When London Burned by G. A. Henty
Chapter XVI. Father and Son
The process of fumigation had well-nigh suffocated the wife and daughter of the trader, but, as soon as the smoke cleared away, Cyril set them all to work to carry up articles of furniture to another bedroom on the top floor.
"When your daughter is released from nursing, madam," he said, "she must at once come into this room, and remain there secluded for a few days. Therefore, it will be well to make it as comfortable as possible for her. Her food must be taken up and put outside the door, so that she can take it in there without any of you going near her."
The occupation was a useful one, as it distracted the thoughts of those engaged in it from the sick room.
Cyril did not enter there. He had told the girl to call him should there be any necessity, but said,--
"Do not call me unless absolutely needful, if, for instance, he becomes violent, in which case we must fasten the sheets across him so as to restrain him. But it is of no use your remaining shut up there if I go in and out of the room to carry the infection to the others."
"You have hurt your arm, doctor?" the mother said, when the arrangements were all made, and they had returned to the room below.
"Yes," he said; "I met with an accident, and must, for a short time, keep my arm in a sling."
"You look young, sir, to be running these fearful perils."
"I am young," Cyril said, "and have not yet completed all my studies; but Dr. Hodges judged that I was sufficiently advanced to be able to be of service to him, not so much in prescribing as by seeing that his orders were carried out."
Every half hour he went upstairs, and inquired, through the door, as to the state of the boy.
Late in the afternoon he heard the girl crying bitterly within. He knocked, and she cried out,--
"He is dead, sir; he has just expired."
"Then you must think of yourself and the others," he said. "The small packet I placed on the chair contains sulphur. Close the window, then place the packet on the fire, and leave the room at once and go into the next room, which is all ready for you. There, I pray you, undress, and sponge yourself with vinegar, then make your clothes into a bundle and put them outside the door. There will be a bowl of hot broth in readiness for you there; drink that, and then go to bed at once, and keep the blankets over you and try to sleep."
He went part of the way downstairs, and, in a minute or two, heard a door open and shut, then another door shut. Knowing that the order had been carried out, he went downstairs.
"Madam," he said, "God has taken your boy. The doctor had but little hope for him. For the sake of yourself and those around you, I pray you all to bear up against the sorrow."
The mother burst into tears, and, leaving her with her husband and daughter, Cyril went into the kitchen, where the maid and an apprentice were sitting with pale faces, and bade the servant at once warm up the broth, that had already been prepared. As soon as it was ready, he carried a basin upstairs. The bundle of clothes had already been placed outside the girl's room. He took this down and put it on the kitchen fire.
"Now," he said, "take four basins up to the parlour, and do you and the boy each make a hearty meal. I think there is little fear of the Plague spreading, and your best chance of avoiding it is by keeping up your spirits and not fretting about it."
As soon as the broth had been taken into the parlour, he went in and persuaded them to eat and to take a glass of wine with it, while he himself sat down with them.
"You are all weak," he said, "for, doubtless, you have eaten nothing to-day, and you need strength as well as courage. I trust that your daughter will presently go off into a sound sleep. The last thing before you go to bed, take up with you a basin of good posset with a glass of wine in it; knock gently at her door; if she is awake, tell her to come out and take it in as soon as you have gone, but if she does not reply, do not rouse her. I can be of no further use to-night, but will return in the morning, when I hope to find all is well."
The father accompanied him to the door.
"You will of course bring the poor boy down to-night. It were best that you made some excuse to sleep in another room. Let your daughter sleep with her mother. When you go in to fetch him, be careful that you do not enter at once, for the fumes of the sulphur will scarcely have abated. As you go in, place a wet handkerchief to your mouth, and make to the window and throw it open, closing the door behind you. Sit at the window till the air is tolerable, then wrap the blankets round him and carry him downstairs when you hear the bell. After he has gone tell the servant to have a brazier lighted, and to keep up the kitchen fire. As soon as he is gone, burn on the brazier at the foot of the stairs, tobacco and spices, as we did before; then take off your clothes and burn them on the kitchen fire, and then go up to bed. You can leave the doors and windows of the rooms that are not in use open, so that the smoke may escape."
