Part 3 out of 11
were the ready way to confirm him in his resolution of
retirement, should he know that his lady was haunted with such a
spectre in his absence. He would be for playing the dragon
himself over his golden fruit, and then, Tony, thy occupation is
ended. A word to the wise. Farewell! I must follow him."
He turned his horse, struck him with the spurs, and rode off
under the archway in pursuit of his lord.
"Would thy occupation were ended, or thy neck broken, damned
pander!" said Anthony Foster. "But I must follow his beck, for
his interest and mine are the same, and he can wind the proud
Earl to his will. Janet shall give me those pieces though; they
shall be laid out in some way for God's service, and I will keep
them separate in my strong chest, till I can fall upon a fitting
employment for them. No contagious vapour shall breathe on
Janet--she shall remain pure as a blessed spirit, were it but to
pray God for her father. I need her prayers, for I am at a hard
pass. Strange reports are abroad concerning my way of life. The
congregation look cold on me, and when Master Holdforth spoke of
hypocrites being like a whited sepulchre, which within was full
of dead men's bones, methought he looked full at me. The Romish
was a comfortable faith; Lambourne spoke true in that. A man had
but to follow his thrift by such ways as offered--tell his beads,
hear a mass, confess, and be absolved. These Puritans tread a
harder and a rougher path; but I will try--I will read my Bible
for an hour ere I again open mine iron chest."
Varney, meantime, spurred after his lord, whom he found waiting
for him at the postern gate of the park.
"You waste time, Varney," said the Earl, "and it presses. I must
be at Woodstock before I can safely lay aside my disguise, and
till then I journey in some peril."
"It is but two hours' brisk riding, my lord," said Varney. "For
me, I only stopped to enforce your commands of care and secrecy
on yonder Foster, and to inquire about the abode of the gentleman
whom I would promote to your lordship's train, in the room of
"Is he fit for the meridian of the antechamber, think'st thou?"
said the Earl.
"He promises well, my lord," replied Varney ; "but if your
lordship were pleased to ride on, I could go back to Cumnor, and
bring him to your lordship at Woodstock before you are out of
"Why, I am asleep there, thou knowest, at this moment," said the
Earl; "and I pray you not to spare horse-flesh, that you may be
with me at my levee."
So saying, he gave his horse the spur, and proceeded on his
journey, while Varney rode back to Cumnor by the public road,
avoiding the park. The latter alighted at the door of the bonny
Black Bear, and desired to speak with Master Michael Lambourne,
That respectable character was not long of appearing before his
new patron, but it was with downcast looks.
"Thou hast lost the scent," said Varney, "of thy comrade
Tressilian. I know it by thy bang-dog visage. Is this thy
alacrity, thou impudent knave?"
"Cogswounds!" said Lambourne, "there was never a trail so finely
hunted. I saw him to earth at mine uncle's here--stuck to him
like bees'-wax--saw him at supper--watched him to his chamber,
and, presto! he is gone next morning, the very hostler knows not
"This sounds like practice upon me, sir," replied Varney; "and if
it proves so, by my soul you shall repent it!"
"Sir, the best hound will be sometimes at fault," answered
Lambourne; "how should it serve me that this fellow should have
thus evanished? You may ask mine host, Giles Gosling--ask the
tapster and hostler--ask Cicely, and the whole household, how I
kept eyes on Tressilian while he was on foot. On my soul, I
could not be expected to watch him like a sick nurse, when I had
seen him fairly a-bed in his chamber. That will be allowed me,
Varney did, in fact, make some inquiry among the household, which
confirmed the truth of Lambourne's statement. Tressilian, it was
unanimously agreed, had departed suddenly and unexpectedly,
betwixt night and morning.
"But I will wrong no one," said mine host; "he left on the table
in his lodging the full value of his reckoning, with some
allowance to the servants of the house, which was the less
necessary that he saddled his own gelding, as it seems, without
the hostler's assistance."
Thus satisfied of the rectitude of Lambourne's conduct, Varney
began to talk to him upon his future prospects, and the mode in
which he meant to bestow himself, intimating that he understood
from Foster he was not disinclined to enter into the household of
"Have you," said he, "ever been at court?"
"No," replied Lambourne; "but ever since I was ten years old, I
have dreamt once a week that I was there, and made my fortune."
"It may be your own fault if your dream comes not true," said
Varney. "Are you needy?"
"Um!" replied Lambourne; "I love pleasure."
"That is a sufficient answer, and an honest one," said Varney.
"Know you aught of the requisites expected from the retainer of a
"I have imagined them to myself, sir," answered Lambourne; "as,
for example, a quick eye, a close mouth, a ready and bold hand, a
sharp wit, and a blunt conscience."
"And thine, I suppose," said Varney, "has had its edge blunted
"I cannot remember, sir, that its edge was ever over-keen,"
replied Lambourne. "When I was a youth, I had some few whimsies;
but I rubbed them partly out of my recollection on the rough
grindstone of the wars, and what remained I washed out in the
broad waves of the Atlantic."
"Thou hast served, then, in the Indies?"
"In both East and West," answered the candidate for court
service, "by both sea and land. I have served both the Portugal
and the Spaniard, both the Dutchman and the Frenchman, and have
made war on our own account with a crew of jolly fellows, who
held there was no peace beyond the Line." [Sir Francis Drake,
Morgan, and many a bold buccaneer of those days, were, in fact,
little better than pirates.]
"Thou mayest do me, and my lord, and thyself, good service," said
Varney, after a pause. "But observe, I know the world--and
answer me truly, canst thou be faithful?"
"Did you not know the world," answered Lambourne, "it were my
duty to say ay, without further circumstance, and to swear to it
with life and honour, and so forth. But as it seems to me that
your worship is one who desires rather honest truth than politic
falsehood, I reply to you, that I can be faithful to the gallows'
foot, ay, to the loop that dangles from it, if I am well used and
well recompensed--not otherwise."
"To thy other virtues thou canst add, no doubt," said Varney, in
a jeering tone, "the knack of seeming serious and religious, when
the moment demands it?"
"It would cost me nothing," said Lambourne, "to say yes; but, to
speak on the square, I must needs say no. If you want a
hypocrite, you may take Anthony Foster, who, from his childhood,
had some sort of phantom haunting him, which he called religion,
though it was that sort of godliness which always ended in being
great gain. But I have no such knack of it."
"Well," replied Varney, "if thou hast no hypocrisy, hast thou not
a nag here in the stable?"
"Ay, sir," said Lambourne, "that shall take hedge and ditch with
my Lord Duke's best hunters. Then I made a little mistake on
Shooter's Hill, and stopped an ancient grazier whose pouches were
better lined than his brain-pan, the bonny bay nag carried me
sheer off in spite of the whole hue and cry."
"Saddle him then instantly, and attend me," said Varney. "Leave
thy clothes and baggage under charge of mine host; and I will
conduct thee to a service, in which, if thou do not better
thyself, the fault shall not be fortune's, but thine own."
"Brave and hearty!" said Lambourne, "and I am mounted in an
instant.--Knave, hostler, saddle my nag without the loss of one
second, as thou dost value the safety of thy noddle.--Pretty
Cicely, take half this purse to comfort thee for my sudden
"Gogsnouns!" replied the father, "Cicely wants no such token
from thee. Go away, Mike, and gather grace if thou canst, though
I think thou goest not to the land where it grows."
"Let me look at this Cicely of thine, mine host," said Varney; "I
have heard much talk of her beauty."
"It is a sunburnt beauty," said mine host, "well qualified to
stand out rain and wind, but little calculated to please such
critical gallants as yourself. She keeps her chamber, and cannot
encounter the glance of such sunny-day courtiers as my noble
"Well, peace be with her, my good host," answered Varney; "our
horses are impatient--we bid you good day."
"Does my nephew go with you, so please you?" said Gosling.
"Ay, such is his purpose," answered Richard Varney.
"You are right--fully right," replied mine host--"you are, I say,
fully right, my kinsman. Thou hast got a gay horse; see thou
light not unaware upon a halter--or, if thou wilt needs be made
immortal by means of a rope, which thy purpose of following this
gentleman renders not unlikely, I charge thee to find a gallows
as far from Cumnor as thou conveniently mayest. And so I commend
you to your saddle."
The master of the horse and his new retainer mounted accordingly,
leaving the landlord to conclude his ill-omened farewell, to
himself and at leisure; and set off together at a rapid pace,
which prevented conversation until the ascent of a steep sandy
hill permitted them to resume it.
"You are contented, then," said Varney to his companion, "to take
"Ay, worshipful sir, if you like my terms as well as I like
"And what are your terms?" demanded Varney.
"If I am to have a quick eye for my patron's interest, he must
have a dull one towards my faults," said Lambourne.
"Ay," said Varney, "so they lie not so grossly open that he must
needs break his shins over them."
"Agreed," said Lambourne. "Next, if I run down game, I must have
the picking of the bones."
"That is but reason," replied Varney, "so that your betters are
served before you."
"Good," said Lambourne; "and it only remains to be said, that if
the law and I quarrel, my patron must bear me out, for that is a
"Reason again," said Varney, "if the quarrel hath happened in
your master's service."
"For the wage and so forth, I say nothing," proceeded Lambourne;
"it is the secret guerdon that I must live by."
"Never fear," said Varney; "thou shalt have clothes and spending
money to ruffle it with the best of thy degree, for thou goest to
a household where you have gold, as they say, by the eye."
"That jumps all with my humour," replied Michael Lambourne; "and
it only remains that you tell me my master's name."
"My name is Master Richard Varney," answered his companion.
"But I mean," said Lambourne, "the name of the noble lord to
whose service you are to prefer me."
"How, knave, art thou too good to call me master?" said Varney
hastily; "I would have thee bold to others, but not saucy to me."
"I crave your worship's pardon," said Lambourne, "but you seemed
familiar with Anthony Foster; now I am familiar with Anthony
"Thou art a shrewd knave, I see," replied Varney. "Mark me--I do
indeed propose to introduce thee into a nobleman's household; but
it is upon my person thou wilt chiefly wait, and upon my
countenance that thou wilt depend. I am his master of horse.
Thou wilt soon know his name--it is one that shakes the council
and wields the state."
"By this light, a brave spell to conjure with," said Lambourne,
"if a man would discover hidden treasures!"
"Used with discretion, it may prove so," replied Varney; "but
mark--if thou conjure with it at thine own hand, it may raise a
devil who will tear thee in fragments."
"Enough said," replied Lambourne; "I will not exceed my limits."
