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city. · At first, indeed, our report met with but little cre. dit; it being, by our greatest dealers in stocks, thought only a court artifice to sink them, that some choice favourites might purchase at a lower rate; for the South Sea, that very evening, fell five per cent. the India eleven, and all the other funds in proportion. But, at the court end of the town, our attestations were entirely disbelieved, or turned into ridicule; yet nevertheless the news spread every where, and was the subject matter of all conversation.
That very night (as I was credibly informed) Mr. Whiston was sent for to a great lady, who is very curious in the learned sciences, and addicted to all the speculative doubts of the most able philosophers; but he was not now to be found: and since, at other times, he has been known not to decline that honour, I make no doubt he concealed himself to attend the great business of his soul: but whether it was the lady's faith or inquisitiveness that occasioned her to send, is a point I shall not presume to determine. As for his being sent for to the secretary's office by a messenger, it is now kuown to be a matter notoriously false, and indeed at first it had little credit with me, that so zealous and honest a man should be ordered into custody, as a seditious preacher, who is known to be so well affected to the present happy establishment.
It was now I reflected, with exceeding trouble and sorrow, that I had disused family prayers for above five years, and (though it has been a custom of late eptirely neglected by men of any business or station) I deter. mined within myself no longer to omit so reasonable and religious a duty. I acquainted my wife with my intentions : but, two or three neighbours having been engaged to sup with us that night, and many hours being unwaa rily spent at cards, I was prevailed upon by her to put
it off till the next day; she reasoning, that it would be time enough to take off the servants from their business (which this practice must infallibly occasion for an hour or two every day) after the comet had made its appear-' apce.
Zachary Bowen, a quaker, and my next neighbour, had no sooner heard of the prophecy, but he made me a visit. I informed him of every thing I had heard, but found bim quite obstipate in his unbelief; for, said he, be comforted, friend, thy tidings are impossibilities; for, were these things to happen, they must have been foreseen by some of our brethren. This indeed (as in all other spiritual cases with this set of people) was his only reason against believing me; and, as he was fully persuaded that the prediction was erroneous, he, in a very neighbourly manner admonished me against selling my stock at the present low price, which, he said, beyond dispute, must hare a rise before Monday, when this unreasopable consternation should be over.
But on Wednesday morning (I believe to the exact calculation of Mr. Whiston) the comet appeared : for, at three minutes after five, by my owo watch, I saw it. He indeed foretold, that it would be seen at five minutes after five; but, as the best watches may be a minute or two too slow, I am apt to think his calculation jast to a minute.
In less than a quarter of au hour, all Cheapside was crowded with a vast coucourse of people, and notwithstanding it was so early, it is thought that, through all that part of the town, there was not map, woman, or child, except the sick or infirm, left in their beds. From my own balcony, I am confident, I saw several thousands in the street, and counted at least seventeen, who were upon their kuees, and seemed in actual devotion. Eleven of thein, indeech, appeared to be old women of about
fourscore; the six others were men in an advanced life, but (as I could guess) two of them might be under seventy.
It is highly probable, that an event of this nature may be passed over by the greater historians of our times, as conducing very little or nothing to the upravelling and laying open the deep schemes of politicians, and mysteries of state; for which reason, I thought it might not be unacceptable to record the facts, which, in the space of three days, came to my knowledge, either as an eye-witness, or from unquestionable authorities ; nor can I think this parrative will be entirely without its use, as it may enable us to form a more just idea of our countrymen in general, particularly in regard to their faith, religion, morals, and politics.
Before Wednesday noon, the belief was universal, that the day of judgment was at hand, insomuch, that a waterman of my acquaintance told me, he counted no less than one hundred and twenty-three clergymen, who had been ferried over to Lambeth before twelve o'clock : these, it is said, went thither to petition, that a short prayer might be penned, and ordered, there being none in the service upon that occasion. But, as in things of this pature it is necessary that the council be consulted, their request was not immediately complied with; and this I affirm to be the true and only reason, that the churches were not that morning so well attended; and is in no ways to be imputed to the sears and consternation of the clergy, with which the freethinkers have since very unjustly reproached them.
My wife and I went to church (where we had not been for many years on a week-day) and, with a very large congregation, were disappointed of the service. But (what will be scarce credible) by the carelessness of à 'prentice, in our absence, we had a piece of fine cam
bric carried off by a shoplifter: so little impression was yet made on the minds of those wicked women !
I cannot omit the care of a particular director of the bapk; I hope the worthy and wealthy knight will forgive me, that I endeavour to do him justice ; for it was unquestionably owing to Sir Gilbert Heathcote's*
sagacity, that all the fire-offices were required to have a par. ticular eye upon the Bank of England, Let it be recorded to his praise, that in the general hurry this struck him as his nearest and tenderest concern; but the next day in the evening, after having taken due care of all his books, bills, and bonds, I was informed, his mind was wholly turned upon spiritual matters; yet, ever and anon, he could not help expressing his resentment against the tories and jacobites, to whom he imputed that sudden run upon the bank, which happened on this occasion.
A great man (whom at this time it may not be pru. dent to name) employed all the Wednesday morning to make
up such an account, as might appear fair, in case he should be called upon to produce it on the Friday ; but was forced to desist, after baving for several hours together attempted it, not being able to bring himself to a resolution to trust the niany hupdred articles of his secret transactions upon paper.
Another seemed to be very melancholy, which his flatterers imputed to his dread of losing his power iu a day or two; but I rather take it, that his chief concern was the terror of being tried in a court that could not be influenced, and where a majority of voices could avail him nothing. It was observed too, that he had but few visiters that day; this added so much to his
* Sir Gilbert Heathcote bad before signalized his care for the Bank when in equal danger, by petitioning against the lord treasurer Godolphin's being removed, as a measure that would destroy the public Credit. H.
mortification, that he read through the first chapter of the book of Job, and wept over it bitterly ; in short, he seemed a true penitent in every thing, but in charity to his neighbour. No business was that day done in his compting house; it is said too, that he was advised to restitution, but I never heard that he complied with it any farther than in giving half a crown a piece to several crazed and starving creditors, who attended in the outward room.
Three of the maids of honour sent to countermand their birthday clothes; two of them burnt all their collections of novels and romances, and sent to a bookseller's in Pall-mall to buy each of them a Bible, and Tay. lor's " Holy Living and Dying.” But I must do all of them the justice to acknowledge that they showed a ve. ry decent behaviour in the drawing room, and restrained themselves from those innocent freedoms, and little levities, so commonly incident to young ladies of their profession. So many birthday suits were countermanded the next day, that most of the tailors and mantuamakers discharged all their journeymen and women. A grave elderly lady of great erudition and modesty, who visits these young ladies, seemed to be extremely shocked by the apprehensions, that she was to appear naked before the whole world; and no less so, that all mankind was to appear paked before her; which might so much divert her thoughts, as to incapacitate her to give ready and apt answers to the interrogatories that might be made her. The maids of honour, who had both modesty and curiosity, could not imagine the sight so disagreeable as was represented; nay, one of them went so far as to say, she perfectly longed to see it; for it could not be so indecent, when every body was to be alike; and they had a day or two to prepare themselves to be seen in that bondition. Upon this reflection, each of them ordered