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two halves soon disappeared. A quarter of an hour was the time allotted for supper; most of the prisoners had it over in five minutes. Yet no man dared to touch his oakum before the time was up. Every one sat still awaiting the sound of the bell. At length the tinkle is heard, and presto! every finger is again busy. I worked hard too, but with little result. Those on my right and left had beaps of oakum between their legs before I had a good handful. The two men with whom I had shared my loaf seemed to be practised hands at the business, and got through it with ease. When they observed my limping progress they made signs for me to pass some of my stuff to them. I took the hint and contrived to pass a piece of my junk to each of them, in the same manner as I had passed the halves of my loaf. Both movements had to be gone through with circumspection, for both actions were prison crimes. Still I wrought hard. Between exertion and anxiety, the sweat was running from my
brow. Nevertheless, in spite of the help received, I still wanted a little of having my lot finished when the bell again rung, and all sat motionless, The human voice in command was again heard amongst us— "Rise
Three paces to your front, march !” In rising every one lifted his bundle of oakum carefully from the floor, carried it forward with him in one hand, his three-legged stool in the other. Two prisoners, called "wardsmen," each with a broom, then swept quickly along each side of the ward where the oakum-pickers had been sitting. "Three paces step back, march! Make down your beds. No noise ! ” In a second all hands were in as rapid motion as if the building had been on fire ; but noiseless as if they were in an infirmary. Those who had beds made them down ; those who had none turned down their iron bed. steads. At one end of the ward there was a pile of barrack-room tabletops. Every one not entitled to a bed for the night, carried away one of these tables and fixed it upon his bedstead. Then taking the old infantry great-coat out of the fold, he put it on, buttoned it up as if going on sentry, lay down on the table-top, and was in bed for the night.
Every prisoner in a military prison lies without either bed or bedding for the first seven nights after admission. After this period of wholesome probation, he is allowed a bed every second or alternate night. Thus, suppose you and I are alongside of each other. If you lie upon the bed to-night, and I upon the board, then I get the bed to-morrow night, and you take the board. Thus one bed serves two men.
I followed the rule of the “order." Not being entitled to a bed, I appropriated a board, put on the old great-coat I found in my berth, and lay down. It would be nturdering a fine poetical phrase to say that I lay with “my martial cloak around me,” for the cloak had as many patches on it as if it had been doing duty on the back of a gaberlunzie." The bell which set us a-bed-making was rung at a quarter to eight. At eighat o'clock its tinkling made every man, with or without bed, take up his position for the night. In a moment there was as little stir or life in the large hall as if it were tenantless. We did not lie with our heads all one way. In that position whispering might be carried on. If the man next me lay with his head towards the top of his bed, I lay with my head at the foot of mine, and so on all round the ward.
Precisely at eight o'clock, the chief of the prison, keys in hand, marched up one side of the ward and down the to see that all his lambs were in the fold. The warder on watch then locked us in, and took his post in the narrow passage outside for the night. Here, by the aid of lamps and loopholes, we were under his observation every minute throughout the long dark night; not a motion of a limb but could be seen by him. I lay very still. It is against the prison regulations to turn or tumble about at night, either on bed or board. But I could not sleep, the situation was so strange. After a while I grew very cold, especially about the feet. The man on my left, like myself, lay upon his stretching-board, close buttoned to the chin. But it happened to be bed-night with the man on my right. His body-clothes lay on the floor between us. I stretched out my hand slowly to draw up his jacket, meaning to cover my feet with it. But its owner, who chanced not to be asleep, seeing what I was about, made a sudden sign for me to let his jacket alone. You are a hard-hearted wretch, thought I to myself. But that was a false judgment. Self-preservation made the poor fellow stop me. I understood this a few days after, when I saw a prisoner get twenty-four hours' bread-and-water for allowing another to use his trousers for the same purpose that I meant to use my comrade's jacket. As the night wore on I dropped off into
. sleep, or rather an uncomfortable doze. It was not rest. Now and again I started up out of miserable dreams. Towards morning sleep deserted me altogether, I was so cold. Although I knew the day would bring - punishment, yet I longed for it. At length morning began to break and the prison lamps to burn dim. A bell rung. I made a start, thankfully, to rise ; but the man on my right whispered, “Don't move !"
