Part 8 out of 12
"Hold!" exclaimed Amabel, springing from the horse; "I will not be the
cause of bloodshed. I implore you, my lord, to desist from this outrage.
You will gain nothing by it but my death."
"Let him touch you at his peril," cried John Lutcombe, rushing towards
them, and interposing his stalwart person between her and the earl.
"Stand aside, dog!" cried Rochester furiously, "or I will trample you
beneath my horse's hoofs."
"You must first get near me to do it," rejoined the keeper. And as he
spoke he struck the horse so violent a blow with a stout oaken cudgel
with which he was provided, that the animal became unmanageable, and
dashed across the downs to some distance with his rider.
Meanwhile, Parravicin having ridden up with Pillichody (for they proved
to be the earl's companions) assailed Blaize, and commanded him to
deliver up Nizza Macascree. Scared almost out of his senses, the porter
would have instantly complied, if the piper's daughter had not kept fast
hold of him, and reproaching him with his cowardice, screamed loudly for
help. Heedless of her cries, Parravicin seized her, and strove to drag
her from the horse; but she only clung the closer to Blaize, and the
other, expecting every moment to pay another visit to the ground, added
his vociferations for assistance to hers.
"Leave go your hold," he cried, to Pillichody, who had seized him on the
other side by the collar. "Leave go, I say, or you will rend my jerkin
asunder. What are you doing here? I thought you were to help us to
"So I have done," rejoined Pillichody, bursting into a loud laugh; "and
I am now helping to catch you again. What a blind buzzard you must be
not to perceive the net spread for you! Deliver up Nizza Macascree
without more ado, or, by all the fiends, I will pay you off for your
dastardly assault upon me this morning."
"I cannot deliver her up," cried Blaize; "she sticks to me as fast as a
burr. I shall be torn asunder between you. Help! help!"
Parravicin, having dismounted, now tore away Nizza Macascree, and was
just about to transfer her to his own steed, when John Lutcombe, having
driven away the earl in the manner before described, came to the rescue.
One blow from his cudgel stretched the knight on the sod, and liberated
Nizza Macascree, who instantly flew to her preserver. Finding how
matters stood, and that he was likely to be well backed, Blaize plucked
up his courage, and grappled with Pillichody. In the struggle they both
tumbled to the ground. The keeper rushed towards them, and seizing
Pillichody, began to belabour him soundly. In vain the bully implored
mercy. He underwent a severe chastisement, and Blaize added a few kicks
to the shower of blows proceeding from the keeper, crying, as he dealt
them, "Who is the buzzard now, I should like to know?"
By this time, Parravicin had regained his legs, and the Earl of
Rochester having forced back his steed, both drew their swords, and,
burning for vengeance, prepared to renew the charge. The affair might
have assumed a serious aspect, if it had not chanced that at this
juncture lights were seen hurrying along the avenue, and the next
moment, a large party issued from it.
"It is the king?" cried Rochester. "What is to be done?"
"Our prey must be abandoned," rejoined Parravicin; "it will never do to
be caught here."
With this he sprang upon his steed, and disappeared across the downs
with the earl.
John Lutcombe, on perceiving the approach of the torch-bearers,
instantly abandoned Pillichody, and assisting Blaize to the saddle,
placed Nizza behind him. Leonard, likewise, who had dismounted to
support Amabel, replaced her in the pillion, and in a few seconds the
party were in motion. Pillichody, who was the only person now left, did
not care to wait for the king's arrival, but snatching the bridle of his
steed, which was quietly grazing at a little distance, mounted him, and
galloped off in the direction which he fancied had been taken by the
earl and his companion.
Guided by the keeper, who ran beside them, the fugitives proceeded for a
couple of miles at a rapid pace over the downs, when, it not appearing
that they were followed, John Lutcombe halted for a moment to recover
breath. The fresh air had in some degree revived Amabel, and the
circumstance of their providential deliverance raised the spirits of the
whole party. Soon after this, they reached the ridge of the downs, the
magnificent view from which was completely hidden by the shades of
night, and, tracking the old Roman road for about a mile, descended the
steep hill in the direction of the Blowing Stone. Skirting a thick grove
of trees, they presently came to a gate, which the keeper opened, and
led them through an orchard towards what appeared to be in the gloom a
moderately-sized and comfortable habitation.
"The owner of this house, Mrs. Compton," observed John Lutcombe to
Amabel, "is a widow, and the kindest lady in Berkshire. A message has
been sent by your aunt to beg her to afford you an asylum for a few
days, and I will answer for it you will be hospitably received."
As he spoke, the loud barking of a dog was heard, and an old grey-headed
butler was seen advancing towards them with a lantern in his hand. At
the same time a groom issued from the stable on the right, accompanied
by the dog in question, and, hastening towards them, assisted them to
dismount. The dog seemed to recognise the keeper, and leaped upon him,
licked his hand, and exhibited other symptoms of delight.
"What, Ringwood," cried the keeper, patting his head, "dost thou know
thy old master again? I see you have taken good care of him, Sam," he
added to the groom. "I knew I was placing him into good hands when I
gave him to Mrs. Compton."
"Ay, ay, he can't find a better home, I fancy," said the groom.
"Will it please you to walk this way, ladies?" interposed the butler.
"My mistress has been expecting you for some time, and had become quite
uneasy about you." So saying, he led the way through a garden, filled
with the odours of a hundred unseen flowers, and ushered them into the
Mrs. Compton, an elderly lady, of very pleasing exterior, received them
with great kindness, and conducted them to a comfortable apartment,
surrounded with book-shelves and old family portraits, where
refreshments were spread out for them. The good old lady seemed
particularly interested in Amabel, and pressed her, but in vain, to
partake of the refreshments. With extreme delicacy, she refrained from
inquiring into the cause of their visit, and seeing that they appeared,
much fatigued, rang for a female attendant, and conducted them to a
sleeping-chamber, where she took leave of them for the night. Amabel was
delighted with her kind hostess, and, contrary to her expectations and
to those of Nizza Macascree, enjoyed undisturbed repose. She awoke in
the morning greatly refreshed, and, after attiring herself, gazed
through her chamber window. It looked upon a trim and beautiful garden,
with a green and mossy plot carved out into quaintly-fashioned beds,
filled with the choicest flowers, and surrounded by fine timber, amid
which a tall fir-tree appeared proudly conspicuous. Mrs. Compton, who,
it appeared, always arose with the sun, was busied in tending her
flowers, and as Amabel watched her interesting pursuits, she could
scarcely help envying her.
"What a delightful life your mistress must lead," she observed to a
female attendant who was present; "I cannot imagine greater happiness
"My mistress ought to be happy," said the attendant; "for there is no
one living who does more good. Not a cottage nor a farm-house in the
neighbourhood but she visits to inquire whether she can be of any
service to its inmates; and wherever her services _are_ required, they
are always rendered. Mrs. Compton's name will never be forgotten in
At this moment, Amabel caught sight of the benevolent countenance of the
good old lady looking up at the window, and a kindly greeting passed
between them. Ringwood, who was a privileged intruder, was careering
round the garden, and though his mistress watched his gambols round her
favourite flower-beds with some anxiety, she did not check him. Amabel
and Nizza now went down stairs, and Mrs. Compton returning from the
garden, all the household, including Leonard and Blaize, assembled in
the breakfast-room for morning prayers.
Breakfast over, Mrs. Compton entered into conversation with Amabel, and
ascertained all the particulars of her history. She was greatly
interested in it, but did not affect to conceal the anxiety it gave her.
"Yours is really a very dangerous position," she said, "and I should be
acting unfairly towards you if I told you otherwise. However, I will
give you all the protection in my power, and I trust your retreat may
not be discovered."
Mrs. Compton's remark did not tend to dispel Amabel's uneasiness, and
both she and Nizza Macascree passed a day of great disquietude.
In the mean time, Leonard and Blaize were treated with great hospitality
by the old butler in the servants' hall; and though the former was not
without apprehension that their retreat might be discovered, he trusted,
if it were so, to some fortunate chance to effect their escape. He did
not dare to confide his apprehensions to the butler, nor did the other
make any inquiries; but it being understood that their visit was to be
secret, every precaution was taken to keep it so. John Lutcombe had
tarried no longer than enabled him to discuss a jug of ale, and then set
out for Ashdown, promising to return on the following day; but he had
not yet made his appearance. Evening arrived, and nothing alarming
having occurred, all became comparatively easy; and Mrs. Compton
herself, who had looked unusually grave throughout the day, now
recovered her wonted cheerfulness.
Their satisfaction, however, was not long afterwards disturbed by the
arrival of a large train of horsemen at the gate, and a stately
personage alighted, and walked at the head of a gallant train, towards
the house. At the sight of the new-comers, whom they instantly knew were
the king and his suite, Amabel and Nizza Macascree flew upstairs, and
shutting themselves in their chamber, awaited the result in the utmost
trepidation. They were not kept long in suspense. Shortly after the
king's arrival, Mrs. Compton herself knocked at the door, and in a tone
of deep commiseration, informed Amabel that his majesty desired to see
Knowing that refusal was impossible, Amabel complied, and descended to a
room looking upon the garden, in which she found the king. He was
attended only by Chiffinch, and received her with a somewhat severe
aspect, and demanded why she had left Ashdown contrary to his express
Amabel stated her motives.
"What you tell me is by no means satisfactory," rejoined the king; "but
since you have chosen to trust to yourself, you can no longer look for
protection from me."
"I beseech your majesty to consider the strait into which I was driven,"
returned Amabel, imploringly.
"Summon the Earl of Rochester to the presence," said the king, turning
from her to Chiffinch.
"In pity, sire," cried Amabel, throwing herself at his feet.
"Let the injunction be obeyed," rejoined Charles, peremptorily.
And the chief page departed.
Amabel instantly arose, and drew herself proudly up. Soon afterwards,
Rochester made his appearance, and on seeing Amabel, a flush of
triumphant joy overspread his features.
"I withdraw my interdiction, my lord," said the king to him. "You are at
liberty to renew your suit to this girl."
"Hear me, Lord Rochester," said Amabel, addressing the earl; "I have
conquered the passion I once felt for you, and regard you only as one
who has sought my ruin, and from whom I have fortunately escaped. When
you learn from my own lips that my heart is dead to you, that I never
can love you more, and that I only desire to be freed from your
addresses, I cannot doubt but you will discontinue them."
"Your declaration only inflames me the more, lovely Amabel," replied the
earl, passionately. "You must, and shall be mine."
"Then my death will rest at your door," she rejoined.
"I will take my chance of that," rejoined the earl, carelessly.
Amabel then quitted the king's presence, and returned to her own
chamber, where she found Nizza Macascree in a state of indescribable
"All has happened that I anticipated," said she to Nizza Macascree. "The
king will no longer protect me, and I am exposed to the persecutions of
the Earl of Rochester, who is here."
As she spoke, an usher entered, and informed Nizza Macascree that the
king commanded her presence. The piper's daughter looked at Amabel with
a glance of unutterable anguish.
"I fear you must go," said Amabel, "but Heaven will protect you!"
They then tenderly embraced each other, and Nizza Macascree departed
with the usher.
