Old Saint Paul's
William Harrison Ainsworth
Part 7 out of 12
accept the boon. It may be of the greatest use to her at some future
His scruples being thus overcome, Leonard took the sack, and placed it
in one of the saddle-bags.
"You can examine it at your leisure," remarked Hodges to Nizza. "We have
no more time to lose."
Solomon Eagle, meanwhile, expressed his satisfaction at the apprentice's
compliance by his gestures, and, waving his staff round his head,
pointed towards the west of the city, as if inquiring whether that was
the route they meant to take. Leonard nodded an affirmative; and, the
enthusiast spreading out his arms and pronouncing an audible benediction
over them, they resumed their course. The streets were silent and
deserted, except by the watchmen stationed at the infected dwellings,
and a few sick persons stretched on the steps of some of the better
habitations. In order to avoid coming in contact with these miserable
creatures, the party, with the exception of Doctor Hodges, kept in the
middle of the road. Attracted by the piteous exclamations of the
sufferers, Doctor Hodges, ever and anon, humanely paused to speak to
them; and he promised one poor woman, who was suckling an infant, to
visit her on his return.
"I have no hopes of saving her," he observed to Leonard, "but I may
preserve her child. There is an establishment in Aldgate for infants
whose mothers have died of the plague, where more than a hundred little
creatures are suckled by she-goats, and it is wonderful how well they
thrive under their nurses. If I can induce this poor woman to part with
her child, I will send it thither."
Just then, their attention was arrested by the sudden opening of a
casement, and a middle-aged woman, wringing her hands, cried, with a
look of unutterable anguish and despair--"Pray for us, good people! pray
"We _do_ pray for you, my poor soul!" rejoined Hodges, "as well as for
all who are similarly afflicted. What sick have you within?"
"There were ten yesterday," replied the woman. "Two have died in the
night--my husband and my eldest son--and there are eight others whose
recovery is hopeless. Pray for us! As you hope to be spared yourselves,
pray for us!" And, with a lamentable cry, she closed the casement.
Familiarized as all who heard her were with spectacles of horror and
tales of woe, they could not listen to this sad recital, nor look upon
her distracted countenance, without the deepest commiseration. Other
sights had previously affected them, but not in the same degree. Around
the little conduit standing in front of the Old Change, at the western
extremity of Cheapside, were three lazars laving their sores in the
water; while, in the short space between this spot and Wood-street,
Leonard counted upwards of twenty doors marked with the fatal red cross,
and bearing upon them the sad inscription, "Lord have mercy upon us!"
A few minutes' walking brought them to the grocer's habitation, and on
reaching it, they found that Blaize had already descended. He was
capering about the street with joy at his restoration to freedom.
"Mistress Amabel will make her appearance in a few minutes," he said to
Leonard. "Our master is with her, and is getting all ready for her
departure. I have not come unprovided with medicine," he added to Doctor
Hodges. "I have got a bottle of plague-water in one pocket, and a phial
of vinegar in the other. Besides these, I have a small pot of Mayerne's
electuary in my bag, another of the grand antipestilential confection,
and a fourth of the infallible antidote which I bought of the celebrated
Greek physician, Doctor Constantine Rhodocanaceis, at his shop near the
Three-Kings Inn, in Southampton-buildings. I dare say you have heard of
"I _have_ heard of the quack," replied Hodges. "His end was a just
retribution for the tricks he practised on his dupes. In spite of his
infallible antidote, he was carried off by the scourge. But what else
have you got?"
"Only a few trifles," replied Blaize, with a chap-fallen look. "Patience
has made me a pomander-ball composed of angelica, rue, zedoary, camphor,
wax, and laudanum, which I have hung round my neck with a string. Then I
have got a good-sized box of rufuses, and have swallowed three of them
preparatory to the journey."
"A proper precaution," observed Hodges, with a smile.
"This is not all," replied Blaize. "By my mother's advice, I have eaten
twenty leaves of rue, two roasted figs, and two pickled walnuts for
breakfast, washing them down with an ale posset, with pimpernel seethed
"Indeed!" exclaimed Hodges. "You must be in a pretty condition for a
journey. But how could you bear to part with your mother and Patience?"
"The parting from Patience _was_ heart-breaking," replied Blaize, taking
out his handkerchief, and applying it to his eyes. "We sat up half the
night together, and I felt so much overcome that I began to waver in my
resolution of departing. I am glad I did not give way now," he added, in
a more sprightly tone. "Fresh air and bright sunshine are very different
things from the close rooms in that dark house."
"You must not forget that you were there free from the contagion,"
rejoined Hodges; "while you are here exposed to its assaults."
"True," replied Blaize; "that makes a vast difference. I almost wish I
was back again."
"It is too late to think of returning," said Hodges. "Mount your horse,
and I will assist Nizza into the pillion."
By the time that Blaize, who was but an indifferent horseman, had got
into the saddle, and Nizza had taken her place behind him, the window
opened, and Mr. Bloundel appeared at it.
Amabel had only retired to rest for a few hours during the night. When
left to herself in her chamber, she continued to pray till exhaustion
compelled her to seek some repose. Arising about two o'clock, she
employed herself for more than an hour in further devotion, and then
took a last survey of every object in the room. She had occupied it from
her childhood; and as she opened drawer after drawer, and cupboard after
cupboard, and examined their contents, each article recalled some
circumstance connected with the past, and brought back a train of
long-forgotten emotions. While she was thus engaged, Patience tapped at
the door, and was instantly admitted. The tenderhearted kitchenmaid
assisted her to dress, and to put together some few articles omitted to
be packed by her mother. During this employment she shed abundance of
tears, and Amabel's efforts to console her only made matters worse. Poor
Patience was forced at last to sit down, and indulge a hearty fit of
crying, after which she felt considerably relieved. As soon as she was
sufficiently recovered to be able to speak, she observed to Amabel,
"Pardon what I am about to say to you, my dear young mistress, but I
cannot help thinking that the real seat of your disease is in the
A slight blush overspread Amabel's pale features, but she made no
"I see I am right," continued Patience, "and indeed I have long
suspected it. Let me entreat you, therefore, dear young lady, not to
sacrifice yourself. Only say the word, and I will find means of making
your retreat known to the Earl of Rochester. Blaize is devoted to you,
and will do anything you bid him. I cannot wonder you fret after so
handsome, so captivating a man as the earl, especially when you are
worried to death to marry a common apprentice like Leonard Holt, who is
not fit to hold a candle to your noble admirer. Ah! we women can never
blind ourselves to the advantages of rank and appearance. We are too
good judges for that. I hope you will soon be restored to your lover,
and that the happiness you will enjoy will make amends for all the
misery you have endured."
"Patience," said Amabel, whose cheek, as the other spoke, had returned
to its original paleness--"Patience," she said, gravely, but kindly, "I
have suffered you to proceed too far without interruption, and must
correct the very serious error into which you have fallen. I am so far
from pining for an interview with the Earl of Rochester, that nothing in
the world should induce me to see him again. I have loved him deeply,"
she continued in a tremulous tone; "nay, I will not attempt to disguise
that I feel strongly towards him still, while I will also freely confess
that his conduct towards me has so preyed upon my spirits, that it has
impaired, perhaps destroyed, my health. In spite of this, I cannot
sufficiently rejoice that I have escaped the earl's snares--I cannot be
sufficiently thankful to the merciful Being who, while he has thought
fit to chastise me, has preserved me from utter ruin."
"Since you are of this mind," returned Patience, in a tone of
incredulity, "you are more to be rejoiced with than pitied. But we are
not overheard," she added, almost in a whisper, and glancing towards the
door. "You may entirely confide in me. The time is arrived when you can
escape to your lover."
"No more of this," rejoined Amabel, severely, "or I shall command you to
leave the room."
"This is nothing more than pique," thought Patience. "We women are all
hypocrites, even to ourselves. I will serve her whether she will or not.
She _shall_ see the earl. I hope there is no harm in wishing you may be
happy with Leonard Holt," she added aloud. "_He_ will make you a capital
"That subject is equally disagreeable--equally painful to me," said
"I had better hold my tongue altogether," rejoined Patience, somewhat
pertly. "Whatever I say seems to be wrong. It won't prevent me from
doing as I would be done by," she added to herself.
Amabel's preparations finished, she dismissed Patience, to whom she gave
some few slight remembrances, and was soon afterwards joined by her
father. They passed half an hour together, as on the former night, in
serious and devout conversation, after which Mr. Bloundel left her for a
few minutes to let down Blaize. On his return he tenderly embraced her,
and led her into the passage. They had not advanced many steps when Mrs.
Bloundel rushed forth to meet them. She was in her night-dress, and
seemed overwhelmed with affliction.
"How is this, Honora?" cried her husband, in a severe tone. "You
promised me you would see Amabel no more. You will only distress her."
"I could not let her go thus," cried Mrs. Bloundel. "I was listening at
my chamber door to hear her depart, and when I caught the sound of her
footsteps, I could no longer control myself." So saying, she rushed to
her daughter, and clasped her in her arms.
Affectionately returning her mother's embrace, Amabel gave her hand to
her father, who conducted her to the little room overlooking the street.
Nothing more, except a deep and passionate look, was exchanged between
them. Both repressed their emotion, and though the heart of each was
bursting, neither shed a tear. At that moment, and for the first time,
they greatly resembled each other; and this was not surprising, for
intense emotion, whether of grief or joy, will bring out lines in the
features that lie hidden at other times. Without a word, Mr. Bloundel
busied himself in arranging the pulley; and calling to those below to
prepare for Amabel's descent, again embraced her, kissed her pale brow,
and, placing her carefully in the basket, lowered her slowly to the
ground. She was received in safety by Leonard, who carried her in his
arms, and placed her on the pillion. The pulley was then drawn up, and
her luggage lowered by Mr. Bloundel, and placed in the saddle-bags by
the apprentice. Every one saw the necessity of terminating this painful
scene. A kindly farewell was taken of Hodges. Amabel waved her hand to
her father, when at this moment Patience appeared at the window, and,
calling to Blaize, threw a little package tied in a handkerchief to him.
Doctor Hodges took up the parcel, and gave it to the porter, who,
untying the handkerchief, glanced at a note it enclosed, and, striking
his horse with his stick, dashed off towards Cheapside.
"Pursue him!" cried Amabel to Leonard; "he is flying to the Earl of
The intimation was sufficient for the apprentice. Urging his horse into
a quick pace, he came up with the fugitive, just as he had reached
Cheapside. Blaize's mad career had been checked by Nizza Macascree, who,
seizing the bridle, stopped the steed. Leonard, who was armed with a
heavy riding-whip, applied it unsparingly to Blaize's shoulders.
"Entreat him to hold his hand, dear, good Mistress Amabel," cried the
porter; "it was for your sake alone I made this rash attempt. Patience
told me you were dying to see the Earl of Rochester, and made me promise
I would ride to Whitehall to acquaint his lordship whither you were
going. Here is her letter which I was about to deliver." And as he
spoke, he handed her the note, which was tied with a piece of
packthread, and directed in strange and almost illegible characters.
