Sixteen Months in Four German Prisons eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 298 pages of information about Sixteen Months in Four German Prisons.

CHAPTER X

TYING PRISONERS TO THE STAKE—­THE FAVOURITE PUNISHMENT

Until the coming of Major Bach at Sennelager confinement to cells constituted the general punishment for misdemeanours, the sentence varying according to the gravity of the offence.  But mere solitary confinement in a hole in which perpetual twilight prevailed during the day did not coincide with Major Bach’s principles of ruling with a rod of iron.  It was too humane; even the most savage sentence of “cells” did not inflict any physical pain upon the luckless prisoner.

Major Bach was a past-master in the grim art of conceiving new and novel methods to worry and punish those who were so unfortunate as to be under his thumb.  He was devilishly ingenious and fertile in the evolution of ways and means to make us feel our position as acutely as possible.  I really think that he must have lain awake for hours at night thinking out new schemes for inflicting punishment upon us, or else must have been possessed of an excellent and comprehensive encyclopaedic dictionary dealing with the uncanny and fiendish atrocities devised by the Chinese.  I do not doubt for a moment that, if he dared, he would have introduced some of the most ferocious tortures which for centuries have been characteristic of the Land of the Dragon.  We were absolutely helpless and completely in his hands.  He knew this full well and consequently, being a despot, he wielded autocratic power according to his peculiar lights as only a full-blooded Prussian can.

One evening the French military prisoners were being marched into camp at the conclusion of the day’s work.  Among them was a Zouave.  Half-starved from an insufficiency of food he could scarcely drag one foot before the other.  At last he dropped out from sheer fatigue.  The guard struck him with the butt end of his rifle and roughly ordered him to get up and keep step and pace with his comrades.  The Zouave pleaded that he really could not walk another step because he felt so weak and ill.  The guard thereupon pulled the wretched prisoner to his feet and gave him a heavy blow across his back.

This unwarranted action stung the Zouave to frenzy.  Clenching his teeth he sprung towards his tormentor with his fist raised in the air.  But second thoughts prevailing he refrained from delivering the blow which he had premeditated.  The menace, however, did not fail to exercise its effect upon the bullying guard who instantly became an arrant coward.  The Zouave’s action was so unexpected that the soldier was taken completely by surprise.  He commenced to yell as if he had been actually struck, and his vociferous curses, reaching the ears of his comrades, brought speedy assistance.  They rushed up, secured the Zouave, who was glaring fiercely at his tormentor, pinioned his arms behind him, and then marched him off to the Commanding Officer with all the speed they could command.

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Sixteen Months in Four German Prisons from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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