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How Sir Simon Eyer. being at first a shoomaker, became in the end Maior of London, through the counsell of his wife; and how he broke his fast every day on a table that he said he would not sell for a thousand pounds; and how he builded Leadonhall.
Our English chronicles do make mention that sometime there was in the honourable City of London a worthy Maior, known by the name of Sir Simon Eyer, whose fame liveth in the mouths of many men to this day; who, albeit he descended from mean parentage, yet, by God's blessing, in the end he came to be a most worthy man in the commonwealth.
This man, being brought young out of the north countrey, was bound prentise to a shoomaker, bearing then the name of the Gentle Craft — as still it doth. His master, being a man of reasonable wealth, set many journeymen and prentises to work, who followed their businesse with great delight: which quite excludeth all wearinesse, for when servants do sit at their worke like dromedaries, then their minds are never lightly upon their businesse. For it is an old proverbe:
They prove servants kind and good
That sing at their businesse like birds in the wood.1)
*) Cf. the first two stories. This aspect of the gentle craft provided the Elizabethan playwright with an excellent opportunity for the natural, unforced introduction of songs, music, and a morris. i) treasures; T and R treasurers.
Such fellows had this young lad, who was not behind with many northern jigs to answer their southern songs.
This youth, being the youngest prentise in the house, ( as occasion served was often sent to the conduit for water, where in short time he fell acquainted with many other prentises coming thither for the same intent. Now, their custome was so, that every Sunday morning divers of these j prentises did use to go to a place neer the conduit to > break their fast with pudding-pies, and often they would take Simon along with them. But upon a time it so fell out that when he should draw money to pay the shot with the rest, that he had none. Whereupon he merrily said unto them: "My faithfull friends and conduit companions, treasurers1) of the water tankard and main pillers of the pudding house, I may now compare my purse to a barren doe, that yields the keeper no more good than an empty carkasse; or to a bad nut, which, being opened, hath never a kernell. Therefore, if it will please you to pardon me at this time and excuse me for my part of the shot, I do here vow unto you that, if ever I come to be Lord Maior of this city, I will give a breakfast unto all^ the printises in London."2)
"We do take your word", quoth they. And so they departed.
It came to passe that Simon having at length worn out his yeers of apprentiship, that he fell in love with a maiden that was neer neighbour unto him; unto whom at length he was married, and got him a shop, and labored 'hard daily, and his young wife was never idle, but straight when she had nothing to do, she sat in the shop and spun. And having lived thus alone a yeer or thereabout, and having gathered something together, at length he got him some printises and a journeyman or two. And he could not make his ware so fast as he could have sold
2) Sh. H. Act V,6,180—187; also Act V, 1, 44-48.
it, so that he stood in great need of a journeyman or two more. At the last, one of his servants, spying one go along the street with a fardel I at his back, called to his master, saying: "Sir, yonder goes Saint Hugh's bones, twenty pounds to a penney!"
"Run presently", quoth he, "and bring him hither."
The boy, running forth, called to the man, saying: "Good fellow, come hither; here is one would speak with you."
The fellow, being a Frenchman') that had not long been in England, turning about, said: "Hea, what you ,sea? Will you speak wed me, hea? What you have? Tell me, what you have, hea?" And with that coming to the stall, the goodman askt him if he lackt work. "We, par ma foy", quoth the Frenchman.
Hereupon Simon took him in, and to worke he went merrily; where he behaved himselfe so well that his master made goo daecount of him — thinking he had been a bachelor, but in the end it was found otherwise.2) This man was the first that wrought upon the low-cut shooe with the square toe and the latchet overthwart the instep; before which time in England they did weare a high shooe that reached above the ankles, right after the manner of our husbandmen's shooes at this day, save onely that it was made very sharp at the toe, turning up like the tail of an Island dog, or as you see a cock carry his hinder leathers.
Now, it is to be remembred that, while John Denevale dwelt with Simon Eyer, it chanced that a ship of the He of Candy was driven upon our coast, laden with all kind of lawns and cambricks, and other linnen cloth, which commodities at that time were in London very scant and exceeding dear; and by reason of a great leak the ship had got at sea, being unable to sail any further, he would make what profit he could of his goods here ')" And being come to London, it was John Denevale's chance to meet him in the streets, to whom the merchant, in the Greek tongue, demanded where he might have lodging; for he was one that had never been in England before and, being unacquainted, wist not whither to go. But while he spake Greek, John Denevale answered him still in French, which tongue the merchant understood well; and therefore, being glad that he had met with one that could talk to him, he declared unto him what tempests he endured at sea, and also how his ship lay upon the coast with such commodities as he would sell.
i) "Of the foreigners born, that flocked over into England, not far from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, many were of the occupation of shoemakers." Stow-Strype (1720), vol. II, p. 2l3.
2) Cf. the hiring of Hans (Lacy), Sh. H. II, 3, 41—132.
"Truly sir", quoth John, "I am myselfe but a stranger in this country and utterly unacquainted with merchants, but I dwell with one in this city that is a very honest man, and it may be that he can help you to some that will deal with you for it. And if you think it good, I will move him in it, and in the mean space Tle bring you where you may have2) a very good lodging. Tomorrow morning I will come to you again."
"Sir", said the merchant, "if you please to do me that favour, I'le not onely be thankfull unto you for the same, but also in most honest sort will content you for your pains." And with that they departed.
Now, as soon as John the Frenchman came home, he moved that matter unto his master, desiring him that he would do what he could for the merchant. When his master had heard each circumstance, noting therewith the want of such commodities in the land, cast in his mind as he stood cutting up his work what were best to be done in this case, saying to his man John: "I will think upon it betwixt this and the morning, and then I will tell you my mind." And therewithall casting down his cuttingknife, he went out of his shop into his chamber, and therein walked up and down alone very sadly, ruminating hereon. He was so far in his muse that, his wife sending for him to supper two or three times, he nothing regarded the ^raid's call, hammering this matter in his head.
i) Sh. H. Act III, 1,1—25. 2) gave; T have.
At last his wife came to him, saying: "Husband, what mean you that you do not come to supper? Why speak you not, man? Hear you, good husband? Come away, your meat will be cold." But for all her words he stayed walking up and down still, like a man that had sent his -J wits a-woll-gathering. Which his wife seeing, puled him by the sleeve, saying: "Why, husband, in the name of God, why come you not? Wil you not come to supper to night? I called you a good while ago."
"Body of me, wife", said he, "I promise thee I did not hear thee."
"No, faith, it seemeth so", quoth she. "I marvel whereupon your mind runneth."
"Beleeve me, wife", quoth he, "I was studying how to make myselfe Lord Maior and thee a Lady."
"Now God help you", quoth she, "I pray God make us able to pay every man his own, that we may live out of debt and danger and drive the woolf from the doore, and I desire no more."
"But wife", said he, "I pray thee now tell me, doest thou not think that thou couldest make shift to bear the name of a lady, if it should he put upon thee?"
"In truth, husband", quoth she, 'Tle not dissemble ^with you; if your wealth were able to beare it, my mind would beare it well enough."1)
"Well, wife", replyed he, "I tell thee now in sadnesse that, if I had money, there is a commodity now to be bought, the gains wherof would be able to make me a gentleman forever."
') In his reconception of the character of Mrs. Eyre Dekker made full use of the comic possibilities of this and other character touches.