TEXTS FROM ENGLISH RELIGIOUS HISTORY
THE FEMALE WARRIOR
interesting narrative of the sufferings,
The following lines may appear strange, and perhaps incredible to you at first; still they are not the less true. To use the language of Byron, "Truth is strange, stranger than fiction." And I think upon an attentive perusal of the following pages you will find it, at least for this time, verified.
What I have suffered, pen can but faintly portray. But I have set myself down to the task; and as far as I am able, will endeavor to give you a clear, and at least correct, account of my privations and sufferings.
I shall not trouble you with a long and detailed account of my birth and education, which are matters of but little importance compared to what I am about to relate, and which would weary me in writing as well as you in reading.
Suffice it therefore to say that I was born in the city of Mobile, Ala., in the year 1822; making me at present time 21 years of age.
My father was once a wealthy merchant, and did an extensive business there for several years. But owing to some speculative scheme which he engaged in, and the great money pressure of 37, which all will recollect, he, like thousands of others, was completely ruined. My mother dying about the same time, overwhelmed him with grief, and he determined on removing from a place which had been so unfortunate to him and was connected with so many associations, recalling to his mind and contrasting the present with the past.
Accordingly, we removed to the village of Galveston, in Texas. Our family consisted of but three persons, my father, myself (who, by the way, was an only child,) and a black servant, who had lived in our family in more prosperous days, and who insisted on accompanying us. Here my father engaged in a retail business, which yielded him a fair compensation, and our prospects became again somewhat cheering.
But on the breaking out of the war between Texas and Mexico, he deemed it his duty to enlist, and assist in protecting his adopted country from tyrannic oppression. To this I made no objection, for I held it, and do still hold it, to be a duty both binding by the laws of God and man, for every citizen to aid his country by every means in his power, to drive back her tyrannical invaders, and erect the noble standard of liberty, from which the banner of freedom triumphantly may wave o'er all the land.
I took an affectionate, alas! A final leave of my father. Poor man! He now fills a soldier's grave.
News was brought me of his death by one who saw him fall; to whom he told my place of residence, and requested him to bear the sad intelligence. His last words were, "Sir, you will find my daughter as I have described; say to her, her father died defending the glorious cause of liberty. Tell her also, to serve her country by whatever means fortune may place in her power. I can say no more; farewell."
When this news reached me, I was for a short time completely overpowered; and felt that I was truly alone in the world, without a friend or protector. For several days my mind was wandering and unsettled. I knew not what to do or how to dispose of myself. Then came my father's words ringing in my ears: "Serve your country!" I felt that I ought to do something, but what, I knew not.
Thoughts like these perplexed me for some time, until at length I resolved to join the army, then rallying under General Houston. This to you, reader, will undoubtedly seem a strange and novel idea, and truly it was. But in the spirit I then felt, it mattered but little with me what came of it. The very novelty gave it an added charm.
I longed for excitement - something to drive away the gloomy cloud that was hovering over my mind. This I thought would gain my end, and what would be still far better, at the same time be assisting my country.
My mind once made up, and with me there was no hesitation. I believed in a maxim which was strictly adhered to by my father, "When you would choose, consider well. When chosen, never halt between two opinions." I mention this, merely to show with what firmness I undertook my purpose, for had my mind been wavering, I should never have completed such an arduous undertaking. I told the black, who still lived with me, that my mind had become so depressed since my father's death, that I intended travelling to regain my health, both of body and mind.
She tried by every means in her power to have me give consent for her to accompany me, but I steadfastly refused, nor did I dare to let her know of my real intentions, for she would have exposed the whole scheme - for the sake of saving me from ruin. When she found she could not prevail on me to consent, she cried like a child. I felt sorry for her, but my mind was made up, and we must part.
For some time I was troubled to know how I could procure a male dress and not be suspected. At last I hit upon a plan which worked to my satisfaction.
Mary (the black) that I should first go back to Mobile, and that I had
a cousin there who was to accompany me in my travels, and that he had
requested me to get him a dress made in Texan style, and bring with me.
As soon as we had separated, I arranged myself in my new habilments, which I found to fit well, and launched forth into the world as it were another being.
How strange are our fortunes! How little do we know, who pretend to know so much! Had anyone, a few years ago, told me I should have to pass through even half what I have, I would have laughed him to scorn.
