Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century
Rodwell, G Herbert
WHEN Edward Osborne reached the magnificent abode of the Earl of Shrewsbury, he was greatly disappointed at hearing that neither the Earl nor his son were there. It is true, one or the other was expected daily, but the exact time at which they would arrive was unknown. Lord George, he was given to understand, had suddenly sunk into a fit of sadness so profound, that at certain moments even his physicians had fancied it would end in madness the most incurable-that of fixed melancholy. The cause of this change not even those who knew him best could account for; for now the reconciliation with his father had been happily completed, there seemed more reason than ever that his former gay and joyous disposition should not only resume its sway, but shine forth with greater brilliancy than ever; the reverse being the case, caused those around him to be lost in fruitless conjecture, and anxious solicitude. The only relief he derived was from continually moving from place to place; the moment the excitement of action ceased, the cloud was again upon him.
What had annoyed Nino most, was that he himself was never permitted to accompany his lord in these, his rambles after health- health the most difficult to attain, that of the mind. After turning over and over in his thoughts all the probable, as well as all the improbable reasons for his lord's strange manner, it struck Nino, as it would have done any man who knew aught of the world, that if we examine minutely into the causes of man's joys or miseries, there will always be found a woman at the bottom of them. It was his having come to this conclusion, that first gave him the idea, that it was not impossible that
|time give a pictorial sketch of Bame Spikely's abode, when it will be found in the possession of more worthy inhabitants than herself.|
" Well, Nanny," said Horton, "the hour, the eventful hour has arrived, and here am I to escort you to the Courts at Westminster. I have brought a right sober nag for you, and with our half-dozen followers, we shall show to the gapers no mean appearance."
When Nan arose, so becoming was her new attire, and so different to that in which Horton had been accustomed to behold her, that a smile of satisfaction mantled o'er his countenance. "Why, Nanny," he exclaimed, "in putting on your new mourning, you have put on a new youth. But I have noticed more than once in my life, the loss of a husband or of a wife, is a great restorer of youth to the survivor-eh, Nanny ?"
Nan merely sighed, and observed, " They had other things to think of than quirks and jests."
" Well, perhaps, you are right," he replied; " it may be as well to keep our store of mirth for a later hour of the day, when we shall have had success to whet our wits. I wish I could see you smile, Nanny; but I forget, widows must clothe their looks in sadness, although their hearts be jumping with delight-looks can be seen, the heart never; and lucky it is for most, that our breasts are not made of glass, or we should often reveal what might make the face turn as red as the heart."
They were soon in the street, when Horton, with infinite show of respect placed Dame Spikely upon her horse, which she sat to perfection; then mounting his own, they took their way towards Westminster.
When they had entered the court, Horton's previously-formed opinion as to the intentions of the man of law, to whom Andrew Horton had bequeathed his property in trust, were completely confirmed, for the first person who held out his hand to him was this very trustee, whose name was Gripclose.
"Master Horton," said Gripclose, " I hope before the trial begins, you will exonerate me from any unworthy motive, or from any wish to throw the slightest impediment in the way of the right receiving his right-no, my young friend, no. But you see an honest man, like myself, is often placed in an awkward, nay, a painful position, by circumstances; and certainly the circumstances arising out of your father's will, are enough to make my position painful. But all will no doubt be well; and if you can prove all you have undertaken to prove, and which you, no doubt, can prove, or you would not have come here, believe me, I shall be the first, after the trial, to take you by the hand, as I do now before it, to congratulate you heartily, and dine with you afterwards; ha ! ha! ha! you see I am already looking out for a few of the crumbs that may fall from the rich man's table. But I beg pardon -the lady ?" And he made a profound bow to Dame Spikely.
" This worthy dame," replied Horton, " is the person who can, alas, prove the death of my poor sister. How cruel was fate to keep her so many years from my knowledge, and then, when I had found her, to part us for ever in death."
" Painful indeed, painful indeed," said Gripclose, and at the same time he wiped away a tear, which Horton observing, it struck him that a
|. the Beauty of the Heath might have something to do with Lord George' melancholy.|
On this point he was not far wrong, but whether he saw the affair in the right light or not, coming events will show. Judging by his own nature, he at once made up his mind that if the pretty doll of the Cottage was the cause of all the mischief, why, then possession was the speediest cure, for in his eyes, possession of the coveted object was sure to put an end to the malady of love, however strong the fit might have been. But Nino looked further, at least he fancied he did, than the mere relief he was to bring his master, for in the distance he saw a Prodigious reward for himself. And now having the girl safe in his clutches, he looked upon that reward as already on its road to his own purse.
Every few hours, Osborne was again on his way to the Earl's, but for several days met with nought but disappointment. Time kept flying on, but still no tidings of poor Anne. All the robbers who had been taken were severely questioned, and in those days, to be severely questioned, meant severely tortured; but no evidence could be wrung from them to lead to the conviction, that with her abduction they were in the remotest degree connected. The evidence of each, individually, bore so strongly as to the truth of all, that it was quite clear they must look in some other quarter for a solution of the mystery regarding Anne's disappearance.
How little did Osborne imagine, that every night, as he lay his burning head upon his pillow, that head was within a few inches of her, whose recovery now seemed the sole object of his life; but so it really was, for in the very apartment of the Cardinal's Hat, which abutted upon his own, there lay the poor sufferer, in a state of stupor, for the first few hours, and for the next, under the influence of delirium, caused by the violence of the drugs she had swallowed.
All this time Horton was busily employed preparing for the coming trial, which, now he had Nan to produce, he felt certain of gaining. There was one circumstance which puzzled him greatly, and that was to observe how coolly his opponent looked upon the affair; the only conclusion he could bring his mind to was, that the opposing trustee, feelingthe propriety of giving up the whole property to Horton, meant merely to come into court as a matter of form, so that at no future time, let what claimant soever spring up, he would no longer be liable to be called upon to account for the disposal of the property; in fact the trial would be his discharge in full.
When the eventful morning arrived, on which he was to become a wealthy man, he was early at the new abode of Dame Spikely, for her husband being as she believed dead, she had openly taken his name; here he stood before her door, with a retinue, if not vast in numbers, still one which cut a most respectable figure.
Having dismounted from his horse, he entered the dwelling. It was a house of some pretension, standing at the corner of Chancery Lane, opposite one of the palace-mansions of Cardinal Wolsey, and afterwards of Henry the Eighth. A portion of this palace still remains, parts of which are adorned by the usual Tudor ornaments. We shall at a future
|. like act on his own part would not be out of place, so he too gently passed his hand across his eyes. Nan's lip curled up, but she said nothing.|
"Madam," said Gripclose, addressing Dame Spikely, "although I stand in the position of an opponent to the son of my lamented friend, Andrew Horton, I hope you will permit me the honour of leading you to the seat reserved for you, until you are called on to give evidence." Gripclose led Dame Spikely courteously to a seat, and his own having been the next, he very politely begged Horton to accept it, that he night be near his witness, and then retired.
" You see, Nanny," said Horton softly, but in a tone that evinced how pleased he was with the reception he had met with from Gripclose, " you see it is exactly as I told you it would be; we shall have merely to give our account of the wreck, and all will be over."
"Be not too sure of that," replied Nan; "had he appeared angry, or sullen, or spiteful even, I should have liked it better; but that grinning amiability I never yet found to bode much good to those upon whom it was exerted; depend upon it he has something behind, that yet may thwart you-some quibble, some quirk in the law, that he will know full well how to handle, and throw you farther back than ever."
" You do him wrong, depend upon it," said Horton, in a tone he intended to appear indifferent; but he knowing that some lawyers could in his day, be as double faced as we know them to be in our own, he felt a slight degree of doubt creep over him, which he would rather had not paid him a visit at that moment.
The case on at their entrance being one of slight importance, and of speedy settlement, the great cause of the day-but every cause is the great one of the day to those engaged in it-came on. After the nature of the case had been stated, Sergeant Thunderdown rose, and looking round, cast upon his learned friend, Whistlepipe, one of his blandest smiles, and then commenced, what he intended to have been a very long and very brilliant speech. He stated, " that the case entrusted to him was a most peculiar case--a case differing from any case he had ever before had placed in his hands. It was a will case-yes, a will case, but, unlike most will cases, in this case the will was not disputed in any case." Every time he employed the word case, he raised his voice to an enormous pitch, and looked sneeringly at Whistlepipe, as much as to say, " in this case I intend to shut you up, as sure as you've a head on your shoulders." He then went on to explain, " that Andrew Horton, deceased, had been married; that the fruits of this marriage had been two children, one a boy, the other a girl; that the girl was born blind; that this child had been lost at a very tender age; that the father had grieved almost to death at the loss of this child; that he would never be persuaded but that one day or another she would be recovered; that it was under these strong feelings of parental love and pity for her blindness, that he had caused the will to be drawn up in the shape it had been. The clause upon which the whole case turned was this-that Andrew Horton, believing that his daughter would one day be discovered, had left nearly the whole of his wealth away from his son for mistaken reasons, upon which he need not then dwell, and had placed it in trust
|to accumulate for the sole use and benefit of the said daughter, to be rendered up to her at any time she might be discovered: or in case of her not being discovered during twenty years after the death of the testator, then, and not till then, the property was to go to the son, Henry Horton, unless-now mark this word," said the sergeant, repeating it again and again, " unless it can be clearly proved that the lost or stolen child be dead.-Now the first thing we have to prove is whether the child was born or not."|
" There is every reason," interrupted Whistlepipe, " according to the natural history of the production of the human species, to believe that the child was born, and I am led to this conclusion by the fact of the child having been stolen, for had it not been born, it could not have been stolen." To this argument the judge shut his eyes, and gave a formal nod of assent. "Therefore," continued Whistlepipe, delighted at the approval of the judge, "we admit the birth, brother Thunderdown, we admit the birth."
" I am glad of that," replied the sergeant, "for it will save much of the time of the court, for it is not always an easy matter to prove that any man has been born. I remember a case-- "
"You need not trouble yourself," said the judge, who had a horror of Thunderdown's cases; " the point is admitted, go on."
