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2-307 (Raw)

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Chapter I
Why then the world's mine oyster.
Respecting the parents of Ralph Rashleigh, little needs here be said save that they were of a decent rank as London shopkeepers, and that they were thus enabled to afford their son the advantage of a good plain English education, upon the completion of which he was articled to a conveyancer in extensive practice, who resided near Chancery Lane, a romantic neighbourhood to which Ralph was compelled to restrict his rambles for the first two years of his servitude; but on the expiration of that period, in compliance with a stipulation contained in his indentures, a small allowance being made to him, he ceased to reside under his master's roof and occupied a lodging by himself.
He was now fairly launched upon the great ocean of Life, for although his office hours were sufficiently long, yet abundance of time still remained, during which Rashleigh was completely his own master; and amid the varied amusements offered to his choice in the modern Babylon, he soon found nothing deficient for enjoyment, except money, with which he was but sparingly supplied. This hiatus, of course, giving him much pain, he naturally set himself to work to remove it, if possible, but for a long period without any success.
Among the number of his boon companions was a young man, who though only receiving from his employee an equal salary to himself, yet always appeared to be possessed of means for the gratification of his pleasures; and as he ever seemed to distinguish Ralph with his friendship, the latter, one evening when both were tolerably warm from the effect of numerous potations in which they had indulged, begged his friend to explain how he managed so well with his limited income, as always to have cash for any expense he chose to incur.
His companion, whose name was Hartop, after many injunction of secrecy, informed him that as his employer usually sent him to make payments and receive money upon account of the business, he had for a long period been in the habit of occasionally passing bad sovereigns, using however great precaution, and never carrying more than one at a time upon his person. Then be picked his customers - mostly people from the country or residing at a distant part of London - to whom he would tender a queer piece; and if it were objected to, would immediately replace it by a good one, Wondering how he came by it, etc. At other times, when he thought he could do so safely in telling over money he was about to receive, he would dexterously exchange one of the good ones for another he had previously concealed in his hand, which of course was bad. [2] The result of this manoeuvre would be, that when be objected to the one he had himself put down, the person about to pay him, probably knowing all the pieces he had tendered to be genuine, would exchange the one questioned without hesitation. Nay, so good were the imitations he made use of, that often, in paying considerable sums of money in gold into banks - where the specie was weighed in the lump - a bad sovereign would pass current enough among many others, and not excite any suspicion.
This communication over, Hartop offered our hero his services, to procure him a few of these inimitable imitations of the current coin of the realm, adding that be could pay for them when he was lucky. To this offer Ralph, nothing loath, assented. A few days after, he received from his friend twenty spurious sovereigns, that being deemed enough for his first essay.
Thus did Ralph Rashleigh commence his career of dishonesty, and for a long period escaped with impunity, owing to the able manner in which he adopted and followed the cautious counsels of his sage tutor. At length, finding that he could obtain all the luxuries of life, not to mention necessaries only, without any very arduous exertion, be became so very idle, careless, and inattentive to his employer's business, that after many fruitless remonstrances and unavailing lectures from his worthy principal, he received his dismissal, his articles being cancelled.
This event, indeed, did not much concern him, as he believed be should always be able to supply his wants by means of passing bad money, as heretofore. Its order, however, to lull suspicion, which might have been awakened had he remained without any employment or apparent means of earning a livelihood whatever, Ralph, who now wrote a remarkably fine and quick legal hand, obtained out-of-door copying from a law scrivener, intending to do only just as much work as might be supposed to afford him subsistence.
After this resolution, his custom was to work two or three hours per day at his lodging, and to employ the rest of his time perambulating London, varying his rambles every day, and sit times shifting the scene of his exertions to a fair or tare in the country, where he generally met with tolerable success.
But the period of his profitable trading in this line was rapidly drawing to a close, and one unlucky day, having extended his operations so Maid-stone at the time of a fair, he was apprehended. As, contrary so his usual custom, he had then two bad sovereigns in his pocket, he was committed to take his trial upon a charge of uttering counterfeit coin. At the ensuing assizes, in spite of a most ingenious defence, he was found guilty and sentenced to pass twelve months in imprisonment at hard labour in the house of correction. [3]
This being prior to the invention of treadmills or the improvement of prison discipline, there was no restraint to free communication with his fellow unfortunates. And the species of employment, which consisted only of picking oakum and beating hemp, afforded ample opportunities for the relation by his companions of the many marvellous exploits, cunning schemes, hair-breadth scapes, and successful stratagems for which the lives of each had been remarkable.
It may very easily be imagined, that such society produced its full effect upon the mind of our adventurer, who had, in fact, never been notorious for any great nicety in distinguishing the difference between Meum et Tuum, and he now emerged from his confinement a most finished adept in all those arts by which the unprincipled portion of mankind contrived, five and twenty years ago, to victimise their unwary fellow-countrymen.
Ardently longing to reduce the praiseworthy theoretical knowledge he had thus acquired to practical purposes, Rashleigh returned from the gaol to London, in which he still possessed some good clothing and a few trinkets. The latter he now turned into cash for his present subsistence, and then proceeded to the town of Winchester, where he had been informed by an old cracksman (housebreaker) - whom he had left in durance at Maidstone - there was a jeweller's shop from which a large booty might easily be acquired. In fact, before he was released, Ralph had concerted a plan of operations with his informant, to be put in practice for this purpose when the latter should have served his full sentence and again acquired his liberty.
