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so, it will not be many days, I'll answer for it, before I find him out. I shall not rest till I discover his abode, that I may render him the aid and comfort which I am sure he needs."
That very day Mr. Pemberton began his inquiries; but it was nearly a month before they were attended with success. Instead of living, (as he had conjectured) near the spot where they had met, it turned out that his friend (for Gabriel Lindsay it proved to be) dwelt in a lone cottage near Waltham Abbey, some eight or ten miles distant; where his sole companion was an aged female (to whom the cottage belonged), who provided for him the few domestic conveniences he required.
Gabriel Lindsay was between sixty and seventy. Like Mr. Pemberton, he had carried on extensive mercantile dealings in the Levant; but distinguishing himself during the civil wars by his attachment to the king's cause, he had been frequently singled out for spoliation by the parliament, first as a malignant, then as a delinquent, then as a cavalier; and under those several denominations, though all signifying one and the same description of crime, loyalty, his coffers had been plundered. Still a rich man, however, at the period of the Restoration, he looked forward to the secure enjoyment of his wealth, in the bosom of an affectionate and beloved family. Similarity of pursuits, nearness of neighbourhood, and corresponding political sentiments, had cemented between him and Mr. Pemberton an intimate friendship.
In 1665, when the plague swept off in the course of a few months nearly half the population of London, and the desolation was so terrible, that in many of what had once been the principal thoroughfares of a crowded city, the rank grass sprang up as in the deserted halls of a ruined palace, Gabriel Lindsay disappeared. No other evidence was required of his having fallen a victim to the pestilence; for it was a thing of common occurrence during that appalling calamity, for whole families to disappear, and their fate be known only by their dwellings being found without a human being in them, after its ravages had abated.
Mr. Pemberton no sooner ascertained the retreat of Lindsay, than he set off for Waltham Abbey, with the design of prevailing upon him to take up his abode in his house at Hackney. It was evening when he reached the cottage, accompanied by the guide who had brought him the intelligence of its being Lindsay's habitation. Lindsay was sitting at the door, in conversation with his aged companion; but arose hastily and went in, while the old woman advanced to meet Mr. Pemberton. From her he soon had all the confirmation he required as to the identity of his friend, and learned other particulars, which prepared him the better for accomplishing his object.
When Mr. Pemberton entered the room where Lindsay was sitting, he walked up to him, took him by the hand, and called him by his name. slight shudder passed over him as he muttered, in a half whisper to himself, "Oh, the great and the dreadful God!" Mr. Pemberton continued to hold his hand without speaking; while Lindsay, slowly raising his eyes, fixed them upon him. Stephen Pemberton," said he, in a low calm voice, "I know you."
He folded his arms, drooped his head upon his bosom, and remained silent. Mr. Pemberton drew a chair beside him, sat down, and, after a short pause, spoke.
:66 Lindsay, it grieves me to see you thus. But cheer up, man! The storm that is loudest passes the swiftest: the tide of ill fortune ebbs at last, and we are often borne to happiness upon its retiring waters, at the very moment when our fainting spirits can no longer pay down the price for that cheapest of all earth's comforts-hope. It is even so now with thee. Do but resolve to welcome fortune, and she stands ready to greet you in return."
These words were poured into a deaf ear. Lindsay neither replied nor inanifested, by look or gesture, that he heeded them. He continued sitting în the same dejected attitude, with folded arms and downcast eyes.
Mr. Pemberton saw that his friend's reason had sustained a shock, under which, though it had not sunk, it was partially paralyzed; and his hope was, that the gentle consolations of friendship might restore the balance which a grievous calamity had disturbed.
In that benevolent hope he was not disappointed. Lindsay yielded, with little opposition, to the proposal of becoming, for a time, one of his family. But the cold indifference with which he yielded, showed it was to him merely a question of where he should linger out his remnant of life. It might have been proposed to conduct him to a palace or a prison, without awakening any corresponding emotion according as either had been assigned to him.'
