At hearing this story, Hamilton, being deeply in love with Lady Chesterfield, was scarcely less agitated or less jealous than her lord; but he was obliged to conceal his feelings. Therefore, assuming the tone of an impartial hearer, he shrugged his shoulders, declared appearances were often deceitful, and maintained that even if she had given herself airs to encourage the duke, there were no grounds to show she had been culpable of improprieties. My lord expressed himself much obliged to his friend for the interest he had shown in his troubles, and after exchanging a few compliments they parted. Hamilton, full of wrath, returned home, and wrote a letter replete with violent expostulations and tender reproaches to the woman he loved. This he delivered to her secretly at the next opportunity. She received it from him with a smile, which scared all doubts of her frailty from his mind, and with a pressure of his hand which awoke the tenderest feelings in his heart.
He was now convinced her husband had allowed jealousy to blind him, and had magnified his unworthy suspicions to assurances of guilt. Is this view Hamilton was fully confirmed by a letter he received from her the following day in answer to his own. "Are you not," said she, "ashamed to give any credit to the visions of a jealous fellow, who brought nothing else with him from Italy? Is it possible that the story of the green stockings, upon which he has founded his suspicions, should have imposed upon you, accompanied as it is with such pitiful circumstances? Since he has made you his confidant, why did not he boast of breaking in pieces my poor harmless guitar? This exploit, perhaps, might have convinced you more than all the rest; recollect yourself, and if you are really in love with me, thank fortune for a groundless jealousy, which diverts to another quarter the attention he might pay to my attachment for the most amiable and the most dangerous man at court."
Anointed by this flattering unction, such wounds as Hamilton had experienced were quickly healed; alas, only to bleed afresh at the certain knowledge that this charming woman had been making him her dupe! For soon after, in a moment of indiscretion, and whilst the whole court, including her majesty, was assembled in the card-room, my lady there permitted the duke a liberty which confirmed her husband in his suspicions of their intimacy. Hamilton at hearing this was wild with fury, and advised Lord Chesterfield to carry her away from the allurements of the court, and seclude her in one of his country mansions. This was an advice to which the earl listened with complaisance, and carried out with despatch, to her intense mortification.
The whole court was amused by the story, but dismayed at the punishment my lord inflicted upon his lady. Anthony Hamilton declares that in England "they looked with astonishment upon a man who could be so uncivil as to be jealous of his wife; and in the city of London it was a prodigy, till that time unknown, to see a husband have recourse to violent means to prevent what jealousy fears, and what it always deserves." He adds, they endeavoured to excuse my lord by laying all the blame on his bad education, which made "all the mothers vow to God that none of their sons should ever set a foot in Italy, lest they should bring back with them that infamous custom of laying restraint upon their wives."
By the departure of Lady Chesterfield the court lost one of its most brilliant ornaments forever, for the unhappy countess never again returned to the gay scene of her adventures. For three long years she endured banishment at Bretby in Derbyshire, and then died, it was believed, from the effects of poison. For my lord, never having his suspicions of her intrigue cleared, insisted on her taking the sacrament by way of pledging her innocence; on which occasion he, in league with his chaplain, mixed poison in the sacred wine, as result of which she died. This shocking story gained credence not only with the public, but with members of his own family; inasmuch as his daughter-in-law, Lady Gertrude Stanhope, after she had quarrelled with him, would, when she sat at his table, drink only of such wine and water as a trusty servant of hers procured.
This intrigue of the duke had given much uneasiness to his duchess, who had complained to the king and to her father, and had, moreover, set a watch upon the movements of his royal highness. But such measures did not avail to make him a faithful husband, and no sooner was Lady Chesterfield removed from his sight, than Lady Denham took her place in his affections. This latter mentioned gentlewoman was daughter of a valiant baronet, Sir William Brooke, and niece to a worthless peer, the Earl of Bristol. The earl had, on the king's restoration, cherished ambitious schemes to obtain the merry monarch's favour; for which purpose he sought to commend himself by ministering to the royal pleasures.
Accordingly he entertained the king as became a loyal gentleman, giving him luxurious banquets and agreeable suppers, to which, by way of adding to his majesty's greater satisfaction, the noble host invited his nieces, Mistress Brooke and her sister. The wily earl had, indeed, conceived a plan the better to forward his interests with the king, and was desirous one of these gentlewomen should subdue his majesty's heart, and become his mistress. Margaret Brooke, the elder of the maidens, was at this time in her eighteenth year, and was in the full flower of such loveliness as was presented by a fair complexion, light brown hair, and dark grey eyes. The merry monarch's susceptible heart was soon won by her beauty; the charming lady's amorous disposition was speedily conquered by his gallantry, and nothing prevented her becoming his mistress save Lady Castlemaine's jealousy.
This, however, proved an insurmountable obstacle; for the countess, hearing rumours of the pleasures which were enjoyed at my Lord Bristol's table, insisted on attending the king thither, and soon gave his gracious majesty an intimation he dared not disregard—that she would not suffer Miss Brooke as a rival. Margaret Brooke was grievously disappointed; but the Duke of York beginning his attentions at the point where his majesty discontinued them, she was soon consoled for loss of the monarch's affection by the ardour of his brother's love. But a short time after, probably foreseeing the ambiguous position in which she stood, she forsook her lover, and accepted a husband in the person of Sir John Denham.
This worthy knight was a man of parts; inasmuch as he was a soldier, a poet, and a gamester. At the time of his marriage he had passed his fiftieth year; moreover, he limped painfully and carried a crutch. His appearance, indeed, was far from imposing. According to Aubrey, he was tall, had long legs, and was "incurvelting at his shoulders; his hair was but thin and flaxen, with a moist curl; his gait slow and rather astalking; his eye was a kind of light goose-grey, not big, but it had a strange piercingness, not as to shining and glory, but when he conversed he looked into your very thoughts." His personal defects, however, were to a great degree compensated for by his great wealth. Moreover he was surveyor-general of his majesty's works, had a town house in Scotland Yard, and a country residence at Waltham Cross in Essex. But there are some deficiencies for which wealth does not atone, as no doubt Lady Denham promptly discovered; for, before a year of her married life had passed, she renewed her intrigue with the Duke of York. His love for her seemed to have increased a thousandfold since fate had given her to the possession of another. At royal drawing-rooms he took her aside and talked to her "in the sight of all the world," and whenever she moved away from him he followed her like a dog.
Indeed, he made no effort to screen his passion, for not only did he make love to her in presence of the court, but he visited her at noonday, attended by his gentlemen, before all the town. Nor did Lady Denham desire to conceal the honour with which, she considered, this amour covered her, but openly declared she would "not be his mistress, as Mrs. Price, to go up and down the privy stairs, but will be owned publicly;" and in this respect she obtained her desire. Meanwhile Sir John was rendered miserable; and, indeed, his desperation soon overthrew his reason, and rendered him a lunatic. This affection first appeared during a journey he made to the famous free-stone quarries near Portland in Dorset. When he came within a mile of his destination, he suddenly turned back, and proceeded to Hounslow, where he demanded rents for lands he had disposed of years before; and then hastening to town sought out the king and informed him he was the Holy Ghost.
This madness lasted but a short time; and the first use he made of his recovered senses was to plot vengeance on his wife. Now there was one honour which she coveted above all others, that of being appointed a lady of the bedchamber to the Duchess of York. This her royal lover, following the example of his majesty, sought to obtain for her; but the duchess, who had already suffered many indignities by reason of her husband's improprieties, refused him this request, which would render her liable to continual insult in her own court. The duke, however, had a strong will, and the duchess was on the point of yielding to his demand, when rumour announced that Lady Denham had been taken suddenly ill, and scandal declared she had been poisoned. The wildest sensation followed. His royal highness, stricken with remorse and terror, hastened to Scotland Yard and sought his beloved mistress, who told him she believed herself poisoned, and felt she was now dying. The most eminent physicians were speedily summoned, but their skill proved of no avail, for she gradually became worse, and finally died, leaving instructions that her body should be opened after death, in order that search might be made for the fatal drug.
The surgeons followed these directions, as we learn from the Orrery state papers, but no trace of poison was discovered. For all that the public had no doubt her husband had destroyed her life, and Hamilton tells us the populace "had a design of tearing Sir John in pieces as soon as he should come abroad; but he shut himself up to bewail her death, until their fury was appeased by a magnificent funeral, at which he distributed four times more burnt wine than had ever been drunk at any burial in England."
As for the duke, he was sorely troubled for her loss, and declared he should never have a public mistress again.
Court life under the merry monarch.—Riding in Hyde Park.—Sailing on the Thames.—Ball at Whitehall.—Petit soupers.—What happened at Lady Gerrard's.—Lady Castlemaine quarrels with the king.—Flight to Richmond.—The queen falls ill.—The king's grief and remorse.—Her majesty speaks.—Her secret sorrow finds voice in delirium.—Frances Stuart has hopes.—The queen recovers.
Views of court life during the first years of the merry monarch's reign, obtainable from works of his contemporaries, present a series of brilliant, changeful, and interesting pictures. Scarce a day passed that their majesties, attended by a goodly throng of courtiers, went not abroad, to the vast delight of the town: and rarely a night sped by unmarked by some magnificent entertainment, to the great satisfaction of the court. At noon it was a custom of the king and queen, surrounded by maids of honour and gentlemen in waiting, the whole forming a gladsome and gallant crowd, to ride in coaches or on horseback in Hyde Park: which place has been described as "a field near the town, used by the king and nobility for the freshness of the air, and goodly prospect."
