Page images
PDF
EPUB

The 'prentices fell back to give the players space; the crowd pressed eagerly on the barrier.

The two men-well matched in all respects -surveyed each other for a moment with a satisfaction that could not be concealed: then the play began.

The pastime of quarterstaff was certainly rather a rough and dangerous amusement for those who indulged in it: it wanted a firm stand, a strong arm, a quick eye, and an aptitude for taking some astounding blows without minding them. The result was generally a broken pate on the one side, sometimes on both sides. But Nick and the Yeoman of the King's Guard-for such by his attire he seemed to be-were well matched. The Buffetier played, not with the haste and warmth of a tyro, but with great skill and ingenuity, cleverly parrying every blow, but trying in vain to catch his opponent off his guard. At length, after "hammering away " for some time, Nick threw down his staff.

"We may clatter till Michaelmas," he said, "and leave off sound. You're a lad of wax, Master Yeoman, and worthy to wear the king's livery your haud."

“And thou art a proper fellow," quoth the Yeoman warmly, shaking him by the hand. "By St. Paul, I have heard much of what you London 'prentices can do with your clubs, but I never thought to find my match-nay, almost my master-within the city walls."

"Some of these lads," said Nick, "could *show thee that we can hurl the bar and twang a bowstring deftly, were the occasion and the place fitting."

"And why not fitting?" said a harsh voice, as a man none the better for the wine he had been drinking entered the enclosure. He was above the middle height; his countenance unprepossessing, without being ugly; his small grey eyes, peering forth from under protruding brows, gave an expression of cunning to his face that was anything but pleasant. He wore a murrey-coloured doublet, on the right arm of which was the gilded badge of the house of Wansted. Instead of leaping the barrier, as Nick and the Yeoman had both done, he ducked his head and bent his back, and came under the rail. "And why not fitting?" said he. "Shall I tell

you

[merged small][ocr errors]

"Measure your words, fair sir," said Sherring, or some of the boys may slice your tongue out before you quit us.”

It was plain enough that the fellow was not himself. He swayed a little in trying to stand firm, and said

'Let me see the man who says so-point him out to me-and by all the saints in the calendar, I'll make him dance to his own music.”

"I say so," said Nick.

"I say so," quoth the Yeoman.

The 'prentices drew closer; the crowd outside pressed hard upon the barrier.

"And I say you lie-you Master Nick of the Fustian Doublet, and you Master Redcoat I say it to your teeth."

The Yeoman laughed a great laugh as he stepped toward the tipsy meddler; and before that gentleman knew what was going to happen, lifted him by the collar about six inches from the ground, and shook him as he might have shaken a snarling cur.

"There," said he, when, amid a roar of laughter, he set him down, red and panting; "there go you to the conduit now and get a drink of water, then home with you, or you'll lodge in the Compter to-night, and sit in the stocks to-morrow."

The man, without a word, sprang upon him like a wild beast. As he lifted his hand to strike at the same instant, a steel blade was seen to glance in the light, and there was a sudden cry from the people. At that moment the barrier gave way, and the crowd rushed, like a pent-up sea that had broken its boundaries, all over the enclosure. The Yeoman and his assailant struggled fiercely together, for the man seemed to be gifted with superhuman strength, and to be resolved on using it. The sound of martial music, and the broad glare of light coming onwards from the Leadenhall Granary, divided the attention of the crowd; the bells from every city church crashed and slanged in joyful peals; and the shouts of the people became deafening. Sherring, by the sudden influx of the crowd, had been swept away to some distance from the scene of the struggle; those close at hand

offered no assistance, though there was a cry raised for the watch, and for clubs and 'prentices. Everything was in disorder as the Yeoman and his assailant wrestled together. Everybody felt that the Yeoman must get the best of it, but for the rascal's knife. Suddenly the Yeoman missed his footing, and fell at the mercy of his foe. A moment more and the knife would have been sheathed in his body, when a horseman, spurring through the crowd, struck the assassin with his heavy riding-whip, and bid him resist at his peril.

[ocr errors][merged small]

bands, who served as the pioneers of the procession, were endeavouring energetically to clear the road. The cressets, torches, and lanterns of the officers, brightly illuminated the space around, exhibiting, in picturesque confusion, the glittering and gorgeous civic cavalcade-the famous Marching Watch.

"To the Compter with both knaves," cried the officer of the watch; "they shall taste our civic hospitality to-morrow. Away with them;" then riding rather recklessly amongst the crowd, not careful as to whom his horse might overturn or trample, he cried out, "Way for the mayor-way for his worship the mayor!'

The procession came on; but the exeitement and confusion were so great, that much of its glory was unheeded. There was the

"He assaulted me, Master Quartermaine," he said, in a surly tone; "he began the brawl." "Not a word, Colner; my lord must know civic band-the mayor's own music-menof this."

