Chapter V


The next few moments were ones of feverish explanations on the part of Dorothy, punctuated by little whistles of surprise from her father as he learnt of the position of affairs here.

“Now, the Fates be praised!” he cried when Dorothy had finished. “But I have a daughter that is indeed a credit to the name of Gresham. Kiss me once again, Dorothy mine. Ah! ’Twas brave​—​brave to lock our foes up in this way. Lads”​—​he turned to the sailormen​—​“there are two rogues here that we must take back with us to the Good Hope. Stand by me whilst I effect their capture.”

So saying, he sprang upstairs, and in a trice had the door open, disclosing old Bachelor and his granddaughter, who shrank back at the sight of the man they had tried to betray.

“Master Gresham!” faltered out old Bachelor. “Well met, sir. There has been a little mistake on the part of your fair daughter, and​—​and——”

“Aye, there has been a mistake right enough,” broke in Mr. Gresham sternly. “But not of my daughter’s making. However, in the matter of what you are pleased to call mistakes we will go into more fully when we are on board my ship. Get you downstairs.”

Then Sir Wilfred was dragged from his cupboard, and a sorry figure the knight cut as he stood with hanging head before Dorothy’s father.

“Do with me what you like,” he mumbled. “I am a ruined man. The fire has burnt down my house, and all my property is destroyed.”

“Ah!” said Mr. Gresham curtly. “Yet there is still my estate in Essex which your scheming has gained. Not so ruined, I fancy, as you would make out. I notice you wear a sword, and although the fire approaches quickly, yet there is time, I think, to repay your treachery with cold steel. Draw, sir!”

But at this Sir Wilfred fell on his knees with a great roar for mercy.

“I will confess everything!” he cried. “Niece, niece”​—​he turned imploring eyes to Dorothy​—​“tell your father that I​—​I have treated you well.”

Setting aside the fact that she had been practically a prisoner, Dorothy could bring no charge of absolute cruelty against him.

“Yes,” she said, “you were not too unkind.”

“Ah, you hear what she says?” cried Sir Wilfred, in huge relief. “As to the matter of the estates, on my word of honour I will make it right with his Majesty——”

Your word of honour!” echoed Mr. Gresham, in disdain. “I’m not so simple as to trust to that. Get to your feet, false knight, and follow me to my ship. You, too, Master Bachelor, and your granddaughter. Beware of treachery. My sailors are very swift and sudden in action. On board the Good Hope I will consider what is to be done with you.”

They stepped into the street, and the first thing that met their eyes was a cloud of smoke pouring from the houses at the extreme end of the bridge.

“Alack!” moaned old Bachelor. “My house is doomed. Sir, sir, let me go back and save what I can.”

“So be it,” said Dorothy’s father, after a pause. “You are an old man, and my quarrel with you can stand over. Get you back, and the girl too. But not you, Sir Wilfred. You I hold.”

To the Southwark side the party sped, and were soon standing on the wharf to which Mr. Gresham’s boat was moored.

But they did not get in at once, for they were held spellbound by the sight of the burning houses which seemed to stretch for miles. Like a ghost through the haze of smoke loomed Old St. Paul’s. For only a few hours now would the ancient church overlook the city. The fire was encircling it, and soon it would become its prey​—​this, and two hundred other churches.

The river, too, was an extraordinary sight. It was absolutely packed with boats, for now the Thames was the only safe refuge for the burnt-out and homeless citizens of London. They rowed aimlessly about, none knowing where to land.

“Father! Father!” sighed Dorothy, her eyes filling with tears at the sad sight. “What will become of all these poor people?”

“Ah, what indeed!” echoed her father. “Let us hope the rich citizens of London will come forward to their assistance.”

As he said this he eyed Sir Wilfred Hawkes.

Sir Wilfred lifted his head at these words, and a gleam of hope came into his small eyes.

“Gresham,” he said, “maybe it is your purpose to carry me back with you to Virginia as a prisoner. I have on me money to the tune of nearly a thousand pounds. All this I will give to those who have lost their belongings in the fire, if”​—​he licked his dry lips​—​“you will let me go free.”

“Father, do this!” cried Dorothy impulsively.

“Peace!” said Mr. Gresham sternly. “Nothing can be settled until we are aboard the Good Hope. All that I can promise, Sir Wilfred, is that I will consider it.”

Sir Wilfred looked scared out of his life. Like all bullies, he was an arrant coward, and it was clear that he expected the worst to happen.

The roar of the flames was now terrific, and the old bridge was flaming from end to end. It was the same everywhere, and it looked as if not a house in the city would be left standing.

“This is a sad sight, my daughter,” sighed Mr. Gresham. “Pray heaven there be few lives lost. Yet there is some grain of comfort in all this. It will stamp out the fearful plague. And they will build a grander city on the ruins of this poor old place.”

“Let us hope it will be as you prophesy, sir,” said a deep voice behind them.

Turning, they saw a very cultured-looking gentleman standing there. At the sight of him Sir Wilfred called out——

“Here should be good work for you, Mr. Wren!”

The gentleman nodded, and then once more bent his gaze on the conflagration, as if he were already planning a new and nobler city.

How he succeeded, St. Paul’s Cathedral and hundreds of other buildings are still standing to testify to the skill of one of the greatest architects the world has ever known​—​Sir Christopher Wren.

“Get ready,” said Dorothy’s father suddenly. “Here comes the boat that will take us all to the Good Hope​—​and then away to Virginia and a new home!”


Long before the Fire had burnt itself out the Good Hope had reached Gravesend, and there she cast anchor. The numbers on hoard, however, had become greatly augmented, for Dorothy’s father had taken compassion on several of the poor people drifting about in boats, and offered to take them out to Virginia, an offer which they gladly accepted.

And amongst them was Betty Compton, the faithful girl who had assisted Dorothy to escape from Crosby House, and Betty’s old mother. Needless to say, the presence of Betty on hoard the Good Nope completed Dorothy’s happiness.

“And now, Westward ho!” said Dorothy, as the anchor was drawn up and the ship began to drift with the tide. “Come, Betty, take a farewell look of poor old London. See, smoke is still rising in the distance​—​the fire is not yet out. When we next see it, perhaps a wonderful new city will have been built.”

Betty nodded sadly. She was a London girl, and the city was very dear to her.

“What of your uncle?” she asked suddenly. “Is he still a prisoner on board?”

“Nay,” smiled Dorothy. “He was taken ashore last night, and through his release several poor people will be the richer. He bought his freedom, and the sum he paid my father has sent to the Lord Mayor. We are well rid of my scheming uncle. Look, look how the wind is filling the sails! We are going to a new land​—​a land that father says will one day be as famous as this. Ah,”​—​she turned and regarded the stretch of country either side of the river now mingling with the sea​—​“ah!” she repeated with a sigh, “but there is no land like this land​—​old England!”