Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/230

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Though nothing yet indicated the high political destiny of the East India Company, that body had a great sway in the City of London. The offices, which stood on a very small part of the ground which the present offices cover, had escaped the ravages of the fire. The India House of those days was a building of timber and plaster, rich with the quaint carving and lattice-work of the Elizabethan age. Above the windows was a painting which represented a fleet of merchantmen tossing on the waves. The whole edifice was surmounted by a colossal wooden seaman, who, from between two dolphins, looked down on the crowds of Leadenhall Street.[156] In this abode, narrow and humble indeed when compared with the vast labyrinth of passages and chambers which now bears the same name, the Company enjoyed, during the greater part of the reign of Charles the Second, a prosperity to which the history of trade scarcely furnishes any parallel, and which excited the wonder, the cupidity and the envious animosity of the whole capital. Wealth and luxury were then rapidly increasing. The taste for the spices, the tissues and the jewels of the East became stronger day by day. Tea, which, at the time when Monk brought the army of Scotland to London, had been handed round to be stared at and just touched with the lips, as a great rarity from China, was, eight years later, a regular article of import, and was soon consumed in such quantities that financiers began to consider it as a fit subject for taxation. The progress which was making in the art of war had created an unprecedented demand for the ingredients of which gunpowder is compounded. It was calculated that all Europe would hardly produce in a year saltpetre enough for the siege of one town fortified on the principles of Vauban.[157] But for the supplies from India, it was