Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century
Rodwell, G Herbert
IT was a dark and dreary night, and the hand of time was already pointing to the midnight hour, when in a miserable room, in one of the most miserable dwellings in the most miserable part of London, two persons might be seen sitting in deep converse by a single flickering lamp, whose vitality seemed to possess but a feeble hold upon the impure liquid that was intended to feed and cherish it. One of the speakers was a man well dressed, and of soldier-like bearing;-over the high back of the chair upon which he sat, hung his military cloak; he was well armed, and before him on the table lay a large pistol. His companion was very meanly dressed; haggard, and worn by toil and depravity, were her features, which had evidently been handsome in the days of their youth. Her eye was still bright, and from it flashed the light of firmness and determination.-The man was Horton-his companion, the wretch Nan, of the monster show.
" If what you say be sooth," exclaimed Nan, "then my many troubles begin to end: while he lived, poor indeed was my chance of peace; he was one who never remembered a friend-nor ever forgot a foe. And you are sure he is dead ?" she again enquired.
"Sure," replied Horton--" I saw him with my own eyes expire on the field of battle."
Horton did not think it necessary to acquaint Spikely's wife with the care he himself had taken to assist his former friend out of this world.
" That he should die in blood," said Nan, " is but what I had always expected; but a soldier's death should not have been for him: the hangman's knife, not the warrior's sword, should have shed his blood, when half dead from hanging. I had always promised him to be within sight on that day; but if he's dead, why, there's an end. But are you sure?" she again repeated, as still doubting that such joyful news could really be true.
" Not only did I see him fall," said Horton, "but saw the body cast upon the heap of dead ready for burial: he must be strong indeed if he can lift up the load of death and earth beneath which he lies, to come
|. and scare you more. How often it has struck me, Nanny (you see I still remember the old name I used to call you by when a mere babe). yes, Nanny, it has often struck me that certain spirits, or people, or whatever you like to call them, are destined from birth to work together, whether for good or evil; when I say together, I mean not hand in hand, but all their acts, words, deeds, or thoughts, though perhaps the actors be a thousand miles apart, are still by some mysterious link united-a single word at times, uttered at the Antipodes, will prove that link, and bring together, not the people, but their thoughts and deeds, and from that word new deeds and thoughts will take their spring, still keeping, as it were, the whole in concert though apart: who could have thought, when my father ill used the little girl, the pretty Nancy, and turned her adrift upon a heartless world, that that very act would one day bring about his own son's fortune, and by that means be a reward to her for all her wrongs; so be assured, Nanny," and he looked as kindly at her as his nature would allow, " that whatever fortune you bring to me, shall by you with me be shared."|
" I'll take care of that," was the unexpected reply, " I've known the world too long to trust to fair words and soft looks; if you get it, I get it, or it is gotten by neither of us "
"All fair and straight as it should be," said Horton, " when a bargain is struck between a man and his dear old nurse: eh, Nanny? So now tell me all."
"When you have given me the bond I will; in law, I fancy, words that can be seen, bind faster than those that can be heard-sounds die away, and are easily forgotten-but ink stains deep, and can always revive short memories. I'll not be hard, and as the amount in all cannot be now discovered, I'll take one quarter of the whole, be it what it may."
Horton looked rather blank for a moment, for he found, what he had before suspected, that in his old nurse he had at least an equal, if not more, than his match. Feeling that to be shilly-shally now, would cost him more than he could gain by it, he appeared to enter at once honestly into her proposal. "Where is the ink, Nanny," he said, " that stains so deeply? not that my memory would require a reviver with regard to any promises made to you."
" It's close at hand," she replied, at the same time rising, and opening the shattered door of a cupboard; from a shelf inside she brought forth an old broken wine glass, the stem of which was forced into a bung by way of stand: in this was some ink. A new pen, and a sheet of white paper, she placed by its side before Horton.
I can write while you talk, Nanny," said Horton, holding up the pen to the flickering lamp, as if to see that the nibs were equal, but in reality to gain time, and thus obtain as much information as possible, hoping that he might yet learn all without binding himself to a sort of partnership.
Nan never deigned to utter a word, or move a muscle. Horton glanced at her immovable features and stone-like form more than once; then, as if conscious of his own inability to move a rock, began to write. On ran his hand, but Nan moved not. At last he exclaimed- "'Tis done !" Without saying a word, she quietly took the paper from
|the table, and carefully perusing it, placed it again upon the table. "Right, quite right," she said, " a limb of Satan could not have worded it more binding !"|
" Well, then," replied Horton, " if you are satisfied, all is concluded. So now, dear Nanny, relate all I would have you tell."
