« PreviousContinue »
received upon the whole pounds.'
near one thousand So remarkable a display of knowledge on the part of an outsider called attention to the volunteer expert. The clerk remembered Mathison as a frequent changer of notes; and this incident led to his apprehension and subsequent conviction. He offered, if his life were spared, to reveal the secret of his process for imitating the watermark; but the offer was not accepted, and he suffered the usual penalty for his offence.
The numbers of the notes issued had, in usual course, been taken down, and it may be imagined that their return was watched for with much interest. At last one of them was presented, and was traced to a highly respectable silversmith. He was interrogated, and stated that he received the note from a gentleman who gave frequent entertainments on a grand scale, and was in the habit of hiring plate in large quantities of him for that purpose. A police officer was stationed in the house; and at his next visit the hospitable customer was arrested, and was found to be the forger who had so long baffled all attempts to discover him.
In the year 1797, in consequence of a scarcity of gold, the Bank of England was for the first time authorised to issue one-pound notes, and this led to an enormous increase in the number of forgeries. During six years prior to this date there had been but one capital conviction for forgery. During the four years next following this issue of the one-pound note there were eightyfive. This was doubtless attributable to the increased number of notes in circulation, the freedom with which they passed from hand to hand, the length of time during which they circulated without presentation, and the fact that, unlike the five-pound notes, their circulation was not confined to the well-to-do and educated classes, but was in a great degree among poor and ignorant persons, who were not likely to detect a spurious imitation. In 1808, the police unearthed, at Birmingham, a regular factory of these notes, whence they were issued wholesale at six shillings in the pound on their nominal value. The forgers, thirteen in number, were arrested; and notes to the amount of ten thousand pounds were seized on the premises.
This man, Charles Price, the son of a slopseller in St Giles', had in his time 'played many parts.' He first appears as a runaway apprentice; then as a gentleman's servant, in which capacity he travelled all over Europe, and doubtless picked up much useful information. He then started as a brewer, became bankrupt; then a distiller, and was sent to the King's Bench Prison for defrauding the revenue. He then turned brewer again; then lottery-office keeper; then stockbroker; again became bankrupt; and then opened another lottery office, this, his last public venture, being in King Street, Covent Garden. From this date (1780) he disappears from public life, preferring thenceforth to blush unseen,' and to devote his whole energies to his lucrative warfare against the money-bags of the Bank of England. His only assistants were his wife and a Mrs Pounteney, In the meantime, a fraud of even greater magnia relative of his wife, in whose house he executed tude had been perpetrated within the Bank itself the mechanical part of his forgeries, and who acted by one of its most trusted servants. In 1803, a as a spy to watch the person employed to utter Mr Bish, a stockbroker, was instructed by Mr the notes, that Price might be warned in time Robert Astlett, cashier of the Bank of England, of any hitch in the proceedings. When Price to dispose of some Exchequer bills, which, from was taken, he made a full confession. It certain circumstances, Bish knew to be in the appeared that during the five years 1780-1785, official custody of the Bank. His suspicions he had passed under no less than fifty different being thus aroused, he communicated with the names, and nearly as many different disguises. directors; and it was found that Astlett, who Now, however, the game was up, and Price felt had charge of all Exchequer bills brought into that it was so. Before the date at which he the Bank, and should have transferred them, in should have been brought to trial, he hanged parcels properly docketed, to the custody of the himself in his cell. directors, had succeeded in diverting a large Another eminent forger was John Mathison, ori-number of them to his own uses, his defalcaginally a watchmaker at Gretna Green. Having tions amounting to no less than Three hundred acquired, as a recreation, the art of engraving, and twenty thousand pounds. Astlett was tried he developed unusual skill therein. He had also an extraordinary facility for imitating handwriting. These accomplishments he employed in imitating, first, the notes of the Darlington Bank, then those of the Royal Bank of Edinburgh; and finally, coming to London, he began upon the notes of the Bank of England. As a proof of his extraordinary energy, we may mention that within ten days of his arrival in London, he had begun to utter forged notes, having in the meantime bought the copper, engraved the plates, forged the watermark, and printed the He paid frequent visits to the Bank, exchanging gold for notes, or notes of one denomination for another, to serve as models for his fraudulent imitations. On one of these occasions a large sum of money was being paid in by the Excise. A question was raised by the teller as to the goodness of one of the notes. Mathison, standing by, pronounced, without hesitation, that it was a good one, which proved to be the case.
for his offence, and was sentenced to death; but the sentence was never carried into effect. The prisoner remained in Newgate for many years; but whether he died in prison, we do not find recorded.
