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Chapter 7

  • They were no sooner withdrawn than I cast my eye upon the old man, and foun_omething extremely venerable and interesting in his appearance. His form wa_bove the middle size. It indicated that his strength had been onc_onsiderable; nor was it at this time by any means annihilated. His hair wa_n considerable quantity, and was as white as the drifted snow. His complexio_as healthful and ruddy, at the same time that his face was furrowed wit_rinkles. In his eye there was remarkable vivacity, and his whole countenanc_as strongly expressive of good-nature. The boorishness of his rank in societ_as lost in the cultivation his mind had derived from habits of sensibilit_nd benevolence.
  • The view of his figure immediately introduced a train of ideas into my mind,
  • respecting the advantage to be drawn from the presence of such a person. Th_ttempt to take any step without his consent was hopeless; for, though _hould succeed with regard to him, he could easily give the alarm to othe_ersons, who would, no doubt, be within call. Add to which, I could scarcel_ave prevailed on myself to offer any offence to a person whose firs_ppearance so strongly engaged my affection and esteem. In reality my thought_ere turned into a different channel. I was impressed with an ardent wish t_e able to call this man my benefactor. Pursued by a train of ill fortune, _ould no longer consider myself as a member of society. I was a solitar_eing, cut off from the expectation of sympathy, kindness, and the good-wil_f mankind. I was strongly impelled, by the situation in which the presen_oment placed me, to indulge in a luxury which my destiny seemed to hav_enied. I could not conceive the smallest comparison between the idea o_eriving my liberty from the spontaneous kindness of a worthy and excellen_ind, and that of being indebted for it to the selfishness and baseness of th_orst members of society. It was thus that I allowed myself in the wantonnes_f refinement, even in the midst of destruction.
  • Guided by these sentiments, I requested his attention to the circumstances b_hich I had been brought into my present situation. He immediately signifie_is assent, and said he would cheerfully listen to any thing I thought prope_o communicate. I told him, the persons who had just left me in charge wit_im had come to this town for the purpose of apprehending some person who ha_een guilty of robbing the mail; that they had chosen to take me up under thi_arrant, and had conducted me before a justice of the peace; that they ha_oon detected their mistake, the person in question being an Irishman, an_iffering from me both in country and stature; but that, by collusion betwee_hem and the justice, they were permitted to retain me in custody, an_retended to undertake to conduct me to Warwick to confront me with m_ccomplice; that, in searching me at the justice's, they had found a sum o_oney in my possession which excited their cupidity, and that they had jus_een proposing to me to give me my liberty upon condition of my surrenderin_his sum into their hands. Under these circumstances, I requested him t_onsider, whether he would wish to render himself the instrument of thei_xtortion. I put myself into his hands, and solemnly averred the truth of th_acts I had just stated. If he would assist me in my escape, it could have n_ther effect than to disappoint the base passions of my conductors. I woul_pon no account expose him to any real inconvenience; but I was well assure_hat the same generosity that should prompt him to a good deed, would enabl_im effectually to vindicate it when done; and that those who detained me,
  • when they had lost sight of their prey, would feel covered with confusion, an_ot dare to take another step in the affair.
  • The old man listened to what I related with curiosity and interest. He sai_hat he had always felt an abhorrence to the sort of people who had me i_heir hands; that he had an aversion to the task they had just imposed upo_im, but that he could not refuse some little disagreeable offices to oblig_is daughter and son-in-law. He had no doubt, from my countenance and manner,
  • of the truth of what I had asserted to him. It was an extraordinary request _ad made, and he did not know what had induced me to think him the sort o_erson to whom, with any prospect of success, it might be made. In realit_owever his habits of thinking were uncommon, and he felt more than hal_nclined to act as I desired. One thing at least he would ask of me in return,
  • which was to be faithfully informed in some degree respecting the person h_as desired to oblige. What was my name?
  • The question came upon me unprepared. But, whatever might be the consequence,
  • I could not bear to deceive the person by whom it was put, and in th_ircumstances under which it was put. The practice of perpetual falsehood i_oo painful a task. I replied, that my name was Williams.
  • He paused. His eye was fixed upon me. I saw his complexion alter at th_epetition of that word. He proceeded with visible anxiety.
  • My Christian name?
  • Caleb.
  • Good God! it could not be ——? He conjured me by every thing that was sacred t_nswer him faithfully to one question more. I was not—no, it wa_mpossible—the person who had formerly lived servant with Mr. Falkland, of ——?
  • I told him that, whatever might be the meaning of his question, I would answe_im truly. I was the individual he mentioned.
  • As I uttered these words the old man rose from his seat. He was sorry tha_ortune had been so unpropitious to him, as for him ever to have set eyes upo_e! I was a monster with whom the very earth groaned!
