Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century
Rodwell, G Herbert
Yes, yes, merry and mad, and mad indeed , and merry, were the crowds that passed over Old London Bridge on the nineteenth of February, 1547. Was it because the great bell had already tolled the funeral knell of the tyrant, King Henry the Eighth, and thus gave hope that the flames of Smithfield would at once be quenched ; and that ropes which had so long been used to hang up men, might now be made into bell-pulls, to ring out merry peals withal ?
This feeling no doubt had its weight with many minds, and might be said to be the first cause of the apparent jollity, for the death of Henry had placed another upon the throne, and that other was upon the morrow to be crowned. Yes, Edward the Sixth, although a boy scarcely past his ninth year of age, was now Ling of England.
The coronation being fixed for the twentieth of February, it was arranged that on the nineteenth, the day we are writing about, Edward should pass in grand procession from the Tower, through the city of London, and sleep that night in his city of Westminster, preparatory to his coronation in Westminster Abbey on the he following day. It was to enjoy the magnificence of this procession, that the worthy citizens were all astir betimes; and to do full honour to the young king, every scrap of finery they could lay hands on was brought into requisition, and most ostentatiously displayed , either on their own backs , or upon the fronts of their own houses.
The roads, throughout the whole line of procession , were soon after break of day being rendered bright and smooth, by hundreds of waggonloads of fine gravel arriving from the country, and being strewn over the ground.
Busy indeed had been the carious handicrafts during the whole night; some building up scaffolding before the houses, other decorating those already built; windows were being removed, and soft cushions placed on the sills, from which hung out, down the fronts of the dwellings, cloths of the gayest colours; whilst the richer citizens decked their housed from top to bottom with cloth of arras, gold, or silver. Evergreens were in endless profusion.
One side of the way from Grasse-Church Street, tot heLittle Conduit of Cheap, was railed off. Being these rails were to be arranged all the city crafts, with the aldermen at the extreme end by the Conduit.
Checklocke, the smith of the Bridge, was particularly busy; he had men here, there , and everywhere,. but there was something very mysterious about his actions. Not even his dear friend Catchemayde, no , nor Silkworm neither, were let into the secret. The sharp-nosed little arrow-maker pretended, but it was mere pretence, that his nose had been sharp enough to smell out a portion of the hidden wonder, but what he had discovered, not even Master Brassinjaw, late the saintly father of that name, but now mind hose of the Cardinals, HAt , bout tempt him to confess. All he did, when hard pressed, was to imitate Checklocke, and nodding his head with a wink exclaim, "You'll see, you'll see."
From daybreak, which, this being February, was not very early - for the goddess of the day being, like most people at this time of the year, rather a sluggard, could not be tempted to upon her bright blue eyes, until the clock had sounded no less than seven times since midnight - yes, from break of day, had Checklocke been anxiously watching from one of the three openings on the Bridge, for the arrival of some vessel. At last turning triumphantly to his anxious friends , he exclaimed , "come along, lads! come along, for now - you'll see."
The four at once left the Bridge, and hurried down to the Steel Yard -the great wharf belonging to the foreign merchants, where all sorts of things were landed or shipped, and where the government bought there gunpowder, for as year that destructive article was not manufactured in England; nor indeed were those dread instruments for its use - the iron -throated cannon, yet made here. It was not until some time after Edward came to the throne, that the first iron cannon was founded in this country, and that was by a Frenchman, the English field ordinance being previously constructed of leather, or wood hooped round with iron.
When they arrived at the Steel Yard, Checklocke's friends were still kept in as much doubt as ever. The people belonging to the wharf were soon busy in harnessing some strong Flanders horses to a clumsy four wheeled low sort of truck . By the time this was done, a heavy boat, or lighter, shot through the Bridge , and was soon after safely secured to the wharf. A part of the mystery was now solved; for, from this boat the cranes began to slowly raise an enormous anchor, which , being brought to a proper height, the crones were turned inwards; the anchor began again to descend, and was soon resting safely upon the truck.
"Come, Master Checklocke," said Catchemayde, rather pettishly, "tell us, man, tell us at once what you are about! for what you can possibly want to do with that huge anchor, I think would puzzle old Sharp-nose there to divine: so divulge-divulge, friend Checke."
The only reply he received was, "You'll see;" which reply was, of course once more echoed by the little arrow-maker.
