Nephew to the Exeter Hangman, who turned Thief and Highwayman, and ended by marrying an Heiress. His Autobiography written about 1660
WE here present our readers with the remarkable life of a very great thief and cheat, as written by himself above fourscore years ago. This witty rogue is much talked of at this time in the west of England, where he was born, and where he wrote his life and actions —- a life famous in those parts, and which we believe will prove diverting and agreeable to our readers here. The account which he gives of himself is as follows:
I was born in Exeter, a city in the county of Devon. My father's name was Thomas Gray, a native of the same city, and by trade a barber. His wife (who I believe was my mother) was a good-natured woman, and one who never denied a handsome spark any favour. My father was accused of keeping a younger brother of mine always at hand to pick his customers' pockets whilst they were shaving; but the little diver was caught, and died in prison under the penance of a discipline applied to him with a little too much rigour. My father was much afflicted at it, for he drove a pretty trade with him, and he never had been a prisoner before, but always came off with honour. As to my own part, after many disputes between my parents about placing me out in the world, and they not agreeing to what trade, I was furnished with the first rudiments of Art, vulgarly called the Horn Book, and sent to school. I had not been there above eight days, before my mistress, who was a likely lass, perceived I was a lad of mettle, and might be proper to go her errands, and for that reason was kinder to me than the rest of the scholars, which made them envy me. From that time I began to keep company with those who were bigger than myself, and became intimate with a gentleman's son of the city, whose name was Mr Robert Langdon. Every holiday we went to play together; hens' nests and orchards we robbed together. In short, I was never out of his company, which made my fellow-scholars either angry that I slighted them, or, thinking me presumptuous, they twitted me with my father's trade. One would call me Lord of the Razor, another Little Trimmer, and a third Young Soapsuds; but these I did not regard, until one of my comrades, with whom I was playing, called me son of a whore. Upon which I threw a stone hard at him and broke his head, then took to my heels, ran to my mother, and told her the case, who commended my valour and rejoiced to see how great an empire honour had already obtained over me. Away goes my father to seek out the boy, that he might wipe off this reproach, who asking his pardon, and peace being made, I was returned to school again.
Whilst I remained here I was always in company with the scholar before-mentioned, with whom I had contracted a great friendship, I used to exchange my tops and marbles with him, though mine were better. I gave him pictures, and complied so with his humours, that at last his father and mother, who knew nothing of the ill-repute of mine, finding their child took such delight in my company, were very well pleased when I dined, supped, or lay with their son, who in a short time was removed to a grammar school at Cullumpton, with myself to accompany him, to wean him from his parents' fondness, which commonly makes children dunces.
At this school we remained about five years, during which time nothing extraordinary intervened, but such tricks as are usually played at school. I and my young master made pretty good progress in our learning, and he being now arrived to the age of eighteen, his father took him from the school, and after he had kept him at home about three months, desirous of making his son a scholar, resolved to send him to Oxford, and I was asked if I thought fit to wait on him. My consent was easily obtained. Our clothes were packed up, and we mounted on horseback, accompanied by an old servant to carry our portmanteaus, defray the expenses of our journey, and bring back the horses. Nothing remarkable happened on the road; we arrived safe at Oxford. My young master was entered of B —- —- College, and I had lodgings at a private house (with several other gentlemen's servants), and waited on him only by day. My landlady was a mighty woman for what she called country affairs; so that the yard was well stocked with fowls of all sorts, sucking-pigs, etc.
On an evening, being at play in my room with some of the other servants, we heard a grunting without the door, which we opened, and presently in came a brace of young pigs, which we punished severely for their presumption in coming so near us; and that night carried them to an ale-house, and made a brave feast of them. My master heard of it, and was very angry, but most of the gentlemen of the college laughed at it, and interposed in my behalf. It was not long before my young master came into the like opinion with me of now and then borrowing some of our neighbours' goods; for he, with three more of his fellow-collegians, being apprised of a very fat calf which belonged to a farmer a little way from their college, made bold to take it away, but could not for a long time contrive how to get it into the college; for it being late, and the gates shut, the porter would inevitably see them. But one more cunning than the rest bids two of them lift the calf upon the hind feet, then put his gown and cap on it, and thus supported the calf was led in. The porter, inquiring what was the reason they supported the gentleman so, was told it was a scholar a little in liquor, and by that stratagem they made many good meals on veal.
These and many other pranks we played there, when my master received a letter from his father, wherein was enclosed one for myself from an uncle of mine, the most noted man in Exeter; for he was a finisher of the law, alias the hangman. This was the person who sent me the letter, a copy of which I have here transcribed, that you may see what a great affection he bore me.
TO MY DEAR NEPHEW, Mr THOMAS GRAY
The great employment which I have under his Majesty has hitherto hindered me from writing to you. I am much afflicted to be the conveyancer of such news unto you as cannot be very welcome. Your father died eight days since, but the most generously I ever saw man. I will say this of him everywhere; for I myself trussed him up. He mounted the ladder with a good grace; but spying one of the rounds broken, and being a lover of order, he turned about to the sheriff and desired it might be mended for the next comer, who perhaps might be less active than himself. I cannot describe to you how handsomely he appeared in the eyes of all spectators. He sat himself down in a most becoming posture, took the cord himself and fastened the knot to it, and seeing the parson who attended him beginning to exhort him to repentance —- "Sir," says he, "I have long since prepared myself for this action. Let us only sing a penitential psalm, and make an end, for I would not be troublesome to the company." Which done, he threw himself off the ladder, without making any ugly faces, and so continued near an hour with a most incomparable gravity. As for your mother, she was tried for a bawd, and convicted; was condemned to follow a cart through the city; but never received her punishment, dying of the jail distemper. I am extremely afflicted she should so dishonour our family, in which I have no small interest, being an officer of the King's; for the relation I had unto her is no mean discredit to me amongst persons of quality. I have your father's effects in my hands, which he bequeathed to you. I believe they will be worth about fourscore pounds. I am your uncle, and have no children, and design to resign my office to you. You may therefore on sight hereof provide yourself to come hither; for I persuade myself you will make a very worthy successor to me. I desire your speedy answer, and am, your affectionate uncle,
I must confess I was out of countenance at the shame and discredit of my parents, and the only comfort I had left was that I should shortly receive the money. I went to my young master, whom I still found reading his lettcrs, in which his father commanded him to turn me off. He told me of it with some concern, and that he did not dare to disobey him; but offered to recommend me to a gentleman of his acquaintance. "Sir," says I to him, "my thoughts are higher than serving anybody; I renounce the meanness of all those conditions. I intend to scale honour, and if hitherto I have had one foot upon the ladder, as everyone knows, be pleased to understand that my father has mounted to the very top of it." I expounded my meaning to him by showing my uncle's letter; for he knowing who I was I might the more freely, and with less shame, discover the whole affair unto him. He was sorry at it, and asked me what I intended to do. I acquainted him with my designs. He paid me my wages, and made me a handsome present besides. I took my leave of him with a great deal of reluctance, went to my lodgings, dissembling my grief the best I could. I burnt my letter, fearing somebody might find it and discover my shame. Then I resolved to go to Exeter and take possession of my legacy, and also to know my relations, that I might the better avoid them, and shun the place of their habitation.
At length the day came when I was to abandon the most pleasant life I had yet known. God knows with what regret I bade adieu to so many friends and companions. I sold what things I could, and by that and some other means had got above twenty pounds in my pocket. I bought a horse for about three pounds, and mounting him, left Oxford. Now being at large, I was willing to take a little pleasure, and for that reason visited Bath on my way home. There it was I met with a very ignorant self-conceited fellow, who called himself a poet. Our acquaintance began at supper, by his asking me (according to the custom of travellers) from whence I came. I told him from Oxford. "A curse light upon that place," replied he; "there's hardly a man of understanding there." "I wonder," says I, "you should so undervalue them; for I assure you there are many ingenious men at that university." "Ingenious men, say you!" replied he, all in a fury. "Who are they? I am sure I have been a country schoolmaster above these ten years, and am the author of several Christmas carols, yet none of your famous university ever took any notice of me. To convince you further, I will read one of them," Which he accordingly did. The subject was, The Shepherds Meeting at Bethlehem; but not one good line in it. However I flattered him, and commended what he called verses to the skies, and told him I entirely agreed with him that there was no comparison between the Oxonians and him, and asked him if he had ever read the Ordinances made lately against poets. He answered in the negative, and desired me to let him see them. The company joining with him in his request, I condescended; and taking them out of my pocket began to read them as follows: —-
ORDINANCES AGAINST A SET OF CRACK-BRAINED FELLOWS, COMMONLY CALLED OR KNOWN BY THE NAME OF POETS
I. Although we are credibly informed that there is a certain kind of vermin, called poets, who are much given to idolatry, worshipping ribbons, fans, gloves, shoe-strings, and the like; as also who daily commit infinite other sins much more heinous, as if they were barbarians, or Pagans; yet in regard they are Christians, and our neighbours, we are charitably inclined to work their reformation, and do therefore ordain that, in Easter Week, they be assembled together in some public space, then and there to be admonished of their errors. And in case any are touched with a sense of their errors, and willing to renounce their superstition, we shall discharge such with a proper certificate, and the rest we shall send with an order to the keeper of some eminent madhouse.
II. Forasmuch as divers have forsaken their idolatrous life (though they yet retain some relics of it) and delight in groves and woods, we ordain they leave off such foolish notions, or that such as affect to be solitary shall go and build cottages in the deserts of Arabia; and as for those who will not submit hereunto, we give them liberty to hire themselves out to old nurses, to sing and rock their children asleep in their cradles.
Here the pedant could no longer hold, but up he rose in a fury, and protested against the Ordinances, and appealed to Apollo in his Court of Parnassus. I had much ado to forbear laughing; but that I might be kept up no longer, for it was pretty late, I told him the Ordinances were only made in jest, and that he might choose whether he would obey them; which quieted him for the present, and then I proceeded:
III. We do adjudge that all women who shall fall in love with these kind of poets shall be comprised within the number of wilful murderers. And we further command that they be not buried in holy ground, but in the highway.
IV. Considering the great numbers of plays, songs, and miscellanies —- of which collections have been made of late years —- we ordain that all such bundles of copies as the pastrycooks' and chandlers' shops have saved shall be forthwith carried to the houses of office, there to be used as occasion shall require, any prohibition or injunction to the contrary notwithstanding.
V. Considering that there are three sorts of people in the kingdom who are so extremely miserable that they cannot live without poets, as lovers, ballad-singers, and stage-players, we, being charitably inclined to supply their wants, do permit that there be a certain number of poets tolerated for their use, provided they subscribe their works, and give notice of their dwellings, that they be brought to give an account of their misdemeanours and detractions, which for the most part they commit against persons of honour in their lampoons.
VI. Lastly, we command all poets in general to correct and amend their style; and that for the future they cease profaning of heavenly things, or adopting the names of angels, stars, suns and divinities unto such women as are ready for all comers; and this under pain of being sentenced to transportation for fourteen years.
They who heard those Ordinances read, desired copies of them, except our exasperated poet, who cried out in a pet that he need not make any defence, but appealed to all men of sense. At this passage all the company laughed very heartily, which made the jingler ten times worse. He called for the reckoning, paid his share, and left us; and for my own part, seeing it was late, I made an end of our liquor, and went to bed.
