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The Neighbors Infernal Dungeons.
BEFORE I pursue the course of my adventures, I. think it may not be uninteresting to my friend, to know, among what persons I was now living. I was one day surprised in the corridor, by the voice of a man asking me abruptly in the French language, if the negress was gone out? “Monsieur, la negresse est elle sortie?" I looked round in vain for the person or the place from whence this voice issued; but it was not until a following day, that I perceived fingers through a small hole in a step that led down from the gaoler's quarters to this wing which I inliabited. The light gave obliquely on the spot, and by reflection, so that it was scarcely visible; within was entire darkness: and when I approached my mouth to this orifice to speak, the smell was poisonous.
I asked the unhappy tenant of this cell, for what he had been immured there? and he answered, pour un marriage de la Republique; from which I at first concluded he had Jost his senses: but I found afterwards that he had actually married a French woman under the revolutionary forms when in France: that she had separated from him: that upon his return he had consulted the emigrant priests, who affirmed the marriage to be null: that another advantageous match offering, he had proposed, but not concluded the second marriage; for which crime, as he told me, he had been long in this dungeon. His anxiety about
the negress was, that if she had got out by means of an examination, he would have concluded himself to have been passed over, and to have no more hope. He begged of me to purchase him some bread, as for myself, offering me aš the same time the price of it through the hole, from which I judged that hunger was a part of his punishment. I do not take upon myself to say what might have been the de. gree of this unfortunate being's crime, but his punishment was certainly severe. I saw him when at night he had got a candle to pick the vermin off his body. His beard was long, and his aspect miserable. His dungeon was deep and narrow; and in a corner was a little door, through which he must have crept in, and which served now to thrust in his food. It was from the depth of this dungeon, and the effort he had to make in clinging by his fingers in order to raise his mouth to the orifice in the stair, that the utterance of that abrupt sentence, “La negresse est elle sortie," had such an extraordinary effect.
But this was not the only miserable being of my spe. cies, of whose sufferings I was forced to partake. There was under the corridor another inferno, into which the de. scent was by a trap-door, over which I had often walked without perceiving it. This dungeon was damp and dark, and so foul, that when the trap-door was opened twice in the day to give provisions to the wretch that inhabited it, the whole surrounding space was infected with a pestilential smell for a length of time, and yet the entire operaţion of opening and shutting, did not last more than half a minute; nothing further taking place on the occasion than the handing down one little earthen dish and receiving another, which was given up by the prisoner. But lest any thing should interrupt the fearful seclusion of tliig mortal from the rest of his species, or that any means should be conveyed to him of quitting an existence so terrible, his meal was regularly and diligently searched each day before his trap-door was opened; and even his bread torn asunder for fear of some concealment. It would be too tedious to detail the histories of my other fellow-prisoners. Those most immediately my neighbors, whose door gave into the corridor, were a Corsican smuggler, and a soldier imprisoned for stabbing with a knife.
The predecessor of the negress had been an American captain, called William Atkinson, from Philadelphia. His name was written with a pencil on the wall. He had been a length of time in secret, on account of a barrel of gunpowder which he had been charged with purchasing unduly, as belonging to the stores. At length, when he had no more money, the gaoler enquired of the minister who sent him there? what was to be done with him? and the minister, not recollecting his name, so totally had he been forgotten, he was let out.
The gentleman who came on the same night with me, and with whom I had conversed only by stealth, through the flaw in his door, was a Mr. Rivet, of Nantes, formerly consul-general of the Portuguese in France. It was not until a day or two before our departure, that we were permitted to see each other. But I found afterwards great resources in the company of this new fellow-sufferer, who was, for what reason I know not, to be sent on board the same vessel which was to transport nte against my will to France.
Kid-napped-Transported— Our Adieus-State affairs
AT length, after a series of abominations, which had now lasted six weeks, I was called upon suddenly one morning, by an ecrivan, a man of authority, to prepare for an immediate departure, and was scarcely allowed time to thrust my clothes into my trunks. In vain I demanded where I was going. I was desired to pay ten moidores for my passage: I forget whether any thing more, or how much, for my servant: but I recollect that the government paper money which remained in my hands, and which I had been obliged to take at par, was discounted at fifteen
cent. Small considerations these, it is true, in any other circumstances, but serious seeing the position I was in. As certainly, had I yielded to much extortion in the beginning and my little stock been sooner exhausted, I should have been destitute beyond measure, and perhaps have perished in that double-doored vault where I was first plunged, and from which it required money to redeem me.
I now remonstrated that I had very little remaining; and that if I went to a strange country as a prisoner, where I might have neither credit nor connexions, I must necessarily be exposed to great distress: and I begged at least to be informed where I was going, and to be allowed to make some arrangements. The officer replied in a peremptory and insulting strain, that if I had no money,
none would be taken from me, but that my trunks and my person should be searched. This necessarily produced some warmth on my part. And transported and trembling with rage, and perhaps fear (for he often repeated that he was not afraid of me) he called upon his followers who, I believe, were twenty in number, to tie me: how. ever, this as on the former occasion was not put in execution, and the whole scene ended in courtesy and complaisance.
The Danish vice-consul attended below, with a captain of his nation, to see the passage money paid. But noi. ther of them would inform me where we were to go. Mr. Rivet and his servant were in like manner treated, and we were all four taken out by a gate which led to the place of embarkation. It was through this gate that I had often observed files of convicts to be taken, who had been previously secured, each by an iron ring about his neck, and by this ring to an iron bar which held them altogether in
I was glad that we had no such shackles, as we should have thereby lost the opportunity of saluting our young ladies as we passed. They were looking on, as I hope, with eyes of tender compassion from their window, where they were placed together with their father and the elderly lady, their mother or governante, all of whom returned our salute politely. And I thought that the fair person, to whose compassion I laid claim, seemed touched with the hardships of my case.
I had found means, beg fore I left the prison, to learn a little of her history. She was by birth a Spaniard. Her father a gentleman of the court, being a volante or running footman to the prince of Brazil. She herself had passed some heavy hours in the melancholy spot from which I addressed my prayers to