The String of Pearls/Chapter 30
XXX Tobias's Escape From Mr. Fogg's Establishment
The rage into which Mr Fogg was thrown by the attack which the desperate Tobias had made upon his representative Mr Watson, was so great that, had it not been for the presence of stupid old Dr Popplejoy in the house, no doubt he would have taken some most exemplary revenge upon him. As it was, however, Tobias was thrown into his cell with a promise of vengeance as soon as the coast was clear.
These were the kind of promises which Mr Fogg was pretty sure to keep, and when the first impulse of his passion had passed away, poor Tobias, as well indeed he might, gave himself up to despair.
'Now all is over,' he said; 'I shall be half murdered! Oh, why do they not kill me at once? There would be some mercy in that. Come and murder me at once, you wretches! You villains, murder me at once!'
In his new excitement, he rushed to the door of the cell, and banged it with his fists, when to his surprise it opened, and he found himself nearly falling into the stone corridor from which the various cell doors opened. It was evident that Mr Watson thought he had locked him in, for the bolt of the lock was shot back but had missed its hold - a circumstance probably arising from the state of rage and confusion Mr Watson was in, as a consequence of Tobias's daring attack upon him.
It almost seemed to the boy as if he had already made some advance towards his freedom, when he found himself in the narrow passage beyond his cell-door, but his heart for some minutes beat so tumultuously with the throng of blissful associations connected with freedom that it was quite impossible for him to proceed.
A slight noise, however, in another part of the building roused him again, and he felt that it was only now by great coolness and self-possession, as well as great courage, that he could at all hope to turn to account the fortunate incident which had enabled him, at all events, to make that first step towards liberty.
'Oh, if I could but get out of this dreadful place,' he thought; 'if I could but once again breathe the pure fresh air of heaven, and see the deep blue sky, I think I should ask for no other blessings.'
Never do the charms of nature present themselves to the imagination in more lovely guise than when someone with an imagination full of such beauties and a mind to appreciate the glories of the world is shut up from real, actual contemplation. To Tobias now the thought of green fields, sunshine and flowers, was at once rapture and agony.
'I must,' he said, 'I must - I will be free.'
A thorough determination to do anything, we are well convinced, always goes a long way towards its accomplishment; and certainly Tobias now would cheerfully have faced death in any shape, rather than he would again have been condemned to the solitary horrors of the cell, from which he had by such a chance got free.
He conjectured the stupid old Dr Popplejoy had not left the house by the unusual quiet that reigned in it, and he began to wonder if, while that quiet subsisted, there was the remotest chance of his getting into the garden, and then scaling the wall, and so reaching the open common.
While this thought was establishing itself in his mind, and he was thinking that he would pursue the passage in which he was until he saw where it led to, he heard the sound of footsteps, and he shrank back.
For a few seconds they appeared as if they were approaching where he was; and he began to dread that the cell would be searched, and his absence discovered, in which there would be no chance for him but death. Suddenly, however, the approaching footsteps paused, and then he heard a door banged shut.
It was still, even now, some minutes before Tobias could bring himself to traverse the passage again, and when he did, it was with a slow and stealthy step.
He had not, however, gone above thirty paces, when he heard the indistinct murmur of voices, and being guided by the sound, he paused at a door on his right hand, which he thought must be the one he had heard closed but a few minutes previously.
It was from the interior of the room which that was the door of, that the sound of voices came, and as it was a matter of the very first importance to Tobias to ascertain in what part of the house his enemies were, he placed his ear against the panel, and listened attentively.
He recognised both the voices: they were those of Watson and Fogg.
It was a very doubtful and ticklish situation that poor Tobias was now in, but it was wonderful how, by dint of strong resolution, he had stilled the beating of his heart, and the general nervousness of his disposition. There was but a frail door between him and his enemies, and yet he stood profoundly still and listened.
Mr Fogg was speaking.
'You quite understand me, Watson: I think,' he said, 'as concerns that little viper Tobias Ragg, he is too cunning, and much too dangerous, to live long. He almost staggered old superannuated Popplejoy.'
'Oh, confound him!' replied Watson, 'and he quite staggered me.'
'Why, certainly your face is rather scratched.'
'Yes, the little devil! but it's all in the way of business that, Mr Fogg, and you never heard me grumble at such little matters yet; and I'll be bound never will, that's more.'