"God bless you, sir!" the man said. "You have been a comfort indeed to us, and I have good hopes that the Plague will spread no further among us."
Cyril went first to the doctor's, and reported what had taken place.
"I will go round in the morning and see how they are," he concluded, "and bring you round word before you start on your rounds."
"You have done very well indeed," the doctor said. "If people everywhere would be as calm, and obey orders as well as those you have been with, I should have good hopes that we might check the spread of the Plague; but you will find that they are quite the exception."
This, indeed, proved to be the case. In many instances, the people were so distracted with grief and fear that they ran about the house like mad persons, crying and screaming, running in and out of the sick chamber, or sitting there crying helplessly, and refusing to leave the body until it was carried out to the dead-cart. But with such cases Cyril had nothing to do, as the doctor would only send him to the houses where he saw that his instructions would be carried out.
To his great satisfaction, Cyril found that the precautions taken in the first case proved successful. Regularly, every morning, he inquired at the door, and received the answer, "All are well."
In August the Plague greatly increased in violence, the deaths rising to ten thousand a week. A dull despair had now seized the population. It seemed that all were to be swept away. Many went out of their minds. The quacks no longer drove a flourishing trade in their pretended nostrums; these were now utterly discredited, for nothing seemed of the slightest avail. Some went to the opposite extreme, and affected to defy fate. The taverns were filled again, and boisterous shouts and songs seemed to mock the dismal cries from the houses with the red cross on the door. Robberies were rife. Regardless of the danger of the pest, robbers broke into the houses where all the inmates had perished by the Plague, and rifled them of their valuables. The nurses plundered the dying. All natural affection seemed at an end.
Those stricken were often deserted by all their relatives, and left alone to perish.
Bands of reckless young fellows went through the streets singing, and, dressing up in masks, performed the dance of death. The dead were too many to be carried away in carts at night to the great pits prepared for them, but the dismal tones of the bell, and the cries of "Bring out your dead!" sounded in the streets all day. It was no longer possible to watch the whole of the infected houses. Sometimes Plague-stricken men would escape from their beds and run through the streets until they dropped dead. One such man, in the height of his delirium, sprang into the river, and, after swimming about for some time, returned to the shore, marvellously cured of his malady by the shock.
Cyril went occasionally in the evening to the lodgings of Mr. Wallace. At first he met several people gathered there, but the number became fewer every time he went. He had told the minister that he thought that it would be better for him to stay away, exposed as he was to infection, but Mr. Wallace would take no excuses on this score.
"We are all in the hands of God," he said. "The streets are full of infected people, and I myself frequently go to pray with my friends in the earliest stages of the malady. There is no longer any use in precautions. We can but all go on doing our duty until we are called away, and even among the few who gather here of an evening there may be one or more who are already smitten, though unconscious yet that their summons has come."
Among others Cyril was introduced to a Mr. and Mrs. Harvey, who were, the minister told him, from the country, but were staying in town on account of a painful family business.
"I have tried to persuade them to return home and to stay there until the Plague ceases, but they conceive it their duty to remain. They are, like myself, Independents, and are not easily to be turned from a resolution they have taken."
Cyril could easily understand that Mr. Harvey was exactly what he, from the description he had heard of them, had pictured to himself that a Roundhead soldier would be. He had a stern face, eyes deeply sunk in his head, high cheekbones, a firm mouth, and a square jaw. He wore his hair cut close. His figure was bony, and he must, as a young man, have been very powerful. He spoke in a slow, deliberate way, that struck Cyril as being the result of long effort, for a certain restless action of the fingers and the quick movement of the eye, told of a naturally impulsive and fiery disposition. He constantly used scriptural texts in the course of his speech. His wife was gentle and quiet, but it was evident that there was a very strong sympathy between them, and Cyril found, after meeting them once or twice, that he liked them far better than he thought he should do on their first introduction. This was, no doubt, partly due to the fact that Mr. Harvey frequently entered into conversation with him, and appeared to interest himself in him. He was, too, a type that was altogether new to the lad. From his father, and his father's companions, he had heard nothing good of the Puritans, but the evident earnestness of this man's nature was, to some extent, in accordance with his own disposition, and he felt that, widely as he might differ from him on all points of politics, he could not but respect him. The evenings were pleasant. As if by common consent, the conversation never turned on the Plague, but they talked of other passing events, of the trials of their friends, and of the laws that were being put in force against Nonconformists.
