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A Book of Scoundrels
by Charles Whibley
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A BOOK OF SCOUNDRELS

By Charles Whibley



To the Greeks FOOLISHNESS



I desire to thank the Proprietors of the 'National Observer,' the 'New Review,' the 'Pall Mall Gazette,' and 'Macmillan's Magazine,' for courteous permission to reprint certain chapters of this book.



CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

CAPTAIN HIND

MOLL CUTPURSE AND JONATHAN WILD I. MOLL CUTPURSE II. JONATHAN WILD III. A PARALLEL

RALPH BRISCOE

GILDEROY AND SIXTEEN-STRING JACK I. GILDEROY II. SIXTEEN-STRING JACK III. A PARALLEL

THOMAS PURENEY

SHEPPARD AND CARTOUCHE I. JACK SHEPPARD II. LOUIS-DOMINIQUE CARTOUCHE III. A PARALLEL

VAUX

GEORGE BARRINGTON

THE SWITCHER AND GENTLEMAN HARRY I. THE SWITCHER II. GENTLEMAN HARRY III. A PARALLEL

DEACON BRODIE AND CHARLES PEACE I. DEACON BRODIE II. CHARLES PEACE III. A PARALLEL

THE MAN IN THE GREY SUIT

MONSIEUR L'ABBE



INTRODUCTION

There are other manifestations of greatness than to relieve suffering or to wreck an empire. Julius Caesar and John Howard are not the only heroes who have smiled upon the world. In the supreme adaptation of means to an end there is a constant nobility, for neither ambition nor virtue is the essential of a perfect action. How shall you contemplate with indifference the career of an artist whom genius or good guidance has compelled to exercise his peculiar skill, to indulge his finer aptitudes? A masterly theft rises in its claim to respect high above the reprobation of the moralist. The scoundrel, when once justice is quit of him, has a right to be appraised by his actions, not by their effect; and he dies secure in the knowledge that he is commonly more distinguished, if he be less loved, than his virtuous contemporaries.

While murder is wellnigh as old as life, property and the pocket invented theft, late-born among the arts. It was not until avarice had devised many a cunning trick for the protection of wealth, until civilisation had multiplied the forms of portable property, that thieving became a liberal and an elegant profession. True, in pastoral society, the lawless man was eager to lift cattle, to break down the barrier between robbery and warfare. But the contrast is as sharp between the savagery of the ancient reiver and the polished performance of Captain Hind as between the daub of the pavement and the perfection of Velasquez.

So long as the Gothic spirit governed Europe, expressing itself in useless ornament and wanton brutality, the more delicate crafts had no hope of exercise. Even the adventurer upon the road threatened his victim with a bludgeon, nor was it until the breath of the Renaissance had vivified the world that a gentleman and an artist could face the traveller with a courteous demand for his purse. But the age which witnessed the enterprise of Drake and the triumph of Shakespeare knew also the prowess of the highwayman and the dexterity of the cutpurse. Though the art displayed all the freshness and curiosity of the primitives, still it was art. With Gamaliel Ratsey, who demanded a scene from Hamlet of a rifled player, and who could not rob a Cambridge scholar without bidding him deliver an oration in a wood, theft was already better than a vulgar extortion. Moll Cutpurse, whose intelligence and audacity were never bettered, was among the bravest of the Elizabethans. Her temperament was as large and as reckless as Ben Jonson's own. Neither her tongue nor her courage knew the curb of modesty, and she was the first to reduce her craft to a set of wise and imperious rules. She it was who discovered the secret of discipline, and who insisted that every member of her gang should undertake no other enterprise than that for which nature had framed him. Thus she made easy the path for that other hero, of whom you are told that his band was made up 'of several sorts of wicked artists, of whom he made several uses, according as he perceived which way every man's particular talent lay.' This statesman—Thomas Dun was his name—drew up for the use of his comrades a stringent and stately code, and he was wont to deliver an address to all novices concerning the art and mystery of robbing upon the highway. Under auspices so brilliant, thievery could not but flourish, and when the Stuarts sat upon the throne it was already lifted above the level of questioning experiment.

Every art is shaped by its material, and with the variations of its material it must perforce vary. If the skill of the cutpurse compelled the invention of the pocket, it is certain that the rare difficulties of the pocket created the miraculous skill of those crafty fingers which were destined to empty it. And as increased obstacles are perfection's best incentive, a finer cunning grew out of the fresh precaution. History does not tell us who it was that discovered this new continent of roguery. Those there are who give the credit to the valiant Moll Cutpurse; but though the Roaring Girl had wit to conceive a thousand strange enterprises, she had not the hand to carry them out, and the first pickpocket must needs have been a man of action. Moreover, her nickname suggests the more ancient practice, and it is wiser to yield the credit to Simon Fletcher, whose praises are chanted by the early historians.

Now, Simon, says his biographer, was 'looked upon to be the greatest artist of his age by all his contemporaries.' The son of a baker in Rosemary Lane, he early deserted his father's oven for a life of adventure; and he claims to have been the first collector who, stealing the money, yet left the case. The new method was incomparably more subtle than the old: it afforded an opportunity of a hitherto unimagined delicacy; the wielders of the scissors were aghast at a skill which put their own clumsiness to shame, and which to a previous generation would have seemed the wildest fantasy. Yet so strong is habit, that even when the picking of pockets was a recognised industry, the superfluous scissors still survived, and many a rogue has hanged upon the Tree because he attempted with a vulgar implement such feats as his unaided forks had far more easily accomplished.

But, despite the innovation of Simon Fletcher, the highway was the glory of Elizabeth, the still greater glory of the Stuarts. 'The Lacedaemonians were the only people,' said Horace Walpole, 'except the English who seem to have put robbery on a right foot.' And the English of the seventeenth century need fear the rivalry of no Lacedaemonian. They were, indeed, the most valiant and graceful robbers that the world has ever known. The Civil War encouraged their profession, and, since many of them had fought for their king, a proper hatred of Cromwell sharpened their wits. They were scholars as well as gentlemen; they tempered their sport with a merry wit; their avarice alone surpassed their courtesy; and they robbed with so perfect a regard for the proprieties that it was only the pedant and the parliamentarian who resented their interference.

Nor did their princely manner fail of its effect upon their victims. The middle of the seventeenth century was the golden age, not only of the robber, but of the robbed. The game was played upon either side with a scrupulous respect for a potent, if unwritten, law. Neither might nor right was permitted to control the issue. A gaily attired, superbly mounted highwayman would hold up a coach packed with armed men, and take a purse from each, though a vigorous remonstrance might have carried him to Tyburn. But the traveller knew his place: he did what was expected of him in the best of tempers. Who was he that he should yield in courtesy to the man in the vizard? As it was monstrous for the one to discharge his pistol, so the other could not resist without committing an outrage upon tradition. One wonders what had been the result if some mannerless reformer had declined his assailant's invitation and drawn his sword. Maybe the sensitive art might have died under this sharp rebuff. But none save regicides were known to resist, and their resistance was never more forcible than a volley of texts. Thus the High-toby-crack swaggered it with insolent gaiety, knowing no worse misery than the fear of the Tree, so long as he followed the rules of his craft. But let a touch of brutality disgrace his method, and he appealed in vain for sympathy or indulgence. The ruffian, for instance, of whom it is grimly recorded that he added a tie-wig to his booty, neither deserved nor received the smallest consideration. Delivered to justice, he speedily met the death his vulgarity merited, and the road was taught the salutary lesson that wigs were as sacred as trinkets hallowed by association.

With the eighteenth century the highway fell upon decline. No doubt in its silver age, the century's beginning, many a brilliant deed was done. Something of the old policy survived, and men of spirit still went upon the pad. But the breadth of the ancient style was speedily forgotten; and by the time the First George climbed to the throne, robbery was already a sordid trade. Neither side was conscious of its noble obligation. The vulgar audacity of a bullying thief was suitably answered by the ungracious, involuntary submission of the terrified traveller. From end to end of England you might hear the cry of 'Stand and deliver.' Yet how changed the accent! The beauty of gesture, the deference of carriage, the ready response to a legitimate demand—all the qualities of a dignified art were lost for ever. As its professors increased in number, the note of aristocracy, once dominant, was silenced. The meanest rogue, who could hire a horse, might cut a contemptible figure on Bagshot Heath, and feel no shame at robbing a poor man. Once—in that Augustan age, whose brightest ornament was Captain Hind—it was something of a distinction to be decently plundered. A century later there was none so humble but he might be asked to empty his pocket. In brief, the blight of democracy was upon what should have remained a refined, secluded art; and nowise is the decay better illustrated than in the appreciation of bunglers, whose exploits were scarce worth a record.

James Maclaine, for instance, was the hero of his age. In a history of cowards he would deserve the first place, and the 'Gentleman Highwayman,' as he was pompously styled, enjoyed a triumph denied to many a victorious general. Lord Mountford led half White's to do him honour on the day of his arrest. On the first Sunday, which he spent in Newgate, three thousand jostled for entrance to his cell, and the poor devil fainted three times at the heat caused by the throng of his admirers. So long as his fate hung in the balance, Walpole could not take up his pen without a compliment to the man, who claimed to have robbed him near Hyde Park. Yet a more pitiful rascal never showed the white feather. Not once was he known to take a purse with his own hand, the summit of his achievement being to hold the horses' heads while his accomplice spoke with the passengers. A poltroon before his arrest, in Court he whimpered and whinnied for mercy; he was carried to the cart pallid and trembling, and not even his preposterous finery availed to hearten him at the gallows. Taxed with his timidity, he attempted to excuse himself on the inadmissible plea of moral rectitude. 'I have as much personal courage in an honourable cause,' he exclaimed in a passage of false dignity, 'as any man in Britain; but as I knew I was committing acts of injustice, so I went to them half loth and half consenting; and in that sense I own I am a coward indeed.'

