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Adventures of Caleb Williams online

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examination, you can have them entire. You know
my habits of thinking. I regard you as vicious ;
but I do not consider the vicious as proper objects
of indignation and scorn. I consider you as a ma-
chine ; you are not constituted, I am afraid, to be
greatly useful to your fellow-men : but you did not
make yourself; you are just what circumstances
irresistibly compelled you to be. I am sorry for
your ill properties ; but I entertain no enmity against
you, nothing but benevolence. Considering you in
the light in which I at present consider you, I am
ready to contribute every thing in my power to your
real advantage, and would gladly assist you, if I
knew how, in detecting and extirpating the errors
that have misled you. You have disappointed me.

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'but I have no reproaches to utter : it is more neces-
sary for me to feel compassion for you, than that I
should accumulate your misfortune by my censures."

What could I say to such a man as this ? Amia-
ble, incomparable man! Never was my mind
more painfully divided than at that moment. The
more he excited my admiration, the more impe-
riously did my heart command me, whatever were
the price it should cost, to extort his friendship. I
was persuaded that severe duty required of him that
he should reject all personal considerations, that he
should proceed resolutely to the investigation of the
truth, and that, if he found the result terminating in
my favour, he should resign all his advantages,
and, deserted as I was by the world, make a com-
mon cause, and endeavour to compensate the gene-
ral injustice. But was it for me to force this con-
duct upon him, if now, in his declining year 9, his
own fortitude shrank from it ! Alas, neither he nor
I foresaw the dreadful catastrophe that was so
closely impending ! Otherwise I am well assured
that no tenderness for his remaining tranquillity
would have withheld him from a compUance with
my wishes ! On the other hand, could I pretend
to know what evils might result to him from his
declaring himself my advocate ? Might not his in-
tegrity be browbeaten and defeated, as mine had
been t Did the imbecility of his gray hairs afTord
no advantage to my terrible adversary in the con-
test? Might not Mr. Falkland reduce him to a
condition as wretched and low as mine ? After all,
was it not vice in me to desire to involve another
man in my sufferings ? If I regarded them as in-
tolerable, this was still an additional reason why I
should bear them alone.

Influenced by these considerations, I assented to
his views. I assented to be thought hardly of by the

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man in the world whose esteem I most ardently de-*
sired, rather than involve him in possible calamity.
I assented to the resigning what appeared to me at
that moment as the last practicable comfort of my life ;
a comfort, upon the thoughts of which, while I sur-
rendered it, my mind dwelt with indescribable long-
ings. Mr. Collins was deeply affected with the ap-
parent ingenuousness with which I expressed my
feelings. The secret struggle of his mind was,
"Can this be hypocrisy? The individual with
whom I am conferring, if virtuous, is one of the
most disinterestedly virtuous persons in the world."
We tore ourselves from each other. Mr. Collins
promised, as far as he was able, to have an eye
upon my vicissitudes, and to assist me in every
respect that was consistent with a just recollection
of consequences. Thus I parted, as it were, with
the last expiring hope of my mind ; and voluntarily
consented, thus maimed and forlorn, to encounter
all the evils that were yet in store for me.

This is the latest event which at present I think
it necessary to record. I shall doubtless hereafter
have further occasion to take up the pen. Great
and unprecedented as my sufferings have been, I
feel intimately persuaded that there are worse suf-
ferings that await me. What mysterious cause is
it that enables me to write this, and not to perish
under the horrible apprehension !

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It is as I foretold. The presage with which I
was visited was prophetic. I am now to record a
new and terrible revolution of my fortune and my

Having made experiment of various situations
with one uniform result, I at length determined to
remove myself, if possible, from the reach of my
persecutor, by going into voluntary banishment from
my native soil. This was my last resource for
tranquillity, for honest fame, for those privileges to
which human life is indebted for the whole of its
value. " In some distant climate," said I, " surely
I may find that security which is necessary to per-
severing pursuit ; surely I may lift my head erect,
associate with men upon the footing of a man, ac-
quire connexions, and preserve them !" It is incon-
ceivable with what ardent reachings of the soul I
aspired to this termination.

