Old Saint Paul's
William Harrison Ainsworth
Part 5 out of 12
"You are looking for your apprentice, I understand, Mr. Bloundel," said
the bully, raising his hat--"if you desire, it, I will lead you to him."
Unwilling as he was to be obliged to one whom he knew to be leagued with
the Earl of Rochester, the grocer's anxiety overcame his scruples, and,
signifying his acquiescence, Pillichody shouldered his way through the
crowd, and did not stop till they reached the northern aisle, where they
were comparatively alone.
"Your apprentice is a fortunate spark, Mr. Bloundel," he said. "No
sooner does he lose one mistress than he finds another. Tour daughter is
already forgotten, and he is at this moment enjoying a tender
_tete-a-tete_ in Bishop Kempe's chapel with Nizza Macascree, the blind
"It is false, sir," replied the grocer, incredulously.
"Unbelieving dog!" cried Pillichody, in a furious tone, and clapping his
hand upon his sword, "it is fortunate for you that the disparity of our
stations prevents me from compelling you to yield me satisfaction for
the insult you have offered me. But I caution you to keep better guard
upon your tongue for the future, especially when addressing one who has
earned his laurels under King Charles the Martyr."
"I have no especial reverence for the monarch you served under," replied
Bloundel; "but he would have blushed to own such a follower."
"You may thank my generosity that I do not crop your ears, base
Roundhead," rejoined Pillichody; "but I will convince you that I speak
the truth, and if you have any shame in your composition, it will be
summoned to your cheeks."
So saying, he proceeded to Bishop Kempe's chapel, the door of which was
slightly ajar, and desired the grocer to look through the chink. This
occurred at the precise time that the apprentice was seized with sudden
faintness, and was leaning for support upon Nizza Macascree's shoulder.
"You see how lovingly they are seated together," observed Pillichody,
with a smile of triumph. "Bowers of Paphos! I would I were as near the
rich widow of Watling-street. Will you speak with him?"
"No," replied Bloundel, turning away; "I have done with him for ever. I
have been greatly deceived."
"True," chuckled Pillichody, as soon as the grocer was out of hearing;
"but not by your apprentice, Mr. Bloundel. I will go and inform
Parravicin and Rochester that I have discovered the girl. The knight
must mind what he is about, or Leonard Holt will prove too much for him.
Either I am greatly out, or the apprentice is already master of Nizza's
To return to Amabel. As soon as she was alone with her mother, she threw
herself on her knees before her, and, imploring her forgiveness, hastily
related all that had occurred.
"But for Leonard Holt," she said, "I should have been duped into a false
marriage with the earl, and my peace of mind would have been for ever
destroyed. As it is, I shall never be easy till he is restored to my
father's favour. To have done wrong myself is reprehensible enough; but
that another should suffer for my fault is utterly inexcusable."
"I lament that your father should be deceived," rejoined Mrs. Bloundel,
"and I lament still more that Leonard Holt should be so unjustly
treated. Nevertheless, we must act with the utmost caution. I know my
husband too well to doubt for a moment that he will hesitate to fulfil
his threat. And now, my dear child," she continued, "do not the repeated
proofs you have received of this wicked nobleman's perfidy, and of
Leonard's devotion--do they not, I say, open your eyes to the truth, and
show you which of the two really loves you, and merits your regard?"
"I will hide nothing from you, mother," replied Amabel. "In spite of his
perfidy, in spite of my conviction of his unworthiness, I still love the
Earl of Rochester. Nor can I compel myself to feel any regard, stronger
than that of friendship, for Leonard Holt."
"You distress me, sadly, child," cried Mrs. Bloundel. "What will become
of you! I wish my husband would shut up his house. That might put an end
to the difficulty. I am not half so much afraid of the plague as I am of
the Earl of Rochester. But compose yourself, as your father desired,
that when he sends for us we may be ready to meet him with
Mr. Bloundel, however, did _not_ send for them. He remained in the shop
all day, except at meal-times, when he said little, and appeared to be
labouring under a great weight of anxiety. As Amabel took leave of him
for the night, he dismissed her with coldness; and though he bestowed
his customary blessing upon her, the look that accompanied it was not
such as it used to be.
On the following day things continued in the same state. The grocer was
cold and inscrutable, and his wife, fearing he was meditating some
severe course against Amabel, and aware of his inflexible nature, if a
resolution was once formed, shook off her habitual awe, and thus
"I fear you have not forgiven our daughter. Be not too hasty in your
judgment. However culpable she may appear, she has been as much deceived
"It may be so," replied Bloundel. "Still she has acted with such
indiscretion that I can never place confidence in her again, and without
confidence affection is as nought. Can I say to him who may seek her in
marriage, and whom I may approve as a husband,--'Take her! she has never
deceived me, and will never deceive you?' No. She _has_ deceived me, and
will, therefore, deceive others. I do not know the precise truth of the
story of her abduction (if such it was) by Leonard Holt, neither do I
wish to know it, because I might be compelled to act with greater
severity than I desire towards her. But I know enough to satisfy me she
has been excessively imprudent, and has placed herself voluntarily in
situations of the utmost jeopardy."
"Not voluntarily," returned Mrs. Bloundel. "She has been lured into
difficulties by others."
"No more!" interrupted the grocer, sternly. "If you wish to serve her,
keep guard upon your tongue. If you have any preparations to make, they
must not be delayed. I shall shut up my house to-morrow."
"Whether Leonard returns or not?" asked Mrs. Bloundel.
"I shall wait for no one," returned her husband, peremptorily.
They then separated, and Mrs. Bloundel hastened to her daughter to
acquaint her with the result of the interview.
In the afternoon of the same day, the grocer, who began to feel
extremely uneasy about Leonard, again repaired to Saint Paul's to see
whether he could obtain any tidings of him, and learnt, to his great
dismay, from one of the vergers, that a young man, answering to the
description of the apprentice, had been attacked by the pestilence, and
having been taken to the vaults of Saint Faith's, had made his escape
from his attendants, and, it was supposed, had perished. Horror-stricken
by this intelligence, he descended to the subterranean church, where he
met Judith Malmayns and Chowles, who confirmed the verger's statement.
"The poor young man, I am informed," said Chowles, "threw himself into
the Thames, and was picked up by a boat, and afterwards conveyed, in a
dying state, to the pest-house in Finsbury Fields, where you will
probably find him, if he is still alive."
Mr. Bloundel heard no more. Quitting the cathedral, he hastened to
Finsbury Fields, and sought out the building to which he had been
directed. It was a solitary farm-house, of considerable size, surrounded
by an extensive garden, and had only been recently converted to its
present melancholy use. Near it was a barn, also fitted up with beds for
the sick. On approaching the pest-house, Mr. Bloundel was greatly struck
with the contrast presented by its exterior to the misery he knew to be
reigning within. Its situation was charming,--in the midst, as has just
been stated, of a large and, until recently, well-cultivated garden, and
seen under the influence of a bright and genial May day, the whole place
looked the picture of healthfulness and comfort. But a closer view
speedily dispelled the illusion, and showed that it was the abode of
disease and death. Horrid sounds saluted the ears; ghastly figures met
the eyes; and the fragrance of the flowers was overpowered by the
tainted and noisome atmosphere issuing from the open doors and windows.
The grocer had scarcely entered the gate when he was arrested by an
appalling shriek, followed by a succession of cries so horrifying that
he felt half disposed to fly. But mustering up his resolution, and
breathing at a phial of vinegar, he advanced towards the principal door,
which stood wide open, and called to one of the assistants. The man,
however, was too busy to attend to him, and while waiting his leisure,
he saw no fewer than three corpses carried out to an outbuilding in the
yard, where they were left till they could be taken away at night for
Sickened by the sight, and blaming himself for entering near this
contagious spot, Mr. Bloundel was about to depart, when a young
chirurgeon stepped out to him, and, in reply to his inquiries after
Leonard, said: "Twelve persons were brought in here last night, and five
this morning, but I do not remember any of their names. You can go
through the rooms and search for your apprentice, if you think proper."
Mr. Bloundel hesitated, but his humanity overcame his apprehension, and
murmuring a prayer that he might be preserved from infection, he
followed his conductor into the house. Prepared as he was for a dreadful
spectacle, the reality far exceeded his anticipations. Along both sides
of a large room, occupying nearly the whole of the ground-floor, were
rows of pallets, on which were laid the sick, many of whom were tied
down to their couches. Almost all seemed in a hopeless state, and the
cadaverous hue of their countenances proclaimed that death was not far
off. Though the doors and windows were open, and the room was filled
with vapours and exhalations, arising from pans of coal and plates of
hot iron, on which drugs were burning, nothing could remove the putrid,
and pestilential smell that pervaded the chamber. The thick vapour
settled on the panes of the windows, and on the roof, and fell to the
ground in heavy drops. Marching quickly past each bed, the grocer noted
the features of its unfortunate occupant; but though there were many
young men, Leonard was not among the number. His conductor then led him
to an upper room, where he found the chirurgeons dressing the sores of
their patients, most of whom uttered loud shrieks while under their
hands. Here an incident occurred which deeply affected the grocer. A
poor young woman, who had been brought to the pest-house with her child
on the previous evening, had just expired, and the infant, unable to
obtain its customary nourishment, uttered the most piteous cries. It was
instantly removed by a nurse and proper food given it; but Mr. Bloundel
was informed that the plague-tokens had already appeared, and that it
would not probably live over the night. "I have no doubt," said the
young chirurgeon, "it will be buried with its mother." And so it
The grocer turned away to hide his emotion, and endeavoured through his
blinded gaze to discover Leonard, but, as will be anticipated, without
success. Stunned by the cries and groans that pierced his ears, and
almost stifled by the pestilential effluvia, he rushed out of the house,
and gladly accepted a glass of sack offered him by his conductor, which
removed the dreadful nausea that affected him.
"I now remember that the two last persons brought here were taken to the
barn," observed the chirurgeon; "I will go with you thither, if you
The grocer assented, and the chirurgeon crossed the yard, and opened the
door of the barn, on the floor of which upwards of twenty beds were
laid. Passing between them, Mr. Bloundel narrowly scrutinized every
countenance; but, to his great relief, recognised no one. One couch
alone remained to be examined. The poor sufferer within it had drawn the
coverings over his face, and when they were removed he was found quite
dead! He was a young man; and the agony he had endured in the last
struggle was shown by his collapsed frame and distorted features. It was
not, however, Leonard; and, so far satisfied, though greatly shocked,
Mr. Bloundel hurried out.
"Thank Heaven he is not here!" he exclaimed to his conductor.
"You have not seen the dead bodies in the outhouse," returned the other;
"it is possible his may be among them."
"I trust not," rejoined the grocer, shuddering; "but as I have gone thus
far, I will not leave my errand unaccomplished. Suffer me to look at
The chirurgeon then led the way to a spacious outbuilding, once used for
cattle, in the midst of which stood a large frame supporting six bodies,
covered only with a sheet. Mr. Bloundel could not overcome his
repugnance to enter this shed; but the chirurgeon, who appeared
habituated to such scenes, and to regard them lightly, threw off the
sheet, and raised the corpses, one by one, that he might the better view
them. One peculiarity Mr. Bloundel noticed; namely, that the limbs of
these unfortunate victims of the pestilence did not stiffen, as would
have been the case if they had died of any other disorder; while the
blotches that appeared on the livid flesh made them objects almost too
horrible to look upon. In many cases the features were frightfully
distorted--the tongues of the poor wretches swollen and protruding--the
hands clenched, and the toes bent towards the soles of the feet.
