Advertising Tipsters” and “Betting Commissioners”.
The Vice of Gambling on the increase among the Working-classes—Sporting “Specs”—A “Modus” Turf Discoveries—Welshers—The Vermin of the Betting-field—Their Tactics—The Road to Ruin.
There can be no doubt that the vice of gambling is on the increase amongst
the English working-classes. Of this no better proof is afforded than in the
modern multiplication of those newspapers specially devoted to matters
“sportive.” Twenty years ago there were but three or four sporting
newspapers published in London; now there are more than a dozen. It would,
however, be unfair to regard the rapid growth of these questionable prints as an
undoubted symptom of the deepening depravity of the masses. The fact is this:
that though the national passion for gambling, for betting, and wagering, and
the excitement of seeing this or that “event” decided, has increased of
late, it is chiefly because the people have much more leisure now than of yore. They must have amusement for
their disengaged hours, and they naturally seek that for which they have the greatest liking.
It is a comforting reflection, however, that in their sports and pastimes Englishmen, and especially Londoners, of the present generation, are less barbarous than those of the last. Setting horse-racing aside, anyone who now takes up for perusal the ordinary penny sporting paper will find therein nothing more repugnant tohis sensibilities, as regards human performers, than records of swimming, and cricket, and running, and walking, and leaping;and as regards four-footed creatures, the discourse will be of dogs “coursing” or racing, or killing rats in a pit. In the present en-lightened age we do not fight cocks and “shy” at hens tied to astake at the Shrove-Tuesday fair; neither do we fight dogs, or pitthose sagacious creatures to bait bulls. In a newspaper before me, not a quarter of a century old, there is a minute and graphic account of a bull-baiting, at which in the pride of his heart the owner of a bull-dog did a thing that in the present day would insure for him twelve months of hard labour on the treadmill, but which in the “good old time” was merely regarded as the act of a spirited sportsman. A white bull-dog, “Spurt” by name, had performed prodigies of valour against a bear brought before him and before a crowded audience. Finally, however, the exhausted creature bungled in a delicate act of the performance, and those who had bet against the dog exasperated its master by clapping their hands. “D’ye think that he can’t do it?” roared the dog’s owner; “why, I’ll take ten to one in twenties that he does it on three legs—with one foot chopped off.” “Done!” somebody cried. Whereon the valiant bull-dog owner called for a cleaver, and setting the left forepaw of his faithful dog on the ledge of the pit, he hacked it off at a blow. Then instantly he urged the creature at the bear again, and, raging with pain, it at once sprang at its shaggy opponent and pinned it.
It cannot be denied that occasionally there still appears in the sporting newspapers some brief account of a “mill” that has recently taken place between those once highly-popular gentlemen
—the members of the “P.R.” But public interest in this department of “sport” is fast dying out; and not one reader in a hundred would care to wade through column after column of an account of how the Brompton Bison smashed the snout of the Bermondsey Pet; and how the latter finally gained the victory by battering his opponent’s eyes until he was blind and “came up groggy,” and could not even see his man, let alone avoid the sledge-hammer blows that were still pounding his unhappy ribs. There are left very few indeed of those individuals who, as “sportsmen,” admire Raw-Head-and-Bloody-Bones as master of the ceremonies.
All the while, however, it is to be feared that the sporting newspaper of the present day reveals the existence of really more mischief, more substantial immorality and rascality than ever appeared in their pages before. As a quarter of a century since pugilism was the main feature with the sporting press, now it is horse-racing; not for its sake, but for the convenient peg it affords to hang a bet on. It may be safely asserted that among Londoners not one in five hundred could mention the chief qualities a racer should possess; but this goes for nothing; or perhaps it might be said that it goes for everything. It is each man’s faith in the ignorance of his neighbour, and his high respect for his own sagacity and his “good luck,” wherein resides the secret of the horse-betting mania at the present time afflicting the nation.
As the reader will have remarked, so rapidly has the disease in question spread during the past few years that Government has at last thought fit to interpose the saving arm of the law between the victim and the victimiser. Numerous as are the sporting papers, and to the last degree accommodating in acting as mediums of communication between the ignorant people who stand in need of horsey counsel and the “knowing ones” of the turf who, for a small consideration, are ever ready to give it, it was discovered by certain bold schemers that a yet wider field of operation was as yet uncultivated. To be sure, what these bold adventurers meditated was contrary to law, and of that they were well aware, and at first acted on the careful Scotch maxim of not putting out their hand farther than at a short notice they could draw it back again. Success, however, made them audacious. Either the law slept, or else it indolently saw what they were up to and winked, till at last, growing each week more courageous, the new gambling idea, that took the name of “Spec,” became of gigantic dimensions.
Throughout lower London, and the shady portions of its suburbs, the window of almost every public-house and beer-shop was spotted with some notice of these “Specs.” There were dozens of them. There were the “Deptford Spec,” and the “Lambeth Spec,” and the “Great Northern Spec,” and the “Derby Spec;” but they all meant one and the same thing—a lottery, conducted on principles more or less honest, the prize to be awarded according to the performances of certain racehorses. All on a sudden, however, the officers of the law swooped down on the gambling band, and carried them, bag and baggage, before a magistrate to answer for their delinquency.
At the examination of the first batch at Bow-street, as well as at their trial, much curious information was elicited. It appeared that the originator, of the scheme lived at Deptford, and that he had pursued it for so long as six or seven years.
The drawings were on Saturday nights, when the great majority of the working-people had received their wages, and when, it having been noised abroad that these lotteries were going on, they were likely to attend and to expend their money in the purchase of such of the tickets as had not been sold already.
If all the tickets were not sold, a portion of each prize was deducted, and the holders of prizes were paid in proportion to the number of tickets that were sold; and, as it was impossible to know what number of tickets had actually been sold, it could not be determined whether the distribution had or had not been carried out with fairness, or how much had been deducted to pay for expenses, and to afford a profit to the promoters of the concern. Several cabloads of tickets, result-sheets, &c. were seized at the residences of the managers of the “spec.”
