Caleb Williams
William Godwin

Part 5 out of 7

and prosecutors? But against all this perhaps you have been told there
is redress. Yes; a redress, that it is the consummation of insult so
much as to name! Where shall the poor wretch reduced to the last
despair, to whom acquittal perhaps comes just time enough to save him
from perishing,--where shall this man find leisure, and much less money,
to fee counsel and officers, and purchase the tedious dear-bought remedy
of the law? No; he is too happy to leave his dungeon, and the memory of
his dungeon, behind him; and the same tyranny and wanton oppression
become the inheritance of his successor.

For myself, I looked round upon my walls, and forward upon the premature
death I had too much reason to expect: I consulted my own heart, that
whispered nothing but innocence; and I said, "This is society. This is
the object, the distribution of justice, which is the end of human
reason. For this sages have toiled, and midnight oil has been wasted.

The reader will forgive this digression from the immediate subject of my
story. If it should be said these are general remarks, let it be
remembered that they are the dear-bought, result of experience. It is
from the fulness of a bursting heart that reproach thus flows to my pen.
These are not the declamations of a man desirous to be eloquent. I have
felt the iron of slavery grating upon my soul.

I believed that misery, more pure than that which I now endured, had
never fallen to the lot of a human being. I recollected with
astonishment my puerile eagerness to be brought to the test, and have my
innocence examined. I execrated it, as the vilest and most insufferable
pedantry. I exclaimed, in the bitterness of my heart, "Of what value is
a fair fame? It is the jewel of men formed to be amused with baubles.
Without it, I might have had serenity of heart and cheerfulness of
occupation, peace, and liberty; why should I consign my happiness to
other men's arbitration? But, if a fair fame were of the most
inexpressible value, is this the method which common sense would
prescribe to retrieve it? The language which these institutions hold out
to the unfortunate is, 'Come, and be shut out from the light of day; be
the associate of those whom society has marked out for her abhorrence,
be the slave of jailers, be loaded with fetters; thus shall you be
cleared from every unworthy aspersion, and restored to reputation and
honour!' This is the consolation she affords to those whom malignity or
folly, private pique or unfounded positiveness, have, without the
smallest foundation, loaded with calumny." For myself, I felt my own
innocence; and I soon found, upon enquiry, that three fourths of those
who are regularly subjected to a similar treatment, are persons whom,
even with all the superciliousness and precipitation of our courts of
justice, no evidence can be found sufficient to convict. How slender
then must be that man's portion of information and discernment, who is
willing to commit his character and welfare to such guardianship!

But my case was even worse than this. I intimately felt that a trial,
such as our institutions have hitherto been able to make it, is only the
worthy sequel of such a beginning. What chance was there after the
purgation I was now suffering, that I should come out acquitted at last?
What probability was there that the trial I had endured in the house of
Mr. Falkland was not just as fair as any that might be expected to
follow? No; I anticipated my own condemnation.

Thus was I cut off, for ever, from all that existence has to
bestow--from all the high hopes I had so often conceived--from all the
future excellence my soul so much delighted to imagine,--to spend a few
weeks in a miserable prison, and then to perish by the hand of the
public executioner. No language can do justice to the indignant and
soul-sickening loathing that these ideas excited. My resentment was not
restricted to my prosecutor, but extended itself to the whole machine of
society. I could never believe that all this was the fair result of
institutions inseparable from the general good. I regarded the whole
human species as so many hangmen and torturers; I considered them as
confederated to tear me to pieces; and this wide scene of inexorable
persecution inflicted upon me inexpressible agony. I looked on this side
and on that: I was innocent; I had a right to expect assistance; but
every heart was steeled against me; every hand was ready to lend its
force to make my ruin secure. No man that has not felt, in his own most
momentous concerns, justice, eternal truth, unalterable equity engaged
in his behalf, and on the other side brute force, impenetrable
obstinacy, and unfeeling insolence, can imagine the sensations that then
passed through my mind. I saw treachery triumphant and enthroned; I saw
the sinews of innocence crumbled into dust by the gripe of almighty

What relief had I from these sensations? Was it relief, that I spent the
day in the midst of profligacy and execrations--that I saw reflected
from every countenance agonies only inferior to my own? He that would
form a lively idea of the regions of the damned, need only to witness,
for six hours, a scene to which I was confined for many months. Not for
one hour could I withdraw myself from this complexity of horrors, or
take refuge in the calmness of meditation. Air, exercise, series,
contrast, those grand enliveners of the human frame, I was for ever
debarred from, by the inexorable tyranny under which I was fallen. Nor
did I find the solitude of my nightly dungeon less insupportable. Its
only furniture was the straw that served me for my repose. It was
narrow, damp, and unwholesome. The slumbers of a mind, wearied, like
mine, with the most detestable uniformity, to whom neither amusement nor
occupation ever offered themselves to beguile the painful hours, were
short, disturbed, and unrefreshing. My sleeping, still more than my
waking thoughts, were full of perplexity, deformity, and disorder. To
these slumbers succeeded the hours which, by the regulations of our
prison, I was obliged, though awake, to spend in solitary and cheerless
darkness. Here I had neither books nor pens, nor any thing upon which to
engage my attention; all was a sightless blank. How was a mind, active
and indefatigable like mine, to endure this misery? I could not sink it
in lethargy; I could nor forget my woes: they haunted me with
unintermitted and demoniac malice. Cruel, inexorable policy of human
affairs, that condemns a man to torture like this; that sanctions it,
and knows not what is done under its sanction; that is too supine and
unfeeling to enquire into these petty details; that calls this the
ordeal of innocence, and the protector of freedom! A thousand times I
could have dashed my brains against the walls of my dungeon; a thousand
times I longed for death, and wished, with inexpressible ardour, for an
end to what I suffered; a thousand times I meditated suicide, and
ruminated, in the bitterness of my soul, upon the different means of
escaping from the load of existence. What had I to do with life? I had
seen enough to make me regard it with detestation. Why should I wait the
lingering process of legal despotism, and not dare so much as to die,
but when and how its instruments decreed? Still some inexplicable
suggestion withheld my hand. I clung with desperate fondness to this
shadow of existence, its mysterious attractions, and its hopeless


Such were the reflections that haunted the first days of my
imprisonment, in consequence of which they were spent in perpetual
anguish. But, after a time, nature, wearied with distress, would no
longer stoop to the burthen; thought, which is incessantly varying,
introduced a series of reflections totally different.

My fortitude revived. I had always been accustomed to cheerfulness, good
humour, and serenity; and this habit now returned to visit me at the
bottom of my dungeon. No sooner did my contemplations take this turn,
than I saw the reasonableness and possibility of tranquillity and peace;
and my mind whispered to me the propriety of showing, in this forlorn
condition, that I was superior to all my persecutors. Blessed state of
innocence and self-approbation! The sunshine of conscious integrity
pierced through all the barriers of my cell, and spoke ten thousand
times more joy to my heart, than the accumulated splendours of nature
and art can communicate to the slaves of vice.

I found out the secret of employing my mind. I said, "I am shut up for
half the day in total darkness, without any external source of
amusement; the other half I spend in the midst of noise, turbulence,
and, confusion. What then? Can I not draw amusement from the stores of
my own mind? Is it not freighted with various knowledge? Have I not been
employed from my infancy in gratifying an insatiable curiosity? When
should I derive benefit from these superior advantages, if not at
present?" Accordingly I tasked the stores of my memory, and my powers of
invention. I amused myself with recollecting the history of my life. By
degrees I called to mind a number of minute circumstances, which, but
for this exercise, would have been for ever forgotten. I repassed in my
thoughts whole conversations, I recollected their subjects, their
arrangement, their incidents, frequently their very words. I mused upon
these ideas, till I was totally absorbed in thought. I repeated them,
till my mind glowed with enthusiasm. I had my different employments,
fitted for the solitude of the night, in which I could give full scope
to the impulses of my mind; and for the uproar of the day, in which my
chief object was, to be insensible to the disorder with which I was

By degrees I quitted my own story, and employed myself in imaginary
adventures. I figured to myself every situation in which I could be
placed, and conceived the conduct to be observed in each. Thus scenes of
insult and danger, of tenderness and oppression, became familiar to me.
In fancy I often passed the awful hour of dissolving nature. In some of
my reveries I boiled with impetuous indignation, and in others patiently
collected the whole force of my mind for some fearful encounter. I
cultivated the powers of oratory suited to these different states, and
improved more in eloquence in the solitude of my dungeon, than perhaps I
should have done in the busiest and most crowded scenes.

At length I proceeded to as regular a disposition of my time, as the man
in his study, who passes from mathematics to poetry, and from poetry to
the law of nations, in the different parts of each single day; and I as
seldom infringed upon my plan. Nor were my subjects of disquisition less
numerous than his. I went over, by the assistance of memory only, a
considerable part of Euclid during my confinement, and revived, day
after day, the series of facts and incidents in some of the most
celebrated historians. I became myself a poet; and, while I described
the sentiments cherished by the view of natural objects, recorded the
characters and passions of men, and partook with a burning zeal in the
generosity of their determinations, I eluded the squalid solitude of my
dungeon, and wandered in idea through all the varieties of human
society. I easily found expedients, such as the mind seems always to
require, and which books and pens supply to the man at large, to record
from time to time the progress that had been made.

While I was thus employed, I reflected with exultation upon the degree
in which man is independent of the smiles and frowns of fortune. I was
beyond her reach, for I could fall no lower. To an ordinary eye I might
seem destitute and miserable, but in reality I wanted for nothing. My
fare was coarse; but I was in health. My dungeon was noisome; but I felt
no inconvenience. I was shut up from the usual means of exercise and
air; but I found the method of exercising myself even to perspiration in
my dungeon. I had no power of withdrawing my person from a disgustful
society, in the most cheerful and valuable part of the day; but I soon
brought to perfection the art of withdrawing my thoughts, and saw and
heard the people about me, for just as short a time, and as seldom, as I

Such is man in himself considered; so simple his nature; so few his
wants. How different from the man of artificial society! Palaces are
built for his reception, a thousand vehicles provided for his exercise,
provinces are ransacked for the gratification of his appetite, and the
whole world traversed to supply him with apparel and furniture. Thus
vast is his expenditure, and the purchase slavery. He is dependent on a
thousand accidents for tranquillity and health, and his body and soul
are at the devotion of whoever will satisfy his imperious cravings.

In addition to the disadvantages of my present situation, I was reserved
for an ignominious death. What then? Every man must die. No man knows
how soon. It surely is not worse to encounter the king of terrors, in
health, and with every advantage for the collection of fortitude, than
to encounter him, already half subdued by sickness and suffering. I was
resolved at least fully to possess the days I had to live; and this is
peculiarly in the power of the man who preserves his health to the last
moment of his existence. Why should I suffer my mind to be invaded by
unavailing regrets? Every sentiment of vanity, or rather of independence
and justice within me, instigated me to say to my persecutor, "You may
cut off my existence, but you cannot disturb my serenity."


In the midst of these reflections, another thought, which had not before
struck me, occurred to my mind. "I exult," said I, "and reasonably, over
the impotence of my persecutor. Is not that impotence greater than I
have yet imagined? I say, he may cut off my existence, but cannot
disturb my serenity. It is true: my mind, the clearness of my spirit,
the firmness of my temper, are beyond his reach; is not my life equally
so, if I please? What are the material obstacles, that man never
subdued? What is the undertaking so arduous, that by some has not been
accomplished? And if by others, why not by me? Had they stronger motives
than I? Was existence more variously endeared to them? or had they more
numerous methods by which to animate and adorn it? Many of those who
have exerted most perseverance and intrepidity, were obviously my
inferiors in that respect. Why should not I be as daring as they?
Adamant and steel have a ductility like water, to a mind sufficiently
bold and contemplative. The mind is master of itself; and is endowed
with powers that might enable it to laugh at the tyrant's vigilance." I
passed and repassed these ideas in my mind; and, heated with the
contemplation, I said, "No, I will not die!"