Everything denoted the dreadful pangs that must have attended
Greatly relieved to find that the whole of this ghastly group were
strangers to him, Mr. Bloundel thanked the chirurgeon, and departed.
Convinced that he had been deceived by the coffin-maker, he now began to
hope that the whole story was false; but he determined not to rest till
he had thoroughly investigated the matter. Before doing so, however, he
thought it advisable to return home, and accordingly shaped his course
toward Cripplegate, and, passing through the postern, stopped at an
apothecary's shop, and got his apparel fumigated and sprinkled with
spirits of hartshorn and sulphur.
On reaching Wood-street, he noticed, with some uneasiness, a number of
persons gathered together before his dwelling. His fears were speedily
relieved by finding that the assemblage was collected by a preacher, who
was pronouncing an exhortation to them in tones almost as loud and
emphatic as those of Solomon Eagle. The preacher's appearance was very
remarkable, and attracted the attention of the grocer, who joined the
crowd to listen to him. As far as could be judged, he was a middle-aged
man, with black hair floating over his shoulders, earnest features, and
a grey eye of extraordinary brilliancy. His figure was slight and erect,
and his gestures as impassioned as his looks. He spoke with great
rapidity; and his eloquence, combined with his fervent manner and
expression, completely entranced his audience. He was habited in a
cassock and bands, and had taken off his cap, which was held by an
attendant, who stood near the stool on which he was mounted. The latter
differed materially from his master. His closely-cropped hair, demure
looks, sugar-loaf hat, and suit of rusty sable, seemed to proclaim him a
Puritan; but his twinkling eye--for he had but one, and wore a black
patch over the orifice--his inflamed cheeks, and mulberry nose
contradicted the idea.
As soon as the preacher distinguished Mr. Bloundel, he addressed his
discourse to him; and, alluding to his religious habits and general
excellence of character, held him up as an example to others. The grocer
would fain have retreated; but the preacher besought him to stay, and
was proceeding in the same strain, when a sudden interruption took
place. A slight disturbance occurring amid the crowd, the attendant
attempted to check it, and in doing so received a sound buffet on the
ears. In endeavouring to return the blow, he struck another party, who
instantly retaliated, and a general affray commenced--some taking one
side, some the other. In the midst of the confusion three persons forced
their way towards the preacher, knocked him from his stool, and,
assailing him with the most opprobrious epithets, dealt him several
seemingly severe blows, and would have further maltreated him, if Mr.
Bloundel had not interposed, and, pushing aside his assailants, gave him
his hand, and led him into his dwelling, the door of which he closed.
Shortly afterwards, the crowd dispersing, the preacher's companion
entered the shop in search of his master.
"I hope you have sustained no injury during this tumult, reverend and
dear sir?" he asked, with great apparent solicitude.
"I am not much hurt," replied the preacher; "but I have received a blow
on the head, which has stunned me. The faintness will go off presently.
You were the cause of this disturbance, Bambolio."
"I, Doctor Maplebury?" replied Bambolio. "I endeavoured to stop it. But
your reverence looks extremely ill. I am sure, sir," he added to Mr.
Bloundel, "after the high character my master gave you in his discourse,
and which I am persuaded you deserve, you will extend your hospitality
"Readily," replied the grocer. "Here, Blaize, assist the reverend
gentleman within, and bid your mistress come down stairs immediately."
Doctor Maplebury was then conveyed between the porter and Bambolio into
the inner room, where he sank into a chair in a complete state of
exhaustion. The next moment Mrs. Bloundel made her appearance with
Amabel. The latter no sooner beheld the preacher, than she started and
trembled so violently, that she could scarcely support herself; but her
mother, who only saw a fainting man, flew to his assistance, and called
to Patience to bring restoratives. These applied, Doctor Maplebury was
soon able to rouse himself sufficiently to gaze round the room, and fix
his eyes on Amabel.
"So our old friends are here again," said Patience in a low tone to
Blaize, as they left the room together.
"Old friends! What do you mean?" rejoined the porter.
"Why, the Earl of Rochester and Major Pillichody," replied Patience. "I
knew them at a glance, and so did Mistress Amabel. But if I hadn't
discovered them, the major would soon have let me into the secret by the
way in which he squeezed my hand."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Blaize, angrily. "I'll go and acquaint my master
with the trick directly."
"Do so," replied Patience, "and the house will be shut up to-morrow. Our
only chance of averting that calamity is in the earl."
HOW THE GROCER SHUT UP HIS HOUSE.
Placed in a warm bed, and carefully tended by the humane physician,
Leonard Holt slept tranquilly for some hours, and when he awoke, though
so weak as scarcely to be able to lift an arm, he was free from all
ailment. Feeling ravenously hungry, he made known his wants; and,
provisions being set before him, he was allowed to eat and drink in
moderation. Greatly revived by the meal, he arose and attired himself in
habiliments provided for him by Hodges, who, finding him fully equal to
conversation, questioned him as to all that had occurred prior to his
"You have acted nobly," observed the doctor, at the close of his
recital; "and if Amabel had a spark of generosity in her composition,
she would worthily requite you. But I do not expect it. How different is
her conduct from that of the piper's pretty daughter. The latter really
loves you; and I would advise you as a friend to turn your thoughts to
her. She will make you happy: whereas the indulgence of your present
hopeless passion--for hopeless it is--can only lead to wretchedness."
"Would I could follow your advice!" replied Leonard; "but, alas! I
cannot. Amabel does not love the Earl of Rochester more blindly, more
constantly, than I love her; and I could as soon change my nature as
transfer my affection to another."
"I am truly sorry for it," rejoined Hodges, in a tone of deep sympathy.
"And you still desire to return to your master?"
"Unquestionably," replied Leonard. "If I am banished the house, I shall
wander round it night and day like a ghost."
"I will accompany you there this evening," rejoined Hodges, "and I trust
I shall be able to arrange matters without compromising Amabel. I wish I
could forward your suit more efficiently; but I see no chance of it,
and, to deal plainly with you, I do not think a marriage with her would
be for your happiness. The brilliant qualities of your noble rival at
present so dazzle her eyes, that your own solid worth is completely
overlooked. It will be well if her father can preserve her from ruin."
"The earl shall die by my hand rather than he shall succeed in his
infamous purpose," cried Leonard, fiercely.
"No more of this!" exclaimed Hodges. "If you would have me take an
interest in you, you will never give utterance to such a sentiment
again. Amabel has another guardian, more powerful even than her
father--the plague. Ere long the earl, who has a sufficient value for
his own safety, will fly the city."
"I hope the pestilence will number him among its victims," observed
Leonard, in a sombre tone.
At this juncture the old porter entered the room, and informed his
master that the piper's daughter was below, and had called to inquire
after the apprentice.
Hodges desired she might be shown upstairs, and the next moment Nizza
was ushered into the room. On beholding the improved appearance of
Leonard, she could not repress an exclamation of delight, while a deep
blush suffused her cheeks.
"You are surprised to find him quite well," observed Hodges, with a
smile. "Nay, you may approach him with safety. There is no fear of
"Having satisfied myself on that point, I will take my leave," rejoined
Nizza, in some confusion.
"Not till you have allowed me to return my thanks, I trust," said
Leonard, advancing towards her, and taking her hand. "I owe my life to
"Then pay the debt by devoting it to her," rejoined Hodges. "Excuse me
for a few minutes. I have business to attend to, but will be back again
Left alone together, the young couple felt so much embarrassment that
for some minutes neither could utter a word. At length Nizza, who had
suffered her hand to remain in that of Leonard, gently withdrew it.
"Circumstances have given me a claim to your confidence," she faltered,
"and you will not misconstrue my motive, when I ask you whether you
still retain the same affection as formerly for Amabel?"
"Unfortunately for myself, I do," replied Leonard.
"And unfortunately for me too," sighed Nizza. "Doctor Hodges says he can
restore you to your master's favour. You will therefore return home, and
we shall meet no more."
"In these precarious times, those who part, though even for a few days,
can feel no certainty of meeting again," rejoined Leonard. "But I hope
we shall be more fortunate."
"You mistake me," replied Nizza. "Henceforth I shall sedulously avoid
you. Till I saw you, I was happy, and indifferent to all else, my
affections being centred in my father and in my dog. Now I am restless
and miserable. My former pursuits are abandoned, and I think only of
you. Despise me if you will after this frank avowal. But believe that I
would not have made it if I had not resolved to see you no more."
"Despise you!" echoed Leonard. "On no! I shall ever feel the deepest
gratitude towards you; but perhaps it is better we should meet no more."
"And yet you throw yourself in the way of Amabel," cried Nizza. "You
have not resolution to fly from the danger which you counsel me to
"It is too true," replied Leonard; "but she is beset by temptations from
which I hope to preserve her."
"That excuse will not avail me," returned Nizza, bitterly. "You cannot
live without her. But I have said enough--more than enough," she added,
correcting herself. "I must now bid you farewell--for ever. May you be
happy with Amabel, and may she love you as I love you!"
As she said this she would have rushed out of the room, if she had not
been stopped by Doctor Hodges.
"Whither so fast?" he inquired.
"Oh! let me go--let me go, I implore of you!" she cried, bursting into
an agony of tears.
"Not till you have composed yourself," rejoined the doctor. "What is the
matter? But I need not ask. I wonder Leonard can be insensible to charms
like yours, coupled with such devotion. Everything seems to be at cross
purposes, and it requires some one more skilled in the affairs of the
heart than an old bachelor like myself to set them right. Sit down. I
have a few questions of importance to ask you before you depart."
And partly by entreaty, partly by compulsion, he made her take a chair;
and as soon as she was sufficiently composed to answer him, questioned
her as to what she knew relating to Judith Malmayns and Chowles.
"Mr. Quatremain, the minor canon, has died of the plague in one of the
vaults of Saint Faith's," he observed; "and I more than suspect, from
the appearance of the body, has not met with fair play."
"Your suspicion is well founded, sir," replied Nizza. "Solomon Eagle
told me that the unfortunate man's end was hastened by the plague-nurse.
Nor is this her sole crime. She was hired to make away with Leonard Holt
in the same manner, and would have accomplished her purpose but for the
intervention of Solomon Eagle."
"Neither she nor her partner in guilt, the coffin-maker, shall escape
justice this time," replied Hodges. "I will instantly cause her to be
arrested, and I trust she will expiate her offences at Tyburn. But to
change the subject. I am sincerely interested about you, Nizza, and I
wish I could make Leonard as sensible of your merits as I am myself. I
still hope a change will take place in his feelings."
"My heart tells me the contrary," replied Nizza. "There is no hope for
either of us. Farewell, Leonard!" and she rushed out of the room.
