Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century
Rodwell, G Herbert
THE day on which Edward Osborne had been rowed by Billy-the-, bridge-shooter up to Putney, proved a day of little less excitement to the good folk of the Bridge, than the day before (May-day) had been. All London soon became fully aware of the strange scene which had taken place during the tournament at Greenwich, and every house upon the eastern side of the old bridge, had its windows, and in many places its roof also, crowded with persons anxiously awaiting the return of those fatal barges, which seldom left the Tower but to revisit it, bearing some doomed victim of Henry's vengeance. It is true, the people of the city had for a long time past become so used to the shedding of blood, that, upon most occasions, an execution caused but little interest to any one, and passed by almost unnoticed; excepting, indeed, when a dash of novelty as regarded the style of performance was thrown in, to give a zest to the tragic scene-as in the case of the execution of the Bishop of Rochester's cook, which brought a great concourse into Smithfield-for it was not every day the horror-loving populace could feast their eyes with such a sight, as that of seeing a human being cast into a raging cauldron, and boiled to death.
The powerful interest now evinced by the worthy citizens, arose principally from the exalted station of the victim, whom every one plainly saw was already doomed to be immolated on the altar of Henry's lust.
" It's not every day," as Catchemayde observed, "that we can see a Queen burnt alive, and I am told, if she's found guilty, she will be."
"I wish I was a King," said Checklocke, who was looking out of the same window of the Cardinal's Hat, " I wish I was a King; it must be so prime to get rid of one's wife, whenever one sees a gal one likes better. If I only had a set of honourable, upright, Lords and Commons, and Judges and Juries, as Fatty has, who would burn their own fathers if he only held up his finger, would'nt I have a bran new wife ? ay- that I would, by the holy tongs of Saint Dunstan ! and that wife should be Flora Gray, dame Hewet's pretty maiden, who's now looking over the balcony yonder ;" and then kissing his hand to her, called out, "a right good morrow, pretty one."
" Don't be a fool," said Catchemayde; you'll have young Horton upon your back, for she says he's going to marry her."
"She says !-but what does he say ? there are generally two words to a wedding, and though she may say yea, he may say nay; for a man may say what he likes before marriage, though his wife wont let him
|. afterwards. No, no; if I'm aught of a conjuror, master Horton looks for something a little above her."|
Whether or not Checklocke meant his last words to carry a double meaning we cannot say, but certainly they might be so construed, for at that instant, Harry Horton, who was with Flora Gray in the lower balcony of the merchant's house, was casting an anxious glance to the one above, over the front of which was leaning, the lovely Alyce, her husband, and a young man magnificently attired. This young spark was an " exquisite," of the sixteenth century. Had it not been for the carefully-trained small moustache, discoverable upon the upper lip, his sex might have been doubted, for his dress consisted of a long kirtle, or petticoat, of the richest white damask silk, fastened in at the waist by a costly zone of jewels- the body was open in front, but laced across with cords of gold forming a stomacher, after the female fashion, through which was seen a chemisette of the finest foreign linen, embroidered richly with threads of Venice gold. Upon his head he wore a cap, or bonnet of white velvet bordered, and surmounted with splendid feathers; this covering for the head was jauntily placed very much on one side, purposely to show the caul, or netting of gold work, which enclosed his hair. Rings of precious stones adorned his fingers; and in his left hand he bore a silver scenter, or bottle highly chased, containing the most valued perfumes from Arabia. In his case, as in that of some we could point out of our own day, the " dandy" was permitted by nature to be the twin of genius. He was a poet! Now if a man but attempt poetry, he must of necessity be one who, at least thinks a little, and therefore elevates his own mind, although it may be but a trifle, above that of the common herd of nobodies.
Our dandy poet was called Sir Filbut Fussy. He was a young gentleman who always wanted to be doing something else-was very youthful, very handsome, very good natured, and very rich. Now a youth possessing all these advantages, and a turn for poetry and for music, was calculated to become a great favourite with the generality of the fair sex, and a great favourite Sir Filbut Fussy was. There was a gentleness in his manner, and a seeming sincerity in his attentions, that proved very dangerous to the female heart; not but some would have admired him more, had he put on a more manly bearing; but then they would have trusted him the less, and his great aim was to disarm them of all fear, and thus to make them weak by their own fancied security.
