Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Book of Scoundrels by Charles Whibley

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /home/jpegr0/public_html/fulltextarchive/template/ad.php on line 4

Even in his lifetime he was generously styled the Great. The
scourge of London, he betrayed and destroyed every man that ever
dared to live upon terms of friendship with him. It was Jonathan
that made Blueskin a thief, and Jonathan screened his creature
from justice only so long as clemency seemed profitable. At the
first hint of disobedience Blueskin was committed to Newgate.
When he had stood his trial, and was being taken to the Condemned
Hole, he beckoned to Wild as though to a conference, and cut
his throat with a penknife. The assembled rogues and turnkeys
thought their Jonathan dead at last, and rejoiced exceedingly
therein. Straightway the poet of Newgate's Garland leaped into
verse:

Then hopeless of life,
He drew his penknife,
And made a sad widow of Jonathan's wife.
But forty pounds paid her, her grief shall appease,
And every man round me may rob, if he please.

But Jonathan recovered, and Molly, his wife, was destined a
second time to win the conspicuous honour that belongs to a
hempen widow.

As his career drew to its appointed close, Fortune withheld her
smiles. `People got so peery,' complained the great man, `that
ingenious men were put to dreadful shifts.' And then, highest
tribute to his greatness, an Act of Parliament was passed which
made it a capital offence `for a prig to steal with the hands of
other people'; and in the increase of public vigilance his
undoing became certain. On the 2nd of January, 1725, a day not
easy to forget, a creature of Wild's spoke with fifty yards of
lace, worth 40, at his Captain's bidding, and Wild, having
otherwise disposed of the plunder, was charged on the 10th of
March that he `did feloniously receive of Katharine Stetham ten
guineas on account and under colour of helping the said Katharine
Stetham to the said lace again, and did not then, nor any time
since, discover or apprehend, or cause to be apprehended and
brought to Justice, the persons that committed the said felony.'
Thus runs the indictment, and, to the inexpressible relief of
lesser men, Jonathan Wild was condemned to the gallows.

Thereupon he had serious thoughts of `putting his house in
order'; with an ironical smile he demanded an explanation of the
text: `Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree'; but,
presently reflecting that `his Time was but short in this World,
he improved it to the best advantage in Eating, Drinking,
Swearing, Cursing, and talking to his Visitants.' For all his
bragging, drink alone preserved his courage: `he was very
restless in the Condemned Hole,' though `he gave little or no
attention to the condemned Sermon which the purblind Ordinary
preached before him,' and which was, in Fielding's immortal
phrase, `unto the Greeks foolishness.' But in the moment of
death his distinction returned to him. He tried, and failed, to
kill himself; and his progress to the nubbing cheat was a triumph
of execration. He reached Tyburn through a howling mob, and died
to a yell of universal joy.

The Ordinary has left a record so precious and so lying, that it
must needs be quoted at length. The great Thief-Catcher's
confession is a masterpiece of comfort, and is so far removed
from the truth as completely to justify Fielding's incomparable
creation. `Finding there was no room for mercy (and how could I
expect mercy, who never showed any)'--thus does the devil
dodger dishonour our Jonathan's memory!--`as soon as I came into
the Condemned Hole, I began to think of making a preparation for
my soul. . . . To part with my wife, my dear Molly, is so great
an Affliction to me, that it touches me to the Quick, and is like
Daggers entering into my Heart.' How tame the Ordinary's
falsehood to the brilliant invention of Fielding, who makes
Jonathan kick his Tishy in the very shadow of the Tree! And the
Reverend Gentleman gains in unction as he goes: `In the Cart
they all kneeled down to prayers and seemed very penitent; the
Ordinary used all the means imaginable to make them think of
another World, and after singing a penitential Psalm, they cry'd
Lord Jesus Christ receive our Souls, the cart drew away and they
were all turned off. This is as good an account as can be given
by me.' Poor Ordinary! If he was modest, he was also
untruthful, and you are certain that it was not thus the hero met
his death.

Even had Fielding never written his masterpiece, Jonathan Wild
would still have been surnamed `The Great.' For scarce a chap-
book appeared in the year of Jonathan's death that did not expose
the only right and true view of his character. `His business,'
says one hack of prison literature, `at all times was to put a
false gloss upon things, and to make fools of mankind.' Another
precisely formulates the theory of greatness insisted upon by
Fielding with so lavish an irony and so masterly a wit. While it
is certain that The History of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild is as
noble a piece of irony as literature can show, while for the
qualities of wit and candour it is equal to its motive, it is
likewise true that therein you meet the indubitable Jonathan
Wild. It is an entertainment to compare the chap-books of the
time with the reasoned, finished work of art: not in any spirit
of pedantry--since accuracy in these matters is of small account,
but with intent to show how doubly fortunate Fielding was in his
genius and in his material. Of course the writer rejoiced in the
aid of imagination and eloquence; of course he embellished his
picture with such inspirations as Miss Laetitia and the Count; of
course he preserves from the first page to the last the highest
level of unrivalled irony. But the sketch was there before him,
and a lawyer's clerk had treated Jonathan in a vein of heroism
within a few weeks of his death. And since a plain statement is
never so true as fiction, Fielding's romance is still more
credible, still convinces with an easier effort, than the serious
and pedestrian records of contemporaries. Nor can you return to
its pages without realising that, so far from being `the
evolution of a purely intellectual conception,' Jonathan Wild
is a magnificently idealised and ironical portrait of a great
man.

III
A PARALLEL

(MOLL CUTPURSE AND
JONATHAN WILD)

A PARALLEL

(MOLL CUTPURSE AND JONATHAN WILD)

THEY plied the same trade, each with incomparable success. By
her, as by him, the art of the fence was carried to its ultimate
perfection. In their hands the high policy of theft wanted nor
dignity nor assurance. Neither harboured a single scheme which
was not straightway translated into action, and they were masters
at once of Newgate and the Highway. As none might rob without
the encouragement of his emperor, so none was hanged at Tyburn
while intrigue or bribery might avail to drag a half-doomed neck
from the halter; and not even Moll herself was more bitterly
tyrannical in the control of a reckless gang than the thin-jawed,
hatchet-faced Jonathan Wild.

They were statesmen rather than warriors--happy if they might
direct the enterprises of others, and determined to punish the
lightest disobedience by death. The mind of each was readier
than his right arm, and neither would risk an easy advantage by a
misunderstood or unwonted sleight of hand. But when you
leave the exercise of their craft to contemplate their character
with a larger eye, it is the woman who at every point has the
advantage. Not only was she the peerless inventor of a new
cunning; she was at home (and abroad) the better fellow. The
suppression of sex was in itself an unparalleled triumph, and the
most envious detractor could not but marvel at the domination of
her womanhood. Moreover, she shone in a gayer, more splendid
epoch. The worthy contemporary of Shakespeare, she had small
difficulty in performing feats of prowess and resource which
daunted the intrepid ruffians of the eighteenth century. Her
period, in brief, gave her an eternal superiority; and it were as
hopeless for Otway to surpass the master whom he disgraced, as
for Wild to o'ershadow the brilliant example of Moll Cutpurse.

Tyrants both, they exercised their sovereignty in accordance with
their varying temperament. Hers was a fine, fat, Falstaffian
humour, which, while it inspired Middleton, might have suggested
to Shakespeare an equal companion of the drunken knight. His was
but a narrow, cynic wit, not edged like the knife, which wellnigh
cut his throat, but blunt and scratching like a worn-toothed saw.

She laughed with a laugh that echoed from Ludgate to Charing
Cross, and her voice drowned all the City. He grinned rarely and
with malice; he piped in a voice shrill and acid as the tricks of
his mischievous imagination. She knew no cruelty beyond the
necessities of her life, and none regretted more than she the
inevitable death of a traitor. He lusted after destruction with
a fiendish temper, which was a grim anticipation of De Sade; he
would even smile as he saw the noose tighten round the necks of
the poor innocents he had beguiled to Tyburn. It was his boast
that he had contrived robberies for the mere glory of dragging
his silly victims to the gallows. But Moll, though she stood
half-way between the robber and his prey, would have sacrificed a
hundred well-earned commissions rather than see her friends and
comrades strangled. Her temperament compelled her to the loyal
support of her own order, and she would have shrunk in horror
from her rival, who, for all his assumed friendship with the
thief, was a staunch and subtle ally of justice.

Before all things she had the genius of success. Her public
offences were trivial and condoned. She died in her bed, full of
years and of honours, beloved by the light-fingered gentry,
reverenced by all the judges on the bench. He, for all the
sacrifices he made to a squint-eyed law, died execrated alike by
populace and police. Already Blueskin had done his worst with a
pen-knife; already Jack Sheppard and his comrades had warned
Drury Lane against the infamous thief-catcher. And so anxious,
on the other hand, was the law to be quit of their too zealous
servant, that an Act of Parliament was passed with the sole
object of placing Jonathan's head within the noose. His
method, meagre though masterly, lulled him too soon to an
impotent security. She, with her larger view of life, her
plumper sense of style, was content with nothing less than an
ultimate sovereignty, and manifestly did she prove her
superiority.

Though born for the wimple, she was more of a man than the
breeched and stockinged Jonathan, whose only deed of valiance was
to hang, terrier-like, by his teeth to an evasive enemy. While
he cheated at cards and cogged the dice, she trained dogs and
never missed a bear-baiting. He shrank, like the coward that he
was, from the exercise of manly sports; she cared not what were
the weapons--quarterstaff or broadsword--so long as she
vanquished her opponent. She scoured the town in search of
insult; he did but exert his cunning when a quarrel was put upon
him. Who, then, shall deny her manhood? Who shall whisper that
his style was the braver or the better suited to his sex?

As became a hero, she kept the best of loose company: her parlour
was ever packed with the friends of loyalty and adventure. Are
not Hind and Mull Sack worth a thousand Blueskins? Moreover,
plunder and wealth were not the only objects of her pursuit: she
was not merely a fence but a patriot, and she would have
accounted a thousand pounds well lost, if she did but compass the
discomfiture of a Parliament-man. Indeed, if Jonathan, the
thief-catcher, limped painfully after his magnificent
example, Jonathan the man and the sportsman confessed a pitiful
inferiority to the valiant Moll. Thus she avenged her sex by
distancing the most illustrious of her rivals; and if he pleads
for his credit a taste for theology, hers is the chuckle of
contemptuous superiority. She died a patriot, bequeathing a
fountain of wine to the champions of an exiled king; he died a
casuist, setting crabbed problems to the Ordinary. Here, again,
the advantage is evident: loyalty is the virtue of men; a sudden
attachment to religion is the last resource of the second-rate
citizen and of the trapped criminal.

RALPH BRISCOE

RALPH BRISCOE

A SPARE, lean frame; a small head set forward upon a pair of
sloping shoulders; a thin, sharp nose, and rat-like eyes; a flat,
hollow chest; shrunk shanks, modestly retreating from their
snuff-coloured hose--these are the tokens which served to remind
his friends of Ralph Briscoe, the Clerk of Newgate. As he left
the prison in the grey air of morning upon some errand of mercy
or revenge, he appeared the least fearsome of mortals, while an
awkward limp upon his left toe deepened the impression of
timidity. So abstract was his manner, so hesitant his gait, that
he would hug the wall as he went, nervously stroking its grimy
surface with his long, twittering fingers. But Ralph, as justice
and the Jug knew too well, was neither fool nor coward. His
character belied his outward seeming. A large soul had crept
into the case of his wizened body, and if a poltroon among his
ancestors had gifted him with an alien type, he had inherited
from some nameless warrior both courage and resource.

He was born in easy circumstances, and gently nurtured in the
distant village of Kensington. Though cast in a scholar's
mould, and very apt for learning, he rebelled from the outset
against a career of inaction. His lack of strength was never a
check upon his high stomach; he would fight with boys of twice
his size, and accept the certain defeat in a cheerful spirit of
dogged pugnacity. Moreover, if his arms were weak, his cunning
was as keen-edged as his tongue; and, before his stricken eye had
paled, he had commonly executed an ample vengeance upon his
enemy. Nor was it industry that placed him at the top of the
class. A ready wit made him master of the knowledge he despised.