The Yeoman was on his feet in an instant. “Thanks for this timely help, Sir Stranger," he said. "We must not blame my gentleman here too much he has seen the bottom of too many cups to-night to be quite himself; and perhaps the shaking I gave him failed to sober him. Enough: my best thanks are yours."

All this time the officers had been in vain endeavouring to clear the road for the approaching pageant. One of the mounted officials, forcing his way to the scene of the disturbance, rated everybody in no measured terms.

"So, these are the brawling varlets; these are the rogues who make the worshipful mayor to wait their pleasure! Away with them to the Compter! Marry, but the city is no bear-garden; we must make an example of the knaves. Sir-you in the king's liveryarrest him, officers! "

literally fighting their way with their brazen instruments through the crowd. Then came the officers of the mayor, in parti-coloured liveries; next, twenty picked men of the city watch, carrying huge lanterns suspended from poles, and borne on men's shoulders. Then the sword-bearer, in a suit of mail, bearing the symbol of his office, followed by mounted pages, dressed in doublets of red and white damask. Next came the worshipful mayor himself, on horseback, and wearing a gown of crimson velvet, the collar of S.S., the Rose and Portcullis, and other badges of his civic dignity. He was immediately followed by a giant of wondrous wild and terrible appearance, a man of lath and canvas, supported by four or five men inside: men who had as much as they could do to keep the giant perpendicular. After the giant came more of the mounted pages; then another pageant, so very alle. gorical that nobody but its deviser knew what it meant, and it was hinted that he was not

Two of the officers attempted to do the sure about it. Then came two hundred and bidding of their chief. forty more of the city watch, bearing lanterns.

"Ha! George!" cried the Yeoman; and, with a heavy blow, he levelled the foremost officer to the ground. But others pressed upon him; in vain he resisted; by force of numbers he was overpowered, struggling in his captors' grasp.

The pageant of the city watch had now fought its way through the crowd as far as the pavilion; and the body of the trained

Just then the Yeoman was roughly hauled past the spot where the captain of the watch was busy. The light of the torches fell upon his face, and as the captain gazed on it, his own turned deadly white.

"Let go your hold, knaves! he cried. "Mercy on me, what have I done? It's the king's own majesty !"

"The king! the king!" shouted the officer.

"The king!" roared the 'prentices; "the king! the king!" The sound was borne up and down the Chepe; but the Yeoman, the moment the officers ceased to hold him, dived in amongst the people, and was gone.

The mayor attempted to reach the spot; but all in vain. He spoke in his most magisterial tones, but was quite unheeded; and so the stately march was hustled on its way. The morrice dancers - an excellent companydanced in vain; the sheriffs-both popular men-rode by without a single cheer; giants and dragons were of no more account than sheep and oxen. The mysterious pageant, that had cost much money to the city, and sleepless nights to its inventors, failed to excite wonder or to win admiration. The carabineers, in their embroidered fustian coats, the demi-lancers, in half armour, received no applause. The billmen met with the same fate; so did the halberdiers. The

very archers -London's pride-with their bows bent and sheaves of arrows by their sides, received no shout of welcome, and not a cap was tossed.

For every one knew the king was there; and, according to their own accounts, every one had seen him; yet, so extraordinary were their statements, that they could not all be true. One credible witness averred that not ten minutes since he had seen the king, and knew him at a glance, disguised as a Dominican friar. Another equally credible witness was ready to take oath that the king was mounted on a hobby-horse in the procession. A third was equally positive that the king had come in the disguise of an old woman; and as a proof, he pointed ont a buxom matron at the front of the pavilion, who turned out to be the wife of Doget, the sheriff.

While these rumours spread abroad, where was the Yeoman?

DREAMLAND.

GRIEVOUS wrong they do to Somnus,
Who would liken him to death;

In his touch is no contagion,
Balm, not blight, was in his breath.
His are orphans' prayers, not curses,
From Death's bondage he redeems
Gentle friends whose smiles are sunshine
In the landscape of their dreams.
In his goblet, filled from Lethe,

Lies the antidote of care,
And the brows of Anger soften

When his poppy-wreath they wear. Sleep's a rock 'mid life's rough billows, Where those rest who else would drown; Innocence on thorns can slumber,

Guilt can not respose on down. Though o'er velvet floors of pleasure

Time glides noiselessly, nor breaks Luxury's rosy dream, harsh footfalls

On Want's naked boards he makes. But the hovel to a palace

By this conjurer's wand is turned, And, cast off like Sinbad's ogre,

Cares that weigh us down are spurned.

Then we, like the Eastern shepherd,
Catch a glimpse of paradise,
Where the lost sunshine of Eden
Dazzled even angel eyes;
Then, in fancy's panorama,

Rise those haunting forms that start From the corridors of memory,

Like embodied dreams of art.

