Old Saint Paul's
William Harrison Ainsworth
Part 2 out of 12
"From what a snare of the evil one--from what a pitfall have you been
"I feel I have had a narrow escape, dear mother," replied Amabel.
"Pardon me. I do not deserve your forgiveness. But I will never offend
"I forgive you from my heart, child, and will trust you," returned Mrs.
Bloundel, in a voice broken by emotion.
"That is more than I would," thought Maurice Wyvil. "A woman who has
once deceived those she holds dear, will not fail to do so a second
time. The fairest promises are forgotten when the danger is past."
"Mr. Wyvil, if you have a particle of regard for me, you will instantly
leave the house," said Amabel, turning to him.
"If had my own way, he should leave it through the window," said Mrs.
Bloundel; "and if he tarries a minute longer, I will give the alarm."
"You hear this, sir," cried Amabel:--"go, I entreat you."
"I yield to circumstance, Amabel," replied Wyvil; "but think not I
resign you. Come what will, and however I may be foiled, I will not
desist till I make you mine."
"I tremble to hear him," cried Mrs. Bloundel, "and could not have
believed such depravity existed. Quit the house, sir, directly, or I
will have you turned out of it."
"Do not remain another moment," implored Amabel. "Do not, do not!"
"Since I have no other way of proving my love, I must perforce obey,"
returned Wyvil, trying to snatch her hand and press it to his lips; but
she withdrew it, and clung more closely to her mother. "We part," he
added, significantly, "only for a time."
Quitting the room, he was about to descend the stairs, when Mrs.
Bloundel, who had followed to see him safely off the premises, hearing a
noise below, occasioned by the return of Leonard with the doctor,
cautioned him to wait. A further delay was caused by Blaize, who,
stationing himself at the foot of the stairs, with a light in his hand,
appeared unwilling to move. Apprehensive of a discovery, Mrs. Bloundel
then directed the gallant to the back staircase, and he had got about
halfway down, when he was surprised by Leonard Holt, as before related.
At the very moment that Wyvil was overtaken on the landing by the
apprentice, Amabel appeared at the door of her chamber with a light. The
different emotions of each party at this unexpected rencontre may be
imagined. Leonard Holt, with a breast boiling with jealous rage,
prepared to attack his rival. He had no weapon about him, having left
his cudgel in the shop, but he doubled his fists, and, nerved by
passion, felt he had the force of a Hercules in his arm. Wyvil, in his
turn, kept his hand upon his sword, and glanced at his mistress, as if
seeking instructions how to act. At length, Mrs. Bloundel, who formed
one of the group, spoke.
"Leonard Holt," she said, "show this person out at the door. Do not lose
sight of him for an instant; and, as soon as he is gone, try to find out
how he entered the house."
"He entered it like a robber," returned Leonard, looking fiercely at the
gallant, "and if I did my strict duty, I should seize him and give him
in charge to the watch. He has come here for the purpose of stealing my
master's chief valuable--his daughter."
"I am aware of it," replied Mrs. Bloundel, "and nothing but
consideration for my husband prevents my delivering him up to justice.
As it is, he may go free. But should he return--"
"If I catch him here again," interrupted Leonard, "I will shoot him as I
would a dog, though I should be hanged for the deed. Have you considered
well what you are doing, madam? I would not presume beyond my station,
but there are seasons when an inferior may give wholesome advice. Are
you certain you are acting as your worthy husband would, in allowing
this person to depart? If you have any doubt, speak. Fear nothing.
Unarmed as I am, I am a match for him, and will detain him."
"Do not heed what Leonard says, dear mother," interposed Amabel. "For my
sake, let Mr. Wyvil go."
"I _have_ considered the matter, Leonard," returned Mrs. Bloundel, "and
trust I am acting rightly. At all events, I am sure I am sparing my
"It is mistaken tenderness," rejoined Leonard, "and Heaven grant you may
not have cause to repent it. If I had your permission, I would so deal
with this audacious intruder, that he should never venture to repeat his
"You know that you speak safely, fellow," rejoined Wyvil, "and you,
therefore, give full license to your scurrile tongue. But a time will
come when I will chastise your insolence."
"No more of this," cried Mrs. Bloundel. "Do as I bid you, Leonard; and,
as you value my regard, say nothing of what has occurred to your
Sullenly acquiescing, the apprentice preceded Wyvil to the shop, and
opened the door.
As the other passed through it, he said, "You spoke of chastising me
just now. If you have courage enough--which I doubt--to make good your
words, and will wait for me for five minutes, near Saint Alban's Church
in this street, you shall have the opportunity."
Wyvil did not deign a reply, but wrapping his cloak around him, strode
away. He had not proceeded far, when it occurred to him that, possibly,
notwithstanding his interdiction, some of his companions might be
waiting for him, and hurrying down the passage leading to the yard, he
found Lydyard, to whom he recounted his ill-success.
"I shall not, however, abandon my design," he said. "These failures are
only incentives to further exertion."
"In the meantime, you must pay your wager to Sedley," laughed Lydyard,
"and as the house is really infected with the plague, it behoves you to
call at the first apothecary's shop we find open, and get your apparel
fumigated. You must not neglect due precautions."
"True," replied Wyvil, "and as I feel too restless to go home at
present, suppose we amuse ourselves by calling on some astrologer, to
see whether the stars are favourable to my pursuit of this girl."
"A good idea," replied Lydyard. "There are plenty of the 'Sons of
Urania,' as they term themselves, hereabouts.
"A mere juggler will not serve my turn," returned Wyvil.
"William Lilly, the almanack-maker, who predicted the plague, and, if
old Rowley is to be believed, has great skill in the occult sciences,
lives somewhere in Friday-street, not a stone's throw from this place.
Let us go and find him out."
"Agreed," replied Lydyard.
Any doubts entertained by Leonard Holt as to the manner in which his
rival entered the house, were removed by discovering the open window in
the passage and the rope-ladder hanging to the yard-wall. Taking the
ladder away, and making all as secure as he could, he next seized his
cudgel, and proceeded to Blaize's room, with the intention of inflicting
upon him the punishment he had threatened: for he naturally enough
attributed to the porter's carelessness all the mischief that had just
occurred. Not meeting with him, however, and concluding he was in the
kitchen, he descended thither, and found him in such a pitiable plight,
that his wrath was instantly changed to compassion.
Stretched upon the hearth before a blazing sea-coal fire, which seemed
large enough to roast him, with his head resting upon the lap of
Patience, the pretty kitchen-maid, and his left hand upon his heart, the
porter loudly complained of a fixed and burning pain in that region;
while his mother, who was kneeling beside him, having just poured a
basin of scalding posset-drink down his throat, entreated him to let her
examine his side to see whether he had any pestilential mark upon it,
but he vehemently resisted her efforts.
"Do you feel any swelling, myn lief zoon?" asked old Josyna, trying to
remove his hand.
"Swelling!" ejaculated Blaize,--"there's a tumour as big as an egg."
"Is id possible?" exclaimed Josyna, in great alarm. "Do let me look ad
"No, no, leave me alone," rejoined Blaize. "Don't disturb me further.
You will catch the distemper if you touch the sore."
"Dat wond hinder me from drying to zaave you," replied his mother,
affectionately. "I must see vad is de madder vid you, or I cannod cure
"I am past your doctoring, mother," groaned Blaize. "Leave me alone, I
say. You hurt me shockingly!"
"Poor child!" cried Josyna, soothingly, "I'll be as dender as possible.
I'll nod give you de leasd pain--nod de leasd bid."
"But I tell you, you _do_ give me a great deal," rejoined Blaize. "I
can't bear it. Your fingers are like iron nails. Keep them away."
"Bless us! did I ever hear de like of dad!" exclaimed Josyna. "Iron
nails! if you think so, myn arm zoon, you musd be very ill indeed."
"I _am_ very ill," groaned her son. "I am not long for this world."
"Oh! don't say so, dear Blaize," sobbed Patience, letting fall a
plentiful shower of tears on his face. "Don't say so. I can't bear to
part with you."
"Then don't survive me," returned Blaize. "But there's little chance of
your doing so. You are certain to take the plague."
"I care not what becomes of myself, if I lose you, Blaize," responded
Patience, bedewing his countenance with another shower; "but I hope you
won't die yet."
"Ah! it's all over with me--all over," rejoined Blaize. "I told Leonard
Holt how it would be. I said I should be the next victim. And my words
are come true."
"You are as clever as a conjurer," sobbed Patience; "but I wish you
hadn't been right in this instance. However, comfort yourself. I'll die
with you. We'll be carried to the grave in the same plague-cart."
"That's cold comfort," returned Blaize, angrily. "I beg you'll never
mention the plague-cart again. The thought of it makes me shiver all
over--oh!" And he uttered a dismal and prolonged groan.
At this juncture, Leonard thought it time to interfere.
"If you are really attacked by the plague, Blaize," he said, advancing,
"you must have instant advice. Doctor Hodges is still upstairs with our
master. He must see you."
"On no account," returned the porter, in the greatest alarm, and
springing to his feet. "I am better--much better. I don't think I am ill
"For the first time, I suspect the contrary," replied the apprentice,
"since you are afraid of owning it. But this is not a matter to be
trifled with. Doctor Hodges will soon settle the point." And he hurried
out of the room to summon the physician.
"Oh! mother!--dear Patience!" roared Blaize, capering about in an
ecstasy of terror; "don't let the doctor come near me. Keep me out of
his sight. You don't know what horrid things are done to those afflicted
with my complaint. But I do,--for I have informed myself on the subject.
Their skins are scarified, and their sores blistered, lanced,
cauterized, and sometimes burned away with a knob of red-hot iron,
called 'the button.'"
"But iv id is necessary, myn goed Blaize, you musd submid," replied his
mother. "Never mind de hod iron or de lance, or de blisder, iv dey make
you well. Never mind de pain. It will soon be over."
"Soon over!" bellowed Blaize, sinking into a chair. "Yes, I feel it
will. But not in the way you imagine. This Doctor Hodges will kill me.
He is fond of trying experiments, and will make me his subject. Don't
let him--for pity's sake, don't."
