Meanwhile, the object of all this fearful disturbance had made his escape to Newgate, from the roof of which he witnessed the destruction of his premises. He saw the flames burst from the windows, and perhaps in that maddening spectacle suffered torture equivalent to some of the crimes he had committed.
While he was thus standing, the flames of his house, which made the whole street as light as day, and ruddily illumined the faces of the mob below, betrayed him to them, and he was speedily driven from his position by a shower of stones and other missiles.
The mob now directed their attention to Newgate; and, from their threats, appeared determined to fire it. Ladders, paviour’s rams, sledge-hammers, and other destructive implements were procured, and, in all probability, their purpose would have been effected, but for the opportune arrival of a detachment of the guards, who dispersed them, not without some loss of life.
Several prisoners were taken, but the ring-leaders escaped. Engines were brought to play upon Wild’s premises, and upon the adjoining houses. The latter were saved; but of the former nothing but the blackened stone walls were found standing on the morrow.
The Procession to Tyburn.
The noise of this disturbance did not fail to reach the interior of the prison. In fact, the reflection of the flames lighted up the ward in which Jack Sheppard was confined.
The night his execution was therefore passed in a most anxious state of mind; nor was his uneasiness allayed by the appearance of Jonathan Wild, who, after he had been driven from the roof of the jail, repaired to the Middle Stone Ward in a fit of ungovernable passion, to vent his rage upon the prisoner, whom he looked upon as the cause of the present calamity. Such was his fury, that if he had not been restrained by the presence of the two turnkeys, he might perhaps have anticipated the course of justice, by laying violent hands upon his victim.
After venting his wrath in the wildest manner, and uttering the most dreadful execrations, Jonathan retired to another part of the prison, where he passed the night in consultation with the governor, as to the best means of conveying the prisoner securely to Tyburn. Mr. Pitt endeavoured to dissuade him from attending in person, representing the great risk he would incur from the mob, which was certain to be assembled. But Jonathan was not to be deterred.
“I have sworn to see him hanged,” he said, “and nothing shall keep me away—nothing, by——.”
By Wild’s advice, the usual constabulary force was greatly augmented. Messengers were despatched to all the constables and head-boroughs to be in attendance,—to the sheriffs to have an extraordinary number of their officers in attendance,—and to the Savoy, to obtain the escort of a troop of grenadier-guards. In short, more preparations were made than if a state criminal was about to be executed.