I proceeded immediately to Houston, where I found a number of volunteers, whom I joined, and we together joined the main army. I do not think my sex was suspected, although I attracted considerable attention, and frequently overheard some very flattering compliments relative to my beauty, &c.
We were not ordered out under about two months after my joining, and I began to feel very uneasy, and was on the point of deserting, when an order came for us to take up a line of march to St. Antonio. This was glorious news to me; I fairly leaped for joy. I longed for excitement - for battle - something to rouse up my dormant energies.
It had been a constant theme in my mind, wondering how I should feel when standing where death rode upon the sword and steel. I longed to satisfy my curiosity. And when word came to march, as I said before, I fairly leaped for joy.
We were not long in reaching this place, considering the distance. At St. Antonio we found a good deal of bustling and preparation, for a rumor was afloat that the enemy was marching directly for this place.
This to me, good news, was again contradicted by a statement that the Mexicans had taken another route, and it was considered very uncertain whether they would show fight or not. This caused much uneasiness among many of the soldiers, who I found were as anxious for the affray as myself. But we did not have long to wait. This last, it seems, was a false rumor. In a few days news was brought by some who had been sent out as scouts, that the enemy were fast approaching, having found it impossible by a feint to throw us off our guard.
We were again ordered to be in readiness for a moment's notice. The next news we received was in the evening, by which we learned the enemy had encamped within a few miles, and that a battle was to be fought the next day which would decide perhaps the fate of Texas.
This intelligence created considerable confusion in our corps, and I saw many with pale cheeks, who the day before had boasted how much they could do, should the cowardly Mexicans, as they termed them, dare to give us battle.
There are ever many brave hearts when there is no danger. But I have found, by observation, that those who boast the most and talk the loudest are the first to run away when danger is near; while they who say the least, as a general thing, turn out to the contrary. But, heaven be praised, there were but few cowards among us. Most of them were brave stanch fellows who feared not death, so that they died in a good cause.
Early in the morning I was awaked by the roll of the drum, calling each to his post. Alas! thought I, as I ran my eye down the lines, how many of these brave fellows this day must sleep the sleep of death!
And I, ay I, perchance may be one of the number. Am I prepared, am I ready? As I asked myself these questions, my blood coursed coldly through my veins. It was not fear. For had fear formed a part of my nature, I should never have undertaken what I did. But there is an undefinable something, which forms a part and being of the boldest hearts when death is apparently near, and, given time for reflection, will make them pause, and think of the uncertain future. It was this which affected me, as I thought what might be my fate ere the sun was lost in night.
did not prick me with her darts; I felt that I was doing my duty, and
if I died it was in a noble cause.
We marched to a plain not far distant from St. Antonio, where we did not arrive until about ten o'clock, owing to some unavoidable delay. Here we were ordered to halt and prepare for action, for the enemy were already in sight - at the farther end of the plain their bright armor glittering in the sun, as on they came, with martial tread, to the sound of the rolling drum.
As they neared, we could perceive their numbers to ours to be about ten to one. What a sight! Was not this enough to try the courage of the bravest? Still we stood undaunted, waiting in dread suspense for the moment to arrive when we should be called upon to strike for Texas and freedom!
At length that moment came. It was about noon; the sun shone with such intense heat that it seemed as if we must melt. The air was thick and sultry, and it was with difficulty that we could breathe. We were again ordered to march, and when within about pistol-shot of the enemy, both armies halted, as it were by common consent. For a moment and all was still. It was a sickening, death-like stillness, for well each knew, when that stillness again was broken, it would be the death-knell of many brave hearts. It was but a moment.
Still I believe I suffered more fear, more agony of mind, in that short space of time than all before or since.
Now came the word - fire! And ere the sound had died away the roar of musketry took its place, mingled with the cries of the wounded and dying soldiers.
It was truly a heart-rending scene! Shriek upon shriek arose from the unfortunate - some crying for help, for mercy, and some for death, to relieve them from their pains. The next instant all was confusion and uproar, and ere five minutes had elapsed from the first order to fire, I, who shuddered at the first groan, could look on death with perfect indifference. It seems to me that I was borne along by excitement, for I felt doubly strong, and I thought, while charging upon the enemy, "Though they can muster ten to one, they cannot boast of an easy conquest."
