The Fortunes of Nigel, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 21

Rove not from pole to pole-the man lives here

Whose razor’s only equall’d by his beer;

And where, in either sense, the cockney-put

May, if he pleases, get confounded cut.

On the sign of an Alehouse kept by a Barber.

We are under the necessity of transporting our readers to the habitation of Benjamin Suddlechop, the husband of the active and efficient Dame Ursula, and who also, in his own person, discharged more offices than one. For, besides trimming locks and beards, and turning whiskers upward into the martial and swaggering curl, or downward into the drooping form which became mustaches of civil policy; besides also occasionally letting blood, either by cupping or by the lancet, extracting a stump, and performing other actions of petty pharmacy, very nearly as well as his neighbour Raredrench, the apothecary: he could, on occasion, draw a cup of beer as well as a tooth, tap a hogshead as well as a vein, and wash, with a draught of good ale, the mustaches which his art had just trimmed. But he carried on these trades apart from each other.

His barber’s shop projected its long and mysterious pole into Fleet Street, painted party-coloured-wise, to represent the ribbons with which, in elder times, that ensign was garnished. In the window were seen rows of teeth displayed upon strings like rosaries — cups with a red rag at the bottom, to resemble blood, an intimation that patients might be bled, cupped, or blistered, with the assistance of “sufficient advice;” while the more profitable, but less honourable operations upon the hair of the head and beard, were briefly and gravely announced. Within was the well-worn leather chair for customers, the guitar, then called a ghittern or cittern, with which a customer might amuse himself till his predecessor was dismissed from under Benjamin’s hands, and which, therefore, often flayed the ears of the patient metaphorically, while his chin sustained from the razor literal scarification. All, therefore, in this department, spoke the chirurgeon-barber, or the barber-chirurgeon.

But there was a little back-room, used as a private tap-room, which had a separate entrance by a dark and crooked alley, which communicated with Fleet Street, after a circuitous passage through several by-lanes and courts. This retired temple of Bacchus had also a connexion with Benjamin’s more public shop by a long and narrow entrance, conducting to the secret premises in which a few old topers used to take their morning draught, and a few gill-sippers their modicum of strong waters, in a bashful way, after having entered the barber’s shop under pretence of being shaved. Besides, this obscure tap-room gave a separate admission to the apartments of Dame Ursley, which she was believed to make use of in the course of her multifarious practice, both to let herself secretly out, and to admit clients and employers who cared not to be seen to visit her in public. Accordingly, after the hour of noon, by which time the modest and timid whetters, who were Benjamin’s best customers, had each had his draught, or his thimbleful, the business of the tap was in a manner ended, and the charge of attending the back-door passed from one of the barber’s apprentices to the little mulatto girl, the dingy Iris of Dame Suddlechop. Then came mystery thick upon mystery; muffled gallants, and masked females, in disguises of different fashions, were seen to glide through the intricate mazes of the alley; and even the low tap on the door, which frequently demanded the attention of the little Creole, had in it something that expressed secrecy and fear of discovery.

It was the evening of the same day when Margaret had held the long conference with the Lady Hermione, that Dame Suddlechop had directed her little portress to “keep the door fast as a miser’s purse-strings; and, as she valued her saffron skin, to let in none but —-” the name she added in a whisper, and accompanied it with a nod. The little domestic blinked intelligence, went to her post, and in brief time thereafter admitted and ushered into the presence of the dame, that very city-gallant whose clothes sat awkwardly upon him, and who had behaved so doughtily in the fray which befell at Nigel’s first visit to Beaujeu’s ordinary. The mulatto introduced him —“Missis, fine young gentleman, all over gold and velvet “— then muttered to herself as she shut the door, “fine young gentleman, he! — apprentice to him who makes the tick-tick.”