But he would always desert his primer to follow the hangman's
lumbering cart up Tyburn Hill, and, still a mere imp of mischief,
he would run the weary way from Kensington to Shoe Lane on the
distant chance of a cock-fight. He was present, so he would
relate in after years, when Sir Thomas Jermin's man put his
famous trick upon the pit. With a hundred pounds in his pocket
and under his arm a dunghill cock, neatly trimmed for the fray,
the ingenious ruffian, as Briscoe would tell you, went off to
Shoe Lane, persuaded an accomplice to fight the cock in Sir
Thomas Jermin's name, and laid a level hundred against his own
bird. So lofty was Sir Thomas's repute that backers were easily
found, but the dunghill rooster instantly showed a clean pair of
heels, and the cheat was justified of his cunning.

Thus Ralph Briscoe learnt the first lessons in that art of
sharping wherein he was afterwards an adept; and when he
left school his head was packed with many a profitable device
which no book learning could impart. His father, however, still
resolute that he should join an intelligent profession, sent him
to Gray's Inn that he might study law. Here the elegance of his
handwriting gained him a rapid repute; his skill became the envy
of all the lean-souled clerks in the Inn, and he might have died
a respectable attorney had not the instinct of sport forced him
from the inkpot and parchment of his profession. Ill could he
tolerate the monotony and restraint of this clerkly life. In his
eyes law was an instrument, not of justice, but of jugglery. Men
were born, said his philosophy, rather to risk their necks than
ink their fingers; and if a bold adventure puts you in a
difficulty, why, then, you hire some straw-splitting attorney to
show his cunning. Indeed, the study of law was for him, as it
was for Falstaff, an excuse for many a bout and merry-making. He
loved his glass, and he loved his wench, and he loved a bull-
baiting better than either. It was his boast, and Moll
Cutpurse's compliment, that he never missed a match in his life,
and assuredly no man was better known in Paris Garden than the
intrepid Ralph Briscoe.

The cloistered seclusion of Gray's Inn grew daily more irksome.
There he would sit, in mute despair, drumming the table with his
fingers, and biting the quill, whose use he so bitterly
contemned. Of winter afternoons he would stare through the
leaded window-panes at the gaunt, leafless trees, on whose
summits swayed the cawing rooks, until servitude seemed
intolerable, and he prayed for the voice of the bearward that
summoned him to Southwark. And when the chained bear, the
familiar monkey on his back, followed the shrill bagpipe along
the curious street, Briscoe felt that blood, not ink, coursed in
his veins, forgot the tiresome impediment of the law, and joined
the throng, hungry for this sport of kings. Nor was he the
patron of an enterprise wherein he dared take no part. He was as
bold and venturesome as the bravest ruffler that ever backed a
dog at a baiting. When the bull, cruelly secured behind, met the
onslaught of his opponents, throwing them off, now this side, now
that, with his horns, Briscoe, lost in excitement, would leap
into the ring that not a point of the combat should escape him.

So it was that he won the friendship of his illustrious
benefactress, Moll Cutpurse. For, one day, when he had ventured
too near the maddened bull, the brute made a heave at his
breeches, which instantly gave way; and in another moment he
would have been gored to death, had not Moll seized him by the
collar and slung him out of the ring. Thus did his courage ever
contradict his appearance, and at the dangerous game of whipping
the blinded bear he had no rival, either for bravery or
adroitness. He would rush in with uplifted whip until the breath
of the infuriated beast was hot upon his cheek, let his
angry lash curl for an instant across the bear's flank, and then,
for all his halting foot, leap back into safety with a smiling
pride in his own nimbleness.

His acquaintance with Moll Cutpurse, casually begun at a bull-
baiting, speedily ripened, for her into friendship, for him into
love. In this, the solitary romance of his life, Ralph Briscoe
overtopped even his own achievements of courage. The Roaring
Girl was no more young, and years had not refined her character
unto gentleness. It was still her habit to appear publicly in
jerkin and galligaskins, to smoke tobacco in contempt of her sex,
and to fight her enemies with a very fury of insolence. In
stature she exceeded the limping clerk by a head, and she could
pick him up with one hand, like a kitten. Yet he loved her, not
for any grace of person, nor beauty of feature, nor even because
her temperament was undaunted as his own. He loved her for that
wisest of reasons, which is no reason at all, because he loved
her. In his eyes she was the Queen, not of Misrule, but of
Hearts. Had a throne been his, she should have shared it, and he
wooed her with a shy intensity, which ennobled him, even in her
austere regard. Alas! she was unable to return his passion, and
she lamented her own obduracy with characteristic humour. She
made no attempt to conceal her admiration. `A notable and famous
person,' she called him, confessing that, `he was right for her
tooth, and made to her mind in every part of him.' He had been
bred up in the same exercise of bull-baiting, which was her
own delight; she had always praised his towardliness, and
prophesied his preferment. But when he paid her court she was
obliged to decline the honour, while she esteemed the compliment.

In truth, she was completely insensible to passion, or, as she
exclaimed in a phrase of brilliant independence, `I should have
hired him to my embraces.'

The sole possibility that remained was a Platonic friendship, and
Briscoe accepted the situation in excellent humour. `Ever since
he came to know himself,' again it is Moll that speaks, `he
always deported himself to me with an abundance of regard,
calling me his Aunt.' And his aunt she remained unto the end,
bound to him in a proper and natural alliance. Different as they
were in aspect, they were strangely alike in taste and
disposition. Nor was the Paris Garden their only meeting-ground.

His sorry sojourn in Gray's Inn had thrown him on the side of the
law-breaker, and he had acquired a strange cunning in the
difficult art of evading justice. Instantly Moll recognised his
practical value, and, exerting all her talent for intrigue,
presently secured for him the Clerkship of Newgate. Here at last
he found scope not only for his learning, but for that spirit of
adventure that breathed within him. His meagre acquaintance with
letters placed him on a pinnacle high above his colleagues. Now
and then a prisoner proved his equal in wit, but as he was
manifestly superior in intelligence to the Governor, the
Ordinary, and all the warders, he speedily seized and
hereafter retained the real sovereignty of Newgate.

His early progress was barred by envy and contempt. Why, asked
the men in possession, should this shrivelled stranger filch our
privileges? And Briscoe met their malice with an easy smile,
knowing that at all points he was more than their match. His
alliance with Moll stood him in good stead, and in a few months
the twain were the supreme arbiters of English justice. Should a
highwayman seek to save his neck, he must first pay a fat
indemnity to the Newgate Clerk, but, since Moll was the appointed
banker of the whole family, she was quick to sanction whatever
price her accomplice suggested. And Briscoe had a hundred other
tricks whereby he increased his riches and repute. There was no
debtor came to Newgate whom the Clerk would not aid, if he
believed the kindness profitable. Suppose his inquiries gave an
assurance of his victim's recovery, he would house him
comfortably, feed him at his own table, lend him money, and even
condescend to win back the generous loan by the dice-box.

His civility gave him a general popularity among the prisoners,
and his appearance in the Yard was a signal for a subdued
hilarity. He drank and gambled with the roysterers; he babbled a
cheap philosophy with the erudite; and he sold the necks of all
to the highest bidder. Though now and again he was convicted of
mercy or revenge, he commonly held himself aloof from human
passions, and pursued the one sane end of life in an easy
security. The hostility of his colleagues irked him but little.
A few tags of Latin, the friendship of Moll, and a casual threat
of exposure frightened the Governor into acquiescence, but the
Ordinary was more difficult of conciliation. The Clerk had not
been long in Newgate before he saw that between the reverend
gentleman and himself there could be naught save war. Hitherto
the Ordinary had reserved to his own profit the right of
intrigue; he it was who had received the hard-scraped money of
the sorrowing relatives, and untied the noose when it seemed good
to him. Briscoe insisted upon a division of labour. `It is your
business,' he said, `to save the scoundrels in the other world.
Leave to me the profit of their salvation in this.' And the
Clerk triumphed after his wont: freedom jingled in his pocket; he
doled out comfort, even life, to the oppressed; and he extorted a
comfortable fortune in return for privileges which were never in
his gift.

Without the walls of Newgate the house of his frequentation was
the `Dog Tavern.' Thither he would wander every afternoon to
meet his clients and to extort blood-money. In this haunt of
criminals and pettifoggers no man was better received than the
Newgate Clerk, and while he assumed a manner of generous
cordiality, it was a strange sight to see him wince when some
sturdy ruffian slapped him too strenuously upon the back. He had
a joke and a chuckle for all, and his merry quips, dry as they
were, were joyously quoted to all new-comers. His legal
ingenuity appeared miraculous, and it was confidently asserted in
the Coffee House that he could turn black to white with so
persuasive an argument that there was no Judge on the Bench to
confute him. But he was not omnipotent, and his zeal encountered
many a serious check. At times he failed to save the necks even
of his intimates, since, when once a ruffian was notorious, Moll
and the Clerk fought vainly for his release. Thus it was that
Cheney, the famous wrestler, whom Ralph had often backed against
all comers, died at Tyburn. He had been taken by the troopers
red-handed upon the highway. Seized after a desperate
resistance, he was wounded wellnigh to death, and Briscoe quoted
a dozen precedents to prove that he was unfit to be tried or
hanged. Argument failing, the munificent Clerk offered fifty
pounds for the life of his friend. But to no purpose: the
valiant wrestler was carried to the cart in a chair, and so
lifted to the gallows, which cured him of his gaping wounds.

When the Commonwealth administered justice with pedantic
severity, Briscoe's influence still further declined. There was
no longer scope in the State for men of spirit; even the gaols
were handed over to the stern mercy of crop-eared Puritans; Moll
herself had fallen upon evil times; and Ralph Briscoe determined
to make a last effort for wealth and retirement. At the very
moment when his expulsion seemed certain, an heiress was thrown
into Newgate upon a charge of murdering a too importunate
suitor. The chain of evidence was complete: the dagger plunged
in his heart was recognised for her own; she was seen to decoy
him to the secret corner of a wood, where his raucous love-making
was silenced for ever. Taken off her guard, she had even hinted
confession of her crime, and nothing but intrigue could have
saved her gentle neck from the gallows. Briscoe, hungry for her
money-bags, promised assistance. He bribed, he threatened, he
cajoled, he twisted the law as only he could twist it, he
suppressed honest testimony, he procured false; in fine, he
weakened the case against her with so resistless an effrontery,
that not the Hanging Judge himself could convict the poor
innocent.

At the outset he had agreed to accept a handsome bribe, but as
the trial approached, his avarice increased, and he would be
content with nothing less than the lady's hand and fortune. Not
that he loved her; his heart was long since given to Moll
Cutpurse; but he knew that his career of depredation was at an
end, and it became him to provide for his declining years. The
victim repulsed his suit, regretting a thousand times that she
had stabbed her ancient lover. At last, bidden summarily to
choose between Death and the Clerk, she chose the Clerk, and thus
Ralph Briscoe left Newgate the richest squire in a western
county. Henceforth he farmed his land like a gentleman, drank
with those of his neighbours who would crack a bottle with him,
and unlocked the strange stores of his memory to bumpkins who
knew not the name of Newgate. Still devoted to sport, he
hunted the fox, and made such a bull-ring as his youthful
imagination could never have pictured. So he lived a life of
country ease, and died a churchwarden. And he deserved his
prosperity, for he carried the soul of Falstaff in the shrunken
body of Justice Shallow.

