Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century
Rodwell, G Herbert
IT was no time for explanation ; nor, indeed, did the merchant for an instant think of aught but of his own happiness in once more pressing his dearAlyce to his heart. How she came to be in such a strange place as the cell of the Convent, or why she had been only known as the mad girl, at that time never crossed his mind; he only saw, he only felt, that his beloved wife was again restored to his heart, and that was all-in-all to him. As crowds of apprentices, and others, had arrived from the city, an attempt to extinguish the flames was commenced, very different to that which the drones in monkish hoods had as yet pursued, for all they had done was to walk in procession round the burning edifice, chanting prayers, but never once appearing to think that manual exertion was quite as likely to prove efficacious, as their mumbling of Latin verses, of which many of them were far too ignorant even to comprehend the meaning. Buckets and tubs, handed from one to the other by a whole line of apprentices, reaching from the Convent to a neighbouring pond, soon served to bring sufficient water to combat, and at last to overcome the raging flames.
How differently were the minds of those present now at work. Here might be seen a poor bigotted nun on her knees, offering up thanks for the miraculous manner in which she had been permitted, at the hazard of her life, to rescue from destruction about two inches of the decayed back-bone of a saint somebody, who had been principally revered because he had lived for forty years without the comfort of a single ablution; there was the master of the farm, calculating in his own mind the increase of trouble and expense in providing lodgings and board for the nuns at the farm; the apprentices' minds were full of the fun of throwing as much water over one another as they did over the flames. The Cripple thought only of his Eoline. Flora's mind was divided between joy and wonder at the restoration of her mistress, and anxiety for the safety of the Bridge-shooter, who was foremost at every point of danger in his endeavours to extinguish the fire of the Convent. The merchant had but one hope, that of conveying his Alyce in safety to his home. When the Convent began to assume the appearance of a blackened ruined mass, and fears of further danger seemed to have vanished, all present began to reflect more coolly upon what was next to be done, in the way of providing accommodation for the houseless nuns, and their own arrangements for the night. The Abbess and her flock made the best shift they could at the farm, the labourers of which continued for the rest of the night to watch the ruins, and wherever a thicker smoke arose, as if from a hidden fire beneath, to throw water upon the smouldering embers. It was settled that the Cripple should conduct his beautiful blind wife
|. to the cottage of the Bridge-shooter's mother, where she should for the present take up her regular abode.|
A litter, borne by two horses, was soon provided, in which Alyce was placed, and with Osborne on one side, and the merchant on the other, Hewet holding his wife's hand in his own, they took their way towards the Bridge. Flora and the Bridge-shooter had hurried on before to make all ready for the reception of the merchant's wife. As the litter was passing through the dark postern gate of the city, the horses had nearly ridden over a man who came on hurrying from the opposite direction; he appeared hastening towards the Convent. So completely had his fright, caused by the horses, thrown him off his guard, that he uttered a dreadful oath, in a violent tone of voice, at the sound of which the whole party recognised him as being the saintly Father Brassinjaw. At the same time a slight shriek came from the litter, and Alyce murmured, " Oh, save me! save me !" Hewet thought no more of the priest, who had hurried by, but pressed his wife's hand fervently to his lips, as if to tell her, by that kiss, how safe she was with those about her. These words were the first Alyce had yet uttered, and immediately they had died upon her lips, she appeared to sink again into her former hopeless state of imbecility. When they arrived at the merchant's house, a little incident occurred, which caused the blood in Hewet's heart to swell it almost to bursting; this was, as he was entering the room, bearing his wife in his arms, his eye fell upon her picture, which Flora and the Bridge-shooter had restored to its former