One prisoner of fifteen years had scratched verses upon his walls, and brief prose sentences--brief, but full of pathos. These spoke not of himself and his hard estate, but only of the shrine where his spirit fled the prison to worship--of home and the idols that were templed there. He never lived to see them.
The walls of these dungeons are as thick as some bed-chambers at home are wide--fifteen feet. We saw the damp, dismal cells in which two of Dumas' heroes passed their confinement--heroes of "Monte Cristo." It was here that the brave Abbe wrote a book with his own blood, with a pen made of a piece of iron hoop, and by the light of a lamp made out of shreds of cloth soaked in grease obtained from his food; and then dug through the thick wall with some trifling instrument which he wrought himself out of a stray piece of iron or table cutlery and freed Dantes from his chains. It was a pity that so many weeks of dreary labor should have come to naught at last.
They showed us the noisome cell where the celebrated "Iron Mask"--that ill-starred brother of a hardhearted king of France--was confined for a season before he was sent to hide the strange mystery of his life from the curious in the dungeons of Ste. Marguerite. The place had a far greater interest for us than it could have had if we had known beyond all question who the Iron Mask was, and what his history had been, and why this most unusual punishment had been meted out to him. Mystery! That was the charm. That speechless tongue, those prisoned features, that heart so freighted with unspoken troubles, and that breast so oppressed with its piteous secret had been here. These dank walls had known the man whose dolorous story is a sealed book forever! There was fascination in the spot.