When London Burned by G. A. Henty
Chapter XVII. Smitten Down
Two days later, Cyril started at his usual hour to go to Dr. Hodges'; but he had proceeded but a few yards when a man, who was leaning against the wall, suddenly lurched forward and caught him round the neck. Thinking that the fellow had been drinking, Cyril angrily tried to shake him off. As he did so the man's hat, which had been pressed down over his eyes, fell off, and, to his astonishment, Cyril recognised John Harvey.
"You villain! What are you doing here?" he exclaimed, as he freed himself from the embrace, sending his assailant staggering back against the wall.
The man's face lit up with a look of savage exultation..
"I told you you should hear from me again," he said, "and I have kept my word. I knew the hour you went out, and I have been waiting for you. You are a doomed man. I have the Plague, and I have breathed in your face. Before twenty-four hours have passed you will be, as I am, a dying man. That is a good piece of vengeance. You may be a better swordsman than I am, but you can't fight with the Plague."
Cyril drew back in horror. As he did so, a change came over John Harvey's face, he muttered a few words incoherently, swayed backwards and forwards, and then slid to the ground in a heap. A rush of blood poured from his mouth, and he fell over dead.
Cyril had seen more than one similar death in the streets, but the horrible malignity of this man, and his sudden death, gave him a terrible shock. He felt for the moment completely unmanned, and, conscious that he was too unhinged for work, he turned and went back to the house.
"You look pale, lad," John Wilkes said, as Cyril went upstairs. "What brings you back so soon?"
"I have had rather a shock, John." And he told him of what had happened.
"That was enough to startle you, lad. I should say the best thing you could do would be to take a good strong tumbler of grog, and then lay down."
"That I will do, and will take a dose of the medicine Dr. Hodges makes everyone take when the infection first shows itself in a house. As you know, I have never had any fear of the Plague hitherto. I don't say that I am afraid of it now, but I have run a far greater risk of catching it than I have ever done before, for until now I have never been in actual contact with anyone with the disease."
After a sleep Cyril rose, and feeling himself again, went to call upon Mr. Wallace.
"I shall not come again for a few days," he said, after telling him what had happened, but without mentioning the name of John Harvey, "but I will send you a note every other day by John Wilkes. If he does not come, you will know that I have taken the malady, and in that case, Mr. Wallace, I know that I shall have your prayers for my recovery. I am sure that I shall be well cared for by John Wilkes."
"Of my prayers you maybe sure, Cyril; and, indeed, I have every faith that, should you catch the malady, you will recover from it. You have neither well-nigh frightened yourself to death, nor have you dosed yourself with drugs until nature was exhausted before the struggle began. You will, I am sure, be calm and composed, and above all you have faith in God, and the knowledge that you have done your part to carry out His orders, and to visit the sick and aid those in sorrow."
The next day Cyril was conscious of no change except that he felt a disinclination to exert himself. The next morning he had a feeling of nausea.
"I think that I am in for it, John," he said. "But at any rate it can do no harm to try that remedy you spoke of that is used in the East. First of all, let us fumigate the room. As far as I have seen, the smoke of tobacco is the best preservative against the Plague. Now do you, John, keep a bit of tobacco in your mouth."
"That I mostly do, lad."
"Well, keep a bigger bit than usual, John, and smoke steadily. Still, that will not be enough. Keep the fire burning, and an iron plate heated to redness over it. Bring that into my room from time to time, and burn tobacco on it. Keep the room full of smoke."
"I will do that," John said, "but you must not have too much of it. I am an old hand, and have many times sat in a fo'castle so full of smoke that one could scarce see one's hands, but you are not accustomed to it, and it may like enough make you sick."
"There will be no harm in that, John, so that one does not push it too far. Now, how are you going to set about this sweating process?"
"While you undress and get into bed I will get a blanket ready. It is to be dipped in boiling water, and then wrung out until it is as dry as we can get it. Then you are wrapped in that, and then rolled in five or six dry blankets to keep in the heat. You will keep in that until you feel almost weak with sweating; then I take you out and sponge you with warmish water, and then wrap you in another dry blanket."
