The Star-Chamber, Volume 2
W. Harrison Ainsworth
Part 4 out of 4
"But my claim is paramount to that of your Excellency," cried the old
"I cannot admit it," rejoined the other. "Let the damsel decide for
"Then I will accept neither," said Gillian. "Dick Taverner is already
master of my heart, and no one but he shall have my hand. I have been
brought here to play a part, on the clear understanding that nothing
serious was to come of it."
"And nothing serious shall come of it, fair maiden," said Prince
Charles. "I promise that on my princely faith."
"Then, indeed, I am easy," replied Gillian, inclining herself
reverentially towards the royal speaker.
At this juncture, Sir Giles Mompesson, who had been hitherto restrained
by the presence of the royal guest from any violent measures, was
advancing with menacing looks towards Lanyere, when the attention of
Charles being directed to his movements by Buckingham, the Prince
instantly arose, and in a tone of authority not to be disputed, said--
"Not a step further, Sir Giles. I will take care that all needful
explanations be given."
"But your Highness cannot be aware that this is a heinous offender and
traitor," rejoined Sir Giles, pointing to Lanyere. "I was about to take
means to prevent his escape."
"He has no intention of escaping," rejoined Charles; "and I forbid any
one to leave this apartment without my permission."
"Will your Highness suffer me to relieve this fair creature from the
embarrassing position in which she is placed," said De Gondomar. "The
youth she has mentioned, and to whom she declares her affections are
given, was confined in the Fleet Prison for an attack on me; but, on my
representation of the matter to the King, your father, his Majesty's
gracious consent was immediately accorded for his liberation."
"I am aware of it, Count," replied Prince Charles.
"But your Highness may not be aware that the poor fellow is without,"
pursued the Ambassador. "Will it please you to allow him to be brought
The Prince assented, on which De Gondomar signed to Luke Hatton, who
seemed waiting for the order, and, disappearing for a moment, returned
with the apprentice.
Though evidently prepared for the scene that awaited him, and not
overburthened with modesty, Dick Taverner could not help exhibiting
considerable confusion; but the sight of his mistress somewhat restored
him, and he pressed towards her. Sir Francis, however, stepped between
them, exclaiming--"Get hence, base varlet--she is my wife."
"No such thing!" cried Gillian--"the ceremony has only been half
performed. I am _not_ married. I am yours--and yours only, dear, sweet
"You never shall be his--you are mine--" exclaimed the old usurer--"I
implore his Highness the Prince to let the marriage go forward."
"Nay, I shall not allow any compulsion to be placed on the damsel's
inclinations," replied Charles, unable to repress a smile. "She must
choose for herself."
"In that case, your Highness, my choice is soon made," replied Gillian,
taking her lover's hand.
"And honest Dickon need not be under any alarm at such part of the
marriage as has already taken place," observed De Gondomar. "It has been
a mock ceremonial throughout. This is no priest, but one of my Lord of
Buckingham's grooms employed for the occasion."
"Then I have been a dupe all this time!" cried Sir Francis furiously.
"O, purblind dolt that I am!"
But he met with no commiseration from the assemblage, who only laughed
at his rage and absurd grimaces.
"Kneel and thank his Highness for his goodness," said De Gondomar to the
young couple; "and then, if he will give you leave to do so, depart at
once. Stay not a moment longer than you can help it in this house, or in
"Most assuredly I will not, your Excellency," returned Dick. "It is much
too near the Fleet to be agreeable to me. I have to offer my heartfelt
thanks to your Excellency for your kindly consideration of me, and I own
that I have scarcely deserved it at your hands."
"Render your thanks, as I have said, to his Highness, who is alone
entitled to them, good fellow," said the Ambassador. "Take Gillian home
to her grandsire--and wed her as soon as you can. She will need no
dowry," he added in a low tone--"for she is already provided with thirty
"Honestly come by, I hope, your Excellency?" inquired Dick.
"Ay, ay--thou suspicious blockhead. Do as I have bidden thee, and get
hence. More remains to be done to which thou art a hindrance."
On this, the young couple prostrated themselves before Prince Charles,
who graciously gave his hand to Gillian to kiss, and then motioning them
to rise, they were allowed to quit the room.
Luke Hatton saw them safe out of the house, and very well it was he
accompanied them, for they had many obstacles to encounter. Before
quitting them, the apothecary delivered up the silver casket to Dick,
bidding him take good care of it, as it contained his intended wife's
Meanwhile, Sir Giles Mompesson, who had with difficulty controlled his
impatience during the incidents previously described, advanced towards
Prince Charles, and with a profound reverence, said--"Will it please
your Highness to terminate this idle scene, which, though apparently
amusing to the company assembled, is by no means so entertaining to Sir
Francis and myself?"
"You shall have your wish, Sir," rejoined Charles in a stern tone and
with a freezing look, that seemed of ill augury to the extortioner--"It
is my intention to terminate the scene. Stand forth, Clement Lanyere and
let me hear what you have to declare in reference to this man."
Hereupon, the promoter, consigning Aveline to the care of a gentleman
who advanced towards her for the purpose, and respectfully took her
hand, stepped forward, and, removing his mask, confronted his enemy.
By this time a very different complexion had been imparted to the scene.
The interruption of the marriage ceremony, and the perplexities of the
old usurer, tricked out of his intended bride, and bereft even of her
substitute, had afforded abundant amusement to the company, who, so far
from feeling pity for the sufferer, seemed vastly to enjoy his
mortification and disappointment. But all laughter died away, and every
tongue became suddenly mute, as Prince Charles, assuming the severe look
and dignified deportment of a judge, commanded Clement Lanyere to stand
forward, and prefer the charges he had to make against Sir Giles
All eyes were fixed upon the extortioner and his accuser; and though
etiquette prevented the company from advancing too near the royal seat,
a dense semicircle was formed in front of it, in the midst of which
stood the two principal actors in the drama about to take place,
together with the discomfited Sir Francis Mitchell.
Sir Giles Mompesson was not without great misgivings. He saw that his
case was already prejudged by the Prince; and the glance of inquiry
with which he had consulted his patron, the Marquis of Buckingham, and
which was answered by a cold, menacing regard, convinced him that little
support was to be expected in that quarter. Nevertheless, though he felt
himself in considerable jeopardy, he allowed no look or gesture
indicative of uneasiness to escape him; and the courage that had borne
him through many a trial still remained unshaken. Not so Sir Francis
Mitchell. He also perceived the perilous position in which he and his
partner were placed, and his abject manner showed how thoroughly he was
daunted. Look wherever he would, he found no sympathy: every one derided
But far more than the two extortioners did their accuser command
attention. As he cast off his mask and displayed his appalling features,
a thrill of surprise and horror pervaded such of the assemblage as had
never seen them before. But the feeling was speedily lost in wonder.
