Old Saint Paul's
William Harrison Ainsworth
Part 6 out of 12
recommend you to stay where you are. You may behold your dead husband
"Do you think so?" rejoined Judith, halting.
"I am sure of it," cried Chowles, eagerly. "Stay where you are--stay
where you are."
As he spoke, there was another peal of infernal laughter, and the
strains of music grew louder each moment.
"Come what may, I will see what it is," said Judith, emptying her glass,
as if seeking courage from the draught. "Surely," she added, in a
taunting tone, "you will come with me."
"I am afraid of nothing earthly," rejoined Chowles--"but I do not like
to face beings of another world."
"Then I will go alone," rejoined Judith.
"Nay, that shall never be," replied Chowles, tottering after her.
As they opened the door and crossed the charnel, such an extraordinary
combination of sounds burst upon their ears that they again paused, and
looked anxiously at each other. Chowles laid his hand on his companion's
arm, and strove to detain her, but she would not be stayed, and he was
forced to proceed. Setting down the lamp on the stone floor, Judith
passed into the subterranean church, where she beheld a sight that
almost petrified her. In the midst of the nave, which was illumined by a
blue glimmering light, whence proceeding it was impossible to determine,
stood a number of grotesque figures, apparelled in fantastic garbs, and
each attended by a skeleton. Some of the latter grisly shapes were
playing on tambours, others on psalteries, others on rebecs--every
instrument producing the strangest sound imaginable. Viewed through the
massive pillars, beneath that dark and ponderous roof, and by the mystic
light before described, this strange company had a supernatural
appearance, and neither Chowles nor Judith doubted for a moment that
they beheld before them a congregation of phantoms. An irresistible
feeling of curiosity prompted them to advance. On drawing nearer, they
found the assemblage comprehended all ranks of society. There was a pope
in his tiara and pontifical dress; a cardinal in his cap and robes; a
monarch with a sceptre in his hand, and arrayed in the habiliments of
royalty; a crowned queen; a bishop wearing his mitre, and carrying his
crosier; an abbot, likewise in his mitre, and bearing a crosier; a duke
in his robes of state; a grave canon of the church; a knight sheathed in
armour; a judge, an advocate, and a magistrate, all in their robes; a
mendicant friar and a nun; and the list was completed by a physician, an
astrologer, a miser, a merchant, a duchess, a pedler, a soldier, a
gamester, an idiot, a robber, a blind man, and a beggar--each
distinguishable by his apparel.
By-and-by, with a wild and gibbering laugh that chilled the beholders'
blood, one of the tallest and grisliest of the skeletons sprang forward,
and beating his drum, the whole ghostly company formed, two and two,
into a line--a skeleton placing itself on the right of every mortal. In
this order, the fantastic procession marched between the pillars, the
unearthly music playing all the while, and disappeared at the further
extremity of the church. With the last of the group, the mysterious
light vanished, and Chowles and his companion were left in profound
"What can it mean?" cried Judith, as soon as she recovered her speech.
"Are they human, or spirits?"
"Human beings don't generally amuse themselves in this way," returned
Chowles. "But hark!--I still hear the music.--They are above--in Saint
"Then I will join them," said Judith. "I am resolved to see the end of
"Don't leave me behind," returned Chowles, following her. "I would
rather keep company with Beelzebub and all his imps than be alone."
Both were too well acquainted with the way to need any light. Ascending
the broad stone steps, they presently emerged into the cathedral, which
they found illumined by the same glimmering light as the lower church,
and they perceived the ghostly assemblage gathered into an immense ring,
and dancing round the tall skeleton, who continued beating his drum, and
uttering a strange gibbering sound, which was echoed by the others. Each
moment the dancers increased the swiftness of their pace, until at last
it grew to a giddy whirl, and then, all at once, with a shriek of
laughter, the whole company fell to the ground.
Chowles and Judith, then, for the first time, understood, from the
confusion that ensued, and the exclamations uttered, that they were no
spirits they had to deal with, but beings of the same mould as
themselves. Accordingly, they approached the party of masquers, for such
they proved, and found on inquiry that they were a party of young
gallants, who, headed by the Earl of Rochester--the representative of
the tall skeleton--had determined to realize the Dance of Death, as once
depicted on the walls of an ancient cloister at the north of the
cathedral, called Pardon-churchyard, on the walls of which, says Stowe,
were "artificially and richly painted the Dance of Macabre, or Dance of
Death, commonly called the Dance of Paul's, the like whereof was painted
about Saint Innocent's, at Paris. The metres, or poesy of this dance,"
proceeds the same authority, "were translated out of Trench into English
by John Lydgate, monk of Bury, and, with the picture of Death leading
all estates, painted about the cloister, at the special request and
expense of Jenkin Carpenter, in the reign of Henry the Sixth."
Pardon-churchyard was pulled down by the Protector Somerset, in the
reign of Edward the Sixth, and the materials employed in the erection of
his own palace in the Strand. It was the discussion of these singular
paintings, and of the designs on the same subject ascribed to Holbein,
that led the Earl of Rochester and his companions to propose the
fantastic spectacle above described. With the disposition which this
reckless nobleman possessed to turn the most solemn and appalling
subjects to jest, he thought no season so fitting for such an
entertainment as the present--just as in our own time the lively
Parisians made the cholera, while raging in their city, the subject of a
carnival pastime. The exhibition witnessed by Chowles and Judith was a
rehearsal of the masque intended to be represented in the cathedral on
the following night.
Again marshalling his band, the Earl of Rochester beat his drum, and
skipping before them, led the way towards the south door of the
cathedral, which was thrown open by an unseen hand, and the procession
glided through it like a troop of spectres. Chowles, whose appearance
was not unlike that of an animated skeleton, was seized with a strange
desire to join in what was going forward, and taking off his doublet,
and baring his bony arms and legs, he followed the others, dancing round
Judith in the same manner that the other skeletons danced round their
On reaching the Convocation House, a door was opened, and the procession
entered the cloisters; and here Chowles, dragging Judith into the area
between him and the beautiful structure they surrounded, began a dance
of so extraordinary a character that the whole troop collected round to
witness it. Rochester beat his drum, and the other representatives of
mortality who were provided with musical instruments struck up a wild
kind of accompaniment, to which Chowles executed the most grotesque
flourishes. So wildly excited did he become, and such extravagances did
he commit, that even Judith stared aghast at him, and began to think his
wits were fled. Now he whirled round her--now sprang high into the
air--now twined his lean arms round her waist--now peeped over one
shoulder, now over the other--and at last griped her neck so forcibly,
that he might perhaps have strangled her, if she had not broken from
him, and dealt him a severe blow that brought him senseless to the
ground. On recovering, he found himself in the arched entrance of a
large octagonal chamber, lighted at each side by a lofty pointed window
filled with stained glass. Round this chamber ran a wide stone bench,
with a richly-carved back of the same material, on which the masquers
were seated, and opposite the entrance was a raised seat, ordinarily
allotted to the dean, but now occupied by the Earl of Rochester. A
circular oak table stood in the midst of the chamber, covered with
magnificent silver dishes, heaped with the choicest viands, which were
handed to the guests by the earl's servants, all of whom represented
skeletons, and it had a strange effect, to behold these ghastly objects
filling the cups of the revellers, bending obsequiously before some
blooming dame, or crowding round their spectral-looking lord.
At first, Chowles was so confused, that he thought he must have awakened
in another world, but by degrees he called to mind what had occurred,
and ascertained from Judith that he was in the Convocation House.
Getting up, he joined the train of grisly attendants, and acquitted
himself so well that the earl engaged him as performer in the masque. He
was furthermore informed that, in all probability, the king himself,
with many of his favourite nobles, and the chief court beauties, would
be present to witness the spectacle.
The banquet over, word was brought that chairs and coaches were without,
and the company departed, leaving behind only a few attendants, who
remained to put matters in order.
While they were thus occupied, Judith, who had fixed her greedy eyes
upon the plate, observed, in an under-tone, to Chowles, "There will be
fine plunder for us. We must manage to carry off all that plate while
they are engaged in the masque."
"You must do it yourself, then," returned Chowles, in the same
tone--"for I shall have to play a principal part in the entertainment,
and as the king himself will be present, I cannot give up such an
opportunity of distinguishing myself."
"You can have no share in the prize, if you lend no assistance," replied
Judith, with a dissatisfied look.
"Of course not," rejoined Chowles; "on this occasion it is all yours.
The Dance of Death is too much to my taste to be given up."
Perceiving they were noticed, Chowles and Judith then left the
Convocation House, and returned to the vault in Saint Faith's, nor did
they emerge from it until late on the following day.
Some rumour of the masque having gone abroad, towards evening a crowd,
chiefly composed of the most worthless order of society, collected under
the portico at the western entrance, and the great doors being opened by
Chowles, they entered the cathedral. Thus was this sacred building once
more invaded--once again a scene of noise, riot, and confusion--its
vaulted roofs instead of echoing the voice of prayer, or the choral
hymn, resounded with loud laughter, imprecations, and licentious
discourse. This disorder, however, was kept in some bounds by a strong
body of the royal guard, who soon afterwards arrived, and stationing
themselves in parties of three or four at each of the massive columns
flanking the aisles, maintained some show of decorum. Besides these,
there were others of the royal attendants, bearing torches, who walked
from place to place, and compelled all loiterers in dark corners to
proceed to the nave.
A little before midnight, the great doors were again thrown open, and a
large troop of richly-attired personages, all wearing masks, were
admitted. For a short time they paced to and fro between its shafted
pillars gazing at the spectators grouped around, and evidently, from
their jests and laughter, not a little entertained by the scene. As the
clock struck twelve, however, all sounds were hushed, and the courtly
party stationed themselves on the steps leading to the choir. At the
same moment, also, the torches were extinguished, and the whole of the
building buried in profound darkness. Presently after, a sound was heard
of footsteps approaching the nave, but nothing could be discerned.
Expectation was kept on the rack for some minutes, during which many a
stifled cry was heard from those whose courage failed them at this
trying juncture. All at once, a blue light illumined the nave, and
partially revealed the lofty pillars by which it was surrounded. By this
light the whole of the ghostly company could be seen drawn up near the
western door. They were arranged two and two, a skeleton standing as
before on the right of each character. The procession next marched
slowly and silently towards the choir, and drew up at the foot of the
steps, to give the royal party an opportunity of examining them. After
pausing there for a few minutes, Rochester, in the dress of the larger
skeleton, started off, and, beating his drum, was followed by the pope
and his attendant skeleton. This couple having danced together for some
minutes, to the infinite diversion of the spectators, disappeared behind
a pillar, and were succeeded by the monarch and a second skeleton.
These, in their turn, gave way to the cardinal and his companion, and so
on till the whole of the masquers had exhibited themselves, when at a
signal from the earl the party re-appeared, and formed a ring round him.