There were numerous “partners” in the firm, and they were frequently at the chief’s residence, and were instrumental in carrying out the lotteries. One or other was always present at the drawing of the numbers and at the distribution of the prizes. One partner was a stationer in the Strand, and at his shop were sold the tickets for these lotteries, and also what are termed the “result-sheets,” which were sold at one penny each, and each of which contained the results of a “draw,” setting forth which of the ticket-holders had been fortunate enough to draw the several prizes, and also advertising the next “spec” or lottery. Each of these “specs” related to a particular race, and the tickets were substantially alike. Each had on the top the words “Deptford Spec,” with a number and letter, and in the corner the name of a race, as “New-market Handicap Sweep,” “Liverpool Grand National Steeplechase.” In each of these there were 60,000 subscribers, and in that for the Thousand Guineas 75,000. The prizes varied in proportion; but in one they were £500 for the first horse, £300 for the second, and £150 for the third. Among the starters was to be divided £500, and among the non-starters £600. There were also 200 prizes of £1, and 300 prizes of l0s. It was stated on the tickets that the prizes would go with the stakes, and that the result-sheets would be published on the Monday after the draw. There was also a stipulation that, in the event of any dispute arising, it should be referred to the editors of the Era, Bell’s Life, and the Sporting Times, and the decision of the majority to be binding. If the numbers were not filled up, the prizes were to be reduced in proportion; with some other details. There was no printer’s name to the tickets or result-sheets.
The detective police-officers, in whose hands the getting-up of evidence for the prosecution had been intrusted, proved that, after they purchased their tickets, they went up the stairs in a public-house about a quarter to seven o’clock. They went into the clubroom, where about sixty or seventy persons had assembled, and where the managers of the lotteries were selling tickets. The witness purchased one, and paid a shilling for it. It had the same form as the others, and the draw was to be held that night. Someone got up and said (reading from several sheets of paper in his hand), “4,200 tickets not sold;” this he repeated twice. He then proceeded to read from the papers the numbers of the tickets unsold. The reading occupied about half-an-hour. After the numbers were read out, they commenced to undo a small bundle of tickets, which they placed upon the table. They fetched down some more bundles similar to the first, and continued undoing them until they had undone about a bushel. The tickets were all numbered. They then proceeded to place all the tickets in a large wheel-of-fortune, after mixing them up well with a quantity of sand to prevent their sticking together. The wheel was a kind of barrel revolving on axles, with a hole for the hand. One of the managers asked if any gentleman had got a sporting paper. No one answered, so he produced one himself; he (witness) believed the Sporting Life. He said, “Will any gentleman read the names of the horses for the Grand National?” The names of the horses were then read out by those at the table, while tickets were drawn for each till all the horses were called. The tickets were then put down on the table, and the defendants proceeded to undo another packet. They undid a heap, about a quarter the bulk of the first lot. They put these into another wheel-of-fortune. Having done so, two boys about fourteen or fifteen years old came into the room, and after divesting themselves of their jackets and tucking up their sleeves, each went to the wheels, which were turned by some of the persons in the room. One of the managers called out the numbers of the tickets and the name of the horse to each prize.
It need only be mentioned, in proof of the popularity enjoyed by these “specs,” that within a fortnight afterwards a similar scene was enacted at the same public-house. A detective went to the Bedford Arms, where he heard that a distribution of prizes was to be made. He went into the club-room. The managers were there, with about forty prizeholders. A person produced a ticket and handed it to one of the directors, who, after examining it, said “All right,” and paid the money—4051.—which consisted of cheques, notes, and gold. The holder of the prize got 4051. for a 5001. prize, it being supposed all the tickets were not sold, and a reduction was made in proportion. About forty prizes were given away in this manner during the evening. After the prizes were drawn, each person was asked to put something in the bowl for the two boys.
The prisoners were committed for trial, but were lucky enough to escape punishment. For years they had been defying the law, and feathering their nests on the strength of the silly confidence reposed in them by the thousands of dupes who ran after their precious “specs;” and the sentence of the judge was in effect no more severe than this—it bade them beware how they so committed themselves for the future. Of course the released lottery-agents promised that they would beware, and doubtless they will. Without being called on to do so, they even volunteered an act of noble generosity. As before stated, the police had found in their possession and seized a large sum of money—fourteen hundred pounds. This the good gentlemen of the lottery suggested might be distributed amongst the charities of that parish their leader honoured with his residence, and with the Recorder’s sanction, and amid the murmured plaudits of a crowded court, the suggestion was adopted. The oddest part of the business was, however, that the benevolent gentlemen gave away what didn’t belong to them, the fourteen hundred pounds representing the many thousand shillings the believers in “specs” had intrusted to their keeping. However, everybody appeared to think that the discharged “speculators” had behaved honourably, not to say nobly, and there the case ended.
The “spec” bubble exploded, the police authorities show symptoms of bringing the machinery of the law to bear on a wider-spread and more insidious mischief of the same breed. With the betting infatuation there has naturally sprung up a swarm of knowing hungry pike ready to take advantage of it. There are the advertising tipsters, the “turf prophets,” and the “betting commissioners.” Driven from the streets, where for so long they publicly plied their trade, they have resorted to the cheap sporting press to make known their amiable intentions and desires, and the terms on which they are still willing, even from the sacred privacy of their homes, to aid and counsel all those faint-hearted ones who despair of ruining themselves soon enough without such friendly help.
Were it not for the awful amount of misery and depravity it involves, it would be amusing to peruse the various styles of address from the “prophet” to the benighted, and to mark the many kinds of bait that are used in “flat-catching,” as the turf slang has it, as well as the peculiar method each fisherman has in the sort and size of hook he uses, and the length of line.
Entitled to rank foremost in this numerous family is an unassuming but cheerful and confident gentleman, who frequently, and at an expensive length, advertises himself as the happy originator and proprietor of what he styles a “Modus.” It is described as an instrument of “beauty, force, and power,” and it is, doubtless, only that its owner, if he kept it all to himself, and set it going at full blast, would undoubtedly win all the money in the country, and so put an end to the sport, that he is induced to offer participation in its working at the small equivalent of a few postage-stamps. In his modest description of his wonderful “Modus,” Mr. M. says:
“In daily realising incomparably rich winnings with this Modus, another great and distinguished victory was very successfully achieved at Newmarket Spring Meeting. Mr. M.’s distinguished Winning Modus, for beauty, force, and power, has never yet failed in clearly realising treasures of weekly winnings and successes. For this reason, this week’s eminent and moneyed success was the result with this Modus at the Newmarket Spring Meeting. For acquiring an ascendency over any other capital-making turf discovery, either secret or public, it is truly marvellous. In fact, this Winning Modus never deteriorates in its character, immense riches, or winnings, for it is strikingly and truthfully infallible and never-failing. At any rate, it will win 18,0001. or 20,0001. for any investor ere the final close of the season. Do not think this anywise fiction, for it is strict verity. Mr. M. takes this opportunity to respectfully thank his patronisers for their compliments, congratulations, and presents. It is needless to remind his patrons that an illustrious and rich success will easily be achieved at Chester next week, when Mr. M.’s Winning Modus will again realise its infallible success in thousands.”
