Page images

They bade each other farewell, with a pax vobiscum from Dr. Bell; and then Quartermaiue and the king made haste to Baynard's Castle.

if one of these modern buildings, these pasteboard domiciles, wherein dancing is forbidden as meaning disaster and destruction-surely, if one of these had seen an old-fashioned

"One of your friends I know," said the house, they would, for very shame, have king.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

tumbled into ruin, and so at once and for ever have retired from public life.

To this mansion in the West Change, under the shadow of St. Mary Arcubus, a pair of stout oaken gates formed the entrance, guarded by two sculptured griffins, and a sort of

"And the briefest acquaintance is the best, Daniel Lambert of the "olden tyme," who But who is this Sir Michael ? "

resided in a den or porter's lodge, who opened

"A Spanish knight, Sir Michael de la the gates for the ingress or egress of visitors, Pole."

[merged small][ocr errors]

and who sometimes answered questions, yet, being generally in a state of somnolency, this was unusual. Within the gates was a paved

"Ay, and thou art right. There is that in court-yard, surrounded on three sides by the this fellow which tells another story."

By this time they had arrived at the Three Cranes, and there, as the king had said, a boat awaited his coming.

"Before we part," said Henry, "it is but my right to offer a token of gratitude to the man who saved my life. Here is my ring. You will not refuse it ? A remembrancer, to be worn on the finger, of having befriended a king when he most needed it; ay, and a remembrancer also, good sir, that whatsoever thou shalt ask on the strength of this ring, so far as a king can grant it, granted it shall be." He took from his own finger a gold ring, with one beautiful jewel in it, and he pressed it into the hand of Quartermaine, who, bending down, kissed the hand that gave it. The next instant the king sprang lightly into the skiff, the plash of oars was heard, and o'er the unstable river the boat skimmed lightly.



On the northern side of the West Cheap, some few yards distant from the Cross, there stood, in the early part of the sixteenth century, a commodious and well-built mansion, possessing a sufficiency of timber and masonry to build a score of modern dwellings" Vic. toria" Terraces and "Albert" Squares, which now-a-days form the London suburbs. Surely,

mansion, with its gables and twisted chimneys, its galleries, its overhanging storeys, its quaint carvings, chiseled tracery, and beautifullyornamented windows its eaves and vanes.

Such was the dwelling of Sir Henry Keble, the burgher prince, the worshipful alderman of London.

At any time, and in all seasons, the old mansion in the Cheap looked gay and pleasant, whether 'twas in sultry July, when everything glowed in the sunlight, and the vanes and windows flashed back its glorious beams, when nature clothed the earth with verdure, and the flowers in prismatic hue bloomed forth and filled the air with fragrance, and when the drowsy serving-men lounged about, or stretched themselves at length upon the ground, neglecting quarterstaff and shuffle-board; or in winter time 'twas all the same, when bleak December reigned supreme, obliging everything around to wear a white top-coat, e'en then the mansion in the Cheap ranked gay and pleasant still, and forth from every window there poured a flood of ruddy light, merrily blazed the yule log, and from the oaken roof the holly-branch and mistletoe were hung, and the wassail-bowl went round gaily.

But on the eve of St. John, 1510, the appearance of the ancient mansion was more brilliant and splendid than usual, for Sir Henry Keble that night gave an entertainment to a numerous company,

Trusty squires, henchmen, and servitors,

crowded the court-yard, clad in the rich and gorgeous dresses of the period, and sounds of the wildest revelry arose, mingling with the strains of music hearty peals of merriment, the shouts and murmurs of the multitude without, and the crash and clangour of the joy bells; and although the host, Sir Henry Keble, was absent with the substantial citizens and Marching Watch, still gay groups of visitors came pouring in, and troops of serving men, reverend fathers, puissant knights, and demoiselles fair. A feeling of good-fellowship seemed to pervade the company assembled, and even the taciturn porter became pleasant and conversant, and from his "den" there came a steaming fragrance that told of wassail and burnt sack.

