Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century
Rodwell, G Herbert
OLD LONDON BRIDGE, exactly three hundred and sixteen years ago on May-day, exhibited a scene of excitement, which had perchance scarcely ever been surpassed, since David de Lindsaye, Earl of Crawford, a Scottish Knight, in , overthrew the Lord John de Welles of England, in a joust, upon this selfsame Bridge of London. They had met to uphold the honour of their respective countries, and so chivalrously did the noble David bear himself upon that proud day for Scotland, that when, upon the third encounter, the Lord de Welles lay prostrate before his valorous foe, instead of vantage taking and striking his dagger into the throat of the vanquished lord, he threw himself in kind embrace upon the neck of the wounded knight, exclaiming- Live, Sir Knight! I fought without anger, and but for glory of my native land."
Ere we proceed into the deep mazes of our truthful tale, it were as well since OLD LONDON BRIDGE is to become the very heart of our romance just to give the gentle reader some idea of its appearance about middle of the sixteenth century, as it then stood, the " Pride of our Proud City, and Wonder of the World."
This high-sounding title was, at the time we speak of, richly deserved, and was not infrequently used in olden times, particularly by foreigners, who, having visited our metropolis to barter their Milan steel for our strong English bows, or bring our Kings some young and beauteous princess as a bride, would write (the few who could write) to their friends in the most distant quarters of the then known globe, extolling as " this world's wonder," our famous London Bridge.
Old London Bridge, our Old London Bridge, was begun as long ago
|as , and after thirty-three years of labour, was finished in .|
Peter of Colechurch, the Priest-architect, who built it, although often blamed in our day for his lack of engineering knowledge, must have laid his foundations pretty sure, for the arches he then raised were the same that, not twenty years ago, were pulled down upon the completion of the present structure, having lasted no less than 622 years, in spite of the ceaseless torrent of the mighty Thames.
There were originally twenty arches, or rather spaces, between the piers, for one was covered, not by an arch, but by a drawbridge, to allow of ships passing to the more western part of the city.
Upon the upper platform, or roadway, which was forty feet wide, there stood two towers, one on either side of the eighteenth arch, close to the Southwark end; and in the centre of the bridge a beautiful chapel was erected, which chapel was dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket, and thence called-- St. Thomas of the Bridge."
Now, as the English, who, ever since they have borne that name, have been-and Heaven grant they may long remain so, for it speaks of industry, peace, and wealth-a " nation of shopkeepers," soon discovered that such a thoroughfare as the bridge must inevitably become, might easily be transformed into a mine of wealth, so, almost immediately upon its completion, did they begin to build shops thereon.
These shops, or rather sheds-for at first they were but little more- day by day increased in value, then in numbers, and ere long took the more dignified form and name of houses, for the traders then, unlike those of the present day, knew full well, that
It was not thought impossible, by these right worthy progenitors of our present greatness, but that, a haberdasher, a glover, a lantern- maker, or a chandler, could exist, and be respected too, without having a country house at Brixton, or spending twice as much as his business brought in, just to uphold his bankrupt show of unsubstantial respectability. These sheds, therefore, soon had the addition of a sleeping- room behind them; and, in consequence of the narrowness of the bridge, which, as we have said, was only forty feet wide, these extra rooms were made to overhang the sides of the bridge, in many instances to an awful and truly dangerous extent.
The traffic of the bridge, and consequently the trade, increasing rapidly, more commodious buildings arose; many of them reaching to four and even five stories in height. To hold together the two sides of the BRIDGE STREET, for such it had now become, and such it was now called, many of the grander buildings extended entirely across, thus binding together, and keeping the overhanging dwellings from falling outwards into the river.
Beneath these last-noticed stupendous structures was a wide and lofty archway, under which the main road passed. This road was twenty feet wide in most parts, but in others it was reduced to the very narrow limits of four yards.
When the reader recalls to mind the style of architecture so greatly admired in those days, and pictures to himself the houses with every story projecting some feet beyond the one beneath, he will easily conceive the proximity of the upper windows on the two sides of this narrow way; indeed, in some cases they almost touched, rendering the street beneath dark, dingy, close, and unwholesome. To obviate, as far as possible, this drawback to health and comfort, three wide openings were left unbuilt upon, from which a splendid view might be obtained both up and down the river; these openings acted, also, as safeguards to foot passengers, who could here find protection when the road was inconveniently thronged with carts and carriages. The greatest of these three openings was that of the drawbridge, and was fifty feet wide, forming an admirable standing place upon days of aquatic pageants for those merry-making citizens who ever loved to see such sights, but who lacked the advantage of being acquainted with the wealthy traders of the bridge, and thus be enabled to get a peep at the show more commodiously from the windows of the houses.
Another method of tying, as it were, the opposite sides of the street together, was by enormous wooden beams extending from roof to roof, and also by transverse narrow bridges; from most of these swung ever- creaking signs of most fanciful device. Here floated in the breeze " The Lock of Hair,"-there " The Three Bibles ;"-here the tempting " Sugar Loaf," and there " The Lamb and Breeches." But as we shall, in all probability, have to converse with some of the owners of these pictorial show-cards, we will for the present pass them by.
Of the exterior appearance of Old London Bridge we need say but little, the illustration to this, our first part, giving a far more vivid idea of its general effect, than could possibly be conveyed in words. Yet, picturesque as all representations of this unrivalled structure undoubtedly are, yet there is one point which adds so greatly to the picturesque, in which every attempt of the limner cannot but fail-we mean the impossibility of conveying a just idea of the rapid motion of the angry flood, and that deafening roar, that ceaseless noise of falling waters.
Every passage between the piers was so reduced by the great thickness of the piers themselves, and by the various rows of piles driven around them for their protection, and called the " Sterlings," that at certain hours of the tide this river of eight hundred feet in width had to force itself through narrow ways that, in all, did not amount to one quarter of that space; so that, at times, the flood was no less than six feet higher on the one side of the bridge than on the other, forming a fearful cataract beneath every arch, leading to certain death the miserable wretch who was drawn within its resistless power.
The view we have given is of the east side, as seen when coming up the river from Greenwich, and displays one half of the hundred houses then upon the bridge.
