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ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE CRUIKSHANK.
EPOCH THE THIRD.-1724.
THE SUPPER AT MR. KNEEBONE'S.
PERSUADED that Jack Sheppard would keep his appointment with Mr. Kneebone, and feeling certain of capturing him if he did so, Shotbolt, on quitting Newgate, hurried to the New Prison to prepare for the enterprise. After debating with himself for some time whether he should employ an assistant, or make the attempt alone, his love of gain overcame his fears, and he decided upon the latter plan. Ac. cordingly, having armed himself with various weapons, including a stout oaken staff then ordinarily borne by the watch, and put a coil of rope and a gag in his pocket, to be ready in case of need, he set out, about ten o'clock, on the expedition.
Before proceeding to Wych Street, he called at the Lodge to see how matters were going on, and found Mrs. Spurling and Austin at their evening meal, with Caliban in attendance.
“ Well, Mr. Shotbolt," cried the turnkey, “I've good news for you. Mr. Wild has doubled his offer, and the governor has likewise pro. claimed a reward of one hundred guineas for Jack's apprehension.”
" You don't say so !” exclaimed Shotbolt.
" Read that,” rejoined Austin, pointing to the placard. “I ought to tell you that Mr. Wild's reward is conditional upon Jack's being taken before to-morrow morning. So I fear there's little chance of any one getting it.”
“ You think so, eh ?” chuckled Shotbolt, who was eagerly perusing the reward, and congratulating himself upon his caution; "you think so-ha! ha! Well, don't go to bed, that's all.”
“ What for ?" demanded the turnkey.
" I'll lay you twenty guineas you don't take him to-night,” rejoined Austin.
" Done !" cried Shotbolt. “Mrs. Spurling, you're a witness to the bet. Twenty guineas, mind. I shan't let you off a farthing. Egad! I shall make a good thing of it.”
“Never count your chickens till they're hatched,” observed Mrs. Spurling, dryly. VOL. IV.
“ My chickens are hatched, or, at least, nearly so," replied Shot. bolt, with increased merriment. “Get ready your heaviest irons, Austin. I'll send you word when I catch him.”
“You'd better send him," jeered the turnkey.
“So I will,” rejoined Shotbolt ; “so I will. If I don't, you shall clap me in the Condemned Hold in his stead. Good-bye, for the present-ha! ha!” And, laughing loudly at his own facetiousness, he quitted the Lodge.
“ I'll lay my life he's gone on a fox-and-goose-chase to Mr. Knee. bone's," remarked Austin, rising to fasten the door.
“I shouldn't wonder,” replied Mrs. Spurling, as if struck by a sud. den idea. And, while the turnkey was busy with the keys, she whis. pered to the black, “Follow him, Caliban. Take care he don't see you,—and bring me word where he goes, and what he does.”
Iss, missis,” grinned the black. “Be so good as to let Caliban out, Mr. Austin," continued the tapstress ; "he's only going on an errand.”
Austin readily complied with her request. As he returned to the table, he put his finger to his nose ; and, though he said nothing, he thought he had a much better chance of winning his wager.
Unconscious that his movements were watched, Shotbolt, mean. while, hastened towards Wych Street. On the way, he hired a chair with a couple of stout porters, and ordered them to follow him. Ar. rived within a short distance of his destination, he came to a halt, and pointing out a dark court nearly opposite the woollen-draper's abode, told the chairmen to wait there till they were summoned.
“I'm a peace-officer,” he added, “ about to arrest a notorious criminal. He'll be brought out at this door, and may probably make some resistance. But you must get him into the chair as fast as you can, and hurry off to Newgate."
“And what'll we get for the job, yer non'r ?” asked the foremost chairman, who, like most of his tribe at the time, was an Irishman.
“Five guineas. Here's a couple in hand.”
"Faix, then, we'll do it in style," cried the fellow. “ Once in this chair, yer hon's, and I'll warrant he'll not get out so aisily as Jack Sheppard did from the New Pris'n.”
“Hold your tongue, sirrah,” rejoined Shotbolt, not over.pleased by the remark, “and mind what I tell you. Ah! what's that?" he ex: claimed, as some one brushed hastily past him. “ If I hadn't just left him, I could have sworn it was Mrs. Spurling's sooty imp, Caliban.”
Having seen the chairmen concealed in the entry, Shotbolt proceed. ed to Mr. Kneebone's habitation, the shutters of which were closed, and knocked at the door. The summons was instantly answered by a shop-boy.
“ Is your master at home ?" inquired the gaoler.
