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which his exertions raised, he had made a hole about three feet wide, and six high, and uncovered the iron bar. Grasping it firmly with both hands, he quickly wrenched it from the stones in which it was mortised, and leapt to the ground. On examination, it proved to be a flat bar of iron, nearly a yard in length, and more than an inch square. “A capital instrument for my purpose," thought Jack, shouldering it, “and worth all the trouble I have had in procuring it.”
While he was thus musing, he fancied he heard the lock tried. A chill ran through his frame, and, grasping the heavy weapon with which chance had provided him, prepared to strike down the first person who should enter the cell. After listening attentively for a short time without drawing breath, he became convinced that his apprehensions were groundless, and, greatly relieved, sat down upon the chair to rest himself, and prepare for further efforts.
Acquainted with every part of the gaol, Jack well knew that his only cha
ce of effecting an escape must be by the roof. To reach it would be a most difficult undertaking. Still it was possible, and the difficulty was only a fresh incitement.
The mere enumeration of the obstacles that existed would have de. terred any spirit less daring than Sheppard's from even hazarding the attempt. Independently of other risks, and of the chance of breaking his neck in the descent, he was aware that to reach the leads he should have to break open six of the strongest doors of the prison. Armed, however, with the implement he had so fortunately obtained, he did not despair of success.
“My name will only be remembered as that of a robber,” he mused ; 6 but it shall be remembered as ihat of a bold one ; and this night's achievement, if it does nothing else, shall prevent me from being class. ed with the common herd of depredators.”
Roused by this reflection, filled with the deepest anxiety for his mother, and burning to be avenged upon Jonathan Wild, he grasped the iron bar, which, when he sat down, he had laid upon his knees, and stepped quickly across the room. In doing so, he had to clamber up the immense heap of bricks and rubbish which now littered the floor, amounting almost to a cart-load, and reaching up nearly to the top of the chimney.piece.
“ Austin will stare," thought Jack, “when he comes here in the morning. It will cost them something to repair their stronghold, and take them more time to build it up again than I have taken to pull it down.”
Before proceeding with his task, he considered whether it would be possible to barricade the door ; but, reflecting that the bar would be an indispensable assistant in his further efforts, he abandoned the idea, and determined to rely implicitly on that good fortune which had hith. erto attended him on similar occasions.
Having once more got into the chimney, he climbed to a level with the ward above, and recommenced operations as vigorously as before. He was now aided with a powerful implement, with which he soon con. trived to make a hole in the wall.
Every brick I take out,” cried Jack, as fresh rubbish clattered down the chimney, “ brings me nearer my mother.”
THE RED ROOM.
The ward into which Jack was endeavouring to break was called the Red Room, from the circumstance of its walls having once been painted in that colour; all traces of which had, however, long since disappeared. Like the Castle, which it resembled in all respects, except that it was destitute even of a barrack-bedstead, the Red Room was reserved for state-prisoners, and had not been occupied since the year 1716, when the gaol, as has before been mentioned, was crowded by the Preston rebels.
Having made a hole in the wall sufficiently large to pass through, Jack first tossed the bar into the room, and then crept after it. As soon as he had gained his feet, he glanced round the bare blank walls of the cell, and, oppressed by the musty, close atmosphere, exclaimed " I'll let a little fresh air into this dungeon. They say it hasn't been opened for eight years—but I won't be eight years in getting out of it."
In stepping across the room, some sharp point in the floor pierced his foot, and stooping to examine it, he found that the wound had been inflicted by a long rusty nail, which projected from the boards. To. tally disregarding the pain, he picked up the nail, and reserved it for future use.
Nor was he long in making it available. On examining the door, he found it secured by a large rusty lock, which he endeavoured to pick with the nail he had just acquired; but all his efforts proving ineffectual, he removed the plate that covered it with the bar, and with his fingers contrived to draw back the bolt.
Opening the door, he then stepped into a dark narrow passage, leading, as he was well aware, to the chapel. On the left there were doors communicating with the King's Bench Ward and the Stone Ward, two large holds on the Master Debtors' side. But Jack was too well versed in the geography of the place to attempt either of them. Indeed, if he had been ignorant of it, the sound of voices, which he could faintly distinguish, would have served as a caution to him.
Hurrying on, his progress was soon checked by a strong door, several inches in thickness, and nearly as wide as the passage.
Run. ning his hand carefully over it in search of the lock, he perceived to his dismay that it was fastened on the other side. After several vain attempts to burst it open, he resolved, as a last alternative, to break through the wall in the part nearest to the lock. This was a much more serious task than he anticipated. The wall was of considerable thickness, and built altogether of stone; and the noise he was compelled to make in using the heavy bar, which brought sparks with every splinter he struck off, was so great, that he feared it must be heard by the prisoners on the Debtors' side. Heedless, however, of the conse. quences, he pursued his task.
Half an hour's labour, during which he was obliged more than once to pause to regain breath, sufficed to make a hole wide enough to allow a passage for his arm up to the elbow. In this way he was able to force back a ponderous bolt from its socket; and, to his unspeakable joy, found that the door instantly yielded.
Once more cheered by daylight, he hastened forward, and entered the chapel.
SITUATED at the upper part of the south-east angle of the gaol, the chapel of Old Newgate was divided on the north side into three grat. ed compartments, or pens, as they were termed, allotted to the common debtors and felons. In the north-west angle there was a small pen for female offenders, and on the south a more commodious inclosure appropriated to the master-debtors and strangers. Immediately beneath the pulpit stood a large circular pew, where malefactors under sentence of death sat to hear the condemned sermon delivered to them, and where they formed a public spectacle to the crowds which curiosity generally attracted on those occasions.
To return. Jack had got into one of the pens at the north side of the chapel. The inclosure by which it was surrounded was about twelve feet high ; the under part being composed of oaken planks, the upper of a strong iron grating, surmounted by sharp iron spikes. In the middle there was a gate. It was locked. But Jack speedily burst it open with the iron bar.
Clearing the few impediments in his way, he soon reached the con. demned pew, where it had once been his fate to sit, and extending himself on the seat, endeavoured to snatch a moment's repose. It was denied him; for as he closed his eyes—though but for an instantthe whole scene of his former visit to the place rose before him. There he sat as before, with the heavy fetiers on his limbs, and be. side him sat his three companions, who had since expiated their of. fences on the gibbet. The chapel was again crowded with visiters, and every eye-even that of Jonathan Wild, who had come hither to deride him-was fixed upon him. So perfect was the illusion, that he could almost fancy he heard the solemn voice of the ordinary warn. ing him that his race was nearly run, and imploring him to prepare for eternity. From this perturbed state he was roused by thoughts of his mother, and fancying he heard her gentle voice urging him on to fresh exertion, he started up.
On one side of the chapel there was a large grated window; but, as it looked upon the interior of the gaol, Jack preferred following the course he had originally decided upon to making any attempt in this quarter.
Accordingly, he proceeded to a gate which stood upon the south, and guarded the passage communicating with the leads. It was grated and crested with spikes, like that he had just burst open, and thinking it a needless waste of time to force it, he broke off one of the spikes, which he carried with him for further purposes, and then climbed over it.
A short flight of steps brought him to a dark passage, into which he plunged. Here he found another strong door, making the fifth he had encountered. Well aware that the doors in this passage were much stronger than those in the entry le had just quitted, he was neither surprised nor dismayed to find it fastened by a lock of unusual size. After repeatedly trying to remove the plate, which was so firmly screwed down that it resisted all his efforts, and vainly