" The next point we have to prove, is the discovery of the blind child by her brother, Henry Horton, in the late Nunnery of the Minories."
" We admit that fact," again interrupted Whistlepipe.
"I'm glad of that," replied the sergeant, "for I remember a case-'
"The point is admitted," again said the judge.
"Then," said the sergeant, " the two points being admitted-first, the birth of the child, and then the discovery of the child, all I have to prove is the death of the child--yes, the death !" Here he stooped forward and whispered to Horton, " Now for the fun !"
Horton could not help thinking, that while proving a death, it was an odd time to choose to be funny; but he made no reply.
Thunderdown said--' The court, he was sure, would forgive him being a little lengthy in his remarks, for he shrewdly suspected his learned brother did not intend to allow him a reply; therefore all he had to say he must say now, and if he were a little sarcastic upon one or two points, he hoped his learned friend would take all in good part. Had his friend, Whistlepipe, intended to produce witnesses-"
" And so I do," observed Whistlepipe.
"You do ?" ejaculated the sergeant, and then, most unprofessionally, inquired, " and to what end ?"
To this question Whistlepipe made no reply; upon which Thunderdown again lent forward, and a great deal of whispering went on between him and Horton. "But you told me that we should have merely to walk over the course," said the sergeant.
" So he led me to believe," whispered Horton; "but no witnesses can disprove the loss of the ship, and the death of all on board."
Nan, too, began to feel fidgetty, and wished herself anywhere but in a court of justice. Thunderdown, being taken off his guard, forgot all his beautiful sarcasms, and began to think of the most cautious manner
|. in which to carry on the case, now it had taken a different turn to what he had been lately led to believe by Horton; but knowing it would never do to show his annoyance, he put on a smiling face, and told his learned brother " how delighted he should be to be introduced to any friends he might think proper to present; and as he should, under these circumstances, have a future opportunity of again addressing the court in his reply, he should at once call his witness to prove the death of Eoline. He could call but one witness, for the grim monster, death, had in his often-assumed disguise of the raging, roaring, angry waves, swallowed up every living soul on board the ill-fated ship, excepting the witness whose life seemed as if saved, in order that justice should be done to his worthy client." He then explained, "that this lady was the widow of a distinguished officer, who had died on the glorious battle-field, and whose station in life was such, that no doubt could possibly be raised as to the implicit credence that should be given to all she said."|
Dame Spikely was now brought forward for examination. The moment she stood forth, there came from the centre of the crowded court, one short horrid laugh. "Order!" roared out the crier. Horton started up, and ran to Nan "What ails you, Nanny ?" he said, in a low voice.
"Are you sure he's dead ?"
"Sure !" replied Horton, and seeing Nan had somewhat resumed her composure, he again took his seat.
Nan's eyes from the moment she had heard that laugh, never for an instant ceased wandering about the court, as if in search of some dreaded object.
The questions to be asked, were so clearly and carefully laid before the examining counsel, that Nan had scarcely more to say than "yes, or no," as the case might be; and the circumstance of the wreck being such a well-known fact, there was no doubt at that moment on the minds of all who heard her, nor was there on her own, but that Eoline had perished with her husband, and the rest of those on board.
To Thunderdown's great astonishment, Whistlepipe never once attempted to cross-question her; therefore the case seemed clear, and Thunderdown sat down perfectly satisfied that all was well. When Whistlepipe arose, he began his address by complimenting Dame Spikely upon the clear and straightforward evidence she had given, and that he allowed her full credit for believing every word she had uttered-"But," said he, "how often does truth appear unlike herself, or rather, how often does error look like truth. Now I shall be able to prove that not one word concerning the death of the blind girl is true." This assertion caused a great sensation, and Whistlepipe went on--" I always go," said he, " to the fountain head at once, therefore the witness I shall produce to prove the existence of the lady in question, will be-- " he paused, so that what he was about to say might produce its full effect, and then in a powerful manner, exclaimed-" the lady herself !"
Upon saying this, the beautiful blind Eoline was brought forward, to the horror of Horton, the surprise of Nan, and the admiration of all who looked upon her. The strange sound she heard startled her, and the lids of her beautiful eyes arose, displaying such orbs of brightness,
|that every one seemed to doubt the possibility of her blindness. That she was the person saved from the wreck, was soon made manifest by the evidence of the merchant and his brave companions.|
There was but one chance now left for Horton, and that at the first glance appeared a strong one; namely, that of obliging the adverse party to prove that Eoline was really the lost child of Andrew Horton; that had not yet been proved, and it seemed rather that that should have been the first point to be attended to by the defendant's counsel; for, as it was argued by Thunderdown, who now insisted upon quoting various cases he well remembered, in which it was laid down, and clearly laid down too, that-" mere assertion was no proof."
The learned judge at first thought he should like to reserve that point for further consideration; but presently, having turned over various books, and then having argued the question well in his own mind, came to the conclusion that the opinion of former judges need not be reversed, for he felt with them, that mere assertion was not proof; it then did certainly lie with the defendant to prove, that the claimant he brought forward in the person of a certain blind girl named Eoline, was herself, and no other, the child of the deceased Andrew Horton.
This appeared a most difficult point to get over, so Horton and the sergeant imagined; and with that difficulty their courage again arose.
Whistlepipe confessed he was placed in a position of some awkwardness, and begged for a few moments to consult with his client.
The judge, who with the jury were beginning to feel a little hungry, consented to allow ten minutes, and that the jury might retire and take a slight refreshment.
" You see," said Whistlepipe to his client, and to the merchant, and indeed to all who were interested on his side, " you see, the fact of the girl being herself was so perfectly, though tacitly admitted to be herself, that had not that deep scoundrel, Thunderdown, who, I must confess, is never at a loss, had he not raised this objection, all would have been well; but what to do is now a difficult question."
The only evidence they could bring forward was the Cripple. It is true that the Abbess had lately informed him of the secret of Eoline's birth, but she had never explained how she became acquainted with the fact; and even if she had, his evidence would have been regarded with a very jealous eye, he being so deeply interested in the success of Eoline, she being his wife. Slender as the hope was, it was all they had now to rely on, and so it was determined that the Cripple should be examined as to all the late Abbess had ever revealed to him upon that subject.
When the judge returned, he came in evidently in good humour with whatever he had been taking, and soundly smacked his lips, and the clerks smacked their lips, and the jury smacked their lips, and there was a wonderful twisting about of mouths, as is generally the case with most people for some minutes after eating. Silence being called, the case proceeded.
Whistlepipe said-" That although he had been taken by surprise, he
|. still felt confident he should produce good proof of the identity of the claimant."|
The Cripple was then examined, but all he could say was that a short time before they had sailed from abroad in the fated ship which had been wrecked, and in which the Abbess had perished, she had told him that Eoline was really the daughter of Andrew Horton; that this revelation had been led to in consequence of the discovery of some documents, amongst which was a will like the one that had been produced, and it was to lay claim to the property bequeathed in that will, that they had taken this voyage to England.
When he had concluded, Whistlepipe made the most of every word; but the judge interrupting him, and shaking his head, said-" I am afraid, brother Whistlepipe, if this be all the evidence you can produce, you must give in; in such a case as the present, the proof of identity should be most powerful; and here, we do not even know-supposing the last witness to have spoken the truth--we do not even know how the Abbess was aware that Eoline was the child of Horton. It is unfortunate in your case that the Abbess could not be produced; but as the affair stands-- " and again he shook his head.
While the judge and Whistlepipe were arguing the point, Horton and the sergeant were beginning to collect their papers, regarding the cause really at an end.
Just at this moment the Bridge-shooter put his head in at the side door, and having caught the eye of the merchant beckoned him out.
In a few minutes the merchant returned, and whispered a few words to their counsel.
Sergeant Thunderdown being impatient to let off his sarcasms in a volley and go home, asked his learned friend-" If that was his case ?"
Whistlepipe replied--" Not quite; I have one witness more to examine. Call in Elizabeth Savage, late Abbess of the Poor Clares."
The astonishment and despair of Horton can easily be imagined; the feelings of Nan were scarcely less harrowing.
In a few minutes and again the door opened, and the Abbess, who appeared half dead from illness, brought on by her sufferings during and after the storm, was carried in, seated in a chair. She was allowed to retain her seat, indeed, it was evident to all that it would be impossible for her to stand. The disclosures she now made astonished all, but none more so than Horton himself; for upon being asked her name, she answered-" I was called Elizabeth Savage; but that is not my name. Must I confess my real one ?-but it is better that I should at once-it will make all clearer-simpler. I am Eoline Horton, and that blind girl is my own child."
A strange scene here took place, for Eoline hearing the well-known voice, sounding as though it had risen from the grave to claim her for her child, forced her way to the spot whence these happy sounds had sprung, and falling on her knees, clung to her mother in an almost agony of rapture.
Every word the Abbess now uttered, created a deepening interest. She explained how the shattered oat in which she lay, as in death, had been cast upon the shore: that by the care of those who found her,
|her life had been preserved; that believing herself upon the bed of death, she had prepared a full account of all she was then relating, and that it was to deliver up this document she had sent for the merchant; but in consequence of the foreign sailor having lost her letter, all were kept ignorant of whom had sent it, until the Bridge-shooter had reached her place of refuge.|
It was soon found that her strength would never hold out to the end, so it was arranged that her written narrative should be read aloud, and that then she could, as it proceeded, make any observation she might think fit; it ran thus:-
" In very early life I was married, by compulsion, to a man I never loved; but he was rich, and riches, in my father's eyes, were parent to all virtues. The man I married was Andrew Horton, a cold-hearted, violent, unfeeling monster, who cared not whom he sacrificed, so that his own desires were accomplished. Wretched indeed was soon my fate. Ere long, I found that his pretended affection for me, was but one of his thousand fancies; I had been coveted by others, therefore I was coveted by him. Weeks and months rolled on; every succeeding one more wretched than the last. I now became a mother; my infant, a boy, was, almost as soon as born, removed from me, and placed under the care of one of his other victims; she was a poor weak girl, whose bright blue eyes had caught his fancy; she was placed as a nurse to my child, and with her sister, dwelt beneath the same roof with his insulted, neglected wife. The next year of my life was one of unceasing tears; to such an excess did the heart's pure springs o'erflow, that for weeks I have frequently been totally blind from weeping; it was in this miserable state I bore a daughter; the temporary blindness of the parent fixed itself for ever upon the child-she was born sightless. My existence became a torture to me; all I prayed for was to die. At last driven to madness by insult and oppression, I fled my husband's home for ever. There was little need of great precaution to keep hidden my place of refuge, for well I knew he would make but little effort to recover me; he was tired of me, and therefore was thankful for any chance that should rid him of "his curse," as he always called me. I entered the abode of the poor Clares; circumstances combined to make me soon the head of that house. One night I pretended to have found a poor blind orphan, but it was false, for the girl I brought was my own child; this pretended orphan was my double comfort, for I soon learnt that the only chord of my husband's heart that could be touched, I had torn to threads, by taking away his child; this was indeed a solace, but a wicked one; the other comfort was a mother's love being rewarded by a darling child's affection."
The narrative then went on to describe those scenes which the reader has already been made acquainted with; such as the visit of Horton as a commissioner of Cromwell, and how she had checked his licentious coure by whispering in his ear that Eoline was his sister, although it was long before known to her that Horton was no child of hers; for, as Nan had truly stated to him, his real mother had taken refuge in the
|Convent of the Minories, and, it now appeared, had, on her death-bed revealed the truth of the changing of the children. But here followed a passage in the Abbess's narrative which truly astonished those who heard it, for it stated that the rich old man, who had taken a liking to, and had, in fact, bought the true offspring of Andrew Horton, and had with it gone to Italy, passing the boy off as his own son and heir, was a baronet named Filbut Fussey, at whose death, the boy, now grown to man's estate, unconscious of doing wrong, and unopposed by any of the relations of his supposed father, laid claim to, and enjoyed all the old man's vast possessions. Thus it appeared that Eoline and the murdered knight were, in truth, brother and sister, and that Harry Horton in no way could lay claim to inherit any portion of the wealth left by Andrew Horton. So well had the Abbess digested her plans to secure to her daughter her rights, that in one part, where confirmation was required of assertions that might appear doubtful without a witness, forth stepped the once-saintly father Brassinjaw, who, as former confessor of the poor Clares, disclosed as much (and perhaps a little more), as his priestly oath of secrecy would permit; but in the case of the death-bed confession of Nan's sister, what she had then revealed, was not for the purpose of obtaining absolution, but that those who heard it might one day bear witness to the truth.|
The moment Brassinjaw had been informed that his evidence was to ruin Horton, he flew to the task with all the appetite with which we might imagine a hawk would pounce upon a poor defenceless sparrow. It must be owned that Brassinjaw cut but a rather unbecoming figure, for having a wish to give as much weight as he could to his evidence, by putting on a solemn and devout appearance, he had shaved off as much of his beard and his whiskers as his vanity would permit, and wore, as it were, a pied-bald suit of clothes-half saint, half sinner; the very few remains of his former priestly gear he had donned for the occasion, not remembering, at the moment, how ill they agreed with the attributes of a publican. But he performed his part so well, that there could be no doubt concerning the truth of every portion of the Abbess's narrative.
So absorbed had Nan now been in painful reflections, caused by the unexpected public disclosures that were sounding in her ears, that she was quite unconscious of Harry Horton having, unnoticed by any one, left the court; she felt sick at heart, and turning to speak to Horton as she thought, she found a stranger by her-one glance-then uttering a piercing shriek, flew from the court as in a fit of frightful madness. In the confusion that ensued, the cause of her alarm also made his retreat, but not before the Bridge-shooter had noticed him sufficiently to make him feel convinced, that that man, and the mysterious stranger who left the dagger, were the same.
Thunderdown, feeling how completely he had been crushed, put on his usual show of virtuous indignation, and dashing down his brief, complained bitterly of the manner in which he had been deceived by his client; and then closely folding his arms, as if wrapping himself up in his own integrity, he too left the court.
A very short time sufficed to conclude the rest of the affair; aid with
|comparatively light hearts, the Cripple with his now rich wife, accompanied by their friends, quitted the justice court-we say, with comparatively light hearts, for the uncertain fate of the merchant's daughter could not but cast a damp upon their otherwise boundless joy.|
Osborne, whose attendance had not been required, was during the trial prosecuting his enquiries in every quarter the most likely, and even the most unlikely, to gain information regarding the lost Anne: he even consulted the Bridge-shooter's mother, who, this time, honestly confessed herself at fault; but, as she said, no wonder that her eyes, regarding futurity, should have become dim, since now she could only look through a veil of tears, shed for her departed spirit: by this she meant, that her old black cat was dead, and she now began to persuade herself that with her "spirit," her own supernatural powers had ceased to exist.
It was after this visit to the witch of Houndsditch, that Edward had gone to the Earl's mansion. He was ushered into a magnificent gallery, hung round with portraits of the Earls of Shrewsbury, and pictures of many of the great actions of their lives. He had been waiting some time, when, hearing a door open at the opposite end of the gallery to that by which he had entered, and by which the attendant had gone out, he turned suddenly, and felt perfectly bewildered, for there, before him, stood Walter Lerue, splendidly attired. Lerue appeared to Osborne to start back at seeing him, and then became almost as much confused as he himself was. The fact was Lord George had not yet been apprized of Osborne's visit, so that meeting him unexpectedly in his father's mansion, it had startled him, he scarcely knew wherefore, unless indeed that his masquerading must now be confessed, and that in such confession he felt his dignity would, in a degree, suffer humiliation.
After a moment's hesitation, caused by feeling a jealousy rising in his heart at being thus near a rival, Osborne said-" I but little expected to meet with Master Lerue in this mansion-nor-indeed-that is- I was told to await here the coming of the Earl, or of his son-and---"
" And you are welcome, Master Edward Osborne," said Lord Talbot, having recovered from his surprise, and as he advanced, he held forth his hand to Osborne, which the later took, but with evident reluctance.
" If your heart were as bad as your memory," said his lordship, "you would be a much worse man than you ever will be. Look at me again; we are old friends, are we not ?"
" Once meeting for an hour at the Cottage on the Heath," replied Edward, "is scarcely intercourse sufficient to form an acquaintanceship, much less cement a friendship."
" Tut, man," said the other; " why, you cannot surely forget when we were boys, we went bathing together, and i'faith, but for your timely aid, I had once taken a bath too much off Battersea." Hearing these words, Osborne for the first time looked really at the features of the speaker.
" Be not surprised, in finding in Master Lerue the heir of Shrewsbury. My memory, Master Osborne, is far better than your own; but no wonder in this case, for noble minds easily forget the favours they have bestowed, but honest ones never forget the favours they have received. I remember too that you have a ring of mine, and have no doubt come to claim the promise made, when that ring was given. What favour
|. would you ask ? 'tis granted ere it be spoken; but do not think it will be gratuitously bestowed. No, no, indeed!" and his lordship's hitherto pale and melancholy features, for a moment were lighted by a smile.|
"I shall in return demand a favour of Master Osborne, and one that will in my mind far outweigh any obligation Lord Talbot can ever grant. But first to discharge my debt to my preserver, if indeed he has brought in his heavy account against me, and having done that, or paid an instalment, we will then speak of our departed acquaintance, Walter Lerue. Speak, what can I do to serve you ?"
Edward was so completely thrown off his balance, as one might say, by this unexpected discovery, that he could scarcely stand upright.
Lord George perceiving this, pushed forward a magnificent seat, and drawing another near to it, said-" As I hope this visit will not be a short one, let us be seated, for though you may have but little to say, I have much, and that, too, of some moment: be seated and speak freely- you have a willing listener.
Edward now began to tell his tale by saying-" You, my lord, having already been somewhat acquainted with the inmates of the Cottage on the Heath, will doubtless be surprised to learn that he who owned that Cottage, was not Master Allen, an humble trader as he there appeared, but-"
" Master William Hewet, the king's great merchant," interrupted Lord Talbot. " You see I know more than you suspected, do I not ?"
"Heaven grant that you may know how to discover the treasure Master Hewet has, I fear, for ever lost!"
" What treasure has that worthy merchant lost ?" enquired the other.
"His child!" said Osborne, and he felt ready to choke as he spoke the words.
"His child !" exclaimed the young lord, lost his child, that loveliest of all created beings ? Speak, speak, surely I must misunderstand your words."
" Alas !" replied Edward, " they are too plain, too true, to admit of but one meaning." Edward then recounted the whole of the incidents connected with the attack of the robbers; and that after Anne had left the cottage, in the endeavour to reach the farm unobserved, she had never again been seen. " When you bestowed upon me this ring, you told me, that whenever I required aid, I was to claim it here."
" Whatever aid, I, or my house, can bring, will be brought right willingly, for I have other reasons for feeling anxious on that fair maid's account, then you at present guess at. But how can we hope to solve the mystery ?"
"There is a slight chance of obtaining a clue, by the aid of thi badge-it is the badge of your noble house." Saying this, he produced the badge, and then explained the circumstances under which it had been found.
" There is more knavery in this," said Lord Talbot, " than we shall perhaps ever fathom; but I think I have a knave that will ferret it out- at least as much as mortal depth can fathom or ferret out; he is my
|varlet-by name Nino, an Italian rogue, who, because he did me a service when in Italy, has ever since stuck to me as a blood-sucker."|
The young lord went to a side door, within which, at a couple of feet distance, was another door; he opened this also, and then calling the Italian by his name, Nine appeared.
Nino now put on a very different bearing to that which he assumed when with his equals or inferiors in station; he carried himself so humbly, and threw such an expression of simplicity into his countenance, that few, but those who knew him as thoroughly as his lord did, would have suspected him of being the rogue he really was.
Lord Talbot, holding the badge up suddenly before Nino's eyes, exclaimed-" Whose badge is that ?"
Whose, my lord ?"
" Yes, whose ? There needs no thinking-answer !"
