Project Gutenberg's The Children's Book of London, by Geraldine Edith Mitton This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Children's Book of London Author: Geraldine Edith Mitton Release Date: June 15, 2008 [EBook #25804] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF LONDON *** Produced by Bruce Albrecht, Martin Pettit and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
First Published 1903
To begin with, the streets of London are not paved with gold; but I need not have said that, for nowadays the very youngest child knows it. It was Dick Whittington who first imagined anything so foolish; but then he was only a country lad, and in his days there were not the same opportunities for finding out the truth about things as there are now. There were very few books for one thing, and those there were cost a great deal of money, and would hardly be likely to come in Dick's way; so that if there was by chance a book which described London as it was then, it is not at all probable that he would have seen it. There were no photographs, either, to show him what London[Pg 4] was really like, so, of course, he had to make up ideas about it himself, just as you who live in the country and have heard people talking about London do now. Are the stories you invent at all like the stories Dick Whittington made up for himself? You can't answer because you're not writing this book, so I must answer for you. Perhaps you think London is a place where there are no lessons to do, and where there is always a great deal of fun going on; where you can go to see sights all day long; the huge waxwork figures at Madame Tussaud's, as big as real people; and lions and tigers and elephants and bears at the Zoo; and you think that the boys and girls who live in London spend all their time in seeing wonderful things.
If this is what you think, some of it is true enough. There are a great many wonderful things to be seen in London, and if you want to hear about them at once you must skip all this chapter and a great many others besides, and go on to page 241, where you will find them described. But if you want to know what London itself is really like you must wait a little longer. The best people to tell you would be the children who live in London; they will read this book, and, of course,[Pg 5] they could answer all your questions, but they would not all answer in the same way.
Some would say: 'Oh yes, of course we all know the Zoo, but that's for small children; we are quite tired of a dull place like that, where everyone goes; we like balls, with good floors for dancing, and programmes, and everything done as it is at grown-up balls; and we like theatres, where we can sit in the front row and look through opera-glasses and eat ices. Madame Tussaud's? Yes, it's there still; we went to it when we were quite little babies, but it's not at all fashionable.'
And another child might say: 'I don't mind driving with mother in the Row when I'm really beautifully dressed.'
But I'll tell you a secret about the little boys and girls who talk like this: they are not really children at all, they never have been and never will be; they are grown-up men and women in child shapes, and by the time their bodies have grown big they won't enjoy anything at all. Master Augustus will be a dull young man, who hates everybody, and does not know how to get through the long, dreary day; and Miss Ruby will be a mere heartless woman, who only cares to please herself, and does not mind how unhappy she makes [Pg 6]everyone else. And all this will be because their foolish father and mother let them have everything they wanted, and allowed them to go everywhere they liked, and that is not at all good even for grown-up people, and it is very, very much worse for children.
There are, however, many other sorts of children in London, and it is rather interesting to hear what they think of the town in which they live. For instance, there are the children of people who are not at all poor, who have nice houses and plenty of money, but who are yet sensible enough to know that their children must have something else besides pleasure. If we asked one of their children what he thought of London, he might say: 'I've seen the Zoo, of course, and Madame Tussaud's, and I've been to Maskelyne's Mysteries and the Hippodrome, and they're all jolly, especially the Zoo; but those things generally happen in the holidays: we don't have such fun every day.' A boy or a girl of this sort has really a much duller time than one who lives in the country. London is so big, so huge, that he sees only a wee bit of it.
London is the capital town of England, as everyone knows. In Dick Whittington's time it was not very big, but it has grown and grown, until it is seventeen miles in one direction and twelve in[Pg 7] another. You know what a mile is, perhaps; well, try to imagine seventeen miles one after another, end to end, on and on, all streets of houses, with here and there a park, very carefully kept, not in the least like a country park. And all these streets and streets of houses are not very interesting, and in many of them the houses are all alike, built of dull-coloured stone or red brick, or else they are covered with plaster.
There is a great part of London where people only go to work, and from which they come away again at nights. In the mornings hundreds and hundreds of men pour into this part as fast as the trains can bring them, and go to their offices, which are in great buildings, many different offices being in one building; and the streets are filled with men hurrying this way and that, always in a hurry. There is no one standing about or idling. Omnibuses and carts and cabs are all mixed up together in the roadway, until you would think it was impossible for them ever to be disentangled again. And now and then some bold man on a bicycle dares to ride right into the middle of it all, between the wheels and under the horses' noses, and how he ever gets through without being crushed up as flat as a paper-knife is a wonder!
At nights, when the men have done their day's work, they are in as much of a hurry to get out of this part of London, which is called the City, as they were to get into it in the morning. They go by cabs and omnibuses and trains back to their homes and their children, and the City is left still and silent, with just a quiet cat flitting across the street, and making a frightened jump when the big policeman turns his lantern on to her.
The children of rich people seldom see this part of London. Perhaps their father goes there every day, and they hear him talk of the City, but it is like another town to them, so vague and far away it seems. These children probably have lessons with their governess at home, and when twelve o'clock comes they go for a walk. When they open the front-door they see a long street, stretching both ways, filled with dark, dull-looking houses just the same as their own. The street pavement is made of wood, which is quieter than stones, and when the cabs run past they make very little sound. If the children are lucky they live in a square, and there is a garden in the middle, with iron railings round it, and everyone who lives in the square has a key to open the gate; but it must not be left open, or other people would get in and[Pg 9] use the garden too. It has green grass in it and flower-beds, and it is all very prim and proper, and not at all interesting; and, worst of all, the dear dogs, Scamp and Jim, cannot go there, even when they are led by a string. The gardener would turn them out, for he imagines they would kick about in his flower-beds and rake out the seeds. This is not the sort of garden that a country child would care for. But Jack and Ethel are not country children; they are quite used to their garden, and like it very much.
We can see them start on their morning walk with Miss Primity, their governess. Both the children wear gloves—they never go out without them—and in the street they walk quietly; but when they have passed down the street and got into Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, they can run about as much as they like. In the Gardens there is a big round pond, where Jack can sail his boat; and on Saturdays the water is covered with white sails, and even men come down and join in the sport, making their toy boats race against one another. The boats are often quite large, and the scene is very gay and pretty. There are a great many ducks, which clamour to be fed; and there are other children there too. These may be friends of Jack's and Ethel's,[Pg 10] and they can play together, and Ethel can show her new doll, and Jack can boast of all the things he means to do when he grows up. The Gardens are very nice, but it is rather dull always having the same walk in the same place every day, and sometimes the children get a little tired of it, and are glad when a half-holiday comes and an aunt or uncle carries them off to see some of the wonderful things of which London is full.
There is another part of London of which we have not yet spoken. We have heard of the City and of the West End—the City, where business men work, and the West End, where rich people live; but there is also the East End, lying beyond the City, and the people who live here are nearly all poor. If you asked any of the children of the East End if they had seen Madame Tussaud's or the Zoo, they would grin, and say, 'Garn!' and if you told them about these things they might say, 'Ye're kiddin', ye're,' which is their way of saying they don't believe you, and think you are telling stories. In the streets where these children live everything is dirty and nasty. A number of families live together in one house, perhaps even in one room, for I have heard of rooms where each family had a corner. The women never do [Pg 11]anything more than they can help. They never mend their old dresses, or wash themselves or their children, or try to cook nicely; they do nothing. They spend the day sitting on their dirty doorsteps, with the youngest baby on their knees, and their hair is all uncombed, and their dresses are filthy and torn, and they shout out to other women across the street, and make remarks on anyone who happens to pass. The poor little baby gets dreadful things to eat—things that you would think would kill an ordinary child—bits of herring or apple, and anything else its mother eats, and sometimes even sips of beer or gin. If it cries, it is joggled about or slapped, and as soon as ever it is able to sit up, it is put down on the pavement among a number of other dirty, untidy children and left to take care of itself. When a little girl is seven she is thought quite old enough to look after all the younger ones, and on Saturdays she goes off with other little girls, pushing a rickety old perambulator or a wooden cart, with perhaps two babies in it and several smaller children hanging on to her skirt; and she goes down the foul street and on until she comes to a tiny little bit of ground, where there are seats and some bushes and hard paths, and this is a playground. But what do you think it[Pg 12] really has been? A graveyard, and there are still graves and big stones, showing that people have been buried there long years ago. But the children who play in it do not mind this at all; they sit on the graves, and think that they are very lucky to get this place away from the street. Then the poor little babies are left in their go-carts or perambulators, very often in the sun, with their heads hanging down over the edge, while Liza talks to Bella; and they both put their hair in curl-papers, and show each other any small things they have picked up in the street. They have no need of dolls, for both Bella and Liza have living dolls, which are often very troublesome; but they are quite used to it, and if the live doll cries they just stop talking and rush up to it and push it up and down, or take it out and shake it about for a few minutes, and then put it back again and go on with their talk. Sometimes, not often, they have a feast, and perhaps Bella brings out a dirty bottle which she has picked up, and fills it with water at the fountain; and Liza takes from her pocket an apple and some sticky toffee, and perhaps one of the little ones has a bun. And then the apple is rubbed until it shines with a dirty bit of rag called a pocket-handkerchief, and they all sit down[Pg 13] together in a row and share the things; and even the baby has a hard lump of apple stuffed into its mouth, for Liza and Bella do not mean to be unkind to their babies, for they have mother-hearts in them.
Well, of course, there are many other sorts of children in London besides these: there are the children of working men, who are neatly dressed and go out on Sundays with their father and mother; there are chauffeurs' children who live near the garage, or in the mews, where rich people keep their motor-cars or carriages. It is not easy in London to find rooms for cars or carriages close to the house, so a number of stables were built together, making a long yard like a street, and the people who lived near kept their carriages there, but there are fewer carriages now, and often the rooms in the mews are empty or used by outside people, while the cars are kept at some big garage a little distance off. There are many others who are not so lucky as chauffeurs' or coachmen's children; think of the little children who belong to the organ-grinders, and who are taken about in a basket tied on to the grinding organ, with the hideous noise in their ears all day. I wonder that they can ever hear at all when they grow up. Many,[Pg 14] very many, of the children have no playground at all but the street, the pavement, where people are passing all the time. They sit on the doorsteps and breathe in the dust, and all their playthings, if they have any—and even their food—are often thick with dust. I have seen a child rubbing a bit of bread-and-jam up and down on the dirty stone before it eats it. But the rich children and the poor children do not often meet, for if the rich children go through the streets in the poorer parts they are in motor-cars or cabs, and in their part of the park there are not many poor children, while in the parks where the poor children go you do not find many rich ones. And though there are parts of London where poor and rich are very near together, yet their lives never mix as the lives of country children do. Very often in the country a child knows the names of all the other children in its village, and who they are and all about them; but in London it is not so. And many rich children grumble all the time if they do not have everything they want, and never think of their poor little brothers and sisters, who would snatch eagerly at many of the things they throw away.
Have you heard the story of the Pied Piper of[Pg 15] Hamelin, who piped so wonderfully that he could make anything follow him when he liked, and how he piped so that all the rats ran after him, and he led them to the river and they were drowned? When he asked the mayor and chief men in the town to be paid for what he had done, they laughed, and said: 'No, now the rats are dead, you can't make them alive again; we have got what we wanted, and we won't pay you.' So the piper was very angry, and piped another tune, and all the children in the town followed him; and he led them on and on toward a great mountain, where a cave opened suddenly, and they all went in, and were never seen again. I think if that Pied Piper came to London he would find very many more different sorts of children than ever he found in Hamelin, where—
There would be London children whose eyes did not sparkle, and who had almost forgotten to laugh, as well as those like the children of Hamelin, who were so bright and so gay.
Now, we have seen something of the children who live in London, and it is time to try to think a little of what London itself is like. As I have said, the boys and girls who live there do not know very much about it; they only know their own little corner of it, because London is so big that it is almost impossible even for a grown-up person to know it quite well in every part. I have told you it is about seventeen miles long and twelve broad, but you cannot understand really how long that is; you can only get some little idea. This great town stretches on for mile after mile, houses and houses and streets and streets, with here and there a park, but even the park is surrounded by houses. Children who live in small towns can always get out into the country and see green trees and grass and hedges, but many of the children who live in London have never seen the country, and have no idea what it is like.
We heard in the last chapter just a little about this great town, how it is divided into three parts, that is to say, the West End, where the rich people live, and the City, where men go to work, and the East End, where the poor people live. Of course, it isn't quite so simple as that, because all the rich people don't live in the West End or all the poor people in the East. Some of the poor ones live in the West End, too, but roughly we may put it so, just to get some idea of the place.
Through this great London there rolls a great river, and there is scarcely any need to say what the name of that river is, for every child knows about the Thames. The great river cuts London into two parts, and on the south side of it there are many poor streets with poor people living in them, and close to the river is a palace, where the Archbishop of Canterbury lives. He is head of all the clergymen and all the bishops of the English Church. The palace has stood there for many hundreds of years, and it is curious to think that this important man, who has so much power, and who has the right to walk before all the dukes and earls when he goes to Parliament, lives there among the poor people on the south side of the river.
The City, where men have their offices and go[Pg 18] to work, is really quite a small part of London, but it is very important. Here there is the Bank of England, where bank-notes are made, and where there is gold in great bars lying in the cellars. The Bank has streets all round its four sides, as if it were an island, and the streets were rivers, and inside, in the middle of the building, there is a yard, with trees in it and a garden. It does seem so funny to find a garden here amongst all the houses. If you went into the Bank to see it, you would meet a man wearing a funny cocked hat like those that men used to wear in old times; and if you showed him that you had leave to go all over the building, he would tell you where to go and be very civil. We shall hear more about the Bank later on.
Close to the Bank is the Mansion House, where the Lord Mayor lives. The Lord Mayor is a very grand person indeed. He is the head of the City, and a new Lord Mayor is chosen every year. There are other big buildings around near the Bank, and just here seven streets meet, and there is an open space. Now, if you were suddenly dropped down into that open space at, say, the middle of the day, you would most certainly be run over unless you stood close beside the very biggest[Pg 19] policeman you could see, for every thing on wheels is coming in every direction—big motor-omnibuses, generally painted the most vivid scarlet, crammed with people inside and on the top; taxi-cabs with patient drivers, who would not jump if a gunpowder explosion went off under their noses; they have to keep good-tempered all day long, in spite of the tangle of traffic; immense lorries loaded with beer barrels; and little tiny carts with greengrocer's stuff, perhaps dragged by a dear little donkey, who looks as if he could run right under the bodies of the big dray-horses. And all these things are coming so fast and so close to one another, that it seems a miracle anyone can get through. Not long ago an underground passage with steps leading down to it was built, so that people can go under instead of over the street, which is, I think, a very good thing.
In the City there are a great many churches, nearly all built by one man, Sir Christopher Wren, a very clever man. But you will say, 'Why do people want churches in the City? Didn't you say that everyone went away to their own houses at night and on Sundays? Isn't the City, then, quite empty?'
Yes, that is true; on Sundays the City is[Pg 20] empty, except for people who come down to walk round and look at it. But the churches are still there, and there are still services in them on Sundays, because long years ago good men left money to pay the clergymen, and no one has any right to use it for any other purpose; so the clergymen preach, and very few people are there to hear. It seems odd, doesn't it? But there are many things odd in this great, dear, smoky London of ours. There used to be many more churches in the City than there are now; at one time there were seventy churches or more all in this small space! There aren't so many now, but still there are a good many left.
If you went on beyond the City, further away from the West End, you would come to that miserable part where the poor people live, and in some parts here there are a great many foreigners, who come to England to get work, and who earn very little money, and are rough and rude, and all live together in one place. In some streets you would hardly hear English spoken at all. On Saturday nights here the streets are quite a sight, because the people have barrows or stalls by the sides of the road instead of shops, and when evening comes they light them up with flaming torches.[Pg 21] And then they spread out all sorts of things for sale, and yell and shout for people to come and buy; and crowds of people do come, and the pavement is covered with people pushing and jostling to get things cheaply. On one stall you will see piles of fruit—cheap green grapes hanging in bunches, red apples, yellow oranges, and perhaps tomatoes; and on another stall nothing but raw meat, and here the women buy a little bit for their Sunday dinners; and on another stall there is nothing but yards and yards of white embroidery. It seems such a queer thing to sell there; but it is there: I have seen it, and the wonder is it does not get so black that no one could use it. Then another stall may have fish, and here all sorts of shell-fish will be lying in little saucers with a pinch of pepper and a spoonful of vinegar over them, and people take them up and eat them there and then. And all down the street the lights flare, until you would think they must set fire to everything, and the people at the stalls cry, 'Buy, buy, buy!' And perhaps in the midst of all this noise and confusion you might see a little baby, rolled up in a shawl, lying on the ground or in a box close to a stall.
If you went down to the river from the East End you would find many very wonderful things,[Pg 22] but here hardly any London people from the West End go; it is so far that very few of the people who live in London have ever been there at all. The great river rolls on to the sea, and twice in every day and night the sea sends a strong tide flooding up to London, and the barges, bringing coal and straw and wood and many other things, use the tide to come up the river, for otherwise they must have a small steamboat to drag them. And by the side of the river there are great houses built right on the edge of the water, where all day long men work, either taking things out of steamers or putting other things into other steamers to go away to foreign countries. The river is covered with steamers and barges and boats, just as the streets are crowded with omnibuses and cabs and carts. Always men are working and bringing things to the great City and sending things out. If it were not so the City could not live at all, because the people must be fed and clothed, and they can't make everything they want or grow what they want to eat in London itself.
Down in this part of London there are huge docks, but I am quite sure you do not know what docks are. They are basins of water, like immense ponds or lakes, shut in on all sides except for one[Pg 23] entrance from the river, and here ships can come in and lie snugly and safely without being pushed about by the tides, and they can be painted and mended and made fit to go to sea again. One of these docks on a fine afternoon in summer is a very beautiful sight; all the tall masts and funnels of the ships are mixed up together like a forest of trees, and the blue sky peeps through them and the blue water ripples round them. When you saw this sight you would understand a little what a wonderful city London is, and how she sends her ships out to all parts of the world.
One of the great sights on the river is the Tower Bridge. This is not the newest bridge, but it was built later than most of the others. It has two great towers rising one on each side, to the sky, and the bridge lies across low down between these towers. But when a big ship comes and wants to get up the river under the bridge, what is to be done? The bridge is not high enough! Well, what does happen is this, and I hope that every one of you will see it one day, for it is one of the grandest things in all London: a man rings a bell, and the cabs and carriages and carts and people who are on the bridge rush quickly across to the other side, and when the bridge is quite empty then the man in the tower[Pg 24] touches some machinery, and slowly the great bridge, which is like a road, remember, rises up into the air in two pieces, just as you might lift your hands while the elbows rested on your knees without moving, and the beautiful ship passes underneath, and the bridge goes back again quite gently into its place. This bridge has been called the Gate of London, and it is a very good name, for it looks like a giant gate over the river. Close to it is the Tower, of which you must often have read in your history books—the grim Tower where so many people who were not wicked at all were imprisoned, and where some of them were beheaded because, in the time when they lived, there were no laws such as there are now safeguarding people's lives. The Tower will have a chapter to itself later on.
This is all I am going to tell you at present about the City and the East End, because it is quite impossible to tell everything. In the West End, too, there are many interesting things, and the most interesting of them must have chapters to themselves; for instance, the palaces belonging to the King, and the hospitals which are entirely for children. But there are other things which belong to the whole of London, and must be[Pg 25] mentioned here. There is, for instance, the Embankment—rather a long word, but not a difficult one. It means the wall which was built for miles along beside the river to make a road and to prevent the river flooding right up to the houses. In old days, when people had their houses on the water's edge, when there came a high tide or a strong wind, the water washed up over them, and did a great deal of damage; so it was decided to build a strong wall beside the river, which the water, even in the highest tide, could not leap over. It was a wonderful piece of work. It is difficult to think of the number of cartloads of solid earth and stone that had to be put down into the water to make a firm foundation, and when that was done the wall had to be built on the top. But though the river had been banked up it could still make itself disagreeable. In 1928, driven by strong winds and high tides, after much rain, it flowed up over the Embankment in some places and broke through in others. It flooded many houses, and some people were drowned. The river also helps to cause fog; it seems as though it had gone to the smoke demon to find out what they could do to be spiteful, and they had agreed they could not do anything each by himself, but that[Pg 26] together they could be very nasty. So every now and then the damp air which rises from the river, and the heavy smoke which comes out of the hundreds of chimneys, join together and make a thick black veil, and hang over London and come down into the streets so that people can't see where they are going, and when they breathe their noses and mouths are filled with nasty, dirty smuts. You who are London children know Mr. Fog-fiend very well. When you wake on a morning in November and find the room still dark, and are told it is time to get up when it looks like the middle of the night, then you know the fog has come; and he visits rich and poor alike. There is no keeping him in the East End.
With all her money and her cleverness London has never found out anything good enough to tempt Mr. Fog-fiend to go right away. No, he comes often, and stays, perhaps, for weeks together, and the eyes of children smart and their throats feel thick, and they find it so dull to do lessons by artificial light; and when the time comes for the daily walk they cannot go out, because they might get run over, not being able to see. And everything is very quiet, for the omnibuses and taxi-cabs have to go at a walking pace for fear they[Pg 27] might run into something. And it is no wonder sometimes that children get cross and tired when they cannot see the sun, which may be shining brightly in the country all day long. Mr. Fog-fiend has many dresses; sometimes he puts on a white one instead of a black one, and that is not so bad, because it is quite light, but just as if soft white shawls were hung in front of your eyes so that you couldn't see. But it is even more dangerous to try to cross the road in a white fog than in a black one. It is like living inside a big white cloud. Then there is a yellow dress, which is the ugliest of all. It is like yellow smoke, and it gets into people's throats and makes them cough, and it steals into all the rooms so that even the lamp across the room looks quite dim; and the air is full of it, and you taste it in all your food. But it is lucky that there are not always fogs in London, or no one could live; they only come in the last months of the year or the very early ones, and in the summer London children do not see fogs any more than country children do, though perhaps the sun does not shine always quite so brightly in London as it does in the country.
Close to the river are the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, both very wonderful. I[Pg 28] have not told you about Westminster yet, because I was afraid of confusing you with too many things at once, but you ought to know now. You can tell for yourselves which side of London it is on from the name—that is, if you are not very stupid. Yes, Westminster is on the west side of the City, but what is rather odd is that once Westminster and London were two separate places with long green fields and hedges lying between them, but the houses grew and grew until they met. Westminster is very proud, and though now she is mixed up with London, she says, 'I will be a city, too.' And so she is a city within London, but there is no difference that you could tell between the two; the houses run on just the same, and no one could find out, merely by looking, where Westminster begins.
Well, this is enough for one chapter, and in the next we will see some more things about this wonderful town of London, which can swallow a whole city like Westminster and allow her still to be a city, and yet not feel any indigestion!
In the last chapter I said something about the King's palace. One of the first things that foreigners ask when they come to London is, 'Where does the King live?' and when they see his London house they are quite disappointed, because Buckingham Palace is not at all beautiful. It stands at one end of a park called St. James's Park, and it is a huge house, with straight rows of plain windows. In front there is a bare yard, with high railings round it, and beside the gate there are sentries on guard. The palace is large, but very ugly, and anyone seeing only the outside might wonder why the King of England, who is so rich, lived in such a dull house while he was in London. But Buckingham Palace is very magnificent inside, and if you saw it on a day when the ladies go to Court to be presented to the King and Queen, you would no longer think it dull. In the time of Queen Victoria, the ladies who wished to be[Pg 30] presented, which means to be introduced to the Queen, had to go there in the daytime, and as they were obliged to wear evening dress and to have waving white feathers in their hair, and sometimes had to wait hours and hours before their turn came to kiss the Queen's hand, it cannot have been much pleasure to them, and they must have felt often very cross, especially when it was cold. But since the reign of King Edward VII., the Drawing-rooms, as they are called, when ladies are presented to their Sovereign, are in the evening, and Queen Mary has had garden parties where young girls are 'presented' too, in afternoon dress. It is not very interesting reading about descriptions of furniture, so I will only say that the great staircase in the palace is of white marble, and in the throne-room there is crimson satin and much gilt, and the walls of the rooms are hung with magnificent pictures, and everything is just like the palace that one reads about in fairy tales, to which the Prince took home the Princess when he had won her.
Before Buckingham Palace was built, the house which stood here belonged to a man called the Earl of Arlington, and in his time no one in England knew anything about tea. Beer was generally drunk at every meal—beer for breakfast, beer for[Pg 31] dinner, beer for supper! But this Earl bought a pound of tea in Holland for sixty shillings, which was a great deal to give, for a pound of tea now costs about two shillings. And he brought it home to his house and made the tea there, so that it seems very likely that the first cup of tea ever drunk in England was made where Buckingham Palace now stands, and I expect there are very few people who know that.
At the side of Buckingham Palace there is a big garden with high side-walls. In this garden are held the royal garden parties attended by thousands in gorgeous raiment, including many Eastern potentates, as well as ambassadors, generals, admirals, and others in uniform. Marlborough House, which was used by Queen Alexandra, King George's mother, during her lifetime, afterwards became the home of the Prince of Wales. Both his father and grandfather, King George and King Edward, lived here when they were Prince of Wales.
St. James's Palace is just opposite. It is much more picturesque but not so convenient. With its rambling courtyards and turrets it really looks old. You shall hear about its history presently.
The Duke of York, the second son of the King, is married. It was a joy to the nation when he[Pg 32] chose for himself Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore. Their baby daughter, Princess Elizabeth, has already won all hearts.
All the children in our Royal Family have been very carefully and properly brought up. The Queen is an excellent mother and has set an example to all mothers. Not only have they received a special education, including the fluent use of many foreign tongues, but they have been taught manners and self-control and unselfishness. It is not so easy to be a good prince as some of you might think. The Prince of Wales must often be bored by all the hand-shaking and set speeches he has to endure, but he must always look pleased, and remember that though he is sick of these things yet the people he is speaking to consider it the occasion of their lives.
The Prince's ready smile and pleasant nature have endeared him to thousands beyond the seas. And in his tours to India and the Dominions he has done more to bind together the British Empire than any statesman who ever lived. He and his next brother, the Duke of York, are much attached to one another. The Duke, who is still [Pg 33]affectionately spoken of as Prince Albert, is of a serious turn of mind, and has already taken up philanthropic work for the hospitals and other institutions. Then comes Princess Mary, the only girl in this large family, and a great favourite, not only with her brothers, but with the whole nation. In 1922 she married Viscount Lascelles, and has two sturdy boys, Hubert and Gerald. That she and her next brother should marry thus into the noble families of Britain has drawn the ties between the nation and Royal Family closer than before.
Prince Henry, the third son, is in the army, and has proved himself a sportsman, excelling especially in polo and tent-pegging. He has chosen the army as his profession. Prince George is a sailor by profession, inheriting the love of the sea from the King.
There is a story told of the Prince of Wales as a very small boy, which shows that, as well as being full of fun, he can also be very thoughtful. The nurse who was looking after him said he must go to sleep and not talk any more, so he answered: 'Well, I'll just say one thing more, and then I'll go to sleep. You know, nurse, that if I live I shall one day be King of England.' Yes, the nurse knew that very well. 'Then,' said the Prince, 'when I'm King I shall do three things: first, I'll[Pg 34] make a law that no one is to cut off the puppy dogs' tails; then I'll make a law that no one is to put bearing-reins on horses.' As he was silent, the nurse asked what was the last thing. 'Oh, that,' he said: 'I'm going to do away with all sin.'
St. James's Palace is a very old place, and really looks like a palace. It has high towers and a great clock, and is made of dark-red brick. It was first built by King Henry VIII., and very many of the kings and queens of England have lived there. If you guessed all day you would never guess what stood here before the palace, so I will tell you. There was a hospital for poor women who had leprosy. King Henry VIII. had bought a good deal of the park, and he thought he would like to have the hospital too, so he just took it. It was what he was in the habit of doing when he wanted anything. But our kings and queens never do that now. King Henry turned out the fourteen poor women who lived there, but some people say he gave them money to make up for taking their home from them, and we hope he did. Then he built St. James's Palace. When Cromwell had beheaded King Charles I., there were some exciting times at St. James's Palace. King Charles's children, the Duke of York and the Duke[Pg 35] of Gloucester and the Princess Elizabeth, were kept in prison here, and at last the Duke of York borrowed some clothes from a woman, and got out of the palace and into the park. Then he managed to get to the river, and took a boat, and so went down the river and escaped abroad, and was safe from his enemies. Afterwards, when England found out what a mistake she had made, and how wicked she had been to kill her King, she called back her King's son Charles to be Charles II. The Duke of York was his younger brother, so when Charles II. died without leaving any children, the Duke of York, who had escaped from the palace dressed like a woman, became king as James II. The night before he was crowned he slept at St. James's Palace, and he must have thought of the difference between his position then and when he had had to run away in terror at night, a poor frightened boy.
St. James's Park, where Buckingham Palace, Marlborough House, and St. James's Palace stand, is very pretty. There is a great piece of water in it, and on this live many ducks and some other kinds of rare birds. During the war the water was partly drained off, though one end was left for the birds, on the other part were put up wooden offices[Pg 36] for the clerks in government employ. Not far off you can see the permanent Government offices, where the men who have been appointed to do all the business of the country work. In the middle is the Horse Guards, where two magnificent soldiers on black horses are on guard. They have shining armour and helmets and waving white plumes, and look very splendid; but it must be rather dull for them sitting there on their horses for so many hours without moving until they are relieved by their comrades, who take it in their turn.
In one of these great buildings, called the Treasury, all the work about the money which England has to spend on her soldiers and sailors is done; and in another, called the Admiralty, all the rules for the life of the sailors are arranged, and there are many others.
A very long time ago, before anyone who is living now can remember, there was a garden in the corner of St. James's Park called Spring Gardens, and people used to go there to dance and enjoy themselves; here there were cows, and fashionable ladies used to get up early in the morning and go to drink the milk which had just been taken from the cows. At this place there was a spring of water, which used to start up from[Pg 37] the ground if anyone walked over a particular piece of ground, and so pressed the grass with his foot. Sometimes a person did not know this, and would come walking quite gravely along and tread on that place, and a great stream of water would jump out of the ground all over him, and the other people would shout and laugh with amusement to see him so unexpectedly drenched. We would not like that much now—we should think it rather rude and unkind to laugh at such a thing; but people had rougher manners then. Now there are houses built nearly all over Spring Gardens. King Charles I., who had spent the night before he was murdered at St. James's Palace, walked this way when he went to be beheaded.
There is a walk in St. James's Park called the Mall, and this name comes from Pall Mall, which was the name of an old game Charles II. used to play here. It must have been rather a funny game, and no one plays it now. The players had long mallets, which were not quite like croquet mallets, but more like golf clubs, and they had a wooden ball about the size of a croquet ball, and they tried to hit the ball through a hoop high up in the air hanging from a pole. It must have been difficult and rather dangerous to have a ball[Pg 38] as big as a croquet ball hopping about and jumping up in the air, but we do not read of any accidents happening.
Another palace in London, which is some way from the others and in another park, is Kensington Palace, and this is not now used by the King at all, but he allows some ladies and gentlemen to live there. This palace will always be of very great interest to all of us, because it was here that good Queen Victoria was born, and here she lived when she was a little girl. Do you remember my telling you about Kensington Gardens and the Round Pond, where Ethel and Jack went for their walk? Well, the palace is there, and I wonder how many children who run and play in the gardens every day ever think of the childhood of little Princess Victoria. You know, when she was quite a little girl, it was not known that she would be Queen of England, because there were other persons between her and the throne; but they died one by one, so that at last every one knew that Princess Victoria would one day be Queen of England. But no one ever guessed what a long and glorious reign she would have—longer than any other English Sovereign who has reigned; and not only longer, but better. Her[Pg 39] uncle, King William, who reigned before her, was an old man, while she was still quite young, and he died very suddenly in the night; so the Archbishop of Canterbury and one of the most important Ministers of State rode off at once to Kensington Palace to tell Victoria that she was now Queen. They arrived about five in the morning, and, of course, everyone in the palace was asleep. So they knocked and rang and thumped, and at last they made the porter hear. But when they told him to tell the attendants they must see Princess Victoria, her maid was sent for, and she told them she had not the heart to wake the Princess, for she was in such a sweet sleep. So then they said: 'We have come to the Queen on business, and even her sleep must give way to that.' So the maid went away again and woke Princess Victoria. Fancy being awakened out of your sleep to be told that you were Queen of England! Victoria was told she must not keep the lords waiting, and so she threw a shawl round her nightdress and slipped her feet into slippers, and went through into another large room with all her long hair hanging down; and when they saw her those two great lords fell on their knees and kissed her hand. She was only eighteen then, and she had before her such a[Pg 40] wonderful life. It is said that she had known for a little time before this that if anything happened to her uncle she would be Queen. So she was not quite unprepared, and when she had been warned of this, her first exclamation was; 'Oh, I will be good!' Which showed she was good, for I think most people would have been rather proud about it, and would not have thought just at that moment of being good.
Kensington Gardens is one end of a great park, and the other end is called Hyde Park, where the fashionable people drive in the afternoons. There are now many who prefer to drive in motor-cars, but there are a few who still use open carriages, with the fine horses tossing their heads proudly as they trot. It is a great pity to see that so many people will put the rein, called a bearing-rein, upon their horses. This forces the poor animal's head up high, and holds it there, until his neck aches; and he tries to get rid of it, and foams and chews his bit, and then the ladies and men who are driving think he looks splendid, and never mind that he is suffering pain. But to anyone who really loves a horse there is nothing beautiful in this, and the horse looks far more beautiful when he is free and holds his head high, or tosses it just because he likes to do so.
The flowers in Hyde Park are often lovely, and in summer when they are out, and form a background for the shining cars in which people wait for the Queen to pass, there is no grander sight to be seen anywhere. On Sundays, when it is fine, a great many fashionable people go to walk up and down in the Park after they have been to church, and then there are many smart dresses to be seen.
There is a great piece of water here called the Serpentine, because it curves round like a serpent, and anyone can hire a boat and go for a row, and sometimes the whole of the water is covered with boats. At other times in the winter, when the ice is safe, there are hundreds and hundreds of skaters to be seen. And in the mornings very early a good many men and boys go here to bathe, so that the poor old Serpentine gets well used; but perhaps he likes it, and it keeps him from feeling lonely.
During the Great War the open spaces of the Park were freely used for the drill and training of soldiers, and many people used to go to watch the fresh-faced young lads springing out of the trenches they had dug and prodding with their bayonets at stuffed swinging sacks representing the enemy. There is always something going on and something to see in Hyde Park.
London is so large that it takes a long time to get from one end to the other, and the men who go down to the City for their work and come back every day want means of getting about cheaply and quickly. So there are omnibuses and trains and cabs in numbers. But the trains in London do not run above ground—there would be no room for them in the crowded streets; so there are railways in the earth, deep down beneath all the houses, and on them there are trains that run round in a circle. Those of you who have frequently been by the Underground Railway think nothing of it; to you it seems quite natural, for you are used to it. But it really is a most astonishing piece of work, as you would realize if you saw it for the first time. Just imagine how long it must have taken to cut out and carry away all the masses of earth that had to be removed to make a tunnel of such a length—a tunnel which should run right round underneath[Pg 43] London. The most wonderful thing is that the houses under which it ran did not fall down and break through into it. But that has never happened, for the men who built the tunnel made it very strong, and lined it with bricks. And all day long, while people are walking about in the streets and horses are trotting in the daylight, down below the trains in the underground are running, running in the dark. It cannot be a very pleasant life to be an engine-driver on this railway: it must be almost like the life of a pitman who works down in the depths of the earth; yet the men themselves seem quite happy. The worst part of the railway used to be that as there are not many places where the smoke and steam can get out into the air, they hung in the tunnels and made the air very thick and bad, and there was, consequently, nearly always a sort of fog down there, and it was unpleasant to breathe the thick air; but all this has been remedied now, for the trains are run by electricity instead of steam. There are other underground railways in London also run by electricity, and they go through different districts, so by means of one or the other people can get near to almost any street where they want to go to visit their friends or to shop. In these, the fares are on the same system[Pg 44] as on other railways: you pay for your ticket according to the distance you wish to go; but in the first one you paid twopence for all distances alike—twopence if you wanted to go right from the West End to the City, and twopence all the same if you were going to get out at the next station. Therefore some people nicknamed this railway 'The Twopenny Tube.'
Now, besides these underground trains, which are not seen, there are many huge motor-omnibuses to convey people about the streets above ground. These omnibuses are painted in very bright colours—generally red—and the newest of all are made very conveniently so that the passengers inside can mostly sit facing the way they are going, as they do outside. You can go inside or out, and in summer it is a very good way of seeing London to go on the top of an omnibus and watch all that goes on in the streets below; in the old days the horse omnibuses were often stuffy inside, with no windows to open at all, and it is a wonder anyone could be found to go in them. When the motor-omnibuses are full they carry a great many people. Those of the latest pattern carry fifty-four passengers inside and out. There is now a regulation to make omnibuses stop only at certain fixed[Pg 45] places which are shown by sign-boards with the numbers of the 'buses on them. This saves the constant stopping and starting again, which is trying for the driver, and wastes much time. People are often very inconsiderate about this; they never think of getting off if the omnibus stops just a little way before the place they are going to. I have seen a woman—I'm afraid women are the worst in this respect—wave her umbrella to the conductor of an omnibus that was going at a good pace, so the omnibus stopped, and the woman took quite a long time to go across the street to it; and when she reached it she asked if it were going to the place she wanted, and it was not, so all the stopping and waiting had been for nothing. The motor 'buses go very much faster than the old horse 'buses, and as they carry, also, many more people, altogether, as we have seen, they do more work in the way of conveyance altogether.
You can go a long way in an omnibus for a few pence, but taxi-cabs are much more expensive; they are also very comfortable—no stopping and waiting for other people then. You are carried swiftly and smoothly to your destination, unless you are held up by the traffic; and you always know just how much you will have to pay, as the little[Pg 46] clock face beside the driver marks up the extra payment as the cab covers the ground.
The motor cabs in London are more comfortable than the hansoms were. But the old hansom was very good for seeing in the streets, as the driver was behind and not in front of you. The four-wheel horse cabs seem very slow to us now, but they carried more luggage than the taxi-cabs can. Some of us think that the old omnibuses and cabs were more interesting than the modern ones.
I will tell you a story an omnibus horse told me. His name is Billy, and he lives in the outskirts of London.
'Oh yes,' he says, 'it's a deal better than being a cab-horse, this is. They think themselves very grand, and turn up their noses at us. Why, yes, I've known a cab-horse that turned his nose up so high he could never get it down again into his nose-bag when he wanted to eat his dinner, and they had to have a special sort of nose-bag made for him. Fact! And all along of an old bus-horse a-speaking to him friendly-like as they stood side by side one day. Silly things! they're running all day long, and never know how far they'll have to go, while I just have my one journey a day, and then I go back to my stable. You ought to see that[Pg 47] stable. I live up two stories high, and I walk upstairs to bed every night. What are you laughing at? It's true. There are three stories at our place, and for staircases to reach the top ones there are long sloping boards, like those you've seen put for chickens to get into a hen-house, with little boards across to make steps, only, of course, ours are a bit bigger than the chickens'. Why, yes, don't laugh; I could not walk up a chicken-ladder, could I? In our stable we stand in long rows, a row on each side, with our heels together in the middle, and heads to the walls, and between the two rows of heels there's just enough room for a man to pass. Kick? Why, no; only the bad uns do that, and when they've done it once Tom (that's our stableman) he puts a rope across their heels to keep 'em in, and to show people they must take care. There's plenty to eat, and we don't have a bad time at all. There's eleven of us belong to one omnibus; that's two each time for five journeys, and one over. Well, in the mornings I go out with old Sally perhaps, and we trot up to the City and back; it's a matter of about eight miles each way. We don't have to go fast, but it's stop, stop, stop whenever a silly old woman wants to get on and get off, and it's a pull starting again, I can tell[Pg 48] you. We know when the conductor rings the bell that means to start, and off we go without the driver telling us, and when the conductor rings again that's to stop; it's easy learnt. At the other end, the City end, we have perhaps a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes, and then we come back. The whole thing doesn't take much over three hours, and we're done for that day; but our driver he has to go on again with another pair, and then another, and so five times there and back. It takes a long time that; but then, of course, he's only got to sit up on the bus, and he doesn't pull it, and every second day he is off for two journeys. Once in ten days we get a day off, a holiday, while the odd horse, number eleven, he takes the bus in the place of one of us. We have a doctor, too, to ourselves, and when we're ill we get medicine just as you do. Did you say that you had heard a bus-horse didn't live very long—that the work killed him? Well, maybe; it depends on the horse. There's a mare there fifteen years old, and quite good yet; but seven years does for most of us. What's that you're giving me? Sugar, did you say? I don't know about that—I'd rather not; but if you had an apple now, or a bit of bread, I'll eat it and welcome.'
You see, he was a common horse, this—not a gentleman, but a good-tempered, nice fellow, that wouldn't give his driver much trouble. But they're not all like that. Listen now to a cab-horse.
