HARRY BAILEY, landlord of the Tabard Inn, stood in the open doorway, listening. He heard the loud skirling of a bagpipe, the jingling of little bells, the slender notes of a flute, then a snatch of a song, and after it a hearty laugh. The tramping of hoofs sounded nearer and nearer, and up the street that led from London Bridge there came at an easy pace a company of riders. "I'll warrant they're bound for the Tabard," said the landlord to himself; and he called to his serving men, "Ho there! Strew fresh rushes in the hall! Put another log on the fire! The air is cool when one has been riding. See you to it that the kitchen fire—" There was no time for further orders, and no one could have heard them if they had been given, for the bagpipe was shrieking louder than ever, as if to show that great folk were close at hand; and in another moment the travelers were clattering into the yard of the inn, alighting from their horses, and climbing up the steps into the gallery and thence into the house. What a company they were! It was no wonder that the grown folk as well as the children had stared at them curiously as they rode up the street. First of all came a tall, dignified knight, still wearing part of his armor and showing by the stains left on his jupon, or short tunic, that he had come directly from some campaign. His son followed him as squire, a handsome young man of twenty years with curly hair and a merry face. No matter what the haste had been, he had found time to put on a fresh tunic, a beautiful one all embroidered with red and white flowers. It was he who, had been playing so merrily on his flute as they rode up the street. Behind him came his yeoman, in hood and coat of green. He carried a bow an arrows, a sword and buckler, a horn and a dagger. The pretty little nun who followed them, together with another nun and three priests, had taken time to make her toilet, too, for she looked as dainty and neat and smiling as if she had been riding through green fields instead of the dusty road. A rosary hung on her arm, with beads of gleaming coral gauded with green.
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