Day came. I rose and took leave of the company —- I mean such as were out of their beds —- and proceeded on my journey. But nothing extraordinary happened till I got to Exeter, where I inquired of several people for my uncle, but could get nothing from them but a command to go and look for him, until I accosted a beggar in St Peter's churchyard, who informed me where he lived, and that he was for the present employed in brushing the shoulders of a brace of females who would not leave other people's shirts upon their hedges. I went to a neighbouring ale-house and gave a boy twopence to go and tell my worshipful relation I waited for him; for I did not much care for his expressions of joy at my arrival in the open streets. In about two hours he came, and seemed extraordinary glad to see me, conducting me to his house, which was near a very large slaughter-house, the most noisome place in the whole city. "This is not a palace," said he, as he went into his house; "but I can assure you, my dear nephew, it is very commodious for my office." We went in together to a place he called his parlour, which was hung round with the utensils of his trade, as whips, cords, branding-irons, etc. Never was galley-slave more astonished than myself. He asked me to sit down, which I did without much ceremony. "You are very lucky," says he, "in coming to-day. You will meet with a good supper, there being some friends of mine to sup with me." In the midst of his discourse in came a certain man in a tattered coat, and by what I could find by his discourse he was one of the jail solicitors. He laid down a bag he brought with him in a corner, which, instead of being filled with papers, was stuffed with goose, roast beef, etc. "Is not old Twister come yet?" said he. "No," quoth my uncle; but the word was hardly out of his mouth before a great scoundrel fellow entered the room. His face was all chequer-work, flat-nosed, with a hat the crown of which would have almost cased a steeple, and the brims were so large it might have served for a pent-house for three or four in rainy weather. "I must needs confess, dear godfather," said he to my uncle, "you have served your penitents to-day like good children indeed." With that the twig of the law took up the discourse. "They were poor sneaky rascals, who had not anything to buy a favour. I gave six shillings to the beadle of Launceston to befriend me as he did when I was forced to dance a couranto there." "For my part," said the other, "I did not grudge the money I gave at Salisbury, and yet the old thief made me sensible that one of more credit than myself had recommended me to him." "These officers," said my uncle, interposing, "are not men of honour as I am; for when I treat with anyone, I know how to acquit myself as becomes my quality." I listened to their discourse with abundance of regret, which one of them perceiving —- "Is that one of the young men who passed through your hands last?" said he. "No, no," said my uncle, "it is a nephew of mine, a Master of Arts at Oxford, and a very ingenious young man." He begged my pardon, and proffered me his service; for which I thanked him very kindly, he being my uncle's assistant, who helped him at a pinch. In the meantime I was almost mad to get my money out of my uncle's hands, that I might be gone from him. To be short, the cloth was laid, and a boy they had got to attend them was sent for a lusty jug of ale. This boy was an ingenious lad, who knew how to get sixpence clear when they sent him for a groat's worth of ale. The case was, he would sell the pitcher for twopence, and pretend he had broken it and spilt the liquor.
They sat themselves down at the table, and I, being a stranger, was placed at the upper end. In a word, they stuffed their bellies so full that, what with the meat, and what with the wine, the vapours crept up into their pericraniums. They began to see double, and some to see such things as were not near them; for the ragamuffin lawyer took a plate of fried tripe, which swam in butter as black as ink, and thinking it to be broth, clapped it to his mouth to sup it up, saying, "It is good to have something of one's own "; and thinking to put it to his mouth, spilt one half in his bosom and the other on his clothes. Perceiving himself in that pickle, he rose from the table to clean himself, but his head was too heavy for his body, so that at the first step his nose kissed the ground; with that he took hold of the leg of the table and, endeavouring to rise, upset it upon the other two. My uncle tried to get up, but being as far gone as the others, fell upon his colleague, who, finding himself down before he expected it, asked my uncle why he pushed him, and whether he was used to entertain his guests so; and with that he took up a bone, intending to slay my uncle, who lay at full length dead drunk.
About a fortnight passed much after the above manner, during which time I was daily talking to my uncle about the money left by my father; but he, being a man who understood little of good behaviour, put me to a great deal of trouble before I could bring him to my own bow. But at length he yielded, though with some reluctance; for I could only make him bleed three of the four score pounds left me by my father, which he got by his industry, and entrusted to a person of honour, who was the depository of all the thefts committed within ten miles of Exeter. To her we went, who received us with many welcomes, and wishes I might prove as honest and as able a man as my deceased father.
The money was tolled out, and my uncle seeing me take possession of my fortune —- "My dear nephew," said he, "you will do very ill should you squander away this money. Did I not know you to be a person of understanding, and withal mindful of the family from whence you are descended, I should be very cautious of delivering it into your hands; but you have it, and God give you grace to make good use of it, and then, perhaps, you may enjoy part of my labours." I returned him thanks for his kind offers, and having drunk sufficiently, took leave of the good woman, and with my uncle returned home, where we found his two companions, to whom we gave an account of what he had done. I perceived by their countenances and their discourse they expected a treat. I accordingly sent for a large jug of ale but not contented with that, my uncle was for a walk to Topsham the next day to see the ships, and I was to bear the expense of the day.