"Do not hurt him more," said Amabel; "he was not aware of the mischief
he was about to commit. And learn from me, Blaize, that, so far from
desiring to see the Earl of Rochester, all my anxiety is to avoid him."
"If I had known that," returned the porter, "I would not have stirred a
step. But Patience assured me the contrary."
By this time, Doctor Hodges had come up, and an explanation ensued. It
was agreed, however, that it would be better not to alarm Mr. Bloundel,
but to attribute the porter's sudden flight to mismanagement of his
steed. Accordingly, they returned to the residence of the grocer, who
was anxiously looking out for them; and after a brief delay, during
which the saddlebags were again examined and secured, they departed. Mr.
Bloundel looked wistfully after his daughter, and she returned his gaze
as long as her blinding eyes would permit her. So unwonted was the sound
of horses' feet at this period, that many a melancholy face appeared at
the window to gaze at them as they rode by, and Nizza Macascree
shuddered as she witnessed the envious glances cast after them by these
poor captives. As to Blaize, when they got into Cheapside, he was so
terrified by the dismal evidences of the pestilence that met him at
every turn, that he could scarcely keep his seat, and it was not until
he had drenched himself and his companion with vinegar, and stuffed his
mouth with myrrh and zedoary, that he felt anything like composure.
On approaching Newgate Market, they found it entirely deserted. Most of
the stalls were removed, the shops closed, and the window-shutters
nailed up. It was never, in fact, used at all, except by a few
countrymen and higglers, who ventured thither on certain days of the
week to sell fresh eggs, butter, poultry, and such commodities. The
manner of sale was this. The article disposed of was placed on a flag on
one side of the market, near which stood a pump and a trough of water.
The vendor then retired, while the purchaser approached, took the
article, and put its price into the water, whence it was removed when
supposed to be sufficiently purified.
As the party passed Grey Friars, the tramp of their horses was mistaken
for the dead-cart, and a door was suddenly opened and a corpse brought
forth. Leonard would have avoided the spectacle had it been possible,
but they were now too close to Newgate, where they were detained for a
few minutes at the gate, while their bills of health were examined and
countersigned by the officer stationed there. During this pause Leonard
glanced at the grated windows of the prison, the debtors' side of which
fronted the street. But not a single face was to be seen. In fact, as
has already been stated, the prison was shut up.
The gate was now opened to them, and descending Snow Hill they entered a
region completely devastated by the pestilence. So saddening was the
sight, that Leonard involuntarily quickened his horse's pace, resolved
to get out of this forlorn district as speedily as possible. He was,
however, stopped by an unexpected and fearful impediment. When within a
short distance of Holborn Bridge, he observed on the further side of it
a large black vehicle, and, unable to make out what it was, though a
fearful suspicion crossed him, slackened his pace. A nearer approach
showed him that it was the pest-cart, filled with its charnel load. The
horse was in the shafts, and was standing quite still. Rising in his
stirrups to obtain a better view, Leonard perceived that the driver was
lying on the ground at a little distance from the cart, in an attitude
that proclaimed he had been suddenly seized by the pestilence, and had
probably just expired.
Not choosing to incur the risk of passing this contagious load, Leonard
retraced his course as far as Holborn Conduit, then turning into
Seacole-lane, and making the best of his way to Fleet Bridge, crossed
it, and entered the great thoroughfare with which it communicated. He
had not proceeded far when he encountered a small party of the watch, to
whom he showed his certificate, and recounted the fate of the driver of
the dead-cart. At Temple Bar he was again obliged to exhibit his
passports; and while there detained, he observed three other horsemen
riding towards them from the further end of Fleet-street.
Though much alarmed by the sight, Leonard did not communicate his
apprehensions to his companions, but as soon as the guard allowed him to
pass, called out to Blaize to follow him, and urging his horse to a
quick pace, dashed up Drury-lane. A few minutes' hard riding, during
which nothing occurred to give the apprentice further uneasiness,
brought them to a road skirting the open fields, in which a pest-house
had just been built by the chivalrous nobleman whose habitation in
Berkshire they were about to visit. With a courage and devotion that
redound more to his honour than the brilliant qualities that won him so
high a reputation in the court and in the field, Lord Craven not merely
provided the present receptacle for the sick, but remained in London
during the whole continuance of the dreadful visitation; "braving," says
Pennant, "the fury of the pestilence with the same coolness that he
fought the battles of his beloved mistress, Elizabeth, titular Queen of
Bohemia, or mounted the tremendous breach of Creutznach." The spot where
this asylum was built, and which is the present site of Golden-square,
retained nearly half a century afterwards, the name of the Pest-house
Fields. Leonard had already been made acquainted by Doctor Hodges with
the earl's generous devotion to the public welfare, and warmly
commenting upon it, he pointed out the structure to Amabel. But the
speed at which she was borne along did not allow her time to bestow more
than a hasty glance at it. On gaining Hyde-park Corner, the apprentice
cast a look backwards, and his apprehensions were revived by perceiving
the three horsemen again in view, and evidently using their utmost
exertions to come up with them.
While Leonard was hesitating whether he should make known their danger
to Amabel, he perceived Solomon Eagle dart from behind a wall on the
left of the road, and plant himself in the direct course of their
pursuers, and he involuntarily drew in the rein to see what would ensue.
In another moment, the horsemen, who were advancing at full gallop, and
whom Leonard now recognised as the Earl of Rochester, Pillichody, and
Sir Paul Parravicin, had approached within a few yards of the
enthusiast, and threatened to ride over him if he did not get of the
way. Seeing, however, that he did not offer to move, they opened on
either side of him, and were passing swiftly by, when, with infinite
dexterity, he caught hold of the bridle of Rochester's steed, and
checking him, seized the earl by the leg, and threw him to the ground.
Sir Paul Parravicin pulled up as soon as he could, and, drawing his
sword, rode back to assist his friend, and punish the aggressor; but the
enthusiast, nothing daunted, met him in full career, and suddenly
lifting up his arms, uttered a loud cry, which so startled the knight's
high-spirited horse, that it reared and flung him. All this was the work
of a few seconds. Pillichody had been borne forward by the impetuosity
of his steed to within a short distance of the apprentice, and seeing
the fate of his companions, and not liking Leonard's menacing gestures,
he chipped spurs into his horse, and rode up Park-lane.
Overjoyed at his unexpected deliverance, Leonard, whose attention had
been completely engrossed by what was passing, now ventured to look at
Amabel, and became greatly alarmed at her appearance. She was as pale as
death, except a small scarlet patch on either cheek, which contrasted
powerfully with the death-like hue of the rest of her countenance. Her
hands convulsively clasped the back of the pillion; her lips were
slightly apart, and her eyes fixed upon the prostrate form of the Earl
of Rochester. On finding they were pursued, and by whom, her first
impulse had been to fling herself from the pillion, and to seek safety
by flight; but controlling herself, she awaited the result with forced
composure, and was now sinking from the exhaustion of the effort.
"Thank Heaven! we are safe," cried the apprentice; "but I fear the shock
has been too much for you."
"It has," gasped Amabel, falling against his shoulder. "Let us fly--oh!
let us fly."
Inexpressibly shocked and alarmed, Leonard twined his left arm round her
waist so as to hold her on the steed, for she was utterly unable to
support herself, and glancing anxiously at Nizza Macascree, struck off
on the right into the road skirting the Park, and in the direction of
Tyburn, where there was a small inn, at which he hoped to procure
assistance. Before reaching this place, he was beyond description
relieved to find that Amabel had so far recovered as to be able to raise
"The deadly faintness is passed," she murmured; "I shall be better soon.
But I fear I am too weak to pursue the journey at present."
Leonard spurred on his steed, and in another instant reached Tyburn, and
drew up at the little inn. But no assistance could be obtained there.
The house was closed; there was a red cross on the door; and a watchman,
stationed in front of it, informed him that all the family had died of
the plague except the landlord--"and he will be buried beside them in
Paddington churchyard before to-morrow morning," added the man; "for his
nurse tells me it is impossible he can survive many hours."
As he spoke an upper window was opened, and a woman, thrusting forth her
head, cried, "Poor Master Sandys has just breathed his last. Come in,
Philip, and help me to prepare the body for the dead-cart."
"I will be with you in a minute," rejoined the watchman. "You may
possibly procure accommodation at the Wheatsheaf at Paddington," he
added to Leonard; "it is but a short distance up the road."
Thanking him for the information, Leonard took the course indicated. He
had not proceeded far, when he was alarmed by hearing a piteous cry of
"Stop! stop!" proceeding from Blaize; and, halting, found that the
porter had been so greatly terrified by the watchman's account of the
frightful mortality in the poor innkeeper's family, that he had applied
to his phial of plague-water, and in pulling it put had dropped his box
of rufuses, and the jar of anti-pestilential confection. He had just
ascertained his loss, and wished to go back, but this Nizza Macascree
would not permit. Enraged at the delay, Leonard peremptorily ordered the
porter to come on; and Blaize, casting a rueful glance at his treasures,
which he perceived at a little distance in the middle of the road, was
compelled to obey.
At Paddington, another disappointment awaited them. The Wheatsheaf was
occupied by two large families, who were flying from the infected city,
and no accommodation could be obtained. Leonard looked wistfully at
Nizza Macascree, as if to ascertain what to do, and she was equally
perplexed; but the difficulty was relieved by Amabel herself, who said
she felt much better, and able to proceed a little further. "Do not
return to London," she continued with great earnestness. "I would rather
die on the road than go home again. Some cottage will receive us. If
not, I can rest for a short time in the fields."
Thinking it best to comply, Leonard proceeded along the Harrow-road.
Soon after crossing Paddington Green, he overtook a little train of
fugitives driving a cart filled with children, and laden with luggage.
Further on, as he surveyed the beautiful meadows, stretching out on
either side of him, he perceived a line of small tents, resembling a
gipsy encampment, pitched at a certain distance from each other, and
evidently occupied by families who had fled from their homes from fear
of infection. This gave a singular character to the prospect. But there
were other and far more painful sights on the road, which could not fail
to attract attention. For the first half-mile, almost at every hundred
yards might be seen some sick man, who, unable to proceed further, had
fallen against the hedge-side, and exhibited his sores to move the pity
of the passers-by. But these supplications were wholly unheeded.
Self-preservation was the first object with all, and the travellers
holding handkerchiefs steeped in vinegar to their faces, and averting
their heads, passed by on the other side of the way.
The pestilence, it may be remarked, had visited with extraordinary
rigour the whole of the higher country at the west and north-west of the
metropolis. The charmingly-situated, and, at other seasons, healthful
villages of Hampstead and Highgate, suffered severely from the scourge;
and it even extended its ravages as far as Harrow-on-the-Hill, which it
half depopulated. This will account for the circumstance of a large
pest-house being erected in the neighbourhood of Westbourne Green, which
the party now approached. Two litters were seen crossing the fields in
the direction of the hospital, and this circumstance called Leonard's
attention to it. Shudderingly averting his gaze, he quickened his pace,
and soon reached a small farmhouse on the summit of the hill rising from
Kensal Green. Determined to seek a temporary asylum here for Amabel, he
opened a gate, and, riding into the yard, fortunately met with owner of
the house, a worthy farmer, named Wingfield, to whom he explained her
situation. The man at first hesitated, but, on receiving Leonard's
solemn assurance that she was free from the plague, consented to receive
the whole party.
Assisting Amabel to dismount, Wingfield conveyed her in his arms into
the house, and delivered her to his wife, bidding her take care of her.
The injunction was scarcely needed. The good dame, who was a middle-aged
woman, with pleasing features, which lost none of their interest from
being stamped with profound melancholy, gazed at her for a moment
fixedly, and then observed in an under-tone, but with much emotion, to
her husband, "Ah! Robert, how much this sweet creature resembles our
"Hush! hush! dame," rejoined her husband, hastily brushing away the
moisture that sprang to his eyes; "take her to your chamber, and see
that she wants nothing. There is another young woman outside, whom I
will send to you."
So saying, he returned to the yard. Meantime, the others had dismounted,
and Wingfield, bidding Nizza Macascree go in, led the way to the barn,
where the horses were tied up, and fodder placed before them. This done,
he conducted his guests to the house, and placing cold meat, bread, and
a jug of ale before them, desired them to fall to--an injunction which
Blaize, notwithstanding his previous repast of roasted figs and pickled
walnuts, very readily complied with. While they were thus employed, Dame
Wingfield made her appearance. She said that the poor creature (meaning
Amabel) was too ill to proceed on her journey that day, and begged her
husband to allow her to stop till the next morning, when she hoped she
would be able to undertake it.
"To-morrow morning, say you dame?" cried Wingfield; "she may stop till
the day after, and the day after that, if you desire it, or she wishes
it. Go tell her so."
And as his wife withdrew, well pleased at having obtained her request,
Wingfield addressed himself to Leonard, and inquired the cause of
Amabel's illness; and as the apprentice saw no necessity for secresy,
and felt exceedingly grateful for the kind treatment he had experienced,
he acquainted him with the chief particulars of her history. The farmer
appeared greatly moved by the recital.
"She resembles my poor Sarah very strongly," he said. "My daughter was
hurried into an early grave by a villain who won her affections and
betrayed her. She now lies in Willesden churchyard, but her seducer is
one of the chief favourites of our profligate monarch."
"Do you mean the Earl of Rochester?" cried Leonard.
"No, no," replied the farmer, whose good-natured countenance had assumed
a stern expression. "The villain I mean is worse, if possible, than the
earl. He is called Sir Paul Parravicin."
"Gracious Heaven!" exclaimed Leonard, in astonishment; "what a strange
coincidence is this!"
And he then proceeded to relate to Wingfield the persecution which Nizza
Macascree had endured from the profligate knight The farmer listened to
his recital with breathless interest, and when it was ended arose, and,
taking a hasty turn round the room, halted at the table and struck it
forcibly with his clenched hand.
"I hope that man will never cross my path," he said, all the blood
mounting to his face, and his eye kindling with fury. "As God shall
judge me, I will kill him if I meet him."
"Then I hope you never will meet him," observed Leonard. "He has injured
you enough already, without putting you out of the pale of Divine
"These rascals have done us all an injury," observed Blaize. "Patience
has never been like herself since Major Pillichody entered my master's
dwelling, and made love to her. I feel quite uneasy to think how the
little hussy will go on during my absence. She can't get out of the
house, that's one comfort."
"You have mentioned another wretch, who was constantly with Sir Paul,"
cried Wingfield. "Perdition seize them!"
"Ay, perdition seize them!" echoed Blaize, striking the table in his
turn--"especially Major Pillichody."
"Did you ever suspect Sir Paul to be of higher rank than he pretends?"
"No," rejoined Wingfield; "what motive have you for the question?"
Leonard then told him of the inquiries instituted by Doctor Hodges
relative to Nizza's retreat, and how they had been baffled. "It is
strange," he continued, "that Nizza herself never heard the real name of
her persecutor; neither can she tell where the house to which she was
conveyed, when in a fainting condition, and from which she was removed
when attacked with the plague, is situated."
"It is strange indeed," observed the farmer, musingly.
Soon after this, Nizza Macascree made her appearance, and informed them
that Amabel had fallen into a tranquil slumber, which, in all
probability, would completely renovate her.
"I hope it will," said Wingfield. "But I shall not part with her
He then entered into conversation with Nizza, and after a little time,
proposed to her and Leonard to walk across the fields with him to
Willesden, to visit his daughter's grave.
"My wife will take charge of Amabel," he said; "you may safely trust her
in her hands."
Leonard could raise no objection, except the possibility that the Earl
of Rochester and his companions might discover their retreat, and carry
off Amabel in his absence; but, after a little reflection, considering
this altogether unlikely, he assented, and they set out. A pleasant walk
across the fields brought them to the pretty little village of Willesden
and its old and beautiful church. They proceeded to the grave of poor
Sarah Wingfield, which lay at the east of the church, beneath one of the
tall elms, and Nizza, as she stood by the rounded sod covering the
remains of the unfortunate girl, could not restrain her tears.
"This might have been my own fate," she said. "What an escape I have
"I did not bring you here to read you a lesson," said Wingfield, in a
tone of deep emotion, "but because you, who know the temptation to which
the poor creature who lies there was exposed, will pity her. Not alone
did remorse for her conduct prey upon her spirits--not alone did she
suffer from self-reproach,--but the scoffs and jeers of her sex, who
never forgive an erring sister, broke her heart. She is now, however,
beyond the reach of human malice, and, I trust, at peace."
As he said this, he walked away to hide his emotion, and presently
afterwards rejoining them, they quitted the churchyard together.
As they recrossed the fields, Wingfield observed two men digging a hole
in the ground, and, guessing their object, paused for a few minutes to
watch them. Having thrown out the earth to the depth of a couple of
feet, one of them took a long hooked pole, and attaching it to the body
of a victim to the pestilence, who had wandered into the fields and died
there, dragged it towards the pit. As soon as the corpse was pushed into
its narrow receptacle, the clay was shovelled over it, and trodden down.
"This is a sad mode of burial for a Christian," observed Wingfield. "But
it would not do to leave an infected body to rot in the fields, and
spread the contagion."
"Such a grave is better than the plague-pit," rejoined Leonard,
recalling the frightful scenes he had witnessed there.
On reaching Wingfield's dwelling, they found from the good dame, that
Amabel had awakened from her slumber greatly refreshed; but she gave it
as her opinion that she had better remain undisturbed. Accordingly, no
one went into the room to her except Nizza Macascree. A substantial
dinner was provided for his guests by the hospitable farmer; and Blaize,
who had been for some time confined to salt provisions at his master's
house, did ample justice to the fresh meat and vegetables.
The meal over, Leonard, who felt exceedingly curious to learn what had
become of the mysterious stranger whose child he had carried to the
plague-pit, and who had appeared so strangely interested in Nizza
Macascree, determined to walk to the pest-house in Finsbury Fields and
inquire after him. On communicating his intention to his host, Wingfield
would have dissuaded him; but as Leonard affirmed he had no fear of
infection, he desisted from the attempt. Just as the apprentice was
starting, Blaize came up to him, and said,--"Leonard, I have a great
curiosity to see a pest-house, and should like to go with you, if you
will let me."
The apprentice stared at him in astonishment.
"You will never dare to enter it," he said.
"I will go wherever you go," replied the porter, with a confidence
mainly inspired by the hospitable farmer's strong ale.
"We shall see," replied Leonard. "I shall keep you to your word."
In less than an hour they reached Marylebone Fields (now the Regent's
Park), and, crossing them, entered a lane, running in pretty nearly the
same direction as the present New-road. It Drought them to Clerkenwell,
whence they proceeded to Finsbury Fields, and soon came in sight of the
pest-house. When Blaize found himself so near this dreaded asylum, all
his courage vanished.
"I would certainly enter the pest-house with you," he said to Leonard,
"but I have used up all my vinegar, and you know I lost my box of
rufuses and the pot of anti-pestilential confection this morning."
"That excuse shall not serve your turn," replied Leonard. "You can get
plenty of vinegar and plague medicine in the pest-house."
"But I have no money to pay for them," rejoined Blaize.
"I will lend you some," said Leonard, placing a few pieces in his hand.
"Now, come along."
Blaize would fain have run away, but, afraid of incurring the
apprentice's anger, he walked tremblingly after him. They entered the
garden-gate, and soon reached the principal door, which, as usual, stood
open. Scarcely able to support himself, the porter tottered into the
large room; but as he cast his eyes around, and beheld the miserable
occupants of the pallets, and heard their cries and groans, he was so
scared that he could not move another step, but stood like one
transfixed with terror. Paying little attention to him, Leonard walked
forward, and at the further extremity of the chamber found the young
chirurgeon whom he had formerly seen, and describing the stranger,
inquired where he was placed.
"The person you allude to has been removed," returned the chirurgeon.
"Doctor Hodges visited him this morning, and had him conveyed to his own
"Was he sensible at the time?" asked the apprentice.
"I think not," replied the chirurgeon; "but the doctor appeared to
recognise in him an old friend, though I did not hear him mention his
name; and it was on that account, I conclude, that he had him removed."
"Is he likely to recover?" asked Leonard, whose curiosity was aroused by
what he heard.
"That is impossible to say," replied the young man. "But he cannot be in
better hands than those of Doctor Hodges."
Leonard perfectly concurred with him, and, after a few minutes' further
conversation, turned to depart. Not seeing Blaize, he concluded he had
gone forth, and expected to find him in the garden, or, at all events,
in the field adjoining. But he was nowhere to be seen. While wondering
what had become of him, Leonard heard a loud cry, in the voice of the
porter, issuing from the barn, which, as has already been stated, had
been converted into a receptacle for the sick; and hurrying thither, he
found Blaize in the hands of two stout assistants, who had stripped him
of his clothes, and were tying him down to a pallet. On seeing Leonard,
Blaize implored him to deliver him from the hands of his persecutors;
and the apprentice assuring the assistants that the poor fellow was
perfectly free from infection, they liberated him.
It appeared, on inquiry, that Blaize had fallen against one of the
pallets in a state almost of insensibility, and the two assistants,
chancing to pass at the time, and taking him for a plague patient, had
conveyed him to the barn. On reaching it, he recovered, and besought
them to set him free, but they paid no attention to his cries, and
proceeded to strip him, and bind him to the bed, as before related.
Thus released, the porter lost no time in dressing himself; and Leonard,
to allay his terrors, had a strong dose of anti-pestilential elixir
administered to him. After which, having procured him a box of rufuses,
and a phial of plague-water, Blaize shook off his apprehension, and they
set out at a brisk pace for Kensal Green.
Blaize was destined to experience a second fright. It has been mentioned
that the infected were sometimes seized with a rabid desire of
communicating the disorder to such as had not been attacked by it; and
as the pair were making the best of their way along the Harrow-road, a
poor lazar who was lying against the hedge-side, and had vainly implored
their assistance, suddenly started up, and with furious cries and
gestures made towards the porter. Guessing his intention, Blaize took to
his heels, and, folding himself closely pressed, broke through the hedge
on the right, and speeded across the field. In spite of the alarming
nature of the occurrence, the apprentice could not help laughing at the
unwonted agility displayed by the fat little porter, who ran so swiftly
that it appeared probable he would distance his pursuer. To prevent
mischief, however, Leonard set off after him, and was fast gaining upon
the lazar, whose strength was evidently failing, when the poor wretch
uttered a loud cry, and fell to the ground. On coming up, Leonard found
him lying with his face in the grass, and convulsed by the agonies of
death, and perceiving that all was over, hurried after the porter, whom
he found seated on a gate, at the further end of the field, solacing
himself with a draught of plague-water.
"Oh, Leonard!" groaned the latter, "how little do we know what is for
our good! I was delighted to quit my master's house this morning, but I
now wish with, all my heart I was back again. I am afraid I shall die of
the plague after all. Pray what are the first symptoms?"
"Pooh! pooh! don't think about it, and you will take no harm," rejoined
Leonard. "Put by your phial, and let us make the best of our way to
Farmer Wingfield's dwelling."
Being now in sight of the farm, which, from its elevated situation,
could be distinguished at a distance of two miles in this direction,
they easily shaped their course towards it across the fields. When about
halfway up the hill, Leonard paused to look behind him. The view was
exquisite, and it was precisely the hour (just before sunset) at which
it could be seen to the greatest advantage. On the right, his gaze
wandered to the beautiful and well-wooded heights of Richmond and
Wimbledon, beyond which he could trace the long line of the Surrey
hills, while nearer he perceived Notting Hill, now covered with
habitations, but then a verdant knoll, crowned by a few trees, but
without so much as a cottage upon it. On the left stood Hampstead; at
that time a collection of pretty cottages, but wanting its present chief
ornament, the church. At the foot of the hill rich meadows, bordered
with fine hedges, interspersed with well-grown timber, spread out as far
as the eye could reach. Nothing destroyed the rural character of the
prospect; nor was there any indication of the neighbourhood of a great
city, except the lofty tower and massive body of Saint Paul's, which
appeared above the tops of the intervening trees in the distance.
As on former occasions, when contemplating the surrounding country from
the summit of the cathedral, Leonard could not help contrasting the
beauty of the scene before him with the horrible scourge by which it was
ravaged. Never had the country looked so beautiful--never, therefore,
was the contrast so forcible; and it appeared to him like a lovely mask
hiding the hideous and ghastly features of death. Tinged by the sombre
hue of his thoughts, the whole scene changed its complexion. The smiling
landscape seemed to darken, and the cool air of evening to become hot
and noisome, as if laden with the deadly exhalations of the pestilence.
Nor did the workings of his imagination stop here. He fancied even at
this distance--nearly seven miles--that he could discern Solomon Eagle
on the summit of Saint Paul's. At first the figure looked like a small
black speck; but it gradually dilated, until it became twice the size of
the cathedral, upon the central tower of which its feet rested, while
its arms were spread abroad over the city. In its right hand the
gigantic figure held a blazing torch, and in the left a phial, from the
mouth of which a stream of dark liquid descended. So vividly did this
phantasm present itself to Leonard, that, almost convinced of its
reality, he placed his hands before his eyes for a few moments, and, on
withdrawing them, was glad to find that the delusion was occasioned by a
black cloud over the cathedral, which his distempered fancy had
converted into the colossal figure of the enthusiast.
Blaize, who had taken the opportunity of his companion's abstraction to
sip a little more plague-water, now approached, and told him that
Wingfield was descending the hill to meet them. Rousing himself, Leonard
ran towards the farmer, who appeared delighted to see them back again,
and conducted them to his dwelling. Owing to the tender and truly
maternal attention of Dame Wingfield, Amabel was so much better that she
was able to join the party at supper, though she took no share in the
meal. Wingfield listened to the soft tones of her voice as she conversed
with his wife, and at last, unable to control his emotion, laid down his
knife and fork, and quitted the table.
"What is the matter with your husband?" inquired Amabel of her hostess.
"I hope he is not unwell."
"Oh! no," replied the good dame; "your voice reminds him of our
daughter, whose history I have related to you--that is all."
"Alas!" exclaimed Amabel, with a sympathizing look, "I will be silent,
if it pains him to hear me speak."
"On no account," rejoined Dame Wingfield. "The tears he has shed will
relieve him. He could not weep when poor Sarah died, and I feared his
heart would break. Talk to him as you have talked to me, and you will do
him a world of good."
Shortly afterwards, the farmer returned to the table, and the meal
proceeded to its close without further interruption. As soon as the
board was cleared, Wingfield took a chair by Amabel, who, in compliance
with his wife's request, spoke to him about his daughter, and in terms
calculated to afford him consolation. Leonard was enraptured by her
discourse, and put so little constraint upon his admiration, that Nizza
Macascree could not repress a pang of jealousy. As to Blaize, who had
eaten as much as he could cram, and emptied a large jug of the farmer's
stout ale, he took his chair to a corner, and speedily fell asleep; his
hoarse but tranquil breathing proving that the alarms he had undergone
during the day did not haunt his slumbers. Before separating for the
night, Amabel entreated that prayers might be said, and her request
being readily granted, she was about to retire with Nizza, when
Wingfield detained them.
"I have been thinking that I might offer you a safe asylum here," he
said. "If you like it, you shall remain with us till your health is
"I thank you most kindly for the offer," returned Amabel, gratefully;
"and if I do not accept it, it is neither because I should not esteem
myself safe here, nor because I am unwilling to be indebted to your
hospitality, but that I have been specially advised, as my last chance
of recovery, to try the air of Berkshire. I have little hope myself, but
I owe it to those who love me to make the experiment."
"If such is the case," returned the farmer, "I will not attempt to
persuade you further. But if at any future time you should need change
of air, my house shall be entirely at your service."
Dame Wingfield warmly seconded her husband's wish, and, with renewed
thanks, Amabel and her companion withdrew. As there was not sufficient
room for their accommodation within the house, Leonard and the porter
took up their quarters in the barn, and, throwing themselves upon a heap
of straw, slept soundly till three o'clock, when they arose and began to
prepare for their journey. Wingfield was likewise astir, and, after
assisting them to feed and dress their horses, took them into the house,
where a plentiful breakfast awaited them. At the close of the meal,
Amabel and Nizza, who had breakfasted in their own room, made their
appearance. All being in readiness for their departure, Dame Wingfield
took leave of her guests with tears in her eyes, and the honest farmer
was little less affected. Both gazed after them as long as they
continued in sight.
Having ascertained from Wingfield the route they ought to pursue,
Leonard proceeded about a quarter of a mile along the Harrow-road, and
then turned off on the left into a common, which brought them to Acton,
from whence they threaded a devious lane to Brentford. Here they
encountered several fugitives from the great city, and, as they
approached Hounslow, learned from other wayfarers that a band of
highwaymen, by whom the heath was infested, had become more than usually
daring since the outbreak of the pestilence, and claimed a heavy tax
from all travellers. This was bad news to Leonard, who became
apprehensive for the safety of the bag of gold given to Nizza by the
enthusiast, and he would have taken another road if it had been
practicable; but as there was no alternative except to proceed, he put
all the money he had about him into a leathern purse, trusting that the
highwaymen, if they attacked them, would be content with this booty.
When about halfway across the vast heath, which spread around them, in a
wild but not unpicturesque expanse, for many miles on either side,
Leonard perceived a band of horsemen, amounting perhaps to a dozen,
galloping towards them, and, not doubting they were the robbers in
question, communicated his suspicions to his companions. Neither Amabel
nor Nizza Macascree appeared much alarmed, but Blaize was so terrified
that he could scarcely keep his seat, and was with difficulty prevented
from turning his horse's head and riding off in the opposite direction.
By this time the highwaymen had come up. With loud oaths, two of their
number held pistols to the heads of Leonard and Blaize, and demanded
their money. The apprentice replied by drawing forth his purse, and
besought the fellow to whom he gave it not to maltreat his companion.
The man rejoined with a savage imprecation that he "would maltreat them
both if they did not instantly dismount and let him search the
saddle-bags;" and he was proceeding to drag Amabel from the saddle, when
Leonard struck him a violent blow with his heavy riding-whip, which
brought him to the ground. He was up again, however, in an instant, and
would have fired his pistol at the apprentice, if a masked individual,
who was evidently, from the richness of his attire, and the deference
paid him by the others, the captain of the band, had not interfered.
"You are rightly served, Dick Dosset," said this person, "for your
rudeness to a lady. I will have none of my band guilty of incivility,
and if this young man had not punished you, I would have done so myself.
Pass free, my pretty damsel," he added, bowing gallantly to Amabel; "you
shall not be further molested."
Meanwhile, Blaize exhibited the contents of his pockets to the other
highwayman, who having opened the box of rufuses and smelt at the phial
of plague-water, returned them to him with a look of disgust, and bade
him follow his companions. As Leonard was departing, the captain of the
band rode after him, and inquired whether he had heard at what hour the
king meant to leave Whitehall.
"The court is about to adjourn to Oxford," he added, "and the king and
some of his courtiers will cross the heath to-day, when I purpose to
levy the same tax from his majesty that I do from his subjects."
Leonard replied, that he was utterly ignorant of the king's movements;
and explaining whence he came, the captain left him. The intelligence he
had thus accidentally obtained was far from satisfactory to the
apprentice. For some distance, their road would be the same as that
about to be taken by the monarch and his attendants, amongst whom it was
not improbable Rochester might be numbered; and the possibility that the
earl might overtake them and discover Amabel filled him with uneasiness.
Concealing his alarm, however, he urged his steed to a quicker pace, and
proceeded briskly on his way, glad, at least, that he had not lost
Solomon Eagle's gift to Nizza. Amabel's weakly condition compelled them
to rest at frequent intervals, and it was not until evening was drawing
in that they descended the steep hill leading to the beautiful village
of Henley-upon-Thames, where they proposed to halt for the night.
Crossing the bridge, they found a considerable number of the inhabitants
assembled in the main street and in the market-place, in expectation of
the king's passing through the town on his way to Oxford, intimation of
his approach having been conveyed by avant-couriers. Leonard proceeded
to the principal inn, and was fortunate enough to procure accommodation.
Having conducted Amabel and Nizza to their room, he was repairing to the
stable with Blaize to see after their steeds, when a loud blowing of
horns was heard on the bridge, succeeded by the tramp of horses and the
rattling of wheels, and the next moment four valets in splendid livery
rode up, followed by a magnificent coach. The shouts of the assemblage
proclaimed that it was the king. The cavalcade stopped before the inn,
from the yard of which six fine horses were brought and attached to the
royal carriage, in place of others which were removed. Charles was
laughing heartily, and desired his attendants, who were neither numerous
nor well-armed, to take care they were not robbed again between this
place and Oxford; "Though," added the monarch, "it is now of little
consequence, since we have nothing to lose."
"Is it possible your majesty can have been robbed?" asked the landlord,
who stood cap in hand at the door of the carriage.
"I'faith, man, it _is_ possible," rejoined the king. "We were stopped on
Hounslow Heath by a band of highwaymen, who carried off two large
coffers filled with gold, and would have eased us of our swords and
snuff-boxes but for the interposition of their captain, who, as we live,
is one of the politest men breathing--is he not, Rochester?"
