“I have no desire to escape, sir,” replied the nurse. “You will find everything as I have represented.”
“We shall see,” replied the doctor. “If not, you will have to tend the sick in Newgate.”
The trio then proceeded to Saint Paul’s, and descended to the vaults. Hodges carefully examined the body of the unfortunate sexton, but though he entertained strong suspicions, he could not pronounce positively that he had been improperly treated; and as the statement of Mrs. Malmayns was fully borne out by the vergers and others, he did not think it necessary to pursue the investigation further. As soon as he was gone, Judith accompanied the coffin-maker to his residence, where she remained, till the evening, when she was suddenly summoned, in a case of urgency, by a messenger from Sibbald, the apothecary of Clerkenwell.
After Parravicin’s terrible announcement, Disbrowe offered him no further violence, but, flinging down his sword, burst open the door, and rushed upstairs. His wife was still insensible, but the fatal mark that had betrayed the presence of the plague to the knight manifested itself also to him, and he stood like one entranced, until Mrs. Disbrowe, recovering from her swoon, opened her eyes, and, gazing at him, cried—“You here!—Oh Disbrowe, I dreamed you had deserted me—had sold me to another.”
“Would it were a dream!” replied her husband.
“And was it not so?” she rejoined, pressing her hand to her temples. “It is true! oh! yes, I feel it is. Every circumstance rushes upon me plainly and distinctly. I see the daring libertine before me. He stood where you stand, and told me what you had done.”
“What did he tell you, Margaret?” asked Disbrowe in a hollow voice.
“He told me you were false—that you loved another, and had abandoned me.”
“He lied!” exclaimed Disbrowe, in a voice of uncontrollable fury. “It is true that, in a moment of frenzy, I was tempted to set you—yes, you, Margaret—against all I had lost at play, and was compelled to yield up the key of my house to the winner. But I have never been faithless to you—never.”
“Faithless or not,” replied his wife, bitterly, “it is plain you value me less than play, or you would not have acted thus.”
“Reproach me not, Margaret,” replied Disbrowe; “I would give worlds to undo what I have done.”
“Who shall guard me against the recurrence of such conduct?” said Mrs. Disbrowe, coldly. “But you have not yet informed me how I was saved.”
Disbrowe averted his head.
“What mean you?” she cried, seizing his arm. “What has happened? Do not keep me in suspense? Were you my preserver?”
“Your preserver was the plague,” rejoined Disbrowe, in a sombre tone.
The unfortunate lady then, for the first time, perceived that she was attacked by the pestilence, and a long and dreadful pause ensued, broken only by exclamations of anguish from both.