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Title: A Ladder of Swords - A Tale of Love, Laughter and Tears
Author: Parker, Gilbert, 1862-1932
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [Illustration: “SHE SCANNED THE SEA FOR A SAIL”]



  A LADDER OF SWORDS

  A TALE OF LOVE, LAUGHTER AND TEARS

  BY

  GILBERT PARKER


     “_On every height there lies repose, and so must we still be
     climbing, but alas! I have been climbing a ladder of swords
     these many years_”
                                          (From a woman’s letter)

  ILLUSTRATED BY THE KINNEYS


  HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
  NEW YORK AND LONDON
  1904


  Copyright, 1904, by _Gilbert Parker_.

  _All rights reserved._

  Published September, 1904.


  To The Countess of Darnley

  Whose Home Contains Many Relics and
  Memories of the Spacious Times of
  Queen Elizabeth, the Friend
  of Michel and Angèle


  A Note

  There will be found a few anachronisms in this tale, but none so
  important as to give a wrong impression of the events of Queen
  Elizabeth’s reign.



  Illustrations



  “SHE SCANNED THE SEA FOR A SAIL”                        _Frontispiece_
  ISLAND OF JERSEY                                         _Facing p._ 1
  “‘LET US KNEEL AND PRAY FOR TWO DYING MEN’”                         28
  “BUONESPOIR LOOKED TO THE PRIMING OF HIS PISTOLS”                   70
  “SHE WAS IN CURIOUS CONTRAST TO THE QUEEN”                         128
  “‘HANG FAST TO YOUR HONORS BY THE SKIN OF YOUR TEETH, MY LOR       162
  “IT WAS THE QUEEN’S FOOL”                                          220
  “THEY SAW, SMILING AND APPLAUSIVE, THE DUKE’S DAUGHTER AND ANGÈLE” 266
  “‘AND WHAT MATTER WHICH IT IS WE WIELD’”                           276

  [Illustration: _J Hort Scalp_]



A Ladder of Swords



I


If you go to Southampton and search the register of the Walloon
church there, you will find that in the summer of 157- “_Madame Vefue
de Montgomery with all her family and servants were admitted to the
Communion_”--“_Tous ceux ci furent Reçus là à Cêne du 157-, comme
passans, sans avoir Rendu Raison de la foi, mes sur la tesmognage de
Mons. Forest, Ministre de Madame, qui certifia qui ne cognoisoit Rien
en tout ceux la pó quoy Il ne leur deust administré la Cêne s’il
estoit en lieu pó la ferre._”

There is another striking record, which says that in August of the
same year Demoiselle Angèle Claude Aubert, daughter of Monsieur de
la Haie Aubert, Councillor of the Parliament of Rouen, was married to
Michel de la Forêt, of the most noble Flemish family of that name.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I first saw these records, now grown dim with time, I fell to
wondering what was the real life-history of these two people.
Forthwith, in imagination, I began to make their story piece by
piece; and I had reached a romantic _dénoûment_ satisfactory to
myself and in sympathy with fact, when the Angel of Accident stepped
forward with some “human documents.” Then I found that my tale, woven
back from the two obscure records I have given, was the true story of
two most unhappy yet most happy people. From the note struck in my
mind, when my finger touched that sorrowful page in the register of
the Church of the Refugees at Southampton, had spread out the whole
melody and the very book of the song.

One of the later-discovered records was a letter, tear-stained,
faded, beautifully written in old French, from Demoiselle Angèle
Claude Aubert to Michel de la Forêt at Anvers in March of the year
157-. The letter lies beside me as I write, and I can scarcely
believe that three and a quarter centuries have passed since it was
written, and that she who wrote it was but eighteen years old at the
time. I translate it into English, though it is impossible adequately
to carry over either the flavor or the idiom of the language:

“_Written on this May Day of the year 157-, at the place hight Rozel
in the Minor called of the same of Jersey Isle, to Michel de la
Forêt, at Anvers in Flanders._

“MICHEL,--Thy good letter by safe carriage cometh to my hand,
bringing to my heart a lightness it hath not known since that day
when I was hastily carried to the port of St. Malo, and thou towards
the King his prison. In what great fear have I lived, having no news
of thee and fearing all manner of mischance! But our God hath
benignly saved thee from death, and me He hath set safely here in
this isle of the sea.

“Thou hast ever been a brave soldier, enduring and not fearing; thou
shalt find enow to keep thy blood stirring in these days of trial and
peril to us who are so opprobriously called Les Huguenots. If thou
wouldst know more of my mind thereupon, come hither. Safety is here,
and work for thee--smugglers and pirates do abound on these coasts,
and Popish wolves do harry the flock even in this island province of
England. Michel, I plead for the cause which thou hast nobly
espoused, but--alas! my selfish heart, where thou art lie work and
fighting, and the same high cause, and sadly, I confess, it is for my
own happiness that I ask thee to come. I wot well that escape from
France hath peril, that the way hither from that point upon yonder
coast called Carteret is hazardous, but yet--but yet all ways to
happiness are set with hazard.

“If thou dost come to Carteret thou wilt see two lights turning
this-wards: one upon a headland called Tour de Rozel, and one upon
the great rock called of the Ecréhos. These will be in line with thy
sight by the sands of Hatainville. Near by the Tour de Rozel shall I
be watching and awaiting thee. By day and night doth my prayer ascend
for thee.

“The messenger who bears this to thee (a piratical knave with a most
kind heart, having, I am told, a wife in every port of France and of
England the south, a most heinous sin!) will wait for thy answer, or
will bring thee hither, which is still better. He is worthy of trust
if thou makest him swear by the little finger of St. Peter. By all
other swearings he doth deceive freely.

“The Lord make thee true, Michel. If thou art faithful to me, I shall
know how faithful thou art in all; for thy vows to me were most
frequent and pronounced, with a full savor that might warrant short
seasoning. Yet, because thou mayst still be given to such dear
fantasies of truth as were on thy lips in those dark days wherein thy
sword saved my life ’twixt Paris and Rouen, I tell thee now that I do
love thee, and shall so love when, as my heart inspires me, the
cloud shall fall that will hide us from each other forever.

“ANGÈLE

“_An Afterword_:

“I doubt not we shall come to the heights where there is peace,
though we climb thereto by a ladder of swords.

A.”

Some years before Angèle’s letter was written, Michel de la Forêt had
become an officer in the army of Comte Gabriel de Montgomery, and
fought with him until what time the great chief was besieged in the
castle of Domfront in Normandy. When the siege grew desperate,
Montgomery besought the intrepid young Huguenot soldier to escort
Madame de Montgomery to England, to be safe from the oppression and
misery sure to follow any mishap to this noble leader of the
Camisards.

At the very moment of departure of the refugees from Domfront with
the Comtesse, Angèle’s messenger--the “piratical knave with a most
kind heart”--presented himself, delivered her letter to De la Forêt,
and proceeded with the party to the coast of Normandy by St. Brieuc.
Embarking there in a lugger which Buonespoir the pirate secured for
them, they made for England.

Having come but half-way of the Channel, the lugger was stopped by an
English frigate. After much persuasion the captain of the frigate
agreed to land Madame de Montgomery upon the island of Jersey, but
forced De la Forêt to return to the coast of France; and Buonespoir
elected to return with him.



II


Meanwhile Angèle had gone through many phases of alternate hope and
despair. She knew that Montgomery the Camisard was dead, and a rumor,
carried by refugees, reached her that De la Forêt had been with him
to the end. To this was presently added the word that De la Forêt had
been beheaded. But one day she learned that the Comtesse de
Montgomery was sheltered by the governor, Sir Hugh Pawlett, her
kinsman, at Mont Orgueil Castle. Thither she went in fear from her
refuge at Rozel, and was admitted to the Comtesse. There she learned
the joyful truth that De la Forêt had not been slain, and was in
hiding on the coast of Normandy.

The long waiting was a sore trial, yet laughter was often upon her
lips henceforth. The peasants, the farmers and fishermen of Jersey,
at first--as they have ever been--little inclined towards strangers,
learned at last to look for her in the fields and upon the shore, and
laughed in response, they knew not why, to the quick smiling of her
eyes. She even learned to speak their unmusical but friendly
Norman-Jersey French. There were at least a half-dozen fishermen who,
for her, would have gone at night straight to the Witches’ Rock in
St. Clement’s Bay--and this was bravery unmatched.

It came to be known along the coast that “ma’m’selle” was waiting for
a lover fleeing from the French coast. This gave her fresh interest
in the eyes of the serfs and sailors and their women folk, who at
first were not inclined towards the Huguenot maiden, partly because
she was French, and partly because she was not a Catholic. But even
these, when they saw that she never talked religiously, that she was
fast learning to speak their own homely patois, and that in the
sickness of their children she was untiring in her kindness, forgave
the austerity of the gloomy-browed old man her father, who spoke to
them distantly, or never spoke at all; and her position was secure.
Then, upon the other hand, the gentry of the manors, seeing the
friendship grow between her and the Comtesse de Montgomery at Mont
Orgueil Castle, made courteous advances towards her father, and
towards herself through him.

She could scarce have counted the number of times she climbed the
great hill like a fortress at the lift of the little Bay of Rozel,
and from the Nez du Guet scanned the sea for a sail and the sky for
fair weather. When her eyes were not thus busy, they were searching
the lee of the hill-side round for yellow lilies, and the valley
below for the campion, the daffodil, and the thousand pretty ferns
growing in profusion there. Every night she looked out to see that
her signal-fire was lit upon the Nez du Guet, and she never went to
bed without taking one last look over the sea, in the restless,
inveterate hope which at once sustained her and devoured her.

But the longest waiting must end. It came on the evening of the very
day that the Seigneur of Rozel went to Angèle’s father and bluntly
told him he was ready to forego all Norman-Jersey prejudice against
the French and the Huguenot religion, and take Angèle to wife without
penny or estate.

In reply to the seigneur, Monsieur Aubert said that he was conscious
of an honor, and referred monsieur to his daughter, who must answer
for herself; but he must tell Monsieur of Rozel that monsieur’s
religion would, in his own sight, be a high bar to the union. To that
the seigneur said that no religion that he had could be a bar to
anything at all, and so long as the young lady could manage her
household, drive a good bargain with the craftsmen and hucksters, and
have the handsomest face and manners in the Channel Islands, he’d ask
no more; and she might pray for him and his salvation without let or
hindrance.

The seigneur found the young lady in a little retreat among the
rocks, called by the natives _La Chaire_. Here she sat sewing upon
some coarse linen for a poor fisherwoman’s babe when the seigneur
came near. She heard the scrunch of his heels upon the gravel, the
clank of his sword upon the rocks, and looked up with a flush, her
needle poised; for none should know of her presence in this place
save her father. When she saw who was her visitor, she rose. After
greeting and compliment, none too finely put, but more generous than
fitted with Jersey parsimony, the gentleman of Rozel came at once to
the point.

“My name is none too bad,” said he--“Raoul Lemprière, of the
Lemprières that have been here since Rollo ruled in Normandy. My
estate is none worse than any in the whole islands; I have more
horses and dogs than any gentleman of my acres; and I am more in
favor at court than De Carteret of St. Ouen’s. I am the Queen’s
butler, and I am the first that royal favor granted to set up three
dove-cotes, one by St. Aubin’s, one by St. Helier’s, and one at
Rozel; and--and,” he added, with a lumbering attempt at humor--“and,
on my oath, I’ll set up another dove-cote without my sovereign’s
favor, with your leave alone. By Our Lady, I do love that color in
yon cheek! Just such a color had my mother when she snatched from the
head of my cousin of Carteret’s milkmaid-wife the bonnet of a lady of
quality and bade her get to her heifers. God’s beauty! but ’tis a
color of red primroses in thy cheeks and blue campions in thine eyes.
Come, I warrant I can deepen that color”--he bowed low--“Madame of
Rozel, if it be not too soon!”

The girl listened to this cheerful and loquacious proposal and
courtship all in one, ending with the premature bestowal of a title,
in mingled anger, amusement, disdain, and apprehension. Her heart
fluttered, then stood still, then flew up in her throat, then grew
terribly hot and hurt her, so that she pressed her hand to her bosom
as though that might ease it. By the time he had finished, drawn
himself up, and struck his foot upon the ground in burly emphasis of
his devoted statements, the girl had sufficiently recovered to
answer him composedly, and with a little glint of demure humor in her
eyes. She loved another man; she did not care so much as a spark for
this happy, swearing, swashbuckling gentleman; yet she saw he had
meant to do her honor. He had treated her as courteously as was in
him to do; he chose her out from all the ladies of his acquaintance
to make her an honest offer of his hand--he had said nothing about
his heart; he would, should she marry him, throw her scraps of
good-humor, bearish tenderness, drink to her health among his
fellows, and respect and admire her--even exalt her almost to the
rank of a man in his own eyes; and he had the tolerance of the
open-hearted and open-handed man. All these things were as much a
compliment to her as though she were not a despised Huguenot, an
exiled lady of no fortune. She looked at him a moment with an almost
solemn intensity, so that he shifted his ground uneasily, but at once
smiled encouragingly, to relieve her embarrassment at the unexpected
honor done her. She had remained standing; now, as he made a step
towards her, she sank down upon the seat and waved him back
courteously.

“A moment, Monsieur of Rozel,” she ventured. “Did my father send you
to me?”

He inclined his head and smiled again.

“Did you say to him what you have said to me?” she asked, not quite
without a touch of malice.

“I left out about the color in the cheek,” he answered, with a smirk
at what he took to be the quickness of his wit.

“You kept your paint-pot for me,” she replied, softly.

“And the dove-cote, too,” he rejoined, bowing finely, and almost
carried off his feet by his own brilliance.

She became serious at once--so quickly that he was ill prepared for
it, and could do little but stare and pluck at the tassel of his
sword, embarrassed before this maiden, who changed as quickly as the
currents change under the brow of the Couperon Cliff, behind which
lay his manor-house of Rozel.

“I have visited at your manor, Monsieur of Rozel. I have seen the
state in which you live, your retainers, your men-at-arms, your
farming-folk, and your sailor-men. I know how your Queen receives
you; how your honor is as stable as your fief.”

He drew himself up again proudly. He could understand this speech.

“Your horses and your hounds I have seen,” she added, “your
men-servants and your maid-servants, your fields of corn, your
orchards, and your larder. I have sometimes broken the commandment
and coveted them and envied you.”

“Break the commandment again for the last time,” he cried, delighted
and boisterous. “Let us not waste words, lady. Let’s kiss and have it
over.”

Her eyes flashed. “I coveted them and envied you; but, then, I am but
a vain girl at times, and vanity is easier to me than humbleness.”

“Blood of man, but I cannot understand so various a creature!” he
broke in, again puzzled.

“There is a little chapel in the dell beside your manor, monsieur. If
you will go there, and get upon your knees, and pray till the candles
no more burn and the Popish images crumble in their places, you will
yet never understand myself or any woman.”

“There’s no question of Popish images between us,” he answered,
vainly trying for foothold. “Pray as you please, and I’ll see no harm
comes to the Mistress of Rozel.”

He was out of his bearings and impatient. Religion to him was a dull
recreation invented chiefly for women.

She became plain enough now. “’Tis no images nor religion that stands
between us,” she answered, “though they might well do so. It is that
I do not love you, Monsieur of Rozel.”

His face, which had slowly clouded, suddenly cleared.

“Love! Love!” He laughed good-humoredly. “Love comes, I’m told, with
marriage. But we can do well enough without fugling on that pipe.
Come, come, dost think I’m not a proper man and a gentleman? Dost
think I’ll not use thee well and ‘fend thee, Huguenot though thou
art, ’gainst trouble or fret or any man’s persecutions--be he my lord
bishop, my lord chancellor, or King of France, or any other?”

She came a step closer to him, even as though she would lay a hand
upon his arm. “I believe that you would do all that in you lay,” she
answered, steadily. “Yours is a rough wooing, but it is honest--”

“Rough! Rough!” he protested, for he thought he had behaved like some
Adonis. Was it not ten years only since he had been at court?

“Be assured, monsieur, that I know how to prize the man who speaks
after the light given him. I know that you are a brave and valorous
gentleman. I must thank you most truly and heartily, but, monsieur,
you and yours are not for me. Seek elsewhere, among your own people,
in your own religion and language and position, the Mistress of
Rozel.”

He was dumfounded. Now he comprehended the plain fact that he had
been declined.

“You send me packing!” he blurted out, getting red in the face.

“Ah, no! Say that is my misfortune that I cannot give myself the
great honor,” she said, in her tone a little disdainful dryness, a
little pity, a little feeling that here was a good friend lost.

“It’s not because of the French soldier that was with Montgomery at
Domfront?--I’ve heard that story. But he’s gone to heaven, and ’tis
vain crying for last year’s breath,” he said, with proud philosophy.

“He is not dead. And if he were,” she added, “do you think, monsieur,
that we should find it easier to cross the gulf between us?”

“Tut! tut! that bugbear love!” he said, shortly. “And so you’d lose a
good friend for a dead lover? I’ faith, I’d befriend thee well if
thou wert my wife, ma’m’selle.”

“It is hard for those who need friends to lose them,” she answered,
sadly.

The sorrow of her position crept in upon her and filled her eyes
with tears. She turned them to the sea--instinctively towards that
point on the shore where she thought it likely Michel might be--as
though by looking she might find comfort and support in this hard
hour.

Even as she gazed into the soft afternoon light she could see, far
over, a little sail standing out towards the Ecréhos. Not once in six
months might the coast of France be seen so clearly. One might almost
have noted people walking on the beach. This was no good token, for
when that coast may be seen with great distinctness a storm follows
hard after. The girl knew this, and, though she could not know that
this was Michel de la Forêt’s boat, the possibility fixed itself in
her mind. She quickly scanned the horizon. Yes, there in the
northwest was gathering a dark-blue haze, hanging like small, filmy
curtains in the sky.

The Seigneur of Rozel presently broke the silence so awkward for him.
He had seen the tears in her eyes, and, though he could not guess the
cause, he vaguely thought it might be due to his announcement that
she had lost a friend. He was magnanimous at once, and he meant what
he said, and would stand by it through thick and thin.

“Well, well, I’ll be thy everlasting friend if not thy husband,” he
said, with ornate generosity. “Cheer thy heart, lady.”

With a sudden impulse she seized his hand and kissed it, and,
turning, ran swiftly down the rocks towards her home.

He stood and looked after her, then, dumfounded, at the hand she had
kissed.

“Blood of my heart!” he said, and shook his head in utter amazement.

Then he turned and looked out upon the Channel. He saw the little
boat Angèle had descried making from France. Glancing at the sky,
“What fools come there!” he said, anxiously.

They were Michel de la Forêt and Buonespoir the pirate, in a
black-bellied cutter with red sails.



III


For weeks De la Forêt and Buonespoir had lain in hiding at St.
Brieuc. At last Buonespoir declared all was ready once again. He had
secured for the Camisard the passport and clothes of a priest who had
but just died at Granville. Once again they made the attempt to reach
English soil.

Standing out from Carteret on the _Belle Suzanne_, they steered for
the light upon the Marmotier Rocks of the Ecréhos, which Angèle had
paid a fisherman to keep going every night. This light had caused the
French and English frigates some uneasiness, and they had patrolled
the Channel from Cap de la Hague to the Bay of St. Brieuc with a
vigilance worthy of a larger cause. One fine day an English frigate
anchored off the Ecréhos, and the fisherman was seized. He, poor
man, swore that he kept the light burning to guide his brother
fishermen to and fro between Boulay Bay and the Ecréhos. The captain
of the frigate tried severities; but the fisherman stuck to his tale,
and the light burned on as before--a lantern stuck upon a pole. One
day, with a telescope, Buonespoir had seen the exact position of the
staff supporting the light and had mapped out his course accordingly.
He would head straight for the beacon and pass between the Marmotier
and the Maître Ile, where is a narrow channel for a boat drawing only
a few feet of water. Unless he made this he must run south and skirt
the Écrivière Rock and bank, where the streams setting over the sandy
ridges make a confusing, perilous sea to mariners in bad weather. Or
he must sail north between the Ecréhos and the Dirouilles, in the
channel called Étoc, a tortuous and dangerous passage save in good
weather, and then safe only to the mariner who knows the floor of
that strait like his own hand. De la Forêt was wholly in the hands
of Buonespoir, for he knew nothing of these waters and coasts; also
he was a soldier and no sailor.

They cleared Cape Carteret with a fair wind from the northeast, which
should carry them safely as the bird flies to the haven of Rozel. The
high, pinkish sands of Hatainville were behind them; the treacherous
Taillepied rocks lay to the north, and a sweet sea before. Nothing
could have seemed fairer and more hopeful. But a few old fishermen on
shore at Carteret shook their heads dubiously, and at Port Bail, some
miles below, a disabled naval officer, watching through a glass,
rasped out, “Criminals or fools!” But he shrugged his shoulders, for
if they were criminals he was sure they would expiate their crimes
this night, and if they were fools--he had no pity for fools.

But Buonespoir knew his danger. Truth is, he had chosen this night
because they would be safest from pursuit, because no sensible
seafaring man, were he king’s officer or another, would venture forth
upon the impish Channel save to court disaster. Pirate and soldier
in priest’s garb had frankly taken the chances.

With a fair wind they might, with all canvas set--mainsail, foresail,
jib, and foretopsail--make Rozel Bay within two hours and a quarter.
All seemed well for a brief half-hour. Then, even as the passage
between the Marmotier and the Ecréhos opened out, the wind suddenly
shifted from the northeast to the southwest and a squall came
hurrying on them--a few moments too soon; for, had they been clear of
the Ecréhos, clear of the Taillepieds, Felée Bank, and the Écrivière,
they could have stood out towards the north in a more open sea.

Yet there was one thing in their favor: the tide was now running hard
from the northwest, so fighting for them while the wind was against
them. Their only safety lay in getting beyond the Ecréhos. If they
attempted to run in to the Marmotier for safety, they would presently
be at the mercy of the French. To trust their doubtful fortunes and
bear on was the only way. The tide was running fast. They gave the
mainsail to the wind still more, and bore on towards the passage. At
last, as they were opening on it, the wind suddenly veered full
northeast. The sails flapped, the boat seemed to hover for a moment,
and then a wave swept her towards the rocks. Buonespoir put the helm
hard over, she went about, and they close-hauled her as she trembled
towards the rocky opening.

This was the critical instant. A heavy sea was running, the gale was
blowing hard from the northeast, and under the close-hauled sail the
_Belle Suzanne_ was lying over dangerously. But the tide, too, was
running hard from the south, fighting the wind, and at the moment
when all seemed terribly uncertain swept them past the opening and
into the swift-running channel, where the indraught sucked them
through to the more open water beyond.

Although the _Belle Suzanne_ was in more open water now, the danger
was not over. Ahead lay a treacherous sea, around them roaring winds,
and the perilous coast of Jersey beyond all.

“Do you think we shall land?” quietly asked De la Forêt, nodding
towards the Jersey coast.

“As many chances ’gainst it as for it, m’sieu’,” said Buonespoir,
turning his face to the north, for the wind had veered again to
northeast, and he feared its passing to the northwest, giving them a
head-wind and a swooping sea.

Night came down, but with a clear sky and a bright moon, the wind,
however, not abating. The next three hours were spent in tacking, in
beating towards the Jersey coast under seas which almost swamped
them. They were standing off about a mile from the island, and could
see lighted fires and groups of people upon the shore, when suddenly
a gale came out from the southwest, the wind having again shifted.
With an oath Buonespoir put the helm hard over, the _Belle Suzanne_
came about quickly, but as the gale struck her the mast snapped like
a pencil, she heeled over, and the two adventurers were engulfed in
the waves.

A cry of dismay went up from the watchers on the shore. They turned
with a half-conscious sympathy towards Angèle, for her story was
known by all, and in her face they read her mortal fear, though she
made no cry, but only clasped her hands in agony. Her heart told her
that yonder Michel de la Forêt was fighting for his life. For an
instant only she stood, the terror of death in her eyes, then she
turned to the excited fishermen near.

“Men, oh men!” she cried, “will you not save them? Will no one come
with me?”

Some shook their heads sullenly, others appeared uncertain, but their
wives and children clung to them, and none stirred. Looking round
helplessly, Angèle saw the tall figure of the Seigneur of Rozel. He
had been watching the scene for some time. Now he came quickly to
her.

“Is it the very man?” he asked her, jerking a finger towards the
struggling figures in the sea.

“Yes, oh yes,” she replied, nodding her head, piteously. “God tells
my heart it is.” Her father drew near and interposed.

[Illustration: “‘LET US KNEEL AND PRAY FOR TWO DYING MEN’”]

“Let us kneel and pray for two dying men,” said he, and straightway
knelt upon the sand.

“By St. Martin, we’ve better medicine than that, apothecary!” said
Lemprière of Rozel, loudly, and, turning round, summoned two
serving-men. “Launch my strong boat,” he added. “We will pick these
gentlemen from the brine or know the end of it all.”

The men hurried gloomily to the long boat, ran her down to the shore
and into the surf.

“You are going--you are going to save him, dear seigneur?” asked the
girl, tremulously.

“To save him--that’s to be seen, mistress,” answered Lemprière, and
advanced to the fishermen. By dint of hard words and as hearty
encouragement and promises, he got a half-dozen strong sailors to man
the boat.

A moment after, they were all in. At a motion from the seigneur the
boat was shot out into the surf, and a cheer from the shore gave
heart to De la Forêt and Buonespoir, who were being driven upon the
rocks.

The Jerseymen rowed gallantly, and the seigneur, to give them heart,
promised a shilling, a capon, and a gallon of beer to each if the
rescue was made. Again and again the two men seemed to sink beneath
the sea, and again and again they came to the surface and battled
further, torn, battered, and bloody, but not beaten. Cries of, “We’re
coming, gentles, we’re coming!” from the Seigneur of Rozel came
ringing through the surf to the dulled ears of the drowning men, and
they struggled on.

There never was a more gallant rescue. Almost at their last gasp the
two were rescued.

“Mistress Aubert sends you welcome, sir, if you be Michel de la
Forêt,” said Lemprière of Rozel, and offered the fugitive his horn of
liquor as he lay blown and beaten in the boat.

“I am he,” De la Forêt answered. “I owe you my life, monsieur,” he
added.

Lemprière laughed. “You owe it to the lady; and I doubt you can
properly pay the debt,” he answered, with a toss of the head; for
had not the lady refused him, the Seigneur of Rozel, six feet six in
height, and all else in proportion, while this gentleman was scarce
six feet.

“We can have no quarrel upon the point,” answered De la Forêt,
reaching out his hand; “you have at least done tough work for her,
and if I cannot pay in gold I can in kind. It was a generous deed,
and it has made a friend forever of Michel de la Forêt.”

“Raoul Lemprière of Rozel they call me, Michel de la Forêt, and, by
Rollo the Duke, but I’ll take your word in the way of friendship, as
the lady yonder takes it for riper fruit! Though, faith, ’tis fruit
of a short summer, to my thinking.”

All this while Buonespoir the pirate, his face covered with blood,
had been swearing by the little finger of St. Peter that each
Jerseyman there should have the half of a keg of rum. He went so far
in gratitude as to offer the price of ten sheep which he had once
secretly raided from the Seigneur of Rozel and sold in France, for
which he had been seized on his later return to the island and had
escaped without punishment.

Hearing, Lemprière of Rozel roared at him in anger: “Durst speak to
me! For every fleece you thieved I’ll have you flayed with bowstrings
if ever I sight your face within my boundaries.”

“Then I’ll fetch and carry no more for M’sieu’ of Rozel,” said
Buonespoir, in an offended tone, but grinning under his reddish
beard.

“When didst fetch and carry for me, varlet?” Lemprière roared again.

“When the Seigneur of Rozel fell from his horse, overslung with sack,
the night of the royal duke’s visit, and the footpads were on him, I
carried him on my back to the lodge of Rozel Manor. The footpads had
scores to settle with the great Rozel.”

For a moment the seigneur stared, then roared again, but this time
with laughter.

“By the devil and Rollo, I have sworn to this hour that there was no
man in the isle could have carried me on his shoulders. And I was
right, for Jersiais you’re none, neither by adoption nor grace, but
a citizen of the sea.”

He laughed again as a wave swept over them, drenching them, and a
sudden squall of wind came out of the north. “There’s no better head
in the isle than mine for measurement and thinking, and I swore no
man under eighteen stone could carry me, and I am twenty-five--I take
you to be nineteen stone, eh?”

“Nineteen, less two ounces,” grinned Buonespoir.

“I’ll laugh De Carteret of St. Ouen’s out of his stockings over
this,” answered Lemprière. “Trust me for knowing weights and
measures! Look you, varlet, thy sins be forgiven thee. I care not
about the fleeces, if there be no more stealing. St. Ouen’s has no
head--I said no one man in Jersey could have done it--I’m heavier by
three stone than any man in the island.”

Thereafter there was little speaking among them, for the danger was
greater as they neared the shore. The wind and the sea were against
them; the tide, however, was in their favor. Others besides M.
Aubert offered up prayers for the safe landing of the rescued and
rescuers. Presently an ancient fisherman broke out into a rude
sailor’s chantey, and every voice, even those of the two Huguenots,
took it up:

    “When the Four Winds, the Wrestlers, strive with the Sun,
    When the Sun is slain in the dark;
    When the stars burn out, and the night cries
    To the blind sea-reapers, and they rise,
    And the water-ways are stark--
        God save us when the reapers reap!
    When the ships sweep in with the tide to the shore,
    And the little white boats return no more;
    When the reapers reap,
    Lord give Thy sailors sleep,
    If Thou cast us not upon the shore,
    To bless Thee evermore:
    To walk in Thy sight as heretofore
    Though the way of the Lord be steep!
    By Thy grace,
    Show Thy face,
        Lord of the land and the deep!”

The song stilled at last. It died away in the roar of the surf, in
the happy cries of foolish women and the laughter of men back from a
dangerous adventure. As the seigneur’s boat was drawn up the shore
Angèle threw herself into the arms of Michel de la Forêt, the soldier
dressed as a priest.