"You had better sponge me with vinegar, John."
Cyril undressed. When he had done so he carefully examined himself, and his eye soon fell on a black spot on the inside of his leg, just above the knee. It was the well-known sign of the Plague.
"I have got it, John," he said, when the latter entered with a pile of blankets.
"Well, then, we have got to fight it, Master Cyril, and we will beat it if it is to be beaten. Now, lad, for the hot blanket."
"Lay it down on the bed, and I will wrap myself in it, and the same with the others. Now I warn you, you are not to come nearer to me than you can help, and above all you are not to lean over me. If you do, I will turn you out of the room and lock the door, and fight it out by myself. Now puff away at that pipe, and the moment you wrap me up get the room full of smoke."
"Don't you bother about me," he growled. "I reckon the Plague ain't going to touch such a tough old bit of seasoned mahogany as I am. Still, I will do as you tell me."
In a few minutes Cyril was in a profuse perspiration, in which even his head, which was above the blankets, shared.
"That is grand," John said complacently.
The cloud of tobacco, with which the room was soon filled, was not long in having the effect that John had predicted, and Cyril was soon violently sick, which had the effect of further increasing the perspiration.
"You must open the window and let the smoke out a bit, John," he gasped. "I can't stand any more of it."
This was done, and for another hour Cyril lay between the blankets.
"I shall faint if I lie here any longer," he said at last. "Now, John, do you go out of the room, and don't come back again until I call you. I see you have put the vinegar handy. It is certain that if this is doing me any good the blankets will be infected. You say you have got a big fire in the kitchen. Well, I shall take them myself, and hang them up in front of it, and you are not to go into the room till they are perfectly dry again. You had better light another fire at once in the parlour, and you can do any cooking there. I will keep the kitchen for my blankets."
John nodded and left the room, and Cyril at once proceeded to unroll the blankets. As he came to the last he was conscious of a strong fetid odour, similar to that he had more than once perceived in houses infected by the Plague.
"I believe it is drawing it out of me," he said to himself. "I will give it another trial presently."
He first sponged himself with vinegar, and felt much refreshed. He then wrapped himself up and lay down for a few minutes, for he felt strangely weak. Then he got up and carried the blankets into the kitchen, where a huge fire had been made up by John. He threw the one that had been next to him into a tub, and poured boiling water on it, and the others he hung on chairs round it. Then he went back to his room, and lay down and slept for half an hour. He returned to the kitchen and rearranged the blankets. When John saw him go back to his room he followed him.
"I have got some strong broth ready," he said. "Do you think that you could take a cupful?"
"Ay, and a good-sized one, John. I feel sure that the sweating has done me good, and I will have another turn at it soon. You must go at once and report that I have got it, or when the examiners come round, and find that the Plague is in the house, you will be fined, or perhaps imprisoned. Before you go there, please leave word at Dr. Hodges' that I am ill, and you might also call at Mr. Wallace's and leave the same message. Tell them, in both cases, that I have everything that I want, and trust that I shall make a good recovery."
"Ay, ay, sir; I will be off as soon as I have brought you in your broth, and will be back here in half an hour."
Cyril drank the broth, and then dozed again until John returned. When he heard his step he called out to him to bring the hot iron, and he filled the room with tobacco smoke before allowing him to enter.
"Now, John, the blankets are dry, and can be handled again, and I am ready for another cooking."
Four times that day did Cyril undergo the sweating process. By the evening he was as weak as a child, but his skin was soft and cool, and he was free from all feeling of pain or uneasiness. Dr. Hodges called half an hour after he had taken it for the last time, having only received his message when he returned late from a terrible day's work. Cyril had just turned in for the night.
"Well, lad, how are you feeling? I am so sorry that I did not get your message before."
"I am feeling very well, doctor."
