A Young Thief
From 'The Life of Colonel Jack ' by Daniel Defoe (1724)

HOWEVER , as I happened to hold my tongue as to that part, he shared the money very honestly with me, only at the end he told me, that tho' it was true, he promised me half, yet as it was the first time, and I had done nothing but look on, so he thought it was very well if I took a little less than he did; so he divided the money, which was £121. 10s. into two exact parts (viz.) £6 5s. in each part, then he took £1 5s. from my part, and told me I should give him that for Handsel, 'Well,' says I, 'take it then, for I think you deserve it all'; so however, I took up the rest, 'and what shall I do with this now,' says I, 'for I have nowhere to put it?' 'Why have you no pockets?' says he, 'yes,' says I, 'but they are full of holes'; I have often thought since that) with some mirth too, how I had really more wealth than I knew what to do with, for lodging I had none, nor any box or drawer to hide my money in, nor had I any pocket, but such, as I say, was full of holes; I knew no body in the world, that I could go and desire them to lay it up for me; for being a poor naked, ragged boy, they would presently say, I had robbed somebody, and perhaps lay hold of me, and my money would be my crime, as they say, it often is in foreign Countries: And now as I was full of Wealth, behold! I was full of Care, for what to do to secure my money I could not tell, and this held me so long, and was so vexatious to me the next day, that I truly sat down and cried.

Nothing could be more perplexing than this money was to me all that Night, I carried it in my hand a good while, for it was in gold all but and that is to say, it was in four guineas, and that 14s. was more difficult to carry then the four guineas; at last I sat down and pulled off one of my shoes, and put the four guineas into that, but after I had gone a while, my shoe hurt me so, I could not go, so I was fain to sit down again, and take it out of my Shoe, and carry it in my Hand, then I found a dirty linnen rag in the Street, and I took that up, and wrapped it all together, and carried it in that, a good way. I have often since heard people say, when they have been talking of money, that they could not get in, I wish I had it in a foul clout: In truth I had mine in a foul clout, for it was foul according to the letter of that saying, but it served me till I came to a convenient place, and then I sat down and washed the cloth in the kennel, and so then put my money in again.

Well, I carried it home with me to my lodging in the Glass-house, and when I went to go to sleep, I knew not what to do with it; if I had let any of the black Crew I was with, know of it, I should have been smothered in the ashes for it, or robbed of it, or some trick or other put upon me for it; so I knew not what to do, but lay with it in my hand, and my hand in my bosom, but then sleep went from eyes: 0! the weight of human care! I a poor beggar boy could not sleep as soon as I had but a little money to keep, who before that, could have slept upon a heap of brick-bats, or stones, cinders, or anywhere, as sound as a rich man does on his down bed, and sounder too.

Every now and then dropping a sleep, I should Dream that my money was lost, and start like one frighted; then finding it fast in my hand, try to go to sleep again, but could not for a long while, then drop and start again; at last a fancy came into my head, that if I fell asleep, I should dream of the money, and talk of it in my sleep, and tell that I had money, which if I should do, and one of the rogues should hear me, they would pick it out of my bosom, and of my hand too without waking me, and after that Thought I could not sleep a wink more; so that I passed that night over in care and anxiety enough, and this I may safely say, was the first nights rest that I lost by the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches.

As soon as it was day, I got out of the hole we lay in, and rambled abroad into the fields, towards Stepney, and there I mused and considered what I should do with this money, and many a time I wished that I had not had it, for after all my ruminating upon it, and what course I should take with it, or where I should put it, I could not hit upon any one thing, or any possible method to secure it, and it perplexed me so, that at last, as I said just now, I sat down and cried heartily.

When my crying was over, the case was the same; I had the money still, and what to do with it I could not tell, at last it came into my head, that I would look out for some hole in a tree, and see to hide it there, till I should have occasion for it: Big with this discovery, as I then thought it, I began to look about me for a tree; but there were no trees in the fields about Stepney, or Mile-End that looked fit for my purpose, and if there were any that I began to look narrowly at, the fields were so full of people, that they would see if I went to hide anything there, and I thought the people eyed me as it was, and that two men in particular followed me, to see what I intended to do.

This drove me farther off, and I crossed the road at Mile-End, and in the middle of the town went down a lane that goes away to the Blind Beggars at Bethnal-Green; when I came a little way in the lane, I found a foot-path over the fields, and in those fields several trees for my turn, as I thought; at last one tree had a little hole in it, pretty high out of my reach, and I climbed up the tree to get to it, and when I came there, I put my hand in, and found, (as I thought) a place very fit, so I placed my treasure there, and was mighty well satisfied with it; but behold, putting my hand in again to lay it more commodiously, as I thought, of a sudden it slipped away from me, and I found the tree was hollow, and my little parcel was fallen in quite out of my reach, and how far it might go in, I knew not; so, that in a word, my money was quite gone, irrecoverably lost, there could be no room, so much as to hope ever to see it again for it was a vast great tree.

As young as I was, I was now sensible what a fool I was before, that I could not think of ways to keep my money, but i must come thus far to throw it into a hole where I could not reach it; well, I thrust my hand quite up to my elbow, but no bottom was to be found, or any end of the hole or cavity; got a stick off of the tree and thrust it in a great way, but all was one; then I cried, nay, I roared out, I was in such a passion, then I got down the tree again, then up again, and thrust in my hand again till I scratched my arm and made it bleed, and cried all the while most violently: Then I began to think I had not so much as a half penny of it left for a half penny roll, and I was a hungry, and then I cried again: Then I came away in despair, crying, and roaring like a little boy that had been whipped, then I went back again to the tree, and up the tree again, and thus I did several times.

The last time I had gotten up the tree, I happened to come down not on the same side that I went up and came down before, but on the other side of the tree, and on the other side of the bank also; and behold the tree had a great open place in the side of it close to the ground, as old hollow trees often have; and looking into the open place, to my inexpressible joy, there lay my money, and my linnen rag, all wrapped-up just as I had put it into the hole: For the tree being hollow all the way up, there had been some moss or light stuff which I had not judgement enough to know was not firm, and had given way when it came to drop out of my hand, and so it had slipped quite down at once.

I was but a child, and I rejoiced like a child, for I hollowed quite out aloud, when I saw it; then I run to it, and snatched it up, hugged and kissed the dirty rag a hundred times; then danced and jumped about, run from one end of the field to the other, and in short, I knew not what, much less do I know now what I did, though I shall never forget the thing, either what a sinking grief it was to my heart when I thought I had lost it, or what a flood of joy o'er whelmed me when I had got it again.

While I was in the first transport of my joy, as I have said, I run about and knew not what I did; but when that was over, I sat down, opened the foul clout the money was in, looked at it, told it, found it was all there, and then I fell a crying as savourly as I did before, when I thought I had lost it.

It would tire the reader should I dwell on all the little boyish tricks that I played in the ecstasy of my joy, and satisfaction, when I had found my money; so I break off here: joy is as extravagant as grief, and since I have been a man, I have often thought, that had such a thing befallen a man, so to have lost all he had, and not have a bit of bread to eat, and then so strangely to find it again, after having given it so effectually over, I say, had it been so with a man, it might have hazarded his using some violence upon himself.

Well, I came away with my money, and having taken sixpence out of it, before I made it up again, I went to a chandler's shop in Mile-End, and bought a half-penny roll, and a half pennyworth of cheese, and sat down at the door after I bought it, and eat it very heartily, and begged some beer to drink with it, which the good woman gave me very freely.

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