The disingenuousness of this proclamation is as remarkable as its hypocrisy. Well might he brag of his courage in an honourable cause, when he knew that he could never be put to the test. But what palliation shall you find for a rogue with so little pride in his art, that he exercised it 'half loth, half consenting'? It is not in this recreant spirit that masterpieces are achieved, and Maclaine had better have stayed in the far Highland parish, which bred him, than have attempted to cut a figure in the larger world of London. His famous encounter with Walpole should have covered him with disgrace, for it was ignoble at every point; and the art was so little understood, that it merely added a leaf to his crown of glory. Now, though Walpole was far too well-bred to oppose the demand of an armed stranger, Maclaine, in defiance of his craft, discharged his pistol at an innocent head. True, he wrote a letter of apology, and insisted that, had the one pistol-shot proved fatal, he had another in reserve for himself. But not even Walpole would have believed him, had not an amiable faith given him an opportunity for the answering quip: 'Can I do less than say I will be hanged if he is?'

As Maclaine was a coward and no thief, so also he was a snob and no gentleman. His boasted elegance was not more respectable than his art. Fine clothes are the embellishment of a true adventurer; they hang ill on the sloping shoulders of a poltroon.

And Maclaine, with all the ostensible weaknesses of his kind, would claim regard for the strength that he knew not. He occupied a costly apartment in St. James's Street; his morning dress was a crimson damask banjam, a silk shag waistcoat, trimmed with lace, black velvet breeches, white silk stockings, and yellow morocco slippers; but since his magnificence added no jot to his courage, it was rather mean than admirable. Indeed, his whole career was marred by the provincialism of his native manse.

And he was the adored of an intelligent age; he basked a few brief weeks in the noonday sun of fashion.

If distinction was not the heritage of the Eighteenth Century, its glory is that now and again a giant raised his head above the stature of a prevailing rectitude. The art of verse was lost in rhetoric; the noble prose, invented by the Elizabethans, and refined under the Stuarts, was whittled away to common sense by the admirers of Addison and Steele. Swift and Johnson, Gibbon and Fielding, were apparitions of strength in an amiable, ineffective age. They emerged sudden from the impeccable greyness, to which they afforded an heroic contrast. So, while the highway drifted—drifted to a vulgar incompetence, the craft was illumined by many a flash of unexpected genius. The brilliant achievements of Jonathan Wild and of Jack Sheppard might have relieved the gloom of the darkest era, and their separate masterpieces make some atonement for the environing cowardice and stupidity. Above all, the Eighteenth Century was Newgate's golden age; now for the first time and the last were the rules and customs of the Jug perfectly understood. If Jonathan the Great was unrivalled in the art of clapping his enemies into prison, if Jack the Slip-string was supreme in the rarer art of getting himself out, even the meanest criminal of his time knew what was expected of him, so long as he wandered within the walled yard, or listened to the ministrations of the snuff-besmirched Ordinary. He might show a lamentable lack of cleverness in carrying off his booty; he might prove a too easy victim to the wiles of the thief-catcher; but he never fell short of courage, when asked to sustain the consequences of his crime.

Newgate, compared by one eminent author to a university, by another to a ship, was a republic, whose liberty extended only so far as its iron door. While there was no liberty without, there was licence within; and if the culprit, who paid for the smallest indiscretion with his neck, understood the etiquette of the place, he spent his last weeks in an orgie of rollicking lawlessness. He drank, he ate, he diced; he received his friends, or chaffed the Ordinary; he attempted, through the well-paid cunning of the Clerk, to bribe the jury; and when every artifice had failed he went to Tyburn like a man. If he knew not how to live, at least he would show a resentful world how to die.

'In no country,' wrote Sir T. Smith, a distinguished lawyer of the time, 'do malefactors go to execution more intrepidly than in England'; and assuredly, buoyed up by custom and the approval of their fellows, Wild's victims made a brave show at the gallows. Nor was their bravery the result of a common callousness. They understood at once the humour and the delicacy of the situation. Though hitherto they had chaffed the Ordinary, they now listened to his exhortation with at least a semblance of respect; and though their last night upon earth might have been devoted to a joyous company, they did not withhold their ear from the Bellman's Chant. As twelve o'clock approached—their last midnight upon earth—they would interrupt the most spirited discourse, they would check the tour of the mellowest bottle to listen to the solemn doggerel. 'All you that in the condemn'd hole do lie,' groaned the Bellman of St. Sepulchre's in his duskiest voice, and they who held revel in the condemned hole prayed silence of their friends for the familiar cadences:

All you that in the condemn'd hole do lie, Prepare you, for to-morrow you shall die, Watch all and pray, the hour is drawing near, That you before th' Almighty must appear. Examine well yourselves, in time repent That you may not t' eternal flames be sent; And when St. Pulchre's bell to-morrow tolls, The Lord above have mercy on your souls. Past twelve o'clock!

Even if this warning voice struck a momentary terror into their offending souls, they were up betimes in the morning, eager to pay their final debt. Their journey from Newgate to Tyburn was a triumph, and their vanity was unabashed at the droning menaces of the Ordinary. At one point a chorus of maidens cast wreaths upon their way, or pinned nosegays in their coats, that they might not face the executioner unadorned. At the Crown Tavern they quaffed their last glass of ale, and told the landlord with many a leer and smirk that they would pay him on their way back. Though gravity was asked, it was not always given; but in the Eighteenth Century courage was seldom wanting. To the common citizen a violent death was (and is) the worst of horrors; to the ancient highwayman it was the odd trick lost in the game of life. And the highwayman endured the rope, as the practised gambler loses his estate, without blenching. One there was, who felt his leg tremble in his own despite: wherefore he stamped it upon the ground so violently, that in other circumstances he would have roared with pain, and he left the world without a tremor. In this spirit Cranmer burnt his recreant right hand, and in either case the glamour of a unique occasion was a stimulus to courage.

But not even this brilliant treatment of accessories availed to save the highway from disrepute; indeed, it had become the profitless pursuit of braggarts and loafers, long before the abolition of the stage-coach destroyed its opportunity. In the meantime, however, the pickpocket was master of his trade. His strategy was perfect, his sleight of hand as delicate as long, lithe fingers and nimble brains could make it. He had discarded for ever those clumsy instruments whose use had barred the progress of the Primitives. The breast-pocket behind the tightest buttoned coat presented no difficulty to his love of research, and he would penetrate the stoutest frieze or the lightest satin, as easily as Jack Sheppard made a hole through Newgate. His trick of robbery was so simple and yet so successful, that ever since it has remained a tradition. The collision, the victim's murmured apology, the hasty scuffle, the booty handed to the aide-de-camp, who is out of sight before the hue and cry can be raised—such was the policy advocated two hundred years ago; such is the policy pursued to day by the few artists that remain.

Throughout the eighteenth century the art of cly-faking held its own, though its reputation paled in the glamour of the highway. It culminated in George Barrington, whose vivid genius persuaded him to work alone and to carry off his own booty; it still flourished (in a silver age) when the incomparable Haggart performed his prodigies of skill; even in our prosaic time some flashes of the ancient glory have been seen. Now and again circumstances have driven it into eclipse. When the facile sentiment of the Early Victorian Era poised the tear of sympathy upon every trembling eyelid, the most obdurate was forced to provide himself with a silk handkerchief of equal size and value.

Now, a wipe is the easiest booty in the world, and the Artful Dodger might grow rich without the exercise of the smallest skill. But wipes dwindled, with dwindling sensibility; and once more the pickpocket was forced upon cleverness or extinction.

At the same time the more truculent trade of housebreaking was winning a lesser triumph of its own. Never, save in the hands of one or two distinguished practitioners, has this clumsy, brutal pursuit taken on the refinement of an art. Essentially modern, it has generally been pursued in the meanest spirit of gain. Deacon Brodie clung to it as to a diversion, but he was an amateur, without a clear understanding of his craft's possibilities. The sole monarch of housebreakers was Charles Peace. At a single stride he surpassed his predecessors; nor has the greatest of his imitators been worthy to hand on the candle which he left at the gallows. For the rest, there is small distinction in breaking windows, wielding crowbars, and battering the brains of defenceless old gentlemen. And it is to such miserable tricks as this that he who two centuries since rode abroad in all the glory of the High-toby-splice descends in these days of avarice and stupidity. The legislators who decreed that henceforth the rope should be reserved for the ultimate crime of murder were inspired with a proper sense of humour and proportion. It would be ignoble to dignify that ugly enterprise of to-day, the cracking of suburban cribs, with the same punishment which was meted out to Claude Duval and the immortal Switcher. Better for the churl the disgrace of Portland than the chance of heroism and respect given at the Tree!

And where are the heroes whose art was as glorious as their intrepidity? One and all they have climbed the ascent of Tyburn.

One and all, they have leaped resplendent from the cart. The world, which was the joyous playground of highwaymen and pickpockets, is now the Arcadia of swindlers. The man who once went forth to meet his equal on the road, now plunders the defenceless widow or the foolish clergyman from the security of an office. He has changed Black Bess for a brougham, his pistol for a cigar; a sleek chimney-pot sits upon the head, which once carried a jaunty hat, three-cornered; spats have replaced the tops of ancient times; and a heavy fur coat advertises at once the wealth and inaction of the modern brigand. No longer does he roam the heaths of Hounslow or Bagshot; no longer does he track the grazier to a country fair. Fearful of an encounter, he chooses for the fields of his enterprise the byways of the City, and the advertisement columns of the smugly Christian Press. He steals without risking his skin or losing his respectability. The suburb, wherein he brings up a blameless, flat-footed family, regards him as its most renowned benefactor. He is generally a pillar (or a buttress) of the Church, and oftentimes a mayor; with his ill-gotten wealth he promotes charities, and endows schools; his portrait is painted by a second-rate Academician, and hangs, until disaster overtakes him, in the town-hall of his adopted borough.

How much worse is he than the High-toby-cracks of old! They were as brave as lions; he is a very louse for timidity. His conduct is meaner than the conduct of the most ruffianly burglar that ever worked a centre-bit. Of art he has not the remotest inkling: though his greed is bounded by the Bank of England, he understands not the elegancies of life; he cares not how he plumps his purse, so long as it be full; and if he were capable of conceiving a grand effect, he would willingly surrender it for a pocketed half-crown. This side the Channel, in brief, romance and the picturesque are dead; and in France, the last refuge of crime, there are already signs of decay. The Abbe Bruneau caught a whiff of style and invention from the past. That other Abbe—Rosslot was his name—shone forth a pure creator: he owed his prowess to the example of none. But in Paris crime is too often passionel, and a crime passionel is a crime with a purpose, which, like the novel with a purpose, is conceived by a dullard, and carried out for the gratification of the middle-class.