But our hero had no intention of waiting for an associate, as be wisely deemed the spoil would suffer much by participation with another. Therefore, the very day after that on which he had returned to the metropolis, beset off for Winchester per coach, provided with the necessary implements of every kind for his nefarious purpose, carefully put up, with a change of clothing, in a carpet bag.
Having duly arrived at the proposed scene of action, he adjourned from the coach office to a small public-house on the outside of the town, where he dined. He then proceeded to view the shop in question. Everything here was apparently as he had been informed, and having spent a few minutes inside the shop, ostensibly for the purpose of purchasing a trilling article, he returned to his inn, there to digest his plans at leisure. These were soon arranged, and Rashleigh, having taken his supper, discharged his reckoning and went to bed, requesting that he might be called at two o'clock, there being a coach to start for Portsmouth at that hour.
The morning proved as dark as Erebus, for it was in the month of November. [4] A chill sleet had completely driven the ancient guardians of the night to their retreats, and not a single sound disturbed the tranquillity of the town. Ralph therefore met with no difficulty or obstacle in his route to the shop. Once there, to remove a panel of the shutter with his centre-bit and chisel was an easy task. The glass next presented itself. This was also cut through with a diamond and prevented from falling by means of a piece of putty held against it. There was a small brass wire grating next the window; but it was movable, and the robber had nothing to prevent him from filling his pockets with the various articles which he could feel lay in the cases before him; when lo, the lusty shout of a watchman at a distance, crying the hour, warned him to be cautious. Accordingly be clapped a piece of dark-coloured paper against the opening of the panel and hastily betook himself to the kind concealment afforded by the shadows of an antique porch hard by.
The vigilant conservator of public property quickly passed, apparently in great haste to return to his box or the comforts of the watch-house fire, and the coast being thus once more clear, Ralph repaired to his unhallowed occupation. To fill his bag, pockets and hat wish valuables and all kind of trinkets, was but the work of a few minutes. Then, replacing the paper before named, to prevent too early an outcry, he made the best of his way by unfrequented paths to the outskirts of Winchester, where he had during the afternoon noticed a wood, in which he now carefully concealed all his ill-gotten booty, near the foot of an old and remarkable tree. He then cut across the fields until he reached a by-road leading to the town of Basingstoke. He walked upon this road until morning dawned, having for the last few hours had the benefit of the moon's friendly beams, which so much assisted his progress that at daylight he found himself four and twenty miles from Winchester, and near a small public-house by the wayside. Here he stopped to refresh, and in a short time, a coach coming by, he embraced the opportunity of obtaining a ride to Farnham, where he intended to stay a day or two.
In the evening, weary of the solitude of his own apartment in the public-house where he put up, Ralph descended to the large room, which served the inn "for parlour, for kitchen and hall", in which he found the assembled rustics gaping around a man who had just arrived from Winchester, and who was giving them the details of a most audacious robbery which had there been done the night before, property to the value of £1,500 having been abstracted from a jeweller's shop. The whole town and neighbourhood were in a complete ferment at this very palpable proof of the presence of some dexterous thieves, of whom it was supposed a whole gang must have been employed to effect this atrocious act. And all whom the sapient magistrates of Winchester thought fit to consider as loose or idle characters among the lower classes of the townsfolk had been apprehended and examined. [5] Such a turmoil of arresting, searching, questioning, and cross-questioning had never been known in Hampshire since the death of William Rufus. Moreover, as a finale, to prove they did something as well as talk so much, after all this uproar, two poor sailors who were begging their way to Portsmouth in the hope of getting a ship were apprehended and each sent six months to hard labour in gaol, because they could give no better account of themselves than their true history.
It may easily be credited that Rashleigh was no indifferent auditor of this tale. He was, in sooth, much overjoyed to find that the police of Winchester were so far astray in their suspicions, and he consequently resolved to pay a visit to some relatives he possessed at Southampton for a few days, after which he proposed to return for his spoil, to the place of its concealment.
Accordingly, the next day he put this determination into practice. His friends at that pretty little sea-port received him most cordially, the rather, no doubt, that they had not the slightest idea of the manner in which he had lately spent his time, but believed him to be still employed as a lawyer's clerk in London, and that he had now come down to keep a holiday. A few days were therefore passed most agreeably among them; but as the weather was too inclement to permit much out - of-door exercise, the sameness of the scene began to pall upon the mind of our adventurer, who soon longed for a return to the more varied pleasures of the great Babel. While here, however, a singular and rather romantic adventure happened to Rashleigh, which will be found narrated in the next chapter. [6]

Chapter II
Thro' the haze of the night, a bright flash now appearing; "Oh ho!" cries bold Will, "The Philistines bear down; "Never mind, my tight lads, never think about sheering; "One broadside we'll give. should we swim, boys, or drown."
Ralph Rashleigh had embraced the opportunity of a somewhat dry day, to walk out as far as the ruins of Netley Abbey, a venerable monastic pile in the New Forest, and spent so long a period in musing over the traces of fallen grandeur which it so abundantly presents, that evening was rapidly closing before he became aware of it. When he intended to retrace his steps to the town, he missed his way and became quite bewildered among the ruins and in the forest. At length, however, having his upon a well-beaten path which seemed to lead in the wished-for direction, he hastily turned into it, and having proceeded for some distance, at length discovered to his dismay that it only led to the banks of Southampton Water, among an incongruous mass of ruins and rocks, which covered the beach in picturesque but not - by him at least - much admired profusion. It was now quite dark, and our wanderer had the not very pleasing prospect before him of passing the night in a solitary ramble along the winding recesses of this famed harbour, when at a short distance he saw a light, towards which, of course, he quickly bent his steps. He had scarcely set out when he recollected that these ruins were said to be the resort of deer stealers, smugglers and other outlaws, to intrude upon whose privacy might be dangerous. This induced him to proceed more cautiously and to reconnoitre the vicinity carefully. But now the light had disappeared and Ralph was puzzling himself to account for this, when it suddenly became again visible. Once more all was dark and again the deceitful gleam was shown.
