Open main menu


It was a dark and gloomy place; instead of glass it had pasteboard for the windows; the walls were rendered more repulsive by being hung with some wretched attempts at painting, and when free from this lugubrious colour, were covered with inscriptions. These last gave the name and country of many an unhappy inmate, with the date of the fatal day of their captivity. Some consisted of lamentations on the perfidy of false friends, denouncing their own folly, or women, or the judge who condemned them. Among a few were brief sketches of the victims' lives; still fewer embraced moral maxims. I found the following words of Pascal: "Let those who attack religion learn first what religion is. Could it boast of commanding a direct view of the Deity, without veil or mystery, it would be to attack that religion to say, 'that there is nothing seen in the world which displays Him with such clear evidence.' But since it rather asserts that man is involved in darkness, far from God, who is hidden from human knowledge, insomuch as to give Himself the name in scripture of 'Deus absconditus,' what advantage can the enemies of religion derive when, neglecting, as they profess to do, the science of truth, they complain that the truth is not made apparent to them?" Lower down was written (the words of the same author), "It is not here a question of some trivial interest relating to a stranger; it applies to ourselves, and to all we possess. The immortality of the soul is a question of that deep and momentous importance to all, as to imply an utter loss of reason to rest totally indifferent as to the truth or the fallacy of the proposition." Another inscription was to this effect: "I bless the hour of my imprisonment; it has taught me to know the ingratitude of man, my own frailty, and the goodness of God." Close to these words again appeared the proud and desperate imprecations of one who signed himself an Atheist, and who launched his impieties against the Deity, as if he had forgotten that he had just before said there was no God. Then followed another column, reviling the cowardly fools, as they were termed, whom captivity had converted into fanatics. I one day pointed out these strange impieties to one of the jailers, and inquired who had written them? "I am glad I have found this," was the reply, "there are so many of them, and I have so little time to look for them;" and he took his knife, and began to erase it as fast as he could.

"Why do you do that?" I inquired of him.

"Because the poor devil who wrote it was condemned to death for a cold-blooded murder; he repented, and made us promise to do him this kindness."

"Heaven pardon him!" I exclaimed; "what was it he did?"

"Why, as he found he could not kill his enemy, he revenged himself by slaying the man's son, one of the finest boys you ever saw."

I was horror-struck. Could ferocity of disposition proceed to such lengths? and could a monster, capable of such a deed, hold the insulting language of a man superior to all human weaknesses? to murder the innocent, and a child!