« AnteriorContinua »
vention is generally employed in what is useful to mankind, and its productions deserve the name of ingenuity; but when the necessity arises from extravagant debaucheries, the invention is then racked to the injury of mankind, to obtain their property, as fuel for their own profuseness. The produce of this species of invention is what I call fraud; and excelling in this sort of deceit, is what constitutes the character of a gambler, whose various devices are the subject of what follows.
Doubtless, there are gamblers in every rank of life, as well as gamesters; as to those who trick you out of your knowledge, by what they commonly call sucking your brains, or out of your reputation, your wife or your daughter, under the specious pretence of friendship, they are out of the reach of the law. The greater the capacity of a gambler, the more dangerous he is to society, as his abilities and resolution enable him to execute great and destructive schemes, while those of a lower rank content themselves with smaller acquisitions. But in order to convey a just idea of this animal, I shall endeavour to shew him in all the different spheres in which he exerts his ingenuity, from the lowest to the highest.
"A pickpocket, though a felon, seems to be in the lowest class of gamblers; but his success rather arises from the dexterity of his hands, than the contrivance of his head; and, like rats and other such vermin, they appear rather to take the advantage of your negligence and inattention, than to contend with your understanding. The first and lowest class of gamblers then, who would cheat you with your eyes open, are those who invite you to prick in the belt or garter, for a wager; and the certainty of winning at this sort of diversion appears so clear to the novice, that he never fails to bite, if he be a proper object. And here I must premise, that these gamblers are such exquisite judges of their prey, that they seldom fail of success.
"The next class are those who find a paper full of gold rings, which they take care to pick up in the sight of a proper object, whose opinion they ask. This set appear very mean, which gives them an opportunity of saying they had rather have found a good piece of bread and cheese, for that he had not broke his fast for a whole day; then wishes the gentleman would give him something for them, that he might buy himself a pair of shoes, a coat, &c. The cull immediately bites, and thinking to make a cheap purchase of an ignorant fellow, gives him 20s. for four or five brass rings, washed over. Or, what is more frequent, and yet more successful, is the picking up of a shilling or a half-crown, before the face of a countryman, whose opinion of it is immediately asked, whether it be silver or not, and he is invited to share the finder's good-luck in a glass of wine, or a pot of ale. The harmless countryman, pleased at such an invitation in a strange place, is carried to an ale-house, where the sharper's friends are waiting for him, and where cutting or playing at cards is soon proposed, and the countryman most certainly tricked out of all his money, watch, and every thing valuable he has about him.
"The next set attend at inns; and as porters are instructed to carry boxes and parcels that come from the country, the gambler takes
notice of the directions, and sends his comrade immediately to the house, where he waits for the arrival of the porter; meets him within a few doors of the house, or, if the door be shut, he stands on the steps, and begins immediately to abuse the porter for his delay; damns him, and tells him he was just coming for it; that he had a great mind to give him nothing: the porter asks pardon, the gambler pays him, and takes possession of the goods, with which he decamps the instant the porter's back is turned. And as tradesmen generally employ country fellows for porters in their houses, two or three of these gamblers are generally waiting at the corner of the streets, near some of the great inns; and if they hear one of the porters, charged with a box or bundle, ask his way to the inn, one of them steps up to him very civilly, tells him that he is going that way, and will shew him the house. The countryman implicitly follows his guide, whilst the gambler's comrade takes the hint, marches before, and plants himself at some convenient passage, puts his hat into his pocket, and sticks a pen in his wig to represent a book-keeper; the guide acquaints the countryman, that that is the book-keeper of the inn, who immediately lays down his burthen, and the book-keeper desires him to go over the way to his wife for the key of the warehouse, and, in the mean time, the two gamblers march off with the goods.
"The next class use the following stratagem :-One of them goes in the dress of a footman, and desires some tradesman to carry goods to his master, which are generally sent by the journeyman, who is carried into a parlour, hired for that purpose by the footman, who tells him that he will carry the goods up to his master, and will bring down an account of what he chuses; but the moment he has got possession of the goods, he shuts the parlour door, and marches out of the passage; or, if the master has a mind to assist the servant, he sends the tradesman back for other sorts; but, before he returns, makes off with what he has. Servants, who have lived with tailors, mantua-makers, milliners, and other trades that send frequently to the shops, have, when they have been discharged, gone in the name of their masters and mistresses to the said shops, and taken up great quantities of goods, in which they have succeeded the easier from their being known to the shopkeeper. Might it not, then, be useful to give notice to the shopkeepers, used by the said tradespeople, of their discharge of such a servant?
