Confronted with his judge, he forthwith proposed to rid himself of his handcuffs, and he preserved until the fatal tree an illimitable pride in his artistry. Nor would he believe in the possibility of death. To the very last he was confirmed in the hope of pardon; but, pardon failing him, his single consolation was that his procession from Westminster to Newgate was the largest that London had ever known, and that in the crowd a constable broke his leg. Even in the Condemned Hole he was unreconciled. If he had broken the Castle, why should he not also evade the gallows? Wherefore he resolved to carry a knife to Tyburn that he might cut the rope, and so, losing himself in the crowd, ensure escape. But the knife was discovered by his warder's vigilance, and taken from him after a desperate struggle. At the scaffold he behaved with admirable gravity: confessing the wickeder of his robberies, and asking pardon for his enormous crimes. `Of two virtues,' he boasted at the self-same moment that the cart left him dancing without the music, `I have ever cherished an honest pride: never have I stooped to friendship with Jonathan Wild, or with any of his detestable thief-takers; and, though an undutiful son, I never damned my mother's eyes.'
Thus died Jack Sheppard; intrepid burglar and incomparable artist, who, in his own separate ambition of prison-breaking, remains, and will ever remain, unrivalled. His most brilliant efforts were the result neither of strength nor of cunning; for so slight was he of build, so deficient in muscle, that both Edgworth Bess and Mistress Maggot were wont to bang him to their own mind and purpose. And an escape so magnificently planned, so bravely executed as was his from the Strong Room, is far greater than a mere effect of cunning. Those mysterious gifts which enable mankind to batter the stone walls of a prison, or to bend the iron bars of a cage, were pre-eminently his. It is also certain that he could not have employed his gifts in a more reputable profession.
Of all the heroes who have waged a private and undeclared war upon their neighbours, Louis-Dominique Cartouche was the most generously endowed. It was but his resolute contempt for politics, his unswerving love of plunder for its own sake, that prevented him from seizing a throne or questing after the empire of the world. The modesty of his ambition sets him below C
Now, it was revealed to his intelligence that the professional thief, who devoted all his days and such of his nights as were spared from depredation to wine and women, was more readily detected than the valet-de-chambre, who did but crack a crib or cry `Stand and deliver!' on a proper occasion. Wherefore, he bade his soldiers take service in the great houses of Paris, that, secure of suspicion, they might still be ready to obey the call of duty. Thus, also, they formed a reconnoitring force, whose vigilance no prize might elude; and nowhere did Cartouche display his genius to finer purpose than in this prudent disposition of his army. It remained only to efface himself, and therein he succeeded admirably by never sleeping two following nights in the same house: so that, when Cartouche was the terror of Paris, when even the King trembled in his bed, none knew his stature nor could recognise his features. In this shifting and impersonal vizard, he broke houses, picked pockets, robbed on the pad. One night he would terrify the Faubourg St. Germain; another he would plunder the humbler suburb of St. Antoine; but on each excursion he was companioned by experts, and the map of Paris was rigidly apportioned among his followers. To each district a captain was appointed, whose business it was to apprehend the customs of the quarter, and thus to indicate the proper season of attack.
Ever triumphant, with yellow-boys ever jingling in his pocket, Cartouche lived a life of luxurious merriment. A favourite haunt was a cabaret in the Rue Dauphine, chosen for the sanest of reasons, as his Captain Ferrand declared, that the landlady was a femme d'esprit. Here he would sit with his friends and his women, and thereafter drive his chariot across the Pont Neuf to the sunnier gaiety of the Palais-Royal. A finished dandy, he wore by preference a grey-white coat with silver buttons; his breeches and stockings were on a famous occasion of black silk; while a sword, scabbarded in satin, hung at his hip.
But if Cartouche, like many another great man, had the faculty of enjoyment, if he loved wine and wit, and mistresses handsomely attired in damask, he did not therefore neglect his art. When once the gang was perfectly ordered, murder followed robbery with so instant a frequency that Paris was panic-stricken. A cry of `Cartouche' straightway ensured an empty street. The King took counsel with his ministers: munificent rewards were offered, without effect. The thief was still at work in all security, and it was a pretty irony which urged him to strip and kill on the highway one of the King's own pages. Also, he did his work with so astonishing a silence, with so reasoned a certainty, that it seemed impossible to take him or his minions red-handed.
Before all, he discouraged the use of firearms. `A pistol,' his philosophy urged, `is an excellent weapon in an emergency, but reserve it for emergencies. At close quarters it is none too sure; and why give the alarm against yourself?' Therefore he armed his band with loaded staves, which sent their enemies into a noiseless and fatal sleep. Thus was he wont to laugh at the police, deeming capture a plain impossibility. The traitor, in sooth, was his single, irremediable fear, and if ever suspicion was aroused against a member of the gang, that member was put to death with the shortest shrift.
It happened in the last year of Cartouche's supremacy that a lily-livered comrade fell in love with a pretty dressmaker. The indiscretion was the less pardonable since the dressmaker had a horror of theft, and impudently tried to turn her lover from his trade. Cartouche, discovering the backslider, resolved upon a public exhibition. Before the assembled band he charged the miscreant with treason, and, cutting his throat, disfigured his face beyond recognition. Thereafter he pinned to the corse the following inscription, that others might be warned by so monstrous an example: `Ci git Jean Rebti, qui a eu le traitement qu'il m