position. A thousand feelings rushed upon his mind at once; the order he had given for its destruction -the unhallowed thoughts with which he had hastened to far-off lands -and then came the bitterest reflection of all, that now, although his wife was restored to him pure and innocent, where was his child ? Alas ! not there to welcome the return of its poor, afflicted, adoring mother. So completely had all memory vanished from the mind of Alyce, that when they seated her in her own accustomed spot, she looked around so vacantly, that it was evident all her eyes beheld brought back no recollections of the past. She regarded her husband with the same indifference as she looked upon Edward or on Flora. There was a slight smile for a single moment passed over her pale, but lovely features, when Juno, her favourite dog, came bounding in, and flying upon her lap, licked her hands in kindness, then barking loudly, as though to wake her from her trance, flew wildly here and there, then rolled himself upon his back, and gazed up in her face, as praying to be noticed. Shortly afterwards Alyce was conveyed to her sleeping apartment, and scarcely had her head sunk upon the pillow, ere she was lost in a profound slumber. The merchant, who had been seated watching by the side of her couch, now offered up to Heaven a sincere thanksgiving for the restoration of his beloved wife, and a prayer, equally fervent, that his child might soon he discovered, and once more bless his arms. Having fulfilled these duties, he joined the other inmates of his dwelling, who were busily conversing upon the strangeness of all the incidents of that day. But how to account for the merchant's wife being found in such a place as a cell in the Convent of the Minories, and in such a pitiable condition as that in which she had been discovered, passed all their ingenuity to imagine. "No doubt," said
|the merchant, " all will be explained by the superior of the Convent, and, indeed, it must and shall be. Strange things are being brought to light concerning the evil practices of nearly every religious house in the land; and if there be aught here of villany that has been employed against my Alyce, my life and wealth shall both be sacrificed but I will bring the guilty to severest punishment. But it were useless now to conjecture; in the morning I will to the nunnery, when all shall be made clear." The rest, thinking with the merchant, that for the moment it would be of no avail to endeavour further to solve the mystery, they had all risen for the purpose of retiring to rest, when they were startled by hearing a violent cry of horror-so suddenly, so unexpectedly, the frightful shriek struck upon the ear, that for a moment they stood as if spell-bound. They all turned towards the room in which Alyce lay; but the sound had not proceeded from that direction.|
Before we enter upon the cause of their alarm, we must follow the footsteps of the saintly Father Brassinjaw, who, the reader will recollect, passed the merchant and his party as they were entering the city by the postern gate. He was then hurrying from the Cardinal's Hat, upon the Bridge, where he had but just ensconced himself comfortably behind a flagon of Romney sack, and was listening to a delightful dispute between the three loving friends,Catchemayde, Checklocke, and Silkworm, concerning which of the three was of most importance, the bowyer, the shaft-head maker, or the stringer ? Why, the bowyer, of course," said Catchemayde, standing up as usual for his own craft; "a bow, mark me, is like a human body, and, if so, I pray thee what would he the use of the head or the sinews, if one lacketh the back-bone ?" Catchemayde here looked wondrous wise, as if he had accomplished a figure of speech of uncommon beauty, and had started a proposition of unanswerable logic. For ourselves, we see neither the logic nor the beauty; but those whom he addressed, seemed to think the allegory well deserving to be answered in a similar strain of figurative reasoning, for Silkworm replied-
"But thy back-bone, as thou callest the bow-staff, would avail thee nought, but for the strings, or sinews, as I call them, to bend it to thy will."
" Nor either do much service," said Checklocke, " but for the sharp head to direct the aim; and my heads are sharp enough to strike conviction into the thickest skull in Christendom. I'll warrant them to penetrate an inch board at eight hundred feet."
If shot from one of my bows," replied Catchemayde.
"And that bow strung by me," retorted Silkworm.
