Caleb Williams, by William Godwin

Chapter 10.

It may easily be supposed, that the ill temper cherished by Mr. Tyrrel in his contention with Hawkins, and the increasing animosity between him and Mr. Falkland, added to the impatience with which he thought of the escape of Emily.

Mr. Tyrrel heard with astonishment of the miscarriage of an expedient, of the success of which he had not previously entertained the slightest suspicion. He became frantic with vexation. Grimes had not dared to signify the event of his expedition in person, and the footman whom he desired to announce to his master that Miss Melville was lost, the moment after fled from his presence with the most dreadful apprehensions. Presently he bellowed for Grimes, and the young man at last appeared before him, more dead than alive. Grimes he compelled to repeat the particulars of the tale; which he had no sooner done, than he once again slunk away, shocked at the execrations with which Mr. Tyrrel overwhelmed him. Grimes was no coward; but he reverenced the inborn divinity that attends upon rank, as Indians worship the devil. Nor was this all. The rage of Mr. Tyrrel was so ungovernable and fierce, that few hearts could have been found so stout, as not to have trembled before it with a sort of unconquerable inferiority.

He no sooner obtained a moment’s pause than he began to recall to his tempestuous mind the various circumstances of the case. His complaints were bitter; and, in a tranquil observer, might have produced the united feeling of pity for his sufferings, and horror at his depravity. He recollected all the precautions he had used; he could scarcely find a flaw in the process; and he cursed that blind and malicious power which delighted to cross his most deep-laid schemes. “Of this malice he was beyond all other human beings the object. He was mocked with the shadow of power; and when he lifted his hand to smite, it was struck with sudden palsy. [In the bitterness of his anguish, he forgot his recent triumph over Hawkins, or perhaps he regarded it less as a triumph, than an overthrow, because it had failed of coming up to the extent of his malice.] To what purpose had Heaven given him a feeling of injury, and an instinct to resent, while he could in no case make his resentment felt! It was only necessary for him to be the enemy of any person, to insure that person’s being safe against the reach of misfortune. What insults, the most shocking and repeated, had he received from this paltry girl! And by whom was she now torn from his indignation? By that devil that haunted him at every moment, that crossed him at every step, that fixed at pleasure his arrows in his heart, and made mows and mockery at his insufferable tortures.”

There was one other reflection that increased his anguish, and made him careless and desperate as to his future conduct. It was in vain to conceal from himself that his reputation would be cruelly wounded by this event. He had imagined that, while Emily was forced into this odious marriage, she would be obliged by decorum, as soon as the event was decided, to draw a veil over the compulsion she had suffered. But this security was now lost, and Mr. Falkland would take a pride in publishing his dishonour. Though the provocations he had received from Miss Melville would, in his own opinion, have justified him in any treatment he should have thought proper to inflict, he was sensible the world would see the matter in a different light. This reflection augmented the violence of his resolutions, and determined him to refuse no means by which he could transfer the anguish that now preyed upon his own mind to that of another.

Meanwhile, the composure and magnanimity of Emily had considerably subsided, the moment she believed herself in a place of safety. While danger and injustice assailed her with their menaces, she found in herself a courage that disdained to yield. The succeeding appearance of calm was more fatal to her. There was nothing now, powerfully to foster her courage or excite her energy. She looked back at the trials she had passed, and her soul sickened at the recollection of that, which, while it was in act, she had had the fortitude to endure. Till the period at which Mr. Tyrrel had been inspired with this cruel antipathy, she had been in all instances a stranger to anxiety and fear. Uninured to misfortune, she had suddenly and without preparation been made the subject of the most infernal malignity. When a man of robust and vigorous constitution has a fit of sickness, it produces a more powerful effect, than the same indisposition upon a delicate valetudinarian. Such was the case with Miss Melville. She passed the succeeding night sleepless and uneasy, and was found in the morning with a high fever. Her distemper resisted for the present all attempts to assuage it, though there was reason to hope that the goodness of her constitution, assisted by tranquillity and the kindness of those about her, would ultimately surmount it. On the second day she was delirious. On the night of that day she was arrested at the suit of Mr. Tyrrel, for a debt contracted for board and necessaries for the last fourteen years.

The idea of this arrest, as the reader will perhaps recollect, first occurred, in the conversation between Mr. Tyrrel and Miss Melville, soon after he had thought proper to confine her to her chamber. But at that time he had probably no serious conception of ever being induced to carry it into execution. It had merely been mentioned by way of threat, and as the suggestion of a mind, whose habits had long been accustomed to contemplate every possible instrument of tyranny and revenge. But now, that the unlooked-for rescue and escape of his poor kinswoman had wrought up his thoughts to a degree of insanity, and that he revolved in the gloomy recesses of his mind, how he might best shake off the load of disappointment which oppressed him, the idea recurred with double force. He was not long in forming his resolution; and, calling for Barnes his steward, immediately gave him directions in what manner to proceed.

Barnes had been for several years the instrument of Mr. Tyrrel’s injustice. His mind was hardened by use, and he could, without remorse, officiate as the spectator, or even as the author and director, of a scene of vulgar distress. But even he was somewhat startled upon the present occasion. The character and conduct of Emily in Mr. Tyrrel’s family had been without a blot. She had not a single enemy; and it was impossible to contemplate her youth, her vivacity, and her guileless innocence, without emotions of sympathy and compasssion.

“Your worship? — I do not understand you! — Arrest Miss — Miss Emily!”

“Yes — I tell you! — What is the matter with you? — Go instantly to Swineard, the lawyer, and bid him finish the business out of hand!”

“Lord love your honour! Arrest her! Why she does not owe you a brass farthing: she always lived upon your charity!”

“Ass! Scoundrel! I tell you she does owe me — owes me eleven hundred pounds. — The law justifies it. — What do you think laws were made for? I do nothing but right, and right I will have.”

“Your honour, I never questioned your orders in my life; but I must now. I cannot see you ruin Miss Emily, poor girl! nay, and yourself too, for the matter of that, and not say which way you are going. I hope you will bear with me. Why, if she owed you ever so much, she cannot be arrested. She is not of age.”

“Will you have done? — Do not tell me of — It cannot, and It can. It has been done before — and it shall be done again. Let him dispute it that dares! I will do it now and stand to it afterwards. Tell Swineard — if he make the least boggling, it is as much as his life is worth; — he shall starve by inches.”

“Pray, your honour, think better of it. Upon my life, the whole country will cry shame of it.”

“Barnes! — What do you mean? I am not used to be talked to, and I cannot hear it! You have been a good fellow to me upon many occasions — But, if I find you out for making one with them that dispute my authority, damn my soul, if I do not make you sick of your life!”

“I have done, your honour. I will not say another word except this — I have heard as how that Miss Emily is sick a-bed. You are determined, you say, to put her in jail. You do not mean to kill her, I take it,”

“Let her die! I will not spare her for an hour — I will not always be insulted. She had no consideration for me, and I have no mercy for her. — I am in for it! They have provoked me past bearing — and they shall feel me! Tell Swineard, in bed or up, day or night, I will not hear of an instant’s delay.”

Such were the directions of Mr. Tyrrel, and in strict conformity to his directions were the proceedings of that respectable limb of the law he employed upon the present occasion. Miss Melville had been delirious, through a considerable part of the day on the evening of which the bailiff and his follower arrived. By the direction of the physician whom Mr. Falkland had ordered to attend her, a composing draught was administered; and, exhausted as she was by the wild and distracted images that for several hours had haunted her fancy, she was now sunk into a refreshing slumber. Mrs. Hammond, the sister of Mrs. Jakeman, was sitting by her bed-side, full of compassion for the lovely sufferer, and rejoicing in the calm tranquillity that had just taken possession of her, when a little girl, the only child of Mrs. Hammond, opened the street-door to the rap of the bailiff He said he wanted to speak with Miss Melville, and the child answered that she would go tell her mother. So saying, she advanced to the door of the back-room upon the ground-floor, in which Emily lay; but the moment it was opened, instead of waiting for the appearance of the mother, the bailiff entered along with the girl.

Mrs. Hammond looked up. “Who are you?” said she. “Why do you come in here? Hush! be quiet!’

“I must speak with Miss Melville.”

“Indeed, but you must not. Tell me your business. The poor child has been light-headed all day. She has just fallen asleep, and must not be disturbed.”

“That is no business of mine. I must obey orders.”

“Orders? Whose orders? What is it you mean?”

At this moment Emily opened her eyes. “What noise is that? Pray let me be quiet.”

“Miss, I want to speak with you. I have got a writ against you for eleven hundred pounds at the suit of squire Tyrrel.”

At these words both Mrs. Hammond and Emily were dumb. The latter was scarcely able to annex any meaning to the intelligence; and, though Mrs. Hammond was somewhat better acquainted with the sort of language that was employed, yet in this strange and unexpected connection it was almost as mysterious to her as to poor Emily herself.

“A writ? How can she be in Mr. Tyrrel’s debt? A writ against a child!”

“It is no signification putting your questions to us. We only do as we are directed. There is our authority. Look at it.”

“Lord Almighty!” exclaimed Mrs. Hammond, “what does this mean? It is impossible Mr. Tyrrel should have sent you.”

“Good woman, none of your jabber to us! Cannot you read?”

“This is all a trick! The paper is forged! It is a vile contrivance to get the poor orphan out of the hands of those with whom only she can be safe. Proceed upon it at your peril!”

“Rest you content; that is exactly what we mean to do. Take my word, we know very well what we are about.”

“Why, you would not tear her from her bed? I tell you, she is in a high fever; she is light-headed; it would be death to remove her! You are bailiffs, are not you? You are not murderers?”

“The law says nothing about that. We have orders to take her sick or well. We will do her no harm except so far as we must perform our office, be it how it will.”

“Where would you take her? What is it you mean to do?”

“To the county jail. Bullock, go, order a post-chaise from the Griffin!”

“Stay, I say! Give no such orders! Wait only three hours; I will send off a messenger express to squire Falkland, and I am sure he will satisfy you as to any harm that can come to you, without its being necessary to take the poor child to jail.”

“We have particular directions against that. We are not at liberty to lose a minute. Why are not you gone? Order the horses to be put to immediately!”

Emily had listened to the course of this conversation, which had sufficiently explained to her whatever was enigmatical in the first appearance of the bailiffs. The painful and incredible reality that was thus presented effectually dissipated the illusions of frenzy to which she had just been a prey. “My dear Madam,” said she to Mrs. Hammond, “do not harass yourself with useless efforts. I am very sorry for all the trouble I have given you. But my misfortune is inevitable. Sir, if you will step into the next room, I will dress myself, and attend you immediately.”

Mrs. Hammond began to be equally aware that her struggles were to no purpose; but she could not be equally patient. At one moment she raved upon the brutality of Mr. Tyrrel, whom she affirmed to be a devil incarnate, and not a man. At another she expostulated, with bitter invective, against the hardheartedness of the bailiff, and exhorted him to mix some humanity and moderation with the discharge of his function; but he was impenetrable to all she could urge. In the mean while Emily yielded with the sweetest resignation to an inevitable evil. Mrs. Hammond insisted that, at least, they should permit her to attend her young lady in the chaise; and the bailiff, though the orders he had received were so peremptory that he dared not exercise his discretion as to the execution of the writ, began to have some apprehensions of danger, and was willing to admit of any precaution that was not in direct hostility to his functions. For the rest he understood, that it was in all cases dangerous to allow sickness, or apparent unfitness for removal, as a sufficient cause to interrupt a direct process; and that, accordingly, in all doubtful questions and presumptive murders, the practice of the law inclined, with a laudable partiality, to the vindication of its own officers. In addition to these general rules, he was influenced by the positive injunctions and assurances of Swineard, and the terror which, through a circle of many miles, was annexed to the name of Tyrrel. Before they departed, Mrs. Hammond despatched a messenger with a letter of three lines to Mr. Falkland, informing him of this extraordinary event. Mr. Falkland was from home when the messenger arrived, and not expected to return till the second day; accident seemed in this instance to favour the vengeance of Mr. Tyrrel, for he had himself been too much under the dominion of an uncontrollable fury, to take a circumstance of this sort into his estimate.

The forlorn state of these poor women, who were conducted, the one by compulsion, the other a volunteer, to a scene so little adapted to their accommodation as that of a common jail, may easily be imagined Mrs. Hammond, however, was endowed with a masculine courage and impetuosity of spirit, eminently necessary in the difficulties they had to encounter. She was in some degree fitted by a sanguine temper, and an impassioned sense of injustice, for the discharge of those very offices which sobriety and calm reflection might have prescribed. The health of Miss Melville was materially affected by the surprise and removal she had undergone at the very time that repose was most necessary for her preservation. Her fever became more violent; her delirium was stronger; and the tortures of her imagination were proportioned to the unfavourableness of the state in which the removal had been effected. It was highly improbable that she could recover.

In the moments of suspended reason she was perpetually calling on the name of Falkland. Mr. Falkland, she said, was her first and only love, and he should be her husband. A moment after she exclaimed upon him in a disconsolate, yet reproachful tone, for his unworthy deference to the prejudices of the world. It was very cruel of him to show himself so proud, and tell her that he would never consent to marry a beggar. But, if he were proud, she was determined to be proud too. He should see that she would not conduct herself like a slighted maiden, and that, though he could reject her, it was not in his power to break her heart. At another time she imagined she saw Mr. Tyrrel and his engine Grimes, their hands and garments dropping with blood: and the pathetic reproaches she vented against them might have affected a heart of stone. Then the figure of Falkland presented itself to her distracted fancy, deformed with wounds, and of a deadly paleness, and she shrieked with agony, while she exclaimed that such was the general hardheartedness, that no one would make the smallest exertion for his rescue. In such vicissitudes of pain, perpetually imagining to her self unkindness, insult, conspiracy, and murder, she passed a considerable part of two days.

On the evening of the second Mr. Falkland arrived, accompanied by Doctor Wilson, the physician by whom she had previously been attended. The scene he was called upon to witness was such as to be most exquisitely agonising to a man of his acute sensibility. The news of the arrest had given him an inexpressible shock; he was transported out of himself at the unexampled malignity of its author. But, when he saw the figure of Miss Melville, haggard, and a warrant of death written in her countenance, a victim to the diabolical passions of her kinsman, it seemed too much to be endured. When he entered, she was in the midst of one of her fits of delirium, and immediately mistook her visitors for two assassins. She asked, where they had hid her Falkland, her lord, her life, her husband! and demanded that they should restore to her his mangled corpse, that she might embrace him with her dying arms, breathe her last upon his lips, and be buried in the same grave. She reproached them with the sordidness of their conduct in becoming the tools of her vile cousin, who had deprived her of her reason, and would never be contented till he had murdered her. Mr. Falkland tore himself away from this painful scene, and, leaving Doctor Wilson with his patient, desired him, when he had given the necessary directions, to follow him to his inn.

The perpetual hurry of spirits in which Miss Melville had been kept for several days, by the nature of her indisposition, was extremely exhausting to her; and, in about an hour from the visit of Mr. Falkland, her delirium subsided, and left her in so low a state as to render it difficult to perceive any signs of life. Doctor Wilson, who had withdrawn, to soothe, if possible, the disturbed and impatient thoughts of Mr. Falkland, was summoned afresh upon this change of symptoms, and sat by the bed-side during the remainder of the night. The situation of his patient was such, as to keep him in momentary apprehension of her decease. While Miss Melville lay in this feeble and exhausted condition, Mrs. Hammond betrayed every token of the tenderest anxiety. Her sensibility was habitually of the acutest sort, and the qualities of Emily were such as powerfully to fix her affection. She loved her like a mother. Upon the present occasion, every sound, every motion, made her tremble. Doctor Wilson had introduced another nurse, in consideration of the incessant fatigue Mrs. Hammond had undergone; and he endeavoured, by representations, and even by authority, to compel her to quit the apartment of the patient. But she was uncontrollable; and he at length found that he should probably do her more injury, by the violence that would be necessary to separate her from the suffering innocent, than by allowing her to follow her inclination. Her eye was a thousand times turned, with the most eager curiosity, upon the countenance of Doctor Wilson, without her daring to breathe a question respecting his opinion, lest he should answer her by a communication of the most fatal tidings. In the mean time she listened with the deepest attention to every thing that dropped either from the physician or the nurse, hoping to collect as it were from some oblique hint, the intelligence which she had not courage expressly to require.

Towards morning the state of the patient seemed to take a favourable turn. She dozed for near two hours, and, when she awoke, appeared perfectly calm and sensible. Understanding that Mr. Falkland had brought the physician to attend her, and was himself in her neighbourhood, she requested to see him. Mr. Falkland had gone in the mean time, with one of his tenants, to bail the debt, and now entered the prison to enquire whether the young lady might be safely removed, from her present miserable residence, to a more airy and commodious apartment. When he appeared, the sight of him revived in the mind of Miss Melville an imperfect recollection of the wanderings of her delirium. She covered her face with her fingers, and betrayed the most expressive confusion, while she thanked him, with her usual unaffected simplicity, for the trouble he had taken. She hoped she should not give him much more; she thought she should get better. It was a shame, she said, if a young and lively girl, as she was, could not contrive to outlive the trifling misfortunes to which she had been subjected. But, while she said this, she was still extremely weak. She tried to assume a cheerful countenance; but it was a faint effort, which the feeble state of her frame did not seem sufficient to support. Mr. Falkland and the doctor joined to request her to keep herself quiet, and avoid for the present all occasions of exertion.

Encouraged by these appearances, Mrs. Hammond ventured to follow the two gentlemen out of the room, in order to learn from the physician what hopes he entertained. Doctor Wilson acknowledged, that he found his patient at first in a very unfavourable situation, that the symptoms were changed for the better, and that he was not without some expectation of her recovery. He added, however, that he could answer for nothing, that the next twelve hours would be exceedingly critical, but that if she did not grow worse before morning, he would then undertake for her life. Mrs. Hammond, who had hitherto seen nothing but despair, now became frantic with joy. She burst into tears of transport, blessed the physician in the most emphatic and impassioned terms, and uttered a thousand extravagancies. Doctor Wilson seized this opportunity to press her to give herself a little repose, to which she consented, a bed being first procured for her in the room next to Miss Melville’s, she having charged the nurse to give her notice of any alteration in the state of the patient.

Mrs. Hammond enjoyed an uninterrupted sleep of several hours. It was already night, when she was awaked by an unusual bustle in the next room. She listened for a few moments, and then determined to go and discover the occasion of it. As she opened her door for that purpose, she met the nurse coming to her. The countenance of the messenger told her what it was she had to communicate, without the use of words. She hurried to the bed-side, and found Miss Melville expiring. The appearances that had at first been so encouraging were of short duration. The calm of the morning proved to be only a sort of lightening before death. In a few hours the patient grew worse. The bloom of her countenance faded; she drew her breath with difficulty; and her eyes became fixed. Doctor Wilson came in at this period, and immediately perceived that all was over. She was for some time in convulsions; but, these subsiding, she addressed the physician with a composed, though feeble voice. She thanked him for his attention; and expressed the most lively sense of her obligations to Mr. Falkland. She sincerely forgave her cousin, and hoped he might never be visited by too acute a recollection of his barbarity to her. She would have been contented to live. Few persons had a sincerer relish of the pleasures of life; but she was well pleased to die, rather than have become the wife of Grimes. As Mrs. Hammond entered, she turned her countenance towards her, and with an affectionate expression repeated her name. This was her last word; in less than two hours from that time she breathed her last in the arms of this faithful friend.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37