GILDEROY AND THE SIXTEEN-
STRING JACK

I
GILDEROY

GILDEROY

HE stood six feet ten in his stockinged feet, and was the tallest
ruffian that ever cut a purse or held up a coach on the highway.
A mass of black hair curled over a low forehead, and a glittering
eye intensified his villainous aspect; nor did a deep scar,
furrowing his cheek from end to end, soften the horror of his
sudden apparition. Valiant men shuddered at his approach; women
shrank from the distant echo of his name; for fifteen years he
terrorised Scotland from Caithness to the border; and the most
partial chronicler never insulted his memory with the record of a
good deed.

He was born to a gentle family in the Calendar of Monteith, and
was celebrated even in boyhood for his feats of strength and
daring. While still at school he could hold a hundredweight at
arm's-length, and crumple up a horseshoe like a wisp of hay. The
fleetest runner, the most desperate fighter in the country, he
was already famous before his name was besmirched with crime, and
he might have been immortalised as the Hercules of the
seventeenth century, had not his ambition been otherwise
flattered. At the outset, though the inclination was never
lacking, he knew small temptation to break the sterner laws of
conduct. His pleasures were abundantly supplied by his father's
generosity, and he had no need to refrain from such vices as
became a gentleman. If he was no drunkard, it was because his
head was equal to the severest strain, and, despite his
forbidding expression, he was always a successful breaker of
hearts. His very masterfulness overcame the most stubborn
resistance; and more than once the pressure of his dishonourable
suit converted hatred into love. At the very time that he was
denounced for Scotland's disgrace, his praises were chanted in
many a dejected ballad. `Gilderoy was a bonny boy,' sang one
heart-broken maiden:

Had roses till his shoon,
His stockings were of silken soy,
Wi' garters hanging doon.

But in truth he was admired less for his amiability than for that
quality of governance which, when once he had torn the decalogue
to pieces, made him a veritable emperor of crime.

His father's death was the true beginning of his career. A
modest patrimony was squandered in six months, and Gilderoy had
no penny left wherewith to satisfy the vices which insisted upon
indulgence. He demanded money at all hazards, and money without
toil. For a while his more loudly clamant needs were fulfilled
by the amiable simplicity of his mother, whom he blackmailed
with insolence and contempt. And when she, wearied by his
shameless importunity, at last withdrew her support, he
determined upon a monstrous act of vengeance. With a noble
affectation of penitence he visited his home; promised reform at
supper; and said good-night in the broken accent of
reconciliation. No sooner was the house sunk in slumber than he
crawled stealthily upstairs in order to forestall by theft a
promised generosity. He opened the door of the bed-chamber in a
hushed silence; but the wrenching of the cofferlid awoke the
sleeper, and Gilderoy, having cut his mother's throat with an
infamous levity, seized whatever money and jewels were in the
house, cruelly maltreated his sister, and laughingly burnt the
house to the ground, that the possibility of evidence might be
destroyed.

Henceforth his method of plunder was assured. It was part of his
philosophy to prevent detection by murder, and the flames from
the burning walls added a pleasure to his lustful eye. His march
across Scotland was marked by slaughtered families and ruined
houses. Plunder was the first cause of his exploits, but there
is no doubt that death and arson were a solace to his fierce
spirit; and for a while this giant of cruelty knew neither check
nor hindrance. Presently it became a superstition with him that
death was the inevitable accompaniment of robbery, and, as he was
incapable of remorse, he grew callous, and neglected the simplest
precautions. At Dunkeld he razed a rifled house to the
ground, and with the utmost effrontery repeated the performance
at Aberdeen. But at last he had been tracked by a company of
soldiers, who, that justice might not be cheated of her prey,
carried him to gaol, where after the briefest trial he was
condemned to death.

Gilderoy, however, was still master of himself. His immense
strength not only burst his bonds, but broke prison, and this
invincible Samson was once more free in Aberdeen, inspiring that
respectable city with a legendary dread. The reward of one
hundred pounds was offered in vain. Had he shown himself on the
road in broad daylight, none would have dared to arrest him, and
it was not until his plans were deliberately laid, that he
crossed the sea. The more violent period of his career was at an
end. Never again did he yield to his passion for burning and
sudden death; and, if the world found him unconquerable, his
self-control is proved by the fact that in the heyday of his
strength he turned from his unredeemed brutality to a gentler
method. He now deserted Scotland for France, with which, like
all his countrymen, he claimed a cousinship; and so profoundly
did he impose upon Paris with his immense stature, his elegant
attire, his courtly manners (for he was courtesy itself, when it
pleased him), that he was taken for an eminent scholar, or at
least a soldier of fortune.

Prosperity might doubtless have followed a discreet profession,
but Gilderoy must still be thieving, and he reaped a rich harvest
among the unsuspicious courtiers of France. His most highly
renowned exploit was performed at St. Denis, and the record of
France's humiliation is still treasured. The great church was
packed with ladies of fashion and their devout admirers.
Richelieu attended in state; the king himself shone upon the
assembly. The strange Scotsman, whom no man knew and all men
wondered at, attracted a hundred eyes to himself and his
magnificent equipment. But it was not his to be idle, and at the
very moment whereat Mass was being sung, he contrived to lighten
Richelieu's pocket of a purse. The king was a delighted witness
of the theft; Gilderoy, assuming an air of facile intimacy,
motioned him to silence; and he, deeming it a trick put upon
Richelieu by a friend, hastened, at the service-end, to ask his
minister if perchance he had a purse of gold upon him. Richelieu
instantly discovered the loss, to the king's uncontrolled
hilarity, which was mitigated when it was found that the thief,
having emptied the king's pocket at the unguarded moment of his
merriment, had left them both the poorer.

Such were Gilderoy's interludes of gaiety; and when you remember
the cynical ferocity of his earlier performance, you cannot deny
him the credit of versatility. He stayed in France until his
ominous reputation was too widely spread; whereupon he crossed
the Pyrenees, travelling like a gentleman, in a brilliant
carriage of his own. From Spain he carried off a priceless
collection of silver plate; and he returned to his own country,
fatigued, yet unsoftened, by the grand tour. Meanwhile, a
forgetful generation had not kept his memory green. The monster,
who punished Scotland a year ago with fire and sword, had passed
into oblivion, and Gilderoy was able to establish for himself a
new reputation. He departed as far as possible from his ancient
custom, joined the many cavaliers, who were riding up and down
the country, pistol in hand, and presently proved a dauntless
highwayman. He had not long ridden in the neighbourhood of Perth
before he met the Earl of Linlithgow, from whom he took a gold
watch, a diamond ring, and eighty guineas. Being an outlaw, he
naturally espoused the King's cause, and would have given a year
of his life to meet a Regicide. Once upon a time, says rumour,
he found himself face to face with Oliver Cromwell, whom he
dragged from his coach, set ignominiously upon an ass, and so
turned adrift with his feet tied under the beast's belly. The
story is incredible, not only because the loyal historians of the
time caused Oliver to be robbed daily on every road in Great
Britain, but because our Gilderoy, had he ever confronted the
Protector, most assuredly would not have allowed him to escape
with his life.

Tired of scouring the highway, Gilderoy resolved upon another
enterprise. He collected a band of fearless ruffians, and placed
himself at their head. With this army to aid, he harried
Sutherland and the North, lifting cattle, plundering homesteads,
and stopping wayfarers with a humour and adroitness worthy
of Robin Hood. No longer a lawless adventurer, he made his own
conditions of life, and forced the people to obey them. He who
would pay Gilderoy a fair contribution ran no risk of losing his
sheep or oxen. But evasion was impossible, and the smallest
suspicion of falsehood was punished by death. The peaceably
inclined paid their toll with regret; the more daring opposed the
raider to their miserable undoing; the timid satisfied the utmost
exactions of Gilderoy, and deemed themselves fortunate if they
left the country with their lives.

Thus Scotland became a land of dread; the most restless man
within her borders hardly dare travel beyond his byre. The law
was powerless against this indomitable scourge, and the reward of
a thousand marks would have been offered in vain, had not
Gilderoy's cruelty estranged his mistress. This traitress--Peg
Cunningham was her name--less for avarice than in revenge for
many insults and infidelities, at last betrayed her master.
Having decoyed him to her house, she admitted fifty armed men,
and thus imagined a full atonement for her unnumbered wrongs.
But Gilderoy was triumphant to the last. Instantly suspecting
the treachery of his mistress, he burst into her bed-chamber,
and, that she might not enjoy the price of blood, ripped her up
with a hanger. Then he turned defiant upon the army arrayed
against him, and killed eight men before the others captured him.

Disarmed after a desperate struggle, he was loaded with chains
and carried to Edinburgh, where he was starved for three
days, and then hanged without the formality of a trial on a
gibbet, thirty feet high, set up in the Grassmarket. Even then
Scotland's vengeance was unsatisfied. The body, cut down from
its first gibbet, was hung in chains forty feet above Leith Walk,
where it creaked and gibbered as a warning to evildoers for half
a century, until at last the inhabitants of that respectable
quarter petitioned that Gilderoy's bones should cease to rattle,
and that they should enjoy the peace impossible for his jingling
skeleton.

Gilderoy was no drawing-room scoundrel, no villain of schoolgirl
romance. He felt remorse as little as he felt fear, and there
was no crime from whose commission he shrank. Before his death
he confessed to thirty-seven murders, and bragged that he had
long since lost count of his robberies and rapes. Something must
be abated for boastfulness. But after all deduction there
remains a tale of crime that is unsurpassed. His most admirably
artistic quality is his complete consistence. He was a ruffian
finished and rotund; he made no concession, he betrayed no
weakness. Though he never preached a sermon against the human
race, he practised a brutality which might have proceeded from a
gospel of hate. He spared neither friends nor relatives, and he
murdered his own mother with as light a heart as he sent a
strange widow of Aberdeen to her death. His skill is undoubted,
and he proved by the discipline of his band that he was not
without some talent of generalship. But he owed much of his
success to his physical strength, and to the temperament, which
never knew the scandal of hesitancy or dread.

A born marauder, he devoted his life to his trade; and, despite
his travels in France and Spain, he enjoyed few intervals of
merriment. Even the humour, which proved his redemption, was as
dour and grim as Scotland can furnish at her grimmes: and
dourest. Here is a specimen will serve as well as another: three
of Gilderoy's gang had been hanged according to the sentence of a
certain Lord of Session, and the Chieftain, for his own vengeance
and the intimidation of justice, resolved upon an exemplary
punishment. He waylaid the Lord of Session, emptied his pockets,
killed his horses, broke his coach in pieces, and having bound
his lackeys, drowned them in a pond. This was but the prelude of
revenge, for presently (and here is the touch of humour) he made
the Lord of Session ride at dead of night to the gallows, whereon
the three malefactors were hanging. One arm of the crossbeams
was still untenanted. `By my soul, mon,' cried Gilderoy to the
Lord of Session, `as this gibbet is built to break people's
craigs, and is not uniform without another, I must e'en hang you
upon the vacant beam.' And straightway the Lord of Session swung
in the moonlight, and Gilderoy had cracked his black and solemn
joke.

This sense of fun is the single trait which relieves the colossal
turpitude of Gilderoy. And, though even his turpitude was
melodramatic in its lack of balance, it is a unity of character
which is the foundation of his greatness. He was no fumbler, led
away from his purpose by the first diversion; his ambition was
clear before him, and he never fell below it. He defied Scotland
for fifteen years, was hanged so high that he passed into a
proverb, and though his handsome, sinister face might have made
women his slaves, he was never betrayed by passion (or by virtue)
to an amiability.

II
SIXTEEN-STRING JACK

SIXTEEN-STRING JACK

THE `Green Pig' stood in the solitude of the North Road. Its
simple front, its neatly balanced windows, curtained with white,
gave it an air of comfort and tranquillity. The smoke which
curled from its hospitable chimney spoke of warmth and good fare.

