FREDERICK’S PUNISHMENT

The judge had scarcely uttered the last words of the sentence, when
Frederick’s arms were grasped on either side by a stalwart “Garde de
Paris,” and he was hurried from the court-room. Instead of being taken
back to the “Mazas” House of Detention, where he had been imprisoned
until then, he was conveyed to “La Grande Roquette,” which he was to
visit some years later under still more dramatic circumstances.

“La Grande Roquette,” besides containing the cells for prisoners under
sentence of death, is used as a depot for convicts pending their
transfer either to the penitentiaries or to the penal colonies.

On arriving within the gloomy walls of this terrible prison, from
whose portals none step forth excepting to the scaffold or to undergo
a long term of disgrace and social death, Frederick was taken to the
“Greffe” (register’s office). There he surrendered the name of “Wolff,”
under which he had been sentenced, and received instead the numeral by
which henceforth he was to be designated. From thence he was conducted
to the barber-shop, where his beard was removed and his head shaved.
The clothes which he had worn until then were now taken away from him,
and he was forced to assume the hideous garb of a condemned prisoner.

[Illustration: FREDERICK IN HIS CONVICT DRESS.]

A few days later a special train, consisting of eight railway
carriages, partitioned off into small and uncomfortable cells, lighted
only by ventilators from the roof, steamed out of the Gare d’Orleans
on its way to St. Martin de Re. Among the number of blood-stained
criminals of every imaginable category which constituted its living
freight, was Frederick Count von Waldberg, alias Franz Werner, alias
Baron Wolff, but now known only as No. 21,003.

Before proceeding any further, it may be as well to devote a few
words to an explanation of the somewhat remarkable fact that nobody
at Paris should have recognized the identity of Baron Wolff with the
Count von Waldberg, who had resided for some months on the banks of
the Seine previous to the fall of the empire. In the first place, as
has been already stated, his personal appearance had undergone a most
remarkable change during his absence in the East; and, secondly, the
siege by the Germans and the subsequent insurrection of the Commune
had so thoroughly disorganized the metropolitan police and judicial
administrations, whose ranks were now filled by entirely new and
inexperienced men that his success in concealing his real rank and
station had nothing surprising in it.

On reaching St. Martin de Re, Frederick was manacled to a
repulsive-looking prisoner, and was fastened to a long chain to which
some sixty other convicts were attached. Escorted by gendarmes with
loaded rifles, they were led down to the sea-shore and embarked on huge
flat-bottomed barges or pontoons for conveyance to the ship which lay
in the offing, which was to be their place of abode for the three weary
months which would elapse before their arrival in New Caledonia.

The Loire was one of the small fleet of old sailing ships which have
been fitted up for the transport of convicts to Noumea and to Cayenne,
and which are nicknamed “Les Omnibuses du Bagne.” Steam vessels are
not used for this purpose, as speed is no object, and the voyage to
France’s penitential colony in Australasia is effected via the Cape of
Good Hope, instead of by the Suez Canal. The lower decks are divided up
into a series of large iron cages, in which the convicts are imprisoned
by groups of sixty. These cages are separated from each other by narrow
passages, along which armed sentinels pace day and night. Once every
morning, and once every afternoon, the prisoners are brought up on
deck for an hour’s airing when the weather is fine; but when storms
prevail, they are frequently confined in the stifling atmosphere of the
lower decks for whole weeks at a time. In front of every cage, hydrants
are fixed, by means of which, in case of any serious disturbance, the
inmates can be deluged with powerful jets of cold water, and if that
prove ineffectual, then with hot water.

A heavy gale was blowing in the Bay when the Loire spread its sails to
the wind and started on its long and dreary voyage.

