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that I had learnt not to be much moved by its vicissitudes, although I never failed to reason on the events as they occurred. I considered myself in the hands of fate, which was wholly the effect of a conjunction of the planets at my birth.
In this state of mind I should have submitted to the law had not my two fellow-prisoners, seeing their own doom sealed, used every effort to save one they knew to be innocent, at least, of that crime for which he was condemned. A statement in the form of a petition to the Secretary of State, was drawn up at the suggestion of the ordinary, in which all the facts of the case were set forth, and which statement was signed by the guilty and convicted malefactors, declaring who were concerned with them; in consequence of which they were apprehended, when the prosecutor was induced to see them, and to acknowledge that he was mistaken in saying I was the man, although there was no similitude between me and the person who actually committed the outrage upon himself and wife. Although my case, when taken up by the ordinary, was made out clearly as being one of innocence, the Secretary of State would not grant a pardon, or recognize it as one of error until the prosecutor was shown the real thief. I had then nothing to thank him for; my pardon was forced upon him ; he appeared however up to the last moment to wish to hang an extra man, to make doubly sure that he had all the offenders concerned in that one affair of robbery. As my case had made some little noise in the prison, when the free pardon came down on a Saturday night, the sheriffs and several aldermen met on Sunday morning before chapel time, and sent for me into a private room. Here they told me I was a free man, and desired me to recapitulate the story of my life as I had first related it to the chaplain of the prison. Having complied with their desire as concisely as I could, the sheriff asked me if I would consent to stay in the prison until Monday, when he meant to confer with the other gentlemen, members of the city authorities, and see what could be done for me. I was now removed out of the cells into the infirmary, as a place the most unlike constraint of any other part of the prison. I had not been here long before a man was brought in who had stabbed himself with a penknife in the lower part of the abdomen; he was no sooner laid upon the table than I discovered him to be an old associate in the pickpocketing department, and I could not help laughing outright when, seeing me, he said, “ John, do you think I shall die ? because if you do, I will say my prayers.”. Hearing this pious resolution, another prisoner exclaimed, “Oh! he's going to die, make haste and fetch a Bible, or it will be too late.”
The religious sentiments put forth by these two men at the time made me laugh, it is true, but it was the occasion of much reflection afterwards. In the afternoon of the same day I had a specimen of another character. On a bed in the same ward where I was, there lay a man in the last stage of sickness, but who was under orders for execution the following morning at eight o'clock. The moment I saw him I was struck with a peculiar interest in his fate, and could not help thinking that I had before known him. I went up to the bedside, and said, “ How do you feel yourself?” He neither moved his eyes, nor made any reply; I had my doubts whether he was alive, when after a few moments, hearing footsteps on the stone stairs, he with animation turned his head, and said, “ If you wish me well, prevent this cursed old bore who is coming up stairs from teazing me as he does."
Almost at the same moment that this was expressed, my good friend the chaplain entered the ward, and the sick man turned his face to the wall. The ordinary, taking a chair close to the bedside, began his discourse by asking the man, so near death both from natural and unnatural causes, how he was. Best when alone," was the reply. “Have you read those
prayers which I pointed out to you?” continued the minister, taking up a book and offering it across the bed. The sick man took it, turning himself at the same time upon his back, then holding up the fore finger of his left hand, he balanced the book upon it, and kept turning it round as if for amusement, and to divert his attention from what was said.
“What! does not sickness, and the certainty of meeting death within a few hours, bring you to a state of reflection ? Is it really that you believe that you have not a soul to be saved, or is this all bravado, to make the world believe you are something more than you are, a poor sinful mortal, just starting on a journey to meet his God face to face, and there to render an account of the deeds done in the flesh? I will not speak of your crimes, they are known to yourself, and be assured that they are also known to the great Judge of all men, who punishes and rewards as he thinks fit; you cannot escape his judgment, and the time is now at hand when you must receive it. Come, come! this is foolery, you have yet a few hours to live," continued the ordinary, “and may make all the atonement yet in your power ; I will stay with you, and assist you, as long as you wish.”
