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or prefer another. My mind was bursting with depression and anguish. I
muttered imprecations and murmuring as I passed along. I was full of
loathing and abhorrence of life, and all that life carries in its train.
After wandering without any certain direction for two hours, I was
overtaken by the night. The scene 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 not a particle of my covering that was not as wet as if it had been
fished from the bottom of the ocean. My teeth chattered. I trembled in
every limb. My heart burned with universal fury. At one moment I
stumbled and fell over some unseen obstacle; at another I was turned
back by an impediment I could not overcome.

There was no strict connection between these casual inconveniences and
the persecution under which I laboured. But my distempered thoughts
confounded them together. I cursed the whole system of human existence.
I said, "Here I am, 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 comfort and existence. Accursed world! that hates
without a cause, that overwhelms innocence with calamities which ought
to be spared even to guilt! Accursed world! 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 human tigers?"

This paroxysm at length exhausted itself. Presently after, I discovered
a solitary shed, which I was contented to resort to for shelter. In a
corner of the shed I found some clean straw. I threw off my rags, placed
them in a situation where they would best be dried, and buried myself
amidst this friendly warmth. Here I forgot by degrees the anguish that
had racked me. A wholesome shed and fresh straw may seem but scanty
benefits; but they offered themselves when least expected, and my whole
heart was lightened by the encounter. Through fatigue of mind and body,
it happened in this instance, though in general my repose was remarkably
short, that I slept till almost noon of the next day. When I rose, I
found that I was at no great distance from the ferry, which I crossed,
and entered the town where I intended to have rested the preceding
night.

It was market-day. As I passed near the cross, I observed two people
look at me with great earnestness: after which one of them exclaimed, "I
will be damned if I do not think that this is the very fellow those men
were enquiring for who set off an hour ago by the coach for - - ." I was
extremely alarmed at this 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 did not think myself safe till I was
several miles distant from the place where this information had reached
my ears. I have always believed that the men to whom it related were the
very persons who had apprehended me on board the ship in which I had
embarked for Ireland; that, by some accident, they had met with the
description of my person as published on the part of Mr. Falkland; and
that, from putting together the circumstances, they had been led to
believe that this was the very individual who had lately been in their
custody. Indeed it 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, proving to them that I was a man in critical
and peculiar circumstances, I should have persisted in wearing the same
disguise without the smallest alteration. My escape in the present case
was eminently fortunate. If I had not lost my way in consequence of the
hail-storm on the preceding night, or if I had not so greatly overslept
myself this very morning, I must almost infallibly have fallen into the
hands of these infernal blood-hunters.

The town they had chosen for their next stage, the name of which I had
thus caught in the market-place, was the town to which, but for this
intimation, I should have immediately proceeded. As it was, I determined
to take a road as wide of it as possible. In the first place to which I
came, in which it was practicable to do so, I bought a great coat, which
I drew over my beggar's weeds, and a better hat. The hat I slouched over
my face, and covered one of my eyes with a green-silk shade. The
handkerchief, which I had hitherto worn about my head, I now tied about
the lower part of my visage, so as to cover my mouth. By degrees I
discarded every part of my former dress, and wore for my upper garment
a kind of carman's frock, which, being of the better sort, made me 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, and
circuitous deviations from the direct path, arrived safely in London.




CHAPTER VIII.


Here then was the termination of an immense series of labours, upon
which no man could have looked back without astonishment, or forward
without a sentiment bordering on despair. It was at a price which defies
estimation that I had purchased this resting-place; whether we consider
the efforts it had cost me to escape from the walls of my prison, or the
dangers and anxieties to which I had been a prey, from that hour to the
present.

But why do I call the point at which I was now arrived at a
resting-place? Alas, it was diametrically the reverse! It was my first
and immediate business to review all the projects of disguise I had
hitherto conceived, to derive every improvement I could invent from the
practice to which I had been subjected, and to manufacture a veil of
concealment more impenetrable than ever. This was an effort to which I
could see no end. In ordinary cases the hue and cry after a supposed
offender is a matter of temporary operation; but ordinary cases formed
no standard for the colossal intelligence of Mr. Falkland. For the same
reason, London, which appears an inexhaustible reservoir of concealment
to the majority of mankind, brought no such consolatory sentiment to my
mind. Whether life were worth accepting on such terms I cannot
pronounce. I only know that I persisted in this exertion of my
faculties, through a sort of parental love that men are accustomed to
entertain for their intellectual offspring; the more thought I had
expended in rearing it to its present perfection, the less did I find
myself disposed to abandon it. Another motive, not less strenuously
exciting me to perseverance, was the ever-growing repugnance I felt to
injustice and arbitrary power.

