All along the cobblestones by Saint Paul's,
Clippety-clack the music runs, quick footfalls,
Folk that go a-hurrying, all on business bent,
They'll come to us in time, and we are content.
So we deep our cobble-shop, by Saint Paul's
Hammer-stroke and wax-thread, chasing up the awls,
Cobbling is a merry trade,—we'll not change with you,
We've leather good cheap, and all we can do!
SAINT CRISPIN'S DAY
HOW CRISPIN, THE SHOEMAKER'S SON, MADE A SHOE FOR A LITTLE DAMSEL, AND NEW STREETS IN LONDON
Scarlet leather sewed together—
Thus we make a shoe!"
ONDON was a busy town when the long Venetian galleys
and the tall ships of Spain anchored in the Pool of the
Thames. Leather and silk and linen and velvet and
broadcloth came to the London wharves, and London
people were busy buying, selling, making and decorating
every sort of apparel, from the girdle to hold a sword
to the silken hood and veil of a lady. And nobody was
busier than the men who worked in leather.
Nowadays we go into a shop and try on shoes made
perhaps a thousand miles away, until we find a pair
that will fit. But when Crispin Eyre's father sold a
pair of shoes he had seen those shoes made in his own
shop, under his own eye, and chosen leather. It might
be calfskin from the yard of a tanner, who bought his
hides from the man who had raised the calf on his farm,
or it might be fine soft goatskin out of a
 bale from the galleons of Spain. In either case
he had to know all about leather, or he would not
succeed in the shoe business. The man who inspired to
be a master shoemaker had to know how to make the whole
shoe. More different kinds of shoes were made in
Thomas Eyre's shop than most shops sell to-day, and as
he had begun to use the hammer and the awl when he was
not yet ten years old, he knew how every kind should be
Early in the morning, before a modern family would
be awake, hammers were going in the
shoe-shops—tap-tap—tick-a-tack—tack! Sometimes by the
light of a betty lamp in the early winter evenings the
journeymen would be still at work, drawing the waxed
thread carefully and quickly through the leathers.
Hand-sewn and made of well tanned hide, such a shoe
could be mended again and again before it was outworn.
Riding-boots, leather shoes, slippers, sandals, clogs,
pattens, shoes of cloth, silk, morocco, cloth-of-gold,
velvet, with soles made of wood, leather, cork and
sometimes even iron, went to and fro in the shadow of
St Paul's Cathedral, and sooner or later every kid
crossed the threshold of Thomas Eyre's shop. The
well-to-do came to order shoes for themselves, and the
wooden shod and barefoot came to get the shoes others
Each trade kept to its own street, even in those
early days. When the Guilds had multiplied so that
each part of each trade had its own workers, who were
not supposed to anything outside their trade, the man
who made a shoe never mended one, and the cobbler never
made anything. Each trade had its Guild Hall, where
the members met for business councils or holidays, and
some of them had their favorite
 churches. It was
like a very exclusive club. Men and women belonged to
these societies, they made rules about the length of
time a man must work before he could be a master
workman, and they took care of their own poor folk out
of a common fund. Each Guild had its patron saint,
connected in some way with the craft it represented.
The especial saint of the shoemakers was St. Crispin,
and his day was the twenty-fifth of October.
The leather workers were among the most important
artisans of London, and in course of time each branch
of the trade had its own Guild Hall. The cordwainers
or leather workers took their name from Cordova in
Spain, famous for its beautiful dyed, stamped, gilded
and decorated leather. The saddlers had their hall,
and the lorimers or harness-makers theirs, and the
skimmers and leather sellers and tanners had theirs.
London was rather behind some of the cities on the
Continent, however, both in the number and the power of
her guilds. King Henry II, was not over-inclined to
favor guilds, especially in London, for London was too
independent, as it was, to please him. He had observed
that when cities grew, so strong that they governed
themselves they were quite likely to make trouble for
Kings, and not unnaturally, he felt that he had trouble
enough on his hands as things were without inviting
more. If he had allowed London would have had a
"Commune," as the organization of a self-governing city
was called, long ago.