Soon after this Hodges quitted the apprentice, and going before a
magistrate, detailed all that had come to his knowledge concerning the
criminal practices of Judith Malmayns and Chowles. In the course of the
day the accused parties were arrested, and, after a long examination,
conveyed to Newgate. Solomon Eagle could not be found, neither could Sir
Paul Parravicin. It appeared that Mr. Quatremain's residence had been
entered on that very morning, and the box of treasure discovered in
Saint Faith's abstracted. But though the strongest suspicion of the
robbery attached to Chowles and Judith, it could not be brought home to
We shall now proceed to Wood-street, and ascertain what took place
there. Refreshments were placed before the supposed Doctor Maplebury by
the grocer, while his attendant was sent to the kitchen, and directions
given to Blaize to take every care of him; old Josyna was occupied about
her own concerns; and Pillichody, perceiving from the porter's manner
that his disguise was detected, laid aside concealment altogether, and
endeavoured to win the other over to his patron's interests.
"If this marriage takes place," he said, "I am authorized by my noble
friend to state that he will appoint you his steward with a large
salary, and that will be a very different situation from the one you
hold at present. A nobleman's steward! Think of that. You will have a
retinue of servants under your control, and will live quite as well as
"I have some scruples," hesitated Blaize.
"Scruples! pshaw!" cried Pillichody. "You can have no hesitation in
benefiting yourself. If you remain here, the house will be shut up, and
you will be kept a close prisoner for months in the very heart of an
infected city, and I dare say will be buried in yonder cellar; whereas,
if you go with the Earl of Rochester, you will dwell in a magnificent
country mansion--a palace, I ought to call it--enjoy every luxury, and
remain there till the plague is over."
"That last reason decides me," replied Blaize. "But I suppose his
lordship will provide himself with a medicine chest?"
"He has already got one as large as this table," said Pillichody, "and
you shall have the key of it."
"Enough!" exclaimed Blaise. "I am yours."
"Pray, what am I to be?" asked Patience, who had listened to the
foregoing conversation with a smile at Blaize's credulity.
"You, sweetheart!" exclaimed Pillichody. "I will take care of you. You
shall be my housekeeper."
"Hold!" cried Blaize. "I cannot admit that. Patience and I are engaged."
"Since you are promoted to such an important situation, you can make a
better match," observed Patience. "I release you from the engagement."
"I don't choose to be released," returned Blaize; "I will marry you on
the same day that the earl weds Amabel."
"That will be to-night, or to-morrow at the latest," said Pillichody.
"Consent, sweetheart," he added, in a whisper to Patience; "if we can
once get you and your pretty mistress out of the house, we will leave
this simpleton fool in the lurch."
"No, I will never consent to such a thing," returned Patience, in the
"What's that you are saying?" inquired Blaize, suspiciously.
"Major Pillichody says he will marry me, if you won't," returned
"I have just told you I will," rejoined Blaize. "But he must not
continue his attentions. I feel I shall be very jealous."
"I am glad to hear it," returned Patience, bursting into a loud laugh,
"for that proves you love me."
"Well," observed Pillichody, "I won't interfere with a friend; and as
there is no knowing what may occur, it will be as well to prepare
So saying, he fell to work upon the provisions loading the board, and
ate and drank as if determined to lay in a stock for the next two days.
Meantime the earl made rapid progress in the good opinion both of Mr.
Bloundel and his wife. Adapting his discourse precisely to their views,
and exerting his matchless conversational powers to their full extent,
he so charmed them that they thought they could listen to him for ever.
While thus engaged, he contrived ever and anon to steal a glance at
Amabel, and on these occasions, his eyes were quite as eloquent and
intelligible as his tongue.
Among other topics interesting to the grocer, the persecution to which
his daughter had been recently subjected was brought forward. Mr.
Bloundel could not reprobate the earl's conduct more strongly than his
guest did; and he assailed himself with such virulence that, in spite of
her uneasiness, Amabel could not repress a smile. In short, he so
accommodated himself to the grocer's opinion, and so won upon his
regard, that the latter offered him an asylum in his house during the
continuance of the pestilence. This was eagerly accepted, and the earl,
hazarding a look at Amabel at the moment, perceived her change colour
and become greatly agitated. Mrs. Bloundel also noticed her confusion,
but attributing it to any other than the right cause, begged her, in a
low tone, to control herself.
At length, the opportunity for which the earl had been secretly sighing
occurred. Mr. Bloundel called his wife out of the room for a moment, and
as their eldest son, Stephen, was in the shop, and the two other
children upstairs, Amabel was left alone with her lover. The door was no
sooner closed than he sprang towards her and threw himself at her feet.
"Shall I avail myself of your father's offer, sweetheart?" he cried.
"Shall I remain here with you--the happiest of prisoners--or will you
once more accompany me? This time, our marriage shall not be
"Perhaps not, my lord," she replied, gravely; "but it will be a mock
ceremonial, like the last. Do not attempt to deceive me. I am fully
aware of your intentions, and after the awful fate of the wretched
instrument of your purposed criminality, you will not readily get
another person to tempt in like manner the vengeance of Heaven. I have
had a severe struggle with myself. But at length I have triumphed over
my irresolution. I will not disguise from you that I love you
still,--and must ever, I fear, continue to love you. But I will not be
yours on the terms you propose. Neither will I leave this house with
you, nor suffer you to remain in it, in any other than your proper
character. On my father's return I will disclose all to him. If your
designs are honourable, I am sure he will no longer oppose my union with
you. If not, we part for ever."
"Be prudent, sweet girl, I entreat of you," cried the earl imploringly.
"Your indiscretion will ruin all. There are a thousand reasons why your
father should not be consulted on the matter."
"There are none that weigh with me," she interrupted, decidedly. "I have
been bewildered--beside myself,--but, thank Heaven, I have recovered
before it is too late."
"You are beside yourself at this moment," cried Rochester, unable to
control his anger and mortification, "and will bitterly repent your
folly. Neither your supplications nor my rank will have any weight with
your father, prejudiced as he is against me. Fly with me, and I swear to
make you mine, without a moment's loss of time. Will not my plighted
word content you?"
"No, my lord, you have broken it already," returned Amabel. "My father
shall know the truth."
A dark shade passed over Rochester's countenance, and a singular and
most forbidding expression, which Amabel had once before noticed, took
possession of it. His love for her seemed changed to hate, and she
tremblingly averted her gaze. At this juncture, the door opened, and the
grocer and his wife entered the room. The former started, on seeing
Amabel and the supposed preacher in such close propinquity, and a
painful suspicion of the truth crossed his mind. He was not, however,
kept long in suspense. Throwing off his wig, and letting his own fair
ringlets fall over his shoulders, the earl tore open his cassock, and
disclosed his ordinary rich attire. At the same time, his face underwent
an equally striking change,--each feature resuming its original
expression; and the grocer, though he witnessed the whole
transformation, could scarcely believe that the same individual he had
recently beheld stood before him.
"You now know who I am, Mr. Bloundel, and what brought me hither," said
Rochester, with a haughty salutation.
"I do, my lord," replied the grocer, "and I give you full credit for
your daring and ingenuity. After the manner in which I have been imposed
upon myself, I can make allowance for others." He then turned to Amabel,
and said, in a severe tone, "You are no longer my daughter."
"Father!" she cried, rushing towards him and throwing herself at his
feet, "do not cast me off for ever. I am not now to blame. It is owing
to my determination to disclose all to you that the earl has thus
revealed himself. I might have deceived you further--might have fled
"Forgive her! oh, forgive her!" cried Mrs. Bloundel--"or, if any ill
happens to her, you will be answerable for it."
"Is this the truth, my lord?" asked the grocer.
Rochester bowed stiffly in acquiescence.
"Then you are again my child," said Bloundel, raising her, and pressing
her to his bosom. "What are your intentions towards her?" he continued,
addressing the earl.
"They may be readily surmised," replied Rochester, with a scornful
"Will you wed her, if I agree to the union," asked Bloundel, trembling
with concentrated rage.
Amabel looked at her lover as if her life hung on his answer.
Rochester affected not to hear the question, but, as it was repeated
still more peremptorily, he repeated carelessly,--"I will consider of
"Deceived! deceived!" cried Amabel, falling on her mother's neck, and
bursting into tears.
"This outrage shall not pass unpunished," cried Bloundel. And before the
earl could draw his sword or offer any resistance, he threw himself upon
him, and hurling him to the ground, set his foot upon his bosom.
"Do not kill him," shrieked Amabel, terrified by the stern expression of
her father's countenance.
"What are you about to do?" gasped Rochester, struggling ineffectually
to get free.
"Bid Stephen bring a cord," cried the grocer.
"You are not going to hang him?" inquired Mrs. Bloundel.
"Do as I bid you," rejoined her husband, "and lose no time."
As she was about to leave the room, the door opened, and Doctor Hodges
entered, followed by Leonard and Stephen.
"Mercy on us! what's the matter?" cried the former, in astonishment.
"You are just arrived in time to prevent mischief," replied Mrs.
Bloundel. "Pray interfere between them. My husband will attend to you."
"Arise, my lord," said Mr. Bloundel, removing his foot from the
prostrate nobleman; "you are sufficiently punished by being found in
this disgraceful condition. Remember that your life has been at my
Thus liberated, Rochester sprang to his feet, and regarding the group
with a menacing and disdainful look, walked up to Amabel, and saying to
her, "You shall yet be mine," strode out of the room. He then marched
along the passage, and called to Pillichody, who instantly answered the
summons. Accompanied by Hodges, the grocer followed them to the shop,
where the bully not departing so quickly as he desired, and refusing to
be more expeditious, he kicked him into the street. This done, and the
door fastened, he tarried only till he had received all needful
explanations from the friendly physician, and then returning to the
inner room, warmly greeted Leonard, and congratulated him on his
extraordinary recovery from the plague.
Happiness was thus once more restored to every member of the grocer's
family, except Amabel, who still continued downcast and dejected, and
entreated permission to retire to her own room. A cheerful evening was
then passed by the others, and the doctor did not offer to take his
departure till the clock struck eleven.
"It is the last night I shall spend here for some months," he said;
"perhaps the last I shall ever spend here, and I have stayed longer than
I intended, but I did not like to abridge my enjoyment." After shaking
hands cordially with the whole party, he added in an under tone, as he
took leave of Leonard, "Do not forget Nizza Macascree."
On the following day the grocer nailed up the shutters, and locked and
barred the doors of his house.
BOOK THE THIRD.
THE IMPRISONED FAMILY.
The first few days of their confinement were passed by the grocer's
family in a very uncomfortable manner. No one, except Mr. Bloundel,
appeared reconciled to the plan, and even he found it more difficult of
accomplishment that he had anticipated. The darkness of the rooms, and
the want of ventilation caused by the closed windows and barred doors,
gave the house the air of a prison, and occasioned a sense of oppression
almost intolerable. Blaize declared it was "worse than being in Newgate,
and that he must take an additional rufus to set right his digestion;"
while Patience affirmed "that it was like being buried alive, and that
she would not stand it." Mr. Bloundel paid no attention to their
complaints, but addressed himself seriously to the remedy. Insisting
upon the utmost attention being paid to cleanliness, he had an abundant
supply of water drawn, with which the floors of every room and passage
were washed down daily. By such means the house was kept cool and
wholesome; and its inmates, becoming habituated to the gloom, in a great
degree recovered their cheerfulness.
The daily routine of the establishment was as follows. The grocer arose
at dawn, and proceeded to call up the whole of his family. They then
assembled in a large room on the second story, where he offered up
thanks that they had been spared during the night, and prayed for their
preservation during the day. He next assigned a task to each, and took
care to see it afterwards duly fulfilled; well knowing that constant
employment was the best way to check repining and promote contentment.