Then beneath his native palm-tree, Free once more, the bondsman roves, And the beggar, like the sultan,

Roams all night through spicy groves. Then for spoils by Time the miser

Hid, we plough the classic plain; Then the old live o'er their boyhood, Shake down chestnuts in the lane.

And we, for the heart's herbarium, Gather flowers in dreamland born, Till the sky-lark, soaring to her

Golden window, wakes the morn.

[blocks in formation]

CHAPTER I.-THE DEEP ITSELF.

"The sea! the sea! the open sea!

The blue, the fresh, the ever free!"

IN the year 1860, Dr. G. Hartwig prefaced his work on 66 The Sea, and its Living Wonders" with the enthusiastic words-"For years my daily walks have been upon the beach, and I have learned to love the ocean as the Swiss mountaineer loves his native Alps, or the Highlander the heath-covered hills of Caledonia. May these feelings have imparted some warmth to the following pages, and serve to render the reader more indulgent to their faults." Unlike the worthy doctor, the present writer cannot boast an extensive personal acquaintance with the ocean and its inhabitants, though he hopes that he shares in some degree the enthusiasm. On the shore he has been, and that not merely once or twice, and has seen enough to make him love the subject, and to read with avidity what others have written about it; and the works of our naturalists and comparative anatomists are now themselves becoming like the ocean waters-voluminous and beautiful and full of treasures-inviting the dredge of the explorer. For the benefit of my young readers, I shall lower the dredging apparatus into both the natural and the literary waters, and regard all as fish that comes to my net. Therefore, to save myself endless trouble as I go on, and also to guard against the commission of injustice, I may as well apologise beforehand to Gosse and Hartwig, to Lewis and Kingsley, to Forbes and Woodward and Agassiz, to Rymer Jones, to all other great authorities, for the free use I shall make of their excellent works.

How dearly do Englishmen love the sea! Though born as far inland as their narrow isle admits of, they snuff the salt-breeze, and long to do battle with the billows;

"Others may use the ocean as their road,
Only the English make it their abode."

To the Englishman the sea is a passion, and its fascination makes him reckless of the consequences. How magnificently grand does the idea of ocean swell out in our imagination, when we consider that its various shores witness at one and the same time the rising and the setting of the sun, the darkness of night and the full blaze of day, the rigour of winter and the smiling cheerfulness of spring! And how vast does our thought of it become when we remember that "its waves have rolled above the cities of a world gone by," and that in its depths are hidden world on world of animated existence, strange and beautiful and wonderful! If we value the ocean because it bears our ships-if we admire it as being boundless, endless, and sublime,

DISTRIBUTION OF LIFE IN THE SEAS.

the image of eternity-we should surely dive into its depths with a sure anticipation that its recesses are filled with things of interest and value.

How large is the sea? The length of all the coasts which form the boundary between sea and land can only be roughly estimated; for who could measure with accuracy the numberless windings of so many shores? The entire coast line of deeply-indented Europe and her larger isles measures about 21,600 miles, equal to the circumference of the earth; and the entire coast line of the globe amounts to about 136,000 miles, which it would take the best pedestrian full twenty-five years to traverse from end to end. But the extent of coast line gives us little or no idea of the amount of water on the globe, for the length of coast might be greater, and the surface of the ocean become less in consequence, as would happen if Britain were lifted a mile out of the water, and as does happen whenever Vulcan throws up a new isle in the sea. However, of all the gods that divide the empire of earth, Neptune rules over the widest realms. If a giant hand were to uproot the Andes, and cast them into the sea, they would be engulfed in the abyss, and scarcely raise the general level The South American Pampas, of the waters. bounded on the north by tropical palm-trees, and on the south by wintry firs, are no doubt of magnificent dimensions, yet these vast deserts seem insignificant when compared with the boundless plains of earth-encircling ocean. Nay, a whole continent, even America or Asia, appears small against the immensity of the sea, which covers with its rolling waves nearly three-fourths of the entire surface of the globe.

Before we can estimate the volume of the ocean waters, we must ask-How deep is the sea? The first inquisitive navigators in the good old times might indulge in surmises; but only in these latter days could the question be answered. Until recent years, a continuous series of soundings had been rendered difficult by the fact of each sounding costing the ship a fresh line; for however strongly the line was made, when once out it could never be recovered. The Americans have invented a mode by which the weight, on touching the bottom, is detached, so that the line may be drawn back with ease. In the North Sea, Lord Mulgrave sounded to the depth of 4,680 feet without reaching bottom. Off the coast of Greenland, Captain Scoresby sounded with a line of 7,200 feet with the same result. The Baltic Sea has a depth of only 120 feet between the coasts of Germany and Sweden. The Adriatic, between Venice and Trieste, has

