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that at night vast crowds of ghosts walked
round and round the dismal pits. One madman,
naked, and carrying a brazier full of
burning coals upon his head, stalked through
the streets, crying out that he was a Prophet,
commissioned to denounce the vengeance of
the Lord on wicked London. Another always
went to and fro, exclaiming, " Yet forty days,
and London shall be destroyed!" A third
awoke the echoes in the dismal streets, by
night and by day, and made the blood of the
sick run cold, by calling out incessantly, in
a deep, hoarse voice, " 0, the great and
dreadful God!"

Through the months of July and August
and September, the Great Plague raged more
and more. Great fires were lighted in the
streets, in the hope of stopping the infection;
but there was a plague of rain too, and it beat
the fires out. At last, the winds which usually
arise at that time of the year which is called
the equinox, when day and night are of equal
length all over the world, began to blow, and
to purify the wretched town. The deaths
began to decrease, the red crosses slowly to
disappear, the fugitives to return, the shops
to open again, pale frightened faces to be seen
in the streets. The Plague had been in every
part of England, but in close and unwholesome
London it had killed one hundred thousand
people.

All this time the Merry Monarch was as
merry as ever, and as worthless as ever. All
this time, the debauched lords and gentlemen
and the shameless ladies danced and gamed
and drank, and loved and hated one another,
according to their merry ways. So little
humanity did the government learn from
the late affliction, that one of the first things
the Parliament did when it met at Oxford
(being as yet afraid to come to London), was
to make a law, called the Five Mile Act,
expressly directed against those poor ministers,
who, in the time of the Plague, had
manfully come back to comfort the unhappy
people. This infamous law, by forbidding
them to teach in any school, or to come
within five miles of any city, town, or village,
doomed them to starvation and death.

The fleet had been at sea, and healthy.
The King of France was now in alliance
with the Dutch, though his navy was
chiefly employed in looking on while the
English and Dutch fought. The Dutch
gained one victory; and the English gained
another and a greater; and Prince Rupert,
one of the English admirals, was out in the
Channel one windy night, looking out for the
French Admiral, with the intention of giving
him something more to do than he had had
yet, when the gale increased to a storm, and
blew him into Saint Helen's. That night was
the third of September, one thousand six
hundred and sixty-six, and that wind fanned
the Great Fire of London.

It broke out at a baker's shop near London
Bridge, on the spot on which the Monument
now stands as a remembrance of those
raging flames. It spread and spread, and
burned and burned, for three days. The
nights were lighter than the days; in the day-
time there was an immense cloud of smoke,
and in the night-time there was a great tower
of fire mounting up into the sky, which
lighted the whole country landscape for ten
miles round. Showers of hot ashes rose into
the air and fell on distant places; flying
sparks carried the conflagration to great
distances, and kindled it in twenty new spots
at a time; church steeples fell down with
tremendous crashes; houses crumbled into
cinders by the hundred and the thousand.
The summer had been intensely hot and dry,
the streets were very narrow, and the houses
mostly built of wood and plaster. Nothing
could stop the tremendous fire but the want
of more houses to burn; nor did it stop
until the whole way from the Tower to
Temple Bar was a desert, composed of the
ashes of thirteen thousand houses and eighty-
nine churches.

This was a terrible visitation at the time,
and occasioned great loss and suffering to the
two hundred thousand burnt-out people, who
were obliged to lie in the fields under the
open night sky, or in hastily-made huts of
mud and straw, while the lanes and roads
were rendered impassable by carts which had
broken down as they tried to save their
goods. But the Fire was a great blessing
to the City afterwards, for it arose from
its ruins very much improvedbuilt more
regularly, more widely, more cleanly and
carefully, and therefore much more healthily.
It might be far more healthy than it is, but
there are some people in it stilleven now, at
this time, nearly two hundred years later
so selfish, so pig-headed, and so ignorant, that
I doubt if even another Great Fire would
warm them up to do their duty.

The Catholics were accused of having
wilfully set London in flames; one poor
Frenchman, who had been mad for years,
even accused himself of having with his own
hand fired the first house. There is no
reasonable doubt, however, that the fire was
accidental. An inscription on the Monument
long attributed it to the Catholics; but it is
removed now, and was always a malicious
and stupid untruth.

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