The reader will now be enabled, to a certain extent, to picture to his imagination the appearance the street of the Bridge displayed upon the afternoon of May-day, , when not a shop door was to be seen without its little knot of gossips, laying their heads together in a vain endeavour to solve the mystery of that strange sight they had just witnessed. Every
|. window that would open (for in those days most of the windows, unless in the houses of the great, were fixtures, much to the encouragement of plagues and other fatal diseases) was occupied by two or three, or more heads, piled one above the other, nodding and shaking, and looking more wise than those wise heads had ever looked before; but these were kept in good countenance, by the opposite windows being in like manner adorned with heads, nodding and shaking, and with equal wisdom too.|
From the upper windows, apprentice boys, who had not been allowed to go a maying, seemed to be hanging out to dry, so far did their bodies reach down, in endeavouring to get within earshot of the wondrous conjectures uttered by those beneath.
Around one of the doors stood a rather larger crowd than the others- and over their heads swung a tremendous sign-called "The Bag of Wool, and the Golden Fleece ;" this sign had evidently not been painted by the great Hans Holbien, who dwelt hard by, but by some limner, who, to convey an idea of the happiness derivable from a golden fleece, had adopted a most extraordinary method of doing so, for he had painted a most wretched, melancholy, cadaverous looking sheep, dancing about on its hind legs, and which appeared to be wofully afflicted with the yellow jaundice, for, in truth, it was one unshaded mass of yellow ochre. This was no doubt intended to represent gold; but how the large square piece of, what seemed to be, stone, with four great iron knobs at the corners, looking as rigid and hard as either of those substances, could by any stretch of the imagination be mistaken for the soft and pliant bag of wool, it is beyond our power to divine. This effort of genius proved one thing--that in those days there were no George Morelands going about painting signs for a few nights' lodgings, that in after times would fetch their weight in gold. Over the shop to which this sign belonged, was written, in large well-formed letters-
"Well," said John Catchemayde, the bowyer from next door- " What does honest neighbour Hewet say ? I'll wager the best bow in my shop, and may the curse of Robin Hood light upon every yew twig I take in hand, if I don't make good my wage, but that if Master Hewet-now mark me, friends, I say, that if Master Hewet do but open his mouth, and speak his mind aloud, we shall hear something." This did not appear to be a very hazardous wager, but Catchemayde looked around, at those who listened to him, with that peculiar expression of countenance, half bullying, half fearing, which men at times put on when they have a misgiving of having gone a little too far, and tremble for the consequences; but a knowing twitch of the head, and aslight wink from all the bystanders, as much as to say, " Old birds are not caught with chaff," soon relieved him of his doubt; and Dick Checklocke, the smith, after a rather long and appropriate oath, observed-" No, no, friend Catchemayde, you don't catch us-we know Master Hewet as well as you do; and well we know that what Master Hewet does say-he does say; and what Master Hewet doesn't say-he doesn't! An't I right, neighbours ?-to be sure I am." Then in accordance with the fashion of the time, he sent forth another long oath, .
something about the " Beard of Saint Vulcan," or, he added, "by that, or any other saint that had ever been a blacksmith-he'd take Master Hewet's word, ay, that he would, even before that of his own father confressor
Such a wicked assertion made every one in the crowd shudder to the very back bone, which Checklocke observing, he crossed himself devoutly in a most extravagant manner, and set his lips off at full gallop, but uttered no sound, so that he appeared to be making faces at all who looked at him. At the conclusion of his inward confession, he called aloud upon " the eleven thousand virgins of Cologne, and Saint Ursula to boot, to bear witness that he meant no harm."
"But I repeat it," chimed in John Catchemayde. "Yes, I repeat it, what does Master Hewet say ?"
The person thus called upon, was regarded as the very oracle of London Bridge. One of the greatest proofs of the profound wisdom of Master Hewet might be found in the fact of this honest clothworker never having once got himself into trouble with the state, notwithstanding his reputed wealth. He was a tall handsome man of middle age, with a countenance whose expression bespoke more of sedateness and steadiness of thought, than of aught approaching to brilliancy of imagination.
His doublet and sleeves were of fine brown broadcloth, as were also his upper and nether stocks, or, in modern phraseology, his small clothes and his stockings, which, being sewn together above the knee, appeared almost as one. But the portion of his dress, which at once bespoke him a man of substance, was his black cloak being well furred with martens' skins-the gold chain, too, which hung around his neck, also betokened one of no mean wealth; for martens' fur, and ornaments of gold, such as chains or bracelets, or collars, could be worn by none but such as enjoyed good clear income of at least two hundred marks a year. A pouch, somewhat after the fashion of a lady's reticule of our day, hung by a double silver chain from his girdle, answering all the purposes of a pocket. A square low cap adorned his head, and enormously broad-toed shoes were on his feet. His handsome visage was close shaven. all but the chin, from which a neatly-trimmed beard was permitted to grow. A small flat white shirt collar, turned down about the neck, and a short dagger at his side, completed the appearance of honest Master Hewet.
Those by whom he was addressed (this being a holiday) were habited somewhat in like style; but their clothes were made of coarser materials, And no gold, nor silver, nor even a gilt button, was to be seen upon their jerkins or their cloaks; and even the fur they wore, was merely that of the lamb. The different kinds of fur then in wear, formed very distinctive marks as to tne various grades of society. Master Hewet, who, up to this time had been paying much more attention to the piles of velvets and satins, and cloths of gold, and of silver, and damasks, which had but recently arrived from Italy, than he did to the gossiping babble of his inquiring neighbours, now finding himselfhard pressed, raised his eyes from off the tablet, upon which he had been setting down memoranda concerning the treasures which then lay around him, and looking steadily for an instant into the faces of
|. Catchemayde, Checklocke, and the others, who all stood before the open shop front, with mouths almost as wide open, quite ready to devour every word he should utter-he heaved a sigh-then shaking his head, again commenced writing upon the tablet.|
The bye-standers closed their mouths slowly as they began to look at each other in evident consternation, and one of them burst out with- "Quite enough, quite enough ! Let but Master Hewet shake his head, and we all know what that means."
" Ay, ay; more trouble, more trouble, my masters!" bawled out Catchemayde; " and only to think of it happening upon May-day too, when we all wanted to be so happy and merry."
"As for myself," said Checklocke, " I'll have a dance on Mary Overies' green to-day, though they should make me dance upon nothing to-morrow. They may hang me if they like-I dare say it's not so bad when one's used to it; and, by St. Thomas of the Bridge, we are pretty used to it now-o'-days."
" And shall be more so yet ! ho, ho! ha, ha ! he, he !" the last " he, he!" sounding almost like a whistle, as it was screeched out by an ugly cripple, whose voice made all who heard it start suddenly aside, leaving him in an open space exactly before the shop of the Golden Fleece.
This cripple was a young man, but whose head was nevertheless nearly bald; nature had from the first denied fertility to the soil upon which the hair should have grown, and thus the head of age seemed by mistake to have been fixed upon the neck of youth. The few hairs which were found there were perfectly white, but so stublorn in their nature that they stuck up on end, like so many needles in a cushion; his scanty moustaches grew in a most remarkable manner from the two extremities of the upper lip, the centre of which being entirely bare, gave them the effect of a couple of overgrown hairy moles; habit had so long been digging deep lines in every portion of his face, by an unceasing nervous grin, that even the placid spirit of sleep could not for a moment fill them up again. He wore the badge of servitude upon his left arm, and that badge bespoke him a servant of the bridge; his crippled leg made it necessary to walk, or hobble, by the assistance of a long staff, which, notwithstanding his lameness, he was known full oft to use, and that to good purpose too, upon the heads of those who dared offend him.
How often do we find that where Nature, appearing to have been out of temper when moulding into form some luckless lump of human clay, and in her spite has sent forth a thing to show what power she has even to disgust as well as charm, that in these sad examples Pity has staid her hand before the unsightly work was ushered to the world, and, as in Pandora's box, we ever find relenting nature has left at least one little spark of Hope, the mind to claim command-the poet's turn of thought-the music of the tongue -or some such charm shines forth so briliantly, that our sense becomes dazzled, our eyes are blinded to the rough mounting, we only see the sparkling gem within. Thus it was with the Cripple of the Bridge: his form was crooked, his arms had been cast in two odd moulds, his eyes were set so deeply in his head, .
|that they ever seemed to be searching the inward man, to find those lost beauties of which the exterior stood so much in need.|
It was strange that one, whose laugh and sound of speech resembled more the peacock's screech, or howlet's cry, than that of human breath, should, if he sang, possess a voice of heavenly sweetness: but so it was; let him but sing, and all his deformities, even all his spite, and he carried within his mind a heavy load of it, were, by the power of that spell, forgotten.
"Yes, ye dainty pets of mother nature !" he exclaimed, " ye straight- limbed fools, who, because ye can walk upright through the world, believe your souls as upright as your bodies, ye shall be more and more used to hanging, and burning too, or I know not the inward spirit of your master-your master ! hear ye that ? that master whom HEAVEN, as we are told, hath placed over you; yes, Heaven, however your wicked fancies may make you think his devoted love of flames should indicate a different paternity :" and again his chuckling screech came forth, as though he thought he had uttered a witticism almost too pungent to be endured: then continuing--" And there, too, stands handsome Master Hewet, whose beauty alone is quite enough to keep him warm, and counteract all earthly troubles. Who, with such a form as that, could ever once look sad? How different to mine ! But we shall see -we shall-ha, ha ! ho, ho ! he, he! I shall boil his head yet !-I shall boil his head yet! And mark me, brother Hewet-" and as he addressed the merchant, his whole countenance changed; the grin was there, for that never left his features, but it was now the grin of utter malevolence, as he went on-" Yes, brother Hewet, I shall boil your head yet! and, by the blue sky above us, I swear that when I do, I'll drink, and fatten on the broth-ha, ha! ho, ho! he, he !-I'll fatten on the broth." Saying this, the cripple began to move away; but still, as he went, he continued to mutter, " Yes, yes; I shall boil his head yet-I shall boil his head yet !"
" Well," said Catchemayde, but not until the cripple was quite out of hearing, " Master Hewet must be a sweeter-minded man than I am, to bear the insolence of such a cripple; had he addressed me thus, I would have brained the villain."
" Like enough, like enough," said Checklocke, "that is, if his hands had been tied, and his staff in your own; but you know, as well as most of us, that Willy of the Bridge-gate Tower is no trifling playmate when one comes to handy-cuffs."
" You would cease to be angry," said Master Hewet, now placing his tablet in the pouch by his side, "as I have long since been, and would feel as much pity for that poor afflicted soul as I do, were you but as well acquainted with his story as I am."
"What story ?" exclaimed every voice at once, now forgetting all their previous anxiety caused by the strange circumstance which had just occurred at the opening of the chapter, showing how easily the attention of a crowd may be diverted by a mere chance word, or even the pointing of a finger, from its most cherished pursuit.
Checklocke's bravado concerning his not caring about being hanged, was allowed to sink into oblivion, and every man became a child; for "men
|. are but children of a larger growth;" then arranging themselves in true childish manner before the window of Master Hewet's shop, they became all ears.|
" It is now some years since," began the honest merchant, " when-"
"Eh ! what's that," exclaimed Harry Silkworm, the stringer. "Egad, they're coming at last. Huzza! huzza ! They're coming, they're coming at last !"
Every eye and every ear was now suddenly turned towards the northern end of the bridge, whence arose a loud murmuring, and ever and anon, amidst distant shouts, the sweeter sounds of music.
The crowd thought no more of Master Hewet, nor of the Cripple's tale, but hurried off, shouting and laughing like mad, to meet the coming throng.
The cavalcade and vast procession announced by the distant sounds which had so suddenly put a stop to the, no doubt, interesting history ot the Cripple, was that of the anxiously-awaited Maypole for St. Mary Overies' Green.
It had been expected many hours before, but m consequence of the great rains which had lately fallen, the roads, if roads they could be called, were in such wretched state, that at times great fears were entertained whether or not the Maypole would arrive until it had become a pole of some other month.
Great interest had been exerted in the highest quarters, even with the King, to obtain a reversal of the cruel sentence which had doomed to exile the greatest pride of the City, the lofty Maypole, that had formerly every year reared its proud head upon Cornhill, but which had not been used for now some eighteen years; no, never since the unlucky " Evil May-day" of . So great a riot had then occurred, that the future raising of this mighty shaft was by command prohibited. It was of such gigantic proportions, that it far o'ertopped the steeple of the neighbouring church, and caused that church henceforth to be denominated St. Andrew Undershaft.
Now, although the fate of that poor Maypole could not be reversed, yet permission had been obtained to raise another on the green of St. Mary Overies, a lovely spot, not far removed from the southern end of Old London Bridge.
Great indeed had been the preparations for bringing in from Highgate the envied shaft; and great indeed had been the heart-burnings engendered between the " Lads of Southwark" and "The city boys." The good folk of the Bridge cared little which side got the day; they were a kind of go-between, a sort of peace-maker, or, rather, peace-keeper, for if high words on either side of the Thames appeared to be but the prologue to hard blows, they at once raised their drawbridge, and thus kept the hot bloods apart until a little cooled, and rendered capable of flowing calmly in the channels of discretion.