Heretofore the servants had always taken their meals in the kitchen, but
now they always sat down to table with him. "I will make no distinction
at this season," he said; "all shall fare as I fare, and enjoy the same
comforts as myself. And I trust that my dwelling may be as sure a refuge
amid this pestilential storm as the ark of the patriarch proved when
Heaven's vengeance was called forth in the mighty flood."
Their devotions ended, the whole party repaired to one of the lower
rooms, where a plentiful breakfast was provided, and of which they all
partook. The business of the day then began, and, as has just been
observed, no one was suffered to remain idle. The younger children were
allowed to play and exercise themselves as much as they chose in the
garret, and Blaize and Patience were occasionally invited to join them.
A certain portion of the evening was also devoted to harmless recreation
and amusements. The result may be anticipated. No one suffered in
health, while all improved in spirits. Prayers, as usual, concluded the
day, and the family retired to rest at an early hour.
This system of things may appear sufficiently monotonous, but it was
precisely adapted to the exigencies of the case, and produced a most
salutary effect. Regular duties and regular employments being imposed
upon each, and their constant recurrence, so far from being irksome,
soon became agreeable. After a while the whole family seemed to grow
indifferent to the external world--to live only for each other, and to
think only of each other--and to Leonard Holt, indeed, that house was
all the world. Those walls contained everything dear to him, and he
would have been quite content never to leave them if Amabel had been
always near. He made no attempt to renew his suit--seldom or never
exchanging a word with her, and might have been supposed to have become
wholly indifferent to her. But it was not so. His heart was consumed by
the same flame as before. No longer, however, a prey to jealousy--no
longer apprehensive of the earl--he felt so happy, in comparison with
what he had been, that he almost prayed that the term of their
imprisonment might be prolonged. Sometimes the image of Nizza Macascree
would intrude upon him, and he thought, with a feeling akin to remorse,
of what she might suffer--for he was too well acquainted with the pangs
of unrequited love not to sympathise deeply with her. As to Amabel, she
addressed herself assiduously to the tasks enjoined by her father, and
allowed her mind to dwell as little as possible on the past, but
employed all her spare time in devotional exercises.
It will be remembered that the grocer had reserved a communication with
the street, by means of a shutter opening from a small room in the upper
story. Hither he would now frequently repair, and though he did not as
yet think it necessary to have recourse to all the precautionary
measures he intended eventually to adopt--such as flashing a pistol when
he looked forth--yet he never opened the shutter without holding a phial
of vinegar, or a handkerchief wetted with the same liquid, to his face.
Before closing his house he had hired a porter, who occupied the hutch
at his door, and held himself in readiness to execute any commission, or
perform any service that might be required. Fresh vegetables, poultry,
eggs, butter, and milk, were brought by a higgler from the country, and
raised by means of a basket or a can attached to the pulley. Butcher's
meat was fetched him from Newgate-market by the porter. This man, whose
name was Ralph Dallison, had been formerly in the employ of the grocer,
who, knowing his character, could place entire reliance on him. Dallison
reported the progress of the pestilence daily, and acquainted him with
the increasing amount of the bills of mortality. Several houses, he
said, were infected in Cheapside, and two in Wood-street, one of which
was but a short distance from the grocer's habitation. A watchman was
stationed at the door, and the red cross marked upon it, and on the
following night the grocer heard the sound of the doleful bell
announcing the approach of the pest-cart.
The weather still continued as serene and beautiful as ever, but no
refreshing showers fell--no soft and healthful breezes blew--and it was
now found to be true, what had been prognosticated--viz, that with the
heats of summer the plague would fearfully increase. The grocer was not
incommoded in the same degree as his neighbours. By excluding the light
he excluded the heat, and the care which he took to have his house
washed down kept it cool. The middle of June had arrived, and such
dismal accounts were now brought him of the havoc occasioned by the
scourge, that he would no longer take in fresh provisions, but began to
open his stores. Dallison told him that the alarm was worse than
ever--that vast numbers were endeavouring to leave the city, but no one
could now do so without a certificate, which was never granted if the
slightest suspicion was attached to the party.
"If things go on in this way," said the porter, "London will soon be
deserted. No business is conducted, as it used to be, and everybody is
viewed with distrust. The preachers, who ought to be the last to quit,
have left their churches, and the Lord's day is no longer observed. Many
medical men even have departed, declaring their services are no longer
of any avail. All public amusements are suspended, and the taverns are
only open to the profane and dissolute, who deride God's judgments, and
declare they have no fear. Robberies, murders, and other crimes, have
greatly increased, and the most dreadful deeds are now committed with
impunity. You have done wisely, sir, in protecting yourself against
"I have reason to be thankful that I have done so," replied Bloundel.
And he closed his shutter to meditate on what he had just heard.
And there was abundant food for reflection. Around him lay a great and
populous city, hemmed in, as by a fire, by an exterminating plague, that
spared neither age, condition, nor sex. No man could tell what the end
of all this would be--neither at what point the wrath of the offended
Deity would stop--nor whether He would relent, till He had utterly
destroyed a people who so contemned his word. Scarcely daring to hope
for leniency, and filled with a dreadful foreboding of what would ensue,
the grocer addressed a long and fervent supplication to Heaven,
imploring a mitigation of its wrath.
On joining his family, his grave manner and silence showed how
powerfully he had been affected. No one questioned him as to what had
occurred, but all understood he had received some distressing
Amid his anxiety one circumstance gave him unalloyed satisfaction. This
was the change wrought in Amabel's character. It has been stated that
she had become extremely devout, and passed the whole of the time not
appointed for other occupations, in the study of the Scriptures, or in
prayer. Her manner was extremely sedate, and her conversation assumed a
tone that gave her parents, and especially her father, inexpressible
pleasure. Mrs. Bloundel would have been equally delighted with the
change, if it had tended to forward her own favourite scheme of a union
with Leonard; but as this was not the case, though she rejoiced in the
improvement, she still was not entirely satisfied. She could not help
noting also, that her daughter had become pale and thin, and though she
uttered no complaint, Mrs. Bloundel began to fear her health was
declining. Leonard Holt looked on in wonder and admiration, and if
possible his love increased, though his hopes diminished; for though
Amabel was kinder to him than before, her kindness seemed the result
rather of a sense of duty than regard.
Upon one occasion they were left alone together, and instead of quitting
the room, as she had been accustomed, Amabel called to Leonard, who was
about to depart, and requested him to stay. The apprentice instantly
obeyed; the colour forsook his cheek, and his heart beat violently.
"You desire to speak with me, Amabel," he said:--"Ha! you have
relented?--Is there any hope for me?"
"Alas! no," she replied; "and it is on that very point I have now
detained you. You will, I am sure, rejoice to learn that I have at
length fully regained my peace of mind, and have become sensible of the
weakness of which I have been guilty--of the folly, worse than folly, I
have committed. My feelings are now under proper restraint, and viewing
myself with other eyes, I see how culpable I have been. Oh! Leonard, if
you knew the effort it has been to conquer the fatal passion that
consumed me, if I were to tell you of the pangs it has cost me, of the
tears I have shed, of the heart-quakes endured, you would pity me."
"I do, indeed, pity you," replied Leonard, "for my own sufferings have
been equally severe. But I have not been as successful as you in
"Because you have not pursued the right means, Leonard," she rejoined.
"Fix your thoughts on high; build your hopes of happiness on Heaven;
strengthen your faith; and you will soon find the victory easy. A short
time ago I thought only of worldly pleasures, and was ensnared by vanity
and admiration, enchained to one whom I knew to be worthless, and who
pursued me only to destroy me. Religion has preserved me from the snare,
and religion will restore you to happiness. But you must devote yourself
to Heaven, not lightly, but with your whole soul. You must forget
me--forget yourself--forget all but the grand object. And this is a
season of all others, when it is most needful to lead a life of piety,
to look upon yourself as dead to this world, and to be ever prepared for
that to come. I shudder to think what might have been my portion had I
perished in my sin."
"Yours is a most happy frame of mind," returned Leonard, "and I would I
had a chance of attaining the same tranquillity. But if you have
conquered your love for the earl,--if your heart is disengaged, why deny
me a hope?"
"My heart is _not_ disengaged, Leonard," she replied; "it is engrossed
by Heaven. While the plague is raging around us thus--while thousands
are daily carried off by that devouring scourge--and while every hour,
every moment, may be our last, our thoughts ought always to be fixed
above. I have ceased to love the earl, but I can never love another, and
therefore it would be unjust to you, to whom I owe so much, to hold out
hopes that never can be realized."
"Alas! alas!" cried Leonard, unable to control his emotion.
"Compose yourself, dear Leonard," she cried, greatly moved. "I would I
could comply with your wishes. But, alas! I cannot. I could only give
you," she added, in a tone so thrilling, that it froze the blood in his
veins--"a breaking, perhaps a broken heart!"
"Gracious heaven!" exclaimed Leonard, becoming as pale as death; "is it
come to this?"
"Again, I beg you to compose yourself," she rejoined, calmly--"and I
entreat you not to let what I have told you pass your lips. I would not
alarm my father, or my dear and anxious mother, on my account. And there
may be no reason for alarm. Promise me, therefore, you will be silent."
Leonard reluctantly gave the required pledge.
"I have unwittingly been the cause of much affliction to you," pursued
Amabel--"and would gladly see you happy, and there is one person, I
think, who would make you so--I mean Nizza Macascree. From what she said
to me when we were alone together in the vaults of Saint Faith's, I am
sure she is sincerely attached to you. Could you not requite her love?"
"No," replied Leonard. "There is no change in affection like mine."
"Pursue the course I have advised," replied Amabel, "and you will find
all your troubles vanish. Farewell! I depend upon your silence!"
And she quitted the room, leaving Leonard in a state of indescribable
Faithful, however, to his promise, he made no mention of his uneasiness
to the grocer or his wife, but indulged his grief in secret. Ignorant of
what was passing, Mr. Bloundel, who was still not without apprehension
of some further attempt on the part of the earl, sent Dallison to make
inquiries after him, and learnt that he was at Whitehall, but that the
court had fixed to remove to Hampton Court at the end of June. The
porter also informed him that the city was emptying fast--that the Lord
Mayor's residence was literally besieged with applications for bills of
health--that officers were stationed at the gates--and that, besides
these, barriers and turnpikes were erected on all the main roads, at
which the certificates were required to be exhibited--and that such
persons as escaped without them were driven back by the inhabitants of
the neighbouring villages, who refused to supply them with necessaries;
and as they could not return home, many had perished of want, or perhaps
of the pestilence, in the open fields. Horses and coaches, he added,
were not to be procured, except at exorbitant prices; and thousands had
departed on foot, locking up their houses, and leaving their effects
"In consequence of this," added Dallison, "several houses have been
broken open; and though the watch had been trebled, still they cannot be
in all places at once; and strong as the force is, it is not adequate to
the present emergency. Bands of robbers stalk the streets at night,
taking vehicles with them, built to resemble pest-carts, and beating off
the watch, they break open the houses, and carry off any goods they
This intelligence greatly alarmed the grocer, and he began to fear his
plans would be defeated in an unexpected manner. He engaged Dallison to
procure another trusty companion to take his place at night, and
furnished him with money to purchase arms. He no longer slept as
tranquilly as before, but frequently repaired to his place of
observation to see that the watchman was at his post, and that all was
secure. For the last few days, he had remarked with some uneasiness that
a youth frequently passed the house and gazed at the barred windows, and
he at first imagined he might be leagued with the nocturnal marauders he
had heard of; but the prepossessing appearance of the stripling, who
could not be more than sixteen, and who was singularly slightly made,
soon dispelled the idea. Still, as he constantly appeared at the same
spot, the grocer began to have a new apprehension, and to suspect he was
an emissary of the Earl of Rochester, and he sent Dallison to inquire
his business. The youth returned an evasive answer, and withdrew; but
the next day he was there again. On this occasion, Mr. Bloundel pointed
him out to Leonard Holt, and asked him if he had seen him before. The
youth's back being towards them, the apprentice unhesitatingly answered
in the negative, but as the subject of investigation turned the next
moment, and looked up, revealing features of feminine delicacy and
beauty, set off by long flowing jet-black ringlets, Leonard started, and
"I was mistaken," he said, "I _have_ seen him before."
