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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


114 [Bmdie?r Close. from, and tried it on the lock by way of experiment, but went no further then. On the 5th of March, Brodie, Smith, Ainslie, and Brown, met in the evening about eight to make the grand attempt. The Deacon was attired in black, with a brace of pistols ; he had with him several keys and a double picklock. He seemed themselves in danger when they heard Mr. Bonar coming down-stairs, they cocked their pistols, determined not to be taken.? Eventually they got clear off with their booty, which proved to be only sixteen pounds odd, when they had expected thousands ! They all separated I -Brown and Ainslie betook themselves to the New in the wildest spirits, and as they set forth he sang the well-known ditty from the ? Beggar?s Opera?- ? Let us take the road, Hark ! I hear the sound of coaches! The hour of attack approaches ; To your arms brave boys. and load. ?See the ball I hold ; Let chemists toil like asses- Our fire their fire surpasses, And turns our lead to gold !? The office was shut at night, but nowatchmancame till ten. Ainslie kept watch in Chessel?s Court, Brodic inside the outer door, when he opened it, while Smith and Brown entered the cashier?sroom. All save the first carwhistle by which he was to sound an alarm if necessary. In forcing the second or inner door, Brown and Smith had to use a crowbar, and the coulter of a plough which they had previously stolen for the purpose. Their faces were craped; they had with them a dark lantern, and they burst open every desk and press in the room. While thus engaged, Mr. James Bonar, the deputy-solicitor, returned unexpectedly to the office at half-past eight, and detection seemed imminent indeed ! ?The outer door he found shut, and on opening it a inan in black (Brodie) hurriedly passed him, a circumstance to which, not having the slightest suspicion, he paid no attention. He went to his room up-stairs, where he remained bnly a few minutes, and then returned, shutting the outer door behind him. Perceiving this, Ainslie became Town, Brodie hurried home to the Lawnmarket, changed his dress, and proceeded to the house of his mistress, Jean Watt, in Liberton?s Wynd, and on an evening soon after the miserable spoil was divided in equal proportions. By this time the town was alarmed, and the police on the alert. Brown (alias Humphry Moore), who proved the greatest villain of the whole, was at that time under sentence of transportation for some crime committed in his native country, England, and having seen an advertisement offering reward and pardon to any person who should discover a recent Homer, one of the many transactions in which Brodie had been engaged of late with Smith and others, he resolved to turn king?s evidence, and on the very evening he had secured his share of the late transaction he went to the Procurator Fiscal, and gave information, but omitted to mention the name of Brodie, from whom he expected to procure money for secrecy. He conducted the police to the base of the Craigs, where they found concealed under a large stone a great number of keys intended for future operations in all directions. In consequence of this, Ainslie, Smith and his wife and servant, were all arrested. Then Brodie fled, and Brown revealed the whole affair. Mr. Williamson, king?s messenger for Scotland, traced the Deacon from point to point till he reached Dover, where after an eighteen days? pursuit he
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disappeared; but by a sort of fatuity, often evinced by persons similarly situated, he gave clues to his own discovery. He remained in London till the zgrd of March. He took his passage on board the Leith smack Endeavorfr for that port, disguised as an old man in bad health, and under the name of John Dixon ; but on getting out of the Thames, according to some previous arrangement, he was landed at Flushing, and from thence reached Ostend. On board the smack he was rash enough to give in charge of a Mr. Geddes letters addressed to three persons in Edinburgh, one of whom was his favourite mistress in Cant?s Close. Geddes, full of suspicion, on reaching Leith gave the documents to the authorities. Mr. Williamson was once more on his track, and discovered him in Amsterdam, through the treachery of an Irishman named Daly, when he was on the eve of his departure for the halter destined for himself j? and well might he do so with terrible interest, as he was to be the jrst to know the excellence of an improvement he had formerly made on that identical gibbet-the substitution of what is called the drop, for the ancient practice of the double ladder. The ropes proving too short, Brodie stepped down to the platform and entered into easy conversation with his friends. This occurred no less than three times, while the great bell of St. Giles?s was tolling slowly, and the crowd of spectators was vast. Brodie died without either confessing or denying his guilt ; but the conduct and bearing of Smith were very different. In consequence of the firmness and levity of the former, a curious story became quickly current, to the effect that in the Tolbooth he had been visited by Dr. Pierre Degraver, LANTERN AND KEYS OF DEACON ERODIE. IFrom tke Scofti?h Anfiarurrian Museum.) America; and on the 27th of August, 1788, he was arraigned with Smith in the High Court of Justiciary, when he had as counsel the Hon. Henry Erskine, known then as ?Plead for all, or the poor man?s lawyer,? and two other advocates of eminence, who made an attempt to prove an dibi on the part of Brodie, by means of Jean Watt and her servant, but the jury, with one voice, found both guilty, and they were sentenced to be hanged at the west endof the Luckenbooths on the 1st October, 1788. Smith was deeply affected; Brodie cool, determined, and indifferent His self-possession never forsook him, and he spoke of his approaching end with levity, as ??a leap in the dark,? and he only betrayed emotion when he was visited, for the last time, by his daughter Cecil, a pretty child of ten years of age. He came on the scaffold in a full suit of black, with his hair dressed and powdered. Smith was attired in white linen, trimmed with black. ?Having put on white night-caps,? says a print of the time, ?Brodie pointed to Smith to ascend the steps that led to the drop, and in an easy manner, clapping him on the shoulder, said, ?George Smith, you are first in hand.? Upon this Smith, whose behaviour was highly penitent and resigned, slowly ascended the steps, followed by Brodie, who mounted with briskness and agility, and examined the dreadful apparatus with attention, particularly a French quack, who undertook to restore hiin to life after he had hung the usual time, and that, on the day before the execution, he had marked the arms and temples of Brodie, to indicate where he would apply the lancet. Moreover, it was said that having to lengthen the rope thrice proved that they had bargained secretly with the executioner for a short fall. When cut down the body was instantly given to two of his own workmen, who placed it on a cart, and drove at a furious rate round the back of the Castle, with the idea that the rough jolting might produce resuscitation! It was then taken to one of his workshops in the Lawnmarket, where Degraver was in attendance; but all attempts at bleeding failed j the Deacon was gone, and nothing remained but to lay him where he now lies, in the north-east corner of the Chapel-of-ease burying-ground. His dark lantern and sets of false keys, presented by the Clerk of Justiciary to the Society of Antiquaries, are still preserved in the city. He had at one time been Deacon Convener or chief of all the trades in the city, an ofice of the highest respectability. His house in Brodie?s Close is still to be found in nearly its original state; the first door up a turnpike shir; and this door, remarkable for its elaborate workmanship, is said to have been that of his own ingenious hand. The apartments are all decorated; and the priicipal one,
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