"Your hand is moist and cool," Dr. Hodges said in surprise. "You must have been mistaken. I see no signs whatever of the Plague."
"There was no mistake, doctor; there were the black marks on my thighs, but I think I have pretty well sweated it out of me."
He then described the process he had followed, and said that John Wilkes had told him that it was practised in the Levant.
"Sweating is greatly used here, and I have tried it very repeatedly among my patients, and in some cases, where I had notice of the disease early, have saved them. Some bleed before sweating, but I have not heard of one who did so who recovered. In many cases the patient, from terror or from weakness of body, cannot get up the heat required, and even if they arrive at it, have not the strength to support it. In your case you lost no time; you had vital heat in plenty, and you had strength to keep up the heat in full force until you washed, as it were, the malady out of you. Henceforth I shall order that treatment with confidence when patients come to me whom I suspect to have the Plague, although it may not have as yet fully declared itself. What have you done with the blankets?"
"I would not suffer John to touch them, but carried them myself into the kitchen. The blankets next to me I throw into a tub and pour boiling water over them; the others I hang up before a huge fire, so as to be dry for the next operation. I take care that John does not enter the kitchen."
"How often have you done this?"
"Four times, and lay each time for an hour in the blankets. I feel very weak, and must have lost very many pounds in weight, but my head is clear, and I suffer no pain whatever. The marks on my legs have not spread, and seem to me less dark in colour than they were."
"Your case is the most hopeful that I have seen," Dr. Hodges said. "The system has had every advantage, and to this it owes its success. In the first place, you began it as soon as you felt unwell. Most people would have gone on for another twelve hours before they paid much attention to the first symptoms, and might not have noticed the Plague marks even when they went to bed. In the second place, you are cool and collected, and voluntarily delivered yourself to the treatment. And in the third place, which is the most important perhaps of all, you were in good health generally. You had not weakened yourself by swallowing every nostrum advertised, or wearing yourself out by vain terrors. Ninety-nine cases out of a hundred would be probably beyond the reach of help before they were conscious of illness, and be too weak to stand so severe a strain on the system as that you have undergone. Another thing is that the remedy could hardly be attempted in a house full of frightened people. There would be sure to be carelessness in the matter of the blankets, which, unless treated as you have done, would be a certain means of spreading the infection over the house. At any rate, I would continue the sweating as long as you can possibly stand it. Take nourishment in the shape of broth frequently, but in small quantity. I would do it again at midnight; 'tis well not to let the virus have time to gather strength again. I see you have faith in tobacco."
"Yes, doctor. I never let John Wilkes into the room after I have taken a bath until it is full of tobacco smoke. I have twice made myself ill with it to-day."
"Don't carry it too far, lad; for although I also believe in the virtue of the weed, 'tis a powerful poison, and you do not want to weaken yourself. Well, I see I can do nothing for you. You and your man seem to me to have treated the attack far more successfully than I should have done; for, indeed, this month very few of those attacked have recovered, whatever the treatment has been. I shall come round early tomorrow morning to see how you are going on. At present nothing can be better. Since the first outbreak, I have not seen a single case in which the patient was in so fair a way towards recovery in so short a time after the discovery of the infection."
John Wilkes at this moment came in with a basin of broth.
"This is my good friend, John Wilkes, doctor."
"You ought to be called Dr. John Wilkes," the doctor, who was one of the most famous of his time, said, with a smile, as he shook hands with him. "Your treatment seems to be doing wonders."
"It seems to me he is doing well, doctor, but I am afraid he is carrying it too far; he is so weak he can hardly stand."