How the battle was going, I could not tell. I at times caught sight of General Houston, fighting hand to hand with the Mexicans. He was attired in a very poor dress, used, I suppose, to disguise him from the enemy.
We fought for two hours with a bravery worthy of a better fate, and it was plainly perceptible to all that we must finally be conquered by overpowering numbers. Still our little band fought on, nothing daunted, until even hope itself had become extinct.
Many now yielded themselves to the Mexicans as prisoners of war. But I determined to fight to the last, as became a true soldier, and if I must die, thought I, let it be on the battle-field in preference to a Mexican dungeon. I found a few others who were of the same mind, and as our ranks were broken, we thought it best to bear round and attack them from the other side. In attempting to do this we were surrounded by a party of about five times our number, who, it seems, were coming around on our side for the same purpose. We had nothing left us now but to fight.
We formed into a solid square, and with cutlasses and swords, with which most of us were armed (having picked them up on our way) we made a noble resistance.
But what could we do against such odds? One by one our numbers became less, until by some, as it were, miraculous providence, I stood alone.
"You are my prisoner!" said one, a large, stout-built man, slapping me on the shoulder.
(He spoke in Spanish, but being acquainted with the language, I readily understood him.)
"Never!" cried I, as I thought of my sex. "Liberty or death!" and as I spoke I made a pass at him, with my cutlass, which I still held in my hand.
he was prepared for: catching it on his with a quick, dexterous turn,
he wrenched it completely from my grasp.
* * *
When I recovered my senses it was night. At first I could not recall to my mind how I came, or even where I was. But by degrees it broke upon my mind. Then it was with sickening horror, as, partly raising myself, I gazed around, and by the light of the moon discovered the ghastly countenances of my companions in battle. Feeling a dizziness and a curious sensation in my head, I reached up my hand and drew it back wet with clotted blood.
So then, thought I, I am wounded - perhaps mortally - and am left here to perish, without even one on whom I can call for assistance. Better by far had the bullet pierced my brain and ended life at once.
I tried to get on my feet, but it was in vain; and after several unsuccessful efforts, I fell back upon the bloody soil, completely exhausted.
At length I felt a heart-sickening feeling. Everything began to grow dim and more indistinct. This, thought I, is death, and inwardly did I rejoice to think that soon I should be past all suffering. All again was lost.
When I recovered from this fainting fit, it was broad daylight. As I again raised myself to look around, I perceived a foraging party of Mexicans but a few paces from me, apparently examining the body of one of the soldiers. On discovering, they immediately turned their attention to me, and perceiving by my dress that I was a Texan, part of them were for despatching me on the spot. The others objected to this and said "I ought to be taken as a prisoner and confined in some dungeon to eke out a miserable existence," rightly judging it was by far the worse punishment of the two.
After holding a short consultation, it was decided that, as they were on their return, I should be taken with them to the city of Mexico, and thrown into a dungeon. Anything was preferable to this, and I begged of them to shoot me on the spot.
But they paid no attention to my cries and entreaties, no more than if I were a beast. One of them seized me very roughly by the arm, and jerked me upon my feet. But I could not stand; faint with the loss of blood, fatigued by over exercise and excitement, and being without food for twenty-four hours, with a wound in my head, it will naturally be imagined that I was in a truly deplorable condition. As the ruffian let go after jerking me up, I sank to the ground. As there was a surgeon among them, he was ordered to examine my head, and if he thought the wound any way dangerous, I was to be shot and save all further trouble.
After examining it carefully for a few minutes, he pronounced it not dangerous. The ball, he stated, had come in a slanting direction, and striking my skull, had again glanced off without doing any material injury other than stunning me and confusing my brain. He then took a strip of cloth and bound it around my head, while two stout fellows seized me, one under each arm, and bore me away. I suppose I must have again fainted, or lost my reason, for I have no recollection of anything that passed after this until I heard the rippling waters dash against the prow of a vessel.
When I awoke from this second trance, as it were, I saw that I was on the deck of a ship, and some of the party who had captured me were standing hear, evidently disputing some point. Among these was the surgeon, who seemed to argue his case almost alone. A part of the conversation I overheard, which I will here mention:
tell thee, Rialto, to grant me but twenty-four hours, and if in that time
he does not recover, I will agree to your proposal."
