THE CAGED BOUVEREL
I am a little finch with wings of gold,
I dwell within a cage upon the wall.
I cannot fly within my narrow fold,—
I eat, and drink, and sing, and that is all.
My good old master talks to me sometimes,
But if he knows my speech I cannot tell.
He is so large he cannot sing or fly,
But he and I are both named Bouverel.
I think perhaps he really wants to sing,
Because the busy hammer that he wields
Goes clinking light as merry bells that ring
When morris-dancers frolic in the fields,
And this is what the music seems to tell
To me, the finch, the feathered Bouverel.
Masters, what do ye lack?
Hammer your heart in't, and strike with a knack!
Biff, batico, bing!
Platter, cup, candelstick, necklace or ring!
Spare not your labor, lads, make the gold sing,—
And some day perhaps ye may work for the King!"
AT THE SIGN OF THE GOLD FINCH
HOW GUY, THE GOLDSMITH'S APPRENTICE, WON THE DESIRE OF HIS HEART
ANG slam—bang-ban—slam! slam! slam!
If anybody on the Chepe in the twelfth century had ever
heard of rifle-practic, early
risers thereabouts might have been reminded of the
crackle of guns. The noise was
made by the taking down of shutters all along the shop
fronts, and stacking them
together out of the way. The business day in London
still begins in the same way, but
 there are plate-glass windows inside the shutters, and
the shops open between
eight and nine instead of soon after daybreak.
It was the work of the apprentices and the young sons
of shop-keepers to take
down the shutters, sweep the floors, and put things in
order for the business of
the next day. This was the task which Guy, nephew of
Gamelyn the goldsmith, at
the sign of the Gold Finch, particularly liked. The
air blew sweet and fresh from the
convent gardens to the eastward of the ciry, or up the
river below London Bridge, or
down from the forest-clad hills of the north, and those
who had the first draft of it
were in luck. London streets were narrow and
twisty-wise, but not overhung with
coal smoke, for the city still burned wood from the
forests without the walls.
On this May morning, Guy was among the first of the
boys who tumbled out
from beds behind the counter and began to open the
shops. The shop-fronts
were all uninclosed on the first floor, and when the
shutters were down the
shop was separated from the street only by the counter.
Above were the rooms
in which the shop-keeper and his family lived, and the
second story often jutted
over the one below and made a kind of covered porch.
In some of the larger
shops, like this one of Goldsmith's Row, the jewelers'
street, there was a third
story which could be used as a storeroom. There were
no glass cases or glass
windows. Lattices and shutters were used in
window-openings, and the goods
of finer quality were kept in wooden chests. The shop
was also a work-room,
for the shop-keeper was a manufacturer as well, and a
part if not all that he
sold was made in his own house.
Guy, having stacked away the shutters and taken a drink
 of water from the well in the little garden at the
rear, got a broom
and began to sweep the stone floor. It was like the
brooms in pictures
of witches, a bundle of fresh twigs bound on the end of
a stick, withes
of supple young willow being used instead of cord.
Some of the twigs in
the broom had sprouted green leaves. Guy sang as he
swept the trash out
into the middle of the street, but as a step came down
the narrow stair he
hushed his song. When old Gamelyn had rheumatism the
less noise there was,
the better. The five o'clock breakfast, a piece of
brown bread, a bit of herring
and a horn cup of ale, was soon finished, and then the
goldsmit, rummaging among
his wares, hauled a leather sack out of a chest and
bade Guy run with it to
This was an unexpected pleasure, especially for a
spring morning as fair
as a blossoming almond tree. The Bishop of Ely lived
outside London Wall,
near the road to Oxford, and his house was like a
palace in a fairy-tale.
It had a chapel as stately as an ordinary church, a
great banquet-hall, and
acres of gardens and orchards. No pleasanter place
could be found for
an errand in May. Guy trotted along in great
satisfaction, making all the speed
he could, for the time he saved on the road he might
have to look about in
For a city boy, he was extremely fond of country ways.
He liked to walk out
on holiday to Mile End between the convent gardens; he
liked to watch the
squirrels flyte and frisk among the huge trees of
Epping Forest; he liked to follow
at the heels of the gardener at Ely House and see what
new plant, shrub or
seed some traveler from far lands had brought for the
Bishop. He did not care
much for the city houses, even for the finest ones,
unless they had a gardener.
Privately he thought
 that if ever he had his uncle's shop and became
rich,—and his uncle had
no son of his own,—he would have a house outside
the wall, with a garden
in which he would grow fruits and vegetables for his
table. Another matter on
which his mind was quite made up was the kind of things
that would be made in
the shop when he had it. The gold finch that served
for a sign had been made
by his grandfather, who came from Limoges, and it was
handsomer than anything
that Guy had seen there in Gamelyn's day. Silver and
gold work was often sent
there to be repaired, like the cup he had in the bag, a
silver wine-cup which
the Bishop's steward now wanted at once; but Guy wanted
to learn to make
such cups, and candlesticks, and finely wrought
He gave the cup to the steward and was told to come
back for his money
after tierce, that is, after the service at the third
hour of the day, about half
way between sunrise and noon. There were no clocks,
and Guy would know
when it was time to go by the sound of the church
bells. The hall was full
of people coming and going on various errands. One was
a tired-looking man
in a coarse robe, and broad hat, rope girdle and
sandals, who, when he was
told that the Bishop was at Westminster on business
with the King, looked so
disappointed that Guy felt sorry for him. The boy
slipped into the garden for
a talk with his old friend the gardenere, who gave him
a head of new lettuce
and some young mustard, both of which were uncommon
luxuries in a London
household of that day, and some roots for the tiny
walled garden which he and
Aunt Joan were doing their best to keep up. As he came
out of the gate, having
got his money, he saw the man he had noticed
 before sitting by the roadside trying to fasten his
sandal. The string was worn out.