The travellers then resumed the rapid rate of travelling which
their discourse had interrupted, and soon arrived at the Royal
Park of Woodstock. This ancient possession of the crown of
England was then very different from what it had been when it was
the residence of the fair Rosamond, and the scene of Henry the
Second's secret and illicit amours; and yet more unlike to the
scene which it exhibits in the present day, when Blenheim House
commemorates the victory of Marlborough, and no less the genius
of Vanbrugh, though decried in his own time by persons of taste
far inferior to his own. It was, in Elizabeth's time, an ancient
mansion in bad repair, which had long ceased to be honoured with
the royal residence, to the great impoverishment of the adjacent
village. The inhabitants, however, had made several petitions to
the Queen to have the favour of the sovereign's countenance
occasionally bestowed upon them; and upon this very business,
ostensibly at least, was the noble lord, whom we have already
introduced to our readers, a visitor at Woodstock.
Varney and Lambourne galloped without ceremony into the courtyard
of the ancient and dilapidated mansion, which presented on that
morning a scene of bustle which it had not exhibited for two
reigns. Officers of the Earl's household, liverymen and
retainers, went and came with all the insolent fracas which
attaches to their profession. The neigh of horses and the baying
of hounds were heard; for my lord, in his occupation of
inspecting and surveying the manor and demesne, was of course
provided with the means of following his pleasure in the chase or
park, said to have been the earliest that was enclosed in
England, and which was well stocked with deer that had long
roamed there unmolested. Several of the inhabitants of the
village, in anxious hope of a favourable result from this
unwonted visit, loitered about the courtyard, and awaited the
great man's coming forth. Their attention was excited by the
hasty arrival of Varney, and a murmur ran amongst them, "The
Earl's master of the horse!" while they hurried to bespeak
favour by hastily unbonneting, and proffering to hold the bridle
and stirrup of the favoured retainer and his attendant.
"Stand somewhat aloof, my masters!" said Varney haughtily, "and
let the domestics do their office."
The mortified citizens and peasants fell back at the signal;
while Lambourne, who had his eye upon his superior's deportment,
repelled the services of those who offered to assist him, with
yet more discourtesy--"Stand back, Jack peasant, with a murrain
to you, and let these knave footmen do their duty!"
While they gave their nags to the attendants of the household,
and walked into the mansion with an air of superiority which long
practice and consciousness of birth rendered natural to Varney,
and which Lambourne endeavoured to imitate as well as he could,
the poor inhabitants of Woodstock whispered to each other, "Well-
a-day! God save us from all such misproud princoxes! An the
master be like the men, why, the fiend may take all, and yet have
no more than his due."
"Silence, good neighbours!" said the bailiff, "keep tongue
betwixt teeth; we shall know more by-and-by. But never will a
lord come to Woodstock so welcome as bluff old King Harry! He
would horsewhip a fellow one day with his own royal hand, and
then fling him an handful of silver groats, with his own broad
face on them, to 'noint the sore withal."
"Ay, rest be with him!" echoed the auditors; "it will be long
ere this Lady Elizabeth horsewhip any of us."
"There is no saying," answered the bailiff. "Meanwhile,
patience, good neighbours, and let us comfort ourselves by
thinking that we deserve such notice at her Grace's hands."
Meanwhile, Varney, closely followed by his new dependant, made
his way to the hall, where men of more note and consequence than
those left in the courtyard awaited the appearance of the Earl,
who as yet kept his chamber. All paid court to Varney, with more
or less deference, as suited their own rank, or the urgency of
the business which brought them to his lord's levee. To the
general question of, "When comes my lord forth, Master Varney?"
he gave brief answers, as, "See you not my boots? I am but just
returned from Oxford, and know nothing of it," and the like,
until the same query was put in a higher tone by a personage of
more importance. "I will inquire of the chamberlain, Sir Thomas
Copely," was the reply. The chamberlain, distinguished by his
silver key, answered that the Earl only awaited Master Varney's
return to come down, but that he would first speak with him in
his private chamber. Varney, therefore, bowed to the company,
and took leave, to enter his lord's apartment.
There was a murmur of expectation which lasted a few minutes, and
was at length hushed by the opening of the folding-doors at the
upper end or the apartment, through which the Earl made his
entrance, marshalled by his chamberlain and the steward of his
family, and followed by Richard Varney. In his noble mien and
princely features, men read nothing of that insolence which was
practised by his dependants. His courtesies were, indeed,
measured by the rank of those to whom they were addressed, but
even the meanest person present had a share of his gracious
notice. The inquiries which he made respecting the condition of
the manor, of the Queen's rights there, and of the advantages and
disadvantages which might attend her occasional residence at the
royal seat of Woodstock, seemed to show that he had most
earnestly investigated the matter of the petition of the
inhabitants, and with a desire to forward the interest of the
"Now the Lord love his noble countenance!" said the bailiff, who
had thrust himself into the presence-chamber; "he looks somewhat
pale. I warrant him he hath spent the whole night in perusing
our memorial. Master Toughyarn, who took six months to draw it
up, said it would take a week to understand it; and see if the
Earl hath not knocked the marrow out of it in twenty-four hours!"
The Earl then acquainted them that he should move their sovereign
to honour Woodstock occasionally with her residence during her
royal progresses, that the town and its vicinity might derive,
from her countenance and favour, the same advantages as from
those of her predecessors. Meanwhile, he rejoiced to be the
expounder of her gracious pleasure, in assuring them that, for
the increase of trade and encouragement of the worthy burgesses
of Woodstock, her Majesty was minded to erect the town into a
Staple for wool.
This joyful intelligence was received with the acclamations not
only of the better sort who were admitted to the audience-
chamber, but of the commons who awaited without.
The freedom of the corporation was presented to the Earl upon
knee by the magistrates of the place, together with a purse of
gold pieces, which the Earl handed to Varney, who, on his part,
gave a share to Lambourne, as the most acceptable earnest of his
The Earl and his retinue took horse soon after to return to
court, accompanied by the shouts of the inhabitants of Woodstock,
who made the old oaks ring with re-echoing, "Long live Queen
Elizabeth, and the noble Earl of Leicester!" The urbanity and
courtesy of the Earl even threw a gleam of popularity over his
attendants, as their haughty deportment had formerly obscured
that of their master; and men shouted, "Long life to the Earl,
and to his gallant followers!" as Varney and Lambourne, each in
his rank, rode proudly through the streets of Woodstock.
HOST. I will hear you, Master Fenton; and I will, at the
least, keep your counsel.--MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
It becomes necessary to return to the detail of those
circumstances which accompanied, and indeed occasioned, the
sudden disappearance of Tressilian from the sign of the Black
Bear at Cumnor. It will be recollected that this gentleman,
after his rencounter with Varney, had returned to Giles Gosling's
caravansary, where he shut himself up in his own chamber,
demanded pen, ink, and paper, and announced his purpose to remain
private for the day. In the evening he appeared again in the
public room, where Michael Lambourne, who had been on the watch
for him, agreeably to his engagement to Varney, endeavoured to
renew his acquaintance with him, and hoped he retained no
unfriendly recollection of the part he had taken in the morning's
But Tressilian repelled his advances firmly, though with
civility. "Master Lambourne," said he, "I trust I have
recompensed to your pleasure the time you have wasted on me.
Under the show of wild bluntness which you exhibit, I know you
have sense enough to understand me, when I say frankly that the
object of our temporary acquaintance having been accomplished, we
must be strangers to each other in future."
"VOTO!" said Lambourne, twirling his whiskers with one hand, and
grasping the hilt of his weapon with the other; "if I thought
that this usage was meant to insult me--"
"You would bear it with discretion, doubtless," interrupted
Tressilian, "as you must do at any rate. You know too well the
distance that is betwixt us, to require me to explain myself
further. Good evening."
So saying, he turned his back upon his former companion, and
entered into discourse with the landlord. Michael Lambourne felt
strongly disposed to bully; but his wrath died away in a few
incoherent oaths and ejaculations, and he sank unresistingly
under the ascendency which superior spirits possess over persons
of his habits and description. He remained moody and silent in a
corner of the apartment, paying the most marked attention to
every motion of his late companion, against whom he began now to
nourish a quarrel on his own account, which he trusted to avenge
by the execution of his new master Varney's directions. The hour
of supper arrived, and was followed by that of repose, when
Tressilian, like others, retired to his sleeping apartment.
He had not been in bed long, when the train of sad reveries,
which supplied the place of rest in his disturbed mind, was
suddenly interrupted by the jar of a door on its hinges, and a
light was seen to glimmer in the apartment. Tressilian, who was
as brave as steel, sprang from his bed at this alarm, and had
laid hand upon his sword, when he was prevented from drawing it
by a voice which said, "Be not too rash with your rapier, Master
Tressilian. It is I, your host, Giles Gosling."
At the same time, unshrouding the dark lantern, which had
hitherto only emitted an indistinct glimmer, the goodly aspect
and figure of the landlord of the Black Bear was visibly
presented to his astonished guest.
"What mummery is this, mine host?" said Tressilian. "Have you
supped as jollily as last night, and so mistaken your chamber?
or is midnight a time for masquerading it in your guest's
"Master Tressilian," replied mine host, "I know my place and my
time as well as e'er a merry landlord in England. But here has
been my hang-dog kinsman watching you as close as ever cat
watched a mouse; and here have you, on the other hand, quarrelled
and fought, either with him or with some other person, and I fear
that danger will come of it."
"Go to, thou art but a fool, man," said Tressilian. "Thy kinsman
is beneath my resentment; and besides, why shouldst thou think I
had quarrelled with any one whomsoever?"
"Oh, sir," replied the innkeeper, "there was a red spot on thy
very cheek-bone, which boded of a late brawl, as sure as the
conjunction of Mars and Saturn threatens misfortune; and when you
returned, the buckles of your girdle were brought forward, and
your step was quick and hasty, and all things showed your hand
and your hilt had been lately acquainted."
"Well, good mine host, if I have been obliged to draw my sword,"
said Tressilian, "why should such a circumstance fetch thee out
of thy warm bed at this time of night? Thou seest the mischief
is all over."
"Under favour, that is what I doubt. Anthony Foster is a
dangerous man, defended by strong court patronage, which hath
borne him out in matters of very deep concernment. And, then, my
kinsman--why, I have told you what he is; and if these two old
cronies have made up their old acquaintance, I would not, my
worshipful guest, that it should be at thy cost. I promise you,
Mike Lambourne has been making very particular inquiries at my
hostler when and which way you ride. Now, I would have you think
whether you may not have done or said something for which you may
be waylaid, and taken at disadvantage."
