Papillon (English) by Henri Charrière

Papillon (English) by Henri Charrière

Author:Henri Charrière
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: For the Benefit of Mr. Kite
Published: 1968-12-31T16:00:00+00:00

24

Solitary

The boat was ready. Of the nineteen of us, ten were to go in the first lot. I was called. Dega said crisply, “No, he goes on the last trip.”

I was astonished at the way the bagnards talked. There seemed to be no discipline; they didn’t give a damn for the guards. Dega came over and we started talking. He knew all about my escape. He had heard it from some men I’d known in Saint-Laurent who had come to the islands. He didn’t say he was sorry for me; that would have been beneath him. What he did say was, “You deserved to succeed, my boy. But you’ll make it next time!” He didn’t say “Chin up.” He knew I didn’t need it.

“I’m the chief clerk and I’ve got an in with the warden. Take care of yourself in solitary and I’ll send you tobacco and food. You’ll have everything you need.”

“Papillon, let’s go!” It was my turn.

“Good-by, everybody. Thanks for your kind words.”

I stepped into the boat. Twenty minutes later we docked at Saint-Joseph. I took note of the fact that we had only three armed guards aboard for six rowers and ten solitaries. It would have been a cinch to take over the boat…At Saint-Joseph we were met by a reception committee headed by the warden of the penitentiary on the island and the warden at the Réclusion. As we entered the large iron gate with “Réclusion Disciplinaire” written above, I realized that this prison was no joking matter. The gate and the high surrounding walls obscured at first a little building marked “Administration-Direction” and three other buildings marked A, B and C. We went into Direction. It was cold.

We were lined up in two rows and the warden said, “Réclusionnaires, as you know, this prison is for the punishment of offenses committed by men already condemned to the bagne. Here we don’t try rehabilitation. We know it’s useless. We try to break you. We have only one rule: keep your mouth shut. Absolute silence. If you get caught trying to ‘telephone,’ you risk an even heavier sentence. Unless you’re seriously ill, don’t ask to go to the infirmary. You’ll be punished for an unwarranted medical call. That’s all I have to say. Oh, one thing more – smoking is strictly forbidden. All right, guards, let’s get going. Search them thoroughly, then put each one in a cell. Don’t put Charrière, Clousiot and Maturette in the same building. Mr. Santori, will you see to this, please.”

Ten minutes later I was locked up in my cell – number 234 in Building A. Clousiot was in B, Maturette in C. We said a mute good-by. Each of us understood that if we ever wanted to get out of here alive, we would have to obey their beastly rules. I watched them go, my companions of our long cavale, proud and brave comrades who never complained and never regretted what we’d brought off together. The fourteen months of our struggle for freedom had forged an unbreakable bond between us.



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