"And the arrow-shaft boiled, pared, and feathered by your humble servant," said a sharp-nosed little man, an arrow-maker. "It's my opinion, neighbours," he continued, " that more depends upon the straightness of the arrow-shaft and the goose's feathers, than all your handy-works together. An arrow of an ounce weight, well mounted with two equal feathers, plucked from the white wing of a gander of two years old, and one from a goose that's brown or gray, to mark the proper placing of the arrow, will-will-will-- "
"Wilt thou hold thy peace ?" interrupted Father Brassinjaw. " Cease this senseless jargon of thy trades, shake hands in amity, for if
|. but one of ye lend not the others aid, believe me, we shall see no more victories like Cressy, Agincourt, or Poictiers-you four must never quarrel, or woe to the land we live in. All England's greatness owe we to the bow and arrow; and to whom, I pray ye, do we owe the arrow or the bow ? Why, to you four combined, do we not ? So come, shake hands, and I'll join ye in the drinking of another bowl."|
This well-timed flattery produced an instantaneous effect, and a thumping bowl was about to be ordered, when mine host entering, announced that the sky had become suddenly illumined by a raging conflagration somewhere by the Minories.
"The Minories!" exclaimed Father Brassinjaw, rising; but waiting not the answer, he hurried away himself to learn the truth. Most or the other visitors of the Cardinal's Hat followed his example; the rest ascended to the roof of the house, whence a distant view of the destruction going on could be observed. Father Brassinjaw had not proceeded far before his worst fears were confirmed; so, pushing on more rapidly, he soon reached the postern gate, where, as we have before stated, he had nearly been trampled under the feet of the horses that were carrying the litter in which lay Alyce Hewet. So anxious was he to reach the Convent, that he did not perceive whom he had then passed, but uttering the oath before-mentioned, and accelerating his speed almost into a run, he continued his road to the nunnery. When arrived there, and with a glance seeing the vast destruction that had so quickly been consummated, he made no stay to ask particulars, but learning that the Abbess was in safety at the farm, he was soon there too, and in the presence of the superior of the nuns of St. Clair. " Sad work, this, holy sister," he said, puffing and blowing, and in a tone made almost inaudible from want of breath; "but deeply as I was buried in my devotions on the Bridge, I lost not a moment in flying--I speak metaphorically, for, woe's me! I'm but an indifferent figure for such aerial exercises-yes, in flying to your assistance, and now with my prayers--"
" Prayers !" ejaculated the Abbess, with an expression of utter contempt, and with a look as black as night. "Prayers--thy prayers, indeed !"
" Oh, ay-yes, yes"-replied the saintly father; " I see, I see we are alone; I had forgotten that ; so we may both throw off our masks. But in the name of all the saints that ever, and never, were, why that frown? Sister, thy face looks as black as the burnt beams of yonder Convent ?"
" Have I not ample cause to look black," replied the Abbess, " and blackest of all at thee ? Is not the very roof of my house now smouldering in the ruins of the lowest vaults ? but that is a trifle, which a slight manoeuvring that we well understand, would raise again higher and firmer than ever: but you have brought upon us a trouble that may not only remove the roof from over our heads, but the very foundations from beneath our feet."
" What means my gentle Savage ?" inquired Brassinjaw.
The Father did not place his words thus as a jest, or insult-the Abbess's name was really Savage. Elizabeth Savage was the last superior of the nuns of St. Clair, at the Convent of the Minoresses-hence our .
|Minories. And it was this same Elizabeth Savage, who at the general suppression of the monasteries in , surrendered the house of the "Poor Clares," as they were called, into the hands of Henry the Eighth, who was to allow her a small pension, which, we believe, like most others of the sort, was never paid.|
"Not only Savage am I by name," she replied, "but savage thou shalt find me in my nature. And this is what I mean-you have deceived me-the mad girl in the cell- "
"Good heavens!" exclaimed Brassinjaw, "I had forgotten her; the saints forbid that she be buried in the ruins! Speak quickly, is she safe ?"
" Safer than we are," replied the Abbess; "and all through your deceiving me. Your hypocrisy is so consummate, and, from habit, so essential to your very breathing, that methinks you'd die outright, were it but for one moment taken from you. Why not have told me who and what she was?"
"And how know you now her name, or state?" said Brassinjaw, somewhat alarmed.
"I know them both from one that cannot be deceived-her husband."
