It was worth a trial, anyway, I concluded. And, despite the sceptical attitude of the scientist that was mine, I believed. I had no doubt I could do what Morrell said he had done three times. Perhaps this faith that so easily possessed me was due to my extreme debility. Perhaps I was not strong enough to be sceptical. This was the hypothesis already suggested by Morrell. It was a conclusion of pure empiricism, and I, too, as you shall see, demonstrated it empirically.
And above all things, next morning Warden Atherton came into my cell on murder intent. With him were Captain Jamie, Doctor Jackson, Pie-Face Jones, and Al Hutchins. Al Hutchins was serving a forty-years’ sentence, and was in hopes of being pardoned out. For four years he had been head trusty of San Quentin. That this was a position of great power you will realize when I tell you that the graft alone of the head trusty was estimated at three thousand dollars a year. Wherefore Al Hutchins, in possession of ten or twelve thousand dollars and of the promise of a pardon, could be depended upon to do the Warden’s bidding blind.
I have just said that Warden Atherton came into my cell intent on murder. His face showed it. His actions proved it.
“Examine him,” he ordered Doctor Jackson.
That wretched apology of a creature stripped from me my dirt-encrusted shirt that I had worn since my entrance to solitary, and exposed my poor wasted body, the skin ridged like brown parchment over the ribs and sore-infested from the many bouts with the jacket. The examination was shamelessly perfunctory.
“Will he stand it?” the Warden demanded.
“Yes,” Doctor Jackson answered.
“How’s the heart?”
“You think he’ll stand ten days of it, Doc.?”
“I don’t believe it,” the Warden announced savagely. “But we’ll try it just the same.—Lie down, Standing.”
I obeyed, stretching myself face-downward on the flat-spread jacket. The Warden seemed to debate with himself for a moment.
“Roll over,” he commanded.
I made several efforts, but was too weak to succeed, and could only sprawl and squirm in my helplessness.
“Putting it on,” was Jackson’s comment.
“Well, he won’t have to put it on when I’m done with him,” said the Warden. “Lend him a hand. I can’t waste any more time on him.”
So they rolled me over on my back, where I stared up into Warden Atherton’s face.