"Thou art an honest man, mine host," said Tressilian, after a
moment's consideration, "and I will deal frankly with thee. If
these men's malice is directed against me--as I deny not but it
may--it is because they are the agents of a more powerful villain
"You mean Master Richard Varney, do you not?" said the landlord;
"he was at Cumnor Place yesterday, and came not thither so
private but what he was espied by one who told me."
"I mean the same, mine host."
"Then, for God's sake, worshipful Master Tressilian," said honest
Gosling, "look well to yourself. This Varney is the protector
and patron of Anthony Foster, who holds under him, and by his
favour, some lease of yonder mansion and the park. Varney got a
large grant of the lands of the Abbacy of Abingdon, and Cumnor
Place amongst others, from his master, the Earl of Leicester.
Men say he can do everything with him, though I hold the Earl too
good a nobleman to employ him as some men talk of. And then the
Earl can do anything (that is, anything right or fitting) with
the Queen, God bless her! So you see what an enemy you have made
"Well--it is done, and I cannot help it," answered Tressilian.
"Uds precious, but it must be helped in some manner," said the
host. "Richard Varney--why, what between his influence with my
lord, and his pretending to so many old and vexatious claims in
right of the abbot here, men fear almost to mention his name,
much more to set themselves against his practices. You may judge
by our discourses the last night. Men said their pleasure of Tony
Foster, but not a word of Richard Varney, though all men judge
him to be at the bottom of yonder mystery about the pretty wench.
But perhaps you know more of that matter than I do; for women,
though they wear not swords, are occasion for many a blade's
exchanging a sheath of neat's leather for one of flesh and
"I do indeed know more of that poor unfortunate lady than thou
dost, my friendly host; and so bankrupt am I, at this moment, of
friends and advice, that I will willingly make a counsellor of
thee, and tell thee the whole history, the rather that I have a
favour to ask when my tale is ended."
"Good Master Tressilian," said the landlord, "I am but a poor
innkeeper, little able to adjust or counsel such a guest as
yourself. But as sure as I have risen decently above the world,
by giving good measure and reasonable charges, I am an honest
man; and as such, if I may not be able to assist you, I am, at
least, not capable to abuse your confidence. Say away therefore,
as confidently as if you spoke to your father; and thus far at
least be certain, that my curiosity--for I will not deny that
which belongs to my calling--is joined to a reasonable degree of
"I doubt it not, mine host," answered Tressilian; and while his
auditor remained in anxious expectation, he meditated for an
instant how he should commence his narrative. "My tale," he at
length said, "to be quite intelligible, must begin at some
distance back. You have heard of the battle of Stoke, my good
host, and perhaps of old Sir Roger Robsart, who, in that battle,
valiantly took part with Henry VII., the Queen's grandfather, and
routed the Earl of Lincoln, Lord Geraldin and his wild Irish, and
the Flemings whom the Duchess of Burgundy had sent over, in the
quarrel of Lambert Simnel?"
"I remember both one and the other," said Giles Gosling; "it is
sung of a dozen times a week on my ale-bench below. Sir Roger
Robsart of Devon--oh, ay, 'tis him of whom minstrels sing to this
'He was the flower of Stoke's red field,
When Martin Swart on ground lay slain;
In raging rout he never reel'd,
But like a rock did firm remain.'
[This verse, or something similar, occurs in a long ballad, or
poem, on Flodden Field, reprinted by the late Henry Weber.]
Ay, and then there was Martin Swart I have heard my grandfather
talk of, and of the jolly Almains whom he commanded, with their
slashed doublets and quaint hose, all frounced with ribands above
the nether-stocks. Here's a song goes of Martin Swart, too, an I
had but memory for it:--
'Martin Swart and his men,
Saddle them, saddle them,
Martin Swart and his men;
Saddle them well.'"
[This verse of an old song actually occurs in an old play where
the singer boasts,
"Courteously I can both counter and knack
Of Martin Swart and all his merry men."]
"True, good mine host--the day was long talked of; but if you
sing so loud, you will awake more listeners than I care to commit
my confidence unto."
"I crave pardon, my worshipful guest," said mine host, "I was
oblivious. When an old song comes across us merry old knights of
the spigot, it runs away with our discretion."
"Well, mine host, my grandfather, like some other Cornishmen,
kept a warm affection to the House of York, and espoused the
quarrel of this Simnel, assuming the title of Earl of Warwick, as
the county afterwards, in great numbers, countenanced the cause
of Perkin Warbeck, calling himself the Duke of York. My
grandsire joined Simnel's standard, and was taken fighting
desperately at Stoke, where most of the leaders of that unhappy
army were slain in their harness. The good knight to whom he
rendered himself, Sir Roger Robsart, protected him from the
immediate vengeance of the king, and dismissed him without
ransom. But he was unable to guard him from other penalties of
his rashness, being the heavy fines by which he was impoverished,
according to Henry's mode of weakening his enemies. The good
knight did what he might to mitigate the distresses of my
ancestor; and their friendship became so strict, that my father
was bred up as the sworn brother and intimate of the present Sir
Hugh Robsart, the only son of Sir Roger, and the heir of his
honest, and generous, and hospitable temper, though not equal to
him in martial achievements."
"I have heard of good Sir Hugh Robsart," interrupted the host,
"many a time and oft; his huntsman and sworn servant, Will
Badger, hath spoken of him an hundred times in this very house.
A jovial knight he is, and hath loved hospitality and open
housekeeping more than the present fashion, which lays as much
gold lace on the seams of a doublet as would feed a dozen of tall
fellows with beef and ale for a twelvemonth, and let them have
their evening at the alehouse once a week, to do good to the
"If you have seen Will Badger, mine host," said Tressilian, "you
have heard enough of Sir Hugh Robsart; and therefore I will but
say, that the hospitality you boast of hath proved somewhat
detrimental to the estate of his family, which is perhaps of the
less consequence, as he has but one daughter to whom to bequeath
it. And here begins my share in the tale. Upon my father's
death, now several years since, the good Sir Hugh would willingly
have made me his constant companion. There was a time, however,
at which I felt the kind knight's excessive love for field-sports
detained me from studies, by which I might have profited more;
but I ceased to regret the leisure which gratitude and hereditary
friendship compelled me to bestow on these rural avocations. The
exquisite beauty of Mistress Amy Robsart, as she grew up from
childhood to woman, could not escape one whom circumstances
obliged to be so constantly in her company--I loved her, in
short, mine host, and her father saw it."
"And crossed your true loves, no doubt?" said mine host. "It is
the way in all such cases; and I judge it must have been so in
your instance, from the heavy sigh you uttered even now."
"The case was different, mine host. My suit was highly approved
by the generous Sir Hugh Robsart; it was his daughter who was
cold to my passion."
"She was the more dangerous enemy of the two," said the
innkeeper. "I fear me your suit proved a cold one."
"She yielded me her esteem," said Tressilian, "and seemed not
unwilling that I should hope it might ripen into a warmer
passion. There was a contract of future marriage executed
betwixt us, upon her father's intercession; but to comply with
her anxious request, the execution was deferred for a
twelvemonth. During this period, Richard Varney appeared in the
country, and, availing himself of some distant family connection
with Sir Hugh Robsart, spent much of his time in his company,
until, at length, he almost lived in the family."
"That could bode no good to the place he honoured with his
residence," said Gosling.
"No, by the rood!" replied Tressilian. "Misunderstanding and
misery followed his presence, yet so strangely that I am at this
moment at a loss to trace the gradations of their encroachment
upon a family which had, till then, been so happy. For a time
Amy Robsart received the attentions of this man Varney with the
indifference attached to common courtesies; then followed a
period in which she seemed to regard him with dislike, and even
with disgust; and then an extraordinary species of connection
appeared to grow up betwixt them. Varney dropped those airs of
pretension and gallantry which had marked his former approaches;
and Amy, on the other hand, seemed to renounce the ill-disguised
disgust with which she had regarded them. They seemed to have
more of privacy and confidence together than I fully liked, and I
suspected that they met in private, where there was less
restraint than in our presence. Many circumstances, which I
noticed but little at the time--for I deemed her heart as open as
her angelic countenance--have since arisen on my memory, to
convince me of their private understanding. But I need not
detail them--the fact speaks for itself. She vanished from her
father's house; Varney disappeared at the same time; and this
very day I have seen her in the character of his paramour, living
in the house of his sordid dependant Foster, and visited by him,
muffled, and by a secret entrance."
"And this, then, is the cause of your quarrel? Methinks, you
should have been sure that the fair lady either desired or
deserved your interference."
"Mine host," answered Tressilian, "my father--such I must ever
consider Sir Hugh Robsart--sits at home struggling with his
grief, or, if so far recovered, vainly attempting to drown, in
the practice of his field-sports, the recollection that he had
once a daughter--a recollection which ever and anon breaks from
him under circumstances the most pathetic. I could not brook the
idea that he should live in misery, and Amy in guilt; and I
endeavoured to-seek her out, with the hope of inducing her to
return to her family. I have found her, and when I have either
succeeded in my attempt, or have found it altogether unavailing,
it is my purpose to embark for the Virginia voyage."
"Be not so rash, good sir," replied Giles Gosling, "and cast not
yourself away because a woman--to be brief--IS a woman, and
changes her lovers like her suit of ribands, with no better
reason than mere fantasy. And ere we probe this matter further,
let me ask you what circumstances of suspicion directed you so
truly to this lady's residence, or rather to her place of
"The last is the better chosen word, mine host," answered
Tressilian; "and touching your question, the knowledge that
Varney held large grants of the demesnes formerly belonging to
the monks of Abingdon directed me to this neighbourhood; and your
nephew's visit to his old comrade Foster gave me the means of
conviction on the subject."
"And what is now your purpose, worthy sir?--excuse my freedom in
asking the question so broadly."
"I purpose, mine host," said Tressilian, "to renew my visit to
the place of her residence to-morrow, and to seek a more detailed
communication with her than I have had to-day. She must indeed
be widely changed from what she once was, if my words make no
impression upon her."
"Under your favour, Master Tressilian," said the landlord, "you
can follow no such course. The lady, if I understand you, has
already rejected your interference in the matter."
"It is but too true," said Tressilian; "I cannot deny it."
"Then, marry, by what right or interest do you process a
compulsory interference with her inclination, disgraceful as it
may be to herself and to her parents? Unless my judgment gulls
me, those under whose protection she has thrown herself would
have small hesitation to reject your interference, even if it
were that of a father or brother; but as a discarded lover, you
expose yourself to be repelled with the strong hand, as well as
with scorn. You can apply to no magistrate for aid or
countenance; and you are hunting, therefore, a shadow in water,
and will only (excuse my plainness) come by ducking and danger in
attempting to catch it."
"I will appeal to the Earl of Leicester," said Tressilian,
"against the infamy of his favourite. He courts the severe and
strict sect of Puritans. He dare not, for the sake of his own
character, refuse my appeal, even although he were destitute of
the principles of honour and nobleness with which fame invests
him. Or I will appeal to the Queen herself."
"Should Leicester," said the landlord, "be disposed to protect
his dependant (as indeed he is said to be very confidential with
Varney), the appeal to the Queen may bring them both to reason.
Her Majesty is strict in such matters, and (if it be not treason
to speak it) will rather, it is said, pardon a dozen courtiers
for falling in love with herself, than one for giving preference
to another woman. Coragio then, my brave guest! for if thou
layest a petition from Sir Hugh at the foot of the throne,
bucklered by the story of thine own wrongs, the favourite Earl
dared as soon leap into the Thames at the fullest and deepest, as
offer to protect Varney in a cause of this nature. But to do
this with any chance of success, you must go formally to work;
and, without staying here to tilt with the master of horse to a
privy councillor, and expose yourself to the dagger of his
cameradoes, you should hie you to Devonshire, get a petition
drawn up for Sir Hugh Robsart, and make as many friends as you
can to forward your interest at court."
"You have spoken well, mine host," said Tressilian, "and I will
profit by your advice, and leave you to-morrow early."
"Nay, leave me to-night, sir, before to-morrow comes," said he
landlord. "I never prayed for a guest's arrival more eagerly
than I do to have you safely gone, My kinsman's destiny is most
like to be hanged for something, but I would not that the cause
were the murder of an honoured guest of mine. 'Better ride safe
in the dark,' says the proverb, 'than in daylight with a cut-
throat at your elbow.' Come, sir, I move you for your own safety.
Your horse and all is ready, and here is your score."
"It is somewhat under a noble," said Tressilian, giving one to
the host; "give the balance to pretty Cicely, your daughter, and
the servants of the house."
"They shall taste of your bounty, sir," said Gosling, "and you
should taste of my daughter's lips in grateful acknowledgment,
but at this hour she cannot grace the porch to greet your
"Do not trust your daughter too far with your guests, my good
landlord," said Tressilian.
"Oh, sir, we will keep measure; but I wonder not that you are
jealous of them all.--May I crave to know with what aspect the
fair lady at the Place yesterday received you?"
"I own," said Tressilian, "it was angry as well as confused, and
affords me little hope that she is yet awakened from her unhappy
"In that case, sir, I see not why you should play the champion of
a wench that will none of you, and incur the resentment of a
favourite's favourite, as dangerous a monster as ever a knight
adventurer encountered in the old story books."
"You do me wrong in the supposition, mine host--gross wrong,"
said Tressilian; "I do not desire that Amy should ever turn
thought upon me more. Let me but see her restored to her father,
and all I have to do in Europe--perhaps in the world--is over and
"A wiser resolution were to drink a cup of sack, and forget her,"
said the landlord. "But five-and-twenty and fifty look on those
matters with different eyes, especially when one cast of peepers
is set in the skull of a young gallant, and the other in that of
an old publican. I pity you, Master Tressilian, but I see not
how I can aid you in the matter."
"Only thus far, mine host," replied Tressilian--"keep a watch on
the motions of those at the Place, which thou canst easily learn
without suspicion, as all men's news fly to the ale-bench; and be
pleased to communicate the tidings in writing to such person, and
to no other, who shall bring you this ring as a special token.
Look at it; it is of value, and I will freely bestow it on you."
"Nay, sir," said the landlord, "I desire no recompense--but it
seems an unadvised course in me, being in a public line, to
connect myself in a matter of this dark and perilous nature. I
have no interest in it."
"You, and every father in the land, who would have his daughter
released from the snares of shame, and sin, and misery, have an
interest deeper than aught concerning earth only could create."
"Well, sir," said the host, "these are brave words; and I do pity
from my soul the frank-hearted old gentleman, who has minished
his estate in good housekeeping for the honour of his country,
and now has his daughter, who should be the stay of his age, and
so forth, whisked up by such a kite as this Varney. And though
your part in the matter is somewhat of the wildest, yet I will
e'en be a madcap for company, and help you in your honest attempt
to get back the good man's child, so far as being your faithful
intelligencer can serve. And as I shall be true to you, I pray
you to be trusty to me, and keep my secret; for it were bad for
the custom of the Black Bear should it be said the bear-warder
interfered in such matters. Varney has interest enough with the
justices to dismount my noble emblem from the post on which he
swings so gallantly, to call in my license, and ruin me from
garret to cellar."
"Do not doubt my secrecy, mine host," said Tressilian; "I will
retain, besides, the deepest sense of thy service, and of the
risk thou dost run--remember the ring is my sure token. And now,
farewell! for it was thy wise advice that I should tarry here as
short a time as may be."
"Follow me, then, Sir Guest," said the landlord, "and tread as
gently as if eggs were under your foot, instead of deal boards.
No man must know when or how you departed."
By the aid of his dark lantern he conducted Tressilian, as soon
as he had made himself ready for his journey, through a long
intricacy of passages, which opened to an outer court, and from
thence to a remote stable, where he had already placed his
guest's horse. He then aided him to fasten on the saddle the
small portmantle which contained his necessaries, opened a
postern door, and with a hearty shake of the hand, and a
reiteration of his promise to attend to what went on at Cumnor
Place, he dismissed his guest to his solitary journey.
Far in the lane a lonely hut he found,
No tenant ventured on the unwholesome ground:
Here smokes his forge, he bares his sinewy arm,
And early strokes the sounding anvil warm;
Around his shop the steely sparkles flew,
As for the steed he shaped the bending shoe. GAY'S TRIVIA.
As it was deemed proper by the traveller himself, as well as by
Giles Gosling, that Tressilian should avoid being seen in the
neighbourhood of Cumnor by those whom accident might make early
risers, the landlord had given him a route, consisting of various
byways and lanes, which he was to follow in succession, and
which, all the turns and short-cuts duly observed, was to conduct
him to the public road to Marlborough.
But, like counsel of every other kind, this species of direction
is much more easily given than followed; and what betwixt the
intricacy of the way, the darkness of the night, Tressilian's
ignorance of the country, and the sad and perplexing thoughts
with which he had to contend, his journey proceeded so slowly,
that morning found him only in the vale of Whitehorse, memorable
for the defeat of the Danes in former days, with his horse
deprived of a fore-foot shoe, an accident which threatened to put
a stop to his journey by laming the animal. The residence of a
smith was his first object of inquiry, in which he received
little satisfaction from the dullness or sullenness of one or two
peasants, early bound for their labour, who gave brief and
indifferent answers to his questions on the subject. Anxious, at
length, that the partner of his journey should suffer as little
as possible from the unfortunate accident, Tressilian dismounted,
and led his horse in the direction of a little hamlet, where he
hoped either to find or hear tidings of such an artificer as he
now wanted. Through a deep and muddy lane, he at length waded on
to the place, which proved only an assemblage of five or six
miserable huts, about the doors of which one or two persons,
whose appearance seemed as rude as that of their dwellings, were
beginning the toils of the day. One cottage, however, seemed of
rather superior aspect, and the old dame, who was sweeping her
threshold, appeared something less rude than her neighbours. To
her Tressilian addressed the oft-repeated question, whether there
was a smith in this neighbourhood, or any place where he could
refresh his horse? The dame looked him in the face with a
peculiar expression as she replied, "Smith! ay, truly is there a
smith--what wouldst ha' wi' un, mon?"
"To shoe my horse, good dame," answered Tressiliany: you may see
that he has thrown a fore-foot shoe."
"Master Holiday!" exclaimed the dame, without returning any
direct answer--"Master Herasmus Holiday, come and speak to mon,
and please you."
"FAVETE LINGUIS," answered a voice from within;" I cannot now
come forth, Gammer Sludge, being in the very sweetest bit of my
"Nay, but, good now, Master Holiday, come ye out, do ye. Here's
a mon would to Wayland Smith, and I care not to show him way to
devil; his horse hath cast shoe."
"QUID MIHI CUM CABALLO?" replied the man of learning from
within; "I think there is but one wise man in the hundred, and
they cannot shoe a horse without him!"
And forth came the honest pedagogue, for such his dress bespoke
him. A long, lean, shambling, stooping figure was surmounted by
a head thatched with lank, black hair somewhat inclining to grey.
His features had the cast of habitual authority, which I suppose
Dionysius carried with him from the throne to the schoolmaster's
pulpit, and bequeathed as a legacy to all of the same profession,
A black buckram cassock was gathered at his middle with a belt,
at which hung, instead of knife or weapon, a goodly leathern pen-
and-ink case. His ferula was stuck on the other side, like
Harlequin's wooden sword; and he carried in his hand the tattered
volume which he had been busily perusing.
On seeing a person of Tressilian's appearance, which he was
better able to estimate than the country folks had been, the
schoolmaster unbonneted, and accosted him with, "SALVE, DOMINE.
INTELLIGISNE LINGUAM LATINAM?"
Tressilian mustered his learning to reply, "LINGUAE LATINAE HAUD
PENITUS IGNARUS, VENIA TUA, DOMINE ERUDITISSIME, VERNACULAM
The Latin reply had upon the schoolmaster the effect which the
mason's sign is said to produce on the brethren of the trowel.
He was at once interested in the learned traveller, listened with
gravity to his story of a tired horse and a lost shoe, and then
replied with solemnity, "It may appear a simple thing, most
worshipful, to reply to you that there dwells, within a brief
mile of these TUGURIA, the best FABER FERARIUS, the most
accomplished blacksmith, that ever nailed iron upon horse. Now,
were I to say so, I warrant me you would think yourself COMPOS
VOTI, or, as the vulgar have it, a made man."
"I should at least," said Tressilian, "have a direct answer to a
plain question, which seems difficult to be obtained in this
"It is a mere sending of a sinful soul to the evil un," said the
old woman, "the sending a living creature to Wayland Smith."
"Peace, Gammer Sludge!" said the pedagogue; "PAUCA VERBA, Gammer
Sludge; look to the furmity, Gammer Sludge; CURETUR JENTACULUM,
Gammer Sludge; this gentleman is none of thy gossips." Then
turning to Tressilian, he resumed his lofty tone, "And so, most
worshipful, you would really think yourself FELIX BIS TERQUE
should I point out to you the dwelling of this same smith?"
"Sir," replied Tressilian, "I should in that case have all that I
want at present--a horse fit to carry me forward;--out of hearing
of your learning." The last words he muttered to himself.
"O CAECA MENS MORTALIUM!" said the learned man "well was it sung
by Junius Juvenalis, 'NUMINIBUS VOTA EXAUDITA MALIGNIS!'"
"Learned Magister," said Tressilian, "your erudition so greatly
exceeds my poor intellectual capacity that you must excuse my
seeking elsewhere for information which I can better understand."
"There again now," replied the pedagogue, "how fondly you fly
from him that would instruct you! Truly said Quintilian--"
"I pray, sir, let Quintilian be for the present, and answer, in a
word and in English, if your learning can condescend so far,
whether there is any place here where I can have opportunity to
refresh my horse until I can have him shod?"
"Thus much courtesy, sir," said the schoolmaster, "I can readily
render you, that although there is in this poor hamlet (NOSTRA
PAUPERA REGNA) no regular HOSPITIUM, as my namesake Erasmus
calleth it, yet, forasmuch as you are somewhat embued, or at
least tinged, as it were, with good letters, I will use my
interest with the good woman of the house to accommodate you with
a platter of furmity--an wholesome food for which I have found no
Latin phrase--your horse shall have a share of the cow-house,
with a bottle of sweet hay, in which the good woman Sludge so
much abounds, that it may be said of her cow, FAENUM HABET IN
CORNU; and if it please you to bestow on me the pleasure of your
company, the banquet shall cost you NE SEMISSEM QUIDEM, so much
is Gammer Sludge bound to me for the pains I have bestowed on the
top and bottom of her hopeful heir Dickie, whom I have painfully
made to travel through the accidence."
"Now, God yield ye for it, Master Herasmus," said the good
Gammer, "and grant that little Dickie may be the better for his
accident! And for the rest, if the gentleman list to stay,
breakfast shall be on the board in the wringing of a dishclout;
and for horse-meat, and man's meat, I bear no such base mind as
to ask a penny."
Considering the state of his horse, Tressilian, upon the whole,
saw no better course than to accept the invitation thus learnedly
made and hospitably confirmed, and take chance that when the good
pedagogue had exhausted every topic of conversation, he might
possibly condescend to tell him where he could find the smith
they spoke of. He entered the hut accordingly, and sat down with
the learned Magister Erasmus Holiday, partook of his furmity, and
listened to his learned account of himself for a good half hour,
ere he could get him to talk upon any other topic, The reader
will readily excuse our accompanying this man of learning into
all the details with which he favoured Tressilian, of which the
following sketch may suffice.
He was born at Hogsnorton, where, according to popular saying,
the pigs play upon the organ; a proverb which he interpreted
allegorically, as having reference to the herd of Epicurus, of
which litter Horace confessed himself a porker. His name of
Erasmus he derived partly from his father having been the son of
a renowned washerwoman, who had held that great scholar in clean
linen all the while he was at Oxford; a task of some difficulty,
as he was only possessed of two shirts, "the one," as she
expressed herself, "to wash the other," The vestiges of one of
these CAMICIAE, as Master Holiday boasted, were still in his
possession, having fortunately been detained by his grandmother
to cover the balance of her bill. But he thought there was a
still higher and overruling cause for his having had the name of
Erasmus conferred on him--namely, the secret presentiment of his
mother's mind that, in the babe to be christened, was a hidden
genius, which should one day lead him to rival the fame of the
great scholar of Amsterdam. The schoolmaster's surname led him
as far into dissertation as his Christian appellative. He was
inclined to think that he bore the name of Holiday QUASI LUCUS A
NON LUCENDO, because he gave such few holidays to his school.
"Hence," said he, "the schoolmaster is termed, classically, LUDI
MAGISTER, because he deprives boys of their play." And yet, on
the other hand, he thought it might bear a very different
interpretation, and refer to his own exquisite art in arranging
pageants, morris-dances, May-day festivities, and such-like
holiday delights, for which he assured Tressilian he had
positively the purest and the most inventive brain in England;
insomuch, that his cunning in framing such pleasures had made him
known to many honourable persons, both in country and court, and
especially to the noble Earl of Leicester. "And although he may
now seem to forget me," he said, "in the multitude of state
affairs, yet I am well assured that, had he some pretty pastime
to array for entertainment of the Queen's Grace, horse and man
would be seeking the humble cottage of Erasmus Holiday. PARVO
CONTENTUS, in the meanwhile, I hear my pupils parse and construe,
worshipful sir, and drive away my time with the aid of the Muses.
And I have at all times, when in correspondence with foreign
scholars, subscribed myself Erasmus ab Die Fausto, and have
enjoyed the distinction due to the learned under that title:
witness the erudite Diedrichus Buckerschockius, who dedicated to
me under that title his treatise on the letter TAU. In fine,
sir, I have been a happy and distinguished man."
"Long may it be so, sir!" said the traveller; "but permit me to
ask, in your own learned phrase, QUID HOC AD IPHYCLI BOVES? what
has all this to do with the shoeing of my poor nag?"
"FESTINA LENTE," said the man of learning, "we will presently
came to that point. You must know that some two or three years
past there came to these parts one who called himself Doctor
Doboobie, although it may be he never wrote even MAGISTER ARTIUM,
save in right of his hungry belly. Or it may be, that if he had
any degrees, they were of the devil's giving; for he was what the
vulgar call a white witch, a cunning man, and such like.--Now,
good sir, I perceive you are impatient; but if a man tell not his
tale his own way, how have you warrant to think that he can tell
it in yours?"
"Well, then, learned sir, take your way," answered Tressilian;
"only let us travel at a sharper pace, for my time is somewhat of
"Well, sir," resumed Erasmus Holiday, with the most provoking
perseverance, "I will not say that this same Demetrius for so he
wrote himself when in foreign parts, was an actual conjurer, but
certain it is that he professed to be a brother of the mystical
Order of the Rosy Cross, a disciple of Geber (EX NOMINE CUJUS
VENIT VERBUM VERNACULUM, GIBBERISH). He cured wounds by salving
the weapon instead of the sore; told fortunes by palmistry;
discovered stolen goods by the sieve and shears; gathered the
right maddow and the male fern seed, through use of which men
walk invisible; pretended some advances towards the panacea, or
universal elixir; and affected to convert good lead into sorry
"In other words," said Tressilian, "he was a quacksalver and
common cheat; but what has all this to do with my nag, and the
shoe which he has lost?"
"With your worshipful patience," replied the diffusive man of
letters, "you shall understand that presently--PATENTIA then,
right worshipful, which word, according to our Marcus Tullius, is
'DIFFICILIUM RERUM DIURNA PERPESSIO.' This same Demetrius
Doboobie, after dealing with the country, as I have told you,
began to acquire fame INTER MAGNATES, among the prime men of the
land, and there is likelihood he might have aspired to great
matters, had not, according to vulgar fame (for I aver not the
thing as according with my certain knowledge), the devil claimed
his right, one dark night, and flown off with Demetrius, who was
never seen or heard of afterwards. Now here comes the MEDULLA,
the very marrow, of my tale. This Doctor Doboobie had a servant,
a poor snake, whom he employed in trimming his furnace,
regulating it by just measure--compounding his drugs--tracing his
circles--cajoling his patients, ET SIC ET CAETERIS. Well, right
worshipful, the Doctor being removed thus strangely, and in a way
which struck the whole country with terror, this poor Zany thinks
to himself, in the words of Maro, 'UNO AVULSO, NON DEFICIT
ALTER;' and, even as a tradesman's apprentice sets himself up in
his master's shop when he is dead or hath retired from business,
so doth this Wayland assume the dangerous trade of his defunct
master. But although, most worshipful sir, the world is ever
prone to listen to the pretensions of such unworthy men, who are,
indeed, mere SALTIM BANQUI and CHARLATANI, though usurping the
style and skill of doctors of medicine, yet the pretensions of
this poor Zany, this Wayland, were too gross to pass on them, nor
was there a mere rustic, a villager, who was not ready to accost
him in the sense of Persius, though in their own rugged words,--
DILIUS HELLEBORUM CERTO COMPESCERE PUNCTO
NESCIUS EXAMEN? VETAT HOC NATURA VEDENDI;'
which I have thus rendered in a poor paraphrase of mine own,--
Wilt thou mix hellebore, who dost not know
How many grains should to the mixture go?
The art of medicine this forbids, I trow.
Moreover, the evil reputation of the master, and his strange and
doubtful end, or at least sudden disappearance, prevented any,
excepting the most desperate of men, to seek any advice or
opinion from the servant; wherefore, the poor vermin was likely
at first to swarf for very hunger. But the devil that serves
him, since the death of Demetrius or Doboobie, put him on a fresh
device. This knave, whether from the inspiration of the devil,
or from early education, shoes horses better than e'er a man
betwixt us and Iceland; and so he gives up his practice on the
bipeds, the two-legged and unfledged species called mankind, and
betakes him entirely to shoeing of horses."
"Indeed! and where does he lodge all this time?" said
Tressilian. "And does he shoe horses well? Show me his dwelling
The interruption pleased not the Magister, who exclaimed, "O
CAECA MENS MORTALIUM!--though, by the way, I used that quotation
before. But I would the classics could afford me any sentiment
of power to stop those who are so willing to rush upon their own
destruction. Hear but, I pray you, the conditions of this man,"
said he, in continuation, "ere you are so willing to place
yourself within his danger--"
"A' takes no money for a's work," said the dame, who stood by,
enraptured as it were with the line words and learned apophthegms
which glided so fluently from her erudite inmate, Master Holiday.
But this interruption pleased not the Magister more than that of
"Peace," said he, "Gammer Sludge; know your place, if it be your
will. SUFFLAMINA, Gammer Sludge, and allow me to expound this
matter to our worshipful guest.--Sir," said he, again addressing
Tressilian, "this old woman speaks true, though in her own rude
style; for certainly this FABER FERRARIUS, or blacksmith, takes
money of no one."
"And that is a sure sign he deals with Satan," said Dame Sludge;
"since no good Christian would ever refuse the wages of his
"The old woman hath touched it again," said the pedagogue; "REM
ACU TETIGIT--she hath pricked it with her needle's point. This
Wayland takes no money, indeed; nor doth he show himself to any
"And can this madman, for such I hold him," said the traveller,
"know aught like good skill of his trade?"
"Oh, sir, in that let us give the devil his due--Mulciber
himself, with all his Cyclops, could hardly amend him. But
assuredly there is little wisdom in taking counsel or receiving
aid from one who is but too plainly in league with the author of
"I must take my chance of that, good Master Holiday," said
Tressilian, rising; "and as my horse must now have eaten his
provender, I must needs thank you for your good cheer, and pray
you to show me this man's residence, that I may have the means of
proceeding on my journey."
"Ay, ay, do ye show him, Master Herasmus," said the old dame, who
was, perhaps, desirous to get her house freed of her guest; "a'
must needs go when the devil drives."
"DO MANUS," said the Magister, "I submit--taking the world to
witness, that I have possessed this honourable gentleman with the
full injustice which he has done and shall do to his own soul, if
he becomes thus a trinketer with Satan. Neither will I go forth
with our guest myself, but rather send my pupil.--RICARDE!
"Under your favour, not so," answered the old woman; "you may
peril your own soul, if you list, but my son shall budge on no
such errand. And I wonder at you, Dominie Doctor, to propose
such a piece of service for little Dickie."
"Nay, my good Gammer Sludge," answered the preceptor, "Ricardus
shall go but to the top of the hill, and indicate with his digit
to the stranger the dwelling of Wayland Smith. Believe not that
any evil can come to him, he having read this morning, fasting, a
chapter of the Septuagint, and, moreover, having had his lesson
in the Greek Testament."
"Ay," said his mother, "and I have sewn a sprig of witch's elm in
the neck of un's doublet, ever since that foul thief has begun
his practices on man and beast in these parts."
"And as he goes oft (as I hugely suspect) towards this conjurer
for his own pastime, he may for once go thither, or near it, to
pleasure us, and to assist this stranger.--ERGO, HEUS RICARDE!
ADSIS, QUAESO, MI DIDASCULE."
The pupil, thus affectionately invoked, at length came stumbling
into the room; a queer, shambling, ill-made urchin, who, by his
stunted growth, seemed about twelve or thirteen years old, though
he was probably, in reality, a year or two older, with a carroty
pate in huge disorder, a freckled, sunburnt visage, with a snub
nose, a long chin, and two peery grey eyes, which had a droll
obliquity of vision, approaching to a squint, though perhaps not
a decided one. It was impossible to look at the little man
without some disposition to laugh, especially when Gammer Sludge,
seizing upon and kissing him, in spite of his struggling and
kicking in reply to her caresses, termed him her own precious
pearl of beauty.
"RICARDE," said the preceptor, "you must forthwith (which is
PROFECTO) set forth so far as the top of the hill, and show this
man of worship Wayland Smith's workshop."
"A proper errand of a morning," said the boy, in better language
than Tressilian expected; "and who knows but the devil may fly
away with me before I come back?"
"Ay, marry may un," said Dame Sludge; "and you might have thought
twice, Master Domine, ere you sent my dainty darling on arrow
such errand. It is not for such doings I feed your belly and
clothe your back, I warrant you!"
"Pshaw--NUGAE, good Gammer Sludge," answered the preceptor; "I
ensure you that Satan, if there be Satan in the case, shall not
touch a thread of his garment; for Dickie can say his PATER with
the best, and may defy the foul fiend--EUMENIDES, STYGIUMQUE
"Ay, and I, as I said before, have sewed a sprig of the mountain-
ash into his collar," said the good woman, "which will avail more
than your clerkship, I wus; but for all that, it is ill to seek
the devil or his mates either."
"My good boy," said Tressilian, who saw, from a grotesque sneer
on Dickie's face, that he was more likely to act upon his own
bottom than by the instructions of his elders, "I will give thee
a silver groat, my pretty fellow, if you will but guide me to
this man's forge."
The boy gave him a knowing side-look, which seemed to promise
acquiescence, while at the same time he exclaimed, "I be your
guide to Wayland Smith's! Why, man, did I not say that the devil
might fly off with me, just as the kite there" (looking to the
window) "is flying off with one of grandam's chicks?"
"The kite! the kite!" exclaimed the old woman in return, and
forgetting all other matters in her alarm, hastened to the rescue
of her chickens as fast as her old legs could carry her.
"Now for it," said the urchin to Tressilian; "snatch your beaver,
get out your horse, and have at the silver groat you spoke of."
"Nay, but tarry, tarry," said the preceptor--"SUFFLAMINA,
"Tarry yourself," said Dickie, "and think what answer you are to
make to granny for sending me post to the devil."
The teacher, aware of the responsibility he was incurring,
bustled up in great haste to lay hold of the urchin and to
prevent his departure; but Dickie slipped through his fingers,
bolted from the cottage, and sped him to the top of a
neighbouring rising ground, while the preceptor, despairing, by
well-taught experience, of recovering his pupil by speed of foot,
had recourse to the most honied epithets the Latin vocabulary
affords to persuade his return. But to MI ANIME, CORCULUM MEUM,
and all such classical endearments, the truant turned a deaf ear,
and kept frisking on the top of the rising ground like a goblin
by moonlight, making signs to his new acquaintance, Tressilian,
to follow him.
The traveller lost no time in getting out his horse and departing
to join his elvish guide, after half-forcing on the poor,
deserted teacher a recompense for the entertainment he had
received, which partly allayed that terror he had for facing the
return of the old lady of the mansion. Apparently this took
place soon afterwards; for ere Tressilian and his guide had
proceeded far on their journey, they heard the screams of a
cracked female voice, intermingled with the classical
objurgations of Master Erasmus Holiday. But Dickie Sludge,
equally deaf to the voice of maternal tenderness and of
magisterial authority, skipped on unconsciously before
Tressilian, only observing that "if they cried themselves hoarse,
they might go lick the honey-pot, for he had eaten up all the
honey-comb himself on yesterday even."
There entering in, they found the goodman selfe
Full busylie unto his work ybent,
Who was to weet a wretched wearish elf,
With hollow eyes and rawbone cheeks forspent,
As if he had been long in prison pent. THE FAERY QUEENE.
"Are we far from the dwelling of this smith, my pretty lad?"
said Tressilian to his young guide.
"How is it you call me?" said the boy, looking askew at him with
his sharp, grey eyes.
"I call you my pretty lad--is there any offence in that, my boy?"
"No; but were you with my grandam and Dominie Holiday, you might
sing chorus to the old song of
"And why so, my little man?" said Tressilian.
"Because," answered the ugly urchin, "you are the only three ever
called me pretty lad. Now my grandam does it because she is
parcel blind by age, and whole blind by kindred; and my master,
the poor Dominie, does it to curry favour, and have the fullest
platter of furmity and the warmest seat by the fire. But what
you call me pretty lad for, you know best yourself."
"Thou art a sharp wag at least, if not a pretty one. But what do
thy playfellows call thee?"
"Hobgoblin," answered the boy readily; "but for all that, I would
rather have my own ugly viznomy than any of their jolter-heads,
that have no more brains in them than a brick-bat."
"Then you fear not this smith whom you are going to see?"
"Me fear him!" answered the boy. "If he were the devil folk
think him, I would not fear him; but though there is something
queer about him, he's no more a devil than you are, and that's
what I would not tell to every one."
"And why do you tell it to me, then, my boy?" said Tressilian.
"Because you are another guess gentleman than those we see here
every day," replied Dickie; "and though I am as ugly as sin, I
would not have you think me an ass, especially as I may have a
boon to ask of you one day."
"And what is that, my lad, whom I must not call pretty?" replied
"Oh, if I were to ask it just now," said the boy, "you would deny
it me; but I will wait till we meet at court."
"At court, Richard! are you bound for court?" said Tressilian.
"Ay, ay, that's just like the rest of them," replied the boy. "I
warrant me, you think, what should such an ill-favoured,
scrambling urchin do at court? But let Richard Sludge alone; I
have not been cock of the roost here for nothing. I will make
sharp wit mend foul feature."
"But what will your grandam say, and your tutor, Dominie
"E'en what they like," replied Dickie; "the one has her chickens
to reckon, and the other has his boys to whip. I would have
given them the candle to hold long since, and shown this trumpery
hamlet a fair pair of heels, but that Dominie promises I should
go with him to bear share in the next pageant he is to set forth,
and they say there are to be great revels shortly."
"And whereabouts are they to be held, my little friend?" said
"Oh, at some castle far in the north," answered his guide--"a
world's breadth from Berkshire. But our old Dominie holds that
they cannot go forward without him; and it may be he is right,
for he has put in order many a fair pageant. He is not half the
fool you would take him for, when he gets to work he understands;
and so he can spout verses like a play-actor, when, God wot, if
you set him to steal a goose's egg, he would be drubbed by the
"And you are to play a part in his next show?" said Tressilian,
somewhat interested by the boy's boldness of conversation and
shrewd estimate of character.
"In faith," said Richard Sludge, in answer, "he hath so promised
me; and if he break his word, it will be the worse for him, for
let me take the bit between my teeth, and turn my head downhill,
and I will shake him off with a fall that may harm his bones.
And I should not like much to hurt him neither," said he, "for
the tiresome old fool has painfully laboured to teach me all he
could. But enough of that--here are we at Wayland Smith's forge-
"You jest, my little friend," said Tressilian; "here is nothing
but a bare moor, and that ring of stones, with a great one in the
midst, like a Cornish barrow."
"Ay, and that great flat stone in the midst, which lies across
the top of these uprights," said the boy, "is Wayland Smith's
counter, that you must tell down your money upon."
"What do you mean by such folly?" said the traveller, beginning
to be angry with the boy, and vexed with himself for having
trusted such a hare-brained guide.
"Why," said Dickie, with a grin, "you must tie your horse to that
upright stone that has the ring in't, and then you must whistle
three times, and lay me down your silver groat on that other flat
stone, walk out of the circle, sit down on the west side of that
little thicket of bushes, and take heed you look neither to right
nor to left for ten minutes, or so long as you shall hear the
hammer clink, and whenever it ceases, say your prayers for the
space you could tell a hundred--or count over a hundred, which
will do as well--and then come into the circle; you will find
your money gone and your horse shod."
"My money gone to a certainty!" said Tressilian; "but as for the
rest--Hark ye, my lad, I am not your school-master, but if you
play off your waggery on me, I will take a part of his task off
his hands, and punish you to purpose."
"Ay, when you catch me!" said the boy; and presently took to his
heels across the heath, with a velocity which baffled every
attempt of Tressilian to overtake him, loaded as he was with his
heavy boots. Nor was it the least provoking part of the urchin's
conduct, that he did not exert his utmost speed, like one who
finds himself in danger, or who is frightened, but preserved just
such a rate as to encourage Tressilian to continue the chase, and
then darted away from him with the swiftness of the wind, when
his pursuer supposed he had nearly run him down, doubling at the
same time, and winding, so as always to keep near the place from
which he started.
This lasted until Tressilian, from very weariness, stood still,
and was about to abandon the pursuit with a hearty curse on the
ill-favoured urchin, who had engaged him in an exercise so
ridiculous. But the boy, who had, as formerly, planted himself
on the top of a hillock close in front, began to clap his long,
thin hands, point with his skinny fingers, and twist his wild and
ugly features into such an extravagant expression of laughter and
derision, that Tressilian began half to doubt whether he had not
in view an actual hobgoblin.
Provoked extremely, yet at the same time feeling an irresistible
desire to laugh, so very odd were the boy's grimaces and
gesticulations, the Cornishman returned to his horse, and mounted
him with the purpose of pursuing Dickie at more advantage.
The boy no sooner saw him mount his horse, than he holloed out to
him that, rather than he should spoil his white-footed nag, he
would come to him, on condition he would keep his fingers to
"I will make no conditions with thee, thou ugly varlet!" said
Tressilian; "I will have thee at my mercy in a moment."
"Aha, Master Traveller," said the boy, "there is a marsh hard by
would swallow all the horses of the Queen's guard. I will into
it, and see where you will go then. You shall hear the bittern
bump, and the wild-drake quack, ere you get hold of me without my
consent, I promise you."
Tressilian looked out, and, from the appearance of the ground
behind the hillock, believed it might be as the boy said, and
accordingly determined to strike up a peace with so light-footed
and ready-witted an enemy. "Come down," he said, "thou
mischievous brat! Leave thy mopping and mowing, and, come
I will do thee no harm, as I am a gentleman."
The boy answered his invitation with the utmost confidence, and
danced down from his stance with a galliard sort of step, keeping
his eye at the same time fixed on Tressilian's, who, once more
dismounted, stood with his horse's bridle in his hand,
breathless, and half exhausted with his fruitless exercise,
though not one drop of moisture appeared on the freckled forehead
of the urchin, which looked like a piece of dry and discoloured
parchment, drawn tight across the brow of a fleshless skull.
"And tell me," said Tressilian, "why you use me thus, thou
mischievous imp? or what your meaning is by telling me so absurd
a legend as you wished but now to put on me? Or rather show me,
in good earnest, this smith's forge, and I will give thee what
will buy thee apples through the whole winter."
"Were you to give me an orchard of apples," said Dickie Sludge,
"I can guide thee no better than I have done. Lay down the
silver token on the flat stone--whistle three times--then come
sit down on the western side of the thicket of gorse. I will sit
by you, and give you free leave to wring my head off, unless you
hear the smith at work within two minutes after we are seated."
"I may be tempted to take thee at thy word," said Tressilian, "if
you make me do aught half so ridiculous for your own mischievous
sport; however, I will prove your spell. Here, then, I tie my
horse to this upright stone. I must lay my silver groat here,
and whistle three times, sayest thou?"
"Ay, but thou must whistle louder than an unfledged ousel," said
the boy, as Tressilian, having laid down his money, and half
ashamed of the folly he practised, made a careless whistle--"you
must whistle louder than that, for who knows where the smith is
that you call for? He may be in the King of France's stables for
what I know."
"Why, you said but now he was no devil," replied Tressilian.
"Man or devil," said Dickie, "I see that I must summon him for
you;" and therewithal he whistled sharp and shrill, with an
acuteness of sound that almost thrilled through Tressilian's
brain. "That is what I call whistling," said he, after he had
repeated the signal thrice; "and now to cover, to cover, or
Whitefoot will not be shod this day."
Tressilian, musing what the upshot of this mummery was to be, yet
satisfied there was to be some serious result, by the confidence
with which the boy had put himself in his power, suffered himself
to be conducted to that side of the little thicket of gorse and
brushwood which was farthest from the circle of stones, and there
sat down; and as it occurred to him that, after all, this might
be a trick for stealing his horse, he kept his hand on the boy's
collar, determined to make him hostage for its safety.
"Now, hush and listen," said Dickie, in a low whisper; "you will
soon hear the tack of a hammer that was never forged of earthly
iron, for the stone it was made of was shot from the moon." And
in effect Tressilian did immediately hear the light stroke of a
hammer, as when a farrier is at work. The singularity of such a
sound, in so very lonely a place, made him involuntarily start;
but looking at the boy, and discovering, by the arch malicious
expression of his countenance, that the urchin saw and enjoyed
his slight tremor, he became convinced that the whole was a
concerted stratagem, and determined to know by whom, or for what
purpose, the trick was played off.
Accordingly, he remained perfectly quiet all the time that the
hammer continued to sound, being about the space usually employed
in fixing a horse-shoe. But the instant the sound ceased,
Tressilian, instead of interposing the space of time which his
guide had required, started up with his sword in his hand, ran
round the thicket, and confronted a man in a farrier's leathern
apron, but otherwise fantastically attired in a bear-skin dressed
with the fur on, and a cap of the same, which almost hid the
sooty and begrimed features of the wearer. "Come back, come
back!" cried the boy to Tressilian, "or you will be torn to
pieces; no man lives that looks on him." In fact, the invisible
smith (now fully visible) heaved up his hammer, and showed
symptoms of doing battle.
But when the boy observed that neither his own entreaties nor the
menaces of the farrier appeared to change Tressilian's purpose,
but that, on the contrary, he confronted the hammer with his
drawn sword, he exclaimed to the smith in turn, "Wayland, touch
him not, or you will come by the worse!--the gentleman is a true
gentleman, and a bold."
"So thou hast betrayed me, Flibbertigibbet?" said the smith; "it
shall be the worse for thee!"
"Be who thou wilt," said Tressilian, "thou art in no danger from
me, so thou tell me the meaning of this practice, and why thou
drivest thy trade in this mysterious fashion."
The smith, however, turning to Tressilian, exclaimed, in a
threatening tone, "Who questions the Keeper of the Crystal Castle
of Light, the Lord of the Green Lion, the Rider of the Red
Dragon? Hence!--avoid thee, ere I summon Talpack with his fiery
lance, to quell, crush, and consume!" These words he uttered
with violent gesticulation, mouthing, and flourishing his hammer.
"Peace, thou vile cozener, with thy gipsy cant!" replied
Tressilian scornfully, "and follow me to the next magistrate, or
I will cut thee over the pate."
"Peace, I pray thee, good Wayland!" said the boy. "Credit me,
the swaggering vein will not pass here; you must cut boon whids."
["Give good words."--SLANG DIALECT.]
"I think, worshipful sir," said the smith, sinking his hammer,
and assuming a more gentle and submissive tone of voice, "that
when so poor a man does his day's job, he might be permitted to
work it out after his own fashion. Your horse is shod, and your
farrier paid--what need you cumber yourself further than to mount
and pursue your journey?"
"Nay, friend, you are mistaken," replied Tressilian; "every man
has a right to take the mask from the face of a cheat and a
juggler; and your mode of living raises suspicion that you are
"If you are so determined; sir," said the smith, "I cannot help
myself save by force, which I were unwilling to use towards you,
Master Tressilian; not that I fear your weapon, but because I
know you to be a worthy, kind, and well-accomplished gentleman,
who would rather help than harm a poor man that is in a strait."
"Well said, Wayland," said the boy, who had anxiously awaited the
issue of their conference. "But let us to thy den, man, for it
is ill for thy health to stand here talking in the open air."
"Thou art right, Hobgoblin," replied the smith; and going to the
little thicket of gorse on the side nearest to the circle, and
opposite to that at which his customer had so lately crouched, he
discovered a trap-door curiously covered with bushes, raised it,
and, descending into the earth, vanished from their eyes.
Notwithstanding Tressilian's curiosity, he had some hesitation at
following the fellow into what might be a den of robbers,
especially when he heard the smith's voice, issuing from the
bowels of the earth, call out, "Flibertigibbet, do you come last,
and be sure to fasten the trap!"
"Have you seen enough of Wayland Smith now?" whispered the
urchin to Tressilian, with an arch sneer, as if marking his
"Not yet," said Tressilian firmly; and shaking off his momentary
irresolution, he descended into the narrow staircase, to which
the entrance led, and was followed by Dickie Sludge, who made
fast the trap-door behind him, and thus excluded every glimmer of
daylight. The descent, however, was only a few steps, and led to
a level passage of a few yards' length, at the end of which
appeared the reflection of a lurid and red light. Arrived at
this point, with his drawn sword in his hand, Tressilian found
that a turn to the left admitted him and Hobgoblin, who followed
closely, into a small, square vault, containing a smith's forge,
glowing with charcoal, the vapour of which filled the apartment
with an oppressive smell, which would have been altogether
suffocating, but that by some concealed vent the smithy
communicated with the upper air. The light afforded by the red
fuel, and by a lamp suspended in an iron chain, served to show
that, besides an anvil, bellows, tongs, hammers, a quantity of
ready-made horse-shoes, and other articles proper to the
profession of a farrier, there were also stoves, alembics,
crucibles, retorts, and other instruments of alchemy. The
grotesque figure of the smith, and the ugly but whimsical
features of the boy, seen by the gloomy and imperfect light of
the charcoal fire and the dying lamp, accorded very well with all
this mystical apparatus, and in that age of superstition would
have made some impression on the courage of most men.
But nature had endowed Tressilian with firm nerves, and his
education, originally good, had been too sedulously improved by
subsequent study to give way to any imaginary terrors; and after
giving a glance around him, he again demanded of the artist who
he was, and by what accident he came to know and address him by
"Your worship cannot but remember," said the smith, "that about
three years since, upon Saint Lucy's Eve, there came a travelling
juggler to a certain hall in Devonshire, and exhibited his skill
before a worshipful knight and a fair company.--I see from your
worship's countenance, dark as this place is, that my memory has
not done me wrong."
"Thou hast said enough," said Tressilian, turning away, as
wishing to hide from the speaker the painful train of
recollections which his discourse had unconsciously awakened.
"The juggler," said the smith, "played his part so bravely that
the clowns and clown-like squires in the company held his art to
be little less than magical; but there was one maiden of fifteen,
or thereby, with the fairest face I ever looked upon, whose rosy
cheek grew pale, and her bright eyes dim, at the sight of the
"Peace, I command thee, peace!" said Tressilian.
"I mean your worship no offence," said the fellow; "but I have
cause to remember how, to relieve the young maiden's fears, you
condescended to point out the mode in which these deceptions were
practised, and to baffle the poor juggler by laying bare the
mysteries of his art, as ably as if you had been a brother of his
order.--She was indeed so fair a maiden that, to win a smile of
her, a man might well--"
"Not a word more of her, I charge thee!" said Tressilian. "I do
well remember the night you speak of--one of the few happy
evenings my life has known."
"She is gone, then," said the smith, interpreting after his own
fashion the sigh with which Tressilian uttered these words--"she
is gone, young, beautiful, and beloved as she was!--I crave your
worship's pardon--I should have hammered on another theme. I see
I have unwarily driven the nail to the quick."
This speech was made with a mixture of rude feeling which
inclined Tressilian favourably to the poor artisan, of whom
before he was inclined to judge very harshly. But nothing can so
soon attract the unfortunate as real or seeming sympathy with
"I think," proceeded Tressilian, after a minute's silence, "thou
wert in those days a jovial fellow, who could keep a company
merry by song, and tale, and rebeck, as well as by thy juggling
tricks--why do I find thee a laborious handicraftsman, plying thy
trade in so melancholy a dwelling and under such extraordinary
"My story is not long," said the artist, "but your honour had
better sit while you listen to it." So saying, he approached to
the fire a three-footed stool, and took another himself; while
Dickie Sludge, or Flibbertigibbet, as he called the boy, drew a
cricket to the smith's feet, and looked up in his face with
features which, as illuminated by the glow of the forge, seemed
convulsed with intense curiosity. "Thou too," said the smith to
him, "shalt learn, as thou well deservest at my hand, the brief
history of my life; and, in troth, it were as well tell it thee
as leave thee to ferret it out, since Nature never packed a
shrewder wit into a more ungainly casket.--Well, sir, if my poor
story may pleasure you, it is at your command, But will you not
taste a stoup of liquor? I promise you that even in this poor
cell I have some in store."
"Speak not of it," said Tressilian, "but go on with thy story,
for my leisure is brief."
"You shall have no cause to rue the delay," said the smith, "for
your horse shall be better fed in the meantime than he hath been
this morning, and made fitter for travel."
With that the artist left the vault, and returned after a few
minutes' interval. Here, also, we pause, that the narrative may
commence in another chapter.
I say, my lord, can such a subtilty
(But all his craft ye must not wot of me,
And somewhat help I yet to his working),
That all the ground on which we ben riding,
Till that we come to Canterbury town,
He can all clean turnen so up so down,
And pave it all of silver and of gold.
THE CANON'S YEOMAN'S PROLOGUE, CANTERBURY TALES.
THE artist commenced his narrative in the following terms:--
"I was bred a blacksmith, and knew my art as well as e'er a
black-thumbed, leathern-aproned, swart-faced knave of that noble
mystery. But I tired of ringing hammer-tunes on iron stithies,
and went out into the world, where I became acquainted with a
celebrated juggler, whose fingers had become rather too stiff for
legerdemain, and who wished to have the aid of an apprentice in
his noble mystery. I served him for six years, until I was
master of my trade--I refer myself to your worship, whose
judgment cannot be disputed, whether I did not learn to ply the
craft indifferently well?"
"Excellently," said Tressilian; "but be brief."
"It was not long after I had performed at Sir Hugh Robsart's, in
your worship's presence," said the artist, "that I took myself to
the stage, and have swaggered with the bravest of them all, both
at the Black Bull, the Globe, the Fortune, and elsewhere; but I
know not how--apples were so plenty that year that the lads in
the twopenny gallery never took more than one bite out of them,
and threw the rest of the pippin at whatever actor chanced to be
on the stage. So I tired of it--renounced my half share in the
company, gave my foil to my comrade, my buskins to the wardrobe,
and showed the theatre a clean pair of heels."
"Well, friend, and what," said Tressilian, "was your next shift?"
"I became," said the smith, "half partner, half domestic to a man
of much skill and little substance, who practised the trade of a
"In other words," said Tressilian, "you were Jack Pudding to a
"Something beyond that, let me hope, my good Master Tressilian,"
replied the artist; "and yet to say truth, our practice was of an
adventurous description, and the pharmacy which I had acquired in
my first studies for the benefit of horses was frequently applied
to our human patients. But the seeds of all maladies are the
same; and if turpentine, tar, pitch, and beef-suet, mingled with
turmerick, gum-mastick, and one bead of garlick, can cure the
horse that hath been grieved with a nail, I see not but what it
may benefit the man that hath been pricked with a sword. But my
master's practice, as well as his skill, went far beyond mine,
and dealt in more dangerous concerns. He was not only a bold,
adventurous practitioner in physic, but also, if your pleasure so
chanced to be, an adept who read the stars, and expounded the
fortunes of mankind, genethliacally, as he called it, or
otherwise. He was a learned distiller of simples, and a profound
chemist--made several efforts to fix mercury, and judged himself
to have made a fair hit at the philosopher's stone. I have yet a
programme of his on that subject, which, if your honour
understandeth, I believe you have the better, not only of all who
read, but also of him who wrote it."
He gave Tressilian a scroll of parchment, bearing at top and
bottom, and down the margin, the signs of the seven planets,
curiously intermingled with talismanical characters and scraps of
Greek and Hebrew. In the midst were some Latin verses from a
cabalistical author, written out so fairly, that even the gloom
of the place did not prevent Tressilian from reading them. The
tenor of the original ran as follows:-
"Si fixum solvas, faciasque volare solutum,
Et volucrem figas, facient te vivere tutum;
Si pariat ventum, valet auri pondere centum;
Ventus ubi vult spirat--Capiat qui capere potest."
"I protest to you," said Tressilian, "all I understand of this
jargon is that the last words seem to mean 'Catch who catch
"That," said the smith, "is the very principle that my worthy
friend and master, Doctor Doboobie, always acted upon; until,
being besotted with his own imaginations, and conceited of his
high chemical skill, he began to spend, in cheating himself, the
money which he had acquired in cheating others, and either
discovered or built for himself, I could never know which, this
secret elaboratory, in which he used to seclude himself both from
patients and disciples, who doubtless thought his long and
mysterious absences from his ordinary residence in the town of
Farringdon were occasioned by his progress in the mystic
sciences, and his intercourse with the invisible world. Me also
he tried to deceive; but though I contradicted him not, he saw
that I knew too much of his secrets to be any longer a safe
companion. Meanwhile, his name waxed famous--or rather infamous,
and many of those who resorted to him did so under persuasion
that he was a sorcerer. And yet his supposed advance in the
occult sciences drew to him the secret resort of men too powerful
to be named, for purposes too dangerous to be mentioned. Men
cursed and threatened him, and bestowed on me, the innocent
assistant of his studies, the nickname of the Devil's foot-post,
which procured me a volley of stones as soon as ever I ventured
to show my face in the street of the village. At length my
master suddenly disappeared, pretending to me that he was about
to visit his elaboratory in this place, and forbidding me to
disturb him till two days were past. When this period had
elapsed, I became anxious, and resorted to this vault, where I
found the fires extinguished and the utensils in confusion, with
a note from the learned Doboobius, as he was wont to style
himself, acquainting me that we should never meet again,
bequeathing me his chemical apparatus, and the parchment which I
have just put into your hands, advising me strongly to prosecute
the secret which it contained, which would infallibly lead me to
the discovery of the grand magisterium."
"And didst thou follow this sage advice?" said Tressilian.
"Worshipful sir, no," replied the smith; "for, being by nature
cautious, and suspicious from knowing with whom I had to do, I
made so many perquisitions before I ventured even to light a
fire, that I at length discovered a small barrel of gunpowder,
carefully hid beneath the furnace, with the purpose, no doubt,
that as soon as I should commence the grand work of the
transmutation of metals, the explosion should transmute the vault
and all in it into a heap of ruins, which might serve at once for
my slaughter-house and my grave. This cured me of alchemy, and
fain would I have returned to the honest hammer and anvil; but
who would bring a horse to be shod by the Devil's post?
Meantime, I had won the regard of my honest Flibbertigibbet here,
he being then at Farringdon with his master, the sage Erasmus
Holiday, by teaching him a few secrets, such as please youth at
his age; and after much counsel together, we agreed that, since I
could get no practice in the ordinary way, I should try how I
could work out business among these ignorant boors, by practising
upon their silly fears; and, thanks to Flibbertigibbet, who hath
spread my renown, I have not wanted custom. But it is won at too
great risk, and I fear I shall be at length taken up for a
wizard; so that I seek but an opportunity to leave this vault,
when I can have the protection of some worshipful person against
the fury of the populace, in case they chance to recognize me."
"And art thou," said Tressilian, "perfectly acquainted with the
roads in this country?"
"I could ride them every inch by midnight," answered Wayland
Smith, which was the name this adept had assumed.
"Thou hast no horse to ride upon," said Tressilian.
"Pardon me," replied Wayland; "I have as good a tit as ever
yeoman bestrode; and I forgot to say it was the best part of the
mediciner's legacy to me, excepting one or two of the choicest of
his medical secrets, which I picked up without his knowledge and
against his will."
"Get thyself washed and shaved, then," said Tressilian; "reform
thy dress as well as thou canst, and fling away these grotesque
trappings; and, so thou wilt be secret and faithful, thou shalt
follow me for a short time, till thy pranks here are forgotten.
Thou hast, I think, both address and courage, and I have matter
to do that may require both."
Wayland Smith eagerly embraced the proposal, and protested his
devotion to his new master. In a very few minutes he had made so
great an alteration in his original appearance, by change of
dress, trimming his beard and hair, and so forth, that Tressilian
could not help remarking that he thought he would stand in little
need of a protector, since none of his old acquaintance were
likely to recognize him.
"My debtors would not pay me money," said Wayland, shaking his
head; "but my creditors of every kind would be less easily
blinded. And, in truth, I hold myself not safe, unless under the
protection of a gentleman of birth and character, as is your
So saying, he led the way out of the cavern. He then called
loudly for Hobgoblin, who, after lingering for an instant,
appeared with the horse furniture, when Wayland closed and
sedulously covered up the trap-door, observing it might again
serve him at his need, besides that the tools were worth
somewhat. A whistle from the owner brought to his side a nag
that fed quietly on the common, and was accustomed to the signal.