" A deed, is a deed," said Nan, " whether it has two names or four attached to it; but lawyers won't believe this simple fact; so we must have witnesses to make it binding."
Nan stamped her foot thrice upon the floor, when, to Horton's astonishment, in walked two of the most ill-looking fellows he had ever seen -and Horton had seen a few. The one was our former friend, Ugly Tom-the other, our almost-as-well-known intimate, the " walking gentleman" of the show, Master Walking-stick, the tall noseless son of the deceased giant--the long-since-bereaved husband of Sarah, the bandy-legged tight-rope dancer.
As actors, be their sphere of action ever so humble, always possess, whether from nature or from art, a rather superior carriage when they choose, the present performers entered, and, though ruffians in look, saluted Horton courteously. This made him lift his hand from the pistol, upon which he had placed it, and raising his cap, salute them. They appeared perfectly to understand why they had been called; for upon Nan pointing to the paper, and Horton passing his pen again over his signature, they both stepped forward, and having made their marks X,+, without a word, retired.
As Nan doubled up the paper and placed it in a cupboard (not the one from which she had taken the ink, but one that was well barred and nailed with iron), she said, " I called the boys,"-now the boys were, the one about six feet, the other nearer eight feet in height-" not so much to witness your signature-for that, would you cheat me, would be of little value-but to shew you that I am here 'midst friends; and such, that did you attempt to play me false, would let your throat know that a tongueless mouth might be made below your chin. Think of this, and keep your bond."
"Where we have honest thoughts," said Horton, attempting to assume an easy air, " we fear little from the punishment of those who only punish our misdeeds: so, fear me not."
"I never feared but one man in my life," replied Nan, "and he would make a devil fear-but you say he is dead, so let that pass. And now what would you learn ?"
" What you alone can tell," replied Horton. " Who, and what am I ? -for I am not what I seem to be. Who, and what is Eoline ?-for she is not what she seems."
" In both surmises you are right. The world believes her a penniless, sightless orphan-you believe her to be your sister The world and you are wrong."
"Not my sister !" exclaimed Horton.
" No !" replied Nan. " No blood of hers and yours ever flowed in the same channel. Don't dash out my brains," she continued, half laughing, yet still evincing fear, " when I humble the pride of Master
|. Horton, the would-be heir of Horton of Henley-when I tell him his rightful father was a thief - my sister was his mother."|
As she said this, involuntarily she drew herself back further from Horton, who, starting to his feet, cast on her a look that would have blasted if it could, as he exclaimed, "Thou liest, hell cat! I came not here for fooleries like these, but to seek truth, and through the truth find fortune."
"And if you be wise," she coolly replied, "in me you have found them both. Sit quietly and listen; fools only rave, and wisdom itself turns foolish when out of temper: so sit, and coolly listen."
Horton again seated himself; but by the workings of his features, and the bitings of his lips, it was not difficult to read, that in his mind she had opened a page not easy to be digested, if even understood.
" To make all clear to you, I must relate matters of an early date, even before your birth. The man you always thought to be your father, Andrew Horton, who, from dissipation, died an old young man,' had from early youth lived one unaltered course of deep, though secret depravity. Woman was his prey. My sister was one of his many victims. Of my own wrongs I will not speak. Tempted by a sum of money, one of the Birds of the Clink married my sister-you are their child.'
Horton again bit his lips and frowned, but held his peace.
" Some time before this, (the real cause why he gave the bribe, was to rid himself of my sister,) he wedded with a girl lowly of birth, but beautiful in face. I too was reckoned handsome then, and for my beauty, I suppose, had been retained: at all events I was still beneath his roof, when his wife bore to him a son; at the same moment you were born; and then it was that the idea entered my mind, what a glo rious revenge it would be, to change the children, and make the thief's son Horton's heir, and bring up Horton's son midst thieves! The thought was scarcely formed before it was fulfilled. Horton's real son grew up a lovely boy, effeminate but beautiful An old man, who must have been of great wealth, took a liking to him, and, for an enormous sum, bought him of your mother, promising to make him his heir. Who the old man was, and what became of the boy, I have never been able to learn. All I know is, they went abroad, and now perchance are both dead. You grew up a wayward boy; the blood of your real father was in your veins, and made you what you are. She whom you called your mother had another child, a girl, born in sorrow, for Horton was a brute, and drove his wife almost to madness. I have known her weep until she lost all power of sight-whether this could have influenced the fate of her child that was still unborn, I know not; but when it came into the world it was blind- totally blind: that child was Eoline."
" But how came she in the convent of the Minories ?" said Horton; ' and how knew the Abbess that she was my father's child ? or the man I called my father, if it be really as you say."
