Charles gazed at the appalling spectacle like one who could not believe his senses, and it was some time before the overwhelming truth could force itself upon him. Tears then started to his eyes, and, uttering an ejaculation of despair, he commanded the rowers to make instantly for the shore.
HOW LEONARD SAVED THE KING’S LIFE.
The royal barge landed at Queenhithe, and Charles instantly disembarking, proceeded on foot, and at a pace that compelled, his attendants to move quickly, to keep up with him, to Thames-street. Here, however, the confusion was so great, owing to the rush of people, and the number of vehicles employed in the removal of goods, that he was obliged to come to a halt. Fortunately, at this moment, a company of the train-bands rode up, and their leader dismounting, offered his horse to the king, who instantly sprang into the saddle, and scarcely waiting till the Duke of York could be similarly accommodated, forced his way through the crowd as far as Brewer-lane, where his progress was stopped by the intense heat. A little more than a hundred yards from this point, the whole street was on fire, and the flames bursting from the windows and roofs of the houses, with a roar like that which might be supposed to be produced by the forges of the Cyclops, united in a vast blazing arch overhead. It chanced, too, that in some places cellars filled with combustible materials extended under the street, and here the ground would crack, and jets of fire shoot forth like the eruption of a volcano. The walls and timbers of the houses at some distance from the conflagration were scorched and blistered with the heat, and completely prepared for ignition; overhead being a vast and momentarily increasing cloud of flame-coloured smoke, which spread all over the city, filling it as with a thick mist, while the glowing vault above looked, as Evelyn expresses it, “like the top of a burning oven.”
Two churches, namely, Allhallows the Great and Allhallows the Less, were burnt down in the king’s sight, and the lofty spire of a third, Saint Lawrence Poulteney, had just caught fire, and looked like a flame-tipped spear. After contemplating this spectacle for some time, Charles roused himself from the state of stupefaction into which he was thrown, and determined, if possible, to arrest the further progress of the devouring element along the river-side, commanded