During the two hundred years of war and conquest by the Saxons, Westminster, quite forgotten and deserted, lay with its brambles growing over the Roman ruins, and the weather and ivy pulling down the old walls of villa and stationary camp piecemeal. Perhaps rather probably there had been a church upon the island in the third or fourth century.
Who could have recognized them now as the respected trader of Fenchurch Street and his fastidious son. Their clothes were tattered, their faces splashed with mud and scarred by brambles and thorns, the elder man had lost his hat, and his silvery hair blew out in a confused tangle behind him. Even more noticeable, however, than the change in their attire was the alteration in their expression.
He lifted the body in his arms, as easily as most men would lift a baby. Then he laid it down among the brambles close beside the stream. Something heavy fell out of the pocket as he carried it. The barrister took no heed. Little matter for that. He laid it down in fear and trembling. As soon as it was hidden, he fled for his life.
Through thickets and brambles he crashed with a wild exultation; up precipitate crags he labored with feverish excitement and frenzy that grew with each moment. He sniffed at the rustling fronds and mosses as he passed, with wild delight. How fresh, how new, how satisfying the wilderness was!
There they were, almost naked, without food, without weapons, without the means of building a fire; and in an uninhabited and utterly inhospitable country. For four days they wandered, blistered by the sun by day; nearly frozen at night, bruised by the rocks, and torn by the brambles.
For some time I had commenced to work, as soon as daylight appeared, on a picture, the subject of which was as follows: A deep ravine, steep banks, dominated by two declivities, lined with brambles and long rows of trees, hidden, drowned in that milky vapor, clad in that musty robe which sometimes floats over valleys, at break of day.
One day in October, as he was intently watching the movements of a sportsman in the copse, a big cock pheasant rose with a great clatter from the brambles, a loud report rang through the covert, and a shaggy brown and white spaniel dashed yelping into the bushes.
At length our strength gave out. We laid Monica down in the ravine and drew the under growth over her, then we crawled in under the brambles exhausted, beat. Dawn was streaking the sky with lemon when a dog jumped sniffing down into our hiding-place. Francis and Monica were asleep. A man stood at the top of the ravine looking down on us. He carried a gun over his shoulder.
She decided that the last-built cradle should yield the first-born child; that this one should clear the road for his next oldest brother, the second for the third and so on. And this is the order in which the birth of our Odyneri of the Brambles actually takes place.
On this he rose hastily with a cry of dismay, and stripping to the skin climbed up to the brambles above his cave, and flung himself on them, and rolled on them writhing with the pain: then he came into his den a mass of gore, and lay moaning for hours; till, out of sheer exhaustion, he fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.