"What think you of these persecutions, young sir?" Mr. Harvey abruptly asked Cyril, one evening, breaking off in the midst of a general conversation.
Cyril was a little confused at the unexpected question.
"I think all persecutions for conscience' sake are wrong," he said, after a moment's pause, "and generally recoil upon the persecutors. Spain lost Holland owing to her persecution of the people. France lost great numbers of her best citizens by her laws against the Protestants. I agree with you thoroughly, that the persecution of the Nonconformists at present is a grievous error, and a cruel injustice; but, at the same time, if you will excuse my saying so, it is the natural consequence of the persecution by the Nonconformists, when they were in power, of the ministers of the Church of England. My tutor in France was an English clergyman, who had been driven from his living, like thousands of other ministers, because he would not give up his opinions. Therefore, you see, I very early was imbued with a hatred of persecution in any form. I trust that I have not spoken too boldly; but you asked for my opinion, and I was forced to give it."
"At any rate, young sir, you have spoken manfully, and I like you none the worse for it. Nor can I altogether gainsay your words. But you must remember that we had before been oppressed, and that we have been engaged in a desperate struggle for liberty of conscience."
"Which, having won for ourselves, we proceeded to deny to others," Mr. Wallace said, with a smile. "Cyril has us fairly, Mr. Harvey. We are reaping what our fathers sowed. They thought that the power they had gained was to be theirs to hold always, and they used it tyrannously, being thereby false to all their principles. It is ever the persecuted, when he attains power, who becomes the persecutor, and, hard as is the pressure of the laws now, we should never forget that we have, in our time, been persecutors, and that in defiance of the rights of conscience we had fought to achieve. Man's nature is, I fear, unchangeable. The slave longs, above all things, for freedom, but when he rises successfully against his master he, in turn, becomes a tyrant, and not infrequently a cruel and bloodthirsty one. Still, we must hope. It may be in the good days that are to come, we may reach a point when each will be free to worship in his own fashion, without any fear or hindrance, recognising the fact that each has a right to follow his own path to Heaven, without its being a subject of offence to those who walk in other ways."
One or two of the other visitors were on the point of speaking, when Mr. Wallace put a stop to further argument by fetching a Bible from his closet, and preparing for the short service of prayer with which the evening always closed.
One evening, Mr. Harvey and his wife were absent from the usual gathering.
"I feel anxious about them," Mr. Wallace said; "they have never, since they arrived in town, missed coming here at seven o'clock. The bells are usually striking the hour as they come. I fear that one or other of them may have been seized by the Plague."
"With your permission, sir, I will run round and see," Cyril said. "I know their lodging, for I have accompanied them to the door several times. It is but five minutes' walk from here. If one or other is ill I will run round to Dr. Hodges, and I am sure, at my request, he will go round at once to see them."
Cyril walked fast towards the lodging occupied by the Harveys. It was at the house of a mercer, but he and his family had, three weeks before, gone away, having gladly permitted his lodgers to remain, as their presence acted as a guard to the house. They had brought up an old servant with them, and were therefore able to dispense with other attendants. Cyril hurried along, trying, as usual, to pay as little heed as he could to the doleful cries that arose from many of the houses. Although it was still broad daylight there was scarce a soul in the streets, and those he met were, like himself, walking fast, keeping as far as possible from any one they met, so as to avoid contact.
As he neared the house he heard a woman scream. A moment later a casement was thrown open, and Mrs. Harvey's head appeared. She gave another piercing cry for help, and was then suddenly dragged back, and the casement was violently closed. Cyril had so frequently heard similar cries that he would have paid no attention to it had it come from a stranger, but he felt that Mrs. Harvey was not one to give way to wild despair, even had her husband been suddenly attacked with the Plague. Her sudden disappearance, and the closing of the casement, too, were unaccountable, unless, indeed, her husband were in a state of violent delirium. He ran to the door and flung himself against it.
