The stuff of life is plastic. At the same time this stuff never forgets. Mould it as you will, the old memories persist. All manner of horses, from ton Shires to dwarf Shetlands, have been bred up and down from those first wild ponies domesticated by primitive man. Yet to this day man has not bred out the kick of the horse. And I, who am composed of those first horse-tamers, have not had their red anger bred out of me.
I am man born of woman. My days are few, but the stuff of me is indestructible. I have been woman born of woman. I have been a woman and borne my children. And I shall be born again. Oh, incalculable times again shall I be born; and yet the stupid dolts about me think that by stretching my neck with a rope they will make me cease.
Yes, I shall be hanged . . . soon. This is the end of June. In a little while they will try to befool me. They will take me from this cell to the bath, according to the prison custom of the weekly bath. But I shall not be brought back to this cell. I shall be dressed outright in fresh clothes and be taken to the death-cell. There they will place the death-watch on me. Night or day, waking or sleeping, I shall be watched. I shall not be permitted to put my head under the blankets for fear I may anticipate the State by choking myself.
Always bright light will blaze upon me. And then, when they have well wearied me, they will lead me out one morning in a shirt without a collar and drop me through the trap. Oh, I know. The rope they will do it with is well-stretched. For many a month now the hangman of Folsom has been stretching it with heavy weights so as to take the spring out of it.
Yes, I shall drop far. They have cunning tables of calculations, like interest tables, that show the distance of the drop in relation to the victim’s weight. I am so emaciated that they will have to drop me far in order to break my neck. And then the onlookers will take their hats off, and as I swing the doctors will press their ears to my chest to count my fading heart-beats, and at last they will say that I am dead.
It is grotesque. It is the ridiculous effrontery of men-maggots who think they can kill me. I cannot die. I am immortal, as they are immortal; the difference is that I know it and they do not know it.
Pah! I was once a hangman, or an executioner, rather. Well I remember it! I used the sword, not the rope. The sword is the braver way, although all ways are equally inefficacious. Forsooth, as if spirit could be thrust through with steel or throttled by a rope!
Next to Oppenheimer and Morrell, who rotted with me through the years of darkness, I was considered the most dangerous prisoner in San Quentin. On the other hand I was considered the toughest—tougher even than Oppenheimer and Morrell. Of course by toughness I mean enduringness. Terrible as were the attempts to break them in body and in spirit, more terrible were the attempts to break me. And I endured. Dynamite or curtains had been Warden Atherton’s ultimatum. And in the end it was neither. I could not produce the dynamite, and Warden Atherton could not induce the curtains.