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His diagram when finished looked something like this:



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After giving Mr. X time to construct the figure, the unknown prisoner began another series of knocks so grouped and spaced as to indicate the lines and columns in which the required letters were to be found. Five knocks followed by three knocks meant that the equivalent letter would be found at the intersection of the fifth line and third column; two knocks followed by one knock indicated letter "f," at the intersection of line two and column one; and five knocks followed by four knocks meant letter "x," at the intersection of line five, column four. The first question asked by the unknown was 53 23 35 11 43 15 55 35 51: "Who are you?" The prisoners then exchanged brief biographies, and Mr. X——— discovered that he had learned his a b c's and taken his first lesson in prison telegraphy from a common criminal, a burglar, if I remember rightly, who was awaiting exile to Siberia.

that when he was arrested for the first time umns.
he had never even heard of the "knock alpha-
bet"; and that when, during the second day
of his imprisonment, he noticed a faint tapping
on the other side of the wall, he regarded it
merely as an indication that the adjoining cell
was occupied, and gave it no particular atten-
tion. As the knocking continued, however,
and as the faint taps seemed to be definitely
segregated into groups by brief intervals of
silence, he became convinced that his unknown
neighbor was endeavoring to communicate
with him. Upon what principle or plan the
knocks were grouped he did not know, but
he conjectured that the number of taps be-
tween two "rests" might correspond with the
serial number of a letter in the alphabet,—one
knock standing for "a," two for "b," three for
"c," and so on up to twenty-six for "z." Upon
putting this conjecture to the test he was de-
lighted to find that the knocks resolved them-
selves into the letters "D-o-y-o-u-u-n-d-e-r-
s-t-a-n-d?" He replied with forty-nine knocks,
so grouped and spaced as to make "Y-e-s";
but long before he had finished this short word
he became mournfully conscious that, at the
rate of forty-nine knocks for every three letters,
he and his unknown correspondent would not
be able to exchange more than half a dozen
ideas a week. The invisible prisoner on the
other side of the wall did not seem, however,
to be at all discouraged, and began at once
another long series of knocks, which extended
to two hundred and ninety-six, and which, when
translated, made the words "Teach you bet-
ter way-listen!" Mr. X then heard one
loud tap near the corner of the cell, followed
by a sound of scratching, which proceeded
from that point towards the door at about
the height of a man's head, as if the unknown
were drawing a long horizontal line with some
hard substance on the other side of the wall.
After a brief interval of silence there came two
staccato taps and the noise made by the
scratching of a second line parallel with the
first one, but a little lower down. When seven
of these invisible lines had been drawn under
one another about a foot apart, with a group
of knocks at the beginning of each one to de-
note its number, the unseen artist went back
to one knock, and proceeded to draw six per-
pendicular lines crossing the first series at right
angles, so as to make a huge audible checker-
board. As soon as Mr. X heard this in-
visible diagram, the purpose for which it was
intended flashed upon his mind, and before
the unknown instructor had finished knocking
out the words," Put alphabet in squares," the
quick-witted pupil had scratched upon the
floor of his cell a reduced copy of the audible
tracing, and was numbering its lines and col-



THE object of the "checker-board cipher" is, first, to facilitate the transmission of letters and words, and, second, so to disguise them as to make them unrecognizable to persons who have not the key. The cipher in the form above shown is an extremely simple one; but it reduces from 351 to 157 the number of knocks necessary to represent the English alphabet, and it is susceptible of variation and complication to an almost unlimited extent. The letters of the alphabet, for example, may be arranged in the square in twenty-four different symmetrical ways, and every such alphabetical scheme can be combined with two variations in the order of the figures and four in their arrangement, making 192 different ciphers. This, however, is only the beginning of the varied and complex system of secret intercommunication which the political prisoners have

built up on the corner-stone of the lettered square. By combining an understood keyword with the alphabetical checker-board, they have made a number-cipher which has thus far defied the ingenuity of the "cipher bureau" of the "gendarmerie" and which seems to me to be absolutely inscrutable.




