Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Colonel Jack’
By Daniel Defoe (1661?–1731)
Colonel Jack and Captain Jack Escape Arrest

WE had not parleyed thus long, but though in the dead of the night, came a man to the other inn door—for as I said above, there are two inns at that place—and called for a pot of beer; but the people were all in bed, and would not rise; he asked them if they had seen two fellows come that way upon one horse. The man said he had; that they went by in the afternoon, and asked the way to Cambridge, but did not stop only to drink one mug. “Oh!” says he, “are they gone to Cambridge? Then I’ll be with them quickly.” I was awake in a little garret of the next inn, where we lodged; and hearing the fellow call at the door, got up and went to the window, having some uneasiness at every noise I heard; and by that means heard the whole story. Now the case is plain, our hour was not come; our fate had determined other things for us, and we were to be reserved for it. The matter was thus:—When we first came to Bournbridge we called at the first house and asked the way to Cambridge, drank a mug of beer, and went on, and they might see us turn off to go the way they directed; but night coming on, and we being very weary, we thought we should not find the way; and we came back in the dusk of the evening and went into the other house, being the first as we came back, as that where we called before was the first as we went forward.
  You may be sure I was alarmed now, as indeed I had reason to be. The Captain was in bed and fast asleep, but I wakened him, and roused him with a noise that frighted him enough. “Rise, Jack,” said I, “we are both ruined; they are come after us hither.” Indeed, I was wrong to terrify him at that rate; for he started and jumped out of bed and ran directly to the window, not knowing where he was, and not quite awake, was just going to jump out of the window, but I laid hold of him. “What are you going to do?” says I. “I won’t be taken,” says he; “let me alone; where are they?”  2
  This was all confusion; and he was so out of himself with the fright, and being overcome with sleep, that I had much to do to prevent his jumping out of the window. However, I held him fast and thoroughly wakened him, and then all was well again and he was presently composed.  3
  Then I told him the story, and we sat together upon the bedside, considering what we should do; upon the whole, as the fellow that called was apparently gone to Cambridge, we had nothing to fear, but to be quiet till daybreak, and then to mount and be gone.  4
  Accordingly, as soon as day peeped we were up; and having happily informed ourselves of the road at the other house, and being told that the road to Cambridge turned off on the left hand, and that the road to Newmarket lay straight forward: I say, having learnt this, the Captain told me he would walk away on foot towards Newmarket, and so when I came to go out I should appear as a single traveler; and accordingly he went out immediately, and away he walked, and he traveled so hard that when I came to follow I thought once that he had dropped me, for though I rode hard, I got no sight of him for an hour. At length, having passed the great bank called the Devil’s Ditch, I found him and took him up behind me, and we rode double till we came almost to the end of Newmarket town. Just at the hither house in the town stood a horse at a door, just as it was at Puckeridge. “Now,” says Jack, “if the horse was at the other end of the town I would have him, as sure as we had the other at Puckeridge;” but it would not do; so he got down, and walked through the town on the right-hand side of the way.  5
  He had not got half through the town, but the horse, having somehow or other got loose, came trotting gently on by himself, and nobody following him. The Captain, an old soldier at such work, as soon as the horse was got a pretty way before him, and that he saw nobody followed, sets up a run after the horse, and the horse, hearing him follow, ran the faster; then the Captain calls out, “Stop the horse!” and by this time the horse was got almost to the farther end of the town; the people of the house where he stood not missing him all the while.  6
  Upon his calling out “Stop the horse!” the poor people of the town, such as were next at hand, ran from both sides of the way and stopped the horse for him, as readily as could be, and held him for him till he came up; he very gravely comes up to the horse, hits him a blow or two, and calls him “dog” for running away; gives the man twopence that catched him for him, mounts, and away he comes after me.  7
  This was the oddest adventure that could have happened, for the horse stole the Captain, the Captain did not steal the horse. When he came up to me, “Now, Colonel Jack,” says he, “what do you say to good luck? Would you have had me refuse the horse, when he came so civilly to ask me to ride?”—“No, no,” said I; “you have got this horse by your wit, not by design; and you may go on now, I think; you are in a safer condition than I am, if we are taken.”  8
Colonel Jack Finds Captain Jack Hard to Manage

  We arrived here very easy and safe, and while we were considering of what way we should travel next, we found we were got to a point, and that there was no way now left but that by the Washes into Lincolnshire, and that was represented as very dangerous; so an opportunity offering of a man that was traveling over the fens, we took him for our guide, and went with him to Spalding, and from thence to a town called Deeping, and so to Stamford in Lincolnshire.
  This is a large populous town, and it was market day when we came to it; so we put in at a little house at the hither end of the town, and walked into the town. Here it was not possible to restrain my Captain from playing his feats of art, and my heart ached for him; I told him I would not go with him, for he would not promise to leave off, and I was so terribly concerned at the apprehensions of his venturous humor that I would not so much as stir out of my lodging; but it was in vain to persuade him. He went into the market and found a mountebank there, which was what he wanted. How he picked two pockets there in one quarter of an hour, and brought to our quarters a piece of new holland of eight or nine ells, a piece of stuff, and played three or four pranks more in less than two hours; and how afterwards he robbed a doctor of physic, and yet came off clear in them: all this, I say, as above, belongs to his story, not mine.  10
  I scolded heartily at him when he came back, and told him he would certainly ruin himself and me too before he left off, and threatened in so many words that I would leave him and go back, and carry the horse to Puckeridge, where we borrowed it, and so go to London by myself.  11
  He promised amendment, but as we resolved (now we were in the great road) to travel by night, so, it being not yet night, he gives me the slip again; and was not gone half an hour, but he comes back with a gold watch in his hand. “Come,” says he, “why ain’t you ready? I am ready to go as soon as you will:” and with that he pulls out the gold watch. I was amazed at such a thing as that in a country town; but it seems there were prayers at one of the churches in the evening, and he, placing himself as the occasion directed, found the way to be so near a lady as to get it from her side, and walked off with it unperceived.  12
  The same night we went away by moonlight, after having the satisfaction to hear the watch cried, and ten guineas offered for it again; he would have been glad of the ten guineas instead of the watch, but durst not venture to carry it home. “Well,” says I, “you are afraid, and indeed you have reason; give it to me; I will venture to carry it again;” but he would not let me, but told me that when we came into Scotland we might sell anything there without danger; which was true indeed, for there they asked us no questions.  13
  We set out, as I said, in the evening by moonlight, and traveled hard, the road being very plain and large, till we came to Grantham, by which time it was about two in the morning, and all the town as it were dead asleep; so we went on for Newark, where we reached about eight in the morning, and there we lay down and slept most of the day; and by this sleeping so continually in the daytime, I kept him from doing a great deal of mischief which he would otherwise have done.  14
Colonel Jack’s First Wife is not Disposed to be Economical

