A Profligate Apprentice who murdered a Fellow-Servant, was executed twice, and finally buried 28th of October, 1668
THIS unhappy wretch was born of very honest parents in the parish of St Giles's in the Fields, and between fourteen and fifteen years of age bound apprentice to one Mr Collins, a vintner, at the Ship Tavern at Ratcliff Cross, with whom he led but a very loose and profligate sort of life for about two years.
Breaking the Sabbath (by his own confession, he having never once heard a whole sermon during that time) was the first inlet to all his other vices, especially whoredom, drunkenness and theft, for he used commonly to pass away the Sabbaths at a bawdy-house in Ratcliff Highway with one Hannah Blay, a vile common strumpet, who was the cause of his ruin, and brought him to his shameful end.
He was carried at first to drink there by an acquaintance, who afterwards went to sea; but having once found the way, he went after that alone, without his companion, and would often carry a bottle or two of wine to junket with her. This, however, not satisfying her wicked desires, she told him frequently that if he would enjoy her company he must bring good store of money with him. To this he always replied that he could bring none but his master's, and that he had never wronged him of twopence in his life. Nevertheless she still continued urging him to rob him privately, but he answered he could. not, because the maid was always at home with him. "Hang her, a jade!" said this limb of the devil; "knock her brains out, and I'll receive the money, and go anywhere with you beyond sea, to avoid the stroke of justice."
She was often giving him this bad advice and preaching this infernal doctrine, and she repeated it in particular on the very day when he unhappily took her counsel and perpetrated the murder; for being at her house in the morning, she made him drunk with burnt brandy, and he wanting a groat to pay his reckoning, she again persuaded him to knock the maid's brains out, and bring her what money he could find.
Hereupon he went home, between twelve and one o'clock, and seeing his master standing at the street door did not dare to go in that way, but climbed over a wall, and getting in at the back door went into the room where his fellow- servants were at dinner. "Oh, sirrah," said the maid to him, you have been now at the bawdy-house; you will never leave it till you are utterly ruined thereby."
These words provoked him highly, and he was so much enraged at her that from that moment the devil took firm possession of him, and he fully resolved, even while he was at dinner, to be her butcher. Accordingly, when his master with the rest of the family were gone to church, leaving only the maid and Tom Savage at home, he went into the bar and fetched a hammer, with which he began to make a great noise, as he sat by the fire, by knocking on the bellows. Hereupon says the maid to him: "Sure the boy is mad! Sirrah, what do you make this noise for?"
To this he made no answer, but going to the kitchen- window began to knock and make the same noise there, of which the maid then taking no notice, he, to provoke her, got on the clean dresser, and walked up and down thereon several times with his dirty shoes. This piece of malice exasperating the maid, so that she scolded at him pretty heartily, he threw the hammer at her suddenly with such violence that, hitting her on the head, it felled her to the ground, and she shrieked out. He then went and took up the hammer, intending to repeat the blow, but laid it down again thrice, not being yet hardened enough in cruelty to strike her any more; but at last, taking it up the fourth time, the devil had then gained such an absolute mastery over him that he gave her several strokes with all the force he could, and quickly dispatched her out of the world.
The inhuman wretch, having perpetrated this hellish piece of barbarity, immediately broke open a cupboard in his master's chamber, and taking out a bag, wherein was about sixty pounds, hid it under his coat, and went out at a back door directly away to Hannah Blay again. When he came there, and informed her what he had done, the cunning slut, who was hardened in wickedness, would fain have had the money from him; but he would part with no more than half-a-crown, which having given her, he went away without the least remorse for what he had done.
But he had not gone very far, when, meeting with a stile, he sat down thereon to rest himself, and then began to reflect on the horrid deed he had perpetrated, and to cry out to himself, "Lord, what have I done!" wishing that he could have recalled the fatal blows, even at the price of ten thousand worlds, if so many had been in his power. After this he was in so much horror and dread of mind that he stirred not a step but he thought everyone he met came to apprehend him.
That night he reached Greenwich, where he took up his lodging, telling the people of the house he was going to Gravesend; but being got to bed he could not sleep, through the terror of a guilty conscience, but got up again, and walked about the room for several hours. Next morning the mistress of the house, perceiving he had a large quantity of money in a bag not sealed up, began to examine him about it, doubting he came not by it honestly. Hereupon, to avoid her just suspicion, he told her he was carrying it down to Gravesend to his master, who was a wine-cooper, and lived on London Bridge; and that if she would not believe she might send to his mistress, and in the meantime he would leave the money in her hands.
