Mr. Pickwick looked round him. The attachment and fervourof his followers lighted
up a glow of enthusiasm within him. Hewas their leader, and he felt it.
'Let us celebrate this happy meeting with a convivial glass,' saidhe. This proposition,
like the other, was received with unanimousapplause. Having himself deposited the
important stone in a smalldeal box, purchased from the landlady for the purpose,
heplaced himself in an arm-chair, at the head of the table; and theevening was devoted
to festivity and conversation.
It was past eleven o'clock--a late hour for the little village ofCobham--when
Mr. Pickwick retired to the bedroom which hadbeen prepared for his reception. He
threw open the latticewindow, and setting his light upon the table, fell into a
train ofmeditation on the hurried events of the two preceding days.
The hour and the place were both favourable to contemplation;Mr. Pickwick was
roused by the church clock strikingtwelve. The first stroke of the hour sounded
solemnly in his ear,but when the bell ceased the stillness seemed insupportable--healmost
felt as if he had lost a companion. He was nervous andexcited; and hastily undressing
himself and placing his light inthe chimney, got into bed.
Every one has experienced that disagreeable state of mind, inwhich a sensation
of bodily weariness in vain contends against aninability to sleep. It was Mr. Pickwick's
condition at thismoment: he tossed first on one side and then on the other; andperseveringly
closed his eyes as if to coax himself to slumber. Itwas of no use. Whether it was
the unwonted exertion he hadundergone, or the heat, or the brandy-and-water, or
the strangebed--whatever it was, his thoughts kept reverting veryuncomfortably to
the grim pictures downstairs, and the old storiesto which they had given rise in
the course of the evening. Afterhalf an hour's tumbling about, he came to the unsatisfactoryconclusion,
that it was of no use trying to sleep; so he got up andpartially dressed himself.
Anything, he thought, was better thanlying there fancying all kinds of horrors.
He looked out of thewindow--it was very dark. He walked about the room--it wasvery
He had taken a few turns from the door to the window, andfrom the window to the
door, when the clergyman's manuscriptfor the first time entered his head. It was
a good thought. if itfailed to interest him, it might send him to sleep. He took
it fromhis coat pocket, and drawing a small table towards his bedside,trimmed the
light, put on his spectacles, and composed himselfto read. It was a strange handwriting,
and the paper was muchsoiled and blotted. The title gave him a sudden start, too;
and hecould not avoid casting a wistful glance round the room.Reflecting on the
absurdity of giving way to such feelings,however, he trimmed the light again, and
read as follows:--
A MADMAN'S MANUSCRIPT
'Yes!--a madman's! How that word would have struck to myheart, many years ago!
How it would have roused the terror thatused to come upon me sometimes, sending
the blood hissing andtingling through my veins, till the cold dew of fear stood
in largedrops upon my skin, and my knees knocked together withfright! I like it
now though. It's a fine name. Show me themonarch whose angry frown was ever feared
like the glare of amadman's eye--whose cord and axe were ever half so sure asa madman's
gripe. Ho! ho! It's a grand thing to be mad! to bepeeped at like a wild lion through
the iron bars--to gnash one'steeth and howl, through the long still night, to the
merry ring ofa heavy chain and to roll and twine among the straw, transportedwith
such brave music. Hurrah for the madhouse! Oh, it'sa rare place!
'I remember days when I was afraid of being mad; when I usedto start from my
sleep, and fall upon my knees, and pray to bespared from the curse of my race; when
I rushed from the sight ofmerriment or happiness, to hide myself in some lonely
place, andspend the weary hours in watching the progress of the fever thatwas to
consume my brain. I knew that madness was mixed upwith my very blood, and the marrow
of my bones! that onegeneration had passed away without the pestilence appearingamong
them, and that I was the first in whom it would revive. Iknew it must be so: that
so it always had been, and so it everwould be: and when I cowered in some obscure
corner of acrowded room, and saw men whisper, and point, and turn theireyes towards
me, I knew they were telling each other of thedoomed madman; and I slunk away again
to mope in solitude.
'I did this for years; long, long years they were. The nights hereare long sometimes--very
long; but they are nothing to therestless nights, and dreadful dreams I had at that
time. It makesme cold to remember them. Large dusky forms with sly andjeering faces
crouched in the corners of the room, and bent overmy bed at night, tempting me to
madness. They told me in lowwhispers, that the floor of the old house in which my
father died,was stained with his own blood, shed by his own hand in ragingmadness.