And there amongst the valiant champions and noble gentlemen came Michael de Pole (he who in Thames Street had accosted Ambrose Quartermaine), with his two friends, Dr. Bell and Sir Miles Partridge, attended by lacqueys bearing lanterns; and as Sir Michael dismounted before the wide portal the light fell full upon him. He was in height about six feet and half an inch, his figure exquisitely graceful and symmetrical, his age could not be more than two or three and twenty, a countenance intellectual and finely moulded, yet bearing so melancholy an expression that it saddened the heart to gaze upon, so wan and colourless withal, more like a beautiful sculpture than a living and breathing soul, but his eyes were as those of a gazelle, his forehead high and prominent, his hair black (save where some parts had prematurely turned to grey), with huge moustaches and a welltrimmed beard. But though his physiognomy might have been considered, upon the whole, handsome, there was still one irremediable disfigurement, the scar of a deep sword wound, descending from the upper part of the left ear across the lips to the right side of the chin. He was habited not in the English fashion, but in a tightly-fitting dress of purple velvet, a short cloak of the same material, and a bonnet to match, yet all without ornament, jewels, or even lace.

his neck were several massive chains from which hung precious relics and a crucifix of pure gold; whilst Sir Miles was a perfect marvel to behold, in his slashed doublet, placarded vest, clocked hose, and plumed bonnet in fact, the height of the mode.

Now, Dr. Bell and Sir Miles Partridge being personages whom the annalists of the period have thought fit to chronicle, omitting, for some strange and unknown cause, all mention of Sir Michael de la Pole, it will be more necessary at this portion of the history, to afford some account of what previously had been his fortune and occupation, he being more intimately connected with this chronicle than the valiant Sir Miles or Father Bell.

In the year 1487 there resided on the French coast (about a league and a half from Calais) a man known by the name of Jacques le Pécheur. He was honest, quiet, well disposed, and a good Catholic to boot, attending mass regular, keeping all the feasts and fasts, and sending every Shrovetide a present to the parish priest. On St. Michael's Day a terrible storm arose off the Gallic shore, in which several vessels were destroyed. Pécheur had ever a willing hand to stretch forth in aid of the distressed, so setting forth (careless of the raging hurricane), he, with several of his companions, arrived on the coast and succeeded in saving many of the shipwrecked mariners, and amongst them a young child, with a deep and freshly-made sword wound across its face; yet none of the seamen knew aught of the child and Pécheur, having a kind and gentle heart, albeit contained in a rough case, took the infant and gently bore it to his home, and he, with his dame, tended it, rearing it up as their own sou, and calling it "Michael le petit Pécheur."

The good priest of the village became his instructor, and he being a zealous scholar, the holy man soon relinquished his education, in consequence of his inability to teach him more. So Michael entered the band of a Spanish knight serving under the fifth Ferdinand, soon gained the rank of esquire and a reputation for his dexterity in wielding the His companions were very different in ap- poleaxe, and at length, at his majority, obtained pearance. The priest, Dr. Bell, though he from the hands of Ferdinand himself the honour wore the monk's hood and gown, had all his of knighthood, with the surname de la Pole. fingers bedecked with costly rings, and around | He had acquired a competent knowledge of

seven languages, no stranger to the philosophy of Aristotle, an excellent musician, skilled in chirurgery, and some said alchemy and the occult sciences.

Passing amidst the throng of guests and servitors, Sir Michael and his two friends, and amidst the respectful salutations of the domestics, ascended the broad oaken stair and passed into the hall, which was brilliautly illuminated and crowded by a vast and worshipful company.

of their discourse, speaking with taste and judgment of the works of Pietro Perugine, then at the height of his celebrity, of his pupil Raphael, of Michael Angelo, Masaccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Corregio, and Bartolomeo Baccio.

Sir Michael next joined the party who patronised the vine, and quaffed more wine than any of the others, yet without any visible effect; and when his companions would fain have retired, he pledged them in another cup, then with ease and grace that far surpassed the rest of the company, joined the mazy dance.