Drawing himself up to his full height, so that his lofty figure towered
above those with whom he was confronted, he seemed to dart lightning
glances against them. Even Sir Giles could not bear his scathing looks,
and would have shielded himself from them if he could. Though fearful to
behold, Lanyere's countenance had a terrible purpose impressed upon it
which none could mistake. The effect produced by his appearance upon
the spectators was shared even by Prince Charles, and a few minutes
elapsed before the silence was broken. At length, the Prince again
"I sit here," he said, "as the representative of the Majesty of
England--clothed with the authority of my royal father, and prepared to
exercise it, as he would do were he present in person. But though this
seat is erected into a tribunal before which accusations against
wrong-doers can be brought, and sentence upon them pronounced; still,
whatever charges are now made, and against whomsoever they may be
preferred, those charges will have to be repeated to the Lords of the
Council of the Star-Chamber, before whom the accused will be taken; and
any judgment now given will have to be confirmed by that high and
honourable Court. Of late, the course of justice has been too often
baffled and turned aside by the craft and subtlety of certain powerful
and audacious offenders. Hence it has been the wish of the King's
Highness, in order that the laws may no longer be broken with impunity,
that certain preliminary inquiries and investigations should be made on
the spot itself, where it is alleged that the crimes and misdemeanours
have been committed; and, according to the evidence afforded, such
measures as may be deemed fitting taken against the wrong-doers. All
present have witnessed this mock ceremonial, and have laughed at its
conclusion, but mirth will be changed to indignation, when it is known
that the intended marriage was the result of a vile conspiracy on the
part of Sir Giles Mompesson and Sir Francis Mitchell, against a young,
virtuous, and unprotected maiden, whose beauty had inflamed the breast
of the elder, and it might have been expected from that circumstance,
the wiser of the two. Into the details of their infamous scheme, it will
not be necessary now to enter; and it may suffice to say, that the
devoted attachment of the damsel to another was wholly disregarded,
while the basest means were employed to induce her consent to a match so
abhorrent to her feelings, as must have been that with Sir Francis.
Failing in this, however, the two conspirators went yet further. They
forcibly carried off the maiden from her own dwelling, and detained her
against her will within this house, till by their arts they imagined
they had gained their point--and that a love-potion would accomplish all
for them, that their persuasions and fair promises were unable to
effect. But the damsel was guarded from all ill by an unseen friend--and
the weapons of the conspirators were turned against themselves. You have
witnessed how they have been duped, and, as no mischief has resulted
from this infamous endeavour, the mortification they have endured may be
taken as part punishment of the offence. Stand forward, fair Mistress
Aveline Calveley, and substantiate what I have just declared."
Thus adjured, the maiden approached within a few paces of the Prince,
and having made a lowly salutation, said,--
"All that your Highness has advanced concerning me is correct."
"Enough, fair mistress," rejoined Charles. "How say you, Sirs," he
continued, in a stern tone, to the two extortioners. "Do you confess
your guilt, and sue for pardon? If so, down on your knees before this
injured damsel, and implore her forgiveness!"
A prey to violent terror, the old usurer instantly adopted the
supplicatory posture recommended by the Prince; but Sir Giles refused
"Having committed no offence, I sue for no pardon," he said, with his
wonted audacity. "I repel the charge with indignation; and, in my turn,
accuse Clement Lanyere and Luke Hatton of a conspiracy against me. This
damsel is but their tool, as I will show, if your Highness will deign to
give ear to me."
"It were mere waste of time to listen to idle fabrications," replied
Charles. "The evidence against you is complete, and my opinion upon it
is formed. But what saith the maiden herself? Is she willing that any
grace be shown her persecutors?"
"The redress I have already obtained at the hands of your Highness is
amply sufficient," replied Aveline. "Great as has been the misery these
two persons have occasioned me, and grievously as they have sought to
injure me, I seek no further satisfaction; but would implore your
Highness to pardon them. Their own thoughts will be punishment enough."
"Amply sufficient--for nothing can be more bitter," cried the old
usurer, while a scornful smile curled Sir Giles's lips.
"Spoken as I expected you would speak, fair maiden," said Charles; "and,
were there nothing else against them, I might listen to your kindly
intercessions. But other and darker disclosures have to be made; and
when you have heard all, even your compassionate breast may be steeled
against them. Retire for a moment; but do not leave the room. Your
presence may yet be needed."
And bowing graciously to Aveline, she withdrew under the care of the
gentleman who had brought her forward, but still remained a spectatress
of the scene.
"And now to proceed with the investigation," pursued Charles. "What have
you to allege against the two persons before you?" he added, to Clement
"Were I to relate all their enormities, most gracious Prince," replied
the promoter, "the recital would be too painful for your hearing, and
that of this noble assemblage. But I will, in a word, declare that there
is no kind of outrage, oppression, and extortion of which they have not
been guilty. Their insatiable greediness has been fed by constant
plunder; and, alike cruel and rapacious, nothing but the ruin and
absolute destruction of their victims would content them. Merciless as
creditors, they have ground their unfortunate debtors to the dust. The
tears of the widow they have robbed of her husband and her means of
existence--the despair of the orphan, whose fair prospects they have
blighted--have failed to move them. Utterly unscrupulous as to the means
of obtaining possession of property, they have forged wills, deeds, and
other documents. Their ingenuity has been taxed to devise new means of
unjust gain; and, imposing upon the King's Majesty by false
representations, they have succeeded in obtaining his letters patent for
certain monopolies, which they have so shamefully abused, as to bring
his sovereign authority into discredit."
"Hold!" cried Sir Giles Mompesson. "To the first--vague and general
accusations brought against me and my co-patentee, by this branded
traitor, who, having been publicly punished for falsehood and libel,
cannot be received as a witness, I have deigned no answer, conceiving
such accusations cannot be for a moment entertained by you, most
gracious Prince. But to this specific charge, I give a flat denial; and
demand proof of it. I appeal to the most noble Marquis of Buckingham,
through whose interest Sir Francis Mitchell and myself obtained those
patents for the licences of inspection of inns and hostelries, as well
as for the manufacture of gold and silver lace, whether he has ever
heard aught to our disparagement in our conduct of them?"
"Do not appeal to me, Sir," replied Buckingham, coldly.
"Sir Giles has demanded proof of my charge, and I am prepared to produce
it," said Lanyere. "As to the vagueness of my accusations, your Highness
will judge of that when the full catalogue of the offences of these two
extortioners, with the damnatory proofs of them, shall be laid before
you. This memorial, signed by nearly the whole of the sufferers from
their exactions, perpetrated by means of the monopolies, will satisfy
your Highness of the truth of my statement--but I have also a witness to
"A witness!--here!" muttered Sir Giles, uneasily. "This must be a
"Before you bring forward any one," said Charles, addressing Lanyere,
"Sir Giles must be set right on one point in which he is in error. Your
credibility is not to be disputed, and I accept your testimony against
"Your Highness!" cried the extortioner.
"Peace, Sir! you shall be heard anon," said Charles. "Produce your
witness," he added to Lanyere.
At a sign from the promoter, Luke Hatton, who was standing near the
doorway, stepped behind the tapestry, and almost immediately reappearing
with Madame Bonaventure, led her towards the Prince, before whom she
"Arise, Madame," said Charles, graciously. "Your features are not
unfamiliar to me. Methinks you are the hostess of the French ordinary at
the tavern of the Three Cranes, in the Vintry."
"Tour Highness is in the right--I am Madame Bonaventure, at your
Highness's service," replied the hostess, enchanted at this recognition
on the part of the Prince. "My lord of Buckingham, I am well persuaded,
will condescend to speak to the merits and respectability of my
"In sooth will I, good hostess," replied the Marquis. "I can give your
Bordeaux my heartiest commendation. 'Tis the best in London."
"Nay, I can speak to it myself--and to the good order of the house too;
having visited the tavern incognito," remarked the Prince, smiling.
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Madame Bonaventure, rapturously. "Have I
been so greatly honoured? Mon Dieu!--and not to be aware of it!"
"I must remind you of the cause of your appearance here, Madame
Bonaventure," said Lanyere.
"You are required to depose before his Highness as to the exactions you
suffered from Sir Giles and his partner."
"His Highness shall hear all from me," rejoined the hostess. "I should
have been reduced to beggary had I submitted to their extortionate
usage. I bore it as long as I could, but when absolute ruin stared me in
the face, I had recourse to a noble friend who helped me in my extremity
and delivered me by a, stratagem."