"Could it be a will o' the wisp, or other ignis fatuus " thought our adventurer, half resolved to abandon the chase, when a voice, apparently near, but below him, - as it sounded as if emanating from some man at the bottom of a well-hailed loudly,
"Bob! Bob! Is all rights"
Immediately, to Ralph's great dismay, the light he had pursued so long in vain was now shown close so him in the hands of a rough-looking sailor, whose truculent features bespoke intimate acquaintance with the display of fire-arms he ostentatiously bore in his belt. Half frightened to death at his very look, Rashleigh suddenly sank down among the long grass and rubbish, scarcely daring to breathe for fear of discovery. [7]
The voice from beneath now asked, "Is Curtis in sights" as it seemed, while the person to whom it belonged was ascending.
The man with the light replied, gruffly enough, "No, he an't."
Soon after, both men appeared, to join each other at a very short distance from Ralph, who lay perdu.
One now remarked that "it was d-d strange".
The other, assenting, said "it could not be for fear of the hawks, for they were all off the Wight, on the look-out for Jack Simmons, who had sent a note to an old pal of his at Cowes, purposely that it might fall into the hands of the preventive men, in which he stated that be should try it on that night at Blackgang or the Undercliff. Consequently, the cutter from Southampton, another from Portsmouth, and all the spare officers had been sent over to the Island."
It seemed by their further conversation that all this was known to the smugglers through one of the revenue men in their pay, and that the whole affair had been prearranged, so as to leave the coast clear for their operations at the spot where they then were.
A few minutes more elapsed in silence, when one of the men suddenly exclaimed, "By G - ! There she is! Now for the signal !"
A long loud whistle was given, and almost instantly the trampling of many horses, accompanied by the clatter of harness, was heard all round Ralph's hiding-place. Presently the splash of oars indicated the approach of a boat, and a scene of great bustle ensued. This boat and two others were rapidly unladen, their contents being transferred to the backs of the horses and to two or three light waggons, which had also been brought down to the shore.
Suddenly another whistle was heard at some distance. It was repeated, while just around the spot occupied by our hero many exclamations, such as "Look out for the hawks !" "'Blast them, they're coming !" were spoken in low and hurried voices, warning him that the revenue officers were at hand and coming to attack the smugglers, one of whom seemed to act as leader, and now directed that the loaded waggons and horses should be driven off as quickly as possible, while himself and a few others cried to keep back the officers for a while, until the cargo should be in safety. The horses and waggons accordingly went off at a gallop, the persons who drove them seeming so well acquainted with the route that in spite of the many obstacles and the extreme darkness of the night, they were quickly our of hearing.
The remainder of the smugglers, in obedience to the order of their chief, had either lain down or sheltered themselves behind masses of rock, when a strong party of the coast-guard appeared advancing round a projecting point, many of them bearing links (or torches) by the light of which the whole bay was partially illuminated, and the logger might be seen crowding all her canvas to escape. [8] But the officers, being unprovided with boats, and supposing besides that the cargo had been already landed, confined their attempts to the capture of the latter, leaving the lugger to get off unmolested, except by a few useless shots fired at her from the shore, more, it would seem, out of bravado than with any idea of damaging her crew. Soon the foremost of the officers came into contact with the concealed smugglers, and instantly the blaze of twenty muskets streamed amid the gloom.
Two of the officers fell. The remainder hastily retreated, and a consultation having taken place among their leaders, they appeared to resolve upon trying to pass the flank of their opponents, and they therefore turned inland; but very soon after again exposed themselves to a most galling fire from the smugglers, who lay in safety, secured by their position from the shot of the coast-guard party, while else latter, through bearing torches and still endeavouring to advance, suffered considerably.
Another pause ensued, when the leader of the King's men cheering on his people, they fairly rushed in among the smugglers, who, after discharging their guns at random, leaped up, and endeavoured with the butt ends of their pieces to parry the cutlasses which were aimed at them. All this time poor Ralph lay in a state of mortal fear, which was not much diminished when the fray became most violent immediately around him, the leader of the smugglers and the commander of the coast-guard having singled out each other, and else bravest of their followers rushing to their assistance. At last fresh and lively cheers from the wood, and loud cries of "Down with the blasted hawks !" indicated that more help had arrived to the party of smugglers, upon which some of the King's men forcibly carried their officer away from the scene of conflict; when they all retreated in good order along the beach, still keeping their faces to the for, and occasionally firing at any whom they fancied they could distinguish plainly enough for that purpose.
The smugglers, on their part, did next molest them or attempt any pursuit, but busied themselves in searching for their dead or wounded companions. A number of lanterns now speedily made their appearance, and the bearer of one of them approached Rashleigh, who lay breathless and counterfeiting death as well as he could.
Seeing by his dress that he did not belong to either of the conflicting parties, the man exclaimed, "Why, what have we got here? I zay, Jack, here's a gemman. Let's ace whether he's got anything in his pockets."
