Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century
Rodwell, G Herbert
EVENING had began to close her shutters against the day, when Edward Osborne and the Bridge-shooter arrived at the Cottage on the Heath. To their great astonishment, they found Alyce and her daughter as much surprised at their arrival, as they themselves were at discovering their visit to the Heath so perfectly unlooked for.
"Well, now," said the Bridge-shooter, " isn't this all of a piece with old mother's wonderful witchcraft ?-' Tell Edward,' she said in her mysterious way, ' if he would serve those he loves, he will be at the Heath this night !'-I knew it was all nonsense, but what whim she could have in her head for sending us all this way, puzzles me vastly ; and then to tell such an abominable story, as to say we were expected. Oh, yes, indeed she did ! she said we were expected: I should like to know by whom."
"Perhaps by Flora," said Anne, " for she returns to-night."
"No, does she though !" exclaimed William, his face beaming with perfect delight; "if that be the case, I'll forgive mother all her nonsense."
" Why, Edward," exclaimed Anne, looking anxiously at young Osborne, "what ails you ? you have become suddenly pale as death-are you ill ?"
"No, dear Anne," he replied; "but a pain darted, as it seemed, through my heart, so sharp and sudden, that-- but it is gone now- And, now tell me-but why do I ask, for I may guess I am sure-whose drawings those are that so profusely adorn these walls ?"
"Oh, they are the work of our new friend, our protector, the young artist, Walter Lerue !"
As she pronounced the name, Edward fixed his eyes upon her so intently, and with such a peculiar enquiring gaze, as though he would through her eyes read her very heart, that an involuntary blush suffused
|her lovely face, rendering it, if possible, more lovely than before. What did he wish to learn ? what did he fear to discover ? he scarcely knew; but he certainly now regarded Anne with different eyes, with different feelings to those of former days; there was in his breast a kind of jealous sensation growing up, that caused him much pain, if she appeared to take interest in aught that was unconnected with her former habits. The blush had died, almost as soon as born, and had been called into existence by feelings very, very different, to those poor Edward now seemed to delight in torturing his own breast with; Lerue had had no share in her thoughts at that moment, while Osborne believed sincerely that she was thinking of little else.|
Now, in the most unconcerned manner, she began to expatiate largely upon the beauties of each sketch, which she, one by one, brought to the notice of Edward. It is astonishing through what a dim glass jealousy looks upon the merits of any one regarded as a rival. At another time, or had they been the work of another's hand, Edward would have been the first to extol the great beauties, which these sketches undoubtedly possessed; but now, the only parts his eye could rest upon with the least feeling of satisfaction, were those wherein he believed he could discover some blemish; not the most trivial fault that he could pick out, but he magnified to such an extent, that ere long the faults appeared far greater than the merits, and poor Anne began to feel a little ashamed of having praised so highly, works that were so open to severe criticism. When the likeness of Anne was placed beforehim, he actually burst into a laugh of derision, and declared that he could not perceive one feature that at all resembled the original.-" What !" he exclaimed, " that smile like yours ?-those lips like little Anne's ?"
" But I am not little Anne now, Edward," said the young beauty; " and perhaps my lips are different to what they were."
"They are different, very different," said Edward, gazing at his young mistress with an expression she had never witnessed in him before; " they are different, for they are more beautiful, a thousand times more beautiful, than ever-"
Osborne's face burnt like fire, and he looked round at every body, perfectly bewildered at his own unexpected burst of enthusiasm.
"Mother, mother !" exclaimed Anne, smiling more than ever kindly upon Edward, "did you hear that ? Why, sober Edward has actually become a flatterer. Well, I must be downright lovely, if Edward has been able to discover a single beauty in this poor face; but up to this moment I never imagined he was aware that I had either eyes, nose, mouth, or lips. Why, Edward, if you go on at this rate, we shall have you one of these days falling in love. I should like to see you in love !"
" Perhaps you will, sooner than you expect," said the Bridge-shooter, very innocently; but the observation brought upon him a severe frown from Edward, who said-" No one will ever see that day, for were I to be so mad as to love, I would never be mad enough to show it-at least until I knew I was loved as madly."
" Then, I suppose, Edward," said Anne, "you will expect the fair one to be the first to disclose her passion, and on her knees pray of Master sober Edward to take pity on her sad condition, and to give her a little
|. bit of his carefully-guarded heart, just to keep her from despair. No, no, my dear brother, such a system will never do. Mother and I must give you some lessons ; she shall tell you how my dear father made love to her; and when you have learnt your first lesson, you shall repeat it to me; you know that I have a great deal of patience, so that you may go over and over again, every bit of it, without the least fear that I shall be tired; and when you are tolerable perfect, I will introduce you to the sweetest little wife-"|
"I think we had much better look over the rest of these drawings," interrupted Edward, " than talk such nonsense. But tell me," he continued, as he gazed in perfect admiration upon one he now took up, "know you whether this be the likeness of any living being, or the happy creation of the artist's fancy ? I never beheld a face through which the purity of the soul seemed so truly to beam forth, as it does in this." " Would you believe it," she replied, "but that innocent face really belongs to the very little wife I have just mentioned ? It is the likeness of Lillia, the Lilly of the Inn."