Passing over the great Stock Exchange frauds of 1814, as a matter in which the Bank was only indirectly interested, we come to the forgeries of Fauntleroy, which, from their magnitude and the position of the offender, produced an extraordinary sensation. Henry Fauntleroy had succeeded his father as a partner in the banking firm of Marsh, Stracy, & Co. The firm was unfortunate; and Fauntleroy speculated largely on the Stock Exchange in the hope of improving its fortunes, but actually involved himself thereby in still greater difficulties. To meet these, he forged Powers of Attorney enabling him to deal with funded securities belonging to various clients, from time to time replacing one fund by the proceeds of a later forgery. He began in
May 1815 with a power of attorney empowering Messrs Marsh & Co. to sell out a sum of three thousand pounds consols. It is an everyday occurrence for clients to give such powers to their bankers, and the one in question appeared to be in perfect order. It purported to be executed by the fundholder, one Frances Young, of Chichester, and to be attested by two of the clerks of Messrs Marsh & Co. The power was presented at the Bank of England. There was nothing to excite suspicion, and the document was acted on in ordinary course. From this date up to 1824, the presentation of such powers by Messrs Marsh & Co. became a matter of frequent occurrence, and very large sums were thus obtained. At last a crash came. Henry Fauntleroy was joint trustee with some other gentlemen of certain moneys invested in the three per cents. One of the trustees chancing to call at the Bank to make some inquiry respecting the trust fund, found, to his horror, that it had been sold out, under an alleged power of attorney, by Mr Fauntleroy. In consequence of his communication to the Bank authorities, the whole of the powers acted upon by Marsh & Co. were investigated, and a great part of them were found to be forged. On the 9th of September 1824, Fauntleroy was arrested in his own banking-house. He offered the officer who arrested him ten thousand pounds if he would connive at his escape; but in vain. On searching his private office, a box was found containing a long list of forgeries, with a memorandum in the following words: In order to keep up the credit of our house, I have forged powers of attorney, and have therefore sold out all these sums, without the knowledge of any of my partners. I have given credit in the accounts for the interest when it became due. (Signed) HENRY FAUNTLEROY.' It is said that at the moment of his apprehension he had ready a fresh power of attorney, by means of which he would have been enabled to replace the stock whose absence led to the discovery. The amount of loss to the Bank of England by Fauntleroy's forgeries is said to have been no less than Three hundred and sixty thousand pounds! He was executed at Newgate on November 30, 1824.
For some years after this date, forgery continued to be a capital offence; but there was a growing feeling against the severity of the punishment. In 1832 a Bill was passed abolishing the capital penalty in the case of all forgeries save those of wills and powers of attorney; and in 1837 these also ceased to be capital offences.