a depth of only 130 feet. The Mediterranean | rich rewards in this way, whether we scour is very deep, Captain Smith having sounded to nearly 6,000 feet at the south of the coast of Spain. The depths of the Pacific have as yet been very imperfectly explored; but soundings in the Atlantic have been so multiplied as to enable the celebrated Maury to draw a map which gives us, at least, a good general idea of the vales and mountain-chains, the shoals and abysses, of that great sea-bed. Between Sierra Leone and Cape San Rogue the valley of the Atlantic deepens in mid-ocean to 21,450 feet, gradually shelving up towards both continents. Between 33 and 40° north latitude the plummet has been lowered to the depth of 30,000 and even 40,000 feet-more than equal to the elevation of the Himalaya mountains; but naval surveyors are of opinion that the result may have been more or less deceptive, in consequence of a deflection of the line from the perpendicular by the drifting of the ship, or strong marine currents.

Where the data are so uncertain, we need not be surprised that philosophers have been puzzled to give us the figures representing the actual quantity of sea-water, and that where they have attempted it, their estimates differ widely one from another. La Place, allowing 12 miles as the average depth of the ocean, calculated the watery volume at 500,000,000 cubic miles; while De la Mettrie, who very sparingly allowed only from 1,200 to 1,500 feet for this estimate, gives 12,000,000 cubic miles as the result.

In these great depths what treasures may not lie! treasures of art and science, belonging to nations passed away; treasures of starry gems and burning gold, won from ten thousand royal argosies; treasures of pale, glistening pearls and rainbow-coloured shells-bright things which gleam unrecked of; treasures of human life-high hearts and brave. These last must wait the trumpet of the resurrection; but the rainbow-coloured shells, the corallines, the deep-sea corals and sea-stars, must be dredged up, and presented to the readers of these pages.

It would seem next to impossible to get at creatures that hide themselves away in ocean's caves but there are several helps offered by Providence to the persevering. Through the influence of sun and moon the ocean waters rise and fall in tides, and thus twice in every twenty-four hours, advancing and receding, they give opportunity for the observer to follow the retiring waves, and examine the living treasures left behind. If he knows where to look for them, how to see them when there, and how to secure them, he may fill jars and phials with ease. Then there are nets and dredges, and it is a fortunate thing for us that a large proportion of the dwellers in the deep keep near the shore-as much so as the old mariners in the days before the compass.

In most branches of science-at least, in astronomy, natural philosophy, and chemistry -it requires considerable talent, and even genius, to enable one to make discoveries. In natural history, however, we may look for

the woods in quest of new insect marvels, or explore the beach in search of wonders from the deep. Mr. Kingsley says there are along every sea-shore more things to be seen-and those to be seen easily-than in any other field of observation which you will find in these islands. And on the shore only will you have the enjoyment of finding new species-of adding your mite to the treasures of science. There is no reason why you should not be as successful as a friend of mine, who, with a very slight smattering of science, and very desultory research, obtained last winter from the Torbay shores three entirely new species, besides several rare animals which had occupied all naturalists since the lynx-eye of Colonel Montague discerned them fifty years ago. The art how to observe is, in our day (says Mr. Timbs), taught by shore lectures, in which Mr. Gosse and other naturalists take their pupils along the shore, and there illustrate the specimens which the waves have thrown up; just as botanists go herborising or rambling about for field flowers; or the members of the British Association make their geological excursions; and a learned professor lectures in a cathedral upon its architectural glories. There is nothing like having information to hand, so that you may get it the moment you want it; many an opportunity of getting it is lost for the trouble of stepping from one apartment to another to fetch the book which contains it.

On the land-with which we have some acquaintancee-we find a distribution of animals and plants. On crossing the Alps, for instance, the well-known vegetable forms of our native country leave us one after another; the beech, the fir, the oak, no longer meet the eye, or appear but rarely, and of more stunted growth; while in their stead, citron and olivetrees decorate the landscape; and, finally, on the shores of the Mediterranean the world of palms begins to disclose its beauties.

We may cross the earth from pole to pole, or follow the sun in its diurnal course; in all directions-from north to south, and from east to west-nature will be found to change her garments as we proceed, and never to resume again those she has once cast off. The plants and animals of the temperate and cold regions of the north are different from those of the analogous regions in the southern hemisphere; and in the tropical zone each part of the world nourishes its peculiar inhabitants.

Similar changes meet our eye as we ascend from the plains to the summits of high mountains. At the foot of Etna flourishes the luxuriant vegetation of a warmer sky-the palmetto and the pomegranate, even the cotton shrub and the sugar-cane; higher up, the cool shade of magnificent chestnut-wood refreshes our path; then follows the stately oak; until, finally, we attain the dreary height where all vegetation ceases in the dreadful cold of an eternal winter. With every thousand feet we rise above the level of the sea, we seem to have advanced nearer and nearer to the pole.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »