The Butcher's Tournament by E. V. Lucas
Marmaduke Mumbles was the son of a worthy butcher in the village
town of Scrambles.
He was an only son, and as such, of course, petted by his father and
spoiled by his mother.
Mrs. Mumbles had been in early life a lady's-maid, and, while in her
waiting upon the Honourable Miss Languish, was employed not so much in
millinery as novel reading, which she used to read to her young lady
from morning till night, and from night till morning.
The tales which took the fancy of the Honourable Miss Languish, and
which were echoed from the mouth and mind of Miss Squeamish were those
of 'high romance,' as it is termed. Young, handsome, virtuous, and
valiant heroes going through more wonderful adventures than our poor
Mosette in her nine lives, and poor Neddy Bray in his, I do not know
Then there must be, to please these novel readers, extraordinary
situations, wonderful incidents, perplexing difficulties, overwhelming
disasters, strange providences, and miraculous escapes, together with a
proper assemblage of old castles, ruined tombs, yawning cloisters, grim
vaults, mouldering coffins, unearthly sounds, awful visitations,
spiritual appearances; ghosts in white sheets, with bleeding bosoms:
hobgoblins with saucer eyes, fierce claws, and long tails; and
catastrophes so tremendous as to set the hair on end, and convulse the
whole frame with the delight of tenor, and the tenor of delight.
Such was the food of Miss Squeamish, afterwards Mrs. Mumbles, in her
And she used to read and read and read till she looked upon the
world in which she had to get her living as no world of hers, but a
sort of common sphere made on purpose for tradespeople, washer-women,
and cart-driving. She revelled in a world of the romances, where
everything was made as it ought to be, where the virtuous were
always rewarded and the wicked always punished, where high and noble
sentiments met with the reception they deserved, and disinterestedness
was duly appreciated, where passion and impulse, unmixed with the care
of consequences, were held as the glory of both sexes, and everything
that was fair and bright and beautiful, and free and elegant and good,
shone triumphantly to the glory of the heroes and heroines who figured
always so splendidly in these romantic pages.
But at last all these bright visions were to end. Miss Languish died
of a consumption brought on from lying in bed night and morning to read
novels. And Miss Squeamish, afterwards Mrs. Mumbles, was forced to turn
out into the world to seek her livinginto that very world which was
so odious to her. But there was no resource, and so the lady who had
been identified with so many heroines was obliged to set up as a
milliner and dressmaker in the little town of Scrambles.
But the poor young woman soon found out that things were carried on
in this world in a manner radically different from that in which the
romances pictured. She soon found out that mutton was eightpence
halfpenny a pound, and that if she did not look well after her butcher
she would find her pound and a half of mutton chops weighing not quite
a pound and a quarter; that bread was ten-pence a loaf, and that the
baker was no more romantic than the butcher, and would, unless he was
checked every day, find means to put down a 'dead one'; and that the
milkman's chalk had got a notch in it, and would make two strokes
instead of one. In short, that there was at the bottom of this best of
all possible worlds a vast amount of sheer roguery.
The consequence of Miss Squeamish's want of a knowledge of all this
was that she soon found out the impossibility of being able to make
things come together'to make ends meet'as the saying is.
She floundered about in her business for a year or two, but grew
poorer and poorer, got in debt largely with her grocer, baker, and
butcher, and at last was obliged to stop for want of funds.
But it is an old proverb that 'when one door shuts another opens,'
and this was the only part of Miss Squeamish's philosophy which had
ever come true. No sooner was her shop shut up than the bills came in,
and with Mrs. Shambles' bill the copy of a writ, so that Miss Squeamish
was on the high road to a prison. But fortune sometimes favours those
who will not favour themselves, and it somehow or other happened that
Miss Squeamish pleaded so eloquently for herself and her destitute
situation with Mr. Mumbles, the very fat butcher and her principal
creditor, that he agreed to cancel his debt and pay the others on
condition that Miss Squeamish would become Mrs. Mumbles.
And Mrs. Mumbles she did become. For Mr. Mumbles was very rich, and
although in person he was not very imposing he made up in quantity for
what he wanted in quality, and the prospect of plenty of meat and a
good name to one destitute of either had such an effect on Miss
Squeamish as to put to flight all her visionary ideas of
perfectionlove in a cottage and platonic affectionand she settled
down, in appearance at least, as a very spruce butcher's wife, and took
to caps, aprons, and blue ribands.
