Sir Waiter Rai.Eigh's Cell.
The Traitor's Gate.
One of the most interesting features of the Tower is the Traitor's Gate, the former entrance from the river. The Thames once laved the steps which still lead to a gloomy structure called the Bloody Tower, and we may yet discern the ring to which were moored the boats that brought here their hapless freight. The walls beside this gate are pierced with loopholes through which the wardens of the Tower, as they watched unseen the coming prisoner, could determine, before he landed, whether he had been condemned to death; since, if a fatal sentence had been passed, the Ax of Office, carried by the escort, always had its sharp edge turned signifi-cantly toward the captive. It was at the summit of these steps, as Sir Thomas More was being led to his dungeon, that his daughter, Margaret, seeing the fatal sign of the reversed ax, burst through the crowd, and, flinging herself upon his neck, besought his blessing with such piteous cries that even the guards were moved to tears, while Sir Thomas, as she was torn from his clasp, implored her to resign herself to God's will, and to bear her loss with patience.
The Archway Of The Bloody Tower.
Beneath this frowning gateway, also, gentle Anne Boleyn, wearing the dress in which she had been hurried hither from a tournament, without a hint of the nature of her accusation or warning of her dreadful fate, fell on her knees and prayed God to defend her innocence. Eighteen years later her daughter Elizabeth cried, as she passed beneath this arch, "Here landeth as true a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed on these stairs"; and when she subsequently reentered the Tower as sovereign, she too knelt down and thanked Almighty God "for an escape as miraculous as that of Daniel out of the mouths of the lions." To stand at night, alone, beside the Traitor's Gate, and think upon the long, long line of the condemned who have passed beneath its scowling masonry, would make excusable a superstitious dread of seeing their restless ghosts move by in a procession, ghastly with headless forms, and horrible with clanking chains. Not long ago, a few days after paying a visit to the Tower, I attended a meeting of work-ingmen in London, where socialists were openly denouncing the British Government, and hundreds were singing, "Down with the Queen and the Throne!" A few policemen were on hand to keep the people within bounds; but no attempt was made to silence them. Contrast that freedom of speech with the cruelty, torture, and death which would have followed such remarks three centuries ago. Truly, in spite of many checks, the world grows gradually wiser, safer, and better.
The Site Of The Scaffold.
"Not long shall evil's gloomy night In darkness hold our captive souls; Forever into broadening light The earth with sun-born impulse rolls".
Since the time of Elizabeth, the Tower has not been a residence of royalty, and is now principally used as a gigantic armory. Its stock of weapons is said to be sufficient to equip a quarter of a million soldiers, and in the ancient banquet-hall alone are arms enough for one hundred and fifty thousand men. Here, too, are kept innumerable trophies won by British valor in all quarters of the globe; and in the Treasure Room are preserved the glorious crown jewels and insignia of the kingdom. Protected by an iron screen, and carefully guarded by armed attendants, the coronation orb, the sceptre, crown, swords, spurs, necklaces, and baptismal fonts of royalty, together with the magnificent gold plate for coronation banquets, lie glittering in a brilliant light, and are valued at fifteen millions of dollars. At this point the voices of the guides, who are still known by their old name of "Beef-eaters," always sound a triumphant paean; and in response the average subject of Victoria falls down before the royal emblems, as did the subjects of Nebu-chadnezzar at the sound of sackbut, psaltery, and harp; while "Oh"s, "Ah"s, and "Just fancy"s resound on every side. For my part, however, I was soon ready to withdraw from the jostling crowd, and step back into a corner of the room, where a friend narrated to me how, in the reign of Charles II., an Irishman named Thomas Blood very nearly succeeded in carrying off this treasure. Through a pretended illness on the part of his wife, who was kindly taken to the keeper's rooms, Blood formed an acquaintance with the guardian of the jewels, and, finally, proposed a marriage between his son and the keeper's daughter. Later, returning with the alleged bridegroom and two friends, Blood was taken with them, as guests of the family, to see the jewels; whereupon he and his accomplices beat the custodian senseless, and seized the regalia. Fortunately an alarm was given, and the thieves, though they had actually reached the street with the crown and sceptre, were arrested, and the treasure was recovered; yet, strange to say, Blood so contrived to terrify King Charles, by warning him of the vengeance which his friends would take in case of his execution, that he was not only released, but was allowed a pension of twenty-five hundred dollars a year; while the poor old keeper, who had been nearly beaten to death by the ruffians, was allowed to die in poverty.