My reading, in early youth, had been extremely miscellaneous. I had read
of housebreakers, to whom locks and bolts were a jest, and who, vain of
their art, exhibited the experiment of entering a house the most
strongly barricaded, with as little noise, and almost as little trouble,
as other men would lift up a latch. There is nothing so interesting to
the juvenile mind, as the wonderful; there is no power that it so
eagerly covets, as that of astonishing spectators by its miraculous
exertions. Mind appeared, to my untutored reflections, vague, airy, and
unfettered, the susceptible perceiver of reasons, but never intended by
nature to be the slave of force. Why should it be in the power of man to
overtake and hold me by violence? Why, when I choose to withdraw myself,
should I not be capable of eluding the most vigilant search? These
limbs, and this trunk, are a cumbrous and unfortunate load for the power
of thinking to drag along with it; but why should not the power of
thinking be able to lighten the load, till it shall be no longer
felt?--These early modes of reflection were by no means indifferent to
my present enquiries.

Our next-door neighbour at my father's house had been a carpenter. Fresh
from the sort of reading I have mentioned, I was eager to examine his
tools, their powers and their uses. This carpenter was a man of strong
and vigorous mind; and, his faculties having been chiefly confined to
the range of his profession, he was fertile in experiments, and
ingenious in reasoning upon these particular topics. I therefore
obtained from him considerable satisfaction; and, my mind being set in
action, I sometimes even improved upon the hints he furnished. His
conversation was particularly agreeable to me; I at first worked with
him sometimes for my amusement, and afterwards occasionally for a short
time as his journeyman. I was constitutionally vigorous; and, by the
experience thus attained, I added to the abstract possession of power,
the skill of applying it, when I pleased, in such a manner as that no
part should be inefficient.

It is a strange, but no uncommon feature in the human mind, that the
very resource of which we stand in greatest need in a critical
situation, though already accumulated, it may be, by preceding industry,
fails to present itself at the time when it should be called into
action. Thus my mind had passed through two very different stages since
my imprisonment, before this means of liberation suggested itself. My
faculties were overwhelmed in the first instance, and raised to a pitch
of enthusiasm in the second; while in both I took it for granted in a
manner, that I must passively submit to the good pleasure of my

During the period in which my mind had been thus undecided, and when I
had been little more than a month in durance, the assizes, which were
held twice a year in the town in which I was a prisoner, came on. Upon
this occasion my case was not brought forward, but was suffered to stand
over six months longer. It would have been just the same, if I had had
as strong reason to expect acquittal as I had conviction. If I had been
apprehended upon the most frivolous reasons upon which any justice of
the peace ever thought proper to commit a naked beggar for trial, I must
still have waited about two hundred and seventeen days before my
innocence could be cleared. So imperfect are the effects of the boasted
laws of a country, whose legislators hold their assembly from four to
six months in every year! I could never discover with certainty, whether
this delay were owing to any interference on the part of my prosecutor,
or whether it fell out in the regular administration of justice, which
is too solemn and dignified to accommodate itself to the rights or
benefit of an insignificant individual.

But this was not the only incident that occurred to me during my
confinement, for which I could find no satisfactory solution. It was
nearly at the same time, that the keeper began to alter his behaviour to
me. He sent for me one morning into the part of the building which was
appropriated for his own use, and, after some hesitation, told me he was
sorry my accommodations had been so indifferent, and asked whether I
should like to have a chamber in his family? I was struck with the
unexpectedness of this question, and desired to know whether any body
had employed him to ask it. No, he replied; but, now the assizes were
over, he had fewer felons on his hands, and more time to look about him.
He believed I was a good kind of a young man, and he had taken a sort of
a liking to me. I fixed my eye upon his countenance as he said this. I
could discover none of the usual symptoms of kindness; he appeared to me
to be acting a part, unnatural, and that sat with awkwardness upon him.
He went on however to offer me the liberty of eating at his table;
which, if I chose it, he said, would make no difference to him, and he
should not think of charging me any thing for it. He had always indeed
as much upon his hands as one person could see to; but his wife and his
daughter Peggy would be woundily pleased to hear a person of learning
talk, as he understood I was; and perhaps I might not feel myself
unpleasantly circumstanced in their company.

I reflected on this proposal, and had little doubt, notwithstanding what
the keeper had affirmed to the contrary, that it did not proceed from
any spontaneous humanity in him, but that he had, to speak the language
of persons of his cast, good reasons for what he did. I busied myself in
conjectures as to who could be the author of this sort of indulgence and
attention. The two most likely persons were Mr. Falkland and Mr.
Forester. The latter I knew to be a man austere and inexorable towards
those whom he deemed vicious. He piqued himself upon being insensible to
those softer emotions, which, he believed, answered no other purpose
than to seduce us from our duty. Mr. Falkland, on the contrary, was a
man of the acutest sensibility; hence arose his pleasures and his pains,
his virtues and his vices. Though he were the bitterest enemy to whom I
could possibly be exposed, and though no sentiments of humanity could
divert or control the bent of his mind, I yet persuaded myself, that he
was more likely than his kinsman, to visit in idea the scene of my
dungeon, and to feel impelled to alleviate my sufferings.

This conjecture was by no means calculated to serve as balm to my mind.
My thoughts were full of irritation against my persecutor. How could I
think kindly of a man, in competition with the gratification of whose
ruling passion my good name or my life was deemed of no consideration? I
saw him crushing the one, and bringing the other into jeopardy, with a
quietness and composure on his part that I could not recollect without
horror. I knew not what were his plans respecting me. I knew not whether
he troubled himself so much as to form a barren wish for the
preservation of one whose future prospects he had so iniquitously
tarnished. I had hitherto been silent as to my principal topic of
recrimination. But I was by no means certain, that I should consent to
go out of the world in silence, the victim of this man's obduracy and
art. In every view I felt my heart ulcerated with a sense of his
injustice; and my very soul spurned these pitiful indulgences, at a time
that he was grinding me into dust with the inexorableness of his

I was influenced by these sentiments in my reply to the jailor; and I
found a secret pleasure in pronouncing them in all their bitterness. I
viewed him with a sarcastic smile, and said, I was glad to find him of a
sudden become so humane: I was not however without some penetration as
to the humanity of a jailor, and could guess at the circumstances by
which it was produced. But he might tell his employer, that his cares
were fruitless: I would accept no favours from a man that held a halter
about my neck; and had courage enough to endure the worst both in time
to come and now.--The jailor looked at me with astonishment, and turning
upon his heel, exclaimed, "Well done, my cock! You have not had your
learning for nothing, I see. You are set upon not dying dunghill. But
that is to come, lad; you had better by half keep your courage till you
shall find it wanted."

The assizes, which passed over without influence to me, produced a great
revolution among my fellow-prisoners. I lived long enough in the jail to
witness a general mutation of its inhabitants. One of the housebreakers
(the rival of the Duke of Bedford), and the coiner, were hanged. Two
more were cast for transportation, and the rest acquitted. The
transports remained with us; and, though the prison was thus lightened
of nine of its inhabitants, there were, at the next half-yearly period
of assizes, as many persons on the felons' side, within three, as I had
found on my first arrival.

The soldier, whose story I have already recorded, died on the evening of
the very day on which the judges arrived, of a disease the consequence
of his confinement. Such was the justice, that resulted from the laws of
his country to an individual who would have been the ornament of any
age; one who, of all the men I ever knew, was perhaps the kindest, of
the most feeling heart, of the most engaging and unaffected manners, and
the most unblemished life. The name of this man was Brightwel. Were it
possible for my pen to consecrate him to never-dying fame, I could
undertake no task more grateful to my heart. His judgment was
penetrating and manly, totally unmixed with imbecility and confusion,
while at the same time there was such an uncontending frankness in his
countenance, that a superficial observer would have supposed he must
have been the prey of the first plausible knavery that was practised
against him. Great reason have I to remember him with affection! He was
the most ardent, I had almost said the last, of my friends. Nor did I
remain in this respect in his debt. There was indeed a great
congeniality, if I may presume to say so, in our characters, except that
I cannot pretend to rival the originality and self-created vigour of his
mind, or to compare with, what the world has scarcely surpassed, the
correctness and untainted purity of his conduct. He heard my story, as
far as I thought proper to disclose it, with interest; he examined it
with sincere impartiality; and if, at first, any doubt remained upon his
mind, a frequent observation of me in my most unguarded moments taught
him in no long time to place an unreserved confidence in my innocence.

He talked of the injustice of which we were mutual victims, without
bitterness; and delighted to believe that the time would come, when the
possibility of such intolerable oppression would be extirpated. But
this, he said, was a happiness reserved for posterity; it was too late
for us to reap the benefit of it. It was some consolation to him, that
he could not tell the period in his past life, which the best judgment
of which he was capable would teach him to spend better. He could say,
with as much reason as most men, he had discharged his duty. But he
foresaw that he should not survive his present calamity. This was his
prediction, while yet in health. He might be said, in a certain sense,
to have a broken heart. But, if that phrase were in any way applicable
to him, sure never was despair more calm, more full of resignation and

At no time in the whole course of my adventures was I exposed to a shock
more severe, than I received from this man's death. The circumstances of
his fate presented themselves to my mind in their full complication of
iniquity. From him, and the execrations with which I loaded the
government that could be the instrument of his tragedy, I turned to
myself. I beheld the catastrophe of Brightwel with envy. A thousand
times I longed that my corse had lain in death, instead of his. I was
only reserved, as I persuaded myself, for unutterable woe. In a few days
he would have been acquitted; his liberty, his reputation restored;
mankind perhaps, struck with the injustice he had suffered, would have
shown themselves eager to balance his misfortunes, and obliterate his
disgrace. But this man died; and I remained alive! I, who, though not
less wrongfully treated than he, had no hope of reparation, must be
marked as long as I lived for a villain, and in my death probably held
up to the scorn and detestation of my species!

Such were some of the immediate reflections which the fate of this
unfortunate martyr produced in my mind. Yet my intercourse with
Brightwel was not, in the review, without its portion of comfort. I
said, "This man has seen through the veil of calumny that overshades me:
he has understood, and has loved me. Why should I despair? May I not
meet hereafter with men ingenuous like him, who shall do me justice, and
sympathise with my calamity? With that consolation I will be satisfied.
I will rest in the arms of friendship, and forget the malignity of the
world. Henceforth I will be contented with tranquil obscurity, with the
cultivation of sentiment and wisdom, and the exercise of benevolence
within a narrow circle." It was thus that my mind became excited to the
project I was about to undertake.

I had no sooner meditated the idea of an escape, than I determined upon
the following method of facilitating the preparations for it. I
undertook to ingratiate myself with my keeper. In the world I have
generally found such persons as had been acquainted with the outline of
my story, regarding me with a sort of loathing and abhorrence, which
made them avoid me with as much care as if I had been spotted with the
plague. The idea of my having first robbed my patron, and then
endeavouring to clear myself by charging him with subornation against
me, placed me in a class distinct from, and infinitely more guilty than
that of common felons. But this man was too good a master of his
profession, to entertain aversion against a fellow-creature upon that
score. He considered the persons committed to his custody, merely as so
many human bodies, for whom he was responsible that they should be
forthcoming in time and place; and the difference of innocence and guilt
he looked down upon as an affair beneath his attention. I had not
therefore the prejudices to encounter in recommending myself to him,
that I have found so peculiarly obstinate in other cases. Add to which,
the same motive, whatever it was, that had made him so profuse in his
offers a little before, had probably its influence on the present

I informed him of my skill in the profession of a joiner, and offered to
make him half a dozen handsome chairs, if he would facilitate my
obtaining the tools necessary for carrying on my profession in my
present confinement; for, without his consent previously obtained, it
would have been in vain for me to expect that I could quietly exert an
industry of this kind, even if my existence had depended upon it. He
looked at me first, as asking himself what he was to understand by this
novel proposal; and then, his countenance most graciously relaxing,
said, he was glad I was come off a little of my high notions and my
buckram, and he would see what he could do. Two days after, he signified
his compliance. He said that, as to the matter of the present I had
offered him, he thought nothing of that; I might do as I pleased in it;
but I might depend upon every civility from him that he could show with
safety to himself, if so be as, when he was civil, I did not offer a
second time for to snap and take him up short.

