Chapter 22: The Beginnings of American Foreign Missions (6/11)
Removal of the Prisoners to Oung-pen-la-Mrs. Judson Follows Them
“Notwithstanding the order the governor had given for my admittance into prison, it was with the greatest difficulty that I could persuade the under jailer to open the gate. I used to carry Mr. J’s food myself, for the sake of getting in, and would then remain an hour or two, unless driven out. We had been in this comfortable situation but two or three days, when one morning, having carried in Mr. Judson’s breakfast, which, in consequence of fever, he was unable to take, I remained longer than usual, when the governor in great haste sent for me. I promised him to return as soon as I had ascertained the governor’s will, he being much alarmed at this unusual message. I was very agreeably disappointed, when the governor informed, that he only wished to consult me about his watch, and seemed unusually pleasant and conversable. I found afterwards, that his only object was, to detain me until the dreadful scene, about to take place in the prison, was over. For when I left him to go to my room, one of the servants came running, and with a ghastly countenance informed me, that all the white prisoners were carried away.
“I would not believe the report, but instantly went back to the governor, who said he had just heard of it, but did not wish to tell me. I hastily ran into the street, hoping to get a glimpse of them before they were out of sight, but in this was disappointed. I ran first into one street, then another, inquiring of all I met, but none would answer me. At length an old woman told me the white prisoners had gone towards the little river; for they were to be carried to Amarapora. I then ran to the banks of the little river, about half a mile, but saw them not, and concluded the old woman had deceived me. Some of the friends of the foreigners went to the place of execution, but found them not. I then returned to the governor to try to discover the cause of their removal, and the probability of their future fate. The old man assured me that he was ignorant of the intention of government to remove the foreigners until that morning. That since I went out, he had learned that the prisoners had been sent to Amarapora; but for what purpose, he knew not. ‘I will send off a man immediately,’ said he, ‘to see what is to be done with them. You can do nothing more for your husband,’ continued he, Take care of yourself.
“Never before had I suffered so much from fear in traversing the streets of Ava. The last words of the governor, ‘Take care of yourself,’ made me suspect there was some design with which I was unacquainted. I saw, also, he was afraid to have me go into the streets, and advised me to wait until dark, when he would send me in a cart, and a man to open the gates. I took two or three trunks of the most valuable articles, together with the medicine chest, to deposit in the house of the governor; and after committing the house and premises to our faithful Moung Ing and a Bengalee servant, who continued with us, (though we were unable to pay his wages,) I took leave, as I then thought probable, of our house in Ava forever.
“The day was dreadfully hot; but we obtained a covered boat, in which we were tolerably comfortable, until within two miles of the government house. I then procured a cart; but the violent motion, together with the dreadful heat and dust, made me almost distracted. But what was my disappointment on my arriving at the courthouse, to find that the prisoners had been sent on two hours before, and that I must go in that uncomfortable mode four miles further with little Maria in my arms, whom I held all the way from Ava. The cart man refused to go any further; and after waiting an hour in the burning sun, I procured another, and set off for that never to be forgotten place, Oung-pen-la. I obtained a guide from the governor and was conducted directly to the prison-yard.
“But what a scene of wretchedness was presented to my view! The prison was an old shattered building, without a roof; the fence was entirely destroyed; eight or ten Burmese were on the top of the building, trying to make something like a shelter with the leaves; while under a little low protection outside of the prison sat the foreigners, chained together two and two, almost dead with suffering and fatigue. The first words of your brother were: ‘Why have you come? I hoped you would not follow, for you cannot live here.’
“It was now dark. I had no refreshment for the suffering prisoners, or for myself, as I had expected to procure all that was necessary at the market in Amarapora, and I had no shelter for the night. I asked one of the jailers if I might put up a little bamboo house near the prisoners; he said ‘No, it was not customary.’ I then begged he would procure me a shelter for the night, when on the morrow I could find some place to live in. He took me to his house, in which there were only two small rooms-one in which he and his family lived-the other, which was then half full of grain, he offered to me; and in that little filthy place, I spent the next six months of wretchedness. I procured some half boiled water, instead of my tea, and, worn out with fatigue, laid myself down on a mat spread over the paddy, and endeavored to obtain a little refreshment from sleep. The next morning your brother gave me the following account of the brutal treatment he had received on being taken out of prison.