'I give you credit for that, Watson; but between you and I, I think the disease of that boy is of a nature that will carry him off very suddenly.'
'I think so too,' said Watson, with a chuckle.
'It strikes me forcibly that he will be found dead in his bed some morning, and I should not in the least wonder if that was tomorrow morning: what's your opinion, Watson?'
'Oh, damn it, what's the use of all this round-about nonsense between us? the boy is to die, and there's an end of it, and die he shall, during the night - I owe him a personal grudge of course now.'
'Of course you do - he has disfigured you.'
'Has he? Well, I can return the compliment, and I say, Mr Fogg, my opinion is, that it's very dangerous having these medical inspections you have such a fancy for.'
'My dear fellow, it is dangerous, that I know as well as you can tell me, but it is from that danger we gather safety. If anything in the shape of a disturbance should arise about any patient, you don't know of what vast importance a report from such a man as old Dr Popplejoy might be.'
'Well, well, have it your own way. I shall not go near Master Tobias for the whole day, and shall see what starvation and solitude does towards taming him down a bit.'
'As you please; but it is time you went your regular rounds.'
'Yes, of course.'
Tobias heard Watson rise. The crisis was a serious one. His eye fell upon a bolt that was outside the door, and, with the quickness of thought, he shot it into its socket, and then made his way down the passage towards his cell, the door of which he shut close.
His next movement was to run to the end of the passage and descend some stairs. A door opposed him, but a push opened it, and he found himself in a small, dimly-lighted room, in one corner of which, upon a heap of straw, lay a woman, apparently sleeping.
The noise which Tobias made in entering the cell, for such it was, roused her up, and she said,-
'Oh! no, no, not the lash! not the lash! I am quiet. God, how quiet I am, although the heart within is breaking. Have mercy upon me!'
'Have mercy upon me,' said Tobias, 'and hide me if you can.'
'Hide you! hide you! God of Heavens, who are you?'
'A poor victim, who has escaped from one of the cells, and I-'
'Hush!' said the woman; and she made Tobias shrink down in the corner of the cell, cleverly covering him up with the straw, and then lying down herself in such a position that he was completely screened. The precaution was not taken a moment too soon, for by the time it was completed, Watson had burst open the door of the room which Tobias had bolted, and stood in the narrow passage.
'How the devil,' he said, 'came that door shut, I wonder?'
'Oh! save me,' whispered Tobias.
'Hush! hush! He will only look in,' was the answer. 'You are safe. I have been only waiting for someone who could assist me, in order to attempt an escape. You must remain here until night, and then I will show you how it may be done. Hush! - he comes.'
Watson did come, and looked into the cell, muttering an oath, as he said,-
'Oh, you have enough bread and water till tomorrow morning, I should say; so you need not expect to see me again till then.'
'Oh! we are saved! we shall escape,' said the poor creature, after Watson had been gone some minutes.
'Do you think so?'
'Yes, yes! Oh, boy, I do not know what brought you here, but if you have suffered one-tenth part of the cruelty and oppression I have suffered, you are indeed to be pitied.'
'If we are to stay here,' said Tobias, 'till night, before making any attempt to escape, it will, perhaps, ease your mind, and beguile the time, if you were to tell me how you came here.'
'God knows! it might - it might!'
Tobias was very urgent upon the poor creature to tell her story, to beguile the tedium of the time of waiting, and after some amount of persuasion she consented to do so.
You shall now hear (she said to Tobias), if you will listen, such a catalogue of wrongs, unredressed and still enduring, that would indeed drive any human being mad; but I have been able to preserve so much of my mental faculties as will enable me to recollect and understand the many acts of cruelty and injustice I have endured here for many a long and weary day.
My persecutions began when I was very young - so young that I could not comprehend their cause, and used to wonder why I should be treated with greater rigour or with greater cruelty than people used to treat those who were really disobedient and wayward children.
I was scarcely seven years old when a maiden aunt died; she was the only person whom I remember as being uniformly kind to me, though I can only remember her indistinctly, yet I know she was kind to me. I know also I used to visit her, and she used to look upon me as her favourite, for I used to sit at her feet upon a stool, watching her as she sat amusing herself by embroidering, silent and motionless sometimes, and then I asked her some questions which she answered.
This is the chief feature of my recollection of my aunt: she soon after died, but while she lived, I had no unkindness from anybody; it was only after that that I felt the cruelty and coldness of my family.
