Old Saint Paul's
William Harrison Ainsworth
Part 10 out of 12
"Alas!" exclaimed Leonard, mournfully, "I am now only anxious to rejoin
"It is selfish, if not sinful, to grieve in this way," rejoined Mr.
Bloundel, somewhat sternly. "You must bear your sorrows like a man. Come
home with me. I will be a father to you. Nay, do not hesitate. I will
have no refusal."
So saying, he took Leonard's arm, and led him in the direction of
Wood-street. Nothing passed between them on the way, nor did Leonard
evince any further emotion until he entered the door of the grocer's
dwelling, when he uttered a deep groan. Mrs. Bloundel was greatly
affected at seeing him, as were the rest of the family, and abundance of
tears were shed by all, except Mr. Bloundel, who maintained his
customary stoical demeanour throughout the meeting.
Satisfied that the pestilence had not declined sufficiently to warrant
him in opening his house, the grocer determined to await the result of a
few weeks. Indeed, that very night, he had reason to think he had
defeated his plans by precipitancy. While sitting after prayers with his
family, he was seized with a sudden shivering and sickness, which he
could not doubt were the precursors of the plague. He was greatly
alarmed, but did not lose his command over himself.
"I have been most imprudent," he said, "in thus exposing myself to
infection. I have symptoms of the plague about me, and will instantly
repair to one of the upper rooms which I have laid aside as an hospital,
in case of any emergency like the present. None of you must attend me.
Leonard will fetch Doctor Hodges and a nurse. I shall then do very well.
Farewell, dear wife and children! God bless you all, and watch over you.
Remember me in your prayers." So saying, he arose and walked towards the
door. His wife and eldest son would have assisted him, but he motioned
"Let me go with you, sir," cried Leonard, who had arisen with the
others; "I will nurse you; my life is of little consequence, and I
cannot be more satisfactorily employed."
The grocer reluctantly assented, and the apprentice assisted him
upstairs, and helped to place him in bed. No plague-token could be found
about his person, but as the same alarming symptoms still continued,
Leonard administered such remedies as he thought needful, and then went
in search of Doctor Hodges.
On reaching Watling-street, he found Doctor Hodges about to retire to
rest. The worthy physician was greatly distressed by the apprentice's
account of his master's illness; but was somewhat reassured when the
symptoms were more minutely described to him. While preparing certain
medicines, and arming himself with his surgical implements, he
questioned Leonard as to the cause of his long disappearance. "Having
seen nothing of you," he said, "since the fatal night when our poor
Amabel's sorrows were ended, I began to feel very apprehensive on your
account. Where have you been?"
"You shall hear," replied Leonard, "though the relation will be like
opening my wounds afresh. On recovering from the terrible shock I had
received, I found myself stretched upon a bed in a house whither I had
been conveyed by Rainbird the watchman, who had discovered me lying in a
state of insensibility in the street. For nearly a week I continued
delirious, and should, probably, have lost my senses altogether but for
the attentions of the watchman. As soon as I was able to move, I
wandered to the lesser plague-pit, in Finsbury Fields, you will guess
with what intent. My heart seemed breaking, and I thought I should pour
forth my very soul in grief, as I gazed into that dreadful gulf, and
thought she was there interred. Still my tears were a relief. Every
evening, for a month, I went to that sad spot, and remained there till
daybreak admonished me to return to Rainbird's dwelling. At last, he was
seized by the distemper; but though I nursed him, voluntarily exposing
myself to infection, and praying to be carried off, I remained
untouched. Poor Rainbird died; and having seen his body thrown into the
pit, I set off into Berkshire, and after three days' toilsome travel on
foot, reached Ashdown Park. It was a melancholy pleasure to behold the
abode where she I had loved passed her last few days of happiness, and
where I had been near her. Her aunt, good Mrs. Buscot, though
overwhelmed by affliction at the sad tidings I brought her, received me
with the utmost kindness, and tried to console me. My sorrow, however,
was too deeply seated to be removed. Wandering over the downs, I visited
Mrs. Compton at Kingston Lisle, from whose house Amabel was carried off
by the perfidious earl. She, also, received me with kindness, and
strove, like Mrs. Buscot, to comfort me, and, like her, ineffectually.
Finding my strength declining, and persuaded that my days were drawing
to a close, I retraced my steps to London, hoping to find a final
resting-place near her I had loved."
"You are, indeed, faithful to the grave, Leonard," said the physician,
brushing away a tear; "and I never heard or read of affection stronger
than yours. Sorrow is a great purifier, and you will come out all the
better for your trial. You are yet young, and though you never can love
as you _have_ loved, a second time, your heart is not utterly seared."
"Utterly, sir," echoed Leonard, "utterly."
"You think so, now," rejoined the physician. "But you will find it
otherwise hereafter. I can tell you of one person who has suffered
almost as much from your absence as you have done for the loss of
Amabel. The Lady Isabella Argentine has made constant inquiries after
you; and though I should be the last person to try to rouse you from
your present state of despondency, by awakening hopes of alliance with
the sister of a proud noble, yet it may afford you consolation to know
that she still cherishes the warmest regard for you."
"I am grateful to her," replied Leonard, sadly, but without exhibiting
any other emotion. "She was dear to Amabel, and therefore will be ever
dear to me. I would fain know," he added, his brow suddenly contracting,
and his lip quivering, "what has become of the Earl of Rochester?"
"He has married a wealthy heiress, the fair Mistress Mallet," replied
"Married, and so soon!" cried Leonard. "And he has quite forgotten his
"Apparently so," replied the doctor, with an expression of disgust.
"And it was for one who so lightly regarded her that she sacrificed
herself," groaned Leonard, his head dropping upon his breast.
"Come," cried Hodges, taking his arm, and leading him out of the room;
"we must go and look after your master."
With this, they made the best of their way to Wood-street. Arrived at
the grocer's house, they went upstairs, and Hodges immediately
pronounced Mr. Bloundel to be suffering from a slight feverish attack,
which a sudorific powder would remove. Having administered the remedy,
he descended to the lower room to allay the fears of the family. Mrs.
Bloundel received the happy tidings with tears of joy, and the doctor
remained a short time to condole with her on the loss she had sustained.
The good dame wept bitterly on hearing the whole particulars, with which
she had been hitherto unacquainted, attending her daughter's untimely
death, but she soon regained her composure. They then spoke of Leonard,
who had remained above with his master,--of his blighted hopes, and
seemingly incurable affliction.
"His is true love, indeed, doctor," sighed Mrs. Bloundel. "Pity it is
that it could not be requited."
"I know not how it is," rejoined Hodges, "and will not question the
decrees of our All-Wise Ruler, but the strongest affection seldom, if
ever, meets a return. Leonard himself was insensible to the devotion of
one, of whom I may say, without disparagement to our poor Amabel, that
she was, in my opinion, her superior in beauty."
"And does this person love him still?" inquired Mrs. Bloundel, eagerly.
"I ask, because I regard him as a son, and earnestly desire to restore
him to happiness."
"Alas!" exclaimed Hodges, "there are obstacles in the way that cannot be
removed. We must endeavour to cure him of his grief in some other way."
The conversation then dropped, and Hodges took his leave, promising to
return on the morrow, and assuring Mrs. Bloundel that she need be under
no further apprehension about her husband. And so it proved. The
powders removed all the grocer's feverish symptoms, and when Doctor
Hodges made his appearance the next day, he found him dressed, and ready
to go downstairs. Having received the physician's congratulations on his
entire recovery, Mr. Bloundel inquired from him when he thought he might
with entire safety open his shop. Hodges considered for a moment, and
then replied, "I do not see any great risk in doing so now, but I would
advise you to defer the step for a fortnight. I would, also, recommend
you to take the whole of your family for a short time into the country.
Pure air and change of scene are absolutely necessary after their long
"Farmer Wingfield, of Kensal-Green, who sheltered us on our way down to
Ashdown Park, will, I am sure, receive you," observed Leonard.
"If so, you cannot go to a better place," rejoined the physician.
"I will think of it," returned Mr. Bloundel. And leading the way
downstairs, he was welcomed by his wife and children with the warmest
demonstrations of delight.
"My fears, you perceive, were groundless," he remarked to Mrs. Bloundel.
"Heaven be praised, they were so!" she rejoined. "But I entreat you not
to go forth again till all danger is at an end."
"Rest assured I will not," he answered. Soon after this, Doctor Hodges
took his leave, and had already reached the street-door, when he was
arrested by Patience, who inquired with much anxiety whether he knew
anything of Blaize.
"Make yourself easy about him, child," replied the doctor; "I am pretty
sure he is safe and sound. He has had the plague, certainly; but he left
the hospital at Saint Paul's cured.
"O then I _shall_ see him again," cried Patience, joyfully. "Poor dear
little fellow, it would break my heart to lose him."
"I will make inquiries about him," rejoined Hodges, "and if I can find
him, will send him home." And without waiting to receive the
kitchen-maid's thanks, he departed.
For some days the grocer continued to pursue pretty nearly the same line
of conduct that he had adopted during the height of the pestilence. But
he did not neglect to make preparations for resuming his business; and
here Leonard was of material assistance to him. They often spoke of
Amabel, and Mr. Bloundel strove, by every argument he was master of, to
remove the weight of affliction under which his apprentice laboured. He
so far succeeded that Leonard's health improved, though he still seemed
a prey to secret sorrow. Things were in this state, when one day a knock
was heard at the street-door, and the summons being answered by the
grocer's eldest son, Stephen, he returned with the intelligence that a
person was without who desired to see Patience. After some
consideration, Mr. Bloundel summoned the kitchen-maid, and told her she
might admit the stranger into the passage, and hear what he had to say.
Patience hastened with a beating heart to the door, expecting to learn
some tidings of Blaize, and opening it, admitted a man wrapped in a
large cloak and having a broad-leaved hat pulled over his brows.
Stepping into the passage, he threw aside the cloak and raised the hat,
discovering the figure and features of Pillichody.
"What brings you here, sir?" demanded Patience, in alarm, and glancing
over her shoulder to see whether any one observed them. "What do you
"I have brought you news of Blaize," returned the bully. "But how
charmingly you look. By the coral lips of Venus! your long confinement
has added to your attractions."
"Never mind my attractions, sir," rejoined Patience, impatiently. "Where
is Blaize? Why did he not come with you?"
"Alas!" replied Pillichody, shaking his head in a melancholy manner, "he
"Could not!" half screamed Patience. "Why not?"
"Do not question me," replied Pillichody, feigning to brush away a tear.
"He was my friend, and I would rather banish him from my memory. The
sight of your beauty transports me so, that, by the treasures of
Croesus! I would rather have you without a crown than the wealthiest
widow in the country."
"Don't talk nonsense to me in this way," sobbed Patience "I'm not in the
humour for it."
"Nonsense!" echoed Pillichody. "I swear to you I am in earnest. By
Cupid! I am ravished with your charms." And he would have seized her
hand, but Patience hastily withdrew it; and, provoked at his
impertinence, dealt him a sound box on the ear. As she did this, she
thought she heard a suppressed laugh near her, and looked round, but
could see no one. The sound certainly did not proceed from Pillichody,
for he looked very red and very angry.
"Do not repeat this affront, mistress," he said to her. "I can bear
anything but a blow from your sex."
"Then tell me what has become of Blaize," she cried.