The dance was executed with great spirit, and elicited tumultuous
applause from all the beholders. The earl now retired, and Chowles took
his place. He was clothed in an elastic dress painted of a leaden and
cadaverous colour, which fitted closely to his fleshless figure, and
defined all his angularities. He carried an hour-glass in one hand and a
dart in the other, and in the course of the dance kept continually
pointing the latter at those who moved around him. His feats of the
previous evening were nothing to his present achievements. His joints
creaked, and his eyes flamed like burning coals. As he continued, his
excitement increased. He bounded higher, and his countenance assumed so
hideous an expression, that those near him recoiled in terror, crying,
"Death himself had broke loose among them." The consternation soon
became general. The masquers fled in dismay, and scampered along the
aisles scarcely knowing whither they were going. Delighted with the
alarm he occasioned, Chowles chased a large party along the northern
aisle, and was pursuing them across the transept upon which it opened,
when he was arrested in his turn by another equally formidable figure,
who suddenly placed himself in his path.
"Hold!" exclaimed Solomon Eagle--for it was the enthusiast--in a voice
of thunder, "it is time this scandalous exhibition should cease. Know
all ye who make a mockery of death, that his power will be speedily and
fearfully approved upon you. Thine not to escape the vengeance of the
Great Being whose temple you have profaned. And you, O king! who have
sanctioned these evil doings by your presence, and who by your own
dissolute life set a pernicious example to all your subjects, know that
your city shall be utterly laid waste, first by plague and then by fire.
Tremble! my warning is as terrible and true as the handwriting on the
"Who art thou who holdest this language towards me?" demanded Charles.
"I am called Solomon Eagle," replied the enthusiast, "and am charged
with a mission from on high to warn your doomed people of their fate. Be
warned yourself, sire! Your end will be sudden. You will be snatched
away in the midst of your guilty pleasure, and with little time for
repentance. Be warned, I say again."
With this he turned to depart.
"Secure the knave," cried Charles, angrily. "He shall be soundly
scourged for his insolence."
But bursting through the guard, Solomon Eagle ran swiftly up the choir
and disappeared, nor could his pursuers discover any traces of him.
"Strange!" exclaimed the king, when he was told of the enthusiast's
escape. "Let us go to supper. This masque has given me the vapours."
"Pray Heaven it have not given us the plague," observed the fair
Stewart, who stood beside him, taking his arm.
"It is to be hoped not," rejoined Charles; "but, odds fish! it is a most
"It is so, in more ways than one," replied Rochester, "for I have just
learnt that all my best plate has been carried off from the Convocation
House. I shall only be able to offer your majesty and your fair partner
a sorry supper."
On being made acquainted by Leonard, who helped him out of the
pest-cart, with the danger he had run, the piper uttered a cry of
terror, and swooned away. The buriers, seeing how matters stood, and
that their superstitious fears were altogether groundless, now returned,
and one of them, producing a phial of vinegar, sprinkled the fainting
man with it, and speedily brought him to himself. But though so far
recovered, his terror had by no means abated, and he declared his firm
conviction that he was infected by the pestilence.
"I have been carried towards the plague-pit by mistake," he said. "I
shall soon be conveyed thither in right earnest, and not have the power
of frightening away my conductors on the road."
"Pooh! pooh!" cried one of the buriers, jestingly. "I hope you will
often ride with us, and play us many a merry tune as you go. You shall
always be welcome to a seat in the cart."
"Be of good cheer," added Leonard, "and all will be well. Come with me
to an apothecary's shop, and I will procure a cordial for you, which
shall speedily dispel your qualms."
The piper shook his head, and replied, with a deep groan, that he was
certain all was over with him.
"However, I will not reject your kindness," he added, "though I feel I
am past the help of medicine."
"With this, he whistled to Bell, who was skipping about Leonard, having
recognised him on his first approach, and they proceeded towards the
second postern in London-wall, between Moorgate and Cripplegate; while
the buriers, laughing heartily at the adventure, took their way towards
the plague-pit, and discharged their dreadful load within it. Arrived in
Basinghall-street, and looking round, Leonard soon discovered by the
links at the door, as well as by the crowd collected before it--for day
and night the apothecaries' dwellings were besieged by the sick--the
shop of which he was in search. It was long before they could obtain
admittance, and during this time the piper said he felt himself getting
rapidly worse; but, imagining he was merely labouring under the effect
of fright, Leonard paid little attention to his complaints. The
apothecary, however, no sooner set eyes upon him, than he pronounced him
infected, and, on examination, it proved that the fatal tokens had
"I knew it was so," cried the piper. "Take me to the pest-house--take me
to the pest-house!"
"His desire had better be complied with," observed the apothecary. "He
is able to walk thither now, but I will not answer for his being able to
do so two hours hence. It is a bad case," he added in an under-tone to
Feeing the apothecary, Leonard set out with the piper, and passing
through Cripplegate, they entered the open fields. Here they paused for
a moment, and the little dog ran round and round them, barking
"Poor Bell!" cried the piper; "what will become of thee when I am gone?"
"If you will entrust her to me, I will take care of her," replied
"She is yours," rejoined the piper, in a voice hoarse with emotion. "Be
kind to her for my sake, and for the sake of her unfortunate mistress."
"Since you have alluded to your daughter," returned Leonard, "I must
tell you what has become of her. I have not hitherto mentioned the
subject, fearing it might distress you."
"Have no further consideration, but speak out," rejoined the piper. "Be
it what it may, I will bear it like a man."
Leonard then briefly recounted all that had occurred, describing Nizza's
disguise as a page, and her forcible abduction by Parravicin. He was
frequently interrupted by the groans of his hearer, who at last gave
vent to his rage and anguish in words.
"Heaven's direst curse upon her ravisher!" he cried. "May he endure
worse misery than I now endure. She is lost for ever."
"She may yet be preserved," rejoined Leonard. "Doctor Hodges thinks he
has discovered her retreat, and I will not rest till I find her."
"No--no, you will never find her," replied the piper, bitterly; "or if
you do, it will be only to bewail her ruin."
His rage then gave way to such an access of grief, that, letting his
head fall on Leonard's shoulder, he wept aloud.
"There is a secret connected with that poor girl," he said, at length,
controlling his emotion by a powerful effort, "which must now go to the
grave with me. The knowledge of it would only add to her distress."
"You view the matter too unfavourably," replied Leonard; "and if the
secret is of any moment, I entreat you to confide it to me. If your
worst apprehensions should prove well founded, I promise you it shall
never be revealed to her."
"On that condition only, I will confide it to you," replied the piper;
"but not now--not now--to-morrow morning, if I am alive."
"It may be out of your power then," returned Leonard, "For your
daughter's sake, I urge you not to delay."
"It is for her sake I am silent," rejoined the piper. "Come along--come
along" he added, hurrying forward. "Are we far from the pest-house? My
strength is failing me."
On arriving at their destination, they were readily admitted to the
asylum; but a slight difficulty arose, which, however, was speedily
obviated. All the couches were filled, but on examining them it was
found that one of the sick persons had just been released from his
sufferings, and the body being removed, the piper was allowed to take
its place. Leonard remained by him for a short time, but, overpowered by
the pestilential effluvia, and the sight of so many miserable objects,
he was compelled to seek the open air. Returning, however, shortly
afterwards, he found the piper in a very perturbed state. On hearing
Leonard's voice he appeared greatly relieved, and, taking his gown from
beneath his pillow, gave it to him, and desired him to unrip a part of
the garment, in which it was evident something was sewn. The apprentice
complied, and a small packet dropped forth.
"Take it," said the piper; "and if I die,--and Nizza should happily be
preserved from her ravisher, give it her. But not otherwise--not
otherwise. Implore her to forgive me--to pity me."
"Forgive you--her father?" cried Leonard, in astonishment.
"That packet will explain all," replied the piper in a troubled tone.
"You promised to take charge of poor Bell," he added, drawing forth the
little animal, who had crept to the foot of the bed, "here she is.
Farewell! my faithful friend," he added, pressing his rough lips to her
forehead, while she whined piteously, as if beseeching him to allow her
to remain; "farewell for ever."
"Not for ever, I trust," replied Leonard, taking her gently from him.
"And now you had better go," said the piper. "Return, if you can,
"I will,--I will," replied Leonard; and he hurried out of the room.
He was followed to the door by the young chirurgeon--the same who had
accompanied Mr. Bloundel during his inspection of the pest-house,--and
he inquired of him if he thought the piper's case utterly hopeless.
"Not utterly so," replied the young man. "I shall be able to speak more
positively in a few hours. At present, I think, with care and attention,
there _is_ a chance of his recovery."
Much comforted by this assurance, Leonard departed, and afraid to put
Bell to the ground lest she should run back to her master, he continued
to carry her, and endeavoured to attach her to him by caresses and
endearments. The little animal showed her sense of his kindness by
licking his hands, but she still remained inconsolable, and ever and
anon struggled to get free. Making the best of his way to Wood-street,
he entered the hutch, and placing a little straw in one corner for Bell,
threw himself on a bench and dropped asleep. At six o'clock he was
awakened by the barking of the dog, and opening the door beheld
Dallison. The grocer was at the window above, and about to let down a
basket of provisions to them. To Leonard's eager inquiries after Amabel,
Mr. Bloundel replied by a melancholy shake of the head, and soon
afterwards withdrew. With a sad heart, the apprentice then broke his
fast,--not forgetting at the same time the wants of his little
companion,--and finding he was not required by his master, he proceeded
to Doctor Hodges' residence. He was fortunate enough to find the
friendly physician at home, and, after relating to him what had
occurred, committed the packet to his custody.
"It will be safer in your keeping than mine," he said; "and if anything
should happen to me, you will, I am sure, observe the wishes of the poor
"Rely upon it, I will," replied Hodges. "I am sorry to tell you I have
been misled as to the clue I fancied I had obtained to Nizza's retreat.
We are as far from the mark as ever."
"Might not the real name of the villain who has assumed the name of Sir
Paul Parravicin be ascertained from the Earl of Rochester?" rejoined
"So I thought," replied Hodges; "and I made the attempt yesterday, but
it failed. I was at Whitehall, and finding the earl in the king's
presence, suddenly asked him where I could find his friend Sir Paul
Parravicin. He looked surprised at the question, glanced significantly
at the monarch, and then carelessly answered that he knew no such
"A strange idea crosses me," cried Leonard. "Can it be the king who has
assumed this disguise?"
"At one time I suspected as much," rejoined Hodges; "but setting aside
your description of the person, which does not tally with that of
Charles, I am satisfied from other circumstances it is not so. After
all, I should not wonder if poor Bell," smoothing her long silky ears as
she lay in the apprentice's arms, "should help us to discover her
mistress. And now," he added, "I shall go to Wood-street to inquire
after Amabel, and will then accompany you to the pest-house. From what
you tell me the young chirurgeon said of the piper, I do not despair of
"Poor as his chance may appear, it is better, I fear, than Amabel's,"
sighed the apprentice.
"Ah!" exclaimed Hodges, in a sorrowful tone, "hers is slight indeed."
And perceiving that the apprentice was greatly moved, he waited for a
moment till he had recovered himself, and then, motioning him to follow
him, they quitted the house together.
On reaching Mr. Bloundel's habitation, Leonard pulled the cord in the
hutch, and the grocer appeared at the window.
"My daughter has not left her bed this morning," he said, in answer to
the doctor's inquiries, "and I fear she is much worse. My wife is with
her. It would be a great satisfaction to me if you would see her again."
After some little hesitation, Hodges assented, and was drawn up as
before. He returned in about half an hour, and his grave countenance
convinced Leonard that his worst anticipations were correct. He
therefore forbore to question him, and they walked towards Cripplegate
On emerging into the fields, Hodges observed to his companion, "It is
strange that I who daily witness such dreadful suffering should be
pained by the gradual and easy decline of Amabel. But so it is. Her case
touches me more than the worst I have seen of the plague."
"I can easily account for the feeling," groaned Leonard.
"I am happy to say I have prevailed on her, if she does not improve in a
short time,--and there is not the slightest chance of it,--to try the
effect of a removal to the country. Her father also consents to the
"I am glad to hear it," replied Leonard. "But whither will she go, and
who will watch over her?"
"That is not yet settled," rejoined Hodges.
"Oh! that I might be permitted to undertake the office!" cried Leonard,
"Restrain yourself," said Hodges, in a tone of slight rebuke. "Fitting
attendance will be found, if needed."
The conversation then dropped, and they walked briskly forward. They
were now within a short distance of the pest-house, and Leonard, hearing
footsteps behind him, turned and beheld a closed litter, borne by two
stout porters, and evidently containing a plague-patient. He stepped
aside to let it pass, when Bell, suddenly pricking her ears, uttered a
singular cry, and bursting from him, flew after the litter, leaping
against it and barking joyfully. The porters, who were proceeding at a
quick pace, tried to drive her away, but without effect, and she
continued her cries until they reached the gates of the pest-house. In
vain Leonard whistled to her, and called her back. She paid no attention
whatever to him.
"I almost begin to fear," said Hodges, unable to repress a shudder,
"that the poor animal will, indeed, be the means of discovering for us
the object of our search."
"I understand what you mean," rejoined Leonard, "and am of the same
opinion as yourself. Heaven grant we may be mistaken!"
And as he spoke, he ran forward, and, followed by Hodges, reached the
pest-house just as the litter was taken into it.
"Silence that accursed dog," cried one of the porters, "and bid a nurse
attend us. We have a patient for the women's ward."
"Let me see her," cried Hodges. "I am a physician."
"Readily, sir," replied the porter. "It is almost over with her, poor
soul! It would have saved time and trouble to take her to the plague-pit
at once. She cannot last many hours. Curse the dog! Will it never cease
Leonard here seized Bell, fearing she might do some mischief, and with a
sad foreboding beheld the man draw back the curtains of the litter. His
fears proved well founded. There, stretched upon the couch, with her
dark hair unbound, and flowing in wild disorder over her neck, lay Nizza
Macascree. The ghastly paleness of her face could not, however, entirely
rob it of its beauty, and her dark eyes were glazed and lustreless. At
the sight of her mistress, poor Bell uttered so piteous a cry, that
Leonard, moved by compassion, placed her on the pillow beside her, and
the sagacious animal did not attempt to approach nearer, but merely
licked her cheek. Roused by the touch, Nizza turned to see what was near
her, and recognising the animal, made a movement to strain her to her
bosom, but the pain she endured was so intense that she sank back with a
"From whom did you receive this young woman?" demanded Hodges, of one of
"She was brought to us by two richly-attired lacqueys," replied the man,
"in this very litter. They paid us to carry her here without loss of
"You have an idea whose servants they were?" pursued Hodges.
"Not the least," replied the fellow; "but I should judge, from the
richness of their dress, that they belonged to some nobleman."
"Did they belong to the royal household?" inquired Leonard.
"No, no," rejoined the man. "I am certain as to that."
"The poor girl shall not remain here," observed Hodges, to the
apprentice. "You must convey her to my residence in Great
Knightrider-street," he added, to the porters.
"We will convey her wherever you please," replied the men, "if we are
paid for our trouble."
And they were about to close the curtains, when Nizza, having caught
sight of the apprentice, slightly raised herself, and cried, in a voice
of the utmost anxiety, "Is that you, Leonard?"
"It is," he replied, approaching her.
"Then I shall die happy, since I have seen you once more," she said.
"Oh, do not stay near me. You may catch the infection."
"Nizza," said Leonard, disregarding the caution, and breathing the words
in her ear; "allay my fears by a word. You have not fallen a victim to
the villain who carried you away?"
"I have not, Leonard," she replied, solemnly, "I resisted his
importunities, his threats, his violence, and would have slain myself
rather than have yielded to him. The plague, at length, came to my
rescue, and I have reason to be grateful to it; for it has not only
delivered me from him, but has brought me to you."
"I must now impose silence upon you," interposed Hodges, laying his
finger on his lips; "further conversation will be hurtful."
"One question more, and I have done," replied Nizza. "How came Bell with
you--and where is my father? Nothing has happened to him?" she
continued, observing Leonard's countenance change. "Speak! do not keep
me in suspense. Your silence fills me with apprehension. Speak, I
implore you. He is dead?"
"No," replied Leonard, "he is not dead--but he is an inmate of this
"Ah!" exclaimed Nizza, falling back senseless upon the pillow.
And in this state she was conveyed with the greatest expedition to the
Leonard only tarried to visit the piper, whom he found slightly
delirious, and unable to hold any conversation with him, and promising
to return in the evening, he set out after the litter. Nizza was placed
in the best apartment of the doctor's house, and attended by an
experienced and trustworthy nurse. But Hodges positively refused to let
Leonard see her again, affirming that the excitement was too much for
her, and might militate against the chance of her recovery.
"I am not without hopes of bringing her through," he said, "and though
it will be a severe struggle, yet, as she has youth and a good
constitution on her side, I do not despair. If she herself would second
me, I should be yet more confident."
"How mean you?" inquired Leonard.
"I think if she thought life worth a struggle--if, in short, she
believed you would return her attachment, she would rally," answered
"I cannot consent to deceive her thus," rejoined Leonard, sadly. "My
heart is fixed elsewhere."
"Your heart is fixed upon one who will soon be in her grave," replied
"And with her my affections will be buried," rejoined Leonard, turning
away to hide his tears.
So well was the doctor's solicitude rewarded, that three days after
Nizza had come under his care, he pronounced her out of danger. But the
violence of the attack left her so weak and exhausted, that he still
would not allow an interview to take place between her and Leonard.
During all this time Bell never left her side, and her presence was an
inexpressible comfort to her. The piper, too, was slowly recovering, and
Leonard, who daily visited him, was glad to learn from the young
chirurgeon that he would be able to leave the pest-house shortly. Having
ascertained from Leonard that his daughter was under the care of Doctor
Hodges, and likely to do well, the piper begged so earnestly that the
packet might not be delivered to her, that, after some consultation with
Hodges, Leonard restored it to him. He was delighted to get it back,
felt it carefully over to ascertain that the seals were unbroken, and
satisfied that all was safe, had it again sewn up in his gown, which he
placed under his pillow.
"I would rather disclose the secret to her by word of mouth than in any
other way," he said.
Leonard felt doubtful whether the secret would now be disclosed at all,
but he made no remark.
Night was drawing on as he quitted the pest-house, and he determined to
take this opportunity of visiting the great plague-pit, which lay about
a quarter of a mile distant, in a line with the church of
All-Hallows-in-the-Wall, and he accordingly proceeded in that direction.
The pit which he was about to visit was about forty feet long, twenty
wide, and the like number deep. Into this tremendous chasm the dead were
promiscuously thrown, without regard to sex or condition, generally
stripped of their clothing, and covered with a slight layer of earth and
The sun was setting as Leonard walked towards this dismal place, and he
thought he had never witnessed so magnificent a sight. Indeed, it was
remarked that at this fatal season the sunsets were unusually splendid.
The glorious orb sank slowly behind Saint Paul's, which formed a
prominent object in the view from the fields, and threw out its central
tower, its massive roof, and the two lesser towers flanking the portico,
into strong relief. Leonard gazed at the mighty fabric, which seemed
dilated to twice its size by this light, and wondered whether it was
possible that it could ever be destroyed, as predicted by Solomon Eagle.
Long after the sun had set, the sky was stained with crimson, and the
grey walls of the city were tinged with rosy radiance. The heat was
intense, and Leonard, to cool himself, sat down in the thick grass--for,
though the crops were ready for the scythe, no mowers could be
found--and, gazing upwards, strove to mount in spirit from the tainted
earth towards heaven. After a while he arose, and proceeded towards the
plague-pit. The grass was trampled down near it, and there were marks of
frequent cart-wheels upon the sod. Great heaps of soil, thrown out of
the excavation, lay on either side. Holding a handkerchief steeped in
vinegar to his face, Leonard ventured to the brink of the pit. But even
this precaution could not counteract the horrible effluvia arising from
it. It was more than half filled with dead bodies; and through the
putrid and heaving mass many disjointed limbs and ghastly faces could be
discerned, the long hair of women and the tiny arms of children
appearing on the surface. It was a horrible sight--so horrible, that it
possessed a fascination peculiar to itself, and, in spite of his
loathing, Leonard lingered to gaze at it. Strange and fantastic thoughts
possessed him. He fancied that the legs and arms moved--that the eyes of
some of the corpses opened and glared at him--and that the whole rotting
mass was endowed with animation. So appalled was he by this idea that he
turned away, and at that moment beheld a vehicle approaching. It was the
dead-cart, charged with a heavy load to increase the already redundant
The same inexplicable and irresistible feelings of curiosity that
induced Leonard to continue gazing upon the loathly objects in the pit,
now prompted him to stay and see what would ensue. Two persons were with
the cart, and one of them, to Leonard's infinite surprise and disgust,
proved to be Chowles. He had no time, however, for the expression of any
sentiment, for the cart halted at a little distance from him, when its
conductors, turning it round, backed it towards the edge of the pit. The
horse was then taken out, and Chowles calling to Leonard, the latter
involuntarily knelt down to guide its descent, while the other
assistant, who had proceeded to the further side of the chasm, threw the
light of a lantern full upon the grisly load, which was thus shot into
the gulf below.
Shovelling a sufficient quantity of earth and lime into the pit to cover
the bodies, Chowles and his companion departed, leaving Leonard alone.