In 1844, a very ingenious fraud was perpetrated, with the curious result of restoring to the rightful owner a large sum of money of whose very existence she was not aware. In the year 1815, a Mr Slack died, leaving a Mr Hulme his executor. Mr Hulme, in the course of his duties as such, transferred into the name of Ann Slack, of Smith Street, Chelsea, six thousand six hundred pounds consols, and three thousand five hundred pounds three per cent. reduced annuities. During Mr Hulme's lifetime, he received the dividends on both funds, and Miss Slack drew on him for money as she needed it. Upon his death in 1832, Miss Slack resolved thenceforth to receive her dividends herself, but only did so as regarded the six thousand six hundred pounds consols, not
being aware, apparently, that she was also entitled to the three thousand five hundred pounds. This state of things continued from 1832 to 1842, when the three thousand five hundred pounds reduced annuities, with ten years' dividends, were transferred, as unclaimed, to the Commissioners for the reduction of the National Debt. The fact of the transfer being known to a clerk in the Bank, one William Christmas, he communicated it to one Joshua Fletcher, who forthwith concocted a scheme for possessing himself of the amount. With the aid of a solicitor named Barber, he ascertained that Ann Slack was still alive, and managed to obtain a specimen of her signature. He then registered Ann Slack as deceased, first, however, forging a will in her name purporting to bequeath the sum in question to a supposed niece, Emma Slack. This will was duly proved, and the probate lodged at the Bank of England. A woman named Sanders personated the supposed Emma Slack. The three thousand five hundred pounds was sold out, and the proceeds paid to her, together with the unclaimed dividends, amounting to about eleven hundred pounds. The conspirators had carried their plan through very cleverly; but they had overlooked one point. The will only professed to bequeath the reduced annuities, and consequently these only had been dealt with; but as the Bank authorities knew that Ann Slack had also possessed a fund in consols, they, in accordance with their usual practice, placed 'deceased' against her name in the title of that account. When an account is 'dead'—that is, stands in the name of a deceased person-no addition can be made to it. Slack, shortly afterwards, desiring to add more stock to this account, was informed, to her astonishment, that she was dead. To prove that she was not so, she presented herself at the Bank with ample proof of her identity. Fletcher and Barber were tried, and found guilty. The money was gone; but Ann Slack notwithstanding received her full due, the loss being borne by the government.
The last great fraud by which the Bank of England has been a sufferer was that of Austin Bidwell and his accomplices. On the 18th of April 1872, Austin Bidwell called upon a tailor named Green, in Savile Row, and under the assumed name of Warren, gave him a handsome order. On May 4, he paid Mr Green another visit. He was then professedly on his way to Ireland, and having about him a large sum of money, asked Green to take charge of it during his absence. Green hesitated to take the responsibility, but remarked that the branch Bank of England was in Burlington Gardens close by, and offered to introduce Warren there. This was done; and Warren opened an account by a deposit of twelve hundred pounds. He gave his name as 'Frederick Albert Warren,' and his address as Golden Cross Hotel. He paid in and drew out moneys to a considerable amount, and shortly began to offer bills for discount. They bore the best of names, and were discounted without hesitation. On the 17th of June 1873, a bill of Rothschild's for four thousand five hundred pounds was offered, and was discounted in due course.
Having thus gained, by transactions in genuine
bills, the confidence of the Bank authorities, the supposed Warren commenced operations of another kind. Bills came in thick and fast for discount, still bearing the same first-class names-Rothschild, Blydenstein, Suse and Sibeth, &c.; but they were now cleverly executed forgeries. The Bank continued to discount without suspicion. Naturally, however, it paid in its own notes, of which the numbers were recorded, and which, when it was discovered that the bills were forged, would be difficult to realise. Bidwell, in order to dispose of these and to diminish the chances of identification, opened an account in another name (Horton) at the Continental Bank. Here he paid in the notes received from the Bank of England, taking French and German money in exchange; Hillsunder the name of Noyes-acting as his clerk. Sometimes, by way of variety, Hills changed notes into gold at the Bank of England itself, alleging that the coin was for export; but the gold so obtained was brought back again by Macdonnell, and exchanged for fresh notes, which, thus obtained, would have no obvious connection with the original fraud. George Bidwell undertook what may be called the manufacturing department, namely, the preparation of the plates, and the printing of the bill-forms for the forgeries. By thus dividing their labours, and working each in a distinct department of the fraud, the gang hoped to evade discovery until they had made what they regarded as a sufficient haul, when they would doubtless have retired to foreign climes to enjoy the fruits of their labours. How much further they would have gone it is impossible to say, for they had already offered forged bills to the amount of £102,217, 19s. 7d., when a happy oversight led to their detection. Two bills for one thousand pounds each, professedly accepted by Messrs Blydenstein, and payable three months after 'sight,' were not sighted—that is, the date of acceptance was not inserted. A clerk of the Bank was sent to Messrs Blydenstein's to get the omission rectified, and was met by the startling information that the bills were forgeries. With some little trouble, the whole of the gang were arrested, and after a trial lasting eight days, were convicted, and sentenced to penal servitude.
The cases we have described afford an unusually forcible illustration of the good old-fashioned maxim, that 'Honesty is the Best Policy.' If dishonesty ever were a paying game, it should be in the case of such men as these, with so much ability employed, playing for such heavy stakes, and with schemes so carefully planned. And yet, what must the life of such a schemer be? Fauntleroy, we are told, did for years the work of three clerks, in order to conceal his frauds. Fare as sumptuously, entertain as lavishly as he may, the schemer must live with every nerve strained, in constant dread of detection, ever feeling the thief-taker's hand on his collar, the steel of the handcuffs upon his wrists. In most instances, he does not derive even a transient benefit from his crime. Where there is a temporary success, as in the case of Fauntleroy, the proceeds of one forgery are perforce devoted to make good another, or the money gained by fraud is squandered in unprofitable speculations. And sooner or later, the end is sure to come. The most watchful of men cannot be always on his guard. Some day, a little slip is made, perhaps
the mere omission of a date, as in Bidwell's case, or an incautious remark, as in that of Mathison, and then-the dock and a violent death, or, even under the present merciful régime, long years spent in the convict's garb, living on convict's fare, and herding with the very dregs of humanity.
A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF. BY MRS OLIPHANT.
WHEN one has made up one's mind to reopen a painful subject after dinner, the preliminary meal is not usually a very pleasant one; nor, with the trouble of preparation in one's mind, is one likely to make a satisfactory dinner. Frances could not talk about anything. She could not eat; her mind was absorbed in what was coming. It seemed to her that she must speak; and yet how gladly would she have escaped from or postponed the explanation. Explanation! Possibly, he would only smile and baffle her as he had done before; or perhaps be angry, which would be better. Anything would be better than that indifference.
She went out to the loggia when dinner was over, trembling with the sensation of suspense. It was still not dark, and the night was clear with the young moon already shining, so that between the retiring day and the light of the night it was almost as clear as it had been two hours before. Frances sat down, shivering a little, though not with cold. Usually, her father accompanied or immediately followed her; but by some perversity, he did not do so tonight. She seated herself in her usual place, and waited, listening for every sound; that is, for sounds of one kind-his slow step coming along the polished floor, here soft and muffled over a piece of carpet, there loud upon the parquet. But for some time, during which she rose into a state of feverish expectation, there was no such sound.
It was nearly half an hour, according to her calculation, probably not half so much by common computation of time, when one or two doors were opened and shut quickly and a sound of voices met her ear-not sounds, however, which had any but a partial interest for her, for they did not indicate his approach. After a while there followed the sound of a footstep; but it was not Mr Waring's; it was not Domenico's subdued tread, nor the measured march of Mariuccia. It was light, quick, and somewhat uncertain. Frances was half disappointed, half relieved. Some one was coming, but not her father. It would be impossible to speak to him to-night. The relief was uppermost; she felt it through her whole being. Not to-night; and no one can ever tell what to-morrow may bring forth. She looked up no longer with anxiety, but curiosity, as the door opened. It opened quickly; some one looked out, as if to see where it led, then, with a slight exclamation of satisfaction, stepped out upon the loggia into the partial light.
Frances rose up quickly, with the curious sensation of acting over something which she had rehearsed before; she did not know where or how. It was the girl whom she had remarked
on the Marina, as having just arrived, who Frances stood thunderstruck, gazing, listening, now stood here, looking about her curiously, as if eyes and ears alike fooled her. She did with her travelling cloak fastened only at the not seem to know the meaning of the words. throat, her gauze veil thrown up about her They could not, she said to herself, mean what hat. This new-comer came in quickly, not with they seemed to mean-it was impossible. There the timidity of a stranger. She came out must be some wonderful, altogether unspeakable into the centre of the loggia, where the light blunder. 'I don't understand,' she said again fell fully round her, and showed her tall slight in a piteous tone. It must be some mistake.' figure, the fair hair clustering in her neck, a The other girl fixed her eyes upon her certain languid grace of movement, which her in the waning light. She had not paid so energetic entrance curiously belied. Frances waited for some form of apology or self-introduction, prepared to be very civil, and feeling in reality pleased, and almost grateful for the interruption.
But the young lady made no statement. She put her hands up to her throat and loosed her cloak with a little sigh of relief. She undid the veil from her hat. Thank heaven, I have got here at last, free of those people!' she said, putting herself sans façon into Mr Waring's chair, and laying her hat upon the little table. Then she looked up at the astonished girl, who stood looking on in a state of almost consternation.
'Are you Frances?' she said; but the question was put in an almost indifferent tone.
'Yes; I am Frances. But I don't know'Frances was civil to the bottom of her soul, polite, incapable of hurting any one's feelings. She could not say anything disagreeable; she could not demand brutally, Who are you? and what do you want here?
'I thought so,' said the stranger; and, oddly enough, I saw you this afternoon, and wondered if it could be you. You are a little like mamma. -I am Constance, of course,' she added, looking up with a half-smile. We ought to kiss each other, I suppose, though we can't care much about each other. Can we ?-Where is papa?' Frances had no breath to speak; she could not say a word. She looked at the new-comer with a gasp. Who was she? And who was papa? Was it some strange mistake which had brought her here? But then the question, Are you Frances?' showed that it could not be a mistake.
'I beg your pardon,' she said; 'I don't understand. This is-Mr Waring's. You are looking for-your father?'
'Yes, yes,' cried the other impatiently. know. You can't imagine I should have come here and taken possession if I had not made sure first! You are well enough known in this little place. There was no trouble about it.— And the house looks nice, and this must be a fine view when there is light to see it by. -But where is papa? They told me he was always to be found at this hour.'
Frances felt the blood ebb to her very fingerpoints, and then rush back like a great flood to her heart. She scarcely knew where she was standing or what she was saying in her great bewilderment. 'Do you mean-my father?" she said.
The other girl answered with a laugh: 'You are very particular. I mean our father, if you prefer it. Your father-my father. What does it matter? Where is he? Why isn't he here? It seems he must introduce us to each other. I did not think of any such formality. I thought you would have taken me for granted,' she said.
much attention to Frances at first as to the new place and scene. She looked at her now with the air of weighing her in some unseen balance and finding her wanting, with impatience and half contempt. I thought you would have been glad to see me,' she said; but the world seems just the same in one place as another. Because I am in distress at home, you don't want me here.'
Then Frances felt herself goaded, galled into the matter-of-fact question, Who are you?' though she felt that she would not believe the answer she received.
'Who am I? Don't you know who I am? Who should I be but Con-Constance Waring, your sister? Where,' she cried, springing to her feet and stamping one of them upon the ground -'where, where is papa?'
The door opened again behind her softly, and Mr Waring with his soft step came out. Did I hear some one calling for me?' he said.—' Frances, it is not you, surely, that are quarrelling with your visitor?-I beg the lady's pardon; I cannot see who it is.'
The stranger turned upon him with impatience in her tone. 'It was I who called,' she said. I thought you were sure to be here. Father, I have always heard that you were kinda kind man, they all said; that was why I came, thinking- I am Constance!' she added after a pause, drawing herself up and facing him with something of his own gesture and attitude. She was tall, not much less than he was; very unlike little Frances. Her slight figure seemed to draw out as she raised her head and looked at him. She was not a suppliant. Her whole air was one of indignation that she should be subjected to a moment's doubt.
"Constance!' said Mr Waring. The daylight was gone outside; the moon had got behind a fleecy white cloud; behind those two figures there was a gleam of light from within, Domenico having brought in the lamp into the drawingroom. He stepped backward, opening the glass door. 'Come in,' he said, 'to the light."
Frances came last, with a great commotion in her heart, but very still externally. She felt herself to have sunk into quite a subordinate place. The other two, they were the chief figures. She had now no explanation to ask, no questions to put, though she had a thousand; but everything was in the background, everything inferior. The chief interest was with the others now.
Constance stepped in after him with a proud freedom of step, the air of one who was mistress of herself and her fate. She went up to the table on which the tall lamp stood, her face on a level with it, fully lighted up by it. She held her hat in her hand, and played with it with a careless yet half-nervous gesture. Her fair hair was short and clustered in her neck and about
'I don't suppose that you have any doubt I am Constance,' said the girl, flinging her hat on the table and herself into a chair. It is a very curious way to receive one, though, after such a long journey-such a tiresome long journey,' she repeated with a voice into which a querulous tone of exhaustion had come.