"Have I not told thee, Rialto, that he would be worth a thousand dollars for me to experiment upon, if he recovers his reason before reaching Mexico?"
Oh, horror of horrors! Reader, you can better imagine my feelings than I can describe them, when I perfectly understood this conversation to relate to me. This, then, thought I, is the disinterested kindness of the surgeon. I am to be spared merely for doctors to practice upon.
As these thoughts passed through my mind, I was wrought up to such agony that I uttered a groan.
this, they immediately turned their attention to me. "Ha, did I not
tell ye so?" said the surgeon, clapping his hands for joy, as he
saw by my look that I understood what was going on. "I knew he would
come to his senses."
"Where are you, young fellow? Why, you are where you will be safely taken care of. You are on board of the noble vessel St. Juan, and by good luck will soon be in Vera Cruz. From there, sir, you will be conducted to the Capital by an escort of the great Santa Anna, where you will find a place that you can call your home, built expressly for you and a few other villains, where you can sojourn while you deign to stop in the city."
As he spoke this in an apparently sneering tone, it drew forth several course hearty laughs and a burst of applause from his companions. But I thought I detected something in his manner and look, when the others were not observing, that told of far different feelings at heart.
It may be possible, thought I, that I have wronged him with conjectures. And perhaps what I overheard was only some plausible tale to pacify the crew, until he can find an opportunity to set me at liberty.
This last I found to be correct. For passing by me soon after, he said in a low, hurried tone, "Be of good cheer; all will yet be well." These kind words came like balm to a wounded heart. They were the first I had heard in kindness since I had been taken a prisoner, and though I could think of no chance of escaping, still they gave me much relief. I had the consolation of thinking there was one who cared for me.
In the evening he brought me some light food (for I was still very weak) and pretending to examine my wound, he bent over his head, and in a low voice said, that if I would obey his directions he thought I might regain my liberty.
"Who are you," said I, "who speak to me in this manner, at the risk of your own life?"
"Hist," said he, "or we may be overheard. I am a Texan."
"A Texan," said I, "and fighting against your own country? If so, I will hear none of your proposals!"
"Nay," said he. "You do me wrong. It is a policy which I have adopted to save my countrymen; and many a Texan has owed his escape from the Mexicans to me."
"This is indeed joyful news," said I, "but how can you manage my escape?"
"By the appearance of the western horizon," he replied, "I judge we shall have a storm ere tomorrow morning. My plan is briefly this: Should all work to my expectations, I will arouse you when the gale blows the hardest (for if we escape it must be then) and I have a boat in readiness, fastened on the larboard side, which we must enter as carefully as possible, then cut the ropes, trusting ourselves to the mercy of the wind and waves."
"And do you intend going also?" said I.
"I do. Will you be in readiness?" said he.
"Never fear me," was my reply.
"Enough. I hear someone coming this way. Tonight. Remember."
And with these words he turned upon his heel and walked away. Soon after I heard him in conversation with some of the crew, relative to my wound &c. I heard him say, he thought by the time I reached Vera Cruz, I would do for his purpose.
But this gave me no uneasiness, as I rightly judged it was said to blind them as to his real intentions.
That night came on a heavy storm, as the surgeon had predicted. According to agreement, he came to my berth about twelve o'clock, and in a whisper said, "All's right."
This was the signal, and, creeping from my berth with as little noise and delay as possible, I followed him upon the deck. It was a terrible night. The wind blew tremendously, accompanied with rain, while far in the west the forked lightnings played incessantly; and every now and then came the booming roll of thunder, each clap growing louder and louder, telling us a shower was rapidly approaching.
As yet the lightning was too far distant to show objects distinctly, where we were. But as every moment's delay was likely to expose us, we felt impatient to be in our boat.
When we came on deck we secreted ourselves behind the forecastle, in order to ascertain that all was safe for us to proceed. As ill luck would have it, the watch was between us and the boat, and how to overcome this difficulty, was a matter of no small importance.
"There is but one way," said the surgeon to me sternly (whom I shall hereafter call Allen). "But one way and it must be done or we are lost. The shower is rapidly nearing. Every flash gleams brighter, so that what we do must be done quickly. We will try to pass him quietly, but should he discover us, and attempt to raise an alarm, I have a dagger. Come; not a word." And taking me by the arm he led the way as still as possible.
