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Anna St. Ives by Thomas Holcroft

Part 10 out of 11

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Yes, madam, pure.

You never yet knew what purity meant!

I came void of guile, with an open and honourable offer of my heart. I
made no difficulties, felt no scruples, harboured no suspicions. In
return for which I was doubted, catechised, chidden, trifled with, and
insulted. When I hoped for sympathy I met rebuke; and while my
affections glowed admiration yours retorted contempt. Your heart was
prepossessed: it had no room for me: it excluded me, scorned me, and at
the first opportunity avowed its hatred.

Go on!--Neither your mistakes, your accusations, nor your anger shall
move me--I pity your errors. Continue to ascribe that to my injustice,
or to a worse motive, if a worse you can find, which was the proper
fruit of your irascible and vindictive temper. Reconcile your own
actions to your own heart, if you can; and prove to yourself I merit
the perfidy, assault, and imprisonment you have practised upon me: as
well as the mischief which I have every reason to suppose you intend.

Then, madam, avoid it! Spare both yourself and me the violence you
forebode?

What! Sink before unruly passion? Stand in awe of vice? Willingly
administer to shameless appetites, and a malignant spirit of
revenge?--Never, while I have life!

Stop!--Beware!--I am not master of my own affections! I am in a state
little short of phrensy! Be the means fair or foul, mine you shall
be--The decrees of Fate are not more fixed--I have sworn it, and though
fire from Heaven waited to devour me, I will keep my oath!--Could you
even yet but think of me as perhaps I deserve--! I say, could you,
madam--

I cannot will not marry you! Nothing you can say, nothing you can
threaten, nothing you can act shall make me!

Be less hasty in your contempt!--Fear me not!--Scorn for scorn, injury
for injury, and hate for hate!

I hate only your errors! I scorn nothing but vice--On the virtues of
which a mind like yours is capable my soul would dilate with ecstasy,
and my heart would doat! But you have sold yourself to crookedness!
Base threats, unmanly terrors, and brute violence are your despicable
engines!--Wretched man! They are impotent!--They turn upon yourself; me
they cannot harm!--I am above you!

I care not for myself--I have already secured infamy--I have paid
the price and will enjoy the forfeiture--Had you treated me with the
generous ardent love I so early felt for you, all had been well--I the
happiest of men, and you the first of women! But your own injustice
has dug the pit into which we must all down--It is wide and welcome
ruin!--Even now, contemned as I have been, scorned as I am, I would
fain use lenity and feel kindness. I will take retribution--no power
shall prevent me--but I would take it tenderly.

Oh shame upon you, man!--Tenderly?--Can the mischief and the misery in
which you have involved yourself and so many others, can treachery,
brutal force, bruises, imprisonment, and rape be coupled with
tenderness? If you have any spark of noble feeling yet remaining in
your heart, cherish it: but if not, speak truth to yourself! Do not
attempt to varnish such foul and detestable guilt with fair words.

I would advise, not varnish! What I have done I have done--I know my
doom--I am already branded! Opprobrium has set her indelible mark upon
me! I am indexed to all eternity!

You mistake, Clifton!--Beware!--You mistake! You mistake! [It is
impossible to imagine, Fairfax, the energy with which these
exclamations burst from her--It was a fleeting but false cordial to my
heart.] Of all your errors that is the most fatal! Whatever rooted
prejudices or unjust laws may assert to the contrary, we are
accountable only for what we do, not for what we have done. Clifton
beware! Mark me--I owe you no enmity for the past: I combat only with
the present.

Do not delude me with shadows. Bring your doctrine to the test: if you
bear me no enmity, if what I have done can be forgotten, and what I
would do--! Madam--! Anna--!--Once more, and for the last time--take
me!

It cannot be!--It cannot be!

Then, since you will shew no mercy, expect none.

Your menaces are vain, man! I tell you again I do not fear you! I will
beg no pity from you--I dare endure more than you dare inflict!

I am not to be braved from my purpose! The basis of nature is not more
unshaken! High as your courage is, you will find a spirit in me that
can mount still higher!

Courage? Oh shame! Name it not! Where was your courage when you decoyed
my defender from me? The man you durst not face?--Where is he?--What
have you done with him?--Laura has given you my letter--Should your
practices have reached his life!--But no! It cannot be! An act
so very vile as that not even the errors of your mind could
reach!--Courage?--Even me you durst not face in freedom! Your courage
employed a band of ruffians against me, singly; a woman too, over whom
your manly valour would tower! But there is no such mighty difference
as prejudice supposes. Courage has neither sex nor form: it is an
energy of mind, of which your base proceedings shew I have infinitely
the most. This bids me stand firm, and meet your worst daring
undauntedly! This be assured will make me the victor! I tell you, man,
it places me above you!

Urge me no more!--Beware of me! You have driven me mad! Do not tempt a
desperate man! Resistance will be destruction to you, no matter that to
me it be perdition! My account is closed, and I am reconciled to
ruin!--You shall be mine!--Though hell gape for me you shall be
mine!--Once more beware! I warn you not to contend!

Why, man, what would you do? Is murder your intent?--While I have life
I fear you not!--And think you that brutality can taint the dead? Nay,
think you that, were you endowed with the superior force which the vain
name of man supposes, and could accomplish the basest purpose of your
heart, I would falsely take guilt to myself; or imagine I had received
the smallest blemish, from impurity which never reached my mind? That I
would lament, or shun the world, or walk in open day oppressed by shame
I did not merit? No!--For you perhaps I might weep, but for myself I
would not shed a tear! Not a tear!--You cannot injure me--I am above
you!--If you mean to deal me blows or death, here I stand ready to
suffer: but till I am dead, or senseless, I defy you to do me
harm!--Bethink you, Clifton! I see the struggles of your soul: there
is virtue among them. Your eye speaks the reluctance of your
hand. Your heart spurns at the mischief your passions would
perpetrate!--Remember--Unless you have recourse to some malignant, some
cruel, some abominable means, you never shall accomplish so base a
purpose!--But you cannot be so guilty, Clifton!--You cannot!--I know
not by what perverse fatality you have been misled, for you have a mind
fitted for the sublimest emanations of virtue!--No, you cannot!--There
is something within you that lays too strong a hand upon you! Malice
so black is beyond you! Your very soul abhors its own guilt, and is
therefore driven frantic!--Oh, Clifton! You that were born to be the
champion of truth, the instructor of error, and the glory of the
earth!--My heart yearns over you--Awake!--Rise!--Be a man!

Divine, angelic creature!--Fool, madman, villain!

With these exclamations I instantly burst from the chamber--Conviction,
astonishment, remorse, tenderness, all the passions that could subdue
the human soul rushed upon me, till I could support no more.

Of all the creatures God ever formed she is the most wonderful!--I have
repeated something like her words; but had you seen her gestures, her
countenance, her eye, her glowing indignant fortitude at one moment,
and her kindling comprehensive benevolence the next, like me you would
have felt an irresistible impulse to catch some spark of a flame so
heavenly!

And now what is to be done? I am torn by contending passions!--If I
release her there is an end to all; except to my disgrace, which will
be everlasting--Give her to the arms of Henley?--I cannot bear it,
Fairfax!--I cannot bear it!--Death, racks, infamy itself to such a
thought were infinitude of bliss!

What can I do? She says truly: conquest over her, by any but brutal
means, is impossible--Shall I be brutal?--And more brutal even than my
own ruffian agents?

She has magnanimity--But what have those cyphers of beings who call
themselves her relations? Shall they mount the dunghill of their
vanity, clap their wings, and exult, as if they too had conquered a
Clifton? Even the villain Mac Fane would not fail to scout at me! Nay
the very go-between, the convenient chamber-maid herself, forgetting
the lightness of her own heels, would bless herself and claim her share
in the miraculous virtue of the sex! What! Become the scoff of the
tea-table, the bugbear of the bed-chamber, and the standing jest of the
tavern?--I will return this instant, Fairfax, and put her boasted
strength and courage to the proof--Madness!--I forget that nothing less
than depriving her of sense can be effectual. She knows her strong
hold: victory never yet was gained by man, singly, over woman, who was
not willing to be vanquished.

I will not yield her up, Fairfax!--She never shall be Henley's!--Again
and again she never shall!--I dared not meet him!--So she told
me!--Ha!--Dare not?--I will still devise a means--I will have my
revenge!--This vaunted Henley then shall know how much I dare!--I will
conquer!--Should I be obliged to come like Jove to Semele, in flames,
and should we both be reduced to ashes in the conflict, I will enjoy
her!--Let one urn hold our dust; and when the fire has purified it of
its angry and opposing particles, perhaps it may mingle in peace.

C. CLIFTON

LETTER CXX

_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_

_London, Dover Street_

It shall not be!--She shall not escape me thus!--I will not endure this
insufferable, this contemptible recantation of my wrongs! Fear is
beneath me, and what have I to hope? I have made misery certain! I have
paid the price of destruction, and will hug it to my heart! I know how
often I have prevaricated, and have loitered with revenge; but I have
not lost the flame: it burns still, and never shall expire!

The night at Brompton, though a night of storms and evil augury, was
heaven to the one I have just passed. Sleep and rest have forsaken me.
'Tis long since I closed my eyes; I know not indeed when; but last
night I did not attempt it. I traversed my room, opened my windows,
shut them again, listened to the discontented monotony of the watchman
without hearing him, thought over my never-forgotten injuries, my
vengeance, and all the desolation that is to follow, and having ended
began again!

There were shrieks and cries of murder in the street, about midnight;
and this was the only music by which I remember to have been roused.
But it was momentary. My reveries returned, and scenes of horror rose,
more swarming, dun, and ghastly!

My waking dreams are eternal--Well, so I would have them!
They prolong revenge!--I would have him by the throat for
ages!--Him!--Henley!--Would--grapple with him; would stab and be
stabbed; not in the fictions of a torturing fancy, but arm to arm,
steel to steel, poison to poison! Ay, did I not know he would refuse
my fair challenge, hero though he be and cased in innocence, I would
instantly fly to let him loose upon me, that I might turn and tear him!

Why that were delectable!--And can it not be?... Can no sufferings
move, no wrongs provoke, no taunts stir him to resentment? Is he God,
or is he man? To me he is demon, legion, and has possessed me wholly!

Liar that I am! How came I to forget the beauteous sorceress with whom
I found him leagued? I have heard them called angels of light; but I
have known them only fiends! They goad me with their virtues, mock at
my phrensy, defy my rage; and though surrounded by rape, destruction,
and despair, sleep and smile, while I wake and howl!

Injury and insult are busy with me! This sister of mine is in town at
Sir Arthur's. As she has made the journey I may expect a visit from her
soon: but she shall find no admission here. I want no more tormentors!