It appeared that I was a favourite with my aunt above all others whether in our family or any other; she loved me, and promised that, when she died, she would leave me provided for, and that I should not be dependent upon anyone.
Well, I was, from the day after the funeral, an altered being. I was neglected, and no one paid any attention to me whatsoever; I was thrust about, and nobody appeared to care even if I had the necessaries of life.
Such a change I could not understand. I could not believe the evidence of my own senses; I thought it must be something that I did not understand; perhaps my poor aunt's death had caused this distress and alteration in people's demeanour to me.
However, I was a child, and though I was quick enough at noting all this, yet I was too young to feel acutely the conduct of my friends.
My father and mother were careless of me, and let me run where I would; they cared not when I was hurt, they cared not when I was in danger. Come what would, I was left to take my chance.
I recollect one day when I had fallen from the top to the bottom of some stairs and hurt myself very much; but no one comforted me; I was thrust out of the drawing-room, because I cried. I then went to the top of the stairs, where I sat weeping bitterly for some time.
At length, an old servant came out of one of the attics, and said, 'Oh! Miss Mary, what has happened to you, that you sit crying so bitterly on the stair-head? Come in here!'
I arose and went into the attic with her, when she set me on a chair, and busied herself with my bruises, and said to me, 'Now, tell me what you are crying about, and why did they turn you out of the drawing-room, tell me now?'
'Ay,' said I, 'they turned me out because I cried when I was hurt. I fell all the way down stairs, but they don't mind.'
'No, they do not, and yet in many families they would have taken more care of you than they do here!'
'And why do you think they would have done so?' I enquired.
'Don't you know what good fortune has lately fallen into your lap? I thought you knew all about it.'
'I don't know anything, save they are very unkind to me lately.'
'They have been very unkind to you, child, and I am sure I don't know why, nor can I tell you why they have not told you of your fortune.'
'My fortune,' said I; 'what fortune?'
'Why, don't you know that when your poor aunt died you were her favourite?'
'I know my aunt loved me,' I said; 'she loved me, and was kind to me; but since she has been dead, nobody cares for me.'
'Well, my child, she has left a will behind her which says that all her fortune shall be yours: when you are old enough you shall have all her fine things; you shall have all her money and her house.'
'Indeed!' said I; 'who told you so?'
'Oh, I have heard of it from those who were present at the reading of the will that you were, when you are old enough, to have all. Think what a great lady you will be then! You will have servants of your own.
'I don't think I shall live till then.'
'Oh yes, you will - or, at least, I hope so.'
'And if I should not, what will become of all those fine things that you have told me of? Who'll have them?'
'Why, if you do not live till you are of age, your fortune will go to your father and mother, who take all.'
'Then they would sooner I die than live.'
'What makes you think so?' she enquired.
'Why,' said I, 'they don't care anything for me now, and they would have my fortune if I were dead - so they don't want me.'
'Ah, my child,' said the old woman, 'I have thought of that more than once; and now you can see it. I believe that it will be so. There has many a word been spoken truly enough by a child before now, and I am sure you are right - but do you be a good child, and be careful of yourself, and you will always find that Providence will keep you out of any trouble.'
'I hope so,' I said.
'And be sure you don't say who told you about this.'
'Why not?' I enquired; 'why may I not tell who told me about it?'
'Because,' she replied, 'if it were known that I told you anything about it, as you have not been told by them they might discharge me, and I should be turned out.'
'I will not do that,' I replied; 'they shall not learn who told me, though I should like to hear them say the same thing.'
'You may hear them do so one of these days,' she replied, 'if you are not impatient: it will come out one of these days - two may know of it.'
'More than my father and mother?'
'Yes, more - several.'
No more was said then about the matter; but I treasured it up in my mind. I resolved that I would act differently, and not have anything to do with them - that is, I would not be more in their sight than I could help - I would not be in their sight at all, save at meal times - and when there was any company there I always appeared.
I cannot tell why; but I think it was because I sometimes attracted the attention of others, and I hoped to be able to hear something respecting my fortune; and in the end I succeeded in doing so, and
then I was satisfied - not that it made any alteration in my conduct, but I felt I was entitled to a fortune.
How such an impression became imprinted upon a girl of eight years old, I know not; but it took hold of me, and I had some kind of notion that I was entitled to more consideration than I was treated to.
'Mother,' said I one day to her.
'Well, Mary, what do you want to tease me about now?'
'Didn't Mrs Carter the other day say my aunt left me a fortune?'
'What is the child dreaming about?' said my mother. 'Do you know what you are talking about, child? - you can't comprehend.'
'I don't know, mother, but you said it was so to Mrs Carter.'
'Well, then, what if I did, child?'
'Why, you must have told the truth or a falsehood.'
'Well, Miss Impudence! - I told the truth, what then?'
'Why, then, I am to have a fortune when I grow up, that's all I mean, mother, and then people will take care of me. I shall not be forgotten, but everything will be done for me, and I shall be thought of first.'
My mother looked at me very hard for a moment or two, and then, as if she was actuated by remorse, she made an attempt to speak, but checked herself, and then anger came to her aid, and she said, 'Upon my word, miss! what thoughts have you taken into your fancy now? I suppose we shall be compelled to be so many servants to you! I am sure you ought to be ashamed of yourself- you ought, indeed!'
'I didn't know I had done wrong,' I said.
'Hold your tongue, will you, or I shall be obliged to flog you!' said my mother, giving me a sound box on the ears that threw me down. 'Now hold your tongue and go upstairs, and give me no more insolence.'
I arose and went upstairs, sobbing as if my heart would break. I can recollect how many bitter hours I spent there, crying by myself- how many tears I shed upon this matter, and how I compared myself to other children, and how much my situation was worse than theirs by a great deal.
They, I thought, had their companions - they had their hours of play. But what companions had I - and what had I in the way of relaxation? What had I to do save to pine over the past, and present, and the future?
My infantile thoughts and hours were alike occupied by the sad reflections that belonged to a more mature age than mine; and yet I was so.
Days, weeks, and months passed on - there was no change, and I grew apace; but I was always regarded by my family with dislike, and always neglected. I could not account for it in any way than they wished me dead.
It may appear dreadful - very dreadful indeed - but what else was I to think? The old servant's words came upon my mind full of their meaning - if I died before I was one-and-twenty, they would have all my aunt's money.
'They wish me to die,' I thought, 'they wish me to die; and I shall die - I am sure I shall die! But they will kill me - they have tried it by neglecting me, and making me sad. What can I do - what can I do?'
These thoughts were the current matter of my mind, and how often do they recur to my recollection now I am in this dull, dreadful place! I can never forget the past. I am here because I have rights elsewhere, which others can enjoy, and do enjoy.
However, that is an old evil. I have thus suffered long. But to return. After a year had gone by - two, I think, must have passed over my head - before I met with anything that was at all calculated to injure me. I must have been nearly ten years old, when, one evening, I had no sooner got into bed, than I found I had been put into damp - I may say wet sheets.
They were so damp that I could not doubt but this was done on purpose. I am sure no negligence ever came to anything so positive, and so abominable in all my life. I got out of bed, and took them off, and then wrapped myself up in the blankets, and slept till morning, without wakening anyone.
When morning came, I enquired who put the sheets there?
'What do you mean, minx?' said my mother.
'Only that somebody was bad and wicked enough to put positively wet sheets in the bed; it could not have been done through carelessness - it must have been done though sheer wilfulness. I'm quite convinced of that.'
'You will get yourself well thrashed if you talk like that,' said my mother. 'The sheets are not damp; there are none in the house that are damp.'
'These are wet.'
This reply brought her hand down heavily upon my shoulder, and I was forced upon my knees. I could not help myself, so violent was the blow.
'There,' added my mother, 'take that, and that, and answer me if you dare.'
As she said this she struck me to the ground, and my head came into violent contact with the table, and I was rendered insensible.
How long I continued so I cannot tell. What I first saw when I awoke was the dreariness of the attics into which I had been thrust, and thrown upon a small bed without any furniture. I looked around and saw nothing that indicated comfort, and upon looking at my clothes, there were traces of blood. This, I had no doubt, came from myself.
I was hurt, and upon putting my hand to my head found that I was much hurt, as my head was bound up.
At that moment the door was opened, and the old servant came in.
'Well, Miss Mary,' she said, 'and so you have come round again? I really began to be afraid you were killed. What a fall you must have had!'
'Fall,' said I; 'who said it was a fall?'
'They told me so.'
