My Ten Years' Imprisonment/Chapter 10

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185612My Ten Years' Imprisonment — Chapter 10Thomas RoscoeSilvio Pellico


In my new prison, black and filthy to an extreme, I sadly missed the society of my little dumb friend. I stood for hours in anxious, weary mood, at the window which looked over a gallery, on the other side of which could be seen the extremity of the court-yard, and the window of my former cell. Who had succeeded me there? I could discern his figure, as he paced quickly to and fro, apparently in violent agitation. Two or three days subsequently, I perceived that he had got writing materials, and remained busied at his little table the whole of the day. At length I recognised him. He came forth accompanied by his jailer; he was going to be examined, when I saw he was no other than Melchiorre Gioja. {4} It went to my heart: "You, too, noble, excellent man, have not escaped!" Yet he was more fortunate than I. After a few months' captivity, he regained his liberty. To behold any really estimable being always does me good; it affords me pleasant matter for reflection, and for esteem--both of great advantage. I could have laid down my life to save such a man from captivity; yet merely to see him was some consolation to me. After regarding him intently, some time, to ascertain if he were tranquil or agitated, I offered up a heart-felt prayer for his deliverance; I felt my spirits revived, a greater flow of ideas, and greater satisfaction with myself. Such an incident as this has a charm for utter solitude, of which you can form no idea without experiencing it. A poor dumb boy had before supplied me with this real enjoyment, and I now derived it from a distant view of a man of distinguished merit.

Perhaps some one of the jailers had informed him where I was. One morning, on opening his window, he waved his handkerchief in token of salutation, and I replied in the same manner. I need not describe the pleasure I felt; it appeared as if we were no longer separated; and we discoursed in the silent intercourse of the spirit, which, when every other medium is cut off, in the least look, gesture, or signal of any kind, can make itself comprehended and felt.

It was with no small pleasure I anticipated a continuation of this friendly communication. Day after day, however, went on, and I was never more gratified by the appearance of the same favourite signals. Yet I frequently saw my friend at his window; I waved my handkerchief, but in vain; he answered it no more. I was now informed by our jailers, that Gioja had been strictly prohibited from exciting my notice, or replying to it in any manner. Notwithstanding, he still continued to look at me, and I at him, and in this way, we conversed upon a great variety of subjects, which helped to keep us alive.