All this time the sick man was turning the book, as if in derision of the parson, and answered, “ I know one thing, which is, that you know no more of the subject about which you are talking, than I do, or any other man; why then pester me with your notions, and disturb a sick man in trouble? is this the Christian charity you come to offer ? if so, I am sure I shall not become a convert to you upon any terms."
The worthy minister after this could say no more, he therefore merely inquired whether he wished an attendant of any other religious persuasion, and being sharply answered, “No, no! no parson at all," he left the room.
I now took the ordinary's chair, being ordered to stay with the man, who turning in his bed said, “I see you have forgotten me; but I suppose you remember getting over the workhouse wall some one or two and twenty years since ?” As he spoke I caught sight of a scar on his forehead, which was rendered more conspicuous, probably, by his haggard condition ; such a scar I remembered had the boy who led me out of the workhouse, whose end fate had now brought me to witness. He eagerly inquired the particulars of my history, and then related his own, taking apparently more pleasure in dwelling upon the events of his past life, than in thinking upon the approach of death-a sentence which had been passed on him for having committed a very desperate highway robbery. He had, like me, been several years on board the hulks, and in many other respects our course was very similar, as indeed are the lives of all who commence their career as sneaks. Jonstone, for that was his name, although not the one inserted in the calendar, now rose up in his bed, to give me an account of his commencement as a grand tobyman.
“When I left the hulks,” said he, “I was determined, if they ever had me again, it should be for nothing less than a topper-no more lagging for me, I have had quite enough of that; and I tell you what, Jack, if they would let me off now for a lifer, I mean a bellowser, I shouldn't thank them; to be sure, I can't live long, be it any way now; but he's a poor crawling wretch who works under the armpits, to be banded and hour'd up in a swimmer all his
best days, and then to be tatted for only winking one's eye at the moon. By G-d, I would rather be swish'd to a she tiger, than to wear the darbies again, and be quodded in a hulk; damn a hulker, especially if he's knap'd a winder. I say, Jack, work upon the topping system, that's the true game, although I am brought to in the stone jug once more.”
In this strain did Jonstone continue talking for an hour, when exhausted with his exertion, he sank on the bed, or rather mattress. It was very evident that he was devoted to his profession, and an enthusiast in his way of life; but he was not the first I had met with by many in my time. The complaint, which had all but carried him off before the law overtook him, was hard drinking, and an internal wound which he had received when committing his last crime : it was a question of doubt whether there was enough weight left in his body to produce strangulation when he should be hung up by the neck. He had been in Newgate upwards of four months, waiting the greater part of the time for the decision of the council, during which period he had received every possible attention from the prison doctor, who coming in just after he had again laid himself down, kindly inquired how he was, and after feeling his pulse ordered him a small glass of wine and water, which so far revived him, that he took the opportunity to thank the doctor for all his kindness, and to request that he would use his influence in procuring permission for me to stay with him during the night, and that he might not be removed to the cells. The gentleman answered, “I have done no more than my duty; you are entitled to my services, I am paid for it; regarding this person staying with you, somebody must sit up with you, and I therefore can see no objection to the request being complied with; but this I will mention to the governor; I can answer for your not being removed, because that depends on myself; there are no mattresses or bedsteads in the cells, and I should certainly object to one in your condition being removed from where you are, to so cold a place as the cells, and where it is not possible to afford you any comforts.'
He then took his leave, saying he would send him some medicine in the evening. “Medicine !” exclaimed Jonstone, as he left the room; “ he wants to keep me alive for the hangman to-morrow morning, I suppose; but with all his art, if the report had been delayed a few days longer, I should have cheated them—but things will have their course.
“ That they will,” responded I; “ and the devil himself can't help doing his own work.”
