“Mother—dear mother!” said Jack, bursting into tears.
“You will never leave me,” sobbed the poor woman, straining him to her breast.
The words were scarcely pronounced, when the door was violently thrown open, and two men appeared at it. They were Jonathan Wild and Quilt Arnold.
“Ah!” exclaimed Jack, starting to his feet.
“Just in time,” said the thief-taker. “You are my prisoner, Jack.”
“You shall take my life first,” rejoined Sheppard.
And, as he was about to put himself into a posture of defence, his mother clasped him in her arms.
“They shall not harm you, my love!” she exclaimed.
The movement was fatal to her son. Taking advantage of his embarrassed position, Jonathan and his assistant rushed upon him, and disarmed him.
“Thank you, Mrs. Sheppard,” cried the thief-taker, as he slipped a pair of handcuffs over Jack’s wrists, “for the help you have given us in capturing your son. Without you, we might have had some trouble.”
Aware apparently in some degree, of the mistake she had committed, the poor maniac sprang towards him with frantic violence, and planted her long nails in his cheek.
“Keep off, you accursed jade!” roared Jonathan, “—off, I say, or—” And he struck her a violent blow with his clenched hand.
The miserable woman staggered, uttered a deep groan, and fell senseless on the straw.
“Devil!” cried Jack; “that blow shall cost you your life.”
“It’ll not need to be repeated, at all events,” rejoined Jonathan, looking with a smile of malignant satisfaction at the body. “And, now,—to Newgate.”
At the beginning of the twelfth century,—whether in the reign of Henry the First, or Stephen is uncertain,—a fifth gate was added to the four principal entrances of the city of London; then, it is almost needless to say, surrounded by ramparts, moats, and other defences. This gate, called Newgate, “as being latelier builded than the rest,” continued, for upwards of three hundred years, to be used as a place of imprisonment for felons and trespassers; at the end of which time, having grown old, ruinous, and “horribly loathsome,” it was rebuilt and enlarged by the executors of the renowned Sir Richard Whittington, the Lord Mayor of London: whence it afterwards obtained amongst a certain class of students, whose examinations were conducted with some strictness at the Old Bailey, and their highest degrees taken at Hyde-park-corner, the appellation of Whittington’s College, or, more briefly, the Whit. It may here be mentioned that this gate, destined to bequeath its name—a name, which has since acquired a terrible significance,—to every successive structure erected upon its site, was granted, in 1400, by charter by Henry the Sixth to the citizens of London, in return for their royal services, and thenceforth became the common jail to that city and the county of Middlesex. Nothing material occurred to Newgate, until the memorable year 1666, when it was utterly destroyed by the Great Fire. It is with the building raised after this direful calamity that our history has to deal.