"I will no longer spare your feelings," he rejoined. "He is defunct."
"Defunct!" echoed Patience, with a scream. "Oh, dear me!--I shall never
survive it--I shall die."
"Not while I am left to supply his place," cried Pillichody, catching
her in his arms.
"You!" cried Patience, contemptuously; "I would not have you for the
world. Where is he buried?"
"In the plague-pit," replied Pillichody. "I attended him during his
illness. It was his second attack of the disorder. He spoke of you."
"Did he?--dear little fellow!" she exclaimed. "Oh, what did he say?"
"'Tell her,' he cried," rejoined Pillichody, "'that my last thoughts
were of her.'"
"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" cried Patience, hysterically.
"'Tell her also,' he added," pursued Pillichody, "'that I trust she will
fulfil my last injunction.'"
"That I will," replied Patience. "Name it."
"He conjured you to marry me," replied Pillichody. "I am sure you will
not hesitate to comply with the request."
"I don't believe a word of this," cried Patience. "Blaize was a great
deal too jealous to bequeath me to another."
"Right, sweetheart, right," cried the individual in question, pushing
open the door. "This has all been done to try your fidelity. I am now
fully satisfied with your attachment; and am ready to marry you whenever
"So this was all a trick," cried Patience, pettishly; "I wish I had
known it, I would have retaliated upon you nicely. You ought to be
ashamed of yourself, Major Pillichody, to lend a helping-hand in such a
"I did it to oblige my friend Blaize," replied Pillichody. "It was
agreed between us that if you showed any inconstancy, you were to be
"Indeed!" exclaimed Patience. "I would not advise you to repeat the
experiment, Mr. Blaize."
"I never intend to do so, my angel," replied the porter. "I esteem
myself the happiest and most fortunate of men."
"You have great reason to do so," observed Pillichody. "I do not despair
of supplanting him yet," he muttered to himself. "And now, farewell!" he
added aloud; "I am only in the way, and besides, I have no particular
desire to encounter Mr. Bloundel or his apprentice;" and winking his
solitary orb significantly at Patience, he strutted away. It was well he
took that opportunity of departing, for the lovers' raptures were
instantly afterwards interrupted by the appearance of Mr. Bloundel, who
was greatly delighted to see the porter, and gave him a hearty welcome.
"Ah, sir, I have had a narrow escape," cried Blaize, "and never more
expected to see you, or my mother, or Patience. I _have_ had the plague,
sir, and a terrible disorder it is."
"I heard or your seizure from Leonard Holt," replied Mr. Bloundel. "But
where have you been since you left the hospital at Saint Paul's?"
"In the country, sir," rejoined Blaize; "sometimes at one farm-house,
and sometimes at another. I only returned to London yesterday, and met
an old friend, whom I begged to go before me, and see that all was right
before I ventured, in."
"We have all been providentially spared," observed Mr. Bloundel, "and
you will find your mother as well as when you last quitted her. You had
better go to her."
Blaize obeyed, and was received by old Josyna with a scream of delight.
Having embraced him, and sobbed over him, she ran for a bottle of sack,
and poured its contents down his throat so hastily as nearly to choke
him. She then spread abundance of eatables before him, and after he had
eaten and drank his full, offered him as a treat a little of the plague
medicine which she had in reserve.
"No, thank you, mother," replied Blaize. "I have had enough of _that_.
But if there should be a box of rufuses amongst the store, you can bring
it, as I think a couple might do me good."
Three days after this event, the apprentice was sent forth to ascertain
the precise state of the city, as, if all proved favourable, the grocer
proposed to open his house on the following day. Leonard set out
betimes, and was speedily convinced that all danger was at an end. A
severe frost had set in, and had completely purified the air. For the
last few days there had been no deaths of the plague, and but little
mortality of any kind. Leonard traversed several of the main streets,
and some narrow thoroughfares, and found evidences of restored health
and confidence everywhere. It is true there were many houses, in which
whole families had been swept off, still left untenanted. But these were
only memorials of the past calamity, and could not be referred to any
existing danger. Before returning to Wood-street, an irresistible
impulse led him to Finsbury Fields. He passed through the postern east
of Cripplegate, and shaped his way towards the lesser plague-pit. The
sun, which had been bright all the morning, was now partially obscured;
the air had grown thick, and a little snow fell. The ground was
blackened and bound by the hard frost, and the stiffened grass felt
crisp beneath his feet. Insensible to all external circumstances, he
hurried forward, taking the most direct course, and leaping every
impediment in his path. Having crossed several fields, he at length
stood before a swollen heap of clay, round which a wooden railing was
placed. Springing over the enclosure, and uttering a wild cry that
evinced the uncontrollable anguish of his breast, he flung himself upon
the mound. He remained for some time in the deepest affliction, and was
at last roused by. a hand laid upon his shoulder, and, raising himself,
"I thought it must be you," said the new comer, in accents of the
deepest commiseration. "I have been visiting yonder plague-pit for the
same melancholy purpose as yourself,--to mourn over my lost child. I
have been in search of you, and have much to say to you. Will you meet
me in this place at midnight tomorrow?" Leonard signified his assent.
"I am in danger," pursued Thirlby, "for, by some means, the secret of my
existence has been made known, and the officers of justice are in
pursuit of me. I suspect that Judith Malmayns is my betrayer. You will
not fail me?"
"I will not," returned Leonard. Upon this, Thirlby hurried away, and
leaping a hedge, disappeared from view.
Leonard slowly and sorrowfully returned to Wood-street. On arriving
there, he assured his master that he might with entire safety open his
house, as he proposed, on the morrow; and Doctor Hodges, who visited the
grocer the same evening, confirmed the opinion. Early, therefore, the
next morning, Mr. Bloundel summoned his family to prayers; and after
pouring forth his supplications with peculiar fervour and solemnity, he
went, accompanied by them all, and threw open the street-door. Again,
kneeling down at the threshold, he prayed fervently, as before. He then
proceeded to remove the bars and shutters from the windows. The
transition from gloom and darkness to bright daylight was almost
overpowering. For the first time for six months, the imprisoned family
looked forth on the external world, and were dazzled and bewildered by
the sight. The grocer himself, despite his sober judgment, could
scarcely believe he had not been in a trance during the whole period.
The shop was scarcely opened before it was filled with customers, and
Leonard and Stephen were instantly employed. But the grocer would sell
nothing. To those who asked for any article he possessed, he presented
them with it, but would receive no payment.
He next dispatched Blaize to bring together all the poor he could find,
and distributed among them the remainder of his store--his casks of
flour, his salted meat, his cheeses, his biscuits, his wine--in short,
all that was left.
"This I give," he said, "as a thanksgiving to the Lord, and as a humble
testimony of gratitude for my signal deliverance."
THE MIDNIGHT MEETING.
The first day of his deliverance being spent by the grocer in the
praiseworthy manner before related, he laid his head upon his pillow
with a feeling of satisfaction such as he had not for months
experienced. A very remarkable dream occurred to him that night, and its
recollection afterwards afforded him the greatest consolation. While
thinking of Amabel, and of the delight her presence would have afforded
him, slumber stole upon him, and his dreams were naturally influenced by
his previous meditations. It appeared to him that he was alone within
his house, and while visiting one of the upper rooms, which had formerly
been appropriated to his lost daughter, he noticed a small door in the
wall that had never before attracted his attention. He immediately
pushed against it, and yielding to the touch, it admitted him to an
apartment with which he seemed acquainted, though he could not recall
the time when he had seen it. It was large and gloomy, panelled with
dark and lustrous oak, and filled with rich but decayed furniture. At
the further end stood a large antique bed, hung round with tarnished
brocade curtains. The grocer shuddered at the sight, for he remembered
to have heard Doctor Hodges assert, that in such a bed, and in such a
room as this, his daughter had breathed her last. Some one appeared to
be within the bed, and rushing forward with a throbbing heart, and a
foreboding of what was to follow, he beheld the form of Amabel. Yes,
there she was, with features like those she wore on earth, but clothed
with such celestial beauty, and bearing the impress of such serene
happiness, that the grocer felt awe-struck as he gazed at her!
"Approach, my father," said the visionary form, in a voice so musical
that it thrilled through his frame--"approach, and let what you now hear
be for ever graven upon your heart. Do not lament me more, but rather
rejoice that I am removed from trouble, and in the enjoyment of supreme
felicity. Such a state you will yourself attain. You have run the good
race, and will assuredly reap your reward. Comfort my dear mother, my
brothers, my little sister, with the assurance of what I tell you, and
bid them dry their tears. I can now read the secrets of all hearts, and
know how true was Leonard Holt's love for me, and how deep and sincere
is his present sorrow. But I am not permitted to appear to him as I now
appear to you. Often have I heard him invoke me in accents of the
wildest despair, and have floated past him on the midnight breeze, but
could neither impart consolation to him nor make him sensible of my
presence, because his grief was sinful. Bid him be comforted. Bid him
put a due control upon his feelings. Bid him open his heart anew, and he
shall yet be happy, yet love again, and have his love requited.
Farewell, dear father!"
And with these words the curtains of the bed closed. The grocer
stretched out his arm to draw them aside, and in the effort awoke. He
slept no more that night, but dwelt with unutterable delight on the
words he had heard. On rising, his first object was to seek out Leonard,
and to relate his vision to him. The apprentice listened in speechless
wonder, and remained for some time lost in reflection.
"From any other person than yourself, sir," he said, at length, "I might
have doubted this singular story, but coming from you, I attach implicit
credence to it. I _will_ obey your sainted daughter's injunctions; I
_will_ struggle against the grief that overwhelms me, and will try to
hope that her words may be fulfilled."
"You will do wisely," rejoined Mr. Bloundel. "After breakfast we will
walk together to the farmhouse you spoke of at Kensal Green, and if its
owner should prove willing to receive my family for a few weeks, I will
remove them thither at once."
Leonard applauded his master's resolution, expressing his firm
conviction that Farmer Wingfield would readily accede to the proposal,
and the rest of the family having by this time assembled, they sat down
to breakfast. As soon as the meal was over, Mr. Bloundel intrusted the
care of the shop to Stephen and Blaize, and accompanied by Leonard, set
forth. On the way to the west end of the town, the grocer met one or two
of his old friends, and they welcomed each other like men risen from the
grave. Their course took them through Saint Giles's, where the plague
had raged with the greatest severity, and where many houses were still
"If all had acted as I have done," sighed the grocer, as he gazed at
these desolate habitations, "how many lives, under God's providence,
would have been saved!"
"In my opinion, sir," replied Leonard, "you owe your preservation as
much to your piety as to your prudence."
"I have placed my trust on high," rejoined the grocer, "and have not
been forsaken. And yet many evil doers have escaped; amongst others--"
"I know whom you mean, sir," interrupted Leonard, with some fierceness,
"but a day of retribution will arrive for him."
"No more of this," rejoined the grocer, severely. "Remember the solemn
injunction you have received."
At this moment they observed a horseman, richly attired, and followed by
a couple of attendants, riding rapidly towards them. Both instantly
recognised him. The apprentice's cheek and brow flushed with anger, and
Mr. Bloundel had much ado to control his emotion. It was the Earl of
Rochester, and on seeing them he instantly dismounted, and flinging his
bridle to one of the attendants, advanced towards them. Noticing the
fury that gleamed in Leonard's eyes, and apprehending some violence on
his part, the grocer laid his hand, upon his arm, and sternly enjoined
him to calm himself.