"Is he one of the Earl of Rochester's pages?" asked Mr. Bloundel.
"No," replied Leonard, "and you need not be uneasy about him. I am sure
he intends no harm."
Thus satisfied, the grocer thought no more about the matter. He then
arranged with Leonard that he should visit the window at certain hours
on alternate nights with himself, and appointed the following night as
that on which the apprentice's duties should commence.
On the same night, however, an alarming incident occurred, which kept
the grocer and his apprentice for a long time on the watch. The family
had just retired to rest when the report of fire-arms was heard close to
the street door, and Mr. Bloundel hastily calling up Leonard, they
repaired to the room overlooking the street, and found that a desperate
struggle was going on below. The moon being overclouded, and the lantern
extinguished, it was too dark to discern the figures of the combatants,
and in a few seconds all became silent, except the groans of a wounded
man. Mr. Bloundel then called out to know what was the matter, and
ascertained from the sufferer, who proved to be his own watchman, that
the adjoining house, being infected, had been shut up by the
authorities; and its owner, unable to bear the restraint, had burst open
the door, shot the watchman stationed at it, and firing another pistol
at the poor wretch who was making the statement, because he endeavoured
to oppose his flight, had subsequently attacked him with his sword. It
was a great grief to Mr. Bloundel not to be able to aid the unfortunate
watchman, and he had almost determined to hazard a descent by the
pulley, when a musical voice was heard below, and the grocer soon
understood that the youth, about whom his curiosity had been excited,
was raising the sufferer, and endeavouring to stanch his wounds. Finding
this impossible, however, at Mr. Bloundel's request, he went in search
of assistance, and presently afterwards returned with a posse of men,
bearing halberds and lanterns, who carried off the wounded man, and
afterwards started in pursuit of the murderer.
Mr. Bloundel then entered into conversation with the youth, who informed
him that his name was Flitcroft, that he was without a home, all his
relations having died of the plague, and that he was anxious to serve as
a watchman in place of the poor wretch who had just been removed.
Leonard remonstrated against this arrangement, but Mr. Bloundel was so
much pleased with Flitcroft's conduct that he would listen to no
objection. Accordingly provisions were lowered down in a basket to the
poor youth, and he stationed himself in the hutch. Nothing material
occurred during the day. Flitcroft resigned his post to Dallison, but
returned in the evening.
At midnight, Leonard took his turn to watch. It was a bright moonlight
night, but though he occasionally looked out into the street, and
perceived Flitcroft below, he gave no intimation of his presence. All at
once, however, he was alarmed by a loud cry, and opening the shutter,
perceived the youth struggling with two persons, whom he recognised as
Sir Paul Parravicin and Pillichody.
He shouted to them to release their captive, but they laughed at his
vociferations, and in spite of his resistance dragged the youth away.
Maddened at the sight, Leonard lowered the rope as quickly as he could
with the intention of descending by it. At this moment, Flitcroft turned
an agonized look behind him, and perceiving what had been done, broke
suddenly from his captors, and before he could be prevented, sprang into
the basket, and laid hold of the rope. Leonard, who had seen the
movement, and divined its object, drew up the pulley with the quickness
of thought; and so expeditiously was the whole accomplished, that ere
the knight and his companion reached the spot, Flitcroft was above their
heads, and the next moment was pulled through the window, and in safety
by the side of Leonard.
HOW FIRES WERE LIGHTED IN THE STREETS.
Nizza Macascree, for it is useless to affect further mystery, as soon as
she could find utterance, murmured her thanks to the apprentice, whose
satisfaction at her deliverance was greatly diminished by his fears lest
his master should disapprove of what he had done. Seeing his uneasiness,
and guessing the cause, Nizza hastened to relieve it.
"I reproach myself bitterly for having placed you in this situation!"
she said, "but I could not help it, and will free you from my presence
the moment I can do so with safety. When I bade you farewell, I meant it
to be for ever, and persuaded myself I could adhere to my resolution.
But I was deceived. You would pity me, were I to tell you the anguish I
endured. I could not accompany my poor father in his rambles; and if I
went forth at all, my steps involuntarily led me to Wood-street. At
last, I resolved to disguise myself, and borrowed this suit from a Jew
clothesman, who has a stall in Saint Paul's. Thus equipped, I paced
backwards and forwards before the house, in the hope of obtaining a
glimpse of you, and fortune has favoured me more than I expected, though
it has led to this unhappy result. Heaven only knows what will become of
me!" she added, bursting into tears. "Oh! that the pestilence would
select me as one of its victims. But, like your own sex, it shuns all
those who court it."
"I can neither advise you," replied Leonard, in sombre tone, "nor help
you. Ah!" he exclaimed, as the sounds of violent blows were heard
against the door below--"your persecutors are trying to break into the
Rushing to the window, and gazing downwards, he perceived Sir Paul
Parravicin and Pillichody battering against the shop door, and
endeavouring to burst it open. It was, however, so stoutly barricaded,
that it resisted all their efforts.
"What is to be done?" cried Leonard. "The noise will certainly alarm my
master, and you will be discovered."
"Heed me not," rejoined Nizza, distractedly, "you shall not run any risk
on my account. Let me down the pulley. Deliver me to them. Anything is
better than that you should suffer by my indiscretion."
"No, no," replied Leonard; "Mr. Bloundel shall know all. His love for
his own daughter will make him feel for you. But come what will, I will
not abandon you."
As he spoke a timid knock was heard at the door, and a voice without
exclaimed, in accents of the utmost trepidation, "Are you there,
Leonard?--Robbers are breaking into the house. We shall all be
"Come in, Blaize," returned Leonard, opening the door and admitting the
porter--"you may be of some assistance to me."
"In what way?" demanded Blaize. "Ah! who's this?" he added, perceiving
Nizza--"what is this page doing here?"
"Do not concern yourself about him but attend to me," replied Leonard.
"I am about to drive away those persons from the door. You must lower me
down in the basket attached to the pulley."
"And will you dare to engage them?" asked Blaize, peeping out at the
shutter. "They are armed. As I live, one is Major Pillichody, the rascal
who dared to make love to Patience. I have half a mind to go down with
you, and give him a sound drubbing."
"You shall not encounter this danger for me," interposed Nizza,
endeavouring to stay Leonard, who, having thrust a sword into his
girdle, was about to pass through the window.
"Do not hinder me," replied the apprentice, breaking from her. "Take
hold of the rope, Blaize, and mind it does not run down too quickly."
With this, he got into the basket, and as the porter carefully obeyed
his instructions, he reached the ground in safety. On seeing him,
Pillichody bolted across the street, and flourishing his sword, and
uttering tremendous imprecations, held himself in readiness to beat an
immediate retreat. Not so Parravicin. Instantly assailing the
apprentice, he slightly wounded him in the arm. Seeing how matters
stood, and that victory was pretty certain to declare itself for his
patron, Pillichody returned, and, attacking the apprentice, by their
combined efforts, he was speedily disarmed. Pillichody would have passed
his sword through his body, but the knight stayed his hand.
"The fool has placed himself in our power," he said, "and he shall pay
for his temerity; nevertheless, I will spare his life provided he assist
us to get into the house, or will deliver up Nizza Macascree."
"I will do neither," replied Leonard, fiercely.
Parravicin raised his sword, and was about to strike, when, at the
moment, the basket was again quickly lowered to the ground. It bore
Nizza Macascree, who, rushing between them, arrested the stroke.
"Oh! why have you done this?" cried Leonard, in a tone of reproach.
"I will tell you why," rejoined Parravicin, triumphantly; "because she
saw you were unable to defend her, and, like a true woman, surrendered
herself to the victor. Take care of him, Pillichody, while I secure the
girl. Spit him, if he attempts to stir."
And twining his arms round Nizza, notwithstanding her shrieks and
resistance, he bore her away. Infuriated by the sight, Leonard Holt
threw himself upon Pillichody, and a desperate struggle took place
between them, which terminated this time successfully for the
apprentice. Wresting his long rapier from the bully, Leonard rushed
after Parravicin, and reached the end of Wood-street, just in time to
see him spring into a coach, and drive off with his prize. Speeding
after them along Blowbladder-street, and Middle-row, as Newgate-street
was then termed, the apprentice shouted to the coachman to stop, but no
attention being paid to his vociferations, and finding pursuit
unavailing, he came to a halt. He then more slowly retraced his steps,
and on arriving at the grocer's residence, found the basket drawn up.
Almost afraid to call out, he at length mustered courage enough to shout
to Blaize to lower it, and was answered by Mr. Bloundel, who, putting
his head through the window, demanded in a stern tone why he had left
Leonard briefly explained.
"I deeply regret your imprudence," replied his master; "because I can
now no more admit you. It is my fixed determination, as you well know,
not to suffer any member of my family who may quit my house, to enter it
"I shall not attempt to remonstrate with you, sir," replied Leonard.
"All I pray of you is to allow me to occupy this hutch, and to act as
"Willingly," rejoined Mr. Bloundel; "and as you have had the plague, you
will run no risk of infection. You shall know all that passes within
doors; and I only lament that you should have banished yourself from the
asylum which I hoped to afford you."
