The afternoon on which they were to enter the old town of Kingston-upon-Hull closed in with a dense sea-fog, fast turning to drizzling rain. They could see but a little distance on either side, and could not see the lordly old church tower. The beads of dew on the fringes of her pony’s ears were more visible to Cicely than anything else, and as she kept along by Master Richard’s side, she rejoiced both in the beaten, well-trodden track, and in the pealing bells which seemed to guide them into the haven; while Richard was resolving, as he had done all through the journey, where he could best lodge his companion so as to be safe, and at the same time free from inconvenient curiosity.
The wetness of the evening made promptness of decision the more needful, while the bad weather which his experienced eye foresaw would make the choice more important.
Discerning through the increasing gloom a lantern moving in the street which seemed to him to light a substantial cloaked figure, he drew up and asked if he were in the way to a well-known hostel. Fortune had favoured him, for a voice demanded in return, “Do I hear the voice of good Captain Talbot? At your service.”
“Yea, it is I—Richard Talbot. Is it you, good Master Heatherthwayte?”
“It is verily, sir. Well do I remember you, good trusty Captain, and the goodly lady your wife. Do I see her here?” returned the clergyman, who had heartily grasped Richard’s hand.
“No, sir, this is my daughter, for whose sake I would ask you to direct me to some lodging for the night.”
“Nay, if the young lady will put up with my humble chambers, and my little daughter for her bedfellow, I would not have so old an acquaintance go farther.”
Richard accepted the offer gladly, and Mr. Heatherthwayte walked close to the horses, using his lantern to direct them, and sending flashes of light over the gabled ends of the old houses and the muffled passengers, till they came to a long flagged passage, when he asked them to dismount, bidding the servants and horses to await his return, and giving his hand to conduct the young lady along the narrow slippery alley, which seemed to have either broken walls or houses on either aide.
He explained to Richard, by the way, that he had married the godly widow of a ship chandler, but that it had pleased Heaven to take her from him at the end of five years, leaving him two young children, but that her ancient nurse had the care of the house and the little ones.
Curates were not sumptuously lodged in those days. The cells which had been sufficient for monks commissioned by monasteries were no homes for men with families; and where means were to be had, a few rooms had been added without much grace, or old cottages adapted—for indeed the requirements of the clergy of the day did not soar above those of the farmer or petty dealer. Master Heatherthwayte pulled a string depending from a hole in a door, the place of which he seemed to know by instinct, and admitted the newcomers into a narrow paved entry, where he called aloud, “Here, Oil! Dust! Goody! Bring a light! Here are guests!”