Leonard Holt, who was among the crowd of spectators, started at the
mention of this name, and he trembled as the earl leaned forward in
answer to the king's question. The eyes of the rivals met at this
moment, for both were within a few yards of each other, and Rochester,
whose cheek was flushed with anger, solicited the king's permission to
alight, but Charles, affirming it was getting late, would not permit
him, and as the horses were harnessed, and the drivers mounted, he
ordered them to proceed without delay.
Inexpressibly relieved by his rival's departure, Leonard returned to the
house, and acquainted Amabel with what had occurred. Quitting Henley
betimes on the following morning, they arrived in about three hours at
Wallingford, where they halted for some time, and, then pursuing their
journey, reached Wantage at four o'clock, where they tarried for an
hour. Up to this hour, Leonard had doubted the possibility of reaching
their destination that night; but Amabel assuring him she felt no
fatigue, he determined to push on. Accordingly, having refreshed their
steeds, they set forward, and soon began to mount the beautiful downs
lying on the west of this ancient town.
Crossing these heights, whence they obtained the most magnificent and
extensive views of the surrounding country, they reached in about
three-quarters of an hour the pretty little hamlet of Kingston Lisle.
Here they again paused at a small inn at the foot of a lofty hill,
denominated, from a curious relic kept there, the Blowing Stone. This
rocky fragment, which is still in existence, is perforated by a number
of holes, which emit, if blown into, a strange bellowing sound. Unaware
of this circumstance, Leonard entered the house with the others, and had
just seated, himself, when they were, astounded by a strange unearthly
roar. Rushing forth, Leonard found Blaize with his cheeks puffed out and
his mouth applied to the stone, into which he was blowing with all his
force, and producing the above-mentioned extraordinary noise.
Shortly after this, the party quitted the Blowing Stone, and having
toiled up the steep sides of the hill, they were amply repaid on
reaching its summit by one of the finest views they had ever beheld. In
fact, the hill on which they stood commanded the whole of the extensive
and beautiful vale of the White Horse, which was spread out before them
as far as the eye could reach, like a vast panorama, disclosing a
thousand fields covered with abundant, though as yet immature crops. It
was a goodly prospect, and seemed to promise plenty and prosperity to
the country. Almost beneath them stood the reverend church of Uffington
overtopping the ancient village clustering round it. Numerous other
towers and spires could be seen peeping out of groves of trees, which,
together with the scattered mansions and farmhouses surrounded by
granges and stacks of hay and beans, gave interest and diversity to the
prospect. The two most prominent objects in the view were the wooded
heights of Farringdon on the one hand, and those of Abingdon on the
Proceeding along the old Roman road, still distinctly marked out, and
running along the ridge of this beautiful chain of hills, they arrived
at an immense Roman encampment, vulgarly called Uffingham Castle,
occupying the crown of a hill. A shepherd, who was tending a flock of
sheep which were browsing on the delicious herbage to be found within
the vast circular space enclosed by the inner vallum of the camp,
explained its purpose, and they could not but regard it with interest.
He informed them that they were in the neighbourhood of the famous White
Horse, a figure cut out of the turf on the hillside by the Saxons, and
visible for many miles. Conducting them to a point whence they could
survey this curious work, their guide next directed them to Ashdown
Lodge, which lay, he told them, at about four miles' distance. They had
wandered a little out of their course, but he accompanied them for a
mile, until they came in sight of a thick grove of trees clothing a
beautiful valley, above which could be seen the lofty cupola of the
Cheered by the sight, and invigorated by the fresh breeze blowing in
this healthful region, they pressed forward, and soon drew near the
mansion, which they found was approached by four noble avenues. They had
not advanced far, when a stalwart personage, six feet two high, and
proportionately stoutly made, issued from the covert. He had a gun over
his shoulder and was attended by a couple of fine dogs. Telling them he
was called John Lutcombe, and was the Earl of Craven's gamekeeper, he
inquired their business, and, on being informed of it, changed his surly
manner to one of great cordiality, and informed them that Mrs.
Buscot--such was the name of Amabel's aunt--was at home, and would be
heartily glad to see them.
"I have often heard her speak of her brother, Mr. Bloundel," he said,
"and am well aware that he is an excellent man. Poor soul! she has been
very uneasy about him and his family during this awful dispensation,
though she had received a letter to say that he was about to close his
house, and hoped, under the blessing of Providence, to escape the
pestilence. His daughter will be welcome, and she cannot come to a
healthier spot than Ashdown, nor to a better nurse than Mrs. Buscot."
With this, he led the way to the court-yard, and, entering the dwelling,
presently returned with a middle-aged woman, who Amabel instantly knew,
from the likeness to her father, must be her aunt. Mrs. Buscot caught
her in her arms, and almost smothered her with kisses. As soon as the
first transports of surprise and joy had subsided, the good housekeeper
took her niece and Nizza Macascree into the house, and desired John
Lutcombe to attend to the others.
Erected by Inigo Jones, and still continuing in precisely the same state
as at the period of this history, Ashdown Lodge is a large square
edifice, built in the formal French taste of the seventeenth century,
with immense casements, giving it the appearance of being all glass, a
high roof lighted by dormer windows, terminated at each angle by a tall
and not very ornamental chimney, and surmounted by a lofty and
lantern-like belvedere, crowned in its turn by a glass cupola. The
belvedere opens upon a square gallery defended by a broad balustrade,
and overlooking the umbrageous masses and lovely hills around it. The
house, as has been stated, is approached by four noble avenues, the
timber constituting which, is, of course, much finer now than at the
period under consideration, and possesses a delightful old-fashioned
garden, and stately terrace. The rooms are lofty but small, and there is
a magnificent staircase, occupying nearly half the interior of the
building. Among other portraits decorating the walls, is one of
Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James the First, and Queen of Bohemia, for
whom the first Earl of Craven entertained so romantic an attachment, and
to whom he was supposed to be privately united. Nothing can be more
secluded than the situation of the mansion, lying as it does in the
midst of a gentle valley, surrounded by a thick wood, and without having
a single habitation in view. Its chief interest, however, must always be
derived from its connection with the memory of the chivalrous and
high-souled nobleman by whom it was erected, and who made it
occasionally his retreat after the death of his presumed royal consort,
which occurred about four years previous to the date of this history.
Amabel was delighted with her new abode, and she experienced the
kindness of a parent from her aunt, with whom, owing to circumstances,
she had not hitherto been personally acquainted, having only seen her
when too young to retain any recollection of the event. The widow of a
farmer, who had resided on Lord Craven's estate near Kingston Lisle,
Mrs. Buscot, after her husband's death, had been engaged as housekeeper
at Ashdown Lodge, and had filled the situation for many years to the
entire satisfaction of her employer. She was two or three years older
than her brother, Mr. Bloundel; but the perfect health she enjoyed, and
which she attributed to the salubrious air of the downs, combined with
her natural cheerfulness of disposition, made her look much the younger
of the two. Her features, besides their kindly and benevolent
expression, were extremely pleasing, and must, some years ago, have been
beautiful. Even now, what with her fresh complexion, her white teeth,
and plump figure, she made no slight pretensions to comeliness. She
possessed the same good sense and integrity of character as her brother,
together with his strong religious feeling, but entirely unaccompanied
Having no children, she was able to bestow her entire affections upon
Amabel, whose sad story, when she became acquainted with it, painfully
affected her; nor was she less concerned at her precarious state of
health. For the first day or two after their arrival, Amabel suffered
greatly from the effects of the journey; but after that time, she gained
strength so rapidly, that Mrs. Buscot, who at first had well-nigh
despaired of her recovery, began to indulge a hope. The gentle sufferer
would sit throughout the day with her aunt and Nizza Macascree in the
gallery near the belvedere, inhaling the pure breeze blowing from the
surrounding hills, and stirring the tree-tops beneath her.
"I never expected so much happiness," she observed, on one occasion, to
Mrs. Buscot, "and begin to experience the truth of Doctor Hodges'
assertion, that with returning health, the desire of life would return.
I now wish to live."
"I am heartily glad to hear you say so," replied Mrs. Buscot, "and hold
it a certain sign of your speedy restoration to health. Before you have
been a month with me, I expect to bring back the roses to those pale
"You are too sanguine, I fear, dear aunt," rejoined Amabel, "but the
change that has taken place in my feelings, may operate beneficially
upon my constitution."
"No doubt of it, my dear," replied Mrs. Buscot; "no doubt."
The good dame felt a strong inclination at this moment to introduce a
subject very near her heart, but, feeling doubtful as to its reception,
she checked herself. The devoted attachment of the apprentice to her
niece had entirely won her regard, and she fondly hoped she would be
able to wean Amabel from all thought of the Earl of Rochester, and
induce her to give her hand to her faithful lover. With this view, she
often spoke to her of Leonard--of his devotion and constancy, his good
looks and excellent qualities; and though Amabel assented to all she
said, Mrs. Buscot was sorry to perceive that the impression she desired
was not produced. It was not so with Nizza Macascree. Whenever Leonard's
name was mentioned, her eyes sparkled, her cheek glowed, and she
responded so warmly to all that was said in his praise, that Mrs. Buscot
soon found out the state of her heart. The discovery occasioned her some
little disquietude, for the worthy creature could not bear the idea of
making even her niece happy at the expense of another.
As to the object of all this tender interest, he felt far happier than
he had done for some time. He saw Amabel every day, and noted with
unspeakable delight the gradual improvement which appeared to be taking
place in her health. The greater part of his time, however, was not
passed in her society, but in threading the intricacies of the wood, or
in rambling over the neighbouring downs; and he not only derived
pleasure from these rambles, but his health and spirits, which had been
not a little shaken by the awful scenes he had recently witnessed, were
materially improved. Here, at last, he seemed to have got rid of the
grim spectre which, for two months, had constantly haunted him. No
greater contrast can be conceived than his present quiet life offered to
the fearful excitement he had recently undergone. For hot and narrow
thoroughfares reeking with pestilential effluvia, resounding with
frightful shrieks, or piteous cries, and bearing on every side marks of
the destructive progress of the scourge--for these terrible sights and
sounds--for the charnel horrors of the plague-pit--the scarcely less
revolting scenes at the pest-house--the dismal bell announcing the
dead-cart--the doleful cries of the buriers--for graves surfeited with
corruption, and streets filled with the dying and the dead--and, above
all, for the ever-haunting expectation that a like fate might be his
own,--he had exchanged green hills, fresh breezes, spreading views, the
song of the lark, and a thousand other delights, and assurances of
health and contentment. Often, as he gazed from the ridge of the downs
into the wide-spread vale beneath, he wondered whether the destroying
angel had smitten any of its peaceful habitations, and breathed a prayer
for their preservation!
But the satisfaction he derived from having quitted the infected city
was trifling compared with that of Blaize, whose sole anxiety was lest
he should be sent back to London. Seldom straying further than the gates
of the mansion, though often invited by John Lutcombe to accompany him
to some of the neighbouring villages; having little to do, and less to
think of, unless to calculate how much he could consume at the next
meal,--for he had banished all idea of the plague,--he conceived himself
at the summit of happiness, and waxed so sleek and round, that his face
shone like a full moon, while his doublet would scarcely meet around his
One day, about a fortnight after their arrival, and when things were in
this happy state, Amabel, who was seated as usual in the gallery at the
summit of the house, observed a troop of horsemen, very gallantly
equipped, appear at the further end of the northern avenue. An
inexpressible terror seized her, and she would have fled into the house,
but her limbs refused their office.
