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were alike unavailing. His spirit seemed utterly untamable.
During the third year of his imprisonment, Jake was one day given a task in the shoe shop, and leather supplied him for the work. Long before the time for quitting, and when his own task was scarcely half done, Jake was seen to be idle. His overseer, expecting trouble, as the black was clearly under the influence of liquor, came to him and told him to go to work and finish his job. In a sulky tone he replied that he had no more leather. The truth of this statement was self evident as there was not a scrap of leather on his bench. Being questioned he at first declared that the supply given him in the morning was insufficient and that he had used it all. When this was disproved, he accused the other convicts at work in the same shop of stealing his leather for their work. But a thorough investigation disclosed the fact that from time to time throughout the day he had cut his leather into small pieces which he had smuggled into the prison stove and burned.
This was a serious offence and called for severe punishment. Flogging and the treadmill, however, seemingly had little terror for Jake, and it was at length decided to place him in the solitary cell for a week with bread and water diet. This would at least restrain him from active rebellion for that period and would give the prison authorities a much needed respite from the constant anxiety resulting therefrom. So, heavily ironed, the culprit was taken down into the mine and led to a cell at the remotest end of the caverns cut off from the rest of the mine by a thick stone wall and
heavy iron door of oak and iron. Here he was chained to the. solid rock with double fetters about his wrists and ankles, a single day's rations were placed within his reach and he was shut up in total darkness with nothing to do.
For a person of Jake's temperament the solitary cell was a more terrible punishment than the treadmill or the whipping post. He had but limited mental resources, and he craved society even though he were not allowed to talk. To be shut up in this impenetrable darkness with no one near him and nothing to occupy his hands or mind was unendurable.
The first moments, perhaps hours, of his incarceration were spent in the vain endeavor to break or unlock his fetters. Every part of the staples, chains and manacles were carefully examined with the tips of his fingers for some flaw, but without success. Then he tugged and jerked and pounded one part upon another until both wrists and ankles were sore. Still nothing was accomplished. The smith who forged the fetters and fixed the staples had done his work well and even the gigantic strength of the burly negro was not sufficient to loosen them at any point.
At length convinced of the futility of further efforts in this direction, he gave himself up to loud cursing; and as his deep bass voice awakened the echoes of his resonant cavern a new turn was given to his thoughts and for the time wrath gave place to childish curiosity. He spent some time amusing himself with the hollow sounds which he evoked, now singing, now shouting till he grew hoarse and at length tired of the novel experience.
Finally he sat down on the hard seat roughly hewn out of the solid wall of the cell and, groping about with his hands, found the bread that had been left with him, which he eagerly devoured. Whatever his temper or misfortunes, Jake always had a good appetite, and so long as he was hungry and food was within his reach, he never stopped to consider what he should do when the next meal time came and no food remained. The last crumb of food gone, he began to plot new schemes of revenge upon the guards who had shut him up in this dark place; but even that could not interest him long. Then he began to play with his fetters and to slide them up and down upon his legs. In a thoughtless moment he even drew the ankle irons up over the calves of his legs, supposing, if indeed he thought about the matter at all, that he could replace them at will. To pull them up was not an easy task; but by dint of persistence he finally succeeded, for he had no lack of time. But when he tried to reverse the process and restore them to their original position he found that quite another matter. No most careful working, though with untiring perseverance, could force the rigid iron rings over the large muscles of the calves; and the fetters that hung loosely about the ankles were uncomfortably tight when placed just below the knee.
Of course Jake was conscious of the discomfort. More than this he was angry at his inability to push the fetters down. But beyond that, he had no thought of serious results to follow. Many a time he had been less comfortable, so, weary with his self-imposed labors, he soon laid
him down upon the hard floor and quickly fell asleep.
Conscience had long ceased to be a factor in Jake's make-up, therefore we may safely assert that for a few hours he slept peacefully and dreamlessly as any weary man might sleep. No need of quieting draught after the tremendous exertions of the preceding hours. Though his bed was hard ,he was not unaccustomed to such resting places; and there was no noise to disturb his slumbers.
