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XXXII. SCENES IN THE PLAGUE AND
There is no flock, however watched or tended,
But one dead lamb is there;
There is no household, howsoe'er defended,
The air is full of farewells to the dying,
And wailing for the dead;
The heart of Rachel, for her children crying,
Let us be patient; these severe afflictions
But oftentimes, celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.-LONGFELLOW.
You will, no doubt, think this a singularly inappropriate opening to the history of a reign which commenced under such bright auspices! As you read on, however, you will find something sad in this reign, as you have in most of the previous reigns. A tale, not indeed of battle and bloodshed, of war and murder; but
yet one which will induce you to think, that these pretty and affecting lines are not misplaced, even as a heading to the joyous period of the Restoration.
Charles was just thirty years of age when his reign began; for his return to England happened, as you have already heard, on his birthday, the 29th of May. He was so gay and lively, that he became at once very popular with the people; and then the recollection of his former adventures, and dangers, and sufferings, made them all the more ready to receive him with congratulations and affection, now that new and different prospects were before him.
But in the midst of the rejoicings, which followed his accession, there were some things which took place of a very grave and serious kind. Though an act of indemnity was passed in the beginning of the reign, yet some persons were excepted from it. These were the regicides, who had been chiefly concerned in the execution of the late king. Several of these misguided men were brought to trial, condemned, and executed. Sir Henry Vane was another who suffered death; not indeed for this crime, but for his conduct during the time he was member of the council of state, and Secretary of the navy. You will remember, that it was he who formerly had
taken so conspicuous a part in the unjust condemnation of the Earl of Strafford; and it is remarkable, that as Strafford was the first, so Vane was the last who suffered execution in the contentions between the king and the Parliament.
But you will be glad to hear something of a more pleasing kind. Charles, when he was restored to the kingdom, did not forget to reward those who had shown him kindness during the time of his exile. General Monk was made Duke of Albemarle, and was always treated, as he deserved to be, with honour and respect. And those generous protectors of the king, Mr. Lane, and the family of the Penderells, were also gratefully remembered by him, and received a pension, and liberal pre
There is not, I think, very much that will interest you in the earlier years of Charles II. I must mention, however, his marriage to Catherine of Portugal, with whom he received from the Portuguese king not only a large sum of money, but also the fortresses of Tangiers, in the North of Africa, and Bombay, in the East Indies. I may tell you too, of a negotiation between Charles and the king of France, in which the town of Dunkirk was sold to the French sovereign for £500,000. And I must not forget to say, that war broke out
again with Holland, and defeated in that war, and taken.
that the Dutch were many of their ships But we will not dwell upon this now, for our stories have of late had so much to do with battles and fighting, that I think it will be well to turn from such scenes for the present, and to talk a little about other matters. There is, as I said, a mournful tale to be related, and we will proceed to it at once. What I am going to tell you occurred about five years after the commencement of Charles's reign.
You have, perhaps, heard of the plague of London-the dreadful judgment which cut off such a large number of the inhabitants of that city, one hundred thousand,-in the space of about six months. It was in the spring of the year, that this fearful disease made its first appearance. In the course of a week, nine deaths were reported to have occurred, and every body began to take alarm. But when, the week after, it was said that only three more had died, hope revived, and men tried to persuade themselves that there was not so much danger as they had believed, and that there was no need to be disturbed about the matter. But they were mistaken. The number of those who died of the Plague in the next week, was fourteen; the week after, seventeen; then it rose to forty-three, then to a
hundred and twelve, and so it went on rapidly increasing, till the number amounted to hundreds and thousands weekly. And now the people were frightened indeed. The king and the royal family hastened from London to escape the infection. So also did large numbers of the nobility, and of the principal citizens; but there were many more who knew not where to flee, or who were compelled by circumstances to remain, and amongst these the Plague made fearful ravages.
The city was now divided into districts, and over these were appointed persons who had various offices assigned them; some were to act as searchers and examiners, and others as watchers or nurses. As soon as it was discovered that the Plague had entered any house, orders were given for that house to be immediately closed. A large red cross, a foot long, was painted upon the door, as the sign that the Plague was there, and the words, "Lord have mercy upon us," were inscribed above. And then, for a whole month, no one was allowed to enter. Those within were to remain as they were, to help one another, 'or to sicken and die together. The heat of the weather at that time was intense; and this increased the sufferings of the poor sick people. Sometimes they became quite frantic, and then they would spring from their beds, and throw themselves