This last consolation was denied me by the inex-
orable Falkland.

At the time the project was formed I was at no
great distance from the east coast of the island, and
I resolved to take ship at Harwich, and pass imme-
diately into Holland. I accordingly repaired to
that place, and went, almost as soon as I arrived,
to the port. But there was no vessel perfectly
ready to sail. I left the port, and withdrew to an
inn, where, after some time, I retired to a chamber.
I was scarcely there before the door of the room
was opened, and the man whose countenance was
the most hateful to my eyes, Gines, entered the

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apartment He shut the door as soon as he en«

** Youngster," said he, " I have a little private in-
telligence to communicate to you. I come as a
friend, and that I may save you a labour-in-vain
trouble. If you consider what 1 have to say in that
light, it will be the better for you. It is my business
now, do you see, for want of a better, to see that
you do not break out of bounds. Not that I much
matter having one man for my employer, or dancing
attendance after another's heels ; but I have special
kindness for you, for some good turns that you wot
of, and therefore I do not stand upon ceremonies !
You have led me a very pretty round already ; and,
out of the love I bear you, you shall lead me as
much farther, if you will. But beware the salt
seas ! They are out of my orders. You are a
prisoner at present, and I believe all your life will
remain so. Thanks to the milk-and-water softness
of your former master ! If I had the ordering of
these things, it should go with you in another fashion.
As long as you think proper, you are a prisoner
within the rules ; and the rules with which the soft-
hearted squire indulges you are all England, Scot-
land, and Wales. But you are not to go out of
these climates. The squire is determined you shall
never pass the reach pf his disposal. He has
therefore given orders that, whenever you attempt
so to do, you shall be converted from a prisoner at
large to a prisoner in good earnest. A friend of
mine followed you just now to the harbour ; I was
within call ; and if there had been any appearance of
your setting your foot from land, we should have
Jbeen with you in a trice, and laid you fast by the
heels. I would advise you, for the future, to keep
at a proper distance from the sea, for fear of the
worst. You see, I tell you all this for your good.

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For my pzurt, I should be better satisfied if you
were in limbo, with a rope about your neck, and
a comfortable bird's-eye prospect to the gallows:
but I do as I am directed ; and so good-night to

The intelligence thus conveyed to me occasioned
an instantaneous revolution in both my intellectual
and animal system. I disdained to answer, or take
the smaHfest notice of the fiend by whom it was de-
livered. It is now three days since I received it,
and fifom that moment to the present my blood has
been in a perpetual ferment. My thoughts wander
from one idea of horror to another, with incredible
rapidity. I have had no sleep. I have scarcely
remained in one posture for a minute together. It
has been with the utmost difficulty that I have been
able to command myself far enough to add a few
pages to my story. But, uncertain as I am of the
events of each succeeding hour, I determined to
force myself to the performance of this task. All
is not right within me. How it will terminate, Grod
knows. I sometimes fear that I shall be wholly
deserted of my reason.

What ! — dark, mysterious, unfeeling, unrelenting
tyrant ! — ^is it come to this 1 When Nero and Calig-
ula swayed the Roman sceptre, it was a fearful
thing to offend these bloody rulers. The empire
had already spread itself from climate to climate,
and from sea to sea. If their unhappy victim fled
to the rising of the sun, where the luminary of day
seems to us first to ascend from the waves of the
ocean, the power of the tyrant was still behiftd him.
If he with(h-ew to the west, to Hesperian darkness,
and the shores of barbarian Thule, still he was not
safe from his gore-drenched foe. — Falkland ! art thou
the off*spring, in whom the lineaments of these
tyrants are faithfully preserved ? Was the world,

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with all its qlimates, made in vain for tby helpless,
unoflending victim ?

Tremble !

Tyrants have trembled, surromided with .whole
armies of their janissaries ! What should make
thee inaccessible to my fury ? No, I will use no
daggers ! I will unfol^i a tale ! — I will show thee
to the world for what thou art ; and all th»men that
live shall confess my truth ! — ^Didst thou imagine
that I was altogether passive, a mere worm, organs
ized to feel sensations of pain, but no emotion of
resentment ? Didst thou imagine that there was no
danger in inflicting on me pains however great,
miseries however dreadful ? Didst thou beUeve
me impotent, imbecile, and idiot-like, with no under-
standing to contrive thy ruin, and no energy to per-
petrate it ?