A boy's pocket usually has string in it. Guy found a
piece of leather thong in his
pouch and rather shyly held it out. The man looked up
with an odd smile.
"I thank you," he said in curious formal English with a
lisp in it. "There is
courtesy, then, among Londoners? I began to think none
here cared for
anything but money, and yet the finest things in the
world are not for sale."
Guy did not know what to answer, but the idea
"The sky above our heads," the wayfarer went on,
looking with narrowed
eyes at the pink may spilling over the gray wall of the
birds, music, these are for all. When you go on a
pilgrimage you find out how
pleasant is the world when you need not think of gain."
The stranger was a pilgrim, then. That accounted for
the clothes, but old
Gamelyn had been on pilgrimage to the new shrine at
Canterbury, and it
had not helped his rheumatism much, and certainly had
given him no such ideas
as these. Guy looked up at the weary face with the
brillirant eyes and smile—they
were walking together now,—and wondered.
"And what do you do in London?" the pilgrim asked.
"My uncle is a goldsmith in Chepe," said the boy.
"And are you going to be a goldsmith in Chepe too?"
"I suppose so."
"Then you like not the plan?"
Guy hesitated. He never had talked of his feelin about
the business, but he
felt that this man would see what he meant. "I should
like it better than
anything," he said, "if
 we made things like those the Bishop has. Uncle
Gamelyn says that there is no profit in them,
because they take the finset metal and the time of the
best workmen, and the pay is no more,
and folk do not want them."
"My boy," said the pilgrim earnestly, "there are always
folk who want the best. There are always men
who will make only the best, and when the two come
He clapped his hollowed palms like a pair of cymbals.
"Would you like to make a dish as blue as the sea,
with figures of the saints in gold work and
jewel-work—a gold cup garlanded with flowers all
in their own color,—a shrine three-fold, framing
pictures of the saints and studded with orfrey-work
of gold and gems, yet so beautiful in the mere work
that no one would think of the jewels? Would you?"
"Would I!" said Guy with a deep quick breath.
"Our jewelers of Limoges make all these, and when kings
and their armies come
from the Crusades they buy of us
caskets, chalices, gold and silver and enamel-work of
every kind. We sit at the cross-roads
of Christendom. The jewels come to us from the mines
of East and West. Men come
to us with full purses and glad hearts, desiring to
give to the Church costly gifts of their
treasure, and our best work is none too good for their
desire. But here we are at
Saint Paul's. I shall see you again, for I have
business on the Chepe."
Guy headed for home as eagerly as a marmot in harvest
time, threading his way
through the crowds of the narrow streets without seeing
them. He could not
imagine who the stranger might be. It was dinner time,
and he had to go to the
cook-shop and bring home the roast, for families who
 afford it patronized the cook-shops on the Thames
instead of roasting and baking
at home in the narrow quarters of the shops. In the
great houses, with their army
of servants and roomy kitchens, it was different; and
the very poor did what they
could, as they do everywhere; but when the wife and
daughters of the shopkeeper
served in the shop, or worked at embroidery,
needle-craft, weaving or any light
work of the trade that they could do, it was an economy
to have the cooking done
out of the house.
When the shadows were growing long and the narrow
pavement of Goldsmith's
Row was quite dark, some one wearing a gray robe and a
broad hat came along
the street, slowly, glancing into each shop as he
passed. To Guy's amazement,
old Gamelyn got to his feet and came forward.
"Is it—is it thou indeed, master?" he said, bowing
again and again. The
"A fine shop you have here," he said, "and a fine young
bird in training for the
sign of the Gold Finch. He and I scraped acquaintance
this morning. Is he the
youth of whom you told me when we met at Canterbury?"
It was hard on Guy that just at that moment his aunt
Joan called him to get some
water from the well, but he went, all bursting with
eagerness as he was. The pilgrim
stayed to supper, and in course of time Guy found out
what he had come for.
He was Eloy, one of the chief jewelers of Limoges,
which in the Middle Ages meant
that his work was known in every country of Europe, for
that city had been as
famous for its gold work ever since the days of Clovis
as it is now for porcelain.
Enamel-work was done there as well, and the cunning
 workmen knew how to decorate gold, silver, or copper in
colors like vivid flame,
living green, the blue of summer skies. Eloy offered
to take Guy as an apprentice
and teach him all that he could for the sake of the
maker of the Gold Finch, who
had been his own good friend and master. It was as if
the head of one of the
great Paris studios should offer free training for the
next ten years to some
penniless art student of a country town.
What amazed Guy more than anything else, however, was
the discovery that
his grumbling old uncle, who never had had a good word
to say for him in the shop,
had told this great artist about him when they met five
years before, and begged
Eloy if ever he came to London to visit the Gold Finch
and see the little fellow who
was growing up there to learn the ancient crafts in a
town where men hardly
knew what good work was. Even now old Gamelyn would
only say that his nephew
was a good boy and willing, but so painstaking that he
would never make a
tradesman; he spent so much unnecessary time on his
"He may be an artist," said Eloy with a smile; and some
specimens of the work
which Guy did when he was a man, which are now
carefully kept in museums,
prove that he was. No one knows how the enamel-work of
Limoges was done;
it is only clear that the men who did it were artists.
The secret has long been lost—ever
since the city, centuries ago, was trampled under the
feet of war.
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