HOW THE GROCER’S HOUSE WAS BURNT.
It was full ten o’clock before Leonard could obtain permission to quit the king’s party, and he immediately hurried to Wood-street. He had scarcely entered it, when the cry of “fire” smote his ears, and rushing forward in an agony of apprehension, he beheld Mr. Bloundel’s dwelling in flames. A large crowd was collected before the burning habitation, keeping guard over a vast heap of goods and furniture that had been removed from it.
So much beloved was Mr. Bloundel, and in such high estimation was his character held, that all his neighbours, on learning that his house was on fire, flew to his assistance, and bestirred themselves so actively, that in an extraordinary short space of time they had emptied the house of every article of value, and placed it out of danger in the street. In vain the grocer urged them to desist: his entreaties were disregarded by his zealous friends; and when he told them they were profaning the Sabbath, they replied that the responsibility of their conduct would rest entirely on themselves, and they hoped they might never have anything worse to answer for. In spite of his disapproval of what was done, the grocer could not but be sensibly touched by their devotion, and as to his wife, she said, with tears in her eyes, that “it was almost worth while having a fire to prove what good friends they had.”
It was at this juncture that Leonard arrived. Way was instantly made for him, and leaping over the piles of chests and goods that blocked up the thoroughfare, he flew to Mr. Bloundel, who was standing in front of his flaming habitation with as calm and unmoved an expression of countenance as if nothing was happening, and presently ascertained from him in what manner the fire had originated. It appeared that while the whole of the family were assembled at prayers, in the room ordinarily used for that purpose, they were alarmed at supper by a strong smell of smoke, which seemed to arise from the lower part of the house, and that as soon as their devotions were ended, for Mr. Bloundel would not allow them to stir before, Stephen and Blaize had proceeded to ascertain the cause, and on going down to the kitchen, found a dense smoke issuing from the adjoining cellar, the door of which