The Fat Knight At The Boar's Head

: The Panchronicon

When Francis Bacon, having evaded Rebecca's mistaken pursuit, reached

the deserted grove in which the Panchronicon still rested, he found to

his dismay that Droop was absent.

Copernicus was not the man to let the grass grow under his feet, and he

had set off that morning with his letter of introduction to seek Sir

Percevall Hart, the Queen's knight harbinger.

He had determined to begin with
oderation, or in other words to ask at

first for only two patents. The first of these was to cover the

phonograph. The second was to give him a monopoly of bicycles.

Accordingly he set forth fully equipped, carrying a box of records over

his shoulder by a strap and his well-oiled bicycle trundling along

beside him, with a phonograph and small megaphone hung on the

handle-bar. He thought it best to avoid remark by not riding his wheel,

being shrewdly mindful of the popular prejudice against witchcraft.

Thanks to his exchange with Master Bacon, he feared no comment upon his

garb. A pint flask, well filled, was concealed within his garments, and

thus armed against even melancholy itself, he set forth fearlessly upon

his quest.

Droop had set out from the Panchronicon in the middle of the forenoon,

but, as he was obliged to distribute a large number of photographs among

his customers before going to London, it was not until some time after

Bacon had crossed the river and Rebecca had departed with the Queen that

he found himself on London Bridge.

On reaching the London side, he stood awhile in the ill-smelling street

near the fish markets gazing about him in quest of someone from whom he

might ask his way.

"Let's see!" he mused. "Bacon said Sir Percevall Hart, Boar's Head

Tavern, Eastcheap. First thing to find is Eastcheap, I guess. Hullo

there, forsooth!" he cried, addressing a baker's boy who was shuffling

by with his basket on his head. "Hullo there, boy--knave! What's the

shortest cut to Eastcheap?"

The lad stopped and stared hard at the bright wheels. He seemed thinking


"What mean you, master, by a cut?" he said, at length.

"Oh, pshaw--bother!" Droop exclaimed. "Jest tell me the way to

Eastcheap, wilt thee?"

The boy pointed straight north up New Fish Street.

"Eastcheap is yonder," he said, and turned away.

"Well, that's somethin'," muttered Droop. "Gives me a start, anyway."

Following the route pointed out, he retraced the very course along which

earlier in the day Rebecca had proceeded in the opposite direction,

thinking she saw him ahead of her. By dint of making numerous inquiries,

he found himself at length in a region of squalid residences and

second-rate shops and ale-houses, in the midst of which he finally

discovered the Boar's Head Tavern.

The entrance was by a dark archway, overhung by the upper stories of the

building, down which he could see a reddish glow coming and going, now

faint now bright, against the dead wall to the left. Passing cautiously

down this passage, he soon found that the glow was projected through a

half-curtained window to the right, and was caused by the dancing light

of a pleasant fire of logs within.

He thought it wise to reconnoitre before proceeding farther, and,

peeping through the small leaded panes, he found he could survey the

entire apartment.

The room into which Droop stood gazing was the common tap-room of the

inn, at that moment apparently the scene of a brisk altercation.

To the left of the great brick fireplace, a large pewter mug in his

right hand, an immensely fat man was seated. He was clad as became a

cavalier, although in sober colors, and his attitude was suggestive of

defence, his head being drawn far back to avoid contact with a closed

fist held suggestively before his face. The fist was that of a woman

who, standing before the fire with her other hand resting on her hip,

was evidently delivering her sentiments in no gentle terms.

A long table, black with age and use, stood parallel to the right-hand

wall, and behind this three men were sitting with mugs before them,

eying the disputants with evident interest. To the left a large space

was devoted to three or four bulky casks, and here an aproned drawer sat

astride of a rush-bottomed chair, grinning delightedly and exchanging

nods and winks from time to time with an impish, undersized lad who lay

on his stomach on a wine-butt with his head craning forward over the


Only an occasional word reached the watcher at the window, but among

these few he recognized a number which were far more forcible than

decent. He drew back, shook his head, and then slowly returned to the

door and looked up.

Yes--he had made no mistake. Above his head there swung the sign of the

Boar's Head. And yet--was it likely or even possible that Sir Percevall

Hart could make such a vulgar haunt as this his headquarters? Sir

Percevall--the Queen's harbinger and the friend of the Prime Minister!

With a sinking heart and a face clouded with anxiety, Droop propped his

bicycle against the wall within the passage and resolutely raised the

heavy latch.

To his surprise, instead of the torrent of words which he had expected

to hear when he opened the door, complete silence reigned as he

entered. The fat man in the chair by the fire was still leaning

backward, but his tankard was now inverted above his head, and a glance

showed that his companions at the long table were similarly employed.