Suppose that the message to be put into cipheris" Nicholas arrested," and that the understood key-word is "prison." The letters of the key-word are first written under the letters of the message as many times as may be necessary to fill out the space. The numerical equivalents of the two series of letters are then found in the lettered and numbered square and are added together to make a new series: Ni C h 1 a S a r r e S t e d P r i S O n p r i S O n P ri 34 24 13 23 35 32 11 44 11 43 43 15 44 45 15 41 43 24 44 35 34 41 43 24 44 35 34 41 43 24 75 67 37 67 70 66 52 87 35 87 78 49 85 88 39 58 The last series constitutes the cipher, and its peculiar merit is that the same number never stands twice for the same letter. "A" in "Nicholas" is represented by "52"; "a" in "arrested" is represented by "35"; "e," the first time it occurs, is "49"; and the next time, "39"; the number "67," in the cipher message, stands in one place for "i" and in another for "h"; while "87" stands once for "s" and once for "r." In deciphering the cryptograph the numerical equivalents of the letters of the key-word are, of course, to be subtracted from the cipher-numbers, and then the letters which correspond with the figures of the remainder are to be sought in the alphabetical square.

It is apparent at a glance that a cryptograph of this kind, which can be indefinitely varied, and in which the same number never stands twice for the same letter, cannot be deciphered by any of the ordinary methods.


ANOTHER merit of the "checker-board cipher" is the wide range of its applicability. It can be used not only as a knock alphabet, but as an oral language, as a signal-code based on vision, and as a method of secret intercommunication by means of almost imperceptible dots or indentations in paper, sand, dust, or the leaf of a tree. Any substance which can be dotted, indented, or pierced may serve as a medium for the conveyance of the cipher numbers. The use of the alphabetical square in the form of an oral language is not common, but it is frequently resorted to in prisons where the number of politicals is so large that they can safely defy control. In such cases they do

not restrict themselves to secret intercommunication by means of knocks, but shout the cipher-numbers to one another openly from their cell windows. It is not possible to punish a hundred or more people for this offense by putting them all into dark cells, the capacity of an already overcrowded prison will not admit. of such a method of dealing with the evil,and if the authorities resort to physical violence the prisoners meet it with an organized "hunger-strike." This desperate form of protest creates an excited state of public feeling in the town where the prison is situated; it exasperates the friends of the sufferers to such a degree as to endanger the lives of the prison officials; it is an occurrence which the warden must report to the Minister of the Interior, and it is almost certain to be followed by an investigation of the prison management, which may bring to light the illegal practices from which the warden, overseers, and turnkeys derive pecuniary profit. These inevitable consequences of a hunger-strike are greatly dreaded by the prison authorities, and it often happens that a warden, in order to avoid what is known in the prison world as a "skandal,” winks at relatively trivial infractions of prison discipline. In this way a modus vivendi is established, by virtue of which the warden permits oral communication between the political prisoners, and the latter tacitly agree not to create a disturbance prejudicial to the interests of the warden. Such a state of things existed in the Kiev prison in 1883, and at almost any hour of the day or night a pedestrian passing the prison wall might have heard the voices of the politicals calling out in a steady monotone from their cell windows, "Twelve, fifteen, fifty-four, twenty-four, thirtytwo, fifteen, fourteen." Nearly all of the political exiles whom I met in Siberia were skilled in the use of the checker-board cipher, and could transmit intelligence either by knocks or by calling the equivalent numbers at the rate of from ten to fifteen words a minute.

The use of this cipher as a signal code by prisoners who are so situated that they can see one another is more common, the numbers being made by visible motions of the hand instead of by audible knocks. At night the prisoner, if allowed to have a candle, makes the numbers by moving a book or a towel back and forth in front of the light so as to alternately hide it and reveal it. In this way conversations are sometimes carried on between politicals at their cell windows and friends in houses standing outside the prison wall and at a considerable distance.

