His boy carried on the business for a few months, when frequent complaints of 'Sunday gambling' on the premises, and loud whispers of suspicion relative to the concealment of stolen goods, induced 'Chelsea George'—the name the youth had acquired—to sell the good--will of the house, fixtures, and all, and at the eastern extremity of London to embark in business as a 'mush or mushroom-faker.' Independently of his appropriation of umbrellas, proper to the mushfaker's calling, Chelsea George was by no means scrupulous concerning other little matters within his reach, and if the proprietors of the 'swell cribs' within his 'beat' had no 'umbrellas to mend,' or 'old 'uns to sell,' he would ease the pegs in the passage of the incumbrance of a greatcoat, and telegraph the same out of sight (by a colleague),
while the servant went in to make the desired inquiries. At last he was 'bowl'd out' in the very act of 'nailing a yack' (stealing a watch). He 'expiated,' as it is called, this offence by three months' exercise on the 'cockchafer' (tread-mill). Unaccustomed as yet to the novelty of the exercise, he fell through the wheel and broke one of his legs. He was, of course, permitted to finish his time in the infirmary of the prison, and on his liberation was presented with five pounds out of 'the Sheriffs' Fund.'
Although, as I have before stated, he had never been out of England since his childhood, he had some little hereditary knowledge of the French language, and by the kind and voluntary recommendation of one of the police-magistrates of the metropolis, he was engaged by an Irish gentleman proceeding to the Continent as a sort of supernumerary servant, to 'make himself generally useful.' As the gentleman was unmarried, and mostly stayed at hotels, George was to have permanent wages and 'find himself,' a condition he invariably fulfilled, if anything was left in his way. Frequent intemperance, neglect of duty, and unaccountable departures of property from the portmanteau of his master, led to his dismissal, and Chelsea George was left, without friends or character, to those resources which have supported him for some thirty years.
During his 'umbrella' enterprise he had lived in lodging-houses of the lowest kind, and of course mingled with the most depraved society, especially with the vast army of trading sturdy mendicants, male and female, young and old, who assume every guise of poverty, misfortune, and disease, which craft and ingenuity can devise or well-tutored hypocrisy can imitate. Thus initiated, Chelsea George could 'go upon any lurk,' could be in the last stage of consumption—actually in his dying hour—but now and then convalescent for years and years together. He could take fits and counterfeit blindness, be a respectable brokendown tradesman, or a soldier maimed in the service, and dismissed without a pension.
Thus qualified, no vicissitudes could be either very new or very perplexing, and he commenced operations without delay, and pursued them long without desertion. The 'first move' in his mendicant career was taking them on the fly; which means meeting the gentry on their walks, and beseeching or at times menacing them till something is given; something in general was
given to get rid of the annoyance, and, till the 'game got stale,' an hour's work, morning and evening, produced a harvest of success, and ministered to an occasion of debauchery.
His less popular, but more upright father, had once been a dog-fancier, and George, after many years vicissitude, at length took a 'fancy' to the same profession, but not on any principles recognised by commercial laws. With what success he has practised, the ladies and gentlemen about the West-end have known, to their loss and disappointment, for more than fifteen years past.
Although the police have been and still are on the alert, George has, in every instance, hitherto
escaped punishment, while numerous detections connected with escape have enabled the offender to hold these officials at defiance. The 'modus operandi' upon which George proceeds is to varnish his hands with a sort of gelatine, composed of the coarsest pieces of liver, fried, pulverised, and mixed up with tincture of myrrh." [This is the composition of which Inspector Shackell spoke before the Select Committee, but he did not seem to know of what the lure was concocted. My correspondent continues]: "Chelsea George caresses every animal who seems 'a likely spec,' and when his fingers have been rubbed over the dogs' noses they become easy and perhaps willing captives. A bag carried for the purpose, receives the victim, and away goes George, bag and all, to his printer's in Seven Dials. Two bills and no less—two and no more, for such is George's style of work—are issued to describe the animal that has thus been found, and which will be 'restored to its owner on payment of expenses.' One of these George puts in his pocket, the other he pastes up at a publichouse whose landlord is 'fly' to its meaning, and poor 'bow-wow' is sold to a 'dealer in dogs,' not very far from Sharp's alley. In course of time the dog is discovered; the possessor refers to the 'establishment' where he bought it; the 'dealer makes himself square,' by giving the address of 'the chap he bought 'un of,' and Chelsea George shows a copy of the advertisement, calls in the publican as a witness, and leaves the place 'without the slightest imputation on his character.' Of this man's earnings I cannot speak with precision: it is probable that in a 'good year' his clear income is 200l.; in a bad year but 100l., but, as he is very adroit, I am inclined to believe that the 'good' years somewhat predominate, and that the average income may therefore exceed 150l. yearly.