Illustration: An Honest Merchant Refused Lodgings because of his Carpet-bag
The offences of which this person was guilty attracted considerable observation at the time of their discovery. He was taken into custody on the morning of Sunday, the 29th of April, 1832, at the New Hummums Hotel, Covent-garden, on a charge of robbery, committed under somewhat remarkable circumstances; and, on the following day, he underwent an examination at Bow-street, before the sitting magistrate.
From the statement which was then made, it appeared that the prisoner had gone to the New Hummums on the previous Saturday night, and had requested to be accommodated with a bed. His appearance was such as to lead to a supposition that he was a person of respectability, and there was no hesitation in complying with his desire. His luggage, which consisted only of a carpet-bag, was conveyed to the apartment assigned to his use, and, having partaken of a handsome supper, with its concomitants, he retired to rest. The New Hummums, like its brethren under the piazza, was a hotel much resorted to by single gentlemen, or casual visitors to the metropolis; and, on the night in question, its accommodations were as much in request as usual. Major Hampton Lewis occupied a sleeping apartment on the floor beneath that in which the prisoner's room was situated; and, on the same corridor, were four other bed-chambers, all of which were also in use. In the middle of the night, when the house was wrapt in quiet, Major Lewis was suddenly awoke by hearing some person in his apartment; and, on looking up, he saw a man, attired only in his shirt and trousers, as quietly as possible making his way towards the door, carrying off his gold watch, chain, and seals, and his purse in his hands. He jumped up and pursued the intruder, but did not succeed in catching him until he had reached the passage, when he seized him by the shirt and braces. The fellow struggled hard, and succeeded in extricating himself, and ran off up stairs; but the noise had by this time alarmed the other inmates of the house, and instant search was made for the thief. Every room was examined; and at last the constables, who by this time had been called in, arrived at that to which the prisoner had been conducted. They found him in bed; but, on their calling him up, they perceived that he still had his trousers on, and his braces and shirt were torn. The detached remnants of these articles were found, on examination, outside the door of Major Lewis's room, having evidently been torn off in the scuffle; and the watch and purse of that gentleman were also discovered on the stairs leading to the corridor in which the prisoner's apartment was situated. This was a chain of circumstances so conclusive, as denoting the guilt of the prisoner, that he was carried off in custody to the station-house. The uproar and confusion naturally created by a nocturnal event of so extraordinary a character, had, however, scarcely subsided, when four other gentlemen, who slept in the apartments adjoining that of Major Lewis, discovered that they too had been robbed. One gentleman missed a shirt-pin; another some English and French money, amounting to about 3l. 15s.; a third a loaded pistol, which he carried for his protection, and his purse, containing a considerable sum in gold and notes; while the rings and purse of the fourth had been purloined from his dressing-table. In a room opposite to that in which the prisoner had been placed to sleep, and which had not been occupied for several nights, the whole of these articles were found strewed indiscriminately about the floor, under the bed; and with them was also discovered a key, which, on examination, proved to fit the lock of the prisoner's carpet-bag.
These were the circumstances which were proved in evidence on the day of the first examination of the prisoner; but the extraordinary nature of his proceedings in this case, struck the attention of the magistrate so forcibly, that he determined to remand him, in order that, if any other charges of a similar description existed against him, he might be made liable for them too. The prisoner was ordered, therefore, to be again brought up on the following Friday; and on that day a host of persons was in attendance, each more anxious than the rest to detail the circumstances of some robbery of which the prisoner had been guilty.
The evidence of the robberies at the New Hummums having been first gone into, and the prisoner having been ordered to be indicted upon three of them -- at the prosecution of Major Lewis, Mr. Courthold, of Barking, in Essex, and a young gentleman named John C. Millenden, who had put up at the hotel on his way from Bordeaux, where his parents lived, to school -- the other new cases were taken.