I drove my fingers into my ears, but they screamed intomy head till the room rang
with it, that in one generation beforehim the madness slumbered, but that his grandfather
had livedfor years with his hands fettered to the ground, to prevent histearing
himself to pieces. I knew they told the truth--I knew itwell. I had found it out
years before, though they had tried tokeep it from me. Ha! ha! I was too cunning
for them, madmanas they thought me.
'At last it came upon me, and I wondered how I could everhave feared it. I could
go into the world now, and laugh andshout with the best among them. I knew I was
mad, but they didnot even suspect it. How I used to hug myself with delight, whenI
thought of the fine trick I was playing them after their oldpointing and leering,
when I was not mad, but only dreading thatI might one day become so! And how I used
to laugh for joy,when I was alone, and thought how well I kept my secret, andhow
quickly my kind friends would have fallen from me, if theyhad known the truth. I
could have screamed with ecstasy when Idined alone with some fine roaring fellow,
to think how pale hewould have turned, and how fast he would have run, if he hadknown
that the dear friend who sat close to him, sharpening abright, glittering knife,
was a madman with all the power, andhalf the will, to plunge it in his heart. Oh,
it was a merry life!
'Riches became mine, wealth poured in upon me, and I riotedin pleasures enhanced
a thousandfold to me by the consciousnessof my well-kept secret. I inherited an
estate. The law--the eagle-eyed law itself--had been deceived, and had handed over
disputedthousands to a madman's hands. Where was the wit of the sharp-sighted men
of sound mind? Where the dexterity of the lawyers,eager to discover a flaw? The
madman's cunning had overreachedthem all.
'I had money. How I was courted! I spent it profusely. How Iwas praised! How
those three proud, overbearing brothershumbled themselves before me! The old, white-headed
father,too--such deference--such respect--such devoted friendship--he worshipped
me! The old man had a daughter, and the youngmen a sister; and all the five were
poor. I was rich; and when Imarried the girl, I saw a smile of triumph play upon
the faces ofher needy relatives, as they thought of their well-planned scheme,and
their fine prize. It was for me to smile. To smile! To laughoutright, and tear my
hair, and roll upon the ground with shrieksof merriment. They little thought they
had married her to a madman.
'Stay. If they had known it, would they have saved her? Asister's happiness against
her husband's gold. The lightest featherI blow into the air, against the gay chain
that ornaments my body!
'In one thing I was deceived with all my cunning. If I had notbeen mad--for though
we madmen are sharp-witted enough, weget bewildered sometimes--I should have known
that the girlwould rather have been placed, stiff and cold in a dull leadencoffin,
than borne an envied bride to my rich, glittering house. Ishould have known that
her heart was with the dark-eyed boywhose name I once heard her breathe in her troubled
sleep; andthat she had been sacrificed to me, to relieve the poverty of theold,
white-headed man and the haughty brothers.
'I don't remember forms or faces now, but I know the girl wasbeautiful. I know
she was; for in the bright moonlight nights,when I start up from my sleep, and all
is quiet about me, I see,standing still and motionless in one corner of this cell,
a slightand wasted figure with long black hair, which, streaming downher back, stirs
with no earthly wind, and eyes that fix their gazeon me, and never wink or close.
Hush! the blood chills at myheart as I write it down--that form is HERS; the face
is very pale,and the eyes are glassy bright; but I know them well. That figurenever
moves; it never frowns and mouths as others do, that fillthis place sometimes; but
it is much more dreadful to me, eventhan the spirits that tempted me many years
ago--it comes freshfrom the grave; and is so very death-like.
'For nearly a year I saw that face grow paler; for nearly a yearI saw the tears
steal down the mournful cheeks, and never knewthe cause. I found it out at last
though. They could not keep itfrom me long. She had never liked me; I had never
thought shedid: she despised my wealth, and hated the splendour in whichshe lived;
but I had not expected that. She loved another. This Ihad never thought of. Strange
feelings came over me, andthoughts, forced upon me by some secret power, whirled
roundand round my brain. I did not hate her, though I hated the boyshe still wept
for. I pitied--yes, I pitied--the wretched life towhich her cold and selfish relations
had doomed her. I knew thatshe could not live long; but the thought that before
her death shemight give birth to some ill-fated being, destined to hand downmadness
to its offspring, determined me. I resolved to kill her.