"But I musd, myn lief jonger," replied his mother, "I musd."
"Oh, Patience!" supplicated Blaize, "you were always fond of me. My
mother has lost her natural affection. She wishes to get rid of me.
Don't take part with her. My sole dependence is upon you."
"I will do all I can for you, dear Blaize," blubbered the kitchen-maid.
"But it is absolutely necessary you should see the doctor."
"Then I won't stay here another minute," vociferated Blaize. "I'll die
in the street rather than under his hands."
And bursting from them, he would have made good his retreat, but for the
entrance of Leonard and Hodges.
At the sight of the latter, Blaize ran back and endeavoured to screen
himself behind Patience.
"Is this the sick man?" remarked Hodges, scarcely able to refrain from
laughing. "I don't think he can be in such imminent danger as you led me
"No, I am better--much better, thank you," returned Blaize, still
keeping Patience between him and the doctor. "The very sight of you has
frightened away the plague."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Hodges, smiling, "then it is the most marvellous
cure I ever yet effected. But, come forward, young man, and let us see
what is the matter with you."
"You neither lance nor cauterize an incipient tumour, do you, doctor?"
demanded Blaize, without abandoning his position.
"Eh, day!" exclaimed Hodges, "have we one of the faculty here? I see how
it is, friend. You have been reading some silly book about the disease,
and have frightened yourself into the belief that you have some of its
symptoms. I hope you haven't been doctoring yourself, likewise. What
have you taken?"
"It would be difficult to say what he has _not_ taken," remarked
Leonard. "His stomach must be like an apothecary's shop."
"I have only used proper precautions," rejoined Blaize, testily.
"And what may those be--eh?" inquired the doctor. "I am curious to
"Come from behind Patience," cried Leonard, "and don't act the fool
longer, or I will see whether your disorder will not yield to a sound
application of the cudgel."
"Don't rate him thus, good Master Leonard," interposed Patience. "He is
very ill--he is, indeed."
"Then let him have a chance of getting better," returned the apprentice.
"If he _is_ ill, he has no business near you. Come from behind her,
Blaize, I say. Now speak," he added, as the porter crept tremblingly
forth, "and let us hear what nostrums you have swallowed. I know you
have dosed yourself with pills, electuaries, balsams, tinctures,
conserves, spirits, elixirs, decoctions, and every other remedy, real or
imaginary. What else have you done?"
"What Dr. Hodges, I am sure, will approve," replied Blaize, confidently.
"I have rubbed myself with vinegar, oil of sulphur, extract of tar, and
spirit of turpentine."
"What next?" demanded Hodges.
"I placed saltpetre, brimstone, amber, and juniper upon a chafing-dish
to fumigate my room," replied Blaize; "but the vapour was so
overpowering, I could not bear it."
"I should be surprised if you could," replied the doctor. "Indeed, it is
astonishing to me, if you have taken half the remedies Leonard says you
have, and which, taken in this way, are no remedies at all, since they
counteract each other--that you are still alive. But let us see what is
the matter with you. What ails you particularly?"
"Nothing," replied Blaize, trembling; "I am quite well."
"He complains of a fixed pain near de haard, docdor," interposed his
mother, "and says he has a large dumour on his side. But he wond let me
"That's a bad sign," observed Hodges, shaking his head. "I am afraid
it's not all fancy, as I at first supposed. Have you felt sick of late,
"Not of late," replied Blaize, becoming as white as ashes; "but I do
"Another bad symptom," rejoined the doctor. "Take off your doublet and
open your shirt."
"Do as the doctor bids you," said Leonard, seeing that Blaize hesitated,
"or I apply the cudgel."
"Ah! bless my life! what's this?" cried Hodges, running his hand down
the left side of the porter, and meeting with a large lump. "Can it be a
"Yes, it's a terrible carbuncle," replied Blaize; "but don't cauterize
"Let me look at it," cried Hodges, "and I shall then know how to
And as he spoke, he tore open the porter's shirt, and a silver ball,
about as large as a pigeon's egg, fell to the ground. Leonard picked it
up, and found it so hot that he could scarcely hold it.
"Here is the terrible carbuncle," he cried, with a laugh, in which all
the party, except Blaize, joined.
"It's my pomander-box," said the latter. "I filled it with a mixture of
citron-peel, angelica seed, zedoary, yellow saunders, aloes, benzoin,
camphor, and gum-tragacanth, moistened with spirit of roses; and after
placing it on the chafing-dish to heat it, hung it by a string round my
neck, next my dried toad. I suppose, by some means or other, it dropped
through my doublet, and found its way to my side. I felt a dreadful
burning there, and that made me fancy I was attacked by the plague."
"A very satisfactory solution of the mystery," replied the doctor,
laughing; "and you may think yourself well off with the blister which
your box has raised. It will be easier to bear than the cataplasm I
should have given you, had your apprehensions been well founded. As yet,
you are free from infection, young man; but if you persist in this silly
and pernicious practice of quacking yourself, you will infallibly bring
on some fatal disorder--perhaps the plague itself. If your mother has
any regard for you she will put all your medicines out of your reach.
There are few known remedies against this frightful disease; and what
few there are, must be adopted cautiously. My own specific is sack."
"Sack!" exclaimed Blaize, in astonishment. "Henceforth, I will drink
nothing else. I like the remedy amazingly."
"It must be taken in moderation," said the doctor: "otherwise it is as
dangerous as too much physic."
"I have a boddle or doo of de liquor you commend, docdor, in my private
cupboard," observed Josyna. "Will you dasde id?"
"With great pleasure," replied Hodges, "and a drop of it will do your
son no harm."
The wine was accordingly produced, and the doctor pronounced it
excellent, desiring that a glass might always be brought him when he
visited the grocer's house.
"You may rely upon id, mynheer, as long as my small sdore lasds,"
Blaize, who, in obedience to the doctor's commands, had drained a large
glass of sack, felt so much inspirited by it, that he ventured, when his
mother's back was turned, to steal a kiss from Patience, and to whisper
in her ear, that if he escaped the plague, he would certainly marry
her--an assurance that seemed to give her no slight satisfaction. His
new-born courage, however, was in some degree damped by Leonard, who
observed to him in an undertone:
"You have neglected my injunctions, sirrah, and allowed the person I
warned you of to enter the house. When a fitting season arrives, I will
not fail to pay off old scores."
Blaize would have remonstrated, and asked for some explanation, but the
apprentice instantly left him, and set out upon his errand to the
Examiner of Health. Accompanied by his mother, who would not even allow
him to say good-night to Patience, the porter then proceeded to his own
room, where the old woman, to his infinite regret, carried off his
stores of medicine in a basket, which she brought with her for that
purpose, and locked the door upon him.
"This has escaped her," said Blaize, as soon as she was gone, opening a
secret drawer in the cupboard. "How fortunate that I kept this reserve.
I have still a tolerable supply in case of need. Let me examine my
stock. First of all, there are plague-lozenges, composed of angelica,
liquorice, flower of sulphur, myrrh, and oil of cinnamon. Secondly, an
electuary of bole-armoniac, hartshorn-shavings, saffron, and syrup of
wood-sorrel. I long to taste it. But then it would be running in the
doctor's teeth. Thirdly, there is a phial labelled _Aqua Theriacalis
Stillatitia_--in plain English, distilled treacle-water. A spoonful of
this couldn't hurt me. Fourthly, a packet of powders, entitled _Manus
Christi_--an excellent mixture. Fifthly, a small pot of diatesseron,
composed of gentian, myrrh, bayberries, and round aristolochia. I must
just taste it. Never mind the doctor! He does not know what agrees with
my constitution as well as I do myself. Physic comes as naturally to me
as mother's milk. Sixthly, there is _Aqua Epidemica_, commonly called
the Plague-Water of Matthias--delicious stuff! I will only just sip it.
What a fine bitter it has! I'm sure it must be very wholesome. Next, for
I've lost my count, comes salt of vipers--next, powder of unicorn's
horn--next, oil of scorpions from Naples--next, dragon-water--all
admirable. Then there are cloves of garlics--sovereign fortifiers of the
stomach--and, lastly, there is a large box of my favourite rufuses. How
many pills have I taken? Only half a dozen! Three more may as well go to
keep the others company."
And hastily swallowing them, as if afraid of detection, he carefully
shut the drawer, and then crept into bed, and, covering himself with
blankets, endeavoured to compose himself to slumber.
Doctor Hodges, meantime, returned to the grocer, and acquainted him that
it was a false alarm, and that the porter was entirely free from
"I am glad to hear it," replied Bloundel; "but I expected as much.
Blaize is like the shepherd's boy in the fable: he has cried 'wolf' so
often, that when the danger really arrives, no one will heed him."
"I must now take my leave, Mr. Bloundel," said Hodges. "I will be with
you the first thing to-morrow, and have little doubt I shall find your
son going on well. But you must not merely take care of him, but of
yourself, and your household. It will be well to set a chafing-dish in
the middle of the room, and scatter some of these perfumes occasionally
upon it!" and producing several small packets, he gave them to the
grocer. "If you ever smoke a pipe, I would advise you to do so now."
"I never smoke," replied Bloundel, "and hold it as a filthy and
mischievous habit, which nothing but necessity should induce me to
"It is advisable now," returned Hodges, "and you should neglect no
precaution. Take my word for it, Mr. Bloundel, the plague is only
beginning. When the heats of summer arrive, its ravages will be
frightful. Heaven only knows what will become of us all!"
"If my poor son is spared, and we escape contagion," returned Bloundel,
"I will put into execution a scheme which has occurred to me, and which
(under Providence!) will, I trust, secure my family from further
"Ah, indeed! what is that?" inquired Hodges.
"We must talk of it some other time," returned Bloundel "Good-night,
doctor, and accept my thanks for your attention. To-morrow, at as early
an hour as you can make convenient, I shall hope to see you." And with a
friendly shake of the hand, and a reiteration of advice and good wishes,
Soon after this the apprentice returned, and by his master's directions,
placed a chafing-dish in the middle of the room, supplying it with the
drugs and herbs left by the doctor. About four o'clock, a loud knocking
was heard. Instantly answering the summons, Leonard found four men at
the shop-door, two of whom he knew, by red wands they carried, were
searchers; while their companions appeared to be undertakers, from their
sable habits and long black cloaks.