The first of these was preferred by a gentleman named Heath; and, from his evidence, and that of two other witnesses, it appeared, that at a late hour on the night of Friday, the 27th of April, the prisoner went to the Swan-with-Two-Necks, Lad-lane, and asked to be accommodated with a bed. His request was complied with, and he retired to his room which was situated in a corridor built in the old-fashioned style, round the inn-yard, and which was near to that to which Mr. Heath had been previously shown. In the course of the night, Davy, the porter at the inn, was disturbed by the loud barking of the watch-dog; he went to him to quiet him, but the sagacious animal was aware that there was an intruder stirring upon the premises, and conducted Davy to a dark kitchen, or cellar, where he found the prisoner. He pretended to have come from his room for a necessary purpose, and was allowed to return to his apartment. Soon afterwards, however, he escaped over the balustrades of the corridor, and from the yard, leaving his boots behind him. On the following morning Mr. Heath discovered that his money had been stolen from his room in the course of the night. Both the porter, and a witness who had seen the prisoner quit the inn-yard, and had aided him in adjusting his cloak in the street, were able to speak positively to his identity; and he was committed for trial upon this charge also.
Many other cases were, at subsequent examinations, brought against him, which, however, were so similar in their character to those which have been already detailed that it would be useless to enter into their history or description. The prisoner was recognised as having been guilty of almost innumerable offences, within a very short period; and he was also identified by one of the keepers of Maidstone jail as having made his escape from that prison, where he had been sentenced to be confined for three mouths as a pickpocket.
On Monday, the 21st of May, the prisoner was tried at the Old Bailey upon the charges preferred against him, and verdicts of "Guilty" were returned. The crimes which he had committed rendered him liable to capital punishment; but the ends of justice, it was felt, would be amply satisfied by the permanent removal of this offender from the scenes of his former exploits, and from the opportunities of renewing his depredations.
Of a piece with the proceedings of this fellow, were those of a man who victimised nearly every hotel in every principal city or town in the kingdom, and who was universally known as "The man with the carpet-bag." A carpet-bag was an article of such a nature as that it was unlikely that the intentions of any persons would be suspected merely on account of his carrying such a means of transporting his luggage. In the case of the person to whom this epithet was applied, however, the carpet-bag was employed for purposes far different from those for which it was customarily used. His habit was to enter that house which presented the most seemly and comfortable aspect, and having partaken of a hearty supper, he would convey his "luggage," of which he always took the greatest care, to his apartment. In the morning it was invariably found that he had decamped, having generously left behind him the contents of his sack, which usually consisted of hay or straw, and a stray brickbat or two, and carried off in their place such portions of the bedclothes as he could conveniently stow away. The possession of a carpet-bag by a traveller was at one time looked upon by landlords and waiters as almost certain evidence of his being a swindler; and numerous are the occasions upon which such a sup position has created considerable inconvenience. The following letter, published in a newspaper of the period, happily hits off the miseries of a "man with a carpet-bag," searching for lodgings. It was addressed --
"To the Editor of Bell's Life in London.