As I foreboded, she has just been, and has behaved in character. She
would take no denial from the valet; he was but an infant to the
Amazon; she would herself see if I were at home, and in she came. The
fellow does not want cunning, and he ran up stairs before her, and
called out aloud, purposely for me to hear--'You may see, madam, if you
please; the door is locked, and my master has taken the key with him.'

He knew I was determined not to see her, and while he designedly made
all the clatter he could, and placed himself before the entrance, I
took the means he had devised. She came, turned him aside, examined the
door, pushed violently against it, and I believe would willingly have
broken it open; but finding her good intentions, I set my shoulder to
the panel, taking care not to impede the light through the keyhole,
which my valet tells me was inspected by her. She ruminated a few
seconds and then went away; incredulous and high in indignation.

Well!--I sought for warfare, and it has found me. My former encounters
it seems were but the skirmishes of a partisan: this is a deadly and
decisive battle!

It is now five o'clock, and I have had a stirring morning. So much the
better; action is relief. A message came to me from Lord Fitz-Allen,
desiring to speak with me. I had an inclination not to have gone; but
reflecting further I determined to obey his summons.

However, when I sent up my name, I desired to know if my sister were
there; and was answered in the negative. I then made my bow to his
lordship, taking care to inform him that my sister behaved with great
impropriety, and that I was resolved not to see her, lest I too should
forget that respect due to my family and myself which she had violated.
The peer began with circumlocutory hints concerning the elopement--'An
unaccountable affair!--No tidings had yet arrived!--Surmises
and rumours of a very strange and dishonourable nature were
whispered!--Mischief, rape, nay even murder were dreaded!'

I refused to interpret any of these insinuations as applicable to
myself. At last his lordship, after many efforts, said he had a favour
to beg of me, which he hoped I should not think unreasonable. I desired
him to inform me what this favour was; and put some firmness in my
manner, that his lordship might see I was not in a temper to suffer an
insult.

He answered, for his own part, he had no doubts: he knew my family, and
had always affirmed I could not act unworthy of the gentleman. But, for
the peace of mind of Sir Arthur and the other relations of the young
lady, he would esteem it an obligation done to him, if I would declare,
upon my honour, that I knew nothing of her elopement; of the place she
has been conveyed to, or where she is at present.

I then retorted upon his lordship, that the preface to this request
entirely precluded compliance; that those who whispered and spread
surmises, and rumours, must be answerable for the consequences of their
own officiousness; and that with respect to myself, I should certainly,
under such circumstances, refuse to answer to interrogatories.

My tone was not very conciliatory, and his lordship knew not whether to
be angry or pleased. But while he was pondering I thought proper to
make my exit; and leave him to settle the contest between his pride and
his puerility as well as he was able.

At my return I found a letter from my sister, which I will neither
answer nor open. I have my fill of fury, and want no more!

Damnation on their insolence! They have been making application to the
office at Bow-Street! A request has just been sent me, a very soft and
civil one it is true, from the sitting magistrate, that I would do him
the honour to come and speak a word with him, on an affair that
concerned a very great and respectable family. I returned for answer
that I was engaged, and that I should notice no such messages: but that
if any man, great or small, had to complain of me, the law understood
its duty, and that I should be readily found at all times.

Whether this be the motion of my superb and zealous sister, or of the
arrogant peer, is more than I can divine. But I shall know some day,
and shall then perhaps strike a balance.

I have no doubt that emissaries and scouts are abroad, and that I am
watched. I was this evening to have met Mac Fane at the Shakespeare;
but I will not go. Yet as it is pay night, the hungry scoundrel must
not be disappointed. I will therefore write a note to him, and invite
him to come and sup with me. He will be an agreeable companion! But
even his company is better, at this moment, than solitude.

I will not let my servant carry the note directly to him; for if they
have their spies in the field, that might be dangerous. He shall take
it to the Mount coffee-house, and there get a chairman to convey it
in safety. I will tell Mac Fane likewise to come through the shop
door; for I am only in lodgings; and to step immediately out of a
hackney-coach. I laugh at their counterplots, and wish I had nothing
more to disturb me than the fear of being detected by any exertion of
their cunning, even though my kind sister be appointed their commander
in chief.

C. CLIFTON

P.S. They might have served the cause in which they have engaged more
effectually, had their proceedings been less violent and offensive.
They do but nerve me in resolution. The less public they had made the
affair the more they would have shewn their generalship. If they be
thus determined to brand me, can they suppose that my vengeance shall
not outstrip theirs? I own I am perplexed about the means--Invention
fails me! I have debated whether I should call in the aid of Mac Fane;
but the idea is too detestable!--No! I would rather take a pair of
pistols, and dispatch her first and myself next, than expose her
beauties to such ruffian despicable rascals!--Beside I would have her
will concerned--And how to conquer that?--I shall be driven, I foresee
I shall, to some unheard-of act of desperation!--Drugs are a mean a
pitiful expedient: not to mention that she is aware of them, and uses a
kind of caution which it would be difficult to overcome. She reserves
the meal of one day for the next, after having suffered Laura to eat
her part; so that inanity, sleep or other effects, if produced, would
first appear in the maid. This perhaps is one of the reasons by which
she is induced still to keep her: and were she removed, and could
suspect it were for this purpose, I am convinced she would eat no
more--No!--She must be fairly told the deep despair of my mind! and if
that will not move her, why then--Death!

LETTER CXXI

_Louisa Clifton to her brother Coke Clifton_

_Grosvenor-Street_

Where is Anna St. Ives?--Where is my friend? Where is the youth to whom
you owe existence?--Man of revenge, answer me! Oh God! O God!--Is it
possible?--Can it be that you, Coke Clifton, the son of my mother, the
hoped for friend of my heart, the expected champion of virtue, can turn
aside to such base and pitiful vice; such intolerable, such absurd,
such deep hypocrisy? And why? What cause? Is this the reward of their
uncommon virtues?

And you, Oh man! Did they not labour hourly, incessantly, with the
purity of saints and the ardour of angels, to do you good? Was it not
their sole employment; their first duty, and their dearest hope? Did
they ever deviate? Did they not return urbanity for arrogance, kindness
for contempt, and life for blows?--Can you, Clifton, dare you be thus
wicked? And will you persist?--

If you have brought them to harm, if your practices have reached their
lives, earth does not contain so foul, so wicked a monster!--

Surely this cannot be! Surely you have some drop of mother's blood in
you, and cannot be actuated by a spirit so wholly demon!

What shall I do? What shall I say? How shall I awaken a soul so steeped
in iniquity, so dead to excellence, so obstinate in ill?--Clifton!--You
were not formed for this! You have a mind that might have been the fit
companion of divine natures!--It may be still!--Awake! View the light,
and turn from crimes, pollution, and abhorrence, to virtue, love, and
truth!

Know you not the beaming charity of her whom you persecute, if--Oh
God!--Surely this is vain terror! Surely Anna St. Ives is still among
the living!--

Clifton, once again I say, remember the untainted benevolence of her
soul! Is it, can it be forgotten by you? Which of your good qualities
was ever forgotten by her? Hear her describe them in her own
language![1]

[Footnote 1: Here follow numerous extracts from the letters of Anna St.
Ives; all expressive of the high qualities and powers of Mr. Clifton,
of the delight they gave her, and the hopes they inspired. They are
omitted here, because it is probable they are fresh in the reader's
memory: if not, it will be easy to turn to Anna's letters; particularly
to letters XXIV. XXXI. XXXVIII. XLV. LVI. LXIII. LXVIII. LXXVIII.
LXXIX. LXXXII. CVIII.]

These are a few of the commendations with which her descriptions
abound. Commendations of you, oh man of mischief and mistake! They are
quotations from her letters. Read them; remember them; think on all she
has done for you, all she has said to you, and all you have made her
suffer!

What shall I say? My fears are infinite, my hopes few, my anguish
intolerable!--For the love of God, brother, do not rob the world of two
people who were born to be its light and pride! Do not be this diabolic
instrument of passion and error! If they still have being, restore them
to the human race.--You know not the wrong you do!--'Tis heinous, 'tis
hateful wickedness! Can a mind like yours feel no momentary remorse, no
glow of returning virtue, no sudden resolution to perform a great and
glorious act of justice on yourself?

If you value your soul's peace, hear me! Awake from this guilty dream,
and be once more the brother of the agonizing,

L. CLIFTON

LETTER CXXII

_Louisa Clifton to Mrs. Wenbourne_

_Grosvenor-Street_

Dear Madam

You have been kindly pleased to request I would give you some account
of the means we are pursuing, in hopes to obtain traces that should
lead to a discovery of the very strange affair by which we are all
perplexed and afflicted. I am sorry to say that I can do little more
than narrate the distress of the various parties, who think themselves
interested in the loss of the dear friend of my heart, and of the youth
so well worthy of her affections.

Of the grief of Sir Arthur, madam, you have yourself been a witness:
nor does it seem to abate. I should wonder indeed if it could; for
though I wish to cherish hope, I own that the secrecy and silence with
which this black stratagem has been carried into effect are truly
terrifying.

Highly as I esteem and reverence the virtues of young Mr. Henley, I
have been free enough to own to you, madam, I never was any admirer of
the qualities and proceedings of his father. Justice however obliges me
to say that he at present expresses a regret so deep, for the loss of
his son, as to prove that he has a considerable sense of his worth.
Money has been the sole object of his efforts: yet, though his son had
so great a sum in his possession at the time he disappeared, he seems
to think but little of the money, compared to the loss which is indeed
so infinitely more deplorable.

While I live I shall love and esteem Mrs. Clarke, and her niece Peggy;
whose kind hearts overflow with affection, both for my Anna St. Ives
and young Mr. Henley. Well indeed may Peggy remember poor Frank. He was
her saviour in the hour of her distress. She takes no rest herself, nor
will she suffer her husband or her brother to take any. They are all
continually on the watch; and to do the men justice, they do not need a
spur.

Mr. Webb, her brother, with whose unfortunate history I suppose you are
acquainted, gives proofs of zeal which are very affecting. The tears
have frequently gushed from me, at seeing the virtuous anxiety of his
mind, and at recollecting what that mind was, how and by whom it was
preserved, and that its whole activity is now exerted, with the strong
and cheering hope of returning some portion of the good it has
received!

I know, madam, how great your sorrow must be, as well as that of all
the once happy relations of a young lady of endowments and virtues so
rare. Yet deep as this sorrow is, I think it scarcely can exceed the
anguish I feel; convinced as I am that my mistaken, my unhappy brother
is the cause of this much dreaded misery.

