A March on London by G. A. Henty
Chapter IX. Death of the Tyler
"What befell the king, my lord?" said Edgar.
"As far as he was concerned all went well. A multitude accompanied him to Mile End Fields, and then, on his demanding that they should frankly tell him what were their grievances, they handed to him a parchment containing the four points that have from the first been asked for, and all of which are reasonable enough. The king, after reading them, told them in a loud voice that he was willing to grant their desires, and would forthwith issue a charter bestowing these four points on the people. The rebels set up a great shout, and forthwith marched away in their companies, the men of Herts, Cambridge, and Suffolk, and all those of Essex who were there. Nothing could have been better. We knew not that the Kentish men and some of the Essex bands, together with the rabble of the city, had remained at the Tower, and it was only as we rode back, believing that the trouble was all over, that we heard what had happened."
"Will the king still grant the charter, father?" Albert asked.
"I know not. Everything has been changed by the conduct of these fellows, and the murder of the archbishop, the lord treasurer, and others, to say nothing of the insults to the king's mother, and the insolence of the mob in making themselves masters of the Tower. But, indeed, the king could not himself grant such a charter. It is a matter that must be done both by king and parliament, and when the knights of the shires and the representatives of the great towns meet, they will be equally indisposed to grant concessions to men who have burned palaces, destroyed all deeds and titles wheresoever they could find them, killed every man of law on whom they could lay hands, and throughout all England have risen against the lords of the soil.
"If the rabble could, whenever they had the fancy, rise in arms and enforce any claim that they chose to propose, they would soon be masters of all. It may be that erelong serfdom will cease, and I see not why all men should not have the right of buying and selling in open market. As to fixing the price of land, I think not that that can be done, seeing that some land is vastly more fertile than others, and that the land towns is of much greater value than elsewhere. But even in my time there have been great changes, and the condition of the serfs is very greatly improved, while the hardships they complain of, and the heavy taxation, are not felt by serfs only, but are common to all.
"However, although for a time I believe that these unlawful and riotous doings will do harm rather than good, and assuredly all those who have taken a leading part in them will be punished, yet in the end it will be seen that it were best that these things that they now ask for should be granted, and that England should be content, and all classes stand together. Undoubtedly these fellows have shown that they can bite as well as growl, and though they would always be put down in the end, it might be only after great effort and much heavy fighting, and after terrible misfortunes befalling, not only towns, but all throughout the country who dwell in houses incapable of making a long defence.
"At present we may be sure that whatever the king may promise these varlets, parliament will grant no such charter. I myself would not that they should do so. It would be fatal to the peace of the land for the commons, as they call themselves, to think that they have but to rise in arms to frighten the king and government into granting whatsoever they may demand. And now let us eat and drink, for indeed I am both hungry and thirsty, and I doubt not that 'tis the same with you. I told Jenkin, as I came in, to give us something to eat, it mattered not what, so that it were done speedily. 'Tis well that I left the two men here, otherwise we should have found an empty larder."
"That might well have been, father," Albert said, "for our hostess and her servants all went away yesterday, thinking that it would be safer in the city than here, but we told Hob and Jenkin always to keep a store of food, since there was no saying when you would all return, and that, at any rate, even were we out all day, Edgar and I might want supper on our return, and a good meal before leaving in the morning."
"What have you both been doing since I saw you last?" the knight asked, when the meal was finished.
Albert told how they had seen the mayor constrained to open the bridge gates; how the Duke of Lancaster's palace at the Savoy had been burned, and the houses in the Temple pillaged and fired; and how the Flemings had been murdered in great numbers, and their houses sacked and in some cases burned.
"In faith, I am glad I was not there," Sir Ralph said, "for I think not that I could have kept my sword in its sheath, even though it had cost me my life."
"You charged us to take no part in broils, father," Albert said, with a smile, "and we felt, therefore, constrained to do nothing save on one occasion."
"Ah! ah!" the knight exclaimed in evident satisfaction, "then you did do something. I hope that you gave a lesson to one or more of these villains. Now that I look at you closely, it seems to me that you use your left arm but stiffly, Albert; and you have your hair cut away in one place, Edgar, and a strip of plaster on it. I thought it was the result of the fray in the Tower."
"No, sir, it was in the other matter. We each got some blows--some of them pretty hard ones--but they were of no great consequence."
"How did it come about, Albert?"
Albert gave a full account of the fray, from the time they came to the assistance of the Flemish girl until they escaped by the secret passage.
"By St. George, wife!" the knight said, "but these young esquires shame us altogether. While the king's knights and courtiers, his garrison of the Tower, and the worshipful citizens of London have not among them struck one blow at this rabbledom, they must have disposed of fully a score between them--seven, you say, in the Tower, and, I doubt not, a good thirteen at the door and on the stair of this Fleming's house--and to think that we considered this boy of ours fit for nothing else than to become a priest. This is the second time since we came up here, a fortnight since, that they have rescued a fair lady, to say nothing of their fathers, and without counting the saving of yourself and Aline; the sooner they are shipped off to France the better, or they will be causing a dearth of his Majesty's subjects. I am proud of you, lads. Who is this Fleming? Did you learn his name?"
"Yes, sir; it was Van Voorden."
"Say you so. It seems to me that you make choice of useful men upon whom to bestow benefits. Master Robert Gaiton is, as I learn, one of the leading citizens of London, a wealthy man, and one who in a few years is like to be mayor; and now you have befriended Van Voorden, who is the richest and most influential of the Flemish merchants in London. It is to him that the chancellor goes when he desires to raise a loan among the Flemings, and he always manages it without difficulty, he himself, as they say, contributing no small share of it. He is one who may be a good friend to you indeed, and who, should fortune take you to the Low Country, could recommend you to the greatest merchants there."
"He will be out there himself, father. He told us that he had for some little time been thinking of returning to Flanders, and that now he should do so at once. How was it, father, that the men-at-arms did not defend the Tower?"
"It was not altogether their fault. When it was determined that the king should ride out and meet the mob, the most stringent orders were given that on no account should the archers draw a bow upon the rabble. It is true that there were doubts whether many of them were not at heart with the people, which was not altogether unnatural, seeing that they were drawn from the same class and from the same counties. Still, doubtless, most of them would have proved true, and so long as they did their duty the others could hardly have held back; but, in truth, this had naught to do with the order, which was simply given to prevent a broil between the garrison and the mob, for had some of the latter been killed, it might have cost the king his life and the lives of all with him.
"No one, however, thought for a moment that the rabble would have attacked the Tower. We supposed, of course, that the drawbridge would be raised as soon as we had passed over it, but whether the order was not given for it or whether it was misunderstood I know not, but the blunder has cost the lives of the archbishop, the lord treasurer, and others, the insult to the princess, and the disgrace of the Tower having been in the hands of this rascaldom. Well, I must be off there and see what is going to be done."
The knight found that the king had already gone to visit his mother, who had, after landing, been conveyed to a house called the Royal Wardrobe, in Bayard's Castle Ward by the Thames, where he remained until the next morning. While there he learned that Wat the Tyler and a portion of the Kentish men had rejected contemptuously the charter with which the men from the counties north of the Thames had been perfectly satisfied, and which was all that they themselves had at first demanded. Another was drawn up craving further concessions. This was also rejected, as was a third.
"The king is going to mass at Westminster," the knight said, "and after that he will ride round the city. I shall go myself to Westminster with him, and you can both ride with me, for it may be that the king on his way may be met by the rabble, which is composed of the worst and most dangerous of all who have been out, for in addition to Tyler's own following, there will be the prisoners released from all of the jails and the scum of the city. We will ride in our armour. They say there are still 20,000 of them, but even if the worst happens we may be able to carry the king safely through them."
In the morning they took horse. The knight was in full armour; Edgar and Albert were in body armour with steel caps. He skirted the walls of the city and rode to Westminster. At the Abbey they found the lord mayor and many of the leading citizens also in armour, they having come to form an escort for the king. Richard arrived by water with several knights and gentlemen who had accompanied him on his visit to his mother. Mass was celebrated, and the king then paid his devotions before a statue of the Virgin, which had the reputation of performing many miracles, particularly in favour of English kings. After this he mounted his horse and rode off with the barons, knights, and citizens--in all some sixty persons.
"There they are," Sir Ralph said, as a great crowd were seen gathered in West Smithfield. "I have some curiosity to see this knave Tyler. I hear from one of the knights with the king that he had the insolence to demand, in addition to all the concessions offered, that all forest laws should be abolished, and that all warrens, waters, parks, and woods should be made common land, so that all might fish in all waters, hunt the deer in forests and parks, and the hare wherever they chose."
When they approached the rioters, the king checked his horse, and made a sign that he would speak with them. Wat the Tyler at once rode forward, telling his followers to stand fast until he gave the signal.
"The insolent varlet!" Sir Ralph muttered, grasping the hilt of his sword; "see, he lifts not his cap to the king, but rides up as if he were his equal!"
The Tyler, indeed, rode up until his horse's head touched the flank of the king's horse, and he and Richard were knee to knee. Nothing could exceed the insolence of his demeanour.
"King," he said, "do you see all these men here?"
"I see them," Richard replied. "Why dost thou ask?"
"Because," the Tyler said, "they are all at my will, sworn to do whatsoever I shall bid them."
So threatening and insolent was his manner as he spoke, keeping his hand on his sword, that the lord mayor, who was riding next to the king, believed that he intended to do Richard harm, and drawing a short sword, stabbed him in the throat. Wat the Tyler reeled on his horse, and Ralph Standish, one of the king's esquires, thrust him through the body, and he fell dead. A great shout arose from his followers, and fitting their arrows to the strings of their bows they ran forward with cries of vengeance. The knights and gentlemen drew their swords, but Richard, signing to them not to advance, rode forward.
"What are you doing, my lieges?" he cried. "Wat the Tyler was a traitor. I am your king, and I will be your captain and guide."
The mob stood irresolute. Although they had declared war against his councillors, they had always professed loyalty to the boy king himself. The king then rode back to his party.
"What had we best do now?" he asked the lord mayor.
"We had best make for the fields, sire," the latter said; "if they see us attempt to retreat they will gain heart and courage and will rush upon us, while if we advance we may gain a little time. Sir Robert Knowles is gathering a force in the city, and I have issued an order for all loyal citizens to join him; they will soon be with us, then we shall put an end to the matter."
[Illustration: THE LORD MAYOR STABS WAT THE TYLER, IN PRESENCE OF THE BOY- KING.]
Slowly the party proceeded onwards; the mob, silent and sullen, opened a way for them to pass, and then followed close behind them. Deprived of their leader they knew not what to do; and as no one else came forward to take the command, they did nothing until the king reached the open fields by Islington. As he did so, Sir Robert Knowles, with a following of upwards of a thousand men, rode up from the city and joined him. The mob at once took to flight, some running through the corn-fields, while others threw away their bows and other weapons, dropping upon their knees and crying for mercy.
"Shall I charge them, your Majesty? We will speedily make an end of the affair altogether."
"No," Richard replied; "many of them are but poor varlets who have been led astray. They are no longer dangerous, and we shall have time to deal with their leaders later on."
It was with the greatest difficulty that Sir Robert and the citizens, who were burning with a desire to avenge the dishonour thrown upon the city by the doings of the rioters, were restrained from taking their revenge upon them.
"Nay, nay, gentlemen," the king said, "they are unarmed and defenceless, and it would be an ill deed to slay them unresistingly. Rest content, I will see that due punishment is dealt out."
"The king is right," Sir Ralph said, as he sheathed his sword. "As long as they stood in arms I would gladly have gone at them, but to cut them down without resistance is a deed for which I have no stomach. It was a courageous action of the young king, lads, thus to ride alone to that angry crowd armed with bills and bows. Had one of them loosed an arrow at him all would have shot, and naught could have saved his life, while we ourselves would all have been in a perilous position. Well, there is an end of the matter. The knaves will scarce cease running until they reach their homes."
In the meantime the insurgents throughout the country had done but little. The nobles shut themselves up in their castles, but the young Bishop of Norwich armed his retainers, collected his friends, and marched against the insurgents in Norfolk, Cambridge, and Huntingdon. He surprised several bodies of peasants and utterly defeated them. The prisoners taken were brought before him, and putting off the complete armour which he wore, he heard the confession of his captives, gave them absolution, and then sent them straight to the gibbet. With the return of the peasants to their homes the gentlemen from the country were able to come with their retainers to town, and Richard found himself at the head of forty thousand men.
He at once annulled the charters that had been wrung from him, while commissioners were sent throughout the country to arrest and try the leaders of the insurrection, and some fifteen hundred men, including all the leaders, were executed. The men of Essex alone took up arms again, but were defeated with great loss, as was to be expected. When parliament met they not only approved the annulment of the charters, but declared that such charters were invalid without their consent, and passed several stringent laws to deter the people from venturing upon any repetition of the late acts. Later on, the commons presented petitions calling for the redress of abuses in administration, attributing this insurrection to the extortions of the tax-collectors, and the venality and rapacity of judges and officers of the courts of law.
On the day following the death of Wat the Tyler Sir Ralph told the lads that the king desired to see them.
"He was good enough to ask me this morning how you had fared, and I told him how you had rescued my dame and daughter, and also how you had befriended Mynheer Van Voorden, and he at once asked me to bring you again to him."
The king received them in private. "By St. George, gentlemen," he said, "had all my knights and followers proved themselves as valiant as you, we should have had no difficulty in dealing with these knaves. It seems to me strange, indeed, that, while you are but a year older than myself, you should have fought so valiantly, and killed so many of these rioters."
"Your Majesty should hardly think that strange," Edgar said, courteously, "seeing how you yourself performed a far more valiant action, by riding up to twenty thousand angry men with bows drawn and pikes pointed. I trembled, and felt well-nigh sick when I saw you thus expose yourself to what seemed certain death. In our case the risk was but small, for in the fray here we had to deal with men flushed with wine, and knowing naught of the use of their weapons, and it was the same thing in the house of the Fleming, where, moreover, we had the advantage of ground."
The young king was evidently pleased at the compliment. "It seemed to me that it was the only thing to do," he said, "and I had no time to think of the danger. I have told Sir Ralph De Courcy that I would gladly knight you both, in proof of my admiration for your courage; but he has pointed out to me that you are as yet young, and that he would prefer--and believed that you also would do so--to wait until you had an opportunity of winning your spurs in combat with a foreign foe. However, it is but deferred, and I promise you that as soon as you are two years older, I will bestow knighthood upon you. I myself would willingly," he added, with a smile, "have laid Van Voorden under an obligation. He is a very Croesus, and I regard him as my banker, for he is ever ready to open his money-bags, and to make me advances upon any tax that may have been ordered. Have you seen him since the fray?"
"No, sire, we are going to him when we leave you, to tell him that order is restored, and that he may now without danger leave his hiding-place."
"Van Voorden is not the only merchant in London that my son and Master Ormskirk have had the good fortune to aid since their arrival here, your Majesty, for they rescued from an attack by robbers outside Aldersgate Master Robert Gaiton, who is an alderman and a foreign merchant. He had his daughter with him, and had the lads arrived a minute later, the two would have been killed."
"I know him," the king said; "he was one of those who rode with the lord mayor from Westminster with me. Please tell me all about it. I love to hear of brave deeds."
Albert told the story of the rescue.
"It was well done indeed," the king said. "I would that I could ramble about and act the knight-errant as you do. 'Tis tiresome to be in the hands of councillors, who are ever impressing upon me that I must not do this or that, as if I were a child. I would gladly have you here about my person, but, as Sir Ralph has told me, you would fain, at any rate for the present, devote yourselves to arms, I did not press the matter, but be assured that at any time you will find in me a friend. You have but to ask a boon, and whatsoever it is, if it be in my power, I will grant it, and I hope that some day I shall find you settled at Court, where," and he laughed, "it seems to me, that honours, if not honour, are much more easily gained than in the battle-field."
Leaving the king's presence, the lads went into the city. Van Voorden had showed them how the sliding panel might be opened from the outside. Already the city had resumed its usual appearance, and the people were going about their business. They therefore found the door of the house opposite Van Voorden's standing open. Waiting until they saw that no one was near, they entered, opened the sliding panel, and, closing it carefully behind them, descended the stairs. On reaching the iron door Edgar gave three knocks, the signal that they had arranged with the Fleming. It was opened at once.
"Welcome, my friends," Van Voorden said, as they entered. "I have not ventured out, thinking that it would be better to remain quiet for at least a week, rather than run any risk. What news do you bring me?"
"Good news, sir," Edgar replied; "the insurrection is at an end, the men of the northern counties have marched away, the Tyler has been killed and his followers have fled, loyal gentlemen with their retainers are coming in fast, all is quiet here, the shops are open, and save for the ruins of burnt houses there are no signs of the evil days that we have passed through."
"That is good news, indeed. My dame is better, but I shall be glad to get her out into the light and air. I will sally out with you at once and look for a lodging, where we may bestow ourselves until I have wound up my affairs and am ready to start for Flanders."
This business was soon settled. The Fleming found a compatriot whose house had escaped sack, but who had been so alarmed that he intended to return home at once, until order was completely restored throughout the country, and he decided to let his house as it stood to Van Voorden. As a vessel was sailing that evening, he arranged to give up possession at once.
"I will, with your permission," said Van Voorden, "fetch my wife and daughter here forthwith. The former has so far recovered from her malady that she will not need to be carried hither, but I want to get her out from the hiding-place where she now is, for, in truth, in spite of the precautions that were taken when it was built, the air is close and heavy."
"By all means do so at once," the Fleming said. "There is plenty of room in the house, for I embarked my wife and family ten days since, and there is no one but myself and the servants here."
On the way Van Voorden had been warmly greeted by many acquaintances, all of whom had believed him to have been killed by the rioters before they fired his house, and on issuing out now he met Robert Gaiton.
"I am glad, indeed, to see you, Mynheer," the latter said. "I feared that yon and yours had all perished."
"That we did not do so was owing to the valour of these gentlemen, Master Robert; let me introduce them to you."
"I need no introduction," the merchant said, smiling, "for it is to their valour also that I owe it that you see me here alive. If yon can spare time to come and take your meal with me, which should be ready by this time, I will tell you about it, and will hear from you also, how they have done you a like service."
"I will do so gladly," Van Voorden said, "for they will not be expecting me back for some time, as they would not deem that I could so soon find a house for them to go to."
"Of course you will come too?" said Gaiton.
"With your permission we will decline your offer," Albert said. "My father is detained at the Tower, and my mother and sister are alone, and will be expecting us."
"Well, I will not press you. I do not suppose that you care about having your good actions talked about."
"Truly, Master Robert, these young gentlemen have rendered us both rare service," Van Voorden said, after he and Gaiton had both told their stories. "I see not how I am to discharge any of my obligations to them. If they had taken us both captives in war they would have put us to ransom and we could have paid whatever was demanded, but in this case we do not stand so."
"I feel that myself, Mynheer. A knight considers himself in no ways lowered by taking ransom from a captive, or by receiving a purse of gold from his sovereign. But his notions of honour will scarce admit of his taking money for a service rendered. I have promised to fit them out with arms, armour, and a war-horse when they go on service; but beyond that, which is after all but a trifle to me, I see not what to do."
"I am sorry that you have forestalled me," Van Voorden said, "for I had thought of doing that myself. I may do them a service if they should chance at any time to go to Flanders; but beyond that I see not that I can do aught at present. Later on, when they become knights, and take wives for themselves, I shall step in and buy estates for them to support their rank, and methinks that they will not refuse the gift."
"I shall claim to take part with you in that matter," Robert Gaiton said. "I cannot count guineas with you, but I am a flourishing man, and as I have but one daughter to marry, I have no need for my money beyond what is engaged in trade."
"Well, we won't quarrel over that," the Fleming replied. "However, for the present it were best to say naught of our intentions. They are noble lads. Edgar is the leading spirit, and, indeed, the other told me, when they were waiting till it was safe for them to leave the hiding-place, that he had been a very weakly lad, and had been intended for the Church, but that Edgar had been a great friend of his, had urged him to practise in arms, which so increased his strength that he was, to his father's delight, able to abandon the idea. He said that all he knew of arms he had acquired from Edgar, and that, while he was still but an indifferent swordsman, his friend was wonderfully skilled with his weapon, and fully a match for most men."
"That he has proved for both of our benefits," Robert Gaiton said. "In truth, they are in all ways worthy youths. I have seen much of them during the last few days, and like them greatly, irrespective of my gratitude for what they did for me."
On the following day the king knighted the lord mayor, William Walworth, Robert Gaiton, and five other aldermen who had ridden with him, and granted an augmentation to the arms of the city, introducing a short sword or dagger in the right quarter of the shield, in remembrance of the deed by which the lord mayor had freed him from the leader of the rioters.
Van Voorden called with Robert Gaiton upon Sir Ralph to thank him for the services his son and Edgar had rendered him, and heard for the first time how they had saved Dame Agatha and Aline from insult, and had slain the seven rioters, of whom five had fallen to Edgar's sword.
"Truly a brave deed, and a prudent one," Sir Robert Gaiton said. "Once begun, it was a matter of life and death that the business should be carried out to the end."
"His Majesty has highly commended them," Sir Ralph said, "and would fain have knighted them had they been a year or two older."
"I see not that age should have stood in the way," Van Voorden broke in. "Of a surety no men could have done better, and as they have behaved as true knights in all respects, methinks they deserve the rank."
"I cannot say you nay there, though I am the father of one of them; nevertheless, they can well wait for a couple of years. They have not yet learned that the first duty of a knight is to obey, and it were well they served under some brave captain, and learned how to receive as well as give orders. To-morrow, gentlemen, I ride to St. Alwyth, for news has come in that the Kentish rebels, as well as those of Essex, are burning and slaying on their way to their homes, and I must go and see to the safety of my castle. A force will march to-morrow morning to deal with the Essex men."
"Then, Sir Ralph, I will ride with you," Sir Robert said. "I have raised a troop of fifty men from my ward to join those the city is gathering for the king's aid. They are stout fellows, and will, I warrant, fight well; and they will do as good service for the king in Kent as they would do in Essex."
"Nay; while thanking you for your offer, I cannot so trouble you, Sir Robert."
"'Tis no trouble. On the contrary, after what your son did for me, it will be a pleasure to lift some small share of the burden of obligation from my shoulders, and if you will not let me ride with you, I shall go down on my own account."
"I thank you heartily, Sir Robert, and assuredly will not refuse so good an offer, for my men in the castle are scarce numerous enough to make defence against a strong attack. I doubt not that all the serfs on the estate have been in the Tyler's following, and my vassals would scarce be enough, even if I could gather them, to make head against a crowd."
"When do you start, Sir Ralph?"
"As soon as the gate at Aldgate is open I shall ride through it."
"Then I will be at the head of the bridge, awaiting you with my men."
"I am afraid that I cannot send a contingent, sir knight," Van Voorden said, "for so many of my countrymen have been slaughtered that we could scarce gather a company."
"Nay; I shall have enough with those our good friend will bring me. With him by my side, and my son, and that stout swordsman, young Edgar, and with fifty sturdy Londoners, who have always in their wars proved themselves to be as good fighters as any in our armies, I would ride through a host of the rabble."
"Will you be returning, Sir Ralph?"
"Yes; I leave my wife and daughter here, and as soon as matters are settled, come back to fetch them."
"Then may I beg you to leave them with me?" the Fleming said, earnestly. "They will hardly wish to go back to the Tower at present, after their late experience of it. My wife and daughter will do their best to make them comfortable."
"I accept your invitation for them thankfully," the knight replied. "The Tower is already crowded, so many ladies and gentlemen have come in during the last few days; nor do I like to leave them here without protection."
"I thank you most heartily, sir knight. It will be a pleasure, indeed, to my wife and daughter to have ladies with them, for indeed both are somewhat shaken from what they have gone through. I will, if it pleases you, be at the gate to-morrow if they will accompany you so far, and will escort them to my house; or, should you prefer it, my wife will come thither with me to take them back after they have had their morning meal."
"Thanks, sir; but I will escort them myself and hand them over to you. Will you kindly bring a servant with you to carry their valises, for I had yesterday all their things removed from that room in the Tower, and at the same time had the dead bodies of the rioters carried down and thrown into the Thames."
"I wish that there was more that I could do," Van Voorden said to Sir Robert Gaiton as they walked back to the city.
"I will tell you what you can do, Master Van Voorden. I had the intention of doing it myself; but if you wish it I will relinquish it to you. I marked as we rode two days since to Smithfield that our friend's son and Master Edgar Ormskirk had but body armour and wore steel caps, and I intended to buy this afternoon two complete suits for them."
"I thank you greatly for your offer; it would be a relief to me to do something for them. Know you about their size?"
"To within an inch, for I fitted them on two citizen suits. If you like I will go with you to Master Armstrong's. He is accounted the best armourer in the county, and provides no small share of the armour for our knights and nobles."
"I know his name well," the Fleming said. "I shall be glad if you will accompany me to choose them, for indeed I am but a poor judge of such matters."
"I would fain have two suits of the best armour in your store, Master Armstrong," Van Voorden said, as he entered the armourer's shop. "The cost is a matter of no account, but I want the best, and I know that no one can supply better than yourself. My friend, Sir Robert Gaiton, will do the choosing for me."
The armourer bowed to the wealthy Fleming, who was well known to everyone in the city.
"'Tis but a matter of size that I have to decide upon," the alderman said, "See and get the suits somewhat large, for the gentlemen for whom Mynheer Van Voorden intends them have not yet come to their full stature."
The armourer led them to an inner room. "These are my best suits," he said, pointing to a score of lay figures in armour ranged along the wall. "They would soon get tarnished were they exposed to the fogs of London. They are all of foreign make save these two, which, as you see, are less ornamented than the rest. The others are all of Spanish or Milanese workmanship. These two suits are my own make. Our craftsmen are not so skilled in inlaying or ornamenting as the foreigners, but I will guarantee the temper of the steel and its strength to keep out a lance thrust, a cross-bow bolt, or a cloth-yard arrow against the best of them."
"Methinks, Mynheer," the alderman said, "that if these suits are of the right size they were better than the Italian or Spanish suits. In the first place, these others would scarce be in keeping with two young men who are not yet knights, seeing that they are such as would be worn by wealthy nobles; in the next place, there is no saying how much the lads may grow; and lastly, I have myself promised their father to present them with a suit of armour when they obtain the rank of knighthood."
"So be it, then," the Fleming said. "If Master Armstrong guarantees the suits equal in strength to the others I care not, and indeed there is reason in what you say as to their fitness for the youths."
"Will you run a yard measure round the shoulders?" Sir Robert said. One was forty inches, the other thirty-six.
"That will do well; one is bigger than the other, and the measurement will give them an inch or two to spare. And now as to heights. The one is five feet ten, the other an inch less; but this matters little, seeing that another strip of steel can be added or one taken away from the leg pieces without difficulty. I think that they will do excellently well. And now, what is the price?"
It was a heavy one, for the armour was of exceptional make and strength by reason of its temper, but was still light, the excellence of the steel rendering it unnecessary to get anything like the weight of ordinary armour.
Van Voorden made no attempt to bargain, but merely said, "Please send them round at once to the Golden Fleece, in the Poultry, which was till yesterday the abode of Master Nicholas Leyd, and also furnish me with the bill by your messenger."
"My son will come," said the armourer, "with two men to carry the armour, and in a quarter of an hour the suits shall be at your door."
"Send also, I pray you, swords and daggers of the finest temper with each suit, and add the charge to the account."