"There is another set who defraud tradesmen by taking on themselves false names, and by pretending to be related to, or connected with, some persons of credit and fashion, and produce false letters to prove their intimacy. Some of these gamblers attend most of the fairs in the country, where they make it their business to inquire at inns who serves them with their wines and brandies from London; and fish out of shopkeepers the names of the tradesmen here who supply them with goods. Furnished with this knowledge, they come to London, and one day appearing in the character of a country innkeeper, they go to the distiller, whose name they have learned, telling him that he has taken an inn in such a country; that he was recommended to him by one of his customers, whose name he tells him, and describes his
house and family. The distiller's suspicion being lulled asleep by this stratagem, he cheerfully supplies his new customer with some of his best goods, and sends them to some appointed inn in town, from whence they are conveyed by the gambler and converted into cash, by selling them, as run goods, for half price. The very same scheme is practised on grocers and other shopkeepers, only by changing their character into that of a country shopkeeper: it is immaterial to them what goods they purchase. A gambler, the other day, bought of a farmer ten ton of potatoes, to be delivered one ton at a time, and when two ton were delivered, they were to be paid for; but when the second ton came, the gambler disappeared, and had not the farmer been a man of spirit, he would have lost his property; but finding himself defrauded, he took possession of the gambler's warehouse, and rescued his goods out of his hands.
"There is another set of gamblers, commonly called duffers, who attend at Charing Cross, at St. Clement's Church, and Ludgate Hill, and invite you to go down some alley, and buy some cheap India handkerchiefs and waistcoats; but this cheat growing stale, they use another method, which of late has been very successful: they apply themselves to some young publican to borrow £20. or £30. to make up a sum; and, to shew they do not want money in general, they produce a large purse well crammed with counters and brass medals, which they give the publican a distant view of, that he may take it for money; they then produce some silk waistcoats embroidered with tinsel, which, if not strictly examined, may pass for silver: these waistcoats they propose, with other India goods made in Spitalfields, to leave in the hands of the publican or his wife, as a security for the money they want, who, ignorant of the value of such goods, generally fall into their trap.
"The following stratagem has been, of late, very successful. The gambler goes to a shop, and, with great coolness and composure, looks over many goods, deals hard, calls himself a ready-money customer, and expects, for that reason, to buy cheaper; the goods being pitched on and their price fixed, he orders them to be packed up, with a bill and receipt, and to be sent to his house in about an hour, where he promises to be and to pay for them. Suspicion being thus removed, the porter carries the goods, but the gentleman is not come home, though the wife is there, ready to receive all that comes, and who generally by artifice baffles the porter, and gets possession of the goods. The tradesman calls time after time, but the gentleman is not at home, and the truth is, he lodges at some distant part of the town, and makes use of this house only as a warehouse, to deposit such goods as he can obtain by fraud from tradesmen.
"In the cases of such ready-money customers as these, porters should be directed not to leave the goods till they have received the money for them, on pain of paying for them themselves.
"The highest rank of cheats, who attack the understanding, have made use of the following stratagems: one of the gang, who is happiest in his person, and has the best address, is pitched upon to take a house, which, by means of the extreme good character given of him
by his comrades to the landlord, is soon accomplished. The next consideration is to furnish it, when Mr., a young ironmonger just set up, is pitched upon to provide the squire's grates; who, glad of so 'fine an order, soon ornaments his chimnies with those of the newest fashion. This being done, Mr., the upholder, is immediately applied to for other furniture, and is brought to the house in order that he may see the grates; which he no sooner beholds, than he tells his honour that he could have furnished him likewise with grates of the best kind, at the most reasonable rates; to which 'Squire Gambler replies, that he intends taking some little villa in the country, where Mr. shall furnish every thing he can. The house being now completely furnished, the 'squire dresses himself in his morning gown, velvet cap, and red morocco slippers, puts one or more of his comrades into livery, then sends for tailor, linen-draper, silversmith, jeweller, &c., takes upon him the character of a merchant, and by getting credit of one, by pawning the goods the moment he has got them, he is enabled to pay ready money to others; by which means he extends his credit and increases his orders till he is detected, which sometimes does not happen till he has defrauded tradesmen to a very considerable value. Nay, I have known them sometimes carry their scheme so far, as to fix one of their comrades at some rendezvous in Wapping, in the character of a captain of a vessel lying at such stairs, and bound to some of the American plantations, by which means the aforesaid merchant procures goods to be sent aboard; and as his credit advances, he makes use of drafts, which are constantly accepted by his comrades, who have constantly changed their lodgings when the said drafts have become due.
"There is a set of sharpers, who have lately purchased several estates without money in the following manner :-They make a bargain with the seller, or his agent, for the estate; in consequence of which they draw articles of agreement, by which they oblige themselves to pay the purchase money at such a time, and give a bond for the performance of covenants: they then immediately go to the tenant, to shew him the articles of agreement, and tell him that he will soon have a new landlord; upon which the farmer begins to complain of the old one, and hopes his honour will repair this, rebuild that, and alter something else, which the new landlord promises to do. Credit being thus gained with the tenant, the new landlord falls in love, perhaps with the farmer's daughter, or with a fine horse, or else borrows money of him, and gives him a draft upon his banker in town, who seldom has any cash in hand, and often is not to be found.
"There are a set of cheats, who constantly attend at inns to which coaches and waggons come; and if any baskets, bundles, or portmanteaus are put into hackney coaches, or sent from thence by porters, they immediately follow them, and take the first opportunity of getting them into their possession, either by sending the porter on some message, for a bottle of wine, &c. pretending to take care of their goods the while, or else by following them to the door where they are going, and pretending to be the servant of the house, or by some such trick. At other times, they walk up and down in inn-yards, in
the dusk of the evening, at a distance from the warehouse; and if any porter or apprentice brings a parcel, and inquires for the book-keeper, his hat in a minute is whipt into his pocket, and a pen in his mouth : the porter is sent into the tap-house, of some message, and the sharper escapes. Sometimes they go into a public-house, and desire them to send a gallon of beer to some neighbour, whose name they have inquired, and to bring change for a guinea, which is generally sent by the maid or some little boy. The sharper takes care to meet the boy in the way, receives the change and beer, sends him back for a pipe, and then makes off. These sharpers likewise, sometimes, take portmanteaus from behind stage-coaches, when there are no outside passengers, out of the tails of waggons, or from behind post-chaises, or out of shops in the evenings, where goods lie near the window, or out of shew-glasses, by breaking the glasses. To prevent some of these evils, the following cautions would be useful: first, for book-keepers and inn-keepers to keep their yards clear from loitering fellows, and to caution their porters not to deliver goods at the outside of the door of any house to which they are sent to caution the waggoners and stage-coachmen to watch their coaches and waggons off the stones; shop-keepers should remove goods from their windows or shew-glasses, early in the evening, and to fix a bell at their shop-door at that time: to direct their porters, apprentices, and errand-boys, when sent with parcels, to be cautious of asking their way in the streets, but at houses or shops; or of entering into any conversation with strangers; or to carry messages for them, always to deliver the goods in the inside of a warehouse or inn, or the inside of a house whither they are sent to. Sometimes these sharpers, when families are out of town, carry some old insignificant books to the servant, and tell them they are come for the second subscription, which, if they do not pay now, their master or lady will never have their books, by which they obtain of some a guinea, and some less; or else they find out the servant's name and country, come and tell them there lies a parcel at some inn, directed for them till called for, demand the money for carriage, and then give them a note to fetch the goods: or else they watch the master out, and come as a waiter from a coffee-house, to fetch their master's great coat; or else as a tailor's apprentice or journeyman, to fetch a suit of clothes to alter. Some of these sharpers make it their business to deceive young women, and obtain their money and clothes under pretence of marrying them; by which last stratagem many young women have lost their places, their little money, and all their apparel.
"A new species of cheat has lately been practised by a gambler and his gang, who, to my knowledge, have practised every other with impunity, and is what follows:-the head of the party calls himself a coal-merchant, in which character he applies to some tradesman to buy goods in his way; tells him he is out of cash, but, if he chuses, will pay him in coals, of which he is rather overstocked. The tradesman approving of this, the gambler goes down to some wharf, and orders one or more chaldron of coals to be delivered at that tradesman's house for his use. Thus far the gambler who attacks the understanding.
VOL. XII. PART II.