'Did you say you'd been talking to a bus-horse? Nasty low creatures, not fit to talk to! Now I can tell you all you want to know. Yes, I'm only a cab-horse now, it's true, but once I was in a gentleman's carriage—one of a pair, with a coachman and footman on the box, and my lady herself used to pat my nose and give me sugar. They were grand times then—that is, they seem grand when I think of them now—very little to do, and we were scrubbed and polished until our coats were like satin. In the afternoon we danced round the Park. Yes, I say danced, because there was a horrid thing called a bearing-rein that hurt us so much that we had to dance and throw out our legs, and people said it was splendid. It made me feel so angry that I didn't know what to do. But then I had a bad temper from the beginning, and it's my temper that has done for me. One day I wheeled round and leaped over the traces, and kicked the coachman hard. We were standing in the mews, and I dashed out and ran away, and the other horse fell down, and the carriage was smashed.[Pg 50] Well, then I was sold, and—— But I'm not going to tell you about that. Yes, I know it's my own fault, and I know I shouldn't have been a cab-horse if I'd behaved; but I was wicked, and I used to bite, and now I've been whipped and beaten until I daren't do anything. Yes, even now I kick, and I hate my life and I hate my driver. He gives me sugar sometimes, too; but that's just because he doesn't want me to run away and dash him off his box, but I shall some day. I shall smash him up against a lamp-post just because I hate everyone. Oh, it's not a fine life, I can tell you. It's all very well when I stand here waiting; but perhaps just when I've got my nose into my bag and begun to eat I hear a sharp whistle twice, and that means someone wants a hansom, and my master whisks away my bag, jumps on to his box, and gives me a cut that makes me furious, and we go galloping round the streets to see where the whistle comes from. And when we find the right house, where someone is waiting, perhaps a man jumps in, and says: "To the station as fast as you can, and half a crown if you do it in a quarter of an hour." Well, of course, it's my master who gets the money, but it's I that have to earn it. So we tear off full speed, and other things get in[Pg 51] the way, and I have to pull up suddenly, and the horrid curb-bit cuts my mouth till I could rear with the pain. Then off again, and at last, all hot and angry, we dash up to the station, and the man inside leaps out and throws up the money and runs off. Then my master strokes me down, and says: "Jenny, old girl, I'm sorry to fluster you so, but we must make a bit for the bairns at home, eh, old girl?" And he pats me, and I'd bite his hand if I could. As if I cared about his bairns! And so it goes on all day long, and at night I'm in a nasty stuffy stable with other horses coming and going, until it makes me wild. I'll be glad when it's all over, I can tell you; but I have heard it said that there are worse things than even my life.'
That horse, you see, was not good-tempered, and so even the kind cabman could not make her happy.
There are still many horses in London drawing carts of all kinds and vans, and even private carriages, but every year they become fewer.
Of course all London children must go to school or be taught at home, just as all country children are. And there is nothing very interesting in the ordinary schools in London, for they are like those anywhere else. But there are some special schools which belong to London, even if they are not still actually there; one of these is the Duke of York's School for soldier-boys, which used to be at Chelsea, but has been moved into the country near Dover. Five hundred little boys, the sons of soldiers, who are nearly all going to be soldiers themselves, are here trained. They are dressed in a scarlet uniform in summer, just like soldiers, and in winter wear dark-blue uniform, and the school is like a barracks where real soldiers live. The boys come here as young as nine years old, and stay until they are fourteen or fifteen, and then if they like it they go into the real army, and are drummer-boys. To see them on Sunday is a[Pg 53] pleasant sight. They have a chapel and a chaplain of their own; on Sunday mornings the boys meet together and march up and down like an army. They march beautifully, keeping step all the time, and wheeling round just as the men do, for they are carefully drilled. Then the band plays, for they have a capital band, and they all go to church. During the service the boys are very good and still as mice, because they are well trained. But it is not long. It is a bright, short service, with a sermon, quite short and simple, so that the boys can understand it. There are many hymns, and when it is over they go back for dinner. Dinner is very important, but before I tell you about that I will tell you what they get to eat for all their meals. They have cocoa in the mornings for breakfast and bread-and-jam or bread-and-butter, and they have the same again at tea-time. On extra days they get cake too. For dinner on Sundays in winter they have pork, with potatoes and apple-sauce. I don't know if you like apple-sauce, but the soldier boys do, and they think it is waste to eat it with pork; so they leave it until they have finished their meat, and then spread it on their bread and eat it separately. Afterwards there are plum-puddings, an ordinary big plum-pudding[Pg 54] for every table, and at each table there are eight boys. Each boy who sits at the head of a table marches out and marches in again carrying a plum-pudding, which he sets down on his own table; then he takes a knife and cuts it neatly across and across, making four pieces; then he cuts it across and across again, and makes eight pieces, and he gives each boy a piece, and there is no more plum-pudding. It is a pretty big bit that, an eighth of a plum-pudding, but it all goes somewhere; and the boy who cuts it has to be very careful to see that he does it quite fairly, so that no one gets more than anyone else. I think the plum-pudding and the pork must be a good mixture, for you hardly ever see elsewhere such bright-looking faces as there are here.
There is a big playground, with plenty of room for games and sports, and there are long bedrooms, called dormitories, with rows of neat little beds. It is a good thing to think that these boys are growing up happy and good, and passing on into the army to be among England's brave soldiers. When it was decided to move this school into the country many people were very sorry, but all agreed it was better for the boys.
There is another school very like this one[Pg 55] for sailor-boys, only that is not in London either, but a long way down the river, so there is not much use in describing it here. There are homes for soldiers' daughters and for sailors' daughters, too; there is nothing very different about them from an ordinary school.
Another school which belongs to London, though it too has now gone into the country, is the Foundling Hospital. It seems funny to call a school a hospital, but in old times the word 'hospital' did not mean, as it does now, a place for sick people, but any place where people were cared for and made comfortable. This is rather a sad school in some ways, for it is a home for the poor little children whose parents have deserted them or who have no parents; and the faces of the children are quite different from those of the boys in the Duke of York's School. The Foundling Hospital is a very large place indeed, and there are in it both boys and girls, who stay until they are old enough to earn their own living. The Hospital was begun many years ago by a kind captain of a ship, who had seen places like it when he went to foreign countries. He did not quite know how to begin, but he was sure there were many poor little neglected children in London who must need a[Pg 56] home, so he gave money to some men and asked them to see about it for him; and these men put a notice in some papers, saying that any baby under two months old that was brought would be taken in and no questions asked. You would be astonished at the number of babies that were brought; it seemed quite impossible that so many mothers could want to give away their little children. And it was really like giving them away, for when the babies were taken into the hospital the mothers never came to see them; and if they did come to the school many years after and saw all the children running about, they could not tell which was their little boy or girl. Sometimes the nurses used to keep a locket or some little thing brought with a child, so that if ever it was wanted they could say which child belonged to which mother, but they never told anyone which was which. And many children had no locket or any other kind of token, and when they grew up they did not know who they were or who their mother and father had been. Many were just left at the door, and others were put into a big basket hung outside the door, and left there until someone inside the hospital heard them crying and came and took them in. And it was no wonder they[Pg 57] cried, because sometimes the men or women who brought them stole all the clothes and left the poor little naked baby in the basket. Of course, these babies had no names, not even a surname, and the people at the Hospital used to make up names for them, and very funny some of them were; Richard No-More-Known was one little boy who died at five years old. Dorothy Butteriedore was another, because the little girl had been left beside a small door called a buttery-door, through which people used to pass food from the kitchen. We are told of Jane Friday-Street that she went to service aged six. Poor little Jane Friday-Street! She must have been too much of a baby to do any work; one would have thought she needed a nurse herself. The girl called Grace That-God-Sent-Us ought to have been a very good girl, and there was another Jane That-God-Sent-Us, too; and there was a boy called James Cinerius, because he was found on a cinder-heap.
After a good many years it was found that there were far too many children left at the Hospital, and they could not all be kept; and so the men who looked after the place made a rule that the mother must bring her child and tell all she could about it, and if she was very poor, and the father[Pg 58] would not give her money or take care of her and the child, then the child was taken in and kept.
For a long time past babies who came to the hospital have been sent to the country, and now the older ones live in the country too. Then, when they are fourteen, the boys have to learn some trade to earn their living, or become soldiers, and the girls begin to work as little servants. The boys wear coats and trousers of a kind of chocolate colour with brass buttons and red waistcoats, and the girls' dresses are the same colour, and have trimmings of red. On Sundays the girls wear a high snowy-white cap and a large white collar, and they used to sit in the gallery of the chapel, the girls on one side of the organ and the boys on the other. It was one of the sights of London; many people used to go to the chapel on Sundays to see it.
After chapel the children march to their dining-rooms and walk in, and stand round the table and sing their grace before dinner. On Sundays they get mutton and potatoes and bread, and on some other days meat and potatoes, and on some days fish and pudding. For breakfast they have bread, with butter or dripping, and boiled milk, or cocoa, or porridge; for tea they get [Pg 59]bread-and-butter and milk, and for supper bread, with cheese, butter, or jam.
It is a very good thing to think they are all being well taught and looked after and helped to turn into honest men and women, but it is very sad to think there are so many boys and girls whose parents don't want them, and will willingly give them away; and we can't help feeling that it can never be quite a happy place, for every child must feel that it is only one in a crowd of others, and that no one loves it especially.
In old times it was the fashion for good men and women to found schools for children where all the children had to wear a particular sort of dress, and some of these were called Blue-coat Schools, and some Green-coat, and some Gray-coat; but they are very different now, and the children don't wear the dress they used to. There is one very big school, which went from London into the country, called the Blue-coat School; this is just like any other school where big boys go, except that the boys never wear hats, and have bright yellow stockings and a long sort of skirt on to their coats, which must be very awkward for them when they want to play cricket or football. What do you think they do with it then? They just tuck the long skirt into[Pg 60] their belts, and run about like that, and very funny it looks. They will find this dress even more awkward in the country than it was in London. The beautiful school buildings that were begun by King Edward VI., who was a clever and learned boy himself, and always tried to help other boys to learn, are now pulled down. This is a great pity, and it will be a greater pity still if the curious old dress is done away with and the boys dress just like all other boys. It must be very odd never to wear a hat, whether it rains or whether the sun shines; but I suppose the boys get used to that, and would feel uncomfortable in a hat. This school is called Christ's Hospital as well as the Blue-coat School, so, you see, here is another instance of the word 'hospital' being used to mean a school or home.
In old days the Blue-coat boys used to have a very hard time; their food was bad, and they did not get enough of it, and they ate it off wooden platters. There is a story told that the boys had a custom of never eating the fat of a particular sort of meat; they called it 'gags,' and though they might be very hungry they would never touch this fat. But one day they saw a boy go and gather up all the 'gags' that his companions had[Pg 61] left, and take them away in his handkerchief. Very disgusting, wasn't it? The other boys thought so too, and they watched him to see if he went and ate them himself. But he did not; he slipped away when the others were not looking and went out into the town. So then they thought he went to sell them, and they were very angry, and would not speak to that boy or play with him, and left him alone; but still he used to get the 'gags' and carry them away. One day some other boys followed him, and what do you think they found? That he used to take the 'gags' to his own father and mother, who were very poor and almost beggars, and had nothing to eat. So the master praised him for being a good son, and not minding what the others said when he knew he could do something to help his poor parents.
In those days when a Blue-coat boy tried to run away he was shut up in a little dark cell like a prison cell, and had only bread and water given to him, and saw no one and spoke to no one, and twice a week he was taken out and flogged. It was no wonder the boys wanted to run away, for the place was very wretched, and in the great dining-hall there were swarms of rats that came out at night to pick up the crumbs, and the boys used[Pg 62] to go and catch them for fun, not in traps, but in their hands. I don't think girls would ever have liked that game, and there must have been some nasty bites and scratches sometimes.
A very small boy was crying one day when he came back to the school after the holidays, and a master said to him: 'Boy, the school is your father; boy, the school is your mother; boy, the school is your brother, the school is your sister, your first cousin, your second cousin, and all the rest of your relations.' I don't suppose it made that boy feel any better. It is very different now, and the boys are very happy, and a great many clever men have been taught at that school, but in those early days it cannot have been very comfortable. But this is enough about the Blue-coat School.
In one school the boys play on the roof, because they have no playground. This is in the City, near the great big cathedral of St. Paul's, and there is no room for playgrounds there; the land is too valuable, and is wanted for houses and streets. The school is for the choir-boys of the cathedral, who sing more beautifully than any other boys in the world. And if you were walking past the school you might suddenly hear a lovely voice rising higher[Pg 63] and higher and higher, like a skylark or a nightingale, and this would be one of the boys practising his notes. The school is large and the roof is flat, and all over the top and at the sides are high railings filled in with wire, so that the balls at cricket or football can't jump over the edge and come down on the heads of the people walking in the street below. That would be a surprise, wouldn't it? to have a great football drop out of the sky on to your head. It is a funny idea, playing up there among the chimneys and the roofs, and I don't think it can be very clean; I expect the boys have always to wash their hands before they put on their pure white surplices and go into the great solemn cathedral to sing. There is going to be a chapter in this book telling something about the cathedral of St. Paul's, so you will remember this about the choir-boys when you come to it.
There are seven millions of people in London. That does not give any idea of the real number, but if you were to begin now and count hard for three days and nights, you would not have counted a million then, even if you never stopped to eat or to sleep. Just think of it, that great crowd of people all wanting to be fed, and many of them wanting three good meals every day! If all the carts in the world were to be marching into London the whole time, you would think they could hardly bring food enough for this multitude of people. Yet somehow it is done, and it does not seem to be very difficult either. I think I hear someone saying, 'But there are the shops; people can go and buy there.' Yes, they can, of course, but where do the shopmen get their stuff from? Where does all the meat come from, and the fruit and the flowers and vegetables, and all the things that must be kept fresh? Where does the [Pg 65]shopman buy them? The shopman gets them from the markets, and the markets get them from the country. There are many great markets, and to-day we will visit three of them—that where we can see the meat, and that where the flowers and vegetables are, and that where the fish are. The flower market is much the nicest, of course, so we will keep it for the last.
The fish market is down close by the river, just where you would expect it to be. If you want to see it you must not mind getting up very early, long before any cabs or omnibuses are about—in fact, it will be very difficult to get there at all unless you can bicycle or can walk a long way without being tired.
Early one Saturday morning, then, when the light is still dim, and we have the streets all to ourselves, we start. It is so quiet. Not even the milkman is about yet, and the blinds of the houses are all down. The whole of the inhabitants of London seem asleep except you and me. We go right down into the City by London Bridge, and then in a very narrow dark street we suddenly find a number of people and hear a great noise. All over the street there are barrows and carts, and people are shouting and pushing, and everyone is[Pg 66] trying to get in and out of the market at once. The market, which is called Billingsgate, is a great big place like a barn, and when once we have pushed in among all the rough men and women there, we see a wonderful sight. You would think you were at the seaside from the smell, for there are great lumps of seaweed lying about among the fish on the slabs, and they bring the breath of the sea with them. Here is a crawling pile of black lobsters; they are alive, and they turn bright-red when they have been boiled. Poor lobsters! they can't think where they have got to, and they are stretching out their long whiskers and looking about with their great goggle eyes, and the man who wants to sell them is shouting, 'Come, buy! come, buy! fine fresh lobsters alive, alive, oh!' All the fishmongers in London must be here, you would think, there are so many; and they buy the fish in great quantities, not as we do in the shops by the weight, but by the number—so much for each fish, whether it is big or little. And then they sell them for more money than they gave for them to the people who want them for breakfast and dinner, and so they make their living. Salmon, the king of all the fish, is always sold by weight, though, even in this market. Look at the salmon—huge[Pg 67] silver fish lying on the stalls, with their scales gleaming in the early light. When they are cut open their flesh is pink, and all the other fish have white flesh. King Salmon was taking a little exercise one day, dashing about in the salt sea or sailing up the river, perhaps, when he ran his great stupid head into a net, and the more he struggled the worse it was, and strong as he was—as strong as a fairly big dog—he could not break that net, and so he was hauled out and brought to shore, where he died. Or perhaps he saw something very attractive in the water, and made a rush at it, only to find a cruel hook firmly fixed in his mouth. He might dash away or lie quiet, but wherever he was he knew the hook was still there; and when he was tired with all his struggles, the fisherman at the other end of the line began to haul it in gradually, and poor old salmon was drawn nearer and nearer to the land, and at last picked out of the water with a landing-net. And now he lies at Billingsgate, waiting for someone to buy him and take him to a shop to sell him again to be eaten. All round there are many cries—indeed, a noise such as you never heard before. What you hear is something like this: 'Haddock and cod, come buy! Fine fresh fish, fresh cod, buy, buy! Here you[Pg 68] are; couldn't buy any finer. All this lot for ten shillings! Look here! look here! Whiting and turbot! crabs crawling all alive, alive, oh! Shrimps do you want? Fine shrimps, the very best! Here you are, buy! buy!' and so on, everyone shouting out to make the fishmongers buy their fish. Perhaps a crab crawls too near the edge of his stall, and falls over with a crash, and the man who owns him picks him up and throws him back, and off jumps Master Crab again as quick as you please, and does just the same thing again. You would think he would not want to tumble down: it must hurt him, even through such a thick shell; but he thinks if he goes on long enough perhaps he'll find again those lovely rocks all soaked with the great sea tide, which somehow he seems to have lost. So he goes on scuttling about and tumbling down until someone picks him up and throws him into a bag with the rest, and he is carried off to the shop, where, poor crab! he will never have a chance of finding his dear rocks again or hearing the water rushing in over the seaweed.
He was perhaps lying under a great mass of seaweed in a deep pool, when a pole came walking along and poked into his side. He did not want it at all—in fact, he got quite angry with it, and[Pg 69] shook himself free; but that pole only waggled about, and stuck into him again, and at last he seized it with his claws, and the more it shook, the tighter he held on, and he did not know that that was just what the man who was bending over the pool wanted. So the pole was pulled out with Master Crab sticking to it, and the man caught hold of him so neatly that he had not time to use his claws, and popped him into a bag, and he has never found the seaside since, and now he never will again. But perhaps he would not mind so much if he knew that Mrs. Crab did not miss him at all, for she went out to seek him when he did not come home, and she smelt a piece of dead fish, just the very thing she liked most of all. So she crawled up the side of the funny basket that was lying in the water, and found that the bit of dead fish was inside it. But that did not matter, for there was a hole at the top; so in popped Mrs. Crab, and there she had to stay, for she could not get out again. She tried and tried, but the hole was made with bits of stick pointed inwards, so that she could not get up to it from the inside. Many lobsters have been caught that way, and now Mrs. Crab was too; and when the men came in the evening to look at their baskets, they were quite pleased, for[Pg 70] they found not only Mrs. Crab, but four of her friends whom she had invited inside because she felt lonely. So Mrs. Crab went to the market too, but it was not to the same market as her husband, and she did not meet him again. All those shrimps lying near were caught by boys with nets. The boys ran into the water with bare feet, and thrust their nets along the sandy bottom, and each time they came out they picked out the shrimps from the net and threw them into a pail, and only the very strongest managed to hop back on to the sand again; nearly all of them went to market.
But while we have been looking at these things the market has been getting emptier; and now there are only a few young lads left, who have little barrows and carts, and are called costers, and they are walking round the stalls and picking out what they will buy after the fishmongers have got all the best of the fish. It is time to go away, and soon Billingsgate will be nearly desolate. It is not a nice place, and if there were not some policemen near I should not like to have brought you here.
We cannot go to Covent Garden Market where the flowers are this morning, for it is nearly seven o'clock, and too late, as we ought to be there very[Pg 71] early; but we can go to the meat market, which is not at all a pretty sight, and a long way off. But it is very wonderful. Here there is selling going on quite late, until about ten o'clock, perhaps, and even to the middle of the day the place is still busy. It is a huge place with a great glass roof, and there are rows of stalls with narrow passages like streets between them, and everywhere are great masses of raw meat. It is a city of meat; you walk down lanes of meat—meat everywhere. All the butchers in London come here to choose what they will buy, and from midnight onward all is bustle and business. Some of the meat comes to the market in vans, but the greater part comes by train. Right under the market there is a place scooped out in the earth like a cellar, and the railway lines run in under there, and then from the vans standing on the lines it is easy to lift the meat up into the market. Outside there is a great square, and in the early morning this square is filled with carts of every kind waiting to carry away the meat which the butchers buy. But all the meat does not come from England. A great deal of it comes from over the sea, from Australia and New Zealand, for England herself would never have enough to feed all her people. Close to the[Pg 72] market at Smithfield there is another, where nothing but poultry is sold. Rows and rows of dead chickens go every day to fill all the shops—good chickens and bad chickens, the chickens that obeyed their mothers and the chickens that didn't; they come here just the same to supply the wants of the people of London.
The flower market is very pretty, and it is a treat to go there. If you were grown up and had been to a ball in London, you might see, when you were coming back in the early morning, a cart piled high with cabbages, and a sleepy-looking man sitting on the shafts, while a dim lantern hung beside him. This is one of the carts bringing in the vegetables that London wants for her dinner next day. London itself is like a great ogre—eating, always eating. You remember the story of the giant who used to be quiet so long as the people brought him enough to eat? And how all the people in the country used to work day and night to bring in cartloads of things, for fear if they allowed him to go hungry he would eat them instead? The giant could swallow up those cartloads as if they were spoonfuls. And so it is with London. Men work day and night bringing, always bringing, cartloads of meat and fruit and vegetables, and London swallows them[Pg 73] all up; and next day there are more carts and more food from the country, and so it goes on always.
In the middle of the night, when most people are fast asleep, the man who wants to sell his flowers or vegetables at Covent Garden Market must be up and out. In the dim light he harnesses his horse and lights his lamp. Perhaps his faithful dog watches him, and runs about quite pleased to be going for a walk, even if it is in the middle of the night. Then the man starts off on his long, slow journey into London. Mile after mile over muddy or dusty roads, through villages where everyone is asleep, where not even a dog barks, on and on to London. It may be very cold, and the horse only goes slowly, so it cannot be very comfortable; but this is the man's work, and he must do it. Perhaps the cartman has a little boy, and takes him too, and you see the little boy, when the cart is coming back empty in the morning, lying sound asleep on the straw dead tired, while his father drives home.
All the carts gather up to the market, and then they are unloaded. One brings vegetables, and another fruit, and another flowers, and by two o'clock everything is in its place and ready to be sold. Then the buyers come—shop people again,[Pg 74] greengrocers and fruiterers—and they look round and try to get the best they can at the lowest prices.
There is a great hall covered in with glass, and in this the flowers are arranged. It is lovely—like a huge flower-show. Of course, the flowers are different at different times of the year, but in the early summer you can see banks and banks of roses, all colours—red and yellow and white—and masses of sweet-scented carnations and lilies and heliotrope; and the smell is very sweet, so different from the market at Billingsgate. All the people here, except you and me, are busy people come to buy in order to sell again, and some of them don't look very rich. Do you see that girl there in the corner with a red shawl and a hat with huge untidy feathers all out of curl? She is a flower-girl, and she is going to spend two or three shillings on buying a basket of flowers. These she will do up into little bunches, and if she is lucky enough to sell them again she will make a few shillings before the evening. When she has chosen her flowers she goes away and sits down on a cold stone step, and begins pulling them about and blowing into the roses to make them open, and if you feel as I do you will not care to buy them then;[Pg 75] you would much rather she left them just as they were and did not finger them. But she thinks people will be more likely to buy them if they are carefully arranged. When she has done she starts off to walk a long way to a stand where she goes every day, perhaps a place where two or three streets join and there is an open space. There is one in the West End, where there is an island of pavement between lines of traffic north and south, east and west; the flower-girls sit here all day. They don't seem to mind the rain or wet at all; they are quite used to it. They don't pay anything for being here; but they are very angry if another comes and takes their place, and the girl or woman to whom it belongs will perhaps fight the newcomer, and then the policeman has to come and separate them.
Some of these places where the flower-women sit are made quite beautiful by the baskets of flowers. In the spring, when the daffodils are out, it looks as if a patch of sunshine had fallen from the sky into the dark street. But all these flowers don't come from England. A great many are grown abroad, and sent to Covent Garden Market from over the sea.
At the market, when the cartman has finished[Pg 76] arranging his vegetables, he goes to a coffee-stall. There are many there, and perhaps he gets a great cup of strong coffee and an immense hunch of bread or cake for breakfast, or perhaps he goes to the public-house at the corner; but at any rate, before he goes back, he has something to eat, and then he piles up his baskets, now empty, in which he brought the things and starts off home. One of the most surprising things at Covent Garden is the quantities of oranges that come there—boxes and boxes of oranges. These have been brought to England up the river in ships, and the men, with great cushions on their heads, carry them to the markets. The cushion is to make it soft and prevent the hard wood of the box hurting their heads, and they carry a huge boxful in this way more easily than you or I would carry a book.
Long years ago, when London consisted of only a few houses and Westminster of another few houses, this market, which is now in the middle of streets, was really a garden, and it belonged to a convent for nuns, and it is strange that it should be like a garden still with all its fruit and flowers, though now it is part of a great town.
We have seen children rich and children poor, children at work and children at play, but we have not yet seen any of the poor little children who cannot run about as others do, who have to be still, and who very often suffer pain. A lady began a school for poor children who were ill. She had been visiting poor people, and she had found out that sometimes a mother had to leave her sick child the whole day long alone in one dark room. And very often these children were not ill for a little time only, as any of you might be, but ill always from babyhood, without any hope of getting well. To take one case, little Beatrice Annie Jones had a mother who was a widow, and used to go out to scrub people's floors and clean the houses; that is what is called being a charwoman. She had sometimes to go quite a long way to her work, and could not come back in the middle of the day for dinner; so in the morning before she went she[Pg 78] used to give Beatrice Annie a bit of bread and an egg, if she had enough money to buy one, and a few sticks, and a little pan with water in it. Then she used to tidy up the room and go away, leaving the child alone. The door must be locked, for a thief might come in and steal the few bits of things there were. The window was dirty and very high up; Beatrice Annie could only see out of it by climbing on a rickety chair, and she could not stand there long, for it hurt her legs and back, for they were not like other little girls' legs and back, but weak and painful, so that she used to drag herself about the floor on all fours, like a baby, rather than walk, even though she was seven years old. The room she and her mother lived in was up many, many stairs, and it was very seldom she could get out at all; for though she was very light and small, her mother was too tired to carry her down after her day's work. Beatrice Annie was suffering from a disease very common with poor children, called rickets. It means that the bones are not strong—they are like chalk, and will break very easily; even a fall off a chair might do it—and it is sometimes caused by the children not having had enough milk when they were babies.
When her mother left her alone, Beatrice Annie[Pg 79] used to look round the room and sigh. It was a very dreary room. When you are ill, everyone brings you nice things—flowers and jellies and pictures—to pass the time. This little girl had only one picture, a bright-coloured almanack, with a likeness of the King dressed in the scarlet uniform of a soldier, and she had looked at this so often she was tired of it. She was so lonely that she would have been glad if even a little mouse had come to play with her; but the mice did not come to that room; there were not enough crumbs to please Mr. Mouse. Beatrice Annie could not read; she had never been to school, for she was not strong enough. So she sat for a long time on the wooden floor and wondered what she should do. She had one dirty wooden doll, dressed in rags, and for a little time she washed its face, wiping it with a bit of rag dipped in the corner of the little pan she was going to boil her egg in; but she soon got tired of that. Then she tried to climb on the chair to look out of the window, but when she managed it, after trying several times, she could not stay long, it made her legs ache so; and the street was very far down, she could not see anything interesting. So the weary day went on. Long before one o'clock she had boiled her egg, and she ate it with great[Pg 80] enjoyment; but that did not take very long, and then there were hours and hours to wait before at last the old stairs creaked and her mother put the key in the lock and came in with a tired face. She was a good woman this, though so poor and wretched, and she could not help her little girl's being left alone, and she always tried to bring home something for her to cheer her up.
'Look, Beatrice Annie!' she cried, as she opened the door. 'What hever do ye think I've brought for yer?' And she held up a bunch of red radishes for a treat.
Well, when this lady found out that there were many children like Beatrice Annie, she said that there might be a school just for such poor sick children, and that they could do as much or as little work as they liked. Several rich people joined in sharing the expense of starting the school, and one doctor gave a carriage that had two seats in it on which children could lie right down, and others where they could sit. Then a good kind nurse was found, and every morning the nurse went round and carried out or helped all the little sick children who were well enough to come, and took them driving in their own carriage to school. She had to begin very early, and go backwards and[Pg 81] forwards several times, for the carriage did not hold a great many children at a time, and there were so many who wanted to come. She took them to a school in Tavistock Place, not very far from the British Museum, in a part of London called Bloomsbury, and by ten o'clock all the children were there.
Then they began work, a little reading and writing, and a few sums; but they were always carefully watched, and if any child seemed tired she was made to stop and lie down on a sofa. At twelve o'clock dinner-time came. At first a few of the children used to bring their own dinners, and as the mothers were very poor, sometimes the dinners were very nasty, and not at all good for a delicate child. Perhaps one little boy, with a white face and a big head, would unroll a filthy bit of newspaper, and show some cold herring, which smelt horrid. Or another would bring out a lump of greasy pudding, as heavy as lead. So it was arranged that if the mother could give a few pence, varying from three halfpence to threepence, according to her means, the children should have dinner at the school, and for these sums it is marvellous what a dinner they get. Beef and mutton, with vegetables, light puddings of milk and fruit, and [Pg 82]sometimes rich people send game, and then these poor little gutter children have dinners like princes and princesses.
Though it is in the middle of London, there is a beautiful garden behind, which belongs to the Duke of Bedford, and he allows them to play there, for the house to which it belonged is now pulled down. Some of the children go hopping about on their crutches, and even play games upon the smooth turf under the great shady trees. After being out for an hour, they come in and do such interesting work. All sorts of things they make with their hands. The boys do iron work, and the girls lace; or the boys do painting and basket-making, and the girls embroidery. So that when they grow up and leave the school they may be able to earn a living for themselves.
At about three o'clock the carriage comes again, and they begin to go home. Now, cannot you fancy what a new world this is to the children? Before they went to school they knew nothing about the world they lived in, or about history, or about plants and animals. They had nothing to think of to make them forget their pain. They could just sleep or lie still all day, like little animals. Now they are bright and happy. If by any chance[Pg 83] they cannot go to school, or the carriage does not come, they cry bitterly. There are other schools begun now like this one, so perhaps in time all the children who are invalids can go to school.
Of course, there are some cases where a child is too ill to attend any school, and then it must go to a hospital. There is one of these hospitals in Chelsea, and it looks out over the great gray river Thames. It is a large red-brick house, and boys and girls who can never get well can be taken in here and made comfortable, and saved as much pain as possible. It is a beautiful house, and it is very sad, but happy, too, to see the children, and how bright they look. They wear little red flannel jackets when they sit up in bed, and have a tray put across the bed, and upon it for them to play with are the toys that kind people have sent. The rooms are divided into two parts, for boys and girls, and the children are received between the ages of three and ten, so there are no tiny babies here. The large windows are down to the ground, so the children can see what is going on outside, and I will tell you what they see: first, the Embankment; I have told you about that. It is like a broad road, and taxi-cabs and bicycles and many other things are always passing and repassing. Then the[Pg 84] river, up which the salt sea tide rolls every day, and when the weather is very cold and stormy the gray and white sea-gulls fly inland up the river, and wheel and scream; and when people throw bread for them they dart down upon it and catch it before it can touch the water, so quick are they.
On the river there are, in summer, pleasure-steamers crowded with people; these stop at a pier quite near the children's hospital, and sometimes they are so full that not another person can get on. Then there are great barges going slowly along, dragged by a little steam-tug; perhaps there are three or four barges one after another, so low in the water that it almost washes over their decks. They carry great piles of hay or coal further up the river, and they look like great lazy porpoises being towed along by the fussy little steamer. If they are coming in with the tide, so that the current helps them, they do not need the steam-tug; but men stand up at one end and help the barge along, and guide it by a huge oar called a sweep. Some of these men and their wives live always on these barges, and earn their living by taking things up the river. There is only a tiny dirty little cabin, the size of the smallest room you ever saw, and so Mrs. [Pg 85]Bargeman can't bring fine frocks with her; but that doesn't matter, for it isn't likely that she has any. The faces of the men and women get quite brown with being out always in the open air. It is a queer life that, always going up and down, to and fro, upon the gray water, watching the red sun sink at night and seeing him rise again; watching the sunlight ripple in the water by day, and seeing the lights from the shore shine out sparkling like jewels at night.
The barges are quite low and have no funnels, so they can pass under the bridges; but the steamers have to bow down their funnels when they come to a bridge, and then they raise them up again, as if they were very polite gentlemen saying, 'How do you do?' to the bridge.
Well, the children in the hospital can see these things, and for those whose beds don't face the windows there are looking-glasses so arranged that all that goes on is reflected in them, so that it is like a wonderful picture-book, changing all day long. Though they look so happy, poor children! some of them suffer dreadful pain, and it is sad to think this hospital is for incurable children—that is, children who can never be well in this world.
In one room there is a large picture; I am sure you have seen one like it. It is Jesus Christ standing at a door, knocking, and the door is fast shut, and briars and brambles have grown all over it; but still Christ stands knocking, hoping it may open. In His hand there is a lantern, and the picture is called 'The Light of the World.' Now, the real picture, the one that the artist painted, from which all the others like it have been printed, was painted just where this children's hospital is; for the artist, whose name is Holman Hunt, had a house there before the hospital was built. So he gave a very large copy of his picture to the children, and wrote under it that it was from the artist who made that picture, in that place, to Christ's little ones.
There are other hospitals for children, which are for all sorts of illnesses and not only for incurable ones. There is one in Chelsea, not far from here, and another, a very large one, in Great Ormond Street, not very far from the school for sick children.
In the Great Ormond Street one they take in the very tiniest babies, and so the nurses have plenty to do looking after these mites. Sometimes a child is very naughty when it first comes in, and[Pg 87] will do nothing but scream and cry, and the nurses have to be very patient; but it always happens that when it has been there for a time it loves them all so much that it cries when it gets well and has to go home. It is a funny sight to see a nurse or a sister having tea with perhaps three or four children who are well enough to be up. They climb all over her like little kittens, and love her so much she cannot get rid of them. In this hospital each ward is named after some member of the Royal Family: Helena Ward, Alice Ward, and so on, after the Princesses Helena and Alice, daughters of Queen Victoria.
There is a home for cripple girls in London, and another for cripple boys in a part of the West End called Kensington. Here the boys are taken in and taught, not only lessons, but all kinds of things that boys can do without having to walk. Some are tailors, and some make harness for carriage-horses, and some carve wood, and learn carpentering or shoemaking. And so they can earn their own living when they grow up to be men. They all seem very happy, and when you meet them on a walk it is a touching sight; but yet not really sad, because their faces are bright and happy. Fancy meeting twenty or thirty boys going along[Pg 88] together, every one of them lame or deformed in some way! Some go on crutches, and some hobble, and others limp; but they do not seem to mind, because, perhaps, they have never known what it is to be active like other boys, and there are plenty of pleasant things they can still do.
When I asked a little girl who was visiting London for the first time if it was like what she had expected, she said, 'No,' and when I asked how it differed from the idea she had had, she said: 'I expected to see long rows and rows of houses, going on for miles and miles, but I never thought there would be so many things in the streets—cabs and omnibuses and people; it's all so much fuller and gayer than I thought.'
I think this is what would strike anyone who was seeing London for the first time, especially if they came in what is called 'the season.' The season lasts for three months—May, June, and July—and during that time the people who live in the country, but are rich enough to have houses in London, come up to town; and the people who have houses in London, but who go away a great deal during the rest of the year, make a point of being in London during the season; and many[Pg 90] other people, who are gay and rich, come up to town just for those three months to meet all their friends and see what is going on. So the streets in the West End are very full indeed. In the beginning of May, when the fine weather comes, people in costly motor-cars appear in the Park in greater numbers, until at the height of the season there are rows and rows of them. If you were to go to the Park any fine afternoon about that time of the year and were to stand near one of the great gates at Hyde Park Corner, you would see all the traffic drawn up in double lines, with the well-dressed women inside the carriages waiting for something. They are interested in seeing H.M. the Queen, who is very fond of driving in the Park. Perhaps also there may be with her the popular Duchess of York, from her house in Piccadilly, and possibly baby Princess Elizabeth. When the royalties come there is quite a stir of excitement. The great iron gates opening on to Constitution Hill are thrown open—they are only opened for royalty; everyone else has to go through the side gates—and then there is a flash of scarlet liveries, and the crowd of people standing in the open space before Hyde Park call out, 'The Queen, the Queen!' And the much-loved Queen drives smiling[Pg 91] through them, bowing this way and that, with that gracious manner that has made everyone love her; and the men raise their hats and the ladies wave their handkerchiefs as the carriage dashes across the open space, kept clear by the police, and goes into the Park, where all the waiting carriages are. The Queen has another lady with her, or perhaps her only daughter who has now a home of her own, and they drive round and round the Park several times, enjoying the fresh ah.
The streets of London are in some places very narrow—too narrow to allow tram-cars to run through them as they do in some other large towns, and at the height of the season the blocks in the traffic in some of the West-End streets are quite alarming. Imagine a tightly-packed mass of vehicles, restive horses in splendid carriages, huge motor-omnibuses, smart automobiles, taxi-cabs, and tradesmen's vans, all squeezed together. Perhaps the policeman has held up his hand at a crossing to let some carriages get across from a side street, and everything has had to stop, public and private alike. Stand up on the top of an omnibus and look this way and that: what can you see? Rows and rows of great omnibuses crowded with people, both outside on the roof[Pg 92] and inside, all waiting just because one man has held up his hand. Nothing astonishes foreigners more than this; indeed, some people say it is the one thing Frenchmen like most to see in London—the power of the policeman. He has perfect control of all the traffic, and if he says a thing must stop, it must obey him even if it be the carriage of a duke. In Paris they tried to imitate this, and they gave their policemen little white wands to hold up to stop the traffic when it was necessary; but the drivers of the cabs took no notice, and the poor French policeman would run about yelling at them and waving his little white wand and shouting to them to stop, and when they took no notice he grew more and more angry until he was almost frantic—so different from our calm, grave policeman with his majestic arm. Sometimes, when the roadway is thick with carts and cabs and carriages, there is a roar in the distance, a shout of many voices that makes your heart stand still. It comes again, louder and louder, nearer and nearer, and all the vehicles pull to one side and make a lane down the middle of the road. Right up this lane dashes a shining fire-engine, with the smoke and sparks flying out behind, the men in the glistening helmets clinging on to the sides, and the driver guiding it so skilfully as[Pg 93] it spins over the ground far quicker than it takes to tell. In a minute they have dashed out of sight; then the traffic closes up again. But there is another shout, another roar, and another engine follows the first; the firemen clinging to it are shouting all together a noise that sounds like 'Ah-h-h! ah-h-h!' to warn other things to get out of their way. Soon a third comes, and then follows a great red ladder on wheels, pushed by men on foot—that is a fire-escape. The fire can't be far away, so we run after the excited crowd, and soon come to a street blocked with people, where flames and smoke are shooting out of the windows. It is a house where many girls are employed in a dressmaking business, and some of them have been got safely out; but there are others at those high windows, screaming for help and stretching out their arms. The brave firemen begin to send great spouts of water on to the raging flames; they put up the fire-escape, and one man mounts it, going right into the smoke. He brings down two of the girls from one story, and disappears for a moment into the room; then he comes back, for the flames are beating fiercely on him. In the wild confusion no one seems to know if all the girls are out or not; but presently one cries out that two are still in the back-rooms,[Pg 94] now blazing fiercely. Up go the firemen again and plunge into the windows right into the flames. A long time elapses. We hold our breath; it seems as if the brave men must have perished. Then there is a cheer as a fireman appears with something in his arms. It is a girl unconscious; gently he lowers her down the ladder, and goes again to help his comrade. They reappear and come down in safety. Are all out now? No; for all at once, at the end of the building furthest from the fire-escape, a woman appears shrieking wildly. She cannot wait, though the men shout to her to do so; there are flames behind her clutching at her, her hair is on fire and her clothes. She stands on the window-sill, and it is seen she is going to leap into the street below; a blanket is held, and a hush falls on the crowd as she plunges down. Hurrah! the blanket has caught her; she will be no worse. All are out now, but still the flames are fearful, and the houses on either side are threatened. The firemen play water on to them to keep them from catching alight, and an incessant stream of water spouts upwards from the great hose. The roof goes in with a crash, but it is seen that the water is doing something—the flames are quieter. Yet, with all the care and patience, it is not for several hours[Pg 95] the fire can be pronounced to have been put out. If we came to see the house next day, it would stand up bare and smoke-blackened, just four walls, with the roof burnt out, the staircases gone, and inside only a mass of rubbish. Someone will have to pay heavily, but, at any rate, at this particular fire no lives have been lost.
