The Midnight Queen (Chapter 7, page 2 of 12)


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Chapter 7

Footsteps and voices came closer; two figures took shape in the gloom,
and emerged from the darkness into the glimmering lamp light. He
recognised them both. One was the Earl of Rochester; the other, his
dark-eyed, handsome page--that strange page with the face of the lost
lady! The earl was chatting familiarly, and laughing obstreperously at
something or other, while the boy merely wore a languid smile, as if
anything further in that line were quite beneath his dignity.

"Silence and solitude," said the earl, with a careless glance around,
"I protest, Hubert, this night seems endless. How long is it till
midnight?"

"An hour and a half at least, I should fancy," answered the boy, with a
strong foreign accent. "I know it struck ten as we passed St. Paul's."

"This grand bonfire of our most worshipful Lord Mayor will be a sight
worth seeing," remarked the earl. "When all these piles are lighted, the
city will be one sea of fire."

"A slight foretaste of what most of its inhabitants will behold in
another world," said the page, with a French shrug. "I have heard
Lilly's prediction that London is to be purified by fire, like a second
Sodom; perhaps it is to be verified to-night."

"Not unlikely; the dome of St. Paul's would be an excellent place to
view the conflagration."

"The river will do almost as well, my lord."

"We will have a chance of knowing that presently," said the earl, as he
and his page descended to the river, where the little gilded barge lay
moored, and the boatman waiting.

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