One day, while I continued in this situation, a circumstance occurred whic_nvoluntarily attracted my attention. Two of our people had been sent to _own at some distance, for the purpose of procuring us the things of which w_ere in want. After having delivered these to our landlady, they retired t_ne corner of the room; and, one of them pulling a printed paper from hi_ocket, they mutually occupied themselves in examining its contents. I wa_itting in an easy chair by the fire, being considerably better than I ha_een, though still in a weak and languid state. Having read for a considerabl_ime, they looked at me, and then at the paper, and then at me again. The_hen went out of the room together, as if to consult without interruption upo_omething which that paper suggested to them. Some time after they returned;
and my protector, who had been absent upon the former occasion, entered th_oom at the same instant.
"Captain!" said one of them with an air of pleasure, "look here! we have foun_ prize! I believe it is as good as a bank-note of a hundred guineas."
Mr. Raymond (that was his name) took the paper, and read. He paused for _oment. He then crushed the paper in his hand; and, turning to the person fro_hom he had received it, said, with the tone of a man confident in the succes_f his reasons,—
"What use have you for these hundred guineas? Are you in want? Are you i_istress? Can you be contented to purchase them at the price of treachery—o_iolating the laws of hospitality?"
"Faith, captain, I do not very well know. After having violated other laws, _o not see why we should be frightened at an old saw. We pretend to judge fo_urselves, 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 rui_f 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 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, i_s a hundred to one, he can very well spare. I see nothing to be found faul_ith in that. But I have as much conscience as another man. Because I laugh a_ssizes, and great wigs, and the gallows, and because I will not be frightene_rom an innocent action when the lawyers say me nay, does it follow that I a_o have a fellow-feeling for pilferers, and rascally servants, and people tha_ave neither justice nor principle? No; I have too much respect for the trad_ot to be a foe to interlopers, and people that so much the more deserve m_atred, because the world calls them by my name."
"You are wrong, Larkins! You certainly ought not to employ against people tha_ou hate, supposing your hatred to be reasonable, the instrumentality of tha_aw which in your practice you defy. Be consistent. Either be the friend o_he law, or its adversary, Depend upon it that, wherever there are laws a_ll, there will be laws against such people as you and me. Either therefore w_ll of us deserve the vengeance of the law, or law is not the prope_nstrument for correcting the misdeeds of mankind. I tell you this, because _ould fain have you aware, that an informer or a king's evidence, a man wh_akes advantage of the confidence of another in order to betray him, who sell_he life of his neighbour for money, or, coward-like, upon any pretence call_n the law to do that for him which he cannot or dares not do for himself, i_he vilest of rascals. But in the present case, if your reasons were the bes_n the world, they do not apply."
While Mr. Raymond was speaking, the rest of the gang came into the room. H_mmediately turned to them, and said,—
"My friends, here is a piece of intelligence that Larkins has just brought i_hich, with his leave, I will lay before you."
Then unfolding the paper he had received, he continued: "This is th_escription of a felon, with the offer of a hundred guineas for hi_pprehension. Larking picked it up at ——. By the time and other circumstances,
but particularly by the minute description of his person, there can be n_oubt but the object of it is our young friend, whose life I was a while ag_he instrument of saving. He is charged here with having taken advantage o_he confidence of his patron and benefactor to rob him of property to a larg_mount. Upon this charge he was committed to the county jail, from whence h_ade his escape about a fortnight ago, without venturing to stand his trial; _ircumstance which is stated by the advertiser as tantamount to a confessio_f his guilt.
"My friends, I was acquainted with the particulars of this story some tim_efore. This lad let me into his history, at a time that he could not possibl_oresee that he should stand in need of that precaution as an antidote agains_anger. He is not guilty of what is laid to his charge. Which of you is s_gnorant as to suppose, that his escape is any confirmation of his guilt? Wh_ver thinks, when he is apprehended for trial, of his innocence or guilt a_eing at all material to the issue? Who ever was fool enough to volunteer _rial, where those who are to decide think more of the horror of the thing o_hich he is accused, than whether he were the person that did it; and wher_he 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 indifferen_ction 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 t_eave the service of his master, because he had been perhaps a little to_nquisitive in his master's concerns, and because, as I suspect, he had bee_rusted with some important secrets, his master conceived an antipathy agains_im. The antipathy gradually proceeded to such a length, as to induce th_aster to forge this vile accusation. He seemed willing to hang the lad out o_he way, rather than suffer him to go where he pleased, or get beyond th_each 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 tha_ am so myself. Nevertheless the man's servants who were called in to hear th_ccusation, and his relation, who as justice of the peace made out th_ittimus, and who had the folly to think he could be impartial, gave it on hi_ide with one voice, and thus afforded Williams a sample of what he had t_xpect in the sequel.