The Fire Brigade is a wonderful power, and the brave men who belong to it perform heroic things in daily life without making any fuss. There are brigade stations all over London, and if a fire breaks out, it takes only a few minutes for the brigade to be summoned. Not so very long ago all the engines were drawn by specially trained horses who stood ready in their stalls, with the harness swinging above them. At the first sound of the alarm bell the harness was lowered, the straps buckled, and in a few moments the fire-engines were on the road. But now all the London fire-engines are run by motor power. In the streets there are little red posts with a glass at the top. By breaking it a bell is rung in the nearest fire station, and the men are warned. Mischievous boys or men sometimes broke these glasses 'just for fun,' and then ran away, and when the fire-engine dashed round the corner the men found no fire. This[Pg 96] has been stopped by the infliction of a very heavy fine. If anyone is caught doing it now without cause he is made to pay richly for his mischief, and quite rightly too. Yet it does happen sometimes that men and engine are summoned on a false alarm, and when they arrive they find only a smouldering chimney, or perhaps even only a smoky one, and the people who have called them up have been needlessly alarmed. At Hampstead, in the north of London, where the ground is very high, there is a great tower rising many feet into the air, from which one can see almost all over London, and here there is a man always on duty to watch if fires break out. Of course, it would be a pretty big fire if he could see it from there, but then he could communicate with the nearest station and tell them to go to it. It must be a curious duty to stay all night at that great height overlooking the vast city of London. Sometimes a fire breaks out in some of the great warehouses down by the river, and then there is a magnificent sight. One such warehouse was full of paraffin oil, and you know paraffin burns more readily than anything else. As the barrels were caught by the flames the oil streamed out on to the water, and, floating on the top, seemed like a sea of flame. It[Pg 97] must have been wonderful to see. The heat was so great that no one could go near, but on the opposite bank thousands of people assembled and watched the flames. There were flames above and flames below, fire shooting to the sky, and fire flowing down on the river's tide. The water reflected the fire above, and the fire that floated on its surface. It must have seemed like a burning world. That was a very difficult task for the brigade.
Sometimes the brave men themselves are injured or killed in the execution of their work, and at all times when engaged with a fire they run some risk.
But we have got a long way from the street where we saw the engine dashing down through the traffic, and we must come back again. All the bustle and the fuss that we have been talking of is on the roadway. What about the pavements? The pavement is often just as crowded, and though policemen don't hold up their hands to prevent people walking there, yet it is often quite a long time before you can get through, especially outside a gay shop window, where all the women want to stand and stare. In one place, where there are several big shops which stretch down one side of the street, with very pretty windows full of beautiful[Pg 98] things, many nursemaids come to wheel babies in perambulators. This is not for the sake of the children, who are too young to care about shop windows, but it is for the sake of the nursemaids, who meet together and go slowly along two together, talking of all the fine things they want to buy, and staring with mouths and eyes round as saucers at the things they see. Now two nursemaids with two perambulators on a narrow pavement do not leave much room for anyone else, and people get tripped up and have their toes crushed by the wheels, or have to step off into the roadway to make way for Selina Ellen and Martha Theresa, who are far too much interested in their conversation to make way for anyone. Once a funny thing happened. An old gentleman was strolling along very slowly, and Selina Ellen, never looking where she was going, pushed her perambulator into him from behind. It took the old gentleman right off his legs, whereupon he sat down backwards on to the perambulator, baby and all! Poor baby! no wonder it screamed; it was a mercy it was not squashed up altogether!
Yet there is some excuse for Selina Ellen and her kind, for the shops are very beautiful. Those of you who have only seen shops in small country[Pg 99] towns can hardly imagine what they are like. The great plate-glass windows stretch down the side of a street, and if you go inside the shop you walk through room after room of beautiful things, all arranged to show to the best advantage. The toy department would be enough to make any little girl or boy happy even to look at it. There are toys large and toys small; engines that can be wound up to run by themselves; horses large enough to ride upon; balls of all colours and sizes; and dolls—oh, the dolls! Dolls black-eyed and brown-eyed and blue-eyed, dolls fair-haired and brown-haired, dolls dressed and undressed. It is perhaps just imagination, but it always seems to me if we could be there when the shop is shut up for the night and left quiet we should hear and see some strange things.
One night, not very long before Christmas, in one of the largest shops, the young men and women who had sold things to customers all day long were putting away the ribbons and laces and folding up the great curtains and the dress-stuffs to leave everything tidy for the night before they went away to their homes. They had been there since nine o'clock that morning, and were very tired, for people, even ladies, are sometimes very tiresome[Pg 100] when they come to buy; but the young men and women have to be very polite always, and never lose their temper, or they would be sent away. When the shop was just being shut up a lady hurried in, and said:
'I want a doll, please, at once.'
'This way, madam,' said the tall man in the frock-coat very politely, and he took her downstairs. 'Dolls, please,' he said to a tired, sweet-looking girl who stood there.
'What sort of a doll did you wish, madam?' asked the girl.
'Oh, it must be a baby doll in baby clothes with real lace. My little girl would not have one that wasn't dressed in real lace.'
'I'm afraid we haven't any with real lace, madam, but we have one or two baby dolls,' said the girl, and she took down one or two from the shelves.
'Oh no, those are hideous!' said the lady. 'The doll must have brown eyes and red-gold hair.'
'I don't think we have any like that, madam. Here is one with blue eyes and——'
'I didn't ask you for blue eyes,' said the lady rudely. 'If you can't show me what I want I must go elsewhere.'
'One minute, madam; I believe there is just one doll such as you describe, if it hasn't been sold.'
She looked about, and after a little while saw the doll she wanted on a shelf. She reached up for it and tried to pull it down, but another doll, rather larger, was leaning over it, so that she could not take one without the other. She thought the two seemed very close, but she disentangled them, and laid the baby doll on the counter. As she did so the big doll fell forward on the shelf, with its arms hanging over as if they were stretched out imploringly; but the girl never noticed it.
'I think this will be what you are wanting, madam,' she said.
The lady looked at it in a dissatisfied way.
'It hasn't got real lace on its clothes, but as its hair and eyes seem right, I must take it, and tell my maid to sew some lace on to-night to be ready for Gladys in the morning,' she said.
The girl tied it up in a parcel for her, and she left the shop. Very shortly after this everyone went home, and all was still in the dolls' department; and then suddenly there was a gentle little sniff, just as if a very wee kitten were crying, and a little movement from the shelf where the baby-doll had lain. Then a tiny little squeaky voice said:
'Well, you needn't make such a fuss about it; you knew the baby would have to go some day.'
'I—I—can't help it,' sobbed a gentle little voice; 'I did love that baby so.'
'You behaved very badly,' said a gruff voice; and the two dolls jumped, for they knew it was the Gollywog speaking, and they were all afraid of him. 'You did what no doll should ever do—you nearly showed you were alive before human people.'
'I know it was very wrong of me,' said the gentle little doll meekly. 'But I did so want to keep that baby; I tried to lie on the top of her so that she shouldn't be seen.'
'And you fell down and stretched out your arms. Let me tell you, madam, that you have merited severe punishment; you have broken the laws of dolldom, wherein we all swear never to speak or show a sign that we can understand the human world. You have broken the most solemn law in a daring way without provocation——'
'Oh,' said the second doll with the squeaky voice, 'please, Mr. Gollywog, don't be so severe; I think she had provocation: she cared very much for the baby.'
'What are you talking about?' growled the Gollywog. 'We don't want your opinion. We're[Pg 103] going to have a trial now, and no women-dolls can sit on juries, so you won't have anything to say. Provocation, indeed! If she had pins stuck into her all over, or been roasted in front of a fire until she melted, as some dolls have done, you might have talked of provocation. She might have squeaked then, though many dolls have bravely endured these things in silence and died; but because a baby-doll she had taken a fancy to went away, to show off like that! She deserves death.'
Whereupon he stumped down off his shelf, and hunted about for a man-doll to make a jury to try the poor gentle doll. It was rather difficult to find, for there were so few men-dolls; but at last he rummaged out of a corner a sailor-boy doll, who was terribly afraid of him, and of him he demanded:
'What do you think that doll is guilty of?'
'Please, sir,' said the sailor-boy, trembling all over, 'what do you think?'
'I think she is guilty of a crime that deserves punishment by death.'
'Punishment by death!' echoed the sailor-boy.
Thereupon the Gollywog made a spring upwards to the shelf, and the poor little gentle doll gave a shriek and lost her balance, and fell head first on to the floor, where she was smashed to pieces.
When the shopgirls came again in the morning, the one who had served the lady found her lying there with her pretty wax face all broken.
'Oh dear,' she said, 'how careless of me! She fell off the shelf, to be sure; I remember seeing her fall down when I took away the other doll. I ought to have put her back.'
But the Gollywog, who had returned safely to his own corner, chuckled to himself silently.
Have you ever heard of the Dogs' Home? It is for all the poor lost dogs that the policemen find in the streets of London. Once upon a time there was a very naughty little dog called Scamp; he had long pepper-and-salt hair, and very short legs, and he did not think it was fun to go with the children of the house he lived in for their walk in the Park: he wanted something more exciting, so he waited until they were not looking, and then scampered off after another big dog he saw in the distance. The big dog was very friendly, and began to play and run about, and Scamp went after him as fast as his little short legs would go; and by-and-by he grew tired, and lay down, panting, on the pavement, and the big dog went away home. Then Scamp saw a cat coming very slowly across the street to the little strip of grass that was surrounded by a railing on the other side, and if there was one thing he hated it was cats—nasty, cowardly,[Pg 106] furry things! So he banged up suddenly, and the cat went off like a shot, and Scamp after her; but when he had chased her for quite a long time, she ran up a tree, and he could only stand and bark. A greengrocer's boy pretended to bark too, and teased him; so he grew cross, and thought he would go home. But he discovered all at once that he did not know where home was, or even in which direction; and he ran a little in one direction and a little in another, and then set off running at full speed, with his long tail down between his legs. A woman called to him and tried to stop him, but he only dodged her and ran faster, until he came to a wide street full of shops, and here people walking about, and carriages and cabs driving past, and he got quite bewildered; and then, just when he was in despair, a policeman caught hold of him and looked for his collar. Now, the silly little dog had not got his collar on. Ethel had taken it off that morning to rub up his name and address, and make them look nice and bright, and when she wanted to put it on again, he had raced round the room and played, and would not let her catch him until the governess had called out that it was lesson-time; so Ethel had gone down, leaving the collar lying on the table, and after lesson-time had [Pg 107]forgotten all about it. So the big policeman did not know to whom the dog belonged or where to take him. Scamp was too well-mannered a little dog to bite, but he tried to get down when the policeman took him up and struggled hard. The policeman only laughed, and patted his head. 'No, no, my fine fellow,' he said good-naturedly; 'there'll be someone looking for you, or I'm much mistaken, and I must do my best to let them find you.' So he took him to a police-station near, and very soon Scamp was sent down with a shivering little fox-terrier to the Dogs' Home at Battersea.
He did not understand that it was his only chance of getting home; for Ethel and Jack's father would know about the home, and send there to see if he were there first of all. And he thought that the people at the Dogs' Home were going to keep him all his life, and he did not like the idea at all. For many dogs it would have been a comfortable place. There were nice little kennels and good beds of hay, and plenty of drinking water and clean good biscuit to eat, and little yards to run about in; but Scamp was not happy. He was accustomed to live in the house and sleep on the chairs, and be petted and made a fuss with, and nobody took any notice of him here. He was very[Pg 108] hungry, though, so he tried to eat a little of the dog-biscuit; but in the middle he suddenly thought of Ethel and Jack and how he loved them, and that he should never find them again, and he stopped eating because a great lump seemed to stick in his throat, and he went and sat down in a corner of the yard, just a heap of gray hair and unhappiness. Presently a man came and patted him and spoke kindly to him, but he took no notice. He thought how often he had been cross when Ethel had hurt him in combing his hair, though she had only been trying to make him look nice, and how sulky he had been many times when she wanted to play with him; and he thought if only he could get back he would be so good. All the bad things he had done in his life came into his mind as he sat in the yard. He remembered that, when he was only a puppy, about a year ago, he had worried one of Ethel's dolls, and she had cried, and he had licked her face and tried to tell her he was sorry, and she had flung her arms round him, and said: 'Never mind, dear good old Scamp! I love you more than all the dolls, and I know you didn't mean it.' How good she was always! He loved her better than Jack, though she did tease him. She had often dressed him[Pg 109] up in her dolls' clothes and made him lie upside down in her arms in a very uncomfortable position, while she pretended he was a baby.
He had killed a canary once, and once—it was very sad, and he did not quite know how it had happened—he had got on to the sideboard and eaten the cold beef while everyone was out at church on Sunday morning. The beef had been left there uncovered, and he was very hungry, and it smelt so good. He had climbed on to a chair and sniffed at it, and got a little nearer and nearer, and all the time he knew quite well he was doing wrong. And at last he jumped up and began to eat great juicy mouthfuls of it. Oh, how good it was! And he pulled it this way and that, and the cloth on the sideboard had got all crumpled up, and suddenly down went a dish of beetroot with a smash, and all the rich red juice streamed over the cloth and on to the carpet. He was frightened then, and turned to run away; but his broad, flat paws had got into the beetroot juice, and he left great marks all across the cloth. He heard the latchkey in the front-door just at that moment, and he ran upstairs and hid under Ethel's bed. Then the family came in, and he heard their cry of dismay, and Ethel called for him; but he only hid deeper under the[Pg 110] bed. And then she came into the room, and said quite quietly, as if she knew he was there, though she never looked under the bed: 'Oh, Scamp! how could you?' And his broad tail went thump, thump against the floor. So he was dragged out and whipped, and he felt very much ashamed of himself.
Oh dear! if he could only get back to them all he would never do such naughty things again!
In the morning two or three other dogs were put into his yard, and though he wouldn't speak to them at all, and was too miserable to play, he heard what they said. One of them had been here before, and he explained that all the well-bred dogs, the good ones, were kept for a certain time to allow their people to come and find them, and if at the end of that time no one came for them they were sold; but the mongrels and little dogs that were of no value—well, it was very curious what happened to them. They went to sleep in a nice warm place like a drawer, but they never woke up again. They did not suffer at all, and it was all arranged very kindly. 'And of course,' said the dog who was speaking, 'it is quite right there should be some distinction between me and a mongrel!' She was very proud of herself, being[Pg 111] a King Charles's spaniel, with soft brown and white hair and hanging ears and large goggle eyes. She came up to talk to Scamp after awhile; but he would not say anything to her, for his heart was sore within him. Yet what he had heard gave him some hope. All that day he sat with his face pressed close to the wires of the yard, watching, watching for his own people. Why did they not come? They must have known he would be there. Once two ladies came past—gentle, kind ladies of the sort to which he was accustomed—and he sat up and begged. 'Oh, look at that dear doggie!' cried one. 'We couldn't choose a nicer one; let us have him.' But when they inquired about him they found that Scamp was not for sale just yet.
Then toward evening, when it was growing dusk, he suddenly heard a voice that made his heart leap, and he jumped up and whined with excitement, and Ethel cried: 'Oh, father, there he is! Don't you hear him?' And he was let out, and she went down on her knees to kiss and hug him, and he jumped about her so wildly that he nearly knocked her hat off. Surely there was never a happier little dog went home that night than Scamp!
There are homes for cats in London, too; but[Pg 112] often poor cats have a much worse time than dogs. You remember that a great many of the fashionable people only stay in London for the season, and then they shut up their houses and go away into the country for several months. Well, sometimes they are so thoughtless as to leave their poor cats without any food or shelter—they forget about them. But a cat can't live on nothing any more than a dog can. Perhaps poor puss has been out for a walk, and comes back to find the house all shut and silent, and she waits patiently a long time; but no one comes, and the boys in the street throw stones at her. So she runs across to the square, and waits there; but still the door is never opened. If she is lucky and clever at hunting she may catch a little sparrow or find something in the roadway to eat; but as the days go on she gets thinner and thinner, and weaker and weaker, and at last, perhaps, dies of starvation unless some kind person takes the trouble to send her to a cats' home. The cats' homes are much the same as the dogs. If possible the cats are sold, and if not they are quietly and painlessly killed—a much better fate than starving in the streets. Sometimes the rich people do remember their cats, but can't take them away; and so before they go they send them[Pg 113] to a cats' home, and pay for them to be kept there until they come back. Puss is then well fed and happy; for a cat makes herself happy anywhere where she is comfortable much more readily than a dog does, and then when the family return for the winter she goes back to her own snug kitchen.
Some dogs who have lived in London all their lives as Scamp did, are used to it, and are happy enough, but it is not a good place for dogs. It is very difficult for them to run about enough, and they can't go out by themselves for fear of getting lost or stolen, so often a dog has a very unhappy time. There are dogs who are so much accustomed to London that they will follow an omnibus if their master is on it, and keep running by the side and looking up and barking. And they do not seem to get at all confused by the many, many omnibuses passing and repassing, but follow the right one all the time. But this is very exceptional. Generally a London life is an unhappy one for any but a very small house-dog.
In one part of Hyde Park there is a dogs' burial-ground, where people can bury their pets. You can see it from the road as you pass, or you can go in and look at it. It is very full. There are[Pg 114] numbers of small stones like little gravestones put to mark the places where many a loved dog lies. Most of the stones are alike—small rounded ones with the dogs' names on them, and some are flat on the ground. There are flowers growing there, and the place is very bright and well cared for. We read here the names of many dogs—Punch, Dinah, Crow, Ruby Heart, Bogey, and Girlie. Strange names for dogs. The stones do not tell us what sort of dogs they were, though that would have been interesting. We can't find one in memory of Scamp, and I'm quite sure if he had died Ethel would have had him buried here, so near the gardens where he often ran and played. So Scamp must be living still. But other sorrowing mistresses have lost their little companions, and the inscriptions show a world of tenderness. We read, 'Alas, poor Zoe! as deeply mourned as ever dog was mourned,' and 'Darling Vic,' 'Snow, a dear friend,' 'Loving little Charlie,' 'Our faithful little friend Wobbles,' 'Jack, most loving and most fondly loved,' and many another. It must have been a happy world for such loved dogs as these.
This is to be a chapter about all sorts of odd things that cannot be fitted in anywhere else. For instance, have any of you heard about the Messenger Boys? If not, I think that will interest you. Someone once formed a scheme of having a number of boys trained to go messages, or take parcels, or do anything that was required in London. And he set up offices all over London, where anyone could get one of these boys and send him on a message by paying his expenses and a small sum also, according to the distance he had to go. At every one of the offices there are a certain number of boys always going and coming. They take the messages in order as they come, and they may get a nice one or a nasty one. If you went into one of these offices and saw the boys sitting on a bench waiting, you would soon see how it works. Some of the boys are playing draughts, some are reading, but all are ready at any minute to go where they[Pg 116] are told. There is a young man in charge of the office, and someone comes in with a message. So he turns to No. 1, a bright, chubby-faced little lad, and says, 'Go to this address and call for a parcel for this lady, whose name is written down, and take the parcel to her house. Be as quick as you can, and you can take a taxi-cab.' Off goes the boy, delighted to get such a nice job, and he feels very important to call up a cab for himself. He knows exactly where to go and how much to pay the cabman, for he has learnt all that before. The next boy is a big, awkward-looking lad, very tall for his age, and the young man laughs a little as he gives him a message: 'You are to call at No. 50 in this street,' he says, 'and the lady will hand over to you two children aged three and four. You are to take them to the Zoo and let them have a good time, and bring them back before six o'clock.'
The big boy makes a face. He does not fancy this idea at all; it is like being a nursemaid, and he thinks how silly he will look with two wee children. And all the other boys are grinning; but he cannot refuse. He is like a soldier, and must do just what he is told. So off he goes and asks for the children. But when he finds he can take[Pg 117] them up in a cab, and that they are dear, bright, happy little things, full of mischief, he begins to enjoy himself, and they spend a lovely afternoon together; and when he brings them back safely, and the mother gives him half a crown for himself in addition to his fee, he feels he has had a good day.
Some time elapses when he has left the office before smart little No. 3 gets anything to do, and then he is told to go to King's Cross Station to meet two schoolboys and see their luggage is safe, and take them across to Charing Cross. When he gets there he finds both the boys are bigger than himself, but they are country boys going to school for the first time, and are very frightened and bewildered, and little No. 3 cheers them up, so that they part quite good friends.
But these are a few of the odd things the boys have to do, and most of their time is spent in taking notes about. You can see them anywhere in London in their neat dark-blue uniforms with silver decorations. Once a gentleman walked into one of the Messenger Boy offices, and said quietly, as if he were saying nothing extraordinary, 'I want a boy to take a note for me to America.'
The man in charge showed no surprise, but only[Pg 118] asked when the boy was to start. The gentleman said he might go the next day, which would give him time to get his clothes together.
The boy who was next on the list was called Jaggers, and he was a bright, intelligent little lad. He ran home eagerly to ask if his parents would let him go, and having got permission, he went off cheerfully the next day across the Atlantic Ocean to New York. He arrived safely and delivered his message, and then went on to Chicago and Philadelphia, as he had been instructed. He returned in eighteen days, having travelled 8,000 miles, and he found he was quite a hero, and the man who had sent him gave him a medal with a clasp or bar of silver for each place he had gone to. I think many a boy might have been frightened when told to go off to the other side of the world so suddenly.
After Jaggers another boy did an even pluckier thing. His name was Halsey, and he was sent to California, which is on the other side of America, much further than New York, and he had to go right across the continent and find the way all by himself, and he was given no time to get ready as Jaggers was, but started almost immediately. That boy afterwards fought for England in South Africa[Pg 119] in the Imperial Yeomanry, and is now in a responsible position in the Messenger Service. Another boy was sent to the Sultan of Turkey to take a dog as a present. I think that must have been the most difficult to do of the three things, for the dog might have died on the way, and when the boy got to Turkey he would have the disadvantage of being in a country where a foreign language was spoken. These are exceptional cases, of course, but the boys are still sometimes sent to the Continent with messages. But enough about the Messenger Boys.
There is a sight to be seen in London nearly every evening, and particularly on Saturday evenings, that always seems to me to be most touching, and that is the rows of little children waiting outside the shops for food that is sold cheaply. In great shops which sell food that soon perishes—for instance, fish, or fruit, or bread-stuffs—there is often a certain quantity left over at night that will not be quite fresh in the morning, and so it is sold cheaply, and it is this that the children of the poor come to buy. Some shops almost give it away. On Saturday night, outside a pastry-cook's, there was a row of patient boys and girls, each with a basket or bag, and some had been standing there[Pg 120] for a long time, because it is a case of 'first come, first served,' and no pushing is allowed. As another little child arrived it took up its stand at the end of the row, and waited until the time came for closing the shop. Then each child paid so much—say sixpence—and got a large quantity of bread, and so much cake, and if there was not enough to go round the last ones had to go away without any.
At the fish shops there are different ways of doing this at different shops. At one big shop all the fish that is over after the day's sale is done is put into a large basket—there may be a piece of cod, and several small fish, and some whiting or mackerel—and then each child pays twopence, and the man in the shop deals out the fish as it comes, giving so much to each, without asking what the children want. The poor little bairns watch eagerly until their own turn comes. See that big bit of cod? That would make a Sunday dinner for all of Ellen's people, and Ellen watches it anxiously. There is a very small girl in front of herself, and Ellen nearly cries when she sees the man put it into her bag; but she cheers up again when a whole fish, of what kind she is not quite sure, but still it looks very good, is passed on to her. There is no waiting afterwards. How the little feet run home, and[Pg 121] how the shrill little voices cry, 'Mother, mother! look what I've got!' But it may be also that a disappointed little girl goes away, crying softly, for she came too late, so she had to stand quite at the end of the row, and when her turn came there was nothing left. 'No more to-night,' the shopman said cheerily, and seeing the pale, wistful little face, he added, 'Come in better time another week, little girl.'
The little girl stole away quietly, but when she got to a dark corner she sat down and cried bitterly; it was not so much for the sake of the fish as because she knew she would get a beating from her drunken mother when she went home without it. Yet she could not help it; she had had so much to do that day—work, work, work from morning to night, partly at school, partly at home—and she had run to the fish shop as soon as ever she could, only to find herself too late. Children, there are sad times in the lives of little girls such as these which none of you will ever know.
But, as we have said once or twice, the lives of street children are by no means all darkness; the merry games, the society of other children, and the stir and life of London make up for a great deal.[Pg 122] In some of the streets you can see the boys running about on roller skates—bits of wood on tiny wheels, strapped on to their boots. The smooth London pavements are very good for this sport, and the boys skate about, getting wonderfully clever at it, and enjoying themselves immensely. Then they have their tops, which they spin on the pavements or in the roadway among the feet of the people walking, without minding in the least. There are tops all over the streets at some times of the year spinning gaily. The girls have their skipping-ropes, which are apt to be a nuisance to the people who want to walk on the pavements; but sometimes there is a side alley where no one goes, and here the children can skip undisturbed.
One game that seems a great favourite with the children is called 'Hop-scotch,' or 'London Town.' They draw a number of divisions on the pavement with white chalk, and then hop from one to the other kicking a bit of stone along the pavement with their toe; they must send it into the next square at every hop, and they must not put the other foot to the ground until they send it safely into the last division of all, which is Home or London. The little girls get quite clever at this, hopping lightly and daintily. Sometimes they[Pg 123] draw a circle instead of a square, which makes it more difficult to do, but the game is the same.
When the barrel-organ comes round, as it very often does, the children dance; they don't mind that it has travelled in wind and weather for perhaps ten years, and that it has lost all tune it may have had, and only grinds out a horrible noise: they like the noise, and dance up and down holding their little skirts, or twirling one another round in great enjoyment. The streets do not allow of wild, romping games, and it would be dangerous to dash about and try to catch one another, so most of these are games that can be played on the pavement in safety.
The children who live near parks are luckier than those who have only the streets for playgrounds, and these parks are filled with children, especially on Saturday afternoons. There is one called Battersea Park, near the river, where you may sit on a little knoll at one end, and, in summer, as far as you can see there are boys playing cricket. They are so mixed up that it is difficult to tell which ball belongs to which, and often a good hit sends one ball flying into the middle of the next game. Some of them have real wickets, and at one end there is a carefully kept ground where men play; but[Pg 124] some of the little boys have no wickets, and only a bit of wood for a bat. So they get a stick from somewhere and make it stand up in the ground, and then hang one of their shabby little coats round it to make a wicket; but they shout loudly with joy, and enjoy themselves at their game just as much as the bigger boys with real wickets.
A thing you very often see in London, and, indeed, in other towns, too, is a man sitting on the bare stone pavement drawing pictures on the stones with coloured chalks. Sometimes he does them very well, and makes scenes of battles and views of pretty places or ships at sea, but at other times they are hideous and badly drawn. He does this in order that people may give him pennies as they pass. He is not allowed to beg, and if he tried to the policeman would come and take him up; but he doesn't like hard work, so he sits beside his pictures and holds his cap out piteously, and very often people give him pennies in passing, so he makes a living without too much trouble. But unless he is old or crippled, he ought to be doing better work than this. There are always a great many odd men who have no work to do in London; there are some who earn a living by going about in the early morning, when people put their dustbins[Pg 125] out, and picking out anything that they think they can sell—a disgusting trade; others used to watch until they saw a cab with luggage on it, and then they ran after it sometimes for miles and miles, and when it stopped they would offer to carry the boxes upstairs. These men certainly earned their money, for they had to run fast and far, and to carry a box up the flights and flights of stairs in a London house is not an easy task; but, unfortunately, they were generally men who were out of work through their own fault, who had been drunken or idle or rude, and they were not at all pleasant to deal with, and sometimes they made themselves very disagreeable if they didn't get what they considered enough money, and refused to go out of the house until a policeman was fetched. So it is as well perhaps that now this means of extorting money is impossible, for no man could run fast enough to keep up with a taxi-cab.
The barrel-organ man we have already mentioned. He is frequently an Italian, and has a dark-haired woman with him, and she wears a red handkerchief over her hair to make her look more foreign; and they go from house to house grinding out their awful tunes, and they get very well paid, for the[Pg 126] people in the poorer shops and in the foreign parts of London like the noise, and give them pennies. Sometimes the man has a monkey, which always attracts the children. Other men walk about with barrows selling ice-cream; this is sold at a half-penny a time, and the children lick it out of little glasses and have no spoons: one wonders how often the glasses are washed. But that does not trouble the little street children at all; they follow the ice-cream man in throngs like flies in summer whenever it is hot. Poor little bairns! they have no milk to drink or nice cool rooms to go to, only the hot, dusty street, and they must often be thirsty. Well, all these things you can see in the streets daily, and a great many more. I have not spoken of the 'sandwich' man; that is a funny name, and it means the man is sandwiched between two great boards, which he carries on his front and back. On these are written in large letters the name of a new play, or a restaurant, or anything else to which someone wants to attract attention. These men are paid a very little each day; they are hired a large number together, and walk along by the side of the pavement with their great boards one after another, so the people passing in the street read the boards, and perhaps go to see the play or to dine[Pg 127] at the restaurant. The men are bound to keep on walking always together all day, and they very often are ashamed of their work; for they may have been something better than this, for to be a sandwich man is about the lowest work a man can do, but, at any rate, it is earning money honestly, without begging or stealing.
I think I heard someone ask for stories, and there are many stories connected with London, though they are generally rather sad ones. There was once a boy who became Edward V., King of England, who had a sad life and a short one, and though he was a prince and a king I am sure he would much rather have been neither. His father was Edward IV., and he had not become King of England by inheritance, but because he had won the crown by fighting.
Before him Henry VI. was king, and Edward claimed the throne by right of his birth. So they fought, and there was a civil war. You know what that is—a war between people of the same country who take different sides, and it is the worst of all wars. As Edward IV. was Duke of York, his side called themselves Yorkists, and wore a white rose as a badge; and Henry VI.'s side called themselves Lancastrians, and wore a red[Pg 132] rose. Edward was very strong and very handsome, and a great many people admired him and fought for him because they thought he would make a fine king. And Henry was weak and feeble; but then he was king already, and his father had been king before him; so a great many people took his side for that reason. While they were still fighting Edward married secretly a beautiful woman, a widow, called Elizabeth Woodville, and soon after this he was so successful that he found he could settle in London and have himself crowned king, while Henry and his wife and son had to fly to Scotland. Then Edward told his great nobles that he was married, and for a time all went on well. Edward and Elizabeth were very happy. They lived in great state, and soon a little daughter was given to them, and they called her Elizabeth. All the time poor Henry and his brave Queen Margaret and his son Edward were hiding away in lonely places. Little did they think then that the time would soon come when it would be proud Edward IV. who had to fly and hide in his turn!
After awhile Edward IV. managed to capture Henry, and he put him in prison in the Tower of London, and then, no doubt, he felt he was very[Pg 133] safe. But Edward had a follower called the Earl of Warwick, a very powerful man. And he was angry, because he had wanted the King to marry a sister of the King of France; but the King had not done as he wished, for he had married Elizabeth Woodville. So the Earl of Warwick waited for a good opportunity, and then raised up a disturbance in Yorkshire.
King Edward was frightened when he heard of this, and travelled north to quell the disturbance. And Warwick, who was in the north himself, seized him and made him prisoner. It was very bold of him to make the King prisoner in his own country. Now there were two kings in England both prisoners—Edward in Yorkshire and Henry in London. However, King Edward was not the sort of man to remain in prison long, and he soon escaped, and Warwick had to fly to France. Here he found Queen Margaret, wife of Henry VI., and with her he persuaded the French King to get together a great army to go to England and fight against Edward. This was a surprise for Edward, who had never expected it, and he could not get together enough men to fight against Queen Margaret's army; so he had to fly, and he went over the sea to Holland. But he did not take his Queen with him; he left her in England with her[Pg 134] children, for by this time she had two other daughters besides Elizabeth, called Cicely and Anne. Poor Queen Elizabeth was in great distress; she did not know where to go or whom she could trust. But she was advised to go to the Sanctuary at Westminster. You have heard of Westminster already, and you remember it is a part of London, and at that time one of the King's palaces was there. There was also a curious place like a strong, dark little castle. It was a safety-place, and if anyone had killed a man or done any wickedness and fled there he was safe; his enemies could not take him out. That was why it was called the Sanctuary, and it was like the cities of refuge in the Bible. It stood quite near to the place where the Abbey stands now, and many hunted people rushed there for safety.
The Sanctuary was very dark, and had hardly any windows, and inside there was a chapel. There was a flat roof, so that anyone who had gone there for safety could climb up to the roof and peep over to see if his enemies were waiting until he came out. It was not the sort of place for a queen, and I should think Elizabeth must have felt very sad and lonely there. Perhaps she had only straw to lie upon instead of a soft bed, and bad food to eat[Pg 135] instead of delicacies, and the darkness must have been terrifying. Every moment she expected to hear the footfalls of a man running with a message to say her husband had been caught or even killed, because, of course, there were no papers or telegraphs; all the news was sent by word of mouth or by messengers. Little Elizabeth was only about six or seven years old, and her sisters were still younger, and they could not have understood why they had to be in that nasty dark place; but perhaps the Queen explained to them something of the reason. It is very odd that little Elizabeth was afterwards Queen of England herself. She married the man who was on the Lancastrian side and claimed to be king when Edward her father and her two brothers were dead, and Henry VI. and his son were dead also, and so the York and Lancaster lines were joined in one.
Now while the Queen and her little daughters were there God sent them some happiness, for a little baby-boy came to them, and he was Edward V. afterwards. He was too little to know anything about his mother's anxiety, and was, I dare say, quite as happy as most babies, and he must have brought some brightness with him for his mother and sisters.
After this Edward IV. took heart again. Perhaps he felt that now he had a son to succeed him he must win back the throne, and he returned to England and fought again, and this time Queen Margaret and her men were quite defeated, and her son was killed. He was an Edward, too, and he was then about eighteen. Now Edward IV. was triumphant, and returned to London, and the very day he came back his enemy Henry VI. died, so there was no one to fight any more just then.
Cannot you imagine what a happy time that would be when Elizabeth showed her husband the new little baby-boy? They christened him Edward after his father, and as he grew up he was always treated like a prince, and everyone knew that one day he would be king after his father. He had a brother also, called Richard, two years younger, and some other sisters younger still, called Katherine and Bridget. Bridget sounds to us now a very queer name for a princess, but it was quite fashionable then. The little boys were very beautiful; they learned to ride and play at games and to shoot, and do all the other things that young nobles in those days were taught. The royal brothers wore fine suits of velvet and[Pg 137] satin, with little daggers at their waists, and their hair grew long on their shoulders. We should think long hair silly for boys now, but it was the fashion then. Even men wore their hair quite long. These boys and their younger sisters, Katherine and Bridget, had always been treated like princes and princesses; they could not remember the time when their father was an outcast and their mother had had to seek shelter in sanctuary. Even the older children would have but a dim recollection of those days of anxiety and gloom, and would think it quite natural that they should be surrounded by pretty things, and that everyone should serve them.
According to a curious custom prevailing at that time, kings sometimes arranged marriages for their children when they were only a few years old, and sometimes even when they were babies. All King Edward's children were engaged to be married before they could speak! It happened, however, that most of these engagements were afterwards broken, but little Richard, who was created Duke of York, was actually married when he was five years old to a little girl called Anne, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk.
Edward and Richard were devoted to each other,[Pg 138] and very happy together. Perhaps this was partly because they were so unlike in disposition, for people who are not like each other often agree the best. Edward was a quiet, rather clever boy, and Richard was full of fun and very mischievous. They had a great many uncles and aunts, for their mother had five sisters all married to dukes and earls, and she had brothers as well. Her eldest brother was Earl Rivers, and he was very good to his nephews, and they loved him, and were always glad to see him. The boys had also some step-brothers, their mother's sons by her first marriage, and they liked these older brothers very much. So they had many people who took an interest in them, and I dare say they were a little bit spoilt.
Their father, King Edward, had two brothers younger than himself. One was George, Duke of Clarence, and the other Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The Duke of Clarence was a weak, discontented man, who grumbled continually. The Duke of Gloucester was a hunchback, and he was as deformed in mind as in body; for he was of a malicious disposition, always ready to make mischief, and was so fond of his own way that he would kill anyone who dared to oppose him. He was jealous of Clarence, and so he told tales of him[Pg 139] to King Edward; and King Edward believed him, and had Clarence seized and taken to the Tower. Then Gloucester was glad, and went about saying all the things he could think of against Clarence so that he should never again be let out of prison.
At that time the Tower was both a prison and a palace, and the King sometimes stayed there himself; but he lived generally at the palace of Westminster, which stood where the Houses of Parliament stand now. The great hall of this palace is still there, forming a part of the Houses of Parliament, but the rest of the building is very different from what it was in King Edward's time. Then there was a high wall all round the palace, and within it were streets of quaint old houses, with gables and angles, and in them lived the people who had to work for the King and his Court—that is to say, all the carpenters, and blacksmiths, and other work-people. And when the King and the princes went riding through the streets on great occasions, these people used to hang out beautiful pieces of cloth of many colours—red and blue and gold—so that the curious narrow streets looked like fairyland. The great wall was a protection to all the people who lived inside, and[Pg 140] made the palace and houses like a little town by themselves.
One day when young Edward and Richard rode in after they had been playing with the nobles at some sports, they heard that their uncle Clarence was dead. They dared not ask how it was that he, a man in the prime of life, had died so suddenly, for their father looked very stern, and their uncle Richard seemed pretending to be sorry. But the truth was that Clarence had been killed by King Edward's orders, because Richard had made up stories about him, and pretended that he had discovered a plot of Clarence's to dethrone the King and make himself King instead, and, unfortunately, King Edward had believed this wicked lie. No one ever knew exactly how Clarence had been killed, but it was whispered that, as he was a king's son, he had been allowed to choose his own death, and he had chosen to be drowned in a great barrel of wine. This was the beginning of Richard's wickedness, and later he grew worse and worse, for he intended to be king himself some day, and so he deliberately murdered everyone who stood in his way. He had begun with Clarence, who was his elder brother, and who would have been king before him if anything had[Pg 141] happened to the King and his sons, but he did not stop there.
Prince Edward was only eight years old when this happened, and Richard was six.
Five years more went by, and during that time, though all seemed to be well, there were really plots and schemes everywhere in the palace. The Duke of Gloucester was always creeping about after the handsome King and flattering him, and trying to win his confidence. The King still loved his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and he gave her relations, the Woodvilles, important posts about the Court and showed them favour. And this did not please Gloucester at all, for he hated the Queen, and was jealous of her relations; and so he made up stories against them and told them to the King, as he had done in the case of poor Clarence, but this time the King was not quite so ready to believe him.
But when little Edward was thirteen the King died suddenly, and then the Duke of Gloucester and the Queen's relations both tried to get young Edward into their own hands, for they thought that a boy so young would be easily controlled and made to do as they wished. Edward, who was now King Edward V., loved his mother and all her[Pg 142] family, and wished to be under the care of his aunts and uncles on her side of the family; so when she told him to go into the country with his uncle, Earl Rivers, and one of his half-brothers, Lord Grey, he went gladly. The Queen had planned this to keep him out of the power of the Duke of Gloucester, whom she feared. But the Duke was too clever a man to be put aside so easily. He had made his brother, the dead King, say before he died that he was to be young Edward's guardian, and on the strength of that he now claimed the young King. Finding, however, that he had already gone to the country, he sent a message to him saying he must come back, and he himself started out for the country to meet him half-way.
You can imagine that Earl Rivers and Lord Grey were anxious when they received that message. But what could they do? If they refused to bring back the little King, the Duke would doubtless raise an army and come against them and compel them to give him up. So they thought the best way would be to pretend to do as Richard wished, but in reality to keep themselves very near to the young King and to guard him from harm. They set out for London, therefore,[Pg 143] bringing Edward with them, and the Duke of Gloucester soon met them. He had with him a powerful noble called Lord Hastings, who, though he hated the Queen's relations and was jealous of them, was still an upright, brave man, who would not have hurt a hair of young Edward's head.
When the Duke of Gloucester and Lord Hastings met the other party, they were very polite, and so friendly that Earl Rivers and Lord Grey thought that they must have been mistaken, and that the Duke meant nothing but good; so they foolishly gave up all precautions, and left themselves in the power of the Duke. Then he seized them, and sent them off as prisoners to a strong tower in Yorkshire.
Poor Edward V. was terrified when he heard this, and found that he was alone with his uncle Gloucester, and he fell on his knees and cried—you must remember he was only thirteen—and begged his uncle to release the prisoners. Gloucester tried to comfort him, and assured him that he was only doing what was best for the safety of everyone. He told Edward that these men were bad men, and were plotting against him, and he said that it was for his safety he had seized them; and then he said that he was taking him back to[Pg 144] London to his mother and brother and sisters, and that when he got there he should be crowned King. Then Edward was a little comforted.
Lord Hastings, however, began to be anxious: he did not like the way in which Richard was getting all the power into his own hands; so though he was no friend of the Queen mother's, he sent her a message to say that he feared the Duke of Gloucester, and she would be wise to go to a place of safety. I expect Gloucester found out about this message, for he always hated Hastings afterwards, and never rested until he had punished him, as you shall hear.
When the Queen received the message she left the palace at Westminster and hurried to the Sanctuary, where she had been once before, and she took all her children with her.
A bishop went to see her there, and he wrote a book about it, so we can tell now just how he found her. She was sitting upon rushes, which in those days were used instead of carpets, and all around her were bags and bundles and furniture, which had been hastily brought across from the palace. The Queen could be more comfortable this time than she had been in the first dark and lonely days, for she had been able to bring some of her own[Pg 145] belongings to the gloomy Sanctuary. All the children were there except Edward. The eldest girl, Elizabeth, was now seventeen, and must have been a great comfort to her mother; yet, in spite of all this, it was a hard time for all of them, and more so when Richard fell ill. Perhaps it was because he couldn't run about as usual; but they all took great care of him, and presently he began to get better. I must tell you that on the very place where the Sanctuary used to stand is now a large hospital called the Westminster Hospital; and so where little Prince Richard was nursed by his frightened mother more than 400 years ago, other people, and among them children, are now nursed back to health and strength.
