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so, for they sold their Provisions at the very Entrances into the Town, and even in the Fields; as particularly in the Fields beyond White-Chappel, in Spittle-fields. Note, Those Streets now called Spittle-Fields, were then indeed open Fields : Also in St. George's-fields in Soutwork, in Bunhill Fields, and in a great Field, callid Wood's-Close near Islington; thither the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Magistrates sent their Officers and Servants to buy for their Families, themselves keeping within Doors as much as possible; and the like did many other People; and after this Method was taken, the Country People came with great chearfulness, and brought Provisions of all Sorts, and very seldom got any harm; which I suppose, added
, also to that Report of their being Miraculously preserv'd.
As for my little Family, having thus, as I have said, laid in a Store of Bread, Butter, Cheese, and Beer, I took my Friend and Physician's Advice, and lock'd my self up, and my Family, and resolv’d to suffer the hardship of Living a few Months without Flesh-Meat, rather than to purchase it at the hazard of our Lives.
But tho' I confin'd my Family, I could not prevail upon my unsatisfy'd Curiosity to stay within entirely my self; and tho' I generally came frighted and terrified Home, yet I cou'd not restrain ; only that indeed, I did not do it so frequently as at first.
I had some little Obligations indeed upon me, to go to my Brothers House, which was in Coleman's-street Parish, and which he had left to my Care, and I went at first every Day, but afterwards only once or twice a Week.
In these Walks I had many dismal Scenes before my Eyes, as particularly of Persons falling dead in the Streets, terrible Shrieks and Skreekings of Women, who in their Agonies would throw open their Chamber Windows, and cry out in a dismal Surprising Manner; it is impossible to describe the Variety of Postures, in which the Passions of the Poor People would Express themselves.
Passing thro’ Token-House-Yard in Lothbury, of a sudden a Casement violently opened just over my Head, and a Woman gave three frightful Skreetches, and then cry'd, Oh ! Death, Death, Death! in a most inimitable Tone, and which struck me with Horror, and a Chilness, in my very Blood. There was no Body to be seen in the whole Street, neither did any other Window open ; for People had no Curiosity now in any Case ; nor could any Body help one another; so I went on to pass into Bell-Alley.
Just in Bell-Alley, on the right Hand of the Passage, there was a more terrible Cry than that, tho’ it was not so directed out at the Window, but the whole family was in a terrible Fright, and I could hear Women and Children run skreaming about the Rooms like distracted, when a Garret Window opened, and some body from a Window on the other Side the Alley, call’d and ask'd, What is the Matter? upon which, from the first Window it was answered, O Lord, my Old Master has hang'd himself! The other ask'd again, Is he quite dead? and the first answer'd, Ay, Ay, quiie dead. quite dead and cold ! This Person was a Merchant, and a Deputy Alderman and very rich. I care not to mention the Name, tho' I knew his Name too, but that would be an Hardship to the Family, which is now flourishing again.
But, this is but one; it is scarce credible what dreadful Cases happened in particular Families every Day; People in the Rage of the Distemper, or in the Torment of their Swellings, which was indeed intollerable, running out of their own Government, raving and distracted, and oftentimes laying violent Hands upon themselves, throwing themselves out at their Windows, shooting themselves, etc. Mothers murthering their own Children, in their Lunacy, some dying of mere Grief, as a Passion, some of mere Fright and Surprize, without any Infection at all; others frighted into Idiotism, and foolish Distractions, some into dispair and Lunacy; others into mellancholy Madness.
The Pain of the Swelling was in particular very violent, and to some intollerable ; the Physicians and Surgeons may be said to have tortured many poor Creatures, even to Death. The Swellings in some grew hard, and they apply'd violent drawing Plasters, or Pultices, to break them; and if these did not do, they cut and scarified them in a terrible Manner: In some, those Swellings were made hard, partly by the Force of the Distemper, and partly by their being too violently drawn, and were so hard, that no Instrument could cut them, and then they burnt them with Causticks, so that many died raving mad with the Torment: and some in the very Operation. In these Distresses, some for want of Help to hold them down in their Beds, or to look to them, laid Hands upor. themselves as above. Some broke out into the Streets, perhaps naked, and
would run directly down to the River, if they were not stopt by the Watchmen, or other Officers, and plunge themselves into the Water, wherever they found it.
It often pierc'd my very Soul to hear the Groans and Crys of those who were thus tormented, but of the Two, this was counted the most promising Particular in the whole Infection ; for, if these Swellings could be brought to a Head, and to break and run, or as the Surgeons call it, to digest, the Patient generally recover’d; whereas those who, like the Gentlewoman's Daughter, were struck with Death at the Beginning, and had the Tokens come out upon them, often went about indifferent easy, till a little before they died, and some till the Moment they dropt down, as in Appoplexies and Epelepsies, is often the Case; such would be taken suddenly very sick, and would run to a Bench or Bulk, or any convenient ·Place that offer'd it self, or to their own Houses, if possible, as I mentioned before, and there sit down, grow faint and die. This kind of dying was much the same, as it was with those who die of common Mortifications, who die swooning, and as it were go away in a Dream; such as die thus, had very little Notice of their being infected at all, till the Gangreen was spread thro' their whole Body; nor could Physicians themselves know certainly how it was with them, till they opened their Breasts, or other Parts of their Body, and saw the Tokens.