"Look there!" she cried to Nizza, who, at that moment, presented herself
at the glass door. "Look there!" she said, pointing to the cavalcade;
"what I dreaded has come to pass. The Earl of Rochester has found me
out, and is coming hither to carry me off. But I will die rather than
"You may be mistaken," replied Nizza, expressing a hopefulness, which
her looks belied; "it may be the Earl of Craven."
"You give me new life," rejoined Amabel; "but no--no--my aunt has told
me that the good earl will not quit the city during the continuance of
the plague. And see! some of the horsemen have distinguished us, and are
waving their hats. My heart tells me the Earl of Rochester is amongst
them. Give me your arm, Nizza, and I will try to gain some place of
"Ay, let us fly," replied the other, assisting her towards the door; "I
am in equal danger with yourself, for Sir Paul Parravicin is doubtless
with them. Oh! where--where is Leonard?"
"He must be below," cried Amabel "But he could not aid us at this
juncture; we must depend upon ourselves."
Descending a short staircase, they entered Amabel's chamber, and
fastening the door, awaited with breathless anxiety the arrival of the
horsemen. Though the room whither they had retreated was in the upper
part of the house, they could distinctly hear what was going on below,
and shortly afterwards the sound of footsteps on the stairs, blended
with merry voices and loud laughter--amid which, Amabel could
distinguish the tones of the Earl of Rochester--reached them.
While both were palpitating with fright, the handle of the door was
tried, and a voice announced that the apprentice was without.
"All is lost!" he cried, speaking through the keyhole; "the king is
here, and is accompanied by the Earl of Rochester and other
"The king!" exclaimed Amabel, joyfully; "then I am no longer
"As yet, no inquiries have been made after you," continued Leonard,
unconscious of the effect produced by his intelligence, "but it is
evident they know you are here. Be prepared, therefore."
"I _am_ prepared," rejoined Amabel. And as she spoke, she threw open the
door and admitted Leonard. "Do not stay with us," she added to him. "In
case of need, I will throw myself on his majesty's protection."
"It will avail you little," rejoined Leonard, distrustfully.
"I do not think so," said Amabel, confidently. "I have faith in his
acknowledged kindness of heart."
"Perhaps you are right," returned Leonard. "Mrs. Buscot is at present
with his majesty in the receiving-room. Will you not make fast your
"No," replied Amabel, firmly; "if the king will not defend me, I will
Leonard glanced at her with admiration, but he said nothing.
"Is Sir Paul Parravicin here?" asked Nizza Macascree, with great
"I have not seen him," replied Leonard; "and I have carefully examined
the countenances of all the king's attendants."
"Heaven be praised!" exclaimed Nizza.
At this juncture, Mrs. Buscot entered the room. Her looks bespoke great
agitation, and she trembled violently.
"You have no doubt heard from Leonard that the king and his courtiers
are below," she said. "His majesty inquired whether you were here, and I
did not dare to deceive him. He desires to see you, and has sent me for
you. What is to be done?" she added, with a look of distraction. "I
suppose you must obey."
"There is no alternative," replied Amabel; "I will obey his majesty's
commands as soon as I can collect myself. Take back that answer, dear
"Has Leonard told you that the Earl of Rochester is here?" pursued Mrs.
Amabel replied in the affirmative.
"God grant that good may come of it!" cried Mrs. Buscot, clasping her
hands together, as she quitted the room; "but I am sorely afraid."
A half-suppressed groan from the apprentice told that he shared in her
"Leave us, Leonard," said Amabel; "I would prepare myself for the
The apprentice obeyed, and closing the door after him, stationed himself
at the foot of the staircase. Left alone with Nizza, Amabel threw
herself on her knees, and besought the support of Heaven on this trying
occasion. She then arose, and giving her hand to Nizza, they went down
stairs together. Leonard followed them at a little distance, and with a
beating heart. Two gentlemen-ushers were posted, at the door of the
chamber occupied by the king. Not far from them stood Mrs. Buscot, who,
having made known her niece to the officials, they instantly admitted
her, but ordered Nizza to remain outside.
On entering the room, Amabel at once discovered the king. He was habited
in a magnificent riding-dress and was seated on a rich fauteuil, around
which were grouped a dozen gaily-attired courtiers. Amongst these were
the Earl of Rochester and Sir George Etherege. As Amabel advanced,
glances of insolent curiosity were directed towards her, and Rochester,
stepping forward, offered to lead her to the king. She, however,
declined the attention. Greatly mortified, the earl would have seized
her hand; but there was so much dignity in her deportment, so much
coldness in her looks, that in spite of his effrontery, he felt abashed.
Charles smiled at his favourite's rebuff, but, in common with the
others, he could not help being struck by Amabel's extraordinary beauty
and natural dignity, and he observed, in an under-tone, to Etherege, "Is
it possible this can be a grocer's daughter?"
"She passes for such, my liege," replied Etherege, with a smile. "But I
cannot swear to her parentage."
"Since I have seen her, I do not wonder at Rochester's extravagant
passion," rejoined the monarch. "But, odds fish! she seems to care
little for him."
Having approached within a short distance of the king, Amabel would have
prostrated herself before him, but he prevented her.
"Nay, do not kneel, sweetheart," he said, "I am fully satisfied of your
loyalty, and never exact homage from one of your sex, but, on the
contrary, am ever ready to pay it. I have heard much of your
attractions, and, what is seldom the case in such matters, find they
have not been overrated. The brightest of our court beauties cannot
compare with you."
"A moment ago, the fair Amabel might be said to lack bloom," observed
Etherege; "but your majesty's praises have called a glowing colour to
"Would you deign to grant me a moment's hearing, my liege?" said Amabel,
looking steadfastly at the king.
"Not a moment's hearing merely, sweetheart," returned Charles; "but an
hour's, if you list. I could dwell on the music of your tones for ever."
"I thank your majesty for your condescension," she replied; "but I will
not long trespass on your patience. What I have to say concerns the Earl
"Stand forward, my lord," said Charles to the earl, "and let us hear
what complaint is to be made against you."
Rochester advanced, and threw a passionate and half-reproachful glance
"It may be improper for me to trouble your majesty on so light a
matter," said Amabel; "but your kindness emboldens me to speak
unreservedly. You may be aware that this nobleman once entertained, or
feigned to entertain, an ardent attachment to me."
"I need scarcely assure you, my liege," interposed Rochester, "that it
was no feigned passion. And it is needless to add, that however ardently
I felt towards my fair accuser then, my passion has in nowise abated."
"I should wonder if it had," rejoined Charles, gallantly. "I will not
contradict you, my lord," said Amabel; "it _is_ possible you may have
loved me, though I find it difficult to reconcile your professions of
regard with your conduct--but this is not to the purpose. Whether you
loved me or not, I loved _you_--deeply and devotedly. There is no
sacrifice I would not have made for him," she continued, turning to the
king, "and influenced by these feelings, and deluded by false promises,
I forgot my duty, and was rash enough to quit my home with him."
"All this I have heard, sweetheart," replied Charles. "There is nothing
very remarkable in it. It is the ordinary course of such affairs. I am
happy to be the means of restoring your lover to you, and, in fact, came
hither for that very purpose."
"You mistake me, my liege," replied Amabel. "I do not desire to have him
restored to me. Fortunately for myself, I have succeeded in mastering my
love for him. The struggle has well-nigh cost me my life--but I _have_
"I have yet to learn, sweetheart," observed Charles, with an incredulous
look, "that woman's love, if deeply fixed, _can_ be subdued."
"If I had not been supported by religion, my liege, I could _not_ have
subdued it," rejoined Amabel "Night and day, I have passed in
supplicating the Great Power that implanted this fatal passion in my
breast, and, at length, my prayers have prevailed."
"Aha! we have a devotee here!" thought Charles. "Am I to understand,
fair saint, that you would reject the earl, if he were to offer you his
hand?" he asked.
"Unquestionably," replied Amabel, firmly.
"This is strange," muttered Charles. "The girl is evidently in earnest.
What says your lordship?" he added to Rochester.
"That she shall be mine, whether she loves me or not," replied the earl.
"My pride is piqued to the conquest."
"No wonder!--the resistless Rochester flouted by a grocer's daughter.
Ha! ha!" observed Charles, laughing, while the rest of the courtiers
joined in his merriment.
"Oh! sire," exclaimed Amabel, throwing herself at the king's feet, and
bursting into tears, "do not abandon me, I beseech you. I cannot requite
the earl's attachment--and shall die if he continues his pursuit.
Command him--oh! command him to desist."
"I fear you have not dealt fairly with me, sweetheart," said the king.
"There is a well-favoured youth without, whom the earl pointed out as
your father's apprentice. Have you transferred your affections to him?"
"Your majesty has solved the enigma," observed Rochester, bitterly.
"You wrong me, my lord," replied Amabel. "Leonard Holt is without. Let
him be brought into the royal presence and interrogated; and if he will
affirm that I have given him the slightest encouragement by look or
word, or even state that he himself indulges a hope of holding a place
in my regards, I will admit there is some foundation for the charge. I
pray your majesty to send for him."
"It is needless," replied Charles, coldly. "I do not doubt your
assertion. But you will do the earl an injustice as well as yourself, if
you do not allow him a fair hearing."
"If you will allow me five minutes alone with you, Amabel, or will take
a single turn with me on the terrace, I will engage to remove every
doubt," insinuated Rochester.
"You would fail to do so, my lord," replied Amabel. "The time is gone by
when those accents, once so winning in my ear, can move me."
"At least give me the opportunity," implored the earl.
"No," replied Amabel, decidedly, "I will never willingly meet you more;
for though I am firm in my purpose, I do not think it right to expose
myself to temptation. And now that I have put your majesty in full
possession of my sentiments," she added to the king; "now that I have
told you with what bitter tears I have striven to wash out my error,--I
implore you to extend your protecting hand towards me, and to save me
from further persecution on the part of the earl."
"I shall remain at this place to-night," returned Charles. "Take till
to-morrow to consider of it, and if you continue in the same mind, your
request shall be granted."
"At least, enjoin the earl to leave me unmolested till then," cried
"Hum!" exclaimed the king, exchanging a look with Rochester.
"For pity, sire, do not hesitate," cried Amabel, in a tone of such agony
that the good-natured monarch could not resist it.
"Well, well," he rejoined; "it shall be as you desire. Rochester, you
have heard our promise, and will act in conformity with it."
The earl bowed carelessly.
"Nay, nay, my lord," pursued Charles, authoritatively, "my commands
_shall_ be obeyed, and if you purpose otherwise, I will place you under
"Your majesty's wishes are sufficient restraint," rejoined Rochester; "I
am all obedience."
"It is well," replied Charles. "Are you satisfied, fair damsel?"
"Perfectly," replied Amabel. And making a profound and grateful
reverence to the king, she retired.
