Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century

Rodwell, G Herbert





But so befel, this merchant on a day,

Shaped him to maken ready his array,

Toward the town of Bruges, for to fare,

To buyen there a portion of ware. Chaucer.

FROM the very hour the merchant had set sail for the Low Countries, the wind had proved so contrary, that although several days had elapsed since leaving the river, the vessel had made no further way than the North Foreland. At every hour, the sea rose higher and higher; the wind howled fiercer and fiercer; and the heavy swell that now rolled in resistlessly from the Northern seas, began to speak but too plainly of coming dangers-dangers made doubly to be dreaded, from the very imperfect knowledge the English then possessed of nautical affairs. It was at the commencement of Henry the Eighth's reign, that serious attention was first bestowed by government upon the navy; but to the small beginnings made by him, may be ascribed our present mighty power on the main: to him we owe the " The Trinity House," with its light-houses and beacons; but the number at this time was so small, that the dangers of the sea had been but little reduced by them; and so impossible did the captain of the merchant's vessel find the task of beating round the North Foreland (which then reached much further into the sea than at present) unaided, that he cast anchor, and put up signals for a pilot to come from land.

Many and weary were the hours they remained unheeded; and the gathering storm was now so rapidly increasing, that it seemed next to impossible that any boat would venture to bring them aid. The rain poured down in torrents, the wind screamed, not whistled, through the rigging; still they watched, anxiously straining their sight towards the land, which, as the gloom of evening approached, shewed like some black undefined monster, defying the lashing waves.

At last, to their great joy, a boat did near them; but many were the fruitless attempts it made to get to windward, which having at last accomplished, it came with a dreadful crash against the ship's side, but by Herculean efforts the four men held her to, until the pilot, climbing the side of the larger vessel, told the others to come aboard, and leave the boat to its fate, for if they attempted again to reach the shore, not one would be alive on the morrow. But the youngest one there, who seemed to have most command, declared " He'd see his Bess that night, or never see her more."



" A lubberly fool!" exclaimed the pilot, with a dreadful oath; " he was only married this morning, and if he find not a damp bed to-night, I know nought of wind or weather !"

The four men had succeeded in dragging their boat, along the side, to the stern of the ship, round which it darted, and was once more seen tossing upon the open waves.

The pilot never took his eyes from off the boat, and when it was nearly lost to sight, he almost screamed out--" By Heaven, she's gone !"

His words were true : a sea struck her, and she vanished like a shot.

The merchant would have had at least one effort made to save the drowning wretches; but the pilot laughed at the idea.--" We shall have enough to do," said the pilot, " to keep our own heads above water. Here we must remain till daylight, if the storm, which is as yet but in its infancy, will allow us. Had it not been so thundering dark as it is, we'd about ship, and run for the Medway; but the sands along this coast will beat any pilot that ever was born, or ever will be-that is, in a dark night. Give me daylight, and the sands be d--d ! say I."

Every precaution that could be taken, to prevent their being driven from their present secure anchorage, was resorted to. Another anchor was cast into the sea, and to this, a stouter cable than that to the first, was made secure. Every inch of canvass was reefed closely up, or removed entirely; all was, under the pilot's orders, made, what sailors call, "snug" for the night: but, pray Heaven, we may never pass such a night in such a snuggery ! Although it was winter, there had been more than one dreadful peal of thunder, that seemed to shake the bark in every beam. The merchant remained on deck the whole night; and, oh ! how he more than once thought upon his happy cottage on the heath, and wondered what his dear Alyce and his darling child were then doing, and whether they were alarmed for his safety in that dreadful storm. But from this anxiety he relieved his mind, by feeling assured, that having been away so many days, they would believe him already safe in the land he sought.

The wind was blowing dead ahead up channel. It was now midnight; nothing could be seen around, excepting close by the ship, and there all was white and foaming.

" See, see !" said the pilot, " is not that a light bearing down from the nor'east ? It is a signal of distress; but our distress is pretty nearly as great as theirs; only we have not yet slipped our cables, nor lost our anchors, which is their case, I'd swear; or else their commander's drunk: see how she flies along !"

Through the darkness, the merchant and his crew could clearly see, in consequence of the fires lighted on board the distant vessel, as a last hope to bring them aid, that it was a vessel about their own tonnage, and, as the pilot guessed, no doubt had lost their anchors, and unshipped their rudder; for as she passed them, there was evidently no command over her, by those on board. She was soon lost to sight; and all was dark and dreary as before. A new peril now attacked the merchant's ship ; the tide having turned, the bark began to vere round, and as it did so, received some awful seas against her sides.