Here in a railed-off circle, known as the ring, and situated in the northern half of the park, the whole world of fashion and beauty diverted itself. Noble gallants wearing broad-brimmed hats and waving plumes, doublets of velvet, and ruffles of rich lace; and fair women with flowing locks and dainty patches, attired in satin gowns, and cloaks wrought with embroidery, drove round and round, exchanging salutations and smiles as they passed. Here it was good Mr. Pepys saw the Countess of Castlemaine, among many fine ladies, lying "impudently upon her back in her coach asleep, with her mouth wide open." And on another occasion the same ingenious gentleman observed the king and my lady pass and repass in their respective coaches, they greeting one another at every turn.
But Mr. Pepys gives us another picture, in which he shows us the king riding right gallantly beside his queen, and therefore presents him to better advantage. This excellent gossip, sauntering down Pall Mall one bright summer day, it being the middle of July, in the year 1663, met the queen mother walking there, led by her supposed husband, the Earl of St. Albans. And, hearing the king and queen rode abroad with the ladies of honour to the park, and seeing a great crowd of gallants awaiting their return, he also stayed, walking up and down the while. "By-and-by," says he, "the king and queene, who looked in this dress (a white laced waistcoate and a crimson short pettycoate, and her hair dressed A LA NEGLIGENCE) mighty pretty; and the king rode hand in hand with her. Here was also my Lady Castlemaine riding amongst the rest of the ladies; but the king took, methought, no notice of her; nor when they light did anybody press (as she seemed to expect, and staid for it) to take her down, but was taken down by her own gentlemen. She looked mighty out of humour, and had a yellow plume in her hat (which all took notice of), and yet is very handsome. I followed them up into Whitehall, and into the queene's presence, where all the ladies walked, talking and fiddling with their hats and feathers, and changing and trying one another's by one another's heads, and laughing. But it was the finest sight to me, considering their great beautys and dress, that ever I did see in my life. But, above all, Mrs. Stuart in this dresse with her hat cocked and a red plume, with her sweet eye, little Roman nose, and excellent taille, is now the greatest beauty I ever saw, I think, in my life; and, if ever woman can, do exceed my Lady Castlemaine, at least in this dresse: nor do I wonder if the king changes, which I verily believe is the reason of his coldness to my Lady Castlemaine."
Having returned from the park, dined at noon, walked in the palace gardens, or played cards till evening came, their majesties, surrounded by a brilliant and joyous court, would in summer time descend the broad steps leading from Whitehall to the Thames, and embark upon the water for greater diversion. Never was there so goodly a sight, seldom so merry a company. The barges in which they sailed were draped to the water's edge with bright fabrics, hung with curtains of rich silk, and further adorned with gay pennants. And, as the long procession of boats, filled with fair women and gallant men, followed their majesties adown the placid Thames towards pleasant Richmond, my Lord Arran would delight the ears of all by his performance on the guitar; the fair Stuart would sing French songs in her sweet childlike voice; or a concert of music would suddenly resound from the banks, being placed there to surprise by some ingenious courtier.
And presently landing on grassy meads, delightful to sight by freshness of their colour, and sweet to scent from odour of their herbs, the court would sup right heartily; laugh, drink, and make love most merrily, until early shadows stole across the summer sky, and night-dews fell upon the thirsty earth. Then king, queen, and courtiers once more embarking, would sail slowly back, whilst the moon rose betimes in the heavens, and the barges streaked the waters with silver lines.
At other times magnificent entertainments filled the nights with light and revelry. Pepys tells us of a great ball he witnessed in the last month of the year 1662 at the palace of Whitehall. He was carried thither by Mr. Povy, a member of the Tangier Commission, and taken at first to the Duke of York's chambers, where his royal highness and the duchess were at supper; and from thence "into a room where the ball was to be, crammed with fine ladies, the greatest of the court. By-and-by comes the king and queene, the duke and duchess, and all the great ones; and, after seating themselves, the king takes out the Duchess of York; and the duke the Duchess of Buckingham; the Duke of Monmouth my Lady Castlemaine; and so other lords other ladies; and they danced the bransle. After that, the king led a lady a single coranto; and then the rest of the lords, one after another, other ladies: very noble it was, and great pleasure to see. Then to country dances: the king leading the first. Of the ladies that danced, the Duke of Monmouth's lady, and my Lady Castlemaine, and a daughter of Sir Harry de Vicke's were the best. The manner was, when the king dances, all the ladies in the room, and his queene herself, stand up: and indeed he dances rarely, and much better than the Duke of York."
PETIT SOUPERS were another form of entertainments, greatly enjoyed by Charles, and accordingly much in vogue with his courtiers. The Chevalier de Grammont had principally helped to make them fashionable, his suppers being served With the greatest elegance, attended by the choicest wits, and occasionally favoured with the presence of majesty itself. Nor were Lady Gerrard's PETIT SOUPERS less brilliant, or her company less distinguished. Her ladyship boasted of French parentage and understood the art of pleasing to perfection; and accordingly at her board wine flowed, wit sparkled, and love obtained in the happiest manner. Now it happened one of her delightful entertainments was destined to gain a notoriety she by no means coveted, and concerning which the French ambassador, Count de Comminges, wrote pleasantly enough to the Marquis de Lionne.
It came to pass that Lady Gerrard, who loved the queen, requested the honour of their majesties to sup with her. She, moreover, invited some of the courtiers, amongst whom she did not include my Lady Castlemaine. On the appointed night the king and queen duly arrived; the other guests had already assembled; and the hour gave fair promise of entertainment. But presently, when supper was announced, his majesty was missing, and on inquiry it was discovered he had left the house for Lady Castlemaine's lodgings, where he spent the evening. Such an insult as this so openly dealt the queen, and such an indignity put upon the hostess, caused the greatest agitation to all present; and subsequently afforded subject for scandalous gossip to the town. It moreover showed that the monarch was yet an abject slave of his mistress, whose charms entangled him irresistibly. At least four times a week he supped with her, returning at early morning from her lodgings, in a stealthy way, through the privy gardens, a proceeding of which the sentries took much notice, joked unbecomingly, and gossiped freely.
Now in order to avoid further observation at such times, and silence rumours which consequently obtained, his majesty removed the countess from her lodgings in that part of the palace divided by the road leading to Westminster from the chief block, and furnished her with apartments next his own chamber. The poor queen, who had sought by every means in her power to win his affection, was sorely grieved at this action, and moreover depressed by the neglect to which she was continually subjected. Sometimes four months were allowed to pass without his deigning to sup with her, though the whole court was aware he constantly paid that honour to her infamous rival. But knowing how unavailing reproach would be, she held her peace; and feeling how obtrusive her sorrow would seem, she hid her tears. Now and again, however, a look would flash in her eyes, and an answer rise to her lips, which showed how deeply she felt her bitter wrongs. "I wonder your majesty has the patience to sit so long adressing," said my Lady Castlemaine to her one morning when she found her yet in the dresser's hands. "I have so much reason to use patience," answered the neglected wife, "that I can very well bear with it."
And so the countess continued to reign paramount in his majesty's favour until the middle of July, 1663, when a rumour spread through the town that she had quarrelled with the king, and had consequently fallen from her high estate. The cause of disagreement between the monarch and his mistress is narrated by the French ambassador in a letter to Louis XIV.
By this time the fair Stuart had so increased in his majesty's favour, that my Lady Castlemaine began to see the indiscretion of which she had been guilty in bringing her so constantly into his presence, and moreover to fear her influence over his fickle heart. Accordingly she refused to invite the maid of honour to her apartments, or entertain her at her assemblies. At this the king became exceedingly wrathful, and told my lady he would not enter her rooms again unless Miss Stuart was there. Thereon the charming countess flew into a violent passion, roundly abused his majesty, called her carriage, and protesting she would never again enter the palace of Whitehall, drove off in a rage to the residence of her uncle at Richmond. The monarch had not expected his words would cause such fury, nor did he desire her departure; and no sooner had she gone than he began to regret her absence and long for her return.
Therefore next morning he made pretence of hunting, and turning his horse's head in the direction of Richmond, called on his mistress, when he apologized to and made friends with her. She therefore returned and exercised her old ascendancy over him once more. It is probable his majesty was the more anxious to pacify her, from the fact that she was now far advanced in her third pregnancy; for two months later she gave birth to her second son, who was baptized Henry Fitzroy, and subsequently created Duke of Grafton.
And it happened about this time, that the queen, falling ill, drew near unto death. On Friday, the 14th October, 1663, a fever took possession of her, when the doctors were summoned, her head shaven, and pigeons put to her feet. Her illness, however, rapidly increased, and believing she was about to leave a world in which her young life had known so much sorrow, she made her will, put her affairs in order, and received extreme unction. Upon this the king, mindful of grievous injuries he had done her, was sorely troubled in his heart, and going to her chamber, flung himself at the foot of her bed and burst into tears; as the French ambassador narrates.
It is said women love best men who treat them worst. If this be so, God, alone who made them knows wherefore; for it is given no man to understand them in all. Now her majesty proved no exception to this rule regarding the unreasonableness of her sex in placing their affections most on those who regard them least; for she was devoted to the king. Therefore the evidence of his grief at prospect of her loss touched her deeper than all words can say, and with much sweetness she sought to soothe and console him.
She told him she had no desire to live, and no sorrow to die, save, indeed, that caused by parting from him. She hoped he would soon wed a consort more worthy of his love than she had been; one who would contribute more to his happiness and the satisfaction of the nation than she had. And now they were about to part, she had two requests to make: that he would never separate his interests from those of the king her brother, or cease to protect her distressed nation; and that her body might be sent back to Portugal and laid in the tomb of her ancestors. At this the king, yet on his knees beside her, interrupted her only by his sobs, hearing which she wept likewise; and so overcome was he by grief that he was obliged to be led from her room.
