Page:Speeches And Writings MKGandhi.djvu/29

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to place implicit trust in a small, limping, bent, but dogged man, coarsely dressed, and using a staff, painfully marching at the head of the straggling column, but with a serene and peaceful countenance, and a look of sureness and content. A nearer inspection of this strange figure discloses the same individual that we have already seen entering the forbidding portals of the "Fort," at Johannesburg. But how much older looking and care-worn! He has taken a vow to eat only one poor meal a day, until the iniquitous tax upon the honour and chastity of his brothers and sisters shall have been repealed. Upon him, as the foremost protagonist of the movement, has fallen the main burden and responsibility of organising one of the greatest and noblest protests against tyranny that the world has ever seen during the preceding seven years. Time has left its mark upon him.

Nine more years have passed. Bent down by the weight of years, but resolute of heart, that same figure is yet the cynosure of all eyes. The scene is laid now in Ahmedabad where thousands of Khadder-clad pilgrims march in solemn array to the court-house and await "the man of destiny." It was twelve noon on the 18th of March. That same frail figure in a loin cloth, with the dear old familiar smile of deep content, enters the court-house. The whole court suddenly rises to greet the illustrious prisoner. "This looks like a family gathering," says he with the benignant smile of his. The heart of the gathering throbs with alternate hopes and fears but the august prisoner, pure of heart and meek of spirit, is calm like the deep sea. In a moment the great trial had begun; and as the prisoner made his historic statement, tears were seen trickling down the cheeks of the stoutest of hearts "I wish to endorse all the blame that the Advocate~General has thrown on my shoulders," says he with perfect candour. "To preach disaffection to the existing system of Government has become almost a passion with me. * * * I do not ask for mercy. I do not plead any extenuating act. I am here therefore to invite and submit to the highest penalty that can be indicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime and what