Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century

Rodwell, G Herbert





And by the throate-bole he caught Alein

And he him hent dispiteously again,

And on the nose he smote him with his fist;

Down ran the bloody stream upon his breast. Chaucer.

WHEN Horton reached Nan's abode it was broad day; but, although comparatively only a few hours had elapsed since he had been compelled to write to her, he still found he had arrived too late to warn her. He here learnt, that after the night had somewhat advanced, a lad had been there, coming, as he said, "from Master Horton to Widow Spikely;" he had brought a letter, which caused the dame to don her walking gear, and had then, although so late, quitted the place with the lad.

" Then she is lost," said Horton to himself; as he turned away;


. " the fiends have caught her in their trap; the next will be set for me, which they will take good care shall be a closer one than even that from which I have escaped. I must fly this land, for Spikely will never rest again till I am hunted down."

How little would he have had to dread in that quarter, had he known all; but we must not anticipate. He passed up Chancery Lane, and strolled about the distant fields the whole of the early part of that day devising plans, not only for his own safety, but to draw down vengeance upon the heads of all his foes.

We will now look back, and casting a retrospective glance into the remaining portion of the Cardinal's Hat, see what strange things happened there.

"I think we shall nab her now," said Spikely to Brassinjaw, as they sat gloomily opposite each other in the lower room. Brassinjaw made no answer. " Why don't you speak, you winking owl ? Aid me with nand and heart in this, or may be, we two may have a slight account to settle, that will leave no balance in your favour."

I have spoken 'til I'm tired," said Brassinjaw, doggedly, " I have spoken, and what's the good; I tell you I never did relish murder, even when it would have served myself; and I see no fun in putting a rope round ones own neck merely to please another."

" Who said I meant to murder her ?" exclaimed Spikely.

" Why you," replied the other, " in act, if not in words; have you not been into the next room a dozen times, pulling and tugging at the ope that opens yonder trap; and is that not telling me what you would be at ? But, by all the saints, I swear " He was here interrupted by hearing some one at the top of the stairs, that descended to where they were, whistling a well-known air.

"She's caught ! by Heavens, she's caught !" exclaimed Spikely, starting up and hurrying towards the sliding panel, which he opened, and as he passed through, with a flickering lamp in one hand, with the other, he menaced Brassinjaw, as he said, " Remember !"

The panel closed just as the door opened, and Nan entered the room.

"'Tis late at night to see a lady," said Brassinjaw, rising with pretended politeness; " what would you, worthy dame ?"

"I am summoned here," replied Nan, "by one who calls himself Harry Horton--is he here ?"

"Why, now I look again, I know thee well," said Brassinjaw, not answering her question, "the witness on the adverse side at the trial-- I remember, Dame Spikely; well then, he who expects you is already here."

"He is ? then lose not a moment-shew me to him."

"You'll see him quite soon enough, depend upon it," said Brassinjaw; "but since you wish it, he is in the next apartment-you can pass through here."

As he placed his hand upon the panel, he hesitated, for one spark of pity still had found a spot to hide in, in his breast; but remembering the desperate character he had to deal with, he pushed aside the panel as he said-" He's there !"

The little lamp that Spikely had taken in sent forth scarcely any


light at all. Nan stopped at the opening for an instant, but she had too long been accustomed to strange holes and comers to fear, so straightway entered.

The moment she had passed, the panel was violently shut from the inner side. Nan uttered a loud shriek, as Brassinjaw imagined, upon seeing her husband.

A violent struggle was made against the inner side of the panel, and then Brassinjaw fancied he heard a horrid sound, as of some one suffering in strangulation.-" By Heavens, he'll kill her; and I shall be implicated in the murder. I'll hazard all, and call assistance."

Brassinjaw ran to the door; it was fastened on the outer side.

"Don't kick up a row," said the lad on the other side; "I shan't unbar it 'til I'm told by Spikely."

