One Christmas, when Ben was a very small boy of thirteen, he dreamed that he was caught committing a crime, placed under arrest and thrust into jail. The gate was slammed shut and a tall officer leaned against the bars. He seemed to be gloating over the prisoner.
The day came when Ben was dragged into court. He felt utterly helpless. His emotions were spent and his strength was drained. He felt crushed with the sense of his guilt. The judge was in his big chair, but Ben could not look at him. He had no hope for mercy. He knew that justice would be his ruin.
The courthouse was packed with people gazing at him with looks that seemed to say, "Judge, give him the full benefit of the law and save society from further trouble." Finally the clerk announced the opening of the court. Ben's case came first.
The judge asked if there was anyone to represent Ben. "Represent" was a new word for Ben. He supposed his "representative" would be his executioner. The clerk answered that Ben had no one to represent him, so the judge appointed a lawyer to do so. A big lawyer arose and made his way slowly up the center aisle toward the cowering defendant.
Ben withered with fear, sank in his chair, and with fearful eyes looked up at his lawyer. He saw a strong, calm face, full of kindness. Surprised, Ben noticed a tear in the corner of his eye. That tear helped him wonderfully. The attorney sat down and slipped his arm around the lad. The pressure was so gentle, and yet so strong, it seemed to restore his trembling emotions and calm his shattered nerves. His breathing slowed and deepened. Bending down, the lawyer whispered, "My little friend, are you guilty?" Ben could not have lied to him if it had been to save his life.
With trembling voice, he answered, "Yes, Sir, I am guilty of much more than they know about."
"Well," he said, "do you not think it will be best to confess and throw yourself on the mercy of the court?"
Ben did not know what it meant to be thrown on the mercy of the court, but he felt sure that if the kind lawyer suggested it, it must be the best thing to do. He at once agreed. The lawyer gave him a gentle pat on the head and stood up facing the judge.
"Please, Your Honor," he said. "It has been my privilege to practice law for many years in Your Honor's court. I have been glad to notice that when the ends of justice can be secured, and society can be protected, it has been Your Honor's prerogative to show mercy. I thank the court for appointing me to plead in the interest of this little boy. He confesses his guilt. His heart is broken. He is full of contrition. He has been an orphan from his infancy and is dependent, penniless, and begs for compassion."
Ben reached out his soiled, lean fingers and took hold of his attorney's coat. He clung to him with the feeling that if he could hold on to him he would be pulled through. Ben thought the speech was finished but it was only the beginning. A deep stillness fell upon the crowd as the mellow voice filled the great room with a touching appeal. He spoke of orphan children, of their loneliness and desolation like lambs without a shepherd in a world full of wolves. He spoke until the harshness of the people softened. He spoke until tears trickled down the gruffest cheeks. Ben still clung to the coattail of his attorney, gazing at him and listening to his wonderful words. New life and hope were creeping into him.
"Please, Your Honor," the lawyer continued. "If in the spirit of mercy you will dismiss the charges and set the lad free, I pledge myself to become his guardian, to see to it that he has a home and protection. I will look after his education and I promise to give to society a good and useful citizen."
Ben could scarcely keep from crying aloud for joy. It seemed his heart would burst within him for gratitude.
In the midst of his address, his attorney, instead of addressing the judge as "Your Honor," said, "My Father." This shot a new thrill of hope through Ben. He knew that if the judge had appointed his own son to plead for him it was more likely that he would hear his pleadings and show him mercy. The crowd was weeping. It was a climactic moment in the trial when the lawyer exclaimed, "My Father, this child for whom I plead is my own brother." Ben saw at once that if the judge was the father of his attorney, and the attorney was his brother, then the judge was his father also! Ben could restrain himself no longer. He gave a great cry of joy, leaped from his seat, rushed up into the judge's stand and flung himself upon the judge's bosom. The judge embraced him with a tenderness that made him feel like a new creature. Holding Ben in his arms he stood up and said, "Rejoice with me, for my son who was dead is alive, who was lost is found." The entire crowd in the courthouse cheered. The people embraced each other. They shook hands with Ben, congratulated the attorney, and laughed, wept, and shouted for joy.