He continued there a few moments longer, and was about to follow them,
when a prolonged and piercing cry smote his ear; and, looking in the
direction of the sound, he perceived a figure running with great
swiftness towards the pit. As no pursuers appeared, Leonard could
scarcely doubt that this was one of the distracted persons he had heard
of, who, in the frenzy produced by the intolerable anguish of their
sores, would often rush to the plague-pit and bury themselves, and he
therefore resolved, if possible, to prevent the fatal attempt.
Accordingly, he placed himself in the way of the runner, and
endeavoured, with outstretched arms, to stop him. But the latter dashed
him aside with great violence, and hurrying to the brink of the pit,
uttered a fearful cry, and exclaiming, "She is here! she is here!--I
shall find her amongst them!"--flung himself into the abyss.
As soon as he could shake off the horror inspired by this dreadful
action, Leonard ran to the pit, and, gazing into it, beheld him by the
imperfect light struggling in the horrible mass in which he was
partially immersed. The frenzied man had now, however, begun to repent
his rashness, and cried out for aid. But this Leonard found it
impossible to afford him; and, seeing he must speedily perish if left to
himself, he ran after the dead-cart, and overtaking it just as it
reached Moor-gate, informed Chowles what had happened, and begged him to
"There will be no use in helping him out," rejoined Chowles, in a tone
of indifference. "We shall have to take him back in a couple of hours.
No, no--let him remain where he is. There is scarcely a night that some
crazy being does not destroy himself in the same way. We never concern
ourselves about such persons except to strip them of their apparel."
"Unfeeling wretch!" cried Leonard, unable to restrain his indignation.
"Give me your fork, and I will pull him out myself."
Instead of surrendering the implement, Chowles flourished it over his
head with the intention of striking the apprentice, but the latter
nimbly avoided the blow, and snatching it from his grasp, ran back to
the plague-pit. He was followed by Chowles and the burier, who
threatened him with loud oaths. Regardless of their menaces, Leonard
fixed the hook in the dress of the struggling man, and exerting all his
strength, drew him out of the abyss. He had just lodged him in safety on
the brink when Chowles and his companion came up.
"Keep off!" cried Leonard, brandishing his fork as he spoke; "you shall
neither commit robbery nor murder here. If you will assist this
unfortunate gentleman, I have no doubt you will be well rewarded. If
not, get hence, or advance at your peril."
"Well," returned Chowles, who began to fancy something might be made of
the matter, "if you think we should be rewarded, we would convey the
gentleman back to his own home provided we can ascertain where it is.
But I am afraid he may die on the way."
"In that case you can apply to his friends," rejoined Leonard. "He must
not be abandoned thus."
"First, let us know who he is," returned Chowles. "Is he able to speak?"
"I know not," answered Leonard. "Bring the lantern this way, and let us
examine his countenance."
Chowles complied, and held the light over the unfortunate person. His
attire was rich, but in great disorder, and sullied by the loathsome
mass in which he had been plunged. He was in the flower of youth, and
his features must have been remarkable for their grace and beauty, but
they were now of a livid hue, and swollen and distorted by pain. Still
Leonard recognised them.
"Gracious Heaven!" he exclaimed. "It is Sir Paul Parravicin."
"Sir Paul Parravicin!" echoed Chowles. "By all that's wonderful, so it
is! Here is a lucky chance! Bring the dead-cart hither, Jonas--quick,
quick! I shall put him under the care of Judith Malmayns."
And the burier hurried off as fast as his legs could carry him.
"Had I known who it was," exclaimed Leonard, gazing with abhorrence at
the miserable object before him, "I would have left him to die the death
he so richly merits!"
A deep groan broke from the sufferer.
"Have no fear, Sir Paul," said Chowles. "You are in good hands. Every
care shall be taken of you, and you shall be cured by Judith Malmayns."
"She shall not come near me," rejoined Parravicin, faintly. "You will
take care of me?" he added in an imploring tone, to Leonard.
"You appeal in vain to me," rejoined the apprentice, sternly. "You are
justly punished for your treatment of Nizza Macascree."
"I am--I am," groaned Parravicin, "but she will be speedily avenged. I
shall soon join her in that pit."
"She is not there," replied Leonard, bitterly, "She is fast recovering
from the plague."
"Is she not dead?" demanded Parravicin, with frightful eagerness. "I was
told she was thrown into that horrible chasm."
"You were deceived," replied Leonard. "She was taken to the pest-house
by your orders, and would have perished if she had not found a friend to
aid her. She is now out of danger."
"Then I no longer desire to die," cried Parravicin, desperately. "I will
"Do not delude yourself," replied Leonard, coldly; "you have little
chance of recovery, and should employ the short time left you in praying
to Heaven for forgiveness of your sins."
"Tush!" exclaimed Parravicin, fiercely, "I shall not weary Heaven with
ineffectual supplications. I well know I am past all forgiveness. No,"
he added, with a fearful imprecation, "since Nizza is alive, I will not
"Right, Sir Paul, right," rejoined Chowles; "put a bold face on it, and
I will answer for it you will get over the attack. Have no fear of
Judith Malmayns," he added, in a significant tone. "However she may
treat others, she will cure _you_."
"I will make it worth her while to do so," rejoined Parravicin.
"Here is the cart," cried Chowles, seeing the vehicle approach. "I will
take you in the first place to Saint Paul's. Judith must see you as soon
"Take me where you please," rejoined Parravicin, faintly; "and remember
what I have said. If I die, the nurse will get nothing--if I am cured,
she shall be proportionately rewarded."
"I will not forget it," replied Chowles. And with the help of Jonas he
placed the knight carefully in the cart. "You need not trouble yourself
further about him," he added to Leonard.
"Before be quits this place I must know who he is," rejoined the latter,
placing himself at the horse's head.
"You know his name as well as I do," replied Chowles.
"Parravicin is not his real name," rejoined Leonard.
"Indeed!" exclaimed Chowles, "this is news to me. But no matter who he
is, he is rich enough to pay well. So stand aside, and let us go. We
have no time to waste in further parleying."
"I will not move till my question is answered," replied Leonard.
"We will see to that," said Jonas, approaching him behind, and dealing
him so severe a blow on the head that he stretched him senseless on the
ground? "Shall we throw him into the pit?" he added to Chowles.
The latter hesitated for a moment, and then said, "No, no, it is not
worth while. It may bring us into trouble. We have no time to lose." And
they then put the cart in motion, and took the way to Saint Paul's.
On coming to himself, Leonard had some difficulty in recalling what had
happened; and when the whole train of circumstances rushed upon his
mind, he congratulated himself that he had escaped further injury. "When
I think of the hands I have been placed in," he murmured, "I cannot but
be grateful that they did not throw me into the pit, where no discovery
could have been made as to how I came to an end. But I will not rest
till I have ascertained the name and rank of Nizza's persecutor. I have
no doubt they have taken him to Saint Paul's, and will proceed thither
With this view, he hastened towards the nearest city gate, and passing
towards it, shaped his course towards the cathedral. It was a fine
starlight night, and though there was no moon, the myriad lustres
glowing in the deep and cloudless vault rendered every object plainly
distinguishable. At this hour, little restraint was placed upon the
sick, and they wandered about the streets uttering dismal cries. Some
would fling themselves upon bulks or steps, where they were not
unfrequently found the next morning bereft of life. Most of those not
attacked by the distemper kept close house; but there were some few
reckless beings who passed the night in the wildest revelry, braving the
fate awaiting them. As Leonard passed Saint Michael's church, in
Basinghall-street, he perceived, to his great surprise, that it was
lighted up, and at first supposed some service was going on within it,
but on approaching he heard strains of lively and most irreverent music
issuing from within. Pushing open the door, he entered the sacred
edifice, and found it occupied by a party of twenty young men,
accompanied by a like number of females, some of whom were playing at
dice and cards, some drinking, others singing Bacchanalian melodies,
others dancing along the aisles to the notes of a theorbo and spinet.
Leonard was so inexpressibly shocked by what he beheld, that unable to
contain himself he mounted the steps of the pulpit, and called to them
in a loud voice to desist from their scandalous conduct, and no longer
profane the house of God. But they treated his remonstrances with
laughter and derision, and some of the party forming themselves into a
group round the pulpit, entreated him to preach to them.
"We want a little variety," said one of the group, a good-looking young
man, upon whom the wine had evidently made some impression--"we are
tired of drinking and play, and may as well listen to a sermon,
especially an original one. Hold forth to us, I say."
"I would, hold forth till daybreak, if I thought it would produce any
impression," returned Leonard. "But I perceive you are too hardened to
be aroused to repentance."
"Repentance!" cried another of the assemblage. "Do you know whom you
address? These gentlemen are the Brotherhood of Saint Michael, and I am
the principal. We are determined to enjoy the few days or hours we may
have left--that is all. We are not afraid of the future, and are
resolved to make the most of the present."
"Ay, ay," cried the others, with a great shout of laughter, which,
however, was interrupted by a cry of anguish from one of the party.
"There is another person seized," said the principal; "take him away,
brothers. This is owing to listening to a sermon. Let us return to our
"Will you not accept this awful warning?" cried Leonard. "You will all
share your companion's fate."
"We anticipate nothing else," returned the principal; "and are therefore
resolved to banish reflection. A week ago, the Brotherhood of Saint
Michael consisted of forty persons. We are already diminished to half
the number, but are not the less merry on that account. On the contrary,
we are more jovial than ever. We have agreed that whoever shall be
seized with the distemper, shall be instantly conveyed to the
pest-house, so that the hilarity of the others shall not be interrupted.
The poor fellow who has just been attacked has left behind him a
beautiful mistress. She is yours if you choose to join us."
"Ay, stop with us," cried a young and very pretty woman, taking his hand
and drawing him towards the company who were dancing beneath the aisles.
But Leonard disengaged himself, and hurried away amid the laughter and
hootings of the assemblage. The streets, despite their desolate
appearance, were preferable to the spot he had just quitted, and he
seemed to breathe more freely when he got to a little distance from the
polluted fane. He had now entered Wood-street, but all was as still as
death, and he paused to gaze up at his master's window, but there was no
one at it. Many a lover, unable to behold the object of his affections,
has in some measure satisfied the yearning of his heart by gazing at her
dwelling, and feeling he was near her. Many a sad heart has been cheered
by beholding a light at a window, or a shadow on its closed curtains,
and such would have been Leonard's feelings if he had not been depressed
by the thought of Amabel's precarious state of health.
While thus wrapt in mournful thought, he observed three figures slowly
approaching from the further end of the street, and he instinctively
withdrew into a doorway. He had reason to congratulate himself upon the
precaution, as, when the party drew nearer, he recognised, with a pang
that shot to his heart, the voice of Rochester. A moment's observation
from his place of concealment showed him that the earl was accompanied
by Sir George Etherege and Pillichody. They paused within a short
distance of him, and he could distinctly hear their conversation.
"You have not yet told us why you brought us here my lord," said
Etherege to Rochester, after the latter had gazed for a few moments in
silence at the house. "Are you resolved to make another attempt to carry
off the girl--and failing in it, to give her up for ever!"
"You have guessed my purpose precisely," returned Rochester. "Doctor
Hodges has informed a friend of mine that the pretty Amabel has fallen
into a decline. The poor soul is, doubtless, pining for me; and it would
be the height of inhumanity to let her perish."
Leonard ground his teeth-with suppressed rage.
"Then you mean to make her Countess of Rochester, after all," laughed
Etherege. "I thought you had determined to carry off Mistress Mallett."
"Old Bowley declares he will send me to the Tower if I do," replied
Rochester; "and though his threats would scarcely deter me from acting
as I think proper, I have no inclination for marriage at present. What a
pity, Etherege, that one cannot in these affairs have the money oneself,
and give the wife to one's friend."
"That is easily accomplished," replied Etherege, laughingly; "especially
where you have a friend so devoted as myself. But do you mean to carry
off Amabel to-night?"
"Ay, now we come to business," interposed Pillichody. "Bolts and
barricadoes! your lordship has only to say the word, and I will break
into the house, and bear her off for you."
"Your former conduct is a good guarantee for your present success,
truly," returned Rochester, with a sneer. "No, no; I shall postpone my
design for the present. I have ascertained, from the source whence I
obtained information of Amabel's illness, that she is to be removed into
the country. This will exactly suit my purpose, and put her completely
in my power."
"Then nothing is to be done to-night?" said Pillichody, secretly
congratulating himself on his escape. "By my sword! I feel equal to the
most desperate attempt."
"Your courage and dexterity must be reserved for some more favourable
occasion," replied Rochester.
"If not to carry off the girl, I must again inquire why your lordship
has come hither?" demanded Etherege.
"To be frank with you, my sole motive was to gaze at the house that
contains her," replied Rochester, in a voice that bespoke his sincerity.
"I have before told you that she has a strong hold upon my heart. I have
not seen her for some weeks, and during that time have endeavoured to
obliterate her image by making love to a dozen others. But it will not
do. She still continues absolute mistress of my affections. I sometimes
think, if I can obtain her in no other way, I shall be rash enough to
"Pshaw! this must never be," said Etherege.
"Were I to lose her altogether, I should be inconsolable," cried
"As inconsolable as I am for the rich widow of Watling-street, who died
a fortnight ago of the plague, and left her wealth to her footman,"
replied Pillichody, drawing forth his handkerchief and applying it to
his eyes--"oh! oh!"
"Silence, fool!" cried Rochester: "I am in no mood for buffoonery. If
you shed tears for any one, it should be for your master."
"Truly, I am grieved for him," replied Pillichody; "but I object to the
term 'master.' Sir Paul Parravicin, as he chooses to be called, is my
patron, not my master. He permits me a very close familiarity, not to
"Well, then, your patron," rejoined Rochester, scornfully. "How is he
going on to-night?"
"I feared to tell your lordship," replied Pillichody, "lest it should
spoil your mirth; but he broke out of his chamber a few hours ago, and
has not been discovered since. Most likely, he will be found in the
plague-pit or the Thames in the morning, for he was in such an
infuriated state, that it is the opinion of his attendants he would
certainly destroy himself. You know he was attacked two days after Nizza
Macascree was seized by the pestilence, and his brain has been running
upon the poor girl ever since."
"Alas!" exclaimed Rochester, "it is a sad end. I am wearied of this
infected city, and shall be heartily glad to quit it. A few months in
the country with Amabel will be enchanting."
"_Apropos_ of melancholy subjects," said Etherege, "your masque of the
Dance of Death has caused great consternation at court. Mistress Stewart
declares she cannot get that strange fellow who performed such fantastic
tricks in the skeleton-dance out of her head."
"You mean Chowles," replied the earl. "He is a singular being,
certainly--once a coffin-maker, and now, I believe, a burier of the
dead. He takes up his abode in a crypt of Saint Faith's and leads an
incomprehensible life. As we return we shall pass the cathedral, and can
see whether he is astir."
"Readily," replied Etherege. "Do you desire to tarry here longer, or
shall we proceed before you, while you indulge your tender meditations
"Leave me," replied Rochester; "I shall be glad to be alone for a few
Etherege and Pillichody then proceeded slowly towards Cheapside, while
the earl remained with his arms folded upon his breast, and his gaze
fixed upon the house. Leonard watched him with intense curiosity, and
had great difficulty in controlling himself. Though the earl was armed,
while he had only his staff, he could have easily mastered him by
assailing him unawares. But Leonard's generous nature revolted at the
unworthy suggestion, and he resolved, if he attacked him at all, to give
him time to stand upon his guard. A moment's reflection, however,
satisfied him that his wisest course would be to remain concealed. He
was now in possession of the earl's plan, and, with the help of Doctor
Hodges, could easily defeat it; whereas if he appeared, it would be
evident that he had overheard what had passed, and some other scheme, to
which he could not be privy, would be necessarily adopted. Influenced by
this consideration, he suffered the earl to depart unmolested, and when
he had got to some distance followed him. Rochester's companions were
waiting for him in Cheapside, and, joining them, they all three
proceeded towards the cathedral. They entered the great northern door;
and Leonard, who was now well acquainted with all the approaches, passed
through the door at the north side of the choir, to which he had been
directed on a former occasion by Solomon Eagle. He found the party
guided by the old verger--the only one of its former keepers who still
lingered about the place--and preparing to descend to Saint Faith's.
Leonard followed as near as he could without exposing himself, and, on
gaining the subterranean church, easily contrived to screen himself
behind the ponderous ranks of pillars.
By this time they had reached the door of the charnel It was closed; but
Rochester knocked against it, and Chowles presently appeared. He seemed
greatly surprised at seeing the earl, nor was the latter less astonished
when he learnt that Parravicin was within the vault. He desired to be
shown to his friend, and Chowles ushered him into the crypt. Leonard
would have followed them; but as Etherege and the others declined
entering the charnel, and remained at the door, he could not do so.
Shortly after this the sick man was brought out, stretched upon a
pallet, borne by Chowles and Judith; and the party proceeded slowly, and
occasionally relieving each other, to the great western entrance, where
a coach being procured by Pillichody, Parravicin was placed within it,
with Judith and Chowles; and orders being given in an under-tone to the
driver, he departed. The others then proceeded towards Ludgate, while
Leonard, again disappointed, retraced his steps to Wood-street.
* * * * *
HOW SAINT PATHOS WAS USED AS A PEST-HOUSE.
The distemper had by this time increased to such a frightful extent,
that the pest-houses being found wholly inadequate to contain the number
of sick persons sent to them, it was resolved by the civic authorities,
who had obtained the sanction of the Dean and Chapter of Saint Paul's
for that purpose, to convert the cathedral into a receptacle for the
infected. Accordingly, a meeting was held in the Convocation House to
make final arrangements. It was attended by Sir John Lawrence, the Lord
Mayor; by Sir George Waterman, and Sir Charles Doe, sheriffs; by Doctor
Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury; by the Duke of Albemarle, the Earl of
Craven, and, a few other zealous and humane persons. Several members of
the College of Physicians were likewise present, and, amongst others,
Doctor Hodges; and the expediency of the measure being fully agreed
upon, it was determined to carry it into immediate execution.
The cloisters surrounding the Convocation House were crowded with sick
persons, drawn thither by the rumour of what was going forward; and when
the meeting adjourned to the cathedral, these unfortunate beings
followed them, and were with some difficulty kept aloof from the
uninfected by the attendants. A very earnest and touching address was
next pronounced by the archbishop. Calling upon his hearers to look upon
themselves as already dead to the world,--to regard the present
visitation as a just punishment of their sins, and to rejoice that their
sufferings would be so soon terminated, when, if they sincerely and
heartily repented, they would at once be transported from the depths of
wretchedness and misery to regions of unfading bliss; he concluded by
stating that he, and all those around him, were prepared to devote
themselves, without regard to their own safety, to the preservation of
their fellow-citizens, and that they would leave nothing undone to stop
the ravages of the devouring scourge.
It chanced that Leonard Holt was present on this occasion, and as he
listened to the eloquent discourse of the archbishop, and gazed at the
group around him, all equally zealous in the good cause, and equally
regardless of themselves, he could not but indulge a hope that their
exertions might be crowned with success. It was indeed a touching sight
to see the melancholy congregation to whom his address was
delivered--many, nay most of whom were on the verge of dissolution;--and
Leonard Holt was so moved by the almost apostolic fervour of the
prelate, that, but for the thought of Amabel, he might have followed the
example of several of the auditors, and devoted himself altogether to
the service of the sick.
His discourse concluded, the archbishop and most of his companions
quitted the cathedral. Hodges, however, and three of the physicians,
remained behind to superintend the necessary preparations. Shortly
after, a large number of pallets were brought in, and ranged along the
nave and aisles at short distances from each other; and, before night,
the interior of the structure presented the complete appearance of an
hospital. Acting under the directions of Doctor Hodges, Leonard Holt
lent his assistance in arranging the pallets, in covering them with
bedding and blankets, and in executing any other service required of
him. A sufficient number of chirurgeons and nurses were then sent for,
and such was the expedition used, that on that very night most of the
pallets were occupied. Thus the cathedral underwent another afflicting
change. A blight had come over it, mildewing its holy walls, and
tainting and polluting its altars. Its aisles, once trodden by grave and
reverend ecclesiastics, and subsequently haunted by rufflers, bullies,
and other worthless characters, were now filled with miserable wretches,
stricken with a loathsome and fatal distemper. Its chapels and shrines
formerly adorned with rich sculptures and costly ornaments, but stripped
of them at times when they were looked upon as idolatrous and profane,
were now occupied by nurses, chirurgeons, and their attendants; while
every niche and corner was filled with surgical implements, phials,
drugs, poultices, foul rags, and linen.
In less than a week after it had been converted into a pest-house, the
cathedral was crowded to overflowing. Upwards of three hundred pallets
were set up in the nave, in the aisles, in the transepts, and in the
choir, and even in the chapels. But these proving insufficient, many
poor wretches who were brought thither were placed on the cold flags,
and protected only by a single blanket. At night the scene was really
terrific. The imperfect light borne by the attendants fell on the
couches, and revealed the livid countenances of their occupants; while
the vaulted roof rang with shrieks and groans so horrible and
heart-piercing as to be scarcely endured, except by those whose nerves
were firmly strung, or had become blunted by their constant recurrence.
At such times, too, some unhappy creature, frenzied by agony, would
burst from his couch, and rend the air with his cries, until overtaken
and overpowered by his attendants. On one occasion, it happened that a
poor wretch, who had been thus caught, broke loose a second time, and
darting through a door leading to the stone staircase in the northern
transept gained the ambulatory, and being closely followed, to escape
his pursuers, sprang through one of the arched openings, and falling
from a height of near sixty feet, was dashed in pieces on the flagged
A walk through this mighty lazar-house would have furnished a wholesome
lesson to the most reckless observer. It seemed to contain all the sick
of the city. And yet it was not so. Hundreds were expiring in their own
dwellings, and the other pest-houses continued crowded as before. Still,
as a far greater number of the infected were here congregated, and could
be seen at one view, the picture was incomparably more impressive. Every
part of the cathedral was occupied. Those who could not find room inside
it crouched beneath the columns of the portico on rugs or blankets, and
implored the chirurgeons as they passed to attend them. Want of room
also drove others into Saint Faith's, and here the scene was, if
possible, more hideous. In this dismal region it was found impossible to
obtain a free circulation of air, and consequently the pestilential
effluvia, unable to escape, acquired such malignancy, that it was almost
certain destruction to inhale it. After a time, few of the nurses and
attendants would venture thither; and to take a patient to Saint Faith's
was considered tantamount to consigning him to the grave.
Whether Judith Malmayns had succeeded or not in curing Sir Paul
Parravicin, it is not our present purpose to relate. Soon after the
cathedral was converted into a lazar-house she returned thither, and, in
spite of the opposition of Doctor Hodges, was appointed one of the
nurses. It must not be supposed that her appointment was the result of
any ill design. Such was the difficulty of obtaining attendance, that
little choice was left, and the nurses being all of questionable
character, it was supposed she was only a shade worse than her fellows,
while she was known to be active and courageous. And this was speedily
proved; for when Saint Faith's was deserted by the others, she remained
at her post, and quitted it neither night nor day. A large pit was
digged in the open space at the north-east corner of the cathedral, and
to this great numbers of bodies were nightly conveyed by Chowles and
Jonas. But it was soon filled, and they were compelled to resort, as
before, to Finsbury Fields, and to another vast pit near Aldgate. When
not engaged in this revolting employment, Chowles took up his quarters
in the crypt, where, in spite of his propinquity to the sick, he
indulged himself in his customary revelry. He and Judith had amassed, in
one way or other, a vast quantity of spoil, and frequently planned how
they would spend it when the pestilence ceased. Their treasure was
carefully concealed in a cell in one of the secret passages with which
they were acquainted, leading from Saint Faith's to the upper structure.
One night, on his return from Finsbury Fields, as Chowles was seated in
the crypt, with a pipe in his mouth, and a half-finished flask of wine
before him, he was startled by the sudden entrance of Judith, who,
rushing up to him, seized him by the throat, and almost choked him
before he could extricate himself.
"What is the matter?--would you strangle me, you murderous harridan?" he
"Ay, that I would," replied Judith, preparing to renew the attack.
"Stand off!" rejoined Chowles, springing back, and snatching up a spade,
"or I will dash out your brains. Are you mad?" he continued, gazing
fearfully at her.
"I am angry enough to make me so," she replied, shaking her clenched
fists at him. "But I will be revenged--revenged, I tell you."
"Revenged!" cried Chowles, in astonishment--"for what! What have I
"You do well to affect ignorance," rejoined Judith, "but you cannot
deceive me. No one but you can have done it."
"Done what!" exclaimed Chowles, in increased astonishment. "Has our
hoard been discovered?"
"Ay, and been carried off--by you--you!" screamed Judith, with a look
worthy of a fury.
"By my soul, you are wrong," cried Chowles. "I have never touched
it,--never even approached the hiding-place, except in your presence."
"Liar!" returned Judith, "the whole hoard is gone;--the plunder I
obtained in Newgate,--the Earl of Rochester's plate,--all the rings,
trinkets, and rich apparel I have picked up since,--everything is
gone;--and who but you can be the robber?"
"It is difficult to say," rejoined Chowles. "But I swear to you, you
suspect me wrongfully."
"Restore it," replied Judith, "or tell me where it is hidden. If not, I
will be the death of you?"
"Let us go to the hiding-place," replied Chowles, whose uneasiness was
not diminished by the menace. "You may be mistaken, and I hope you are."
Though he uttered the latter part of his speech with seeming confidence,
his heart misgave him. To conceal his trepidation, he snatched up a
lamp, and passing through the secret door, hurried along the narrow
stone passage. He was about to open the cell, when he perceived near it
the tall figure of the enthusiast.
"There is the robber," he cried to Judith. "I have found him. It is
Solomon Eagle. Villain! you have purloined our hoard!"
"I have done so," replied Solomon Eagle, "and I will carry off all other
spoil you may obtain. Think not to hide it from me. I can watch you when
you see me not, and track you when you suppose me afar off."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Chowles, trembling. "I begin to think he is
possessed of supernatural power," he added, in an undertone to Judith.
"Go on," pursued Solomon Eagle, "continue to plunder and destroy. Pursue
your guilty career, and see what reward you will reap."
"Restore what you have robbed us of," cried Judith in a menacing tone,
"or dread the consequences."
"Woman, you threaten idly," returned Solomon Eagle. "Your ill-gotten
treasure is gone--whither, you will never know. Get hence!" he added, in
a terrible tone, "or I will rid the earth of you both."
So awed were they by his voice and gestures, that they slunk away with a
discomfited air, and returned to the crypt.
"If we are always to be robbed in this manner," observed Chowles, "we
had better shift our quarters, and practise elsewhere."
"He shall not repeat the offence with impunity," returned Judith. "I
will speedily get rid of him."
"Beware!" cried a voice, which they recognised as that of Solomon Eagle,
though whence proceeding they could not precisely determine. The pair
looked at each other uneasily, but neither spoke a word.
Meanwhile, Leonard Holt did not omit to pay a daily visit to the
cathedral. It was a painful contemplation, and yet not without deep
interest, to behold the constant succession of patients, most of whom
were swept away by the scourge in the course of a couple of days, or
even in a shorter period. Out of every hundred persons attacked, five
did not recover; and whether the virulence of the distemper increased,
or the summer heats rendered its victims more easily assailable, certain
it is they were carried off far more expeditiously than before. Doctor
Hodges was unremitting in his attentions, but his zeal and anxiety
availed nothing. He had to contend with a disease over which medicine
exercised little control.
One morning, as he was about to enter the cathedral, he met Leonard
beneath the portico, and as soon as the latter caught sight of him, he
hurried towards him.
"I have been in search of you," he said, "and was about to proceed to
your residence. Mr. Bloundel wishes to see you immediately. Amabel is
"I will go with you at once," replied the doctor.
And they took the way to Wood-street.
"From a few words let fall by my master, I imagine he intends sending
Amabel into the country to-morrow," said Leonard, as they proceeded.
"I hope so," replied Hodges. "He has already delayed it too long. You
will be glad to hear that Nizza Macascree is quite recovered. To-morrow,
or the next day, she will be able to see you with safety."
"Heaven knows where I may be to-morrow," rejoined Leonard. "Wherever
Amabel goes, I shall not be far off."
"Faithful to the last!" exclaimed Hodges. "Well, I shall not oppose you.
We must take care the Earl of Rochester does not get a hint of our
proceeding. At this time a chance meeting (were it nothing more) might
prove fatal to the object of our solicitude."
Leonard said nothing, but the colour fled his cheek, and his lips
slightly quivered. In a few seconds more they reached the grocer's
They found him at the window anxiously expecting them; and Doctor
Hodges, being drawn up in the same way as before, was conducted to
Amabel's chamber. She was reclining in an easy-chair, with the Bible on
her knee; and though she was much wasted away, she looked more lovely
than ever. A slight hectic flush increased the brilliancy of her eyes,
which had now acquired that ominous lustre peculiar to persons in a
decline. There were other distressing symptoms in her appearance which
the skilful physician well knew how to interpret. To an inexperienced
eye, however, she would have appeared charming. Nothing could exceed the
delicacy of her complexion, or the lovely mould of her features, which,
though they had lost much of their fulness and roundness, had gained in
expression; while the pencilled brows clearly traced upon her snowy
forehead, the long dark eyelashes shading her cheek, and the rich satin
tresses drooping over her shoulders, completed her attractions. Her
mother stood by her side, and not far from her sat little Christiana,
amusing herself with some childish toy, and ever and anon stealing an
anxious glance at her sister. Taking Amabel's arm, and sighing to
himself to think how thin it was, the doctor placed his finger upon her
pulse. Whatever might be his secret opinion, he thought fit to assume a
hopeful manner, and looking smilingly at her, said, "You are better than
I expected, but your departure to the country must not be deferred."
"Since it is my father's wish that I should do so," replied Amabel,
gently, "I am quite willing to comply. But I feel it will be of no
avail, and I would rather pass the rest of my life here than with
strangers. I cannot be happier than I am now."
"Perhaps not," replied Hodges; "but a few weeks spent in some salubrious
spot will remove all apprehensions as to your health. You will find your
strength return, and with it the desire of life."
"My life is in the hands of my Maker," replied Amabel, "and I am ready
to resign it whenever it shall be required of me. At the same time,
however anxious I may be to quit a world which appears a blank to me, I
would make every effort, for the sake of those whose happiness is dearer
to me than my own, to purchase a complete restoration to health. If my
father desires me to try a removal to the country, and you think it will
have a beneficial effect, I am ready to go. But do not urge it, unless
you think there is a chance of my recovery."
"I will tell you frankly," replied the doctor, "if you remain here, you
have not many weeks to live."
"But if I go, will you promise me health?" rejoined Amabel. "Do not
deceive me. Is there a hope?"
"Unquestionably," replied the doctor. "Change of air will work wonders."
"I beseech you not to hesitate--for my sake do not, dearest daughter,"
said Mrs. Bloundel, with difficulty repressing tears.
"And for mine," added her father, more firmly, yet with deep emotion.
"I have already expressed my readiness to accede to your wishes,"
replied Amabel. "Whenever you have made arrangements for me, I will set
"And now comes the question--where is she to go?" remarked Hodges.
"I have a sister, who lives as housekeeper at Lord Craven's seat,
Ashdown Park," replied Mr. Bloundel. "She shall go thither, and her aunt
will take every care of her. The mansion is situated amid the Berkshire
hills, and the air is the purest and best in England."
"Nothing can be better," replied Hodges; "but who is to escort her
"Leonard Holt," replied Mr. Bloundel. "He will gladly undertake the
"No doubt," rejoined Hodges; "but cannot you go yourself?"
"Impossible!" returned the grocer, a shade passing over his countenance.
"Neither do I wish it," observed Amabel. "I am content to be under the
safeguard of Leonard."
