THE OLD BACHELOR'S NIGHTCAP 569
is told that he ought to put on his nightcap, draw it down over his eyes, and go to bed. The boys smg—
'Cut, cut wood, Poor bachelor's a sorry elf ; A nightcap goes with him to bed, And he must light his fire himself.'
Yes, that's what they sing about the ' pepperer'—thus they make game of the poor bachelor and his nightcap, just because they know very little about either. Ah, that kind of nightcap no one should wish to earn ! And why not ? We shall hear.
In the old times the street of the small houses was not paved, and the people stumbled out of one hole into another, as in a neglected by-way ; and it was narrow too. The booths leaned side by side, and stood so close together that in the summer-time a sail was often stretched from one booth to its opposite neighbour, on which occasion the fragrance of pepper, saffron, and ginger became doubly powerful. Behind the counters young men were seldom seen. The clerks were generally old boys ; but they did not look like what we should fancy them, namely, with wig, and nightcap, and plush small-clothes, and with waistcoat and coat buttoned up to the chin. No, grandfather's great-grandfather may look like that, and has been thus portrayed, but the ' pepper gentry' did not have the means to have their portraits taken ; though, indeed, it would be interesting now to have a picture of one of them, as he stood behind the counter or went to church on holy days. His hat was high-crowned and broad-brimmed, and sometimes one of the youngest clerks would mount a feather. The woollen shirt was hidden behind a broad clean collar, the close jacket was buttoned up to the chin, and the cloak hung loose over it; and the trousers were tucked into the broad-toed shoes, for the clerks did not wear stockings. In their girdles they carried a dinner-knife and spoon, and a larger knife was placed there also for the defence of the owner ; and this weapon was often very necessary. Just so was Anthony, one of the oldest clerks, clad on high days and holy days, except that, instead of a high-crowned hat, he wore a low bonnet, and under it a knitted cap (a regular nightcap), to which he had