To go back to Edward and his uncle. The Duke was still pretending to be a good, kind uncle, and he treated Edward as a king. When they entered London the Lord Mayor and Aldermen came out to meet them. It was a splendid sight. The Lord Mayor was dressed in scarlet, and 500 of the citizens of London were in violet, and Edward himself, a very handsome boy, sat his horse like a king, while his long fair curls fell down over his blue velvet cloak. And the Duke of Gloucester took off his hat and bowed, and said to the Lord[Pg 146] Mayor and Aldermen, 'Behold your Prince and Sovereign Lord!'
Then, as they rode on into the town, he told Edward that he should be crowned in a month. I wonder if Edward believed him? They went first to the Bishop of London's house, and then on to the Tower; but Edward did not feel afraid, because, as I said, the Tower was a palace as well as a prison, and as the palace at Westminster was very old and uncomfortable, it was natural to go to the Tower instead.
Now, the wicked Richard of Gloucester had got one of the little boys into his power; but that was no use unless he could get the other one, for if he killed Edward the people would say Richard, Duke of York, must be king. And he dared not kill either of them while Lord Hastings was alive. So he thought of a plan, and this is what he did. He called a meeting of the great nobles to the Tower to talk about business of State. Lord Hastings came, of course, among the others. At first Richard seemed to be in very good spirits, and laughed and jested; but as the morning went on he grew crosser and crosser, and at last he scowled so much that all the nobles were afraid of him. Then suddenly he stretched out his bare arm, and showed[Pg 147] them that it was shrivelled and old. It had been like that since he was a baby, but now he pretended that it had only happened suddenly, and that it was done by poor Queen Elizabeth, who was then in sanctuary with her children; and he said she was a witch and had bewitched him, and turning quickly to Lord Hastings, he said: 'What should be done to those who did this thing? Ought they not to be killed?'
Lord Hastings knew quite well that the Queen had not done it; but he did not dare to say so, so he answered: 'Ay, my lord, if they have done this thing they deserve death.'
Then Richard roared out in a fury: 'Dost thou answer me with "ifs"? By my head! I will not dine until thy head is off!'
And he made a sign to some soldiers he had placed there before, and they rushed forward and carried out poor Lord Hastings on to the little strip of green outside, and there, before anyone could interfere, chopped off his head on a log of wood that lay there. No one dare do anything, for they were all afraid of the Duke of Gloucester; and Hastings suffered simply because he had been loyal to his little King. Richard had no heart to feel sorry for his victims; he just mowed down the[Pg 148] people who stood between him and his wishes as if they had been daisies.
Now at last he could get his own way, for the two most powerful men who would have opposed him were out of the way: the King's uncle, Rivers, was imprisoned at Pontefract in Yorkshire, and Hastings was dead. So Richard's next idea was to get the little Duke of York and take him to the Tower to his brother, and then he would have everything in his own hands.
Even Richard of Gloucester could not go and drag his little nephew straight out of sanctuary, for the Archbishop would not have allowed it, and all the people would have been horrified at the sacrilege and risen against him; so he sent some men to try to persuade the Queen to give the boy up.
The Archbishop and some nobles went on this errand, and they found Queen Elizabeth sitting in the midst of her children in the dark Sanctuary, and when they told her their reason for coming she said never would she let Richard go. She knew his uncle only wanted him to kill him, and she said of the Duke of Gloucester, 'He hath so tender a zeal unto him that he feareth nothing but that he should escape him,' which showed she[Pg 149] guessed his wicked plans. Besides, she added, the boy had been ill, and he was only a little boy eleven years old, and he was better with his mother than with men in that gloomy Tower. But they told her Edward was lonely and wanted his brother to play with; so she answered that there were many other boys, the sons of nobles, he could play with instead of his little brother, who still was not well enough to play.
It seems dreadful that these men, who must have known the reason why Gloucester wanted his little nephew, should have gone on trying to persuade the poor mother to give him up; but they did, and they said that sanctuary was not meant for children at all, only for people who had done wrong, and this boy had done nothing wrong, so he could not claim the right of sanctuary. Then poor Queen Elizabeth saw that they would take him whatever she said, and she could do no more. So she gave him to the Archbishop, and said he must be responsible for him, and if anything happened to the boy his blood would be on the Archbishop's head. Yet the Archbishop took him.
So Richard kissed his mother and sisters and ran out, and the first person he met was his wicked uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. And Gloucester[Pg 150] caught him up in his arms and kissed him, and pretended to be very fond of him, and took him at once to Edward. The brothers had not seen one another for some time, and Richard cried out with surprise when he found how tall Edward had grown—much taller than himself, and in the joy of meeting at first they were very happy together.
The little boys were kept prisoners in the Tower, and suddenly they heard that all the preparations which had been made for Edward's coronation were going to do for the Duke of Gloucester's, and that he was going to make himself king even while his nephews were alive! Cannot you imagine how angry a high-spirited boy like Edward must have felt? But he could do nothing; he was in prison, and no one helped him. Then came the dreadful news that his two dear friends, his uncle Rivers and Lord Grey, had been beheaded in Yorkshire. And, worse than all, some page came talking, and said before Edward that he believed his uncle was going to have him to walk in his train at the coronation—walk behind his uncle like a page!
Perhaps Edward cried out, and said furious things at this; for if ever the Duke of Gloucester had meant to do it he gave up the idea. Perhaps,[Pg 151] also, his idea had been at first just to keep his nephews prisoners without harming them; but now he saw that every year they grew older they would be more dangerous to his plans, and so he resolved on a terrible deed.
He sent for Robert Brackenbury, the keeper of the Tower, and told him plainly that if he would murder the little princes he should be well paid. Brackenbury was a brave man, and he refused boldly, saying he could not do such a wicked thing for all the money in the world. Then Richard said angrily: 'Will no man do what I want?' And a page who was sleeping on a couch near the door to guard it heard, and answered that he knew a man who would do anything the Duke wanted. Richard told him to fetch this man, who was Sir James Tyrrell, and between them they made up their dreadful plot. Tyrrell was to ask Brackenbury to give him the keys of the Tower for one night, and in that night he would see the deed was done. Now Brackenbury could not refuse. He might guess what was going to happen; but if he refused to give the keys his head would be cut off, and the little princes would be killed just the same. So he agreed, and went away sorrowfully.
Then in the dark of the night Sir James Tyrrell[Pg 152] took with him two men—rough, odious men, called Dighton and Probyn, who would have killed anyone for money. One was a gaoler at the Tower, and the other was Tyrrell's own groom, and the three crept up the dark winding stair to the room the boys were sleeping in. Even those rough men were horrified at what they had come to do when they saw those two beautiful boys with their curling golden hair falling on their shoulders and their faces close together, sleeping so sweetly. But they remembered the money they were to have if they succeeded and the anger of wicked Richard if they failed, and they took up great pillows and held them down over the boys' faces until they were smothered. Perhaps the boys did not suffer at all, but just dreamed away into death.
When it was done the men showed the two bodies to Tyrrell, who was waiting, and then, hurrying down the heavy stone staircase, they pulled out some of the great stones at the foot, and buried them there and covered them up with stones. So that no one knew certainly what had become of the princes at the time. But two hundred years after, in doing some repairs, workmen came upon the bones of two boys, just about the sizes of the two little princes, at the foot of the stairs, and so[Pg 153] the secret came out. And now, if you visit the Tower, you can see the very spot where they were buried.
Well, that is the end of the story of Edward V., and perhaps he was no more unhappy dying as an innocent child than if he had lived to be a man and ruled England for many years. But wicked Richard did not enjoy the throne he had gained by so many murders; for he only reigned two years, and then he was conquered by another Henry, a relation of Henry VI., who married Elizabeth, the boys' sister, and they two were the next king and queen.
In the last chapter I spoke about the young nobles who played with the little princes, and of their sports. In this chapter I will try to explain how very different the lives of boys were then from what they are now.
It was the fashion then for the sons of nobles to be taken from their homes when they were about twelve and sent to some other nobleman's house, to be brought up there and educated. These boys were called pages, and there were a great many of them about the Court. At the palace of Westminster especially there would be many, for it was considered a great thing for a boy to be noticed at Court. Every noble who came to see the King would bring with him some of these pages. The life must have been on the whole very pleasant for the boys, but there were many things in it that were disagreeable. For instance, it was one of the duties of the pages to wait at table and to carve[Pg 155] the dishes on the sideboard, and they were taught to be very particular, and always to wash their hands before carving. We are told of one boy that his gentility was so great that he would not wipe his hands like the others, but waved them about in the air until they were dry! I think this must have made them red and rough, which would not be very genteel.
The pages were gaily dressed, with short doublets of velvet and fur, and little daggers, and caps with a feather in them, and often they were much petted by the ladies, and were much spoilt in consequence.
The boys joined in all the sports of the time, and there were many more sports then, when England was a wild country without many towns in it, than there are now. The chase of the wild boar or the wolf was a favourite sport, and stag-hunting was very popular. It was part of the duty of pages to know how to skin and cut up the stag. Can you fancy a refined boy of twelve enjoying that? The pages had to ride with their masters and lead an extra horse if it were wanted, and they were supposed always to be bright and courteous. This training served instead of going to a public school, as boys do at present. As for games, they had as many as the boys of the present time. One was[Pg 156] the quintain. This was an upright post with two arms at the top, that swung round very easily. Tied to the end of one was a bag of sand and to the other a shield. The boy had to run up and hit the shield, and if he did not get out of the way very fast the bag of sand swung round and hit him on the back. Probably they played this in the courts of the palace, where are now the Houses of Parliament, and where one of the yards is still called New Palace Yard. Other old games of which we know only the names were 'Hoop and Hide,' 'Harry Racket,' 'Hoodwink Play,' 'Loggats,' and 'Stooleballe,' which was like our cricket. These were all very much liked in the days about the time that Edward's sister Elizabeth married Henry VII. and became Queen.
When a boy grew older he ceased to be a page, and became an esquire. Nowadays everyone puts esq., meaning esquire, on letters in an address, but at that time a man had really to be an esquire before he could be called so. He served some knight and rode with him to the wars, or attended him at home. While he had still been a page he had waited on the ladies and played to them on the harp, or read to them while they embroidered; but when he became esquire he very seldom saw the[Pg 157] ladies, and was taught to consider them almost as far above him as angels. For the next few years he had a great deal to do. He had to dress and undress his master as if he had been a servant. He had to look after his master's horse, and when there was any fighting he had to carry a shield and ride beside his master, ready to die for him if necessary.
Among the games he played indoors were chess and draughts, both of which people still play. One knight had perhaps many squires, and they were all supposed to love him very much, and to be perfectly obedient to him. The young squires had games among themselves, and the squires of two different knights had little contests, each trying to beat the others. The squires were able to run and jump straight on to a horse even when they were covered all over with heavy armour. They danced and turned somersaults, and performed many other exercises to make them strong and agile. Even princes had to be squires before they could be knights, and, if you remember, when Edward the Black Prince was fighting the French at Crecy, he was not then a knight, but was made a knight because he had been so brave on that occasion. He took King John of France prisoner, and brought[Pg 158] him to London to a great castle called the Savoy; and when he had brought him there he did not treat him as a prisoner at all, but himself took the part of a humble squire, and waited on the French King while he had supper. Very few princes would have done that; they would rather have gloried in showing their superiority to their captive. The palace of the Savoy was in London, further down the river than Westminster. It is all gone now except the chapel, where people still go to church on Sundays.
Down beside this part of the river now runs a street with houses and shops on each side, and it is called the Strand. I wonder if you have ever heard of the strand at the seaside? It is an old word, meaning the beach beside water, and the Strand in London reminds us of the time when there was no embankment, but the houses were right on the edge of the water. Great palaces most of them were, where all the haughty nobles with their following of squires lived. They have all gone now, these great palaces, but one gate remains, a very handsome stone gate with steps, and this was the gate of a great palace belonging to the Duke of Buckingham, and here boats could come up so that the Duke could step into one from[Pg 159] his stairs at the water gate; but when the embankment was made the river was hemmed in, and could not come so far up, and now the gate stands back a long way from the river in the middle of a green garden. The people used the river a great deal then, going by water as we go by land, and the water was covered with gaily-coloured barges and boats.
After being a squire, the next thing was to be a knight. It was not every man who could be a knight. A man must have done some brave deed, or shown himself very faithful, or be the son of a powerful noble, or something of that kind; but when it was decided that a young man might be made a knight, he had to watch his armour alone all night in a church, and pray to be made worthy, and then in the morning he vowed always to help the weak and avenge them, and never to draw back or be afraid, and never to use his sword except for the right. Then the King received him, and he knelt down, and the King gave him a light blow on the shoulder with the flat side of the sword, and this made him a knight and gave him the right to use the title 'Sir' before his name.
The knights used to have games that you and I would think were more like real fighting than play.[Pg 160] They put on armour and mounted their horses, and then met to try to knock one another off. These fights were called tournaments, and all the ladies came to watch them as nowadays they go to watch men play at polo or cricket. The chief place in London for tournaments was a place we have been to already, called Smithfield. That is where the meat market is now, and it is still a wide, open square. A great many things happened at Smithfield, and we shall hear of it again before this book is finished.
On the day of a grand tournament everything was made ready very early. There were high wooden seats arranged all round, covered with scarlet or purple cloth, and there were special seats like thrones for the King and Queen; and people came flocking up as if to a fair, dressed in crimson and gold and blue and green, with clothes made of velvet and silk, much brighter than anything we have now, and the men were quite as gay as the ladies. Before the time for the tournament, the knights who were going to take part in it would ride up on their prancing horses; some came from the Tower of London, and there is a street not far from St. Paul's Cathedral still called Knightrider Street, because the knights used to come riding up there to the tournaments at Smithfield.
Cannot you imagine how a young knight's heart would beat when he first took part in a tournament? Perhaps he was just one-and-twenty, and still only a boy in heart, and when he rode into that great open space everyone cheered him, and he saw the ladies rising, sitting on tiers of seats that rose higher and higher, making a beautiful mass of colour, like a bed of flowers; and there was one there who he knew would see him, a girl only seventeen, very sweet and fair and shy, who was among the Queen's maids-of-honour, and the young knight could not see her just then for the crowds of other people there. But he knew that she would be watching, and that he was to fight for her. For the glove he wore fixed on to his helmet was hers: she had given it to him the day before; no one else knew it was hers. But if he fell off his horse and rolled in the mud, that glove would be rolled in the mud too, and then he would be so much ashamed he would never dare to look her in the face again.
So he plucked up his courage, and looked round as if he were not at all nervous, and he saw the man he had to fight come riding toward him, a big strong man on a great black horse. The two knights held up their long lances to salute the King and Queen and ladies, and bowed to each[Pg 162] other. A trumpet sounded, and the two horses rushed toward one another, the lances came against the strong armour with a crash, and the young knight felt a wrench, for his horse was thrown back on its haunches; but it recovered itself and dashed on, passing the other knight, until he wheeled it round and came to meet his opponent again. This time, just as they were going to meet, the horse of the older knight swerved, and his lance, striking crossways, broke in two, and the young knight could easily then have knocked him off his horse. But it was considered disgraceful to strike an unarmed man, so he lowered his lance and rode past without touching him, and all the people cheered. There was one more meeting to be faced, only one, and if he could manage to distinguish himself then, that fair girl would be proud of him, and perhaps smile sweetly when he met her again, and allow him to kiss her hand. The thought so fired the young knight that when his opponent had obtained a new lance and was awaiting him, he came on with such a pace and such a rush that he carried the other man clean out of his saddle, and laid him full length on the ground, where he lay helpless in his heavy armour until his squires ran across the field and raised him up. Then all the[Pg 163] people shouted wildly, and the young knight rode modestly off the field feeling very happy.
If you saw Smithfield now you would not think such things could ever have happened there, for it is so bare and dull, and it was then so magnificent.
Besides the tournaments, the people of London had many other shows. When Queen Elizabeth was crowned there was a wonderful procession. We all heard a great deal about the coronation of King George V. Well, it is rather interesting to think that about three and a half centuries before, Queen Elizabeth, when crowned, had a grand ceremony, and afterwards made a tour round the city, as the King of England always does to this day after the ceremony has taken place. We have accounts of Elizabeth's procession that tells us exactly what it was like. The Queen went very slowly and stopped very often, and whenever she stopped a child came forward and recited dull verses to her. It must have taken a long time and been rather tiresome. But there were all sorts of beautiful things to look at in the meantime. In one place there was a high wooden scaffolding built up, and on it figures of Henry VII. and his Queen Elizabeth, who was the grandmother[Pg 164] of the real Queen Elizabeth. You remember how Henry VII. married her because she was the sister of Edward V., and so the York and Lancaster sides were joined in one? Well, to show this there sprouted out of the hands of these two wax figures great boughs of roses, red and white mixed together, as a sign that the red and white roses of York and Lancaster were joined. At one place a child came forth and handed Elizabeth a copy of the Bible in English, the first copy that the English people had ever had in their own language; for, you know, the Bible was not written first in English, but in Hebrew and Greek, and up to this time no one had translated it into English. And everywhere children came out of odd places and said curious verses. I have heard one story, though I do not know if it is true, that a little child had been covered all over with gold paint, and was to be let down in a swing to greet the Queen as she passed underneath; and when the time came, and the little gilt child was lowered, it was found to be quite dead, stifled by the gold paint.
That was a sad thing, and I did not want this chapter to be sad, because history is too full of sad things, and tournaments and games ought to be gay.
Sir Thomas More belongs entirely to London, because he was born there, he lived there, and he died there, so that his story cannot be missed out. But it is a story that is in some ways rather difficult to understand. When Sir Thomas was a little boy he was not Sir Thomas at all, but probably just Tom. He was born in a street called Milk Street, a name not difficult to remember. It is close by St. Paul's Cathedral, and now is a little narrow street full of warehouses, where merchants keep their goods. When Tom was fifteen he was sent, according to the custom of the times, to be a page. And the household to which he went was a very great one indeed, nothing less than that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose palace was not far from Westminster, on the other side of the river. At this time Henry VII. was king, and England was resting in peace after the long Wars of the Roses. Thomas waited at table[Pg 166] like other pages, and learnt many things, such as riding and tilting, as well as Latin and Greek; but though he was a very bright, sweet-tempered boy, he was always more inclined to learning than to sport, and when he grew a little older it was thought a pity he should not learn more, so he was sent to Oxford University. When he had finished his time at Oxford he came back to London, and became a barrister, and very soon after he began to think about marrying.
He knew at that time three girls, sisters, and he liked the second one very much; but then it was considered rather a disgrace if a younger sister were married before an elder one. And someone told him that the eldest sister liked him very much, so what did he do but propose to the eldest and marry her. She seems to have been a nice girl, and for six years they lived very happily together; and then she died, leaving him with four children—three little daughters, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Cicely, and one son, John.
More felt that he could not leave his little ones motherless when they were so young, and so he determined to marry again, and this time he was not so fortunate, for he chose a rather plain, cross woman, many years older than himself, who was a[Pg 167] widow. He thought perhaps she would be a careful manager, but the choice was unfortunate for him.
King Henry VII. was now dead, and his son, the Henry VIII. who married six wives one after the other, was on the throne. He was very fond of More, and often had him at the Court at Westminster, and gave him all sorts of honours and dignities, and finally made him a knight, so that he was Sir Thomas, and his cross wife could call herself Lady Alice More, a title that pleased her very much.
More had never liked the life of a city, and now that he was richer, owing to the King's kindness, he removed to a place that was then a village three miles from London called Chelsea. It seems odd to think of Chelsea ever being a village by itself, for it is now all a part of London. The houses have crept on and on, and covered up all the space between until Chelsea is right in London.
It is still a very pretty place beside the river, with shady trees and beautiful houses, and in More's time it must have been charming. He had a large house with a garden stretching right down to the side of the water, and from this he could step into his barge and go down to Westminster to see the King.
His little girls grew up here, and spent a happy childhood. They all, especially the eldest, adored their father. More himself was a very loving father, but he never spoilt his children, and always took care that they learnt their lessons. He used to say: 'Children, virtue and learning are the meat, and play but the sauce.' When any of them grumbled at little hardships, he used to say: 'We must not look to go to heaven on feather beds.' He was very fond of all of the children, but he loved the best his eldest daughter Margaret, Meg as he called her, and every day as Meg grew older she and her father were more and more to each other. Meg was clever, too; when still only a girl she could write letters in Latin and read many very difficult books.
The home life was rather different from that which we know now. There were some pages in the household, boys of good family, who came to learn from More as he had learnt from the Archbishop. One of these, William Roper, was a very nice fellow, and he afterwards married Margaret. Then there was the Fool. It seems to us now such an odd idea to have a man paid to make jokes, but in those days it was the fashion. Some man who had a gift for saying funny things used to live in[Pg 169] the household of a great nobleman and be as amusing as he could, and for this he received payment. More's fool was often rather impertinent, and at one time when there was a big dinner, and one of the guests happened to have a particularly large nose, the fool said out loud: 'What a terrible nose that gentleman has got!' So all the family pretended not to hear, and were rather uncomfortable, and when the fool saw that, he said: 'How I lied when I said that gentleman's nose was monstrous; now I come to look at it I really think it's rather a small nose!' Well, of course, no one could help laughing after that, and they all went off into peals of merriment, even the poor gentleman himself.
In the early mornings when the air was fresh and sweet, and in summer the garden full of roses, More would wander round with his dear Meg, and perhaps the other children would come, too, to look at all the pets. They kept a number of strange animals; there were rabbits, a monkey, a fox, a ferret, a weasel, and many others, and the children themselves kept the cages clean, and were taught to be kind to them. Lady More did not care for these things, she liked better to dress herself very smartly and lace herself very tight; and when her[Pg 170] husband laughed at her, she said, 'Tilly, vally, Sir Thomas! tilly, vally!' just as we should say, 'Tut, tut!'
She once found a stray dog, however, to which she took a great fancy, and she petted it and fed it; but after a few days a beggar-girl walking in the street, who met her with the dog, suddenly cried out that it was hers, and the dog knew her, and rushed and danced round her and licked her hands. Lady More was very angry, and said it was her dog, and ordered her footman to pick it up and carry it back home. The beggar-girl followed them all the way, crying; but when she arrived at the house the door was shut, and she was left outside. When Sir Thomas came home that evening in his barge, as he stepped out on the land he saw a poor little dirty girl with her face all stained with tears. He was always kind, so he stopped and asked her what was the matter, and she told him all her story about having lost her dog. Now, Sir Thomas was at that time the head of all the judges in England, having been made Lord Chancellor, and he was a very just man, so he would never let his wife take what did not belong to her. He went, therefore, into his own great hall and sent for Lady More; then he asked[Pg 171] her to stand at the top end of the hall, and placed the little dirty girl down at the lower end. Then he ordered a footman to bring in the dog and hold it in the middle between the two, and he said that the dog should decide for itself; it must know its own mistress. And when he gave the word the man must let it go, and both the women who claimed to be its mistress must call it, and whichever it chose to go to should keep it.
So he gave the word, and Lady More cried out all the soft things she could think of; but the little girl just said the one word, the dog's name, and the dog bounded toward her in a moment, for it loved her, and did not care for Lady More. So Sir Thomas said that settled it; the dog clearly belonged to the little girl and not to his wife. Lady More then offered the girl much money if she would sell the dog, and as she was very poor she did sell it at last, and left it behind with its new mistress.
There were always a great many people coming and going in More's house, and the table was always laden with good things, and much money was spent; but Sir Thomas himself did not care about eating and drinking, and liked best to have only vegetables and fruit and brown bread, and perhaps[Pg 172] a little salt beef, which was much eaten in England then.
Every day he said good-bye to his little girls, and told them to be good at their lessons, and then he went off in his barge up the river to the Court.
The two elder girls, Meg and Elizabeth, learned very difficult things; but Cicely and little John were not so clever. John seems to have been rather a stupid boy. It is said that the first Mrs. More wanted a boy very much, and when he came and grew a little, and they found he would never be very clever, More said: 'Thou hast wanted a boy, and now thou wilt have one that will be a boy all his life.'
In the evenings, when the barge came sweeping up the river, no doubt the girls watched for it, and ran to greet their father, and then they would all go in together to the house. Perhaps he had brought with him some clever and learned men who were his friends from London, or a young Dutch painter called Holbein, who was hardly at all known then, but is now counted among the greatest painters in the world.
Sometimes, later in the evening, there would be seen a very grand barge indeed, with scarlet and[Pg 173] cloth of gold, sweeping up to the landing-place; and then someone would call out 'The King!' and presently King Henry VIII. himself would step out and come up to see his Chancellor, and would walk up and down the garden with his arm round More's neck. He was very fond of More, and asked his advice about all sorts of things. More wanted to show him young Holbein's paintings, so he had his hall hung with many of them, and one day, when the King came in unexpectedly, he took him in there to show them to him. Henry was so delighted with them that he ordered Holbein to paint a picture of himself and others of many of his courtiers, and Holbein was well paid, and made a large fortune.
One day, when the King had been very gracious, and had left Chelsea to go back to Westminster, young Roper said to More how lucky he was to be such a favourite with the King; but More knew what a tyrant Henry was, and how dangerous it was to have anything to do with him, and he answered at once he had no cause to be proud, for if his head would win the King a castle in France it would go. He was quite right; for his head went afterwards for a much less thing than that.
When More was still in the height of his power his daughter Margaret married William Roper. But More could not bear to part with Meg, and the house was large, so he said the young married couple should go on living with him and his wife just the same as before.
More built a chapel on to Chelsea old church—a chapel which is there now, and you may see it—and in it there is a large monument to his memory. Of his great house and garden all is gone except a bit of red-brick wall, which is said to have been the wall of the garden.
Now, just about this time Henry had grown tired of his wife, Catherine of Arragon, and wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, so he thought he would divorce Catherine. But even a king can't get rid of his wives whenever he likes; so he asked all his lords and nobles to say that he was quite right, and that Catherine ought to be divorced, and that he ought never to have married her, because long years before she had been married to his brother, who had died. A great many of the nobles would have said anything Henry wanted, but More was braver than that; he said plainly that it would not be right for Henry to do this thing. So the King was very angry, and More found it impossible to[Pg 175] continue to be Lord Chancellor; so he gave up his office, even though it meant that he would have to change all his way of living and be a poor man again. Lady More used to go to service in Chelsea church, and More sat in another part of the same church, and on Sundays she used to wait to hear that her husband was outside before she got up to go, and in order to let her know this a footman used to come and open the pew-door for her, and say: 'Madam, the Chancellor has gone.'
There is a story told that on the Sunday after More had given up being Chancellor he had not spoken to his wife about it, for he knew she would be very angry, and he always loved a joke; so he himself walked up the aisle and held open the pew-door, and said: 'Madam, the Chancellor has gone.' At first Lady More could not understand him, but when she did, and knew that he was no longer Chancellor, she was very angry indeed.
Now, More said they must send away some of their servants and live very plainly, and Margaret and her husband went into a little house near; and so badly off were the Mores that they could not afford fires, and when the weather grew colder, More and his wife and children used to gather[Pg 176] together in one room and burn a great bundle of fern just to make a big blaze and send them warm to bed. But through it all More was quite happy. He had never wanted to be a great man: he preferred to live simply with those he loved; but he was not long to be allowed to do even that.
Henry devised a plan by which he could put More in prison. He drew up a long paper saying that the King was the head of the Church, and that whatever he did was right, and that if he chose to divorce his wife he could do it, because the power was in his own hands; and then he summoned all the bishops and More to sign this.
Sir Thomas More knew quite well what this meant, that it was only a plan to get hold of him, for he could not sign what he did not think. It was on a spring morning that he left his house to go down to Lambeth Palace, where the paper was lying ready to be signed, and he knew quite well that it was very likely he should never come back; and he was quite right: he never did come back. He said good-bye to his children and stepped into his barge. When he got to Lambeth he found that all the men there assembled had signed except one called Bishop Fisher. Now, Fisher and More were Roman Catholics; that is to say, that they[Pg 177] still believed in the power of the Pope—and they could not sign the paper without signing what they thought a lie. They had been taught this, and so they believed it, and they acted bravely according to their own consciences. More was given five days to think it over, but he did not go back to Chelsea, and at the end of five days he was taken to the Tower with old Bishop Fisher.
When he landed at the Traitor's Gate, of which you shall hear more presently, the porter asked him for his outside clothes, according to a very bad custom of the time, which allowed the porters to rob the prisoners thus. More gave him his cap, but the man was not content with that, and he had to give his outside coat as well.
It was just the beginning of the summer when the two men went to the Tower, and they were put in separate cells. At first they were not treated badly, and were allowed pens and paper to write letters; but afterwards these were taken from them, and More had to write his letters with a coal. However, he had one great consolation—his daughter was sometimes allowed to come to see him. Perhaps the King thought that she would persuade him to give in and sign the paper so that he might go back home.
When the summer had passed and the weather grew colder, More and Fisher both suffered from the cold, but especially poor old Bishop Fisher, whose clothes were in rags. And it was not until a whole year after they had been sent to the Tower that they were brought up to be tried. More was taken on foot through the streets to Westminster, a very long way—more than three miles. He was dressed in common clothes and surrounded by a guard. Then he was tried at Westminster, and accused of treason in not acknowledging the King's authority, but the real reason was that he would not say the King was right in marrying Anne Boleyn.
He was condemned to death. There was a custom in those days that when a man was condemned to death the executioner walked out of the judgment-hall before the prisoner with the sharp edge of the axe turned backwards towards him.
More had been tried in Westminster Hall, of which you have heard already, and inside there it was very dark; but when he came out into the bright sunshine he was quite dazzled for the moment and could not see. But there was someone else who saw—someone who had been waiting in the crowd in terrible anxiety, and when he saw that axe turned[Pg 179] with the sharp edge toward More he knew it meant death; and he gave a great shriek, and thrust himself through the guards and flung himself at More's feet. This was his son-in-law, William Roper, Margaret's husband.
More was allowed to go back to the Tower by boat, and a sorrowful voyage it must have been, not for himself, but for thinking of all those dear ones he must leave.
When he arrived at the Tower he saw standing on the quay two figures—his son John, then a man of twenty-five, and a tall, slight woman in deepest black, his dear Meg. Even the soldiers made way for her as she flung her arms round her father's neck and cried out of her breaking heart, 'My father! oh, my father!'—a cry which so touched some of those rough guards that they turned aside to hide the tears in their own eyes. More tried to comfort her, and presently gently drew himself away. He felt it was almost too much for him; but as she turned away she could not bear to let him go, and once more threw her arms round him with that pitiful cry, and only gave way when at last she sank fainting on the ground.
More then went on and left her so, and when she came to herself she knew it was all over, and[Pg 180] that she had no more hope. Six days later, at nine o'clock in the morning, More was led out to suffer beheading, as Bishop Fisher had already suffered. When he had first gone to the Tower he had been a man of middle age with a brown beard and brown hair; now after a year of confinement and anxiety his hair was quite gray. When he was told to make ready for his execution, he put on a silk robe, which when the gaoler saw he asked him to change for a common woollen one. More asked why, and was told that the clothes he was killed in became the property of the executioner, and the clothes he left behind in the Tower were taken by his gaolers, and that this gaoler thought the silk robe too good for the executioner. So More quietly changed to a commoner dress, for it mattered little to him. When he reached the scaffold, he found he was too feeble to climb up the steps without help, and he asked one of the men to give him an arm, adding: 'I pray you see me safe up; as for my coming down, I may shift for myself.' The executioner asked his forgiveness, which was granted; and then More knelt before the block, and carefully put his beard aside, saying: 'That at least has committed no treason.' Then with one stroke his head was cut off. His body was buried near the chapel in[Pg 181] the Tower; but, according to the custom of that time, his head was stuck up on London Bridge.
Fancy the horror of his loving daughter Meg when she heard this! What could she do? She could not suffer it to stay there, so she bribed two men and took a boat, and, going down the river, stole her own father's head, and, wrapping it in a cloth, returned with her gruesome burden to Chelsea, where she is said to have buried it in the church. Can you picture anything more awful than the task of this brave woman?
Another of More's daughters was married, too, and she and Meg were both happy mothers with families of their own; but we may be quite sure that so long as they lived they never forgot their dear father.
There once lived a girl who was called Queen of England for twenty days, but who was never crowned; who lived a good and innocent life, yet was beheaded when she was only sixteen. This was Lady Jane Grey. She was a cousin of young King Edward VI., who succeeded his father Henry VIII. when he was a little boy of nine. At that time England had lately established the Protestant religion, the Church of England as we have it now, and all Roman Catholics had been forced to become Protestants or to leave the churches to those who were. Edward was a delicate little boy, and he had only reigned five years when he caught measles. He never seemed to recover from them; he had a cold afterwards, which settled on his chest, and it soon began to be whispered that the boy-king must die. At this there was much talking among the great nobles who were Protestants, for they knew that the next heir to the[Pg 183] throne was Edward's elder sister Mary, a woman of thirty-eight, a strong Roman Catholic; and they feared that if Queen Mary sat on the throne all the Roman Catholics would be restored to their places, and the Protestants would be persecuted and perhaps murdered, all of which afterwards really did happen. Mary had a younger sister Elizabeth, who was only twenty, and she was a Protestant; and if the nobles could have put her on the throne instead of Mary, all would have been well with England. But that they could not do, for to set aside an older sister for a younger one would have been impossible. So they looked around for someone else, and fixed on little Lady Jane Grey.
Lady Jane was one of the three daughters of a nobleman called the Duke of Suffolk; she was the eldest, and through her mother she was a cousin of King Edward's, and of his sisters Mary and Elizabeth, too. If Edward had had no sisters, Lady Jane would have been Queen after him. The nobles had wanted her to marry Edward, who was just her own age; but the boy had been too ill to think of marrying, and now he was going to die, and it was too late to make any arrangement of that sort. His guardian, the Duke of [Pg 184]Northumberland, was a powerful and ambitious man, and he planned a scheme by which he would be still more powerful. He persuaded Edward that Lady Jane must reign after him, for if she did not England would suffer; and Edward, who loved the Protestant religion, consented. He made a will saying that Lady Jane was to be Queen instead of his sisters Mary and Elizabeth. Of course, he had no right to do this, for a king cannot say who is to reign after him; the throne must go to the next heir. But Northumberland thought if he and all the nobles declared Lady Jane Queen, they could force the people of England to acknowledge her. Then the clever Northumberland went further; he got Edward to consent to the marriage of Lady Jane to Northumberland's only son, young Lord Guildford Dudley. Dudley was then a boy of seventeen, and Lady Jane only fifteen, but that was quite old enough for marriage in those days.
Lady Jane had lived very quietly up to this time; she was a gentle little girl who loved her books, and never thought of thrones and kings and queens. When she was quite young she could speak French and Italian, wrote Latin, and understood Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, and Arabic. This was the more wonderful because in those days[Pg 185] ladies were not supposed to know very much; if they could do beautiful tapestry work and ride and sing a little, it was considered quite enough. There is a story told of Lady Jane that one day when a very clever man named Roger Ascham came to stay with her father, he found her sitting in a window-seat reading a book. Outside stretched the beautiful park, with its green grass and great shady trees, and the voices of the visitors and the other little girls who were amusing themselves came in at the window; but Lady Jane sat curled up, as many little girls do nowadays, reading diligently, and never taking any notice of the bright world outside. And the book she was reading was the work of an ancient Greek philosopher called Plato, who wrote very interesting books, but ones that are hard even for grown-up people to understand. It must have made a pretty picture, that little pale girl bending over her book; and if anyone had said that in one short year she would be married, have been called Queen of England, and have been beheaded, it would not have been believed.
Roger Ascham stopped and asked her why she read instead of playing, and she told him she loved books, and they gave her much more pleasure than[Pg 186] the things in which people usually tried to find pleasure. Then he wanted to know how she had managed to learn so much, and she answered:
'Sir, God hath blessed me with sharp and severe parents and a gentle schoolmaster; for when I am in the presence of either father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, even as perfectly as the world was made, or else I am so sharply taunted and cruelly threatened—yea, presently sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs, and so cruelly disordered, that I think myself in hell until the time come that I go to Mr. Aylmer, who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time as nothing that I am with him; and thus my book hath been so much my pleasure, and bringeth daily to me more pleasure and more, that in respect of it all other pleasures in very deed be but trifles and very troubles to me.'
That is not quite the way a little girl would speak now, I think.
When Jane had been younger she had seen a good deal of her cousin Elizabeth, who was about[Pg 187] five years older, and they had been in the same house together; and, of course, if she had ever thought about it at all, she knew that first Mary, and after her Elizabeth, had the right to be Queen when Edward died. Before Edward died, however, Jane was told suddenly that she must marry young Guildford Dudley. He was a handsome boy and very gentle, and Jane seems to have loved him very dearly; so she made no objection, and the marriage took place in a great hurry. And at the same time her younger sister Katharine was also married to Lord Herbert, the son of the Earl of Pembroke, so the quiet life in the beautiful home in Leicestershire came to an end.
Lady Jane knew, of course, that her cousin Edward was ill, and it must have grieved her very much; for she was fond of him, and being just the same age, they had learnt the same lessons together. But when Edward died she was not told of it until she received a message from her father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland, to go to his great house, called Sion House, on the Thames, not far from London. She went, never thinking what was going to happen or why she was wanted; and when she was there Northumberland himself and her own father, the Duke of Suffolk,[Pg 188] and some other lords came into the room, and, kneeling before her, told her that her young cousin Edward was dead, and that she must succeed him as Queen of England. Poor Lady Jane was so shocked and startled that she fainted away. When she came round again they told her she must be obedient and do as they told her. She pleaded with them, and said Mary must be Queen, and that for herself she was so young—only sixteen; and she did not care to be Queen, but only wanted to live a quiet life with her husband, Lord Dudley. But they argued with her, and told her she was a coward; that it was for the good of England, and that if she refused she would be wicked; and at last she consented. Then all her life was changed.
As I have said before, people used the river then a great deal more than they do now, and all persons of importance had state barges with rowers to row them up and down the water. Some of these barges were very magnificent, with scarlet cloth and gold fringe, and looked like gorgeous birds floating on the water. A beautiful barge was waiting for Lady Jane in front of Sion House, and she stepped into it, and was rowed down the river through London to the Tower.
Now up to this time this story has not had much[Pg 189] to do with London, but after this all the rest of it happened in London. When Lady Jane entered the Tower the man who was then Lord Treasurer of England came to her, and, kneeling down, offered her the crown of England. And afterwards Northumberland and his party lost no time, but sent men all round London to cry out that Lady Jane Grey was now Queen of England.
Meantime, Mary had been in the country. She had only just heard of her brother's death, when she heard, too, of what Northumberland had done. Now, she did not resemble her poor little cousin; she was not only very much older, but of a very stern disposition—not at all likely to sit down quietly and let another take her crown. So she made people go over all the countryside where she was and say that she was Queen, and that men might come and fight for her. Now many people felt that even if Mary were hard and cruel, still, it was fair that she should be Queen; so many nobles and gentlemen came to her, and she presently had a large army. When the story of the two Queens was heard, nearly everyone in England felt that Mary was right, and Northumberland began to think he had a harder fight before him than he had expected.
Even the people in London began to riot and say that Mary was Queen, and when one of the nobles on her side went to St. Paul's Cathedral, and there, standing beside a cross called St. Paul's Cross, where proclamations were made, cried out Mary was Queen, all the people shouted for joy. Bonfires were lit in the streets, and everywhere was feasting and rejoicing, and no one seemed to care about Lady Jane in the Tower.
So Northumberland saw how foolish he had been, and he hastened to send Jane back to Sion House; but he stayed in London himself, and cried out like the rest that Mary was Queen. For only three weeks Jane had been Queen, and all that time she had stayed in the gloomy Tower wishing she were back in her country home.
Then Mary rode in state into London, and went straight to the Tower. Her first care was to have Edward's funeral celebrated—for he had not yet been buried—and then she began to think about her enemies. Northumberland, of course, was her prisoner, together with some other nobles, and Northumberland and two others were condemned to death. So a very short time after he had brought his son's wife to the Tower as a queen the Duke of Northumberland had his head cut off at[Pg 191] the same Tower. Lady Jane and her husband were brought to the Tower as prisoners also, but were allowed to walk in the gardens, and were well treated; for at this time Mary seemed to think that they were not to blame, having been a mere boy and girl made to do wrong by their fathers, which was true. Perhaps they would have stayed in captivity for many years but for the foolish friends, who, by trying to help them, made their fate much worse. For after Mary had been Queen a short time she was hated. Her stern manners and her hard face made people fear her, and shortly after she was crowned people began to rise in different parts of England and say that Lady Jane ought to be Queen instead. And for some time Mary had to send troops to fight against the rebels, as those who rose in favour of Jane were called. At last one day an alarm was given that a man named Sir Thomas Wyatt had collected a large army, and was actually advancing on London. Mary was at that time staying at Whitehall Palace, and news came that Wyatt and all his men were going to attack the palace and carry her off. They really did come, too, and the army spread all over St. James's Park and all round the old palace—everywhere were soldiers. At that time there was[Pg 192] a great gateway, called the Holbein Gate, that stood across Whitehall, and in this Queen Mary stayed and watched the fighting. With all her faults she was very brave, and when she saw her own guards driven in and dispersed, she showed no sign of fear. Then a gentleman rushed up to her, and, falling on his knees, said, 'All is lost,' and begged her to get into a barge on the river and fly to the Tower, where she would be safer; but Mary refused to go, and said all was not lost, and by her bravery and her words she so inspirited the men that they fought again, and succeeded in beating off Wyatt's men. So Wyatt went on toward the city, and all the way he had to fight, and at last he was taken prisoner on Ludgate Hill, which is not far from St. Paul's Cathedral.