It was indeed — we are sorry to say it, and trust our readers will sympathize with the interest we take in the matter — it was indeed honest Jin Vin, who had been so far left to his own devices, and abandoned by his better angel, as occasionally to travesty himself in this fashion, and to visit, in the dress of a gallant of the day, those places of pleasure and dissipation, in which it would have been everlasting discredit to him to have been seen in his real character and condition; that is, had it been possible for him in his proper shape to have gained admission. There was now a deep gloom on his brow, his rich habit was hastily put on, and buttoned awry; his belt buckled in a most disorderly fashion, so that his sword stuck outwards from his side, instead of hanging by it with graceful negligence; while his poniard, though fairly hatched and gilded, stuck in his girdle like a butcher’s steel in the fold of his blue apron. Persons of fashion had, by the way, the advantage formerly of being better distinguished from the vulgar than at present; for, what the ancient farthingale and more modern hoop were to court ladies, the sword was to the gentleman; an article of dress, which only rendered those ridiculous who assumed it for the nonce, without being in the habit of wearing it. Vincent’s rapier got between his legs, and, as he stumbled over it, he exclaimed —“Zounds! ’tis the second time it has served me thus — I believe the damned trinket knows I am no true gentleman, and does it of set purpose.”

“Come, come, mine honest Jin Vin — come, my good boy,” said the dame, in a soothing tone, “never mind these trankums — a frank and hearty London ‘prentice is worth all the gallants of the inns of court.”

“I was a frank and hearty London ‘prentice before I knew you, Dame Suddlechop,” said Vincent; “what your advice has made me, you may find a name for; since, fore George! I am ashamed to think about it myself.”

“A-well-a-day,” quoth the dame, “and is it even so with thee? — nay, then, I know but one cure;” and with that, going to a little corner cupboard of carved wainscoat, she opened it by the assistance of a key, which, with half-a-dozen besides, hung in a silver chain at her girdle, and produced a long flask of thin glass cased with wicker, bringing forth at the same time two Flemish rummer glasses, with long stalks and capacious wombs. She filled the one brimful for her guest, and the other more modestly to about two-thirds of its capacity, for her own use, repeating, as the rich cordial trickled forth in a smooth oily stream —“Right Rosa Solis, as ever washed mulligrubs out of a moody brain!”

But, though Jin Vin tossed off his glass without scruple, while the lady sippped hers more moderately, it did not appear to produce the expected amendment upon his humour. On the contrary, as he threw himself into the great leathern chair, in which Dame Ursley was wont to solace herself of an evening, he declared himself “the most miserable dog within the sound of Bow-bell.”

“And why should you be so idle as to think yourself so, silly boy?” said Dame Suddlechop; “but ’tis always thus — fools and children never know when they are well. Why, there is not one that walks in St. Paul’s, whether in flat cap, or hat and feather, that has so many kind glances from the wenches as you, when ye swagger along Fleet Street with your bat under your arm, and your cap set aside upon your head. Thou knowest well, that, from Mrs. Deputy’s self down to the waist-coateers in the alley, all of them are twiring and peeping betwixt their fingers when you pass; and yet you call yourself a miserable dog! and I must tell you all this over and over again, as if I were whistling the chimes of London to a pettish child, in order to bring the pretty baby into good-humour!”

The flattery of Dame Ursula seemed to have the fate of her cordial — it was swallowed, indeed, by the party to whom she presented it, and that with some degree of relish, but it did not operate as a sedative on the disturbed state of the youth’s mind. He laughed for an instant, half in scorn, and half in gratified vanity, but cast a sullen look on Dame Ursley as he replied to her last words,

“You do treat me like a child indeed, when you sing over and over to me a cuckoo song that I care not a copper-filing for.”

“Aha!” said Dame Ursley; “that is to say, you care not if you please all, unless you please one — You are a true lover, I warrant, and care not for all the city, from here to Whitechapel, so you could write yourself first in your pretty Peg-a-Ramsay’s good-will. Well, well, take patience, man, and be guided by me, for I will be the hoop will bind you together at last.”

“It is time you were so,” said Jenkin, “for hitherto you have rather been the wedge to separate us.”

Dame Suddlechop had by this time finished her cordial — it was not the first she had taken that day; and, though a woman of strong brain, and cautious at least, if not abstemious, in her potations, it may nevertheless be supposed that her patience was not improved by the regimen which she observed.