To pass it was to spurn the last chance of a bottle for many a
weary mile, and the prudent traveller would always rest an hour
by its ample fireside, or gossip with its fantastic hostess.
Now, the hostess of the little inn was Ellen Roach, friend and
accomplice of Sixteen-String Jack, once the most famous woman in
England, and still after a weary stretch at Botany Bay the
strangest of companions, the most buxom of spinsters. Her beauty
was elusive even in her triumphant youth, and middle-age had
neither softened her traits nor refined her expression. Her
auburn hair, once the glory of Covent Garden, was fading to a
withered grey; she was never tall enough to endure an encroaching
stoutness with equanimity; her dumpy figure made you marvel at
her past success; and hardship had furrowed her candid brow into
wrinkles. But when she opened her lips she became instantly
animated. With a glass before her on the table, she would
prattle frankly and engagingly of the past. Strange cities had
she seen; she had faced the dangers of an adventurous life with
calmness and good temper. And yet Botany Bay, with its attendant
horrors, was already fading from her memory. In imagination she
was still with her incomparable hero, and it was her solace,
after fifteen years, to sing the praise and echo the perfections
of Sixteen-String Jack.

`How well I remember,' she would murmur, as though unconscious of
her audience, `the unhappy day when Jack Rann was first arrested.

It was May, and he came back travel-stained and weary in the
brilliant dawn. He had stopped a one-horse shay near the nine-
mile stone on the Hounslow Road--every word of his confession is
burnt into my brain--and had taken a watch and a handful of
guineas. I was glad enough of the money, for there was no penny
in the house, and presently I sent the maid-servant to make the
best bargain she could with the watch. But the silly jade, by
the saddest of mishaps, took the trinket straight to the very man
who made it, and he, suspecting a theft, had us both arrested.
Even then Jack might have been safe, had not the devil prompted
me to speak the truth. Dismayed by the magistrate, I owned,
wretched woman that I was, that I had received the watch from
Rann, and in two hours Jack also was under lock and key.
Yet, when we were sent for trial I made what amends I could. I
declared on oath that I had never seen Sixteen-String Jack in my
life; his name came to my lips by accident; and, hector as they
would, the lawyers could not frighten me to an acknowledgment.
Meanwhile Jack's own behaviour was grand. I was the proudest
woman in England as I stood by his side in the dock. When you
compared him with Sir John Fielding, you did not doubt for an
instant which was the finer gentleman. And what a dandy was my
Jack! Though he came there to answer for his life, he was all
ribbons and furbelows. His irons were tied up with the daintiest
blue bows, and in the breast of his coat he carried a bundle of
flowers as large as a birch-broom. His neck quivered in the
noose, yet he was never cowed to civility. `I know no more of
the matter than you do,' he cried indignantly, `nor half so much
neither,' and if the magistrate had not been an ill-mannered oaf,
he would not have dared to disbelieve my true-hearted Jack. That
time we escaped with whole skins; and off we went, after dinner,
to Vauxhall, where Jack was more noticed than the fiercest of the
bloods, and where he filled the heart of George Barrington with
envy. Nor was he idle, despite his recent escape: he brought
away two watches and three purses from the Garden, so that our
necessities were amply supplied. Ah, I should have been happy in
those days if only Jack had been faithful. But he had a
roving eye and a joyous temperament; and though he loved me
better than any of the baggages to whom he paid court, he would
not visit me so often as he should. Why, once he was hustled off
to Bow Street because the watch caught him climbing in at Doll
Frampton's window. And she, the shameless minx, got him off by
declaring in open court that she would be proud to receive him
whenever he would deign to ring at her bell. That is the penalty
of loving a great man: you must needs share his affection with a
set of unworthy wenches. Yet Jack was always kind to me, and I
was the chosen companion of his pranks.

`Never can I forget the splendid figure he cut that day at
Bagnigge Wells. We had driven down in our coach, and all the
world marvelled at our magnificence. Jack was brave in a scarlet
coat, a tambour waistcoat, and white silk stockings. From the
knees of his breeches streamed the strings (eight at each),
whence he got his name, and as he plucked off his lace-hat the
dinner-table rose at him. That was a moment worth living for,
and when, after his first bottle, Jack rattled the glasses, and
declared himself a highwayman, the whole company shuddered.
``But, my friends,'' quoth he, ``to-day I am making holiday, so
that you have naught to fear.'' When the wine 's in, the wit 's
out, and Jack could never stay his hand from the bottle. The
more he drank, the more he bragged, until, thoroughly fuddled, he
lost a ring from his finger, and charged the miscreants in
the room with stealing it. ``However,'' hiccupped he, ``'tis a
mere nothing, worth a paltry hundred pounds--less than a lazy
evening's work. So I'll let the trifling theft pass.'' But the
cowards were not content with Jack's generosity, and seizing upon
him, they thrust him neck and crop through the window. They were
seventeen to one, the craven-hearted loons; and I could but leave
the marks of my nails on the cheek of the foremost, and follow my
hero into the yard, where we took coach, and drove sulkily back
to Covent Garden.

`And yet he was not always in a mad humour; in fact, Sixteen-
String Jack, for all his gaiety, was a proud, melancholy man.
The shadow of the tree was always upon him, and he would make me
miserable by talking of his certain doom. ``I have a hundred
pounds in my pocket,'' he would say; ``I shall spend that, and
then I shan't last long.'' And though I never thought him
serious, his prophecy came true enough. Only a few months before
the end we had visited Tyburn together. With his usual
carelessness, he passed the line of constables who were on guard.

``It is very proper,'' said he, in his jauntiest tone, ``that I
should be a spectator on this melancholy occasion.'' And though
none of the dullards took his jest, they instantly made way for
him. For my Jack was always a gentleman, though he was bred to
the stable, and his bitterest enemy could not have denied that he
was handsome. His open countenance was as honest as the
day, and the brown curls over his forehead were more elegant than
the smartest wig. Wherever he went the world did him honour, and
many a time my vanity was sorely wounded. I was a pretty girl,
mind you, though my travels have not improved my beauty; and I
had many admirers before ever I picked up Jack Rann at a
masquerade. Why, there was a Templar, with two thousand a year,
who gave me a carriage and servants while I still lived at the
dressmaker's in Oxford Street, and I was not out of my teens when
the old Jew in St. Mary Axe took me into keeping. But when Jack
was by, I had no chance of admiration. All the eyes were glued
upon him, and his poor doxy had to be content with a furtive look
thrown over a stranger's shoulder. At Barnet races, the year
before they sent me across the sea, we were followed by a crowd
the livelong day; and truly Jack, in his blue satin waistcoat
laced with silver, might have been a peer. At any rate, he had
not his equal on the course, and it is small wonder that never
for a moment were we left to ourselves.

`But happiness does not last for ever; only too often we were
gravelled for lack of money, and Jack, finding his purse empty,
could do naught else than hire a hackney and take to the road
again, while I used to lie awake listening to the watchman's
raucous voice, and praying God to send back my warrior rich and
scatheless. So times grew more and more difficult. Jack would
stay a whole night upon the heath, and come home with an empty
pocket or a beggarly half crown. And there was nothing,
after a shabby coat that he hated half so much as a sheriff's
officer. ``Learn a lesson in politeness,'' he said to one of the
wretches who dragged him off to the Marshalsea. ``When Sir John
Fielding's people come after me they use me genteelly; they only
hold up a finger, beckon me, and I follow as quietly as a lamb.
But you bluster and insult, as though you had never dealings with
gentlemen.'' Poor Jack, he was of a proud stomach, and could not
abide interference; yet they would never let him go free. And he
would have been so happy had he been allowed his own way. To
pull out a rusty pistol now and again, and to take a purse from a
traveller--surely these were innocent pleasures, and he never
meant to hurt a fellow-creature. But for all his kindness of
heart, for all his love of splendour and fine clothes, they took
him at last.

`And this time, too, it was a watch which was our ruin. How
often did I warn him: ``Jack,'' I would say, ``take all the
money you can. Guineas tell no tale. But leave the watches in
their owners' fobs.'' Alas! he did not heed my words, and the
last man he ever stopped on the road was that pompous rascal, Dr.
Bell, then chaplain to the Princess Amelia. ``Give me your
money,'' screamed Jack, ``and take no notice or I'll blow your
brains out.'' And the doctor gave him all that he had, the mean-
spirited devil-dodger, and it was no more than eighteenpence.
Now what should a man of courage do with eighteenpence? So poor
Jack was forced to seize the parson's watch and trinkets as
well, and thus it was that a second time we faced the Blind Beak.

When Jack brought home the watch, I was seized with a shuddering
presentiment, and I would have given the world to throw it out of
the window. But I could not bear to see him pinched with hunger,
and he had already tossed the doctor's eighteenpence to a beggar
woman. So I trudged off to the pawnbroker's, to get what price I
could, and I bethought me that none would know me for what I was
so far away as Oxford Street. But the monster behind the counter
had a quick suspicion, though I swear I looked as innocent as a
babe; he discovered the owner of the watch, and infamously
followed me to my house.

`The next day we were both arrested, and once more we stood in
the hot, stifling Court of the Old Bailey. Jack was radiant as
ever, the one spot of colour and gaiety in that close, sodden
atmosphere. When we were taken from Bow Street a thousand people
formed our guard of honour, and for a month we were the twin
wonders of London. The lightest word, the fleetest smile of the
renowned highwayman, threw the world into a fit of excitement,
and a glimpse of Rann was worth a king's ransom. I could look
upon him all day for nothing! And I knew what a fever of fear
throbbed behind his mask of happy contempt. Yet bravely he
played the part unto the very end. If the toasts of London were
determined to gaze at him, he assured them they should have a
proper salve for their eyes. So he dressed himself as a
light-hearted sportsman. His coat and waistcoat were of pea-
green cloth; his buckskin breeches were spotlessly new, and all
tricked out with the famous strings; his hat was bound round with
silver cords; and even the ushers of the Court were touched to
courtesy. He would whisper to me, as we stood in the dock,
``Cheer up, my girl. I have ordered the best supper that Covent
Garden can provide, and we will make merry to-night when this
foolish old judge has done his duty.'' The supper was never
eaten. Through the weary afternoon we waited for acquittal. The
autumn sun sank in hopeless gloom. The wretched lamps twinkled
through the jaded air of the court-house. In an hour I lived a
thousand years of misery, and when the sentence was read, the
words carried no sense to my withered brain. It was only in my
cell I realised that I had seen Jack Rann for the last time; that
his pea-green coat would prove a final and ineffaceable memory.

`Alas! I, who had never been married, was already a hempen widow;
but I was too hopelessly heartbroken for my lover's fate to think
of my own paltry hardship. I never saw him again. They told me
that he suffered at Tyburn like a man, and that he counted upon a
rescue to the very end. They told me (still bitterer news to
hear) that two days before his death he entertained seven women
at supper, and was in the wildest humour. This almost broke my
heart; it was an infidelity committed on the other side of the
grave. But, poor Jack, he was a good lad, and loved me more
than them all, though he never could be faithful to me.' And
thus, bidding the drawer bring fresh glasses, Ellen Roach would
end her story. Though she had told it a hundred times, at the
last words a tear always sparkled in her eye. She lived without
friend and without lover, faithful to the memory of Sixteen-
String Jack, who for her was the only reality in the world of
shades. Her middle-age was as distant as her youth. The
dressmaker's in Oxford Street was as vague a dream as the
inhospitable shore of Botany Bay. So she waited on to a weary
eld, proud of the `Green Pig's' well-ordered comfort, prouder
still that for two years she shared the glory of Jack Rann, and
that she did not desert her hero, even in his punishment.