" The villain!" said Brassinjaw; "then must I try my strength 'gainst his-he shall not murder her !" He flew to the panel, he could not move it, he began to try and burst it in, when it suddenly flew aside, and Spikely was in the opening. Brassinjaw instinctively drew out his knife-" You've killed her !" he exclaimed. "'Tis a lie !" said the other, closing the panel behind him; " I have but given her a blow, not half so hard as those she was used to once: 'twill silence her for a time-not long, though, if she be what she was: while she's quiet, I'll have a word or two with you, mayhap a blow, unless you at once give me the clear half of the five hundred pounds you would have sold me for. What, fool! I have surprised you, have I ? Did you think to reach the merchant's unwatched by me ? Do you suppose his serving men are all saints like himself? or that the one who took you in, and let you out, was not a creature of my own ? he brought me every word you uttered, and but for the chance of the fire on the Bridge, you had learnt ere this the sort of man you had to deal with. Your money I know you keep in yonder cupboard-give me the key!"

" Nor key, nor money will you have from me," replied Brassinjaw; " nor shall you have that woman's life, if it is not gone already. Ha, ha, ha !" continued Brassinjaw, laughing contemptuously in Spikely's face. " Oh, you may frown, and stare your blearing eyes out of your head before you'll frighten me! Your chest is broad, but mine is broader; your arms are strong, but mine are stronger; your knife I know is sharp -and bloody-bloody !" and he repeated the word, as he leant forward to give greater force to the sound, " but mine is keener and cleaner."

" Hell-dog !"'exclaimed Spikely, as with his uplifted knife he sprang upon Brassinjaw: there was now no retreating for either; the struggle was for life or death; like two thorough-bred bull- dogs, they made no barking in their fight, but tore each other, uttering no sound, or if they did, it was but the low growl of fell determination : by some strange chance they each lost the hold of their knives at the self same moment; their hands were in an instant upon each other's throat; this seemed the last struggle for them both; they reeled, and reeled again; and just as they were falling, the floor passed away from beneath their feet-they sank into the roaring waters that thundered beneath the Bridge.

So deadly was their grasp, that even this shock failed to make either let go his hold. Over and over they tumbled, as they went dashing


. down the cataract, which at that moment was at its deepest fall: the varied currents, as they passed through the different arches, formed numerous eddies; into one of the wildest of these the bodies, now nearly lifeless, had found their way, and there they spun round, and round, and round. As death was approaching now with rapid strides, every sinew seemed to contract, and thus their hold became more firm than ever. A barge that had slipped its moorings in the upper stream, flew through the Bridge, and striking against the bodies, forced them from the eddy into the rushing stream; and on, and on again they went, but life was now extinct.

The boy at the door, hearing the death-struggle, became alarmed for nis own safety, and fled the place.

"Well," said the sharp-nosed little arrow-maker, about midday, after the night of which we have just been writing, "well, I only say, it's vastly odd, friend Catchemayde, but, so sure as I am standing before your shop window, and chatting with you, so sure is it that Master Brassinjaw has never opened his door yet to-day."

"Well, it is odd," said Catchemayde, "it is odd, but I've quite enough of my own affairs to trouble my head with, without thinking of other folks-heigho !"

" How uncommonly often, friend Catchemayde, you do sigh since you got married," observed the little arrow-maker.

" Ay," replied the other, " I begin to think that sighs are the cradle and coffin of love-a man sighs to get a wife, and then he sighs a plaguy deal more to get rid of her."

"Oh, talking of wives," said the sharp-nosed little arrow-maker, " do you know there are strange things said about Lord Talbot ? they do say that he is always at Merchant Hewet's; and they do say, that he has been, in disguise, a courting sweet Mistress Hewet; and they do say, that unless the moon should fall down to prevent it, which is not very likely, that sweet Mistress Anne will be the young lord's wife."

" Poh !" observed Catchemayde, "people are always saying strange things-they said a vast number of strange things about me before I was married."

" Yes," said the other, "and a great many stranger things about your wife, after you were. Good morning." And the sharp-nosed little arrow-maker was out of sight in a minute.

Horton, who was now, more than ever, in fear of Spikely, believing he should be safer at some distance from London until he had matured his plans, strolled from the fields towards the City, intending to take the passage-boat, that ran regularly at that time, to Gravesend: as he approached Billingsgate, he saw a vast crowd close to the water's edge; he was not long left in doubt as to the cause, for he quickly learnt that two bodies had just been discovered half buried in the mud.

