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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, November 17, 1912, Image 20

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1912-11-17/ed-1/seq-20/

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How eagerly I awaited the outcome! The result
was successful beyond my expectations.
J now began to work in earnest. Scratching my
arm with a piece of glass, 1 let the blood flow into
a spoon. All that now remained was to mix the
blood with a little water and with the reddish sedi
ment of my daily allowance of soup, made of buck
wheat or barley; and i had invented a practicable
and durable ink.
The next step was to compose a cipher that I
alone could understand. In this, also, I succeeded.
I was now able by a word to suggest a paragraph,
and to condense a chapter of experiences into a
line.
Record* in Human Blood
DURING the four years of my imprisonment, I
filled four handkerchiefs, hiding them at the
foot of my bed; and when I left that cold cell of
death for the warm land of the living, I took them
with me. Ten years have passed since my release;
and now I am translating these blood-stained rec
ords for the first time, in order that all the world
may hear with me "The Talk of the Walls."
For I had not been imprisoned long before I
began to hear mysterious sounds, as of some one
tapping on the wall, and now and then on the metal
heating tube. It sounded so much like the click of
the telegraph that I surmised that this was a method
of secret communication between the different cells.
Many times I tried to interpret this strange lan
guage; but, in spite of all my endeavors, I was un
able to arrive at the key, unaided.
One day, while taking my customary exercise in
the prison-yard, a ball made of bread crumbs rolled
to my feet. The significance of this did not at once
dawn upon me; but I could not shake off the feel
ing that it was in some way important. At last,
after I had made sure that no one was watching, I
stooped down and picked up the ball. I continued
to walk, as if nothing had happened; but as soon
as I got to my cell, I eagerly broke open my find
and discovered that it contained a small piece of
paper on which was written the secret code of the
prisoners. This comprised twenty-five different sig
nals, each of which consisted of a definite succession
of taps, long and short. For instance, a: 1/1. b: 1/2.
c: 1/3., etc.
For several days I occupied myself with practic
ing this simple code; and, when I felt that I was
able to use it, I began slowly to converse with my
neighbor on the left. He evidently understood that
I was a beginner, and was considerate enough to
speak with equal deliberation.
"Who are you? How long in prison? What
for?" I inquired.
"I am a political offender," he replied. "My
name is Zelin, from Moscow; studied philosophy;
arrested seven years ago. Who are you?"
I answered with the same candor with which he
had favored me.
The Gossip of the Lost
LIFE at once became full of interest. I was again
in touch with mankind and the world. I was
soon able to speak very rapidly with the other
prisoners. We discussed all sorts of subjects — the
long-bearded guard Vaska, and the smooth-faced
Vanka; the state of politics, literature and art; and,
above all, philosophy.
"Do you believe that there is a soul and a future
life?" asked the man in the cell below me — Father
Feodosi, an old monk who was accused of heresy.
I replied by asking his opinion. To this he re
sponded :
"There is a soul in every body, in every organism.
Even cities and countries have their particular souls.
But it is an entirely different principle from that
taught by the old religions."
He paused. It was apparent that the keepers were
watching him. They knew that the prisoners talked
with each other; but they could not prevent it. If
one was caught talking through the wall, he was
punished severely. I was lucky in never being
caught. Having kept quiet for half an hour, the
monk continued:
"The human soul is a universe in itself; it is
the mirror, as it were, of the greater universe
around us. In this miniature world are oceans
and rivers, valleys and mountains. It is populated
with thoughts. Armies are there, and battles. Every
invention, every noble action and crime, is born
there."
Father Feodosi did not talk much longer; for it
was already midnight. And now ensued for me one
of those terrible nights of brooding — a night of
THE SEMI-MONTHLY MAGAZINE SECTION
horrors, when the soul haunts, like a phantom, the
dim chambers of the past.
A few days later, I was sitting dejectedly on my
iron bench and gazing through the narrow window.
It was a rainy autumn evening. The wind howled
and whistled around the towers and the chimneys
of the gloomy prison. I heard a prisoner above me
telling his neighbor about the tragedy of his life,
and another above him informing his neighbor of
a fellow sufferer who had hanged himself to the
wall. Their talk had made me sorrowful, and the
world seemed like a desert where joy could never
come. While plunged in this mood of melancholy,
I heard the taps of my neighbor, Zelin. I went to
the wall and replied that I was listening.
"I feel that a ghastly phantom is going to strangle
me," he began.
"Imagination," I replied.
"Oh, no!" he answered. "I want you to take a
message to my bride, Zinaida, at Kislova; tell her
that under the corner stone of our cottage, 1 have
hidden three heavy keys. With these, she can open
the door of a certain cellar in the ruins of the
castle Tamarlan, which she knows. There, she will
find gold and jewels in large quantities. She does
not now know of their presence. Tell her to use
this wealth as she sees fit. Good-bye, friend, l T gh!
The phantom is approaching me. Its horrible fin
gers — its sneering mouth —"
He ceased, and I heard him no more. A few hours
later, I was aware of a loud shriek, the tramp of
feet in the halls; and then, a clang as of the shut
ting of a heavy door, followed by absolute silence.
I concluded that Zelin, becoming mad, as he ex
pected, had been taken to the insane ward. This
was indeed the case, and in time I learned of his
death. I must add that, after leaving prison, I did
not neglect to execute the trust committed to me.
Though it was never possible for me to go to Kislova
personally, I was able, through a friend, to deliver
the message.
My Three Dumb Friend*
DEPRIVED as I was of human companionship,
I was yet not wholly forsaken; for, during my
long imprisonment, I was consoled by the love of a
