Yo-o heave ho! an' a y-o heave ho!
And lift her down the bay—
We're off to the Pillars of Hercules,
All on a summer's day.
We're off wi' bales of our Southdown wool,
Our fortune all to win,
And we'll bring ye gold and gowns o' sil,
Veils o' sendal as white as milk,
And sugar and spice galore, lasses—
When our ship comes in!
THE VENTURE OF NICHOLAS GAY
HOW NICHOLAS GAY, THE MERCHANT'S SON, KEPT FAITH WITH A STRANGER AND SERVED THE KING
ICHOLAS GAY stood on the wharf by his father's warehouse, and
the fresh morning breeze that
blew up from the Pool of the Thames was ruffling his
bright hair. He could hear the
seamen chanting at the windlass, and the shouts of the
boatmen threading their skiffs and
scows in and out among the crowded shipping. There
were high-pooped Flemish
freighters, built to hold all the cargo possible for a
brief voyage; English coasting ships, lighter
and quicker in the chop of the Channel waves; larger
and more dignified London merchantmen,
that had the best oak of the Weald in their bones and
the pick of the Southdown wool to fill them
full; Mediterranean galleys that shipped five times the
crew and five times the carfo of a London ship;
weather-beaten traders that had come over the North Sea
with cargoes of salt fish; and many others.
The scene was never twice the same, and the boy never
tired of it. Coming into port with a cargo of spices
wine was a long Mediterranean galley with oars as well
as sails, each oar pulled by a slave who kept
time with his neighbor like a machine. The English
made their bid for fortune with
 the sailing-ship, and even in the twelfth century, when
their keels were rarely seen
in any Eastern port, there was little of the rule of
wind and sea short of Gibraltar
that their captains did not know.
Up Mart Lane, the steep little street from the wharves,
Nicholas heard some one
singing a familiar chantey, but not as the sailors sing
it. He was a slender youth with
a laugh in his eye, and he was singing to a guitar-like
lute. He was pieceing out the
chantey and fitting words to it, and succeeding rather
well. Nicholas stood by
his father's warehouse, hands behind him and eyes on
the ship just edging out to
catch the tide, and listened to the song, his heart
full of dreams.
"Hey, there, youngster!" said the singer kindly as he
reached the end
of the strophe. "Have you a share in that ship that
you watch her so sharply?"
"No," said Nicholas gravely, "she's not one of father's
ships. She's the Heath Hen of
Weymouth, and she's loaded with wool, surely, but she's
"Bless the urchin, he might have been born on board!"
The young man looked
at Nicholas rather more attentively. "Your father has
Nicholas nodded proudly. "The Rose-in-June, and
the Sainte Spirite,
and the Thomasyn,—she's named for
mother,— and the
Sainte Genevieve because father was born in
Paris, you know, and the
Saint Nicholas,—that's named for me. But
I'm not old enough
to have a venture yet. Father says I shall some day."
The Pool of the Thames was crowded, and as the wind
freshened the ships
looked even more like huge white-winged birds. Around
them sailed and
wheeled and fluttered the real
 sea-birds, picking up their living from the scraps
gulls, wild geese and ducks, here and there a strange
bird lured to the harbor by hope
of spoil. The oddly mated companions, the man and the
boy, walked along busy
Thames Street and came to Tower Hill and the great gray
fortress-towers, with a
double line of wall coiled around the base, just
outside the City of London. The
deep wide moat fed from the river made an island for
the group of buildings with
the square White Tower in the middle.
"None of your friends live there, I suppose?" the young
man inquired, and
Nicholas smiled rather dubiously, for he was not
certain whether it was a joke
or not. The Tower had been prison, palace and fort by
turns, but common
criminals were not imprisoned there —only those
who had been accused
of crimes against the State. "Lucky you," the youth
added. "London is much
pleasanter as a residence, I assure you. I lodged not
far from here when I first
came, but now I lodge—"
That sentence was never finished. Clattering down
Tower Hill came a troop of
horse, and one, swerving suddenly, caught Nicholas
between his heels and the
wall, and by the time the rider had his animal under
control the little fellow was
lying senseless in the arms of the stranger, who had
dived in among the flying
hoofs and dragged him clear. The rider, lagging behind
the rest, looked hard
at the two, and then spurred on without even stopping
to ask whether he had
hurt the boy.
Before Nicholas had fairly come to himself he shut his
teeth hard to keep from crying
out with the pain in his side and left leg. The young
man had laid him carefully down
close by the wall, and just as he was looking about for
 three of the troopers came spurring back, dismounted,
and pressed close around
the youth as one of them said something in French. He
straightened up and looked
at them, and in spite of his pain, Nicholas could not
help noticing that he looked
proudly and straighforwardly, as if he were a gentleman
born. He answered them
in the same language; they shook their heads and made
gruff, short answers.
The young man laid his hand on his dagger, hesitated,
and turned back to Nicholas.
"Little lad," he said, "this is indeed bad fortune.