Some time having elapsed, and Nizza not returning, Amabel became
seriously uneasy. Hearing a noise below, she looked forth from the
window, and perceived the king and all his train departing. A terrible
foreboding shot through her heart. She gazed anxiously after them, but
could not perceive Nizza Macascree. Overcome at last by her anxiety, she
rushed down stairs, and had just reached the last step, when she was
seized by two persons. A shawl was passed over her head, and she was
forced out of the house.
* * * * *
BOOK THE FOURTH.
THE PLAGUE AT ITS HEIGHT.
Amabel's departure for Berkshire caused no change in her father's mode
of life. Everything proceeded as before within his quiet dwelling; and,
except that the family were diminished in number, all appeared the same.
It is true they wanted the interest, and indeed the occupation, afforded
them by the gentle invalid, but in other respects, no difference was
observable. Devotional exercises, meals, the various duties of the
house, and cheerful discourse, filled up the day, which never proved
wearisome. The result proved the correctness of Mr. Bloundel's judgment.
While the scourge continued weekly to extend its ravages throughout the
city, it never crossed his threshold; and, except suffering in a slight
degree from scorbutic affections, occasioned by the salt meats to which
they were now confined, and for which the lemon and lime-juice, provided
against such a contingency, proved an efficacious remedy, all the family
enjoyed perfect health. For some weeks after her separation from her
daughter, Mrs. Bloundel continued in a desponding state, but after that
time she became more reconciled to the deprivation, and partially
recovered her spirits. Mr. Bloundel did not dare to indulge a hope that
Amabel would ever return; but though he suffered much in secret, he
never allowed his grief to manifest itself. The circumstance that he had
not received any intelligence of her did not weigh much with him,
because the difficulty of communication became greater and greater, as
each week the scourge increased in violence, and he was inclined to take
no news as good news. It was not so in the present case, but of this he
was happily ignorant.
In this way, a month passed on. And now every other consideration was
merged in the alarm occasioned by the daily increasing fury of the
pestilence. Throughout July the excessive heat of the weather underwent
no abatement, but in place of the clear atmosphere that had prevailed
during the preceding month, unwholesome blights filled the air, and,
confining the pestilential effluvia, spread the contagion far and wide
with extraordinary rapidity. Not only was the city suffocated with heat,
but filled with noisome smells, arising from the carcasses with which
the close alleys and other out-of-the-way places were crowded, and which
were so far decomposed as not to be capable of removal. The aspect of
the river was as much changed as that of the city. Numbers of bodies
were thrown into it, and, floating up with the tide, were left to taint
the air on its banks, while strange, ill-omened fowl, attracted thither
by their instinct, preyed upon them. Below the bridge, all captains of
ships moored in the Pool, or off Wapping, held as little communication
as possible with those on shore, and only received fresh provisions with
the greatest precaution. As the plague increased, most of these removed
lower down the river, and many of them put out entirely to sea. Above
the bridge, most of the wherries and other smaller craft had
disappeared, their owners having taken them up the river, and moored
them against its banks at different spots, where they lived in them
under tilts. Many hundreds of persons remained upon the river in this
way during the whole continuance of the visitation.
August had now arrived, but the distemper knew no cessation. On the
contrary, it manifestly increased in violence and malignity. The deaths
rose a thousand in each week, and in the last week in this fatal month
amounted to upwards of sixty thousand!
But, terrible as this was, the pestilence had not yet reached its
height. Hopes were entertained that when the weather became cooler, its
fury would abate; but these anticipations were fearfully disappointed.
The bills of mortality rose the first week in September to seven
thousand, and though they slightly decreased during the second
week--awakening a momentary hope--on the third they advanced to twelve
thousand! In less than ten days, upwards of two thousand persons
perished in the parish of Aldgate alone; while Whitechapel suffered
equally severely. Out of the hundred parishes in and about the city, one
only, that of Saint John the Evangelist in Watling-street, remained
uninfected, and this merely because there was scarcely a soul left
within it, the greater part of the inhabitants having quitted their
houses, and fled into the country.
The deepest despair now seized upon all the survivors. Scarcely a family
but had lost half of its number--many, more than half--while those who
were left felt assured that their turn would speedily arrive. Even the
reckless were appalled, and abandoned their evil courses. Not only were
the dead lying in the passages and alleys, but even in the main
thoroughfares, and none would remove them. The awful prediction of
Solomon Eagle that "grass would grow in the streets, and that the living
should not be able to bury the dead," had come to pass. London had
become one vast lazar-house, and seemed in a fair way of becoming a
During all this time, Saint Paul's continued to be used as a pest-house,
but it was not so crowded as heretofore, because, as not one in fifty of
the infected recovered when placed under medical care, it was not
thought worth while to remove them from their own abodes. The number of
attendants, too, had diminished. Some had died, but the greater part had
abandoned their offices from a fear of sharing the fate of their
patients. In consequence of these changes, Judith Malmayns had been
advanced to the post of chief nurse at the cathedral. Both she and
Chowles had been attacked by the plague, and both had recovered. Judith
attended the coffin-maker, and it was mainly owing to her that he got
through the attack. She never left him for a moment, and would never
suffer any one to approach him--a necessary precaution, as he was so
much alarmed by his situation that he would infallibly have made some
awkward revelations. When Judith, in her turn, was seized, Chowles
exhibited no such consideration for her, and scarcely affected to
conceal his disappointment at her recovery. This want of feeling on his
part greatly incensed her against him, and though he contrived in some
degree to appease her, it was long before she entirely forgave him. Far
from being amended by her sufferings, she seemed to have grown more
obdurate, and instantly commenced a fresh career of crime. It was not,
however, necessary now to hasten the end of the sick. The distemper had
acquired such force and malignity that it did its work quickly
enough--often too quickly--and all she sought was to obtain possession
of the poor patients' attire, or any valuables they might possess worth
appropriating. To turn to the brighter side of the picture, it must not
be omitted that when the pestilence was at its height, and no offers
could induce the timorous to venture forth, or render assistance to the
sufferers, Sir John Lawrence the Lord Mayor, the Duke of Albermarle, the
Earl of Craven, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, devoted themselves to
the care of the infected, and supplied them with every necessary they
required. Among the physicians, no one deserves more honourable mention
than Doctor Hodges, who was unremitting in his attentions to the
To return to the grocer. While the plague was thus raging around him,
and while every house in Wood-street except one or two, from which the
inmates had fled, was attacked by the pestilence, he and his family had
remained untouched. About the middle of August, he experienced a great
alarm. His second son, Hubert, fell sick, and he removed him to one of
the upper rooms which he had set aside as an hospital, and attended upon
him himself. In a few days, however, his fears were removed and he
found, to his great satisfaction, that the youth had not been attacked
by the plague, but was only suffering from a slight fever, which quickly
yielded to the remedies applied. About the same time, too, he lost his
porter, Dallison. The poor fellow did not make his appearance as usual
for two days, and intelligence of his fate was brought on the following
day by his wife, who came to state that her husband was dead, and had
been thrown into the plague-pit at Aldgate. The same night, however, she
brought another man, named Allestry, who took the place of the late
porter, and acquainted his employer with the deplorable state of the
Two days afterwards, Allestry himself died, and Mr. Bloundel had no one
to replace him. He thus lost all means of ascertaining what was going
forward; but the deathlike stillness around him, broken only by the
hoarse tolling of a bell, by a wild shriek or other appalling cry,
proclaimed too surely the terrible state of things. Sometimes, too, a
passenger would go by, and would tell him the dreadful height to which
the bills of mortality had risen, assuring him that ere another month
had expired, not a soul would be left alive in London.
One night, as Solomon Eagle, who had likewise been miraculously
preserved, pursued his course through the streets, he paused before Mr.
Roundel's house, and looking up at the window, at which the latter had
chanced to be stationed, cried in a loud voice, "Be of good cheer. You
have served God faithfully, and there shall no evil befall you, neither
shall the plague come nigh your dwelling." And raising his arms, as if
invoking a blessing upon the habitation, he departed.
It was now the second week in September, and as yet Mr. Bloundel had
received no tidings of his daughter. At any other season he would have
been seriously uneasy, but now, as has been already stated, all private
grief was swallowed up in the horror of the general calamity. Satisfied
that she was in a healthful situation, and that her chance of
preservation from the pestilence was better than that of any other
member of his family, he turned his thoughts entirely to them.
Redoubling his precautions, he tried by every means to keep up the
failing spirits of his household, and but rarely ventured to open his
shutter, and look forth on the external world.
On the tenth of September, which was afterwards accounted the most fatal
day of this fatal month, a young man of a very dejected appearance, and
wearing the traces of severe suffering in his countenance, entered the
west end of London, and took his way slowly towards the city. He had
passed Saint Giles's without seeing a single living creature, or the
sign of one in any of the houses. The broad thoroughfare was completely
grown over with grass, and the habitations had the most melancholy and
deserted air imaginable. Some doors and windows were wide open,
discovering rooms with goods and furniture scattered about, having been
left in this state by their inmates; but most part of them were closely
As he proceeded along Holborn, the ravages of the scourge were yet more
apparent. Every house, on either side of the way, had a red cross, with
the fatal inscription above it, upon the door. Here and there, a
watchman might be seen, looking more like a phantom than a living thing.
Formerly, the dead were conveyed away at night, but now the carts went
about in the daytime. On reaching Saint Andrew's, Holborn, several
persons were seen wheeling hand-barrows filled with corpses, scarcely
covered with clothing, and revealing the blue and white stripes of the
pestilence, towards a cart which was standing near the church gates. The
driver of the vehicle, a tall, cadaverous-looking man, was ringing his
bell, and jesting with another person, whom the young man recognised,
with a shudder, as Chowles. The coffin-maker also recognised him at the
same moment, and called to him, but the other paid no attention to the
summons and passed on.
Crossing Holborn Bridge, he toiled faintly up the opposite hill, for he
was evidently suffering from extreme debility, and on gaining the summit
was obliged to support himself against a wall for a few minutes, before
he could proceed. The same frightful evidences of the ravages of the
pestilence were observable here, as elsewhere. The houses were all
marked with the fatal cross, and shut up. Another dead-cart was heard
rumbling along, accompanied by the harsh cries of the driver, and the
doleful ringing of the bell. The next moment the loathly vehicle was
seen coming along the Old Bailey. It paused before a house, from which
four bodies were brought, and then passed on towards Smithfield.
Watching its progress with fearful curiosity, the young man noted how
often it paused to increase its load. His thoughts, coloured by the
scene, were of the saddest and dreariest complexion. All around wore the
aspect of death. The few figures in sight seemed staggering towards the
grave, and the houses appeared to be plague-stricken like the
inhabitants. The heat was intolerably oppressive, and the air tainted
with noisome exhalations. Ever and anon, a window would be opened, and a
ghastly face thrust from it, while a piercing shriek, or lamentable cry,
was uttered. No business seemed going on--there were no passengers--no
vehicles in the streets. The mighty city was completely laid prostrate.
After a short rest, the young man shaped his course towards Saint
Paul's, and on reaching its western precincts, gazed for some time at
the reverend structure, as if its contemplation called up many and
painful recollections. Tears started to his eyes, and he was about to
turn away, when he perceived the figure of Solomon Eagle stationed near
the cross at the western extremity of the roof. The enthusiast caught
sight of him at the same moment, and motioned him to come nearer. "What
has happened?" he demanded, as the other approached the steps of the
The young man shook his head mournfully. "It is a sad tale," he said,
"and cannot be told now."
