Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/673

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657
THE EUROPEAN LAW OF TORTURE.

cal construction, and practical use of this machine. It is a wide ladder of two strong poles with many rounds, and is fixed in a slanting position from the stone floor to the dungeon wall. The culprit must climb to the upper part and sit down; his wrists, previously bound behind his back, are tied to the fifth round. His feet are bound with a rope, which is drawn down by a windlass attached to the base of the ladder. As he is pulled downward his arms are twisted upward behind him. When fully carried out the desired result was complete dislocation of the shoulders, as the explanatory notes declare with great exactness of detail.

The Scharfrichter must stand on the rack beside the Inquisit, keeping one hand on the breast and one on the back to watch his vital condition; as his accusations are persistently denied, he signals to the windlass-man to apply more force, til] at last the arms are wrenched into a straight line with the body, tearing the ligaments and breast muscles from their attachments. Then, if the martyr is a hero who can endure still more without denying his faith, the judge may proceed to the fourth grade, if in Bohemia, though it was forbidden in Austria.

The final grade, ignis, or burning, is figured by several cuts, showing torches of candles bound together, eight in each torch, lighted and burning brightly, which the tormentor, bending over his broken victim, applies to the naked sides of the chest until a space about seven inches in diameter is burned to a blackened crisp. The law strictly forbids burning a larger space, or any other region of the body; but it allows the assistants to aggravate the anguish of suspension and of racking by beating with scourges.

These four grades are extended by equivalent tortures of other forms, such as the Spanische Stiefel, or iron boots. Two broad iron plates, curved to fit the shin and calf and extending between the knee and ankle, are connected by screw bolts at the margin to compress them together. The inner surface of each is studded by thirty blunt nails, half an inch long, to be forced into the flesh and bones. To increase the pain in special cases these plates may be hammered upon. One of the most realistic engravings shows a group of inquisitors applying this boot to an old man, who seems visibly shrieking for relief by death.

Yet there was one heinous sin for which torture had no terrors. Suicide had need of a different chapter in our book of justice. When some poor hunted soul had broken the jail of the body, driven from the certain cruelties of this life to the imagined terrors of the next, the torturers were exasperated and disappointed; yet something must be done to relieve their brutal fury, just as the mob of to-day invariably "riddles with bullets" the corpse of its victim. The chapter on suicide proclaims the great