A Highwayman who shot a Woman before the Eyes of her Husband for the Wedding-Ring she had swallowed. Executed in 1687
THIS unhappy gentleman was born at Thetford, in the county of Norfolk. His father was an eminent surgeon in that place, and very careful of his son's education. After a course of grammar learning, Will was sent to the University of Cambridge, where he was servitor to the father of the present Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Townshend, at that time a student in Trinity College. He profited so well as in time to be made Bachelor of Arts, and continued at his studies till the death of his father. The decease of a parent to a young gentleman, as Cady was, is often the crisis of fortune and the time that fixes his future fate. When a man becomes his own master, we learn in what he places his happiness, and what has before given a prevailing turn to his thoughts then influences his actions. Will, immediately upon the news, withdrew from the Muses and went up to London, where he professed physic; for his father made so good use of what he had in his lifetime, that he left nothing behind him. The first patient he had was his own uncle, who was dangerously ill of an imposthume; and the manner how he cured him is very well worth relating in this place.
When he came into his uncle's chamber, the first thing he did was to examine the state of the old gentleman's stomach. To this purpose he hunted the room all over, moved every dish, plate and basin he could see, all under a pretence of finding out what they gave him to eat, though in reality to find a proper occasion for the experiment he afterwards tried. At last he spied an old saddle under the bed. Upon which he seemed to start, crying out: "Uncle, your case is very desperate." "Not so bad, I hope," says the uncle, "as to make me past recovery." "Heaven knows that!" cried Cady; "but a surfeit is a terrible thing, and I perceive you have got a violent one." "A surfeit!" replied the old gentleman. "You mistake, nephew; it is an imposthume that I am afflicted with." "The devil it is!" quoth Cady. "Why, I could have sworn it was a surfeit; for I perceive you have eaten a whole horse, and left us only the saddle!" At this he held up the saddle in his hands, and the old gentleman fell into such a fit of laughing that instantly his imposthume broke; so that he became a well man again in less than a fortnight.
Cady's uncle gave him fifty guineas for performing so speedy and unexpected a cure; all which he spent in less than a month. It was not long after that he bid adieu to Galen and Hippocrates, and betook himself to the highway for a livelihood. The first exploit which he performed was on Hounslow Heath, where, meeting with Monsieur Chevalier, Captain of Grenadiers in the first regiment of Foot Guards —- afterwards killed in the West in the engagement against the Duke of Monmouth —- and another gentleman, he rode boldly up to them and inquired the way to Staines, telling them he was a stranger in the country. They courteously told him they were going thither themselves, and that they should be very glad of his company, if he pleased to keep pace with them. Will thanked them for their civility and accepted of their proffer, riding and talking by the side of them for about a mile. At last seeing the coast clear, he without ceremony shot one of the good-natured guides through the head; then turning upon Chevalier, he told him if he did not deliver his money he should suffer the same fate with his companion. Chevalier said he was a captain of the Guards, and therefore he must fight if he got anything from him. "If you are a soldier, sir," quoth Cady, "you ought to obey the word of command, other wise you know the sentence: I have nothing to do but to tie you neck and heels." "You are an unconscionable son of a b —--h," says Monsieur, "to demand money of me, who never owed you any." "Sir," replied Cady, "there's not a man travels the road but what owes me money, if he has any about him. Therefore, as you are one of my debtors, if you do not pay me instantly, your blood shall satisfy my demands. The noble captain exchanged a shot or two with our highwayman, but had the misfortune at last to have his horse killed; upon which, seeing it was in vain to make any more resistance, he surrendered his gold watch, a diamond ring, and a purse of twenty-six guineas. Will, having collected all he could, tied the Frenchman neck and heels, nailed the hind lappets of his coat to a tree, and then rode off with his booty.
The next person he robbed was on Bagshot Heath. It was Lord Viscount Dundee, who was killed at the fight of Killiecrankie in Scotland, after the revolution. His honour was on horseback, attended only by a couple of footmen. Cady rode up to them full speed, inquiring if they did not see a single man ride that way harder than ordinary. Being told Yes, he presently added: "He has robbed me of twenty pounds, which I was going to pay my landlord, and I am utterly ruined." The man who had rode by was a confederate of Cady's, who had parted from him for that very purpose. My lord was touched with compassion at Will's complaint, and immediately ordered his footmen to pursue the villain. The servants rode away full stretch, and Cady after them some distance, till he thought they were far enough; then he turned back on his lordship, and robbed him of a gold watch, a gold snuff-box and sixty guineas in money. To make all safe, he shot the Viscount's horse, and then rode after the footmen, whom he found a mile off, with his comrade between them, prisoner. The fellows were surprised when Will bid them let the man go and seemed to laugh at them for what they had done, till at last they absolutely refused to part with their prize. Cady, upon that, swore they should, and a warm engagement ensued, continuing till one of the footmen was killed and the other was obliged to fly, who found his lord dismounted and robbed.
Dundee complained at Court of this abuse, and a reward of one hundred pounds was promised in the London Gazette to anyone who should apprehend Cady or his comrade, who were both very particularly described. Our adventurer now thought it safest to get out of the reach of justice; and to that end made the best of his way to Douay, in Flanders, where was an English seminary. As he was a scholar, he was easily admitted, upon the superior's examination, into the fraternity of Benedictine Friars, among whom he behaved with a great deal of seeming devotion and piety; so that he shortly attained a very extraordinary character. The natural result of this was his having a great number of penitents continually resorting to him to make a confession of their sins. Cady's piety, however, at last began to sit very uneasy upon him, and he was afraid his hypocrisy would in time be found out, for he looked upon himself as incapable of keeping the vows of poverty and chastity which he had made. This made him resolve to return to England again at all hazards, choosing to enjoy a merry though but a short life, rather than drag out many years under the strictness of ecclesiastical discipline. But there was money wanting before this could be done, and now his invention was racked for some method of raising a sufficient quantity.
He feigned himself indisposed, and kept his chamber several days, during which time he received visits from abundance of people, and, among others, from all of the fair sex who usually made him their confessor. He had singled out in his mind a couple of young gentlewomen who commonly came together, and were both very rich and very handsome. A brace of pistols he had also found means to procure. At last the ladies came, and when they had made their confession, he desired them to hear his. In short, he told them he was in great want of money, and if they did not instantly supply him, they should never depart alive. At the same time he held the pistols to their breasts, and commanded them not to make the least noise. The poor gentlewomen were almost out of their wits with fear, and trembled like aspen leaves while Cady made inquiry into their pockets, and found them lined with about fifty pistoles. To this he compelled them to make an offering of two diamond rings, which were on their fingers, and then laying them both on the bed, he gave them, after one another, a taste of his manhood, and robbed them of their virginity into the bargain. Next he gagged and tied them neck and heels, and then went out, pretending to the father of the convent that he would only take the air in the fields a little. But he went much farther afield than they expected; for he never returned again, but changed his canonical habit, and returned to England.
Even before he arrived at London he fell again into his old courses, though he had been two years out of his native country; for as he rode over Blackheath he met with one Sandal, a great hop merchant, and his wife, whom he commanded to "Stand and deliver." Sandal stood up smartly in his own defence, and fired two pistols without success; after which he was obliged to lie at the mercy of the enemy, who presently dismounted them both, and killed their horse (for they had but one), and then fell to rifling their pockets. He found about twenty-eight pounds upon the husband, but the wife had no more than half-a-crown. "Is this your way of travelling?" says Cady. "What! carry but half-a- crown in your pocket, when you are to meet a gentleman collector on the highway! I assure you, madam, I shall be even with you; therefore off with that ring on your finger." Mrs Sandal begged him to spare her wedding-ring, because she would not lose it for double the value, as she had kept and worn it above twenty years. "You whining bitch!" quoth Will. "Marriage may be d —- —-d and you too. What, because you are a whore by licence, I must be more favourable to you than another woman I'll warrant! Give me the ring in a moment without any more cant, or I shall make bold to cut off your finger with it for dispatch, as I have served several of your sex before."
The good woman, finding all entreaties were in vain, pulled off her ring; but instead of giving it to Cady, instantly clapped it into her mouth and swallowed it, in hopes, by that means, of preserving what she so superstitiously prized. Cady fell to swearing and stamping like a madman, telling her that all her tricks were in vain; for he would that moment send her to the devil without her wedding-ring. Accordingly he shot her through the head, ripped her open, and took the ring out of her body in the presence of her husband, whom he had before bound, and who was in capable of uttering a word at the sight of such an unheard-of piece of barbarity. "Your wife's a bite, Sir," says the butcherly villain, "but I think I have bit the biter." And remounting his horse, he rode away with as little concern as if he had done no crime, leaving the sorrowful widower bound by his wife's body till some passengers came by and loosed him, and then carried the mangled corpse to the next inn.
The same night Cady came straight to London, but was afraid that even that great city was not large enough to conceal him from the inquiry which such a horrid action would naturally occasion. He did not stay therefore above an hour before he took horse for Scotland, where he arrived and stayed about a month, without any notice being taken of him. After this he came into England again, and as he was making towards London, between Ferry Bridge and Doncaster in Yorkshire, he overtook Dr Moreton, a prebendary of Durham. It would not be more strange to see a horse refuse oats than to hear that such a gentleman as Cady would let a plump, sleek clergyman pass unmolested, when he was in his power. "Stand and deliver" was the precept, with the addition of "D — n you are a dead man if you hesitate." The clergyman had never been used to such language before, and began to give him good advice, counselling him very gravely to refrain from such ill courses, and telling him the hazard he ran, both with respect to his soul and his body. But all his preaching was in vain; for Cady looked upon him with all the moroseness he could collect in his countenance, and told him that his doctrine had no effect, and the pretence of religion was framed only to preserve what he had before got in the same way. Adding, that if he did not speedily deliver what he had, he should send him out of the world. "But that," quoth he with a sneer, "is nothing to a man of your cloth; for doubtless all the clergymen are prepared for death at any time, and certain of eternal happiness."
