Just as he had succeeded in fixing his attention, it was again shaken, and he was almost unnerved by the sight of Mr. Wood, who was standing at the edge of a raised platform, anxiously waving his hand to him.
Jack instantly sprang to his feet, and as his guards construed the motion into an attempt to escape, several of them drew their swords and motioned to him to sit down. But Jack did not heed them. His looks were fixed on his old benefactor.
“God in Heaven bless you, unhappy boy!” cried. Wood, bursting into tears, “God bless you!”
Jack extended his hand towards him, and looked anxiously for Thames; but he was nowhere to be seen. A severe pang shot through Jack’s heart, and he would have given worlds if he possessed them to have seen his friend once more. The wish was vain: and, endeavouring to banish every earthly thought, he addressed himself deeply and sincerely to prayer.
While this was passing, Jonathan had ridden back to Marvel to tell him that all was ready, and to give him his last instructions.
“You’ll lose no time,” said the thief-taker. “A hundred pounds if you do it quickly.”
“Rely on me,” rejoined the executioner, throwing away his pipe, which was just finished.
A deep dread calm, like that which precedes a thunderstorm, now prevailed amongst the assemblage. The thousand voices which a few moments before had been so clamorous were now hushed. Not a breath was drawn. The troops had kept a large space clear around the gallows. The galleries adjoining it were crowded with spectators,—so was the roof of a large tavern, then the only house standing at the end of the Edgeware Road,—so were the trees,—the walls of Hyde Park,—a neighbouring barn, a shed,—in short, every available position.
The cart, meantime, had approached the fatal tree. The guards, horse and foot, and constables formed a wide circle round it to keep off the mob. It was an awful moment—so awful, that every other feeling except deep interest in the scene seemed suspended.
At this terrible juncture, Jack maintained his composure,—a smile played upon his face before the cap was drawn over it,—and the last words he uttered were, “My poor mother! I shall soon join her!” The rope was then adjusted, and the cart began to move.
The next instant, he was launched into eternity!
Scarcely had he been turned off a moment, when a man with swarthy features leapt into the cart with an open clasp-knife in his hand, and, before he could be prevented, severed the rope, and cut down the body. It was Blueskin. His assistance came too late. A ball from Wild’s pistol passed through his heart, and a volley of musketry poured from the guards lodged several balls in the yet breathing body of his leader.
Blueskin, however, was not unattended. A thousand eager assistants pressed behind him. Jack’s body was caught, and passed from hand to hand over a thousand heads, till it was far from the fatal tree.