One of the most ingenious and successful adaptations of the checker-board cipher to the peculiar conditions and necessities of prison

life is the method by which the politicals convey secret intelligence to their relatives and friends in open letters forwarded through official hands. When a political offender has been subjected to final examination and the papers in his case are ready for submission to the Department of Justice, he is generally allowed to exchange letters with his relatives. All such letters, however, must be sent to the procureur or the local chief of gendarmes for examination, and they are not only carefully scrutinized, but are often subjected to heat and to the action of chemical re-agents, in order to ascertain whether or not they contain invisible writing in sympathetic ink. In spite, however, of such measures of precaution, the political prisoners manage, with the aid of the checker-board cipher, to transmit contraband information through the hands and under the very eyes of the most subtle and experienced officials. As an illustration of the way in which this is accomplished, take the following extract from the letter of a prisoner:

I have received

word-spaces is obviated by a rule that such spaces shall be disregarded unless the final stroke of the terminal letter is upward, as in the word "of" in the first line of the foregoing illustration. That sign indicates that the wordspace which follows it is also a cipher-space and is to be taken into account in determining the limits of the cipher-groups. This method of conveying information is now known to the "cipher bureau" of the gendarmerie, but for a long time it was practiced successfully, and it is still resorted to occasionally in remote provincial prisons.

Nothing has done more than this sort of intercommunication to prevent suicide and insanity among political prisoners in solitary confinement. Complete isolation is perhaps the most terrible punishment that can be inflicted upon an educated human being, and when to such isolation are added perfect stillness, limitation of vision by four bare walls, and deprivation of all means of employment for the intellectual powers, life soon becomes

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The nineteenth instant and am

very glad

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are all well at

home and that


letter which I wrote


received safely the on the twenty third

last month. I wish I could hear from you

of oftener.

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There is apparently nothing unusual or suspicious either in the language or in the chirography of this letter,- it would probably be approved and passed by nine officials out of ten, and yet it contains the words, "Tell Alexe to fly arrest threatened." A close and careful examination of the writing will show that the letters are segregated into groups by minute and almost imperceptible spaces. The first words are spaced as follows: "Ihaverece-i-vedyo-urw-el-com-el." The number of letters in each group is regarded as a figure and every two figures constitute a number, whose alphabetical equivalent is to be found in the cipher square. The numbers in the above groups are 45 15 32 32, which the checkerboard resolves into the letters, "T-e-l-l." The embarrassment which would be caused by the

unendurable and the prisoner either commits suicide, goes insane, or sinks into an apathetic stupor which terminates in dementia. The possibility of intercommunication-of sharing one's thoughts and emotions with anotherlends some interest even to the dreariest existence, and the contrivance of schemes to baffle official vigilance and secure such intercommunication affords the mental faculties exercise enough to keep them from decay. Scores of political offenders have gone insane in Russian prisons, but the number of lives thus wrecked is much smaller than it would have been if the imprisoned revolutionists had not contrived, by ingenious methods of intercommunication, to support, encourage, and comfort one another in hours of despair.

George Kennan.



WHEN in thy glass thou studiest thy face,

Not long, nor yet not seldom, half repelled
And half attracted; when thou hast beheld
Of Time's slow ravages the crumbling trace
(Deciphered now with many an interspace

The characters erewhile that Beauty spelled),
And in thy throat a choking fear hath swelled
Of Love, grown cold, eluding thy embrace:
Could'st thou but read my gaze of tenderness —
Affection fused with pity-precious tears
Would bring relief to thy unjust distress;

Thy visage, even as it to me appears,

Would seem to thee transfigured; thou would'st bless
Me, who am also, Dearest, scarred with years!


Age can not wither her whom not gray hairs

Nor furrowed cheeks have made the thrall of Time;
For Spring lies hidden under Winter's rime,
And violets know the victory is theirs.

Even so the corn of Egypt, unawares,

Proud Nilus shelters with engulfing slime;
So Etna's hardening crust a more sublime
Volley of pent-up fires at last prepares.