Nizza Macascree met her at the door, and it was fortunate she did so, or
Amabel, whose strength began to fail her, would otherwise have fallen.
While she was thus engaged, Charles caught sight of the piper's
daughter, and being greatly struck by her beauty, inquired her name.
"Odds fish!" he exclaimed, when informed of it by Rochester, "a piper's
daughter! She is far more beautiful than your mistress."
"If I procure her for your majesty, will you withdraw your interdiction
from me?" rejoined the earl.
"No--no--that is impossible, after the pledge I have given," replied
Charles. "But you must bring this lovely creature to me anon. I am
enchanted with her, and do not regret this long ride, since it has
brought her under my notice."
"Your majesty's wishes shall be obeyed," said Rochester. "I will not
wait till to-morrow for an interview with Amabel," he added to himself.
Supported by Nizza Macascree and her aunt, and followed by Leonard,
Amabel contrived to reach her own chamber, and as soon as she was
sufficiently recovered from the agitation she had experienced, detailed
to them all that had passed in her interview with the king. While the
party were consulting together as to the course to be pursued in this
emergency, the tap of a wand was heard at the door, and the summons
being answered by Mrs. Buscot, she found one of the ushers without, who
informed her it was the king's pleasure that no one should leave the
house till the following day, without his permission.
"To insure obedience to his orders," continued the usher, "his majesty
requires that the keys of the stables be delivered to the keeping of his
chief page, Mr. Chiffinch, who has orders, together with myself, to keep
watch during the night."
So saying, he bowed and retired, while Mrs. Buscot returned with this
new and alarming piece of intelligence to the others.
"Why should the mandate be respected?" cried Leonard, indignantly. "We
have committed no crime, and ought not to be detained prisoners. Trust
to me, and I will find some means of eluding their vigilance. If you
will remain here to-morrow," he added to Amabel, "you are lost."
"Do not expect any rational advice from me, my dear niece," observed
Mrs. Buscot, "for I am fairly bewildered."
"Shall I not forfeit the king's protection by disobeying his
injunctions?" replied Amabel. "I am safer here than if I were to seek a
new asylum, which would be speedily discovered."
"Heaven grant you may not have cause to repent your decision!" cried
"I must now, perforce, quit you, my dear niece," said Mrs. Buscot,
"though it breaks my heart to do so. His majesty's arrival has thrown
everything into confusion, and if I do not look after the supper, which
is commanded at an early hour, it will never be ready. As it is, there
will be nothing fit to set before him. What with my distress about you,
and my anxiety about the royal repast, I am well-nigh beside myself."
With this, she quitted the room, and Amabel signifying to Leonard that
she desired to be left alone with Nizza Macascree, he departed at the
As Mrs. Buscot had stated, the utmost confusion prevailed below. The
royal purveyor and cook, who formed part of the king's suite, were
busily employed in the kitchen, and though they had the whole household
at their command, they made rather slow progress at first, owing to the
want of materials. In a short time, however, this difficulty was
remedied. Ducks were slaughtered by the dozen; fowls by the score, and a
couple of fat geese shared the same fate. The store ponds were visited
for fish by John Lutcombe; and as the country abounded with game, a
large supply of pheasants, partridges, and rabbits was speedily procured
by the keeper and his assistants. Amongst others, Blaize lent a
helping-hand in this devastation of the poultry-yard, and he had just
returned to the kitchen, and commenced plucking one of the geese, when
he was aroused by a slap on the shoulder, and looking up, beheld
"What ho! my little Blaize, my physic-taking porter," cried the bully;
"how wags the world with you? And how is my pretty Patience? How is that
peerless kitchen-maiden? By the god of love! I am dying to behold her
"Patience is well enough, for aught I know," replied Blaize, in a surly
tone. "But it is useless for you to think of her. She is betrothed to
"I know it," replied Pillichody; "but do not suppose you are the sole
master of her affections. The little charmer has too good taste for
that. 'Blaize,' said she to me, 'will do very well for a husband, but he
cannot expect me to continue faithful to him.'"
"Cannot I?" exclaimed the porter reddening. "Fiends take her! but I do!
When did she say this?"
"When I last visited your master's house," replied Pillichody. "Sweet
soul! I shall never forget her tender looks, nor the kisses she allowed
me to snatch from her honeyed lips when your back was turned. The very
recollection of them is enchanting."
"Zounds and fury!" cried Blaize, transported with rage. "If I am only a
porter, while you pretend to be a major, I will let you see I am the
better man of the two." And taking the goose by the neck, he swung it
round his head like a flail, and began to batter Pillichody about the
face with it.
"S'death!" cried the bully, endeavouring to draw his sword, "if you do
not instantly desist, I will treat you like that accursed bird--cut your
throat, pluck, stuff, roast, and eat you afterwards." He was, however,
so confounded by the attack, that he could offer no resistance, and in
retreating, caught his foot against the leg of a table, and fell
backwards on the floor. Being now completely at the porter's mercy, and
seeing that the latter was preparing to pursue his advantage with a
rolling-pin which he had snatched from the dresser, he besought him
piteously to spare him.
"Recant all you have said," cried Blaize, brandishing the rolling-pin
over him. "Confess that you have calumniated Patience. Confess that she
rejected your advances, if you ever dared to make any to her. Confess
that she is a model of purity and constancy. Confess all this, villain,
or I will break every bone in your body."
"I do confess it," replied Pillichody, abjectly. "She is all you
describe. She never allowed me greater freedom than a squeeze of the
"That was too much," replied the porter, belabouring him with the
rolling-pin. "Swear that you will never attempt such a liberty again, or
I will pummel you to death. Swear it."
"I swear," replied Pillichody.
"Before I allow you to rise, I must disarm you to prevent mischief,"
cried Blaize. And kneeling down upon the prostrate bully, who groaned
aloud, he drew his long blade from his side. "There, now you may get
up," he added.
So elated was Blaize with his conquest, that he could do nothing for
some time but strut up and down the kitchen with the sword over his
shoulder, to the infinite diversion of the other domestics, and
especially of John Lutcombe, who chanced to make his appearance at the
time, laden with a fresh supply of game.
"Why, Blaize, man," cried the keeper, approvingly, "I did not give you
credit for half so much spirit."
"No man's courage is duly appreciated until it has been tried," rejoined
Blaize. "I would combat with you, gigantic John, if Patience's fidelity
were called in question."
Pillichody, meanwhile, had retired with a discomfited air into a corner,
where he seated himself on a stool, and eyed the porter askance, as if
meditating some terrible retaliation. Secretly apprehensive of this, and
thinking it becoming to act with generosity towards his foe, Blaize
marched up to him, and extended his hand in token of reconciliation. To
the surprise of all, Pillichody did not reject his overtures.
"I have a great regard for you, friend Blaize," he said, "otherwise I
should never rest till I had been repaid with terrible interest for the
indignities I have endured."
"Nay, heed them not," replied Blaize. "You must make allowances for the
jealous feelings you excited. I love Patience better than my life."
"Since you put it in that light," rejoined Pillichody, "I am willing to
overlook the offence. Snakes and scorpions! no man can be a greater
martyr to jealousy than myself. I killed three of my most intimate
friends for merely presuming to ogle the widow of Watling-street, who
would have been mine, if she had not died of the plague."
"Don't talk of the plague, I beseech you," replied Blaize, with a
shudder. "It is a subject never mentioned here."
"I am sorry I alluded to it, then," rejoined Pillichody. "Give me back
my sword. Nay, fear nothing. I entirely forgive you, and am willing to
drown the remembrance of our quarrel in a bottle of sack."
Readily assenting to the proposition, Blaize obtained the key of the
cellar from the butler, and adjourning thither with Pillichody, they
seated themselves on a cask with a bottle of sack and a couple of large
glasses on a stool between them.
"I suppose you know why I am come hither?" observed the major, smacking
his lips after his second bumper.
"Not precisely," replied Blaize. "But I presume your visit has some
reference to Mistress Amabel."
"A shrewd guess," rejoined Pillichody. "And this reminds me that we have
omitted to drink her health."
"Her better health," returned Blaize, emptying his glass. "Heaven be
praised! she has plucked up a little since we came here."
"She would soon be herself again if she were united to the Earl of
Rochester," said Pillichody.
"There you are wrong," replied Blaize. "She declares she has no longer
any regard for him."
"Mere caprice, believe me," rejoined Pillichody. "She loves him better
"It may be so," returned Blaize; "for Patience, who ought to know
something of the matter, assured me she was dying for the earl; and if
she had not told me the contrary herself, I should not have believed
"Did she tell you so in the presence of Leonard?" asked Pillichody.
"Why, now I bethink me, he _was_ present," replied Blaize, involuntarily
putting his hand to his shoulder, as he recalled the horsewhipping he
had received on that occasion.
"I knew it!" cried Pillichody. "She is afraid to confess her attachment
to the earl. Is Leonard as much devoted to her as ever?"
"I fancy so," replied Blaize, "but she certainly gives _him_ no
"Confirmation!" exclaimed Pillichody. "But fill your glass. We will
drink to the earl's speedy union with Amabel."
"Not so loud," cried Blaize, looking uneasily round the cellar. "I
should not like Leonard to overhear us."
"Neither should I," returned Pillichody, "for I have something to say to
you respecting him."
"You need not propose any more plans for carrying off Amabel," cried
Blaize, "for I won't take any part in them."
"I have no such intention," rejoined Pillichody. "The truth is," he
added, mysteriously, "I am inclined to side with you and Leonard. But as
we have finished our bottle, suppose we take a turn in the court-yard."
"With all my heart," replied Blaize.
Immediately after Amabel's departure Charles proceeded with his
courtiers to the garden, and continued to saunter up and down the
terrace for some time, during which he engaged Rochester in
conversation, so as to give him no pretext for absenting himself. The
king next ascended to the belvedere, and having surveyed the prospect
from it, was about to descend when he caught a glimpse of Nizza
Macascree on the great staircase, and instantly flew towards her.
"I must have a word with you, sweetheart," he cried, taking her hand,
which she did not dare to withdraw.
Ready to sink with confusion, Nizza suffered herself to be led towards
the receiving-room. Motioning to the courtiers to remain without,
Charles entered it with his blushing companion, and after putting
several questions to her, which she answered with great timidity and
modesty, inquired into the state of her heart.
"Answer me frankly," he said. "Are your affections engaged?"
"Since your majesty deigns to interest yourself so much about me,"
replied Nizza, "I will use no disguise. They are."
"To whom?" demanded the king.
"To Leonard Holt," was the answer.
"What! the apprentice who brought Amabel hither!" cried the king. "Why,
the Earl of Rochester seemed to intimate that he was in love with
Amabel. Is it so?"
"I cannot deny it," replied Nizza, hanging down her head.
"If this is the case, it is incumbent on me to provide you with a new
lover," replied Charles. "What will you say, sweetheart, if I tell you,
you have made a royal conquest?"
"I should tremble to hear it," replied Nizza. "But your majesty is
jesting with me."
"On my soul, no!" rejoined the king, passionately. "I have never seen
beauty equal to yours, sweetheart--never have been so suddenly, so
completely captivated before."
