Under Allen he served a brilliant apprenticeship. Enrolled as a servant, he speedily sat at the master's right hand, and his nimble brains devised many a pretty campaign. For a while success dogged the horse-hoofs of the gang; with wealth came immunity, and not one of the warriors had the misfortune to look out upon the world through a grate. They robbed with dignity, even with splendour. Now they would drive forth in a coach and four, carrying with them a whole armoury of offensive weapons; now they would take the road apparelled as noblemen, and attended at a discreet distance by their proper servants. But recklessness brought the inevitable disaster; and it was no less a personage than Oliver Cromwell who overcame the hitherto invincible Allen. A handful of the gang attacked Oliver on his way from Huntingdon, but the marauders were outmatched, and the most of them were forced to surrender. Allen, taken red-handed, swung at Tyburn; Hind, with his better mount and defter horsemanship, rode clear away.
The loss of his friend was a lesson in caution, and henceforth Hind resolved to follow his craft in solitude. He had embellished his native talent with all the instruction that others could impart, and he reflected that he who rode alone neither ran risk of discovery nor had any need to share his booty. Thus he began his easy, untrammelled career, making time and space of no account by his rapid, fearless journeys. Now he was prancing the moors of Yorkshire, now he was scouring the plain between Gloucester and Tewkesbury, but wherever he rode, he had a purse in his pocket and a jest on his tongue. To recall his prowess is to ride with him (in fancy) under the open sky along the fair, beaten road; to put up with him at the busy, white posthouse, to drink unnumbered pints of mulled sack with the round-bellied landlord, to exchange boastful stories over the hospitable fire, and to ride forth in the morning with the joyous uncertainty of travel upon you. Failure alone lay outside his experience, and he presently became at once the terror and the hero of England.
Not only was his courage conspicuous; luck also was his constant companion; and a happy bewitchment protected him for three years against the possibility of harm. He had been lying at Hatfield, at the George Inn, and set out in the early morning for London. As he neared the town-gate, an old beldame begged an alms of him, and though Hind, not liking her ill-favoured visage, would have spurred forward, the beldame's glittering eye held his horse motionless. `Good woman,' cried Hind, flinging her a crown, `I am in haste; pray let me pass.' `Sir,' answered the witch, `three days I have awaited your coming. Would you have me lose my labour now?' And with Hind's assent the sphinx delivered her message: `Captain Hind,' said she, `your life is beset with constant danger, and since from your birth I have wished you well, my poor skill has devised a perfect safeguard.' With this she gave him a small box containing what might have been a sundial or compass. `Watch this star,' quoth she, `and when you know not your road, follow its guidance. Thus you shall be preserved from every peril for the space of three years. Thereafter, if you still have faith in my devotion, seek me again, and I will renew the virtue of the charm.'
Hind took the box joyfully; but when he turned to murmur a word of gratitude, the witch struck his nag's flanks with a white wand, the horse leapt vehemently forward, and Hind saw his benefactress no more. Henceforth, however, a warning voice spoke to him as plainly as did the demon to Socrates; and had he but obeyed the beldame's admonition, he might have escaped a violent death. For he passed the last day of the third year at the siege of Youghal, where; deprived of happy guidance, he was seriously wounded, and whence he presently regained England to his own undoing.
So long as he kept to the road, his life was one long comedy. His wit and address were inexhaustible, and fortune never found him at a loss. He would avert suspicion with the tune of a psalm, as when, habited like a pious shepherd, he broke a traveller's head with his crook, and deprived him of his horse. An early adventure was to force a pot-valiant parson, who had drunk a cup too much at a wedding, into a rarely farcical situation. Hind, having robbed two gentlemen's servants of a round sum, went ambling along the road until he encountered a parson. `Sir,' said he, `I am closely pursued by robbers. You, I dare swear, will not stand by and see me plundered.' Before the parson could protest, he thrust a pistol into his hand, and bade him fire it at the first comer, while he rode off to raise the county. Meanwhile the rifled travellers came up with the parson, who, straightway, mistaking them for thieves, fired without effect, and then, riding forward, flung the pistol in the face of the nearest. Thus the parson of the parish was dragged before the magistrate, while Hind, before his dupe could furnish an explanation, had placed many a mile between himself and his adversary.
Though he could on occasion show a clean pair of heels, Hind was never lacking in valiance; and, another day, meeting a traveller with a hundred pounds in his pocket, he challenged him to fight there and then, staked his own horse against the money, and declared that he should win who drew first blood. `If I am the conqueror,' said the magnanimous Captain, `I will give you ten pounds for your journey. If you are favoured of fortune, you shall give me your servant's horse.' The terms were instantly accepted, and in two minutes Hind had run his adversary through the sword-arm. But finding that his victim was but a poor squire going to London to pay his composition, he not only returned his money, but sought him out a surgeon, and gave him the best dinner the countryside could afford.
Thus it was his pleasure to act as a providence, many a time robbing Peter to pay Paul, and stripping the niggard that he might indulge his fervent love of generosity. Of all usurers and bailiffs he had a wholesome horror, and merry was the prank which he played upon the extortionate money-lender of Warwick. Riding on an easy rein through the town, Hind heard a tumult at a street corner, and inquiring the cause, was told that an innkeeper was arrested by a thievish usurer for a paltry twenty pounds. Dismounting, this providence in jack-boots discharged the debt, cancelled the bond, and took the innkeeper's goods for his own security. And thereupon overtaking the usurer, `My friend!' he exclaimed, `I lent you late a sum of twenty pounds. Repay it at once, or I take your miserable life.' The usurer was obliged to return the money, with another twenty for interest, and when he would take the law of the innkeeper, was shown the bond duly cancelled, and was flogged wellnigh to death for his pains.
So Hind rode the world up and down, redressing grievances like an Eastern monarch, and rejoicing in the abasement of the evildoer. Nor was the spirit of his adventure bounded by the ocean. More than once he crossed the seas; the Hague knew him, and Amsterdam, though these somnolent cities gave small occasion for the display of his talents. It was from Scilly that he crossed to the Isle of Man, where, being recommended to Lord Derby, he gained high favour, and received in exchange for his jests a comfortable stipend. Hitherto, said the Chronicles, thieving was unknown in the island. A man might walk whither he would, a bag of gold in one hand, a switch in the other, and fear no danger. But no sooner had Hind appeared at Douglas than honest citizens were pilfered at every turn. In dismay they sought the protection of the Governor, who instantly suspected Hind, and gallantly disclosed his suspicions to the Captain. `My lord!' exclaimed Hind, a blush upon his cheek, `I protest my innocence; but willingly will I suffer the heaviest penalty of your law if I am recognised for the thief.' The victims, confronted with their robber, knew him not, picturing to the Governor a monster with long hair and unkempt beard. Hind, acquitted with apologies, fetched from his lodging the disguise of periwig and beard. `They laugh who win!' he murmured, and thus forced forgiveness and a chuckle even from his judges.