Marching unceremoniously into the shop, the searchers desired to see the
sick man; and the apprentice then perceived that one of the men in black
cloaks was the coffin-maker, Chowles. He could not, however, refuse him
admittance, and led the way to the grocer's chamber. As they entered it,
Bloundel arose, and placing his finger to his lips in token of silence,
raised the blankets, and exhibited the blotch, which had greatly
increased in size, under the arm of his slumbering son. The foremost of
the searchers, who kept a phial of vinegar to his nose all the time he
remained in the room, then demanded in a low tone whether there were any
other of the household infected? The grocer replied in the negative.
Upon this, Chowles, whose manner showed he was more than half
intoxicated, took off his hat, and bowing obsequiously to the grocer,
said, "Shall I prepare you a coffin, Mr. Bloundel?--you are sure to want
one, and had better give the order in time, for there is a great demand
for such articles just now. If you like, I will call with it tomorrow
night. I have a plague-cart of my own, and bury all my customers."
"God grant I may not require your services, sir!" replied the grocer,
shuddering. "But I will give you timely notice."
"If you are in want of a nurse, I can recommend an experienced one,"
added Chowles. "Her last employer is just dead."
"I may need assistance," replied the grocer, after a moment's
reflection. "Let her call to-morrow."
"She understands her business perfectly, and will save you a world of
trouble," replied Chowles; "besides securing me the sale of another
coffin," he added to himself.
He then quitted the room with the searchers, and Leonard felt
inexpressibly relieved by their departure.
As soon as the party gained the street, the fourth person, who was
provided with materials for the task, painted a red cross of the
prescribed size--namely, a foot in length--in the middle of the door;
tracing above it, in large characters, the melancholy formula--"LORD,
HAVE MERCY UPON US!"
THE LIBERTINE PUNISHED.
Sir Paul Parravicin and Major Pillichody arrived without any particular
adventure at the top of the Haymarket, where the former dismissed the
coach he had hired in Cheapside, and they proceeded towards Piccadilly
on foot. Up to this time the major had been in very high spirits,
boasting what he would do, in case they encountered Disbrowe, and
offering to keep guard outside the door while the knight remained in the
house. But he now began to alter his tone, and to frame excuses to get
away. He had noticed with some uneasiness, that another coach stopped
lower down the Haymarket, at precisely the same time as their own; and
though he could not be quite certain of the fact, he fancied he
perceived a person greatly resembling Captain Disbrowe alight from it.
Mentioning the circumstance to his companion, he pointed out a tall
figure following them at some distance; but the other only laughed at
him, and said, "It may possibly be Disbrowe--but what if it is? He
cannot get into the house without the key; and if he is inclined to
measure swords with me a second time, he shall not escape so lightly as
he did the first."
"Right, Sir Paul, right," returned Pillichody, "exterminate him--spare
him not. By Bellerophon! that's my way. My only apprehension is lest he
should set upon us unawares. The bravest are not proof against the
dagger of an assassin."
"There you wrong Disbrowe, major, I am persuaded," returned Parravicin.
"He is too much a man of honour to stab a foe behind his back."
"It may be," replied Pillichody, "but jealousy will sometimes turn a
man's brain. By the snakes of Tisiphone! I have known an instance of it
myself. I once made love to a tailor's wife, and the rascal coming in
unawares, struck me to the ground with his goose, and well nigh murdered
"After such a mischance, I am surprised you should venture to carry on
so many hazardous intrigues," laughed the knight. "But you proposed just
now to keep watch outside the house. If it is Disbrowe who is following
us, you had better do so."
"Why, Sir Paul--you see,"--stammered the major, "I have just bethought
me of an engagement."
"An engagement at this hour--impossible!" cried Parravicin.
"An assignation, I ought to say," returned Pillichody.
"Couches of Cytheraea!--an affair like your own. You would not have me
keep a lady waiting."
"It is strange you should not recollect it till this moment," replied
Parravicin. "But be your inamorata whom she may--even the rich widow of
Watling-street, of whom you prate so much--you must put her off
"But, Sir Paul----"
"I will have no denial," replied the knight, peremptorily. If you
refuse, you will find me worse to deal with than Disbrowe. You must
remain at the door till I come out. And now let us lose no more time. I
am impatient to behold the lady."
"Into what a cursed scrape have I got myself!" thought the major, as he
walked by the side of his companion, ever and anon casting wistful
glances over his shoulder. "I am fairly caught on the horns of a
dilemma. I instinctively feel that Disbrowe _is_ dogging us. What will
become of me? The moment this harebrained coxcomb enters the house, I
will see whether a light pair of heels cannot bear me out of harm's
By this time, they had reached a passage known as Bear-alley (all traces
of which have been swept away by modern improvements), and threading it,
they entered a narrow thoroughfare, called Castle-street. Just as they
turned the corner, Pillichody again noticed the figure at the further
end of the alley, and, but for his fears of the knight, would have
instantly scampered off.
"Are we far from the house?" inquired Parravicin.
"No," replied the major, scarcely able to conceal his trepidation. "It
is close at hand--and so is the lady's husband."
"So much the better," replied the knight; "it will afford you some
amusement to beat him off. You may affect not to know him, and may tell
him the lady's husband is just come home--her _husband_!--do you take,
"I do--ha! ha! I do," replied the major, in a quavering tone.
"But you don't appear to relish the jest," rejoined Parravicin,
"Oh, yes, I relish it exceedingly," replied Pillichody; "her
husband--ha!--ha!--and Disbrowe is the disappointed lover--capital! But
here we are--and I wish we were anywhere else," he added to himself.
"Are you sure you are right?" asked Parravicin, searching for the key.
"Quite sure," returned Pillichody. "Don't you see some one behind that
"I see nothing," rejoined the knight. "You are afraid of shadows,
"Afraid!" ejaculated Pillichody. "Thousand thunders! I am afraid of
"In that case, I shall expect to find you have slain Disbrowe, on my
return," rejoined Parravicin, unlocking the door.
"The night is chilly," observed the major, "and ever since my campaigns
in the Low Countries, I have been troubled with rheumatism. I should
prefer keeping guard inside."
"No, no, you must remain where you are," replied the knight, shutting
Pillichody was about to take to his heels, when he felt himself arrested
by a powerful arm. He would have roared for aid, but a voice, which he
instantly recognised, commanded him to keep silence, if he valued his
"Is your companion in the house?" demanded Disbrowe, in a hollow tone.
"I am sorry to say he is, Captain Disbrowe," replied the bully. "I did
my best to prevent him, but remonstrance was in vain."
"Liar," cried Disbrowe, striking him with his clenched hand. "Do you
think to impose upon me by such a pitiful fabrication? It was you who
introduced me to this heartless libertine--you who encouraged me to play
with him, telling me I should easily strip him of all he possessed--you
who excited his passion for my wife, by praising her beauty--and it was
you who put it into his head to propose that fatal stake to me."
"There you are wrong, Captain Disbrowe," returned Pillichody, in a
supplicatory tone. "On my soul, you are! I certainly praised your wife
(as who would not?), but I never advised Parravicin to play for her.
That was his own idea entirely."
"The excuse shall not avail you," cried Disbrowe, fiercely. "To you I
owe all my misery. Draw and defend yourself."
"Be not so hasty, captain," cried Pillichody, abjectedly. "I have
injured you sufficiently already. I would not have your blood on my
head. On the honour of a soldier, I am sorry for the wrong I have done
you, and will strive to repair it."
"Repair it!" shrieked Disbrowe. "It is too late." And seizing the
major's arm, he dragged him by main force into the alley.
"Help! help!" roared Pillichody. "Would you murder me?"
"I will assuredly cut your throat, if you keep up this clamour,"
rejoined Disbrowe, snatching the other's long rapier from his side.
"Coward!" he added, striking him with the flat side of the weapon, "this
will teach you to mix yourself up in such infamous affairs for the
And heedless of the major's entreaties and vociferations, he continued
to belabour him, until compelled by fatigue to desist; when the other,
contriving to extricate himself, ran off as fast as his legs could carry
him. Disbrowe looked after him for a moment, as if uncertain whether to
follow, and then hurrying to the house, stationed himself beneath the
"I will stab him as he comes forth," he muttered, drawing his sword, and
hiding it beneath his mantle.
Parravicin, meanwhile, having let himself into the house, marched boldly
forward, though the passage was buried in darkness, and he was utterly
unacquainted with it. Feeling against the wall, he presently discovered
a door, and opening it, entered a room lighted by a small silver lamp
placed on a marble slab. The room was empty, but its furniture and
arrangements proclaimed it the favourite retreat of the fair mistress of
the abode. Parravicin gazed curiously round, as if anxious to gather
from what he saw some idea of the person he so soon expected to
encounter. Everything betokened a refined and luxurious taste. A few
French romances, the last plays of Etherege, Dryden, and Shadwell, a
volume of Cowley, and some amorous songs, lay on the table; and not far
from them were a loomask, pulvil purse, a pair of scented gloves, a
richly-laced mouchoir, a manteau girdle, palatine tags, and a golden
bodkin for the hair.
Examining all these things, and drawing his own conclusions as to the
character of their owner, Parravicin turned to a couch on which a
cittern was thrown, while beside it, on a cushion, were a pair of tiny
embroidered velvet slippers. A pocket-mirror, or sprunking-glass, as it
was then termed, lay on a side-table, and near it stood an embossed
silver chocolate-pot, and a small porcelain cup with a golden spoon
inside it, showing what the lady's last repast had been. On another
small table, covered with an exquisitely white napkin, stood a flask of
wine, a tall-stemmed glass, and a few cakes on a China dish, evidently
placed there for Disbrowe's return.
