The Complete Works of Mark Twain


 
 
Mark Twain > The Prince and the Pauper > Chapter IX

The Prince and the Pauper

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!

< Back
Forward >












Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors


Mark Twain. Copyright 2008, mtwain.com
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.