"Help me to force it down," he cried to a man who was passing.
"You are mad," the man replied. "Do you not see that they have got the Plague? You may hear hundreds of such cries every day."
Cyril drew his sword, which he always carried when he went out of an evening--for, owing to the deaths among the City watch, deeds of lawlessness and violence were constantly perpetrated--and struck, with all his strength, with the hilt upon the fastening of the casement next the door. Several of the small panes of glass fell in, and the whole window shook. Again and again he struck upon the same spot, when the fastening gave way, and the window flew open. He sprang in at once, ran through the shop into the passage, and then upstairs. The door was open, and he nearly fell over the body of a man. As he ran into the room he heard the words,--
"For the last time: Will you sign the deed? You think I will not do this, but I am desperate."
As the words left his mouth, Cyril sprang forward between the man and Mr. Harvey, who was standing with his arms folded, looking steadfastly at his opponent, who was menacing him with a drawn sword. The man, with a terrible oath, turned to defend himself, repeating the oath when he saw who was his assailant.
"I let you off last time lightly, you scoundrel!" Cyril exclaimed. "This time it is your life or mine."
The man made a furious lunge at him. Cyril parried it, and would at the next moment have run him through had not Mr. Harvey suddenly thrown himself between them, hurling Cyril's antagonist to the ground.
"Put up your sword," he said to Cyril. "This man is my son; scoundrel and villain, yet still my son, even though he has raised his hand against me. Leave him to God."
Cyril had stepped a pace back in his surprise. At first he thought that Mr. Harvey's trouble had turned his brain; then it flashed across him that this ruffian's name was indeed John Harvey. The man was about to rise from the floor when Cyril again sprang forward.
"Drop that sword," he exclaimed, "or I will run you through. Now, sir," he said to Mr. Harvey, "will you draw out that pistol, whose butt projects from his pocket, or your son may do one of us mischief yet?"
That such had been the man's intention was evident from the glance of baffled rage he threw at Cyril.
"Now, sir, go," his father said sternly. "Remember that, henceforth, you are no son of mine. Did I do my duty I should hand you over to the watch--not for your threats to me, but for the sword-thrust you have given to Joseph Edmonds, who has many times carried you on his shoulder when a child. You may compass my death, but be assured that not one farthing will you gain thereby. 'Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.' I leave it to Him to pay it. Now go."
John Harvey rose to his feet, and walked to the door. Then he turned and shook his fist at Cyril.
"Curse you!" he said. "I will be even with you yet."
Cyril now had time to look round. His eye fell upon the figure of Mrs. Harvey, who had fallen insensible. He made a step towards her, but her husband said, "She has but fainted. This is more pressing," and he turned to the old servant. Cyril aided him in lifting the old man up and laying him on the couch.
"He breathes," said he.
"He is wounded to death," Mr. Harvey said sadly; "and my son hath done it."
Cyril opened the servant's coat.
"Here is the wound, high up on the left side. It may not touch a vital part. It bleeds freely, and I have heard that that is a good sign."
"It is so," Mr. Harvey said excitedly. "Perhaps he may yet recover. I would give all that I am worth that it might be so, and that, bad as he may be, the sin of this murder should not rest on my son's soul."
"I will run for the doctor, sir, but before I go let me help you to lift your wife. She will doubtless come round shortly, and will aid you to stanch the wound till the doctor comes."
Mrs. Harvey was indeed already showing signs of returning animation. She was placed on a couch, and water sprinkled on her face. As soon as he saw her eyes open Cyril caught up his hat and ran to Dr. Hodges. The doctor had just finished his supper, and was on the point of going out again to see some of his patients. On hearing from Cyril that a servant of some friends of his had been wounded by a robber, he put some lint and bandages in his pocket, and started with him.
"These robberies are becoming more and more frequent," he said; "and so bold and reckless are the criminals that they seem to care not a jot whether they add murder to their other crimes. Where do you say the wound is?"