Jack, a fierce-looking fellow with enormous whiskers, now came up, and holding his lantern close to Ralph's face, said, "By the hokey, he an't dead. He's only shamming - or else in a swound." [9]
The voice of their leader was now heard demanding "why they didn't come on, what they were doing there, and whether they wanted to bring all the sojers in Southampton down upon them."
To this one of Ralph's captors replied "that they had found a man who pretended to be dead, and that they thought he must be a spy, from his dress."
"A spy, hey!" replied the smuggler. "Bring him along. We'll put him from pretending death any more; he shall swing from the Beaulieu Oak before the night's an hour older."
Here Ralph quite lost what scanty remains of self-possession he had left, and begged his captors in the most moving terms for mercy, but in vain. They hurried him along, half running, between them, striking his legs against every projecting root or stone in the way.
At length, after having proceeded two or three miles in this manner, following the sound of their companions' footsteps, and guided sometimes by a whistle from the front, they reached an open forest glade, in the centre of which was an enormous and aged oak. At the foot of this tree stood three men, among them the leader of the smugglers, whose voice Ralph had so often heard in the roar of that night's conflict. He now asked the prisoner who he was, to which Rashleigh could only reply, while his teeth tattered with terror, that he was a stranger, who had come on a visit to Southampton and had lost his way near Netley the previous day.
"A d-d fine tale," replied the smuggler. "You are a blasted spy, and shall die a dog's death. Here's a good strong rope. You, Bill! Count a hundred. And Harry and Jack, be ready when he has done to strap this fine shaver up."
Poor Ralph now went upon his knees to beg for pity, while he alternately prayed and invoked the most direful imprecations upon His head if he were a spy, or if he had not spoken the truth; to which the only reply vouchsafed was that be might as well spare the little breath he had left, for he would find there was no mistake about them.
In the mean time Bill had counted 64 and Ralph offered all he possessed if they would let him go; 65 - 66 - - 67 were calmly repeated, but no reply came from the smuggler; ó8 - 69 sounded in his ears, and driven to utter despair, while the leader was preparing a noose on the fatal cord, Ralph shook himself suddenly free from the grip of the two men who held him, and snatching a gun which stood against the tree, dealt such a vigorous blow with the stock of it on the chief's head that he at once laid him sprawling on the earth and broke his weapon short off by the breech, leaving only the barrel in his hand. [10]
He then sprang off and ran with the speed of a hunted deer, closely followed by one of the smugglers, who seemed to be armed only with a stick. When they had run a considerable distance, Rashleigh, finding his pursuer gained upon him, rapidly dodged short round, hoping to strike him unawares. But his foot slipped, and he fell to the ground. The smuggler seized the gun barrel, and after dealing the prostrate runaways a blow or two, which he intended for his head, but which were saved by his arm, he began dragging the unlucky Ralph back to the tree, in spite of all his struggles or his loud outcries for assistance, which served only to procure him fresh blows. At length another of the men came to the assistance of his fellow, and between them they soon hauled their victim back to the spot they destined to end all his earthly struggles.
The smuggler chief was now seated under the tree, and one of the men was binding up his wounded head, which seemed to have been bleeding profusely. He welcomed the party with a grim laugh, saying, "So ho, my shaver. You thought to have settled me; but long Prank has got a harder head than you reckoned for. Now, my boys, what are you gaping at? Chuck the end of the rope over that bough. And put the noose round that bloody dog's neck We'll give him five minutes' good choking."
In an instant the rope was adjusted, and the rod having been disposed as directed, three of the smugglers laid hold of the part that hung over the bough to haul the sufferer off the ground.
Already the rope was drawn tight, when a loud voice close at hand roared out, "Oh ho, you blasted thieves! We've got you at last, have we?" And suiting the action to the word, the three fellows who held she rope were seized by a number of armed men so great that all resistance was out of the question. The smuggler chief and the other man, who till that moment had continued his grasp upon Ralph, had both disappeared. As for Rashleigh, he fell to the ground and was soon surrounded by a number of persons, who from their dress and appearance seemed to be gamekeepers and their assistants.
This proved to be the case. While they had been in search of some deer stealers, they had been attracted to this spot by the outcries of our adventurer, whose life they had thus opportunely saved. They listened to Ralph's tale with much astonishment and many execrations upon their three prisoners, whom, as the daylight was now at hand, they proposed to escort to Southampton Gaol.
On their way thither, they were met by two decent-looking men, who took the head gamekeeper aside. After some conversation, Ralph was called to join them, when he was asked whether he had any objection to forgiving the smugglers if a sum of money were paid to him in atonement for their offence. The gamekeeper, who probably looked upon smuggling as a very venial crime, or at any rate as being of much less enormity than that of deer stealing, raised not the smallest difficulty at letting the prisoners go; while Ralph, who hated all law and detested the idea of appearing before a magistrate, considered besides - since the chief smuggler had escaped, with his principal coadjutor - that neither of the three men who were taken had been active in persecuting him. [11] So our adventurer agreed, if the sum of £20 were paid to him as a douceur, and the rest of the party satisfied, why, he was content to let the matter drop.
By this time they had reached a small ale-house in the purlieus of the forest, the inmates of which being with some difficulty aroused, the whole party went in at the invitation of the ambassadors; and as some refreshment was much needed by all - but by none more than Rashleigh - a smoking breakfast, though somewhat of the earliest, was welcomed with great satisfaction. After breakfast one of the strangers took our adventurer aside and paid him £10 in part of the sum agreed on, the landlord of the house binding himself to produce the other ten the same evening. Ralph now bade his adieux to the company, who were fast getting all drunk together, left the inn, and returned to Southampton.
His absence had created a great sensation, and innumerable were the questions to which the disordered state of his dress gave rise on his arrival at his relatives' house. But he parried them all by saying that he had lost his way and torn his clothes in a thicket, mentioning a different part of the forest to that in which he had actually been, so as to evade any apparent knowledge of the past night's affray. After taking some repose, he went in the evening and received the promised balance of the money agreed to be paid. In a few days thereafter, taking farewell of his friends, he went over to Portsmouth, where he sojourned a week. [12]

Chapter III
Hath not a Jew - eyes?
As three weeks had now elapsed since the robbery at Winchester, and all talk of it had ceased, Ralph determined on springing his plant, or, in plain terms, securing his booty. For this purpose he provided himself at Portsmouth with a new travelling trunk, which he conveyed per coach to his destination. On his arrival at the latter place, his first care was to fix his abode at an inn near his precious deposit, his next to see that all was right in the coppice where it lay. Having satisfied himself in this particular, he waited until evening, when, by means of two different visits to the spot, he removed the whole of the articles, without exciting any suspicion, to his present headquarters, which he left next morning for London, where he arrived in due course without accident.
His next care was to dispose of the various articles produced by his enterprise. For this purpose he selected an accommodating Israelite, whose fame had been very often spoken of in the gaol he had left as a safe fence, and a perfect patterns for all cross coves. A dingy marine store shop in a court leading to the Minories was the domicile of this descendant of a chosen people, and thither our evening Ralph bent his way. Our adventurer expected to see in Mr Jacobs a withered and filthy old bring, similar in external appearance to those of his race who then perambulated the metropolis as dealers in cast-off clothing. His surprise, therefore, was great when, upon enquiring from a little Jewess in the shop for the matter of it, a man in the prime of life, and of most respectable exterior, was shown to him. Having been provided with a password, as a shibboleth of introduction, known only to the initiated, he was not long before he spoke his errand, and it was agreed that they should meet at Rashleigh's lodgings the next forenoon in order to make their bargain.
At the time appointed Mr J. made his entree. Ralph was prepared with a list and specimens of what he had to sell, as he did nut deem it altogether prudent to acquaint his new associate with too much at once, nor did he wish to let him know that all rise property was then in that house. After overlooking both list and articles with a very businesslike air, Mr Jacobs said to Ralph, "Vell, how mush do you vant for de lots"
"At a word, one thousand pounds."
"Mine Gust! Are you mad? Vere you tink all dat money shall come from?" [13]
"Oh, Mr Jacobs ! You know you could easily find twenty times as much money as that, and I am sure they are a very great bargain."
"I vill tell you vat it ish. Py mine vord, I never did know de monish so shcarce in all de days of my life; and is pesides, if I was to porrow so mosh, to puy all dis lot of trinkets, yen de devil you tink I get all my monish pack again? Eh? Can you tell me dat?"
"Well, well, Mr Jacobs, if money is really so scarce, you can buy half of what's on the list, and I will look out for another mark to take the rest. What will you give for the fair half? You know, we can divide them into two heaps, and toss up for first choice."
"Mine Gott! Vat a hurry to be in! yell, let me see, let me see ... All dese bracelets ... very poor, very poor ... all French ... all French and Jarman. Bad gold, bad gold ... Sell petter in England dan over de varer. Put if I puy dem dey mosht go to Hambro' ... Vell, I vill tell you at von vord how mush I vill give you. I vill give ... Yes, I vill give you ... free hundred pounds for de fair half ... de monish in your hand. So take it or leave it."
As he said this he pulled out an immense roll of bank notes from some cunningly contrived pocket beneath his arm, and rose at the same time as if to go away if the other did not take his offer.
Ralph only replied, "'Tis too little. Say £350."
"Not I, py mine Gott! Shall I go?"
"Yes. If you won't give any more than that we can't deal."
The Jew seized the knob of lie door, partly opened it, then returned close to Rashleigh, and said in a mysterious whisper, "I vill give £640 for de whole."
Ralph shook his head, and Mr Jacobs ran our of the room and downstairs.
Our adventurer had arisen from his seat and gone to the window in order to watch the Israelite, intending, if he actually left the house, to follow him, when Mr Jacobs again returned, closed the door after him, and mid, "Now I will give you £650 for dem all, and upon my shoul, I don't expect to get a finif (£5 note) py de pargain. But I vant to send some jewels to Hambro', and dese vill do as yell as any."
At last Ralph agreed to take £660, which was forthwith paid down by the buyer in Bank of England notes, after which he departed with the portmanteau and jewellery.
For some time after this Rashleigh led an idle dissipated life, frequently appearing at the theatres, gaming-houses, etc, until the slippery goddess took it into her head to desert him, and he found himself nearly penniless. It now became necessary for him to bestir himself.
Fortune happened to throw in his way an acquaintance, in the person of a female who had formerly been a servant to his employer, with whom he had had a liaison, which he now renewed. [14] She at present lived in the service of an elderly gentleman of great wealth in Welbeck Street. Our adventurer procured by her means admittance into this her master's house and thus enjoyed ample opportunities of observing the locality of the butler's pantry, where he learned the plate was kept.
In order to succeed in the plan he had formed for plundering the place, however, it was necessary for him to procure an associate in his enterprise; and he thought himself lucky that about this time he accidentally met in the street one of his quondam companions at Maidstone Gaol. This man was now very seedy in appearance. Having only just been liberated, and being without a shilling, he was ripe for anything that could tend to put money in his pocket. With him, therefore, Ralph made his arrangements, and all bring duly prepared, a hackney coachman, who had frequently served Ralph's associate before in similar transactions, was engaged to be in waiting at a public-house near the scene of their intended operations, so that he might be at hand to receive the booty.