The first evening of my arrival in town I slept at an obscure inn in the
borough of Southwark, choosing that side of the metropolis, on account
of its lying entirely wide of the part of England from which I came. I
entered the inn in the evening in my countryman's frock; and, having
paid for my lodging before I went to bed, equipped myself next morning
as differently as my wardrobe would allow, and left the house before
day. The frock I made up into a small packet, and, having carried it to
a distance as great as I thought necessary, I dropped it in the corner
of an alley through which I passed. My next care was to furnish myself
with another suit of apparel, totally different from any to which I had
hitherto had recourse. The exterior which I was now induced to assume
was that of a Jew. One of the gang of thieves upon - - forest, had been
of that race; and by the talent of mimicry, which I have already stated
myself to possess, I could copy their pronunciation of the English
language, sufficiently to answer such occasions as were likely to
present themselves. One of the preliminaries I adopted, was to repair to
a quarter of the town in which great numbers of this people reside, and
study their complexion and countenance. Having made such provision as my
prudence suggested to me, I retired for that night to an inn in the
midway between Mile-end and Wapping. Here I accoutred myself in ray new
habiliments; and, having employed the same precautions as before,
retired from my lodging at a time least exposed to observation. It is
unnecessary to describe the particulars of my new equipage; suffice it
to say, that one of my cares was to discolour my complexion, and give it
the dun and sallow hue which is in most instances characteristic of the
tribe to which I assumed to belong; and that when my metamorphosis was
finished, I could not, upon the strictest examination, conceive that any
one could have traced out the person of Caleb Williams in this new
disguise.

Thus far advanced in the execution of my project. I deemed it advisable
to procure a lodging, and change my late wandering life for a stationary
one. In this lodging I constantly secluded myself from the rising to the
setting of the sun; the periods I allowed for exercise and air were few,
and those few by night. I was even cautious of so much as approaching
the window of my apartment, though upon the attic story; a principle I
laid down to myself was, not wantonly and unnecessarily to expose myself
to risk, however slight that risk might appear.

Here let me pause for a moment, to bring before the reader, in the way
in which it was impressed upon my mind, the nature of my situation. I
was born free: I was born healthy, vigorous, and active, complete in all
the lineaments and members of a human body. I was not born indeed to the
possession of hereditary wealth; but I had a better inheritance, an
enterprising mind, an inquisitive spirit, a liberal ambition. In a word,
I accepted my lot with willingness and content; I did not fear but I
should make my cause good in the lists of existence. I was satisfied to
aim at small things; I was pleased to play at first for a slender stake;
I was more willing to grow than to descend in my individual
significance.

The free spirit and the firm heart with which I commenced, one
circumstance was sufficient to blast. I was ignorant of the power which
the institutions of society give to one man over others; I had fallen
unwarily into the hands of a person who held it as his fondest wish to
oppress and destroy me.

I found myself subjected, undeservedly on my part, to all the
disadvantages which mankind, if they reflected upon them, would hesitate
to impose on acknowledged guilt. In every human countenance I feared to
find the countenance of an enemy. I shrunk from the vigilance of every
human eye. I dared not open my heart to the best affections of our
nature. I was shut up, a deserted, solitary wretch, in the midst of my
species. I dared not look for the consolations of friendship; but,
instead of seeking to identify myself with the joys and sorrows of
others, and exchanging the delicious gifts of confidence and sympathy,
was compelled to centre my thoughts and my vigilance in myself. My life
was all a lie. I had a counterfeit character to support. I had
counterfeit manners to assume. My gait, my gestures, my accents, were
all of them to be studied. I was not free to indulge, no not one, honest
sally of the soul. Attended with these disadvantages, I was to procure
myself a subsistence, a subsistence to be acquired with infinite
precautions, and to be consumed without the hope of enjoyment.

This, even this, I was determined to endure; to put my shoulder to the
burthen, and support it with unshrinking firmness. Let it not however be
supposed that I endured it without repining and abhorrence. My time was
divided between the terrors of an animal that skulks from its pursuers,
the obstinacy of unshrinking firmness, and that elastic revulsion that
from time to time seems to shrivel the very hearts of the miserable. If
at some moments I fiercely defied all the rigours of my fate, at others,
and those of frequent recurrence, I sunk into helpless despondence. I
looked forward without hope through the series of my existence, tears of
anguish rushed from my eyes, my courage became extinct, and I cursed the
conscious life that was reproduced with every returning day.

"Why," upon such occasions I was accustomed to exclaim, "why am I
overwhelmed with the load of existence? Why are all these engines at
work to torment me? I am no murderer; yet, if I were, what worse could I
be fated to suffer? How vile, squalid, and disgraceful is the state to
which I am condemned! This is not my place in the roll of existence, the
place for which either my temper or my understanding has prepared me! To
what purpose serve the restless aspirations of my soul, but to make me,
like a frighted bird, beat myself in vain against the enclosure of my
cage? Nature, barbarous nature! to me thou hast proved indeed the worst
of step-mothers; endowed me with wishes insatiate, and sunk me in
never-ending degradation!"