To whitewash the scoundrel is to put upon him the heaviest dishonour: a dishonour comparable only to the monstrously illogical treatment of the condemned. When once a hero has forfeited his right to comfort and freedom, when he is deemed no longer fit to live upon earth, the Prison Chaplain, encouraging him to a final act of hypocrisy, gives him a free pass (so to say) into another and more exclusive world. So, too, the moralist would test the thief by his own narrow standard, forgetting that all professions are not restrained by the same code. The road has its ordinances as well as the lecture-room; and if the thief is commonly a bad moralist, it is certain that no moralist was ever a great thief. Why then detract from a man's legitimate glory? Is it not wiser to respect 'that deep intuition of oneness,' which Coleridge says is 'at the bottom of our faults as well as our virtues?' To recognise that a fault in an honest man is a virtue in a scoundrel? After all, he is eminent who, in obedience to his talent, does prodigies of valour unrivalled by his fellows. And none has so many opportunities of various eminence as the scoundrel.

The qualities which may profitably be applied to a cross life are uncommon and innumerable. It is not given to all men to be light-brained, light-limbed, light-fingered. A courage which shall face an enemy under the starlight, or beneath the shadow of a wall, which shall track its prey to a well-defended lair, is far rarer than a law-abiding cowardice. The recklessness that risks all for a present advantage is called genius, if a victorious general urge it to success; nor can you deny to the intrepid Highwayman, whose sudden resolution triumphs at an instant of peril, the possession of an admirable gift. But all heroes have not proved themselves excellent at all points. This one has been distinguished for the courtly manner of his attack, that other for a prescience which discovers booty behind a coach-door or within the pocket of a buttoned coat. If Cartouche was a master of strategy, Barrington was unmatched in another branch; and each may claim the credit due to a peculiar eminence. It is only thus that you may measure conflicting talents: as it were unfair to judge a poet by a brief experiment in prose, so it would be monstrous to cheapen the accomplishments of a pickpocket, because he bungled at the concealment of his gains.

A stern test of artistry is the gallows. Perfect behaviour at an enforced and public scrutiny may properly be esteemed an effect of talent—an effect which has not too often been rehearsed. There is no reason why the Scoundrel, fairly beaten at the last point in the game, should not go to his death without swagger and without remorse. At least he might comfort himself with such phrases as 'a dance without the music,' and he has not often been lacking in courage. What he has missed is dignity: his pitfalls have been unctuosity, on the one side, bravado on the other. It was the Prison Ordinary, who first misled him into the assumption of a piety which neither preacher nor disciple understood. It was the Prison Ordinary, who persuaded him to sign his name to a lying confession of guilt, drawn up in accordance with a foolish and inexorable tradition, and to deliver such a last dying speech as would not disappoint the mob.

The set phrases, the vain prayer offered for other sinners, the hypocritical profession of a superior righteousness, were neither noble nor sincere. When Tom Jones (for instance) was hanged, in 1702, after a prosperous career on Hounslow Heath, his biographer declared that he behaved with more than usual 'modesty and decency,' because he 'delivered a pretty deal of good advice to the young men present, exhorting them to be industrious in their several callings.' Whereas his biographer should have discovered that it is not thus that your true hero bids farewell to frolic and adventure.

As little in accordance with good taste was the last appearance of the infamous Jocelin Harwood, who was swung from the cart in 1692 for murder and robbery. He arrived at Tyburn insolently drunk. He blustered and ranted, until the spectators hissed their disapproval, and he died vehemently shouting that he would act the same murder again in the same case. Unworthy, also, was the last dying repartee of Samuel Shotland, a notorious bully of the Eighteenth Century. Taking off his shoes, he hurled them into the crowd, with a smirk of delight. 'My father and mother often told me,' he cried, 'that I should die with my shoes on; but you may all see that I have made them both liars.' A great man dies not with so mean a jest, and Tyburn was untouched to mirth by Shotland's facile humour.

On the other hand, there are those who have given a splendid example of a brave and dignified death. Brodie was a sorry bungler when at work, but a perfect artist at the gallows. The glory of his last achievement will never fade. The muttered prayer, unblemished by hypocrisy, the jest thrown at George Smith—a metaphor from the gaming-table—the silent adjustment of the cord which was to strangle him, these last offices were performed with an unparalleled quietude and restraint. Though he had pattered the flash to all his wretched accomplices, there was no trace of the last dying speech in his final utterances, and he set an example of a simple greatness, worthy to be followed even to the end of time. Such is the type, but others also have given proof of a serene temper. Tom Austin's masterpiece was in another kind, but it was none the less a masterpiece. At the very moment that the halter was being put about his neck, he was asked by the Chaplain what he had to say before he died. 'Only,' says he, 'there's a woman yonder with some curds and whey, and I wish I could have a pennyworth of them before I am hanged, because I don't know when I shall see any again.' There is a brave irrelevance in this very human desire, which is beyond praise.

Valiant also was the conduct of Roderick Audrey, who after a brief but brilliant career paid his last debt to the law in 1714.

He was but sixteen, and, says his biographer, 'he went very decent to the gallows, being in a white waistcoat, clean napkin, white gloves, and an orange in one hand.' So well did he play his part, that one wonders Jack Ketch did not shrink from the performance of his. But throughout his short life, Roderick Audrey—the very name is an echo of romance!—displayed a contempt for whatever was common or ugly. Not only was his appearance at Tyburn a lesson in elegance, but he thieved, as none ever thieved before or since, with no other accomplice than a singing-bird. Thus he would play outside a house, wherein he espied a sideboard of plate, and at last, bidding his playmate flutter through an open window into the parlour, he would follow upon the excuse of recovery, and, once admitted, would carry off as much silver as he could conceal. None other ever attempted so graceful an artifice, and yet Audrey's journey to Tyburn is even more memorable than the story of his gay accomplice.

But it is not only the truly great who have won for themselves an enduring reputation. There are men, not a few, esteemed, like the popular novelist, not for their art but for some foolish gift, some facile trick of notoriety, whose actions have tickled the fancy, not the understanding of the world. The coward and the impostor have been set upon a pedestal of glory either by accident or by the whim of posterity. For more than a century Dick Turpin has appeared not so much the greatest of highwaymen, as the Highwaymen Incarnate. His prowess has been extolled in novels and upon the stage; his ride to York is still bepraised for a feat of miraculous courage and endurance; the death of Black Bess has drawn floods of tears down the most callous cheeks. And the truth is that Turpin was never a gentleman of the road at all! Black Bess is as pure an invention as the famous ride to York. The ruffian, who is said to have ridden the phantom mare from one end of England to the other, was a common butcher, who burned an old woman to death at Epping, and was very properly hanged at York for the stealing of a horse which he dared not bestride.

Not one incident in his career gives colour to the splendid myth which has been woven round his memory. Once he was in London, and he died at York. So much is true; but there is naught to prove that his progress from the one town to the other did not occupy a year. Nor is there any reason why the halo should have been set upon his head rather than upon another's. Strangest truth of all, none knows at what moment Dick Turpin first shone into glory. At any rate, there is a gap in the tradition, and the chap-books of the time may not be credited with this vulgar error. Perhaps it was the popular drama of Skelt which put the ruffian upon the black mare's back; but whatever the date of the invention, Turpin was a popular hero long before Ainsworth sent him rattling across England. And in order to equip this butcher with a false reputation, a valiant officer and gentleman was stripped of the credit due to a magnificent achievement. For though Turpin tramped to York at a journeyman's leisure, Nicks rode thither at a stretch—Nicks the intrepid and gallant, whom Charles II., in admiration of his feat, was wont to call Swiftnicks.

This valiant collector, whom posterity has robbed for Turpin's embellishment, lived at the highest moment of his art. He knew by rote the lessons taught by Hind and Duval; he was a fearless rider and a courteous thief. Now, one morning at five of the clock, he robbed a gentleman near Barnet of L560, and riding straight for York, he appeared on the Bowling Green at six in the evening. Being presently recognised by his victim, he was apprehended, and at the trial which followed he pleaded a triumphant alibi. But vanity was too strong for discretion, and no sooner was Swiftnicks out of danger, than he boasted, as well he might, of his splendid courage. Forthwith he appeared a popular hero, obtained a commission in Lord Moncastle's regiment, and married a fortune. And then came Turpin to filch his glory! Nor need Turpin have stooped to a vicarious notoriety, for he possessed a certain rough, half conscious humour, which was not despicable. He purchased a new fustian coat and a pair of pumps, in which to be hanged, and he hired five poor men at ten shillings the day, that his death might not go unmourned. Above all, he was distinguished in prison. A crowd thronged his cell to identify him, and one there was who offered to bet the keeper half a guinea that the prisoner was not Turpin; whereupon Turpin whispered the keeper, 'Lay him the wager, you fool, and I will go you halves.' Surely this impudent indifference might have kept green the memory of the man who never rode to York!

If the Scoundrel may claim distinction on many grounds, his character is singularly uniform. To the anthropologist he might well appear the survival of a savage race, and savage also are his manifold superstitions. He is a creature of times and seasons. He chooses the occasion of his deeds with as scrupulous a care as he examines his formidable crowbars and jemmies. At certain hours he would refrain from action, though every circumstance favoured his success: he would rather obey the restraining voice of a wise, unreasoning wizardry, than fill his pockets with the gold for which his human soul is ever hungry. There is no law of man he dares not break but he shrinks in horror from the infringement of the unwritten rules of savagery. Though he might cut a throat in self-defence, he would never walk under a ladder; and if the 13th fell on a Friday, he would starve that day rather than obtain a loaf by the method he best understands. He consults the omens with as patient a divination as the augurs of old; and so long as he carries an amulet in his pocket, though it be but a pebble or a polished nut, he is filled with an irresistible courage. For him the worst terror of all is the evil eye, and he would rather be hanged by an unsuspected judge than receive an easy stretch from one whose glance he dared not face. And while the anthropologist claims him for a savage, whose civilisation has been arrested at brotherhood with the Solomon Islanders, the politician might pronounce him a true communist, in that he has preserved a wholesome contempt of property and civic life. The pedant, again, would feel his bumps, prescribe a gentle course of bromide, and hope to cure all the sins of the world by a municipal Turkish bath. The wise man, respecting his superstitions, is content to take him as he finds him, and to deduce his character from his very candid history, which is unaffected by pedant or politician.

