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AT BARTLEMY FAIR
HOW BARTY APPLEBY WENT TO THE FAIR AT SMITHFIELD AND CAUGHT A MISCREANT
HE farmer's life is a very varied one, as any one who ever lived on a farm is aware.
In some seasons the work is so pressing that the people hardly stop to eat or sleep.
At other times Nature herself takes a hand, and the farmer has a chance to mend
walls, make and repair harness, clear woodland and do some hedging and ditching
while the land is getting ready for the next harvest. This at any rate was the way in
medieval England, and the latter part of August between haying and harvest was a
Barty Appleby like Saint Bartholomew's Day, the twenty-fourth of August, best of all
the holidays of the year. It was the feast of his name-saint, when a cake was baked
especially for him. Yule-tide was a merry season, but to have a holiday of one's very
own was even pleasanter.
On the day that he was twelve years old Barty was to have a tread which all the boys
envied him. He was to go to Bartlemy Fair at Smithfield by London. David Saumond,
the stone-mason who had built their orchard-wall, was going beyond London to
Canterbury to work at the cathedral. Farmer Appleby had a sister living in London,
whom he had
 not seen for many years, and by this and by that he decided to go with David as
far as London Bridge.
The Fairs held on one and another holiday during the year were great markets for
Old England. Nearly all of them were called after some Saint. It might be because
the saint was a patron of the guild or industry which made the fair prosperous;
Saint Blaize was the patron of the wool-combers, Saint Eloy of the goldsmiths,
and so on. It was often simply a means of making known the date. People might
not know when the twenty-ninth of September came, if they could not read; but
they were very likely to know how long it was to Saint Michael's Day, or Michaelmas,
because the quarter's rent was due at that time. June 24, the Feast of Saint John the
Baptist, was Midsummer Quarter Day, and in every month there were several
saints' days which one or another person in any neighbourhood had good cause
St. Bartholomew's Fair at London was one of the greatest of all, and its name came
about in an interesting way. Barty knew the story by heart. The founder was Rahere,
the jester of Henry I. While on piligrimage to Rome he had fallen ill in a little town
outside the city, and being near death had prayed to Saint Bartholomew, who was
said to have been a physician, for help. The saint, so the legend goes, appeared to
him in a vision and told him to found a church and a hospital. He was to have no
misgiving, but go forward with the work and the way would be made clear. Coming
back to England he tolf the story to the King, who gave him land in a waste marshy
place called Smoothfield, outside London, where the wall turned inward in a great
angle. He got the foundations laid by gathering beggars, children and half-witted wanderers
 about him and making a jest of the hard work. The fields were like the kind of place where
a circus-tent is pitched now. Horses and cattle were brought there to market, as it was
convenient both to the roads outside and the gates of the city. The church wall rose
little by little, as the Kind and others became interested in the work, and in the course
of time Rahere gathered a company of Augustines there and became prior of the
monastery. The hospital built and tended by these monks was the first in London.
In 1133 Rahere persuaded the Kind to give him a charter for a three days' Fair of
Saint Bartholomew in the last week of August, and tradition says that he used
sometimes to go out and entertain the crowds with jests and songs. Rahere's
Norman arches are still to be seen in Saint Bartholomew's Church in London, close
by the street that is called Cloth Fair.
The Fair grew and prospered, for it had everything in its favor. It came at a time of
year when traveling was good, it was near the horse-market, which every farmer
would want to visit, it was near London on the other hand, so that merchants
English and foreign could come out to sell their goods, and it had close by the church
and the hospital, which received tolls, or a percentage as it would be called to-day, on
Barty had heard of the Fair ever since he could remember, for almost every year some
one of the neighborhood went. Very early in the morning the little party set forth,
and Barty kissed his mother and the younger ones good-by, feeling very important.
He rode behind David, and two serving men came with them to take care of the horses
and luggage. Farmer
 Appleby was taking two fine young horses to market, and some apples and other
oddments to his sister Olive.
They trotted along the narrow lane at a brisk pace and presently reached the high
road. After that there was much to see. All sorts of folk were wending to the
The fairs, all over England, were the goal of foreign traders and small merchants
of every kind, who could not afford to set up shop in town. In many cases the
tolls of the Fair went to the King, to some Abbey, or to one of the Guilds.
The law frequently obliged the merchants in the neighboring town or city to close
their shops while the Fair lasted. The townsfolk made holiday, or profited
from the more substantial customers who came early and stayed late with friends.
Barty heard his father and David discussing these and other laws as they rode.
For David, as a stranger in the country, all such matters were of interest, although
a member of the Masons' Guild could travel almost anywhere in the days of
constant building. No stranger might remain in London more than one night. The
first night he stayed in any man's house he might be regarded as a stranger, but
if he stayed a second night, he was considered a guest of the householder, and
after that he was held to be a member of the household, for whom his host
was responsible. Wandering tradesmen would have had a hard time of it without
the Fairs. On a pinch, a traveling merchant who sold goods at a fair could sleep
in his booth or in the open air.