"Hewet !" exclaimed the saintly Father.
"He has been here," and found his wife confined as a lunatic in our cells beneath the Convent. You must account for this; I cannot, nor will I jeopardise myself or my nuns in screening you. The King lacks not the will, but a pretext for ruining us all-you have placed one in his hands. The merchant, they tell me, too, is now in favour with the Queen, because he seeks out costly baubles to feed her vanity. She is no favourer of our creed, and will, to serve her handsome merchant, work on the King to our undoing. You have raised up a pretty enemy, in truth."
"Then you must raise a prettier friend to answer it," replied Brass- injaw; "I mean, young Horton."
"Horton !" exclaimed the Abbess. "Your blind folly makes me laugh with scorn. Do you so soon forget the hand we both have had in the marriage of Eoline with the Cripple of the Bridge ? A likely friend, forsooth, we may look for in Harry Horton, the minion of our deadliest foe, the accursed Cromwell."
"Sister," said Brassinjaw, " it is useless to lose our time in reviling each other. You have a strong brain, stronger than mine, I know. I therefore at once throw myself humbly on thy mercy. If you assist him not, by your superior wisdom, poor Father Brassinjaw is lost for ever."
The hypocrite knew, that let a woman be a saint or sinner, a leader in the vanities of the outward world, or humble servant of some secluded shrine, the way for man to conquer, is by absolute submission. The moment the Abbess found she had no obstacle to combat, her mind took a totally new turn. "If you would have me advise you," she said, " in this woful strait you have brought upon yourself, speak for once openly and with truth. I know the difficult task I am imposing upon you; but those who are learned in the healing art, cannot administer remedies
|. with success, unless they first be made aware of the full extent and causes of the disease they are called to conquer. Firstly, answer me, what made you bring the woman here ?"|
"The hope of gain," he replied, unhesitatingly.
"Your answer carries truth with it in every word," said the Abbess; "but how did you seek to accomplish the end in view ? Tell me all and every thing. I cannot give you absolution, nor even promise hope, unless your confession be full and ample."
" It shall be," said Father Brassinjaw, who felt that it would be a difficult task to rescue himself from the dilemma into which chance circumstances had thrown him, unless aided by the good service of the Abbess of St. Clair. From what he now disclosed, it appeared he had received from Sir Filbut Fussy several large sums of money for the revelation of confessions which Alyce, as the reader may guess, had never made. These, he said, he took care to shape in such a manner, that Sir Filbut's vanity and hopes were fed at every word. Brassinjaw finding that the more flattering to his dupe he made these mock confessions, the greater was his own reward, fiamed them so extravagantly, that Sir Filbut, believing his power over Alyce had now become absolute, determined at once to fly with her. He wrote the letter, which was afterwards found by Flora, torn and burnt; and Horton being absent with the merchant at Hampton Court, he insisted upon Brassinjaw delivering it to the lovely Alyce. This he undertook to do, without ever intending to fulfil his promise. His plan was to destroy the letter, and then trump up any tale he found most applicable to the circumstances, to account for Alyce's non-compliance with its ardent prayer. Fate, however, was at work to bring all these vile schemes to a climax and an end; for it so happened, that Sir Filbut insisted upon accompanying the saintly Father almost to the door of the merchant's dwelling, as he hied him on his promised mission; and then, with impatient anxiety, awaited the return of Brassinjaw with the hoped for reply. This was hurrying matters to a conclusion with a precipitation little expected by the priest; but finding all remonstrance unavailing, he repaired to the dwelling of the unconscious victim on the Bridge, where, making some frivolous excuse for his untimely visit, not that any was required by Alyce, who, in her religious views, was a bigot in the fullest sense of the word, and regarded all her confessor advanced as sentences of holy inspiration, he left her, and returning to the expectant Sir Filbut, delivered a most impassioned reply, promising that the lovely Alyce would be at the spot appointed. To this spot it was Brassinjaw's intention to go instead, as if sent by Alyce, with an excuse for the unavoidable disappointment. Thus then they parted; the one to make his ultimate arrangements for his intended flight, the other to count his gains, and laugh at the credulity of his wealthy dupe. When at his lodging, comfortably seated before a rich repast, the priest bethought himself of a little amusement, in reading over the undelivered letter of Sir Filbut, when, thrusting his hand into the bosom of his vest, he was somewhat surprised to find it not there; but recollecting that he had placed it between the leaves of his breviary, that he usually carried under his arm, he took it up, but although he examined it leaf by leaf, no letter could he find. He rated himself