"It was a fraudulent scheme," cried Sir Giles;--"a fraud upon his
Majesty, as well as upon those who enjoyed the privileges conferred by
his letters patent."
"That I can contradict, Sir," said Buckingham, "since I myself was
present on the occasion, and stated in the hearing of the large company
then assembled,--several of whom are now before us,--that his Majesty
relinquished all share of the ruinous fine of three thousand marks
imposed by you and your co-patentee upon this good woman."
"And I trust you added, my Lord, that the King's Highness would never
knowingly consent to have his exchequer enriched by such shameful
means," said Charles, with a look of indignation. "These monopolies were
not granted by his Majesty for the wrongful profit of their holders;
and, since they have been turned to such iniquitous use, I will take
upon me to declare that they shall all be suppressed. Do you attempt to
deny," he continued to Sir Giles, "that this outrageous fine was
"It were useless to deny it," replied the extortioner, with a malicious
look at Buckingham; "but the noble Marquis has not always disapproved so
strongly of my proceedings. Nay, I can show that he himself has been
secretly a party to like transactions."
"Ah, villain!" exclaimed Buckingham,--"do you venture to calumniate your
protector? I shall leave you to the fate you so richly merit. Your foul
and false assertions cannot affect me; but they are not likely to
improve your case with his Highness, who, though aware of its impotency,
will perceive the extent of your malice. If you dared, I doubt not you
would likewise assert that his Majesty himself was cognisant of your
frauds and oppressions, and approved them."
"I do assert, and will maintain it--ay, and prove it, too--that the
King's Highness was aware how these monopolies were managed, and derived
a considerable revenue from them," said Sir Giles.
"You hear him, Prince," remarked Buckingham, with a disdainful smile.
"I would not have believed in such matchless effrontery had I not
witnessed it," replied Charles. "You may retire, Madame," he added to
the hostess, who, with a profound reverence, withdrew. "Have you aught
further to declare, or any other witnesses to produce?" he continued to
"I have both, your Highness," replied the promoter.
"What more false accusations have you to bring against me?" demanded Sir
Giles, folding his arms upon his breast, and fixing his keen gaze upon
"His Highness shall hear," replied the promoter. "I have a multitude of
cases which I could adduce in support of my charges--all of which will
be mentioned in due season--but I shall now content myself with one, and
from it the nature of the rest may be inferred. But let me premise that,
in the greater part of these cases, and in all the more important of
them, where grievous and irreparable wrong has been committed, the
engine employed by these crafty and dangerous men has been the
"The Star-Chamber!" exclaimed Charles, bending his brows.
"Your Highness will now perceive the drift of this cunning knave's
argument," said Sir Giles. "Through me and my partner, all whose actions
will bear the strictest scrutiny, he would covertly attack that high and
honourable Court, whose dignity we have ever been most zealous to
maintain; and his motive for doing so is because he has incurred its
censure. When I have heard his precise charges, I will reply to
them--ay, one by one--if he will bring forward the multitude of cases he
affirms he can produce against me. But meanwhile I can fearlessly
declare my innocence of the wrong imputed to me. If I have been to blame
in those monopolies, I am not the only one in fault, as time will show.
Nay, there are greater culprits than I"--looking hard at Buckingham, who
regarded him disdainfully--"but I deny that I have done more than I can
fully justify. As regards other matters, and the way in which my wealth
has been acquired, I have acted only with caution, prudence, and
foresight. Is it my fault that there are so many persons who, from
various causes, will have money, no matter what they pay for it? If they
apply to me under such circumstances, and ruin ensues to them, am I to
blame? I lend monies as a usurer--all men know it. 'Tis my vocation, and
that of my partner; and my answer is his answer. We have done nothing
beyond the law; and the law, which has hitherto supported us, will
support us still. To affirm that we have employed the highest court of
the kingdom as an instrument of oppression and extortion is an assertion
too monstrous to obtain a moment's credit. The Star-Chamber is too
jealous of its honour not to resent the imputation; and such a charge
will not escape its censure."
"Nevertheless, at whatever risk, I repeat the accusation," rejoined
Lanyere; "and my words will not be forgotten by his Highness, and by all
others who hear them. I assert that Sir Giles Mompesson has subtly and
designedly perverted the practice of that high and honourable Court,
causing it to aid his schemes of rapacity and injustice, and using it as
a means of stifling the cries of his victims, and working out his
purposes of vengeance. Hitherto, he has succeeded in masking his designs
with so much skill that they have escaped detection; but when the
mischief he has done under the mask of justice, and the wrongs and
cruelties he has perpetrated in the name of the law shall be fully made
known, no punishment will be deemed commensurate to his crimes. It is
chiefly he and his partner who, by their evil doings, have brought the
Star-Chamber into disrepute, and made it a terror to all just men, who
have dreaded being caught within the toils woven around it by these
infamous wretches; and the Court will do well to purge itself of such
villanies, and make a terrible example of those who have so dishonoured
"The Star-Chamber will never desert its faithful servants, and such we
have been," said Sir Giles.
"Say rather the serpents it has nourished in its bosom," rejoined
Lanyere. "But to my case. Years ago, a gentleman possessed of noble
estates in Norfolk, was unfortunate enough to have some dealings with
these two usurers, who thus becoming acquainted with his circumstances,
marked him for their prey. He borrowed a large sum of money from them.
The loan was not obtained for himself, but for a younger brother"--here
the voice of the promoter was choked with emotion, and a few moments
elapsed before he could proceed--"I have said that the money was
borrowed, not for himself, but for a younger brother, whose recklessness
and extravagance had plunged him deeply in debt. Would that his too
generous relative had left him to his fate, and allowed him to rot in a
dungeon! But he rescued him from it, only to take his place in the end.
From this sad epoch may all the unfortunate gentleman's calamities be
dated. Certain title-deeds and other instruments had to be deposited
with Sir Giles and his partner, as security for repayment of the sum
borrowed. They were never returned. On the contrary, under one plea or
another, all the deeds relating to the property were obtained from its
unsuspecting owner; and then a mortgage deed covering the whole estates
was forged by them."
"'Tis false!" exclaimed Sir Giles.
"Have I your Highness's gracious promise of pardon to all except the
principals in these great offences?" pursued Lanyere.
"As it may materially serve the ends of justice that such promise should
be given, I do not hesitate to comply with your request," replied
"In that case I shall be able to confound the villains with a witness
whom they little expect to be produced against them," replied Lanyere.
"Let Lupo Vulp be called," he added.
The summons was responded to as before by Luke Hatton, and the next
moment the ill-favoured scrivener emerged from behind the tapestry, and
made his way through the assemblage, who recoiled with abhorrence from
him, towards the Prince.
"Who art thou?" demanded Charles.
"I am named Lupo Vulp, your Highness, and have for many years been a
money-scrivener in the employ of these two gentlemen," replied the
"Thou knowest all their transactions?" said Charles.
"No man better," answered Lupo; "unless it be Clement Lanyere."
"You remember a certain deed of mortgage from Sir Ferdinando Mounchensey
to your two employers?" said Lanyere.
"I remember it perfectly," returned the scrivener, "as I should do,
seeing I prepared it myself."
During all this time Lupo Vulp had kept his eyes upon the ground, and
had never dared to raise them towards Sir Giles, though he felt that the
gaze of the latter was fixed upon him.
"Was Sir Ferdinando's signature attached to that deed?" demanded
"Look at me, Lupo, ere thou answerest," cried Sir Giles. "Look at me
well--and take heed what thou say'st."
