In olden days, when grandfather was just a little boy and wore red trousers, a red jacket, a sash around his waist, and a feather in his cap - for that's the way little boys dressed in his childhood when they wore their best clothes - so many things were different from nowadays. There were often street pageants, which we don't see now, for they have been done away with, because they became old-fashioned; but it's fun to hear Grandfather tell about them.
It must have been quite a show to see the shoemakers move their signboard when they changed to a new guild hall. A big boot and a two-headed eagle were painted on their waving silken banner; the youngest journeymen carried the welcome cup and the guild chest, and had red and white ribbons dangling from their shirt sleeves; the older ones wore naked swords with lemons stuck on the points. They had a full band, and the best of their instruments was "The Bird," as Grandfather called the long pole with the half moon and all sorts of sounding dingle-dangle things on it - real Turkish music. It was lifted up and swung, and it was dazzling to the eyes when the sun shone on all that polished gold and silver and brass.
In front of the procession ran a Harlequin in clothes made of many-colored patches, with a black face and with bells on his head, like a sleigh horse. He struck the people with his wand, which made a noise without hurting, and the people pushed against each other to move back and forth; little boys and girls fell over their own feet right into the gutters; old women elbowed their way along, looking sour and scolding. Some people laughed and some people chatted; there were spectators on the steps and in the windows, and, yes, even on the roofs. The sun shone; a little rain fell on the people now and then, but that was a good thing for the farmers; and when finally they became wet through, that was a real blessing to the country.
Ah, what stories Grandfather could tell! When he was a little boy he had seen all that grand show at the height of its splendor. The oldest guild journeyman made a speech from the scaffold where the signboard was hung; it was in verse, just like poetry - which, indeed, it was. There had been three of them working on it, and before writing it they had drunk a whole bowl of punch, so that it would be really good. And the people cheered the speech, but still more they cheered the Harlequin when he appeared on the scaffold and mocked the speaker. The clown cut his capers so gaily, and drank punch out of schnapps glasses, which he then threw out among the people, who caught them in the air. Grandfather had one of them, which the plasterer had caught and presented to him. Yes, it was fun. And at last the signboard hung, decked with flowers and wreaths, on the new guild hall.
You never forget a sight like that, no matter how old you grow, Grandfather said. He himself never forgot it, though afterward he saw many things of pomp and splendor and could tell about them; but the funniest thing of all was when he told about the moving of the signboards in the big town.
Grandfather had gone there with his parents when he was a little boy, and that was the first time he had seen the largest town in the country.
There were so many people in the streets that he thought the signboards were going to be moved; and there were many signboards to move. If these signs had been hung up inside instead of out-of-doors they would have been filled up hundreds of rooms. There were all kinds of garments painted on the sign at the tailor's; he could change people from uncouth to genteel. There were signboards of tobacconists, with the most cunning little boys smoking cigars, just as in real life; there were signs with butter and salted herrings, minister's ruffs and coffins, and signboards that just carried inscriptions and announcements. Indeed, one could spend a whole day going up and down the streets and looking at the pictures, and at the same time you could learn what sort of people lived inside the houses, for they had hung their own signs outside. That is a very good thing, Grandfather said; in a large town it is instructive to know who lives in all the houses.
But then, something was about to happen to the signboards, just as Grandfather came to town; he has told me about it himself, and there wasn't then any twinkle in his eye, as Mother used to say there was when he was fooling me; he looked quite trustworthy.