“Loved me! You!”
“I loved you,” continued Jonathan, “and struck by your appearance, which seemed above your station, inquired your history, and found you had been stolen by a gipsy in Lancashire. I proceeded to Manchester, to investigate the matter further, and when there ascertained, beyond a doubt, that you were the eldest daughter of Sir Montacute Trenchard. This discovery made, I hastened back to London to offer you my hand, but found you had married in the mean time a smock-faced, smooth-tongued carpenter named Sheppard. The important secret remained locked in my breast, but I resolved to be avenged. I swore I would bring your husband to the gallows,—would plunge you in such want, such distress, that you should have no alternative but the last frightful resource of misery,—and I also swore, that if you had a son he should share the same fate as his father.”
“And terribly you have kept your vow,” replied Mrs. Sheppard.
“I have,” replied Jonathan. “But I am now coming to the point which most concerns you. Consent to become my wife, and do not compel me to have recourse to violence to effect my purpose, and I will spare your son.”
Mrs. Sheppard looked fixedly at him, as if she would penetrate the gloomy depth of his soul.
“Swear that you will do this,” she cried.
“I swear it,” rejoined Jonathan, readily.
“But what is an oath to you!” cried the widow, distrustfully. “You will not hesitate to break it, if it suits your purpose. I have suffered too much from your treachery. I will not trust you.”
“As you please,” replied Jonathan, sternly. “Recollect you are in my power. Jack’s life hangs on your determination.”
“What shall I do?” cried Mrs. Sheppard, in a voice of agony.
“Save him,” replied Jonathan. “You can do so.”
“Bring him here,—let me see him—let me embrace him—let me be assured that he is safe, and I am yours. I swear it.”
“Hum!” exclaimed Jonathan.
“You hesitate—you are deceiving me.”
“By my soul, no,” replied Jonathan, with affected sincerity. “You shall see him to-morrow.”
“Delay the marriage till then. I will never consent till I see him.”
“Yon ask impossibilities,” replied Jonathan, sullenly. “All is prepared. The marriage cannot—shall not be delayed. Yon must be mine to-night.”
“Force shall not make me yours till Jack is free,” replied the widow, resolutely.
“An hour hence, I shall return with the priest,” replied Jonathan, striding towards the door.
And, with a glance of malignant exultation, he quitted the vault, and locked the door.
“An hour hence, I shall be beyond your malice,” said Mrs. Sheppard, sinking backwards upon the pallet.
The last Meeting between Jack Sheppard and his Mother.