The court was saddened by her majesty's illness, for she had won the goodwill of all by the kindness of her disposition and gentleness of her manner; the city was likewise afflicted, for the people thought so good a queen could not fail in time to reclaim even so erratic a husband; and trade became suddenly depressed. Crowds gathered by night and by day outside the palace to learn the most recent change in her majesty's condition many thinking her death inevitable, because the doctors had pronounced her recovery impossible. And for days her soul hovered betwixt two worlds.
On the night of the 19th, a fierce storm raged over England; and Mr. Pepys, being waked by the roaring of mighty winds, turned to his wife and said: "I pray God I hear not of the death of any great person, this wind is so high." And fearing the queen might have departed, he rose betimes, and took coach to the palace that he might make inquiries concerning her, but found her majesty was still living. She was now, however, unconscious; and gave free voice to the secret sorrow which underlay her life, because she had not borne children to the king. Had she given him heirs, she felt assured he would certainly love her as well as he loved his mistresses; and would feel as proud of her offspring as of those borne him by other women. But though she had proved capable of becoming a mother on more than one occasion, it pleased heaven to leave her childless, to her great grief. Therefore in her delirium, desires shaped themselves to realities, and she believed she had given birth to three children, two boys and a girl. The latter she fancied much resembled the king, but she was troubled that one of the boys was plain featured. And seeing her grief at this, his majesty, who stood by, sought in pity to console her, saying the boy was indeed pretty; at which she brightened visibly, and answering him said: "Nay, if it be like you, it is a fine boy indeed, and I would be very well pleased with it." This delusion continued through her illness, and so strongly did it force itself upon her mind, that one morning when she was on her way to recovery, on waking suddenly and seeing the doctor bending over her, she exclaimed, "How do the children?"
Now all this time, whilst the shadow of death lay upon the palace, and laughter and music were no longer heard within its walls, there was one of its inmates who pondered much upon the great fortune which the future might have in keeping for her. This was fair Frances Stuart, who, not having yielded to the king's request by becoming his mistress, now entertained high hopes of being made his wife. In this dream she was, moreover, flattered by an unusual deference and high respect paid her by the court since the beginning of her majesty's illness. The king continued his attentions to her; for though he had proved himself "fondly disconsolate" and wept sorely for her majesty, he never during her sickness omitted an opportunity of conversing with Miss Stuart, or neglected supping with Lady Castlemaine. But the hopes entertained by the maid of honour were speedily overthrown, for contrary to all expectation the queen recovered, and was so well on the 10th November as to "bespeak herself a new gowne"
And so the court remained unchanged, and life went on as before; the queen growing gradually stronger, the king making love to Miss Stuart by day, and visiting Lady Castlemaine by night. And it happened one evening when he went to sup with the latter there was a chine of beef to roast, and no fire to cook it because the Thames had flooded the kitchen. Hearing which, the countess called out to the cook, "Zounds, you must set the house on fire but it shall be roasted!" And roasted it was.
Notorious courtiers.—My Lord Rochester's satires.—Places a watch on certain ladies of quality.—His majesty becomes indignant.—Rochester retires to the country.—Dons a disguise and returns to town.—Practises astrology.—Two maids of honour seek adventure.—Mishaps which befell them.—Rochester forgiven.—The Duke of Buckingham.—Lady Shrewsbury and her victims.—Captain Howard's duel.—Lord Shrewsbury avenges his honour.—A strange story.—Colonel Blood attempts an abduction.—Endeavours to steal the regalia.—The king converses with him.
Prominent among the courtiers, and foremost amid the friends of his majesty, were two noblemen distinguished alike for their physical grace, exceeding wit, and notable eccentricity. These were the Earl of Rochester, and his Grace of Buckingham; gallants both, whose respective careers were so intimately connected with the court as to make further chronicle of them necessary in these pages.
My Lord Rochester, though younger in years than the duke, was superior to him in wit, comeliness, and attraction. Nor was there a more conspicuous figure observable in the palace of Whitehall than this same earl, who was ever foremost in pursuit of such pleasures as wine begets and love appeases. His mirth was the most buoyant, his conversation the most agreeable, his manner the most engaging in the world; whence he became "the delight and wonder of men, the love and dotage of women." A courtier possessed of so happy a disposition, and endowed with such brilliant talents, could not fail in pleasing the king; who vastly enjoyed his society, but was occasionally obliged to banish his person from court, when his eccentric conduct rendered him intolerable, or his bitter satire aimed at royalty. For it was given no other man in his age to blend merry wit and caustic ridicule so happily together; therefore those who read his lines were forced to laugh at his fancy, even whilst hurt by his irony.
Now in order to keep this talent in constant practice, he was wont to celebrate in inimitable verse such events, be they private or public, as happened at court, or befell the courtiers; and inasmuch as his subjects were frequently of a licentious nature, his lines were generally of a scandalous character. He therefore became the public censor of court folly; and so unerringly did his barbed shafts hit the weaknesses at which they aimed, that his productions were equally the terror of those he victimized, and the delight of those he spared.
This liberal use of satire he was wont to excuse on the plea there were some who could not be kept in order, or admonished, by other means. Therefore, having the virtue of his friends keenly at heart, an ingenious plan occurred to him by which he might secretly discover their vices, and publicly reprove them. In order that he might fulfil this purpose to his greater satisfaction, he promptly sought and found a footman, who, by virtue of his employment, was well acquainted with the courtiers. This man the "noble and beautiful earl" furnished with a red coat and a musket, that he might pass as a sentinel, and then placed him every night throughout one winter at the doors of certain ladies of quality whom he suspected of carrying on intrigues.
In this disguise the footman readily passed as a soldier stationed at his post by command of his officer, and was thus enabled to note what gentlemen called on the suspected ladies at unreasonable but not unfashionable hours. Accordingly, my lord made many surprising discoveries, and when he had gained sufficient information on such delicate points, he quietly retired into the country, that he might with greater ease devote himself to the composition of those lively verses which he subsequently circulated through the court, to the wonder and dismay of many, and the delight and profit of few.
To these lampoons no name was attached, and my lord took precautions that their authorship should not be satisfactorily proved, no matter how sagely suspected. Moreover, in his conversation he was judicious enough to keep the weapon of his satire in reserve; sheathing its fatal keenness in a bewitching softness of civility until occasion required its use; when forth it flashed all the brighter for its covering, all the sharper for its rest. And satire being absent from his speech, humour ever waited on his words; and never was he more extravagantly gay than when assisting at the pleasant suppers given by the merry monarch to his choicest friends.
Here, whilst drinking deep of ruddy wine from goblets of old gold, he narrated his strange experiences, and illustrated them with flashes of his wit. For it was the habit of this eccentric earl, when refinements of the court began to pall upon him, or his absence from Whitehall became a necessity, to seek fresh adventure and intrigue disguised as a porter, a beggar, or a ballad-monger. And so carefully did he hide his identity in the character he assumed, that his most intimate friends failed to recognise his personality.
No doubt the follies in which he indulged were in some measure due to the eccentricity ever attendant upon genius; but they were probably likewise occasioned by craving for excitement begotten of drink. For my lord loved wine exceedingly; and when he drew near unto death in the dawn of his manhood, confessed to Bishop Burnet that for five years he was continually drunk: "Not that he was all the while under the visible effects of it, but his blood was so inflamed, that he was not in all that time cool enough to be perfectly master of himself." Charles delighted in the society of this gay courtier, because of his erratic adventures, and his love of wine. Moreover, the licentious verses which it was the earl's good pleasure to compose, the names of some of which no decent lips would whisper in this age of happy innocence, afforded the monarch extravagant enjoyment. Withal his majesty's satisfaction in Lord Rochester's wit was not always to be counted upon, as it proved. For it came to pass one night at the close of a royal supper, during which the earl had drunk deep, that with great goodwill to afford the king diversion, he handed his majesty what he believed was a satire on a courtier, more remarkable for its humour than its decency. Whereon Charles, with anticipation of much delight, opened the folded page, when he was surprised to see, not a copy of verses, but an unflattering description of himself, which ran as follows:
"Here lies our mutton-eating king, Whose word no man relies on; Who never said a foolish thing, And never did a wise one."
Now the king, though the best tempered of men and most lenient of masters, was naturally wrathful at this verbal character: the more so because recognising its faithfulness at a glance. He therefore upbraided Rochester with ingratitude, and banished him from the court.
Nothing dismayed, my lord retired into the country; but in a short time, growing weary of pastoral solitude which gave him an appetite for adventure it could not wholly supply, he returned privately to town, and assuming a disguise, took up his residence in the city. Here exercising his characteristic tact, and great capacity for pleasing, he speedily made friends with wealthy merchants and worthy aldermen, who subsequently invited him to their hospitable tables, and introduced him to their gracious ladies.
And as his conversation had not failed to delight the husbands, neither were his charms unsuccessful in affording satisfaction to their wives. To the one he railed against the impotence of the king's ministers, to the other he declaimed upon the wickedness of his majesty's mistresses; and to both his denunciations were equally sincere and acceptable. But his bitterest words were reserved for such courtiers as Rochester, Buckingham, and Killigrew, whose dissipated lives were the scandal of all honest men, the terror of all virtuous women: insolent fellows, moreover, who had the impudence to boast that city ladies were not so faithful to their husbands as was generally supposed, and, moreover, the boldness to assert that they painted. Indeed, he marvelled much, that since such men were frequenters of Whitehall, sacred fire from heaven had not long since descended and consumed the royal palace to ashes. Such virtuous sentiments as these, expressed by so gallant a man, made him acceptable in many homes: and the result was he speedily became surfeited by banquets, suppers, and other hospitalities, to which the excellent but credulous citizens bade him heartily welcome.