Before all things, he is sanguine; he believes that Chance, the great god of his endeavour, fights upon his side. Whatever is lacking to-day, to-morrow's enterprise will fulfil, and if only the omens be favourable, he fears neither detection nor the gallows. His courage proceeds from this sanguine temperament, strengthened by shame and tradition rather than from a self-controlled magnanimity; he hopes until despair is inevitable, and then walks firmly to the gallows, that no comrade may suspect the white feather. His ambition, too, is the ambition of the savage or of the child; he despises such immaterial advantages as power and influence, being perfectly content if he have a smart coat on his back and a bottle of wine at his elbow. He would rather pick a lock than batter a constitution, and the world would be well lost, if he and his doxy might survey the ruin in comfort.

But if his ambition be modest, his love of notoriety is boundless. He must be famous, his name must be in the mouths of men, he must be immortal (for a week) in a rough woodcut. And then, what matters it how soon the end? His braveries have been hawked in the street; his prowess has sold a Special Edition; he is the first of his race, until a luckier rival eclipses him. Thus, also, his dandyism is inevitable: it is not enough for him to cover his nakedness—he must dress; and though his taste is sometimes unbridled, it is never insignificant. Indeed, his biographers have recorded the expression of his fancy in coats and small-clothes as patiently and enthusiastically as they have applauded his courage. And truly the love of magnificence, which he shares with all artists, is sincere and characteristic. When an accomplice of Jonathan Wild's robbed Lady M——n at Windsor, his equipage cost him forty pounds; and Nan Hereford was arrested for shoplifting at the very moment that four footmen awaited her return with an elegant sedan-chair.

His vanity makes him but a prudish lover, who desires to woo less than to be wooed; and at all times and through all moods he remains the primeval sentimentalist. He will detach his life entirely from the catchwords which pretend to govern his actions; he will sit and croon the most heartrending ditties in celebration of home-life and a mother's love, and then set forth incontinently upon a well-planned errand of plunder. For all his artistry, he lacks balance as flagrantly as a popular politician or an advanced journalist. Therefore it is the more remarkable that in one point he displays a certain caution: he boggles at a superfluous murder. For all his contempt of property, he still preserves a respect for life, and the least suspicion of unnecessary brutality sets not only the law but his own fellows against him. Like all men whose god is Opportunity, he is a reckless gambler; and, like all gamblers, he is monstrously extravagant. In brief, he is a tangle of picturesque qualities, which, until our own generation, was incapable of nothing save dulness.

The Bible and the Newgate Calendar—these twain were George Borrow's favourite reading, and all save the psychologist and the pedant will applaud the preference. For the annals of the 'family' are distinguished by an epic severity, a fearless directness of speech, which you will hardly match outside the Iliad or the Chronicles of the Kings. But the Newgate Calendar did not spring ready-made into being: it is the result of a curious and gradual development. The chap-books came first, with their bold type, their coarse paper, and their clumsy, characteristic woodcuts—the chap-books, which none can contemplate without an enchanted sentiment. Here at last you come upon a literature, which has been read to pieces. The very rarity of the slim, rough volumes, proves that they have been handed from one greedy reader to another, until the great libraries alone are rich enough to harbour them. They do not boast the careful elegance of a famous press: many of them came from the printing-office of a country town: yet the least has a simplicity and concision, which are unknown in this age of popular fiction. Even their lack of invention is admirable: as the same woodcut might be used to represent Guy, Earl of Warwick, or the last highwayman who suffered at Tyburn, so the same enterprise is ascribed with a delightful ingenuousness to all the heroes who rode abroad under the stars to fill their pockets.

The Life and Death of Gamaliel Ratsey delighted England in 1605, and was the example of after ages. The anecdote of the road was already crystallised, and henceforth the robber was unable to act contrary to the will of the chap-book. Thus there grew up a folk-lore of thievery: the very insistence upon the same motive suggests the fairytale, and, as in the legends of every country, there is an identical element which the anthropologists call 'human'; so in the annals of adventure there is a set of invariable incidents, which are the essence of thievery. The industrious hacks, to whom we owe the entertainment of the chap-books, being seedy parsons or lawyers' clerks, were conscious of their literary deficiencies: they preferred to obey tradition rather than to invent ineptitudes. So you may trace the same jest, the same intrigue through the unnumbered lives of three centuries. And if, being a philosopher, you neglect the obvious plagiarism, you may induce from these similarities a cunning theory concerning the uniformity of the human brain. But the easier explanation is, as always, the more satisfactory; and there is little doubt that in versatility the thief surpassed his historian.

Had the chap-books still been scattered in disregarded corners, they would have been unknown or misunderstood. Happily, a man of genius came in the nick to convert them into as vivid and sparkling a piece of literature as the time could show. This was Captain Alexander Smith, whose Lives of the Highwaymen, published in 1719, was properly described by its author as 'the first impartial piece of this nature which ever appeared in English.' Now, Captain Smith inherited from a nameless father no other patrimony than a fierce loyalty to the Stuarts, and the sanguine temperament which views in horror a well-ordered life. Though a mere foundling, he managed to acquire the rudiments, and he was not wholly unlettered when at eighteen he took to the road. His courage, fortified by an intimate knowledge of the great tradition, was rewarded by an immediate success, and he rapidly became the master of so much leisure as enabled him to pursue his studies with pleasure and distinction. When his companions damned him for a milksop, he was loftily contemptuous, conscious that it was not in intelligence alone that he was their superior. While the Stuarts were the gods of his idolatry, while the Regicides were the fiends of his frank abhorrence, it was from the Elizabethans that he caught the splendid vigour of his style; and he owed not only his historical sense, but his living English to the example of Philemon Holland. Moreover, it is to his constant glory that, living at a time that preferred as well to attenuate the English tongue as to degrade the profession of the highway, he not only rode abroad with a fearless courtesy, but handled his own language with the force and spirit of an earlier age.

He wrote with the authority of courage and experience. A hazardous career had driven envy and malice from his dauntless breast. Though he confesses a debt to certain 'learned and eminent divines of the Church of England,' he owed a greater debt to his own observation, and he knew—none better—how to recognise with enthusiasm those deeds of daring which only himself has rivalled. A master of etiquette, he distributed approval and censure with impartial hand; and he was quick to condemn the smallest infraction of an ancient law. Nor was he insensible to the dignity of history. The best models were always before him. With admirable zeal he studied the manner of such masters as Thucydides and Titus Livius of Padua. Above all, he realised the importance of setting appropriate speeches in the mouths of his characters; and, permitting his heroes to speak for themselves, he imparted to his work an irresistible air of reality and good faith. His style, always studied, was neither too low nor too high for his subject. An ill-balanced sentence was as hateful to him as a foul thrust or a stolen advantage.

Abroad a craftsman, he carried into the closet the skill and energy which distinguished him when the moon was on the heath. Though not born to the arts of peace, he was determined to prove his respect for letters, and his masterpiece is no less pompous in manner than it is estimable in tone and sound in reflection. He handled slang as one who knew its limits and possibilities, employing it not for the sake of eccentricity, but to give the proper colour and sparkle to his page; indeed, his intimate acquaintance with the vagabonds of speech enabled him to compile a dictionary of Pedlar's French, which has been pilfered by a whole battalion of imitators. Moreover, there was none of the proverbs of the pavement, those first cousins of slang, that escaped him; and he assumed all the licence of the gentleman-collector in the treatment of his love-passages.

Captain Smith took the justest view of his subject. For him robbery, in the street as on the highway, was the finest of the arts, and he always revered it for its own sake rather than for vulgar profit. Though, to deceive the public, he abhorred villainy in word, he never concealed his admiration in deed of a 'highwayman who robs like a gentleman.' 'There is a beauty in all the works of nature,' he observes in one of his wittiest exordia, 'which we are unable to define, though all the world is convinced of its existence: so in every action and station of life there is a grace to be attained, which will make a man pleasing to all about him and serene in his own mind.' Some there are, he continues, who have placed 'this beauty in vice itself; otherwise it is hardly probable that they could commit so many irregularities with a strong gust and an appearance of satisfaction.' Notwithstanding that the word 'vice' is used in its conventional sense, we have here the key to Captain Smith's position. He judged his heroes' achievements with the intelligent impartiality of a connoisseur, and he permitted no other prejudice than an unfailing loyalty to interrupt his opinion.

Though he loved good English as he loved good wine, he was never so happy as when (in imagination) he was tying the legs of a Regicide under the belly of an ass. And when in the manner of a bookseller's hack he compiled a Comical and Tragical History of the Lives and Adventures of the most noted Bayliffs, adoration of the Royalists persuaded him to miss his chance. So brave a spirit as himself should not have looked complacently upon the officers of the law, but he saw in the glorification of the bayliff another chance of castigating the Roundheads, and thus he set an honorific crown upon the brow of man's natural enemy. 'These unsanctified rascals,' wrote he, 'would run into any man's debt without paying him, and if their creditors were Cavaliers they thought they had as much right to cheat 'em, as the Israelites had to spoil the Egyptians of their ear-rings and jewels.' Alas! the boot was ever on the other leg; and yet you cannot but admire the Captain's valiant determination to sacrifice probability to his legitimate hate.