The crowd now opened to let the men pass who were bringing the bodies up the market-place; one was lying on the other; when they were laid upon one of the counters in the market, and some of the mud removed, it was discovered that the hands of each were on the other's throat. Horton was close by, and as some one took some water and washed off the mud from the face of one of the dead men, he there


beheld the features of his deadliest foe, Spikely. The other was soon recognised as Brassinjaw, the vintner of the Bridge; and every one present shuddered, on removing more of the mud, to find that the nails of Brassinjaw were completely embedded in the flesh of Spikely's throat. Horton turned away in horror, for he recollected all the scenes of guilt and depravity he had himself shared with both those now poor harmless, lifeless, clods of festering humanity.

Having found the body of Brassinjaw, the mystery of the house being closed seemed clearly accounted for, so it was at once broken open, when, in going into the lower rooms, a sight met their eyes, no less appalling than that which they had just left, for there they discovered the lifeless body of Nan, hanging to the rope that came down from the roof of the closet. In her despair, when she had somewhat recovered from the ill- usage of her husband, she had looked around for any means of escape- none but that of death presented itself: the rope she saw seemed to invite her to the deed: she had mounted on a stool, had tied the rope around her neck, then kicking away the stool, which was found upset close by her, her weight, in falling, had withdrawn the bolts, and thus unconsciously, she it was who had sent the two vile, miserable, wretches to their dread account. The body was immediately cut down, but it was found to have been dead for many hours. Thus ended three of the most determined wretches of our eventful tale.

We must now, once again, convey our indulgent readers to the Cottage on the Heath. More than one, nay, more than two, and even more than three days, had elapsed, since the old man left for London; but, strange as it may appear, although Anne had at his starting been so very anxious to learn the fate of his mission, which was merely that of breaking off all hope of a union with Lord Talbot, yet now, although he had been away upwards of three long days, her anxiety had so far vanished, that she was scarcely aware he had been away at all. What caused this wondrous change we shall soon be compelled to divulge.

It may be remembered that when Anne was a mere child, and travelling about from fair to fair, her mind had been strongly directed towards Protestantism by the old man, who was, in secret, a disciple of Luther, and the other leaders of the reformation; the seeds then sown had taken deep root in her heart, and had since produced an abundant harvest of religious convictions. Whether this tendency of hers towards the simpler doctrines of the Protestant Faith had any thing to do with the conversion of Edward Osborne, we cannot say; it might have had its weight in first opening his eyes to the truth; but we believe his ultimate cession from Catholicism, took place from no other causes, than those arising from deep reflection; but after the accession of Edward the sixth, conversion became almost a fashion. The shepherds of the reformed flock no longer feared to preach openly; and in every town, and in almost every village, was some place set apart, in which the celebration of the reformed worship might be attended.

Such a place had now been opened for some time past upon the Heath. The old crypt of the ruined chapel had been cleared out, and in doing this, many an antique work of architectural beauty was laid bare. The few openings that had originally let in a little, but a very little light,


. had been completely filled up, so that the service which was now performed there, always took place by lamp light. There were but few lights required, for the congregation was as yet but very small.

The old man had been, as might naturally be expected, a constant attendant, and with him Anne, and sometimes Osborne also; the merchant, who had never been a bigot in religion, also felt pleasure at times in listening to the pastor's reading of the scriptures, and would often declare he had derived vast comfort from the holy man's lecture which followed.

It was scarcely midday, when the old man presented himself at the Cottage. As he approached the sitting-room, the door of which was a-jar, he heard the voice of Osborne reading aloud; the words were from the Bible. He opened the door so gently, that those within the room heard him not, and there he beheld a sight, that considering the exhortations he had given to Edward at their parting, was one that clearly proved his commands had not been quite strictly attended to, for there sat Edward and Anne close together, her one hand resting affectionately upon his shoulder, the other hand closely locked in his own. They were both intently perusing the Holy Book, but Osborne was reading aloud.

