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.’”