I told you, madam, I would go to him. I have been, and could gain no
admission. I have written; and have received no answer. These
circumstances, added to the perturbation of mind which was so
discoverable in him when he was last at Rose-Bank, do but confirm my
fears of his guilt.

But as it becomes us to act, and not to lament, while there is any
possibility that action should give us relief, I joined Mr. Abimelech
Henley in his opinion, that we ought to apply to the civil power for
redress. We first indeed prevailed on Lord Fitz-Allen to speak to Mr.
Clifton; but it was to no purpose: my brother behaved, as I prophesied
he would, with disdainful silence. I own I had some hopes that my
letter would have touched his heart: I am sorry to find they were so
ill-founded.

Mr. Clifton having refused even to deny his knowledge of the affair to
his Lordship, he consented that application should be made to a civil
magistrate. But Lord Fitz-Allen is strangely prejudiced, and is
persuaded, or affects to be, that Mr. Clifton, being a gentleman, is
incapable of a dishonourable act; and that young Mr. Henley and Anna
St. Ives have eloped. The sum of money Mr. Henley had in his possession
confirms him in this opinion: and he has several times half persuaded
Sir Arthur, and some others, to be of his sentiments.

Hearing this, and finding no positive accusation, and that nothing but
surmise could be preferred against Mr. Clifton, whose character was
understood to be highly vindictive, the magistrate refused to do any
thing more than send a polite request, that he would come and speak in
his presence to the parties concerned.

My brother refused in terms of menace and defiance; and we returned
home hopeless; yet again having recourse to watching the door of my
brother's lodgings, as has been done for these several days. But we
have learnt nothing. And what indeed can we learn? Mr. Webb and his
brother-in-law have twice followed him on foot, to the livery stables;
and have seen him mount his horse, and ride out of town: but the speed
with which he went quickly took him out of sight.

The roads he chose were in opposite directions: but that they might
easily be, and yet lead to the same place. They are out at present; for
their industry is unwearied.

It is in vain to think of pursuing my brother on horseback; for he must
infallibly see his pursuer. He went one time over Westminster-bridge,
and the other through Tyburn-turnpike up to Paddington. Their present
project is, the first time he goes out, to waylay both these roads, and
to get assistants. Mr. Webb is a swift runner: but the chance of
success I am afraid is very small indeed! However it becomes them, and
us, and indeed every body, not to desist, till the whole of this dark
transaction be brought to light.

I am, madam, &c.

L. CLIFTON

LETTER CXXIII

_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_

_London, Dover-Street_

Why ay! He who opens the flood-gates of mischief is necessarily in most
danger of being swept away by the torrent!--I have drunken deeply of
ruin, and soon shall have my fill!

You warned me to beware of this raven: you told me he scented
carrion!--I laughed at your prophecy!--It is fulfilled!--I am a
gull!--The fleeced, cheated, despicable gull of the infernal villain
Mac Fane!

It was right that I should be loaded with every species of contempt for
myself. I have been the fool, the gudgeon, the ineffable ass to lose a
sum of money to him, which to pay would be destruction!--I begin to
hate myself with most strange inveteracy! Could I meet such another
fellow, I would spit in his face--Fairfax, it is true--By hell I hold
myself in most rooted and ample antipathy!

I find I have strangely mistaken my own character and talents--I
once thought to have driven the world before me, and to have whipped
opposition into immediate compliance: but it seems I am myself one of
the very sorry wretches at whom I was so all alive and ready to give,
and spurn! These are odd and unaccountable things! And it appears
that I am a very poor creature! A most indubitable driveller! The
twin-brother of imbecility! Ay, the counterpart and compeer of Edward
St. Ives, and the tool of the most barefaced of cheats, as well as his
familiar!--Well! I have lived long enough to make the discovery; and it
is now high time to depart!

I wrote to you but yesterday: but events hastily tread on each other's
heels, and if I do not relate them now I never shall. I told you I
expected the gambler to supper, by my own invitation--Ay, ay!--I am a
very Solomon!

I dined at home. I knew not indeed to what extremes the St. Ives
hunters might proceed: or whether they would make accusation upon oath,
sufficient to authorise a magistrate in granting a warrant, to bring me
before him; but the attempt must have been impotent and abortive, I
therefore determined to brave them: however I heard no more of them or
their suspicions.

As I sat ruminating on past events, on my sister and her epistle, and
particularly on the zeal with which Anna St. Ives appealed to the
letter written by her, which I had received from Laura, my curiosity
was so far excited that at last I determined to read them both. I own,
Fairfax, they both moved me--This sister of mine, enraged as I am
against her, has somehow found the art of making herself respected. Her
zeal has character and efficacy in it: I mean persuasion. I could not
resist some of the sensations she intended to inspire. She cited
passages from the letters of her friend that were daggers to me! At the
very time I was seeking to quarrel with Anna, she angel-like was
incessant in my praise!--And such praises, Fairfax--! There was no
resisting it!--She thought generously, nobly, ay sublimely of me: while
my irascible jealousy, false pride, and vindictive spirit were eager
only to find cause of offence!

And yet I know not!--I cannot keep my mind to a point! Surely _I had
cause of offence_: real cause?--Surely the retribution I sought had
justice in it?--She could not be wholly blameless?--No!--That would
indeed be distraction!

I then ventured to read the letter of Anna--On paper or in speech she
is the same: energetic, awful, and affecting!

While I was reading this last Mac Fane entered, and soon put an end to
my meditations. Did I tell you I had been fool enough to invite him to
supper?--He had not been with me half an hour before I was most
intolerably weary of his company!

After having vapoured of the feats of himself and the scowling rascal
his colleague, to remind me of my high obligations to them, and talking
as usual with most bitter malevolence against Henley, he soon began to
descant on the old subject; gaming--To ask a madman why he is mad were
vain! I was importuned by his jargon--'He had been pigeoned only last
night of no less than seven hundred pounds!' Repetitions, imprecations,
and lies, all of the same kind, succeeded as fast as he could utter
them!

I know all this ought to have put me upon my guard; and I know too that
it did not. I believe I had some lurking vanity in my mind; a
persuasion that I could beat him at picquet. I was weary both of myself
and him; was primed for mischief, and cared not of what kind. If you
ask me for any better reason, why, knowing him as I did, I suffered
myself to be the tool of this fellow, I can only say I have none to
give!

I ordered my own servant to fetch half a dozen packs of cards, and
imagined this precaution was some security. What will not men imagine,
when their passions are afloat and reason is flown?

To give you the history of how I was led on, from one act of idiotism
to another, or how after having lost one thousand I could be lunatic
enough to lose a second, and after a second a third, and so on to a
tenth, is more than my present temper of mind will permit. It is quite
sufficient to tell you that I have ruined myself; and that there is
not, upon the face of the earth, a fellow I so thoroughly despise as
Coke Clifton; no not even Mac Fane himself! Below the lowest am I
fallen; for I am his dupe, nay his companion, and what is worse his
debtor! It is time I were out of the world--So miserable a being does
not crawl upon its surface.

It is the very heyday of mischief, and I must abroad among it. The
exact manner of the catastrophe I cannot foresee, but it must be
tragical. I have something brooding in my mind, the outlines of a
conclusion, which rather pleases me. I have sworn to avenge myself of
Anna, disinherit my sister, and never to pay Mac Fane. These oaths must
be kept. Anna must fall! If she will but deign to live afterward, she
shall be my heir. And for myself, I know how to find a ready quietus!

My mind since this last affair is better reconciled to its destiny, and
even less disturbed than before: for previous to this, there seemed to
be some bare possibility of a generous release, on my part, and a more
generous forgetfulness of injuries on theirs. But now, all is over! I
have but to punish my opponents a little, and myself much, and having
punished expire.

C. CLIFTON

P.S. I have not paid the scoundrel his thousand pounds. He proposed a
bond for the whole, on which he said he could raise money. This I was
determined not to give, and told him he must wait a few days, till I
had consulted my lawyer and looked into my affairs, and I would then
give him a determinate answer. He was beginning to assume the
contemptible airs of a bully; but I was in no temper to bear the least
insult. The real rage of my look silenced the mechanical ferocity of
his. I bade him remember I could hit a china plate, and that I should
think proper to take my own mode of payment. He then changed his tone,
and began to commend his soul to Satan, in a thousand different forms,
if he had ever won a hundred pounds at a sitting in his whole life
before. I sneered in his face, shewed him the door, and bade him good
night; and he walked quietly away.

LETTER CXXIV

_Louisa Clifton to Mrs. Wenbourne_

_Grosvenor Street_

Dear Madam,

As I have taken upon myself the painful duty of informing you of all
that passes, relative to this unhappy affair, it becomes me to be
punctual. It is afflicting to own that our agitation and distress,
instead of abating, are increased.

Finding it impossible to gain a sight of my brother, I determined to
attempt to question his valet. Mr. Webb received my instructions
accordingly, watched him to some distance from the house, and delivered
a message from me, that if he would come to me I would present him with
ten guineas.

He made no hesitation, but followed Mr. Webb immediately.

Either he is very artful or very ignorant of this affair. One
circumstance excepted, he appears to know nothing.

I promised him any reward, any sum he should himself name, if he could
but give us such information as might lead to the recovery of our lost
friends: but he protested very solemnly he had none to give; except
that he owns having been employed, by his master, to inveigle the lad
away, who wrote the anonymous letter, and whom Mr. Clifton, by
practising on the lad's credulity and gratitude, sent to France.

The valet indeed acknowledges his master is exceedingly disturbed in
mind; that he does not sleep, nor even go to bed, except sometimes
tossing himself on it with his clothes on, and almost instantly rising
again; and that he has sent for his attorney, to make his will.

I will not endeavour to paint my sensations at hearing this account. I
will only add that another incident has happened, which gives them
additional acuteness.

I believe, madam, you have heard both my brother and my Anna speak of
and describe a young French nobleman, who paid his addresses to her,
and who was the occasion of the rash leap into the lake, by which Mr.
Clifton endangered his life? This gentleman, Count de Beaunoir, is
arrived in London; and has this morning paid a visit to Sir Arthur St.
Ives.

He enquired first and eagerly after my friend; with whom, like all who
know her, he is in raptures. Sir Arthur, forgetting his character, and
the apparently rodomontade but to him very serious manner in which he
had declared himself her champion, told him the whole story, as far as
it is known to us; not omitting to mention Mr. Clifton as the person on
whom all our suspicions fell, and relating to him the full grounds of
those suspicions.

