“Begone, wretch!” cried the mother, stung beyond endurance by his taunts; “or I will drive you hence with my curses.”
“Curse on, and welcome,” jeered Wild.
Mrs. Sheppard raised her hand, and the malediction trembled upon her tongue. But ere the words could find utterance, her maternal tenderness overcame her indignation; and, sinking upon her knees, she extended her arms over her child.
“A mother’s prayers—a mother’s blessings,” she cried, with the fervour almost of inspiration, “will avail against a fiend’s malice.”
“We shall see,” rejoined Jonathan, turning carelessly upon his heel.
And, as he quitted the room, the poor widow fell with her face upon the floor.
[Footnote A: At the hospital of Saint Giles for Lazars, the prisoners conveyed from the City of London towards Tyburn, there to be executed for treasons, felonies, or other trespasses, were presented with a Bowl of Ale, thereof to drink, as their last refreshing in this life.—Strype’s Stow. Book. IX. ch. III.]
As soon as he was liberated by his persecutors, Mr. Wood set off at full speed from the Mint, and, hurrying he scarce knew whither (for there was such a continual buzzing in his ears and dancing in his eyes, as almost to take away the power of reflection), he held on at a brisk pace till his strength completely failed him.
On regaining his breath, he began to consider whither chance had led him; and, rubbing his eyes to clear his sight, he perceived a sombre pile, with a lofty tower and broad roof, immediately in front of him. This structure at once satisfied him as to where he stood. He knew it to be St. Saviour’s Church. As he looked up at the massive tower, the clock tolled forth the hour of midnight. The solemn strokes were immediately answered by a multitude of chimes, sounding across the Thames, amongst which the deep note of Saint Paul’s was plainly distinguishable. A feeling of inexplicable awe crept over the carpenter as the sounds died away. He trembled, not from any superstitious dread, but from an undefined sense of approaching danger. The peculiar appearance of the sky was not without some influence in awakening these terrors. Over one of the pinnacles of the tower a speck of pallid light marked the position of the moon, then newly born and newly risen. It was still profoundly dark; but the wind, which had begun to blow with some violence, chased the clouds rapidly across the heavens, and dispersed the vapours hanging nearer the earth. Sometimes the moon was totally eclipsed; at others, it shed a wan and ghastly glimmer over the masses rolling in the firmament. Not a star could be discerned, but, in their stead, streaks of lurid radiance, whence proceeding it was impossible to determine, shot ever and anon athwart the dusky vault, and added to the ominous and threatening appearance of the night.