Creak went the solid wheels-slash went the carters whip-a few long oaths were added to each cut; and the vehicle, with its mysterious load, began to move away.
The place to which the anchor was taken, appeared to be about the
|last in England where one would have thought such a machine could possibly be put to any use-this was St. Paul's Church--yard! Catchemayde became more pettish and cross at every step; and when they had arrived just before the door of the dean's dwelling, he burst out in a perfect rage--" He was not going to be treated so-he was not a child, and he'd be d--d if he'd stand it." Now, whether it was a punishment for his swearing, or a mere accident, we know not; but certainly he suited the " action to the word;" for, instead of standing it, he fell headlong into a large hole that had been dug close to the dean's door. Out of this hole poor Catchemayde was soon dragged; and into that hole the anchor was soon lowered, and embedded firmly in the earth.|
For what purpose this emblem of hope had been there placed, the reader, by and by, will be made acquainted.
Now began all over London, the ringing of bells; but the bells, to hear which, crowds upon crowds were seen hurrying, were those of Shoreditch: these bells long maintained their celebrity, and were such great favourites with Queen Elizabeth, that she never passed them without making a long halt to listen to their music-the people, all bareheaded, kneeling round her.
Few of our readers are, perhaps, aware of the sacred honours that bells had, in our Roman Catholic times, conferred upon them. Can it scarcely now be believed, that, before a bell could be hung up in a steeple, it had to be first subjected to the holy rite of baptism ? But such really was the case. The baptism was performed either by the bishop or his deputy. Most of the forms prescribed for the baptism of a child, were gone through in giving a name to the bell.
The bishop and priests washed it in water, anointed it in the name of the Holy Trinity; it had Godfathers, who were persons of high rank. Holy water, oil, salt, and cream were used, and tapers burnt. The bell was crossed by the Bishop, and even more psalms were read at this performance, than there were at the christening of an infant.
Bells were supposed to possess, after being duly christened, an enormous power over evil spirits; also over the elements; thunder and lightning were dreadfully afraid of bells: but the following prayer, which was offered up for the bell, will let the reader understand at once what was hoped and expected from it; thus ran the prayer:-
"Lord, grant that wheresoever this holy bell, thus washed and blessed, shall sound, all deceits of Satan, all dangers of whirlwind, thunders, lightnings, and tempests, may be driven away, and that devotion may increase in Christian men when they hear it. 0 Lord, sanctify it by thy Holy Spirit; that when it sounds in thy people's ears they may adore Thee! May their faith and devotion increase, the devil be afraid, and tremble, and fly, at the sound of it. O Lord, pour upon it thy heavenly blessing! that the fiery darts of the devil may be made to fly backwards at the sound thereof-that it may deliver from danger of wind and thunder. And grant, Lord, that all that come to the church at the sound of it, may be free from all temptations of the devil. O Lord, infuse into it the heavenly dew of thy Holy Ghost, that the devil may always fly away before the sound of it, &c., &c."
Henry the Eighth, appears to have had as little respect for holy
|bells, as he had for the Pope, for we find that the four largest in England, called Jesus's bells, which hung in the Clock-house near St. Paul's, were staked by him against one hundred pounds, and lost to Sir Miles Partridge, at a cast of dice.|
We are not very much astonished at evil spirits, supposing them to have ears, being frightened at the sound, for even now there are in the city one or two peals of bells, that, when they ring their loudest all at once, are enough to frighten old Nick himself.
But on the occasion we are recording, bad spirits were not even thought of; oh, no! the ringings were to put people into good spirits, and merry peals, indeed, now sounded from every steeple.
The Shoreditch youths, for be it known that bell-ringers, like postboys, always retain their cognomen of juvenility, no matter what their real age may be-yes, the Shoreditch youths, upon this occasion, were to outdo all their former outdoings, and so they did, for they executed a complete peal of grandsire triples!-yes, grandsire triples, in which peal there were no less than five thousand and forty changes.
We must confess we are happy that we were not there to hear them, for, notwithstanding, that each of the eight old youths worked away like a steam engine, the performance took three hours and six minutes.
The sound of cannon now boomed from the Tower walls; this was the signal for all who were to participate in the gorgeous procession, to hasten to their respective stations. The city crafts took their position behind the rails before mentioned, and with their heads uncovered, stood like so many statues awaiting the kingly spirit to come and conjure them into moving beings. Their flat caps, for out of compliment to the young King, who had always worn a cap of this description, the like of which may be seen in these days, generally under the arms, not on the heads, of our blue-coat boys, had been substituted for those of older fashion, and now hung by a string on their backs like so many large muffins.
On the opposite side of the way were lines of priests and clerks, with their crosses and censors; they wore their richest vestments, and splendid indeed was the effect they produced. Streamers and banners floated in the breeze, as they hung down from lines stretched across the streets.
Exactly at one of the clock, an enormous roaring of cannon was heard, which told the anxious expectants that the procession had commenced. Bands of trumpeters, and drum-slades, and indeed of almost every musical instrument then known, were placed at stated distances, so that as the procession moved onwards, there was music heard throughout the whole line.
First came the King's messengers, two and two; then followed bands of gentlemen, and Ambassadors' retainers, all two and two. Next came whole crowds of chaplains, but these were as yet without dignity; and next to them, gaily prancing upon richly-caparisoned steeds, came the sons of gentlemen and noblemen. Then advanced the great Barons, all arranged after their estate The Bishops followed, attired in all their gorgeous vestments; then the younger sons of Earls, Marquises, and Dukes, succeeded by the Earls, Marquises and Dukes themselves. The Comptroller of the household, with the secretary of Venice. The Treasurer of the King's house, with one of the Ambassadors of the Protestants.
|. The King's Almoner, with another of the Ambassadors of the Protestants. These were followed by Sir William Paget, Secretary of State, with Duke Philip of Almaine. The Lord Admiral accompanied one of the Scotch Ambassadors; the Lord Privy Seal another. The Lord Great Master of the Household (Sir William Poulet, Lord St. John, soon after Lord Chancellor, and subsequently the first Marquis of Winchester), did honour to Poley, Baron de le Garde, of France. The Lord Chancellor, with the French King's Ambassador, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the Emperor's Ambassador, came next; these were followed by Sir Percival Hart, Knight Harbinger, bearing the King's cloak and hat. The next that came were two Gentlemen Ushers, John Norrys, and William Rainsford, representing the two estates of Normandy and Guienne, clothed in robes of scarlet furred with minever, wearing caps of state on their heads, and carrying about them, in baudrick-wise, two mantles of scarlet velvet: Garter, in the king's coat of arms on the right hand, and the Mayor of London carrying a mace, on the left. Sergeants at arms, with their maces, going on either side of the way. Then followed the Lord Marquis of Dorset, the Constable of England, bearing the sword; on his right hand was the Earl of Warwick, Lord Great Chamberlain of England, and on his left, the Earl of Arundel, the Lord Chamberlain, supplying the room of Earl Marshal; in lieu of the Lord Protector, the Duke of Somerset, who came next attending upon Edward.|
The populace set up a shout of delight that rent the air: the incense was waving in every direction, and scenting the breeze with holy perfume.
The King had now left the Tower Gate. In order that his loving subjects might the better view his person, he rode a step or two in advance of the sumptuous square canopy. His Highness was richly apparelled in a gown of cloth of silver, all over embroidered with damask gold ; he wore a girdle of white velvet, wrought with Venice silver and precious stones, such as rubies and diamonds, with true-love knots of pearls, and a doublet of white velvet according to the same, embroidered with Venice silver, and garnished in like manner with precious stones and pearls; his cap and buskins were also of white velvet, and in like manner adorned. His horse was caparisoned with crimson satin, richly ornamented with pearls and damask gold. His Highness's footmen, in rich coats, going about His Grace, on either side of the canopy, which was borne by six knights, who had certain assistants really to bear the load. Behind the King came Sir Anthony Brown, Master of the Horse, leading a goodly courser of honour, very richly trapped.
Nine henchmen now came prancing on, mounted on sturdy steeds, with saddles of state, riding bare-headed, and appareled in cassocks, parted in the midst, one half cloth of gold, the other cloth of silver, and their horses adorned with trappings of the same. Then Sir Francis Bryant, master of the henchmen came riding alone; next the gentlemen and grooms of the Privy Chamber, on horseback two and two; the pensioners and men at arms, with their pole-axes, going on either side of the way, on foot, with their halberts in their hands.
All the servants belonging to noblemen and gentlemen now followed in order, after the degrees and estates of their masters.
As the King's Highness entered Mark Lane, a tremendous peal of ordnance was shot at the Tower. In Fenchurch Street, was a scaffolding, richly hung with cloth of arras, and therein divers singing men and children, singing and playing upon the regalls as the King's Highness came by.
At the Conduit on Cornhill was a pageant, hung and garnished with arras, whereon was put a proper conduit, which continually ran with sweet wine. On the same pageant were divers instruments and goodly singing; and two children pronounced to the King's Highness two poetical Speeches; and then was sung the following stanzas, the God Save the King of those days:
This song gave infinite delight to the public, who shouted the last two lines in full chorus.
The boy-king was next greatly amused by two persons at the entrance the conduit in Cheap, representing the still well-known characters of Valentine and Orson. The one was dressed in full harness, that is, armour; the other was entirely covered with moss. These two worthies also addressed the king. At the same conduit was a sumptuous fountain, upon which rested an imperial crown. The whole was garnished with roses (we presume, artificial), and juliflowers. From this fountain descended through various pipes, sweet wine and claret, which man plenteously for six hours.
Ah, how busily employed had been the saintly Father, we mean, Master Brassinjaw, for the greater part of that long time! What a blessing for mine host of the Cardinal's Hat! At some little distance, so that he might not attract too much notice, he had prepared large barrels upon wheels, and here he himself remained, while all the little boys could engage in his service by a few farthings and promises of pence, were continually running from the fountain with pots of wine, which he emptied into the said barrels; and then, with a virtuous exhortation to
|. the " little dears to be diligent," he sent the bearers with their empty jugs, back to the fountain.|
The few persons who were remaining at home on the Bridge were astonished to see the enormous stock of wine Master Brassinjaw was laying in, never dreaming for a moment that the king's royal grace was the wine merchant with whom Brassinjaw was dealing so largely.
"Ah !" said Brassinjaw, as he chalked up another score, which meant another barrel, against the wall of the dark court wherein he had ensconced himself, " Ah ! by pretty St. Afra, but we have a king at last-a real king-a noble king-a virtuous king-a Protestant king !" or something like it.
Poor Brassinjaw had actually slipped into protestantism, he knew not how, when, or wherefore; nor did he seem to think it worth the trouble of asking himself the question; but why he should have called upon the Romish Saint Afra at such a moment, it were difficult to divine, unless, indeed, he being a vintner, it was because she had been suffocated by the smoke from vine leaves.
St. Afra was an abandoned woman; but having refused to sacrifice to the heathen deities at Augsburg, in the time of Dioclesian, she, with several of her companions, were tied to a stake and destroyed by suffocation, as above stated.
Brassinjaw's exertions were for a time put a stop to by the approach of the King, who halted near this fountain to hear the short addresses from four children, richly adorned, representing Grace, Nature, Fortune, and Charity. He then listened to others who personified Sapience, and the seven liberal Sciences-Grammar, Logic, Arithmetic, Rhetoric, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. A little further on was a most splendid dumb show, which is thus described-
" A double scaffold was hung with cloth of gold and silk, besides rich arras. In the upper stage was devised an element of heaven, with sun, stars, and clouds, very naturally. From this part there was spread abroad another lesser cloud of white sarcenet, fringed with silk, powdered with stars and beams of gold, out of which there descended a phoenix down to the nether scaffold, where, sitting herself upon a mount, there spread forth roses, white and red, juliflowers, and hawthorn boughs. After the phoenix had been there a little, there approached a lion of gold, crowned, making semblance of amity unto a bird, moving his head sundry times; between the which familiarity, as it seemed, there came forth a young lion, that had a crown imperial, brought from heaven above, as by two angels, which they set upon his head. Then the old lion and phoenix vanished away, leaving the young lion, being crowned, alone."
The king was told that this recondite device was to signify, by the virtue of the lion, that he was descended lineally, through God's provision, and his divine power, to succeed Henry the Eighth, so that from this we are to regard the phoenix as Jane Seymour, and the old lion, bluff King Hal-we think an old bear would have been more appropriate. But the allegorical representation did not end here, for we find that " the young monarch was himself personified in the lower scaffold, by a child apparelled with rich cloth of gold, and a robe of crimson satin, and seated upon a throne, which was upheld by four
|other children, representing REGALITY, having a sceptre in his hand; JUSTICE, with a sword; TRUTH, with a book; and MERCY, with a 'little curtain,' or pointless sword.|
This was certainly an elegant and pretty device, and, as the four children uttered good sense and good advice, this pageant might be approved, although most of these shows were nonsensical in the extreme.
REGALITY, addressing the king, said, " Rule and govern prudently"- then JUSTICE, taking the next turn, observed, "And do justice cordinly"-which was immediately followed by MERCY, saying " But mix with mercy"-" that the truth may stand surely," said TRUTH, " and your throne may endure permanently."
It would be tedious to describe all the mummeries that were placed in the road to solace the King's Highness-we will merely mention the Golden Fleece, guarded by two bulls and a serpent, casting out flames of fire from their mouths; so, the standard of Cheap, with the trumpeters on the upper part; but at the Cross in Cheap, or a little beyond, we must halt for a moment, for it was here the king received, perhaps, what appeared to him the pleasantest token of his people's affection, namely, a purse with a thousand marks of gold in it, presented by the mayor,attended by the recorder, the chamberlain, and the aldermen. On went the procession to the little conduit, where another pageant had been prepared, and is thus described-" The conduit was hung with cloth of arras, and garnished with the shield of St. George, the king's arms, six great streamers, twenty small banners, and twenty-four targets; in a tower at the top the waits playing; and an old man sitting in a chair, apparelled with a gown of cloth of gold-a crown on his head-in his right hand a sceptre, and in his left a ball and cross, represented King Edward the Confessor. Before him lay a lion, which, by means of vices, moved its head. Here also, at the foot of the conduit, was a pageant of St. George, who was represented on horseback, in complete harness, and his page in harness also, holding his spear and shield; and a fair maiden, holding a lamb in a string. "St. George was to have made a speech," so Leland tells us, " and a child an oration in Latin;" but the poor king, being already heartily tired of such shows, passed on so quickly, that the poet and the actors were doomed to a sad disappointment. There was a song, a very long one, of which the last lines were sung in chorus, and ran thus-
The procession had now entered St. Paul's Churchyard, and here the mystery of the buried anchor was made manifest; for to it was attached one end of an enormous rope or cable, the other end of which was secured to the battlements of the steeple of St. Paul's. Upon the approach of the king's grace, a man, a native of Arragon, who had been secreted in the steeple, suddenly cast himself headlong down upon the rope, and with arms and legs extended, slid from the battlements to the very feet of the king; these he kissed, and having uttered a few words, ran up the rope again, until he was exactly over the centre of the churchyard: here he began to dance, and perform sundry "mysteries."
|. His last feat was to attach a small rope to his right ancle, and by it hang, head downwards, to the great delight and wonder of the king and his sight-loving subjects. He soon recovered himself, and then descended, amidst the plaudits of the gaping throng.|
By this we see that rope dancing was as well understood three hundred years ago as at the present day.
The Great Conduit in Fleet Street was the next attraction, where a pageant was also set up, and children appeared in the favourite characters of Truth, Faith, and Justice. As soon as the king had passed, hogsheads of wine were made to run, and then the scramble for the precious juice began.
The last show was at Temple Bar. The gates had been painted in fanciful colours, and the battlements hung, as usual, with rich cloths of arras. Fourteen standards of flags were there, and eight trumpeters-all Frenchmen, who blew their instruments in a fashion known only in their own country. Here the good citizens took a loving farewell of their king, and the procession passed on to Westminster without further interruption.
"Well," said Checklocke to his three friends, who, with himself, were all arm-in-arm, now strolling back again from Temple Bar towards their home upon the Bridge, "well, what did you think of my contrivance of the anchor to fix the rope to, eh ?"
" Not half so much as I did," replied Catchemayde, " of the contrivance by which the foreign fellow flew down from the steeple. It was an awful sight; but these Foreigners are such clever devils. Now, none of us stupid English could do any thing half so wondrous as that. Did you see how he hung by his foot ? If we hang to a rope at all, it's always by our necks, which is uncommonly bad for the health."
As they were passing through Ludgate, still arm-in-arm, and, consequently, filling nearly the whole gateway, they had to separate rather suddenly, to prevent themselves from being run over.
" Hollo!" exclaimed Silkworm, looking up saucily at the rider, "you're an uncommon great man, I'm thinking, to put your horse thus impudently in my way !"
"And you're an uncommon stupid man, I'm thinking," replied the rider, " to put yourself in the way of my horse; but no offence, neighbours all, I saw ye not until upon you; so God speed ye, and God speed me, and thus we part in amity."
Saying this, the rider, who had a lady behind him, thickly veiled, put spurs to his steed and trotted away; he was followed by another cavalier also with a lady thickly veiled; behind him came a third, and he likewise had a lady with a veil, who clung very tightly to him, as the courser, which was a rather high trotter, bounded along.
"Hang me if I knew him, till he spoke !" said Silkworm.
"What !" ejaculated Catchemayde, " not know neighbour Hewet ? but I wonder who the fair one was in the pillion behind him. I havn't heard of his getting married again, have you ?"
" No," replied the sharp-nosed arrow-maker, " nor no one else, nor have I ever heard that his first wife's dead-it's true she has never been
|on the Bridge for these eight years agone, but that's no proof-at least I take it, it would not be so in law-think you it would ?"|
"I'm not thinking of that, nor of her, nor of him," said Checklocke, " but of that fairy-like figure behind Master Osborne. What a waist why, a wasp might die of envy at it; and, neighbours, did ye see, as the wind cast her dress aside, did ye see her foot ? Stirrup never was blessed with such a foot before, I swear. Why, with such a foot as that, I'd be kicked into a blue moon every day, from this to Candlemas. And did you observe Master Edward? why, the clod! he seemed to take no more care of her than if she'd been a bundle of hay tied up behind him. I'd have given a silver penny to have been in his place, to have had those pretty arms round my waist, only I'm afraid that we should both have tumbled off, for I'm so uncommon ticklish in the ribs." "Master William, the Bridge-shooter, did not seem so," observed the sharp-nosed arrow-maker, " for never did lady of the pillion tug so tightly at her horseman as did she behind him; I think that must have been Flora Gray; but if so, she's stouter than she used to be some years ago. Lord, lord, how time does fly! why, we havn't seen Flora Gray on the Bridge these eight years. I wonder what the merchant's whim is for keeping his women away so?"
"Because he's getting too rich, and they too proud," observed Catchemayde, "to be satisfied with the old dwelling on the Bridge. Like all your grand merchants now-a-days, I suppose nothing will satisfy him but having a manor of his own; they say he'll soon be made an alderman; and if once he's that, Master Hewet won't be long before he's Lord Mayor, depend on't." On trudged the four inseparables, and on ran their tongues, touching upon everybody's business but their own, and their ramble ended as usual in the Cardinal's Hat, where a glorious supper was, upon this auspicious occasion, to be given by mine host, Brassinjaw, to a select circle of his worshipful customers, including, of course, these, his four most worthy neighbours.
It has often been said that a cunning knave will frequently throw a sprat to catch a herring, but if the rich delicacies, thrown by Brassinjaw before his invited friends, were to be considered as his sprat, what he expected to catch thereby must have been at least a whale. The lower room of the tavern had been fancifully decorated; but all the decorations were complimentary to the new king, and, as in most cases, where a man makes a change in his habits, religion, or even dress, he flies from one extreme to the other-so did mine host of the Cardinal's Hat. No one, to have seen him on this day, could ever have believed they were looking at the saintly Father Brassinjaw; instead of his shaven head, his crown was now covered by a perfect forest of hair; his beard might be likened to the brushwood beneath. A silken hood, or as he called it, his "liripoop," hung behind; a broad collar of fine linen, scolloped round the edges, was about his neck, and came down one third way over his breast; his pouch, of black velvet, had been made, according to his orders, both large and deep; but his pouch was not the only deep part about Master Brassinjaw. At his left side he wore a double sheath of
|. daggers; his stocks were gartered beneath his knees, but would, when pulled up, reach a good way above them.|
Right heartily did he receive his " dearly beloved friends," as he called his guests, indeed, so heartily, that one would have believed the twenty or thirty who now congregated, had been about to pay for what they should devour; and, perhaps, in the end they did.
Motley was the group now thronging in; here was the carpenter, with his hammer and adze stuck in his girdle; the dyer, with his hands tinted with a mixture of every colour under the sun; then came the webber, or weaver, arm-in-arm with the tapiser, or maker of tapestry; but the most numerous were the haberdashers; but haberdashers in those days, were not craftsmen confined in their dealings to a few ribbons, or laces, or the like, as in our time, but dealt in almost all things fitted to the wear of man, woman, and child; they had originally been a part and parcel of the mercers, but had long since divided themselves into two branches; and, as in all cases of companies formerly, they were dedicated to some Saint; the one were the boys of St. Catherine, the other of St. Nicholas. Hatters, or hurriers, belonged to the haberdashers; and so did the milliners; they were called milliners, because they dealt, not in ladies' caps, as in our days, but in articles brought from Milan, such as brooches, aiglets, spurs, glasses, &c. A few military men were there too, who swore oaths as long as their own swords, and came with appetites quite as keen: but the oddest party of all were about half-a-dozen non- descript looking personages; these had formerly been Grey Friars, but now had nothing grey about them, but their heads and beards; their dresses were formed of all kinds of material, colour and style ; these had once been old cronies of Brassinjaw's in happier times, and now were welcomed here, as he asserted, out of " sheer charity ;" but the truth was, they were comical fellows, and brought to that house many a spendthrift customer, to hear their droll tales, and roystering ditties.
As we before hinted, Brassinjaw had gone from one extreme to the other, and could he have found anything further on, to have rested his foot upon, he would certainly have stepped beyond it; his maxim was, " Move with the times, my masters, move with the times, or you may chance to get trampled to death by the crowds that are hurrying onwards;" and sure enough, at last his preaching and his practice did not belie each other, for instead of merely moving with the times, he appeared to wish to outstrip, and run before them.
The banquet which he had prepared was rich in the extreme, for it contained many delicacies which were seldom seen but upon the table of the lordly great. Some few of the articles might not be thought very delicate in our days, but were actually esteemed as such by our forefathers.
The signal being given, the guests hurried to their seats, and then the clatter began. The helpers tumbled over each other, in their anxiety to cover the board with the celerity of magic, and many a good flagon of ale, and pottle of wine, found its way down the back of a guest, instead of his throat.
The great beauty of a feast in those days, was its magnitude, or rather the magnitude of its component parts. The three first dishes placed
|upon the board, were, an enormous calf's head, crowned with jelly; at the one side was placed a stewed porpoise, cooked whole; at the other a delicately roasted swan, covered with a veil of white sauce; these Brassinjaw facetiously nicknamed the Pope, the Cardinal, and the Lady Abbess. Two great platters of preserved larks, he called his singing boys; the dish of powdered horse, that is, horse-flesh powdered with salt (as we should say, salted), he named his steed of honour.|
"But uprise, my gentles ! uprise, my simples! uprise ye all!" he exclaimed, in a voice of exultation, and command, as the door again opened to admit more helpers bearing more viands; " up, Lords and Commons, Priests and Laymen, up, I say, for here approaches our noble lord, the King, our heart's beloved, Edward the Sixth !"
The dish he had honoured by naming it "Edward the Sixth," was borne by two serviteurs, and contained a peacock in full plumage, with tail outspread; great cheering greeted this magnificent display of Brassinjaw's liberality, for a peacock served up in its feathers, was a dish but seldom seen, excepting at the banquets of the nobility, and was generally styled " the food of lovers, and the meat of lords;" it was stuffed with spices and sweet herbs. When roasted to a beautiful brown, the skin and feathers were again put on, the beak and comb gilt, and the tail, as we have said, outspread.
Just as Brassinjaw had exclaimed, " Degustibus non est disputandum, as the learned clerk said to the milkmaid, who preferred kissing a cow to himself; so take which you will, my masters, there is here withal somewhat to suit all tastes"-yes, just as he had finished this strange sort of grace, a heavy clattering was heard upon the stairs, leading down to the lower room in which they were; the sound would not have been an inappropriate introduction for the ghost in Don Giovanni; nor, indeed, would the figure which soon presented itself at the door, which flew open with a bang, have been a bad substitute for that spiritual personage.
The guests starting at the noise, looked round, and there they beheld a knight in full armour; he was followed, not by his esquire, but by a sort of monster, covered all over with scales. The new comers were the valiant St. George and the awful Dragon of the pageant.
After standing for a few minutes, to the great admiration of the beholders, the knight taking off his helmet, and the Dragon his head, displayed the well-known visages of Diddle 'em Downy and Ugly Tom.
A thunder of applause greeted their appearance, but poor Downy was really downy, for he had received such a deadly blow to all his hopes, by the King passing on without vouchsafing a hearing to the splendid speech he had been for weeks concocting, that he entered with a face that had evidently been well washed by tears. But as every one began to laugh, he soon began to laugh too; so being drawn out of his iron sheath, he, like a well-tempered blade, not only showed his point, but how sharp and cutting he could be, if required. His disappointment being a hard morsel to swallow, Brassinjaw made him wash it down with copious draughts of Romney sack, which taking proper effect upon his spirits, he very shortly came out as brilliantly as ever.
Boisterous and jolly was the party; the viands, and their dressings were declared "wonderful," but nothing caused so much wonder to each of the guests, as to think where his neighbour could possibly have procured such an appetite! The pope was no more to be seen; the cardinal was fast following the pope; and the swan, the white-veiled lady abbess, had been so much admired by the gallants around, that they actually ate her up-not a lip there, but had tasted of her sweetness. The powdered horse ran off at good speed under a saddle of mutton, which was the dish above it. It was quite a lark to the company, to see the singing boys fly down every throat; and poor King Edward, the noble peacock, soon left nothing but his HEAD to tell his TAIL (tale). This pun has been used several times since, but we believe it was really new about three hundred years ago.
Great were beginning to be the discussions about the various pageants of the day, but this being rather a sore subject with Diddle 'em, Brassinjaw, to save his friend from the painful dilemma into which such conversation would lead him, proposed a song.
The moment the song was intimated, every eye turned upon Diddle 'em Downy; but, for once, poor Downy did not respond by his usual wink of assent; no, Diddle 'em was a disappointed man-he had been building up an enormous tower of hopes upon the effect his speech was to have made upon the young king; his was not to have been a speech of laudation, mixed up with good advice, as most were; for he knew full well that good advice is generally rather a bitter pill for kings to swallow, and always seems to increase in bitterness according to its goodness; no, his was to have been one of such a comic nature, that he expected the king's grooms would have been obliged to hold their lord's legs, to keep him from falling off his horse, with laughing. The speech was to have been the stepping-stone to Downy becoming the king's jester; but his tower of hopes had fallen about his ears, and had completely crushed his heart; so, he merely looked sadly round, and heaved a sigh-this caused an enormous laugh; for every thing Downy did was thought to be funny. Brassinjaw, who, from his former calling had been trained to study the strength or weakness of the human heart, saw at once that Diddle 'em was not acting; so, to relieve the disappointed droll, he roared out " No, no, my gallants; no Diddle 'em yet; for who can sing after Diddle 'em ? but even I, Master Brassinjaw, the jolly vintner of the Bridge, don't mind before; so to set the concert going, list ye roysterers all to me."
Saying this, he cleared his throat with a good pint of sack, and, falling into the humour of the times, sang the following loyal ditty-
As the singer was the giver of the feast, it was not very astonishing that this loyal ditty met with applause prodigious! Hands clapped a storm of approbation that was truly deafening. Over and over again did the company roar out the two concluding lines. Just as they were repeating, for the twentieth time, the words " Down, down-- " sure enough, down fell Diddle 'em backwards. His fright-for he thought Old Nick had upset him-made him cry out lustily, which, added to the clatter of his armour, that he knocked down in his fall, caused such an uproar, that every one started to his feet. Their surprise was in no small degree heightened, by seeing a man's head, as it were, protruding through the floor. The fact was, that Downy's seat being placed upon part of the trap-door, which led to the sterling below, by this being upraised from beneath, he was, consequently, thrown over, and it was the head of the man who had lifted the trap which they now looked upon. The man, seeming to know the place well, at once mounted, and, looking around, as if in search of some one he expected to see there, enquired whether "the host were there, or gone to the devil ?"
" Marry, the host is here !" said Catchemayde, "and a right worshipful host he is-that is if you want the present one; but as you seem to be a stranger, mayhap 'tis he who was hanged some eight years agone, and if so, we have not yet received any news as to his present whereabouts."
Brassinjaw stood looking intently upon the stranger, but said not a word. At last, the company pointing him out, the man, after surveying him from head to foot, exclaimed-" That mine host ? no, no ! 'tis not he I sought; I know him not!" then looking closer, he continued, " and yet, there is a twinkle, and a roguery in that eye which seems familiar to me."
" Although you know not me," replied Brassinjaw, " I know you full well, notwithstanding that years have passed away, and you now come back, accoutred in the gear of a foreign soldier-a mercenary, as I should guess, from your patchwork style of arms-I know you, and you will, ere long, know me. But let us not stop the hilarity of this right festive eve by prosy explanations-for one night you are a welcome comer: what may after happen, will be the child of chance. Spikeley, be merry, as the guest of your once sworn friend, the saintly Father Brassinjaw."