Mr. Mumbles was a thrifty man, and had been so all his life. He was
about fifty years of age, and not disposed to alter his habits, but he
required Mrs. Mumbles to alter hers. He proceeded, therefore, to give
his worthy spouse some initiatory instructions in the art of jointing a
scrag of mutton, cutting out a pluck, or chinning a whole sheep upon an
occasion. This was very different from novel reading. She had, indeed,
read of knights cleaving their adversaries from the 'chaps to the
chine,' and of 'sticking to the heart,' and sometimes fancied, as she
made a blow upon some unfortunate leg of mutton, which required
shanking, that this would she do to the Knight of the Black Visage, or
the cruel Tyrant of the Bloody Tower, or the Renegades of the Cross, or
any other anti-hero, so that it might be said romance was scotched
in her, not killed, as we shall hear in the sequel.
After Miss Squeamish became Mrs. Mumbles she determined to endeavour
to 'civilize' her husband, as she called it. It did not follow because
he was a butcher that he was to have butchering ideas for ever, or that
he was to know nothing of 'literature,' as she termed itthat is,
novels. Mr. Mumbles had read 'Puss in Boots,' 'Jack the Giant Killer,'
'Tom Thumb,' 'Jack and the Bean Stalk,' 'Whittington and his Cat,' and
'Mother Goose' in his childhood. In his boyhood he had gone through
'Robinson Crusoe,' 'The Pilgrim's Progress,' and 'The Seven Champions
of Christendom,' and therefore knew there was something in the world
besides scrags of mutton.
Having made these discoveries Mrs. Mumbles was determined to put her
husband under regular training, to win him, by degrees, from his
boorish estate to that of poetry and refinement. She looked at his
unwieldy bulkit was not exactly the size for a hero, but then she
thought of bluff Harry the Eighth, who was both stout and romantic, and
the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and so as Mr. Mumbles became romantic
she made up her mind to put up with his stoutness.
Mr. Mumbles had no other relaxation on a summer's evening than a
game of bowls, but as his fat increased so did his difficulty of
playing this noble game. He used to think that once down it would
require something more than the levers of his legs to lift him up
again. So just as Mr. Mumbles had made up his mind within himself to
leave off bowls did Mrs. Mumbles think of making him a hero outright.
But she went cautiously about her work. She knew that to change the man
she must first change the mind, and therefore she commenced her
operations upon the mental part of Mr. Mumbles.
Her first thought was as to the kind of hero she was to train him
into. She would not like him to be a 'Jack Sheppard,' for fear he might
break into some lady's heart with a crowbar of his impudence. Nor would
she like him to be a 'Eugene Aram,' for fear he should make a mistake
and hang her some night instead of himself. He seemed fitter for a
'Jack Falstaff' than anything else. But Falstaff was too witty for a
hero, and she thought, perhaps, that if he laughed any more he would be
only so much the fatter.
She therefore put into his hands the most sentimental exotics of the
publishing firms. There was the 'Elegant Maniac; or, the Snuff-coloured
Rose and the Field of Silver,' a beautiful romance. Then there was the
'Sentimental Footpad; or, Honour among Thieves.' And 'Syngenesia,' the
last of the melancholies; with the 'Knight of the Snorting Palfrey; or,
the Silken Fetlock.' These works she read to Mr. Mumbles on evenings
instead of suffering him to repair to his bowls, and after a short time
had the satisfaction to find him a ready and an eager listener. She
read and read and read, and he became more and more interested, till at
last he could scarcely find time to serve a customer if one happened to
come in when the hero was in some 'interesting situation.'
And so Mr. Mumbles began to find his business decline, for at last
he would have his novel in his hand on a Saturday night, and would ask
his customers concerning this or that book, which he happened to have
been reading during the week. He would forget to joint the loins of
mutton, to pickle the stale beef, to send out his orders; in short, his
customers were treated with such neglect that his trade, long
vacillating between going on and going off, suddenly stopped.