"I can conjecture what it is," replied Solomon Eagle. "But come to the
small door near the northern entrance of the cathedral at midnight. I
will meet you there."
"I will not fail," replied the young man.
"One of the terrible judgments which I predicted would befall this
devoted city has come to pass," cried Solomon Eagle. "Another yet
remains--the judgment by fire--and if its surviving inhabitants repent
not, of which there is as yet no sign, it will assuredly follow."
"Heaven avert it!" groaned the other, turning away.
Proceeding along Cheapside, he entered Wood-street, and took his way
towards the grocer's dwelling. When at a little distance from it, he
paused, and some minutes elapsed before he could muster strength to go
forward. Here, as elsewhere, there were abundant indications of the
havoc occasioned by the fell disease. Not far from the grocer's shop,
and in the middle of the street, lay the body of a man, with the face
turned upwards, while crouching in an angle of the wall sat a young
woman watching it. As the young man drew nearer, he recognised in the
dead man the principal of the Brotherhood of Saint Michael, and in the
poor mourner one of his profligate female associates. "What has become
of your unhappy companions?" he demanded of the woman.
"The last of them lies there," she rejoined mournfully. "All the rest
died long ago. My lover was true to his vow; and instead of deploring
their fate, lived with me and three other women in mirth and revelry
till yesterday, when the three women died, and he fell sick. He did not,
however, give in, but continued carousing until an hour before his
Too much shocked to make any reply, the young man proceeded towards the
hutch. Beneath a doorway, at a little distance from it, sat a watchman
with a halberd on his shoulder, guarding the house; but it was evident
he would be of little further use. His face was covered with his hands,
and his groans proclaimed that he himself was attacked by the
pestilence. Entering the hutch, the young man pulled the cord of the
bell, and the summons was soon after answered by the grocer, who
appeared at the window. "What, Leonard Holt!" he exclaimed, in surprise,
on seeing the young man--"is it you?--what ails you?--you look
"I have been attacked a second time by the plague," replied the
apprentice, "and am only just recovered from it."
"What of my child?" cried the grocer eagerly--"what of her?"
"Alas! alas!" exclaimed the apprentice.
"Do not keep me in suspense," rejoined the grocer. "Is she dead?"
"No, not dead," replied the apprentice, "but--"
"But what?" ejaculated the grocer. "In Heaven's name, speak!"
"These letters will tell you all," replied the apprentice, producing a
packet. "I had prepared them to send to you in case of my death. I am
not equal to further explanation now."
With trembling eagerness the grocer lowered the rope, and Leonard having
tied the packet to it, it was instantly drawn up. Notwithstanding his
anxiety to ascertain the fate of Amabel, Mr. Bloundel would not touch
the packet until he had guarded against the possibility of being
infected by it. Seizing it with a pair of tongs, he plunged it into a
pan containing a strong solution of vinegar and sulphur, which he had
always in readiness in the chamber, and when thoroughly saturated, laid
it in the sun to dry. On first opening the shutter to answer Leonard's
summons, he had flashed off a pistol, and he now thought to expel the
external air by setting fire to a ball composed of quick brimstone,
saltpetre, and yellow amber, which being placed on an iron plate,
speedily filled the room with a thick vapour, and prevented the entrance
of any obnoxious particles. These precautions taken, he again addressed
himself, while the packet was drying, to Leonard, whom he found gazing
anxiously at the window, and informed him that all his family had
hitherto escaped contagion.
"A special providence must have watched over you, sir," replied the
apprentice, "and I believe yours is the only family in the whole city
that has been so spared. I have reason to be grateful for my own
extraordinary preservation, and yet I would rather it had pleased Heaven
to take me away than leave me to my present misery."
"You keep me in a frightful state of suspense, Leonard," rejoined the
grocer, regarding the packet wistfully, "for I dare not open your
letters till they are thoroughly fumigated. You assure me my child is
living. Has she been attacked by the plague?"
"Would she had!" groaned Leonard.
"Is she still at Ashdown?" pursued the grocer. "Ah! you shake your head.
I see!--I must be beside myself not to have thought of it before. She is
in the power of the Earl of Rochester."
"She is," cried Leonard, catching at the angle of the shed for support.
"And I am here!" exclaimed Mr. Bloundel, forgetting his caution, and
thrusting himself far out of the window, as if with the intention of
letting himself down by the rope--"I am here, when I ought to be near
"Calm yourself, I beseech you, sir," cried Leonard; "a moment's rashness
will undo all you have done."
"True!" replied the grocer, checking himself. "I must think of others as
well as of her. But where is she? Hide nothing from me."
"I have reason to believe she is in London," replied the apprentice. "I
traced her hither, and should not have desisted from my search if I had
not been checked by the plague, which attacked me on the night of my
arrival. I was taken to the pesthouse near Westbourne Green, where I
have been for the last three weeks."
"If she was brought to London, as you state," rejoined the grocer, "I
cannot doubt but she has fallen a victim to the scourge."
"It may be," replied Leonard, moodily, "and I would almost hope it is
so. When you peruse my letters, you will learn that she was carried off
by the earl from the residence of a lady at Kingston Lisle, whither she
had been removed for safety; and after being taken from place to place,
was at last conveyed to an old hall in the neighbourhood of Oxford,
where she was concealed for nearly a month."
"Answer me, Leonard," cried the grocer, "and do not attempt to deceive
me. Has she preserved her honour?"
"Up to the time of quitting Oxford she had preserved it," replied the
apprentice. "She herself assured me she had resisted all the earl's
importunities, and would die rather than yield to him. But I will tell
you how I obtained an interview with her. After a long search, I
discovered the place of her concealment, the old hall I have just
mentioned, and climbed in the night, and at the hazard of my life, to
the window of the chamber where she was confined. I saw and spoke with
her; and having arranged a plan by which I hoped to accomplish her
deliverance on the following night, descended. Whether our brief
conference was overheard, and communicated to the earl, I know not; but
it would seem so, for he secretly departed with her the next morning,
taking the road, as I subsequently learnt, to London. I instantly
started in pursuit, and had reached Paddington, when I fell ill, as I
"What you tell me in some measure eases my mind," replied Mr. Bloundel,
after a pause; "for I feel that my daughter, if alive, will be able to
resist her persecutor. What has become of your companions?"
"Nizza Macascree has met with the same fate as Amabel," replied Leonard.
"She was unfortunate enough to attract the king's attention, when he
visited Ashdown Lodge in company of the Earl of Rochester, and was
conveyed to Oxford, where the court is now held, and must speedily have
fallen a victim to her royal lover if she had not disappeared, having
been carried off, it was supposed, by Sir Paul Parravicin. But the
villain was frustrated in his infamous design. The king's suspicion
falling upon him, he was instantly arrested; and though he denied all
knowledge of Nizza's retreat, and was afterwards liberated, his
movements were so strictly watched, that he had no opportunity of
"You do not mention Blaize," said Mr. Bloundel. "No ill, I trust, has
"I grieve to say he has been attacked by the distemper he so much
dreaded," replied Leonard. "He accompanied me to London, but quitted me
when I fell sick, and took refuge with a farmer named Wingfield,
residing near Kensal Green. I accidentally met Wingfield this morning,
and he informed me that Blaize was taken ill the day before yesterday,
and removed to the pest-house in Finsbury Fields. I will go thither
presently, and see what has become of him. Is Doctor Hodges still among
"I trust so," replied Mr. Bloundel, "though I have not seen him for the
last ten days."
He then disappeared for a few minutes, and on his return lowered a small
basket containing a flask of canary, a loaf which he himself had baked,
and a piece of cold boiled beef. The apprentice thankfully received the
provisions, and retiring to the hutch, began to discuss them, fortifying
himself with a copious draught of canary. Having concluded his repast,
he issued forth, and acquainting Mr. Bloundel, who had at length
ventured to commence reading the contents of the packet by the aid of
powerful glasses, that he was about to proceed to Dr. Hodges's
residence, to inquire after him, set off in that direction.
Arrived in Great Knightrider-street, he was greatly shocked at finding
the door of the doctor's habitation fastened, nor could he make any one
hear, though he knocked loudly and repeatedly against it. The shutters
of the lower windows were closed, and the place looked completely
deserted. All the adjoining houses were shut up, and not a living being
could be discerned in the street from whom information could be obtained
relative to the physician. Here, as elsewhere, the pavement was
overgrown with grass, and the very houses had a strange and melancholy
look, as if sharing in the general desolation. On looking down a narrow
street leading to the river, Leonard perceived a flock of poultry
scratching among the staves in search of food, and instinctively calling
them, they flew towards him, as if delighted at the unwonted sound of a
human voice. These, and a half-starved cat, were the only things living
that he could perceive. At the further end of the street he caught sight
of the river, speeding in its course towards the bridge, and scarcely
knowing whither he was going, sauntered to its edge. The tide had just
turned, and the stream was sparkling in the sunshine, but no craft could
be discovered upon its bosom; and except a few barges moored to its
sides, all vestiges of the numberless vessels with which it was once
crowded were gone. Its quays were completely deserted. Boxes and bales
of goods lay untouched on the wharves; the cheering cries with which the
workmen formerly animated their labour were hushed. There was no sound
of creaking cords, no rattle of heavy chains--none of the busy hum
ordinarily attending the discharge of freight from a vessel, or the
packing of goods and stores on board. All traffic was at an end; and
this scene, usually one of the liveliest possible, was now forlorn and
desolate. On the opposite shore of the river it appeared to be the
same--indeed, the borough of Southwark was now suffering the utmost
rigour of the scourge, and except for the rows of houses on its banks,
and the noble bridge by which it was spanned, the Thames appeared as
undisturbed as it must have been before the great city was built upon
The apprentice viewed this scene with a singular kind of interest. He
had become so accustomed to melancholy sights, that his feelings had
lost their acuteness, and the contemplation of the deserted buildings
and neglected wharves around him harmonized with his own gloomy
thoughts. Pursuing his walk along the side of the river, he was checked
by a horrible smell, and looking downward, he perceived a carcass in the
last stage of decomposition lying in the mud. It had been washed ashore
by the tide, and a large bird of prey was contending for the possession
of it with a legion of water-rats. Sickened by the sight, he turned up a
narrow thoroughfare near Baynard's Castle, and crossing Thames-street,
was about to ascend Addle-hill, when he perceived a man wheeling a
hand-barrow, containing a couple of corpses, in the direction of the
river, with the intention, doubtless, of throwing them into it, as the
readiest means of disposing of them. Both bodies were stripped of their
clothing, and the blue tint of the nails, as well as the blotches with
which they were covered, left no doubt as to the disease of which they
had died. Averting his gaze from the spectacle, Leonard turned off on
the right along Carter-lane, and threading a short passage, approached
the southern boundary of the cathedral; and proceeding towards the great
door opposite him, passed through it. The mighty lazar-house was less
crowded than he expected to find it, but its terrible condition far
exceeded his worst conceptions. Not more than half the pallets were
occupied; but as the sick were in a great measure left to themselves,
the utmost disorder prevailed. A troop of lazars, with sheets folded
around them, glided, like phantoms, along Paul's Walk, and mimicked in a
ghastly manner the air and deportment of the gallants who had formerly
thronged the place. No attempt being made to maintain silence, the noise
was perfectly stunning; some of the sick were shrieking--some laughing
in a wild unearthly manner--some praying--some uttering loud
execrations--others groaning and lamenting. The holy building seemed to
have become the abode of evil and tormented spirits. Many dead were
lying in the beds--the few attendants who were present not caring to
remove them; and Leonard had little doubt, that before another sun went
down the whole of the ghastly assemblage before him would share their
fate. If the habitations he had recently gazed upon had appeared
plague-stricken, the sacred structure in which he was now standing
seemed yet more horribly contaminated. Ill-kept and ill-ventilated, the
air was loaded with noxious effluvia, while the various abominations
that met the eye at every turn would have been sufficient to produce the
distemper in any one who had come in contact with them. They were,
however, utterly disregarded by the miserable sufferers and their
attendants. The magnificent painted windows were dimmed by a thick
clammy steam, which could scarcely be washed off--while the carved oak
screens, the sculptured tombs, the pillars, the walls, and the flagged
floors were covered with impurities.