We had at this Time a great many frightful Stories told us of Nurses and Watchmen, who looked after the dying People, that is to say, hir'd Nurses, who attended infected People, using them barbarously, starving them, smothering them, or by other wicked Means hastening their End, that is to say, murthering of them: And Watchmen being set to guard Houses that were shut up, when there has been but one person left, and perhaps, that one lying sick, that they have broke in and murthered that Body, and immediately thrown them out into the Dead-Cart ! and so they have gone scarce cold to the Grave.
I cannot say but that some such Murthers were committed, and I think two were sent to Prison for it, but died before they could be try'd; and I have heard that three others, at several Times, were excused for Murthers of that kind; but I must say I believe nothing of its being so common a Crime, as some have since been pleas'd to say, nor did it seem to be so rational, where the People were brought so low as not to be able to help themselves, for such seldom recovered, and there was no Temptation to commit a Murder, at least, none equal to the Fact where they were sure Persons would die in so short a Time; and could not live.
That there were a great many Robberies and wicked Practices committed even in this dreadful Time I do not deny ; the Power of Avarice was so strong in some, that they would run any Hazard to steal and to plunder, and particularly in Houses where all the Families, or Inhabitants have been dead, and carried out, they would break in at all Hazards, and without Regard to the Danger of Infection, take even the Cloths off, of the dead Bodies, and the Bed-cloaths from others where they lay dead.
This, I suppose, must be the Case of a Family in Houndsditch, where a Man and his Daughter, the rest of the Family being, as I suppose, carried away before by the Dead-Cart, were found stark naked, one in one Chamber, and one in another, lying Dead on the Floor; and the Cloths of the Beds, from whence, 'tis supposed they were rollid off by Thieves, stoln, and carried quite away.
It is indeed to be observ’d, that the Women were, in all this Calamity, the most rash, fearless, and desperate Creatures ; and as there were vast Numbers that went about as Nurses, to tend those that were sick, they committed a great many petty Thieveries in the Houses where they were employed; and some of them were publickly whipt for it, when perhaps they ought rather to have been hanged for Examples; for Numbers of Houses were robbed on these Occasions, till at length the Parish Officers were sent to recommend Nurses to the Sick, and always took an Account who it was they sent, so as that they might call them to account, if the House had been abused where they were placed.
But these Robberies extended chiefly to Wearing-Cloths, Linen, and what Rings or Money they could come at, when the Person dyed who was under their Care, but not to a general Plunder of the Houses; and I could give an Account of one of these Nurses, who several Years after, being on her Death-bed, confest with the utmost Horror, the Robberries she had committed at the Time of her being a Nurse, and by which she had enriched herself to a great Degree : But as for murthers, I do not find that there was ever any Proof of the Facts, in the manner, as it has been reported, except as above.
They did tell me indeed of a Nurse in one place, that laid a wet Cloth upon the Face of a dying Patient, who she tended, and so put an End to his Life, who was just expiring before : And another that smother'd a young Woman she was looking to, when she was in a fainting fit, and would have come to her self : Some that kill'd them by giving them one Thing, some another, and some starved them by giving them nothing at all : But these Stories had two Marks of Suspicion that always attended them, which caused me always to slight them, and to look on them as mere Stories, that People continually frighted one another with. (1.) That wherever it was that we heard it, they always placed the Scene at the farther End of the Town, opposite, or most remote from where you were to hear it : If you heard it in White-Chapel, it had happened at St. Giles's, or at Westminster, or Holborn, or that End of the Town ; if you heard of it at that End of the Town, then it was done in White-Chapel, or the Minories, or about Cripplegate Parish : If you heard of it in the City, why, then it had happened in Southwark; and if you heard of it in Southwark, then it was done in the City, and the like.
In the next Place, of what Part soever you heard the Story, the Particulars were always the same, especially that of laying a wet double Clout on a dying Man's Face, and that of smothering a young Gentlewoman; so that it was apparent, at least to my Judgment, that there was more of Tale than of Truth in those Things.
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH.
BY EDGAR A. POE.
[EDGAR ALLAN Poe: An American poet and author; born at Boston, Mass., 1809. Orphaned in his third year, he was adopted by John Allan, a wealthy merchant of Richmond, Va., by whom he was sent to school at StokeNewington, near London. He spent a year at the University of Virginia (1826); enlisted as a private in the United States army under an assumed name, becoming sergeant major (1829); and was admitted to West Point (1830), receiving his dismissal the next year. Thrown upon his own resources, he began writing for the papers. Subsequently he became editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, in Richmond; was on the staff of The Gentleman's Magazine and Graham's Magazine, in Philadelphia, and the Broadway Journal in New York. He died in a Baltimore hospital, October 7, 1849. " The Raven" and "" The Bells" are his most popular poems. His fame as a prose writer rests on his tales of terror and mystery.]