  • I entreated that he would suffer me to explain this new misapprehension, as h_ad done in the former instance. I had no doubt that I should do it equally t_is satisfaction.
  • No! no! no! he would upon no consideration admit, that his ears should suffe_uch contamination. This case and the other were very different. There was n_riminal upon the face of the earth, no murderer, half so detestable as th_erson who could prevail upon himself to utter the charges I had done, by wa_f recrimination, against so generous a master.—The old man was in a perfec_gony with the recollection.
  • At length he calmed himself enough to say, he should never cease to griev_hat he had held a moment's parley with me. He did not know what was th_onduct severe justice required of him; but, since he had come into th_nowledge of who I was only by my own confession, it was irreconcilabl_epugnant to his feelings to make use of that knowledge to my injury. Her_herefore all relation between us ceased; as indeed it would be an abuse o_ords to consider me in the light of a human creature. He would do me n_ischief; but, on the other hand, he would not, for the world, be in any wa_ssisting and abetting me.
  • I was inexpressibly affected at the abhorrence this good and benevolen_reature expressed against me. I could not be silent; I endeavoured once an_gain to prevail upon him to hear me. But his determination was unalterable.
  • Our contest lasted for some time, and he at length terminated it by ringin_he bell, and calling up the waiter. A very little while after, my conductor_ntered, and the other persons withdrew.
  • It was a part of the singularity of my fate that it hurried me from on_pecies of anxiety and distress to another, too rapidly to suffer any one o_hem to sink deeply into my mind. I am apt to believe, in the retrospect, tha_alf the calamities I was destined to endure would infallibly have overwhelme_nd destroyed me. But, as it was, I had no leisure to chew the cud upo_isfortunes as they befel me, but was under the necessity of forgetting them,
  • to guard against peril that the next moment seemed ready to crush me.
  • The behaviour of this incomparable and amiable old man cut me to the heart. I_as a dreadful prognostic for all my future life. But, as I have jus_bserved, my conductors entered, and another subject called imperiously upo_y attention. I could have been content, mortified as I was at this instant,
  • to have been shut up in some impenetrable solitude, and to have wrapped mysel_n inconsolable misery. But the grief I endured had not such power over me a_hat I could be content to risk the being led to the gallows. The love o_ife, and still more a hatred against oppression, steeled my heart agains_hat species of inertness. In the scene that had just passed I had indulged,
  • as I have said, in a wantonness and luxury of refinement. It was time tha_ndulgence should be brought to a period. It was dangerous to trifle any mor_pon the brink of fate; and, penetrated as I was with sadness by the result o_y last attempt, I was little disposed to unnecessary circumambulation.
  • I was exactly in the temper in which the gentlemen who had me in their powe_ould have desired to find me. Accordingly we entered immediately upo_usiness; and, after some chaffering, they agreed to accept eleven guineas a_he price of my freedom. To preserve however the chariness of thei_eputation, they insisted upon conducting me with them for a few miles on th_utside of a stage-coach. They then pretended that the road they had to trave_ay in a cross country direction; and, having quitted the vehicle, the_uffered me, almost as soon as it was out of sight, to shake off thi_roublesome association, and follow my own inclinations. It may be wort_emarking by the way, that these fellows outwitted themselves at their ow_rade. They had laid hold of me at first under the idea of a prize of _undred guineas; they had since been glad to accept a composition of eleven:
  • but if they had retained me a little longer in their possession, they woul_ave found the possibility of acquiring the sum that had originally excite_heir pursuit, upon a different score.
  • The mischances that had befallen me, in my late attempt to escape from m_ursuers by sea, deterred me from the thought of repeating that experiment. _herefore once more returned to the suggestion of hiding myself, at least fo_he present, amongst the crowds of the metropolis. Meanwhile, I by no mean_hought proper to venture by the direct route, and the less so, as that wa_he course which would be steered by my late conductors; but took my roa_long the borders of Wales. The only incident worth relating in this plac_ccurred in an attempt to cross the Severn in a particular point. The mode wa_y a ferry; but, by some strange inadvertence, I lost my way so completely a_o be wholly unable that night to reach the ferry, and arrive at the tow_hich I had destined for my repose.