Of his declining years and death there is no record. One likes to think of him released from care, and surrounded by books, flowers, and the good things of this earth. Now and again, maybe, he would muse on the stirring deeds of his youth, and more often he would put away the memory of action to delight in the masterpiece which made him immortal. He would recall with pleasure, no doubt, the ready praise of Richard Steele, his most appreciative critic, and smile contemptuously at the baseness of his friend and successor, Captain Charles Johnson. Now, this ingenious writer was wont to boast, when the ale of Fleet Street had empurpled his nose, that he was the most intrepid highwayman of them all. 'Once upon a time,' he would shout, with an arrogant gesture, 'I was known from Blackheath to Hounslow, from Ware to Shooter's Hill.' And the truth is, the only 'crime' he ever committed was plagiarism. The self-assumed title of Captain should have deceived nobody, for the braggart never stole anything more difficult of acquisition than another man's words. He picked brains, not pockets; he committed the greater sin and ran no risk. He helped himself to the admirable inventions of Captain Smith without apology or acknowledgment, and, as though to lighten the dead-weight of his sin, he never skipped an opportunity of maligning his victim. Again and again in the very act to steal he will declare vaingloriously that Captain Smith's stories are 'barefaced inventions.' But doubt was no check to the habit of plunder, and you knew that at every reproach, expressed (so to say) in self-defence, he plied the scissors with the greater energy. The most cunning theft is the tag which adorns the title-page of his book:

Little villains oft submit to fate That great ones may enjoy the world in state.

Thus he quotes from Gay, and you applaud the aptness of the quotation, until you discover that already it was used by Steele in his appreciation of the heroic Smith! However, Johnson has his uses, and those to whom the masterpiece of Captain Alexander is inaccessible will turn with pleasure to the General History of the lives and adventures of the most Famous Highwaymen, Murderers, Street-Robbers, &c., and will feel no regret that for once they are receiving stolen goods.

Though Johnson fell immeasurably below his predecessor in talent, he manifestly excelled him in scholarship. A sojourn at the University had supplied him with a fine assortment of Latin tags, and he delighted to prove his erudition by the citation of the Chronicles. Had he possessed a sense of humour, he might have smiled at the irony of committing a theft upon the historian of thieves. But he was too vain and too pompous to smile at his own weakness, and thus he would pretend himself a venturesome highwayman, a brave writer, and a profound scholar. Indeed, so far did his pride carry him, that he would have the world believe him the same Charles Johnson, who wrote The Gentleman Cully and The Successful Pyrate. Thus with a boastful chuckle he would quote:

Johnson, who now to sense, now nonsense leaning, Means not, but blunders round about a meaning

Thus, ignoring the insult, he would plume himself after his drunken fashion that he, too, was an enemy of Pope.

Yet Johnson has remained an example. For the literature of scoundrelism is as persistent in its form as in its folk-lore. As Harman's Caveat, which first saw the light in 1566, serves as a model to an unbroken series of such books, as The London Spy, so from Johnson in due course were developed the Newgate Calendar, and those innumerable records, which the latter half of the Eighteenth Century furnished us forth. The celebrated Calendar was in its origin nothing more than a list of prisoners printed in a folio slip. But thereafter it became the Malefactor's Bloody Register, which we know. Its plan and purpose were to improve the occasion. The thief is no longer esteemed for an artist or appraised upon his merits: he is the awful warning, which shall lead the sinner to repentance. 'Here,' says the preface, 'the giddy thoughtless youth may see as in a mirror the fatal consequences of deviating from virtue'; here he may tremble at the discovery that 'often the best talents are prostituted to the basest purposes.' But in spite of 'the proper reflections of the whole affair,' the famous Calendar deserved the praise of Borrow. There is a directness in the narration, which captures all those for whom life and literature are something better than psychologic formulae. Moreover, the motives which drive the brigand to his doom are brutal in their simplicity, and withal as genuine and sincere as greed, vanity, and lust can make them. The true amateur takes pleasure even in the pious exhortations, because he knows that they crawl into their place, lest the hypocrite be scandalised. But with years the Newgate Calendar also declined, and at last it has followed other dead literatures into the night.

Meanwhile the broadside had enjoyed an unbroken and prosperous career. Up and down London, up and down England, hurried the Patterer or Flying Stationer. There was no murder, no theft, no conspiracy, which did not tempt the Gutter Muse to doggerel. But it was not until James Catnach came up from Alnwick to London (in 1813), that the trade reached the top of its prosperity. The vast sheets, which he published with their scurvy couplets, and the admirable picture, serving in its time for a hundred executions, have not lost their power to fascinate. Theirs is the aspect of the early woodcut; the coarse type and the catchpenny headlines are a perpetual delight; as you unfold them, your care keeps pace with your admiration; and you cannot feel them crackle beneath your hand without enthusiasm and without regret. He was no pedant—Jemmy Catnach; and the image of his ruffians was commonly as far from portraiture, as his verses were remote from poetry. But he put together in a roughly artistic shape the last murder, robbery, or scandal of the day. His masterpieces were far too popular to live, and if they knew so vast a circulation as 2,500,000 they are hard indeed to come by. And now the art is wellnigh dead; though you may discover an infrequent survival in a country town. But how should Catnach, were he alive to-day, compete with the Special Edition of an evening print?

The decline of the Scoundrel, in fact, has been followed by the disappearance of chap-book and broadside. The Education Act, which made the cheap novel a necessity, destroyed at a blow the literature of the street. Since the highwayman wandered, fur-coated, into the City, the patterer has lost his occupation. Robbery and murder have degenerated into Chinese puzzles, whose solution is a pleasant irritant to the idle brain. The misunderstanding of Poe has produced a vast polyglot literature, for which one would not give in exchange a single chapter of Captain Smith. Vautrin and Bill Sykes are already discredited, and it is a false reflection of M. Dupin, which dazzles the eye of a moral and unimaginative world. Yet the wise man sighs for those fearless days, when the brilliant Macheath rode vizarded down Shooter's Hill, and presently saw his exploits set forth, with the proper accompaniment of a renowned and ancient woodcut, upon a penny broadside.



CAPTAIN HIND

JAMES HIND, the Master Thief of England, the fearless Captain of the Highway, was born at Chipping Norton in 1618. His father, a simple saddler, had so poor an appreciation of his son's magnanimity, that he apprenticed him to a butcher; but Hind's destiny was to embrue his hands in other than the blood of oxen, and he had not long endured the restraint of this common craft when forty shillings, the gift of his mother, purchased him an escape, and carried him triumphant and ambitious to London.

Even in his negligent schooldays he had fastened upon a fitting career. A born adventurer, he sought only enterprise and command: if a commission in the army failed him, then he would risk his neck upon the road, levying his own tax and imposing his own conditions. To one of his dauntless resolution an opportunity need never have lacked; yet he owed his first preferment to a happy accident. Surprised one evening in a drunken brawl, he was hustled into the Poultry Counter, and there made acquaintance over a fresh bottle with Robert Allen, one of the chief rogues in the Park, and a ruffian, who had mastered every trick in the game of plunder. A dexterous cly-faker, an intrepid blade, Allen had also the keenest eye for untested talent, and he detected Hind's shining qualities after the first glass. No sooner had they paid the price of release, than Hind was admitted of his comrade's gang; he took the oath of fealty, and by way of winning his spurs was bid to hold up a traveller on Shooter's Hill. Granted his choice of a mount, he straightway took the finest in the stable, with that keen perception of horse-flesh which never deserted him, and he confronted his first victim in the liveliest of humours. There was no falter in his voice, no hint of inexperience in his manner, when he shouted the battle-cry: 'Stand and deliver!' The horseman, fearful of his life, instantly surrendered a purse of ten sovereigns, as to the most practised assailant on the road. Whereupon Hind, with a flourish of ancient courtesy, gave him twenty shillings to bear his charges. 'This,' said he, 'is for handsale sake '; and thus they parted in mutual compliment and content.

Allen was overjoyed at his novice's prowess. 'Did you not see,' he cried to his companions, 'how he robbed him with a grace?' And well did the trooper deserve his captain's compliment, for his art was perfect from the first. In bravery as in gallantry he knew no rival, and he plundered with so elegant a style, that only a churlish victim could resent the extortion. He would as soon have turned his back upon an enemy as demand a purse uncovered. For every man he had a quip, for every woman a compliment; nor did he ever conceal the truth that the means were for him as important as the end. Though he loved money, he still insisted that it should be yielded in freedom and good temper; and while he emptied more coaches than any man in England, he was never at a loss for admirers.

Under Allen he served a brilliant apprenticeship. Enrolled as a servant, he speedily sat at the master's right hand, and his nimble brains devised many a pretty campaign. For a while success dogged the horse-hoofs of the gang; with wealth came immunity, and not one of the warriors had the misfortune to look out upon the world through a grate. They robbed with dignity, even with splendour. Now they would drive forth in a coach and four, carrying with them a whole armoury of offensive weapons; now they would take the road apparelled as noblemen, and attended at a discreet distance by their proper servants. But recklessness brought the inevitable disaster; and it was no less a personage than Oliver Cromwell who overcame the hitherto invincible Allen. A handful of the gang attacked Oliver on his way from Huntingdon, but the marauders were outmatched, and the most of them were forced to surrender. Allen, taken red-handed, swung at Tyburn; Hind, with his better mount and defter horsemanship, rode clear away.

The loss of his friend was a lesson in caution, and henceforth Hind resolved to follow his craft in solitude. He had embellished his native talent with all the instruction that others could impart, and he reflected that he who rode alone neither ran risk of discovery nor had any need to share his booty. Thus he began his easy, untrammelled career, making time and space of no account by his rapid, fearless journeys. Now he was prancing the moors of Yorkshire, now he was scouring the plain between Gloucester and Tewkesbury, but wherever he rode, he had a purse in his pocket and a jest on his tongue. To recall his prowess is to ride with him (in fancy) under the open sky along the fair, beaten road; to put up with him at the busy, white posthouse, to drink unnumbered pints of mulled sack with the round-bellied landlord, to exchange boastful stories over the hospitable fire, and to ride forth in the morning with the joyous uncertainty of travel upon you. Failure alone lay outside his experience, and he presently became at once the terror and the hero of England.

Not only was his courage conspicuous; luck also was his constant companion; and a happy bewitchment protected him for three years against the possibility of harm. He had been lying at Hatfield, at the George Inn, and set out in the early morning for London. As he neared the town-gate, an old beldame begged an alms of him, and though Hind, not liking her ill-favoured visage, would have spurred forward, the beldame's glittering eye held his horse motionless. 'Good woman,' cried Hind, flinging her a crown, 'I am in haste; pray let me pass.' 'Sir,' answered the witch, 'three days I have awaited your coming. Would you have me lose my labour now?' And with Hind's assent the sphinx delivered her message: 'Captain Hind,' said she, 'your life is beset with constant danger, and since from your birth I have wished you well, my poor skill has devised a perfect safeguard.' With this she gave him a small box containing what might have been a sundial or compass. 'Watch this star,' quoth she, 'and when you know not your road, follow its guidance. Thus you shall be preserved from every peril for the space of three years. Thereafter, if you still have faith in my devotion, seek me again, and I will renew the virtue of the charm.'