"Sir,-- As a stranger in this town, perhaps I shall be excused for addressing you on a topic which may prove amusing to some of your travelling readers, and prevent a series of mortifications to which, from the accidental circumstance of carrying a carpet-bag, they may be exposed. I arrived from Manchester on Monday afternoon last, having travelled the whole of the way outside of the coach. On alighting, I was as miserable as torpid circulation and pinching cold could make me. I had still energy enough left to give the guard and coachman their customary fee, and with my luggage, which consisted only of a carpet-bag containing a change of apparel, and other matters, to set out in search of a tavern in which I was likely to enjoy the comforts of a good fire and a night's lodging. You will ask why I did not at once take up my quarters at the White Horse, Fetter-lane, where the coach stopped, and which, I had been informed, affords excellent accommodation at a reasonable price? I answer, that I have always had an objection to the bustle of a coach inn; and, I may add, I fancied I could get cheaper quarters elsewhere. Whether I was justified in this conclusion I will not stop to argue; you must take the facts as they come. I turned into Holborn, and went into the first coffee-house which met my eye: I do not know the sign. On entering the coffee-room, I placed my carpet-bag on the table, and commenced freeing myself from the wrapper which surrounded my throat, at the same time ringing the bell for the waiter. A smirking chap soon entered, and casting a look at my bag, and then at me, asked me what I wanted? I replied, 'A steak for my dinner, and a bed for the night.' 'I'm afraid we an't got no bed to spare, sir,' said he, 'but I'll go and ask missis;' and then taking another look at me, and a second at my carpet-bag, out he flounced. I thought this uncivil, but had not long to wait before he returned; and with a sort of would-be knowing look, he informed me his missis hadn't a bed to spare, but I might have a steak if I liked. 'I don't like! 'said I; and taking up my bag, off I went in no pleasant mood. I was not long before I discovered another house, into which I popped, and was met by a pretty girl in the passage. 'Pray, my dear,' said I, 'can I have a bed here tonight?' She eyed me from top to toe, and more particularly fixed her attention on my carpet-bag. 'No, indeed, my dear,' said she, laying a stress on the latter words, 'you cannot, so you may walk yourself and your carpet-bag off.' Well, thought I, that's cool, at any rate, and I very soon took her advice. A third house was not far distant, and here again I made my entrance; but had not reached the door of the parlour, when a voice from the bar exclaimed, 'Oh, here's the fellow with the carpet-bag! Thomas, Thomas, come and show him out!' and, sure enough, before I could ask a question, I was taken by the shoulders, and gently pushed into the street, with a polite intimation that they were 'fly' to the carpetbag, and so I might 'mizzle.' Well, thought I, this is London politeness with a vengeance! but a lodging I must get, and on I went. The next house I approached looked clean and cheerful; and seeing the waiter standing at the door, I civilly asked him if they took in travellers? The fellow, who proved to be an Irishman, laughed, and replied, 'Faith we do, sir, when we can.' 'Then, perhaps, you'll take me in for the night?' said I; 'I have just got off the Manchester coach, and want my dinner and a lodging.' Once more did I notice the particular attention paid to my carpet-bag. 'Be asy, old boy!' said the rascal, with a good-humoured grin; 'though we take in travellers, we don't mane to be taken in ourselves, so walk off with your four bones and your carpet-bag together;' and, turning upon his heel, he marched into the passage, exclaiming to one of his companions, 'The old codger with the carpet-bag has just been here, but it wouldn't do.' I now really began to be vexed, and indignant at this treatment. I pursued my course, however, to a fifth house. Here I was lucky enough to find a rousing fire in the parlour; and having, as I hoped for the last time, deposited my carpet-bag on a chair, I was about to ring the bell, when I was saved the trouble by the landlord, who, entering in a great pet, approached me without further ceremony, took up my carpet-bag, placed it in my hand again, and ordered me out of his house without delay. 'I want a bed,' said I. 'Do you?' said he; 'then you'll find one elsewhere, for you sha'n't stuff your carpet-bag at my expense!' and out he pushed me, in defiance of all my expostulations. Never was poor devil so incensed: I was completely at a loss to discover the cause of this treatment. It had now become dark, and my anxiety for a lodging became still greater. I resolved upon one more experiment, however, before I gave myself up to despair, and seeing a sixth house of a very tempting description, in I marched, and approaching a good-looking woman in the bar, I made my best bow, and asked her if I could be accommodated with my dinner and a lodging for the night? 