The year is 1681 in the village of Coventry, England. Thomas the Tailor has cautiously come out from his shop to the deserted cobbled street where he meets Roger the Elder of Wendover, who has also just come out from his shuttered home. A crowd will soon gather. Come fellow time travelers, let us listen in.
Didst thee seeth yond, Rog’r?
H’r, on the h’rse?
Shush, thee w’ren’t did suppose to behold. Yond wast the Mistress Godiva, the Jointress of Leofric, Earl of M’rcia.
I understand you not? How couldst one not behold?
Thou art sure to beest in ado, Thomas. Thee shouldst not has’t did peep. Thee shouldst has’t did stay inside with thy tail’ring.
Oh, cometh anon, Rog’r. Didst thee not behold? Didst thee not seeth?
The lady wast without any clothing whatsoev’r. Longeth, golden tresses drap’d ov’r h’r shouldst’rs didst dram to conceal h’r nature.
The earl hadst proclaim’d yond all shouldst beest shutt’r’d indo’rs. None w’re to behold upon the Mistress Godiva during h’r rideth, not coequal h’r groomsmen. Thou art sure to suff’r, if ‘t be true the Earl learns of thy peeping, Tom
A crowd began to gather and murmurs mingled.
Didst thee seeth?
Nay, nay not I.
I did see not.
“The Lady is the May Queen and rides to Cofa’s tree,” said some.
“The Lady is a penitent,” said others.
“Nay, the Lady wears nay shift!” some objected.
“Aye, the lady rides to free h’rses of the Earl’s tax,” said the knowing.
Didst thee seeth?
“He did see,” said Roger pointing an accusatory finger at Thomas the Tailor.
“Aye and such a beauty the Lady is,” acknowledged Thomas the Tailor.
“That gent did peep,” cried the crowd aiming their fingers at Thomas the Tailor. “That gent’ll suff’r the Earl’s wrath.”
And the children began to sing:
Tom the Tail’r, the peeping Tom.
The Mistress Godiva that gent did look upon.
A behold yond the Earl f’rbade.
To weareth his shoes I wouldst not tradeth.
That gent shall suff’r much ado and m’re.
And from limb to limb shall much beest s’re.
And voyeur anon to kingdom cometh.
Shalt ev’r beest known as the Peeping Tometh.
As the children sang, the Earl arrived with an armed retinue.
“That gent peeped,” roared the crowd fingering Thomas the Tailor.
“What’s this? Thee did peep at Mistress Godiva, mine own mistress, while uncloth’d the lady did ride bareback in protest of mine own tolls?” demanded the Earl.
And Thomas the Tailor, the Peeping Tom, was seized, bound and struck blind so as to peep nevermore.
But, forsooth, come fellow time travelers. To Coventry shall we go, there today to see the statue of Thomas the Tailor, head and shoulders through a window ever peeping, the Earl of Mercia thus ever thwarted of his bane.