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Chapter 9


Chapter IX. The river pageant.

At nine in the evening the whole vast river-front of the palace
was blazing with light.  The river itself, as far as the eye could
reach citywards, was so thickly covered with watermen's boats and
with pleasure-barges, all fringed with coloured lanterns, and
gently agitated by the waves, that it resembled a glowing and
limitless garden of flowers stirred to soft motion by summer
winds.  The grand terrace of stone steps leading down to the
water, spacious enough to mass the army of a German principality
upon, was a picture to see, with its ranks of royal halberdiers in
polished armour, and its troops of brilliantly costumed servitors
flitting up and down, and to and fro, in the hurry of preparation.

Presently a command was given, and immediately all living
creatures vanished from the steps.  Now the air was heavy with the
hush of suspense and expectancy.  As far as one's vision could
carry, he might see the myriads of people in the boats rise up,
and shade their eyes from the glare of lanterns and torches, and
gaze toward the palace.

A file of forty or fifty state barges drew up to the steps.  They
were richly gilt, and their lofty prows and sterns were
elaborately carved.  Some of them were decorated with banners and
streamers; some with cloth-of-gold and arras embroidered with
coats-of-arms; others with silken flags that had numberless little
silver bells fastened to them, which shook out tiny showers of
joyous music whenever the breezes fluttered them; others of yet
higher pretensions, since they belonged to nobles in the prince's
immediate service, had their sides picturesquely fenced with
shields gorgeously emblazoned with armorial bearings.  Each state
barge was towed by a tender.  Besides the rowers, these tenders
carried each a number of men-at-arms in glossy helmet and
breastplate, and a company of musicians.

The advance-guard of the expected procession now appeared in the
great gateway, a troop of halberdiers.  'They were dressed in
striped hose of black and tawny, velvet caps graced at the sides
with silver roses, and doublets of murrey and blue cloth,
embroidered on the front and back with the three feathers, the
prince's blazon, woven in gold.  Their halberd staves were covered
with crimson velvet, fastened with gilt nails, and ornamented with
gold tassels.  Filing off on the right and left, they formed two
long lines, extending from the gateway of the palace to the
water's edge.  A thick rayed cloth or carpet was then unfolded,
and laid down between them by attendants in the gold-and-crimson
liveries of the prince.  This done, a flourish of trumpets
resounded from within.  A lively prelude arose from the musicians
on the water; and two ushers with white wands marched with a slow
and stately pace from the portal.  They were followed by an
officer bearing the civic mace, after whom came another carrying
the city's sword; then several sergeants of the city guard, in
their full accoutrements, and with badges on their sleeves; then
the Garter King-at-arms, in his tabard; then several Knights of
the Bath, each with a white lace on his sleeve; then their
esquires; then the judges, in their robes of scarlet and coifs;
then the Lord High Chancellor of England, in a robe of scarlet,
open before, and purfled with minever; then a deputation of
aldermen, in their scarlet cloaks; and then the heads of the
different civic companies, in their robes of state.  Now came
twelve French gentlemen, in splendid habiliments, consisting of
pourpoints of white damask barred with gold, short mantles of
crimson velvet lined with violet taffeta, and carnation coloured
hauts-de-chausses, and took their way down the steps.  They were
of the suite of the French ambassador, and were followed by twelve
cavaliers of the suite of the Spanish ambassador, clothed in black
velvet, unrelieved by any ornament.  Following these came several
great English nobles with their attendants.'

There was a flourish of trumpets within; and the Prince's uncle,
the future great Duke of Somerset, emerged from the gateway,
arrayed in a 'doublet of black cloth-of-gold, and a cloak of
crimson satin flowered with gold, and ribanded with nets of
silver.'  He turned, doffed his plumed cap, bent his body in a low
reverence, and began to step backward, bowing at each step.  A
prolonged trumpet-blast followed, and a proclamation, "Way for the
high and mighty the Lord Edward, Prince of Wales!"  High aloft on
the palace walls a long line of red tongues of flame leapt forth
with a thunder-crash; the massed world on the river burst into a
mighty roar of welcome; and Tom Canty, the cause and hero of it
all, stepped into view and slightly bowed his princely head.

He was 'magnificently habited in a doublet of white satin, with a
front-piece of purple cloth-of-tissue, powdered with diamonds, and
edged with ermine.  Over this he wore a mantle of white cloth-of-
gold, pounced with the triple-feathered crest, lined with blue
satin, set with pearls and precious stones, and fastened with a
clasp of brilliants.  About his neck hung the order of the Garter,
and several princely foreign orders;' and wherever light fell upon
him jewels responded with a blinding flash.  O Tom Canty, born in
a hovel, bred in the gutters of London, familiar with rags and
dirt and misery, what a spectacle is this!


Mark Twain