" That I cannot answer," said Nan; "that knowledge is not mine to give; but that Eoline and the child of Horton were one, I did; for my sister, taking a religious fit, became one of the poor Clares; and when she died, as she did soon after she had entered, I saw the blind girl
|there, and knew her: she had been lost before I was driven from his roof, and I gloried in knowing it, for, strange to say, the only thing he ever seemed to really love was that blind child: his wife had long before fled from him, and, it is believed, destroyed herself. We must meet again, for I am worn out to-night, and there is much yet to tell, ere our plan can be brought to bear: give me some money, and then leave me."|
Horton, who would have learnt all at once if he could, but knowing the being he had to deal with, felt it would be useless to press her further, placed a purse upon the table, appointed another meeting, and then taking up the pistol, left the wretched apartment. Nan held the nearly-exhausted lamp over the stairs to enable Horton to find his way down to the outer door. The two men he had seen above were there, who, without speaking, led him to the end of the alley, where they left him to pursue his way along the more open street.
" If what she say be true," he muttered to himself, " I am not the heir to Horton: no one but ourselves knows that secret; how then would my claim stand were she dead ? Should I gain more by her evidence upon other points, or safety by her death ? for if she please she can at once upset all my claim to the wealth of the old wretch I used to call my father: and yet I cannot do without her; she alone can prove the death of Eoline, and of the Abbess too; but I'll not work my brain upon this point until I have heard all she can divulge. ' The son of a thief!' I could have brained her when she said it. If I but accomplish my end, her reward shall be ample, but not such as she would have: no, no; her knowledge is too valuable to be left at her own disposal; but with her I can easily settle when the fit time shall come." Filled with thoughts like these he pursued his way to his own abode.
The reader may easily imagine how completely Anne's mind was torn by conflicting emotions; the strange reappearance of the Cripple with Eoline had added no little to her causes of serious thought: the fate of her sweet young friend, Lillia, gave a blow to her heart almost insupportable, for she felt that, however innocently on her part, still she was to a degree a participator in the cause of her untimely death. Then came the old man, the only friend of her childhood's wretched days, to tear up from the hidden stores of her memory, all the recollections of those incidents of her early life, that she would have wished to have been blotted out of her remembrance for ever; but even all these varied feelings seemed as nought compared to the painful sensation that Osborne's determination to quit England had given rise to.
So completely occupied had every one at the cottage been, from one cause or another, that Anne and Osborne had not for several days been again alone. Anne became every hour more and more abstracted; her greatest pleasure was to be alone, or with her poor old friend, who had been at once settled in a cottage of the farm, where, for hours and hours, would the two talk over their past miseries, and of their future hopes. When they spoke of the future, Anne invariably became sad, and would, as quickly as possible, fly back to her days of suffering, as being to her less painful than the anticipation of those that might yet come. One night, as Flora was attending upon her, previous to her retiring to rest, she became so buried in her own thoughts that Flora could bear it no
|. longer; so let loose to her powers of speech, and they were pretty strong ones, she started off at full speed, touching upon every subject she could think of as likely to interest and rouse her young mistress.|
"Only think of that," said she, after having galloped along for some time upon the same theme, "only think of that! oh! it's true, for William heard it in the city, from a quarter that must know the truth; and then you know your mother will be a real lady. How fine it will sound, won't it ? to hear merchant Hewet called my Lord,' and dame Alyce, 'my Lady;' what a pity a Lord Mayor is not a Lord Mayor always- it takes away half one's delight to think that at the end of a year, my Lord isn't my Lord; but the King always, William says, knights the Lord Mayors; so you know ' Sir William Hewet' won't sound so very bad-will it ?"
"What are you talking about?" said Anne, having just caught the last few words.
" What about ?" replied Flora; "why haven't you heard all I've been telling you, that very soon, so William says, your father, my honoured master, will be a grand Lord Mayor; and won't he look handsome when he rides along in my Lord Mayor's show ? But, oh dear ! oh lor' !"
"Are you ill ?" exclaimed Anne, anxiously.
"Oh my !" continued Flora, "oh dear! if Master Hewet is a Lord Mayor, I shall become a prisoner for the rest of my life."
" What nonsense are you talking of Flora ?" said Anne. "What mean you by a prisoner ?"
" Why, you must know that I have promised, that when master becomes Lord Mayor, William shall become my lord and master: William is so dreadfully impatient."
Flora continued to chatter about her master's probable grandeur that was to come; but Anne paid little attention to her; so the poor girl having failed in her endeavour to cheer her young mistress, by degrees herself became sadder and sadder, when at last, heaving a sigh, she said, " I hope to Heaven what William says about master Edward may not be true."