III
A PARALLEL

(GILDEROY AND SIXTEEN-
STRING JACK)

A PARALLEL
(GILDEROY AND SIXTEEN-STRING JACK)

THEIR closest parallel is the notoriety which dogged them from
the very day of their death. Each, for his own exploits, was the
most famous man of his time, the favourite of broadsides, the
prime hero of the ballad-mongers. And each owed his fame as much
to good fortune as to merit, since both were excelled in their
generation by more skilful scoundrels. If Gilderoy was
unsurpassed in brutality, he fell immeasurably below Hind in
artistry and wit, nor may he be compared to such accomplished
highwaymen as Mull Sack or the Golden Farmer. His method was not
elevated by a touch of the grand style. He stamped all the rules
of the road beneath his contemptuous foot, and cared not what
enormity he committed in his quest for gold. Yet, though he
lived in the true Augustan age, he yielded to no one of his
rivals in glorious recognition. So, too, Jack Rann, of the
Sixteen Strings, was a near contemporary of George Barrington.
While that nimble-fingered prig was making a brilliant
appearance at Vauxhall, and emptying the pockets of his
intimates, Rann was riding over Hounslow Heath, and flashing his
pistol in the eye of the wayfarer. The very year in which Jack
danced his last jig at Tyburn, Barrington had astonished London
by a fruitless attempt to steal Prince Orloff's miraculous snuff-
box. And not even Ellen Roach herself would have dared to assert
that Rann was Barrington's equal in sleight of hand. But Rann
holds his own against the best of his craft, with an imperishable
name, while a host of more distinguished cracksmen are excluded
even from the Newgate Calendar.

In truth, there is one quality which has naught to do with
artistic supremacy; and in this quality both Rann and Gilderoy
were rich beyond their fellows. They knew (none better) how to
impose upon the world. Had their deserts been even less than
they were, they would still have been bravely notorious. It is a
common superstition that the talent for advertisement has but a
transitory effect, that time sets all men in their proper places.

Nothing can be more false; for he who has once declared himself
among the great ones of the earth, not only holds his position
while he lives, but forces an unreasoning admiration upon the
future. Though he declines from the lofty throne, whereon his
own vanity and love of praise have set him, he still stands above
the modest level which contents the genuinely great. Why does
Euripides still throw a shadow upon the worthier poets of his
time? Because he had the faculty of displacement, because
he could compel the world to profess an interest not only in his
work but in himself. Why is Michael Angelo a loftier figure in
the history of art than Donatello, the supreme sculptor of his
time? Because Donatello had not the temper which would bully a
hundred popes, and extract a magnificent advertisement from each
encounter. Why does Shelley still claim a larger share of the
world's admiration than Keats, his indubitable superior? Because
Shelley was blessed or cursed with the trick of interesting the
world by the accidents of his life.

So by a similar faculty Gilderoy and Jack Rann have kept
themselves and their achievements in the light of day. Had they
lived in the nineteenth century they might have been the vendors
of patent pills, or the chairmen of bubble companies. Whatever
trade they had followed, their names would have been on every
hoarding, their wares would have been puffed in every journal.
They understood the art of publicity better than any of their
contemporaries, and they are remembered not because they were the
best thieves of their time, but because they were determined to
interest the people in their misdeeds. Gilderoy's brutality,
which was always theatrical, ensured a constant remembrance, and
the lofty gallows added to his repute; while the brilliant
inspiration of the strings, which decorated Rann's breeches, was
sufficient to conquer death. How should a hero sink to oblivion
who had chosen for himself so splendid a name as Sixteen-
String Jack?

So far, then, their achievement is parallel. And parallel also
is their taste for melodrama. Each employed means too great or
too violent for the end in view. Gilderoy burnt houses and
ravished women, when his sole object was the acquisition of
money. Sixteen-String Jack terrified Bagnigge Wells with the
dreadful announcement that he was a highwayman, when his kindly,
stupid heart would have shrunk from the shedding of a drop of
blood. So they both blustered through the world, the one in
deed, the other in word; and both played their parts with so
little refinement that they frightened the groundlings to a timid
admiration. Here the resemblance is at an end. In the
essentials of their trade Gilderoy was a professional, Rann a
mere amateur. They both bullied; but, while Sixteen-String Jack
was content to shout threats, and pick up half-a-crown, Gilderoy
breathed murder, and demanded a vast ransom. Only once in his
career did the `disgraceful Scotsman' become gay and debonair.
Only once did he relax the tension of his frown, and pick pockets
with the lightness and freedom of a gentleman. It was on his
voyage to France that he forgot his old policy of arson and
pillage, and truly the Court of the Great King was not the place
for his rapacious cruelty. Jack Rann, on the other hand, would
have taken life as a prolonged jest, if Sir John Fielding and the
sheriffs had not checked his mirth. He was but a bungler on
the road, with no more resource than he might have learned from
the common chap-book, or from the dying speeches, hawked in
Newgate Street. But he had a fine talent for merriment; he loved
nothing so well as a smart coat and a pretty woman. Thieving was
no passion with him, but a necessity. How could he dance at a
masquerade or court his Ellen with an empty pocket? So he took
to the road as the sole profession of an idle man, and he bullied
his way from Hounslow to Epping in sheer lightness of heart.
After all, to rob Dr. Bell of eighteenpence was the work of a
simpleton. It was a very pretty taste which expressed itself in
a pea-green coat and deathless strings; and Rann will keep
posterity's respect rather for the accessories of his art than
for the art itself. On the other hand, you cannot imagine
Gilderoy habited otherwise than in black; you cannot imagine this
monstrous matricide taking pleasure in the smaller elegancies of
life. From first to last he was the stern and beetle-browed
marauder, who would have despised the frippery of Sixteen-String
Jack as vehemently as his sudden appearance would have frightened
the foppish lover of Ellen Roach.

Their conduct with women is sufficient index of their character.
Jack Rann was too general a lover for fidelity. But he was
amiable, even in his unfaithfulness; he won the undying affection
of his Ellen; he never stood in the dock without a nosegay tied
up by fair and nimble fingers; he was attended to Tyburn by
a bevy of distinguished admirers. Gilderoy, on the other hand,
approached women in a spirit of violence. His Sadic temper drove
him to kill those whom he affected to love. And his cruelty was
amply repaid. While Ellen Roach perjured herself to save the
lover, to whose memory she professed a lifelong loyalty, it was
Peg Cunningham who wreaked her vengeance in the betrayal of
Gilderoy. He remained true to his character, when he ripped up
the belly of his betrayer. This was the closing act of his life.

Rann, also, was consistent, even to the gallows. The night
before his death he entertained seven women at supper, and
outlaughed them all. The contrast is not so violent as it
appears. The one act is melodrama, the other farce. And what is
farce, but melodrama in a happier shape?

THOMAS PURENEY

THOMAS PURENEY

THOMAS PURENEY, Archbishop among Ordinaries, lived and preached
in the heyday of Newgate. His was the good fortune to witness
Sheppard's encounter with the topsman, and to shrive the battered
soul of Jonathan Wild. Nor did he fall one inch below his
opportunity. Designed by Providence to administer a final
consolation to the evil-doer, he permitted no false ambition to
distract his talent. As some men are born for the gallows, so he
was born to thump the cushion of a prison pulpit; and his
peculiar aptitude was revealed to him before he had time to spend
his strength in mistaken endeavour.

For thirty years his squat, stout figure was amiably familiar to
all such as enjoyed the Liberties of the Jug. For thirty years
his mottled nose and the rubicundity of his cheeks were the
ineffaceable ensigns of his intemperance. Yet there was a grimy
humour in his forbidding aspect. The fusty black coat, which sat
ill upon his shambling frame, was all besmirched with spilled
snuff, and the lees of a thousand quart pots. The bands of his
profession were ever awry upon a tattered shirt. His
ancient wig scattered dust and powder as he went, while a single
buckle of some tawdry metal gave a look of oddity to his clumsy,
slipshod feet. A caricature of a man, he ambled and chuckled and
seized the easy pleasures within his reach. There was never a
summer's day but he caught upon his brow the few faint gleams of
sunlight that penetrated the gloomy yard. Hour after hour he
would sit, his short fingers hardly linked across his belly,
drinking his cup of ale, and puffing at a half-extinguished
tobacco-pipe. Meanwhile he would reflect upon those triumphs of
oratory which were his supreme delight. If it fell on a Monday
that he took the air, a smile of satisfaction lit up his fat,
loose features, for still he pondered the effect of yesterday's
masterpiece. On Saturday the glad expectancy of to-morrow lent
him a certain joyous dignity. At other times his eye lacked
lustre, his gesture buoyancy, unless indeed he were called upon
to follow the cart to Tyburn, or to compose the Last Dying Speech
of some notorious malefactor.

Preaching was the master passion of his life. It was the pulpit
that reconciled him to exile within a great city, and persuaded
him to the enjoyment of roguish company. Those there were who
deemed his career unfortunate; but a sense of fitness might have
checked their pity, and it was only in his hours of maudlin
confidence that the Reverend Thomas confessed to disappointment.
Born of respectable parents in the County of Cambridgeshire,
he nurtured his youth upon the exploits of James Hind and the
Golden Farmer. His boyish pleasure was to lie in the ditch,
which bounded his father's orchard, studying that now forgotten
masterpiece, `There's no Jest like a True Jest.' Then it was that
he felt `immortal longings in his blood.' He would take to the
road, so he swore, and hold up his enemies like a gentleman.
Once, indeed, he was surprised by the clergyman of the parish in
act to escape from the rectory with two volumes of sermons and a
silver flagon. The divine was minded to speak seriously to him
concerning the dreadful sin of robbery, and having strengthened
him with texts and good counsel, to send him forth unpunished.
`Thieving and covetousness,' said the parson, `must inevitably
bring you to the gallows. If you would die in your bed, repent
you of your evildoing, and rob no more.' The exhortation was not
lost upon Pureney, who, chastened in spirit, straightly prevailed
upon his father to enter him a pensioner at Corpus Christi
College in the University of Cambridge, that at the proper time
he might take orders.

At Cambridge he gathered no more knowledge than was necessary for
his profession, and wasted such hours as should have been given
to study in drinking, dicing, and even less reputable pleasures.
Yet repentance was always easy, and he accepted his first curacy,
at Newmarket, with a brave heart and a good hopefulness.
Fortunate was the choice of this early cure. Had he been
gently guided at the outset, who knows but he might have lived
out his life in respectable obscurity? But Newmarket then, as
now, was a town of jollity and dissipation, and Pureney yielded
without persuasion to the pleasures denied his cloth. There was
ever a fire to extinguish at his throat, nor could he veil his
wanton eye at the sight of a pretty wench. Again and again the
lust of preaching urged him to repent, yet he slid back upon his
past gaiety, until Parson Pureney became a byword. Dismissed
from Newmarket in disgrace, he wandered the country up and down
in search of a pulpit, but so infamous became the habit of his
life that only in prison could he find an audience fit and
responsive.

And, in the nick, the chaplaincy of Newgate fell vacant. Here
was the occasion to temper dissipation with piety, to indulge the
twofold ambition of his life. What mattered it, if within the
prison walls he dipped his nose more deeply into the punch-bowl
than became a divine? The rascals would but respect him the more
for his prowess, and knit more closely the bond of sympathy.
Besides, after preaching and punch he best loved a penitent, and
where in the world could he find so rich a crop of erring souls
ripe for repentance as in gaol? Henceforth he might threaten,
bluster, and cajole. If amiability proved fruitless he would put
cruelty to the test, and terrify his victims by a spirited
reference to Hell and to that Burning Lake they were so soon to
traverse. At last, thought he, I shall be sure of my
effect, and the prospect flattered his vanity. In truth, he won
an immediate and assured success. Like the common file or
cracksman, he fell into the habit of the place, intriguing with
all the cleverness of a practised diplomatist, and setting one
party against the other that he might in due season decide the
trumpery dispute. The trusted friend of many a distinguished
prig and murderer, he so intimately mastered the slang and
etiquette of the Jug, that he was appointed arbiter of all those
nice questions of honour which agitated the more reputable among
the cross-coves. But these were the diversions of a strenuous
mind, and it was in the pulpit or in the closet that the Reverend
Thomas Pureney revealed his true talent.

As the ruffian had a sense of drama, so he was determined that
his words should scald and bite the penitent. When the condemned
pew was full of a Sunday his happiness was complete. Now his
deep chest would hurl salvo on salvo of platitudes against the
sounding-board; now his voice, lowered to a whisper, would coax
the hopeless prisoners to prepare their souls. In a paroxysm of
feigned anger he would crush the cushion with his clenched fist,
or leaning over the pulpit side as though to approach the nearer
to his victims, would roll a cold and bitter eye upon them, as of
a cat watching caged birds. One famous gesture was irresistible,
and he never employed it but some poor ruffian fell senseless to
the floor. His stumpy fingers would fix a noose of air
round some imagined neck, and so devoutly was the pantomime
studied that you almost heard the creak of the retreating cart as
the phantom culprit was turned off. But his conduct in the
pulpit was due to no ferocity of temperament. He merely
exercised his legitimate craft. So long as Newgate supplied him
with an enforced audience, so long would he thunder and bluster
at the wrongdoer according to law and the dictates of his
conscience.

Many, in truth, were his triumphs, but, as he would mutter in his
garrulous old age, never was he so successful as in the last
exhortation delivered to Matthias Brinsden. Now, Matthias
Brinsden incontinently murdered his wife because she harboured
too eager a love of the brandy-shop. A model husband, he had
spared no pains in her correction. He had flogged her without
mercy and without result. His one design was to make his wife
obey him, which, as the Scriptures say, all wives should do. But
the lust of brandy overcame wifely obedience, and Brinsden,
hoping for the best, was constrained to cut a hole in her skull.
The next day she was as impudent as ever, until Matthias rose yet
more fiercely in his wrath, and the shrew perished. Then was
Thomas Pureney's opportunity, and the Sunday following the
miscreant's condemnation he delivered unto him and seventeen
other malefactors the moving discourse which here follows:

`We shall take our text,' gruffed the Ordinary `From out the
Psalms: ``Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half
their days.'' And firstly, we shall expound to you the heinous
sin of murder, which is unlawful (1) according to the Natural
Laws, (2) according to the Jewish Law, (3) according to the
Christian Law, proportionably stronger. By Nature 'tis unlawful
as 'tis injuring Society: as 'tis robbing God of what is His
Right and Property; as 'tis depriving the Slain of the
satisfaction of Eating, Drinking, Talking, and the Light of the
Sun, which it is his right to enjoy. And especially 'tis
unlawful, as it is sending a Soul naked and unprepared to appear
before a wrathful and avenging Deity without time to make his
Soul composedly or to listen to the thoughtful ministrations of
one (like ourselves) soundly versed in Divinity. By the Jewish
Law 'tis forbidden, for is it not written (Gen. ix. 6):
``Whosoever sheddeth Man's Blood, by Man his Blood shall be
shed''? And if an Eye be given for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth,
how shall the Murderer escape with his dishonoured Life? 'Tis
further forbidden by the Christian Law (proportionably stronger).

But on this head we would speak no word, for were not you all, O
miserable Sinners, born not in the Darkness of Heathendom, but in
the burning Light of Christian England?

`Secondly, we will consider the peculiar wickedness of Parricide,
and especially the Murder of a Wife. What deed, in truth, is
more heinous than that a man should slay the Parent of his own
Children, the Wife he had once loved and chose out of all the
world to be a Companion of his Days; the Wife who long had
shared his good Fortune and his ill, who had brought him with
Pain and Anguish several Tokens and Badges of Affection, the
Olive Branches round about his Table? To embrew the hands in
such blood is double Murder, as it murders not only the Person
slain, but kills the Happiness of the orphaned Children,
depriving them of Bread, and forcing them upon wicked Ways of
getting a Maintenance, which often terminate in Newgate and an
ignominious death.

`Bloodthirsty men, we have said, shall not live out half their
Days. And think not that Repentance avails the Murderer. ``Hell
and Damnation are never full'' (Prov. xxvii. 20), and the meanest
Sinner shall find a place in the Lake which burns unto Eternity
with Fire and Brimstone. Alas! your Punishment shall not finish
with the Noose. Your ``end is to be burned'' (Heb. vi. 8), to be
burned, for the Blood that is shed cries aloud for Vengeance.'
At these words, as Pureney would relate with a smile of
recollected triumph, Matthias Brinsden screamed aloud, and a
shiver ran through the idle audience which came to Newgate on a
Black Sunday, as to a bull-baiting. Truly, the throng of
thoughtless spectators hindered the proper solace of the
Ordinary's ministrations, and many a respectable murderer
complained of the intruding mob. But the Ordinary, otherwise
minded, loved nothing so well as a packed house, and though he
would invite the criminal to his private closet, and comfort his
solitude with pious ejaculations, he would neither shield
him from curiosity, nor tranquillise his path to the unquenchable
fire.

Not only did he exercise in the pulpit a poignant and visible
influence. He boasted the confidence of many heroes. His green
old age cherished no more famous memory than the friendship of
Jonathan Wild. He had known the Great Man at his zenith; he had
wrestled with him in the hour of discomfiture; he had preached
for his benefit that famous sermon on the text: `Hide Thy Face
from my sins, and blot out all my Iniquities'; he had witnessed
the hero's awful progress from Newgate to Tyburn; he had seen him
shiver at the nubbing-cheat; he had composed for him a last dying
speech, which did not shame the king of thief-takers, and whose
sale brought a comfortable profit to the widow. Jonathan, on his
side, had shown the Ordinary not a little condescension. It had
been his whim, on the eve of his marriage, to present Mr. Pureney
with a pair of white gloves, which were treasured as a priceless
relic for many a year. And when he paid his last, forced visit
to Newgate, he gave the Chaplain, for a pledge of his esteem,
that famous silver staff, which he carried, as a badge of
authority from the Government, the better to keep the people in
awe, and favour the enterprises of his rogues.

Only one cloud shadowed this old and equal friendship. Jonathan
had entertained the Ordinary with discourse so familiar, they had
cracked so many a bottle together, that when the irrevocable
sentence was passed, when he who had never shown mercy, expected
none, the Great Man found the exhortations of the illiterate
Chaplain insufficient for his high purpose. `As soon as I came
into the condemned Hole,' thus he wrote, `I began to think of
making a preparation for my soul; and the better to bring my
stubborn heart to repentance, I desired the advice of a man of
learning, a man of sound judgment in divinity, and therefore
application being made to the Reverend Mr. Nicholson, he very
Christian-like gave me his assistance.' Alas! Poor Pureney! He
lacked subtlety, and he was instantly baffled, when the Great Man
bade him expound the text: `Cursed is every one that hangeth on
a tree.' The shiftiest excuse would have brought solace to a
breaking heart and conviction to a casuist brain. Yet for once
the Ordinary was at a loss, and Wild, finding him insufficient
for his purpose, turned a deaf ear to his ministrations. Thus he
was rudely awakened from the dream of many sleepless nights. His
large heart almost broke at the neglect.

But if his more private counsels were scorned, he still had the
joy of delivering a masterpiece from the pulpit, of using `all
the means imaginable to make Wild think of another world,' and of
seeing him as neatly turned off as the most exacting Ordinary
could desire. And what inmate of Newgate ever forgot the
afternoon of that glorious day (May the 24th, 1725)? Mr. Pureney
returned to his flock, fortified with punch and good
tidings. He pictured the scene at Tyburn with a bibulous
circumstance, which admirably became his style, rejoicing, as he
has rejoiced ever since, that, though he lost a friend, the
honest rogue was saved at last from the machinations of the
thief-taker.

So he basked and smoked and drank his ale, retelling the ancient
stories, and hiccuping forth the ancient sermons. So, in the
fading twilight of life, he smiled the smile of contentment, as
became one who had emptied more quarts, had delivered more
harrowing discourses, and had lived familiarly with more
scoundrels than any devil-dodger of his generation.

SHEPPARD AND CARTOUCHE

I
JACK SHEPPARD

JACK SHEPPARD
IT was midnight when Jack Sheppard reached the leads, wearied by
his magical achievement, and still fearful of discovery. The
`jolly pair of handcuffs,' provided by the thoughtful Governor,
lay discarded in his distant cell; the chains which a few hours
since had grappled him to the floor encumbered the now useless
staple. No trace of the ancient slavery disgraced him save the
iron anklets which clung about his legs; though many a broken
wall and shattered lock must serve for evidence of his prowess on
the morrow. The Stone-Jug was all be-chipped and shattered.
From the castle he had forced his way through a nine-foot wall
into the Red Room, whose bolts, bars, and hinges he had ruined to
gain the Chapel. The road thence to the roof and to freedom was
hindered by three stubborn iron doors; yet naught stood in the
way of Sheppard's genius, and he was sensible, at last, of the
night air chill upon his cheek.

But liberty was not yet: there was still a fall of forty feet,
and he must needs repass the wreckage of his own making to filch
the blankets from his cell. In terror lest he should awaken the
Master-Side Debtors, he hastened back to the roof, lashed
the coverlets together, and, as the city clocks clashed twelve,
he dropped noiselessly upon the leads of a turner's house, built
against the prison's outer wall. Behind him Newgate was cut out
a black mass against the sky; at his feet glimmered the garret
window of the turner's house, and behind the winking casement he
could see the turner's servant going to bed. Through her chamber
lay the road to glory and Clare Market, and breathlessly did
Sheppard watch till the candle should be extinguished and the
maid silenced in sleep. In his anxiety he must tarry--tarry; and
for a weary hour he kicked his heels upon the leads, ambition
still too uncertain for quietude. Yet he could not but catch a
solace from his splendid craft. Said he to himself: `Am I not
the most accomplished slip-string the world has known? The
broken wall of every round house in town attests my bravery.
Light-limbed though I be, have I not forced the impregnable
Castle itself? And my enemies--are they not to-day writhing in
distress ? The head of Blueskin, that pitiful thief, quivers in
the noose; and Jonathan Wild bleeds at the throat from the dregs
of a coward's courage. What a triumph shall be mine when the
Keeper finds the stronghold tenantless!'

Now, unnumbered were the affronts he had suffered from the
Keeper's impertinence, and he chuckled aloud at his own witty
rejoinder. Only two days since the Gaoler had caught him
tampering with his irons. `Young man,' he had said, `I see what
you have been doing, but the affair betwixt us stands thus:
It is your business to make your escape, and mine to take care
you shall not.' Jack had answered coolly enough: `Then let's
both mind our own business.' And it was to some purpose that he
had minded his. The letter to his baffled guardian, already
sketched in his mind, tickled him afresh, when suddenly he leaps
to his feet and begins to force the garret window.

The turner's maid was a heavy sleeper, and Sheppard crept from
her garret to the twisted stair in peace. Once, on a lower
floor, his heart beat faster at the trumpetings of the turner's
nose, but he knew no check until he reached the street door. The
bolt was withdrawn in an instant, but the lock was turned, and
the key nowhere to be found. However, though the risk of
disturbance was greater than in Newgate, the task was light
enough: and with an iron link from his fetter, and a rusty nail
which had served him bravely, the box was wrenched off in a
trice, and Sheppard stood unattended in the Old Bailey. At first
he was minded to make for his ancient haunts, or to conceal
himself within the Liberty of Westminster; but the fetter-locks
were still upon his legs, and he knew that detection would be
easy as long as he was thus embarrassed. Wherefore, weary and
an-hungered, he turned his steps northward, and never rested
until he had gained Finchley Common.

At break of day, when the world re-awoke from the fear of
thieves, he feigned a limp at a cottage door, and borrowed a
hammer to straighten a pinching shoe. Five minutes behind a
hedge, and his anklets had dropped from him; and, thus a free
man, he took to the high road. After all he was persuaded to
desert London and to escape a while from the sturdy embrace of
Edgworth Bess. Moreover, if Bess herself were in the lock-up, he
still feared the interested affection of Mistress Maggot, that
other doxy, whose avarice would surely drive him upon a dangerous
enterprise; so he struck across country, and kept starvation from
him by petty theft. Up and down England he wandered in solitary
insolence. Once, saith rumour, his lithe apparition startled the
peace of Nottingham; once, he was wellnigh caught begging wort at
a brew-house in Thames Street. But he might as well have
lingered in Newgate as waste his opportunity far from the
delights of Town; the old lust of life still impelled him, and a
week after the hue-and-cry was raised he crept at dead of night
down Drury Lane. Here he found harbourage with a friendly fence,
Wild's mortal enemy, who promised him a safe conduct across the
seas. But the desire of work proved too strong for prudence; and
in a fortnight he had planned an attack on the pawnshop of one
Rawling, at the Four Balls in Drury Lane.