" If a third sea had struck us then," said the pilot, "as quickly as


the second did the first, we should not have troubled our friends by calling upon them to morrow !"

Bang-bang-went sea after sea against the ship; one passed entirely over her, but no one was swept away.

" It's gone !" exclaimed the pilot, as one of their cables snapped like a thread; " and there goes the other !" he continued, as in like manner the second broke. " Now then, a stout hand to the helm, and a stout faith in God, alone can save us !" He flew to the stern of the vessel, and, aided by one of the strongest seamen aboard, attempted to give the safest direction he could guess at, to the flying vessel.

As if Heaven had heard the rough, but sincere command, to place " a stout faith in God," the wind, as if by a miracle, began to abate. With what fervency did the merchant now offer up thanksgivings. Not that the danger was over, but that he felt that hope might once more look around, though still affrighted.

"I think the morning will never break," said the pilot, " and if we can't distinguish between the surge of these waves, and the breakers on the sands, we shall require spectacles, I can tell you, that can look through a pitch barrel, before we shall be able to find our way through the danger !"

Although prodigiously rough, yet, as the wind began in a degree to die away, the waves too seemed more inclined to be at peace.

"Egad, the clouds are breaking !" said the pilot, as he looked up into the face of Heaven, which was still scowling blackly upon the angry billows; " if they should quarrel, and fly asunder in half an hour, we may yet get light enough from the moon, that should be behind them !" Anxiously did the merchant watch every movement of the dense masses, that now began to roll majestically along the skies; and, as for one moment, a spot of light shot between the clouds, a sudden hope seemed to fill every breast, and all exclaimed " there! there !" But the spirit of hope again closed her eyes, and all was once more dark upon the waters.

Perhaps nothing tended so much to raise the sinking spirits of all aboard, as suddenly to hear the pilot humming to himself, a bit of a well- known ditty. It is astonishing, how much may be done by a well-timed apparent confidence in one's self, when we would gain the confidence of those about us.

The heavens were certainlyless dark, though apparently not less stormy; and now in quicker succession, and of longer duration, came patches of pale light, shewing faintly through the thinner clouds. As they approached nearer and nearer to the dread sands, the moon in pity struggled hard to pass between the clouds, and did at last succeed sufficiently to shew, by the breakers, where those sands lay; and as the tide had fallen rapidly, in many places their treacherous heads were high above the surging waters.

" She's there !" said the pilot, pointing towards some shapeless black masses, that were already half embedded in the sands, " she's there, sure enough ! that is, as much as is left of her. I thought when we saw her scudding along, she would be stopped in her mad-headed course by that sand-trap. After the next tide has risen and fallen, you'll not see


. a beam of her remaining; those sands are devils; they first destroy all that comes near them, and then they dig huge graves for their victims, and bury 'em outright."

So near had they approached to the shore at one point, that they could distinctly hear the tolling of a solemn-sounding bell; this they felt was being rung for the purpose of dispelling the storm; for, as we have before noticed, bells were supposed, after having been baptized, to possess that wondrous power. On hearing this, many a rough hand was making the sign of the cross, and many a vow was being offered up to Heaven, that if they were but permitted again to reach their homes in safety, how amended should be their lives. But few, we fear, remembered those vows, save, perhaps, the merchant, who did, in after times, fulfil to the letter, all he then promised in that hour of peril.

So much had the light increased, that now the pilot felt sure that they should reach the mouth of the Medway in safety, and there they would remain until the weather should change, and allow them, once more to ' bout ship," and sail for their destined port; but the merchant's dangers were not yet over; for, as they continued their course, between the shore and the sand-banks, something struck against their vessel, which, as it floated past, proved to be the shattered remains of a boat. On seeing this, the pilot declared, that he believed every soul aboard the vessel that had been wrecked, must have perished; for, in all likelihood, that boat had been used as their last hope, which, having failed them, they had all gone down.

The merchant, who had been throughout the storm one of the most atchful, and had, more than once, been of service by that watchfulness, was now attentively looking upon the sand-bank, and judging by the breakers, whether they were approaching too near the shoals, suddenly exclaimed-" By Heavens! there is something moving on the sands-look there, there !"

All hands ran to the side of the vessel where the merchant stood, and through the hazy atmosphere distinguished, although but very imperfactly, what they believed to be some wretched human beings, awaiting the rising of the tide to bring them that death, from which, for a short space, these sands had rescued them.

The pilot declared it would be madness to attempt to offer them succour; but the merchant first entreated, then commanded, that, however hopeless the attempt, it should be made.

