My Ten Years' Imprisonment/Chapter 12
Thus ended my romance with that poor unhappy one; yet it did not fail to produce me many sweet sensations during several weeks. Often, when steeped in melancholy, would her sweet calm voice breathe consolation to my spirit; when, dwelling on the meanness and ingratitude of mankind, I became irritated, and hated the world, the voice of Maddalene gently led me back to feelings of compassion and indulgence.
How I wish, poor, unknown, kind-hearted repentant one, that no heavy punishment may befall thee. And whatever thou shalt suffer, may it well avail thee, re-dignify thy nature, and teach thee to live and die to thy Saviour and thy Lord. Mayest thou meet compassion and respect from all around thee, as thou didst from me a stranger to thee. Mayest thou teach all who see thee thy gentle lesson of patience, sweetness, the love of virtue, and faith in God, with which thou didst inspire him who loved without having beheld thee. Perhaps I erred in thinking thee beautiful, but, sure I am, thou didst wear the beauty of the soul. Thy conversation, though spoken amidst grossness and corruption of every kind, was ever chaste and graceful; whilst others imprecated, thou didst bless; when eager in contention, thy sweet voice still pacified, like oil upon the troubled waters. If any noble mind hath read thy worth, and snatched thee from an evil career; hath assisted thee with delicacy, and wiped the tears from thy eyes, may every reward heaven can give be his portion, that of his children, and of his children's children!
Next to mine was another prison occupied by several men. I also heard THEIR conversation. One seemed of superior authority, not so much probably from any difference of rank, as owing to greater eloquence and boldness. He played, what may musically be termed, the first fiddle. He stormed himself, yet put to silence those who presumed to quarrel by his imperious voice. He dictated the tone of the society, and after some feeble efforts to throw off his authority they submitted, and gave the reins into his hands.
There was not a single one of those unhappy men who had a touch of that in him to soften the harshness of prison hours, to express one kindly sentiment, one emanation of religion, or of love. The chief of these neighbours of mine saluted me, and I replied. He asked me how I contrived to pass such a cursed dull life? I answered, that it was melancholy, to be sure; but no life was a cursed one to me, and that to our last hour, it was best to do all to procure oneself the pleasure of thinking and of loving.
"Explain, sir, explain what you mean!"
I explained, but was not understood. After many ingenious attempts, I determined to clear it up in the form of example, and had the courage to bring forward the extremely singular and moving effect produced upon me by the voice of Maddalene; when the magisterial head of the prison burst into a violent fit of laughter. "What is all that, what is that?" cried his companions. He then repeated my words with an air of burlesque; peals of laughter followed, and I there stood, in their eyes, the picture of a convicted blockhead.
As it is in prison, so it is in the world. Those who make it their wisdom to go into passions, to complain, to defy, to abuse, think that to pity, to love, to console yourself with gentle and beautiful thoughts and images, in accord with humanity and its great Author, is all mere folly.