I might have thought myself more secure if I had been in possession of
money upon which to subsist. The necessity of earning for myself the
means of existence, evidently tended to thwart the plan of secrecy to
which I was condemned. Whatever labour I adopted, or deemed myself
qualified to discharge, it was first to be considered how I was to be
provided with employment, and where I was to find an employer or
purchaser for my commodities. In the mean time I had no alternative.
The little money with which I had escaped from the blood-hunters was
almost expended.

After the minutest consideration I was able to bestow upon this
question. I determined that literature should be the field of my first
experiment. I had read of money being acquired in this way, and of
prices given by the speculators in this sort of ware to its proper
manufacturers. My qualifications I esteemed at a slender valuation. I
was not without a conviction that experience and practice must pave the
way to excellent production. But, though of these I was utterly
destitute, my propensities had always led me in this direction; and my
early thirst of knowledge had conducted me to a more intimate
acquaintance with books, than could perhaps have been expected under my
circumstances. If my literary pretensions were slight, the demand I
intended to make upon them was not great. All I asked was a subsistence;
and I was persuaded few persons could subsist upon slenderer means than
myself. I also considered this as a temporary expedient, and hoped that
accident or time might hereafter place me in a less precarious
situation. The reasons that principally determined my choice were, that
this employment called upon me for the least preparation, and could, as
I thought, be exercised with least observation.

There was a solitary woman, of middle age, who tenanted a chamber in
this house, upon the same floor with my own. I had no sooner determined
upon the destination of my industry than I cast my eye upon her as the
possible instrument for disposing of my productions. Excluded as I was
from all intercourse with my species in general, I found pleasure in the
occasional exchange of a few words with this inoffensive and
good-humoured creature, who was already of an age to preclude scandal.
She lived upon a very small annuity, allowed her by a distant relation,
a woman of quality, who, possessed of thousands herself, had no other
anxiety with respect to this person than that she should not contaminate
her alliance by the exertion of honest industry. This humble creature
was of a uniformly cheerful and active disposition, unacquainted alike
with the cares of wealth and the pressure of misfortune. Though her
pretensions were small, and her information slender, she was by no means
deficient in penetration. She remarked the faults and follies of mankind
with no contemptible discernment; but her temper was of so mild and
forgiving a cast, as would have induced most persons to believe that she
perceived nothing of the matter. Her heart overflowed with the milk of
kindness. She was sincere and ardent in her attachments, and never did
she omit a service which she perceived herself able to render to a human
being.

Had it not been for these qualifications of temper, I should probably
have found that my appearance, that of a deserted, solitary lad, of
Jewish extraction, effectually precluded my demands upon her kindness.
But I speedily perceived, from her manner of receiving and returning
civilities of an indifferent sort, that her heart was too noble to have
its effusions checked by any base and unworthy considerations.
Encouraged by these preliminaries, I determined to select her as my
agent. I found her willing and alert in the business I proposed to her.
That I might anticipate occasions of suspicion, I frankly told her that,
for reasons which I wished to be excused from relating, but which, if
related, I was sure would not deprive me of her good opinion, I found it
necessary, for the present, to keep myself private. With this statement
she readily acquiesced, and told me that she had no desire for any
further information than I found it expedient to give.

My first productions were of the poetical kind. After having finished
two or three, I directed this generous creature to take them to the
office of a newspaper; but they were rejected with contempt by the
Aristarchus of that place, who, having bestowed on them a superficial
glance, told her that such matters were not in his way. I cannot help
mentioning in this place, that the countenance of Mrs. Marney (this was
the name of my ambassadress) was in all cases a perfect indication of
her success, and rendered explanation by words wholly unnecessary. She
interested herself so unreservedly in what she undertook, that she felt
either miscarriage or good fortune much more exquisitely than I did. I
had an unhesitating confidence in my own resources, and, occupied as I
was in meditations more interesting and more painful, I regarded these
matters as altogether trivial.

I quietly took the pieces back, and laid them upon my table. Upon
revisal, I altered and transcribed one of them, and, joining it with two
others, despatched them together to the editor of a magazine. He desired
they might be left with him till the day after to-morrow. When that day
came he told my friend they should be inserted; but, Mrs. Marney asking
respecting the price, he replied, it was their constant rule to give
nothing for poetical compositions, the letter-box being always full of
writings of that sort; but if the gentleman would try his hand in prose,
a short essay or a tale, he would see what he could do for him.