They will not let me take you home,
but—" So deftly that the action was hidden from
the men who stood by, he
closed Nicholas' hand over a small packet, while
apparently he was only searching
for a coin in his pouch and beckoning to a
who halted near by just then. He added in a quick low
tone without looking at
the boy, "Keep it for me and say nothing."
Nicholas nodded and slipped the packet into the breast
of his doublet,
with a groan which was very real, for it hurt him to
move that arm. The
young man rose and as his captors laid heavy hands upon
him he put some
silver in the woman's hand, saying persuasively, "This
boy has been badly
hurt. I know not who he is, but see that he gets home
"Aye, master," said the woman compassionately, and then
everything grew black
once more before Nicholas' eyes as he tried to see
where the men were going.
When he came to himself they were gone, and he told the
woman that he was
Nicholas Gay and that his father was Gilbert Gay, in
Fenchurch Street. The
woman knew the house, which was tile-roofed and
 three-storied, and had a garden; she called a porter
and sent him for
a hurdle, and they got Nicholas home.
The merchant and his wife were seriously disturbed over
the accident,—not only because
the boy was hurt, and hurt in so cruel a way, but
because some political plot or other seemed
to be mixed up in it. From what the market-woman said
it looked as if the men might have
been officers of the law, and it was her guess that the
young man was an Italian spy.
Whatever he was, he had been taken in at the gates of
the Tower. In a city of less than
fifty thousand people, all sorts of gossip is rife
about one faction and another, and if
Gilbert Gay came to be suspected by any of the King's
advisors there were plenty of
jealous folk ready to make trouble for him and his.
Time went by, however, and they
heard nothing more of it.
Nicholas said nothing, even to his mother, of the
packet which he had hidden
under the straw of his bed. It was sealed with a
splash of red wax over the
silken knot that tied it, and much as he desired to
know what was inside,
Nicholas had been told by his father that a seal must
never be broken except
by the person who had a right to break it. Gilbert Gay
had also told his children
repeatedly that if anything was given to them, or told
them, in confidence, it was
most wrong to say a word about it. It never occurred
to Nicholas that perhaps
his father would expect him to tell of this. The youth
had told him not to tell, and
he must not tell, and that was all about it.
The broken rib and the bruises healed in time, and by
the season when the Rose-in-Jun
was due to sail, Nicholas was able to limp into the
rose-garden and play with his little
 Genevieve at sailing rose-petal boats in the fountain.
The time of loading the ships
for a foreign voyage was always rather exciting, and
this was the best and
fastest of them all. When she came back, if the voyage
had been fortunate, she
would be laden with spices and perfumes, fine silks and
linen, from countries
beyond the sunrise where no one that Nicholas knew had
ever been. From India
and Persia, Arabia and Turkey, caravans of laden
camels were even then bringing
her cargo across the desert. They would be unloaded in
such great market-places
as Moussoul, Damascus, Bagdad and Cairo, the Babylon of
those days. Alexandria
and Constantinople, Tyre and Joppa, were seaport
market-cities, and here the Venetian
and Genoses galleys, or French ships of Marseilles and
Bordeaux, or the half-Saracen,
half-Norman traders of Messina came for their goods.
The Rose-in-June would touch at Antwerp and
unload wool for Flemish
weavers to make into fine cloth; she would cruise
around the coast, put in at
Bordeaux, and sell the rest of her wool, and the grain
of which England also had
a plenty. She might go on to Cadiz, or even through
the Straits of Gibraltar to
Marseilles and Messina. The more costly the stuff
which she could pack into the
hold for the homeward voyage, the greater for profit
for all concerned.
Since wool takes up far more room in proportion to its
value than silk, wine or
spice, money as well as merchandise must be put into
the venture, and the more
money, the more profit. Others joined in the venture
of Master Gay. Edrupt the
wool-merchant furnished a part of the cargo on his own
traveled through the country as agents for Master Gay.
The men who served
in the warehouse put
 in their share; even the porters and apprentices sent
something, if no more than a shilling.
There was some profit also in the passenger trade,
especially in time of pilgrimage when
it was hard to get ships enough for all who wished to
go. The night before the sailing,
Nicholas escaped from the happy hubbub and went slowly
down to the wharves. It was
not a very long walk, but it tired him, and he felt
rather sad as he looked at the grim
gray Tower looming above the river, and wondered if the
owner of the packet sealed
with the red seal would ever come back.
As he passed the little church at the foot of the Tower
Hill a light step came up
behind him, and two hands were placed on his shoulders.
"My faith!" said the young man. "Have you been here
all this time?"
'HAVE YOU BEEN HERE ALL THIS TIME?'
He was thinner and paler, but the laughter still
sparkled in his dark eyes, and
he was dressed in daintily embroidered doublet, fine
hose, and cloak of the
newest fashion, a gold chain about his neck and a harp
slung from his shoulder.
A group of well-dressed servants stood near the church.
"I'm well now," said Nicholas rather shyly but happily.