The same night, about twelve o'clock, Ralph and his pal went to the spot, fully prepared for action with all the usual implements of house-breaking. There was as usual a circular iron plate let into the pavement, to admit of coals being shut into the cellar beneath. This was lifted up, and Ralph, who was then but very slender, got down without difficulty. The covering was then replaced by his associate, who retired to some distance, while Ralph, who was well provided with skeleton keys, speedily got out of the cellar and through several doors into the butler's pantry, where he found the plate, apparently packed up, as if for a journey! He soon carried it all into the cellar. Nothing had as yet occurred to alarm him; but just at this moment a small dog, who was asleep in the area, awoke and came running towards him. Upon smelling his legs, the dog only fawned upon him, because he had been sprinkled with a liquor which never fails to neutralise the opposition of the must ferocious dog.
Ralph now locked himself into the cellar, where he awaited most impatiently the approach of his associate, who was to have resumed in half an hour with the coach; but more than two hours elapsed before they came, during which our adventurer was a prey to the fiercest pangs of uncertainty and apprehension. At length the appointed signal was given and the coach stopped. The plate was quickly transferred to it, and in a few minutes they were driving rapidly towards Paddingrun, where a furnished room had been taken by Ralph the day before. On arrival, they soon secured their booty, paid the jarvey, and lay down to rest. The next day, being resolved to lose no time, Ralph went to the home of a well known fence in Saint Mary Axe, where everything was so very well regulated and the system adopted so cunning, that it seemed to have reached the very pitch of perfection, insomuch that the buyer never saw the seller nor the seller the buyer, thus effectually preventing any after chance of unpleasant recognition. [15] There was a box turning in a wall, so connived that upon placing any article you wished to dispose of within it and ringing a bell, the box revolved. After the lapse of a few minutes it again turned, and in lieu of the article left, a sum money, being the price the proprietor was willing to pay for it, made its appearance. If the seller refused to take this he again rang the bell, when his article was returned; but no second offer was ever made. It may easily be conceived that this establishment must have met with great support. In fact, it was the means of immense gain to its proprietor, who thus fixed his own price for all that he bought. But still, the thieves of London much approved of the principle, as they were never seen by anyone while disposing of their ill-gotten booty - thus removing at least one great cause for fear of detection. It was therefore continually well supported; and so cunningly did the owner contrive, that although his premises were repeatedly searched upon the best-founded suspicions that there was stolen property concealed therein, yet nothing was ever found to warrant a conviction.
Once a police officer chased a thief who had stolen a silver teapot from a gentleman's breakfast table and kept him in full view until he arrived at the door of the house in question. In ran the thief. In two minutes the officer was after him; but there being two doors to the shop, nobody was there. The house was searched from top to bottom, and nothing was found like a silver teapot.
The fact was that next door to this place the owner's brother had a concealed crucible, which was constantly kept in operation, and which communicated also with the house in question. In this every article bought that would melt was instantly thrown, so that no matter how costly the workmanship, in a few minutes any sized piece of plate was converted into what the fence used jocularly to call his "vite soop".
To this famed spot Rashleigh now repaired and soon ascertained the price he could get for the plate. It was but 2s. 6d. per ounce; yet this was pretty fair upon the crass, and the confederates divided £200 between them as the proceeds of their night's spoil. [16]

Chapter IV
"Steal!" pho! a fico for the phrase - "Convey" the wise it call.
Soon after this occurrence Ralph was walking in the city, when chancing to go into Lombard Street, he observed that the common sewer was open for the purpose of repairs being effected. Now, not far away from this opening there was an opulent banking-house, and Ralph had often heard that in the vaults beneath these city banks considerable sums of gold and Bank of England notes were deposited, and he thought of a plan by which he might perchance break into one of the vaults. To gain as much information as he could with regard to the positions of the house he went into the bank, pretending to enquire whether a certain country establishment had failed or not. There were several people within, and Rashleigh had thus a chance of strictly scrutinising the place. It seemed, from the narrowness of the frontage, that there could be no spare room on this floor, and he naturally conceived that the hoard of valuables must be deposited below, as he had before heard.
This was on Thursday, and by Saturday night he had fixed on his plan, in pursuance of which he told the people of the house where he lodged that he was going a little way into the country that evening, and should not probably return before Monday. He then provided the usual implements: plenty of false keys, a strong crow-bar, technically called a jemmy, an instrument used for cleaning bricks, some spirits and a slight provision of bread and meat. All these he stowed away in his carpet bag, which he carried under a large boat cloak, and about eight o'clock steered towards the city. Here he waited in a coffee room until it was past eleven, and then started for the scene of his proposed exploit. As he had a long distance to walk, it was after midnight when he reached Lombard Street, which, not being inhabited by any of the working classes, was now quite deserted save by the watchman.
Just at this moment propitious fortune seemed to favour his design, for it began to rain heavily, and Ralph met no person whatever near the opening of the sewer. After hastily reconnoitring to make sure, he got into the cavity and with some difficulty reached the bottom. Keeping close to the side of the sewer, he proceeded along it, groping his way and taking note, as he went, of the branch drains, by which he relied on finding the house besought, as there was usually one of these openings to each dwelling, leading into the main sewer. He had carefully counted the houses, gratings, etc. from the bank to that part of the street where the chasm was formed. [17]
At length he pitched upon an orifice which he felt sure would lead him to the scene of his proposed exploit, and having first procured a light by means of phosphorus and a wax taper - of which he had brought an ample supply - he crept along the branch drain, sounding its sides at short intervals until he was aware, through the hollow jar produced by the wall, that he must be opposite one of the apartments in the basement of the bank.
