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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

Online LibraryWilliam GodwinCaleb Williams Things as They Are → online text (page 21 of 34)