" Well," thought the old man, " this is a pretty way of two despairing hearts setting about parting for ever; but as different people have different ways of doing the same thing, I suppose this is theirs." He stood quietly contemplating the lovers, until the reading ceased. He then gave a slight ahem! which caused Edward and Anne to start round. Poor Anne felt her own situation so acutely, that, for the moment, she could not meet the unexpected gaze of the old man, so did what was, under the embarrassing circumstances, perhaps the wisest thing she could do-namely, ran, and throwing her arms round his neck, hid her blushes in his bosom. Osborne himself felt a little confused- indeed, very much so, not alone because the old man had come upon them so unexpectedly, but because he scarcely knew how to commence what he had determined to say, and which he had said over and over again to himself admirably when alone; but now he could not conjure up a single word.

"Edward," said the old man, shaking his head at Osborne, while he still held the lovely Anne close to his heart, " is this well ?-Is this the way in which you ever keep your promises ?"

" I made no promises," replied Osborne; " I listened to all you said, but I listened silently; I would not promise, for you had told me that which would have robbed me of all power to keep such promise. If we have done wrong in laying open to each other our soul's most inward hopes, you, you alone should bear the blame; had you not divulged to me the love Anne bore me, I had died of anguish, rather than have spoken of my love to her."

" Be not angry with Edward, dear grandfather," said Anne, looking up in the old man's face so imploringly, that he felt constrained, in pity, to dispel the frown he had put on; and, kissing her forehead, murmured -" Poor child, poor child !"

" If any one be to blame," continued Anne, " 'tis I-indeed it is."

" Of course it is," said the old man, slightly smiling; " I never yet


found maid who loved, but ever took all blame upon herself; such feeling is an ingredient in woman's nature, and you had been no true woman, Anne, without it. But I want not to find fault; I want to find out the reason for this sudden change. Speak, Edward, tell me how this has come to pass ?"

" How can you ask ?" replied Osborne. " It is self evident-I betrayed myself, in telling my love for her-you betrayed her, in telling her love for me; you cannot keep two hearts that love asunder; mutual love is like a taper lighted at both ends-however far apart the flames may be at first, they will creep on and on, till, meeting in the midst, blaze forth as one."

" Yes," replied the old man, " and then go out."

The look which Anne and Edward cast at each other upon hearing this, was one of intense affection, but certainly not at all complimentary, as regarded their opinion of the old man's wisdom.

" But what says my father," enquired Anne; "what have I to hope or fear ?"

The old man shook his head, and said-" Before I relate what has passed in town, do you relate to me what has passed here; the longer I am silent, perhaps the happier for you."

Poor Anne's heart sunk within her, as she heard the words.

Osborne, seeing the sudden change, took her hand affectionately, but firmly in his own, as he said-" Dearest Anne, is this your promised firmness ? We have argued on all that may chance amiss; we have determined to dare the storm-then shrink not, dear one, at the first slight shower." Then addressing the old man, he continued-" If I must speak first, this is our resolve-never to wed with any but each other; we have plighted our troth; we have broken this ring together," and he held up the half of a golden ring, " and now it were easier with a single breath to join again these broken halves, than for the breath of a thousand mortals e'er again to disunite our hearts." Saying this he completely enfolded the willing girl in his arms, and stood for several seconds almost frowning at the poor old man, as though he regarded him as an enemy come to tear her from him.

" Oh, dear ! oh, dear ! oh, dear !" said the old man, beating his hands against the sides of his own head; "this comes of leaving them-this all comes of leaving them together-how will it end, how will it end ?"

Well, depend on it, if you will befriend us," said Edward.

" I befriend you-I ! how can I do so, knowing as I do the merchant's fixed resolve." The old man now related to them, that the merchant was thunderstruck at hearing of Anne's disinclination to become a countess, which at the death of the Earl of Shrewsbury, she would be if she married Lord Talbot; and he said that her father had completely changed; all his ambition was to make her great; for he said, " he should then be sure he had not been duped by some artful beggar, who would play the lover to get his gold." " I dare say I have done wrong," said the old man, " but I thought to serve you both; so I told the merchant Edward's love for you."

"And what said he ?" enquired Edward, eagerly.