By this time, the sounds of clarions and shouts of the population proclaimed the host's

· 'Twas a gay and pleasant sight to behold
that goodly assemblage, glittering with gold,
with silver and jewels rich and rare, with the
nodding plumes and rustling silks and shining
-hauberks. Men of various degrees were pre-arrival.
sent-the fat bishop and the lean curate, the
valiant knight and the aspiring 'squire, stal-
wart citizens, noble gentlemen, mummers and
minstrels, with haughty dames and maidens
fair; whilst a man of short stature, yet stout
withal, and who acted as chamberlain, or major
domo, and who bore a white wand of office,
and got in everybody's way, went flying hither
and thither, setting everything to wrongs, and
shouting with a stentor's lungs his order to
the servitors.

The Spanish knight and his friends received a hearty welcome from the already assembled guests. Sir Miles joined a party who cast the dice, staking goodly sums on each throw, with anxious looks and muttered oaths; Dr. Bell, a select few liberal patrons of the vine; and Sir Michael joined a knot of learned men of the day, entering with apparent interest on the subject they discussed, speaking with ease, good sense, and ability, winning the hearts of those whom he addressed, and—when he quitted their circle for another-leaving a favourable opinion of his talents.

The party whom the knight now joined consisted of stalwart veterans who had seen much service, many having fought at Bosworth, Tewkesbury, and St. Alban's; yet these seemed equally pleased with what Sir Michael said. And so he passed on to the next group of sage antiquaries, whom he deeply interested by a recital of curious relics he had seen of Nero's Golden Palace, of Babylonian magnificence, and Egyptian toil; then, passing on to where some two or three aspiring artists had assembled, he entered at once into the spirit

Away went the major-domo, but soon returned, and, by a loud fanfare of trumpets, summoned them to the banquet. And a glorious banquet it was; yet, to chronicle the various dainties would be a needless task-to tell of the pyramids of provisions, baked, boiled, and roast the deluges of yppocras, wine, mead, and ale. It were vain to mention the men of sweetmeat, made with cunning craft, the vases filled with rare exotics that made the air seem heavy with their fragrance, and the wine which, in mimic cataracts, gushed forth from rocks of silver. "Twere a useless task, too, relating how Sir Henry Keble recounted to the select few who sat above the salt, and formed a noble company around himself, how he (the alderman) had all along known of the royal presence in the city, and how, during the passing of the pageant, Henry had telegraphed to him, signifying that the secret of his incognito should in no wise be disclosed, to relate what else the alderman went on to say, and in which his facility for invention greatly aided him, were needless. Yet, then the banquet had concluded and the guests arose, the Spanish knight passed on to where the circle grandee stood, saying, "I would fain speak to thee, Sir Henry, in private for a moment."

"Surely, surely," replied the alderman; and he led the way to a small chamber that overhung the courtyard. "Now, valiant chevalier," he said, "say on."

"I would know thy pleasure," Michael replied, "in regard to my suit to thy fair daughter, Mistress Alice ?"

The alderman paused for some moments,

and then inquired, "Know you that Master Quartermaine hath also made profession of his love?"

"Right well," returned Michael, "but I heed not that."

Again the alderman paused, perplexed, it seemed; then he continued, "It was an old custom in days of yore, for puissant knights, who loved a lady fair, to meet at tilt and tournament, and settle all disputes at lance's point; to-morrow there will be joustings on that verdant spot called Smithfield, there let the suitors of my daughter meet in their steel harness and run a tilt for beauty's sake, and he who is the victor shall have my full consent to wed fair Alice. Yet let not the matter be noised abroad, or men will jeer and laugh, and call it Keble's Folly."

"It's well," said Michael, "I'll make the matter known to Master Quartermaine, and on the morrow meet him at the joustings. "Tis not the first time that he hath crossed my path and foiled my purposes; yet not for him or a dozen such as he would I resign the hand of Mistress Keble. I thank thee for thine hospitality, Sir Henry, and will now depart."

"Nay," said the alderman, "wilt thou not tarry with us yet?" But Michael still refused, and bidding farewell to his entertainer quitted the chamber. The Alderman stood for some time perplexed, and muttering to himself in a strange way about the Spanish knight, with whom he seemed strangely fascinated, then tossing off a cup of yppocras, he left the room and joined his guests.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

stakes; then it was an open space with houses all about, and a large portion of it smooth, green, and level, with the venerable monastery

ANY one acquainted with that portion of of St. Bartholomew lifting its square tower

the great metropolis called West Smith field, would experience great difficulty in recognising the same spot were it possible for them to behold it as it appeared in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Now it is a wilderness of pens and posts-posts that might be the charred stumps of Smithfield

above the roofs of the surrounding buildings.