Nor did Mr. Mumbles care a whit for it, as he was rich when his
father died, had grown richer since, and was worth at least ten
thousand pounds in houses, lands, and money. He would soon have given
up his business had it not given up him, and therefore when somebody
told him it was time to 'shut up shop,' he said: 'Yes, and I intend to
Suiting the action to the word he forthwith began to retire. All the
beasts and beastesses were sold off with the goodwill of the shop, the
blocks, cleavers, hooks, and jemmies. And Mr. Mumbles planned out a
house in a secluded spot about a mile from the town. It was to be
called Mumbles Castle, and was to be built in the old English or
baronial style, with turrets, low doors, battlements, arch windows, and
gothic mouldings. The grand hall was twenty feet by fifteen, the
armoury half the size, the refectory fourteen by fourteen. A long
passage leading to the adjacent pigsties was called the corridor, and
the bedchambers, four in number, were dignified with the names of the
griffin room, the martlet, the rampant lion, and the wild boar, such
being a part of the newly-formed armorial bearing of the Mumbles.
The adjacent grounds were also laid out in a style corresponding
with the castle. There was, among other arrangements for the comfort
and delight of visitors, a tournament court, an archery ground, and a
hawking mound. Certainly they were not of very extraordinary
dimensions, but they were rather beyond the general scale of the other
parts of the building. Mrs. Mumbles had in contemplation to give a
grand fête of some kind or other. Mumbles talked of the house-warming,
but that was vulgar. But at last, to ease all difficulties on this
score, Master Marmaduke Tristram St. George Mumbles was born.
When it was ascertained that provision for a baby was necessary Mr.
Mumbles determined that everything should be conducted according to the
established laws of chivalry. But having searched in vain among
romances to find how such matters were managed, he gave up the matter
in despair. He found that all romances having come to a marriage
suddenly stopped. This was very perplexing, but there was no help for
it, and as Master Marmaduke was in a hurry to come into the world he
was born before his father and mother could arrange the solemn order of
But both Mr. and Mrs. Mumbles were determined that the christening
should be conducted upon a scale of all conceivable splendour. There
was no precedent for it, but then there was less likelihood of any
mistake or more room for the fancy. But a gothic christening it was to
bea gothic christening it should bea gothic christening it must be.
And what would redound to the glory of so mighty an event? This was
the consideration, this was the feat to be achieved. Mr. and Mrs.
Mumbles had many a discourse upon the subject at breakfast, dinner, and
supper, at morning, noon, and night, but still the happy idea was too
good to strike them suddenly.
At last Mrs. Mumbles had a dream. She dreamed of a tournament, and
of all the glory of such an event. Polished helms, furbished arms,
clang of trumpets, waving of banners and plumes, clouds of dust, clash
of swords, unhorsing of knights, and outcry of heralds. When she awoke,
she said emphatically to Mr. Mumbles, as he was beginning to take his
morning yawn: 'I've hit it'; and gave him a sharp stroke on his wigless
'I think you have,' said Mr. Mumbles, 'and I would thank you not to
hit quite so hard. But what do you mean, my dear Celestia?'
'Mean,' replied the delighted spouse'mean that I have hit upon a
plan for doing honour to the birth of our son and heir, of the
propagator of the glory of our house, and of the renowned name of
'Have you, by gowls?' said Mr. Mumbles. 'What is it?'
'A tournament,' said she, 'a tournament, that glory of the chivalric
ages; will it not be gloriously delightful to see once more the light
of other days upon us? To see those battlements decked with the
banners of the house of Mumbles, to hear the clarion ring, to listen to
the strains of martial music, to see the lounge and thrust and anvil
blow, knights unhorsed, armour riven, helms cloven.'
'It would be a good go,' said Mr. Mumbles.
'A good go; it would be a go and three-quartersat least, according
to your own phraseology. I think myself truly happy at having been
blessed with such a revelation, and pray that I may be strengthened to
perform my part of the ceremony.'
'And what may that be?' said Mr. Mumbles.
'Why of course I must be the queen of beauty, and you must be my
king consort. The knights, having arranged themselves, must, first of
all, pay their respects to me, and then the victor must kneel before
me, and receive from my hands the richly-embroidered scarf and the
'Well, it will be a grand dayan epoch in my existencea sort of
hera. I think they call it a hera. And if we could get the band
of the Scrambles Volunteer Company it would be excellent; if not, I
think I know some music that would suit.'
'What is that?' inquired Mrs. Mumbles.
