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The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Volume 1
written by "Scott, Walter, Sir, 1771-1832"
...ng been four times doomed to hang by the neck till I was dead, I think I am far beyond being whuppit." "Then, in Heaven's name, what did you expect?" "Just the post of under-turnkey, for I understand there's a vacancy," said the prisoner; "I wadna think of asking the lockman's* place ower his head; it wadna suit me sae weel as ither folk, for I never could put a beast out o' the way, much less deal wi' a man." * Note H. Hangman, or Lockman. "That's something in your favour," said the magistrate, making exactly the inference to which Ratcliffe was desirous to lead him, though he mantled his art with an affectation of oddity. "But," continued the magistrate, "how do you think you can be trusted with a charge in the prison, when you have broken at your own hand half the jails in Scotland?" "Wi' your honour's leave," said Ratcliffe, "if I kend sae weel how to wun out mysell, it's like I wad be a' the better a hand to keep other folk in. I think they wad ken their business weel that held me in when I wanted to be out, or wan out when I wanted to hand them in." The remark seemed to strike the magistrate, but he made no further immediate observation, only desired Ratcliffe to be removed. When this daring and yet sly freebooter was out of hearing, the magistrate asked the city clerk, "what he thought of the fellow's assurance?" "It's no for me to say, sir," replied the clerk; "but if James Ratcliffe be inclined to turn to good, there is not a man e'er came within the ports of the burgh could be of sae muckle use to the Good Town in the thief and lock-up line of business. I'll speak to Mr. Sharpitlaw about him." Upon Ratcliffe's retreat, Butler was placed at the table for examination. The magistrate conducted his inquiry civilly, but yet in a manner which gave him to understand that ...

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