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Chapter 11 At Guildhall

  • 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!"