'The marrow-bones and cleavers; they are very pretty music, and I
should like them, band or no band.'
'The marrow-bones and cleavers,' said Mrs. Mumbles in astonishment.
'Yes,' said Mr. Mumbles, 'it was my glory when I was a boy, and we
used to have them all rung at christenings and weddings. I have heard
say that at my christening and at my mother's marriage they rang a
'And pray, what is a bob-major?' inquired Mrs. Mumbles. 'I have
heard of a serjeant-major and a drum-major, but never heard of a
'A bob-major,' rejoined the elated butcher, 'is a long tune, that
puzzles you to know when you will get to the end of it, and so you
stand and wait and wait, till at last, all of a sudden, it stops.'
'And how does it go, my dear? Is it a pretty tune?'
'I should think it was a pretty tunelike the church bells,
only more cutting, as it might be expected, from its coming from
cleavers. It has made me cry like a child, Mrs. Mumbles.'
'I hope it won't make baby cry.'
'I hope not; but, cry or no cry, we must have it, and any other
music you like.'
This point being settled the ardent pair began to prepare, with the
greatest alacrity, for the forthcoming fête.
Mrs. Mumbles declared that no expense should be spared to make the
proceedings go off with éclat, and Mr. Mumbles began to fidget himself
concerning the tournament laws, rules, and regulations.
The principal difficulty was, however, in inducing others to take a
part in this strange whim. Had it been bull-baiting or badger-drawing
or cock-throwing or horse and donkey racing, hundreds would have been
found ready to engage in the sport. But for a tournament! Most people
did not even know the name of it, and Mr. Mumbles' description was in
no way calculated to elucidate its mysteries, so that few seemed to
care about lending themselves to the fête.
There was, however, in the town of Scrambles a sharp dapper lawyer's
clerk, who saw at once into the affair and what a frolic it might be
made. He therefore wrote a civil note to Mr. Mumbles, in which he
expressed his delight at the forthcoming novelty, and offered himself
as a candidate for the white silken scarf which was to be the reward of
the victor in the field.
The letter being couched in chivalric language, and ornamented with
armorial bearings, delighted Mr. and Mrs. Mumbles above all things.
They now felt a prospect of the realization of their fondest hopes, and
began to prepare accordingly. The lawyer's clerk, whose name was
Quiddity, also set about publishing the whole of the matter abroad. He
soon succeeded in inducing a number of young men and maidens to favour
the joke, and to lend themselves to it. He explained the insane folly
of this worthy pair with such irresistible drollery that everyone was
eager to be one of the favoured company.
On the next interview Mr. Mumbles, delighted with the report of
Quiddity, addressed him with truly dignified solemnity.
'Sir Knight,' said he, 'thou hast done thy spirit gently. Thy
wondrous works have found favour in mine eyes; be thou our warden from
this time, and for evermore.'
'With leave to thrust or lance,' said Quiddity; 'for I would not
forego a rencontre for the lord-wardenship of the cinque ports.'
'Sink me if you shall not tilt with me rather than that you should
not display your prowess. On the morning of that auspicious day will I
dissolve thee from the wardenship, and give thee freedom to thy
knighthood. I will, with my own hands, buckle on thy armour, with my
right hand place a spear in thy grasp, and with my left salute thee.'
'And for me,' said Mrs. Mumbles, 'I will choose thee for my own dear
knight, and thou shalt fight under my banner, and be victorious; and
then, when thou resist from the field of glory, will I embrace thee,
and thou shalt be the envy of all beholders.'
'We'll stow that,' said Mr. Mumbles, who did not appear to
like the embracing part of the ceremony. 'But let us now form a
committee of ways and meansthat is to say, let us concoct the thing
in a regular manner.'
And so the three concoctors sat down to arrange the order of the
'And, first and foremost,' said Mr. Mumbles, 'we must have seats
raised round the tilting coast, and a platform built at one end. Then
at the other end must be a barrier for the knights to come in at; and
then we must have a long pole straight across the ground, to
prevent the horses falling foul of each other; and then we must
have flags at different stations, charged with the armorial bearings of
the knights, with their crests on the top of them.'