Lemprière of Rozel stood abashed before this rich display of feeling.
In his hottest youth he could not have made such passionate motions
of affection. His feelings ran neither high nor broad, but neither
did they run low and muddy. His nature was a straight level of
sensibility--a rough stream between high banks of prejudice, topped
with the foam of vanity, now brawling in season, and now going steady
and strong to the sea. Angèle had come to feel what he was beneath
the surface. She felt how unimaginative he was, and how his humor,
which was but the horse-play of vanity, helped him little to
understand the world or himself. His vanity was ridiculous, his
self-importance was against knowledge or wisdom; and Heaven had given
him a small brain, a big and noble heart, a pedigree back to Rollo,
and the absurd pride of a little lord in a little land. Angèle knew
all this, but realized also that he had offered her all he was able
to offer to any woman.

She went now and put out both hands to him. “I shall ever pray God’s
blessing on the Lord of Rozel,” she said, in a low voice.

“’Twould fit me no better than St. Ouen’s sword fits his fingers.
I’ll take thine own benison, lady--but on my cheek, not on my hand as
this day before at four of the clock.” His big voice lowered. “Come,
come, the hand thou kissed, it hath been the hand of a friend to
thee, as Raoul Lemprière of Rozel said he’d be. Thy lips upon his
cheek, though it be but a rough fellow’s fancy, and I warrant, come
good, come ill, Rozel’s face will never be turned from thee. Pooh,
pooh! let yon soldier-priest shut his eyes a minute; this is ‘tween
me and thee; and what’s done before the world’s without shame.”

He stopped short, his black eyes blazing with honest mirth and
kindness, his breath short, having spoken in such haste.

Her eyes could scarce see him, so full of tears were they, and,
standing on tiptoe, she kissed him upon each cheek.

“’Tis much to get for so little given,” she said, with a quiver in
her voice; “yet this price for friendship would be too high to pay to
any save the Seigneur of Rozel.”

She hastily turned to the men who had rescued Michel and Buonespoir.
“If I had riches, riches ye should have, brave men of Jersey,” she
said, “but I have naught save love and thanks, and my prayers, too,
if ye will have them.”

“’Tis a man’s duty to save his fellow an’ he can,” cried a gaunt
fisherman, whose daughter was holding to his lips a bowl of congereel
soup.

“’Twas a good deed to send us forth to save a priest of Holy Church,”
cried a weazened boat-builder with a giant’s arm, as he buried his
face in a cup of sack and plunged his hand into a fishwife’s basket
of limpets.

“Ay, but what means she by kissing and arm-getting with a priest?”
cried a snarling vraic-gatherer. “’Tis some jest upon Holy Church, or
yon priest is no better than common men, but an idle shame.”

By this time Michel was among them. “Priest I am none, but a
soldier,” he said, in a loud voice, and told them bluntly the reasons
for his disguise; then, taking a purse from his pocket, thrust into
the hands of his rescuers and their families pieces of silver and
gave them brave words of thanks.

But the seigneur was not to be outdone in generosity. His vanity ran
high; he was fain to show Angèle what a gorgeous gentleman she had
failed to make her own; and he was in ripe good-humor all round.

“Come, ye shall come, all of ye, to the Manor of Rozel, every man and
woman here. Ye shall be fed, and fuddled too ye shall be an’ ye will;
for honest drink which sends to honest sleep hurts no man. To my
kitchen with ye all; and you, messieurs”--turning to M. Aubert and De
la Forêt--“and you, mademoiselle, come, know how open is the door and
full the table at my Manor of Rozel--St. Ouen’s keeps a beggarly
board.”



IV


Thus began the friendship of the bragging Seigneur of Rozel for the
three Huguenots, all because he had seen tears in a girl’s eyes and
misunderstood them, and because the same girl had kissed him. His
pride was flattered that they should receive protection from him, and
the flattery became almost a canonizing when De Carteret of St.
Ouen’s brought him to task for harboring and comforting the despised
Huguenots; for when De Carteret railed he was envious. So henceforth
Lemprière played lord protector with still more boisterous unction.
His pride knew no bounds when, three days after the rescue, Sir Hugh
Pawlett, the governor, answering De la Forêt’s letter requesting
permission to visit the Comtesse de Montgomery, sent him word to
fetch De la Forêt to Mont Orgueil Castle. Clanking and blowing, he
was shown into the great hall with De la Forêt, where waited Sir Hugh
and the widow of the renowned Camisard. Clanking and purring like an
enormous cat, he turned his head away to the window when De la Forêt
dropped on his knees and kissed the hand of the comtesse, whose eyes
were full of tears. Clanking and gurgling, he sat at a mighty meal of
turbot, eels, lobsters, ormers, capons, boar’s head, brawn and
mustard, swan, curlew, and spiced meats. This he washed down with
bastard, malmsey, and good ale, topped with almonds, comfits,
perfumed cherries with “ipocras,” then sprinkled himself with
rose-water and dabbled his face and hands in it. Filled to the
turret, he lurched to his feet, and, drinking to Sir Hugh’s toast,
“Her sacred Majesty!” he clanked and roared “Elizabeth!” as though
upon the field of battle. He felt the star of De Carteret declining
and Rozel’s glory ascending like a comet. Once set in a course,
nothing could change him. Other men might err, but, once right, the
Seigneur of Rozel was everlasting.

Of late he had made the cause of Michel de la Forêt and Angèle Aubert
his own. For this he had been raked upon the coals by De Carteret of
St. Ouen’s and his following, who taunted him with the saying, “Save
a thief from hanging and he’ll cut your throat.” Not that there was
ill feeling against De la Forêt in person. He had won most hearts by
a frank yet still manner, and his story and love for Angèle had
touched the women folk where their hearts were softest. But the
island was not true to itself or its history if it did not divide
itself into factions, headed by the seigneurs, and there had been no
ground for good division for five years till De la Forêt came.

Short of actual battle, this new strife was the keenest ever known,
for Sir Hugh Pawlett was ranged on the side of the Seigneur of Rozel.
Kinsman of the Comtesse de Montgomery, of Queen Elizabeth’s own
Protestant religion, and admiring De la Forêt, he had given every
countenance to the Camisard refugee. He had even besought the royal
court of Jersey to grant a pardon to Buonespoir the pirate, on
condition that he should never commit a depredation upon an
inhabitant of the island--this he was to swear to by the little
finger of St. Peter. Should he break his word he was to be banished
the island for ten years, under penalty of death if he returned. When
the hour had come for Buonespoir to take the oath he failed to
appear, and the next morning the Seigneur of St. Ouen’s discovered
that during the night his cellar had been raided of two kegs of
canary, many flagons of muscadella, pots of anchovies and boxes of
candied “eringo,” kept solely for the visit which the Queen had
promised the island. There was no doubt of the misdemeanant, for
Buonespoir returned to De Carteret from St. Brieuc the gabardine of
one of his retainers, in which he had carried off the stolen
delicacies.

This aggravated the feud between the partisans of St. Ouen’s and
Rozel, for Lemprière of Rozel had laughed loudly when he heard of the
robbery, and said: “’Tis like St. Ouen’s to hoard for a queen and
glut a pirate. We feed as we get at Rozel, and will feed the court
well, too, when it comes, or I’m no butler to Elizabeth!”

But trouble was at hand for Michel and for his protector. The spies
of Catherine de Medici, mother of the King of France, were
everywhere. These had sent word that De la Forêt was now attached to
the meagre suite of the widow of the great Camisard Montgomery, near
the Castle of Mont Orgueil. The Medici, having treacherously slain
the chief, became mad with desire to slay the lieutenant. She was set
to have the man, either through diplomacy with England, or to end him
by assassination through her spies. Having determined upon his death,
with relentless soul she pursued the cause as closely as though this
exiled soldier were a powerful enemy at the head of an army in
France.

Thus it was that she wrote to Queen Elizabeth, asking that “this
arrant foe of France, this churl, conspirator, and reviler of the
sacraments, be rendered unto our hands for well-deserved punishment
as warning to all such evil-doers.” She told Elizabeth of De la
Forêt’s arrival in Jersey, disguised as a priest of the Church of
France, and set forth his doings since landing with the Seigneur of
Rozel. Further she went on to say to “our sister of England” that
“these dark figures of murder and revolt be a peril to the soft peace
of this good realm.”

To this Elizabeth, who had no knowledge of Michel, who desired peace
with France at this time, who had favors to ask of Catherine, and who
in her own realm had fresh reason to fear conspiracy through the
Queen of the Scots and others, replied forthwith that, “If this De la
Forêt falleth into our hands, and if it were found he had in truth
conspired against France its throne, had he a million lives, not one
should remain.” Having despatched this letter, she straightway sent a
messenger to Sir Hugh Pawlett in Jersey, making quest of De la Forêt,
and commanding that he should be sent to her in England at once.

When the Queen’s messenger arrived at Orgueil Castle, Lemprière
chanced to be with Sir Hugh Pawlett, and the contents of Elizabeth’s
letter were made known to him.

At the moment Monsieur of Rozel was munching macaroons and washing
them down with canary. The governor’s announcement was such a shock
that he choked and coughed, the crumbs flying in all directions, and
another pint of canary must be taken to flush his throat. Thus
cleared for action, he struck out.

“’Tis St. Ouen’s work,” he growled.

“’Tis the work of the Medici,” said Sir Hugh. “Read,” he added,
holding out the paper.

Now Lemprière of Rozel had a poor eye for reading. He had wit enough
to wind about the difficulty.

“If I see not the Queen’s commands, I’ve no warrant but Sir Hugh
Pawlett’s words, and I’ll to London and ask ‘fore her Majesty’s face
if she wrote them, and why. I’ll tell my tale and speak my mind, I
pledge you, sir.”

“You’ll offend her Majesty. Her commands are here.” Pawlett tapped
the letter with his finger.

“I’m butler to the Queen, and she will list to me. I’ll not smirk and
caper like St. Ouen’s; I’ll bear me like a man not speaking for
himself. I’ll speak as Harry her father spoke--straight to the
purpose.... No, no, no, I’m not to be wheedled, even by a Pawlett,
and you shall not ask me. If you want Michel de la Forêt, come and
take him. He is in my house. But ye must _take_ him, for _come_ he
shall not!”

“You will not oppose the Queen’s officers?”

“De la Forêt is under my roof. He must be taken. I will give him up
to no one; and I’ll tell my sovereign these things when I see her in
her palace.”

“I misdoubt you’ll play the bear,” said Pawlett, with a dry smile.

“The Queen’s tongue is none so tame. I’ll travel by my star, get
sweet or sour.”

“Well, well, ‘give a man luck, and throw him into the sea,’ is the
old proverb. I’m coming for your friend to-night.”

“I’ll be waiting with my fingers on the door, sir,” said Rozel, with
a grim vanity and an outrageous pride in himself.



V


The Seigneur of Rozel found De la Forêt at the house of M. Aubert.
His face was flushed with hard riding, and perhaps the loving
attitude of Michel and Angèle deepened it, for at the garden gate the
lovers were saying adieu.

“You have come for Monsieur de la Forêt?” asked Angèle, anxiously.
Her quick look at the seigneur’s face had told her there were things
amiss.

“There’s commands from the Queen. They’re for the ears of De la
Forêt,” said the seigneur.

“I will hear them, too,” said Angèle, her color going, her bearing
determined.

The seigneur looked down at her with boyish appreciation, then said
to De la Forêt: “Two queens make claim for you. The wolfish
Catherine writes to England for her lost Camisard, with much fool’s
talk about ‘dark figures,’ and ‘conspirators,’ ‘churls,’ and foes of
‘soft peace,’ and England takes the bait and sends to Sir Hugh
Pawlett yonder. And, in brief, monsieur, the governor is to have you
under arrest and send you to England. God knows why two queens make
such a pother over a fellow with naught but a sword and a lass to
love him--though, come to think, ‘a man’s a man if he have but a hose
on his head,’ as the proverb runs.”

De la Forêt smiled, then looked grave as he caught sight of Angèle’s
face. “’Tis arrest, then?” he asked.

“’Tis come willy-nilly,” answered the seigneur. “And once they’ve
forced you from my doors, I’m for England to speak my mind to the
Queen. I can make interest for her presence--I hold court office!” he
added, with puffing confidence.

Angèle looked up at him with quick tears, yet with a smile on her
lips.

“You are going to England for Michel’s sake?” she said, in a low
voice.

“For Michel, or for you, or for mine honor,--what matter, so that I
go?” he answered, then added, “There must be haste to Rozel, friend,
lest the governor take Lemprière’s guest like a potato-digger in the
fields.”

Putting spurs to his horse, he cantered heavily away, not forgetting
to wave a pompous farewell to Angèle.

De la Forêt was smiling as he turned to Angèle. She looked
wonderingly at him, for she had felt that she must comfort him, and
she looked not for this sudden change in his manner.

“Is prison-going so blithe, then?” she asked, with a little uneasy
laugh which was half a sob.

“It will bring things to a head,” he answered. “After danger and busy
days, to be merely safe, it is scarce the life for Michel de la
Forêt. I have my duty to the comtesse; I have my love for you; but I
seem of little use by contrast with my past. And yet, and yet,” he
added, half sadly, “how futile has been all our fighting, so far as
human eye can see!”

“Nothing is futile that is right, Michel,” the girl replied. “Thou
hast done as thy soul answered to God’s messages: thou hast fought
when thou couldst, and thou hast sheathed thy blade when there was
naught else to do. Are not both right?”

He clasped her to his breast, then, holding her from him a little,
looked into her eyes steadily a moment.

“God hath given thee a true heart, and the true heart hath wisdom,”
he answered.

“You will not seek escape? Nor resist the governor?” she asked,
eagerly.

“Whither should I go? My place is here by you, by the Comtesse de
Montgomery. One day it may be I shall return to France and to our
cause--”

“If it be God’s will.”

“If it be God’s will.”

“Whatever comes, you will love me, Michel?”

“I will love you whatever comes.”

“Listen.” She drew his head down. “I am no drag-weight to thy life?
Thou wouldst not do otherwise if there were no foolish Angèle?”

He did not hesitate. “What is best is. I might do otherwise if there
were no Angèle in my life to pilot my heart, but that were worse for
me.”

“Thou art the best lover in all the world.”

“I hope to make a better husband. To-morrow is carmine-lettered in my
calendar, if thou sayest thou wilt still have me under the sword of
the Medici.”

Her hand pressed her heart suddenly. “Under the sword, if it be God’s
will,” she answered. Then, with a faint smile, “But no, I will not
believe the Queen of England will send thee, one of her own
Protestant faith, to the Medici.”

“And thou wilt marry me?”

“When the Queen of England approves thee,” she answered, and buried
her face in the hollow of his arm.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later Sir Hugh Pawlett came to the manor-house of Rozel with
twoscore men-at-arms. The seigneur himself answered the governor’s
knocking, and showed himself in the doorway with a dozen halberdiers
behind him.

“I have come seeking Michel de la Forêt,” said the governor.

“He is my guest.”

“I have the Queen’s command to take him.”

“He is my cherished guest.”

“Must I force my way?”

“Is it the Queen’s will that blood be shed?”

“The Queen’s commands must be obeyed.”

“The Queen is a miracle of the world, God save her! What is the
charge against him?”

“Summon Michel de la Forêt, ’gainst whom it lies.”

“He is my guest; ye shall have him only by force.”

The governor turned to his men. “Force the passage and search the
house,” he commanded.

The company advanced with levelled pikes, but at a motion from the
seigneur his men fell back before them, and, making a lane,
disclosed Michel de la Forêt at the end of it. Michel had not
approved of Lemprière’s mummery of defence, but he understood from
what good spirit it sprang, and how it flattered the seigneur’s
vanity to make show of resistance.

The governor greeted De la Forêt with a sour smile, read to him the
Queen’s writ, and politely begged his company towards Mont Orgueil
Castle.

“I’ll fetch other commands from her Majesty, or write me down a
peddler of St. Ouen’s follies,” the seigneur said from his doorway,
as the governor and De la Forêt bade him good-bye and took the road
to the castle.



VI


Michel de la Forêt was gone, a prisoner. From the dusk of the trees
by the little chapel of Rozel, Angèle had watched his exit in charge
of the governor’s men. She had not sought to show her presence; she
had seen him--that was comfort to her heart; and she would not mar
the memory of that last night’s farewell by another before these
strangers. She saw with what quiet Michel bore his arrest, and she
said to herself, as the last halberdier vanished:

“If the Queen do but speak with him, if she but look upon his face
and hear his voice, she must needs deal kindly by him. My Michel--ah,
it is a face for all men to trust and all women--”

But she sighed and averted her head as though before prying eyes.

The bell of Rozel chapel broke gently on the evening air; the sound,
softened by the leaves and mellowed by the wood of the great
elm-trees, billowed away till it was lost in faint reverberation in
the sea beneath the cliffs of the Couperon, where a little craft was
coming to anchor in the dead water.

At first the sound of the bell soothed her, softening the thought of
the danger to Michel. She moved with it towards the sea, the tones of
her grief chiming with it. Presently, as she went, a priest in
cassock and robes and stole crossed the path in front of her, an
acolyte before him swinging a censer, his voice chanting Latin verses
from the service for the sick, in his hands the sacred elements of
the communion for the dying. The priest was fat and heavy, his voice
was lazy, his eyes expressionless, and his robes were dirty. The
plaintive, peaceful sense which the sound of the vesper-bell had
thrown over Angèle’s sad reflections passed away, and the thought
smote her that, were it not for such as this black-toothed priest,
Michel would not now be on his way to England, a prisoner. To her
this vesper-bell was the symbol of tyranny and hate. It was fighting,
it was martyrdom, it was exile, it was the Medici. All that she had
borne, all that her father had borne, the thought of the home lost,
the mother dead before her time, the name ruined, the heritage
dispossessed, the red war of the Camisards, the rivulets of blood in
the streets of Paris and of her loved Rouen, smote upon her mind and
drove her to her knees in the forest glade, her hands upon her ears
to shut out the sound of the bell. It came upon her that the bell had
said “Peace! Peace!” to her mind when there should be no peace; that
it had said “Be patient!” when she should be up and doing; that it
had whispered “Stay!” when she should tread the path her lover trod,
her feet following in his footsteps as his feet had trod in hers.

She pressed her hands tight upon her ears and prayed with a passion
and a fervor she had never known before. A revelation seemed to come
upon her, and, for the first time, she was a Huguenot to the core.
Hitherto she had suffered for her religion because it was her
mother’s broken life, her father’s faith, and because they had
suffered and her lover had suffered. Her mind had been convinced, her
loyalty had been unwavering, her words for the great cause had
measured well with her deeds. But new senses were suddenly born in
her, new eyes were given to her mind, new powers for endurance to her
soul. She saw now as the martyrs of Meaux had seen; a passionate
faith descended on her as it had descended on them; no longer only
patient, she was fain for action. Tears rained from her eyes. Her
heart burst itself in entreaty and confession.

“Thy light shall be my light, and Thy will my will, O Lord,” she
cried at the last. “Teach me Thy way, create a right spirit within
me. Give me boldness without rashness, and hope without vain
thinking. Bear up my arms, O Lord, and save me when falling. A poor
Samaritan am I. Give me the water that shall be a well of water
springing up to everlasting life, that I thirst not in the fever of
doing. Give me the manna of life to eat that I faint not nor cry out
in plague, pestilence, or famine. Give me Thy grace, O God, as Thou
has given it to Michel de la Forêt, and guide my feet as I follow him
in life and in death, for Christ’s sake. Amen.”

As she rose from her knees she heard the evening gun from the Castle
of Mont Orgueil, whither Michel was being borne by the Queen’s men.
The vesper-bell had stopped. Through the wood came the salt savor of
the sea on the cool sunset air. She threw back her head and walked
swiftly towards it, her heart beating hard, her eyes shining with the
light of purpose, her step elastic with the vigor of youth and
health. A quarter-hour’s walking brought her to the cliff of the
Couperon.

As she gazed out over the sea, however, a voice in the bay below
caught her ear. She looked down. On the deck of the little craft
which had entered the harbor when the vesper-bell was ringing stood a
man who waved a hand up towards her, then gave a peculiar call. She
stared with amazement: it was Buonespoir the pirate. What did this
mean? Had God sent this man to her, by his presence to suggest what
she should do in this crisis in her life? For even as she ran down
the shore towards him, it came to her mind that Buonespoir should
take her in his craft to England.

What to do in England? Who could tell? She only knew that a voice
called her to England to follow the footsteps of Michel de la Forêt,
who even this night would be setting forth in the governor’s
brigantine for London.

Buonespoir met her upon the shore, grinning like a boy.

“God save you, lady!” he said.

“What brings you hither, friend?” she asked.

If he had said that a voice had called him hither as one called her
to England, it had not sounded strange; for she was not thinking that
this was one who superstitiously swore by the little finger of St.
Peter, but only that he was the man who had brought her Michel from
France, who had been a faithful friend to her and to her father.

“What brings me hither?” Buonespoir laughed low in his chest. “Even
to fetch to the Seigneur of Rozel, a friend of mine by every token of
remembrance, a dozen flagons of golden muscadella.”

To Angèle no suggestion flashed that these flagons of muscadella had
come from the cellar of the Seigneur of St. Ouen’s, where they had
been reserved for a certain royal visit. Nothing was in her mind save
the one thought--that she must follow Michel.

“Will you take me to England?” she asked, putting a hand quickly on
his arm.

He had been laughing hard, picturing to himself what Lemprière of
Rozel would say when he sniffed the flagon of St. Ouen’s best wine,
and for an instant he did not take in the question; but he stared at
her now as the laugh slowly subsided through notes of abstraction,
and her words worked their way into his brain.

“Will you take me, Buonespoir?” she urged.

“Take you--?” he questioned.

“To England.”

“And myself to Tyburn?”

“Nay, to the Queen.”

“’Tis the same thing. Head of Abel! Elizabeth hath heard of me. The
Seigneur of St. Ouen’s and others have writ me down a pirate to her.
She would not pardon the muscadella,” he added, with another laugh,
looking down where the flagons lay.

“She must pardon more than that,” exclaimed Angèle, and hastily she
told him of what had happened to Michel de la Forêt and why she would
go.

“Thy father, then?” he asked, scowling hard in his attempt to think
it out.

“He must go with me--I will seek him now.”

“It must be at once, i’ faith, for how long, think you, can I stay
here unharmed? I was sighted off St. Ouen’s shore a few hours agone.”

“To-night?” she asked.

“By twelve, when we shall have the moon and the tide,” he answered.
“But hold!” he hastily added. “What, think you, could you and your
father do alone in England? And with me it were worse than alone.
These be dark times, when strangers have spies at their heels and all
travellers be suspect.”

“We will trust in God,” she answered.

“Have you money?” he questioned--“for London, not for me,” he added,
hastily.

“Enough,” she replied.

“The trust with the money is a weighty matter,” he added; “but they
suffice not. You must have ’fending.”

“There is no one,” she answered, sadly, “no one save--”

“Save the Seigneur of Rozel!” Buonespoir finished the sentence.
“Good. You to your father and I to the seigneur. If you can fetch
your father by your pot-of-honey tongue, I’ll fetch the great
Lemprière with muscadella. Is’t a bargain?”

“In which I gain all,” she answered, and again touched his arm with
her finger-tips.

“You shall be aboard here at ten, and I will join you on the stroke
of twelve,” he said, and gave a low whistle.

At the signal three men sprang up like magic out of the bowels of the
boat beneath them, and scurried over the side; three as ripe knaves
as ever cheated stocks and gallows, but simple knaves, unlike their
master. Two of them had served with Francis Drake in that good ship
of his lying even now not far from Elizabeth’s palace at Greenwich.
The third was a rogue who had been banished from Jersey for an
habitual drunkenness which only attacked him on land--at sea he was
sacredly sober. His name was Jean Nicolle. The names of the other two
were Hervé Robin and Rouge le Riche, but their master called them by
other names.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” said Buonespoir, in ceremony, and
waved a hand of homage between them and Angèle. “Kiss dirt, and know
where duty lies. The lady’s word on my ship is law till we anchor at
the Queen’s Stairs at Greenwich. So, Heaven help you, Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego!” said Buonespoir.

A wave of humor passed over Angèle’s grave face, for a stranger
quartet never sailed high seas together: one blind of an eye, one
game of a leg, one bald as a bottle and bereft of two front teeth;
but Buonespoir was sound of wind and limb, his small face with the
big eyes lost in the masses of his red hair, and a body like
Hercules. It flashed through Angèle’s mind even as she answered the
gurgling salutations of the triumvirate that they had been got
together for no gentle summer sailing in the Channel. Her conscience
smote her that she should use such churls; but she gave it comfort by
the thought that while serving her they could do naught worse; and
her cause was good. Yet they presented so bizarre an aspect, their
ugliness was so varied and particular, that she almost laughed.
Buonespoir understood her thoughts, for with a look of mocking
innocence in his great blue eyes he waved a hand again towards the
graceless trio, and said, “For deep-sea fishing,” then solemnly
winked at the three.

       *       *       *       *       *

A moment later Angèle was speeding along the shore towards her home
on the farther hill-side up the little glen; and within an hour
Buonespoir rolled from the dusk of the trees by the manor-house of
Rozel and knocked at the door. He carried on his head, as a fishwife
carries a tray of ormers, a basket full of flagons of muscadella; and
he did not lower the basket when he was shown into the room where the
Seigneur of Rozel was sitting before a trencher of spiced veal and a
great pot of ale. Lemprière roared a hearty greeting to the pirate,
for he was in a sour humor because of the taking-off of Michel de la
Forêt; and of all men this pirate-fellow, who had quips and cranks,
and had played tricks on his cousin of St. Ouen’s, was most welcome.

“What’s that on your teacup of a head?” he roared again, as
Buonespoir grinned pleasure at the greeting.

“Muscadella,” said Buonespoir, and lowered the basket to the table.

Lemprière seized a flagon, drew it forth, looked closely at it, then
burst into laughter, and spluttered, “St. Ouen’s muscadella, by the
hand of Rufus!”

Seizing Buonespoir by the shoulders, he forced him down upon a bench
at the table, and pushed the trencher of spiced meat against his
chest. “Eat, my noble lord of the sea and master of the cellar!” he
gurgled out, and, tipping the flagon of muscadella, took a long
draught. “God-a-mercy--but it has saved my life,” he gasped in
satisfaction as he lay back in his great chair and put his feet on
the bench whereon Buonespoir sat.

They raised their flagons and toasted each other, and Lemprière burst
forth into song, in the refrain of which Buonespoir joined
boisterously:

    “King Rufus he did hunt the deer,
      With a hey ho, come and kiss me, Dolly!
    It was the spring-time of the year,
      Hey ho, Dolly shut her eyes!
    King Rufus was a bully boy,
    He hunted all the day for joy,
    Sweet Dolly she was ever coy:
      And who would e’er be wise
      That looked in Dolly’s eyes?

    “King Rufus he did have his day,
      With a hey ho, come and kiss me, Dolly!
    So get ye forth where dun deer play--
      Hey ho, Dolly comes again!
    The greenwood is the place for me,
    For that is where the dun deer be,
    ’Tis where my Dolly comes to me:
      And who would stay at home,
      That might with Dolly roam?
    Sing hey ho, come and kiss me, Dolly!”

Lemprière, perspiring with the exertion, mopped his forehead, then
lapsed into a plaintive mood.

“I’ve had naught but trouble of late,” he wheezed. “Trouble! trouble!
trouble! like gnats on a filly’s flank!” and in spluttering words,
twice bracketed in muscadella, he told of Michel de la Forêt’s
arrest, and of his purpose to go to England if he could get a boat to
take him.

“’Tis that same business brings me here,” said Buonespoir, and
forthwith told of his meeting with Angèle and what was then agreed
upon.

“You to go to England!” cried Lemprière, amazed. “They want you for
Tyburn there.”

“They want me for the gallows here,” said Buonespoir. Rolling a
piece of spiced meat in his hand, he stuffed it into his mouth and
chewed till the grease came out of his eyes, and took eagerly from a
servant a flagon of malmsey and a dish of ormers.

“Hush! chew thy tongue a minute,” said the seigneur, suddenly
starting and laying a finger beside his nose. “Hush!” he said, again,
and looked into the flicker of the candle by him with half-shut eyes.

“May I have no rushes for a bed, and die like a rat in a moat, if I
don’t get thy pardon, too, of the Queen, and bring thee back to
Jersey, a thorn in the side of De Carteret forever! He’ll look upon
thee assoilzied by the Queen, spitting fire in his rage, and no
canary or muscadella in his cellar.”

It came not to the mind of either that this expedition would be made
at cost to themselves. They had not heard of Don Quixote, and their
gifts were not imitative. They were of a day when men held their
lives as lightly as many men hold their honor now, when championship
was as the breath of life to men’s nostrils, and to adventure for
what was worth having or doing in life the only road of reputation.

Buonespoir was as much a champion in his ways as Lemprière of Rozel.
They were of like kidney, though so far apart in rank. Had Lemprière
been born as low and as poor as Buonespoir, he would have been a
pirate, too, no doubt; and had Buonespoir been born as high as the
seigneur, he would have carried himself with the same rough sense of
honor, with as ripe a vanity, have been as naïve, as sincere, as true
to the real heart of man untaught in the dissimulation of modesty or
reserve. When they shook hands across the trencher of spiced veal, it
was as man shakes hand with man, not man with master.

They were about to start upon their journey when there came a
knocking at the door. On its being opened the bald and toothless
Abednego stumbled in with the word that immediately after Angèle and
her father came aboard the _Honeyflower_ some fifty halberdiers
suddenly appeared upon the Couperon. They had at once set sail, and
got away even before the sailors had reached the shore. As they had
rounded the point, where they were hid from view, Abednego dropped
overboard and swam ashore on the rising tide, making his way to the
manor to warn Buonespoir. On his way hither, stealing through the
trees, he had passed a half-score of halberdiers making for the
manor, and he had seen others going towards the shore.

Buonespoir looked to the priming of his pistols, and, buckling his
belt tightly about him, turned to the seigneur and said: “I will take
my chances with Abednego. Where does she lie--the _Honeyflower_,
Abednego?”

“Off the point called Verclut,” answered the little man, who had
travelled with Francis Drake.

“Good; we will make a run for it, flying dot-and-carry-one as we go.”

While they had been speaking the seigneur had been thinking; and now,
even as several figures appeared at a little distance in the trees,
making towards the manor, he said, with a loud laugh:

[Illustration: “BUONESPOIR LOOKED TO THE PRIMING OF HIS PISTOLS”]

“No. ’Tis the way of a fool to put his head between the door and the
jamb. ’Tis but a hundred yards to safety. Follow me--to the
sea--Abednego last. This way, bullies!”

Without a word all three left the house and walked on in the order
indicated, as De Carteret’s halberdiers ran forward threatening.

“Stand!” shouted the sergeant of the halberdiers. “Stand, or we
fire!”

But the three walked straight on unheeding. When the sergeant of the
men-at-arms recognized the seigneur he ordered down the
blunderbusses.

“We come for Buonespoir the pirate,” said the sergeant.

“Whose warrant?” said the seigneur, fronting the halberdiers,
Buonespoir and Abednego behind him.

“The Seigneur of St. Ouen’s,” was the reply.

“My compliments to the Seigneur of St. Ouen’s, and tell him that
Buonespoir is my guest,” he bellowed, and strode on, the halberdiers
following. Suddenly the seigneur swerved towards the chapel and
quickened his footsteps, the others but a step behind. The sergeant
of the halberdiers was in a quandary. He longed to shoot, but dared
not, and while he was making up his mind what to do the seigneur had
reached the chapel door. Opening it, he quickly pushed Buonespoir and
Abednego inside, whispering to them, then slammed the door and put
his back against it.

There was another moment’s hesitation on the sergeant’s part, then a
door at the other end of the chapel was heard to open and shut, and
the seigneur laughed loudly. The halberdiers ran round the chapel.
There stood Buonespoir and Abednego in a narrow road-way, motionless
and unconcerned. The halberdiers rushed forward.

“Perquage! Perquage! Perquage!” shouted Buonespoir, and the bright
moonlight showed him grinning.

For an instant there was deadly stillness, in which the approaching
footsteps of the seigneur sounded loud.

“Perquage!” Buonespoir repeated.

“Perquage! Fall back!” said the seigneur, and waved off the pikes of
the halberdiers. “He has sanctuary to the sea.”

This narrow road in which the pirates stood was the last of three in
the Isle of Jersey, running from churches to the sea, in which a
criminal was safe from arrest by virtue of an old statute. The other
_perquages_ had been taken away, but this one of Rozel remained, a
concession made by Henry VIII. to the father of this Raoul Lemprière.
The privilege had been used but once in the present seigneur’s day,
because the criminal must be put upon the road from the chapel by the
seigneur himself, and he had used his privilege modestly.

No man in Jersey but knew the sacredness of this _perquage_, though
it was ten years since it had been used; and no man, not even the
governor himself, dare lift his hand to one upon that road.

So it was that Buonespoir and Abednego, two fugitives from justice,
walked quietly to the sea down the _perquage_, halberdiers, balked
of their prey, prowling on their steps and cursing the Seigneur of
Rozel for his gift of sanctuary--for the Seigneur of St. Ouen’s and
the royal court had promised each halberdier three shillings and all
the ale he could drink at a sitting if Buonespoir was brought in
alive or dead.

In peace and safety the three boarded the _Honeyflower_ off the point
called Verclut, and set sail for England, just seven hours after
Michel de la Forêt had gone his way upon the Channel, a prisoner.



VII


A fortnight later, of a Sunday morning, the Lord Chamberlain of
England was disturbed out of his usual equanimity. As he was treading
the rushes in the presence-chamber of the royal palace at Greenwich,
his eye busy in inspection--for the Queen would soon pass on her way
to chapel--his head nodding right and left to archbishop, bishop,
councillors of state, courtiers, and officers of the crown, he heard
a rude noise at the door leading into the antechapel, where the Queen
received petitions from the people. Hurrying thither in shocked
anxiety, he found a curled gentleman of the guard, resplendent in red
velvet and gold chains, in peevish argument with a boisterous
seigneur of a bronzed, good-humored face, who urged his entrance to
the presence-chamber.

The Lord Chamberlain swept down upon the pair like a flamingo with
wings outspread. “God’s death! what means this turmoil? Her Majesty
comes hither!” he cried, and scowled upon the intruder, who now
stepped back a little, treading on the toes of a huge sailor with a
small head and bushy red hair and beard.

“Because her Majesty comes I come also,” the seigneur interposed,
grandly.

“What is your name and quality?”

“Yours first, and I shall know how to answer.”

“I am the Lord Chamberlain of England.”

“And I, my lord, am Lemprière, Seigneur of Rozel--and butler to the
Queen.”

“Where is Rozel?” asked my Lord Chamberlain.

The face of the seigneur suddenly flushed, his mouth swelled, and
then burst.

“_Where is Rozel!_” he cried, in a voice of rage. “Where is Rozel!
Have you heard of Hugh Pawlett?” he asked, with a huge contempt--“of
Governor Hugh Pawlett?” The Lord Chamberlain nodded. “Then ask his
Excellency when next you see him, Where is Rozel? But take good
counsel and keep your ignorance from the Queen,” he added. “She has
no love for stupids.”

“You say you are butler to the Queen? Whence came your commission?”
said the Lord Chamberlain, smiling now; for Lemprière’s words and
ways were of some simple world where odd folk lived, and his boyish
vanity disarmed anger.

“By royal warrant and heritage. And of all of the Jersey Isle, I only
may have dove-cotes, which is the everlasting thorn in the side of De
Carteret of St. Ouen’s. Now will you let me in, my lord?” he said,
all in a breath.

At a stir behind him the Lord Chamberlain turned, and with a
horrified exclamation hurried away, for the procession from the
Queen’s apartments had already entered the presence-chamber:
gentlemen, barons, earls, knights of the garter, in brave attire,
with bare heads and sumptuous calves. The Lord Chamberlain had
scarce got to his place when the Chancellor, bearing the seals in a
red silk purse, entered, flanked by two gorgeous folk with the royal
sceptre and the sword of state in a red scabbard, all flourished with
fleurs-de-lis. Moving in and out among them all was the Queen’s fool,
who jested and shook his bells under the noses of the highest.

It was an event of which the Seigneur of Rozel told to his dying day:
that he entered the presence-chamber of the royal palace of Greenwich
at the same instant as the Queen--“Rozel at one end, Elizabeth at the
other, and all the world at gaze,” he was wont to say, with loud
guffaws. But what he spoke of afterwards with preposterous ease and
pride was neither pride nor ease at the moment; for the Queen’s eyes
fell on him as he shoved past the gentlemen who kept the door. For an
instant she stood still, regarding him intently, then turned quickly
to the Lord Chamberlain in inquiry, and with a sharp reproof, too, in
her look. The Lord Chamberlain fell on his knee, and with low,
uncertain voice explained the incident.

Elizabeth again cast her eyes towards Lemprière, and the court,
following her example, scrutinized the seigneur in varied styles of
insolence or curiosity. Lemprière drew himself up with a slashing
attempt at composure, but ended by flaming from head to foot, his
face shining like a cock’s comb, the perspiration standing out like
beads upon his forehead, his eyes gone blind with confusion. That was
but for a moment, however, and then, Elizabeth’s look being slowly
withdrawn from him, a curious smile came to her lips, and she said to
the Lord Chamberlain, “Let the gentleman remain.”

The Queen’s fool tripped forward and tapped the Lord Chamberlain on
the shoulder. “Let the gentleman remain, gossip, and see you that
remaining he goeth not like a fly with his feet in the porridge.”
With a flippant step before the seigneur, he shook his bells at him.
“Thou shalt stay, Nuncio, and, staying, speak the truth. So doing,
you shall be as noted as a comet with three tails. You shall
prove that man was made in God’s image. So lift thy head and
sneeze--sneezing is the fashion here; but see that thou sneeze not
thy head off as they do in Tartary. ’Tis worth remembrance.”

Rozel’s self-importance and pride had returned. The blood came back
to his heart, and he threw out his chest grandly; he even turned to
Buonespoir, whose great figure might be seen beyond the door, and
winked at him. For a moment he had time to note the doings of the
Queen and her courtiers with wide-eyed curiosity. He saw the Earl of
Leicester, exquisite, haughty, gallant, fall upon his knee, and
Elizabeth slowly pull off her glove and with a none too gracious look
give him her hand to kiss, the only favor of the kind granted that
day. He saw Cecil, her minister, introduce a foreign noble, who
presented his letters. He heard the Queen speak in a half-dozen
different languages, to people of various lands, and was smitten with
due amazement.

But as Elizabeth came slowly down the hall, her white silk gown
fronted with great pearls flashing back the light, a marchioness
bearing the train, the crown on her head glittering as she turned
from right to left, her wonderful collar of jewels sparkling on her
uncovered bosom, suddenly the mantle of black, silver-shotted silk
upon her shoulders became to Lemprière’s heated senses a judge’s
robe, and Elizabeth the august judge of the world. His eyes blinded
again, for it was as if she were bearing down upon him. Certainly she
was looking at him now, scarce heeding the courtiers who fell to
their knees on either side as she came on. The red doublets of the
fifty Gentlemen Pensioners--all men of noble families proud to do
this humble yet distinguished service--with battle-axes, on either
side of her, seemed to Lemprière on the instant like an army with
banners threatening him. From the antechapel behind him came the cry
of the faithful subjects who, as the gentlemen-at-arms fell back from
the doorway, had but just caught a glimpse of her Majesty--“Long live
Elizabeth!”

It seemed to Lemprière that the Gentlemen Pensioners must beat him
down as they passed, yet he stood riveted to the spot. And, indeed,
it was true that he was almost in the path of her Majesty. He was
aware that two gentlemen touched him on the shoulder and bade him
retire; but the Queen motioned to them to desist. So, with the eyes
of the whole court on him again, and Elizabeth’s calm, curious gaze
fixed, as it were, on his forehead, he stood still till the flaming
Gentlemen Pensioners were within a few feet of him and the
battle-axes were almost over his head.

The great braggart was no better now than a wisp of grass in the
wind, and it was more than homage that bent him to his knees as the
Queen looked him full in the eyes. There was a moment’s absolute
silence, and then she said, with cold condescension:

“By what privilege do you seek our presence?”

“I am Raoul Lemprière, Seigneur of Rozel, your high Majesty,” said
the choking voice of the Jerseyman.

The Queen raised her eyebrows. “The man seems French. You come from
France?”

Lemprière flushed to his hair--the Queen did not know him, then!
“From Jersey Isle, your sacred Majesty.”

“Jersey Isle is dear to us. And what is your warrant here?”

“I am butler to your Majesty, by your gracious Majesty’s patent, and
I alone may have dove-cotes in the isle; and I only may have the
perquage--on your Majesty’s patent. It is not even held by De
Carteret of St. Ouen’s.”

The Queen smiled as she had not smiled since she entered the
presence-chamber. “God preserve us,” she said, “that I should not
have recognized you! It is, of course, our faithful Lemprière of
Rozel.”

The blood came back to the seigneur’s heart, but he did not dare look
up yet, and he did not see that Elizabeth was in rare mirth at his
words; and though she had no ken or memory of him, she read his
nature and was mindful to humor him. Beckoning Leicester to her side,
she said a few words in an undertone, to which he replied with a
smile more sour than sweet.

“Rise, Monsieur of Rozel,” she said.

The seigneur stood up, and met her gaze faintly.

“And so, proud seigneur, you must needs flout e’en our Lord
Chamberlain, in the name of our butler with three dove-cotes and the
perquage. In sooth thy office must not be set at naught lightly--not
when it is flanked by the perquage. By my father’s doublet, but that
frieze jerkin is well cut; it suits thy figure well--I would that my
Lord Leicester here had such a tailor. But this perquage--I doubt not
there are those here at court who are most ignorant of its force and
moment. My Lord Chamberlain, my Lord Leicester, Cecil here--confusion
sits in their faces. The perquage, which my father’s patent approved,
has served us well, I doubt not, is a comfort to our realm and a
dignity befitting the wearer of that frieze jerkin. Speak to their
better understanding, Monsieur of Rozel.”

“Speak, Nuncio, and you shall have comforts, and be given in
marriage, multiple or singular, even as I,” said the fool, and
touched him on the breast with his bells.

Lemprière had recovered his heart, and now was set full sail in the
course he had charted for himself in Jersey. In large words and
larger manner he explained most innocently the sacred privilege of
_perquage_.

“And how often have you used the right, friend?” asked Elizabeth.

“But once in ten years, your noble Majesty.”

“When last?”

“But yesterday a week, your universal Majesty.”

Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. “Who was the criminal, what the
occasion?”

“The criminal was one Buonespoir, the occasion our coming hither to
wait upon the Queen of England and our Lady of Normandy, for such is
your well-born Majesty to your loyal Jersiais.” And thereupon he
plunged into an impeachment of De Carteret of St. Ouen’s, and
stumbled through a blunt, broken story of the wrongs and the sorrows
of Michel and Angèle and the doings of Buonespoir in their behalf.

Elizabeth frowned and interrupted him. “I have heard of this
Buonespoir, monsieur, through others than the Seigneur of St.
Ouen’s. He is an unlikely squire of dames. There’s a hill in my
kingdom has long bided his coming. Where waits the rascal now?”

“In the antechapel, your Majesty.”

“By the rood!” said Elizabeth, in sudden amazement. “In my
antechapel, forsooth!”

She looked beyond the doorway and saw the great, red-topped figure of
Buonespoir, his good-natured, fearless face, his shock of hair, his
clear blue eye--he was not thirty feet away.

“He comes to crave pardon for his rank offences, your benignant
Majesty,” said Lemprière.

The humor of the thing rushed upon the Queen. Never before were two
such naïve folk at court. There was not a hair of duplicity in the
heads of the two, and she judged them well in her mind.

“I will see you stand together--you and your henchman,” she said to
Rozel, and moved on to the antechapel, the court following. Standing
still just inside the doorway, she motioned Buonespoir to come near.
The pirate, unconfused, undismayed, with his wide, blue, asking eyes,
came forward and dropped upon his knees. Elizabeth motioned Lemprière
to stand a little apart.

Thereupon she set a few questions to Buonespoir, whose replies,
truthfully given, showed that he had no real estimate of his crimes,
and was indifferent to what might be their penalties. He had no moral
sense on the one hand, on the other, no fear.

Suddenly she turned to Lemprière again. “You came, then, to speak for
this Michel de la Forêt, the exile--?”

“And for the demoiselle Angèle Aubert, who loves him, your Majesty.”

“I sent for this gentleman exile a fortnight ago--” She turned
towards Leicester inquiringly.

“I have the papers here, your Majesty,” said Leicester, and gave a
packet over.

“And where have you De la Forêt?” said Elizabeth.

“In durance, your Majesty.”

“When came he hither?”

“Three days gone,” answered Leicester, a little gloomily, for there
was acerbity in Elizabeth’s voice.

Elizabeth seemed about to speak, then dropped her eyes upon the
papers and glanced hastily at their contents.

“You will have this Michel de la Forêt brought to my presence as fast
as horse can bring him, my lord,” she said to Leicester. “This rascal
of the sea--Buonespoir--you will have safe bestowed till I recall his
existence again,” she said to a captain of men-at-arms; “and you,
Monsieur of Rozel, since you are my butler, will get you to my
diningroom and do your duty--the office is not all perquisites,” she
added, smoothly. She was about to move on when a thought seemed to
strike her, and she added, “This mademoiselle and her father whom you
brought hither--where are they?”

“They are even within the palace grounds, your imperial Majesty,”
answered Lemprière.

“You will summon them when I bid you,” she said to the seigneur; “and
you shall see that they have comforts and housing as befits their
station,” she added to the Lord Chamberlain.

So did Elizabeth, out of a whimsical humor, set the highest in the
land to attend upon unknown, unconsidered exiles.



VIII


Five minutes later Lemprière of Rozel, as butler to the Queen, saw a
sight of which he told to his dying day. When, after varied troubles
hereafter set down, he went back to Jersey, he made a speech before
the royal court, in which he told what chanced while Elizabeth was at
chapel.

“There stood I, butler to the Queen,” he said, with a large gesture,
“but what knew I of butler’s duties at Greenwich Palace! Her Majesty
had given me an office where all the work was done for me. Odd’s
life! but when I saw the Gentleman of the Rod and his fellow get down
on their knees to lay the cloth upon the table, as though it was an
altar at Jerusalem, I thought it time to say my prayers. There was
naught but kneeling and retiring. Now it was the saltcellar, the
plate, and the bread; then it was a Duke’s Daughter--a noble soul as
ever lived--with a tasting-knife, as beautiful as a rose; then
another lady enters who glares at me, and gets to her knees as does
the other. Three times up and down, and then one rubs the plate with
bread and salt, as solemn as St. Ouen’s when he says prayers in the
royal court. Gentles, that was a day for Jersey. For there stood I as
master of all, the Queen’s butler, and the greatest ladies of the
land doing my will--though it was all Persian mystery to me, save
when the kettle-drums began to beat and the trumpet to blow, and in
walked bareheaded the yeomen of the guard, all scarlet, with a golden
rose on their backs, bringing in a course of twenty-four gold dishes,
and I, as Queen’s butler, receiving them.

“Then it was I opened my mouth, amazed at the endless dishes filled
with niceties of earth, and the Duke’s Daughter pops onto my tongue a
mouthful of the first dish brought, and then does the same to every
yeoman of the guard that carried a dish--that her notorious Majesty
be safe against the hand of poisoners. There was I, fed by a Duke’s
Daughter; and thus was Jersey honored; and the Duke’s Daughter
whispers to me, as a dozen other unmarried ladies enter, ‘The Queen
liked not the cut of your frieze jerkin better than do I, seigneur.’
With that she joins the others, and they all kneel down and rise up
again, and, lifting the meat from the table, bear it into the Queen’s
private chamber.

“When they return, and the yeomen of the guard go forth, I am left
alone with these ladies, and there I stand with twelve pairs of eyes
upon me, little knowing what to do. There was laughter in the faces
of some, and looks less taking in the eyes of others; for my Lord
Leicester was to have done the duty I was set to do that day, and he
the greatest gallant of the kingdom, as all the world knows. What
they said among themselves I know not, but I heard Leicester’s name,
and I guessed that they were mostly in the pay of his soft words.
But the Duke’s Daughter was on my side, as was proved betimes when
Leicester made trouble for us who went from Jersey to plead the cause
of injured folk. Of the earl’s enmity to me--a foolish spite of a
great nobleman against a Norman-Jersey gentleman--and of how it
injured others for the moment, you all know; but we had him by the
heels before the end of it, great earl and favorite as he was.”

In the same speech Lemprière told of his audience with the Queen,
even as she sat at dinner, and of what she said to him; but since his
words give but a partial picture of events, the relation must not be
his.

When the Queen returned from chapel to her apartments, Lemprière was
called by an attendant, and he stood behind the Queen’s chair until
she summoned him to face her. Then, having finished her meal and
dipped her fingers in a bowl of rose-water, she took up the papers
Leicester had given her--the Duke’s Daughter had read them aloud as
she ate--and said:

“Now, my good Seigneur of Rozel, answer me these few questions:
First, what concern is it of yours whether this Michel de la Forêt be
sent back to France or die here in England?”

“I helped to save his life at sea--one good turn deserves another,
your high-born Majesty.”

The Queen looked sharply at him, then burst out laughing.

“God’s life, but here’s a bull making epigrams!” she said. Then her
humor changed. “See you, my butler of Rozel, you shall speak the
truth, or I’ll have you where that jerkin will fit you not so well a
month hence. Plain answers I will have to plain questions, or De
Carteret of St. Ouen’s shall have his will of you and your precious
pirate. So bear yourself as you would save your head and your
honors.”

Lemprière of Rozel never had a better moment than when he met the
Queen of England’s threats with faultless intrepidity. “I am
concerned about my head, but more about my honors, and most about my
honor,” he replied. “My head is my own, my honors are my family’s,
for which I would give my head when needed, and my honor defends both
until both are naught--and all are in the service of my Queen.”

Smiling, Elizabeth suddenly leaned forward, and, with a glance of
satisfaction towards the Duke’s Daughter, who was present, said:

“I had not thought to find so much logic behind your rampant skull,”
she said. “You’ve spoken well, Rozel, and you shall speak by the book
to the end, if you will save your friends. What concern is it of
yours whether Michel de la Forêt live or die?”

“It is a concern of one whom I’ve sworn to befriend, and that is my
concern, your ineffable Majesty.”

“Who the friend?”

“Mademoiselle Aubert.”

“The betrothed of this Michel de la Forêt?”

“Even so, your exalted Majesty. But I made sure De la Forêt was dead
when I asked her to be my wife.”

“Lord! Lord! Lord! hear this vast infant, this hulking baby of a
seigneur, this primeval innocence! Listen to him, cousin,” said the
Queen, turning again to the Duke’s Daughter. “Was ever the like of it
in any kingdom of this earth? He chooses a penniless exile--he, a
butler to the Queen, with three dove-cotes and the perquage--and a
Huguenot withal. He is refused; then comes the absent lover oversea,
to shipwreck; and our seigneur rescues him, ‘fends him; and when yon
master exile is in peril, defies his Queen’s commands”--she tapped
the papers lying beside her on the table--“then comes to England with
the lady to plead the case before his outraged sovereign, with an
outlawed buccaneer for comrade and lieutenant. There is the case,
is’t not?”

“I swore to be her friend,” answered Lemprière, stubbornly, “and I
have done according to my word.”

“There’s not another nobleman in my kingdom who would not have
thought twice about the matter, with the lady aboard his ship on the
high seas--’tis a miraculous chivalry, cousin,” she added to the
Duke’s Daughter, who bowed, settled herself again on her velvet
cushion, and looked out of the corner of her eyes at Lemprière.

“You opposed Sir Hugh Pawlett’s officers who went to arrest this De
la Forêt,” continued Elizabeth. “Call you that serving your Queen?
Pawlett had our commands.”

“I opposed them but in form, that the matter might the more surely be
brought to your Majesty’s knowledge.”

“It might easily have brought you to the Tower, man.”

“I had faith that your Majesty would do right in this, as in all
else. So I came hither to tell the whole story to your judicial
Majesty.”

“Our thanks for your certificate of character,” said the Queen, with
amused irony. “What is your wish? Make your words few and plain.”

“I desire before all that Michel de la Forêt shall not be returned to
the Medici, most radiant Majesty.”

“That’s plain. But there are weighty matters ’twixt France and
England, and De la Forêt may turn the scale one way or another. What
follows, beggar of Rozel?”

“That Mademoiselle Aubert and her father may live without let or
hindrance in Jersey.”

“That you may eat sour grapes ad eternam? Next?”

“That Buonespoir be pardoned all offences and let live in Jersey on
pledge that he sin no more, not even to raid St. Ouen’s cellars of
the muscadella reserved for your generous Majesty.”

There was such humor in Lemprière’s look as he spoke of the
muscadella that the Queen questioned him closely upon Buonespoir’s
raid; and so infectious was his mirth as he told the tale that
Elizabeth, though she stamped her foot in assumed impatience, smiled
also.

“You shall have your Buonespoir, seigneur,” she said; “but for his
future you shall answer as well as he.”

“For what he does in Jersey Isle, your commiserate Majesty?”

“For crime elsewhere, if he be caught, he shall march to Tyburn,
friend,” she answered. Then she hurriedly added: “Straightway go and
bring mademoiselle and her father hither. Orders are given for their
disposal. And to-morrow at this hour you shall wait upon me in their
company. I thank you for your services as butler this day, Monsieur
of Rozel. You do your office rarely.”

       *       *       *       *       *

As the seigneur left Elizabeth’s apartments he met the Earl of
Leicester hurrying thither, preceded by the Queen’s messenger.
Leicester stopped and said, with a slow, malicious smile, “Farming is
good, then--you have fine crops this year on your holding?”

The point escaped Lemprière at first, for the favorite’s look was all
innocence, and he replied: “You are mistook, my lord. You will
remember I was in the presence-chamber an hour ago, my lord. I am
Lemprière, Seigneur of Rozel, butler to her Majesty.”

“But are you, then? I thought you were a farmer and raised cabbages.”
And, smiling, Leicester passed on.

For a moment the seigneur stood pondering the earl’s words and
angrily wondering at his obtuseness. Then suddenly he knew he had
been mocked, and he turned and ran after his enemy; but Leicester had
vanished into the Queen’s apartments.

The Queen’s fool was standing near, seemingly engaged in the light
occupation of catching imaginary flies, buzzing with his motions. As
Leicester disappeared he looked from under his arm at Lemprière. “If
a bird will not stop for the salt to its tail, then the salt is
damned, Nuncio; and you must cry _David!_ and get thee to the
quarry.”

Lemprière stared at him swelling with rage; but the quaint smiling of
the fool conquered him, and, instead of turning on his heel, he
spread himself like a Colossus and looked down in grandeur. “And
wherefore cry _David!_ and get quarrying?” he asked. “Come, what
sense is there in thy words when I am wroth with yonder nobleman?”

“Oh, Nuncio, Nuncio, thou art a child of innocence and without
history. The salt held not the bird for the net of thy anger,
Nuncio; so it is meet that other ways be found. David the ancient put
a stone in a sling, and Goliath laid him down like an egg in a
nest--therefore, Nuncio, get thee to the quarry. Obligato, which is
to say Leicester yonder, hath no tail--the devil cut it off and wears
it himself. So let salt be damned, and go sling thy stone!”

Lemprière was good-humored again. He fumbled in his purse and brought
forth a gold-piece. “Fool, thou hast spoken like a man born sensible
and infinite. I understand thee like a book. Thou hast not folly, and
thou shall not be answered as if thou wast a fool. But in terms of
gold shalt thou have reply.” He put the gold-piece in the fool’s hand
and slapped him on the shoulder.

“Why now, Nuncio,” answered the other, “it is clear that there is a
fool at court, for is it not written that a fool and his money are
soon parted? And this gold-piece is still hot with running ‘tween
thee and me.”

Lemprière roared. “Why, then, for thy hit thou shalt have another
gold-piece, gossip. But see”--his voice lowered--“know you where is
my friend, Buonespoir the pirate? Know you where he is in durance?”

“As I know marrow in a bone I know where he hides, Nuncio; so come
with me,” answered the fool.

“If De Carteret had but thy sense we could live at peace in Jersey,”
rejoined Lemprière, and strode ponderously after the light-footed
fool, who capered forth, singing:

    “Come hither, O come hither,
      There’s a bride upon her bed;
    They have strewn her o’er with roses,
      There are roses ’neath her head:
    Life is love and tears and laughter,
      But the laughter it is dead--
    Sing the way to the valley, to the valley!--
      Hey, but the roses they are red!”



IX


The next day at noon, as her Majesty had advised the seigneur, De la
Forêt was ushered into the presence. The Queen’s eye quickened as she
saw him, and she remarked with secret pleasure the figure and bearing
of this young captain of the Huguenots. She loved physical grace and
prowess with a full heart. The day had almost passed when she would
measure all men against Leicester in his favor; and he, knowing this
clearly now, saw with haughty anxiety the gradual passing of his
power, and clutched futilely at the vanishing substance. Thus it was
that he now spent his strength in getting his way with the Queen in
little things. She had been so long used to take his counsel--in some
part wise and skilful that when she at length did without it or
followed her own mind, it became a fever with him to let no chance
pass for serving his own will by persuading her out of hers. This
was why he had spent an hour the day before in sadly yet
vaguely reproaching her for the slight she put upon him in the
presence-chamber by her frown, and another in urging her to come to
terms with Catherine dé Medici in this small affair--since the
Frenchwoman had set her revengeful heart upon it--that larger matters
might be settled to the gain of England. It was not so much that he
had reason to destroy De la Forêt as that he saw that the Queen was
disposed to deal friendly by him and protect him. He did not see the
danger of rousing in the Queen the same unreasoning tenaciousness of
will upon just such lesser things as might well be left to her
advisers. In spite of which he almost succeeded, this very day, in
regaining, for a time at least, the ground he had lost with her. He
had never been so adroit, so brilliant, so witty, so insinuating; and
he left her with the feeling that if he had his way concerning De la
Forêt--a mere stubborn whim, with no fair reason behind it--his
influence would be again securely set. The sense of crisis was on
him.

On Michel de la Forêt entering the presence the Queen’s attention had
become riveted. She felt in him a spirit of mastery yet of unselfish
purpose. Here was one, she thought, who might well be in her
household or leading a regiment of her troops. The clear, fresh face,
curling hair, direct look, quiet energy, and air of nobility--this
sort of man could only be begotten of a great cause; he were not
possible in idle or prosperous times.

Elizabeth looked him up and down, then affected surprise. “Monsieur
de la Forêt,” she said, “I do not recognize you in this
attire”--glancing towards his dress.

De la Forêt bowed, and Elizabeth continued, looking at a paper in her
hand: “You landed on our shores of Jersey in the robes of a priest of
France. The passport for a priest of France was found upon your
person when our officers in Jersey made search of you. Which is
yourself--Michel de la Forêt, soldier, or a priest of France?”

De la Forêt replied, gravely, that he was a soldier and that the
priestly dress had been but a disguise.

“In which papist attire, methinks, Michel de la Forêt, soldier and
Huguenot, must have been ill at ease--the eagle with the vulture’s
wing. What say you, monsieur?”

“That vulture’s wing hath carried me to a safe dove-cote, your
gracious Majesty,” he answered, with a low obeisance.

“I’m none so sure of that, monsieur,” was Elizabeth’s answer, and she
glanced quizzically at Leicester, who made a gesture of annoyance.
“Our cousin, France, makes you to us a dark intriguer and
conspirator, a dangerous weed in our good garden of England, a
‘troublous, treacherous violence’--such are you called, monsieur.”

“I am in your high Majesty’s power,” he answered, “to do with me as
it seemeth best. If your Majesty wills it that I be returned to
France, I pray you set me upon its coast as I came from it, a
fugitive. Thence will I try to find my way to the army and the poor,
stricken people of whom I was. I pray for that only, and not to be
given to the red hand of the Medici.”

“Red hand--by my faith, but you are bold, monsieur!”

Leicester tapped his foot upon the floor impatiently, then caught the
Queen’s eye and gave her a meaning look.

De la Forêt saw the look and knew his enemy, but he did not quail.
“Bold only by your high Majesty’s faith, indeed,” he answered the
Queen, with harmless guile.

Elizabeth smiled. She loved such nattering speech from a strong man.
It touched a chord in her deeper than that under Leicester’s finger.
Leicester’s impatience only made her more self-willed on the instant.

“You speak with the trumpet note, monsieur,” she said to De la Forêt.
“We will prove you. You shall have a company in my Lord Leicester’s
army here, and we will send you upon some service worthy of your
fame.”