" Edward !" ejaculated Anne, " what of Edward ?"
" Oh !" replied Flora, in a very sorrowful tone, " he has told William that he intends leaving us, and quitting England for ever." "He has told me so too," said Anne, in a tone more sorrowful than the other; " and ever since he did so, I have never been able to think of anything else: what can it mean ? Leave us-leave his home-leave all he declared he loved !"
"Oh, these men," replied Flora, " are such strange unaccountable creatures, that they seldom, if ever know themselves what their actions mean ! And he has become so melancholy lately, and so thoughtful, and so pale, and he's always sighing." Anne heaved a sigh. "Yes, just like that," said Flora; " I don't think, if he should go away, that he will live long."
"Merciful Heaven !" exclaimed Anne, "what makes you say that ?"
" Because I think he will destroy himself. I often hear him, when he doesn't know that I do hear him, ask himself what there is in this life worth living for? and then he laughs; but it is such a melancholy laugh; and then walks about; and, in fact, acts like a madman."
" If what you say be true," observed Anne, "there must be some good cause for such strange conduct."
"Oh, there's plenty of cause," said Flora, in a tone of voice that seemed to imply she could tell a good deal more if she were asked; she waited, but Anne spoke not; so as Flora had now determined to speak out, she repeated the sentence, " Oh, there's plenty of cause."
Would that I knew were to look for it !" replied Anne.
"Look for it ?" observed the other, in a rather pert manner, " you need not look far."
"Not look far?" exclaimed Anne, enquiringly; "and pray where should I look ?"
" In that glass," said the other, " and there you'll see the cause; and quite cause enough, to my thinking."
"I see my own face there," said Anne.
"And that is the cause, and the only cause. Oh, my dear young mistress, it's no use mincing matters any longer-Edward Osborne is dying-yes dying of love for you."
"For me !" exclaimed Anne, turning deadly pale; "that he loves me is nothig new, nor is my love for him a novelty, but it has ever been the simple love of a brother and a sister."
"Yes, and so he thought," said Flora, "until that Master Lerue opened his eyes; I'll tell you something about him, too, one of these days."
" Lerue !" exclaimed Anne; "but what can he have to do with it ?"
"He has had everything to do with it, and has done it all, and I am very glad he has, for now we know the truth. Oh, that jealousy! that's the thing for bringing out love. If Alyce Vaughan had never looked at my William, I don't think I should have ever looked at him myself; but the moment I thought it possible that that minx could take him away, I couldn't stand that, so I took him away instead. It has been just the same with Master Edward; while he could come and see you, and talk to you, and know that no other good-looking fellow came near you, oh ! then it was all comfortable enough -- then it was all brotherly love, do y'see; but the moment he found a fine handsome young man, and we must all own that Master Lerue is handsome enough to make even Edward tremble in such a case-yes, the moment Lerue shot the ruffian through the head, it shot through the mind of Master Edward, that, perchance, the next aim he might take, would be at something rather more tender than an old robber: that shot was the cause of Edward's wounded heart, and if something is not done to heal it, he'll die."
"But what can be done ?" enquired Anne, quite innocently.
"What can be done ? I'll tell you: you see, it is said that ' like cures like;' for instance, a burnt finger is cured by holding it to the fire; now if this is true in one thing, it may be true in another; so, if Master Edward's heart has been wounded by love, why, let love be the plaster, and do you put it on."
" You are now talking like a mad girl, Flora," replied Anne, at the same time endeavouring to look rather angry; but as young ladies have never yet been known to look really so, on account of being told that a young man is in love with them, it seemed to Flora, that anger had for
|. once put on a most lovely expression; " you are talking like a mad gir -indeed you are; for supposing dear Edward, dear brother Edward, were really hurt in the way you say, it is not becoming in the physician to thrust himself forward, and offer a prescription unasked. Indeed, indeed Flora," she went on, but at every word, the lovely smile and rosy tint that had for a moment adorned her cheek, faded away, and by the end of her speech she had sunk into a perfect sadness, " indeed you are wrong; Edward has never by word, or look, or deed, betrayed to me that feelings different to those we felt for each other in childhood, had taken possession of his heart."|
" Oh, dear! oh, dear ! oh, dear!" interrupted Flora, "you young ladies are uncommonly dull of apprehension, or dreadful hypocrites. Can eyes speak-and do they ever speak ? Can sighs tell tales-and do they ever tell tales ? Indeed they do, and sometimes such as are not quite true either. Can words-and do words, that are intended for crossness, sometimes betray their speaker, and show that kindness, nay, love, was at the bottom of the feeling which prompted them. All this would apply to Master Edward, and yet you tell me he has never, by word, look, or deed, told you that he loves you. But I have another proof, if another proof were wanting, and one that no one would be bold enough to question -look here !" As she said this, she took from a sort of pocket a sheet of paper, which she unfolded, and held up by the two corners, as a flag of triumph. " Did ever a young man, and does ever a young man, write poetry if he isn't in love! The thing's impossible! for I have been told that there never was a line of poetry written worth the reading, that had not been penned with the hope to gain the praise of some fair maid- read that."