The morning being come, my uncle, his two pot-companions and myself took a walk to Topsham, and got into company with some sailors, who would have us go on board their ship and drink some flip; and my uncle, who was never backward in drinking, agreed to it, though in the sequel it proved but bad for him, for here he died a watery death, though he never delighted in that element. But the fault was in his tongue, and thinking himself as great as a lord (especially when drunk), he gave the captain of the ship some very scurrilous language, who, in return, tipped him over the side of the ship, and the water, which he had so naturally abhorred whilst living, took revenge on him at his death.
At first we made a great noise, and swore to hang the captain; but he soon quieted us, by getting us into his cabin. He plied us well with punch; and applying some gold to me and my companions, we signed a paper wherein we acknowledged that nobody had hurt my uncle, or touched a hair of his head (which was true, because he was bald), but that he, being very much in liquor, had tumbled overboard by accident. The coroner summoned a jury the next morning, who, after they had separately examined me and the two ragamuffins, found that my uncle's death was by accident. All that now remained was to lay him underground, desiring the earth, as it conceals so many gross faults committed by doctors, apothecaries, surgeons, etc., to hide one small fault of a captain and a little salt water. I shall give no further account of my relations or ancestors; but I suppose the latter descended from some great Norman who came over with William the Conqueror. Those who desire to know more of them may search the Heralds' Office, where, perhaps, they may satisfy their curiosity.
After the funeral was over (at which I did not shed one tear, because I saw nobody else do it), I took possession of my uncle's house and effects, the latter of which I sold off for about three and twenty pounds; and not caring to stay any longer in my native place, I was resolved to make the best of my way to London; and accordingly, hearing that the carrier had a spare horse, I hired him, and on we jogged the next morning.
Nothing remarkable happened till I got to Hounslow Heath, where it was my ill-fortune to meet as great a rogue as myself. I could not be contented to follow the wagon, but being in a hurry to view the metropolis of the kingdom, I rode on before, and about the middle of the heath met one of your highway collectors, who dismounted me, and robbed me of all my money; and though I told him I was as great a rogue as himself, it would not save my money, for he demanded my credentials —- that is, my pistols —- but I had none. However, after much entreaty, he returned me about fifteen shillings, and in lieu of it took away the horse with him. The devil had a long time owed me a spite, and took this opportunity to pay it. I was left in a sweet condition. I did not dare to stay for the carrier, fearing he might stop me for the horse, and money I had none to pay him for it, except what the highwayman so charitably returned me. I even resolved to foot it the rest of the way, and got to London that evening, very weary and heavy-hearted. All I had to depend on was my industry, which is the only philosopher's stone, and converts all things to gold.
"A man by art, and by deceit,
Half a year may live complete.
By the same deceit and art,
He may live the other part."
It was my fortune to take up my quarters in a street pretty famous for furnishing young apprentices with women's flesh, and for being the common receptacle of bullies. Here in less than four days I got acquainted with as great a rogue as ever was hanged, and he was my master of the ceremonies to introduce me to a gang of fellows like himself. I found them in a cellar, drinking and carousing, and was welcomed by three loud huzzas, and a stool ordered for me. Scarce was I sat down but in came one of the fraternity with a good cloak on his back, which he had exchanged for his own at a billiard-table, where he made as if he would play, but having the industry not to make one, he got to the place where the cloaks lay, and very dexterously borrowed the best of them, leaving his own in its stead. This was nothing in comparison with the next that came, who was always attended by a number of children all troubled with one disease or another.
That which drew such a rout after him was his pretending to cure and charm all diseases, either by saying some magical words, or giving them scrolls of paper to carry about them; by which means he got a pretty income.
After him came another, a grave demure man, who looked like a saint. His business was to go about the streets and sell little books of prayers and hymns. He had always some text of Scripture ready to vindicate what he said. He was thought to be a very holy man by the vulgar, and by this device got good store of money. If in his walk he chanced to find any door open, he went in with a great deal of confidence; if he found no one within, or if they were asleep, he never came away empty-handed. In case he found anyone, or if they happened to awake, he told them he came in, finding the door open, to advise of it, and that they had need be careful of night-walkers; and always concluded with some hypocritical advice.