dove, a mouse and a fly. We were, in truth, great
friends, and shared both joys and sorrows. We had
a common language, the intuitive speech of the
heart and the affections. Not the lips, but the eyes,
were the organs of this wordless language, and we
had much to say to each other.
As I have already written, I first observed the
dove in the court-yard, and determined to attract
her to my cell. This I did by placing some bread
crumbs on the window sill. Having interested her
in this particular spot, I felt that she would be
likely to visit it again. The result of my endeavors
was that the little dove and I soon became devoted
friends. She always came in the early morning and
at twilight, and if the window was closed she would
tap on the pane with her beak until it was opened.
Sometimes, her gentle eyes were sad, as if she, too,
suffered; more often, they were glad, as if with
laughter. "Hu, hu, hu!" she would say, and when
I stroked her feathers she seemed truly grateful.
After a while, when I had gained her whole con
fidence, she would fly in and perch on the bed or
the table.
One day, it occurred to me that she might be
a carrier pigeon, and that I could use her as a
messenger. So, I tied around her neck a little piece
of paper, on which I had written these words:
"From a prisoner in solitary confinement. Please
answer by the dove, who visits me every day. Send
me some thin paper.— Prisoner 410."
The dove flew away with my letter, and I eagerly
awaited her return. The next morning, I heard the
usual "tap, tap!"; and, hurriedly opening the win
dow, I admitted my little messenger. A package
was attached to her neck. Feverishly untying the
string, with which it was bound, I opened it and
found a little bag, and a blue silk ribbon, on which
was written this reply to my message:
"The dove brought me your letter. She and her
little ones have a nest in our house. I enclose pencil
and paper. God help you.—Your friend, Miss
Liberty."
This was a great event in my monotonous life,
and the dove became my greatest benefactor. Nearly
every week, she brought me some little delicacy or
a letter from my unknown friend. One morning,
she brought me a beautiful flower — a lily — and
to this was attached a card, on which was written:
"Today is your mother's birthday. Try to look
beyond your present suffering. This will make you
strong. Good-bye.—- M iss Liberty."
My correspondent was a mystery, and so remains
to this day. 1 can not even imagine how she knew
that it was my mother's birthday. To her I owe
my life; for without her encouragement I should
have gone mad. To her, also, as will appear, Pjldre
my liberty.
Pessimist and Optimist
WHILE the eyes of the dove gave me the im
pression that she was a pessimist, those of the
mouse suggested the optimist. At the beginning of
our acquaintance, the mouse was very timid; she
would not eat the food I had placed on the floor
until 1 was some distance away. In a few weeks,
however, she was so tame that she would take the
food from my fingers. In a month or two, she lost
all her fear and would play with me, frolicing
about the floor like some miniature dog. She was
fond of being tickled and scratched on the back, and
I would stroke her fur as one strokes a cat.
Early in the morning, she would come from a
small hole under the water pipe. After listening
for a moment, she would run up the leg of fhe tabic.
Upon reaching the top, she would dart at the crumbs
or pieces of fat that I had placed there. When
she had finished her breakfast, she would jump upon
the bed and crawl under fhe blankets. At first, I
rather resented this intrusion. It did not impress
me as being particularly pleasant; for, as with most
people, the touch of a rodent had always made me
feel creepy. Hut when 1 understood the intimate
affection of the little animal, I could no longer re
pulse her. Sometimes, when I woke earlier than
usual, I would even wait for her. 1 named her
Tsakki. Our daily conversation was somewhat like
this:
"Tsakki, tell me how old you are?"
She would close her eyes and nod her little head,
seeming to say:
"I don't remember; for we don't measure time
as you do. We are not so stupid. It is
we live and are happy." Then, I would ask: "*W
"Tsakki, are you married or single?"
Wagging her tiny tail, she would reply — for so
I interpreted her look and attitude:
"I have my nest, my children and my beloved;
but 1 'ye never heard of marriage. We live, love
and are happy. Isn't that enoughf"
Once, Tsakki's eyes were sad, like those of a
weeping child. "Tsakki, what is the matter?" I
asked. "Have you lost one of your little ones?"
She seemed to shake her head and reply: "Soon
I shall be happy again." And happiness was, in
deed, her normal state.
She was fond of music. Often, I would hum some
tune, or play on a string, held taut between my fin
gers; and to this she would listen for hours. Tsakki
was the paragon of virtue in every way, except
when she was jealous of my third friend, the fly.
She, also, did not like it when I stroked the dove
and fed her from my hand; and often she bristled,
as if she would attack the dove with her sharp teeth.
Incredible as it may seem, I am convinced that
even the fly possessed intelligence. I would feed it
out of my hand, where I had placed a few grains
of sugar. After we became friends, it never stung
me but once. This was seven months after it first
visited my cell. I had not had any sugar for several
days with which to feed it, and it lighted, buzzing
and angry, on my face when I was asleep. Uncon
sciously, I slapped my face with my hand; and,
when I awoke, I found to my horror that I had
killed my little friend. Though I had lost my
the mouse and the dove still remained to console me.
I often wonder how Tsakki lived after I had left
my cell; I am sure she missed me.
More Talk of the Walls
""IATHO ARE you?" I one day telegraphed my
* * neighbor on the right.
"Michael Petroff," he replied. "Charged with the
murder of my betrothed, an actress of the InufTerial
Theater. I shot her in a fit of jealousy, while she
was driving with one of the licentious Grand
Dukes."
"Why did you not kill the Grand Duke?" I
inquired.
"When I found that she was untrue to me, I
lost my reason. I left St. Petersburg and lived
as a hermit in a monastery, seeking salvation for
my soul; but, day and night, I saw her face. I
could not forget her. I returned from my pilgrim
age; and, when I saw her with the Grand Duke, v
(Continued on Page 13)

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