The Midnight Queen (Chapter 1, page 2 of 15)

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Chapter 1

Yet in the midst of all this, many scenes of wild orgies and debauchery
still went on within its gates--as, in our own day, when the cholera
ravaged Paris, the inhabitants of that facetious city made it a
carnival, so now, in London, they were many who, feeling they had but a
few days to live at the most, resolved to defy death, and indulge in the
revelry while they yet existed. "Eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow
you die!" was their motto; and if in the midst of the frantic dance or
debauched revel one of them dropped dead, the others only shrieked with
laughter, hurled the livid body out to the street, and the demoniac
mirth grew twice as fast and furious as before. Robbers and cut-purses
paraded the streets at noonday, entered boldly closed and deserted
houses, and bore off with impunity, whatever they pleased. Highwaymen
infested Hounslow Heath, and all the roads leading from the city,
levying a toll on all who passed, and plundering fearlessly the flying
citizens. In fact, far-famed London town, in the year of grace 1665,
would have given one a good idea of Pandemonium broke loose.

It was drawing to the close of an almost tropical June day, that the
crowd who had thronged the precincts of St. Paul's since early morning,
began to disperse. The sun, that had throbbed the livelong day like a
great heart of fire in a sea of brass, was sinking from sight in clouds
of crimson, purple and gold, yet Paul's Walk was crowded. There were
court-gallants in ruffles and plumes; ballad-singers chanting the not
over-delicate ditties of the Earl of Rochester; usurers exchanging
gold for bonds worth three times what they gave for them; quack-doctors
reading in dolorous tones the bills of mortality of the preceding day,
and selling plague-waters and anti-pestilential abominations, whose
merit they loudly extolled; ladies too, richly dressed, and many of them
masked; and booksellers who always made St. Paul's a favorite haunt, and
even to this day patronize its precincts, and flourish in the regions of
Paternoster Row and Ave Maria Lane; court pages in rich liveries, pert
and flippant; serving-men out of place, and pickpockets with a keen eye
to business; all clashed and jostled together, raising a din to which
the Plain of Shinar, with its confusion of tongues and Babylonish
workmen, were as nothing.

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