By this time, the earl had reached them. "Mr. Bloundel," he said, in a
tone of much emotion, and with a look that seemed to bespeak contrition.
"I heard that you had opened your house yesterday, and was about to call
upon you. I have a few words to say to you on a subject painful to both
of us, but doubly painful to me--your daughter."
"I must decline to hear them, my lord," replied the grocer, coldly; "nor
shall you ever cross my threshold again with my consent. My poor child
is now at peace. You can do her no further injury, and must settle your
own account with your Maker."
"Do not refuse me your forgiveness," implored the earl. "I will make
every reparation in my power."
"You _can_ make none," replied the grocer, repelling him; "and as to my
forgiveness, I neither refuse it nor accord it. I pray your lordship to
let me pass. The sole favour I ask of you is to come near me no more."
"I obey you," replied the earl. "Stay," he added to Leonard, who stood
by, regarding him with a look of deadly animosity. "I would give you a
piece of caution. Your life is in danger."
"I can easily guess from whom," replied the apprentice, scornfully.
"You mistake," rejoined Rochester; "you have nothing to apprehend from
me. You have promised to meet some one to-night," he added, in so low a
tone as to be inaudible to the grocer. "Do not go."
"Your lordship's warning will not deter me," rejoined the apprentice.
"As you will," rejoined Rochester, turning away. And springing upon his
horse, and striking his spurs into his side, he dashed off, while
Leonard and the grocer took the opposite direction. In less than half an
hour they reached the little village of Paddington, then consisting of a
few houses, but now one of the most populous and important parishes of
the metropolis, and speedily gained the open country. Even at this
dreary season the country had charms, which Mr. Bloundel, after his long
confinement, could fully appreciate. His eye roamed over the wide
prospect; and the leafless trees, the bare hedges, and the frost-bound
fields seemed pleasant in his sight.
He quickened his pace, and being wholly indifferent to the cold, greatly
enjoyed the exercise. Leonard pointed out to him the spots where the
fugitives from the plague had pitched their tents, and also the
pest-house near Westbourne Green, where he himself had been received
during his second attack of the distemper, and which was now altogether
Soon after this, they mounted the hill beyond Kensal Green, and
approached the farmhouse. Leonard descried Wingfield near one of the
barns, and hailing him, he immediately came forward. On being informed
of Mr. Bloundel's desire, he at once assented, and taking them into the
house, mentioned the matter to his dame, who was quite of the same
opinion as himself.
"The only difference between us," he said to Mr. Bloundel, "is as to the
payment you propose. Now I will take none--not a farthing. Come when you
please, bring whom you please, and stay as long as you please. But don't
offer me anything if you would not offend me. Recollect," he added, the
moisture forcing itself into his eyes, and his strong clear voice
becoming husky with emotion, "that I loved your daughter for her
resemblance to my poor child. She, too, is gone. I do this for her
Mr. Bloundel shook the worthy man warmly by the hand, but he made no
further objection, resolved in his own mind to find some other means of
requiting his hospitality. It was then agreed that the grocer should
bring his family on the following day, and remain there for a month; and
every other arrangement being made, and a hearty meal partaken of, he
cordially thanked his host, and returned with Leonard to Wood-street.
In spite of his efforts to resist the impression produced by the earl's
warning, Leonard could not banish it from his mind; and though he did
not for a moment think of abandoning his purpose, he resolved to attend
the meeting armed. He told Mr. Bloundel he should go out that night, but
did not state his object, and the grocer did not inquire it. Blaize sat
up with him, and displayed much anxiety to know whither he was going,
but, as may be supposed, his curiosity was not gratified. As the clock
struck eleven, Leonard thrust a sword into his girdle, and arming
himself furthermore with his staff, proceeded towards the door, and bade
Blaize lock it after him.
"I shall probably be back in a couple of hours," he said, as he went
forth. "You must sit up for me."
"I wonder where he is going!" thought Blaize, "From his gloomy looks,
and the weapon he has taken with him, I should judge he is about to
murder some one--perhaps the Earl of Rochester. It must be prevented."
With this view, though perhaps rather more influenced by curiosity than
any better feeling, the porter waited a few seconds to allow the
apprentice to get out of sight, and then locking the door outside, put
the key in his pocket, and followed him. The night was profoundly dark,
but he had noticed the direction taken by Leonard, and running
noiselessly along the street, soon perceived him a little in advance.
Regulating his pace by that of the apprentice, and keeping about fifty
yards behind him, he tracked his course along several streets, until he
saw him pass through the second postern in the city wall, near Moorgate.
Here he debated with himself whether to proceed further or turn back;
but at length, curiosity got the best of his fears, and he went on. A
few steps brought him into the open fields, and fancying he saw Leonard
at a little distance before him, he hurried on in that direction. But he
soon found he had been deceived by the stump of a tree, and began to
fear he must have taken the wrong course. He looked around in vain for
some object to guide him. The darkness was so profound that he could see
nothing, and he set off again at random, and not without much
self-reproach and misgiving. At last, he reached a hedge, and continued
to skirt it, until he perceived through the bushes the light of a
lantern in the adjoining field. He immediately called out, but at the
cry the light disappeared. This did not prevent him from making towards
the spot where he had seen it; but he had not proceeded far when he was
forcibly seized by some unseen person, thrown on the ground, and a drawn
sword--for he felt the point--placed at his throat.
"Utter a cry, and it is your last," cried a stern voice. "Where is he?"
"Who--who?" demanded Blaize, half dead with terror.
"He whom you appointed to meet," replied the unknown.
"I appointed to meet no one," rejoined Blaize.
"Liar!" exclaimed the other; "if you do not instantly lead me to him, I
will cut your throat."
"I will lead you wherever you please, if you will only let me get up,"
rejoined Blaize, with difficulty repressing a cry.
"By the daughters of Nox and Acheron!" exclaimed a voice which sounded
like music in the porter's ears, "I think you are mistaken in your man,
my lord. It does not sound like the apprentice's voice."
"It is _not_ the apprentice's voice, good Major Pillichody," rejoined
the porter. "It is mine, your friend--Blaize's."
"Blaize!" exclaimed Pillichody, unmasking a dark lantern, and revealing
the terror-stricken countenance of the porter; "so it is. In the devil's
name, what are you doing here?"
"The devil himself, who put it into my head to come, only knows,"
replied Blaize; "but I followed Leonard Holt."
"Which way did he take?" asked the person who had assailed him.
"I cannot exactly say," replied Blaize, "but he seemed to go straight
into the fields."
"He is no doubt gone to the plague-pit," replied the other. "You are now
at liberty," he added to Blaize, "and I counsel you to make the best of
your way home. Say nothing to your master of what has occurred. The city
walls lie in that direction."
Overjoyed to be released, Blaize ran off as fast as his legs could carry
him, and never stopped till he reached Moorgate. Meanwhile, Leonard had
reached the place of meeting. As he stood by the rail surrounding the
plague-pit, he thought of Mr. Bloundel's singular dream, and almost
hoping to be similarly favoured, flung himself on his knees, and
besought Amabel, if it were possible, to appear to him. But his
entreaties produced no result. The chill blast whistled past him, and,
mindful of what had been told him, he was fain to interpret this into an
answer to his request. The night was bitterly cold, and Leonard, whose
limbs were almost stiffened by long kneeling, walked round and round the
enclosure at a quick pace to put his blood into circulation. As the hour
of midnight was tolled forth by the neighbouring churches, he heard
footsteps, and could just detect a figure advancing towards him.
"Are you there?" was asked in the voice of Thirlby. Leonard replied in
the affirmative, and the other instantly joined him.
"Have you mentioned our meeting to any one?" inquired Leonard. "I ask,
because I was warned by the Earl of Rochester not to attend it."
"Strange!" exclaimed Thirlby, musingly. "However, do not let us waste
time. I am about to leave London, perhaps this country--for ever. But I
could not depart without an interview with you. You are aware of my
strong attachment to my poor lost child. My daughter Isabella now
supplies her place in my heart. She is the only being I love on earth,
for my son has alienated himself from my affections. All I desire is to
see her happy. This, I find, can only be accomplished in one way."
Here he paused for a moment, but as Leonard made no remark, he
proceeded. "Why should I hesitate to declare it," he said, "since it was
for that object I brought you hither? She loves you--devotedly loves
you--and if her wishes were opposed, I should tremble for the
consequences. Now listen to me. Situated as you are, you never can wed
her. I will, however, point out a means by which you can raise yourself
to distinction in a short time, and so entitle yourself to claim her
hand. I will supply you with money--more than you can require--will
place you at court--near the king's person--and if you act under my
direction, your rise is certain. I have extorted a promise to this
effect from my own son. I told him my object, and that if he did not
make your fortune, I could ruin him by revealing myself. I may, perhaps,
pay the penalty of my crime on the scaffold; but I may also escape. In
the latter case, my reappearance would be fatal to him. He has consented
to cooperate with me, to watch over your fortunes, and, as soon as you
have attained sufficient eminence, to bestow his sister upon you. Now do
"I do," replied Leonard; "and I understand also against whom the Earl of
Rochester warned me."
"And you consent," demanded Thirlby.
Leonard, was about to answer, when he felt a light and trembling hand
placed upon his own. "Do not answer inconsiderately, Leonard," said a
low, sweet voice, which he recognised as that of the Lady Isabella; "I
am here to receive your determination."
"I am glad of it," replied the apprentice. "The deep devotion you have
displayed towards me deserves to be requited. I will strive to render
myself worthy of you, and I feel that by so doing I shall best fulfil
the injunctions of her who lies beside us. Henceforth, Lady Isabella, I
wholly devote myself to you."
A murmur of delight escaped her. "My blessings on you both!" exclaimed
her father. "Give me your hand, Isabella," he added, taking it and
placing it in that of the apprentice. "Here, beside the grave of her
whom you both loved, I affiance you. Pursue the course I point out to
you, Leonard, and she will soon be yours."
As he spoke, the light of a lantern was suddenly thrown upon them,
disclosing two persons who had noiselessly approached. They were Lord
Argentine and Pillichody. "You affirm more than you have warrant for, my
lord," said the former. "I will never consent to this ill-assorted and
dishonourable union; and, so far from permitting it, will oppose it to
the utmost of my power. If this presumptuous apprentice dares to raise
his views towards my sister, let him look to himself. Your safety lies
in instant flight. The officers are in search of you."
"They shall find me," replied Thirlby, sternly.
"As you please," rejoined Argentine. "Come with me, Isabella," he added
to his sister. But she flew with a cry towards Leonard.
"Ah!" exclaimed her brother, drawing his sword. "Do you dare to detain,
her? Deliver her to me, villain, instantly!"
"Not when thus menaced, my lord," rejoined Leonard, likewise drawing his
sword, and standing upon the defensive.
"Then look to yourself," replied Argentine, assaulting him.
Isabella uttered a wild shriek, and Thirlby tried to rush between them.
But before they could be separated, Lord Argentine's fury had exposed
him to his adversary, whose sword passed through his body. He fell to
the ground, weltering in his blood. While Leonard stood stupefied and
confounded at what had occurred, and Isabella, uttering a loud cry,
threw herself upon the body and tried to stanch the wound--two men, with
halberds in their hands rushed forward, and seizing Thirlby, cried, "We
arrest you as a murderer!"