A fortnight later the vessel cast anchor in the port of Santa Cruz, of
the Canary Islands, where a stay of six days was to be made for the
purpose of shipping the provisions which were to last until the arrival
of the transport at its destination. While there, Frederick and three
of his fellow-prisoners, who had formed part of the gang employed one
night to clean the deck from the dirt occasioned by the embarkation
of some eighty head of cattle and numerous sheep and poultry, took
advantage of the darkness and of the rough weather which prevailed, to
slip overboard. The guard-boat happened to be on the other side of the
ship, and the fugitives would probably have reached land and effected
their escape, had not they suddenly encountered a cutter, which was
bringing off several of the ship’s officers who had been dining on
shore. Unfortunately for the convicts, the moon, which had been hidden
until then by the clouds, shone forth for a few minutes and shed its
light on the shorn heads of the swimmers. The latter immediately
plunged, in order to avoid detection. But it was too late. They had
already been caught sight of by the officers. The latter having hailed
the watch on board the ship and called for assistance, then rounded
their boat on the fugitives. Aware of the terrible punishment which
awaited them if captured, the poor wretches made almost superhuman
efforts to escape, and turned a deaf ear to the threats of their
pursuers that they would fire on them. One by one, however, they were
run down and dragged on board. Frederick alone, who was a magnificent
swimmer, continued to elude the cutter by swimming under water, coming
to the surface only from time to time, to take breath. Volleys of
buckshot swept the spot whenever his head appeared for a moment above
water; but he seemed to bear a charmed life. Suddenly, however, one of
the sailors espied him, as, miscalculating his distance, he emerged on
the surface within a few feet of the boat. Quick as lightning, the man
raised his oar and brought it down with terrific force on Frederick’s
head, rendering him unconscious.

When Frederick recovered his senses, he found himself in a dark cell in
the lowest part of the hold, heavily chained, and with his head covered
with bandages.

[Illustration: FREDERICK CAPTURED WHILE ATTEMPTING TO ESCAPE.]

Four days after leaving the Canary Islands, the attention of the
convicts was attracted to some rather unusual preparations which were
being made between decks. A detachment of fifty marines filed in and
took up their position amidships. At a word of command on the part
of their officer, they proceeded to load their rifles. Two gendarmes
who were accompanying the convoy thereupon appeared and likewise
loaded their revolvers, with a good deal of ostentation. A few minutes
afterward the warders pasted up in each cage an “order of the day,”
signed by the commander, wherein it was stated that in accordance with
a decision of the court-martial, the four convicts who had attempted to
escape in the harbor of Santa Cruz were about to receive forty lashes
of the “cat.”

This instrument of torture, which is only used for the punishment of
prisoners under sentence of penal servitude, is composed of five thongs
of plaited whipcord, thirty inches long and about an inch thick. At the
end of each thong are three knots, with small balls of lead. The handle
is about two to three feet long and an inch and a half in diameter, and
is composed of very heavy teak wood. The thongs are carefully tarred
until they become as stiff and as hard as iron, after which they are
dipped for several hours in the strongest kind of vinegar.

The officers having assembled, a wooden bench was brought in by two of
the warders, and thereupon the men about to undergo punishment appeared
on the scene, stripped to the waist and barefooted. The sentence was
then read aloud by the officer of the watch.

Convict No. 21,003, the number by which Frederick was known, was the
first to undergo the punishment. Two of the warders seized him, and
stretching him at full length on the wooden bench, face downward, bound
him thereto by means of ropes tied round his shoulders, waist, and
ankles.

A brawny prisoner who had volunteered to act as corrector, now stepped
forth from the ranks, seized the “cat,” and began to let it fall
heavily and at regular intervals on the back and shoulders of the
unfortunate Frederick, allowing enough time between each blow to make
the suffering still more acute. The first strokes left long, livid
stripes on the young man’s white skin. Soon, however, the blood oozed
forth, and by the time the twentieth blow was inflicted, Frederick’s
back was one mass of lacerated and bleeding wounds. He bore the cruel
punishment with Spartan courage, never uttering a complaint or letting
a moan escape him. But when they untied his bonds and attempted to
raise him from the bench, it was found that he had become insensible.

For two weeks after this cruel punishment Frederick lay in the ship’s
hospital, part of the time in a state of delirium brought on by
wound-fever. When at length he had recovered sufficiently to be able to
leave the infirmary his tortures began afresh. Both he and the three
convicts who had attempted to escape with him were set to perform the
most disgusting and revolting kind of work that could be found on a
vessel freighted with such an enormous cargo of human beings. It is
needless to describe what these duties were, but it will be sufficient
to state that they were peculiarly repugnant to Frederick, reared
as he had been in palaces, and accustomed to every form of the most
refined and elegant luxury. As a further disciplinary measure they
were deprived of one of their two meals a day. The food on board the
transport was execrable, and for some reason or other none was ever
served out to the prisoners between the hours of 6 o’clock on Saturday
morning and 6 o’clock on Sunday evening.

Frederick bore all these hardships in silence, but became more and more
embittered against mankind. His heart grew as hard as stone. Every
slight vestige of good feeling, morality, and humanity disappeared,
and by the time he arrived in New Caledonia he had become the most
desperate and dangerous of all the blood-stained criminals on board.