Ellie Crimple; known in the community mainly for pick pocketing, pilfering and prostitution, has just spent time away in Newgate prison. Upon her release she quickly goes back to her old ways, only this time she uses a different approach in stealing from the rich. Highwaymen have long ruled the country lanes where unsuspecting travellers have been the target of their desires. Ellie is not afraid to try this tactic and soon begins her new quest dressed as a highwayman, robbing the wealthy and relying on her trusted stallion, Bow, to speedily ride through the country lanes of Spitalfields. But don’t let her timid build fool you, her pistols, Henry and Toby, will do the talking if you don’t comply.
Standing outside the prison gates I wondered where I was headed first. Not too many places to choose from, I was certain of that. No, an officer’s nark saw well and true to that, and I have a pretty good idea who that bleedin’ nark was too. They’ll get their dues from me just like I paid my narking dues doing bird. Only theirs will be much worse than what I had just gone through. Being a common criminal ain’t all it’s cracked up to be you know. It takes skill and lots of practice, harder than a full day’s work sometimes, not that I’ve ever done a hard day’s work in my entire life but I but I do have a good imagination.
So how’s a girl like me gonna get her next meal, stay warm and keep from the likes of the menacing male public. I know how, I know all the tricks of the trade. I’ll have myself a few shillings by the end of the day, you mark my words, I will. No time for tears either, they all dried up long ago, when I was small. Ada Crimple took on the role calling herself my mother but she ain’t no mother of any sorts. A right old mean crab, that one is. She gave me a nice old present when I reached puberty, gave me away to a bloke twice my age and said to him that I was worth all of half a crown, being as I had never been touched by anyone else before. I cried my eyes out till they was dried and sore and I couldn’t shed another drop after that. No, I grew up pretty fast in Whites Row in Spitalfields, an area ripe with poverty and filled with highwaymen striking the unsuspecting travellers as they passed close by. I became a petty thief just so my mother wouldn’t bother me with the likes of another fella again. Kept her happy with the booze, which was enough for her…
I looked behind me at the two stone towers that housed the wrought iron drop gate in the centre. The beauty and splendour it held was overshadowed by its cruel history of painful torture and death within its walls. Yesterday Elma Tindell was topped. Hung her in front of the prison for all to stand and watch. She was a gobby cow, told too many lies and stole from her employer. She worked as a scullery maid in a house not so far from here and they caught her pilfering from the pantry. Fed her family with a few treats of fresh crusty bread and a chunk of ham taken from a large joint meant for a family gathering.
After one final glance at the gatehouse and thankful that my name hadn’t made it on to the Newgate calendar bloody list, I made my decision and turned left heading down The Strand. I walked for about twenty minutes until I came across a small tavern tucked away inside a narrow courtyard, Williams Tavern, a pub where the thirsty can drink and get merry. I waited, hiding inside one of the doorways for an unsuspecting drunkard to stagger out and not even realise that he’s been robbed.
I didn’t look too good right now, stank worse than a pig and stood no chance in charming the gilt from his pockets. It was getting dark and the shadows cast from the building became my sanctuary. Looking around, I saw there wasn’t much to aid me in clobbering him one, so I had to use whatever resources there were. A Willow tree, I think it was, had its branches hanging over from the neighbouring yard. I struggled for a while but I managed to free a branch from it, use it as a whip I could.
I waited for a long time listening to the likes of the drunks talking loudly and cheering to their obscene comments and bragging about their wealth. More foolish than competent remarks when someone like me skulks around in the dark.
It paid off too, a short balding fat man staggered out of the doorway calling behind him to his fellow drinking acquaintances that he’d be seeing them on the morrow.
He got as far as the doorway that I hid in and unsure of whether he was alone at this point because I was sure that he had sensed my stench he looked around and sniffed the air in front of him. No time like the present to get what I needed. I lashed the long thin branch across his face like a whip causing him to twirl around and fall to the ground in a dazed crumple.
I acted fast, my fingers pilfered his pockets before he’d even found the sense to attempt calling for help. I struck good with this old codger, three sovereigns two crowns and a florin. This was gonna by me a feast to eat and a room for the night. Things were looking up and it was only just after dusk.
“Serves you bleedin’ right for bragging,” I told him.