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Part 3 Chapter 14

In which Our Hero Makes a Speech Well Worthy to Be Celebrated; and the Behaviour of One of the Gang, Perhaps More Unnatural than Any Other Part of this History.

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

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

“How, Mr. Blueskin!” says Wild; “you will not deliver the watch?” “No, Mr. Wild,” answered he; “I have taken it, and will keep it; or, if I dispose of it, I will dispose of it myself, and keep the money for which I sell it.” “Sure,” replied Wild, “you have not the assurance to pretend you have any property or right in this watch?” “I am certain,” returned Blueskin, “whether I have any right in it or no, you can prove none.” “I will undertake,” cries the other, “to shew I have an absolute right to it, and that by the laws of our gang, of which I am providentially at the head.” “I know not who put you at the head of it,” cries Blueskin; “but those who did certainly did it for their own good, that you might conduct them the better in their robberies, inform them of the richest booties, prevent surprizes, pack juries, bribe evidence, and so contribute to their benefit and safety; and not to convert all their labour and hazard to your own benefit and advantage.” “You are greatly mistaken, sir,” answered Wild; “you are talking of a legal society, where the chief magistrate is always chosen for the public good, which, as we see in all the legal societies of the world, he constantly consults, daily contributing, by his superior skill, to their prosperity, and not sacrificing their good to his own wealth, or pleasure, or humour: but in an illegal society or gang, as this of ours, it is otherwise; for who would be at the head of a gang, unless for his own interest? And without a head, you know, you cannot subsist. Nothing but a head, and obedience to that head, can preserve a gang a moment from destruction. It is absolutely better for you to content yourselves with a moderate reward, and enjoy that in safety at the disposal of your chief, than to engross the whole with the hazard to which you will be liable without his protection. And surely there is none in the whole gang who hath less reason to complain than you; you have tasted of my favours: witness that piece of ribbon you wear in your hat, with which I dubbed you captain. Therefore pray, captain, deliver the watch.” “D— n your cajoling,” says Blueskin: “do you think I value myself on this bit of ribbon, which I could have bought myself for sixpence, and have worn without your leave? Do you imagine I think myself a captain because you, whom I know not empowered to make one, call me so? The name of captain is but a shadow: the men and the salary are the substance; and I am not to be bubbled with a shadow. I will be called captain no longer, and he who flatters me by that name I shall think affronts me, and I will knock him down, I assure you.” “Did ever man talk so unreasonably?” cries Wild. “Are you not respected as a captain by the whole gang since my dubbing you so? But it is the shadow only, it seems; and you will knock a man down for affronting you who calls you captain! Might not a man as reasonably tell a minister of state, Sir, you have given me the shadow only? The ribbon or the bauble that you gave me implies that I have either signalised myself, by some great action, for the benefit and glory of my country, or at least that I am descended from those who have done s............

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