Anne took the paper, and read-THE DREAM OF LOVE.
" Why this," she said, " is the old song you read to us before."
" I called it an old one, just to vex and perplex the young poet; but it is a right down new ditty, and Edward is the author."
She then told Anne how it came into her possession, and then Anne read it, and Anne admired it; and then Flora began to find all sorts of faults with it; and then Flora said that having shewn it to her young mistress, she might as well burn it. And Anne thought so too, but forgot to give up possession of it; but kept it in her hand on her lap, and started off quite lively upon a very different subject, and entered into all sorts of plans for making her poor old friend at the farm happy; and then she sent Flora down to the parlour to see that all was safe, for she really thought she heard a strange noise there.
As Flora heard no strange noise, she at once went down without the least alarm.
The moment she was gone, Anne looked upon the song with one of her sweetest smiles; and dare we tell what she then did ?-she kissed it, and then carefully, but quickly folding it, placed it in her bosom, just as Flora returned.
The first thing Flora noticed to herself, as she entered, was the disappearance of the paper; but being a woman herself, she gave a tolerable shrewd guess what its fate had been, so said nothing.
Anne had not talked so rapidly as she now did, for no one knew when;
|and Flora feeling certain that she had put the spark to the right train, took the first opportunity of bidding her lovely young mistress, good night, and left the room. As she did so, she said to herself-" They shall be married, I'm determined."|
Anne now being free from observation, let loose to her most hidden feelings.--" Why have I been thus blind so long ?" she exclaimed; " he loves me, but believes I love not him: and do I ? I am asking myself a dangerous question. What if I answer-no. Then he will quit us for ever, and will, when absent, soon forget me. Forget me! I could not bear him to do that; but if I love him not, why should I wish for his remembrance."
She again drew forth the paper, and once more read the song--" And that Flora, too," she said, "to abuse these lines: I thought she had better taste. I can find no fault in them-none. If a new affection, or, perhaps one, but newly made manifest to me, had not sprung up within my heart, why has that heart been so miserably sad ever since the hour he talked of parting from me ? Let me try myself by supposing that he were really gone, really gone for ever, what would my feelings be then ?" She waited not long for the answer, for the question had burst open the floodgates of her heart; the hitherto pent up stream of pure affection rushed to her eyes, and thence escaped in a violent flood of tears; all the efforts she made to stay them seemed but to add new waters to the fountains of her heart. She buried her head in her fair hands, as they held the song, which was soon nearly obliterated by the sweetest stream that ever hallowed a poet's verse.
She had remained some time lost in thought, when she murmered- " I know it-I know I love him now !" and as she said this she kissed the writing; just as she had done so, she was startled by her door opening gently, and Flora entering.
"Hush !" said Flora, placing her finger on her lip;" hush! I'm sure I heard it !"
" Heard what ?" enquired Anne, in the same fearful subdued tone, for Flora's manner had suddenly alarmed her.
"The sound of voices in the grounds behind the house," said Flora. "Shall I arouse Edward and the Cripple, for I feel certain there is some danger near at hand ? It was not a passing sound, as of late-wayfarers journeying over the Heath, but a kind of subdued murmur, as of persons secretly plotting close to the house. I had heard nothing until, by accident, I had extinguished my light. If there are robbers, they have been waiting until they are sure all have retired to rest."
" Talk not of robbers, Flora; it cannot be: your fears have deceived your ears. We will first be certain, at all events, before we alarm others. Place the lamp out of sight in yonder cupboard, and I will descend with you, and learn the truth."
Neither Anne nor Flora were wanting in courage; but as they quitted the room on tiptoe, and in darkness, they could not prevent a trembling seizing upon them; as they went along a gallery the moon shone brightly, which greatly reassured them, and they approached the casement; all was still in that direction; the fields and hedges seemed clothed in silver, so brightly did the moon light up the scene. They
|. now descended the stairs with firmer steps, for both were by degrees becoming more and more assured that all was well; they listened at every door, that led towards the outside of the dwelling, but all was still; there was but one more place to examine-the kitchen: this opened on a sort of farm-yard, and was now in perfect darkness; they lifted the latch of the door; all was still; they entered; when suddenly, without speaking a word, they seized each other's hands, and stood petrified; for now there no longer remained a doubt. They heard a strange, low, peculiar sound, as of something placed against the outer door, which seemed to be turning, and turning, but very slowly and carefully, as though to cause as little noise as possible; in another moment a blow came against the door, as the part that had been worked upon had given way; something was now withdrawn, and now they plainly saw a round hole in the door; and then the same sort of sound was repeated at a little distance from the hole.|
Not a moment was to be lost; as quickly as their trembling limbs would bear them, they hastened, Flora to arouse Edward-Anne to awaken the Cripple-of-the-Bridge.
