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Title: Kenilworth
Author: Scott, Walter
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kenilworth" ***

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KENILWORTH. by Sir Walter Scott, Bart.



Contents

 INTRODUCTION

KENILWORTH

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAPTER XI.

CHAPTER XII.

CHAPTER XIII.

CHAPTER XIV.

CHAPTER XV.

CHAPTER XVI.

CHAPTER XVII.

CHAPTER XVIII.

CHAPTER XIX.

CHAPTER XX.

CHAPTER XXI.

CHAPTER XXII.

CHAPTER XXIII.

CHAPTER XXIV.

CHAPTER XXV.

CHAPTER XXVI.

CHAPTER XXVII.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

CHAPTER XXIX.

CHAPTER XXX.

CHAPTER XXXI.

CHAPTER XXXII.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

CHAPTER XXXV.

CHAPTER XXXVI.

CHAPTER XXXVII.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

CHAPTER XXXIX.

CHAPTER XL.

CHAPTER XLI.

NOTES.



INTRODUCTION

A certain degree of success, real or supposed, in the delineation of
Queen Mary, naturally induced the author to attempt something similar
respecting “her sister and her foe,” the celebrated Elizabeth. He
will not, however, pretend to have approached the task with the same
feelings; for the candid Robertson himself confesses having felt the
prejudices with which a Scottishman is tempted to regard the subject;
and what so liberal a historian avows, a poor romance-writer dares not
disown. But he hopes the influence of a prejudice, almost as natural to
him as his native air, will not be found to have greatly affected the
sketch he has attempted of England’s Elizabeth. I have endeavoured
to describe her as at once a high-minded sovereign, and a female of
passionate feelings, hesitating betwixt the sense of her rank and
the duty she owed her subjects on the one hand, and on the other her
attachment to a nobleman, who, in external qualifications at least,
amply merited her favour. The interest of the story is thrown upon that
period when the sudden death of the first Countess of Leicester seemed
to open to the ambition of her husband the opportunity of sharing the
crown of his sovereign.

It is possible that slander, which very seldom favours the memories
of persons in exalted stations, may have blackened the character of
Leicester with darker shades than really belonged to it. But the almost
general voice of the times attached the most foul suspicions to the
death of the unfortunate Countess, more especially as it took place so
very opportunely for the indulgence of her lover’s ambition. If we can
trust Ashmole’s Antiquities of Berkshire, there was but too much ground
for the traditions which charge Leicester with the murder of his wife.
In the following extract of the passage, the reader will find the
authority I had for the story of the romance:--

“At the west end of the church are the ruins of a manor, anciently
belonging (as a cell, or place of removal, as some report) to the
monks of Abington. At the Dissolution, the said manor, or lordship, was
conveyed to one--Owen (I believe), the possessor of Godstow then.

“In the hall, over the chimney, I find Abington arms cut in
stone--namely, a patonee between four martletts; and also another
escutcheon--namely, a lion rampant, and several mitres cut in stone
about the house. There is also in the said house a chamber called
Dudley’s chamber, where the Earl of Leicester’s wife was murdered, of
which this is the story following:--

“Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a very goodly personage, and
singularly well featured, being a great favourite to Queen Elizabeth,
it was thought, and commonly reported, that had he been a bachelor or
widower, the Queen would have made him her husband; to this end, to free
himself of all obstacles, he commands, or perhaps, with fair flattering
entreaties, desires his wife to repose herself here at his servant
Anthony Forster’s house, who then lived in the aforesaid manor-house;
and also prescribes to Sir Richard Varney (a prompter to this design),
at his coming hither, that he should first attempt to poison her, and if
that did not take effect, then by any other way whatsoever to dispatch
her. This, it seems, was proved by the report of Dr. Walter Bayly,
sometime fellow of New College, then living in Oxford, and professor of
physic in that university; whom, because he would not consent to take
away her life by poison, the Earl endeavoured to displace him the court.
This man, it seems, reported for most certain that there was a practice
in Cumnor among the conspirators, to have poisoned this poor innocent
lady, a little before she was killed, which was attempted after this
manner:--They seeing the good lady sad and heavy (as one that well
knew, by her other handling, that her death was not far off), began to
persuade her that her present disease was abundance of melancholy and
other humours, etc., and therefore would needs counsel her to take some
potion, which she absolutely refusing to do, as still suspecting the
worst; whereupon they sent a messenger on a day (unawares to her) for
Dr. Bayly, and entreated him to persuade her to take some little potion
by his direction, and they would fetch the same at Oxford; meaning to
have added something of their own for her comfort, as the doctor
upon just cause and consideration did suspect, seeing their great
importunity, and the small need the lady had of physic, and therefore
he peremptorily denied their request; misdoubting (as he afterwards
reported) lest, if they had poisoned her under the name of his potion,
he might after have been hanged for a colour of their sin, and the
doctor remained still well assured that this way taking no effect, she
would not long escape their violence, which afterwards happened thus.
For Sir Richard Varney abovesaid (the chief projector in this design),
who, by the Earl’s order, remained that day of her death alone with her,
with one man only and Forster, who had that day forcibly sent away all
her servants from her to Abington market, about three miles distant from
this place; they (I say, whether first stifling her, or else strangling
her) afterwards flung her down a pair of stairs and broke her neck,
using much violence upon her; but, however, though it was vulgarly
reported that she by chance fell downstairs (but still without hurting
her hood that was upon her head), yet the inhabitants will tell you
there that she was conveyed from her usual chamber where she lay, to
another where the bed’s head of the chamber stood close to a privy
postern door, where they in the night came and stifled her in her bed,
bruised her head very much broke her neck, and at length flung her down
stairs, thereby believing the world would have thought it a mischance,
and so have blinded their villainy. But behold the mercy and justice
of God in revenging and discovering this lady’s murder; for one of the
persons that was a coadjutor in this murder was afterwards taken for a
felony in the marches of Wales, and offering to publish the manner
of the aforesaid murder, was privately made away in the prison by the
Earl’s appointment; and Sir Richard Varney the other, dying about the
same time in London, cried miserably, and blasphemed God, and said to
a person of note (who hath related the same to others since), not long
before his death, that all the devils in hell did tear him in pieces.
Forster, likewise, after this fact, being a man formerly addicted to
hospitality, company, mirth, and music, was afterwards observed to
forsake all this, and with much melancholy and pensiveness (some say
with madness) pined and drooped away. The wife also of Bald Butter,
kinsman to the Earl, gave out the whole fact a little before her death.
Neither are these following passages to be forgotten, that as soon as
ever she was murdered, they made great haste to bury her before the
coroner had given in his inquest (which the Earl himself condemned as
not done advisedly), which her father, or Sir John Robertsett (as I
suppose), hearing of, came with all speed hither, caused her corpse to
be taken up, the coroner to sit upon her, and further inquiry to be made
concerning this business to the full; but it was generally thought that
the Earl stopped his mouth, and made up the business betwixt them; and
the good Earl, to make plain to the world the great love he bare to her
while alive, and what a grief the loss of so virtuous a lady was to his
tender heart, caused (though the thing, by these and other means, was
beaten into the heads of the principal men of the University of Oxford)
her body to be reburied in St, Mary’s Church in Oxford, with great
pomp and solemnity. It is remarkable, when Dr. Babington, the Earl’s
chaplain, did preach the funeral sermon, he tript once or twice in
his speech, by recommending to their memories that virtuous lady so
pitifully murdered, instead of saying pitifully slain. This Earl, after
all his murders and poisonings, was himself poisoned by that which
was prepared for others (some say by his wife at Cornbury Lodge before
mentioned), though Baker in his Chronicle would have it at Killingworth;
anno 1588.” [Ashmole’s Antiquities of Berkshire, vol.i., p.149. The
tradition as to Leicester’s death was thus communicated by Ben Jonson to
Drummond of Hawthornden:--“The Earl of Leicester gave a bottle of liquor
to his Lady, which he willed her to use in any faintness, which she,
after his returne from court, not knowing it was poison, gave him, and
so he died.”--BEN JONSON’S INFORMATION TO DRUMMOND OF HAWTHORNDEN, MS.,
SIR ROBERT SIBBALD’S COPY.]

The same accusation has been adopted and circulated by the author of
Leicester’s Commonwealth, a satire written directly against the Earl of
Leicester, which loaded him with the most horrid crimes, and, among
the rest, with the murder of his first wife. It was alluded to in the
Yorkshire Tragedy, a play erroneously ascribed to Shakespeare, where
a baker, who determines to destroy all his family, throws his wife
downstairs, with this allusion to the supposed murder of Leicester’s
lady,--


     “The only way to charm a woman’s tongue
     Is, break her neck--a politician did it.”

The reader will find I have borrowed several incidents as well as names
from Ashmole, and the more early authorities; but my first acquaintance
with the history was through the more pleasing medium of verse. There
is a period in youth when the mere power of numbers has a more strong
effect on ear and imagination than in more advanced life. At this season
of immature taste, the author was greatly delighted with the poems of
Mickle and Langhorne, poets who, though by no means deficient in the
higher branches of their art, were eminent for their powers of verbal
melody above most who have practised this department of poetry. One of
those pieces of Mickle, which the author was particularly pleased with,
is a ballad, or rather a species of elegy, on the subject of Cumnor
Hall, which, with others by the same author, was to be found in Evans’s
Ancient Ballads (vol. iv., page 130), to which work Mickle made liberal
contributions. The first stanza especially had a peculiar species of
enchantment for the youthful ear of the author, the force of which is
not even now entirely spent; some others are sufficiently prosaic.


     CUMNOR HALL.

     The dews of summer night did fall;
     The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
     Silver’d the walls of Cumnor Hall,
     And many an oak that grew thereby,

     Now nought was heard beneath the skies,
     The sounds of busy life were still,
     Save an unhappy lady’s sighs,
     That issued from that lonely pile.

     “Leicester,” she cried, “is this thy love
     That thou so oft hast sworn to me,
     To leave me in this lonely grove,
     Immured in shameful privity?

     “No more thou com’st with lover’s speed,
     Thy once beloved bride to see;
     But be she alive, or be she dead,
     I fear, stern Earl, ‘s the same to thee.

     “Not so the usage I received
     When happy in my father’s hall;
     No faithless husband then me grieved,
     No chilling fears did me appal.

     “I rose up with the cheerful morn,
     No lark more blithe, no flower more gay;
     And like the bird that haunts the thorn,
     So merrily sung the livelong day.

     “If that my beauty is but small,
     Among court ladies all despised,
     Why didst thou rend it from that hall,
     Where, scornful Earl, it well was prized?

     “And when you first to me made suit,
     How fair I was you oft would say!
     And proud of conquest, pluck’d the fruit,
     Then left the blossom to decay.

     “Yes!  now neglected and despised,
     The rose is pale, the lily’s dead;
     But he that once their charms so prized,
     Is sure the cause those charms are fled.

     “For know, when sick’ning grief doth prey,
     And tender love’s repaid with scorn,
     The sweetest beauty will decay,--
     What floweret can endure the storm?

     “At court, I’m told, is beauty’s throne,
     Where every lady’s passing rare,
     That Eastern flowers, that shame the sun,
     Are not so glowing, not so fair.

     “Then, Earl, why didst thou leave the beds
     Where roses and where lilies vie,
     To seek a primrose, whose pale shades
     Must sicken when those gauds are by?

     “‘Mong rural beauties I was one,
     Among the fields wild flowers are fair;
     Some country swain might me have won,
     And thought my beauty passing rare.

     “But, Leicester (or I much am wrong),
     Or ‘tis not beauty lures thy vows;
     Rather ambition’s gilded crown
     Makes thee forget thy humble spouse.

     “Then, Leicester, why, again I plead
     (The injured surely may repine)--
     Why didst thou wed a country maid,
     When some fair princess might be thine?

     “Why didst thou praise my hum’ble charms,
     And, oh!  then leave them to decay?
     Why didst thou win me to thy arms,
     Then leave to mourn the livelong day?

     “The village maidens of the plain
     Salute me lowly as they go;
     Envious they mark my silken train,
     Nor think a Countess can have woe.

     “The simple nymphs!  they little know
     How far more happy’s their estate;
     To smile for joy, than sigh for woe--
     To be content, than to be great.

     “How far less blest am I than them?
     Daily to pine and waste with care!
     Like the poor plant that, from its stem
     Divided, feels the chilling air.

     “Nor, cruel Earl!  can I enjoy
     The humble charms of solitude;
     Your minions proud my peace destroy,
     By sullen frowns or pratings rude.

     “Last night, as sad I chanced to stray,
     The village death-bell smote my ear;
     They wink’d aside, and seemed to say,
     ‘Countess, prepare, thy end is near!’

     “And now, while happy peasants sleep,
     Here I sit lonely and forlorn;
     No one to soothe me as I weep,
     Save Philomel on yonder thorn.

     “My spirits flag--my hopes decay--
     Still that dread death-bell smites my ear;
     And many a boding seems to say,
     ‘Countess, prepare, thy end is near!’”

     Thus sore and sad that lady grieved,
     In Cumnor Hall, so lone and drear;
     And many a heartfelt sigh she heaved,
     And let fall many a bitter tear.

     And ere the dawn of day appear’d,
     In Cumnor Hall, so lone and drear,
     Full many a piercing scream was heard,
     And many a cry of mortal fear.

     The death-bell thrice was heard to ring,
     An aerial voice was heard to call,
     And thrice the raven flapp’d its wing
     Around the towers of Cumnor Hall.

     The mastiff howl’d at village door,
     The oaks were shatter’d on the green;
     Woe was the hour--for never more
     That hapless Countess e’er was seen!

     And in that Manor now no more
     Is cheerful feast and sprightly ball;
     For ever since that dreary hour
     Have spirits haunted Cumnor Hall.

     The village maids, with fearful glance,
     Avoid the ancient moss-grown wall;
     Nor ever lead the merry dance,
     Among the groves of Cumnor Hall.

     Full many a traveller oft hath sigh’d,
     And pensive wept the Countess’ fall,
     As wand’ring onward they’ve espied
     The haunted towers of Cumnor Hall.

     ARBOTSFORD, 1st March 1831.



KENILWORTH



CHAPTER I.


     I am an innkeeper, and know my grounds,
     And study them; Brain o’ man, I study them.
     I must have jovial guests to drive my ploughs,
     And whistling boys to bring my harvests home,
     Or I shall hear no flails thwack.             THE NEW INN.

It is the privilege of tale-tellers to open their story in an inn, the
free rendezvous of all travellers, and where the humour of each displays
itself without ceremony or restraint. This is specially suitable when
the scene is laid during the old days of merry England, when the
guests were in some sort not merely the inmates, but the messmates
and temporary companions of mine Host, who was usually a personage of
privileged freedom, comely presence, and good-humour. Patronized by him
the characters of the company were placed in ready contrast; and they
seldom failed, during the emptying of a six-hooped pot, to throw off
reserve, and present themselves to each other, and to their landlord,
with the freedom of old acquaintance.

The village of Cumnor, within three or four miles of Oxford, boasted,
during the eighteenth of Queen Elizabeth, an excellent inn of the old
stamp, conducted, or rather ruled, by Giles Gosling, a man of a goodly
person, and of somewhat round belly; fifty years of age and upwards,
moderate in his reckonings, prompt in his payments, having a cellar of
sound liquor, a ready wit, and a pretty daughter. Since the days of
old Harry Baillie of the Tabard in Southwark, no one had excelled Giles
Gosling in the power of pleasing his guests of every description; and so
great was his fame, that to have been in Cumnor without wetting a cup
at the bonny Black Bear, would have been to avouch one’s-self utterly
indifferent to reputation as a traveller. A country fellow might as well
return from London without looking in the face of majesty. The men of
Cumnor were proud of their Host, and their Host was proud of his house,
his liquor, his daughter, and himself.

It was in the courtyard of the inn which called this honest fellow
landlord, that a traveller alighted in the close of the evening, gave
his horse, which seemed to have made a long journey, to the hostler,
and made some inquiry, which produced the following dialogue betwixt the
myrmidons of the bonny Black Bear.

“What, ho! John Tapster.”

