Whether the turnkey entertained any suspicion of the old man, Jack could not tell, but that night he was more than usually rigorous in his search; and having carefully examined the prisoners and finding nothing to excite his suspicions, he departed tolerably satisfied.
As soon as he was certain he should be disturbed no more, Jack set to work, and with the aid of the file in less than an hour had freed himself from his fetters. With Bess’s assistance he then climbed up to the window, which, as has just been stated, was secured by iron bars of great thickness crossed by a stout beam of oak. The very sight of these impediments, would have appalled a less courageous spirit than Sheppard’s—but nothing could daunt him. To work then he went, and with wonderful industry filed off two of the iron bars. Just as he completed this operation, the file broke. The oaken beam, nine inches in thickness, was now the sole but most formidable obstacle to his flight. With his gimblet he contrived to bore a number of holes so close together that at last one end of the bar, being completely pierced through, yielded; and pursuing the same with the other extremity, it fell out altogether.
This last operation was so fatiguing, that for a short time he was obliged to pause to recover the use of his fingers. He then descended; and having induced Bess to take off some part of her clothing, he tore the gown and petticoat into shreds and twisted them into a sort of rope which he fastened to the lower bars of the window. With some difficulty he contrived to raise her to the window, and with still greater difficulty to squeeze her through it—her bulk being much greater than his own. He then made a sort of running noose, passed it over her body, and taking firmly hold of the bars, prepared to guide her descent. But Bess could scarcely summon resolution enough to hazard the experiment; and it was only on Jack’s urgent intreaties, and even threats, that she could be prevailed on to trust herself to the frail tenure of the rope he had prepared. At length, however, she threw herself off; and Jack carefully guiding the rope she landed in safety.
The next moment he was by her side.
But the great point was still unaccomplished. They had escaped from the New Prison, it is true; but the wall of Clerkenwell Bridewell, by which that jail was formerly surrounded, and which was more than twenty feet high, and protected by formidable and bristling chevaux de frise, remained to be scaled. Jack, however, had an expedient for mastering this difficulty. He ventured to the great gates, and by inserting his gimblets into the wood at intervals, so as to form points upon which he could rest his foot, he contrived, to ascend them; and when at the top, having fastened a portion of his dress to the spikes, he managed, not without considerable risk, to draw up his female companion. Once over the iron spikes, Bess exhibited no reluctance to be let down on the other side of the wall. Having seen his mistress safe down, Jack instantly descended, leaving the best part of his clothes, as a memorial of his flight, to the jailor.