Mr Waring sat down too in the immediate centre of the light. He had not kissed her nor approached her, save by the momentary touch of their hands. It was a curious way to receive a stranger, a daughter. She lay back in her chair, as if wearied out, and tears came to her eves. I should not have come, if I had known,' she said with her lip quivering. I am very tired. I put up with everything on the journey, thinking, when I came here- And I am more a stranger here than anywhere!' She paused, choking with the half-hysterical fit of crying which she would not allow to overcome her. 'She knows nothing about me!' she cried with a sharp pain, as if this was the last blow. Frances in her bewilderment did not know what to do or say. She looked at her father; but his face was dumb, and gave her no suggestion; and then she looked at the new-comer, who lay back with her head against the back of the chair, her eyes closed, tears forcing their way through her eyelashes, her slender white throat convulsively struggling with a sob. The mind of Frances had been shaken by a sudden storm of feelings unaccustomed; a throb of something which she did not understand, which was jealousy, though she neither knew nor intended it, had gone through her being. She seemed to see herself cast forth from her easy supremacy, her sway over her father's house, deposed from her principal place. And she was only human. Already she was conscious of a downfall. Constance had drawn the interest towards herself-it was the to whom every eye would turn. The girl stood apart for a moment, with that inevitable movement which has been in the bosom of so many since the well-behaved brother of the Prodigal put it in words, 'Now that this thy son has come. Constance, so far as Frances knew, was no prodigal; but she was what was almost Worse-a stranger, and yet the honours of the house were to be hers. She stood thus, looking on, until the sight of the suppressed sob, of the closed eyes, of the weary, hopeless attitude, were too much for her. Then it came suddenly into her mind, If she is Constance! Frances had not known half an hour before that there was any Constance who had a right to her sympathy in the world. She gave her father another questioning look, but got no reply from his eyes. Whatever had to be done must be done by herself. She went up to the chair in which her sister lay and touched her on the shoulder. If we had known you were coming,' she said, 'it would have been different. It is a little your fault not to let us
know. I should have gone to meet you; I should have made your room ready. We have nothing ready, because we did not know.'
Constance sat suddenly up in her chair and shook her head, as if to shake off the emotion that had been too much for her. 'How sensible you are,' she said. 'Is that your character ?-She is quite right, isn't she? But I did not think of that. I suppose I am impetuous, as people say. I was unhappy, and I thought you would— receive me with open arms. It is evident I am not the sensible one.' She said this with still a quiver in her lip, but also a smile, pushing back her chair, and resuming the unconcerned air which she had worn at first.
Frances is quite right. You ought to have written and warned us,' said Mr Waring. "O yes; there are so many things that one ought to do!'
But we will do the best for you, now you are here. Mariuccia will easily make a room ready. Where is your baggage? Domenico can go to the railway, to the hotel, wherever you have come from.
'My box is outside the door. I made them bring it. The woman-is that Mariuccia ?— would not take it in. But she let me come in. She was not suspicious. She did not say, "If you are Constance." And here she laughed, with a sound that grated upon Mr Waring's He jumped up suddenly from his
He turned round and looked at Frances, who, feeling that an entire circle of new emotions, unknown to her, had come into being at a bound, stood with a passive, frightened look, spectator of everything, not knowing how to adapt herself to the new turn of affairs.
'By Jove!' her father said, with an air of exasperation she had never seen in him before, 'that is true! But I had never noticed it. Even Frances. You've come to set us all by the ears.'
'O no! I'll tell you, if you like, why I came. Mamma-has been more aggravating than usual. I said to myself you would be sure to understand what that meant. And something arose-I will tell you about it after a complication, something that mamma insisted I should do, though I had made up my mind not to do it.'
'You had better,' said her father, with a smile, take care what ideas on that subject you put into your sister's head.'
Constance paused, and looked at Frances with a look which was half-scrutinising, half-contemptuous. 'Oh, she is not like me,' she said. Mamma was very aggravating, as you know she can be. She wanted meBut I'll tell you after.' And then she began: 'I hope, because you live in Italy, papa, you don't think you ought to be a medieval parent; but that sort of thing in Belgravia, you know, is too ridiculous. It was so out of the question, that it was some time before I understood. It was not exactly