“Why, thou ungracious and ingrate knave,” said Dame Ursley, “have not I done every thing to put thee in thy mistress’s good graces? She loves gentry, the proud Scottish minx, as a Welshman loves cheese, and has her father’s descent from that Duke of Daldevil, or whatsoever she calls him, as close in her heart as gold in a miser’s chest, though she as seldom shows it — and none she will think of, or have, but a gentleman — and a gentleman I have made of thee, Jin Vin, the devil cannot deny that.”

“You have made a fool of me,” said poor Jenkin, looking at the sleeve of his jacket.

“Never the worse gentleman for that,” said Dame Ursley, laughing.

“And what is worse,” said he, turning his back to her suddenly, and writhing in his chair, “you have made a rogue of me.”

“Never the worse gentleman for that neither,” said Dame Ursley, in the same tone; “let a man bear his folly gaily and his knavery stoutly, and let me see if gravity or honesty will look him in the face now-a-days. Tut, man, it was only in the time of King Arthur or King Lud, that a gentleman was held to blemish his scutcheon by a leap over the line of reason or honesty — It is the bold look, the ready hand, the fine clothes, the brisk oath, and the wild brain, that makes the gallant now-a-days.”

“I know what you have made me,” said Jin Vin; “since I have given up skittles and trap-ball for tennis and bowls, good English ale for thin Bordeaux and sour Rhenish, roast-beef and pudding for woodcocks and kickshaws — my bat for a sword, my cap for a beaver, my forsooth for a modish oath, my Christmas-box for a dice-box, my religion for the devil’s matins, and mine honest name for — Woman, I could brain thee, when I think whose advice has guided me in all this!”

“Whose advice, then? whose advice, then? Speak out, thou poor, petty cloak-brusher, and say who advised thee!” retorted Dame Ursley, flushed and indignant —“Marry come up, my paltry companion — say by whose advice you have made a gamester of yourself, and a thief besides, as your words would bear — The Lord deliver us from evil!” And here Dame Ursley devoutly crossed herself.

“Hark ye, Dame Ursley Suddlechop,” said Jenkin, starting up, his dark eyes flashing with anger; “remember I am none of your husband — and, if I were, you would do well not to forget whose threshold was swept when they last rode the Skimmington19 upon such another scolding jade as yourself.”

“I hope to see you ride up Holborn next,” said Dame Ursley, provoked out of all her holiday and sugar-plum expressions, “with a nosegay at your breast, and a parson at your elbow!”

“That may well be,” answered Jin Vin, bitterly, “if I walk by your counsels as I have begun by them; but, before that day comes, you shall know that Jin Vin has the brisk boys of Fleet Street still at his wink. — Yes, you jade, you shall be carted for bawd and conjurer, double-dyed in grain, and bing off to Bridewell, with every brass basin betwixt the Bar and Paul’s beating before you, as if the devil were banging them with his beef-hook.”

Dame Ursley coloured like scarlet, seized upon the half-emptied flask of cordial, and seemed, by her first gesture, about to hurl it at the head of her adversary; but suddenly, and as if by a strong internal effort, she checked her outrageous resentment, and, putting the bottle to its more legitimate use, filled, with wonderful composure, the two glasses, and, taking up one of them, said, with a smile, which better became her comely and jovial countenance than the fury by which it was animated the moment before —

“Here is to thee, Jin Vin, my lad, in all loving kindness, whatever spite thou bearest to me, that have always been a mother to thee.”

Jenkin’s English good-nature could not resist this forcible appeal; he took up the other glass, and lovingly pledged the dame in her cup of reconciliation, and proceeded to make a kind of grumbling apology for his own violence —

“For you know,” he said, “it was you persuaded me to get these fine things, and go to that godless ordinary, and ruffle it with the best, and bring you home all the news; and you said, I, that was the cock of the ward, would soon be the cock of the ordinary, and would win ten times as much at gleek and primero, as I used to do at put and beggar-my-neighbour — and turn up doublets with the dice, as busily as I was wont to trowl down the ninepins in the skittle-ground — and then you said I should bring you such news out of the ordinary as should make us all, when used as you knew how to use it — and now you see what is to come of it all!”