"Larkins, who when he received this paper had no previous knowledge o_articulars, was for taking advantage of it for the purpose of earning th_undred guineas. Are you of that mind now you have heard them? Will you for s_altry a consideration deliver up the lamb into the jaws of the wolf? Will yo_bet the purposes of this sanguinary rascal, who, not contented with drivin_is late dependent from house and home, depriving him of character and all th_rdinary means of subsistence, and leaving him almost without a refuge, stil_hirsts for his blood? If no other person have the courage to set limits t_he tyranny of courts of justice, shall not we? Shall we, who earn ou_ivelihood by generous daring, be indebted for a penny to the vile artifice_f the informer? Shall we, against whom the whole species is in arms, refus_ur 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 whol_ompany. They all exclaimed, "Betray him! No, not for worlds! He is safe. W_ill protect him at the hazard of our lives. If fidelity and honour b_anished from thieves, where shall they find refuge upon the face of th_arth?"[](footnotes.xml#footnote_6) Larkins in particular thanked th_aptain for his interference, and swore that he would rather part with hi_ight 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 roo_o harm should ever befal me; and, even if the understrappers of the la_hould discover my retreat, they would to a man die in my defence, sooner tha_ 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 m_enefactor. I told them, I found that my enemies were inexorable, and woul_ever be appeased but with my blood; and I assured them with the most solem_nd earnest veracity, that I had done nothing to deserve the persecution whic_as exercised against me. The spirit and energy of Mr. Raymond had been suc_s 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 alway_laced some confidence in the returning equity of Mr. Falkland. Though h_ersecuted me with bitterness, I could not help believing that he did i_nwillingly, and I was persuaded it would not be for ever. A man, whos_riginal principles had been so full of rectitude and honour, could not fai_t some time to recollect the injustice of his conduct, and to remit hi_sperity. This idea had been always present to me, and had in no small degre_onspired to instigate my exertions. I said, "I will convince my persecuto_hat I am of more value than that I should be sacrificed purely by way o_recaution." These expectations on my part had been encouraged by Mr.
Falkland's behaviour upon the question of my imprisonment, and by variou_articulars which had occurred since. But this new incident gave the subject _otally different appearance. I saw him, not contented with blasting m_eputation, confining me for a period in jail, and reducing me to th_ituation of a houseless vagabond, still continuing his pursuit under thes_orlorn circumstances with unmitigable cruelty. Indignation and resentmen_eemed 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 ide_f its being unmerited, that, while I suffered deeply, I still continued t_ity, rather than hate my persecutor. But this incident introduced some chang_nto my feelings. I said, "Surely he might now believe that he ha_ufficiently disarmed me, and might at length suffer me to be at peace. A_east, ought he not to be contented to leave me to my fate, the perilous an_ncertain condition of an escaped felon, instead of thus whetting th_nimosity and vigilance of my countrymen against me? Were his interference o_y behalf in opposition to the stern severity of Mr. Forester, and his variou_cts of kindness since, a mere part that he played in order to lull me int_atience? 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 wa_ecretly keeping every engine at play that could secure my destruction?" Th_ery suspicion of such a fact filled me with inexpressible horror, and struc_ sudden chill through every fibre of my frame. My wound was by this tim_ompletely healed, and it became absolutely necessary that I should form som_etermination respecting the future. My habits of thinking were such as gav_e an uncontrollable repugnance to the vocation of my hosts. I did not indee_eel that aversion and abhorrence to the men which are commonly entertained. _aw and respected their good qualities and their virtues. I was by no mean_nclined to believe them worse men, or more hostile in their dispositions t_he welfare of their species, than the generality of those that look down upo_hem with most censure. But, though I did not cease to love them a_ndividuals, my eyes were perfectly open to their mistakes. If I shoul_therwise have been in danger of being misled, it was my fortune to hav_tudied felons in a jail before I studied them in their state of comparativ_rosperity; and this was an infallible antidote to the poison. I saw that i_his profession were exerted uncommon energy, ingenuity, and fortitude, and _ould not help recollecting how admirably beneficial such qualities might b_ade in the great theatre of human affairs; while, in their present direction,
they were thrown away upon purposes diametrically at war with the firs_nterests of human society. Nor were their proceedings less injurious to thei_wn interest than incompatible with the general welfare. The man who risks o_acrifices his life for the public cause, is rewarded with the testimony of a_pproving conscience; but persons who wantonly defy the necessary, thoug_trociously 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 tha_he man who should set himself up as a mark for a file of musqueteers to shoo_t. Viewing the subject in this light, I not only determined that I would hav_o share in their occupation myself, but thought I could not do less, i_eturn for the benefits I had received from them, than endeavour to dissuad_hem from an employment in which they must themselves be the greates_ufferers. My expostulation met with a various reception. All the persons t_hom it was addressed had been tolerably successful in persuading themselve_f the innocence of their calling; and what remained of doubt in their min_as smothered, and, so to speak, laboriously forgotten. Some of them laughe_t my arguments, as a ridiculous piece of missionary quixotism. Others, an_articularly our captain, repelled them with the boldness of a man that know_e has got the strongest side. But this sentiment of ease and self-
satisfaction did not long remain. They had been used to arguments derived fro_eligion and the sacredness of law. They had long ago shaken these from the_s so many prejudices. But my view of the subject appealed to principles whic_hey could not contest, and had by no means the air of that customary reproo_hich is for ever dinned in our ears without finding one responsive chord i_ur 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 o_he 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. H_as surprised to hear objections so powerful to that which, as a matter o_peculation, he believed he had examined on all sides. He revolved them wit_mpartiality and care. He admitted them slowly, but he at length full_dmitted them. He had now but one rejoinder in reserve. "Alas! Williams," sai_e, "it would have been fortunate for me if these views had been presented t_e, 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 _m, preclude my return. God, we are told, judges of men by what they are a_he period of arraignment, and whatever be their crimes, if they have seen an_bjured the folly of those crimes, receives them to favour. But th_nstitutions of countries that profess to worship this God admit no suc_istinctions. They leave no room for amendment, and seem to have a bruta_elight in confounding the demerits of offenders. It signifies not what is th_haracter of the individual at the hour of trial. How changed, how spotless,
and how useful, avails him nothing. If they discover at the distance o_ourteen[](footnotes.xml#footnote_7) or of fort_ears[](footnotes.xml#footnote_8) an action for which the law ordains tha_is life shall be the forfeit, though the interval should have been spent wit_he purity of a saint and the devotedness of a patriot, they disdain t_nquire into it. What then can I do? Am I not compelled to go on in folly,