"Don't talk of the devil,” cried Jonstone, “because he's the quod cove -the screwsman of the other world.”
I was now called to witness another scene, which was too remarkable to be passed over. I heard a loud calling for help, and a great scuffling in the ward over head; I therefore ran up stairs with all possible speed, and there I saw an animal chained to the wall which had something like the appearance of a man, stooping as far as his manacles would permit him, and having with both hands hold of the doctor's leg, who was lying on his face upon the floor, struggling to get free; whilst I was proceeding up the long ward to his assistance, the doctor got his leg out of his boot and escaped into the water-closet, which was in the corner, but could not again repass without coming within reach of his enemy. As I approached the field of action the doctor called out for me to stand off, and next ordered me to ring the infirmary bell, and bring up two or three turnkeys; four came up, but so furious and dreaded was the chained man, (for a man it was,) that none dare approach him ; at length, one more resolute than the rest, caught hold of his arm, when the others rushed on him, and held him fast till the doctor passed from his place of confinement; in accomplishing this, two were severely wounded, one being bitten in the cheek, and the other in the back of the hand, by the chained man. As I for some days subsequently attended upon this extraordinary being, carrying him his food, &c., I will in this place relate his case. He was a gentleman well known, at that time, upon the Stock Exchange, but having met with losses, he had recourse to raising money upon fictitious bills, until at length, (as is always the result in these cases,) he committed some very considerable forgeries upon bankers and merchants in the City of London, and upon which charges he was committed to Newgate. It appears, that while awaiting his trial, himself assured of a conviction, and the certainty of being executed, as no forgers were spared at that period, he conceived the plan of assuming madness, in order to save his life. This is a very old trick; few however have succeeded, unaided by the gaoler or the doctor, who, where family interest is used, will sometimes favour the deception, and thus spare respectable parties the agony of knowing that one of their relatives was executed. This man commenced his performances by looking as wildly as he could, and then playing a number of absurd tricks among his fellow prisoners, until complaint was made, and the doctor brought to examine him ; the moment Mr. B- saw him, he declared that it was an attempt at imposture; but the man was not to be thus foiled; he was playing a game for life, and therefore persevered, until at length he became dangerous, and was taken into the infirmary, when it was found necessary to chain him as above described, to the wall, with a body iron. In this situation he would not allow any one to wash or shave him ; affecting not to be conscious of what he ate as food, which he seized and ate after the manner of a hungry and savage dog. The doctor, under an opinion that it was not possible for a human being to hold on a course like this for any great period, recommended that his trial should be put off for a session, fully convinced that the prisoner would be beaten before the lapse of another six weeks. In this opinion he was mistaken ; the man’s madness increased, and upon the eve of the following session, some dozen eminent mad doctors were called in, who all gave it as their opinion that he was actually insane. It was in this state of affairs that Mr. B walked up stairs to have some conversation with the declared lunatic, still convinced in his own mind that it was all feigned. Incautiously going too near him, he was seized and thrown down, and there is but little doubt that, had he not escaped out of his boot, the assumed maniac would have done his best to deprive him of life, in order to give a flourish to the affair, and revenge himself upon his only enemy to the imposture. Very shortly afterwards a jury was empannelled to try the question of sanity, when he was taken up to court with ropes, and men holding them on each side, after the manner of leading a furious bull from the stake. The evidence of the medical men given in opposition to the prison doctor, influenced the jury, and they declared him insane.