  We soon found a house proper for our dwelling, and so went to housekeeping; we had not been long together but I found that gay temper of my wife returned, and she threw off the mask of her gravity and good conduct that I had so long fancied was her mere natural disposition, and now, having no more occasion for disguises, she resolved to seem nothing but what she really was, a wild untamed colt, perfectly loose, and careless to conceal any part, no, not the worst of her conduct.
  She carried on this air of levity to such an excess that I could not but be dissatisfied at the expense of it, for she kept company that I did not like, lived beyond what I could support, and sometimes lost at play more than I cared to pay; upon which one day I took occasion to mention it, but lightly, and said to her by way of raillery that we lived merrily for as long as it would last. She turned short upon me: “What do you mean?” says she; “why, you do not pretend to be uneasy, do ye?” “No, no, madam, not I, by no means; it is no business of mine, you know,” said I, “to inquire what my wife spends, or whether she spends more than I can afford, or less; I only desire the favor to know, as near as you can guess, how long you will please to take to dispatch me, for I would not be too long a-dying.”  16
  “I do not know what you talk of,” says she. “You may die as leisurely or as hastily as you please, when your time comes; I ain’t a-going to kill you, as I know of.”  17
  “But you are going to starve me, madam,” said I; “and hunger is as leisurely a death as breaking upon the wheel.”  18
  “I starve you! why, are not you a great Virginia merchant, and did not I bring you £1500? What would you have? Sure, you can maintain a wife out of that, can’t you?”  19
  “Yes, madam,” says I, “I could maintain a wife, but not a gamester, though you had brought me £1500 a year; no estate is big enough for a box and dice.”  20
  She took fire at that, and flew out in a passion, and after a great many bitter words told me in short that she saw no occasion to alter her conduct; and as for not maintaining her, when I could not maintain her longer she would find some way or other to maintain herself.  21
  Some time after the first rattle of this kind she vouchsafed to let me know that she was pleased to be with child; I was at first glad of it, in hopes it would help to abate her madness; but it was all one, and her being with child only added to the rest, for she made such preparations for her lying-in, and other appendixes of a child’s being born, that in short I found she would be downright distracted; and I took the liberty to tell her one day she would soon bring herself and me to destruction, and entreated her to consider that such figures as those were quite above us and out of our circle; and in short, that I neither could nor would allow such expenses; that at this rate two or three children would effectually ruin me, and that I desired her to consider what she was doing.  22
  She told me with an air of disdain that it was none of her business to consider anything of that matter; that if I could not allow it she would allow it herself, and I might do my worst.  23
  I begged her to consider things for all that, and not drive me to extremities; that I married her to love and cherish her, and use her as a good wife ought to be used, but not to be ruined and undone by her. In a word, nothing could mollify her, nor any argument persuade her to moderation; but withal she took it so heinously that I should pretend to restrain her, that she told me in so many words she would drop her burthen with me, and then if I did not like it she would take care of herself; she would not live with me an hour, for she would not be restrained, not she; and talked a long while at that rate.  24
  I told her, as to her child, which she called her burthen, it should be no burthen to me; as to the rest she might do as she pleased; it might however do me this favor, that I should have no more lyings-in at the rate of £136 at a time, as I found she intended it should be now. She told me she could not tell that; if she had no more by me, she hoped she should by somebody else. “Say you so, madam?” said I; “then they that get them shall keep them.” She did not know that neither, she said, and so turned it off jeering, and as it were laughing at me.  25
  This last discourse nettled me, I must confess, and the more because I had a great deal of it and very often; till, in short, we began at length to enter into a friendly treaty about parting.  26
  Nothing could be more criminal than the several discourses we had upon this subject; she demanded a separate maintenance, and in particular, at the rate of £300 a year; and I demanded security of her that she should not run me in debt; she demanding the keeping of the child, with an allowance of £100 a year for that, and I demanding that I should be secured from being charged for keeping any she might have by somebody else, as she had threatened me.  27
  In the interval, and during these contests, she dropped her burthen (as she called it), and brought me a son, a very fine child.  28
  She was content during her lying-in to abate a little, though it was but a very little indeed, of the great expense she had intended; and with some difficulty and persuasion was content with a suit of child-bed linen of £15 instead of one she had intended of threescore; and this she magnified as a particular testimony of her condescension, and a yielding to my avaricious temper, as she called it.  29

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