Thirlby, who seemed utterly overcome by surprise and horror, offered no
Resistance. At this juncture Leonard felt his arm seized by a
bystander--he did not know whom--and scarcely conscious of what was
taking place, suffered himself to be dragged from the scene.
BOOK THE SIXTH.
About nine o'clock on the night of Saturday, the second of September,
1666--and rather more than nine months after the incidents last
related,--three men took their way from Smithfield to Islington. They
proceeded at a swift pace and in silence, until, having mounted the
steep hill on which the suburb in question is situated, they halted at a
short distance from the high walls surrounding the great water-works
formed by the New-River-head. The night was dark, but free from cloud,
in consequence of a strong easterly wind which prevailed at the time.
"It is dark in London now," observed one of the three persons to his
companions as he cast his eye in the direction of the great city, that
lay buried in gloom beneath them; "but there will be light enough soon."
"A second dawn, and brighter than the first, shall arise upon it,"
replied one of his companions, a tall, gaunt man, whose sole covering
was a sheepskin, girded round his loins. "Such a flame shall be kindled
within it, as hath not been seen since showers of brimstone and fire
descended upon the sinful cities of the plain. 'The Lord shall come with
flames of fire,'" he added, pointing his long staff towards the city.
"'He shall make them like a fiery oven, in the time of his wrath. They
shall be utterly consumed.'"
"Amen!" exclaimed the third person, who stood near him, in a deep voice,
and with something of a foreign accent.
"Not so loud, friends," rejoined the first speaker. "Let us set about
the task. I will ascertain that no one is on the watch."
With this he moved towards the water-works, and skirting the circular
walls, to satisfy himself that all was secure, he returned to his
companions, and they proceeded to the principal entrance to the place.
Noiselessly unlocking the gates, the leader of the party admitted the
others into an open space of some extent, in the midst of which was a
large reservoir of water. He then gave each of them a small key, and
bidding them use despatch, they began to turn the cocks of the leaden
pipes connected with the reservoir, while he hastened to the further end
of the inclosure, and employed himself in a similar manner. In this way,
and in less than a quarter of an hour, the whole of the cocks were
"And now give me the keys," said the leader.
Taking them as they were offered, he added his own to the number, and
flung them as far as he could into the reservoir, laughing slightly as
the noise of the splash occasioned by their fall into the water reached
"They will not be found till this pool is drained," he observed to his
companions. "And now let us go. Our business here is done."
"Stay yet a moment," cried Solomon Eagle, who was standing at the brink
of the reservoir, with his eyes fixed upon it. "Stay!" he cried,
arresting him. "A vision rises before me. I see in this watery mirror a
representation of the burning city. And what are those fearful forms
that feed the flames? Fiends, in our likeness--fiends! And see how wide
and far the conflagration spreads. The whole city is swallowed up by an
earthquake. It sinks to the bottomless pit--down--down!"
"No more of this," cried the leader, impatiently. "Come along." And,
followed by the others, he rushed to the gates, and locking them after
him, flung the key away.
"A hundred pounds were paid to the servant of the chief officer of the
works to bring those keys to me," he said, "and he executed his
commission faithfully and well. Water will be vainly sought for to
quench the conflagration."
"I like not the vision I have just beheld," said Solomon Eagle, in a
troubled tone. "It seems to portend mischief."
"Think of it no more," rejoined the leader, "or regard it as it was--a
phantom created by your overheated imagination. Yon city has sinned so
deeply, that it is the will of Heaven it should be destroyed; and it has
been put into our hearts by the Supreme Power to undertake the terrible
task. We are the chosen instruments of the divine displeasure.
Everything favours the design--the long-continued dry weather--the
strong easterly wind, which will bear the flames into the heart of the
city--the want of water, occasioned by the stopping of these pipes, the
emptying of the various aqueducts, and the destruction of the Thames
water-tower, which we have accomplished. Everything favours it, I say,
and proves that the hand of Heaven directs us. Yes, London shall fall!
We have received our commission from on high, and must execute it,
regardless of the consequences. For my own part, I feel as little
compunction to the task, as the thunderbolt launched from on high does
for the tree it shivers."
"Philip Grant has uttered my sentiments exactly," said the man who, it
has been mentioned, spoke with a slight foreign accent. "I have neither
misgiving nor compunction. You appear to have forgotten your own
"Not so, Brother Hubert," rejoined the enthusiast, "and I now recognise
in the vision a delusion of the Evil One to turn me from my holy
purpose. But it has failed. The impious and impenitent city is doomed,
and nothing can save it. And yet I would fain see it once more as I
beheld it this morn when day arose upon it for the last time, from the
summit of Saint Paul's. It looked so beautiful that my heart smote me,
and tears started to my eyes, to think that those goodly habitations,
those towers, temples, halls, and palaces, should so soon be levelled
with the dust."
"Hear what the prophet saith," rejoined Hubert. "'Thou hast defiled thy
sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy
traffic. Therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, and
will bring thee to ashes upon the earth, in the sight of all those that
Solomon Eagle flung himself upon his knees, and his example was imitated
by the others. Having recited a prayer in a low deep tone, he arose, and
stretching out his arms, solemnly denounced the city. As he pronounced
the words, a red and fiery star shot from the dark vault of the sky, and
seemed to fall in the midst of the city.
"Did you not see that sign?" cried Grant, eagerly. "It heralds us to our
So saying, he ran swiftly down the hill, and, followed by the others,
did not slacken his pace till they reached the city. They then shaped
their course more slowly towards Saint Paul's, and having gained the
precincts of the cathedral, Solomon Eagle, who now assumed the place of
leader, conducted them to a small door on the left of the great northern
entrance, and unlocking it, ushered them into a narrow passage behind
the rich carved work of the choir. Traversing it, they crossed the mid
aisle, and soon reached the steps leading to Saint Faith's. It was
profoundly dark, but they were all well acquainted with the road, and
did not miss their footing. It required, however, some caution to thread
the ranks of the mighty pillars filling the subterranean church. But at
last this was accomplished, and they entered the vault beyond the
charnel, where they found Chowles and Judith Malmayns. The former was
wrapped in a long black cloak, and was pacing to and fro within the
narrow chamber. When Solomon Eagle appeared, he sprang towards him, and
regarding him inquiringly, cried, "Have you done it?--have you done it?"
The enthusiast replied in the affirmative. "Heaven be praised!"
exclaimed Chowles. And he skipped about with the wildest expressions of
delight. A gleam of satisfaction, too, darted from Judith's savage eyes.
She had neither risen nor altered her position on the arrival of the
party, but she now got up, and addressed the enthusiast. A small iron
lamp, suspended by a chain from the vaulted roof, lighted the chamber.
The most noticeable figure amidst the group was that of Solomon Eagle,
who, with his blazing eyes, long jet-black locks, giant frame, and tawny
skin, looked like a supernatural being. Near him stood the person
designated as Robert Hubert. He was a young man, and appeared to have
lived a life of great austerity. His features were thin; his large black
eyes set in deep caverns; his limbs seemed almost destitute of flesh;
and his looks wild and uncertain, like those of an insane person. His
tattered and threadbare garb resembled that of a French ecclesiastic.
The third person, who went by the name of Philip Grant, had a powerful
frame, though somewhat bent, and a haughty deportment and look, greatly
at variance with his miserable attire and haggard looks. His beard was
long and grizzled, and his features, though sharpened by care, retained
some traces of a noble expression. A few minutes having passed in
conversation, Grant observed to the enthusiast, "I must now leave you
for a short time. Give me the key that I may let myself out."
"You are not going to betray us?" cried Chowles, suspiciously.
"Why should I betray you?" rejoined Grant, sternly. "I am too anxious
for the event to disclose it."
"True, true," replied Chowles.
"_I_ do not mistrust you, brother," observed Solomon Eagle, giving him
"I know whither you are going," observed Judith Malmayns. "You are about
to warn Mr. Bloundel and his partner--apprentice no longer--Leonard
Holt, of the approaching conflagration. But your care will be thrown
"Does she speak the truth, brother?" demanded Hubert, raising his eyes
from the Bible which he was reading in the corner of the vault.
"I will do nothing to endanger the design," rejoined Grant; "of that
With this, he strode forth, traversed Saint Faith's, and,
notwithstanding the gloom, reached, without difficulty, the little door
by which he had entered the cathedral. Issuing from it, he took the way,
as Judith had surmised, to Wood-street, and pausing before the grocer's
door, knocked against it. The summons was presently answered by Blaize;
and to Grant's inquiries whether his master was within, he replied,
"Which of my masters did you mean? I have two."
"The younger," replied Grant, "Leonard Holt."
"So far you are fortunate," rejoined Blaize. "Mr. Bloundel has retired
to rest, but Mr. Holt is still downstairs. Pray what may be your
business with him at this hour? It should be important."
"It is important," rejoined Grant, "and does not admit of a moment's
delay. Tell him so."
Eyeing the stranger with a look of suspicion, the porter was about to
enter into a parley with him, when Leonard himself cut it short, and
learning the nature of the application, desired Grant to follow him into
the adjoining room. The nine months which had passed over Leonard's head
since he was last brought under notice, had wrought a material change in
his appearance. He had a grave and thoughtful air, somewhat inclining to
melancholy, but in other respects he was greatly improved. His health
was completely restored, and the thoughtful expression added character
to his handsome physiognomy, and harmonised well with his manly and
determined bearing. He was habited plainly, but with some degree of
taste. As Judith Malmayns had intimated, he was now Mr. Bloundel's
partner, and his whole appearance denoted his improved circumstances.
The alteration did not escape the notice of the stranger, who regarded
him with much curiosity, and closed the door behind him as he entered
"You are looking much better than when we last met, Leonard Holt," he
said, in tones that made his hearer start, "and I am glad to perceive
it. Prosperity seems to attend your path, and you deserve it; whereas
misery and every other ill--and I deserve them--dog mine."
"I did not recognise you at first, Mr. Thirlby," replied Leonard; "for,
in truth, you are much changed. But you desire to speak with me on a
matter of importance. Can I aid you? You may need money. Here is my
"I do not want it," replied the other, scornfully rejecting the offer.
"I have a proposal to make to you."
"I shall be glad to hear it," replied Leonard. "But first tell me how
you effected your escape after your arrest on that disastrous night
when, in self-defence, and unintentionally, I wounded your son, Lord
"Would you had killed him!" cried the other, fiercely. "I have lost all
feelings of a father for him. He it was who contrived my arrest, and he
would have gladly seen me borne to the scaffold, certain it would have
freed him from me for ever. I was hurried away by the officers from the
scene of strife, and conveyed to the Tun at Cornhill, which you know has
been converted into a round-house, and where I was locked up for the
night. But while I was lying on the floor of my prison, driven well-nigh
frantic by what had occurred, there were two persons without labouring
to effect my deliverance--nor did they labour in vain. These were
Chowles and Judith, my foster-sister, and whom, you may remember, I
suspected--and most unfairly--of intending my betrayal. By means of a
heavy bribe, they prevailed on one of the officers to connive at my
escape. An iron bar was removed from the window of my prison, and I got
through the aperture. Judith concealed me for some days in the vaults of
Saint Faith's, after which I fled into the country, where I wandered
about for several months, under the name of Philip Grant. Having learnt
that my son though severely hurt by you, had recovered from his wound,
and that his sister, the Lady Isabella, had accompanied him to his seat
in Staffordshire, I proceeded thither, and saw her, unknown to him. I
found her heart still true to you. She told me you had disappeared
immediately after the termination of the conflict, and had not been
heard of till her brother was out of danger, when you returned to
"The information was correct," replied Leonard. "I was dragged away by a
person whom I did not recognise at the time, but who proved to be the
Earl of Rochester. He conducted me to a place of safety, thrust a purse
into my hand, and left me. As soon as I could do so with safety, I
returned to my master's house. But how long have you been in London?"