The young lord asked the question thus suddenly, hoping, that did Nino know aught concerning it, he would be taken off his guard, and thus betray himself; but in this he was wrong, for Nino at once answered-" Why, yours, my lord !"
" know 'tis mine," replied the other; " but would know who wore it last and lost it ? Had my orders been obeyed, and the badges numbered, we should have known at once whose it was."
" I know," said Nino; " it is doubtless the badge of Phillip of the Buttery: he absconded a fortnight since with Mona, our lady's woman; fearful of discovery, he has torn the badge from his arm, and cast it away."
"It may have been as he says," observed Lord Talbot, addressing Osborne. " You may be gone."
Nino bowed humbly, and retired through the door he had entered by.
" I fear me we shall trace but little by this badge; but this I promise, that not an engine of power, that is likely to avail us, but shall immediately be set in motion. And now to the favour I would ask of you; but, for the present, you must pledge me your word not to breath it to mortal ear." Having said this, he rose, and cautiously approaching the door through which Nino had passed, flung it suddenly open, when there stood, in the space between the two doors, the Italian Nino.
Had Lord Talbot been armed, so great was his rage, that the Italian's life would, in all probability, have paid the forfeit for his evesdropping; as it was, the young lord seized him by the throat, then cast him backwards with such violence, against the inner doors, that they gave way, and Nino fell violently upon the floor of the outer room.
" Scoundrel!" exclaimed Lord Talbot, " I have often suspected this, but never could catch you till now. Be gone! never dare to step foot again within these walls !" He paced up and down two or three times, and then resuming his seat, said-" Forgive me, Master Osborne, for being thus ruffled by such a hind as that; but I shall smile at my own passion presently, and will then proceed with what I would have you know. No doubt, but indeed I am sure, you must have been surprised to find, that the poor artist of the Heath, and the boy you saved, were one, and that one-Lord Talbot! 'Tis right that I explain to you how
|. all this came to pass; for, believe me, no unworthy motive caused me to assume another name, however unhappily terminated some circumstances to which that change has led."|
Osborne, who was yet unacquainted with the real cause of poor Lillia's death, could not comprehend to what his noble friend alluded; but soon he was doomed to hear that which he could comprehend, alas! too well.
The young lord proceeded-" It was a difference I had had with my father, that made me, for a time, wish to live in retirement-indeed, from him, in concealment. I assumed the character of an artist, being a great lover of the art, though but a poor executant, put up at the Ferry, and strolled about the country with my gun and my drawings, and killed time as well as I could. In one of my rambles, I saw the ' Beauty of the Heath,' for so sweet Mistress Anne was called all the country round; I was enraptured. But who could look upon her, and not be so ?"
Poor Osborne could not help thinking the speaker was quite right. But what could he have been about all this number of years, that he had been blessed by seeing her, speaking to her, serving her, and yet never to discover her excellencies, until another pointed them out to him.
"You, doubtless, know that fate at last placed an opportunity in my way, of being of some slight service to her: I seized that opportunity of becoming more intimate, and every moment I was near her, I discovered, not only in her features, but in her mind, new beauties. I knew the folly of giving way to feelings that, in spite of all my efforts to prevent them, would keep rising in my heart; I took myself to task severely; but the more I strove to convince myself of my weakness, for our stations being so widely different, that of an earl's son and a poor trader's daughter, that an honourable love seemed madness; and who could dare to love that sweet girl but honourably? You look astonished that I should be thus frank and open to you; but all I now say, is said to lead to the favour I intend to demand at your hands."
Poor Edward sat and listened, wondered, and inwardly groaned, for it was evident that the young lord had, at least, cast a longing eye upon his heart's adored. What was to be the end of this long introduction, he was quite at a loss to imagine.
" The unexpected meeting with the merchant on the evening you saw me at the cottage, and whom I instantly recognised as Master Hewet-but he knew not me: not so that quick-eyed jade, Flora -she was not deceived for one moment-I assumed all the appearance of indifference I could command; but I inwardly felt, that that night must break the spell that I had too long allowed to surround me; I left the cottage, never to return to it-exerted all my reason to combat the violent passion, which had so nearly conquered me; but now I had determined never more to think of the ' Beauty of the Heath,' the more would her image rise, like the fairy form of a dream, and engross my every thought."
Osborne, as he listened, almost fancied he was hearing his own story related, so exactly did the feelings, painted by the young lord, coincide with his own. But again he asked himself-" How is this strange tale to end ?" He was not long left in doubt, for the other continued.
" I wandered about-flew from place to place: my friends became anxious, for none could guess the cause of my altered state of mind. I have ever noticed, that the strongest attachments invariably take root where such feelings should never know existence. I could command the wealthiest, the proudest, the most exalted beauties of the land; but they are not the simple ' Beauty of the Heath ;' the remembrance of her brightness throws all others in the shade: into such a pitch of phrenzy has this short absence cast me, that I now feel that life with her, or death without her, must be my fate: I have, therefore, determined to demand her hand !"
So astonished was poor Osborne at hearing these last words, that he actually fell back on his seat, and stared his eyes nearly out of his head at the young lord, without uttering a single word.
" I see you are astonished," said Lord Talbot, " and I wonder not that you should be; but when you remember all her charms of mind, of form, of face, your wonder soon will cease. The world will stare, and gape, I know. But what is the world to him, who must quit that world, unless the life which can alone make that world endurable, is sustained by the love of her, in whose love alone he will consent to live. Now, the favour I would ask of you, is this; but, alas! I had forgotten she is lost-lost, perhaps, to us all for ever-"
Osborne was too much bewildered by his own miserable thoughts to reply. The confession he had just heard, and the expressed determination of the heir of Shrewsbury, to demand the hand of Anne, if she should be found, seemed a death-blow to his very existence.-" Now then," he said, within himself, " now then, this land and I are strangers indeed. The moment Anne be restored, if ever she should be, that moment shall see me set my foot upon a bark, to bear me away for ever."
The young lord paced up and down in violent agitation, and then exclaimed, as if speaking to himself-" Not a nook, not a dwelling, of high or low, but shall be searched, and searched thoroughly too, but we will find her, or those who have wronged her; I have power, and that power shall be used to find out the truth of this mystery. You now know," he said, addressing Osborne, " the secret feelings of my mind; keep them, at present, locked in your own breast; but the moment sweet Anne shall be restored, it is upon you I depend; you must plead my cause- you must discover for me the inward feelings of her heart, for I cannot stoop to ask and be rejected. In the meantime, be sure that every nerve of mine will be exerted to discover the retreat, or fate of sweet Anne Hewet. I will so arrange, that you shall always find me at a moment's notice."
Osborne, considering the extraordinary turn matters had taken, to that which he had believed his visit would lead to, managed to leave the young lord's presence with tolerable composure; but the moment he found himself alone, in the grounds that led to the boat in which he was to return, he hurried into a concealed alcove, and gave full vent to his sorrow.-" Now," he exclaimed, " now indeed may I write upon my heart, ' hope dwells not here !"
We will not attempt to depict all his agony. If any thing could have
|. blighted the little hope he formerly might have pictured to himself-and who, in this world, but will, at times, picture hope to their sinking hearts ?-that last ray of hope was dimmed, extinguished, by the knowledge of one so great as the young lord he had just left, having determined to offer his wealth and name to the merchant's daughter.|
" But I will never see that day-no, no, I will never see that day. Religion forbids us to take the life which Heaven has bestowed upon us; but religion does not forbid our flying from the cause of all our woes."
While so many were employed in various districts, endeavouring to discover the lost Anne, she was a prisoner within an arm's length of those who dwelt in the house of her birth upon the Bridge. When she had been brought to the Cardinal's Hat, she was at once conveyed to the upper room of the house; for this room being lighted by a skylight only, it would be impossible for any one confined there to discover, from outward views, where their prison lay. After the powerful draught she had swallowed began to lose its narcotic virtue, returning sense began to assert its sway. The first time she opened her eyes with real consciousness-for all she had before beheld, whenever her sleepful eyelids rose, was so dreamy in effect, that it could scarcely be said she saw, or knew aught of what she looked upon around her-but, as we have just observed, the first time real consciousness held power o'er her vision, her eyes met those of Mona, who had been incessantly watching over her from the night on which she had been brought there. Anne started from her couch and screamed.
" What are you afraid of, child ?" said Mona.
" Afraid of!" ejaculated Anne; "but who are you? and how came I in this wretched place ?" She then shut her eyes again for a moment: then, opening them, looked around doubtingly, as though she half fancied she still was in a dream-" Do not look so strangely at me; but speak, speak ! where am I ?"
" Were I to tell you, perhaps those who brought you here," said Mona, "might think my tongue an inch too long, and cut it off."
" Oh, heavens !" exclaimed Anne, placing both her hands upon her forehead, " what a frightful thought flies through my brain. I remember now the dreadful struggle on the Heath. Oh, tell me, tell me ! am I indeed within the power of those wretches ?"
" Hush !" whispered Mona. " A villain never likes to hear himself called a villain-speak lower. I have been watching, anxiously watching for your returning sense; for in your delirium you have uttered words and names that make me believe the truth has not been told me: speak lowly, but truly, and you may perhaps have found a friend in one, who to herself has never been a friend-You love !"
Anne blushed, and looking enquiringly into the face of the Italian girl, answered--" I do ! but you and myself are the only two who know it."
"And the name of him you love is -" Anne again blushed as she almost whispered-" Edward; but why do you ask ?"
" Because I fancy I am to be deceived, and made a fool of," replied
|Mona, frowning as few but an Italian can frown; " that was the name you muttered so frequently when your mind was wandering, and made me doubt their tale. They told me his name was George, and that he was a noble of this land."|
" George !" said Anne, " I know no human being bearing that name; and never, to my knowledge, spoke a word to mortals above my own humble state."
" Then it is a lie !" exclaimed Mona, starting up, " but a lie that shall stick in his throat until it choak him. I have been too bitterly deceived by him, to be deceived by him again. One way or other, I am to be fooled, and you made their victim !"
