I believed I had been several days in my cell when I heard a key turn in the lock. The door opened, and a man bearing a basket and a lantern entered. He placed the basket on the ground and, with the lantern hung over his arm, unfastened the manacles of my wrists. In the basket were a boule of black bread and a stone jar of water. I eagerly grasped the jar, and never in my life has anything passed my lips that tasted so sweet as that draught.
“Don’t drink too much at one time,” said the guard, not unkindly. “It might drive you mad. A man went mad in this cell less than a month ago from drinking too much water.”
“How long had he been without it?” I asked of this cheering personage.
“Three days,” he responded.
“I did not know that men of the north could be so cruel as to keep a prisoner three days without water,” I said.
“It happened because the guard was drunk,” answered the fellow, laughing.
“I hope you will remain sober,” said I, not at all intending to be humorous, though the guard laughed.
“I was the guard,” he replied. “I did not intend to leave the prisoner without water, but, you see, I was dead drunk and did not know it.”
“Perhaps you have been drunk for the last three or four days since I have been here?” I asked.
He laughed boisterously.
“You here three or four days! Why, you are mad already! You have been here only over night.”
Well! I thought surely I was mad!
Suddenly the guard left me and closed the cell door. I called frantically to him, but I might as well have cried from the bottom of the sea.
After what seemed fully another week of waiting, the guard again came with bread and water. By that time my mind had cleared. I asked the guard to deliver a message to my Lord d’Hymbercourt and offered a large reward for the service. I begged him to say to Hymbercourt that his friends of The Mitre had been arrested and were now in prison. The guard willingly promised to deliver my message, but he did not keep his word, though I repeated my request many times and promised him any reward he might name when I should regain my liberty. With each visit he repeated his promise, but one day he laughed and said I was wasting words; that he would never see the reward and that in all probability I should never again see the light of day. His ominous words almost prostrated me, though again I say I suffered chiefly for Max’s sake. Could I have gained his liberty at the cost of my life, nay, even my soul, I should have been glad to do it.
But I will not further describe the tortures of my imprisonment. The greatest of them all was my ignorance of Max’s fate. It was a frightful ordeal, and I wonder that my reason survived it.
THE HOUSE UNDER THE WALL
To leave Max and myself in our underground dungeon, imprisoned for an unknown, uncommitted crime, while I narrate occurrences outside our prison walls looks like a romancer’s trick, but how else I am to go about telling this history I do not know. Yolanda is quite as important a personage in this narrative as Max and myself, and I must tell of her troubles as I learned of them long afterwards.