Hind took the box joyfully; but when he turned to murmur a word of gratitude, the witch struck his nag's flanks with a white wand, the horse leapt vehemently forward, and Hind saw his benefactress no more. Henceforth, however, a warning voice spoke to him as plainly as did the demon to Socrates; and had he but obeyed the beldame's admonition, he might have escaped a violent death. For he passed the last day of the third year at the siege of Youghal, where; deprived of happy guidance, he was seriously wounded, and whence he presently regained England to his own undoing.

So long as he kept to the road, his life was one long comedy. His wit and address were inexhaustible, and fortune never found him at a loss. He would avert suspicion with the tune of a psalm, as when, habited like a pious shepherd, he broke a traveller's head with his crook, and deprived him of his horse. An early adventure was to force a pot-valiant parson, who had drunk a cup too much at a wedding, into a rarely farcical situation. Hind, having robbed two gentlemen's servants of a round sum, went ambling along the road until he encountered a parson. 'Sir,' said he, 'I am closely pursued by robbers. You, I dare swear, will not stand by and see me plundered.' Before the parson could protest, he thrust a pistol into his hand, and bade him fire it at the first comer, while he rode off to raise the county. Meanwhile the rifled travellers came up with the parson, who, straightway, mistaking them for thieves, fired without effect, and then, riding forward, flung the pistol in the face of the nearest. Thus the parson of the parish was dragged before the magistrate, while Hind, before his dupe could furnish an explanation, had placed many a mile between himself and his adversary.

Though he could on occasion show a clean pair of heels, Hind was never lacking in valiance; and, another day, meeting a traveller with a hundred pounds in his pocket, he challenged him to fight there and then, staked his own horse against the money, and declared that he should win who drew first blood. 'If I am the conqueror,' said the magnanimous Captain, 'I will give you ten pounds for your journey. If you are favoured of fortune, you shall give me your servant's horse.' The terms were instantly accepted, and in two minutes Hind had run his adversary through the sword-arm. But finding that his victim was but a poor squire going to London to pay his composition, he not only returned his money, but sought him out a surgeon, and gave him the best dinner the countryside could afford.

Thus it was his pleasure to act as a providence, many a time robbing Peter to pay Paul, and stripping the niggard that he might indulge his fervent love of generosity. Of all usurers and bailiffs he had a wholesome horror, and merry was the prank which he played upon the extortionate money-lender of Warwick. Riding on an easy rein through the town, Hind heard a tumult at a street corner, and inquiring the cause, was told that an innkeeper was arrested by a thievish usurer for a paltry twenty pounds. Dismounting, this providence in jack-boots discharged the debt, cancelled the bond, and took the innkeeper's goods for his own security. And thereupon overtaking the usurer, 'My friend!' he exclaimed, 'I lent you late a sum of twenty pounds. Repay it at once, or I take your miserable life.' The usurer was obliged to return the money, with another twenty for interest, and when he would take the law of the innkeeper, was shown the bond duly cancelled, and was flogged wellnigh to death for his pains.

So Hind rode the world up and down, redressing grievances like an Eastern monarch, and rejoicing in the abasement of the evildoer. Nor was the spirit of his adventure bounded by the ocean. More than once he crossed the seas; the Hague knew him, and Amsterdam, though these somnolent cities gave small occasion for the display of his talents. It was from Scilly that he crossed to the Isle of Man, where, being recommended to Lord Derby, he gained high favour, and received in exchange for his jests a comfortable stipend. Hitherto, said the Chronicles, thieving was unknown in the island. A man might walk whither he would, a bag of gold in one hand, a switch in the other, and fear no danger. But no sooner had Hind appeared at Douglas than honest citizens were pilfered at every turn. In dismay they sought the protection of the Governor, who instantly suspected Hind, and gallantly disclosed his suspicions to the Captain. 'My lord!' exclaimed Hind, a blush upon his cheek, 'I protest my innocence; but willingly will I suffer the heaviest penalty of your law if I am recognised for the thief.' The victims, confronted with their robber, knew him not, picturing to the Governor a monster with long hair and unkempt beard. Hind, acquitted with apologies, fetched from his lodging the disguise of periwig and beard. 'They laugh who win!' he murmured, and thus forced forgiveness and a chuckle even from his judges.

As became a gentleman-adventurer, Captain Hind was staunch in his loyalty to his murdered King. To strip the wealthy was always reputable, but to rob a Regicide was a masterpiece of well-doing.

A fervent zeal to lighten Cromwell's pocket had brought the illustrious Allen to the gallows. But Hind was not one whit abashed, and he would never forego the chance of an encounter with his country's enemies. His treatment of Hugh Peters in Enfield Chace is among his triumphs. At the first encounter the Presbyterian plucked up courage enough to oppose his adversary with texts. To Hind's command of 'Stand and deliver!' duly enforced with a loaded pistol, the ineffable Peters replied with ox-eye sanctimoniously upturned: 'Thou shalt not steal; let him that stole, steal no more,' adding thereto other variations of the eighth commandment. Hind immediately countered with exhortations against the awful sin of murder, and rebuked the blasphemy of the Regicides, who, to defend their own infamy, would wrest Scripture from its meaning. 'Did you not, O monster of impiety,' mimicked Hind in the preacher's own voice, 'pervert for your own advantage the words of the Psalmist, who said, "Bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron"? Moreover, was it not Solomon who wrote: "Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry"? And is not my soul hungry for gold and the Regicides' discomfiture?' Peters was still fumbling after texts when the final argument: 'Deliver thy money, or I will send thee out of the world!' frightened him into submission, and thirty broad pieces were Hind's reward.

Not long afterwards he confronted Bradshaw near Sherborne, and, having taken from him a purse fat with Jacobuses, he bade the Sergeant stand uncovered while he delivered a discourse upon gold, thus shaped by tradition: 'Ay, marry, sir, this is the metal that wins my heart for ever! O precious gold, I admire and adore thee as much as Bradshaw, Prynne, or any villain of the same stamp. This is that incomparable medicament, which the republican physicians call the wonder-working plaster. It is truly catholic in operation, and somewhat akin to the Jesuit's powder, but more effectual. The virtues of it are strange and various; it makes justice deaf as well as blind, and takes out spots of the deepest treason more cleverly than castle-soap does common stains; it alters a man's constitution in two or three days, more than the virtuoso's transfusion of blood can do in seven years. 'Tis a great alexiopharmick, and helps poisonous principles of rebellion, and those that use them. It miraculously exalts and purifies the eyesight, and makes traitors behold nothing but innocence in the blackest malefactors. 'Tis a mighty cordial for a declining cause; it stifles faction or schism, as certainly as the itch is destroyed by butter and brimstone. In a word, it makes wise men fools, and fools wise men, and both knaves. The very colour of this precious balm is bright and dazzling. If it be properly applied to the fist, that is in a decent manner, and a competent dose, it infallibly performs all the cures which the evils of humanity crave.' Thus having spoken, he killed the six horses of Bradshaw's coach, and went contemptuously on his way.

But he was not a Cavalier merely in sympathy, nor was he content to prove his loyalty by robbing Roundheads. He, too, would strike a blow for his King, and he showed, first with the royal army in Scotland, and afterwards at Worcester, what he dared in a righteous cause. Indeed, it was his part in the unhappy battle that cost him his life, and there is a strange irony in the reflection that, on the self-same day whereon Sir Thomas Urquhart lost his precious manuscripts in Worcester's kennels, the neck of James Hind was made ripe for the halter. His capture was due to treachery. Towards the end of 1651 he was lodged with one Denzys, a barber, over against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street. Maybe he had chosen his hiding-place for its neighbourhood to Moll Cutpurse's own sanctuary. But a pack of traitors discovered him, and haling him before the Speaker of the House of Commons, got him committed forthwith to Newgate.

At first he was charged with theft and murder, and was actually condemned for killing George Sympson at Knole in Berkshire. But the day after his sentence, an Act of Oblivion was passed, and Hind was put upon trial for treason. During his examination he behaved with the utmost gaiety, boastfully enlarging upon his services to the King's cause. 'These are filthy jingling spurs,' said he as he left the bar, pointing to the irons about his legs, 'but I hope to exchange them ere long.' His good-humour remained with him to the end. He jested in prison as he jested on the road, and it was with a light heart that he mounted the scaffold built for him at Worcester. His was the fate reserved for traitors: he was hanged, drawn, and quartered, and though his head was privily stolen and buried on the day of execution, his quarters were displayed upon the town walls, until time and the birds destoyed{sic} them utterly.

Thus died the most famous highwayman that ever drew rein upon an English road; and he died the death of a hero. The unnumbered crimes of violence and robbery wherewith he might have been charged weighed not a feather's weight upon his destiny; he suffered not in the cause of plunder, but in the cause of Charles Stuart. And in thus excusing his death, his contemporaries did him scant justice. For while in treasonable loyalty he had a thousand rivals, on the road he was the first exponent of the grand manner. The middle of the seventeenth century was, in truth, the golden age of the Road. Not only were all the highwaymen Cavaliers, but many a Cavalier turned highwayman. Broken at their King's defeat, a hundred captains took pistol and vizard, and revenged themselves as freebooters upon the King's enemies. And though Hind was outlaw first and royalist afterwards, he was still the most brilliant collector of them all. If he owed something to his master, Allen, he added from the storehouse of his own genius a host of new precepts, and was the first to establish an enduring tradition.

