“You have rendered me a most important service,” replied Leonard; “and I hope hereafter to prove my gratitude. But let us now descend to the choir, where I will conceal myself till Amabel appears. This marriage must be prevented.”
Before quitting the belfry, Leonard chanced to cast his eyes on a stout staff left there, either by one of the bell-ringers or some chance visitant, and seizing it as an unlooked-for prize, he ran down the steps, followed by the piper’s daughter.
On opening the lowest door, he glanced towards the choir, and there before the high altar stood Quatremain in his surplice, with the earl and Amabel, attended by Etherege and Pillichody. The ceremony had just commenced. Not a moment was to be lost. Grasping his staff, the apprentice darted along the nave, and, rushing up to the pair, exclaimed in a loud voice, “Hold! I forbid this marriage. It must not take place!”
“Back, sirrah!” cried Etherege, drawing his sword, and opposing the approach of the apprentice. “You have no authority to interrupt it. Proceed, Mr. Quatremain.”
“Forbear!” cried a voice of thunder near them—and all turning at the cry, they beheld Solomon Eagle, with his brazier on his head, issue from behind the stalls. “Forbear!” cried the enthusiast, placing himself between the earl and Amabel, both of whom recoiled at his approach. “Heaven’s altar must not be profaned with these mockeries! And you, Thomas Quatremain, who have taken part in this unrighteous transaction, make clean your breast, and purge yourself quickly of your sins, for your hours are numbered. I read in your livid looks and red and burning eyeballs that you are smitten by the pestilence.”
It will now be necessary to ascertain what took place at the grocer’s habitation subsequently to Amabel’s abduction. Leonard Holt having departed, Pillichody was preparing to make good his retreat, when he was prevented by Blaize, who, hearing a noise in the yard, peeped cautiously out at the back-door, and inquired who was there?
“Are you Mr. Bloundel?” rejoined Pillichody, bethinking him of a plan to turn the tables upon the apprentice.
“No, I am his porter,” replied the other.
“What, Blaize!” replied Pillichody. “Thunder and lightning! don’t you remember Bernard Boutefeu, the watchman?”
“I don’t remember any watchman of that name, and I cannot discern your features,” rejoined Blaize. “But your voice sounds familiar to me. What are you doing there?”
“I have been trying to prevent Leonard Holt from carrying off your master’s daughter, the fair Mistress Amabel,” answered Pillichody. “But he has accomplished his villanous purpose in spite of me.”
“The devil he has!” cried Blaize. “Here is a pretty piece of news for my master. But how did you discover him?”