Gesius stopped, and from the breast of his tunic drew three parchments, all much yellowed by time and use; selecting one of them, he spread it upon the table before the tribune, saying, simply, “This is the lower floor.”

The whole company looked at-

THE MAP

| PASSAGE |

| |

|–||—-||——||—–||—-||–|

| | | | | |

| V | IV | III | II | I |

“This is exactly, O tribune, as I had it from Gratus. See, there is cell number V.,” said Gesius.

“I see,” the tribune replied. “Go on now. The cell was leprous, he said.”

“I would like to ask you a question,” remarked the keeper, modestly.

The tribune assented.

“Had I not a right, under the circumstances, to believe the map a true one?”

“What else couldst thou?”

“Well, it is not a true one.”

The chief looked up surprised.

“It is not a true one,” the keeper repeated. “It shows but five cells upon that floor, while there are six.”

“Six sayest thou?”

“I will show you the floor as it is- or as I believe it to be.”

Upon a page of his tablets, Gesius drew the following diagram, and gave it to the tribune:-

| |

|–||—–||—–||—–||—-||–|

| | | | | |

| V | IV | III | II | I |

|–||—————————–|

| VI |

“Thou hast done well,” said the tribune, examining the drawing, and thinking the narrative at an end. “I will have the map corrected, or, better, I will have a new one made, and given thee. Come for it in the morning.”

So saying, he arose.

“But hear me further, O tribune.”

“To-morrow, Gesius, to-morrow.”

“That which I have yet to tell will not wait.”

The tribune good-naturedly resumed his chair.

“I will hurry,” said the keeper, humbly, “only let me ask another question. Had I not a right to believe Gratus in what he further told me as to the prisoners in cell number V.?”

“Yes, it was thy duty to believe there were three prisoners in the cell- prisoners of state- blind and without tongues.”

“Well,” said the keeper, “that was not true either.”

“No!” said the tribune, with returning interest.

“Hear, and judge for yourself, O tribune. As required I visited all the cells, beginning with those on the first floor, and ending with those on the lower. The order that the door of number V. should not be opened had been respected; through all the eight years food and drink for three men had been passed through a hole in the wall. I went to the door yesterday, curious to see the wretches who, against all expectation, had lived so long. The locks refused the key. We pulled a little, and the door fell down, rusted from its hinges. Going in, I found but one man, old, blind, tongueless, and naked. His hair dropped in stiffen’d mats below his waist. His skin was like the parchment there. He held his hands out, and the finger-nails curled and twisted like the claws of a bird. I asked him where his companions were. He shook his head in denial. Thinking to find the others, we searched the cell. The floor was dry; so were the walls. If three men had been shut in there, and two of them had died, at least their bones would have endured.”