What the bell had been rung for I could not divine; there was not a stir among the prisoners. In fifteen minutes more the bell rung again ; and, as if touched by an electric wire, every one was in active motion. Table-tops were lifted from the bedsteads and piled in their place at the end of the room; big. coats were unbuttoned and flung off; iron bedsteads were folded up; those who had enjoyed a bed for the night put on their clothes, and rolled op their beds. All were hurrying and bustling as they would have done on receipt of some awful summons. The only voice heard was that of the warder, saying in sullen, subdued tones, “No noise; no noise." A minute or two, and the bustle was all over, and every prisoner standing at " attention" in front of his berth. At one end of the ward there were three or four tubs of water, as many metal basins for washing in, tro shaving-boxes, a looking-glass, and three or four razors. Towards these the prisoners filed off by threes and fours ; lathered, shaved, washed, dried
, all in about three minutes, and then resumed their former position of 6 attention in front of their beds. I followed in my turn, and did as
others did. This cleaning business was under the individual superintendence of the warder in charge of the ward--a little sergeant belonging to the Rifle Brigade. His tongue went clatter clatter the whole time. In about ten minutes the whole twenty-four or twenty-five men of us were shaved, wasled, dressed, and standing again in front of our berths. The bell was again rung. On command, the man next the door marched oat; the man next him followed, at four paces distance, and so on, until we were all again formed up in single file down in the shot-shed.
Here we were ready for the commencement of another new day. Small parties of eight or ten each, in charge of warders, were despatched all over the prison and prison-yard on various duties. The men left sat down to pick oakum. By this time I was beginning to master the process, though it was always a hard push with me to complete my task. However, I was fortunate in never getting punished for my oakum as others frequently were.
When it drew near eight o'clock-breakfast-time--we got the commands: “ That'll do. Two paces to your front, march. Ranks right and left face" (one rank to the right face, the other to the left). " Quick march, double !” and we had a smart double round the sheds for about ten minutes to warm uis.
We then formed up. The senior warder numbered his men, and reported to the chief, who answered, " That's right,” and then gave the word, “ File off from the right," which we did as upon the previous evening, always, of courso, keeping the respectful four paces distance, marching as quick as quick-march can be, and stuck up like
When we entered the lobby of the ward building, upon a long table large tin dishes were piled up in rows, one above another, the bottom of each dish covered to the depth of about an inch and a half with oatmeal porridge. Behind the dishes stood a warder with a rod in his hand. As man after man passed him he touched a dish with the end of the rod; the man took up the dish and passed on without the slightest pause in his quick march. Every man, stirabout in hand, pushed on to his own berth. Here he found his stool and little table ready for him, and half a pint of milk in his pint measure. This was his breakfast. It soon disappeared, for in a military prison few can complain of loss of appetite. Why the dishes were made so large I could never understand. At a rough guess, I should say they could each hold half a gallon, and there was never more than a pint, or pint and a half in them, either of soup or stirabout.