"Be not influenced by him," interposed Charles. "Look only at me, and
speak truly, as thou valuest thy safety. If thou hidest aught, or
falsifiest aught, the heaviest punishment awaits thee!"
"Hark ye, Lupo," said Sir Giles, in a low tone. "Be warned by me. Utter
a word to my detriment, and as surely as thou art suborned to injure me,
I will hang thee. I _can_ do so, as thou knowest!"
"Fear him not, Lupo," said Lanyere. "Thou hast his Highness's gracious
promise of pardon."
"If my life be but spared, most gracious Prince," said the scrivener,
falling on his knees, and clasping his hands together in supplication,
"I will reveal all I know touching the malpractices of these two
"Speak, then, without fear," said Charles.
"I repeat my question," said Lanyere, "and demand an explicit answer to
it. What was the nature of that deed?"
"It was a forgery," replied the scrivener. "Sir Ferdinando Mounchensey
had nothing whatever to do with it. His signature was imitated from
other deeds in the possession of my employers, and his seal was likewise
"What say you to this, Sir?" said Charles, to Sir Giles.
"I deny it, as I do all the rest," he replied. "'Tis a foul conspiracy
against me, as will appear in the end."
"This is only one amongst many such frauds committed by them, your
Highness," said the scrivener. "Since I have your gracious promise of
pardon, I will make a clean breast of it, and reveal all I know. Many
and many a fair estate has been wrongfully wrested from its owner in
this way--by forged deed or will. I will name all the parties to your
"Hereafter, I will listen to thee," rejoined Charles, motioning him to
rise; "but I shall now confine myself to the case immediately before me.
Proceed, Sir," he added, to Lanyere.
"I have come to the saddest and darkest part of all," said the promoter.
"Your Highness has seen that a deed was forged to obtain possession of
the Mounchensey estates--and the fraudulent design was only too
successful. It was in vain Sir Ferdinando denied all knowledge of the
instrument--in vain he refused payment of the large sum demanded--his
estates were seized by the extortioners--and he was deprived of the
power of redemption. He commenced a suit against them in the
Star-Chamber, but here again he was baffled by the cunning and knavery
of Sir Giles, and having unwittingly incurred the censure of the Court,
he was cast into the Fleet Prison, where he perished miserably."
"A lamentable history," exclaimed Charles. "It is grievous to think
that justice cannot be done him."
"Justice may he done his son," said Buckingham, "who has been oppressed
in like manner with his father. Restitution may be made him of the
estates of which he has been plundered."
"It is well," said Sir Giles, glancing at Lanyere. "You will not enjoy
"What means he?" inquired Charles.
"The estates were assigned to this treacherous knave, your Highness,"
said Sir Giles, pointing to Lanyere, "for a certain consideration, which
was never performed. But, while denying, as I do most energetically,
that any underhand means whatever were used by us to obtain possession
of those estates, and repeating my declaration that a most artful
conspiracy has been formed against us, I assert, as will appear on
investigation, that if I fail in sustaining my claim to the Mounchensey
estates, they cannot go to Sir Jocelyn."
"Wherefore not?" inquired Charles.
"Because Sir Ferdinando left them to his brother Osmond. I have
possession of his will."
"It may be a forgery," said Charles.
"Not so, your Highness," observed Lupo Vulp. "This statement is
"I have it with me now," cried Sir Giles, producing a document. "Will it
please your Highness to look at it?" he added, handing it to the
Prince. "You will see that the estates are wholly left to Osmond
Mounchensey. If, therefore, your Highness should seek to deprive me of
them, you must bestow them as they are herein bequeathed."
"Undoubtedly, if this instrument be valid," said Charles, looking at
"I do not dispute it, your Highness," said the promoter.
"But there is no proof that Osmond Mounchensey is living, your
Highness," observed Lupo Vulp. "He has not been heard of for many
years--not, indeed, since the time when his debts were paid by Sir
Ferdinando. Though Sir Giles has used every exertion for the purpose, he
has never been able to discover any traces of him--and it is reasonable,
therefore, to suppose that he is no more."
"That is false," cried Sir Giles. "It is true I have long sought for him
in vain--but within these few days I have obtained some tidings of him,
which, if followed up, will assuredly lead to his detection. Nay more,
Lanyere himself must know that he is alive, since, from the intelligence
I have received, he must have been recently in company with him."
"Is this assertion correct?" said Charles, to the promoter.
"It is, your Highness," replied Lanyere; "but I had good reasons for
concealing the circumstances."
"Undoubtedly," cried Sir Giles; "because you had ascertained from the
traitor Lupo that this will existed, and feared a claim might be
advanced to the estates--but they will never be yours, or Sir Jocelyn's.
If not mine, they are Osmond Mounchensey's."
"He says right," remarked Charles.
"Then learn to your confusion, villain, that Osmond Mounchensey stands
before you!" cried the promoter, addressing Sir Giles. "Behold him in
"You Osmond Mounchensey!" exclaimed Sir Giles; eyeing him with an
astonishment which was shared by Sir Francis and by the greater part of
the spectators. To judge from their manner, however, Prince Charles,
together with Buckingham and De Gondomar, did not seem unprepared for
"Ay," rejoined Osmond to Sir Giles. "Look on me if you can. Never should
my name have been revealed to you, except at a moment when there should
have been no chance of its repetition, on your part, but for my
brother's will, of the existence of which I have only been lately aware,
and which has obliged me to avow myself. But for this, I would have
remained for ever in obscurity, and have perished as I have lived--the
despised Clement Lanyere. The name of Mounchensey should not have been
shamed in me. But if I am the reproach of that ancient and honourable
house--untarnished by any other member of it--I am also its avenger, and
will wipe out effectually the stains you have cast upon it. By your
machinations, villain, was my brother destroyed--by your machinations
has his son been imprisoned, and his life endangered--by your
machinations I myself was censured by the terrible Star-Chamber, and its
severest punishments inflicted upon me. You knew not whom you tortured;
and had you been aware of my real name, even this wrong might not have
contented you. But no matter. From the hour when the tormentor, by your
order, did his work upon me, I devoted myself to vengeance--slow, sure
vengeance. I resolved not to interfere with your career of villany till
you were full-blown in crime; and though I have had some difficulty in
holding back my hand, I have been patient. The hour at length has
arrived, and I hold you firmly in my grasp. I have crushed in pieces the
whole of the fabric you have been at such pains to rear. Your estates
and all your possessions will be forfeited to the Crown; and, if you
escape with life, you will bear the indelible marks of disgrace which
you have inflicted upon me!"
Overpowered by what he heard, Sir Giles threw himself at the feet of
"Do not sue to me, Sir," replied the Prince, regarding him with stern
displeasure. "Enough for you to know that I have been in this
much-injured gentleman's secret. Let your nephew now be introduced,
Sir," he added, to Osmond Mounchensey.
"His nephew!" muttered Sir Giles, as he arose. "Nay, then, all is
"I have felt that for a long time," groaned Sir Francis.
On the intimation of the Prince's wishes, the tapestry was again raised
to admit Sir Jocelyn Mounchensey, who, stepping forward, made a profound
reverence to the Prince.