'I was struck down.'
'Struck, Miss Mary? Who could strike you? And what did you do to deserve such a severe chastisement? Who did it?'
'I spoke to my mother about the wet sheets.'
'Ah! what a mercy you were not killed! If you had slept in them, your life would not have been worth a farthing. You would have caught cold, and you would have died of inflammation, I am sure of it. If anybody wants to commit murder without being found out, they have only to put them into damp sheets.'
'So I thought, and I took them out.'
'You did quite right - quite right.'
'What have you heard about them?' said I.
'Oh! I only went into the room in which you sleep, and I at once found how damp they were, and how dangerous it was; and I was going to tell your mamma, when I met her, and she told me to hold my tongue, but to go down and take you away, as you had fallen down in a fit, and she could not bear to see you lying there.'
'And she didn't do anything for me?'
'Oh, no, not as I know of, because you were lying on the floor bleeding. I picked you up, and brought you here.'
'And she has not enquired after me since?'
'And don't know whether I am yet sensible or not?'
'She does not know that yet.'
'Well,' I replied, 'I think they don't care much for me, I think not at all, but the time may come when they will act differently.'
'No, Miss, they think, or affect to think, that you have injured them; but that cannot be, because you could not be cunning enough to dispose your aunt to leave you all, and so deprive them of what they think they are entitled to.'
'I never could have believed half so much.'
'Such, however, is the case.'
'What can I do?'
'Nothing, my dear, but lie still till you get better, and don't say any more; but sleep, if you can sleep, will do you more good than anything else now for an hour or so, so lie down and sleep.'
The old woman left the room, and I endeavoured to compose myself to sleep; but could not do so for some time, my mind being too actively engaged in considering what I had better do, and I determined upon a course of conduct by which I thought I should escape much of my present persecution.
It was some days, however, before I could put it in practice, and one day I found my father and mother together, and said, 'Mother, why do you not send me to school?'
'You - send you to school! did you mean you, Miss?'
'Yes, I meant myself, because other people go to school to learn something, but I have not been sent at all.'
'Are you not contented?'
'I am not,' I answered, 'because other people learn something; but at the same time, I should be more out of your way, since I am more trouble to you, as you complain of me; it would not cost more than living at home.'
'What is the matter with the child?' asked my father.
'I cannot tell,' said my mother.
'The better way will be to take care of her, and confine her to some part of the house, if she does not behave better.'
'The little minx will be very troublesome.'
'Do you think so?'
'Then we must adopt some more active measures, or we shall have to do what we do not wish. I am amused at her asking to be sent to school! Was ever there heard such wickedness? Well, I could not have believed such ingratitude could have existed in human nature.'
'Get out of the room, you hussy,' said my mother; 'go out of the room, and don't let me hear a word from you more.
I left the room terrified at the storm I had raised up against me. I knew not that I had done wrong, and went up crying to my attic
alone, and found the old servant, who asked what was the matter. I told her all I had said, and what had been the result, and how I had been abused.
'Why, you should let things take their own course, my dear.'
'Yes, but I can learn nothing.'
'Never mind; you will have plenty of money when you grow older, and that will cure many defects; people who have money never want for friends.'
'But I have them not, and yet I have money.'
'Most certainly - most certainly, but you have it not in your power, and you are not old enough to make use of it, if you had it.'
'Who has it?' I enquired.
'Your father and mother.'
No more was said at that time, and the old woman left me to myself, and I recollect I long and deeply pondered over this matter, and yet I could see no way out of it, and resolved that I would take things as easily as I could; but I feared that I was not likely to have a very quiet life; indeed, active cruelty was exercised against me.
They would lock me up in a room a whole day at a time, so that I was debarred the use of my limbs. I was even kept without food, and on every occasion I was knocked about, from one to the other, without remorse - everyone took a delight in tormenting me, and in showing me how much they dared to do.
Of course servants and all would not treat me with neglect and harshness if they did not see it was agreeable to my parents.
This was shocking cruelty; but yet I found that this was not all. Many were the little contrivances made and invented to cause me to fall down stairs - to slip - to trip, to do anything that might have ended in some fatal accident, which would have left them at liberty to enjoy my legacy, and no blame would be attached to them for the accident, and I should most likely get blamed for what was done, and from which I had been the sufferer - indeed, I should have been deemed to have suffered justly.