The astonishment of the Count occasioned him to listen with uncommon
attention to what he heard; and he closed the narrative of Sir Arthur
by affirming it was all true. He was convinced beyond contradiction of
its truth, for he had himself brought over the lad, whom Mr. Clifton
had sent, with pretended dispatches, to a friend of his in Paris.

The lad it appears, suspecting all was not right, and finding no
probability of returning, but on the contrary that he was watched, and
even refused a passport, had applied to the Count through the medium of
his servants, with whom he had formerly been acquainted, to protect and
afford him the means of returning to England.

The lad was sent for, his story heard, and he was then questioned
concerning Anna St. Ives; and he had heard enough of the affair from
Mr. Abimelech Henley, and from the servants, to know that the proposed
match, between Mr. Clifton and Anna, was broken off; and that she
refused to admit his visits. When Count de Beaunoir last saw Sir
Arthur, at Paris, he had assured him very seriously that, should ever
Anna St. Ives find herself disengaged and he knew it, he would
instantly make her a tender of his hand and fortune: and he had no
sooner heard the lad's story than he determined immediately to make his
intended journey to England.

My heart shudders while I relate it, but I dread lest it should be a
fatal journey, for him or my brother, or both! For he declared to Sir
Arthur, without hesitation, he would wait on Mr. Clifton directly, and
oblige him either to produce Anna St. Ives, or meet him in the field.

Wretched folly! Destructive error! When will men cease to think that
vice and virtue ought to meet on equal terms; and that injury can be
atoned by blood?

The Count had left his address with Sir Arthur, and the moment I heard
what had passed I flew to his lodgings. He was not at home, and I
waited above an hour. At last he came, and I attempted to shew him both
the folly and wickedness of the conduct he was pursuing.

He listened to me with the utmost politeness, paid me a thousand
compliments, acknowledged the truth of every thing I said, but very
evidently determined to act in a manner directly opposite. I very
assiduously laboured to make him promise, upon his honour, he would not
seek redress by duelling; but in vain. He answered by evasion; with all
possible desire to have obliged me, but with a foregone conclusion that
it could not be.

Pardon me, madam, for writing a narrative so melancholy: but sincerity
is necessary; intelligence might have come to you in a distorted form,
and might have produced much worse effects. For my own part, I have no
other mode of conduct but that of writing and of speaking the simple
truth; being convinced there is no shade of disguise, artifice, or
falsehood, that is not immoral in principle, and pernicious in
practice.

I have been very busy. I have sent for the lad whom the count brought
over with him, and have made enquiries. The answers he gave me all tend
to confirm our former suspicions. He has related the story, at length,
of the manner in which he was inveigled away, and prevailed on to go to
France.

I next questioned him concerning his aunt; and he knows nothing of her,
has never heard from her, and is astonished at what can have become of
her. He means, however, to go this evening to a relation's house, where
he thinks he is certain he shall hear of her; and has then promised to
come and let me know--But to what purpose? We shall find she has been
sent out of the way by Mr. Clifton: and what further information will
that afford? None, except to confirm what needs no confirming; except
to shew the blindness, craft, and turpitude of his mind!

I am, dear madam, &c.

L. CLIFTON

LETTER CXXV

_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_

_London, Dover-Street_

So, Fairfax, you have suffered the lad to escape you; cautioned and
entreated as you were! You know, I suppose, by what means; and with
whom he is at present?--Well, well!--It is no matter--have quarrels
enough on hand, and enemies enough!--I would fain die in peace with
somebody!--I forgive you--I suppose you did your best.

It is exceedingly possible that this may be the last letter you will
ever receive from me. Remember me now and then. Should Henley and Anna
St. Ives survive me, let them know I was not so entirely blind to their
worth as they might perhaps suppose. Shew them my letters if you will:
I care not who sees them now! Let the truth be told! I shall be deaf
enough to censure.

I have just had a visit from the crazy count; a threatening one. A
challenge has passed, and we are to meet to-morrow.

So it is agreed; but I doubt whether I shall keep the appointment. If
there be one spark of resentment in the soul of Henley, it is possible
I may fail. I mean to give him the first chance. It is his by right;
and why should not I do right even to him, once in my life? This
farrago of folly, this pride of birth, and riches, and I know not what
else lumber, is very contemptible!

Fairfax, the present state of my thoughts force more than one truth
upon me. But what have I to do with truth, in a world from which I
learned so much error that it was impossible for me to exist in it?
These wise people should leave us fools to wrangle, be wretched, and
cut each other's throats as we list, without inter-meddling: 'tis
dangerous. But Truth is a zealot; Wisdom will be crying in the streets;
and Folly meeting her seldom fails to deal her blow.

My mind is made up: my affairs are settled, my lawyer has written out
my will, and it is signed. You will find yourself mentioned in it,
Fairfax. I have nominated my sister my executor, and Anna St. Ives my
heir. I have been reading Louisa's letter again: it is full of pathos.
She has more understanding than I have been willing to allow, and I
have relented. She is not forgotten in my will: I would not have her
think of me with everlasting hatred.

I know not how it is, Fairfax, but I feel more compunction, at
present, than I ever remember to have felt before. I am grown into
self-contempt; and the haughty notions, which were the support of my
high and sometimes arrogant conduct, are faded. I could think only of
Coke Clifton, and I now know Coke Clifton to be a very wicked dolt!

Be not deceived by my present tone: make no false predictions in favour
either of myself or Anna St. Ives. Despair and fate are not more fixed
than is my plan. My horse will presently be at the door. I shall mount
him the moment I have ended this letter, and shall proceed directly to
Anna. There, after all is ended, the enchantment too shall end, and the
misventurous lady and her imprisoned knight shall both be set free.

Should Henley, urged by despair to seek revenge, accept my defiance and
meet me in the field, the conflict must be fierce, and such as might
inspire terror.

To say the truth, were it not to prove myself his equal, perhaps his
master and vanquisher, I would not lift my hand against his life. It
would be some relief to my soul to fall by his arm. He is a noble
fellow, and I have done him wrong. Would he or Anna but charitably
strike, I would die blessing them, eased by the expiatory blow. Perhaps
they are the only two beings for whom I ever could have had the same
admiration; and, if what they tell me be true, admiration continued
always ripens into love. They shewed affection toward me, and would, I
believe, have loved me. But we did not understand each other, and the
mistake has been mutually fatal--Would I had never injured them!--But
it is vain!--The die is cast!--We are all fated!--Having accomplished
my revenge, and accomplish it I will, they cannot live and not be
miserable! They must curse my hated memory, and blaspheme against my
honour!--It cannot be otherwise--Let our grave therefore be glorious!
They are brave spirits, and will mock my power even to the last. I love
their high courage. Perhaps they shall find I have a kindred soul!--Oh
would they die forgiving me--!

I know not well whither my thoughts are wandering--They perhaps may
refuse to die--They may say it is their duty to live, even though
doomed to be wretched--I know them--What they think they will
act--Well, well!--Let destiny dispose of events--To me all chances
are welcome, all are alike.

As to this count, should Henley refuse vengeance, I owe him no mercy.
'Twas he who prompted me to the frantic act that first made me the
debtor of the man I have most injured. I almost contemn a foe so
insignificant--Not that he is deficient in bravery, or skill--But what
is he?--What are his wrongs?--'Tis lunacy, not anger rankling at his
heart!--Or if it were?--The hungry wolf-dog is no fit combatant for the
famished lion!

C. CLIFTON

P.S. Fairfax, a new terror has come over me. I told you of the letters
of my sister and Anna, and described something of the effect they
produced upon me. You may remember I read them previous to my last
damned interview with the villain Mac Fane. I recollect having laid the
letter of Anna upon the table, and that it continued lying there for
some time after his entrance. I had my eye upon it, and meant not to
put it in my pocket lest it should be left there, but lock it up as
soon as I moved--I forgot it--The letter is lost--I have searched every
where, have enquired, have cursed; have threatened unheard-of
punishment to my scoundrel, if he have purloined it; but to no effect.
He protests he knows nothing of it; and he looks as if he spoke
truth--It contained a secret relative to Henley--! Should Mac Fane have
taken it up furtively, as I suppose such thieves are always on the
watch--? Why, if he should--? Hell hounds!--Blood-thirsty vultures!--If
so--! I will be gone this instant!--It is the very era of horror!

FRAGMENT[1]

[Footnote 1: Written by Mr. Henley in his confinement, and taken from
the wainscot in which it was concealed after the catastrophe.]

Whether what I am about to write may ever be found, or whether I the
writer may ever be heard of more, are both very doubtful events. It may
be of some use to mankind, should this brief narrative hereafter be
read; as it may tend to exemplify the progress of the passions, and to
shew after having begun in error the excesses of which they are
capable. I speak under the supposition that this paper may fall into
the hands of persons who know more of Mr. Clifton, and of the affair to
which I allude, than even I myself at present know; or, if I did, than
I have time and opportunity to relate.

With that hope, and addressing myself to such persons, I will
endeavour, as long as I have the means and am able, accurately to
recount the particulars of what has befallen me, from the time I was
first beset to the latest minute of my remaining where I am; whether my
removal happen by death or release; of which, though apparently beyond
hope, it would certainly be wrong to despair.

Oh, Anna St. Ives! Should thine eye ever glance over this paper,
ignorant as I am of thy destiny, though too well assured it is a
fearful one, think not, while I seem to narrate those incidents only
which have happened to myself, that I am attentive to self alone; that
I have forgotten the nobler duties of which we have so often sweetly
discoursed; or that the memory of thee and thy sufferings has ever been
absent from my heart!--But why bid thee be just? To whom didst thou
ever do a wilful wrong? Oh pardon me!--Live on, shouldst thou still be
permitted to live, and labour with redoubled ardour in the great cause
of truth! Despair not! Heave not a sigh, drop not a tear; but sacrifice
thy private ills to public good!

Before I begin, it is necessary to notice that I had the sum of eight
thousand pounds about me, in bank-bills: for it is this circumstance
which seems to have insured my death. Our walk was to have ended by
four o'clock, and the money to have been left at the banker's as we
returned. I cannot however acquit myself of neglect. I ought not to
have forgotten that money, under our present wretched system, is the
grand stimulus to vice; that accidents very little dreamed of daily
happen; and that procrastination is always an error.

As I was walking with the lady whose name I have just mentioned, in
some fields between Kensington and Brompton, we saw Mr. Clifton pass on
horseback, and I believe in less than a minute a man assault him, and
fire a pistol, with an intent to rob him as I then supposed.

I ran to his aid; and, immediately after the flight of this real or
imaginary robber, I was myself attacked, and laid senseless, by a blow
I received on the side of my head; which, as there was no person in
front able to strike at me, must have come from behind. I saw no more
for that time of Mr. Clifton. The blow was very violent, and is still
severely felt.