Copernicus turned about and closed the door very carefully, unwilling to

break the profound silence. Then he tiptoed his way to the fire, and

leaning forward rubbed his hands before the crackling logs, nervously

conscious of six pairs of eyes concentrated upon his back. Droop was not

unfamiliar with the bar-rooms of such a city as Boston, but he found an

Elizabethan tavern a very different sort of place. So, although already

warmer than desirable, he could only stand half bent before a fire all

too hot and wonder what he should do next.

Finally he mustered courage enough to turn about and survey with

shamefaced mien the tavern interior. As he turned the four guests

dropped their eyes with painful unanimity and the drawer fell to

scouring a pewter mug with his apron. Only the boy perched on the cask

kept his eyes obstinately fixed on the stranger.

Droop now noticed for the first time that behind the casks there was a

snug recess containing a table and two well-worn benches, evidently

intended for the entertainment of guests desirous of a tete-a-tete.

Thither he at once directed his steps, and seating himself upon one of

the benches, looked about him for a bell. He could hear the three men at

the long table whispering busily, and could see that they had their

heads together.

The fat man stirred in his chair with a rolling motion.

"Drawer!" he called.

"Here!" cried the drawer, bustling up to the fire.

"A second tankard of that same sack, boy. Bustle, bustle!"

"I must first to my mistress, sir," was the reply. "Nothing for credit,

sir, save by permission."

"A pox upon thee!" growled the thirsty man. "On thee and thy mistress,


Muttering and shaking his head, the ponderous guest stretched forth his

legs, closed his eyes, and composed himself for a nap.

The drawer tipped a wink to the grinning pot-boy on the cask, and then

bustled over to Droop's table, which he proceeded to wipe vigorously

with his apron.

"Did you call, sir?" he said.

"Yes," said Copernicus. "Bring me a schooner of light lager."

The drawer's busy apron hand stopped at once and its owner leaned hard

on the table.

"What command gave you, sir?" he said.

"Marry--a schooner of lager--light, forsooth!" Droop repeated.

"Cry you mercy, sir," said the drawer, straightening up, "this be the

Boar's Head Tavern, sir. What may your worship require by way of food

and drink?"

"These old-timers beat all creation for ignorance," muttered Droop.

Then, looking up into the man's face, he called for one drink after

another, watching hopefully for some sign of answering intelligence.

"Give me a Scotch high-ball. No? Then a gin sling. Hot Tom and Jerry,

then. Marry, an egg flip, i' faith! Ain't got 'em? Get me a brandy

smash--a sherry cobbler--a gin rickey--rock and rye--a whisky sour--a

mint julep! What! Nothin'? What in thunder do ye sell, then?"

The drawer scratched his head, and then grinned suddenly and gave vent

to a dry laugh.

"Well said! Well said, master! The jest is a merry one--call me a Jew

else!" Then, sobering as briskly as he had taken to laughing: "Will you

have a cup of sack, master, to settle the stomach after fasting--or a

drop of Canary or Xeres or a mug of ale, perchance----"

"That's right, by my halidom!" Droop broke in. "Bring me some ale,


The drawer whisked away and returned in a few moments with a huge power

tankard topped with a snowy foam.

"That's the stuff!" said Droop, smacking his lips. He half-emptied the

beaker, and then, turning to the drawer:

"Can you tell me," he said, "if I can find a man by the name of Hart

here--Sir Percevall Hart?"

"Sir Percevall," said the drawer, in an undertone. "Why, there's your

man, master. The fat knight snoring by yon fire."

"What!" exclaimed Droop. "The man who--" He broke off and stared awhile

in silence. Finally, shaking his head: "Never would have thought it!" he


Copernicus lapsed into meditation and the drawer withdrew. At length

Droop roused himself with a shake.

"Won't do no good to set here doin' nothin'," he muttered. Then,

swallowing the remainder of his ale, he drew his letter of introduction

from his pocket and walked back to the fireplace.

The knight, who was not sleeping very soundly, slightly opened one eye,

and to his surprise, beheld a letter which Droop held almost under his


Sitting up straight and now fully awake, Sir Percevall stared first at

Copernicus and then at the letter.

"A letter!" he exclaimed. "For me?"

"Verily, yea," Droop replied, very politely.

The knight opened the letter slowly and turned so that the light from a

window fell full upon it.

"What's here!" he exclaimed. "This direction is to my Lord Burleigh."

"Yep--oh, yes, yea!" said Droop, confusedly. "But you was to read

it--peruse it, you wot--Bacon said as much. He said you knew the lord

and could take me around, forsooth, and sorter interduce me, ye see."

