Page:Court Royal.djvu/14

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and streamers. The flags vary in shape, more than in colour, and most of all in their heraldic achievements. Some are ‘enhanced’ with flaunches, others with bendlets, frets, bordures, even with bars sinister. Certain bifurcated pennons show a leaning towards ‘escutcheoning.’ The banners are for the most part white, tawny as old Tiber, or Isabelle. Some few are azure of a deep and dingy blue. From one window a circular mass of drapery, gules, bulges in the wind. It is the petticoat of the lady of the ham and sausage shop.

One corner house, standing between two thoroughfares, never displayed its bunting. Apparently, no washing was ever done in it. Over the door of this house hung three golden balls, and in scaling paint over the window was inscribed the name—‘Lazarus.’

The Barbican is not a savoury place. Here the fish are unladen and sold, and here the little fish that fall out of the baskets get trampled out of shape, and rot in the mire.

When the tide is out, the ooze in Sutton Pool sends up its complement of effluvium. Providentially, the sea-tangles, hanging from the wharf in fringes of dull green, exhale chlorine, and the sea-breeze brings in ozone, to disinfect and disperse the pestilential odours.

The Barbican is a busy place all day, and late into the night; but at noon, for an hour, it drops into quiet. Then all the sound that habitually pervades it is sucked in at the doors of the taverns and eating-houses, and fills them to repletion.

It was precisely at this hour, one hot day in early June, that the stillness of the Barbican quay was broken by piercing and protracted shrieks.

Two persons and a cat alone occupied the wharf at that time: the one was the pier-guard, who was then lounging on the wall looking seaward; the other was an old woman sitting under a large umbrella with her back to sun and sea, fast asleep before the table of gingerbeer-bottles of which she disposed. The cat took no notice of the screams, nor did the old woman, who only woke when the quay became repeopled and business looked alive. The guard turned leisurely round, drew his hands out of his pockets, walked to the steps by which passengers disembarked from the Oreston steamer, descended them, cast off a boat, and, stepping in, shouted, ‘Hold hard, you little devil!’

Some faces, attracted by the cries, appeared at the windows, but the view was obscured by fluttering drapery. The lady