When I recovered my senses, I found my arms confined by a straight
waistcoat; such as are used to secure maniacs. I endeavoured to call
for assistance, but the man who had charge of me, for there were
several, thrust his thumb in the larynx, forced open my mouth, and
gagged me. He has twice had occasion, as he supposed, to use me thus;
and both times with such violence as seemingly to require the utmost
effort mind could make, to recover respiration; the thrust of his thumb
was so merciless, and the sensation of strangling so severe.

They brought me to a house thoroughly prepared for confinement. It is
an old but heavy building, walled round, and provided with bars, bolts,
chains, massy locks, and every precaution to impede escape.

I was led by one pair of stairs, to apartments consisting of two
chambers; the one roomy, the other much smaller; in which last is a
bed.

As soon as I was safe in the room, the master man among them, who as I
have since learned is a professed keeper of the insane, ungagged me,
took off the straight waistcoat, and then they all left me.

I stood I know not how long in that stupor of amazement which the
scene, and the crowding conjuctures of imagination, necessarily
produced.

At length, I roused my mind to more activity. I then set myself to
inspect the apartments. In the largest there was a fire place, and a
fire; but neither shovel, tongs nor poker; except a small stick as a
substitute for a poker, with which I certainly could not knock a
man down. The furniture consisted of a chair, a table, a broken
looking-glass, and an old picture, in panel, of the sacrifice of Isaac,
with Abraham's knife at his throat. It stares me now in the face, and
is a strong emblem of my own situation; except that my saving angel
seems wanting.

In the other room, exclusive of the bed and its appurtenances, there
was a second chair, which with an old walnut-tree clothes-press was its
whole inventory.

In this room was a closet, with several shelves almost to the ceiling;
the topmost of them so high as but just to be reached by me, when
standing on a chair. I swept my hand along the shelves, and found them
as I thought empty.

I then examined the windows. There were only two, one to each room; the
remainder having been walled up; and these each of them provided with
thick iron bars, so near to each other as to admit but of a small part
of the face passing between them. There was a casement to the front
room only; and I found a piece of paper tied to the handle of it, on
which was written--'You are closely watched: if you attempt to make any
signals, or shout, or take any other means to inform persons you are
here, your lodging will be changed to one much more disagreeable.'

Having nothing with which I could employ myself except my thoughts, and
these flowing in abundance, I sat meditating and undisturbed till it
was almost dark. A little before five o'clock as I suppose, perhaps
later, for I forgot to say my watch and purse had been taken from me,
with a promise that they should be returned, I heard the sound of
distant bolts and locks, that belong to the outer gates and doors, and
soon afterward of men in loud conversation.

The keeper and two of his assistants came up to me, and once more
brought the straight waistcoat, into which they bade me thrust my arms.
I hesitated, and told them I did not choose to have my arms confined.
To which the keeper replied--'B--- my b---- eyes! None of your jabber,
or I'll fetch you another rum one! I'll knock you off the roost again!'

From this speech I conclude it was he who gave me the blow with the
bludgeon, when I was first secured.

As he said this, he raised his bludgeon; with which kind of weapon they
were all three armed, and had locked the door after them. There was no
remedy, and I obeyed.

As soon as they had confined my arms they left me, and remembering the
bank-notes which I had in my fob, I began to fear they had come to the
knowledge of this circumstance; though I could not imagine by what
means. Some short time afterward, perhaps a quarter of an hour, the
bolts and chains of my door again began to rattle, and one person
singly came in. It was dark, and I could not distinguish his features,
but I recollected his form: it was the gambler Mac Fane; the sound of
his voice presently put it beyond a doubt.

Without speaking a word, he came up to me and made a violent blow at
me. I perceived it coming, sprang upward, and received it on the tip of
my shoulder, his hand driving up to my neck. From his manner, I guess
it hurt him at least as much as me; for his passion immediately became
outrageous, and he began cursing, kicking, spitting at me, and treating
me with various other indignities, which are wholly unworthy of
remembrance.

His passion was so loud and vehement that the keeper, hearing him, came
up. Just as he entered Mac Fane struck me again, and with more effect,
for he knocked me down; and was proceeding to kick me in a manner that
might perhaps have been fatal, had not the keeper interfered.

I said not one word the whole time, nor as I recollect uttered any
sound whatever; and it was with difficulty that the keeper, who is even
a more powerful man than himself, could get him away.

I was once more left in solitude and darkness; and thus sat, with fresh
subjects for reflection, ruminating on this worthless Mac Fane, my
rencontre with him and Mr. Clifton, the extreme malignancy of his
temper, and all the connecting circumstances that are allied to events
which I cannot now relate.

About eight o'clock my door once more opened, and a little boy of
fourteen years of age, as he tells me, brought me a light and some
food. The boy imagined me to be mad, and entered the room with great
reluctance, his master the keeper standing at the door, cursing him,
threatening him with the horse-whip, and obliging him to do as he was
bidden! which was to release me from the strait-waistcoat, spread a
threadbare half-dirty napkin over the table, set the plates, and wait
till I had eaten. The trepidation of the poor boy at setting my arms at
liberty was extreme.

The door was not open but ajar, and secured by three chains, between
which the boy crept; the keeper standing and looking on, with one arm
leaning on the middle chain, and his head only in the chamber.

I observed that the boy had an intelligent countenance, though
considerably under the influence of fear; with strong marks of kindness
in it, but stronger of dejection.

The furniture, the napkin, knives and forks, and every circumstance
denoted the poverty of the man who is my jailer: and his proceedings
proved there scarcely could be any guilt from which he would start, to
remove this supposed evil. The thought could not escape me, nor the
jeopardy in which I should stand, should the money I had in my
possession be discovered.

I ate what was brought me, and endeavoured by the mildness and
cheerfulness of my look to inspire the boy with confidence. I have no
doubt but he was surprised to see so docile a madman, not having yet
ever seen any, and being from description exceedingly terrified at the
idea of the trade to which he has been forcibly apprenticed. I spoke to
him two or three times, apparently to ask him for the trifles he could
reach me, but in reality with another view. I likewise addressed him
two or three other times in dumb-show, with as much mildness and
meaning in my look as circumstances so insignificant would permit.

The effect my behaviour had upon him was very evident; and after
beginning in fear and confusion, he left me in something like hope and
tranquillity. My prison door was locked, the candle taken away, and I
left in darkness. I was no more molested during that night.

My thoughts were too busy to suffer me to sleep. I sat without moving I
know not how long. The extreme stillness of all around me added to the
unity of the gloom, and produced a state of mind which gives wholesome
exercise to fortitude. Deep as I was in thought, I remember having been
two or three times roused by the sternness of the keeper's voice, which
I heard very plainly, and which was generally some command, closing
with a curse, and as I supposed directed to the poor boy.

My bed-chamber door was open, and after some time I removed into it,
and sat down on the feet of the bed, again falling into reveries which
fixed me motionless to the place. I cannot tell what was the hour, nor
how long I had been thus seated; but I was roused by the sound of a
door opening, and once more by the voice of the keeper, which I heard
so distinctly as to doubt for a moment whether it were not in my own
chamber.

At the same time a broad ray of light suddenly struck against the wall
of my bed-room. I followed it with my eye: I was still at the foot of
the bed, and its direction was from the left to the right. I had much
inclination to pull off my shoes, and endeavour to trace by what
aperture it entered; but on further reflection, I concluded it would be
best not to excite any alarm, in a mind which cannot but be continually
tormented by suspicion and fear.

I paid strict attention however to every circumstance that might aid my
memory, in tracing it on the morrow.

The voice of the keeper, for he spoke several times, was now much more
distinct than before: he was going to bed, and the question--'Are you
sure all is safe?'--was repeated several times with great anxiety, and
was answered in the affirmative by a man's voice--'Do you hear him
stir?' said the keeper.--The reply was--'No--But I am sure I heard him
a little before ten.'

The keeper however could not be satisfied, and in less than five
minutes I heard my door unbolting. The keeper and both his men came in
with their bludgeons. He asked morosely why I did not go to bed. I
answered because I had no inclination to sleep. He went again to the
windows, and examined the very walls with the utmost circumspection;
and afterward turning away said--'Sleep or wake, I'll be d---- if you
have any chance.'

He then left me, and I presently afterward saw the ray of light again,
and heard his various motions at going to bed.

I passed the night without closing my eyes, and in the morning began to
examine where it was possible the light should obtain admission. I
placed myself in the same situation, and looking to the left saw the
closet was in that direction, and that the door was open.

Looking into it I found that a part of the flooring, in the left hand
corner, was decayed; and that the ceiling beneath had a fissure of some
width.

I thought it a fortunate circumstance that sounds were conveyed
so distinctly into my apartments: though I speak chiefly of the
bed-chamber; for it was the loudness of the keeper's voice, and the
stillness of surrounding objects, which most contributed to my hearing
him in the front apartment. Not but the decayed state of the building
favoured the conveyance of sound, in all directions.

I began to consider how far I could improve the means that offered
themselves, and, watching my opportunity in the course of the day, with
my fingers and by the aid of the stick left to stir my fire, I removed
some of the decayed mortar to the right and left, and increased the
aperture on the inside; but was exceedingly careful not to push any
flakes, or part of the ceiling, down into the floor below. The
attention I paid to this was very exact, for it was of the utmost
consequence. Nor was I less accurate in pressing together the rubbish I
scraped away into vacant corners between the joints, and leaving no
traces that should lead to discovery.

All these precautions were highly necessary, as the behaviour of the
keeper had proved; for when he came into my chamber in the morning, as
he did early with his customary attendants, he searched and pried about
with all the assiduity of suspicion.

At breakfast I was again waited on by the boy, and watched by the
keeper. It was necessary I should not excite alarms, in a mind so full
of apprehension: I therefore behaved with reserve to the boy, though
with great complacency, said little, and dismissed him soon.

In the forenoon the door opened again: the boy was sent in with the
straight waistcoat, and the keeper said to me--'Come, sir; put on your
jacket!--Here, boy, be handy!'--I once more hesitated, and asked if Mr.
Mac Fane were coming to pay me another visit? He did not return me a
direct answer, but replied--'If you will put on the jacket, you may go
and stretch your pins for half an hour in the garden: if not stay where
you are, and be d----!'

After a short deliberation, I concluded that to comply was prudent; and
I very peaceably aided the boy in performing his office. As my back was
turned to the keeper, I smiled kindly and significantly to the boy; to
which he replied by a look expressive of surprise and curiosity.

It cannot be supposed but that my mind had been most anxiously
enquiring into the possibility and means of escape, while in my prison;
and that the moment this unexpected privilege was granted me, its whole
efforts were directed to the same subject.