Satisfied with a brief survey of this frightful scene, Leonard turned to
depart, and was passing the entrance to Saint Faith's, which stood open,
when he caught sight of Judith standing at the foot of the broad stone
steps, and holding a lamp in her hand. She was conversing with a tall
richly-dressed man, whose features he fancied he had seen before, though
he could not at the moment call them to mind. After a brief
conversation, they moved off into the depths of the vault, and he lost
eight of them. All at once it occurred to Leonard that Judith's
companion was the unfortunate stranger whose child he had interred, and
who had been so strangely affected at the sight of Nizza Macascree.
Determined to ascertain the point, he hurried down the steps and plunged
into the vault. It was buried in profound darkness, and he had not
proceeded far when he stumbled over something lying in his path, and
found from the groan that followed that it was a plague-patient. Before
he could regain his feet, the unfortunate sufferer whom he had thus
disturbed implored him, in piteous accents, which, with a shudder, he
recognised as those of Blaize, to remove him. Leonard immediately gave
the poor porter to understand that he was near him, and would render him
every aid in his power.
"Your assistance comes too late, Leonard," groaned Blaize--"it's all
over with me now, but I don't like to breathe my last in this dismal
vault, without medicine or food, both of which I am denied by that
infernal hag Mother Malmayns, who calls herself a nurse, but who is in
reality a robber and murderess. Oh! the frightful scenes I have
witnessed since I have been brought here! I told you I should not escape
the plague. I shall die of it--I am sure I shall."
"I thought you were at the pest-house in Finsbury Fields," said Leonard.
"I was taken there," replied Blaize; "but the place was full, and they
would not admit me, so I was sent to Saint Paul's, where there was
plenty of room. Yesterday I did pretty well, for I was in the great ward
above, and one of the attendants obeyed my directions implicitly, and I
am certain if they had been fully carried out, I should have got well. I
will tell you what I did. As soon as I was placed on a pallet, and
covered with blankets, I ordered a drink to be prepared of the inner
bark of an ash-tree, green walnuts, scabious vervain, and saffron,
boiled in two quarts of the strongest vinegar. Of this mixture I drank
plentifully, and it soon produced a plentiful perspiration. I next had a
hen--a live one, of course--stripped of the feathers, and brought to me.
Its bill was held to the large blotch under my arm, and kept there till
the fowl died from the noxious matter it drew forth. I next repeated the
experiment with a pigeon, and derived the greatest benefit from it. The
tumour had nearly subsided, and if I had been properly treated
afterwards, I should now be in a fair way of recovery. But instead of
nice strengthening chicken-broth, flavoured with succory and marigolds;
or water-gruel, mixed with rosemary and winter-savory; or a panado,
seasoned with verjuice or wood-sorrel; instead of swallowing large
draughts of warm beer; or water boiled with carduus seeds; or a posset
drink, made with sorrel, bugloss, and borage;--instead of these
remedies, or any other, I was carried to this horrible place when I was
asleep, and strapped to my pallet, as you perceive. Unloose me, if you
can do nothing else."
"That I will readily do," replied Leonard; "but I must first procure a
light." With this, he groped his way among the close ranks of ponderous
pillars, but though he proceeded with the utmost caution, he could not
avoid coming in contact with the beds of some of the other patients, and
disturbing them. At length he descried a glimmer of light issuing from a
door which he knew to be that of the vestry, and which was standing
slightly ajar. Opening it, he perceived a lamp burning on the table, and
without stopping to look around him, seized it, and hurried back to the
porter. Poor Blaize presented a lamentable, and yet grotesque
appearance. His plump person was greatly reduced in bulk, and his round
cheeks had become hollow and cadaverous. He was strapped, as he had
stated, to the pallet, which in its turn was fastened to the adjoining
pillar. A blanket was tightly swathed around him, and a large cloth was
bound round his head in lieu of a nightcap. Leonard instantly set about
releasing him, and had just unfastened the straps when he heard
footsteps approaching, and looking up, perceived the stranger and Judith
Malmayns advancing towards him.
THE SECOND PLAGUE-PIT.
Judith, being a little in advance of her companion, took Leonard in the
first instance for a chirurgeon's assistant, and called to him, in a
harsh and menacing voice, to let her charge alone. On drawing near,
however, she perceived her mistake, and recognising the apprentice,
halted with a disconcerted look. By this time, the stranger had come up,
and remarking her embarrassment, inquired the cause of it.
"Look there," cried Judith, pointing towards the apprentice. "Yonder
stands the very man you seek."
"What! Leonard Holt," cried the other, in astonishment.
"Ay, Leonard Holt," rejoined Judith. "You can now put any questions to
him you think proper."
The stranger did not require the suggestion to be repeated, but
instantly hastened to the apprentice. "Do you remember me?" he asked.
Leonard answered in the affirmative. "I owe you a large debt of
obligation," continued the stranger, "and you shall not find me slow in
paying it. But let it pass for the moment. Do you know aught of Nizza
Macascree? I know she was taken to Oxford by the king, and subsequently
"Then you know as much as I do of her, sir," rejoined Leonard.
"I was right, you see, Mr. Thirlby," interposed Judith, with a malicious
grin. "I told you this youth would be utterly ignorant of her retreat."
"My firm conviction is, that she is in the power of Sir Paul
Parravicin," observed Leonard. "But it is impossible to say where she is
"Then my last hope of finding her has fallen to the ground," replied
Thirlby, with a look of great distress. "Ever since my recovery from the
plague, I have been in search of her. I traced her from Ashdown Park to
Oxford, but she was gone before my arrival at the latter place; and
though I made every possible inquiry after her, and kept strict and
secret watch upon the villain whom I suspected, as you do, of carrying
her off, I could gain no clue to her retreat. Having ascertained,
however, that you were seen in the neighbourhood of Oxford about the
time of her disappearance, I had persuaded myself you must have aided
her escape. But now," he added, with a groan, "I find I was mistaken."
"You were so," replied Leonard, mournfully; "I was in search of my
master's daughter, Amabel, who was carried off at the same time by the
Earl of Rochester, and my anxiety about her made me neglectful of
"I am not ignorant of your devoted attachment to her," remarked the
"You will never find Amabel again," observed Judith, bitterly.
"What mean you woman?" asked Leonard.
"I mean what I say," rejoined Judith. "I repeat, you will never see her
"You would not speak thus positively without some motive," returned
Leonard, seizing her arm. "Where is she? What has happened to her?"
"That you shall never learn from me," returned Judith, with a triumphant
"Speak, or I will force you to do so," cried Leonard, furiously.
"Force me!" cried Judith, laughing derisively; "you know not whom you
"But _I_ do," interposed Thirlby. "This young man _shall_ have an answer
to this question," he continued, addressing her in an authoritative
tone. "Do you know anything of the girl?"
"No," replied Judith; "I was merely jesting with him."
"Shame on you, to trifle with his feelings thus," rejoined Thirlby.
"Step with me this way, young man, I wish to speak with you."
"Do not leave me here, Leonard," cried Blaize, "or I shall die before
you come back."
"I have no intention of leaving you," rejoined Leonard. "Are you aware
whether Doctor Hodges is still alive, sir?" he added to Thirlby. "I have
just been to his residence in Great Knight-rider-street, and found it
"He has removed to Watling-street," replied the other; "but I have not
seen him since my return to London. If you wish it, I will go to his
house at once, and send him to look after your poor friend."
Leonard was about to return thanks for the offer, when the design was
frustrated by Blaize himself, who was so terrified by Judith's looks,
that he could pay no attention to what was going forward; and fearing,
notwithstanding Leonard's assurance to the contrary, that he should be
left behind, he started to his feet, and wrapping the blanket about him,
ran up the steps leading to the cathedral. Leonard and Thirlby followed,
and seeing him dart into the southern aisle, would have pursued him
along it, but were afraid of coming in contact with the many sick
persons by whom it was thronged. They contented themselves, therefore,
with watching his course, and were not a little surprised and alarmed to
find the whole troop of lazars set off after him, making the sacred
walls ring with their cries. Frightened by the clamour, Blaize redoubled
his speed, and, with this ghastly train at his heels, crossed the lower
part of the mid-aisle, and darting through the pillars, took refuge
within Bishop Kempe's Chapel, the door of which stood open, and which he
instantly closed after him. Judith, who had followed the party from the
subterranean church, laughed heartily at the chase of the poor porter,
and uttered an exclamation of regret at its sudden conclusion. Leonard,
however, being apprehensive of mischief from the crowd of sick persons
collected before the door, some of whom were knocking against it and
trying to force it open, addressed himself to a couple of the
attendants, and prevailed on them to accompany him to the chapel. The
assemblage was speedily dispersed, and Blaize hearing Leonard's voice,
instantly opened the door and admitted him; and, as soon as his fears
were allayed, he was placed on a pallet within the chapel, and wrapped
up in blankets, while such remedies as were deemed proper were
administered to him. Committing him to the care of the attendants, and
promising to reward them well for their trouble, Leonard told Blaize he
should go and bring Doctor Hodges to him. Accordingly, he departed, and
finding Thirlby waiting for him at the south door, they went forth
"I am almost afraid of leaving the poor fellow," said Leonard,
hesitating as he was about to descends the steps. "Judith Malmayns is so
cunning and unscrupulous, that she may find some means of doing him an
"Have no fear," replied Thirlby; "she has promised me not to molest him
"You appear to have a strange influence over her, then," observed
Leonard. "May I ask how you have attained it?"
"No matter," replied the other. "It must suffice that I am willing to
exercise it in your behalf."
"And you are not disposed to tell me the nature of the interest you feel
in Nizza Macascree?" pursued Leonard.
"Not as yet," replied Thirlby, with a look and tone calculated to put a
stop to further inquiries.
Passing through Saint Austin's Gate, they approached Watling-street, at
the corner of which stood the house where Doctor Hodges had taken up his
temporary abode, that he might visit the sick in the cathedral with
greater convenience, and be more readily summoned whenever his
attendance might be required. Thirlby's knock at the door was answered,
to Leonard's great satisfaction, by the old porter, who was equally
delighted to see him.
It did not escape Leonard that the porter treated the stranger with
great respect, and he inferred from this that he was a person of some
consideration, as indeed his deportment bespoke him. The old man
informed them that his master had been summoned on a case of urgency
early in the morning, and had not yet returned, neither was he aware
whither he was gone. He promised, however, to acquaint him with Blaize's
condition immediately on his return--"and I need not assure you," he
added to Leonard, "that he will instantly go to him." Thirlby then
inquired of the porter whether Mike Macascree, the blind piper, was
still at Dame Lucas's cottage, in Finsbury Fields, and was answered in
the affirmative by the old man, who added, however, in a voice of much
emotion, that the good dame herself was no more.
"She died about a fortnight ago of the plague," he said, "and is buried
where she desired to be, beneath an old apple-tree in her garden."
"Alas!" exclaimed Leonard, brushing away a tear, "her own foreboding is
too truly realised."
"I am about to visit the old piper," observed Thirlby to the apprentice.
"Will you go with me?"
The other readily acquiesced, only stipulating that they should call in
Wood-street on the way, that he might inquire whether his master wanted
him. Thirlby agreeing to this, and the old porter repeating his
assurance that Leonard might make himself quite easy as to Blaize, for
he would send his master to him the instant he returned, they set out.
On reaching Wood-street the apprentice gave the customary signal, and
the grocer answering it, he informed him of his unexpected meeting with
Blaize, and of the state in which he had left him. Mr. Bloundel was much
distressed by the intelligence, and telling Leonard that he should not
require him again that night, besought him to observe the utmost
caution. This the apprentice promised, and joining Thirlby, who had
walked forward to a little distance, they struck into a narrow street on
the right, and proceeding along Aldermanbury, soon arrived at the first
postern in the city walls beyond Cripplegate.
Hitherto, Thirlby had maintained a profound silence, and appeared lost
in melancholy reflection. Except now and then casting a commiserating
glance at the wretched objects they encountered on the road, he kept his
eyes steadily fixed upon the ground, and walked at a brisky pace, as if
desirous of getting out of the city as quickly as possible.
Notwithstanding his weakness, Leonard managed to keep up with him, and
his curiosity being greatly aroused by what had just occurred, he began
to study his appearance and features attentively. Thirlby was full six
feet in height, and possessed a powerful and well-proportioned figure,
and would have been considered extremely handsome but for a certain
sinister expression about the eyes, which were large and dark, but
lighted by a fierce and peculiar fire. His complexion was dark, and his
countenance still bore the impress of the dreadful disease from which he
had recently recovered. A gloomy shade sat about his brow, and it seemed
to Leonard as if he had been led by his passions into the commission of
crimes of which he had afterwards bitterly repented. His deportment was
proud and commanding, and though he exhibited no haughtiness towards the
apprentice, but, on the contrary, treated him with great familiarity, it
was plain he did so merely from a sense of gratitude. His age was under
forty, and his habiliments were rich, though of a sombre colour.
Passing through the postern, which stood wide open, the watchman having
disappeared, they entered a narrow lane, skirted by a few detached
houses, all of which were shut up, and marked by the fatal cross. As
they passed one of these habitations, they were arrested by loud and
continued shrieks of the most heart-rending nature, and questioning a
watchman who stood at an adjoining door, as to the cause of them, he
said they proceeded from a poor lady who had just lost the last of her
family by the plague.
"Her husband and all her children, except one daughter, died last week,"
said the man, "and though she seemed deeply afflicted, yet she bore her
loss with resignation. Yesterday, her daughter was taken ill, and she
died about two hours ago, since when the poor mother has done nothing
but shriek in the way you hear. Poor soul! she will die of grief, as
many have done before her at this awful time."
"Something must be done to pacify her," returned Thirlby, in a voice of
much emotion,--"she must be removed from her child."
"Where can she be removed to?" rejoined the watchman. "Who will receive
"At all events, we can remove the object that occasions her affliction,"
rejoined Thirlby. "My heart bleeds for her. I never heard shrieks so
"The dead-cart will pass by in an hour," said the watchman; "and then
the body can be taken away."
"An hour will be too late," rejoined Thirlby. "If she continues in this
frantic state, she will be dead before that time. You have a hand-barrow
there. Take the body to the plague-pit at once, and I will reward you
for your trouble."
"We shall find some difficulty in getting into the house," said the
watchman, who evidently felt some repugnance to the task.
"Not so," replied Thirlby. And pushing forcibly against the door, he
burst it open, and, directed by the cries, entered a room on the right.
The watchman's statement proved correct. Stretched upon a bed in one
corner lay the body of a beautiful girl, while the poor mother was
bending over it in a state bordering on distraction. On seeing Thirlby,
she fled to the further end of the room, but did not desist from her
cries. In fact, she was unable to do so, being under the dominion of the
wildest hysterical passion. In vain Thirlby endeavoured to make her
comprehend by signs the nature of his errand. Waving him off, she
continued shrieking more loudly than ever. Half-stunned by the cries,
and greatly agitated by the sight of the child, whose appearance
reminded him of his own daughter, Thirlby motioned the watchman, who had
followed him into the room, to bring away the body, and rushed forth.
His injunctions were obeyed. The remains of the unfortunate girl were
wrapped in a sheet, and deposited in the hand-barrow. The miserable
mother followed the watchman to the door, but did not attempt to
interfere with him, and having seen the body of her child disposed of in
the manner above described, turned back. The next moment, a heavy sound
proclaimed that she had fallen to the ground, and her shrieks were
hushed. Thirlby and Leonard exchanged sad and significant looks, but
neither of them went back to see what had happened to her. The watchman
shook his head, and setting the barrow in motion, proceeded along a
narrow footpath across the fields. Remarking that he did not take the
direct road to the plague-pit, Leonard called to him, and pointed out
the corner in which it lay.
"I know where the old plague-pit is, as well as you," replied the
watchman, "but it has been filled these three weeks. The new pit lies in
this direction." So saying, he pursued his course, and they presently
entered a field, in the middle of which lay the plague-pit, as was
evident from the immense mound of clay thrown out of the excavation.
"That pit is neither so deep nor so wide as the old one," said the
watchman, "and if the plague goes on at this rate, they will soon have
to dig another--that is, if any one should be left alive to undertake
And chuckling as if he had said a good thing, he impelled his barrow
forward more quickly. A few seconds brought them near the horrible
chasm. It was more than half full, and in all respects resembled the
other pit, except that it was somewhat smaller. There was the same
heaving and putrefying mass,--the same ghastly objects of every
kind,--the grey-headed old man, the dark-haired maiden, the tender
infant,--all huddled together. Wheeling the barrow to the edge of the
pit, the watchman cast his load into it; and without even tarrying to
throw a handful of soil over it, turned back, and rejoined Thirlby, who
had halted at some distance from the excavation. While the latter was
searching for his purse to reward the watchman, they heard wild shrieks
in the adjoining field, and the next moment perceived the wretched
mother running towards them. Guessing her purpose from his former
experience, Leonard called to the others to stop her, and stretching out
his arms, placed himself in her path. But all their efforts were in
vain. She darted past them, and though Leonard caught hold of her, she
broke from him, and leaving a fragment of her dress in his grasp, flung
herself into the chasm.
Well knowing that all help was vain, Thirlby placed a few pieces of
money in the watchman's hand, and hurried away. He was followed by
Leonard, who was equally eager to quit the spot. It so chanced that the
path they had taken led them near the site of the old plague-pit, and
Leonard pointed it out to his companion. The latter stopped for a
moment, and then, without saying a word, ran quickly towards it. On
reaching the spot, they found that the pit was completely filled up. The
vast cake of clay with which it was covered had swollen and cracked in
an extraordinary manner, and emitted such a horrible effluvium that they
both instantly retreated.
"And that is the grave of my poor child," cried Thirlby, halting, and
bursting into a passionate flood of tears. "It would have been a fitting
resting-place for a guilty wretch like me; but for her it is horrible."
Allowing time for the violence of his grief to subside, Leonard
addressed a few words of consolation to him, and then tried to turn the
current of his thoughts by introducing a different subject. With this
view, he proceeded to detail the piper's mysterious conduct as to the
packet, and concluded by mentioning the piece of gold which Nizza wore
as an amulet, and which she fancied must have some connection with her
"I have heard of the packet and amulet from Doctor Hodges," said
Thirlby, "and should have visited the piper on my recovery from the
plague, but I was all impatience to behold Nizza, and could not brook an
instant's delay. But you know his cottage. We cannot be far from it."
"Yonder it is," replied Leonard, pointing to the little habitation,
which lay at a field's distance from them--"and we are certain to meet
with him, for I hear the notes of his pipe."
Nor was he deceived, for as they crossed the field, and approached the
cottage, the sounds of a melancholy air played on the pipe became each
instant more distinct. Before entering the gate, they paused for a
moment to listen to the music, and Leonard could not help contrasting
the present neglected appearance of the garden with the neatness it
exhibited when he last saw it. It was overgrown with weeds, while the
drooping flowers seemed to bemoan the loss of their mistress. Leonard's
gaze involuntarily wandered in search of the old apple-tree, and he
presently discovered it. It was loaded with fruit, and the rounded sod
beneath it proclaimed the grave of the ill-fated Dame Lucas.
Satisfied with this survey, Leonard opened the gate, but had no sooner
set foot in the garden than the loud barking of a dog was heard, and
Bell rushed forth. Leonard instantly called to her, and on hearing his
voice, the little animal instantly changed her angry tones to a gladsome
whine, and, skipping towards him, fawned at his feet. While he stooped
to caress her, the piper, who had been alarmed by the barking, appeared
at the door, and called out to know who was there? At the sight of him,
Thirlby, who was close behind Leonard, uttered a cry of surprise, and
exclaiming, "It is he!" rushed towards him.
The cry of recognition uttered by the stranger caused the piper to start
as if he had received a sudden and violent shock. The ruddy tint
instantly deserted his cheek, and was succeeded by a deadly paleness;
his limbs trembled, and he bent forward with a countenance of the utmost
anxiety, as if awaiting a confirmation of his fears. When within a
couple of yards of him, Thirlby paused, and having narrowly scrutinized
his features, as if to satisfy himself he was not mistaken, again
exclaimed, though in a lower and deeper tone than before, "It is he!"
and seizing his arm, pushed him into the house, banging the door to
after him in such a manner as to leave no doubt in the apprentice's mind
that his presence was not desired. Accordingly, though extremely anxious
to hear what passed between them, certain their conversation must relate
to Nizza Macascree, Leonard did not attempt to follow, but, accompanied
by Bell, who continued to gambol round him, directed his steps towards
the grave of Dame Lucas. Here he endeavoured to beguile the time in
meditation, but in spite of his efforts to turn his thoughts into a
different channel, they perpetually recurred to what he supposed to be
taking place inside the house. The extraordinary effect produced by
Nizza Macascree on Thirlby--the resemblance he had discovered between
her and some person dear to him--the anxiety he appeared to feel for
her, as evinced by his recent search for her--the mysterious connection
which clearly subsisted between him and the piper--all these
circumstances convinced Leonard that Thirlby was, or imagined himself,
connected by ties of the closest relationship with the supposed piper's
Leonard had never been able to discern the slightest resemblance either
in manner or feature, or in those indescribably slight personal
peculiarities that constitute a family likeness, between Nizza and her
reputed father--neither could he now recall any particular resemblance
between her and Thirlby; still he could not help thinking her beauty and
high-bred looks savoured more of the latter than the former. He came,
therefore, to the conclusion that she must be the offspring of some
early and unfortunate attachment on the part of Thirlby, whose remorse
might naturally be the consequence of his culpable conduct at that time.
His sole perplexity was the piper's connection with the affair; but he
got over this difficulty by supposing that Nizza's mother, whoever she
was, must have committed her to Macascree's care when an infant,
probably with strict injunctions, which circumstances might render
necessary, to conceal her even from her father. Such was Leonard's
solution of the mystery; and feeling convinced that he had made himself
master of the stranger's secret, he resolved to give him to understand
as much as soon as he beheld him again.
More than half an hour having elapsed, and Thirlby not coming forth,
Leonard began to think sufficient time had been allowed him for private
conference with the piper, and he therefore walked towards the door, and
coughing to announce his approach, raised the latch and entered the
house. He found the pair seated close together, and conversing in a low
and earnest tone. The piper had completely recovered from his alarm, and
seemed perfectly at ease with his companion, while all traces of anger
had disappeared from the countenance of the other. Before them on the
table lay several letters, taken from a packet, the cover of which
Leonard recognised as the one that had been formerly intrusted to him.
Amidst them was the miniature of a lady--at least, it appeared so to
Leonard, in the hasty glance he caught of it; but he could not be quite
sure; for on seeing him, Thirlby closed the case, and placing his hand
on the piper's mouth, to check his further speech, arose.
"Forgive my rudeness," he said to the apprentice; "but I have been so
deeply interested in what I have just heard, that I quite forgot you
were waiting without. I shall remain here some hours longer, but will
not detain you, especially as I am unable to admit you to our
conference. I will meet you at Doctor Hodges's in the evening, and shall
have much to say to you."
"I can anticipate some part of your communication," replied Leonard.
"You will tell me you have a daughter still living."
"You are inquisitive, young man," rejoined Thirlby, sternly.
"You do me wrong, sir," replied Leonard. "I have no curiosity as regards
yourself; and if I had, would never lower myself in my own estimation to
gratify it. Feeling a strong interest in Nizza Macascree, I am naturally
anxious to know whether my suspicion that a near relationship subsists
between yourself and her is correct."
"I cannot enter into further explanation now," returned Thirlby. "Meet
me at Doctor Hodges's this evening, and you shall know more. And now
farewell. I am in the midst of a deeply-interesting conversation, which
your presence interrupts. Do not think me rude--do not think me
ungrateful. My anxiety must plead my excuse."
"None is necessary, sir," replied Leonard. "I will no longer place any
restraint upon you."
So saying, and taking care not to let Bell out, he passed through the
door, and closed it after him. Having walked to some distance across the
fields, musing on what had just occurred, and scarcely conscious whither
he was going, he threw himself down on the grass, and fell asleep. He
awoke after some time much refreshed, and finding he was considerably
nearer Bishopsgate than any other entrance into the city, determined to
make for it. A few minutes brought him to a row of houses without the
walls, none of which appeared to have escaped infection, and passing
them, he entered the city gate. As he proceeded along the once-crowded
but now utterly-deserted thoroughfare that opened upon him, he could
scarcely believe he was in a spot which had once been the busiest of the
busy haunts of men--so silent, so desolate did it appear! On reaching
Cornhill, he found it equally deserted. The Exchange was closed, and as
Leonard looked at its barred gates, a saddening train of reflection
passed through his mind. His head declined upon his breast, and he
continued lost in a mournful reverie until he was roused by a hand laid
upon his shoulder, and starting--for such a salutation at this season
was alarming--he looked round, and beheld Solomon Eagle.
"You are looking upon that structure," said the enthusiast, "and are
thinking how much it is changed. Men who possess boundless riches
imagine their power above that of their Maker, and suppose they may
neglect and defy him. But they are mistaken. Where are now the wealthy
merchants who used to haunt those courts and chambers?--why do they not
come here as of old?--why do they not buy and sell, and send their
messengers and ships to the farthest parts of the world? Because the
Lord hath smitten them and driven them forth--'From the least of them
even to the greatest of them,' as the prophet Jeremiah saith, 'every one
has been given to covetousness.' The balances of deceit have been in
their hands. They have cozened their neighbours, and greedily gained
from them, and will find it true what the prophet Ezekiel hath written,
that 'the Lord will pour out his indignation upon them, and consume them
with the fire of his wrath.' Yea, I tell you, unless they turn from
their evil ways--unless they cast aside the golden idol they now
worship, and set up the Holy One of Israel in its stead, a fire will be
sent to consume them, and that pile which they have erected as a temple
to their god shall be burnt to the ground."
Leonard's heart was too full to make any answer, and the enthusiast,
after a brief pause, again addressed him. "Have you seen Doctor Hodges
pass this way? I am in search of him."
"On what account?" asked Leonard anxiously. "His advice, I trust, is not
needed on behalf of any one in whom I am interested."
"No matter," replied Solomon Eagle, in a sombre tone; "have you seen
"I have not," rejoined the apprentice; "but he is probably at Saint
"I have just left the cathedral, and was told he had proceeded to some
house near Cornhill," rejoined the enthusiast.
"If you have been there, you can perhaps tell me how my master's porter,
Blaize Shotterel, is getting on," said Leonard.
"I can," replied the enthusiast. "I heard one of the chirurgeons say
that Doctor Hodges had pronounced him in a fair way of recovery. But I
must either find the doctor or go elsewhere. Farewell!"
"I will go with you in search of him," said Leonard.
"No, no; you must not--shall not," cried Solomon Eagle.
"Wherefore not?" asked the apprentice.
"Do not question me, but leave me," rejoined the enthusiast.
"Do you know aught of Amabel--of her retreat?" persisted Leonard, who
had a strange misgiving that the enthusiast's errand in some way
referred to her.
"I do," replied Solomon Eagle, gloomily; "but I again advise you not to
press me further."
"Answer me one question at least," cried Leonard. "Is she with the Earl
"She is," replied Solomon Eagle; "but I shall allay your fears in that
respect when I tell you she is sick of the plague."
Leonard heard nothing more, for, uttering a wild shriek, he fell to the
ground insensible. He was aroused to consciousness by a sudden sense of
strangulation, and opening his eyes, beheld two dark figures bending
over him, one of whom was kneeling on his chest. A glance showed him
that this person was Chowles; and instantly comprehending what was the
matter, and aware that the coffin-maker was stripping him previously to
throwing him into the dead-cart, which was standing hard by, he cried
aloud, and struggled desperately to set himself free. Little opposition
was offered; for, on hearing the cry, Chowles quitted his hold, and
retreating to a short distance, exclaimed, with a look of surprise,
"Why, the fellow is not dead, after all!"
"I am neither dead, nor likely to die, as you shall find to your cost,
rascal, if you do not restore me the clothes you have robbed me of,"
cried Leonard, furiously. And chancing to perceive a fork, dropped by
Chowles in his hasty retreat, he snatched it up, and, brandishing it
over his head, advanced towards him. Thus threatened, Chowles tossed him
a rich suit of livery.
"These are not mine," said the apprentice, gazing at the habiliments.
"They are better than your own," replied Chowles, "and therefore you
ought to be glad of the exchange. But give me them back again. I have no
intention of making you a present."
"This is the livery of the Earl of Rochester," cried Leonard.
"To be sure it is," replied Chowles, with a ghastly smile. "One of his
servants is just dead."
"Where is the profligate noble?" cried Leonard, eagerly.
"There is the person who owned these clothes," replied Chowles, pointing
to the dead-cart. "You had better ask him."
"Where is the Earl of Rochester, I say, villain?" cried Leonard,
"How should I know?" rejoined Chowles. "Here are your clothes," he
added, pushing them towards him.
"I will have an answer," cried Leonard.
"Not from me," replied Chowles. And hastily snatching up the livery, he
put the cart in motion, and proceeded on his road. Leonard would have
followed him, but the state of his attire did not permit him to do so.
Having dressed himself, he hastened to the cathedral, where he soon
found the attendant who had charge of Blaize.
"Doctor Hodges has been with him," said the man, in reply to his
inquiries after the porter, "and has good hopes of him. But the patient
is not entirely satisfied with the treatment he has received, and wishes
to try some remedies of his own. Were his request granted, all would
soon be over with him."
"That I am sure of," replied Leonard. "But let us go to him."
"You must not heed his complaints," returned the attendant. "I assure
you he is doing as well as possible; but he is so dreadfully frightened
at a trifling operation which Doctor Hodges finds it necessary to
perform upon him, that we have been obliged to fasten him to the bed."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Leonard, suspiciously. "Has Judith Malmayns had no
hand in this arrangement?"
"Judith Malmayns has been absent during the whole of the afternoon,"
said the man, "and another nurse has taken her place in Saint Faith's.
She has never been near Blaize since I have had charge of him."
By this time they had reached the pallet in which the porter was laid.
His eyes and a small portion of his snub-nose were alone visible, his
head being still enveloped by the linen cloth, while his mouth was
covered by blankets. He looked so anxiously at the apprentice, that the
latter removed the covering from his mouth, and enabled him to speak.
"I am glad to find you are getting on so well," said Leonard, in a
cheerful tone. "Doctor Hodges has been with you, I understand?"
"He has," groaned Blaize; "but he has done me no good--none whatever. I
could doctor myself much better, if I might be allowed; for I know every
remedy that has been prescribed for the plague; but he would adopt none
that I mentioned to him. I wanted him to place a hot loaf, fresh from
the oven, to the tumour, to draw it; but he would not consent. Then I
asked for a cataplasm, composed of radish-roots, mustard-seed, onions
and garlic roasted, mithridate, salt, and soot from a chimney where wood
only has been burnt. This he liked no better than the first. Next, I
begged for an ale posset with pimpernel soaked in it, assuring him that
by frequently drinking such a mixture, Secretary Naunton drew the
infection from his very heart. But the doctor would have none of it, and
seemed to doubt the fact."
"What did he do?" inquired Leonard.
"He applied oil of St. John's wort to the tumour," replied Blaize, with
a dismal groan, and said, "if the scar did not fall off, he must
cauterize it. Oh! I shall never be able to bear the pain of the
"Recollect your life is at stake," rejoined Leonard. "You must either
submit to it or die."
"I know I must," replied Blaize, with a prolonged groan; "but it is a
"You will not find the operation so painful as you imagine," rejoined
Leonard; "and you know I speak from personal experience."
"You give me great comfort," said Blaize. "And so you really think I
shall get better?"
"I have no doubt of it, if you keep up your spirits," replied Leonard.
"The worst is evidently over. Behave like a man."
"I will try to do so," rejoined Blaize. "I have been told that if a
circle is drawn with a blue sapphire round a plague-blotch, it will fall
off. Couldn't we just try the experiment?"
"It will not do to rely upon it," observed the attendant, with a smile.
"You will find a small knob of red-hot iron, which we call the 'button,'
much more efficacious."
"Oh dear! oh dear!" exclaimed Blaize, "I already feel that dreadful
button burning into my flesh."
"On the contrary, you won't feel it at all," replied the attendant. "The
iron only touches the point of the tumour, in which there is no
"In that case, I don't care how soon the operation is performed,"
"Doctor Hodges will choose his own time for it," said the attendant. "In
the mean time, here is a cup of barley-broth for you. You will find it
do you good."
While the man applied the cup to the poor porter's lips--for he would
not unloose the straps, for fear of mischief--Leonard, who was sickened
by the terrible scene around him, took his departure, and quitted the
cathedral by the great western entrance. Seating himself on one of the
great blocks of stone left there by the workmen employed in repairing
the cathedral, but who had long since abandoned their task, he thought
over all that had recently occurred. Raising his eyes at length, he
looked toward the cathedral. The oblique rays of the sun had quitted the
columns of the portico, which looked cold and grey, while the roof and
towers were glittering in light. In ten minutes more, only the summit of
the central tower caught the last reflection of the declining orb.
Leonard watched the rosy gleam till it disappeared, and then steadfastly
regarded the reverend pile as its hue changed from grey to black, until
at length each pinnacle and buttress, each battlement and tower, was
lost in one vast indistinct mass. Night had fallen upon the city--a
night destined to be more fatal than any that had preceded it; and yet
it was so calm, so beautiful, so clear, that it was scarcely possible to
imagine that it was unhealthy. The destroying angel was, however,
fearfully at work. Hundreds were falling beneath his touch; and as
Leonard wondered how many miserable wretches were at that moment
released from suffering, it crossed him like an icy chill, that among
the number might be Amabel. So forcibly was he impressed by this idea,
that he fell on his knees and prayed aloud.
He was aroused by hearing the ringing of a bell, which announced the
approach of the dead-cart, and presently afterwards the gloomy vehicle
approached from Ludgate-hill, and moved slowly towards the portico of
the cathedral, where it halted. A great number of the dead were placed
within it, and the driver, ringing his bell, proceeded in the direction
of Cheapside. A very heavy dew had fallen; for as Leonard put his hand
to his clothes, they felt damp, and his long hair was filled with
moisture. Reproaching himself with having needlessly exposed himself to
risk, he was about to walk away, when he heard footsteps at a little
distance, and looking in the direction of the sound, perceived the tall
figure of Thirlby. Calling to him, the other, who appeared to be in
haste, halted for a moment, and telling the apprentice he was going to
Doctor Hodges's, desired him to accompany him thither, and went on.
* * * * *
THE HOUSE IN NICHOLAS-LANE.
On reaching Watling-street, Leonard and his companion found Doctor
Hodges was from home. This did not much surprise the apprentice, after
the information he had received from Solomon Eagle, but Thirlby was
greatly disappointed, and eagerly questioned the porter as to the
probable time of his master's return. The man replied that it was quite
uncertain, adding, "He has been in since you were last here, and has
seen Blaize. He had not been gone to the cathedral many minutes when a
gentleman arrived, desiring his instant attendance upon a young woman
who was sick of the plague."
"Did you hear her name?" asked Leonard and Thirlby, in a breath.
"No," replied the porter, "neither did I obtain any information
respecting her from the gentleman, who appeared in great distress. But I
observed that my master, on his return, looked much surprised at seeing
him, and treated him with a sort of cold respect."
"Was the gentleman young or old?" demanded Leonard, hastily.
"As far as I noticed," replied the porter, "for he kept his face covered
with a handkerchief, I should say he was young--very young."
"You are sure it was not Lord Rochester?" pursued Leonard.
"How should I be sure of it," rejoined the porter, "since I have never
seen his lordship that I am aware of? But I will tell you all that
happened, and you can judge for yourselves. My master, as I have just
said, on seeing the stranger, looked surprised and angry, and bowing
gravely, conducted him to his study, taking care to close the door after
him. I did not, of course, hear what passed, but the interview was brief
enough, and the gentleman, issuing forth, said, as he quitted the room,
'You will not fail to come?' To which my master replied, 'Certainly not,
on the terms I have mentioned.' With this, the gentleman hurried out of
the house. Shortly afterwards the doctor came out, and said to me, 'I am
going to attend a young woman who is sick of the plague, and may be
absent for some time. If Mr. Thirlby or Leonard Holt should call, detain
them till my return.'"
"My heart tells me that the young woman he is gone to visit is no other
than Amabel," said Leonard Holt, sorrowfully.
"I suspect it is Nizza Macascree," cried Thirlby. "Which way did your
"I did not observe," replied the porter, "but he told me he should cross
"I will go into Southwark in quest of him," said Thirlby. "Every moment
is of consequence now."
"You had better stay where you are," replied the old porter. "It is the
surest way to meet with him."
Thirlby, however, was too full of anxiety to listen to reason, and his
impatience producing a corresponding effect upon Leonard, though from a
different motive, they set forth together. "If I fail to find him, you
may expect me back ere long," were Thirlby's last words to the porter.
Hurrying along Watling-street, and taking the first turning on the
right, he descended to Thames-street, and made the best of his way
towards the bridge. Leonard followed him closely, and they pursued their
rapid course in silence. By the time they reached the north gate of the
bridge, Leonard found his strength failing him, and halting at one of
the openings between the tall houses overlooking the river, where there
was a wooden bench for the accommodation of passengers, he sank upon it,
and begged Thirlby to go on, saying he would return to Watling-street as
soon as he recovered from his exhaustion. Thirlby did not attempt to
dissuade him from his purpose, but instantly disappeared.
The night, it has before been remarked, was singularly beautiful. It was
almost as light as day, for the full harvest moon (alas! there was no
harvest for it to smile upon!) having just risen, revealed every object
with perfect distinctness. The bench on which Leonard was seated lay on
the right side of the bridge, and commanded a magnificent reach of the
river, that flowed beneath like a sheet of molten silver. The apprentice
gazed along its banks, and noticed the tall spectral-looking houses on
the right, until his eye finally settled on the massive fabric of Saint
Paul's, the roof and towers of which rose high above the lesser
structures. His meditations were suddenly interrupted by the opening of
a window in the house near him, while a loud splash in the water told
that a body had been thrown into it. He turned away with a shudder, and
at the same moment perceived a watchman, with a halberd upon his
shoulder, advancing slowly towards him from the Southwark side of the
bridge. Pausing as he drew near the apprentice, the watchman
compassionately inquired whether he was sick, and being answered in the
negative, was about to pass on, when Leonard, fancying he recognised his
voice, stopped him.
"We have met somewhere before, friend," he said, "though where, or under
what circumstances, I cannot at this moment call to mind."
"Not unlikely," returned the other, roughly, "but the chances are
against our meeting again."
Leonard heaved a sigh at this remark. "I now recollect where I met you,
friend," he remarked. "It was at Saint Paul's, when I was in search of
my master's daughter, who had been carried off by the Earl of Rochester.
But you were then in the garb of a smith."
"I recollect the circumstance, too, now you remind me of it," replied
the other. "Your name is Leonard Holt as surely as mine is Robert
Rainbird. I recollect, also, that you offended me about a dog belonging
to the piper's pretty daughter, Nizza Macascree, which I was about to
destroy in obedience to the Lord Mayor's commands. However, I bear no
malice, and if I did, this is not a time to rip up old quarrels."
"You are right, friend," returned Leonard. "The few of us left ought to
be in charity with each other."
"Truly, ought we," rejoined Rainbird. "For my own part, I have seen so
much misery within the last few weeks, that my disposition is wholly
changed. I was obliged to abandon my old occupation of a smith, because
my master died of the plague, and there was no one else to employ me. I
have therefore served as a watchman, and in twenty days have stood at
the doors of more than twenty houses. It would freeze your blood were I
to relate the scenes I have witnessed."
"It might have done formerly," replied Leonard; "but my feelings are as
much changed as your own. I have had the plague twice myself."
"Then, indeed, you _can_ speak," replied Rainbird. "Thank God, I have
hitherto escaped it! Ah! these are terrible times--terrible times! The
worst that ever London knew. Although I have been hitherto miraculously
preserved myself, I am firmly persuaded no one will escape."
"I am almost inclined to agree with you," replied Leonard.
"For the last week the distemper has raged fearfully--fearfully,
indeed," said Rainbird; "but yesterday and to-day have far exceeded all
that have gone before. The distempered have died quicker than cattle of
the murrain. I visited upwards of a hundred houses in the Borough this
morning, and only found ten persons alive; and out of those ten, not
one, I will venture to say, is alive now. It will, in truth, be a mercy
if they are gone. There were distracted mothers raving over their
children,--a young husband lamenting his wife,--two little children
weeping over their dead parents, with none to attend them, none to feed
them,--an old man mourning over his son cut off in his prime. In short,
misery and distress in their worst form,--the streets ringing with
shrieks and groans, and the numbers of dead so great that it was
impossible to carry them off. You remember Solomon Eagle's prophecy?"
"Perfectly," replied Leonard; "and I lament to see its fulfilment."
"'The streets shall be covered with grass, and the living shall not be
able to bury their dead,'--so it ran," said Rainbird. "And it has come
to pass. Not a carriage of any description, save the dead-cart, is to be
seen in the broadest streets of London, which are now as green as the
fields without her walls, and as silent as the grave itself. Terrible
times, as I said before--terrible times! The dead are rotting in heaps
in the courts, in the alleys, in the very houses, and no one to remove
them. What will be the end of it all? What will become of this great
"It is not difficult to foresee what will become of it," replied
Leonard, "unless it pleases the Lord to stay his vengeful arm. And
something whispers in my ear that we are now at the worst. The scourge
cannot exceed its present violence without working our ruin; and deeply
as we have sinned, little as we repent, I cannot bring myself to believe
that God will sweep his people entirely from the face of the earth."
"I dare not hope otherwise," rejoined Rainbird, "though I would fain do
so. I discern no symptoms of abatement of the distemper, but, on the
contrary, an evident increase of malignity, and such is the opinion of
all I have spoken with on the subject. Chowles told me he buried two
hundred more yesterday than he had ever done before, and yet he did not
carry a third of the dead to the plague-pit. He is a strange fellow that
Chowles. But for his passion for his horrible calling there is no
necessity for him to follow it, for he is now one of the richest men in
"He must have amassed his riches by robbery, then," remarked Leonard.
"True," returned Rainbird. "He helps himself without scruple to the
clothes, goods, and other property, of all who die of the pestilence;
and after ransacking their houses, conveys his plunder in the dead-cart
to his own dwelling."
"In Saint Paul's?" asked Leonard.
"No--a large house in Nicholas-lane, once belonging to a wealthy
merchant, who perished, with his family, of the plague," replied
Rainbird. "He has filled it from cellar to garret with the spoil he has
"And how has he preserved it?" inquired the apprentice.
"The plague has preserved it for him," replied Rainbird. "The few
authorities who now act have, perhaps, no knowledge of his proceedings;
or if they have, have not cared to interfere, awaiting a more favourable
season, if it should ever arrive, to dispossess him of his hoard, and
punish him for his delinquencies; while, in the mean time, they are
glad, on any terms, to avail themselves of his services as a burier.
Other people do not care to meddle with him, and the most daring robber
would be afraid to touch infected money or clothes."
"If you are going towards Nicholas-lane," said Leonard, as if struck
with a sudden idea, "and will point out to me the house in question, you
will do me a favour."
Rainbird nodded assent, and they walked on together towards
Fish-street-hill. Ascending it, and turning off on the right, they
entered Great Eastcheap, but had not proceeded far when they were
obliged to turn back, the street being literally choked up with a pile
of carcasses deposited there by the burier's assistants. Shaping their
course along Gracechurch-street, they turned off into Lombard-street,
and as Leonard gazed at the goldsmiths' houses on either side, which
were all shut up, with the fatal red cross on the doors, he could not
help remarking to his companion, "The plague has not spared any of these
on account of their riches."
"True," replied the other; "and of the thousands who used formerly to
throng this street not one is left. Wo to London!--wo!--wo!"
Leonard echoed the sentiment, and fell into a melancholy train of
reflection. It has been more than once remarked that the particular day
now under consideration was the one in which the plague exercised its
fiercest dominion over the city; and though at first its decline was as
imperceptible as the gradual diminution of the day after the longest has
passed, yet still the alteration began. On that day, as if death had
known that his power was to be speedily arrested, he sharpened his
fellest arrows, and discharged them with unerring aim. To pursue the
course of the destroyer from house to house--to show with what
unrelenting fury he assailed his victims--to describe their
sufferings--to number the dead left within their beds, thrown into the
streets, or conveyed to the plague-pits--would be to present a narrative
as painful as revolting. On this terrible night it was as hot as if it
had been the middle of June. No air was stirring, and the silence was so
profound, that a slight noise was audible at a great distance. Hushed in
the seemingly placid repose lay the great city, while hundreds of its
inhabitants were groaning in agony, or breathing their last sigh.
On reaching the upper end of Nicholas-lane, Rainbird stood still for a
moment, and pointed out a large house on the right, just below the old
church dedicated to the saint from which the thoroughfare took its name.
They were about to proceed towards it, when the smith again paused, and
called Leonard's attention to two figures quickly advancing from the
lower end of the street. As the apprentice and his companion stood in
the shade, they could not be seen, while the two persons, being in the
moonlight, were fully revealed. One of them, it was easy to perceive,
was Chowles. He stopped before the door of his dwelling and unfastened
it, and while he was thus occupied, the other person turned his face so
as to catch the full radiance of the moon, disclosing the features of
Sir Paul Parravicin. Before Leonard recovered from the surprise into
which he was thrown by this unexpected discovery, they had entered the
He then hurried forward, but, to his great disappointment, found the
door locked. Anxious to get into the house without alarming those who
had preceded him, he glanced at the windows; but the shutters were
closed and strongly barred. While hesitating what to do, Rainbird came
up, and guessing his wishes, told him there was a door at the back of
the house by which he might probably gain admittance. Accordingly they
hastened down a passage skirting the churchyard, which brought them to a
narrow alley lying between Nicholas-lane and Abchurch-lane. Tracking it
for about twenty yards, Rainbird paused before a small yard-door, and
trying the latch, found it yielded to his touch.
Crossing the yard, they came to another door. It was locked, and though
they could have easily burst it open, they preferred having recourse to
an adjoining window, the shutter of which, being carelessly fastened,
was removed without noise or difficulty. In another moment they gained a
small dark room on the ground-floor, whence they issued into a passage,
where, to their great joy, they found a lighted lantern placed on a
chair. Leonard hastily possessed himself of it, and was about to enter a
room on the left when his companion arrested him.
"Before we proceed further," he said in a low voice, "I must know what
you are about to do?"
"My purpose will be explained in a word," replied the apprentice in the
same tone. "I suspect that Nizza Macascree is confined here by Sir Paul
Parravicin and Chowles, and if it turns out I am right in my conjecture,
I propose to liberate her. Will you help me?"
"Humph!" exclaimed Rainbird, "I don't much fancy the job. However, since
I am here, I'll not go back. I am curious to see the coffin-maker's
hoards. Look at yon heap of clothes. There are velvet doublets and
silken hose enow to furnish wardrobes for a dozen court gallants. And
yet, rich as the stuffs are, I would not put the best of them on for all
the wealth of London."
"Nor I," replied Leonard. "I shall make free, however, with a sword," he
added, selecting one from the heap. "I may need a weapon."
"I require nothing more than my halberd," observed the smith; "and I
would advise you to throw away that velvet scabbard; it is a certain
harbour for infection."
Leonard did not neglect the caution, and pushing open the door, they
entered a large room which resembled an upholsterer's shop, being
literally crammed with chairs, tables, cabinets, moveable cupboards,
bedsteads, curtains, and hangings, all of the richest description.
"What I heard is true," observed Rainbird, gazing around in
astonishment. "Chowles must have carried off every thing he could lay
hands upon. What can he do with all that furniture?"
"What the miser does with his store," replied Leonard: "feast his eyes
with it, but never use it."
They then proceeded to the next room. It was crowded with books,
looking-glasses, and pictures; many of them originally of great value,
but greatly damaged by the careless manner in which they were piled one
upon another. A third apartment was filled with flasks of wine, with
casks probably containing spirits, and boxes, the contents of which they
did not pause to examine. A fourth contained male and female
habiliments, spread out like the dresses in a theatrical wardrobe. Most
of these garments were of the gayest and costliest description, and of
the latest fashion, and Leonard sighed as he looked upon them, and
thought of the fate of those they had so lately adorned.
"There is contagion enough in those clothes to infect a whole city,"
said Rainbird, who regarded them with different feelings. "I have half a
mind to set fire to them."
"It were a good deed to do so," returned Leonard; "but it must not be
done now. Let us go upstairs. These are the only rooms below."
Accordingly, they ascended the staircase, and entered chamber after
chamber, all of which were as full of spoil as those they had just
visited; but they could find no one, nor was there any symptom that the
house was tenanted. They next stood still within the gallery, and
listened intently for some sound to reveal those they sought, but all
was still and silent as the grave.
"We cannot be mistaken," observed Leonard. "It is clear this house is
the receptacle for Chowles's plunder. Besides, we should not have found
the lantern burning if they had gone forth again. No, no; they must be
hidden somewhere, and I will not quit the place till I find them." Their
search, however, was fruitless. They mounted to the garrets, opened
every door, and glanced into every corner. Still, no one was to be seen.
"I begin to think Nizza cannot be here," said the apprentice; "but I am
resolved not to depart without questioning Chowles on the subject."
"You must find him first," rejoined Rainbird. "If he is anywhere, he
must be in the cellar, for we have been into every room in this part of
the house. For my own part, I think you had better abandon the search
altogether. No good will come of it."
Leonard, however, was not to be dissuaded, and they went downstairs. A
short flight of stone steps brought them to a spacious kitchen, but it
was quite empty, and seemed to have been long disused. They then peeped
into the scullery adjoining, and were about to retrace their steps, when
Rainbird plucked Leonard's sleeve to call attention to a gleam of light
issuing from a door which stood partly ajar, in a long narrow passage
leading apparently to the cellars.
"They are there," he said, in a whisper.
"So I see," replied Leonard, in the same tone. And raising his finger to
his lips in token of silence, he stole forward on the points of his feet
and cautiously opened the door.
At the further end of the cellar--for such it was--knelt Chowles,
examining with greedy eyes the contents of a large chest, which, from
the hasty glance that Leonard caught of it, appeared to be filled with
gold and silver plate. A link stuck against the wall threw a strong
light over the scene, and showed that the coffin-maker was alone. As
Leonard advanced, the sound of his footsteps caught Chowles's ear, and
uttering a cry of surprise and alarm, he let fall the lid of the chest,
and sprang to his feet.
"What do you want?" he cried, looking uneasily round, as if in search of
some weapon. "Are you come to rob me?"
"No," replied Leonard; "neither are we come to reclaim the plunder you
have taken from others. We are come in search of Nizza Macascree."
"Then you have come on a fool's errand," replied Chowles, regaining his
courage, "for she is not here. I know nothing of her."
"That is false," replied Leonard. "You have just conducted Sir Paul
Parravicin to her."
This assertion on the part of the apprentice, which he thought himself
justified under the circumstances in making, produced a strong effect on
Chowles. He appeared startled and confounded. "What right have you to
play the spy upon me thus?" he faltered.
"The right that every honest man possesses to check the designs of the
wicked," replied Leonard. "You admit she is here. Lead me to her
hiding-place without more ado."
"If you know where it is," rejoined Chowles, who now perceived the trick
that had been practised upon him, "you will not want me to conduct you
to it. Neither Nizza nor Sir Paul Parravicin are here."
"That is false, prevaricating scoundrel," cried Leonard. "My companion
and I saw you enter the house with your profligate employer. And as we
gained admittance a few minutes after you, it is certain no one can have
left it. Lead me to Nizza's retreat instantly, or I will cut your
throat." And seizing Chowles by the collar, he held the point of his
sword to his breast.
"Use no violence," cried Chowles, struggling to free himself, "and I
will take you wherever you please. This way--this way." And he motioned
as if he would take them upstairs.
"Do not think to mislead me, villain," cried Leonard, tightening his
grasp. "We have searched every room in the upper part of the house, and
though we have discovered the whole of your ill-gotten hoards, we have
found nothing else. No one is there."
"Well, then," rejoined Chowles, "since the truth must out, Sir Paul is
in the next house. But it is his own abode. I have nothing to do with
it, nothing whatever. He is accountable for his own actions, and you
will be accountable to _him_ if you intrude upon his privacy. Release
me, and I swear to conduct you to him. But you will take the
consequences of your rashness upon yourself. I only go upon compulsion."
"I am ready to take any consequences," replied Leonard, resolutely.
"Come along, then," said Chowles, pointing down the passage.
"You mean us no mischief?" cried Leonard, suspiciously. "If you do, the
attempt will cost you your life."
Chowles made no answer, but moved along the passage as quickly as
Leonard, who kept fast hold of him and walked by his side, would permit.
Presently they reached a door, which neither the apprentice nor Rainbird
had observed before, and which admitted them into an extensive vault,
with a short staircase at the further end, communicating with a passage
that Leonard did not require to be informed was in another house.
Here Chowles paused. "I think it right to warn you you are running into
a danger from which ere long you will be glad to draw back, young man,"
he said, to the apprentice. "As a friend, I advise you to proceed no
further in the matter."
"Waste no more time in talking," cried Leonard, fiercely, and forcing
him forward as he spoke, "where is Nizza? Lead me to her without an
"A wilful man must have his way," returned Chowles, hurrying up the main
staircase. "It is not my fault if any harm befalls you."
They had just gained the landing when a door on the right was suddenly
thrown open, and Sir Paul Parravicin stood before them. He looked
surprised and startled at the sight of the apprentice, and angrily
demanded his business. "I am come for Nizza Macascree," replied Leonard,
"whom you and Chowles have detained against her will."
Parravicin glanced sternly and inquiringly at the coffin-maker.
"I have protested to him that she is not here, Sir Paul," said the
latter, "but he will not believe me, and has compelled me, by threats of
taking my life, to bring him and his companion to you."
"Then take them back again," rejoined Parravicin, turning haughtily upon
"That answer will not suffice, Sir Paul," cried Leonard--"I will not
depart without her."
"How!" exclaimed the knight, drawing his sword. "Do you dare to intrude
upon my presence? Begone! or I will punish your presumption." And he
prepared to attack the apprentice.
"Advance a footstep," rejoined Leonard, who had never relinquished his
grasp of Chowles, "and I pass my sword through this man's body. Speak,