Sir Filbut Fussy, who had travelled much, was now entertaining the merchant's lovely wife with a description of an Italian meal, and raised her wonder, and a slight feeling of disgust, at the affectation of these Italians, whom she now learnt, for the first time, actually ate their dinners with a fork, instead of their fingers.
" Yes," said sir Filbut, " I can assure you such is the fact; and I do hope to see the day, affected as I own it must at first appear, yes, I hope to see the day when Italian forks, instead of alabaster fingers, will be employed by all my fair countrywomen, to raise the luscious morsel from their platters, to their heavenly lips."
" You really make me laugh, Sir Filbut," said Alyce; " only picture .
|to yourself, husband, a whole party of us seated round the board using such childish toys, it is really too ridiculous. And did you ever use one, Sir Filbut ?"|
I always do," was his reply; "I own I get greatly laughed at wherever I attend a banquet, when I draw forth this little case," saying which, he produced a small velvet casket, whence he took a very diminutive fork, made of Milan steel. " I believe," he said " I am the first who ever used a fork in England."
" And I hope you will be the last," said Hewet; "we have already too many foreign fancies brought here: since it has become the fashion of finishing a youth's education by sending him abroad, all our good plain old English ways are becoming subjects of ridicule and contempt with the rising generation."
" I wonder," observed fair Alyce, "our Queen, who, when plain Anne Boleyn was so much in foreign lands, has never yet rendered this affectation of the fork fashionable."
" That is easily accounted for," replied Sir Filbut; " the using of a fork would too much expose the sixth finger on her left hand; and we know her deformities are subjects she likes to keep concealed, witness the collar-band she wears about her neck, to hide the strawberry growing there."
"If all the reports be true," observed the merchant, " it will grow there but little longer; yet I cannot bring my mind to credit half the vile tales now circulating through the town, such wholesale depravity they accuse her with ! Why, even her own brother is already a prisoner in the Tower; and Alyce's poor music-master, Smeaton, too, he little thought, poor fellow, on the day he came to tell us of his great good fortune, as he then thought it, in being called at court the favourite minstrel of the Queen, how dangerous a post his talents had raised him to."
" But, still,' said Alyce, " so good and great a King as Henry is, would never act like this without some fair cause for doing so."
"You are right, sweet Alyce," said Sir Filbut, forgetting for a moment that her husband stood so near; he fortunately did not hear the tender expression, nor did he see the blush that suffused her angelic face-Sir Filbut marked it, but pretending not do so, continued, " quite right, it is a fair, a right fair cause, and that fair cause is fair Jane Seymour !"
" Why, Jane Seymour is one of the Queen's own maids of honour," observed Hewet.
" And was not Anne Boleyn one of Queen Catherine's own maids of honour ?" replied Sir Filbut; " if she supplanted good Queen Catherine, she pointed out the way for others to supplant herself; she lacketh wisdom, or she never would have had so fair a maid as Jane within the reach of one so quickly touched by beauty as is her own dear lord. He always had a penchant for maids of honour, although I fear me, not alway honourable maids."
Great crowds of boats now appeared in the distance, and then began loud shouts, and yells, and hootings, which continued until the barge containing Anne Boleyn, her uncle the Duke of Norfolk, her deadly foe
|. the Duke of Suffolk, Cromwell, and others of the Council, reached the water-gate of the Tower.|
The moment the boats had appeared in sight, Sir Filbut Fussy, who, as we have before said, always wanted to be doing something else, now took his leave, saying he would just go round to the Tower, see the Queen land, and having collected all the news he could, he would return at their evening meal to relate what he should have learnt, and give Alyce a lesson in the use of the Italian fork, and, if he might be allowed so great a happiness (here he slightly sighed), present her with one he had at his lodging, made of Venetian gold.