I walked in the garden overlooked, and in a certain manner followed, by
the keeper and his attendants: I therefore traversed it in various
directions, without seeming to pay the least attention to the object on
which my mind was most busy. But the chance of escape, my hands being
thus confined, appeared to be as small in the garden as in the house.
It is completely surrounded by a high wall, which joins the house at
each end. It had one small gate, or rather door, which was locked and
bolted; and had no other entrance, except from the house. After having
walked about an hour as I suppose, the keeper asked me, in a tone
rather of command than question, if I were not tired. I answered--No.
To which he replied, But I am. Accordingly, without saying another
word, I returned to my prison.

I will attempt no description of the sufferings of my mind, and the
continual fears by which it was distracted: not for myself, for there
was no appearance, at this time, that any greater harm than confinement
was intended me, but for another. The subject is torturing: but
resignation and fortitude are duties. My reason for mentioning it is
that it strongly excited me to some prompt effort at escape.

I could think of none, except of endeavouring to convince the keeper it
was more his interest to give me my freedom, than to keep me in
confinement. Consequently, when my dinner was brought, and he had taken
his station, I asked him if he would do me the favour to converse with
me for half an hour; either privately or in the presence of his own
men.

He did not suffer me to finish my sentence, but exclaimed--

'None of your gab, I tell you! If you speak another word, I'll have you
jacketed: and then b--- me, my kiddy, if you get it off again in a
hurry!'

I said no more, but ate my dinner; casting an eye occasionally to the
door, and conjecturing what were the probabilities, by a very sudden
spring, of breaking the chain, for he had only put one up, or of
drawing the staple by which it was held, and which, from the thickness
of the wood-work, I knew could not be clenched. It was not possible, I
believe, for mind to be actuated by stronger motives than mine was, in
my wish to escape: the circumstance of the single chain might not occur
a second time, and I determined on the trial.

I prolonged my dinner till I perceived him begin to yawn, and at last
turn his head the other way. I was about twelve feet distant from the
door. I rose quietly, made two steps, and then gave a sudden spring. I
came with great violence against the door, but it resisted me, and of
course, I fell backward.

After the first moment of surprise, the keeper instantly locked the
door, and, in a rage of cursing, called his assistants. They however
soon pacified him, by turning his attention to the strength of his own
fastenings, and scoffing at my fruitless attempt.

But this incident induced him to change his mode: he stood no more with
the door ajar to watch me, but, after sending in the boy, locked and
bolted it upon us.

I was in full expectation of the straight waistcoat; and his
forbearance, I imagine, was occasioned by the strict orders he must
have received to the contrary. His threat indeed, when I attempted to
speak, is a proof rather against this supposition; and I can solve it
no other way than by supposing that his orders were, if I attempted
persuasion with him, he would then be at liberty to do a thing to which
he seemed exceedingly prone. His fears for himself, should I escape,
must inevitably be strong; and a man, who has waded far enough in error
to commit an act so violent, will willingly plunge deeper, in
proportion as such fears increase.

The sudden spring I had made at the door, combining with the
supposition of madness, had such an effect upon the poor boy that,
hearing the door lock and seeing me as he imagined let loose upon him,
his fright returned in full force. His looks were so pale, and he
trembled so violently, that I feared he would fall into a fit. I went
up to him with the utmost gentleness, and said--Don't be afraid, my
good boy! Indeed I will not hurt you.

The keeper scarcely stayed a minute before, recollecting I had been
long enough at dinner, he opened the door again, but with the caution
of the three chains, and bade the boy take away.

I then began to accuse myself of precipitancy; but I soon remembered
that every thing ought to be hazarded, where every thing is at stake.
My fears were not for myself; and, while my arms were free, could I
have come upon them thus suddenly, success was far from improbable.
Vice is always cowardly; and, difference of weapons out of the
question, three to one are not invincible odds.

It now first occurred to me how prudent it would be to conceal my
bank-bills, and I began to consider which were the best means. I took
them out, examined their numbers, and endeavoured to fix them in my
memory.

This was no difficult task; but prudence required that nothing should
be left to chance, and I took the burnt end of my stick, and going into
the back room, wrote the numbers against the wall, in a place which,
from its darkness, was least liable to notice. Indeed I considered
there was little to fear, even should the figures I made be seen, for I
wrote them in one continued line, which rendered them unintelligible
without a key.

I then once more took my chair, and placed it at the closet door;
thinking that to hide them at one corner of the topmost shelf might
perhaps be the securest place. I previously began to feel, and, at the
far end of the shelf, I put my hand upon something; which, when brought
to light, proved to be the remainder of a bundle of quills.

I felt again, but found nothing more there.

I then removed my chair toward the other end, and after two or three
times sweeping my hand ineffectually along the shelf, I struck the edge
of it against the wall, and more than half a quire of paper fell flat
upon it.

This led me to conjecture that the shelf had been a hiding place,
perhaps, to some love-sick girl, and that it was possible there should
be ink. After another more accurate search, and turning my other hand,
with which I could feel better to the opposite side, I found an
ink-bottle.

I took down my treasure, and examined it: there was cotton in the
bottle, but the ink was partly mouldy and partly dried away. However,
by the aid of a little water, I presently procured more than sufficient
to write down my numbers. But I wanted a pen, and for this there was no
succedaneum.

As the safest way of preserving what might become useful, I returned my
treasure to the shelf on which it had been found; and for that reason
began to consider of another place for my bank-notes. After looking
carefully round both chambers, I at last lifted up the old picture, and
here I found a break in the wainscot; in which was inserted, laterally,
full as much more writing paper as the quantity I had discovered in the
closet. I took away the paper entirely, lest, if seen, it should lead
to further search; and, twisting up the bills, laid them so as to be
certain of recovering them, when I pleased. The paper I put upon the
shelf.

When the boy brought my supper, I asked him his name, how old he was,
and other trifling questions, to familiarize and embolden him; and
learned from his answers that he had a poor mother, who was unable to
provide for him, and that he had been bound apprentice to this keeper
by the parish.

At last I enquired if he could write and read?

He answered, yes; he had been called the best scholar of the charity
school in which he was bred.

I then asked if he continued to practise his learning?

He replied he loved reading very much indeed: but he had no books.

Did he write?

He had no paper.

Was there a pen and ink in the house?

Yes; but the pen was seldom used, and good for nothing.

Could he get me a pen?

If he had but a quill, he could make me one.

Had he a pen-knife?

No; he had forgotten that: but one of the men had a knife with several
blades, and he could ask him to lend it.

And what should he write, supposing he had paper?

A letter.

To whom?

To his mother.

I thought it not right to expose my stores to him, and therefore
suffered him to go for that time, without saying any thing more on the
subject. But my discourse with him had pretty well driven all
apprehension from his mind. I was cautious to speak in a very low tone
of voice; and, without being bidden, he had acuteness enough to follow
my example.

The next day, at breakfast, I gave him a sheet of paper, and two
quills; and told him to make pens of them if he could; one for himself,
and the other for me; and to take the paper for his letter. He looked
with intelligent surprise--Where did they come from? was the question
in his thoughts; but he said nothing. Madmen were beings whom he did
not comprehend.

My kindness to him, however, made him desirous to oblige me. I gave him
a part of my breakfast; and he ate what I gave him in a manner that
shewed he was not over-fed.

At dinner he brought me both the pens. I asked him why he did not keep
one to write to his mother? He said he had written, but had cleaned and
cut the pen over again. They were not ill made, considering that, as he
told me, the knife was a bad one.

But what will you do for ink, sir? said he. I told him I had a little;
but that I should be glad if I had more. Perhaps, he replied, he could
get one of the men to bring him a half-pennyworth. I said I had no
money, and he answered a gentleman (Mr. Clifton, I suppose) had just
given him sixpence, for holding his horse; that he intended to save it
for his mother, but that he would spare a halfpenny to buy me ink.

I took the boy's hand, and said to him--'If ever I live to get free
from this place, I will remember you.'--The emotions I felt
communicated themselves, and he looked sorrowfully up in my face, and
asked--'Why, are not you mad, sir?'

The very earnest but mild manner with which I answered--'No, my good
fellow'--both convinced him and set his imagination to work.

I said little more, but finished my meal, wrote down my numbers, and
gave him the bottle: but warned him, if he were questioned, by no means
to tell an untruth. The boy looked at me again, in a manner that spoke
highly in his favour, put the bottle in his pocket, and, as soon as his
master returned to the door, removed the things and departed.

He brought the ink with my supper. One of the men had taken his
sixpence, but refused to return him any change; and the ink he had
emptied out of the keeper's bottle. Such are the habits of vice. The
boy related it with indignation, but said he dared not complain. I had
nothing else to give, I therefore rewarded the generous boy with a
couple of quills, and four sheets of paper for his own use; cautioning
him to keep them to write to his mother.

While I wanted the means, I imagined it would have been a great relief
to have had the power of writing down my thoughts; but I found they
were much too busy, and disturbed, by the recollection of Anna St. Ives
and her danger, and by the incessant desire of finding some means of
escape, notwithstanding a thousand repeated convictions of its
impossibility, to suffer me to write either with effect or connection.
I did nothing but make memorandums; some of thoughts that occurred, and
others of circumstances that were present. I concealed my papers in the
wainscot behind the picture, where I mean to leave this narrative.

The indulgence of my morning walk was continued; and on the sixth day
of my confinement an incident happened, by which I almost effected my
release.

Confiding in the strait waistcoat and in the strength of his locks and
bars, and become less apprehensive from this persuasion, the keeper had
left me under the care of only one of his men; himself and the other
were employed on something which he wanted done in the house.

While they were absent, the garden-bell rang. The voice of Mac Fane was
heard, demanding entrance, by the man who was set to watch me, and
fetching the key he opened the gate without hesitation.

My hopes were instantly excited. I made a short turn and crossed him,
as if continuing my walk, a few yards distant from the gate. He eyed me
however, and I went on; but, the moment he was busied in unlocking and
unbolting it, I turned round, sprang forward, and as it opened rushed
past.

The violence of my motion overset Mac Fane. The master, whose
suspicions had taken the alarm, was entering the garden and saw me. He
and his man and Mac Fane instantly joined in the pursuit.

Though I was in the strait waistcoat, yet I happened to be swifter than
any of them. The keeper was soon the first in the chase: it was up a
narrow lane, with a high-banked hedge on each side. A man was coming
down it, and the keeper called to him to stop me. The man seeing my
arms confined, and hearing the shouts of my pursuers, endeavoured to do
as he was desired. He placed himself directly in my way, and I ran full
against him.