It is to be assumed that Mr. M. has already by means of his own “Modus” fished out of the risky waters of gambling a few of these “18,0001. or 20,0001.” he speaks so lightly of; and doubtless the reader’s first reflection will be, that he should hasten to expend a trifle of his immense winnings in securing for himself at least as fair a knowledge of the English language as is possessed by a “dame-school” scholar of six years old. It is evident that Mr. M. has all the money at his command which he is ever likely to require, or, of course, he would not reveal his precious secret on such ridiculously easy terms. He would patent it, and come down heavily on any rash person who infringed his rights, more valuable than those that rest in Mr. Graves, or even Mr. Betts, the great captain of “capsules.” No, he has won all the money he is ever likely to need; indeed, how can a man ever be poor while he retains possession of that wonderful talismanic “Modus,” a touch of which converts a betting-book into a solid, substantial gold-mine? Still, he is exacting as regards the gratitude of those whom his invention enriches. It is his pride to record as many instances as possible of the dutiful thankfulness of his fellow-creatures, and as, with pity and regret, he is aware that the only earnest of a man’s sincerity is that which takes the shape of the coinage of the realm, he is compelled, though sorely against his own confiding and generous nature, to attach much weight to thankofferings of a pecuniary nature. Every week he appends to his sketch of the working of his “Modus” a list of those “patronisers” from whom he has most recently heard. It may be urged by unbelievers that in this there is no novelty, since from time immemorial the quacks of other professions have done precisely the same thing; but it must be admitted that this should at least be taken as proof of Mr. M. ‘s indifference to the evil opinion of the censorious. Let us take the testimonials for the week of the Chester Races, which, as he says, “are promiscuously selected from a vast number:”
“SIR,—For distinction, honour, and fame, your marvellous winning Modus is worthy of its renown. I am happy in asserting it has won me 4,220/. nett so quickly and readily this season. Accept the 200/. enclosed.—I am, &c. M. ARTHUR PQRSON.”
“Mr. M. undoubtedly considers his winning Modus an infallible one. Mr. G. Melville certainly considers it is too. At any rate, Mr. Melville is the very fortunate winner of upwards of 6,400/. 6,400/. at once is a tangible criterion as to its great worth for procuring these heavy winnings. Mr. Melville forwards a sum of money with his congratulations, as a present. Mr. M. will please accept the same.
“S IR,—Do me a favour in accepting the enclosed cheque for 50/. Through the instrumentality of your certainly very successful winning Modus, I am, to my infinite pleasure, quickly becoming a certain and never-failing winner of thousands; for already has its golden agency marvelously won me 3,400/.” C. CONYERS GRESHAM.”
In conclusion, this benefactor of his species says: “For this successful winning ‘Modus,’ and its infinite riches, forward a stamped directed envelope, addressed Mr. M., Rugby.” That is all. Forward a directed envelope to Rugby, and in return you shall be placed, booted and spurred, on the road to infinite riches. If, starting as a beggar, you allow your head to be turned by the bewildering pelting of a pitiless storm of sovereigns, and ride to the devil, Mr. M. is not to blame.
The astounding impudence of these advertising dodgers is only equalled by the credulity of their dupes. How long Mr. M. has presented his precious “Modus” to the sporting public through the columns of “horsey” newspapers, I cannot say; but this much is certain: that according to his success has been the proportion of vexation and disappointment he has caused amongst the geese who have trusted him. We are assured that impostors of the M. school reap golden harvests; that thousands on thousands weekly nibble at his baits; consequently thousands on thousands weekly have their silly eyes opened to the clumsy fraud to which they have been the victims. But M. of Rugby flourishes still; he still vaunts the amazing virtues, and the beauty, force, and power of his “Modus,” and brags of this week’s eminent and moneyed success as though it were a matter of course. Mr. M. of Rugby is less modest than some members of his fraternity. Here is an individual who affects the genteel:
“A CARD .—Private Racing Information! !—A gentleman who has been a breeder and owner of racehorses, and now in a good commercial position, attained by judicious betting, enjoying rare opportunities of early intelligence from most successful and dangerous stables, being himself debarred by partnership restrictions from turf speculations on his own account, thinks he might utilise the great advantages at his disposal by leaving himself open to correspondence with the racing public. This is a genuine advertisement, and worth investigating. —Address, —, Post-office, Stafford. Unquestionable references. Directed envelopes. No ‘systems’ or other fallacies.
It will be observed that, despite the good position attained by the advertiser by “judicious betting,” not only was he glad to escape from the field where his fortune was founded, and to take refuge in the dull jog-trot regions of commerce, but his “partners” prohibit him in future from collecting golden eggs from any racing mare’s-nest whatsoever. He has made a fat pocket by the judicious exercise of a peculiar and difficult science he is well versed in; but still he is tolerated by his brother-members of the firm only on the distinct understanding that he never does it again. Perhaps he has grown over-rich, and the rest and seclusion is necessary to the complete restoration of his health. Perhaps he owes to “Modus”— but no, the retired breeder and owner of racehorses distinctly informs us that he has no faith in “systems” or other fallacies: “lying excepted,” is the amendment that at once occurs to the individual of common sense.
Education is reckoned as a prime essential to success in most trades; but in that of betting it would appear unnecessary, in order to realise a fortune for himself or his fellow-mortals, that an advertising tipster or betting-man should be master of the English language, let alone of the cardinal virtues. Here is a member of the Manchester Subscription-rooms, in proof:
“George D—y, member of the Manchester Subscription-rooms, attends personally all the principal race-meetings. Some persons having used the above name, G. D. gives notice that he has not anyone betting for him, and anyone doing so are welshers.”
Another gentleman eschews prophecy, and would throw “Modus” to the dogs, only that possibly his natural instincts peculiarly qualify him for knowing that to do so would be to cast an undeserved indignity on those respectable creatures. He goes in for “secret information.” He does not seek to mystify his readers by adopting a nom-de-plume, such as “Stable Mouse,” or “Earwig,” or “Spy in the Manger.” He boldly owns his identity as John —, of Leicester-square, London, and arrogates to himself an “outsider” that is to beat anything else in the field. “Do not be guided,” says this frank and plain-spoken sportsman—”do not be guided by the betting, but back my outsider, whose name has scarcely ever been mentioned in the quotations, because the very clever division to which it belongs have put their money on so quietly that their secret is known to only a few. I am in the swim, and know that the horse did not start for one or two races it could have won easily, but has been expressly saved for this. I have several other absolute certainties, and guarantee to be particularly successful at Chester. Terms: fourteen stamps the full meeting. Many of the minor events will be reduced to certainties; and in order to take advantage of it, I am willing to telegraph the very latest, without charge, to those who will pay me honourably from winnings; or I will invest any amount remitted to me, guaranteeing to telegraph before the race is run the full particulars—John G., Leicester-square, London.”
