When London Burned by G. A. Henty
Chapter XXII. After the Fire
Daylight brought little alleviation to the horrors of the scene. The flames were less vivid, but a dense pall of smoke overhung the sky. As soon as they had breakfasted, Captain Watson, his son, Captain Dowsett, Nellie, and Cyril took their places in the boat, and were rowed up the river. An exclamation burst from them all as they saw how fast the flames had travelled since the previous evening.
"St. Paul's is on fire!" Cyril exclaimed. "See! there are flames bursting through its roof. I think, Captain Watson, if you will put me ashore at the Temple, I will make my way to Whitehall, and report myself there. I may be of use."
"I will do that," Captain Watson said. "Then I will row back to the ship again. We must leave a couple of hands on board, in case some of these burning flakes should set anything alight. We will land with the rest, and do what we can to help these poor women and children."
"I will stay on board and take command, if you like, Watson," Captain Dave said. "You ought to have some one there, and I have not recovered from yesterday's work, and should be of little use ashore."
"Very well, Dowsett. That will certainly be best; but I think it will be prudent, before we leave, to run out a kedge with forty or fifty fathoms of cable towards the middle of the stream, and then veer out the cable on her anchor so as to let her ride thirty fathoms or so farther out. We left six men sluicing her side and deck, but it certainly would be prudent to get her out a bit farther. Even here, the heat is as much as we can stand."
As soon as Cyril had landed, he hurried up into Fleet Street. He had just reached Temple Bar when he saw a party of horsemen making their way through the carts. A hearty cheer greeted them from the crowd, who hoped that the presence of the King--for it was Charles who rode in front--was a sign that vigorous steps were about to be taken to check the progress of the flames. Beside the King rode the Duke of Albemarle, and following were a number of other gentlemen and officers. Cyril made his way through the crowd to the side of the Duke's horse.
"Can I be of any possible use, my Lord Duke?" he asked, doffing his hat.
"Ah, Sir Cyril, it is you, is it? I have not seen you since you bearded De Ruyter in the Fan Fan. Yes, you can be of use. We have five hundred sailors and dockyard men behind; they have just arrived from Chatham, and a thousand more have landed below the Bridge to fight the flames on that side. Keep by me now, and, when we decide where to set to work, I will put you under the orders of Captain Warncliffe, who has charge of them."
When they reached the bottom of Fleet Street, the fire was halfway down Ludgate Hill, and it was decided to begin operations along the bottom of the Fleet Valley. The dockyard men and sailors were brought up, and following them were some carts laden with kegs of powder.
"Warncliffe," Lord Albemarle said, as the officer came up at the head of them, "Sir Cyril Shenstone is anxious to help. You know him by repute, and you can trust him in any dangerous business. You had better tell off twenty men under him. You have only to tell him what you want done, and you can rely upon its being done thoroughly."
The sailors were soon at work along the line of the Fleet Ditch. All carried axes, and with these they chopped down the principal beams of the small houses clustered by the Ditch, and so weakened them that a small charge of powder easily brought them down. In many places they met with fierce opposition from the owners, who, still clinging to the faint hope that something might occur to stop the progress of the fire before it reached their abodes, raised vain protestations against the destruction of their houses. All day the men worked unceasingly, but in vain. Driven by the fierce wind, the flames swept down the opposite slope, leapt over the space strewn with rubbish and beams, and began to climb Fleet Street and Holborn Hill and the dense mass of houses between them.
The fight was renewed higher up. Beer and bread and cheese were obtained from the taverns, and served out to the workmen, and these kept at their task all night. Towards morning the wind had fallen somewhat. The open spaces of the Temple favoured the defenders; the houses to east of it were blown up, and, late in the afternoon, the progress of the flames at this spot was checked. As soon as it was felt that there was no longer any fear of its further advance here, the exhausted men, who had, for twenty-four hours, laboured, half suffocated by the blinding smoke and by the dust made by their own work, threw themselves down on the grass of the Temple Gardens and slept. At midnight they were roused by their officers, and proceeded to assist their comrades, who had been battling with the flames on the other side of Fleet Street. They found that these too had been successful; the flames had swept up to Fetter Lane, but the houses on the west side had been demolished, and although, at one or two points, the fallen beams caught fire, they were speedily extinguished. Halfway up Fetter Lane the houses stood on both sides uninjured, for a large open space round St. Andrew's, Holborn, had aided the defenders in their efforts to check the flames. North of Holborn the fire had spread but little, and that only among the poorer houses in Fleet Valley.
Ascending the hill, they found that, while the flames had overleapt the City wall from Ludgate to Newgate in its progress west, the wall had proved an effective barrier from the sharp corner behind Christchurch up to Aldersgate and thence up to Cripplegate, which was the farthest limit reached by the fire to the north. To the east, the City had fared better. By the river, indeed, the destruction was complete as far as the Tower. Mark Lane, however, stood, and north of this the line of destruction swept westward to Leaden Hall, a massive structure at the entrance to the street that took its name from it, and proved a bulwark against the flames. From this point, the line of devastated ground swept round by the eastern end of Throgmorton Street to the northern end of Basinghall Street.
Cyril remained with the sailors for two days longer, during which time they were kept at work beating out the embers of the fire. In this they were aided by a heavy fall of rain, which put an end to all fear of the flames springing up again.
"There can be no need for you to remain longer with us, Sir Cyril," Captain Warncliffe said, at the end of the second day. "I shall have pleasure in reporting to the Duke of Albemarle the good services that you have rendered. Doubtless we shall remain on duty here for some time, for we may have, for aught I know, to aid in the clearing away of some of the ruins; but, at any rate, there can be no occasion for you to stay longer with us."
Cyril afterwards learnt that the sailors and dockyard men were, on the following day, sent back to Chatham. The fire had rendered so great a number of men homeless and without means of subsistence, that there was an abundant force on hand for the clearing away of ruins. Great numbers were employed by the authorities, while many of the merchants and traders engaged parties to clear away the ruins of their dwellings, in order to get at the cellars below, in which they had, as soon as the danger from fire was perceived, stowed away the main bulk of their goods. As soon as he was released from duty, Cyril made his way to the Tower, and, hiring a boat, was rowed to the Good Venture.
The shipping presented a singular appearance, their sides being blistered, and in many places completely stripped of their paint, while in some cases the spars were scorched, and the sails burnt away. There was lively satisfaction at his appearance, as he stepped on to the deck of the Good Venture, for, until he did so, he had been unrecognised, so begrimed with smoke and dust was he.
"We have been wondering about you," Captain Dave said, as he shook him by the hand, "but I can scarce say we had become uneasy. We learnt that a large body of seamen and others were at work blowing up houses, and as you had gone to offer your services we doubted not that you were employed with them. Truly you must have been having a rough time of it, for not only are you dirtier than any scavenger, but you look utterly worn out and fatigued."
"It was up-hill work the first twenty-four hours, for we worked unceasingly, and worked hard, too, I can assure you, and that well-nigh smothered with smoke and dust. Since then, our work has been more easy, but no less dirty. In the three days I have not had twelve hours' sleep altogether."
"I will get a tub of hot water placed in your cabin," Captain Watson said, "and should advise you, when you get out from it, to turn into your bunk at once. No one shall go near you in the morning until you wake of your own accord."
Cyril was, however, down to breakfast.
"Now tell us all about the fire," Nellie said, when they had finished the meal.
"I have nothing to tell you, for I know nothing," Cyril replied. "Our work was simply pulling down and blowing up houses. I had scarce time so much as to look at the fire. However, as I have since been working all round its course, I can tell you exactly how far it spread."
When he brought his story to a conclusion, he said,--
"And now, Captain Dave, what are you thinking of doing?"
"In the first place, I am going ashore to look at the old house. As soon as I can get men, I shall clear the ground, and begin to rebuild it. I have enough laid by to start me again. I should be like a fish out of water with nothing to see to. I have the most valuable part of my stock still on hand here on deck, and if the cellar has proved staunch my loss in goods will be small indeed, for the anchors and chains in the yard will have suffered no damage. But even if the cellar has caved in, and its contents are destroyed, and if, when I have rebuilt my house, I find I have not enough left to replenish my stock, I am sure that I can get credit from the rope- and sail-makers, and iron-masters with whom I deal."
"Do not trouble yourself about that, Captain Dave," Cyril said. "You came to my help last time, and it will be my turn this time. I am sure that I shall have no difficulty in getting any monies that may be required from Mr. Goldsworthy, and there is nothing that will give me more pleasure than to see you established again in the place that was the first where I ever felt I had a home."
"I hope that it will not be needed, lad," Captain Dave said, shaking his hand warmly, "but if it should, I will not hesitate to accept your offer in the spirit in which it is made, and thus add one more to the obligations that I am under to you."
Cyril went ashore with Captain Dave and John Wilkes. The wall of the yard was, of course, uninjured, but the gate was burnt down. The store-house, which was of wood, had entirely disappeared, and the back wall of the house had fallen over it and the yard. The entrance to the cellar, therefore, could not be seen, and, as yet, the heat from the fallen bricks was too great to attempt to clear them away to get at it.
That night, however, it rained heavily, and in the morning Captain Watson took a party of sailors ashore, and these succeeded in clearing away the rubbish sufficiently to get to the entrance of the cellar. The door was covered by an iron plate, and although the wood behind this was charred it had not caught fire, and on getting it open it was found that the contents of the cellar were uninjured.
In order to prevent marauders from getting at it before preparations could be made for rebuilding, the rubbish was again thrown in so as to completely conceal the entrance. On returning on board there was a consultation on the future, held in the cabin. Captain Dave at once said that he and John Wilkes must remain in town to make arrangements for the rebuilding and to watch the performance of the work. Cyril warmly pressed Mrs. Dowsett and Nellie to come down with him to Norfolk until the house was ready to receive them, but both were in favour of remaining in London, and it was settled that, next day, they should go down to Stepney, hire a house and store-room there, and remove thither their goods on board the ship, and the contents of the cellar.
There was some little difficulty in getting a house, as so many were seeking for lodgings, but at last they came upon a widow who was willing to let a house, upon the proviso that she was allowed to retain one room for her own occupation. This being settled, Cyril that evening returned to his lodging, and the next day rode down to Norfolk. There he remained until the middle of May, when he received a letter from Captain Dave, saying that his house was finished, and that they should move into it in a fortnight, and that they all earnestly hoped he would be present. As he had already been thinking of going up to London for a time, he decided to accept the invitation.
By this time he had made the acquaintance of all the surrounding gentry, and felt perfectly at home at Upmead. He rode frequently into Norwich, and, whenever he did so, paid a visit to Mr. Harvey, whose wife had died in January, never having completely recovered from the shock that she had received in London. Mr. Harvey himself had aged much; he still took a great interest in the welfare of the tenants of Upmead, and in Cyril's proposals for the improvement of their homes, and was pleased to see how earnestly he had taken up the duties of his new life. He spoke occasionally of his son, of whose death he felt convinced.
"I have never been able to obtain any news of him," he often said, "and assuredly I should have heard of him had he been alive.
"It would ease my mind to know the truth," he said, one day. "It troubles me to think that, if alive, he is assuredly pursuing evil courses, and that he will probably end his days on a gallows. That he will repent, and turn to better courses, I have now no hope whatever. Unless he be living by roguery, he would, long ere this, have written, professing repentance, even if he did not feel it, and begging for assistance. It troubles me much that I can find out nothing for certain of him."
"Would it be a relief to you to know surely that he was dead?" Cyril asked.
"I would rather know that he was dead than feel, as I do, that if alive, he is going on sinning. One can mourn for the dead as David mourned for Absalom, and trust that their sins may be forgiven them; but, uncertain as I am of his death, I cannot so mourn, since it may be that he still lives."
"Then, sir, I am in a position to set your mind at rest. I have known for a long time that he died of the Plague, but I have kept it from you, thinking that it was best you should still think that he might be living. He fell dead beside me on the very day that I sickened of the Plague, and, indeed, it was from him that I took it."
Mr. Harvey remained silent for a minute or two.
"'Tis better so," he said solemnly. "The sins of youth may be forgiven, but, had he lived, his whole course might have been wicked. How know you that it was he who gave you the Plague?"
"I met him in the street. He was tottering in his walk, and, as he came up, he stumbled, and grasped me to save himself. I held him for a moment, and then he slipped from my arms and fell on the pavement, and died."
Mr. Harvey looked keenly at Cyril, and was about to ask a question, but checked himself.
"He is dead," he said. "God rest his soul, and forgive him his sins! Henceforth I shall strive to forget that he ever lived to manhood, and seek to remember him as he was when a child."
Then he held out his hand to Cyril, to signify that he would fain be alone.
On arriving in London, Cyril took up his abode at his former lodgings, and the next day at twelve o'clock, the hour appointed in a letter he found awaiting him on his arrival, he arrived in Tower Street, having ridden through the City. An army of workmen, who had come up from all parts of the country, were engaged in rebuilding the town. In the main thoroughfares many of the houses were already finished, and the shops re-opened. In other parts less progress had been made, as the traders were naturally most anxious to resume their business, and most able to pay for speed.
Captain Dave's was one of the first houses completed in Tower Street, but there were many others far advanced in progress. The front differed materially from that of the old house, in which each story had projected beyond the one below it. Inside, however, there was but little change in its appearance, except that the rooms were somewhat more lofty, and that there were no heavy beams across the ceilings. Captain Dave and his family had moved in that morning.
"It does not look quite like the old place," Mrs. Dowsett said, after the first greetings.
"Not quite," Cyril agreed. "The new furniture, of course, gives it a different appearance as yet; but one will soon get accustomed to that, and you will quickly make it home-like again. I see you have the bits of furniture you saved in their old corners."
"Yes; and it will make a great difference when they get all my curiosities up in their places again," Captain Dave put in. "We pulled them down anyhow, and some of them will want glueing up a bit. And so your fighting is over, Cyril?"
"Yes, it looks like it. The Dutch have evidently had enough of it. They asked for peace, and as both parties consented to the King of Sweden being mediator, and our representatives and those of Holland are now settling affairs at Breda, peace may be considered as finally settled. We have only two small squadrons now afloat; the rest are all snugly laid up. I trust that there is no chance of another war between the two nations for years to come."
"I hope not, Cyril. But De Witte is a crafty knave, and is ever in close alliance with Louis. Were it not for French influence the Prince of Orange would soon oust him from the head of affairs."
"I should think he would not have any power for mischief in the future," Cyril said. "It was he who brought on the last war, and, although it has cost us much, it has cost the Dutch very much more, and the loss of her commerce has well-nigh brought Holland to ruin. Besides, the last victory we won must have lowered their national pride greatly."
"You have not heard the reports that are about, then?"
"No, I have heard no news whatever. It takes a long time for it to travel down to Norwich, and I have seen no one since I came up to town last night."
"Well, there is a report that a Dutch Fleet of eighty sail has put to sea. It may be that 'tis but bravado to show that, though they have begged for peace, 'tis not because they are in no condition to fight. I know not how this may be, but it is certain that for the last three days the Naval people have been very busy, and that powder is being sent down to Chatham. As for the Fleet, small as it is, it is doubtful whether it would fight, for the men are in a veritable state of mutiny, having received no pay for many months. Moreover, several ships were but yesterday bought by Government, for what purpose it is not known, but it is conjectured they are meant for fire-ships."
"I cannot but think that it is, as you say, a mere piece of bravado on the part of the Dutch, Captain Dave. They could never be so treacherous as to attack us when peace is well-nigh concluded, but, hurt as their pride must be by the defeat we gave them, it is not unnatural they should wish to show that they can still put a brave fleet on the seas, and are not driven to make peace because they could not, if need be, continue the war."
"And now I have a piece of news for you. We are going to have a wedding here before long."
"I am right glad to hear it," Cyril said heartily. "And who is the happy man, Nellie?" he asked, turning towards where she had been standing the moment before. But Nellie had fled the moment her father had opened his lips.
"It is Frank Watson," her father said. "A right good lad; and her mother and I are well pleased with her choice."
"I thought that he was very attentive the few days we were on board his father's ship," Cyril said. "I am not surprised to hear the news."
"They have been two voyages since then, and while the Good Venture was in the Pool, Master Frank spent most of his time down at Stepney, and it was settled a fortnight since. My old friend Watson is as pleased as I am. And the best part of the business is that Frank is going to give up the sea and become my partner. His father owns the Good Venture, and, being a careful man, has laid by a round sum, and he settled to give him fifteen hundred pounds, which he will put into the business."
"That is a capital plan, Captain Dave. It will be an excellent thing for you to have so young and active a partner."
"Watson has bought the house down at Stepney that we have been living in, and Frank and Nellie are going to settle there, and Watson will make it his headquarters when his ship is in port, and will, I have no doubt, take up his moorings there, when he gives up the sea. The wedding is to be in a fortnight's time, for Watson has set his heart on seeing them spliced before he sails again, and I see no reason for delay. You must come to the wedding, of course, Cyril. Indeed, I don't think Nellie would consent to be married if you were not there. The girl has often spoken of you lately. You see, now that she really knows what love is, and has a quiet, happy life to look forward to, she feels more than ever the service you did her, and the escape she had. She told the whole story to Frank before she said yes, when he asked her to be his wife, and, of course, he liked her no less for it, though I think it would go hard with that fellow if he ever met him."
"The fellow died of the Plague, Captain Dave. His last action was to try and revenge himself on me by giving me the infection, for, meeting me in the streets, he threw his arms round me and exclaimed, 'I have given you the Plague!' They were the last words he ever spoke, for he gave a hideous laugh, and then dropped down dead. However, he spoke truly, for that night I sickened of it."
"Then your kindness to Nellie well-nigh cost you your life," Mrs. Dowsett said, laying her hand on his shoulder, while the tears stood in her eyes. "And you never told us this before!"
"There was nothing to tell," Cyril replied. "If I had not caught it from him, I should have, doubtless, taken it from someone else, for I was constantly in the way of it, and could hardly have hoped to escape an attack. Now, Captain Dave, let us go downstairs, and see the store."
"John Wilkes and the two boys are at work there," the Captain said, as he went downstairs, "and we open our doors tomorrow. I have hurried on the house as fast as possible, and as no others in my business have yet opened, I look to do a thriving trade at once. Watson will send all his friends here, and as there is scarce a captain who goes in or out of port but knows Frank, I consider that our new partner will greatly extend the business."
Captain Watson and Frank came in at supper-time, and, after spending a pleasant evening, Cyril returned to his lodgings in the Strand. The next day he was walking near Whitehall when a carriage dashed out at full speed, and, as it came along, he caught sight of the Duke of Albemarle, who looked in a state of strange confusion. His wig was awry, his coat was off, and his face was flushed and excited. As his eye fell on Cyril, he shouted out to the postillions to stop. As they pulled up, he shouted,--
"Jump in, Sir Cyril! Jump in, for your life."
Astonished at this address, Cyril ran to the door, opened it, and jumped in, and the Duke shouted to the postillions to go on.
"What do you think, sir?--what do you think?" roared the Duke. "Those treacherous scoundrels, the Dutch, have appeared with a great Fleet of seventy men-of-war, besides fire-ships, off Sheerness, this morning at daybreak, and have taken the place, and Chatham lies open to them. We have been bamboozled and tricked. While the villains were pretending they were all for peace, they have been secretly fitting out, and there they are at Sheerness. A mounted messenger brought in the news, but ten minutes ago."
"Have they taken Sheerness, sir?"
"Yes; there were but six guns mounted on the fort, and no preparations made. The ships that were there did nothing. The rascals are in mutiny--and small wonder, when they can get no pay; the money voted for them being wasted by the Court. It is enough to drive one wild with vexation, and, had I my will, there are a dozen men, whose names are the foremost in the country, whom I would hang up with my own hands. The wind is from the east, and if they go straight up the Medway they may be there this afternoon, and have the whole of our ships at their mercy. It is enough to make Blake turn in his grave that such an indignity should be offered us, though it be but the outcome of treachery on the part of the Dutch, and of gross negligence on ours. But if they give us a day or two to prepare, we will, at least, give them something to do before they can carry out their design, and, if one could but rely on the sailors, we might even beat them off; but it is doubtful whether the knaves will fight. The forts are unfinished, though the money was voted for them three years since. And all this is not the worst of it, for, after they have taken Chatham, there is naught to prevent their coming up to London. We have had plague and we have had fire, and to be bombarded by the Dutchmen would be the crowning blow, and it would be like to bring about another revolution in England."
They posted down to Chatham as fast as the horses could gallop. The instant the news had arrived, the Duke had sent off a man, on horseback, to order horses to be in readiness to change at each posting station. Not a minute, therefore, was lost. In a little over two hours from the time of leaving Whitehall, they drove into the dockyard.
"Where is Sir Edward Spragge?" the Duke shouted, as he leapt from the carriage.
"He has gone down to the new forts, your Grace," an officer replied.
"Have a gig prepared at once, without the loss of a moment," the Duke said. "What is being done?" he asked another officer, as the first ran off.
"Sir Edward has taken four frigates down to the narrow part of the river, sir, and preparations have been made for placing a great chain there. Several of the ships are being towed out into the river, and are to be sunk in the passage."
"Any news of the Dutch having left Sheerness?"
"No, sir; a shallop rowed up at noon, but was chased back again by one of our pinnaces."
"That is better than I had hoped. Come, come, we shall make a fight for it yet," and he strode away towards the landing.
"Shall I accompany you, sir?" Cyril asked.
"Yes. There is nothing for you to do until we see exactly how things stand. I shall use you as my staff officer--that is, if you are willing, Sir Cyril. I have carried you off without asking whether you consented or no; but, knowing your spirit and quickness, I felt sure you would be of use."
"I am at your service altogether," Cyril said, "and am glad indeed that your Grace encountered me, for I should have been truly sorry to have been idle at such a time."
An eight-oared gig was already at the stairs, and they were rowed rapidly down the river. They stopped at Upnor Castle, and found that Major Scott, who was in command there, was hard at work mounting cannon and putting the place in a posture of defence.
"You will have more men from London by to-morrow night, at the latest," the Duke said, "and powder and shot in abundance was sent off yesterday. We passed a train on our way down, and I told them to push on with all speed. As the Dutch have not moved yet, they cannot be here until the afternoon of to-morrow, and, like enough, will not attack until next day, for they must come slowly, or they will lose some of their ships on the sands. We will try to get up a battery opposite, so as to aid you with a cross fire. I am going down to see Sir Edward Spragge now."
Taking their places in the boat again, they rowed round the horseshoe curve down to Gillingham, and then along to the spot where the frigates were moored. At the sharp bend lower down here the Duke found the Admiral, and they held a long consultation together. It was agreed that the chain should be placed somewhat higher up, where a lightly-armed battery on either side would afford some assistance, that behind the chain the three ships, the Matthias, the Unity, and the Charles V., all prizes taken from the Dutch, should be moored, and that the Jonathan and Fort of Honinggen--also a Dutch prize--should be also posted there.
Having arranged this, the Duke was rowed back to Chatham, there to see about getting some of the great ships removed from their moorings off Gillingham, up the river. To his fury, he found that, of all the eighteen hundred men employed in the yard, not more than half a dozen had remained at their work, the rest being, like all the townsmen, occupied in removing their goods in great haste. Even the frigates that were armed had but a third, at most, of their crews on board, so many having deserted owing to the backwardness of their pay.
That night, Sir W. Coventry, Sir W. Penn, Lord Brounker, and other officers and officials of the Admiralty, came down from London. Some of these, especially Lord Brounker, had a hot time of it with the Duke, who rated them roundly for the state of things which prevailed, telling the latter that he was the main cause of all the misfortunes that might occur, owing to his having dismantled and disarmed all the great ships. In spite of the efforts of all these officers, but little could be done, owing to the want of hands, and to the refusal of the dockyard men, and most of the sailors, to do anything. A small battery of sandbags was, however, erected opposite Upnor, and a few guns placed in position there.
Several ships were sunk in the channel above Upnor, and a few of those lying off Gillingham were towed up. Little help was sent down from London, for the efforts of the authorities were directed wholly to the defence of the Thames. The train-bands were all under arms, fire-ships were being fitted out and sent down to Gravesend, and batteries erected there and at Tilbury, while several ships were sunk in the channel.
The Dutch remained at Sheerness from the 7th to the 12th, and had it not been for the misconduct of the men, Chatham could have been put into a good state for defence. As it was, but little could be effected; and when, on the 12th, the Dutch Fleet were seen coming up the river, the chances of successful resistance were small.
The fight commenced by a Dutch frigate, commanded by Captain Brakell, advancing against the chain. Carried up by a strong tide and east wind the ship struck it with such force that it at once gave way. The English frigates, but weakly manned, could offer but slight resistance, and the Jonathan was boarded and captured by Brakell. Following his frigate were a host of fire-ships, which at once grappled with the defenders. The Matthias, Unity, Charles V., and Fort of Honinggen were speedily in flames. The light batteries on the shore were silenced by the guns of the Fleet, which then anchored. The next day, six of their men-of-war, with five fire-ships, advanced, exchanged broadsides, as they went along, with the Royal Oak and presently engaged Upnor. They were received with so hot a fire from the Castle, and from the battery opposite, where Sir Edward Spragge had stationed himself, that, after a time, they gave up the design of ascending to the dockyard, which at that time occupied a position higher up the river than at present.
The tide was beginning to slacken, and they doubtless feared that a number of fire-barges might be launched at them did they venture higher up. On the way back, they launched a fire-ship at the Royal Oak, which was commanded by Captain Douglas. The flames speedily communicated to the ship, and the crew took to the boats and rowed ashore. Captain Douglas refused to leave his vessel, and perished in the flames. The report given by the six men-of-war decided the Dutch not to attempt anything further against Chatham. On the 14th, they set fire to the hulks, the Loyal London and the Great James, and carried off the hulk of the Royal Charles, after the English had twice tried to destroy her by fire. As this was the ship in which the Duke of Albemarle, then General Monk, had brought the King over to England from Holland, her capture was considered a special triumph for the Dutch and a special dishonour to us.
The Duke of Albemarle had left Chatham before the Dutch came up. As the want of crews prevented his being of any use there, and he saw that Sir Edward Spragge would do all that was possible in defence of the place, he posted back to London, where his presence was urgently required, a complete panic reigning. Crowds assembled at Whitehall, and insulted the King and his ministers as the cause of the present misfortunes, while at Deptford and Wapping, the sailors and their wives paraded the streets, shouting that the ill-treatment of our sailors had brought these things about, and so hostile were their manifestations that the officials of the Admiralty scarce dared show themselves in the streets.
Cyril had remained at Chatham, the Duke having recommended him to Sir Edward Spragge, and he, with some other gentlemen and a few sailors, had manned the battery opposite Upnor.
The great proportion of the Dutch ships were still at the Nore, as it would have been dangerous to have hazarded so great a fleet in the narrow water of the Medway. As it was, two of their men-of-war, on the way back from Chatham, ran ashore, and had to be burnt. They had also six fire-ships burnt, and lost over a hundred and fifty men.
Leaving Admiral Van Ness with part of the Fleet in the mouth of the Thames, De Ruyter sailed first for Harwich, where he attempted to land with sixteen hundred men in boats, supported by the guns of the Fleet. The boats, however, failed to effect a landing, being beaten off, with considerable loss, by the county Militia; and Ruyter then sailed for Portsmouth, where he also failed. He then went west to Torbay, where he was likewise repulsed, and then returned to the mouth of the Thames.
On July 23rd, Van Ness, with twenty-five men-of-war, sailed up the Hope, where Sir Edward Spragge had now hoisted his flag on board a squadron of eighteen ships, of whom five were frigates and the rest fire-ships. A sharp engagement ensued, but the wind was very light, and the English, by towing their fire-ships, managed to lay them alongside the Dutch fire-ships, and destroyed twelve of these with a loss of only six English ships. But, the wind then rising, Sir Edward retired from the Hope to Gravesend, where he was protected by the guns at Tilbury.
The next day, being joined by Sir Joseph Jordan, with a few small ships, he took the offensive, and destroyed the last fire-ship that the Dutch had left, and compelled the men-of-war to retire. Sir Edward followed them with his little squadron, and Van Ness, as he retired down the river, was met by five frigates and fourteen fire-ships from Harwich. These boldly attacked him. Two of the Dutch men-of-war narrowly escaped being burnt, another was forced ashore and greatly damaged, and the whole of the Dutch Fleet was compelled to bear away.
While these events had been happening in the Thames, the negotiations at Breda had continued, and, just as the Dutch retreated, the news came that Peace had been signed. The Dutch, on their side, were satisfied with the success with which they had closed the war, while England was, at the moment, unable to continue it, and the King, seeing the intense unpopularity that had been excited against him by the affair at Chatham, was glad to ratify the Peace, especially as we thereby retained possession of several islands we had taken in the West Indies from the Dutch, and it was manifest that Spain was preparing to join the coalition of France and Holland against us.
A Peace concluded under such circumstances was naturally but a short one. When the war was renewed, three years later, the French were in alliance with us, and, after several more desperate battles, in which no great advantages were gained on either side, the Dutch were so exhausted and impoverished by the loss of trade, that a final Peace was arranged on terms far more advantageous to us than those secured by the Treaty of 1667. The De Wittes, the authors of the previous wars, had both been killed in a popular tumult. The Prince of Orange was at the head of the State, and the fact that France and Spain were both hostile to Holland had reawakened the feeling of England in favour of the Protestant Republic, and the friendship between the two nations has never since been broken.
Cyril took no part in the last war against the Dutch. He, like the majority of the nation, was opposed to it, and, although willing to give his life in defence of his country when attacked, felt it by no means his duty to do so when we were aiding the designs of France in crushing a brave enemy. Such was in fact the result of the war; for although peace was made on even terms, the wars of Holland with England and the ruin caused to her trade thereby, inflicted a blow upon the Republic from which she never recovered. From being the great rival of England, both on the sea and in her foreign commerce, her prosperity and power dwindled until she ceased altogether to be a factor in European affairs.
After the Peace of Breda was signed, Cyril went down to Upmead, where, for the next four years, he devoted himself to the management of his estate. His friendship with Mr. Harvey grew closer and warmer, until the latter came to consider him in really the light of a son; and when he died, in 1681, it was found that his will was unaltered, and that, with the exception of legacies to many of his old employes at his factory, the whole of his property was left to Cyril. The latter received a good offer for the tanyard, and, upon an estate next to his own coming shortly afterwards into the market, he purchased it, and thus the Upmead estates became as extensive as they had been before the time of his ancestor, who had so seriously diminished them during the reign of Elizabeth.
His friendship with the family of the Earl of Wisbech had remained unaltered, and he had every year paid them a visit, either at Wisbech or at Sevenoaks. A year after Mr. Harvey's death, he married Dorothy, who had previously refused several flattering offers.
Captain Dave and his wife lived to a good old age. The business had largely increased, owing to the energy of their son-in-law, who had, with his wife and children, taken up his abode in the next house to theirs, which had been bought to meet the extension of their business. John Wilkes, at the death of Captain Dave, declined Cyril's pressing offer to make his home with him.
"It would never do, Sir Cyril," he said. "I should be miserable out of the sight of ships, and without a place where I could meet seafaring men, and smoke my pipe, and listen to their yarns."
He therefore remained with Frank Watson, nominally in charge of the stores, but doing, in fact, as little as he chose until, long past the allotted age of man, he passed quietly away.