As Sir Filbut descended the dark stairs, he met Harry Horton, who, whispering, said-" How speeds your cause, good sir ?"
" But indifferently well," the other answered: " that dolt, her husband, never left us for a moment. I ventured once to say sweet Alyce; she blushed, but took it kindly-at least, she frowned not."
"Few fair onesfrown upon Sir Filbut, I would swear," said Harry.
Not many, truly," said the Knight. "Oh, no, where'er Sir Filbut Fussy goes, he's ever smiled at."
" And laughed at, too," thought Horton, within himself. "But, good Sir Filbut, have you thought further about the diamond you spoke of? There's nothing wins a woman half so soon as diamonds."
" I'faith, I have, and here it is; take it, good Horton, but, prithee, be careful of it, for it is a costly gem, and worth a dozen other women; but Alyce, pretty Alyce, is worth a dozen gems like that."
" And the purse for Flora ?" said Horton; " she's an avaricious jade, and said her services must be but lightly valued, if weighed by such a purse as that you sent her last. I wish, to my very heart, we could have done without her; but, as she was determined to use her eyes, I thought it best to fasten a golden chain about her tongue; at all events, I've kept her quiet: even you, yourself, would never guess that she knew ought of what was passing."
" You are, indeed, a friend," observed Sir Filbut, taking Horton's hand; " but how do you propose to give sweet Alyce the diamond bauble, so as not to raise suspicion ?"
" Leave that to me," was Horton's reply. " If once you see her wear it on her neck, you'll know it has been received right kindly. But, pray be cautious, Sir Filbut, and remember, it is gratitude alone that makes me act the part I do; but you have ever bound me to your service, by aiding to save me from the fangs of that vile Jew. Alas! alas ! that I should have ever been so weak; perhaps, with years, I may become as wise as you, Sir Filbut, and escape the snares so often laid for youth. I know not how to ask it-but-no, you have done too much already for my service-and yet, if he should take me for that debt, who then could be your friend in this affair ? I fear, for your sake, I must speak out-yes-yes, I must--"
" You alarm me !" said Sir Filbut. " Speak quickly, then, be whate'er it may."
" He swears he'll have me, or another hundred marks !"
"Is that all!" replied Sir Filbut, breathing more freely-" the money's yours." .
Too generous man !" replied Horton, with a voice almost stifled by overflowing gratitude, as he received this second purse; " but remember, it is but a loan. I keep a strict account, I can assure you, sir,-this makes the fifth hundred I have had." And you shall have five hundred more, if Alyce will but fly with me to Italy."
Hush, hush! walls they say have ears. I have fortunately got rid of my prying brother apprentice, and all for your good service.
Hark, I hear a footstep; farewell, and may good fortune smile upon so generous a friend."
Saying this, he re-entered the room he had come from, slamming the door suddenly, almost against the nose of poor Sir Filbut Fussy, who was about to make reply. Sir Filbut looked at the door for a moment with a gaze of intense meaning, as if about to ask it some question; but, we suppose, not expecting to get any answer, he turned away and proceeded towards the Tower.
"Any one would think, my dear," said the merchant to his fair dame, "you were half in love with Sir Filbut. I see but little in his poetry, that you extol so highly, and much less in himself to be admired."
"He must see enough in you to admire, William," Alyce replied; "for he is ever seeking your society."
"Any man who has a pretty wife, my dear, is seldom without some dozen butterfly attendants, fluttering about the sweet flower he has gathered to adorn his own breast with. Although I will not pay myself so ill a compliment, nor offer such an insult to my wife, as to be fearful of Sir Filbut, yet I had rather he stayed away a little more, or gazed at you a little less."
"Now you are jealous, my dearest husband, I am sure you are; and I am not sorry that you be; for it proves that Alyce is, in your dear eyes, still worth the guarding. Only be kind and true yourself, dear husband, and then you need fear nor sir, nor lord, nor duke! Believe me, that kindness and truth on a husband's part will seldom fail to prove the surest lock and key to secure a wife's affections." How much longer this dove-like téte-a-téte would have continued, Cupid alone can tell, but it was now put a stop to by the renewed shoutings and hootings which ascended from those upon the river. The barges stopped at the Tower, and it was at this moment, as history informs us, that the doomed Anne Boleyn fell upon her knees in the barge, exclaiming, " Oh, Lord, help me, as I am guiltless of that whereof I am accused !"