It was, as we have said, in the summer of 1670, that this event took place. In the winter of 1682, twelve years afterwards, Gabriel Lindsay was still a part of Mr. Pemberton's family; but he was then upon his deathbed. During the intervening period he had felt the full benefit of the kindly attentions he had received. His mind recovered its stability so far as to be no longer subject to occasional aberrations; he regained enough of his former relish of society to mingle, at times, in that which constituted the select circle of his friend's table; and his conversation assumed a tranquillity that showed he had mastered the one solitary image which, before, reared itself in gloomy despotism over every other.
In all those twelve years, however, he never once glanced at that image; he never once spoke of those disastrous circumstances which had burst like a sudden tempest over him, and blighted his existence. His own silence became a solemn injunction upon his friend's lips, which were sealed. But now, when he felt his end approaching-when the world, he knew, would soon cease to be a living memorial to him of his great tribulation, it seemed as if it were a tribulation no longer; as if the release that was at hand, had already relieved him from his burden. Like a traveller who triumphs over perils, but tells of them at ease when they are past, and can return no more, so Gabriel Lindsay, while yet hovering on the confines of time and eternity, discoursed calmly of things which it was terrible for him but to think of, before their remembrance was hastening to oblivion.
It was only two days ere he breathed his last, that he unfolded to Mr. Pemberton the appalling history of a single week.
"I was returning from Smyrna in the autumn of 1665," said he, "when on my arrival at Leghorn I heard that the plague had broken out in London. I found letters at Leghorn from my family and friends; and one, I remember, from yourself. They were written, however, before the distemper had arrived at its height, and did not, therefore, communicate such alarming accounts as were conveyed by later intelligence. Impatient to reach England, I took my passage on board a ship which was to sail the next morning. We had a quick voyage. The first thing that gave me notice of what I might expect, was the appearance, as we sailed up the Thames, of ships, hoys, smacks, boats, and rafts, moored below bridge, crowded with men, women, and children, who had fled to them for refuge. In several of the small craft I saw the bodies of those who had died of the pestilence. They were in a stote of loathsome putrefaction; but no one ventured to go near them, to give them burial.
"With much difficulty I got on shore, and full of distraction, hurried to my house in Wood-street, Cheapside. But, good God!-What a sickness came over me, as I traversed what had more the appearance of green fields than of paved streets! The few persons who were moving about in silence and consternation, kept the middle of the road, at a distance from each other; every one fearing that those he passed might be infected. Neither carts nor coaches were to be seen, except some country waggons bringing provisions to market.
"Whole rows of houses were shut up; from some of which I heard the dismal wailing and shrieking of women. Passing through Lombard-street, a casement was violently and suddenly opened, just over my head. There
was a dreadful scream. I looked up and saw a young woman in her nightclothes, screeching Death! death !' in a tone which chilled my very blood. Presently, a youth rushed forth from an opposite house, crying, Oh, my father has dropped down dead!' He stood before me with his hands clasped, and looking piteously in my face, as if he thought I could restore his father to life. I passed on, wild with my own fears.
"I perceived that the doors of all the churches were thrown wide open. In Cheapside I met a maniac, almost naked, with a pan of burning charcoal on his head, who was denouncing judgment upon the city in a howling voice that had nothing human in it; and as I turned into Wood-street there was a minister, a venerable looking old man, standing in the highway opposite my own house, ejaculating, with uplifted hands, Spare us, good Lord! Spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood!'When he had pronounced these words three times, he walked on a few paces, then stopped again, and again repeated them.
"These, you will think, were solemn preparations. They were indeed types and forerunners of my destiny! When I came to my own door, I beheld it marked! You know what that meant. A blood-red CROSS, of a foot long, was painted on it; and these words, in large letters, appeared above the cross, LORD HAVE MERCY UPON US!'-The house was closed-the door padlocked outside-and two men stationed before it, to prevent all communication with those who were within. The PLAGUE WAS THERE!