"I greet you well, Sir Jocelyn," said Charles, in the kindest and most
gracious tone, as the young knight advanced towards him. "As your
disgrace was public, so shall your restoration to the King's favour be
likewise public. Your return to Court will be a satisfaction to his
Majesty. Any imprudence of which you have been guilty will be entirely
overlooked. All graver faults imputed to you have been explained--so
that no unfavourable impressions against you remain upon my royal
father's mind--or on mine. Let me assure you that you have now no more
zealous friends than the Conde de Gondomar and the Marquis of
"For any wrong I may have done Sir Jocelyn I am heartily sorry," said
Buckingham, frankly. "And he may rely on my present oiler of
"And on mine, too," subjoined De Gondomar. "The services I have
rendered him must be set against any mischief I have subsequently done."
"You make me more than amends," said Sir Jocelyn, bowing to them, "and I
at once accept your proffered friendship."
"You are in the midst of friends and foes, Sir Jocelyn," said Prince
Charles, "and have before you a new-found relative; and not far distant
from you one, whom--unless I am greatly mistaken--has the strongest hold
upon your affections; but before you turn to her, or to any one, listen
to the sentence, which in the King's name I shall pronounce upon those
two offenders--a sentence which most assuredly will be ratified by his
Majesty in person, and by the Lords of the Council of the Star-Chamber,
before whom they will be brought. Hear me, then, ye wrong-doers. Ye
shall be despoiled of your unjustly-acquired possessions, which will be
escheated to the Crown. Where restitution is possible, it shall be
"Restitution by the Crown!--a likely thing!" muttered Sir Giles.
"Moreover, ye shall pay for your misdeeds in person," pursued Charles.
"Degraded from the knighthood ye have dishonoured, and with all the
ceremonies of debasement, when ye have become Giles Mompesson and
Francis Mitchell, knaves, ye shall undergo precisely the same
ignominious punishment, with all its dreadful details, which ye caused
to be inflicted upon him you supposed to be Clement Lanyere. This being
done to you, and no part of the torture being on any plea omitted, ye
shall be brought back to the Fleet Prison, and be there incarcerated for
the residue of your lives."
Mompesson heard this sentence apparently unmoved, though his flashing
eye betrayed, in some degree, his secret emotion. Not so his partner.
Flinging himself on his knees before the Prince, he cried in piteous
tones--"I confess my manifold offences, and own that my sentence is
lenient in comparison with them. But I beseech your Highness to spare me
the mutilation and branding. All else I will patiently endure."
"He merits no compassion," said Buckingham, "and yet I would intercede
"And your intercession shall avail to the extent which he himself hath
mentioned--but no further," rejoined Charles.
"I solicit nothing--and I confess nothing," said Mompesson, in a tone of
defiance. "If I am ever brought to trial I shall know how to defend
myself. But I well know that will never be. I can make such revelations
concerning those in high places--ay, in the highest places," he added,
with a vindictive look at Buckingham, "that they will not dare to molest
"The hound must be muzzled," said Buckingham, in a low tone, to the
"He must," replied Charles. "Let the prisoners be removed. They are
committed to the Fleet Prison."
"Prisoners!" exclaimed Mompesson.
"Ay, prisoners," repeated Osmond Mounchensey, "_my_ prisoners. I have a
Star-Chamber warrant for your arrest. Behold it. Under this warrant his
Highness has committed you, and you will be taken hence to the Fleet,
where you, Giles Mompesson, shall occupy the cell you destined for my
nephew! Now, your sword."
"Take it," rejoined Mompesson, plucking the rapier from its sheath,
"take it in your heart. You, at least, shall not live to enjoy your
But Osmond was too quick for him, and seizing his arm, ere he could deal
the meditated blow, with almost superhuman force, he wrested the sword
from him, and broke it beneath his feet.
At the same time, other personages appeared on the scene. These were the
Serjeant-at-arms and a party of halberdiers. Advancing slowly towards
the prisoners, the officer received the warrant from Osmond Mounchensey,
while the halberdiers closed round the two extortioners.
"Before the prisoner, Mompesson, is removed," said Charles, "see that he
delivers up to you his keys. Let an inventory be taken of all monies
within the house, and let the royal seal be placed upon all boxes and
caskets. All deeds and other documents must be carefully preserved to be
examined hereafter. And let strict search be made--for I have heard
there are many hidden depositories of treasure--especially within the
prisoner's secret cabinet."
"Take heed that the strictest examination be made," subjoined
Buckingham, "in accordance with his Highness's behests--for the knave
smiles, as if he thought his precautions were so well taken that the
searchers would be baffled."
"Fear nothing, my Lord Marquis," replied the Serjant-at-arms. "Now,
prisoner," he added, to Mompesson--"your keys!"
While the officer was thus employed, Luke Hatton stepped forward.
"Those keys will be of little use," he said, to the Prince. "Others have
been beforehand with your Highness."
"How, Sir--what others?" demanded Charles, bending his brows.
"The extortioner's lawless band of attendants--generally known as his
myrmidons, your Highness," replied Hatton. "Instinctively discerning, as
it would seem, that all was over with their master, they had determined
to quit his service, and without giving him any notice of their
intention. Not content with deserting him in the hour of danger, they
have robbed him as well--robbed him of the bulk of his treasure. They
have broken into his secret cabinet--and stripped it of all its
valuables that could be of use to them, and have not left one of his
hidden hoards unvisited."
"Hell's curses upon them!" exclaimed Mompesson, with irrepressible rage.
"May they all swing upon the gibbet!"
"The chief among them--a rascally Alsatian, known as Captain
Bludder--has been captured," pursued Luke Hatton. "And a large sum,
together with a rich casket of jewels, has been found upon him; and it
is to be hoped that the officers will succeed in finding the others.
Will your Highness interrogate Bludder?"
"Not now," replied Charles. "Let him be taken to the Fleet. But there
were other matters of more importance than the treasures--the deeds and
legal instruments. These, as being useless to the robbers, were probably
"They were so, your Highness," replied Luke Hatton.
"Would they had burned them!" ejaculated Mompesson. "Would all had been
And he gave utterance to such wild exclamations of rage, accompanied by
such frenzied gestures, that the halberdiers seized him, and dragged him
out of the room. The old usurer was removed at the same time.
"And now," said Charles, rising from his chair, "one thing only remains
to be done ere I depart, and it will he pleasanter to me than aught that
has preceded it. I must again address myself to you, Sir Jocelyn
Mounchensey, ay, and to you, also, fair Mistress Aveline. I pray you to
come near me," he continued, with a gracious smile, to the damsel.
And, as she blushingly complied,--for she half divined his purpose,--he
said--"As I have already told you, Sir Jocelyn, your restoration to the
King's favour is complete, and your re-appearance at Court would be a
gratification to his Majesty, but, after the events which have occurred,
a brief retirement will, I conceive, be most agreeable to you, and I
would counsel a visit to the hall of your ancestors."
"Nothing could be more in accordance with my own wishes, most gracious
Prince, if my newly-found relative will accept me as his guest."
"Not as his guest, my good nephew" said Osmond. "You are sole lord of
Mounchensey. I have made over the mansion and all the estates to you.
They are yours, as by right they should be."
Sir Jocelyn's emotion was too great to allow him to express his
gratitude in words.
"A noble gift!" exclaimed Charles. "But you must not go there alone, Sir
Jocelyn. You must take a bride with you. This fair lady has well
approved her love for you--as you have the depth of your devotion to
her. Take her from my hands. Take her to jour heart; and may years of
fondest wedded happiness attend you both! When you re-appear at Court,
you will be all the more welcome if Lady Mounchensey be with you."
So saying, he placed Aveline's hand in that of her lover; and, with a
look of ineffable delight, they knelt to express their gratitude.