"It's a sad sight," said Alyce to her husband, " nd brings with it the sad reflection of how transient is man's love. It is but three years, this very month, that I stood here to behold the gorgeous pageant of bringing that same Queen in triumph, and from Greenwich, too, whence now she comes in such sad plight-three little years, and all is changed. The adored, the madly-beloved, Anne Boleyn, is now the despised Queen Anne. Yesterday was an evil May-day for her, poor soul! It is strange, but how many dreadful things have occurred in May. It was on the 19th of May--"
"That we were married," said Hewet.
"Now, that's unkind, William; do you consider that a dreadful thing ?" inquired Dame Alyce.
"No, no, my love; I didn't mean that-and Heaven grant it may never prove so ! Yet it is true. that in that fatal month we joined our hands, and hearts too, I hope. It was in May that Rome was sacked and Bourbon killed; it was in May the dreadful sweating sickness seized on London; we were courting then; how anxiously I used to watch and pray for you, dear Alyce ! Queen Catherine was tried in May; and it was in May, too, that good Sir Thomas More's misfortunes first commenced; and was it only last year in May, that John Houghton, the worthy prior of the Charter-House, with Webster, Lawrence, Reynolds, and John Hailes, were all drawn, hanged, and quartered ?"
" But you forget," said Alyce, "the darkest day of all, that happened nineteen years ago-the dreadful 'Evil May-day."
" Forget it, never! for on that day I first saw you-it was an evil May-day !"
Poor Hewet seemed to be very unfortunate in his manner of placing certain recollections; but not being aware himself of his apparent want of gallantry, he continued--" Ah! Alyce, you were a child then, like our own sweet Anne, and little did I think that evil day would fix my after fate."
The Queen being now safely lodged in the Tower, the crowds began to disperse ; the roofs and windows were soon deserted; the inhabitants of the bridge resumed their usual occupations ; and all the stream of life seemed to be again flowing on, as if no strange event had just occurred, or that there were no forebodings of troubles soon to come, worth one serious thought.
Being anxious to explain several circumstances which happened soon after the dreadful murder of the weaver, and the loss of Edward Osborne, we shall touch but lightly upon the promised return of Sir Filbut Fussy at the good merchant's evening meal; yet we must not omit to mention that, be the cause what it might, whether it were done to charm her husband, or flatter Sir Filbut Fussy, or only arose from female anxiety ever to be admired, it is certain that Alyce Hewet, on the evening in question, had bestowed more than common pains upon her personal attire. Her whole costume had been changed for one of richer style, and one that set off her lovely figure to the greatest advantage. The floor of the room, too, was newly strewn with fresh rushes, and that rather uncommon commodity in those days, the Turkish carpet, was brought out, not to be trodden under foot, but to be employed by way of a table-cover. This circumstance leads us to believe that the first carpets introduced into England were the small prayer-carpets used by all good Mussulmen. We, ourselves, have seen a Persian prayer- carpet employed in this way; and a very elegant table covering it makes to the eye, but is rather too thick and stiff for comfort to the touch.
When Sir Filbut Fussy did arrive, he had nearly swooned with ecstatic delight, on perceiving his splendid diamond adorning the fair neck of Alyce. So overpowering was its effect upon his nervous temperament, that now, instead of wishing, as was his wont, to be doing .
|something else, he now wanted to be doing everything at once. He soon delivered himself of all the load of information he had gathered at the Tower, of how Anne Boleyn, for he said-" Already she ceases to be called the Queen," was not to go into a dungeon, as many thought she should have done, but was to be a prisoner in the same apartment she slept in the night before her coronation; but that her two greatest enemies, her own relation, Lady Boleyn, and Mistress Cosyns, were to hold her under the most insulting espionage: that, although her five accomplices were not yet tried, and by most considered innocent, it was still perfectly understood, that Smeaton, the musician, would first be racked, then hanged-the others beheaded. " The only doubt," he said, " lay in the fate of Anne Boleyn; but about her there was certainly a doubt !"|
" Then the poor soul," said Alyce, with all a woman's pity for her sex in sorrow, " she may yet be saved ?"