" Well," said the pilot, " if your humanity is so fool-hardy, perhaps you'll be the first to jump into the boat when it is lowered, that is, if it isn't swamped before you get over the ship's side. All I know is that I would be the last."

" I will be the first !" exclaimed the merchant, ' for I ask no man to meet a danger I fear to meet myself: will any follow me to the trial ?"

For an instant, all hands hung back; but it was but for an instant, when one and all swore they'd follow the merchant, if he led them to the very devil himself. The boat was lowered with the merchant, and three of the stoutest hands aboard. She touched the waves-it was a fearful moment: in another instant she was tossing upon their white crests, and was right upon her course towards the bank.



While the merchant was thus surrounded by the perils of the storm, upon the sea, Osborne was encountering perils scarcely less formidable, upon Old London Bridge: so tremendous had been the power of the winds, that more than one dwelling was unroofed, windows were blown in, and in one instance, an entire house was carried from the Bridge, into the raging flood; three tides ebbed and flowed within nine hours; or, an effect, similar to the rising and falling of the tide, had been produced by thepower of the wind; but, as in olden times everything at all strange was attributed to miracles, this circumstance was accordingly attributed to supernatural power, as a warning to the good folks of the Bridge, that some dire calamity was about to visit the kingdom.

Osborne, and the Bridge-shooter, had been busily engaged for hours, strengthening, as well as they could, the weaker parts of the dwelling, such as the casements, and the doors that opened upon the balconies. Many persons were severely wounded by the falling of sign-boards.

Poor Silkworm, and the sharp-nosed little arrow-maker, appeared doomed to be cast into awkward and ridiculous situations, for just as they were congratulating themselves upon being so snug and warm in their little garret, a tremendous gust of wind rushed past with such resistless power, that it carried away the whole front of the gable end of their dwelling, leaving them all at once exposed to the pelting of the pitiless storm, and in a position not unattended with real danger.

" It is an awful night," said Osborne, addressing the Bridge-shooter; "many a poor soul will find a watery grave before the morning: how fortunate for our good master, that he left the river when he did, or I should have trembled for his safety; but he must, long ere this have reached the end of his voyage; the Dutch coast is an awkward place in such weather as this, and---Heavens !" he exclaimed, starting up, " that crash- surely, the whole Bridge is giving way !' They hurried down to ascertain the cause of the fearful noise they had heard. They found the people on the Bridge in great consternation ; the house, which we mentioned above, had at that moment given way from the one opposite, to which it had been bound by strong beams, crossing from roof to roof; and had fallen over into the river. Fortunately, those who had dwelt in it, upon hearing a violent cracking of the timbers, had run out, and thus had saved their lives.

The building on the opposite side, was rendered, by the loss of its former support, most perilous; every means were at once resorted to, to tie it with ropes and chains, to those buildings of more substantial construction, which stood near; props were being applied, and indeed every precaution was taken, that such an unlooked for disaster rendered possible.

It was just after this accident, that the wind suddenly became less violent, and people began to hope that they might possibly pass the rest of the night in their beds. The hurricane which had thrown the house from the Bridge into the flood, was the same that had snapped the cables of the merchant's ship, and placed him and the crew in such imminent peril It must have been, too, exactly at the moment when the merchant had gone to hazard his own life, in attempting to rescue from death, the poor


wretches on the sands, that Osborne and his companion were startled by a loud knocking at the outward door.

"It's an odd time of night, and an odd night, too, for visitors," said the Bridge-shooter, "unless, indeed, it's some poor devil, whose house has given him the slip, as our neighbour, the lantern-maker's has just done, and so wants to beg shelter !"

"And I think it still odder," replied Edward, "that you should allow any poor devil to lack a shelter for one moment, in such weather, when it is in your power to bestow it. Open the door quickly, and be it whom it may, ask them in and welcome !"

The Bridge-shooter, who never stayed to argue upon any order given by Osborne, was at the door in one minute, and in the next re-entering the apartment where Edward was sitting, followed by a stranger closely muffled up in a cloak, which, considering the storm, did not appear very out of the way, nor a very unwise style of habiliment. The stranger wore a military cap, made after the foreign fashion, and Osborne, who might be supposed to understand something of cloth, saw with half an eye, that the cloak, too, was not of English make.

The stranger, that is as much as could be seen of him, appeared to have been terribly knocked about, for upon removing his cap, which he did, quite in military style, a deep indenture of the skull was seen on the right of his forehead, and over his left eye he wore a bandage, which passing round his head, concealed the greater part of a face, weather- beaten, and the little that was left exposed, appeared to be by no means prepossessing.