"Said !" replied the other, " he burst into a laugh, and then exclaimed


. 'love her! pooh, pooh, he loves her moneybags! What Edward, the cold, calculating, sober Edward, love any one ? absurd ! but he knows how rich I am to a fraction, and I suppose has been fooling it with a silly girl, who would believe what one man said as willingly as an other. No, no, none shall wed with Anne, but he who loves her, and can put that love beyond a doubt by bringing more to her than she to him.' I then thought I might do something by working upon his fears, so hinted gently that if he took not greater care, I verily believed that you would wed without his consent at all."

" And to that, how did he reply ?" exclaimed Osborne more anxiously than before.

" By another laugh," replied the old man; "and then he added, ' you know not Edward, but I do, and he knows me ! Prove him, old man !' he said; ' place him at the altar with my willing girl, and fifty priests all willing to unite them-then let but Edward know he took her without my consent, and he'd refuse her at the altar's foot; for if he married thus, he would be sure the game from him was gone for ever, and that instead of wedding with rich Hewet's daughter, he had married with a beggar." " Did he say that ?" exclaimed Edward, drawing himself up proudly; " but thank Heaven he did, for now I have the opportunity to prove, at least to her, the real sincerity of my love. All I wish is to convince her that I love her for herself alone."

" But would that prove your love-bringing her to beggary ?" said the old man.

"It would," said Anne, "if he were willing to receive a beggar's hand; but it shall prove more, for it shall show to the world that Anne Hewet would willingly become a beggar, to become his wife."

" You are mad, you are both, stark, staring mad, to talk thus," ejaculated the old man.

" No, grandfather, no," said Anne; " and would you not see us really mad, devise some plan to aid us."

" What plan can be better than the one I formed, dear Anne ?" said Osborne.

"And what mighty plan was that ?" enquired the old man.

"To tempt the pastor of the ruined chapel," said Edward, " to unite us privily; I am willing then to keep our marriage secret, and knowing she is irrevocably mine, to say farewell in the ruined aisle-to fly to London-accept the appointment in a foreign land-to labour night and day; and oh, how sweet that labour then would be, for when I had achieved an independence, then, and not till then, could I return to claim my heart's sole treasure. I have already, more than once, prayed of Anne to agree to this; I have spoken to the pastor, but, alas ! he hesitates, for he cannot feel the bitter agonies of despairing love. You might do much with him; you might persuade him-tempt him with all I have of earthly value."

" And would you really," interrupted the old man, addressing Anne, "really be willing to forego all the bright prospects that are breaking to our view ? But no, no, wait until to-morrow, your father will then be here, and "

" To-morrow !" exclaimed both the lovers, in a tone of agony.



"Yes," replied the old man, " and with him, I believe, the young Lord Talbot."

"That name decides my fate," exclaimed Osborne; " we are one this day, I swear, or Edward Osborne never sees the dawn of another sun."

" Edward, Edward," exclaimed the agonized girl, rushing to him, "recall those words !"

" Foolish boy !" said the old man; " death is a simple thing to talk of in our youth, but wait till you are my age, and then you will think him far too quick in coming, without wishing to drag him forward with your own impious hand. But listen to me; I will promise nothing; but I will, to ease your excited minds, up to the ruins, see the pastor; but it must be on one condition-that whatever be my decision when I return, you will then abide by it."

Poor Osborne, and Anne too, had so wrought up their feelings, that they scarcely, at that moment, knew what they did or said; but fancy- ing there was a sound of hope in the old man's words, they eagerly assented. The old man immediately left the cottage.

He had not been gone long, before they were surprised at hearing the voice of Flora, singing gaily along the garden. When she entered the parlour, she started at seeing Anne weeping bitterly, and reclining upon Edward's shoulder, his arm around her waist.

"Halloo! halloo! halloo" said Flora. "Master Edward, do you know what you are doing ? oh, fie ! oh, fie !"

" This is no moment for jesting, Flora," said Osborne. " But how is it you are here ? Are you alone ?" he ejaculated earnestly.