As Parravicin drew near this table, a slip of paper, on which a few
lines were traced, attracted his attention, and taking it up, he read as
"It is now midnight, and you promised to return early. I have felt your
absence severely, and have been suffering from a violent headache, which
has almost distracted me. I have also been troubled with strange and
unaccountable misgivings respecting you. I am a little easier now, but
still far from well, and about to retire to rest. At what hour will this
meet your eye?"
"Charming creature!" exclaimed Parravicin, as the paper dropped from his
hand; "she little dreamed, when she wrote it, who would read her billet.
Disbrowe does not deserve such a treasure. I am sorry she is unwell. I
hope she has not taken the plague. Pshaw, what could put such an idea
into my head? Lydyard's warning, I suppose. That fellow, who is the
veriest rake among us, is always preaching. Confound him! I wish he had
not mentioned it. A glass of wine may exhilarate me." And pouring out a
bumper, he swallowed it at a draught. "And so the fond fool is pining
for her husband, and has some misgivings about him. Egad! it is well for
her she does not know what has really taken place. She'll learn that
soon enough. What's this?" he added, glancing at a picture on the wall.
"Her miniature! It must be; for it answers exactly to Pillichody's
description. A sparkling brunette, with raven hair, and eyes of night. I
am on fire to behold her: but I must proceed with prudence, or I may
ruin all. Is there nothing of Disbrowe's that I could put on for the
nonce? 'Fore Heaven! the very thing I want!"
The exclamation was occasioned by his observing a loose silken robe
lying across a chair. Wrapping it round him, and throwing down his hat,
he took the lamp and went up stairs.
Daring as he was, Parravicin felt his courage desert him, as having
found the door of Mrs. Disbrowe's chamber, he cautiously opened it. A
single glance showed him that the room was more exquisitely, more
luxuriously furnished than that he had just quitted. Articles of
feminine attire, of the richest kind, were hung against the walls, or
disposed on the chairs. On one side stood the toilette-table, with its
small mirror then in vogue, and all its equipage of silver flasks,
filligree cassets, japan patch-boxes, scent-bottles, and pomatum-pots.
As he entered the room, a faint voice issuing from behind the rich
damask curtains of the bed, demanded, "Is it you, Disbrowe?"
"It is, Margaret," replied Parravicin, setting down the lamp, and
speaking with a handkerchief at his mouth, to disguise his voice and
conceal his features.
"You are late--very late," she rejoined, "and I have been ill. I fancied
"What has been the matter with you sweet, Meg?" asked Parravicin,
approaching the bed, and seating himself behind the curtains.
"I know not," she replied. "I was seized with a dreadful headache about
an hour ago. It has left me; but I have a strange oppression at my
chest, and breathe with difficulty."
"You alarm me, my love," rejoined Parravicin. "Were you ever attacked
"Never," she replied. "Oh! Disbrowe! if you knew how I have longed for
your return, you would blame yourself for your absence. You have grown
sadly neglectful of late. I suspect you love some one else. If I thought
"What if you thought so, Margaret?" demanded Parravicin.
"What!" cried Mrs. Disbrowe, raising herself in the bed. "I would
requite your perfidy--terribly requite it!"
"Then learn that Captain Disbrowe _is_ faithless," cried Parravicin,
throwing back the curtains, and disclosing himself. "Learn that he loves
another, and is with her now. Learn that he cares so little for you,
that he has surrendered you to me."
"What do I hear?" exclaimed Mrs. Disbrowe. "Who are you, and what brings
"You may guess my errand from my presence," replied the knight. "I am
called Sir Paul Parravicin, and am the most devoted of your admirers."
"My husband surrender me to a stranger! It cannot be!" cried the lady,
"You see me here, and may judge of the truth of my statement," rejoined
the knight. "Your husband gave me this key, with which I introduced
myself to the house."
"What motive could he have for such unheard-of baseness--such
barbarity?" cried Mrs. Disbrowe, bursting into tears.
"Shall I tell you, madam?" replied Parravicin. "He is tired of you, and
has taken this means of ridding himself of you."
Mrs. Disbrowe uttered a loud scream, and fell back in the bed.
Parravicin waited for a moment; but not hearing her move, brought the
lamp to see what was the matter. She had fainted, and was lying across
the pillow, with her night-dress partly open, so as to expose her neck
The knight was at first ravished with her beauty; but his countenance
suddenly fell, and an expression of horror and alarm took possession of
it. He appeared rooted to the spot, and instead of attempting to render
her any assistance, remained with his gaze fixed upon her neck.
Rousing himself at length, he rushed out of the room, hurried down
stairs, and without pausing for a moment, threw open the street-door. As
he issued from it, his throat was forcibly griped, and the point of a
sword was placed at his breast.
"You are now in my power, villain," cried Disbrowe, "and shall not
escape my vengeance."
"You are already avenged," replied Parravicin, shaking off his
assailant. "Your wife has the plague."
THE PLAGUE NURSE.
"And so my husband has got the plague," muttered Mother Malmayns, as she
hastened towards Saint Paul's, after the reproof she had received from
Doctor Hodges. "Well, it's a disorder that few recover from, and I don't
think he stands a better chance than his fellows. I've been troubled
with him long enough. I've borne his ill-usage and savage temper for
twenty years, vainly hoping something would take him off; but though he
tried his constitution hard, it was too tough to yield. However, he's
likely to go now. If I find him better than I expect, I can easily make
all sure. That's one good thing about the plague. You may get rid of a
patient without any one being the wiser. A wrong mixture--a pillow
removed--a moment's chill during the fever--a glass of cold water--the
slightest thing will do it. Matthew Malmayns, you will die of the
plague, that's certain. But I must be careful how I proceed. That cursed
doctor has his eye upon me. As luck would have it, I've got Sibbald's
ointment in my pocket. That is sure to do its business--and safely."
Thus ruminating, she shaped her course towards the southwest corner of
the cathedral, and passing under the shrouds and cloisters of the
Convocation House, raised the latch of a small wooden shed fixed in the
angle of a buttress. Evidently well acquainted with the place, she was
not long in finding a lantern and materials to light it, and inserting
her fingers in a crevice of the masonry, from which the mortar had been
removed, she drew forth a key.
"It has not been stirred since I left it here a month ago," she
muttered. "I must take care of this key, for if Matthew _should_ die, I
may not be able to enter the vaults of Saint Faith's without it; and as
I know all their secret places and passages, which nobody else does,
except my husband, I can make them a storehouse for the plunder I may
obtain during the pestilence. If it rages for a year, or only half that
time, and increases in violence (as God grant it may), I will fill every
hole in those walls with gold."
With this, she took up the lantern, and crept along the side of the
cathedral, until she came to a flight of stone steps. Descending them,
she unlocked a small but strong door, cased with iron, and fastening it
after her, proceeded along a narrow stone passage, which brought her to
another door, opening upon the south aisle of Saint Faith's.
Pausing for a moment to listen whether any one was within the sacred
structure--for such was the dead and awful silence of the place, that
the slightest whisper or footfall, even at its farthest extremity, could
be distinguished--she crossed to the other side, glancing fearfully
around her as she threaded the ranks of pillars, whose heavy and
embrowned shafts her lantern feebly illumined, and entering a recess,
took a small stone out of the wall, and deposited the chief part of the
contents of her pocket behind it, after which she carefully replaced the
stone. This done, she hurried to the charnel, and softly opened the door
of the crypt.
Greatly relieved by the operation he had undergone, the sexton had sunk
into a slumber, and was, therefore, unconscious of the entrance of his
wife, who, setting down the lantern, advanced towards the pallet. His
mother and the young man were still in attendance, and the former, on
seeing her daughter-in-law, exclaimed, in low but angry accents--"What
brings you here, Judith? I suppose you expected to find my son dead. But
he will disappoint you. Doctor Hodges said he would recover--did he not
Kerrich?" she added, appealing to the young man, who nodded
acquiescence. "He will recover, I tell you."
"Well, well," replied Judith, in the blandest tone she could assume; "I
hope he will. And if the doctor says so, I have no doubt of it. I only
heard of his illness a few minutes ago, and came instantly to nurse
"_You_ nurse him?" cried the old woman; "if you show him any affection
now, it will be for the first time since your wedding-day."
"How long has he been unwell?" demanded Judith, with difficulty
repressing her anger.
"He was seized the night before last," replied the old woman; "but he
didn't know what was the matter with him when it began. I saw him just
before he went to rest, and he complained of a slight illness, but
nothing to signify. He must have passed a frightful night, for the
vergers found him in the morning running about Saint Faith's like a
madman, and dashing his spades and mattocks against the walls and
pillars. They secured him, and brought him here, and on examination, he
proved to have the plague."
"You surprise me by what you say," replied Judith. "During the last
month, I have nursed more than a dozen patients, and never knew any of
them so violent. I must look at his sore."
"The doctor has just dressed it," observed the old woman.
"I don't mind that," rejoined Judith, turning down the blanket, and
examining her husband's shoulder. "You are right," she added, "he is
doing as well as possible."
"I suppose I shan't be wanted any more," observed Kerrich, "now you're
come back to nurse your husband, Mrs. Malmayns? I shall be glad to get
home to my own bed, for I don't feel well at all."
"Don't alarm yourself," replied Judith. "There's a bottle of plague
vinegar for you. Dip a piece of linen in it, and smell at it, and I'll
insure you against the pestilence."
Kerrich took the phial, and departed. But the remedy was of little
avail. Before daybreak, he was seized with the distemper, and died two
"I hope poor Kerrich hasn't got the plague?" said the old woman, in a
"I am afraid he has," replied the daughter-in-law, "but I didn't like to
"Mercy on us!" cried the other, getting up. "What a dreadful scourge it
"You would say so, if you had seen whole families swept off by it, as I
have," replied Judith. "But it mostly attacks old persons and children."
"Lord help us!" cried the crone, "I hope it will spare me. I thought my
age secured me."
"Quite the reverse," replied Judith, desirous of exciting her
mother-in-law's terrors; "quite the reverse. You must take care of
"But you don't think I'm ill, do you?" asked the other, anxiously.
"Sit down, and let me look at you," returned Judith.
And the old woman tremblingly obeyed.