" Oh, heavens!" exclaimed the affrighted girl, springing from the couch on which she had been lying, and casting herself upon her knees before the still-frowning Mona. " Oh, save me, save me ! I know not where I am-I know not where to look for safety but in you: then, save me, save me!"
The room in which this scene was enacting, was an oddly-shaped apartment at the top of Brassinjaw's dwelling. There was but little furniture in the place; but what there was, was of massive structure. The place was at all times in parts, quite dark; the only light coming through a small skylight in the roof. Beneath this skylight, a sort of gallery passed across, forming a communication between two lofts.
Just as Anne had thrown herself upon her knees, and seized the hand of the Italian girl, a huge ill-looking head might have been seen obtruding from one of the doors at one end of the shattered gallery. It was Brassinjaw, who, like Mona, began to suspect that he was being made a dupe of, and who determined to learn the truth for himself, as far as he could, by listening to all the Italian and the trader's daughter they had stolen away, might say to each other, and, by this means, learn how best to act, for his own advantage.
So eloquently did Anne plead her own cause-so feelingly did she picture the suffering she too well knew her poor mother was then enduring-the agony of her broken-hearted father-the mention of the father's woe, appeared to touch a chord in Mona's breast, whose vibrations thrilled through every fibre of her softened heart, and called up visions of days gone by-visions that memory's eye could never look on but in tears, that she raised the imploring girl-then buried her own face upon the shoulder of Anne, as through a flood of grief she exclaimed-" I know, I know! oh, it was of a broken heart my father died; and I it was who broke it !"
It now became Anne's turn to offer consolation; but this she found a more difficult matter than might have been expected, for Mona kept exclaiming-" 'Tis useless, useless! remorse can never know relief. Oh, remorse! remorse! thou art the bitterest drug that ever poisons the human heart! No, remorse can never know relief!"
All this time Brassinjaw continued to be all ears. He strained every nerve not to lose a word; but presently he made a discovery that somewhat alarmed him.
Mona having partially recovered, said-" I have not been thus moved for many a day; the voice of remorse can only be drowned by wild excitement;
|to this I have, for some time past, given way, and for that time I fancied I had forgotten; but being alone watching your slumbers for so long, I had time to think, and all the ghosts of former days rose up before me; all that you said in your delirious dreams, brought back to recollection, that I too had once a home-a happy sunny home; I too had once been blessed by a doting parent; I too had loved, but therein lay my curse ! So blindly mad with love was I for Nino (that was my lover's name) that all warnings proved of no avail; at last I fled with him, to follow him to this distant land; but I would have followed him into the fiery gulph, while I believed he loved me: he made of me whatsoe'er he would, even to become a thief: it was this last vile act that tore from my eyes the blinding scales, and I now see myself, and all the vile acts I have done, in their full deformity. Although I am now convinced he no longer loves me, the recollection of our early days of affection still clings around my heart, and for a moment seems to bind me to him; but that slight bond I have vowed to break. It is my fixed resolve to return to my native country, though I should beg my bread at each step I go. I will sin no more. All I pray for now is to be suffered by heaven to crawl to my father's grave and die. But you must first be saved; your salvation shall prove a slight atonement for one who has done wrong, not loving wrong, but through loving wrongly."|
"Oh, bless you, bless you!" exclaimed Anne, throwing her arms round the neck of the Italian girl, "oh, bless you! and know, that if you but save me from the peril I feel I am now encompassed by, no lack of means will have to be endured throughout your journey to your native land, though that journey should extend to thrice the distance round the globe."
"Then are you not the daughter of a poor trader of the name of Allen ?" enquired Mona.
"Allen is a name by which I have for some few years been known," replied Anne, " but Allen is not my real one." Here Brassinjaw strained his neck over the railing of the gallery. " No, so far from being the child of a poor trader, I am the only daughter of one of the richest merchants of this great city-William Hewet, merchant to the king." A little dash of pride animated Anne's countenance as she announced her high respectability, for which, in the next moment, she blushed. " You talk of saving me," she continued, " but how ? you are I fear almost as much a prisoner as I; but if you could reach his house, alas ! I fear far, far away from here, his house on Old London Bridge-"
"Where ?" interrupted Mona, " where did you say ?"
"On Old London Bridge," replied Anne; "reach but that, and you will easily find it, for his house is well known there; it stands next to a wine-shop called the Cardinal's Hat."
"Hush," whispered the Italian girl, " we are speaking too loudly-- be calm, for what I am about to tell you, might, without warning, prove too much for you to hear. Your father's house is there." And Mona pointed with her thumb over her shoulder towards the wall.
" There ! what mean you ?" exclaimed Anne, feeling there was something in the word she could not comprehend.
"There," repeated Mona, again pointing with her thumb, "there,
|within a foot of you, is the scene of your birth; this is the wine-house you have named."|
Anne was about to utter an exclamation of joy and surprise, but was checked by Mona. " That they have brought you here, is a proof they know you not: be silent, for in silence is your only hope; did they but once suspect who, and what you really are, their idea of safety would be in your destruction."
"Good heavens !" exclaimed Anne, in a voice subdued by alarm and deepened by fear; " and am I truly so near all that is dear to me- all that would shield me, yet dare I not fly to that love-to that protection ?"
" Dissimulation is your only hope; I must appear to know nothing, and when I find the opportunity, I will nence-disclose to your friends your peril, then look to them and Heaven for my own safety."
" A swifter plan for our release," said Anne, still almost whispering, "I think I can devise. If this be the house you say it is, there is outside that door-for from that skylight, I imagine this to be the highest room-- a staircase leading to yon gallery, which thence leads to the roof; you look astonished at my knowledge of this locality, but by that very stair, some years now gone, I verily believe I did descend to seek for safety, as I now shall mount it in the self-same hope."
"Such a stair does exist," said Mona, "and I comprehend your meaning: not a moment must be lost; we must find safety now or never."
Clinging together, the Italian girl and Anne hastened towards the door-they opened it, when, horror! there stood Spikely, Brassinjaw, and the Italian Nino.
"So so, my mistress," said Nino, addressing Mona, "you would betray your lover, would you ?-fly from him-eh ?-But you are easily dealt with." Saying which, he suddenly cast a rope with a slip-knot on it, over her neck; then drawing it tight, the poor Italian girl fell to the ground, struggling in strangulation; in another minute, and she was bound hand and foot; the cord was removed from her neck, and the three wretches left the apartment, carrying their victim between them.
Anne was so stupified by this sudden scene, that she stood transfixed, until the secure bolting of the door aroused her. What she had just seen, clearly proved to her the kind of wretches she was detained by. Her agony redoubled at the thought of the fate her newly-found friend would meet with from the hands of such monsters. The mere glance she had obtained of Spikely and of Nino, showed her that they were the same with whom she had so fiercely struggled on the Heath. Her only hope lay in instant flight; but how to accomplish it? If she could reach the gallery, might she not thus find an outlet still unbarred ? -the trial must be made. The moment the idea entered her mind, she was at her labours. Every thing that she could pile the one upon the other, was brought and placed beneath the gallery. Her feeling now was almost as great for the safety of the Italian girl as for her own. The massive table was dragged to the proper spot: on this she placed the heavy stool, or chair; and then, with other smaller things, she built up a mount, from which she could reach the gallery. How
|cautiously did she attempt the ascent, yet how determined was everyI movement! She felt that life or death was in every step. She reached the summit-caught firmly hold of the railing; it suddenly gave way, and she fell backwards to the ground, stunned-insensible.|
When the three worthies, Spikely, Brassinjaw, and Nino, had placed Mona, still bound, in a place they believed one of safety-namely, a closet near the lower room-they began to discuss their proposed modes of action. Their discovery, through Brassinjaw, that the Beauty of the Heath was really the daughter of Hewet, so closely their host's neighbour, disconcerted their plans greatly. Nino, too, found that he had miscalculated his lord's ideas of honour, and that from his first, as he had thought well-laid clever plan, nothing but further disgrace and punishment were likely to accrue, if carried into full effect, now was devising some scheme how he could virtuously turn his knowledge to account. Then, again, what were they to do with Mona ? She had now declared her intention of leaving Nino; and after what had just occurred, should they set her at liberty, there was little knowing what course she might pursue. Brassinjaw observed-" I say nothing-mind, I say nothing ! but were she my stumblingblock, I know how I should dispose of her." As he rose, he began unconcernedly to hum the air of " London Bridge is broken down ;" then placing an old shattered chair on a particular spot, left the room.
" What does he mean by that ?" enquired Nino.
" How should I know !" replied Spikely. " But this I do know, that never did the saintly Father Brassinjaw do aught without an end in view-in that old chair, depend upon it, there is a meaning."
The words were scarcely out of his mouth, before the floor, whereon the chair stood, gave way-the chair was gone; and Nino, starting up, ran to the opening in the floor, but as quickly started back again, for all he saw beneath, was the raging waters dashing through the arch beneath the Bridge.
Nino, turning towards Spikely, cast on him an enquiring look, as asking a solution of this strange proceeding; but Spikely merely received it with a vacant stare, and taking from his pouch a sort of memorandum-book, began to read.
When Nino looked again towards the spot where the opening had so recently been, he found the floor had already resumed its original state. At the same moment one of the panels, close to him, slid aside, and there stood Brassinjaw, grinning, in evident delight, at having astonished the Italian.
" What means all this ?" said Nino, as Brassinjaw closed the panel through which he had entered.
" Oh, nothing, nothing !" replied the other, " a mere nothing! It is a simple way I have adopted for getting rid of any odd thing I have no further use for-that is all."
