The process was soon finished, and the judge in his red robes stood up and sentenced us to the galleys for life; bidding us admire the mercy of the law to Outlanders, for had we been but Dutchmen, we should sure have hanged.

Then they took and marched us out of court, as well as we could walk for fetters, and Elzevir with a bleeding mouth. But as we passed the place where Aldobrand sat, he bows to me and says in English, "Your servant, Mr Trenchard. I wish you a good day, Sir John Trenchard - of Moonfleet, in Dorset." The jailer paused a moment, hearing Aldobrand speak us though not understanding what he said, so I had time to answer him:

"Good day, Sir Aldobrand, Liar, and Thief; and may the diamond bring you evil in this present life, and damnation in that which is to come."

So we parted from him, and at that same time departed from our liberty and from all joys of life.

We were fettered together with other prisoners in droves of six, our wrists manacled to a long bar, but I was put into a different gang from Elzevir. Thus we marched a ten days' journey into the country to a place called Ymeguen, where a royal fortress was building. That was a weary march for me, for "'twas January, with wet and miry roads, and I had little enough clothes upon my back to keep off rain and cold. On either side rode guards on horseback, with loaded flint-locks - across the saddlebow, and long whips in their hands with which they let fly at any laggard; though 'twas hard enough for men to walk where the mud was over the horses' fetlocks. I had no chance to speak to Elzevir all the journey, and indeed spoke nothing at all, for those to whom I was chained were brute beasts rather than men, and spoke only in Dutch to boot.

There was but little of the building of the fortress begun when we reached Ymeguen, and the task that we were set to was the digging of the trenches and other earthworks. I believe that there were five hundred men employed in this way, and all of them condemned like us to galley-work for life. We were divided into squads of twenty-five, but Elzevir was drafted to another squad and a different part of the workings, so I saw him no more except at odd times, now and again, when our gangs met, and we could exchange a word or two in passing.

Thus I had no solace of any company but my own, and was driven to thinking, and to occupy my mind with the recollection of the past. And at first the life of my boyhood, now lost for ever, was constantly present even in my dreams, and I would wake up thinking that I was at school again under Mr Glennie, or talking in the summer-house with Grace, or climbing Weatherbeech Hill with the salt Channel breeze singing through the trees. But alas! these things faded when I opened my eyes, and knew the foul- smelling wood-hut and floor of fetid straw where fifty of us lay in fetters every night. I say I dreamt these things at first, but by degrees remembrance grew blunted and the images less clear, and even these sweet, sad visions of the night came to me less often. Thus life became a weary round, in which month followed month, season followed season, year followed year, and brought always the same eternal profitless work. And yet the work was merciful, for it dulled the biting edge of thought, and the unchanging evenness of life gave wings to time.

In all the years the locusts ate for me at Ymeguen, there is but one thing I need speak of here. I had been there a week when I was loosed one morning from my irons, and taken from work into a little hut apart, where there stood a half-dozen of the guard, and in the midst a stout wooden chair with clamps and bands. A fire burned on the floor, and there was a fume and smoke that filled the air with a smell of burned meat. My heart misgave me when I saw that chair and fire, and smelt that sickly smell, for I guessed this was a torture room, and these the torturers waiting. They forced me into the chair and bound me there with lashings and a cramp about the head; and then one took a red-iron from the fire upon the floor, and tried it a little way from his hand to prove the heat. I had screwed up my heart to bear the pain as best I might, but when I saw that iron sighed for sheer relief because I knew it for only a branding tool, and not the torture. And so they branded me on the left cheek, setting the iron between

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.