This edited article about William Brodie originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 697 published on 24 May 1975.
The young ladies in the drawing-room could not stop talking about the handsome and prosperous bachelor who was coming to tea.
“What a wonderful husband he would make,” they said to each other. “He’s bound to marry soon. I wonder which one of us it will be?”
“Quiet!” said the girl keeping lookout at the window. “He’s knocking at the front door now. He’s dressed all in white – just like a saint.”
And saintly was just how William Brodie appeared to the wealthy merchants he mixed with in Edinburgh society. A bachelor of temperate habits, a city councillor, a skilful cabinet-maker and carpenter, he seemed faultless. The only thing held against him was his shyness and modesty that made him a difficult person to really know.
“He’s certainly polite and charming,” the girls of Edinburgh would say to their mothers. “But he seems a little too perfect. It is as if he is trying to hide something from us.”
They little guessed then that William Brodie was hiding plenty from them. Just what it was emerged in 1788 when Brodie – then forty-eight and still unmarried – was tried and executed at Tolbooth Prison as the leader of a gang of vicious underworld burglars who had long terrorized the city.
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