What a pity it is that those who flatter themselves that they are intellectually qualified to embark in one of the most hazardous and difficult ways of making money should not be at the pains of carefully reading and deliberating on barefaced attempts at imposture, such as are disclosed in the above! John G. is one of the “clever division,” he says. So much for his honesty, when he admits that he is in the “swim” with men who have been tampering with the same wonderful “outsider,” and so manoeuvering as to throw dust in the eyes of unsuspecting persons. So much for the wealth and position of the “swim,” when John G., a confessed member of it, is ready to betray his confederates for the small consideration of fourteenpence, or less, should you fall short of that amount of faith in his integrity. He will “leave it to you, sir, as does the sweeper who clears the snow from your door, or the industrious wretch who brushes the dust from your coat on the racecourse. Or he will invest any sum you may feel disposed to intrust to him. There is not the least doubt of it; and what is more, you may rest assured that he will invest it so as to make sure of a substantial return. How else is he to cut a respectable figure at Epsom or Ascot, and join the bold-faced, leather-lunged gang, who, with a little money-pouch slung at their side, and a little, a very little money within the pouch, elbow their way through the press, bawling, “I’ll lay” on this, that, or t’other?
J. G. of Leicester-square is not the only advertising tipster who professes to be “in the swim,” and on that account to be in a position to act as a traitor to his friends, and the benefactor of the strange public. Here is the announcement of another gentleman.
“GREAT EVENTS!—Enormous odds!!—Two horses have been expressly saved; and one of the best judges on the turf tells me they are the greatest certainties he ever knew. As for another event, it is quite at the mercy of the owner of a certain animal. I do not hesitate to say that there never was, and never will be, a better chance of pulling off a large stake at a trifling risk; for I can obtain the enormous odds of 1,840l. to 1l., or 920l. to l0s., or 460l. to 5s. ; or I will send the secret for fourteen stamps.”
Here is a Munchausen fit to shake hands with and claim as a brother J. G. of Leicester-square. He knows of a forthcoming race, and he likewise knows of a man who intends to run in it a certain horse that will hold the equine contest at his mercy. It is but reasonable to assume that the noble animal in question will obey the dictates of his nature, and not give way to weak forbearance or foolish generosity. Undoubtedly, therefore, it will win the race; and the advertiser, if he puts 5s. on it, is sure of bagging 460l.! And yet he is found competing in the same dirty field with a score of his kindred, clamouring for fourteenpence in postage-stamps.
“Stable secrets! stable secrets!” shrieks the “Sporting Doctor;” secrets so very precious that he cannot possibly betray them for less than fivepence each. Send fifteen stamps, and receive in return the “true and certain winners of the Chester, the Derby, and the Oaks.” The “Sporting Doctor” hails from a back-street in the Blackfriars-road. The “Barber-poet” of Paddington, in touching terms, implores his noble patrons to assist him in advising his fellow-creatures of the “good things he has for them.” “Show my circulars to your friends,” he says; “it will be to my interest for you to do so. I will give 100/. to any charitable institution, if the advice I give is not in every instance the best that money can obtain.” The next tipster on the list goes farther than this. He boldly avows he will forfeit a large sum of money unless he “spots” the identical winners “first and second.” Of course, nothing can be more transparent than bombast of this sort; but here it is in black-and-white:
“Mr. Ben W. will forfeit 500/. if he does not send first and second for the Chester Cup. Send four stamps and stamped envelope, and promise a present, and I will send you the Chester Cup, Great Northern, Derby, and Oaks winners.—Address, —, Waterloo-road, London.”
Mr. Benjamin W.’s suggestion of a “promised present” is, however, no novelty with the advertising tipster. Many of the fraternity ask a cash-down payment for the “tip” they send—a sum barely sufficient to buy them a pint of beer—professing to rely contentedly on the generosity of their “patronisers,” as Mr. Modus styles them. Occasionally are appended to the advertisements gentle remonstrances and reminders that the confidence the tipster reposed in his patroniser seems to have been misplaced. The latter is requested “not to forget what is due from one gentleman, though in a humble sphere, to another.” One gentleman becomes quite pathetic in an appeal of this kind:
“The winners of Great Northern, Derby, and Oaks for thirteen stamps, or one event four stamps, with promise of present from winnings. Send a stamped envelope without delay. Gentlemen are requested to act honourably, and send me the promised percentage on the Two Thousand, for the labourer is worthy of his hire. —Address, — Cumberland-street, Chelsea, London.”
Another gentleman, blessed with an amount of coolness and candour that should insure him a competency if every horse were swept off the face of the earth to-morrow, publishes the following; and the reader will please bear in mind that these various advertisements are clipped out of the sporting papers, and copied to the letter:
“TAKE NOTICE!!—I never advertise unless I am confident of success. I have now a real good thing for Derby at 100 to 1; sure to get a place, for which 25 to 1 can be obtained.—Enclose ls. stamps and stamped addressed envelope, and secure this moral.— Remember Perry Down. Address, H— Post-office, Reading.”
It may be remarked, that everything that is highly promising becomes, in the slang of the advertising tipster, a “moral;” but there are two dictionary definitions of the term—one affecting its relation to good or bad human life, and the other which is described as “the instruction of a fable.” It is possibly in this last sense that the tipster uses the word. “Send for my ‘moral’ on the Great Northern Handicap,” writes Mr. Wilson of Hull. “It is said that the golden ball flies past every man once in his lifetime!” cries “Quick-sight” of John-street, Brixton. “See it in my moral certainty for the Derby. See it, and fail not to grasp it. Fourteen stamps (uncut) will secure it.”
This should indeed be glad news for those unfortunates whose vision has hitherto been gladdened in the matter of golden balls only by seeing them hanging in triplet above the pawnbroker’s friendly door. Fancy being enabled to grasp the golden ball—the ball that is to stump out poverty, and send the bails of impecuniosity flying into space never to return, at the small cost of fourteen postage-stamps! They must be uncut, by the way, or their talismanic virtue will be lost. The worst of it is, that you are unable either to see it or grasp it until Quicksight sees and grasps your fourteen stamps; and if you should happen to miss the golden ball after all, it is doubtful if he would return you your poor one-and-twopence as some consolation in your disappointment. He would not do this, but he would be very happy to give you another chance. His stock of “golden balls” is very extensive. He has been supplying them, or rather the chance of grasping them, at fourteenpence each any time during this five years, and he is doubtless in a position to “keep the ball rolling” (the golden ball) until all his customers are supplied.
By the way, it should be mentioned, that the advertiser last quoted, as well as several others here instanced, terminate their appeals by begging the public to beware of welshers!