"Well, what do you think of me--what's the matter?" she asked, as her
daughter-in-law eyed her for some minutes in silence. "What's the
matter, I say?"
But Judith remained silent.
"I insist upon knowing," continued the old woman.
"Are you able to bear the truth?" returned her daughter-in-law.
"You need say no more," groaned the old woman. "I know what the truth
must be, and will try to bear it. I will get home as fast as I can, and
put my few affairs in order, so that if I am carried off, I may not go
"You had better do so," replied her daughter-in-law.
"You will take care of my poor son, Judith," rejoined the old woman,
shedding a flood of tears. "I would stay with him, if I thought I could
do him any good; but if I really am infected, I might only be in the
way. Don't neglect him--as you hope for mercy hereafter, do not."
"Make yourself easy, mother," replied Judith. "I will take every care of
"Have you no fears of the disorder yourself?" inquired the old woman.
"None whatever," replied Judith. "I am _a safe woman_."
"I do not understand you," replied her mother-in-law, in surprise.
"I have had the plague," replied Judith; "and those who have had it
once, never take it a second time."
This opinion, entertained at the commencement of the pestilence, it may
be incidentally remarked, was afterwards found to be entirely erroneous;
some persons being known to have the distemper three or four times.
"You never let us know you were ill," said the old woman.
"I could not do so," replied Judith, "and I don't know that I should
have done if I could. I was nursing two sisters at a small house in
Clerkenwell Close, and they both died in the night-time, within a few
hours of each other. The next day, as I was preparing to leave the
house, I was seized myself, and had scarcely strength to creep up-stairs
to bed. An old apothecary, named Sibbald, who had brought drugs to the
house, attended me, and saved my life. In less than a week, I was well
again, and able to move about, and should have returned home, but the
apothecary told me, as I had had the distemper once, I might resume my
occupation with safety. I did so, and have found plenty of employment."
"No doubt," rejoined the old woman; "and you will find plenty
"I hope so," replied the other.
"Oh! do not give utterance to such a dreadful wish, Judith," rejoined
her mother-in-law. "Do not let cupidity steel your heart to every better
A slight derisive smile passed over the harsh features of the
"You heed me not," pursued the old woman. "But a time will come when you
will recollect my words."
"I am content to wait till then," rejoined Judith.
"Heaven grant you a better frame of mind!" exclaimed the old woman. "I
must take one last look of my son, for it is not likely I shall see him
"Not in this world," thought Judith.
"I conjure you, by all that is sacred, not to neglect him," said the old
"I have already promised to do so," replied Judith, impatiently.
"It will be a long good-night to me, I fear," returned the dame. "Doctor
Hodges promised to send some blankets and medicine for poor Matthew. The
doctor is a charitable man to the poor, and if he learns I am sick, he
may, perhaps, call and give me advice."
"I am sure he will," replied Judith. "Should the man bring the blankets,
I will tell him to acquaint his master with your condition. And now take
this lantern, mother, and get home as fast as you can."
So saying, she almost pushed her out of the vault, and closed the door
"At last I am rid of her," she muttered. "She would have been a spy over
me. I hope I have frightened her into the plague. But if she dies of
fear, it will answer my purpose as well. And now for my husband."
Taking up the lamp, and shading it with her hand, she gazed at his
"He slumbers tranquilly," she muttered, after contemplating him for some
time, adding with a chuckling laugh, "it would be a pity to waken him."
And seating herself on a stool near the pallet, she turned over in her
mind in what way she could best execute her diabolical purpose.
While she was thus occupied, the messenger from Doctor Hodges arrived
with a bundle of blankets and several phials and pots of ointment. The
man offered to place the blankets on the pallet, but Judith would not
"I can do it better myself, and without disturbing the poor sufferer,"
she said. "Give my dutiful thanks to your master. Tell him my husband's
mother, old widow Malmayns, fancies herself attacked by the plague, and
if he will be kind enough to visit her, she lodges in the upper attic of
a baker's house, at the sign of the Wheatsheaf, in Little Distaff-lane,
"I will not fail to deliver your message to the doctor," replied the
man, as he took his departure.
Left alone with her husband a second time, Judith waited till she
thought the man had got out of the cathedral, and then rising and taking
the lamp, she repaired to the charnel, to make sure it was untenanted.
Not content with this, she stole out into Saint Faith's, and gazing
round as far as the feeble light of her lamp would permit, called out in
a tone that even startled herself, "Is any one lurking there?" but
receiving no other answer than was afforded by the deep echoes of the
place, she returned to the vault. Just as she reached the door, a loud
cry burst upon her ear, and rushing forward, she found that her husband
"Ah!" roared Malmayns, raising himself in bed, as he perceived her, "are
you come back again, you she-devil? Where is my mother? Where is
Kerrich? What have you done with them?"
"They have both got the plague," replied his wife. "They caught it from
you. But never mind them. I will watch over you as long as you live."
"And that will be for years, you accursed jade," replied the sexton;
"Dr. Hodges says I shall recover."
"You have got worse since he left you," replied Judith. "Lie down, and
let me throw these blankets over you."
"Off!" cried the sick man, furiously. "You shall not approach me. You
want to smother me."
"I want to cure you," replied his wife, heaping the blankets upon the
pallet. "The doctor has sent some ointment for your sore."
"Then let him apply it himself," cried Malmayns, shaking his fist at
her. "You shall not touch me. I will strangle you if you come near me."
"Matthew," replied his wife, "I have had the plague myself, and know how
to treat it better than any doctor in London. I will cure you, if you
will let me."
"I have no faith in you," replied Malmayns, "but I suppose I must
submit. Take heed what you do to me, for if I have but five minutes to
live, it will be long enough to revenge myself upon you."
"I will anoint your sore with this salve," rejoined Judith, producing a
pot of dark-coloured ointment, and rubbing his shoulder with it. "It was
given me by Sibbald, the apothecary of Clerkenwell He is a friend of
Chowles, the coffin-maker. You know Chowles, Matthew?"
"I know him for as great a rascal as ever breathed," replied her
husband, gruffly. "He has always cheated me out of my dues, and his
coffins are the worst I ever put under ground."
"He is making his fortune now," said Judith.
"By the plague, eh?" replied Matthew. "I don't envy him. Money so gained
won't stick to him. He will never prosper."
"I wish _you_ had his money, Matthew," replied his wife, in a coaxing
"If the plague hadn't attacked me when it did, I should have been richer
than Chowles will ever be," replied the sexton,--"nay, I am richer as it
"You surprise me," replied Judith, suddenly pausing in her task. "How
have you obtained your wealth?"
"I have discovered a treasure," replied, the sexton, with a mocking
laugh,--"a secret hoard--a chest of gold--ha! ha!"
"Where--where?" demanded his wife, eagerly.
"That's a secret," replied Matthew.
"I must have it from him before he dies," thought his wife. "Had we
better not secure it without delay?" she added, aloud. "Some other
person may find it."
"Oh, it's safe enough," replied Matthew. "It has remained undiscovered
for more than a hundred years, and will continue so for a hundred to
come, unless I bring it forth."
"But you _will_ bring it forth, won't you?" said Judith.
"Undoubtedly," replied Matthew, "if I get better. But not otherwise.
Money would be of no use to me in the grave."
"But it would be of use to _me_," replied his wife.
"Perhaps it might," replied the sexton; "but if I die, the knowledge of
the treasure shall die with me."
"He is deceiving me," thought Judith, beginning to rub his shoulder
"I suspect you have played me false, you jade," cried Malmayns, writhing
with pain. "The stuff you have applied burns like caustic, and eats into
"It is doing its duty," replied his wife, calmly watching his agonies.
"You will soon be easier."
"Perhaps I shall--in death," groaned the sufferer. "I am parched with
thirst. Give me a glass of water."
"You shall have wine, Matthew, if you prefer it. I have a flask in my
pocket," she replied. "But what of the treasure--where is it?"
"Peace!" he cried. "I will baulk your avaricious hopes. You shall never
know where it is."
"I shall know as much as you do," she rejoined, in a tone of
incredulity. "I don't believe a word you tell me. You have found no
"If this is the last word I shall ever utter, I _have_," he returned;
--"a mighty treasure. But you shall never possess it--never!--ah! ah!"
"Nor shall you have the wine," she replied; "there is water for you,"
she added, handing him a jug, which he drained with frantic eagerness.
"He is a dead man," she muttered.
"I am chilled to the heart," grasped the sexton, shivering from head to
foot, while chill damps gathered on his brow. "I have done wrong in
drinking the water, and you ought not to have given it me."
"You asked for it," she replied. "You should have had wine but for your
obstinacy. But I will save you yet, if you will tell me where to find
"Look for it in my grave," he returned, with a hideous grin.
Soon after this, he fell into a sort of stupor. His wife could now have
easily put a period to his existence, but she still hoped to wrest the
secret from him. She was assured, moreover, that his recovery was
hopeless. At the expiration of about two hours, he was aroused by the
excruciating anguish of his sore. He had again become delirious, and
raved as before about coffins, corpses, graves, and other loathsome
matters. Seeing, from his altered looks and the livid and gangrenous
appearance which the tumour had assumed, that his end was not far off,
Judith resolved not to lose a moment, but to try the effect of a sudden
surprise. Accordingly, she bent down her head, and shouted in his ear,
"What has become of your treasure, Matthew?"
The plan succeeded to a miracle. The dying man instantly raised himself.
"My treasure!" he echoed with a yell that made the vault ring again.
"Well thought on! I have not secured it. They are carrying it off. I
must prevent them." And throwing off the coverings, he sprang out of
"I shall have it now," thought his wife. "You are right," she
added,--"they are carrying it off. The vergers have discovered it. They
are digging it up. We must instantly prevent them."
"We must!" shrieked Malmayns. "Bring the light! bring the light!" And
bursting open the door, he rushed into the adjoining aisle.
"He will kill himself, and discover the treasure into the bargain,"
cried Judith, following him. "Ah! what do I see! People in the church.
Curses on them! they have ruined my hopes."
THE MOSAICAL RODS.