Having thus gained my preliminary, I gradually accumulated tools of
various sorts--gimlets, piercers, chisels, _et cetera_. I immediately
set myself to work. The nights were long, and the sordid eagerness of my
keeper, notwithstanding his ostentatious generosity, was great; I
therefore petitioned for, and was indulged with, a bit of candle, that I
might amuse myself for an hour or two with my work after I was locked up
in my dungeon. I did not however by any means apply constantly to the
work I had undertaken, and my jailor betrayed various tokens of
impatience. Perhaps he was afraid I should not have finished it, before
I was hanged. I however insisted upon working at my leisure as I
pleased; and this he did not venture expressly to dispute. In addition
to the advantages thus obtained, I procured secretly from Miss Peggy,
who now and then came into the jail to make her observations of the
prisoners, and who seemed to have conceived some partiality for my
person, the implement of an iron crow.

In these proceedings it is easy to trace the vice and duplicity that
must be expected to grow out of injustice. I know not whether my readers
will pardon the sinister advantage I extracted from the mysterious
concessions of my keeper. But I must acknowledge my weakness in that
respect; I am writing my adventures, and not my apology; and I was not
prepared to maintain the unvaried sincerity of my manners, at the
expense of a speedy close of my existence.

My plan was now digested. I believed that, by means of the crow, I could
easily, and without much noise, force the door of my dungeon from its
hinges, or if not, that I could, in case of necessity, cut away the
lock. This door led into a narrow passage, bounded on one side by the
range of dungeons, and on the other by the jailor's and turnkeys'
apartments, through which was the usual entrance from the street. This
outlet I dared not attempt, for fear of disturbing the persons close to
whose very door I should in that case have found it necessary to pass. I
determined therefore upon another door at the further end of the
passage, which was well barricaded, and which led to a sort of garden in
the occupation of the keeper. This garden I had never entered, but I had
had an opportunity of observing it from the window of the felons'
day-room, which looked that way, the room itself being immediately over
the range of dungeons. I perceived that it was bounded by a wall of
considerable height, which I was told by my fellow-prisoners was the
extremity of the jail on that side, and beyond which was a back-lane of
some length, that terminated in the skirts of the town. Upon an accurate
observation, and much reflection upon the subject, I found I should be
able, if once I got into the garden, with my gimlets and piercers
inserted at proper distances to make a sort of ladder, by means of which
I could clear the wall, and once more take possession of the sweets of
liberty. I preferred this wall to that which immediately skirted my
dungeon, on the other side of which was a populous street.

I suffered about two days to elapse from the period at which I had
thoroughly digested my project, and then in the very middle of the night
began to set about its execution. The first door was attended with
considerable difficulty; but at length this obstacle was happily
removed. The second door was fastened on the inside. I was therefore
able with perfect ease to push back the bolts. But the lock, which of
course was depended upon for the principal security, and was therefore
strong, was double-shot, and the key taken away. I endeavoured with my
chisel to force back the bolt of the lock, but to no purpose. I then
unscrewed the box of the lock; and, that being taken away, the door was
no longer opposed to my wishes.

Thus far I had proceeded with the happiest success; but close on the
other side of the door there was a kennel with a large mastiff dog, of
which I had not the smallest previous knowledge. Though I stepped along
in the most careful manner, this animal was disturbed, and began to
bark. I was extremely disconcerted, but immediately applied myself to
soothe the animal, in which I presently succeeded. I then returned along
the passage to listen whether any body had been disturbed by the noise
of the dog; resolved, if that had been the case, that I would return to
my dungeon, and endeavour to replace every thing in its former state.
But the whole appeared perfectly quiet, and I was encouraged to proceed
in my operation.

I now got to the wall, and had nearly gained half the ascent, when I
heard a voice at the garden-door, crying, "Holloa! who is there? who
opened the door?" The man received no answer, and the night was too dark
for him to distinguish objects at any distance. He therefore returned,
as I judged, into the house for a light. Meantime the dog, understanding
the key in which these interrogations were uttered, began barking again
more violently than ever. I had now no possibility of retreat, and I was
not without hopes that I might yet accomplish my object, and clear the
wall. Meanwhile a second man came out, while the other was getting his
lantern, and by the time I had got to the top of the wall was able to
perceive me. He immediately set up a shout, and threw a large stone,
which grazed me in its flight. Alarmed at my situation, I was obliged
to descend on the other side without taking the necessary precautions,
and in my fall nearly dislocated my ankle.

There was a door in the wall, of which I was not previously apprised;
and, this being opened, the two men with the lantern were on the other
side in an instant. They had then nothing to do but to run along the
lane to the place from which I had descended. I endeavoured to rise
after my fall; but the pain was so intense, that I was scarcely able to
stand, and, after having limped a few paces, I twisted my foot under me,
and fell down again. I had now no remedy, and quietly suffered myself to
be retaken.


I was conducted to the keeper's room for that night, and the two men sat
up with me. I was accosted with many interrogatories, to which I gave
little answer, but complained of the hurt in my leg. To this I could
obtain no reply, except "Curse you, my lad! if that be all, we will give
you some ointment for that; we will anoint it with a little cold iron."
They were indeed excessively sulky with me, for having broken their
night's rest, and given them all this trouble. In the morning they were
as good as their word, fixing a pair of fetters upon both my legs,
regardless of the ankle which was now swelled to a considerable size,
and then fastening me, with a padlock, to a staple in the floor of my
dungeon. I expostulated with warmth upon this treatment, and told them,
that I was a man upon whom the law as yet had passed no censure, and who
therefore, in the eye of the law, was innocent. But they bid me keep
such fudge for people who knew no better; they knew what they did, and
would answer it to any court in England.

The pain of the fetter was intolerable. I endeavoured in various ways to
relieve it, and even privily to free my leg; but the more it was
swelled, the more was this rendered impossible. I then resolved to bear
it with patience: still, the longer it continued, the worse it grew.
After two days and two nights, I entreated the turnkey to go and ask the
surgeon, who usually attended the prison, to look at it, for, if it
continued longer as it was, I was convinced it would mortify. But he
glared surlily at me, and said, "Damn my blood! I should like to see
that day. To die of a mortification is too good an end for such a
rascal!" At the time that he thus addressed me, the whole mass of my
blood was already fevered by the anguish I had undergone, my patience
was wholly exhausted, and I was silly enough to be irritated beyond
bearing, by his impertinence and vulgarity: "Look, you, Mr. Turnkey,"
said I, "there is one thing that such fellows as you are set over us
for, and another thing that you are not. You are to take care we do not
escape; but it is no part of your office to call us names and abuse us.
If I were not chained to the floor, you dare as well eat your fingers as
use such language; and, take my word for it, you shall yet live to
repent of your insolence."

While I thus spoke, the man stared at me with astonishment. He was so
little accustomed to such retorts, that, at first, he could scarcely
believe his ears; and such was the firmness of my manner, that he seemed
to forget for a moment that I was not at large. But, as soon as he had
time to recollect himself, he did not deign to be angry. His face
relaxed into a smile of contempt; he snapped his fingers at me; and,
turning upon his heel, exclaimed, "Well said, my cock! crow away! Have a
care you do not burst!" and, as he shut the door upon me, mimicked the
voice of the animal he mentioned.

This rejoinder brought me to myself in a moment, and showed me the
impotence of the resentment I was expressing. But, though he thus put an
end to the violence of my speech, the torture of my body continued as
great as ever. I was determined to change my mode of attack. The same
turnkey returned in a few minutes; and, as he approached me, to put down
some food he had brought, I slipped a shilling into his hand, saying at
the same time, "My good fellow, for God's sake, go to the surgeon; I am
sure you do not wish me to perish for want of assistance." The fellow
put the shilling into his pocket, looked hard at me, and then with one
nod of his head, and without uttering a single word, went away. The
surgeon presently after made his appearance; and, finding the part in a
high state of inflammation, ordered certain applications, and gave
peremptory directions that the fetter should not be replaced upon that
leg, till a cure had been effected. It was a full month before the leg
was perfectly healed, and made equally strong and flexible with the

The condition in which I was now placed, was totally different from that
which had preceded this attempt. I was chained all day in my dungeon,
with no other mitigation, except that the door was regularly opened for
a few hours in an afternoon, at which time some of the prisoners
occasionally came and spoke to me, particularly one, who, though he
could ill replace my benevolent Brightwel, was not deficient in
excellent qualities. This was no other than the individual whom Mr.
Falkland had, some months before, dismissed upon an accusation of
murder. His courage was gone, his garb was squalid, and the comeliness
and clearness of his countenance was utterly obliterated. He also was
innocent, worthy, brave, and benevolent. He was, I believe, afterwards
acquitted, and turned loose, to wander a desolate and perturbed spectre
through the world. My manual labours were now at an end; my dungeon was
searched every night, and every kind of tool carefully kept from me. The
straw, which had been hitherto allowed me, was removed, under pretence
that it was adapted for concealment; and the only conveniences with
which I was indulged, were a chair and a blanket.

A prospect of some alleviation in no long time opened upon me; but this
my usual ill fortune rendered abortive. The keeper once more made his
appearance, and with his former constitutional and ambiguous humanity.
He pretended to be surprised at my want of every accommodation. He
reprehended in strong terms my attempt to escape, and observed, that
there must be an end of civility from people in his situation, if
gentlemen, after all, would not know when they were well. It was
necessary, in cases the like of this, to let the law take its course;
and it would be ridiculous in me to complain, if, after a regular trial,
things should go hard with me. He was desirous of being in every respect
my friend, if I would let him. In the midst of this circumlocution and
preamble, he was called away from me, for something relating to the
business of his office. In the mean time I ruminated upon his overtures;
and, detesting as I did the source from which I conceived them to flow,
I could not help reflecting how far it would be possible to extract from
them the means of escape. But my meditations in this case were vain.
The keeper returned no more during the remainder of that day, and, on
the next, an incident occurred which put an end to all expectations from
his kindness.

An active mind, which has once been forced into any particular train,
can scarcely be persuaded to desert it as hopeless. I had studied my
chains, during the extreme anguish that I endured from the pressure of
the fetter upon the ankle which had been sprained; and though, from the
swelling and acute sensibility of the part, I had found all attempts at
relief, in that instance, impracticable, I obtained, from the coolness
of my investigation, another and apparently superior advantage. During
the night, my dungeon was in a complete state of darkness; but, when the
door was open, the case was somewhat different. The passage indeed into
which it opened, was so narrow, and the opposite dead wall so near, that
it was but a glimmering and melancholy light that entered my apartment,
even at full noon, and when the door was at its widest extent. But my
eyes, after a practice of two or three weeks, accommodated themselves to
this circumstance, and I learned to distinguish the minutest object. One
day, as I was alternately meditating and examining the objects around
me, I chanced to observe a nail trodden into the mud-floor at no great
distance from me. I immediately conceived the desire of possessing
myself of this implement; but, for fear of surprise, people passing
perpetually to and fro, I contented myself, for the present, with
remarking its situation so accurately, that I might easily find it again
in the dark. Accordingly, as soon as my door was shut, I seized upon
this new treasure, and, having contrived to fashion it to my purpose,
found that I could unlock with it the padlock that fastened me to the
staple in the floor. This I regarded as no inconsiderable advantage,
separately from the use I might derive from it in relation to my
principal object. My chain permitted me to move only about eighteen
inches to the right or left; and, having borne this confinement for
several weeks, my very heart leaped at the pitiful consolation of being
able to range, without constraint, the miserable coop in which I was
immured. This incident had occurred several days previously to the last
visit of my keeper.