"I'm glad you have
"I was at my wit's end when I thought of you, lad,"
went on the other, "for
I remembered too late that neither of us knew the
other's name, and if I had
told mine or asked yours in the hearing of a certain
rascal it might have been
a sorry time for us both. They made a little mistake,
you see,—they took
me for a traitor."
"How could they?" said Nicholas, surprised and
"Oh, black is white to a scared man's eyes," said his
 companion light-heartedly. "How have your father's
"There's one of them,"—Nicholas pointed, proudly,
across the little
space of water, to the Rose-in-June tugging at
"She's a fine ship," the young man said consideringly,
and then, as he
saw the parcel Nicholas was taking from his bosom, "Do
you mean to say
that that has never been opened? What sort of folk are
"I never told," said Nicholas, somewhat bewildered.
"You said I was not
to speak of it."
"And there was no name on it, for a certain reason."
The young man balanced
the parcel in his hand and whistled softly. "You see,
I was expecting to meet
hereabouts a certain pilgrm who was to take the parcel
beyond. I was —interfered with, as you know, and
now it must go by a
safe hand to one who will deliver it to this same
pilgrim. I should say that your father
must know how to choose his captains."
"My father is Master Gilbert Gay,"—Nicholas held
very straight—"and that is Master Garland, the
captain of the
Rose-in-June, coming ashore now."
"Oh, I know him. I have had dealings with him before
now. How would it
be—since without your good help this packet would
almost certainly have
been lost—to let the worth of it be your venture
in the cargo?"
"My venture?" Nicholas stammered, the color rising in
"It is not worth much in money," the troubadour said
with a queer little laugh,
"but it is something. Master Garland, I see you have
me,—Ranulph, called le Provençal.
 Here is a packet to be delivered to Tomaso the
physician of Padua, whom
you know. The money within is this young man's share
in your cargo, and
Tomaso will pay you for your trouble."
Master Garland grinned broadly in his big beard.
he chuckle, and pocketed the parcel as if it had been
an apple, but
Nicholas noted that he kept his hand on the pouch as he
went on to
"And now," Ranulph said, as there was a stir in the
crowd by the church
door,evidently someone was coming out. "I must
leave you, my lad.
Some day we shall meet again." Then he went hastily
away to join a brilliant
company of courtiers in traveling attire. Things were
evidently going well with
Nicholas thought a great deal about that packet in the
days that followed. He
took to experimenting with various things to see what
could account for the weight.
Lead was heavy, but no one would send a lump of lead of
that size over seas.
The same could be said of iron. He bethought him
finally of a goldsmith's nephew
with whom he had acquaintance. Guy Bouverel was older,
but the two boys
knew each other well.
"Guy," he said one day, "what's the heaviest metal you
"Gold," said Guy promptly.
" A bag that was too heavy to have silver in it would
"I should think so. Have you found treasure?"
"No," said Nicholas, "I was wondering."
The Rose-in-June came back before she was due.
came up to the house with Gilbert Gay, one rainy
 evening when Nicholas and Genevieve were playing
in a corner and their mother was embroidering a girdle
by the light of a
bracket lamp. Nicholas had been taught not to
interrupt, and he did not, but
he was glad when his mother said gently, with shining
eyes, "Nicholas, come here."
It was a queer story that Captain Garland had to tell,
and nobody could make out
exactly what it meant. Two or three years before he
had met Ranulph, who was
then a troubadour in the service of Prince Henry of
Anjou, and he had taken a
casket of gold pieces to Tomaso the physician, who was
then in Genoa.
"They do say," said Captain Garland, pulling at his
russet beard, "that the old
doctor can do anything short o'raising the dead. They
fair worshiped him there,
I know. But it's my notion that that box o' gold
pieces wasn't payment for physic."
"Probably not," said the merchant smiline. "Secret
messengers are more likely to
deliver their messages if no one knows they have any.
But what happened this time?"
"Why," said the captain, "I found the old doctor in his
garden, with a great cat o'
Malta stalking along beside him, and I gave him the
packet. He opened it and read
the letter, and then he untied a little leather purse
and spilled out half a dozen
gold pieces and some jewels that fair made me
blink—not many, but beauties—rubies
and emeralds and pearls. He beckoned toward the house
and a man in a pilgrim's garb
came out and valued the jewels. Then he sent me back
to the <>Rose-in-June with
the worth o' the jewels in coined gold and this ring
here. 'Tell the boy,' says he,'that he saved the
 King's jewels, and that he has a better jewel than all
of them, the jewel of honor.'"
"But, father," said Nicholas, rather puzzled, "what
else could I do?"
None of them could make anything of the mystery, but as
Tomaso of Padua
talked with Eloy the goldsmith that same evening they
agreed that the price
they paid was cheap. In the game the Pope's part was
playing against that of
the Emperor for the mastery of Europe, it had been
deemed advisable to find
out whether Henry Plantagenet would rule the Holy Roman
Empire if he could.
He had refused the offer of the throne of the
Cæ:sars, and it was of the
utmost importance that no one should know that the
offer had been made.
Hence the delivery of the letter to the jeweler.