Everything seemed to work to our desire. We had already passed the guard or watch by great precaution, and were about to enter the boat, when, striking my foot against something I stumbled and fell against the side of the vessel. This the watch overheard and demanded "Who goes there?"
Again, "Who goes..."
A bright flash of lightning at this instant seemed to light the whole universe, as it were, in one grand blaze. Oh, what a sight! Never, while breath animates this body, shall I forget that scene! But a few feet from me, with his dagger in his hand, dripping with blood, stood Allen. Just in front of him, and in the act of falling, was the sentinel, his features horribly distorted, the blood gushing from his heart, while around the two the lightning danced, as if in mockery of this awful deed.
The next instant all was dark. I felt an arm around my waist, and in a moment more Allen and myself, in an open boat, were tossing on the angry deep.
"I would have spared him, Henry," (for such I had previously told him was my name), "but had I done so, all would have been lost. It was indeed horrid; how the lightning did play over his features!"
"Come, come," said I, wishing to turn the conversation. "Do not grieve about it. You know it could not be helped, without the risk of our own lives; and as we are not safe yet, let us take our paddles and row from them as fast as possible."
"Good heavens!" said he, feeling in the bottom of the boat. "I have forgotten them. We are lost. Yes, Henry, we are lost!" And true enough, owing to the hurry and confusion of our escape, they had been forgotten.
What was to be done? We were twenty miles from the nearest land, in an open boat, the storm raging with fury around us, without even a thing wherewith to propel our boat. To add to our dismay, we could perceive by the flashings of lightning, a bustle on board of the ship, and active preparations for manning a boat to go in pursuit of us, for we were equally visible to them. As we saw this at a glance, it seemed to both that our fate was inevitable.
said Allen, "We must do our best. I feel that my time has come. However,
they shall find it no easy conquest. I have with me two loaded pistols
and two cutlasses. Take one of each, Henry, and let us defend ourselves
to the last. For my part, I will never be captured alive. See, they have
already shoved off. Possibly something may turn up to save us, although
I do not expect it. Let us fight to the last, and when all hope is lost,
rather than be taken, we will leap overboard and end life at once. Are
you agreed to this?"
"Then let them come. We are ready."
We sat down in the bottom of the boat with the pistols in our hands. By the continual flashing of the lightning we were able to mark their progress - now on the top of some mighty billow, now plunged out of sight, on they came, as fast as their oars would propel them. They were six in number. In a few minutes they were alongside.
"Now is our time!" shouted Allen, and quick as thought we simultaneously discharged our pistols, each of which took effect, and two of our pursuers rolled into the deep and sank to rise no more. With a desperate leap, cutlass in hand, Allen sprang aboard their boat and lunged another through the body. The next instant - a flash - a crack - and the waves rolled over him. I saw all was lost, and was about to leap overboard, when a blow on the head laid me senseless.
When I recovered my senses, I found I was in the hold of the St. Juan, my hands manacled, and my feet in stocks, so that I could scarcely move. I now truly felt the horrors of my situation. My life, thought I, is spared for some more horrible punishment - perhaps my sex discovered - and I tried to invent some way to put an end to my existence. My head was very painful from the blow, which I suppose was struck by a paddle.
In about three days we arrived at Vera Cruz. During this time I could learn nothing in regard to my fate. A rough-looking Spaniard brought me my food (which was coarse bread and water), but to my interrogations he merely shook his head, making me no reply.
At Vera Cruz I was taken from the St. Juan (my hands still manacled) and placed behind a cart, which was to convey a part of the soldiers to the city of Mexico. My hands were tied to the cart, to prevent the possibility of my escape. In this disgraceful manner, I found, I would have to walk the whole distance.
As the cart, which was drawn by horses no faster than a walk, passed through the streets of Vera Cruz, hisses and groans saluted me on either side. Some were not even content with this, but hurled missiles at me, many of which took effect and wounded me severely.