"Nearly a month," replied Grant. "And now let me ask you one question.
Do you ever think of Isabella?"
"Often, very often," replied Leonard. "But as I dare not indulge the
hope of a union with her, I have striven to banish her image from my
"She cannot forget _you_, Leonard," rejoined Grant. "And now to my
proposal. I have another plan for your aggrandisement that cannot fail.
I am in possession of a monstrous design, the revelation of which will
procure you whatever you desire. Ask a title from the king, and he will
give it; and when in possession of that title, demand the hand of the
Lady Isabella, and her proud brother will not refuse you. Call in your
porter--seize me. I will offer a feigned resistance. Convey me before
the king. Make your own terms with him. He will accede to them. Will you
"No," replied Leonard, "I will not purchase the daughter at the price of
the father's life."
"Heed me not," replied Grant, supplicatingly, "I am wholly indifferent
to life. And what matters it whether I am dragged to the scaffold for
one crime or another?"
"You plead in vain," returned Leonard, firmly.
"Reflect," cried Grant, in an agonised tone. "A word from you will not
only win you Isabella, but save the city from destruction."
"Save the city!" exclaimed Leonard. "What mean you?"
"Swear to comply with my request, and you shall know. But not
otherwise," replied Grant.
"I cannot--I cannot," rejoined Leonard; "and unfortunately you have said
too much for your own safety. I must, though most reluctantly, detain
"Hear me, Leonard, and consider well what you do," cried Grant, planting
himself before the door. "I love you next to my daughter, and chiefly
because she loves you. I have told you I have a design to discover, to
which I am a party--a hellish, horrible design--which threatens this
whole city with destruction. It is your duty, having told you thus much,
to arrest me, and I will offer no resistance. Will you not turn this to
your advantage? Will you not make a bargain with the king?"
"I have said I will not," rejoined Leonard.
"Then be warned by me," rejoined Grant. "Arouse your partner. Pack up
all your goods and make preparations for instant flight, for the danger
will invade you before you are aware of it."
"Is it fire?" demanded Leonard, upon whose mind the denunciations of
Solomon Eagle now rushed.
"You will see," replied Grant, with a terrible laugh. "You will repent
your determination when it is too late. Farewell."
"Hold!" cried Leonard, advancing towards him, and trying to lay hands
upon him, "I arrest you in the king's name."
"Off!" exclaimed Grant, dashing him forcibly backwards. And striking
down Blaize, who tried to stop him in the passage, he threw open the
street-door, and disappeared. Fearful of pursuit, Grant took a
circuitous route to Saint Paul's, and it was full half an hour after the
interview above related before he reached the cathedral. Just as he
passed through the small door, the clock tolled forth the hour of
midnight, and when he gained the mid aisle, he heard footsteps
approaching, and encountered his friends.
"We had given you up," said Chowles, "and fearing you intended us some
treachery, were about to do the job without you."
"I have been unavoidably detained," replied Grant. "Let us about it at
"I have got the fire-balls with me," observed Hubert.
"It is well," returned Grant.
Quitting the cathedral, they proceeded to Thames-street, and tracking it
to Fish-street-hill, struck off on the right into an alley that brought
them to Pudding-lane.
"This is the house," said Chowles, halting before a two-storied wooden
habitation, over the door of which was suspended the sign of the "Wheat
Sheaf, with the name THOMAS FARRYNER, BAKER, inscribed beneath it.
"And here," said Hubert, "shall begin the great fire of London."
As he said this, he gave a fire-ball to Solomon Eagle, who lighted the
fuze at Chowles's lantern. The enthusiast then approached a window of
the baker's shop, and breaking a small pane of glass within it, threw
the fire-ball into the room. It alighted upon a heap of chips and fagots
lying near a large stack of wood used for the oven, and in a few minutes
the whole pile had caught and burst into a flame, which, quickly
mounting to the ceiling, set fire to the old, dry, half-decayed timber
that composed it.
THE FIRST NIGHT OF THE FIRE.
Having seen the stack of wood kindled, and the flames attack the
building in such a manner as to leave no doubt they would destroy it,
the incendiaries separated, previously agreeing to meet together in half
an hour at the foot of London Bridge; and while the others started off
in different directions, Chowles and Judith retreated to a neighbouring
alley commanding a view of the burning habitation.
"At last the great design is executed," observed Chowles, rubbing his
hands gleefully. "The fire burns right merrily, and will not soon be
extinguished. Who would have thought we should have found such famous
assistants as the two madmen, Solomon Eagle and Robert Hubert--and your
scarcely less mad foster-brother, Philip Grant? I can understand the
motives that influenced the two first to the deed, but not those of the
"Nor I," replied Judith, "unless he wishes in some way or other to
benefit Leonard Holt by it. For my part, I shall enjoy this fire quite
as much on its own account as for the plunder it will bring us. I should
like to see every house in this great city destroyed."
"You are in a fair way of obtaining your wish," replied Chowles; "but
provided I have the sacking of them, I don't care how many are saved.
Not but that such a fire will be a grand sight, which I should be sorry
to miss. You forget, too, that if Saint Paul's should be burnt down, we
shall lose our hoards. However, there's no chance of that."
"Not much," replied Judith, interrupting him. "But see! the baker has at
last discovered that his dwelling is on fire. He bursts open the window,
and, as I live, is about to throw himself out of it."
As she spoke, one of the upper windows in the burning habitation was
burst open, and a poor terrified wretch appeared at it in his
night-dress, vociferating in tones of the wildest alarm, "Fire!
"Shall we go forward?" said Chowles. Judith hesitated for a moment, and
then assenting, they hurried towards the spot.
"Can we give you any help, friend?" cried Chowles.
"Take care of this," rejoined the baker, flinging a bag of money to the
ground, "and I will endeavour to let down my wife and children. The
staircase is on fire, and we are almost stifled with smoke. God help
us!" And the exclamation was followed by fearful shrieks from within,
followed by the appearance of a woman, holding two little children in
her arms, at the window.
"This must be money," said Judith, utterly heedless of the fearful scene
occurring above, and taking up the bag and chinking it; "silver, by the
sound. Shall we make off with it?"
"No, no," replied Chowles, "we must not run any risk for such a paltry
booty. Let us bide our time."
At this juncture, the baker, who had disappeared for a few seconds from
the window, again presented himself at it, and, with some difficulty,
forced a feather bed through it, which was instantly placed by Chowles
in such a position beneath, as to break the fall of the descending
parties. Tying a couple of sheets together, and fastening one end round
his wife's waist, the baker lowered her and the children to the ground.
They alighted in safety; but just as he was about to follow their
example, the floor of the room gave way, and though he succeeded in
springing through the window, he missed the feather bed, and broke his
leg in the fall. He was picked up by Chowles and Judith, and placed upon
the bed in a state of insensibility, and was soon afterwards conveyed
with his family to the house of a neighbour.
Meanwhile, the fire had spread to the houses on either side of the
unfortunate man's habitation, and both of them being built entirely of
wood, they were almost instantly in flames. The alarm too had become
general; the inhabitants of the adjoining houses were filled with
indescribable terror, and the narrow street was speedily crowded with
persons of both sexes, who had rushed from their beds to ascertain the
extent of the danger. All was terror and confusion. The fire-bells of
Saint Margaret's, Saint George's, and Saint Andrew's, in Botolph-lane,
began to toll, and shouts were heard on every side, proving that the
whole neighbourhood was roused.
To add to the general distress, a report was raised that a house in
Fish-street-hill was on fire, and it was soon found to be true, as an
immense volume of flames burst forth in that quarter. While the rest of
the spectators, distracted by this calamity, and hardly knowing what to
do, hurried in the direction of the new fire, Chowles and Judith eyed
each other askance, and the former whispered to his companion, "This is
another piece of Hubert's handiwork."
The two wretches now thought it time to bestir themselves. So much
confusion prevailed, that they were wholly unobserved, and under the
plea of rendering assistance, they entered houses and carried off
whatever excited their cupidity, or was sufficiently portable. No
wealthy house had been attacked as yet, and therefore their spoil was
but trifling. The poor baker seemed to be the bearer of ill-luck, for he
had not been many minutes in his new asylum before it likewise caught
fire. Another house, too, in Fish-street-hill, and lower down than the
first, was observed to be burning, and as this was out of the current of
the wind, and consequently could not have been occasioned by the showers
of sparks that marked its course, a cry was instantly raised that
incendiaries were abroad, and several suspicious-looking persons were
seized in consequence.
Meantime no efforts had been made to stop the progress of the original
conflagration in Pudding-lane, which continued to rage with the greatest
fury, spreading from house to house with astonishing rapidity. All the
buildings in this neighbourhood being old, and of wood, which was as dry
as tinder, a spark alighting upon them would have sufficed to set them
on fire. It may be conceived, therefore, what must have been the effect
of a vast volume of flame, fanned by a powerful wind. House after house
caught, as if constructed of touchwood, and the fire roared and raged to
such a degree, that those who stood by were too much terrified to render
any effectual assistance. Indeed, the sole thought that now seemed to
influence all was the preservation of a portion of their property. No
one regarded his neighbour, or the safety of the city. The narrow street
was instantly filled with goods and furniture of all kinds, thrown out
of the windows or pushed out of the doors; but such was the fierceness
of the fire, and the extraordinary rapidity with which it advanced, that
the very articles attempted to be saved were seized by it, and thus
formed a means of conveying it to the opposite houses.
In this way a number of persons were inclosed for a short time between
two fires, and seemed in imminent danger of being burned to death. The
perilous nature of their situation was, moreover, increased by a sudden
and violent gust of wind, which, blowing the flames right across the
street, seemed to envelop all within them. The shrieks that burst from
the poor creatures thus involved were most appalling. Fortunately, they
sustained no greater damage than was occasioned by the fright and a
slight scorching, for the next moment the wind shifted, and, sweeping
back the flames, they were enabled to effect their retreat. Chowles and
Judith were among the sufferers, and in the alarm of the moment lost all
the booty they had obtained.
Soon after this the whole street was on fire. All idea of preserving
their property was therefore abandoned by the inhabitants, and they
thought only of saving themselves. Hundreds of half-naked persons of
both sexes rushed towards Thames-street in search of a place of refuge.
The scene was wholly without parallel for terror. Many fires had
occurred in London, but none that raged with such fierceness as the
present conflagration, or promised to be so generally destructive. It
gathered strength and fury each moment, now rising high into the air in
a towering sheet of flame, now shooting forward like an enormous dragon
vomiting streams of fire upon its foes. All at once the flames changed
colour, and were partially obscured by a thick black smoke. A large
warehouse filled with resin, tar, and other combustible matters, had
caught fire, and the dense vapour proceeded from the burning pitch. But
it cleared off in a few minutes, and the flames burnt more brightly and
fiercely than ever.