"I was not then aware of the inhuman precautions employed to arrest the progress of the pestilence: I did not know that the instant any one fell sick in a house, nay, upon the rumour merely of sickness having shown itself, persons were despatched to shut it up, and watchmen were appointed to keep guard night and day, to prevent any one from either going in or coming out; thus consigning to inevitable death, or miraculous escape, the infected and the healthy! It was natural, therefore, when I saw my own dwelling thus closed, and thus watched, that I should conclude not a living creature breathed within its walls. This was terrible enough: but, alas! it fell far, very far short of what was actually the case-of what my eyes were doomed to witness, my bursting brain to endure.
"I made myself known to the men. I asked, in agony, how long my wife and children had been dead, and where they were buried? Then it was I learned the horrible truth. One of the fellows, a churlish caitiff, with an unpitying tongue, told me he did not believe any body was yet dead in the house, for the dead-cart had not been stopped!' I cannot describe to you the effect this answer produced! The image of what their situation must be, passed like a grim vision before me. I pictured a scene of misery under which my senses staggered. I demanded to be admitted. I was denied. With frenzied strength I attempted to wrench off the padlock, and batter in the massy door. The men raised their long iron-armed poles, and threatened to strike me down, if I did not desist.
"At that moinent I heard a feeble cry. I looked up. There was my eldest daughter at one of the windows, drawn thither by the noise. 'Father! Father!' she exclaimed, and sunk down. I had but a glimpse of her countenance. Ah me! It was as if I had seen her in her coffin, so pale and ghastly did she appear.
"We will let you in,' said the men, weeks after all shall be whole!'
but you must remain in, for four
"Do with me as you please,' I replied, but let me be with my wife and children.'
"I was admitted. None came to greet me! A fearful silence reigned. I stood in the hall, and strained my ears to catch a living sound that might tell me I was not standing in the sepulchre of my whole race. A faintness came over me. My limbs shook. Involuntary tears (for I had no power to give my thoughts the direction that might have produced them), burst forth.
I sat down upon a bench that was near, to recover myself, and gain fortitude for a scene I no longer doubted was prepared for me.
"After few moments I arose, to seek the apartment at the window of which I had seen my daughter. But as I passed a small room that opened from the first landing-place, the door was open, and I saw my son Benjamin, a comely youth, twelve years old, lying dead upon a couch! I cannot say I loved him best, for all my children were very dear to me; but at that moment I thought I did. I threw myself upon my knees beside his body; I kissed his livid lips, and with my own trembling hands closed his eyes, which seemed to look upon me, as they had ever done, with mild affection. He was still warm, so I knew life had not long departed.
"While gazing at him, I heard a soft, slow step descending. I turned round-it was my wife, Rachael! I sprung towards her-I held her in a passionate embrace to my almost breaking heart. My tears fell upon her cheek as she lay senseless in my arms-tears of joy, of gratitude, of hope! 6 My God! God!' I cried, blessed be thy name! I am not wholly wretched! I am still a husband and a father!' Oh, my friend-it is only when we believe ourselves robbed of all, that the possession of a treasure we have not lost, can overwhelm us thus with transport amid our sorrow for what is irrevocably gone.
66 My transports, alas! were soon over. Rachael had left Benjamin alive not half an hour before, called from his side to attend our youngest daughter, Judith, whose condition was yet more alarming. Her delirious screams tore her away from the mild and patient sufferer, who complained not. But Judith was at rest too! dying, as I learned, more like a strong man, than a tender girl of fourteen. Think, my friend, what a task was mine, when, recovering from the swoon into which the sight of me had thrown her, I had to lead her to the couch whereon now lay the lifeless form of our son! "It must have been dreadful!' exclaimed Mr. Pemberton.
"To me it was so-but with the stricken mother that feeling was past. 'Poor boy! was all she said, as she looked upon him; and taking a napkin from her pocket, she gently wiped awap the black froth that already began to ooze from his mouth. She neither wept nor sighed.
"Come,' said she, ' come from danger,' and she led me out of the room. I rejoice for thy return, my dear Gabriel;' she continued, but Heaven grant I may not have bitter cause to grieve at it hereafter. It was but last night, in the midst of all my own heavy affliction, I silently prayed to God he might turn your steps from this devoted city.'