I will tell a tale ! — The justice of the country
shall hear me ! The elements of nature in universal
uproar shall not interrupt me ! I will speak with a
voice more fearful than thunder ! — ^Why should I be
supposed to speak from any dishonourable motive ?
I am under no prosecution now ! I shall not now
appear to be endeavouring to remove a criminal
indictment from myself, by throwing it back on its
author ! — Shall I regret the ruin that will overwhelm
thee? Too long have I been tender-hearted and
forbearing ! What benefit has ever resulted from
my mistaken clemency ? There is no evil thou hast
scrupled to accumulate upon me ! Neither will I be
more scrupulous ! Thou hast shown no mercy ;
and thou shalt receive none ! — ^I must be calm ! bold
as a lion, yet collected !

This is a moment pregnant with fate. I know —
I think I know — that I will be triumphant, and crush
my seemingly omnipotent foe. But should it be

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Otherwise, at least he shall not be every way suc-
cessful. His fame shall not be immortal as he
thinks. These papers shall preserve the truth;
they shall one day be published, and then the world
shsdl do justice on us both. Recollecting that, I
shall not die wholly without consolation. It is not
to be endured that falsehood and tyranny should
reign for ever.

How impotent are the precautions of man against
the eternally existing laws of the intellectual world !
This Falkland has invented against me every spe-
cies of foul accusation. He has hunted me from
city to city. He has drawn his lines of circumval-
lation round me that I may not escape. He has
kept his scenters of human prey for ever at my
heels. He may hunt me out of the world. — ^In
vain ! With this engine, this little pen, I defeat all
his machinations ; I stab him in the very point he
was most soUcitous to defend !

Collins ! I now address myself to you. I have
consented that you should yield me no assistance
in my present terrible situation. I am content to die
rather than do any thing injurious to your tranquil-
lity. But remember, you are my father still ! 1
conjure you, by all the love you ever bore me, by the
benefits you have conferred on me, by the forbear-
ance and kindness towards you that now penetrates
my soul, by my innocence — for, if these be the last
words I shall ever write, I die protesting my inno-
cence ! — ^by all these, or whatever tie more sacred
has influe4ce on your soul, 1 conjure you, listen to
my last request ! Preserve these papers from de-
struction, and preserve them from Falkland ! It is
all I ask ! I have taken care to provide a safe mode
of conveying them into your possession : and I have
a firm confidence, which I will not suffer to depart

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from me, that they will one day find their way to
the public !

The pen lingers in ray trembling fingers ! is
there any thing I have left misaid ? — ^The contents
of the fatal trunk from which all my misfortunes
originated I have never been able to ascertain. I
once thought it contained some murderous instru-
ment or relic connected with the fate of the unhappy
T)nTel. I am now persuaded that the secret it
encloses is a faithful narrative of that and its con-
comitant transactions, written by Mr. Falkland, and
reserved in case of the worst, that, if by any unfore-
seen event his guilt should come to be fully dis-
closed, it might contribute to redeem the wreck of
his reputation. But the truth or the falsehood of
this conjecture is of little moment. If Falkland
shall never be detected to the satisfaction of the
world, such a narrative will probably never see the
light. In that case this story of mine may amply,
severely perhaps, supply its place.

I know not what it is that renders me thus
solemn. I have a secret foreboding, as if I should
never again be master of myself. If I succeed in
what I now meditate respecting Falkland, my pre-
caution in the disposal of these papers will have
been unnecessary ; I shall no longer be reduced to
artifice and evasion. If I fail, the precaution will
appear to have been wisely chosen.

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All is over. I have carried into execution my
meditated attempt. My situation is totally changed ,
I now sit down to give an account of it. For seve-
ral weeks after the completion of this dreadful
business, my mind was in too tumultuous a state to
permit me to write. I think I shall now be able to
arrange my thoughts sufficiently for that purpose.
Grea{*God! hpw wondrous, how terrible are the
events that have intervened since I was last
employed in a similar manner ! It is no wonder
that my thoughts were solemn, and my mind filled
with horrible forebodings !

Having formed my resolution, I set out from Har-
wich, for the metropolitan town of the county in
which Mr. Falkland resided. Gines, I well knew,
was in my rear. That was of no consequence to
me. He might wonder at the direction I pursued,
but he could not tell with wbat purpose I pursued
it. My design was a secret, carefully locked up in
my own breast. It was not without a sentiment of
terror that I entered a town which had been the scene
of my long imprisonment. I proceeded to the house
of the chief magistrate the instant I arrived, that 1
might give, no time to my adversary to counteract
my proceeding.

I told him who I was, and that I was come from
a distant part of the kingdom, for the purpose of
rendering him the medium of a charge of murder
against my former patron. My name was already
familiar to him. He answered, that he could not

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take cognizance of my deposition ; that I was an
object of universal execration in that part of the
world ; and he was determined upon no account to
be the vehicle of my depravity.

I warned him to consider well what he was doing.
I called upon him for no favour ; I only apphed to
him in the regular exercise of his function. Would
he take upon him to say that he had a right, at his
pleasure, to suppress a charge of this complicated
nature 1 I had to accuse Mr. Falkland of repeated
murders. The perpetrator knew that I was in pos-
session of the truth upon the subject ; and, knowing
that, I went perpetually in danger of my life from
his mahce and revenge. I was resolved to go
through with the business, if justice were to be
obtained from any court in England. Upon what
pretence did he refuse my deposition ? I was in
every respect a competent witness. I was of age
to understand the nature of an oath ; I was in my
perfect senses ; I was untarnished by the verdict of
any jury, or the sentence of any judge. His private
opinion of my character could not alter the law of
the land. I demanded to be confronted with Mr.
Falkland, and I was well assured I should substan-
tiate the charge to ,the satisfaction of the whole
world. If he did not think proper to apprehend
him upon my single testimony, I should be satisfied
if he only sent him notice of the charge, and sum-
moned hun to appear.

The magistrate, finding me thus resolute, thought
proper a little to lower his tone. He no longer
absolutely refused to comply with my requisition,
but condescended to expostulate with me. He
represented to me Mr. Falkland's health, which had
for some years been exceedingly indifferent; his
having been once already brought to the most solenm
examination upon this charge ; the diabolical malice

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in which alone my proceeding must have originated ;
and the tenfold ruin it would bring down upon my
head. To all these representations my answer was
short. "I was determined to go on, and would
abide the consequences." A summons was at
length granted, and notice sent to Mr. Falkland of
the charge preferred against him.

Three days elapsed before any further step could
be taken in this business. This interval in no
degree contributed to tranquillize my mind. The
thought of preferring a capital accusation against,
and hastening the death of, such a man as Mr.
Falkland, was by no means an opiate to reflection.
At one time I commended the action, either as just
revenge (for the benevolence of my nature was in a
great degree turned to gall), or as necessary self-
defence, or as that which, in an impartial and phi-
lanthropical estimate, included the smallest evil.
At another time I was haunted with doubts. But,
in spite of these variations of sentiment, I uniformly
determined to persist ! I felt as if impelled by a
tide of unconquerable impulse. The consequences
were such as might well appal the stoutest heart.
Either the ignominious execution of a man whom I
had once so deeply venerated, and whom now I
sometimes suspected not to be without his claims to
veneration ; or a confirmation, perhaps an increase,
of the calamities I had so long endured. Yet these
I prefers ' to a state of uncertainty. I desired to
know the worst ; to put an end to the hope, how-
ever faint, which had been so long my torment ;
and, above all, to exhaust and finish the catalogue
of expedients that were at my disposition. My
mind was worked up to a state little short of phrensy.
My body was in a burning fever with the agitation
of my thoughts. When I laid my hand upon my
bosom or my head, it seemed to scorch them with

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the fervency of its heat. I could not sit stil for a
moment. I panted with incessant desire that the
dreadful crisis I had so eagerly invoked were come,
and were over.