With leisurely gravity, Sir Percevall slowly read the note, and then,

returning it with a polite gesture:

"This letter hath reference to certain monopolies," he said. "My cousin

Bacon doth write in high terms of your skill and high merit,


"Droop, sir. Copernicus Droop's my name."

"Ah, yes! And the service you require--? I beg your indulgence, but,

sooth to say, being nigh starved of late in this tavern of ill repute,

my poor wits have grown fat. I am slow of apprehension, Master


"Droop, sir--Droop."

"Nay--cry you mercy--Master Droop."

"Why, now, Sir Percy," said Copernicus, with oily grace, "ef you

wouldn't mind, I'd be proud ef you'd set down over yonder, perchance,

and have a glass with me. We'd be more private then, and I could make

this hull business clear to ye. What say ye, sir?"

"Why, there's my hand, Master Dupe--Droop," said the knight, his face

brightening mightily. "Five yards are a mile for a man of my girth,

Master Droop, but praise God such words as these of yours cheer my heart

to still greater deeds than faring a mile afoot."

Slowly and painfully the corpulent knight drew himself to his feet, and

with one hand bearing affectionately but heavily on Droop's shoulder, he

shuffled over to the recess and seated himself.

"What ho, there! Drawer!" he shouted, as soon as they were comfortably

disposed face to face.

"Anon, sir, anon!" came the familiar reply, and the drawer, who had just

served two new guests at the long table, now hurried over to the nook

behind the casks.

"A quart of sack, villain!" said Sir Percevall.

"And for you, sir?" said the drawer, turning to Droop.

"Yes, yea, bring me the same." He had no idea what sack was, but he felt

that in all probability it was a mild beverage, or no one would order a

quart at once.

"And this same letter, now," Sir Percevall began. "To warn you truly,

friend, this matter of monopolies hath something of an ill savor in the

public mind. What with sweet wines, salt, hides, vinegar, iron, oil,

lead, yarn, glass, and what not in monopoly, men cry out that they are

robbed and the Queen's advisers turn pale at the very word."

He interrupted himself to give his attention to the wine which had just

been placed before him.

"To better acquaintance!" he said, and the two drank deep together.

Droop smacked his lips critically and turned up his eyes for greater

abstraction. The wine was pleasant to the palate, he thought,

but--well--it wasn't whiskey.

"Of this letter, now," the knight resumed, anxious to discover his own

advantage in Droop's plans. "'Twere vain for you, a stranger to the

Lord High Treasurer, to accost him with it. A very circumspect and

pragmatical old lord, believe me. Not every man hath admittance to him,

I promise ye. As for me, why, God 'ild you, man! 'twas but yesterday a

fortnight Burleigh slapped me o' the shoulder and said: 'Percevall, ye

grow fat, you rogue--on the word of a Cecil!' Oh, trust me, Master

Droop; my lord much affects my conversation!"

"Is that a fact?" said Droop, admiringly. "It certainly ain't done your

conversation any harm to be affected that way."

"Oh, then, an you jest, Master----"

"Not a mite!" exclaimed Copernicus, anxiously. "Verily, nay, friend.

Trust me--never!"

"Or never trust thee!" quoth the knight, with a twinkle in his eye.

Droop took refuge in his wine, and Sir Percevall imitating him, the two

emptied their cups together and sighed with a simultaneous content.

"That's not bad swizzle," said Droop, patronizingly. "But, as fer me,

give me whiskey every time!"

"Whiskey!" said the knight with interest. "Nay, methought I knew every

vintage and brew, each label and brand from Rhine to the Canaries. But

this name, Master Droop, I own I never heard. Whiskey, say you?"

"Well, now, do tell!" said Droop, drawing forth his flask of

nineteenth-century rye, "never heerd o' whiskey, eh? Never tasted it,

either, I s'pose?"

"How should I taste it, man, not knowing its very name?"

"Verily, thou sayest sooth!" said Droop. Then, glancing all about him:

"Ain't there any smaller glasses 'round here?"

"Drawer--ho, drawer, I say!" roared the knight.

"Here, sir--here! What is your pleasure?"

"The pleasure is to come, rogue! Fetch hither two of yon scurvy glass

thimbles you wot of. Hostess calls them cordial glasses. Haste now!

Scramble, varlet!"

When the two small glasses were brought, Droop uncorked his flask and

poured each full to the brim.

"Th' ain't any seltzer in this one-hoss town," he said, "so I can't make

ye a high-ball. We'll jest hev to drink it straight, Sir Knight. Here's

luck! Drink hearty!" and with a jerk of hand and head he tossed the

spirits down his throat at a gulp and smacked his lips as he set down

his glass.

Sir Percevall followed his friend's movements with a careful eye and

imitated him as exactly as possible, but he did not escape a coughing

fit, from which he emerged with a purple face and tear-filled eyes.