I passed one month in observing the many ways of stealing practised by the society, but never went out upon the shark by myself, having always for my companion the person who first brought me acquainted with their ways. We two made a pretty good hand of it, and brought as much to the common stock as any. We had an old woman who sold everything we stole. She used to go from house to house, saying she was a poor woman forced to sell her goods by piecemeal to buy bread for herself and family. She would weep at every word, and sob and cry like a child, with which, and her other industry, she cheated charitable people, and sometimes to good purposes. This right venerable and no less reverend old woman was grand protectress of our society, and chief treasuress. But upon a certain day, as the devil (who is never idle in such things as concern his good subjects) would have it, our good woman, going to sell a suit of clothes, and some other things, fell upon one who knew, among the rest, something that once belonged to himself. Presently he got a constable, who took her into custody. She soon squeaked, confessed all, and impeached our whole order; upon which we were soon secured, and guarded to Newgate.
At length the sessions came; we were arraigned at the bar, and after a pretty long trial our poor old woman was condemned to follow a cart's tail from Newgate to Tyburn, with a fellow to brush her shoulders. My comrades were condemned to live seven years in another country. My innocency appeared, God-a-mercy horse-gold I mean and so I got clear for that bout.
I resolved to leave London and go to Bristol. The first stage I went was to Reading, where it was my fortune to meet with a company of players, and amongst the rest one who had been an acquaintance of mine at Oxford. He embraced me very kindly, and so far prevailed upon his friends that they admitted me into the company, and gave me several parts to get by heart. I had got such a trick, that I could not forbear walking up and down the chamber with the same earnestness as if I had been upon the stage.
It happened that the maid of the house was coming up with dinner just as I was upon a description of the hunting of wild beasts, and of a man being pulled down by a bear, as if it had been my own self; I began to cry out in a pitiful tone:
"Save thyself, and fly this grisly bear,
Or else thy body he will surely tear:
Fast in my flesh are fix'd his direful claws;
I fall a prey to his rapacious jaws.
O fly away; for this I plainly see,
As soon as I am dead, he'll murder thee."
The poor wench was so terrified with my cry, and action, that she verily believed I had really advised her to save herself from being devoured. The great haste in which she was in to be gone made her make but one step from the top to the bottom of the stairs: down she went, and the dishes with her. Away she got into the street, crying there was a bear in the house, killing and eating a man. I heard a noise, and, apprehending whence it came, went out to disabuse the girl; but notwithstanding all my haste, I found about a dozen men at the door, some with spits, some with halters, and others with swords, swearing and staring, and inquiring for the bear. I told them the whole story, and repeated the lines. They were mad and vexed at being made such fools of, and cursed the verses, and the poet too, to the pit of hell. But that little troubled me; that which concerned me most was, I was forced to lose my dinner.
My companions hearing of this adventure made the town ring with it, and I had the honour of being the subject of several ballads. Not long after, another accident happened which confounded us all. The master of our company had run into debt with a tailor for a very considerable sum for clothes and other necessaries for our use, and he, perceiving there was no likelihood of getting his money, arrested him, and his other creditors coming in, he lay under so many locks and keys that there was no likelihood of his getting out. By this means our company dwindled, and everyone shifted for himself. The truth is, I might have got into another company, but I was quite tired with that way of life.
My friend (who, I told you before, first introduced me into the above set of strollers, and with whom I had contracted a very intimate friendship) was resolved to accompany me to whatever part of the world I went. His name was Richard Brown. By his advice I took a resolution to revisit London, and on comparing our stock, found we could muster up two hundred pounds, by which we hoped to improve our fortune. Brown was a genteel, well-made fellow, had a tongue as smooth as oil, and a good address, and could cog a die or slip a card with anyone. We were both desperate as to our fortunes, and therefore resolved to make a bold push, either to gain more or be stripped; and if the latter happened, we thought of nothing but the last resort of gamesters, which was, either to hang ourselves, or get the county to furnish us with a proper officer.