'Certainly, sir,' said she, with a smile; and, in a loud tone, called William, the waiter, and Betty, the chambermaid. Both came in a trice; and the landlady, pointing to me, said, 'This gentleman wants a bed and his dinner; show him into No.2, Betty; and you, William, take the gentleman's order for dinner.' William and Betty hesitated, both scanning me and my carpet-bag more particularly, with as much surprise as if they had never seen two such objects before; and at the same moment putting their heads towards their mistress, I could just hear them whisper, 'Carpet-bag!' In an instant the smile of the hostess turned to a frown, and, without further explanation, she exclaimed, looking over the bar at the same time at my unfortunate carpet-bag, 'No, sir; we have no room; it won't do here;' and for the sixth time was I sent forth on my adventures. I now became thoroughly enraged, but suddenly recollecting that, by law, victuallers are obliged to receive travellers, I resolved to be no longer trifled with, and, for the seventh and last time, entered a house in High Holborn, where, without ceremony, I walked into the coffee-room, threw my carpet-bag under the table, took off my great-coat, and desired the waiter to get me a beefsteak, oyster sauce, and potatoes. 'Yes, sir,' was the quick reply. The order was given to the cook in an audible voice -- 'Nice rumpsteak, hoister sauce, and tators, for one!' The cloth was laid, and in less time than I could have expected, I was discussing the merits of the viands laid before me. Good meat, thought I, requires good drink, and I ordered, in a breath, a pint of porter and a pint of sherry. 'Yes, sir,' said my attendant again, and with equal rapidity they were placed before me. The fellow, in turning round from me on this occasion, observed my carpet-bag under the opposite table. 'Holloa! 'said he, 'whose is this here carpet-bag? ''Tis mine,' I replied. Had I confessed myself a kangaroo or a rhinoceros, I do not think I could have produced more astonishment than this admission, and I could observe him look round the room to the assembled guests, as if he expected them to join in his surprise. Still I had no suspicion that there was anything in my bag, or in my appearance, to attract extraordinary attention; so, without further reflection, I finished my dinner, and called for a pint of port. On this being brought in, I put the old question, 'Can I be accommodated with a bed?' 'No, indeed, you cannot, Mr. Carpet-bag!' said he, shaking his impudent face close to mine. This was past all endurance, and, with an oath, I exclaimed, I would not stir out of the house that night. 'Won't you, indeed!' said he; 'we'll soon see that,' and out he went. The persons in the room regarded me with side-long glances of doubt; but before I could make any remark upon what had occurred, in came Mr. Waiter with a policeman. 'That's him,' said he, pointing to me. 'That's who?' roared I with indignation; 'what have you to say to me?' The policeman, who seemed a decent fellow of his sort, begged of me not to be violent; he believed, he said, I had a carpet-bag? 'I have,' replied I; 'and what then?' 'Only I should like to look into it, sir,' said he. 'I'll be -- if you shall,' retorted I. 'Ha! ha! 'sniggered the waiter, 'I thought how it would be.' I now became perfectly outrageous, and demanded of the policeman if he took me for a felon? 'No, sir,' said he; 'but the fact is, a man with a carpet-bag has been going round to the different taverns in town, plundering the landlords, and 'a caution' to this effect having appeared in the public papers, suspicion has arisen that you may be 'the man with the carpet-bag,' and I have been called in to ascertain the fact.' The civility of the fellow, as well as the ludicrous, although vexatious, cause of all my wanderings, being thus explained, I could not but smile at my situation, but determined at once to justify my character. I gave him the key of the padlock, desiring him to open the bag, the contents of which I enumerated, concluding with the astounding declaration, that, last of all, he would find a canvas bag, containing one hundred sovereigns, and letters to certain persons, whose names I mentioned. The man was a little abashed, but, at my desire, made the search,-- found all as I described, to the minutest particular -- apologized for his interference -- and took his departure. The waiter also humbly begged pardon; the company laughed heartily at the recital of my mortifications; I got my bed, paid my bill, and the next morning proceeded to the house of a friend, where, had I gone in the first instance, I should have been saved the trouble of writing this letter for the express purpose of giving landlords 'another caution,'-- and that is, not to look, in future, so suspiciously on a traveller with a carpetbag, unless upon some more cogent ground than mere surmise.
"I am, sir, yours,
"A Manchester Warehouseman.''
The same subject was also made the subject of a farce at one of the minor theatres.
The real "Man with the carpet-bag" was eventually secured, and his fate was similar to that of the convict Mac Namara, whose offences have just been alluded to.