It was some little time before either of the sleepers could be made conscious that danger was at hand; as soon as this was made clear to them, a few moments more and they came forth, bearing all the arms they could muster. What was to be done ? Flora was sure, she said, " that there were numbers of assailants, for when she first heard them, it was not the sound of a single voice, but rather the murmuring of many." Resistance, under such circumstances, seemed hopeless, but still neither Willy-of-the Bridge nor Edward were men to give in without a struggle: what would they not then have given at that moment, for the aid of William and the merchant ? At first, it seemed impossible that they could even alarm the people of the farm, until Anne proposed, nay insisted, upon making the trial herself; the direct road lay across the yard wherein the robbers were, therefore that way was impossible; but it struck her that by leaving the house by the front, and then going round creeping along beneath the hedges, she might by chance attain her end, and bring, although but scanty aid, yet, sufficient to do some good, and enable them to hold out until the farm servants might call in other assistance. Willingly would Edward, or the Cripple, have undertaken this perilous affair, but they felt, too truly, that all hope lay in their remaining where they were. Cautiously did Anne now leave the dwelling-- they watched her steal along, until a turning hid her from their sight; then the Cripple, with Edward, stole to the kitchen, through the door of which they now perceived several holes all close together.
"Shall I fire through the door ?" said Edward, in a whisper. " Not yet," replied the Cripple; " the few shots we can fire must take effect, or we are lost: when that piece of the door is removed, you will see an arm pushed through to undo the fastenings-take a sure aim, and one, at least, will bite the dust."
Scarcely had the Cripple uttered these word;, when the piece of the door was broken away, and an arm did appear-one flash, and a horrid cry told how truly Edward had taken his aim; this done, the robbers hearing the report, and finding, by one of their fellows falling dead,
|that secrecy was now of little use, shouted, and muttering the vilest execrations against all within, began to batter at the door with heavy beams of wood; strong as the door was, it was evident that a few moments would suffice for its destruction; there was no hope now of escape by the front, for they heard a voice calling aloud to surround the house, and not let even a rat escape alive.|
The uproar that ensued soon brought Alyce and the other females down in frightful alarm; the door gave way, Edward and the Cripple fired upon the robbers, and then retreated, followed by the assailants, the principal robber calling aloud to the fugitives, and telling them, " that had they not fired, and killed their men, they should merely have taken what they could get, and have left all lives safe, but now, that not one should escape to tell that night's tale.' Knowing there would be no time to reload their pistols, they reserved their fire for the last extremity, and the Cripple having found his staff, laid more than one ruffian bleeding upon the ground. From room to room they fought with desperation; Edward had flown to his own, and had armed himself with a sword; the screams and shouts were frightful; despair had now seized upon even the Cripple, who at one moment thought to fly to Eoline, and with his own hand end her life, rather than let her fall into the power of the wretches who were calling out to fire the place.
Who can picture the scene which now ensued; despair on one side, brutal triumph on the other; the dreaded moment of conquest seemed already come, when the last kind of relief that could have entered into the mind of either Edward or the Cripple, suddenly appeared in the shape of soldiers armed to the teeth; but what caused in Flora's mind still greater surprise, was to see the soldiers led on by her own dear William. At the moment of their appearance, Edward, who had, as we have said, retired to his room and armed himself with a sword, was in the act of thrusting it into the heart of one of the robbers who had endeavoured to cut him down with an axe. As the man fell backwards down the stairs, the Bridge--shooter, who, having rescued Flora from the grasp of the head robber, shot him dead.
The house was now filled with armed men, wounded and dying robbers, and women on their knees, offering up thanks for their unlooked- for preservation. The few thieves that remained were soon marched off; those that had escaped were being hotly pursued in various directions over the Heath. What a different scene now began ! All the farm servants were busy, and laughing, and preparing all kinds of refreshments for their deliverers. The cressets were stuck around the cottage, as if for a triumphant illumination. So powerful had been the revulsion of feelings from despair to joy, that no one appeared quite in their senses. Flora kept hugging William, till he felt quite ashamed of her; but as others seemed as mad as she, it did not matter much at such a moment. At last, Edward, who had been to see to the comforts of their deliverers, having returned, enquired where Anne was ? Strange as it may seem, it had never occurred to any one that she was not there. Flora believed she was in her own room, doubtless offering up a prayer of thankfulness; but Alyce, feeling anxious, hastened to the room, and found it empty. This caused serious fears. All were in a state of
|. bustle, and hurrying here and there. Every nook in the place was examined, but she was no where to be found. But what added still more to the strangeness of her disappearance, was the circumstance of her not having seen or heard of at the farm. All that were questioned upon this point declared, that she had never been there at all. Where could she be ? A dreadful thought struck upon Edward's mind, that perhaps she had fallen by an assassin's hand. In a moment a new search was made. The cressets were all siezed upon, and not finding her any where near the cottage, different parties sallied forth over the Heath.|
As the old man of the show took up his staff, determined to aid in the search after his benefactress, the whole scene near Tybourne Tree was recalled forcibly to his mind. He looked over the Heath-the lights were moving about in every direction, as the like had happened years ago, when Nan and her crew were seeking for Anne. How fervently did he pray, that on this night, as on that, that he might be by Heaven selected to be the saviour of the lost child. On and on he trudged, not quickly, but full of hope, for he felt sure, that some good would come from his endeavours to save her, who had so recently saved him.
After walking a long time, he was surprised to see, within the ruins of the chapel, which he had nearly reached, several lights, but he was sure they were not the lights carried by any of those searching for the lost girl, for they moved not.
He approached to one of the ruined windows, and looked in upon a strange and awful scene. In the centre was a grave, and on each side of which was placed a coffin; the one was much smaller than the other, but both were covered in the same manner, and both were very plain. Some half dozen rustic-serving looking men stood by, who acted as real mourners, for their honest faces had many a tear upon them. At the head of the grave stood a man, reading from a book, the service of the dead in English; he had no robes, or official vestments upon him, but had a look of deep and earnest devotion painted upon his countenance.
The old man seeing this, felt at once the truth, that this was some Protestant funeral. He took from his head his cap, and stood motionless. The feeling came over him, as if he were attending the last sad office of taking farewell, an eternal farewell, of some dear friend.
The ceremony was just ended; the larger coffin too, was soon deposited in its endless home. As the smaller one was just being lifted over the aperture, the old man was made to start, by hearing a violent crying came from one corner of the ruins; he turned his gaze that way, and saw a country lad in violent grief, who, as the coffin descended, exclaimed, " Oh, my poor young missus, I shall never see her again, bless her! I shall never see her again-no, never, bless her !"
The old man was greatly moved at this simple but heartfelt grief of the poor lad, so much so, that, anxious as he was to aid in the search for Anne, he could not resist a feeling of curiosity to learn who had then gone to their home, and whose death could have caused such grief to the country lad.
When the grave had been filled up, the lad, leaving the ruins by one side, as the others quitted the place in an opposite direction, was followed
|by the old man.-" My good boy," he said, " you must have lost a friend that was very.dear to you, to make you cry thus violently ?"|
Hoiy," replied the boy, " indeed I have; and you'd a cried too, if you'd a' know'd my young missus, bless her !" and the boy blubbered again louder than before.
" And who was your mistress ?" asked the old man.
"Young Missus Lillia, of the Ferry. Ho, ho! dang me, but you would a' cried too, had you'd known her-bless her! and only to think that she should die, and her father should die, and all just when he had got a new name, and a great heap of money."
" A new name, and a heap of money ! and what was his new name, eh, my good lad ?"
" Algernon Mortley-so they says."
"Algernon Mortley!" exclaimed the venerable inquirer; "how strange! why, that was my own brother's name."
"No ! was it, though ?" said the boy, opening his eyes and his mouth, as he stared up in the old man's face; "by gumtion, wouldn't it be rum, an' youwere to turn out to be your brother's brother! if you bes' an' wont you be plaguy rich, neither-for they says he would have had a ocean of money. Do you come with me to the Ferry, for there's a chap comed from London who can tell'e all about it. Why, if you're his brother, you're my young missus's uncle, and if you are, oh do, let me be your lad, only for her sake, bless her ! will 'e ?"
The old man, thinking the lad's advice anything but bad, determined to hasten to the Ferry; but in their way they would pass the cottage, and inquire what success had happened.
When he reached the cottage, he learnt that but few had yet returned, and those few with ill success. Thinking, that while making inquiries into the strange chance which had perhaps, revealed to him the fate of his elder brother-who had in early life fled from home, rather than enter into a marriage he loathed, and had, until that day, never been heard of again-he might do good by giving the alarm at the Ferry of the missing girl, he hurried on with the lad.