In Smithfield, on St. John's Day-the day succeeding that on which this story opensthere were joustings; and a goodly number of people were gathered there at an early hour.

Far as the eye could see there stretched a vast and wavering multitude, Men of all

stations and degrees were there: some on horseback, some on foot. The very trees bore living fruit, and every one in holiday garb; whilst men of a speculative turn erected frail stages, on which, for some small charge, one might stand to view the joustings, and enjoy the pleasant uncertainty as to the peril life and limb sustained by occupying them. Yet, notwithstanding the unstable character of these erections, their owners came in for a fair share of public favour, and reaped a goodly harvest. So did also the cooks, in their white jackets and caps, bearing steaming trays upon their heads, and shouting, "Hot! hot! hot!" and who, though they might not be the most accomplished in the culinary art, yet gratified the palates of their patrons by their dainty viands and mulled wines. Itinerant dealers of all sorts were there, advertising by strength of lung the wares they had for disposal; and from every side arose the cry, "What lack ye, my masters? What lack ye?"

A body of Arquebusiers had already assembled to preserve the lists from intruders, in which laudable undertaking they were aided by the javelin-men, in their corslets, helmets, and aprons of mail; the space appropriated to the jousting being marked by huge wooden barriers, commencing near the gates of the priory, and extending to the farther extremity of the field. Tents had been erected for the knights, and covered stages or pavilions for the nobles whose rank entitled them to respect, and for the dames and demoiselles who graced the tourney with their presence. Banners and pennons were unfurled, and cloth of gold and silver, rich tapestries, velvets, and costly silks; for those were days when men loved pomp and pageantry, unlike their degenerate descendants of the present time, who heed not outward splendour, and who must needs be wiser than their fathers, forsooth, with their Education for the Million! Drawing for the Million! and Music for the Million! and who would fain make the many equal with the few. Instead of leaving learning to the priests and nobles, like their ancestors of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they would presumptuously instruct the serf, making his knowledge equal to his lord's, and the forbidden fruit an every-day affair.

[ocr errors]

Oh, these are sorry times, indeed! When will such days as those of Bluff King Hal return, or the golden times when the "Roses" fought; when every "knyghte was true as his Toledo steel, and every "ladye" fairer than the dawn, and the peasant bore the yoke in silence; when maidens would unmoved behold their puissant champions enter the lists in their steel harness, and run a tilt for beauty's sake-à l'outrance! à la morte!

At the eastern extremity of the lists, beneath a canopy of cloth of gold, appeared a band of minstrels in grotesque habits; whilst Sir Henry Gates, with a file of hackbuttmen, preserved order throughout the vast concourse; and a body of the city archers, with their bows bent, were drawn up before the monastery, whose grey and venerable towers arose in solemn grandeur toward the azure vault; and the gilded crucifix surmounting the gateway, flashed in the rays of the morning sun, seeming, like that of Constantine, a cross of fire.

For some time the people were tolerably patient, relieving the monotony of waiting for the pageant by sundry witticisms at the expense of the officials on guard, and who received them with a very ill grace, threatening the "grinning varlets " (for by this endearing appellation they addressed the multitude) with the cage, stocks, aud pillory: and prophesying, in no very measured terms, that they would certainly expire at the Elms with hempen ruffs about their necks.

Presently a shout arose, and the next instant there rode into Smithfield from the Barbican, no less a person than Nicholas Sherring. He was mounted on a stout Flemish gelding; and behind him, accommodated with a seat on the same horse, rode Master Stuckley. They were both gaily habited; but Nick far exceeded his companion in the number of favours that he wore, presented to him by his lady loves: from one a garland, from another a bouquet, from a third a bunch of variegated ribands; and so on through a long catalogue. So numerous, indeed, were they, that Nick had suspended a number round his waist, like the scalps of an Indian warrior; and in his bonnet, fastened to the band, appeared a freshly-plucked marigold, culled for Nick by the fair hands of

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »