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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 257 this degrading vice to account as a source of revenue ; and it appears, from an action raised against him by one Hamilton, a chimney-sweeper, that he did not scruple to have recourse to the usual tricks resorted to by professed gamblers.1 In the gratification of this ruling passion, he was in the habit of meeting, almost nightly, a club of gamblers at a house of a most disreputable description, kept by a person of the name of Clark, in the Fleshmarket Close. Xotwithstanding his profligate habits, Brodie had the address to prevent them from becoming public ; and he contrived to maintain a fair character among his fellow-citizens. So successful was he in blihding the world, that he continued a member of the Council until within a short period of the time he committed the crime for which he afterwards suffered ; and it is a singular fact that, little more than a month previously, he sat as a juryman in a criminal cause, in that very court where he himself soon afterwards received sentence of death ! Although Brodie had for many years been licentious and dissipated, it is believed that it was not until 1786 that he commenced that career of crime which he ultimately expiated on the scaffold. About that time he became acquainted with his fellow-culprit, George Smith ; and shortly afterwards, at the gambling haunt, with Ainslie and Brown-men of the lowest grade and most abandoned principles. The motives that induced Brodie to league himself with these desperate men are not very obvious. In comfortable circumstances, and holding situations of trust among his fellow-citizens, it is not easy to guess what could impel him to a line of conduct so very unaccountable. Let his motives have been what they might, however, Erodie, from his professional knowledge and his station in society, had great facilities for furthering his contemplated depredations, and he became the leader of these miscreants, who acted by his orders, and were guided by his information. About the latter end of 1787 a series of robberies were committed in and around Edinburgh, and no clue could be had of the perpetrators. Shops were opened, and goods disappeared, as if by magic.' The whole city at last became alarmed. In the most of these Brodie was either actively or passively concerned ; but it was not until the last " fatal affair "-the robbery of the Excise 05cethat he was discovered, and the whole machinery laid open. This undertaking, it appears, was wholly suggested and planned by Brodie. In this action he is accused of having used loaded or false dice, by which Hamilton lost upwards of six guineas. ' An old lady mentions that a female friend of hers, who, from indisposition, was unable to go one Sunday to church, was, during divine worship, and in the absence of her servant, surprised by the entrance of a man, with a crape over his face, into the room where she was sitting. He very coolly took up the keys which were lying on the table before her, opened her bureau, and took out II considerable sum of money that had been placed there. He meddled with nothing else, but immediately re-locked the bureau, replaced the keys on the table, and, making a low bow, retired. The lady was panic-struck the whole time. Upon the exit of her mysterious visitor, she exclaimed, "Surely that was Deacon Brodie ! " But the improbability of a person of his opulence turning a housebreaker, induced her tu preserve silence at the time. Subsequent events, however, soon proved the truth of her aunnisea. 2 L
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258 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. A friend of his, a Mr. Corbett from Stirling, had occasion to visit the Excise Office for the purpose of drawing money. Brodie accompanied him ; and while in the cashier’s room the idea first occurred to him. He immediately acquainted his colleagues with the design, and frequently after made calls at the Office, under a pretence of asking for Mr. Corbett, but with the sole purpose of becoming better acquainted with the premises. On one of these visits in company with Smith, he observed the key of the outer door hanging on a nail, from which he took an impression of the wards with putty ; and on the night of the 30th November, with the key formed from this model, they opened the outer door, by way of experiment, but proceeded no farther. It was not till the 5th of March following that the final attempt was made; on which occasion all hands were engaged. Their plan of procedure was previously well concerted, and their tools prepared. They were to meet in the house of Smith about seven o’clock ; but Brodie did not appear till eight, when he came dressed in an old-fashioned suit of black, and armed with:a brace of pistols. He seemed in high spirits for the adventure, and was chanting the well-known ditty from the “ Beggars’ 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 the chemists toil like asses- Our fire their fire surpasses, And turns our lead to gold.” Brodie also brought with him some small keys and a double picklock. Particular duties were assigned to each. Ainslie was to keep watch in the courtyard- Brodie inside the outer door-while Smith and Brown were to enter the cashier’s room. The mode of giving alarm was by means of a whistle bought by Brodie the day before, with which Ainslie was to call once, if only one person approached-if two or more, he was to call thrice, and then proceed himself to the back of the building to assist Brown and Smith in escaping by the windows, All of them, save Ainslie, were armed with pistols. Brown and Smith had pieces of crape over their faces. They chose the hour of attack from the circumstance of the office being generally shut at eight o’clock, and no watchman being stationed till ten. Ainslie and Brodie took up their respective positions, while Brown and Smith proceeded to the more arduous task of breaking into the cashier’s room. Smith opened the first door with a pair of curling-irons ; but, in forcing the second or inner door, they had to use both the iron crow and the coulter of a plough, which they had previously stolen for the purpose. Having with them a dark lantern, they searched the whole apartment, opening every desk and press in it. While thus engaged a discovery had nearly taken place, the Deputy-Solicitor, Mr. James Bonnar, having occasion to return to the offibe about half-past eight. The outer door he The party accordingly advanced to the scene of action.
Volume 8 Page 362
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