The Prince and the courtly train passed out--and, lastly, Sir Jocelyn
and the object of his affections. Vainly did he seek for his relative
and benefactor. Osmond Mounchensey had disappeared. But, just as the
young Knight and his fair companion were quitting the house, Luke
Hatton, followed by two porters, bearing a stout chest, approached them,
"Sir Jocelyn, you have seen the last of your uncle. He has charged me to
bid you an eternal adieu. You will never hear of him again, unless you
hear of his death. May no thoughts of him mar your happiness--or that of
her you love. This is what he bade me say to you. This chest contains
the title-deeds of your estates--and amongst them is a deed of gift from
him to you. They will be conveyed by these porters whithersoever you may
direct them. And now, having discharged mine office, I must take my
"Stay, Sir," cried Sir Jocelyn; "I would fain send a message to my
"I cannot convey it," replied Luke Hatton. "You must rest content with
what I have told you. To you, and to all others, Osmond Mounchensey is
as the dead."
With this, he hastily retreated.
Three days after this, the loving pair were wedded; and the
ceremony--which was performed with strict privacy, in accordance with
the wishes of the bride--being concluded, they set out upon their
journey into Norfolk. Sir Jocelyn had noticed among the spectators of
the marriage rites, a tall personage wrapped in a sable cloak, whom he
suspected to be his uncle; but, as the individual was half hidden by a
pillar of the ancient fabric, and as he lost sight of him before he
could seek him out, he never could be quite sure of the fact.
Sir Jocelyn's arrival at the hall of his ancestors was the occasion of
great rejoicings; and, in spite of the temptations held out to him, many
years elapsed ere he and Lady Mounchensey revisited the scene of their
troubles in London.
As will have been foreseen, the judgment pronounced by Prince Charles
upon Mompesson and his partner, was confirmed by the King and the Lords
of the Council, when the two offenders were brought be them in the
Star-Chamber. They were both degraded from the honour of knighthood; and
Mitchell, besides being so heavily fined that all his ill-gotten wealth
was wrested from him, had to endure the in of riding through the
streets--in a posture the reverse of the ordinary mode of
equitation--name with his face towards the horse's tail, two quart pots
tied round his neck, to show that he was punished I for his exactions
upon ale-house keepers and hostel-keepers, and a placard upon his
breast, detailing the nature of his offences. In this way,--hooted and
pelted by the rabble, who pursued him as he was led along, and who would
have inflicted serious injuries upon him, and perhaps despatched him
outright, had it not been for the escort by whom he was protected,--he
was taken in turn to all such taverns and houses of entertainment as
had suffered most from his scandalous system of oppression.
In the course of his progress, he was brought to the Three Cranes in the
Vintry, before which an immense concourse was assembled to witness the
spectacle. Though the exhibition made by the culprit, seated as he was
on a great ragged beast purposely selected for the occasion, was
sufficiently ludicrous and grotesque to excite the merriment of most of
the beholders, who greeted his arrival with shouts of derisive laughter;
still his woe-begone countenance, and miserable plight--for he was
covered with mud from head to foot--moved the compassion of the
good-natured Madame Bonaventure, as she gazed at him from one of the
upper windows of her hostel, and the feeling was increased as the
wretched old man threw a beseeching glance at her. She could stand the
sight no longer, and rushed from the window.
In the same room with her there were four persons, who had been
partaking of a plentiful repast, as was proved by the numerous dishes
and flasks of wine garnishing the table at which they had been seated,
and they, too, as well as the hostess, on hearing the noise outside the
tavern, had rushed to the windows to see what could cause so much
disturbance. As they were all well acquainted with the old usurer and
his mal-practices, the spectacle had a special interest to them as well
as to the hostess, and they were variously affected by it.
The party, we must state, consisted of Master Richard Taverner, as the
quondam apprentice was now styled, and his pretty wife, Gillian, who now
looked prettier than usual in her wedding attire--for the ceremony
uniting them in indissoluble bonds had only just been performed; old
Greenford, the grandsire of the bride; and Master John Wolfe, of the
Bible and Crown in Paul's Churchyard, bookseller, erstwhile Dick's
indulgent master, and now his partner, Master Taverner having very
prudently invested the contents of the silver coffer in the purchase of
a share in his employers business, with the laudable determination of
bestirring himself zealously in it ever after; and, as another
opportunity may not occur for mentioning the circumstance, we will add
that he kept to his resolution, and ultimately rose to high offices in
the city. Dick's appearance had already considerably improved. His
apparel was spruce and neat, but not showy, and well became him; while
his deportment, even under the blissful circumstances in which he was
placed, had a sobriety and decorum about it really surprising, and which
argued well for his future good conduct. He began as he meant to go on;
and it was plain that John Wolfe's advice had produced a salutary effect
upon him. Old Greenford looked the picture of happiness.
With Master Richard's predilections for the Three Cranes we are well
acquainted, and it will not, therefore, appear unnatural that he should
choose this, his favourite tavern, for his wedding-dinner. Madame
Bonaventure was delighted with the bride, and brought the blushes to her
fair cheeks by the warmth of her praises of her beauty; while she could
not sufficiently congratulate the bridegroom on his good luck in
obtaining such a treasure. The best in the house was set before
them--both viands and wine--and ample justice was done by all to the
good cheer. Cyprien, as usual, brought in the dishes, and filled the
flagons with the rare Bordeaux he had been directed by his mistress to
introduce; but Madame Bonaventure personally superintended the repast,
carving the meats, selecting the most delicate bits for Gillian's
especial consumption, and seasoning them yet more agreeably with her
The dinner had come to a close, and they were just drinking the health
of the bonny and blushing bride, when the clamour on the quay proclaimed
the old usurer's arrival. As he was the furthest person from her
thoughts, and as she had not heard of the day appointed for his
punishment, Madame Bonaventure was totally unprepared for the spectacle
offered to her when she reached the window; and her retreat from it, as
we have related, was almost immediate.
To his shame be it spoken, Master Richard Taverner was greatly
entertained by the doleful appear of his old enemy, and could not help
exulting over his downfall and distress; but he was quickly checked by
his bride, who shared in the hostess's gentler and more compassionate
feelings. So much, indeed, was the gentle Gillian touched by the
delinquent's supplicating looks, that she yielded to the impulse that
prompted her to afford him some solace, and snatching up a flask of wine
and a flagon from the table, she rushed out of the room, followed by her
husband, who vainly endeavoured to stay her.
In a moment Gillian was out upon the quay; and the mounted guard
stationed round the prisoner, divining her purpose, kindly drew aside to
let her pass. Filling the goblet, she handed it to the old man, who
eagerly drained it, and breathed a blessing on her as he returned it.
Some of the bystanders said the blessing would turn to a curse--but it
was not so; and so well pleased was Dick with what his good wife had
done, that he clasped her to his heart before all the crowd.
This incident was so far of service to the prisoner, that it saved him
from further indignity at the moment. The mob ceased to jeer him, or to
hurl mud and missiles at him, and listened in silence to the public
crier as he read aloud his sentence. This done, the poor wretch and his
escort moved away to the Catherine Wheel, in the Steelyard, where a
less kindly reception awaited him.
In taking leave, as we must now do, of Master Richard Taverner and his
pretty wife, it gives us pleasure to say that they were as happy in
their wedded state as loving couples necessarily must be. We may add
that they lived long, and were blessed with numerous issue--so noumerous
indeed, that, as we have before intimated, Dick had to work hard all the
rest of his days.