We both fell; but the man by the aid of his hands was up rather the
soonest. He laid hold of me, and a sudden thought struck me. They were
bawling behind--'A madman! A madman!'--and I assumed that grinning
contortion of countenance which might easiest terrify, uttered an
uncouth noise, and began to bite at the man. Terror seized him, and I
again got away, the very moment the keeper was coming up.

I had not run a hundred yards further before I saw another man at a
distance, and the hue and cry behind was as hot as ever. The hedge in
this place was lower, and I jumped over it into the field on my right.
There was a ditch on the other side, of which I had no intimation; and
my feet alighting on the edge of it, I once more fell.

My pursuers profited by a gate, which I had passed. It was the field of
a gardener, and a man was at work close by. He came and helped me up;
but not soon enough: the keeper arrived, and presently after his man
and Mac Fane.

I addressed myself to the gardener, endeavoured to tell him who I was,
and said I would give him a hundred pounds, if he would aid me to
escape: but my efforts were soon put an end to by the keeper, who threw
me down, a second time violently thrust his thumb into my throat, and
by gagging me prevented further speech.

Mac Fane however thought proper to give the man half a crown, and they
all assured him I was a madman; which story was confirmed by the man
who supposed himself bitten, and who had joined in the pursuit.

The extreme malevolence of Mac Fane again displayed itself: but his
treatment is unworthy notice, except as it relates to what is to come.

I was hurried back to my prison, left with the strait waistcoat on that
whole day and night, and was fed by the boy; who shewed many silent
tokens of commiseration, though once more watched by the keeper and his
two attendants, with the three chains up at the door. All conversations
between me and the boy were for several days ended, by the continued
overlooking of the keeper and his men.

After the keeper and Mac Fane had retired, I went into the back room,
and was standing with my face toward the window, which is beside the
closet. The behaviour of Mac Fane had been so extraordinary as already
to lead me to suspect he had a wish to take away my life.

As I was standing here, I heard the keeper's bed-room door open and
shut again, and soon after the voices of him and Mac Fane in
conversation. I listened very attentively to a dialogue, the substance
of which was to me much more alarming than unexpected. It was a
consultation, on the part of Mac Fane, on the policy and means of
murdering me.

The keeper opposed him, several times mentioned Mr. Clifton as an
unconquerable objection, and urged the danger of being detected; for he
did not seem to revolt at the fact.

Mac Fane answered he would silence Clifton; of whom his favourite
phrase was that 'He should soon do him!'--which he repeated very often,
with a variety of uncommon oaths. He even said that, were I fairly out
of the way, he could make Edward St. Ives pay him the three thousand
guineas.

The curses which Mac Fane continually coupled with my name, and the
rancour, the thirst of blood which preyed upon him, were incredible. He
a hundred times imprecated eternal damnation to his soul if there were
the least danger. The fellows the keeper had with him were of his own
providing: they knew he could hang them both: they durst not impeach.
[_Squeak_, I recollect, was the word he used.] To take me off was the
safest way. Clifton would in reality be an accessary before the fact,
and therefore obliged to silence. Beside--'He would do him! He would do
him!'--This he confirmed by a new string of oaths.

The keeper however continued averse to the project, said the fellows
would hang their own father if he could not bribe them, that there was
nothing to be got by putting me out of the way, and that he would not
venture his neck unless he saw good cause.

While they were arguing the point, a loud and authoritative rap was
heard at the keeper's door, accompanied by the voice of Mr. Clifton,
demanding admission. He entered, and the whole story of my escape was
related, with that colouring which their own fears inspired.

Mac Fane darkly hinted the thoughts he had been communicating to the
keeper; but, meeting repulse from Mr. Clifton whenever ideas of cruelty
were started, he thought proper to use more reserve.

The keeper concluded his account by affirming it would be necessary to
continue me in the strait waistcoat, and not to let me walk in the
garden any more. Mr. Clifton assented to the latter, but positively
ordered my arms to be released. There was no need he said to punish me
in this manner, and it should not be. At the same time he gave the
keeper a twenty pound note, and repeated his orders to treat me
properly, but to take care not to suffer me to escape.

Misguided man! How does your heart pant after virtue! How grieve at the
slavery in which it is held! What will its agony be, when the full
measure of error is come!

Yet this to me was the lucid moment of hope, for it suggested a train
of conclusions which seem like heavenly certainties--Mr. Clifton had
made his attempts on Anna St. Ives, and they have been repelled! Even
still, and it is several days since, his efforts continue to be
ineffectual!--It must be so!--The purposes of vice are frustrated by
the pure energies of virtue: for, had they succeeded, I should be
released. Heart-cheering thought! Pleasure inexpressible! Yes, Anna St.
Ives is safe! Truth is omnipotent; and out of my ashes another, and
probably a more strenuous and determined assertor of it may arise!
Clifton at last may see how very foul is folly, and turn to wisdom!
Would he might be spared the guilt of purchasing conviction at the
price of blood!

Three days passed away, after my escape, without any remarkable
occurrence. The sanguinary malignity of Mac Fane was more than
counterbalanced, by the reasonings of probability and hope in favour of
Anna St. Ives.

During my confinement, I had slept but little. Wearied however at
length, by the repetition of ideas that were unavailing, I was
slumbering more soundly than usual on the night after the ninth day;
and was dreaming that my doors were unbolted, the chains rattling, and
men entering to murder me; from which I was waked by starting in my
dream to run and resist them. It was the real clanking of the bolts and
locks of the house doors that inspired this dream; they opened to give
some one admission. I know not what was the hour, but it must be very
late, and it was completely dark. I soon distinguished Mac Fane's
voice. I jumped up, hastily dressed myself in part, and presently heard
the keeper's door open--The ray of light appeared on the wall--I crept
toward the closet.

The first word Mac Fane uttered was--'I told you I should do him!--I
told you I should do him!'

He kept repeating this and other exclamations, which I could not at
first comprehend, closing each of them with oaths expressive of
uncommon exultation. But he descanted almost instantly from Mr.
Clifton, to whom his phrase alluded, to me; adding--it was high time
now to do me too.

His joy was so great, his oaths so multiplied, and his asseverations so
continual, that he would tread me out, would send my soul to hell that
very night, and other similar phrases, that it was some time before the
keeper could obtain an answer to his question of--'What does all this
mean?' At last Mr. Mac Fane began to relate, as soberly as the
intoxication of his mind would permit, that he had done him [Mr.
Clifton] out of ten thousand pounds.

Had he got the money?

No--But God shiver his soul to flames if he did not make him pay! He
would blow him to powder, drink his blood, eat his bones if he did not!

This was not all--He had another prize! Eight thousand pounds! The
money was now in the house!

He stopped short--The cupidity of the keeper was excited, and he grew
impatient. Mac Fane I imagine hesitated to reconsider if it were
possible to get all the money himself, make away with me secretly, and
leave the keeper in ignorance. But he could not but conclude this to be
impracticable.

I could not sufficiently connect the meaning of all the phrases that
followed; they might depend as much on seeing as hearing; but I
understood Mac Fane was acquainted with the circumstance of the money I
have in my possession; though whether his knowledge were gained from
Mr. Clifton or Anna St. Ives, for they were both mentioned, I could not
distinguish. He talked much of a letter, of his own cunning, and of the
contempt in which he held Mr. Clifton.

The keeper however was convinced of the fact, for he proposed
immediately to murder me, and secure the money.

This point was for some time debated, and I every moment expected they
would leave the room, to perpetrate the crime. Mac Fane had his pistols
and cutlass, yet seemed to suppose a possibility even of my conquering
them. The keeper was much more confident--'He knew how to bring me
down; he had no fear of that.'--Mac Fane remembered his defeat, and
the keeper his cheaply bought victory.

They agreed it could not be done silently, unless they could catch me
asleep, and the unbolting of the doors would awaken me. They wished the
keeper's fellows to know nothing of the matter; they would claim their
share.

At last Mac Fane proposed that I should be put in the strait waistcoat
the next morning, on pretence of walking me out in the garden; that
perhaps it would be best to suffer me to walk there, but not to take
off the strait waistcoat any more; that then the doors might be left
unbolted, and even unlocked, my arms being confined; and the next night
they might come and dispatch me!

The conversation continued long after this, and schemes of flight,
either to Ireland or the continent, were concerted, and the riches and
happiness they should enjoy insisted on, with great self-applause and
pleasure. Poor, mistaken men!

They at last parted, with a determination to execute the scheme of the
strait waistcoat. Mac Fane took possession of the keeper's bed; and he
as I imagine went to that of his men.

And here I must remark that Mac Fane either forgot or did not imagine
that my immediate murder would be an impediment to the payment of the
ten thousand pound gaming debt, from Mr. Clifton; which fear afterward
actuated him strongly. It could not do otherwise, the moment it was
conceived.

According to agreement, in the morning the keeper came, with as much
pretended kindness as he knew how to assume, to tell me I might have my
walk in the garden again, if I pleased. I answered I did not wish to
walk. He endeavoured to persuade me, but he soon found it was to no
purpose. He then ordered the boy away, who had brought the strait
waistcoat, and quitted his station at the door in great dudgeon.

I soon afterward heard, as I expected, Mac Fane and him in his own
room. Mac Fane cursed the keeper bitterly, and supposed that, for want
of cunning, he had in part betrayed himself, and rendered me
suspicious. The keeper resented his behaviour and cursed again, till I
imagined they had fairly quarrelled.

Mac Fane however began to cool, and to talk of another expedient of
which he had been thinking. This was to poison me. In this the keeper
immediately joined, and began to enquire about the means of procuring
the poison. The boy was first mentioned, but that was thought too
dangerous. At last Mac Fane determined himself to go to London and buy
arsenic, on pretence of poisoning rats, and to set off immediately. On
this they concluded, and presently left the room.

My whole attention was now employed in watching the opening of the
keeper's door; but there was reason to apprehend they would converse
somewhere else on their projects. I imagine however they thought this
the safest and most inaccessible place, for a little before dark I
again heard the voice of Mac Fane, and they presently came back to
their former station.

Mac Fane related the difficulty he had found in getting the arsenic;
that several shops had refused him; and that at last he had succeeded
by ordering a quantity of drugs, for which he paid, leaving them to be
sent to a fictitious address, and returning back pretending he wanted
some poison for the rats, asking them which was the best. They
recommended arsenic, which they directed him to make up in balls, and
he ordered a quarter of a pound. They weighed it, he put it in his
pocket, and they noticed the circumstance, telling him they would send
it home with the other drugs; but he walked away pretending not to hear
what they said.