'And then,' said Mrs. Mumbles, taking up the same strain, 'we must
begin to think of dresses. For my part, I shall wear a white satin
robe, trimmed with silver lilies, and a scarf of azure blue, richly
embroidered with gold. Seven ostrich plumes shall wave from my brow; a
lion's skin shall be spread for my feet; all my jewels shall be
displayed to the best advantage; and I think I shall, upon the whole,
be pretty considerably imposing. As to Mr. Mumbles, I intend to have
him dressed in a manner which shall be unique, imposing, and
'We will first draw out a programme of the proceedings,' said
Quiddity, 'and then we can select the various personages who are to be
honoured with having a part in the ceremony.'
'Good,' said Mr. Mumbles.
'And I shall head it the Mumblonian Tournament, and publish a
challenge to all the world to deny the peerless beauty of Mrs.
'But won't that be coming it rather strong? I should like you to
draw it pretty mild,' ejaculated Mr. Mumbles.
'Not a bit too strong,' said Mrs. Mumbles, with a toss of her head.
'Go on, pray, Mr. Quiddity.'
So Mr. Quiddity went on:
'And then, of course, we should find persons sending in their
defiance, and extolling other dames, and therefore we should have all
our knights, squires, horses, armour, and so on.'
'But must we not publish regulations afterwards?' observed Mumbles.
'Of course we must. That is to say, every knight who professes his
readiness to break a lance must provide himself with horse, weapons,
and esquire, and send in his certificate of noble blood and knightly
'But where shall we place the proclamation?'
'On the doors of the church, certainly; upon the cage; upon the
pound; and other public institutions of our country.'
'Good,' said Mr. Mumbles; 'I like to honour the institutions of my
country, and therefore I would not have forgotten the parish pump.'
'Certainly not, my dear sir. Well, then, we must apply to the
schoolmaster to let us have, on hire, the boys and girls of the
national schools to walk in order before the procession, with silver
wands in their hands and blue ribands in their hats, while the girls
should be dressed all in white like nymphs, and strew flowers.'
'Capital,' said Mr. Mumbles; 'and then we can give them a tuck-out
with rolls and treacle; won't the boys like itay, and the girls too!
Lawks! how I did laugh once to see girls eat rolls and treacle! They
beat the boys out and out at that fun. They dabbed the treacle into
each other's eyes, and roped it over each other's shoulders, and swung
it into each other's faces, like good 'uns. There is nothing like girls
for a spree; when they do begin, they beat the boys hollow.'
'Well, then,' continued Quiddity, 'I thought of hiring for a day the
old workhouse women, to act as matrons or sibyls, as the case may be.
They will be a pretty contrast to the gals. And, that they may not
cry out, we will treat them all to a pound of snuff apiece, and a new
'And a red brocade petticoat each, and a Margaret of Anjou cap or
'What, one of those with a long poke behind like a rolling-pin, and
a veil at the end of it?' said Mr. Mumbles.
'Just so, my dear,' replied the lady; 'and they must have one
stocking red and the other blue.'
'Ay, ay,' rejoined Mumbles, with an arch look, 'I know the reason of
that; you fancy but for this expedient that in the crowd the old
ladies would not otherwise know one leg from the other.'
'You are quite wrong, my dear; but we must follow the ancient
costume, you know, or else we shall be laughed at.'
'What shall be next?' said Mr. Quiddity.
'Ay, what next, my dear?' said Mrs. Mumbles, who seemed herself to
be got to her wits' end.
'Why, I was thinking, love, that after the old women we
should have a bullock, dressed with blue ribands, and garnished with
flowers, roasted whole.'
'Yes, upon the green, after the sports,' said Mrs. Mumbles; 'and, as
I should like the whole of the ceremony to conclude with a bonfire and
a discharge of fireworks, the fire that is to roast the bullock can be
kept up, which will be killing two birds with one stone, you know.'
And thus the preliminaries for the grand entertainment were settled
by the three who were to be chief actors in it. Quiddity, in the very
frolicsomeness of his heart, now canvassed the town, and, with little
difficulty, succeeded in bringing a number of persons into the plot or
joke; and banners were prepared, armour was provided, and arms of every
description brought into requisition.
