Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Charles Franks and the Distributed Proofreaders Team
AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE,
BY W. HARRISON AINSWORTH, ESQ.
AUTHOR OF "WINDSOR CASTLE," &C.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
CONTENTS OF VOLUME I.
I. The Three Cranes in the Vintry
II. Sir Giles Mompesson and his partner
III. The French ordinary
IV. A Star-Chamber victim
V. Jocelyn Mounchensey
VII. How Lord Roos obtained Sir Francis Mitchell's signature
VIII. Of Lupo Vulp, Captain Bludder, Clement Lanyere,
and Sir Giles's other Myrmidons
IX. The Letters-Patent
X. The 'prentices and their leader
XI. John Wolfe
XII. The Arrest and the Rescue
XIII. How Jocelyn Mounchensey encountered a masked horseman
on Stamford Hill
XIV. The May-Queen and the Puritan's Daughter
XV. Hugh Calveley
XVI. Of the sign given by the Puritan to the Assemblage
XVII. A rash promise
XVIII. How the promise was cancelled
XIX. Theobalds' Palace
XX. King James the First
XXI. Consequences of the Puritan's warning
XXII. Wife and Mother-in-Law
XXIII. The Tress of Hair
XXIV. The Fountain Court
XXV. Sir Thomas Lake
XXVI. The forged Confession
XXVII. The Puritan's Prison
XXVIII. The Secret
XXIX. Luke Hatton
"I will make a Star-Chamber matter of it."
MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
The Three Cranes in the Vintry.
Adjoining the Vintry Wharf, and at the corner of a narrow lane
communicating with Thames Street, there stood, in the early part of the
Seventeenth Century, a tavern called the Three Cranes. This old and
renowned place of entertainment had then been in existence more than two
hundred years, though under other designations. In the reign of Richard
II., when it was first established, it was styled the Painted Tavern,
from the circumstance of its outer walls being fancifully coloured and
adorned with Bacchanalian devices. But these decorations went out of
fashion in time, and the tavern, somewhat changing its external
features, though preserving all its internal comforts and accommodation,
assumed the name of the Three Crowns, under which title it continued
until the accession of Elizabeth, when it became (by a slight
modification) the Three Cranes; and so remained in the days of her
successor, and, indeed, long afterwards.
Not that the last-adopted denomination had any reference, as might be
supposed, to the three huge wooden instruments on the wharf, employed
with ropes and pulleys to unload the lighters and other vessels that
brought up butts and hogsheads of wine from the larger craft below
Bridge, and constantly thronged the banks; though, no doubt, they
indirectly suggested it. The Three Cranes depicted on the large
signboard, suspended in front of the tavern, were long-necked,
long-beaked birds, each with a golden fish in its bill.
But under whatever designation it might be known--Crown or Crane--the
tavern had always maintained a high reputation for excellence of wine:
and this is the less surprising when we take into account its close
proximity to the vast vaults and cellars of the Vintry, where the
choicest produce of Gascony, Bordeaux, and other wine-growing districts,
was deposited; some of which we may reasonably conclude would find its
way to its tables. Good wine, it may be incidentally remarked, was cheap
enough when the Three Cranes was first opened, the delicate juice of the
Gascoign grape being then vended, at fourpence the gallon, and Rhenish
at sixpence! Prices, however, had risen considerably at the period of
which we propose to treat; but the tavern was as well-reputed and
well-frequented as ever: even more so, for it had considerably advanced
in estimation since it came into the hands of a certain enterprising
French skipper, Prosper Bonaventure by name, who intrusted its
management to his active and pretty little wife Dameris, while he
himself prosecuted his trading voyages between the Garonne and the
Thames. And very well Madame Bonaventure fulfilled the duties of
hostess, as will be seen.
Now, as the skipper was a very sharp fellow, and perfectly understood
his business-practically anticipating the Transatlantic axiom of buying
at the cheapest market and gelling at the dearest-he soon contrived to
grow rich. He did more: he pleased his customers at the Three Cranes.
Taking care to select his wines judiciously, and having good
opportunities, he managed to obtain possession of some delicious
vintages, which, could not be matched elsewhere; and, with this nectar
at his command, the fortune of his house was made. All the town gallants
flocked to the Three Cranes to dine at the admirable French ordinary
newly established there, and crush a flask or so of the exquisite
Bordeaux, about which, and its delicate flavour and bouquet, all the
connoisseurs in claret were raving. From, mid-day, therefore, till late
in the afternoon, there were nearly as many gay barges and wherries as
lighters lying off the Vintry Wharf; and sometimes, when accommodation
was wanting, the little craft were moored along the shore all the way
from Queenhithe to the Steelyard; at which latter place the Catherine
Wheel was almost as much noted for racy Rhenish and high-dried neat's
tongues, as our tavern was for fine Bordeaux and well-seasoned pates.
Not the least, however, of the attractions of the Three Cranes, was the
hostess herself. A lively little brunette was Madame Bonaventure, still
young, or, at all events, very far from being old; with extremely fine
teeth, which she was fond of displaying, and a remarkably neat ancle,
which she felt no inclination to hide beneath the sweep of her round
circling farthingale. Her figure was quite that of a miniature Venus;
and as, like most of her country-women, she understood the art of dress
to admiration, she set off her person to the best advantage; always
attiring herself in a style, and in colours, that suited her, and never
indulging in an unwarrantable extravagance of ruff, or absurd and
unbecoming length of peaked boddice. As to the stuffs she wore, they
were certainly above her station, for no Court dame could boast of
richer silks than those in which the pretty Dameris appeared on fete
days; and this was accounted for by reason that the good skipper seldom
returned from a trip to France without bringing his wife a piece of
silk, brocade, or velvet from Lyons; or some little matter from Paris,
such as a ruff, cuff, partlet, bandlet, or fillet. Thus the last French
mode might be seen at the Three Crowns, displayed by the hostess, as
well as the last French _entremet_ at its table; since, among other
important accessories to the well-doing of the house, Madame Bonaventure
kept a _chef de cuisine_--one of her compatriots--of such superlative
skill, that in later times he must infallibly have been distinguished as
a _cordon bleu_.
But not having yet completed our description of the charming Bordelaise
we must add that she possessed a rich southern complexion, fine
sparkling black eyes, shaded by long dark eye-lashes, and over-arched by
jetty brows, and that her raven hair was combed back and gathered in a
large roll over her smooth forehead, which had the five points of beauty
complete. Over this she wore a prettily-conceived coif, with a frontlet.
A well-starched, well-plaited ruff encompossed her throat. Her upper lip
was darkened, but in the slightest degree, by down like the softest
silk; and this peculiarity (a peculiarity it would be in an
Englishwoman, though frequently observable in the beauties of the South
of France) lent additional piquancy and zest to her charms in the eyes
of her numerous adorers. Her ankles we have said were trim; and it may
be added that they were oftener displayed in an embroidered French
velvet shoe than in one of Spanish leather; while in walking out she
increased her stature "by the altitude of a chopine."
Captain Bonaventure was by no means jealous; and even if he had been, it
would have mattered little, since he was so constantly away. Fancying,
therefore, she had some of the privileges of a widow, our lively Dameris
flirted a good deal with the gayest and handsomest of the galliards
frequenting her house. But she knew where to stop; no licence or
indecorum was ever permitted at the Three Cranes; and that is saying a
great deal in favour of the hostess, when the dissolute character of the
age is taken into consideration. Besides this, Cyprien, a stout
well-favoured young Gascon, who filled the posts of drawer and
chamberlain, together with two or three other trencher-scrapers, who
served at table, and waited on the guests, were generally sufficient to
clear the house of any troublesome roysterers. Thus the reputation of
the Three Cranes was unblemished, in spite of the liveliness and
coquetry of its mistress; and in spite, also, of the malicious tongues
of rival tavern-keepers, which were loud against it. A pretty woman is
sure to have enemies and calumniators, and Madame Bonaventure had more
than enow; but she thought very little about them.
There was one point, however, on which it behoved her to be careful: and
extremely careful she was,--not leaving a single loop-hole for censure
or attack. This was the question of religion. On first taking the house,
Madame Bonaventure gave it out that she and the skipper were Huguenots,
descended from families who had suffered much persecution during the
time of the League, for staunch adherence to their faith; and the
statement was generally credited, though there were some who professed
to doubt it. Certain it was, our hostess did not wear any cross, beads,
or other outward symbol of Papacy. And though this might count for
little, it was never discovered that she attended mass in secret. Her
movements were watched, but without anything coming to light that had
reference to religious observances of any kind. Those who tried to trace
her, found that her visits were mostly paid to Paris Garden, the Rose,
and the Globe (where our immortal bard's plays were then being
performed), or some other place of amusement; and if she did go on the
river at times, it was merely upon a party of pleasure, accompanied by
gay gallants in velvet cloaks and silken doublets, and by light-hearted
dames like herself, and not by notorious plotters or sour priests.
Still, as many Bordeaux merchants frequented the house, as well as
traders from the Hanse towns, and other foreigners, it was looked upon
by the suspicious as a hotbed of Romish heresy and treason. Moreover,
these maligners affirmed that English recusants, as well as seminary
priests from abroad, had been harboured there, and clandestinely
spirited away from the pursuit of justice by the skipper; but the
charges were never substantiated, and could, therefore, only proceed
from envy and malice. Whatever Madame Bonaventure's religious opinions
might be, she kept her own council so well that no one ever found them
But evil days were at hand. Hitherto, all had been smiling and
prosperous. The prospect now began to darken.
Within the last twelve months a strange and unlooked for interference
had taken place with our hostess's profits, which she had viewed, at
first, without much anxiety, because she did not clearly comprehend its
scope; but latterly, as its formidable character became revealed, it
began to fill her with uneasiness. The calamity, as she naturally enough
regarded it, arose in the following manner. The present was an age of
monopolies and patents, granted by a crown ever eager to obtain money
under any pretext, however unjustifiable and iniquitous, provided it was
plausibly coloured; and these vexatious privileges were purchased by
greedy and unscrupulous persons for the purpose of turning them into
instruments of extortion and wrong. Though various branches of trade and
industry groaned under the oppression inflicted upon them, there were no
means of redress. The patentees enjoyed perfect immunity, grinding them
down as they pleased, farming out whole districts, and dividing the
spoil. Their miserable victims dared scarcely murmur; having ever the
terrible court of Star-Chamber before them, which their persecutors
could command, and which punished libellers--as they would be accounted,
if they gave utterance to their wrongs, and charged their oppressors
with mis-doing,--with fine, branding, and the pillory. Many were handled
in this sort, and held up _in terrorem_ to the others. Hence it came to
pass, that the Star-Chamber, from the fearful nature of its machinery;
its extraordinary powers; the notorious corruption and venality of its
officers; the peculiarity of its practice, which always favoured the
plaintiff; and the severity with which it punished any libelling or
slanderous words uttered against the king's representative (as the
patentees were considered), or any conspiracy or false accusation
brought against them; it came to pass, we say, that this terrible court
became as much dreaded in Protestant England as the Inquisition in
Catholic Spain. The punishments inflicted by the Star-Chamber were, as
we learn from a legal authority, and a counsel in the court, "fine,
imprisonment, loss of ears, or nailing to the pillory, slitting the
nose, branding the forehead, whipping of late days, wearing of papers in
public places, or any punishment but death." And John Chamberlain, Esq.,
writing to Sir Dudley Carlton, about the same period, observes, that
"The world is now much terrified with the Star-Chamber, there being not
so little an offence against any proclamation, but is liable and subject
to the censure of that court. And for proclamations and patents, they
are become so ordinary that there is no end; every day bringing forth
some new project or other. As, within these two days, here is one come
forth for tobacco, wholly engrossed by Sir Thomas Roe and his partners,
which, if they can keep and maintain against the general clamour, will
be a great commodity; unless, peradventure, indignation, rather than all
other reasons, may bring that filthy weed out of use." [What, would be
the effect of such a patent now-a-days? Would it, at all, restrict the
use of the "filthy weed?"] "In truth," proceeds Chamberlain, "the world
doth even groan under the burthen of these perpetual patents, which are
become so frequent, that whereas at the king's coming in there were
complaints of some eight or nine monopolies then in being, they are now
said to be multiplied to as many scores."
