, and he had become a great favorite with him. As the British army advanced towards Ava, it was suggested, with strange glances, that the British bore a lion on their standard. The Queen's brother was positive that this lion was a demoniac charmer of the King's heart. The King's counsellors were brought to concur with the Queen's brother. At last the King was persuaded to send the animal to the death-prison, but commanded that it should not be slain without his decree. But the Queen's brother, without his knowledge, gave orders to the keepers not to give the animal any food. The prisoners had grown familiar with starvation and death; several of their number had died in the prison. But the companionship of a starving lion threw over them a new shadow of death. Daily did they see him wasting away with hunger and thirst. After dark, some women, weary perhaps with the lion's roaring, or the noise he made by struggling against the cage, would quietly thrust a piece of meat between the bars, or the keeper would now and then throw a pail of water over him.

But at last the poor animal died. The poor mass of skin and bones was carried forth and buried. It occurred to Mr. Judson that this cage would make an airy retreat for him in his sickness. Mrs. Judson obtained permission from the Governor to have her husband removed from the inner prison to this very public hospital. His emotions, in this suggestive place, must have been much like those of a man lying in his predestined coffin. Although Mr. Judson was thankful to God for the use of the lion's cage, yet his wife was not altogether satisfied. She accordingly fixed on a spot in the Governor's inclosure, opposite the prison gate, as the site of a little bamboo cabin. After putting it up, she incessantly begged the Governor to allow her to remove her husband from the cage to this more comfortable retreat. At last her importunities were successful.

When Mr. Judson had been in this comfortable bamboo hut two or three days, one morning the Governor sent for Mrs. Judson in a great haste. At first she was alarmed, but on arriving at the Governor's house she was agreeably disappointed to learn that he only wanted to consult her about his watch. He was unusually agreeable and talkative. When she left him to return to her room, one of the servants, pale with terror, came and told her that all the white prisoners had been carried away, but he knew not whither. Mrs. Judson ran from street to street inquiring of all she met, but no one could answer her. Some of the friends of the foreigners went to the place of execution, but found them not. At length she learned from the Governor that he had purposely detained her in talk about his watch, so that she might not witness the removal of her husband. The prisoners had been removed to Amarapoora. "You can do nothing for your husband," said the Governor; "take care of yourself." Towards night, however, she determined to set off the next morning for Amarapoora. Next morning she went down the river in quest of Mr. Judson. She took with her little Maria, then three months old, and two Burman children whom she had adopted, Mary and Abby Hasseltine, and a faithful old Bengali cook.

After reaching Amarapoora, almost used up with fatigue (she had held little Maria in her arms all the way from Ava), Mrs. Judson was told that the prisoners had been taken four miles farther, to a place called Oung-pen-la. Without loss of time she hastened forward to the prison, and at sun-down found her husband. His first words were, "Why have you come? I hoped you would not follow; for you cannot live here." The next morning Mr. Judson gave her an account of the brutal treatment he received on being taken out of the prison. As soon as Mrs. Judson had gone to the Governor's house, one of the jailors rushed into the little bamboo cabin, seized him by the arm, pulled him out, stripping him of all his clothes excepting his shirt and pantaloons. He tore off his chains, and tying a rope around his waist, dragged him to the court-house, where the other prisoners had previously been taken. They were then tied two-and-two, and delivered into the custody of an officer, who went before them on horse-back while his slaves drove the prisoners, each of the slaves holding a rope which connected each pair of prisoners. They had eight miles to walk. It was in May, one of the hottest months of the year; the sand and gravel were like burning coals to the feet of the prisoners. They had gone only half a mile when Mr. Judson's feet became so painfully blistered that, as they were crossing a little river, he ardently longed to throw himself into the water. Had he not regarded suicide as a sin, he would have drowned himself to end his bodily sufferings. At length his feet, already blistered, became perfectly destitute of skin. To pain was added the exhaustion resulting from fever and inability to swallow food. He was now ready to fall and perish, but was supported for a mile or two by being permitted to take hold of the shoulder of a stouter fellow-captive. Just at this moment the Bengali servant of the British merchant, Mr. Gouger, seeing the distresses of Mr. Judson, took off his turban, tore it in two, gave half to his master and half to Mr. Judson, which he instantly wrapped around his wounded feet. Mr. Judson was supported the rest of the way by taking hold of the shoulder of this servant, who cheerfully lent his assistance, and at times almost carried the feeble and tortured captive. A Greek, who was one of their number, died of fatigue and violence before reaching the prison at Oung-pen-la. When they arrived, and saw that the old prison was in ruins, they all as one, were of opinion that they were to be burnt as a sacrifice, according to the report that was previously circulated at Ava.

Mrs. Judson begged one of the jailors to procure her shelter for the night. He took her to his own house, which contained two little rooms, in one of which his family lived. The other, which was half full of grain, he offered to her. The next morning Mary, one of the little Burman girls, caught the smallpox. Her daughter Maria, only three mouths and a half old, caught the disease. Meanwhile Mr. Judson's fever continued, and for several days he was unable to move because of the mangled condition of his feet. He carried the marks of the journey, as well as those of the shackles, for the remainder of his life.

Watching, fatigue, poor food and poorer lodging, at length caused Mrs. Judson's health to give way. Little Maria, deprived of her usual nourishment, was consequently a great sufferer, and threatened with starvation. By making presents to the jailors, the helpless mother obtained leave for Mr. Judson daily to come out of the prison to carry the poor little wailing Maria from door to door, begging the mothers of pagan babies to spare her a little milk. His daily round as a beggar was painfully made. He could only shuffle along; for a short chain still connected his shackled feet.

Meanwhile the prisoners were preparing for death. But all of a sudden, intelligence arrived from Ava that their worst enemy, Paken Woon, one of the brothers of the King, having been suspected of high treason, had been suddenly executed. The white foreigners, as they afterwards ascertained, had been sent to Oung-pen-la for the express purpose of sacrificing them.


Copied for WholesomeWords.org from The Story of Baptist Missions in Foreign Lands... by G. Winfred Hervey. St. Louis: Chancy R. Barns, 1885.

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