From this time it had been my constant practice to liberate myself every
night, and not to replace things in their former situation till I awoke
in the morning, and expected shortly to perceive the entrance of the
turnkey. Security breeds negligence. On the morning succeeding my
conference with the jailor, it so happened, whether I overslept myself,
or the turnkey went his round earlier than usual, that I was roused from
my sleep by the noise he made in opening the cell next to my own; and
though I exerted the utmost diligence, yet having to grope for my
materials in the dark, I was unable to fasten the chain to the staple,
before he entered, as usual, with his lantern. He was extremely
surprised to find me disengaged, and immediately summoned the principal
keeper. I was questioned respecting my method of proceeding; and, as I
believed concealment could lead to nothing but a severer search, and a
more accurate watch, I readily acquainted them with the exact truth. The
illustrious personage, whose functions it was to control the inhabitants
of these walls, was, by this last instance, completely exasperated
against me. Artifice and fair speaking were at an end. His eyes sparkled
with fury; he exclaimed, that he was now convinced of the folly of
showing kindness to rascals, the scum of the earth, such as I was; and,
damn him, if any body should catch him at that again towards any one. I
had cured him effectually! He was astonished that the laws had not
provided some terrible retaliation for thieves that attempted to deceive
their jailors. Hanging was a thousand times too good for me!

Having vented his indignation, he proceeded to give such orders as the
united instigations of anger and alarm suggested to his mind. My
apartment was changed. I was conducted to a room called the strong room,
the door of which opened into the middle cell of the range of dungeons.
It was under-ground, as they were, and had also the day-room for felons,
already described, immediately over it. It was spacious and dreary. The
door had not been opened for years; the air was putrid; and the walls
hung round with damps and mildew. The fetters, the padlock, and the
staple, were employed, as in the former case, in addition to which they
put on me a pair of handcuffs. For my first provision, the keeper sent
me nothing but a bit of bread, mouldy and black, and some dirty and
stinking water. I know not indeed whether this is to be regarded as
gratuitous tyranny on the part of the jailor; the law having providently
directed, in certain cases, that the water to be administered to the
prisoners shall be taken from "the next sink or puddle nearest to the
jail."[E] It was further ordered, that one of the turnkeys should sleep
in the cell that formed a sort of anti-chamber to my apartment. Though
every convenience was provided, to render this chamber fit for the
reception of a personage of a dignity so superior to the felon he was
appointed to guard, he expressed much dissatisfaction at the mandate:
but there was no alternative.

[Footnote E: In the case of the _peine forte et dure_. See State Trials,
Vol. I. _anno_ 1615.]

The situation to which I was thus removed was, apparently, the most
undesirable that could be imagined but I was not discouraged; I had for
some time learned not to judge by appearances. The apartment was dark
and unwholesome; but I had acquired the secret of counteracting these
influences. My door was kept continually shut, and the other prisoners
were debarred access to me; but if the intercourse of our fellow-men has
its pleasure, solitude, on the other hand, is not without its
advantages. In solitude we can pursue our own thoughts undisturbed; and
I was able to call up at will the most pleasing avocations. Besides
which, to one who meditated such designs as now filled my mind, solitude
had peculiar recommendations. I was scarcely left to myself, before I
tried an experiment, the idea of which I conceived, while they were
fixing my handcuffs; and, with my teeth only, disengaged myself from
this restraint. The hours at which I was visited by the keepers were
regular, and I took care to be provided for them. Add to which, I had a
narrow grated window near the ceiling, about nine inches in
perpendicular, and a foot and a half horizontally, which, though small,
admitted a much stronger light than that to which I had been accustomed
for several weeks. Thus circumstanced, I scarcely ever found myself in
total darkness, and was better provided against surprises than I had
been in my preceding situation. Such were the sentiments which this
change of abode immediately suggested.

I had been a very little time removed, when I received an unexpected
visit from Thomas, Mr. Falkland's footman, whom I have already mentioned
in the course of my narrative. A servant of Mr. Forester happened to
come to the town where I was imprisoned, a few weeks before, while I was
confined with the hurt in my ankle, and had called in to see me. The
account he gave of what he observed had been the source of many an
uneasy sensation to Thomas. The former visit was a matter of mere
curiosity; but Thomas was of the better order of servants. He was
considerably struck at the sight of me. Though my mind was now serene,
and my health sufficiently good, yet the floridness of my complexion was
gone, and there was a rudeness in my physiognomy, the consequence of
hardship and fortitude, extremely unlike the sleekness of my better
days. Thomas looked alternately in my face, at my hands, and my feet;
and then fetched a deep sigh. After a pause,

"Lord bless us!" said he, in a voice in which commiseration was
sufficiently perceptible, "is this you?"

"Why not, Thomas? You knew I was sent to prison, did not you?"

"Prison! and must people in prison be shackled and bound of that
fashion?--and where do you lay of nights?"


"Here? Why there is no bed!"

"No, Thomas, I am not allowed a bed. I had straw formerly, but that is
taken away."

"And do they take off them there things of nights?"

"No; I am expected to sleep just as you see."

"Sleep! Why I thought this was a Christian country; but this usage is
too bad for a dog."

"You must not say so, Thomas; it is what the wisdom of government has
thought fit to provide."

"Zounds, how I have been deceived! They told me what a fine thing it was
to be an Englishman, and about liberty and property, and all that there;
and I find it is all a flam. Lord, what fools we be! Things are done
under our very noses, and we know nothing of the matter; and a parcel of
fellows with grave faces swear to us, that such things never happen but
in France, and other countries the like of that. Why, you ha'n't been
tried, ha' you?"


"And what signifies being tried, when they do worse than hang a man, and
all beforehand? Well, master Williams, you have been very wicked to be
sure, and I thought it would have done me good to see you hanged. But, I
do not know how it is, one's heart melts, and pity comes over one, if we
take time to cool. I know that ought not to be; but, damn it, when I
talked of your being hanged, I did not think of your suffering all this
into the bargain."

Soon after this conversation Thomas left me. The idea of the long
connection of our families rushed upon his memory, and he felt more for
my sufferings, at the moment, than I did for myself. In the afternoon I
was surprised to see him again. He said that he could not get the
thought of me out of his mind, and therefore he hoped I would not be
displeased at his coming once more to take leave of me. I could perceive
that he had something upon his mind, which he did not know how to
discharge. One of the turnkeys had each time come into the room with
him, and continued as long as he staid. Upon some avocation however--a
noise, I believe, in the passage--the turnkey went as far as the door to
satisfy his curiosity; and Thomas, watching the opportunity, slipped
into my hand a chisel, a file, and a saw, exclaiming at the same time
with a sorrowful tone, "I know I am doing wrong; but, if they hang me
too, I cannot help it; I cannot do no other. For Christ's sake, get out
of this place; I cannot bear the thoughts of it!" I received the
implements with great joy, and thrust them into my bosom; and, as soon
as he was gone, concealed them in the rushes of my chair. For himself
he had accomplished the object for which he came, and presently after
bade me farewell.

The next day, the keepers, I know not for what reason, were more than
usually industrious in their search, saying, though without assigning
any ground for their suspicion, that they were sure I had some tool in
my possession that I ought not; but the depository I had chosen escaped

I waited from this time the greater part of a week, that I might have
the benefit of a bright moonlight. It was necessary that I should work
in the night; it was necessary that my operations should be performed
between the last visit of the keepers at night and their first in the
morning, that is, between nine in the evening and seven. In my dungeon,
as I have already said, I passed fourteen or sixteen hours of the
four-and-twenty undisturbed; but since I had acquired a character for
mechanical ingenuity, a particular exception with respect to me was made
from the general rules of the prison.

It was ten o'clock when I entered on my undertaking. The room in which I
was confined was secured with a double door. This was totally
superfluous for the purpose of my detention, since there was a sentinel
planted on the outside. But it was very fortunate for my plan; because
these doors prevented the easy communication of sound, and afforded me
tolerable satisfaction that, with a little care in my mode of
proceeding, I might be secure against the danger of being overheard. I
first took off my handcuffs. I then filed through my fetters; and next
performed the same service to three of the iron bars that secured my
window, to which I climbed, partly by the assistance of my chair, and
partly by means of certain irregularities in the wall. All this was the
work of more than two hours. When the bars were filed through, I easily
forced them a little from the perpendicular, and then drew them, one by
one, out of the wall, into which they were sunk about three inches
perfectly straight, and without any precaution to prevent their being
removed. But the space thus obtained was by no means wide enough to
admit the passing of my body. I therefore applied myself, partly with my
chisel, and partly with one of the iron bars, to the loosening the
brick-work; and when I had thus disengaged four or five bricks, I got
down and piled them upon the floor. This operation I repeated three or
four times The space was now sufficient for my purpose: and, having
crept through the opening, I stepped upon a shed on the outside.

I was now in a kind of rude area between two dead walls, that south of
the felons' day-room (the windows of which were at the east end) and the
wall of the prison. But I had not, as formerly, any instruments to
assist me in scaling the wall, which was of considerable height. There
was, of consequence, no resource for me but that of effecting a
practicable breach in the lower part of the wall, which was of no
contemptible strength, being of stone on the outside, with a facing of
brick within. The rooms for the debtors were at right angles with the
building from which I had just escaped; and, as the night was extremely
bright, I was in momentary danger, particularly in case of the least
noise, of being discovered by them, several of their windows commanding
this area. Thus circumstanced, I determined to make the shed answer the
purpose of concealment. It was locked; but, with the broken link of my
fetters, which I had had the precaution to bring with me, I found no
great difficulty in opening the lock. I had now got a sufficient means
of hiding my person while I proceeded in my work, attended with no
other disadvantage than that of being obliged to leave the door, through
which I had thus broken, a little open for the sake of light. After some
time, I had removed a considerable part of the brick-work of the outer
wall; but, when I came to the stone, I found the undertaking infinitely
more difficult. The mortar which bound together the building was, by
length of time, nearly petrified, and appeared to my first efforts one
solid rock of the hardest adamant. I had now been six hours incessantly
engaged in incredible labour: my chisel broke in the first attempt upon
this new obstacle; and between fatigue already endured, and the
seemingly invincible difficulty before me, I concluded that I must
remain where I was, and gave up the idea of further effort as useless.
At the same time the moon, whose light had till now been of the greatest
use to me, set, and I was left in total darkness.

After a respite of ten minutes however, I returned to the attack with
new vigour. It could not be less than two hours before the first stone
was loosened from the edifice. In one hour more, the space was
sufficient to admit of my escape. The pile of bricks I had left in the
strong room was considerable. But it was a mole-hill compared with the
ruins I had forced from the outer wall. I am fully assured that the work
I had thus performed would have been to a common labourer, with every
advantage of tools, the business of two or three days. But my
difficulties, instead of being ended, seemed to be only begun. The day
broke, before I had completed the opening, and in ten minutes more the
keepers would probably enter my apartment, and perceive the devastation
I had left. The lane, which connected the side of the prison through
which I had escaped with the adjacent country, was formed chiefly by
two dead walls, with here and there a stable, a few warehouses, and some
mean habitations, tenanted by the lower order of people. My best
security lay in clearing the town as soon as possible, and depending
upon the open country for protection. My arms were intolerably swelled
and bruised with my labour, and my strength seemed wholly exhausted with
fatigue. Speed I was nearly unable to exert for any continuance; and, if
I could, with the enemy so close at my heels, speed would too probably
have been useless. It appeared as if I were now in almost the same
situation as that in which I had been placed five or six weeks before,
in which, after having completed my escape, I was obliged to yield
myself up, without resistance, to my pursuers. I was not however
disabled as then; I was capable of exertion, to what precise extent I
could not ascertain; and I was well aware, that every instance in which
I should fail of my purpose would contribute to enhance the difficulty
of any future attempt. Such were the considerations that presented
themselves in relation to my escape; and, even if that were effected, I
had to reckon among my difficulties, that, at the time I quitted my
prison, I was destitute of every resource, and had not a shilling
remaining in the world.


* * * * *



I passed along the lane I have described, without perceiving or being
observed by a human being. The doors were shut, the window-shutters
closed, and all was still as night. I reached the extremity of the lane
unmolested. My pursuers, if they immediately followed, would know that
the likelihood was small, of my having in the interval found shelter in
this place; and would proceed without hesitation, as I on my part was
obliged to do, from the end nearest to the prison to its furthest

The face of the country, in the spot to which I had thus opened myself a
passage, was rude and uncultivated. It was overgrown with brushwood and
furze; the soil was for the most part of a loose sand; and the surface
extremely irregular. I climbed a small eminence, and could perceive, not
very remote in the distance, a few cottages thinly scattered. This
prospect did not altogether please me; I conceived that my safety would,
for the present, be extremely assisted, by keeping myself from the view
of any human being.