In bidding adieu, also, to Madame Bonaventure, which we do with regret,
we have merely to state that she did not reign much longer over the
destinies of the Three Cranes, but resigned in favour of Cyprien, who,
as Monsieur Latour, was long and favourably known as the jovial and
liberal host of that renowned tavern. Various reasons were assigned for
Madame Bonaventure's retirement; but the truth was, that having made
money enough, she began to find the banks of the Thames too damp and
foggy for her, especially during the winter months; so the next time the
skipper entered the river, having previously made her arrangements, she
embarked on board his vessel, and returned to the sunny shores of the
Mompesson's sentence, though far more severe and opprobrious than that
of the elder extortioner, was thought too lenient, and most persons were
of opinion that, considering the enormity of his offences, his life
ought not to be spared. But they judged unadvisedly. Death by the axe,
or even by the rope, would have been infinitely preferred by the
criminal himself, to the lingering agonies he was destined to endure.
Moreover, there was retributive justice in the sentence, that doomed him
to undergo tortures similar to those he had so often inflicted on
The pillory was erected at Charing Cross. A numerous escort was required
to protect him from the fury of the mob, who would otherwise have torn
him in pieces; but, though shielded in some degree from their active
vengeance, he could not shut his ears to their yells and execrations.
Infuriated thousands were collected in the open space around the
pillory, eager to glut their eyes upon the savage spectacle; and the
shout they set up on his appearance was so terrific, that even the
prisoner, undaunted as he had hitherto shown himself, was shaken by it,
and lost his firmness, though he recovered it in some degree as he
mounted the huge wooden machine, conspicuous at a distance above the
heads of the raging multitude. On the boards on which he had to stand,
there was another person besides the tormentor,--and the sight of him
evidently occasioned the criminal great disquietude. This person was
attired in black, with a broad-leaved hat pulled down over his brows.
"What doth this fellow here?" demanded Mompesson. "You do not need an
"I know not that," replied the tormentor,--a big, brawny fellow,
habited in a leathern jerkin, with his arms bared to the
shoulder,--taking up his hammer and selecting a couple of sharp-pointed
nails; "but in any case he has an order from the Council of the
Star-Chamber to stand here. And now, prisoner," he continued roughly and
authoritatively,--"place your head in this hole, and your hands here."
Since resistance would have been vain, Mompesson did as he was bidden. A
heavy beam descended over his neck and wrists, and fastened him down
immovably; while, amid the exulting shouts of the spectators, his ears
were nailed to the wood. During one entire hour the ponderous machine
slowly revolved, so as to exhibit him to all the assemblage; and at the
end of that time the yet more barbarous part of the sentence, for which
the ferocious mob had been impatiently waiting, was carried out. The
keen knife and the branding-iron were called into play, and in the
bleeding and mutilated object before them, now stamped with indelible
infamy, none could have recognised the once haughty and handsome Sir
A third person, we have said, stood upon the pillory. He took no part in
aiding the tormentor in his task; but he watched all that was done with
atrocious satisfaction. Not a groan--not the quivering of a muscle
escaped him. He felt the edge of the knife to make sure it was sharp
enough for the purpose, and saw that the iron was sufficiently heated to
burn the characters of shame deeply in. When all was accomplished, he
seized Mompesson's arm, and, in a voice that seemed scarcely human,
cried,--"Now, I have paid thee back in part for the injuries thou hast
done me. Thou wilt never mock me more!"
"In part!" groaned Mompesson. "Is not thy vengeance fully satiated? What
more wouldst thou have?"
"What more?" echoed the other, with the laugh of a demon,--"for every
day of anguish thou gavest my brother in his dungeon in the Fleet I
would have a month--a year, I would not have thee perish too soon, and
therefore thou shalt be better cared for than he was. But thou shalt
never escape--never! and at the last I will be by thy side."
It would almost seem as if that moment were come, for, as the words were
uttered, Mompesson fainted from loss of blood and intensity of pain, and
in this state he was placed upon a hurdle tied to a horse's heels, and
conveyed back to the Fleet.
As threatened, he was doomed to long and solitary imprisonment, and the
only person, beside the jailer, admitted to his cell, was his
unrelenting foe. A steel mirror was hung up in his dungeon, so that he
might see to what extent his features had been disfigured.
In this way three years rolled by--years of uninterrupted happiness to
Sir Jocelyn and Lady Mounchensey, as well as to Master Richard Taverner
and his dame; but of increasing gloom to the captive in his solitary
cell in the Fleet. Of late, he had become so fierce and unmanageable
that he had to be chained to the wall. He sprang at his jailer and tried
to strangle him, and gnashed his teeth, and shook his fists in impotent
rage at Osmond Mounchensey. But again his mood changed, and he would
supplicate for mercy, crawling on the floor, and trying to kiss the feet
of his enemy, who spurned him from him. Then he fell sick, and refused
his food; and, as the sole means of preserving his life, he was removed
to an airier chamber. But as it speedily appeared, this was only a
device to enable him to escape from prison,--and it proved successful.
He was thought to be so ill that the jailer, fancying him incapable of
moving, became negligent, and when Osmond Mounchensey next appeared, the
prisoner had flown. How he had effected his escape no one could at first
explain; but it appeared, on inquiry, that he had been assisted by two
of his old myrmidons, Captain Bludder and Staring Hugh, both of whom
were prisoners at the time in the Fleet.
Osmond's rage knew no bounds. He vowed never to rest till he had traced
out the fugitive, and brought him back.
But he experienced more difficulty in the quest than he anticipated. No
one was better acquainted with the obscure quarters and hiding-places of
London than he; but in none of these retreats could he discover the
object of his search. The potentates of Whitefriars and the Mint would
not have dared to harbour such an offender as Mompesson, and would have
given him up at once if he had sought refuge in their territories. But
Osmond satisfied himself, by a perquisition of every house in those
sanctuaries, that he was not there. Nor had any one been seen like him.
The asylum for "masterless men," near Smart's Quay, and all the other
dens for thieves and criminals hiding from justice, in and about the
metropolis, were searched, but with the like ill result. Hitherto,
Mompesson had contrived entirely to baffle the vigilance of his foe.
At last, Osmond applied to Luke Hatton, thinking it possible his cunning
might suggest some plan for the capture of the fugitive. After listening
with the greatest attention to all related to him, the apothecary
pondered for awhile, and then said--"It is plain he has trusted no one
with his retreat, but I think I can find him. Come to me on the third
night from this, and you shall hear further. Meantime, you need not
relax your own search, though, if it be as I suspect, failure is sure to
Obliged to be satisfied with this promise, Osmond departed. On the
third night, at a late hour, he returned. He did not, however, find Luke
Hatton. The apothecary, it appeared, had been absent from home during
the last three days, and the old woman who attended upon him was full of
uneasiness on his account. Her master, she said, had left a letter on
his table, and on investigation it proved to be for Osmond. In it the
writer directed him, in the event of his non-return before the time
appointed, to repair without delay, well armed, to the vaults beneath
Mompesson's old habitation near the Fleet, and to make strict search for
him throughout them. He also acquainted him with a secret entrance into
the house, contrived in the walls beneath the lofty north-eastern
turret. On reading this letter, Osmond at once understood his ally's
plan, together with its danger, and felt that, as he had not returned,
he had, in all probability, fallen a victim to his rashness. Telling the
old woman whither he was going, and that inquiries might be made there
for him on the morrow, if he did not re-appear with her master, he set
out at once for the place indicated.
We shall, however, precede him.