Cyril pointed below his own shoulder.
"It is just about there, doctor."
"Then it may be above the upper edge of the lung. If so, we may save the man. Half an inch higher or lower will make all the difference between life and death. As you say that it was bleeding freely, it is probable that the sword has missed the lung, for had it pierced it, the bleeding would have been chiefly internal, and the hope of saving him would have been slight indeed."
When they reached the house Cyril found that Mrs. Harvey had quite recovered. They had cut open the man's clothes and her husband was pressing a handkerchief, closely folded, upon the wound.
"It is serious, but, I think, not vital," Dr. Hodges said, after examining it. "I feel sure that the sword has missed the lung."
After cutting off the rest of the man's upper garments, he poured, from a phial he had brought with him, a few drops of a powerful styptic into the wound, placed a thick pad of lint over it, and bandaged it securely. Then, giving directions that a small quantity of spirits and water should be given to the patient from time to time, and, above all things, that he should be kept perfectly quiet, he hurried away.
"Is there anything more I can do, sir?" Cyril asked Mr. Harvey.
"Nothing more. You will understand, sir, what our feelings are, and that our hearts are too full of grief and emotion for us to speak. We shall watch together to-night, and lay our case before the Lord."
"Then I will come early in the morning and see if there is aught I can do, sir. I am going back now to Mr. Wallace, who was uneasy at your absence. I suppose you would wish me to say only that I found that there was a robber in the place who, having wounded your servant, was on the point of attacking you when I entered, and that he fled almost immediately."
"That will do. Say to him that for to-night we shall be busy nursing, and that my wife is greatly shaken; therefore I would not that he should come round, but I pray him to call here in the morning."
"I will do so, sir."
Cyril went downstairs, closed the shutters of the window into which he had broken, and put up the bars, and then went out at the door, taking special pains to close it firmly behind him.
He was glad to be out of the house. He had seen many sad scenes during the last few weeks, but it seemed to him that this was the saddest of all. Better, a thousand times, to see a son stricken by the Plague than this. He walked slowly back to the minister's. He met Mr. Wallace at the door of his house.
"I was coming round," the latter said. "Of course one or other of them are stricken?"
"No, sir; it was another cause that prevented their coming. Just as I reached the house I heard a scream, and Mrs. Harvey appeared at the casement calling for help. I forced open a window and ran up. I found that a robber had entered the house. He had seriously wounded the old servant, and was on the point of attacking Mr. Harvey when I entered. Taken by surprise, the man fled almost immediately. Mrs. Harvey had fainted. At first, we thought the servant was killed, but, finding that he lived, I ran off and fetched Dr. Hodges, who has dressed the wound, and thinks that the man has a good chance of recovery. As Mrs. Harvey had now come round, and was capable of assisting her husband, they did not accept my offer to stay and do anything I could. I said I was coming to you, and Mr. Harvey asked me to say that, although they were too much shaken to see you this evening, they should be glad if you would go round to them the first thing in the morning."
"Then the robber got away unharmed?" Mr. Wallace asked.
"He was unharmed, sir. I would rather that you did not question me on the subject. Mr. Harvey will doubtless enter fully into the matter with you in the morning. We did not exchange many words, for he was greatly disturbed in spirit at the wounding of his old servant, and the scene he had gone through; and, seeing that he and his wife would rather be alone with their patient, I left almost directly after Dr. Hodges went away. However, I may say that I believe that there are private matters in the affair, which he will probably himself communicate to you."
"Then I will ask no more questions, Cyril. I am well content to know that it is not as I feared, and that the Plague had not attacked them."
"I said that I would call round in the morning, sir; but I have been thinking of it as I came along, and consider that, as you will be there, it is as well that I should not do so. I will come round here at ten o'clock, and should you not have returned, will wait until you do. I do not know that I can be of any use whatever, and do not wish to intrude there. Will you kindly say this to them, but add that should they really wish me to go, I will of course do so?"
Mr. Wallace looked a little puzzled.
"I will do as you ask me, but it seems to me that they will naturally wish to see you, seeing that, had it not been for your arrival, they might have been robbed and perhaps murdered."