Up to this time, none of the civic authorities having arrived, several
persons set off to give information of the calamity to the lord mayor
(Sir Thomas Bludworth), and the other magistrates. A small party of the
watch were on the spot, but they were unable to render any effectual
assistance. As the conflagration advanced, those occupying houses in its
track quitted them, and left their goods a prey to the numerous
plunderers, who were now gathered together pursuing their vocation like
unhallowed beings amid the raging element. The whole presented a scene
of the wildest alarm, confusion, and license. Vociferations, oaths,
shrieks, and outcries of every description stunned the ear. Night was
turned into day. The awful roaring of the flames was ever and anon
broken by the thundering fall of some heavy roof. Flakes of fire were
scattered far and wide by the driving wind, carrying destruction
wherever they alighted, and spreading the conflagration on all sides,
till it seemed like a vast wedge of fire driven into the heart of the
city. And thus it went on, swallowing up all before it, like an
insatiate monster, and roaring for very joy. Meanwhile, the incendiaries
had met, as concerted, near the foot of the bridge, and all except
Philip Grant seemed to rejoice in the progress of the conflagration.
Chowles made some comment upon his moody looks and silence, and
whispered in his ear, "You have now an opportunity of retrieving your
fortune, and may make yourself richer than your son. Take my advice, and
do not let it pass."
"Away, tempter!" cried Grant--"I have lighted a fire within my breast
which never will be quenched."
"Poh, poh!" rejoined Judith; "do not turn faint-hearted now."
"The fire rages fiercely," cried Solomon Eagle, gazing at the vast sheet
of flame overtopping the buildings near them, "but we must keep it
alive. Take the remainder of the fire-balls, Hubert, and cast them into
some of the old houses in Crooked-lane."
Hubert prepared to obey. "I will go with you, and point out the best
spots," said Chowles. "Our next place of rendezvous must be the vaults
beneath Saint Faith's."
"Agreed!" exclaimed the others. And they again separated, Hubert and
Chowles to kindle fresh fires, and Grant to watch the conflagration at a
distance. As to Solomon Eagle, he rushed towards the scene of
destruction, and forcing himself into the midst of the crowd, mounted a
post, crying in a loud voice:
"I told you a second judgment would come upon you on account of your
iniquities, and you now find that I avouched the truth. The Lord himself
hath come to preach to you, as he did in the fiery mount of Sinai, and a
terrible exhortation it shall be, and one ye shall not easily forget.
This fire shall not be quenched till the whole city is laid prostrate.
Ye doubted my words when I told you of the plague; ye laughed at me and
scoffed me; but ye became believers in the end, and now conviction is
forced upon you a second time. You will vainly attempt to save your
dwellings. It is the Lord's will they should be destroyed, and man's
efforts to avert the judgment will be ineffectual!"
While the majority listened to him with fear and trembling, and regarded
him as a prophet, a few took the opposite view of the question, and
coupling his appearance with the sudden outbreak of the fire, were
disposed to regard him as an incendiary. They therefore cried out--"He
has set fire to our houses. Down with him! down with him!"
Other voices joined in the outcry, and an attempt was made to carry the
menace into effect; but a strong party rallied round the enthusiast, who
derided the attempts of his opponents. Planting himself on the steps of
Saint Margaret's Church, he continued to pour forth exhortations to the
crowd, until he was driven into the interior of the pile by the
fast-approaching flames. The whole body of the church was filled with
poor wretches who had sought refuge within it, having brought with them
such of their goods as they were able to carry off. But it soon became
evident that the sacred structure would be destroyed, and their screams
and cries on quitting it were truly heartrending. Solomon Eagle was the
last to go forth, and he delayed his departure till the flames burst
through the windows. Another great storehouse of oil, tar, cordage,
hemp, flax, and other highly inflammable articles, adjoining the church,
had caught fire, and the flames speedily reached the sacred fabric. The
glass within the windows was shivered; the stone bars split asunder; and
the seats and other woodwork withinside catching fire, the flames
ascended to the roof, and kindled its massive rafters.
Great efforts were now made to check the fire. A few of the cumbrous and
unmanageable engines of the day were brought to the spot, but no water
could be obtained. All the aqueducts, pipes, and sluices were dry, and
the Thames water-tower was found to be out of order, and the pipes
connected with it empty. To add to the calamity, the tide was out, and
it was not only difficult, but dangerous, to obtain water from the
river. The scanty supply served rather to increase than check the
flames. All sorts of rumours prevailed among the crowd. It could no
longer be doubted that the fire, which kept continually breaking out in
fresh places, was the work of incendiaries, and it was now supposed that
it must have been caused by the French or the Dutch, with both of which
nations the country was then at war, and the most fearful anticipations
that it was only the prelude of a sudden invasion were entertained. Some
conjectured it might be the work of the Papists; and it chancing that a
professor of that religion was discovered among the mob, he was with
difficulty rescued from their fury by the watch, and conveyed to
Newgate. Other persons, who were likewise suspected of being
incendiaries, were conveyed with him.
This, though it satisfied the multitude, did not check the progress of
the fire, nor put a stop to the terror and tumult that prevailed. Every
moment a fresh family were turned into the street, and by their cries
added to the confusion. The plunderers had formed themselves into bands,
pillaging everything they could lay hands on--carrying off boxes, goods,
and coffers, breaking into cellars, broaching casks of spirits and ale,
and emptying flasks of wine. Hundreds of persons who did not join in the
pillage made free with the contents of the cellars, and a large portion
of the concourse was soon in a state of intoxication.
Thus, wild laughter and exclamations of frenzied mirth were heard amid
the wailings of women and the piteous cries of children. It was indeed
dreadful to see the old and bed-ridden forced into the street to seek a
home where they could; nor yet less dreadful to behold others roused
from a bed of sickness at dead of night, and by such a fearful summons.
Still, fanned by the wind, and fed by a thousand combustible matters,
the fire pressed fearfully on, devouring all before it, and increasing
in fury and power each instant; while the drunken mob laughed, roared,
shouted, and rejoiced beside it, as if in emulation of the raging
To proceed for a moment to Wood Street. When Philip Grant quitted
Leonard in the manner before related, the latter followed him to the
door, and saw him disappear in the gloom. But he did not attempt
pursuit, because he could not persuade himself that any danger was
really to be apprehended. He thought it, however, advisable to consult
with Mr. Bloundel on the subject, and accordingly proceeded to his room
and roused him.
After hearing what had occurred, the grocer looked very grave, and said,
"I am not disposed to treat this matter so lightly as you do, Leonard. I
fear this unhappy man has some desperate design in view. What it is I
cannot--dare not--conjecture. But I confess I am full of apprehension. I
shall not retire to rest to-night, but shall hold myself in readiness to
act in whatever way may be necessary, You had better go forth, and if
anything occurs, give notice to the proper authorities. We have not now
such a lord mayor as we had during the season of the plague. The firm
and courageous Sir John Lawrence is but ill succeeded by the weak and
vacillating Sir Thomas Bludworth. Still, the latter may be equal to this
emergency, and if anything happens, you must apply to him."
"I will follow your advice implicitly," rejoined Leonard. "At the same
time, I think there is nothing to apprehend."
"It is better to err on the safe side," observed the grocer; "you cannot
then reproach yourself with want of caution."
Shortly after this, Leonard sallied forth, and having determined what
course to pursue in the first instance, proceeded to Saint Paul's. He
found every door in the sacred structure fast closed. Not satisfied with
this, he knocked at the great northern entrance till the summons was
answered by a verger, and stating his object, demanded to be admitted,
and to search the cathedral, as well as Saint Faith's. The verger
offered no objection, and having examined the old building throughout,
without discovering any traces of the person he was in quest of, Leonard
More than ever convinced that he was right in his supposition, and that
no danger was to be apprehended, he was about to return home, when the
idea occurred to him that he might perhaps find Grant at the plague-pit
in Finsbury Fields, and he accordingly shaped his course thither. A long
period had elapsed since he had last visited the melancholy spot, and it
was not without much painful emotion that he drew near the vast mound
covering the victims of the pestilence. But Grant was not there, and
though he paced round and round the dreary inclosure for some time, no
one came. He then proceeded to the lesser plague-pit, and kneeling
beside the grave of Amabel, bedewed it with his tears.
As he arose, with the intention of returning to Wood Street, he observed
an extraordinary light in the sky a little to the left, evidently
produced by the reflection of a great fire in that direction. On
beholding this light, he said to himself, "Mr. Bloundel was right. This
is the danger with which the city is threatened. It is now too late to
avert it." Determined, however, to ascertain the extent of the calamity
without an instant's loss of time, he set off at a swift pace, and in
less than half an hour reached Fish Street Hill, and stood beside the
conflagration. It was then nearly three o'clock, and a vast chasm of
blackening ruins proclaimed the devastation that had been committed.
Just as he arrived, the roof of Saint Margaret's fell in with a
tremendous crash, and for a few minutes the fire was subdued. It then
arose with greater fury than ever; burst out on both sides of the sacred
structure, and caught the line of houses leading towards London Bridge.
The first house was that of a vintner; and the lower part of the
premises--the cellars and vaults--were filled with wine and spirits.
These instantly blazed up, and burnt with such intensity that the
adjoining habitation was presently in flames.
"I know who hath done all this!" exclaimed Leonard, half involuntarily,
as he gazed on the work of destruction.
"Indeed!" exclaimed a bystander, gazing at him. "Who is it?--the
Dutchman or the Frenchman?"
"Neither," replied Leonard, who at that moment discovered Grant among
the group opposite him. "Yonder stands the incendiary!"
PROGRESS OF THE FIRE.
Instantly surrounded and seized by the mob, Grant offered no resistance,
but demanded to be led with his accuser before a magistrate. Almost as
the words were uttered, a cry was raised that the lord mayor and the
sheriffs were coming along East-cheap, and the prisoner and Leonard were
immediately hurried off in that direction. They met the civic
authorities at the corner of Saint Clement's-lane; but instead of paying
any attention to them, the lord mayor, who appeared to be in a state of
great agitation and excitement, ordered the javelin-men, by whom he was
attended, to push the mob aside.
"I will not delay your worship an instant," cried Leonard; "but this
dreadful fire is the work of incendiaries, of whom that man," pointing
to Grant, "is the principal. I pray your worship to question him. He may
have important revelations to make."
"Eh, what?" cried the lord mayor, addressing Grant. "Is it true you are
an incendiary? Who are your accomplices? Where are they?"
"I have none," replied Grant, boldly--"I deny the charge altogether. Let
my accuser prove it if he can."
"You hear what he says, young man," said the mayor. "Did you see him set
fire to any house? Did you find any fire-balls on his person?"
"I did not," replied Leonard.
"I searched him, your worship," cried Chowles, who was among the
bystanders, "the moment he was seized, and found nothing upon him. It is
a false and malicious charge."
"It looks like it, I must say," replied the mayor. "On what grounds do
you accuse him?" he added, angrily, to Leonard.
"On these," replied Leonard. "He came to me three hours ago, and
confessed that he had a desperate design against the safety of the city,
and made certain proposals to me, to which I would not listen. This is
not the season for a full explanation of the matter. But I pray your
worship, as you value the welfare of the city, to have him secured."
