In consequence of Jack Sheppard’s desperate character, it was judged expedient by the keeper of the New Prison to load him with fetters of unusual weight, and to place him in a cell which, from its strength and security, was called the Newgate Ward. The ward in which he was confined, was about six yards in length, and three in width, and in height, might be about twelve feet. The windows which were about nine feet from the floor, had no glass; but were secured by thick iron bars, and an oaken beam. Along the floor ran an iron bar to which Jack’s chain was attached, so that he could move along it from one end of the chamber to the other. No prisoner except Edgeworth Bess was placed in the same cell with him. Jack was in excellent spirits; and by his wit, drollery and agreeable demeanour, speedily became a great favourite with the turnkey, who allowed him every indulgence consistent with his situation. The report of his detention caused an immense sensation. Numberless charges were preferred against him, amongst others, information was lodged of the robbery at Dollis Hill, and murder of Mrs. Wood, and a large reward offered for the apprehension of Blueskin; and as, in addition to this, Jack had threatened to impeach Wild, his next examination was looked forward to with the greatest interest.
The day before this examination was appointed to take place—the third of the prisoner’s detention—an old man, respectably dressed, requested permission to see him. Jack’s friends were allowed to visit him,; but as he had openly avowed his intention of attempting an escape, their proceedings were narrowly watched. The old man was conducted to Jack’s cell by the turnkey, who remained near him during their interview. He appeared to be a stranger to the prisoner, and the sole motive of his visit, curiosity. After a brief conversation, which Sheppard sustained with his accustomed liveliness, the old man turned to Bess and addressed a few words of common-place gallantry to her. While this was going on, Jack suddenly made a movement which attracted the turnkey’s attention; and during that interval the old man slipped some articles wrapped in a handkerchief into Bess’s hands, who instantly secreted them in her bosom. The turnkey looked round the next moment, but the manoeuvre escaped his observation. After a little further discourse the old man took his departure.
Left alone with Edgeworth Bess, Jack burst into a loud laugh of exultation.
“Blueskin’s a friend in need,” he said. “His disguise was capital; but I detected it in a moment. Has he given you the tools?”
“He has,” replied Bess, producing the handkerchief.
“Bravo,” cried Sheppard, examining its contents, which proved to be a file, a chisel, two or three gimblets, and a piercer. “Jonathan Wild shall find it’s not easy to detain me. As sure as he is now living, I’ll pay him a visit in the Old Bailey before morning. And then I’ll pay off old scores. It’s almost worth while being sent to prison to have the pleasure of escaping. I shall now be able to test my skill.” And running on in this way, he carefully concealed the tools.