The royal barge, attended by its gorgeous fleet, took its stately way down th_hames through the wilderness of illuminated boats. The air was laden wit_usic; the river banks were beruffled with joy-flames; the distant city lay i_ soft luminous glow from its countless invisible bonfires; above it rose man_ slender spire into the sky, incrusted with sparkling lights, wherefore i_heir remoteness they seemed like jewelled lances thrust aloft; as the flee_wept along, it was greeted from the banks with a continuous hoarse roar o_heers and the ceaseless flash and boom of artillery.
To Tom Canty, half buried in his silken cushions, these sounds and thi_pectacle were a wonder unspeakably sublime and astonishing. To his littl_riends at his side, the Princess Elizabeth and the Lady Jane Grey, they wer_othing.
Arrived at the Dowgate, the fleet was towed up the limpid Walbrook (whos_hannel has now been for two centuries buried out of sight under acres o_uildings) to Bucklersbury, past houses and under bridges populous with merry-
makers and brilliantly lighted, and at last came to a halt in a basin wher_ow is Barge Yard, in the centre of the ancient city of London. To_isembarked, and he and his gallant procession crossed Cheapside and made _hort march through the Old Jewry and Basinghall Street to the Guildhall.
Tom and his little ladies were received with due ceremony by the Lord Mayo_nd the Fathers of the City, in their gold chains and scarlet robes of state,
and conducted to a rich canopy of state at the head of the great hall,
preceded by heralds making proclamation, and by the Mace and the City Sword.
The lords and ladies who were to attend upon Tom and his two small friend_ook their places behind their chairs.
At a lower table the Court grandees and other guests of noble degree wer_eated, with the magnates of the city; the commoners took places at _ultitude of tables on the main floor of the hall. From their lofty vantage-
ground the giants Gog and Magog, the ancient guardians of the city,
contemplated the spectacle below them with eyes grown familiar to it i_orgotten generations. There was a bugle-blast and a proclamation, and a fa_utler appeared in a high perch in the leftward wall, followed by hi_ervitors bearing with impressive solemnity a royal baron of beef, smoking ho_nd ready for the knife.
After grace, Tom (being instructed) rose—and the whole house with him—an_rank from a portly golden loving-cup with the Princess Elizabeth; from her i_assed to the Lady Jane, and then traversed the general assemblage. So th_anquet began.
By midnight the revelry was at its height. Now came one of those picturesqu_pectacles so admired in that old day. A description of it is still extant i_he quaint wording of a chronicler who witnessed it:
'Space being made, presently entered a baron and an earl appareled after th_urkish fashion in long robes of bawdkin powdered with gold; hats on thei_eads of crimson velvet, with great rolls of gold, girded with two swords,
called scimitars, hanging by great bawdricks of gold. Next came yet anothe_aron and another earl, in two long gowns of yellow satin, traversed wit_hite satin, and in every bend of white was a bend of crimson satin, after th_ashion of Russia, with furred hats of gray on their heads; either of the_aving an hatchet in their hands, and boots with pykes' (points a foot long),
'turned up. And after them came a knight, then the Lord High Admiral, an_ith him five nobles, in doublets of crimson velvet, voyded low on the bac_nd before to the cannell-bone, laced on the breasts with chains of silver;
and over that, short cloaks of crimson satin, and on their heads hats afte_he dancers' fashion, with pheasants' feathers in them. These were apparele_fter the fashion of Prussia. The torchbearers, which were about an hundred,
were appareled in crimson satin and green, like Moors, their faces black. Nex_ame in a mommarye. Then the minstrels, which were disguised, danced; and th_ords and ladies did wildly dance also, that it was a pleasure to behold.'
And while Tom, in his high seat, was gazing upon this 'wild' dancing, lost i_dmiration of the dazzling commingling of kaleidoscopic colours which th_hirling turmoil of gaudy figures below him presented, the ragged but rea_ittle Prince of Wales was proclaiming his rights and his wrongs, denouncin_he impostor, and clamouring for admission at the gates of Guildhall! Th_rowd enjoyed this episode prodigiously, and pressed forward and craned thei_ecks to see the small rioter. Presently they began to taunt him and mock a_im, purposely to goad him into a higher and still more entertaining fury.
Tears of mortification sprang to his eyes, but he stood his ground and defie_he mob right royally. Other taunts followed, added mockings stung him, an_e exclaimed—
"I tell ye again, you pack of unmannerly curs, I am the Prince of Wales! An_ll forlorn and friendless as I be, with none to give me word of grace or hel_e in my need, yet will not I be driven from my ground, but will maintain it!"
"Though thou be prince or no prince, 'tis all one, thou be'st a gallant lad,
and not friendless neither! Here stand I by thy side to prove it; and mind _ell thee thou might'st have a worser friend than Miles Hendon and yet no_ire thy legs with seeking. Rest thy small jaw, my child; I talk the languag_f these base kennel-rats like to a very native."
The speaker was a sort of Don Caesar de Bazan in dress, aspect, and bearing.
He was tall, trim-built, muscular. His doublet and trunks were of ric_aterial, but faded and threadbare, and their gold-lace adornments were sadl_arnished; his ruff was rumpled and damaged; the plume in his slouched hat wa_roken and had a bedraggled and disreputable look; at his side he wore a lon_apier in a rusty iron sheath; his swaggering carriage marked him at once as _uffler of the camp. The speech of this fantastic figure was received with a_xplosion of jeers and laughter. Some cried, "'Tis another prince i_isguise!" "'Ware thy tongue, friend: belike he is dangerous!" "Marry, h_ooketh it—mark his eye!" "Pluck the lad from him—to the horse-pond wi' th_ub!"
Instantly a hand was laid upon the Prince, under the impulse of this happ_hought; as instantly the stranger's long sword was out and the meddler wen_o the earth under a sounding thump with the flat of it. The next moment _core of voices shouted, "Kill the dog! Kill him! Kill him!" and the mo_losed in on the warrior, who backed himself against a wall and began to la_bout him with his long weapon like a madman. His victims sprawled this wa_nd that, but the mob-tide poured over their prostrate forms and dashed itsel_gainst the champion with undiminished fury.
His moments seemed numbered, his destruction certain, when suddenly a trumpet-
blast sounded, a voice shouted, "Way for the King's messenger!" and a troop o_orsemen came charging down upon the mob, who fled out of harm's reach as fas_s their legs could carry them. The bold stranger caught up the Prince in hi_rms, and was soon far away from danger and the multitude.
Return we within the Guildhall. Suddenly, high above the jubilant roar an_hunder of the revel, broke the clear peal of a bugle-note. There was instan_ilence—a deep hush; then a single voice rose—that of the messenger from th_alace—and began to pipe forth a proclamation, the whole multitude standin_istening.
The closing words, solemnly pronounced, were—
"The King is dead!"
The great assemblage bent their heads upon their breasts with one accord;
remained so, in profound silence, a few moments; then all sank upon thei_nees in a body, stretched out their hands toward Tom, and a mighty shou_urst forth that seemed to shake the building—
"Long live the King!"
Poor Tom's dazed eyes wandered abroad over this stupefying spectacle, an_inally rested dreamily upon the kneeling princesses beside him, a moment,
then upon the Earl of Hertford. A sudden purpose dawned in his face. He said,
in a low tone, at Lord Hertford's ear—
"Answer me truly, on thy faith and honour! Uttered I here a command, th_hich none but a king might hold privilege and prerogative to utter, woul_uch commandment be obeyed, and none rise up to say me nay?"
"None, my liege, in all these realms. In thy person bides the majesty o_ngland. Thou art the king—thy word is law."
Tom responded, in a strong, earnest voice, and with great animation—
"Then shall the king's law be law of mercy, from this day, and never more b_aw of blood! Up from thy knees and away! To the Tower, and say the Kin_ecrees the Duke of Norfolk shall not die!"
The words were caught up and carried eagerly from lip to lip far and wide ove_he hall, and as Hertford hurried from the presence, another prodigious shou_urst forth—
"The reign of blood is ended! Long live Edward, King of England!"