I traveled about twenty miles each day, sometimes over burning sand and uncouth roads, with the tropical sun pouring down, as it were, melted lava upon me. My skin blistered, my feet so swelled and sore I could scarcely walk, with scarce food enough to keep me alive, for thirteen days making a distance of over two hundred and fifty miles.
only I was allowed to enter the cart to rest myself, first being securely
bound with the plank under me for a bed, and the canopy of heaven above
for a covering. A sentinel, stationed near was armed with a musket, with
orders, if I stirred, to shoot me at once. But this last was unnecessary,
for I was so bound that I could not move, had I been so disposed.
I arrived at the Capital, as near as I can recollect, in August 1838. I was immediately conveyed to prison and placed in a dungeon, where daylight never reached. As on the St. Juan, my hands were manacled and my feet put in the stocks, there to await my trial, or rather sentence, when Santa Anna should arrive.
For several days following my imprisonment I partook of scarce any food. My jailer, a rough, uncouth-looking figure, visited my gloomy apartments but twice a day, bringing me a small chunk of stale bread, not unfrequently alive with vermin, and a cup of water.
A sickly taper, which burned a part of the time, was the only relief from total darkness. My cell, I should judge, was about ten feet square and some fifteen underground. It was truly a gloomy-looking place. The walls were covered with a thick slime, formed, I suppose, by the vapors arising from the dampness of the ground. For the first week or two I was so stupefied that I took no notice of anything, and it has oftentimes been a wonder to me how I lived through what I did. But it is impossible for us to tell what we can undergo and yet live, and at the same time, how little it takes to end our existence. I know not why my feet were kept in the stocks, unless it was to prevent me from committing suicide, for there was not the least chance of escape.
I remained in this way about six months, until I had despaired of ever seeing daylight again, thinking it was probably my punishment to be forever buried alive, when one day the jailer, who had spoken but once or twice to me, informed me that Santa Anna had arrived, and he had orders to bring me before him. This was joyful news to me, for I felt that any change, any punishment, however hard, could not be worse than solitary confinement in that gloomy dungeon. A faint spark of hope, too, was alive in my breast, for I had determined upon receiving my sentence, to throw myself on his mercy, and reveal my sex. I say a faint ray of hope, for I hardly expected this would save me.
When brought into the presence of this great general (as he is termed), my heart sank within me - hope fled. I saw an inferior, squalid-looking man with such a stern, deceitful, bloodthirsty (if I may so use the expression) look about his countenance that for the first time my eye quailed before a human being.
In a dry, husky voice he inquired, "What are the charges preferred against this young man? (meaning me)
An officer in waiting replied that there were three. First, I had been taken as a prisoner of war. Secondly, for mutiny committed on the high seas. Thirdly, for murder of officers when performing their duty.
"Can these be proved?" inquired Santa Anna.
"They can," was the reply.
Santa Anna then turned to me and said, "Young man, for each of these offenses you shall receive one hundred and fifty lashes on your bare back, for three days in succession, one for each offense. And if you survive this, you are then to be shot. One hundred and fifty now. The sentence is passed. Officers, do your duty."
In an instant I was seized by two stout fellows, who instantly commenced stripping off my clothes to perform their barbarous operations. They first tore off my coat and vest, and then one of them commenced tearing open the bosom of my shirt, when he started back with a look of surprise and exclaimed, "A woman, by heavens!"
"A woman!" exclaimed Santa Anna, also rising in amazement. "A woman, did you say? This must be seen to. Remand her to her cell until I have more leisure to inquire into it. I forego the sentence." Scarce had he ceased speaking ere I was hurried away (so readily are his orders obeyed) and again confined in my gloomy dungeon. The next day the keeper said he had orders to remove me to another part of the prison.
I was now taken to the second floor from the ground, where there was plenty of light. Compared to what I had left the place was as a palace to a hovel. My shackles were all taken off, and I was told they would not be put on while I remained above. I was also told, if I attempted to escape, I should again be shackled and remanded to the dungeon.
With this sort of admonitory information, which I received from the jailer, the door was bolted on me, and I was left alone in my new apartments.
From this cell there were two windows, or gratings, which overlooked the yard, admitting both light and air. The room was very large, I thought, for one person to occupy, being, I should judge, about 15 by 20 feet. In the centre of the room stood a chair and also a table on which were several books, pen, ink, paper, half a loaf of bread, and a cup of pure fresh water. I gazed at each article in turn, as a miser at each piece of gold. I scarce knew how to act or what to think. Hope sprang up anew in my breast, and I could not think but that something would yet turn up to give me my liberty. I took the pen and paper, and thought I would amuse myself by writing a sketch of my adventures. And there it was that most of these pages were written.
