The Jacket (Star-Rover) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 310 pages of information about The Jacket (Star-Rover).

By evening I was able to crawl about my cell, but not yet could I stand up.  I drank much water, and cleansed myself as well as I could; but not until next day could I bring myself to eat, and then only by deliberate force of my will.

The program me, as given me by Warden Atherton, was that I was to rest up and recuperate for a few days, and then, if in the meantime I had not confessed to the hiding-place of the dynamite, I should be given another ten days in the jacket.

“Sorry to cause you so much trouble, Warden,” I had said in reply.  “It’s a pity I don’t die in the jacket and so put you out of your misery.”

At this time I doubt that I weighed an ounce over ninety pounds.  Yet, two years before, when the doors of San Quentin first closed on me, I had weighed one hundred and sixty-five pounds.  It seems incredible that there was another ounce I could part with and still live.  Yet in the months that followed, ounce by ounce I was reduced until I know I must have weighed nearer eighty than ninety pounds.  I do know, after I managed my escape from solitary and struck the guard Thurston on the nose, that before they took me to San Rafael for trial, while I was being cleaned and shaved I weighed eighty-nine pounds.

There are those who wonder how men grow hard.  Warden Atherton was a hard man.  He made me hard, and my very hardness reacted on him and made him harder.  And yet he never succeeded in killing me.  It required the state law of California, a hanging judge, and an unpardoning governor to send me to the scaffold for striking a prison guard with my fist.  I shall always contend that that guard had a nose most easily bleedable.  I was a bat-eyed, tottery skeleton at the time.  I sometimes wonder if his nose really did bleed.  Of course he swore it did, on the witness stand.  But I have known prison guards take oath to worse perjuries than that.

Ed Morrell was eager to know if I had succeeded with the experiment; but when he attempted to talk with me he was shut up by Smith, the guard who happened to be on duty in solitary.

“That’s all right, Ed,” I rapped to him.  “You and Jake keep quiet, and I’ll tell you about it.  Smith can’t prevent you from listening, and he can’t prevent me from talking.  They have done their worst, and I am still here.”

“Cut that out, Standing!” Smith bellowed at me from the corridor on which all the cells opened.

Smith was a peculiarly saturnine individual, by far the most cruel and vindictive of our guards.  We used to canvass whether his wife bullied him or whether he had chronic indigestion.

I continued rapping with my knuckles, and he came to the wicket to glare in at me.

“I told you to out that out,” he snarled.

“Sorry,” I said suavely.  “But I have a sort of premonition that I shall go right on rapping.  And—­er—­excuse me for asking a personal question—­what are you going to do about it?”

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The Jacket (Star-Rover) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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