At last the important day arrived. It was ushered in by a discharge
of firearms from the back of the butcher's premises. A squadron of
horsemen next paraded the town on horses, ponies, and donkeys, with the
marrow-bones and cleavers, and rung most dolorous music. Mr. Mumbles
arose from his bed at earliest dawn, and, having breakfasted, set to
enrobing himself as a grand grandee of the first order. His dress was
of the time of Louis XIV. of France, frilled and furbelowed; and, when
fully arranged, Mr. Mumbles looked like a real Prince, and Mrs. Mumbles
held up her hands in astonishment and delight.
The back premises of Mr. Mumbles had been already prepared; a rude
scaffolding, with seats, skirted three sides of a quadrangle, to which
admission was to be obtained for the small charge of one penny, the
whole of the proceeds to go to the Institution for the Cure of
Rheumatism. The people mustered in large numbers, and, although the
tournament joust did not boast of many lords and ladies, or persons of
high ancestral lineage, yet everyone was, according to Adamic heraldry,
a perfect gentleman or lady in their own right; for they all bore
arms, with the exception of Jack Sprat, the bellman, who could only
muster one, with which he rang his bell.
In the centre of the platform, at the upper end, was a raised seat,
and a canopy over it. The seat was covered with yellow baize, and the
canopy was formed of the hangings of Mr. Mumbles' best spare bed. It
was red, bordered with yellow, which hung in fanciful festoons, and a
richly-carved bed-foot on each gave the whole a very imposing
appearance. On this raised seat, which was made to hold two, were
placed two armchairs, richly gilt, and around these were other chairs
for persons of distinction, who now began to arrive in pretty
considerable numbers. First, there was the Grand Master of the Odd
Fellows, with a numerous retinue, with their emblematical tools, flags,
banners, and devices. He entered the arena amid the clang of trumpets
and the roll of drums, and proceeded to the place assigned him. Then
came the President of the Anti-Lie-a-Bed Society, with a whole troop of
boys and girls who had been cured of this great sin by drinking half a
pint of yeast overnight, which made them rise early in the
morning. They were received by 'artificial cock-crowing' by the gallant
showman, who had a place assigned him as underwarden. Then came a batch
of young damsels, all in white, being chimney-sweepers' daughters; and
after them a flourish of trumpetsthat is, cow-hornsa
squadron of costermongers' donkey-lads mounted, with their
pocket-handkerchiefs floating from the vulnerable point of
Next came the redoubtable Mr. Mumbles himself, leading Mrs. Mumbles
by the hand, preceded by the young lawyer Quiddity. He ascended the
throne provided for him with extraordinary dignity, and, having made a
bow to the company by putting his hand to one of his curls, as if to
pull his head down, and giving a scrape with his foot behind, the whole
assembly burst out with a simultaneous cheer'Mumbles for ever!
Mumbles for ever!'
Soon after Mr. Mumbles had seated himself the clang of trumpets was
heard, and Quiddity appeared on a splendid pony, richly caparisoned,
with a hearthrug under his saddle as a saddle-cloth, having in one hand
his baton of office, and in the other a banner. After making his
obeisance to the king and queen of the tournament, Mrs. and Mr.
Mumbles, he took his place in the centre. Immediately the horns were
blown, the mob shouted, and Quiddity read the following proclamation:
'To all whom it may concern, and to our beloved Neighbours,
'With a view to do away with and put down the cowardly, dastardly,
and ungenteel sports of bull-baiting, badger-baiting,
fox-hunting, pigeon-shooting, and other wicked and cruel amusements,
we, John Mumbles and Co., King of Chivalry, Grand Master of this
Tournament, invite all persons, gentlemen born, to engage in, and
others to witness, trials of skill, might, prowess, and
magnanimity by means of tilt, combat, or archery, and all those knights
who have been enrolled as true knights, worthy to try their prowess in
the tilts, are hereby invited to do so without fee or reward, fear or
'GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.'
'Hurrah! hurrah!' said everybody, and then arose the flapping of
white pocket-handkerchiefs, the waving of flags, the sounding of horns,
and the beating of drums. The arena was cleared by Sam Swipes with a
long cart-whip, and opposite to each other, by separate entrances,
appeared the first two knights who were to engage(1) The Knight of
the Boiling Fish-kettle, (2) The Knight of the Red-hot Copper. The
Knight of the Boiling Fish-kettle was armed with a splendid helmet of
polished metal, something resembling a double block-tin dish-cover, No.