I therefore came down again into the valley, and upon a careful
examination perceived that it was interspersed with cavities, some
deeper than others, but all of them so shallow, as neither to be capable
of hiding a man, nor of exciting suspicion as places of possible
concealment. Meanwhile the day had but just begun to dawn; the morning
was lowering and drizzly; and, though the depth of these caverns was of
course well known to the neighbouring inhabitants, the shadows they cast
were so black and impenetrable, as might well have produced wider
expectations in the mind of a stranger. Poor therefore as was the
protection they were able to afford, I thought it right to have recourse
to it for the moment, as the best the emergency would supply. It was for
my life; and, the greater was the jeopardy to which it was exposed, the
more dear did that life seem to become to my affections. The recess I
chose, as most secure, was within little more than a hundred yards of
the end of the lane, and the extreme buildings of the town.

I had not stood up in this manner two minutes, before I heard the sound
of feet, and presently saw the ordinary turnkey and another pass the
place of my retreat. They were so close to me that, if I had stretched
out my hand, I believe I could have caught hold of their clothes,
without so much as changing my posture. As no part of the overhanging
earth intervened between me and them, I could see them entire, though
the deepness of the shade rendered me almost completely invisible. I
heard them say to each other, in tones of vehement asperity, "Curse the
rascal! which way can he be gone?" The reply was, "Damn him! I wish we
had him but safe once again!"--"Never fear!" rejoined the first; "he
cannot have above half a mile the start of us." They were presently out
of hearing; for, as to sight, I dared not advance my body, so much as an
inch, to look after them, lest I should be discovered by my pursuers in
some other direction. From the very short time that elapsed, between my
escape and the appearance of these men, I concluded that they had made
their way through the same outlet as I had done, it being impossible
that they could have had time to come, from the gate of the prison, and
so round a considerable part of the town, as they must otherwise have

I was so alarmed at this instance of diligence on the part of the enemy,
that, for some time, I scarcely ventured to proceed an inch from my
place of concealment, or almost to change my posture. The morning, which
had been bleak and drizzly, was succeeded by a day of heavy and
incessant rain; and the gloomy state of the air and surrounding objects,
together with the extreme nearness of my prison, and a total want of
food, caused me to pass the hours in no very agreeable sensations. This
inclemency of the weather however, which generated a feeling of
stillness and solitude, encouraged me by degrees to change my retreat,
for another of the same nature, out of somewhat greater security. I
hovered with little variation about a single spot, as long as the sun
continued above the horizon.

Towards evening, the clouds began to disperse, and the moon shone, as on
the preceding night, in full brightness. I had perceived no human
creature during the whole day, except in the instance already mentioned.
This had perhaps been owing to the nature of the day; at all events I
considered it as too hazardous an experiment, to venture from my
hiding-place in so clear and fine a night. I was therefore obliged to
wait for the setting of this luminary, which was not till near five
o'clock in the morning. My only relief during this interval was to allow
myself to sink to the bottom of my cavern, it being scarcely possible
for me to continue any longer on my feet. Here I fell into an
interrupted and unrefreshing doze, the consequence of a laborious night,
and a tedious, melancholy day; though I rather sought to avoid sleep,
which, cooperating with the coldness of the season, would tend more to
injury than advantage.

The period of darkness, which I had determined to use for the purpose of
removing to a greater distance from my prison, was, in its whole
duration, something less than three hours. When I rose from my seat, I
was weak with hunger and fatigue, and, which was worse, I seemed,
between the dampness of the preceding day and the sharp, clear frost of
the night, to have lost the command of my limbs. I stood up and shook
myself; I leaned against the side of the hill, impelling in different
directions the muscles of the extremities; and at length recovered in
some degree the sense of feeling. This operation was attended with an
incredible aching pain, and required no common share of resolution to
encounter and prosecute it. Having quitted my retreat, I at first
advanced with weak and tottering steps; but, as I proceeded, increased
my pace. The barren heath, which reached to the edge of the town, was,
at least on this side, without a path; but the stars shone, and, guiding
myself by them, I determined to steer as far as possible from the
hateful scene where I had been so long confined. The line I pursued was
of irregular surface, sometimes obliging me to climb a steep ascent, and
at others to go down into a dark and impenetrable dell. I was often
compelled, by the dangerousness of the way, to deviate considerably from
the direction I wished to pursue. In the mean time I advanced with as
much rapidity as these and similar obstacles would permit me to do. The
swiftness of the motion, and the thinness of the air, restored to me my
alacrity. I forgot the inconveniences under which I laboured, and my
mind became lively, spirited, and enthusiastic.

I had now reached the border of the heath, and entered upon what is
usually termed the forest. Strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless
true, that, in this conjuncture, exhausted with hunger, destitute of all
provision for the future, and surrounded with the most alarming dangers,
my mind suddenly became glowing, animated, and cheerful. I thought that,
by this time, the most formidable difficulties of my undertaking were
surmounted; and I could not believe that, after having effected so much,
I should find any thing invincible in what remained to be done. I
recollected the confinement I had undergone, and the fate that had
impended over me, with horror. Never did man feel more vividly, than I
felt at that moment, the sweets of liberty. Never did man more
strenuously prefer poverty with independence, to the artificial
allurements of a life of slavery. I stretched forth my arms with
rapture; I clapped my hands one upon the other, and exclaimed, "Ah, this
is indeed to be a man! These wrists were lately galled with fetters; all
my motions, whether I rose up or sat down, were echoed to with the
clanking of chains; I was tied down like a wild beast, and could not
move but in a circle of a few feet in circumference. Now I can run fleet
as a greyhound, and leap like a young roe upon the mountains. Oh, God!
(if God there be that condescends to record the lonely beatings of an
anxious heart) thou only canst tell with what delight a prisoner, just
broke forth from his dungeon, hugs the blessings of new-found liberty!
Sacred and indescribable moment, when man regains his rights! But lately
I held my life in jeopardy, because one man was unprincipled enough to
assert what he knew to be false; I was destined to suffer an early and
inexorable death from the hands of others, because none of them had
penetration enough to distinguish from falsehood, what I uttered with
the entire conviction of a full-fraught heart! Strange, that men, from
age to age, should consent to hold their lives at the breath of another,
merely that each in his turn may have a power of acting the tyrant
according to law! Oh, God! give me poverty! shower upon me all the
imaginary hardships of human life! I will receive them all with
thankfulness. Turn me a prey to the wild beasts of the desert, so I be
never again the victim of man, dressed in the gore-dripping robes of
authority! Suffer me at least to call life, and the pursuits of life, my
own! Let me hold it at the mercy of the elements, of the hunger of
beasts, or the revenge of barbarians, but not of the cold-blooded
prudence of monopolists and kings!"--How enviable was the enthusiasm
which could thus furnish me with energy, in the midst of hunger,
poverty, and universal desertion!

I had now walked at least six miles. At first I carefully avoided the
habitations that lay in my way, and feared to be seen by any of the
persons to whom they belonged, lest it should in any degree furnish a
clue to the researches of my pursuers. As I went forward, I conceived it
might be proper to relax a part of my precaution. At this time I
perceived several persons coming out of a thicket close to me. I
immediately considered this circumstance as rather favourable than the
contrary. It was necessary for me to avoid entering any of the towns and
villages in the vicinity. It was however full time that I should procure
for myself some species of refreshment, and by no means improbable that
these men might be in some way assisting to me in that respect. In my
situation it appeared to me indifferent what might be their employment
or profession. I bad little to apprehend from thieves, and I believed
that they, as well as honest men, could not fail to have some compassion
for a person under my circumstances. I therefore rather threw myself in
their way than avoided them.

They were thieves. One of the company cried out, "Who goes there?
stand!" I accosted them; "Gentlemen," said I, "I am a poor traveller,
almost"--While I spoke, they came round me; and he that had first
hailed me, said, "Damn me, tip us none of your palaver; we have heard
that story of a poor traveller any time these five years. Come, down
with your dust! let us see what you have got!"--"Sir," I replied, "I
have not a shilling in the world, and am more than half starved
beside."--"Not a shilling!" answered my assailant, "what, I suppose you
are as poor as a thief? But, if you have not money, you have clothes,
and those you must resign."

"My clothes!" rejoined I with indignation, "you cannot desire such a
thing. Is it not enough that I am pennyless? I have been all night upon
the open heath. It is now the second day that I have not eaten a morsel
of bread. Would you strip me naked to the weather in the midst of this
depopulated forest? No, no, you are men! The same hatred of oppression,
that arms you against the insolence of wealth, will teach you to relieve
those who are perishing like me. For God's sake, give me food! do not
strip me of the comforts I still possess!"

While I uttered this apostrophe, the unpremeditated eloquence of
sentiment, I could perceive by their gestures, though the day had not
yet begun to dawn, that the feelings of one or two of the company
appeared to take my part. The man, who had already undertaken to be
their spokesman, perceived the same thing; and, excited either by the
brutality of his temper or the love of command, hastened to anticipate
the disgrace of a defeat. He brushed suddenly up to me, and by main
force pushed me several feet from the place where I stood. The shock I
received drove me upon a second of the gang, not one of those who had
listened to my expostulation; and he repeated the brutality. My
indignation was strongly excited by this treatment; and, after being
thrust backward and forward two or three times in this manner, I broke
through my assailants, and turned round to defend myself. The first that
advanced within my reach, was my original enemy. In the present moment I
listened to nothing but the dictates of passion, and I laid him at his
length on the earth. I was immediately assailed with sticks and
bludgeons on all sides, and presently received a blow that almost
deprived me of my senses. The man I had knocked down was now upon his
feet again, and aimed a stroke at me with a cutlass as I fell, which
took place in a deep wound upon my neck and shoulder. He was going to
repeat his blow. The two who had seemed to waver at first in their
animosity, afterwards appeared to me to join in the attack, urged either
by animal sympathy or the spirit of imitation. One of them however, as I
afterwards, understood seized the arm of the man who was going to strike
me a second time with his cutlass, and who would otherwise probably have
put an end to my existence. I could hear the words, "Damn it, enough,
enough! that is too bad, Gines!"--"How so?" replied a second voice; "he
will but pine here upon the forest, and die by inches: it will be an act
of charity to put him out of his pain."--It will be imagined that I was
not uninterested in this sort of debate. I made an effort to speak; my
voice failed me. I stretched out one hand with a gesture of entreaty.
"You shall not strike, by God!" said one of the voices; "why should we
be murderers?"--The side of forbearance at length prevailed. They
therefore contented themselves with stripping me of my coat and
waistcoat, and rolling me into a dry ditch. They then left me totally
regardless of my distressed condition, and the plentiful effusion of
blood, which streamed from my wound.


In this woeful situation, though extremely weak, I was not deprived of
sense. I tore my shirt from my naked body, and endeavoured, with some
success, to make of it a bandage to staunch the flowing of the blood. I
then exerted myself to crawl up the side of the ditch. I had scarcely
effected the latter, when, with equal surprise and joy, I perceived a
man advancing at no great distance. I called for help as well as I
could. The man came towards me with evident signs of compassion, and the
appearance I exhibited was indeed sufficiently calculated to excite it.
I had no hat. My hair was dishevelled, and the ends of the locks clotted
with blood. My shirt was wrapped about my neck and shoulders, and was
plentifully stained with red. My body, which was naked to my middle, was
variegated with streams of blood; nor had my lower garments, which were
white, by any means escaped.