" Poor girl !" observed Alyce; " I fear me she is too pure, and too innocent to be allowed by Heaven to remain long upon this wicked earth. Ever since the day on which Anne and Master Lerue found her in the ruins on the Heath, she has scarcely spoken, and there is such a fixed, such determined melancholy upon her mind, that at every moment is seems to be eating away her life. Her only prayer was to be taken to her father, but as he was from home, and knowing how much more care we could bestow upon her, than she possibly could receive from strangers at the Ferry, we insisted upon her remaining here until to-day, when knowing that her father would return ere night, no persuasion could prevail upon her to delay her departure."
"From daybreak," said Anne, " she never ceased to pray of us to take her home; so, as she had never quitted her bed since the day she first came, we fitted up one of our vans with all sorts of furs, and everything we could find to keep away the cold, and in it, as she lay upon her bed, we conveyed her to the Inn. I would have remained with her, but she insisted upon my departure, as she wished, she said, to be quite alone until her father came. It was with great reluctance I obeyed that wish, but I will be with her again at earliest morn. She has some secret sorrow preying upon her mind, I am certain, but of what nature I cannot guess; nor could I tempt her to disclose aught that might give me a clue to discover any way of bringing relief to her wounded mind."
Hearing this account of the Lilly of the Inn, Edward once more looked upon the picture, and fancied he could trace through the sweet, but sad expression of the countenance, the foreboding of an early grave.
Edward was now made acquainted with all they knew concerning Lillia and her father, and he soon became deeply interested in their fates. So intently were all their minds fixed upon the subject, that they were not aware, until the moon had risen high in the heavens, and was sending her bright rays through the casement as messengers, to tell them that night was fast approaching, how long they had been talking upon the melancholy theme.
Anne happening to raise her eyes towards the window, suddenly
|uttered an exclamation of fear, that caused them all to start to their feet. " I am certain," she said," I saw a man looking in at the casement."|
"Did you, Mistress Anne ?" said the Bridge-shooter, starting towards it; "then I'll just ask him what he wants, and -"
"No, no,-do not venture; it may he one of those desperate people that are now so continually prowling about."
" If so," observed Edward, " I think the sooner we make him prowl somewhere else the better !"
Saying this, and before Anne could prevent him, Edward at once flew to the outer door, followed by the Bridge-shooter; when it was opened they found a country lad standing before them; he was crying, and panting for breath, and appeared exhausted with running.
"Was it you who looked in at the window ?" enquired Edward, in an angry tone.
"Hoiy ?" exclaimed the lad, "not holy, maister ! Hoiy know my place better nor that."
"Then did you observe any one else doing so, as you came up ?" said the Bridge-shooter.
" Hoiy ? not hoiy, maister !" again exclaimed the lad, as well as his sobbing and his lack of breath would allow him; " hoiy seed no 'un lookin in!"
"But why do we find you here? What want you ?" enquired Edward.
" Hoiy wants young missus; and my young missus wants her too !"
" And who is your young missus ?' said the Bridge-shooter.
Why, don't you know? 'gad hoiy thought every fool knowed my young missus, bless her! It only shows that you're not a poor un, or you'd a known my young missus, bless her! All the poor 'uns about these parts knows maister's daughter, Lillia, bless her !" Here he blubbered aloud.
Anne recognising the voice of the lad, came to the door, and enquired if Lillia had sent him.
" No, not she," was his reply; "not she, bless her !"
" Then who did ?" said Edward.
"Moll, the milkmaid !" exclaimed the boy; "Moll sent hoiy; and told holy to run loike mad up to the cottage; and so hoiy have run'd loike mad: and mad we'll all run, if young missus dies, bless her!" Saying this, he wiped his eyes with his arm, and blubbered afresh.
"Heavens !" exclaimed Anne, "is Lillia then so very ill ?"
"She's as bad as bad can be, bless her ! so Moll says, and Moll says, that young missus says, that she wants you to come to her directly; and hoiy'm to take care on you, down to the Ferry."
"No, my good lad, I have others to take care of me," said Anne; "so do you run back again---"
"Loike mad ?" interrupted the boy.
"No, but as quickly as you can, and say that I will be there almost as soon as you are."
" No you won't," said the lad; " for hoiy knows it'll do her good to know that you're cummin, and hoiy'd run my legs off to do her good, bless her!"
Without waiting another instant, the lad started off at the top of his
|. speed, in seeming delight at what he considered the good news he was to take to his young mistress.|
A few minutes after, and Anne, with Edward, followed by the Bridge- shooter, was on her way towards the Ferry. The moon was shining so brightly, that all around seemed light as day.
Moonlight has a peculiar power upon some persons, particularly upon lovers; it seems to soften the heart, and bring on a pleasing sadness; and if two young people should happen to find themselves walking together in its silvery light, ten to one but its supposed influence on the brain begins to act, and if they are not already mad enough to be in love with each other, they are pretty sure to be so before their walk is ended. Edward and Anne had been walking rapidly for some time, and had not yet uttered one word.
" You are very thoughtful, Edward," said Anne, at last breaking the silence; " and I noticed, the moment you came to the cottage, how sad you looked; and I have also remarked that your last letters have been little less sad then are your looks."
"Why should I be sad, dear Anne ?" said Osborne, endeavouring to speak cheerfully; "no man on earth, the world would say, has less cause then I."