After an interval of three days, I met Mr. Falk-
land in the presence of the magistrate to whom I
had applied upon the subject. I had only two hours'
notice to prepare myself; Mr^Falkland seeming as
eager as I to have the question brought to a crisis,
and laid at rest for ever. I had an opportunity,
before the examination, to learn that Mr. Forester
was drawn by some business on an excursion on the
Continent ; and that Collins, whose health when I
saw him was in a very precarious state, was at this
time confined with an alarming illness. His consti-
tution had been wholly broken by his West Indian
expedition. The audience I met at the house of the
magistrate consisted of several gentlemen and others
selected for the purpose ; the plan being, in some
respects, as in the former instance, to find a medium
between the suspicious air of a private examination,
and the indelicacy, as it was styled, of ^ examina-
tion exposed to the remark of every casual spectator.

I can conceive of no shock greater than that I
received from the sight of Mr. Falkland. His ap-
pearance on the last occasion on which we met had
been haggard, ghostlike, and wild, energy in his
gestures, and phrensy in his aspect. It was now the
appearance of a corpse. He was brought in in a
chair, unable to stand, fatigued and almost destroyed
by the journey he had just taken. His visage was
colourless ; lus limbs destitute of motion, almost of
life. His head reclined upon his bosom, except that
now and then he lifted it up, and opened his eyes
with a languid glance ; immediately afler which he
sunk back into his former apparent insensibility.
He seemed not to have three hours to live. He had

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kept his chamber for several weeks ; but the sum-
mons of the magistrate had been delivered to him at
his bedside, his orders respecting letters and written
papers being so peremptory that no one dared to
disobey them. Upon reading the paper he was
seized with a very dangerous fit ; but, as soon as he
recovered, he insisted upon being conveyed, with all
practicable expedition, to the place of appointment.
Falkland, in the most helpless state, was still Falk-
land, firm in' command, and capable to extort obe-
dience from every one that approached him.

What a sight was this to me ! Till the moment
that Falkland was presented to my view mv breast
was steeled to pity. I thought that I had coolly
entered into the reason of the case (passion, in a
state of solemn and omnipotent vehemence, always
appears to be coolness to him in whom it domkieers),
and that I had determined impartially and justly.
I believed, that if Mr. Falkland were permitted to
persist in his schemes, we must both of us be com-
pletely wretched. I believed that it was in my
power, by the resolution I had formed, to throw my
share of this wretchedness from me, and that his
could scarcely be increased. It appeared, therefore,
to my mindf to be a mere piece of equity and justice,
such as an impartial spectator would desu*e, that
one person should be miserable in preference to two ;
that one person rather than two should be inca-
pacitated from acting his part, and contributing his
share to the general welfare. I thought that in this
business I had risen superior to personal considera-
tions, and judged ..dth a total neglect of the sug-
gestions of self-regard. It is true, Mr. Falkland
was mortal; but, notwithstanding his apparent
decay, he might live long. Ought I to submit to
waste the best years,of my life in my present
wretched situation? He had declared that his

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reputation should be for ever inviolate ; this was the
ruling passion, the thought that worked his soul to
madness. He would probably, therefore, leave a
legacy of persecution to be received by me from the
hands of Gines, or some other villain equally atro-
cious, when he should himself be no more. Now
or never was the time for me to redeem my future
life from endless wo.

But all these fine-spun reasonings vanished be-
fore the object that was now presented to me.
" Shall I trample upon a man thus dreadfully re-
duced? Shall I point my animosity against one,
whom the system of nature has brought down to
the grave ? Shall I poison, with sounds the most
intolerable to his ears, the last moments of a man
like Falkland ? It is impossible. There must have,
been some dreadful mistake in the train of argu
ment that persuaded me to be the author of thii
hateful scene. There must have been a better and
more magnanimous remedy to the evils under which
I groaned."

It was too late : the mistake I had committed
was now gone past all power of recall. Here was
Falkland, solemnly brought before a magistrate to
answer to a charge of murder. Here I stood, hav-
ing already declared myself the author of the charge,
gravely and sacredly pledged to support it. This

Online LibraryWilliam GodwinAdventures of Caleb Williams → online text (page 34 of 36)