Towards morning he had a fearful dream. He had been at work in an old sawmill near his early home and had quarrelled with his fellow workmen. Overpowering him by force of numbers, they had bound him upon the car on which logs were placed for sawing, and he was gradually being drawn forward while the upright saw slowly cut off his legs just below the knees. Most horrible of all was the fact that while the saw kept continually cutting and tearing at the flesh it made no perceptible progress and the agony was prolonged with no prospect of coming to an end. How long this dreadful nightmare continued he did not know; but very early in the morning he awoke with the perspiration standing in great beads upon him to discover that the reality was unspeakably worse than the dream.
From the knees upwards excruciating pains were shooting through the muscles of both legs, while he was not conscious of possessing any feet. As soon as he was fully aroused to the situation, he discovered that the stricture of the fetters had caused the legs to swell, entirely cutting off the blood supply from the extremities. He felt his calves. They were hard and cold. He struck his feet with his iron handcuffs, and the blow caused no sensation. So far as any feeling was concerned they might have been of wood. On the other hand, the slightest motion of the knees or the most gentle pressure upon the flesh above the fetters caused intense pain.
Frantic with terror and anguish the lonely prisoner screamed for help and tore at his fetters to get them free. His cries were, however, as fruitless as his struggles since his fellow prisoners could not have heard him had they been in the mine, and it was now more than an hour since they had "heaved up" for duty in the shops above. Gradually the appalling truth dawned upon Jake's mind that he was alone in the heart of the solid rock nearly one hundred feet underground, and that there was no help for him until his keeper should come with food.
Then he settled down to helpless waiting. How slowly the hours dragged along, every hour seeming an age to the miserable victim of his own thoughtlessness enduring tortures surpassing the most fiendish inventions of the Spanish Inquisition. At length even his massive strength could endure no more, and Jake found a blessed relief in unconsciousness.
Hours passed. It was late in the afternoon, only a short time before the sending of the convicts below ground, when the warden brought the day's rations to the solitary cell. Cautiously he undid the fastenings of the door, and quickly stood back with drawn pistol ready, in case by any means his prisoner had freed himself from his shackles. The guards had learned to take no
chances with Jake. But this time care was unnecessary. Imagine the surprise of the warden on finding his hitherto unconquerable prisoner lying apparently lifeless upon the floor of the cell. Still he suspected a trick and approached with extreme caution. Letting the full light of his lantern shine upon the man's face he was quickly assured that here at least was no deception. The usual ebon black had turned to an ashen gray and the eyes were closed as if in death. Clearly the man was unconscious, while his legs, bare for some inches above the knees were horribly swollen and completely covered the fetters from view.
Hastily calling for help he carried the unfortunate fellow above ground and summoned Dr. Buck, the prison physician. Every effort was made to remove the fetters, but without success. As a last resort and as the only means of saving the prisoner's life, both legs were amputated above the fetters, and for many weeks Jake was kept in the hospital. For a time it was doubtful whether he could recover, but at length his iron constitution triumphed over the fearful strain that had been put upon it and the man came out of the hospital walking on a pair of wooden stumps.
The experience of that terrible night wrought a complete transformation in the spirit of the negro. Those long hours of indescribable suffering wholly subdued him as nothing else had been able to do. In less than twenty-four hours his hair had turned a snowy white and his fierce disposition was perfectly tamed. During his stay in the hospital he received the care of the attendants with genuine gratitude. And after his recovery, as he hobbled about on his wooden substitutes for legs, he was most submissive and obedient to every command of the prison officials: for he was fully convinced that the horrors of that night were a judgment of heaven upon his life of wickedness. At the next session of the Connecticut legislature a special enactment was passed giving Jake his liberty. The act was based upon the change in the man's temper and also upon the fact that his self-inflicted punishment was more than equivalent to the remaining years of his unserved term. So Jake went forth from Newgate a changed man. He had gained his freedom but in a manner utterly unexpected. For many years he lived in the neighborhood, working at his trade of cobbler or doing odd jobs for the farmers, and no one ever feared to trust him, nor was he ever known to indulge his old appetite for strong drink.
