Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

The Pleasure-house is dust:- behind, before,

This is no common waste, no common gloom;
But Nature, in due course of time, once more

Shall here put on her beauty and her bloom.
She leaves these objects to a slow decay,

That what we are, and have been, may be known;
But, at the coming of the milder day,

These monuments shall all be overgrown.
One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,

Taught both by what she shows, and what conceals,
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.”

WORDSWORTH.

245.—EARLY ADVENTURES OF COLONEL JACK.

DEFOE. [THE minor novels of the great author of 'Robinson Crusoe' are now little read ; and indeed they are, from the coarseness which belonged to the period in which they were written, unfit for general perusal. But Defoe, however gross in occasional expressions, had a strictly moral object in whatever he wrote. His History of Colonel Jack 'is one of these minor novels. It possesses the same wonderful quality as · Robinson Crusoe '-—the almost unrivalled power of making fiction appear reality, from the skilful combination of minute details, which shew the teeming invention as well as the accurate judgment of the writer. Daniel Defoe was born in 1661. His father was a Dissenter; and the greater part of his life was spent in asserting the principles of toleration, which were endangered by the Stuarts. He was unsuccessfully engaged in business, and for many years main. tained himself by his pen. He died in 1731.]

The subtle devil, never absent from his business, but ready at all occasions to encourage his servants, brought me into an intimacy with one of the most exquisite divers, or pick-pockets, in the town; and this our intimacy was of no less a kind than that, as I had an incli

1

or 4s.

[ocr errors]

nation to be as wicked as any of them, he was for taking care that I should not be disappointed.

He was above the little fellows who went about stealing trifles and baubles in Bartholomew fair, and ran the risk of being mobbed for 3s.

His aim was at higher things, even at no less than considerable sums of money

and bills for more. He solicited me earnestly to go and take walk with him as above, adding, that after he had shown me my trade a little, he would let me be as wicked as I would ; that is, as he expressed it, that after he had made me capable, I should set up for myself, if I pleased, and he would only wish me good luck.

According, he told me, if he had success, I should have my share, as much as if I had been principal; and this he assured me, was a custom of the trade, in order to encourage young beginners, and bring them into the trade with courage, for that nothing was to be done if a man had not the heart of the lion.

I hesitated at the matter a great while, objecting the hazard,

Well, colonel,” says he, I find you are faint-hearted, and to be faint-hearted is indeed to be unfit for our trade, for nothing but a bold heart can go through stitch with this work; but, however, as there is nothing for you to do, so there is no risk for you to run in these things the first time. If I am taken,” says he, “ you having nothing to do in it, they will let you go free, for it shall easily be made appear, that whatever I have done you had no hand in it.”

Upon those persuasions I ventured out with him; but I soon found that my new friend was a thief of quality, and a pick-pocket above the ordinary rank. He was a bigger boy than I a great deal; for, though I was now near fifteen years old, I was not big of my age, and, as to the nature of the thing, I was perfectly a stranger to it; I knew indeed what at first I did not, for it was a good while before I understood the thing as an offence: I looked on picking pockets as a trade, and thought I was to go apprentice to it; it is true, this was when I was young in the society, as well as younger in years, but even now

І understood it to be only a thing for which, if we were catched, we ran the risk of being ducked or pumped, which we call soaking, and then all was over, and we made nothing of having our rags wetted a little; but I never understood, till a great while after, that the crime was capital, and that we might be sent to Newgate for it, till a great fellow, almost a man, one of our society, was hanged for it; and then I was terribly frightened, as you shall hear by and by.

Well, upon the persuasions of this lad, I walked out with him; a poor innocent boy, and (as I remember my very thoughts perfectly well) I had no evil in my intentions; I had never stolen any thing in my life: and if a goldsmith [banker] had left me in his shop, with heaps of money strewed all round me, and bade me look after it, I should not have touched it, I was so honest; but the subtle tempter baited his hook for me, as I was a child, in a manner suitable to my childishness, for I never took this picking of pockets to be dishonesty, but, as I have said above, I looked on it as a kind of trade that I was to be bred up to, and so I entered upon it, till I became hardened in it beyond the power of retreating; and thus I was made a thief involuntarily, and went on a length that few boys do, without coming to the common period of that kind of life, I mean to the transport-ship or to the gallows.

The first day I went abroad with my new instructor, he carried me directly into the city, and as we went first to the water-side, he led me into the long room at the Custom House ; we were but a couple of ragged boys at best, but I was much the worse: my leader had a hat on, a shirt, and a neckcloth; as for me, I had neither of the three, nor had I spoiled my manners so much as to have a hat on my head since my nurse died, which was now some years. His orders to me were to keep always in sight, and near him, but not close to him, nor to take any notice of him at any time till he came to me; and if any hurly-burly happened, I should by no means know him, or pretend to have any thing to do with him.

I observed my orders to a tittle. While he peered into every corner, and had his eye upon every body, I kept my eye directly upon him, but went always at a distance, and on the other side of the long room, looking as it were for pins, and picking them up out of the dust as I could find them, and then sticking them on my sleeve, where I had at last got forty or fifty good pins; but still my eye was upon my comrade, who, I observed, was very busy among the crowds of people that stood at the board doing business with the officers, who pass the entries, and make the cocquets, &c.

At length he comes over to me, and, stooping as if he would take

« AnteriorContinuar »