"She conducted me to the apartment where my only remaining children, my son Joseph and my daughter Alice, were sitting, like victims waiting for their turn to die. Joseph was supporting his sister, after having recovered her from the fit into which she had fallen at the window. The ashy hand of sickness had swept away all the beauty from her cheeks: but, as yet, neither of them had been attacked by the pestilence. The condition of Alice was merely the effect of grief and terror.
"Night came. I heard the dismal tolling of a bell, and the more dismal cry, at intervals, of Bring out your dead!" I looked from the window, and saw the red, dusky glare of the torches, carried by the men who belonged to the dead-cart. I perceived they stopped at almost every house; and dreadful were the shrieks and wailings of those who were compelled thus to part with the remains of parents, children, kindred, without being allowed to follow them to the grave, to provide them with a coffin, or to give them any of the commonest rites of burial. I looked at Rachel as the lumbering cart came rolling heavily towards our own dwelling. I could not speak. She understood me; for falling upon my neck, and shedding the first tears I had seen, ‹ No, Gabriel!' she exclaimed, I cannot part with them yet. To-morrow night!'
"The next night came; but before the sun went down that day, my first born, my Alice, had breathed her soul away in these arms.
"My wife fell upon her knees before me; with uplifted hands and eyes, she exclaimed, 'Oh, the great and the dreadful God! My son came forward silently, to raise his afflicted mother, while 1, stupified, unable to speak or move, hugged my dead Alice closer to me, as if I could yet shield her from some horrible danger.
"I believe I was roused from this stupor by the rumbling of the dead-cart at midnight, the hollow sound of the bell, and the hoarse, horrid cry of Bring out your dead! I have never had, and have not now, the recollection of any thing that passed till then, from the moment my poor Rachel was kneeling at my feet. I had been permitted too (or, for ought I know, I would do so), to sit all those hours with my mournful burden in my arms; for when the coming of the dead-cart awakened me to consciousness, the corpse of Alice was still resting on my bosom.
"I looked round the room. I was alone. My son was not there. Rachel was not there. A horrible dread came over me. I called upon them in a loud screaming voice. No one answered. I flung the body from me in wild distraction, and ran towards the door, repeating franticly the names of Rachel and Joseph. My wife came to me, pale and trembling. She was followed by three-hideous looking men, one bearing a torch. To the grave!' said she, in a whisper, looking at me with a stony expression of her fixed eyes. To the grave! It must be; I and Joseph have bid them.' I covered my face with my hands, and only heard what was done!
"But why should I harrow up your feelings, my friend, by a recital of sufferings like these? Every hour, every minute, of the days I passed in that pest-house, brought with it still increasing anguish, distinguished by no change of circumstance. Death held on his grisly revels, till there would have been mercy in continuing, and then he stopped. On the fourth day my son sickened of the plague, and dropped down dead before our eyes, almost without a token of its presence: though immediately after dissolution his body broke out into fetid sores, the stench of which was so loathsome, that we were impatient for the night and the coming of the dead-cart.
"In vain I now implored that we might be allowed to remove; in vain I offered large bribes to let us flee; in vain I grew desperate, and threatened to force our way out at whatever hazard. A deaf ear was turned equally to prayers, to temptation, and to menaces.
"At length the calamity I most dreaded overtook me. On the sixth night my wife's hour of travail suddenly came on; and there was no human being save myself near her; and-"
For the first time Lindsay's voice faltered, and he paused.
"No!" he continued, while tears rolled down his cheeks. "No, no! that is too frightful! It drove me mad; and there comes a huge blank after that terrific night, which is full of nameless horror! Even now I hear the voice of Rachel moaning in my ears, Oh, the great and the dreadful God!'"
Mr. Pemberton was hardly able to offer his dying friend consolation; but he did what he could; and two days after listening to this "appalling history of a single week," he received his parting blessing as he calmly expired.