That was a red letter day in the history of Old Newgate when Dublin—Dublin, the Incorrigible—was brought to the prison. True, he was a desperate villain and caused the officers no end of trouble, furthermore he was wholly unscrupulous and would doubtless even have committed murder to secure his ends, yet he was so jovial and good natured in his villainy that he proved a real acquisition to the prison society and the savor of his name clung to the prison long after his final departure.
Not even the whipping post could long repress Dublin's blarney. And when some escapade worse than
common had doomed him to the treadmill he would solemnly assure the officer in charge that "it remoinded him of the toime whin he wuz cloimbing the Alpses." His Irish wit and irrepressible spirits often served as a good foil to the surly vindictiveness of the darkey Jake with whom he was on terms of the closest intimacy notwithstanding their contrasting dispositions. In fact they were equal partners in many a dark plot against the peace and safety of the prison authorities, and opinions were divided as to which of the two was the more dangerous criminal. Yet Dublin caused far less apprehension and uneasiness among the keepers than his mate; for, as one of them said, "It would be much pleasanter to be murdered outright by the jolly Irishman than to be compelled to live long in company with the brutal black."
Dublin's real name no one knew. Many doubted whether he knew it himself. He had borne so many aliases in the course of his checkered career that the original name had become lost in the crowd and was supposed to be forgotten. His unmistakable brogue as well as his ready wit left no doubt as to his Irish origin, and as the scenes of many of his stories were laid in the capital of his native isle his companions and keepers nicknamed him Dublin, and from that time he was known by no other name.
Burglary was the crime for which Dublin was committed to the state prison and his term was a long one. In company with another he had entered a house in one of the smaller Connecticut towns and, after securing a large sum of money and not a little other booty of considerable value, they had destroyed many things that they did not care to take in a spirit of wanton mischief, and finally had set fire to the place. The occupants of the house were an aged couple, and as they had been left bound and gagged they would both have perished in the flames but for the timely assistance of neighbors who came to their rescue.
It was surmised that Dublin came to this country to escape the penalty of crimes committed across the sea, but of that nothing was definitely known. Certain it is that he often entertained the group below stairs with thrilling accounts of his early adventures, and many a tyro in crime received lessons from him at these gatherings that served to confirm his evil tendencies and send him out into the world at the end of his brief term a mature and astute criminal. In conversation with his keepers, on the other hand, when not indulging in ribald jokes, Dublin posed as an innocent and guileless traveller who had seen a good deal of the world and who had been convicted of crime simply as the result of mistaken identity.
Unlike Jake, Dublin was a cheerful worker and seemed really to enjoy the labor required of him. At all events he seldom complained of the work and never rebelled against doing it nor openly shirked. His work, however, though done with apparent readiness and good will, was often of poor quality, and frequent and serious were the accidents to his tools. Hammer handles were always breaking, or hammer heads forever got loose and would fly in dangerous proximity to some of the guards while
Dublin was innocently pounding with all his might upon some refractory piece of iron. There were grave suspicions that most of these accidents were carefully planned and that his poor work was wilful; but the imperturbable good nature of the man together with his well feigned surprise and regret usually disarmed official wrath, while his readiness and wit in the invention of excuses saved him from many & punishment.
Once while he was at work in the nail shop, or smithery as it was called, Major Humphrey, the warden of the prison, reproved him sharply for making defective nails, and even threatened the treadmill if his work was not better done. "Why, Dublin," he said, "you never make two heads alike!" "I know it, sor," replied Dublin with a sly wink, "but wud ye be expectin' a fellow like me to do betther wurruk than the Almoighty? If he'd made our two heads aloike, I moight have been wearin' the warden's clothes instid of me own this day. But never you fear, Major Humphrey, I wouldn't be afther sendin' ye to the threadmill. Divil a bit of it. I'd jist say, 'Here, my poor fellow, is a drap of the craythur. Take a good pull now, for it'll do ye good and maybe stidy yer hand so that ye can do betther wurruk.'"
At the time of Dublin's introduction to the prison the wall had not yet been built. The enclosure was protected by high wooden palings surmounted with iron spikes. One day Dublin was sent from the smithery to another part of the institution to work, and while crossing the yard he managed to elude observation and steal away behind