Crispin heard this discussed more or less, for all
sorts of chattering and story-telliing went on in the
shop, and he heard also many stories which tended to
make him think. The popular tales and songs of the
Middle Ages were not by any means
 always respectful to Kings. The people
understood very well that there were good monarchs and
bad ones, and they were not blind to the reasons for
The story that Crispin liked best was the one
about his own name, and on this October day, seated on
his low bench beside Simon, the oldest of his
shoemakers, he asked for it again.
"Aye, I'll warrant," grunted Simon, an Eyre would
be a born shoemaker, and name him Crispin——Eh, lad,
what be you after with that leather?"
Crispin's fingers were strong, if small, and he
was busy with hammer and awl and waxed thread, making a
"Just a shoe, Simon-go on with the story," said the
boy, with a little, shut-mouthed grin. Simon fitted
the sole to the boot he was making and picked up his
"It was a long time ago—tap-tap) when the emperor
of Rome was a-hunting down the blessed martyrs, that
there were two brothers, Crispin and Crispian their
names were, who lived in Rome and did nothing but
kindness to every one. But there be
rascals—trip-trip-trap!)—who do not understand
kindness, and ever repay it with evil. One of such a
sort lived in the same street as the two brothers, and
secretly ran to tell the Emperor that they were
plotting against his life. Then privately the wife of
this evil-doer came and warned them, for that they had
given her shoes to her feet. So they fled out of the
city by night and came to France and dwelt in Soissons,
where the cathedral now is.
"This England was a heathen country then, they
say, and France not much better. Before long the king
of that kingdom heard of the strangers and sent for
them to know what their business was. When they said
that their business was
 to teach the people the
story of our Lord, he asked who this lord might be, and
whether her was mightier than the king, or not.
"Then when the heathen king heard that the Lord of
Crispin and Crispian was more powerful than either King
or emperor he had a mind to kill them, but he was
afraid. He asked if they had ever seen a palace finer
that his own, that was made of wood and hung with
painted leather, and they said that there were finer
ones in Rome. Then said the king, 'Give me a sign of
the greatness of your Lord.' Only the rich had any
leather in those parts.
"That night Crispin and Crispian took the leather
hide of their girdles and made a pair of shoes for the
king. And when they came before him in the morning,
they put the shoes upon his feet, the first shoes he
had ever seen , and told him to walk abroad and he
would find all the streets covered with leather."
The apprentices had been listening, and a laugh
went round the shop, as it always did at that part of
"Thus it came to pass," concluded Simon, "that the
two brothers lived at court and taught the king's
leather workers how to make shoes, and that is why
Saint Crispin is the friend of shoemakers."
"What was the name of him who told you the tale,
Simon?" Crispin asked thoughtfully.
"Oh he is dead these many years, but his name was
Benet, and he came from Soissons, and had been to Rome
and seen the street where the brothers lived. He had a
nail out of
 one of the shoes they made for the
king. People came to our house while he was with us,
only to see that nail and hear the story. I heard it
so many times that I learned it by heat."
Old Simon drove in the last nail with a vicious
stroke that sent it well into the leather. "I'll
warrant," he said, "the blessed Saint Crispin made none
o' them shoes we make here, with pointed toes and rose
windows on the leather, fitten for a lady." He held up
the shoe with great disfavor. It was a little
round-toed sturdy thing, about the right size for a
child of ten. The mate to it was on the bench at his
side, and he put them together and looked at them
rather ruefully. The shoe he had made was plain, and
the other was trimmed daintily with red morocco and cut
in a quaint round pattern on the toe—the decoration
that was known as "a Paul's window," because the
geometric cut-work with the colored lining looked like
stained glass. Crispin frowned and shook his head.