“He is,” replied a portly personage, arrayed in a gorgeous yellow brocade dressing gown, lined with cherry-coloured satin, and having a crimson velvet cap, surmounted by a gold tassel, on his head. My name is Kneebone," added the portly personage, stepping forward. " What do you want with me ?”
"A word in private," replied the other.
"Stand aside, Tom," commanded Kneebone. “Now, sir," he added, glancing suspiciously at the applicant, “your business ?”
"My business is to acquaint you that Jack Sheppard has escaped, Mr. Kneebone,” returned Shotbolt.
" The deuce he has! Why, it's only a few hours since I beheld him chained down with half a hundred weight of iron, in the strongest ward at Newgate. It's almost incredible. Are you sure you're not misinformed, sir?" “I was in the Lodge at the time," replied the gaoler.
Then, of course, you must know. Well, it's scarcely credible: When I gave him an invitation to supper, I little thought he'd accept it. But, egad! I believe he will."
“ I'm convinced of it,” replied Shotbolt; " and it was on that very account I came here." And he proceeded to unfold his scheme to the woollen-draper.
"Well, sir,” said Kneebone, when the other concluded, "I shall certainly not oppose his capture, but, at the same time, I'll lend you no assistance. If he keeps his word, I'll keep mine. You must wait till supper's over."
“As you please, sir-provided you don't let him off.”
“ That I'll engage not to do. I've another reason for supposing he'll pay me a visit. I refused to sign a petition in his behalf to the recorder; not from any ill-will to him, but because it was prepared by a person whom I particularly dislike-Captain Darrell.”
“A very sufficient reason," answered the guoler.
“ Tom," continued Kneebone, calling to the shop.boy, “don't go home. I may want you. Light the lantern. And, if you hear any odd noise in the parlour, don't mind it.”
“Not in the least, sir,” replied Tom, in a drowsy tone, and with a look seeming to imply that he was too much accustomed to odd noises at night to heed them.
Now, step this way, Mr. What's-your-name ?” “Shotbolt, sir," replied the gaoler.
Very well, Mr. Slipshod ; follow me.” And he led the way to an inner room, in the middle of which stood a table, covered with a large white cloth.
"Jack Sheppard knows this house, I believe, sir," observed Shotbolt.
“Every inch of it," replied the woollen-draper. “He ought to do, seeing that he served his apprenticeship in it to Mr. Wood, by whom
it was formerly occupied. His name is carved upon a beam upst airs."
“ Indeed!” said Shotbolt. “Where can I hide myself ?” he added, glancing round the room in search of a closet. “ Under the table. The cloth nearly touches the floor.
Give me your staff. It'll be in your way.”
“Suppose he brings Blueskin, or some other ruffian with him ?” hesitated the gaoler. “Suppose he does. In that case I'll help you.
We shall be equally matched. You're not afraid, Mr. Shoplatch.”
“Not in the least,” replied Shotbolt, creeping beneath the table ; " there's my staff. Am I quite hidden ?” “Not quite ;-keep your feet in. Mind you don't stir till supper's
I'll stamp twice when we've done.” “ I forgot to mention there's a trifling reward for his capture," cried Shotbolt, popping his head from under the cloth. “If we take him, I don't mind giving you a share-say a fourth—provided you lend a helping hand."
“Curse your reward !” exclaimed Kneebone, angrily. “Do you take me for a thief-catcher, like Jonathan Wild, that you dare to affront me by such a proposal ?"
“No offence, sir," rejoined the gaoler, humbly. “I didn't imagine for a moment that you'd accept it, but I thought it right to make you the offer."
“Be silent, and conceal yourself. I'm about to ring for supper."
The woollen.draper's application to the bell was answered by a very pretty young woman, with dark Jewish features, roguish black eyes, sleek glossy hair, a trim waist, and a remarkably neat figure : the very model, in short, of a bachelor's housekeeper.
Rachel,” said Mr. Kneebone, addressing his comely attendant; put a few more plates on the table, and bring up whatever there is in the larder. I expect company." “Company!" echoed Rachel ; " at this time of night?"
Company, child," repeated Kneebone. “I shall want a bottle or two of sack, and a flask of usquebaugh."
"Anything else, sir ?" “No :-stay! you'd better not bring up any silver forks or spoons."
“Why, surely you don't think your guests would steal them," observed Rachel, archly.
“They shan't have the opportunity," replied Kneebone. And, by way of checking his housekeeper's familiarity, he pointed significantly to the table.
“ Who's there?" cried Rachel. “I'll see.” And before she could be prevented, she lifted up the cloth, and disclosed Shotbolt. “Oh, Gemini !" she exclaimed. “A man!"
“At your service, my dear," replied the gaoler.