|soundly for his own carelessness; but there being no help for the mishap, he consoled himself with an extra glass or two of Rhenish wine, and soon forgot his vexation in sleep. The letter had fallen from the book upon the floor of Alyce's apartment, and, as the reader is aware, was there found by her. When the appointed hour had arrived, the affairs of his chapel on the Bridge caused him for a time to delay his meeting with Sir Filbut; at last he started to the trysting-place, when what was his surprise to see in the distance Alyce weeping, and at her feet Sir Filbut Fussy. Almost at the same instant the knight arose, and hurried from the place; and then had Brassinjaw, bursting with rage, for he believed he had himself been duped by Alyce, approached her, and sent forth such a volley of holy denunciations, and appalling anathemas against her for her deceit, that the poor simple-minded creature fell at his feet in a deadly swoon, as he was declaring he saw behind her the Evil Fiend, standing ready to bear away her guilty soul.|
"I thought," said Brassinjaw to the Abbess, "this faintingwas but one ot your sex's often-repeated tricks to disarm us men of our anger, so I heeded not her death-like trance, but waited patiently her own pleasure to recover; when she did, I renewed my maledictions. She protested her innocence of knowing aught she had not already confessed, which really was nothing. But I still believed myself deceived; the more so, as I told her, on account of my having met a strange woman with her child, who when questioned whither she was taking it, replied, ' to its mother.' This alarmed her greatly, but, as I thought, only because I had discovered her intent; so, as a last resource to drive her to divulge all, I enjoined her our severest penance. Your Convent being close at hand, I led her hither; you had been absent for some weeks, nor were you soon expected to return. I placed her, unseen, in the secret apparition cell, telling her that if she kept back but a single word, or refused to confess what she had done with the child, the fiend would ere long appear before her eyes. I left her there for some hours alone in utter darkness; when I thought her mind was wrought up by terror to the proper pitch, I then, by the magic lantern's aid, first caused a speck of light to appear upon the wall of the cell. I listened, and could hear her teeth chattering with fear. 'Oh, save me! save me!' she exclaimed; but when I caused the spectre to start suddenly into gigantic form, she uttered one fearful cry, and fell as if dead upon the floor. I now found I had miscalculated the strength of the mind upon which I had been working; and yet I should have known it, for Dame Alyce has been in my leading strings for this many a year; but my rage and passion blinded me. An ague fit was on her frame, a stupor appeared to have seized upon every fibre of her brain; kindness, nor threats, could force her to utter a single word, excepting ' Save me, save me !' This she ever repeats upon hearing my voice, after having uttered a wild and fearful scream. Eoline alone knew of her being here, until your return, and fully believes the tale she told to you, that it was some poor demented thing that I had found wandering about homeless and friendless. The truth is, I had now involved myself in a labyrinth of perplexities, from which I knew not how to extricate myself; so that day by day slipped by without my being
|. able to determine upon what course to steer my way. You now know all. Advise, and I will follow your advice, be it what it may."|
" Had you told me all this before," said the Abbess, "how much anxiety you might have saved yourself. I see no difficulty in the case at all; keep your own counsel, know nothing of what has transpired, and leave the rest to me. But remember, my house is in ruins, and must be rebuilt; you may guess my meaning. Your attempt at deceiving me must and shall be paid for. Sir Filbut's gold will shine as brightly in my chapel as in yours."