Does the reader know what is a “welsher”—the creature against whose malpractices the sporting public are so emphatically warned? Probably he does not. It is still more unlikely that he ever witnessed a “welsher” hunt; and as I there have the advantage of him, it may not be out of place here to enlighten him on both points. A “welsher” is a person who contracts a sporting debt without a reasonable prospect of paying it. There is no legal remedy against such a defaulter. Although the law to a large extent countenances the practice of betting, and will even go the length of lending the assistance of its police towards keeping such order that a multitude may indulge in its gambling propensities comfortably, it will not recognise as a just debt money owing between two wagerers. It is merely “a debt of honour,” and the law has no machinery that will, apply thereto. The consequence is, that amongst the betting fraternity, when a man shows himself dishonourable, he is punished by the mob that at the time of the discovery of his defalcation may happen to surround him; and with a degree of severity according to the vindictiveness and brutality of the said mob. On the occasion of my witnessing a “welsher hunt,” I was present at the races that in the autumn of 1868 were held in Alexandra-park at Muswell-hill. As the race for the Grand Prize was decided, looking down from the gallery of the stand, I observed a sudden commotion amongst the perspiring, bawling, leather-lunged gentry, who seek whom they may devour, in the betting-ring below, and presently there arose the magical cry of “Welsher!” I have heard the sudden cry of “Fire!” raised in the night, and watched its thrilling, rousing effect on the population; but that was as nothing compared with it. Instantly, and as though moved by one deadly hate and thirst for vengeance, a rush was made towards a man in a black wide-awake cap, and with the regular betting-man’s pouch slung at his side, and who was hurrying towards the gate of the enclosure. “Welsher! welsher!” cried the furious mob of the ring, making at the poor wretch; and in an instant a dozen fists were directed at his head and face, and he was struck down; but he was a biggish man and strong, and he was quickly on his legs, to be again struck down and kicked and stamped on. He was up again, however, without his hat, and with his face a hideous patch of crimson, and hustled towards the gate, plunging like a madman to escape the fury of his pursuers; but the policeman blocked the way, and they caught him again, and some punched at his face, while others tore off his clothes. One ruffian —I cannot otherwise describe him—plucked at the poor devil’s shirt at the breast, and tore away a tattered handful of it, which he flung over to the great yelling crowd now assembled without the rails; another tore away his coat-sleeves, and tossed them aloft; and in the same way he lost his waistcoat and one of his boots. It seemed as though, if they detained him another moment, the man must be murdered, and so the policeman made way for him to escape.
From the frying-pan into the fire. “Welsher! welsher!” The air rang with the hateful word, and, rushing from the gate, he was at once snatched at by the foremost men of the mouthing, yelling mob outside, who flung him down and punched and beat him. Fighting for his life, he struggled and broke away, and ran; but a betting-man flung his tall stool at him, and brought him to earth again for the twentieth time, and again the punching and kicking process was resumed. How he escaped from these was a miracle, but escape he did; and with the desperation of a rat pursued by dogs, dived into an empty hansom cab, and there lay crouched while fifty coward hands were stretched forward to drag him out, or, failing in that, to prog and poke at him with walking-sticks and umbrellas. At last, a mounted policeman spurred his horse forward and came to the rescue, keeping his steed before the place of refuge. Then the furious mob, that was not to be denied, turned on the policeman, and only his great courage and determination saved him from being unhorsed and ill-treated. Then other police came up, and the poor tattered wretch, ghastly, white, and streaming with blood, was hauled out and dragged away insensible, with his head hanging and his legs trailing in the dust, amid the howling and horrible execrations of five thousand Englishmen.
The next consideration was what to do with him. To convey him off the premises was impossible, since a space of nearly a quarter of a mile had to be traversed ere the outer gate could be reached. There was no “lock-up” at the new grand stand, as at Epsom and elsewhere. Nothing remained but to hustle him through a trap-door, and convey him by an underground route to a cellar, in which empty bottles were deposited. And grateful indeed must have been the stillness and the coolness of such a sanctuary after the fierce ordeal he had so recently undergone. Whether water was supplied him to wash his wounds, or if a doctor was sent for, is more than I can say. There he was allowed to remain till night, when he slunk home; and within a few days afterwards a local newspaper briefly announced that the “unfortunate man, who had so rashly roused the fury of the sporting fraternity at Alexandra races, was dead”!
To a close observer of the system that rules at all great horse-racing meetings, nothing is so remarkable as the child-like reliance with which the general public intrusts its bettings to the keeping of the “professionals,” who there swarm in attendance. In the case of the bettors of the “ring” they may be tolerably safe, since it is to the interest of all that the atmosphere of that sacred enclosure, only to be gained at the cost of half-a-guinea or so, should be kept passably sweet. Besides, as was mentioned in the case of the unfortunate “welsher” at Alexandra races, the said enclosure is bounded by high railings; and the salutary effect of catching and killing a “welsher” is universally acknowledged. As regards the betting men themselves, it enables them to give vent to reckless ferocity that naturally waits on disappointed greed, while the public at large are impressed with the fact that strict principles of honour amongst gamblers really do prevail, whatever may have been said to the contrary. But at all the principal races the greatest number of bets, if not the largest amounts of money, are risked outside the magic circle. It is here that the huckster and small pedlar of the betting fraternity conjure with the holiday-making shoemaker or carpenter for his half-crown. For the thousandth time one cannot help expressing amazement that men who have to work so hard for their money—shrewd, hard-headed, sensible fellows as a rule—should part with it on so ludicrously flimsy a pretext. Here—all amongst the refreshment bustle, from which constantly streamed men hot from the beer and spirit counters— swarmed hundreds of these betting harpies; some in carts, but the majority of them perched on a stool, each with a bit of paper, on which some name was printed, stuck on his hat, and with a moneybag slung at his side, and a pencil and a handful of tickets. This was all. As often as not the name and address on the betting man’s hat or money-bag was vaguely expressed as “S. Pipes, Nottingham,” or “John Brown, Oxford-street;” and who Pipes or Brown was not one man in a thousand had the least idea. Nor did they inquire, the silly gulls. It was enough for them they saw a man on a stool, ostensibly a “betting man,” bawling out at the top of his great, vulgar, slangy voice what odds he was prepared to lay on this, that, or t’other; and they flocked round—enticed by terms too good to be by any possibility true, if they only were cool enough to consider for a moment—and eagerly tendered to the rogue on the stool their crowns and half-crowns, receiving from the strange Mr. Pipes or Mr. Brown nothing in exchange but a paltry little ticket with a number on it. This, for the present, concluded the transaction; and off went the acceptor of the betting man’s odds to see the race on which the stake depended. In very many cases the exchange of the little ticket for the money concluded the transaction, not only for the present, but for all future; for, having plucked all the gulls that could be caught, nothing is easier than for Pipes to exchange hats with Brown and to shift their places; and the pretty pair may with impunity renounce all responsibility, and open a book on the next race on the programme. To be sure it is hard to find patience with silly people who will walk into a well; and when they follow the workings of their own free will, it is scarcely too much to say they are not to be pitied. But when a cheat or sharper is permitted standing room that he may pursue his common avocation, which is to cheat and plunder the unwary public, the matter assumes a slightly different complexion.