An hour was allowed for breakfast. During this hour we were busy cleaning our leaden buttons, brushing our boots, polishing our tin measures and iron spoons, folding the old great-coats, and otherwise making everything neat and clean and I was going to say--comfortable, but that word will scarcely do here. Those who had been blessed with the luxury of a bed during the night, rolled up the bed-ticks, and folded the bed-clothes, with as much care and nicety as if the beds were intended for exhibition. The slightest flaw in the folding up of a bed might deprive a man of his supper. All these things completed, every prisoner
placed his oakum before him on his little table, carefully made up in a ball. I also placed my oakum before me; but it looked very rough when compared with the oakum spheres on the right and left of it. Having still some minutes to spare, I sat picking out coarse strings, opening them, and firing my bundle as I best could. While thus employed, a warder roared at me, “ What's that fellow doing there? This is not the time for picking oakum ; this is the breakfast hour.” Here I was again breaking the awful prison regulations, and did not know it. Although a man's oakum was not finished he dared not touch it, even if five minutes' work would sare him from losing his supper. At the expiration of the breakfast hour the bell rung and every man started to his feet, his bundle of cakum on one hand, his empty porridge-tin in the other. The prisoner next the door, when ordered, led off, the rest following in succession, at the everlasting four paces distance. As each prisoner passed the cookhouse door he dropped his porridge-dish. From the cookhouse to the shot-shed was but a step. Near the door of the latter stood the senior warder—who was not at all a bad man in his situation-with scales before him to weigh the oakum in the balance, and woe be to the man who was found wanting. No man was told the weight of his oakum. But there were two weights in the scale, one of which I took to be a pound, the other a half-pound. Every prisoner as he passed placed his bundle on the scale and went on, without pausing. If all right, he was allowed to go on and join the forming-up ranks ; if all wrong, he was called back. This was my case. “ Here, that man," and the oakum was handed back to me.
"Did you ever pick oakum before ?” “ No.” “Well, you'd better learn as soon as you can. If you don't, you have many a day's bread-and-water before yon." My oakum was tied up with my name attached and stowed away till the dinner hour. When all were formed up, we “marched round" about fifteen minutes, and then formed up again, Catholics in one shed, and Protestants in the other. Prayers are said every morning in a military prison. Though short, they are not few. Our place (the Protestants' place of worship) was in a ward where forms were arranged for the gres. coated, bareheaded worshippers ; a desk fixed for the chaplain, with a smaller one in front of that for the clerk. Half an hour was the time allowed daily for “ divine service." The prisoners must sit erect, looking right at the parson. You might search the whole of Christendom and not find a more silent, serious congregation. There is no examination of one another's dresses there, nor “ soft eyes looking love to eyes that speak again.” Warders were seated at every point, ready and willing to take note of the slightest irregularity. When all were seated, books in hand, the pastor of this little flock entered hurriedly from his room, and dropped on his knees at the desk. He seemed to be in a hurry. He began immediately, and went on, if not with great earnestness, with rery considerable rapidity. The earnestness with which the responses were read by the shaven congregation astonished me a little. There was no order compelling us to read, yet it was very generally done. Perhaps
the poor fellows read aloud just for the pleasure of hearing their own
take the pledge ?" “No, sir.” “Well, I'll see you again the day before you leave this. That'll do.” And so began and ended my interview with our spiritual adviser. It was part of his duty to see every prisoner, of Protestant principles, the morning after joining the “order," and again on the morning before quitting it. As a thing of course, the morning before leaving I again went into his presence, when I was asked the same question about taking the “ pledge,” and returned the same answer. From those who had been repeatedly in the prison I learned that the whole of the chaplain's private spiritual admonitions consisted of, “Will you take the pledge ? " The next part of our day's business was morning parade for the chief's inspection. We stood in one long, irregular, single rank, lining both sides of both sheds, back to back, facing outwards. I could hear one man get his supper stopped for not being “ properly shaved,” another receive the same mark of distinction for his boots being not properly polished,” and another ordered to get his “hair cut.” But, on the whole, the chief made his morning inspections very quietly. So far as I saw during my term of imprisonment, I should say he is a good man.
Morning parade over, we prepared for shot-drill, the grand part of the punishment. I feel some difficulty in conveying to the uninitiated, in mere words, a clear notion of the manner and severity of this punishment. Along the sheds wooden octagonal shaped blocks, about three inches in depth, were arranged in rows, eight blocks in each row. In the centre of each block there was a small cup, or hollow, in which a thirty-two pound shot can rest. At each end of the sheds there was a row of triple blocks ; that is, blocks made with three cups so as to hold three shots. Between tach row or rank of blocks and shot there was a distance of five paces.