We had not been in London above a week before we lost all our money, and almost all our senses; but recalling some of the latter, we (by pawning part of our clothes) got each of us a brace of pistols, and took an airing towards Barnet. On the road we met a chariot and four horses, furnished with an elderly gentleman and his daughter, from whom we took about forty pounds in money, a brace of watches and a silver snuff-box, the last of which the young lady begged very hard for; but we were inexorable, and lucky for us that we were so, for when we got to our lodgings we found a diamond ring in the box, which we sold for ninety-three pounds. This being my first setting out as a highwayman, I was unwilling to be caught, so that to prevent being pursued I shot one of the wheel-horses, which vexed the old gentleman more than his money; for he lost all patience, calling us rogues, villains, highwaymen and murderers. "What harm," says old crusty, "has the horse done you? Can you get anything by killing him, or do ye think he has got any money hid about him?" My companion did not like the old chap's expressions; so with a great oath commanded him to come out of the chariot, that he might search him. "For," said he, "you old fox, I'll rummage you all over." We found nothing about him but a tobacco-box, a silver dram-bottle and a pocket-book; the last of which we returned, on his promising not to give such scurrilous language any more to gentlemen of our profession; and the same night we got safe to London.
Flushed with our success, we often ventured out in the evening; but the worst was, whatever we got on the road, the dice swallowed. Our last exploit was near Richmond, where we attacked a gentleman and his man, well armed. We had no sooner bid them stand than the gentleman fired at us, but luckily missed us. The servant rode off as fast as his horse could go, whilst my comrade lodged a ball in the gentleman's arm, which made him yield. We robbed him of near three hundred pounds, wished him good-night, and rode off. Not far had we got before we found ourselves pursued, for the gentleman's servant had raised the county; but, however, after a pretty deal of difficulty, we again got safe home.
This last adventure frightened both of us so much we did not venture at that sport any more; for by a kind turn of fortune my friend got, in one night, above nine hundred pounds. It was then my advice that we should buy each of us a good horse, and go into the country for some time. My companion agreed to it, and pitched upon Bath and Bristol to pay a visit to; and because we would set out with a good grace, we hired a servant to attend us, who proved an excellent one, for he was one of the most arch dogs I ever knew. He was by trade a saddler; he sung tolerably, and played upon the violin. In short, we could put him upon nothing but he would undertake it; so that we did not keep long upon the reserve of our servant, but let him into our designs, which were, to go a-fortune-hunting.
At last we arrived at Bath, where we pushed into all company, and had not been there a fortnight before our dexterous servant had got acquainted with a young girl who waited on two sisters, who were guarded by their mother and watchful uncle; but, however, I made my addresses to one of them, wrote letters, and received answers, by help of my man, and found they were ten thousand pounds fortunes. My friend Brown cried me up in all places for a person of a great estate; but the mother and uncle were inexorable. However the young lady was not; for by means of a strolling clergyman, well daubed in the fist, we were married and fairly bedded in my own lodgings, nobody being privy to it but my spouse's sister, my landlady, my friend Brown, and my servant. My spouse's sister was a brisk lass, and, as I thought, wanted something. I persuaded Brown to address her, which he did, and the same parson joined them. However, this might have happened but poorly at last, had not the young ladies' father died, who was a Bristol merchant. He went over some time before to Jamaica to settle some affairs, but on his return was unfortunately (but fortunately for me and my brother adventurer) drowned; the news of which I received about a month after marriage. Hitherto all this had been secret, but on this news our marriages were publicly owned, and we demanded our spouses' fortunes. At first we were roughly treated; but the mother and uncle, both considering the indissoluble knot could not be untied, were reconciled, and in a little time we had their fortunes, and now both of us live happily.
It was but reason we should make some amends to our man for his services, so we proposed a match between him and his sweetheart, the latter of whom was very glad; for he had been pretty busy with her, she being then with child, which she confessed to her mistresses. When we asked our faithful servant the question, and told him of her confession, says he: "I fancy the sin is worth the owning, the creature is a sound piece of mortality. 'Tis but supposing the first night we lie together that we have been married four or five months, and all is well; so that, gentlemen, I am ready to obey your commands." In short, they were married, and we and our spouses gave them nigh on a thousand pounds. They have lately set up an inn within fifteen miles of Bristol, have good business, and live comfortably.
Thus far the wheel of fortune has gone round with me; what may hereafter happen I cannot foresee, but at present I'm resolved to live easy, and repent my former follies. Perhaps, gentle reader, you might have expected a tragical end had been my fate, but as yet I have got no further than matrimony and hanging; and that, you know, goes by destiny.