Of all manner of advertising betting gamblers, however, none are so pernicious, or work such lamentable evil against society, as those who, with devilish cunning, appeal to the young and inexperienced—the factory lad and the youth of the counting-house or the shop. Does anyone doubt if horseracing has attractions for those whose tender age renders it complimentary to style them “young men”? Let him on the day of any great race convince himself. Let him make a journey on the afternoon of “Derby-day,” for instance, to Fleet-street or the Strand, where the offices of the sporting newspapers are situated. It may not be generally known that the proprietors of the Sunday Times, Bell’s Life, and other journals of a sporting tendency, in their zeal to outdo each other in presenting the earliest possible information to the public, are at the trouble and expense of securing the earliest possible telegram of the result of a horserace, and exhibiting it enlarged on a broad-sheet in their shop-windows. Let us take the Sunday Times, for instance. The office of this most respectable of sporting newspapers is situated near the corner of Fleet-street, at Ludgate-hill; and wonderful is the spectacle there to be seen on the afternoon of the great equine contest on Epsom downs. On a small scale, and making allowance for the absence of the living provocatives of excitement, the scene is a reproduction of what at that moment, or shortly since, has taken place on the racecourse itself. Three o’clock is about the time the great race is run at Epsom, and at that time the Fleet-street crowd begins to gather. It streams in from the north, from the east, from the south. At a glance it is evident that the members of it are not idly curious merely. It is not composed of ordinary pedestrians who happen to be coming that way. Butcher-lads, from the neighbouring great meat-market, come bareheaded and perspiring down Ludgate-hill, and at a pace that tells how exclusively their eager minds are set on racing: all in blue working-smocks, and with the grease and blood of their trade adhering to their naked arms, and to their hob-nailed boots, and to their hair. Hot and palpitating they reach the obelisk in the middle of the road, and there they take their stand, with their eyes steadfastly fixed on that at present blank and innocent window that shall presently tell them of their fate.
I mention the butcher-boys first, because, for some unknown reason, they undoubtedly are foremost in the rank of juvenile bettors. In the days when the Fleet-lane betting abomination as yet held out against the police authorities, and day after day a narrow alley behind the squalid houses there served as standing room for as many “professional” betting men, with their boards and money-pouches, as could crowd in a row, an observer standing at one end of the lane might count three blue frocks for one garment of any other colour. But though butcher-boys show conspicuously among the anxious Fleet-street rush on a Derby-day, they are not in a majority by a long way. To bet on the “Derby” is a mania that afflicts all trades; and streaming up Farringdon-street may be seen representatives of almost every craft that practises within the City’s limits. There is the inky printer’s-boy, hot from the “machine-room,” with his grimy face and his cap made of a ream wrapper; there is the jeweller’s apprentice, with his bibbed white apron, ruddy with the powder of rouge and borax; and the paper-stainer’s lad, with the variegated splashes of the pattern of his last “length” yet wet on his ragged breeches; and a hundred others, all hurrying pell-mell to the one spot, and, in nine cases out of ten, with the guilt of having “slipped out” visible on their streaming faces. Take their ages as they congregate in a crowd of five hundred and more (they are expected in such numbers that special policemen are provided to keep the roadway clear), and it will be found that more than half are under the age of eighteen. Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that in the majority of cases a single lad represents a score or more employed in one “office” or factory. They cast lots who shall venture on the unlawful mission, and it has fallen on him. Again, and as before mentioned, the Sunday Times is but one of ten or a dozen sporting newspapers published between Ludgate-hill and St. Clement Danes; and in the vicinity of every office may be met a similar crowd. Let the reader bear these facts in mind, and he may arrive at some faint idea of the prevalence of the horse-gambling evil amongst the rising generation.
The significance of these various facts is plain to the advertising tipster, and he shapes his baits accordingly. He never fails to mention, in apprising his youthful admirers, that, in exchange for the last “good thing,” postage-stamps will be taken. Well enough the cunning unscrupulous villain knows that in the commercial world postage-stamps are articles of very common use, and that at many establishments they are dealt out carelessly, and allowed to lie about in drawers and desks for the “common use.” There is temptation ready to hand! “Send fourteen stamps to Dodger, and receive in return the certain tip as to who will win the Derby.” There are the stamps, and the ink, and the pen, and the envelope, and nothing remains but to apply them to the use Dodger suggests. It is not stealing, at least it does not seem like stealing, this tearing fourteen stamps from a sheet at which everybody in the office has access, and which will be replaced without question as soon as it is exhausted. It is at most only “cribbing.” What is the difference between writing a private note on the office paper and appropriating a few paltry stamps? It would be different if the fourteenpence was in hard money—a shilling and two penny-pieces. No young bookkeeper with any pretensions to honesty would be guilty of stealing money from his master’s office—but a few stamps! Dodger knows this well enough, and every morning quite a bulky parcel of crummy-feeling letters are delivered at his residence in some back street in the Waterloo-road.
This is the way that Dodger angles for “flat-fish” of tender age:
“GREAT RESULTS FROM SMALL EFFORTS!—In order to meet the requirements of those of humble means, W. W—n, of Tavistock-street, is prepared to receive small sums for investment on the forthcoming great events. Sums as low as two-and-sixpence in stamps (uncut) may be sent to the above address, and they will be invested with due regard to our patron’s interest. Recollect that at the present time there are Real Good things in the market at 100 to 1, and that even so small a sum put on such will return the speculator twelve pounds ten shillings, less ten per cent commission, which is Mr. W.’s charge.”
“Faint heart never won a fortune! It is on record that the most renowned Leviathan of the betting world began his career as third-hand in a butcher’s shop! He had a ‘fancy’ for a horse, and was so strongly impressed with the idea that it would win, that he begged and borrowed every farthing he could raise, and even pawned the coat off his back! His pluck and resolution was nobly rewarded. The horse he backed was at 70 to 1, and he found himself after the race the owner of nearly a thousand pounds! Bear this in mind. There are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it. Lose no time in forwarding fourteen stamps to Alpha, John-street, Nottingham; and wait the happy result.”