On one occasion, after I had been in bed some time, I found it was very damp, and upon examination I found the bed itself had been made quite wet, with the sheet put over it to hide it.
This I did not discover until it was too late, for I caught a violent cold, and it took me some weeks to get over it, and yet I escaped eventually, though after some months' illness. I recovered, and it evidently made them angry because I did live.
They must have believed me to be very obstinate; they thought me obdurate in the extreme - they called me all the names they could imagine, and treated me with every indignity they could heap upon me.
Well, time ran on, and in my twelfth year I obtained the notice of one or two of our friends, who made some enquiries about me.
I always remarked that my parents disliked anyone to speak to, or take any notice of me. They did not permit me to say much - they did not like my speaking; and on one occasion, when I made some remark respecting school, she replied, 'Her health is so bad that I have not yet sent her, but shall do so by and by, when she grows stronger.
There was a look bent upon me that told me at once what I must expect if I persisted in my half-formed resolve of contradicting all that had been said.
When the visitor went I was well aware of what kind of a life I should have had, if I did not absolutely receive some serious injury. I was terrified, and held my tongue.
Soon after that I was seized with violent pains and vomiting. I was very ill, and the servant being at home only, a doctor was sent for, who at once said I had been poisoned, and ordered me to be taken care of.
I know how it was done; I had taken some cake given me - it was left out for me; and that was the only thing I had eaten, and it astonished me, for I had not had such a thing given me for years, and that is why I believe the poison was put in the cake, and I think others thought so too.
However I got over that after a time, though I was a long while before I did so; but at the same time I was very weak, and the surgeon said that had I been a little longer without assistance, or had I not thrown it up, I must have sunk beneath the effects of a violent poison.
He advised my parents to take some measures to ascertain who it was that had administered the poison to me; but though they promised compliance, they never troubled themselves about it - but I was for a long time very cautious of what I took, and was in great fear of the food that was given to me.
However, nothing more of that character took place, and at length I quite recovered, and began to think in my own mind that I ought to take some active steps in the matter, and that I ought to seek an asylum elsewhere.
I was now nearly fifteen years of age, and could well see how inveterate was the dislike with which I was regarded by my family: I thought that they ought to use me better, for I could remember no
cause for it. I had given no deadly offence, nor was there any motive why I should be treated thus with neglect and disdain.
It was, then, a matter of serious consideration with me as to whether I should not go and throw myself upon the protection of some friend, and beg their interference in my behalf; but then there was no one whom I felt would do so much for me - no one from whom I expected so great an act of friendship.
It was hardly to be expected from anyone that they should interfere between me and my parents; they would have had their first say, and I should have contradicted all said, and should have appeared in a very bad light indeed.
I could not say they had neglected my education - I could not say that, because there I had been careful myself, and I had assiduously striven when alone to remedy this defect, and had actually succeeded; so that, if I were examined, I should have denied my own assertions by contrary facts, which would injure me. Then again, if I were neglected, I could not prove any injury, because I had all the means of existence; and all I could say would be either attributed to some evil source, or it was entirely false - but at the same time I felt I had great cause of complaint, and none of gratitude.
I could hold no communion with anyone - all alike deserted me, and I knew none who could say aught for me if I requested their goodwill.
I had serious thoughts of possessing myself of some money, and then leaving home, and staying away until I had arrived at age; but this I deferred doing, seeing that there was no means, and I could not do more than I did then - that is, to live on without any mischief happening, and wait for a few years more.
I contracted an acquaintance with a young man who came to visit my father - he came several times, and paid me more civility and attention than anyone else ever did, and I felt that he was the only friend I possessed.
It is no wonder I looked upon him as being my best and my only friend. I thought him the best and the handsomest man I ever beheld.
This put other thoughts into my head. I did not dress as others did, much less had I the opportunity of becoming possessed of many of those little trinkets that most young women of my age had.
But this made no alteration in the good opinion of the young gentleman, who took no notice of that, but made me several pretty presents.
These were treasures to me, and I must say I gloated over them, and often, when alone, I have spent hours in admiring them; trifling as they were, they made me happier. I knew now one person who cared for me, and a delightful feeling it was too. I shall never know it again - it is quite impossible.
Here among the dark walls and unwholesome cells we have no cheering ray of life or hope - all is dreary and cold; a long and horrible imprisonment takes place, to which there is no end save with life, and in which there is not one mitigating circumstance - all is bad and dark. God help me!