Mac Fane, glorying in his own cunning, was impatient to administer his
drug, and proposed it should be sent up in my tea. The keeper assented,
and the boy very soon afterward brought me some tea in a pot ready
made, contrary to custom, I having been used to make my own tea.

The keeper was at the door. I asked him the reason of this deviation;
and he bade me drink my tea and be thankful. I poured some out, first
looked at it, then tasted it, and afterwards threw it into the ashes,
saying it was bad tea. I next examined the tea-pot, smelled into it,
and then dashed it to pieces on the hearth. I looked toward the keeper
and told him there was something in the tea that ought not to have
been.

Seeing me take up the candle and begin to move, he instantly shut the
door. His conscience was alarmed, and for a moment he forgot the
security of his chains. He even called up his men before he opened it
again; after which the boy was released, but not before I had time to
tell him never to eat any thing that was brought for me. The poor boy
noticed the significance with which I said it, and fixed his eyes
mournfully upon me. I shook him by the hand, bade him be a good boy,
and not learn wickedness from his master.

The remains of the tea-set were soon removed, and a fresh consultation
presently began in the keeper's room. Mac Fane was again enraged, and
blamed the keeper; who began to suppose there was something
supernatural in my behaviour. He said I looked at him as if I knew it
was poison, and it was very strange! Mac Fane swore he would dose me at
supper, and would go and make me eat it himself, or blow my brains out;
but he presently recollected I had not the strait waistcoat on, and
altered his tone. It was however agreed that another attempt should be
made.

I now began to consider all circumstances; whether it were probable, if
I ate a little, that the keeper should suppose it only a temporary want
of appetite; what quantity might be eaten without harm, and if it were
not practicable to watch the moment when they should come, by night, to
execute their wicked purpose, and to pass them and escape? A little
reasoning shewed me that I should be in the dark, in a house the
avenues to which were all secured, and with which I was unacquainted;
that the number I had to contend with now would be four, three of them
provided with bludgeons, and the fourth with a hanger and pistols; that
release by the order of Mr. Clifton was not impossible; and that, if I
began a fray, I should excite cowardice to action; and, having begun,
Mac Fane would scarcely, miss such an opportunity.

These reasons made me rather resolve to persevere in fasting; which
remedy, though it could not be of long duration, appeared to be the
wisest. Yet caution was necessary, for, should I make them absolutely
despair of poisoning me, they would have recourse to other means.

My resolution was taken, and when the supper came I tasted a bit of
bread and drank a small quantity of water, after carefully inspecting
it, and without saying any thing more sent the rest away.

The keeper's door soon opened, the ray of light appeared on the wall,
and a new consultation succeeded. The keeper again was troubled with
superstitious fears; and Mac Fane was persuaded that, having been
alarmed at tea-time, I had from suspicion refused to eat any supper.

After a debate, they concluded it would be in vain to attempt to poison
me in my tea, for I should detect it: they would therefore send me a
short allowance at breakfast, keep me hungry, and prepare my dinner for
the next day. The keeper proposed to give me no breakfast, but Mac Fane
said that was the way to make me suspect.

They were both highly chagrined; but Mac Fane was much the most
talkative at all times, and the loudest in oaths and menaces: though I
scarcely think even him a more dangerous man than the keeper.

In the morning, observing they had sent agreeable to their plan a small
quantity, after a little examination I ate what was brought me, and the
keeper retired apparently satisfied.

It was far otherwise at dinner, when I absolutely refused to eat; and
their vexation was greatly increased by my persisting to refuse the
whole day.

Late at night a new council was held, and it was long in debate whether
I should be suffered to live the night out. At last the cupidity of Mac
Fane prevailed, and his fear of not getting Mr. Clifton's bond for
eleven thousand pounds, as he said, though I understood he had won but
ten, seems now to have first struck him; and this induced him to
desist. I understood however that Mac Fane had still some hopes from
his poison, and consequently that to fast would still be necessary.

Their final resolve was that, the moment Mr. Clifton should have given
Mac Fane the bond, they would then delay no longer: and, from the
threats which he vaunted of having used, he expected the bond to be
given the next day, when Mr. Clifton was to come to the keeper's, if I
understood them rightly, after his visit to Anna St. Ives.

This idea again conjured up torturing images, and fears which no
efforts I have been able to make can entirely appease.

I began this narrative the first day on which I found my life was in
danger, and have continued it to this time, which is now the twelfth
day of my confinement. The desire which the keeper expresses to possess
himself of the money convinces me of my great jeopardy. He was eager to
have committed the murder last night, during the last conversation I
heard. That I should escape with life from the hands of these wicked
men is but little probable; but I will not desert myself; I will not
forward an act of blood by timidity. Were I to destroy the bank-bills,
and to tell them they were destroyed, I should not be believed. I mean
to try another expedient--I hear them in the keeper's room!

These are the last words I shall ever write. They are determined on
immediate murder--But I will sell my life dearly.

LETTER CXXVI

_Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton_

Oh my friend! I am escaped! Have broken my prison and am sitting now--I
cannot tell you where, but in a place of safety. I have been thus
successful by the aid of Laura.

It is now four days since I saw your brother. Lulled to security by the
peaceable manner in which I had submitted to confinement, and imagining
Laura to be still in the interest of Mr. Clifton, though this silly
girl is now a very sincere penitent, the old woman began to indulge her
in still greater liberties. I warned Laura very seriously against any
precipitate attempts, for I saw it was probable this incautiousness
would increase, provided it were encouraged.

No good opportunity offered till this morning, when Laura was suffered
to take the key of my prison chamber, and let herself in and out.

The moment she told me of it I enquired what other obstacles there
were. Laura said we might get into the yard, but no further, for there
was a high wall which no woman could climb. I asked her if she thought
a man could climb it? She answered, yes, she had seen men do such
things, but she could not think how.

The absence of Mr. Clifton for so long a time, without releasing me
from my imprisonment, made me in hourly expectation of his return. I
therefore did not stay to hesitate, but desired Laura to steal down
stairs before me, and open the door, for that I was determined to
attempt the wall.

Laura was terrified at the fear of being left behind, for she said she
never could climb it. 'Alas! What was to become of her?'--I told her
she should have thought of consequences long ago; but that she might be
certain I would not desert her: on the contrary, I would go to the
first house I could find and send her relief, if I should happen to
climb a wall which she could not. Though, I likewise added, it was
weakness and folly to suppose that men were better able to climb walls
than women, or that she could not follow, if I could lead.

The assurance of relief in part quieted her fears: she opened the first
door, stole down to the second, I followed, she unlocked it, and we
both got into the yard.

The wall as she said was high and not easily climbed; but I had little
time for reflection: the old woman saw us through the window, and was
coming.

To this wall there was a gate, equally high, but with a handle to shut,
ledges running across, and two or three cracked places that afforded
hold for the hand. You and I, Louisa, have often discoursed on the
excellence of active courage, and the much greater efforts of which
both sexes are capable than either of them imagine. I climbed the
gate with great speed and little I difficulty.

The old woman was already in the yard, and Laura stood wondering to see
me on the top of the wall, fearing I should now break my neck in
getting down again, and still in greater terror at the approach of the
old woman. I made some attempt to persuade the latter to give Laura her
liberty; but our turnkey is very deaf, and instead of listening to me
she ran for some offensive weapon to beat me off the wall: so, once
more assuring Laura I would send her immediate aid, and keeping hold of
the gate post with my hand, I let myself down and with very little
hurt.

I proceeded along a narrow lane: I knew not in what direction, but
hurried forward in great haste; not only from the possibility of being
pursued, but because it began to blow and rain very heavily. In less
than ten minutes I came to a house: I rang, a man came to the gate, and
I readily gained admission. I was shewn into the room where I am now
writing, and another person was sent to me, who perhaps is the master
of the house, though from his appearance I should rather suppose the
contrary. I asked first if it were possible to get a coach; and he
enquired where I came from? I told him, from a house at a considerable
distance, in the same lane, where I had been forcibly shut up, and
where my maid still was, whom I wished to have released; adding I would
well reward any two men, by whom it might easily be effected, if they
would go and help her over the wall.

He listened very attentively, stood some time to consider, and then
replied there was no coach to be procured within a mile of the place,
but that a man should go for one; and that I might make myself easy
concerning the young woman (Laura) for she should soon join me. The
look and manner of the man did not please me, but the case was urgent,
the storm increasing, and I in want of shelter and protection.

I then recollected it would perhaps be safest to write immediately to
Grosvenor-Street, to prevent surprise as well as to guard against
accidents, and I asked if he could furnish me with a sheet of paper and
pen and ink. He answered he feared not, but called a boy, and said to
him--'Did not I see you with some writing paper the other day?' The boy
answered yes; and he bade him go and fetch it, and bring me the pen and
ink.

He then left me, and the boy presently returned, with a sheet of paper,
an old ink-bottle, and a very indifferent pen. The boy looked at me
earnestly, and then examined the pen, saying it was a very bad one, but
he would fetch me a better.

The man who was just gone had told me that nobody could be spared, to
go as far as I required, in less than an hour at the soonest; I
therefore have time to write at length.

I think there can be little doubt but that my Louisa is long before
this in Grosvenor-Street. I would not wish Sir Arthur to be informed
too suddenly, I will therefore direct to her at a venture; but for fear
of accidents will add to the direction--'If Miss Clifton be not there,
to be opened and read by Mrs. Clarke.'--In the present alarmed state of
the family this will ensure its being opened, even if both my good
friends should be absent.

Good heaven! What does this mean?--I have just risen to see if the
little boy were within call, and find the door is locked upon me!

I have been listening!--I hear stern and loud voices!--I fear I have
been very inconsiderate!--I know not what to think!

Where am I?--Oh, Louisa, I am seized with terror! Looking into the
table-drawer at which I am sitting, in search of wafers, I have found
my own letter; opened, dirtied, and worn! Alas! You know of no such
letter!--Again I am addressing myself to the winds!--The very fatal
letter in which I mentioned the eight thousand pounds!--Where am I,
where am I?--In what is all this to end?

All is lost!--Flight is hopeless!--The very man who headed the ruffians
that seized me has just walked into the room, placed himself with his
back against the door, surveyed me, satisfied himself who it was, then
warily left me, locked the door, and called a man to guard it!--Oh my
incautious folly!

I am in the dwelling of demons!--I never heard such horrible
oaths!--Surely there is some peculiar mischief working!--The noise
increases, with unheard-of blasphemy!

Merciful Heaven! I hear the voice of Frank!--What is doing?--Must I
remain here?--Oh misery!----What cries!

LETTER CXXVII

_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_

_London, Dover Street_

All is over, Fairfax!--I am just brought from the scene of blood!--You

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