Sheppard, whom no house ever built with hands was strong enough
to hold, was better skilled at breaking out than at breaking in,
and it is remarkable that his last feat in the cracking of
cribs was also his greatest. Its very conception was a
masterpiece of effrontery. Drury Lane was the thief-catcher's
chosen territory; yet it was the Four Balls that Jack designed
for attack, and watches, tie-wigs, snuff-boxes were among his
booty. Whatever he could not crowd upon his person he presented
to a brace of women. Tricked out in his stolen finery, he drank
and swaggered in Clare Market. He was dressed in a superb suit
of black; a diamond fawney flashed upon his finger; his light
tie-periwig was worth no less than seven pounds; pistols,
tortoise-shell snuff-boxes, and golden guineas jostled one
another in his pockets.

Thus, in brazen magnificence, he marched down Drury Lane on a
certain Saturday night in November 1724. Towards midnight he
visited Thomas Nicks, the butcher, and having bargained for three
ribs of beef, carried Nicks with him to a chandler's hard by,
that they might ratify the bargain with a dram. Unhappily, a boy
from the `Rose and Crown' sounded the alarm; for coming into the
chandler's for the empty ale-pots, he instantly recognised the
incomparable gaol-thief, and lost no time in acquainting his
master. Now, Mr. Bradford, of the `Rose and Crown,' was a head-
borough, who, with the zeal of a triumphant Dogberry, summoned
the watch, and in less than half an hour Jack Sheppard was
screaming blasphemies in a hackney-cab on his way home to
Newgate.

The Stone-Jug received him with deference and admiration. Three
hundred pounds weight of irons were put upon him for an
adornment, and the Governor professed so keen a solicitude for
his welfare that he never left him unattended. There was scarce
a beautiful woman in London who did not solace him with her
condescension, and enrich him with her gifts. Not only did the
President of the Royal Academy deign to paint his portrait, but
(a far greater honour) Hogarth made him immortal. Even the King
displayed a proper interest, demanding a full and precise account
of his escapes. The hero himself was drunk with flattery; he
bubbled with ribaldry; he touched off the most valiant of his
contemporaries in a ludicrous phrase. But his chief delight was
to illustrate his prowess to his distinguished visitors, and
nothing pleased him better than to slip in and out of his chains.

Confronted with his judge, he forthwith proposed to rid himself
of his handcuffs, and he preserved until the fatal tree an
illimitable pride in his artistry. Nor would he believe in the
possibility of death. To the very last he was confirmed in the
hope of pardon; but, pardon failing him, his single consolation
was that his procession from Westminster to Newgate was the
largest that London had ever known, and that in the crowd a
constable broke his leg. Even in the Condemned Hole he was
unreconciled. If he had broken the Castle, why should he not
also evade the gallows? Wherefore he resolved to carry a
knife to Tyburn that he might cut the rope, and so, losing
himself in the crowd, ensure escape. But the knife was
discovered by his warder's vigilance, and taken from him after a
desperate struggle. At the scaffold he behaved with admirable
gravity: confessing the wickeder of his robberies, and asking
pardon for his enormous crimes. `Of two virtues,' he boasted at
the self-same moment that the cart left him dancing without the
music, `I have ever cherished an honest pride: never have I
stooped to friendship with Jonathan Wild, or with any of his
detestable thief-takers; and, though an undutiful son, I never
damned my mother's eyes.'

Thus died Jack Sheppard; intrepid burglar and incomparable
artist, who, in his own separate ambition of prison-breaking,
remains, and will ever remain, unrivalled. His most brilliant
efforts were the result neither of strength nor of cunning; for
so slight was he of build, so deficient in muscle, that both
Edgworth Bess and Mistress Maggot were wont to bang him to their
own mind and purpose. And an escape so magnificently planned, so
bravely executed as was his from the Strong Room, is far greater
than a mere effect of cunning. Those mysterious gifts which
enable mankind to batter the stone walls of a prison, or to bend
the iron bars of a cage, were pre-eminently his. It is also
certain that he could not have employed his gifts in a more
reputable profession.

II
LOUIS-DOMINIQUE CARTOUCHE

LOUIS-DOMINIQUE CARTOUCHE

Of all the heroes who have waged a private and undeclared war
upon their neighbours, Louis-Dominique Cartouche was the most
generously endowed. It was but his resolute contempt for
politics, his unswerving love of plunder for its own sake, that
prevented him from seizing a throne or questing after the empire
of the world. The modesty of his ambition sets him below
Csar, or Napoleon, but he yields to neither in the genius of
success: whatever he would attain was his on the instant, nor did
failure interrupt his career, until treachery, of which he went
in perpetual terror, involved himself and his comrades in ruin.
His talent of generalship was unrivalled. None of the gang was
permitted the liberty of a free-lance. By Cartouche was the
order given, and so long as the chief was in repose, Paris might
enjoy her sleep. When it pleased him to join battle a whistle
was enough.

Now, it was revealed to his intelligence that the professional
thief, who devoted all his days and such of his nights as were
spared from depredation to wine and women, was more readily
detected than the valet-de-chambre, who did but crack a
crib or cry `Stand and deliver!' on a proper occasion.
Wherefore, he bade his soldiers take service in the great houses
of Paris, that, secure of suspicion, they might still be ready to
obey the call of duty. Thus, also, they formed a reconnoitring
force, whose vigilance no prize might elude; and nowhere did
Cartouche display his genius to finer purpose than in this
prudent disposition of his army. It remained only to efface
himself, and therein he succeeded admirably by never sleeping two
following nights in the same house: so that, when Cartouche was
the terror of Paris, when even the King trembled in his bed, none
knew his stature nor could recognise his features. In this
shifting and impersonal vizard, he broke houses, picked pockets,
robbed on the pad. One night he would terrify the Faubourg St.
Germain; another he would plunder the humbler suburb of St.
Antoine; but on each excursion he was companioned by experts, and
the map of Paris was rigidly apportioned among his followers. To
each district a captain was appointed, whose business it was to
apprehend the customs of the quarter, and thus to indicate the
proper season of attack.

Ever triumphant, with yellow-boys ever jingling in his pocket,
Cartouche lived a life of luxurious merriment. A favourite haunt
was a cabaret in the Rue Dauphine, chosen for the sanest of
reasons, as his Captain Ferrand declared, that the landlady was a
femme d'esprit. Here he would sit with his friends and
his women, and thereafter drive his chariot across the Pont Neuf
to the sunnier gaiety of the Palais-Royal. A finished dandy, he
wore by preference a grey-white coat with silver buttons; his
breeches and stockings were on a famous occasion of black silk;
while a sword, scabbarded in satin, hung at his hip.

But if Cartouche, like many another great man, had the faculty of
enjoyment, if he loved wine and wit, and mistresses handsomely
attired in damask, he did not therefore neglect his art. When
once the gang was perfectly ordered, murder followed robbery with
so instant a frequency that Paris was panic-stricken. A cry of
`Cartouche' straightway ensured an empty street. The King took
counsel with his ministers: munificent rewards were offered,
without effect. The thief was still at work in all security, and
it was a pretty irony which urged him to strip and kill on the
highway one of the King's own pages. Also, he did his work with
so astonishing a silence, with so reasoned a certainty, that it
seemed impossible to take him or his minions red-handed.

Before all, he discouraged the use of firearms. `A pistol,' his
philosophy urged, `is an excellent weapon in an emergency, but
reserve it for emergencies. At close quarters it is none too
sure; and why give the alarm against yourself?' Therefore he
armed his band with loaded staves, which sent their enemies into
a noiseless and fatal sleep. Thus was he wont to laugh at
the police, deeming capture a plain impossibility. The traitor,
in sooth, was his single, irremediable fear, and if ever
suspicion was aroused against a member of the gang, that member
was put to death with the shortest shrift.

It happened in the last year of Cartouche's supremacy that a
lily-livered comrade fell in love with a pretty dressmaker. The
indiscretion was the less pardonable since the dressmaker had a
horror of theft, and impudently tried to turn her lover from his
trade. Cartouche, discovering the backslider, resolved upon a
public exhibition. Before the assembled band he charged the
miscreant with treason, and, cutting his throat, disfigured his
face beyond recognition. Thereafter he pinned to the corse the
following inscription, that others might be warned by so
monstrous an example: `Ci git Jean Rebti, qui a eu le
traitement qu'il mritait: ceux qui en feront autant que lui
peuvent attendre le mme sort.' Yet this was the murder that
led to the hero's own capture and death.

Du Chtelet, another craven, had already aroused the
suspicions of his landlady: who, finding him something troubled
the day after the traitor's death, and detecting a spot of blood
on his neckerchief, questioned him closely. The coward fumbling
at an answer, she was presently convinced of his guilt, and
forthwith denounced him for a member of the gang to M. Pacome, an
officer of the Guard. Straightly did M. Pacme summon Du
Chtelet, and, assuming his guilt for certitude, bade him
surrender his captain. `My friend,' said he, `I know you for an
associate of Cartouche. Your hands are soiled with murder and
rapine. Confess the hiding-place of Cartouche, or in twenty-four
hours you are broken on the wheel.' Vainly did Du Chtelet
protest his ignorance. M. Pacme was resolute, and before the
interview was over the robber confessed that Cartouche had given
him rendezvous at nine next day.

In the grey morning thirty soldiers crept forth guided by the
traitor, `en habits de bourgeois et de chasseur,' for the house
where Cartouche had lain. It was an inn, kept by one Savard,
near la Haulte Borne de la Courtille; and the soldiers, though
they lacked not numbers, approached the chieftain's lair shaking
with terror. In front marched Du Chtelet; the rest followed
in Indian file, ten paces apart. When the traitor reached the
house, Savard recognised him for a friend, and entertained him
with familiar speech. `Is there anybody upstairs?' demanded Du
Chtelet. `No,' replied Savard. `Are the four women
upstairs?' asked Du Chtelet again. `Yes, they are,' came the
answer: for Savard knew the password of the day. Instantly the
soldiers filled the tavern, and, mounting the staircase,
discovered Cartouche with his three lieutenants, Balagny,
Limousin, and Blanchard. One of the four still lay abed; but
Cartouche, with all the dandy's respect for his clothes, was
mending his breeches. The others hugged a flagon of wine over
the fire.

So fell the scourge of Paris into the grip of justice. But once
under lock and key, he displayed all the qualities which made him
supreme. His gaiety broke forth into a light-hearted contempt of
his gaolers, and the Lieutenant Criminel, who would interrogate
him, was covered with ridicule. Not for an instant did he bow to
fate: all shackled as he was, his legs engarlanded in heavy
chains--which he called his garters--he tempered his merriment
with the meditation of escape. From the first he denied all
knowledge of Cartouche, insisting that his name was Charles
Bourguignon, and demanding burgundy, that he might drink to his
country and thus prove him a true son of the soil. Not even the
presence of his mother and brother abashed him. He laughed them
away as impostors, hired by a false justice to accuse and to
betray the innocent. No word of confession crossed his lips, and
he would still entertain the officers of the law with joke and
epigram.

Thus he won over a handful of the Guard, and, begging for
solitude, he straightway set about escape with a courage and an
address which Jack Sheppard might have envied. His delicate ear
discovered that a cellar lay beneath his cell; and with the old
nail which lies on the floor of every prison he made his way
downwards into a boxmaker's shop. But a barking dog spoiled the
enterprise: the boxmaker and his daughter were immediately
abroad, and once more Cartouche was lodged in prison,
weighted with still heavier garters.