In pursuance of their design of seeking out an astrologer, Maurice Wyvil
and Lydyard crossed Cheapside and entered Friday-street. They had not
proceeded far, when they perceived a watchman standing beneath a porch
with a lantern in his hand, and thinking it an intimation that the house
was attacked by the plague, they hurried to the opposite side of the
street, and called to the watchman to inquire whether he knew where Mr.
Ascertaining that the house they sought was only a short distance off,
they repaired thither, and knocking at the door, a small wicket,
protected by a grating, was open within it, and a sharp female voice
inquired their business.
"Give this to your master, sweetheart," replied Wyvil, slipping a purse
through the grating; "and tell him that two gentlemen desire to consult
"He is engaged just now," replied the woman, in a much softer tone; "but
I will take your message to him."
"You have more money than wit," laughed Lydyard. "You should have kept
back your fee till you had got the information."
"In that case I should never have received any," replied Wyvil. "I have
taken the surest means of obtaining admission to the house."
As he spoke, the door was unbolted by the woman, who proved to be young
and rather pretty. She had a light in her hand, and directing them to
follow her, led the way to a sort of anteroom, divided, as it appeared,
from a larger room by a thick black curtain. Drawing aside the drapery,
their conductress ushered them into the presence of three individuals,
who were seated at a table strewn with papers, most of which were
covered with diagrams and, astrological calculations.
One of these persons immediately rose on their appearance, and gravely
but courteously saluted them. He was a tall man, somewhat advanced in
life, being then about sixty-three, with an aquiline nose, dark eyes,
not yet robbed of their lustre, grey hair waving over his shoulders, and
a pointed beard and moustache. The general expression of his countenance
was shrewd and penetrating, and yet there were certain indications of
credulity about it, showing that he was as likely to be imposed upon
himself as to delude others. It is scarcely necessary to say that this
The person on his right, whose name was John Booker, and who, like
himself, was a proficient in astrology, was so buried in calculation,
that he did not raise his eyes from the paper on the approach of the
strangers. He was a stout man, with homely but thoughtful features, and
though not more than a year older than Lilly, looked considerably his
senior. With the exception of a few silver curls hanging down the back
of his neck, he was completely bald; but his massive and towering brow
seemed to indicate the possession of no ordinary intellectual qualities.
He was a native of Manchester, and was born in 1601, of a good family.
"His excellent verses upon the twelve months," says Lilly, in his
autobiography, "framed according to the configurations of each month,
being blessed with success according to his predictions, procured him
much reputation all over England. He was a very honest man," continues
the same authority; "abhorred any deceit in the art he studied; had a
curious fancy in judging of thefts; and was successful in resolving
love-questions. He was no mean proficient in astronomy; understood much
in physic! was a great admirer of the antimonial cup; and not unlearned
in chemistry, which he loved well, but did not practise." At the period
of this history, he was clerk to Sir Hugh Hammersley, alderman.
The third person,--a minor canon of Saint Paul's, named Thomas
Quatremain,--was a grave, sallow-complexioned man, with a morose and
repulsive physiognomy. He was habited in the cassock of a churchman of
the period, and his black velvet cap lay beside him on the table. Like
Booker, he was buried in calculations, and though he looked up for a
moment as the others entered the room, he instantly resumed his task,
without regard to their presence.
After looking earnestly at his visitors for a few moments, and appearing
to study their features, Lilly motioned them to be seated; but they
declined the offer.
"I am not come to take up your time, Mr. Lilly," said Wyvil, "but simply
to ask your judgment in a matter in which I am much interested."
"First permit me to return you your purse, sir, since it is from you, I
presume, that I received it," replied the astrologer. "No information
that I can give deserves so large a reward as this."
Wyvil would have remonstrated. But seeing the other resolute, he was
fain to concede the point.
"What question do you desire to have resolved, sir?" pursued Lilly.
"Shall I be fortunate in my hopes?" rejoined Wyvil.
"You must be a little more precise," returned the astrologer. "To what
do your hopes relate?--to wealth, dignity, or love?"
"To the latter," replied Wyvil.
"So I inferred from your appearance, sir," rejoined Lilly, smiling.
"Venus was strong in your nativity, though well-dignified; and I should,
therefore, say you were not unfrequently entangled in love affairs. Your
inamorata, I presume, is young, perhaps fair,--blue-eyed, brown-haired,
tall, slender, and yet perfectly proportioned."
"She is all you describe," replied Wyvil.
"Is she of your own rank?" asked Lilly.
"Scarcely so," replied Wyvil, hesitating before he answered the
"I will instantly erect a scheme," replied the astrologer, rapidly
tracing a figure on a sheet of paper. "The question refers to the
seventh house. I shall take Venus as the natural significatrix of the
lady. The moon is in trine with the lord of the ascendant,--so far,
good; but there is a cross aspect from Mars, who darts forth malicious
rays upon them. Your suit will probably be thwarted. But what Mars
bindeth, Venus dissolveth. It is not wholly hopeless. I should recommend
you to persevere."
"Juggler!" exclaimed "Wyvil between his teeth.
"I am no juggler!" replied Lilly, angrily; "and to prove I am not, I
will tell you who you are who thus insult me, though you have not
announced yourself, and are desirous of preserving your _incognito_. You
are the Earl of Rochester, and your companion is Sir George Etherege."
"'Fore heaven! we are discovered," cried the earl; "but whether by art,
magic, or from previous acquaintance with our features, I pretend not to
"In either case, my lord,--for it is useless, since you have avowed
yourself, to address you longer as Wyvil," replied Etherege,--"you owe
Mr. Lilly an apology for the insult you have offered him. It was as
undeserved as uncalled for; for he described your position with Amabel
"I am sorry for what I said," replied the earl, with great frankness,
"and entreat Mr. Lilly to overlook it, and impute it to its real
cause,--disappointment at his judgment."
"I wish I could give you better hopes, my lord," replied Lilly; "but I
readily accept your apology. Have you any further questions to ask me?"
"Not to-night," replied the earl; "except that I would gladly learn
whether it is your opinion that the plague will extend its ravages?"
"It will extend them so far, my lord, that there shall neither be
buriers for the dead, nor sound to look after the sick," replied Lilly.
"You may have seen a little tract of mine published in 1651,--some
fourteen years ago,--called '_Monarchy or No Monarchy in England_,' in
which, by an hieroglyphic, I foretold this terrible calamity."
"I heard his majesty speak of the book no later than yesterday," replied
Rochester. "He has the highest opinion of your skill, Mr. Lilly, as he
cannot blind himself to the fact that you foretold his father's death.
But this is not the only visitation with which you threaten our devoted
"It is threatened by Heaven, not by me, my lord," replied Lilly. "London
will be devoured by plague and consumed by fire."
"In our time?" asked Etherege.
"Before two years have passed over our heads," returned the astrologer.
"The pestilence originated in the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in
Sagittarius, on the 10th of last October, and the conjunction of Saturn
and Mars in the same sign, on the 12th of November. It was harbingered
also by the terrible comet of January, which appeared in a cadent and
obscure house, denoting sickness and death: and another and yet more
terrible comet, which will be found in the fiery triplicity of Aries,
Leo, and Sagittarius, will be seen before the conflagration."
"My calculations are, that the plague will be at its worst in August and
September, and will not cease entirely till the beginning of December,"
observed Booker, laying aside his pen.
"And I doubt not you are right, sir," said Lilly, "for your calculations
are ever most exact."
"My labour is not thrown away, Mr. Lilly," cried Quatremain, who had
finished his task at the same time. "I have discovered what I have long
suspected, that treasure _is_ hidden in Saint Paul's Cathedral. Mercury
is posited in the north angle of the fourth house; the dragon's tail is
likewise within it; and as Sol is the significator, it must be gold."
"True," replied Lilly.
"Furthermore," proceeded Quatremain, "as the sign is earthy, the
treasure must be buried in the vaults."
"Undoubtedly," replied Booker.
"I am all impatience to search for it," said Quatremain. "Let us go
there at once, and make trial of the mosaical rods."
"With all my heart," replied Lilly. "My lord," he added to Rochester, "I
must pray you to excuse me. You have heard what claims my attention."
"I have," returned the earl, "and should like to accompany you in the
quest, if you will permit me."
"You must address yourself to Mr. Quatremain," rejoined Lilly. "If he
consents, I can make no objection."
The minor canon, on being appealed to, signified his acquiescence, and
after some slight preparation, Lilly produced two hazel rods, and the
party set out.
A few minutes' walking brought them to the northern entrance of the
cathedral, where they speedily aroused the poor verger, who began to
fancy he was to have no rest that night. On learning their purpose,
however, he displayed the utmost alacrity, and by Quatremain's
directions went in search of his brother-verger, and a mason, who, being
employed at the time in making repairs in the chantries, lodged within
This occasioned a delay of a few minutes, during which Rochester and
Etherege had an opportunity, like that enjoyed a short time before by
Leonard Holt, of beholding the magnificent effect of the columned aisles
by moonlight. By this time the other verger, who was a young and active
man, and the mason, arrived, and mattocks, spades, and an iron bar being
procured, and a couple of torches lighted, they descended to Saint
Nothing more picturesque can be conceived than the effect of the
torchlight on the massive pillars and low-browed roof of the
subterranean church. Nor were the figures inappropriate to the scene.
Lilly, with the mosaical rods in his hand, which he held at a short
distance from the floor, moving first to one point, then to another; now
lingering within the gloomy nave, now within the gloomier aisles; the
grave minor canon, who kept close beside him, and watched his movements
with the most intense anxiety; Booker, with his venerable head
uncovered, and his bald brow reflecting the gleam of the torches; the
two court gallants in their rich attire; and the vergers and their
comrade, armed with the implements for digging;--all constituted a
striking picture. And as Rochester stepped aside to gaze at it, he
thought he had never beheld a more singular scene.
Hitherto, no success had attended the searchers. The mosaical rods had
continued motionless. At length, however, Lilly reached a part of the
wall where a door appeared to have been stopped up, and playing the rods
near it, they turned one over the other.
"The treasure is here!" he exclaimed. "It is hidden beneath this flag."
