My Ten Years' Imprisonment/Chapter 13
I let them laugh and said not a word; they hit at me again two or three times, but I was mute. "He will come no more near the window," said one, "he will hear nothing but the sighs of Maddalene; we have offended him with laughing." At length, the chief imposed silence upon the whole party, all amusing themselves at my expense. "Silence, beasts as you are; devil a bit you know what you are talking about. Our neighbour is none so long eared an animal as you imagine. You do not possess the power of reflection, no not you. I grin and joke; but afterwards I reflect. Every low-born clown can stamp and roar, as we do here. Grant a little more real cheerfulness, a spark more of charity, a bit more faith in the blessing of heaven;--what do you imagine that all this would be a sign of?" "Now, that I also reflect," replied one, "I fancy it would be a sign of being a little less of a brute."
"Bravo!" cried his leader, in a most stentorian howl! "now I begin to have some hope of you."
I was not overproud at being thus rated a LITTLE LESS OF A BRUTE than the rest; yet I felt a sort of pleasure that these wretched men had come to some agreement as to the importance of cultivating, in some degree, more benevolent sentiments.
I again approached the window, the chief called me, and I answered, hoping that I might now moralise with him in my own way. I was deceived; vulgar minds dislike serious reasoning; if some noble truth start up, they applaud for a moment, but the next withdraw their notice, or scruple not to attempt to shine by questioning, or aiming to place it in some ludicrous point of view.
I was next asked if I were imprisoned for debt?
"Perhaps you are paying the penalty of a false oath, then?"
"No, it is quite a different thing."
"An affair of love, most likely, I guess?"
"You have killed a man, mayhap?"
"It's for carbonarism, then?"
"And who are these carbonari?"
"I know so little of them, I cannot tell you."
Here a jailer interrupted us in great anger; and after commenting on the gross improprieties committed by my neighbours, he turned towards me, not with the gravity of a sbirro, but the air of a master: "For shame, sir, for shame! to think of talking to men of this stamp! do you know, sir, that they are all robbers?"
I reddened up, and then more deeply for having shown I blushed, and methought that to deign to converse with the unhappy of however lowly rank, was rather a mark of goodness than a fault.