He now stripped himself and went seriously to work, prizing out first one brick and then another. Soon, from the closeness of the drain, he was in a state of profuse perspiration; but he kept steadily on, varying his position as well as he could, for he felt almost cramped to death by the confined spot and constrained posture in which he was working. Thus he had wrought for a long period, while all around him was as still as if he had been a thousand fathoms deep in the bowels of the earth, when all at once a confused crash astounded him with its noise and almost smothered him with dust and broken mortar. After the lapse of a few seconds, this having partially cleared away, he found that several yards of the brick crown and sides of the drain had fallen in, so that his egress was completely blocked up. This, however, gave him but little uneasiness, as he felt sure that if he were only fortunate enough, once to get in to the haven of his hopes, he would easily find some way to get out. But shortly after this discovery he cast his eyes above him, and found to his utter dismay that a large part of the wall he was then undermining had become loose and was apparently about to give way, threatening to overwhelm and crush him to atoms. He recoiled from the sight in consternation, and retreated beneath a sound part of the drain, which he had hardly gained, before down came the portion of wall, carrying away a large piece of the drain in its fall, some flying fragment of which struck our adventurer on the head and stretched him senseless in the bottom of the sewer.
How long he lay there, of course, he could not tell; but on recovering, he fancied it must have been some time, for a considerable quantity of water had accumulated in the drain, which was before dry. This must have greatly assisted Ralph's recovery by its coolness, for he was lying in it; and if the injury he sustained had been more serious, it is very probable he might have been suffocated.
As it was, having raised himself with some difficulty, he groped about until he found the phosphorus bottle and his tapers, which he had fortunately put on one side, out of the way of his operations. Having procured light, his next care was to look for his bag of tools and refreshments, which had also escaped injury. A hearty poll at the spirit flask revived him, and he soon after mustered up courage to approach the scene of his late discomfiture, when he found to his great joy that a considerable breach had been formed in the wall of the house, through which he could discern an apartment or cellar of some sort. [18] He speedily enlarged the opening and got in, taking care to remove all his implements at the same time.
Upon searching this room, however, he quietly discovered that it contained not the object of his ambition, and he therefore examined the door, intending to try one of his skeleton keys. But alas, there was a key in the lock, and from its peculiar make, it seemed to bid defiance to his efforts at forcing it. At last he dislodged the door from its position, tearing out frame and all from the brickwork, when he found that the opening led into a dark passage, in which were three other doors, either open or having keys left in them; but nothing could be found to induce Rashleigh to suppose this any portion of the bank premises, as the rooms contained nothing but empty packing-cases, old hampers, broken bottles and straw. The powerful odour of drugs that pervaded all these dens convinced Ralph that he had commenced operations on the wrong side of the drain, having in fact broken into the house above the bank, next to which he now recollected there was a wholesale druggist's warehouse; and it was clear he had entered the latter.
Almost reduced to despair by this discovery, which rendered all his previous toil and danger abortive, our adventurer was on the point of abandoning his enterprise, as he perceived, on looking at his watch, it yet wanted two hours of day and he thought he could leave the sewer unobserved. But at last he determined to persevere, chiefly induced by reflecting that this being Sunday, there was little fear of any interruption, at any rate for some hours further.
He then returned to the drain from whence he had come, and after having again sounded the opposite side of it, fixed upon a place for commencing his labour. Rendered much wiser by experience than at first, he now commenced by taking out a double row of bricks above the scene of his intended operations. Therein he inserted into the wall a strong piece of wood, after the manner of a lintel, to support the brickwork above, while he made his opening below. Again he toiled incessantly, until his hands were galled and blistered to a most painful degree. Stimulated, however, by hope of a golden reward, he suffered not his energy to relax until he had pierced through this partition, when he found a more serious obstacle presented itself. This wall, for the sake of either security or dryness, had been lined with oak planking, which stood perpendicularly against it, well secured to horizontal pieces of timber built into the wall. After having in vain attempted to dislodge a plank, no resource remained but the centre-bit and keyhole saw, with which, after about an hour more of arduous toil, Ralph succeeded in making a square opening large enough to admit his whole person.
His joy was now boundless to find that he was at length in the wished-for treasure cell, of which he had no doubt at the first glance. [19] There were several eases of copper and silver money lying open before him, and some smaller cases, which still more attracted the attention and excited the cupidity of the plunderer. To force some of these was his first care. But the greater part of them contained only blanks, to fill up as bank notes for different sums. There was also one case of bill stamps. Ralph began to think his toil would be but ill repaid after all, when a chest which stood by itself in a corner attracted his attention. Antique in its appearance, and secured by many a clasp and many a massy band, besides three huge padlocks, it bade defiance to all his efforts, until he remembered having heard an experienced thief in Maidstone Gaol say that after trying every other means in vain to rob a strong chest, he often found it might be easily broken open at the bottom, if it could only be turned over, the reason being that if there be any damp near it is sure to be drawn under an article of this kind, which causes the wood with which it comes into contact to decay much sooner than any other part.