Ever since Mompesson had been taken to the Fleet, his habitation had
been deserted. The place was cursed. So much odium attached to it,--so
many fearful tales were told of it,--that no one would dwell there. At
the time of its owner's committal, it was stripped of all its contents,
and nothing was left but bare walls and uncovered floors. Even these,
from neglect and desertion, had become dilapidated, and a drearier and
more desolate place could not be imagined. Strict search had been made
by the officers of the Star-Chamber for concealed treasure, but little
was found, the bulk having been carried off, as before related, by the
myrmidons. Nevertheless, it was supposed there were other secret hoards,
if a clue to them could only be found. Mompesson had been interrogated
on the subject; but he only made answers calculated to excite the
cupidity of his hearers without satisfying them, and they fancied he was
On the night in question, to all outward appearance, the house was
sombre and deserted as usual, and the city watch who passed it at
midnight, and paused before its rusty gates and its nailed-up door,
fancied all was secure. The moon was at the full, shining brightly on
the sombre stone walls of the mansion,--on its windows, and on the lofty
corner turret, whence Mompesson used so often to reconnoitre the
captives in the opposite prison; and, as certain of the guard looked up
at the turret, they laughed at its present emptiness. Yet they little
dreamed who was there at the time, regarding them from the narrow
loop-hole. After the pause of a few minutes they moved on, and the gleam
of their halberts was presently seen, as they crossed Fleet Bridge, and
marched towards Ludgate.
About two hours afterwards the watch re-appeared, and, while again
passing the house, the attention of their leader was attracted by an
unusual appearance in the masonry near the north-east angle, above which
the tall turret was situated. On closer examination, the irregularity in
the walls was found to be produced by a small secret door, which was
left partially open, as if it had been recently used. The suspicions of
the party being aroused by this singular circumstance (none of them
having been aware of the existence of such a door), they at once entered
the house, resolved to make strict search throughout it. In the first
instance, they scaled the turret, with which the secret outlet
communicated by a narrow winding staircase; and then, proceeding to the
interior of the habitation, pursued their investigations for some time
without success. Indeed, they were just about to depart, when a sound
resembling a deep groan seemed to arise from the cellars which they had
not visited. Hearing this, they immediately rushed down, and made an
To explain this, however, we must go back to the time when they first
passed the house. We then mentioned that there was a person in the
turret watching their movements. As they disappeared in the direction of
Ludgate, this individual quitted his post of observation, and,
descending the spiral staircase, threaded a long passage in the
darkness, like one familiar with the place, until he arrived at a
particular chamber, which he entered; and, without pausing, proceeded to
a little cabinet beyond it. The moonlight streaming through a grated
window, showed that this cabinet had been completely dismantled; stones
had been removed from the walls; and several of the boards composing the
floor, had been torn up and never replaced. The intruder did not pass
beyond the door, but, after gazing for a few minutes at the scene of
ruin, uttered an ejaculation of rage, and retired.
His steps might have been next heard descending the great stone
staircase. He paused not a moment within the entrance-hall, but made his
way along a side passage on the left, and down another flight of steps,
till he reached a subterranean chamber. Here all would have been
profound obscurity, had it not been for a lamp set on the ground, which
imperfectly illumined the place.
As the man took up the lamp and trimmed it, the light fell strongly upon
his features, and revealed all their hideousness. No visage, except that
of Osmond Mounchensey, could be more appalling than this person's, and
the mutilation was in both cases the same. It is needless to say it was
Mompesson. His habiliments were sordid; and his beard and hair, grizzled
by suffering rather than age, were wild and disordered. But he was armed
both with sword and dagger; and his limbs looked muscular and active as
Casting a glance towards the entrance of the vault as if to make quite
sure he was not observed--though he entertained little anxiety on that
score--Mompesson stepped towards a particular part of the wall, and
touching a spring, a secret door (not to be detected within the masonry
except on minute examination) flew open, and disclosed another and
Here, it was at once evident, was concealed the treasure that had
escaped the clutches of the myrmidons and the officers of the
Star-Chamber. There was a large open chest at the further end, full of
corpulent money-bags, any one of which would have gladdened the heart of
a miser. On this chest Mompesson's gaze was so greedily fixed that he
did not notice the body of a man lying directly in his path, and
well-nigh stumbled over it. Uttering a bitter imprecation, he held down
the lamp, and beheld the countenance of Luke Hatton, now rigid in death,
but with the sardonic grin it had worn throughout life still impressed
upon it. There was a deep gash in the breast of the dead man, and blood
upon the floor.
"Accursed spy and traitor," cried Mompesson, as he took hold of the body
by the heels and dragged it to one corner--"thou wilt never betray me
more. What brought thee here I know not, unless it were to meet the
death thou hast merited at my hands. Would a like chance might bring
Osmond Mounchensey here--and alone--I would desire nothing more."
"Be thy wish gratified then!" cried a voice, which Mompesson could not
Looking up, he beheld his enemy.
In an instant his hand was upon his sword, and the blade gleamed in the
lamp-light. Osmond had likewise plucked forth his rapier, and held a
poignard in his left hand. For a few moments they gazed at each other
with terrible looks, their breasts animated with an intensity of hatred
which only mortal foes, met under such circumstances, can feel. So
fiercely bloodthirsty were their looks that their disfigured features
seemed to have lost all traces of humanity.
"Yield thee, murtherous villain," cried Osmond at length. "I will drag
thee to the hangman."
"Call in thy fellows, and thou shalt see whether I will yield," rejoined
Mompesson, with a laugh of defiance.
"I have none at my back," rejoined Osmond; "I will force thee to follow
"Thou _art_ alone then!" roared Mompesson; "that is all I desired!"
And, without a word more, he commenced the attack. During the brief
colloquy just detailed, he had noticed that his enemy was doubly armed,
and before beginning the conflict he drew his own dagger, so that there
was no greater advantage on one side than the other.
Both were admirable swordsmen, and in strength they were nearly
matched; but the combat was conducted with a ferocity that almost set
skill at defiance.
After the exchange of a few desperate passes, they closed; and in the
terrific struggle that ensued the lamp was extinguished.
The profound darkness prevented them from seeing the frightful wounds
they inflicted on each other; but both knew they were severely hurt,
though each hoped he was not so much injured as his adversary.
Exhausted, at length, by loss of blood, and ready to drop, they released
each other by mutual consent; and, after making a few more feeble and
ineffectual thrusts, leaned upon their swords for support.
"Wilt thou yield now, villain?" demanded Osmond, in a hoarse voice. "Or
must I finish thee outright?"
"Finish me!" echoed Mompesson, in tones equally hoarse. "Strike another
blow against me if thou canst. But I well know thou art sped. When I
have recovered breath, I will make short work with thee."
"About it quickly, then," rejoined Osmond: "I am ready for thee. But thy
boast was idle. Thou art bleeding to death. Twice has my poignard
pierced thy breast."
"Thou wilt never use thy poignard again. Thy left arm is disabled,"
rejoined Mompesson--"besides, my sword passed through thee almost to the
"It glanced from my doublet: I scarcely felt the scratch."
"'Twas a scratch deep enough to let thy life-blood out. But since thou
hast more to be spilt, have at thee again!"
"Where art thou?" cried Osmond, staggering towards him.
"Here!" rejoined Mompesson, avoiding the thrust made at him, and dealing
one in return that stretched his adversary lifeless at his feet.
In the exultation of the moment, he forgot his own desperate condition,
and, with a fierce, triumphant laugh, set his foot upon the body of his
But a mortal faintness seized him. He essayed to quit the vault--but it
was too late. His strength was utterly gone. With an irrepressible
groan, he fell to the ground, close beside his enemy.
There they lay, the dying and the dead, for more than an hour. At the
end of that time, they were discovered by the watch.
Mompesson yet breathed; and as the torch-light fell upon the scene of
horror, he slightly raised his head, and pointing to his slaughtered
adversary, with a ghastly smile, expired.
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