"Alone !" she replied, " to be sure I am. But what does all this crying and sobbing mean ? do one of you speak. Here have I been sent on with a whole boat-load of things, and have come up for people to go down and bring them here; for I suppose you know that the merchant and our good dame, and Willy-of-the-Bridge, and Eoline, and somebody Mistress Anne will be delighted to see, are coming here to-morrow, and that somebody is young Lord Talbot; and I understand that we are to have a wedding-at least, so they say in London, and-Why, good gracious, Mistress Anne, you look as if you were fainting-what is the matter ?" As Flora uttered these last words, her real kindness of heart shone forth.

Osborne, who believed that Flora sincerely loved her young mistress, now told her all that had passed, even to the present mission of the old man.

" And I'm glad of it," said Flora, "and I hope to heaven that nothing will happen to prevent so proper a scheme being carried out; I like people to marry those they love, or how can you expect them to love those they marry. I'll be after him," she continued, " and I'll bring back some good news, depend upon it; and if the pastor refuses to marry you, I'll do it myself: did not I always tell you you were cut out for each other, and it was not my fault that you kept your eyes shut so long. But cheer up your spirits 'till I come back-that's all, and you shall see-you shall see." Flora waited not for a reply, but hurried from the Cottage.

With what anxiety did Edward listen to every sound; at one moment


he fancied the old man was calling him, and he hastened to the door-. no one was there; and again he returned to the side of the weeping girl.

" Oh, Edward," said Anne, " I fear the old man was right; we are mad, we must be mad to expect that the good pastor will listen to our prayers. But surely the old man might have returned ere this! Hark, was not that his foot ?"

They both listened, but no sound struck upon their ear. At least an hour had elapsed since the old man's departure, and still neither he, nor Flora, had returned; their anxiety had become almost insupportable, when, suddenly, the old man entered the room. He was greatly agitated.

" Why have you drawn me into this terrible perplexity ?" he said. " I have done wrong, I know I have done wrong, but it is my love for that poor foolish girl, that blinds me to the path I should pursue. Heaven grant that I may not repent this day's work ! Ask me no questions; the end is all you need at present, know-the pastor has consented."

" Bless him! bless him !" exclaimed Anne, as she flung herself upon the old man's neck; " and bless you, dear grandfather, for you alone could have worked this miracle."

Osborne scarcely knew whether he was awake or dreaming.

" Now," said the old man, " your own fates are in your own hands; once more I pray of you-I beseech of you to reflect, while yet there is time. In a worldly point of view, this marriage will bring ruin on you both; remember, Edward, from the merchant you have no hope; the moment you are married you are to leave the country, and never to divulge this secret union, until you can come and claim your bride with ample independence."

" I know all," said Edward; " and if but Anne consent to forego all for me, can you believe me so contemptible as to hesitate one moment in foregoing all for her ?"

" Well then," sighed the old man, " fate must work its way. Retire, children, to your separate rooms, and in holy meditation prepare your minds for the awful step you are about to take; in one hour all will be prepared."

The lovers did as the old man desired. What passed in the minds of Osborne and Anne, when left to cool reflection, it would be difficult to describe. Notwithstanding all their fears that what they were about to do thus clandestinely was wrong, yet love ever holds up a medium of such a rosy tint, that all a lover sees through it, bears its own sweet hue. Whatever reflections came of a painful nature, they were easily dispelled by calling up the vision of the one beloved object. There cannot be a doubt but that love is a madness; it is therefore useless to judge of it by the cold calculating rules of wisdom. By the time the hour had elapsed, their minds had become so much at ease, that they both met the old man with countenances thoughtful, it is true, but smiling; and they could not help feeling cheered by finding a slight smile also upon the old man's face.

"Come," he said, "my children, I will not check the little happiness that your trembling hearts might feel, upon this most eventful day of


your whole lives, by seeming sad; come then, my children, come to the ruined chapel."

In another minute and they were on their road to happiness or misery for life.

They had not been gone but scarcely a short half-hour, when along the road leading from London, a rather extensive cavalcade might be seen approaching, which, had the lovers beheld, would have cast them into hopeless despair. It was the merchant and his party, all but Lord Talbot! The effect this unlooked-for arrival had upon the fates of our hero and heroine, we must leave to a future chapter to disclose.