I had been there about a week when one day, as I was sitting at the table looking over the books the door opened and, to my amazement, Santa Anna entered. His manner was much more pleasing than when I last saw him; still there was a wild voluptuous look about his eyes which pained and startled me.
"Fair lady," said he. "I trust you will not consider this an intrusion, when I tell you that I have been drawn hither by your beauty." This was said in a soft, bland manner, accompanied with a slight bow.
"What is the meaning of this?" said I, somewhat alarmed.
"Meaning?" said he. "It means simply this, that you are young and handsome, and moreover my prisoner. You have been tried and found guilty of mutiny and murder, and by my order can in a moment be led to execution. I now come here to offer you life - on one condition."
"On one condition!" said I, almost breathless. "Name it."
"That you become - my mistress."
"Never!" said I, with a burst of indignation I could not control. "Lead me to the scaffold, to the rack or, worse than death, to the dungeon. But never, Santa Anna, ask me to be your victim! No! While I live, while I have strength to move, my virtue shall be untainted!"
"But consider," said he, "I have money. You shall not want. I have power. You shall not fear."
"I have considered," I replied, "and you have my answer! What! Shall I, an American, be a mistress to the cruel, bloodthirsty Santa Anna, and thus disgrace my country? Never! You have your answer. Go! I would that you leave me."
"You shall repent this!" said he, and turning on his heel he left me. This, then, is why I am thus favored, and my life spared, thought I. O that I were dead! Then came the thought that perhaps I might escape. This was the first time that it had entered my head, and I immediately commenced examining my room, grating, &c, to see if there was any chance of my succeeding.
My windows were double grated, so that to attempt to escape that way seemed like madness. But still I might succeed if I only had the implements to work with. Without them there was no chance, and save through the window there was no means of escape. I had looked every place, and was on the point of despairing, when my attention was attracted to a small spot on the wall which I thought appeared somewhat different from the rest. To satisfy my curiosity, I went to it and commenced scratching with my fingernail when, to my astonishment, I found it was soft. Encouraged by this, I worked away diligently, until I had made a hole about half the length of my finger, when I picked out a dirty piece of paper written on with a pencil. I hurried to the light and read as follows:
"My time has come for execution - I cannot escape. But should this paper fall into the hands of any here confined, they may reap the benefits of my industry. By running your finger into the hole from whence this is taken, you can remove a stone where you will find a saw and file. The grates of the south window are mostly off.
(Signed) A Criminal
Mad, as it were, with joy, I rushed to the stone, and in a few minutes succeeded in removing it, where I found the implements as described. The saw was made from the mainspring of a watch. I then went to the window and found it by careful examination, just as the paper had stated.
Now, thought I, Santa Anna will find his bird has flown when he least expects it. Then came the fear of my being removed before I should be able to accomplish my purpose. But I determined to manage this by policy.
The next day Santa Anna came again to see me. He said perhaps I had thought better of my treatment to him, and wished to know if it was so. I told him in a measure it was, but I could hardly bring my mind to agree to his proposal as yet; I wanted time to think of it. I told him if he would grant me one month to consider, at the end of that time I would give him a decisive answer. At first he objected to the length of time, but finding me inexorable, he finally consented. The waving his hand, he bade me adieu, thank heaven, for the last time.
After this arrangement had been completed, I felt much elated. I now looked upon liberty as almost certain. The jailer, as usual, came only twice a day, morning and evening, so that all the rest of the time I was left to myself. I now proceeded to my work in earnest. As I had to file or saw carefully, for fear of being overheard, my progress was naturally very slow.
In about ten days I had succeeded in cutting off all the bars, so that I could remove them whenever I chose.
I now determined leaving the first dark stormy night. From my window I could see there were pickets on top of the yard, which I thought would assist me rather than otherwise, as I could prepare a sort of rope from my bedding, and after landing in the yard, throw it up until caught by the pickets, then drawing myself up, could thus escape.