“I crave your Majesty’s pardon, but I cannot do it,” was De la
Forêt’s instant reply. “I have sworn that I will lift my sword in
one cause only, and to that I must stand. And more--the widow of my
dead chief, Gabriel de Montgomery, is set down in this land
unsheltered and alone. I have sworn to one who loves her, and for my
dead chief’s sake, that I will serve her and be near her until better
days be come and she may return in quietness to France. In exile we
few stricken folk must stand together, your august Majesty.”

Elizabeth’s eye flashed up. She was impatient of refusal of her
favor. She was also a woman, and that De la Forêt should flaunt his
devotion to another woman was little to her liking. The woman in her,
which had never been blessed with a noble love, was roused. The
sourness of a childless, uncompanionable life was stronger for the
moment than her strong mind and sense.

“Monsieur has sworn this, and monsieur has sworn that,” she said,
petulantly--“and to one who loveth a lady, and for a cause--tut! tut!
tut!--”

Suddenly a kind of intriguing laugh leaped into her eye, and she
turned to Leicester and whispered in his ear. Leicester frowned, then
smiled, and glanced up and down De la Forêt’s figure impertinently.

“See, Monsieur de la Forêt,” she added, “since you will not fight,
you shall preach. A priest you came into my kingdom, and a priest you
shall remain; but you shall preach good English doctrine and no
Popish folly.”

De la Forêt started, then composed himself, and before he had time to
reply Elizabeth continued:

“Partly for your own sake am I thus gracious, for as a preacher of
the Word I have not need to give you up, according to agreement with
our brother of France. As a rebel and conspirator I were bound to do
so, unless you were an officer of my army. The Seigneur of Rozel has
spoken for you, and the Comtesse de Montgomery has written a pleading
letter. Also I have from another source a tearful prayer--the ink is
scare dry upon it--which has been of service to you. But I myself
have chosen this way of escape for you. Prove yourself worthy and
all may be well--but prove yourself you shall. You have prepared your
own brine, monsieur; in it you shall pickle.”

She smiled a sour smile, for she was piqued, and added: “Do you think
I will have you here squiring of distressed dames save as a priest?
You shall hence to Madame of Montgomery as her faithful chaplain,
once I have heard you preach and know your doctrine.”

Leicester almost laughed outright in the young man’s face now, for he
had no thought that De la Forêt would accept, and refusal meant the
exile’s doom.

It seemed fantastic that this noble gentleman, this very type of the
perfect soldier, with the brown face of a Romany and an athletic
valor of body, should become a preacher even in necessity.

Elizabeth, seeing De la Forêt’s dumb amazement and anxiety, spoke up
sharply: “Do this, or get you hence to the Medici, and Madame of
Montgomery shall mourn her protector, and mademoiselle, your mistress
of the vermilion cheek, shall have one lover the less, which,
methinks, our Seigneur of Rozel would thank me for.”

De la Forêt started, his lips pressed firmly together in effort of
restraint. There seemed little the Queen did not know concerning him,
and reference to Angèle roused him to sharp solicitude.

“Well, well?” asked Elizabeth, impatiently, then made a motion to
Leicester, and he, going to the door, bade some one to enter.

There stepped inside the Seigneur of Rozel, who made a lumbering
obeisance, then got to his knees before the Queen.

“You have brought the lady safely--with her father?” she asked.

Lemprière, puzzled, looked inquiringly at the Queen, then replied,
“Both are safe without, your infinite Majesty.”

De la Forêt’s face grew pale. He knew now for the first time that
Angèle and her father were in England, and he looked Lemprière
suspiciously in the eyes; but the swaggering seigneur met his look
frankly, and bowed with ponderous and genial gravity.

Now De la Forêt spoke. “Your high Majesty,” said he, “if I may ask
Mademoiselle Aubert one question in your presence--”

“Your answer now; the lady in due season,” interposed the Queen.

“She was betrothed to a soldier, she may resent a priest,” said De la
Forêt, with a touch of humor, for he saw the better way was to take
the matter with some outward ease.

Elizabeth smiled. “It is the custom of her sex to have a fondness for
both,” she answered, with an acid smile. “But your answer?”

De la Forêt’s face became exceeding grave. Bowing his head, he said:
“My sword has spoken freely for the cause; God forbid that my tongue
should not speak also. I will do your Majesty’s behest.”

The jesting word that was upon the royal lips came not forth, for De
la Forêt’s face was that of a man who had determined a great thing,
and Elizabeth was one who had a heart for high deeds. “The man is
brave indeed,” she said, under her breath, and, turning to the
dumfounded seigneur, bade him bring in Mademoiselle Aubert.

A moment later, Angèle entered, came a few steps forward, made
obeisance, and stood still. She showed no trepidation, but looked
before her steadily. She knew not what was to be required of her--she
was a stranger in a strange land; but persecution and exile had gone
far to strengthen her spirit and greaten her composure.

Elizabeth gazed at the girl coldly and critically. To women she was
not over-amiable; but as she looked at the young Huguenot maid, of
this calm bearing, warm of color, clear of eye, and purposeful of
face, something kindled in her. Most like it was that love for a
cause which was more to be encouraged by her than any woman’s love
for a man, which, as she grew older, inspired her with aversion, as
talk of marriage brought cynical allusions to her lips.

“I have your letter and its protests and its pleadings. There were
fine words and adjurations--are you so religious, then?” she asked,
brusquely.

“I am a Huguenot, your noble Majesty,” answered the girl, as though
that answered all.

“How is it, then, you are betrothed to a roistering soldier?” asked
the Queen.

“Some must pray for Christ’s sake, and some must fight, your most
Christian Majesty,” answered the girl.

“Some must do both,” rejoined the Queen, in a kinder voice, for the
pure spirit of the girl worked upon her. “I am told that Monsieur de
la Forêt fights fairly. If he can pray as well, methinks he shall
have safety in our kingdom, and ye shall all have peace. On Trinity
Sunday you shall preach in my chapel, Monsieur de la Forêt, and
thereafter you shall know your fate.”

She rose. “My lord,” she said to Leicester, on whose face gloom had
settled, “you will tell the Lord Chamberlain that Monsieur de la
Forêt’s durance must be made comfortable in the west tower of my
palace till chapel-going of Trinity Day. I will send him for his
comfort and instruction some sermons of Latimer’s.”

She stepped down from the dais. “You will come with me, mistress,”
she said to Angèle, and reached out her hand.

Angèle fell on her knees and kissed it, tears falling down her cheek,
then rose and followed the Queen from the chamber. She greatly
desired to look backward towards De la Forêt, but some good angel
bade her not; she realized that to offend the Queen at this moment
might ruin all; and Elizabeth herself was little like to offer chance
for farewell and love-tokens.

So it was that, with bowed head, Angèle left the room with the Queen
of England, leaving Lemprière and De la Forêt gazing at each other,
the one bewildered, the other lost in painful reverie, and Leicester
smiling maliciously at them both.



X


Every man, if you bring him to the right point, if you touch him in
the corner where he is most sensitive, where he most lives, as it
were; if you prick his nerves with a needle of suggestion where all
his passions, ambitions, and sentiments are at white heat, will
readily throw away the whole game of life in some mad act out of
harmony with all he ever did. It matters little whether the needle
prick him by accident or blunder or design, he will burst all bounds
and establish again the old truth that each of us will prove himself
a fool given perfect opportunity. Nor need the occasion of this
revolution be a great one; the most trivial event may produce the
great fire which burns up wisdom, prudence, and habit.

The Earl of Leicester, so long counted astute, clear-headed, and well
governed, had been suddenly foisted out of balance, shaken from his
imperious composure, tortured out of an assumed and persistent
urbanity, by the presence in Greenwich Palace of a Huguenot exile of
no seeming importance, save what the Medici grimly gave him by
desiring his head. It appeared absurd that the great Leicester, whose
nearness to the throne had made him the most feared, most notable,
and, by virtue of his opportunities, the most dramatic figure in
England, should have sleepless nights by reason of a fugitive like
Michel de la Forêt. On the surface it was preposterous that he should
see in the Queen’s offer of service to the refugee evidence that she
was set to grant him special favors; it was equally absurd that her
offer of safety to him on pledge of his turning preacher should seem
proof that she meant to have him near her.

Elizabeth had left the presence-chamber without so much as a glance
at him, though she had turned and looked graciously at the stranger.
He had hastily followed her, and thereafter impatiently awaited a
summons which never came, though he had sent a message that his hours
were at her Majesty’s disposal. Waiting, he saw Angèle’s father
escorted from the palace by a Gentleman Pensioner to a lodge in the
park; he saw Michel de la Forêt taken to his apartments; he saw the
Seigneur of Rozel walking in the palace grounds with such possession
as though they were his own, self-content in every motion of his
body.

Upon the instant the great earl was incensed out of all proportion to
the affront of the seigneur’s existence. He suddenly hated Lemprière
only less than he hated Michel de la Forêt. As he still waited
irritably for a summons from Elizabeth, he brooded on every word and
every look she had given him of late; he recalled her manner to him
in the antechapel the day before, and the admiring look she cast on
De la Forêt but now. He had seen more in it than mere approval of
courage and the self-reliant bearing of a refugee of her own
religion.

These were days when the soldier of fortune mounted to high places.
He needed but to carry the banner of bravery and a busy sword, and
his way to power was not hindered by poor estate. To be gently born
was the one thing needful, and Michel de la Forêt was gently born;
and he had still his sword, though he chose not to use it in
Elizabeth’s service. My lord knew it might be easier for a stranger
like De la Forêt, who came with no encumbrance, to mount to place in
the struggles of the court, than for an Englishman, whose increasing
and ever-bolder enemies were undermining on every hand, to hold his
own.

He began to think upon ways and means to meet this sudden preference
of the Queen, made sharply manifest, as he waited in the antechamber,
by a summons to the refugee to enter the Queen’s apartments. When the
refugee came forth again he wore a sword the Queen had sent him, and
a packet of Latimer’s sermons were under his arm. Leicester was
unaware that Elizabeth herself did not see De la Forêt when he was
thus hastily called; but that her lady-in-waiting, the Duke’s
Daughter, who figured so largely in the pictures Lemprière drew of
his experiences at Greenwich Palace, brought forth the sermons and
the sword, with this message from the Queen:

“The Queen says that it is but fair to the sword to be by Michel de
la Forêt’s side when the sermons are in his hand, that his choice
have every seeming of fairness. For her Majesty says it is still his
choice between the Sword and the Book till Trinity Day.”

Leicester, however, only saw the sword at the side of the refugee and
the gold-bound book under his arm as he came forth, and in a rage he
left the palace and gloomily walked under the trees, denying himself
to every one.

To seize De la Forêt, and send him to the Medici, and then rely on
Elizabeth’s favor for his pardon, as he had done in the past? That
might do, but the risk to England was too great. It would be like the
Queen, if her temper was up, to demand from the Medici the return of
De la Forêt, and war might ensue. Two women, with two nations behind
them, were not to be played lightly against each other, trusting to
their common-sense and humor.

As he walked among the trees, brooding with averted eyes, he was
suddenly faced by the Seigneur of Rozel, who also was shaken from his
discretion and the best interests of the two fugitives he was bound
to protect by a late offence against his own dignity. A seed of
rancor had been sown in his mind which had grown to a great size, and
must presently burst into a dark flower of vengeance. He, Lemprière
of Rozel, with three dove-cotes, the _perquage_, and the office of
butler to the Queen, to be called a “farmer,” to be sneered at--it
was not in the blood of man, not in the towering vanity of a
Lemprière, to endure it at any price computable to mortal mind.

Thus there were in England on that day two fools (there are as many
now), and one said:

“My Lord Leicester, I crave a word with you.”

“Crave on, good fellow,” responded Leicester, with a look of boredom,
making to pass by.

“I am Lemprière, Lord of Rozel, my lord--”

“Ah yes, I took you for a farmer,” answered Leicester. “Instead of
that, I believe you keep doves, and wear a jerkin that fits like a
king’s. Dear Lord, so does greatness come with girth!”

“The king that gave me dove-cotes gave me honor, and ’tis not for the
Earl of Leicester to belittle it.”

“What is your coat of arms?” said Leicester, with a faint smile, but
in an assumed tone of natural interest.

“A swan upon a sea of azure, two stars above, and over all a sword
with a wreath around its point,” answered Lemprière, simply,
unsuspecting irony, and touched by Leicester’s flint where he was
most like to flare up with vanity.

“Ah!” said Leicester. “And the motto?”

“Mea spes supra stellas--my hope is beyond the stars.”

“And the wreath--of parsley, I suppose?”

Now Lemprière understood, and he shook with fury as he roared:

“Yes, by God, and to be got at the point of the sword, to put on the
heads of insolents like Lord Leicester!” His face was flaming, he was
like a cock strutting upon a stable mound.

There fell a slight pause, and then Leicester said, “To-morrow at
daylight, eh?”

“Now, my lord, now!”

“We have no seconds.”

“’Sblood! ’Tis not your way, my lord, to be stickling in detail of
courtesy.”

“’Tis not the custom to draw swords in secret, Lemprière of Rozel.
Also, my teeth are not on edge to fight you.”

Lemprière had already drawn his sword, and the look of his eyes was
as that of a mad bull in a ring. “You won’t fight with me--you don’t
think Rozel your equal?” His voice was high.

Leicester’s face took on a hard, cruel look. “We cannot fight among
the ladies,” he said, quietly.

Lemprière followed his glance, and saw the Duke’s Daughter and
another in the trees near by.

He hastily put up his sword. “When, my lord?” he asked.

“You will hear from me to-night,” was the answer, and Leicester went
forward hastily to meet the ladies--they had news, no doubt.

Lemprière turned on his heel and walked quickly away among the trees
towards the quarters where Buonespoir was in durance, which was
little more severe than to keep him within the palace yard. There he
found the fool and the pirate in whimsical converse. The fool had
brought a letter of inquiry and warm greeting from Angèle to
Buonespoir, who was laboriously inditing one in return. When
Lemprière entered the pirate greeted him jovially.

“In the very pinch of time!” he said. “You have grammar and syntax
and etiquette.”

“’Tis even so, Nuncio,” said the fool. “Here is needed prosody
potential. Exhale!”

The three put their heads together above the paper.



XI


“I would know your story. How came you and yours to this pass? Where
were you born? Of what degree are you? And this Michel de la Forêt,
when came he to your feet--or you to his arms? I would know all.
Begin where life began; end where you sit here at the feet of
Elizabeth. This other cushion to your knees. There--now speak. We are
alone.”

Elizabeth pushed a velvet cushion towards Angèle, where she
half-knelt, half-sat on the rush-strewn floor of the great chamber.
The warm light of the afternoon sun glowed through the thick-tinted
glass high up, and in the gleam the heavy tapestries sent by an
archduke, once suitor for her hand, emerged with dramatic
distinctness, and peopled the room with silent watchers of the great
Queen and the nobly born but poor and fugitive Huguenot. A splendid
piece of sculpture--Eleanor, wife of Edward--given Elizabeth by
another royal suitor, who had sought to be her consort through many
years, caught the warm bath of gold and crimson from the clerestory
and seemed alive and breathing. Against the pedestal the Queen had
placed her visitor, the red cushions making vivid contrast to her
white gown and black hair. In the half-kneeling, half-sitting
posture, with her hands clasped before her, so to steady herself to
composure, Angèle looked a suppliant--and a saint. Her pure,
straightforward gaze, her smooth, urbane forehead, the guilelessness
that spoke in every feature, were not made worldly by the
intelligence and humor reposing in the brown depths of her eyes. Not
a line vexed her face or forehead. Her countenance was of a singular
and almost polished smoothness, and though her gown was severely
simple by comparison with silks and velvets, furs and ruffles of a
gorgeous court at its most gorgeous period, yet in it here and there
were touches of exquisite fineness. The black velvet ribbon slashing
her sleeves, the slight, cloudlike gathering of lace at the back of
her head, gave a distinguished softness to her appearance.

She was in curious contrast to the Queen, who sat upon heaped-up
cushions, her rich buff-and-black gown a blaze of jewels, her yellow
hair, now streaked with gray, roped with pearls, her hands heavy with
rings, her face past its youth, past its hopefulness, however noble
and impressive, past its vivid beauty. Her eyes wore ever a
determined look, were persistent and vigilant, with a lurking
trouble, yet flooded, too, by a quiet melancholy, like a low,
insistent note that floats through an opera of passion, romance, and
tragedy; like a tone of pathos giving deep character to some splendid
pageant, which praises while it commemorates, proclaiming conquest
while the grass has not yet grown on quiet houses of the children of
the sword who no more wield the sword. Evasive, cautious,
secretive, creator of her own policy, she had sacrificed her
womanhood to the power she held and the State she served. Vain,
passionate, and faithful, her heart all England and Elizabeth, the
hunger for glimpses of what she had never known, and was never to
know, thrust itself into her famished life; and she was wont to
indulge, as now, in fancies and follow some emotional whim with a
determination very like to eccentricity.

[Illustration: “SHE WAS IN CURIOUS CONTRAST TO THE QUEEN”]

That, at this time, when great national events were forward, when
conspiracies abounded, when Parliament was grimly gathering strength
to compel her to marry; and her council were as sternly pursuing
their policy for the destruction of Leicester; while that very day
had come news of a rising in the north and of fresh Popish plots
hatched in France--that in such case, this day she should set aside
all business, refuse ambassadors and envoys admission, and occupy
herself with two Huguenot refugees seemed incredible to the younger
courtiers. To such as Cecil, however, there was clear understanding.
He knew that when she seemed most inert, most impassive to turbulent
occurrences, most careless of consequences, she was but waiting till,
in her own mind, her plans were grown; so that she should see her end
clearly ere she spoke or moved. Now, as the great minister showed
himself at the door of the chamber and saw Elizabeth seated with
Angèle, he drew back instinctively, expectant of the upraised hand
which told him he must wait. And, in truth, he was nothing loath to
do so, for his news he cared little to deliver, important though it
was that she should have it promptly and act upon it soon. He turned
away with a feeling of relief, however, for this gossip with the
Huguenot maid would no doubt interest her, give new direction to her
warm sympathies, which, if roused in one thing, were ever more easily
roused in others. He knew that a crisis was nearing in the royal
relations with Leicester. In a life of devotion to her service he had
seen her before in this strange mood, and he could feel that she was
ready for an outburst. As he thought of De la Forêt and the favor
with which she had looked at him, he smiled grimly, for, if it meant
aught, it meant that it would drive Leicester to some act which would
hasten his own doom; though, indeed, it might also make another path
more difficult for himself, for the Parliament, for the people.

Little as Elizabeth could endure tales of love and news of marriage;
little as she believed in any vows, save those made to herself;
little as she was inclined to adjust the rough courses of true love,
she was the surgeon to this particular business, and she had the
surgeon’s love of laying bare even to her own cynicism the hurt of
the poor patient under her knife. Indeed, so had Angèle impressed her
that for once she thought she might hear the truth. Because she saw
the awe in the other’s face, and a worshipping admiration of the
great protectress of Protestantism, who had by large gifts of men and
money in times past helped the cause, she looked upon her here with
kindness.

“Speak now, mistress fugitive, and I will listen,” she added, as
Cecil withdrew; and she made a motion to musicians in a distant
gallery.

Angèle’s heart fluttered to her mouth, but the soft, simple music
helped her, and she began with eyes bent upon the ground, her linked
fingers clasping and unclasping slowly.

“I was born at Rouen, your high Majesty,” she said. “My mother was a
cousin of the Prince of Passy, the great Protestant--”

“Of Passy--ah!” said Elizabeth, amazed. “Then you are Protestants
indeed; and your face is no invention, but cometh honestly. No, no,
’tis no accident--God rest his soul, great Passy!”

“She died--my mother--when I was a little child. I can but just
remember her--so brightly quiet, so quick, so beautiful. In Rouen
life had little motion; but now and then came stir and turmoil, for
war sent its message into the old streets, and our captains and our
peasants poured forth to fight for the King. Once came the King and
Queen--Francis and Mary--”

Elizabeth drew herself upright with an exclamation.

“Ah, you have seen her--Mary of Scots,” she said, sharply. “You have
seen her?”

“As near as I might touch her with my hand, as near as is your high
Majesty. She spoke to me--my mother’s father was in her train; as yet
we had not become Huguenots, nor did we know her Majesty as now the
world knows. Then came the King and Queen, and that was the
beginning.”

She paused, and looked shyly at Elizabeth, as though she found it
hard to tell her story.

“And the beginning, it was--?” said Elizabeth, impatient and intent.

“We went to court. The Queen called my mother into her train. But it
was in no wise for our good. At court my mother pined away--and so
she died in durance.”

“Wherefore in durance?”

“To what she saw she would not shut her eyes; to what she heard she
would not close her soul; what was required of her she would not do.”

“She would not obey the Queen?”

“She could not obey those whom the Queen favored. Then the tyranny
that broke her heart--”

The Queen interrupted her.

“In very truth, but ’tis not in France alone that Queen’s favorites
grasp the sceptre and speak the word. Hath a queen a thousand
eyes--can she know truth where most dissemble?”

“There was a man--he could not know there was one true woman there,
who for her daughter’s sake, for her desired advancement, and because
she was cousin of Passy, who urged it, lived that starved life; this
man, this prince, drew round her feet snares, set pitfalls for her
while my father was sent upon a mission. Steadfast she kept her soul
unspotted; but it wore away her life. The Queen would not permit
return to Rouen--who can tell what tale was told her by one whom she
foiled? And so she stayed. In this slow, savage persecution, when she
was like a bird that, thinking it is free, flieth against the
window-pane and falleth back beaten, so did she stay, and none could
save her. To cry out, to throw herself upon the spears, would have
been ruin of herself, her husband, and her child; and for these she
lived.”

Elizabeth’s eyes had kindled. Perhaps never in her life had the life
at court been so exposed to her. The simple words, meant but to
convey the story, and with no thought behind, had thrown a light on
her own court, on her own position. Adept in weaving a sinuous course
in her policy, in making mazes for others to tread, the mazes which
they in turn prepared had never before been traced beneath her eyes
to the same vivid and ultimate effect.

“Help me, ye saints, but things are not at such a pass in this
place!” she said, abruptly, but with weariness in her voice. “Yet
sometimes I know not. The court is a city by itself, walled and
moated, and hath a life all its own. ‘_If there be found ten honest
men within the city, yet will I save it_,’ saith the Lord. By my
father’s head, I would not risk a finger on the hazard if this city,
this court of Elizabeth, were set ’twixt the fire from heaven and
eternal peace. In truth, child, I would lay me down and die in black
disgust were it not that one might come hereafter would make a very
Sodom or Gomorrah of this land; and out yonder--out in all my
counties, where the truth of England is among my poor burgesses, who
die for the great causes which my nobles profess but risk not their
lives--out yonder all that they have won, and for which I have
striven, would be lost.... Speak on. I have not heard so plain a
tongue and so little guile these twenty years.”

Angèle continued, more courage in her voice: “In the midst of it all
came the wave of the new faith upon my mother. And before ill could
fall upon her from her foes, she died, and was at rest. Then we
returned to Rouen, my father and I, and there we lived in peril, but
in great happiness of soul, until the day of massacre. That night in
Paris we were given greatly of the mercy of God.”

“You were there--you were in the massacre at Paris?”

“In the house of the Duke of Lançon, with whom was resting, after a
hazardous enterprise, Michel de la Forêt.”

“And here beginneth the second lesson,” said the Queen, with a smile
on her lips; but there was a look of scrutiny in her eyes and
something like irony in her tone. “And I will swear by all the stars
of heaven that this Michel saved ye both. Is it not so?”

“It is even so. By his skill and bravery we found our way to safety,
and in a hiding-place near to our loved Rouen watched him return from
the gates of death.”

“He was wounded, then?”

“Seven times wounded, and with as little blood left in him as would
fill a cup. But it was summer, and we were in the hills, and they
brought us, our friends of Rouen, all that we had need of; and so God
was with us.”

“But did he save thy life, except by skill, by indirect and fortunate
wisdom? Was there deadly danger upon thee? Did he beat down the sword
of death?”

“He saved my life thrice directly. The wounds he carried were got by
interposing his own sword ’twixt death and me.”

“And that hath need of recompense?”

“My life was little worth the wounds he suffered; but I waited not
until he saved it to owe it unto him. All that it is was his before
he drew his sword.”

“And ’tis this ye would call love betwixt ye--sweet givings and
takings of looks, and soft sayings, and unchangeable and devouring
faith. Is’t this--and is this all?”

The girl had spoken out of an innocent heart, but the challenge in
the Queen’s voice worked upon her, and, though she shrank a little,
the fulness of her soul welled up and strengthened her. She spoke
again, and now in her need and in her will to save the man she loved,
by making this majesty of England his protector, her words had
eloquence.

“It is not all, noble Queen. Love is more than that. It is the waking
in the poorest minds, in the most barren souls, of something greater
than themselves--as a chemist should find a substance that would give
all other things by touching of them a new and higher value; as
light and sun draw from the earth the tendrils of the seed that else
had lain unproducing. ’Tis not alone soft words and touch of hand or
lip. This caring wholly for one outside one’s self kills that self
which else would make the world blind and deaf and dumb. None hath
loved greatly but hath helped to love in others. Ah, most sweet
Majesty, for great souls like thine, souls born great, this medicine
is not needful, for already hath the love of a nation inspired and
enlarged it; but for souls like mine, and of so many, none better and
none worse than me, to love one other soul deeply and abidingly lifts
us higher than ourselves. Your Majesty hath been loved by a whole
people, by princes and great men in a different sort--is it not the
world’s talk that none that ever reigned hath drawn such slavery of
princes, and of great nobles who have courted death for hopeless love
of one beyond their star? And is it not written in the world’s book
also that the Queen of England hath loved no man, but hath poured out
her heart to a people; and hath served great causes in all the earth
because of that love which hath still enlarged her soul, dowered at
birth beyond reckoning.” Tears filled her eyes. “Ah, your supreme
Majesty, to you whose heart is universal, the love of one poor mortal
seemeth a small thing, but to those of little consequence it is the
cable by which they unsteadily hold over the chasm ’twixt life and
immortality. To thee, oh greatest monarch of the world, it is a staff
on which thou needest not lean, which thou hast never grasped; to me
it is my all; without it I fail and fall and die.”

She had spoken as she felt, yet, because she was a woman and guessed
the mind of another woman, she had touched Elizabeth where her armor
was weakest. She had suggested that the Queen had been the object of
adoration, but had never given her heart to any man; that hers was
the virgin heart and life; and that she had never stooped to conquer.
Without realizing it, and only dimly moving with that end in view,
she had whetted Elizabeth’s vanity. She had, indeed, soothed a pride
wounded of late beyond endurance, suspecting, as she did, that
Leicester had played his long part for his own sordid purposes, that
his devotion was more alloy than precious metal. No note of praise
could be pitched too high for Elizabeth, and if only policy did not
intervene, if but no political advantage was lost by saving De la
Forêt, that safety seemed now secure.

“You tell a tale and adorn it with good grace,” she said, and held
out her hand. Angèle kissed it. “And you have said to Elizabeth what
none else dared to say since I was Queen here. He who hath never seen
the lightning hath no dread of it. I had not thought there was in the
world so much artlessness, with all the power of perfect art. But we
live to be wiser. Thou shalt continue in thy tale. Thou hast seen
Mary, once Queen of France, now Queen of Scots--answer me fairly,
without if, or though, or any sort of doubt, the questions I shall
put. Which of us twain, this ruin-starred Queen or I, is of higher
stature?”

“She hath advantage in little of your Majesty,” bravely answered
Angèle.

“Then,” answered Elizabeth, sourly, “she is too high, for I, myself,
am neither too high nor too low.... And of complexion, which is the
fairer?”

“Her complexion is the fairer, but your Majesty’s countenance hath
truer beauty and sweeter majesty.”

Elizabeth frowned slightly, then said:

“What exercises did she take when you were at the court?”

“Sometimes she hunted, your Majesty, and sometimes she played upon
the virginals.”

“Did she play to effect?”

“Reasonably, your noble Majesty.”

“You shall hear me play, and then speak truth upon us, for I have
known none with so true a tongue since my father died.”

Thereon she called to a lady who waited near in a little room to
bring an instrument; but at that moment Cecil appeared again at the
door, and, his face seeming to show anxiety, Elizabeth, with a sign,
beckoned him to enter.

“Your face, Cecil, is as long as a Lenten collect. What raven croaks
in England on May Day eve?”

Cecil knelt before her, and gave into her hand a paper.

“What record runs here?” she asked, querulously.

“A prayer of your faithful Lords and Commons that your Majesty will
grant speech with their chosen deputies to lay before your Majesty a
cause they have at heart.”

“Touching of--?” darkly asked the Queen.

“The deputies wait even now--will not your Majesty receive them? They
have come humbly, and will go hence as humbly on the instant, if the
hour is ill chosen.”

Immediately Elizabeth’s humor changed. A look of passion swept across
her face, but her eyes lighted and her lips smiled proudly. She
avoided troubles by every means, fought off by subtleties the issues
which she must meet; but when the inevitable hour came none knew so
well to meet it as though it were a dearest friend, no matter what
the danger, how great the stake.

“They are here at my door, these good servants of the state--shall
they be kept dangling?” she said, loudly. “Though it were time for
prayers and God’s mercy, yet should they speak with me, have my
counsel, or my hand upon the sacred parchment of the state. Bring
them hither, Cecil. Now we shall see--Now you shall see, Angèle of
Rouen--now you shall see how queens shall have no hearts to call
their own, but be head and heart and soul and body at the will of
every churl who thinks he serves the state and knows the will of
Heaven. Stand here at my left hand. Mark the players and the play.”

Kneeling, the deputies presented a resolution from the Lords and
Commons that the Queen should, without more delay, in keeping with
her oft-expressed resolve and the promise of her council, appoint one
who should succeed to the throne in case of her death “without
posterity.” Her faithful people pleaded with her gracious Majesty to
forego unwillingness to marry, and seek a consort worthy of her
supreme consideration, to be raised to a place beside her near that
throne which she had made the greatest in the world.