Father Brassinjaw vowed by every saint he could bring to memory, how liberal he intended to be; and so finding his fears greatly diminished by the promised assistance of the Abbess, he took his leave, and feeling, as he very often did, in want of a little stimulant to support his weary spirit, he determined to solace himself for one hour more in the lower room of the Cardinal's Hat, where for the present we must leave him, and return to Harry Horton, who, upon quitting the burning Convent, joined his companion in iniquity, Beltham Spikely, to whom he related how completely he had been foiled by the scheming Abbess of St. Clair. " All I pray the fiends to grant," said Horton, "is that she and all her crew may be burnt to cinders ere the morning. The only difficulty I had to surmount to reach wealth and distinction, was the proof of that girl's existence or of her certain death; and now to have found her thus unexpectedly, and then to have the whole game torn from my hands, and given to that degraded being, the Cripple of the Bridge, is maddening. But I will thwart them yet, with all their cunning. Although the estates are lost to me for ever, I still possess documents without which she can never prove her title, and those shall be this night destroyed. At least I'll be revenged, if not enriched."
" Where are they ?" enquired Spikely.
" Still in the merchant's house, sewn in the sacking of my bed. Not wanting them before, and having had enough of other affairs to think upon of late, I had in truth forgotten them entirely. But as the night is dark, and the merchant abroad, I can once more safely mount to my old dormitory from the sterling of the Bridge, and, unknown to any one, bring away not merely those papers, but the rich diamond and the letters of the fool---"
"Why do you tremble ?" exclaimed Spikely, as he felt Horton's hand convulsively seize upon his arm, as if to steady himself.
" Have we not both cause to tremble ?" was Horton's reply, uttered almost in a whisper; "have we not both cause to tremble after this morning's work ? How could he have escaped from the vessel ? But fate had doomed him to fall; and that was why we met him so unex pectedly in the wood. But I wish his blood had not been spilt by us."
" By you, you mean," said Spikely, coolly. " I had no hand in his death, further than when I saw him coming, just pointing out that if he were allowed to blab, not even Cromwell's power could save your own neck. But fear nothing; thanks to my precaution in rifling the body of every valuable upon it, suspicion will at once fall upon your common cutthroats, who, it is well known, would kill a dozen men for a dozen
|gold nobles. Depend upon it, when the body shall be found, which may not be yet for many a day, it will end exactly as I have foretold."|
" Heaven grant it may !" said Horton, attempting to cross himself.
" It is the first blood I have ever shed, and at certain moments my eyes seem swimming in it, and I feel like a---"
" Coward !" said Spikely, with a sneer.
"Coward, I am none," replied Horton; "and that, even you may one day learn, if you chafe me thus. Let us in here," he continued, as they were passing a wine shop; " the cold has seized upon my heart." They entered, and Horton took two whole glasses of strong spirits, which for a time seemed to renew the powers of both mind and body. "How's the tide now ?" he inquired of the helper.
" It's at the flood," was the reply.
" Then let us take boat directly," said Horton to his companion; " we can safely remain beneath the Bridge at this part of the tide, and need not enter the Cardinal's Hat. I'd rather not be seen near the place at all to-night."
