“And now, I’ve one further request,” faltered Jack; “though I scarcely know how to make it. It is to set me right with Winifred. Do not let her think worse of me than I deserve,—or even so ill. Tell her, that more than once, when about to commit some desperate offence, I have been restrained by her gentle image. If hopeless love for her made me a robber, it has also saved me many a crime. Will you tell her that?”
“I will,” replied Thames, earnestly.
“Enough,” said Jack, recovering his composure. “And now, to your own concerns. Blueskin, who has been on the watch all night, has dogged Sir Rowland Trenchard to Jonathan Wild’s house; and, from the mysterious manner in which he was admitted by the thief-taker’s confidential servant, Abraham Mendez, and not by the regular porter, there is little doubt but they are alone, and probably making some arrangements prior to our uncle’s departure from England.”
“Is he leaving England?” demanded Thames, in astonishment.
“He sails to-morrow morning in the very vessel by which I start,” replied Jack. “Now, if as I suspect,—from the documents just placed in your possession,—Sir Rowland meditates doing you justice after his departure, it is possible his intentions may be frustrated by the machinations of Wild, whose interest is obviously to prevent such an occurrence, unless we can surprise them together, and, by proving to Sir Rowland that we possess the power of compelling a restitution of your rights, force the other treacherous villain into compliance. Jonathan, in all probability, knows nothing of these packets; and their production may serve to intimidate him. Will you venture?”
“It is a hazardous experiment,” said Thames, after a moment’s reflection; “but I will make it. You must not, however, accompany me, Jack. The risk I run is nothing to yours.”
“I care for no risk, provided I can serve you,” rejoined Sheppard. “Besides, you’ll not be able to get in without me. It won’t do to knock at the door, and Jonathan Wild’s house is not quite so easy of entrance as Mr. Wood’s.”
“I understand,” replied Thames; “be it as you will.”
“Then, we’ll lose no more time,” returned Jack. “Come along, Blueskin.”
Starting at a rapid pace in the direction of the Old Bailey, and crossing Fleet Bridge, “for oyster tubs renowned,” the trio skirted the right bank of the muddy stream until they reached Fleet Lane, up which they hurried. Turning off again on the left, down Seacoal Lane, they arrived at the mouth of a dark, narrow alley, into which they plunged; and, at the farther extremity found a small yard, overlooked by the blank walls of a large gloomy habitation. A door in this house opened upon the yard. Jack tried it, and found it locked.
“If I had my old tools with me, we’d soon master this obstacle,” he muttered. “We shall be obliged to force it.”
“Try the cellar, Captain,” said Blueskin, stamping upon a large board in the ground. “Here’s the door. This is the way the old thief brings in all his heavy plunder, which he stows in out-of-the-way holes in his infernal dwelling. I’ve seen him often do it.”