While Cady was uttering these words, a stone-horse in an adjacent field, smelling his mare, leaped over the hedge, and came snorting and neighing to her like a mad creature. Will was so busy with Mr Doctor that he took no notice of the stallion till his mare was covered and he dismounted. The poor parson was glad of an opportunity to save his bacon; so as soon as he saw Cady on the ground he rode off as fast as he could. "The devil take all whoring," cried Will, "if horses must practise it too! However, Mr Mettle, I shall go nigh to spoil your sport before the game be over." He was as good as his word, for instantly pulling out a pistol he shot the horse, and then remounted his mare and rode after divinity.
In three quarters of a. mile he overtook poor Moreton, and accosted him with "You unreasonable unmannerly dog! what do you mean to leave a man in the midst of his journey, without giving him anything to pay his charges?" The doctor had taken care, as he rode off, to hide his money in a hedge, so that when Cady searched him he found never a farthing. He could not, however, think that a man of his figure would travel on horseback without any money in his breeches; so that he swore the reverend priest should never go home alive if he did not inform him what he had done with his mammon. The doctor standing to it that he had none, our bloody wretch instantly shot him through the heart, which to him was no more than making a good meal when he was hungry.
After this he took a journey into Norfolk with an intent to see his friends and relations at Thetford, but meeting a coach within two or three miles of that town, with three gentlemen and a gentlewoman in it, could not forbear riding up to it and making the usual compliment. The gentlemen were resolved to dispute a point with him, and stood bravely upon their guard, one of them firing off a blunderbuss without doing him any other damage than just grazing across his left arm, and tearing his coat, waistcoat and shirt. This put him into a violent passion, so that after he had taken about one hundred and thirty pounds from them all, he swore that the loss of his money should not entitle him that had shot him to any quarter. He was always as good as his word in these cases —- the poor gentleman was left dead in the coach; and then, cutting the reins and traces off the horses, he rode off, without going to Thetford to see his acquaintance.
Now he steers his course towards London as fast as he can; and coming over Finchley Common attacks a lady, who was riding there for the air, attended by a single footman. He fell upon her in a very rude manner, pulling a diamond ring from her finger and a gold watch from her side; taking a purse with eighty guineas in it out of her pocket, and giving her a great deal of ill language. The honest footman, though the lady had commanded him not to meddle, could not forbear showing his resentment at Cady's unmanly behaviour. He returned his foul words with others of the same kind, calling him villain, rascal, thief, and other names of the same import, which were suitable to his character. Will Cady, without speaking a word, answered the poor fellow by sending a brace of balls through his head; then he cut the girths of the lady's saddle, and was going to make off, but the time which Providence had fixed for a period to his wicked actions was now come. Two gentlemen, who had seen the transaction at a distance, intercepted him, just as he put spurs to his horse, with pistols in their hands. Cady was very desperate when he saw his own danger. He fired as fast as he was able, and they as nimbly returned the same compliment, till a lucky ball lodged in his horse, and made him fall under him. After this he resolutely maintained his ground on foot for a considerable time, even till he had discharged all his pistols and entirely wearied himself. He was then apprehended and carried before a Justice of the Peace at Highgate, who committed him under a strong guard to Newgate, where he continued till the next sessions without any signs of remorse for the blood he had so plentifully shed within four years before.
When his trial came on at the Old Bailey he behaved agreeably to his character before that venerable court. The Lord Mayor and Recorder, he said, were a couple of old almswomen, and the jurymen were treated in the same manner. The matter of fact which he was indicted for was proved so plainly against him that he received sentence of death, and was put into the condemned hold; but even this place of horror and darkness had no effect upon his mind, for he continued to swear, curse, sing, roar, and get drunk, as he had always done before. What hardened him the more, was the dependence he had on some friends at Court, who had given him room to hope for a reprieve from King James II. who then reigned; but the many murders he had committed put a stop to the mercy which he might otherwise have obtained. His day of execution being come, and the cart stopping as usual under St Sepulchre's church wall, whilst the bellman rang his bell and repeated his exhortatory lines, instead of being affected with the admonition, he fell to swearing at the sheriff's officers, asking them why they detained him there to hear an old puppy chatter nonsense. At Tyburn he was just the same, being turned off without either conversing with the ordinary, praying by himself, or making any speech to the people. His exit was in 1687 when he was just twenty-five years of age.