Old Saint Paul's eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 571 pages of information about Old Saint Paul's.
Thames, consuming everything in its way, and rendering the very pavements red-hot.  Every stone, spout, and gutter in the sacred pile, of which there were some hundreds, added to this fatal shower, and scattered destruction far and wide; nor will this be wondered at when it is considered that the quantity of lead thus melted covered a space of no less than six acres.  Having burned with incredible fury and fierceness for some time, the whole roof of the sacred structure fell in at once, and with a crash heard at an amazing distance.  After an instant’s pause, the flames burst forth from every window in the fabric, producing such an intensity of heat, that the stone pinnacles, transom beams, and mullions split and cracked with a sound like volleys of artillery, shivering and flying in every direction.  The whole interior of the pile was now one vast sheet of flame, which soared upwards, and consumed even the very stones.  Not a vestige of the reverend structure was left untouched—­its bells—­its plate—­its woodwork—­its monuments—­its mighty pillars—­its galleries—­its chapels—­all, all were destroyed.  The fire raged throughout all that night and the next day, till it had consumed all but the mere shell, and rendered the venerable cathedral—­“one of the most ancient pieces of piety in the Christian world”—­to use the words of Evelyn, a heap of ruin and ashes.

VIII.

HOW LEONARD RESCUED THE LADY ISABELLA.

The course of events having been somewhat anticipated in the last chapter, it will now be necessary to return to an earlier stage in the destruction of the cathedral, namely, soon after the furious bursting forth of the flames from the great eastern windows.  While Leonard, in common with the rest of the assemblage, was gazing at this magnificent spectacle, he heard a loud cry of distress behind him, and turning at the sound, beheld Doctor Hodges rush forth from an adjoining house, the upper part of which was on fire, almost in a state of distraction.  An elderly man and woman, and two or three female servants, all of whom were crying as loud as himself, followed him.  But their screams fell on indifferent ears, for the crowd had become by this time too much accustomed to such appeals to pay any particular attention to them.  Leonard, however, instantly rushed towards the doctor, and anxiously inquired what was the matter; the latter was so bewildered that he did not recognise the voice of the speaker, but gazing up at the house with an indescribable anguish, cried, “Merciful God! the flames have by this time reached her room—­she will be burned—­horror!”

“Who will be burned?” cried Leonard, seizing his arm, and gazing at him with a look of apprehension and anguish equal to his own—­“Not the Lady Isabella?”

“Yes, Isabella,” replied Hodges, regarding the speaker, and for the first time perceiving by whom he was addressed.  “Not a moment is to be lost if you would save her from a terrible death.  She was left in a fainting state in one of the upper rooms by a female attendant, who deserted her mistress to save herself.  The staircase is on fire, or I myself would have saved her.”

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