The Pickwick Papers
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vessel, crushed her beneath their keel. From the huge whirlpool
which the sinking wreck occasioned, arose a shriek so loud and
shrill--the death-cry of a hundred drowning creatures, blended
into one fierce yell--that it rung far above the war-cry of the
elements, and echoed, and re-echoed till it seemed to pierce air,
sky, and ocean. But what was that--that old gray head that rose
above the water's surface, and with looks of agony, and screams
for aid, buffeted with the waves! One look, and he had sprung
from the vessel's side, and with vigorous strokes was swimming
towards it. He reached it; he was close upon it. They were HIS
features. The old man saw him coming, and vainly strove to
elude his grasp. But he clasped him tight, and dragged him beneath
the water. Down, down with him, fifty fathoms down; his
struggles grew fainter and fainter, until they wholly ceased. He
was dead; he had killed him, and had kept his oath.
'He was traversing the scorching sands of a mighty desert,
barefoot and alone. The sand choked and blinded him; its fine
thin grains entered the very pores of his skin, and irritated him
almost to madness. Gigantic masses of the same material, carried
forward by the wind, and shone through by the burning sun,
stalked in the distance like pillars of living fire. The bones of
men, who had perished in the dreary waste, lay scattered at his
feet; a fearful light fell on everything around; so far as the eye could
reach, nothing but objects of dread and horror presented themselves.
Vainly striving to utter a cry of terror, with his tongue
cleaving to his mouth, he rushed madly forward. Armed with
supernatural strength, he waded through the sand, until,
exhausted with fatigue and thirst, he fell senseless on the earth.
What fragrant coolness revived him; what gushing sound was
that? Water! It was indeed a well; and the clear fresh stream was
running at his feet. He drank deeply of it, and throwing his
aching limbs upon the bank, sank into a delicious trance. The
sound of approaching footsteps roused him. An old gray-headed
man tottered forward to slake his burning thirst. It was HE again!
Fe wound his arms round the old man's body, and held him back.
He struggled, and shrieked for water--for but one drop of water
to save his life! But he held the old man firmly, and watched his
agonies with greedy eyes; and when his lifeless head fell forward
on his bosom, he rolled the corpse from him with his feet.
'When the fever left him, and consciousness returned, he
awoke to find himself rich and free, to hear that the parent who
would have let him die in jail--WOULD! who HAD let those who
were far dearer to him than his own existence die of want, and
sickness of heart that medicine cannot cure--had been found
dead in his bed of down. He had had all the heart to leave his son
a beggar, but proud even of his health and strength, had put off
the act till it was too late, and now might gnash his teeth in the
other world, at the thought of the wealth his remissness had left
him. He awoke to this, and he awoke to more. To recollect the
purpose for which he lived, and to remember that his enemy was
his wife's own father--the man who had cast him into prison,
and who, when his daughter and her child sued at his feet for
mercy, had spurned them from his door. Oh, how he cursed the
weakness that prevented him from being up, and active, in his
scheme of vengeance!
'He caused himself to be carried from the scene of his loss and
misery, and conveyed to a quiet residence on the sea-coast; not
in the hope of recovering his peace of mind or happiness, for
both were fled for ever; but to restore his prostrate energies, and
meditate on his darling object. And here, some evil spirit cast in
his way the opportunity for his first, most horrible revenge.
'It was summer-time; and wrapped in his gloomy thoughts, he
would issue from his solitary lodgings early in the evening, and
wandering along a narrow path beneath the cliffs, to a wild and
lonely spot that had struck his fancy in his ramblings, seat himself
on some fallen fragment of the rock, and burying his face in his
hands, remain there for hours--sometimes until night had completely
closed in, and the long shadows of the frowning cliffs
above his head cast a thick, black darkness on every object near him.
'He was seated here, one calm evening, in his old position, now
and then raising his head to watch the flight of a sea-gull, or
carry his eye along the glorious crimson path, which, commencing
in the middle of the ocean, seemed to lead to its very verge where
the sun was setting, when the profound stillness of the spot was
broken by a loud cry for help; he listened, doubtful of his having
heard aright, when the cry was repeated with even greater
vehemence than before, and, starting to his feet, he hastened in
the direction whence it proceeded.
'The tale told itself at once: some scattered garments lay on
the beach; a human head was just visible above the waves at a
little distance from the shore; and an old man, wringing his
hands in agony, was running to and fro, shrieking for assistance.