"Have another?" said Droop, cheerfully.

"A plague on queezy gullets!" growled the knight. "Your spirits sought

two ways at once, Master Droop, and like any other half-minded equivocal

transaction, contention was the outcome. But for the whiskey, mind

you--why, it hath won old Sir Percevall's heart. Zounds, man! Scarce two

fingers of it, and yet I feel the wanton laugh in me a'ready. Good

fellows need good company, my master! So pour me his fellow! So--so!"

They drank again, and this time the more cautious knight escaped all

painful consequences.

"Look you, Master Droop," said the delighted old toper, leaning back

against the wall as he beamed across the table at his companion, "look

you! An you have a butt of this same brew, Sir Percevall Hart is your

slave, your scullion, your foot-boy! Why, man, 'tis the elixir of life!

It warms a body like a maid's first kiss! Whence had you it?"

"Oh, they make it by the million gallons a year where I come from,"

Droop replied. "Have another. Take it with hot water and sugar--I mean


The advice was followed, and while they sipped the enlivening decoction,

Copernicus explained his plans touching the patenting of his phonograph

and bicycle. When he concluded his relation, the knight leaned back and

gazed at him with an affectionate squint.

"See, now, bully rook, if I take you," he said. "It behooves you to have

fair inductance at court. For this ye come to Sir Percevall Hart, her

Majesty's harbinger and--though he says so himself--a good friend to

Cecil. Now, mark me, lad. Naught do I know or care of thy 'funny craft'

or 'bicycle.' Master Bacon is a philosopher and you have here his

certificate. Say I well--what?"

He paused and Droop nodded.

"Good--and so to better. Naught care I, or know I, or should or could I

trow, being a man of poetical turn and no base mechanic--no offence

meant to yourself, Master Droop. But this I do say--and now mark me

well--I say--and dare maintain it (and all shall tell ye that is a fair

maintenance and a good champion), that for a sure and favorable

inductance to the favors of the court there's no man living takes the

wall o' Percevall Hart, Knight!"

"Bacon told me as much," said Droop.

"And he told thee well, my master. Frank is a good lad, though vain, and

his palm itcheth. So to terms, eh? Now, methinks 'twere but equity and

good fellowship for two such as we are to go snacks, eh? Cut through the

middle--even halves, bully--even halves! How say you?"

"You don't mean," said Droop, "that you'd want half the profits, jest

fer introducin' me to Lord What's-is-name, do ye?"

"With a small retainer, of course, to bind fast. Say--oh, a matter of

twenty gold angels or so."

"Why, blame your confounded overstretched skin!" cried Droop, hotly,

"I'd sooner drop the hull darn thing! You must take me fer a nat'ral

born fool, I guess!"

"Nay, then--'twixt friends," said the knight, soothingly. "'Twixt

friends, say we remit one half the profits. Procure me but the angels,

Master Droop, and drop the remainder."

"As many devils sooner!" said Droop, indignantly. "I'll take my pigs to

another market."

He rose and beckoned to the drawer.

"Nay, then, why so choleric!" pleaded the knight, leaning anxiously

across the table. "What terms do ye offer, Master Droop? Come, man, give

a show of reason now--name your terms."

It was to this point that Copernicus had counted upon bringing the

helpless knight, who was far from a match for a Yankee. He had driven

his own bargain with Bacon, and he now resolved that Bacon's friend

should fare no better. In pursuit of this plan, he moved from his seat

with a sour face.

"I don't feel much like takin' up with a man who tries to do me," he

grumbled, shaking his head and beckoning again to the drawer.

"Do thee, man--do thee!" cried the knight. "Why, an I do thee good, what

cause for grief?" Spreading forth his two fat hands, he continued:

"Spake I not fairly? An my offer be not to thy taste--say thine own say.

What the devil, man; must we quarrel perforce?"

Droop scratched his head and seemed to hesitate. Finally he slapped the

table with his open hand and cried with a burst of generosity:

"I'll tell ye what I will do. I've got two quart bottles of that same

ripe whiskey, and I'll give 'em both to ye the day the Queen gives me my


"Nay--nay!" said the knight, straightening himself with dignity. "'Twere

a mere fool's prank at such terms!"

"Oh, all right!" cried Droop, turning away.

"Hold--hold! Not so fast!" cried Sir Percevall. But Copernicus merely

slapped his hat on his head and started toward the door.

Sir Percevall leaned over the table in flushed desperation.

"Listen, friend!" he cried. "Wilt make a jolly night of it in the


Droop stopped and turned to his companion.

"D'ye mean right now?"

A nod was the reply.

"And you'll take my offer if I do?"

The knight sat upright and slapped the table.

"On my honor!" he cried.

"Then it's a go!" said Droop.