It was in consequence of the great honour conferred upon the Bridge, by the new Maypole condescending to pass across it, that every house was now decorated from top to bottom, with green boughs and sweet May flowers. Festoons and garlands hung from side to side, and every Sign was in like manner adorned. .
As the shouts increased, and thus announced the nearer approach of the darling Maypole, all the ladies of the Bridge began to wave kerchiefs of every colour of the rainbow; for although colours, in those days, were settled by law, yet that law embraced a pretty many shades; we are plainly told, that scarlet, red, crimson, murrey, brown, blues, black, greens, yellows, orange, tawney, russet, marblegrey, with sheep's colour, and lion's colour, and motley, or iron-grey, as well as puke, the sadnew colour, and asewer, and watchett, were all right lawful tints; then what were the unlawful ones ?-no one ever thought of asking that question, so the answer cannot be found.
The head of the procession was led on by a noted band of morris, or moresque, dancers, whose wild antics, and jingling bells that hung about their legs, gave infinite delight to all who were fortunate enough to witness the display.
In one hand, each of these dancers held a shortish stick, highly adorned with streaming ribbons of varied hues; and in the other, the corner of a bright scarlet handkerchief: these they continually waved about, first up, then down, then sideways, then around their heads, but all the time dancing with their feet in a fashion perfectly their own.
Wherever a smiling female face appeared at any of the windows, of rather fairer features than the rest, they all at once pointed their staves towards the spot, making the lovely face more lovely still, by the deep blush their notice had called up; and then they sang-
Then they all laughed at the confusion they had caused to the fair object of their praises, and springing up, as if to fly in at the window, all kissed their hands to the beauty, and, with another merry laugh, moved on to repeat their gallantry a few doors off.
The first fair dame they had thus singled out, was Alyce Hewet, wife to our honest merchant; and well had they proved the goodness of their taste, for seldom had a fairer face been seen than that of lovely Alyce Hewet: and, yet, beside her stood one, who, although but tnen a child, gave promise of future loveliness that would, if ever she arrived at womanhood, throw into shade even the sweet features of Dame Alyce, the admitted beauty of the Bridge.
This angelic child was the only daughter of merchant Hewet, and not a little proud did he feel upon that day, as standing on the other side of this, his darling offspring, and supporting her upon the window- sill, while her little arms were playing around her mother's neck, to observe that not a soul passed by, but made some remark to those most near at hand, evidently in admiration of what they saw at the casement of the Golden Fleece.
Next to the morris dancers came the city trumpeters, decked out in their golden coats of state; to these, succeeded the loud-sounding kettle drums; the city arms most richly worked in gold and silk and silver, hung down from every instrument. Each pair of drums was slung
|. upon the back of a sturdy clown who walked before the drummer, or as he was then called drumslade, and grinned and laughed as much at the crowd, as the crowd grinned and laughed at him, for these funny wags of drumslades, would every now and then, just to raise the mirth and solace the standers by, pretend to miss the drumhead and hit the head of the luckless wight instead; but it was all holiday fun, so a good knock could be given, and taken too, with no worse result than a hearty laugh.|
Then came some hundreds of apprentice boys, dressed all in their best-their cloaks were new, and blue, for the summer months were coming. Their white slops, or breeches, were round and somewhat loose; not so their nether hose, the tightly-fitting broad cloth stockings, which reaching half way up the leg, were sewn to the slops, and being also white, seemed all in one. Each wore a ribbon of the favorite colour of the ward in which their master lived; their flat caps were all adorned with a sprig of May, and on their shoulders rested the far- famed " Prentice Club."
Close to their heels came the Southwark band of musicians playing upon shlams, and other instruments bearing equally euphonious names, besides a number of rebecs (fiddles with three strings), supposed to have been, like the morris dance, the invention of the Moors; then followed half a dozen bagpipers, the effect of whose screaming music was greatly heightened by the shrill cornets, crooked like goats' horns, the trumps and sagbutts, these gave wonderful delight, for our ancestors were wondrously fond of noise; the next portion might have given pleasure even to " modern ears polite," for this consisted of a large party of singing girls, whose voices were well sustained by the pleasing accompaniment of flutes and recorders, that is large flageolets with theorbos and smaller lutes. After the musicians came a large company of the " Southwark lads," as a guard of honour to the Lord Mayor, Sir Ralph Waren, who, with the Lady Mayoress mounted behind him on a pillion, rode upon a noble, cream-coloured charger, whose gallant bearing, and tossing of whose head, evinced his consciousness of the worthy load he bore. The Mayor and his good lady, whose natal day it happened to be, had condescended upon this auspicious occasion to become the Lord and Lady of the May. To do full honour to this worthy knight and his fair dame, the sheriffs, and all the aldermen of the various wards, came mounted in like manner, each with his spouse, his sister, or his fail daughter riding behind him, dressed out in all the pomp of civic grandeur. At this moment the sun, as if to smile upon this goodly show of wealth and beauty, shone forth with redoubled splendour, and caused the crowd to burst out into an universal shout of heartfelt admiration. Not only the riders, but the splendid chargers too, were fancifully bedecked with May flowers of every sort.
Immediately after these came the gem of gems, the glory of the day, the gorgeous Maypole !
No less than thirty oxen were employed, two by two, to drag this monstrous shaft. The ropes by which they were attached to the machine whereon the Maypole lay, were covered with flowers of every kind then .
|in bloom; to each, horn of the ox was attached a nosegay of sweet herbs and sweeter flowers.|
The Maypole itself, large as the mast of a ship, was painted in twisted bands of various colours. At several parts enormous hoops hung around the shaft, suspended by variegated ribbons, and thickly covered with hawthorn boughs and sweetest eglantine, mixed up with roses. These hoops were made to move easily around the pole, and from them hung down long lines of Flora's choicest gifts.
The two first oxen, perfect beauties in their way, were entirely white, and had the honour of being led with golden chains fastened to their horns, by the two wardens of the bridge ; the rest were guided by the servants of the Lord Mayor, in their state liveries.
The rear of this long and magnificent procession was guarded by two enormous giants, dressed after the fashion of Gog and Magog in Guildhall, and a joyous, wide-mouthed, waggle-tailed dragon, who ever and anon threw out fiery squibs and crackers amongst the crowd, which caused even more laughter than did the score of merry jesters in their caps and bells, and party-coloured jerkins, whose greatest piece of wit appeared to consist in jumping upon each other's shoulders, and then falling headlong over amongst the crowd; this they generally did wherever they saw a little knot of pretty, smiling girls, around half a dozen of whose necks the falling jester would cling at once for support, and mostly returned his thanks in a dozen hearty smacks upon their ruby lips.
