Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/374

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going on a market day to buy beasts at Thame, were stopped by a large gang, and compelled first to deliver their moneybags, and then to drink King James's health in brandy.[334] The thieves, however, to do them justice, showed, in the exercise of their calling, no decided preference for any political party. Some of them fell in with Marlborough near Saint Albans, and, notwithstanding his known hostility to the Court and his recent imprisonment, compelled him to deliver up five hundred guineas, which he doubtless never ceased to regret to the last moment of his long career of prosperity and glory.[335]

When William, on his return from the Continent, learned to what an extent these outrages were carried, he expressed great indignation, and announced his resolution to put down the malefactors with a strong hand. A veteran robber was induced to turn informer, and to lay before the King a list of the chief highwaymen, and a full account of their habits and of their favourite haunts. It was said that this list contained not less than eighty names.[336] Strong parties of cavalry were sent out to protect the roads; and this precaution, which would, in ordinary circumstances, have excited much murmuring, seems to have been generally approved. A fine regiment, now called the Second Dragoon Guards, which had distinguished itself in Ireland by activity and success in the irregular war against the Rapparees, was selected to guard several of the great avenues of the capital. Blackheath, Barnet, Hounslow, became places of arms.[337] In a few weeks the roads were as safe as usual. The executions were numerous: for, till the evil had been suppressed, the King resolutely refused to listen to any solicitations for mercy.[338] Among those who suffered was James Whitney, the most celebrated captain of banditti in the kingdom. He had been, during some months, the terror of all who travelled from London