After occupying himself thus for the best part of an hour, he thought Jack must have given him the slip. Still, his suspicions were so strong, that he ordered Mendez to remain on guard near the spot all night, and, by the promise of a large reward induced two other men to keep him company.
As he took his departure, he whispered to the Jew: “Take him dead or alive; but if we fail now, and you heard him aright in Seacoal Lane, we are sure of him at his mother’s funeral on Sunday.”
How Jack Sheppard got rid of his Irons.
About an hour after this, Jack ventured to emerge from his place of concealment. It was still raining heavily, and profoundly dark. Drenched to the skin,—in fact, he had been lying in a bed of muddy water,—and chilled to the very bone, he felt so stiff, that he could scarcely move.
Listening attentively, he fancied he heard the breathing of some one near him, and moved cautiously in the opposite direction. In spite of his care, he came in contact with a man, who, endeavouring to grasp him, cried, in the voice of Mendez, “Who goes dere? Shpeak! or I fire!”
No answer being returned, the Jew instantly discharged his pistol, and though the shot did no damage, the flash discovered Sheppard. But as the next moment all was profound darkness, Jack easily managed to break away from them.
Without an idea where he was going, Jack pursued his way through the fields; and, as he proceeded, the numbness of his limbs in some degree wore off, and his confidence returned. He had need of all the inexhaustible energy of his character to support him through his toilsome walk over the wet grass, or along the slippery ploughed land. At last, he got into a lane, but had not proceeded far when he was again alarmed by the sound of a horse’s tread.
Once more breaking through the hedge he took to the fields. He was now almost driven to despair. Wet as he was, he felt if he lay down in the grass, he should perish with cold; while, if he sought a night’s lodging in any asylum, his dress, stained with blood and covered with dirt, would infallibly cause him to be secured and delivered into the hands of justice. And then the fetters, which were still upon his legs:—how was he to get rid of them?
Tired and dispirited, he still wandered on. Again returning to the main road, he passed through Clapton; and turning off on the left, arrived at the foot of Stamford Hill. He walked on for an hour longer, till he could scarcely drag one leg after another. At length, he fell down on the road, fully expecting each moment would prove his last.
How long he continued thus he scarcely knew; but just before dawn, he managed to regain his legs, and, crawling up a bank, perceived he was within a quarter of a mile of Tottenham. A short way off in the fields he descried a sort of shed or cow-house, and thither he contrived to drag his weary limbs. Opening the door, he found it littered with straw, on which he threw himself, and instantly fell asleep.