“’Tis all true thou sayest, lad,” said the dame; “but thou must have patience. Rome was not built in a day — you cannot become used to your court-suit in a month’s time, any more than when you changed your long coat for a doublet and hose; and in gaming you must expect to lose as well as gain —’tis the sitting gamester sweeps the board.”

“The board has swept me, I know,” replied Jin Vin, “and that pretty clean out. — I would that were the worst; but I owe for all this finery, and settling-day is coming on, and my master will find my accompt worse than it should be by a score of pieces. My old father will be called in to make them good; and I— may save the hangman a labour and do the job myself, or go the Virginia voyage.”

“Do not speak so loud, my dear boy,” said Dame Ursley; “but tell me why you borrow not from a friend to make up your arrear. You could lend him as much when his settling-day came round.”

“No, no — I have had enough of that work,” said Vincent. “Tunstall would lend me the money, poor fellow, an he had it; but his gentle, beggarly kindred, plunder him of all, and keep him as bare as a birch at Christmas. No — my fortune may be spelt in four letters, and these read, RUIN.”

“Now hush, you simple craven,” said the dame; “did you never hear, that when the need is highest the help is nighest? We may find aid for you yet, and sooner than you are aware of. I am sure I would never have advised you to such a course, but only you had set heart and eye on pretty Mistress Marget, and less would not serve you — and what could I do but advise you to cast your city-slough, and try your luck where folks find fortune?”

“Ay, ay — I remember your counsel well,” said Jenkin; “I was to be introduced to her by you when I was perfect in my gallantries, and as rich as the king; and then she was to be surprised to find I was poor Jin Vin, that used to watch, from matin to curfew, for one glance of her eye; and now, instead of that, she has set her soul on this Scottish sparrow-hawk of a lord that won my last tester, and be cursed to him; and so I am bankrupt in love, fortune, and character, before I am out of my time, and all along of you, Mother Midnight.”

“Do not call me out of my own name, my dear boy, Jin Vin,” answered Ursula, in a tone betwixt rage and coaxing — “do not; because I am no saint, but a poor sinful woman, with no more patience than she needs, to carry her through a thousand crosses. And if I have done you wrong by evil counsel, I must mend it and put you right by good advice. And for the score of pieces that must be made up at settling-day, why, here is, in a good green purse, as much as will make that matter good; and we will get old Crosspatch, the tailor, to take a long day for your clothes; and —”

“Mother, are you serious?” said Jin Vin, unable to trust either his eyes or his ears.

“In troth am I,” said the dame; “and will you call me Mother Midnight now, Jin Vin?”

“Mother Midnight!” exclaimed Jenkin, hugging the dame in his transport, and bestowing on her still comely cheek a hearty and not unacceptable smack, that sounded like the report of a pistol — “Mother Midday, rather, that has risen to light me out of my troubles — a mother more dear than she who bore me; for she, poor soul, only brought me into a world of sin and sorrow, and your timely aid has helped me out of the one and the other. “And the good-natured fellow threw himself back in his chair, and fairly drew his hand across his eyes.

“You would not have me be made to ride the Skimmington then,” said the dame; “or parade me in a cart, with all the brass basins of the ward beating the march to Bridewell before me?”

“I would sooner be carted to Tyburn myself,” replied the penitent.

“Why, then, sit up like a man, and wipe thine eyes; and, if thou art pleased with what I have done, I will show thee how thou mayst requite me in the highest degree.”

“How?” said Jenkin Vincent, sitting straight up in his chair. —“You would have me, then, do you some service for this friendship of yours?”

“Ay, marry would I,” said Dame Ursley; “for you are to know, that though I am right glad to stead you with it, this gold is not mine, but was placed in my hands in order to find a trusty agent, for a certain purpose; and so — But what’s the matter with you? — are you fool enough to be angry because you cannot get a purse of gold for nothing? I would I knew where such were to come by. I never could find them lying in my road, I promise you.”