Then Mary knew that she was safe again; but she must have passed a sleepless night and thought a great deal, for she at last made up her mind she would order Lady Jane Grey and her husband to be beheaded, for so long as they lived other men would rise, as Wyatt had done, and try to make Jane Queen.
It was a dreadful thing to do, but we must remember that in those days executions were not thought so much of as they would be now. In[Pg 193] these days anyone would be horrified to hear that a man's or woman's head was to be cut off, and even the very worst murderers are only hanged; but in Mary's day a great many people were beheaded every year. So in the morning, when Mary rode down to the city to thank her nobles and knights for fighting so bravely and defending her, she knew that before the day was ended she would have signed the death-warrant of Lady Jane. When she came to Temple Bar she stopped. Now, Temple Bar was a great gateway that stood in the Strand, just where the City of London begins, and on it there were ugly iron spikes; and sometimes the heads of those who had been executed were stuck on these spikes, and stayed there until they rotted away. All the people passing along the street could look up and see the heads, and sometimes, when the wind was high, a ghastly head came tumbling down into the street. We cannot think of such things without horror; but in those days people were accustomed to them, and did not mind them very much. When Mary came to Temple Bar she asked for ink and paper, and wrote there the order for young Lady Jane and her husband to be beheaded.
Lady Jane was in the Tower when the news was brought to her. She had now been a prisoner six[Pg 194] months, and perhaps sometimes she had thought she might die as her father-in-law had died; so when the priest Queen Mary sent came to tell her the news, she received it quite calmly and without a shudder. But when he tried to make her turn Roman Catholic, she told him she should never do that. The priest hurried back to Queen Mary, and said if the execution could be put off three days he might make Lady Jane a Roman Catholic, so Queen Mary consented to delay a little. But when Jane was told that she was to live a little longer, she was sorry, for it was worse to wait than to be killed at once. During those three days she must sometimes have shuddered to think that not only must she die, but her young husband, so full of life and strength, must die too; yet she never gave way before people or seemed afraid. She was asked if she would see Guildford to say good-bye; but she said it was better not, for the parting might be too heartrending, and make them both break down. He was to die first, and when the morning came, very early the guards led him past Lady Jane's window on his way to death. Then indeed she must have felt that the bitterness of death was past. She had written a long letter to Queen Mary explaining how everything had happened, and that it was never her wish to be a queen; and she had[Pg 195] written another to her father, knowing that he must be very sad, feeling it was all his fault that she had been led into this sad position; and another to her younger sister Katharine to say good-bye. And now all was done, and soon her husband would be dead, and what had she left to live for?
The execution of Guildford did not take long. Presently a low rumble of cart-wheels over the stones told Lady Jane that they were bringing back his dead body, and then she knew her turn must come.
One can imagine the horror with which she heard the door open and saw Sir John Brydges, the man who was to lead her out, standing and waiting. But she was very brave; she neither fainted nor screamed, but rose up, and, taking his hand, walked with him to the scaffold. When she arrived at the place of execution she made a little speech, saying that she ought never to have allowed anyone to persuade her to be queen; but that she was young—she had not known what was right. And then, without any show of fear, she laid her head on the block, and it was cut off at one blow.
So died the poor girl at only sixteen—a girl who loved her books, and would have lived a quiet life if it had not been for the ambitious plans of her own father and her father-in-law.
There is no need to tell anyone who lives in the country what happens on the fifth of November, for they are sure to know well. The beautiful fireworks, with their streams of coloured fire; the crackling of the squibs; the gorgeous catherine-wheels and the coloured Roman candles; the great rockets that shoot up into the air with a swish, leaving behind them a long tail of golden fire, and then burst into showers of stars—all these may be seen on the fifth of November; and if you are really lucky children, there will follow the great bonfire, with barrels of tar poured over it to make the flames roar upward. They lick the bare sticks put ready for them, and climb over the logs until they reach the figure of Guy Fawkes himself, a stuffed figure like a scarecrow, which stands at the highest point. The flames crackle gaily; the heat is in contrast with the fresh air of the November evening; all the people standing by look strange and unlike[Pg 197] themselves with that weird glow on their faces. Then Guy's hands curl up, an arm wavers, and he topples headlong into the glowing flames, to be burnt up altogether. Guy is only made of straw, so we need not be sorry for him; but it is a curious custom, and we have to go to history to find out what it means. That there was a real man, a Guy Fawkes, who lived in James I.'s reign, you know perhaps. This Guy was at first a Protestant, and as a little boy used to go to church with his mother; but as he grew older he became a Roman Catholic. Now, at that time in England there were many very hard and unjust laws against the Roman Catholics, not allowing them to hold offices in the State, and preventing them from doing many things that Protestants might do. People are wiser now, and realize that a man may be a good man and a good servant of the country whatever his religion so long as he is in earnest, but in those days it was not so. Well, a certain number of lords and gentlemen who were Roman Catholics tried to get these laws altered; but they could not, and so they were very angry and bitter against the King and his Ministers, and joined together to make a plot to be revenged on them. Guy Fawkes was one of the men in this plot, and it may have been[Pg 198] he who suggested the dreadful idea that was at last decided upon. However that may be, at first nothing was done, but the conspirators used to meet together in secret to talk things over. They dare not meet openly, for if so many Catholic gentlemen had been discovered together, the King and his Ministers would have suspected something wrong. In one great house in the country belonging to a young man called Sir Everard Digby, they met in a secret room, with a floor that moved, so that if ever the King's officers came suddenly to surprise them there, they could all escape by means of the floor, which slipped up and let them out, whence they could go from the house by means of a secret passage. Digby was quite young, little more than a boy, and he had just married a young and beautiful girl, when he became entangled in the detestable Gunpowder Plot.
The plot, when it finally took form, was that the conspirators should hire a house near to the Houses of Parliament and dig an underground tunnel, which should reach right beneath the part of the House where the King would be when the Houses of Parliament were opened the next time; that they should then put gunpowder there, and blow up the whole building, killing the King and many[Pg 199] of the great Ministers. While everyone was thrown into terror and confusion by this, the other conspirators were to seize one of the young princes, the King's sons, and carry him off; then, when everything was thus in the hands of the Catholics, they expected to be able to make their own terms, and get the laws against Catholics repealed by the nation.
All this sounded very grand, but it was very difficult to do. It is wonderful that the conspirators managed to do so much as they did. They actually took a room near the Houses of Parliament, and began to dig their underground passage. But they found this a much more difficult job than they had anticipated, for every bit of the soil they dug out had to be carried away in baskets secretly by night; for people would naturally have noticed it if they had seen it, and begun to ask what was being done. But just when they had discovered how hard the work was going to be, they heard that a cellar right under the Houses of Parliament was to be let. Here was a chance! They took it at once, and gave up digging out their tunnel. Guy Fawkes was appointed to see that the scheme was carried out, and his was the dangerous part. He had to buy barrels of [Pg 200]gunpowder singly and at different times, and see that they were carried into his cellar without anyone seeing them. Then he bought a great deal of wood in faggots and stacked it over the barrels of gunpowder, so that if anyone did come into that cellar, he would never suspect it was anything but an ordinary cellar for storing wood. The meeting of Parliament was to take place in October, and by August all was ready; then the meeting of Parliament was delayed, and the conspirators heard it was not to be until the fifth of November. The time now drew very near. Then it occurred to some of the conspirators that perhaps some of their own friends who were members of Parliament would be blown up with the rest, and they grew uneasy. Each one wanted to warn his own friend not to go to Parliament that day, but no one knew how to do it for fear of betraying the plot. At last, however, one of the conspirators, who was a brother-in-law of Lord Mounteagle's, sent Lord Mounteagle a letter, saying that he had better not go to Parliament on the day of opening, for the Parliament was to receive 'a terrible blow, and yet shall not see who hurts them.' Lord Mounteagle was naturally distressed to receive such a letter, without any sign who had sent it, and he took it to[Pg 201] the King. James was a clever man in some ways, and he saw at once that a terrible blow, yet not seen, must mean something to do with gunpowder; so he had the cellars under the Houses of Parliament searched, and discovered the barrels of gunpowder. Now Guy Fawkes knew nothing of this, but came the night before the fifth to be in time to do his dreadful deed. He was a brave man, though a wicked one, caring little what evil he was doing. He had arranged a train of gunpowder running along the floor to what is called a slow match—that is to say, a long match that burns for perhaps five or ten minutes, so that the person who lights it has time to get away before the explosion occurs—and then he waited until the time when all the members of Parliament and the King should be there before setting a light to it. Cannot you picture Guy Fawkes alone in that gloomy cellar that night? He did not know that the plot was discovered; he thought that everything had been kept very secret, and that to-morrow he would set a light to that match and hurry away, and before he had got very far he would hear a sound that would seem to tear the very sky, and with a crash the Houses of Parliament would reel and fall, burying in their ruins hundreds of men and the King of England.[Pg 202] These were not the same Houses of Parliament that stand now, but were burnt down many years after.
In the dark shadows Guy waited; perhaps a mouse ran across the floor, and made him start. And then there was a sound of footsteps at the door, a whispering and a creaking of boots, and before he had time to do anything he found himself surrounded by soldiers, and knew that all was over; that the least he could hope for was death, which he had richly deserved, for he had intended to murder hundreds of men who had never wronged him.
All the implements for his terrible scheme were found upon him—the slow match and the lights, and when the faggots were thrown aside there were the barrels of gunpowder. If the people could have got at Guy Fawkes, he would have been torn in pieces; but he was kept from them by the soldiers, and hurried off to the Tower. So all the people could do was to make a false Guy Fawkes stuffed with straw and burn him on a bonfire, and that is the origin of our fifth of November.
Guy Fawkes was not put to death at once, as you will hear in the account of the Tower; he was tortured on the rack to make him give up the[Pg 203] names of those who had been in the conspiracy with him. Again and again he refused, but at last the awful suffering weakened him so that he hardly knew what he was doing; and when the torturers told him some of his comrades had been taken, which was not true, he believed them, and moaned out the names of two or three of his fellow-conspirators. Among them was poor young Sir Everard Digby, who, when he heard that all was lost, mounted his horse and tried to get away to the sea to go across to the Continent; but he was taken, and with many of the others, including Guy Fawkes himself, was hanged.
This, then, was the famous Gunpowder Plot which we celebrate on the fifth of November.
The story of Charles I. is one of the most dreadful in English history. It seems impossible to believe that so many of the English people could stand calmly round and watch their King executed like a common criminal without raising a finger to save him.
We have met Charles once before in this book, if you remember, when he walked across Spring Gardens on his way to be murdered. He was born in Scotland, and he had an elder brother, Prince Henry, so that it was thought at first that Charles would not be King. But Prince Henry died when Charles was only twelve, and so Charles became Prince of Wales and heir to the throne.
By this time the Kings of England lived, when in London, not in Westminster Palace, but in another palace called Whitehall. When Henry VIII. was King, the old palace of Westminster, of which you have heard so much in the story of Edward V., had fallen into ruins, so Henry looked about for another.[Pg 205] Quite close to Westminster Palace there was a great house called York House, which belonged to the Archbishops of York, and which they used when they came to London. Henry arranged that he should have this for a new palace, so he moved there. It was not just one great building as we picture palaces in these days, but a number of smaller ones—courts and long ranges of houses—and in it lived all the people connected with the Court, as they had done at Westminster Palace. It was a little town in itself. There were no trains then, and when the King went from one of his palaces to another everything had to be taken in carts. We are told that three hundred carts went from Whitehall to Greenwich Palace at one time laden with linen cloths for the tables, wine, and gold and silver plate, and dresses and kitchen things, pots and pans, and other things. In that time people had tapestry hanging on the walls instead of our paper and paint. They had rough trestle-tables, which were only boards, and were put up and taken down again when they were not wanted. The floors were strewn with green leaves and scented plants, which had to be put there freshly every day. It was all so different from our own time that we can hardly imagine it.
James I. was the father of Charles, and he gave many splendid entertainments at this palace, in which, no doubt, Prince Charles took part. There were dinners and dances, and other things not so harmless; for instance, it was supposed to be great sport to see two poor cocks fight until they tore each other almost to pieces, and people used to bet on one cock or the other. There were also fights between bears and greyhounds; and a wretched bull was tied to a stake and a number of savage dogs let loose on him, and the more the bull threw his head this way and that, and stuck his great horns into the dogs, and the more the dogs seized him at the back, where he could not defend himself, and tore his flesh with their teeth, the more the people laughed and applauded. Even ladies watched these sports. Prince Charles was never a strong boy, and always rather quiet and thoughtful, and he cannot have liked such cruelty; but then it was the fashion—everyone did it, so he thought it must be all right. King James was very fond of hunting, and while he lived the Court was always gay. But the palace was getting more and more old and inconvenient, and at last James thought he would build a new one. So he sent for his architect, a wonderful man called Inigo Jones, and ordered him[Pg 207] to draw plans for a new palace that should be far more splendid than the old one. Inigo Jones did so. We still have copies of his plans, and we can see what a wonderful palace he meant to have built. It was to face the river on one side and to have rows of windows and high round towers, and all along the roof there were to be figures as large or larger than life standing on the parapet. It would have cost thousands and thousands of pounds. But this beautiful palace was never completed. The King died and Inigo Jones died, and the only bit of this great new palace that was ever built is still standing, and you can see it any day in London if you go down Whitehall. It is larger than an ordinary-sized house, and has pillars running up the front and two rows of windows, and is called the Banqueting Hall.
Well, when James died his son Charles became King. Charles was then twenty-five years old, and was still delicate and thin, and not very tall. His hair was long, parted in the middle, and falling on each side of his face to his collar. His little neat beard was cut to a point, and his eyes were very sad. He liked better to live quietly than to be a king.
Almost directly after his father's death he married[Pg 208] a French Princess. She was young and gay, and if she had known she was going to marry the only King of England who was ever beheaded, I think she would have stayed in France. She was only just sixteen when she came to London, and all the strange faces and the strange language must have frightened her very much. Charles had never seen her before, and when they met he looked at her as if she was not quite so small as he had expected; and she laughed and showed him the heels of her shoes, which were quite flat, and said: 'Sir, I stand upon mine own feet. I have no helps of art. Thus high I am, and am neither higher nor lower.'
Henrietta Maria was dark, with black eyes and dark-brown hair, and was very quick and bright, and Charles loved her always to the end of his life.
After a time Henrietta was given Somerset House, a magnificent house in the Strand, for herself, and all her French attendants lived there with her. Perhaps Charles felt that the old palace at Whitehall was hardly fit for this bright little French woman, and perhaps it annoyed him to hear all the French people chattering about his own Court. Somerset House had been built by an uncle of Edward VI., the Duke of Somerset, who was such a greedy man that he had pulled[Pg 209] down numbers of churches in order to take the stone of which they were built to make his own vast mansion. The Duke never lived there, for before it was finished he was imprisoned in the Tower, and then beheaded. When Henrietta was there the furniture was very magnificent and rich. We are told that one of the bed coverlets, of embroidered satin, was worth £1,000!
This Somerset House was pulled down when George III. was King, and another great house called by the same name was built instead. This one is still standing, and in it there are offices belonging to the Government. In one part are all the wills that people have left when they died, and if anyone wants to see a particular will he can go there and see it if he pays a shilling.
One day when Queen Henrietta Maria lived in old Somerset House, Charles came and told her he was going to send all her French attendants back to France except her lady's-maid and one other, for the French people were saying things against the King and making mischief. Henrietta was much grieved, but she had to obey the King, so she sent them back to France. Long years after the death of her husband, when her son was King, after many terrible wars, Henrietta once again[Pg 210] came back to London and lived at her old home. Not far from Somerset House, close by Charing Cross Station, was another great house in the Strand called York House. I spoke of this before when I told you about the fine old water-gate still standing. That water-gate belonged to a handsome man called the Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham had been a great favourite with the old King, James I., and he had travelled abroad with Charles when he was Prince of Wales. Charles loved him very dearly, though he knew he was an ambitious, selfish man, fond of pleasure. Charles and Henrietta had been married three years, and during that time people had grumbled against Buckingham because he was the King's favourite; but though he was disliked, no one ever guessed what would happen. Buckingham had gone down to Portsmouth to arrange some matters about shipping, and there he was stabbed to the heart by a man named Felton. When Felton was brought to London to answer for his crime, the people followed him with shouts and acclamations, so pleased were they that he had killed the hated Buckingham. But King Charles himself was very sad at the loss of his friend. He was beginning to find out that being a king was not all pleasure.
For one thing, he wanted money, and the Parliament would not give it to him. Then he asked rich people to lend him some, and many refused. Of course, he had a good deal of money; but he had very great expenses, and he wanted more. So he quarrelled with the Parliament, and that was the beginning of a long, sad contest. However, it did not get very serious all at once; but the quarrels between the King and the Parliament gradually grew worse and worse for many years.
Charles and Henrietta had been married about five years when a little son came to them, and they called him Charles after his father. He was not long without a playfellow; for a year after there was a daughter called Mary, and then another son called James. There is still in existence a letter which his mother, the Queen, wrote to Prince Charles when he was a very little boy and was naughty, and would not take his medicine. Here it is:
'I am sure that I must begin my first letter by chiding you, because I hear that you will not take physic. I hope it was only for this day, and to-morrow you will do it; for if you will not I[Pg 212] must come to you and make you take it, for it is for your health. I have given order to my Lord Newcastle to send me word whether you will or not, therefore I hope you will not give me the pains to go.
'To my dear son the Prince.'
I do not know where Henrietta was when she wrote that letter; perhaps she was staying away at one of the palaces in the country. In London King Charles still lived in Whitehall Palace, though he had another, of which you have heard, called St. James's Palace, in St. James's Park, quite near. In either of these he was not far from the Houses of Parliament, and it was to the members of Parliament he applied for money. When they would not give him any more he dissolved Parliament, and sent all the members away; but when he found he could not get money any other way, he called them together again.
After these wretched quarrels it must have been a pleasure to him to go back to the royal nursery, and forget about being a king for a time in playing with his children. When little Charles was five[Pg 213] years old there came another little daughter, Elizabeth, and she, as she grew up, was the favourite of her sad, gentle father.
Mary was a good girl, affectionate and warm-hearted; but she was not clever like Elizabeth. I think Charles must have been a nice boy; but his brother James was such a horrid man when he came to be King years afterwards that he cannot ever have been nice at all, even as a boy.
When Mary was ten a great event happened: she was married to a boy prince, the Prince of Orange, who lived in Holland. She still lived with her father and mother; but she knew when she grew up she would be Princess of Orange—would have to go to live in Holland with her husband. Her son, who married his cousin Mary, daughter of James II., became King of England, as William III., many years after.
It was not very long after this that the quarrels between King and Parliament grew so bad that Charles was afraid, and had to fly for his life. Little Charles, Prince of Wales, was twelve, and Elizabeth, the younger girl, was seven, and there was a younger boy, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, only four years old. Henry was far the nicest of[Pg 214] the boys, and it was a pity he could not be King; but you shall hear more of him afterwards.
Henrietta, the Queen, fled to France and afterwards to Holland, where she sold her jewels to raise money to pay soldiers to fight for the King her husband. The two eldest boys were sent over to France too. Princess Mary went to her husband's family in Holland, and little Elizabeth and Henry were taken prisoners by the Parliament.
The story of the battles between Charles and the Parliament can be read in history, and does not belong particularly to London. The end was very sad. The King was taken prisoner by the Parliamentarians, who were now led by a man called Oliver Cromwell.
Queen Henrietta had gone back to France, leaving a little baby named after herself in England. When this baby was two years old the Countess of Dorset, who had charge of her, wanted to take her over to her mother in France, and she was afraid that the little Princess would be recognised and seized by Cromwell's men, so she dressed her in a coarse stuff frock instead of the pretty laces and ribbons she had been accustomed to wear. But when they started on the journey the little child carefully explained, in her lisping, baby way, to[Pg 215] everyone who spoke to her that she was generally dressed very differently, and the poor Countess was much afraid that people would find out she was a little princess. In spite of this they got safely over to France. When Henrietta grew up she was a gay, frivolous girl, very fond of clothes, as one might judge she would be from this story; and she married a Frenchman.
To return to Charles and his two younger children, Elizabeth and Henry, who were now left in London. The King was taken to Westminster, and then for many days there was what the Parliamentarians called a 'trial.' They accused their King of breaking laws, of trying to hinder the liberty of the people, and of many other things. Through it all Charles was patient and gentle, and even at the end, when they condemned him to death, he showed no fear or horror. Some day you can go to Westminster and walk into that great hall where this mock trial took place, and imagine the scene. It is all bare now, a great empty place with a stone floor and stone walls and no seats, and it is not used for anything; but when the King was there it was filled with eager, bustling crowds all gone mad for a time, and willing to kill their King. Then Charles was told to[Pg 216] prepare for death, but told also that he might see his children once again to bid them good-bye.
These two children had been taken from one place to another by their enemies, and not treated at all like a prince and princess. Elizabeth was now fourteen and Henry ten. They had been called plain Master and Miss instead of Prince and Princess, and had lived very plainly in the houses of persons who were supposed to take care of them.
When they saw their father and heard what he had to tell them, they were very unhappy. Charles said to his little boy: 'Sweetheart, now they will cut off thy father's head. Mark, child, what I say—they will cut off my head, and perhaps make thee King; but mark what I say, you must not be a king so long as your brothers Charles and James do live, for they will cut off your brothers' heads (if they can catch them), and cut off thy head, too, at the last; and therefore I charge you, do not be made a king by them.' At which the child, sighing, said: 'I will be torn in pieces first.'
Charles thought that the Parliamentarians might make Henry King because he was a little boy, and they could force him to do as they liked; but they did not do that.
Then Charles went on to say that the two children must always be Protestants, and never become Roman Catholics. Their mother Henrietta was a Roman Catholic, and he was afraid she might try to make them change their religion. And he was quite right; for afterwards, when Henry went across to France, the Queen did everything in her power to make him change. She was very cruel to him, took away his dinner, and would not let him play or ride, and at last was going to send him to a Roman Catholic school. But Henry's brother Charles, who was still wandering about on the Continent, and had not then regained the throne, wrote to her saying that his brother must come to him, and he would take care of him. So brave little Henry was rescued. He lived to be nineteen, and to see his brother an English King, and then he died of small-pox.
King Charles, after telling both the children they must never be Roman Catholics, turned to Elizabeth, and told her what books she must read so as to understand about the Protestant religion, and very difficult books they were for a little girl of fourteen; and he told her many other things, and that she must give his love to the other children. Then he said: 'Sweetheart, you will forget this?'[Pg 218] And she answered: 'No, I shall never forget it while I live.'
It must have been awful for those poor children to tear themselves away, knowing that their father, the King of all England and Scotland and Ireland, was to be killed. However, at last it was over, and Elizabeth and her brother were taken down to be kept in Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight. Here the little girl pined away, and died when she was only fifteen. She was found kneeling before her open Bible with her head lying on the text 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,' and she had passed into her rest.
When King Charles had said good-bye to them, he tried to fix his thoughts on the other world, and to forget all his wicked enemies. He slept that night at St. James's Palace, where our present Prince and Princess of Wales lived with their children until a short time ago. In the morning Charles walked across the Park and Spring Gardens, where, as he passed, he pointed out a tree that had been planted by his own elder brother Henry, who had died young. Then he went across to the Banqueting Hall.
Hundreds and hundreds of people were waiting in Whitehall. They cannot all have been wicked,[Pg 219] but they must all have been cowards, for not one dared to shout out and say, 'They must not, shall not, do this fearful wrong.' If anyone had, perhaps others would have joined in and helped to save their King. But no, all were silent. Perhaps they felt to the last minute that it could not be true, that something would happen to prevent it.
King Charles walked right through the Banqueting Hall under a beautiful ceiling which he himself had paid a great painter to paint. You can walk there yourself now under the same ceiling, for the place is a museum, and anyone can go to see it.
Then he went through one of the windows upstairs—no one is quite sure which, but it is supposed to be the second one from one end—and when he stepped out on to the scaffold there was the dreadful executioner, with his black mask on and his sharp axe. It was the custom for the executioner to wear a mask, and I think he must have been glad of it that day. The scaffold was all draped in black, and on it was a block, at which the King must kneel, and on which he must rest his head. He said gently the block was very low, and he had expected it to be higher; but they told him it must be so, and he said no more.
Then he took off a beautiful star he wore, the[Pg 220] decoration of an order, which he handed to a captain in the army, a friend of his own, in whose family it still remains, and some other things, which he gave to Bishop Juxon, who stood by, and as he did so he said: 'Remember.' No one has ever quite known what he meant by that, for the Bishop never told. It is supposed either he meant that Bishop Juxon was to remember to give these things to his son Prince Charles, or that he was to tell Prince Charles to remember to forgive his father's murderers.
Then King Charles said to the executioner that he would put his head on the block, and when he stretched out his hands he might strike. In a few minutes he finished praying, and stretched out his hands. Down fell the sharp axe, and a deep groan rose up from all the multitude as King Charles was beheaded. Now every day hundreds of people walk up and down on the pavement before the Banqueting Hall, but hardly one thinks of that awful day when a King's blood was shed on this very place.
The old palace of Whitehall has quite gone. Over the place where it was are houses and gardens; some of the houses are large and some are quite old. Only the Banqueting Hall remains, that[Pg 221] part of the magnificent palace that Inigo Jones meant to build for James I.
At the top of Whitehall at Charing Cross there is a statue of King Charles on a horse, as if he were riding down toward the place where he died. On the very spot where it stands, before it was put up, the worst of the men who murdered Charles were themselves executed only a short distance from the place of the King's execution. For after Cromwell's death England realized her wickedness, and Charles's son came back to reign. But never, never can be forgotten the dreadful deed that happened in Whitehall more than two hundred and fifty years ago.
Of all the awful calamities that have befallen London, there is none more awful than the Great Plague, which happened when Charles II., son of King Charles I., was on the throne. He had been restored to his kingdom for less than five years when it happened. Two people died quite suddenly in Westminster, and men looked grave and said it was the plague. But at first they did not think much of it, for the plague had often visited England before. But this time it was to be far, far worse than anything anyone had ever known. It is said that the infection was brought over from the Continent in some bales of goods that merchants were bringing to sell in London, but this was never known for certain. All at once two more people died unaccountably, and then it seemed as if the plague leaped out from every corner, and people began dying all over London. There had been a hard frost, and it was when the frost thawed that the[Pg 223] plague seemed to gain fresh strength. Everybody began to ask questions. What were they to do? Couldn't they go away at once? What were others doing to stop the spread of the infection? The awful suddenness of it terrified everyone. Persons who had been talking gaily and feeling quite well complained of feeling a swelling on the throat or a little sickness, and in an hour they were dead. Sometimes it began by a swelling that came under the arm (this was a sure sign), and sometimes by swellings on the neck. As the plague grew worse men dropped down in the streets seized with it, and before their friends could be found they were dead. All sorts of odd things were offered in order to keep away the infection. One, that a great many foolish people believed in, was a dried toad strung on a string round the neck—as if that could have made anyone safe!
Very soon all the rich people left London and fled away into the country, though, of course, the country people did not want them, for fear that they had brought the infection. But there were hundreds and hundreds of people who stayed in London and even tried to carry on their business. At first they struggled bravely and pretended nothing was the matter, but very soon this was impossible.
You could not imagine what London looked like then. No one drove in the streets, no one walked there if he could help it; grass grew up between the cobble-stones, and nearly all the houses had shutters up, showing that their inhabitants had gone away. A nurse would come quickly along holding a little red staff in her hand to show she had been nursing a plague patient, and that other people had better avoid her. Then slowly down the street would come a cart, with a man walking beside the horse, and he would call out: 'Bring out your dead! bring out your dead!' just as if he were shouting to sell coals. And in the cart were the bodies of the people who had died of the plague. It was extraordinary that any man could be found to drive that cart, and he had to have very high wages; and even then he must have been a low sort of man, without any imagination, a man who did not mind much what his work was so long as he had some money to spend in drink. One of these men was sitting on his cart one day when it was noticed that he seemed to be ill, and the next moment he fell off dead, having caught the plague.
When people were dying by hundreds and hundreds there was no time to bury them properly:[Pg 225] and yet they had to be buried, or the dead bodies would make it impossible for anyone to live at all. So great pits were dug many yards wide, and into these the bodies of men, women, and children were put in rows and rows, one row on the top of another, and the whole covered in with stuff called quicklime. Whenever anyone began with the plague, it was the duty of the head of the household to see that a red cross was marked on his door as a warning to others to keep away, and it must have been very sad to see these long red crosses on so many doors, with the grass-grown street in front of the houses, and the slow plague-cart going down the street.
Another rule was that if anyone had a case of the plague within his house, he and all his household must be shut up indoors for forty days for fear of carrying the infection; but many people hated this so much that they used to hide the cases of the plague when they happened, and pretend that everyone was alive and well in their houses. When the police-officers found this out they used to visit the houses, and if they found anyone sick in one of them they would carry him or her off to a hospital called a pest-house, where all the sick could be together. If it is true what we read of these houses, it must have been almost worse to go there[Pg 226] than to die. The smells and sights were so awful, and the shrieks of the poor wretches who had been seized with the plague were so terrifying, that there was not much chance of anyone who went there recovering.
The people who were forced to stay in London, either because they had no money to go away or nowhere else to go to, used to meet in St. Paul's Cathedral and ask one another the news. This was not the same cathedral that is standing now, but one that was afterwards burnt in the Great Fire. The long aisle was called Paul's walk, and here in better times there were stalls for the sale of ribbons and laces and many other things, and people laughed and talked and strolled up and down, just as if it were a street and not a church at all. Now, in the plague time most of the stalls were shut, and the people no longer came to buy, but to ask in hushed voices how many had died last week, and if there were any sign that this awful disease was going to stop. It is almost impossible to believe, but it is true, that thieves were very busy then. They used actually to go into the houses deserted by their owners, or left because someone had died there of the plague, and steal things, without minding the risk of infection.
The country people soon stopped bringing in fresh milk and vegetables, butter and eggs from the country, because they dared not come into the town; and so it was difficult to get these things at all, and those who were in London were worse off than ever, and in danger of starving.
We can imagine children crying for bread, and their mother going out at last to try to find something for them to eat, and never coming back. Then the eldest boy would begin to be afraid that she had caught the plague and had died in the streets, and he would leave his little sisters and brothers and creep along the streets until he met the awful death-cart; and then he would ask, and perhaps the man would tell him where to go to find out about his mother, and someone might be able to describe a woman who had fallen down in the street seized by the plague, and had at once been carried off and buried. The boy would guess that that must have been his mother; and yet he could never be quite certain, for she had been buried in a plague-pit with dozens of others, and he would never see her. Perhaps he would beg a little oatmeal, and run back hastily to his brothers and sisters, and when he got there find them all frightened and crying, for the eldest girl was very[Pg 228] sick. He might turn down her dress, and see on her neck the awful plague-spot, and know that she, too, would die. And very likely by the next day the whole of that family would be dead. Many people must have died of starvation, for all work was stopped, but for the money given by charitable persons. The King himself gave £1,000 a week.
There is a story of a man who had a good deal of money, and he shut himself and his household up in his house, and allowed no member of his family to go out. The doors and windows were closed, so that it was all dark, and food was only got by tying a basket to a string and letting it down at a certain time each day, when a person who had been paid to do so filled it with food. In the morning the whole family had breakfast together in a lower room, and afterwards the children were sent up to play in the garret. In this way the greatest danger of infection was escaped.
Of course, so soon as foreign nations heard of the plague they sent no more ships to England, and instead of being covered with vessels from all lands, the Thames was deserted and silent. Worse than that, numbers of people threw the dead bodies of their friends who had died into the water, and these floated down with the tide, or, catching in[Pg 229] some pier or beside some boat, hung there until the air was filled with the dreadful smell of the rotting bodies. Cats and dogs were drowned, too, for fear that they should carry the infection, and their dead bodies made the river loathsome. Everywhere there were awful sights and sounds and smells; not even by the water could anyone escape. When the hot weather came in summer the plague grew worse; in one week four thousand persons died of it. Four thousand! It is difficult to imagine. But this was not the worst: the deaths went on until London was a city of the dead, and the living were very few. Fathers had lost children, husbands wives, children parents; there was no household that had not suffered from the plague. A preacher who used to go about the streets dressed only in a rough garment of fur like John the Baptist had prophesied that the grass should grow in the streets, and that the living should not be able to bury the dead. It was long since the first part of this had been true, and now the second became true, too. The people who were left were not enough to bury those who died, and even in the streets the bodies lay unburied. St. Paul's itself was used as a pest-house—that is to say, as a hospital for the plague-stricken. We can imagine that the people who[Pg 230] were left alive felt as if they were living in some nightmare dream from which they could not awake. They must have lost all hope of ever seeing London restored to itself, and the streets clean and bright once more. It was not until the summer was past and the cold weather began that the deaths were fewer, and when the number was only one thousand a week everyone began to get hopeful again. People who had fled into the country began to come back, a few shopkeepers opened their shops, the country people came timidly to bring vegetables for sale, and so gradually things got a little better.
The houses were cleaned and whitewashed, the streets were cleansed, and large fires were lit to burn up any rubbish that might still hold infection. St. Paul's Cathedral was cleaned out, and the beds that the patients had used were burned, and all seemed better.
Then happened another terrifying thing, even more alarming than the plague to the unfortunate people who lived in London at that time. One night, when everyone had gone to bed, the church bells in the city began tolling, and soon feet were heard hurrying on the streets; cries of alarm woke even the laziest, and everyone hurried out to see[Pg 231] what was the matter. Against the darkened evening sky they saw a lurid colour like a crimson flag, and this changed and waved as columns of smoke passed in front of it; there was no doubt that a big fire had been lighted somewhere.
At first some may have thought this was only one of the bonfires that the police had lighted to burn up the rubbish, but they soon found it was much worse than that. Whole streets were on fire and burning, and, worse than all, a strong wind was blowing the flames right over London.
The houses then were nearly all of wood, and, being old, were very dry. They burned splendidly; no man could have made a better bonfire. The flames seemed alive; they leaped from one to the other, they licked up the woodwork on the gable fronts, they danced into the windows and in at the doors—no one could stop them or save the houses once they had been touched. The great red demon Fire licked up house after house as if he swallowed them with his great red mouth, and the more he ate the more he wanted; his appetite grew larger instead of less. There were only old fire-engines, not like those we have to-day, and water was very scarce, and at first the people stood terrified, staring stupidly, and then began to run away. It was not[Pg 232] for some time that the authorities thought of pulling down some houses so as to make a gap over which the great red flames could not leap. But it is not easy work to pull down houses, and before it could be done the flames leaped on again and again and drove them back. At first the poor people whose houses had caught fire threw their furniture and goods into the streets to save them. But they very soon saw this was no use; the flames got them just the same, for there was no time to carry the goods away, and what the flames did not get thieves in the crowd seized and ran away with.
Now the wind seemed fairly to get hold of the fire, and drove it on with a roar like a steam-engine; the shrieks of people in the streets were drowned by the crash of the burning timbers as the roofs fell in. The heat was so great that some persons, pressed too near to the fire by the crowd, covered their scorched faces with their hands and screamed aloud. Everywhere was confusion and running to and fro, and yet no one could do anything to stop those terrible flames. When a big brewery was attacked by the fire, men rushed in and pulled out the casks into the street, and then, forgetting the perils of the plague and of the fire, drank until[Pg 233] they reeled about the streets, and some even fell into the flames and were burnt.
The place where the fire began was not far from London Bridge, and the red light reflected in the water lit the city up with an awful glare. Some of the people in the houses which were then standing on the bridge got into boats, and, without heeding the awful heat and the showers of smuts, rowed away up the river to a safer place.
The churches began to go soon, and when one was fairly caught its high spire was seen to quiver for a moment as if it were in pain, and then topple right over with a crash. The dangers were increased by the falling of such great masses of stone. The whole of that night the flames roared on, and devoured everything in their course. Even those whose houses were at the west end began to tremble. King Charles II. himself had now come back to London, and when he was told of the great danger that threatened his city, he was the first to go to help and to suggest that houses must be pulled down to stop the flames. This was very difficult, because the houses to be pulled down had to be a long way in front of the fire, or there would not have been time to get them down before the fire reached them. And when the people to whom[Pg 234] they belonged were told that they must come out because their houses were to be destroyed, they very naturally objected, and said they were quite sure the fire would never get so far as that; and, anyway, why should their houses be pulled down and not others?
The fire had begun first in a poor quarter, but it soon came on to the houses of wealthy merchants, and then a strange sight was seen: these men, hastily gathering up their gold and silver, their rich bales of stuff and merchandise, hurried westward, and the streets were filled with carts and men laden with goods jostling, pushing, and hurrying in both directions. At the end of that day the fire still burned as if it would never stop; surely never before had there been such a bonfire. Not a single person in London could go to bed. How did he know that he might not be awakened by the flames leaping in at his windows? No, everyone was in the streets, either watching or talking or shouting, and very few did any good or knew what to do; they mostly got in the way of others who were trying to stop the flames.
When that second awful night was past, the day dawned; but there was little light, for a great cloud of black smoke hung over everything, blotting out[Pg 235] the sun. On the river were boats and barges and vessels of all sorts laden with goods; in the streets the same weary, excited crowd.
Out in the fields there were tents put up for the people whose houses had been destroyed, and numbers of people camped there, crying and bemoaning their losses; many of them had lost all they possessed in the world, and had no clothes and sometimes no food.
At last it was seen that the flames must reach St. Paul's Cathedral, and even those who were most careless held their breath at the thought of the destruction of so splendid a building. At that time St. Paul's was being repaired, and the scaffolding round the walls served as fuel for the flames, which leaped upon it and got such hold of it that the very stones became red hot. The roof and the tower of the cathedral were a blaze of fire; soon the lead with which the roof was covered began to melt, and ran down in golden rain from every gutter into the street below. You have perhaps seen in fireworks showers of golden rain, but that was harmless; this was real boiling lead, and if it had struck anyone would have scorched him up. Streaming as it did from that great height, it came down with force, and set everything that it fell on[Pg 236] in a blaze. The flames got inside the cathedral, and roared upwards through the staircases as through so many funnels, and then it was seen that the fall of the roof was inevitable. It came at last with a tremendous crash, and showers of sparks shot upwards, lighting up the country for miles around.
For the whole of the next day the flames continued, and on into the day after that; and then the wind fell, and the fire burnt with less fury. By this time, too, people had pulled down houses, and made great gaps which could not be bridged over by the flames, and so the Great Fire ceased.
A most curious thing was that the fire had begun in the house of a baker in Pudding Lane, and the part where it was finally stopped was at Pye Corner, near Smithfield. It was very odd that both these names should have had to do with eating. No one knows how it began, but the general idea is that a servant-girl who was drying some sheets let them fall into the fire, and then, seeing them flame up, was afraid, and thrust them into the chimney; so the chimney caught fire, and the house, which was very dry and built of wood, flamed up, and the fire spread. But other people say it was done on[Pg 237] purpose by a man throwing a light into the house window.
Close to the spot where it began was put up later a tall monument, a great column, which is hollow inside, with a staircase to the top, and anyone may go up by paying threepence; and on the summit there is a little platform, which is caged in to prevent people from falling or flinging themselves over. From here there is a fine view of London; you can see the river, and the ships going up and down, and the bridges, and the tall steeples of all the churches built by Sir Christopher Wren for the new London that rose out of the ashes of the old.
At the place where the fire is said to have stopped there is the figure of a funny little fat boy put up, and that you can see at Smithfield if you care to go there.
The greater part of London was completely wiped out; the streets were all gone—none knew even where their own houses had stood; there were heaps of ashes everywhere, so hot that the boots of those who walked over them were scorched. For long afterwards, when the workmen were opening a pile to take away the rubbish and begin to build a new house, flames which had been[Pg 238] smouldering below burst out again. The great task of rebuilding the city demanded all the energy and sense of which the people were capable. There were many quarrels, of course, between people who claimed more land than they ought to have had, and between others who were both quite sure their houses had stood on one spot. It was a long time before a new London was built. But though the fire cost the Londoners many millions of pounds, and though it ruined many persons and caused fearful loss, it was really a blessing, for it burnt away things that might have carried the plague infection; and it burnt the old unwholesome dirty wooden houses, and in their place were built better houses and wider streets, and health and comfort were greater.
If anyone were staying in London for the first time, what do you suppose he or she would want to see most? It would depend on the character and age of that person. If it were a boy, he would be almost sure to say the Zoological Gardens. A girl might choose Madame Tussaud's. But besides these there are many other things that could be chosen—St. Paul's Cathedral; the British Museum; Westminster Abbey. Also places of entertainment, like Maskelyne's Mysteries, where there is conjuring so wonderful that, having seen it no one can believe the sight of his own eyes. At Christmas time many of the large shops turn themselves into shows, with all sorts of attractive sights to be enjoyed free, so that people may be brought into the shop and possibly buy something. All these things are attractive. But there is one thing not yet mentioned, which is the best of all, and interesting to both boys and girls alike, as well as to men and women. This is the Tower of London.