O face yet fair, if paler, and serene

With sense of duty done without complaint!
O venerable crown!-a living green,
Strength to the weak, and courage to the faint-
Thy bleaching locks, thy wrinkles, have but been
Fresh beads upon the rosary of a saint!

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T was a CENTURY expedition in its plan, and its object was to descend the Missouri River in a skiff from some point near Helena, Montana, to the Great Falls, to make a portage around the falls and follow the river down to Fort Benton, and thence, by some sort of land transportation, to cross the country to the Yellowstone through the cattle and sheep ranges. When it came to start from Helena, however, a number of citizens joined it for the purpose of making the trip to the falls, so that there were two skiff-loads instead of one. The pilot, whose old title of colonel had lately been changed to commodore by the Helena newspapers, by reason of his having seven times braved the perils of the rapids and the passage through the Gate of the Mountains, was a man of resources. He had provided but one boat, and, in the free Western fashion, he laid hands upon a small craft that the governor of the Territory had constructed with the view of making a voyage, put it on wheels, and started it for the river in the wake of the larger skiff. The governor was to have gone with the expedition, but was hindered by some public duties. If he could not go his boat could, the commodore reasoned; and go it did, never to return, for there is no such thing as getting up the river with any sort of craft. Now, Helena, where the boats were built, is some twelve miles from the Missouri, and the departure of the expedition was not so impressive an affair as its members might have wished. The appearance of the two skiffs on wheels, loaded with provisions and camp equipage, with the company following, some on foot and some in a "jerky," was by no means heroic. Nevertheless, the people of the town, accustomed to seeing all sorts of queer "outfits," witnessed our departure without any vociferous demonstrations of hilarity, restrained, perhaps, by the blue pennant which the commodore had set up on the prow of his flagship.

The day was the 16th of September, and though the high mountains of the main divide of the Rockies were white with new snow, the oats were not yet harvested on the ranches in the Valley of the Prickly Pear, through which we passed, so late is the maturing of grain in the high latitudes and on the high altitudes of Montana. At Stubbs's Ferry we put the boats into the water. Stubbs seemed

to keep a ferry chiefly for getting his hay across to his barns from his fields on the farther side of the river. There was a road that ran up into the foot-hills of the Belt Range, but no one could tell where it went to or why anybody should travel it. Stubbs's Ferry is about a hundred miles below the junction of the three rivers which form the Missouri — the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin. For much of that distance a railroad follows the course of the stream and the banks are sparsely inhabited by ranchmen, but below the ferry the river rushes through a series of profound cañons, and until it gets out of the Belt Range and into the great plains of eastern Montana, the country it traverses is singularly savage and desolate.

In the division of the party between our two boats, the artist and the writer took the smaller one, which had been pirated from the governor, and recruited for its crew a wandering Californian and a Helena journalist. The artist took the steering-oar, reassuring his companions as to his ability to run rapids successfully with the information that in his younger days he had navigated lumber-rafts on the Alleghany River; the writer sat in the bow, to give warning of breakers ahead and shove the boat off when she grounded on shoals; the Californian proved almost a Hanlan at the oars, and the Helena journalist was detailed to work the pumps, which consisted of an old tin can and a cup. The remainder of the party, numbering eight, embarked in the long-boat, and as they had with them the cook, the "grubstake," and the tents, their craft was an object of much interest, about meal-times and at nightfall, to the occupants of the smaller skiff. At other times each of the boats kept its own course, and the skill of the commodore was only required to manage his own craft. By the camp-fire, however, when the day's run was over, the tents were pitched, and the supper was eaten, he came out strong with tales of Indian fights, of Vigilante hangings, and of all manner of wild frontier adventures. He had been through the civil war and numerous Indian campaigns, and carried two bullets in his body. At one time he had held a prominent Federal office in Montana. In later years he has taken a great fancy to the wild rapids and gorges of the Upper Missouri and delights to conduct parties of adventurous travelers through them. The business cannot be profitable, but there is lots of fun in it for the old gentleman; and his bronzed face, sil

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