After getting everything in readiness, I had to wait a couple of days before I found a night that would answer my purposes. At last such a night came. It was very dark, the wind blowing from the east, but for the first part of the night unaccompanied by any rain.
About ten o'clock I removed the bars, and with a rope which I had made by tearing my blanket in strips, I let myself down into the yard. Then, managing as I have before mentioned, with the other rope I drew myself to the top of the wall. Drawing my rope up again, I let it down on the outside, then sliding down myself I was once more at liberty.
I could hardly restrain myself from shouting for joy, so happy did I feel to think I had escaped from prison and the clutches of a tyrant.
But I had not overcome all my difficulties. Not being aware that there were sentinels outside the prison, in my heedlessness I came near ruining all, and it was only by a desperate move that I escaped.
I was gliding away very rapidly from the prison, paying no regard to anything, when a heavy hand was laid on my shoulder, and a rough voice said "Stand!"
I was completely paralyzed with fear, for I thought I had been missed, and this was one of my pursuers.
"Wherefore go you, young lad, in such haste at this time of night?"
I knew by this that I was only apprehended for the untimely hour in which I was out.
I stammered forth some excuse, for I was taken so aback that I knew not what to say.
"Twill not do, sir," replied the sentinel (for such I supposed he was). "You must with me to the guardhouse. Perhaps you have been assisting the escape of some prisoner. If so, it will cost you your life."
What was to be done? If I attempted to escape from him he would raise an alarm. If I remained peaceable, I should be discovered the following day and again be sent to the dungeon.
I be captured with liberty in my grasp? These thoughts almost drove me
mad. Meanwhile we were proceeding to the guardhouse and I knew if I did
not make an effort ere I reached there, all was lost. We were by a few
paces distant from it when, by a sudden gleam of light from one of the
windows, I discovered a dagger in the sentinel's belt. Tempted by the
devil, and by the love of liberty, with a maniacal desperation I drew
it, and quick as lightning, stabbed him to the heart.
I now ran with all speed, I knew not whither, and as little cared, so that I escaped. After leaving the city, in about two hours time I found myself in a dense forest. Here I wandered on until daylight when, finding an old tree with a hollow in it, about ten feet from the ground, I ascended and entered it, where I remained during the day. As I knew that I should be pursued, I dared not travel but little save in the night. On making some observations I found I had taken the direction to Vera Cruz. This was the nearest seaport-city. Therefore I determined on going there. As I had travelled the main road when a prisoner, I was rarely at a loss how to proceed. Keeping as near to it as I deemed safe, I thus retraced my steps, subsisting a part of the time on fruit I found in the woods, occasionally obtaining something from the outhouses of the settlers. Traveling nearly the whole distance by night, in about a month I arrived in sight of Vera Cruz, early in the morning.
Not caring to be seen in the daytime, for fear I might be recollected by some, I waited until night, and proceeding direct to the wharves, I found a vessel just on the point of sailing.
Not caring whither I went, so that I escaped from the Mexicans, I walked leisurely aboard (for I deemed it safest to work by policy), and inquired of the captain whither he was bound. He replied, "For the East Indies."
This took me all aback. I knew not what to do. I did not want to go so long a voyage, and I feared I could find no other ship which was to sail soon. Besides, while waiting for another, I might be retaken. The fear of this determined me to venture. Better take a two or three year cruise, thought I, than be taken and sent to the dungeon, perhaps for life. So I told the captain that, not enjoying the best of health, I should like to sail with him, and that, as I had not the means to pay, I was willing to assist all that I could. He at first objected but, to my urgent entreaties, he finally consented. This was in the spring of 1839. Owing to bad weather and some unexpected delay in business, we did not return as soon as expected. But as there is nothing to interest you, reader, in this voyage, and thinking your patience is perhaps already wearied, I shall now draw to a close. Let these few particulars, therefore, suffice.
On our return we touched at Havana, where after returning my thanks to Captain Dedham for his kind treatment, I left the noble vessel Alhambra, which had been a home to me for three and a half long years. This was in the fall of 1842.
here I sailed to Galveston, Texas, where I had some affairs to settle,
and arrived there in January following.
And now, reader, farewell, you that have followed me attentively through these pages, while I have been recounting my adventures, trials, and sufferings, that you may never undergo the like calamities, is the prayer of your humble servant,