After some further conversation between them, a bundle was lowered by
the grocer, containing a change of clothes and a couple of blankets. On
receiving these, Leonard retired to the hutch, and tying a handkerchief
round his wounded arm, wrapped himself in a night trail, and stretching
himself on the ground, in spite of his anxiety, soon sank asleep. He
awoke about four o'clock in the morning, with a painful consciousness of
what had taken place during the night. It was just beginning to grow
light, and he walked across the street to gaze at the house from which
he was exiled. Its melancholy, uninhabited look did not serve to cheer
him. It seemed totally altered since he knew it first. The sign, which
then invited the passers-by to enter the shop and deal with its honest
owner, now appeared no longer significant, unless--and it will be
remembered it was the Noah's Ark--it could be supposed to have reference
to those shut up within. The apprentice looked at the habitation with
misgiving, and, instead of regarding it as a sanctuary from the
pestilence, could not help picturing it as a living tomb. The last
conversation he had had with Amabel also arose forcibly to his
recollection, and the little likelihood there appeared of seeing her
again gave him acute agony. Oppressed by this painful idea, and unable
to exclude from his thoughts the unhappy situation of Nizza Macascree,
he bent his steps, scarcely knowing whither he was going, towards Saint
Having passed so much of his time of late in the cathedral, Leonard
began to regard it as a sort of home, and it now appeared like a place
of refuge to him. Proceeding to the great western entrance, he seated
himself on one of the large blocks of stone left there by the masons
occupied in repairing the exterior of the fane. His eye rested upon the
mighty edifice before him, and the clear sparkling light revealed
numberless points of architectural grandeur and beauty which he had
never before noticed. The enormous buttresses and lofty pinnacles of the
central tower were tinged with the beams of the rising sun, and glowed
as if built of porphyry. While gazing at the summit of this tower, and
calling to mind the magnificent view he had recently witnessed from it
at the same hour, if a wish could have transported him thither at that
moment, he would have enjoyed it again. But as this could not be, he
tried to summon before his mental vision the whole glorious
prospect--the broad and shining river, with its moving or motionless
craft--the gardens, the noble mansions, the warehouses, and mighty
wharfs on its banks--London Bridge, with its enormous pile of
habitations--the old and picturesque city, with its innumerable towers,
and spires, and girdle of grey walls--the green fields and winding lanes
leading to the lovely hills around it--all these objects arose obedient
to his fancy, and came arrayed in colouring as fresh as that wherein
they had before appeared to him. While thus occupied, his gaze remained
riveted on the summit of the central tower, and he fancied he perceived
some one leaning over the balustrade; but as little beyond the upper
part of the figure could be discerned, and as it appeared perfectly
motionless, he could not be quite sure that his eyes did not deceive
him. Having gazed at the object for some minutes, during which it
maintained the same attitude, he continued his survey of the pile, and
became so excited by the sublime emotions inspired by the contemplation,
as to be insensible to aught else.
After a while he arose, and was about to proceed towards the portico,
when, chancing to look at the top of the tower, he remarked that the
figure had disappeared, and while wondering who it could be, he
perceived a person emerge from one of the tall windows in the lower part
of the tower. It was Solomon Eagle, and he no longer wondered at what he
had seen. The enthusiast was without his brazier, but carried a long
stout staff. He ran along the pointed roof of the nave with
inconceivable swiftness, till, reaching the vast stone cross, upwards of
twelve feet in height, ornamenting the western extremity, he climbed its
base, and clasping the transverse bar of the sacred symbol of his faith
with his left arm, extended his staff with his right, and described a
circle, as if pointing out the walls of the city. He then raised his
staff towards heaven to invoke its vengeance, and anon pointed it
menacingly downwards. After this he broke into loud denunciations; but
though the apprentice could not hear the words, he gathered their
purport from his gestures.
By this time a few masons had assembled, and producing their implements,
commenced working at the blocks of stone. Glancing at the enthusiast,
one of them observed with a smile to his companion, "There is Solomon
Eagle pronouncing his morning curse upon the city. I wonder whether the
judgments he utters against it will come to pass."
"Assuredly, Phil Gatford," replied the other mason, gravely; "and I look
upon all the work we are now doing as labour thrown away. Was he not
right about the plague? Did he not foretell the devouring scourge by
which we are visited? And he will be right also about the fire. Since he
has doomed it, this cathedral will be consumed by flames, and one stone
will not be left standing on another."
"It is strange, Ned Turgis," observed Gatford, "that, though Solomon
Eagle may always be seen at daybreak at the top of the tower or on the
roof of the cathedral--sometimes at one point and sometimes at
another--no one can tell where he hides himself at other times. He no
longer roams the streets at night, but you may remember when the
officers of justice were in search of him, to give evidence against
Mother Malmayns and Chowles, he was not to be found."
"I remember it," replied Turgis; "but I have no doubt he was hidden in
some out-of-the-way corner of the cathedral--perhaps among the immense
wooden beams of the clerestory."
"Or in some of the secret passages or cells contrived in the thickness
of the walls," rejoined the first speaker. "I say, Ned Turgis, if the
plague increases, as there is every likelihood it will, Solomon Eagle
will be the only preacher left in Saint Paul's. Neither deans, prebends,
minor-canons, nor vicars will attend. As it is, they have almost
"Shame on them!" exclaimed Leonard Holt, who, being much interested in
the conversation of the masons, had silently approached them. "At this
season, more than ever, they are bound to attend to their duty."
"Why, so I think," rejoined Gatford; "but I suppose they consider
self-preservation their first duty. They aver that all assemblages,
whether called together for religious purposes or not, are dangerous,
and likely to extend the pestilence."
"And yet crowds are permitted to assemble for purposes of amusement, if
not for worship, in those holy walls," returned Leonard.
"Not so," replied Gatford. "Very few persons now come there, and none
for amusement. Paul's Walk is completely deserted. The shops and stalls
have been removed, and the pillars to which they were attached are
restored to their former appearance."
"I am glad to hear it," rejoined Leonard. "I would far rather the sacred
edifice were altogether abandoned than be what it has been of late--a
den of thieves."
"It was a stable and a magazine of arms in the time of the
Commonwealth," remarked Gatford.
"And if Solomon Eagle's foreboding come to pass, it will be a heap of
ruins in our own time," rejoined Turgis. "But I see the prophet of ill
has quitted his post, and retired to his hiding-place."
Looking up as this was said, Leonard saw that the enthusiast had
disappeared. At this moment the great door of the cathedral was thrown
open, and, quitting the masons, he ascended the broad steps under the
portico, and entered the fane, where he found that the information he
had received was correct, and that the stalls and other disfigurements
to the pillars had been removed. After pacing the solitary aisles for
some time, he made inquiries from the verger concerning Solomon Eagle.
"I know nothing about him," replied the man, reluctantly. "I believe he
always appears at daybreak on some part of the roof, but I am as
ignorant as yourself where he hides himself. The door of the winding
staircase leading to the central tower is open. You can ascend it, and
search for him, if you think proper."
Acting upon the suggestion, Leonard mounted to the belfry, and from
thence to the summit of the tower. Having indulged himself with a brief
survey of the glorious view around, he descended, and glanced into every
cell and chamber as he passed, in the hopes of meeting with the
enthusiast, but he was disappointed. At length, as he got about half-way
down, he felt his arm forcibly grasped, and, instantly conjecturing who
it was, offered no resistance. Without uttering a word, the person who
had seized him dragged him up a few steps, pushed aside a secret door,
which closed behind them with a hollow clangour, and leading him along a
dark narrow passage, opened another door, and they emerged upon the
roof. He then found that his suspicion was correct, and that his
mysterious guide was no other than Solomon Eagle.
"I am glad to find you have recovered from the pestilence," said the
enthusiast, regarding him with a friendly glance; "it proves you are
favoured by Heaven. I saw you in the open space before the cathedral
this morning, and instantly recognised you. I was in the belfry when you
descended, but you did not perceive me, and I wished to be certain you
were alone before I discovered myself."
"You have ceased to roam the streets at night, and rouse the slumbering
citizens to repentance?" asked Leonard.
"For the present I have," returned Solomon Eagle. "But I shall appear
again when I am required. But you shall now learn why I have brought you
hither. Look along those streets," he added, pointing to the
thoroughfares opening in different directions. "What see you?"
"I see men piling heaps of wood and coals at certain distances, as if
they were preparing bonfires," replied Leonard. "And yet it cannot be.
This is no season for rejoicing."
"It has been supposed that the lighting of many thousand fires at once
will purify the air," replied Solomon Eagle; "and therefore the Lord
Mayor has given orders that heaps of fuel shall be placed before every
house in every street in the city, and that all these heaps shall be
kindled at a certain hour. But it will be of no avail. The weather is
now fine and settled, and the sky cloudless. But the offended Deity will
cause the heaviest rain to descend, and extinguish their fires. No--the
way to avert the pestilence is not by fire, but by prayer and penitence,
by humiliation and fasting. Let this sinful people put on sackcloth and
ashes. Let them beseech God, by constant prayer, to forgive them, and
they may prevail, but not otherwise."
"And when are these fires to be lighted?" asked the apprentice.
"To-night, at midnight," replied Solomon Eagle.
He then took Leonard by the hand, and led him back the same way he had
brought him. On reaching the spiral staircase, he said, "If you desire
to behold a sight, such as a man has seldom witnessed, ascend to the
summit of this tower an hour after midnight, when all these fires are
lighted. A small door on the left of the northern entrance shall be left
open. It will conduct you to the back of the choir, and you must then
find your way hither as well as you can."
Murmuring his thanks, Leonard hurried down the spiral staircase, and
quitting the cathedral, proceeded in the direction of Wood-street.
Preparations were everywhere making for carrying the Lord Mayor's orders
into effect; and such was the beneficial result anticipated, that a
general liveliness prevailed, on reaching his master's residence, he
found him at the shutter, curious to know what was going forward; and
having informed him, the grocer immediately threw him down money to
procure wood and coal.
"I have but little faith in the experiment," he said, "but the Lord
Mayor's injunctions must be obeyed."
With the help of Dallison, who had now arrived, Leonard Holt soon
procured a large heap of fuel, and placed it in the middle of the
street. The day was passed in executing other commissions for the
grocer, and he took his meals in the hutch with the porter. Time
appeared to pass with unusual slowness, and not he alone, but anxious
thousands, awaited the signal to kindle their fires. The night was
profoundly dark and sultry, and Leonard could not help thinking that the
enthusiast's prediction would be verified, and that rain would fall. But
these gloomy anticipations vanished as the hour of midnight was tolled
forth by the neighbouring clocks of Saint Michael's and Saint Alban's.
Scarcely had the strokes died away, when Leonard seized a light and set
fire to the pile. Ten thousand other piles were kindled at the same
moment, and in an instant the pitchy darkness was converted into light
as bright as that of noonday.
Anxious to behold this prodigious illumination at its best, Leonard Holt
committed the replenishing of the pile and the custody of the house to
Dallison, and hastened to Saint Paul's. A great fire was burning at each
angle of the cathedral, but without pausing to notice the effect of the
flames upon the walls of the building, he passed through the door to
which he had been directed, and hastening to the spiral staircase beyond
the choir, ascended it with swift steps. He did not pause till he
reached the summit of the tower, and there, indeed, a wondrous spectacle
awaited him. The whole city seemed on fire, and girded with a flaming
belt--for piles were lighted at certain distances along the whole line
of walls. The groups of dark figures collected round the fires added to
their picturesque effect; and the course of every street could be traced
by the reflection of the flames on the walls and gables of the houses.
London Bridge was discernible from the fires burning upon it--and even
upon the river braziers were lighted on all the larger craft, which cast
a ruddy glow upon the stream.
After gazing at this extraordinary sight for some time, Leonard began to
descend. As yet he had seen nothing of Solomon Eagle, and searching for
him in vain in the belfry, he quitted the cathedral. From a knot of
persons gathered round one of the fires he learnt that the enthusiast
was addressing the crowd at the west side of the building, and
proceeding thither he perceived him standing on the edge of the
balustrade of the south-western tower, surmounting the little church of
Saint Gregory. His brazier was placed on one of the buttresses, and
threw its light on the mighty central tower of the fabric, and on a
large clock-face immediately beneath. Solomon Eagle was evidently
denouncing the city, but his words were lost in the distance. As he
proceeded, a loud clap of thunder pealed overhead.
