BOOK VIII. CONTAINING ABOUT TWO DAYS.
12. Chapter xii. In which the Man of the Hill continues...
In which the Man of the Hill continues his history.
"I had now regained my liberty," said the stranger; "but I had lost my
reputation; for there is a wide difference between the case of a man
who is barely acquitted of a crime in a court of justice, and of him
who is acquitted in his own heart, and in the opinion of the people. I
was conscious of my guilt, and ashamed to look any one in the face; so
resolved to leave Oxford the next morning, before the daylight
discovered me to the eyes of any beholders.
"When I had got clear of the city, it first entered into my head to
return home to my father, and endeavour to obtain his forgiveness; but
as I had no reason to doubt his knowledge of all which had past, and
as I was well assured of his great aversion to all acts of dishonesty,
I could entertain no hopes of being received by him, especially since
I was too certain of all the good offices in the power of my mother;
nay, had my father's pardon been as sure, as I conceived his
resentment to be, I yet question whether I could have had the
assurance to behold him, or whether I could, upon any terms, have
submitted to live and converse with those who, I was convinced, knew
me to have been guilty of so base an action.
"I hastened therefore back to London, the best retirement of either
grief or shame, unless for persons of a very public character; for
here you have the advantage of solitude without its disadvantage,
since you may be alone and in company at the same time; and while you
walk or sit unobserved, noise, hurry, and a constant succession of
objects, entertain the mind, and prevent the spirits from preying on
themselves, or rather on grief or shame, which are the most
unwholesome diet in the world; and on which (though there are many who
never taste either but in public) there are some who can feed very
plentifully and very fatally when alone.
"But as there is scarce any human good without its concomitant evil,
so there are people who find an inconvenience in this unobserving
temper of mankind; I mean persons who have no money; for as you are
not put out of countenance, so neither are you cloathed or fed by
those who do not know you. And a man may be as easily starved in
Leadenhall-market as in the deserts of Arabia.