So saying, he advanced towards the window, threw open the sash, and called out in the voice of Thames Darrell, “Who’s there?”
He was answered by a shot from a pistol. The ball passed over his head, and lodged in the ceiling.
“I was right,” replied Jack, returning as coolly as if nothing had happened. “It is Jonathan. Your uncle—our uncle is with him. I saw them both.”
“May I trust you?” cried Thames, eagerly.
“You may,” replied Jack: “I’ll fight for you to the last gasp.”
“Follow me, then,” cried Thames, drawing his sword, and springing through the window.
“To the world’s end,” answered Jack, darting after him.
“Thames!—Thames!” cried Winifred, rushing to the window. “He will be murdered!—Help!”
“My child!—my love!” cried Wood, dragging her forcibly back.
Two shots were fired, and presently the clashing of swords was heard below.
After some time, the scuffle grew more and more distant, until nothing could be heard.
Wood, meanwhile, had summoned his men-servants, and having armed them with such weapons as could be found, they proceeded to the garden, where the first object they encountered was Thames Darrell, extended on the ground, and weltering in his blood. Of Jack Sheppard or the assailants they could not discover a single trace.
As the body was borne to the house in the arms of the farming-men, Mr. Wood fancied he heard the exulting laugh of Jonathan Wild.
When Thames Darrell and Jack Sheppard sprang through the window, they were instantly assailed by Wild, Trenchard, and their attendants. Jack attacked Jonathan with such fury, that he drove him into a shrubbery, and might perhaps have come off the victor, if his foot had not slipped as he made a desperate lunge. In this state it would have been all over with him, as, being stunned by the fall, it was some moments before he could recover himself, if another party had not unexpectedly come to his rescue. This was Blueskin, who burst through the trees, and sword in hand assaulted the thief-taker. As soon as Jack gained his legs, he perceived Blueskin lying, as he thought, dead in the plantation, with a severe cut across his temples, and while he was stooping to assist him, he heard groans at a little distance. Hastening in the direction of the sound, he discovered Thames Darrell, stretched upon the ground.
“Are you hurt, Thames?” asked Jack, anxiously.
“Not dangerously, I hope,” returned Thames; “but fly—save yourself.”
“Where are the assassins?” cried Sheppard.
“Gone,” replied the wounded man. “They imagine their work is done. But I may yet live to thwart them.”
“I will carry you to the house, or fetch Mr. Wood,” urged Jack.
“No, no,” rejoined Thames; “fly—or I will not answer for your safety. If you desire to please me, you will go.”