Mr. B- followed the man back to the infirmary, having full confidence in his own judgment, and immediately ordered him to be set at liberty ; then going up to him said, “You are a very clever fellow, you have never deceived me, but you have succeeded; there is now no longer any occasion for more foolery.” Then handing him his razors and shav. ing apparatus, continued, “Go and get off that tremendous beard, wash, and make yourself decent." The man bowed, and politely thanking him, proceeded to do as he had been bid. The doctor then returned back to the session-house, where several of the gentlemen who had given their evidence were detained to dine with some of the city authorities; collecting them all together, he entreated that they would condescend to accompany him into the prison once more, with which they complied, and arrived just in time to see the supposed lunatic seated by the fireside in the lower ward, clean, well dressed, laughing and joking with his fellow prisoners upon
the merits of the hoax. He was, however, very soon informed that his recovery was premature, for he had not been tried for the offence, and therefore could be again arraigned, which he was, three days afterwards, when he was found guilty; but as a jury had pronounced him insane, it was considered not quite consistent with the law to hang him, he was therefore transported for life; working out for himself at last, a better fate than that of going for the whole of his days to Bedlam.
The moment the doctor was liberated I returned to Jonstone, whom I found extremely talkative and anxiously waiting to relate some further particulars of his life, of which he thought more than of his death. * When,” said he, “I left the ship at Portsmouth; I had five pounds, which brought me to town, but in two or three days I was stumpt ; a large fire happening the same night, I went into the house to bear a hand, and toddled off with a good swag : this was the first and last time I was a tinny-hunter, but it came just in time to tog me out to the nines, and put me in trim for the game I was after. You must know,” continued he, “ that there was a covey on board the swimmer with me, one who had been a regular pinch-gloak, but his time was not up for a month after mine: he and I, however, always swore we would have a shy at the grand toby-racket when we got upon our pins, or rather, into our stirrups again. Well, then, I waited until he was unslang'd, and come up to London, when, according to our agreement, we took the necessary steps to go out together. We were both of one age and fly; resolved to get a cly full of ridge, if we could but strike upon the right road, to meet with the rag-gorgies. Purchasing each of us a pair of pops, we started upon the Kent road, but for want of prads we at first were obliged to spice it; our suit, however, got on pretty well—we served it out to three flattygories in the first week, clying upwards of a hundred couple of quid: this was all done between London and Dover; we then crossed the country into Surrey, and very soon were prad's-backmen. My pal went into a fair at Chichester and bought himself an out-and-out filly for forty pounds, saddle, bridle, and all ; after this I went and did the same, only standing flat for five quid more. Holding a consultation of war over our black-strap after dinner, we came to the resolution of working our way down to Plymouth, and then to turn to the north, travel towards Manchester, and up through Birmingham home to London. This, you will say, was a wild scheme, but we accomplished it, although we many times got beef, and were several times nigh being grabbed. I only wish I was well enough to relate all the particulars of our journey, but I must presently tell you about the job for which I am pulled up.' plied, “Never mind; you are too unwell to talk much :” and so indeed he was; his desire, however to speak of himself, and the uncommon pleasure he took in recounting his actions in flash lingo, seemed at times to give him renewed vigour and increased strength, although the violent fits of coughing which sometimes attacked him made me think he was gone. It appeared to me as if he was conscious that his time was but short, and therefore was anxious to communicate matter which he thought ought not to be lost to the world.
Having given him some tea, I went down into the ward below to get some refreshment for myself; when, however, I returned, I found him relating some of his adventures to the man I had left with him. In vain did I endeavour to divert him from his passion of talking of himself, by relating tales of my own adventures; nothing, however, to use a flash term, would stall him off. “ Come,” continued he, “ you shall both hear my last affair. It is now upwards of four months, when coming up the north road, a few miles the other side of Highgate, in the Christmas week, that Ramping Bob, as I used to call him, heard a rattler and four coming along at a spanking rate towards us. I think,' cries Bob, * here is blunt to come, if we two are enough to manage the cores.' * Let us try,' said I, 'that's the only way to know what we can do.' Bób then called out, (Oliver unfortunately being in town that night, which enabled him to see at some distance,)' There's two inside and one in the dickey, besides the two Jack-boys.' They were then within thirty yards of us: there is no time to be lost, thought I, as I took my prad' tight in hand, then placing myself in the middle of the road, with my barkingiron pointed at the Jacks, 'Stop !' cried I, and Bob at the same time,