This was agreed upon, and accordingly he wrote a note himself to his pretended mistress, which was to be carried by some people who were then going to London, whilst he went his way, wandering towards Woolwich, where he was in the shipyard much about the time the hue and cry came to Greenwich of a murder committed at Ratcliff Cross by a youth upon a maid, who was his fellow-servant; and that he had also robbed his master of a bag of money. Upon this news the mistress of the house where he had lain presently concluded that it was the same youth who had lodged there, and that the bag he had left with her was that whereof he had robbed his master. Hereupon she immediately dispatched several men in search of him, who found him asleep in an ale-house, with his head upon a table and a pot of beer by him. Upon this, one of the men, calling him by his name, said: "Tom, did you not live at Ratcliff?" He answered Yes. "And did not you murder your fellow-servant?" He answered likewise in the affirmative. "And you took so much money from your master?" He acknowledged all. "Then," continued he, "you must go along with us." To which he replied: "Yes, with all my heart." Accordingly they went forthwith to Greenwich, to the house where he had lain the night before.
By the time he got thither his master and some friends had arrived there likewise, who exaggerated to him the barbarity of the fact, wherewith he was not much affected at first, though a little after he burst out into tears. From thence he was carried back to Ratcliff, and had before a Justice of Peace, who committed him to Newgate.
Being now in safe custody, he was visited by one Mr Baker, to whom, after some little acquaintance, he gave the foregoing account; and he found him at first but little sensible of the heinousness of the crime he had committed. But the next time, asking him whether he was sorry for the fact, he answered with tears in his eyes, wringing his hands, and striking his breast, "Yes, sir; for it cuts me to the heart to think that I should take away the life of an innocent creature; and that is not all, but for anything I know, I have sent her soul to hell. Oh I how can I think of appearing before God's tribunal, when she shall stand before me and say, 'Lord, this wretch took away my life, and gave me not the least time to consider of the state of my soul, that so I might have repented of my sins, and have turned to Thee; he gave me no warning at all, Lord.' Oh, then, what will become of me?"
He was then visited by Mr Robert Franklyn, Mr Thomas Vincent, Mr Thomas Doolittle and Mr James Janeway, who asked him if he was the person that murdered the maid at Ratcliff. To which he answered Yes. Hereupon they endeavoured to set the sin home upon his conscience, telling him the danger he was in, not only of a temporal but of an eternal death, without true repentance, and a sincere and strong faith.
The day he went down to the sessions his fellow-prisoners gave him something to drink, which very much disordered him; and Hannah Blay, whom he had accused, and who was taken into custody thereupon, was heard to say to him: "Others have made you drunk to- day, but I will make thee drunk to-morrow." He lamented this backsliding grievously, but said that it was not the quantity he had drunk, which was much less than he was able to drink at other times without being in the least disordered, but it was something they had infused into his liquor to intoxicate his senses; which made him ever afterwards very cautious and fearful of drinking in their company.
After he had received sentence of death he was again visited by Mr Baker; and the Saturday before his execution he was again with him, when Savage said to him, taking him by the hand, "Oh, my dear friend, come hither." Then opening his coffin, "Look here," continued he, "this is the ship wherein I must launch out into the ocean of eternity. Is it not a terrible thing to see one's own coffin and burial clothes, when at the same time (as to my bodily health) I am every whit as well as you?"
On the Sunday, expecting to be executed next day, he desired to be alone and spent it in prayer and other religious duties. Next morning the sheriff's men and cart came for him, but the Sheriff of Middlesex not having notice, it was deferred till Wednesday, when, invoking upon his clothes that he had put on to die in, he said: "What! have I got on my dying clothes? Dying clothes, did I say? They are my living clothes, the clothes out of which I shall go into eternal glory. They are the best clothes that ever I put on!"
Being brought to the place of execution at Ratcliff Cross, he made a short speech, wherein he exhorted people, both old and young, to take warning by his untimely end how they offended against the laws of God and man. After which, having said a very pathetic prayer, and breathed forth such pious ejaculations as drew tears from the eyes of the beholders, he was turned off the cart, and struggled for a while, heaving up his body. Which a young man, his friend, perceiving, he struck him several blows upon his breast with all his strength, to put him out of his pain, till no motion could be perceived in him. Wherefore after he had hung a considerable time, and was to all appearance dead, the people moving away, the sheriff ordered him to be cut down, when, being received into the arms of some of his friends, he was conveyed into a house not far from the place of execution. There being laid upon a table, he began, to the astonishment of the beholders, to breathe, and rattle in the throat, so that it was evident life was whole in him. Hereupon he was carried from thence to a bed in the same house, where he breathed more strongly, and opened his eyes and mouth, though his teeth were set before, and he offered to speak, but could not recover the use of his tongue.
However, his reviving being blazed abroad within an hour, the sheriff's officers came to the house where he was, and carrying him back to the place of execution, hung him up again till he was really dead. After which his body was carried by his mourning friends to Islington, and buried on 28th of October, 1668, being seventeen years of age.