"For God's sake, my good fellow!" said he, with a tone of the greatest
imaginable kindness, "how came you thus?" and, saying this, he lifted me
up, and set me on my feet. "Can you stand?" added he, doubtfully. "Oh,
yes, very well," I replied. Having received this answer, he quitted me,
and began to take off his own coat, that he might cover me from the
cold. I had however over-rated my strength, and was no sooner left to
myself than I reeled, and fell almost at my length upon the ground. But
I broke my fall by stretching out my sound arm, and again raised myself
upon my knees. My benefactor now covered me, raised me, and, bidding me
lean upon him, told me he would presently conduct me to a place where I
should be taken care of. Courage is a capricious property; and, though
while I had no one to depend upon but myself, I possessed a mine of
seemingly inexhaustible fortitude, yet no sooner did I find this
unexpected sympathy on the part of another, than my resolution appeared
to give way, and I felt ready to faint. My charitable conductor
perceived this, and every now and then encouraged me, in a manner so
cheerful, so good humoured and benevolent, equally free from the torture
of droning expostulation, and the weakness of indulgence, that I thought
myself under the conduct of an angel rather than a man. I could perceive
that his behaviour had in it nothing of boorishness, and that he was
thoroughly imbued with the principles of affectionate civility.

We walked about three quarters of a mile, and that not towards the open,
but the most uncouth and unfrequented part of the forest. We crossed a
place which had once been a moat, but which was now in some parts dry,
and in others contained a little muddy and stagnated water. Within the
enclosure of this moat, I could only discover a pile of ruins, and
several walls, the upper part of which seemed to overhang their
foundations, and to totter to their ruin. After having entered however
with my conductor through an archway, and passed along a winding
passage that was perfectly dark, we came to a stand.

At the upper end of this passage was a door, which I was unable to
perceive. My conductor knocked at the door, and was answered by a voice
from within, which, for body and force, might have been the voice of a
man, but with a sort of female sharpness and acidity, enquiring, "Who is
there?" Satisfaction was no sooner given on this point, than I heard two
bolts pushed back, and the door unlocked. The apartment opened, and we
entered. The interior of this habitation by no means corresponded with
the appearance of my protector, but, on the contrary, wore the face of
discomfort, carelessness, and dirt. The only person I saw within was a
woman, rather advanced in life, and whose person had I know not what of
extraordinary and loathsome. Her eyes were red and blood-shot; her hair
was pendent in matted and shaggy tresses about her shoulders; her
complexion swarthy, and of the consistency of parchment; her form spare,
and her whole body, her arms in particular, uncommonly vigorous and
muscular. Not the milk of human kindness, but the feverous blood of
savage ferocity, seemed to flow from her heart; and her whole figure
suggested an idea of unmitigable energy, and an appetite gorged in
malevolence. This infernal Thalestris had no sooner cast her eyes upon
us as we entered, than she exclaimed in a discordant and discontented
voice, "What have we got here? this is not one of our people!" My
conductor, without answering this apostrophe, bade her push an easy
chair which stood in one corner, and set it directly before the fire.
This she did with apparent reluctance, murmuring, "Ah! you are at your
old tricks; I wonder what such folks as we have to do with charity! It
will be the ruin of us at last, I can see that!"--"Hold your tongue,
beldam!" said he, with a stern significance of manner, "and fetch one of
my best shirts, a waistcoat, and some dressings." Saying this, he at the
same time put into her hand a small bunch of keys. In a word, he treated
me with as much kindness as if he had been my father. He examined my
wound, washed and dressed it; at the same time that the old woman, by
his express order, prepared for me such nourishment as he thought most
suitable to my weak and languid condition.

These operations were no sooner completed than my benefactor recommended
to me to retire to rest, and preparations were making for that purpose,
when suddenly a trampling of feet was heard, succeeded by a knock at the
door. The old woman opened the door with the same precautions as had
been employed upon our arrival, and immediately six or seven persons
tumultuously entered the apartment. Their appearance was different, some
having the air of mere rustics, and others that of a tarnished sort of
gentry. All had a feature of boldness, inquietude, and disorder,
extremely unlike any thing I had before observed in such a group. But my
astonishment was still increased, when upon a second glance I perceived
something in the general air of several of them, and of one in
particular, that persuaded me they were the gang from which I had just
escaped, and this one the antagonist by whose animosity I was so near
having been finally destroyed. I imagined they had entered the hovel
with a hostile intention, that my benefactor was upon the point of being
robbed, and I probably murdered.

This suspicion however was soon removed. They addressed my conductor
with respect, under the appellation of captain. They were boisterous and
noisy in their remarks and exclamations, but their turbulence was
tempered by a certain deference to his opinion and authority. I could
observe in the person who had been my active opponent some awkwardness
and irresolution as he first perceived me, which he dismissed with a
sort of effort, exclaiming, "Who the devil is here?" There was something
in the tone of this apostrophe that roused the attention of my
protector. He looked at the speaker with a fixed and penetrating glance,
and then said, "Nay, Gines, do you know? Did you ever see the person
before?"--"Curse it, Gines!" interrupted a third, "you are damnably out
of luck. They say dead men walk, and you see there is some truth in
it."--"Truce with your impertinence, Jeckols!" replied my protector:
"this is no proper occasion for a joke. Answer me, Gines, were you the
cause of this young man being left naked and wounded this bitter morning
upon the forest?"

"Mayhap I was. What then?"

"What provocation could induce you to so cruel a treatment?"

"Provocation enough. He had no money."

"What, did you use him thus, without so much as being irritated by any
resistance on his part?"

"Yes, he did resist. I only hustled him, and he had the impudence to
strike me."

"Gines! you are an incorrigible fellow."

"Pooh, what signifies what I am? You, with your compassion, and your
fine feelings, will bring us all to the gallows."

"I have nothing to say to you; I have no hopes of you! Comrades, it is
for you to decide upon the conduct of this man as you think proper. You
know how repeated his offences have been; you know what pains I have
taken to mend him. Our profession is the profession of justice." [It is
thus that the prejudices of men universally teach them to colour the
most desperate cause to which they have determined to adhere.] "We, who
are thieves without a licence, are at open war with another set of men
who are thieves according to law. With such a cause then to bear us out,
shall we stain it with cruelty, malice, and revenge? A thief is, of
course, a man living among his equals; I do not pretend therefore to
assume any authority among you; act as you think proper; but, so far as
relates to myself, I vote that Gines be expelled from among us as a
disgrace to our society."

This proposition seemed to meet the general sense. It was easy to
perceive that the opinion of the rest coincided with that of their
leader; notwithstanding which a few of them hesitated as to the conduct
to be pursued. In the mean time Gines muttered something in a surly and
irresolute way, about taking care how they provoked him. This
insinuation instantly roused the courage of my protector, and his eyes
flashed with contempt.

"Rascal!" said he, "do you menace us? Do you think we will be your
slaves? No, no, do your worst! Go to the next justice of the peace, and
impeach us; I can easily believe you are capable of it. Sir, when we
entered into this gang, we were not such fools as not to know that we
entered upon a service of danger. One of its dangers consists in the
treachery of fellows like you. But we did not enter at first to flinch
now. Did you believe that we would live in hourly fear of you, tremble
at your threats, and compromise, whenever you should so please, with
your insolence? That would be a blessed life indeed! I would rather see
my flesh torn piecemeal from my bones! Go, sir! I defy you! You dare not
do it! You dare not sacrifice these gallant fellows to your rage, and
publish yourself to all the world a traitor and a scoundrel! If you do,
you will punish yourself, not us! Begone!"

The intrepidity of the leader communicated itself to the rest of the
company. Gines easily saw that there was no hope of bringing them over
to a contrary sentiment. After a short pause, he answered, "I did not
mean--No, damn it! I will not snivel neither. I was always true to my
principles, and a friend to you all. But since you are resolved to turn
me out, why--good bye to you!"

The expulsion of this man produced a remarkable improvement in the whole
gang. Those who were before inclined to humanity, assumed new energy in
proportion as they saw such sentiments likely to prevail. They had
before suffered themselves to be overborne by the boisterous insolence
of their antagonist; but now they adopted, and with success, a different
conduct. Those who envied the ascendancy of their comrade, and therefore
imitated his conduct, began to hesitate in their career. Stories were
brought forward of the cruelty and brutality of Gines both to men and
animals, which had never before reached the ear of the leader. The
stories I shall not repeat. They could excite only emotions of
abhorrence and disgust; and some of them argued a mind of such a stretch
of depravity, as to many readers would appear utterly incredible; and
yet this man had his virtues. He was enterprising, persevering, and

His removal was a considerable benefit to me. It would have been no
small hardship to have been turned adrift immediately under my
unfavourable circumstances, with the additional disadvantage of the
wound I had received; and yet I could scarcely have ventured to remain
under the same roof with a man, to whom my appearance was as a guilty
conscience, perpetually reminding him of his own offence, and the
displeasure of his leader. His profession accustomed him to a certain
degree of indifference to consequences, and indulgence to the sallies of
passion; and he might easily have found his opportunity to insult or
injure me, when I should have had nothing but my own debilitated
exertions to protect me.

Freed from this danger, I found my situation sufficiently fortunate for
a man under my circumstances. It was attended with all the advantages
for concealment my fondest imagination could have hoped; and it was by
no means destitute of the benefits which arise from kindness and
humanity. Nothing could be more unlike than the thieves I had seen
in ---- jail, and the thieves of my new residence. The latter were
generally full of cheerfulness and merriment. They could expatiate
freely wherever they thought proper. They could form plans and execute
them. They consulted their inclinations. They did not impose upon
themselves the task, as is too often the case in human society, of
seeming tacitly to approve that from which they suffered most; or, which
is worst, of persuading themselves that all the wrongs they suffered
were right; but were at open war with their oppressors. On the contrary,
the imprisoned felons I had lately seen were shut up like wild beasts in
a cage, deprived of activity, and palsied with indolence. The occasional
demonstrations that still remained of their former enterprising life
were the starts and convulsions of disease, not the meditated and
consistent exertions of a mind in health. They had no more of hope, of
project, of golden and animated dreams, but were reserved to the most
dismal prospects, and forbidden to think upon any other topic. It is
true, that these two scenes were parts of one whole, the one the
consummation, the hourly to be expected successor of the other. But the
men I now saw were wholly inattentive to this, and in that respect
appeared to hold no commerce with reflection or reason.

I might in one view, as I have said, congratulate myself upon my present
residence; it answered completely the purposes of concealment. It was
the seat of merriment and hilarity; but the hilarity that characterised
it produced no correspondent feelings in my bosom. The persons who
composed this society had each of them cast off all control from
established principle; their trade was terror, and their constant object
to elude the vigilance of the community. The influence of these
circumstances was visible in their character. I found among them
benevolence and kindness: they were strongly susceptible of emotions of
generosity. But, as their situation was precarious, their dispositions
were proportionably fluctuating. Inured to the animosity of their
species, they were irritable and passionate. Accustomed to exercise
harshness towards the subject of their depredations, they did not always
confine their brutality within that scope. They were habituated to
consider wounds and bludgeons and stabbing as the obvious mode of
surmounting every difficulty. Uninvolved in the debilitating routine of
human affairs, they frequently displayed an energy which, from every
impartial observer, would have extorted veneration. Energy is perhaps of
all qualities the most valuable; and a just political system would
possess the means of extracting from it, thus circumstanced, its
beneficial qualities, instead of consigning it, as now, to
indiscriminate destruction. We act like the chemist, who should reject
the finest ore, and employ none but what was sufficiently debased to fit
it immediately for the vilest uses. But the energy of these men, such as
I beheld it, was in the highest degree misapplied, unassisted by liberal
and enlightened views, and directed only to the most narrow and
contemptible purposes.

The residence I have been describing might to many persons have appeared
attended with intolerable inconveniences. But, exclusively of its
advantages as a field for speculation, it was Elysium, compared with
that from which I had just escaped. Displeasing company, incommodious
apartments, filthiness, and riot, lost the circumstance by which they
could most effectually disgust, when I was not compelled to remain with
them. All hardships I could patiently endure, in comparison with the
menace of a violent and untimely death. There was no suffering that I
could not persuade myself to consider as trivial, except that which
flowed from the tyranny, the frigid precaution, or the inhuman revenge
of my own species.