He therefore disappeared from their midst one day as suddenly and unaccountably as he had come amongst them. He did not, however, take himself afar, but donning a new disguise, retreated to a more distant part of the city: for an idea had occurred to him which he determined speedily to put in practice. This was to assume the character and bearing of a sage astrologer and learned physician, at once capable of reading the past, and laying bare the future of all who consulted him; also of healing diseases of and preventing mishaps to such as visited him. Accordingly, having taken lodgings in Tower Street, at a goldsmith's house, situated next the Black Swan, he prepared himself for practice, adopted the title of doctor, the name of Alexander Bendo, and issued bills headed by the royal arms, containing the most remarkable and impudent manifesto perhaps ever set forth by any impostor.
Copies of this may yet be seen in early editions of his works. It was addressed to all gentlemen, ladies, and others, whether of the city, town, or country, to whom Alexander Bendo wished health and prosperity. He had come amongst them because the great metropolis of England had ever been infested by numerous quacks, whose arrogant confidence, backed by their ignorance, had enabled them to impose on the public; either by premeditated cheats in physic, chymical and galenic, in astrology, physiognomy, palmistry, mathematics, alchymy, and even government itself. Of which latter he did not propose to discourse, or meddle with, since it in no way belonged to his trade or vocation, which he thanked God he found much more safe, equally honest, and more profitable. But he, Alexander Bendo, had with unswerving faithfulness and untiring assiduity for years courted the arts and sciences, and had learned dark secrets and received signal favours from them. He was therefore prepared to take part against unlearned wretches, and arrant quacks, whose impudent addresses and saucy pretences had brought scandal upon sage and learned men.
However, in a wicked world like this, where virtue was so exactly counterfeited, and hypocrisy was generally successful, it would be hard for him, a stranger, to escape censure. But indeed he would submit to be considered a mountebank if he were discovered to be one. Having made which statement, he proceeded to draw an ingenious comparison between a mountebank and a politician, suitable to all ages and dimes, but especially to this century and country. Both, he intimated, are fain to supply the lack of higher abilities to which they pretend, with craft; and attract attention by undertaking strange things which can never be performed. By both the people are pleased and deluded; the expectation of good in the future drawing their eyes from the certainty of evil in the present.
The sage Alexander Bendo then discoursed of miraculous cures which he could effect, but he would set down no word in his bill which bore an unclean sound. It was enough that he made himself understood, but indeed he had seen physicians' bills containing things of which no man who walked warily before God could approve. Concerning astrological predictions, physiognomy, divination by dreams, and otherwise, he would say, if it did not look like ostentation, he had seldom failed, but had often been of service; and to those who came to him he would guarantee satisfaction. Nor would he be ashamed to avow his willingness to practise rare secrets, for the help, conservation, and augmentation of beauty and comeliness; an endowment granted for the better establishment of mutual love between man and woman, and as such highly valuable to both. The knowledge of secrets like this he had gathered during journeys through France and Italy, in which countries he had spent his life since he was fifteen years old. Those who had travelled in the latter country knew what a miracle art there performs in behalf of beauty; how women of forty bear the same countenance as those of fifteen, ages being in no way distinguished by appearances; whereas in England, by looking at a horse in the mouth and a woman in the face, it was possible to tell the number of their years. He could, therefore, give such remedies as would render those who came to him perfectly fair; clearing and preserving them from all spots, freckles, pimples, marks of small-pox, or traces of accidents. He would, moreover, cure the teeth, clear the breath, take away fatness, and add flesh.
A man who vouched to perform such wonders was not long without patients. At first these were drawn from his immediate neighbourhood, but soon his fame reached the heart of the city. Accordingly, many ladies of whose hospitality he had partaken, and of whose secrets he had become possessed, hurried to consult him; and the marvellous insight he betrayed regarding their past, and strange predictions he pronounced concerning their future, filled them with amazement, and occasionally with alarm. And they, proclaiming the marvels of his wisdom, widened the circle of his reputation, until his name was spoken within the precincts of Whitehall.
Curiosity concerning so remarkable a man at once beset the minds of certain ladies at court, who either feared or expected much from the future, and were anxious to peer into such secrets as it held concerning themselves. But dreading the notoriety their presence would naturally cause in the vicinity of Tower Street, a spot to them unknown, they, acting with a prudence not invariably characteristic of their conduct, sent their maids to ascertain from personal experience if the astrologer's wisdom was in truth as marvellous as reported. Now, when these appeared in fear and trembling before the great Alexander Bendo, the knowledge he revealed concerning themselves, and their mistresses likewise, was so wonderful that it exceeded all expectation. Accordingly, the maids returned to court with such testimonies concerning the lore of this star-reader, as fired afresh their mistresses' desires to see and converse with him in their proper persons.
It therefore came to pass that Miss Price and Miss Jennings, maids of honour both—the one to the queen, the other to the Duchess of York—boldly resolved to visit Doctor Bendo, and learn what the future held for them. Miss Price was a lady who delighted in adventure; Miss Jennings was a gentlewoman of spirit; both looked forward to their visit with excitement and interest. It happened one night, when the court had gone to the playhouse, these ladies, who had excused themselves from attending the queen and the duchess, dressed as orange girls, and taking baskets of fruit under their arms, quickly crossed the park, and entered a hackney-coach at Whitehall Gate. Bidding the driver convey them to Tower Street, they rattled merrily enough over the uneven streets until they came close to the theatre, when, being in high spirits and feeling anxious to test the value of their disguise, they resolved to alight from their conveyance, enter the playhouse, and offer their wares for sale in presence of the court.
Accordingly, paying the driver, they descended from the coach, and running between the lines of chairs gathered round the theatre, gained the door. Now, who should arrive at that moment but the beau Sidney, attired in the bravery of waving feathers, fluttering ribbons, and rich-hued velvets. And as he paused to adjust his curls to his greater satisfaction before entering the playhouse, Miss Price went boldly forward and asked him to buy her fine oranges; but so engaged was he in his occupation, that he did not deign to make reply, but passed into the theatre without turning his glance upon her. Miss Jennings, however, fared somewhat differently; and with less satisfaction to herself; for, perceiving another courtier, none other than Tom Killigrew, a rare wit and lover of pleasure, she went up to him and offered her fruit for sale. These he declined to buy; but chucking her under the chin, and glancing at her with an air of familiarity, invited her to bring her oranges to his lodgings next morning. On this Miss Jennings, who was as virtuous as lovely, pushed him away with violence, and forgetting the character she assumed, commenced rebuking his insolence, much to the amusement and surprise of the bystanders. Fearing detection of their identity, Miss Price pulled her forcibly away from the crowd.
Miss Jennings was after this incident anxious to forego her visit to the astrologer, and return to Whitehall, but her companion declaring this would be a shameful want of spirit, they once more entered a hackney-coach, and requested they might be driven to the lodgings of the learned Doctor Bendo. Their adventures for the evening were unfortunately not yet at an end; for just as they entered Tower Street they saw Henry Brinker, one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to the Duke of York. Now it happened this courtier had been dining with a citizen of worth and wealth, whose house he was about to leave the moment the maids of honour drove by. They, knowing him to be a man remarkable for his gallantries, were anxious to avoid his observation, and therefore directed the driver to proceed a few doors beyond their destination; but he, having caught sight of two pretty orange wenches, followed the coach and promptly stepping up as they alighted, made some bold observations to them. On this both turned away their heads that they might avoid his gaze, a proceeding which caused him to observe them with closer scrutiny, when he immediately recognised them, without however intimating his knowledge. He therefore fell to teasing them, and finally left them with no very pleasant remarks ringing in their ears, concerning the virtue which obtained among maids of honour, for he did not doubt their disguise was assumed for purposes of intrigue.
Overwhelmed with confusion, they walked towards the goldsmith's shop, over which the oracle delivered wisdom; but being no longer in a humour to heed his words, they presently resolved on driving back to Whitehall with all possible speed. But alas! on turning round they beheld their driver waging war with a crowd which had gathered about his vehicle; for having left their oranges in the coach, some boys had essayed to help themselves, whereon the man fell foul of them. But he, being one against many, was like to fare badly at their hands; seeing which, the maids of honour persuaded him to let the crowd take the fruit and drive them back at once. This conduct had not the effect of appeasing those who profited by its generosity; for the gentlewomen were greeted with most foul abuse, and many unworthy charges were laid to their account in language more vigorous than polished. And having at last arrived in safety at Whitehall, they resolved never to sally forth in search of adventure again.
After various strange experiences in his character as doctor of medicine and teller of fortunes, of the weakness of human nature and strength of common credulity, the learned Alexander Bendo vanished from the city; and about the same time the gallant Earl of Rochester appeared at court, where he sought for and obtained the merry monarch's pardon. The wonderful stories he was enabled to relate, piquant in detail, and sparkling with wit, rendered it delightful to the king, in whose favour he soon regained his former supremacy. Nay, Charles even determined to enrich and reward him, not indeed from the resources of his privy purse, his majesty's income being all too little for his mistresses' rapacity, but by uniting him to a charming woman and an heiress.
The lady whom his majesty selected for this purpose was Elizabeth Mallett, daughter of Lord Hawley of Donamore. Now this gentlewoman had a fortune of two thousand five hundred a year, a considerable sum in those days, and one which gained her many suitors; amongst whom Lord Hinchingbrook was commended by her family, and Lord Rochester by the king. Now the latter nobleman, having but a poor estate, was anxious to obtain her wealth, and fearful of losing his suit: and being uncertain as to whether he could gain her consent to marry him by fair means, he resolved to obtain it by execution of a daring scheme.
This was to carry her off by force, an action which highly commended itself to his adventurous spirit. Accordingly he selected a night on which the heiress supped at Whitehall with her friend Miss Stuart, for conducting his enterprise. It therefore happened that as Elizabeth Mallett was returning home from the palace in company with her grandfather, their coach was suddenly stopped at Charing Cross. Apprehending some danger, Lord Hawley looked out, and by the red light of a score of torches flashing through darkness, saw he was surrounded by a band of armed men, both afoot and on horse. Their action was prompt and decisive, for before either my lord or his granddaughter was aware of their intention, the latter was seized, forcibly lifted from the coach, and transferred to another which awaited close at hand. This was driven by six horses, and occupied by two women, who received the heiress with all possible respect. No sooner had she been placed in the coach than the horses were set to a gallop, and away she sped, surrounded by a company of horsemen.
Lord Hawley was cast into the uttermost grief and passion by this outrage; but his condition did not prevent him speedily gathering a number of friends and retainers, in company with whom he gave chase to those who had abducted his granddaughter; and so fast did they ride that Mistress Mallett was overtaken at Uxbridge, and carried back in safety to town. For this outrageous attempt, my Lord Rochester was by the king's command committed to the Tower, there to await his majesty's good pleasure. It seemed now as if the earl's chance of gaining the heiress had passed away for ever; inasmuch as Charles regarded the attempted abduction with vast displeasure, and my Lord Hawley with terrible indignation.
But the ways of women being inexplicable, it happened in a brief while Mistress Mallett was inclined to regret my Lord Rochester's imprisonment, and therefore moved to have him released; and, moreover, she was subsequently pleased to regard his suit and accept him as her wedded lord. It speaks favourably for his character that with all his faults she loved him well: nor did Rochester, though occasionally unfaithful, ever treat her with unkindness. At times the old spirit of restlessness and passion for adventure would master him, when he would withdraw himself from her society for weeks and months. But she, though sadly afflicted by such conduct, did not resent it. "If I could have been troubled at anything, when I had the happiness of receiving a letter from you," she writes to him on one occasion when he had absented himself from her for long, "I should be so because you did not name a time when I might hope to see you, the uncertainty of which very much afflicts me." And again the poor patient wife tells him, "Lay your commands upon me, what I am to do, and though it be to forget my children, and the long hope I have lived in of seeing you, yet I will endeavour to obey you; or in memory only torment myself, without giving you the trouble of putting you in mind that there lives such a creature as your faithful humble servant." At length dissipation undermined his naturally strong constitution; and for months this once most gay and gallant man, this "noble and beautiful earl," lay dying of that cruel disease consumption. The while such thoughts as come to those who reason of life's vanities beset him; and as he descended into the valley of shadows, the folly of this world's ways was made clear to him. And repenting of his sins, he died in peace with God and man at the age of three-and-thirty.
George Villiers second Duke of Buckingham, was not less notable than my Lord Rochester. By turns he played such diverse parts in life's strange comedy as that of a spendthrift and a miser, a profligate and a philosopher, a statesman who sought the ruin of his country, and a courtier who pandered to the pleasures of his king. But inasmuch as this history is concerned with the social rather than the political life of those mentioned in its pages, place must be given to such adventures as were connected with the court and courtiers. Buckingham's were chiefly concerned with his intrigues, which, alas! were many and strange; for though his wife was loving and virtuous, she was likewise lean and brown, and wholly incapable of controlling his erring fancies. Perhaps it was knowledge of her lack of comeliness which helped her to bear the burden of his follies; for according to Madame Dunois, though the duchess knew he was continually engaged in amours, she, by virtue of a patience uncommon to her sex, forbore mentioning the subject to him, and "had complaisance enough to entertain his mistresses, and even lodge them in her house, all which she suffered because she loved him."
The most remarkable of his intrigues was that which connected his name with the Countess of Shrewsbury. Her ladyship, was daughter of the second Earl of Cardigan, and wife of the eleventh Earl of Shrewsbury. She was married a year previous to the restoration, and upon the establishment of the court at Whitehall had become one of its most distinguished beauties. Nor was she less famed for the loveliness of her person than for the generosity of her disposition; inasmuch as none who professed themselves desirous of her affection were ever allowed to languish in despair. She therefore had many admirers, some of whom were destined to suffer for the distinction her friendship conferred.
Now one of the first to gain her attachment was the young Earl of Arran, the grace of whose bearing and ardour of whose character were alike notable to the court. The verses he sung her to an accompaniment of his guitar, and the glances he gave her indicative of his passion, might have melted a heart less cold than hers. Accordingly they gained him a friendship which, by reason of her vast benevolence, many were subsequently destined to share. Now it chanced that the little Jermyn, who had already succeeded in winning the affections of such notable women as the poor Princess of Orange and my Lady Castlemaine, and had besides conducted a series of minor intrigues with various ladies connected with the court, was somewhat piqued that Lady Shrewsbury had accepted my Lord Arran's attentions without encouraging his. For Henry Jermyn, by virtue of the fascinations he exercised and the consequent reputation he enjoyed, expected to be wooed by such women as desired his love.
But when, later on, Lord Arran's devotion to the lady was succeeded by that of Thomas Howard, brother to the Earl of Carlisle, and captain of the guards, Jermyn was thoroughly incensed, and resolved to make an exception in favour of the countess by beginning those civilities which act as preludes to intrigue. My lady, who was not judicious enough to be off with the old love before she was on with the new, accepted Jermyn's advances with an eagerness that gave promise of further favours. This was highly displeasing to Howard, a brave and generous man, who under an exterior of passive calmness concealed a spirit of fearless courage. Though not desirous of picking a quarrel with his rival, he was unwilling to suffer his impertinent interference. Jermyn, on the other hand, not being aware of Howard's real character, sought an early opportunity of insulting him. Such being their dispositions, a quarrel speedily ensued, which happened in this manner.
One fair summer day Captain Howard gave an entertainment at Spring Gardens, in honour of the countess. These gardens were situated close by Charing Cross, and opened into the spacious walks of St. James's Park. Bounded on one side by a grove, and containing leafy arbours and numerous thickets, the gardens were "contrived to all the advantages of gallantry." The scene of many an intrigue, they were constantly frequented by denizens of the court and dwellers in the city, to whom they afforded recreation and pleasure. In the centre of these fair gardens stood a cabaret, or house of entertainment, where repasts were served at exceeding high prices, and much good wine was drunk. Here it was Captain Howard received my Lady Shrewsbury and a goodly company, spread a delicate banquet for them, and for their better diversion provided some excellent music played upon the bagpipes, by a soldier noted for his execution on that instrument.
Jermyn hearing of the great preparations Captain Howard made, resolved to be present on the occasion; and accordingly, before the hour appointed for dinner, betook himself to the garden, and as if he had arrived there by accident, strolled leisurely down the broad pleasant paths, bordered by pinks and fragrant roses clustering in the hedgerows. And presently drawing nigh the cabaret, he tarried there until the countess, rich in physical graces, with sunny smiles upon her lips, and amorous light in her eyes, stepped forth upon the balcony and greeted him. Whereon his heart took fire: and entering the house, he joined her where she stood, and held pleasant converse with her. Inflated by his success, he resolved on making himself disagreeable to the host, and therefore ventured to criticize the entertainment, and ridicule the music, which he voted barbarous to civilized ears. And to such an extent did he outrage Thomas Howard, that the gallant captain, being more of a soldier than a courtier, and therefore preferring passages at arms to those of wit, could scarce refrain from drawing his sword and demanding the satisfaction due to him.
However, he subdued his wrath till the day was spent, and early next morning sent a challenge to his rival. Accordingly they met with fierce intent, and the duel which followed ended almost fatally for Jermyn, who was carried from the scene of encounter bleeding from three wounds caused by his antagonist's sword.
The unfortunate issue of this fight deprived Lady Shrewsbury of two lovers; for Howard, having rendered Jermyn unable to perform the part of a gallant, was obliged to fly from the country and remain abroad some time.
In their stead the countess sought consolation in the companionship of Thomas Killigrew, a handsome man and a notable courtier. She therefore had no regrets for the past: and he was entirely happy in the present, so that he boasted of his felicities to all acquaintance, in general, and to his friend the Duke of Buckingham in particular. It was Killigrew's constant habit to sup with his grace, on which occasions his conversation invariably turned on her ladyship, when, his imagination being heated by wine, he freely endowed her with the perfections of a goddess. To such descriptions the duke could not listen unmoved; and therefore resolved to judge for himself if indeed the countess was such a model of loveliness as Killigrew represented. Accordingly, at the first opportunity which presented itself, the duke made love to her, and she, nothing averse to his attentions, encouraged his affections. Killigrew was much aggrieved at this unexpected turn of affairs, and bitterly reproached the countess; but she, being mistress of the situation, boldly denied all knowledge of him.
This was more than he expected or could endure, and he consequently abused her roundly in all companies, characterizing the charms of which he once boasted as faults he could not endure; ridiculing her airs, and denouncing her conduct. Reports of his comments and discourses speedily reached Lady Shrewsbury's ears; and he was privately warned that if he did not desist means would be taken to silence him effectually. Not being wise enough to accept this hint he continued to vilify her. The result was, one night when returning from the Duke of York's apartments he was suddenly waylaid in St. James's Park, and three passes of a sword made at him through his chair, one of which pierced his arm. Not doubting they had despatched him to a better world, His assailants made their escape; and my Lady Shrewsbury, who singularly enough happened to be passing at the time in her coach, and had stopped to witness the proceedings, drove off as speedily as six horses could carry her.
Knowing it would be impossible to trace the villainy which had prompted this deed to its source, Killigrew said not a word concerning the murderous attempt, and henceforth held his peace regarding his late mistress's imperfections. For some time she continued her intrigue with the Duke of Buckingham without interference. But in an evil hour it happened the Earl of Shrewsbury, who had long entertained a philosophical indifference towards her previous amours, now undertook to defend his honour, which it was clear his Grace of Buckingham had sadly injured.
Accordingly he challenged the duke to combat, and in due time they met face to face in a field by Barnes Elms. His grace had as seconds Sir Robert Holmes and Captain William Jenkins; the earl being supported by Sir John Talbot and Bernard Howard, son of my Lord Arundel. The fight was brief and bloody; Lord Shrewsbury, being run through the body, was carried from the field in an insensible condition. The duke received but a slight wound, but his friend Captain Jenkins was killed upon the spot. The while swords clashed, blood flowed, and lives hung in a balance, the woman who wrought this evil stood close by, disguised as a page, holding the bridle of her lover's horse, as Lord Orford mentions.
In consequence of this duel the Duke of Buckingham absented himself from the capital; but two months after its occurrence King Charles was pleased, "in contemplation of the services heretofore done to his majesty by most of the persons engaged in the late duel or rencontre, to graciously pardon the said offence." Three months after the day on which he fought, Lord Shrewsbury died from effects of his wounds, when the duke boldly carried the widow to his home. The poor duchess, who had patiently borne many wrongs, could not stand this grievous and public insult, and declared she would not live under the same roof with so shameless a woman. "So I thought, madam," rejoined her profligate lord, "and have therefore ordered your coach to convey you to your father."
The countess continued to live with her paramour; nor was the court scandalized. The queen, it is true, openly espoused the cause of the outraged duchess, and sought to enlist sympathy on her behalf; but so low was the tone of public morality that her words were unheeded, and no voice was raised in protest against this glaring infamy. Nay, the duke went further still in his efforts towards injuring the wife to whom he owed so much, and who loved him over-well; as he caused his chaplain, the Rev. Thomas Sprat, to marry him to my Lady Shrewsbury; and subsequently conferred on the son to which she gave birth, and for whom the king stood godfather, his second title of Earl of Coventry. His wife was henceforth styled by the courtiers Dowager Duchess of Buckingham. It is worthy of mention that the Rev. Thomas Sprat in good time became Bishop of Rochester, and, it is written, "an ornament to the church among those of the highest order."
One of the most extraordinary characters which figured in this reign was Thomas Blood, sometimes styled colonel. He was remarkable for his great strength, high courage, and love of adventure. The son of an Irish blacksmith, he had, on the outbreak of civil warfare in his native country, joined Cromwell's army; and for the bravery he evinced was raised to the rank of lieutenant, rewarded by a substantial grant of land, and finally made a justice of the peace. At the restoration he was deprived of this honour, as he was likewise of the property he called his, which was returned to its rightful owner, an honest royalist. Wholly dissatisfied with a government which dealt him such hardships, he organised a plot to raise an insurrection in Ireland, storm Dublin Castle, and seize the Duke of Ormond, then lord lieutenant. This dark scheme was discovered by his grace; the chief conspirators were accordingly seized, with the exception of Blood, who succeeded in making his escape to Holland. His fellow traitors were tried and duly executed.
From Holland, Blood journeyed into England, where, becoming acquainted with some republicans, he entered into projects with them calculated to disturb the nation's peace; which fact becoming known, he was obliged to seek refuge in Scotland. Here he found fresh employment for his restless energies, and in the year 1666 succeeded in stirring up some malcontents to rebellion. The revolt being quelled, he escaped to Ireland; and after a short stay in that country returned once more to England, where he sought security in disguise.
He lived here in peace until 1670, when he made an attempt no less remarkable for its ingenuity than notable for its villainy. Towards the end of that year the Prince of Orange, being in London, was invited by the lord mayor to a civic banquet. Thither the Duke of Ormond attended him, and subsequently accompanied him to St. James's, where the prince then stayed. A short distance from the palace gates stood Clarendon House, where the duke then resided, and towards which he immediately drove, on taking leave of his royal highness. Scarce had he proceeded a dozen yards up St. James's Street, when his coach was suddenly stopped by a band of armed and mounted men, who, hurriedly surrounding his grace, dragged him from the carriage and mounted him on a horse behind a stalwart rider. Word of command being then given, the gang started at a brisk pace down Piccadilly. Prompted by enemies of the duke, as well as urged by his own desires to avenge his loss of property and the death of his fellow-conspirators, Blood resolved to hang him upon the gallows at Tyburn. That he might accomplish this end with greater speed and security, he, leaving his victim securely buckled and tied to the fellow behind whom he had been mounted, galloped forward in advance to adjust the rope to the gallows, and make other necessary preparations.
No sooner did the echo of his horse's hoofs die away, than the duke, recovering the stupor this sudden attack had caused, became aware that now was his opportunity to effect escape, if, indeed, such were possible. He to whom his grace was secured was a burly man possessed of great strength; the which Lord Ormond, being now past his sixtieth year, had not. However, life was dear to him, and therefore he began struggling with the fellow; and finally getting his foot under the villain's, he unhorsed him, when both fell heavily to the ground. Meanwhile his grace's coach having driven to Clarendon House, the footmen had given an account of the daring manner in which his abduction had been effected. On this an alarm was immediately raised, and the porter, servants, and others hastened down Piccadilly in search of their master, fast as good horses could carry them.
They had proceeded as far as the village of Knightsbridge, when reports of muskets, cries for help, and sounds of a scuffle they could not see for darkness, fell upon their ears, and filled them with alarm. The whole neighbourhood seemed startled, lights flashed, dogs barked, and many persons rushed towards the scene of encounter. Aware of this, the miscreants who had carried off the duke discharged their pistols at him, and leaving him, as they supposed, for dead, fled to avoid capture, and were seen or heard of no more. His grace was carried in an insensible condition to a neighbouring house, but not having received serious hurt, recovered in a few days. The court and town were strangely alarmed by this outrage; nor as time passed was there any clue obtained to its perpetrators, though the king offered a thousand pounds reward for their discovery.
The duke and his family, however, had little doubt his grace of Buckingham was instigator of the deed; and Lord Ossory was resolved the latter should be made aware of their conviction. Therefore, entering the royal drawing-room one day, he saw the duke standing beside his majesty, and going forward addressed him. "My lord," said he in a bold tone, whilst he looked him full in the face, "I know well that you are at the bottom of this late attempt upon my father; and I give you fair warning, if my father comes to a violent end by sword or pistol, or if he dies by the hand of a ruffian, or by the more secret way of poison, I shall not be at a loss to know the first author of it: I shall consider you as the assassin; I shall treat you as such; and wherever I meet you I shall pistol you, though you stood behind the king's chair; and I tell you it in his majesty's presence, that you may be sure I shall keep my word." No further attempt was made upon the Duke of Ormond's life.
Scarce six months elapsed from date of the essayed abduction, before Blood endeavoured to steal the regalia and royal jewels preserved in the Tower. The courage which prompted the design is not more remarkable than the skill which sought to effect it; both were worthy a man of genius. In the month of April, 1671, Blood, attired in the cassock, cloak, and canonical girdle of a clergyman, together with a lady, whom he represented as his wife, visited the Tower on purpose to see the crown. With their desire Mr. Edwards, the keeper, an elderly man and a worthy, readily complied. It chanced they were no sooner in the room where the regalia was kept, than the lady found herself taken suddenly and unaccountably ill, and indeed feared she must die; before bidding adieu to life, she begged for a little whisky. This was promptly brought her, and Mrs. Edwards, who now appeared upon the scene, invited the poor gentlewoman to rest upon her bed. Whilst she complied with this kind request, the clergyman and Edwards had time to improve their acquaintance, which indeed bade fair towards speedily ripening into friendship.
And presently the lady recovering, she and her spouse took their leave with many expressions of gratitude and respect. Four days later, the good parson called on Mrs. Edwards, in order to present her with four pairs of fine new gloves, which she was pleased to receive. This gracious act paved the way to further friendship, which at last found its climax in a proposal of marriage made by the parson on behalf of his nephew, for the hand of young Mistress Edwards. "You have a pretty gentlewoman for your daughter," said the clergyman, "and I have a young nephew, who has two or three hundred pounds a year in land, and is at my disposal; if your daughter be free, and you approve of it, I will bring him hither to see her, and we will endeavour to make a match of it."
To this project Edwards readily consented, and invited the clergyman and the young man to spend a day with him when they could discourse on the subject with greater leisure and more satisfaction. This was cordially agreed to by the parson, who, with the bridegroom elect and two of his friends, presented themselves on the appointed date, as early as seven of the clock in the morning. Edwards was up betimes; but the good clergyman, apologizing for the untimely hour of their arrival, which he attributed to his nephew's eagerness for sight of his mistress, declared he would not enter the keeper's apartments until Mrs. Edwards was ready to receive them. However, in order to pass the time, he begged his host might show the jewels to their young friends.
With this petition Edwards complied readily enough. One of the men, protesting he did not care to see the treasures, waited at the door; the other three entered with the keeper, who was no sooner inside the room than a cloak was thrown over his head, a gag, constructed of wood with a hole in it by which he might breathe, clapped into his mouth, and the more effectually to prevent him making a noise, an iron ring was fastened to his nose. He was told if he attempted an alarm he would be instantly killed, but if he remained quiet his life should be spared. Blood and his two accomplices then seized upon the crown, orb, and sceptre, seeing which, Edwards made as much noise as he possibly could by stamping on the floor, whereon the robbers struck him with a mallet on the head, stabbed him with a short sword in the side, and left him, as they thought, for dead. Blood then secured the regalia under his cloak, one of his companions put the orb into his breeches pocket, whilst the other proceeded to file the sceptre that it might be more conveniently carried.
Now, at this moment it happened the keeper's son, who had been absent in Flanders, returned to his father's home. He who stood sentinel asked him with whom he would speak, whereon young Edwards said he belonged to the house, and so passed to the apartments where his family resided. The other giving notice of his arrival, the robbers hastened to depart, leaving the sceptre behind them. No sooner had they gone, than the old man struggled to his feet, dragged the gag from his mouth, and cried out in fright: "Treason—murder—murder—treason!" On this his daughter rushed down, and seeing the condition of her father, and noting the absence of the regalia, continued his cry, adding, "The crown is stolen—thieves—thieves!"
Young Edwards and another who heard her, Captain Beekman, now gave pursuit to the robbers, who had already got beyond the main guard. Word was instantly shouted to the warder of the drawbridge to stop the villains, but Blood was equal to this emergency; coolly advancing, he discharged his pistol at the man, who instantly fell. The thieves then crossed the bridge, passed through the outward gate, and made for the street close by, where their horses awaited them, crying the while, "Stop thief! stop thief!" Before they advanced far, Captain Beekman came up with Blood, who, turning quickly round, fired his second pistol at the head of his pursuer; but Beekman, suddenly stooping, escaped injury, and sprang at the throat of his intended assassin. A struggle then ensued. Blood was a man of powerful physique, but Beekman was lithe and vigorous, and succeeded in holding the rogue until help arrived. In the contest, the regalia fell to the ground, when a fair diamond and a priceless pearl were lost; they were, however, eventually recovered. The other thieves were likewise captured, and all of them secured in the Tower.
Certain death now faced Blood; but the wonderful luck which had befriended him during life did not desert him now. At this time the Duke of Buckingham was high in favour with the king, and desirous of saving one who had secretly served him; or fearing exposure if Blood made a full confession, his grace impressed Charles with a desire to see the man who had perpetrated so daring a deed, saying he must be one possessed of extraordinary spirit. Giving ready ear to his words, the monarch consented to have an interview with the robber, for which purpose he gave orders Blood should be brought to Whitehall.
Those who heard of the king's resolution felt satisfied Blood need not despair of life; "for surely," said Sir Robert Southwell, on becoming aware of his majesty's design, "no king should wish to see a malefactor but with intentions to pardon him." Now Blood, being a man of genius, resolved to play his part during the audience in a manner which would favourably impress the king. Therefore when Charles asked him how he had dared attempt so bold a robbery, Blood made answer he had lost a fine property by the crown, and was resolved to recover it with the crown. Diverted by his audacity his majesty questioned him further, when Blood confessed to his attempted abduction of the Duke of Ormond, but refused to name his accomplices. Nay, he narrated various other adventures, showing them in a romantic light; and finally concluded by telling the king he had once entered into a design to take his sacred life by rushing upon him with a carbine from out of the reeds by the Thames side, above Battersea, when he went to swim there; but he was so awed by majesty his heart misgave him, and he not only relented, but persuaded the remainder of his associates from such an intention.
This strange interview resulted in Charles pardoning Blood his many crimes. The Duke of Ormond, at his majesty's request, likewise forgave him. Nor did the king's interest in the villain end here; for he gave him a pension of five hundred pounds a year, and admitted him to his private friendship. Blood was therefore constantly at court, and made one of that strange assembly of wits and profligates which surrounded the throne. "No man," says Carte the historian, "was more assiduous than he. If anyone had a business at court that stuck, he made his application to Blood as the most industrious and successful solicitor; and many gentlemen courted his acquaintance, as the Indians pray to the devil, that he may not hurt them. He was perpetually in the royal apartments, and affected particularly to be in the same room where the Duke of Ormond was, to the indignation of all others, though neglected and overlooked by his grace."
Terror falls upon the people.—Rumours of a plague.—A sign in the heavens.—Flight from the capital.—Preparations against the dreaded enemy.—Dr. Boghurst's testimony.—God's terrible voice in the city.—Rules made by the lord mayor.—Massacre of animals.—O, dire death!—Spread of the distemper.—Horrible sights.—State of the deserted capital.—"Bring out your dead."—ashes to ashes.—Fires are lighted.—Relief of the poor.—The mortality bills.
It came to pass during the fifth month of the year 1665, that a great terror fell upon the city of London; even as a sombre cloud darkens the midday sky. For it was whispered abroad a plague had come amongst the people, fears of which had been entertained, and signs of which had been obvious for some time. During the previous November a few persons had fallen victims to this dreaded pestilence, but the weather being cold and the atmosphere clear, it had made no progress till April. In that month two men had died of this most foul disease; and in the first week of May its victims numbered nine; and yet another fortnight and it had hurried seventeen citizens to the grave.
Now the memory of their wickedness rising before them, dread took up its abode in all men's hearts; for none knew but his day of reckoning was at hand. And their consternation was greater when it was remembered that in the third year of this century thirty-six thousand citizens of London had died of the plague, while twenty-five years later it had swept away thirty-five thousand; and eleven years after full ten thousand persons perished of this same pestilence. Moreover, but two years previous, a like scourge had been rife in Holland; and in Amsterdam alone twenty-four thousand citizens had died from its effects.
And the terror of the citizens of London was yet more forcibly increased by the appearance in April of a blazing star or comet, bearing a tail apparently six yards in length, which rose betimes in a lurid sky, and passed with ominous movement from west to east. [It is worthy of notice that Lilly in his "Astrological Predictions," published in 1648, declared the year 1656 would be "ominous to London, unto her merchants at sea, to her traffique at land, to her poor, to her rich, to all sorts of people inhabiting in her or her Liberties, by reason of sundry fires and a consuming plague."] The king with his queen and court, prompted by curiosity, stayed up one night to watch this blazing star pass above the silent city; the Royal Society in behalf of science embodied many learned comments regarding it in their "Philosophical Transactions;" but the great body of the people regarded it as a visible signal of God's certain wrath. They were more confirmed in this opinion, as some amongst them, whose judgments were distorted by fears, declared the comet had at times before their eyes assumed the appearance of a fiery sword threatening the sinful city. It was also noted in the spring of this year that birds and wild fowls had left their accustomed places, and few swallows were seen. But in the previous summer there had been "such a multitude of flies that they lined the insides of houses; and if any threads of strings did hang down in any place, they were presently thick-set with flies like ropes of onions; and swarms of ants covered the highways that you might have taken up a handful at a time, both winged and creeping ants; and such a multitude of croaking frogs in ditches that you might have heard them before you saw them," as is set down by one William Boghurst, apothecary at the White Hart in St. Giles-in-the-Fields, who wrote a learned "Treatis on the Plague" in 1666, he being the only man who up to that time had done so from experience and observation. [This quaint and curious production, which has never been printed, and which furnishes the following pages with some strange details, is preserved in the Sloane Collection of Manuscripts in the British Museum.] And from such signs, as likewise from knowledge that the pestilence daily increased, all felt a season of bitter tribulation was at hand.
According to "Some Observations of the Plague," written by Dr. Hedges for use of a peer of the realm, the dread malady was communicated to London from the Netherlands "by way of contagion." It first made its appearance in the parishes of St. Giles and St. Martin's, Westminster, from which directions it gradually spread to Holborn, Fleet Street, the Strand, and the city, finally reaching to the east, bringing death invariably in its train.
The distemper was not only fatal in its termination, but loathsome in its progress; for the blood of those affected being poisoned by atmospheric contagion, bred venom in the body, which burst forth into nauseous sores and uncleanness; or otherwise preyed with more rapid fatality internally, in some cases causing death before its victims were assured of disease. Nor did it spare the young and robust any more than those weak of frame or ripe with years, but attacking stealthily, killed speedily. It was indeed the "pestilence that walketh in darkness, and the destruction that wasteth in the noonday." In the month of May, when it was yet uncertain if the city would be spared even in part, persons of position and wealth, and indeed those endowed with sufficient means to support themselves elsewhere, resolved to fly from the capital; whilst such as had neither home, friends, nor expectation of employment in other places, remained behind. Accordingly great preparations were made by those who determined on flight; and all day long vast crowds gathered round my lord mayor's house in St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, seeking certificates of health, so that for some weeks it was difficult to reach his door for the throng that gathered there, as is stated by John Noorthouck. Such official testimonies to the good health of those leaving London had now become necessary; for the inhabitants of provincial towns, catching the general alarm, refused to shelter in their houses, or even let pass through their streets, the residents of the plague-stricken city, unless officially assured they were free from the dreaded distemper. Nay, even with such certificates in their possession, many were refused admittance to inns, or houses of entertainment, and were therefore obliged to sleep in fields by night, and beg food by day, and not a few deaths were caused by want and exposure.
And now were the thoroughfares of the capital crowded all day long with coaches conveying those who sought safety in flight, and with waggons and carts containing their household goods and belongings, until it seemed as if the city mould be left without a soul. Many merchants and shipowners together with their families betook themselves to vessels, which they caused to be towed down the river towards Greenwich, and in which they resided for months; whilst others sought refuge in smacks and fishing-boats, using them as shelters by day, and lodging on the banks by night. Some few families remaining in the capital laid in stores of provisions, and shutting themselves up securely in their houses, permitted none to enter or leave, by which means some of them escaped contagion and death. The court tarried until the 29th of June, and then left for Hampton, none too soon, for the pestilence had reached almost to the palace gates. The queen mother likewise departed, retiring into France; from which country she never returned.
All through the latter part of May, and the whole of the following month, this flight from the dread enemy of mankind continued; presenting a melancholy spectacle to those who remained, until at last the capital seemed veritably a city of the dead. But for the credit of humanity be it stated, that not all possessed of health and wealth abandoned the town. Prominent amongst those who remained were the Duke of Albemarle, Lord Craven, the lord mayor, Sir John Laurence, some of his aldermen, and a goodly number of physicians, chirurgeons, and apothecaries, all of whom by their skill or exertions sought to check the hungry ravages of death. The offices which medical men voluntarily performed during this period of dire affliction were loathsome to a terrible degree. "I commonly dressed forty sores in a day," says Dr. Boghurst, whose simple words convey a forcible idea of his nobility; "held the pulse of patients sweating in their beds half a quarter of an hour together; let blood; administered clysters to the sick; held them up in their beds to keep them from strangling and choking, half an hour together commonly, and suffered their breathing in my face several times when they were dying; eat and drank with them, especially those that had sores; sat down by their bedsides and upon their beds, discoursing with them an hour together. If I had time I stayed by them to see them die. Then if people had nobody to help them (for help was scarce at such time and place) I helped to lay them forth out of the bed, and afterwards into the coffin; and last of all, accompanied them to the ground."
Of the physicians remaining in the city, nine fell a sacrifice to duty. Amongst those who survived was the learned Dr. Nathaniel Hodges, who was spared to meet a philanthropist's fate in penury and neglect. [Dr. Hodges subsequently wrote a work entitled "Loimologia; or, an Historical Account of the Plague of London," first published in 1672; of which, together with a collection of the bills of mortality for 1665, entitled "London's Dreadful Visitation," and a pamphlet by the Rev. Thomas Vincent, "God's Terrible Voice in the City," printed in 1667, De Foe largely availed himself in writing his vivid but unreliable "Journal of the Plague Year," which first saw the light in 1722.] The king had, on outbreak of the distemper, shown solicitude for his citizens by summoning a privy council, when a committee of peers was formed for "Prevention and Spreading of the Infection." Under their orders the College of Physicians drew up "Certain necessary Directions for the Prevention and Cure of the Plague, with Divers remedies for small Change," which were printed in pamphlet form, and widely distributed amongst the people. [We learn that at this time the College was stored with "men of learning, virtue, and probity, nothing acquainted with the little arts of getting a name by plotting against the honesty and credulity of the people." The prescriptions given by this worthy body were consequently received with a simple faith which later and more sceptical generations might deny them. Perhaps the most remarkable of these directions, given under the heading of "Medicines External," was the following: "Pull off the feathers from the tails of living cocks, hens, pigeons, or chickens, and holding their bills, hold them hard to the botch or swelling, and so keep them at that part until they die, and by that means draw out the poison. It is good to apply a cupping glass, or embers in a dish, with a handful of sorrel upon the embers."]
The lord mayor, having likewise the welfare of the people at heart, "conceived and published" rules to be observed, and orders to be obeyed, by them during this visitation. These directed the appointment of two examiners for every parish, who were bound to discover those who were sick, and inquire into the nature of their illness: and finding persons afflicted by plague, they, with the members of their family and domestics, were to be confined in their houses. These were to be securely locked outside, and guarded day and night by watchmen, whose duty it should be to prevent persons entering or leaving those habitations; as likewise to perform such offices as were required, such as conveying medicines and food. And all houses visited by the distemper were to be forthwith marked on the door by a red cross a foot long, with the words LORD HAVE MERCY UPON US set close over the same sacred sign. Female searchers, "such as are of honest reputation, and of the best sort as can be got of the kind," were selected that they might report of what disease people died; such women not being permitted during this visitation to use any public work or employment, or keep shop or stall, or wash linen for the people. Nurses to attend the afflicted deserted by their friends were also appointed. And inasmuch as multitudes of idle rogues and wandering beggars swarming the city were a great means of spreading disease, the constables had orders not to suffer their presence in the streets. And dogs and cats, being domestic animals, apt to run from house to house, and carry infection in their fur and hair, an order was made that they should be killed, and an officer nominated to see it carried into execution. It was computed that, in accordance with this edict, forty thousand dogs, and five times that number of cats, were massacred.
All plays bear-baitings, exhibitions, and games were forbidden; as were likewise "all public feasting, and particularly by the companies of the city, and dinners at taverns, alehouses, and other places of common entertainment; and the money thereby spared, be employed for the benefit and relief of the poor visited with the infection." Pest-houses were opened at Tothill Fields, Westminster, and at Bunhill Fields, near Old Street, for reception of the sick: and indeed every possible remedy calculated to check the disease was adopted. Some of these, though considered necessary to the well-being of the community, were by many citizens regarded as hardships, more especially the rule which related to closing of infected houses.
The misery endured by those in health suffering such confinement, was scarcely less than that realized by the afflicted. And fear making way for disease, it frequently occurred a whole family, when confined with one infected member, speedily became stricken by plague, and consequently overtaken by death. It therefore happened that many attempts were made by those in health to escape incarceration. In some cases they bribed, and in others ill-treated the watchmen: one of whom was actually blown up by gunpowder in Coleman Street, that those he guarded might flee unmolested. Again, it chanced that strong men, rendered desperate when brought face to face with loathsome death, lowered themselves from windows of their houses in sight of the watch, whom they threatened with instant death if they cried out or stirred.
The apprehension of the sick, who were in most cases deserted by their friends, was increased tenfold by the practices of public nurses: for being hardened to affliction by nature of their employment, and incapable of remorse for crime by reason of their vileness, they were guilty of many barbarous usages. "These wretches," says Dr. Hodges, "out of greediness to plunder the dead, would strangle their patients, and charge it to the distemper in their throats. Others would secretly convey the pestilential taint from sores of the infected to those who were well; and nothing indeed deterred these abandoned miscreants from prosecuting their avaricious purposes by all methods their wickedness could invent; who, although they were without witnesses to accuse them, yet it is not doubted but divine vengeance will overtake such wicked barbarities with due punishment. Nay, some were remarkably struck from heaven in the perpetration of their crimes; and one particularly amongst many, as she was leaving the house of a family, all dead, loaded with her robberies, fell down lifeless under her burden in the street. And the case of a worthy citizen was very remarkable, who, being suspected dying by his nurse, was beforehand stripped by her; but recovering again, he came a second time into the world naked."
But notwithstanding all precautions and care taken by the Duke of Albemarle and the worthy lord mayor, the dreadful pestilence spread with alarming rapidity; as may be judged from the fact that the number who died in the first week of June amounted to forty-three, whilst during the last week of that month two hundred and sixty-seven persons were carried to their graves. From the 4th of July to the 11th, seven hundred and fifty-five deaths were chronicled; the following eight days the death rate rose to one thousand and eighty-two; whilst the ensuing week this high figure was increased by over eight hundred. For the month of August, the mortality bill recorded seventeen thousand and thirty-six deaths; and during September, twenty-six thousand two hundred and thirty persons perished in the city.
The whole British nation was stricken with consternation at the fate of the capital. "In some houses," says Dr. Hodges, speaking from personal experience, "carcases lay waiting for burial, and in others were persons in their last agonies. In one room might be heard dying groans, in an other the ravings of delirium, and not far off relations and friends bewailing both their loss and the dismal prospect of their own sudden departure. Death was the sure midwife to all children, and infants passed immediately from the womb to the grave. Some of the infected run about staggering like drunken men, and fall and expire in the streets; whilst others lie half dead and comatose, but never to be waked but by the last trumpet." The plague had indeed encompassed the walls of the city, and poured in upon it without mercy. A heavy stifling atmosphere, vapours by day and blotting out all traces of stars and sky by night, hovered like a palpable shape of dire vengeance above the doomed city. During many weeks "there was a general calm and serenity, as if both wind and rain had been expelled the kingdom, so that there was not so much as to move a flame." The oppressive silence of brooding death, unbroken now even by the passing bell, weighed stupor-like upon the wretched survivors. The thoroughfares were deserted, grass sprang green upon side-paths and steps of dwellings; and the broad street in Whitechapel became like unto a field. Most houses bore upon their doors the dread sign of the red cross, with the supplication for mercy written above. Some of the streets were barricaded at both ends, the inhabitants either having fled into the country or been carried to their graves; and it was estimated in all that over seven thousand dwellings were deserted. All commerce, save that dealing with the necessaries of life, was abandoned; the parks forsaken and locked, the Inns of Court closed, and the public marts abandoned. A few of the church doors were opened, and some gathered within that they might humbly beseech pardon for the past, and ask mercy in the present. But as the violence of the distemper increased, even the houses of God were forsaken; and those who ventured abroad walked in the centre of the street, avoiding contact or conversation with friend or neighbour; each man dreading and avoiding his fellow, lest he should be to him the harbinger of death. And all carried rue and wormwood in their hands, and myrrh and zedoary in their mouths, as protection against infection. Now were the faces of all pale with apprehension, none knowing when the fatal malady might carry them hence; and moreover sad, as became those who stand in the presence of death.