"Amabel," said her father, "you know not what I shall endure in thus
parting with you. I would give all I possess to be able to accompany
you, but a sense of duty restrains me. I have taken the resolution to
remain here with my family during the continuance of the pestilence, and
I must abide by it. I little thought how severely my constancy would be
tried. But hard though it be, I must submit I shall commit you,
therefore, to the care of an all-merciful Providence, who will not fail
to watch over and protect you."
"Have no fear for me, father," replied Amabel; "and do not weep, dear
mother," she added to Mrs. Bloundel, who, unable to restrain her grief,
was now drowned in tears; "I shall be well cared for. If we meet no more
in this world, our reunion is certain in that to come. I have given you
much pain and uneasiness, but it will be an additional grief to me if I
think you feel further anxiety on my account."
"We do not, my dear child," replied Mr. Bloundel. "I am well assured all
is for the best, and if it pleases Heaven to spare you, I shall rejoice
beyond measure in your return. If not, I shall feel a firm reliance that
you will continue in the same happy frame, as at present, to the last,
and that we shall meet above, where there will be no further
"I cannot bear to part with her," cried Mrs. Bloundel, clasping her arms
round her daughter--"I cannot--I cannot!"
"Restrain yourself, Honora," said her husband; "you will do her an
"She must not be over excited," interposed Hodges, in a low tone, and
gently drawing the afflicted mother away. "The sooner," he added to Mr.
Bloundel, "she now sets out the better."
"I feel it," replied the grocer. "She shall start to-morrow morning."
"I will undertake to procure horses," replied Hodges, "and Leonard will
be ready at any moment."
With this, he took his leave, and descending by the pulley, communicated
to Leonard what had occurred.
In spite of his fears on her account, the prospect of again beholding
Amabel so transported the apprentice that he could scarcely attend to
what was said respecting her. When he grew calmer, it was arranged that
all should be in readiness at an early hour on the following morning;
that a couple of horses should be provided; and that Amabel should be
let down fully equipped for the journey. This settled, Leonard, at the
doctor's request, accompanied him to his residence.
They were scarcely out of sight, when a man, who had been concealed
behind the hutch, in such a position that not a word that had passed
escaped him, issued from his hiding-place, and darting down the first
alley on the right, made the best of his way to Whitehall.
Up to this time, Doctor Hodges had not judged it prudent to allow a
meeting between Leonard and Nizza Macascree, but now, from reasons of
his own, he resolved no longer to delay it. Accordingly, on reaching his
dwelling, he took the apprentice to her chamber. She was standing in a
pensive attitude, near a window which looked towards the river, and as
she turned on his entrance, Leonard perceived that her eyes were filled
with tears. Blushing deeply, she advanced towards him, and greeted him
with all the warmth of her affectionate nature. She had quite recovered
her good looks, and Leonard could not but admit that, had he seen her
before his heart was plighted to another, it must have been given to
her. Comparisons are ungracious, and tastes differ more perhaps as to
beauty than on any other point; but if Amabel and the piper's daughter
had been placed together, it would not have been difficult to determine
to which of the two the palm of superior loveliness should be assigned.
There was a witchery in the magnificent black eyes of the latter--in her
exquisitely-formed mouth and pearly teeth--in her clear nut-brown
complexion--in her dusky and luxuriant tresses, and in her light elastic
figure, with which more perfect but less piquant charms could not
compete. Such seemed to be the opinion of Doctor Hodges, for as he gazed
at her with unaffected admiration, he exclaimed, as if to himself--
"I'faith, if I had to choose between the two, I know which it would be."
This exclamation somewhat disconcerted the parties to whom it referred,
and the doctor did not relieve their embarrassment by adding, "Well, I
perceive I am in the way. You must have much to say to each other that
can in nowise interest me. Excuse me a moment, while I see that the
horses are ordered."
So saying, and disregarding Leonard's expostulating looks, he hurried
out of the room, and shut the door after him.
Hitherto, the conversation had been unrestrained and agreeable on both
sides, but now they were left alone together, neither appeared able to
utter a word. Nizza cast her eyes timidly on the ground, while Leonard
caressed little Bell, who had been vainly endeavouring by her gamesome
tricks to win his attention.
"Doctor Hodges spoke of ordering horses," said Nizza, at length breaking
silence. "Are you going on a journey?"
"I am about to take Amabel to Ashdown Park, in Berkshire, to-morrow
morning," replied Leonard. "She is dangerously ill."
"Of the plague?" asked Nizza, anxiously.
"Of a yet worse disorder," replied Leonard, heaving a deep sigh--"of a
"Alas! I pity her from my soul!" replied Nizza, in a tone of the deepest
commiseration. "Does her mother go with her?"
"No," replied Leonard, "I alone shall attend her. She will be placed
under the care of a near female relative at Ashdown."
"Would it not be better,--would it not be safer, if she is in the
precarious state you describe, that some one of her own sex should
accompany her?" said Nizza.
"I should greatly prefer it," rejoined Leonard, "and so I am sure would
Amabel. But where is such a person to be found?"
"I will go with you, if you desire it," replied Nizza, "and will watch
over her, and tend her as a sister."
"Are you equal to the journey?" inquired Leonard, somewhat doubtfully.
"Fully," replied Nizza. "I am entirely recovered, and able to undergo
far more fatigues than an invalid like Amabel."
"It will relieve me from a world of anxiety if this can be
accomplished," rejoined Leonard. "I will consult Doctor Hodges on the
subject on his return."
"What do you desire to consult me about?" cried the physician, who had
entered the room unobserved at this juncture.
The apprentice stated Nizza's proposal to him.
"I entirely approve of the plan," observed the doctor; "it will obviate
many difficulties. I have just received a message from Mr. Bloundel, by
Dallison, the porter, to say he intends sending Blaize with you. I will
therefore provide pillions for the horses, so that the whole party can
He then sat down and wrote out minute instructions for Amabel's
treatment, and delivering the paper to Leonard, desired him to give it
to the housekeeper at Ashdown Park.
"Heaven only knows what the result of all this may be!" he exclaimed.
"But nothing must be neglected."
Leonard promised that his advice should be scrupulously attended to; and
the discourse then turning to Nizza's father, she expressed the utmost
anxiety to see him before she set out.
Hodges readily assented. "Your father has been discharged as cured from
the pest-house," he said, "and is lodged at a cottage, kept by my old
nurse, Dame Lucas, just without the walls, near Moorgate. I will send
"On no account," replied Nizza. "I will go to him myself."
"As you please," returned Hodges. "Leonard shall accompany you. You will
easily find the cottage. It is about two hundred yards beyond the gate,
on the right, near the old doghouses."
"I know the spot perfectly," rejoined Leonard.
"I would recommend you to put on a mask," observed the doctor to Nizza;
"it may protect you from molestation. I will find you one below."
Leading the way to a lower room, he opened a drawer, and, producing a
small loo mask, gave it her. The youthful pair then quitted the house,
Nizza taking Bell under her arm, as she intended leaving her with her
father. The necessity of the doctor's caution was speedily manifested,
for as they crossed Saint Paul's churchyard they encountered Pillichody,
who, glancing inquisitively at Nizza, seemed disposed to push his
inquiries further by attempting to take off her mask; but the fierce
look of the apprentice, who grasped his staff in a menacing manner,
induced him to abandon his purpose. He, however, followed them along
Cheapside, and would have continued the pursuit along the Old Jewry, if
Leonard had not come to a halt, and awaited his approach. He then took
to his heels, and did not again make his appearance.
As they reached the open fields and slackened their pace, Leonard deemed
it prudent to prepare his companion for her interview with her father by
mentioning the circumstance of the packet, and the important secret
which he had stated he had to disclose to her.
"I cannot tell what the secret can relate to, unless it is to my
mother," rejoined Nizza. "She died, I believe, when I was an infant. At
all events, I never remember seeing her, and I have remarked that my
father is averse to talking about her. But I will now question him. I
have reason to think this piece of gold," and she produced the amulet,
"is in some way or other connected with the mystery."
And she then explained to Leonard all that had occurred in the vault
when the coin had been shown to Judith Malmayns, describing the nurse's
singular look and her father's subsequent anger.
By this time, they had entered a narrow footpath leading across the
fields in the direction of a little nest of cottages, and pursuing it,
they came to a garden-gate. Opening it, they beheld the piper seated
beneath a little porch covered with eglantine and roses. He was playing
a few notes on his pipe, but stopped on hearing their approach. Bell,
who had been put to the ground by Nizza, ran barking gleefully towards
him. Uttering a joyful exclamation, the piper stretched out his arms,
and the next moment enfolded his daughter in a strict embrace. Leonard
remained at the gate till the first transports of their meeting were
over, and then advanced slowly towards them.
"Whose footsteps are those?" inquired the piper.
"Ah, is it Leonard Holt?" exclaimed the piper, extending his hand to the
apprentice. "You are heartily welcome," he added; "and I am glad to find
you with Nizza. It is no secret to me that she likes you. She has been
an excellent daughter, and will make an excellent wife. He who weds her
will obtain a greater treasure than he expects."
"Not than he expects," said Leonard.
"Ay, than he expects," reiterated the piper. "You will one day find out
that I speak the truth."
Leonard looked at Nizza, who was blushing deeply at her father's remark.
She understood him.
"Father," she said, "I understand you have a secret of importance to
disclose to me. I am about to make a long journey to-morrow, and may not
return for some time. At this uncertain season, when those who part know
not that they shall meet again, nothing of this sort ought to be
"You cannot know it while I live," replied the piper, "but I will take
such precautions that, if anything happens to me, it shall be certainly
revealed to you."
"I am satisfied," she rejoined, "and will only ask you one farther
question, and I beseech you to answer it. Does this amulet refer to the
"It does," replied her father, sullenly; "and now let the subject be
He then led the way into the cottage. The good old dame who kept it, on
learning who they were, and that they were sent by Doctor Hodges, gave
them a hearty welcome, and placed refreshments before them. Leonard
commented upon the extreme neatness of the abode and its healthful
situation, and expressed a hope that it might not be visited by the
"I trust it will not," rejoined the old woman, shaking her head; "but
when I hear the doleful bell at night--when I catch a glimpse of the
fatal cart--or look towards yon dreadful place," and she pointed in the
direction of the plague-pit, which lay only a few hundred yards to the
west of her habitation--"I am reminded that the scourge is not far off,
and that it must needs reach me ere long."
"Have no fear, Dame Lucas," said the piper; "you see it has pleased a
merciful Providence to spare the lives of myself, my child, and this
young man, and if you should be attacked, the same benificent Being may
preserve you in like manner."
"The Lord's will be done!" rejoined Dame Lucas. "I know I shall be well
attended to by Doctor Hodges. I nursed him when he was an infant, and he
has been like a son to me. Bless his kind heart!" she exclaimed, her
eyes filling with tears of gratitude, "there is not his like in London."