  • This may seem a petty disappointment, in the midst of the overwhelmin_onsiderations that might have been expected to engross every thought of m_ind. Yet it was borne by me with singular impatience. I was that da_ncommonly fatigued. Previously to the time that I mistook, or at least wa_ware of the mistake of the road, the sky had become black and lowring, an_oon after the clouds burst down in sheets of rain. I was in the midst of _eath, without a tree or covering of any sort to shelter me. I was thoroughl_renched in a moment. I pushed on with a sort of sullen determination. By an_y the rain gave place to a storm of hail. The hail-stones were large an_requent. I was ill defended by the miserable covering I wore, and they seeme_o cut me in a thousand directions. The hail-storm subsided, and was agai_ucceeded by a heavy rain. By this time it was that I had perceived I wa_holly out of my road. I could discover neither man nor beast, nor habitatio_f any kind. I walked on, measuring at every turn the path it would be prope_o pursue, but in no instance finding a sufficient reason to reject one o_refer another. My mind was bursting with depression and anguish. I muttere_mprecations and murmuring as I passed along. I was full of loathing an_bhorrence of life, and all that life carries in its train. After wanderin_ithout any certain direction for two hours, I was overtaken by the night. Th_cene was nearly pathless, and it was vain to think of proceeding any farther.
  • Here I was, without comfort, without shelter, and without food. There was no_ particle of my covering that was not as wet as if it had been fished fro_he bottom of the ocean. My teeth chattered. I trembled in every limb. M_eart burned with universal fury. At one moment I stumbled and fell over som_nseen obstacle; at another I was turned back by an impediment I could no_vercome.
  • There was no strict connection between these casual inconveniences and th_ersecution under which I laboured. But my distempered thoughts confounde_hem together. I cursed the whole system of human existence. I said, "Here _m, an outcast, destined to perish with hunger and cold. All men desert me.
  • All men hate me. I am driven with mortal threats from the sources of comfor_nd existence. Accursed world! that hates without a cause, that overwhelm_nnocence with calamities which ought to be spared even to guilt! Accurse_orld! dead to every manly sympathy; with eyes of horn, and hearts of steel!
  • Why do I consent to live any longer? Why do I seek to drag on an existence,
  • which, if protracted, must be protracted amidst the lairs of these huma_igers?"
  • This paroxysm at length exhausted itself. Presently after, I discovered _olitary shed, which I was contented to resort to for shelter. In a corner o_he shed I found some clean straw. I threw off my rags, placed them in _ituation where they would best be dried, and buried myself amidst thi_riendly warmth. Here I forgot by degrees the anguish that had racked me. _holesome shed and fresh straw may seem but scanty benefits; but they offere_hemselves when least expected, and my whole heart was lightened by th_ncounter. Through fatigue of mind and body, it happened in this instance,
  • though in general my repose was remarkably short, that I slept till almos_oon of the next day. When I rose, I found that I was at no great distanc_rom the ferry, which I crossed, and entered the town where I intended to hav_ested the preceding night.
  • It was market-day. As I passed near the cross, I observed two people look a_e with great earnestness: after which one of them exclaimed, "I will b_amned if I do not think that this is the very fellow those men were enquirin_or who set off an hour ago by the coach for ——." I was extremely alarmed a_his information; and, quickening my pace, turned sharp down a narrow lane.
  • The moment I was out of sight I ran with all the speed I could exert, and di_ot think myself safe till I was several miles distant from the place wher_his information had reached my ears. I have always believed that the men t_hom it related were the very persons who had apprehended me on board the shi_n which I had embarked for Ireland; that, by some accident, they had met wit_he description of my person as published on the part of Mr. Falkland; an_hat, from putting together the circumstances, they had been led to believ_hat this was the very individual who had lately been in their custody. Indee_t was a piece of infatuation in me, for which I am now unable to account,
  • that, after the various indications which had occurred in that affair, provin_o them that I was a man in critical and peculiar circumstances, I should hav_ersisted in wearing the same disguise without the smallest alteration. M_scape in the present case was eminently fortunate. If I had not lost my wa_n consequence of the hail-storm on the preceding night, or if I had not s_reatly overslept myself this very morning, I must almost infallibly hav_allen into the hands of these infernal blood-hunters.
  • The town they had chosen for their next stage, the name of which I had thu_aught in the market-place, was the town to which, but for this intimation, _hould have immediately proceeded. As it was, I determined to take a road a_ide of it as possible. In the first place to which I came, in which it wa_racticable to do so, I bought a great coat, which I drew over my beggar'_eeds, and a better hat. The hat I slouched over my face, and covered one o_y eyes with a green-silk shade. The handkerchief, which I had hitherto wor_bout my head, I now tied about the lower part of my visage, so as to cover m_outh. By degrees I discarded every part of my former dress, and wore for m_pper garment a kind of carman's frock, which, being of the better sort, mad_e look like the son of a reputable farmer of the lower class. Thus equipped,
  • I proceeded on my journey, and, after a thousand alarms, precautions, an_ircuitous deviations from the direct path, arrived safely in London.