Instantly, all were in action. Quatremain called to his assistants to
bring their mattocks and the iron bar. Rochester ran up and tendered his
aid; Etherege did the same; and in a few moments the flag was forced
from its position.
On examination, it seemed as if the ground beneath it had been recently
disturbed, though it was carefully trodden down. But without stopping to
investigate the matter, the mason and the younger verger commenced
digging. When they were tired, Lilly and Quatremain took their places,
and in less than an hour they had got to the depth of upwards of four
feet. Still nothing had been found, and Lilly was just about to
relinquish his spade to the mason, when, plunging it more deeply into
the ground, it struck against some hard substance.
"It is here--we have it!" he cried, renewing his exertions.
Seconded by Quatremain, they soon cleared off the soil, and came to what
appeared to be a coffin or a large chest. Both then got out of the pit
to consider how they should remove the chest; the whole party were
discussing the matter, when a tremendous crash, succeeded by a terrific
yell, was heard at the other end of the church, and a ghastly and
half-naked figure, looking like a corpse broken from the tomb, rushed
forward with lightning swiftness, and shrieking--"My treasure!--my
treasure!--you shall not have it!"--thrust aside the group, and plunged
into the excavation.
When the bystanders recovered sufficient courage to drag the unfortunate
sexton out of the pit, they found him quite dead.
According to his promise, Doctor Hodges visited the grocer's house early
on the following day, and the favourable opinion he had expressed
respecting Stephen Bloundel was confirmed by the youth's appearance. The
pustule had greatly increased in size; but this the doctor looked upon
as a good sign: and after applying fresh poultices, and administering a
hot posset-drink, he covered the patient with blankets, and recommending
as much tranquillity as possible, he proceeded, at Bloundel's request,
to ascertain the state of health of the rest of the family. Satisfied
that all the household (including Blaize, who, being a little out of
order from the quantity of medicine he had swallowed, kept his bed) were
uninfected, he went upstairs, and finding the two boys quite well, and
playing with their little sister Christiana, in the happy
unconsciousness of childhood, he tapped at the door of Mrs. Bloundel's
chamber, and was instantly admitted. Amabel did not raise her eyes at
his entrance, but continued the employment on which she was engaged. Her
mother, however, overwhelmed him with inquiries as to the sufferer, and
entreated him to prevail upon her husband to let her take his place at
the sick bed.
"I cannot accede to your request, madam," replied Hodges; "because I
think the present arrangement the best that could be adopted."
"And am I not to see poor Stephen again?" cried Mrs. Bloundel, bursting
"I hope you will soon see him again, and not lose sight of him for many
years to come," replied the doctor. "As far as I can judge, the danger
is over, and, aided by your husband's care and watchfulness, I have
little doubt of bringing the youth round."
"You reconcile me to the deprivation, doctor," rejoined Mrs. Bloundel;
"but can you insure my husband against the distemper?"
"I can insure no one against contagion," replied Hodges; "but there is
much in his favour. He has no fear, and takes every needful precaution.
You must hope for the best. I think it right to tell you, that you will
be separated from him for a month."
"Separated from my husband for a month, doctor!" cried Mrs. Bloundel. "I
must see him to-day. I have something of importance to say to him."
At this point of the conversation Amabel for the first time looked up.
Her eyes were red and inflamed with weeping, and her looks betrayed
great internal suffering.
"You cannot see my father, mother," she said in a broken and
"But she can write to him, or send a message by me," rejoined Hodges. "I
will deliver it when I go downstairs."
"What my mother has to say cannot be confided to a third party, sir,"
"Better defer it, then," said the doctor, who, as he looked hard at her,
and saw the colour mount to her cheeks, began to suspect something of
the truth. "Whatever you have to say, Mrs. Bloundel, may be very well
delayed; for the house is now closed, with a watchman at the door, and
will continue so for a month to come. No one can quit it, except members
of our profession, searchers, nurses, and other authorized persons,
during that time."
"But can no one enter it, do you think?" asked Mrs. Bloundel.
"No one would desire to do so, I should conceive, except a lover,"
replied Hodges, with a sly look at Amabel, who instantly averted her
gaze. "Where a pretty girl is concerned, the plague itself has no
"Precisely my opinion, doctor," rejoined Mrs. Bloundel; "and as I cannot
consult my husband, perhaps you will favour me with your advice as to
how I ought to act, if such a person as you describe should get into the
"I seldom meddle with family matters," rejoined Hodges; "but I feel so
much interest in all that relates to Mr. Bloundel, that I am induced to
depart from my rule on the present occasion. It is evident you have lost
your heart," he added, to Amabel, whose blushes told him he was right;
"but not, I hope, to one of those worthless court-gallants, who, as I
learn from common report, are in the habit of toasting you daily. If it
is so, you must subdue your passion; for it cannot lead to good. Be not
dazzled by a brilliant exterior, which often conceals a treacherous
heart; but try to fix your affections on some person of little
pretension, but of solid worth. Never, I grieve to say, was there a
season when such universal profligacy prevailed as at present. Never was
it so necessary for a young maiden, possessed of beauty like yours, to
act with discretion. Never was a court so licentious as that of our
sovereign, Charles the Second, whose corrupt example is imitated by
every one around him, while its baneful influence extends to all
classes. Were I to echo the language of the preachers, I should say it
was owing to the wickedness and immorality of the times that this
dreadful judgment of the plague has been inflicted upon us; but I merely
bring it forward as an argument to prove to you, Amabel, that if you
would escape the moral contagion by which you are threatened, you must
put the strictest guard upon your conduct."
Amabel faintly murmured her thanks.
"You speak as my husband himself would have spoken," said Mrs. Bloundel.
"Ah! we little thought, when we prayed that the pestilence might be
averted from us, that a worse calamity was behind, and that one of the
most profligate of the courtiers you have mentioned would find his way
to our house."
"One of the most profligate of them?" cried Hodges. "Who, in Heaven's
"He calls himself Maurice Wyvil," replied Mrs. Bloundel.
"I never heard of such a person," rejoined the doctor. "It must be an
assumed name. Have you no letter or token that might lead to his
discovery?" he added, turning to Amabel.
"I have his portrait," she replied, drawing a small miniature from her
"I am glad I have seen this," said the doctor, slightly starting as he
cast his eyes upon it. "I hope it is not too late to save you, Amabel,"
he added, in a severe tone. "I hope you are free from contamination?"
"As I live, I am," she replied. "But you recognise the likeness?"
"I do," returned Hodges. "It is the portrait of one whose vices and
depravity are the town's cry, and whose name coupled with that of a
woman, is sufficient to sully her reputation."
"It is the Earl of Rochester," said Mrs. Bloundel.
"You have guessed aright," replied the doctor; "it is."
Uttering an exclamation of surprise and terror, Amabel fell back in her
"I thought it must be that wicked nobleman," cried Mrs. Bloundel. "Would
you believe it, doctor, that he forced himself into the house--nay, into
this room--last night, and would have carried off my daughter, in spite
of her resistance, if I had not prevented him."
"I can believe anything of him," replied Hodges. "But your husband, of
course, knows nothing of the matter?"
"Not as yet," replied Mrs. Bloundel; "but I authorize you to tell him
"Mother, dear mother," cried Amabel, flinging herself on her knees
before her, "I implore you not to add to my father's present distress. I
might not have been able to conquer my attachment to Maurice Wyvil, but
now that I find he is the Earl of Rochester, I regard him with
"If I could believe you sincere," said Mrs. Bloundel, "I might be
induced to spare your father the pain which the knowledge of this
unfortunate affair would necessarily inflict."
"I am sincere,--indeed I am," replied Amabel.
"To prove that the earl could not have had honourable intentions towards
you, Amabel," said the doctor, "I may mention that he is at this moment
urging his suit with Mistress Mallet,--a young heiress."
"Ah!" exclaimed Amabel."
"I was in attendance upon Mistress Stewart, the king's present
favourite, the day before yesterday," continued Hodges, "and heard his
majesty entreat her to use her influence with Mistress Mallet in
Rochester's behalf. After this, you cannot doubt the nature of his
intentions towards yourself."
"I cannot--I cannot," rejoined Amabel. "He is perfidy itself. But is
Mistress Mallet very beautiful, doctor?"
"Very beautiful, and very rich," he replied, "and the earl is
desperately in love with her. I heard him declare laughingly to the
king, that if she would not consent to marry him, he would carry her
"Just what he said to me," exclaimed Amabel--"perjured and faithless
that he is!"
"Harp on that string, doctor," whispered Mrs. Bloundel. "You understand
her feelings exactly."
"Strangely enough," pursued the doctor, who, having carefully examined
the miniature, had opened the back of the case, and could not repress a
smile at what he beheld--"strangely enough, this very picture will
convince you of the earl's inconstancy. It was evidently designed for
Mistress Mallet, and, as she would not accept it, transferred to you."
"How do you know this, sir?" inquired Amabel, in a mortified tone.
"Hear what is written within it," answered Hodges, laying the open case
before her, and reading as follows: "'To the sole possessor of his
heart, the fair Mistress Mallet, this portrait is offered by her devoted
slave--ROCHESTER.' 'The _sole_ possessor of his heart!' So you have no
share in it, you perceive, Amabel. 'Her devoted slave!' Is he your slave
likewise? Ha! ha!"
"It _is_ his writing," cried Amabel. "This note," she added, producing a
billet, "is in the same hand. My eyes are indeed open to his treachery."
"I am glad to hear it," replied Hodges, "and if I can preserve you from
the snares of this noble libertine, I shall rejoice as much as in curing
your brother of the plague. But can you rely upon yourself, in case the
earl should make another attempt to see you?"
"I can," she averred confidently.
"In that case there is nothing to apprehend," rejoined Hodges; "and I
think it better on many accounts not to mention the subject to your
father. It would only distract his mind, and prevent him from duly
discharging the painful task he has undertaken. Were I in your place,
Amabel, I would not only forget my present perfidious lover, but would
instantly bestow my affections on some worthy person."
"It would gladden me if she would do so," said Mrs. Bloundel.
