Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

“There were two souls washed overboard, they said,

And one the waves brought back ; but he was left. They saw him place the life-buoy o'er his head;

The sea was running wildly ;-he was left.

“He was a strong, strong swimmer. Do you know,

When the wind whistled yesternight, I cried, And prayed that he-though 'twas so long ago

Was spared from struggling much before he died.

or 'Twas his third voyage.

There's the box he brought ! Or would have brought-my poor deserted boy! And here's the note the agents sent--they thought

That money, perhaps, could make my loss a joy.

“Look, Sir, I've something here that I prize more.

This is a fragment of the poor lad's coat, That other clutched him, as the wave went o'er,

And this stayed in his hand. That's what they wrote.

Well, well, 'tis done. My story's shocking you ;

Grief is for them that have both time and wealth. We can't mourn much, who have much work to do.

Your fire is bright. Thank God, I have my health !"

THE SCIENCE OF KNAVERY.

BY THE AUTHOR OF “A READY-MADE FAMILY."

Having successfully carried out many frauds, and thereby gained for myself much of the substance formerly belonging to other people, without having the least breath of suspicion cast upon me, I feel assured that I shall not be charged with presumption, when I comment upon this subject, and perhaps criticise the doings of some of those bungling pilferers who now infest the country. But when I rail at the bunglers, I would not stop any from doing his best, if he show the least talent therein. I owe my father and his partner thanks, that when they arranged for bringing me into the world, they did not forget to provide that also which would keep life in me; but all have not been blessed with a competent income and a good education as I, and have, therefore, not been able to study as comprehensively the means whereby man is to be deceived. It may chance, too, that some commit theft from sheer want of food, or some other pressing need; of these I have nothing to say, save to record how greatly I pity them. But those simple men, whose sorry contrivances are palpable, even to our clumsy police, I thoroughly despise : such men are surely fit for nothing but to work for so much per week, at this or that craft, do their duty for their money, and rest content. Having regard, then, to the great ignorance prevailing on this subject, I propose to illustrate the general principles of the science by a few examples, with comments thereon.

I notice that it is in the promotion of moderate frauds that the most lamentable want of skill is exhibited. The conception of a large undertaking, such as the robbery of a bank by its manager, is, in itself, evidence of a superior intellect; but I regret to see that even such men as managers of banks lack the power of planning with such completeness as to cover themselves securely. I remember a case which came under my notice a short time ago, in which a promising young man, holding a good position, carried on a very large fraud in a most successful manner, up to a certain point, and I am sure that if I had been at his elbow to advise him, he would have been successful to the end. From time to time he had forged acceptances, each for a larger amount than its predecessor, which it was designed to cover with profit, so that, when the time came for him to retire into seclusion, he should have done so with a large amount, if he had not squandered his gains. But at this point his former good sense and clear judgment entirely forsook him; the feeling that he was suspected and sought for, apparently quite unnerved him.

He was lodging at a small farmhouse, as an invalid; a quiet, inoffensive young man, enjoying the sympathy and affectionate respect of all around him, and disturbed by not even a breath of suspicion, when he yielded, I regret to say, to a paltry desire to have his wife with him. He must needs write, bidding her come to him; she went, of course, and, equally as a matter of course, one of those deceiful detectives followed her. From that moment all the interest I had formerly felt in my young friend was entirely at an end, and whether he was transported or not, I neither know nor care, but I am well assured that he richly deserved all the punishment he received. Such maudlin sentimentality, such feeble uxoriousness as he exhibited would ruin any scheme; but I am sorry to say that many, I might almost say most, of those who practise the science of knavery, lack the power to control their passions. A most fatal lacking this ; indeed, a man who cannot entirely control himself, should never embark in any undertaking requiring so much watchfulness as an attempt to defraud a fellow-man, especially while there is in vogue so ruinous a precept as that which teaches a man to regard all others as knaves until he knows of a truth that they are honest men. How, too, can a man hope to succeed who is given over to drink, who lies at random, for the mere sake of lying, or is too ready with his oath, or whose lust for pelf is paramount. It would be absurd for any of such men to hope to escape detection. In this, as in all spheres, the altogether successful man is the wholly temperate man.

Now, there is a very common plan which has been practised many times with more or less success that will serve to illustrate better than a more complicated scheme, the two or three leading principles upon which I insist. I do not put this forward as a specimen of high skill ; indeed, I wish it to be distinctly understood that this is a very poor conception, and, indeed, almost contemptible, except as an illustration of the principles of successful knavery. Of course, no one would expect me to describe a masterpiece, because my thoroughly complete schemes literally defy detection, and may be used over and over again, so that if I were to let all the world know of them, none of us would be safe, and I might myself be taken in by my own plan, which would be scarcely fair, and, certainly, not agreeable. However, this small matter which I am about to describe, works very well. I know it has on more than one occasion baulked those feeble creatures the police, although bunglers have upon other occasions caused the fraud to be exposed ; but, in these cases, the operators neglected the most obvious precautions, and well deserved their punishment.

