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I AM sitting here employed in this
way, from a notion that it is the
only practicable employment: It is
the only exercise, as I suppose, within
my reach. This perhaps is an error.
In one sense my sphere is a small one.
My observation is limited to an area
of twelve feet square; but surely it
becomes me to examine every thing
within this space. If it be small, the
examination is proportionably easy.
If our means are few, the motives
seem to be enhanced for making the
best use of them of which they are

It is three or four days since I first
occupied this room, and yet, if I had
left it this morning, I should have
been unable to describe my dwelling.
My eye has glanced over, and my
feet measured every plank of it, and
yet so inattentive have I been to ex-
ternal objects, that I can describe no-
thing. There are furniture, and walls,
and windows. Thus much I know;
but as to the shape, texture, and co-
lour of these I am almost entirely at
a loss. In the most vulgar objects, a
scrutinizing spirit can discover new
properties and relations. In a scene
that, to ordinary observers, is mono-
tonous and uniform, he finds an ex-
haustless source of reflection and in-
quiry. In a situation where no addi-

tion to his knowledge or happiness is
expected, he is frequently supplied
with the materials of memorable im-

I entered this room as if it were a
dungeon. I was fearful that my own
resources would be insufficient to en-
able me to sustain the burthen of life.
I was sure that the contractedness and
sameness of the scene would compel
me to resort to those resources. From
them I expected nothing more than a
temporary gift of patience and oblivion
of care. I was wrong, perhaps, in
two respects. I depreciated too much
the benefits of meditation. Of this
I am already convinced. But I like-
wise miscalculated the value of those
external means of improvement and
pleasure with which even this condi-
tion is compatible. Of this I am not
equally sure. The truth of it remains
to be ascertained. In the transactions
of human life, nothing equals the folly
of despair. My experience has at
least taught me thus much. Several
times have I discovered that to be a
most fortunate event, which before it
arrived, and for some time after, I
regarded as the most insupportable of
all disasters. In a short time I may
see reason to consider this in the same
light. Independent of any exertion
of mine, some lucky consequence from
my imprisonment may arise, which
may make me congratulate myself on

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the inflexibility of my creditor. But
that desirable effect may be in some
degree dependent on my own efforts.
Let me survey for a moment the con-
dition and furniture of this room.

There is a pine table, painted red.
It is old and feeble; part of the scanty
household of some wretch, which the
pressure of necessity, or claim of a
landlord has wrested from him. What
pity that it cannot tell tales! Its tes-
timony, if it had organs to perceive
and to communicate, would fill vo-
lumes, and exhibit human nature in
familiar and expressive attitudes.
Kate, no doubt, purchased it with my
money, at some constable's sale. It
follows then that the table is my pro-
perty. I gave the money with which
she purchased this, and perhaps all the
rest of the furniture of this apartment.
There is a bed, and beside it a solitary
chair. The most slender provision
seems to include these three articles.
He must be poor indeed who is obliged
to dispense with them. And yet, in
an absolute sense, all of them are
luxuries. Sleep may be wholesome
and sound without the protection of
walls or roof. At least, table, bed,
and chair are superfluities.

But here is a chest. By what ac-
cident was this placed here? It makes
no part of necessary chamber furni-
ture. This surely was not one of
Kate's purchases. She had uses for a
chest, but this room is occupied only
by sub-tenants. I have not inquired
who the last occupant was. She in-
formed me merely that a considerable
time had past since the last inhabitant
eloped from it. He left her without
paying her dues. Perhaps this part
of his property was left by him, be-
cause the removal of it was inconve-
nient to his schemes. Her prudence
must have prompted her to examine
its contents, and convert them into
money. It looks like a sailor's trunk,
the bottom being larger than the lid.
It promises but little, for what could
a run-away sailor have left in his de-
pository worth notice? But valuable

or not, the undistinguishing Kate has
rifled it. But this it would be absurd
to leave to the mercy of conjecture.
At the next visit of my good old
woman I will make suitable inquiries
of her, respecting this man and his
trunk. Meanwhile why not step to
the spot and examine it? Strange
that this object never before attracted
my attention. I have only to lift the
lid in order to ascertain the question
of its emptiness, or of the value of its

It is locked. It will not be proper
to break it open. I am not sure that
my strength is equal to the task. A
bolt is of little use if it cannot resist
the force of an ordinary man. Sup-
pose my curiosity would not suffer
me to wait till the key is furnished.
To employ violence on this occasion
would be an unjustifiable procedure.
It would argue a puerile degree of
impatience. Might not Kate deem
herself injured by it? In fact, the
property contained in it may be hers.
It may be filled with clothes, or with
household utensils not in immediate
use. It may be worth experiment to
guess at its contents by its weight.
It will be light if it be empty, and
heavy, in different degrees, if it be full.

I cannot lift it. My utmost strength
suffices not to move it from its place.
This circumstance is of some moment.
What can its contents be? It cannot
be empty, and that which fills it must
be of a most extraordinary and pon-
derous nature. Of all substances, the
heaviest are the metallic. Some im-
plement of brass or iron may be in-
closed in it; but a chest is a singular
depository for iron or brass, in the
quantity which its weight demon-
strates to exist here. But there are
other metals. A sanguine temper
would easily decide, that the metal it
contained was silver or gold. And
where is the extravagance of that
supposition? Here is promise of an
adventure! Nothing less than English
guineas, or Mexican dollars, compose
its treasures. This indeed may prove

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a fortunate event; and yet depends
upon the use that I make of the dis-
covery. Money is power, and may
be subservient to ill as well as to good.
From the frailty of humanity, and
the misarrangements of society, the
injurious application of this instru-
ment is always most probable.

If my conjecture be just, what a
strange coincidence of events will be
unfolded in this part of my life. To
supply me with the means of dis-
charging my debt, and restoring to a
greater height than ever my fallen
fortunes, my creditor had only to
doom me to a prison, and compel me
to seek a refuge in this obscure retreat.
Here am I on the verge of poverty,
and in danger of a gaol, yet thousands
are within my reach. I confess I
have some eagerness to ascertain this
point. I wish my attendant would
hasten her return. She is gone to
market, to provide for dinner or

But she will return. There is a
moral certainty in that. She will
readily, though in her circuitous way,
impart all she knows. She will autho-
rise me to break the lock, or will
furnish me with the key. There is
something in the very name of a chest
that is mysterious and meaning full.
Our curiosity is proportioned, among
other circumstances, to the shortness
of the interval, and the slightness of
the bar between us and knowledge.
What may be here concealed? A
man may exhaust the whole catalogue
of his conjectures, and yet be wrong.
I have inferred great things from the
heaviness of this chest. I will make
another effort to remove it—

So! ho! No wonder that to move
it from its place was so difficult. It
is nailed to the floor! What possible
reason could there be for such a mea-
sure? Some strange properties must
hang about it. There is nothing
which helps me out in my conjectures.
My whole life does not furnish me with
one similar instance. Chests I have
seen and examined on numberless
occasions; and yet, except on ship-

board, I never met with one fastened
by nails to the floor. So then, what
appeared so remarkably ponderous,
may be perfectly empty! Its remain-
ing in its present situation, notwith-
standing the economy of Kate might
have dictated differently, is, in some
measure, accounted for. It is here,
because it cannot be taken away.

But honest Kate, to my great satis-
faction, has returned.