Acting on this idea, Ralph capsized the box in question with some difficulty and discovered that the bottom was in fact quite rotten and presented no serious obstacle to the tools, with which he effected his purpose. He then saw that the chest in question contained many bags, which on examination he found with joy were full of coined gold. There was also a small open case, in which were many Bank of England notes. Here then at last was the fruit of his labours, his suffering and his danger; and after having puzzled himself for a while which was the best booty, he determined on taking as many sovereigns as he could well carry, and all the Bank of England paper he saw. He then emptied his carpet bag of its contents, replacing them by sovereigns and notes, until he judged that he must have nearly ten thousand pounds' worth. Next, carefully removing all the implements he had brought with him, he withdrew through the drain into the adjoining house, where he resolved to conceal himself during the day, as it was now nearly eight o'clock. Choosing the most out-of-the-way nook on the whole floor, he made himself up a comfortable bed of straw from the empty hampers, which he then disposed around him in such a manner that it would not be very easy to discover him, even in case of a search. He then made a hearty meal, drank some spirits, and resigned himself to sleep.
When he awoke it was just getting dark and he began now to consider the means of egress, as he did not like the idea of removing the bricks and rubbish from the drain, which he knew most be done before he could return by that path. He shortly found out a grating in the corner of one of the druggist's cellar rooms, which he doubted not communicated with the main common sewer that he had come up, and upon his removing it, this proved to be the case. [20] He now collected every tool he had used and threw them into a cesspit, reserving only the phosphorus box and a taper, for fear of an accident.
All being now ready for his departure, he waited with anxiety the hour of twelve, which he had fixed upon because before that time there were many stragglers always in the streets; but after that, especially on Sunday nights, the city was comparatively quiet. At length the wished-for number of strokes tolled from a neighbouring church clock, and Rashleigh cautiously commenced his return. When within a few yards of the opening from the sewer into the street, he put out the taper he had hitherto carried, and threw it, together with the phosphorus box, into the deepest hole near him. He now listened attentively, and hearing no sound of footsteps or aught else, he clambered, without loss of time, into the street, heartily rejoicing in his success so far.
The night was very dark. It was still raining and from the sloppy state of the streets, appeared to have been doing so without any intermission since the night before. Ralph had made his way to the foot pavement when a watchman suddenly stepped from under a door and stood before him. Though he was somewhat startled, Ralph preserved his equanimity as well as he could, merely saying in his blandest tone of voice, "Good-night. watchman."
"Good-night, sir," said the other. "Do you know, I thought you came up our of the middle of that big hole just now." And he laughed heartily at the idea.
Ralph smiled in return, saying as he went on, "I crossed the street just by that opening, which perhaps deceived your sight."
It being now too late to obtain a hackney coach in that neighbourhood, Rashleigh made the best of his way to the riverside, where he knew there was a house kept open all night for the accommodation of persons arriving by late packet boats, into which he gained admittance. Not being much inclined to sleep, he spent the remainder of the morning in reading a book he found by chance in his bedroom. Soon after daylight he went to a neighbouring stairs, where he hired a boat for Lambeth. Here he breakfasted, and took a hackney coach for his lodgings, at which it was his first care to hide every portion of his spoil in various secret places he had before contrived for this purpose. He then put on a new sporting suit of clothes that he had provided for his country excursions, which, consisting of a Jolliffe white hat with an enormous brim, a bottle green Newmarket-cut coat, white cord breeches and top boon, effected a most surprising change in his personal appearance. In the next place, being very desirous to ascertain the earliest intelligence respecting the steps likely to be taken for his own discovery and apprehension as the perpetrator of the late robbery, he now repaired to the White Horse Cellar Inn, Piccadilly, carrying with him a valise and umbrella. [21] Here he ascended a coach just arrived from Bristol, which was going into the city to the Swan With Two Necks, Lad Lane, intending to remain there for a day or two, fishing for information which might tend to guide him not only in the disposal of his booty, but as to what part of the world he had better go to. Having arrived at the inn, he gave his name out to be Mr Robert Rowland, from Bristol, and shortly afterwards stepped out, taking an opportunity of passing by the scene of his depredation, and went into a coffee-room hard by, but did not hear a breath respecting the matter.
At last he returned to the Swan, where, as he was dining in the travellers' room, it was not long before he overheard a conversation between two persons occupying the box next to himself, relative to the robbery. One of these two seemed to have been near the bank when the discovery was made, which did not take place until after ten o'clock that morning. It also appeared that the civic police were quite at fault; the means by which the house had been robbed by being broken into were plain enough, for the instant that the cashier went into the strong vault he saw all was in confusion, and a very slight search led to the discovery of the opening into the sewer; but they knew not how to account for all the rubbish in the branch drain, nor could they at all conceive how the robbers had escaped after executing their purpose. It was agreed, however, by all, that several thieves must have been concerned, as it appeared to them the labour performed was far greater than the truth.
The only persons upon whom suspicion had as yet fallen were the workmen employed in repairing the sewer, all of whom had been directly taken into custody; but it seemed two of their number, who had been at work with them on the Saturday previous, had not returned that morning to their task; nor could they be traced by any enquiry which had been made. Therefore very heavy suspicion attached itself to them, and a high reward had been offered for their apprehension. In the mean time placards had been largely circulated, giving intimation of the robbery, publishing the numbers of the notes stolen, and promising £500 for the detection of the guilty parties.
Rashleigh devoured all this story with great avidity and felt very easy us his mind, it being quite apparent that all the police authorities were perfectly astray as yet. The next morning he attended at the Guildhall to pick up what further news or information he could upon the examination of the workmen; but he failed, as this, being only a preliminary investigation, was held in private.