The law did not affect the Appleby party. Barty's Aunt Olive was married to
Swan Petersen, a whitesmith or worker in tin, and she lived outside the wall,
close to the church of Saint
 Clement of the Danes. When they reached London they would lodge under her
They stayed at an inn the first night on the road, and slept on the floor wrapped in their
good woolen cloaks, for the place was crowded. During the hour after supper Barty,
perched on a barrel in the court-yard, saw jongleurs and dancers, with bells on head
and neck and heels, capering in the flare of the torches. He heard a minstrel sing a long
ballad telling the story of Havelok the Dane, which his mother had told him. His father
and David gave each a penny to these entertainers, and Barty felt content as any boy
would, on the way to London with money in his pocket for fairings.
Toward the end of the next day the crowd was so dense that they had to ride
at a snail's pace in dust and turmoil, and Barty grew so tired that he nearly tumbled
off. David, with a chuckle, lifted the boy around in front of him, and when they
reached London after the closing of the gates, and turned to the right toward the little
village founded by the Danes, they had to shake Barty awake at Swan Petersen's door.
Aunt Olive, a trim, fresh-faced, flaxen-haired woman, laughed heartily as the
sleepy boy stumbled in.
"How late you are, brother!" she said. "And this is David Saumone, by whom you
sent a message last year. Well, it is good to see you. And how are they all at home?"
Barty was awake next morning almost as soon as the pigeons were, and peering out
of the window he saw David, already out and surveying the street. The boy tumbled
into his clothes and down the stairs, and went with David to look about while
Farmer Appleby and his sister told the news and unpacked the good things from t
 The Fleet River was crowded with ships of the lesser sort, and the Thames itself was more
than twice as broad as it is today. Barty wanted to see London Bridge at once, but that
was some distance away, and so was London Tower. The tangle of little lanes aroudn the
Convent Garden was full of braying donkeys, bawling drivers, cackling poultry and confusion.
In Fair-time there was a general briskening of all trade for miles around. At Charing village
David hailed a boatman, and all among the swans and other water-fowl, the barges and
sailing craft, the went down to London Bridge.
Barty had asked any number of questions about this bridge when David returned from
London the previous year, but as often happens, the picture he had formed in his mind
was not at all like the real thing. It was a wooden bridge, but the beginnings of stone
piers could be seen.
"They've put Peter de Colechurch at that job," said David. "He has a vision of a brig o' stanes,
and swears it shall come true."
"Do you think it will?" asked Barty soberly. The vast river as he looked to right and left seemed a
mighty creature for one man to yoke.
"Not in his time, happen, but some day it will, " David answered as they shot under the middle arch.
"And yon's the Tower!"
Barty felt as if he had seen enough for the day already as he gazed up at the great square keep
among the lesser buildings, jutting out into the river as if to challenge all comers. However,
there was never a boy who could not go on sight-seeing forever. By the time they had
 Fleet Street he had tucked away the Tower and London Bridge in his mind and was ready
for the Fair.
The Fair was a city of booths, of tents, of sheds and of awnings. Bunyan described the like
in Vanity Fair. Cloth-sellers from Cambrai, Paris, Ypres, Arras and other towns where
weavers dwelt, had a street to themselves, and so did the jewelers. The jewelry was made
more for show than worth, and there were gay cords for lacing bodices or shoes, and necklaces
that were called "tawdrey chains" from the fair of St. Etheldreda or Saint Audrey, where they
were first sold. There were glass beads and perfume-bottles from Venice; there were linens of
Damietta, brocaded stuff from Damascus, veils and scarfs from Moussoul—or so they were
said to be. Shoes of Cordovan leather were there also, spices, and sweetmeats, herbs and cakes.
Old-fashioned people call machine-sawed wooden borders on porches "gingerbread work." The
gingerbread sold by old Goody Raby looked very much like them. She had gingerbread horses,
and men, and peacocks, and monkeys, gingerbread churches and gingerbread castles, gingerbread
kings and queens and saints and dragons and elephants, although the elephant looked rather queer.
They were made of a spicy yellow-brown dough rolled into thin sheets, cut into shpaes, baked hard
and then gilded here and there. The king's crown, the peacock's head and neck, the castle on the
elephant's back, were gilded. Barty bought a horse for himself and a small menagerie of animals for
the younger children at home.
A boy not much older than himself was selling perfume in a tiny corner. It struck Barty that here might
be something that his mother might like, and he pulled at Aunt Olive's
 sleeve and asked her what she thought. She agreed with him, and they spent some pleasant
minutes choosing little balls of perfumed wax, which could be carried in a box or bag, or laid
away in chests. There was something wholesome and refreshing about the scent, and Barty
could not make up his mind what flower it was like. The boy said that several kinds were used
in the making of each perfume, and that he had helped in the work. He said that his name was
"Vanni", which Barty thought a very queer one, but this name, it appeared was the same as John
in his country. Barty himself would be called there Bartolomeo.
