« AnteriorContinuar »
striking their clubs upon the bell, gave warning note of noon. Those giants have passed away ; those two great ligneous heroes of the good old times have been displaced and banished ; and we have submitted to learn the hour from an ordinary dial. There was a grim dignity in their bearing—a might in their actionthat enhanced the value of the time they noted : their clubs fell upon the senses of parishioners and way-farers, with a power and impressiveness not compassable by around, pale-faced clock. It was, we say, to give a worth and solemnity to time, to have time counted by such grave tellers. If the parishioners of St. Dunstan and the frequent passengers of Fleet-street have, of late years, contributed more than their fair quota to the stock of national wickedness, may not the evil be philosophically traced to the deposition of their wooden monitors ? This very valuable surmise of ours ought to be quoted in parliament—that is, if lawmakers properly prepared themselves for their solemn tasks, by duly conning histories like the present-quoted in opposition to the revolutionary movement of the time. For we have little doubt that a motion for the return of the number of felonies and misdemeanours —to say nothing of the social offences that may be the more grave because not named in the statutes-committed in the parish of St. Dunstan's, would show an alarming increase since the departure of St. Dunstan's wooden genii. A triumphant argument this—we modestly conceive-for the conservation of wooden things in high places. “La! and what's them?” again cried the girl, twelve o'clock being told by the strikers.
Why, my tulup, them 's a couple of cruel churchwardens turned into wood hundreds of years ago, for their sins to the poor. But you are a beauty, that you are !” added Ralph, with burning gallantry.
“ It can't be ; and you never mean it,” said the maiden, really forgetting her own loveliness in her wonder of the giants. “Turned into wood ? Unpossible ! Who did it?”
“Why, Providence,-or, something of the kind, you know," replied the audacious footnian. “ You ’ve heard of Whittington,
Ishould think, my marigold, eh? He made a fortin in the Indies, where he let out his cat to kill all the vermin in all the courtsand a nice job I should think puss must have had of it.
Well, them giants was churchwardens in his time : men with flesh and blood in their hearts, though now they'd bleed nothing but saw-dust.'
" You don't say so !
Poor souls ! And what did they do ?” asked the innocent damsel..
Mr. Ralph Gum scratched his head for inspiration; and then made answer : “You see, there was a poor woman—a sailor's wife — with three twins in her arms. And she went to one churchwarden, and said as how she was a starving; and that her very babbies, couldn't
for weakness. And he told her to come tomorrow, for it wasn't the time to relieve paupers : and then she went to the other churchwarden, and he sent out word that she must come again in two days, and not afore.”
Two days !” cried the maiden. “ The cruel creturs ! didn't they know what time was to the starving ?”
Why, no ; they didn't ; and for that reason, both the churchwardens fell sick, all their limbs everyday a turning into wood. And then they died; and they was going to bury 'em, when next morning their coffins was found empty ; and they was seen where they now stand. And there was a Act of Parliament made that their relations shouldn't touch 'em, but let'em stand to strike the clock, as a warning to all wicked churchwardens to know what hours are to folks with hungry bellies.”
“ Wonderful ! ” exclaimed the girl, innocent as a bleating lamb. “ And now, young man, you 're sure this is the way to Mary Axe ?”
“ Didn't I tell you, my sunflower, I was born there? I would carry your bundle for you, only you see, his lordship, the nobleman I serve,
is very particular. Livery's livery ;-he'd discharge any of us that demeaned himself to carry a bundle. Bless
there are young fellows in our square-only I'm not proud—that wouldn't speak to you with such a thing as a bundle ; they
But then, you 're such a beauty!” No; I am not. I know what I am, young man. I'm not of the worst, but a good way from the best. Besides, beauty, as they say, is only skin-deep; is it?" asked the maiden, not unwilling to dwell upon the theme.
“Well, you 're deep enough for me anyhow,” replied the footboy, and he fixed his eyes as though he thought them burning-glasses, on the guileless stranger. “And now, here you are, right afore Temple Bar.'
Mercy! what a big gate! and what 's. it for, young man?” cried the wondering girl.
Why, I once heard it said in our hall that Temple Bar was
built on purpose to keep the scum of the city from running over into the West End. Now, this I don't believe,” averred Ralph.
• Nor I, neither,” cried the ingenuous wench, “ else, doesn't it stand to reason they 'd keep the gate shut ?”
My ’pinion is what I once heard, —that Temple Bar was really built at the time of the Great Plague of London, to keep the disease from the king and queen, th rest of the royal family, with all the nobility, spirital and temperal.” And Ralph coughed.
Well, if you don't talk like a prayer-book !” exclaimed the maiden, full of admiration.
“I ought by this time; I was born to it, my dear. Bless your heart, when I was no higher nor that, I was in our house. I learnt my letters from the plate ; yes, real gold and silver ; none of your horn-books. And as for pictures, I didn't go to books for them neither ; no, I used to study the coach-panels. There wasn't a griffin, nor a cockatrice, nor a tiger, nor a viper of any sort upon town I wasn't acquainted with. That's knowing life, I think. It isn't for me to talk, my bed of violets ; but you wouldn't think the Latin I know; and all from coaches."