"You will understand better when you have seen Mr. Harvey, sir. Now I will be making for home; it is about my usual hour, and John Wilkes will be beginning to wonder and worry about me."
To John, Cyril told the same story as to Mr. Wallace.
"But, how was it that you let the villain escape, Master Cyril? Why did you not run him through the body?"
"I had other things to think of, John. There was Mrs. Harvey lying insensible, and the servant desperately wounded, and I thought more of these than of the robber, and was glad enough, when he ran out, to be able to turn my attention to them."
"Ay, ay, that was natural enough, lad; but 'tis a pity the villain got off scot-free. Truly it is not safe for two old people to be in an empty house by themselves in these times, specially as, maybe, the houses on either side are also untenanted, and robbers can get into them and make their way along the roof, and so enter any house they like by the windows there. It was a mercy you chanced to come along. Men are so accustomed now to hear screams and calls for aid, that none trouble themselves as to such sounds. And you still feel quite well?"
"Never better, John, except for occasional twitches in my shoulder."
"It does not knit so fast as it should do," John said. "In the first place, you are always on the move; then no one can go about into infected houses without his spirits being disturbed, and of all things a calm and easy disposition is essential for the proper healing of wounds. Lastly, it is certain that when there is poison in the air wounds do not heal so quickly as at other times."
"It is going on well enough, John; indeed, I could not desire it to do better. As soon as it is fairly healed I ought to join Prince Rupert again; but in truth I do not wish to go, for I would fain see this terrible Plague come to an end before I leave; for never since the days of the Black Death, hundreds of years ago, was there so strange and terrible a malady in this country."
Mr. Wallace had returned to his house when Cyril called the next morning.
"Thinking over what you said last night, Cyril, I arrived at a pretty correct conclusion as to what had happened, though I thought not that it could be as bad as it was. I knew the object with which Mr. Harvey and his wife had come up to London, at a time when most men were fleeing from it. Their son has, ever since he came up three years ago, been a source of grievous trouble to them, as he was, indeed, for a long time previously. Some natures seem naturally to turn to evil, and this boy's was one of them. It may be that the life at home was too rigid and severe, and that he revolted against it. Certain it is that he took to evil courses and consorted with bad companions. Severity was unavailing. He would break out of the house at night and be away for days. He was drunken and dissolute.
"At last, just after a considerable sum of money had come into the house from the tenants' rents, he stole it, and went up to London. His name was not mentioned at home, though his father learnt from correspondents here that he had become a hanger-on of the Court, where, his father being a man of condition, he found friends without difficulty. He was a gambler and a brawler, and bore a bad reputation even among the riff-raff of the Court. His father learnt that he had disappeared from sight at the time the Court went to Oxford early in June, and his correspondent found that he was reported to have joined a band of abandoned ruffians, whose least crimes were those of robbery.
"When the Plague spread rapidly, Mr. Harvey and his wife determined to come up to London, to make one more effort to draw him from his evil courses. The only thing that they have been able to learn for certain was, that he was one of the performers in that wicked mockery the dance of death, but their efforts to trace him have otherwise failed.
"They had intended, if they had found him, and he would have made promises of amendment, to have given him money that would have enabled him to go over to America and begin a new life there, promising him a regular allowance to maintain him in comfort. As they have many friends over there, some of whom went abroad to settle before the Civil War broke out here, they would be able to have news how he was going on; and if they found he was living a decent life, and truly repented his past course, they would in five years have had him back again, and reinstated him as their heir.
"I knew their intentions in the matter, and have done my best to gain them news of him. I did not believe in the reformation of one who had shown himself to be of such evil spirit; but God is all-powerful, and might have led him out from the slough into which he had fallen.
"Yesterday evening, half an hour before you went there, his father and mother were astonished at his suddenly entering. He saluted them at first with ironical politeness, and said that having heard from one from the same part of the country that he had seen them in London, he had had the streets thereabouts watched, and having found where they lodged, had come to pay his respects.
