“Ah!” ejaculated the widow, hiding her face.
“Come,” said Wild, turning authoritatively to Jack,—“you have overstayed your time.”
“Do not go with him, Jack!” shrieked his mother. “Do not—do not!”
“He must!” thundered Jonathan, “or he goes to jail.”
“If you must go to prison, I will go with you,” cried Mrs. Sheppard: “but avoid that man as you would a serpent.”
“Come along,” thundered Jonathan.
“Hear me, Jack!” shrieked his mother. “You know not what you do. The wretch you confide in has sworn to hang you. As I hope for mercy, I speak the truth!—let him deny it if he can.”
“Pshaw!” said Wild. “I could hang him now if I liked. But he may remain with you if he pleases: I sha’n’t hinder him.”
“You hear, my son,” said the widow eagerly. “Choose between good and evil;—between him and me. And mind, your life,—more than your life—hangs upon your choice.”
“It does so,” said Wild. “Choose, Jack.”
The lad made no answer, but left the room.
“He is gone!” cried Mrs. Sheppard despairingly.
“For ever!” said the thief-taker, preparing to follow.
“Devil!” cried the widow, catching his arm, and gazing with frantic eagerness in his face, “how many years will you give my son before you execute your terrible threat?”
“NINE!” answered Jonathan sternly.
EPOCH THE THIRD.
Nearly nine years after the events last recorded, and about the middle of May, 1724, a young man of remarkably prepossessing appearance took his way, one afternoon, along Wych Street; and, from the curiosity with which he regarded the houses on the left of the road, seemed to be in search of some particular habitation. The age of this individual could not be more than twenty-one; his figure was tall, robust, and gracefully proportioned; and his clear gray eye and open countenance bespoke a frank, generous, and resolute nature. His features were regular, and finely-formed; his complexion bright and blooming,—a little shaded, however, by travel and exposure to the sun; and, with a praiseworthy contempt for the universal and preposterous fashion then prevailing, of substituting a peruke for the natural covering of the head, he allowed his own dark-brown hair to fall over his shoulders in ringlets as luxuriant as those that distinguished the court gallant in Charles the Second’s days—a fashion, which we do not despair of seeing revived in our own days. He wore a French military undress of the period, with high jack-boots, and a laced hat; and, though his attire indicated no particular rank, he had completely the air of a person of distinction. Such was the effect produced upon the passengers by