Before all things he insisted upon courtesy; a guinea stolen by an awkward ruffian was a sorry theft; levied by a gentleman of the highway, it was a tribute paid to courage by generosity. Nothing would atone for an insult offered to a lady; and when it was Hind's duty to seize part of a gentlewoman's dowry on the Petersfield road, he not only pleaded his necessity in eloquent excuse, but he made many promises on behalf of knight-errantry and damsels in distress. Never would he extort a trinket to which association had given a sentimental worth; during a long career he never left any man, save a Roundhead, penniless upon the road; nor was it his custom to strip the master without giving the man a trifle for his pains. His courage, moreover, was equal to his understanding. Since he was afraid of nothing, it was not his habit to bluster when he was not determined to have his way. When once his pistol was levelled, when once the solemn order was given, the victim must either fight or surrender; and Hind was never the man to decline a combat with any weapons and in any circumstances.

Like the true artist that he was, he neglected no detail of his craft. As he was a perfect shot, so also he was a finished horseman; and his skill not only secured him against capture, but also helped him to the theft of such horses as his necessities required, or to the exchange of a worn-out jade for a mettled prancer. Once upon a time a credulous farmer offered twenty pounds and his own gelding for the Captain's mount. Hind struck a bargain at once, and as they jogged along the road he persuaded the farmer to set his newly-purchased horse at the tallest hedge, the broadest ditch. The bumpkin failed, as Hind knew he would fail; and, begging the loan for an instant of his ancient steed, Hind not only showed what horsemanship could accomplish, but straightway rode off with the better horse and twenty pounds in his pocket. So marvellously did his reputation grow, that it became a distinction to be outwitted by him, and the brains of innocent men were racked to invent tricks which might have been put upon them by the illustrious Captain. Thus livelier jests and madder exploits were fathered upon him than upon any of his kind, and he has remained for two centuries the prime favourite of the chap-books.

Robbing alone, he could afford to despise pedantry: did he meet a traveller who amused his fancy he would give him the pass-word ('the fiddler's paid,' or what not), as though the highway had not its code of morals; nor did he scruple, when it served his purpose, to rob the bunglers of his own profession. By this means, indeed, he raised the standard of the Road and warned the incompetent to embrace an easier trade. While he never took a shilling without sweetening his depredation with a joke, he was, like all humorists, an acute philosopher. 'Remember what I tell you,' he said to the foolish persons who once attempted to rob him, the master-thief of England, 'disgrace not yourself for small sums, but aim high, and for great ones; the least will bring you to the gallows.' There, in five lines, is the whole philosophy of thieving, and many a poor devil has leapt from the cart to his last dance because he neglected the counsel of the illustrious Hind. Among his aversions were lawyers and thief-catchers. 'Truly I could wish,' he exclaimed in court, 'that full-fed fees were as little used in England among lawyers as the eating of swine's flesh was among the Jews.' When you remember the terms of friendship whereon he lived with Moll Cutpurse, his hatred of the thief-catcher, who would hang his brother for 'the lucre of ten pounds, which is the reward,' or who would swallow a false oath 'as easily as one would swallow buttered fish,' is a trifle mysterious. Perhaps before his death an estrangement divided Hind and Moll. Was it that the Roaring Girl was too anxious to take the credit of Hind's success? Or did he harbour the unjust suspicion that when the last descent was made upon him at the barber's, Moll might have given a friendly warning?

Of this he made no confession, but the honest thief was ever a liberal hater of spies and attorneys, and Hind's prudence is unquestioned. A miracle of intelligence, a master of style, he excelled all his contemporaries and set up for posterity an unattainable standard. The eighteenth century flattered him by its imitation; but cowardice and swagger compelled it to limp many a dishonourable league behind. Despite the single inspiration of dancing a corant upon the green, Claude Duval, compared to Hind, was an empty braggart. Captain Stafford spoiled the best of his effects with a more than brutal vice. Neither Mull-Sack nor the Golden Farmer, for all their long life and handsome plunder, are comparable for an instant to the robber of Peters and Bradshaw. They kept their fist fiercely upon the gold of others, and cared not by what artifice it was extorted. Hind never took a sovereign meanly; he approached no enterprise which he did not adorn. Living in a true Augustan age, he was a classic among highwaymen, the very Virgil of the Pad.



MOLL CUTPURSE AND JONATHAN WILD



I—MOLL CUTPURSE

THE most illustrious woman of an illustrious age, Moll Cutpurse has never lacked the recognition due to her genius. She was scarce of age when the town devoured in greedy admiration the first record of her pranks and exploits. A year later Middleton made her the heroine of a sparkling comedy. Thereafter she became the favourite of the rufflers, the commonplace of the poets. Newgate knew her, and Fleet Street; her manly figure was as familiar in the Bear Garden as at the Devil Tavern; courted alike by the thief and his victim, for fifty years she lived a life brilliant as sunlight, many-coloured as a rainbow. And she is remembered, after the lapse of centuries, not only as the Queen-Regent of Misrule, the benevolent tyrant of cly-filers and heavers, of hacks and blades, but as the incomparable Roaring Girl, free of the playhouse, who perchance presided with Ben Jonson over the Parliament of Wits.

She was born in the Barbican at the heyday of England's greatness, four years after the glorious defeat of the Armada, and had to her father an honest shoemaker. She came into the world (saith rumour) with her fist doubled, and even in the cradle gave proof of a boyish, boisterous disposition. Her girlhood, if the word be not an affront to her mannish character, was as tempestuous as a wind-blown petticoat. A very 'tomrig and rump-scuttle,' she knew only the sports of boys: her war-like spirit counted no excuse too slight for a battle; and so valiant a lad was she of her hands, so well skilled in cudgel-play, that none ever wrested a victory from fighting Moll. While other girls were content to hem a kerchief or mark a sampler, Moll would escape to the Bear Garden, and there enjoy the sport of baiting, whose loyal patron she remained unto the end. That which most bitterly affronted her was the magpie talk of the wenches. 'Why,' she would ask in a fury of indignation, 'why crouch over the fire with a pack of gossips, when the highway invites you to romance? Why finger a distaff, when a quarterstaff comes more aptly to your hand?'

And thus she grew in age and stature, a stranger to the soft delights of her sex, her heart still deaf to the trivial voice of love. Had not a wayward accident cumbered her with a kirtle, she would have sought death or glory in the wars; she would have gone with Colonel Downe's men upon the road; she would have sailed to the Spanish Main for pieces of eight. But the tyranny of womanhood was as yet supreme, and the honest shoemaker, ignorant of his daughter's talent, bade her take service at a respectable saddler's, and thus suppress the frowardness of her passion. Her rebellion was instant. Never would she abandon the sword and the wrestling-booth for the harmless bodkin and the hearthstone of domesticity. Being absolute in refusal, she was kidnapped by her friends and sent on board a ship, bound for Virginia and slavery. There, in the dearth of womankind, even so sturdy a wench as Moll might have found a husband; but the enterprise was little to her taste, and, always resourceful, she escaped from shipboard before the captain had weighed his anchor.

Henceforth she resolved her life should be free and chainless as the winds. Never more should needle and thread tempt her to a womanish inactivity. As Hercules, whose counterpart she was, changed his club for the distaff of Omphale, so would she put off the wimple and bodice of her sex for jerkin and galligaskins. If she could not allure manhood, then would she brave it. And though she might not cross swords with her country's foes, at least she might levy tribute upon the unjustly rich, and confront an enemy wherever there was a full pocket.

Her entrance into a gang of thieves was beset by no difficulty. The Bear Garden, always her favourite resort, had made her acquainted with all the divers and rumpads of the town. The time, moreover, was favourable to enterprise, and once again was genius born into a golden age. The cutting of purses was an art brought to perfection, and already the more elegant practice of picking pockets was understood. The transition gave scope for endless ingenuity, and Moll was not slow in mastering the theory of either craft. It was a changing fashion of dress, as I have said, which forced a new tactic upon the thief; the pocket was invented because the hanging purse was too easy a prey for the thievish scissors. And no sooner did the world conceal its wealth in pockets than the cly-filer was born to extract the booty with his long, nimble fingers. The trick was managed with an admirable forethought, which has been a constant example to after ages. The file was always accompanied by a bull, whose duty it was to jostle and distract the victim while his pockets were rifled. The bung, or what not, was rapidly passed on to the attendant rub, who scurried off before the cry of STOP THIEF! could be raised.

Thus was the craft of thieving practised when Moll was enrolled a humble member of the gang. Yet nature had not endowed her with the qualities which ensure an active triumph. 'The best signs and marks of a happy, industrious hand,' wrote the hoyden, 'is a long middle finger, equally suited with that they call the fool's or first finger.' Now, though she was never a clumsy jade, the practice of sword-play and quarterstaff had not refined the industry of her hands, which were the rather framed for strength than for delicacy. So that though she served a willing apprenticeship, and eagerly shared the risks of her chosen trade, the fear of Newgate and Tyburn weighed heavily upon her spirit, and she cast about her for a method of escape. Avoiding the danger of discovery, she was loth to forego her just profit, and hoped that intelligence might atone for her sturdy, inactive fingers. Already she had endeared herself to the gang by unnumbered acts of kindness and generosity; already her inflexible justice had made her umpire in many a difficult dispute. If a rascal could be bought off at the gallows' foot, there was Moll with an open purse; and so speedily did she penetrate all the secrets of thievish policy, that her counsel and comfort were soon indispensable.

Here, then, was her opportunity. Always a diplomatist rather than a general, she gave up the battlefield for the council chamber. She planned the robberies which defter hands achieved; and, turning herself from cly-filer to fence, she received and changed to money all the watches and trinkets stolen by the gang.

Were a citizen robbed upon the highway, he straightway betook himself to Moll, and his property was presently returned him at a handsome price. Her house, in short, became a brokery. Hither the blades and divers brought their purchases, and sought the ransom; hither came the outraged victims to buy again the jewels and rings which thievish fingers had pinched. With prosperity her method improved, until at last her statesmanship controlled the remotest details of the craft. Did one of her gang get to work overnight and carry off a wealthy swag, she had due intelligence of the affair betimes next morning, so that, furnished with an inventory of the booty, she might make a just division, or be prepared for the advent of the rightful owner.