" But what say you ?" observed Anne; " the world seldom makes just remarks; and none but those who suffer, can know the pangs of hidden sorrow. You have always called me your sister, and I have always loved you with a sister's love; then if there be aught that has caused you pain, confide the truth to me; there is no greater comfort to the human heart than that of sympathy; and where will you find a heart that can more truly sympathize with yours, than mine? Come, Edward, tell me, tell me all, for something there is upon your mind that robs it of repose. I have never kept a secret from you; then why should you from me, if you are my own true brother ?"
" Dear Anne," said Osborne, " I do long to tell you part of what I feel; and it was to do so that I now am here; but fearing the wisdom of the step, I hesitate; because-"
As he said this he looked round to see that the Bridge-shooter was not within hearing, for he felt his resolution tottering terribly.
" Because-and yet I know not why I hesitate, for what I would say is for your happiness, so I will speak out, and then leave all to your own discretion."
So seriously had Osborne said this, that Anne for a moment felt really alarmed, not dreaming what could follow such a commencement.
" It is," said Edward, after a moment's pause, " it is concerning this Master Walter Lerue, this young artist, that I would speak."
" In the name of goodness," exclaimed the lovely girl, " what of him ? Surely he cannot in any way be the cause of your sadness ?"
" He is the sole cause," replied Osborne; " from all you have written to me about him, it seems, as well as I can judge, that the attentions he is so anxious to bestow upon you, spring from a warmer feeling than that of suddenly-formed friendship; for Heaven's sake, dear Anne, be guarded how you allow your thoughts to turn towards him !"
"Why, Edward," exclaimed the astonished girl; "you are surely jealous of Master Lerue !"
"Jealous !" Osborne said, with a kind of sneer; "why should I be jealous ? Even were you really to love him, it could matter naught to me, but to yourself would be certain misery; and it is to save you from that, that I now warn you. You are the sole heiress of one of the greatest merchants of our land-Lerue a stranger, and unknown-a poor artist, no fitting match for you. Be sure of this, dear Anne, that to wed you with such as he, your father never would consent."
"My father will consent to give me to whom I like," said Anne, proudly, "be he rich or poor, a prince or a beggar, or he gives no consent at all. And do you, Edward, think so poorly of me, as to imagine that poverty or wealth should sway me from, or to any man ? No, believe me, it is my present thought never to wed at all; but when I do, I will seek for my happiness in my husband's heart, not in his purse. Dear Edward," she continued, as she placed her hand kindly upon his arm, " if that be all that has so much troubled you, set your mind at ease, for in truth I am in but little danger from Master Lerue, unless, indeed, your having placed him before my mind may cause me to discover some hidden charms, that, but for you, I had never thought of looking for."
The moment she said this, the Bridge-shooter's observation concerning the perversity of the female mind recurred to him, and he began to feel sorry he had drawn her attention so strongly upon the very man of whom he would rather she should never think again. Fearing he had done more harm than good, poor Osborne became more than ever thoughtful; and Anne, too, for a time seemed lost in a reverie. She was the first to speak; but before she did so, she looked kindly at her childhood's earliest friend, and then, with a smile, said--" Edward, I know that every word you have said, has sprung from the kindest, purest motives, and I thank you-indeed I do; and if it will give you one moment's ease to hear me make a promise, which I will never break, listen to me--"
They had just passed the end of a cross--road, and had not gone many steps beyond, when exactly at the moment Anne was about to make her pledge, they were caused to start, by hearing a female voice calling loudly, " William! William ! William!"
They turned round, and were very much surprised to see " William" running towards a wagon that was just emerging from the cross-road, and in another moment were still more surprised, to see a young woman, jumping from it into William's arms. It was Flora, returning to the cottage; she had caught sight of her lover as he passed the end of the road, and was too much delighted at seeing him, to allow her to remain quiet.
" Well," she said, " that old gipsy must have been a witch, for she told me I should find something precious at a cross-road."
" And you found my precious self there," said the Bridge-shooter, giving Flora a hearty embrace; "and now you shall go to the Ferry with us."
" I can't," said Flora; " I've got all my things in the wagon, and I must not leave them; so, lift me up again."
Poor William looked terribly crest-fallen, to think that she was to go one way and he the other.
Anne, guessing his feelings, insisted upon his accompanying Flora home, "being," as she said, " quite safe without more protection than what Edward could bestow."
The Bridge-shooter did not wait to be pressed to return, but at once told the driver to push forward, and placing Flora's arm in his own, the two trudged on happily together behind the wagon--" in order," as he said, " to enjoy the beauty of the evening," but in reality, to have a little bit of comfortable chat unnoticed.
As they strolled along, Flora said--' Now, who could have expected to see you here to-night."
" That's exactly what we want to know," replied the Bridge-shooter: "mother sent us off to the heath on a wild-goose chase, after some one or other, whom, she said, was expecting us; and now we are here, we find we can't find any one that will confess we were expected at all. I say, Flora, I'm going to tell you something that will astonish your very eyebrows, and make them start right up to the top of your head."
"You don't say so !" exclaimed Flora, really raising her eyebrows.
" But I do, though," replied the Bridge-shooter. " What do you think? I'm downright certain that Master Edward is in love at last!"
" Gracious " exclaimed Flora; " Master Edward in love, it can't be."
" Can't it ?" said William, with a nod of the head; " can't it ? Do you think I don't know all the symptoms by this time, eh ? A young fellow doesn't get pale for nothing-do you remember how pale I used to be ? and he doesn't lose his appetite without eating, for nothing neither-don't you recollect what a little I used to eat ?"
" I can't say I do," was Flora's reply.
"Well, then," continued the Bridge-shooter, " Master Edward does get pale-and Master Edward doesn't eat; and that's not half the symptoms he shews-Master Edward is jealous."
" Jealous! of whom ?" said Flora; " perhaps it would be as well, before you tell me that, just to let me into the secret of whom it is he loves-but it can't be."
" I'll swear it !" replied William; " and he's very far gone too; but not half so far as I'd have been gone, long before this, if I had been in his place, for she is a duck! By-the-by, I wonder why, when we are fond of any nice girl, we call her a duck ? I'm uncommon fond of ducks, certainly, but I never saw one that ever put me in mind of you-ex- cept, perhaps, a little in the walk."
" I'll box your ears, sir," said Flora, " if you are so ungallant again, as to compare my walk to that of a duck's! I don't think ducks have feet like these to walk upon," and out she held one of the prettiest little feet ever seen.
" Only when they are such darling ducks as you !" replied the Bridge- shooter, placing his arm round her little waist, and taking one of her hands in his own; " and I am sure you will say she is, when you know her to be our lovely young mistress, Anne !"
" You don't mean to say she has touched his insensible heart at last ?
|Well, I should be delighted were that true: but how did you discover the fact ?"|
" By being in love myself," replied the Bridge-shooter; " having gone through all the degrees-of seeing, admiring, fearing, being jealous; and uncommonly jealous I know he is, though he keeps it to himself, of a certain young painter, named Walter Lerue."
Upon this William recounted the whole affair of Lerue rescuing Alyce and her daughter, and of his becoming a very frequent visitor at the cottage-and of what he had just heard regarding Lillia--" But," said he, as he concluded his narrative, " the greatest proof of Master Edward being in love is, that he has turned poet. Oh, dear! when a young man begins to scribble poetry, depend upon it, his case is hopeless. You must know, amongst his waste papers, that are thrown aside for me to burn, what should I see, one day, but half-a-sheet covered all over with attempts at finding rhymes, such as-' heath, beneath; beneath, heath; teeth--' he was evidently thinking of our cottage on the Heath, and, may be, of Anne's lovely teeth: only this very morning my doubts were rendered certainties, by finding this scrap of paper."
William took out a piece of paper from his pouch; but, brightly as the moon was shining, Flora could not make out the words, further than the title, which being in a larger hand, she could plainly decypher-- "THE DREAM OF LOVE."
" Really a very pretty conceit," observed Flora, " and I'll place it under my pillow to-night; and who knows but it may bring me a dream of love."
" You've got the reality," said William, "and that's a plaguy deal better than any dream."
We must now leave them to pursue their idle chat on their way to the cottage, while we once more join Edward and the lovely Anne.
They had now reached the Ferry-house; and leaving Osborne in the room below, Anne ascended to the apartment of the drooping Lilly of the Inn.
" Oh, bless you, dear Anne !" said Lillia, in a sweet but feeble voice, as she raised herself slowly on her couch, to welcome her beloved young friend; " oh, bless you, for this kind, this prompt attention to the wishes of a poor miserable girl!"
" But why miserable, Lillia ?" said Anne, kissing the pale lips of the sufferer; " why say miserable, when hope seems to have once more dawned upon the fortunes of your father ? You know his present absence has been caused, so he informed you in his last letter, by having found a friend where he could never have dreamt of finding one, who will, he doubts not, be the means of his restoration to his former station-then why this misery ?"
"It was to tell you why," replied Lillia, " that I have prayed your toming hither-I am dying !"
" For Heaven's sake, talk not thus !" exclaimed Anne, taking the burning hand of Lillia, and pressing it to her lips, " talk not thus: there are many, many years, believe me, of happy life in store for you; and doubtless the secret trouble that now appears to weigh you down,
|. when I shall know the cause, will prove but the fleeting fancy of a childish dream."|
" It was a childish dream," replied Lillia, " but one that seemed so real, its sad remembrance can never be again effaced from out my heart, wherein it took its rise, until that heart shall cease to beat. 'Twill not be long before 'tis still-its throbs already come slower, slower, and fainter; and it is because I fear its little remaining life will pass away before my poor father once more shall look upon his child, that I would say to you all I had intended to have confessed to none but him. Tell him all, dear Anne, all I shall say to you! 'Twill kill him, Anne! I feel my death will kill him !" As she uttered these words, a flood of tears burst from the fountains of her inmost heart, that seemed to choak her.
Anne wept bitterly, too, but her anxiety to learn the cause of the poor child's wretchedness, in the hope of bringing her relief; caused her to exert her every power to appear composed, and as Lillia became for a moment calm, she kindly pressed her at once to ease her mind of what she wished to disclose.
Lillia gazing at Anne with a look of intense feeling, exclaimed- "You, you are the cause !"
" I," exclaimed Anne, in a tone of perfect wonderment; " I the cause of your sorrow ? Lillia, Lillia, you must be now, indeed, in a childish dream !"
" No," replied the poor girl, " the dream is gone, and to you I owe my waking. Do not think that I have called you here to upbraid you -Heaven forbid ! You knew not of the death-blight to my life, that lay in those eyes now looking on me in kindliness and pity-you knew not that their power, while giving life to another's hopes, was bringing death to mine."
' You speak in riddles, Lillia, indeed you do," said Anne; " what other mean you ?"
" Walter," replied Lillia, " Walter Lerue! I loved him, more than my life I loved him, which my early death will prove." Again she burst into tears.
Anne now remembered the scene that had taken place in the ruins of the chapel, the evident confusion that had seized upon Lerue, when first he discovered the senseless form of Lillia lying on the earth; his precipitate retreat the moment Lillia had been conveyed to the cottage, and his continued absence, while she was there. The truth seemed at once suddenly to flash upon her mind.
Lillia, now that the secret which had been devouring her very life was once divulged, revealed to Anne her most inmost thoughts-she took all blame from him-" Walter," she said, " had been kind to her, as he would have been to any other child; but she herself had transformed that kindness into a feeling, like that with which her own heart glowed -she loved him, and she thought herself beloved." The mist of overwrought affection had blinded her to the truth; that mist had been dispelled by what she had beheld in the ruined chapel-all the bright fabrics her imagination had built up in her childish mind, had been, as by the lightning's flash, shattered, never to be raised again.
Anne having learnt the truth, endeavoured, by every means she could devise, to raise a hope in Lillia's breast, feeling that hope was the only medicine that ever cured the wounded mind. She told her truly how indifferent Lerue was to herself; that with the one slight exception, all his acts to her had ever been but those of common courtesy.
The willing heart is easily persuaded, and for a moment a ray of hope did light up the pale innocent features of that poor drooping lilly. Lillia now endeavoured to deceive herself anew, by trying to believe that she had been deceived in what she had seen Her mind had become so weak from illness, that any picture placed before it seemed to her reality: she clung to any hope held out to her. Suddenly she started, as she exclaimed--" Hark ! hark ! oh, my longing ears deceive me not this time ! 'Tis he! thank Heaven, 'tis he-it is my father !"
Anne could distinguish no sound; but Lillia insisted that she had heard his voice.
The child was right, for in another instant the old man rushed into the room, half frantic, and he threw his arms about his child, and kissed her a thousand times.
Edward had, in the few moments the old man was below, told him, as guardedly as he'could, of the sad condition of his child.
The old man scarcely heeded what he said, for he brought such happy news with him, that he felt that sorrow would never dare to visit them again.
The little hope which Anne had raised in Lillia's breast, and the sudden appearance of her adored father, had caused such a glow to overspread her features, that no one then to have looked upon her, could have dreamt that she and death would, ere long, become united.
Anne now took an affectionate leave of her suffering friend, and left her with her father by her side, recounting all the happy chances that had befallen him while away, and how his dearest hopes had been most strangely consummated.
When Anne rejoined young Osborne, she found him sadder than ever, -- Anne," he said, as they commenced their homeward journey, " I have been thinking, what could have been the promise you were about to make me, when we were interrupted by hearing Flora's voice calling to William."
"I almost forget," said Anne. " Of what were we talking ?-oh, I remember now-it was about your fears for me, in case I should lose my heart to Master Walter Lerue. Be assured of this, that lose it when I may, it will never be to him; and my promise would have been, and shall be still, that the moment I have become silly enough to fall in love, you shall be the first to know it-will that satisfy you, Edward ?"
As she was saying this, a sound fell upon their ears, as of one suffering great pain. They were close to the little smithy, that had once been the dwelling of Walter Cromwell, and in which his son, King Henry's great favourite, Thomas Cromwell. afterwards Earl of Essex, had worked as a blacksmith, when a boy.
"Down on your knees," said a gruff voice from within; "down on your knees, while I rivet this iron ring round your neck ; and be thankful to me for not doing it while it was red hot ?"
They heard a violent blow, and then another cry of pain. The door of the smithy being open, and the blazing fire of the forge within showing every thing plainly that was passing in the smith's shop, they could not help checking their steps for a moment, and gazing in. An old man, whose back was towards them, was kneeling upon the ground; near him stood a surly-looking fellow, whose dress and badge plainly told that he was the tipstaff of the village. A gruff, elderly, but athletic, Cyclops, for the smith had but one eye, was in the act of bending an iron ring round the neck of the old man. Close to him stood a boy, holding in one hand a square lump of iron, that was to act as a portable anvil; and in the other a rivet and a hammer.
"He won't be so fond of running away again,"- said the tipstaff, " now he knows what it is to be branded upon the breast with a hot iron; and I can tell you, my master, we did it pretty deep for you."
A shudder passed over the old man's frame as he thought of the dreadful pain he had that morning suffered, the wound still burning like a fire on his chest.
" What can this mean ?" said Anne, as trembling she whispered into Osborne's ear.
"I will enquire," replied Edward; "you step aside, for this is no sight for you, dear Anne."
Anne moved on a few paces, and Osborne entered the smithy.
" What are you doing to that old man ?" he said.
" What's that to you ?" was the smith's uncourteous reply ; " we are doing what the law allows; and if you doubt it, read that !" Saying this, he pointed to a dirty-looking bill that was nailed to the wall; it was a copy of the law against vagrants.
" Oh ! it's all right, young sir," said the tipstaff; "this old scoundrel would be begging, so honest Master Blaze, here, took him before his worship, and had him assigned to him as a slave for two years; he is branded on the breast; and if now he should run away, and absent himself for fourteen days-those are the words of the act-he will be branded on the forehead, or the ball of the cheek, and then become the slave of honest Master Blaze for ever."
"But that iron ring," said Edward; "surely the law does not allow of that ?"
" Doesn't it ?" said the smith, with a laugh; "you shall see !" And he began to hammer away at the rivet, as the boy held the lump of iron beneath the ring; the jarring of the ring at every blow, caused great pain to the old man, and he cried out for mercy.
" Will nothing tempt you to be more feeling ?" said Edward, his blood rising with indignation, as much against the framers of such an inhuman law, as against those who were now carrying its spirit into practice; " will money buy your feeling, if you have any left to sell, which I own I doubt ?"
"Money will buy anything in these times," replied the smith. "What will you give, if I put him to nothing harder than blowing the forge ? he'll only have to do it eighteen hours out of the twenty-four; the other six he may sleep away in the ash-hole there beneath; it's a snug and comfortable bed, young master, I can tell you."
"Take all I have," said Edward, throwing down a leathern purse, and give him as much of your humanity as you can, for the amount,"
The smith took the purse, and weighing it in his hand seemed debating within himself what quantity he could afford to give; at last he said -- Get up, old fool; but as the ring is on, why, there it must stay; take the handle of the bellows, and to your work. Master Blaze is an honest man, and having passed his word, he won't break it."
The old man tottered towards the forge, and as he passed close to Edward, said-"God will bless you for this!" and then cast a look of gratitude, so intense, that for a long time after Edward fancied he could see the old man still before him.
Edward now left the smithy, and with Anne hurried on towards their home. When they arrived at the cottage, they found the Bridge-shooter awaiting them at the gate.
" Master Edward," said the Bridge-shooter, "were you ever surprised in your life ? but if you were not, you will be now. Who's the last person you would ever expect to find beneath this roof ?-But you'd never guess; no, never-that you could not ! So come in, but mind you don't fall down with wonder!"
When Osborne entered the room, he certainly was surprised; he stood for a moment motionless, as if doubting his own vision, for there he beheld not only his master, whom he believed to be in Holland, but also the Cripple of the Bridge-gate-tower, and by him the blind Eoline.
"It's many a day since we have met," said the Cripple, addressing Osborne; "and many a night, since that on which we said adieu by the water-side!"
"But day nor night," said Eoline, with her lovely voice, " but day nor night has ever passed, without our offering up a prayer for him, to whom we owed our safety, and our lives."
Anne, who had so often heard of the Blind Beauty of the Minories, was greatly interested now she saw her. The contrast between the Cripple and his wife was so striking, that she kept looking from one to the other in wonder.
In order to explain how the Cripple could possibly be found beneath the roof of Master Hewet, we must take the reader back to the night of the storm. When the merchant and his brave companions had approached as near as they dared to the fatal sands, they plainly saw that there were at least two persons upon them still alive : more than one, they also saw lying as if dead. The breakers against the sands were so frightful, that it was hopeless to attempt to run the boat nearer. At last it struck the merchant, that by tying one of the stones that lay in the bottom of the boat as ballast, to the end of a long rope, they might succeed in throwing one end to those in peril. After several failures, they at last accomplished their aim ; the end with the stone attached to it, was seized by some one on the sands, and they could observe that he was, apparently, fastening it round the body of another. They presently saw him stand erect and extend both his arms, which they took for a signal to haul in the rope : this they did as rapidly as they could, for they knew that to it was fastened a human being-half dead with fear and cold; half drowned by being drawn so far through the waves, a female
|. was at last safely got into the boat. Not a moment was lost in again casting the rope to the sands, and again they succeeded in saving another helpless being from a watery grave. lt was useless to persevere further, for they understood from him they had just saved, that all else had perished.|
So imperfect was the light of the breaking day, so altered by iear and suffering were those they had rescued, that it was not until they were once again safe in the ship, that the merchant recognised in the man, the Cripple-of-the-bridge, and in the helpless female, the blind Eoline.
The merchant, when the sufferers were somewhat recovered, was still more anih astonished at the Cripple falling on his knees before him, and asking his pardon, and blessing him for saving more than life to him, his adored Eoline. They had journeyed at once, after landing on the Sussex shore, towards the Heath-Eoline conveyed in a litter, borne along by two horses; the merchant and the Cripple walking the greater part of the way on foot, on either side of the litter.
There being strong reasons why the Cripple should not l.e supposed as yet in England, or that he was even alive, the merchant kept to the north of London; but wishing Edward to be at the Heath that night, he had called on his way at the cottage of the Bridge-shooter's mother, where he left the message for Osborne.
When the Bridge-shooter heard this, he exclaimed- There, now! I knew it would all come out. Is it not strange, that she will do nothing without mixing up her magical nonsense with it ? It does not seem now very wonderful-does it ?-that she should have known that we were expected here to-night ?"
The merchant was again commencing his narrative, and explaining that the feeble state of Eoline had caused them to pause on their journey, for some hours, and this had made them arrive so long after the time they had expected to be at the cottage.-" But we have more wonders yet to tell," said the merchant; " have we not, Willy-of-the- bridge ?"
The Cripple nodded his head in assent; when who should be announced but Walter Lerue !
" I am right glad he has come," said the merchant; " for now I can thank him heartily for saving you, my Alyce dear, and my no less daring child.
" You will be charmed with him,' replied Alyce, " he is so clever, so amiable and Anne says, so handsome: between ourselves, I think she is half in love with him."
Osborne, upon hearing this, notwithstanding Anne's assertion of Lerue being perfectly indifferent to her, felt a pang at his heart he had never experienced before he looked at her reproachfully, but she observed him not: the name of Lerue had called up to her mind the whole melancholy scene she had so lately witnessed at the Ferry: she had formed her own ideas regarding Lerue, and those were greatly at variance with poor Lillia's. When Lerue entered, he was, for a moment, greatly confused at finding so many persons where he had expected and hoped to have found but two. The merchant waited not for any introduction, but taking him cordially by the hand, first thanked him for the service he had
|rendered his wife and child, and then gave him a hearty welcome to the cottage. Anne, in spite of her endeavours to appear as usual, could not cast off a feeling of restraint, which the knowledge she had that night gained from the pale lips of Lillia, would force upon her. Osborne sat moodily in one corner, and became more moody the instant he observed the handsome appearance and superior style of bearing which belonged to Walter Lerue. The moment Flora cast her eyes upon him, she whispered to William--" I am sure I have seen that face before, or one so like it, that it seems to me the same. Do you know any one like this Master Lerue, William ?"|
The Bridge-shooter, eyeing Lerue from head to foot, declared he had never seen any one at all resembling him.
Walter had placed himself between Alyce and the merchant, and appeared to be in deep converse with them; but if one might judge by eyes, his thoughts were in an opposite direction, in fact, exactly where Anne was sitting, for at every moment his eyes were cast upon her lovely face, as if to catch her own, and by their soft expression, learn her approval of his admiration.
The more Flora examined the features of Lerue, the more convinced was she that they had met before.
" Master Edward," she said, " I want to try a bit of the witch's trade-lend me your ring, will you, for a minute ? Conjurors always borrow a ring."
Edward, without taking his eyes off Anne, removed the ring from his finger, and gave it to Flora.
" Now you shall see," she said again, whispering to the Bridge- shooter, " which is the greatest witch, your mother or I."
Taking an opportunity of crossing the room to assist Eoline, as she was returning she suddenly stopped, and stooping to the ground as if to pick up something, on again rising, she presented the ring to Lerue, saying- " I have found a ring, which I think, sir, must have belonged to you."
Lerue, the moment he had glanced upon it, blushed, and then became suddenly pale-" It is not mine," he said, and then turned away his head to avoid the fixed gaze of Flora.
" How silly I must be, to be sure," said Flora, still looking at Lerue, 'how silly not to know that this ring is the one Lord George Talbot gave to Edward Osborne, there, some years ago." She then returned the ring to Edward, who had been so engrossed by his own thoughts, which more and more took the form of jealousy, that he had scarcely heeded either the actions or the words of Flora.-" I am right," she said, softly to the Bridge-shooter, as she again seated herself by him; " but we must keep the secret for the present."
"I am sure I shall," replied the Bridge-shooter, " for I don't know what it is."
" But you shall," said Flora, "but mind-your finger on your lip, or we may make mischief here." Then in a still softer tone she whispered, "Lerue, as lie is called, is not Lerue, but the heir to the Earl of Shrewsbury."
The Bridge-shooter raised his eyebrows until they were nearly lost under his hair,
"'Egad ! and now I look again," replied the Bridge-shooter, " it is the very fellow that made me so jealous when first I loved you. But why is he here in disguise ?"
" Hush !" ejaculated Flora, "hush, be cautious !"
When all was hurriedly made ready for the accommodation of Eoline and the Cripple, they arose, and Lerue, taking advantage of the opportunity, bade a quick adieu, and left the room. As he went out he gave Flora a peculiar look, which she guessing the meaning of, said- "I'll lock the outer gate, William !" and without waiting a reply, followed Lerue.
When they were out of the house, he turned to Flora, and said-"You know me !"
" I do !" she replied. " But why is Lord Talbot here under a false name ?"
"For the same reason, perhaps," retorted the young lord, "that Master William Hewet takes the name of Allen. I was not long in his presence before I recognised the king's rich merchant. Keep my secret," he continued, "and your reward shall not be stinted: as earnest, take this gold !"
" I want not gold," said Flora: " I have a treasure within more precious far than gold."
" Indeed ! what is that ?"
" My young mistress's fame !" As she uttered these words, she closed the gate, and hurried into the cottage.
Lerue, for so we shall call him for the present, was about to take the way to the Ferry; but, checking himself, he turned the contrary way, towards the other side of the heath. The strange meeting with those lie had encountered that night perplexed him terribly.-" That stupid girl will spoil all! But why should I dread the disclosure? He who is to be the Earl of Shrewsbury cannot marry a clothier's daughter; and why this continued folly ? To-morrow I will at once to town; and now I am again reconciled to my father, will endeavour, by gaiety and courtly pleasures, to forget the Beauty of the Heath."
The next morning he set about fulfilling his new formed plans. Wishing to go to Whitehall, he determined to do so by water, and therefore hastened by a rather circuitous route down to the Ferry. He had done this to avoid the cottage, and also that he might not pass the Ferry-house; but, by mistake, he had entered a lane which brought him right in front of poor Lillia's abode. Upon looking up, he started; for, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, the whole was closed, as though death lay therein. He hurried past, and, seeing a country lad, he asked if any one were dead at the Ferry-house.
"Dead, yes, maister-alas, there is !"
"And who is it, my good lad ?" said Lerue, dreading, he knew not why, the answer the boy might give.
"Why, my poor dear young missus !-Ho, ho, ho! Yes, she's dead, and we shall never see her agin, bless her! Did you ever see my young missus, sir-little Lillia? She's dead, and I wish I was too, bless her!"
Lerue threw a piece of money to the boy, and hurried to the boat.
As he proceeded on his way towards London, that great emporium of wealth, of poverty, of virtue, and of vice, he gave way to deep despondency. Lerue possessed a mind strong in feeling, but weak in resolution, and he knew it. He could not, do what he would, shut out from his mind's eye the little ostlery of the Ferry, now closed, as it were, by the hand of death; the walls appeared to his imagination to be transparent, through which he saw, as in a vision, the withered blossom lying on her couch of death-the old man's grief-the father's deep despair. "And this is the work of my own vain folly," he said, and then heaved a bitter sigh; " poor child! she was too pure to inhabit a world like this, and Heaven, in pity, has taken her to its blest abode; but would to heaven I had been spared the pain of being the executioner of fate's mysterious decrees !"
Not a word, not a look, not an act of poor Lillia's since he had known her, but now rose up again like ghosts passing o'er memory's glass. At one moment he thought he would return, and give what consolation he could to the bereaved father, but his courage failed him, and he still went on. Had he returned, he would have beheld a scene very like to the one he had been picturing to his mind ; for there, indeed, lay the withered blossom on her couch of death; there truly was the old man in his grief, the father in his deep despair.
How differently had that night ended to the way the old man had expected it would have done. He had returned with a heart filled with hope and joy, for he thought the news he brought would have filled with hope and joy poor Lillia's heart; but, alas : that very news gave the last blow to the frail stem on which her life rested-it snapped, and the blossom fell withered-dead!
The moment Anne had left the old man with his child, he once more took her in his arms, and kissed her fondly; he gazed at her sweet face; the bloom upon her cheeks appeared to contradict the fears Osborne had expressed; so with a joyous smile, he sat beside the bed, soon to be that of death, and began to recount the unlooked-for success he had met with in his application to the Court-" Oh, Lillia, how happy we shall be !" said the old man to his child; "all my troubles, all my cares are now for ever passed. I am wealthy, Lillia, doubly wealthy, for I have thee as well as gold. See here," he said, as he took forth some official looking documents-" this is a deed that restores to me all my former wealth; this is a commission in our pew king's service-this-but these are things I can shew you to-morrow, dear, for now it is growing late, and rest will do you far more good than the prattling of an old man's tongue."
" No, do not leave me yet," said Lillia, " for I shall never sleep again until I have told you a secret, father, the only one I have ever kept from you. And now, if indeed we are rich-" a blush came over her features, for she thought of him she loved; the scene in the ruined chapel rose up in her mind, and seemed to rob her of the little hope she had been endeavouring to foster in her heart. At last, after hesitating more than once, she said--" It is of Walter Lerue-"
" Walter Lerue !" exclaimed the old man, not waiting for Lillia to finish her sentence; "may Heaven's blessings light upon him ! Would
|. you believe it, Lillia, but it is true, dear child, that to Walter Lerue, the poor artist, who seemed scarcely able to pay the simple charges of our Inn, to him it is I owe all my present happiness. No friend had I to state my wrongs to those, by whom alone those wrongs could be redressed, and I was on the point of returning in despair, when suddenly I was summoned to the Palace of Whitehall; there I met my benefactor; he placed in my hands these papers-then hurried from me before I knew their worth-before I could offer him my thanks."|
When poor Lillia heard her father's words she burst into tears; for now hope once more took firm hold upon her heart; could he love another, and do all this for her poor father ? No; she must have been mistaken; her overwrought love must have blinded her reason; thus did she think, and for a moment she was happy.
" But stranger than all," said the old man, "was the discovery I soon after made; for I found that this same Walter Lerue was no other but the heir to the great Earl of Shrewsbury, young Lord George Talbot. What ails you, child ?" exclaimed the father; "heavens, your face has become deadly pale ! Speak, speak, Lillia, Lillia, speak !" He clasped her in his arms; she made several efforts as if to find something that lay near her heart; she drew forth her hand, and flung from it a flower-it was Lerue's first offering, and had ever since been treasured in her breast. She made two or three convulsive efforts to throw her arms round her father's neck-. one deep-drawn sigh that seemed as though it was her soul taking its flight to Heaven-and she was dead!