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 other.”
“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! fire!—help! help!”
“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.