Then came a period of splendid notoriety: he held his court, he
gave an easy rein to his wit, he received duchesses and princes
with an air of amiable patronage. Few there were of his
visitants who left him without a present of gold, and thus the
universal robber was further rewarded by his victims. His
portrait hung in every house, and his thin, hard face, his dry,
small features were at last familiar to the whole of France. M.
Grandval made him the hero of an epic--`Le Vice Puni.' Even the
theatre was dominated by his presence; and while Arlequin-
Cartouche was greeted with thunders of applause at the Italiens,
the more serious Franais set Cartouche upon the stage in
three acts, and lavished upon its theme the resources of a then
intelligent art. M. Le Grand, author of the piece, deigned to
call upon the king of thieves, spoke some words of argot with
him, and by way of conscience money gave him a hundred crowns.

Cartouche set little store by such patronage. He pocketed the
crowns, and then put an end to the comedy by threatening that if
it were played again the companions of Cartouche would punish all
such miscreants as dared to make him a laughing stock. For
Cartouche would endure ridicule at no man's hand. At the very
instant of his arrest, all bare-footed as he was, he kicked a
constable who presumed to smile at his discomfiture. His last
days were spent in resolute abandonment. True, he once
attempted to beat out his brains with the fetters that bound
him; true, also, he took a poison that had been secretly conveyed
within the prison. But both attempts failed, and, more
scrupulously watched, he had no other course than jollity.
Lawyers and priests he visited with a like and bitter scorn, and
when, on November 27, 1721, he was led to the scaffold, not a
word of confession or contrition had been dragged from him.

To the last moment he cherished the hope of rescue, and eagerly
he scanned the crowd for the faces of his comrades. But the
gang, trusting to its leader's nobility, had broken its oath.
With contemptuous dignity Cartouche determined upon revenge:
proudly he turned to the priest, begging a respite and the
opportunity of speech. Forgotten by his friends, he resolved to
spare no single soul: he betrayed even his mistresses to justice.

Of his gang, forty were in the service of Mlle. de Montpensier,
who was already in Spain; while two obeyed the Duchesse de
Ventadour as valets-de-pied. His confession, in brief, was so
dangerous a document, it betrayed the friends and servants of so
many great houses, that the officers of the Law found safety for
their patrons in its destruction, and not a line of the hero's
testimony remains. The trial of his comrades dragged on for many
a year, and after Cartouche had been cruelly broken on the wheel,
not a few of the gang, of which he had been at once the terror
and inspiration, suffered a like fate. Such the career and
such the fitting end of the most distinguished marauder the world
has known. Thackeray, with no better guide than a chap-book, was
minded to belittle him, now habiting him like a scullion, now
sending him forth on some petty errand of cly-faking. But for
all Thackeray's contempt his fame is still undimmed, and he has
left the reputation of one who, as thief unrivalled, had scarce
his equal as wit and dandy even in the days when Louis the
Magnificent was still a memory and an example.

III
A PARALLEL
(SHEPPARD AND CARTOUCHE)

A PARALLEL
(SHEPPARD AND CARTOUCHE)

IF the seventeenth century was the golden age of the hightobyman,
it was at the advent of the eighteenth that the burglar and
street-robber plied their trade with the most distinguished
success, and it was the good fortune of both Cartouche and
Sheppard to be born in the nick of time. Rivals in talent, they
were also near contemporaries, and the Scourge of Paris may well
have been famous in the purlieus of Clare Market before Jack the
Slip-String paid the last penalty of his crimes. As each of
these great men harboured a similar ambition, so their careers
are closely parallel. Born in a humble rank of life, Jack, like
Cartouche, was the architect of his own fortune; Jack, like
Cartouche, lived to be flattered by noble dames and to claim the
solicitude of his Sovereign; and each owed his pre-eminence
rather to natural genius than to a sympathetic training.

But, for all the Briton's artistry, the Frenchman was in all
points save one the superior. Sheppard's brain carried him
not beyond the wants of to-day and the extortions of Poll Maggot.

Who knows but he might have been a respectable citizen, with
never a chance for the display of his peculiar talent, had not
hunger and his mistress's greed driven him upon the pad? History
records no brilliant robbery of his own planning, and so
circumscribed was his imagination that he must needs pick out his
own friends and benefactors for depredation. His paltry sense of
discipline permitted him to be betrayed even by his brother and
pupil, and there was no cracksman of his time over whose head he
held the rod of terror. Even his hatred of Jonathan Wild was the
result not of policy but of prejudice. Cartouche, on the other
hand, was always perfect when at work. The master of himself, he
was also the master of his fellows. There was no detail of civil
war that he had not made his own, and he still remains, after
nearly two centuries, the greatest captain the world has seen.
Never did he permit an enterprise to fail by accident; never was
he impelled by hunger or improvidence to fight a battle
unprepared. His means were always neatly fitted to their end, as
is proved by the truth that, throughout his career, he was
arrested but once, and then not by his own inadvertence but by
the treachery of others.

Yet from the moment of arrest Jack Sheppard asserted his
magnificent superiority. If Cartouche was a sorry bungler at
prison-breaking, Sheppard was unmatched in this dangerous art.
The sport of the one was to break in, of the other to break
out. True, the Briton proved his inferiority by too frequently
placing himself under lock and key; but you will forgive his
every weakness for the unexampled skill wherewith he extricated
himself from the stubbornest dungeon. Cartouche would scarce
have given Sheppard a menial's office in his gang. How cordially
Sheppard would have despised Cartouche's solitary experiment in
escape! To be foiled by a dog and a boxmaker's daughter! Would
not that have seemed contemptible to the master breaker of those
unnumbered doors and walls which separate the Castle from the
freedom of Newgate roof?

Such, then, is the contrast between the heroes. Sheppard claims
our admiration for one masterpiece. Cartouche has a sheaf of
works, which shall carry him triumphantly to the remotest future.

And when you forget a while professional rivalry, and consider
the delicacies of leisure, you will find the Frenchman's
greatness still indisputable. At all points he was the prettier
gentleman. Sheppard, to be sure, had a sense of finery, but he
was so unused to grandeur that vulgarity always spoiled his
effects. When he hied him from the pawnshop, laden with booty,
he must e'en cram what he could not wear into his pockets; and
doubtless his vulgar lack of reticence made detection easier.
Cartouche, on the other hand, had an unfailing sense of
proportion, and was never more dressed than became the perfect
dandy. He was elegant, he was polished, he was joyous. He
drank wine, while the other soaked himself in beer; he despised
whatever was common, while his rival knew but the coarser
flavours of life.

The one was distinguished by a boisterous humour, a swaggering
pride in his own prowess; the wit of the other might be edged
like a knife, nor would he ever appeal for a spectacle to the
curiosity of the mob. Both were men of many mistresses, but
again in his conduct with women Cartouche showed an honester
talent. Sheppard was at once the prey and the whipping-block of
his two infamous doxies, who agreed in deformity of feature as in
contempt for their lover. Cartouche, on the other hand, chose
his cabaret for the wit of its patronne, and was always happy
in the elegance and accomplishment of his companions. One point
of likeness remains. The two heroes resembled each other not
only in their profession, but in their person. Though their
trade demanded physical strength, each was small and slender of
build. `A little, slight-limbed lad,' says the historian of
Sheppard. `A thin, spare frame,' sings the poet of Cartouche.
Here, then, neither had the advantage, and if in the shades
Cartouche despises the clumsiness and vulgarity of his rival,
Sheppard may still remember the glory of Newgate, and twit the
Frenchman with the barking of the boxmaker's dog. But genius is
the talent of the dead, and the wise, who are not partisans, will
not deny to the one or to the other the possession of the rarer
gift.

VAUX

VAUX

TO Haggart, who babbled on the Castle Rock of Willie Wallace and
was only nineteen when he danced without the music; to Simms,
alias Gentleman Harry, who showed at Tyburn how a hero could
die; to George Barrington, the incomparably witty and adroit--to
these a full meed of honour has been paid. Even the coarse and
dastardly Freney has achieved, with Thackeray's aid (and Lever's)
something of a reputation. But James Hardy Vaux, despite his
eloquent bid for fame, has not found his rhapsodist. Yet a more
consistent ruffian never pleaded for mercy. From his early youth
until in 1819 he sent forth his Memoirs to the world, he lived
industriously upon the cross. There was no racket but he worked
it with energy and address. Though he practised the more
glorious crafts of pickpocket and shoplifter, he did not despise
the begging-letter, and he suffered his last punishment for
receiving what another's courage had conveyed. His enterprise
was not seldom rewarded with success, and for a decade of years
he continued to preserve an appearance of gentility; but it is
plain, even from his own narrative, that he was scarce an
artist, and we shall best understand him if we recognise that he
was a Philistine among thieves. He lived in an age of pocket-
picking, and skill in this branch is the true test of his time.
A contemporary of Barrington, he had before him the most
brilliant of examples, which might properly have enforced the
worth of a simple method. But, though he constantly brags of his
success at Drury Lane, we take not his generalities for gospel,
and the one exploit whose credibility is enforced with
circumstance was pitiful both in conception and performance. A
meeting of freeholders at the `Mermaid Tavern,' Hackney, was the
occasion, and after drawing blank upon blank, Vaux succeeded at
last in extracting a silver snuff-box. Now, his clumsiness had
suggested the use of the scissors, and the victim not only
discovered the scission in his coat, but caught the thief with
the implements of his art upon him. By a miracle of impudence
Vaux escaped conviction, but he deserved the gallows for his want
of principle, and not even sympathy could have let drop a tear,
had justice seized her due. On the straight or on the cross the
canons of art deserve respect; and a thief is great, not because
he is a thief, but because, in filling his own pocket, he
preserves from violence the legitimate traditions of his craft.

But it was in conflict with the jewellers that Vaux best proved
his mettle. It was his wont to clothe himself `in the most
elegant attire,' and on the pretence of purchase to rifle the
shops of Piccadilly. For this offence--`pinching' the Cant
Dictionary calls it--he did his longest stretch of time, and here
his admirable qualities of cunning and coolness found their most
generous scope. A love of fine clothes he shared with all the
best of his kind, and he visited Mr Bilger--the jeweller who
arrested him--magnificently arrayed. He wore a black coat and
waistcoat, blue pantaloons, Hessian boots, and a hat `in the
extreme of the newest fashion.' He was also resplendent with
gold watch and eye-glass. His hair was powdered, and a fawney
sparkled on his dexter fam. The booty was enormous, and a week
later he revisited the shop on another errand. This second visit
was the one flash of genius in a somewhat drab career: the
jeweller was so completely dumfounded, that Vaux might have got
clean away. But though he kept discreetly out of sight for a
while, at last he drifted back to his ancient boozing-ken, and
was there betrayed to a notorious thief-catcher. The inevitable
sentence of death followed. It was commuted after the fashion of
the time, and Vaux, having sojourned a while at the Hulks, sought
for a second time the genial airs of Botany Bay.

His vanity and his laziness were alike invincible. He believed
himself a miracle of learning as well as a perfect thief, and
physical toil was the sole `lay' for which he professed no
capacity. For a while he corrected the press for a printer,
and he roundly asserts that his knowledge of literature and of
foreign tongues rendered him invaluable. It was vanity again
that induced him to assert his innocence when he was lagged for
so vulgar a crime as stealing a wipe from a tradesman in Chancery
Lane. At the moment of arrest he was on his way to purchase base
coin from a Whitechapel bit-faker: but, despite his nefarious
errand, he is righteously wrathful at what he asserts was an
unjust conviction, and henceforth he assumed the crown of
martyrdom. His first and last ambition during the intervals of
freedom was gentility, and so long as he was not at work he lived
the life of a respectable grocer. Although the casual Cyprian

Book of the day: