Bludworth had a few decades’ amount of blood in pails around the fine doors of Mansion House. Where did it come from? The blood leaked from the boils of the plague of 1665, gathering in pails and soaking the wooden beams of the houses that were now going up in smoke. The men brought the blood to him. It sat on him as a judgment like a weak chin for his lack of initiative. They left the pails and spat at the front doorstep for good measure.
He sat in the middle of the grand building, his own house destroyed in the flames and sobbed into his wife’s bosom. The horses stamped and neighed, their ears laid back on their slender heads as the ashes fluttered down to mingle with their black coats.
“It’s not fair, it’s not fair,” he sobbed.
“Now, now,” she soothed. “What are you going to do about all the blood? They keep bringing more of it to the door and leaving it with us.”
“I know.” he wept.
He went outside to begin removing the pails. He picked up two and waltzed with them to the Thames, there he upended them into the water. The severest year, he said to himself, watching the red moult in the brown water, the severest year a man could have had. At least he had his wife and horses and could retreat to the country.
Many years later under their thatched roof, his wife woke to the smell of smoke and blood. She thought of black pudding, candles, and then the Great Fire came back to her. She tip toed to the stream outside and bending saw the water running red, looping in dreamy circles to thicken at her feet.