Flushed with success, and heated with wine, he walked up to Disbrowe’s residence about an hour after midnight. As he approached the house, he observed a strangely-shaped cart at the door, and, halting for a moment, saw a body, wrapped in a shroud, brought out. Could it be Mrs. Disbrowe? Rushing forward, to one of the assistants in black cloaks—and who was no other than Chowles—he asked whom he was about to inter.
“It is a Mrs. Disbrowe,” replied the coffin-maker. “She died of grief, because her husband was killed this morning in a duel; but as she had the plague, it must be put down to that. We are not particular in such matters, and shall bury her and her husband together; and as there is no money left to pay for coffins, they must go to the grave without them. What, ho! Mother Malmayns, let Jonas have the captain as soon as you have stripped him. I must be starting.”
And as the body of his victim was brought forth, Parravicin fell against the wall in a state almost of stupefaction.
At this moment Solomon Eagle, with his brazier on his head, suddenly turned the corner of the street, and stationing himself before the dead-cart, cried in a voice of thunder, “Woe to the libertine! woe to the homicide! for he shall perish in everlasting fire! Woe! woe!”
BOOK THE SECOND.
PROGRESS OF THE PESTILENCE.
Towards the middle of May, the bills of mortality began to swell greatly in amount, and though but few were put down to the plague, and a large number to the spotted fever (another frightful disorder raging at the period), it is well known that the bulk had died of the former disease. The rigorous measures adopted by the authorities (whether salutary or not has been questioned), in shutting up houses and confining the sick and sound within them for forty days, were found so intolerable, that most persons were disposed to run any risk rather than be subjected to such a grievance, and every artifice was resorted to for concealing a case when it occurred. Hence, it seldom happened, unless by accident, that a discovery was made. Quack doctors were secretly consulted, instead of the regular practitioners; the searchers were bribed to silence; and large fees were given to the undertakers and buriers to lay the deaths to the account of some other disorder. All this, however, did not blind the eyes of the officers to the real state of things. Redoubling their vigilance, they entered houses on mere suspicion; inflicted punishments where they found their orders disobeyed or neglected; sent the sound to prison,—the sick to the pest-house; and replaced the faithless searchers by others upon whom they could place reliance. Many cases were thus detected; but in spite of every precaution, the majority escaped; and the vent was no sooner stopped in one quarter than it broke out with additional violence in another.