Next to this great feat of fun, was that of all the jesters together pulling at the dragon's tail, which being made to give way, wheneverthe man inside liked to let go the string, they all fell down backwards in a heap. The dragon then would turn indignantly around, and puff a quantity of flower from his nostrils, right into the face of any country clown, who, open-mouthed, might be laughing loudest at the fun.
Thus, then, moved on the Maypole merry crowd, who, then, as usual upon all holiday occasions, seemed to forget for a brief space that they lived in a reign of tyranny, deceit, of fire and of blood.
The moment the eyes of the good folk of the Bridge were opened to the splendid delights preparing for them on Saint Mary Overies' Green, it was deemed incumbent upon them to close at once their shops, for who could attend to business at such a time? This shutting of the Bridge shops was soon done; for most of the shutters were merely large flaps, hung on hinges to the top of the open shop fronts, and when turned up, mostly exhibited the name and calling of the inhabitant, painted in large letters thereon.
These shutter flaps were now being quickly lowered-the bolts passed through-then the master and his dame, maids, apprentices and all were seen issuing from the dwellings, and last of all, the careful master, having closed and locked the outward door, was hurrying after his family, whose anxious haste could brook no delay.
Almost the last of those who left the Bridge was Master William Hewet. On his arm hung his sweet and loving dame, wearing her newest fashioned kirtle of Stamel red, which shewed full bravely from beneath her open-fronted gown of lion colour. On her head she wore the French hood which became her mightily. Behind her walked her
|pretty serving maid, with head uncovered, but whose luxuriant hair, plaited in a most coquettish style, was amply adorned with various knots of ribbon, that made her look provokingly agreeable. In her hand she held the lovely child, whom we noticed at the casement of the Golden Fleece; and after them followed the two apprentice lads.|
These youths were both tall-both slim-but both strongly framed.
The one as fair as day, whose ingenuous open countenance bespoke nought but honour and straightforward truth-his name was Edward Osborne.
The other, Henry, or Harry Horton, was proud of his raven locks, and in spite of all commands, would let them grow much longer than the law prescribed, or than were ventured to be worn by any other apprentice of their ward. His eyes were sparkling bright, and black as jet; and, altogether, in spite of the apprentice garb, the blue cloth cloak, with slops and hose of white, stood out a truly handsome lad.
The manners of these two youths were as unlike as were their features. Osborne, as they walked slowly to the Southwark Green, was ever trying to amuse his master's child, by all the little acts of kindness or of childish sport his youthful fancy could devise. Not so, Harry Horton-all his attention was directed towards the Hebe of a maid, the pretty Flora Gray, who seemed, by sundry side glances, and by the manner in which she received his slily-whispered words, to be upon a footing of vastly good understanding.
At the moment they arrived upon St. Mary Overies' Green,'a thousand arrows, with whistling heads, were shot straight up into the air; this was in honour of the fixing the Maypole, which had that instant been accomplished. The trumpets sounded, the drums were beaten, wooden cannons, hooped round with iron, were discharged, to add their voices of thunder to the glorious noise.
Maidens, almost buried in flowers, had seized the long hanging floral cords which depended from the Maypole hoops, and now were dancing round and round, singing a new May-day verse, written for the occasion by Sir Filbut Fussy, and in which, at stated times, all the bystanders joined, by way of chorus; and thus it was they sang-
Upon this, twelve young girls advanced towards the seat upon which the Lord and Lady of the May were enthroned, and as they strewed May-flowers and roses before them, they also sang-
Then it was that the whole assembly thundered out and danced about like mad, as they exclaimed-
" Why, the merry, merry, merry, merry, merry month of May. .
Oh, how merrily did they sing it-and how merrily did they dance it !-and how right merrily did Master Harry Horton appear to foot it away with the poor simple girl, Dame Hewet's maiden, Flora Gray; while Edward Osborne delighted the good merchant, by dancing and playing with his darling child, the lovely little Anne.
We shall not draw too heavily upon the patience of the gentle reader, by detailing all the good haps, nor all the mishaps, which happened upon this happy day; nor how the men in the legs of the giants became tired of their load, and getting from underneath, left the poor giants without a leg to stand on; nor how the dragon, by mistake, let off a quantity of squibs in his own inside, and made the place too hot to hold him-nor how he then tore off his own head, and walked about all the rest of the day without one-nor how the DUKE OF SHOREDITCH, King Henry's mock Duke of Archers, with all his mock Marquises, and Counts, and Earls, and merry men all, challenged the PRINCE ARTHUR, another mock, but formally-acknowledged, dignatory, with all his Knights of the round table, who had come from Mile End gorgeously attired. This band was formed of the rival archers to those of the Duke of Shoreditch; but they were merry men all, and the very best of friends; so, to show the different styles of drawing the long bow, for the solace of the crowd, the Duke of Shoreditch's party were to represent the English bowmen, while that of Prince Arthur, the archers of France.
Great merriment was caused by the vain endeavours the Frenchmen made to bend the strong English bow, for they pretended not to know the knack of the craft; so, standing bolt upright, according to the foreign fancy, their arrows all fell wofully short of the mark. Not so the English side-they, according to their country's style, all threw themselves forward a step, and thus added the whole weight of their bodies to the bending of their bows, which being done to the full extent, sent forth the arrow with unerring aim right home to the mark, at a distance of upwards of a thousand feet.
The law compelling all masters to teach their apprentices the bow- man's art, a trial of skill now took place amongst these young tyros; but of this we shall give no further account, than to state how Harry Horton missed the butt every shot, and that Edward Osborne hit it no less than four times out of five; and perhaps he would have hit it the last shot, but just as he let loose his fifth shaft, a disturbance arose that had nearly put an unpleasant end to all the day's sports.
The cry of-" A witch! a witch !" resounded from a crowd of unfeeling lads hard by, who were quickly headed and encouraged by Harry Horton, to hunt a poor old woman. Useless were her feeble endeavours to escape: pushed from side to side, she screamed, and cried for mercy; but the more hopeless her state, the more the shouts and laughter increased; 'they bade her " run for her life, or she should be ducked till she drowned." Harry Horton cried out-" Tie her by the legs, and drag her to the pond."
At this moment Edward Osborne dashed into the middle of the crowd, club in hand, and standing over the poor old woman, who had sunk upon the earth, he, with about three swings of his formidable weapon, in an instant cleared a space of some yards around him.-" You
|. cowardly curs !" exclaimed young Edward, his mild eyes now flashing fire as he spoke; "is an old woman the only game you have the courage to hunt? Now, mark me, all of you-if but one dare advance a single step, until I have raised this poor old soul, and put her in a place of safety, by my master's honour, and that's my own, I'll fell him to the ground!"|
" Hollo! young champion of the young and fair," roared out Harry Horton, laughing aloud, and then added, in a savage tone, " let her alone, or we let not you alone, or if you must have a bout at fisty-cuffs, have at you." Saying this, he, with two others, who appeared to possess more courage than the rest, and who were now armed with their clubs, rushed forward upon Edward, as he was at the moment stooping down to assist the wretched woman. What might have been his fate, thus taken at disadvantage, we know not, but just, in the very nick of time, up sprang two new friends to the weaker side, and in a moment more, Horton and his valiant pals found themselves grovelling in the dust.
One of the new comers turned out to be our newly-made acquaintance, the Cripple of the Bridge, whose staff, as we have before hinted, was a trifle much more likely to make a man cry than laugh.
The other was a ragged youth, who having dexterously disarmed Harry Horton, kocked him down with his own club: the Cripple had settled the other two.
"Come, mother, come," said the ragged lad, " I knowed you'd get into trouble if you comed here."
" Take her away quickly," said Edward; "remove her while she is safe, and I, and our sturdy friend here, will keep the rabble back."
The menacing attitude of Edward and his unexpected ally, were not required to stay the fray. Now the three most daring had for a time been rendered powerless, the rest seemed little disposed to take the quarrel upon themselves; nor was the cry of " A witch, a witch !" once again repeated.
" Give me your hand," said the Cripple, addressing Edward Osborne, " I'll shake hands with you-but it's not every hand I would shake- but you are a brave lad, and a kind-you have a heart, and that is more than we can find in every breast; yes, you have a heart, for you will befriend the old-even the ugly. I would that you had a better master."
" Where shall we find one ?" replied Edward; " his equal does not exist in London town."
" Good as you think him," said the Cripple, chuckling, " I shall boil his head yet," and again he laughed.
" Why," retorted Edward, shewing some disgust at what he heard, " why, I say, do you never come near my good master, nor ever hear his name, but you must utter those offensive words ?"
" Time will shew, lad, time will shew," said the Cripple. " But mark me, I am your friend ;" and then came forth his horrid screeching laugh; " there's an honour for you, lad-think of that-Willy, the Cripple of the Bridge-gate Tower, has condescended to call youfriend-- ha, ha! ho, ho! he, he- !" and the Cripple went hobbling off.
As Edward turned about to rejoin his master, he was accosted by the .
|poor ragged lad, who having found a shelter for the old woman, now returned to offer his simple, but heartfelt thanks.|
After making a thousand bows and scrapes, he said--' I vish I vos a gentleman born and bred-for then I would ask to take your hand, and if I did, I think I should squeeze.a part of my heart into it, I am so grateful for what you have done to-day. That poor old woman, Master Edward, for I knows who you are vel enough, is my old mother, and I love her more than my life, for a kinderer hearted, blesseder creature, I don't think even Heaven itself ever made."
" Well, then," said Edward, smiling, " if you promise not to squeeze your heart into it-there are two reasons why I will give you my hand; first, because a lad who loves his mother, as you seem to do, cannot be a bad fellow at bottom; the second, because I owe you much more thanks than you do me. I know the spite of my scowling brother apprentice there, who has just sneaked off, and who is now whispering to those two ill-looking fellows. Had he but had his way while his rage was up, I doubt me little but he would have solved that dubious point in natural history, of whether I have, or have not, any brains in my stupid head; for he'd have cracked it or his own club, I'll swear. I know him, and I know, too, that I have given him mortal offence by my good luck with the long bow. But I fear him not; for he knows I 've shown him more than once whose arm is the stronger. But tell me, who and what are you, since you know who I am ?"
" Vy," replied the lad, "I'm not exactly a prince as you may see with half an eye, nor am I a beggar; that is, not a licensed one. Oh no! a poor devil like me has no interest vith the Court to get such a blessing as a King's varrant for begging; so, if I does try the trade now and then just a leetle, I'm obliged to do it on the sly, in a sort of smuggling way. I keeps open house at the foot of Old Swan Lane, and the more friends that comes to see me, the better I likes it, and lots of lords, and ladies, and nobles does come to see me, I can tell you, and takes me by the arm. Vy, I've been the support of hundreds on 'em."
" Speak more plainly, there's a good fellow," said Edward, not at all comprehending what the lad could possibly mean.
"Vy, you see, how they owes their support to me is this-I keeps a board for 'em to valk on from the shore to their boats."
"Oh, I understand you now," said Edward; "you are a Jack-in-the water."
"Yes," replied the other, "I'm a Jack-in-the-vorter, but I'm a Villiam out on it."
" Then your name, I suppose, is William," inquired Osborne; " but have you no other ?"
"To be sure I have; I've three names altogether," replied the lad; "I'm Jack-I'm Villiam-and I'm BILLY THE BRIDGE-SHOOTER ! The last he uttered with evident feelings of pride.
"Billy the Bridge-shooter! that's an odd name," observed Edward; "how came you by that ?"
" You see," said the other, " almost all men in this vorld excels in summut, only it's not alvays found out vot that summut is;-now my. summut vos found out almost as soon as I vos born."
' Indeed ! and pray what might it be ?"
Vy, I vos born corky."
"What !" exclaimed Edward, completely taken by surprise.
"Vot! vy, corky. You knows vot a cork is, I suppose? Vell, then, I vos born corky-that is, I'm so uncommon light, that if you throws me into the vorter, old Nick himself can't make me sink."
"Your definition of the term," said Edward, smiling, as well he might, "is perfectly satisfactory; although, I must confess, without your elucidation, I should never have guessed at the meaning: but may I ask you," and Edward again smiled, " may I ask how your corkiness was first discovered; for surely you did not, as your words would almost imply, go swimming the moment you were born ?"
" Did'nt I, though! but indeed I did-that is, afore I vos a veek old. I'll tell you how it happened; and, my viskers !-only I haven't got none-if I hadn't been born corky, I shouldn't a been here now to tell you vot I'm going to tell you, I can tell you. Vell then-mother vos ill in bed, and fast asleep. Father vos a blind man, but uncommon clever in household concerns, and alvays looked arter-no, I don't mean that; for if he vos blind, you know, he couldn't look arter nothing: but he used to attend to the cooking-and such a cook he vos-"
" But if he were blind," said Edward, " how could he see which things he wanted ?"
" Oh, that vos easy enough! he used to stick his finger into all the things vun arter the other, and suck it, until he comed to the vun he vanted. Now, he and mother were dotingly-fond of boiled sucking- pig; and on the day I'm speaking on, father, who had been drinking a leetle more than he ought to have done, and had made me drink a leetle drop too, just to keep me quiet while he vos at his cooking, laid me down dead asleep on the table, by the side of the pig: off he goes- back he comes vith the only saucepan ve had, vhich vos an uncommon large 'un-fills it half full of vorter-pops it on the fire-pops me into it, instead of the pig, and then pops on the lid. As I happened to go in flat on my back, there I floated safe enough, for nothing can make me sink. By-and-by, as you may suppose, the vorter began to get rather too vorm to be pleasant; and then, oh, my viskers! didn't I begin to bawl, and kick about? Off vent the lid-splash vent the vorter-mother began to scream out that the devil vos in the pot-in rushed the neighbours to larn the cause of such alarm; vhen, fortunately, vun on 'em, happening to be a priest, who didn't care for the devil or all his imps, volked boldly up to the saucepan, and took me out, to the astonishment of all. It vos soon settled, that I had been bevitched, and changed, for a time, into a pig-the real vun the priest took avay vith him to his own house, declaring that-' He vould first roast the evil fiend,' as he called the pig, 'and then dewour it;' and ve have every reason to believe he did. And now, master Edward, do you think I am wrong in saying I vos born corky. It's because I'm corky, I'm called the Bridge-shooter. Ven a boatman's afraid to go through by himself, vy, I shoots through vith him. If I happens to shoot him into the vorter, vy, I shoots in arter him, and picks him up, for nothing .
|can make me sink. By-the-by, a thought has just struck me-can you swim ?"|
" Not like a fish !" said Edward; " unless, indeed, it be like a flat one, which is generally found at the bottom of the river. No, I have often tried, but always to but little purpose."
" That," replied Billy the Bridge-shooter, " is because you have never been properly teached. Now, vill you make me downright happy ?"
"How can I do that ?" said young Osborne.
"Vy, let me larn you to keep your head above vorter-it's an uncommon useful hart. You have saved my old mother's life, and do, now, -let me teach you to save your own, and, may be, a hundred others. It is not much a poor fellow like me can do, to the like o'you, to show his gratitude; but, poor as I am in all else, if you comes to the svimming, I'm richer than any Lord I knows. In a single veek, you shall be as corky as I am."
"Well, I must confess," said Edward, "that is a temptation not easily to be withstood; and, upon one condition, I accept your offer- you must let me pay you for it."
" You've paid me afore hand all I means to take," replied the other. " No, no, svim for love; and pay me, if you likes, for any other little artful dot I may teach you."
The expression, " dot," he evidently used in the manner we, nowadays, employ that elegant little word, " dodge ;" but we have no doubt that, to the "gents" of those days, it was equally expressive and intelligible.
Edward Osborne, who felt a pity for the poor ragged lad, on account of the filial affection he had so strongly evinced, and fancying he could discover beneath the dense soil of ignorance, a seed or two, that might, by a little culture, grow up into good, suddenly took into his head the romantic idea of adopting the outcast as his son, notwithstanding the said outcast was at least a couple of years older than himself. But at the romantic age at which Edward Osborne then found himself, what wildness of fancy could be too extravagant to be seized upon as the offspring of the profoundest wisdom ?
For ourselves, we love romance; it is the bright star of our life-the child of hope that takes us by the hand, and leads our steps as sweetly on through this world's bleak and barren paths, as though they were formed on velvet moss, and lay midst beds of roses.
Having the romantic fit strongly upon us at this instant, we do not find it at all difficult to forgive young Osborne, for the folly, as the ice- bound intellects of common-sense people would call it, of the plan he had just formed. He had thought of a way to repay his new protégé for any trouble he might give him, which he hoped, and fully expected, would prove of more real service to this Jack-in-the-water, than even money itself. The fate of all these grand schemes will be seen as we proceed; at present, we shall merely inform our gentle readers, that it soon arranged, to the great delight and perfect satisfaction of Billy the Bridge-shooter, that, every morning at daybreak, young Osborne should take his swimming lesson.
With this understanding, they separated; Jack-o'-the-water was soon lost in the crowd, and Edward hastened to rejoin his master and mistress.
The moment he came within sight of them, he perceived that something had gone amiss; his master looked angrily-his mistress snatched back the child, who had made a movement, as if to run and meet her playmate-and as to Flora Gray, she tossed her nose up in the air, at least a yard, when he offered her his arm, and, turning her back suddenly upon him, said-" Go to your villains !-we want none of your company here !" And then, with another toss of the head, and another turn up of the nose, away she walked.
Poor Osborne, who, in spite of all his endeavours, had never yet been able to ingratiate himself fully into the good favour of his mistress, saw, now, by her looks, that he was, from some cause or other, lower than ever in her estimation.
The truth was, that Harry Horton had been beforehand, and made his own story good, by reversing the whole facts of the case. Tears actually came into Horton's eyes, as he related Osborne's cruel turn of mind, that could feel delight m afflicting the aged and infirm: but what, he said, made his heart quite bleed, was, to see so respectable a youth, as young Osborne had formerly been, now falling into the lowest degradation, by associating with the vilest of the vile. " Why does he not," he continued, " do as I do ?-why does he not associate more with the good father of St. Thomas-of-the-Bridge, instead of always being with such thieves as that lad who attends the boats at the Swan- stairs ? they are always together-always! And only to think, now, as if it were just to prove my words-look there, yonder, in the distance, you can see them both-but, alas! they are always together. Good heavens !" he ejaculated, as if a sudden thought had seized him; and, then continuing, as though he had been merely thinking aloud--" But, no, no! that cannot be !-and, yet----"
" Yet, what ?" exclaimed Alyce, with anxiety, " speak plainly; for myself, I have always doubted the sincerity of young Osborne; the more so since our saintly father, Brassinjaw, first pointed out to me that such unceasing propriety of conduct and such unvarying attention to his every duty, formed an unerring proof of inward hypocrisy !"
" If that be the case, dear Alyce," said the merchant, who had a far less exalted opinion of the saintly father, Brassinjaw, than his wife had, " if that be the case, I suppose that impropriety of conduct, and inattention to ones every duty bespeak the saint-is this the reason father Brassinjaw is so very saintly ?"
" Such difficult questions, husband, we must leave to the wise and learned; sinful creatures like ourselves, should never meddle with such deep matters," replied the truly-good but simple-minded Alyce. " I fear me often, William, that the new and dangerous opinions, which, however I try to close my ears to, will still at times force themselves upon me, have found a grateful soil in your unguarded mind. If once I thought that that arch fiend, as saintly father Brassinjaw rightly calls Martin Luther---"
" For mercy sake, Alyce, do let Martin Luther be still and tell me, Harry, what are your fears ?" This the poor merchant said merely to .
|change the thoughts and stop the tongue of Dame Alyce upon the interminable subject of Martin Luther.|
"Why," said Harry Horton, " it suddenly flashed across my mind, seeing what I have just witnessed-but Heaven grant I may be wrong -but, I say, it suddenly flashed across my mind that it was within the pale of possibility, that Edward and that ragged ruffian might be found to know more of the robbery at my good master's house, and for which a poor fellow, whom I sincerely believe to be as innocent as I am, is now in jail, and should the trial go against him, will be hanged. You know," he continued, " that it was Edward who first discovered the robbery, which had been so ingeniously contrived, that little short of inspiration, or previous knowledge of what was to be done, could have detected it. He was ever the enemy of the poor fellow now in prison, and the sworn friend of the only witness upon whose evidence the life of the accused will hang. Now, putting this and that together, it strikes me that much truth might be elicited-" here his countenance assumed a truly demoniacal expression, but it vanished almost as soon as seen, as he said, " could you obtain permission but for a few minutes to put him to the rack ?"
" Heaven forbid !" exclaimed the merchant, indignantly. "What! give the son of my oldest and best of friends to the torture, for the sake of a paltry piece or two of cloth of gold ? Rather would I toss the whole contents of the Golden Fleece into the Thames !"
" And why ?" retorted Dame Alyce; " as saintly Father Brassinjaw truly says-" all means should be tried to bring a sinner to repentance."
" I only spoke for the best, master," said Horton; "and I am sorry, now, I have spoken at all; forget what I have said-I dare say I am wrong-and no doubt a friendly squeeze of the hand means any thing but familiarity." As he said this, he pointed rather insolently towards the distance, exactly at the moment Edward was giving his hand to the grateful ragged lad. " I shall live an enviable life when he shall come to know all I have said."
" But he shall know nothing of what you have said," replied Alyce; " you are a good youth and a worthy, and shall not be exposed to the ill will of any one. You know I am always your friend; and your master will not gainsay my pleasure, I am certain; so do not fear him, for not a word shall he hear from either of us; but we will keep a watchful eye upon him, be assured. Now, Henry, go and join the merry-makers."
" No, mistress," he replied; " I will home to my little room, and prepare myself for to-morrow's confession."
As he retired, he looked first at Alyce, then sighed gently, and casting his eyes up to heaven, he looked once more, then wended his way towards the bridge. What he intended by the look, the sigh, and the upturning of his eyes, we for the present can only guess; but that there was something strange in his manner of doing it, might be inferred from the involuntary, but transient blush which suddenly suffused the lovely face of Alyce-so slight, indeed, had been the cause which made the rose to bloom where the lily had been planted, that she herself was still unconscious of the fleeting change.
Poor Flora Gray looked after him in vain: he seemed to have forgotten that such a person had ever existed; she blushed too, but her blush was felt, was understood, and with it came a frown, for she was angered at his neglect; this it was, perhaps, which greatly heightened the asperity of manner she had evinced towards Edward, when he had approached with a heart overflowing with kindness and goodwill towards all human beings.
As Harry Horton hurried along, he let loose to his ill feelings in low murmurings. " So, so !" said he; " I think I have sown some seeds this day in Master Osborne's path, that shall ere long grow up and bear a plenteous harvest of poisonous thorns. He seems born to be my rock-a-head. Although years younger than I am, he is still the stronger. In all things he ever takes the lead; but I may have my revenge yet. One month more, and I am no longer an apprentice: if I can but once get a footing in partnership with Master Hewet, I'll work his heart out. I have found out the length of our mistress's foot, thanks to the gluttony and licentiousness of saintly Father Brassinjaw, who, when the wine is in, would, for an extra flagon of Rhenish, or a yard of our master's cloth of gold to give to some fair sinner he would sanctify, tell me all the secrets of all the wives in Christendom, did he but know them. There is not a failing of either Hewet or his sweet-eyed dame that are not in my keeping; and it is upon the failings, not the virtues of mankind, the crafty work their will. How lovely Alyce looked to-day ! but she has too much of the saint, and too little of the woman about her at present; but they say a reformation is at hand, so who knows !" and then he laughed at his own thoughts. " I wish," he went on, "that simpleton, Flora Gray, would be less fond. I only flirted with her because I thought she could worm out her mistress's secrets; and now, forsooth, she thinks I'm over head and ears in love with her, and looks to be my wife-ha, ha! a pretty wife for Harry Horton! I want no wife-at least of my own. No, no! I want fame and fortune; and I'll have them, or the gallows."
As the sable wings of night began to flutter over the gay and glittering scene on Mary Overies' Green, preparations commenced for the more wild and reckless sports by the flickering and varying light of innumerable bonfires. All along the road from the Green, and down the Highstreet of Southwark, as far as the eye could reach, these ancient demonstrations of holiday delight might be seen blazing; barrels of pitch, and indeed every combustible material the crowd could conveniently lay their hands on, were heaped upon these burning signs of merry-making.
The High-street of Southwark was at that time composed principally of large inns, capable of accommodating hundreds of guests; both man and horse found shelter there. The most notorious was the Tabard, opposite St. Margaret's Hill, the well-known inn at which and his pilgrims to Canterbury slept the night before they started on their holy journey. It was before this inn now burned the largest bonfire of the whole, and around it danced the biggest crowd of madcap maids and boys.
As time flew on, the more sober-minded citizens, one by one, with their dames and children, left this wild but highly picturesque scene of frantic revelry. .
Then the moon arose, but, as if ashamed of what she saw, passed on majestically, and soon was lost to mortal sight. The Spirit of Fatigue next sent forth her enervating breath across the plain; the strongest, however reluctantly, were soon subdued, and laggingly strolled homeward to their welcome beds. The fires themselves seemed tired out at the roaring life they had led, and sinking by degrees became, what all things that have lived must become-dust. A few poor worn out wretches, too poor to own a home, huddled themselves around the dying embers, and soon, by sleep's great alchemy, became the lords and princes of the earth. Thus ended that merry May-day on Mary Overies' lovely Green.