My recovery advanced in the most favourable manner. The attention and
kindness of my protector were incessant, and the rest caught the spirit
from his example. The old woman who superintended the household still
retained her animosity. She considered me as the cause of the expulsion
of Gines from the fraternity. Gines had been the object of her
particular partiality; and, zealous as she was for the public concern,
she thought an old and experienced sinner for a raw probationer but an
ill exchange. Add to which, that her habits inclined her to moroseness
and discontent, and that persons of her complexion seem unable to exist
without some object upon which to pour out the superfluity of their
gall. She lost no opportunity, upon the most trifling occasion, of
displaying her animosity; and ever and anon eyed me with a furious
glance of canine hunger for my destruction. Nothing was more evidently
mortifying to her, than the procrastination of her malice; nor could she
bear to think that a fierceness so gigantic and uncontrollable should
show itself in nothing more terrific than the pigmy spite of a
chambermaid. For myself, I had been accustomed to the warfare of
formidable adversaries, and the encounter of alarming dangers; and what
I saw of her spleen had not power sufficient to disturb my tranquillity.

As I recovered, I told my story, except so far as related to the
detection of Mr. Falkland's eventful secret, to my protector. That
particular I could not, as yet, prevail upon myself to disclose, even in
a situation like this, which seemed to preclude the possibility of its
being made use of to the disadvantage of my persecutor. My present
auditor however, whose habits of thinking were extremely opposite to
those of Mr. Forester, did not, from the obscurity which flowed from
this reserve, deduce any unfavourable conclusion. His penetration was
such, as to afford little room for an impostor to hope to mislead him by
a fictitious statement, and he confided in that penetration. So
confiding, the simplicity and integrity of my manner carried conviction
to his mind, and insured his good opinion and friendship.

He listened to my story with eagerness, and commented on the several
parts as I related them. He said, that this was only one fresh instance
of the tyranny and perfidiousness exercised by the powerful members of
the community, against those who were less privileged than themselves.
Nothing could be more clear, than their readiness to sacrifice the human
species at large to their meanest interest, or wildest caprice. Who that
saw the situation in its true light would wait till their oppressors
thought fit to decree their destruction, and not take arms in their
defence while it was yet in their power? Which was most meritorious,
the unresisting and dastardly submission of a slave, or the enterprise
and gallantry of the man who dared to assert his claims? Since, by the
partial administration of our laws, innocence, when power was armed
against it, had nothing better to hope for than guilt, what man of true
courage would fail to set these laws at defiance, and, if he must suffer
by their injustice, at least take care that he had first shown his
contempt of their yoke? For himself, he should certainly never have
embraced his present calling, had he not been stimulated to it by these
cogent and irresistible reasons; and he hoped, as experience had so
forcibly brought a conviction of this sort to my mind, that he should
for the future have the happiness to associate me to his pursuits.--It
will presently be seen with what event these hopes were attended.

Numerous were the precautions exercised by the gang of thieves with whom
I now resided, to elude the vigilance of the satellites of justice. It
was one of their rules to commit no depredations but at a considerable
distance from the place of their residence; and Gines had transgressed
this regulation in the attack to which I was indebted for my present
asylum. After having possessed themselves of any booty, they took care,
in the sight of the persons whom they had robbed, to pursue a route as
nearly as possible opposite to that which led to their true haunts. The
appearance of their place of residence, together with its environs, was
peculiarly desolate avid forlorn, and it had the reputation of being
haunted. The old woman I have described had long been its inhabitant,
and was commonly supposed to be its only inhabitant; and her person well
accorded with the rural ideas of a witch. Her lodgers never went out or
came in but with the utmost circumspection, and generally by night. The
lights which were occasionally seen from various parts of her
habitation, were, by the country people, regarded with horror as
supernatural; and if the noise of revelry at any time saluted their
ears, it was imagined to proceed from a carnival of devils. With all
these advantages, the thieves did not venture to reside here but by
intervals: they frequently absented themselves for months, and removed
to a different part of the country. The old woman sometimes attended
them in these transportations, and sometimes remained; but in all cases
her decampment took place either sooner or later than theirs, so that
the nicest observer could scarcely have traced any connection between
her reappearance, and the alarms of depredation that were frequently
given; and the festival of demons seemed, to the terrified rustics,
indifferently to take place whether she were present or absent.


One day, while I continued in this situation, a circumstance occurred
which involuntarily attracted my attention. Two of our people had been
sent to a town at some distance, for the purpose of procuring us the
things of which we were in want. After having delivered these to our
landlady, they retired to one corner of the room; and, one of them
pulling a printed paper from his pocket, they mutually occupied
themselves in examining its contents. I was sitting in an easy chair by
the fire, being considerably better than I had been, though still in a
weak and languid state. Having read for a considerable time, they looked
at me, and then at the paper, and then at me again. They then went out
of the room together, as if to consult without interruption upon
something which that paper suggested to them. Some time after they
returned; and my protector, who had been absent upon the former
occasion, entered the room at the same instant.

"Captain!" said one of them with an air of pleasure, "look here! we have
found a prize! I believe it is as good as a bank-note of a hundred

Mr. Raymond (that was his name) took the paper, and read. He paused for
a moment. He then crushed the paper in his hand; and, turning to the
person from whom he had received it, said, with the tone of a man
confident in the success of his reasons,--

"What use have you for these hundred guineas? Are you in want? Are you
in distress? Can you be contented to purchase them at the price of
treachery--of violating the laws of hospitality?"

"Faith, captain, I do not very well know. After having violated other
laws, I do not see why we should be frightened at an old saw. We pretend
to judge for ourselves, and ought to be above shrinking from a bugbear
of a proverb. Beside, this is a good deed, and I should think no more
harm of being the ruin of such a thief than of getting my dinner."

"A thief! You talk of thieves!"

"Not so fast, captain. God defend that I should say a word against
thieving as a general occupation! But one man steals in one way, and
another in another. For my part, I go upon the highway, and take from
any stranger I meet what, it is a hundred to one, he can very well
spare. I see nothing to be found fault with in that. But I have as much
conscience as another man. Because I laugh at assizes, and great wigs,
and the gallows, and because I will not be frightened from an innocent
action when the lawyers say me nay, does it follow that I am to have a
fellow-feeling for pilferers, and rascally servants, and people that
have neither justice nor principle? No; I have too much respect for the
trade not to be a foe to interlopers, and people that so much the more
deserve my hatred, because the world calls them by my name."

"You are wrong, Larkins! You certainly ought not to employ against
people that you hate, supposing your hatred to be reasonable, the
instrumentality of that law which in your practice you defy. Be
consistent. Either be the friend of the law, or its adversary, Depend
upon it that, wherever there are laws at all, there will be laws against
such people as you and me. Either therefore we all of us deserve the
vengeance of the law, or law is not the proper instrument for correcting
the misdeeds of mankind. I tell you this, because I would fain have you
aware, that an informer or a king's evidence, a man who takes advantage
of the confidence of another in order to betray him, who sells the life
of his neighbour for money, or, coward-like, upon any pretence calls in
the law to do that for him which he cannot or dares not do for himself,
is the vilest of rascals. But in the present case, if your reasons were
the best in the world, they do not apply."

While Mr. Raymond was speaking, the rest of the gang came into the room.
He immediately turned to them, and said,--

"My friends, here is a piece of intelligence that Larkins has just
brought in which, with his leave, I will lay before you."

Then unfolding the paper he had received, he continued: "This is the
description of a felon, with the offer of a hundred guineas for his
apprehension. Larking picked it up at ----. By the time and other
circumstances, but particularly by the minute description of his
person, there can be no doubt but the object of it is our young friend,
whose life I was a while ago the instrument of saving. He is charged
here with having taken advantage of the confidence of his patron and
benefactor to rob him of property to a large amount. Upon this charge he
was committed to the county jail, from whence he made his escape about a
fortnight ago, without venturing to stand his trial; a circumstance
which is stated by the advertiser as tantamount to a confession of his

"My friends, I was acquainted with the particulars of this story some
time before. This lad let me into his history, at a time that he could
not possibly foresee that he should stand in need of that precaution as
an antidote against danger. He is not guilty of what is laid to his
charge. Which of you is so ignorant as to suppose, that his escape is
any confirmation of his guilt? Who ever thinks, when he is apprehended
for trial, of his innocence or guilt as being at all material to the
issue? Who ever was fool enough to volunteer a trial, where those who
are to decide think more of the horror of the thing of which he is
accused, than whether he were the person that did it; and where the
nature of our motives is to be collected from a set of ignorant
witnesses, that no wise man would trust for a fair representation of the
most indifferent action of his life?

"The poor lad's story is a long one, and I will not trouble you with it
now. But from that story it is as clear as the day, that, because he
wished to leave the service of his master, because he had been perhaps a
little too inquisitive in his master's concerns, and because, as I
suspect, he had been trusted with some important secrets, his master
conceived an antipathy against him. The antipathy gradually proceeded
to such a length, as to induce the master to forge this vile accusation.
He seemed willing to hang the lad out of the way, rather than suffer him
to go where he pleased, or get beyond the reach of his power. Williams
has told me the story with such ingenuousness, that I am as sure that he
is guiltless of what they lay to his charge, as that I am so myself.
Nevertheless the man's servants who were called in to hear the
accusation, and his relation, who as justice of the peace made out the
mittimus, and who had the folly to think he could be impartial, gave it
on his side with one voice, and thus afforded Williams a sample of what
he had to expect in the sequel.

"Larkins, who when he received this paper had no previous knowledge of
particulars, was for taking advantage of it for the purpose of earning
the hundred guineas. Are you of that mind now you have heard them? Will
you for so paltry a consideration deliver up the lamb into the jaws of
the wolf? Will you abet the purposes of this sanguinary rascal, who, not
contented with driving his late dependent from house and home, depriving
him of character and all the ordinary means of subsistence, and leaving
him almost without a refuge, still thirsts for his blood? If no other
person have the courage to set limits to the tyranny of courts of
justice, shall not we? Shall we, who earn our livelihood by generous
daring, be indebted for a penny to the vile artifices of the informer?
Shall we, against whom the whole species is in arms, refuse our
protection to an individual, more exposed to, but still less deserving
of, their persecution than ourselves?"

The representation of the captain produced an instant effect upon the
whole company. They all exclaimed, "Betray him! No, not for worlds! He
is safe. We will protect him at the hazard of our lives. If fidelity
and honour be banished from thieves, where shall they find refuge upon
the face of the earth?"[F] Larkins in particular thanked the captain for
his interference, and swore that he would rather part with his right
hand than injure so worthy a lad or assist such an unheard-of villainy.
Saying this, he took me by the hand and bade me fear nothing. Under
their roof no harm should ever befal me; and, even if the understrappers
of the law should discover my retreat, they would to a man die in my
defence, sooner than a hair of my head should be hurt. I thanked him
most sincerely for his good-will; but I was principally struck with the
fervent benevolence of my benefactor. I told them, I found that my
enemies were inexorable, and would never be appeased but with my blood;
and I assured them with the most solemn and earnest veracity, that I had
done nothing to deserve the persecution which was exercised against me.

[Footnote F: This seems to be the parody of a celebrated saying of John
King of France, who was taken prisoner by the Black Prince at the battle
of Poitiers.]

The spirit and energy of Mr. Raymond had been such as to leave no part
for me to perform in repelling this unlooked-for danger. Nevertheless,
it left a very serious impression upon my mind. I had always placed some
confidence in the returning equity of Mr. Falkland. Though he persecuted
me with bitterness, I could not help believing that he did it
unwillingly, and I was persuaded it would not be for ever. A man, whose
original principles had been so full of rectitude and honour, could not
fail at some time to recollect the injustice of his conduct, and to
remit his asperity. This idea had been always present to me, and had in
no small degree conspired to instigate my exertions. I said, "I will
convince my persecutor that I am of more value than that I should be
sacrificed purely by way of precaution." These expectations on my part
had been encouraged by Mr. Falkland's behaviour upon the question of my
imprisonment, and by various particulars which had occurred since.