" Then, I suppose," said Nino, " as I wished to get rid of Mona, you would prescribe that cold bath. But, no, no ! although I do wish her dead, I have no desire to have her blood upon my head. The poor devil, I believe, once loved me more than her own soul; for she would have hazarded that, had she believed it would have pleasured me; and
|perhaps she has, if what the canting priests tell us be true. She is safe enough where she is for the present; and, by and by, we can find a way to dispose of her. But I should like to see the mechanism of this man-trap, for such I suppose it was originally."|
Brassinjaw, who was rather proud of the mechanical improvement he had made in this "plaything," as he called it, took Nino into the next apartment-opened the cupboard, and there pointed out the rope which he had now made to pass through a hole in the top of the closet, and which, when pulled violently, drew out the bolts, and the trap fell, as we have seen. But the part he was most vain of, was his own contrivance for raising the floor again, and fastening it as securely as before. Nino's praise put Brassinjaw in high spirits, and they once more returned to the other room. They began soon to discuss what to them was of vital importance-namely, how to dispose of Anne, whom, from Brassinjaw's discovery, they knew to be Hewet's daughter. Nino's scheme they now felt was much more likely to bring them a rope than a fortune; and both Spikely and Brassinjaw were not over nice in their expressions of anger against him for having led them into such a scrape. So violently did their altercations become at one moment, that the Italian drew his knife, and, flying towards the door, which he held in his hand, that he might secure a retreat, swore " that the first who stirred a foot towards him, should find it buried in his side."
" We are all fools," roared out Spikely, " worse than fools, to lose our time in quarreling, when every moment is of consequence. Sit down. Nino, sit down, and let us talk like men! What shall we do with the girl ? that is the question."
Nino proposed that they should take her back towards the Heath, in a like state to that in which they had brought her, and there leave her to chance; but this plan Brassinjaw shewed at once was absurd; for he overheard enough to let him know that she was fully aware of the place of her imprisonment.
Brassinjaw had inwardly made up his own mind exactly what he should do, which was nothing short of betraying his two friends, and by the restoration of Hewet's daughter, gain all the honour and advantage to himself. But Brassinjaw knew his companions too well not to be very guarded in his movements; so he put on a more ferocious bearing than either of the others, and swore "he saw no better plan than the trap and water."
" No," said Spikely, " not for her; but there is one who shall taste it, and shall be made to know the treat she is to have before she has it, and that is Nan. I feared that we should never meet again; but we have; and I have dogged her to her hiding-place; if once I can lure her here, she and I will settle our long reckoning; when she's gone, then I can look to my other friends. Horton's my next, but he, the villain, shall be tortured, and soundly too, before I give him the coup de grace."
"But what are we to do with the girl ?" exclaimed Nino, impatient at hearing Spikely talk of nothing else but his own concerns.
"Yes," said Brassinjaw, "what are we to do with the girl? she must not stop here."
Now, that she should stop where she was, was exactly what he
|. wished; but he knew his customers, as he thought, so said exactly contrary to what he really wished; but as one conjuror generally knows the tricks of another, so does one rogue understand the shifts and deceits of his compeer; therefore Spikely, hearing Brassinjaw so vehement upon the subject, first of the girl's destruction, and then on the importance of her removal, began to suspect the truth, so said--"Always right, always right, Brassinjaw-leave a priest alone for that. Yes, the girl must not stay here; but I know where she can stay, and safely, until we determine upon her fate, and that is in my old house, by the Black Arch of the Clink."|
Brassinjaw felt that Spikely would, while speaking, fix his eyes upon him, so put on a look of the greatest innocence; and being quite a match for Spikely, or any one else, in the art of deceit, made a strong opposition to this arrangement, for he was sure then Spikely would carry out his plan. Brassinjaw, like a good general, was not to be taken by surprise, by any sudden movement of the enemy. No, no, the instant his opponent wheeled about, he too presented a new front. In an instant he had formed a combination in his own mind, that would lead to victory quite as surely as his first scheme; indeed it was only marching by a different road which led to the same end. It was now settled that at ten that night she should be taken to the Clink. Brassinjaw was appointed to mix a strong opiate in her food, so that she might be carried off once more in a sleeping state.
They now broke up their consultation, and each went to his various affairs.
Spikely would willingly have thrown his friends over, had he seen a safe way of doing it, but was fain to be contented for the present with his self-promised revenge upon his wife and Horton.
Nino started off to make one more effort to gain the good opinion of his enraged master, but if he failed in that, he, like Brassinjaw, had fully determined, to get what he could for himself by turning virtuous, as he called it, and betraying his companions.
Ever since the attack of the thieves upon Alyce and her daughter, and from which danger Lerue had rescued them, the merchant had determined to bring his family once more to town, the moment he could find a suitable mansion; for be it known that William Hewet had risen So high in the estimation of his brother citizens, that ere long he woul no doubt be called upon to fill the highest post of honour the city could bestow, that of Lord Mayor. He had already been one of the Common Council, was an Alderman, and indeed enjoyed every mark of distinction that a wealthy honest merchant could desire. Under these circumstances, and finding himself so frequently coming in contact with the highest in the land, who from admiration of his character for worth and probity, had in more than one instance allowed these frequent meetings upon business, to end in settled friendship, there were, indeed, few nobles of that day, notwithstanding the proud bearing to others they ever maintained, who looked upon it as any degradation to rank Master William Hewet amongst their friends; but it must also be remembered that at this time many of the nobles were themselves merchants; we say, therefore, that under all these circumstances, it became absolutely
|necessary that his style of living now should take a more exalted position in the eyes of the world, so he bought a magnificent mansion in Philpot Lane, so called from the name of the owner, Sir John Philpot, who dwelt there.|
After the trial at Westminster, the whole of Hewet's party adjourned to this new mansion. It was not yet in a state for him to take up his permanent abode there, but for a day or two it was determined that Alyce, and indeed all the inmates of the Cottage on the Heath, should abide there. Had it not been for the dreadful gloom which the loss of Anne had necessarily cast upon the feelings of all, how happily would have been that party, at the triumphant termination of Eoline and her husband's troubles. As may be supposed, every care that kindness of heart could imagine, was bestowed upon the Abbess, whose determination was, should she recover from the shock her whole frame had received from fear and suffering in the storm, to retire to some convent, in a foreign land, and end her days in prayer and penitence.
The Cripple, notwithstanding the natural joy he felt at the strange change which had taken place in his fortunes, would listen to no word but such as touched upon the loss of Anne; indeed, until some tidings of her should be received, all appeared determined not to allow one moment to be passed in selfish happiness.
When Edward returned from the earl's mansion, all, but Flora and the Bridge-shooter were astounded at the news, that Lerue was indeed the Lord Talbot. Edward enlightened his friends, as far as he felt authorised to do, as to the cause of the young lord appearing upon the Heath, in the humble guise of a poor artist.
"How strange," said Alyce, " that one so exalted, should have felt any interest in the company of us, plain, simple folk; I am sure his attentions to our poor lost child, were as kind as though she had been his sister."
And a little kinder too, thought Flora, as she gave a peculiar glance towards the Bridge-shooter. "A great deal kinder," sighed Edward, to himself; and in his thoughts, he said, " a great deal kinder than mine were when I was her brother; and I must never now show how kind I could be, since I know that mine are no longer a brother's feelings."
The merchant and Alyce scarcely knew how to keep their expressions of gratitude within bounds, when Edward informed them, that Lord Talbot had promised not to leave a stone unturned, in his endeavour to serve them.
Poor Edward, much as he prayed for the discovery of Anne, still more fervently prayed that it might be some other than the young lord, who should be blessed by making that discovery. Had there been wanting on his own part any stimulant to exertion, he could not have found a stronger, than in the feelings of rivalry that entered his breast, with regard to a determination not to allow another to rob him of the prize he coveted-a simple prize, but to him inestimable-the grateful smile of Anne, which she was sure to bestow upon her preserver. New schemes were laid down and discussed. As in all such cases, one thought one thing, one another; but upon this point they were all
|. agreed, that Anne had been stolen away, most likely for the purpose of gaining a high reward for her restoration. This idea turned all their thoughts upon the best method of announcing such reward, and, at all events, the reward being offered, would give great publicity to the fact of her being missing, and might thus lead to some good end.|
They were very busily drawing up an account of the abduction, for such they called it, the idea of her death having been completely given up, when a stranger was announced, as awaiting an interview with the merchant, upon business of the greatest importance. The merchant was too much accustomed to have messengers calling upon him at all hours, on business of the greatest importance, for him to feel the least surprise; so, taking up a lamp, for it was already dark, he, with Edward, descended the grand old staircase of massive carved oak, down to the marble-paved hall. Here Edward left his master, as he had affairs to transact that night in his own apartment on the Bridge.
Ever since his interview with the young lord, the reader may easily imagine that little else was floating in his mind but what was connected in some way with what that lord had said. Never did he remember to have entered the Golden Fleece with a heart so thoroughly depressed as he did upon this night; a kind of listless despair had taken complete possession of his mind, for he felt that even were Anne restored, she was now more hopelessly lost to him than ever.
" Al !" he said, "the merchant need no longer be apprehensive of his daughter being married to a man who loves her not, and who will wed her but for her father's known wealth ; if such as the heir to an earldom, and a rich one too, offer her his hand, it can be but for the worth of that hand alone: happy father, happy bride, where both are so convinced that love has brought the hand that's offered! But does he love her more than I do ?-impossible--but I have nought but love to offer, and even had we plighted our troth, I should always have been suspected of wedding her wealth more than herself. I would rather tear out my heart," he exclaimed, " than live under such an unworthy imputation! It is perhaps better as it is; for she being rich, and I almost poor, the sincerity of my affection never could have been put to the proof."
The whole of that evening, as he sat working at his account books, would such reflections as these mix themselves up with the more worldly affairs that lay before him; the clock had already struck nine, when shutting his books, he rested his head upon his hand, and covering his eyes, became lost in a sort of dreamy melancholy abstraction; there he sat, immoveable as if entranced. When the merchant entered the large unfurnished waiting-room, in which the stranger was, he saw a man closely muffled in a cloak, and altogether of such a suspicious looking character, that Hewet for a moment paused, as if doubtful whether to close the door behind him or not.
" Be not alarmed," said the stranger, "I am a friend."
The merchant at once recognised a voice that was familiar to him, but who the speaker was he had still to learn.
" I am not often alarmed," replied the merchant smiling, " but I must
|own your mysterious appearance for the moment did surprise me-what would you with me ?"|
To which the other replied-" You have lost your daughter !"
