“Of course,” rejoined the bystander, who had just spoken, and who was of a cynical turn,—“the greater the rascal, the better they like him.”
“Here’s a particular account of Jack’s many robberies and escapes,” roared the hawker,—“how he broke into the house of his master, Mr. Wood, at Dollis Hill—”
“Let me have one,” said a carpenter, who was passing by at the moment,—“Mr. Wood was an old friend of mine—and I recollect seeing Jack when he was bound ’prentice to him.”
“A penny, if you please, Sir,” said the hawker.—“Sold again! Here you have the full, true, and particular account of the barbarous murder committed by Jack Sheppard and his associate, Joseph Blake, alias Blueskin, upon the body of Mrs. Wood—”
“That’s false!” cried a voice behind him.
The man turned at the exclamation, and so did several of the bystanders; but they could not make out who had uttered it.
Jack, who had been lingering near the group, now walked on.
In the middle of the little town stood the shop of a Jew dealer in old clothes. The owner was at the door unhooking a few articles of wearing apparel which he had exposed outside for sale. Amongst other things, he had just brought down an old laced bavaroy, a species of surtout much worn at the period.
“What do you want fot that coat, friend?” asked Jack, as he came up.
“More than you’ll pay for it, friend,” snuffled the Jew.
“How do you know that?” rejoined Jack. “Will you take a guinea for it?”
“Double that sum might tempt me,” replied the Jew; “it’s a nobleman’s coat, upon my shoul!”
“Here’s the money,” replied Jack, taking the coat.
“Shall I help you on with it, Sir?” replied the Jew, becoming suddenly respectful.
“No,” replied Jack.
“I half suspect this is a highwayman,” thought the Jew; “he’s so ready with his cash. I’ve some other things inside, Sir, which you might wish to buy,—some pistols.”
Jack was about to comply; but not liking the man’s manner, he walked on.
Further on, there was a small chandler’s shop, where Jack observed an old woman seated at the counter, attended by a little girl. Seeing provisions in the window, Jack ventured in and bought a loaf. Having secured this,—for he was almost famished,—he said that he had lost a hammer and wished to purchase one. The old woman told him she had no such article to dispose of, but recommended him to a neighbouring blacksmith.
Guided by the glare of the forge, which threw a stream of ruddy light across the road, Jack soon found the place of which he was in search. Entering the workshop, he found the blacksmith occupied in heating the tire of a cart wheel. Suspending his labour on Jack’s appearance, the man demanded his business. Making up a similar story to that which he had told the old woman, he said he wanted to purchase a hammer and a file.