6. Wonderful ! But are you sure this is the way to Mary Axe ?” and with the question the maiden crossed the city's barrier, and with her lettered deceiver trod the Strand.
“ If you ask me that again,” answered the slightly-wounded Ralph, “ I don't know that I'll answer you. Come along. As the carriage says, ' Hora et semper.
“ Now, if you go on in that way, I won't believe a word you say. English for me ; acause then I can give you as good as you send. No; wholesome English, or I won't step another step ;' and it was plain that the timid rustic felt some slight alarm-was a little oppressed by the mysterious knowledge of her first London acquaintance. She thought there was some hocus pocus associated with Latin: it was to her the natural utterance of a conjuror. With some emphasis she added, “ All I want to know is—how far is it to Mary Axe?"
“ Why, my carnation, next to nothing now. Step out ; and you'll be there afore you know it. As I say, I only wish I could carry your bundle—I do, my daisy." Mr. Gum might have spared his regrets. Had his gracious majesty pulled up in his carriage, and offered to be the bearer of that bundle, its owner would have refused him the enjoyment; convinced that it was not the king of England who proposed the courtesy, but the father of all wicked
ness, disguised as royal Brunswick, and driving about in a carriage of shadows, for the especial purpose of robbing rustic maids. As we have intimated, the damsel had, in the fastnesses of Kent, learned prudence against the iniquities of London. And so, believing that St. Mary Axe was close at hand, she hopefully jogged on.
“ What a many churches !” she said, looking at St. Clement's. “ Well, the folks in London ought to be good.
“And so they are, my wallflower,” rejoined the footman. “ The best in the world ; take 'em in the lump. And there, you see, is another church. And besides what we have, we're a going to have I don't know how many hundred more built, that everybody, as is at all anybody, may have a comfortable pew to his whole self, and not be mixed up—like people in the gallery of a playhouse-along of the lower orders. I dare say, now, your grandmother in the country"
" Ain't got no grandmother," said the girl. “Well, it's all the same : the old women where you come from I dare say they talked to you about the wickedness of London, didn't they? And how all the handsome young men you'd meet was nothing more than roaring lions, rolling their eyes about, and licking their mouths, to eat up anybody as come fresh from the daisies? Didn't they tell you this, eh, beauty ? ” cried Ralph.
“ A little on it,” said the girl, now pouting, now giggling.
“And you've seen nothing of the sort ? Upon your word and honour now, have you? and the footman tried to look winningly in the girl's eyes, and held forth, appealingly, his right hand.
Nothing yet ; that is, nothing that I knows on,” was the guarded answer of the damsel.
“ To be sure not. Now my opinion is, there's more downright wickedness-more roguery and sin of all sorts in an acre of the country than in any five mile of London streets : only, we don't kick up a noise about our virtue and all that sort of stuff. Whilst quite to the contrary, the folks in the country do nothing but talk about their innocence, and all such gammon, eh?”
“ I can't hear innocence called gammon afore me,” said the girl. “ Innocence is innocence, and nothing else ; and them as would alter it, ought to blush for themselves.
“ To be sure they ought," answered Gum. 6. But the truth is, because lambs don't run about London streets - and birds don't hop on the pavement — and hawthorns and honeysuckles don't
grow in the gutters - London's a place of wickedness. Now, you know, my lily of the valley,--folks arn't a bit more like lambs for living among 'em, are they?”
“ Is this the way to Mary Axe ?” asked the girl, with growing impatience. Tell you,
tisn't no distance whatever, only first”. and the deceiver turned with his victim out of the Strand—“first you must pass Drury-lane playhouse."
“ The playhouse--really the playhouse !” exclaimed the wench, with an interest in the institution that in these times would have sufficiently attested her vulgarity. “I should like to see the playhouse."
“Well then, my double heartsease, here it is,” and Ralph with his finger pointed to the tremendous temple. With curious, yet reverential looks, did the girl gaze upon the mysterious fabric. It was delicious to behold even the outside of that brick and mortar rareeshow. And staring, the girl's heart was stirred with the thought of the wonders, the mysteries; acted therein. She had seen plays. Three times at least she had sat in a wattlebuilt fane, and seen the dramatic priesthood in their hours of sacrifice. Pleasant, though confused, was her remembrance of the strange harmonies that filled 'her heart to overflowing -that took her away into another world—that brought sweet tears into her eyes - and made her think (she had never thought so before) that there was really something besides the drudgery of work in life ; that men and women were made to have some holiday thoughts—thoughts that breathed strange, comforting music, even to creatures poor and low as she. Then lections flowed afresh as she looked upon that mighty London mystery—that charmed place that in day-dreams she had thought of—that had revealed its glorious, fantastic wonders in her sleep. The London playhouse! She saw it-she could touch its walls. One great hope of her rustic life was consummated ; and the greater would be accomplished. Yes : sure as her life, she would sit aloft in the gallery, would hear the music, and see the London players' spangles.
“And this is Drury-lane !" cried the wench, softened by the thought—" well! I never!'
“ You like plays, do you? So do I. Well, when we know one another a little better--for I wouldn't be so bold as to ask it now -in course not-won't we go together?” said Ralph ; and the girl was silent. She did not inquire about St. Mary Axe ; but