Gravely, solemnly, the chief members of the Lords and Commons spoke,
and with as weighty pauses and devoted protestations as though this
were the first time their plea had been urged, this obvious duty had
been set out before her. Long ago, in the flush and pride of her
extreme youth and the full assurance of the fruits of marriage, they
had spoken with the same sober responsibility; and though her youth
had gone and the old certainty had forever disappeared, they spoke of
her marriage and its consequences as though it were still that
far-off yesterday. Well for them that they did so, for though time
had flown and royal suitors without number had become figures dim in
the people’s mind, Elizabeth, fed upon adulation, invoked, admired,
besieged by young courtiers, flattered by maids who praised her
beauty, had never seen the hands of the clock pass high noon, and
still remained under the dearest and saddest illusion which can rest
in a woman’s mind. Long after the hands of life’s clock had moved
into afternoon, the ancient prayer was still gravely presented that
she should marry and give an heir to England’s crown; and she as
solemnly listened and dropped her eyes, and strove to hide her virgin
modesty behind a high demeanor which must needs sink self in royal
duty.

“These be the dear desires of your supreme Majesty’s faithful Lords
and Commons and the people of the shires whose wills they represent.
Your Majesty’s life, God grant it last beyond that of the youngest of
your people so greatly blessed in your rule! But accidents of time be
many; and while the world is full of guile, none can tell what peril
may beset the crown, if your Majesty’s wisdom sets not apart, gives
not to her country, one whom the nation can surround with its care,
encompass lovingly by its duty.”

The talk with Angèle had had a curious influence upon the Queen. It
was plain that now she was moved by real feeling, and that, though
she deceived herself, or pretended so to do, shutting her eyes to
sober facts and dreaming old dreams--as it were, in a world where
never was a mirror nor a timepiece--yet there was working in her a
fresher spirit, urging her to a fairer course than she had shaped for
many a day.

“My lords and gentlemen, and my beloved subjects,” she answered
presently, and for an instant set her eyes upon Angèle, then turned
to them again, “I pray you stand and hear me.... Ye have spoken fair
words to my face, and of my face, and of the person of this daughter
of great Henry, from whom I got whatever grace or manner or favor is
to me; and by all your reasoning you do flatter the heart of the
Queen of England, whose mind indeed sleeps not in deed or desire for
this realm. Ye have drawn a fair picture of this mortal me, and
though from the grace of the picture the colors may fade by time, may
give by weather, may be spoiled by chance, yet my loyal mind, nor
time with her swift wings shall overtake, nor the misty clouds may
darken, nor chance with her slippery foot may overthrow. It sets its
course by the heart of England, and when it passeth there shall be
found that one shall be left behind who shall be surety of all that
hath been lying in the dim warehouse of fate for England’s high
future. Be sure that in this thing I have entered into the
weigh-house, and I hold the balance, and ye shall be well satisfied.
Ye have been fruitful in counsel, ye have been long knitting a knot
never tied, ye shall have comfort soon. But know ye beyond
peradventure that I have bided my time with good reason. If our loom
be framed with rotten hurdles, when our web is wellny done, our work
is yet to begin. Against mischance and dark discoveries my mind, with
knowledge hidden from you, hath been firmly arrayed. If it be in your
thought that I am set against a marriage which shall serve the
nation, purge yourselves, friends, of that sort of heresy, for the
belief is awry. Though I think that to be one and always one, neither
mated nor mothering, be good for a private woman, for a prince it is
not meet. Therefore, say to my Lords and Commons that I am more
concerned for what shall chance to England when I am gone than to
linger out my living thread. I hope, my lords and gentlemen, to die
with a good ‘Nunc Dimittis,’ which could not be if I did not give
surety for the nation after my graved bones. Ye shall hear soon--ye
shall hear and be satisfied, and so I give you to the care of
Almighty God.”

Once more they knelt, and then slowly withdrew, with faces downcast
and troubled. They had secret knowledge which she did not yet
possess, but which at any moment she must know, and her ambiguous
speech carried no conviction to their minds. Yet their conference
with her was most opportune, for the news she must presently receive,
brought by a messenger from Scotland who had outstripped all others,
would no doubt move her to action which should set the minds of the
people at rest, and go far to stem the tide of conspiracy flowing
through the kingdom.

Elizabeth stood watching them, and remained gazing after they had
disappeared; then, rousing herself, she turned to leave the room, and
beckoned to Angèle to follow.



XII


As twilight was giving place to night Angèle was roused from the
revery into which she had fallen, by the Duke’s Daughter, who
whispered to her that if she would have a pleasure given to but few,
she would come quickly. Taking her hand, the Duke’s Daughter--as
bright and true and whimsical a spirit as ever lived in troubled days
and under the ægis of the sword--led her swiftly to the Queen’s
chamber. They did not enter, but waited in a quiet gallery.

“The Queen is playing upon the virginals, and she playeth best when
alone; so stand you here by this tapestry, and you shall have reward
beyond payment,” said the Duke’s Daughter.

Angèle had no thought that the Queen of her vanity had commanded
that she be placed there as though secretly, and she listened
dutifully at first; but presently her ears were ravished; and even
the Duke’s Daughter showed some surprise, for never had she heard the
Queen play with such grace and feeling. The countenance of the
musician was towards them, and, at last, as if by accident, Elizabeth
looked up and saw the face of her lady.

“Spy! spy!” she cried; “come hither--come hither, all of you!”

When they had descended and knelt to her, she made as if she would
punish the Duke’s Daughter by striking her with a scarf that lay at
her hand, but to Angèle she said:

“How think you, then, hath that other greater skill--Darnley’s wife,
I mean?”

“Not she or any other hath so delighted me,” said Angèle, with
worship in her eyes--so doth talent to majesty become lifted beyond
its measure.

The Queen’s eyes lighted. “We shall have dancing, then,” she said.
“The dance hath charms for me. We shall not deny our youth. The
heart shall keep as young as the body.”

An instant later the room was full of dancers, and Elizabeth gave her
hand to Leicester, who bent every faculty to pleasing her. His face
had darkened as he had seen Angèle beside her, but the Queen’s
graciousness, whether assumed or real, had returned, and her face
carried a look of triumph and spirit and delight. Again and again she
glanced towards Angèle, and what she saw evidently gave her pleasure,
for she laughed and disported herself with grace and an agreeable
temper, and Leicester lent himself to her spirit with adroit wit and
humility. He had seen his mistake of the morning, and was now intent
to restore himself to favor.

He succeeded well, for the emotions roused in Elizabeth during the
day, now heightened by vanity and emulation, found in him a centre
upon which they could converge; and, in her mind, Angèle, for the
nonce, was disassociated from any thought of De la Forêt. Leicester’s
undoubted gifts were well and cautiously directed, and his gift of
assumed passion--his heart was facile, and his gallantry knew no
bounds--was put to dexterous use, convincing for the moment. The
Queen seemed all complaisance again. Presently she had Angèle brought
to her.

“How doth her dance compare--she who hath wedded Darnley?”

“She danceth not so high nor disposedly, with no such joyous
lightness as your high Majesty, but yet she moveth with
circumspection.”

“Circumspection--circumspection--that is no gift in dancing, which
should be wilful yet airily composed, thoughtless yet inducing.
Circumspection!--in nothing else hath Mary shown it where she should.
’Tis like this Queen perversely to make a psalm of dancing, and then
pirouette with sacred duty. But you have spoken the truth, and I am
well content. So get you to your rest.”

She tapped Angèle’s cheek. “You shall remain here to-night, ’tis too
late for you to be sent abroad.”

She was about to dismiss her, when there was a sudden stir. Cecil
had entered and was making his way to the Queen, followed by two
strangers. Elizabeth waited their approach.

“Your gracious Majesty,” said Cecil, in a voice none heard save
Elizabeth, for all had fallen back at a wave of her hand, “the Queen
of Scots is the mother of a fair son.”

Elizabeth’s face flushed, then became pale, and she struck her knee
with her clinched hand. “Who bringeth the news?” she inquired, in a
sharp voice.

“Sir Andrew Melvill here.”

“Who is with him yonder?”

“One who hath been attached to the Queen of Scots.”

“He hath the ill look of such an one,” she answered, and then said
below her breath, bitterly: “She hath a son--and I am but a barren
stock.”

Rising, she added, hurriedly, “We will speak to the people at the May
Day sports to-morrow. Let there be great feasting.”

She motioned to Sir Andrew Melvill to come forward, and with a
gesture of welcome and a promise of speech with him on the morrow she
dismissed them.

Since the two strangers had entered, Angèle’s eyes had been fastened
on the gentleman who accompanied Sir Andrew Melvill. Her first glance
at him had sent a chill through her, and she remained confused and
disturbed. In vain her memory strove to find where the man was set in
her past. The time, the place, the event eluded her, but a sense of
foreboding possessed her; and her eyes followed him with strained
anxiety as he retired from the presence.



XIII


As had been arranged when Lemprière challenged Leicester, they met
soon after dawn among the trees beside the Thames. A gentleman of the
court, to whom the Duke’s Daughter had previously presented
Lemprière, gayly agreed to act as second, and gallantly attended the
Lord of Rozel in his adventurous enterprise. There were few at court
who had not some grudge against Leicester, few who would not
willingly have done duty at such a time; for Leicester’s friends were
of fair-weather sort, ready to defend him, to support him, not for
friendship, but for the crumbs that dropped from the table of his
power. The favorite himself was attended by the Earl of Ealing, a
youngster who had his spurs to win, who thought it policy to serve
the great time-server. Two others also came.

It was a morning little made for deeds of rancor or of blood. As they
passed, the early morning mists above the green fields of Kent and
Essex were being melted by the summer sun. The smell of ripening
fruit came on them with pungent sweetness, their feet crashed
odorously through clumps of tigerlilies, and the dew on the
ribbon-grass shook glistening drops upon their velvets. Overhead the
carolling of the thrush came swimming recklessly through the trees,
and far over in the fields the ploughmen started upon the heavy
courses of their labor; while here and there a poacher with bow and
arrow slid through the green undergrowth, like spies hovering on an
army’s flank.

To Lemprière the morning carried no impression save that life was
well worth living. No agitation passed across his nerves, no
apprehension reached his mind. He had no imagination; he loved the
things that his eyes saw because they filled him with enjoyment; but
why they were, or whence they came, or what they meant or boded,
never gave him meditation. A vast epicurean, a consummate egotist,
ripe with feeling and rich with energy, he could not believe that
when he spoke the heavens would not fall. The stinging sweetness of
the morning was a tonic to all his energies, an elation to his mind;
he swaggered through the lush grasses and boskage as though marching
to a marriage.

Leicester, on his part, no more caught at the meaning of the morning,
at the long whisper of enlivened nature, than did his foe. The day
gave to him no more than was his right. If the day was not fine, then
Leicester was injured; but if the day was fine, then Leicester had
his due. Moral blindness made him blind for the million deep
teachings trembling round him. He felt only the garish and the
splendid. So it was that at Kenilworth, where his Queen had visited
him, the fêtes that he had held would far outshine the fête which
would take place in Greenwich Park on this May Day. The fête of this
May Day would take place, but would he see it? The thought flashed
through his mind that he might not; but he trod it underfoot; not
through an inborn, primitive egotism like that of Lemprière, but
through an innate arrogance, an unalterable belief that fate was ever
on his side. He had played so many tricks with fate, had mocked while
taking its gifts so often, that, like the son who has flouted his
indulgent father through innumerable times, he conceived that he
should never be disinherited. It irked him that he should be fighting
with a farmer, as he termed the seigneur of the Jersey isle; but
there was in the event, too, a sense of relief, for he had a will for
murder. Yesterday’s events were still fresh in his mind; and he had a
feeling that the letting of Lemprière’s blood would cool his own and
be some cure for the choler which the presence of these strangers at
the court had wrought in him.

There were better swordsmen in England than he, but his skill was
various, and he knew tricks of the trade which this primitive Norman
could never have learned. He had some touch of wit, some biting
observation, and, as he neared the place of the encounter, he played
upon the coming event with a mordant frivolity. Not by nature a brave
man, he was so much a fatalist, such a worshipper of his star, that
he had acquired an artificial courage which had served him well. The
unschooled gentlemen with him roared with laughter at his sallies,
and they came to the place of meeting as though to a summer feast.

“Good-morrow, nobility,” said Leicester, with courtesy overdone, and
bowing much too low.

“Good-morrow, valentine,” answered Lemprière, flushing slightly at
the disguised insult and rising to the moment.

“I hear the crop of fools is short this year in Jersey, and through
no fault of yours--you’ve done your best most loyally,” jeered
Leicester, as he doffed his doublet, his gentlemen laughing in
derision.

“’Tis true enough, my lord, and I have come to find new seed in
England, where are fools to spare; as I trust in Heaven one shall be
spared on this very day for planting yonder.”

He was eaten with rage, but he was cool and steady. He was now in his
linen and small-clothes, and looked like some untrained Hercules.

“Well said, nobility,” laughed Leicester, with an ugly look. “’Tis
seed-time--let us measure out the seed. On guard!”

Never were two men such opposites, never two so seemingly
ill-matched. Leicester’s dark face and its sardonic look, his lithe
figure, the nervous strength of his bearing, were in strong contrast
to the bulking breadth, the perspiring robustness of Lemprière of
Rozel. It was not easy of belief that Lemprière should be set to
fight this matadore of a fighting court. But there they stood,
Lemprière’s face with a great-eyed gravity looming above his rotund
figure like a moon above a purple cloud. But huge and loose though
the seigneur’s motions seemed, he was as intent as though there were
but two beings in the universe, Leicester and himself. A strange
alertness seemed to be upon him, and, as Leicester found when the
swords crossed, he was quicker than his bulk gave warrant. His
perfect health made his vision sure; and, though not a fine
swordsman, he had done much fighting in his time, had been ever ready
for the touch of steel, and had served some warlike days in fighting
France, where fate had well befriended him. That which Leicester
meant should be by-play of a moment became a full half-hour’s
desperate game. Leicester found that the thrust--the fatal thrust
learned from an Italian master--he meant to give was met by a swift
precision, responding to quick vision. Again and again he would have
brought the end, but Lemprière heavily foiled him. The wound which
the seigneur got at last, meant to be mortal, was saved from that by
the facility of a quick apprehension.

Indeed, for a time the issue had seemed doubtful, for the endurance
and persistence of the seigneur made for exasperation and
recklessness in his antagonist, and once blood was drawn from the
wrist of the great man; but at length Lemprière went upon the
aggressive. Here he erred, for Leicester found the chance for which
he had man[oe]uvred--to use the feint and thrust got out of Italy. He
brought his enemy low, but only after a duel the like of which had
never been seen at the court of England. The matadore had slain his
bull at last, but had done no justice to his reputation. Never did
man more gallantly sustain his honor with heaviest odds against him
than did the Seigneur of Rozel that day.

[Illustration: “‘HANG FAST TO YOUR HONORS BY THE SKIN OF YOUR TEETH,
MY LORD’”]

As he was carried away by the merry gentlemen of the court, he called
back to the favorite:

“Leicester is not so great a swordsman, after all. Hang fast to your
honors by the skin of your teeth, my lord.”



XIV


It was Monday, and the eyes of London and the court were turned
towards Greenwich Park, where the Queen was to give entertainment to
the French envoy who had come once more to urge upon the Queen
marriage with a son of the Medici, and to obtain an assurance that
she would return to France the widow of the great Montgomery and his
valiant lieutenant, Michel de la Forêt. The river was covered with
boats and barges, festooned, canopied, and hung with banners and
devices; and from sunrise music and singing conducted down the stream
the gayly dressed populace--for those were the days when a man spent
on his ruff and his hose and his russet coat as much as would feed
and house a family for a year; when the fine-figured ruffler with
sables about his neck, corked slipper, trimmed buskin, and cloak of
silk or damask furred, carried his all upon his back.

Loud-voiced gallants came floating by; men of a hundred guilds
bearing devices pompously held on their way to the great pageant;
country bumpkins up from Surrey roistered and swore that there was
but one land that God had blessed, and challenged the grinning
watermen from Gravesend and Hampton Court to deny it; and the sun
with ardor drove from the sky every invading cloud, leaving Essex and
Kent, as far as eye could see, perfect green gardens of opulence.

Before Elizabeth had left her bed, London had emptied itself in
Greenwich Park. Thither the London companies had come in their varied
dazzling accoutrements--hundreds armed in fine corselets bearing the
long Moorish pike; tall halberdiers in the unique armor called
Almain-rivets, and gunners or muleteers equipped in shirts of mail,
with morions or steel caps. Here, too, were to come the Gentlemen
Pensioners, resplendent in scarlet, to “run with the spear”; and
hundreds of men-at-arms were set at every point to give garish
bravery to all. Thousands of citizens, open-mouthed, gazed down the
long arenas of green festooned with every sort of decoration and
picturesque invention. Cages of large birds from the Indies, fruits,
corn, fishes, grapes hung in the trees, players perched in the
branches discoursed sweet music, and poets recited their verses from
rustic bridges or on platforms with weapons and armor hung trophywise
on ragged staves. Upon a small lake a dolphin, four-and-twenty feet
in length, came swimming, within its belly a lively orchestra;
Italian tumblers swung from rope to bar; and crowds gathered at the
places where bear and bull baiting were to excite the none too
fastidious tastes of the time.

All morning the gay delights went on, and at high noon the cry was
carried from mouth to mouth, “The Queen! The Queen!”

She appeared on a balcony, surrounded by her lords and ladies, and
there received the diplomatists, speaking at length to the French
envoy in a tone of lightness and elusive cheerfulness which he was at
a loss to understand, and tried in vain to pierce by cogent remarks
bearing on matters of moment involved in his embassage. Not far away
stood Leicester, but the Queen had done no more than note his
presence by a glance, and now and again with ostentatious emphasis
she spoke to Angèle, whom she had had brought to her in the morning
before chapel-going. Thus early, after a few questions and some
scrutiny, she had sent her in charge of a gentleman-at-arms and a
maid of the Duke’s Daughter to her father’s lodging, with orders to
change her robe, to return to the palace in good time before noon,
and to bring her father to a safe place where he could watch the
pleasures of the people. When Angèle came to the presence again, she
saw that the Queen was wearing a gown of pure white, with the sleeves
shot with black, such as she herself had worn when admitted to
audience yesterday. Vexed, agitated, imbittered as Elizabeth had
been by the news brought to her the night before, she had kept her
wardrobers and seamstresses at work the whole night to alter a white
satin habit to the simplicity and style of that which Angèle had
worn.

“What think you of my gown, my lady refugee?” she said to Angèle, at
last, as the Gentlemen Pensioners paraded in the space below,
followed by the Knights-Tilters--at their head the Queen’s champion,
Sir Henry Lee: twenty-five of the most gallant and favored of the
courtiers of Elizabeth, including the gravest of her counsellors and
the youngest gallant who had won her smile, Master Christopher
Hatton. Some of these brave suitors, taken from the noblest families,
had appeared in the tilt-yard every anniversary of the year of her
accession and had lifted their romantic office, which seemed but the
service of enamoured knights, into an almost solemn dignity.

The vast crowd disposed itself around the great improvised yard where
the Knights-Tilters were to engage, and the Queen, followed by her
retinue, descended to the dais which had been set up near the palace.
Her white satin gown, roped with pearls only at the neck and breast,
glistened in the bright sun, and her fair hair took on a burnished
radiance. As Angèle passed with her in the gorgeous procession, she
could not but view the scene with admiring eye, albeit her own sweet,
sober attire--a pearly gray--seemed little in keeping; for the ladies
and lords were most richly attired, and the damask and satin cloaks,
crimson velvet gowns, silk hoods, and jewelled swords and daggers
made a brave show. She was like some moth in a whorl of butterflies.

Her face was pale, and her eyes had a curious, disturbed look, as
though they had seen frightening things. The events of last evening
had tried her simple spirit, and she shrank from this glittering
show; but the knowledge that her lover’s life was in danger, and that
her happiness was here and now at stake, held her bravely to her
place, beset as it was with peril; for the Queen, with that
eccentricity which had lifted her up yesterday, might cast her down
to-day, and she had good reason to fear the power and influence of
Leicester, who she knew with a sure instinct was intent on Michel’s
ruin. Behind all her nervous shrinking and her heart’s doubt, the
memory of the face of the stranger she had seen last night with Sir
Andrew Melvill tortured her. She could not find the time and place
where she had seen the eyes that, in the palace, had filled her with
mislike and abhorrence as they looked upon the Queen. Again and again
in her fitful sleep had she dreamed of him, and a sense of foreboding
was heavy upon her--she seemed to hear the footfall of coming
disaster. The anxiety of her soul lent an unnatural brightness to her
eyes; so that more than one enamoured courtier made essay to engage
her in conversation, and paid her deferential compliment when the
Queen’s eyes were not turned her way. Come to the dais, she was
placed not far from her Majesty, beside the Duke’s Daughter, whose
whimsical nature found frequent expression in what the Queen was wont
to call “a merry volt.” She seemed a privileged person, with whom
none ventured to take liberties, and against whom none was entitled
to bear offence, for her quips were free from malice, and her
ingenuity in humor of mark. She it was who had put into the Queen’s
head that morning an idea which was presently to startle Angèle and
all others.

Leicester was riding with the Knights-Tilters, and as they cantered
lightly past the dais, trailing their spears in obeisance, Elizabeth
engaged herself in talk with Cecil, who was standing near, and
appeared not to see the favorite. This was the first time since he
had mounted to good fortune that she had not thrown him a favor to
pick up with his spear and wear in her honor, and he could scarce
believe that she had meant to neglect him. He half halted, but she
only deigned an inclination of the head, and he spurred his horse
angrily on with a muttered imprecation, yet, to all seeming,
gallantly paying homage.

“There shall be doings ere this day is done. ‘Beware the Gypsy!’”
said the Duke’s Daughter, in a low tone, to Angèle, and she laughed
lightly.

“Who is the Gypsy?” asked Angèle, with good suspicion, however.

“Who but Leicester,” answered the other. “Is he not black enough?”

“Why was he so called? Who put the name upon him?”

“Who but the Earl of Sussex, as he died--as noble a chief, as true a
counsellor as ever spoke truth to a queen. But truth is not all at
court, and Sussex was no flatterer. Leicester bowed under the storm
for a moment when Sussex showed him in his true colors; but Sussex
had no gift of intrigue, the tide turned, and so he broke his heart
and died. But he left a message which I sometimes remember with my
collects. ‘I am now passing to another world,’ said he, ‘and must
leave you to your fortunes and to the Queen’s grace and goodness; but
beware the Gypsy, for he will be too hard for all of you; you know
not the beast so well as I do.’ But my Lord Sussex was wrong. One
there is who knows him through and through, and hath little joy in
the knowing.”

The look in the eyes of the Duke’s Daughter became like steel and her
voice hardened, and Angèle realized that Leicester had in this
beautiful and delicate maid-of-honor as bitter an enemy as ever
brought down the mighty from their seats; that a pride had been
sometime wounded, suffered an unwarrantable affront, which only
innocence could feel so acutely. Her heart went out to the Duke’s
Daughter as it had never gone out to any of her sex since her
mother’s death, and she showed her admiration in her glance. The
other saw it and smiled, slipping a hand in hers for a moment; and
then a look, half-debating, half-triumphant, came into her face as
her eyes followed Leicester down the green stretches of the
tilting-yard.

The trumpet sounded, the people broke out in shouts of delight, the
tilting began. For an hour the handsome joust went on, the Earl of
Oxford, Charles Howard, Sir Henry Lee, Sir Christopher Hatton, and
Leicester challenging, and so even was the combat that victory
seemed to settle in the plumes of neither, though Leicester of them
all showed not the greatest skill, while in some regards greatest
grace and deportment. Suddenly there rode into the lists, whence no
one seemed to know, so intent had the public gaze been fixed, so
quickly had he come, a mounted figure all in white, and at the moment
when Sir Henry Lee had cried aloud his challenge for the last time.
Silence fell as the bright figure cantered down the list, lifted the
gauge, and sat still upon his black steed. Consternation fell. None
among the people or the Knights-Tilters knew who the invader was, and
Leicester called upon the masters of the ceremonies to demand his
name and quality. The white horseman made no reply, but sat unmoved,
while noise and turmoil suddenly sprang up around him.

Presently the voice of the Queen was heard clearly ringing through
the lists. “His quality hath evidence. Set on.”

The Duke’s Daughter laughed, and whispered mischievously in Angèle’s
ear.

The gentlemen of England fared ill that day in the sight of all the
people, for the challenger of the Knights-Tilters was more than a
match for each that came upon him. He rode like a wild horseman of
Yucatan. Wary, resourceful, sudden in device and powerful in onset,
he bore all down, until the Queen cried: “There hath not been such
skill in England since my father rode these lists. Three of my best
gentlemen down, and it hath been but breathing to him. Now, Sir Harry
Lee, it is thy turn,” she laughed, as she saw the champion ride
forward; “and next ’tis thine, Leicester. Ah, Leicester, would have
at him now?” she added, sharply, as she saw the favorite spur forward
before the gallant Lee. “He is full of choler--it becomes him, but it
shall not be; bravery is not all. And if he failed”--she smiled
acidly--“he would get him home to Kenilworth and show himself no
more--if he failed, and the white knight failed not! What think you,
dove?” she cried to the Duke’s Daughter. “Would he not fall in the
megrims for that England’s honor had been overthrown? Leicester
could not live if England’s honor should be toppled down like my dear
Chris Hatton and his gallants, yonder.”

The Duke’s Daughter courtesied. “Methinks England’s honor is in
little peril--your Majesty knows well how to ‘fend it. No subject
keeps it.”

“If I must ‘fend it, dove, then Leicester there must not fight
to-day. It shall surely be Sir Harry Lee. My Lord Leicester must have
the place of honor at the last,” she called aloud. Leicester swung
his horse round, and galloped to the Queen.

“Your Majesty,” he cried, in suppressed anger, “must I give place?”

“When all have failed and Leicester has won, then all yield place to
Leicester,” said the Queen, dryly.

The look on his face was not good to see, but he saluted gravely and
rode away to watch the encounter between the most gallant
Knight-Tilter in England and the stranger. Rage was in his heart, and
it blinded him to the certainty of his defeat, for he was not expert
in the lists. But by a sure instinct he had guessed the identity of
the white horseman, and every nerve quivered with desire to meet him
in combat. Last night’s good work seemed to have gone for naught.
Elizabeth’s humor had changed; and to-day she seemed set on
humiliating him before the nobles who hated him, before the people
who had found in him the cause why the Queen had not married, so
giving no heir to the throne. Perturbed and charged with anger as he
was, however, the combat now forward soon chained his attention. Not
in many a year had there been seen in England such a display of skill
and determination. The veteran Knight-Tilter, who knew that the
result of this business meant more than life to him, and that more
than the honor of his comrades was at stake--even the valor of
England, which had been challenged--fought as he had never fought
before, as no man had fought in England for many a year. At first the
people cried aloud their encouragement; but as onset and attack after
onset and attack showed that two masters of their craft, two
desperate men had met, and that the great sport had become a vital
combat between their own champion and the champion of another
land--Spain, France, Denmark, Russia, Italy?--a hush spread over the
great space, and every eye was strained; men gazed with bated breath.

The green turf was torn and mangled, the horses reeked with sweat and
foam, but overhead the soaring skylark sang, as it were, to express
the joyance of the day. During many minutes the only sound that broke
the stillness was the clash of armed men, the thud of hoofs, and the
snorting and the wild breathing of the chargers. The lark’s notes,
however, ringing out over the lists, freed the tongue of the Queen’s
fool, who suddenly ran out into the lists, in his motley and cap and
bells, and in his high, trilling voice sang a fool’s song to the
fighting twain:

    “Who would lie down and close his eyes
      While yet the lark sings o’er the dale?
    Who would to Love make no replies,
      Nor drink the nut-brown ale,
    While throbs the pulse, and full’s the purse
      And all the world’s for sale?”

Suddenly a cry of relief, of roaring excitement, burst from the
people. Both horsemen and their chargers were on the ground. The
fight was over, the fierce game at an end. That which all had feared,
even the Queen herself, as the fight fared on, had not come to
pass--England’s champion had not been beaten by the armed mystery,
though the odds had seemed against him.

    “Though wintry blasts may prove unkind,
      When winter’s past we do forget;
    Love’s breast in summer-time is kind,
      And all’s well while life’s with us yet--
        Hey, ho, now the lark is mating,
        Life’s sweet wages are in waiting!”

Thus sang the fool as the two warriors were helped to their feet.
Cumbered with their armor, and all dust-covered and blood-stained,
though not seriously hurt, they were helped to their horses, and rode
to the dais where the Queen sat.

“Ye have fought like men of old,” she said, “and neither had
advantage at the last. England’s champion still may cry his challenge
and not be forsworn, and he who challenged goeth in honor again from
the lists. You, sir, who have challenged, shall we not see your face
or hear your voice? For what country, for what prince lifted you the
gauge and challenged England’s honor?”

“I crave your high Majesty’s pardon”--Angèle’s heart stood still. Her
love had not pierced his disguise, though Leicester’s hate had done
so on the instant--“I crave your noble Majesty’s grace,” answered the
stranger, “that I may still keep my face covered in humility. My
voice speaks for no country and for no prince. I have fought for mine
own honor, and to prove to England’s Queen that she hath a champion
who smiteth with strong arm, as on me and my steed this hath been
seen to-day.”

“Gallantly thought and well said,” answered Elizabeth; “but England’s
champion and his strong arm have no victory. If gifts were given they
must needs be cut in twain. But answer me, what is your country? I
will not have it that any man pick up the gauge of England for his
own honor. What is your country?”

“I am an exile, your high Majesty; and the only land for which I
raise my sword this day is that land where I have found safety from
my enemies.”

The Queen turned and smiled at the Duke’s Daughter. “I knew not where
my own question might lead, but he hath turned it to full account,”
she said, under her breath. “His tongue is as ready as his spear.
Then ye have both labored in England’s honor, and I drink to you
both,” she added, and raised to her lips a glass of wine which a page
presented. “I love ye both--in your high qualities,” she hastened to
add, with dry irony, and her eye rested mockingly on Leicester.

“My lords and gentlemen and all of my kingdom,” she added, in a clear
voice, insistent in its force, “ye have come upon May Day to take
delight of England in my gardens, and ye are welcome. Ye have seen
such a sight as doeth good to the eyes of brave men. It hath pleased
me well, and I am constrained to say to you what, for divers great
reasons, I have kept to my own counsels, laboring for your good. The
day hath come, however, the day and the hour, when ye shall know that
wherein I propose to serve you as ye well deserve. It is my will--and
now I see my way to its good fulfilment--that I remain no longer in
that virgin state wherein I have ever lived.”

Great cheering here broke in, and for a time she could get no
further. Ever alive to the bent of the popular mind, she had chosen a
perfect occasion to take them into her confidence--however little or
much she would abide by her words, or intended the union of which she
spoke. In the past she had counselled with her great advisers, with
Cecil and the rest, and through them messages were borne to the
people; but now she spoke direct to them all, and it had its
immediate reward--the acclamations were as those with which she was
greeted when she first passed through the streets of London on
inheriting the crown.

Well pleased, she continued: “This I will do with expedition and
weightiest judgment, for of little account though I am, he that sits
with the Queen of England in this realm, must needs be a prince
indeed.... So be ye sure of this that ye shall have your heartmost
wishes, and there shall be one to come after me who will wear this
crown even as I have worn, in direct descent, my father’s crown. Our
dearest sister, the Queen of the Scots, hath been delivered of a fair
son; and in high affection the news thereof she hath sent me, with a
palfrey which I shall ride among you in token of the love I bear her
Majesty. She hath in her time got an heir to the throne with which we
are ever in kinship and alliance, and I in my time shall give ye your
hearts’ desire.”

Angèle, who had, with palpitating heart and swimming head, seen
Michel de la Forêt leave the lists and disappear among the trees, as
mysteriously as he came, was scarce conscious of the cheers and
riotous delight that followed Elizabeth’s tactful if delusive speech
to the people. A few whispered words from the Duke’s Daughter had
told her that Michel had obeyed the Queen’s command in entering the
lists and taking up the challenge; and that she herself, carrying
the royal message to him and making arrangements for his accoutrement
and mounting, had urged him to obedience. She observed dryly that he
had needed little pressure, and that his eyes had lighted at the
prospect of the combat. Apart from his innate love of fighting, he
had realized that in the moment of declining to enter the Queen’s
service he had been at a disadvantage, and that his courage was open
to attack by the incredulous or malicious. This would have mattered
little were it not that he had been given unusual importance as a
prisoner by the Queen’s personal notice of himself. He had,
therefore, sprung to the acceptance, and sent his humble duty to the
Queen by her winsome messenger, who, with conspicuous dramatic skill,
had arranged secretly, with the help of a Gentleman Pensioner and the
Master of the Horse, his appearance and his exit. That all succeeded
as she had planned quickened her pulses, and made her heart still
warmer to Angèle, who, now that all was over, and her Huguenot lover
had gone his mysterious way, seemed lost in a troubled reverie.

It was a troubled reverie, indeed, for Angèle’s eyes were on the
stranger who was present with Sir Andrew Melvill the night before.
Her gaze upon him now became fixed and insistent, for the sense of
foreboding so heavy on her deepened to a torturing suspense. Where
had she seen this man before? To what day or hour in her past did he
belong? What was there in his smooth, smiling, malicious face that
made her blood run cold? As she watched him, he turned his head. She
followed his eyes. The horse which Mary Queen of Scots had sent with
the message of the birth of her son was being led to the Queen by the
dark-browed, pale-faced churl who had brought it from Scotland. She
saw a sharp, dark look pass between the two.

Suddenly her sight swam, she swayed and would have fainted, but
resolution steadied her, and a low exclamation broke from her lips.
Now she knew!

The face that had eluded her was at last in the grasp of horrified
memory. It was the face of one who many years ago was known to have
poisoned the Duc de Chambly by anointing the pommel of his saddle
with a delicate poison which the rider would touch, and touching
would, perhaps, carry to his nostrils or mouth as he rode, and die
upon the instant. She herself had seen the Duc de Chambly fall; had
seen this man fly from Paris for his life; and had thereafter known
of his return to favor at the court of Mary and Francis, for nothing
could be proved against him. The memory flashed like lightning
through her brain. She moved swiftly forward despite the detaining
hand of the Duke’s Daughter. The Queen was already mounted, her hand
already upon the pommel of the saddle.

Elizabeth noted the look of anguished anxiety in Angèle’s eyes, her
face like that of one who had seen souls in purgatory; and some swift
instinct, born of years upon years of peril in old days when her life
was no boon to her enemies, made her lean towards the girl, whose
quick whispered words were to her as loud as thunder. She was,
however, composed and still. Not a tremor passed through her.

“Your wish is granted, mistress,” she said aloud, then addressed a
word to Cecil at her side, who passed on her command. Presently she
turned slowly to the spot where Sir Andrew Melvill and the other sat
upon their horses. She scanned complacently the faces of both, then
her eyes settled steadily on the face of the murderer. Still gazing
intently, she drew the back of her gloved fingers along the pommel.
The man saw the motion, unnoted and unsignificant to any other save
Angèle, meaningless even to Melvill, the innocent and honest
gentleman at his side; and he realized that the Queen had had a
warning. Noting the slight stir among the gentlemen round him, he
knew that his game was foiled, that there was no escape. He was not
prepared for what followed.

In a voice to be heard only at small distance, the Queen said,
calmly:

“This palfrey sent me by my dear sister of Scotland shall bear me
among you, friends; and in days to come _I will remember how she
hath given new life to me by her loving message_. Sir Andrew Melvill,
I shall have further speech with you; and you, sir”--speaking to the
sinister figure by his side--“come hither.”

The man dismounted, and with unsteady step came forward. Elizabeth
held out her gloved hand for him to kiss. His face turned white. It
was come soon, his punishment. None knew save Angèle and the Queen
the doom that was upon him, if Angèle’s warning was well founded. He
knelt, and bent his head over her hand.

“Salute sir,” she said, in a low voice.

He touched his lips to her fingers. She pressed them swiftly against
his mouth. An instant, then he rose and stepped backward to his
horse. Tremblingly, blindly, he mounted.

A moment passed, then Elizabeth rode on with her ladies behind her,
her gentlemen beside her. As she passed slowly, the would-be regicide
swayed and fell from his horse, and stirred no more.

Elizabeth rode on, her hand upon the pommel of the saddle. So she
rode for a full half-hour, and came back to her palace. But she
raised not her gloved right hand above the pommel, and she dismounted
with exceeding care.

That night the man who cared for the horse died secretly, as had done
his master, with the Queen’s glove pressed to his nostrils by one
whom Cecil could trust. And the matter was hidden from the court and
the people; for it was given out that Melvill’s friend had died of
some heart trouble.



XV


It seemed an unspeakable smallness in a man of such high place in the
state, whose hand had tied and untied myriad knots of political and
court intrigue, that he should stoop to a game which any pettifogging
hanger-on might play--and reap scorn in the playing. By insidious
arts, Leicester had in his day turned the Queen’s mind to his own
will; had foiled the diplomacy of the Spaniard, the German, and the
Gaul; had by subterranean means checkmated the designs of the Medici;
had traced his way through plot and counter-plot, hated by most,
loved by none save, maybe, his royal mistress, to whom he was now
more a custom than a beloved friend. Year upon year he had built up
his influence. None had championed him save himself, and even from
the consequences of rashness and folly he had risen to a still higher
place in the kingdom. But such as Leicester are ever at last a
sacrifice to the laborious means by which they achieve their greatest
ends--means contemptible and small.

To the great intriguers every little detail, every commonplace
insignificance is used--and must be used by them alone--to further
their dark causes. They cannot trust their projects to brave
lieutenants, to faithful subordinates. They cannot say, “Here is the
end; this is the work to be done; upon your shoulders be the burden!”
They must “stoop to conquer.” Every miserable detail becomes of
moment, until by-and-by the art of intrigue and conspiracy begins to
lose proportion in their minds. The detail has ever been so
important, conspiracy so much second nature, that they must needs be
intriguing and conspiring when the occasion is trifling and the end
negligible.

To all intriguers life has lost romance; there is no poem left in
nature; no ideal, personal, public, or national, detains them in its
wholesome influence; no great purpose allures them; they have no
causes for which to die--save themselves. They are so honeycombed
with insincerity and the vice of thought that by-and-by all colors
are as one, all pathways the same; because, whichever hue of light
breaks upon their world they see it through the gray-cloaked mist of
falsehood; and whether the path be good or bad they would still walk
in it crookedly. How many men and women Leicester had tracked or
lured to their doom; over how many men and women he had stepped to
his place of power, history speaks not carefully; but the traces of
his deeds run through a thousand archives, and they suggest plentiful
sacrifices to a subverted character.

Favorite of a queen, he must now stoop to set a trap for the ruin of
as simple a soul as ever stepped upon the soil of England; and his
dark purposes had not even the excuse of necessity on the one hand,
of love or passion on the other. An insane jealousy of the place the
girl had won in the consideration of the Queen, of her lover who, he
thought, had won a still higher place in the same influence, was his
only motive for action at first. His cruelty was not redeemed even by
the sensuous interest the girl might arouse in a reckless nature by
her beauty and her charm.

So the great Leicester--the Gypsy, as the dead Sussex had called
him--lay in wait in Greenwich Park for Angèle to pass, like some
orchard-thief in the blossoming trees. Knowing the path by which she
would come to her father’s cottage from the palace, he had placed
himself accordingly. He had thought he might have to wait long or
come often for the perfect opportunity; but it seemed as if fate
played his game for him, and that once again the fruit he would pluck
should fall into his palm. Bright-eyed, and elated from a long talk
with the Duke’s Daughter, who had given her a message from the Queen,
Angèle had abstractedly taken the wrong path in the wood. Leicester
saw that it would lead her into the maze some distance off. Making a
détour, he met her at the moment she discovered her mistake. The
light from the royal word her friend had brought was still in her
face; but it was crossed by perplexity now.

He stood still, as though astonished at seeing her, a smile upon his
face. So perfectly did he play his part that she thought the meeting
accidental; and though in her heart she had a fear of the man, and
knew how bitter an enemy he was of Michel’s, his urbane power, his
skilful diplomacy of courtesy had its way. These complicated lives,
instinct with contradiction, have the interest of forbidden
knowledge. The dark experiences of life leave their mark, and give
such natures that touch of mystery which allures even those who have
high instincts and true feelings, as one peeps over a hidden depth
and wonders what lies beyond the dark. So Angèle, suddenly arrested,
was caught by the sense of mystery in the man, by the fascination of
_finesse_, of dark power; and it was womanlike that all on an instant
she should dream of the soul of goodness in things evil.

Thus in life we are often surprised out of long years of prejudice,
and even of dislike and suspicion, by some fortuitous incident, which
might have chanced to two who had every impulse towards each other,
not such antagonisms as lay between Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester,
and this Huguenot refugee. She had every cue to hate him. Each moment
of her life in England had been beset with peril because of
him--peril to the man she loved, therefore peril to herself. And yet,
so various is the nature of woman that, while steering straitly by
one star, she levies upon the light of other stars. Faithful and
sincere, yet loving power, curious and adventurous, she must needs,
without intention, without purpose, stray into perilous paths.

As Leicester stepped suddenly into Angèle’s gaze, she was only, as it
were, conscious of a presence in itself alluring by virtue of the
history surrounding it. She was surprised out of an instinctive
dislike, and the cue she had to loathe him was for the moment lost.

Unconsciously, unintentionally, she smiled at him now, then,
realizing, retreated, shrinking from him, her face averted. Man or
woman had found in Leicester the delicate and intrepid gamester,
exquisite in the choice of detail, masterful in the breadth of
method. And now, as though his whole future depended on this
interview, he brought to bear a life-long skill to influence her. He
had determined to set the Queen against her. He did not know--not
even he--that she had saved the Queen’s life on that auspicious May
Day when Harry Lee had fought the white knight, Michel de la Forêt,
and halved the honors of the lists with him. If he had but known that
the Queen had hid from him this fact--this vital thing touching
herself and England--he would have viewed his future with a vaster
distrust. But there could be no surer sign of Elizabeth’s growing
coldness and intended breach than that she had hid from him the
dreadful incident of the poisoned glove and the swift execution of
the would-be murderer, and had made Cecil her only confidant. But he
did know that Elizabeth herself had commanded Michel de la Forêt to
the lists; and his mad jealousy impelled him to resort to a satanic
cunning towards these two fugitives, who seemed to have mounted
within a few short days as far as had he in thrice as many years to a
high place in the regard of the Majesty of England.

To disgrace them both, to sow distrust of the girl in the Queen’s
mind; to make her seem the opposite of what she was; to drop in her
own mind suspicion of her lover; to drive her to some rash act, some
challenge of the Queen herself--that was his plan. He knew how little
Elizabeth’s imperious spirit would brook any challenge from this
fearless girl concerning De la Forêt. But to convince her that the
Queen favored Michel in some shadowed sense, that De la Forêt was
privy to a dark compact--so deep a plot was all worthy of a larger
end. He had well inspired the court of France through its ambassador
to urge the Medici to press actively and bitterly for De la Forêt’s
return to France, and to the beheading sword that waited for him;
and his task had been made light by international difficulties, which
made the heart of Elizabeth’s foreign policy friendship with France
and an alliance against Philip of Spain. She had, therefore, opened
up, even in the past few days, negotiations once again for the
long-talked-of marriage with the Duke of Anjou, the brother of the
King, son of the Medici. State policy was involved, and, if De la
Forêt might be a counter, the pledge of exchange in the game, as it
were, the path would once more be clear.

He well believed that Elizabeth’s notice of De la Forêt was but a
fancy that would pass, as a hundred times before such fancies had
come and gone; but against that brighter prospect there lay the fact
that never before had she shown himself such indifference. In the
past she had raged against him, she had imprisoned him, she had
driven him from her presence in her anger, but always her paroxysms
of rage had been succeeded by paroxysms of tenderness. Now he saw a
colder light in the sky, a grayer horizon met his eye. So at every
corner of the compass he played for the breaking of the spell.

Yet as he now bowed low before Angèle there seemed to show in his
face a very candor of surprise, of pleasure, joined to a something
friendly and protective in his glance and manner. His voice
insinuated that by-gones should be by-gones; it suggested that she
had misunderstood him. It pleaded against the injustice of her
prejudice.

“So far from home!” he said, with a smile.

“More miles from home,” she replied, thinking of never-returning days
in France, “than I shall ever count again.”

“But no, methinks the palace is within a whisper,” he responded.

“Lord Leicester knows well I am a prisoner, that I no longer abide in
the palace,” she answered.

He laughed lightly. “An imprisonment in a Queen’s friendship. I
bethink me, it is three hours since I saw you go to the palace. It is
a few worthless seconds since you have got your freedom.”

She nettled at his tone. “Lord Leicester takes great interest in my
unimportant goings and comings. I cannot think it is because I go and
come.”

He chose to misunderstand her meaning. Drawing closer, he bent over
her shoulder. “Since your arrival here my only diary is the tally of
your coming and going.” Suddenly, as though by an impulse of great
frankness, he added, in a low tone:

“And is it strange that I should follow you--that I should worship
grace and virtue? Men call me this and that. You have no doubt been
filled with dark tales of my misdeeds. Has there been one in the
court, even one, who, living by my bounty or my patronage, has said
one good word of me? And why? For long years the Queen, who, maybe,
might have been better counselled, chose me for her friend,
adviser--because I was true to her. I have lived for the Queen, and
living for her have lived for England. Could I keep--I ask you, could
I keep myself blameless in the midst of flattery, intrigue, and
conspiracy? I admit that I have played with fiery weapons in my day,
and must needs still do so. The incorruptible cannot exist in the
corrupted air of this court. You have come here with the light of
innocence and truth about you. At first I could scarce believe that
such goodness lived, hardly understood it. The light half-blinded and
embarrassed; but at last I saw! You of all this court have made me
see what sort of life I might have lived. You have made me dream the
dreams of youth and high, unsullied purpose once again. Was it
strange that in the dark pathways of the court I watched your
footsteps come and go, carrying radiance with you? No--Leicester has
learned how sombre, sinister, has been his past, by a presence which
is the soul of beauty, of virtue, and of happy truth. Lady, my heart
is yours. I worship you.”

Overborne for the moment by the eager, searching eloquence of his
words, she had listened bewildered to him. Now she turned upon him
with panting breath, and said:

“My lord, my lord, I will hear no more. You know I love Monsieur de
la Forêt, for whose sake I am here in England--for whose sake I
still remain.”

“’Tis a labor of love but ill requited,” he answered, with suggestion
in his tone.

“What mean you, my lord?” she asked, sharply, a kind of blind agony
in her voice; for she felt his meaning, and though she did not
believe him, and knew in her soul he slandered, there was a sting,
for slander ever scorches where it touches.

“Can you not see?” he said. “May Day--why did the Queen command him
to the lists? Why does she keep him here--in the palace? Why, against
the will of France, her ally, does she refuse to send him forth? Why,
unheeding the laughter of the court, does she favor this unimportant
stranger, brave though he be? Why should she smile upon him?... Can
you not see, sweet lady?”

“You know well why the Queen detains him here,” she answered, calmly
now. “In the Queen’s understanding with France, exiles who preach the
faith are free from extradition. You heard what the Queen required of
him--that on Trinity Day he should preach before her, and upon this
preaching should depend his safety.”

“Indeed, so her Majesty said with great humor,” replied Leicester.
“So, indeed, she said; but when we hide our faces a thin veil
suffices. The man is a soldier--a soldier born. Why should he turn
priest now? I pray you, think again. He was quick of wit; the Queen’s
meaning was clear to him; he rose with seeming innocence to the fly,
and she landed him at the first toss. But what is forward bodes no
good to you, dear star of heaven. I have known the Queen for half a
lifetime. She has wild whims and dangerous fancies, fills her hours
of leisure with experiences--an artist is the Queen. She means no
good to you.”

She had made as if to leave him, though her eyes searched in vain for
the path which she should take; but she now broke in, impatiently:

“Poor, unnoted though I am, the Queen of England is my friend,” she
answered. “What evil could she wish me? From me she has naught to
fear. I am not an atom in her world. Did she but lift her finger I
am done. But she knows that, humble though I be, I would serve her to
my last breath; because I know, my Lord Leicester, how many there are
who serve her foully, faithlessly, and there should be those by her
who would serve her singly.”

His eyes half closed, he beat his toe upon the ground. He frowned, as
though he had no wish to hurt her by words which he yet must speak.
With calculated thought he faltered.

“Yet do you not think it strange,” he said, at last, “that Monsieur
de la Forêt should be within the palace ever, and that you should be
banished from the palace? Have you never seen the fly and the spider
in the web? Do you not know that they who have the power to bless or
ban, to give joy or withhold it, appear to give when they mean to
withhold? God bless us all--how has your innocence involved your
judgment!”

She suddenly flushed to the eyes. “I have wit enough,” she said,
acidly, “to feel that truth which life’s experience may not have
taught me. It is neither age nor evil that teaches one to judge
’twixt black and white. God gives the true divination to human hearts
that need.”

It was a contest in which Leicester revelled--simplicity and
single-mindedness against the multifarious and double-tongued. He had
made many efforts in his time to conquer argument and prejudice. When
he chose, none could be more insinuating or turn the flank of a
proper argument by adroit suggestion. He used his power now.

“You think she means well by you? You think that she, who has a
thousand ladies of a kingdom at her call, of the best and most
beautiful--and even,” his voice softened, “though you are more
beautiful than all, that beauty would soften her towards you? When
was it Elizabeth loved beauty? When was it that her heart warmed
towards those who would love or wed? Did she not imprison me, even in
these palace grounds, for one whole year because I sought to marry?
Has she not a hundred times sent from her presence women with faces
like flowers because they were in contrast to her own? Do you see
love blossoming at this court? God’s Son! but she would keep us all
like babes in Eden and she could, unmated and unloved.”

He drew quickly to her and leaned over her, whispering down her
shoulder. “Do you think there is any reason why all at once she
should change her mind and cherish lovers?”

She looked up at him fearlessly and firmly.

“In truth, I do. My Lord Leicester, you have lived in the circle of
her good pleasure, near to her noble Majesty, as you say, for half a
lifetime. Have you not found a reason why now or any time she should
cherish love and lovers? Ah, no; you have seen her face, you have
heard her voice, but you have not known her heart!”

“Ah, opportunity lacked,” he said, in irony and with a reminiscent
smile. “I have been busy with state affairs, I have not sat on
cushions, listening to royal fingers on the virginals. Still, I ask
you, do you think there is a reason why from her height she should
stoop down to rescue you or give you any joy? Wherefore should the
Queen do aught to serve you? Wherefore should she save your lover?”

It was on Angèle’s lips to answer, “Because I saved her life on May
Day.” It was on her lips to tell of the poisoned glove, but she only
smiled, and said:

“But, yes, I think, my lord, there is a reason, and in that reason I
have faith.”

Leicester saw how firmly she was fixed in her idea, how rooted was
her trust in the Queen’s intentions towards her; and he guessed there
was something hidden which gave her such supreme confidence.

“If she means to save him, why does she not save him now? Why not end
the business in a day--not stretch it over these long midsummer
weeks?”

“I do not think it strange,” she answered. “He is a political
prisoner. Messages must come and go between England and France.
Besides, who calleth for haste? Is it I who have most at stake? It is
not the first time I have been at court, my lord. In these high
places things are orderly“--a touch of sarcasm came into her
tone--“life is not a mighty rushing wind save to those whom vexing
passion drives to hasty deeds.”

She made to move on once more, but paused, still not certain of her
way.

“Permit me to show you,” he said, with a laugh and a gesture towards
a path. “Not that--this is the shorter. I will take you to a turning
which leads straight to your durance--and another which leads
elsewhere!”

She could not say no, because she had, in very truth, lost her way,
and she might wander far and be in danger. Also, she had no fear of
him. Steeled to danger in the past, she was not timid; but, more than
all, the game of words between them had had its fascination. The man
himself, by virtue of what he was, had his fascination also. The
thing inherent in all her sex, to peep over the hedge, to skirt
dangerous fires lightly, to feel the warmth distantly and not be
scorched--that was in her, too, and she lived according to her race
and the long predisposition of the ages. Most women like her--as
good as she--have peeped and stretched out hands to the alluring fire
and come safely through, wiser and no better. But many, too,
bewildered and confused by what they see--as light from a mirror
flashed into the eye half blinds--have peeped over the hedge and,
miscalculating their power of self-control, have entered in, and
returned no more into the quiet garden of unstraying love.

Leicester quickly put on an air of gravity. “I warn you that danger
lies before you. If you cross the Queen--and you will cross the Queen
when you know the truth, as I know it--you will pay a heavy price for
refusing Leicester as your friend.”

She made a protesting motion and seemed about to speak, but suddenly,
with a passionate gesture, Leicester added: “Let them go their way.
Monsieur de la Forêt will be tossed aside before another winter
comes. Do you think he can abide here in the midst of plot and
intrigue and hated by the people of the court? He is doomed. But
more, he is unworthy of you; while I can serve you well, and I can
love you well.” She shrank away from him. “No, do not turn from me,
for, in very truth, Leicester’s heart has been pierced by the
inevitable arrow. You think I mean you evil?”

He paused as though uncertain how to proceed, then with a sudden
impulse continued: “No! no! And if there be a saving grace in
marriage, marriage it shall be, if you will but hear me. You shall be
my wife--Leicester’s wife. As I have mounted to power, so I will hold
power with you--with you, the brightest spirit that ever England saw.
Worthy of a kingdom with you beside me, I shall win to greater,
happier days; and at Kenilworth, where kings and queens have lodged,
you shall be ruler. We will leave this court until Elizabeth,
betrayed by those who know not how to serve her, shall send for me
again. Here--the power behind the throne--you and I will sway this
realm through the aging, sentimental Queen. Listen, and look at me in
the eyes--I speak the truth, you read my heart. You think I hated
you and hated De la Forêt. By all the gods! it’s true I hated him,
because I saw that he would come between me and the Queen. A man must
have one great passion. Life itself must be a passion. Power was my
passion--power, not the Queen. You have broken all that down. I yield
it all to you--for your sake and my own. I would steal from life yet
before my sun goes to its setting a few years of truth and honesty
and clear design. At heart I am a patriot--a loyal Englishman. Your
cause--the cause of Protestantism--did I not fight for it at
Rochelle? Have I not ever urged the Queen to spend her revenue for
your cause, to send her captains and her men to fight for it?”

She raised her head in interest, and her lips murmured, “Ah, yes, I
know you did that.”

He saw his advantage and pursued it. “See, I will be honest with
you--honest at last, as I have wished in vain to be, for honesty was
misunderstood. It is not so with you--you understand. Ah, light of
womanhood, I speak the truth now. I have been evil in my day--I
admit it--evil because I was in the midst of evil. I betrayed because
I was betrayed; I slew else I should have been slain. We have had
dark days in England, privy conspiracy and rebellion; and I have had
to thread my way through dreadful courses by a thousand blind paths.
Would it be no joy to you if I, through your influence, recast my
life--remade my policy, renewed my youth--pursuing principle where I
have pursued opportunity? Angèle, come to Kenilworth with me. Leave
De la Forêt to his fate. The way to happiness is with me. Will you
come?”

He had made his great effort. As he spoke he almost himself believed
that he told the truth. Under the spell of his own emotional power it
seemed as though he meant to marry her, as though he could find
happiness in the union. He had almost persuaded himself to be what he
would have her to believe he might be.

Under the warmth and convincing force of his words her pulses had
beat faster, her heart had throbbed in her throat, her eyes had
glistened; but not with that light which they had shed for Michel de
la Forêt. How different was this man’s wooing--its impetuous,
audacious, tender violence, with that quiet, powerful, almost sacred
gravity of her Camisard lover! It is this difference--the weighty,
emotional difference--between a desperate passion and a pure love
which has ever been so powerful in twisting the destinies of a moiety
of the world to misery, who otherwise would have stayed contented,
inconspicuous, and good. Angèle would have been more than human if
she had not felt the spell of the ablest intriguer, of the most
fascinating diplomatist of his day.

Before he spoke of marriage the thrill--the unconvincing thrill
though it was--of a perilous temptation was upon her; but the very
thing most meant to move her only made her shudder; for in her heart
of hearts she knew that he was ineradicably false. To be married to
one constitutionally untrue would be more terrible a fate for her
than to be linked to him in a lighter, more dissoluble bond. So do
the greatest tricksters of this world overdo their part, so play the
wrong card when every past experience suggests it is the card to
play. He knew by the silence that followed his words, and the slow,
steady look she gave him, that she was not won nor on the way to the
winning.

“My lord,” she said, at last, and with a courage which steadied her
affrighted and perturbed innocence, “you are eloquent, you are
fruitful of flattery, of those things which have, I doubt not, served
you well in your day. But, if you see your way to a better life, it
were well you should choose one of nobler mould than I. I am not made
for sacrifice, to play the missioner and snatch brands from the
burning. I have enough to do to keep my own feet in the ribbon-path
of right. You must look elsewhere for that guardian influence which
is to make of you a paragon.”

“No, no,” he answered, sharply, “you think the game not worth the
candle--you doubt me and what I can do for you; my sincerity, my
power you doubt.”

“Indeed, yes, I doubt both,” she answered, gravely, “for you would
have me believe that I have power to lead you. With how small a mind
you credit me! You think, too, that you sway this kingdom; but I know
that you stand upon a cliff’s edge, and that the earth is fraying
’neath your tread. You dare to think that you have power to drag down
with you the man who honors me with--”

“With his love, you’d say. Yet he will leave you fretting out your
soul until the sharp-edged truth cuts your heart in twain. Have you
no pride? I care not what you say of me--say your worst, and I will
not resent it, for I will still prove that your way lies with me.”

She gave a bitter sigh, and touched her forehead with trembling
fingers. “If words could prove it, I had been convinced but now, for
they are well devised, and they have music, too; but such a music, my
lord, as would drown the truth in the soul of a woman. Your words
allure, but you have learned the art of words. You yourself--oh, my
lord, you who have tasted all the pleasures of this world, could you
then have the heart to steal from one who has so little that little
which gives her happiness?”

“You know not what can make you happy--I can teach you that. By God’s
Son! but you have wit and intellect and are a match for a prince, not
for a cast-off Camisard. I shall ere long be lord-lieutenant of these
isles--of England and Ireland. Come to my nest. We will fly far! Ah,
your eye brightens, your heart leaps to mine--I feel it now, I--”

“Oh, have done, have done,” she passionately broke in. “I would
rather die, be torn upon the rack, burned at the stake, than put my
hand in yours. And you do not wish it--you speak but to destroy, not
to cherish. While you speak to me I see all those”--she made a
gesture as though to put something from her--“all those to whom you
have spoken as you have done to me. I hear the myriad falsehoods you
have told--one whelming confusion. I feel the blindness which has
crept upon them--those poor women--as you have sown the air with the
dust of the passion which you call love. Oh, you never knew what love
meant, my lord. I doubt if when you lay in your mother’s arms you
turned to her with love. You never did one kindly act for love; no
generous thought was ever born in you by love. Sir, I know it as
though it were written in a book: your life has been one long
calculation--your sympathy or kindness a calculated thing.
Good-nature, emotion you may have had, but never the divine thing by
which the world is saved. Were there but one little place where that
Eden flower might bloom within your heart, you could not seek to ruin
that love which lives in mine and fills it, conquering all the lesser
part of me. I never knew of how much love I was capable until I heard
you speak to-day. Out of your life’s experience, out of all that you
have learned of women, good and evil, you--for a selfish, miserable
purpose--would put the gyves upon my wrists, make me a pawn in your
dark game--a pawn which you would lose without a thought as the game
went on.

“If you must fight, my lord, if you must ruin Monsieur de la Forêt
and a poor Huguenot girl, do it by greater means than this. You have
power, you say. Use it then; destroy us, if you will. Send us to the
Medici: bring us to the block, murder us--that were no new thing to
Lord Leicester. But do not stoop to treachery and falsehood to thrust
us down. Oh, you have made me see the depths of shame to-day! But
yet”--her voice suddenly changed, a note of plaintive force filled
it--“I have learned much this hour--more than I ever knew. Perhaps it
is that we come to knowledge only through fire and tears.” She smiled
sadly. “I suppose that sometimes, some day, this page of life would
have scorched my sight. Oh, my lord, what was there in me that you
dared speak so to me? Was there naught to have stayed your tongue and
stemmed the tide in which you would engulf me?”

He had listened as in a dream at first. She had read him as he might
read himself, had revealed him with the certain truth, as none other
had done in all his days. He was silent for a long moment, then
raised his hand in protest.

“You have a strange idea of what makes offence and shame. I offered
you marriage,” he said, complacently. “And when I come to think upon
it, after all that you have said, fair Huguenot, I see no cause for
railing. You call me this and that; to you I am a liar, a rogue, a
cut-throat, what you will; and yet, and yet, I will have my way--I
will have my way in the end.”

“You offered me marriage--and meant it not. Do I not know? Did you
rely so little on your compelling powers, my lord, that you must
needs resort to that bait? Do you think that you will have your way
to-morrow if you have failed to-day?”

With a quick change of tone and a cold, scornful laugh he rejoined,
“Do you intend to measure swords with me?”

“Oh no, my lord,” she answered, quietly, “what should one poor,
unfriended girl do in contest with the Earl of Leicester? But yet, in
very truth, I have friends, and in my hour of greatest need I shall
go seeking.”

She was thinking of the Queen. He guessed her thought.

“You will not be so mad,” he said, urbanely, again. “Of what can you
complain to the Queen? Tut! tut! you must seek other friends than the
Majesty of England.”

“Then, my lord, I will,” she answered, bravely. “I will seek the help
of such a Friend as fails not when all fails, even He who putteth
down the mighty from their seats and exalteth the humble.”

“Ah, well, if I have not touched your heart,” he answered, gallantly,
“I at least have touched your wit and intellect. Once more I offer
you alliance. Think well before you decline.”

He had no thought that he would succeed, but it was ever his way to
return to the charge. It had been the secret of his life’s success so
far. He had never taken a refusal. He had never believed that when
man or woman said no that no was meant; and if it were meant he still
believed that constant dropping would wear away the stone. He
still held that persistence was the greatest lever in the world,
that unswerving persistence was the master of opportunity.

[Illustration: “IT WAS THE QUEEN’S FOOL”]

They had now come to two paths in the park leading different ways.

“This road leads to Kenilworth, this to your prison,” he said, with a
slow gesture, his eyes fixed upon hers.

“I will go to my prison, then,” she said, stepping forward, “and
alone, by your leave.”

Leicester was a good sportsman. Though he had been beaten all along
the line, he hid his deep chagrin, choked down the rage that was in
him. Smiling, he bowed low.

“I will do myself the honor to visit your prison to-morrow,” he said.

“My father will welcome you, my lord,” she answered, and, gathering
up her skirt, ran down the pathway.

He stood, unmoving, and watched her disappear.

“But I shall have my way with them both,” he said, aloud.

The voice of a singer sounded in the greenwood. Half consciously
Leicester listened. The words came shrilling through the trees:

    “Oh, love, it is a lily flower,
    (_Sing, my captain, sing, my lady!_)
    The sword shall cleave it, Life shall leave it--
    Who shall know the hour?
    (_Sing, my lady, still!_).”

Presently the jingling of bells mingled with the song, then a figure
in motley burst upon him. It was the Queen’s fool.

“Brother, well met--most happily met!” he cried.

“And why well met, fool?” asked Leicester.

“Prithee, my work grows heavy, brother. I seek another fool for the
yoke. Here are my bells for you. I will keep my cap. And so we will
work together, fool: you for the morning, I for the afternoon, and
the devil take the night-time! So God be with you, Obligato!”

With a laugh he leaped into the undergrowth and left Leicester
standing with the bells in his hand.



XVI


Angèle had come to know, as others in like case have ever done, how
wretched indeed is that poor man that hangs on princes’ favors. She
had saved the Queen’s life upon May Day, and on the evening of that
day the Queen had sent for her, had made such high and tender
acknowledgment of her debt as would seem to justify for her perpetual
honor. And what Elizabeth said she meant; but in a life set in
forests of complications and opposing interests the political
overlapped the personal in her nature. Thus it was that she had kept
the princes of the world dangling, advancing towards marriage with
them, retreating suddenly, setting off one house against the other,
allying herself to one European power to-day, with another
to-morrow, her own person and her crown the pawn with which she
played. It was not a beautiful thing in a woman, but it was what a
woman could do; and, denied other powers given to men--as to her
father--she resorted to astute but doubtful devices to advance her
diplomacy. Over all was self-infatuation, the bane of princes, the
curse of greatness, the source of wide injustice. It was not to be
expected, as Leicester had said, that Elizabeth, save for the whim of
the moment, would turn aside to confer benefit upon Angèle or to keep
her in mind, unless constrained to do so for some political reason.

The girl had charmed the Queen, had, by saving her life, made England
her long debtor; but Leicester had judged rightly in believing that
the Queen might find the debt irksome; that her gratitude would be
corroded by other destructive emotions. It was true that Angèle had
saved her life, but Michel had charmed her eye. He had proved himself
a more gallant fighter than any in her kingdom; and had done it, as
he had said, in her honor. So, as her admiration for Michel grew, her
debt to Angèle became burdensome; and, despite her will, there stole
into her mind the old petulance and smothered anger against beauty
and love and marriage. She could ill bear that one near her person
should not be content to flourish in the light and warmth of her own
favor, setting aside all other small affections. So it was that she
had sent Angèle to her father and kept De la Forêt in the palace.
Perplexed, troubled by new developments, the birth of a son to Mary
Queen of Scots, the demand of her Parliament that she should marry,
the pressure of foreign policy which compelled her to open up again
negotiations for marriage with the Duke of Anjou--all these combined
to detach her from the interest she had suddenly felt in Angèle. But,
by instinct, she knew also that Leicester, through jealousy, had
increased the complication; and, fretful under the long influence he
had had upon her, she steadily lessened intercourse with him. The
duel he fought with Lemprière on May Day came to her ears through the
Duke’s Daughter, and she seized upon it with sharp petulance. First
she ostentatiously gave housing and care to Lemprière, and went to
visit him; then, having refused Leicester audience, wrote to him.

“What is this I hear,” she scrawled upon the paper--“that you have
forced a quarrel with the Lord of Rozel, and have well ny ta’en his
life! Is swording, then, your dearest vice that you must urge it on a
harmless gentleman, and my visitor? Do you think you hold a charter
of freedom for your selfwill? Have a care, Leicester, or, by God! you
shall know another sword surer than your own.”

The rage of Leicester on receiving this knew no bounds; for though he
had received from Elizabeth stormy letters before, none had had in it
the cold irony of this missive. The cause of it? Desperation seized
him. With a mad disloyalty he read in every word of Elizabeth’s
letter, Michel de la Forêt, refugee. With madder fury he determined
to strike for the immediate ruin of De la Forêt, and Angèle with
him--for had she not thrice repulsed him as though he had been some
village captain? After the meeting in the maze he had kept his
promise of visiting her “prison.” By every art, and without avail, he
had through patient days sought to gain an influence over her; for he
saw that if he could but show the Queen that the girl was open to his
advances, accepted his protection, her ruin would be certain--in
anger Elizabeth would take revenge upon both refugees. But however
much he succeeded with Monsieur Aubert, he failed wholly with Angèle.
She repulsed him still with the most certain courtesy, with the
greatest outward composure; but she had to make her fight alone, for
the Queen forbade intercourse with Michel, and she must have
despaired but for the messages sent now and then by the Duke’s
Daughter.

Through M. Aubert, to whom Leicester was diligently courteous, and
whom he sought daily, discussing piously the question of religion so
dear to the old man’s heart, he strove to foster in Angèle’s mind
the suspicion he had ventured at their meeting in the maze, that the
Queen, through personal interest in Michel, was saving his life to
keep him in her household. So well did he work on the old man’s
feelings that when he offered his own protection to M. Aubert and
Angèle, whatever the issue with De la Forêt might be, he was met with
an almost tearful response of gratitude. It was the moment to convey
a deep distrust of De la Forêt into the mind of the old refugee, and
it was subtly done.

Were it not better to leave the court, where only danger surrounded
them, and find safety on Leicester’s own estate, where no man living
could molest them? Were it not well to leave Michel de la Forêt to
his fate, whatever it would be? Thrice within a week the Queen had
sent for De la Forêt--what reason was there for that, unless the
Queen had a secret personal interest in him? Did M. Aubert think it
was only a rare touch of humor which had turned De la Forêt into a
preacher, and set his fate upon a sermon to be preached before the
court? He himself had long held high office, had been near to her
Majesty, and he could speak with more knowledge than he might use--it
grieved him that Mademoiselle Aubert should be placed in so painful a
position.

Sometimes as the two talked Angèle would join them; and then there
was a sudden silence, which made her flush with embarrassment,
anxiety, or anger. In vain did she assume a cold composure, in vain
school herself to treat Leicester with a precise courtesy; in vain
her heart protested the goodness of De la Forêt and high uprightness
of the Queen; the persistent suggestions of the dark earl worked upon
her mind in spite of all. Why had the Queen forbidden her to meet
Michel, or write to him, or to receive letters from him? Why had the
Queen, who had spoken such gratitude, deserted her. And now even the
Duke’s Daughter wrote to her no more, sent her no more messages. She
felt herself a prisoner, and that the Queen had forgotten her debt.

She took to wandering to that part of the palace grounds where she
could see the windows of the tower her lover inhabited. Her old
habit of cheerful talk deserted her, and she brooded. It was long
before she heard of the duel between the seigneur and Lord
Leicester--the Duke’s Daughter had kept this from her, lest she
should be unduly troubled--and when, in anxiety, she went to the
house where Lemprière had been quartered, he had gone, none could
tell her whither. Buonespoir was now in close confinement, by secret
orders of Leicester, and not allowed to walk abroad, and thus, with
no friend save her father, now so much under the influence of the
earl, she was bitterly solitary. Bravely she fought the growing care
and suspicion in her heart; but she was being tried beyond her
strength. Her father had urged her to make personal appeal to the
Queen; and at times, despite her better judgment, she was on the
verge of doing so. Yet what could she say? She could not go to the
Queen of England and cry out, like a silly milkmaid, “You have taken
my lover--give him back to me!” What proof had she that the Queen
wanted her lover? And if she spoke, the impertinence of the
suggestion might send back to the fierce Medici that same lover, to
lose his head.

Leicester, who now was playing the game as though it were a hazard
for states and kingdoms, read the increasing trouble in her face; and
waited confidently for the moment when in desperation she would lose
her self-control and go to the Queen.

But he did not reckon with the depth of the girl’s nature and her
true sense of life. Her brain told her that what she was tempted to
do she should not; that her only way was to wait; to trust that the
Queen of England was as much true woman as queen, and as much queen
as true woman; and that the one was held in high equipoise by the
other. Besides, Trinity Day would bring the end of it all, and that
was not far off. She steeled her will to wait till then, no matter
how dark the sky might be.

As time went on, Leicester became impatient. He had not been able to
induce M. Aubert to compel Angèle to accept a quiet refuge at
Kenilworth; he saw that this plan would not work, and he deployed
his mind upon another. If he could but get Angèle to seek De la Forêt
in his apartment in the palace, and then bring the matter to
Elizabeth’s knowledge, with sure proof, De la Forêt’s doom would be
sealed. At great expense, however; for, in order to make the scheme
effective, Angèle should visit De la Forêt at night. This would mean
the ruin of the girl as well. Still that could be set right; because,
once De la Forêt was sent to the Medici, the girl’s character could
be cleared; and, if not, so much the surer would she come at last to
his protection. What he had professed in cold deliberation had become
in some sense a fact. She had roused in him an eager passion. He
might even dare, when De la Forêt was gone, to confess his own action
in the matter to the Queen, once she was again within his influence.
She had forgiven him more than that in the past, when he had made his
own mad devotion to herself excuse for his rashness or misconduct.

He waited opportunity, he arranged all details carefully, he secured
the passive agents of his purpose; and when the right day came he
acted.

About ten o’clock one night, a half-hour before the closing of the
palace gates, when no one could go in or go out save by permit of the
Lord Chamberlain, a footman from a surgeon of the palace came to
Angèle, bearing a note which read:

“_Your friend is very ill, and asks for you. Come hither alone; and
now, if you would come at all._”

Her father was confined to bed with some ailment of the hour, and
asleep--it were no good to awaken him. Her mind was at once made up.
There was no time to ask permission of the Queen. She knew the
surgeon’s messengers by sight; this one was in the usual livery, and
his master’s name was duly signed. In haste she made herself ready,
and went forth into the night with the messenger, her heart beating
hard, a pitiful anxiety shaking her. Her steps were fleet between
the lodge and the palace. They were challenged nowhere, and the
surgeon’s servant, entering a side-door of the palace, led her
hastily through gloomy halls and passages, where they met no one,
though once in a dark corridor some one brushed against her. She
wondered why there were no servants to show the way, why the footman
carried no torch nor candle, but haste and urgency seemed due excuse,
and she thought only of Michel, and that she would soon see
him--dying, dead perhaps before she could touch his hand! At last
they emerged into a lighter and larger hall-way, where her guide
suddenly paused, and said to Angèle, motioning towards a door:

“Enter. He is there.”

For a moment she stood still, scarce able to breathe, her heart hurt
her so. It seemed to her as if life itself was arrested. As the
servant, without further words, turned and left her, she knocked,
opened the door without awaiting a reply, and, stepping into
semidarkness, said, softly:

“Michel! Michel!”



XVII


At Angèle’s entrance a form slowly raised itself on a couch, and a
voice, not Michel’s, said: “Mademoiselle--by our Lady, ’tis she!”

It was the voice of the Seigneur of Rozel, and Angèle started back,
amazed.

“You, monsieur--you!” she gasped. “It was you that sent for me?”

“Send? Not I--I have not lost my manners yet. Rozel at court is no
greater fool than Lemprière in Jersey.”

Angèle wrung her hands. “I thought it De la Forêt who was ill. The
surgeon said to come quickly.”

Lemprière braced himself against the wall, for he was weak and his
fever still high. “Ill?--not he! As sound in body and soul as any
man in England. That is a friend, that De la Forêt lover of yours, or
I’m no butler to the Queen. He gets leave and brings me here, and
coaxes me back to life again--with not a wink of sleep for him these
five days past till now.”

Angèle had drawn nearer, and now stood beside the couch, trembling
and fearful, for it came to her mind that she had been made the
victim of some foul device. The letter had read: “_Your friend is
ill._” True, the seigneur was her friend, but he had not sent for
her.

“Where is De la Forêt?” she asked, quickly.

“Yonder, asleep,” said the seigneur, pointing to a curtain which
divided the room from one adjoining.

Angèle ran quickly towards the door, then stopped short. No, she
would not waken him. She would go back at once. She would leave the
palace by the way she came. Without a word she turned and went
towards the door opening into the hallway. With her hand upon the
latch she stopped short again, for she realized that she did not
know her way through the passages and corridors, and that she must
make herself known to the servants of the palace to obtain guidance
and exit. As she stood helpless and confused, the seigneur called,
hoarsely, “De la Forêt! De la Forêt!”

Before Angèle could decide upon her course the curtain of the other
room was thrust aside and De la Forêt entered. He was scarce awake,
and he yawned contentedly. He did not see Angèle, but turned towards
Lemprière. For once the seigneur had a burst of inspiration. He saw
that Angèle was in the shadow, and that De la Forêt had not observed
her. He determined that the lovers should meet alone.

“Your arm, De la Forêt,” he grunted. “I’ll get me to the bed in
yonder room--’tis easier than this couch.”

“Two hours ago you could not bear the bed, and must get you to the
couch--and now! Seigneur, do you know the weight you are?” he added,
laughing, as he stooped, and, helping Lemprière gently to his feet,
raised him slowly in his arms and went heavily with him to the
bedroom. Angèle watched him with a strange thrill of timid admiration
and delight. Surely it could not be that Michel--her Michel--could be
bought from his allegiance by any influence on earth. There was the
same old simple laugh on his lips as, with chaffing words, he carried
the huge seigneur to the other room. Her heart acquitted him then and
there of all blame, past or to come.

“Michel!” she said aloud, involuntarily--the call of her spirit which
spoke on her lips against her will.

De la Forêt had helped Lemprière to the bed again as he heard his
name called, and he stood suddenly still, looking straight before him
into space. Angèle’s voice seemed ghostly and unreal.

“Michel!” he heard again, and he came forward into the room where she
was. Yet once again she said the word scarcely above a whisper, for
the look of rapt wonder and apprehension in his manner overcame her.
Now he turned towards her, where she stood in the shadow by the
door. He saw her, but even yet he did not stir, for she seemed to him
still an apparition.

With a little cry she came forward to him. “Michel--help me!” she
murmured, and stretched out her hands.

With a cry of joy he took her in his arms, and pressed her to his
heart. Then a realization of danger came to him.

“Why did you come?” he asked.

She told him hastily. He heard with astonishment, and then said:
“There is some foul trick here. Have you the message?” She handed it
to him. “It is the surgeon’s writing, verily,” he said; “but it is
still a trick, for the sick man here is Rozel. I see it all. You and
I forbidden to meet--it was a trick to bring you here!”

“Oh, let me go!” she cried. “Michel, Michel, take me hence!” She
turned towards the door.

“The gates are closed,” he said, as a cannon boomed on the evening
air.

Angèle trembled violently. “Oh, what will come of this?” she cried,
in tearful despair.

“Be patient, sweet, and let me think,” he answered.

At that moment there came a knocking at the door, then it was thrown
open, and there stepped inside the Earl of Leicester, preceded by a
page bearing a torch.

“Is Michel de la Forêt within?” he called; then stopped short, as
though astonished, seeing Angèle.

“So! so!” he said, with a contemptuous laugh.

Michel de la Forêt’s fingers twitched. He quickly stepped in front of
Angèle, and answered: “What is your business here, my lord?”

Leicester languorously took off a glove, and seemed to stifle a yawn
in it; then said: “I came to take you into my service, to urge upon
you for your own sake to join my troops, going upon duty in the
North; for I fear that if you stay here the Queen Mother of France
will have her way. But I fear I am too late. A man who has sworn
himself into service d’amour has no time for service de la guerre.”

“I will gladly give an hour from any service I may follow to teach
the Earl of Leicester that he is less a swordsman than a trickster.”

Leicester flushed, but answered coolly: “I can understand your
chagrin. You should have locked your door. It is the safer custom.”
He bowed slightly towards Angèle. “You have not learned our English
habits of discretion, Monsieur de la Forêt. I would only do you
service. I appreciate your choler. I should be no less indignant. So,
in the circumstances, I will see that the gates are opened--of course
you did not realize the flight of time--and I will take mademoiselle
to her lodgings. You may rely on my discretion. I am wholly at your
service--tout à vous, as who should say in your charming language.”

The insolence was so veiled in perfect outward courtesy that it must
have seemed impossible for De la Forêt to reply in terms equal to the
moment. He had, however, no need to reply, for the door of the room
suddenly opened, and two pages stepped inside with torches. They
were followed by a gentleman in scarlet and gold, who said, “The
Queen!” and stepped aside.

An instant afterwards Elizabeth, with the Duke’s Daughter, entered.

The three dropped upon their knees, and Elizabeth waved without the
pages and the gentleman-in-waiting.

When the doors closed, the Queen eyed the three kneeling figures, and
as her glance fell on Leicester a strange glitter came into her eyes.
She motioned all to rise, and, with a hand upon the arm of the Duke’s
Daughter, said to Leicester:

“What brings the Earl of Leicester here?”

“I came to urge upon monsieur the wisdom of holding to the Sword, and
leaving the Book to the butter-fingered religious. Your Majesty needs
good soldiers.”

He bowed, but not low, and it was clear he was bent upon a struggle.
He was confounded by the Queen’s presence--he could not guess why she
should have come; and that she was prepared for what she saw was
clear.

“And brought an eloquent pleader with you?” She made a scornful
gesture towards Angèle.

“Nay, your Majesty; the lady’s zeal outran my own, and crossed the
threshold first.”

The Queen’s face wore a look that Leicester had never seen on it
before, and he had observed it in many moods.

“You found the lady here, then?”

“With monsieur, alone. Seeing she was placed unfortunately, I offered
to escort her hence to her father. But your Majesty came upon the
moment.”

There was a ring of triumph in Leicester’s voice. No doubt, by some
chance, the Queen had become aware of Angèle’s presence, he thought.
Fate had forestalled the letter he had already written on this
matter, and meant to send her within the hour. Chance had played into
his hands with perfect suavity. The Queen, less woman now than queen,
enraged by the information got he knew not how, had come at once to
punish the gross breach of her orders and a dark misconduct--so he
thought.

The Queen’s look, as she turned it on Angèle, apparently had in it
what must have struck terror to even a braver soul than that of the
helpless Huguenot girl.

“And it is thus you spend the hours of night? God’s faith, but you
are young to be so wanton!” she cried, in a sharp voice. “Get you
from my sight, and out of my kingdom as fast as horse and ship may
carry you, as feet may bear you.” Leicester’s face lighted to hear.

“Your high Majesty,” pleaded the girl, dropping on her knees, “I am
innocent. As God lives, I am innocent.”

“The man, then, only is guilty?” the Queen rejoined, with scorn. “Is
it innocent to be here at night, my palace gates shut, with your
lover--alone?” Leicester laughed at the words.

“Your Majesty, oh, your gracious Majesty, hear me. We were not
alone--not alone--”

There was a rustle of curtains, a heavy footstep, and Lemprière of
Rozel staggered into the room. De la Forêt ran to help him, and,
throwing an arm around him, almost carried him towards the couch.
Lemprière, however, slipped from De la Forêt’s grasp to his knees on
the floor before the Queen.

“Not alone, your high and sacred Majesty--I am here--I have been here
through all. I was here when mademoiselle came, brought hither by
trick of some knave not fit to be your immortal Majesty’s subject. I
speak the truth, for I am butler to your Majesty, and no liar. I am
Lemprière of Rozel.”

No man’s self-control could meet such a surprise without wavering.
Leicester was confounded, for he had not known that Lemprière was
housed with De la Forêt. For a moment he could do naught but gaze at
Lemprière. Then, as the seigneur suddenly swayed, and would have
fallen, the instinct of effective courtesy, strong in him, sent him
with arms outstretched to lift him up. Together, without a word, he
and De la Forêt carried him to the couch and laid him down.

That single act saved Leicester’s life. There was something so
naturally (though, in truth, it was so hypocritically) kind in the
way he sprang to his enemy’s assistance that an old spirit of
fondness stirred in the Queen’s breast, and she looked strangely at
him. When, however, they had disposed of Lemprière, and Leicester had
turned again towards her, she said:

“Did you think I had no loyal and true gentlemen at my court, my
lord? Did you think my leech would not serve me as fair as he would
serve the Earl of Leicester? Ye have not bought us all, Robert
Dudley, who have bought and sold so long. The good leech did your
bidding and sent your note to the lady; but there your bad play ended
and Fate’s began. A rabbit’s brains, Leicester--and a rabbit’s end.
Fate has the brains you need.”

Leicester’s anger burst forth now under the lash of ridicule. “I
cannot hope to win when your Majesty plays Fate in caricature.”

With a little gasp of rage Elizabeth leaned over and slapped his face
with her long glove. “Death of my life! but I who made you do unmake
you,” she cried.

He dropped his hand on his sword. “If you were but a man--and not--”
he said, then stopped short, for there was that in the Queen’s face
which changed his purpose.

Anger was shaking her, but there were tears in her eyes. The woman in
her was stronger than the queen. It was nothing to her at this moment
that she might have his life as easily as she had struck his face
with her glove; this man had once shown the better part of himself to
her, and the memory of it shamed her for his own sake now. She made a
step towards the door, then turned and spoke:

“My lord, I have no palace and no ground wherein your footstep will
not be trespass. Pray you, remember.”

She turned towards Lemprière, who lay on his couch faint and panting.
“For you, my Lord of Rozel, I wish you better health, though you have
lost it somewhat in a good cause.”

Her glance fell on De la Forêt. Her look softened. “I will hear you
preach next Sunday, sir.”

There was an instant’s pause, and then she said to Angèle, with
gracious look and in a low voice: “You have heard from me that
calumny which the innocent never escape. To try you, I neglected you
these many days; to see your nature even more truly than I knew it, I
accused you but now. You might have been challenged first by one who
could do you more harm than Elizabeth of England, whose office is to
do good, not evil. Nets are spread for those whose hearts are simple,
and your feet have been caught. Be thankful that we understand; and
know that Elizabeth is your loving friend. You have had trials--I
have kept you in suspense--there has been trouble for us all; but we
are better now; our minds are more content; so all may be well,
please God! You will rest this night with our lady-dove here, and
to-morrow early you shall return in peace to your father. You have a
good friend in our cousin.” She made a gentle motion towards the
Duke’s Daughter. “She has proved it so. In my leech she has a slave.
To her you owe this help in time of need. She hath wisdom, too, and
we must listen to her, even as I have done this day.”

She inclined her head towards the door. Leicester opened it, and as
she passed out she gave him one look which told him that his game was
lost, if not forever, yet for time uncertain and remote. “You must
not blame the leech, my lord,” she said, suddenly turning back. “The
Queen of England has first claim on the duty of her subjects. They
serve me for love; you they help at need as time-servers.”

She stepped on, then paused again and looked back. “And I forbid
fighting betwixt you,” she said, in a loud voice, looking at De la
Forêt and Leicester.

Without further sign or look, she moved on. Close behind came Angèle
and the Duke’s Daughter, and Leicester followed at some distance.



XVIII


Not far from the palace, in a secluded place hidden by laburnum,
roses, box, and rhododendrons, there was a quaint and beautiful
retreat. High up on all sides of a circle of green the flowering
trees and shrubs interlaced their branches, and the grass, as smooth
as velvet, was of such a note as soothed the eye and quieted the
senses. In one segment of the verdant circle was a sort of open bower
made of poles, up which roses climbed and hung across in gay
festoons; and in two other segments mossy banks made resting-places.
Here, in days gone by, when Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, first
drew the eyes of his Queen upon him, Elizabeth came to listen to his
vows of allegiance which swam in floods of passionate devotion to
her person. Christopher Hatton, Sir Henry Lee, the Duke of Norfolk,
the Earl of Sussex, a race of gallants, had knelt upon this pleasant
sward. Here they had declared a devotion that, historically platonic,
had a personal passion which, if rewarded by no personal requital,
must have been an expensive outlay of patience and emotion.

But those days had gone. Robert Dudley had advanced far past his
fellows, had locked himself into the chamber of the Queen’s
confidence, had for long proved himself necessary to her, had mingled
deference and admiration with an air of monopoly, and had then
advanced to an air of possession, of suggested control. Then had
begun his decline. England and England’s Queen could have but one
ruler, and upon an occasion in the past Elizabeth made it clear by
the words she used: “God’s death, my lord! I have wished you well;
but my favor is not so locked up for you that others shall not
partake thereof; and, if you think to rule here, I will take a course
to see you forthcoming. I will have here but one mistress and no
master.”

In these words she but declared what was the practice of her life,
the persistent passion of her rule. The world could have but
one sun, and every man or woman who sought its warmth must be a
sun-worshipper. There could be no divided faith, no luminaries in the
sky save those which lived by borrowed radiance.

Here in this bright theatre of green and roses, poets had sung the
praises of this Queen to her unblushing and approving face; here
ladies thrice as beautiful as she had begged her to tell them the
secret of her beauty, so much greater than that of any living woman;
and she was pleased even when she knew they flattered but to gain her
smile--it was the tribute that power exacts. The place was a cenotaph
of past romance and pleasure. Every leaf of every tree and flower had
impressions of glories, of love, ambition, and intrigue, of tears and
laughter, of joyousness and ruin. Never a spot in England where so
much had been said and done, so far-reaching in effect and
influence. But its glory was departed, its day was done, it was a
place of dreams and memories: the Queen came here no more. Many years
had withered since she had entered this charmed spot; and that it
remained so fine was but evidence of the care of those to whom she
had given strict orders seven years past that in and out of season it
must be ever kept as it had erstwhile been. She had never entered the
place since the day the young Marquis of Wessex, whom she had
imprisoned for marrying secretly and without her consent, on his
release came here, and, with a concentrated bitterness and hate, had
told her such truths as she never had heard from man or woman since
she was born. He had impeached her in such cold and murderous terms
as must have made wince even a woman with no pride. To Elizabeth it
was gall and wormwood. When he at last demanded the life of the young
wife who had died in enforced seclusion, because she had married the
man she loved, Elizabeth was so confounded that she hastily left the
place, saying no word in response. This attack had been so violent,
so deadly, that she had seemed unnerved, and forbore to command him
to the Tower or to death.

“You, in whose breast love never stirred, deny the right to others
whom God blessed with it,” he cried. “Envious of mortal happiness
that dare exist outside your will or gift, you sunder and destroy.
You, in whose hands was power to give joy, gave death. What you have
sown you shall reap. Here, on this spot, I charge you with high
treason, with treachery to the people over whom you have power as a
trust, which trust you have made a scourge.”

With such words as these he had assailed her, and for the first time
in her life she had been confounded. In safety he had left the place
and taken his way to Italy, from which he had never returned, though
she had sent for him in kindness. Since that day Elizabeth had never
come hither; and by-and-by none of her court came save the Duke’s
Daughter, and her fool, who both made it their resort. Here the fool
came upon the Friday before Trinity Day, bringing with him Lemprière
and Buonespoir, to whom he had much attached himself.

It was a day of light and warmth, and the place was like a basket of
roses. Having seen the two serving-men dispose, in a convenient
place, the refreshment which Lemprière’s appetite compelled, the fool
took command of the occasion, and made the two sit upon a bank, while
he prepared the repast.

It was a notable trio; the dwarfish fool, with his shaggy, black
head, twisted mouth, and watchful, wandering eye, whose foolishness
was but the flaunting cover of shrewd observation and trenchant
vision. Going where he would, and saying what he listed, now in the
Queen’s inner chamber, then in the midst of the council,
unconsidered, and the butt of all, he paid for his bed and bounty by
shooting shafts of foolery, which as often made his listeners shrink
as caused their laughter. The Queen he called Delicio, and Leicester,
Obligato--as one who piped to another’s dance. He had taken to
Buonespoir at the first glance, and had frequented him, and
Lemprière had presently been added to his favor. He had again and
again been messenger between them, as also of late between Angèle and
Michel, whose case he viewed from a stand-point of great
cheerfulness, and treated as children playing on the sands--as,
indeed, he did the Queen and all near to her. But Buonespoir, the
pirate, was to him reality and the actual, and he called him Bono
Publico. At first Lemprière, ever jealous of his importance, was
inclined to treat him with elephantine condescension; but he could
not long hold out against the boon archness of the jester, and had
collapsed suddenly into as close a friendship as that between himself
and Buonespoir.

A rollicking spirit was his own fullest stock-in-trade, and it won
him like a brother.

So it was that here, in the very bosom of the forest, lured by the
pipe the fool played, Lemprière burst forth into song, in one hand a
bottle of canary, in the other a handful of comfits:

    “Duke William was a Norman
    (_Spread the sail to the breeze!_)
    That did to England ride;
    At Hastings by the Channel
    (_Drink the wine to the lees!_)
    Our Harold the Saxon died.
    If there be no cakes from Normandy,
    There’ll be more ale in England!”

“Well sung, nobility, and well said,” cried Buonespoir, with a rose
by the stem in his mouth, one hand beating time to the music, the
other clutching a flagon of muscadella; “for the Normans are kings in
England, and there’s drink in plenty at the court of our Lady
Duchess.”

“Delicio shall never want while I have a penny of hers to spend,”
quoth the fool, feeling for another tune.

“Should conspirators prevail, and the damnedest be, she hath yet the
Manor of Rozel and my larder,” urged Lemprière, with a splutter
through the canary.

“That shall be only when the fifth wind comes--it is so ordained,
Nuncio!” said the fool, blinking.

Buonespoir set down his flagon. “And what wind is the fifth wind?”
he asked, scratching his bullet-head, his childlike, wide-spread eyes
smiling the question.

“There be now four winds--the north wind, and his sisters, the east,
the west, and south. When God sends a fifth wind, then conspirators
shall wear crowns. Till then Delicio shall sow and I shall reap, as
is Heaven’s will.”

Lemprière lay back and roared with laughter. “Before Belial, there
never was such another as thou, fool. Conspirators shall die and not
prevail, for a man may not marry his sister, and the north wind shall
have no progeny. So there shall be no fifth wind.”

“Proved, proved!” cried the fool. “The north wind shall go whistle
for a mate--there shall be no fifth wind. So Delicio shall still sail
by the compass, and shall still compass all, and yet be compassed by
none; for it is written, Who compasseth Delicio existeth not.”

Buonespoir watched a lark soaring, as though its flight might lead
him through the fool’s argument clearly. Lemprière closed his eye
and struggled with it, his lips out-pursed, his head sunk on his
breast. Suddenly his eyes opened; he brought the bottle of canary
down with a thud on the turf. “‘Fore Michael and all angels, I have
it, fool; I travel, I conceive. De Carteret of St. Ouen’s must have
gone to the block ere conceiving so. I must conceive thus of the
argument. He who compasseth the Queen existeth not, for, compassing,
he dieth.”

“So it is by the hour-glass and the fortune told in the porringer.
You have conceived like a man, Nuncio.”

“And conspirators, I conceive, must die, so long as there be honest
men to slay them,” rejoined the seigneur.

“Must only honest men slay conspirators? Oh, Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego!” wheezed Buonespoir, with a grin. He placed his hand upon
his head in self-pity. “Buonespoir, art thou damned by muscadella?”
he murmured.

“But thou art purged of the past, Bono Publico,” answered the fool.
“Since Delicio hath looked upon thee she hath shredded the Tyburn
lien upon thee--thou art flushed like a mountain spring; and
conspirators shall fall down by thee if thou, passant, dost fall by
conspirators in the way. Bono Publico, thou shalt live by good
company. Henceforth contraband shall be spurned and the book of grace
opened.”

Buonespoir’s eyes laughed like a summer sky, but he scratched his
head and turned over the rose-stem in his mouth reflectively. “So be
it, then, if it must be; but yesterday the Devon sea-sweeper, Francis
Drake, overhauled me in my cottage, coming from the Queen, who had
infused him of me. ‘I have heard of you from a high mast-head,’ said
he. ‘If the Spanish main allure you, come with me. There be galleons
yonder still; they shall cough up doubloons.’ ‘It hath a sound of
piracy,’ said I. ‘I am expurgated. My name is written on clean paper
now, blessed be the name of the Queen!’ ‘Tut, tut, Buonesperado,’
laughed he, ‘you shall forget that Tyburn is not a fable if you care
to have doubloons reminted at the Queen’s mint. It is meet Spanish
Philip’s head be molted to oblivion, and Elizabeth’s raised, so that
good silver be purged of Popish alloy.’ But that I had sworn by the
little finger of St. Peter, when the moon was full, never to leave
the English seas, I also would have gone with Drake of Devon this
day. It is a man and a master of men, that Drake of Devon.”

“’Tis said that when a man hath naught left but life, and hath
treated his honor like a poor relation, he goes to the Spanish main
with Drake and Grenville,” said Lemprière.

“Then must Obligato go, for he hath such credentials,” said the fool,
blowing thistledown in the air. “Yesterday was no Palm Sunday to
Leicester. Delicio’s head was high. ‘Imperial Majesty,’ quoth
Obligato, his knees upon the rushes, ‘take my life, but send me not
forth into darkness where I shall see my Queen no more. By the light
of my Queen’s eyes have I walked, and pains of hell are my Queen’s
displeasure.’ ‘Methinks thy humbleness is tardy,’ quoth Delicio. ‘No
cock shall crow by my nest,’ said she. ‘And, by the mantle of Elijah,
I am out with sour faces and men of phlegm and rheum. I will be gay
once more. So get thee gone to Kenilworth, and stray not from it on
thy peril. Take thy malaise with thee, and I shall laugh again.’ And
he goeth. So that was the end of Obligato, and now cometh another
tune.”

“She hath good cheer?” asked Lemprière, eagerly.

“I have never seen Delicio smile these seven years as she smiled
to-day; and when she kissed Amicitia I sent for my confessor and made
my will. Delicio hath come to spring-time, and the voice of the
turtle is in her ear.”

“Amicitia--and who is Amicitia?” asked Lemprière, well flushed with
wine.

“She who hath brought Obligato to the diminuendo and finale,”
answered the fool; “even she who hath befriended the Huguenottine of
the black eyes.”

“Ah, she, the Duke’s Daughter--ah, that is a flower of a lady! Did
she not say that my jerkin fitted featly when I did act as butler to
her adorable Majesty three months syne? She hath no mate in the
world save Mademoiselle Aubert, whom I brought hither to honor and to
fame.”

“To honor and fame, was it--but by the hill of desperandum, Nuncio,”
said the fool, prodding him with his stick of bells.

“‘Desperandum!’ I know not Latin, it amazes me,” said Lemprière,
waving a lofty hand.

“She--the Huguenottine--was a-mazed, also, and from the maze was
played by Obligato.”

“How so! how so!” cried the seigneur, catching at his meaning. “Did
Leicester waylay and siege? ’Sblood, had I known this I’d have
broached him and swallowed him even on crutches!”

“She made him raise the siege, she turned his own guns upon him, and
in the end hath driven him hence.”

By rough questioning Lemprière got from the fool, by snatches, the
story of the meeting in the maze, which had left Leicester standing
with the jester’s ribboned bells in his hand. Then the seigneur got
to his feet and hugged the fool, bubbling with laughter.

“By all the blood of all the saints, I will give thee burial in my
own grave when all’s done,” he spluttered; “for there never was such
fooling, never such a wise fool come since Confucius and the Khan.
Good be with you, fool, and thanks be for such a lady. Thanks be also
for the Duke’s Daughter. Ah, how she laid Leicester out! She washed
him up the shore like behemoth, and left him gaping.”

Buonespoir intervened. “And what shall come of it? What shall be the
end? The _Honeyflower_ lies at anchor--there be three good men in
waiting, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and--”

The seigneur interrupted. “There’s little longer waiting. All’s well!
Her high, hereditary Majesty smiled on me, when she gave Leicester
congé and fiery quittance. She hath me in favor, and all shall be
well with Michel and Angèle. O fool, fool, fantastic and flavored
fool, sing me a song of good content, for if this business ends not
with crescendo and bell-ringing, I am no butler to the Queen nor keep
good company!”

Seating themselves upon the mossy bank, their backs to the westward
sun, the fool peered into the green shadows and sang with a soft
melancholy an ancient song that another fool had sung to the first
Tudor:

        “When blows the wind and drives the sleet,
          And all the trees droop down;
        When all the world is sad, ’tis meet
          Good company be known:
            And in my heart good company
            Sits by the fire and sings to me.

        “When warriors return, and one
          That went returns no more;
        When dusty is the road we run,
          And garners have no store;
            One ingle-nook right warm shall be
            Where my heart hath good company.

        “When man shall flee and woman fail,
          And folly mock and hope deceive,
        Let cowards beat the breast and wail,
          I’ll homeward hie; I will not grieve:
            I’ll draw the blind, I’ll there set free
            My heart’s beloved boon company.

        “When kings shall favor, ladies call
          My service to their side;
        When roses grow upon the wall
          Of life, with love inside;
            I’ll get me home with joy to be
            In my heart’s own good company!”

“Oh, fool, oh, beneficent fool, well done! ’Tis a song for a
man--’twould shame De Carteret of St. Ouen’s to his knees,” cried
Lemprière.

“Oh, benignant fool, well done!--’twould draw me from my meals,” said
a voice behind the three, and turning hastily about they saw, smiling
and applausive, the Duke’s Daughter. Beside her was Angèle.

The three got to their feet, and each made obeisance after his
kind--Buonespoir ducking awkwardly, his blue eyes bulging with
pleasure, Lemprière swelling with vanity and spreading wide
acknowledgment of their presence, the fool condescending a wave of
welcome.

“Oh, abundant Amicitia!” cried the fool to the Duke’s Daughter, “thou
art saved by so doing. So get thee to thanksgiving and God’s mercy.”

[Illustration: “THEY SAW, SMILING AND APPLAUSIVE, THE DUKE’S DAUGHTER
AND ANGÈLE”]

“Wherefore am I saved by being drawn from my meals by thy music,
fool?” she asked, linking her arm in Angèle’s.

“Because thou art more enamoured of lampreys than of man; and it is
written that thou shalt love thy fellow-man, and he that loveth not
is lost; therefore, thou art lost if thou lingerest at meals.”

“Is it so, then? And this lady--what thinkest thou? Must she also
abstain and seek good company?”

“No, verily, Amicitia, for she is good company itself, and so she may
sleep in the larder and have no fear.”

“And what think you--shall she be happy? Shall she have gifts of
fate?”

“Discriminately so, Amicitia. She shall have souvenirs and no
suspicions of fate. But she shall not linger here, for all lingerers
in Delicio’s court are spied upon--not for their souls’ good. She
shall go hence, and--”

“Ay, princely lady, she shall go hence,” interposed Lemprière, who
had panted to speak and could bear silence no longer. “Her high
Majesty will kiss her on the brow, and in Jersey Isle she shall
blossom and bloom and know bounty--or never more shall I have
privilege and perquage.”

He lumbered forward and kissed Angèle’s hand as though conferring
distinction, but with great generosity. “I said that all should go
well, and so it shall. Rozel shall prevail. The Queen knows on what
rock to build, as I made warrant for her, and will still do so.”

His vanity was incorrigible, but through it ran so childlike a spirit
that it bred friendship and repulsed not. The Duke’s Daughter pressed
the arm of Angèle, who replied:

“Indeed, it has been so according to your word, and we are--I
am--shall ever be beholden. In storm you have been with us, so true a
pilot and so brave a sailor; and if we come to port and the quiet
shore, there shall be spread a feast of remembrance which shall never
grow cold, seigneur.”

    “One ingle-nook right warm shall be
    Where my heart hath good company,”

sang the fool, and catching by the arm Buonespoir, who ducked his
head in farewell, ran him into the greenwood. Angèle came forward as
if to stay Buonespoir, but stopped short reflectively. As she did so
the Duke’s Daughter whispered quickly into Lemprière’s ear.

Swelling with pride he nodded, and said, “I will reach him and
discover myself to him, and bring him, if he stray, most undoubted
and infallible lady,” and with an air of mystery he made a heavily
respectful exit.

Left alone, the two ladies seated themselves in the bower of roses
and for a moment were silent. Presently the Duke’s Daughter laughed
aloud.

“In what seas of dear conceit swims your leviathan seigneur,
heart’s-ease?”

Angèle stole a hand into the cool palm of the other.

“He was builded for some lonely sea all his own. Creation cheated
him. But God give me ever such friends as he, and I shall, indeed,
‘have good company’ and fear no issue.” She sighed.

“Remains there still a fear? Did you not have good promise in the
Queen’s words _that night_?”

“Ay, so it seemed, and so it seemed before--on May Day, and yet--”

“And yet she banished you, and tried you, and kept you heart-sick?
Sweet, know you not how bitter a thing it is to owe a debt of love to
one whom we have injured? So it was with her. The Queen is not a
saint, but very woman. Marriage she hath ever contemned and hated;
men she hath desired to keep her faithful and impassioned servitors.
So does power blind us. And the braver the man, the more she would
have him in her service, at her feet, the centre of the world.”

“I had served her in a crisis, an hour of peril. Was naught due me?”

The Duke’s Daughter drew her close. “She never meant but that all
should be well. And because you had fastened on her feelings as never
I have seen another of your sex, so for the moment she resented it;
and because De la Forêt was yours--ah, if you had each been naught to
the other, how easy it would have run! Do you not understand?”

“Nay, then, and yea, then--and I put it from me. See, am I not happy
now? Upon your friendship I build.”

“Sweet, I did what I could. Leicester filled her ears with poison
every day, mixed up your business with great affairs with France,
sought to convey that you both were not what you are, until at last I
counter-marched him.” She laughed merrily. “Ay, I can laugh now, but
it was all hanging by a thread, when my leech sent his letter that
brought you to the palace. It had grieved me that I might not seek
you or write to you in all those sad days; but the only way to save
you was by keeping the Queen’s command; for she had known of
Leicester’s visits to you, of your meeting in the maze, and she was
set upon it that alone, all alone, you should be tried to the last
vestige of your strength. If you had failed--”

“If I had failed--” Angèle closed her eyes and shuddered. “I had not
cared for myself, but Michel--”

“If you had _failed_ there had been no need to grieve for Michel. He
had not grieved for thee. But see, the wind blows fair, and in my
heart I have no fear of the end. You shall go hence in peace. This
morning the Queen was happier than I have seen her these many years:
a light was in her eye brighter than showeth to the court. She talked
of this place, recalled the hours spent here, spoke even softly of
Leicester. And that gives me warrant for the future. She has relief
in his banishment, and only recalls older and happier days when, if
her cares were no greater, they were borne by the buoyancy of
girlhood and youth. Of days spent here she talked until mine own eyes
went blind. She said it was a place for lovers, and if she knew any
two lovers who were true lovers, and had been long parted, she would
send them here.”

“There be two true lovers, and they have been long parted,” murmured
Angèle.

“But she commanded these lovers not to meet till Trinity Day, and she
brooks not disobedience even in herself. How could she disobey her
own commands? But”--her eyes were on the greenwood and the path that
led into the circle--“but she would shut her eyes to-day and let the
world move on without her, let lovers thrive and birds be nesting
without heed or hap. Disobedience shall thrive when the Queen
connives at it--and so I leave you to your disobedience, sweet.”

With a laugh she sprang to her feet and ran. Amazed and bewildered,
Angèle gazed after her. As she stood looking she heard her name
called softly.

Turning, she saw Michel. They were alone.



XIX


When De la Forêt and Angèle saw the Queen again it was in the royal
chapel.

Perhaps the longest five minutes of M. de la Forêt’s life were those
in which he waited the coming of the Queen on that Trinity Sunday
which was to decide his fate. When he saw Elizabeth enter the chapel
his eyes swam, till the sight of them was lost in the blur of color
made by the motions of gorgeously apparelled courtiers and the people
of the household. When the Queen had taken her seat and all was
quiet, he struggled with himself to put on such a front of simple
boldness as he would wear upon day of battle. The sword the Queen had
given him was at his side, and his garb was still that of a
gentleman, not of a Huguenot minister such as Elizabeth in her grim
humor, and to satisfy her bond with France, would make of him this
day.

The brown of his face had paled in the weeks spent in the palace and
in waiting for this hour; anxiety had toned the ruddy vigor of his
bearing; but his figure was the figure of a soldier and his hand that
of a strong man. He shook a little as he bowed to her Majesty, but
that passed, and when at last his eye met that of the Duke’s Daughter
he grew steady; for she gave him, as plainly as though her tongue
spoke, a message from Angèle. Angèle herself he did not see--she was
kneeling in an obscure corner, her father’s hand in hers, all the
passion of her life pouring out in prayer.

De la Forêt drew himself up with an iron will. No nobler figure of a
man ever essayed to preach the Word, and so Elizabeth thought; and
she repented of the bitter humor which had set this trial as his
chance of life in England and his freedom from the hand of Catherine.
The man bulked larger in her eyes than he had ever done, and she
struggled with herself to keep the vow she had made to the Duke’s
Daughter the night that Angèle had been found in De la Forêt’s rooms.
He had been the immediate cause, fated or accidental, of the destined
breach between Leicester and herself; he had played a significant
part in her own life. Glancing at her courtiers, she saw none that
might compare with him, the form and being of calm boldness and
courage. She sighed she knew scarce why.

When De la Forêt first opened his mouth and essayed to call the
worshippers to prayer no words came forth--only a dry whisper. Some
ladies simpered, and more than one courtier laughed silently. Michel
saw, and his face flamed up. But he laid a hand on himself, and a
moment afterwards his voice came forth, clear, musical, and resonant,
speaking simple words, direct and unlacquered sentences, passionately
earnest withal. He stilled the people to a unison of sentiment, none
the less interested and absorbed because it was known that he had
been the cause of the great breach between the Queen and the
favorite. Ere he had spoken far, flippant gallants had ceased to
flutter handkerchiefs, to idly move their swords upon the floor.

[Illustration: “‘AND WHAT MATTER WHICH IT IS WE WIELD’”]

He took for his text, “_Stand and search for the old paths_.” The
beginning of all systems of religion, the coming of the Nazarene, the
rise and growth of Christianity, the martyrdoms of the early Church,
the invasion of the truth by false doctrine, the abuses of the
Church, the Reformation, the martyrdom of the Huguenots for the
return to the early principles of Christianity, the “search for the
old paths,” he set forth in a tone generous but not fiery, presently
powerful and searching, yet not declamatory. At the last he raised
the sword that hung by his side and the book that lay before him, and
said:

“And what matter which it is we wield--this steel that strikes for
God or this book which speaks of Him? For the book is the sword of
the Spirit, and the sword is the life of humanity; for all faith must
be fought for and all that is has been won by strife. But the paths
wherein ye go to battle must be the old paths; your sword shall be
your staff by day and the book your lantern by night. That which ye
love ye shall teach, and that which ye teach ye shall defend; and if
your love be a true love your teaching shall be a great teaching and
your sword a strong sword which none may withstand. It shall be the
pride of sovereign and of people; and so neither ‘height, nor depth,
nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of
God.’”

Ere he had ended some of the ladies were overcome, the eyes of the
Duke’s Daughter were full of tears, and Elizabeth said, audibly, when
he ceased speaking: “On my soul, I have no bishop with a tongue like
his. Would that my lord of Ely were here to learn how truth should be
spoke. Henceforth my bishops shall first be Camisards.”

Of that hour’s joyful business the Queen wrote thus to the Medici
before the day was done:

“Cancelling all other letters on the matter, this M. de la Forêt
shall stay in my kingdom. I may not be the headsman of one of my
faith--as eloquent a preacher as he was a brave soldier. Abiding by
the strict terms of our treaty with my brother of France, he shall
stay with us in peace and in our own care. He hath not the eloquence
of a Knox, but he hath the true thing in him, and that speaks.”

To the Duke’s Daughter the Queen said, “On my soul, he shall be
married instantly, or my ladies will carry him off and murder him for
love.”

And so it was that the heart of Elizabeth the Queen warmed again, and
dearly, towards two Huguenot exiles, and showed that in doing justice
she also had not so sour a heart towards her sex as was set down to
her credit. Yet she made one further effort to keep De la Forêt in
her service. When Michel, once again, declined, dwelt earnestly on
his duty towards the widow of his dead chief, and begged leave to
share her exile in Jersey, Elizabeth said, “On my soul, but I did not
think there was any man on earth so careless of princes’ honors!”

To this De la Forêt replied that he had given his heart and life to
one cause, and since Montgomery had lost all, even life, the least
Michel de la Forêt could do was to see that the woman who loved him
be not unprotected in the world. Also, since he might not at this
present fight for the cause, he could speak for it; and he thanked
the Queen of England for having shown him his duty. All that he
desired was to be quiet for a space somewhere in “her high Majesty’s
good realm” till his way was clear to him.

“You would return to Jersey, then, with our friend of Rozel?”
Elizabeth said, with a gesture towards Lemprière, who, now recovered
from his wound, was present at the audience.

De la Forêt inclined his head. “If it be your high Majesty’s
pleasure.”

And Lemprière of Rozel said, “He would return with myself your noble
Majesty’s friend before all the world, and Buonespoir his ship the
_Honeyflower_.”

Elizabeth’s lips parted in a smile, for she was warmed with the
luxury of doing good, and she answered:

“I know not what the end of this will be, whether our loyal Lemprière
will become a pirate or Buonespoir a butler to my court; but it is
too pretty a hazard to forego in a world of chance. By the rood, but
I have never, since I sat on my father’s throne, seen black so white
as I have done this past three months. You shall have your
Buonespoir, good Rozel; but if he plays pirate any more--tell him
this from his Queen--upon an English ship, I will have his head, if I
must needs send Drake of Devon to overhaul him.”

That same hour the Queen sent for Angèle, and by no leave, save her
own, arranged the wedding-day, and ordained that it should take place
at Southampton, whither the Comtesse de Montgomery had come on her
way to Greenwich to plead for the life of Michel de la Forêt and to
beg Elizabeth to save her poverty, both of which things Elizabeth
did, as the annals of her life record.

After Elizabeth--ever self-willed--had declared her way about the
marriage ceremony, looking for no reply save that of silent
obedience, she made Angèle sit at her feet and tell her whole story
again from first to last. They were alone, and Elizabeth showed to
this young refugee more of her own heart than any other woman had
ever seen. Not by words alone, for she made no long story; but once
she stooped and kissed Angèle upon the cheek, and once her eyes
filled up with tears, and they dropped upon her lap unheeded. All the
devotion shown herself as a woman had come to naught; and it may be
that this thought stirred in her now. She remembered how Leicester
and herself had parted, and how she was denied all those soft
resources of regret which were the right of the meanest women in her
realm. For, whatever she might say to her Parliament and people, she
knew that all was too late--that she would never marry, and must go
childless and uncomforted to her grave. Years upon years of delusion
of her people, of sacrifice to policy, had at last become a
self-delusion, to which her eyes were not full opened yet--she sought
to shut them tight. But these refugees, coming at the moment of her
own struggle, had changed her heart from an ever-growing bitterness
to human sympathy. When Angèle had ended her tale once more the Queen
said:

“God knows ye shall not linger in my court. Such lives have no place
here. Get you back to my Isle of Jersey, where ye may live in peace.
Here all is noise, self-seeking, and time-service. If ye twain are
not happy I will say the world should never have been made.”

Before they left Greenwich Palace--M. Aubert and Angèle, De la Forêt,
Lemprière, and Buonespoir--the Queen made Michel de la Forêt the gift
of a chaplaincy to the crown. To Monsieur Aubert she gave a small
pension, and in Angèle’s hands she placed a deed of dower worthy of a
generosity greater than her own.

At Southampton Michel and Angèle were married by royal license, and
with the Comtesse de Montgomery set sail in Buonespoir’s boat, the
_Honeyflower_, which brought them safe to St. Helier’s, in the Isle
of Jersey.



XX


Followed several happy years for Michel and Angèle. The protection of
the Queen herself, the chaplaincy she had given De la Forêt, the
friendship with the governor of the island, and the boisterous tales
Lemprière had told of those days at Greenwich Palace quickened the
sympathy and held the interest of the people at large, while the
simple lives of the two won their way into the hearts of all, even,
at last, to that of De Carteret of St. Ouen’s. It was Angèle herself
who brought the two seigneurs together at her own good table; and it
needed all her tact on that occasion to prevent the ancient foes from
drinking all the wine in her cellar.

There was no parish in Jersey that did not know their goodness, but
mostly in the parishes of St. Martin’s and Rozel were their faithful
labors done. From all parts of the island people came to hear Michel
speak, though that was but seldom; and when he spoke he always wore
the sword the Queen had given him and used the Book he had studied in
her palace. It was to their home that Buonespoir the pirate--faithful
to his promise to the Queen that he would harry English ships no
more--came wounded, after an engagement with a French boat sent to
capture him, carried thither by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It
was there he died, after having drunk a bottle of St. Ouen’s
muscadella, brought secretly to him by his unchanging friend
Lemprière, so hastening the end.

The Comtesse de Montgomery, who lived in a cottage near by, came
constantly to the little house on the hill-side by Rozel Bay. She had
never loved her own children more than she did the brown-haired child
with the deep-blue eyes which was the one pledge of the great
happiness of Michel and Angèle.

Soon after this child was born M. Aubert had been put to rest in St.
Martin’s churchyard, and there his tombstone might be seen so late as
a hundred years ago. So things went softly by for seven years, and
then Madame de Montgomery journeyed to England, on invitation of the
Queen and to better fortune, and Angèle and De la Forêt were left to
their quiet life in Jersey. Sometimes this quiet was broken by bitter
news from France of fresh persecution and fresh struggle on the part
of the Huguenots. Thereafter for hours, sometimes for days, De la
Forêt would be lost in sorrowful and restless meditation; and then he
fretted against his peaceful calling and his uneventful life. But the
gracious hand of his wife and the eyes of his child led him back to
cheerful ways again.

Suddenly one day came the fearful news from England that the plague
had broken out and that thousands were dying. The flight from London
was like the flight of the children of Israel into the desert. The
dead-carts, filled with decaying bodies, rattled through the foul
streets, to drop their horrid burdens into the great pit at Aldgate;
the bells of London tolled all day and all night for the passing of
human souls. Hundreds of homes, isolated because of a victim of the
plague found therein, became ghastly breeding-places of the disease,
and then silent, disgusting graves. If a man shivered in fear or
staggered from weakness, or for very hunger turned sick, he was
marked as a victim, and despite his protests was huddled away with
the real victims to die the awful death. From every church, where
clergy were left to pray, went up the cry for salvation from “plague,
pestilence, and famine.” Scores of ships from Holland and from France
lay in the Channel, not allowed to touch the shores of England nor
permitted to return whence they came. On the very day that news of
this reached Jersey came a messenger from the Queen of England for
Michel de la Forêt to hasten to her court, for that she had need of
him, and need which would bring him honor. Even as the young officer
who brought the letter handed it to De la Forêt in the little house
on the hill-side above Rozel Bay, he was taken suddenly ill and fell
at the Camisard’s feet.

De la Forêt straightway raised him in his arms. He called to his
wife, but, bidding her not come near, he bore the doomed man away to
the lonely Ecréhos rocks lying within sight of their own doorway.
Suffering no one to accompany him, he carried the sick man to the
boat which had brought the Queen’s messenger to Rozel Bay. The
sailors of the vessel fled, and alone De la Forêt set sail for the
Ecréhos.

There, upon the black rocks, the young man died, and Michel buried
him in the shore-bed of the Maître Île. Then, after two days--for he
could bear suspense no longer--he set sail for Jersey. Upon that
journey there is no need to dwell. Any that hath ever loved a woman
and a child must understand. A deep fear held him all the way, and
when he stepped on shore at Rozel Bay he was as one who had come from
the grave, haggard and old.

Hurrying up the hill-side to his doorway, he called aloud to his
wife, to his child. Throwing open the door, he burst in. His dead
child lay upon a couch, and near by, sitting in a chair, with the
sweat of the dying on her brow, was Angèle. As he dropped on his knee
beside her, she smiled and raised her hand as if to touch him, but
the hand dropped and the head fell forward on his breast. She was
gone into a greater peace.

Once more Michel made a journey--alone--to the Ecréhos, and there,
under the ruins of the old Abbey of Val Richer, he buried the twain
he had loved. Not once in all the terrible hours had he shed a tear;
not once had his hand trembled; his face was like stone and his eyes
burned with an unearthly light.

He did not pray beside the graves. But he knelt and kissed the earth
again and again. He had doffed his robes of peace, and now wore the
garb of a soldier, armed at all points fully. Rising from his knees,
he turned his face towards Jersey.

“Only mine! Only mine!” he said, aloud, in a dry, bitter voice.

In the whole island, only his loved ones had died of the plague. The
holiness and charity and love of Michel and Angèle had ended so!

When once more he set forth upon the Channel, he turned his back on
Jersey and shaped his course towards France, having sent Elizabeth
his last excuses for declining a service which would have given him
honor, fame, and regard. He was bent upon a higher duty.

Not long did he wait for the death he craved. Next year, in a
Huguenot sortie from Anvers, he was slain.

He died with these words on his lips:

“Maintenant, Angèle!”

       *       *       *       *       *

In due time the island people forgot them both, but the Seigneur of
Rozel caused a stone to be set up on the highest point of land that
faces France, and on the stone were carved the names of Michel and
Angèle. Having done much hard service for his country and for
England’s Queen, Lemprière at length hung up his sword and gave his
years to peace. From the Manor of Rozel he was wont to repair
constantly to the little white house, which remained as the two had
left it--his own by order of the Queen--and there, as time went on,
he spent most of his days. To the last he roared with laughter if
ever the name of Buonespoir was mentioned in his presence; he
swaggered ever before the royal court and De Carteret of St. Ouen’s;
and he spoke proudly of his friendship with the Duke’s Daughter, who
had admired the cut of his jerkin at the court of Elizabeth. But in
the house where Angèle had lived he moved about as though in the
presence of a beloved sleeper he would not awake.

       *       *       *       *       *

Michel and Angèle had had their few years of exquisite life and love,
and had gone; Lemprière had longer measure of life and little love,
and who shall say which had more profit of breath and being? The
generations have passed away, and the Angel of Equity hath a smiling
pity as she scans the scales and the weighing of the past.

THE END


    “Come hither, O come hither,
      There’s a bride upon her bed;
    They have strewn her o’er with roses,
      There are roses ’neath her head:
    Life is love and tears and laughter,
      But the laughter it is dead--
    Sing the way to the valley, to the valley!
      Hey, but the roses they are red!”





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