“I am a witness to your words my lord,” said Rochester, “and I call upon all present to be so likewise.”
“Rochester, you were once my friend,” groaned Argentine, “and may yet be a friend to the dead. Remember the king sells titles. Teach this young man how to purchase one. My sister must not wed one of his degree.”
“Make yourself easy on that score,” replied Rochester; “he has already sufficient claim upon the king. He saved his life yesterday.”
“He will trust to a broken reed if he trusts to Charles’s gratitude,” replied Argentine. “Buy the title—buy it, I say. My sister left me yesterday. I visited my anger on her head, and she fled. I believe she took refuge with Doctor Hodges, but I am sure he can tell you where she is. One thing more,” continued the dying man, fixing his glazing eyes on Leonard. “Go to Newgate—to—to a prisoner there—an incendiary—and obtain a document of him. Tell him, with my dying breath I charged you to do this. It will enable you to act as I have directed. Promise me you will go. Promise me you will fulfil my injunctions.”
“I do,” replied Leonard.
“Enough,” rejoined Argentine. “May you be happy with Isabella.” And removing his hand from his side, a copious effusion of blood followed, and, sinking backwards, he expired.
THE BURNING OF SAINT PAUL’S.
Several other persons having by this time come up, the body of Lord Argentine was conveyed to Bishop Kempe’s Chapel, and left there till a fitting season should arrive for its removal. Confounded by the tragical event that had taken place, Leonard remained with his eyes fixed upon the blood-stained pavement, until he was roused by an arm which gently drew him away, while the voice of the Earl of Rochester breathed in his ear, “This is a sad occurrence, Leonard; and yet it is most fortunate for you, for it removes the only obstacle to your union with the Lady Isabella. You see how fleeting life is, and how easily we may be deprived of it. I tried to reason Lord Argentine into calmness; but nothing would satisfy him except my blood; and there he lies, though not by my hand. Let his fate be a lesson to us, and teach us to live in charity with each other. I have wronged you—deeply wronged you; but I will make all the atonement in my power, and let me think I am forgiven.”
The blood rushed tumultuously to Leonard’s heart as he listened to what the earl said, but overcoming his feelings of aversion by a powerful effort, he took the proffered hand.
“I do forgive you my lord,” he said.
“Those words have removed a heavy weight from my soul,” replied Rochester; “and if death should trip up my heels as suddenly as he did his who perished on this spot, I shall be better prepared to meet him. And now let me advise you to repair to Newgate without delay, and see the wretched man, and obtain the document from him. The fire will reach the gaol ere long, and the prisoners must of necessity be removed. Amid the confusion his escape might be easily accomplished.”