The door was opened, and Austin entered the cell, when he absolutely recoiled before the spectacle he beheld, and could scarcely have looked more alarmed if the prison had tumbled about his ears. Petrified and speechless, he turned an imploring look at Wild, who was himself filled with astonishment at the pile of rubbish lying before him.
“’Sdeath!” cried Jonathan, staring at the breach in the wall. “Some one must have assisted him. Unless he has dealings with the devil, he could never have done this alone.”
“I firmly believe he has dealings with the devil,” replied Austin, trembling from head to foot. “But, perhaps, he has not got beyond the room above. It’s as strong, if not stronger, than this. I’ll see.”
So saying, he scrambled over the rubbish, and got into the chimney. But though the breach was large enough to admit him below, he could not squeeze his bulky person through the aperture into the Red Room.
“I believe he’s gone,” he said, returning to Jonathan. “The door’s open, and the room empty.”
“You believe—you know it,” replied Jonathan, fixing one of his sternest and most searching glances upon him. “Nothing you can say to the contrary will convince me that you have not been accessory to his flight.”
“I, Sir!—I swear——”
“Tush!” interrupted Jonathan, harshly. “I shall state my suspicions to the governor. Come down with me to the Lodge directly. All further examinations must be conducted in the presence of proper witnesses.”
With these words, he strode out of the room, darted down the stone stairs, and, on his arrival at the Lodge, seized the rope of the great bell communicating with the interior of the prison, which he rang violently. As this was never done, except in some case of great emergency, the application was instantly answered by all the other turnkeys, by Marvel, the four partners, and Mrs. Spurling. Nothing could exceed the dismay of these personages when they learnt why they had been summoned. All seemed infected with Austin’s terrors except Mrs. Spurling, who did not dare to exhibit her satisfaction otherwise than by privately pinching the arm of her expected husband.
Headed by Jonathan, all the turnkeys then repaired to the upper part of the jail, and, approaching the Red Room by a circuitous route, several doors were unlocked, and they came upon the scene of Jack’s exploits. Stopping before each door, they took up the plates of the locks, examined the ponderous bolts, and were struck with the utmost astonishment at what they beheld.
Arriving at the chapel, their wonder increased. All the jailers declared it utterly impossible he could have accomplished his astonishing task unaided; but who had lent him assistance was a question they were unable to answer. Proceeding to the entry to the Lower Leads, they came to the two strong doors, and their surprise was so great at Jack’s marvellous performance, that they could scarcely persuade themselves that human ingenuity could have accomplished it.