'For many weeks I thought of poison, and then of drowning,and then of fire. A
fine sight, the grand house in flames, and themadman's wife smouldering away to
cinders. Think of the jest ofa large reward, too, and of some sane man swinging
in the windfor a deed he never did, and all through a madman's cunning!I thought
often of this, but I gave it up at last. Oh! the pleasureof stropping the razor
day after day, feeling the sharp edge, andthinking of the gash one stroke of its
thin, bright edge would make!'At last the old spirits who had been with me so often
beforewhispered in my ear that the time was come, and thrust the openrazor into
my hand. I grasped it firmly, rose softly from the bed,and leaned over my sleeping
wife. Her face was buried in herhands. I withdrew them softly, and they fell listlessly
on herbosom. She had been weeping; for the traces of the tears werestill wet upon
her cheek. Her face was calm and placid; and evenas I looked upon it, a tranquil
smile lighted up her pale features.I laid my hand softly on her shoulder. She started--it
was only apassing dream. I leaned forward again. She screamed, and woke.
'One motion of my hand, and she would never again haveuttered cry or sound. But
I was startled, and drew back. Her eyeswere fixed on mine. I knew not how it was,
but they cowed andfrightened me; and I quailed beneath them. She rose from the bed,still
gazing fixedly and steadily on me. I trembled; the razor wasin my hand, but I could
not move. She made towards the door.As she neared it, she turned, and withdrew her
eyes from my face.The spell was broken. I bounded forward, and clutched her bythe
arm. Uttering shriek upon shriek, she sank upon the ground.
'Now I could have killed her without a struggle; but the housewas alarmed. I
heard the tread of footsteps on the stairs. Ireplaced the razor in its usual drawer,
unfastened the door, andcalled loudly for assistance.
'They came, and raised her, and placed her on the bed. She lay bereftof animation
for hours; and when life, look, and speech returned,her senses had deserted her,
and she raved wildly and furiously.
'Doctors were called in--great men who rolled up to my doorin easy carriages,
with fine horses and gaudy servants. They wereat her bedside for weeks. They had
a great meeting and consultedtogether in low and solemn voices in another room.
One, thecleverest and most celebrated among them, took me aside, andbidding me prepare
for the worst, told me--me, the madman!--that my wife was mad. He stood close beside
me at an openwindow, his eyes looking in my face, and his hand laid upon myarm.
With one effort, I could have hurled him into the streetbeneath. It would have been
rare sport to have done it; but mysecret was at stake, and I let him go. A few days
after, they toldme I must place her under some restraint: I must provide akeeper
for her. I! I went into the open fields where none couldhear me, and laughed till
the air resounded with my shouts!
'She died next day. The white-headed old man followed her tothe grave, and the
proud brothers dropped a tear over theinsensible corpse of her whose sufferings
they had regarded in herlifetime with muscles of iron. All this was food for my
secretmirth, and I laughed behind the white handkerchief which I heldup to my face,
as we rode home, till the tears Came into my eyes.
'But though I had carried my object and killed her, I wasrestless and disturbed,
and I felt that before long my secret mustbe known. I could not hide the wild mirth
and joy which boiledwithin me, and made me when I was alone, at home, jump up andbeat
my hands together, and dance round and round, and roaraloud. When I went out, and
saw the busy crowds hurryingabout the streets; or to the theatre, and heard the
sound ofmusic, and beheld the people dancing, I felt such glee, that Icould have
rushed among them, and torn them to pieces limbfrom limb, and howled in transport.
But I ground my teeth, andstruck my feet upon the floor, and drove my sharp nails
into myhands. I kept it down; and no one knew I was a madman yet.
'I remember--though it's one of the last things I can remember:for now I mix
up realities with my dreams, and having so muchto do, and being always hurried here,
have no time to separatethe two, from some strange confusion in which they get involved--I
remember how I let it out at last. Ha! ha! I think I see theirfrightened looks now,
and feel the ease with which I flung themfrom me, and dashed my clenched fist into
their white faces, andthen flew like the wind, and left them screaming and shoutingfar
behind. The strength of a giant comes upon me when I thinkof it. There--see how
this iron bar bends beneath my furiouswrench. I could snap it like a twig, only
there are long gallerieshere with many doors--I don't think I could find my way
alongthem; and even if I could, I know there are iron gates belowwhich they keep
locked and barred. They know what a clevermadman I have been, and they are proud
to have me here, to show.