“Iss, Massa Ireton,” replied the black.
“Stop, Caliban,” interposed Mrs. Spurling, who wished to protract the discovery of the escape as long as possible. “Before you go, bring me the bottle of pine-apple rum I opened yesterday. I should like Mr. Ireton and his friends to taste it. It is in the lower cupboard. Oh! you haven’t got the key—then I must have it, I suppose. How provoking!” she added, pretending to rummage her pockets; “one never can find a thing when one wants it.”
“Never mind it, my dear Mrs. Spurling,” rejoined Ireton; “we can taste the rum when he returns. We shall have Mr. Wild here presently, and I wouldn’t for the world—Zounds!” he exclaimed, as the figure of the thief-taker appeared at the wicket, “here he is. Off with you, Caliban! Fly, you rascal!”
“Mr. Wild here!” exclaimed Mrs. Spurling in alarm. “Oh gracious! he’s lost.”
“Who’s lost?” demanded Ireton.
“The key,” replied the widow.
All the turnkeys rose to salute the thief-taker, whose habitually-sullen countenance looked gloomier than usual. Ireton rushed forward to open the wicket for him.
“No Blueskin, I perceive, Sir,” he observed, in a deferential tone, as Wild entered the Lodge.
“No,” replied Jonathan, moodily. “I’ve been deceived by false information. But the wench who tricked me shall bitterly repent it. I hope this is all. I begin to fear I might be purposely go out of the way. Nothing has gone wrong here?”
“Nothing whatever,” replied Ireton. “Jack is just gone back to the Condemned Hold. His two wives have been here.”
“Ha!” exclaimed Jonathan, with a sudden vehemence that electrified the chief turnkey; “what’s this! a spike gone! ’Sdeath! the women, you say, have been here. He has escaped.”
“Impossible, Sir,” replied Ireton, greatly alarmed.
“Impossible!” echoed Wild, with a fearful imprecation. “No, Sir, it’s quite possible—more than possible. It’s certain. I’ll lay my life he’s gone. Come with me to the Condemned Hold directly, and, if I find my fears confirmed, I’ll—”
He was here interrupted by the sudden entrance of the black, who rushed precipitately into the room, letting fall the heavy bunch of keys in his fright.
“O Massa Ireton! Massa Wild!” ejaculated Caliban, “Shack Sheppart gone!”
“Gone? you black devil!—Gone?” cried Ireton.
“Iss, Massa. Caliban sarch ebery hole in de place, but Shack no dere. Only him big hoss padlock—noting else.”
“I knew it,” rejoined Wild, with concentrated rage; “and he escaped you all, in broad day, before your faces. You may well say it’s impossible! His Majesty’s jail of Newgate is admirably guarded, I must say. Ireton, you are in league with him.”
“Sir,” said the chief turnkey, indignantly.
“You are, Sir,” thundered Jonathan; “and, unless you find him, you shan’t hold your place a week. I don’t threaten idly, as you know. And you, Austin; and you Langley, I say the same thing to you.”