Vanni seemed to be known to many of the people at the fair. A tall, brown young fellow with a
demure dark-eyed girl on his arm stopped and asked him how trade was, and so did a young man
in foreign dress who spoke to him in his own language. This young man was presently addressed
as "Matteo" by a gayly clad troubadour, and Barty, with a jump, recognized the young man who
had been with the King when he came to look at their dyke. One of the reasons why almost everybody
came to Bartlemy Fair was that almost everybody did. It was a place where people who seldom crossed
each other's path were likely to meet.
"Has Vanni caught anything yet?" the troubadour asked in that language which Barty did not know.
"Not yet," the other answered, "but he will. Set a weasel to catch a rat." And the two laughed and parted.
But it was Barty who really caught the rat they were talking about. A man with a performing bear had stopped
just there and a crowd had gathered about him. Barty had seen that bear the night before, and he could
not see over the heads of
 the men, in any case. A stout elderly merchant trying to make his way through the narrow lanes, fumed
and fretted and became wedged in. Barty saw a thin, shabby-faced fellow duck under a big drover's arm,
cut a long slit in the stout man's purse that hung at his belt and slip through the crowd. Just then some one
raised a cry that the bear was loose, and everything was confusion. Barty's wit and boldness blocked the
thief's game. He tripped the man up with David's staff, and with a flying jump, landed on his shoulders. It
was a risky thing to do, for the man had a knife and could use it, but Barty was the best wrestler in his
village, and a minute later David had nabbed the rascal and recovered the plunder.
"Thank ye, my lad, thank ye," said the merchant, and hurried away. The boy Vanni swept all his goods into
a basket and after one look at the thief was off like a shot. Presently up came two or three men in the livery
of the King's officers.
Meanwhile Farmer Appleby and his sister came up, having seen the affair from a little distance.
"My faith," said Aunt Olive indignantly, "he might have spared a penny or two for your trouble.
That was Gamelyn Bouverel, one of the richest goldsmiths in Chepe."
"I don't care," laughed Barty, "it was good sport."
But that was not to be the end of it. They were on their way to the roast-pig booth
where cooked meat could be had hot from the fire, when a young Londoner came
"You are the lad who saved my uncle's purse for him," he said in a relieved tone. "I
thought I had lost you in the crowd. Here is a fairing for you," and he slipped a silver
groat into Barty's hand.
"Now, that is more like a Christian," observed Aunt Olive.
 But Barty was meditating about something, and he was rather silent all through
dinner. Besides the hot roast, they bought bread, and Barty had his new "Bartlemy knife"
with which to cut his slice of the roast. A costard-monger sold them apples, and the
seeds were carefully saved for planting at home. Then they must all see a show, and they
crowded into a tent and saw a play acted by wooden marionettes in a toy theater, like
a Punch and Judy. In the Cloth Fair the farmer bought fine Flemish cloth for the mother,
dyed a beautiful blue, and red cloth for a cloak for Hilda. While Aunt Olive was helping
to choose this Barty slipped across the way and looked for Vanni. He had heard Vanni
tell the men that the theif's name was Conrad Waibling. Rascals were a new thing in
Barty's experience. There was nobody in the village at home who would deliberately hem
in a man by a crowd and then rob him. Barty was sure that the man with the performing
bear was in it as well.
"Vanni," he said, "you know that thief they caught?"
"Do you think that the man with the dancing bear was a friend of his?"
"I know he was," said Vanni grimly. "He escaped."
Barty hesitated. "What do you think they will do to the one that they caught?"
"He will be punished," answered Vanni coolly. "He is a poisoner. He has sold
poisoned spices—for pay. I think he failed, and did not poison anybody, so
that he has had to get his living where he could. He is finished now—ended—no
 Barty felt rather cold. Vanni was so matter-of-fact about it. The Italian boy saw the
look on his face.
"There is nothing," he added, "so bad as betraying your salt—you understand—to
live in a man's house and kill him secretly—to give him food which is death. There are
places where no man can trust his neighbor. You do not know what they are like. Your
father is his own man."
Barty felt that he had seen a great deal in the world since he left the farm in the
Danelaw. He was glad to go with his father and Aunt Olive and David into the
stately quiet church. The Prior of the monastery—Rahere had long been
dead—was a famous preacher, Aunt Olive said, and often preached sermons
in rhyme. They went through the long airy quiet rooms of the hospital where the
monks were tending sick men, or helping them out into the sun. As they came out,
past the box for offerings, and each gave something, Barty left there his silver groat.
"I'd rather Saint Bartlemy had it," he said.