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THE TOWER OF LONDON
"LET'S go to the Tower on top of a 'bus," clamoured the little girls, and it did not take long for them to scramble up on to the first one that came along. "It is so nice and wobbly," they declared, "and the people in the streets seem so far below." If one gets a seat just back of the driver, who is generally a jovial good fellow, he will tell you a lot about London, as he drives along, for these drivers are a sociable class of men. It is wonderful to see them guiding the big clumsy 'buses through the mass of people and vehicles of all kinds -- costers' carts, automobiles, big lumbering wagons, and hansom cabs flitting about like busy flies. As often as not you will see a wagon, with a big load of hay, nearly blocking up the street, and next to it a stylish carriage with footmen in livery. Oh, you can see almost anything in the London streets. But the picturesque old omnibuses are soon to disappear, and automobile 'buses are to take their places.
I must tell you what a coster is. Costers are people who go to the great London market, called Covent Garden, and buy cheap vegetables and fruits and flowers, and sell them in the poorer parts of the city. The coster men dress in velveteen suits trimmed with rows and rows of pearl buttons, which they call "pearlies." They are very proud of these costumes. The women wear bright, gaudily coloured dresses, and very big hats, covered with feathers. They hawk their wares about in barrows or little carts, drawn by such a tiny donkey (a "moke" as the costers call it), that you wonder how he is able to pull a whole family of costers as well as a big load of vegetables, as they often do.
"Edith, that is St. Paul's Cathedral just ahead of us; you can see its big dome for miles around, and now we are in the old part of London," explained Miss Winton. "just beyond is Bunhill Fields, where Daniel Defoe who wrote that immortal children's story 'Robinson Crusoe' - is buried. A plain shaft or obelisk rises above his grave, and not so very long ago the children of England were asked to give a penny each toward building this monument to the memory of the author of their favourite story-book. Many children responded and enough money was raised for the purpose. You will see that the inscription on it tells the story."
The little girls were much impressed, and Edith said she would tell Clarence and Eleanor about it, as they had just been reading about Robinson Crusoe and his desert island.
"Are not the 'Beefeaters' splendid?" said Adelaide, as they passed through the old gateway into the Tower of London. "There is the one, Miss Winton, who talked with mamma and me the last time we were here. I believe he remembers me and is coming this way. He had a tame raven which he showed us. See, Edith, there are a number of ravens flying about; they make their home among the old buildings, and the keepers feed them."
"Good morning, miss," said the old man, as he came up. "I am very pleased to see you again," and he bowed politely to the little girls.
He was indeed as fine as a picture. The "Yeomen of the Guard" hold a very exclusive and enviable position. They attend the king on all grand occasions. Their dress is in the same style as that worn in the time of King Henry VIII.: all of bright red, trimmed heavily with gold braid, a big white ruff around their necks, and a lovely black velvet hat. They carry a halberd, or sort of lance with a sharp blade at the end. This is the dress for grand occasions. Their everyday costume is in the same style, but is not quite so fine.
"How is the raven?" asked Adelaide. "My cousin would so much like to see him."
"There he is now. Come here, 'Blackie,'" and he whistled to the solemn bird that came hopping over the grass.
"Does he not look wise, Edith? and he can do all sorts of tricks."
"After watching other antics our little friends bade the 'Beefeater' and his pet good-bye"
The bird flew on to his master's cap, and peered down over the rim of it at him, as much as to say "bo-peep," and then leaned over and took a bit of sugar out of the old man's mouth. After watching other antics our little friends bade the "Beefeater" and his pet good-bye and continued their walk around the Tower, which is really much more than a single tower. It is a big group of buildings, with a square tower in the middle, a high wall around it all, and a deep moat which was once filled with water. The "Tower" is very, very old; it was used for a prison, and whenever anybody did something the king did not like, he was put on a boat and rowed down to the Tower and locked up in one of the dungeons, and often many prisoners had their heads chopped off, and some of these were high-born ladies, too!
"I am glad I did not live in those days, when they could cut off people's heads," said Edith, who shuddered as she looked at the block of wood on which a poor queen's head was once cut off.
"Yes, the Tower is full of dark memories," said Miss Winton. "You know the sad story of the two little boy princes who lived in this gloomy Tower, and how they were supposed to have been put to death by their cruel uncle, who was King Richard III., and wanted them out of his way.
"Long afterward, in repairing one of the walls, the workmen found buried in a hole in the wall the bones of two small children, which were supposed to be those of the poor little princes, which had been hidden there after their untimely death. Many dreadful things were done in those old days which could never happen now."
"Now let us see something bright," said Miss Winton, "and leave these gloomy things behind."
"I know what you mean; now is the time for the 'Crown jewels,'" cried Adelaide. Our two little friends quickly ran up the winding stone stairs of a small round tower where the Crown Jewels are always kept when the king and queen are not wearing them.
Edith was dazzled by the glittering things which filled a large glass case in the centre of the room.
There were crowns covered with all kinds of precious stones, and sceptres, and other old and valuable relics, all gold and jewels. But no one is allowed to linger long in here, and before the children had half time enough to in the see all, they found themselves again yard.
"I wonder what Carrie and Henry White thought of the jewels when they came to the tower," said Edith.
"I have no doubt but that they greatly enjoyed seeing it all. The American children are as fond of a visit to the Tower as the English children," and Miss Winton smiled as they drove through the dark, narrow streets of old London, to their home in the newer and brighter part of the town.
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