"Never mind that," the doctor said; "it will be easy enough to build him up when we have once got the Plague out of him. I have told him to have another turn in the blankets at twelve o'clock to-night; it will not do to let the malady get a fresh hold of him. But don't push it too far, lad. If you begin to feel faint, stop it, even if you have not been a quarter of an hour in the blankets. Do not cover yourself up too warmly when you have done; let nature have a rest. I shall be round between eight and nine, and no doubt you will have had another bath before I come. Do not sleep in the room, Wilkes; he is sure to go off soundly to sleep, and there is no use your running any needless risk. Let his window stand open; indeed, it should always be open, except when he gets out of his blankets, or is fumigating the room. Let him have a chair by the open window, so as to get as much fresh air as possible; but be sure that he is warmly wrapped up with blankets, so as to avoid getting a chill. You might place a hand-bell by the side of his bed to-night, so that he can summons you should he have occasion."
When the doctor came next morning he nodded approvingly as soon as he felt Cyril's hand.
"Nothing could be better," he said; "your pulse is even quieter than last night. Now let me look at those spots."
"They are fainter," Cyril said.
"A great deal," Dr. Hodges said, in a tone of the greatest pleasure. "Thank God, my lad, it is dying out. Not above three or four times since the Plague began have I been able to say so. I shall go about my work with a lighter heart today, and shall order your treatment in every case where I see the least chance of its being carried out, but I cannot hope that it will often prove as successful as it has with you. You have had everything in your favour--youth, a good constitution, a tranquil mind, an absence of fear, and a faith in God."
"And a good attendant, doctor--don't forget that."
"No, that goes for a great deal, lad--for a great deal. Not one nurse out of a hundred would carry out my instructions carefully; not one patient in a thousand would be able to see that they were carried out. Of course you will keep on with the treatment, but do not push it to extremes; you have pulled yourself down prodigiously, and must not go too far. Do you perceive any change in the odour when you take off the blankets?"
"Yes, doctor, a great change; I could scarcely distinguish it this morning, and indeed allowed John Wilkes to carry them out, as I don't think I myself could have walked as far as the kitchen, though it is but ten or twelve paces away. I told him to smoke furiously all the time, and to come out of the kitchen as soon as he had hung them up."
Cyril took three more baths in the course of the day, but was only able to sustain them for twenty minutes each, as by the end of that time he nearly fainted. The doctor came in late in the evening.
"The spots are gone, doctor," Cyril said.
"Then I think you may consider yourself cured, lad. Do not take the treatment again to-night; you can take it once in the morning; and then if I find the spots have not reappeared by the time I come, I shall pronounce the cure as complete, and shall begin to build you up again."
The doctor was able to give this opinion in the morning.
"I shall not come again, lad, unless you send for me, for every moment of my time is very precious, and I shall leave you in the hands of Dr. Wilkes. All you want now is nourishment; but take it carefully at first, and not too much at a time; stick to broths for the next two or three days, and when you do begin with solids do so very sparingly."
"There was a gentleman here yesterday asking about you," John Wilkes said, as Cyril, propped up in bed, sipped his broth. "It was Mr. Harvey. He rang at the bell, and I went down to the lower window and talked to him through that, for of course the watchman would not let me go out and speak to him. I had heard you speak of him as one of the gentlemen you met at the minister's, and he seemed muchly interested in you. He said that you had done him a great service, and of course I knew it was by frightening that robber away. I never saw a man more pleased than he was when I told him that the doctor thought you were as good as cured, and he thanked God very piously for the same. After he had done that, he asked me first whether you had said anything to me about him. I said that you had told me you had met him and his wife at the minister's, and that you said you had disturbed a robber you found at his house. He said, quite sharp, 'Nothing more?' 'No, not as I can think of. He is always doing good to somebody,' says I, 'and never a word would he say about it, if it did not get found out somehow. Why, he saved Prince Rupert's ship from being blown up by a fire-vessel, and never should we have known of it if young Lord Oliphant had not written to the Captain telling him all about it, and saying that it was the gallantest feat done in the battle. Then there were other things, but they were of the nature of private affairs.' 'You can tell me about them, my good man,' he said; 'I am no vain babbler; and as you may well believe, from what he did for me, and for other reasons, I would fain know as much as I can of him.' So then I told him about how you found out about the robbery and saved master from being ruined, and how you prevented Miss Nellie from going off with a rascal who pretended he was an earl."
"Then you did very wrong, John," Cyril said angrily. "I say naught about your speaking about the robbery, for that was told in open Court, but you ought not, on any account, to have said a word about Mistress Nellie's affairs."
"Well, your honour, I doubt not Mistress Nellie herself would have told the gentleman had she been in my place. I am sure he can be trusted not to let it go further. I took care to tell him what good it had done Mistress Nellie, and that good had come out of evil."
"Well, you ought not to have said anything about it, John. It may be that Mistress Nellie out of her goodness of heart might herself have told, but that is no reason why anyone else should do so. I charge you in future never to open your lips about that to anyone, no matter who. I say not that any harm will come of it in this case, for Mr. Harvey is indeed a sober and God-fearing man, and assuredly asked only because he felt an interest in me, and from no idle curiosity. Still, I would rather that he had not known of a matter touching the honour of Mistress Nellie."
"Mum's the word in future, Master Cyril. I will keep the hatches fast down on my tongue. Now I will push your bed up near the window as the doctor ordered, and then I hope you will get a good long sleep."
The Plague and the process by which it had been expelled had left Cyril so weak that it was some days before he could walk across the room. Every morning he inquired anxiously of John how he felt, and the answer was always satisfactory. John had never been better in his life; therefore, by the time Cyril was able to walk to his easy-chair by the window, he began to hope that John had escaped the infection, which generally declared itself within a day or two, and often within a few hours, of the first outbreak in a house.
A week later the doctor, who paid him a flying visit every two or three days, gave him the welcome news that he had ordered the red cross to be removed from the door, and the watchmen to cease their attendance, as the house might now be considered altogether free from infection.
The Plague continued its ravages with but slight abatement, moving gradually eastward, and Aldgate and the district lying east of the walls were now suffering terribly. It was nearly the end of September before Cyril was strong enough to go out for his first walk. Since the beginning of August some fifty thousand people had been carried off, so that the streets were now almost entirely deserted, and in many places the grass was shooting up thickly in the road. In some streets every house bore the sign of a red cross, and the tolling of the bells of the dead-carts and piteous cries and lamentations were the only sounds that broke the strange silence.
The scene was so disheartening that Cyril did not leave the house again for another fortnight. His first visit was to Mr. Wallace. The sight of a watchman at the door gave him quite a shock, and he was grieved indeed when he heard from the man that the brave minister had died a fortnight before. Then he went to Mr. Harvey's. There was no mark on the door, but his repeated knockings met with no response, and a woman, looking out from a window opposite, called to him that the house had been empty for well-nigh a month, and the people that were in it had gone off in a cart, she supposed into the country.
"There was a gentleman and lady," she said, "who seemed well enough, and their servant, who was carried down and placed in the cart. It could not have been the Plague, though the man looked as if he had been sorely ill."
The next day he called on Dr. Hodges, who had not been near him for the last month. There was no watchman at the door, and his man opened it.
"Can I see the doctor?"
"Ay, you can see him," he said; "he is cured now, and will soon be about again."
"Has he had the Plague, then?"
"That he has, but it is a week now since the watchman left."
Cyril went upstairs. The doctor was sitting, looking pale and thin, by the window.
"I am grieved indeed to hear that you have been ill, doctor," Cyril said; "had I known it I should have come a fortnight since, for I was strong enough to walk this distance then. I did indeed go out, but the streets had so sad an aspect that I shrank from stirring out again."
"Yes, I have had it," the doctor said. "Directly I felt it come on I followed your system exactly, but it had gone further with me than it had with you, and it was a week before I fairly drove the enemy out. I ordered sweating in every case, but, as you know, they seldom sent for me until too late, and it is rare that the system got a fair chance. However, in my case it was a complete success. Two of my servants died; they were taken when I was at my worst. Both were dead before I was told of it. The man you saw was the one who waited on me, and as I adopted all the same precautions you had taken with your man, he did not catch it, and it was only when he went downstairs one day and found the other two servants lying dead in the kitchen that he knew they had been ill."
"Mr. Wallace has gone, you will be sorry to hear, sir."
"I am sorry," the doctor said; "but no one was more fitted to die. He was a brave man and a true Christian, but he ran too many risks, and your news does not surprise me."
"The only other friends I have, Mr. Harvey and his wife, went out of town a month ago, taking with them their servant."
"Yes; I saw them the day before I was taken ill," the doctor said, "and told them that the man was so far out of danger that he might safely be moved. They seemed very interested in you, and were very pleased when I told them that I had now given up attending you, and that you were able to walk across the room, and would, erelong, be yourself again. I hope we are getting to the end of it now, lad. As the Plague travels East it abates in the West, and the returns for the last week show a distinct fall in the rate of mortality. There is no further East for it to go now, and I hope that in another few weeks it will have worn itself out. We are half through October, and may look for cold weather before long."
"I should think that I am strong enough to be useful again now, sir."
"I don't think you are strong enough, and I am sure I shall not give you leave to do so," the doctor said. "I can hardly say how far a first attack is a protection against a second, for the recoveries have been so few that we have scarce means of knowing, but there certainly have been cases where persons have recovered from a first attack and died from a second. Your treatment is too severe to be gone through twice, and it is, therefore, more essential that you should run no risk of infection than it was before. I can see that you are still very far from strong, and your duty now is, in the first place, to regain your health. I should say get on board a hoy and go to Yarmouth. A week in the bracing air there would do you more good than six months here. But it is useless to give you that advice, because, in the first place, no shipping comes up the river, and, even if you could get down to Yarmouth by road, no one would receive you. Still, that is what I should do myself as soon as I could get away, were it not that, in my case, I have my duties here."
"But, doctor, what you said to me surely applies to yourself also?" Cyril said, with a smile.
"I know that," the doctor said good-humouredly, "and expected it, but it is not for a doctor to choose. He is not free, like other men; he has adopted a vocation in which it is his first duty to go among the sick, whatever their ailment may be, to do all that he can for them, and if, as in the present case, he can do practically nothing else, to set them an example of calmness and fearlessness. Still, for a time, at any rate, I shall be able to go no more into houses where the Plague is raging. 'Tis more than a month since you were cured, yet you are still a mere shadow of what you were. I had a much harder fight with the enemy, and cannot walk across the room yet without William's help. Therefore, it will be a fortnight or three weeks yet before I can see patients, and much longer before I shall have strength to visit them in their houses. By that time I trust that the Plague will have very greatly abated. Thus, you see, I shall not be called upon to stand face to face with it for some time. Those who call upon me here are seldom Plague-stricken. They come for other ailments, or because they feel unwell, and are nervous lest it should be the beginning of an attack; but of late I have had very few come here. My patients are mostly of the middle class, and these have either fled or fallen victims to the Plague, or have shut themselves up in their houses like fortresses, and nothing would tempt them to issue abroad. Therefore, I expect that I shall have naught to do but to gain strength again. Come here when you will, lad, and the oftener the better. Conversation is the best medicine for both of us, and as soon as I can I will visit you. I doubt not that John Wilkes has many a story of the sea that will take our thoughts away from this sad city. Bring him with you sometimes; he is an honest fellow, and the talk of sailors so smacks of the sea that it seems almost to act as a tonic."
Cyril stayed for an hour, and promised to return on the following evening. He said, however, that he was sure John Wilkes would not accompany him.
"He never leaves the house unless I am in it. He considers himself on duty; and although, as I tell him, there is little fear of anyone breaking in, seeing how many houses with much more valuable and more portable goods are empty and deserted, he holds to his purpose, saying that, even with the house altogether empty, it would be just as much his duty to remain in charge."
"Well, come yourself, Cyril. If we cannot get this old watch-dog out I must wait until I can go to him."
"I shall be very glad to come, doctor, for time hangs heavily on my hands. John Wilkes spends hours every day in washing and scrubbing decks, as he calls it, and there are but few books in the house."
"As to that, I can furnish you, and will do so gladly. Go across to the shelves there, and choose for yourself."
"Thank you very much indeed, sir. But will you kindly choose for me? I have read but few English books, for of course in France my reading was entirely French."
"Then take Shakespeare. I hold his writings to be the finest in our tongue. I know them nearly by heart, for there is scarce an evening when I do not take him down for an hour, and reading him I forget the worries and cares of my day's work, which would otherwise often keep me from sleep. 'Tis a bulky volume, but do not let that discourage you; it is full of wit and wisdom, and of such romance that you will often find it hard to lay it down. Stay--I have two editions, and can well spare one of them, so take the one on that upper shelf, and keep it when you have read it. There is but little difference between them, but I generally use the other, and have come to look upon it as a friend."
"Nay, sir, I will take it as a loan."
"You will do nothing of the sort. I owe you a fee, and a bumping one."
Henceforth Cyril did not find his time hang heavy on his hands. It seemed to him, as he sat at the window and read, that a new world opened to him. His life had been an eminently practical one. He had studied hard in France, and when he laid his books aside his time had been spent in the open air. It was only since he had been with Captain Dave that he had ever read for amusement, and the Captain's library consisted only of a few books of travels and voyages. He had never so much as dreamt of a book like this, and for the next few days he devoured its pages.
"You are not looking so well, Cyril," Dr. Hodges said to him abruptly one day.
"I am doing nothing but reading Shakespeare, doctor."
"Then you are doing wrong, lad. You will never build yourself up unless you take exercise."
"The streets are so melancholy, doctor, and whenever I go out I return sick at heart and in low spirits."
"That I can understand, lad. But we must think of something," and he sat for a minute or two in silence. Then he said suddenly, "Do you understand the management of a boat?"
"Yes, doctor; it was my greatest pleasure at Dunkirk to be out with the fishermen."
"That will do, then. Go down at once to the riverside. There are hundreds of boats lying idle there, for there are no passengers and no trade, and half of their owners are dead. You are sure to see some men there; having nothing else to do, some will be hanging about. Say you want to hire a boat for a couple of months or to buy one. You will probably get one for a few shillings. Get one with a sail as well as oars. Go out the first thing after breakfast, and go up or down the river as the tide or wind may suit. Take some bread and meat with you, and don't return till supper-time. Then you can spend your evenings with Shakespeare. Maybe I myself will come down and take a sail with you sometimes. That will bring the colour back into your cheeks, and make a new man of you. Would that I had thought of it before!"
Cyril was delighted with the idea, and, going down to Blackfriars, bought a wherry with a sail for a pound. Its owner was dead, but he learned where the widow lived, and effected the bargain without difficulty, for she was almost starving.
"I have bought it," he said, "because it may be that I may get it damaged or sunk; but I only need it for six weeks or two months, and at the end of that time I will give it you back again. As soon as the Plague is over there will be work for boats, and you will be able to let it, or to sell it at a fair price."
John Wilkes was greatly pleased when Cyril came back and told him what he had done.
"That is the very thing for you," he said. "I have been a thick-head not to think of it. I have been worrying for the last week at seeing you sit there and do nothing but read, and yet there seemed nothing else for you to do, for ten minutes out in the streets is enough to give one the heartache. Maybe I will go out for a sail with you myself sometimes, for there is no fear of the house being broken into by daylight."
"Not in the slightest, John. I hope that you will come out with me always. I should soon find it dull by myself, and besides, I don't think that I am strong enough yet to manage a pair of sculls for long, and one must reckon occasionally on having to row against the tide. Even if the worst happened, and anyone did break in and carry off a few things, I am sure Captain Dave would not grumble at the loss when he knew that I had wanted you to come out and help me to manage the boat, which I was ordered to use for my health's sake."
"That he wouldn't," John said heartily; "not if they stripped the house and shop of everything there was in them."