The most important point in all plans is the preliminary arrangements; the neglect of these will assuredly mar the whole. Often and often have I traced the ill success of a very clever operator to some carelessness in the first step-some imprudent word, perhaps, or a want of common patience. I may say here that the utmost patience is required to ensure success. Those who have not the greatest self-control, foresight, and coolness would do well not to meddle with any of these plans ; such persons, indeed, having no wit or substance of their own to fall back upon, had best be honest, for, as the world goes, that is a sure support for all weak people. But to this plan :

I would first secure upon the staircase of some much frequented office in some busy thoroughfare, a letter box, paying the landlord liberally and in advance for the privilege. It is always bad to be stingy or in any way mean in these matters. If a man sow not liberally how can he hope to reap plentifully? I have often seen very admirable schemes quite wrecked by some piece of paltriness on the part of the promoter. Having set up your letter box with lock and key, it would be well to wait some two or three weeks before taking the next step, and in the meantime you can employ your leisure with profit, if you make yourself acquainted with the habits of all those having business in the various offices in the house ; note their coming and their going, and so forth, gleaning at the same time as much as possible concerning the visit of strangers to the place. The pext thing to be done is to draw up some plausible advertisement, setting out that anyone forwarding to Josiah Rang, say, at such and such a place, some three guineas or other sum he will receive by return of post some article of value which you will name; it may be a superior watch jewelled in ten holes, or any other article which your good judgment may dictate as suitable to the price you ask. Let it be a good bargain, but not preposterous; all extremes should be avoided, they'excite suspicion. It will not cost you much to advertise your liberal offer. You must choose the country newspapers for this, not the well-established but the struggling ones are to be preferred, and in sending your advertisement enclose them a shilling or so; order the announcement for a certain day positively, saying you will send the balance of their charge on receipt of their account. You will order all the announcements to be inserted on the same days in each paper to which you send, and let them be many. You will find that they will all, with very few exceptions, appear, for your struggling newspapers are as poor as pickpockets, and clutch at a shilling with such greed as would make a gentleman blush for his race. When the advertisement is inserted your end is gained, and of course you have no need to send the balance of their several accounts. Thus you see how you would gain by a little judicious expenditure. If you acted meanly, sending no money, but requiring credit for the whole of the cost of inserting your advertisement you would excite suspicion, but by sending your shilling or so you may make your advertisement any length you please and ensure its punctual appearance. After a week you must go to your box and clear it out, lest

it become too full. But be not hasty and go not too often. Never go straight to your box either, and it would be well if you were in disguise. If suspicious that you are watched, call at one of the offices in the house, make some trivial enquiry, and leave the place deferring your private mission until another time. But you need not be fearful of watches at first. The first letters will be from the newspaper offices which can be thrown aside ; to burn them would be safest. Next will come your remittances, and they will be many I assure you. Some foolish people will even save up to send your three guinea post-office order. Acknowledge the receipt of all money immediately, saying your orders are so very numerous, that you must ask for time to execute them. In about three weeks after receiving your first post-office order, letters of enquiry will have come, impatient letters will follow, and then angry, threatening letters. After receiving your first angry letter go no more to your box; those threats, I assure you, are not idle, they are the sure precursor of a lurking creature in blue disguised as a gentleman. You must not, therefore, hanker after any more post-office orders that may possibly have come; run no needless risk, and rest content with what profit you have acquired. A greedy or avaricious man should not hope to succeed in practising this science, nor does he deserve to do so. What man can be more contemptible than he who degrades science by making it subservient to the getting of filthy lucre ?

I must admit, however, that an amount of meanness would be exhibited by anyone practising this scheme, as would prevent one admiring it to the full; but we must remember that few things, indeed, will gain an unqualified commendation ; and there be some social evils upon which philosophers descant-showing how we should regulate them—thereby weaving exceeding fair results from what, in truth, is nothing but corruption, and such as a true lover of the science of knavery would almost loathe.

I chanced the other day to light upon a narrative, describing a successful scheme, which has my unqualified admiration. It is complete in every particular, and reflects the highest credit on its promoters. I will reproduce the narrative here just as I met with it, and make some observations upon it as occasion offers, premising that the mind which conceived this scheme, could accomplish great things in knavery :

Jonas Schwep, general merchant, lived in a narrow way, known as The Wart," lying between Oakley Street and Lower Marsh, Lambeth. He was short in stature, and wore a frock coat and a black satin stock, which were too large for him; his nose and chin projected very much ; his eyebrows were shaggy, and, generally speaking, he was dirty. He might haye been taken for a Jew, a German, a Dutchman, or an English

« AnteriorContinuar »