"If it be on her account you come, then indeed you are a friend- speak quickly !"
"Slow and sure," observed the other; "and before I can let you into too much of what you will wish to know, I have a question or two to be answered; and it will depend on the answers I shall receive, whether I throw off my cloak, or depart again unknown. You have lost your daughter; but that I know; and you would doubtless give a good reward to any one who should put you in the way of finding her ?"
"He should be rewarded, to his heart's content," replied the merchant, beginning to tremble with anxious hope.
" You are a merchant, therefore a man of business," said the stranger, "so I will attempt to speak in a business-like manner; would you give five hundred pounds of right lawful money ?"
" A thousand !" said the merchant, in a tone of supplicating anxiety.
"Now, to show you," replied the other, "how much I will do for love to serve you, I will not take advantage of that offer, but fix the reward at a good five hundred pounds; for the payment I must have your bond ; and for the next security I must have your oath: before I speak further you must swear, that come of this meeting what may, you will never drag me forward to give evidence against any one who may have been implicated in the affair. I hazard my life in doing what I do, unless you swear to keep my secret."
" The most solemn vow that the heart can conceive I freely take," replied the merchant: " now, who and what are you-and what is the hope you bring ?"
"Tis not hope I bring," said the stranger, " but certainty-my name is Brassinjaw." Saying this he disclosed himself to the eyes of the astonished merchant.
" Brassinjaw !" he exclaimed, " what, in Heaven's name, can you know of my lost child ?"
" Every thing," was the other's reply; " but the share I have taken in this transaction has been done, as you may be sure, more out of pity for, and hope to shelter innocence, than any desire to gain reward; although I'm no father, I know a father's sufferings; but I will not give way to feeling," and the old rascal pretended to wipe away a tear. " There is one more point upon which you must solemnly pledge me your word, and that is to be guided entirely by me; for if but a grain of suspicion were to find its way into the brain of those, who like myself hold the secret, not only my life, but that of your child would be the immediate sacrifice."
" Only restore my lost child to these arms, and be not afraid either of reward or caution."
Of all the surprises the merchant had lately received, few were greater than that caused by hearing that Anne, for whom they had been hunting far and wide, was the inmate of the Cardinal's Hat, the next door to his own abode.
" Oh, let me fly to her rescue !" exclaimed Hewet, forgetting all his promises of caution; and as he said this he made a movement towards
|. the door, but was held back by Brassinjaw, who began to tremble for his own safety.|
" Are you mad ?" he said; "would you destroy me, and her, and with me all hope of saving her ? Be calm, and listen; follow but my instructions, and this very night shall see Anne Hewet beneath her father's roof."
The merchant, endeavouring to calm his feelings, made many enquiries about the cause of her being taken to the place she was in.
" Those," replied Brassinjaw, " who brought her there knew not who she was; they thought her name was Allen, and that she was some insignificant trader's girl; it was I who discovered the truth; when all my old love and friendship for you and yours returned to my breast, and I vowed inwardly to save her or sacrifice my life. Ah, old friendships Master Hewet, are sweet ties; but I'll not give way to feeling," and again the old rascal passed his hand over his eyes.
The merchant was too engrossed by his own hopes, his fears, his anxieties of every conflicting kind, to attend much to what fell from the lips of Brassinjaw, excepting when upon the subject nearest to his heart.
Hewet now enquired what was the plan to be pursued.
" A very simple one," replied Brassinjaw. "The rats will walk quietly into the trap I have set, depend upon it, unless we scare them by being too anxious to secure them: many a rat has escaped through the catcher's hurry. My plan is this-you see, so alarmed are those who have her in their power, at finding whom she is, that they scarcely know how to move; so it has been determined, that, for a time she shall be kept securely in an old house in the Clink."
How the mention of that vile place called up to the memory of the merchant, the danger his child had once before suffered on that spot !
" Now, at ten this night," continued Brassinjaw, " when all upon the Bridge will be dark and quiet, it is settled that she shall be removed but whether by the Bridge-road, or in a boat, I am uncertain, so we must be prepared for both emergencies. You must place yourself, with some dozen stout men of authority around the Southwark gate, but not in a way to cause suspicion. Keep all as quiet and out of sight as possible. At that hour the tide will be at its safest, so let the Bridge- shooter, and Willy-of-the-bridge, be near the arch beneath my house; let them have plenty of aid within call, for those they will have to deal with are none of the meekest, and use their knives as freely upon the flesh of man, as a humble sinner like myself would upon that of a bull. Come which way they will, you will easily know them, for at that hour there will be but few others moving about, and between them they will carry something wrapped round in a sail-cloth; the moment you are sure 'tis they, fly upon them in a body, for singly, or in pairs you are a match for neither of them; bind them hand and foot-knock out their brains if you like, but as you value the safety of my throat let them not escape; if either should do so, you need not fear that I shall ever come to trouble you for my reward, or pay you another visit, unless it be at the dead of night, by your bedside as a ghost with a bleeding throat, to upbraid you for my untimely death. When the guilty ones are secured, remember that I am not to be named; but I will take care
|that plenty of other crimes shall be proved against them, that shall stop up every loop-hole of escape; if they live, some of us will die, depend on that."|
"But you have not told me how we are to find my child."
"Why, in the sail-cloth; did I not say so before ?"
"Good Heavens, she will be dead !" exclaimed the merchant.
"Fear not that-she's used to it: but be not alarmed because she seems to lie in death, for to prevent a chance of her screaming she will be put to sleep, sounder than ever but once she slept before; only keep your faith with me, act to the letter as I have directed, and all will be well for you and yours, however it may turn out for me, or my companions. Now then I must away, or all may yet go wrong."
Saying this he again muffled himself in his long cloak, pulled his hat closely over his face, and then stealthily, and with as little noise as possible, quitted the merchant's new dwelling.
" Yes," said he to himself, as he hurried towards the Bridge, " they would dupe and fool a priest, would they? but father Brassinjaw was never yet cajoled by man, no, nor woman, and that's something for a man to say, and he's not to begin the trade of fool as late in the day as it is with him. I begin to fear them, so the sooner they are comfortably settled the sooner my own comfort will be secured."
The merchant for a time felt so oppressed with hope and fear, that he could scarcely believe the visit Brassinjaw had just paid him was more than the flighty wandering of the mind-a waking dream. So doubtful did he feel upon the question, that before he related what had happened, he called his servitor, and enquired of him if any one had really been there.
The man stared at his master, and well he might; for he had to remind him that the strange man had scarcely left the place five minutes.
"No, no," he said, when he had sent the man to summon the Bridge-shooter and the Cripple; " it must be real-it is no dream; but oh, Heavens, if it be true! then I shall once more see my darling child and that too, perhaps, within this hour, for time flies apace."
When the Cripple and the Bridge-shooter heard the strange tale, they were scarcely less surprised than the merchant had been; but instead of losing a moment in doubting whether it could be a fact or not, they, more wisely, felt that even such a chance should not be slightly let go by. It was thought advisable not to tell Alyce of their hopes in case of failure, nor even to make Flora privy to their attempt; the only debateable point was, whether they should apprize Osborne; but, upon reflection, it was thought advisable not even to let him know aught about it.
The merchant was soon on his road to obtain the proper assistance, as were the Bridge-shooter and the Cripple in their locality. The night proved clear, but very windy, the wind blowing strongly from the south. As Brassinjaw had said, "the tide was at the safest;" so William placed a boat, well manned, within the shadow of each of four of the arches near to that beneath the Cardinal's Hat, but not those exactly the next to it; he had provided himself with a loud whistle, with which he was to call them suddenly to the one spot. They were all upon the watch soon after nine; never did father await so anxiously the coming
|. of his child as did the poor merchant upon that bleak night: every moment the wind became stronger, but still it continued to blow from the south.|
Here we will leave them for a time, and again visit Edward in his solitude.-He was just about retiring to rest, when he fancied he saw a flash of lightning against his bed-room window-soon after he saw another-and then a distant humming sound reached his ear-and the lightning became more frequent, and lasted longer; at that time of year, and in such a night, it could not be lightning; so to clear up the point, he opened his casement, and looking out, saw a great flaring of light just beyond the Bridge in Southwark; the light increasing rapidly, soon proved to him, that there must be at least some half dozen houses on fire. People were now hurrying across the Bridge from the City side towards the scene of conflagration, and a general cry of "fire" began to resound from every quarter. As quickly as he could, he resumed his attire, and hoping to do some little good, he hastened from his master's house and joined the excited throng.
The wind, as we have said, blew strongly from the south, and on its wings brought burning flakes of fire far upon the Bridge, many persons there were already injured by them. It must be remembered that the merchant's house lay on the City end, so that Edward had to travere nearly the whole length of the Bridge before he reached the Southwark Gate; here he found the crowd beginning to retreat, for it appeared, that the houses at that end were entirely enveloped in flames, and there was, that way, neither ingress nor egress possible. Knowing the combustible nature of the greater portion of the houses on the Bridge, Edward's first anxiety, fearing the worst, was to hurry back to his master's house, to collect all their valuable account books, and remove them to some place of safety. Although he believed it to be his duty to make all sure, as far as lay in his power, he did not much fear the fire reaching their dwelling, because he calculated that at the first open ing on the Bridge, even if it came so far, there it would meet with a certain check. He gave a lad, whom he met hurrying towards the Southwark end, some money to return to the City and apprise the merchant of the danger on the Bridge. Edward little imagined, that at that moment his master was in the very midst of the fire in Southwark and in agony at being thus shut off from reaching the dwelling where in he knew his child was lying. Just as Edward was entering the Golden Fleece, he heard the people say, that the flames had passed the first opening, and that they feared the whole Bridge would be destroyed Not a moment was now to be lost; he hurried from room to room, collect ing every paper that he thought could be of value to his master; just as he was about to carry his load away, notwithstanding the increasing danger, he could not resist the temptation of rushing up to his own room, and secure his writing-case, for in that were all the letters Anne` had ever written to him; this delay, trifling as it really was, had nearly cost him his life, for by the time he again descended, the roadway of the Bridge opposite his door, had been so choked up with goods and chattels that he found it impossible to pass out. It now struck him that the
|Bafer way of all would be by the roofs of the houses; and to make the attempt, he once more ascended to his room.|
The noise below was now becoming deafening, and one universal shriek of horror filled his ears; he hastened to the roof, when the cause of the new alarm met his eyes - the wind which, at the beginning, when the fire was in its infancy, brought alarming flakes of burning wood across the bridge, as the body of flame increased, so increased this shower of burning embers; they had lodged upon, and ignited the northern end of the Bridge, which now was burning almost as fiercely as the Southwark end. The shrieks and cries of the crowd on the Bridge were maddening, for the multitude that had rushed on from the city end, and had completely filled the Bridge, were, as it might be said, caught in a trap of fire. Hundreds of boats were now approaching from every part of the river; every aid that could be leant, towards saving the poor wretches that were hemmed in between two devouring fires, was rendered; people from every window were seen, some calling for aid, others lowering themselves by ropes into the vessels beneath, while many, in despair, were casting themselves headlong into the river, flying from a death of fire into a watery grave.