"Are you Edward Osborne ?" enquired the stranger, addressing Osborne.

" I am," replied the other. "And what may be your commands with Edward Osborne ? pressing, I should imagine, they must be, or I should not have had the honour of a visit, on such a night as this !"

" When a soldier has a duty to perform," said the stranger, " it is not often the weather stops him in his course! My commands were to see you immediately on my arrival-and here I am! and as 'tis you, young gentleman--- hat are you staring at ?" he said, with a frown, as he turned upon the Bridge-shooter, who, upon hearing the last words, opened his mouth, and was really staring at the stranger; " is there anything so wonderful, in calling Edward Osborne a young gentleman ? I may perhaps say something presently, that will make you stare in right earnest; that is, if it so please Edward Osborne you should remain to hear it."

What was passing at that moment in the mind of the Bridge-shooter, he for the present kept to himself; and as Edward assured the stranger that he held no secrets from his friend, the latter continued-

And as it is you, young gentleman," here he again gave an angry look at William, "to whom I was sent, I will at once disclose my mission You know a villain, named Horton, Harry Horton ?"

" He was my fellow apprentice !" replied Edward, " and I grieve to say, that I have heard things concerning him, which, for his own sake, I would have willingly had never reached my ears. But what of him- he went abroad some years ago, and is in all likelihood dead, for since he left England, we have never heard a word concerning him,"



" He lives !" said the stranger; " and it is to tell you that he lives, and put you on your guard, that I am here !"

" Why to put me on my guard ?" said Edward; " I never wronged him; and though he be, I know, of a violent and unforgiving temper, fear him not-why should I ?"

" Because," said the stranger, " you befriended those whom he hated, and wished dead! I mean a blind girl called Eoline, and the Cripple who married her !"

"Know you aught of them ?" exclaimed Edward, anxiously. " It is so long since I have received any tidings, that I feared me some mischance had befallen them!"

" They are well!" said the stranger; " but Horton believes the girl is in the other world; and as the times have changed since he fled this land, he intends to return to England, and lay claim to all that should he hers."

" You are jesting," said Edward, with an incredulous smile, " you are jesting surely ! Why, Eoline was a poor blind creature kept on charity by the good sisters, the Poor Clares, of the Minories."

" know nothing about who, or what she was, or is, or may be; all I do know, is what I was told to repeat to you; and to place in your hands a charm !"

"A charm!" exclaimed the Bridge-shooter, thinking of the witch, his mother.

" Yes, starer !" said the man, " a charm, and one so powerful, that it must not be used until the last extremity, when-" and the stranger's eye sparkled, as he said with a voice of exultation-" when, though he be as high, in his own conceit, above all earthly power to harm him, as the skies are above the powers of earth, yet shall it bring him down, down to your feet, as though his hamstrings had been shot asunder: when the hour shall come, that all other hope be lost, and he seem resistless, take from your breast this charm; it is a talisman sent from the mouldering dead, to turn his blood to ice-and will !" So powerfully did the stranger utter this speech, and with such apparent belief in the mystic talisman he was about to reveal, that, in spite of themselves, both the Bridge- shooter and Edward became quite excited; the latter exclaimed- " Where, where is this potent charm ?"

"This here !" shouted the stranger, at the same time dashing his hand loudly upon the table; he raised it-and there lay the blood-stained knife, with which Horton had murdered Sir Filbut in the wood.

" What means that rusted knife ?" enquired Osborne, who, not knowing the use it had once been put to, saw in it, but little likely to effect such wonders, as it was promised to perform.

" No matter now!" replied the other; " but guard it well; keep it from every eye but those that now behold it, at least until the time, the proper time shall come to make all sure-farewell !"

"Stay !" exclaimed Edward; " do not depart without being more explicit; you speak of danger to be guarded against, but say not what that danger is-you speak in riddles-who, and what are you ?"

" A man without a name !" replied the stranger, " and to you, intend to remain such; we may, or we may not meet again: guard well that


. charm; use it as I have told you; when it be necessary that you should know more, the Witch of Houndsditch will reveal it."

"The Witch of Houndsditch !" exclaimed the Bridge-shooter; "why, that's my mother; but she an't a witch, nor ever was, nor ever will be !"

" Peace, fool," said the stranger, " and shew me the door !" Then turning towards Edward, he said-" A silent tongue makes a wise head; open thine eyes, but close thy lips; do as I have commanded, and you will snare a villain, and befriend your friends-farewell !"

