And he hastily related the occurrences in Jonathan Wild’s house.
The account of the discovery of Sir Rowland’s murder filled Winifred with alarm; but when she learnt what had befallen Thames—how he had been stricken down by the thief-taker’s bludgeon, and left for dead, she uttered a piercing scream, fainted, and would have fallen, if Jack had not caught her in his arms.
Jack had well-nigh fallen too. The idea that he held in his arms the girl whom he had once so passionately loved, and for whom he still retained an ardent but hopeless attachment, almost overcame him. Gazing at her with eyes blinded with tears, he imprinted one brotherly kiss upon her lips. It was the first—and the last!
At this juncture, the handle of the door was tried, and the voice of Mr. Wood was heard without, angrily demanding admittance.
“What’s the matter?” he cried. “I thought I heard a scream. Why is the door fastened? Open it directly!”
“Are you alone?” asked Jack, mimicking the voice of Kneebone.
“What for?” demanded Wood. “Open the door, I say, or I’ll burst it open.”
Carefully depositing Winifred on a sofa, Jack then extinguished the light, and, as he unfastened the door, crept behind it. In rushed Mr. Wood, with a candle in his hand, which Jack instantly blew out, and darted down stairs. He upset some one—probably Mr. Bird,—who was rushing up stairs, alarmed by Mr. Wood’s cries: but, regardless of this, he darted along a passage, gained the shop, and passed through an open door into the street.
And thus he was once more free, having effected one of the most wonderful escapes ever planned or accomplished.
Fast and Loose.
About seven o’clock on the same night, Jonathan Wild’s two janizaries, who had been for some time in attendance in the hall of his dwelling at the Old Bailey, were summoned to the audience-chamber. A long and secret conference then took place between the thief-taker and his myrmidons, after which they were severally dismissed.
Left alone, Jonathan lighted a lamp, and, opening the trap-door, descended the secret stairs. Taking the opposite course from that which he had hitherto pursued when it has been necessary to attend him in his visits to the lower part of his premises, he struck into a narrow passage on the right, which he tracked till he came to a small door, like the approach to a vault. Unlocking it, he entered the chamber, which by no means belied its external appearance.
On a pallet in one corner lay a pale emaciated female. Holding the lamp over her rigid but beautiful features, Jonathan, with some anxiety, placed his hand upon her breast to ascertain whether the heart still beat. Satisfied with his scrutiny, he produced a pocket-flask, and taking off the silver cup with which it was mounted, filled it with the contents of the flask, and then seizing the thin arm of the sleeper, rudely shook it. Opening her large black eyes, she fixed them upon him for a moment with a mixture of terror and loathing, and then averted her gaze.