Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

much the more, because (which was perhaps true) she was her own sister.

So violent, and indeed so outrageous was this chaste lady's love of virtue, that she could not forgive a single slip (indeed the only one Theodosia had ever made) in her own sister, in a sister who loved her, and to whom she owed a thousand obligations.

Perhaps the severity of Mr. Snap, who greatly felt the injury done to the honour of his family, would have relented, had not the parish-officers been extremely pressing on this occasion, and for want of security conveyed the unhappy young lady to a place, the name of which, for the honour of the Snaps, to whom our hero was so nearly allied, we bury in eternal oblivion; where she suffered so much correction for her crime, that the goodnatured reader of the male kind may be inclined to compassionate her, at least to imagine she was sufficiently punished for a fault, which, with submission to the chaste Laetitia, and other strictly virtuous ladies, it should be either less criminal in a woman to commit, or more so in a man to solicit her to it.

But to return to our hero, who was a living and strong instance that human greatness and happiness are not always inseparable. He was under a continual alarm of frights, and fears, and jealousies. He thought every man he beheld wore a knife for his throat, and a pair of scissars for his purse. As for his own gang particularly, he was thoroughly convinced there was not a single man amongst them, who would not, for the value of five shillings, bring him to the gallows. These apprehensions so constantly broke his rest, and kept him so assiduously on his guard to frustrate and circumvent any designs which might be formed against him, that his condition to any other than the glorious eye of ambition, might seem rather deplorable, than the object of envy or desire.

CHAPTER XIV.

In which our hero makes a speech well worthy to be 'celebrated; and the behaviour of one of the gang, perhaps more unnatural than any other part of this history.

There was in the gang a man named Blueskin; one of those merchants who trade in dead oxen, sheep, &c., in short what the vulgar call a Butcher. This gentleman had two qualities of a great man, viz., undaunted coin-age, and an absolute contempt of those ridiculous distinctions of Meum and Tuum, which would cause endless disputes, did not the law happily decide them by converting both into Suum. The common form of exchanging property by trade seemed to him too tedious; he therefore resolved to quit the mercantile profession, and, falling acquainted with some of Mr. Wild's people, he provided himself with arms, and enlisted of the gang; in which he behaved for some time with great decency and order, and submitted to accept such share of the booty with the rest, as our hero allotted him.

But this subserviency agreed ill with his temper; for we should have before remembered a third heroic quality, namely, ambition, which was no inconsiderable part of his composition. One day, therefore, having robbed a gentleman at Windsor of a gold watch; which, on its being advertised in the newspapers, with a considerable reward, was demanded of him by Wild, he peremptorily refused to deliver it.

'How, Mr. Blueskin!' says Wild, 'you will not 'deliver the watch?' 'No, Mr. Wild,' answered he; 'I 'have taken it, and will keep it; or, if I dispose of it, I 'will dispose of it myself, and keep the money for which 'I sell it.' 'Sure,' replied Wild, 'you have not the 'assurance to pretend you have any property or right in this watch?' 'I am certain,' returned Blueskin, whether I have any right in it or no, you can prove none.' 'I will undertake,' cries the other, 'to shew I have an absolute right to it, and that by the laws of our gang, of which I am providentially at the head.' I know not who put you at the head of it,' cries Blueskin; 'but those who did, certainly did it for their own good, that you might conduct them the better in their robberies, inform them of the richest booties, prevent surprises, pack juries, bribe evidence, and so contribute to their benefit and safety; and not to convert all their labour and hazard to your own benefit and advantage.' You are greatly mistaken, Sir,' answered Wild; 'you are talking of a legal society, where the chief magistrate is always chosen for the public good, which, as we see in all the legal societies of the world, he constantly consults, daily contributing, by his superior skill, to their prosperity, and not sacrificing their good to his own wealth, or pleasure, or humour: But in an illegal society or gang, as this of ours, it is otherwise; for who would be at the head of a gang unless for his own interest? And without a head, you know, you cannot subsist. Nothing but a head, and obedience to that head, can preserve a gang a moment from destruction. It is absolutely better for you to content yourselves with a moderate reward, and enjoy that in safety at the disposal of your chief, than to engross the whole with the hazard to which you will be liable without his protection. And surely, there is none in the whole gang who has less reason to complain than you; you have tasted of my favours: witness that piece of ribbon you wear in your hat, with which I dubbed you captain.—Therefore pray, captain, deliver the watch.' 'D—n your cajoling,' says Blueskin: Do you think I value myself on this bit of ribbon, Vol. iv. s

wlnch I could have bought myself for sixpence, and have worn without your leave? Do you imagine I think myself a captain, because you, whom I know not empowered to make one, call me so? The name of captain is but a shadow; the men and the salary are the substance: and I am not to be bubbled with a shadow. I will be called captain no longer, and he who flatters me by that name, I shall think affronts rne, and I will knock him down, I assure you.'—' Did ever man talk so unreasonably?' cries Wild. 'Are you not respected as a captain by the whole gang since my dubbing you so? But it is the shadow only, it seems; and you will knock a man down for affronting you who calls you captain! Might not a man as reasonably tell a minister of state: Sir, you have given me the shadoio only. The ribbon or the bauble that you gave me implies that I have either signalized myself by some great action for the benefit and glory of my country; or at least that I am descended from those who have done so. I know myself to be a scoundrel, and so have been those few aneestors I can remember, or have ever heard of. Therefore I am resolved to knock the first man down, who calls me, Sir, or Bight Honourable. But all great and wise men think themselves sufficiently repaid by what procures them honour and precedence in the gang, without enquiring into substance 5 nay, if a title or a feather, be equal to this purpose, they are substance, and not mere shadows. But I have not time to argue with you at present, so give me the watch without any more deliberation.' 'I am no more a friend to deliberation than yourself,' answered Blueskin, 'and so I tell you once for all, by Gr— I never will give you the watch, no, nor will I ever hereafter surrender any part of my booty. I won it, and I will wear it. Take your pistols yourself, and go out on the highway, and don't lazily think to fatten yourself with the dangers and pains of other people.'

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

-At which words he departed in a fierce mood, and

repaired to the tavern used by the gang, where he had

appointed to meet some of his acquaintance, whom he

informed of what had passed between him and Wild, and

advised them all to follow his example; which they

all readily agreed to, and Mr. Wild's D—tion was the

xxniversal toast; in drinking bumpers to which they had

finished a large bowl of punch, when a constable, with a

numerous attendance, and Wild at their head, entered the

room, and seized on Blueskin, whom his companions,

when they saw our hero, did not dare attempt to rescue.

The watch was found upon him, which, together with

AVild's information, was more than sufficient to commit

him to Newgate.

In the evening, Wild and the rest of those who had been drinking with Blueskin, met at the tavern, where nothing was to be seen but the profoundest submission to their leader. They vilified and abused Blueskin as much as they had before abused our hero, and now repeated the same toast, only changing the name of Wild into that of Blueskin, all agreeing with Wild that the watch found in his pocket, and which must be a fatal evidence against lrim, was a just judgment on his disobedience and revolt.

Thus did this Great Man, by a resolute and timely

example (for he went directly to the justice when Blueskin

left him), quell one of the most dangerous conspiracies

which could possibly arise in a gang; and which, had it

been permitted one day's growth, would inevitably have

• ended in his destruction; so much doth it behove all great

men to be eternally on their guard, and expeditious in the

execution of their purposes; while none but the weak and

honest can indulge themselves in remissness or repose.

The Achates, Fireblood, had been present at both these

'meetings; but though he had a little too hastily concurred

i in cursing his friend, and in vowing his perdition, yet,

« AnteriorContinuar »