The stranger waited not for further parley, but hurrying down the dark stairs, was soon heard slamming the outer door.

" Follow him !" exclaimed Edward, the moment they heard the door close, "follow him, but do not let him see that you are watching; mark well where he goes!"

The Bridge-shooter, delighted at the task, waited not a moment, but rushing down, was out of the house, almost as soon as the stranger himself. Although scarcely a moment had elapsed, no one could he discover near the place: the neighbours, since the abating of the storm, had gained courage to re-enter their houses, no longer fearing theirs would share the fate of the lantern-maker's; the Bridge was completely deserted, and save the roaring of the waters, and the melancholy wailings of the wind, no sound could be heard. The Bridge-shooter listened for a footfall, to direct him the way the stranger might have taken, but he listened in vain.

"Well," said the Bridge-shooter, " if we are not bewitched, no mortals ever were, that I'll swear; the man, or devil, or whatever he was, must have flown into the air, or sunk through the stones of the Bridge, for I'll defy him to have vanished thus suddenly, by any more common means." Having quite made up his mind, that the stranger was some fiend in disguise, he felt it would be useless to continue the search further, so hastened in doors again, and related his ill success to Edward, who, upon hearing of the mysterious disappearance of the stranger, said-" It has often struck me, that I must have been born under the influence of some star of mystery; nothing ever occurs to me as to others; I always have wished, and wish so still, to pass my life in quietude, and unpretending obscurity; but do what 1 will, I cannot escape from falling into situations the most mysterious, the most exaggerated; and now, it appears, that in spite of myself, I am to be dragged into some more mysterious affair than any yet; but to what end, or why I am thus selected, Heaven only knows ! That knife too--"

" Are you sure it is a knife ?" said the Bridge-shooter, seizing Edward's arm, to prevent him from touching it, " are you sure it is ? It certainly looks like a knife, and one of not the newest fashion either. Shall I throw it into water? if it is be-deviled 'twill swim--if an honest knife 'twill sink: that's the way mother sometimes tries these charmed things."

"Why, William," said Osborne, smiling, "you are surely growing as superstitious as the good dame, your mother, herself: be-deviled! nonsense-I fear not to touch it !" saying which, he took up the knife; "it's but a common thing-an apprentice's old-fashioned dagger-knife,


such as I used formerly to carry. These marks are not of rust," and he looked closer at the blade; " they are more like old stains of blood !"

"Blood!" exclaimed the Bridge-shooter, poking his nose over the knife; "and see," he continued, " the point has been broken off-and hang me if that pattern running down the blade isn't-well, that would be mysterious indeed !'

"What would be mysterious?" enquired Edward quickly, for he saw, by William's manner, that his mind was fraught with some odd notion.

" Oh, nothing !" said the other, " only if it should be-wait a moment, wait a moment-only you just wait a moment!"

The Bridge-shooter seized a lamp, and Edward instantly heard him lumbering and tumbling up the stairs, to the very top of the house; in another minute he was heard tumbling down again, and as he hurried into the room he exclaimed-" It is, I'll swear it is, before I try it ! See here, master Edward, see here !" and he held up the broken piece of the blade, against which Osborne, it may be remembered, had cut his foot, and which the Bridge-shooter had kept ever since, for the purpose of scratching out blots, or errors he made when writing ; he placed it at the end of the knife, and to Edward's astonishment, it fitted so exactly, that it was not possible to doubt the two parts having formerly been one.

" Here's another mystery," observed Osborne, " and one that I think will baffle all our ingenuity to fathom. How little did I think, when I cut my foot with that piece of the blade, that years after, the remaining part would come thus strangely into my possession-and why ? this to me seems the most mysterious of all the mysteries that have yet surrounded me !"

" I am not quite sure," replied the Bridge-shooter, " that this is so mysterious as you think; in the first place, I have made up my mind that the strange being who has just left us, notwithstanding his vanishing so suddenly, is no wizard, but flesh and blood like ourselves. Do you remember his asking me what I was staring at ? I'll tell you why I stared. I dare say it never struck you as strange, that he should say- 'Oh, it's you, young gentleman !'-now it did me, for those were the words, and the voice was the same, we heard beneath the Black Arch of the Clink: the man of the arch, and the man of the knife are one, depend upon it !"

" But granting this to be as you say, we have arrived, thereby, no nearer to a solution of this strange occurrence !"

"Not much, to be sure !" replied the Bridge-shooter; " but still every little is something; and when we put this and that together, we may guess pretty easily whose knife that was : you found this piece sticking in the floor of Horton's old room; the strange man tells you that the other part possesses a charm, to bring Horton to the dust; you know it to be such as 'prentices always carry; so to make a long story short, that was Horton's: how it came into the stranger's hands, or why he has placed it in yours, for the present we cannot know; but my firm belief is--" and as the Bridge-shooter said this, he lowered his voice, and cast an anxious look around the room, as if fearing some other ears might catch the words-"yes, my firm belief is, that with that knife some


. dreadful secret act has been perpetrated, and that we are to be the instruments of bringing it to light."

"No, no!" exclaimed Edward, slightly shuddering; "the horrid suspicion that has crossed your mind, cannot be founded on truth. Horton, I know, was ever vindictive, ever cruel, and cared not whom he wronged to gratify his passions, or work out his revenge, but not to the extent your words imply-you hint at murder !"

" In what other way can that knife possess so monstrous a power over him ? But, be it as it may, guard well that blood-stained blade, for blood those stains are, I feel certain. In the morning I'll away to my old mother, the Witch of Houndsditch, as the stranger called her, for you remember he told us, what further was to be learnt, would be through her; she'll make a rigmarole sort of story, and will tell me a vast deal more than the truth, though I'll give the old soul the credit of believing all she does say is true; I'll manage as well as I can to ferret out something."

When the Bridge-shooter reached his mother's cottage, he approached the casement to tap at it, as was his usual custom every morning, and then to give her a kindly nod, before he entered the cottage door; but he now checked his hand, for he fancied he saw a figure standing in the room, resembling the stranger of the night before; he stepped cautiously past the window, and approaching the door on tiptoe, intending to surprise the stranger, and, in his own mind determined, now it was daylight, and all his superstitious fears having vanished, to come to an open explanation, and not let him again give him the slip, he raised the latch without a sound, and darting in, became more amazed than ever, for not a soul, but his old bed-ridden mother, was in the room.

"Where's the stranger ?" he exclaimed, looking round the apartment, as if he still imagined he might be hidden under one of the chairs, or some such impossible place.

" What stranger, boy?" said the old woman, who was evidently agitated; "what stranger do you enquire after ? But methinks it had been but dutiful of a son, to have enquired after his infirm old mother, before thinking of strangers !"

"Forgive me, mother," said William; " but before I ask after aught else, I will know who and what that man is who was here but now !" As he said this, he attempted to open the door leading to a sort of kitchen, it was locked-" Oh, oh," said he, " he's here, is he !" then running to the back of the house, was equally unfortunate in his search, for no trace of the stranger could he discover. " I'll swear I saw him standing here !" lie said, as he again entered the room. " Come, mother, don't have your witchery nonsense with me. Who was it ? and how has he eluded me ?"

"He !--who ?" enquired the old dame; " those that I have seen, you could not see; and those that I have heard, even the stormy winds would have prevented you from hearing; but I see with other eyes, and hear with other ears than mortals do. He has been with me again this night !"

Whom mean you ?" enquired her son, now hoping he had fallen upon the right scent.

" The murdered knight !" replied the old woman; you'll hear more of


him anon; you'll hear more of him anon; and when you do, remember well that I have told you this !"

" But you've told me this old story so often, and nothing has come of it yet, that I'm getting tired of the murdered knight, and all connected with him. Why won't you tell me concerning what I want to know-- who was it with you not five minutes ago ?"

" One of the many that have been with me in the night !"

"Pshaw !" said the Bridge-shooter, " but this is morning, and rather late in the morning too-far too late for spirits to be flitting about. But I see you won't speak upon the subject, and as that is the only subject I wish to be informed on, I'll leave you, and seek my information elsewhere."

" You'll find it nowhere else," replied his mother; " and to show you, ungrateful, doubting boy, that I can read events to come, know that you and Edward Osborne must hasten to the cottage on the Heath; you will there find one you little dream of!"

" Not the murdered knight ?" said William, smiling ironically; "and it can't be Flora, for I'm always dreaming of her-who can it be ?"

" You would believe me as little were I to tell you, as you do now," said the mother, " so I will save my breath; but remember, that if Edward would serve those he loves, he will be at the Heath this night. Oh, I could tell you a thousand things, but what would be the use of speaking to a block. You will sleep in a strange bed this night!"

" I say, mother, that's uncommonly old. I suppose next you'll tell me I shall marry a fair girl."

" And so you will !" replied the old woman.

" That I shall," said William, " if I marry at all, for Flora's fair, and I swear I'll never marry any one else. How many children shall we have, eh, mother-seven girls, and seven boys ?"

The old woman made no reply, but gave her son a look of withering contempt; and waving her hand, implied that he might leave her.

"Gad zooks !" exclaimed the Bridge-shooter, " why, I say, mother, where's your spirit ?"

" My spirit !"

" Yes," said he, " your old cat-where is it ?"

"Gone to seek for your brains," said the old dame, quite crossly, " gone to seek for your brains; and if she stay until she find them, I shall never live to see her again !"

"Gad, mother, that's a good slap; but I deserve it; so give us a kiss, and your blessing; and to shew you how implicitly I believe in all you say, I'll get Edward to go with me to the Heath this very night. I don't think it will take much trouble to tempt him; for, some how or another, for the last few days, he has been doing nothing else but talk about the Heath, and those upon it; and seems to be ever seeking for some excuse for going there: but the merchant being away, you know-,

" No matter," replied the old woman; "I'll take all blame, if my words prove unsooth. But he and you are expected this night; and let not Edward slight the summons I now send him to be there."

When the Bridge-shooter returned, he found Osborne sitting near a


. desk, with his head leaning against his hand, his eyes turned up towards the heavens-in fact, he was sitting as authors are supposed to sit, in moments of inspiration. The noise of William's entrance startled Edward, and he hurriedly concealed two or three little scraps of paper. The Bridge-shooter had more than once before, although not until lately, noticed a like circumstance, yet never dreamt the cause.

"Well, William," said young Osborne, putting on that studied indifference which people mostly do when they are surprised in doing something they feel slightly ashamed of; " well, what says the Witch of Houndsditch, eh ? Has she solved the difficulties of our surmises ?"

"Not one," was the Bridge-shooter's reply, "but has added new surmises to our old ones; for can you-I can't, for the life of me- surmise why we two should be expected at the Heath, and on this very night too ?"

"At the Heath!" ejaculated Edward, with great eagerness; "and who says we are expected there ?"

" Oh, nobody very particular," replied William, "only old mother: but as I promised to deliver her message, why, I suppose I must. She says that if you would serve those you love, you will be at the Heath to-night. But I suppose you won't go."

" Not go !" exclaimed Edward, starting up; "not go, if I can be of service to her-that is to those I love; and whom do I love but those on the Heath ? Your mother has been too often right for me to neglect her warnings now.

"I can't say much for her being very often right-I've known her a plaguy deal oftener wrong: but as she sometimes guesses within a mile of the truth, perhaps she does so now, and as far as I'm concerned, a row, or a ride to Putney, would suit my longings vastly, for Flora has returned, no doubt, by this."

" Yes, William, we'll away at once; if a service is to be performed, the sooner it be done the better; a quick favour is a double favour; besides, I myself have for some days past-yes, for several days, had strange forebodings concerning the cottage on the Heath; an inward sort of feeling that seemed to impel me to hasten thither, and see that all was well. Heaven send it be so !"

As soon as the affairs of the merchant's shop could be put into sure train, that their absence might cause no disarrangement of the business, the two mounted their horses, and starting at a good round pace, were soon far from London.

As they journeyed on, the Bridge-shooter, after a very long silence, startled Edward, by saying-" Master Edward, were you ever in love ?"

" In love !" exclaimed Osborne, as though such a thought had never once crossed his mind before, " in love ! do you think I'm a fool ?"

" I think any man's a fool that is not; it's the greatest blessing of my life; if you were but once to taste the sweets of it, you'd find your appetite increase with every morsel you swallowed; it's a perfect paradise; sometimes I could cut my throat with jealousy; at another time I could drown myself in despair !"

" And these are the comforts you would recommend to poor me, eh ?-


No, no," said Edward; "no doubt that jealousy is a very keen blade, but I have no wish to cut my throat with it; nor to drown myself in the flood of despair."

" Nor have I, really," said William, ' for the things themselves are unpleasant enough, no doubt; but then the delight is at being prevented by ner you love; and it is really astonishing to see how exactly they know the very moment to rush in and save you. Then comes the sobbing, and the crying, and the forgiving, and the making it up, and swearing that you'll never quarrel again, and then quarrelling again ten minutes afterwards. Oh, it's wonderful! Why don't you fall in love ?"

"Because," replied Edward, " I have never seen any one worth til trouble; or-- " he checked himself, " or, if I had, would think me worth the loving."

"You've never tried," said the Bridge-shooter.

" Nor ever mean, rejoined Edward; "for I am certain that were I silly enough to place my affections upon any one, I should do so upon the only being on earth that could never be mine. Heigho !"