3 on the bottom; at the top was inverted a red-boiled lobster for a
crest, over which hung in graceful curves three black cats' tails duly
charged with electricity. A large pewter-dish formed the breast-plate
of this knight, while his arms and thighs were plated with bands of
tin, which had an exceedingly martial appearance. The shield of the
knight was the lid of the fish-kettle, a broad oblong defence, upon
which was painted the device of a leg of pork, with the motto 'Porkus
est miceabus.' The lance-pole of this knight was a clothes-prop, at the
end of which a pepper-box was duly fixed instead of a lance.
The Knight of the Copper was also mounted on a steed; it was of a
reddish-brown, and for his saddle-cloth he had chosen a rich damask
table-cover, which nearly covered the whole body of the animal. He had
on his head a copper cake-mould in the shape of a porcupine. His
breast-plate was a richly-figured japanned waiter. His armour consisted
of muffin-tins fixed over his arms and legs, his crest was a 'scalded
cat,' and his shield a copper-lid of wood. The copper-lid was painted
green, and it had for its device a calve's head, with a lemon in its
mouth, with the motto, 'Calve's head is best hot.'
The knights being set in due array and in proper position, at the
sound of the herald's trumpets spurred their nags, and went towards
each other with the velocity of lightning. At the first assault the
pepper-box was dashed to pieces against the copper-lid, and the
fractured fragments clattered about the combatants. The next charge
upset the Knight of the Boiling Fish-kettle and his Rosinante at the
same time, and both lay wallowing on the ground. Mr. Mumbles on this
rose from his seat, and the Knight of the Red-hot Copper made his
appearance on the throne or platform, where, kneeling down, he received
at the hands of Mrs. Mumbles a beautiful white silken scarf, while the
assembly shouted, the drums beat, and the trumpets sounded.
[Illustration: Knights in armour tumbled over their own steeds,
donkeys ran snorting about, ladies shrieked.Page 295.]
How long this foolery would have gone on I know not, but just as the
ceremony was being performed of investing the conqueror knight with the
silken scarf a loud cracking was heard under the platform. Mr. Mumbles
looked red, Mrs. Mumbles looked pale, the company stood aghast, the
music ceased, the uproar was quelled, and the applause subsided. Crack,
snap, bang! What was the matter? The fireworks placed underneath the
scaffolding, and which were to have concluded the evening's
entertainments, had by some means or other ignited. Presently a rocket
with a loud roar made a sweep in a slanting direction through the
canvas at the top of the canopy, to the consternation of all. Before
the alarm subsided, and before anyone could make his or her escape by
flight, another and another rocket rushed from beneath the scaffolding
with prodigious roar and flame. The alarm became general; Mrs. Mumbles
fainted; Mr. Mumbles roared out 'Fire, fire!' as loud as he was able.
But now the indiscriminate ignition of rockets, crackers, squibs,
Catherines, fiery fountains, flaming cascades, sparkling arbours, and
gunpowder and nitre pillars, and suns, stars, and comets enveloped the
whole throne and its appurtenances in a blaze of fiery splendour.
Rockets shot out on every side, fiery squibs ran along the ground,
Catherine wheels danced on every shoulder, and crackers banged at every
heel. Such a scene of confusion followed as is seldom witnessed.
Knights in armour tumbled over their own steeds, donkeys ran snorting
about, ladies shrieked, and fell over gentlemen, and gentlemen tumbled
over ladies in pell-mell havoc and confusion, amid smoke and steam and
hissing and cracking and banging and roaring.
It was with the greatest difficulty that Mr. and Mrs. Mumbles were
extricated from the danger that threatened themnamely, being burnt
alive. But Mrs. Mumbles was carried home in a wheelbarrow in a state of
insensibility, while Mr. Mumbles had the same attention bestowed upon
him through the intervention of a well-disposed hurdle and four of the
marrow-bone and cleaver musicians.
Such was the untoward end of the Mumblonian tournament, an event not
to be easily forgotten in the locality in which it took place. It was
subsequently found out, as it ought to have been discovered before,
that both Mr. and Mrs. Mumbles had driven themselves mad by novel and
romance reading, and they were both obliged to be sent to a madhouse
for some time before they could be cured of their egregious folly. But
as they were cured, it may be said that the circumstances which
I have related were 'all for the best.'