"Oh! do not use this language towards me, my liege," replied Nizza,
dropping on her knee before him. "I am unworthy your notice. My heart is
entirely given to Leonard Holt."
"You will speedily forget him in the brilliant destiny which awaits you,
child," returned Charles, raising her. "Do not bestow another thought on
the senseless dolt who can prefer Amabel's sickly charms to your piquant
attractions. By Heaven! you shall be mine."
"Never!" exclaimed Nizza, extricating herself from his grasp, and
rushing towards the door.
"You fly in vain," cried the king, laughingly pursuing her.
As he spoke the door opened, and Sir Paul Parravicin entered the room.
The knight started on seeing how matters stood, and the king looked
surprised and angry. Taking advantage of their embarrassment, Nizza made
good her retreat, and hurrying to Amabel's chamber, closed and bolted
"What is the matter?" cried Amabel, startled by her agitated appearance.
"Sir Paul Parravicin is here," replied Nizza. "I have seen him. But that
is not all. I am unlucky enough to have attracted the king's fancy. He
has terrified me with his proposals."
"Our persecution is never to end," rejoined Amabel; "you are as
unfortunate as myself."
"And there is no possibility of escape," returned Nizza, bursting into
tears; we are snared like birds in the nets of the fowler."
"You can fly with Leonard if you choose," replied Amabel.
"And leave you--impossible!" rejoined Nizza.
"There is nothing for it, then, but resignation," returned Amabel. "Let
us put a firm trust in Heaven, and no ill can befall us."
After passing several hours of the greatest disquietude, they were about
to retire to rest, when Mrs. Buscot tapped at the door, and making
herself known, was instantly admitted.
"Alas!" she cried, clasping her niece round the neck, "I tremble to tell
you what I have heard. Despite the king's injunctions, the wicked Earl
of Rochester is determined to see you before morning, and to force you
to compliance with his wishes. You must fly as soon as it is dark."
"But how am I to fly, dear aunt?" rejoined Amabel. "You yourself know
that the keys of the stable are taken away, and that two of the king's
attendants will remain on the watch all night. How will it be possible
to elude their vigilance?"
"Leave Leonard to manage it," replied Mrs. Buscot. "Only prepare to set
out. John Lutcombe will guide you across the downs to Kingston Lisle,
where good Mrs. Compton will take care of you, and when the danger is
over you can return to me."
"It is a hazardous expedient," rejoined Amabel, "and I would rather run
all risks, and remain here. If the earl should resort to violence, I can
appeal to the king for protection."
"If you have any regard for me, fly," cried Nizza Macascree. "I am lost
if I remain here till to-morrow."
"For _your_ sake I will go, then," returned Amabel. "But I have a
foreboding that I am running into the teeth of danger."
"Oh! say not so," rejoined Mrs. Buscot. "I am persuaded it is for the
best. I must leave you now, but I will send Leonard to you."
"It is needless," replied Amabel. "Let him come to us at the proper
time. We will be ready."
To explain the cause of Mrs. Buscot's alarm, it will be necessary to
return to the receiving-room, and ascertain what occurred after Nizza's
flight. Charles, who at first had been greatly annoyed by Parravicin's
abrupt entrance, speedily recovered his temper, and laughed at the
other's forced apologies.
"I find I have a rival in your majesty," observed the knight. "It is
unlucky for me that you have encountered Nizza. Her charms were certain
to inflame you. But when I tell you I am desperately enamoured of her, I
am persuaded you will not interfere with me."
"I will tell you what I will do," replied the good-humoured monarch,
after a moment's reflection. "I remember your mentioning that you once
played with a Captain Disbrowe for his wife, and won her from him. We
will play for this girl in the same manner."
"But your majesty is a far more skilful player than Disbrowe," replied
"It matters not," rejoined the monarch; "the chances will be more
equal--or rather the advantage will be greatly on your side, for you are
allowed to be the luckiest and best player at my court. If I win, she is
mine. If, on the contrary, fortune favours you, I resign her."
"Since there is no avoiding it, I accept the challenge," replied
"The decision shall not be delayed an instant," cried Charles, "What,
An attendant answering the summons, he desired that the other courtiers
should be admitted, and dice brought. The latter order could not be so
easily obeyed, there being no such articles at Ashdown; and the
attendants were driven to their wits' ends, when Pillichody chancing to
overhear what was going forward, produced a box and dice, which were
instantly conveyed to the king, and the play commenced. Charles, to his
inexpressible delight and Parravicin's chagrin, came off the winner, and
the mortification of the latter was increased by the laughter and taunts
of the spectators.
"You are not in your usual luck to-day," observed Rochester to him, as
they walked aside.
"For all this, do not think I will surrender Nizza," replied Parravicin,
in a low tone, "I love her too well for that."
"I cannot blame you," replied Rochester. "Step this way," he added,
drawing him to the further end of the room. "It is my intention to carry
off Amabel to-night, notwithstanding old Rowley's injunctions to the
contrary, and I propose to accomplish my purpose in the following
manner. I will frighten her into flying with Leonard Holt, and will then
secretly follow her. Nizza Macascree is sure to accompany her, and will,
therefore, be in your power."
"I see!" cried Parravicin. "A capital project!"
"Pillichody has contrived to ingratiate himself with Blaize," pursued
the earl, "and through him the matter can be easily managed. The keys of
the stables, which are now intrusted to Chiffinch, shall be stolen--the
horses set free--and the two damsels caught in the trap prepared for
them, while the only person blamed in the matter will be Leonard."
"Bravo!" exclaimed Parravicin. "I am impatient for the scheme to be put
"I will set about it at once," returned Rochester.
And separating from Parravicin, he formed some excuse for quitting the
About an hour afterwards, Pillichody sought out Blaize, and told him,
with a very mysterious air, that he had something to confide to him.
"You know my regard for the Earl of Rochester and Sir Paul Parravicin,"
he said, "and that I would do anything an honourable man ought to do to
assist them. But there are certain bounds which even friendship cannot
induce me to pass. They meditate the worst designs against Amabel and
Nizza Macascree, and intend to accomplish their base purpose before
daybreak. I therefore give you notice, that you may acquaint Leonard
Holt with the dangerous situation of the poor girls, and contrive their
escape in the early part of the night. I will steal the keys of the
stable for you from Chiffinch, and will render you every assistance in
my power. But if you are discovered, you must not betray me."
"Not for the world!" replied Blaize. "I am sure we are infinitely
obliged to you. It is a horrible design, and must be prevented. I wish
all this flying and escaping was over. I desire to be quiet, and am
quite sorry to leave this charming place."
"There is no alternative now," rejoined Pillichody.
"So it appears," groaned Blaize.
The substance of Pillichody's communication was immediately conveyed to
Leonard, who told Blaize to acquaint his informer that he should have
two pieces of gold, if he brought them the keys. To obtain them was not
very difficult, and the bully was aided in accomplishing the task by the
Earl of Rochester in the following manner. Chiffinch was an inordinate
drinker, and satisfied he could turn this failing to account, the earl
went into the ball where he was stationed, and after a little
conversation, called for a flask of wine. It was brought, and while they
were quaffing bumpers, Pillichody, who had entered unperceived,
contrived to open a table-drawer in which the keys were placed, and slip
them noiselessly into his doublet. He then stole away, and delivered his
prize to Blaize, receiving in return the promised reward, and chuckling
to himself at the success of his roguery. The keys were conveyed by the
porter to Leonard, and the latter handed them in his turn to John
Lutcombe, who engaged to have the horses at the lower end of the south
avenue an hour before midnight.
About half-past ten, and when it was supposed that the king and his
courtiers had retired to rest (for early hours were kept in those days),
Mrs. Buscot and Leonard repaired to Amabel's chamber. The good
housekeeper noticed with great uneasiness that her niece looked
excessively pale and agitated, and she would have persuaded her to
abandon all idea of flight, if she had not feared that her stay might be
attended with still worse consequences.
Before the party set out, Mrs. Buscot crept down stairs to see that all
was safe, and returned almost instantly, with the very satisfactory
intelligence that Chiffinch was snoring in a chair in the hall, and that
the usher had probably retired to rest, as he was nowhere to be seen.
Not a moment, therefore, was to be lost, and they descended the great
staircase as noiselessly as possible. So far all had gone well; but on
gaining the hall, Amabel's strength completely deserted her, and if
Leonard had not caught her in his arms, she must have fallen. He was
hurrying forward with his burden towards a passage on the right, when
Chiffinch, who had been disturbed by the noise, suddenly started to his
feet, and commanded him to stop. At this moment, a figure enveloped in a
cloak darted from behind a door, and extinguishing the lamp which
Chiffinch had taken from the table, seized him with a powerful grasp.
All was now buried in darkness, and while Leonard Holt was hesitating
what to do, he heard a voice, which he knew to be that of Pillichody,
whisper in his ear, "Come with me--I will secure your retreat. Quick!
Suffering himself to be drawn along, and closely followed by Nizza
Macascree and Mrs. Buscot, Leonard crossed the dining-chamber, not
without stumbling against some of the furniture by the way, and through
an open window into the court, where he found Blaize awaiting him.
Without waiting for thanks, Pillichody then disappeared, and Mrs.
Buscot, having pointed out the course he ought to pursue, bade him
Hurrying across the court, he reached the south avenue, but had not
proceeded far when it became evident, from the lights at the windows, as
well as from the shouts and other noises proceeding from the court, that
their flight was discovered. Encumbered as he was by his lovely burden,
Leonard ran on so swiftly, that Nizza Macascree and Blaize could
scarcely keep up with him. They found John Lutcombe at the end of the
avenue with the horses, and mounting them, set off along the downs,
accompanied by the keeper, who acted as their guide. Striking off on the
right, they came to a spot covered over with immense grey stones,
resembling those rocky fragments used by the Druids in the construction
of a cromlech, and, as it was quite dark, it required some caution in
passing through them. Guided by the keeper, who here took hold of the
bridle of his horse, Leonard threaded the pass with safety; but Blaize
was not equally fortunate. Alarmed by the sounds in the rear, and not
attending to the keeper's caution, he urged his horse on, and the animal
coming in contact with a stone, stumbled, and precipitated him and Nizza
Macascree to the ground. Luckily, neither of them fell against the
stone, or the consequences might have been fatal. John Lutcombe
instantly flew to their aid, but before he reached them, Nizza Macascree
had regained her feet. Blaize, however, who was considerably shaken and
bruised by the fall, was not quite so expeditious, and his dilatoriness
so provoked the keeper, that, seizing him in his arms, he lifted him
into the saddle. Just as Nizza Macascree was placed on the pillion
behind him, the tramp of horses was heard rapidly approaching. In
another moment their pursuers came up, and the foremost, whose tones
proclaimed him the Earl of Rochester, commanded them to stop.
Inexpressibly alarmed, Amabel could not repress a scream, and guided by
the sound, the earl dashed to her side, and seized the bridle of her
A short struggle took place between him and Leonard, in which the hitter
strove to break away; but the earl, drawing his sword, held it to his
"Deliver up your mistress instantly," he cried, in a menacing tone, "or
you are a dead man."
Leonard returned a peremptory refusal.
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