I am now going to imagine that you are staying with me on a visit, and every day we will do something enjoyable, and go to see something fresh. We could go on for days and days doing this in London, and not come to the end of the sights. But the first thing to see, the very first, ought to be the Tower, because it is one of the few old buildings left in London, and there are so many stories connected with it they would make a big fat book in themselves.
On the first morning of your visit to London you would get up in a rather excited frame of mind, and be anxious to start off at once. That would be as well, because if we are to go to the Tower it will take us a long time to get there.
Before the west end of London was built the Tower was in the important part of London. All that could then be called London clustered round it. In those days, when the country was unsettled and enemies appeared suddenly outside a town, and might burn and destroy houses, and steal all that they could lay hands on, it was necessary to have a wall all round the city. This wall was very strong and high, and could be defended by men with spears and arrows. It ran right round the city on three sides, and on the fourth was the river.
In the reign of William the Conqueror there was no strong castle or palace for the King in London, but only an old fortress on one side of this wall, the east side, quite near to the river. This fortress had stood there for a long time. No one knew when it had been built. King William ordered it to be pulled down, and in its place he caused a strong castle to be built. Part of the city wall was pulled down to make room for this castle, and so began the Tower of London.
If we, living in the West End, want to get to the Tower, we must take an omnibus or train and go right through the City until, at the place where the City and the East End meet, we shall find the Tower.
It is a very fine building, with a great square tower in the middle. Round it are the gardens, and round the gardens, again, there is another line of buildings, which have smaller towers set here and there upon them at intervals. Circling round the outermost walls is a huge, deep ditch, as big and broad as a river. This was once a moat full of water. The water from the Thames ran into it and filled it, and it formed a strong barrier of defence for the Tower, and attacking forces would have found it a difficult matter to swim across that[Pg 244] water with the archers and soldiers shooting down from the walls above, with flights of arrows as thick as flights of pigeons. And, of course, the enemies would never have been allowed to put a boat on the water, for the archers would have shot them while they were doing it. In old times the kings who lived here must have felt very safe with their huge thick stone walls and the great rolling stream of gray water all round. The windows were made very small, so that arrows could not get into them easily to wound the people inside the rooms, and the staircases were of stone, very narrow, and they wound round and round up into one of the towers. They were made so because then, if ever the enemies did manage to get inside the Tower and tramped upstairs, they would find that only one, or perhaps two, of them could get up the steps together to fight, and the men who were guarding the tower could keep them back for a long time. As I said also, the gardens are inside the Tower, so the people who lived there could walk safely in them surrounded by the great gloomy high stone walls.
Oh, how many stories that Tower has to tell! Every stone of it must have heard something interesting. But saddest of all must have been the groans[Pg 245] and cries of sorrowful prisoners, for besides being the King's palace, as I have told you, it was also a prison. That seems very odd to us now. Fancy if we made part of Buckingham Palace, where the King lives, into a gaol! But in old times palaces and prisons were often in one building, partly because it was necessary for both to be very strong and to resist force, and it was not easy to build two strong buildings in one place, so they made one do for both. When William the Conqueror died he had not finished his building, and William Rufus, his son, went on with it. Rufus finished the square building in the middle, which has four little corner towers, and this is called the White Tower, not that it is white at all, though it may have been when first built. Now it has been blackened by many centuries of smoke. It was not until the reign of Richard Cœur de Lion that the moat was made, and by that time the Tower had grown very much, and was a strong place. John, Richard's brother, who tried to get the throne for himself while Richard was away fighting in the Holy Land, knew that the stronger he could make the Tower the better, for if he could hold it he would be King in London, and no one could seize him and punish him. We shall hear something more about John[Pg 246] later. The moat was made when Richard was away in the Holy Land.
When we draw near we see the White Tower standing up above all the rest. To cross the moat we have to go over a bridge, once a drawbridge—that is, a bridge which could be drawn up and let down again as the people in the Tower liked.
Close by the drawbridge was, until just before Queen Victoria's reign, a place where lions and tigers and all sorts of wild animals lived. It seems curious they should have been kept there, where they could not have had any room to wander about, and when they were moved to the Zoological Gardens it must have been much better for them. The animals were here through the reigns of all the kings and queens of England, from Henry I. to Queen Victoria. If we go to the front of the Tower, which faces the river, we shall see a fine sight. There is the splendid Tower Bridge that we read of before; there is the gray, glittering river; and there are many ships and barges floating up and down on the water.
Underneath our feet is a deep channel, now dry, where the river once ran in to fill up the moat. It flowed under a great gloomy archway with a gate, and when the river was running here [Pg 247]everyone who came to the Tower by water had to land at that gate. It has an awful name, and some of the very saddest memories belong to it. It is called Traitor's Gate. In those old days, when people used their river much more than we do now, they owned barges, great boats covered with an awning, and when they wanted to go from Westminster to the Tower they did not think of driving, for the streets were narrow and badly paved, the roads between London and Westminster quite dangerous; and they could not go by train, for no one had ever imagined anything so wonderful as a train, so they went by water.
When the prisoners who were in the Tower had to be tried before judges they were taken up the river in barges to Westminster, where all the evidence was heard, and then they were brought back again. How many of them made that last sad journey and entered the Traitor's Gate never to come out again! They had been to Westminster to be tried, feeling quite sure something would happen in their favour, and they would be set free; and then they had heard the sentence that they were to be beheaded! They came back down the river, and the sunshine might be just as gay, the water as sparkling, as when they went, but to[Pg 248] them it would all seem different. The journey was short, too short for a man who knew it was his last! Then when they reached the Tower the barge would sail on up to the Traitor's Gate, and the dark shadow of the heavy walls would fall on the prisoner, and he would feel a chill at his heart as he stepped out on to those cold gray stones.
Of some of those who suffered in the Tower you have heard. Sir Thomas More landed here when he came in his barge from Chelsea, but we know that he was too brave and good to feel much fear. Lady Jane Grey landed here when her father and father-in-law brought her here, calling her Queen; she came as a queen, but stayed here afterwards as a prisoner. Did any warning tell her this when she stepped out of the boat?
Queen Elizabeth came here, too, when she was only a princess. Her sister Mary was on the throne, and Mary feared that people would make Elizabeth queen, so she sent her as a prisoner to the Tower. We know the very words Elizabeth said as she landed, though nearly three hundred and fifty years have passed since then. She exclaimed: 'Here landeth as true a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed on these stairs, and before Thee, O God, I speak it, having none[Pg 249] other friends but Thee.' Then she sat down on a stone, and said: 'Better sit on a stone than in a cell.' And only the entreaties of her attendant moved her to get up and go on. She was a prisoner for several years, and at first was not allowed to go out of her cell at all. Afterwards, when she became Queen on Mary's death, one of the first places she visited was the Tower, perhaps because she felt pleased at being a Queen instead of a prisoner, and wanted to enjoy the contrast.
There were many, many others who landed here, never to come forth again as free men. Some died in imprisonment; some were beheaded; some suffered for their crimes; some were innocent, but suffered because they had aroused the anger of a jealous king. Some went into those walls to suffer tortures worse than death—tortures of the thumbscrew and rack, to make them betray the names of their companions. Some came here as martyrs, because they believed in God, and thought the suffering of the present time as nothing to the glory hereafter.
Having looked long at the Traitor's Gate, we can pass on into the Tower and see what else is there.
The prisoners went sometimes from the Traitor's Gate to the Bloody Tower, so called from the fact[Pg 250] that it was in a room here Edward V. and his brother were murdered by the order of their wicked uncle. The boys' bones were afterwards found at the foot of a staircase in the White Tower. The Bloody Tower was not always called this awful name; it used to be known at first as the Garden Tower. In the Bloody Tower the Duke of Northumberland, who tried to make Lady Jane Grey a queen, was imprisoned before he was beheaded. He must have known he well deserved his fate; but if he had any conscience he must often have felt very miserable to think of Lady Jane and her young husband, his own son, who would be likely to suffer for his fault too.
Very soon the dark walls beheld another prisoner, Archbishop Cranmer, a martyr in Queen Mary's reign. Cranmer was not a strong man by nature, and the long wearing imprisonment tried him so much that at last he gave in to his enemies, and said he would renounce his faith. He thought then he would be released; but no, he heard that he was to be burned all the same. We can imagine the horror of the poor prisoner, who had denied his religion and yet not saved his life. He realized then how weak he had been, and, like St. Peter, no doubt he wept bitterly. However,[Pg 251] when the day came, and he was taken to Oxford to be burnt, he had recovered all his strength of mind. He declared himself firmly a Protestant, and when the faggots were stacked up round him and the fire lit, he held one arm, his right arm, into the flames, saying it should burn first, as it had signed his denial. He held it there until it was all burned away, and died the death of a brave martyr.
Another well-known man was imprisoned in the Bloody Tower after Cranmer. This was Sir Walter Raleigh, who, as a handsome, gay young man, had attracted great favour from Queen Elizabeth. It is said that one day when she was going to cross a puddle Raleigh sprang forward and flung a beautiful cloak he was wearing over the mud as a carpet for her feet. The cloak was very rich and handsome, as were the cloaks the nobles wore then. Of course it was spoilt, and Elizabeth was much flattered by the courtesy of the young man. She made him a knight, and he was raised to great honour. He sailed across the seas and discovered new lands, and he brought back tobacco and introduced smoking into England. When the Spaniards attacked England, the gay and gallant Sir Walter fought valiantly, and came back[Pg 252] covered with honour and glory. No man could have had a brighter life, no man could have risen higher. And then came his downfall. He was accused of plotting against King James, who had succeeded Queen Elizabeth. He was condemned to death and sent to the Tower. There seems to be no reason to believe that Raleigh was guilty, but, guilty or innocent, he spent fourteen years in the Tower. He was not the kind of man to sit idle, so he set to work and wrote a book on the history of the world, which kept him occupied, and showed that he was clever as well as gay and daring. Then once more he was let out for a short time while he sailed to the West to discover a gold-mine of which someone had told him. King James, who always wanted money, had let him go on giving his promise he would come back. Raleigh did not find the gold-mine, but he was a man of his word. He came back, though he knew the terrible prison and perhaps the block and axe were waiting for him. He was beheaded in Whitehall, where King James's own son was so soon after to be beheaded too. Raleigh's long imprisonment must have been dreadful to a man full of life and energy. Yet he had compensations: he was allowed to walk in the garden, and his history must always have been a solace to him.
There were many others imprisoned in the Bloody Tower; but we must pass on.
In walking from one part of the Tower to another we meet some men dressed very curiously in red dresses with velvet caps. These are the Beef-eaters, who guard the Tower, also called the Yeomen of the Guard. Their odd name and odd dress always attract people, and they are such fine men that children sometimes wonder if they are called Beef-eaters because they eat a lot of beef! That is not so. The name is said to come from an old French word buffetier, which means a man who waited at a buffet or sideboard; and in old times the beef-eaters waited on the King and Queen, and they still wear the same costume they wore three hundred years ago. Every night before midnight the chief Beef-eater goes to find the chief warder; the Beef-eater carries the keys of the Tower, and with a guard of men the two go together to lock up the outer gate. When the sentinel who keeps watch hears them, he calls out, 'Who goes there?' and the answer is, 'The Keys!' Then says the sentinel, 'Advance, King George's Keys!' This is a curious old custom. Close by the Bloody Tower is the Jewel House, where the crowns of the King and Queen and other royalties are kept. They are made of gold and set with[Pg 254] precious stones, so big that it is difficult to believe that they are real—great rubies and pearls as large as pigeon's eggs, and huge glittering diamonds. In this room there is a man always on watch, day and night. Yet the jewels were once stolen by a daring man called Colonel Blood, who managed to get away from the Tower, but was caught soon after with the King's crown under his cloak. This was in the reign of Charles II.
In the White Tower are rooms full of armour worn by English soldiers—armour of all the different ages, from the time when a man wore so much iron that if he fell down he could not get up again, and sometimes was actually smothered before he could get out of it, up to the present day.
In the White Tower there is one very awful dungeon, a little narrow cell, without a ray of light, no window at all—nothing but dense blackness. There must have been many prisoners kept here, for on the walls there are sad cuttings, now half worn away, which tell how the poor men occupied their time in chipping their names in the stone. Many of the martyrs of Queen Mary's reign must have felt this terrible blackness, for there are texts of which the dates show that they were cut at that time. One of these is, 'Be faithful[Pg 255] unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.' The hand that traced out these letters long years ago is still. The martyr has long since passed from the darkness of the narrow cell to the great brightness of eternal light.
The torture instruments are shown in the White Tower too, and many of these brave martyrs felt the torture before they reached the light. The rack was very commonly used. On it men—yes, and women too—were sometimes stretched as on a bed; their wrists were tied with cords above their heads, and their ankles with cords to the other end of the rack. Then a man turned a handle, and the hands and feet were slowly drawn in opposite directions. The poor wretch might shriek and scream, or he might turn as white as death and let never a sound escape him; but it was all the same: the rack moved on. There was a doctor there to feel the victim's heart and say when he could bear no more without dying. And then, when that happened, perhaps he fainted with the agony and was released, and carried away to be allowed to recover a little, only to be brought back another day. Sometimes he would bear it bravely enough the first time, but at the second time his courage would give way, and he would cry out and say he[Pg 256] would do whatever it was his persecutors wanted, perhaps change his religion, perhaps reveal the names of his companions in a plot. There were other tortures, too—a kind of iron cage, called the Scavenger's Daughter, with a collar of iron to fasten round a man's neck and irons round his arms and legs, which cramped him up in an awful position, in which he was left for hours, until every bone ached as if it were red-hot. The thumbscrew was a little thing, but caused great agony. It was fixed on to anyone's thumb, and then made tighter and tighter, until sometimes the wretched victim fainted away. Another way that people were tortured was by being hung up by their thumbs, so that the whole weight of their bodies rested on the cords. In this position they were left for hours together.
There is a very beautiful chapel in the White Tower which we must certainly see. Outside in the garden, opposite to another chapel, called St. Peter ad Vincula, is the execution ground, where so many people were beheaded. But I think this is enough for one chapter, and we will learn something more about the Tower in the next.
Nearly all the people condemned to be beheaded at the Tower were executed on Tower Hill, which lies outside the walls; only a few who were of royal birth or especially favoured were beheaded inside the walls, where they could not be seen by the great multitude. And the plot of ground outside the chapel is the place where these favoured few were killed. We can stand now on the spot where gentle Lady Jane Grey laid her little head on the block. She was not the first near the throne to have been executed here. Two of the Queens of the bloodthirsty Henry VIII. had died at the same place—Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Both these Queens had been received here by Henry in great state before their marriages, and little had they thought when they arrived and were greeted with guns firing and flags flying that very soon the bell would be tolling for their death. It is difficult to believe in the cold-heartedness of a[Pg 258] man like Henry. Anne Boleyn was a bright, gay little woman; she was the mother of Queen Elizabeth, and she had done nothing whatever to merit death. But Henry had seen someone else he wanted to marry, so he ordered his wife to be beheaded. It is said that he waited under a great tree on a height in Richmond Park, some miles away, to see a rocket fired up from the Tower, which was to announce the death of Anne, and to let him know he could marry Jane Seymour. Anne had only been his wife three years when he tired of her, and she was twenty-nine when she was executed. Four years later the King married Katherine Howard, having had two wives—Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves—in between. Poor Katherine was Queen only for two years, when she followed Anne to the block.
The handsome and gallant Earl of Essex, who had been a favourite of Queen Elizabeth's, also suffered here. He had lost the Queen's favour, and, after having been one of the principal men at the Court, was treated with coldness and disdain. Essex's proud temper could not endure this, and he made plots against the Queen, one of which was to kidnap her and carry her off as his prisoner. Elizabeth heard of this, and sent her soldiers to[Pg 259] seize him. Essex had then a house in the Strand, near St. Clement's Church, and he barricaded his house and defied the Queen's soldiers. Nothing could have been more mad. Elizabeth was furious when she heard it. Cannon were placed on the tower of St. Clement's Church, and from there they were fired at the house of the reckless Earl, who was at last forced to submit. He was tried, found guilty of high treason, and condemned to death. But all the time Elizabeth, who must still have cared for the high-spirited Essex, felt sure that he would not really be killed; for long years before she had given him a ring, and told him that whenever he was in great need he had only to send that ring to her, and she would help him. So she expected to receive the ring from him, and was very slow in signing his death-warrant; but the ring never came, so she signed the warrant, and then she recalled it. Yet still there was no sign from Essex. Elizabeth began to grow uneasy, and thought perhaps that the Earl was too proud to ask help from her when he had defied her. Well, if that were so, she could do nothing to save him, for she was a queen, and was too proud to give help where it was not asked for; so she signed the death-warrant a second time. Meantime, Essex was in[Pg 260] the Tower, and he had remembered the ring and the Queen's promise; he had been rebellious and he was very proud, but now that he was going to die in the full strength of his manhood it did not seem too hard a thing to do to ask a favour from Elizabeth, who had been so kind to him and was his Queen. After all, he had behaved very badly, and he knew it, and it was right to ask pardon. Perhaps this was what he thought, and he gave the ring to the Countess of Nottingham to take to the Queen. But the Countess of Nottingham did not want the Earl to live; she was jealous of his influence over Elizabeth, and she thought that if she kept back the token Essex would surely die.
So the time slipped away, and Elizabeth in her palace and Essex in his prison both thought bitterly of each other. The execution drew very near, and at last one day in February Essex was brought out to die. Perhaps he thought up to the last minute that a messenger would ride up carrying a pardon from the Queen; but no, no one came, and at last he laid his head on the block, and perished thinking hard things of his Queen. Not long after the Countess of Nottingham herself fell ill, and on her deathbed confessed to Elizabeth the wicked thing she had done. The knowledge that[Pg 261] Essex had died believing her to have been faithless to her word so enraged the Queen that she said to the dying Countess: 'May God forgive you, for I never can!'
Many people spent most of their lives in the Tower. We have heard of Sir Walter Raleigh, who was here for fourteen years; but there were others imprisoned much longer. One man, a Duke of Orleans, afterwards King of France, was here for twenty-five years; and Lord Courtenay, son of the Earl of Exeter, who was of the Royal Family and descended from Edward IV., was kept in the Tower almost his whole life for fear that he might lay claim to the crown.
When the King or Queen of England used the Tower as a palace, the part they occupied was quite distinct from the prison. This part is now the Governor's house, and the Governor, who is called the Lieutenant of the Tower, lives in it. Here there are many splendid rooms, including a great council-room, where the King and his nobles used to meet for consultation. Underneath the house is a room where Lord Nithsdale was imprisoned, and the story of his escape from the Tower is one of the most exciting in all history.
In the reign of George I. a nobleman called the[Pg 262] Earl of Nithsdale had joined in a plot to restore the Stuarts to the throne. You will remember that after the reign of James II. people said that Prince James was not his son at all, but a baby which had been adopted by the King, who had no son of his own; and as this was generally believed, after the King had been driven into exile, his daughters, the Princesses Mary and Anne, came to the throne and reigned one after the other. When they died the English crown was offered to a distant cousin, who was George I. But many English noblemen and gentlemen said that this was unfair, and that the son of James II. and his son after him should have been King. We can never tell now which was right; but all this caused a great deal of unhappiness and much fighting. Those who took up the cause of the Stuarts were called Jacobites, and among this number was the Earl of Nithsdale. He was taken prisoner, and condemned by King George to die with several others, and he was sent to the Tower, there to wait his fate.
But he had a beautiful and determined wife, who was resolved to save his life. It was in the winter time, and, of course, there were then no trains to carry people swiftly and comfortably through the[Pg 263] frosty air. So she started on her journey from Scotland on horseback, and rode as far as Newcastle; but she was not a great horse-woman, and being wearied with her exertions, she there took a coach and proceeded to York, taking with her her faithful maid Evans. But when they got to York they found that so much snow had fallen that the coach could not go on to London at all. Now, all this time the days were passing, and every day that passed made Lord Nithsdale's execution nearer. His poor wife was in a terrible state of suspense; but she did not sit down and despair. She said that if there were no coach then must she ride to London. And so she did—rode about one hundred and eighty miles through all the snow, which was often up to her horse's girths, and at times she thought she would not be able to get through after all. But at last she did, and when she arrived in London her husband was still alive. Never thinking of herself or of her own weariness, Lady Nithsdale went to the Court, and used all the influence she possessed to get King George I. to pardon her husband. But he was an obstinate, cruel little man, and he refused even to hear her, though she flung herself before him and caught at his coat.
Then she saw that there was nothing for it but to help her husband to escape out of that gloomy Tower. She therefore begged permission to go to see him. At first even this was refused her, but she gave the guards money, and at last they let her into the Tower. What a meeting that must have been, and how cheered the husband must have been to think of the strong love that had made his wife do so much for his sake!
But they had little time to talk about what was past, for they had to arrange for the future. Brave Lady Nithsdale formed a plan, but to carry it out it was necessary to get the help of two other women. She found one in a Mrs. Mills, in whose house she was lodging, and after some difficulty she found another, a friend of Mrs. Mills, called Mrs. Morgan. Now, by this time it was the day before that fixed for Lord Nithsdale's execution, and everything depended on getting him out of the Tower at once. Lady Nithsdale told her companions of her plan, which was to make her husband walk out boldly through the guards dressed like a woman; and for this end she made Mrs. Morgan, who was a little fair, slim woman, wear two sets of clothes one over the other, and one set she meant that Lord Nithsdale should wear. Mrs. Mills was[Pg 265] a big, stout woman, with fair eyebrows and fair hair, and Lady Nithsdale hoped that when her husband came through dressed in woman's clothes the guards would think he was Mrs. Mills. When they arrived at the Tower, the poor wife got out and asked to be allowed to take a friend in to say farewell to her husband, and she was told she might take one lady in at a time. Accordingly, she and the thin Mrs. Morgan went in, and while they were in the cell where Lord Nithsdale was, Mrs. Morgan took off the extra clothes she had brought and left them for him to put on. Then she hurried back and told Mrs. Mills to come in. Lady Nithsdale ran to meet Mrs. Mills, who pretended to cry very much, and kept her handkerchief up to her face; and when she got into the cell they waited a little while and talked, for they hoped the gaolers, having seen some ladies passing backwards and forwards, would now forget how many had gone into the cell. After a time Mrs. Mills went out again, and Lady Nithsdale kept calling after her to tell her that she wanted her maid, and that the maid must come quickly, and then she went back again to her husband. She had painted his dark eyebrows fair, and she had put rouge on his cheeks and dressed him up in[Pg 266] her own petticoats and the clothes Mrs. Morgan had left; and she had told him not to stride like a man, but to take little mincing steps, so that the guards should not notice any difference. But there was one thing she could not hide, and that was his beard, and she had no time to cut it off; so she tucked it into his cloak in front, and told him to keep his head down and hold his handkerchief to his face and pretend to be crying bitterly. It was now getting dusky, and she was afraid that if they waited any longer the gaolers would bring candles and see what was being done. How the hearts of both husband and wife must have been beating when they opened the door and stepped forth into the anteroom where the guards were! Lady Nithsdale talked a good deal rather loudly, and said she could not understand why her maid had not come, and that she must come at once; and she begged her husband, whom she called 'Mrs. Betty,' to run down to her lodgings to see if the maid were there and send her to the prison. And when they got to the outer door she let him go, and ran back to the cell herself. Then she talked again as if she were talking to her husband, so that the gaolers should hear, and made answers for him in a deep man's voice. Brave heart! she must have been well-nigh fainting with terror, and expecting to hear every[Pg 267] minute a noise which would tell her she had been discovered. But after a time, when all seemed right, and when she could talk no more, she left the cell very slowly, and, shutting the door behind her, said to the gaolers that they need not take in lights until Lord Nithsdale asked for them, for he was praying, and did not wish to be disturbed. Then she went down to her coach.
And he really did get safely away; and the King was furious, and said Lady Nithsdale had given him more trouble than any woman in Europe. But Lady Nithsdale went and waited at a friend's house until she heard where her husband was in hiding in a little poor house, and then she joined him, and they stayed there together until things could be arranged for him to get over to France. A friend brought them a bottle of wine and some bread, and on this they lived from Thursday to Saturday. But I do not expect they cared much what they ate, they must have been so happy to be together again.
It was very seldom indeed anyone had escaped from the Tower. Once a man tried to, and let himself down by a rope from his window; but the rope broke, and he fell headlong and was killed. The countess's plan was much better. Luckily, she and her husband had good friends, and one of them lent Lord Nithsdale the livery of his servant,[Pg 268] and, pretending he was a footman, took him to Dover, where he got a boat and managed to cross over to France in safety. His estates were all taken from him, but that was a little thing when he had saved his life. His devoted wife joined him in Rome, and they lived abroad for the rest of their days.
Guy Fawkes, of whom we heard before, was examined in the King's house in the Tower, and the judges tried to make him give up the names of his companions; but villain as he was, Guy Fawkes was no coward, and he refused to turn traitor. Finding that he was obdurate, the judges decreed that he should suffer the torture of the rack, and accordingly he was racked again and again. At last in his agony he cried out that he would tell the history of the conspiracy, but not reveal the names of his fellow-conspirators. This was not enough. Once again he was brought to suffer the awful torture, and this time his gaolers told him that some of his comrades had been already taken, and were in the hands of the police. So Fawkes gave way and made a full confession, which was signed 'Guido Fawkes,' and is still kept. This was in November, and on the last day of the following January he and three of his associates were executed at Westminster.
They were brought from the Tower to be executed, and Guy Fawkes was so weak and ill from the terrible tortures he had suffered that he could scarcely climb up the scaffold.
In other parts of the Tower numbers of men and women were imprisoned, but we might as well write a history of England as tell all their stories here. In one tower there is the word 'Jane,' cut in the wall by Lady Jane Grey's husband, the young Lord Dudley, and on many of the walls are names and records cut by sorrowful men and women almost without hope.
It is all changed now. No longer sobs and cries and executions are here, but only the voices of soldiers drilling or calling out to one another, the voices of little children at play on the wharf by the river, or of visitors who come to see the place. The soldiers are in barracks in the Tower, and they drill in the bottom of the deep moat, which is now quite dry.
If we pass from the Tower we shall find outside Tower Hill, where by far the greater number of executions took place. It is just a wide, open space, paved like a street or market-place, and many people walk over it every day without giving a thought to all that has happened there in bygone times.
If you go to the Zoological Gardens you ought to be a good walker and not easily tired. The animals are in cages, but they are not all close together; there are long stretches of green grass and trees and beautiful flower-beds between, and to go over the Zoo thoroughly takes a very long time. But it is not likely that any of you would want to know it thoroughly; the things you want most to look at are not the curious rare small animals or different sorts of birds, but the largest and best-known animals, such as the lions and tigers, the bears, elephants, and giraffes. Of all these the lions are the most interesting.
If we arrive at the Zoo a little before four o'clock in the afternoon we ought to go straight to the lion-house, for four o'clock is the lions' dinner-time. The house is light and warm, and the cages are all down one side in a row. Behind them are the railed-in gardens belonging to the beasts; but[Pg 271] sometimes the doors between are shut, and the lions are not allowed to walk in their gardens. On fine sunny days, however, we can see them there outside, licking their great lips and rolling about lazily on the warm ground. In the lion house about ten minutes to four all the great animals begin to get restless; they walk up and down and whine or howl, and as four o'clock draws near they get more and more excited, some of them going round and round in circles, always quicker and quicker. Though they have no watches, they know the time exactly, which is rather wonderful, for there is nothing to tell them four o'clock is near. This is their one meal in the day, so no wonder they look forward to it; and when you see what they get, it doesn't seem much for such a great big animal as a lion. Soon a rumbling sound is heard, and a little truck laden with raw meat runs up through a little passage between the cages, and the keeper pushes it along the front of the cages to the end. Then the animals get frantic; the sight of the raw meat makes them savage; they leap and howl—great howls that would make your blood run cold if you heard them on a dark night when you were out in the forest. The animal that goes round in circles[Pg 272] goes so fast he nearly tumbles on his head, and the others trot backwards and forwards, and all is noise and confusion. The keeper undoes a bar at the bottom of the cage, which leaves just enough room to put the meat in; then he picks out the piece he means for that animal and thrusts it through at the end of an iron rod. The lion or tiger pounces on it, and growling, carries it into a corner of its den. The keeper replaces the bar, and goes on to the next one, and so on until all are fed. Then a deep silence follows; there is only a licking of great lips, a sort of purring of content, and a sound of bones being crunched or scraped, and we can look at the animals more easily than when they are running about. Here in front is a magnificent lion, with a great tawny mane; his broad nose is wrinkled as he crunches his bone. He has torn all the meat off it almost at once, and his rough tongue has licked it clean until it is quite polished; but he still goes on chewing it with those huge white teeth as long as your finger—teeth that would crunch through your arm in a moment. This old fellow is usually good-tempered for a lion, but when feeding-time comes his wife Mrs. Lioness has to go into the back den shut off by a little door to eat her dinner alone, or they would fight. Suddenly Mr. Lion[Pg 273] raises his head and looks round grandly, as if he were ashamed of all those people who come to stare at him. He was a king in his own country, and now, alas! he is only a captive king. Perhaps he sees a woman carrying a little baby in her arms, and he fixes his eyes on that baby until it is out of sight. What a delicious morsel it would make for dessert! But he knows he cannot get through his bars; he learnt that long ago when he was first brought here. He was not born in the Zoo—oh no; he had been caught when he was full grown. He remembers quite well the wild, free life, where, if he were not sure of a dinner every day, at least every now and then he got more than he could eat. While he licks his bone he is in a quiet mood, and if you listened very hard you might hear him talking.
'Yes,' he says (Lick, lick), 'that bone was very good, but there wasn't enough on it, and now I'm not going to get any more until to-morrow. Oh, those stupid humans, how they do stare! Have they never seen a gentleman eat his dinner before? They would open those silly round eyes a bit wider if these bars were not between us. I wish they could have seen me that day we caught the zebra. It was grand that!' (Lick, lick.) 'I had hunted all one night without getting even the whisk of a tail;[Pg 274] and also during the day in the glaring, hot African sun, when I wanted to go to sleep; and I was very hungry. We, I and my wife, lay down in the shade a little while towards evening before we parted to see what we could pick up. There were the little ones to be considered, for when they had come running up and seen me with nothing, all their little tails dropped down, and you never saw such a set of little cats in your life. I told them I would bring them something next time for certain; and so I set off alone, as I said before, in the evening.
'The sun had burnt up all the grass, which was a kind of dusty brick-red colour; but that's not a bad thing for a lion, because he doesn't show against it. It was a very wide open plain where I was, with just a few shrubs and odd bits of tree for shelter. Well, I crouched down under one of these, trying to make myself as small as I could, and praying that the still air wouldn't send the smell of me over the plain to warn all those silly creatures I wanted to catch.
'Presently I smelt zebra. Now, good tender zebra makes a dish fit for a king, but the brute can trot at such a rate that I knew I shouldn't have a chance to catch him running. I must hide[Pg 275] and leap out. The smell got stronger and stronger, and then I saw them half a mile off, a whole herd, galloping just as straight as they could come towards my hiding-place. I grew hot and cold then, I can tell you, and my tail quivered so I was afraid they would see it. I was in fine condition, and I reckoned that at the distance they would pass I could just by a very long spring land on the back of the leader. But then they might at any moment scent me, and I should be done for; up with their heels, and nothing more of supper should I see but a cloud of dust. So I waited, and they came right on. I shook with excitement. Then, just at the right moment, I gathered myself up, and with a great spring I cleared the distance and landed clean on the back of the leader. That was a surprise for him, I can tell you. He went down as if he had been shot, and the others, with snorts of terror, flew away like the wind. One stroke of my paw killed him, and then I stood up over his striped and quivering body and roared as loud as I could for my wife and little ones. They weren't far off, and they came as fast as they could; and to see those little beggars dancing about that zebra was a sight, almost as good a feeling it gave me as when I landed on that zebra's back. It had[Pg 276] been a record jump that. We measured it afterwards in strides, and my wife said she was proud of me, and she always knew I could jump better than any other lion in South Africa.
'Well, those little beggars jumped on that zebra, and bit at him; but the skin was too tough for their little teeth, bless them! It was the funniest sight. But when the old woman and I started in, we did more than that, I can tell you; we tore off great chunks of him, and the little ones ate what they could. They got in the way, too, and we had to give them a slap now and then to keep them in order; and they snarled and swore at each other until their mother had to quiet them. When we had done we felt as if we could hardly walk, and we just wanted to get home as fast as we could and do no more that night. We had pretty well finished up that zebra before we walked off, and the vultures came hopping round to clean up what we had left. I was feeling all right then, and we lay down comfortable and satisfied. Oh dear! I had quite forgotten where I was; and now I wake up to find myself in this dull place, where there is no hunting and no fun, where we are caged up in horrid bars.'
Just as the lion finished speaking, Mrs. Lioness[Pg 277] came out from the inner den. She was not nearly so handsome as her husband, and he thought her not nearly so handsome as his first wife, who had hunted with him in South Africa; still, she was company, and that was something.
We have stayed a long time at this lions' cage, and we must pass over all the rest of the lions—some of them born in captivity, who have never known the delight of a wild, free life—and go on to the great striped Bengal tiger, with his magnificent head and handsome face. There is not the same tremendous strength in his appearance as in the lion's, but there is something almost more terrible in his long, gliding body and catlike movements, more ferocious altogether. In the wild state the lion prefers to prey upon animals, and will not turn on man unless he is desperate. But a tiger sometimes takes to the life of a man-eater for no reason but because he likes the taste of human flesh; and once he has begun to eat human beings, he is a man-eater to the end of his days. He turns man-eater sometimes, too, when he is old and his strong teeth fail; and then he will hang about outside villages to pounce on a soft-flesh man, who is easier to catch than a wild animal.
Tigers are very fierce; a mother tiger with her[Pg 278] cubs will attack anything. When the cubs are little she teaches them to hunt for themselves, taking them out with her on expeditions and showing them how to catch smaller animals, such as young calves or pigs, until they are strong enough to hunt larger ones, when they leave her and begin housekeeping on their own account. A great many tigers live in India, and many a wretched native has ended his life by being caught by one of them. You would think, to look at the royal tiger, with his reddish markings and black stripes, that he could be easily seen at a great distance, but this is not so. In the jungle where he lives the stems of the bamboos are light, and the markings of the tiger are so like his surroundings that you might get quite close to him and never know it. He walks through the dense thick jungle with the loose, springy step of a cat, and woe be to any luckless animal he sees! Sometimes he will find an enclosure with some young bullocks in it; then he will take one, and leave the others, for, unless he is a very young tiger, he does not kill for the love of it, but for food. He carries off his prey, and comes back a night or two after for a second one; and if the owner of the bullocks does not remove them he will soon have none left.
Quite near to the lion house, on the other side, is the reptile house, where live snakes, crocodiles, and lizards, and all sorts of curious animals. The most interesting are the enormous snakes, called boa-constrictors, with bodies nearly as thick as a child's, and many yards in length. They are not in cages, but in glass houses, like glass boxes. The glass is very thick and strong, and the snake does not dash himself against it to get out. He would not take the trouble to do that, for he moves slowly, and when you see him at the Zoo you would think him very lazy. There he lies, with his oily body, covered with little scales, hanging round the branch of a dead tree which has been put into his house, or perhaps lying coiled up on the gravel floor in rings and rings, so beautifully neat that you wonder how he can take the trouble to fold himself up so nicely before he goes to sleep. He certainly would not get crumpled if he lay anyhow, as your clothes would get crumpled if you did not fold them up. Watch him very closely. You can see he breathes, and perhaps he glances up and winks with one eye, or darts out a wicked little tongue. How can a creature like that, so big and so slow, ever get any food? Well, he can go fast enough at times, and he does not often want a[Pg 280] meal, because he eats so much at one time that it lasts him for many days. He writhes his great body along the ground in the thick woods of his native country, and lies so still that you might tread on him without seeing him. He lives in Brazil and other parts of South America. Perhaps a young deer comes down to drink, all unconscious of the hideous beast lying in watch. He stoops his pretty head, then, with a writhing movement, the boa is upon him. The deer struggles frantically, but the great folds of the snake close ever tighter and tighter round him with a strength that breaks his delicate bones and squeezes the life out of him. When the animal, crushed and breathless, ceases to struggle, the boa opens his gaping mouth, and bit by bit the whole animal—it may be still palpitating—is forced into that awful throat. The snake cannot tear his prey; he has no hands or feet, no claws or hoofs. He can only swallow it whole. It would seem impossible sometimes that he could get that mass into his comparatively narrow throat; but his muscles are elastic. He stops half-way through his horrid meal and lies still to rest, then another swallow and another. In the meantime, his teeth, like little sharp saws bent backwards, covering all the roof of his mouth as well as the[Pg 281] jaws, are firmly fixed into the victim, so that it cannot draw back. When the disgusting meal is done the great snake lies helpless and swollen, and has to wait until his food is digested before he can get about comfortably.
When he is in the Zoo he doesn't get anything so large as a deer, but rabbits and small things that he can swallow easily, and frogs, of which all snakes are very fond, perhaps because they are slimy and slip down quickly. There are many other snakes beside the boa, some not so large, but more poisonous. The boa is not poisonous. He relies on his huge strength to kill his enemies; but other snakes, such as vipers and rattlesnakes, are. Even when the head of a viper has been cut off it still remains poisonous, and may cause death. The rattlesnake is so called because it makes a funny rattle with its tail before it strikes. It is about five feet long sometimes, and the sound of its rattle sends terror into the heart of anyone who is near, as he knows that at any moment the snake may dart out upon him with its hideous head aloft and its wicked eyes gleaming. The rattlesnake is found in North America.
The reptile house has been rebuilt and is very hot and damp, to suit the animals who live[Pg 282] there. In the middle there is a large tank with numbers of ugly crocodiles living in it. They are dark greeny-brown, like a log that has been a long time in the water, and if you were floating down the Nile, or any river where crocodiles live, in a boat, and saw something floating that you thought a bit of old wood, it might very likely be the back or head of a crocodile. He has a bony coat like a suit of armour, and it would be very difficult indeed to break through it, and he swims along, using both his strong tail and his flat feet. He is what is called an amphibious animal, because he lives partly on land and partly in the water. He must breathe air, but he can shut up his nostrils by a fold of skin as we shut our eyes, and can remain under the water without breathing for some time. His enormous jaws are like a pair of great shears, and woe be to any animal or man who gets his leg between them. It will be cut off as cleanly as the gardener cuts a tall flower with his shears. The crocodile lives in water, and catches fish and other things; he comes out at times and lies on the banks, and in the evening, when the land animals come down to drink, he hides himself in the water, and catches anything he can with his ugly snout. Fancy a dainty antelope finding suddenly that his[Pg 283] delicate nose was pinched tightly by Mr. Crocodile's teeth, and that he was being drawn down, down to a hideous death!
But we have stayed much too long in the reptile house, and have not even mentioned the pretty little green frogs and the many other things to be found there.
On the other side of the lion house, away from the reptiles, is the sea-lions' pond. Sea-lions are not the least little bit like real lions, but when sailors heard them roaring on the rocks far out to sea they thought they must be lions, and so they gained the name. There are several of them at the Zoo, huge clumsy looking creatures with big whiskers, and a skin like india-rubber. At one end of their pond is a mass of artificial rock with caves and terraces, and when the sea-lions are out of the water they gallop about on this in an astonishing way, considering that they have no legs, and only end in a fish's tail. They lollop along on two front flippers and their strong muscular tail, and then plunge off the rocks into the water as quick as a flash of light. Once in the water they seem to be everywhere at once, their movements are so fast and graceful. Diving at one end of the pond, they are up at the other before you have had time to take breath.
The best time to see them is when they are fed, which is after the real lions. The keeper goes into the enclosure with a basket of fish, and in their excitement the sea-lions writhe and wind and chase each other till the pond seems full of gigantic eels. He throws the fish one by one in all directions, and the great beasts simply dance after them. Even after the last fish has gone, still the happy commotion continues for several minutes.
A great change was made in the Zoo when the Mappin terraces were built. These were presented by a Mr. Mappin who wanted the animals to be seen in a more natural state than is possible when they are in cages. The great idea is that the animals are not separated from the sight-seers by bars, but by a very deep and wide ditch, ditch isn't the right word, fosse would be better, but fosse is not a very common word.
Across this, people can look at the bears in safety, and see them far better than under the old conditions; while the bears themselves are in the open air, and have a good space to roam over and a fine pond to bathe in. They are some beautiful shaggy brown bears here, just the very model on which Teddy bears are made; and, if you are kind to them, and throw them bits of biscuits across the[Pg 285] fosse, some of them will sit up in the most engaging way and hug their hind feet, rocking themselves backwards and forwards in their excitement about the promised dainty.
High over the bears' open places, rise rocks on which various sorts of chamois and goats live happily. They can climb far above our heads and look down on us, or leap from rock to rock as if they were in their native haunts. I often wonder what they think of the bears running about below them! Sometimes they must watch in surprise as they see the bears chasing each other. There are one or two together in most of the big spaces, and they go through the most absurd antics, plunging in and out of their ponds, and eyeing one another cautiously as they stand with the water running off their fur.