However, my dream of happiness was soon disturbed. By some means my parents had got an idea of this, and the young man was dismissed the house, and forbidden to come to it again. This he determined to do, and more than once we met, and then in secret I told him all my woes.
When he had heard all I had said, he expressed the deepest commiseration, and declared I had been most unjustly and harshly treated, and thought that there was not a harder or harsher treatment than that which I had received.
He then advised me to leave home.
'Leave home,' I said; 'where shall I fly? I have no friend.'
'Come to me, I will protect you, I will stand between you and all the world; they shall not stir hand or foot to your injury.'
'But I cannot, dare not do that; if they found me out, they would force me back with all the ignominy and shame that could be felt from having done a bad act; not any pity would they show me.'
'Nor need you; you would be my wife, I mean to make you my wife.'
'Yes! I dreamed not of anything else. You shall be my wife; we will hide ourselves, and remain unknown to all until the time shall have arrived when you are of age - when you can claim all your property, and run no risk of being poisoned or killed by any other means.'
'This is a matter,' said I, 'that ought to be considered well before adopting anything as violent or so sudden.'
'It is; and it is not one that I think will injure by being reflected upon by those who are the principal actors; for my own part my mind is made up, and I am ready to perform my share of the engagement.'
I resolved to consider the matter well in my own mind, and felt every inclination to do what he proposed, because it took me away from home, and because it would give me one of my own.
My parents had become utterly estranged from me; they did not ~ct as parents, they did not act as friends, they had steeled my heart against them; they never could have borne any love to me, I am sure of it, who could have committed such great crimes against me.
As the hour drew near, that in which I was likely to become an object of still greater hatred and dislike to them, I thought I was often the subject of their private thoughts, and often when I entered the room my mother, and father, and the rest, would suddenly leave off speaking, and look at me, as if to ascertain if I had ever heard them say anything. On one occasion I remember very well I heard them conversing in a low tone. The door happened to have opened of itself, the hasp not having been allowed to enter the mortice; I heard my name mentioned: I paused and listened.
'We must soon get rid of her,' said my mother.
'Undoubtedly,' he replied; 'if we do not, we shall have her about our ears: she'll get married, or some infernal thing, and then we shall have to refund.'
'We could prevent that.'
'Not if her husband was to insist upon it, we could not; but the only plan I can now form is what I told you of already.'
'Putting her in a madhouse?'
'Yes: there, you see, she will be secured, and cannot get away. Besides, those who go there die in a natural way before many years.'
'But she can speak.'
'So she may; but who attends to the ravings of a mad woman? No, no; depend upon it that is the best plan: send her to a lunatic asylum - a private madhouse. I can obtain all that is requisite in a day or two.'
'Then we will consider that settled.'
'In a few days, then?'
'Before next Sunday; because we can enjoy ourselves on that day without any restraint, or without any uncomfortable feelings of uncertainty about us.'
I waited to hear no more: I had heard enough to tell me what I had to expect. I went back to my own room, and having put on my bonnet and shawl I went out to see the individual to whom I have alluded, and saw him.
I then informed him of all that had taken place, and heard him exclaim against them in terms of rising indignation.
'Come to me,' he said; 'come to me at once.'
'Not at once.
'Don't stop a day.'
'Hush!' said I; 'there's no danger: I will come the day after tomorrow; and then I will bid adieu to all these unhappy moments, to all these persecutions; and in three years' time I shall be able to demand my fortune, which will be yours.
We were to meet the next day but one, early in the morning - there were not, in fact, to be more than thirty hours elapse before I was to leave home - if home I could call it - however there was no time to be lost. I made up a small bundle and had all in readiness, before I went to bed, and placed in security, intending to rise early and let myself out and leave the house.
That, however, was never to happen. While I slept, at a late hour of the night, I was awakened by two men standing by my bedside, who desired me to get up and follow them. I refused, and they pulled me rudely out of bed.
I called out for aid, and exclaimed against the barbarity of their proceedings.
'It is useless to listen to her,' said my father, 'you know what a mad woman will say!'
'Ay, we do,' replied the men, 'they are the cunningest devils we ever heard. We have seen enough of them to know that.'
To make the matter plain, I was seized, gagged, and thrust into a coach, and brought here, where I have remained ever since.