"Why, that 'heigho's' exactly like a lover's sigh," said William; " I know all the different sorts of sighs now ; that was a young one, just such as I used to give before Flora owned that she liked me."

" But why," enquired Osborne, " why have you led the conversation into this unusual vein ? I think you have never talked to me thus before."

No," replied the other, " but we've often wanted to. I say we, for I mean Flora and I; bless you, Master Edward, we've a hundred and a hundred times talked about you; and if you won't be offended, I'll tell you what we've said."

Osborne could not help smiling at the earnestness with which the Bridge-shooter uttered these words, so the latter taking the smile for consent, went on.-" Well then, I have often and often said to Flora, what a pity it was, that Master Edward would never see what a charming creature young Mistress Anne was; and then Flora would say to me- 'And it's quite as great a pity, that sweet Mistress Anne can't see what a charming young man Master Edward is ;'-upon my life, she says you are a charming young man; and would you believe it, I have never once been jealous when she has said so."

"I would not interrupt you, William," rejoined Edward, " until you had finished your absurd speech; for I knew it was kindly meant; but could you or Flora ever think me so weak, so mad-yes, mad, as to look upon my master's daughter with any eyes but those of a brother ? Is it likely that he, now growing into one of the greatest, the wealthiest merchants, of this, the most wealthy city of the world, would give his child to his apprentice ? or that she, the daughter of such a man, could ever find in that apprentice, worth to make her abandon all her hopes of greatness ? Master Hewet, good as he is, is still as proud as he is good, and will no doubt follow the fashion of the times, and wed his rich daughter to some poor lord. It is the way with most of our great citizens nowadays ; then why should he act differently to them? Yes, yes, depend upon it, Anne, will one day become the wife of some worthless lordling !" He pronounced the word worthless very bitterly; and then they rode on for


. some time in silence. Edward, who had evidently been communing with himself further upon the same theme, said suddenly, as though the Bridge-shooter had been fully aware of what had been passing in his mind--; It is to warn her upon this subject, I am so anxious to visit the Heath. This young artist, this Lerue, of whom I can learn nothing in town, seems by her letter to be a likely swain, and should she fatally become attached to him, her misery would be certain, for her father could never consent to such a match as that; and thus would her future hopes be blighted for ever: but I will warn her."

" If you would take my advice, Master Edward," said the Bridge- shooter, " you'll do no such thing."

"No!" exclaimed Edward Osborne in surprise; "and why not, I pray ?"

"Because," replied the other, "it is a well-known fact in natural history-and I have heard that no exception to the rule has yet been discovered-that when you want a girl to do anything, always advise her to the contrary, and she's sure to do it. You see, young women are born with very strong notions of justice; so that the moment a young man is traduced, up pops their justice, with magnifying glasses upon his nose, and begins to search about, to find out every little bit of good there may be in him. Now, as everybody has some good, if we will but look for it-and as they look for nothing else-why, they soon find what they think enough to upset the truth of all your warnings; and thus, you see, you have led to your own defeat. No, no; when you do not wish people to care for each other, leave them alone. Why is Cupid always drawn with a bow and arrow? Why, to show that he delights in opposition, and glories in wounding those who attempt to resist him. Had Anne and you been told that on no account must you love each other, hang me if I don't think you would have been married by this time !"

Osborne could not help feeling there was some little truth in the Bridge-shooter's remarks upon the perversity of human nature, for he inwardly acknowledged that ever since he had told himself he must not think of Anne, he had thought of nothing else. His mind now took so sad a turn, yet still bearing upon the same forbidden point, that they passed over more than a mile without exchanging another word.

It is quite extraordinary to observe how easily, at times, the most determined resolution may be turned aside by a mere chance word, a look, or even a stifled sigh; here was poor Osborne-who had started for the Cottage of the Heath, not so much on account of the witch's summons, as on that of a previously-formed resolution to annihilate at once every hope that, he felt sure, Lerue was entertaining towards the lovely Anne: yes, and to do it too, by the eloquence of his forewarning-the simple remark of the Bridge-shooter, had thrown a doubt into his mind, regarding the wisdom of such a step, which doubt he found very difficult to overcome. He worried himself greatly upon this question, and at last determined, which was, taking all the circumstances into consideration, the wisest plan to pursue, that he would first reconnoitre the enemy's lines, before he made up his mind as to the mode of attack. It


was towards nightfall when they arrived at the Cottage; but the strange incidents that there took place we must reserve for a future chapter.