"It comes--it comes!" cried the enthusiast, in a voice that could be
distinctly heard in the death-like stillness that followed the thunder.
"The wrath of Heaven is at hand."
As he spoke, a bright flash cut the air, and a bolt struck down, one of
the pinnacles of the great tower. Flash after flash followed in quick
succession, and the enthusiast, who seemed wrapped in flame, extended
his arms towards Heaven, as if beseeching a further display of its
vengeance. Suddenly the lightning ceased to flash and the thunder to
roll. A few heavy drops of rain fell. These were succeeded by a deluging
shower of such violence, that in less than a quarter of an hour every
fire within the city was extinguished, and all was darkness and despair.
The deepest gloom and despondency prevailed that night throughout
London. The sudden storm was regarded as a manifestation of the
displeasure of Heaven, and as an intimation that the arrows of its wrath
were not to be turned aside by any human efforts. So impressed were all
with this feeling, that when, in less than half an hour, the rain
entirely ceased, the clouds cleared off, and the stars again poured down
their lustre, no one attempted to relight the quenched embers, fearing
to provoke the Divine vengeance. Nor was a monitor wanting to enforce
the awful lesson. Solomon Eagle, with his brazier on his head, ran
through the streets, calling on the inhabitants to take to heart what
had happened, to repent, and prepare for their doom.
"The Lord will not spare you," he cried, as he stationed himself in the
open space before St. Stephen's, Walbrook. "He will visit your sins upon
you. Pray, therefore, that ye may not be destroyed, both body and soul.
Little time is allowed you for repentance. Many that hear me shall not
live till tomorrow; few shall survive the year!"
"Thou, thyself, shalt not survive the night, false prophet," cried a
voice from a neighbouring window. And immediately afterwards the barrel
of a gun was thrust forth and a shot fired at the enthusiast. But though
Solomon Eagle never altered his position, he was wholly uninjured--the
ball striking a bystander, who fell to the ground mortally wounded.
"You have shot your own son, Mr. Westwood," cried one of the spectators,
rushing up to the fallen man. "Who will henceforth doubt that Solomon
Eagle is under the care of a special providence?"
"Not I," replied another spectator. "I shall never disregard his words
Setting down his brazier, the enthusiast bent over the dead man--for
dead he was--and noted the placid smile upon his features. By this time
the unfortunate father had joined the group, and, on seeing the body of
his son, wrung his hands in a pitiable manner, and gave utterance to the
wildest expression of despair. No one attempted to seize him, till at
length Solomon Eagle, rising from his kneeling posture, laid his hand
upon his arm, and regarding him sternly, said, "What wrong have I done
you, that you should seek to slay me?"
"What wrong?" rejoined Westwood--"such wrong as can never be repaired.
Your fearful prophecies and denunciations so terrified my daughter, that
she died distracted. My brokenhearted wife was not long in following
her; and now you have made me the murderer of my son. Complete the
tragedy, and take my life."
"I have no desire to do so," replied Solomon Eagle, in a tone of
commiseration. "My wish is to save your soul, and the souls of all who
listen to me. I wonder not that your anger was at first stirred against
me; but if your heart had been properly directed, indignation would have
soon given way to better feelings. My mission is not to terrify, but to
warn. Why will ye thus continue impenitent when ye are spoken to, not by
my voice alone, but by a thousand others?--by the thunder--by the
rain--by the pestilence!--and ye shall be spoken to, if ye continue
senseless, by fire and by famine. Look at these quenched embers--at
these flooded streets--they are types of your vain struggle with a
superior power. Now, mark me what you must do to free the city from
contagion. You must utterly and for ever abandon your evil courses. You
must pray incessantly for remission of your sins. You must resign
yourselves without repining to such chastisement as you have provoked,
and must put your whole trust and confidence in God. Do this, and do it
heartily; it is possible that His wrath may be averted."
"I feel the force of your words," faltered Westwood--"would I had felt
"Repentance never comes too late," rejoined the enthusiast. "Let this be
an example to you all."
And snatching up his brazier, he continued his course at the same
lightning speed as before. The unfortunate father was taken into his own
dwelling, whither likewise the body of his son was conveyed. A strict
watch was kept over him during the night, and in the morning he was
removed to Newgate, where he perished, in less than a week, of the
The aspect of the streets on the following day was deplorable enough.
Not that the weather was unfavourable. On the contrary, it was bright
and sunny, while the heated atmosphere, cooled, by the showers, felt no
longer oppressive. But the sight of the half-burnt fires struck a chill
into every bosom, and it was not until the heaps were removed, that the
more timorous ventured forth at all. The result, too, of the experiment
was singularly unfortunate. Whether it was from the extraordinary heat
occasioned by the lighting of so many fires, or that the smoke did not
ascend, and so kept down the pestilential effluvia, or that the number
of persons who met together spread the contagion, certain it was that
the pestilence was more widely extended than before, and the mortality
On the commencement of the storm, Leonard Holt hurried back to
Wood-street, and reached his master's dwelling just as the rain began to
descend in torrents. Mr. Bloundel was at the window, and a few words
only passed between him and the apprentice when the latter was compelled
to take refuge in the hutch. Here he found Dallison the watchman, and
they listened in awe-struck silence to the heavy showers, and to the
hissing of the blazing embers in their struggle against the hostile
element. By-and-by the latter sound ceased. Not a light could be seen
throughout the whole length of the street, nor was there any red
reflection of the innumerable fires as heretofore in the sky. It was
evident all were extinguished; and the pitiless pelting of the rain, the
roar of the water-spouts, and the rush of the over-filled kennels, now
converted into rivulets, could alone be heard After awhile the storm
cleared off, and Leonard and his companion issued from their retreat,
and gazed in silence at the drenched heap before them. While thus
occupied, the window above them opened, and the grocer appeared at it.
"This is, indeed, a sad and striking lesson," he said, "and I hope will
not be lost upon those who have witnessed it. It shows the utter
impotency of a struggle against the Divine will, and that when a man
relies upon himself for preservation, he depends upon a broken reed. If
I did not place myself under Heaven's protection, I should be sure that
all my own precautions were unavailing. I am now about to call up my
family to prayer. You can join us in our supplications, and I trust they
will not be unheard."
Closing the window, the grocer retired, and Leonard returned to the
hutch, where he fell upon his knees, and as soon as he supposed the
family were gathered together, commenced his own prayers. He pictured
the whole group assembled--the fervour of the grocer excited to an
unwonted pitch by what had just occurred--the earnest countenances of
his wife and the younger children--and the exalted looks of Amabel. He
could not see her--neither could he hear her voice--but he fancied how
she looked, and in what terms she prayed--and it was no slight
satisfaction to him to think that his own voice ascended to Heaven
coupled with hers.
On quitting the hutch, he found Dallison conversing with Doctor Hodges.
The physician expressed great surprise at seeing him, and inquired how
he came to have left his master's house. Leonard related all that had
happened, and besought his assistance in Nizza's behalf.
"I will do all I can for her," replied Hodges, "for I feel greatly
interested about her. But who is this Sir Paul Parravicin? I never heard
"I know nothing more of him than what I have told you, sir," replied
Leonard. "He is a friend of the Earl of Rochester."
"It must be a feigned name," rejoined Hodges; "but I will speedily find
him out. You must lodge at my house tonight. It will be better for you
than sleeping in that damp shed. But, first, I must have a word or two
with your master. I have been abroad all night, and came hither to
ascertain what he thought of this plan of the fires, and what he had
done. How do you give the signal to him?"
"There is a cord within the hutch by which you can sound a bell within
his chamber," returned Leonard; "I will ring it."
Accordingly, he did so, and the summons was almost instantly answered by
the grocer. A kindly greeting passed between the latter and Hodges, who
inquired whether all was going on satisfactorily within, and whether
anything could be done for the family.
"I would not have disturbed you at this unseasonable hour," he said,
"but chancing to be in your neighbourhood, and thinking it likely you
would be on the watch, I called to have a word with you. Though I could
not foresee what would happen, I entirely disapproved of these fires as
likely to increase rather than check the pestilence."
"The hand of Heaven has extinguished them because they were lighted in
opposition to its decrees," replied Bloundel; "but you have asked me
whether all is going on well within. I should answer readily in the
affirmative, but that my wife expresses much anxiety respecting Amabel.
We have no longer any apprehension of misconduct. She is all we could
desire--serious and devout. But we have fears for her health. The
confinement may be too much for her. What would you recommend?"
"I must see her to be able to speak confidently," replied Hodges.
"I know not how that can be accomplished, unless you choose to ascend by
a basket attached to the pulley," replied the grocer, with some
hesitation, "and it is against my plan to admit you."
"But your daughter's life, my good friend," rejoined Hodges; "think of
that. If I choose to risk life and limb to visit her, you may surely
risk the chance of contagion to admit me. But you need have no fear.
Sprinkle your room with spirits of sulphur, and place a phial of vinegar
so that I can use it on my first entrance into the house, and I will
answer for the safety of your family."
These preparations made, Mr. Bloundel lowered the basket, into which
Hodges got, and grasping the rope, not without some misgiving on his
part, he was drawn up. Leonard witnessed his ascent with a beating
heart, and could scarcely repress a feeling of envy when he saw him pass
through the window, and knew that he would soon be in the presence of
Amabel. But this feeling quickly changed into one of deep anxiety
concerning her. Her father's account of her had increased the uneasiness
he previously felt, and he was as anxious to know the doctor's opinion
of her, as if his own fate had depended upon it. He was kept in this
painful state of suspense for nearly an hour, when voices were heard at
the window, and presently afterwards Hodges was carefully let down.
Bidding the grocer farewell, he desired Leonard to follow him, and led
the way towards Cheapside. They proceeded a short distance in silence,
when the latter ventured to remark, "You say nothing about Amabel, sir?
I fear you found her seriously indisposed."
"Do not question me about her just now," rejoined the doctor, in a
subdued emotion. "I would rather not discuss the subject."
Nothing more was said; for though the apprentice would willingly have
continued the conversation, his companion's evident disinclination to
pursue it compelled him to desist. In this way, they reached the
doctor's residence, where Leonard was immediately shown to a comfortable
It was late when he awoke next day, and as the doctor was gone forth, he
partook of a plentiful breakfast which was placed before him, and
repaired to Wood-street, but his master having no commissions for him to
execute, he went back again. By this time, Doctor Hodges had returned,
and calling him into his library told him he wished to speak with him.
"You were right last night," he said, "in construing my silence into
alarm for Amabel. In truth, I fear she is rapidly sinking into a
decline, and nothing will arrest the progress of the insidious disease
but instant removal to the country. To this she will not consent,
neither do I know how it could be accomplished. It is pitiable to see so
lovely a creature dying, as I fear she is, of a broken heart."
Leonard covered his face with his hands, and wept aloud.
"We have not yet spoken of Nizza Macascree," said Hodges, after a pause,
tapping him kindly on the shoulder. "I think I have discovered a trace
"I am glad to hear it," replied Leonard, rousing himself. "She is
another victim of these profligates. But I will be revenged upon them
"I have before enjoined you to restrain your indignation, just though it
be," returned Hodges. "I have not yet found out whither she has been
taken. But I have a clue which, unless I am mistaken, will lead me to
it. But I must now dismiss you, I have other affairs to attend to, and
must give a dangerous and difficult case, on which I have been
consulted, undisturbed consideration. Make my house your home as long as
you think proper."