"Saved !" replied Sir Filbut, slightly smiling at so preposterous a thought. "Saved! oh, no! the only doubt is whether she be sent to the block, or to the flames; knowing, as I do, the King's tender nature, I should say the latter: much will depend on what Jane Seymour wish. It was to please Anne Boleyn he beheaded Moore, so now he may, perchance, behead herself to please her rival, for he is wondrously obliging to the fair; however, we soon shall see, for Henry, we know, is far too good to keep his subjects in suspense. ' A little longer, and Nan's a little shorter,' I heard a smith facetiously observe, as I came by, and, perhaps, the smith was right: 'but what matter is it to us- a burning, or decapitation, will each alike be cause of holiday,' so say the people. By Apollo's self, fair Alyce, what a lovely lute !"
Sir Filbut sprang forward to examine a beautiful instrument the merchant's wife had just taken up, but in doing which, unfortunately, he trod upon the tail of her favourite little dog, who yelping, snapped so furiously at Sir Filbut's ankles, that taken off his guard, he kicked the animal nearly through the wall. Now, if there be aught on earth more likely than aught else, to put a sudden frustration to a lover's hopes, it is the accidental treading on a favourite poodle's tail-no matter what the love before, depend upon it, you are hated then-- hated ?-despised !
Sir Filbut Fussy felt all this, and hurried to redeem the ground he had lost, by flying to caress the " little dear ;" but here again a new disaster befel Sir Filbut, of scarce less magnitude than the first, for not perceiving the lute which Alyce had let fall when springing to her darling pet, he literally " put his foot in it," and as the strings became entangled in his broad roseats, he danced about in vain endeavours to kick off this overgrown unnatural-looking wooden shoe.
Now, the ladies of the olden time being more accustomed to chines of beef and nut brown ale than are the fair one's of our own day, Alyce let slip the finest opportunity of shewing off her proficiency in the fainting art that may occur once in a hundred years-no, there was then, we believe, more nature, therefore less hysterics, than is thought fashionable at present, so Alyce merely let fall a tear or two for her Juno's sufferings, and then began to smile at Sir Filbut Fussy's perplexing situation.
|. There were, however, one or two redeeming points about this unfortunate contretems in favour of Sir Filbut, for it enabled him to shew his tenderness of disposition by gently wiping the little dog's tear-filled eyes, and kindly kissing the little dog's wounded tail, which he did until he completely won, not only the forgiveness of the little dog, but of its mistress too. The affair of the lute was much more speedily arranged, for Sir Filbut sent one of his serving men in waiting, at once, to his lodging to fetch his own costly theorbo, which was a lute of larger dimensions than the common instrument, and which he now prayed, as he said, " on bended knee," and had her husband not been present, there is little doubt, but he would have prayed of her in that position, " to accept it as token of her forgiveness." His prayer as well as his theorbo being received, they all sat down to the evening meal with great good will. Sir Filbut insisted, in spite of all remonstrance from Dame Alyce, or her spouse, that little Juno should lie upon his lap, and be fed with the choicest morsels.|
A gentleman of Sir Filbut Fussy's rank being present, the table was laid out with holiday attention. Not a wooden platter was to be seen, as on common days, but all were polished pewter. The winter six months having ended at April, the salted viands, which always constituted the daily food, for half the year, of our good ancestors, now had given place to fresh meat, and to fowl, not that the feathered tribe were often seen but upon the tables of the upper classes. But our merchant, William Hewet, was a thriving man, and a rich, and could well afford vegetables when he would, as well as dainty birds, such as capons of Greece, although they cost a shilling and two groats a-piece, while common capons cost but sixpence each, and common cocks but threepence. But, notwithstanding Hewet was so prosperous and wealthy, he complained bitterly, as people always do, of the high price that food had reached. " He could not," he declared, " buy a whole sheep of any ' flesher,' no, not even if he went as far as butcher-row, without the walls, for less than two and tenpence: and hogs," he said, " were just as dear; three and eightpence was now the common charge; and even sucking-pigs would cost you sixpence; the common pullet was, perhaps, the cheapest thing at twopence, but if you wanted very good, they'd make you add another ha'penny: and as to eggs !" here the merchant really raised his eyes in horror--" yes, eggs! for tenpence, you could only get a hundred !"