Edward, looking around, stood petrified at the awfulness of the dreadful scene; he saw no one but himself upon the roofs, for who, in such a place as the Bridge, could expect to find safety there ? But had the City end not have already caught, the escape that way was not so wild in its conception. He now gave himself up for lost, certain death appeared close before his eyes; there was one point from which he could scarcely withdraw his eyes-that was the Bridge-gate tower, the ghastly heads were lighted up by the surrounding flames, with a supernatural glare-the red glow upon the cheeks, gave the dead features a living light; they shook in the wind, as though they laughed at the destruction of those who had once looked with smiles upon their agonizing doom. What could he do ?-was he to stand there immoveable until the shrivelling flames surrounded him with their fiery arms, nor give up their embrace until he had crumbled into dust ? At this moment of despair, a new hope flashed across his mind like a ray of inspiration.- " Yes, yes!" he exclaimed, almost overcome to tears, with the sudden hope, "I know, I know the way! if I can gain the sterlings by the outlet beneath the Cardinal's Hat, I may yet be saved." He flew to the roof door, but it was securely fastened-his eye fell upon a skylight- another moment, and it was dashed in by his own weight, he fell heavily upon the railing of a gallery, he caught it as he fell, the bars gave way, and he found himself precipitated into the room beneath; in this there was a lamp burning, but looking round, he had nearly dropped to the earth in horror and surprise, for on a couch he beheld the senseless body of the merchant's child. He stood motionless for a moment, his eyes fixed upon the spectre, as he believed it to be; but so true to nature was its every lineament, that he could not resist the impulse of approaching it, and laying his hand upon its heart.
" Heavens !" he exclaimed, " 'tis no vision; blood and bone are here, and pulsation beats within this heart-she sleeps! Awake, awake! if indeed, my senses mock me not, and thou be Anne's sweet self, awake !"
He raised her on his arm, she sighed, but woke not. The shrieks and
|roaring of the flames, called him again to a full sense of his dreadful position, now doubly dreadful, if indeed the being he held was not a mere mockery of a distempered brain. He took her in his arms, the door had been slightly fastened, but his strength soon shattered it before him. He had descended but a short way, when his further progress was stayed by the flames having burst through from his own dwelling, and were rapidly devouring the stairs by which he had hoped to escape. He flew into a room, the door of which was open; this room looked out upon the bridge; he dashed the window out, and observing a beam some distance below, reaching across to the opposite side, which was not yet in flames, he with great difficulty, at last succeeded in reaching it safely with his precious charge; the footing was so insecure, that, laden as he was, he must have fallen, but for the friendly aid of a single line that had been stretched across to hang streamers from upon some late festive occasion; even then the attempt was one of peril, for did he once swerve from his balance, the line would have snapped like a thread, and then both must have met with death.|
When once he had gained the opposite dwelling, he lost not a moment, but hastened down; here all was despair; but his one hope still remained, the outlet by the sterling. He passed as quickly as he could through the heaps of boxes, bales, and other things that lay about; entered the now-deserted Cardinal's Hat, he reached the lower room, when, to his surprise, he heard a groan, and then a cry far help; for a moment ha deposited his dearest treasure on a settle that stood by, and went to the spot whence the cry had issued, when opening a door, he there found a female bound hand and foot- it was the Italian girl; in another moment she was free, and quickly comprehending their danger, she allowed not surprise to check her power to act. The trap in the floor was soon raised, and, oh joy beyond hope realized, the very boat beneath was that of the Bridge-shooter and the Cripple. The sleeping Anne, and then Mona, was lowered into the boat, Edward hanging, for an instant, by his hands on the edge of the opening, dropped into the bark, and all were safe.
As they rowed towards the shore, they looked back aghast at the fearful devastation going on upon the Bridge; at many parts the buildings were so undermined by the fire, that no boats dare go near to rescue those who, seeing no other chance of escape, flung themselves into the stream. More than one dwelling, almost entire, fell over into the flood, and bore down to destruction all that were beneath. If aught could at that moment of thankfulness have given a deeper joy to Edward's heart, it was, that, just after they had reached a spot beyond the danger from the burning timbers that were falling from the Bridge, they run foul of the merchant's barge.
Hewet, when all hope had ceased of gaining admittance to the Bridge by the Southwark side, and hearing of the disastrous conflagration having gained possession of the opposite end of the Bridge, saw no possible chance of rescuing his child, but by the way of the sterling beneath Brassinjaw's abode; he was now on his way thither, either to save her or die with her in the flames, when, as if by Providence directed, he came
|suddenly upon the boat in which she was being conveyed, as it were, from death to life.|
"She's saved, she's saved !" exclaimed Edward, starting up in the boat.
"And she'll be lost again as soon as found," roared out the Bridge- shooter, "if you let your mad joy upset the boat." Then addressing the merchant, who seemed upon the point of springing forward into their bark-" Sit quiet, master; we have her safe, and that knowledge is quite happiness enough for the next ten minutes, I'm sure." Saying this he pulled Edward back to his seat, and giving a peculiar whistle to the boatmen, which they seemed perfectly to understand, they plied their oars with double vigour, and started forward some boats' length in advance of the merchant's barge.
Hewet, scarcely daring to believe his senses, felt, that in the crowded state the river then was, let it be a dream or not, that the Bridge- shooter's commands were not to be slighted, so sat as quietly as his intensely-wrought feelings would permit, until they were all safely landed at the Old Swan Stairs.
It would be impossible to express in words all the varied feelings which filled the breasts of the inmates of the merchant's mansion on that eventful night; we shall therefore pass over the scene in silence.
When the fire on the Bridge had been subdued, and the ruins could be examined, the destruction was found to be awful with regard to human life; it is said that not less than three thousand persons perished either in the flames, or by drowning; hundreds who were closed in upon the Bridge, by the fire having been carried on the winds from the Southwark to the City end, and thus forming two devouring furnaces both raging at the same time, were literally roasted to death, as in a burning cage. It was almost miraculous, considering the locality, and the materials of which the greater portion of the houses were constructed, that a single dwelling should have escaped; but many did entirely, and more that were but partially burned; of the latter number, was the celebrated Cardinal's Hat. It is true that all the upper portion was consumed, but that part which remained, our amiable friend, Brassinjaw, soon turned to good account. A very few days sufficed to render the Bridge again passable for foot passengers, and as such a work could not be achieved without a vast number of workmen, mine host managed to carry on a roaring trade, not only amongst these labourers, but with a better class of customers, namely, the inquisitive who came in throngs to visit this extraordinary scene of devastation. The hair-breadth escapes that he recounted as having fallen to his own share, were beyond belief, but were still listened to with infinite delight. He hit upon one bright idea to bring grist to his mill, and that was, in drawing attention to the circumstance, that whilst nearly every thing was consumed around it, the sign of the holy Cardinal's Hat remained uninjured. A few years before, and he would have boldly announced it as a miracle; but times having somewhat changed, he merely hinted at such a thing, and these hints had their weight with many who always will see superhuman aid, where they should only look for simple cause and effect. The fact was the sign-board had fallen down just after Osborne had passed across the beam, and had been lying, snugly protected, beneath some iron goods that were
|. heaped upon it, until Brassinjaw found it uninjured the next day, and had then, with his own hands replaced it in its former conspicuous station, not dreaming of turning such a trifle to account, until some one pointed out to him " how miraculous it was, that in such a position, the Cardinal's Hat alone should remain unscathed."|
Brassinjaw caught at the idea, and soon managed to turn it to good account. There was one circumstance puzzled him a good deal, and that was why he had not seen either Spikely or Nino; his great hope was that they had perished in the flames. That Anne had been rescued he was most agreeably assured of, by receiving his promised reward, which having obtained, he did not trouble himself greatly to enquire how.
The true cause of Spikely and Nino having become invisible to their friend, lay in the fact of their having been fully convinced of Brassinjaw's betrayal of them. Cautiously as he had managed his interview with the merchant, his movements had not escaped the watchful eye of Spikely.
It appeared that Spikely, suspecting the others' intention, lay in wait for him, and dogged his steps to the very place he imagined he would go to, namely, to the merchant's mansion; the moment he had entered the door, Spikely hurried away to find Nino, and acquaint him with the discovery he had made with regard to Brassinjaw's treachery. Fearing that they would be denounced, they fled at once from London, and remained some time concealed, forming plans of vengeance against their betrayer, and also some other plans which will be revealed in due time.
The Bridge being the only passage for horses and waggons, that then connected the City of London with the southern side of the river, it was of too much importance to remain long in a ruinous state, so that every exertion was made to render the roadway passable, and to fit up temporary sheds where the shops had been totally destroyed.
The merchant's dwelling was entirely consumed, and here rose up one of those slightly constructed edifices; those portions that lay in the stone-work of the Bridge were soon re-wainscoted, and rendered inhabitable; above these came the new shop with one room behind it; and this, for some time after the fire, constituted the only place of business of the great merchant, Master Hewet of the Bridge.