The invalid, whose strength was now sufficiently restored, threw
off his coat, and rushed towards the sea, with the intention of
plunging in, and dragging the drowning man ashore.
'"Hasten here, Sir, in God's name; help, help, sir, for the love
of Heaven. He is my son, Sir, my only son!" said the old man
frantically, as he advanced to meet him. "My only son, Sir, and
he is dying before his father's eyes!"
'At the first word the old man uttered, the stranger checked
himself in his career, and, folding his arms, stood perfectly motionless.
'"Great God!" exclaimed the old man, recoiling, "Heyling!"
'The stranger smiled, and was silent.
'"Heyling!" said the old man wildly; "my boy, Heyling, my
dear boy, look, look!" Gasping for breath, the miserable father
pointed to the spot where the young man was struggling for life.
'"Hark!" said the old man. "He cries once more. He is alive
yet. Heyling, save him, save him!"
'The stranger smiled again, and remained immovable as a statue.
'"I have wronged you," shrieked the old man, falling on his
knees, and clasping his hands together. "Be revenged; take my all,
my life; cast me into the water at your feet, and, if human nature
can repress a struggle, I will die, without stirring hand or foot.
Do it, Heyling, do it, but save my boy; he is so young, Heyling,
so young to die!"
'"Listen," said the stranger, grasping the old man fiercely by
the wrist; "I will have life for life, and here is ONE. MY child died,
before his father's eyes, a far more agonising and painful death
than that young slanderer of his sister's worth is meeting while I
speak. You laughed--laughed in your daughter's face, where
death had already set his hand--at our sufferings, then. What
think you of them now! See there, see there!"
'As the stranger spoke, he pointed to the sea. A faint cry died
away upon its surface; the last powerful struggle of the dying
man agitated the rippling waves for a few seconds; and the spot
where he had gone down into his early grave, was undistinguishable
from the surrounding water.
'Three years had elapsed, when a gentleman alighted from a
private carriage at the door of a London attorney, then well
known as a man of no great nicety in his professional dealings,
and requested a private interview on business of importance.
Although evidently not past the prime of life, his face was pale,
haggard, and dejected; and it did not require the acute perception
of the man of business, to discern at a glance, that disease or
suffering had done more to work a change in his appearance,
than the mere hand of time could have accomplished in twice the
period of his whole life.
'"I wish you to undertake some legal business for me," said
'The attorney bowed obsequiously, and glanced at a large
packet which the gentleman carried in his hand. His visitor
observed the look, and proceeded.
'"It is no common business," said he; "nor have these papers
reached my hands without long trouble and great expense."
'The attorney cast a still more anxious look at the packet; and
his visitor, untying the string that bound it, disclosed a quantity
of promissory notes, with copies of deeds, and other documents.
'"Upon these papers," said the client, "the man whose name
they bear, has raised, as you will see, large sums of money, for
years past. There was a tacit understanding between him and the
men into whose hands they originally went--and from whom I
have by degrees purchased the whole, for treble and quadruple
their nominal value--that these loans should be from time to
time renewed, until a given period had elapsed. Such an
understanding is nowhere expressed. He has sustained many losses of
late; and these obligations accumulating upon him at once,
would crush him to the earth."
'"The whole amount is many thousands of pounds," said the
attorney, looking over the papers.
'"It is," said the client.
'"What are we to do?" inquired the man of business.
'"Do!" replied the client, with sudden vehemence. "Put every
engine of the law in force, every trick that ingenuity can devise
and rascality execute; fair means and foul; the open oppression
of the law, aided by all the craft of its most ingenious practitioners.
I would have him die a harassing and lingering death. Ruin
him, seize and sell his lands and goods, drive him from house and
home, and drag him forth a beggar in his old age, to die in a
'"But the costs, my dear Sir, the costs of all this," reasoned the
attorney, when he had recovered from his momentary surprise.
"If the defendant be a man of straw, who is to pay the costs, Sir?"
'"Name any sum," said the stranger, his hand trembling
so violently with excitement, that he could scarcely hold the
pen he seized as he spoke--"any sum, and it is yours. Don't be
afraid to name it, man. I shall not think it dear, if you gain
'The attorney named a large sum, at hazard, as the advance he
should require to secure himself against the possibility of loss;
but more with the view of ascertaining how far his client was
really disposed to go, than with any idea that he would comply
with the demand. The stranger wrote a cheque upon his banker,
for the whole amount, and left him.