In the morning to see the Dockhouses. First, Mr. Pett’s, the builder, and there was very kindly received, and among other things he did offer my Lady Batten a parrot, the best I ever saw, that knew Mingo so soon as it saw him, having been bred formerly in the house with them; but for talking and singing I never heard the like. My Lady did accept of it.
Then to see Commissioner Pett’s house, he and his family being absent, and here I wondered how my Lady Batten walked up and down with envious looks to see how neat and rich everything is (and indeed both the house and garden is most handsome), saying that she would get it, for it belonged formerly to the Surveyor of the Navy.
Then on board the Prince, now in the dock, and indeed it has one and no more rich cabins for carved work, but no gold in her.
After that back home, and there eat a little dinner. Then to Rochester, and there saw the Cathedrall, which is now fitting for use, and the organ then a-tuning. Then away thence, observing the great doors of the church, which, they say, was covered with the skins of the Danes,1 and also had much mirth at a tomb, on which was “Come sweet Jesu,” and I read “Come sweet Mall,” &c., at which Captain Pett and I had good laughter.
So to the Salutacion tavern, where Mr. Alcock and many of the town came and entertained us with wine and oysters and other things, and hither come Sir John Minnes to us, who is come to-day to see “the Henery,” in which he intends to ride as Vice-Admiral in the narrow seas all this summer. Here much mirth, but I was a little troubled to stay too long, because of going to Hempson’s, which afterwards we did, and found it in all things a most pretty house, and rarely furnished, only it had a most ill access on all sides to it, which is a greatest fault that I think can be in a house.
After we had done eating, the ladies went to dance, and among the men we had, I was forced to dance too; and did make an ugly shift. Mrs. R. Allen danced very well, and seems the best humoured woman that ever I saw. About 9 o’clock Sir William and my Lady went home, and we continued dancing an hour or two, and so broke up very pleasant and merry, and so walked home, I leading Mrs. Rebecca, who seemed, I know not why, in that and other things, to be desirous of my favours and would in all things show me respects.
Going home, she would needs have me sing, and I did pretty well and was highly esteemed by them.
So to Captain Allen’s (where we were last night, and heard him play on the harpsicon, and I find him to be a perfect good musician), and there, having no mind to leave Mrs. Rebecca, what with talk and singing (her father and I), Mrs. Turner and I staid there till 2 o’clock in the morning and was most exceeding merry, and I had the opportunity of kissing Mrs. Rebecca very often.
Among other things Captain Pett was saying that he thought that he had got his wife with child since I came thither. Which I took hold of and was merrily asking him what he would take to have it said for my honour that it was of my getting? He merrily answered that he would if I would promise to be godfather to it if it did come within the time just, and I said that I would. So that I must remember to compute it when the time comes.
- Traditions similar to that at Rochester, here alluded to, are to be found in other places in England. Sir Harry Englefield, in a communication made to the Society of Antiquaries, July 2nd, 1789, called attention to the curious popular tale preserved in the village of Hadstock, Essex, that the door of the church had been covered with the skin of a Danish pirate, who had plundered the church. At Worcester, likewise, it was asserted that the north doors of the cathedral had been covered with the skin of a person who had sacrilegiously robbed the high altar. The date of these doors appears to be the latter part of the fourteenth century, the north porch having been built about 1385. Dart, in his “History of the Abbey Church of St. Peter’s, Westminster,” 1723 (vol. i., book ii., p. 64), relates a like tradition then preserved in reference to a door, one of three which closed off a chamber from the south transept — namely, a certain building once known as the Chapel of Henry VIII., and used as a “Revestry.” This chamber, he states, “is inclosed with three doors, the inner cancellated, the middle, which is very thick, lined with skins like parchment, and driven full of nails. These skins, they by tradition tell us, were some skins of the Danes, tann’d and given here as a memorial of our delivery from them.” Portions of this supposed human skin were examined under the microscope by the late Mr. John Quekett of the Hunterian Museum, who ascertained, beyond question, that in each of the cases the skin was human. From a communication by the late Mr. Albert Way, F.S.A., to the late Lord Braybrooke. ↩