But this new incident gave the subject a totally different appearance. I
saw him, not contented with blasting my reputation, confining me for a
period in jail, and reducing me to the situation of a houseless
vagabond, still continuing his pursuit under these forlorn circumstances
with unmitigable cruelty. Indignation and resentment seemed now for the
first time to penetrate my mind. I knew his misery so well, I was so
fully acquainted with its cause, and strongly impressed with the idea of
its being unmerited, that, while I suffered deeply, I still continued to
pity, rather than hate my persecutor. But this incident introduced some
change into my feelings. I said, "Surely he might now believe that he
had sufficiently disarmed me, and might at length suffer me to be at
peace. At least, ought he not to be contented to leave me to my fate,
the perilous and uncertain condition of an escaped felon, instead of
thus whetting the animosity and vigilance of my countrymen against me?
Were his interference on my behalf in opposition to the stern severity
of Mr. Forester, and his various acts of kindness since, a mere part
that he played in order to lull me into patience? Was he perpetually
haunted with the fear of an ample retaliation, and for that purpose did
he personate remorse, at the very moment that he was secretly keeping
every engine at play that could secure my destruction?" The very
suspicion of such a fact filled me with inexpressible horror, and
struck a sudden chill through every fibre of my frame.

My wound was by this time completely healed, and it became absolutely
necessary that I should form some determination respecting the future.
My habits of thinking were such as gave me an uncontrollable repugnance
to the vocation of my hosts. I did not indeed feel that aversion and
abhorrence to the men which are commonly entertained. I saw and
respected their good qualities and their virtues. I was by no means
inclined to believe them worse men, or more hostile in their
dispositions to the welfare of their species, than the generality of
those that look down upon them with most censure. But, though I did not
cease to love them as individuals, my eyes were perfectly open to their
mistakes. If I should otherwise have been in danger of being misled, it
was my fortune to have studied felons in a jail before I studied them in
their state of comparative prosperity; and this was an infallible
antidote to the poison. I saw that in this profession were exerted
uncommon energy, ingenuity, and fortitude, and I could not help
recollecting how admirably beneficial such qualities might be made in
the great theatre of human affairs; while, in their present direction,
they were thrown away upon purposes diametrically at war with the first
interests of human society. Nor were their proceedings less injurious to
their own interest than incompatible with the general welfare. The man
who risks or sacrifices his life for the public cause, is rewarded with
the testimony of an approving conscience; but persons who wantonly defy
the necessary, though atrociously exaggerated, precautions of government
in the matter of property, at the same time that they commit an
alarming hostility against the whole, are, as to their own concerns,
scarcely less absurd and self-neglectful than the man who should set
himself up as a mark for a file of musqueteers to shoot at.

Viewing the subject in this light, I not only determined that I would
have no share in their occupation myself, but thought I could not do
less, in return for the benefits I had received from them, than
endeavour to dissuade them from an employment in which they must
themselves be the greatest sufferers. My expostulation met with a
various reception. All the persons to whom it was addressed had been
tolerably successful in persuading themselves of the innocence of their
calling; and what remained of doubt in their mind was smothered, and, so
to speak, laboriously forgotten. Some of them laughed at my arguments,
as a ridiculous piece of missionary quixotism. Others, and particularly
our captain, repelled them with the boldness of a man that knows he has
got the strongest side. But this sentiment of ease and self-satisfaction
did not long remain. They had been used to arguments derived from
religion and the sacredness of law. They had long ago shaken these from
them as so many prejudices. But my view of the subject appealed to
principles which they could not contest, and had by no means the air of
that customary reproof which is for ever dinned in our ears without
finding one responsive chord in our hearts. Urged, as they now were,
with objections unexpected and cogent, some of those to whom I addressed
them began to grow peevish and impatient of the intrusive remonstrance.
But this was by no means the case with Mr. Raymond. He was possessed of
a candour that I have seldom seen equalled. He was surprised to hear
objections so powerful to that which, as a matter of speculation, he
believed he had examined on all sides. He revolved them with
impartiality and care. He admitted them slowly, but he at length fully
admitted them. He had now but one rejoinder in reserve.

"Alas! Williams," said he, "it would have been fortunate for me if these
views had been presented to me, previously to my embracing my present
profession. It is now too late. Those very laws which, by a perception
of their iniquity, drove me to what I am, preclude my return. God, we
are told, judges of men by what they are at the period of arraignment,
and whatever be their crimes, if they have seen and abjured the folly of
those crimes, receives them to favour. But the institutions of countries
that profess to worship this God admit no such distinctions. They leave
no room for amendment, and seem to have a brutal delight in confounding
the demerits of offenders. It signifies not what is the character of the
individual at the hour of trial. How changed, how spotless, and how
useful, avails him nothing. If they discover at the distance of
fourteen[G] or of forty years[H] an action for which the law ordains
that his life shall be the forfeit, though the interval should have been
spent with the purity of a saint and the devotedness of a patriot, they
disdain to enquire into it. What then can I do? Am I not compelled to go
on in folly, having once begun?"

[Footnote G: Eugene Aram. See Annual Register for 1759.]

[Footnote H: William Andrew Home. Ibid.]


I Was extremely affected by this plea. I could only answer, that Mr.
Raymond must himself be the best judge of the course it became him to
hold; I trusted the case was not so desperate as he imagined.

This subject was pursued no further, and was in some degree driven from
my thoughts by an incident of a very extraordinary nature.

I have already mentioned the animosity that was entertained against me
by the infernal portress of this solitary mansion. Gines, the expelled
member of the gang, had been her particular favourite. She submitted to
his exile indeed, because her genius felt subdued by the energy and
inherent superiority of Mr. Raymond; but she submitted with murmuring
and discontent. Not daring to resent the conduct of the principal in
this affair, she collected all the bitterness of her spirit against me.

To the unpardonable offence I had thus committed in the first instance,
were added the reasonings I had lately offered against the profession of
robbery. Robbery was a fundamental article in the creed of this hoary
veteran, and she listened to my objections with the same unaffected
astonishment and horror that an old woman of other habits would listen
to one who objected to the agonies and dissolution of the Creator of the
world, or to the garment of imputed righteousness prepared to envelope
the souls of the elect. Like the religious bigot, she was sufficiently
disposed to avenge a hostility against her opinions with the weapons of
sublunary warfare.

Meanwhile I had smiled at the impotence of her malice, as an object of
contempt rather than alarm. She perceived, as I imagine, the slight
estimation in which I held her, and this did not a little increase the
perturbation of her thoughts.

One day I was left alone, with no other person in the house than this
swarthy sybil. The thieves had set out upon an expedition about two
hours after sunset on the preceding evening, and had not returned, as
they were accustomed to do, before day-break the next morning. This was
a circumstance that sometimes occurred, and therefore did not produce
any extraordinary alarm. At one time the scent of prey would lead them
beyond the bounds they had prescribed themselves, and at another the
fear of pursuit: the life of a thief is always uncertain. The old woman
had been preparing during the night for the meal to which they would
expect to sit down as soon as might be after their return.

For myself, I had learned from their habits to be indifferent to the
regular return of the different parts of the day, and in some degree to
turn day into night, and night into day. I had been now several weeks in
this residence, and the season was considerably advanced. I had passed
some hours during the night in ruminating on my situation. The character
and manners of the men among whom I lived were disgusting to me. Their
brutal ignorance, their ferocious habits, and their coarse behaviour,
instead of becoming more tolerable by custom, hourly added force to my
original aversion. The uncommon vigour of their minds, and acuteness of
their invention in the business they pursued, compared with the
odiousness of that business and their habitual depravity, awakened in me
sensations too painful to be endured. Moral disapprobation, at least in
a mind unsubdued by philosophy, I found to be one of the most fertile
sources of disquiet and uneasiness. From this pain the society of Mr.
Raymond by no means relieved me. He was indeed eminently superior to the
vices of the rest; but I did not less exquisitely feel how much he was
out of his place, how disproportionably associated, or how contemptibly
employed. I had attempted to counteract the errors under which he and
his companions laboured; but I had found the obstacles that presented
themselves greater than I had imagined.

What was I to do? Was I to wait the issue of this my missionary
undertaking, or was I to withdraw myself immediately? When I withdrew,
ought that to be done privately, or with an open avowal of my design,
and an endeavour to supply by the force of example what was deficient in
my arguments? It was certainly improper, as I declined all participation
in the pursuits of these men, did not pay my contribution of hazard to
the means by which they subsisted, and had no congeniality with their
habits, that I should continue to reside with them longer than was
absolutely necessary. There was one circumstance that rendered this
deliberation particularly pressing. They intended in a few days removing
from their present habitation, to a haunt to which they were accustomed,
in a distant county. If I did not propose to continue with them, it
would perhaps be wrong to accompany them in this removal. The state of
calamity to which my inexorable prosecutor had reduced me, had made the
encounter even of a den of robbers a fortunate adventure. But the time
that had since elapsed, had probably been sufficient to relax the
keenness of the quest that was made after me. I sighed for that solitude
and obscurity, that retreat from the vexations of the world and the
voice even of common fame, which I had proposed to myself when I broke
my prison.

Such were the meditations which now occupied my mind. At length I grew
fatigued with continual contemplation, and to relieve myself pulled out
a pocket Horace, the legacy of my beloved Brightwel! I read with avidity
the epistle in which he so beautifully describes to Fuscus, the
grammarian, the pleasures of rural tranquillity and independence. By
this time the sun rose from behind the eastern hills, and I opened my
casement to contemplate it. The day commenced with peculiar brilliancy,
and was accompanied with all those charms which the poets of nature, as
they have been styled, have so much delighted to describe. There was
something in this scene, particularly as succeeding to the active
exertions of intellect, that soothed the mind to composure. Insensibly a
confused reverie invaded my faculties; I withdrew from the window, threw
myself upon the bed, and fell asleep.

I do not recollect the precise images which in this situation passed
through my thoughts, but I know that they concluded with the idea of
some person, the agent of Mr. Falkland, approaching to assassinate me.
This thought had probably been suggested by the project I meditated of
entering once again into the world, and throwing myself within the
sphere of his possible vengeance. I imagined that the design of the
murderer was to come upon me by surprise, that I was aware of his
design, and yet, by some fascination, had no thought of evading it. I
heard the steps of the murderer as he cautiously approached. I seemed to
listen to his constrained yet audible breathings. He came up to the
corner where I was placed, and then stopped.

The idea became too terrible; I started, opened my eyes, and beheld the
execrable hag before mentioned standing over me with a butcher's
cleaver. I shifted my situation with a speed that seemed too swift for
volition, and the blow already aimed at my skull sunk impotent upon the
bed. Before she could wholly recover her posture, I sprung upon her,
seized hold of the weapon, and had nearly wrested it from her. But in a
moment she resumed her strength and her desperate purpose, and we had a
furious struggle--she impelled by inveterate malice, and I resisting for
my life. Her vigour was truly Amazonian, and at no time had I ever
occasion to contend with a more formidable opponent. Her glance was
rapid and exact, and the shock with which from time to time she impelled
her whole frame inconceivably vehement. At length I was victorious, took
from her the instrument of death, and threw her upon the ground. Till
now the earnestness of her exertions had curbed her rage; but now she
gnashed with her teeth, her eyes seemed as if starting from their
sockets, and her body heaved with uncontrollable insanity.

"Rascal! devil!" she exclaimed, "what do you mean to do to me?"

Till now the scene had passed uninterrupted by a single word.

"Nothing," I replied: "begone, infernal witch! and leave me to myself."

"Leave you! No: I will thrust my fingers through your ribs, and drink
your blood!--You conquer me?--Ha, ha!--Yes, yes; you shall!--I will sit
upon you, and press you to hell! I will roast you with brimstone, and
dash your entrails into your eyes! Ha, ha!--ha!"

Saying this, she sprung up, and prepared to attack me with redoubled
fury. I seized her hands, and compelled her to sit upon the bed. Thus
restrained, she continued to express the tumult of her thoughts by
grinning, by certain furious motions of her head, and by occasional
vehement efforts to disengage herself from my grasp. These contortions
and starts were of the nature of those fits in which the patients are
commonly supposed to need three or four persons to hold them. But I
found by experience that, under the circumstances in which I was
placed, my single strength was sufficient. The spectacle of her emotions
was inconceivably frightful. Her violence at length however began to
abate, and she became convinced of the hopelessness of the contest.


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