What is this but a plain and unmistakable intimation, on the part of the advertising blackguard, that his dupes should stick at nothing to raise money to bet on the “forthcoming great event”? Pawn, beg, borrow—anything, only don’t let the chance slip. Butcher-boys, think of the luck of your Leviathan craftsman, and at once take the coat off your back, or if you have not a garment good enough, your master’s coat out of the clothes-closet, and hasten to pawn it. Never fear for the happy result. Long before he can miss it, you will be able to redeem it, besides being in a position to snap your fingers at him, and, if you please, to start on your own “hook” as a bookmaker.
Another of these “youths’ guide to the turf” delicately points out that, if bettors will only place themselves in his hands, he will “pull them through, and land them high and dry,” certainly and surely, and with a handsome return for their investments. “No knowledge of racing matters is requisite on the part of the investor,” writes this quack; “indeed, as in all other business affairs of life, ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ Better trust entirely to one who has made it the one study of his existence, and can read off the pedigree and doings of every horse that for the past ten years has run for money. Large investments are not recommended. Indeed, the beginner should in no case ‘put on’ more than a half-sovereign, and as low as half-a-crown will often be sufficient, and in the hands of a practised person like the advertiser be made to go as far as an injudiciously invested pound or more.
It would be interesting to know in how many instances these vermin of the betting-field are successful, how many of them there are who live by bleeding the simple and the infatuated, and what sort of living it is. Not a very luxurious one, it would seem, judging from the shady quarters of the town from which the “tipster” usually hails; but then we have to bear in mind the venerable maxim, “Light come, light go,” and its probable application to those harpies who hanker after “uncut” stamps and receive them in thousands. That very many of them find it a game worth pursuing, there can be no doubt, or they would not so constantly resort to the advertising columns of the newspapers. How much mischief they really do, one can never learn. The newspaper announcement is, of course, but a preliminary to further business:
you send your stamps, and what you in most cases get in return is not the information for which you imagined you were bargaining, but a “card of terms” of the tipster’s method of doing business. There is nothing new or novel in this. It is an adaptation of the ancient dodge of the medical quack who advertises a “certain cure” for “all the ills that flesh is heir to,” on receipt of seven postage-stamps; but all that you receive for your sevenpence is a printed recipe for the concoction of certain stuffs, “to be had only” of the advertiser.
And well would it be for the gullible public if the mischief done by the advertising fraternity of horseracing quacks was confined to the “fourteen uncut stamps” they have such an insatiable hunger for. There can be no doubt, however, that this is but a mild and inoffensive branch of their nefarious profession. In almost every case they combine with the exercise of their supernatural gift of prophecy the matter-of-fact business of the “commission agent,” and, if rumour whispers true, they make of it at times a business as infernal in its working as can well be imagined. They can, when occasion serves, be as “accommodating” as the loan-office swindler or the 60-per-cent bill-discounter, and a profit superior to that yielded by either of these avocations may be realised, and that with scarce any trouble at all. No capital is required, excepting a considerable stock of impudence and a fathomless fund of coldblooded rascality.
Judging from the fact that the species of villany in question has never yet been exposed in a police-court, it is only fair to imagine that it is a modern invention; on that account I am the more anxious to record and make public an item of evidence bearing on the subject that, within the past year, came under my own observation.
It can be scarcely within the year, though, for it was at the time when an audacious betting gang “squatted” in the vicinity of Ludgate-hill, and, owing to some hitch in the law’s machinery, they could not easily be removed. First they swarmed in Bride-lane, Fleet-street. Being compelled to “move on,” they migrated to a most appropriate site, the waste land on which for centuries stood the infamous houses of Field-lane and West-street, and beneath which flowed the filthy Fleet-ditch. But even this was accounted ground too good to be desecrated by the foot of the gambling blackleg, and they were one fine morning bundled off it by a strong body of City police. After this they made a desperate stand on the prison side of the way in Farringdon-street, and for some months there remained.
It was at this time that I made the acquaintance of the subject of the present little story. I had noticed him repeatedly, with his pale haggard face and his dull eyes, out of which nothing but weariness of life looked. He was a tall slim young fellow, and wore his patched and seedy clothes as though he had been used to better attire; and, despite the tell-tale shabbiness of his boots and his wretched tall black hat, he still clung to the respectable habit of wearing black kid-gloves, though it was necessary to shut his fists to hide the dilapidations at their finger-tips.
He was not remarkable amongst the betting blackguards he mingled with on account of the active share he took in the questionable business in which they were engaged; on the contrary, he seemed quite out of place with them, and though occasionally one would patronise him with a nod, it was evident that he was “nothing to them,” either as a comrade or a gull to be plucked. He appeared to be drawn towards them by a fascination he could not resist, but which he deplored and was ashamed of. It was customary in those times for the prosperous horse-betting gambler to affect the genteel person who could afford to keep a “man,” and to press into his service some poor ragged wretch glad to earn a sixpence by wearing his master’s “card of terms” round his neck for the inspection of any person inclined to do business. The tall shabby young fellow’s chief occupation consisted in wandering restlessly from one of these betting-card bearers to another, evidently with a view to comparing “prices” and “odds” offered on this or that horse; but he never bet. I don’t believe that his pecuniary affairs would have permitted him, even though a bet as low as twopence-halfpenny might be laid.
I was always on the look-out for my miserable-looking young friend whenever I passed that way, ~nd seldom failed to find him. He seemed to possess for me a fascination something like that which horse-betting possessed for him. One afternoon, observing him alone and looking even more miserable than I had yet seen him, as he slouched along the miry pavement towards Holborn, I found means to start a conversation with him. My object was to learn who and what he was, and whether he was really as miserable as he looked, and whether there was any help for him. I was prepared to exercise all the ingenuity at my command to compass this delicate project, but he saved me the trouble. As though he was glad of the chance of doing so, before we were half-way up Holborn-hill he turned the conversation exactly into the desired groove, and by the time the Tottenham-court-Road was reached (he turned down there), I knew even more of his sad history than is here subjoined.
“What is the business pursuit that takes me amongst the betting-men? 0 no, sir, I’m not at all astonished that you should ask the question; I’ve asked it of myself so often, that it doesn’t come new to me. I pursue no business, sir. What business could a wretched scarecrow like I am pursue? Say that I am pursued, and you will be nearer the mark. Pursued by what I can never get away from or shake off; damn it!”
He uttered the concluding wicked word with such decisive and bitter emphasis, that I began to think that he had done with the subject; but he began again almost immediately.
“I wish to the Lord I had a business pursuit! If ever a fellow was tired of his life, I am. Well—yes, I am a young man; but it’s precious small consolation that that fact brings me. Hang it, no! All the longer to endure it. How long have I endured it? Ah, now you come to the point. For years, you think, I dare-say. You look at me, and you think to yourself, ‘There goes a poor wretch who has been on the down-hill road so long that it’s time that he came to the end of it, or made an end to it.’ There you are mistaken. Eighteen months ago I was well dressed and prosperous. I was second clerk to —, the provision merchants, in St. Mary Axe, on a salary of a hundred and forty pounds—rising twenty each year. Now look at me!