"Always excepting my master," observed Leonard, with a smile at her
"I except no one," rejoined Dame Lucas. "A worthier man never lived,
than Doctor Hodges. If I die of the plague," she continued, "he has
promised not to let me be thrown into that horrible pit--ough!--but to
bury me in my garden, beneath the old apple-tree."
"And he will keep his word, dame, I am sure," replied Leonard. "I would
recommend you, however, as the best antidote against the plague, to keep
yourself constantly employed, and to indulge as few gloomy notions as
"I am seldom melancholy, and still more seldom idle," replied the good
dame. "But despondency will steal on me sometimes, especially when the
dead-cart passes and I think what it contains."
While the conversation was going forward, Nizza and the piper withdrew
into an inner room, where they remained closeted together for some time.
On their re-appearance, Nizza said she was ready to depart, and taking
an affectionate farewell of her father, and committing Bell to his
charge, she quitted the cottage with the apprentice.
Evening was now advancing, and the sun was setting with the gorgeousness
already described as peculiar to this fatal period. Filled with the
pleasing melancholy inspired by the hour, they walked on in silence.
They had not proceeded far, when they observed a man crossing the field
with a bundle in his arms. Suddenly, he staggered and fell. Seeing he
did not stir, and guessing what was the matter, Leonard ran towards him
to offer him assistance. He found him lying in the grass with his left
hand fixed against his heart. He groaned heavily, and his features were
convulsed with pain. Near him lay the body of a beautiful little girl,
with long fair hair, and finely-formed features, though now disfigured
by purple blotches, proclaiming the disorder of which she had perished.
She was apparently about ten years old, and was partially covered by a
linen cloth. The man, whose features bore a marked resemblance to those
of the child, was evidently from his attire above the middle rank. His
frame was athletic, and as he was scarcely past the prime of life, the
irresistible power of the disease, which could in one instant prostrate
strength like his, was terribly attested.
"Alas!" he cried, addressing the apprentice, "I was about to convey the
remains of my poor child to the plague-pit. But I have been unable to
accomplish my purpose. I hoped she would have escaped the polluting
touch of those loathly attendants on the dead-cart."
"She _shall_ escape it," replied Leonard; "if you wish it, I will carry
her to the pit myself."
"The blessing of a dying man rest on your head," cried the sufferer;
"your charitable action will not pass unrequited."
With this, despite the agony he endured, he dragged himself to his
child, kissed her cold lips, smoothed her fair tresses, and covered the
body carefully with the cloth. He then delivered it to Leonard, who
received it tenderly, and calling to Nizza Macascree, who had witnessed
the scene at a little distance, and was deeply affected by it, to await
his return, ran towards the plague-pit. Arrived there, he placed his
little burden at the brink of the excavation, and, kneeling beside it,
uttered a short prayer inspired by the occasion. He then tore his
handkerchief into strips, and tying them together, lowered the body
gently down. Throwing a little earth over it, he hastened to the sick
man, and told him what he had done. A smile of satisfaction illumined
the sufferer's countenance, and holding out his hand, on which a
valuable ring glistened, he said, "Take it--it is but a poor reward for
the service you have rendered me;--nay, take it," he added, seeing that
the apprentice hesitated; "others will not be so scrupulous."
Unable to gainsay the remark, Leonard took the ring from his finger and
placed it on his own. At this moment, the sick man's gaze fell upon
Nizza, who stood at a little distance from him. He started, and made an
effort to clear his vision.
"Do my eyes deceive me?" he cried, "or is a female standing there?"
"You are not deceived," replied Leonard.
"Let her come near me, in Heaven's name!" cried the sick man, staring at
her as if his eyes would start from their sockets. "Who are you?" he
continued, as Nizza approached.
"I am called Nizza Macascree, and am the daughter of a poor piper," she
"Ah!" exclaimed the sick man, with a look of deep disappointment. "The
resemblance is wonderful! And yet it cannot be. My brain is bewildered."
"Whom does she resemble?" asked Leonard, eagerly.
"One very dear to me," replied the sick man, with an expression of
remorse and anguish, "one I would not think of now." And he buried his
face in the grass.
"Is there aught more I can do for you?" inquired Leonard, after a pause.
"No," replied the sick man; "I have done with the world. With that
child, the last tie that bound me to it was snapped. I now only wish to
"Do not give way thus," replied Leonard; "a short time ago my condition
was as apparently hopeless as your own, and you see I am now perfectly
"You had something to live for--something to love," groaned the sick
man. "All I lived for, all I loved, are gone."
"Be comforted, sir," said Nizza, in a commiserating tone. "Much
happiness may yet be in store for you."
"That voice!" exclaimed the sick man, with a look denoting the approach
of delirium. "It must be my Isabella. Oh! forgive me! sweet injured
saint; forgive me!"
"Your presence evidently distresses him," said Leonard. "Let us hasten
for assistance. Your name, sir?" he added, to the sick man.
"Why should you seek to know it?" replied the other. "No tombstone will
be placed over the plague-pit."
"Not a moment must be lost if you would save him," cried Nizza.
"You are right," replied Leonard. "Let us fly to the nearest
Accordingly, they set off at a quick pace towards Moorgate. Just as they
reached it, they heard the bell ring, and saw the dead-cart approaching.
Shrinking back while it passed, they ran on till they came to an
apothecary's shop, where Leonard, describing the state of the sick man,
by his entreaties induced the master of the establishment and one of his
assistants to accompany him. Leaving Nizza in the shop, he then retraced
his steps with his companions. The sick man was lying where he had left
him, but perfectly insensible. On searching his pockets, a purse of
money was found, but neither letter nor tablet to tell who he was.
Leonard offered the purse to the apothecary, but the latter declined it,
and desired his assistant, who had brought a barrow with him, to place
the sick man within it, and convey him to the pest-house.
"He will be better cared for there than if I were to take charge of
him," he observed. "As to the money, you can return it if he recovers.
If not, it of right belongs to you."
Seeing that remonstrance would be useless, Leonard did not attempt it,
and while the assistant wheeled away the sick man, he returned with the
apothecary to his dwelling. Thanking him for his kindness, he then
hastened with Nizza Macascree to Great Knightrider-street. He related to
the doctor all that had occurred, and showed him the ring. Hodges
listened to the recital with great attention, and at its close said,
"This is a very singular affair, and excites my curiosity greatly. I
will go to the pest-house and see the sick man to-morrow. And now we
will proceed to supper; and then you had better retire to rest, for you
will have to be astir before daybreak. All is in readiness for the
The last night (for such she considered it) spent by Amabel in her
father's dwelling, was passed in the kindliest interchanges of
affection. Mr. Bloundel had much ado to maintain his firmness, and ever
and anon, in spite of his efforts, his labouring bosom and faltering
tones proclaimed the struggle within. He sat beside his daughter, with
her thin fingers clasped in his, and spoke to her on every consolatory
topic that suggested itself. This discourse, however, insensibly took a
serious turn, and the grocer became fully convinced that his daughter
was not merely reconciled to the early death that to all appearance
awaited her, but wishful for it. He found, too, to his inexpressible
grief, that the sense of the Earl of Rochester's treachery, combined
with her own indiscretion, and the consequences that might have attended
it, had sunk deep in her heart, and produced the present sad result.
Mrs. Bloundel, it will scarcely be supposed, could support herself so
well as her husband, but when any paroxysm of grief approached she
rushed out of the room, and gave vent to her affliction alone. All the
rest of the family were present, and were equally distressed. But what
most strongly affected Amabel was a simple, natural remark of little
Christiana, who, fixing her tearful gaze on her, entreated her "to come
Weak as she was, Amabel took the child upon her knee, and said to her,
"I am going a long journey, Christiana, and, perhaps may never come
back. But if you attend to what your father says to you, if you never
omit, morning and evening, to implore the blessing of Heaven, we shall
"I understand what you mean, sister," said Christiana. "The place you
are going to is the grave."
"You have guessed rightly, Christiana," rejoined Amabel, solemnly. "Do
not forget my last words to you, and when you are grown into a woman,
think upon the poor sister who loved you tenderly."
"I shall always think of you," said Christiana, clasping her arms round
her sister's neck. "Oh! I wish I could go to the grave instead of you!"
Amabel pressed her to her bosom, and in a broken voice murmured a
blessing over her.
Mr. Bloundel here thought it necessary to interfere, and, taking the
weeping child in his arms, carried her into the adjoining apartment.
Soon after this, the household were summoned to prayers, and as the
grocer poured forth an address to Heaven for the preservation of his
daughter, all earnestly joined in the supplication. Their devotions
ended, Amabel took leave of her brothers, and the parting might have
been painfully prolonged but for the interposition of her father. The
last and severest trial was at hand. She had now to part from her
mother, from whom, except on the occasion of her flight with the Earl of
Rochester, she had never yet been separated. She had now to part with
her, in all probability, for ever. It was a heart-breaking reflection to
both. Knowing it would only renew their affliction, and perhaps unfit
Amabel for the journey, Mr. Bloundel had prevailed upon his wife not to
see her in the morning. The moment had, therefore, arrived when they
were to bid each other farewell. The anguish displayed in his wife's
countenance was too much for the grocer, and he covered his face with
his hands. He heard her approach Amabel--he listened to their mutual
sobs--to their last embrace. It was succeeded by a stifled cry, and
uncovering his face at the sound, he sprang to his feet just in time to
receive his swooning wife in his arms.
It struck four by Saint Paul's as Doctor Hodges, accompanied by Leonard
and Nizza Macascree, issued from his dwelling, and proceeded towards
Wood-street. The party was followed by a man leading a couple of horses,
equipped with pillions, and furnished with saddle-bags, partly filled
with the scanty luggage which the apprentice and the piper's daughter
took with them. A slight haze, indicative of the intense heat about to
follow, hung round the lower part of the cathedral, but its topmost
pinnacles glittered in the beams of the newly-risen sun. As Leonard
gazed at the central tower, he descried Solomon Eagle on its summit, and
pointed him out to Hodges. Motioning the apprentice, in a manner that
could not be misunderstood, to halt, the enthusiast vanished, and in
another moment appeared upon the roof, and descended to the battlements,
overlooking the spot where the little party stood. This was at the
northwest corner of the cathedral, at a short distance from the portico.
The enthusiast had a small sack in his hand, and calling to Nizza
Macascree to take it, flung it to the ground. The ringing sound which it
made on its fall proved that it contained gold or silver, while its size
showed that the amount must be considerable. Nizza looked at it in
astonishment, but did not offer to touch it.
"Take it!" thundered Solomon Eagle; "it is your dowry." And perceiving
she hesitated to comply with the injunction, he shouted to Leonard.
"Give it her. I have no use for gold. May it make you and her happy!"
"I know not where he can have obtained this money," observed Hodges;
"but I am sure in no unlawful manner, and I therefore counsel Nizza to
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