With the requisition of my literary dictator I immediately complied. I
attempted a paper in the style of Addison's Spectators, which was
accepted. In a short time I was upon an established footing in this
quarter. I however distrusted my resources in the way of moral
disquisition, and soon turned my thoughts to his other suggestion, a
tale. His demands upon me were now frequent, and, to facilitate my
labours, I bethought myself of the resource of translation. I had
scarcely any convenience with respect to the procuring of books; but, as
my memory was retentive, I frequently translated or modelled my
narrative upon a reading of some years before. By a fatality, for which
I did not exactly know how to account, my thoughts frequently led me to
the histories of celebrated robbers; and I related, from time to time,
incidents and anecdotes of Cartouche, Gusman d'Alfarache, and other
memorable worthies, whose career was terminated upon the gallows or the
scaffold.

In the mean time a retrospect to my own situation rendered a
perseverance even in this industry difficult to be maintained. I often
threw down my pen in an ecstasy of despair. Sometimes for whole days
together I was incapable of action, and sunk into a sort of partial
stupor, too wretched to be described. Youth and health however enabled
me, from time to time, to get the better of my dejection, and to rouse
myself to something like a gaiety, which, if it had been permanent,
might have made this interval of my story tolerable to my reflections.




CHAPTER IX.


While I was thus endeavouring to occupy and provide for the intermediate
period, till the violence of the pursuit after me might be abated, a
new source of danger opened upon me of which I had no previous
suspicion.

Gines, the thief who had been expelled from Captain Raymond's gang, had
fluctuated, during the last years of his life, between the two
professions of a violator of the laws and a retainer to their
administration. He had originally devoted himself to the first; and
probably his initiation in the mysteries of thieving qualified him to be
peculiarly expert in the profession of a thief-taker - a profession he
had adopted, not from choice, but necessity. In this employment his
reputation was great, though perhaps not equal to his merits; for it
happens here as in other departments of human society, that, however the
subalterns may furnish wisdom and skill, the principals exclusively
possess the _éclat_. He was exercising this art in a very prosperous
manner, when it happened, by some accident, that one or two of his
achievements previous to his having shaken off the dregs of unlicensed
depredation were in danger of becoming subjects of public attention.
Having had repeated intimations of this, he thought it prudent to
decamp; and it was during this period of his retreat that he entered
into the - - gang.

Such was the history of this man antecedently to his being placed in the
situation in which I had first encountered him. At the time of that
encounter he was a veteran of Captain Raymond's gang; for thieves being
a short-lived race, the character of veteran costs the less time in
acquiring. Upon his expulsion from this community he returned once more
to his lawful profession, and by his old comrades was received with
congratulation as a lost sheep. In the vulgar classes of society no
length of time is sufficient to expiate a crime; but among the
honourable fraternity of thief-takers it is a rule never to bring one of
their own brethren to a reckoning when it can with any decency be
avoided. They are probably reluctant to fix an unnecessary stain upon
the ermine of their profession. Another rule observed by those who have
passed through the same gradation as Gines had done, and which was
adopted by Gines himself, is always to reserve such as have been the
accomplices of their depredations to the last, and on no account to
assail them without great necessity or powerful temptation. For this
reason, according to Gines's system of tactics, Captain Raymond and his
confederates were, as he would have termed it, safe from his
retaliation.

But, though Gines was, in this sense of the term, a man of strict
honour, my case unfortunately did not fall within the laws of honour he
acknowledged. Misfortune had overtaken me, and I was on all sides
without protection or shelter. The persecution to which I was exposed
was founded upon the supposition of my having committed felony to an
immense amount. But in this Gines had had no participation; he was
careless whether the supposition were true or false, and hated me as
much as if my innocence had been established beyond the reach of
suspicion.

The blood-hunters who had taken me into custody at - - , related, as
usual among their fraternity, a part of their adventure, and told of the
reason which inclined them to suppose, that the individual who had
passed through their custody, was the very Caleb Williams for whose
apprehension a reward had been offered of a hundred guineas. Gines,
whose acuteness was eminent in the way of his profession, by comparing
facts and dates, was induced to suspect in his own mind, that Caleb
Williams was the person he had hustled and wounded upon - - forest.
Against that person he entertained the bitterest aversion. I had been
the innocent occasion of his being expelled with disgrace from Captain
Raymond's gang; and Gines, as I afterwards understood, was intimately
persuaded that there was no comparison between the liberal and manly
profession of a robber from which I had driven him, and the sordid and
mechanical occupation of a blood-hunter, to which he was obliged to
return. He no sooner received the information I have mentioned than he
vowed revenge. He determined to leave all other objects, and consecrate
every faculty of his mind to the unkennelling me from my hiding-place.
The offered reward, which his vanity made him consider as assuredly his
own, appeared as the complete indemnification of his labour and expense.
Thus I had to encounter the sagacity he possessed in the way of his



Online LibraryWilliam GodwinCaleb Williams Things as They Are → online text (page 27 of 34)