"There can be no harm in that," replied the lord mayor. "His appearance
is decidedly against him. Let him be taken care of till the morrow, when
I will examine further into the matter. Your name and place of abode,
"I am called Leonard Holt, and my business is that of a grocer, in
Wood-street," was the reply.
"Enough," rejoined the mayor. "Take away the prisoner. I will hear
nothing further now. Lord! Lord! how the fire rages, to be sure. We
shall have the whole city burnt down, if we do not take care."
"That we shall, indeed," replied Sir Robert Viner, one of the sheriffs,
"unless the most prompt and decisive measures are immediately adopted."
"What would you recommend?" cried the lord mayor, despairingly. Sir
Robert looked perplexed by the question.
"If I might offer an opinion," interposed Leonard, "I would advise your
worship to pull down all the houses in the way of the fire, as the only
means of checking it."
"Pull down the houses!" cried the lord mayor. "Who ever heard of such an
idea? Why, that would be worse than the fire. No, no; that will never
"The young man is in the right," observed Sir Joseph Sheldon, the other
"Well, well--we shall see," replied the mayor. "But we are losing time
here. Forward! forward!"
And while Grant was borne off to Newgate by a guard of javelin-men, the
lord mayor and his company proceeded to Fish-street-hill, where the
whole conflagration burst upon them. The moment the lord mayor appeared,
he was beset on all sides by hundreds of families soliciting his
protection. Others came to give him the alarming intelligence that a
very scanty supply of water only could be obtained, and that already two
engines had been destroyed, while the firemen who worked them had
narrowly escaped with life. Others again pressed him for instructions
how to act--some suggesting one plan--some another,--and being of a weak
and irresolute character, and utterly unequal to a fearful emergency
like the present, he was completely bewildered. Bidding the houseless
families take refuge in the churches, he ordered certain officers to
attend them, and affecting to doubt the statement of those who affirmed
there was no water, advised them to go to the river, where they would
find plenty. In vain they assured him the tide was out, the Thames
water-tower empty, the pipes and conduits dry. He would not believe
anything of the sort, but upbraiding his informants with neglect, bade
them try again. As to instructions, he could give none.
At last, a reluctant assent being wrung from him by Sir Joseph Sheldon,
that a house should be pulled down, as suggested by Leonard,
preparations were instantly made for putting the design into execution.
The house selected was about four doors from the top of
Fish-street-hill, and belonged to a birdcage-maker. But they encountered
an unexpected opposition. Having ascertained their purpose, the owner
fastened his doors, and refused to admit them. He harangued the mob from
one of the upper windows, and producing a pistol, threatened to fire
upon them if they attempted to gain a forcible entrance. The officers,
however, having received their orders, were not to be intimidated, and
commenced breaking down the door. The birdcage-maker then fired, but
without effect; and before he had time to reload, the door had yielded
to the combined efforts of the multitude, who were greatly enraged at
his strange conduct. They rushed upstairs, but finding he had locked
himself in the room, left him there, supposing him secure, and commenced
the work of demolition. More than a hundred men were engaged in the
task; but though they used the utmost exertion, they had little more
than unroofed the building, when a cry was raised by those in the
street that the house was on fire. Alarmed by the shout, they descended,
and found the report true. Flames were issuing from the room lately
occupied by the birdcage-maker. The wretch had set fire to his dwelling,
and then made his escape with his family by a back staircase. Thus
defeated, the workmen, with bitter imprecations on the fugitive,
withdrew, and Leonard, who had lent his best assistance to the task,
repaired to the lord mayor. He found him in greater consternation than
"We must go further off, if we would do any good," said Leonard; "and as
the present plan is evidently too slow, we must have recourse to
"Gunpowder!" exclaimed the lord mayor. "Would you blow up the city, like
a second Guy Fawkes? I begin to suspect you are one of the incendiaries
yourself, young man. Lord, Lord! what will become of us?"
"If your worship disapproves of my suggestion, at least give orders what
is to be done," rejoined Leonard.
"I have done all I can," replied the mayor. "Who are you that talk to me
"I have told your worship I am a simple tradesman," replied Leonard.
"But I have the welfare of the city at heart, and I cannot stand by and
see it burnt to the ground without an effort to save it."
"Well, well, I dare say you mean very well, young man," rejoined the
lord mayor, somewhat pacified. "But don't you perceive it's impossible
to stop such a fire as this without water, or engines. I'm sure I would
willingly lay down my life to preserve the city. But what can I
do?--what can any man do?"
"Much may be done if there is resolution to attempt it," returned
Leonard. "I would recommend your worship to proceed, in the first place,
to the wharves on the banks of the Thames, and cause the removal of the
wood, coal, and other combustible matter with which they are crowded."
"Well thought of," cried the lord mayor. "I will go thither at once. Do
you stay here. Your advice will be useful. I will examine you touching
the incendiary to-morrow--that is, if we are any of us left alive, which
I don't expect. Lord, Lord! what will become of us?" And with many
similar ejaculations, he hurried off with the sheriffs, and the greater
part of his attendants, and taking his way down Saint Michael's-lane,
soon reached the river-side.
By this time, the fire had approached the summit of Fish-street-hill,
and here the overhanging stories of the houses coming so close together
as almost to meet at the top, the flames speedily caught the other side,
and spread the conflagration in that direction. Two other houses were
likewise discovered to be on fire in Crooked-lane, and in an incredibly
short space the whole dense mass of habitations lying at the west side
of Fish-street-hill, and between Crooked-lane and Eastcheap, were in
flames, and threatening the venerable church of Saint Michael, which
stood in the midst of them, with instant destruction. To the
astonishment of all who witnessed it, the conflagration seemed to
proceed as rapidly against the wind, as with it, and to be approaching
Thames-street, both by Pudding-lane and Saint Michael's-lane. A large
stable, filled with straw and hay, at the back of the Star Inn, in
Little Eastcheap, caught fire, and carrying the conflagration eastward,
had already conveyed it as far as Botolph-lane.
It chanced that a poor Catholic priest, travelling from Douay to
England, had landed that night, and taken up his quarters at the hotel
above mentioned. The landlord, who had been roused by the cries of fire,
and alarmed by the rumours of incendiaries, immediately called to mind
his guest, and dragging him from his room, thrust him, half-naked, into
the street. Announcing his conviction that the poor priest was an
incendiary to the mob without, they seized him, and in spite of his
protestations and explanations, which, being uttered in a foreign
tongue, they could not comprehend, they were about to exercise summary
punishment upon him, by hanging him to the sign-post before the
landlord's door, when they were diverted from their dreadful purpose by
Solomon Eagle, who prevailed upon them to carry him to Newgate.
The conflagration had now assumed so terrific a character that it
appalled even the stoutest spectator. It has been mentioned, that for
many weeks previous to the direful calamity, the weather had been
remarkably dry and warm, a circumstance which had prepared the old
wooden houses, abounding in this part of the city, for almost
instantaneous ignition. Added to this, if the incendiaries themselves
had deposited combustible materials at certain spots to extend the
conflagration, they could not have selected better places than accident
had arranged. All sorts of inflammable goods were contained in the shops
and ware-houses,--oil, hemp, flax, pitch, tar, cordage, sugar, wine, and
spirits; and when any magazine of this sort caught fire, it spread the
conflagration with tenfold rapidity.
The heat of the flames had now become almost insufferable, and the
sparks and flakes of fire fell so fast and thick, that the spectators
were compelled to retreat to a considerable distance from the burning
buildings. The noise occasioned by the cracking of the timbers, and the
falling of walls and roofs, was awful in the extreme. All the avenues
and thoroughfares near the fire were now choked up by carts, coaches,
and other vehicles, which had been hastily brought thither to remove the
goods of the inhabitants, and the hurry of the poor people to save a
wreck of their property, and the attempts made by the gangs of
plunderers to deprive them of it, constituted a scene of unparalleled
tumult and confusion. As yet, no troops had appeared to maintain order,
and seeing that as much mischief was almost done by the plunderers as by
the fire, Leonard determined to go in search of the lord mayor, and
acquaint him with the mischief that was occurring. Having heard that the
fire had already reached London Bridge, he resolved to ascertain whether
the report was true. As he proceeded down Saint Michael's-lane, he found
the venerable church from which it was designated on fire, and with some
difficulty forcing his way through the crowd, reached Thames-street,
where he discovered that the conflagration had even made more fearful
progress than he had anticipated. Fishmongers' Hall, a large square
structure, was on fire, and burning swiftly,--the flames encircling its
high roof, and the turret by which it was surmounted. Streams of fire,
too, had darted down the numerous narrow alleys leading to the
river-side, and reaching the wharves, had kindled the heaps of wood and
coal with which they were filled. The party under the command of the
lord mayor had used their utmost exertions to get rid of these
combustible materials by flinging them into the Thames; but they came
too late, and were driven away by the approach of the fire. Most of the
barges and heavy craft were aground, and they, too, caught fire, and
were burned, with their contents.
Finding he could neither render any assistance, nor obtain speech with
the lord mayor, and anxious to behold the terrible yet sublime spectacle
from the river, Leonard hastened to Old Swan-Stairs, and springing into
a boat, ordered the waterman to row into the middle of the Thames. He
could then discern the full extent of the conflagration, and trace the
progress it was making. All the houses between Fishmongers' Hall and the
bridge were on fire, and behind them rose a vast sheet of flame. Saint
Magnus' Church, at the foot of the bridge, was next seized by the flame,
and Leonard watched its destruction. An ancient gateway followed, and
soon afterwards a large stack of houses erected upon the bridge burst
The inhabitants of the houses on the bridge, having now become
thoroughly alarmed, flung bedding, boxes, and articles of furniture, out
of their windows into the river. A crowd of boats surrounded the
starlings, and the terrified occupants of the structures above
descending to them by the staircases in the interior of the piers,
embarked with every article they could carry off. The river presented a
most extraordinary scene. Lighted by the red and fierce reflection of
the fire, and covered with boats, filled with families who had just
quitted their habitations either on the bridge or in some other street
adjoining it, its whole surface was speckled with pieces of furniture,
or goods, that had been cast into it, and which were now floating up
with the tide. Great crowds were collected on the Southwark shore to
watch the conflagration, while on the opposite side the wharves and
quays were thronged with persons removing their goods, and embarking
them in boats. One circumstance, noted by Pepys, and which also struck
Leonard, was the singular attachment displayed by the pigeons, kept by
the owners of several houses on the bridge, to the spots they had been
accustomed to. Even when the flames attacked the buildings to which the
dovecots were attached, the birds wheeled round and round them, until,
their pinions being scorched by the fire, they dropped into the water.
Leonard remained on the river nearly two hours. He could not, in fact,
tear himself away from the spectacle, which possessed a strange
fascination in his eyes. He began to think that all the efforts of men
were unavailing to arrest the progress of destruction, and he was for
awhile content to regard it as a mere spectacle. And never had he beheld
a more impressive--a more terrible sight. There lay the vast and
populous city before him, which he had once before known to be invaded
by an invisible but extirminating foe, now attacked by a furious and
far-seen enemy. The fire seemed to form a vast arch--many-coloured as a
rainbow,--reflected in the sky, and re-reflected in all its horrible
splendour in the river.