"There is your father's apprentice, Leonard Holt, a good-looking,
well-grown lad," pursued the doctor; "and I much mistake if he is
insensible to your attractions."
"I am sure he loves her dearly, doctor," replied Mrs. Bloundel. "He is
as well-principled as well-looking. I have never had a fault to find
with him since he came to live with us. It will rejoice me, and I am
sure would not displease my husband, to see our child united to Leonard
"Well, what say you, Amabel?" asked Hodges. "Can you give him a hope?"
"Alas, no!" replied Amabel; "I have been deceived once, but I will not
be deceived a second time. I will never wed."
"So every woman says after her first disappointment," observed Hodges;
"but not one in ten adheres to the resolution. When you become calmer, I
would recommend you to think seriously of Leonard Holt."
At this moment, a tap was heard at the door, and opening it, the doctor
beheld the person in question.
"What is the matter?" cried Hodges. "I hope nothing is amiss."
"Nothing whatever," replied Leonard, "but my master wishes to see you
before you leave the house."
"I will go to him at once," replied the doctor. "Good day, Mrs.
Bloundel. Take care of your daughter, and I hope she will take care of
herself. We have been talking about you, young man," he added in a low
tone to the apprentice, "and I have recommended you as a husband to
"There was a time, sir," rejoined Leonard, in a tone of deep emotion,
"when I hoped it might be so, but that time is past."
"No such thing," replied the doctor. "Now is the time to make an
impression. Her heart is on the rebound. She is satisfied of her lover's
treachery. Her mother is on your side. Do not neglect the present
opportunity, for another may not arrive." With this he pushed Leonard
into the room, and, shutting the door upon him, hurried downstairs.
"You have arrived at a seasonable juncture, Leonard," observed Mrs.
Bloundel, noticing the apprentice's perplexity, and anxious to relieve
it. "We have just discovered that the person calling himself Maurice
Wyvil is no other than the Earl of Rochester."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Leonard.
"Yes, indeed," returned Mrs. Bloundel. "But this is not all. Amabel has
promised to forget him, and I have urged her to think of you."
"Amabel," said Leonard, advancing towards her, and taking her hand, "I
can scarcely credit what I hear. Will you confirm your mother's words?"
"Leonard," returned Amabel, "I am not insensible to your good qualities,
and no one can more truly esteem you than I do. Nay, till I
unfortunately saw the Earl of Rochester, whom I knew not as such, I
might have loved you. But now I cannot call my heart my own. I have not
the affection you deserve to bestow upon you. If I can obliterate this
treacherous man's image from my memory--and Heaven, I trust, will give
me strength to do so--I will strive to replace it with your own."
"That is all I ask," cried Leonard, dropping on his knee before her, and
pressing his lips to her hand.
"Nothing would make me happier than to see you united, my children,"
said Mrs. Bloundel, bending affectionately over them.
"And I would do anything to make you happy, dear mother," replied
Amabel, gently withdrawing her hand, from that of the apprentice.
"Before I leave you," said Leonard, rising, "I must give you this note.
I found it lying before your chamber door as I passed this morning. How
it came there I know not, but I can give a shrewd guess as to the
writer. I ought to tell you, that but for what has just occurred, I
should not have delivered it to you."
"It is from Wyvil--I mean Rochester," said Amabel, taking the note with
a trembling hand.
"Let me see it, child," cried Mrs. Bloundel, snatching it from her, and
breaking the seal. "Insolent!" she exclaimed, as she cast her eyes over
it. "I can scarcely contain my indignation. But let him cross my path
again, and he shall find whether I cannot resent such shameful usage."
"What does he say, dear mother ?" asked Amabel.
"You shall hear," replied Mrs. Bloundel, "though I blush to repeat his
words: 'Amabel, you are mine. No one shall keep you from me. Love like
mine will triumph over all obstacles!'--Love like his, forsooth!" she
remarked; "let him keep such stuff as that for Mistress Mallet, or his
other mistresses. But I will go on: 'I may be foiled ninety-nine times,
but the hundredth will succeed. We shall soon meet again.
"Never!" cried Amabel. "We will never meet again. If he holds me thus
cheaply, I will let him see that he is mistaken. Leonard Holt, I have
told you the exact state of my feelings. I do not love you now, but I
regard you as a true friend, and love may come hereafter. If in a
month's time you claim my hand; if my father consents to our union, for
you are aware that my mother will not oppose it--I am yours."
Leonard attempted to speak, but his voice was choked with emotion, and
the tears started to his eyes.
"Farewell," said Amabel. "Do not let us meet till the appointed time.
Rest assured, I will think of you as you deserve."
"We could not meet till that time, even if you desired it," said
Leonard, "for your father has forbidden any of the household, except old
Josyna, to approach you till all fear of contagion is at an end, and I
am now transgressing his commands. But your mother, I am sure, will
acquit me of intentional disobedience."
"I do," replied Mrs. Bloundel; "it was the doctor who forced you into
the room. But I am heartily glad he did so."
"Farewell, Amabel," said Leonard. "Though I shall not see you, I will
watch carefully over you." And gazing at her with unutterable affection,
he quitted the chamber.
"You must now choose between the heartless and depraved nobleman, who
would desert you as soon as won," observed Mrs. Bloundel, "and the
honest apprentice, whose life would be devoted to your happiness."
"I _have_ chosen," replied her daughter.
Doctor Hodges found the grocer writing at a small table, close to the
bedside of his son.
"I am happy to tell you, Mr. Bloundel," he said, in a low tone, as he
entered the room, "that all your family are still free from infection,
and with due care will, I hope, continue so. But I entirely approve of
your resolution of keeping apart from them till the month has expired.
If your son goes on as he is doing now, he will be as strong as ever in
less than a fortnight. Still, as we cannot foresee what may occur, it is
better to err on the cautious side."
"Pray be seated for a moment," rejoined the grocer, motioning the other
to the chair. "I mentioned to you last night that in case my son
recovered, I had a plan which I trusted (under Providence!) would
preserve my family from the further assaults of the pestilence."
"I remember your alluding to it," replied Hodges, "and should be glad to
know what it is."
"I must tell it you in confidence," rejoined Bloundel, "because I think
secresy essential to its entire accomplishment. My plan is a very simple
one, and only requires firmness in its execution--and that quality, I
think, I possess. It is your opinion, I know, as it is my own, that the
plague will increase in violence and endure for months--probably, till
next winter. My intention is to store my house with provisions, as a
ship is victualled for a long voyage, and then to shut it up entirely
till the scourge ceases."
"If your project is practicable," said Hodges, after a moment's
reflection, "I have no doubt it will be attended, with every good result
you can desire. This house, which is large and roomy, is well adapted
for your purpose. But you must consider well whether your family will
submit to be imprisoned during the long period you propose."
"They shall remain close prisoners, even if the pestilence lasts for a
twelvemonth," replied the grocer. "Whoever quits the house, when it is
once closed, and on whatever plea, be it wife, son, or daughter, returns
not. That is my fixed resolve."
"And you are right," rejoined Hodges, "for on that determination the
success of your scheme entirely depends."
While they were thus conversing, Leonard entered the chamber, and
informed his master that Chowles, the coffin-maker, and Mrs. Malmayns,
the plague-nurse, desired to see him.
"Mrs. Malmayns!" exclaimed Hodges, in surprise. "I heard that something
very extraordinary occurred last night in Saint Faith's. With your
permission, Mr. Bloundel, she shall be admitted; I want to ask her a few
questions. You had better hesitate about engaging her," he observed to
the grocer, as Leonard departed, "for she is a woman of very indifferent
character, though she may (for aught I know) be a good and fearless
"If there is any doubt about her, I _cannot_ hesitate," returned
As he said this, the door was opened by Leonard, and Chowles and Judith
entered the room. The latter, on seeing the doctor, looked greatly
"I have brought you the nurse I spoke of, Mr. Bloundel," said Chowles,
bowing, "and am come to inquire whether you want a coffin to-night."
"Mr. Bloundel is not likely to require a coffin at present, Chowles,"
returned the doctor, severely; "neither does his son stand in need of a
nurse. How is your husband, Mrs. Malmayns?"
"He is dead, sir," replied Judith.
"Dead!" echoed the doctor. "When I left him at one o'clock this morning,
he was doing well. Your attendance seems to have accelerated his end."
"His death was occasioned by an accident, sir," replied Judith. "He
became delirious about three o'clock, and, in spite of all my efforts to
detain him, started out of bed, rushed into Saint Faith's, and threw
himself into a pit, which Mr. Lilly and some other persons had digged in
search of treasure."
"This is a highly improbable story, Mrs. Malmayns," returned Hodges,
"and I must have the matter thoroughly investigated before I lose sight
"I will vouch for the truth of Mrs. Malmayn's statement," interposed
"You!" cried Hodges, contemptuously.
"Yes, I," replied the coffin-maker. "It seems that the sexton had found
a chest of treasure buried in Saint Faith's, and being haunted by the
idea that some one was carrying it off, he suddenly sprang out of bed,
and rushed to the church, where, sure enough, Mr. Lilly, Mr. Quatremain,
the Earl of Rochester, and Sir George Etherege, having, by the help of
mosaical rods, discovered this very chest, were digging it up. Poor
Matthew instantly plunged into the grave, and died of a sudden chill."
"That is not impossible," observed Hodges, after a pause. "But what has
become of the treasure?"
"It is in the possession of Mr. Quatremain, who has given notice of it
to the proper authorities," replied Chowles. "It consists, as I
understand, of gold pieces struck in the reign of Philip and Mary,
images of the same metal, crosses, pyxes, chalices, and other Popish and
superstitious vessels, buried, probably, when Queen Elizabeth came to
the throne, and the religion changed."
"Not unlikely," replied Hodges. "Where is your husband's body, Mrs.
"It has been removed to the vault which he usually occupied," replied
Judith. "Mr. Chowles has undertaken to bury it to-night."
"I must see it first," replied Hodges, "and be sure that he has not met
with foul play."
"And I will accompany you," said Chowles. "So you do not want a coffin,
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