“You need not ask me how it came about. You say that you have seen me often in Farringdon-street with the betting-men, so you can give a good guess as to how I came to ruin, I’ll be bound. Yes, sir, it was horse-betting that did my business. No, I did not walk to ruin with my eyes open, and because I liked the road. I was trapped into it, sir, as I’ll be bound scores and scores of young fellows have been. I never had a passion for betting. I declare that, till within the last two years, I never made a bet in my life. The beginning of it was, that, for the fun of the thing, I wagered ten shillings with a fellow-clerk about the Derby that was just about to come off. I never took an interest in horseracing before; but when I had made that bet I was curious to look over the sporting news, and to note the odds against the favourite. One unlucky day I was fool enough to answer the advertisement of a professional tipster. He keeps the game going still, curse him! You may read his name in the papers this morning. If I wasn’t such an infernal coward, you know, I should kill that man. If I hadn’t the money to buy a pistol, I ought to steal one, and shoot the thief. But, what do you think? I met him on Monday, and he chaffed me about my boots. It was raining at the time. ‘I wish I had a pair of waterproofs like yours, Bobby. You’ll never take cold while they let all the water out at the heel they take in at the toe!’ Fancy me standing that after the way he had served me! Fancy this too—me borrowing a shilling of him, and saying ‘Thank you, sir,’ for it! Why, you know, I ought to be pumped on for doing it!
“Yes, I wrote to ‘Robert B—y, Esq., of Leicester,’ and sent the half-crown’s worth of stamps asked for. It doesn’t matter what I got in return. Anyhow, it was something that set my mind on betting, and I wrote again and again. At first his replies were of a distant and business sort; but in a month or so after I had written to him to complain of being misguided by him, he wrote back a friendly note to say that he wasn’t at all surprised to hear of my little failures—novices always did fail. They absurdly attempt what they did not understand. ‘Just to show you the difference,’ said he, ‘just give me a commission to invest a pound for you on the Ascot Cup. All that I charge is seven and a half per cent on winnings. Try it just for once; a pound won’t break you, and it may open your eyes to the way that fortunes are made.’ I ought to have known then, that either he, or somebody in London he had set on, had been making inquiries about me, for the other notes were sent to where mine were directed from—my private lodgings —but this one came to me at the warehouse.
“Well, I sent the pound, and within a week received a postoffice order for four pounds eight as the result of its investment. The same week I bet again—two pounds this time—and won one pound fifteen. That was over six pounds between Monday and Saturday. ‘This is the way that fortunes are made,’ I laughed to myself, like a fool.
“Well, he kept me going, I don’t exactly recollect how, between Ascot and Goodwood, which is about seven weeks, not more. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, but, on the whole, I was in pocket. I was such a fool at last, that I was always for betting more than he advised. I’ve got his letters at home now, in which he says, ‘Pray don’t be rash; take my advice, and bear in mind that great risks mean great losses, as well as great gains, at times.’ Quite fatherly, you know! The infernal scoundrel!
“Well, one day there came a telegram to the office for me. I was just in from my dinner. It was from B—y. ‘Now you may bag a hundred pounds at a shot,’ said he. ‘The odds are short, but the result certain. Never mind the money just now. You are a gentleman, and I will trust you. You know that my motto has all along been ‘Caution.’ Now it is ‘Go in and win.’ It is sure. Send me a word immediately, or it may be too late; and, if you are wise, put a ‘lump’ on it.’
“That was the infernal document—the death-warrant of all my good prospects. It was the rascal’s candour that deceived me. He had all along said, ‘Be cautious, don’t be impatient to launch out;’ and now this patient careful villain saw his chance, and advised, ‘Go in and win.’ I was quite in a maze at the prospect of bagging a hundred pounds. To win that sum the odds were so short on the horse he mentioned, that fifty pounds had to be risked. But he said that there was no risk, and I believed him. I sent him back a telegram at once to execute the commission.
“The horse lost. I knew it next morning before I was up, for I had sent for the newspaper; and while I was in the midst of my fright, up comes my landlady to say that a gentleman of the name of B—y wished to see me.
“I had never seen him before, and he seemed an easy fellow enough. He was in a terrible way—chiefly on my account—though the Lord only knew how much he had lost over the ‘sell.’ He had come up by express purely to relieve my anxiety, knowing how ‘funky’ young gentlemen s.ometimes were over such trifles. Although he had really paid the fifty in hard gold out of his pocket, he was in no hurry for it. He would take my bill at two months. It would be all right, no doubt. He had conceived a liking for me, merely from my straightforward way of writing. Now that he had had the pleasure of seeing me, he shouldn’t trouble himself a fig if the fifty that I owed him was five hundred.
“I declare to you that I knew so little about bills, that I didn’t know how to draw one out; but I was mighty glad to be shown the way and to give it him, and thank him over and over again for his kindness. That was the beginning of my going to the devil. If I hadn’t been a fool, I might have saved myself even then, for I had friends who would have lent or given me twice fifty pounds if I had asked them for it. But I was a fool. In the course of a day or two I got a note from B—y, reminding me that the way out of the difficulty was by the same path as I had got into one, and that a little judicious ‘backing’ would set me right before even my bill fell due. And I was fool enough to walk into the snare. I wouldn’t borrow to pay the fifty pounds, but I borrowed left and right, of my mother, of my brothers, on all manner of lying pretences, to follow the ‘advice’ B—y was constantly sending me. When I came to the end of their forbearance, I did more than borrow; but that we won’t speak of. In five months from the beginning, I was without a relative who would own me or speak to me, and without an employer—cracked up, ruined. And there’s B—y, as I said before, wlth his white hat cocked on one side of his head, and his gold toothpick, chaffing me about my old boots. What do I do for a living? Well, I’ve told you such a precious lot, I may as well tell you that too. Where I lodge it’s a ‘leaving-shop,’ and I keep her ‘book’ for her. That’s how I get a bit of breakfast and supper and a bed to lie on.”
[Since the above was written, the police, under the energetic guidance of their new chief, have been making vigorous and successful warfare against public gamblers and gambling agents. The “spec” dodge has been annihilated, “betting-shops” have been entered and routed, and there is even fair promise that the worst feature of the bad business, that which takes refuge behind the specious cloak of the “commission-agent,” may be put down. That it may be so, should be the earnest wish of all right-thinking men, who would break down this barrier of modern and monstrous growth, that blocks the advancement of social purity, and causes perhaps more ruin and irreparable dismay than any other two of the Curses herein treated of.