There are a great many other bears too, for whom there is not room on the Mappin terraces. These are in the old bear-quarters, which look rather like two rows of open fronted shops standing back to back. Here are black bears with big yellow or white collars and very smooth coats. They come from Malay, and are not at all like one's ordinary idea of a bear. There are also funny little bears who go head-over-heels to make people look at[Pg 286] them. There is an open cage here, too, with a pond in it. Sometimes the grizzlies live here; very fearful they look too, with their terrible claws, as long as fingers. Or there may be a family of young ones romping together.
Bears are to be found in nearly all parts of the world, and they are very different from one another. Bears in their natural state would not attack men, but when men follow them up and try to hunt them they become very savage. There is a bear-pit at the end of the double row of cages, and if we go up on the top and look down we shall see the two brown bears who climb up a pole to get buns.
Now we will go back again to visit the Polar bears who live in a spacious place at the end of the Mappin terraces, and deserve a little more attention than the rest because they are so very different in their appearance and habits.
One day I caught Mr. Polar Bear in a good humour, so that he was actually willing to talk to me. 'It's not so bad here sometimes,' said he. 'The keeper does give us plenty of fish. It isn't so good as seal, though. That's what I like—seal rich and juicy, and almost alive. But it doesn't matter much, after all, for I have no appetite, it's so hot, always hot; my great thick coat makes me feel[Pg 287] abominably warm. The only comfortable place is the bath, and that's lukewarm. Cold, do you call it? Oh, you don't know what cold is—real keen, cutting cold, which makes one feel young again and ready for anything. Oh for those long blue Arctic nights, when the sun never rises for days together, and the stars flash like diamonds, and the aurora shoots over the gleaming sky!—nights when everything is still, held in the grip of a frost greater than you can imagine; where for miles and miles there is only the glittering ice reflecting the flashing sky and the deep blue shadows under hillocks of frozen snow. Then it's worth while to live. Shall I ever see it again? My wife used to say before she died that she didn't know what was the matter with me, I had grown so cross; I only growled at her. But I knew what was the matter with me. I can't breathe here, it's all so stuffy and dull—no excitement. You've never caught a seal in your life? Then you don't know what excitement is. You just try, and then come and tell me if it isn't the best sport in the world. These seals—silly things!—make holes in the ice, and come up to breathe now and then; and these holes are regular traps. Right down below the ice-cold water lies fathoms deep, still and dark, and we cannot get[Pg 288] the silly things there; but here in the ice is a nice little round hole. I have been walking with great long silent strides over the beautiful frosty snow, and I come on one of these, and lie down beside it, hiding myself. I have to be very still; the slightest movement would send Mr. Seal far away. When I have waited there hour after hour, perhaps I hear a faint sound in the water, a little ripple, so faint that anyone not used to it would never notice it; and then I feel thrills all over me. By-and-by the silly round head of the seal peers out, all glistening with the wet. I am lying behind a hummock of snow—we call them hummocks there—and he looks all round, and finally drags himself up on to the ice; then with a bound I am on him. But there is only time for one try—he is as quick as lightning, I can assure you—and if I miss him, he's into that hole and down, down, down for ever, and there's my supper gone too. But if I get him, what a juicy feast, what masses of soft flesh and oily fat, what tearing and rending! Ah, the taste of seal!'
He licked his lips, was silent suddenly; then, with a great growl, turned away. He had remembered where he was, poor fellow, and that the joys of seal-hunting would never be his any more!
We are now not far from the monkey house, where there are great cages the height of a room, with bars filled in by wire to prevent the monkeys from getting their little hands through to snatch, for if ever any saying was justified it is that one, 'as mischievous as a monkey'; yet, in spite of the bars, mischief is sometimes done. Stand near with a hat trimmed with flowers, and you will not have to wait long to prove it. That large monkey who has been sitting in a corner very quietly spies the brilliant flowers. He begins to move slowly and stealthily; then, with a sudden wild spring, almost before you realize what has happened, he has grabbed the bright flowers, torn them out, and danced back to the very highest corner of his cage, where, jabbering with delight, he picks the petals off one by one, and lets them float down to the ground. He is big, so none of the others dare take his prize from him; but woe betide any little[Pg 290] monkey who finds such a treasure. He darts off with it, and then begins a wild race right across the cage; one monkey after another joins in, leaping in the air from one swinging rope to another, and springing up the bars of the cage. The little monkey jumps, catches a rope, drops to the ground, and springs at another rope. Now he is in a corner, the others have him; but no, with a dive and a wriggle he has slipped through them, and is chattering and grimacing on the other side of the cage.
Feed one of them with nuts, a little wrinkled black hand is put out to receive them; if you touch it, you will feel it cold and clammy. The little black palm holds the nuts for a second, and then the monkey crams them into its cheek, which makes a sort of pouch, and, retiring to the top of the cage, cracks them one by one, throwing down the shells just as a boy would do. They are very human the monkeys; you cannot help feeling all the time they know a great deal more than they pretend. Have you ever looked into a monkey's eyes? If not, do so the next time you have the chance; they are the saddest eyes on earth—just as if the poor little monkey thought a great many things in his small head, but could never express them, and so was very unhappy. There are a large[Pg 291] number of monkeys at the Zoo; they are never still, and so funny that they make you laugh outright sometimes. The bigger monkeys, which are called apes, are also very interesting, but are in another house altogether. They have glass in front of their cages. Of all of them the chimpanzees are the most human, and one or two of these are in separate cages, where they are bathed in artificial sunlight all day long to keep them in good health, as they are very delicate.
One of the latest additions to the Zoo is a wonderful Aquarium, where all sorts of strange fishes and sea-creatures can be seen swimming about in natural surroundings, lit from above. From the huge wicked-looking octopuses with their snake-like feelers, to the tiny sea-horses with heads very like those of the knights in chess pieces, there are wonders untold.
On this side of the Gardens there are many things we have not yet seen, but we must leave them and see the big animals, the elephants and rhinoceroses. To reach these, we go through a tunnel and come up on the other side.
The first thing we see here is a row of most brilliantly coloured parrots; I do not suppose you ever saw such colours anywhere else—the brightest reds and blues and greens and oranges,[Pg 292] all in the same bird. It seems almost impossible to believe that the feathers really grow like that; it seems as if someone must have taken a big paintbrush and daubed on the colours. If it is warm and fine the parrots are out of doors, each sitting on a perch, and tied by a little thin chain to one leg. What must it be to see them in their own native forests flying about among the green trees? Fancy, if we came across a great bird, as large as the largest doll, brilliantly coloured, flying about in the garden at home! The parrots come from South America, New Zealand, and Australia; so they like hot countries, but they seem to do very well in England, and look quite perky and happy. I will tell you what I think is the reason of this, the parrots are so conceited that they are pleased when people admire them, and they like nothing better than to be at the Zoo, where dozens of people come past every day and say:
'Oh, just look at that one! Did you ever see such a beauty? Look at his scarlet and blue! Now, who would have thought a bird could be like that?'
On dull or cold days the parrots are indoors, and if you go into their house you will hear a tremendous noise. All of them are shrieking and screaming at once. Perhaps suddenly in the midst[Pg 293] of all this din you will hear a funny parrot voice saying: 'Thank you, my dear; Polly's quite well,' which will make you jump. When you turn round you will see it is one of the birds who is talking. They cannot all talk, and those who do just know a sentence or two without knowing the sense of it, and say it on all occasions; but very proud they are of the accomplishment. There are dear little green parrakeets, too, who fly about in flocks in Australia, looking like flights of animated green leaves.
Besides parrots there are in the same house toucans, birds who have enormous bills and rather small bodies—in fact, they seem to have spent their time growing bills. The bill, or beak, is like the claw of a lobster, and is rich orange colour. The toucan's eye has bright blue round it, and round that again orange colour. The bird himself is black, but he has tips of scarlet on his costume and a white throat, so he is altogether very grand, and he is so solemn that you think he must imagine himself very superior.
Just beyond the parrot house is a long range of buildings like a large stable, and here are the elephants and other big animals. Perhaps the elephant is out earning his living by walking round[Pg 294] the Gardens with a seat on his back, on which anyone can have a ride who likes. He is very gentle and tame, though his enormous height and great swinging trunk make him appear rather fearful.
If he is at home, and we pay him a visit, he coils up his trunk or lifts it over his head, and shows a huge three-cornered mouth, into which, he gently insinuates, he would like you to throw biscuits. There are both Indian and African elephants, and the African are generally the larger.
Elephants as a rule have very good characters, and get fond of their keepers. They are big and gentle; yet in some cases they have suddenly turned savage without any apparent reason. In the wild state they live in dense forests, and unless they were very strong and their hides were very thick they could never get through the trees and shrubs at all; but they force them asunder with their great strength, and snap the long twining plants that hang from tree to tree. Any other animal would be wounded and torn with the spikes and thorns, but the elephant's hide is as strong as a board. He does not mind prickles, and the only sensitive part of him is just behind the ear, so when he is tamed a man sits on his neck, and with a little sharp-pointed spike pricks him behind the ear[Pg 295] on the side he wants him to go. It does not hurt, but the elephant feels it and soon understands, and follows the directions as a horse follows the pull of the reins in driving. Elephants live entirely on green food and vegetables, and never want to eat flesh. In their forests they can find plenty of food, and they tear down great branches of rich trees with their long trunks, and then strip the leaves off neatly and put them into their mouths. When the elephant is thirsty he goes to a deep watercourse and drinks, and then, sucking up water in his trunk, he squirts it over his back and sides in a cooling shower-bath.
If you understood elephant language, and came here one evening when the day's work was done and there were no other people about, you might hear the elephants talking.
'Those silly fools of humans!' says the Indian elephant; 'not one of them can throw straight. I can tell you half my time is spent in picking up the bits of biscuit they mean to throw into my mouth and throw somewhere else. I would have a school for teaching them to throw straight if I were in authority. The bits are so little when you get them too—mere atoms.'
'Always thinking about eating,' says the African[Pg 296] one, who is a lady. 'Really, I wish they would give you more hay or something to stuff yourself up with. For me, I don't care what I have to eat, but I do long for a little heat and a good plunge in a real river with soft muddy banks instead of my wretched tank sometimes.'
'Ah!' the Indian elephant answers, 'is there anything like it, that plunge after a long, hot, sleepy day, when one has stood about under the trees? I used to have a particular tree I always went and leaned against. It just fitted my side, and I wore the trunk quite smooth. And there I stood all the long, hot day, with sound of the rich forest life in my ears, the buzz and hum of the myriad things that fly and swarm, and the dense leaves kept off the sun; it was dark and hot. Then, when evening came, and it grew a little cooler, we used to join together, all of us who belonged to the same herd, and go down to the water. Then what romping and splashing, what trumpeting and fun! We squirted each other with mud and water, and came out fresh and cool. Ah, those were grand times!'
'You were a fool to get caught,' said the African one rudely, for she had not very good manners. 'How did it happen?'
The Indian elephant looked quite sad, and winked his little eyes as if he thought he should cry. 'It was a terrible story that,' he said, 'and the lesson is, never depend on women. I met one day a handsome elephant in the forest, who seemed to me the nicest I had ever seen. She was not very big, but her ears were particularly large, and hung down so gracefully; and as for her feet, I don't think I've ever seen such beautiful great flat feet on an elephant. Well, I loved her, and she seemed to like me, and we talked together and rubbed trunks, and were very happy, and I forgot where I was quite; and the next thing was I found I was shut in between high palisades, and when I tried to get out the gate was shut. And then men threw ropes over me, and tied my feet to great poles; and the wicked little elephant ran away grinning, for she was a decoy. You've heard of them perhaps—elephants who are tamed by humans, who teach them to be wicked and go out into the forest just in order to trap their own kind and bring them into captivity? It was sad, very sad!'
'But you are happy and contented here as a rule,' said the African.
'Yes, yes, I can't grumble; they are very good to me, and I get some exercise walking about, and[Pg 298] as some day I shall grow old, it's as well, perhaps, to be looked after. It's terrible to be old when one lives in the forest; besides, I should feel strange to go back to the old life. I've been here now thirty years.'
'And I twenty. How time does go past!'
All this and much more you might hear if you knew the elephants' language, for they are quite too clever not to have some means of talking to each other.
The rhinoceros is very different. His eyes are wicked, he turns his head from side to side; he would like to stick that horn at the end of his nose into you if he could, and, holding you down with his great flat feet, rummage about inside you with it, and you would not live very long under that treatment. His skin hangs in great thick folds like plates of armour, and is so loose that it looks as if his tailor had fitted him very badly. He is much smaller than the elephant, and his thick-set body shows great strength. He is hideously ugly according to our ideas; but rhinoceros' ideas are different, and he would probably think the smooth pink-and-white skin of a child hideous. He lives in the jungle and eats the leaves of trees, which he tears off with his long upper lip. Some [Pg 299]rhinoceroses have two horns on their nose and some only one. You can see both sorts in the Gardens. When the rhinoceros in its wild state has a little calf, as its young one is called, the little one runs along in front of the mother at the sound of any danger, and the mother follows in a wallowing trot behind, so that if necessary her body could guard it from danger. Sometimes hunters shoot rhinoceroses and kill them, and then eat part of them, which they say is very good, just like beef.
After leaving the elephant and rhinoceros house, we pass some sheds and yards, with deer and other animals, and then come to another set of buildings like stables, where there are the hippopotami and giraffes. If you thought the rhinoceros ugly, what will you think of the hippopotamus, with his great shovel-like nose and little ears? He looks like a stupid fat pig, only many, many times larger than the largest pig that ever lived. There are two of these animals in the Gardens now—a lady hippo, born at the Zoo, and about thirty years old, and another, quite a boy yet, only ten or eleven years old, who was born in the Zoological Gardens at Antwerp. Neither of them have known what it is to wallow in the soft mud on the sides of rivers or the joy of living wild and free; they are fat, sleepy,[Pg 300] stupid, and contented. There is a tank in their yard at the back, and they are free to walk out as much as they please. Sometimes they lie in the water with only their backs out for a whole afternoon at a time.
The yards of the giraffe are next door, but separated by a high wire fence, so that even the long neck of the giraffe cannot bend over and touch the hippos. Of all animals, the giraffe is, perhaps, the most odd, his neck is so very long, and his markings so rich. He looks as if he had a stiff neck, he holds his head so high, and seems so grand. Giraffes are very delicate animals, and great care must be taken of them. When you think how difficult it must be to bring an animal with a neck like that over the sea and in a railway train to England, it seems wonderful that the Zoo ever owns one at all. Giraffes live on the open plains in Africa, and if they take fright they fly away over the ground with their long legs, covering yards at each stride. If ever a hunter gets near enough to one to throw a rope round him, he may think himself lucky indeed. If a giraffe has been caught like this, the hunters draw him, kicking and struggling, up to a tree, tie him there, and leave him to fight and try to get free for a whole[Pg 301] day and a night; sometimes he fights so desperately that he kills himself. However, if he is still alive in the morning, the hunters come and find him exhausted, and they can then take him away without so much danger of being killed by a blow from his great hoof or a swing of his hard head, which he uses to strike with. Once down at the sea, a special place has to be made in the ship so that his long neck may not be cramped; and when landed in England there is a long box-like arrangement fitted on to a compartment of a train, and this can be bent down flat along the roof of the train when it passes under a tunnel. Just think of the many difficulties there are before a giraffe can be transferred from his native plains to England! If you look at a tall giraffe, with his sad, lovely eyes, you will think it cruel that he should be brought into captivity; but, after all, when he is here he is well looked after, and everything is done to make him comfortable. And if he had not been brought here, thousands of people would never have seen one of the most curious animals in the world. The giraffes at the Zoo are continually changing, for though some have been born here, they do not live long, and new ones have to be brought from Africa at great cost.
Not far from the giraffe house are the zebras, with their beautiful black and white stripes, looking like wonderfully marked donkeys. They are very wild and untameable and of uncertain temper; it is best not to go too near them. Well, with the zebras we have finished seeing all the well-known animals of the larger kinds, and so we must say good-bye to the Zoo, perhaps to come again another day.
The British Museum is a very wonderful place, so wonderful that few people understand what they see there. They wander along the corridors looking vaguely at the cases of precious and rare objects on every side; they are impressed by the size of the place, but they do not come to the Museum with the idea of looking for anything particular, and they go away without learning anything. No one man, however clever, could understand about all the things that he will find there; and as for a child appreciating even a small part of the treasures there collected, it is impossible. Supposing a very clever man, who had travelled in many foreign countries, had begun while he was still young to gather together all the valuable and curious things he saw to make a little museum, that would be worth seeing; but probably it would be made up of only certain things that that particular man liked and understood. Now, the British[Pg 304] Museum is the museum belonging to the nation, and instead of only certain things being collected, there are curious and valuable things belonging to every kind of study. For instance, if you were studying the different nations or wild tribes of the earth, you would find things belonging to various tribes of people in the Museum; or if you were interested in rare old books, you would find more of them at the Museum than anywhere; or if you wanted to find out anything in any branch of study, you would find clever men at the Museum who would help you.
Sometimes a man who has made a collection of interesting things in his lifetime leaves it to the Museum at his death, or perhaps the Museum buys his collection for the nation; and so every year more and more things are accumulated, until the value of the treasures stored in the great building is greater than anyone could imagine. I expect when you have read all this you will say: 'Then do let us go to the Museum. Even if I don't understand, I'd like to see it.'
So we will go to this solid massive building across the wide space of gravel in front, where the pigeons wheel round our heads and run about on the ground almost under our feet, up the wide,[Pg 305] shallow steps under the huge columns into the great entrance-hall. It is all free. The smallest child and the most important man can walk in there alike without anyone's asking questions. As we stand in the entrance-hall there is a wide staircase on one side, and in front of us are swinging glass doors leading by a passage to a great room called the reading-room. To go into this room it is necessary to get permission from the attendants in the hall, who make you sign your name on a piece of paper. Once inside, the size of the vast room almost takes your breath away. There is a great dome ceiling, and the walls are lined with books; there are shelves upon shelves, and thousands and thousands of them. In the middle of the room is a circular desk, where some men are sitting; and round this desk, again, there are shelves lined with huge books, and all these books are filled with nothing but the names of the other books which are kept at the Museum, and which anyone can see by taking certain precautions. People are allowed to walk in just to see the room, by asking in the hall; but if anyone wants to study here he has to write beforehand for a ticket, then he can go in and look in the catalogue (that is what the big books full of names are called) for the[Pg 306] book he wants. He writes it on a slip of paper, and puts on the paper also the number of any seat in the room he has chosen. Then he places the piece of paper in a basket and goes away and waits, perhaps twenty minutes, for the books he wants—for he can ask for any number at one time—and presently a man brings them to him.
From the centre desk there are other long lines of desks like the spokes of a wheel stretching out from the middle to the sides of the room, and here numbers of people sit reading all day long. It is very interesting that so many people should work so hard. Look at one of them. He is an old clergyman, gray-haired, and with many wrinkles on his face. He is reading books of sermons so that he can preach next Sunday a sermon made up out of the books. Next to him is a young girl dressed very plainly. She has eyeglasses on, and looks severe. She belongs to an office, and has been sent down here to write out some quotations from a book that cannot be got anywhere else than at the Museum. She earns her living by working for the office, and she likes it very much, and would not change her life with another girl who drives about in a carriage dressed in fifty-guinea frocks,[Pg 307] and pays calls on rich people, even if she could. Near her there is a dark-skinned man, a negro. What can he want? Perhaps he is working up to pass an examination. And near him is a worn, tired-looking old fellow, who has gone to sleep over his books. He was well-off once and enjoyed his life, and many people were glad to be invited to his house. But he was foolish and lost all his money, and now he comes up and asks for a few books just as a pretence, so that he can sit there in the warmth and comfort for a little while. There are many authors in the room busy making books, books, still more books, out of those that have been already written. When will it stop?
A copy of every book that is published has to go to the British Museum. The publishers are bound by law to send a copy here, and so hundreds of books pour in continually; there is no end to them. Even in the days of Solomon it was said: 'Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.' But the books that were then written were as nothing to those that have since been written, and every year brings forth more than the one preceding.
You have noticed that round this vast room the walls are covered with books looking gloomy and[Pg 308] grey. But these are only a tiny part of the books stored here. If you ask the attendant in charge he will take you behind those walls, where you will think you have stepped straight into a dream-world, for there are passages and passages all lined with books. You might lose yourself, and wander on and on between streets of books higher than your head for many and many an hour. But the storage of books is not the only difficulty the librarian has. He has to keep copies of all the principal newspapers, too. Now, a newspaper in itself is a little thing, small and thin; but when you think of newspapers by the hundred, newspapers by the thousand, going on growing and accumulating, then you can understand how difficult it must be to find room for them all.
Well, we can leave the book-room and go to other parts of the Museum. We can wander down corridors filled with beautiful statues or with mighty, enormous figures, far bigger than you can conceive until you have seen them—figures whose fist is bigger than your whole body, whose fingers are about the size of you, made by the ancient Egyptians, the wonderful people who held the Israelites in captivity—great frowning, mighty figures brought here from across the sea. Or you[Pg 309] can go down other corridors lined with many things from savage lands—curious ornaments and boats, and rough skin clothes; or you can see, too, the most interesting part of all, where there are mummies.
In the days long ago, when the land of Egypt was very great and powerful, while England was a lonely little island inhabited by savage men, who knew of nothing beyond their own shores, the Egyptians used to spend much time and money on preserving the bodies of their dead, for they thought that if a man's body were allowed to decay he could never live again in the other world; so when anyone died the body was cut open and filled with rich spices and wrapped in many bandages all steeped in certain ointments. And these things really did preserve the bodies from decay, so that now, two or three thousand years after, we, the English, who have learned to travel and understand many things, go to the land of Egypt, now not great and mighty any more, and pull out the dead bodies of their kings and queens, who lived and loved and reigned when our ancestors were savages, and we bring them back to England and put them in glass cases for everyone to see. There they lie, these people who thought so differently from us,[Pg 310] who never knew anything about us, who were rich and powerful, and now are of no consequence. It seems strange, doesn't it? Some are still in the painted wooden cases, into which they fit as into coffins; others have been taken out, and are shown with all the red-brown bandages wound round and round their limbs, and in some cases part of these bandages have been undone and the foot or the leg of a mummied man or woman is visible.
There is not much else here that can be explained in writing, though many things that you would care to see.
At South Kensington there are many large fine buildings, and the finest of them all is the Victoria and Albert Museum, which was opened by King Edward in 1909. It contains all sorts of wonderful and beautiful art work.
The Natural History Museum at South Kensington is a large building, and it is newer than the British Museum and not so gloomy. It is built of different sorts of yellow brick, and has tall towers, and stands among well-kept green lawns. When you go into the hall you see long galleries stretching out on each side. In one there are most beautifully stuffed birds of every sort you could name, and a great many you could not name. All of these are set up in glass cases, with the flowers and grass or bushes round that the birds choose to make their nests in when they are alive. We can see here all the different ways that birds take to hide their nests and young ones. Poor birds! they have so many enemies—the weasel, who sucks their eggs; the cat, who loves to eat their young ones; the birds larger than themselves, who prey upon them; and last, but not least, the cruel boys who[Pg 312] destroy the nests 'for fun,' and a poor sort of fun it is.
There are two ways birds hide their nests: one by really hiding them—that is to say, building them under a deep bank or in the thickest part of a tree—and the other by making them so like their surroundings that it is difficult to see them at all. You all know instances of the first way; the second is not so common. But perhaps the commonest is the plover, who just brings together a few straws on the mud of a field and lays her eggs there without any protection; yet the eggs are so like the mud-coloured surroundings that you might hunt for a long time, and even walk over them without seeing them.
Down the middle of the room at the Museum are the more common British birds, and we will look at one or two. But it is quite impossible to talk about all of them, or we should still be talking when the keeper of the Museum came to turn everyone out and shut up the building for the night.
Look first at this pretty clump of grass, with a bramble trailing over it and a bunch of primroses growing near. You would hardly have found the nest, so well hidden, unless you had known it must be there. It is a robin's, and the mother is [Pg 313]bringing a caterpillar for her little family. Which of the three gaping yellow mouths will get the delicious morsel? Quite near is a wren's nest in some ivy, and so neatly is the nest made of moss woven together that there is only one tiny little hole left for the heads of the little wrens to peep out. The perky little father, with his tail cocked up, stands near. He is very shy and jealous, and so is his mate; if you put just the tip of your finger on the edge of a wren's nest the birds would desert at once, leaving the wretched young ones to starve. The little brown bird in the next case is the nightingale, who sings so sweetly; he is not much to look at, yet he has a picturesque home, with meadow-sweet and wild roses growing over it.
It is odd how many birds build on or near the ground, which you would think was dangerous. The robin is particularly fond of this; it chooses an overhanging bank if it can find one, and though the nest is well hidden, there is nearly always a cat prowling near to seize the young ones just when their first feathers are growing, so it seems wonderful that robins ever escape at all. On the left side is the wood-wren, with a nest just like a handful of hay flung down among some dead leaves. Near here, too, are the house-martins, and further on the[Pg 314] swallows and other birds, who build under the projecting eaves of houses; of all the nests, these look the most safe and cosy. The house-martin is a really clever builder; he takes little mouthfuls of clay in his beak and sticks them one by one under the deep overhanging tiles or slates of a house or barn, and gradually forms a complete nest like a ball of clay, which dries hard, and is stuck against the wall, with only one opening like a lip at the top. The nest does not look comfortable, but it is, for inside it is lined with the softest white feathers, whereon are laid the pearly-white eggs. The sand-martin, the house-martin's cousin, prefers the side of a cliff. He digs into a cliff or sandbank a long tunnel quite as long as your arm, and just big enough for him to pop in and out with comfort. At the very far end of this in the warm darkness he puts bits of straw and feathers to make a bed, and here the young are hatched. Until they grow older they never go down that long mysterious tunnel where mother and father run in and out, but only see in the distance the white gleam of a round hole. What a wonderful world it must seem to the young bird when he first steps out! He is very timid, and as he gets near the opening he hears the beating of the waves on the shore[Pg 315] perhaps, and then the great wide ocean opens before him and the illimitable sky. What a big world! He must turn almost giddy with fright and amazement.
Some birds choose furze-bushes to build in, which must be prickly and uncomfortable, but are thick. Here there is a woodpecker family. The woodpecker is a fairly big bird, and he has a beautiful crimson streak on his head; with his strong bill he carves out a deep hole in a tree, right into the trunk—it is wonderful that the bird should have the strength and patience to cut into the solid wood—and when he has made a deep hole, he begins to make it bend down, and in the dip he makes his nest. The young woodpeckers are therefore shut in very tightly and safely. The parent birds run up and down the trees seeking for insects, on which they live. To see them run straight up a tree as a cat would do is very curious; but they are shy birds, and not often seen.
Other birds, like the reed-warbler, build in reeds; this seems a very safe plan. Here you see several tall green reeds growing out of the water, and about a foot above the water the bird has made a clever nest, twisting bits of roots and grass together, and lacing them in with the reeds, which[Pg 316] are strong enough to hold such a dainty thing. So the little nest swings and sways with the wind over the water, and the reed-warbler is safe from cats, at all events; but one imagines the young birds must sometimes tumble out and get drowned before they can fly.
A very odd bird is quite near this, and that is the butcher bird. He really is a butcher—that is to say, he kills tiny animals and even other little birds, and keeps them in a larder for use. For this purpose he chooses a bush with thorns, perhaps a hawthorn, and then when he catches any small creature he sticks it on the thorns and leaves it there spiked until it is wanted. Look at this one's larder. He has a wretched little dead sparrow hanging by its neck from a big thorn, and two or three bumble-bees spiked too. We can imagine the mamma saying to the little ones: 'No, dears, you mustn't have any sparrow to-night just before you go to bed; it would give you indigestion and make you dream. Papa will have some of that for his supper, but if you'll be good children I'll give you each a bit of bumble-bee.' The mother bird is talking to a young one who has got out of its nest. They are fat, strong little birds, as they should be with such food.
After this we come to bigger birds—ducks and puffins. Puffins have beaks like poll parrots, and are about the size of a rook; they have neat white shirt-fronts, and their beaks are red and yellow and blue, but they have silly faces, as if they thought of nothing but their own fine clothes. They live near water on cliffs, and sometimes use an old rabbit burrow for a nest, in which they lay one pure white egg, and one only. When the young one is hatched the parent birds feed it on tiny fish and minnows. You can see here the puffin bringing up a minnow in his beak for supper.
Beyond are great grey and white gulls, with their keen beaks and strong legs. They are pirates, the gulls, and will eat other birds' eggs if they can get them; they are wild and fierce. Another sea-bird, very different in appearance, is the little stormy petrel. Very small and graceful; he is a thin little bird, with a dark-brown coat, but at heart as wild as the proud gulls. He is never happy except when dancing over the cold grey waves and feeling the dash of the spray. The petrel is at sea all day, and scorns the quiet land and delights of home. The howl of the storm, the clash of the water is music to it, and it would pine[Pg 318] and die in a cage on land. When it wants to lay an egg, it makes a nest not far from its beloved sea, and lays there one egg; but even when the young one is hatched the mother cannot give up her wandering life. She is a wanderer by nature, and she only comes back at nights to see that the little one has food; then away to the wild tossing grey water again.
The next set of birds are the owls, and very wicked and ferocious some of them look. There is the long-eared owl, with his bent-in, short, hooked nose and funny feathered ears standing straight up. The little owls are balls of soft fluff, and are eagerly looking at the dead mouse that father owl has brought for them to eat. They have a very rough nest, merely a platform of pine-twigs thrown together in the fork of a fir-tree; but they are hardy little birds, and do not mind that at all. Close by is a monster owl, called the great eagle owl. He has bright yellow eyes, with very large pupils as black as jet; his tail is spread like a turkey-cock's, and altogether he looks very terrifying. You would not like to meet him alone if you had made him angry, for he is as large as a fair-sized dog, and his ugly claws and savage beak would make short work of your soft face and bright eyes.[Pg 319] Luckily, you are not likely to meet him, for he doesn't live in England.
It is worth while to cross over here to the other side of the gallery and see the great bustard, with his wonderful curving white feathers. He is about the size of a small turkey, whose cousin he is, and his plumes are like those on a field-marshal's helmet. Near here are two curious sorts of nests—one the Norfolk plover, or, as he is called, thick-knee; the eggs are just laid on the sand, and are so much the same colours as the speckled stones around that you have to look hard to find them, and at a little distance they seem to vanish altogether. The funny little wee birds, too, are just like rough sand, and have two black lines down their backs; crouching down without moving, they would be well hidden. The common tern lays its eggs amongst rough stones, where you would think that anything so fragile as an egg would easily get broken. Near his case there is a beautiful pure white gull, who lives in the Arctic regions among the ice and snow. It is a wonderful law of Nature that birds and animals often resemble their surroundings. We have seen that the tiger is not easily seen among his bamboo-stems, and that birds the colour of sand live on sand; well in the Arctic[Pg 320] regions, where there is perpetual ice and snow, nearly all the creatures are pure white, from the great Polar bear down to the rabbits and gulls. This is explained by the fact that if an animal is not white he shows up against the ground, and then his enemies, other animals waiting to prey upon him, see him, and catch him and eat him; so the white ones escape, and as children take after their parents they are white, too. And if one of the children happens to be darker he is quickly eaten, and his whiter brothers and sisters escape. This white gull has made a nest that looks like nothing but a muff of moss lying on very rough and sharp stones; there is not much reason why the little ones should want to climb out, at all events, while their feet are tender. Some enormous eagles attract attention: one with strong beak and claws. A condor near is one of the largest birds in the world. His native place is in South America, and at first when travellers brought accounts of this gigantic bird they were not believed; but at last someone managed to shoot one and brought it to England, so then he had to be believed. The one here in the Museum has spread his wings, and the length from end to end is larger than the tallest man. The hideous[Pg 321] vultures near have scraggy necks, with a ruff round them. The vultures never kill animals for their own food, but live on the refuse that is left by other animals or men. The eagle is like the lion among the animals, and the vulture is like the jackal, who runs about picking up all the nasty bits no one else will have. In the cases beyond there are graceful swans and chubby ducks and flamingoes, birds whose long pink legs make them look as if they stood on painted stilts, and who have beautiful rose-coloured edges to their white wings. At the very end of the gallery there are two huge cases as big as the side of an ordinary room, and it is well to sit down here and look at them, for both are full of interest. In part of one the space is taken up with a great cliff, in which is the home of the golden eagle, wildest and most untameable of all eagles. He lives far up on lonely mountain heights, where the air is cold and pure. His great wings sail over vast dark chasms, where men have sometimes lost their lives. His eye sees an extraordinary distance, and his flight is very swift. He chooses for his home a cave or natural hole on the face of a high cliff; this is called the eyrie, and here he gathers together sticks, and odds and ends to make a kind of bedding for his young. When the[Pg 322] little eaglets are young they are just like balls of white cotton-wool, with streaks of black here and there, all fluff and down, like those you see here. The mother and father birds go sailing high up in the sky, and suddenly they descend with a swift dive and pounce on some tiny lamb who has strayed from his mother's side, and perhaps fallen over the edge of a cliff and cannot get back again. He has been bleating loudly to call his mother to him, for he is too little to know he may attract enemies as well as friends; and his cries have been heard by the eagle, who comes down like an avalanche, and, seizing him firmly in its great talons, carries him away higher and higher to the nest in the cliff. Then there is a whirr and swoop, and the mother or father eagle, whichever it is, alights on the rough platform in the cliff and lays the still warm and only half-dead woolly lamb before the young ones. There is not much chance for it then, but let us hope it has been stunned and made unconscious long before this by its swift whirling voyage through the air. Eagles catch rabbits, too, and anything they can find. In one nest there were found the remains of nine grouse, four hares, part of a lamb, and many other things. Here in the eagles' nest in the gallery you can see[Pg 323] a half-eaten rabbit's leg hanging out over the edge, and other nasty remains.
Crossing over to the big case on the other side, we see another cliff, bare and gray, and covered with white birds—geese and gulls of many different sorts. This is a copy of a bit of a famous rock off the coast of Scotland called the Bass Rock, which rises out of the sea like an enormous stone many hundreds of feet high. At the times of the year when birds make their nests it is white with wild sea-birds, and the nests are laid along the crevices and shelves of the bare rock, so near together that the birds can easily touch one another while they are sitting on them. If anyone fired a gun near the rock there would be a sudden flight up into the air of hundreds of birds all at once, like a gigantic cloud, flying, whirling, screaming, mixed up together, rising higher and higher in great circles till you would feel stunned and deafened and almost frightened, as if a piece of the sky had suddenly taken shape and broken up over your head. These wild birds know they are safe on the Bass Rock, and they take no care to protect their nests; no one could climb up those sheer precipices and steal the eggs. The birds sit there safely, looking down upon such heights as[Pg 324] would make you giddy even to see; and in front the blue sea stretches for miles. It is a wild, free life.
Going back down the room, there may be time to notice the cases on the sides of the partitions full of stuffed birds, many very beautiful, but not so interesting as those that are shown with their nests and young ones. Quite near the door is a case with some large birds as tall as a child of seven in it. They are cassowaries, with drooping dark-brown feathers that look rather out of curl, and necks of crimson and blue. Further on there is a family of ostriches, the great father bird very grand and with a black coat, and magnificent white tail-feathers—those feathers that ladies buy for their hats, and for which they give so much money. Ostriches are kept on farms in South Africa, and their tail-feathers are pulled out at certain seasons of the year; and then they grow, again and are soon ready to be pulled out again, and people make much money this way. I do not know how much pain this gives the ostrich, but it cannot be pleasant; and perhaps he wishes sometimes he was not quite so grand, but was dressed in a plain dull-brown suit trimmed with dirty white like his humble wife. The ostrich is very savage, and can never be depended on; he[Pg 325] may turn upon the keeper who has fed him and cared for him for years, and, seizing him, kick him with his great feet until he is stunned, or dance upon him for no reason at all. He does not look safe; his narrow flat head and cruel eyes would make you think he was a tyrant. The little ones running about at his feet look so ridiculously small in comparison that you would hardly think they could be his children; but in time they, too, will grow big like papa and have splendid tails, and lord it over their poor wives.
On the other side of the room are birds of paradise, who have also beautiful tails, but in quite a different style from the ostrich. They are smallish birds, but their long tails, reddish or yellowish in colour, fall like cascades or fountains of water on both sides. Ladies also wear these in their hats sometimes when they want to be very grand. Near them is one of the birds with the queerest habits of any bird. It builds a little bower or grotto, and decorates it with shells and whatever else it can pick up—it really seems to like to make it pretty; and then it runs about in and out of its bower for amusement. So it is called the bower bird. These birds live in Australia, and their bowers are made of bits of strong grass or thin[Pg 326] stick woven over to make a sort of tunnel through which the bird can run. But the funniest thing is that they like to put bright things, such as shells or pretty stones about for decoration.
We must now leave the birds, which have taught us so much, and go on to other galleries. Just across the great hall is a long gallery entirely filled with the bones and skeletons of animals which are now no longer found on earth. This does not sound attractive, but it is, almost more so than the birds we have just left, though, of course, we shall not find anything pretty here.
Have you ever heard that there was a time when huge animals, larger than the largest elephant, lived and walked about on earth, not only in hot countries, but in England, too? If man lived at all in those days he must have been a poor, frightened, trembling little creature going in peril of his life from all the monsters who were around him. In England the river Thames was surrounded by a thick jungle, with mighty trees and creeping plants, like the jungles in India; and the climate was hot and steamy like the inside of a greenhouse. Here lived enormous elephants called mammoths. As we enter the gallery we see one in front of us, a monstrous creature, who makes[Pg 327] the ordinary elephant put behind him to compare with him seem small. But larger still is the head of another behind that again. Can you even imagine a beast that could carry tusks about twelve feet long? That is to say, if two of the tallest men were laid end to end they would be as long as that elephant's tusks, and the thickness of the tusks was as great as a man's thigh. Think of all this weight! And it was resting on the head and neck of the elephant! His strength must have been like the strength of an engine. You would have been less to him than a mouse is to us. It is not only guessing that makes us say these animals lived in England, for here are the real skulls and skeletons actually found buried in the earth. Further on is what is called a sea-cow, a great fat beast weighing an enormous amount, which floated in the sea. And at the end of the room is one of the strangest of animals. Picture a creature as high as the room, standing up on its hind legs like a kangaroo, and having very strong fore-arms, with which it clutches a small tree. This is the skeleton we see now. It could have packed you away inside it and never known you were there; but, luckily for the children who lived on earth when it did (if there were any), it did not eat flesh, but[Pg 328] only the leaves of trees and other vegetable things. It was called the giant ground sloth, and, as you may judge from this name, was not very quick in its movements. It was not found in England, but in South America, and there are now no more like it in existence; and if we had not got its skeleton we should never have known it had lived at all. There were many other curious creatures on earth then—some that lived in the water and had long necks like snakes, and fat bodies, and others like enormous lizards. There was also a big bird, bigger even than the ostrich, this you can see in a case near the sloth. Then in the centre of the room is the tall skeleton of a very, very big stag, which is to other stags as a giant would be to you. He is the Irish elk, and his skeleton was found in the peat bogs of Ireland; he must have been a magnificent creature to look at when alive, with his proud, free head and branching horns.
Passing through the hall, we see three or four cases showing examples of the different colours of animals—the white ones among the snow, and the yellow ones on the sand, the protective colouring of which we spoke before; and on the staircase sits a statue of Darwin, the wonderful man who found out this about animals, and also many other wonderful[Pg 329] things, and made us see animal life in altogether a new way. When you are a little older you will find many things of great interest in Darwin's books. Upstairs on one side is a gallery full of humming-birds, tiny birds some of them, no bigger than butterflies, and as brilliant as jewels, red and blue and green and yellow. It must be wonderful to see them flashing about in their native land and hovering over the gorgeous flowers; but here, so many together in one case, they lose half their beauty, and they lack the sunshine to bring out their lovely colours. There is also a gallery full of pressed flowers, and here you can learn anything about flowers, leaves, and seeds; and on the other side there is one full of stuffed animals. Now, we have seen the living animals at the Zoo, and we do not care to see the dead ones here so much, though we can just glance around it. But there is one animal you must see, because there is no living animal like it in the Zoo.
This is a new animal called the okapi, only discovered during the last fifty years in the dense forests of Africa, and its skin was stuffed and set up and is now here. One would have thought that all the animals now living would have been known long ago, and it seems almost ridiculous[Pg 330] to speak of a 'new' animal; but this one was new to us. He is very much like a mixture of several other animals. He is about the size of a large antelope, and he has a long upper lip like a giraffe, and a meek, patient face. His back slopes down like a giraffe's, too, and his body is a reddish colour like that of a cow; but his hind-legs are striped like a zebra. Now, what do you think of that for a new animal? You or I might have invented something more original. It is just as if he had been round to the other animals, and said: 'Please, I want to live. Will you give me something?' And the antelope had said: 'Well, you may be rather like me in size, but don't make yourself a shape that anyone could mistake for me.' So the poor, meek okapi had made himself the colour and size of the antelope, but had taken the sloping back of a giraffe; and then he had gone to the antelope, and said: 'Will this do?' And the antelope had not been altogether pleased, and he had said: 'Humph! I'm not sure if it will; you've taken my colour, too. Some fool might think you were me at a distance.' So the meek okapi had added a few stripes on his legs, like a zebra, just to make him less like the scornful antelope.