"There was a reckless bravado in his manner that alarmed his mother, and it was not long before the purpose of his visit came out. He demanded that his father should at once sign a deed which he had brought drawn out in readiness, assigning to him at once half his property.
"'You have,' he said, 'far more than you can require. Living as you do, you must save three-quarters of your income, and it would be at once an act of charity, and save you the trouble of dealing with money that is of no use to you.'
"His father indignantly refused to take any such step, and then told him the plans he had himself formed for him. At this he laughed scoffingly.
"'You have the choice,' he said, 'of giving me half, or of my taking everything.' And then he swore with terrible oaths that unless his father signed the paper, that day should be his last. 'You are in my power,' he said, 'and I am desperate. Do you think that if three dead bodies are found in a house now any will trouble to inquire how they came to their end? They will be tossed into the plague-cart, and none will make inquiry about them.'
"Hearing voices raised in anger, the old servant ran in. At once the villain drew and ran at him, passing his sword through his body. Then, as if transported at the sight of the blood he had shed, he turned upon his father. It was at this moment that his mother ran to the window and called for help. He dragged her back, and as she fell fainting with horror and fear he again turned upon his father; his passion grew hotter and hotter as the latter, upbraiding him with the deed he had done, refused to sign; and there is no doubt that he would have taken his life had you not luckily ran in at this moment.
"It has truly been a terrible night for them. They have passed it in prayer, and when I went this morning were both calm and composed, though it was easy to see by their faces how they had suffered, and how much the blow has told upon them. They have determined to save their son from any further temptation to enrich himself by their deaths. I fetched a lawyer for them; and when I left Mr. Harvey was giving him instructions for drawing up his will, by which every farthing is left away from him. They request me to go to them this evening with two or three of our friends to witness it, as it is necessary in a time like this that a will should be witnessed by as many as possible, as some may be carried off by the Plague; and should all the witnesses be dead, the will might be disputed as a forgery. So the lawyer will bring his clerks with him, and I shall take four or five of our friends.
"They will return to the country as soon as their servant can be moved. Dr. Hodges came when I was there, and gives hopes that the cure will be a speedy one. We are going to place some men in the house. I have among my poorer friends two men who will be glad to establish themselves there with their wives, seeing that they will pay no rent, and will receive wages as long as Mr. Harvey remains there. There will thus be no fear of any repetition of the attempt. Mr. Harvey, on my advice, will also draw up and sign a paper giving a full account of the occurrence of last evening, and will leave this in the hands of the lawyer.
"This will be a protection to him should his son follow him into the country, as he will then be able to assure him that if he proceeds to violence suspicion will at once fall upon him, and he will be arrested for his murder. But, indeed, the poor gentleman holds but little to his life; and it was only on my representing to him that this document might be the means of averting the commission of the most terrible of all sins from the head of his son, that he agreed to sign it. I gave him your message, and he prays me to say that, deeply grateful as he and his wife are to you, not so much for the saving of their lives, as for preventing their son's soul being stained by the crime, they would indeed rather that you did not call for a time, for they are so sorely shaken that they do not feel equal to seeing you. You will not, I hope, take this amiss."
"By no means," Cyril replied; "it is but a natural feeling; and, in truth, I myself am relieved that such is their decision, for it would be well-nigh as painful to me as to them to see them again, and to talk over the subject."
"By the way, Cyril, Mr. Harvey said that when you saw his son you cried out his name, and that by the manner in which he turned upon you it was clear that he had some cause for hating you. Is this so, or was it merely his fancy?"
"It was no fancy, sir. It is not long since I thwarted his attempt to carry off the daughter of a city merchant, to whom he had represented himself as a nobleman. He was in the act of doing so, with the aid of some friends, when, accompanied by John Wilkes, I came up. There was a fray, in the course of which I ran him through the shoulder. The young lady returned home with us, and has since heartily repented of her folly. I had not seen the man since that time till I met him yesterday; but certainly the house was watched for some time, as I believe, by his associates who would probably have done me an ill turn had I gone out after nightfall."
"That explains it, Cyril. I will tell Mr. Harvey, whose mind has been much puzzled by your recognition of his son."