Jack Sheppard eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 601 pages of information about Jack Sheppard.

In the general survey of the prison, taken in the preceding chapter, but little was said of the Lodge.  It may be well, therefore, before proceeding farther, to describe it more minutely.  It was approached from the street by a flight of broad stone steps, leading to a ponderous door, plated with iron, and secured on the inner side by huge bolts, and a lock, with wards of a prodigious size.  A little within stood a second door, or rather wicket, lower than the first, but of equal strength, and surmounted by a row of sharp spikes.  As no apprehension was entertained of an escape by this outlet,—­nothing of the kind having been attempted by the boldest felon ever incarcerated in Newgate,—­both doors were generally left open during the daytime.  At six o’clock, the wicket was shut; and at nine, the jail was altogether locked up.  Not far from the entrance, on the left, was a sort of screen, or partition-wall, reaching from the floor to the ceiling, formed of thick oaken planks riveted together by iron bolts, and studded with broad-headed nails.  In this screen, which masked the entrance of a dark passage communicating with the Condemned Hold, about five feet from the ground, was a hatch, protected by long spikes set six inches apart, and each of the thickness of an elephant’s tusk.  The spikes almost touched the upper part of the hatch:  scarcely space enough for the passage of a hand being left between their points and the beam.  Here, as has already been observed, condemned malefactors were allowed to converse with such of their guests as had not interest or money enough to procure admission to them in the hold.  Beyond the hatch, an angle, formed by a projection in the wall of some three or four feet, served to hide a door conducting to the interior of the prison.  At the farther end of the Lodge, the floor was raised to the height of a couple of steps; whence the whole place, with the exception of the remotest corner of the angle before-mentioned, could be commanded at a single glance.  On this elevation a table was now placed, around which sat the turnkeys and their guests, regaling themselves on the fragrant beverage provided by the prisoner.  A brief description will suffice for them.  They were all stout ill-favoured men, attired in the regular jail-livery of scratch wig and snuff-coloured suit; and had all a strong family likeness to each other.  The only difference between the officers of Newgate and their brethren was, that they had enormous bunches of keys at their girdles, while the latter had left their keys at home.

“Well, I’ve seen many a gallant fellow in my time, Mr. Ireton,” observed the chief turnkey of Westminster Gatehouse, as he helped himself to his third glass of punch; “but I never saw one like Jack Sheppard.”

“Nor I,” returned Ireton, following his example:  “and I’ve had some experience too.  Ever since he came here, three months ago, he has been the life and soul of the place; and now the death warrant has arrived, instead of being cast down, as most men would be, and as all others are, he’s gayer than ever.  Well, I shall be sorry to lose him, Mr. Griffin.  We’ve made a pretty penny by him—­sixty guineas this blessed day.”

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Jack Sheppard from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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