I noticed that I was walking on smooth flags in place of cobble-stones, and I was sure we were in the bailey yard of the castle. Soon I was stopped again, a door opened, squeaking on its rusty hinges, and we began the descent of a narrow stairway. Twenty or thirty paces from the foot of the stairway we stopped while another door was opened. This, I felt sure, was the entrance to an underground cell, out of which God only knew if I should ever come alive. While I was being thrust through the door, I could not resist calling out, “Max—Max, for the love of God answer me if you hear!” I got no answer. Then I appealed to my guard:—
“Let me have one moment’s speech with him, only one moment. I will pay you a thousand crowns the day I am liberated if you grant me this favor.”
“No one is with you,” the man replied. “I would willingly earn the thousand crowns, but if they are to be paid when you are liberated, I fear I should starve waiting for them.”
With these comforting words they thrust me into the cell, manacled and blindfolded. I heard the door clang to; the rusty lock screeched venomously, and then I was alone in gravelike silence. I hardly, dared to take a step, for I knew these underground cells were honeycombed with death-traps. I could not grope about me with my hands, for they were tied, and I knew not what pitfall my feet might find.
How long I stood without moving I did not know; it might have been an hour or a day for all I could tell. I was almost stupefied by this misfortune into which I had led Max. I do not remember having thought at all of my own predicament. I cannot say that I suffered; I was benumbed. I remember wondering about Max and speculating vaguely on his fate, but for a time the thought did not move me. I also remember sinking to the floor, only half conscious of what I was doing, and then I must have swooned or slept.
When I recovered consciousness I rose to my feet. A step or two brought me against a damp stone wall. Three short paces in another direction, and once more I was against the wall. Then I stopped, turned my back to the reeking stone, and cursed the brutes that had treated me with such wanton cruelty. It was not brutal; it was human. No brute could feel it; only in the heart of man could it live.
By chafing the back of my head against the wall I succeeded in removing the bandage from my eyes. Though I was more comfortable, I was little better off, since I could see nothing in the pitiless black of my cell. I stretched my eyes, as one will in the dark, till they ached, but I could not see even an outline of the walls.
A burning thirst usually follows excitement, and after a time it came to me and grew while I thought upon it. My parched throat was almost closed, and I wondered if I were to be left to choke to death. I knew that in Spain and Italy such refinement of cruelty was oftened practised, but I felt sure that the Duke of Burgundy would not permit the infliction of so cruel a fate, did he know of it. But our captors were not Burgundians, and I doubted if the duke even knew of our imprisonment. I suffered intensely, though I believe I could have endured it with fortitude had I not known that Max was suffering a like fate.