For the truth of the following tale I will not by any means vouch. If one were to inquire
on the spot one might probably find that the ladies all believe it, and the old men; that all
the young men know exactly how much of it is false and how much true; and that the
steady, middle-aged, well-to-do islanders are quite convinced that it is romance from
beginning to end. My readers may range themselves with the ladies, the young men, or
the steady, well-to- do, middle-aged islanders, as they please.
Some years ago, soon after the prison was first established on its present footing, three
men did escape from it, and among them a certain notorious prisoner named Aaron Trow.
Trow's antecedents in England had not been so villanously bad as those of many of his
fellow-convicts, though the one offence for which he was punished had been of a deep
dye: he had shed man's blood. At a period of great distress in a manufacturing town he
had led men on to riot, and with his own hand had slain the first constable who had
endeavoured to do his duty against him. There had been courage in the doing of the deed,
and probably no malice; but the deed, let its moral blackness have been what it might,
had sent him to Bermuda, with a sentence against him of penal servitude for life. Had he
been then amenable to prison discipline,--even then, with such a sentence against him as
that,--he might have won his way back, after the lapse of years, to the children, and
perhaps, to the wife, that he had left behind him; but he was amenable to no rules--to no
discipline. His heart was sore to death with an idea of injury, and he lashed himself
against the bars of his cage with a feeling that it would be well if he could so lash himself
till he might perish in his fury.
And then a day came in which an attempt was made by a large body of convicts, under
his leadership, to get the better of the officers of the prison. It is hardly necessary to say
that the attempt failed. Such attempts always fail. It failed on this occasion signally, and
Trow, with two other men, were condemned to be scourged terribly, and then kept in
solitary confinement for some lengthened term of months. Before, however, the day of
scourging came, Trow and his two associates had escaped.
I have not the space to tell how this was effected, nor the power to describe the manner.
They did escape from the establishment into the islands, and though two of them were
taken after a single day's run at liberty, Aaron Trow had not been yet retaken even when a
week was over. When a month was over he had not been retaken, and the officers of the
prison began to say that he had got away from them in a vessel to the States. It was
impossible, they said, that he should have remained in the islands and not been
discovered. It was not impossible that he might have destroyed himself, leaving his body
where it had not yet been found. But he could not have lived on in Bermuda during that
month's search. So, at least, said the officers of the prison. There was, however, a report
through the islands that he had been seen from time to time; that he had gotten bread
from the negroes at night, threatening them with death if they told of his whereabouts;
and that all the clothes of the mate of a vessel had been stolen while the man was bathing,
including a suit of dark blue cloth, in which suit of clothes, or in one of such a nature, a
stranger had been seen skulking about the rocks near St. George. All this the governor of
the prison affected to disbelieve, but the opinion was becoming very rife in the islands
that Aaron Trow was still there.