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قراءة كتاب Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 699 May 19, 1877

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‏اللغة: English
Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 699
May 19, 1877

Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 699 May 19, 1877

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 2

community, and if allowed to go undetected, there might be no end to the felonious abduction of children.

On the day after receiving the letter of the 3d July, Mr Ross advertised that he would give a reward of three hundred dollars to any person returning his lost child. To this there came a startling response in a letter dated Philadelphia, 6th. It was as badly written and badly spelled as the preceding, and plainly intimated that the ransom to be paid for restoration of the boy was twenty thousand dollars—not a dollar less would be taken, and all the powers in the universe would fail to find out where he was. If Mr Ross was ready to negotiate, he was to say so by advertisement in the Public Ledger. On the 7th Mr Ross advertised that he would negotiate. At two o'clock the same day a letter in reply was received. What was now demanded was that Mr Ross should advertise in the Evening Star as follows: either, 'Will come to terms,' or 'Will not come to terms.' If the former, it would be understood that twenty thousand dollars would be given; if the latter, the negotiation was at an end, and Charley's blood be on his father's head. Here was an explicit and horrible threat that if the full ransom were not forthcoming the unfortunate child would be murdered. It being conclusive that this, like the preceding letter, had been posted at Philadelphia, a watch was put on the letter-boxes, to discover who were the senders. This effort failed in effect. The thieves were evidently assisted by some unknown confederate, who posted the letters, and whom it was impossible to identify.

We have not space to go into the numerous details of what ensued, as given by Mr Ross in a volume which has lately made its appearance.[A] Referring persons deeply interested in the matter to the book itself, which will reward perusal, we proceed to say that the intercourse by letter and advertisement between the abductors and the bereaved father came to nothing. There were difficulties as regards the kind of notes in which the ransom should be paid; there were worse difficulties as to how the thieves could make the exchange of the boy for the money. In Sicily, where a brigand leaves his card with the superior magistrate of the district, things of this kind encounter no serious obstacle. It is different in the United States, as it is in England. In these countries, brigands are not on visiting terms with public authorities. The two rascals who stole Charley Ross could make nothing of him after they had got him. He was concealed with an extraordinary degree of skill, somewhere about Philadelphia; but the ingenuity which was displayed by his captors met with no recompense. It was evident from the universal clamour, that a repetition of tricks of this kind could not be carried on with any prospect of profit or security. The whole newspaper world was up. Thousands of presses from New Orleans to the Saskatchewan, from New York to San Francisco, were flaming with stories and conjectures about the abduction of Charley Ross. In time, the newspapers of England caught up the theme. The hearts of parents in every part of the English reading world were acutely interested. What will strike every one as marvellous, is the impenetrable secrecy which shrouded the spot where Charley Ross was secluded. It was tantalisingly near at hand, yet nobody could find it out.

It may amuse our readers to know that from the universal excitement that was created, there sprung up a crop of pretended discoverers of the lost child. All that was needed to restore him to the arms of his loving parents was a little money. Some of the announcements were hoaxes. Some were bare-faced attempts at extortion. The effect of these despicable communications was to add poignancy to the sorrow that was already endured by the father and mother of little Charley. The credulity of the family was also painfully tried by information alleged to have been obtained through the medium of spirits. Unfortunately, no two mediums gave the same direction in which to look for the child. Their revelations were simply a piece of nonsense, though imparted with prodigious gravity.

Annoyed with pretenders of various classes, Ross and his nephew did not relax endeavours to unravel the mystery. They travelled about over the northern states, led on by communications from the two thieves, who had quitted Philadelphia, and taken up new ground. It at length appeared to be conclusive that Charley's captors had gone to New York, and from rigorous investigations at the several hotels, it was almost certain that their names were Mosher and Douglas. They had, however, no child with them. Where he was stowed away, if still in life, no one knew. Going with professional zest into the affair, the New York police, greatly to their credit, under Superintendent Walling, made every effort to track the windings of the two desperadoes, who, from newspaper advertisements and bills stuck on the walls, saw that they were momentarily in risk of capture. New York, however, has about it holes and corners in which felons find temporary lurking-places, and when pursuit is keen there is water on two sides, with boats, in some of which there is a refuge from justice equal to that of the old Alsatia in Whitefriars. On the opposite side of the narrow channel on the east, lies Long Island, hilly and picturesque, and which, besides Brooklyn, possesses a large number of villas of wealthy citizens scattered about among gardens and pleasure-grounds. To this island, as charming a retreat of families from New York, as are the Highland borders of the Clyde for the citizens of Glasgow, we have to follow Mosher and Douglas, the reputed abductors of Charley Ross.

The two villains had exhausted their means. They had made nothing of the cruel capture we have been describing, and had indeed lost money by the transaction. Driven to their last shifts, they resolved to begin a career of house-breaking. As a commencement, they broke into the villa of Judge Van Brunt of the Supreme Court of New York, situated near the water's edge, at a picturesque part of Long Island. The judge and his family were absent for the season, and the house being shut up, offered, as was thought, a good chance of effecting a burglary. In laying their plans, Mosher and Douglas were not possibly aware, that before closing his house, the judge furnished it with 'a burglar alarm telegraph, which conveys information of the slightest interference with any of its doors or windows into the bedroom of his brother,' who resided permanently in a house near at hand. The account of the attack may be given in the words of Mr Ross:

'On the morning of December 14, at two o'clock, this alarm-bell rang violently. Mr Van Brunt was at once awakened, and immediately called his son Albert, who was asleep. When Albert came down stairs the father said: "Go over and see what has sounded that alarm; I think the wind has blown open one of those blinds again;" an occurrence which had more than once before caused the bell to ring. The young man went, first taking the precaution to put a pistol in his pocket. Approaching his uncle's house, he noticed a flickering light through the blinds of one of the windows; he returned and told his father about the light, procured a lantern for himself, and went to arouse William Scott, the judge's gardener, who lived in a cottage close by, and who had the keys of the judge's house. On their way back, Scott and Albert ascertained that more than one man was in the house with the light. They then awoke Herman Frank, a hired man; and after placing one man in front and another behind the judge's house, Albert returned to his father and reported what he had seen and done. His father, although seriously suffering from illness, after getting together the arms in the house, joined his son, and calling the gardener and