The night was very dark, which favoured Horton's plan. When they had entered beneath the sixth arch, they tied the boat to a ring in the pier, and having found the well-known secreted rope, which still remained in its old place, Horton, with all the dexterity attainable by long practice, mounted speedily towards the little window of his former sleeping room. He was soon within the apartment, and having provided himself with a dark lantern, he gazed around. All seemed just as he had left it. " Spikely is right," he said, " I am a coward, or why should I tremble now ? 1 know not why, and yet my nerves are all quivering. Let me be quick; where is my knife ?" He drew from its scabbard a blade which answered the purposes of knife or dagger, which slipping fiom his hand, fell and stuck upright in the floor; by accident his foot kicked sharply against it, when the blade snapped in two, leaving a portion still in the ground; as he stooped to seize the handle, he had nearly fallen, for the steel was covered with blood. " I-I-'ll tear the sacking open," he said; " that dagger must be used no more, the Thames shall bury it for ever from man's sight." He flung it from the window, then hurriedly approaching the bed, he threw off the coverlid, when his eyes seemed blasted by the horrid spectre he there beheld-it was the dead body of the very man he had that morning slain ! The cry or horror that he now uttered was the one which had so startled the merchant and those above. Horton knew not where he was, his brain seemed suddenly on fire; he flew to the casement, and seizing the rope, flung himselfheadlong forth, his body dashed against the pier, and he fell stunned into the boat. Spikely comprehended in an instant that some untoward circumstance had taken place, so slipping the rope from the ring, he pulled with all his might through the Bridge towards Westminster. So severe had been the fall, that it was some length of time ere Horton recovered sufficiently to relate what he had seen; but to account for the appearance of the dead knight in such a place he found impossible, unless, indeed, he chose to allow his reason to be led captive by the superstition of the times, and believe at once that he had witnessed an apparition
|. sent from another world. Spikely scouted such childish thoughts, and undertook himself to discover the right solution of this ghostly riddle.|
When the merchant and those with him had recovered from the surprise into which Horton's cry had for a moment thrown them, they felt convinced that the sound had proceeded from the chamber into which the Bridge-shooter had had the body of the knight removed, on account of the expected return of the merchant and his beloved Alyce. The Bridge-shooter, taking up a lamp, was about to hasten to the room of death, when Flora screamed with fright at the thought of her William placing himself in such danger; the truth was, Flora had at once made up her mind that the horrid shriek had been uttered by the unhappy spirit of the murdered knight, and she thought it a tempting of fate to interfere in any way further than telling her beads, and running over a hundred or two prayers for the soul of poor Sir Filbut, whom she was sure was then suffering the pains of purgatory. The rest having different ideas upon the subject, left her trembling where she stood, and hurried to Horton's room. Here they, for some time, were at a loss how to explain what they had heard, until, perceiving that the coverlid had been removed from off the body, which the Bridge-shooter declared he had himself carefully placed over it, they were convinced that some mortal hand had been employed; and of this they were soon made certain, by discovering the dark lantern which Horton in his fright had let fall. The window, too, was open; so they at once made up their minds that another attempt to rob the house had been meditated, and that, in all probability, the unexpected finding of the murdered knight had so alarmed the thief, that being taken off his guard, he had uttered the ejaculation they had heard, and consequently felt it necessary for his own safety to make a precipitate retreat. The window was soon strongly secured, and the whole dwelling having been strictly searched, even Flora retired to rest with a tolerable feeling of security.
The investigation which took place concerning the death of Sir Filbut Fussy, ended exactly as had been predicted by Spikely. The absence of every valuable from the body of Sir Filbut was deemed proof conclusive that he had met with his death at the hands of common robbers. The Abbess had, also, proved a correct prophetess, for the tale she told met with perfect credence from the merchant, the only person who had a right, or felt any inclination, to enter upon the subject. Indeed, so plausibly had the Abbess framed her tale, that the merchant not only thanked her in words for her care of his afflicted wife, but bestowed a large sum towards the rebuilding of the part of the Convent which had been destroyed. The mind of Alyce, which appeared to be paralyzed, showed no symptoms of recovery; her whole day was ever passed in silence. The only slight alteration which took place in the expression of her eyes, was upon the approach of her dog, who never seemed happy but when lying at his mistress' feet.
Horton, finding it would be impossible to dissolve the marriage between Eoline and the Cripple of the Bridge, consented to desist from further persecution, upon condition that the Abbess still kept fast his secret.
|This she undertook to do; Horton promising to protect her and her nuns against the powers that were now rising up against them.|
Having brought this epoch of our tale to a conclusion, we must here give our pen a rest, and for a few years bid farewell to all our friends on OLD LONDON BRIDGE.