Warmly thanking the doctor, Leonard then withdrew. Shortly after this,
he walked forth, and ascertaining that he was not required by his
master, determined to satisfy himself by actual observation of the
extent of the ravages of the plague.
With this view, he shaped his course along Lad-lane, and traversing
Cateaton-street, entered Lothbury. The number of houses which he here
found closed, with red crosses on the doors, and the fatal inscription
above them, convinced him that the deplorable accounts he had heard were
not exaggerated. In passing some of these habitations, he saw such
ghastly faces at the windows, and heard such lamentable cries, that he
was glad to hurry on and get out of sight and hearing. In
Throgmorton-street, nearly opposite Drapers' Hall, a poor wretch
suddenly opened a casement, and before his attendants could force him
back, threw himself from a great height to the ground, and broke his
neck. Another incident, of an equally distressing nature, occurred. A
young and richly-dressed young man issued from a tavern in Broad-street,
and with a wild and inflamed countenance, staggered along. He addressed
some insulting language to Leonard, but the latter, who desired no
quarrel, disregarded his remarks, and let him pass. The next person
encountered by the drunken man was a young female. Suddenly catching her
in his arms, he imprinted a kiss upon her lips: and then, with a
frightful laugh, shouted, "I have given you the plague! Look here!" and
tearing aside the collar of his shirt, he exhibited a large tumour. The
young woman uttered a shriek of terror and fainted, while her ruthless
assailant took to his heels, and running as long as his strength lasted,
fell down, and was taken to the pest-house, where he was joined that
same night by his victim. And this was by no means an uncommon
occurrence. The distemper acted differently on different temperaments.
Some it inflamed to an ungovernable pitch of madness, others it reduced
to the depths of despair, while in many cases it brought out and
aggravated the worst parts of the character. Wives conveyed the
infection intentionally to their husbands, husbands to their wives,
parents to their children, lovers to the objects of their affection,
while, as in the case above mentioned, many persons ran about like rabid
hounds, striving to communicate it to all they met. Greatly shocked at
what had occurred, and yet not altogether surprised at it, for his mind
had become familiarized with horrors, Leonard struck down Finch-lane,
and proceeded towards Cornhill. On the way, he noticed two dead bodies
lying at the mouth of a small alley, and hastening past, was stopped at
the entrance to Cornhill by a butcher's apprentice, who was wheeling away
the body of an old man, who had just died while purchasing meat at a
stall at Stock's Market. Filled with unutterable loathing at this
miserable spectacle, Leonard was fain to procure a glass of canary to
recruit his spirits.
Accordingly he proceeded to the Globe Tavern at the corner of
Birchin-lane. As he entered the house, a lively strain of music caught
his ear, and glancing in the direction of the sound, he found it
proceeded from the blind piper, Mike Macascree, who was playing to some
half-dozen roystering youths. Bell lay at her master's feet; and as
Leonard approached the party, she pricked up her ears, and being called
by name, instantly sprang towards him, and manifested the strongest
delight. The piper stopped playing to listen to what was going forward
but the young men urged him to proceed, and again filled his glass.
"Don't drink any more, Mike," said Leonard, "but step aside with me.
I've something to say to you--something about your daughter."
"My daughter!" exclaimed the piper, in a half-angry, half-sorrowful
voice, while a slight moisture forced itself through his orbless lids.
"I don't want to hear anything about her, except that she is dead. She
has deserted me, and disgraced herself."
"You are mistaken," rejoined Leonard; "and if you will come with me, I
will explain the truth to you."
"I will listen to no explanation," rejoined the piper, furiously, "she
has given me pain enough already. I'm engaged with this jovial company.
Fill my glass, my masters--there, fill it again," he added, draining it
eagerly, and with the evident wish to drown all thought. "There, now you
shall have such a tune, as was never listened to by mortal ears."
A loud laugh from the young men followed this proposition, and the piper
played away so furiously, that it added to their merriment. Touched with
compassion, Leonard walked aside, hoping, when the party broke up, to be
able to have a word with the poor man. But the piper's excitement
increased. He played faster and drank harder, until it was evident he
was no longer in a condition to speak rationally. Leonard, therefore,
addressed himself to the drawer, and desired him to look after the
piper, engaging to return before midnight to see how he went on. The
drawer promising compliance, Leonard departed; and not feeling disposed
to continue his walk, returned to Wood-street.
Nothing particular occurred during the evening. Leonard did not see
Doctor Hodges, who was engaged in his professional duties; and after
keeping watch before the grocer's till nearly midnight, he again
retraced his steps to the Globe. The drawer was at the door, and about
to close the house.
"You will be sorry to learn the fate of the poor piper," he said.
"Why, what has happened to him?" cried Leonard.
"He is dead of the plague," was the reply.
"What, so suddenly!" exclaimed the apprentice. "You are jesting with
"Alas! it is no jest," rejoined the drawer, in a tone that convinced the
apprentice of his sincerity. "His entertainers quitted him about two
hours ago, and in spite of my efforts to detain him, he left the house,
and sat down on those steps. Concluding he would fall asleep, I did not
disturb him, and his dog kept careful watch over him. I forgot all about
him till a short time ago, when hearing the pest-cart pass, I went
forth, and learnt that the drivers having found him dead, as they
supposed, of the pestilence, had placed their forks under his belt, and
thrown him upon the other dead bodies."
"And where is the dog?" cried Leonard.
"She would not quit her master," replied the drawer, "so the men threw
her into the cart with him, saying, they would bury her in the
plague-pit, as all dogs were ordered to be destroyed."
"This must be prevented," cried Leonard. "Which way did the dead-cart
"Towards Moorgate," replied the drawer.
Leonard heard no more; but dashing through a narrow passage opposite the
Conduit, passed Bartholomew-lane, and traversing Lothbury, soon reached
Coleman-street and the old city gate, to which he had been directed.
Here he learnt that the dead-cart had passed through it about five
minutes before, and he hurried on towards Finsbury Fields. He had not
proceeded far when he heard a sound as of a pipe at a distance,
furiously played, and accompanied by the barking of a dog. These sounds
were followed by cries of alarm, and he presently perceived two persons
running towards him, with a swiftness which only could be occasioned by
terror. One of them carried a lantern, and grasping his arm, the
apprentice detained him.
"What is the matter?" he asked.
"The devil's the matter," replied the man--"the piper's ghost has
appeared in that cart, and is playing his old tunes again."
"Ay, it's either his spirit, or he is come to life again," observed the
other man, stopping likewise. "I tossed him into the cart myself, and
will swear he was dead enough then."
"You have committed a dreadful mistake," cried Leonard. "You have tossed
a living man into the cart instead of a dead one. Do you not hear those
sounds?" And as he spoke, the notes of the pipe swelled to a louder
strain than ever.
"I tell you it is the devil--or a ghost," replied the driver; "I will
stay here no longer."
"Lend me your lantern, and I will go to the cart," rejoined Leonard.
"Take it," replied the man; "but I caution you to stay where you are.
You may receive a shock you will never survive."
Paying no attention to what was said, Leonard ran towards the cart, and
found the piper seated upon a pile of dead bodies, most of them stripped
of their covering, with Bell by his side, and playing away at a
THE DANCE OF DEATH.
The condition of the prisons at this season was really frightful. In
Newgate, in particular, where the distemper broke out at the beginning
of June, it raged with such violence that in less than a week, more than
half the prisoners were swept off, and it appeared probable, that,
unless its fury abated, not a soul would be left alive within it. At all
times, this crowded and ill-kept prison was infested by the gaol-fever
and other pestilential disorders, but these were mild in comparison with
the present terrible visitation. The atmosphere was noisome and
malignant; the wards were never cleansed; and many poor wretches, who
died in their cells, were left there till the attendants on the
dead-cart chose to drag them forth. No restraint being placed upon the
sick, and the rules of the prison allowing them the free use of any
strong liquors they could purchase, the scenes that occurred were too
dreadful and revolting for description, and could only be paralleled by
the orgies of a pandemonium. Many reckless beings, conscious that they
were attacked by a fatal disorder, drank as long as they could raise
the' cup to their lips, and after committing the wildest and most
shocking extravagances, died in a state of frenzy.
Newgate became thus, as it were, the very focus of infection, where the
plague assumed its worst aspect, and where its victims perished far more
expeditiously than elsewhere. Two of the turnkeys had already died of
the distemper, and such was the alarm entertained, that no persons could
be found to supply their places. To penetrate the recesses of the
prison, was almost to insure destruction, and none but the attendants of
the dead-cart and the nurses attempted it. Among the latter was Judith.
Employed as a nurse on the first outburst of the plague, she willingly
and fearlessly undertook the office. The worse the disease became the
better pleased she appeared; and she was so utterly without
apprehension, that when no one would approach the cell where some
wretched sufferer lay expiring, she unhesitatingly entered it. But it
was not to render aid, but to plunder, that she thus exercised her
functions. She administered no medicine, dressed no tumours, and did not
contribute in the slightest degree to the comfort of the miserable
wretches committed to her charge. All she desired was to obtain whatever
valuables they possessed, or to wring from them any secret that might
afterwards be turned to account. Foreseeing that Newgate must ere long
be depopulated, and having no fears for herself, she knew that she must
then be liberated, and be able once more to renew her mischievous
practices upon mankind. Her marvellous preservation throughout all the
dangers to which she was exposed seemed almost to warrant the
supposition that she had entered into a compact with the pestilence, to
extend its ravages by every means in her power, on the condition of
being spared herself.
Soon after the outbreak of the plague in Newgate, all the debtors were
liberated, and if the keepers had had their own way, the common felons
would have been likewise released. But this could not be, and they were
kept to perish as before described. Matters, however, grew so serious,
that it became a question whether the few miserable wretches left alive
ought to be longer detained, and at last the turnkeys refusing to act
any longer, and delivering their keys to the governor, the whole of the
prisoners were set free.
On the night of their liberation, Chowles and Judith proceeded to the
vaults of Saint Faith's, to deposit within them the plunder they had
obtained in the prison. They found them entirely deserted. Neither
verger, sexton, nor any other person, was to be seen, and they took up
their quarters in the crypt. Having brought a basket of provisions and a
few bottles of wine with them, they determined to pass the night in
revelry; and, accordingly, having lighted a fire with the fragments of
old coffins brought from the charnel, they sat down to their meal.
Having done full justice to it, and disposed of the first flask, they
were about to abandon themselves to unrestrained enjoyment, when their
glee was all at once interrupted by a strange and unaccountable noise in
the adjoining church. Chowles, who had just commenced chanting one of
his wild melodies, suddenly stopped, and Judith set down the glass she
had raised to her lips untested. What could it mean? Neither of them
could tell. It seemed like strains of unearthly music, mixed with
shrieks and groans as of tortured spirits, accompanied by peals of such
laughter as might be supposed to proceed, from demons.
"The dead are burst forth from their tombs," cried Chowles, in a
quavering voice, "and are attended by a legion of evil spirits."
"It would seem so," replied Judith, rising. "I should like to behold the
sight. Come with me."
"Not for the world!" rejoined Chowles, shuddering, "and I would
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