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The River Pageant

AT nine in the evening the whole vast river-front of the palace was blazing with
light. The river itself, as far as the eye could reach cityward, was so thickly
covered with watermen’s boats and with pleasure barges, all fringed with
colored lanterns, and gently agitated by the waves, that it resembled a glowing
and limitless garden of flowers stirred to soft motion by summer winds. The
grand terrace of stone steps leading down to the water, spacious enough to mass
the army of a German principality upon, was a picture to see, with its ranks of
royal halberdiers in polished armor, and its troops of brilliantly costumed
servitors flitting up and down, and to and fro, in the hurry of preparation.
Presently a command was given, and immediately all living creatures vanished
from the steps. Now the air was heavy with the hush of suspense and
expectancy. As far as one’s vision could carry, he might see the myriads of
people in the boats rise up, and shade their eyes from the glare of lanterns and
torches, and gaze toward the palace.

A file of forty or fifty state barges drew up to the steps. They were richly gilt,
and their lofty prows and sterns were elaborately carved. Some of them were
decorated with banners and streamers; some with cloth-of-gold and arras
embroidered with coats of arms; others with silken flags that had numberless
little silver bells fastened to them, which shook out tiny showers of joyous music
whenever the breezes fluttered them; others of yet higher pretensions, since they
belonged to nobles in the prince’s immediate service, had their sides
picturesquely fenced with shields gorgeously emblazoned with armorial
bearings. Each state barge was towed by a tender. Besides the rowers, these
tenders carried each a number of men-at-arms in glossy helmet and breastplate,
and a company of musicians.

The advance-guard of the expected procession now appeared in the great
gateway, a troop of halberdiers. ‘They were dressed in striped hose of black and
tawny, velvet caps graced at the sides with silver roses, and doublets of murrey
and blue cloth, embroidered on the front and back with the three feathers, the
prince’s blazon, woven in gold. Their halberd staves were covered with crimson
velvet, fastened with gilt nails, and ornamented with gold tassels. Filing off on
the right and left, they formed two long lines, extending from the gateway of the
palace to the water’s edge. A thick, rayed cloth or carpet was then unfolded, and
laid down between them by attendants in the gold-and-crimson liveries of the

This done, a flourish of trumpets resounded from within. A lively prelude arose
from the musicians on the water; and two ushers with white wands marched
with a slow and stately pace from the portal. They were followed by an officer
bearing the civic mace, after whom came another carrying the city’s sword; then
several sergeants of the city guard, in their full accoutrements, and with badges
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