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ful news was announced, that seventy-three parishes were free from disease. The new year appeared, and health, and life, and activity were seen once again in the streets of London. The king and the royal family returned; the nobility followed; business began again, and all looked very much as it had done before the Plague appeared. But then, one hundred thousand persons, who, twelve months before, had walked those streets, as busy and as active as any who were to be seen in them now,―those hundred thousand persons were all swept away, and their place knew them no more. Thoughtful people would ponder over this, and rememper, that still "in the midst of life we are in death;" but as to the greater number, we may fear that they were so completely absorbed in their worldly cares and pleasures, as to retain no serious impression of the past,-none of those salutary lessons which that time of sorrow had so recently and so powerfully taught them.
But the calamities of London were not yet ended. Another trouble of a different kind was approaching,-one which would be as destructive of property, as the former had been of life. This calamity was the great Fire, vhich took place the year after the Plague. Suddenly and unexpectedly that fire broke out; and its cause, whether accident or design, was
never completely ascertained. One Saturday night, the people of London retired to rest as usual, unsuspicious of any danger. Very early in the morning, however, they were aroused by the cry of "Fire, fire, fire." The flames had broken out in a baker's shop, in a part of the city where the houses were built of wood, and they ignited so quickly, that before day-light, the fire had increased to a tremendous degree, and no engines, nor other means which were tried, would extinguish them. All that day it raged furiously. It was Sunday, but no sabbath of rest. Every one was running to and fro; people were to be seen rushing from their houses, and endeavouring to save themselves or their property from the devouring flames. In some parts of the city which the fire had not yet reached, the churches were opened, and farewell sermons were preached; for those who preached and those who heard, expected that, ere another sabbath, their city would be in ruins, and themselves scattered they knew not where.
Meantime the fire continued its progress. A violent wind drove it on at a rapid rate, and nothing could withstand its fury. Houses, churches, public buildings, all fell before it. And then night came,-and an awful night it was. No one thought of sleep. Some were vainly trying to extinguish the fire; others
were fleeing before it. And then, there was the sight of the lurid flames overpowering the darkness of night; and the sound of the cracking and the roaring of the fire as it rushed along, leaping from house to house; and the falling of the buildings, and the screams of the people, and the cry, from time to time, of Fire, fire, fire! That night was indeed one to be remembered as a night of terror and alarm. And morning came, and still the fire was rolling along. All Monday, all Tuesday, its fearful ravages continued; on Wednesday, there was a little abatement; for now the people had adopted the plan of blowing up the houses with gun-powder, in order to arrest the progress of the flames; and this plan was found to succeed, so that by Thursday the fire was entirely extinguished. But oh, what a scene of ruin and desolation presented itself then! Only six persons indeed had perished, for life had been wonderfully preserved: but 13,000 houses were consumed; 400 streets had been burnt down, and property of various kinds had been destroyed, to the amount of more than £7,000,000! Ah, here was another solemn lesson for the inhabitants of London! They might read, inscribed as it were on the burnt and ruinous heaps around them, "Riches make themselves wings, and fly away."
But you may like to read a description of
this fire from one who actually witnessed it, so I will give you another extract from the Diary of Evelyn, from which, you remember, we have already quoted. He wrote thus. "The con
flagration was so universal, and the people so astonished, that from the beginning, I know not by what despondency or fate, they hardly stirred to quench it; so that there was nothing heard or seen but crying out and lamentation; running about like distracted creatures, without at all attempting to save even their own goods, such a strange consternation was there upon them; so it burned, both in breadth and length, the churches, public halls, exchanges, hospitals, monuments, and ornaments, leaping after a prodigious manner from house to house, and street to street, at a great distance from one to the other; for the heat, with a long set of fair and warm weather, had even ignited the air, and prepared the materials for the fire, which devoured houses, furniture, and everything. Here we saw the Thames covered with goods floating; all the barges and boats laden with what some had time and courage to save; and carts carrying out to the fields, which for many miles were strewed with moveables of all sorts, and tents erecting to shelter both people and what goods they could get away. Oh, the miserable calamitous spectacle! such as haply the world had not
seen since the foundation of it, nor to be outdone till the conflagration of it. All the sky was of a fiery aspect, like the top of a burning oven; and the light seen for about forty miles round for many nights. God grant mine eyes may never see the like, who now saw above ten thousand houses all in one flame; the noise, and crackling, and thunder of the impetuous flames, the shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses, and churches, was like a hideous storm, and the air all about so hot and inflamed that at last one was not able to approach it; so that the people were found to stand still, and let the flames burn on, which they did for nearly two miles in length, and one in breadth.”
Can you imagine, after reading such an account as this, that any good could arise from such a fearful evil? that there could be any blessing in disguise here? Yes, there was indeed. The city had been so completely destroyed by the fire, that it was necessary to rebuild it almost entirely; and now, for the wooden houses, which had so easily ignited, were substituted houses of brick; and instead of narrow confined streets, which were so unhealthy as to favour the progress of disease whenever it appeared, were built wide and airy ones; and then, besides this, the fire itself acted as a purifier, removing any remains of