From the foregoing citation, from a private letter of the time, the
state of public feeling may be gathered, and the alarm occasioned in all
classes by these oppressions perfectly understood.
Amongst those who had obtained the largest share of spoil were two
persons destined to occupy a prominent position in our history. They
were Sir Giles Mompesson and Sir Francis Mitchell,--both names held in
general dread and detestation, though no man ventured to speak ill of
them openly, since they were as implacable in their animosities, as
usurious and griping in their demands; and many an ear had been lost,
many a nose slit, many a back scourged at the cart's tail, because the
unfortunate owners had stigmatized them according to their deserts. Thus
they enjoyed a complete immunity of wrong; and, with the terrible court
of Star-Chamber to defend them and to punish their enemies, they set all
opposition at defiance.
Insatiable as unscrupulous, this avaricious pair were ever on the alert
to devise new means of exaction and plunder, and amongst the latest and
most productive of their inventions were three patents, which they had
obtained through the instrumentality of Sir Edward Villiers
(half-brother of the ruling favourite, the Marquess of Buckingham)--and
for due consideration-money, of course,--for the licensing of ale-houses
the inspection of inns and hostelries, and the exclusive manufacture of
gold and silver thread. It is with the two former of these that we have
now to deal; inasmuch as it was their mischievous operation that
affected Madame Bonaventure so prejudicially; and this we shall more
fully explain, as it will serve to show the working of a frightful
system of extortion and injustice happily no longer in existence.
By the sweeping powers conferred upon them by their patents, the whole
of the inns of the metropolis were brought under the control of the two
extortioners, who levied such imposts as they pleased. The withdrawal of
a license, or the total suppression of a tavern, on the plea of its
being a riotous and disorderly house, immediately followed the refusal
of any demand, however excessive; and most persons preferred the remote
possibility of ruin, with the chance of averting it by ready submission,
to the positive certainty of losing both substance and liberty by
Fearful was the havoc occasioned by these licensed depredators, yet no
one dared to check them--no one ventured to repine. They had the name of
law to justify their proceedings, and all its authority to uphold them.
Compromises were attempted in some instances, but they were found
unavailing. Easily evaded by persons who never intended to be bound by
them, they only added keenness to the original provocation, without
offering a remedy for it. The two bloodsuckers, it was clear, would not
desist from draining the life-current from the veins of their victims
while a drop remained. And they were well served in their iniquitous
task,--for the plain reason that they paid their agents, well. Partners
they had none; none, at least, who cared to acknowledge themselves as
such. But the subordinate officers of the law (and indeed some high in
office, it was hinted), the sheriff's followers, bailiffs, tipstaves,
and others, were all in their pay; besides a host of myrmidons,--base,
sordid knaves, who scrupled not at false-swearing, cozenage, or any sort
of rascality, even forgery of legal documents, if required.
No wonder poor Madame Bonaventure, finding she had got into the clutches
of these harpies, began to tremble for the result.
Sir Giles Mompesson and his partner.
Madame Bonaventure had already paid considerable sums to the two
extortioners, but she resisted their last application; in consequence of
which she received a monition from Sir Giles Mompesson, to the effect
that, in a month's time, her license would be withdrawn, and her house
shut up, unless, in the interim, she consented to make amends to himself
and his co-patentee, Sir Francis Mitchell, by payment of the sum in
question, together with a further sum, equal to it in amount, by way of
forfeit; thus doubling the original demand.
Our pretty hostess, it would seem, had placed herself in an awkward
predicament by her temerity. Sir Giles was not a man to threaten idly,
as all who had incurred his displeasure experienced to their cost. His
plan was to make himself feared; and he was inexorable, as fate itself,
to a creditor. He ever exacted the full penalty of his bond. In this
instance, according to his own notion, he had acted with great leniency;
and certainly, judged by his customary mode of proceeding in such cases,
he had shown some little indulgence. In this line of conduct he had been
mainly influenced by his partner, who, not being insensible to the
attractions of the fair hostess, hoped to win her favour by a show of
consideration. But though Madame Bonaventure was willing enough, for her
own purposes, to encourage Sir Francis Mitchell's attentions (she
detested him in her secret heart), she by no means relied upon him for
security. A more powerful friend was held in reserve, whom she meant to
produce at the last moment; and, consequently, she was not so ill at
ease as she otherwise would have been, though by no means free from
Sir Giles Mompesson was a terrible enemy, and seldom thwarted in his
purpose. That she knew. But no man was more keenly alive to his own
interest than he; and she persuaded herself he would find it to his
advantage not to molest her: in which case she was safe. Of Sir Francis
Mitchell she had less apprehension; for, though equally mischievous and
malevolent with his partner, he was far feebler of purpose, and for the
most part governed by him. Besides, she felt she had the amorous knight
in her toils, and could easily manage him if he were alone.
So the case stood with respect to our pretty hostess; but, before
proceeding further, it may be well to give a more complete description
of the two birds of prey by whom she was threatened with beak and talon.
The master-spirit of the twain was undoubtedly Sir Giles Mompesson.
Quick in conception of villainy, he was equally daring in execution.
How he had risen to his present bad eminence no one precisely knew;
because, with the craft and subtlety that distinguished him, he laid his
schemes so deeply, and covered his proceedings with so thick a veil,
that they had been rarely detected. Report, however, spoke of him as a
usurer of the vilest kind, who wrung exorbitant interest from needy
borrowers,--who advanced money to expectant heirs, with the intention of
plundering them of their inheritance,--and who resorted to every trick
and malpractice permitted by the law to benefit himself at his
neighbour's expense. These were bad enough, but even graver accusations
were made against him. It was whispered that he had obtained fraudulent
possession of deeds and family papers, which had enabled him to wrest
estates from their rightful owners; and some did not scruple to add to
these charges that he had forged documents to carry out his nefarious
designs. Be this as it may, from comparative poverty he speedily rose to
wealth; and, as his means increased, so his avaricious schemes were
multiplied and extended. His earlier days were passed in complete
obscurity, none but the neediest spendthrift or the most desperate
gambler knowing where he dwelt, and every one who found him out in his
wretched abode near the Marshalsea had reason to regret his visit. Now
he was well enough known by many a courtly prodigal, and his large
mansion near Fleet Bridge (it was said of him that he always chose the
neigbourhood of a prison for his dwelling) was resorted to by the town
gallants whose, necessities or extravagance compelled them to obtain
supplies at exorbitant interest. Lavish in his expenditure on occasions,
Sir Giles was habitually so greedy and penurious, that he begrudged
every tester he expended. He wished to keep up a show of hospitality
without cost, and secretly pleased himself by thinking that he made his
guests pay for his entertainments, and even for his establishment. His
servants complained of being half-starved, though he was constantly at
war with them for their wastefulness and riot. He made, however, a great
display of attendants, inasmuch as he had a whole retinue of myrmidons
at his beck and call; and these, as before observed, were well paid.
They were the crows that followed the vultures, and picked the bones of
the spoil when their ravening masters had been fully glutted.
In the court of Star-Chamber, as already remarked, Sir Giles Mompesson
found an instrument in every way fitted to his purposes; and he worked
it with terrible effect, as will be shown hereafter. With him it was at
once a weapon to destroy, and a shield to protect. This court claimed "a
superlative power not only to take causes from other courts and punish
them there, but also to punish offences secondarily, when other courts
have punished them." Taking advantage of this privilege, when a suit
was commenced against him elsewhere, Sir Giles contrived to remove it to
the Star-Chamber, where, being omnipotent with clerks and counsel, he
was sure of success,--the complaints being so warily contrived, the
examinations so adroitly framed, and the interrogatories so numerous and
perplexing, that the defendant, or delinquent, as he was indifferently
styled, was certain to be baffled and defeated. "The sentences of this
court," it has been said by one intimately acquainted with its practice,
and very favourably inclined to it, "strike to the root of men's
reputations, and many times of their estates;" and, again, it was a rule
with it, that the prosecutor "was ever intended to be favoured." Knowing
this as well as the high legal authority from whom we have quoted, Sir
Giles ever placed himself in the favoured position, and, with the aid of
this iniquitous tribunal, blasted many a fair reputation, and consigned
many a victim of its injustice to the Fleet, there to rot till he paid
him the utmost of his demands, or paid the debt of nature.
In an age less corrupt and venal than that under consideration, such a
career could not have long continued without check. But in the time of
James the First, from the neediness of the monarch himself, and the
rapacity of his minions and courtiers and their satellites,--each
striving to enrich himself, no matter how--a thousand abuses, both of
right and justice, were tolerated or connived at, crime stalking abroad
unpunished. The Star-Chamber itself served the king as, in a less
degree, it served Sir Giles Mompesson, and others of the same stamp, as
a means of increasing his revenue; half the fines mulcted from those who
incurred its censure or its punishments being awarded to the crown. Thus
nice inquiries were rarely made, unless a public example was needed,
when the wrongdoer was compelled to disgorge his plunder. But this was
never done till the pear was fully ripe. Sir Giles, however, had no
apprehensions of any such result in his case. Like a sly fox, or rather
like a crafty wolf, he was too confident in his own cunning and
resources to fear being caught in such a trap.
His title was purchased, and he reaped his reward in the consequence it
gave him. Sir Francis Mitchell acted likewise; and it was about this
time that the connection between the worthy pair commenced. Hitherto
they had been in opposition, and though very different in temperament
and in modes of proceeding, they had one aim in common; and recognizing
great merit in each other, coupled with a power of mutual assistance,
they agreed to act in concert. Sir Francis was as cautious and timid as
Sir Giles was daring and inflexible: the one being the best contriver of
a scheme, and the other the fittest to carry it out. Sir Francis
trembled at his own devices and their possible consequences: Sir Giles
adopted his schemes, if promising, and laughed at the difficulties and
dangers that beset them. The one was the head; the other the arm. Not
that Sir Giles lacked the ability to weave as subtle a web of deceit as
his partner; but each took his line. It saved time. The plan of
licensing and inspecting taverns and hotels had originated with Sir
Francis, and very profitable it proved. But Sir Giles carried it out
much further than his partner had proposed, or thought prudent.
And they were as different in personal appearance, as in mental
qualities and disposition. Mompesson was the dashing eagle; Mitchell the
sorry kite. Sir Francis was weakly, emaciated in frame; much given to
sensual indulgence; and his body conformed to his timorous organization.
His shrunken shanks scarcely sufficed to support him; his back was bent;
his eyes blear; his head bald; and his chin, which was continually
wagging, clothed with a scanty yellow beard, shaped like a stiletto,
while his sandy moustachios were curled upward. He was dressed in the
extremity of the fashion, and affected the air of a young court gallant.
His doublet, hose, and mantle were ever of the gayest and most fanciful
hues, and of the richest stuffs; he wore a diamond brooch in his beaver,
and sashes, tied like garters, round his thin legs, which were utterly
destitute of calf. Preposterously large roses covered his shoes; his
ruff was a "treble-quadruple-dedalion;" his gloves richly embroidered; a
large crimson satin purse hung from his girdle; and he was scented with
powders and pulvilios. This withered coxcomb affected the mincing gait
of a young man; and though rather an object of derision than admiration
with the fair sex, persuaded himself they were all captivated by him.
The vast sums he so unjustly acquired did not long remain in his
possession, but were dispersed in ministering to his follies and
depravity. Timorous he was by nature, as we have said, but cruel and
unrelenting in proportion to his cowardice; and where an injury could be
securely inflicted, or a prostrate foe struck with impunity, he never
hesitated for a moment. Sir Giles himself was scarcely so malignant and
A strong contrast to this dastardly debauchee was offered by the bolder
villain. Sir Giles Mompesson was a very handsome man, with a striking
physiognomy, but dark and sinister in expression. His eyes were black,
singularly piercing, and flashed with the fiercest fire when kindled by
passion. A finely-formed aquiline nose gave a hawk-like character to his
face; his hair was coal-black (though he was no longer young), and hung
in long ringlets over his neck and shoulders. He wore the handsomely cut
beard and moustache subsequently depicted in the portraits of Vandyke,
which suited the stern gravity of his countenance. Rich, though sober in
his attire, he always affected a dark colour, being generally habited in
a doublet of black quilted silk, Venetian hose, and a murrey-coloured
velvet mantle. His conical hat was ornamented with a single black
ostrich feather; and he carried a long rapier by his side, in the use of
which he was singularly skilful; being one of Vincentio Saviolo's best
pupils. Sir Giles was a little above the middle height, with a well
proportioned athletic figure; and his strength and address were such,
that there seemed good reason for his boast when he declared, as he
often did, "that he feared no man living, in fair fight, no, nor any two
Sir Giles had none of the weaknesses of his partner. Temperate in his
living, he had never been known to commit an excess at table; nor were
the blandishments or lures of the fair sex ever successfully spread for
him. If his arm was of iron, his heart seemed of adamant, utterly
impenetrable by any gentle emotion. It was affirmed, and believed, that
he had never shed a tear. His sole passion appeared to be the
accumulation of wealth; unattended by the desire to spend it. He
bestowed no gifts. He had no family, no kinsmen, whom he cared to
acknowledge. He stood alone--a hard, grasping man: a bond-slave of
When it pleased him, Sir Giles Mompesson could play the courtier, and
fawn and gloze like the rest. A consummate hypocrite, he easily assumed
any part he might be called upon to enact; but the tone natural to him
was one of insolent domination and bitter raillery. He sneered at all
things human and divine; and there was mockery in his laughter, as well
as venom in his jests. His manner, however, was not without a certain
cold and grave dignity; and he clothed himself, like his purposes, in
inscrutable reserve, on occasions requiring it. So ominous was his
presence, that many persons got out of his way, fearing to come in
contact with him, or give him offence; and the broad walk at Paul's was
sometimes cleared as he took his way along it, followed by his band of
If this were the case with persons who had no immediate ground of
apprehension from him, how much terror his sombre figure must have
inspired, when presented, as it was, to Madame Bonaventure, with the
aspect of a merciless creditor, armed with full power to enforce his
claims, and resolved not to abate a jot of them, will be revealed to the
reader in our next chapter.
The French ordinary.
The month allowed by the notice expired, and Madame Bonaventure's day of
No arrangement had been attempted in the interim, though abundant
opportunities of doing so were afforded her, as Sir Francis Mitchell
visited the Three Cranes almost daily. She appeared to treat the matter
very lightly, always putting it off when mentioned; and even towards the
last seemed quite unconcerned, as if entertaining no fear of the result.
Apparently, everything went on just as usual, and no one would have
supposed, from Madame Bonaventure's manner, that she was aware of the
possibility of a mine being sprung beneath her feet. Perhaps she fancied
she had countermined her opponents, and so felt secure. Her indifference
puzzled Sir Francis, who knew not whether to attribute it to
insensibility or over-confidence. He was curious to see how she would
conduct herself when the crisis came; and for that purpose repaired to
the tavern, about dinner-time, on the appointed day.
The hostess received him very graciously; trifled and jested with him as
was her custom, and looked all blandishments and smiles to him and
everybody else, as if nothing could possibly happen to disturb her
serenity. Sir Francis was more perplexed than ever. With the levity and
heedlessness of a Frenchwoman, she must have forgotten all about the
claim. What if he should venture to remind her of it? Better not. The
application would come soon enough. He was glad it devolved upon his
partner, and not on himself, to proceed to extremities with so charming
a person. He really could not do it. And yet all the while he chuckled
internally as he thought of the terrible dilemma in which she would be
speedily caught, and how completely it would place her at his mercy. She
must come to terms then. And Sir Francis rubbed his skinny hands
gleefully at the thought. On her part, Madame Bonaventure guessed what
was passing in his breast, and secretly enjoyed the idea of checkmating
him. With a captivating smile she left him to attend to her numerous
And very numerous they were on that day. More so than usual. Sir
Francis, who had brought a boat from Westminster, where he dwelt,
experienced some difficulty in landing at the stairs, invested as they
were with barges, wherries and watermen, all of whom had evidently
brought customers to the Three Cranes. Besides these, there were two or
three gilded pinnaces lying off the wharf, with oarsmen in rich
liveries, evidently belonging to persons of rank.
The benches and little tables in front of the tavern were occupied by
foreign merchants and traders, discussing their affairs over a stoop of
Bordeaux. Others, similarly employed, sat at the open casements in the
rooms above; each story projecting so much beyond the other that the old
building, crowned with its fanciful gables and heavy chimnies, looked
top-heavy, and as if it would roll over into the Thames some day.
Others, again, were seated over their wine in the pleasant little
chamber built over the porch, which, advancing considerably beyond the
door, afforded a delightful prospect, from its lantern-like windows, of
the river, now sparkling with sunshine (it was a bright May day), and
covered with craft, extending on the one hand to Baynard's Castle, and
on the other to the most picturesque object to be found then, or since,
in London--the ancient Bridge, with its towers, gateways, lofty
superstructures, and narrow arches through which the current dashed
swiftly; and, of course, commanding a complete view of the opposite
bank, beginning with Saint Saviour's fine old church, Winchester House,
the walks, gardens, and play-houses, and ending with the fine groves of
timber skirting Lambeth Marshes. Others repaired to the smooth and
well-kept bowling alley in the narrow court at the back of the house,
where there was a mulberry tree two centuries older than the tavern
itself--to recreate themselves with the healthful pastime there
afforded, and indulge at the same time in a few whiffs of tobacco,
which, notwithstanding the king's fulminations against it, had already
made its way among the people.
The ordinary was held in the principal room in the house; which was well
enough adapted for the purpose, being lofty and spacious, and lighted by
an oriel window at the upper end. Over the high carved chimney-piece
were the arms of the Vintners' Company, with a Bacchus for the crest.
The ceiling was moulded, and the wainscots of oak; against the latter
several paintings were hung. One of these represented the Massacre of
St. Bartholomew, and another the triumphal entry of Henri IV. into
rebellious Paris. Besides these, there were portraits of the reigning
monarch, James the First; the Marquis of Buckingham, his favourite; and
the youthful Louis XIII., king of France. A long table generally ran
down the centre of the room; but on this occasion there was a raised
cross-table at the upper end, with a traverse, or curtain, partially
drawn before it, proclaiming the presence of important guests. Here the
napery was finer, and the drinking-vessels handsomer, than those used at
the lower board. A grand banquet seemed taking place. Long-necked flasks
were placed in coolers, and the buffets were covered with flagons and
glasses. The table groaned beneath the number and variety of dishes set
upon it. In addition to the customary yeomen-waiters, there were a host
of serving-men in rich and varied liveries, but these attended
exclusively on their lords at the raised table, behind the traverse.
As Sir Francis was ushered into the eating-room, he was quite taken
aback by the unusually magnificent display, and felt greatly surprised
that no hint of the banquet had been given him, on his arrival, by the
hostess. The feast had already commenced; and all the yeomen-waiters and
trencher-scrapers were too busily occupied to attend to him. Cyprien,
who marshalled the dishes at the lower table, did not deign to notice
him, and was deaf to his demand for a place. It seemed probable he would
not obtain one at all; and he was about to retire, much disconcerted,
when a young man somewhat plainly habited, and who seemed a stranger to
all present, very good-naturedly made room for him. In this way he was
Sir Francis then cast a look round to ascertain who were present; but he
was so inconveniently situated, and the crowd of serving-men was so
great at the upper table, that he could only imperfectly distinguish
those seated at it; besides which, most of the guests were hidden by the
traverse. Such, however, as he could make out were richly attired in
doublets of silk and satin, while their rich velvet mantles, plumed and
jewelled caps, and long rapiers, were carried by their servants.
Two or three turned round to look at him as he sat down; and amongst
these he remarked Sir Edward Villiers, whose presence was far from
agreeable to him,--for though Sir Edward was secretly connected with him
and Sir Giles, and took tithe of their spoliations, he disowned them in
public, and would assuredly not countenance any open display of their
Another personage whom he recognised, from his obesity, the peculiarity
of his long flowing periwig, and his black velvet Parisian pourpoint,
which contrasted forcibly with the glittering habiliments of his
companions, was Doctor Mayerne-Turquet, the celebrated French professor
of medicine, then so high in favour with James, that, having been loaded
with honours and dignities, he had been recently named the King's first
physician. Doctor Mayerne's abilities were so distinguished, that his
Protestant faith alone, prevented him from occupying the same eminent
position in the court of France that he did in that of England. The
doctor's presence at the banquet was unpropitious; it was natural he
should befriend a countrywoman and a Huguenot like himself, and,
possessing the royal ear, he might make such representations as he
pleased to the King of what should occur. Sir Francis hoped he would be
gone before Sir Giles appeared.
But there was yet a third person, who gave the usurious knight more
uneasiness than the other two. This was a handsome young man, with fair
hair and delicate features, whose slight elegant figure was arrayed in
a crimson-satin doublet, slashed with white, and hose of the same
colours and fabric. The young nobleman in question, whose handsome
features and prematurely-wasted frame bore the impress of cynicism and
debauchery, was Lord Roos, then recently entrapped into marriage
with the daughter of Sir Thomas Lake, Secretary of State: a
marriage productive of the usual consequences of such imprudent
arrangements--neglect on the one side, unhappiness on the other. Lord
Roos was Sir Francis's sworn enemy. Like many other such gay moths, he
had been severely singed by fluttering into the dazzling lights held up
to him, when he wanted money, by the two usurers; and he had often vowed
revenge against them for the manner in which they had fleeced him. Sir
Francis did not usually give any great heed to his threats, being too
much accustomed to reproaches and menaces from his victims to feel alarm
or compunction; but just now the case was different, and he could not
help fearing the vindictive young lord might seize the opportunity of
serving him an ill turn,--if, indeed, he had not come there expressly
for the purpose, which seemed probable, from the fierce and disdainful
glances he cast at him.
An angry murmur pervaded the upper table on Sir Francis's appearance;
and something was said which, though he could not gather its precise
import did not sound agreeably to his ears. He felt he had unwittingly
brought his head near a hornet's nest, and might esteem himself lucky if
he escaped without stinging. However, there was no retreating now; for
though his fear counselled flight, very shame restrained him.
The repast was varied and abundant, consisting of all kinds of
fricassees, collops and rashers, boiled salmon from the Thames, trout
and pike from the same river, boiled pea-chickens, and turkey-poults,
and florentines of puff paste, calves-foot pies, and set custards.
Between each guest a boiled salad was placed, which was nothing more
than what we should term a dish of vegetables, except that the
vegetables were somewhat differently prepared; cinnamon, ginger, and
sugar being added to the pulped carrots, besides a handful of currants,
vinegar, and butter. A similar plan was adopted with the salads of
burrage, chicory, marigold leaves, bugloss, asparagus, rocket, and
alexanders, and many other plants discontinued in modern cookery, but
then much esteemed; oil and vinegar being used with some, and spices
with all; while each dish was garnished with slices of hard-boiled eggs.
A jowl of sturgeon was carried to the upper table, where there was also
a baked swan, and a roasted bustard, flanked by two stately venison
pasties. This was only the first service; and two others followed,
consisting of a fawn, with a pudding inside it, a grand salad, hot olive
pies, baked neats' tongues, fried calves' tongues, baked Italian
puddings, a farced leg of lamb in the French fashion, orangeado pie,
buttered crabs, anchovies, and a plentiful supply of little made dishes,
and _quelquechoses_, scattered over the table. With such a profusion of
good things, it may appear surprising that Sir Francis should find very
little to eat; but the attendants all seemed in league against him, and
whenever he set his eye upon a dish, it was sure to be placed out of
reach. Sir Francis was a great epicure, and the Thames salmon looked
delicious; but he would have failed in obtaining a slice of it, if his
neighbour (the young man who had made room for him) had not given him
the well-filled trencher intended for himself. In the same way he
secured the wing of a boiled capon, larded with preserved lemons, the
sauce of which was exquisite, as he well knew, from experience. Cyprien,
however, took care he should get none of the turkey poults, or the
florentines, but whipped off both dishes from under his very nose; and a
like fate would have attended a lumbar pie but for the interference of
his good-natured neighbour, who again came to his aid, and rescued it
from the clutches of the saucy Gascon, just as it was being borne away.
A Star-Chamber victim.
His hunger being somewhat stayed, Sir Francis now found leisure to
consider the young man who had so greatly befriended him, and, as a
means of promoting conversation between them, began by filling his glass
from a flask of excellent Bordeaux, of which, in spite of Cyprien's
efforts to prevent him, he had contrived to gain possession. The young
man acknowledged his courtesy with a smile, praised the wine, and
expressed his astonishment at the wonderful variety and excellence of
the repast, for which he said he was quite unprepared. It was not Sir
Francis's way to feel or express much interest in strangers, and he
disliked young men, especially when they were handsome, as was the case
with his new acquaintance; but there was something in the youth that
riveted his attention.
From the plainness of his attire, and a certain not unpleasing rusticity
of air, Sir Francis comprehended at once that he was fresh from the
country; but he also felt satisfied, from his bearing and deportment,
that he was a gentleman: a term not quite so vaguely applied then, as it
is now-a-days. The youth had a fine frank countenance, remarkable for
manly beauty and intelligence, and a figure perfectly proportioned and
athletic. Sir Francis set him down as well skilled in all exercises;
vaulting, leaping, riding, and tossing the pike; nor was he mistaken. He
also concluded him to be fond of country sports; and he was right in the
supposition. He further imagined the young man had come to town to
better his fortune, and seek a place at Court; and he was not far wrong
in the notion. As the wily knight scanned the handsome features of his
companion, his clean-made limbs, and symmetrical figure, he thought that
success must infallibly attend the production of such a fair youth at a
Court where personal advantages were the first consideration.
"A likely gallant," he reflected, "to take the fancy of the king; and if
I aid him with means to purchase rich attire, and procure him a
presentation, he may not prove ungrateful. But of that I shall take good
security. I know what gratitude is. He must be introduced to my Lady
Suffolk. She will know how to treat him. In the first place, he must
cast his country slough. That ill-made doublet of green cloth must be
exchanged for one of velvet slashed in the Venetian style like mine own,
with hose stuffed and bombasted according to the mode. A silk stocking
will bring out the nice proportions of his leg; though, as I am a true
gentleman, the youth has so well formed a limb that even his own
villainous yarn coverings cannot disfigure it. His hair is of a good
brown colour, which the king affects much, and seems to curl naturally;
but it wants trimming to the mode, for he is rough as a young colt fresh
from pasture; and though he hath not much beard on his chin or upper
lip, yet what he hath becomes him well, and will become him better, when
properly clipped and twisted. Altogether he is as goodly a youth as one
would desire to see. What if he should supplant Buckingham, as
Buckingham supplanted Somerset? Let the proud Marquis look to himself!
We may work his overthrow yet. And now to question him."
After replenishing his glass, Sir Francis addressed himself in his
blandest accents, and with his most insidious manner, to his youthful
"For a stranger to town, as I conclude you to be, young Sir," he said,
"you have made rather a lucky hit in coming hither to-day, since you
have not only got a better dinner than I (a constant frequenter of this
French ordinary) ever saw served here--(though the attendance is
abominable, as you must have remarked--that rascally Cyprien deserves
the bastinado,); but your civility and good manners have introduced you
to one, who may, without presumption, affirm that he hath the will, and,
it may be, the ability to serve you; if you will only point out to him
"Nay, worthy Sir, you are too kind," the young man modestly replied; "I
have done nothing to merit your good opinion, though I am happy to have
gained it. I rejoice that accident has so far befriended me as to bring
me here on this festive occasion; and I rejoice yet more that it has
brought me acquainted with a worthy gentleman like yourself, to whom my
rustic manners prove not to be displeasing. I have too few friends to
neglect any that chance may offer; and as I must carve my own way in the
world, and fight for a position in it, I gladly accept any hand that may
be stretched out to help me in the struggle."
"Just as I would have it," Sir Francis thought, "The very man I took him
for. As I am a true gentleman, mine shall not be wanting, my good
youth," he added aloud, with apparent cordiality, and affecting to
regard the other with great interest; "and when I learn the particular
direction in which you intend to shape your course, I shall be the
better able to advise and guide you. There are many ways to fortune."
"Mine should be the shortest if I had any choice," the young man
rejoined with a smile.
"Right, quite right," the crafty knight returned. "All men would take
that road if they could find it. But with some the shortest road would
not be the safest. In your case I think it might be different. You have
a sufficiently good mien, and a sufficiently good figure, to serve you
in lieu of other advantages."
"Your fair speech would put me in conceit with myself, worthy Sir," the
young man rejoined with a well-pleased air; "were I not too conscious of
my own demerits, not to impute what you say of me to good nature, or to
"There you wrong me, my good young friend--on my credit, you do. Were I
to resort to adulation, I must strain the points of compliment to find
phrases that should come up to my opinion of your good looks; and as to
my friendly disposition towards you, I have already said that your
attentions have won it, so that mere good nature does not prompt my
words. I speak of you, as I think. May I, without appearing too
inquisitive, ask from what part of the country you come?"
"I am from Norfolk, worthy Sir," the young man answered, "where my life
has been spent among a set of men wild and uncouth, and fond of the
chase as the Sherwood archers we read of in the ballads. I am the son of
a broken gentleman; the lord of a ruined house; with one old servant
left me out of fifty kept by my father, and with scarce a hundred acres
that I can still call my own, out of the thousands swept away from me.
Still I hunt in my father's woods; kill my father's deer; and fish in my
father's lakes; since no one molests me. And I keep up the little church
near the old tumble-down hall, in which are the tombs of my ancestors,
and where my father lies buried; and the tenantry come there yet on
Sundays, though I am no longer their master; and my father's old
chaplain, Sir Oliver, still preaches there, though my father's son can
no longer maintain him."
"A sad change, truly," Sir Francis said, in a tone of sympathy, and with
a look of well-feigned concern; "and attributable, I much fear, to riot
and profusion on the part of your father, who so beggared his son."
"Not so, Sir," the young man gravely replied; "my father was a most
honourable man, and would have injured no one, much less the son on whom
he doated. Neither was he profuse; but lived bountifully and well, as a
country gentleman, with a large estate, should live. The cause of his
ruin was that he came within the clutches of that devouring monster,
which, like the insatiate dragon of Rhodes, has swallowed up the
substance of so many families, that our land is threatened with
desolation. My father was ruined by that court, which, with a mockery of
justice, robs men of their name, their fame, their lands, and goods;
which perverts the course of law, and saps the principles of equity;
which favours the knave, and oppresses the honest man; which promotes
and supports extortion and plunder; which reverses righteous judgments,
and asserts its own unrighteous supremacy, which, by means of its
commissioners, spreads its hundred arms over the whole realm, to
pillage and destroy--so that no one, however distant, can keep out of
its reach, or escape its supervision; and which, if it be not uprooted,
will, in the end, overthrow the kingdom. Need I say my father was ruined
by the Star-Chamber?"
"Hush! hush! my good young Sir," Sir Francis cried, having vainly
endeavoured to interrupt his companion's angry denunciation. "Pray
heaven your words have reached no other ears than mine! To speak of the
Star-Chamber as you have spoken is worse than treason. Many a man has
lost his ears, and been branded on the brow, for half you have uttered."
"Is free speech denied in this free country?" the young man cried in
astonishment. "Must one suffer grievous wrong, and not complain?"
"Certes, you must not contemn the Star-Chamber, or you will incur its
censure," Sir Francis replied in a low tone. "No court in England is so
jealous of its prerogatives, nor so severe in punishment of its
maligners. It will not have its proceedings canvassed, or its judgments
"For the plain reason, that it knows they will not bear investigation or
discussion. Such is the practice of all arbitrary and despotic rule. But
will Englishmen submit to such tyranny?"
"Again, let me counsel you to put a bridle on your tongue, young Sir.
Such matters are not to be talked of at public tables--scarcely in
private. It is well you have addressed yourself to one who will not
betray you. The Star-Chamber hath its spies everywhere. Meddle not with
it, as you value liberty. Light provocation arouses its anger; and once
aroused, its wrath is all-consuming."
Notwithstanding the risk incurred, the young man, whose feelings were
evidently deeply interested, seemed disposed to pursue the dangerous
theme; but perceiving one of their opposite neighbours glancing at them,
Sir Francis checked him; and filling his glass essayed to change the
conversation, by inquiring how long he had been in town, and where he
"I only arrived in London yesterday," was the reply; "yet I have been
here long enough to make me loth to return to the woods and moors of
Norfolk. As to my lodging, it is without the city walls, near St.
Botolph's Church, and within a bow shot of Aldgate: a pleasant situation
enough, looking towards the Spital Fields and the open country. I would
fain have got me others in the Strand, or near Charing Cross, if my
scanty means would have allowed me. Chance, as I have said, brought me
here to-day. Strolling forth early to view the sights of town, I crossed
London Bridge, the magnificence of which amazed me; and, proceeding
along the Bankside, entered Paris Garden, of which I had heard much, and
where I was greatly pleased, both with the mastiffs kept there, and the
formidable animals they have to encounter; and, methought, I should like
to bait mine enemies with those savage dogs, instead of the bear.
Returning to the opposite shore in a wherry, the waterman landed me at
this wharf, and so highly commended the Three Cranes, as affording the
best French ordinary and the best French wine in London, that seeing
many gentlefolk flocking towards it, which seemed to confirm his
statement, I came in with them, and have reason to be satisfied with my
entertainment, never having dined so sumptuously before, and, certes,
never having tasted wine so delicious."
"Let me fill your glass again. As I am a true gentleman, it will not
hurt you; a singular merit of pure Bordeaux being that you may drink it
with impunity; and the like cannot be said of your sophisticated sack.
We will crush another flask. Ho! drawer--Cyprien, I say! More wine--and
of the best Bordeaux. The best, I say."
And for a wonder the order was obeyed, and the flask set before him.
"You have been at the Bankside you say, young Sir? On my credit, you
must cross the river again and visit the theatres--the Globe or the
Rose. Our great actor, Dick Burbadge, plays Othello to-day, and, I
warrant me, he will delight you. A little man is Dick, but he hath a
mighty soul. There is none other like him, whether it be Nat Field or
Ned Alleyn. Our famous Shakespeare is fortunate, I trow, in having him
to play his great characters. You must see Burbadge, likewise, in the
mad Prince of Denmark,--the part was written for him, and fits him
exactly. See him also in gentle and love-sick Romeo, in tyrannous and
murderous Macbeth, and in crookback Richard; in all of which, though
different, our Dick is equally good. He hath some other parts of almost
equal merit,--as Malevole, in the 'Malcontent;' Frankford, in the 'Woman
Killed with Kindness;' Brachiano, in Webster's 'White Devil;' and
Vendice, in Cyril Tournour's 'Revenger's Tragedy.'"
"I know not what may be the nature of that last-named play," the young
man rather sternly remarked; "but if the character of Vendice at all
bears out its name, it would suit me. I am an avenger."
"Forbear your wrongs awhile, I pray you, and drown your resentment in a
cup of wine. As I am a true gentleman! a better bottle than the first!
Nay, taste it. On my credit, it is perfect nectar. I pledge you in a
brimmer; wishing Success may attend you, and Confusion await your
Enemies! May you speedily regain your Rights!"
"I drink that toast most heartily, worthy Sir," the young man exclaimed,
raising his beaded flagon on high. "Confusion to my Enemies--Restoration
to my Rights!"
And he drained the goblet to its last drop.
"By this time he must be in a fit mood for my purpose," Sir Francis
thought, as he watched him narrowly. "Harkye, my good young friend," he
said, lowering his tone, "I would not be overheard in what I have to
say. You were speaking just now of the shortest way to fortune. I will
point it out to you. To him, who is bold enough to take it, and who hath
the requisites for the venture, the shortest way is to be found at
Court. Where think you most of those gallants, of whom you may catch a
glimpse through the traverse, derive their revenues?--As I am a true
gentleman!--from the royal coffers. Not many years ago, with all of
them; not many months ago, with some; those brilliant and titled
coxcombs were adventurers like yourself, having barely a Jacobus in
their purses, and scarce credit for board and lodging with their
respective landladies. Now you see how nobly they feast, and how richly
they bedeck themselves. On my credit! the like good fortune may attend
you; and haply, when I dine at an ordinary a year hence, I may perceive
you at the upper table, with a curtain before you to keep off the meaner
company, and your serving-man at your back, holding your velvet mantle
and cap, like the best of your fellow nobles."
"Heaven grant it may be so!" the young man exclaimed, with a sigh. "You
hold a dazzling picture before me; but I have little expectation of
"It will be your own fault if you do not," the tempter rejoined. "You
are equally well-favoured with the handsomest of them; and it was by
good looks alone that the whole party rose to their present eminence.
Why not pursue the same course; with the same certainty of success? You
have courage enough to undertake it, I presume?"
"If courage alone were wanting, I have that," the young man
replied;--"but I am wholly unknown in town. How then shall I accomplish
an introduction at Court, when I know not even its humblest attendant?"
"I have already said you were lucky in meeting with me," Sir Francis
replied; "and I find you were luckier than I supposed, when I told you
so; for I knew not then towards what bent your desires tended, nor in
what way I could help you; but now, finding out the boldness of your
flight, and the high game you aim at, I am able to offer you effectual
assistance, and give you an earnest of a prosperous issue. Through my
means you shall be presented to the king, and in such sort that the
presentation shall not be idly made. It will rest then with yourself to
play your cards dexterously, and to follow up a winning game. Doubtless,
you will have many adversaries, who will trip up your heels if they can,
and throw every obstacle in your way; but if you possess the strong arm
I fancy you do, and daring to second it, you have nothing to fear. As I
am a true gentleman! you shall have good counsel, and a friend in
secret to back you."
"To whom am I indebted for this most gracious and unlooked-for offer?"
the young man asked, his breast heaving, and his eye flashing with
"To one you may perchance have heard of," the knight answered, "as the
subject of some misrepresentation; how justly applied, you yourself will
be able to determine from my present conduct. I am Sir Francis
At the mention of this name the young man started, and a deep angry
flush overspread his face and brow.
Perceiving the effect produced, the wily knight hastened to remove it.
"My name, I see, awakens unpleasant associations in your breast," he
said; "and your look shows you have been influenced by the calumnies of
my enemies. I do not blame you. Men can only be judged of by report; and
those I have had dealings with have reported ill enough of me. But they
have spoken falsely. I have done no more than any other person would do.
I have obtained the best interest I could for my money; and my losses
have been almost equal to my gains. Folks are ready enough to tell all
they can against you; but slow to mention aught they conceive to be in
your favour. They stigmatize me as a usurer; but they forget to add, I
am ever the friend of those in need. They use me, and abuse me. That is
the way of the world. Wherefore, then, should I complain? I am no worse
off than my neighbours. And the proof that I can be disinterested is the
way in which I have acted towards you, a perfect stranger, and who have
no other recommendation to my good offices than your gracious mien and
"I cannot accept your proffered aid, Sir Francis," the young man
replied, in an altered tone, and with great sternness. "And you will
understand why I cannot, when I announce myself to you as Jocelyn
It was now the knight's turn to start, change colour, and tremble.
A momentary pause ensued, during which Mounchensey regarded the knight
so fiercely, that the latter began to entertain apprehensions for his
personal safety, and meditated a precipitate retreat. Yet he did not
dare to move, lest the action should bring upon him the hurt he wished
to avoid. Thus he remained, like a bird fascinated by the rattlesnake,
until the young man, whose power of speech seemed taken from him by
passion, went on, in a tone of deep and concentrated rage, that
communicated a hissing sound to his words.
"Yes, I am Jocelyn Mounchensey," he said, "the son of him whom your arts
and those of your partner in iniquity, Sir Giles Mompesson, brought to
destruction; the son of him whom you despoiled of a good name and large
estates, and cast into a loathsome prison, to languish and to die: I am
the son of that murdered man. I am he whom you have robbed of his
inheritance; whose proud escutcheon you have tarnished; whose family you
have reduced to beggary and utter ruin."
"But Sir Jocelyn, my worthy friend," the knight faltered, "have
patience, I pray of you. If you consider yourself aggrieved, I am
willing to make reparation--ample reparation. You know what were my
intentions towards you, before I had the slightest notion who you might
be. (If I had but been aware of it, he thought, I would have taken care
to keep at a respectful distance from him.) I will do more than I
promised. I will lend you any sums of money you may require; and on your
personal security. Your bare word shall suffice. No bonds--no written
obligations of any kind. Does that sound like usury? As I am a true
gentleman! I am most unfairly judged. I am not the extortioner men
describe me. You shall find me your friend," he added in a low earnest
tone. "I will re-establish your fortune; give you a new title, higher
and prouder than that which you have lost; and, if you will follow my
counsel, you shall supplant the haughty favourite himself. You shall
stand where Buckingham now stands. Hear reason, good Sir Jocelyn. Hear
reason, I entreat you."
"I will hear nothing further," Jocelyn rejoined. "Were you to talk till
Doomsday, you could not alter my feelings towards you a jot. My chief
errand in coming to London was to call you and Sir Giles Mompesson to
"And we will answer any charges you may bring against us readily--most
readily, Sir Jocelyn. All was done in fairness--according to law. The
Star-Chamber will uphold us."
"Tut! you think to terrify me with that bugbear; but I am not so easily
frightened. We have met for the first time by chance, but our next
meeting shall be by appointment."
"When and where you please, Sir Jocelyn," the knight replied; but
recollect the duello is forbidden, and, though I would not willingly
disappoint you in your desire to cut my throat, I should be sorry to
think you might be hanged for it afterwards. Come, Sir Jocelyn, lay
aside this idle passion, and look to your true interests, which lie not
in quarrelling with me, but in our reconciliation. I can help you
effectually, as I have shown; and, as I am a true gentleman, I _will_
help you. Give me your hand, and let us be friends!"
"Never!" Jocelyn exclaimed, withdrawing from him, "never shall the hand
of a Mounchensey grasp yours in friendship! I would sooner mine rotted
off! I am your mortal foe. My father's death has to be avenged."
"Provoke him not, my good young Sir," interposed an elderly man, next
him, in a long furred gown, with hanging sleeves, and a flat cap on his
head, who had heard what was now passing. "You know not the mischief he
may do you."
"I laugh at his malice, and defy him," Jocelyn cried--"he shall not sit
one moment longer beside me. Out, knave! out!" he added, seizing Sir
Francis by the wing of his doublet, and forcibly thrusting him from his
seat. "You are not fit company for honest men. Ho! varlets, to the door
with him! Throw him into the kennel."
"You shall rue this, villain!--you shall rue it bitterly," Sir Francis
cried, shaking his clenched hands at him. "Your father perished like a
dog in the Fleet, and you shall perish there likewise. You have put
yourself wholly in my power, and I will make a fearful example of you.
You have dared to utter scandalous and contemptuous language against the
great and high court of Star-Chamber, before the decrees of which, all
men bow; impugning its justice and denying its authority; and you shall
feel the full weight of its displeasure. I call upon these worthy
gentlemen to testify against you."
"We have heard nothing, and can testify nothing," several voices cried.
"But you, Sir, who were next him, you must have heard him?" Sir Francis
said, addressing the elderly man in the furred gown.
"Not I!" rejoined the person appealed to; "I gave no heed to what was
"But I did, Sir Francis," squeaked a little whey-faced man, in a large
ruff and tight-laced yellow doublet, from the opposite side of the
table; "I heard him most audaciously vilipend the high court of
Star-Chamber and its councils; and I will bear testimony against him
when called upon."
"Your name, good Sir, your name?" Sir Francis demanded, taking out his
"Set me down as Thopas Trednock, tailor, at the sign of the Pressing
Iron, in Cornhill," the whey-faced man replied, in his shrill tones,
amid the derisive laughter of the assemblage.
"Thopas Trednock, tailor--good!" the knight repeated, as he wrote the
name down. "You will be an excellent witness, Master Trednock. Fare you
well for the present, _Master_ Jocelyn Mounchensey, for I now mind well
your father was degraded from the honour of knighthood. As I am a true
gentleman! you may be sure of committal to the Fleet."
As may be supposed, the scuffle which had taken place, attracted the
attention of those in its immediate vicinity; and when the cause of it
became known, as it presently did throughout both tables, great
indignation was expressed against Sir Francis, who was censured on all
hands, jeered and flouted, as he moved to the door. So great was the
clamour, and so opprobrious were the epithets and terms applied to him,
that the knight was eager to make his escape; but he met Cyprien in his
way; and the droll young Gascon, holding a dish-cover in one hand, by
way of buckler, and a long carving-knife in the other, in place of a
sword, opposed his egress.
"Let me pass, knave," Sir Francis cried in alarm.
"By your leave, no," returned Cyprien, encouraged by the laughter and
plaudits of the company. "You have come hither uninvited, and must stay
till you have permission to depart. Having partaken of the banquet, you
must, perforce, tarry for the rerebanquet. The sweets and cates have yet
to come, Sir Francis."
"What mean you, sirrah?" the knight demanded, in increased trepidation.
"Your presence is necessary at a little entertainment I have provided to
follow the dinner, sweet Sir Francis," Madame Bonaventure cried,
advancing towards him; "and as you have a principal part in it, I can by
no means spare you."
"No one can spare you, sweet Sir Francis," several voices chimed in,
derisively. "You must remain with us a little longer."
"But I will not stay. I will not be detained. There is some conspiracy
a-foot against me. I will indict you all for it, if you hinder me in
going forth," the knight vociferated, in accents of mingled rage and
terror. "Stop me at your peril, thou saucy Gascon knave."
"_Cornes du diable_!--no more a knave than yourself, _gros usurier_!"
"_Laissez-lui,_ Cyprien," Madame Bonaventure interposed;--"the
courteous knight will yield to my entreaties, and stay of his own free
"I have business that calls me hence. I must go," Sir Francis said,
endeavouring to push by them.
"Let the door be closed," an authoritative voice cried from the head of
The order was instantly obeyed. Two serving-men stationed themselves
before the place of exit, and Sir Francis found himself a prisoner.
The roof rang with the laughter and gibes of the guests.
"This is a frolic, gentleman, I perceive. You are resolved to make me
your sport--ha! ha!" Sir Francis said, trying to disguise his uneasiness
under an appearance of levity--"But you will not carry the jest too far.
You will not maltreat me. My partner, Sir Giles Mompesson, will be here
anon, and will requite any outrage committed upon me."
"Sir Giles is impatiently expected by us," a spruce coxcomb near him
replied. "Madame Bonaventure had prepared us for his coming. We will
give him the welcome he deserves."
"Ah! traitress! then it was all planned," Sir Francis thought;--"and,
blind owl that I am, I have fallen into the snare."
But the poor knight was nearly at his wit's end with fright, when he saw
Lord Roos quit his place at the upper table and approach him.
How Lord Roos obtained Sir Francis Mitchell's signature.
"What, my prince of usurers!" exclaimed Lord Roos, in a mocking tone;
"my worthy money-lender, who never takes more than cent. per cent., and
art ill content with less; who never exacts more than the penalty of thy
bond,--unless more may be got; who never drives a hard bargain with a
needy man--by thine own account; who never persecutes a debtor--as the
prisons shall vouch for thee; who art just in all thy transactions--as
every man who hath had dealings with thee will affirm; and who knows not
how to lie, to cheat, to cozen--as some usurers do."
"You are pleasant, my lord," Sir Francis replied.
"I mean to be so," Lord Roos said; "for I esteem thee for thy rare
qualities. I know not thy peer for cunning and knavery. Thy mischievous
schemes are so well-conceived that they prove thee to have an absolute
genius for villany. Scruples thou hast none; and considerations and
feelings which might move men less obdurate than thyself, have no
influence over thee. To ruin a man is with thee mere pastime; and groans
of the oppressed are music in thine ears."
"Aha! a good jest. You were always merry with me, my lord."
"Yes, when I borrowed money from thee--but not when I had to repay it
twice over. I laughed not then; but was foolish enough to threaten to
take thy life. My anger is past now. But we must drink together--a
"At your lordship's pleasure," Sir Francis replied.
"Cyprien! a flask of wine, and thy largest goblet," Lord Roos cried.
"'Tis well! Now pour the whole into the flagon. Do me reason in this
cup, Sir Francis?"
"What! in this mighty cup, my lord?" the knight replied. "Nay, 'tis too
much, I swear. If I become drunken, the sin will lie at your door."
"Off with it! without more ado. And let the toast be what thou
practisest--'Pillage and Extortion!'"
"I cannot drink that toast, my lord. 'Twill choke me."
"'Sdeath! villain, but thou _shalt_, or thou shalt never taste wine
more. Down with it, man! And now your signature to this paper?"
"My signature!" Sir Francis cried, reeling from the effect of the wine
he had swallowed. "Nay, my good lord; I can sign nothing that I have not
read. What is it?"
"A blank sheet," Lord Roos rejoined. "I will fill it up afterwards."
"Then, my lord, I refuse--that is, I decline--that is, I had rather
not, if your lordship pleases."
"But my lordship pleases otherwise. Give him pen and ink, and set him
near the table."
This was done; and Sir Francis regarded the paper with swimming eyes.
"Now, your name,--written near the bottom of the sheet," Lord Roos
"'Tis done under com--compulsion; and I pro--protest against it."
"Sign, I say," the young nobleman exclaimed, rapping the table
On this, Sir Francis wrote his name in the place indicated.
"Enough!" Lord Roos cried, snatching up the paper. "This is all I want.
Now set him on the table, that his partner may have him in full view
when he arrives. 'Twill give him a foretaste of what he may himself
"What mean you, ruff--ruffians? 'Tis an indignity to which I shall not
submit," cried Sir Francis, who was now, however, too far gone to offer
A leathern girdle was found, with which he was fastened to the chair, so
as to prevent him slipping from it; and in this state he was hoisted
upon the table, and set with his face to the door; looking the very
picture of inebriety, with his head drooping on one side, his arms
dangling uselessly down, and his thin legs stretched idly out. After
making some incoherent objections to this treatment, he became
altogether silent, and seemed to fall asleep. His elevation was received
with shouts of laughter from the whole company.
The incident had not taken place many minutes, and a round had scarcely
been drunk by the guests, when a loud and peremptory summons was heard
at the door. The noise roused even the poor drunkard in the chair, who,
lifting up his head, stared about him with vacant eyes.
"Let the door be opened," the same authoritative voice exclaimed, which
had before ordered its closure.
The mandate was obeyed; and, amidst profound silence, which suddenly
succeeded the clashing of glasses, and expressions of hilarity, Sir
Giles Mompesson entered, with his body-guard of myrmidons behind him.
Habited in black, as was his custom, with a velvet mantle on his
shoulder, and a long rapier by his side, he came forward with a measured
step and assured demeanour. Though he must necessarily have been
surprised by the assemblage he found--so much more numerous and splendid
than he could have anticipated--he betrayed no signs whatever of
embarrassment. Nor, though his quick eye instantly detected Sir Francis,
and he guessed at once why the poor knight had been so scandalously
treated, did he exhibit any signs of displeasure, or take the slightest
notice of the circumstance; reserving this point for consideration, when
his first business should be settled. An additional frown might have
darkened his countenance; but it was so stern and sombre, without it,
that no perceptible change could be discerned; unless it might be in the
lightning glances he cast around, as if seeking some one he might call
to account presently for the insult. But no one seemed willing to reply
to the challenge. Though bold enough before he came, and boastful of
what they would do, they all looked awed by his presence, and averted
their gaze from him. There was, indeed, something so formidable in the
man, that to shun a quarrel with him was more a matter of prudence than
an act of cowardice; and on the present occasion, no one liked to be
first to provoke him; trusting to his neighbour to commence the attack,
or awaiting the general outbreak.
There was one exception, however, and that was Jocelyn Mounchensey, who,
so far from desiring to shun Sir Giles's searching regards, courted
them; and as the knight's eagle eye ranged round the table and fell upon
him, the young man (notwithstanding the efforts of his pacific neighbour
in the furred cloak to restrain him) suddenly rose up, and throwing all
the scorn and defiance he could muster into his countenance, returned
Mompesson's glance with one equally fierce and menacing.
A bitter smile curled Sir Giles's lip at this reply to his challenge,
and he regarded the young man fixedly, as if to grave his features upon
his memory. Perhaps they brought Mounchensey's father to mind, for Sir
Giles withdrew his gaze for a moment to reflect, and then looked again
at Jocelyn with fresh curiosity. If he had any doubts as to whom he
beheld, they were removed by Sir Francis, who managed to hiccup forth--
"'Tis he, Sir Giles--'tis Jocelyn Mounchensey."
"I thought as much," Sir Giles muttered. "A moment, young man," he
cried, waving his hand imperiously to his antagonist. "Your turn will
And without bestowing further notice on Jocelyn, who resisted all his
neighbour's entreaties to him to sit down, Sir Giles advanced towards
the middle chamber, where he paused, and took off his cap, having
hitherto remained covered.
In this position, he looked like a grand inquisitor attended by his
Of Lupo Vulp, Captain Bludder, Clement Lanyere, and Sir Giles's other
Close behind Sir Giles, and a little in advance of the rest of the
myrmidons, stood Lupo Vulp, the scrivener.
Lupo Vulp was the confidential adviser of our two extortioners, to whom
they referred all their nefarious projects. He it was who prepared their
bonds and contracts, and placed out their ill-gotten gains at exorbitant
usance. Lupo Vulp was in all respects worthy of his employers, being
just as wily and unscrupulous as they were, while, at the same time, he
was rather better versed in legal tricks and stratagems, so that he
could give them apt counsel in any emergency. A countenance more replete
with cunning and knavery than that of Lupo Vulp, it would be difficult
to discover. A sardonic smile hovered perpetually about his mouth, which
was garnished with ranges of the keenest and whitest teeth. His features
were sharp; his eyes small, set wide apart, of a light gray colour, and
with all the slyness of a fox lurking within their furtive glances.
Indeed, his general resemblance to that astute animal must have struck
a physiognomist. His head was shaped like that of a fox, and his hair
and beard were of a reddish-tawny hue. His manner was stealthy,
cowering, suspicious, as if he feared a blow from every hand. Yet Lupo
Vulp could show his teeth and snap on occasions. He was attired in a
close-fitting doublet of russety-brown, round yellow hose, and long
stockings of the same hue. A short brown mantle and a fox-skin cap
completed his costume.
The leader of the troop was Captain Bludder, a huge Alsatian bully, with
fiercely-twisted moustachios, and fiery-red beard cut like a spade. He
wore a steeple-crowned hat with a brooch in it, a buff jerkin and boots,
and a sword and buckler dangled from his waist. Besides these, he had a
couple of petronels stuck in his girdle. The captain drank like a fish,
and swaggered and swore like twenty troopers.
The rear of the band was formed by the tipstaves--stout fellows with
hooks at the end of their poles, intended to capture a fugitive, or hale
him along when caught. With these were some others armed with
brown-bills. No uniformity prevailed in the accoutrements of the party,
each man arraying himself as he listed. Some wore old leather jerkins
and steel skirts; some, peascod doublets of Elizabeth's time, and
trunk-hose that had covered many a limb besides their own; others, slops
and galligaskins; while the poorer sort were robed in rusty gowns of
tuft-mockado or taffeta, once guarded with velvet or lined with skins,
but now tattered and threadbare. Their caps and bonnets were as varied
as their apparel,--some being high-crowned, some trencher-shaped, and
some few wide in the leaf and looped at the side. Moreover, there was
every variety of villainous aspect; the savage scowl of the desperado,
the cunning leer of the trickster, and the sordid look of the mean
knave. Several of them betrayed, by the marks of infamy branded on their
faces, or by the loss of ears, that they had passed through the hands of
the public executioner.
Amongst these there was one with a visage more frightfully mutilated
than those of his comrades; the nose having been slit, and subsequently
sewed together again, but so clumsily that the severed parts had only
imperfectly united, communicating a strange, distorted, and forbidding
look to the physiognomy. Clement Lanyere, the owner of this gashed and
ghastly face, who was also reft of his ears, and branded on the cheek,
had suffered infamy and degradation, owing to the licence he had given
his tongue in respect to the Star-Chamber. Prosecuted in that court by
Sir Giles Mompesson, as a notorious libeller and scandaller of the
judges and first personages of the realm, he was found guilty, and
sentenced accordingly. The court showed little leniency to such
offenders; but it was a matter of grace that his clamorous tongue was
not torn out likewise, in addition to the punishment actually inflicted.
A heavy fine and imprisonment accompanied the corporal penalties. Thus
utterly ruined and degraded, and a mark for the finger of scorn to point
at, Clement Lanyere, whose prospects had once been fair enough, as his
features had been prepossessing, became soured and malevolent,
embittered against the world, and at war with society. He turned
promoter, or, in modern parlance, informer; lodging complaints, seeking
out causes for prosecutions, and bringing people into trouble in order
to obtain part of the forfeits they incurred for his pains. Strange to
say, he attached himself to Sir Giles Mompesson,--the cause of all his
misfortunes,--and became one of the most active and useful of his
followers. It was thought no good could come of this alliance, and that
the promoter only bided his time to turn upon his master, against whom
it was only natural he should nourish secret vengeance. But, if it were
so, Sir Giles seemed to entertain no apprehensions of him, probably
thinking he could crush him whenever he pleased. Either way the event
was long deferred. Clement Lanyere, to all appearance, continued to
serve his master zealously and well; and Sir Giles gave no sign whatever
of distrust, but, on the contrary, treated him with increased
confidence. The promoter was attired wholly in black--cloak, cap,
doublet, and hose were of sable. And as, owing to the emoluments
springing from his vile calling, his means were far greater than those
of his comrades; so his habiliments were better. When wrapped in his
mantle, with his mutilated countenance covered with a mask which he
generally wore, the informer might have passed for a cavalier; so tall
and well formed was his figure, and so bold his deportment. The
dangerous service he was employed upon, which exposed him to insult and
injury, required him to be well armed; and he took care to be so.
Two or three of Sir Giles's myrmidons, having been selected for
particular description, the designations of some others must
suffice--such as Staring Hugh, a rascal of unmatched effrontery; the Gib
Cat and Cutting Dick, dissolute rogues from the Pickt-hatch in Turnbull
Street, near Clerkenwell; old Tom Wootton, once a notorious harbourer of
"masterless men," at his house at Smart's Quay, but now a sheriffs
officer; and, perhaps, it ought to be mentioned, that there were some
half-dozen swash-bucklers and sharpers from Alsatia, under the command
of Captain Bludder, who was held responsible for their good conduct.
Such was Sir Giles's body-guard.
On his entrance, it may be remarked, the curtain in front of the raised
table was more closely drawn, so as completely to conceal the guests.
But their importance might be inferred from the serving-men, in rich
liveries, standing before the traverse.
Profound silence reigned throughout the assemblage.
Having uncovered, as before mentioned, and made a formal reverence to
the company, Sir Giles spoke as follows:--
"I crave your pardon, worthy Sirs," he said, in a distinct and resolute
voice, "for this intrusion, and regret to be the means of marring your
festivity. I came hither wholly unprepared to find such an assemblage.
Yet, though I would willingly have chosen a more fitting opportunity for
my visit, and would postpone, if I could, to another occasion, the
unpleasant duty I have to fulfil; the matter is urgent, and will not
admit of delay. You will hold me excused, therefore, if I proceed with
it, regardless of your presence; and I am well assured no let or
interruption will be offered me, seeing I act with the royal licence and
authority, of which I am the unworthy representative."
"Truly, your conduct requires explanation," Jocelyn Mounchensey cried,
in a mocking tone. "If I had not been here in London, I should have
judged, from your appearance, and that of your attendants, that a band
of desperate marauders had broken in upon us, and that we must draw our
swords to defend our lives, and save the house from pillage. But after
what you have said, I conclude you to be the sheriff, come with your
followers to execute some writ of attachment; and therefore, however
annoying the presence of such a functionary may be,--however ill-timed
may be your visit, and unmannerly your deportment,--we are bound not to
Provocation like this was rarely addressed to Sir Giles; and the choler
occasioned by it was increased by the laughter and cheers of the
company. Nevertheless he constrained his anger, replying in a stern,
"I would not counsel you to molest me, young man. The mistake you have
committed in regard to myself may be pardoned in one of your evident
inexperience; who, fresh from the boorish society of the country, finds
himself, for the first time, amongst well-bred gentlemen. Of all here
present you are probably the sole person ignorant that I am Sir Giles
Mompesson. But it is scarcely likely that they should be aware, as I
chance to be, that the clownish insolent who has dared to wag his tongue
against me, is the son of a Star-Chamber delinquent."
A slight reaction in Sir Giles's favour was produced by his speech, but
Jocelyn quite regained his position with the company when he exclaimed--
"My father was misjudged. His prosecutor was a villain, and his sentence
"You have uttered your own condemnation, Jocelyn Mounchensey," Sir Giles
cried, with a savage laugh. "Know, to your confusion, that the High
Court of Star-Chamber is so tender of upholding the honour of its
sentences, that it ever punishes such as speak against them with the
greatest severity. You have uttered your scandals openly."
"Imprudent young man, you have, indeed, placed yourself in fearful
jeopardy," a gentleman near him observed to Jocelyn. "Escape, if you
can. You are lost, if you remain here."
But instead of following the friendly advice, Jocelyn would have
assaulted Sir Giles, if he had not been forcibly withheld by the
The knight was not slow to follow up the advantage he had gained.
"Stand forward, Clement Lanyere," he exclaimed, authoritatively.
The promoter instantly advanced.
"Look at this man," Sir Giles continued, addressing Jocelyn; "and you
will perceive how those who malign the Star-Chamber are treated. This
disfigured countenance was once as free from seam or scar as your own;
and yet, for an offence lighter than yours, it hath been stamped, as you
see, with indelible infamy. Answer, Clement Lanyere,--and answer
according to your conscience,--Was the sentence just of the high and
honourable court by which you were tried?"
"It was just," the promoter replied, a deep flush dyeing his ghastly
"Most lenient. For it left my foul tongue the power of speech it now
"By whom were you prosecuted in the Star-Chamber?"
"By him I now serve."
"That is, by myself. Do you bear me malice for what I did?"
"I have never said so. On the contrary, Sir Giles, I have always
declared I owe you a deep debt."
"Which you strive to pay?"
"Which I _will_ pay."
"You hear what this man says, Mounchensey?" Sir Giles cried. "You have
been guilty of the same offence as he. Why should you not be similarly
"If I were so punished, I would stab my prosecutor to the heart,"
At this rejoinder, Lanyere, who had hitherto kept his eyes on the
ground, suddenly raised them, with a look of singular expression at the
"Humph!" Sir Giles ejaculated. "I must proceed to extremities with him,
I find. Keep strict watch upon him, Lanyere; and follow him if he goes
forth. Trace him to his lair. Now to business. Give me the
letters-patent, Lupo," he added, turning to the scrivener, as Lanyere
retired. "These Letters-Patent," continued Sir Giles, taking two
parchment scrolls with large seals pendent from them from Lupo Vulp, and
displaying them to the assemblage, "these Royal Letters," he repeated in
his steady, stern tones, and glancing round with a look of
half-defiance, "passed under the great seal, and bearing the king's
sign-manual, as ye see, gentlemen, constitute the authority on which I
act. They accord to me and my co-patentee, Sir Francis Mitchell,
absolute and uncontrolled power and discretion in granting and refusing
licenses to all tavern-keepers and hostel-keepers throughout London.
They give us full power to enter and inspect all taverns and hostels, at
any time that may seem fit to us; to prevent any unlawful games being
used therein; and to see that good order and rule be maintained. They
also render it compulsory upon all ale-house-keepers, tavern-keepers,
and inn-keepers throughout London, to enter into their own recognizances
with us against the non-observance of our rules and regulations for
their governance and maintenance, and to find two sureties: and in case
of the forfeiture of such recognizances by any act of the parties,
coming within the scope of our authority, it is provided that one moiety
of the sum forfeited be paid to the Crown, and the other moiety to us.
Lend me your ears yet further, I pray ye, gentlemen. These Royal Letters
empower us to inflict certain fines and penalties upon all such as
offend against our authority, or resist our claims; and they enable us
to apprehend and commit to prison such offenders without further warrant
than the letters themselves contain. In brief, gentlemen," he continued
in a peremptory tone, as if insisting upon attention, "you will observe,
that the absolute control of all houses of entertainment, where
exciseable liquors are vended, is delegated to us by his most gracious
Majesty, King James. To which end ample powers have been given us by his
Majesty, who has armed us with the strong arm of the law. Will it please
ye to inspect the letters, gentlemen?" holding them forth. "You will
find that his Majesty hath thus written;--'_In cujus rei testimonium has
Literas nostras fieri fecimus patentes. Teste Meipso, apud Westm. 10
die Maij, Anno Regni nostri_,' &c. Then follows the royal signature.
None of ye, I presume, will question its authenticity?"
A deep silence succeeded, in the midst of which Jocelyn Mounchensey
"I, for one, question it," he cried. "I will never believe that a king,
who, like our gracious sovereign, has the welfare of his subjects at
heart, would sanction the oppression and injustice which those warrants,
if entrusted to unscrupulous hands, must inevitably accomplish. I
therefore mistrust the genuineness of the signature. If not forged, it
has been obtained by fraud or misrepresentation."
Some murmurs of applause followed this bold speech; but the gentleman
who had previously counselled the young man again interposed, and
whispered these words in his ear:--
"Your rash vehemence will undo you, if you take not heed. Beyond
question, Sir Giles hath the king's sanction for what he does, and to
censure him as you have done is to censure the Crown, which is next to
treason. Be ruled by me, my good young Sir, and meddle no more in the
Sir Giles, who had some difficulty in controlling his choler, now
"You have cast an imputation upon me, Jocelyn Mounchensey," he cried
with concentrated fury, "which you shall be compelled to retract as
publicly as you have made it. To insult an officer of the Crown, in the
discharge of his duty, is to insult the Crown itself, as you will find.
In the King's name, I command you to hold your peace, or, in the King's
name, I will instantly arrest you; and I forbid any one to give you aid.
I will not be troubled thus. Appointed by his Majesty to a certain
office, I exercise it as much for the benefit of the Royal Exchequer, as
for my own personal advantage. I have his Majesty's full approval of
what I do, and I need nothing more. I am accountable to no man--save the
King," addressing this menace as much to the rest of the company as to
Jocelyn. "But I came not here to render explanation, but to act. What,
ho! Madame Bonaventure! Where are ye, Madame? Oh! you are here!"
"_Bon jour_, sweet Sir Giles," the landlady said, making him a profound
obeisance. "What is your pleasure with me, Sir? And to what am I to
attribute the honour of this visit?"
"Tut! Madame. You know well enough what brings me hither, and thus
attended," he replied. "I come in pursuance of a notice, served upon you
a month ago. You will not deny having received it, since the officer who
placed it in your hands is here present." And he indicated Clement
"_Au contraire_, Sir Giles," Madame Bonaventure replied. "I readily
admit the receipt of a written message from you, which, though scarcely
intelligible to my poor comprehension, did not seem as agreeably worded
as a _billet-doux. Mais, ma foi_! I attached little importance to it. I
did not suppose it possible--nor do I suppose it possible now"--with a
captivating smile, which was totally lost upon Sir Giles--"that you
could adopt such rigorous measures against me."
"My measures may appear rigorous, Madame," Sir Giles coldly replied;
"but I am warranted in taking them. Nay, I am compelled to take them.
Not having made the satisfaction required by the notice, you have
deprived yourself of the protection I was willing to afford you. I am
now merely your judge. The penalties incurred by your neglect are these:
Your licence was suspended a month ago; the notice expressly stating
that it would be withdrawn, unless certain conditions were fulfilled.
Consequently, as ever since that time you have been vending exciseable
liquors without lawful permission, you have incurred a fine of one
hundred marks a day, making a total of three thousand marks now due and
owing from you, partly to his Majesty, and partly to his Majesty's
representatives. This sum I now demand."
"Ah! Dieu! three thousand marks!" Madame Bonaventure screamed. "What
robbery is this!--what barbarity! 'T is ruin--utter ruin! I may as well
close my house altogether, and return to my own fair country. As I am an
honest woman, Sir Giles, I cannot pay it. So it is quite useless on
your part to make any such demand."
"You profess inability to pay, Madame," Sir Giles rejoined. "I cannot
believe you; having some knowledge of your means. Nevertheless, I will
acquaint you with a rule of law applicable to the contingency you put.
'_Quod non habet in cere, luet in corpore_' is a decree of the
Star-Chamber; meaning, for I do not expect you to understand Latin, that
he who cannot pay in purse shall pay in person. Aware of the
alternative, you will make your choice. And you may thank me that I have
not adjudged you at once--as I have the power--to three months within
the Wood Street Compter."
"Ah, Sir Giles! what an atrocious idea. You are worse than a savage to
talk of such a loathsome prison to me. Ah! mon Dieu! what is to happen
to me! would I were back again in my lovely Bordeaux!"
"You will have an opportunity of revisiting that fine city, Madame; for
you will no longer be able to carry on your calling here."
"Ciel! Sir Giles! what mean you?"
"I mean, Madame, that you are disabled from keeping any tavern for the
space of three years."
Madame Bonaventure clasped her hands together, and screamed aloud.
"In pity, Sir Giles!--In pity!" she cried.
The inexorable knight shook his head. The low murmurs of indignation
among the company which had been gradually gathering force during the
foregoing dialogue, now became clamorous. "A most scandalous
proceeding!" exclaimed one. "Deprive us of our best French ordinary!"
cried another. "Infamous extortioner!" shouted a third. "We'll not
permit such injustice. Let us take the law into our own hands, and
settle the question!" shouted a fourth. "Ay, down with the knight!"
added a fifth.
But Sir Giles continued perfectly unmoved by the tempest raging around,
and laughed to scorn these menaces, contenting himself with signing to
Captain Bludder to be in readiness.
"A truce to this, gentlemen;" he at length thundered forth; "the King's
warrant must be respected."
Again Madame Bonaventure besought his pity, but in vain. She took hold
of his arm, and feigned to kneel to him; but he shook her coldly off.
"You are a very charming woman, no doubt, Madame," he said
sarcastically; "and some men might find you irresistible; but I am not
made of such yielding stuff, and you may spare yourself further trouble,
for all your powers of persuasion will fail with me. I renew my
demand--and for the last time. Do not compel me to resort to extremities
with you. It would grieve me," he added with a bitter smile, "to drag so
pretty a woman through the public streets, like a common debtor, to the
"Grace! grace! Sir Giles," cried Madame Bonaventure. Then seeing him
remain inflexible, she added, in an altered tone, "I will never submit
with life to such an indignity--never!"
"We'll all protect you, Madame," cried the assemblage with one
voice--"Let him lay hands upon you, and he shall see."
Sir Giles glanced at his myrmidons. They stepped quickly towards him in
a body. At the same time Jocelyn Mounchensey, whom no efforts of the
friendly gentleman could now restrain, sprang forward, and, drawing his
sword, was just in time to place himself before Madame Bonaventure, as
she drew hastily back.
"Have no fear, Madame, you are safe with me," the young man said,
glancing fiercely at the knight and his troop.
The greatest confusion now reigned throughout the room. Other swords
were drawn, and several of the guests mounted upon the benches to
overlook the scene. Cyprien, and the rest of the drawers and tradesmen
ranged themselves behind their mistress, prepared to resist any attempt
on the part of the myrmidons to seize her. The curtain at the head of
the room was partly drawn aside, showing that the distinguished persons
at the upper table were equally excited.
"Gentlemen," Sir Giles said, still maintaining perfect calmness in the
midst of the tumult, "a word with you ere it be too late. I don't
address myself to you, Jocelyn Mounchensey, for you are undeserving of
any friendly consideration--but to all others I would counsel
forbearance and non-resistance. Deliver up that woman to me."
"I will die upon the spot sooner than you shall be surrendered," said
Jocelyn, encouraging the hostess, who clung to his disengaged arm.
"Oh! merci! grand merci, mon beau gentilhomme!" she exclaimed.
"Am I to understand then, that you mean to impede me in the lawful
execution of my purposes, gentlemen?" Sir Giles demanded.
"We mean to prevent an unlawful arrest," several voices rejoined.
"Be it so," the knight said; "I wash my hands of the consequences." Then
turning to his followers, he added--"Officers, at all hazards, attach
the person of Dameris Bonaventure, and convey her to the Compter. At the
same time, arrest the young man-beside her--Jocelyn Mounchensey,--who
has uttered treasonable language against our sovereign lord the King. I
will tell you how to dispose of him anon. Do my bidding at once."
But ere the order could be obeyed, the authoritative voice which had
previously been heard from the upper table exclaimed--"Hold!"
Sir Giles paused; looked irresolute for a minute; and then checked his
myrmidons with a wave of the hand.
"Who is it stays the law?" he said, with the glare of a tiger from whom
a bone has been snatched.
"One you must needs obey, Sir Giles," replied Lord Roos, coming towards
him from the upper table. "You have unconsciously played a part in a
comedy--and played it very well, too--but it is time to bring the piece
to an end. We are fast verging on the confines of tragedy."
"I do not understand you, my lord," Sir Giles returned, gravely. "I
discern nothing comic in the matter; though much of serious import."
"You do not perceive the comedy, because it has been part of our scheme
to keep you in the dark, Sir Giles."
"So there is a scheme, then, a-foot here, my lord?--ha!"
"A little merry plot; nothing more, Sir Giles--in the working of which
your worthy co-patentee, Sir Francis Mitchell, has materially assisted."
"Ha!" exclaimed Sir Giles, glancing at his partner, who still occupied
his elevated position upon the table--"I presume, then, I have to thank
you, my lord, for the indignity offered to my friend?"
"As you please, Sir Giles," Lord Roos returned carelessly. "You call it
an indignity; but in my opinion the best thing to be done with a man
whose head so swims with wine that his legs refuse to support him, is to
tie him in a chair. He may else sacrifice his dignity by rolling under
the table. But let this pass for the nonce. Before Sir Francis was
wholly overcome, he was good enough to give me his signature. You saw
him do it, gentlemen?" he added, appealing to the company.
"Yes--yes!--we saw him write it!" was the general reply.
"And to what end was this done, my lord?" Sir Giles demanded, sternly.
"To enable me," replied the imperturbable young nobleman, "to draw out a
receipt in full of your joint claims against Madame Bonaventure. I have
done it, Sir Giles; and here it is. And I have taken care to grant a
renewal of her licence from the date of your notice; so that no
penalties or fines can attach to her for neglect. Take it, Madame
Bonaventure" he continued, handing her the paper. "It is your full
"And think you, my lord, that this shallow artifice--to give it no
harsher term--will avail you any thing?" Sir Giles cried scornfully. "I
set it aside at once."
"Your pardon, Sir Giles; you will do no such thing."
"And who will hinder me?--You, my lord?"
"Even I, Sir Giles. Proceed at your peril."
The young nobleman's assurance staggered his opponent.
"He must have some one to uphold him, or he would not be thus
confident," he thought. "Whose was the voice I heard? It sounded
like--No matter! 'Tis needful to be cautious."
"You do not, then, hold yourself bound by the acts of your partner, Sir
Giles?" Lord Roos said.
"I deny this to be his act," the knight replied.
"Better question him at once on the subject," Lord Roos said. "Set him
The Gascon did as he was bidden, and with the aid of his fellow drawers,
helped Sir Francis from the table. To the surprise of the company, the
knight then managed to stagger forward unassisted, and would have
embraced Sir Giles, if the latter had not thrust him off in disgust,
with some violence.
"What folly is this, Sir Francis?" Sir Giles cried angrily. "You have
forgotten yourself strangely, you have taken leave of your senses,
"Not a whit of it, Sir Giles--not a whit. I never was more my own master
than I am at present, as I will prove to you."
"Prove it, then, by explaining how you came to sign that paper. You
could not mean to run counter to me?"
"But I did," Sir Francis rejoined, highly offended. "I meant to run
counter to you in signing it, and I mean it now."
"'Sdeath! you besotted fool, you are playing into their hands!"
"Besotted fool in your teeth, Sir Giles. I am as sober as yourself. My
hand has been put to that paper, and what it contains I stand by."
"You design, then, to acquit Madame Bonaventure? Consider what you say?"
"No need for consideration; I have always designed it."
"Ten thousand thanks, Sir Francis!" the hostess cried. "I knew I had an
excellent friend in you."
The enamoured knight seized the hand she extended towards him, but in
the attempt to kiss it fell to the ground, amid the laughter of the
"Are you satisfied now, Sir Giles?" asked Lord Roos.
"I am satisfied that Sir Francis has been duped," he replied, "and that
when his brain is free from the fumes of wine, he will bitterly regret
his folly. But even his discharge will be insufficient. Though it may
bind me, it will not bind the Crown, which will yet enforce its claims."