I wonder what our London market people would say, in these our days, to such high prices!
The little golden fork was not forgotten; and Harry Horton, being the youngest there, having, as was his duty, carved the meat for his mistress in her platter, she almost choked herself with laughing at her own absurd attempt to use it as elegantly as did Sir Filbut.
What a moment of happiness and hope was this for Sir Filbut Fussy ' He had to guide her sweet hand to her sweeter lips; in doing so, it could not be wondered at, if he found it necessary to squeeze her delicate fingers slightly, which, we must confess, Sir Filbut did; but Alyce was too highly amused with what she herself was doing, to notice any little nnecessary pressure, which, no doubt, only arose from his anxiety, that
|she should hold the Italian fork in a manner not to let it drop. Now, the most apt scholar there turned out to be little Juno, for whenever Sir Filbut had loaded his own fork with a delicious morsel, and turned his head but for a moment to attend to his fair pupil, Juno quietly took it off and ate it. This had occurred more than once to the unconscious Sir Filbut Fussy, whose mind was lost in wandering about in fancy's fairest garden. He saw but one object-he felt but one sensation: it seemed to him, as if Hope herself were holding to his eye magnifying glass, through which but one bright star appeared-that star was Alyce Hewet. This delightful little scene of innocent flirtation might have lasted, we know not how long, had not Juno suddenly put a stop to it, by yelping horridly, as though he were in the act of strangulation. Imagine Alyce's horror, on looking at her favourite, whose eyes seemed starting from its head, to find Sir Filbut's fork nearly half way down its throat. The little animal had so much admired his new style of being fed, and observing a larger piece than usual, as he thought politely offered to him, made such a determined bite at it, that he had nearly swallowed fork and all. He was, however, soon relieved; but Dame Alyce declared, that from that moment, so dangerous an instrument should never again come within its reach. She took the dog into her own charge, then calling for her horn spoon, she, with that, aided by the use of the fingers of her left hand, finished her evening repast. She accepted of the golden fork, for she regarded it as a great curiosity; and she asked her husband, if he did not think it might be employed, very becomingly, as an ornament for the hair? After the surnap, or small upper tablecloth had been removed with the dishes, and a few of the scanty supply of fruits then to be obtained having been placed upon the table, accompanied by some flasks of those delicious sweet wines, Malmsey and Romney sacks, which then cost a shilling a gallon, the child-the lovely little Anne, was brought into the chamber.|
Sir Filbut Fussy, who knew full well, that next to a lady liking herself to be admired, generally feels pleasure in hearing her offspring praised, now threw himself into perfect raptures with the " little angel." As there was no doubt about the exquisite beauty of Anne, Sir Filbut declared he never beheld two countenances so exactly alike as those of Dame Alyce and her child; he scanned and compared every feature, one by one; but when he came to the comparison of the eyes, Sir Filbut Fussy looked'so languishingly into those of Alyce, and put on such a ridiculous expression of annihilating tenderness, that the good dame could no longer resist a smile, so feeling confused, she turned away, and proposed that they should have a little music.
" Ay, do, sweet one," said the merchant kindly to his wife, " and then I think Sir Filbut will in truth wish you had not got a husband." Sir Filbut did, but this he kept to himself; and honest Master Hewet went on-" Yes, Sir Filbut, when you have heard her, I am sure you will confess there is not in London town a prettier toucher of the virginals than Alyce Hewet."
Sir Filbut ventured to say--he did not think there could be a prettier anything in the whole world than Alyce Hewet; saying which he made 6
|. a profound bow to the lady, who, smiling, seated herself at the virginals, a sort of spinet, from which our modern pianoforte is derived.|
Sir Filbut seized upon the theorbo he had just presented to A'yce; the merchant, without being asked to do so, at once began to tune his rebeck, or three-stringed fiddle; Harry Horton took up a flute; and Flora Gray, who was really a very pretty singer, was desired to be the leader of the vocals. Now, at all amateur concerts, the greatest difficulty to be overcome, is getting the various instruments in tune one with the other. There is generally a great diversity of opinion in the ears of amateurs, and so it proved upon the present occasion. Now, there is another remarkable circumstance, and that is, should there be a husband present, that husband is sure to be the one most blamed. This also was exemplified upon the present occasion, for do what Master Hewet would. whether he turned the pegs up, or whether he turned the pegs down, he was always wrong.
Flora Gray, who, perhaps, saw something more than pleased her, ventured to advise her master to be "a little sharper!" but this had a contrary effect to what she had intended, for it made her mistress " a little sharper," who pettishly desired Flora to be still, observing, that " not only now, but whenever any gentleman played with her, and her husband accompanied them, she always found him a great deal too sharp."
It now became the turn of Harry Horton and Sir Filbut Fussy to tune their instruments together, but here there was more jarring than ever; Harry declared that " he was in perfect accord with his mistress," at which Flora nodded her head, as much as to say, she thought so too; "and," said Harry, " that being the case, Sir Filbut, you must follow my advice, and be sharper-sharper-sharper-sharper." Poor Sir Filbut screwed, and screwed, but do what he would, he could not get to be so sharp as Harry Horton. By degrees, Sir Filbut finding himself closer and closer to the lovely Alyce, and Flora Gray having received a kind look from Horton, and placed her arm unseen by any one, through his, and the merchant having turned his back upon the whole party, in order to look more easily at his music, they all suddenly discovered that they were perfectly in tune, and so the concert began.
Grand was the crash, as the reader may suppose, when so many fine performers struck up together. Away they played for dear life. What did it matter to them whether they came in at the right place or not ? Sir Filbut and Flora Gray felt that they were in the right place, so that was a good way towards things going on smoothly. The poor husband, as usual, came in for a sharpish reprimand, for when all else had left off, he kept on playing by himself for at least a dozen bars. This he accounted for by having turned over two leaves instead of one, so that he had all through been fiddling the accompaniment of a perfectly different piece of music, and in a different key too.
As a punishment, his wife desired him to sing a song, forgetting at the moment that the punishment would be theirs, not his-for Master Hewet never sang but one song in his life, and that was "Simon Frisell," a very ancient ballad, even three hundred years ago. As our gentle readers might like to know what really pure English was in those days.
|we will insert one verse of Master Hewet's ten verse infliction; thus it ran :|
The sound is certainly pleasing to modern ears, but means neither more nor less, than that-he rides through the city, amidst the rejoicings of his enemies, and that his head stands on the town bridge, close by that of William Wallace. The heads of Sir William Wallace and of Sir Simon Frisell-or Fraser, are supposed to have been the first ever placed above the Traitor's Gate, on Old London Bridge.
After this the pretty Flora sang a ballad, every verse ending with something about " Naughty Harry of the Hill." The words told a story that had often been told before, and has often been told since, that how a poor young girl loved a rich young man, much better than a rich young man loved a poor young girl; and that how she ultimately had to repent having listened to " Naughty Harry of the Hill."
Then Sir Filbut sang a song of his own authorship, and his own composition, but this was of a rather better order, for, with all his vanity and folly, Sir Filbut Fussy possessed many of the attributes of a real poet, and of the genius of a musician; we shall by-and-by, have a more fitting opportunity of criticising his poetical and musical capabilities, and shall, therefore, now pass him by with this general remark, that every word he sang was of love, and every line he sang with pointed emphasis towards the beautiful Alyce.
The entertainments of this charming evening, were wound up by a sort of round or chorus, each singing a verse, and the symphony was taken up by all the instruments, somewhat after the fashion of the modern Ethiopian Serenaders.
The words have been old for some hundreds of years, and in those days were universally admired, therefore there was no difficulty in each person present taking a verse. Like all really Old English Ballads, it was of an almost interminable length; but we shall only insert a few verses. It was a most appropriate ditty (the locality considered), for the words were as follow:-
The first verse was chanted by little Anne, and began-
" Then she must have been uncommonly heavy," observed Master Hewet, who was beginning to get a little tired of the concert, and was
|. about to state so, when Horton joined in, laying a strong emphasis upon the word "' we," as he looked at Sir Filbut:-|
Here Hewet gave a very loud snore, which proved that although. not 'with a gay La-dee," the man had fallen fast asleep. At this Flora sang, at the very top of her voice-
"What's that--what's that !" exclaimed Hewet, waking up with a start; and then, like a man who is suddenly called from his sleep to fulfil some important duty, he hurriedly bawled out-
"And, damn 'em-thrash 'em both within an inch of their lives !" We beg to apologise for swearing, but it was a very common habit in the sixteenth century. Even Queen Elizabeth was not exempt from that vice of the day, so we hope, as faithful chroniclers, to be pardoned.
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Alyce, " what ails you ?" She was really alarmed, for Master Hewet still stood in the centre of the room quite bewildered
" A thousand pardons, my dear Alyce," at last he said; " but I must have been dreaming; I've had such horrid visions flying through my brain, and mixing themselves up with that silly song. I'm afraid I've made myself more silly than the song itself."
The party now broke up, and each went their way.
Sir Filbut, as may be supposed, was in ecstacy at the progress he was sure he had made in the good graces of that queen of every grace, fair Alyce Hewet.
"Could any man on earth," he said, as he strolled homewards, "having so few opportunities of making himself agreeable to the fair, as he hitherto had had with Alyce, have done so much, in so little time, as he ? No !" he exclaimed, proudly, as if there could be any cause for pride, in succeeding in any act of villany. " She has kept my diamond- how beautiful it looked on her fair neck ! she has kept my lute-how lovely it will sound beneath her fair hand! And she has kept my golden fork---" Here he stopped, for he could not bring his mind to feel
|how lovely it would look as an ornament to her fair hair; not but at that moment he thought her so right in everything, that had she told him to stick it through his own nose, and wear it there for her sake, we verily believe he would have done so. As he passed beneath the Traitor's Gate. he started; for a voice, as if issuing from the very stones of the wall, sang pointedly, but oh! so sweetly-|
Then we must set a man to watch,
Ha, ha ! oh, oh ! he, he - !" screeched out the Cripple of the Bridge-gate Tower, for it was he who had thrust his misshapen head out through a little window in the wall, close to Sir Filbut's ear, and had thus startled him.
" Why, Willy," said Sir Filbut, " you are like a ghost; at every turn you haunt one. Why are you not up amongst your darling traitors ?"
"Because," replied the other, " I have a spike to spare, and came down to look for one darling traitor more."
" And have you found one ?" asked Sir Filbut, laughing.
" Perhaps you can tell me," was the Cripple's reply.
"If you mean me, certainly not. I'm too loyal ever to war against my King."
"Oh! there are other traitors," replied the Cripple, "than those who compass a king's death; for instance, he who secretly wars against a man's good name-he is a traitor! and he who wars against a maid's good fame-he is a traitor! and -"
"Enough, good Cripple, say no more ; you're far too quick for me to argue with. But I marvel not at your wisdom, seeing how many wise heads you always have at your command."
"Mind I do not place a fool's amongst them, by way of variety," said the Cripple, as he slammed to the casement.
Sir Filbut could not help laughing at the Cripple's retort, and having called out to him a loud " good night," continued his way towards his home. The Cripple was heard repeating the verse he had just sung, but now he altered the last line; for he said-