Old Saint Paul's eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 571 pages of information about Old Saint Paul's.
read the bills of mortality daily; ascertained the particulars of every case; dilated upon the agonies of the sufferers; watched the progress of the infection, and calculated the time it would take to reach Wood-street.  He talked of the pestilence by day, and dreamed of it at night; and more than once alarmed the house by roaring for assistance, under the idea that he was suddenly attacked.  By his mother’s advice, he steeped rue, wormwood, and sage in his drink, till it was so abominably nauseous that he could scarcely swallow it, and carried a small ball in the hollow of his hand, compounded of wax, angelica, camphor, and other drugs.  He likewise chewed a small piece of Virginian snake-root, or zedoary, if he approached any place supposed to be infected.  A dried toad was suspended round his neck, as an amulet of sovereign virtue.  Every nostrum sold by the quacks in the streets tempted him; and a few days before, he had expended his last crown in the purchase of a bottle of plague-water.  Being of a superstitious nature, he placed full faith in all the predictions of the astrologers, who foretold that London should be utterly laid waste, that grass should grow in the streets, and that the living should not be able to bury the dead.  He quaked at the terrible denunciations of the preachers, who exhorted their hearers to repentance, telling them a judgment was at hand, and shuddered at the wild and fearful prophesying of the insane enthusiasts who roamed the streets.  His nativity having been cast, and it appearing that he would be in great danger on the 20th of June, he made up his mind that he should die of the plague on that day.  Before he was assailed by these terrors, he had entertained a sneaking attachment for Patience, the kitchen-maid, a young and buxom damsel, who had no especial objection to him.  But of late, his love had given way to apprehension, and his whole thoughts were centred in one idea, namely, self-preservation.

By this time supper was over, and the family were about to separate for the night, when Stephen, the grocer’s eldest son, having risen to quit the room, staggered and complained of a strange dizziness and headache, which almost deprived him of sight, while his heart palpitated frightfully.  A dreadful suspicion seized his father.  He ran towards him, and assisted him to a seat.  Scarcely had the young man reached it, when a violent sickness seized him; a greenish-coloured froth appeared at the mouth, and he began to grow delirious.  Guided by the convulsive efforts of the sufferer, Bloundel tore off his clothes, and after a moment’s search, perceived under the left arm a livid pustule.  He uttered a cry of anguish.  His son was plague-stricken.

II.

THE COFFIN-MAKER.

The first shock over, the grocer bore the affliction manfully, and like one prepared for it.  Exhibiting little outward emotion, though his heart was torn with anguish, and acting with the utmost calmness, he forbade his wife to approach the sufferer, and desired her instantly to retire to her own room with her daughters; and not to leave it on any consideration whatever, without his permission.

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Old Saint Paul's from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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