Nor was the aspect of the city less striking. The innumerable towers and
spires of the churches rose tall and dark through the wavering sheet of
flame, and every now and then one of them would topple down or
disappear, as if swallowed up by the devouring element. For a short
space, the fire seemed to observe a regular progressive movement, but
when it fell upon better material, it reared its blazing crest aloft,
changed its hues, and burnt with redoubled intensity. Leonard watched it
thread narrow alleys, and firing every lesser habitation in its course,
kindle some great hall or other structure, whose remoteness seemed to
secure it from immediate danger. At this distance, the roaring of the
flames resembled that of a thousand furnaces. Ever and anon, it was
broken by a sound like thunder, occasioned by the fall of some mighty
edifice. Then there would come a quick succession of reports like the
discharge of artillery, followed by a shower of fiery flakes and sparks
blown aloft, like the explosion of some stupendous firework. Mixed with
the roaring of the flames, the thunder of falling roofs, the cracking of
timber, was a wild hubbub of human voices, that sounded afar off like a
dismal wail. In spite of its terror, the appearance of the fire was at
that time beautiful beyond description. Its varying colours--its
fanciful forms--now shooting out in a hundred different directions, like
lightning-flashes,--now drawing itself up, as it were, and soaring
aloft,--now splitting into a million tongues of flame,--these aspects so
riveted the attention of Leonard, that he almost forgot in the sight the
dreadful devastation going forward. His eyes ached with gazing at the
fiery spectacle, and he was glad to rest them on the black masses of
building that stood in stern relief against it, and which there could be
little doubt would soon become its prey.
It was now broad daylight, except for the mighty cloud of smoke, which
o'er-canopied the city, creating an artificial gloom. Leonard's troubled
gaze wandered from the scene of destruction to Saint Paul's--an edifice,
which; from the many events connected with his fortunes that had
occurred there, had always a singular interest in his eyes. Calling to
mind the denunciations poured forth by Solomon Eagle against this fane,
he could not help fearing they would now be fulfilled. What added to his
misgivings was, that it was now almost entirely surrounded by poles and
scaffolding. Ever since the cessation of the plague, the repairs,
suspended during that awful season, had been recommenced under the
superintendence of Doctor Christopher Wren, and were now proceeding with
renewed activity. The whole of the building was under repair, and a vast
number of masons were employed upon it, and it was their scaffolding
that impressed Leonard with a dread of what afterwards actually
occurred. Accustomed to connect the figure of Solomon Eagle with the
sacred structure, he could not help fancying that he discovered a speck
resembling a human figure on the central tower. If it were the
enthusiast, what must his feelings be at finding his predictions so
fatally fulfilled? Little did Leonard think how the prophecy had been
But his attention was speedily called to the progress of the
conflagration. From the increased tumult in the city, it was evident the
inhabitants were now thoroughly roused, and actively bestirring
themselves to save their property. This was apparent, even on the river,
from the multitude of boats deeply laden with goods of all kinds, which
were now seen shaping their course towards Westminster. The fire, also,
had made rapid progress on all sides. The vast pile of habitations at
the north side of the bridge was now entirely in flames. The effect of
this was awfully fine. Not only did the flames mount to a greater
height, and appear singularly conspicuous from the situation of the
houses, but every instant some blazing fragment fell with a tremendous
splash into the water, where it hissed for a moment, and then was for
ever quenched, floating a black mass upon the surface. From the foot of
the bridge to Coal Harbour Stairs, extended what Dryden finely calls "a
quay of fire." All the wharves and warehouses were in flames, and
burning with astonishing rapidity, while this part of Thames-street,
"the lodge of all combustibles," had likewise become a prey to the
devouring element. The fire, too, had spread in an easterly direction,
and consuming three churches, namely, Saint Andrew's, in Botolph-lane,
Saint Mary's, in Love-lane, and Saint Dunstan's in the East, had invaded
Tower-street, and seemed fast approaching the ancient fortress. So
fascinated was Leonard with the sight, that he could have been well
content to remain all day gazing at it, but he now recollected that he
had other duties to perform, and directing the waterman to land him at
Queenhithe, ascended Bread-street-hill, and betook himself to
LEONARD'S INTERVIEW WITH THE KING.
Some rumours of the conflagration, as will be supposed, had ere this
reached Mr. Bloundel, but he had no idea of the extent of the direful
calamity, and when informed of it by Leonard, lifted up his hands
despairingly, exclaiming, in accents of the deepest affliction--"Another
judgment, then, has fallen upon this sinful city,--another judgment yet
more terrible than the first. Man may have kindled this great fire, but
the hand of God is apparent in it. 'Alas! alas! for thee, thou great
city, Babylon! Alas for thee, thou mighty city! for in one hour is thy
judgment come. The kings of the earth shall bewail thee, and lament for
thee, when they see the smoke of thy burning.'"
"Your dwelling was spared in the last visitation, sir," observed
Leonard, after a pause, "and you were able to shut yourself up, as in a
strong castle, against the all-exterminating foe. But I fear you will
not be able to ward off the assaults of the present enemy, and recommend
you to remove your family and goods without delay to some place of
security far from this doomed city."
"This is the Lord's Day, Leonard, and must be kept holy," replied the
grocer. "To-morrow, if I am spared so long, I will endeavour to find
some place of shelter."
"If the conflagration continues to spread as rapidly as it is now doing,
to-morrow will be too late," rejoined Leonard.
"It may be so," returned the grocer, "but I will not violate the
Sabbath. If the safety of my family is threatened, that is another
matter, but I will not attempt to preserve my goods. Do not, however,
let me influence you. Take such portion of our stock as belongs to you,
and you know that a third of the whole is yours, and convey it where you
"On no account, sir," interrupted Leonard. "I should never think of
acting in opposition to your wishes. This will be a sad Sunday for
"The saddest she has ever seen," replied the grocer; "for though the
voice of prayer was silenced in her churches during the awful season of
the plague, yet then men's minds had been gradually prepared for the
calamity, and though filled with terror, they were not taken by
surprise, as must now be the case. But let us to prayers, and may our
earnest supplications avail in turning aside the Divine displeasure."
And summoning his family and household, all of whom were by this time
stirring, and in the utmost consternation at what they had heard of the
fire, he commenced a prayer adapted to the occasion in a strain of the
utmost fervour; and as Leonard gazed at his austere countenance, now
lighted up with holy zeal, and listened to his earnest intercessions in
behalf of the devoted city, he was reminded of the prophet Jeremiah
weeping for Jerusalem before the throne of grace.
Prayers over, the whole party sat down to their morning repast, after
which, the grocer and his eldest son, accompanied by Leonard and Blaize,
mounted to the roof of the house, and gazing in the direction of the
conflagration, they could plainly distinguish the vast cloud of yellow
smoke commingled with flame that marked the scene of its ravages. As the
wind blew from this quarter, charged, as has been stated, with a cloud
of sparks, many of the fire-drops were dashed in their faces, and
compelled them to shade their eyes. The same awful roar which Leonard
had heard on the river likewise broke upon their ears, while from all
the adjoining streets arose a wild clamour of human voices, the burden
of whose cries was "Fire! Fire!" The church bells, which should have
been tolling to early devotion, were now loudly ringing the alarm, while
their towers were crowded, as were the roofs of most of the houses, with
persons gazing towards the scene of devastation. Nothing could be more
opposite to the stillness and quiet of a Sabbath morn; and as the grocer
listened to the noise and tumult prevailing around him, he could not
repress a groan.
"I never thought my ears would be so much offended on this day," he
said. "Let us go down. I have seen and heard enough."
They then descended, and Stephen Bloundel, who was greatly alarmed by
what he had just witnessed, strongly urged his father to remove
immediately. "There are seasons," said the young man, "when even our
duty to Heaven becomes a secondary consideration; and I should be sorry
if the fruit of your industry were sacrificed to your religious
"There are no such seasons," replied the grocer, severely; "and I am
grieved that a son of mine should think so. If the inhabitants of this
sinful city had not broken the Sabbath, and neglected God's
commandments, this heavy judgment would not have fallen upon them. I
shall neglect no precaution for the personal safety of my family, but I
place my worldly goods in the hands of Him from whom I derived them, and
to whom I am ready to restore them, whenever it shall please Him to take
"I am rebuked, father," replied Stephen, humbly; "and entreat your
pardon for having ventured to differ with you. I am now fully sensible
of the propriety of your conduct."
"And I have ever acquiesced in your wishes, be they what they may," said
Mrs. Bloundel to her husband; "but I confess I am dreadfully frightened.
I hope you will remove the first thing to-morrow."
"When midnight has struck, and the Sabbath is past, I shall commence my
preparations," replied the grocer. "You must rest content till then."
Mrs. Bloundel heaved a sigh, but said no more; and the grocer, retiring
to a side-table, opened the Bible, and sat down calmly to its perusal.
But though no further remonstrances reached his ears, there was great
murmuring in the kitchen on the part of Blaize and Patience.
"Goodness knows what will become of us!" cried the latter. "I expect we
shall all be burnt alive, owing to our master's obstinacy. What harm can
there be in moving on a Sunday, I should like to know? I'm sure I'm too
much hurried and flurried to say my prayers as I ought to do."
"And so am I," replied Blaize. "Mr. Bloundel is a great deal too
particular. What a dreadful thing it would be if the house should be
burnt down, and all my mother's savings, which were to form a provision
for our marriage, lost."
"That would be terrible, indeed," cried Patience, with a look of dismay.
"I think the wedding had better take place as soon as the fire is over.
It can't last many days if it goes on at this rate."
"You are right," returned Blaize. "I have no objection. I'll speak to my
mother at once." And stepping into the scullery, where old Josyna was
washing some dishes, he addressed her--"Mother, I'm sadly afraid this
great fire will reach us before our master will allow us to move. Hadn't
you better let me take care of the money you intended giving me on my
marriage with Patience?"
"No, no, myn goed zoon," replied Josyna, shaking her head--"I musd zee
you married virsd."
"But I can't be married to-day," cried Blaize--"and there's no time to
lose. The fire will be upon us directly."
"I cand help dat," returned his mother. "We musd place our drusd in
"There I quite agree with you, mother," replied Blaize; "but we must
also take care of ourselves. If you won't give me the money, at least
put it in a box to carry off at a moment's notice."
"Don't be afraid, myn zoon," replied Josyna. "I wond forged id."
"I'm sadly afraid you will, though," muttered Blaize, as he walked away.
"There's no doing any good with her," he added to Patience. "She's as
obstinate as Mr. Bloundel. I should like to see the fire of all things;
but I suppose I musn't leave the house."
"Of course not," replied Patience, pettishly; "at such a time it would
be highly improper. I forbid that."
"Then I must need submit," groaned Blaize--"I can't even have my own way
When the proper time arrived, the grocer, accompanied by all his family
and household, except old Josyna, who was left in charge of the house,
repaired to the neighbouring church of Saint Alban's, but, finding the
doors closed, and that no service was to be performed, he returned home
with a sorrowful heart. Soon after this, Leonard took Mr. Bloundel
apart, and observed to him, "I have a strong conviction that I could be
useful in arresting the progress of the conflagration, and, as I cannot
attend church service, I will, with your permission, devote myself to
that object. It is my intention to proceed to Whitehall, and, if
possible, obtain an audience of the king, and if I succeed in doing so,
to lay a plan before him, which I think would prove efficacious."
Back to Full Books