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Chapter 3

  • 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?"[[6]](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[[7]](footnotes.xml#footnote_7) or of fort_ears[[8]](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,
  • having once begun?"