“I understand your majesty,” replied Argentine—“your commands shall be implicitly obeyed. And if the conflagration has not gone too far, I will answer with my life that I preserve the fortress.” And he departed on his mission.
WHAT BEFEL CHOWLES AND JUDITH IN THE VAULTS OF SAINT FAITH’S.
Having now seen what occurred outside Saint Paul’s, we shall proceed to the vaults beneath it. Chowles and Judith, it has been mentioned, were descried by Leonard, just before the outbreak of the fire, stealing into Saint Faith’s, and carrying a heavy chest between them. This chest contained some of the altar-plate, which they had pillaged from the Convocation House. As they traversed the aisles of Saint Faith’s, which were now filled with books and paper, they could distinctly hear the raging of the fire without, and Judith, who was far less intimidated than her companion, observed, “Let it roar on. It cannot injure us.”
“I am not so sure of that,” replied Chowles, doubtfully, “I wish we had taken our hoards elsewhere.”
“There is no use in wishing that now,” rejoined Judith. “And it would have been wholly impossible to get them out of the city. But have no fear. The fire, I tell you, cannot reach us. It could as soon burn into the solid earth as into this place.”
“It comforts me to hear you say so,” replied Chowles. “And when I think of those mighty stone floors above us, I feel we are quite safe. No, no, it can never make its way through them.”
Thus discoursing, they reached the charnel at the further end of the church, where Chowles struck a light, and producing a flask of strong waters, took a copious draught himself and handed the flask to Judith, who imitated his example. Their courage being thus stimulated, they opened the chest, and Chowles was so enraptured with its glittering contents that he commenced capering round the vault. Recalled to quietude by a stern reproof from Judith, he opened a secret door in the wall, and pushed the chest into a narrow passage beyond it. Fearful of being discovered in their retreat, they took a basket of provisions and liquor with them, and then closed the door. For some time, they proceeded along the passage, pushing the chest before them, until they came to a descent of a few steps, which brought them to a large vault, half-filled with bags of gold, chests of plate, caskets, and other plunder. At the further end of this vault was a strong wooden door. Pushing the chest into the middle of the chamber, Chowles seated himself upon it, and opening the basket of provisions, took out the bottle of spirits, and again had recourse to it.
“How comfortable and secure we feel in this quiet place,” he said; “while all above us is burning. I declare I feel quite merry, ha! ha!” And he forced a harsh and discordant laugh.
“Give me the bottle,” rejoined Judith, sternly, “and don’t grin like a death’s head. I don’t like to see the frightful face you make.”