Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/40

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30
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

journal of Pepys. "June 7th," says this writer, "was the hottest that ever I felt in my life. This day, much against my will, did I see in Drury Lane two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and 'Lord, have mercy upon us!' writ there—a sad sight to me, being the first of the kind I ever saw." Again, on the 17th of the same month, he says: "It struck me very deep this afternoon, going with a hackney coach down Holborn, from the Lord Treasurer's, I found the coachman to drive easily and easily, and the coach stood still. He told me that he was suddenly struck very sick and almost blind. I took another coach, with a sad heart for the poor man, and fearing for myself also, lest he should have been struck with the plague."

As the calamity increased, shops were closed, dwellings were left empty, and the public thoroughfares were deserted. The markets were removed beyond the city-walls, coaches were seldom seen, except when people were fleeing from the city; a solemn stillness prevailed in many districts, and grass grew in the streets. People might be heard crying out of the windows for help, but the cry returned echoless. Some went mad; some rushed into the river, and ended their tortures by suicide. On a single night in the month of September 10,000 people died.

Many incidents of this terrible visitation are preserved, the best known being from the pen of Defoe. Rev. Thomas Vincent describes some touching scenes, of which he himself was a witness. "Among other spectacles," he says, "two, methought, were very affecting; one of a woman coming alone and weeping by the door where I lived, with a little coffin under her arm, carrying it to the new church-yard. I did judge that it was the mother of the child, and that all the family besides were dead."

An old writer thus describes an impressive scene in London during the reign of the plague:

"O unrejoicing Sabbath! not of yore

Did thy sweet evenings die along the Thames
Thus silently. Now, every sail is furled,
The oar hath dropped from out the rower's hand,
And on thou flowest in lifeless majesty,
River of a desert lately filled with joy!
O'er all the mighty wilderness of stone
The air is clear and cloudless, as the sea
Above the gliding ship. All fires are dead,
And not one single wreath of smoke ascends
Above the stillness of the towers and spires.
How idly hangs that arch magnificent
Across the idle river! Not a speck
Is seen to move along it. There it hangs
Still as a rainbow in the pathless sky."


 John Wilson.