“No, no, dame,” said poor Jenkin, “it is not for that; for, look you, I would rather work these ten bones to the knuckles, and live by my labour; but —” (and here he paused.)

“But what, man?” said Dame Ursley. “You are willing to work for what you want; and yet, when I offer you gold for the winning, you look on me as the devil looks over Lincoln.”

“It is ill talking of the devil, mother,” said Jenkin. “I had him even now in my head — for, look you, I am at that pass, when they say he will appear to wretched ruined creatures, and proffer them gold for the fee-simple of their salvation. But I have been trying these two days to bring my mind strongly up to the thought, that I will rather sit down in shame, and sin, and sorrow, as I am like to do, than hold on in ill courses to get rid of my present straits; and so take care, Dame Ursula, how you tempt me to break such a good resolution.”

“I tempt you to nothing, young man,” answered Ursula; “and, as I perceive you are too wilful to be wise, I will e’en put my purse in my pocket, and look out for some one that will work my turn with better will, and more thankfulness. And you may go your own course — break your indenture, ruin your father, lose your character, and bid pretty Mistress Margaret farewell, for ever and a day.”

“Stay, stay,” said Jenkin “the woman is in as great a hurry as a brown baker when his oven is overheated. First, let me hear that which you have to propose to me.”

“Why, after all, it is but to get a gentleman of rank and fortune, who is in trouble, carried in secret down the river, as far as the Isle of Dogs, or somewhere thereabout, where he may lie concealed until he can escape aboard. I know thou knowest every place by the river’s side as well as the devil knows an usurer, or the beggar knows his dish.”

“A plague of your similes, dame,” replied the apprentice; “for the devil gave me that knowledge, and beggary may be the end on’t. — But what has this gentleman done, that he should need to be under hiding? No Papist, I hope — no Catesby and Piercy business — no Gunpowder Plot?”

“Fy, fy! — what do you take me for?” said Dame Ursula. “I am as good a churchwoman as the parson’s wife, save that necessary business will not allow me to go there oftener than on Christmas-day, heaven help me! — No, no — this is no Popish matter. The gentleman hath but struck another in the Park —”

“Ha! what?” said Vincent, interrupting her with a start.

“Ay, ay, I see you guess whom I mean. It is even he we have spoken of so often — just Lord Glenvarloch, and no one else.”

Vincent sprung from his seat, and traversed the room with rapid and disorderly steps.

“There, there it is now — you are always ice or gunpowder. You sit in the great leathern armchair, as quiet as a rocket hangs upon the frame in a rejoicing-night till the match be fired, and then, whizz! you are in the third heaven, beyond the reach of the human voice, eye, or brain. — When you have wearied yourself with padding to and fro across the room, will you tell me your determination, for time presses? Will you aid me in this matter, or not?”

“No — no — no — a thousand times no,” replied Jenkin. “Have you not confessed to me, that Margaret loves him?”

“Ay,” answered the dame, “that she thinks she does; but that will not last long.”

“And have I not told you but this instant,” replied Jenkin, “that it was this same Glenvarloch that rooked me, at the ordinary, of every penny I had, and made a knave of me to boot, by gaining more than was my own? — O that cursed gold, which Shortyard, the mercer, paid me that morning on accompt, for mending the clock of Saint Stephen’s! If I had not, by ill chance, had that about me, I could but have beggared my purse, without blemishing my honesty; and, after I had been rooked of all the rest amongst them, I must needs risk the last five pieces with that shark among the minnows!”

“Granted,” said Dame Ursula. “All this I know; and I own, that as Lord Glenvarloch was the last you played with, you have a right to charge your ruin on his head. Moreover, I admit, as already said, that Margaret has made him your rival. Yet surely, now he is in danger to lose his hand, it is not a time to remember all this?”

“By my faith, but it is, though,” said the young citizen. “Lose his hand, indeed? They may take his head, for what I care. Head and hand have made me a miserable wretch!”

“Now, were it not better, my prince of flat-caps,” said Dame Ursula, “that matters were squared between you; and that, through means of the same Scottish lord, who has, as you say, deprived you of your money and your mistress, you should in a short time recover both?”

“And how can your wisdom come to that conclusion, dame?” said the apprentice. “My money, indeed, I can conceive — that is, if I comply with your proposal; but — my pretty Marget! — how serving this lord, whom she has set her nonsensical head upon, can do me good with her, is far beyond my conception.”

“That is because, in simple phrase,” said Dame Ursula, “thou knowest no more of a woman’s heart than doth a Norfolk gosling. Look you, man. Were I to report to Mistress Margaret that the young lord has miscarried through thy lack of courtesy in refusing to help him, why, then, thou wert odious to her for ever. She will loathe thee as she will loathe the very cook who is to strike off Glenvarloch’s hand with his cleaver — and then she will be yet more fixed in her affections towards this lord. London will hear of nothing but him — speak of nothing but him — think of nothing but him, for three weeks at least, and all that outcry will serve to keep him uppermost in her mind; for nothing pleases a girl so much as to bear relation to any one who is the talk of the whole world around her. Then, if he suffer this sentence of the law, it is a chance if she ever forgets him. I saw that handsome, proper young gentleman Babington, suffer in the Queen’s time myself, and though I was then but a girl, he was in my head for a year after he was hanged. But, above all, pardoned or punished, Glenvarloch will probably remain in London, and his presence will keep up the silly girl’s nonsensical fancy about him. Whereas, if he escapes —”

“Ay, show me how that is to avail me?” said Jenkin. “If he escapes,” said the dame, resuming her argument, “he must resign the Court for years, if not for life; and you know the old saying, ‘out of sight, and out of mind.’”

“True — most true,” said Jenkin; “spoken like an oracle, most wise Ursula.” “Ay, ay, I knew you would hear reason at last,” said the wily dame; “and then, when this same lord is off and away for once and for ever, who, I pray you, is to be pretty pet’s confidential person, and who is to fill up the void in her affections? — why, who but thou, thou pearl of ‘prentices! And then you will have overcome your own inclinations to comply with hers, and every woman is sensible of that — and you will have run some risk, too, in carrying her desires into effect — and what is it that woman likes better than bravery, and devotion to her will? Then you have her secret, and she must treat you with favour and observance, and repose confidence in you, and hold private intercourse with you, till she weeps with one eye for the absent lover whom she is never to see again, and blinks with the other blithely upon him who is in presence; and then if you know not how to improve the relation in which you stand with her, you are not the brisk lively lad that all the world takes you for — Said I well?”

“You have spoken like an empress, most mighty Ursula,” said Jenkin Vincent; “and your will shall be obeyed.”

“You know Alsatia well?” continued his tutoress.

“Well enough, well enough,” replied he with a nod; “I have heard the dice rattle there in my day, before I must set up for gentleman, and go among the gallants at the Shavaleer Bojo’s, as they call him — the worse rookery of the two, though the feathers are the gayest.”

“And they will have a respect for thee yonder, I warrant?”

“Ay, ay,” replied Vin, “when I am got into my fustian doublet again, with my bit of a trunnion under my arm, I can walk Alsatia at midnight as I could do that there Fleet Street in midday — they will not one of them swagger with the prince of ‘prentices, and the king of clubs — they know I could bring every tall boy in the ward down upon them.”

“And you know all the watermen, and so forth?”

“Can converse with every sculler in his own language, from Richmond to Gravesend, and know all the water-cocks, from John Taylor the Poet to little Grigg the Grinner, who never pulls but he shows all his teeth from ear to ear, as if he were grimacing through a horse-collar.”

“And you can take any dress or character upon you well, such as a waterman’s, a butcher’s, a foot-soldier’s,” continued Ursula, “or the like?”

“Not such a mummer as I am within the walls, and thou knowest that well enough, dame,” replied the apprentice. “I can touch the players themselves, at the Ball and at the Fortune, for presenting any thing except a gentleman. Take but this d — d skin of frippery off me, which I think the devil stuck me into, and you shall put me into nothing else that I will not become as if I were born to it.”

“Well, we will talk of your transmutation by and by,” said the dame, “and find you clothes withal, and money besides; for it will take a good deal to carry the thing handsomely through.”

“But where is that money to come from, dame?” said Jenkin; “there is a question I would fain have answered before I touch it.”

“Why, what a fool art thou to ask such a question! Suppose I am content to advance it to please young madam, what is the harm then?”

“I will suppose no such thing,” said Jenkin, hastily; “I know that you, dame, have no gold to spare, and maybe would not spare it if you had — so that cock will not crow. It must be from Margaret herself.”

“Well, thou suspicious animal, and what if it were?” said Ursula.

“Only this,” replied Jenkin, “that I will presently to her, and learn if she has come fairly by so much ready money; for sooner than connive at her getting it by any indirection, I would hang myself at once. It is enough what I have done myself, no need to engage poor Margaret in such villainy — I’ll to her, and tell her of the danger — I will, by heaven!”

“You are mad to think of it,” said Dame Suddlechop, considerably alarmed —“hear me but a moment. I know not precisely from whom she got the money; but sure I am that she obtained it at her godfather’s.”

“Why, Master George Heriot is not returned from France,” said Jenkin.

“No,” replied Ursula, “but Dame Judith is at home — and the strange lady, whom they call Master Heriot’s ghost — she never goes abroad.”

“It is very true, Dame Suddlechop,” said Jenkin; “and I believe you have guessed right — they say that lady has coin at will; and if Marget can get a handful of fairy-gold, why, she is free to throw it away at will.”

“Ah, Jin Vin,” said the dame, reducing her voice almost to a whisper, “we should not want gold at will neither, could we but read the riddle of that lady!”

“They may read it that list,” said Jenkin, “I’ll never pry into what concerns me not — Master George Heriot is a worthy and brave citizen, and an honour to London, and has a right to manage his own household as he likes best. — There was once a talk of rabbling him the fifth of November before the last, because they said he kept a nunnery in his house, like old Lady Foljambe; but Master George is well loved among the ‘prentices, and we got so many brisk boys of us together as should have rabbled the rabble, had they had but the heart to rise.”

“Well, let that pass,” said Ursula; “and now, tell me how you will manage to be absent from shop a day or two, for you must think that this matter will not be ended sooner.”

“Why, as to that, I can say nothing,” said Jenkin, “I have always served duly and truly; I have no heart to play truant, and cheat my master of his time as well as his money.”

“Nay, but the point is to get back his money for him,” said Ursula, “which he is not likely to see on other conditions. Could you not ask leave to go down to your uncle in Essex for two or three days? He may be ill, you know.”

“Why, if I must, I must,” said Jenkin, with a heavy sigh; “but I will not be lightly caught treading these dark and crooked paths again.”

“Hush thee, then,” said the dame, “and get leave for this very evening; and come back hither, and I will introduce you to another implement, who must be employed in the matter. — Stay, stay! — the lad is mazed — you would not go into your master’s shop in that guise, surely? Your trunk is in the matted chamber, with your ‘prentice things — go and put them on as fast as you can.”

“I think I am bewitched,” said Jenkin, giving a glance towards his dress, “or that these fool’s trappings have made as great an ass of me as of many I have seen wear them; but let line once be rid of the harness, and if you catch me putting it on again, I will give you leave to sell me to a gipsy, to carry pots, pans, and beggar’s bantlings, all the rest of my life.” So saying, he retired to change his apparel.

19A species of triumphal procession in honour of female supremacy, when it rose to such a height as to attract the attention of the neighbourhood. It is described at full length in Hudibras. (Part II. Canto II.) As the procession passed on, those who attended it in an official capacity were wont to sweep the threshold of the houses in which Fame affirmed the mistresses to exercise paramount authority, which was given and received as a hint that their inmates might, in their turn, be made the subject of a similar ovation. The Skimmington, which in some degree resembled the proceedings of Mumbo Jumbo in an African village, has been long discontinued in England, apparently because female rule has become either milder or less frequent than among our ancestors.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00