He lives in dense forests, and eats grass as a cow[Pg 331] does, and is very shy; and the only people who have seen him alive are the natives, who told an Englishman about him, and then managed to shoot one, and bring its skin to sell to the Englishman. But now that he is known of, it will probably not be long before a live one is captured. He is so gentle that they might make him into what is called a domestic animal, like the cow; if he once understood that men were his friends and did not want to hurt him, then his shyness might vanish, and his gentleness would make him safe and easy to deal with.
In this gallery we see all the animals of the Zoo, stuffed and peaceful. The tiger no longer prowls round and round his cage when the dinner-hour draws near, he will never be hungry again; the lion no longer is angry when the crowd stare, he cannot see them; the patient elephant has given up for ever carrying children on his back, and the hippo has ceased to wallow in the waters of his beloved bath. Even the silver-white polar bear does not mind the heat, and pines no longer for his ice and snow. All are at rest, at rest!
There are two great cathedrals in London called Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's. Westminster is much the older of the two, for, as you have heard, St. Paul's was burnt down in the Great Fire and entirely rebuilt then, so that it is not yet two hundred and fifty years old, but Westminster is much more ancient. Long years ago, before the Saxons invaded England, there was some sort of church at this place built by monks. In those days there were not all the bridges there are now over the river, but only one, London Bridge, and as there was a ford or shallow place in the water near Westminster, many people who were travelling and wanted to cross the river came down here, where they could wade across without fear.
In very early times Westminster was an island called the Isle of Thorney, from the brambles that grew over it. The island lay very low, so that when the tide swept up the river it stood but[Pg 333] little above the water; and even after many years, when the ditch running round the island was dried up, yet still the land was marshy. It was an odd place to choose for the building of a church. Then, as you have read in history, came the invasion of the Saxons, and the monks had to fly and leave their church, for the Saxons were not Christians, and they came to harry and ravage and burn; but after a long time, when the Saxons had made themselves lords of London and settled down, the Saxon king himself became a Christian, and so he rebuilt the church by the river. There is an old legend told about Westminster which, whether you believe it or not, is pretty. It is said that on the eve of the day when the new church was to be consecrated and dedicated to St. Peter, one Edric, a fisherman, who lived close by, was awakened in the night by a voice calling him. He thought the voice came out of the darkness on the other side of the river, and as he often had to bring people across in his boat, he went to find the person who called. On landing he found a very venerable-looking man, who carried some vessels that looked like holy vessels used in church. Edric wondered, but said nothing, and rowed him across, and when they reached the church the stranger entered, and all at once the[Pg 334] church was lit up by a radiant light, and a thousand lovely voices were heard singing like angels. Then when they ceased the light disappeared as suddenly as it had come, and the stranger turned and said: 'I am St. Peter, and I have hallowed the church myself. I charge thee to tell the bishop, and for a sign put forth upon the river and cast in thy nets, and thou shalt receive a miraculous draught of fishes.'
So the fisherman did as he was told, and he found that the fishes enclosed in his net were so many that he could scarcely raise them from the water.
The same fate befell the Saxon church that had befallen the British one, for the Danes came down on England to plunder and to harry the Saxons, as the Saxons had harried the Britons, and they destroyed the church. After a hundred years the Danes, too, became Christians, and then the church was built once more. King Edward the Confessor caused a great part of this new church to be built, and since his time the magnificent Abbey that now stands has grown up bit by bit around his church, being added to and enriched by many kings.
Since the very earliest times it has been used as the burial-place of kings and great men. It would[Pg 335] be quite impossible to tell the names of all those who lie here—poets, soldiers, artists, statesmen, and authors—their graves are thick beneath the stones of the Abbey. It is the greatest honour that the nation can offer any man to give him burial in Westminster Abbey. In one corner there are many poets buried, and this is called the Poets' Corner. Another is peculiarly dedicated to the men who have ruled England as Prime Ministers or who have held office under the King. Near to the east end are many kings and queens and princes and princesses buried. But of all these there is one that stands out by itself without any like it. This is the grave of the 'Unknown Warrior,' a soldier who fell in the Great War, without any record of his name or regiment. His body was brought here to be buried with all honour so that he might represent the thousands who died for Britain.
The coronation chair is in the Abbey, the chair which encloses the stone brought from Scone in Scotland. Do you know that story? When Edward I. made raids into Scotland to try to conquer the country which then had a king of its own, he brought away with him the sacred stone on which all the Scottish kings had been crowned[Pg 336] up to that time, and he had it enclosed in a chair, and all the English kings since then have used it as their coronation chair. But now England and Scotland are one, and it was a Scottish and not an English king who first joined the two kingdoms. James, who was James VI. of Scotland, was, on the death of Queen Elizabeth, the heir to the throne of England through his mother, and England had not had a King James before; and so he was James I. of England and VI. of Scotland, and the two kingdoms were made one under the name of Great Britain.
The last coronation was that of King George V., who was crowned on June 22, 1911. All the streets of London had been made brilliant with flowers and lights until they were like those of a fairy town. Thousands and thousands of pounds had been spent, and people had given large sums for seats to see the procession going to the Abbey and coming away again. Great stands were erected at every open space and outside many of the houses on the route of the procession. Even standing room in a window was eagerly sought for, and very many people who had left their arrangements to the last minute could not find places at all.
When I learned history at school Queen Victoria[Pg 337] was still on the throne, and she had reigned so long a time that people had to be a great age to remember history books which ended at the reign of her uncle William IV. The two reigns before her were short ones and so was that of her son, Edward VII., who came after her. He reigned only nine years and died at the age of sixty-eight; by far the greater part of his long life had been spent preparing, as Prince of Wales, for the throne he filled so short a time. He was well over middle age before he became king.
King Edward's eldest son, Prince Albert Victor, had died before him after he had grown to manhood. He had never been strong. So the only remaining son became our King, George V. Long before this, after the death of his brother, he had married a distant cousin, 'Princess May,' now our beloved Queen Mary; and, before their grandfather's death in 1910, all the royal children at present living had been born. Prince Edward was seventeen when he was made Prince of Wales in 1911.
So they all took part in the coronation of their parents. A very gallant figure was the fair young Prince of Wales in his magnificent dress. But he was not then known to the Empire as he is now[Pg 338] when he has travelled thousands of miles to visit his father's dominions in the uttermost parts of the earth.
Coronations do not happen very frequently and for this one people came from immense distances and from many foreign countries.
When did the people begin gathering up in the streets to see the King on his way to be crowned? No one can certainly tell, but it was before the daylight dawned on June 22, 1911. In the darkness of the night the police marched to their positions in hundreds, and the soldiers who were to line the route that the King and Queen would traverse made their appearance. But even before the soldiers and the policemen took up their stations came shadowy forms, who crept up to good places in the glimmer of the street-lamps as they blew in the night wind. These were people who were so anxious to see the procession that they would gladly wait all night in the streets, so as to get a good view on the day itself. They gathered and gathered, and when the first rays of morning dawned every inch of pavement which commanded a front view was full already, and those who came after six o'clock could hardly find standing room. Unfortunately, the day was not brilliantly fine as the first one had been,[Pg 339] but dull and cloudy. Hours went by before carriages containing the princes and princesses began to pass toward the great Abbey where the ceremony was to be, and though the people cheered a little at the sight of them they were not very enthusiastic, for they were waiting breathlessly to see the King and Queen, and princes and princesses did not seem very important on this great day.
Just before eleven o'clock the splendid state coach drawn by eight cream-coloured horses came round from the stables to the front of Buckingham Palace, and then the people waiting near grew more intensely excited. The coach was just such as you might expect. It was all gold and glass, and swung upon high springs so lightly that as it stopped the body of the coach swayed about, and had to be steadied by the footmen. The cream-coloured horses wore harness of crimson and gold, and they tossed their heads and pawed the ground, as if they knew quite well what was expected of them and how important they were. Then the King and Queen took their seats, and as they were seen there was a great outburst of shouting, taken up and echoed again and again; it was a royal salute, and the volley of cheering rolled along the crowd from one to another, on and on, announcing to those[Pg 340] who waited farther off that King George was really on his way to be crowned King of the greatest kingdom in the world. The King and Queen were in royal robes, and they both bowed and smiled, and the Queen's fair hair shone out like gold. As Princess she had been popular but as Queen and a model mother to her children, the darlings of the nation, she was to win a special position in the hearts of the people. The Royal couple did not wear their crowns on the way to the Abbey, but they would return in them after the ceremony.
As it went along under the trees in the park, the royal procession passed close by some large stands built near St. James's Palace, these were filled with children from the Foundling Hospital, the homes for soldiers' sons and daughters and sailors' sons and daughters, of which you have read in another chapter.
One of the most pathetic figures at the coronation was that of the widowed Queen-Mother, Alexandra, who had come as a beautiful young girl nearly forty years before from over the sea to marry King Edward.
The royal coach was followed by an escort of soldiers, and all the way to the Abbey that loud[Pg 341] roar of cheering was kept up. It must have been very delightful for the King and Queen to think how warmly all their people loved them, and how glad they were to see them crowned.
Meantime, at the Abbey itself everything had been got ready for the ceremony. It is the custom at a coronation that all the peers and peeresses should be present, and that they should all dress alike in rich robes of crimson velvet and white ermine, and each peer and peeress has a little coronet which he or she does not put on at first, but keeps on a cushion until the King puts on his crown. Then all the little coronets are put on at the same instant. Now, the arrangements for the coronation were very difficult to make, for all the peers and peeresses had to have seats in the Abbey given to them, and there were so many that it was difficult for them all to get in. Quite early that morning, at seven o'clock, the Abbey doors had been opened, and the dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons, with their wives, had rolled up in their carriages, and alighted and gone inside there to wait. I expect a good many of them had never been up so early in their lives, and had never waited patiently for so long before. Some of them did not come in carriages, but as[Pg 342] it was fine walked across from their houses, which were only a short way off, and what a sight they made! Nowadays to see a man dressed in crimson velvet and white ermine, with white silk stockings, and with a page carrying a coronet on a cushion by his side, and another page holding up his long train, is not very usual. The people watching must have enjoyed all this unusual grandeur, and felt as if they were living in a page of English history.
Then the royal carriages, with the scarlet-clad coachmen and footmen, began to sweep up, and the great festival had begun. The guns boomed out, telling that the King and Queen had left Buckingham Palace, and not very long after they arrived at the hall which had been built at one end of the Abbey, and there the Duke of Norfolk, bareheaded, waited to receive their Majesties. The Queen, being nearest to him, stepped out first, and she was clothed in cloth-of-gold, which shone and glittered even on that dull day. The King followed her, looking up with pleased surprise at the beautiful reception-hall that was prepared for him, and they entered the Abbey hall to make ready for the procession in the Abbey itself.
Already we have spoken so much of the grandeur[Pg 343] of the spectacle that it is difficult to say more; perhaps no one who did not see it can ever realize quite what it was like. The peers and peeresses took their places in the Abbey, and then the procession which was to walk up the aisle was formed. First came princes and princesses, with distinguished persons bearing their trains; then guests, invited by the King, and many high officials and nobles, with coronets carried after them by pages; and then the clergy, who were the King's own chaplains. After that came the Queen, with all her attendants and ladies and many more nobles, and the jewels of the coronation called the Regalia; and then the King, with bishops before and on either side. He was attended by eight royal pages, boys of about twelve to fourteen years, who were dressed alike in scarlet coats, with bunches of white ribbon on their shoulders. Most of these boys were peers in their own right, their fathers having died, and the titles having descended to them. They were followed by more nobles and more of the Court officials, and so the grand procession swept up the Abbey aisle to the east end to begin the service.
The boys of Westminster School, which adjoins the Abbey, have the privilege of shouting out[Pg 344] 'Vivat Rex!' at the coronation of their Sovereign—this means 'Let the King live'—and right heartily did the hundreds of young voices greet their King and Queen in this quaint way, shouting, 'Vivat, Vivat, Vivat Rex Georgius!' as the King was seen advancing up the aisle. The organ rang out, trumpets sounded, and a glorious mass of sound ascended to the roof and died away in echoes in the gray arches that have seen so many kings crowned and buried.
We have heard that the first English Edward, the Confessor, began to build the present Abbey, and that the last Edward, seventh of that name, was crowned King in that place. It was an Edward, too, called the First of England, who had brought here the coronation stone. On the chair which enclosed this stone sat the King. Among other notable people present that day were the Duke of Connaught, the late King's only living brother, and the Princess Royal, King George's eldest sister, with her two daughters. Also his other sisters the Queen of Denmark and Princess Victoria.
Among the reigning monarchs of other countries, who were guests, was the ex-Kaiser, of Germany, now living in exile. His mother was King Edward's sister. It is fortunate for her that she died before[Pg 345] she saw all the misery and slaughter caused by her son in the Great War. There were perhaps some present even then who knew the Kaiser's evil dreams of world-power, and his wicked ambition, and feared what it might cause.
After prayer the King turned to face the representatives of his people, and the Archbishop presented him, and everyone shouted together, 'God save King George!' There were many more prayers and beautiful singing by the rich voices of well-trained choir-boys; and then came the anointing, during which the Archbishop touched the King with oil in the form of a cross on head, breast, and hands. After many other ceremonies, in the course of which the King received the sceptre and the orb, made of gold and mounted with precious stones, symbols of his authority, the crown was brought forward, the magnificent crown, covered with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds, and the Archbishop held it above the King's head, and a great hush fell on all that vast congregation. Slowly it was lowered, it touched the King's forehead, and the trumpets sounded, and all the nobles raised their coronets, and, putting them on their heads, shouted: 'God save the King!'
Then, after many prayers, and the blessing, the nobles headed by the Archbishop, came to do homage to the newly-crowned King. The Archbishop knelt down and vowed to be faithful, and, rising, kissed the King's cheek, and then slowly made way for the Prince of Wales, who in his turn knelt and promised fidelity to his father, and kissed him on the cheek. Then all the nobles did the same in order of their importance and rank. There are very precise rules about all this. Those who bear title of the same rank take precedence of one another according to the ancientness of the title they bear. But the whole question of title is a puzzling one and we cannot go into it here.
After this came the crowning of the Queen. A great pall of gold was supported at four corners by four duchesses, who held it up while the Queen knelt before the King to swear to be true to him always. She was then anointed and crowned, and as her crown was put on her head by the Archbishop the coronets of all the peeresses flashed on to their wearers' heads at the same moment, as the peers' coronets had done at the moment the King was crowned.
The service was ended by the Holy Communion, and the King and Queen, wearing their crowns[Pg 347] and looking like a fairy king and queen, went back in their royal coach to their palace, and the show, so far as Westminster Abbey was concerned, was ended. Westminster Abbey will always be associated with this great and splendid ceremony, which has been described so minutely, and whenever you visit the Abbey you will think of King George's coronation.
Before leaving the Abbey there are some things you must certainly see. The first is the tomb of the 'Unknown Soldier.' This was a wonderful idea thought of after the Great War. So many thousands of men in the army gave their lives for their country, unknown and uncommemorated, that the body of one, unidentified, was chosen as a symbol for the rest, and buried with all the ceremony given to the most honoured dead of the nation. There the humble warrior lies, surrounded by the dust of kings and statesmen, authors, poets, and sages. Other countries imitated this idea, and now each nation of the Great War has its 'Unknown Soldier's' grave. In the Abbey, besides the many splendid statues, there is a set of curious wax figures, only eleven in number, representing Queen Elizabeth, King Charles II., King William and Queen Mary, Queen Anne, Admiral Nelson, and five other persons of less importance.
So much for Westminster Abbey, the crowning-place of kings and the burial-place of kings and great men.
St. Paul's Cathedral cannot claim the coronation of the kings, but it is a splendid building, with its great dome overlooking London far and wide. We can climb up through the belfry to the gallery which encircles the dome, and, looking down upon the street below, see the people crawling about like ants. Around us the pigeons flash their wings in the sun, and beyond the houses we can catch a glimpse of the gray river flowing down to the sea. Inside St. Paul's there is a great gallery running all around the dome, and if you stand at one side of this and whisper gently, the whisper runs round the walls, and reaches the person standing on the opposite side many yards away, across a great space. This is very curious, and because of it the gallery is called the Whispering Gallery.
Though St. Paul's cannot claim the coronations, it has always been the place to which our Sovereigns go for their services of thanksgiving. After great victories in old time, after deliverance from deadly illness, after unexpected blessings, the King or Queen of England has journeyed to St. Paul's to hold a thanksgiving service. The greatest of all[Pg 349] these services were those at the Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Of course, you all know that good Queen Victoria, the mother of King Edward, reigned longer than any English Sovereign had done before her. The three who came nearest to her in this respect were George III., who reigned sixty years; Henry III., who reigned fifty-six years; and Edward III., who reigned fifty years. It was an odd coincidence that each should be the third of his name. Queen Victoria's reign was marked not only by its length, but by its happiness and prosperity. When she had been on the throne fifty years, she celebrated what is called a Jubilee, and then many foreign princes and sovereigns came over to England and joined in a procession, and went with her to give thanks in St. Paul's Cathedral. Ten years later, when she had completed her sixtieth year on the throne, it was felt that she ought to have another Jubilee, called a Diamond Jubilee, for having equalled the period of the longest reign in English history, and the Diamond Jubilee was hardly less splendid than the first one. After this Queen Victoria lived to the beginning of 1901, thus having reigned very nearly sixty-three years and a half. It is very rare for any sovereign to do this. To begin with, the sovereign must be quite[Pg 350] young when he ascends the throne, and that is not always the case, and then he must live to a great age. Queen Victoria was only eighteen when she became Queen, and she was eighty-one when she died. At the two Jubilees the carriages of the Queen, with all the gorgeous attendants and outriders, formed a group outside the great west door of St. Paul's, and waited while the service was held; and all the stands and seats were thronged with people, and everyone cheered the Queen, who will in future times be known as Victoria the Good. The whole of the route to St. Paul's was magnificently decorated, and every window and balcony, and even the roofs, were crowded with spectators.
Some very famous men are buried in St. Paul's, though not so many as there are in Westminster Abbey. Those who are here are chiefly military men, and the greatest soldier England has ever had is included among them, namely, the Duke of Wellington.
If you have read history you will all know how the Duke of Wellington conquered Napoleon, who had so terrified the countries of Europe that none dare face him; and if England had not sent her soldiers under the great Duke to fight Napoleon, the whole course of European history would now[Pg 351] be different. Napoleon had gone on from one success to another, until he began to think he was not to be conquered at all; but he met his fate at the Battle of Waterloo, and his career was ended. The King of England at that time was George III., who was very old and insane, and his son George was Prince Regent; and after the great victories of Wellington there was a procession formed to go to St. Paul's, and Wellington carried the sword of state before the Prince Regent to the cathedral.
Our greatest sailor as well as our greatest soldier lies in St. Paul's, and we can see here his tomb. We have already seen his wax effigy in Westminster. The name of Nelson is familiar to every child, and his sea-fights are perhaps more exciting to read about than the land victories of Wellington. Nelson died nearly fifty years before Wellington, and his coffin was made of the wood of the ship Orient.
Earl Haig, whose name became a household word to every British child during the Great War, had expressed a wish to be buried in the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey, near his own home, before he died, so his body is not found here, though as one of England's great generals it might well be here.
The great architect who built the Cathedral,[Pg 352] Sir Christopher Wren, is buried here, too, and in the inscription on his tombstone there are words in Latin, which mean, 'If thou desirest to see my monument, look around thee,' meaning that the splendid Cathedral is his best memorial.
There is one monument in London which attracts, and will always attract, not only the attention of visitors, but the homage of the ordinary everyday man going about his business in the London streets. This is a curiously shaped great block of stone in the midst of Whitehall, about which the traffic divides and passes on either side. It rears itself up like a great cliff, and its base is never without wreaths and flowers swathing it. This is the Cenotaph, the national memorial to the British soldiers who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-1918. It is simple in form, but very solemn in outline, and you could not help knowing that it meant something to do with the dead. On Armistice Day, each November 11—for you know that the Great War ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month—there is a solemn service here, and during the two minutes' silence, after the strokes of Big Ben have begun to sound, thousands of people stand bareheaded and absolutely immovable around it.
Has it ever occurred to you that money must be made somewhere? We do not find it ready made in the earth or growing on trees; and if you think a little, that could not be, for every country has its own money with its own King's or President's head on the coins. Here in England we have the King's head on one side and various designs on the other, which are different according to the coins they adorn. It would be rather nice if money did grow on bushes. Supposing we could have a row of them in the garden. The penny ones might be like gooseberry bushes, rather low down and stumpy, and mother would say, 'Now, who will go and see if there are any ripe pennies for me to-day?' and we should see the great round brown pennies hanging ready to drop, and the little wee ones just beginning to grow, or perhaps having grown to the size of halfpennies; and we might ask, 'Shall we gather all we find, or leave[Pg 354] the halfpennies for another day to grow into pennies?'
Then there would be silver trees, where shillings and half-crowns grew, and we should be told, 'You must not go near those, they are too valuable. You might drop some of the money and lose it in the mud;' and the gold, I think, would have to be reared in hothouses only, and kept locked up very carefully.
Well, of course, this is just imagination. Take out a shilling and look at it. It probably has the King's head on it, or it may have King Edward's, or Queen Victoria's head if it is a very old one. Anything further back than that would be valuable as a curiosity. All these shillings are the same value, and it makes no difference which one you use, and they have all been made at the Mint in London. It is not difficult for anyone to get leave to go to see over the Mint, and it is a very interesting thing to do. The building is near the Tower, and does not look at all grand; in fact, it is difficult to believe that such riches can come out of any building so poor looking. Here all the money for England is coined—gold, silver, and copper. If we are lucky, the day we go we shall find the workmen making[Pg 355] gold sovereigns, and pouring them out so fast that it is like the old fairy story of Rumpelstiltskin.
In the first room there are great furnaces, with dirty-looking caldrons hanging over them, and in these caldrons there is not soup or anything to eat, but gold, pure gold. This gold has been found in far-away countries and brought to England, and the men who bring it get paid so much for it according to its weight, and then the Mint people turn it into coins. The gold is all liquid, seething and boiling. The man who stands by the caldron has a pair of thick leather gloves to protect his hands in case sparks fly out. Suddenly he seizes the caldron with a pair of pincers, and, dragging it from the fire, he tilts it up so that the molten gold runs out in a stream into a number of tubes like long straight jars joined together. The gold flows in, bubbles up, and that one is full to the top; and then the next is filled, and the next, and so on to the end. Then the gold is left to cool. The big caldron goes back on to the furnace to boil more gold. As the gold boils a tiny quantity of it gets into the sides of the caldron and sticks to them, and this is too valuable to lose, and so after the caldron has been used a certain number of times it[Pg 356] is broken up and melted so as to recover this gold again, and not a grain is lost.
When the gold which has been poured into the jars has cooled it is solid again, and has taken the shape of the jars—that is to say, it is in bars of gold. You will be given one to handle and feel; it is a flat bar of gleaming gold weighing a great deal. The bars are then taken and put under a machine something like a mangle, and the machine squeezes and presses them with such terrific force that they are squeezed out thinner and thinner, and, of course, get longer and longer in the process. Just think what tremendous force must be used to press out a bar of gold! When at last they are ready these long thin slabs of gold are the thickness of a sovereign.
Now, each of these bars is passed through a machine, which cuts out of it a double row of holes just the size of sovereigns all the way down, and the little gold pieces thus neatly cut out drop down below into a box. Take one up and look at it; it is smooth and clean and round, the size of a sovereign, but it has as yet no King's head on it, and the edges are smooth, not rough as in a real sovereign. So each of these little round gold pieces is taken away to another room to be finished,[Pg 357] and the remainder of the long thin strip out of which they were cut goes back to the caldron to be boiled up again and made into more sovereigns.
You will notice that every time we go through a door at the Mint it is unlocked for us to go through, and locked again behind us; this is because the gold is so valuable. No one is allowed to pass in and out without being watched, lest they should carry some away with them. Every night each one of these rooms is carefully swept out, and the sweepings boiled up to get any little particles of gold that are lying about, and a large amount of money is saved in this way. The men who work in each room are responsible for the gold in it; the gold is weighed on coming in and on going out, and any weight lacking has to be made up by the men out of their wages.
Now we have got the little round sovereigns, which are cleaned and polished and put into another machine; this machine has what is called a die in it—that is, a stamping instrument with the King's head on it ready to print on the coin. The little sovereign is put on to a tiny round place, with a little collar of metal all round, and this collar is rough, like the edge of a shilling or a sovereign. Down comes the die with enormous[Pg 358] force, and stamps on the coin King George's head; the force is so great that the coin is a little flattened out and pressed against the rough collar, so the edges become rough, too. Thus are both sides done, and the sovereign is now a real sovereign, and could be used to buy things at a shop.
There are rows of these machines all hard at work, and we feel we are in a fairy tale when we see the little round clean bits of gold drop, drop, drop without stopping on to the tiny round table with the collar; and the machine goes up and down, up and down, never stopping, and every time it does its work, and a new sovereign drops away into a box below. Drip, drip, drip, sovereigns are raining down, dozens every minute, all newly made; it seems as if we could easily get rich if we were allowed to make money like this. But the sovereigns are not finished yet; they must go to be weighed, and all those that are not exactly the right weight, but either too heavy or too light, go back to the melting-pot to be made all over again; and only those that are exactly right are passed out new-minted to the Bank, from whence they go to all the people in Great Britain and Ireland. It is reckoned that so many as one in every three has to go back to the melting-pot, and be boiled and hammered and[Pg 359] squeezed all over again; so it is a good thing gold cannot feel.
On other days silver and copper are made in the same way, but gold is much the most impressive to see.
After leaving the Mint we might pay a visit to the Bank, which stands at the meeting of many streets in the very midst of the City. It is a strong place built round a courtyard, with all the windows inward so that burglars cannot get in. In the vaults below the Bank are many bars of gleaming gold, like those we have seen at the Mint; these are sent here for safety, and in time will go to the Mint to be coined. The Bank of England is very strong and safe, and anyone who keeps his money there has no fear that he will lose it. The Bank is allowed by law to make notes of its own, which are as good as money, and are received instead of money, but it cannot make more than a certain number of these notes in any one year. You have heard of bank-notes, perhaps? Have you ever seen one—a crisp, crackly bit of paper, with some printing on it, that could be burnt up any minute? These seem very unsafe to keep, but they are convenient. If a man wants to go away for some time he could not carry with him a great[Pg 360] many gold sovereigns, for they would be so heavy; but if he takes a number of bank-notes they are quite light and easy to carry, and are just as good as money. The most common is a five-pound note. Of course, accidents do happen sometimes when people are careless. I heard of a man who lit his pipe with a five-pound note, thinking it was just an ordinary bit of paper, but this was very careless; it was an expensive pipe-light to cost five pounds.
In the Bank you are shown many interesting things, and one of the chief of these is a book where are kept all the imitation bank-notes, called forgeries, that men have made and tried to persuade people were real ones. In some cases these are so cleverly done that even the bankers themselves hardly knew the difference, and many, many people had been cheated by them.
The great machines for printing bank-notes are inside the bank, and each note has a different number. Let us follow one throughout its life. It is printed on special paper made for the bank, and not sold to anyone else, and it is printed in the Bank's own machine. It goes in at one end of the machine, just a blank bit of paper, and comes out at the other worth five pounds. This seems almost[Pg 361] more wonderful than making gold coins. Downstairs, in the office of the Bank, a man comes in who has an account with the Bank—that is to say, he has given the Bank people a large sum of money to keep for him—and he takes out some of it when he likes. He comes this morning to ask for twenty pounds, and it is given to him in four five-pound notes, which he folds up and puts in his pocket-book and then he goes away. He has just got outside the Bank, when a friend comes up, and says: 'I say, old man, what about that five pounds you owe me?'
So the first man gives him one five-pound note. The second man has to pay his landlady's rent, and he owes her three pounds; so he gives her the five-pound note, and she gives him two pounds in gold back again. From the landlady the note passes to a shopkeeper, and from him to another man; and so it goes on, wandering and wandering through the hands of hundreds of people. It started a very nice clean new note; but it gets crumpled and dirty, and at last one day it comes to a man who has had some money given to him which he wants to put into the Bank, and he pays this five-pound note in with the rest. So after its life it has rest. It never goes out again into the world; but when once it comes back to the Bank it is torn up and[Pg 362] destroyed. A great many men are kept at work only tearing up bank-notes; so every day, while many new ones are being made, many old ones are being torn up, and the number keeps about the same.
An old woman bought a mattress at a sale, and she thought she would undo it and shake up the stuff inside and make it softer, and when she cut it up she found among the stuffing some bits of paper that looked like bank-notes; but they were little tiny bits not bigger than a sixpence. She took them to the Bank, which examined them, and saw that, though a great deal was missing, there was enough left to show that there had been twelve five-pound notes sewn up inside the mattress. They gave the old woman sixty pounds for them, saying that a bank-note meant a promise on the part of the Bank to pay, and they would keep their promise, however long ago it had been made. So the old woman did a good day's work when she bought that mattress.
From the Bank we might pass on to the General Post-Office, and see how London's letters are dealt with. You may say that there cannot be anything interesting in that—that it is quite simple to sort out letters and send them to the right persons. Yes, if you or I had perhaps six letters we could[Pg 363] do it easily; but if we had six thousand it would be rather more difficult. The business of the General Post Office grows and increases every year, and the buildings are frequently enlarged. Even now they form the whole of a street to themselves. On one side is the telegraphic department, where all the telegrams are received. We can understand very little about this, because it requires a long training; but we can see something of the enormous number of people whose whole work in life it is to take and send telegrams. If we get there about five o'clock in the afternoon, we shall see some girls and little telegraph-boys hurrying about with trays, on which are piles of cut bread-and-butter, and with great tin cans, like the cans in which hot water is carried up for your bath. These cans are full of strong, hot tea. Then we enter one room, so big that it almost startles you, and see, seated at rows and rows of tables, many men, and nearly all of them are working away at the telegraph instrument before them—tick, tick, tick, tack; they cannot hear what you say, even though you talk quite close to them, for all their attention is taken up by their work. For eight hours every day they sit here and take and send telegrams. Here comes the tea; it is poured out into the large cup waiting[Pg 364] for it, and the man takes a drink or a bite as he works. Some of the workers buy jam to spread on their bread. In one place we see a tray with a large pile of cakes and biscuits; but these are being sold, though the tea and bread-and-butter are supplied by the Post-Office to its workers free. It must be a big business to make tea for about fifteen hundred persons every day. No wonder cans are used to carry it about, for teapots would be of very little use. In one room there are men doing all the telegrams for the daily papers—accounts of great speeches, or races, or anything important that people expect to hear about—and by means of one instrument one man can send the same news to five different places at the same time. This sounds like a miracle to us, who do not understand how it is done. In another room there are many girls who do just the same work, and keep the same hours as the men, but are not paid so much simply because they are women; they are having tea too. They seem to be very fond of shrimp-paste, which they spread on their bread-and-butter instead of jam. In every room there is always a loud noise like the wash of waves; that is made up of hundreds of busy little instruments ticking away hard all at once. It seems [Pg 365]wonderfully quiet when we leave it behind, and step out into the street again where the lamps are being lit.
It is nearly six o'clock now, and opposite is the large building of the Post-Office where the letters are dealt with. Up the steps in front we see the huge letter-box, with a great gaping slit of a mouth into which boys and men are pouring letters as fast as they can; for at six o'clock the country letters are sent off, and any posted after that will not be delivered first thing next morning in the country, but will arrive later.
Come inside; we have a special order so that we can be admitted without any difficulty. Now we see from the inside what we saw from the outside a minute ago. It is like looking at the inside of a piece of machinery. We see now only the big slit and the eager hands thrusting letters into it, more letters and more, which fly down inside like a snowstorm of enormous flakes. They drop into great clothes baskets, which are filled up every minute, and when full are dragged away by the postmen inside, who thrust others into their places, others which, incredibly quickly, are filled up, too, and dragged away. Rattle, rattle; down come the letters. One boy outside has a bag, which he empties by tipping it up so that a stream of letters[Pg 366] runs down; he must be from an office. Here is another, and another; but at last six o'clock strikes, the great baskets have been dragged away, and no more letters for the country go until much later. The basketfuls have been emptied into sacks; these sacks are tied up with string and sealed with a piece of sealing-wax a good deal thicker than your wrist, and then they are flung down into the bright scarlet carts, which belong to the Post-Office, and which stand waiting outside. Each driver starts off punctually with his load, and drives to another great office in London where the country letters are sorted out and sent off. All this business used to be done here where we are, but in the last year or two it has been found better to keep the London and the country letters separate.
Now we turn to look at the London ones. There is a separate box for them to be posted in. Perhaps you who live in the country have never seen that. At every large London office there are two boxes side by side, and into one the people put their letters meant for the country, and into the other those for London. The London letters are gathered from the box and thrown out upon large tables, and down each side a row of boys and men stand and sort them out like a pack of cards, putting them all[Pg 367] together, face up, and with the stamp in the same position. When they are arranged the boys carry a great bundle to another man who has to stamp them, so as to mark the stamp in case it should be used again. There is a very clever contrivance for this. A little round wheel spins at a tremendous pace, and on it are dark lines covered with wet ink. A man holds the letters and pushes them one by one up to the wheel, which, when it touches them, drags them through a narrow space in front, and as they pass the wheel the ink-lines run across the stamp and mark it so that it cannot be used again. So quickly does the little wheel whirr and the letters spin past that five hundred are done in a minute. Think of that; it means nearly nine a second. Nine letters stamped while you say 'One—two,' which is a second. Some letters are too thick and others too big to go through the little space by the wheel, so the man who is looking after them picks out those and throws them up on to a tray, from which they are gathered up and carried to another man, who stamps each by hand, a much slower process.
When the letters are stamped they are carried off to other men, who sort them out, throwing them into different divisions, according to the part of London for which they are intended, and any that[Pg 368] he cannot read, any that have not got a sufficient address, or any that have not a stamp on, are put aside. Those with bad or insufficient addresses are called 'blind,' which is a funny word to use in this sense; they are carried off to some men, who sit with ponderous books in front of them, and who work solemnly, hunting out names and addresses. Perhaps one address is so badly written that it looks to you and me just as if a beetle had fallen into an ink-bottle and walked over the paper. But the man at the desk is accustomed to bad writing, he soon makes it out, and writes it neatly so that it can be read and the letter sent on. Another person has put the street, perhaps on his envelope, but not the district of London, and this is hunted up and supplied, and so on; and always as the men work, gradually reducing the pile of letters before them, more are added, so that it seems as if their work would never end. Near the first men who were sorting letters are others sorting out packets and throwing them into baskets. Fast as they work, they cannot keep up with the fresh piles always poured in. They pitch the parcels into the baskets with speed and accuracy generally, but sometimes in their haste a packet flies over the rail and hits the head of a person walking past.
Here is a little table where a man is standing looking at some odd things—a clothes brush, a box of flowers, a locket, and a pair of gloves. What is he doing? These are things which have been badly tied up, and have consequently come undone in the post, and some of them have no addresses, but perhaps there is a letter inside the parcel. This letter begins 'My darling,' but there is no time to read it; all that is wanted is the address of the sender, to which the things can be returned. This is quickly found, and the parcel is tied up again and sent back. But if you do not want to have any of your letters seen by a man in the Post-Office, you had better tie them up very carefully when you send them by post. The things for which no addresses can be found go to the Dead Letter Office, and every now and then there is a sale of them.
But the Post-Office does its best always to find the people to whom the things should be sent, and tries to please everyone, which is a difficult task, and it very often comes in for a great deal of blame. But we wonder as we leave the great building, not at the things that are occasionally lost, but at the great mass, the millions of letters, that are sent safely through to their journey's end without being either lost or delayed.
We have now seen a good deal of London, and know something about it; but there are a few facts that do not come very well into any of the preceding chapters, and so to end up I am going to make a chapter about the odd things.
You remember that when Dick Whittington, weary and disheartened, would have gone away from London, he heard the bells of Bow Church ringing, and what they seemed to say to him was, 'Turn again, Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London.' And he was so much encouraged that he did turn again, and persevered, and in the end he rose so high as to be Lord Mayor, not once, but three times.
It is a great thing to be the Lord Mayor. He is chosen every year, and rules the city for a year, and then resigns his grand position to his successor. There is a splendid house right in the heart of the City called the Mansion House, and here the Lord[Pg 371] Mayor lives while he is Lord Mayor, and here he gives great banquets. Sometimes the King and Queen come to lunch with him, and all the great people from abroad who visit England go to see the Lord Mayor. When the King makes a procession through London in state he is met at Temple Bar, where the City begins, by the Lord Mayor, who hands him the keys of the City; not that there is any longer any gate that needs unlocking, but this ceremony is kept up in memory of the time when London was surrounded by a high wall, which prevented anyone getting in except by the gates.
The ninth of November is Lord Mayor's Day. On that day the new Lord Mayor, who has been chosen for the year, makes a procession all round London. This is a great holiday; the shops are shut, and people put on their best clothes and turn out into the streets, and very early in the morning the police begin to stop the omnibuses and cabs that are going down the City streets and turn them into other streets more out of the way. Then the crowds grow thicker and thicker, walking all over the roadway, so that there would be no room for anyone to drive through even if it were permitted. At last the signal is given that the[Pg 372] procession is coming. Then the police hurry about and push the people back, and make a way for the procession, and everyone stands on tiptoe and strains to see over his neighbour's shoulders. First come bands playing gay tunes and soldiers marching, and then more soldiers and more bands, and then perhaps sailors, and it may be the fire-engine, not racing along to put out a fire, but with the horses trotting gently, while the people shout and cheer, for everyone admires the Fire Brigade.
These are followed by the lifeboat men, who save life at sea, and fight with the waves as the firemen fight with the flames. They have a great lifeboat on a car, and the people cheer themselves hoarse at the sight of it. Then follow shows, with people dressed up to represent India or Asia, dragged along on great cars. One year there were men dressed up to represent all the Lord Mayors there had been in the City since very early times, and the gay colours and the curious old-fashioned clothes were very pretty. There may follow next the Duke of York's little soldier boys that you have read about, marching along with their band playing, and enjoying themselves very much. It is a holiday for them.
There are also carriages with the officers of the[Pg 373] City, the sheriffs and aldermen, who help the Lord Mayor with his duties, and who will perhaps themselves take his place in turn; and at last there is a great shouting and cheering, and a huge coach appears painted with crimson and gold, like the glass coach that the fairy godmother made for Cinderella. It comes swinging along with the Lord Mayor inside. There are four horses covered with rich harness, and the fat coachman on the box, with his three-cornered hat and brilliant livery, looks very proud of himself and his position.
When the procession has passed the people close in over the road again, and jostle and push and laugh, and everyone seems to be going in different directions, and Lord Mayor's Show is done for another year.
When I began writing about the Lord Mayor I mentioned Dick Whittington and Bow bells. Bow Church is a very famous church. One way of expressing the fact of being a Londoner used to be to say 'born within sound of Bow bells.'
The old church was burnt down with all the others in the Fire, and the church that now stands was built by Sir Christopher Wren. In the old church it was a rule that the bell should be rung every night, and when the shopmen heard the bell[Pg 374] they shut up their shops. Now, the men who rang the bell sometimes were late, and this made the apprentices, the young men who worked in the shops, very angry, for they wanted to get away from their work and go out into the streets to enjoy themselves; but their masters would not let them go until the bell rang. So the young apprentices made up a rhyme:
And the clerk was frightened, and said:
Cheape was the name of the street where the church stands, and it is now called Cheapside. I expect the clerk kept his promise, for the young apprentices were very sturdy, and they would have given him 'knockes' at once. I do not know how they liked being called children.
On the top of Bow spire there was a figure of a dragon, which looked very fine when the sun shone; and in another part of the City, near the Bank and the Mansion House, there was on the top of the Royal Exchange a grasshopper, which was the sign of a great merchant of Queen [Pg 375]Elizabeth's time, who built the first Exchange. Now, there was an old saying that when the grasshopper from the Exchange and the dragon from Bow Church should meet, the streets of London would run with blood. But this did not seem at all likely to happen, for there is a long distance between the Exchange and Bow Church. But rather less than a hundred years ago the dragon was taken down to be cleaned, and at the same time someone thought the grasshopper wanted repair, and, as it happened, he took it to the very same builder's yard where the dragon was, and the dragon and the grasshopper lay side by side. Then someone remembered that old saying, and was terrified; but there was no fighting, and the streets of London did not run with blood, which shows that old sayings do not always come true.
London City is now lighted by electricity, which has almost displaced gas, but there was a time not so long ago when the only lighting of the streets was done by candles, and every man who owned a window looking out on to the street was forced to burn a candle there from six to ten o'clock every night.
You can imagine that these candles did not make a very good light, and there was plenty of opportunity for thieves and ruffians to annoy honest[Pg 376] men. When people went out at night they used to hire boys with torches to run beside them. These boys were called link-boys, and they waited in the streets to be hired, just as cabmen wait about now. The torches they carried were flaming pieces of wood, which burned very brightly and made many sparks and much smell, and one would have thought they were very dangerous, as they might have set alight the ladies' dresses, but we never hear of any such accidents having happened.
Well, this is all I am going to tell you about London at present, but it is by no means all there is to tell; only some things are not easy for children to understand, and others are difficult to describe in writing. For these you must wait until you are older, and until you can go to see them for yourselves. But if you understand ever so little from this book what a great and wonderful town London is, you will not have wasted your time in reading it.
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