When they arrived there, the person from London had gone back again, so that for this night it was impossible to make further progress in his own affairs.
He now inquired who had been passing by the Ferry that night, and who had arrived ?
" Why, the first that came," said the man in charge of the Ferry, "were ill looking fellows, in cloaks, and who hadn't a civil word for any one: they rowed their own boat, and tied it to a place a little lower down there, and then went towards the Heath; then, after this came a guard of honour to sleep here, and be ready in the morning to receive the Lord High Admiral, who's coming to these parts on his way to- oh, I forget where; and then came the young fellow that belongs to Master Allen at the cottage; he came along like mad, for in his boat there were six of the stoutest rowers I have ever seen: and was he not glad to see the soldiers, and they seemed glad to see him; for after having
|. said something to the captain of guard, they were all alive in a minute, and off they started, at double quick time."|
Upon hearing this, the old man saw plainly how the aid had come so opportunely to the cottage, and saved all their lives.--" And has no one gone away ?" he inquired.
" Not from the Ferry," said the man; "but the boat that was down there, belonging to the two strange fellows, that's gone: and my boy says, they brought something with them, that looked like a long bale of goods. I wonder if they've been out on the thieve ?"
The old man, not being able to gain any further information, now strolled back towards the Cottage. As he went along, he met Osborne and the Bridge-shooter: to them he related all he had heard at the Ferry, and also the strange circumstance of the double funeral at the ruined chapel.
Every endeavour to discover the lost Anne proved abortive, and with saddened hearts the three returned to the Cottage of the Heath.
As may be supposed, Alyce was inconsolable, and passed the remainder of the night in the most abject grief. All her former sufferings, at the first loss of her child, now came upon her with redoubled pain. Upon the former occasion there was some clue to guide them; the visit of the strange woman explained at once, that the child had been stolen; but now all was doubt and horrible conjecture. Could she have fallen into the deep well ?--even that spot was searched, but without avail.
Late as the night was, Edward and the Bridge-shooter determined to hasten away to London, to acquaint the merchant with the dreadful news. The inmates of the cottage were safe enough now, for several ot the soldiers mounted guard, and the rest were to remain until the morning at the farm. So, taking a hurried leave of their friends, Edward and his trusty companion started upon their midnight journey.
As they travelled along, the Bridge-shooter informed young Osborne of the manner in which he had been so happily made the instrument of their rescue from the attack of the robbers.--" For once," said he, "I must own, old mother has been as good as a witch; and I'll call her what- ever names she likes after this. You must know, that this afternoon, down she sent for me, and such a message, that there was no denial to be offered, so off to her I went. ' Where is the merchant ?' said she.
' Out,' said I, ' and won't be at the Bridge till the morning. ' Then you must act for him. Ask no questions, but hurry down to the river, get six of the strongest rowers you can, tell them to pull for their lives, and convey you to Putney; when there, get what aid you can, and hasten to the cottage : they must not save their own breath, or the breath of those they go to save may already have past into death. I wanted some further explanation; 'but,' she said, ' this is no folly of mine, as some of my whims are; but do as I tell you, or the deep curse of a mother shall be yours !' So determined did she appear, that I at once made up my mind to fulfil her commands. ' Kiss me, good lad,' she said, when she saw I would do her bidding; 'and this much I can re eal- Cottage will this night be attacked, and plundered, if nothing worse should happen, unless you be there before the clock shall
|sound the eleventh hour of night.' Off I started, got my rowers, staunch and true; the tide was with us, and gallantly we cut along. All the rest you know."|
They now entered the boat, and as they had the same rowers, and the tide having turned in their favour, rapidly did they float o'er the silver waters. As they were just off where the Southwark Bridge now spans the Thames, they passed a boat, going on but at a sluggish pace; two men were rowing, and at the bottom of the boat lay something not unlike a dead body, wrapped round with sailcloth.
" What cheer, friends ?" called out the Bridge-shooter.
No answer was returned; but both the men stopped pulling, and then turned the head of the boat, as if about to land; but seeing the boat with the six rowers, now far a-head, the men put again into their former course, and passed on. When they arrived at Old London Bridge, the two men fastened the boat to the sterling, under the arch beneath the Cardinal's Hat; a signal being given, the trap above was opened, and a ladder let down. A man was seen holding a torch from the trap-door-that man was Brassinjaw. One of the men in the boat, unwrapping the sailcloth, lifted up the senseless form of a female, and thus laden, began to ascend the ladder; the other man remained in the boat to steady it-this was Nino, the Italian ; the first was Spikely. We need scarcely say, that the senseless form he carried, was that of the lovely Anne.