So she gained a complete ascendency over her fellows. And when once her position was assured, she came forth a pitiless autocrat. Henceforth the gang existed for her pleasure, not she for the gang's; and she was as urgent to punish insubordination as is an empress to avenge the heinous sin of treason. The pickpocket who had claimed her protection knew no more the delight of freedom. If he dared conceal the booty that was his, he had an enemy more powerful than the law, and many a time did contumacy pay the last penalty at the gallows. But the faithful also had their reward, for Moll never deserted a comrade, and while she lived in perfect safety herself she knew well how to contrive the safety of others. Nor was she content merely to discharge those duties of the fence for which an instinct of statecraft designed her. Her restless brain seethed with plans of plunder, and if her hands were idle it was her direction that emptied half the pockets in London. Having drilled her army of divers to an unparalleled activity, she cast about for some fresh method of warfare, and so enrolled a regiment of heavers, who would lurk at the mercers' doors for an opportunity to carry off ledgers and account-books. The price of redemption was fixed by Moll herself, and until the mercers were aroused by frequent losses to a quicker vigilance, the trade was profitably secure.

Meanwhile new clients were ever seeking her aid, and, already empress of the thieves, she presently aspired to the friendship and patronage of the highwaymen. Though she did not dispose of their booty, she was appointed their banker, and vast was the treasure entrusted to the coffers of honest Moll. Now, it was her pride to keep only the best company, for she hated stupidity worse than a clumsy hand, and they were men of wit and spirit who frequented her house. Thither came the famous Captain Hind, the Regicides' inveterate enemy, whose lofty achievements Moll, with an amiable extravagance, was wont to claim for her own. Thither came the unamiably notorious Mull Sack, who once emptied Cromwell's pocket on the Mall, and whose courage was as formidable as his rough-edged tongue. Another favourite was the ingenious Crowder, whose humour it was to take the road habited like a bishop, and who surprised the victims of his greed with ghostly counsel. Thus it was a merry party that assembled in the lady's parlour, loyal to the memory of the martyred king, and quick to fling back an offending pleasantry.

But the house in Fleet Street was a refuge as well as a resort, the sanctuary of a hundred rascals, whose misdeeds were not too flagrantly discovered. For, while Moll always allowed discretion to govern her conduct, while she would risk no present security for a vague promise of advantages to come, her secret influence in Newgate made her more powerful than the hangman and the whole bench of judges. There was no turnkey who was not her devoted servitor, but it was the clerk of Newgate to whom she and her family were most deeply beholden. This was one Ralph Briscoe, as pretty a fellow as ever deserted the law for a bull-baiting. Though wizened and clerkly in appearance, he was of a lofty courage; and Moll was heard to declare that had she not been sworn to celibacy, she would have cast an eye upon the faithful Ralph, who was obedient to her behests whether at Gaol Delivery or Bear Garden. For her he would pack a jury or get a reprieve; for him she would bait a bull with the fiercest dogs in London. Why then should she fear the law, when the clerk of Newgate and Gregory the Hangman fought upon her side?

For others the arbiter of life and death, she was only thrice in an unexampled career confronted with the law. Her first occasion of arrest was so paltry that it brought discredit only on the constable. This jack-in-office, a very Dogberry, encountered Moll returning down Ludgate Hill from some merry-making, a lanthorn carried pompously before her. Startled by her attire he questioned her closely, and receiving insult for answer, promptly carried her to the Round House. The customary garnish made her free or the prison, and next morning a brief interview with the Lord Mayor restored Moll to liberty but not to forgetfulness.

She had yet to wreak her vengeance upon the constable for a monstrous affront, and hearing presently that he had a rich uncle in Shropshire, she killed the old gentleman (in imagination) and made the constable his heir. Instantly a retainer, in the true garb and accent of the country, carried the news to Dogberry, and sent him off to Ludlow on the costliest of fool's errands. He purchased a horse and set forth joyously, as became a man of property; he limped home, broken in purse and spirit, the hapless object of ridicule and contempt. Perhaps he guessed the author of this sprightly outrage; but Moll, for her part, was far too finished a humorist to reveal the truth, and hereafter she was content to swell the jesting chorus.

Her second encounter with justice was no mere pleasantry, and it was only her marvellous generalship that snatched her career from untimely ruin and herself from the clutch of Master Gregory. Two of her emissaries had encountered a farmer in Chancery Lane. They spoke with him first at Smithfield, and knew that his pocket was well lined with bank-notes. An improvised quarrel at a tavern-door threw the farmer off his guard, and though he defended the money, his watch was snatched from his fob and duly carried to Moll. The next day the victim, anxious to repurchase his watch, repaired to Fleet Street, where Moll generously promised to recover the stolen property. Unhappily security had encouraged recklessness, and as the farmer turned to leave he espied his own watch hanging among other trinkets upon the wall. With a rare discretion he held his peace until he had called a constable to his aid, and this time the Roaring Girl was lodged in Newgate, with an ugly crime laid to her charge.

Committed for trial, she demanded that the watch should be left in the constable's keeping, and, pleading not guilty when the sessions came round, insisted that her watch and the farmer's were not the same. The farmer, anxious to acknowledge his property, demanded the constable to deliver the watch, that it might be sworn to in open court; and when the constable put his hand to his pocket the only piece of damning evidence had vanished, stolen by the nimble fingers of one of Moll's officers.

Thus with admirable trickery and a perfect sense of dramatic effect she contrived her escape, and never again ran the risk of a sudden discovery. For experience brought caution in its train, and though this wiliest of fences lived almost within the shadow of Newgate, though she was as familiar in the prison yard as at the Globe Tavern, her nightly resort, she obeyed the rules of life and law with so precise an exactitude that suspicion could never fasten upon her. Her kingdom was midway between robbery and justice. And as she controlled the mystery of thieving so, in reality, she meted out punishment to the evildoer. Honest citizens were robbed with small risk to life or property. For Moll always frowned upon violence, and was ever ready to restore the booty for a fair ransom. And the thieves, driven by discipline to a certain humanity, plied their trade with an obedience and orderliness hitherto unknown. Moll's then was no mean achievement. Her career was not circumscribed by her trade, and the Roaring Girl, the daredevil companion of the wits and bloods, enjoyed a fame no less glorious than the Queen of Thieves.

'Enter Moll in a frieze jerkin and a black safeguard.' Thus in the old comedy she comes upon the stage; and truly it was by her clothes that she was first notorious. By accident a woman, by habit a man, she must needs invent a costume proper to her pursuits. But she was no shrieking reformer, no fanatic spying regeneration in a pair of breeches. Only in her attire she showed her wit; and she went to a bull-baiting in such a dress as well became her favourite sport. She was not of those who 'walk in spurs but never ride.' The jerkin, the doublet, the galligaskins were put on to serve the practical purposes of life, not to attract the policeman or the spinster. And when a petticoat spread its ample folds beneath the doublet, not only was her array handsome, but it symbolised the career of one who was neither man nor woman, and yet both. After a while, however, the petticoat seemed too tame for her stalwart temper, and she exchanged it for the great Dutch slop, habited in which unseemly garment she is pictured in the ancient prints.

Up and down the town she romped and scolded, earning the name which Middleton gave her in her green girlhood. 'She has the spirit of four great parishes,' says the wit in the comedy, 'and a voice that will drown all the city.' If a gallant stood in the way, she drew upon him in an instant, and he must be a clever swordsman to hold his ground against the tomboy who had laid low the German fencer himself. A good fellow always, she had ever a merry word for the passer-by, and so sharp was her tongue that none ever put a trick upon her. Not to know Moll was to be inglorious, and she 'slipped from one company to another like a fat eel between a Dutchman's fingers.' Now at Parker's Ordinary, now at the Bear Garden, she frequented only the haunts of men, and not until old age came upon her did she endure patiently the presence of women.

Her voice and speech were suited to the galligaskin. She was a true disciple of Maltre Francois, hating nothing so much as mincing obscenity, and if she flavoured her discourse with many a blasphemous quip, the blasphemy was 'not so malicious as customary.' Like the blood she was, she loved good ale and wine; and she regarded it among her proudest titles to renown that she was the first of women to smoke tobacco. Many was the pound of best Virginian that she bought of Mistress Gallipot, and the pipe, with monkey, dog, and eagle, is her constant emblem. Her antic attire, the fearless courage of her pranks, now and again involved her in disgrace or even jeopardised her freedom; but her unchanging gaiety made light of disaster, and still she laughed and rollicked in defiance of prude and pedant.

Her companion in many a fantastical adventure was Banks, the vintner of Cheapside, that same Banks who taught his horse to dance and shod him with silver. Now once upon a time a right witty sport was devised between them. The vintner bet Moll L20 that she would not ride from Charing Cross to Shoreditch astraddle on horseback, in breeches and doublet, boots and spurs.

The hoyden took him up in a moment, and added of her own devilry a trumpet and banner. She set out from Charing Cross bravely enough, and a trumpeter being an unwonted spectacle, the eyes of all the town were clapped upon her. Yet none knew her until she reached Bishopsgate, where an orange-wench set up the cry, 'Moll Cutpurse on horseback!' Instantly the cavalier was surrounded by a noisy mob. Some would have torn her from the saddle for an imagined insult upon womanhood, others, more wisely minded, laughed at the prank with good-humoured merriment. Every minute the throng grew denser, and it had fared hardly with roystering Moll, had not a wedding and the arrest of a debtor presently distracted the gaping idlers. As the mob turned to gaze at the fresh wonder, she spurred her horse until she gained Newington by an unfrequented lane. There she waited until night should cover her progress to Shoreditch, and thus peacefully she returned home to lighten the vintner's pocket of twenty pounds.

The fame of the adventure spread abroad, and that the scandal should not be repeated Moll was summoned before the Court of Arches to answer a charge of appearing publicly in mannish apparel. The august tribunal had no terror for her, and she received her sentence to do penance in a white sheet at Paul's Cross during morning-service on a Sunday with an audacious contempt. 'They might as well have shamed a black dog as me,' she proudly exclaimed; and why should she dread the white sheet, when all the spectators looked with a lenient eye upon her professed discomfiture?' For a halfpenny,' she said, 'she would have travelled to every market-town of England in the guise of a penitent,' and having tippled off three quarts of sack she swaggered to Paul's Cross in the maddest of humours. But not all the courts on earth could lengthen her petticoat, or contract the Dutch slop by a single fold. For a while, perhaps, she chastened her costume, yet she soon reverted to the ancient mode, and to her dying day went habited as a man.

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