"What's ailin' ye, lad?" Old Simon peered at the shoes
in the boy's hands. "Bless ye, those ben't mates!"
"I know that, but I haven't any colored leather
for this one even if I knew how to finish it," Crispin
said with a sigh.
"Um-m-m!" Simon looked more closely at the little
gay shoe. "That never came from these parts.. That's
Turkey leather." He gave Crispin a sharp glance. The
great bell of
 Bow was ringing and the apprentices
were quitting work. "Where did this shoe come from.
Crispin hesitated. "Don't you tell, now, Simon.
I found a little maid crying in Candlewick
street—standing on one foot like a duck because she had
lost her other shoe. She was so light I could lift her
up, and I set her on a wall while I looked for the
shoe, but it wasn't any good, for a horse had stepped
on it. She cried so about the shoe that I—I said I
would make her another. And then her father came back
for her and took her away."
"Who might she be?" inquired Simon dryly.
"I don't know. I didn't tell father. She said she
would send for the shoes though."
Simon had been rummaging in a leather bag behind his
bench. "If she don't there's plenty of other little
wenches that wear shoes. If the leather should be blue
in place of red, would that matter?"
"I shouldn't think so; one shoe is no good alone."
Crispin began to be hopeful.
Old Simon pulled out some pieces of soft fine leather
the color of a harebell and began to cut them quickly
and deftly into fine scalloped borders. "This ben't
Turkey leather, but it is a piece from Spain, and they
learnt the trade of the paynim, so I reckon 'twill do.
Stitch this on the other shoe in place o' the red and
I'll cut the pattern."
Nobody would have believed that Simon's old, crooked
fingers could handle a knife so cleverly. In no time
the pattern on the old shoe had been copied exactly on
the new one. When Crispin had stitched the blue
cut-work border on both,
 and Simon had rubbed the leather on some old
scraps and cleaned the old a bit, the two shoes looked
"Is there a boy here named Crispin Eyre?" inquired
a man's voice from the doorway. Almost at the same
time came the sweet lilting speech of a little girl,
"Oh, father, that is the boy who was so kind to me!"
Crispin and old Simon stood up and bowed, for the man
who spoke was a dignified person in the furred cloak
and cap of a well-to-do merchant. The little girl held
fast to her father's hand and gazed into the shop with
bright interest. "Look at the shoes, father, aren't
The merchant balanced the little shoes in his broad
hand. "Which did you lose, Genevieve, child?"
"I—I don't know, father," the child said, pursing her
soft lips. "Cannot you tell?"
"By my faith," said the merchant thoughtfully, "if a
London shoemaker's boy does work like this I doubt
Edrupt may be right when he says our ten fingers are as
good as any. This shoe is one of a pair from Cordova.
Who's your father, lad?"
"My father is Thomas Eyre, so please you, master," said
the boy proudly, "and I am Crispin."
"A good craft and a good name and a good workman," said
the merchant, and dropped a coin into the litter of
leather scraps. It was the full price of a new pair of
Crispin certainly could not have dreamed that his
kindness to little Genevieve Gfay would be the occasion
of new streets in London, but it happened so. Master
Gay, the merchant, came later to talk with Thomas Eyre
about the shoe trade. Then, instead of sending a cargo
of Irish hides abroad he gave Eyre the choice of them.
Other shoemakers took the
 shoe trade of London
grew, and so did the tanneries. The tanners presently
needed more room by running water, and sought new
quarters outside London Wall. The business of London
kept on growing until the Leatherworkers' Guild had
presently to send abroad for their own raw material.
England became more and more a manufacturing country
and less a farming country. In one or another trade
almost every farming product was of use. Hides were
made into leather, beef went to the cook-shops; horn
was made into drinking-cups and lantern-lights, bones
were ground or burnt for various purposes, tallow made
candles. What the farmer had been used to do for
himself on his farm, the Guilds began to do in
companies, and their farm was England.