“At hand, Will Hostler,” replied the man of the spigot, showing himself
in his costume of loose jacket, linen breeches, and green apron, half
within and half without a door, which appeared to descend to an outer
cellar.

“Here is a gentleman asks if you draw good ale,” continued the hostler.

“Beshrew my heart else,” answered the tapster, “since there are but four
miles betwixt us and Oxford. Marry, if my ale did not convince the
heads of the scholars, they would soon convince my pate with the pewter
flagon.”

“Call you that Oxford logic?” said the stranger, who had now quitted the
rein of his horse, and was advancing towards the inn-door, when he was
encountered by the goodly form of Giles Gosling himself.

“Is it logic you talk of, Sir Guest?” said the host; “why, then, have at
you with a downright consequence--


     ‘The horse to the rack,
     And to fire with the sack.’”

“Amen! with all my heart, my good host,” said the stranger; “let it be a
quart of your best Canaries, and give me your good help to drink it.”

“Nay, you are but in your accidence yet, Sir Traveller, if you call on
your host for help for such a sipping matter as a quart of sack; Were it
a gallon, you might lack some neighbouring aid at my hand, and yet call
yourself a toper.”

“Fear me not.” said the guest, “I will do my devoir as becomes a man who
finds himself within five miles of Oxford; for I am not come from the
field of Mars to discredit myself amongst the followers of Minerva.”

As he spoke thus, the landlord, with much semblance of hearty welcome,
ushered his guest into a large, low chamber, where several persons were
seated together in different parties--some drinking, some playing at
cards, some conversing, and some, whose business called them to be early
risers on the morrow, concluding their evening meal, and conferring with
the chamberlain about their night’s quarters.

The entrance of a stranger procured him that general and careless sort
of attention which is usually paid on such occasions, from which the
following results were deduced:--The guest was one of those who, with
a well-made person, and features not in themselves unpleasing, are
nevertheless so far from handsome that, whether from the expression
of their features, or the tone of their voice, or from their gait and
manner, there arises, on the whole, a disinclination to their society.
The stranger’s address was bold, without being frank, and seemed eagerly
and hastily to claim for him a degree of attention and deference which
he feared would be refused, if not instantly vindicated as his right.
His attire was a riding-cloak, which, when open, displayed a handsome
jerkin overlaid with lace, and belted with a buff girdle, which
sustained a broadsword and a pair of pistols.

“You ride well provided, sir,” said the host, looking at the weapons as
he placed on the table the mulled sack which the traveller had ordered.

“Yes, mine host; I have found the use on’t in dangerous times, and I do
not, like your modern grandees, turn off my followers the instant they
are useless.”

“Ay, sir?” said Giles Gosling; “then you are from the Low Countries, the
land of pike and caliver?”

“I have been high and low, my friend, broad and wide, far and near. But
here is to thee in a cup of thy sack; fill thyself another to pledge me,
and, if it is less than superlative, e’en drink as you have brewed.”

“Less than superlative?” said Giles Gosling, drinking off the cup, and
smacking his lips with an air of ineffable relish,--“I know nothing
of superlative, nor is there such a wine at the Three Cranes, in the
Vintry, to my knowledge; but if you find better sack than that in the
Sheres, or in the Canaries either, I would I may never touch either pot
or penny more. Why, hold it up betwixt you and the light, you shall see
the little motes dance in the golden liquor like dust in the sunbeam.
But I would rather draw wine for ten clowns than one traveller.--I trust
your honour likes the wine?”

“It is neat and comfortable, mine host; but to know good liquor, you
should drink where the vine grows. Trust me, your Spaniard is too wise
a man to send you the very soul of the grape. Why, this now, which you
account so choice, were counted but as a cup of bastard at the Groyne,
or at Port St. Mary’s. You should travel, mine host, if you would be
deep in the mysteries of the butt and pottle-pot.”

“In troth, Signior Guest,” said Giles Gosling, “if I were to travel only
that I might be discontented with that which I can get at home, methinks
I should go but on a fool’s errand. Besides, I warrant you, there is
many a fool can turn his nose up at good drink without ever having
been out of the smoke of Old England; and so ever gramercy mine own
fireside.”

“This is but a mean mind of yours, mine host,” said the stranger;
“I warrant me, all your town’s folk do not think so basely. You have
gallants among you, I dare undertake, that have made the Virginia
voyage, or taken a turn in the Low Countries at least. Come, cudgel your
memory. Have you no friends in foreign parts that you would gladly have
tidings of?”

“Troth, sir, not I,” answered the host, “since ranting Robin of
Drysandford was shot at the siege of the Brill. The devil take the
caliver that fired the ball, for a blither lad never filled a cup
at midnight! But he is dead and gone, and I know not a soldier, or a
traveller, who is a soldier’s mate, that I would give a peeled codling
for.”

“By the Mass, that is strange. What! so many of our brave English hearts
are abroad, and you, who seem to be a man of mark, have no friend, no
kinsman among them?”

“Nay, if you speak of kinsmen,” answered Gosling, “I have one wild slip
of a kinsman, who left us in the last year of Queen Mary; but he is
better lost than found.”

“Do not say so, friend, unless you have heard ill of him lately. Many a
wild colt has turned out a noble steed.--His name, I pray you?”

“Michael Lambourne,” answered the landlord of the Black Bear; “a son of
my sister’s--there is little pleasure in recollecting either the name or
the connection.”

“Michael Lambourne!” said the stranger, as if endeavouring to recollect
himself--“what, no relation to Michael Lambourne, the gallant cavalier
who behaved so bravely at the siege of Venlo that Grave Maurice thanked
him at the head of the army? Men said he was an English cavalier, and of
no high extraction.”

“It could scarcely be my nephew,” said Giles Gosling, “for he had not
the courage of a hen-partridge for aught but mischief.”

“Oh, many a man finds courage in the wars,” replied the stranger.

“It may be,” said the landlord; “but I would have thought our Mike more
likely to lose the little he had.”

“The Michael Lambourne whom I knew,” continued the traveller, “was a
likely fellow--went always gay and well attired, and had a hawk’s eye
after a pretty wench.”

“Our Michael,” replied the host, “had the look of a dog with a bottle
at its tail, and wore a coat, every rag of which was bidding good-day to
the rest.”

“Oh, men pick up good apparel in the wars,” replied the guest.

“Our Mike,” answered the landlord, “was more like to pick it up in a
frippery warehouse, while the broker was looking another way; and, for
the hawk’s eye you talk of, his was always after my stray spoons. He was
tapster’s boy here in this blessed house for a quarter of a year; and
between misreckonings, miscarriages, mistakes, and misdemeanours, had
he dwelt with me for three months longer, I might have pulled down sign,
shut up house, and given the devil the key to keep.”

“You would be sorry, after all,” continued the traveller, “were I to
tell you poor Mike Lambourne was shot at the head of his regiment at the
taking of a sconce near Maestricht?”

“Sorry!--it would be the blithest news I ever heard of him, since it
would ensure me he was not hanged. But let him pass--I doubt his
end will never do such credit to his friends. Were it so, I should
say”--(taking another cup of sack)--“Here’s God rest him, with all my
heart.”

“Tush, man,” replied the traveller, “never fear but you will have credit
by your nephew yet, especially if he be the Michael Lambourne whom I
knew, and loved very nearly, or altogether, as well as myself. Can you
tell me no mark by which I could judge whether they be the same?”

“Faith, none that I can think of,” answered Giles Gosling, “unless that
our Mike had the gallows branded on his left shoulder for stealing a
silver caudle-cup from Dame Snort of Hogsditch.”

“Nay, there you lie like a knave, uncle,” said the stranger, slipping
aside his ruff; and turning down the sleeve of his doublet from his neck
and shoulder; “by this good day, my shoulder is as unscarred as thine
own.

“What, Mike, boy--Mike!” exclaimed the host;--“and is it thou, in good
earnest? Nay, I have judged so for this half-hour; for I knew no other
person would have ta’en half the interest in thee. But, Mike, an thy
shoulder be unscathed as thou sayest, thou must own that Goodman Thong,
the hangman, was merciful in his office, and stamped thee with a cold
iron.”

“Tush, uncle--truce with your jests. Keep them to season your sour ale,
and let us see what hearty welcome thou wilt give a kinsman who has
rolled the world around for eighteen years; who has seen the sun set
where it rises, and has travelled till the west has become the east.”

“Thou hast brought back one traveller’s gift with thee, Mike, as I well
see; and that was what thou least didst: need to travel for. I remember
well, among thine other qualities, there was no crediting a word which
came from thy mouth.”

“Here’s an unbelieving pagan for you, gentlemen!” said Michael
Lambourne, turning to those who witnessed this strange interview betwixt
uncle and nephew, some of whom, being natives of the village, were no
strangers to his juvenile wildness. “This may be called slaying a Cumnor
fatted calf for me with a vengeance.--But, uncle, I come not from
the husks and the swine-trough, and I care not for thy welcome or no
welcome; I carry that with me will make me welcome, wend where I will.”

So saying, he pulled out a purse of gold indifferently well filled, the
sight of which produced a visible effect upon the company. Some shook
their heads and whispered to each other, while one or two of the less
scrupulous speedily began to recollect him as a school-companion,
a townsman, or so forth. On the other hand, two or three grave,
sedate-looking persons shook their heads, and left the inn, hinting
that, if Giles Gosling wished to continue to thrive, he should turn his
thriftless, godless nephew adrift again, as soon as he could. Gosling
demeaned himself as if he were much of the same opinion, for even the
sight of the gold made less impression on the honest gentleman than it
usually doth upon one of his calling.

“Kinsman Michael,” he said, “put up thy purse. My sister’s son shall be
called to no reckoning in my house for supper or lodging; and I reckon
thou wilt hardly wish to stay longer where thou art e’en but too well
known.”

“For that matter, uncle,” replied the traveller, “I shall consult my own
needs and conveniences. Meantime I wish to give the supper and sleeping
cup to those good townsmen who are not too proud to remember Mike
Lambourne, the tapster’s boy. If you will let me have entertainment for
my money, so; if not, it is but a short two minutes’ walk to the Hare
and Tabor, and I trust our neighbours will not grudge going thus far
with me.”

“Nay, Mike,” replied his uncle, “as eighteen years have gone over thy
head, and I trust thou art somewhat amended in thy conditions, thou
shalt not leave my house at this hour, and shalt e’en have whatever
in reason you list to call for. But I would I knew that that purse of
thine, which thou vapourest of, were as well come by as it seems well
filled.”

“Here is an infidel for you, my good neighbours!” said Lambourne, again
appealing to the audience. “Here’s a fellow will rip up his kinsman’s
follies of a good score of years’ standing. And for the gold, why, sirs,
I have been where it grew, and was to be had for the gathering. In
the New World have I been, man--in the Eldorado, where urchins play
at cherry-pit with diamonds, and country wenches thread rubies for
necklaces, instead of rowan-tree berries; where the pantiles are made of
pure gold, and the paving-stones of virgin silver.”

“By my credit, friend Mike,” said young Laurence Goldthred, the cutting
mercer of Abingdon, “that were a likely coast to trade to. And what may
lawns, cypruses, and ribands fetch, where gold is so plenty?”

“Oh, the profit were unutterable,” replied Lambourne, “especially when
a handsome young merchant bears the pack himself; for the ladies of that
clime are bona-robas, and being themselves somewhat sunburnt, they catch
fire like tinder at a fresh complexion like thine, with a head of hair
inclining to be red.”

“I would I might trade thither,” said the mercer, chuckling.

“Why, and so thou mayest,” said Michael--“that is, if thou art the same
brisk boy who was partner with me at robbing the Abbot’s orchard. ‘Tis
but a little touch of alchemy to decoct thy house and land into ready
money, and that ready money into a tall ship, with sails, anchors,
cordage, and all things conforming; then clap thy warehouse of goods
under hatches, put fifty good fellows on deck, with myself to command
them, and so hoist topsails, and hey for the New World!”

“Thou hast taught him a secret, kinsman,” said Giles Gosling, “to
decoct, an that be the word, his pound into a penny and his webs into a
thread.--Take a fool’s advice, neighbour Goldthred. Tempt not the sea,
for she is a devourer. Let cards and cockatrices do their worst, thy
father’s bales may bide a banging for a year or two ere thou comest to
the Spital; but the sea hath a bottomless appetite,--she would swallow
the wealth of Lombard Street in a morning, as easily as I would a
poached egg and a cup of clary. And for my kinsman’s Eldorado, never
trust me if I do not believe he has found it in the pouches of some such
gulls as thyself.--But take no snuff in the nose about it; fall to and
welcome, for here comes the supper, and I heartily bestow it on all
that will take share, in honour of my hopeful nephew’s return, always
trusting that he has come home another man.--In faith, kinsman, thou art
as like my poor sister as ever was son to mother.”

“Not quite so like old Benedict Lambourne, her husband, though,” said
the mercer, nodding and winking. “Dost thou remember, Mike, what thou
saidst when the schoolmaster’s ferule was over thee for striking up thy
father’s crutches?--it is a wise child, saidst thou, that knows its own
father. Dr. Bircham laughed till he cried again, and his crying saved
yours.”

“Well, he made it up to me many a day after,” said Lambourne; “and how
is the worthy pedagogue?”

“Dead,” said Giles Gosling, “this many a day since.”

“That he is,” said the clerk of the parish; “I sat by his bed the
whilst. He passed away in a blessed frame. ‘MORIOR--MORTUUS SUM VEL
FUI--MORI’--these were his latest words; and he just added, ‘my last
verb is conjugated.”

“Well, peace be with him,” said Mike, “he owes me nothing.”

“No, truly,” replied Goldthred; “and every lash which he laid on thee,
he always was wont to say, he spared the hangman a labour.”

“One would have thought he left him little to do then,” said the clerk;
“and yet Goodman Thong had no sinecure of it with our friend, after
all.”

“VOTO A DIOS!” exclaimed Lambourne, his patience appearing to fail him,
as he snatched his broad, slouched hat from the table and placed it on
his head, so that the shadow gave the sinister expression of a Spanish
brave to eyes and features which naturally boded nothing pleasant.
“Hark’ee, my masters--all is fair among friends, and under the rose; and
I have already permitted my worthy uncle here, and all of you, to use
your pleasure with the frolics of my nonage. But I carry sword and
dagger, my good friends, and can use them lightly too upon occasion. I
have learned to be dangerous upon points of honour ever since I served
the Spaniard, and I would not have you provoke me to the degree of
falling foul.”

“Why, what would you do?” said the clerk.

“Ay, sir, what would you do?” said the mercer, bustling up on the other
side of the table.

“Slit your throat, and spoil your Sunday’s quavering, Sir Clerk,”
 said Lambourne fiercely; “cudgel you, my worshipful dealer in flimsy
sarsenets, into one of your own bales.”

“Come, come,” said the host, interposing, “I will have no swaggering
here.--Nephew, it will become you best to show no haste to take offence;
and you, gentlemen, will do well to remember, that if you are in an inn,
still you are the inn-keeper’s guests, and should spare the honour
of his family.--I protest your silly broils make me as oblivious as
yourself; for yonder sits my silent guest as I call him, who hath been
my two days’ inmate, and hath never spoken a word, save to ask for his
food and his reckoning--gives no more trouble than a very peasant--pays
his shot like a prince royal--looks but at the sum total of the
reckoning, and does not know what day he shall go away. Oh, ‘tis a jewel
of a guest! and yet, hang-dog that I am, I have suffered him to sit
by himself like a castaway in yonder obscure nook, without so much as
asking him to take bite or sup along with us. It were but the right
guerdon of my incivility were he to set off to the Hare and Tabor before
the night grows older.”

With his white napkin gracefully arranged over his left arm, his velvet
cap laid aside for the moment, and his best silver flagon in his right
hand, mine host walked up to the solitary guest whom he mentioned, and
thereby turned upon him the eyes of the assembled company.

He was a man aged betwixt twenty-five and thirty, rather above the
middle size, dressed with plainness and decency, yet bearing an air of
ease which almost amounted to dignity, and which seemed to infer that
his habit was rather beneath his rank. His countenance was reserved and
thoughtful, with dark hair and dark eyes; the last, upon any momentary
excitement, sparkled with uncommon lustre, but on other occasions
had the same meditative and tranquil cast which was exhibited by his
features. The busy curiosity of the little village had been employed to
discover his name and quality, as well as his business at Cumnor;
but nothing had transpired on either subject which could lead to its
gratification. Giles Gosling, head-borough of the place, and a steady
friend to Queen Elizabeth and the Protestant religion, was at one time
inclined to suspect his guest of being a Jesuit, or seminary priest, of
whom Rome and Spain sent at this time so many to grace the gallows
in England. But it was scarce possible to retain such a prepossession
against a guest who gave so little trouble, paid his reckoning so
regularly, and who proposed, as it seemed, to make a considerable stay
at the bonny Black Bear.

“Papists,” argued Giles Gosling, “are a pinching, close-fisted race,
and this man would have found a lodging with the wealthy squire at
Bessellsey, or with the old Knight at Wootton, or in some other of their
Roman dens, instead of living in a house of public entertainment, as
every honest man and good Christian should. Besides, on Friday he stuck
by the salt beef and carrot, though there were as good spitch-cocked
eels on the board as ever were ta’en out of the Isis.”

Honest Giles, therefore, satisfied himself that his guest was no Roman,
and with all comely courtesy besought the stranger to pledge him in
a draught of the cool tankard, and honour with his attention a small
collation which he was giving to his nephew, in honour of his return,
and, as he verily hoped, of his reformation. The stranger at first shook
his head, as if declining the courtesy; but mine host proceeded to
urge him with arguments founded on the credit of his house, and the
construction which the good people of Cumnor might put upon such an
unsocial humour.

“By my faith, sir,” he said, “it touches my reputation that men should
be merry in my house; and we have ill tongues amongst us at Cumnor (as
where be there not?), who put an evil mark on men who pull their hat
over their brows, as if they were looking back to the days that are
gone, instead of enjoying the blithe sunshiny weather which God has sent
us in the sweet looks of our sovereign mistress, Queen Elizabeth, whom
Heaven long bless and preserve!”

“Why, mine host,” answered the stranger, “there is no treason, sure, in
a man’s enjoying his own thoughts, under the shadow of his own bonnet?
You have lived in the world twice as long as I have, and you must know
there are thoughts that will haunt us in spite of ourselves, and to
which it is in vain to say, Begone, and let me be merry.”

“By my sooth,” answered Giles Gosling, “if such troublesome thoughts
haunt your mind, and will not get them gone for plain English, we will
have one of Father Bacon’s pupils from Oxford, to conjure them away with
logic and with Hebrew--or, what say you to laying them in a glorious red
sea of claret, my noble guest? Come, sir, excuse my freedom. I am an old
host, and must have my talk. This peevish humour of melancholy sits ill
upon you; it suits not with a sleek boot, a hat of trim block, a fresh
cloak, and a full purse. A pize on it! send it off to those who have
their legs swathed with a hay-wisp, their heads thatched with a felt
bonnet, their jerkin as thin as a cobweb, and their pouch without ever
a cross to keep the fiend Melancholy from dancing in it. Cheer up,
sir! or, by this good liquor, we shall banish thee from the joys
of blithesome company, into the mists of melancholy and the land of
little-ease. Here be a set of good fellows willing to be merry; do not
scowl on them like the devil looking over Lincoln.”

“You say well, my worthy host,” said the guest, with a melancholy smile,
which, melancholy as it was, gave a very pleasant: expression to his
countenance--“you say well, my jovial friend; and they that are moody
like myself should not disturb the mirth of those who are happy. I will
drink a round with your guests with all my heart, rather than be termed
a mar-feast.”

So saying, he arose and joined the company, who, encouraged by the
precept and example of Michael Lambourne, and consisting chiefly of
persons much disposed to profit by the opportunity of a merry meal at
the expense of their landlord, had already made some inroads upon the
limits of temperance, as was evident from the tone in which Michael
inquired after his old acquaintances in the town, and the bursts of
laughter with which each answer was received. Giles Gosling himself
was somewhat scandalized at the obstreperous nature of their mirth,
especially as he involuntarily felt some respect for his unknown guest.
He paused, therefore, at some distance from the table occupied by these
noisy revellers, and began to make a sort of apology for their license.

“You would think,” he said, “to hear these fellows talk, that there was
not one of them who had not been bred to live by Stand and Deliver; and
yet tomorrow you will find them a set of as painstaking mechanics, and
so forth, as ever cut an inch short of measure, or paid a letter of
change in light crowns over a counter. The mercer there wears his hat
awry, over a shaggy head of hair, that looks like a curly water-dog’s
back, goes unbraced, wears his cloak on one side, and affects a
ruffianly vapouring humour: when in his shop at Abingdon, he is, from
his flat cap to his glistening shoes, as precise in his apparel as if he
was named for mayor. He talks of breaking parks, and taking the highway,
in such fashion that you would think he haunted every night betwixt
Hounslow and London; when in fact he may be found sound asleep on his
feather-bed, with a candle placed beside him on one side, and a Bible on
the other, to fright away the goblins.”

“And your nephew, mine host, this same Michael Lambourne, who is lord of
the feast--is he, too, such a would-be ruffler as the rest of them?”

“Why, there you push me hard,” said the host; “my nephew is my nephew,
and though he was a desperate Dick of yore, yet Mike may have mended
like other folks, you wot. And I would not have you think all I said
of him, even now, was strict gospel; I knew the wag all the while, and
wished to pluck his plumes from him. And now, sir, by what name shall I
present my worshipful guest to these gallants?”

“Marry, mine host,” replied the stranger, “you may call me Tressilian.”

“Tressilian?” answered mine host of the Bear. “A worthy name, and, as I
think, of Cornish lineage; for what says the south proverb--


     ‘By Pol, Tre, and Pen,
     You may know the Cornish men.’

Shall I say the worthy Master Tressilian of Cornwall?”

“Say no more than I have given you warrant for, mine host, and so shall
you be sure you speak no more than is true. A man may have one of those
honourable prefixes to his name, yet be born far from Saint Michael’s
Mount.”

Mine host pushed his curiosity no further, but presented Master
Tressilian to his nephew’s company, who, after exchange of salutations,
and drinking to the health of their new companion, pursued the
conversation in which he found them engaged, seasoning it with many an
intervening pledge.



CHAPTER II.


     Talk you of young Master Lancelot? --MERCHANT OF VENICE.

After some brief interval, Master Goldthred, at the earnest instigation
of mine host, and the joyous concurrence of his guest, indulged the
company with, the following morsel of melody:--


     “Of all the birds on bush or tree,
     Commend me to the owl,
     Since he may best ensample be
     To those the cup that trowl.
     For when the sun hath left the west,
     He chooses the tree that he loves the best,
     And he whoops out his song, and he laughs at his jest;
     Then, though hours be late and weather foul,
     We’ll drink to the health of the bonny, bonny owl.

     “The lark is but a bumpkin fowl,
     He sleeps in his nest till morn;
     But my blessing upon the jolly owl,
     That all night blows his horn.
     Then up with your cup till you stagger in speech,
     And match me this catch till you swagger and screech,
     And drink till you wink, my merry men each;
     For, though hours be late and weather be foul,
     We’ll drink to the health of the bonny, bonny owl.”

“There is savour in this, my hearts,” said Michael, when the mercer had
finished his song, “and some goodness seems left among you yet; but what
a bead-roll you have read me of old comrades, and to every man’s name
tacked some ill-omened motto! And so Swashing Will of Wallingford hath
bid us good-night?”

“He died the death of a fat buck,” said one of the party, “being shot
with a crossbow bolt, by old Thatcham, the Duke’s stout park-keeper at
Donnington Castle.”

“Ay, ay, he always loved venison well,” replied Michael, “and a cup
of claret to boot--and so here’s one to his memory. Do me right, my
masters.”

When the memory of this departed worthy had been duly honoured,
Lambourne proceeded to inquire after Prance of Padworth.

“Pranced off--made immortal ten years since,” said the mercer; “marry,
sir, Oxford Castle and Goodman Thong, and a tenpenny-worth of cord, best
know how.”

“What, so they hung poor Prance high and dry? so much for loving to walk
by moonlight. A cup to his memory, my masters-all merry fellows like
moonlight. What has become of Hal with the Plume--he who lived near
Yattenden, and wore the long feather?--I forget his name.”

“What, Hal Hempseed?” replied the mercer. “Why, you may remember he was
a sort of a gentleman, and would meddle in state matters, and so he
got into the mire about the Duke of Norfolk’s affair these two or three
years since, fled the country with a pursuivant’s warrant at his heels,
and has never since been heard of.”

“Nay, after these baulks,” said Michael Lambourne, “I need hardly
inquire after Tony Foster; for when ropes, and crossbow shafts, and
pursuivant’s warrants, and such-like gear, were so rife, Tony could
hardly ‘scape them.”

“Which Tony Foster mean you?” said the innkeeper.

“Why, him they called Tony Fire-the-Fagot, because he brought a light
to kindle the pile round Latimer and Ridley, when the wind blew out Jack
Thong’s torch, and no man else would give him light for love or money.”

“Tony Foster lives and thrives,” said the host. “But, kinsman, I would
not have you call him Tony Fire-the-Fagot, if you would not brook the
stab.”

“How! is he grown ashamed on’t?” said Lambourne, “Why, he was wont to
boast of it, and say he liked as well to see a roasted heretic as a
roasted ox.”

“Ay, but, kinsman, that was in Mary’s time,” replied the landlord, “when
Tony’s father was reeve here to the Abbot of Abingdon. But since that,
Tony married a pure precisian, and is as good a Protestant, I warrant
you, as the best.”

“And looks grave, and holds his head high, and scorns his old
companions,” said the mercer.

“Then he hath prospered, I warrant him,” said Lambourne; “for ever when
a man hath got nobles of his own, he keeps out of the way of those whose
exchequers lie in other men’s purchase.”

“Prospered, quotha!” said the mercer; “why, you remember Cumnor Place,
the old mansion-house beside the churchyard?”

“By the same token, I robbed the orchard three times--what of that?
It was the old abbot’s residence when there was plague or sickness at
Abingdon.”

“Ay,” said the host, “but that has been long over; and Anthony Foster
hath a right in it, and lives there by some grant from a great courtier,
who had the church-lands from the crown. And there he dwells, and has
as little to do with any poor wight in Cumnor, as if he were himself a
belted knight.”

“Nay,” said the mercer, “it is not altogether pride in Tony neither;
there is a fair lady in the case, and Tony will scarce let the light of
day look on her.”

“How!” said Tressilian, who now for the first time interfered in
their conversation; “did ye not say this Foster was married, and to a
precisian?”

“Married he was, and to as bitter a precisian as ever ate flesh in Lent;
and a cat-and-dog life she led with Tony, as men said. But she is dead,
rest be with her! and Tony hath but a slip of a daughter; so it is
thought he means to wed this stranger, that men keep such a coil about.”

“And why so?--I mean, why do they keep a coil about her?” said
Tressilian.

“Why, I wot not,” answered the host, “except that men say she is as
beautiful as an angel, and no one knows whence she comes, and every one
wishes to know why she is kept so closely mewed up. For my part, I never
saw her--you have, I think, Master Goldthred?”

“That I have, old boy,” said the mercer. “Look you, I was riding hither
from Abingdon. I passed under the east oriel window of the old mansion,
where all the old saints and histories and such-like are painted. It was
not the common path I took, but one through the Park; for the postern
door was upon the latch, and I thought I might take the privilege of an
old comrade to ride across through the trees, both for shading, as the
day was somewhat hot, and for avoiding of dust, because I had on my
peach-coloured doublet, pinked out with cloth of gold.”

“Which garment,” said Michael Lambourne, “thou wouldst willingly make
twinkle in the eyes of a fair dame. Ah! villain, thou wilt never leave
thy old tricks.”

“Not so-not so,” said the mercer, with a smirking laugh--“not altogether
so--but curiosity, thou knowest, and a strain of compassion withal; for
the poor young lady sees nothing from morn to even but Tony Foster, with
his scowling black brows, his bull’s head, and his bandy legs.”

“And thou wouldst willingly show her a dapper body, in a silken
jerkin--a limb like a short-legged hen’s, in a cordovan boot--and a
round, simpering, what-d’ye-lack sort of a countenance, set off with a
velvet bonnet, a Turkey feather, and a gilded brooch? Ah! jolly mercer,
they who have good wares are fond to show them!--Come, gentles, let
not the cup stand--here’s to long spurs, short boots, full bonnets, and
empty skulls!”

“Nay, now, you are jealous of me, Mike,” said Goldthred; “and yet my
luck was but what might have happened to thee, or any man.”

“Marry confound thine impudence,” retorted Lambourne; “thou wouldst not
compare thy pudding face, and sarsenet manners, to a gentleman, and a
soldier?”

“Nay, my good sir,” said Tressilian, “let me beseech you will not
interrupt the gallant citizen; methinks he tells his tale so well, I
could hearken to him till midnight.”

“It’s more of your favour than of my desert,” answered Master Goldthred;
“but since I give you pleasure, worthy Master Tressilian, I shall
proceed, maugre all the gibes and quips of this valiant soldier, who,
peradventure, hath had more cuffs than crowns in the Low Countries. And
so, sir, as I passed under the great painted window, leaving my rein
loose on my ambling palfrey’s neck, partly for mine ease, and partly
that I might have the more leisure to peer about, I hears me the lattice
open; and never credit me, sir, if there did not stand there the person
of as fair a woman as ever crossed mine eyes; and I think I have looked
on as many pretty wenches, and with as much judgment, as other folks.”

“May I ask her appearance, sir?” said Tressilian.

“Oh, sir,” replied Master Goldthred, “I promise you, she was in
gentlewoman’s attire--a very quaint and pleasing dress, that might have
served the Queen herself; for she had a forepart with body and sleeves,
of ginger-coloured satin, which, in my judgment, must have cost by the
yard some thirty shillings, lined with murrey taffeta, and laid down and
guarded with two broad laces of gold and silver. And her hat, sir, was
truly the best fashioned thing that I have seen in these parts, being of
tawny taffeta, embroidered with scorpions of Venice gold, and having a
border garnished with gold fringe--I promise you, sir, an absolute
and all-surpassing device. Touching her skirts, they were in the old
pass-devant fashion.”

“I did not ask you of her attire, sir,” said Tressilian, who had shown
some impatience during this conversation, “but of her complexion--the
colour of her hair, her features.”

“Touching her complexion,” answered the mercer, “I am not so special
certain, but I marked that her fan had an ivory handle, curiously
inlaid. And then again, as to the colour of her hair, why, I can
warrant, be its hue what it might, that she wore above it a net of green
silk, parcel twisted with gold.”

“A most mercer-like memory!” said Lambourne. “The gentleman asks him of
the lady’s beauty, and he talks of her fine clothes!”

“I tell thee,” said the mercer, somewhat disconcerted, “I had little
time to look at her; for just as I was about to give her the good time
of day, and for that purpose had puckered my features with a smile--”

“Like those of a jackanape simpering at a chestnut,” said Michael
Lambourne.

“Up started of a sudden,” continued Goldthred, without heeding the
interruption, “Tony Foster himself, with a cudgel in his hand--”

“And broke thy head across, I hope, for thine impertinence,” said his
entertainer.

“That were more easily said than done,” answered Goldthred indignantly;
“no, no--there was no breaking of heads. It’s true, he advanced his
cudgel, and spoke of laying on, and asked why I did not keep the
public road, and such like; and I would have knocked him over the pate
handsomely for his pains, only for the lady’s presence, who might have
swooned, for what I know.”

“Now, out upon thee for a faint-spirited slave!” said Lambourne; “what
adventurous knight ever thought of the lady’s terror, when he went
to thwack giant, dragon, or magician, in her presence, and for her
deliverance? But why talk to thee of dragons, who would be driven back
by a dragon-fly. There thou hast missed the rarest opportunity!”

“Take it thyself, then, bully Mike,” answered Goldthred. “Yonder is the
enchanted manor, and the dragon, and the lady, all at thy service, if
thou darest venture on them.”

“Why, so I would for a quartern of sack,” said the soldier--“or stay: I
am foully out of linen--wilt thou bet a piece of Hollands against these
five angels, that I go not up to the Hall to-morrow and force Tony
Foster to introduce me to his fair guest?”

“I accept your wager,” said the mercer; “and I think, though thou hadst
even the impudence of the devil, I shall gain on thee this bout. Our
landlord here shall hold stakes, and I will stake down gold till I send
the linen.”

“I will hold stakes on no such matter,” said Gosling. “Good now, my
kinsman, drink your wine in quiet, and let such ventures alone. I
promise you, Master Foster hath interest enough to lay you up in
lavender in the Castle at Oxford, or to get your legs made acquainted
with the town-stocks.”

“That would be but renewing an old intimacy, for Mike’s shins and the
town’s wooden pinfold have been well known to each other ere now,” said
the mercer; “but he shall not budge from his wager, unless he means to
pay forfeit.”

“Forfeit?” said Lambourne; “I scorn it. I value Tony Foster’s wrath no
more than a shelled pea-cod; and I will visit his Lindabrides, by Saint
George, be he willing or no!”

“I would gladly pay your halves of the risk, sir,” said Tressilian, “to
be permitted to accompany you on the adventure.”

“In what would that advantage you, sir?” answered Lambourne.

“In nothing, sir,” said Tressilian, “unless to mark the skill and valour
with which you conduct yourself. I am a traveller who seeks for strange
rencounters and uncommon passages, as the knights of yore did after
adventures and feats of arms.”

“Nay, if it pleasures you to see a trout tickled,” answered Lambourne,
“I care not how many witness my skill. And so here I drink success to my
enterprise; and he that will not pledge me on his knees is a rascal, and
I will cut his legs off by the garters!”

The draught which Michael Lambourne took upon this occasion had been
preceded by so many others, that reason tottered on her throne. He
swore one or two incoherent oaths at the mercer, who refused, reasonably
enough, to pledge him to a sentiment which inferred the loss of his own
wager.

“Wilt thou chop logic with me,” said Lambourne, “thou knave, with no
more brains than are in a skein of ravelled silk? By Heaven, I will cut
thee into fifty yards of galloon lace!”

But as he attempted to draw his sword for this doughty purpose, Michael
Lambourne was seized upon by the tapster and the chamberlain, and
conveyed to his own apartment, there to sleep himself sober at his
leisure.

The party then broke up, and the guests took their leave; much more
to the contentment of mine host than of some of the company, who were
unwilling to quit good liquor, when it was to be had for free cost, so
long as they were able to sit by it. They were, however, compelled to
remove; and go at length they did, leaving Gosling and Tressilian in the
empty apartment.

“By my faith,” said the former, “I wonder where our great folks find
pleasure, when they spend their means in entertainments, and in playing
mine host without sending in a reckoning. It is what I but rarely
practise; and whenever I do, by Saint Julian, it grieves me beyond
measure. Each of these empty stoups now, which my nephew and his drunken
comrades have swilled off, should have been a matter of profit to one in
my line, and I must set them down a dead loss. I cannot, for my heart,
conceive the pleasure of noise, and nonsense, and drunken freaks, and
drunken quarrels, and smut, and blasphemy, and so forth, when a man
loses money instead of gaining by it. And yet many a fair estate is lost
in upholding such a useless course, and that greatly contributes to the
decay of publicans; for who the devil do you think would pay for drink
at the Black Bear, when he can have it for nothing at my Lord’s or the
Squire’s?”

Tressilian perceived that the wine had made some impression even on the
seasoned brain of mine host, which was chiefly to be inferred from his
declaiming against drunkenness. As he himself had carefully avoided the
bowl, he would have availed himself of the frankness of the moment
to extract from Gosling some further information upon the subject
of Anthony Foster, and the lady whom the mercer had seen in his
mansion-house; but his inquiries only set the host upon a new theme of
declamation against the wiles of the fair sex, in which he brought, at
full length, the whole wisdom of Solomon to reinforce his own. Finally,
he turned his admonitions, mixed with much objurgation, upon his
tapsters and drawers, who were employed in removing the relics of the
entertainment, and restoring order to the apartment; and at length,
joining example to precept, though with no good success, he demolished
a salver with half a score of glasses, in attempting to show how such
service was done at the Three Cranes in the Vintry, then the most
topping tavern in London. This last accident so far recalled him to his
better self, that he retired to his bed, slept sound, and awoke a new
man in the morning.



CHAPTER III.


     Nay, I’ll hold touch--the game shall be play’d out;
     It ne’er shall stop for me, this merry wager:
     That which I say when gamesome, I’ll avouch
     In my most sober mood, ne’er trust me else.   THE HAZARD TABLE.

“And how doth your kinsman, good mine host?” said Tressilian, when Giles
Gosling first appeared in the public room, on the morning following the
revel which we described in the last chapter. “Is he well, and will he
abide by his wager?”

“For well, sir, he started two hours since, and has visited I know not
what purlieus of his old companions; hath but now returned, and is at
this instant breakfasting on new-laid eggs and muscadine. And for his
wager, I caution you as a friend to have little to do with that, or
indeed with aught that Mike proposes. Wherefore, I counsel you to a warm
breakfast upon a culiss, which shall restore the tone of the stomach;
and let my nephew and Master Goldthred swagger about their wager as they
list.”

“It seems to me, mine host,” said Tressilian, “that you know not well
what to say about this kinsman of yours, and that you can neither blame
nor commend him without some twinge of conscience.”

“You have spoken truly, Master Tressilian,” replied Giles Gosling.
“There is Natural Affection whimpering into one ear, ‘Giles, Giles, why
wilt thou take away the good name of thy own nephew? Wilt thou defame
thy sister’s son, Giles Gosling? wilt thou defoul thine own nest,
dishonour thine own blood?’ And then, again, comes Justice, and says,
‘Here is a worthy guest as ever came to the bonny Black Bear; one who
never challenged a reckoning’ (as I say to your face you never did,
Master Tressilian--not that you have had cause), ‘one who knows not why
he came, so far as I can see, or when he is going away; and wilt thou,
being a publican, having paid scot and lot these thirty years in the
town of Cumnor, and being at this instant head-borough, wilt thou suffer
this guest of guests, this man of men, this six-hooped pot (as I may
say) of a traveller, to fall into the meshes of thy nephew, who is known
for a swasher and a desperate Dick, a carder and a dicer, a professor of
the seven damnable sciences, if ever man took degrees in them?’ No,
by Heaven! I might wink, and let him catch such a small butterfly as
Goldthred; but thou, my guest, shall be forewarned, forearmed, so thou
wilt but listen to thy trusty host.”

“Why, mine host, thy counsel shall not be cast away,” replied
Tressilian; “however, I must uphold my share in this wager, having once
passed my word to that effect. But lend me, I pray, some of thy counsel.
This Foster, who or what is he, and why makes he such mystery of his
female inmate?”

“Troth,” replied Gosling, “I can add but little to what you heard last
night. He was one of Queen Mary’s Papists, and now he is one of Queen
Elizabeth’s Protestants; he was an onhanger of the Abbot of Abingdon;
and now he lives as master of the Manor-house. Above all, he was
poor, and is rich. Folk talk of private apartments in his old waste
mansion-house, bedizened fine enough to serve the Queen, God bless her!
Some men think he found a treasure in the orchard, some that he sold
himself to the devil for treasure, and some say that he cheated the
abbot out of the church plate, which was hidden in the old Manor-house
at the Reformation. Rich, however, he is, and God and his conscience,
with the devil perhaps besides, only know how he came by it. He has
sulky ways too--breaking off intercourse with all that are of the place,
as if he had either some strange secret to keep, or held himself to be
made of another clay than we are. I think it likely my kinsman and he
will quarrel, if Mike thrust his acquaintance on him; and I am sorry
that you, my worthy Master Tressilian, will still think of going in my
nephew’s company.”

Tressilian again answered him, that he would proceed with great caution,
and that he should have no fears on his account; in short, he bestowed
on him all the customary assurances with which those who are determined
on a rash action are wont to parry the advice of their friends.

Meantime, the traveller accepted the landlord’s invitation, and had just
finished the excellent breakfast, which was served to him and Gosling
by pretty Cicely, the beauty of the bar, when the hero of the preceding
night, Michael Lambourne, entered the apartment. His toilet had
apparently cost him some labour, for his clothes, which differed from
those he wore on his journey, were of the newest fashion, and put on
with great attention to the display of his person.

“By my faith, uncle,” said the gallant, “you made a wet night of it, and
I feel it followed by a dry morning. I will pledge you willingly in a
cup of bastard.--How, my pretty coz Cicely! why, I left you but a child
in the cradle, and there thou stand’st in thy velvet waistcoat, as tight
a girl as England’s sun shines on. Know thy friends and kindred,
Cicely, and come hither, child, that I may kiss thee, and give thee my
blessing.”

“Concern not yourself about Cicely, kinsman,” said Giles Gosling, “but
e’en let her go her way, a’ God’s name; for although your mother were
her father’s sister, yet that shall not make you and her cater-cousins.”

“Why, uncle,” replied Lambourne, “think’st thou I am an infidel, and
would harm those of mine own house?”

“It is for no harm that I speak, Mike,” answered his uncle, “but a
simple humour of precaution which I have. True, thou art as well gilded
as a snake when he casts his old slough in the spring time; but for all
that, thou creepest not into my Eden. I will look after mine Eve, Mike,
and so content thee.--But how brave thou be’st, lad! To look on thee
now, and compare thee with Master Tressilian here, in his sad-coloured
riding-suit, who would not say that thou wert the real gentleman and he
the tapster’s boy?”

“Troth, uncle,” replied Lambourne, “no one would say so but one of your
country-breeding, that knows no better. I will say, and I care not who
hears me, there is something about the real gentry that few men come up
to that are not born and bred to the mystery. I wot not where the trick
lies; but although I can enter an ordinary with as much audacity, rebuke
the waiters and drawers as loudly, drink as deep a health, swear as
round an oath, and fling my gold as freely about as any of the jingling
spurs and white feathers that are around me, yet, hang me if I can ever
catch the true grace of it, though I have practised an hundred times.
The man of the house sets me lowest at the board, and carves to me the
last; and the drawer says, ‘Coming, friend,’ without any more reverence
or regardful addition. But, hang it, let it pass; care killed a cat. I
have gentry enough to pass the trick on Tony Fire-the-Faggot, and that
will do for the matter in hand.”

“You hold your purpose, then, of visiting your old acquaintance?” said
Tressilian to the adventurer.

“Ay, sir,” replied Lambourne; “when stakes are made, the game must be
played; that is gamester’s law, all over the world. You, sir, unless
my memory fails me (for I did steep it somewhat too deeply in the
sack-butt), took some share in my hazard?”

“I propose to accompany you in your adventure,” said Tressilian, “if you
will do me so much grace as to permit me; and I have staked my share of
the forfeit in the hands of our worthy host.”

“That he hath,” answered Giles Gosling, “in as fair Harry-nobles as ever
were melted into sack by a good fellow. So, luck to your enterprise,
since you will needs venture on Tony Foster; but, by my credit, you had
better take another draught before you depart, for your welcome at
the Hall yonder will be somewhat of the driest. And if you do get into
peril, beware of taking to cold steel; but send for me, Giles Gosling,
the head-borough, and I may be able to make something out of Tony yet,
for as proud as he is.”

The nephew dutifully obeyed his uncle’s hint, by taking a second
powerful pull at the tankard, observing that his wit never served him
so well as when he had washed his temples with a deep morning’s draught;
and they set forth together for the habitation of Anthony Foster.

The village of Cumnor is pleasantly built on a hill, and in a wooded
park closely adjacent was situated the ancient mansion occupied at this
time by Anthony Foster, of which the ruins may be still extant. The park
was then full of large trees, and in particular of ancient and mighty
oaks, which stretched their giant arms over the high wall surrounding
the demesne, thus giving it a melancholy, secluded, and monastic
appearance. The entrance to the park lay through an old-fashioned
gateway in the outer wall, the door of which was formed of two huge
oaken leaves thickly studded with nails, like the gate of an old town.

“We shall be finely helped up here,” said Michael Lambourne, looking at
the gateway and gate, “if this fellow’s suspicious humour should
refuse us admission altogether, as it is like he may, in case this
linsey-wolsey fellow of a mercer’s visit to his premises has disquieted
him. But, no,” he added, pushing the huge gate, which gave way, “the
door stands invitingly open; and here we are within the forbidden
ground, without other impediment than the passive resistance of a heavy
oak door moving on rusty hinges.”

They stood now in an avenue overshadowed by such old trees as we have
described, and which had been bordered at one time by high hedges of yew
and holly. But these, having been untrimmed for many years, had run up
into great bushes, or rather dwarf-trees, and now encroached, with their
dark and melancholy boughs, upon the road which they once had screened.
The avenue itself was grown up with grass, and, in one or two places,
interrupted by piles of withered brushwood, which had been lopped from
the trees cut down in the neighbouring park, and was here stacked for
drying. Formal walks and avenues, which, at different points, crossed
this principal approach, were, in like manner, choked up and interrupted
by piles of brushwood and billets, and in other places by underwood and
brambles. Besides the general effect of desolation which is so strongly
impressed whenever we behold the contrivances of man wasted and
obliterated by neglect, and witness the marks of social life effaced
gradually by the influence of vegetation, the size of the trees and the
outspreading extent of their boughs diffused a gloom over the scene,
even when the sun was at the highest, and made a proportional impression
on the mind of those who visited it. This was felt even by Michael
Lambourne, however alien his habits were to receiving any impressions,
excepting from things which addressed themselves immediately to his
passions.

“This wood is as dark as a wolf’s mouth,” said he to Tressilian, as they
walked together slowly along the solitary and broken approach, and had
just come in sight of the monastic front of the old mansion, with its
shafted windows, brick walls overgrown with ivy and creeping shrubs,
and twisted stalks of chimneys of heavy stone-work. “And yet,” continued
Lambourne, “it is fairly done on the part of Foster too for since he
chooses not visitors, it is right to keep his place in a fashion that
will invite few to trespass upon his privacy. But had he been the
Anthony I once knew him, these sturdy oaks had long since become the
property of some honest woodmonger, and the manor-close here had looked
lighter at midnight than it now does at noon, while Foster played fast
and loose with the price, in some cunning corner in the purlieus of
Whitefriars.”

“Was he then such an unthrift?” asked Tressilian.

“He was,” answered Lambourne, “like the rest of us, no saint, and no
saver. But what I liked worst of Tony was, that he loved to take his
pleasure by himself, and grudged, as men say, every drop of water that
went past his own mill. I have known him deal with such measures of wine
when he was alone, as I would not have ventured on with aid of the best
toper in Berkshire;--that, and some sway towards superstition, which he
had by temperament, rendered him unworthy the company of a good fellow.
And now he has earthed himself here, in a den just befitting such a sly
fox as himself.”

“May I ask you, Master Lambourne,” said Tressilian, “since your old
companion’s humour jumps so little with your own, wherefore you are so
desirous to renew acquaintance with him?”

“And may I ask you, in return, Master Tressilian,” answered Lambourne,
“wherefore you have shown yourself so desirous to accompany me on this
party?”

“I told you my motive,” said Tressilian, “when I took share in your
wager--it was simple curiosity.”

“La you there now!” answered Lambourne. “See how you civil and discreet
gentlemen think to use us who live by the free exercise of our wits! Had
I answered your question by saying that it was simple curiosity which
led me to visit my old comrade Anthony Foster, I warrant you had set it
down for an evasion, and a turn of my trade. But any answer, I suppose,
must serve my turn.”

“And wherefore should not bare curiosity,” said Tressilian, “be a
sufficient reason for my taking this walk with you?”

“Oh, content yourself, sir,” replied Lambourne; “you cannot put
the change on me so easy as you think, for I have lived among the
quick-stirring spirits of the age too long to swallow chaff for grain.
You are a gentleman of birth and breeding--your bearing makes it good;
of civil habits and fair reputation--your manners declare it, and
my uncle avouches it; and yet you associate yourself with a sort of
scant-of-grace, as men call me, and, knowing me to be such, you make
yourself my companion in a visit to a man whom you are a stranger
to--and all out of mere curiosity, forsooth! The excuse, if curiously
balanced, would be found to want some scruples of just weight, or so.”

“If your suspicions were just,” said Tressilian, “you have shown no
confidence in me to invite or deserve mine.”

“Oh, if that be all,” said Lambourne, “my motives lie above water. While
this gold of mine lasts”--taking out his purse, chucking it into the
air, and catching it as it fell--“I will make it buy pleasure; and
when it is out I must have more. Now, if this mysterious Lady of the
Manor--this fair Lindabrides of Tony Fire-the-Fagot--be so admirable a
piece as men say, why, there is a chance that she may aid me to melt
my nobles into greats; and, again, if Anthony be so wealthy a chuff
as report speaks him, he may prove the philosopher’s stone to me, and
convert my greats into fair rose-nobles again.”

“A comfortable proposal truly,” said Tressilian; “but I see not what
chance there is of accomplishing it.”

“Not to-day, or perchance to-morrow,” answered Lambourne; “I expect not
to catch the old jack till. I have disposed my ground-baits handsomely.
But I know something more of his affairs this morning than I did last
night, and I will so use my knowledge that he shall think it more
perfect than it is. Nay, without expecting either pleasure or profit, or
both, I had not stepped a stride within this manor, I can tell you; for
I promise you I hold our visit not altogether without risk.--But here we
are, and we must make the best on’t.”

While he thus spoke, they had entered a large orchard which surrounded
the house on two sides, though the trees, abandoned by the care of man,
were overgrown and messy, and seemed to bear little fruit. Those which
had been formerly trained as espaliers had now resumed their natural
mode of growing, and exhibited grotesque forms, partaking of the
original training which they had received. The greater part of the
ground, which had once been parterres and flower-gardens, was suffered
in like manner to run to waste, excepting a few patches which had been
dug up and planted with ordinary pot herbs. Some statues, which had
ornamented the garden in its days of splendour, were now thrown down
from their pedestals and broken in pieces; and a large summer-house,
having a heavy stone front, decorated with carving representing the life
and actions of Samson, was in the same dilapidated condition.

They had just traversed this garden of the sluggard, and were within
a few steps of the door of the mansion, when Lambourne had ceased
speaking; a circumstance very agreeable to Tressilian, as it saved him
the embarrassment of either commenting upon or replying to the frank
avowal which his companion had just made of the sentiments and views
which induced him to come hither. Lambourne knocked roundly and boldly
at the huge door of the mansion, observing, at the same time, he had
seen a less strong one upon a county jail. It was not until they had
knocked more than once that an aged, sour-visaged domestic reconnoitred
them through a small square hole in the door, well secured with bars of
iron, and demanded what they wanted.

“To speak with Master Foster instantly, on pressing business of the
state,” was the ready reply of Michael Lambourne.

“Methinks you will find difficulty to make that good,” said Tressilian
in a whisper to his companion, while the servant went to carry the
message to his master.

“Tush,” replied the adventurer; “no soldier would go on were he
always to consider when and how he should come off. Let us once obtain
entrance, and all will go well enough.”

In a short time the servant returned, and drawing with a careful hand
both bolt and bar, opened the gate, which admitted them through an
archway into a square court, surrounded by buildings. Opposite to the
arch was another door, which the serving-man in like manner unlocked,
and thus introduced them into a stone-paved parlour, where there was but
little furniture, and that of the rudest and most ancient fashion. The
windows were tall and ample, reaching almost to the roof of the room,
which was composed of black oak; those opening to the quadrangle were
obscured by the height of the surrounding buildings, and, as they were
traversed with massive shafts of solid stone-work, and thickly painted
with religious devices, and scenes taken from Scripture history, by no
means admitted light in proportion to their size, and what did penetrate
through them partook of the dark and gloomy tinge of the stained glass.

Tressilian and his guide had time enough to observe all these
particulars, for they waited some space in the apartment ere the present
master of the mansion at length made his appearance. Prepared as he was
to see an inauspicious and ill-looking person, the ugliness of Anthony
Foster considerably exceeded what Tressilian had anticipated. He was
of middle stature, built strongly, but so clumsily as to border on
deformity, and to give all his motions the ungainly awkwardness of a
left-legged and left-handed man. His hair, in arranging which men at
that time, as at present, were very nice and curious, instead of being
carefully cleaned and disposed into short curls, or else set up on end,
as is represented in old paintings, in a manner resembling that used by
fine gentlemen of our own day, escaped in sable negligence from under
a furred bonnet, and hung in elf-locks, which seemed strangers to
the comb, over his rugged brows, and around his very singular and
unprepossessing countenance. His keen, dark eyes were deep set beneath
broad and shaggy eyebrows, and as they were usually bent on the ground,
seemed as if they were themselves ashamed of the expression natural to
them, and were desirous to conceal it from the observation of men.
At times, however, when, more intent on observing others, he suddenly
raised them, and fixed them keenly on those with whom he conversed, they
seemed to express both the fiercer passions, and the power of mind which
could at will suppress or disguise the intensity of inward feeling.
The features which corresponded with these eyes and this form were
irregular, and marked so as to be indelibly fixed on the mind of him
who had once seen them. Upon the whole, as Tressilian could not help
acknowledging to himself, the Anthony Foster who now stood before them
was the last person, judging from personal appearance, upon whom one
would have chosen to intrude an unexpected and undesired visit. His
attire was a doublet of russet leather, like those worn by the better
sort of country folk, girt with a buff belt, in which was stuck on the
right side a long knife, or dudgeon dagger, and on the other a
cutlass. He raised his eyes as he entered the room, and fixed a keenly
penetrating glance upon his two visitors; then cast them down as if
counting his steps, while he advanced slowly into the middle of the
room, and said, in a low and smothered tone of voice, “Let me pray you,
gentlemen, to tell me the cause of this visit.”

He looked as if he expected the answer from Tressilian, so true was
Lambourne’s observation that the superior air of breeding and dignity
shone through the disguise of an inferior dress. But it was Michael who
replied to him, with the easy familiarity of an old friend, and a tone
which seemed unembarrassed by any doubt of the most cordial reception.

“Ha! my dear friend and ingle, Tony Foster!” he exclaimed, seizing
upon the unwilling hand, and shaking it with such emphasis as almost to
stagger the sturdy frame of the person whom he addressed, “how fares it
with you for many a long year? What! have you altogether forgotten your
friend, gossip, and playfellow, Michael Lambourne?”

“Michael Lambourne!” said Foster, looking at him a moment; then dropping
his eyes, and with little ceremony extricating his hand from the
friendly grasp of the person by whom he was addressed, “are you Michael
Lambourne?”

“Ay; sure as you are Anthony Foster,” replied Lambourne.

“‘Tis well,” answered his sullen host. “And what may Michael Lambourne
expect from his visit hither?”

“VOTO A DIOS,” answered Lambourne, “I expected a better welcome than I
am like to meet, I think.”

“Why, thou gallows-bird--thou jail-rat--thou friend of the hangman
and his customers!” replied Foster, “hast thou the assurance to expect
countenance from any one whose neck is beyond the compass of a Tyburn
tippet?”

“It may be with me as you say,” replied Lambourne; “and suppose I grant
it to be so for argument’s sake, I were still good enough society
for mine ancient friend Anthony Fire-the-Fagot, though he be, for the
present, by some indescribable title, the master of Cumnor Place.”

“Hark you, Michael Lambourne,” said Foster; “you are a gambler now, and
live by the counting of chances--compute me the odds that I do not, on
this instant, throw you out of that window into the ditch there.”

“Twenty to one that you do not,” answered the sturdy visitor.

“And wherefore, I pray you?” demanded Anthony Foster, setting his teeth
and compressing his lips, like one who endeavours to suppress some
violent internal emotion.

“Because,” said Lambourne coolly, “you dare not for your life lay a
finger on me. I am younger and stronger than you, and have in me a
double portion of the fighting devil, though not, it may be, quite so
much of the undermining fiend, that finds an underground way to his
purpose--who hides halters under folk’s pillows, and who puts rats-bane
into their porridge, as the stage-play says.”

Foster looked at him earnestly, then turned away, and paced the room
twice with the same steady and considerate pace with which he had
entered it; then suddenly came back, and extended his hand to Michael
Lambourne, saying, “Be not wroth with me, good Mike; I did but try
whether thou hadst parted with aught of thine old and honourable
frankness, which your enviers and backbiters called saucy impudence.”

“Let them call it what they will,” said Michael Lambourne, “it is the
commodity we must carry through the world with us.--Uds daggers! I tell
thee, man, mine own stock of assurance was too small to trade upon. I
was fain to take in a ton or two more of brass at every port where I
touched in the voyage of life; and I started overboard what modesty and
scruples I had remaining, in order to make room for the stowage.”

“Nay, nay,” replied Foster, “touching scruples and modesty, you sailed
hence in ballast. But who is this gallant, honest Mike?--is he a
Corinthian--a cutter like thyself?”

“I prithee, know Master Tressilian, bully Foster,” replied Lambourne,
presenting his friend in answer to his friend’s question, “know him
and honour him, for he is a gentleman of many admirable qualities; and
though he traffics not in my line of business, at least so far as I
know, he has, nevertheless, a just respect and admiration for artists
of our class. He will come to in time, as seldom fails; but as yet he is
only a neophyte, only a proselyte, and frequents the company of cocks of
the game, as a puny fencer does the schools of the masters, to see how a
foil is handled by the teachers of defence.”

“If such be his quality, I will pray your company in another chamber,
honest Mike, for what I have to say to thee is for thy private
ear.--Meanwhile, I pray you, sir, to abide us in this apartment, and
without leaving it; there be those in this house who would be alarmed by
the sight of a stranger.”

Tressilian acquiesced, and the two worthies left the apartment together,
in which he remained alone to await their return. [See Note 1. Foster,
Lambourne, and the Black Bear.]



CHAPTER IV.


     Not serve two masters?--Here’s a youth will try it--
     Would fain serve God, yet give the devil his due;
     Says grace before he doth a deed of villainy,
     And returns his thanks devoutly when ‘tis acted,--OLD PLAY.

The room into which the Master of Cumnor Place conducted his worthy
visitant was of greater extent than that in which they had at first
conversed, and had yet more the appearance of dilapidation. Large oaken
presses, filled with shelves of the same wood, surrounded the room, and
had, at one time, served for the arrangement of a numerous collection
of books, many of which yet remained, but torn and defaced, covered with
dust, deprived of their costly clasps and bindings, and tossed together
in heaps upon the shelves, as things altogether disregarded, and
abandoned to the pleasure of every spoiler. The very presses themselves
seemed to have incurred the hostility of those enemies of learning who
had destroyed the volumes with which they had been heretofore filled.
They were, in several places, dismantled of their shelves, and otherwise
broken and damaged, and were, moreover, mantled with cobwebs and covered
with dust.

“The men who wrote these books,” said Lambourne, looking round him,
“little thought whose keeping they were to fall into.”

“Nor what yeoman’s service they were to do me,” quoth Anthony Foster;
“the cook hath used them for scouring his pewter, and the groom hath had
nought else to clean my boots with, this many a month past.”

“And yet,” said Lambourne, “I have been in cities where such learned
commodities would have been deemed too good for such offices.”

“Pshaw, pshaw,” answered Foster, “‘they are Popish trash, every one
of them--private studies of the mumping old Abbot of Abingdon. The
nineteenthly of a pure gospel sermon were worth a cartload of such
rakings of the kennel of Rome.”

“Gad-a-mercy, Master Tony Fire-the-Fagot!” said Lambourne, by way of
reply.

Foster scowled darkly at him, as he replied, “Hark ye, friend Mike;
forget that name, and the passage which it relates to, if you would not
have our newly-revived comradeship die a sudden and a violent death.”

“Why,” said Michael Lambourne, “you were wont to glory in the share you
had in the death of the two old heretical bishops.”

“That,” said his comrade, “was while I was in the gall of bitterness and
bond of iniquity, and applies not to my walk or my ways now that I
am called forth into the lists. Mr. Melchisedek Maultext compared my
misfortune in that matter to that of the Apostle Paul, who kept the
clothes of the witnesses who stoned Saint Stephen. He held forth on the
matter three Sabbaths past, and illustrated the same by the conduct of
an honourable person present, meaning me.”

“I prithee peace, Foster,” said Lambourne, “for I know not how it is, I
have a sort of creeping comes over my skin when I hear the devil quote
Scripture; and besides, man, how couldst thou have the heart to quit
that convenient old religion, which you could slip off or on as easily
as your glove? Do I not remember how you were wont to carry your
conscience to confession, as duly as the month came round? and when thou
hadst it scoured, and burnished, and whitewashed by the priest, thou
wert ever ready for the worst villainy which could be devised, like a
child who is always readiest to rush into the mire when he has got his
Sunday’s clean jerkin on.”

“Trouble not thyself about my conscience,” said Foster; “it is a thing
thou canst not understand, having never had one of thine own. But let
us rather to the point, and say to me, in one word, what is thy business
with me, and what hopes have drawn thee hither?”

“The hope of bettering myself, to be sure,” answered Lambourne, “as the
old woman said when she leapt over the bridge at Kingston. Look you,
this purse has all that is left of as round a sum as a man would wish to
carry in his slop-pouch. You are here well established, it would seem,
and, as I think, well befriended, for men talk of thy being under some
special protection--nay, stare not like a pig that is stuck, mon;
thou canst not dance in a net and they not see thee. Now I know such
protection is not purchased for nought; you must have services to render
for it, and in these I propose to help thee.”

“But how if I lack no assistance from thee, Mike? I think thy modesty
might suppose that were a case possible.”

“That is to say,” retorted Lambourne, “that you would engross the
whole work, rather than divide the reward. But be not over-greedy,
Anthony--covetousness bursts the sack and spills the grain. Look you,
when the huntsman goes to kill a stag, he takes with him more dogs than
one. He has the stanch lyme-hound to track the wounded buck over hill
and dale, but he hath also the fleet gaze-hound to kill him at view.
Thou art the lyme-hound, I am the gaze-hound; and thy patron will need
the aid of both, and can well afford to requite it. Thou hast deep
sagacity--an unrelenting purpose--a steady, long-breathed malignity of
nature, that surpasses mine. But then, I am the bolder, the quicker, the
more ready, both at action and expedient. Separate, our properties are
not so perfect; but unite them, and we drive the world before us. How
sayest thou--shall we hunt in couples?”

“It is a currish proposal--thus to thrust thyself upon my private
matters,” replied Foster; “but thou wert ever an ill-nurtured whelp.”

“You shall have no cause to say so, unless you spurn my courtesy,” said
Michael Lambourne; “but if so, keep thee well from me, Sir Knight, as
the romance has it. I will either share your counsels or traverse them;
for I have come here to be busy, either with thee or against thee.”

“Well,” said Anthony Foster, “since thou dost leave me so fair a choice,
I will rather be thy friend than thine enemy. Thou art right; I CAN
prefer thee to the service of a patron who has enough of means to make
us both, and an hundred more. And, to say truth, thou art well qualified
for his service. Boldness and dexterity he demands--the justice-books
bear witness in thy favour; no starting at scruples in his service why,
who ever suspected thee of a conscience? an assurance he must have who
would follow a courtier--and thy brow is as impenetrable as a Milan
visor. There is but one thing I would fain see amended in thee.”

“And what is that, my most precious friend Anthony?” replied Lambourne;
“for I swear by the pillow of the Seven Sleepers I will not be slothful
in amending it.”

“Why, you gave a sample of it even now,” said Foster. “Your speech
twangs too much of the old stamp, and you garnish it ever and anon with
singular oaths, that savour of Papistrie. Besides, your exterior man is
altogether too deboshed and irregular to become one of his lordship’s
followers, since he has a reputation to keep up in the eye of the world.
You must somewhat reform your dress, upon a more grave and composed
fashion; wear your cloak on both shoulders, and your falling band
unrumpled and well starched. You must enlarge the brim of your beaver,
and diminish the superfluity of your trunk-hose; go to church, or, which
will be better, to meeting, at least once a month; protest only upon
your faith and conscience; lay aside your swashing look, and never touch
the hilt of your sword but when you would draw the carnal weapon in good
earnest.”

“By this light, Anthony, thou art mad,” answered Lambourne, “and hast
described rather the gentleman-usher to a puritan’s wife, than the
follower of an ambitious courtier! Yes, such a thing as thou wouldst
make of me should wear a book at his girdle instead of a poniard, and
might just be suspected of manhood enough to squire a proud dame-citizen
to the lecture at Saint Antonlin’s, and quarrel in her cause with any
flat-capped threadmaker that would take the wall of her. He must ruffle
it in another sort that would walk to court in a nobleman’s train.”

“Oh, content you, sir,” replied Foster, “there is a change since you
knew the English world; and there are those who can hold their way
through the boldest courses, and the most secret, and yet never a
swaggering word, or an oath, or a profane word in their conversation.”

“That is to say,” replied Lambourne, “they are in a trading copartnery,
to do the devil’s business without mentioning his name in the firm?
Well, I will do my best to counterfeit, rather than lose ground in this
new world, since thou sayest it is grown so precise. But, Anthony, what
is the name of this nobleman, in whose service I am to turn hypocrite?”

“Aha! Master Michael, are you there with your bears?” said Foster, with
a grim smile; “and is this the knowledge you pretend of my concernments?
How know you now there is such a person IN RERUM NATURA, and that I have
not been putting a jape upon you all this time?”

“Thou put a jape on me, thou sodden-brained gull?” answered Lambourne,
nothing daunted. “Why, dark and muddy as thou think’st thyself, I
would engage in a day’s space to see as clear through thee and thy
concernments, as thou callest them, as through the filthy horn of an old
stable lantern.”

At this moment their conversation was interrupted by a scream from the
next apartment.

“By the holy Cross of Abingdon,” exclaimed Anthony Foster, forgetting
his Protestantism in his alarm, “I am a ruined man!”

So saying, he rushed into the apartment whence the scream issued,
followed by Michael Lambourne. But to account for the sounds which
interrupted their conversation, it is necessary to recede a little way
in our narrative.

It has been already observed, that when Lambourne accompanied Foster
into the library, they left Tressilian alone in the ancient parlour. His
dark eye followed them forth of the apartment with a glance of contempt,
a part of which his mind instantly transferred to himself, for having
stooped to be even for a moment their familiar companion. “These are the
associates, Amy”--it was thus he communed with himself--“to which
thy cruel levity--thine unthinking and most unmerited falsehood, has
condemned him of whom his friends once hoped far other things, and who
now scorns himself, as he will be scorned by others, for the baseness
he stoops to for the love of thee! But I will not leave the pursuit of
thee, once the object of my purest and most devoted affection, though
to me thou canst henceforth be nothing but a thing to weep over. I will
save thee from thy betrayer, and from thyself; I will restore thee to
thy parent--to thy God. I cannot bid the bright star again sparkle in
the sphere it has shot from, but--”

A slight noise in the apartment interrupted his reverie. He looked
round, and in the beautiful and richly-attired female who entered at
that instant by a side-door he recognized the object of his search. The
first impulse arising from this discovery urged him to conceal his face
with the collar of his cloak, until he should find a favourable moment
of making himself known. But his purpose was disconcerted by the young
lady (she was not above eighteen years old), who ran joyfully towards
him, and, pulling him by the cloak, said playfully, “Nay, my sweet
friend, after I have waited for you so long, you come not to my bower
to play the masquer. You are arraigned of treason to true love and fond
affection, and you must stand up at the bar and answer it with face
uncovered--how say you, guilty or not?”

“Alas, Amy!” said Tressilian, in a low and melancholy tone, as he
suffered her to draw the mantle from his face. The sound of his voice,
and still more the unexpected sight of his face, changed in an instant
the lady’s playful mood. She staggered back, turned as pale as death,
and put her hands before her face. Tressilian was himself for a moment
much overcome, but seeming suddenly to remember the necessity of using
an opportunity which might not again occur, he said in a low tone, “Amy,
fear me not.”

“Why should I fear you?” said the lady, withdrawing her hands from her
beautiful face, which was now covered with crimson,--“Why should I fear
you, Master Tressilian?--or wherefore have you intruded yourself into my
dwelling, uninvited, sir, and unwished for?”

“Your dwelling, Amy!” said Tressilian. “Alas! is a prison your
dwelling?--a prison guarded by one of the most sordid of men, but not a
greater wretch than his employer!”

“This house is mine,” said Amy--“mine while I choose to inhabit it. If
it is my pleasure to live in seclusion, who shall gainsay me?”

“Your father, maiden,” answered Tressilian, “your broken-hearted father,
who dispatched me in quest of you with that authority which he cannot
exert in person. Here is his letter, written while he blessed his pain
of body which somewhat stunned the agony of his mind.”

“The pain! Is my father then ill?” said the lady.

“So ill,” answered Tressilian, “that even your utmost haste may not
restore him to health; but all shall be instantly prepared for your
departure, the instant you yourself will give consent.”

“Tressilian,” answered the lady, “I cannot, I must not, I dare not leave
this place. Go back to my father--tell him I will obtain leave to see
him within twelve hours from hence. Go back, Tressilian--tell him I am
well, I am happy--happy could I think he was so; tell him not to fear
that I will come, and in such a manner that all the grief Amy has given
him shall be forgotten--the poor Amy is now greater than she dare name.
Go, good Tressilian--I have injured thee too, but believe me I have
power to heal the wounds I have caused. I robbed you of a childish
heart, which was not worthy of you, and I can repay the loss with
honours and advancement.”

“Do you say this to me, Amy?--do you offer me pageants of idle ambition,
for the quiet peace you have robbed me of!--But be it so I came not
to upbraid, but to serve and to free you. You cannot disguise it from
me--you are a prisoner. Otherwise your kind heart--for it was once a
kind heart--would have been already at your father’s bedside.--Come,
poor, deceived, unhappy maiden!--all shall be forgot--all shall be
forgiven. Fear not my importunity for what regarded our contract--it was
a dream, and I have awaked. But come--your father yet lives--come, and
one word of affection, one tear of penitence, will efface the memory of
all that has passed.”

“Have I not already said, Tressilian,” replied she, “that I will surely
come to my father, and that without further delay than is necessary to
discharge other and equally binding duties?--Go, carry him the news;
I come as sure as there is light in heaven--that is, when I obtain
permission.”

“Permission!--permission to visit your father on his sick-bed, perhaps
on his death-bed!” repeated Tressilian, impatiently; “and permission
from whom? From the villain, who, under disguise of friendship, abused
every duty of hospitality, and stole thee from thy father’s roof!”

“Do him no slander, Tressilian! He whom thou speakest of wears a sword
as sharp as thine--sharper, vain man; for the best deeds thou hast
ever done in peace or war were as unworthy to be named with his, as thy
obscure rank to match itself with the sphere he moves in.--Leave me!
Go, do mine errand to my father; and when he next sends to me, let him
choose a more welcome messenger.”

“Amy,” replied Tressilian calmly, “thou canst not move me by thy
reproaches. Tell me one thing, that I may bear at least one ray of
comfort to my aged friend:--this rank of his which thou dost boast--dost
thou share it with him, Amy?--does he claim a husband’s right to control
thy motions?”

“Stop thy base, unmannered tongue!” said the lady; “to no question that
derogates from my honour do I deign an answer.”

“You have said enough in refusing to reply,” answered Tressilian;
“and mark me, unhappy as thou art, I am armed with thy father’s full
authority to command thy obedience, and I will save thee from the
slavery of sin and of sorrow, even despite of thyself, Amy.”

“Menace no violence here!” exclaimed the lady, drawing back from him,
and alarmed at the determination expressed in his look and manner;
“threaten me not, Tressilian, for I have means to repel force.”

“But not, I trust, the wish to use them in so evil a cause?” said
Tressilian. “With thy will--thine uninfluenced, free, and natural will,
Amy, thou canst not choose this state of slavery and dishonour. Thou
hast been bound by some spell--entrapped by some deceit--art now
detained by some compelled vow. But thus I break the charm--Amy, in the
name of thine excellent, thy broken-hearted father, I command thee to
follow me!”

As he spoke he advanced and extended his arm, as with the purpose of
laying hold upon her. But she shrunk back from his grasp, and uttered
the scream which, as we before noticed, brought into the apartment
Lambourne and Foster.

The latter exclaimed, as soon as he entered, “Fire and fagot! what
have we here?” Then addressing the lady, in a tone betwixt entreaty
and command, he added, “Uds precious! madam, what make you here out of
bounds? Retire--retire--there is life and death in this matter.--And
you, friend, whoever you may be, leave this house--out with you, before
my dagger’s hilt and your costard become acquainted.--Draw, Mike, and
rid us of the knave!”

“Not I, on my soul,” replied Lambourne; “he came hither in my
company, and he is safe from me by cutter’s law, at least till we meet
again.--But hark ye, my Cornish comrade, you have brought a Cornish flaw
of wind with you hither, a hurricanoe as they call it in the Indies.
Make yourself scarce--depart--vanish--or we’ll have you summoned before
the Mayor of Halgaver, and that before Dudman and Ramhead meet.” [Two
headlands on the Cornish coast. The expressions are proverbial.]

“Away, base groom!” said Tressilian.--“And you, madam, fare you
well--what life lingers in your father’s bosom will leave him at the
news I have to tell.”

He departed, the lady saying faintly as he left the room, “Tressilian,
be not rash--say no scandal of me.”

“Here is proper gear,” said Foster. “I pray you go to your chamber, my
lady, and let us consider how this is to be answered--nay, tarry not.”

“I move not at your command, sir,” answered the lady.

“Nay, but you must, fair lady,” replied Foster; “excuse my freedom, but,
by blood and nails, this is no time to strain courtesies--you MUST go to
your chamber.--Mike, follow that meddling coxcomb, and, as you desire
to thrive, see him safely clear of the premises, while I bring this
headstrong lady to reason. Draw thy tool, man, and after him.”

“I’ll follow him,” said Michael Lambourne, “and see him fairly out
of Flanders; but for hurting a man I have drunk my morning’s draught
withal, ‘tis clean against my conscience.” So saying, he left the
apartment.

Tressilian, meanwhile, with hasty steps, pursued the first path which
promised to conduct him through the wild and overgrown park in which the
mansion of Foster was situated. Haste and distress of mind led his steps
astray, and instead of taking the avenue which led towards the village,
he chose another, which, after he had pursued it for some time with a
hasty and reckless step, conducted him to the other side of the demesne,
where a postern door opened through the wall, and led into the open
country.

Tressilian paused an instant. It was indifferent to him by what road he
left a spot now so odious to his recollections; but it was probable
that the postern door was locked, and his retreat by that pass rendered
impossible.

“I must make the attempt, however,” he said to himself; “the only means
of reclaiming this lost--this miserable--this still most lovely and most
unhappy girl, must rest in her father’s appeal to the broken laws of his
country. I must haste to apprise him of this heartrending intelligence.”

As Tressilian, thus conversing with himself, approached to try some
means of opening the door, or climbing over it, he perceived there was
a key put into the lock from the outside. It turned round, the bolt
revolved, and a cavalier, who entered, muffled in his riding-cloak, and
wearing a slouched hat with a drooping feather, stood at once within
four yards of him who was desirous of going out. They exclaimed at
once, in tones of resentment and surprise, the one “Varney!” the other
“Tressilian!”

“What make you here?” was the stern question put by the stranger to
Tressilian, when the moment of surprise was past--“what make you here,
where your presence is neither expected nor desired?”

“Nay, Varney,” replied Tressilian, “what make you here? Are you come
to triumph over the innocence you have destroyed, as the vulture or
carrion-crow comes to batten on the lamb whose eyes it has first plucked
out? Or are you come to encounter the merited vengeance of an honest
man? Draw, dog, and defend thyself!”

Tressilian drew his sword as he spoke, but Varney only laid his hand
on the hilt of his own, as he replied, “Thou art mad, Tressilian. I own
appearances are against me; but by every oath a priest can make or a man
can swear, Mistress Amy Robsart hath had no injury from me. And in truth
I were somewhat loath to hurt you in this cause--thou knowest I can
fight.”

“I have heard thee say so, Varney,” replied Tressilian; “but now,
methinks, I would fain have some better evidence than thine own word.”

“That shall not be lacking, if blade and hilt be but true to me,”
 answered Varney; and drawing his sword with the right hand, he threw his
cloak around his left, and attacked Tressilian with a vigour which,
for a moment, seemed to give him the advantage of the combat. But this
advantage lasted not long. Tressilian added to a spirit determined on
revenge a hand and eye admirably well adapted to the use of the rapier;
so that Varney, finding himself hard pressed in his turn, endeavoured
to avail himself of his superior strength by closing with his adversary.
For this purpose, he hazarded the receiving one of Tressilian’s passes
in his cloak, wrapped as it was around his arm, and ere his adversary
could, extricate his rapier thus entangled, he closed with him,
shortening his own sword at the same time, with the purpose of
dispatching him. But Tressilian was on his guard, and unsheathing his
poniard, parried with the blade of that weapon the home-thrust which
would otherwise have finished the combat, and, in the struggle which
followed, displayed so much address, as might have confirmed, the
opinion that he drew his origin from Cornwall whose natives are such
masters in the art of wrestling, as, were the games of antiquity
revived, might enable them to challenge all Europe to the ring. Varney,
in his ill-advised attempt, received a fall so sudden and violent that
his sword flew several paces from his hand and ere he could recover his
feet, that of his antagonist was; pointed to his throat.

“Give me the instant means of relieving the victim of thy treachery,”
 said Tressilian, “or take the last look of your Creator’s blessed sun!”

And while Varney, too confused or too sullen to reply, made a sudden
effort to arise, his adversary drew back his arm, and would have
executed his threat, but that the blow was arrested by the grasp of
Michael Lambourne, who, directed by the clashing of swords had come up
just in time to save the life of Varney.

“Come, come, comrade;” said Lambourne, “here is enough done and more
than enough; put up your fox and let us be jogging. The Black Bear
growls for us.”

“Off, abject!” said Tressilian, striking himself free of Lambourne’s
grasp; “darest thou come betwixt me and mine enemy?”

“Abject! abject!” repeated Lambourne; “that shall be answered with cold
steel whenever a bowl of sack has washed out memory of the morning’s
draught that we had together. In the meanwhile, do you see,
shog--tramp--begone--we are two to one.”

He spoke truth, for Varney had taken the opportunity to regain his
weapon, and Tressilian perceived it was madness to press the quarrel
further against such odds. He took his purse from his side, and taking
out two gold nobles, flung them to Lambourne. “There, caitiff, is
thy morning wage; thou shalt not say thou hast been my guide
unhired.--Varney, farewell! we shall meet where there are none to come
betwixt us.” So saying, he turned round and departed through the postern
door.

Varney seemed to want the inclination, or perhaps the power (for his
fall had been a severe one), to follow his retreating enemy. But he
glared darkly as he disappeared, and then addressed Lambourne. “Art thou
a comrade of Foster’s, good fellow?”

“Sworn friends, as the haft is to the knife,” replied Michael Lambourne.

“Here is a broad piece for thee. Follow yonder fellow, and see where he
takes earth, and bring me word up to the mansion-house here. Cautious
and silent, thou knave, as thou valuest thy throat.”

“Enough said,” replied Lambourne; “I can draw on a scent as well as a
sleuth-hound.”

“Begone, then,” said Varney, sheathing his rapier; and, turning his
back on Michael Lambourne, he walked slowly towards the house. Lambourne
stopped but an instant to gather the nobles which his late companion had
flung towards him so unceremoniously, and muttered to himself, while he
put them upon his purse along with the gratuity of Varney, “I spoke to
yonder gulls of Eldorado. By Saint Anthony, there is no Eldorado for
men of our stamp equal to bonny Old England! It rains nobles, by
Heaven--they lie on the grass as thick as dewdrops--you may have them
for gathering. And if I have not my share of such glittering dewdrops,
may my sword melt like an icicle!”



CHAPTER V.


     He was a man
     Versed in the world as pilot in his compass.
     The needle pointed ever to that interest
     Which was his loadstar, and he spread his sails
     With vantage to the gale of others’ passion.
     --THE DECEIVER, A TRAGEDY.

Antony Foster was still engaged in debate with his fair guest, who
treated with scorn every entreaty and request that she would retire to
her own apartment, when a whistle was heard at the entrance-door of the
mansion.

“We are fairly sped now,” said Foster; “yonder is thy lord’s signal, and
what to say about the disorder which has happened in this household,
by my conscience, I know not. Some evil fortune dogs the heels of that
unhanged rogue Lambourne, and he has ‘scaped the gallows against every
chance, to come back and be the ruin of me!”

“Peace, sir,” said the lady, “and undo the gate to your master.--My
lord! my dear lord!” she then exclaimed, hastening to the entrance of
the apartment; then added, with a voice expressive of disappointment,
“Pooh! it is but Richard Varney.”

“Ay, madam,” said Varney, entering and saluting the lady with a
respectful obeisance, which she returned with a careless mixture of
negligence and of displeasure, “it is but Richard Varney; but even the
first grey cloud should be acceptable, when it lightens in the east,
because it announces the approach of the blessed sun.”

“How! comes my lord hither to-night?” said the lady, in joyful yet
startled agitation; and Anthony Foster caught up the word, and echoed
the question. Varney replied to the lady, that his lord purposed to
attend her; and would have proceeded with some compliment, when, running
to the door of the parlour, she called aloud, “Janet--Janet! come to my
tiring-room instantly.” Then returning to Varney, she asked if her lord
sent any further commendations to her.

“This letter, honoured madam,” said he, taking from his bosom a small
parcel wrapped in scarlet silk, “and with it a token to the Queen of
his Affections.” With eager speed the lady hastened to undo the silken
string which surrounded the little packet, and failing to unloose
readily the knot with which it was secured, she again called loudly on
Janet, “Bring me a knife--scissors--aught that may undo this envious
knot!”

“May not my poor poniard serve, honoured madam?” said Varney,
presenting a small dagger of exquisite workmanship, which hung in his
Turkey-leather sword-belt.

“No, sir,” replied the lady, rejecting the instrument which he
offered--“steel poniard shall cut no true-love knot of mine.”

“It has cut many, however,” said Anthony Foster, half aside, and looking
at Varney. By this time the knot was disentangled without any other
help than the neat and nimble fingers of Janet, a simply-attired pretty
maiden, the daughter of Anthony Foster, who came running at the repeated
call of her mistress. A necklace of orient pearl, the companion of a
perfumed billet, was now hastily produced from the packet. The lady gave
the one, after a slight glance, to the charge of her attendant, while
she read, or rather devoured, the contents of the other.

“Surely, lady,” said Janet, gazing with admiration at the neck-string
of pearls, “the daughters of Tyre wore no fairer neck-jewels than these.
And then the posy, ‘For a neck that is fairer’--each pearl is worth a
freehold.”

“Each word in this dear paper is worth the whole string, my girl. But
come to my tiring-room, girl; we must be brave, my lord comes hither
to-night.--He bids me grace you, Master Varney, and to me his wish is a
law. I bid you to a collation in my bower this afternoon; and you,
too, Master Foster. Give orders that all is fitting, and that suitable
preparations be made for my lord’s reception to-night.” With these words
she left the apartment.

“She takes state on her already,” said Varney, “and distributes the
favour of her presence, as if she were already the partner of his
dignity. Well, it is wise to practise beforehand the part which fortune
prepares us to play--the young eagle must gaze at the sun ere he soars
on strong wing to meet it.”

“If holding her head aloft,” said Foster, “will keep her eyes from
dazzling, I warrant you the dame will not stoop her crest. She will
presently soar beyond reach of my whistle, Master Varney. I promise you,
she holds me already in slight regard.”

“It is thine own fault, thou sullen, uninventive companion,” answered
Varney, “who knowest no mode of control save downright brute force.
Canst thou not make home pleasant to her, with music and toys? Canst
thou not make the out-of-doors frightful to her, with tales of goblins?
Thou livest here by the churchyard, and hast not even wit enough to
raise a ghost, to scare thy females into good discipline.”

“Speak not thus, Master Varney,” said Foster; “the living I fear not,
but I trifle not nor toy with my dead neighbours of the churchyard. I
promise you, it requires a good heart to live so near it. Worthy Master
Holdforth, the afternoon’s lecturer of Saint Antonlin’s, had a sore
fright there the last time he came to visit me.”

“Hold thy superstitious tongue,” answered Varney; “and while thou
talkest of visiting, answer me, thou paltering knave, how came
Tressilian to be at the postern door?”

“Tressilian!” answered Foster, “what know I of Tressilian? I never heard
his name.”

“Why, villain, it was the very Cornish chough to whom old Sir Hugh
Robsart destined his pretty Amy; and hither the hot-brained fool has
come to look after his fair runaway. There must be some order taken with
him, for he thinks he hath wrong, and is not the mean hind that will sit
down with it. Luckily he knows nought of my lord, but thinks he has only
me to deal with. But how, in the fiend’s name, came he hither?”

“Why, with Mike Lambourne, an you must know,” answered Foster.

“And who is Mike Lambourne?” demanded Varney. “By Heaven! thou wert best
set up a bush over thy door, and invite every stroller who passes by to
see what thou shouldst keep secret even from the sun and air.”

“Ay! ay! this is a courtlike requital of my service to you, Master
Richard Varney,” replied Foster. “Didst thou not charge me to seek out
for thee a fellow who had a good sword and an unscrupulous conscience?
and was I not busying myself to find a fit man--for, thank Heaven, my
acquaintance lies not amongst such companions--when, as Heaven would
have it, this tall fellow, who is in all his dualities the very flashing
knave thou didst wish, came hither to fix acquaintance upon me in the
plenitude of his impudence; and I admitted his claim, thinking to do
you a pleasure. And now see what thanks I get for disgracing myself by
converse with him!”

“And did he,” said Varney, “being such a fellow as thyself, only
lacking, I suppose, thy present humour of hypocrisy, which lies as thin
over thy hard, ruffianly heart as gold lacquer upon rusty iron--did he,
I say, bring the saintly, sighing Tressilian in his train?”

“They came together, by Heaven!” said Foster; “and Tressilian--to speak
Heaven’s truth--obtained a moment’s interview with our pretty moppet,
while I was talking apart with Lambourne.”

“Improvident villain! we are both undone,” said Varney. “She has of late
been casting many a backward look to her father’s halls, whenever her
lordly lover leaves her alone. Should this preaching fool whistle her
back to her old perch, we were but lost men.”

“No fear of that, my master,” replied Anthony Foster; “she is in no mood
to stoop to his lure, for she yelled out on seeing him as if an adder
had stung her.”

“That is good. Canst thou not get from thy daughter an inkling of what
passed between them, good Foster?”

“I tell you plain, Master Varney,” said Foster, “my daughter shall not
enter our purposes or walk in our paths. They may suit me well enough,
who know how to repent of my misdoings; but I will not have my child’s
soul committed to peril either for your pleasure or my lord’s. I may
walk among snares and pitfalls myself, because I have discretion, but I
will not trust the poor lamb among them.”

“Why, thou suspicious fool, I were as averse as thou art that thy
baby-faced girl should enter into my plans, or walk to hell at her
father’s elbow. But indirectly thou mightst gain some intelligence of
her?”

“And so I did, Master Varney,” answered Foster; “and she said her lady
called out upon the sickness of her father.”

“Good!” replied Varney; “that is a hint worth catching, and I will work
upon it. But the country must be rid of this Tressilian. I would have
cumbered no man about the matter, for I hate him like strong poison--his
presence is hemlock to me--and this day I had been rid of him, but that
my foot slipped, when, to speak truth, had not thy comrade yonder come
to my aid, and held his hand, I should have known by this time whether
you and I have been treading the path to heaven or hell.”

“And you can speak thus of such a risk!” said Foster. “You keep a stout
heart, Master Varney. For me, if I did not hope to live many years, and
to have time for the great work of repentance, I would not go forward
with you.”

“Oh! thou shalt live as long as Methuselah,” said Varney, “and amass
as much wealth as Solomon; and thou shalt repent so devoutly, that thy
repentance shall be more famous than thy villainy--and that is a bold
word. But for all this, Tressilian must be looked after. Thy ruffian
yonder is gone to dog him. It concerns our fortunes, Anthony.”

“Ay, ay,” said Foster sullenly, “this it is to be leagued with one who
knows not even so much of Scripture, as that the labourer is worthy of
his hire. I must, as usual, take all the trouble and risk.”

“Risk! and what is the mighty risk, I pray you?” answered Varney. “This
fellow will come prowling again about your demesne or into your house,
and if you take him for a house-breaker or a park-breaker, is it not
most natural you should welcome him with cold steel or hot lead? Even
a mastiff will pull down those who come near his kennel; and who shall
blame him?”

“Ay, I have a mastiff’s work and a mastiff’s wage among you,” said
Foster. “Here have you, Master Varney, secured a good freehold estate
out of this old superstitious foundation; and I have but a poor lease of
this mansion under you, voidable at your honour’s pleasure.”

“Ay, and thou wouldst fain convert thy leasehold into a copyhold--the
thing may chance to happen, Anthony Foster, if thou dost good service
for it. But softly, good Anthony--it is not the lending a room or two of
this old house for keeping my lord’s pretty paroquet--nay, it is not
the shutting thy doors and windows to keep her from flying off that may
deserve it. Remember, the manor and tithes are rated at the clear annual
value of seventy-nine pounds five shillings and fivepence halfpenny,
besides the value of the wood. Come, come, thou must be conscionable;
great and secret service may deserve both this and a better thing. And
now let thy knave come and pluck off my boots. Get us some dinner, and
a cup of thy best wine. I must visit this mavis, brave in apparel,
unruffled in aspect, and gay in temper.”

They parted and at the hour of noon, which was then that of dinner, they
again met at their meal, Varney gaily dressed like a courtier of the
time, and even Anthony Foster improved in appearance, as far as dress
could amend an exterior so unfavourable.

This alteration did not escape Varney. Then the meal was finished, the
cloth removed, and they were left to their private discourse--“Thou
art gay as a goldfinch, Anthony,” said Varney, looking at his host;
“methinks, thou wilt whistle a jig anon. But I crave your pardon,
that would secure your ejection from the congregation of the zealous
botchers, the pure-hearted weavers, and the sanctified bakers of
Abingdon, who let their ovens cool while their brains get heated.”

“To answer you in the spirit, Master Varney,” said Foster, “were--excuse
the parable--to fling sacred and precious things before swine. So I will
speak to thee in the language of the world, which he who is king of the
world, hath taught thee, to understand, and to profit by in no common
measure.”

“Say what thou wilt, honest Tony,” replied Varney; “for be it according
to thine absurd faith, or according to thy most villainous practice,
it cannot choose but be rare matter to qualify this cup of Alicant.
Thy conversation is relishing and poignant, and beats caviare, dried
neat’s-tongue, and all other provocatives that give savour to good
liquor.”

“Well, then, tell me,” said Anthony Foster, “is not our good lord and
master’s turn better served, and his antechamber more suitably filled,
with decent, God-fearing men, who will work his will and their own
profit quietly, and without worldly scandal, than that he should be
manned, and attended, and followed by such open debauchers and ruffianly
swordsmen as Tidesly, Killigrew, this fellow Lambourne, whom you have
put me to seek out for you, and other such, who bear the gallows in
their face and murder in their right hand--who are a terror to peaceable
men, and a scandal to my lord’s service?”

“Oh, content you, good Master Anthony Foster,” answered Varney; “he that
flies at all manner of game must keep all kinds of hawks, both short and
long-winged. The course my lord holds is no easy one, and he must
stand provided at all points with trusty retainers to meet each sort of
service. He must have his gay courtier, like myself, to ruffle it in
the presence-chamber, and to lay hand on hilt when any speaks in
disparagement of my lord’s honour--”

“Ay,” said Foster, “and to whisper a word for him into a fair lady’s
ear, when he may not approach her himself.”

“Then,” said Varney, going on without appearing to notice the
interruption, “he must have his lawyers--deep, subtle pioneers--to draw
his contracts, his pre-contracts, and his post-contracts, and to find
the way to make the most of grants of church-lands, and commons, and
licenses for monopoly. And he must have physicians who can spice a cup
or a caudle. And he must have his cabalists, like Dec and Allan, for
conjuring up the devil. And he must have ruffling swordsmen, who would
fight the devil when he is raised and at the wildest. And above
all, without prejudice to others, he must have such godly, innocent,
puritanic souls as thou, honest Anthony, who defy Satan, and do his work
at the same time.”

“You would not say, Master Varney,” said Foster, “that our good lord
and master, whom I hold to be fulfilled in all nobleness, would use such
base and sinful means to rise, as thy speech points at?”

“Tush, man,” said Varney, “never look at me with so sad a brow. You trap
me not--nor am I in your power, as your weak brain may imagine, because
I name to you freely the engines, the springs, the screws, the tackle,
and braces, by which great men rise in stirring times. Sayest thou our
good lord is fulfilled of all nobleness? Amen, and so be it--he has the
more need to have those about him who are unscrupulous in his service,
and who, because they know that his fall will overwhelm and crush them,
must wager both blood and brain, soul and body, in order to keep him
aloft; and this I tell thee, because I care not who knows it.”

“You speak truth, Master Varney,” said Anthony Foster. “He that is head
of a party is but a boat on a wave, that raises not itself, but is moved
upward by the billow which it floats upon.”

“Thou art metaphorical, honest Anthony,” replied Varney; “that velvet
doublet hath made an oracle of thee. We will have thee to Oxford to take
the degrees in the arts. And, in the meantime, hast thou arranged all
the matters which were sent from London, and put the western chambers
into such fashion as may answer my lord’s humour?”

“They may serve a king on his bridal-day,” said Anthony; “and I promise
you that Dame Amy sits in them yonder as proud and gay as if she were
the Queen of Sheba.”

“‘Tis the better, good Anthony,” answered Varney; “we must found our
future fortunes on her good liking.”

“We build on sand then,” said Anthony Foster; “for supposing that she
sails away to court in all her lord’s dignity and authority, how is she
to look back upon me, who am her jailor as it were, to detain her here
against her will, keeping her a caterpillar on an old wall, when she
would fain be a painted butterfly in a court garden?”

“Fear not her displeasure, man,” said Varney. “I will show her all thou
hast done in this matter was good service, both to my lord and her;
and when she chips the egg-shell and walks alone, she shall own we have
hatched her greatness.”

“Look to yourself, Master Varney,” said Foster, “you may misreckon
foully in this matter. She gave you but a frosty reception this morning,
and, I think, looks on you, as well as me, with an evil eye.”

“You mistake her, Foster--you mistake her utterly. To me she is bound
by all the ties which can secure her to one who has been the means of
gratifying both her love and ambition. Who was it that took the obscure
Amy Robsart, the daughter of an impoverished and dotard knight--the
destined bride of a moonstruck, moping enthusiast, like Edmund
Tressilian, from her lowly fates, and held out to her in prospect the
brightest fortune in England, or perchance in Europe? Why, man, it was
I--as I have often told thee--that found opportunity for their secret
meetings. It was I who watched the wood while he beat for the deer. It
was I who, to this day, am blamed by her family as the companion of her
flight; and were I in their neighbourhood, would be fain to wear a shirt
of better stuff than Holland linen, lest my ribs should be acquainted
with Spanish steel. Who carried their letters?--I. Who amused the old
knight and Tressilian?--I. Who planned her escape?--it was I. It was
I, in short, Dick Varney, who pulled this pretty little daisy from its
lowly nook, and placed it in the proudest bonnet in Britain.”

“Ay, Master Varney,” said Foster; “but it may be she thinks that had the
matter remained with you, the flower had been stuck so slightly into the
cap, that the first breath of a changeable breeze of passion had blown
the poor daisy to the common.”

“She should consider,” said Varney, smiling, “the true faith I owed my
lord and master prevented me at first from counselling marriage; and
yet I did counsel marriage when I saw she would not be satisfied without
the--the sacrament, or the ceremony--which callest thou it, Anthony?”

“Still she has you at feud on another score,” said Foster; “and I tell
it you that you may look to yourself in time. She would not hide her
splendour in this dark lantern of an old monastic house, but would fain
shine a countess amongst countesses.”

“Very natural, very right,” answered Varney; “but what have I to do
with that?--she may shine through horn or through crystal at my lord’s
pleasure, I have nought to say against it.”

“She deems that you have an oar upon that side of the boat, Master
Varney,” replied Foster, “and that you can pull it or no, at your good
pleasure. In a word, she ascribes the secrecy and obscurity in which she
is kept to your secret counsel to my lord, and to my strict agency; and
so she loves us both as a sentenced man loves his judge and his jailor.”

“She must love us better ere she leave this place, Anthony,” answered
Varney. “If I have counselled for weighty reasons that she remain here
for a season, I can also advise her being brought forth in the full blow
of her dignity. But I were mad to do so, holding so near a place to
my lord’s person, were she mine enemy. Bear this truth in upon her as
occasion offers, Anthony, and let me alone for extolling you in her ear,
and exalting you in her opinion--KA ME, KA THEE--it is a proverb all
over the world. The lady must know her friends, and be made to judge of
the power they have of being her enemies; meanwhile, watch her strictly,
but with all the outward observance that thy rough nature will permit.
‘Tis an excellent thing that sullen look and bull-dog humour of thine;
thou shouldst thank God for it, and so should my lord, for when there
is aught harsh or hard-natured to be done, thou dost it as if it flowed
from thine own natural doggedness, and not from orders, and so my lord
escapes the scandal.--But, hark--some one knocks at the gate. Look
out at the window--let no one enter--this were an ill night to be
interrupted.”

“It is he whom we spoke of before dinner,” said Foster, as he looked
through the casement; “it is Michael Lambourne.”

“Oh, admit him, by all means,” said the courtier; “he comes to give some
account of his guest; it imports us much to know the movements of Edmund
Tressilian.--Admit him, I say, but bring him not hither; I will come to
you presently in the Abbot’s library.”

Foster left the room, and the courtier, who remained behind, paced the
parlour more than once in deep thought, his arms folded on his bosom,
until at length he gave vent to his meditations in broken words, which
we have somewhat enlarged and connected, that his soliloquy may be
intelligible to the reader.

“‘Tis true,” he said, suddenly stopping, and resting his right hand on
the table at which they had been sitting, “this base churl hath fathomed
the very depth of my fear, and I have been unable to disguise it from
him. She loves me not--I would it were as true that I loved not her!
Idiot that I was, to move her in my own behalf, when wisdom bade me be
a true broker to my lord! And this fatal error has placed me more at her
discretion than a wise man would willingly be at that of the best piece
of painted Eve’s flesh of them all. Since the hour that my policy made
so perilous a slip, I cannot look at her without fear, and hate, and
fondness, so strangely mingled, that I know not whether, were it at my
choice, I would rather possess or ruin her. But she must not leave this
retreat until I am assured on what terms we are to stand. My lord’s
interest--and so far it is mine own, for if he sinks I fall in his
train--demands concealment of this obscure marriage; and besides, I will
not lend her my arm to climb to her chair of state, that she may set her
foot on my neck when she is fairly seated. I must work an interest in
her, either through love or through fear; and who knows but I may yet
reap the sweetest and best revenge for her former scorn?--that
were indeed a masterpiece of courtlike art! Let me but once be her
counsel-keeper--let her confide to me a secret, did it but concern the
robbery of a linnet’s nest, and, fair Countess, thou art mine own!”
 He again paced the room in silence, stopped, filled and drank a cup of
wine, as if to compose the agitation of his mind, and muttering,
“Now for a close heart and an open and unruffled brow,” he left the
apartment.



CHAPTER VI.


     The dews of summer night did fall,
     The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
     Silver’d the walls of Cumnor Hall,
     And many an oak that grew thereby.--MICKLE.

     [This verse is the commencement of the ballad already quoted, as
     what suggested the novel.]

Four apartments; which, occupied the western side of the old quadrangle
at Cumnor Place, had been fitted up with extraordinary splendour. This
had been the work of several days prior to that on which our story
opened. Workmen sent from London, and not permitted to leave the
premises until the work was finished, had converted the apartments in
that side of the building from the dilapidated appearance of a dissolved
monastic house into the semblance of a royal palace. A mystery was
observed in all these arrangements: the workmen came thither and
returned by night, and all measures were taken to prevent the prying
curiosity of the villagers from observing or speculating upon the
changes which were taking place in the mansion of their once indigent
but now wealthy neighbour, Anthony Foster. Accordingly, the secrecy
desired was so far preserved, that nothing got abroad but vague and
uncertain reports, which were received and repeated, but without much
credit being attached to them.

On the evening of which we treat, the new and highly-decorated suite of
rooms were, for the first time, illuminated, and that with a brilliancy
which might have been visible half-a-dozen miles off, had not oaken
shutters, carefully secured with bolt and padlock, and mantled with long
curtains of silk and of velvet, deeply fringed with gold, prevented the
slightest gleam of radiance front being seen without.

The principal apartments, as we have seen, were four in number, each
opening into the other. Access was given to them by a large scale
staircase, as they were then called, of unusual length and height, which
had its landing-place at the door of an antechamber, shaped somewhat
like a gallery. This apartment the abbot had used as an occasional
council-room, but it was now beautifully wainscoted with dark, foreign
wood of a brown colour, and bearing a high polish, said to have been
brought from the Western Indies, and to have been wrought in London with
infinite difficulty and much damage to the tools of the workmen. The
dark colour of this finishing was relieved by the number of lights
in silver sconces which hung against the walls, and by six large and
richly-framed pictures, by the first masters of the age. A massy oaken
table, placed at the lower end of the apartment, served to accommodate
such as chose to play at the then fashionable game of shovel-board;
and there was at the other end an elevated gallery for the musicians
or minstrels, who might be summoned to increase the festivity of the
evening.

From this antechamber opened a banqueting-room of moderate size, but
brilliant enough to dazzle the eyes of the spectator with the richness
of its furniture. The walls, lately so bare and ghastly, were now
clothed with hangings of sky-blue velvet and silver; the chairs were of
ebony, richly carved, with cushions corresponding to the hangings; and
the place of the silver sconces which enlightened the ante-chamber was
supplied by a huge chandelier of the same precious metal. The floor
was covered with a Spanish foot-cloth, or carpet, on which flowers and
fruits were represented in such glowing and natural colours, that you
hesitated to place the foot on such exquisite workmanship. The table, of
old English oak, stood ready covered with the finest linen; and a large
portable court-cupboard was placed with the leaves of its embossed
folding-doors displayed, showing the shelves within, decorated with a
full display of plate and porcelain. In the midst of the table stood a
salt-cellar of Italian workmanship--a beautiful and splendid piece of
plate about two feet high, moulded into a representation of the giant
Briareus, whose hundred hands of silver presented to the guests various
sorts of spices, or condiments, to season their food withal.

The third apartment was called the withdrawing-room. It was hung with
the finest tapestry, representing the fall of Phaeton; for the looms
of Flanders were now much occupied on classical subjects. The principal
seat of this apartment was a chair of state, raised a step or two from
the floor, and large enough to contain two persons. It was surmounted
by a canopy, which, as well as the cushions, side-curtains, and the very
footcloth, was composed of crimson velvet, embroidered with seed-pearl.
On the top of the canopy were two coronets, resembling those of an earl
and countess. Stools covered with velvet, and some cushions disposed in
the Moorish fashion, and ornamented with Arabesque needle-work,
supplied the place of chairs in this apartment, which contained musical
instruments, embroidery frames, and other articles for ladies’ pastime.
Besides lesser lights, the withdrawing-room was illuminated by four
tall torches of virgin wax, each of which was placed in the grasp of
a statue, representing an armed Moor, who held in his left arm a round
buckler of silver, highly polished, interposed betwixt his breast
and the light, which was thus brilliantly reflected as from a crystal
mirror.

The sleeping chamber belonging to this splendid suite of apartments
was decorated in a taste less showy, but not less rich, than had been
displayed in the others. Two silver lamps, fed with perfumed oil,
diffused at once a delicious odour and a trembling twilight-seeming
shimmer through the quiet apartment. It was carpeted so thick that the
heaviest step could not have been heard, and the bed, richly heaped with
down, was spread with an ample coverlet of silk and gold; from under
which peeped forth cambric sheets and blankets as white as the lambs
which yielded the fleece that made them. The curtains were of blue
velvet, lined with crimson silk, deeply festooned with gold, and
embroidered with the loves of Cupid and Psyche. On the toilet was a
beautiful Venetian mirror, in a frame of silver filigree, and beside it
stood a gold posset-dish to contain the night-draught. A pair of pistols
and a dagger, mounted with gold, were displayed near the head of the
bed, being the arms for the night, which were presented to honoured
guests, rather, it may be supposed, in the way of ceremony than from any
apprehension of danger. We must not omit to mention, what was more
to the credit of the manners of the time, that in a small recess,
illuminated by a taper, were disposed two hassocks of velvet and gold,
corresponding with the bed furniture, before a desk of carved ebony.
This recess had formerly been the private oratory of the abbot; but the
crucifix was removed, and instead there were placed on the desk, two
Books of Common Prayer, richly bound, and embossed with silver. With
this enviable sleeping apartment, which was so far removed from every
sound save that of the wind sighing among the oaks of the park, that
Morpheus might have coveted it for his own proper repose, corresponded
two wardrobes, or dressing-rooms as they are now termed, suitably
furnished, and in a style of the same magnificence which we have already
described. It ought to be added, that a part of the building in the
adjoining wing was occupied by the kitchen and its offices, and
served to accommodate the personal attendants of the great and wealthy
nobleman, for whose use these magnificent preparations had been made.

The divinity for whose sake this temple had been decorated was well
worthy the cost and pains which had been bestowed. She was seated in the
withdrawing-room which we have described, surveying with the pleased eye
of natural and innocent vanity the splendour which had been so suddenly
created, as it were, in her honour. For, as her own residence at Cumnor
Place formed the cause of the mystery observed in all the preparations
for opening these apartments, it was sedulously arranged that, until she
took possession of them, she should have no means of knowing what was
going forward in that part of the ancient building, or of exposing
herself to be seen by the workmen engaged in the decorations. She had
been, therefore, introduced on that evening to a part of the mansion
which she had never yet seen, so different from all the rest that it
appeared, in comparison, like an enchanted palace. And when she first
examined and occupied these splendid rooms, it was with the wild and
unrestrained joy of a rustic beauty who finds herself suddenly invested
with a splendour which her most extravagant wishes had never imagined,
and at the same time with the keen feeling of an affectionate heart,
which knows that all the enchantment that surrounds her is the work of
the great magician Love.

The Countess Amy, therefore--for to that rank she was exalted by her
private but solemn union with England’s proudest Earl--had for a time
flitted hastily from room to room, admiring each new proof of her lover
and her bridegroom’s taste, and feeling that admiration enhanced as
she recollected that all she gazed upon was one continued proof of his
ardent and devoted affection. “How beautiful are these hangings! How
natural these paintings, which seem to contend with life! How richly
wrought is that plate, which looks as if all the galleons of Spain had
been intercepted on the broad seas to furnish it forth! And oh, Janet!”
 she exclaimed repeatedly to the daughter of Anthony Foster, the close
attendant, who, with equal curiosity, but somewhat less ecstatic
joy, followed on her mistress’s footsteps--“oh, Janet! how much more
delightful to think that all these fair things have been assembled by
his love, for the love of me! and that this evening--this very evening,
which grows darker every instant, I shall thank him more for the love
that has created such an unimaginable paradise, than for all the wonders
it contains.”

“The Lord is to be thanked first,” said the pretty Puritan, “who gave
thee, lady, the kind and courteous husband whose love has done so much
for thee. I, too, have done my poor share. But if you thus run wildly
from room to room, the toil of my crisping and my curling pins will
vanish like the frost-work on the window when the sun is high.”

“Thou sayest true, Janet,” said the young and beautiful Countess,
stopping suddenly from her tripping race of enraptured delight, and
looking at herself from head to foot in a large mirror, such as she had
never before seen, and which, indeed, had few to match it even in the
Queen’s palace--“thou sayest true, Janet!” she answered, as she saw,
with pardonable self-applause, the noble mirror reflect such charms as
were seldom presented to its fair and polished surface; “I have more of
the milk-maid than the countess, with these cheeks flushed with haste,
and all these brown curls, which you laboured to bring to order,
straying as wild as the tendrils of an unpruned vine. My falling ruff is
chafed too, and shows the neck and bosom more than is modest and seemly.
Come, Janet; we will practise state--we will go to the withdrawing-room,
my good girl, and thou shalt put these rebel locks in order, and
imprison within lace and cambric the bosom that beats too high.”

They went to the withdrawing apartment accordingly, where the Countess
playfully stretched herself upon the pile of Moorish cushions, half
sitting, half reclining, half wrapt in her own thoughts, half listening
to the prattle of her attendant.

While she was in this attitude, and with a corresponding expression
betwixt listlessness and expectation on her fine and intelligent
features, you might have searched sea and land without finding anything
half so expressive or half so lovely. The wreath of brilliants which
mixed with her dark-brown hair did not match in lustre the hazel eye
which a light-brown eyebrow, pencilled with exquisite delicacy, and long
eyelashes of the same colour, relieved and shaded. The exercise she had
just taken, her excited expectation and gratified vanity, spread a glow
over her fine features, which had been sometimes censured (as beauty
as well as art has her minute critics) for being rather too pale. The
milk-white pearls of the necklace which she wore, the same which she had
just received as a true-love token from her husband, were excelled in
purity by her teeth, and by the colour of her skin, saving where the
blush of pleasure and self-satisfaction had somewhat stained the neck
with a shade of light crimson.--“Now, have done with these busy fingers,
Janet,” she said to her handmaiden, who was still officiously employed
in bringing her hair and her dress into order--“have done, I say. I must
see your father ere my lord arrives, and also Master Richard Varney,
whom my lord has highly in his esteem--but I could tell that of him
would lose him favour.”

“Oh, do not do so, good my lady!” replied Janet; “leave him to God, who
punishes the wicked in His own time; but do not you cross Varney’s path,
for so thoroughly hath he my lord’s ear, that few have thriven who have
thwarted his courses.”

“And from whom had you this, my most righteous Janet?” said the
Countess; “or why should I keep terms with so mean a gentleman as
Varney, being as I am, wife to his master and patron?”

“Nay, madam,” replied Janet Foster, “your ladyship knows better than I;
but I have heard my father say he would rather cross a hungry wolf than
thwart Richard Varney in his projects. And he has often charged me to
have a care of holding commerce with him.”

“Thy father said well, girl, for thee,” replied the lady, “and I dare
swear meant well. It is a pity, though, his face and manner do little
match his true purpose--for I think his purpose may be true.”

“Doubt it not, my lady,” answered Janet--“doubt not that my father
purposes well, though he is a plain man, and his blunt looks may belie
his heart.”

“I will not doubt it, girl, were it only for thy sake; and yet he has
one of those faces which men tremble when they look on. I think even thy
mother, Janet--nay, have done with that poking-iron--could hardly look
upon him without quaking.”

“If it were so, madam,” answered Janet Foster, “my mother had those who
could keep her in honourable countenance. Why, even you, my lady, both
trembled and blushed when Varney brought the letter from my lord.”

“You are bold, damsel,” said the Countess, rising from the cushions on
which she sat half reclined in the arms of her attendant. “Know that
there are causes of trembling which have nothing to do with fear.--But,
Janet,” she added, immediately relapsing into the good-natured and
familiar tone which was natural to her, “believe me, I will do what
credit I can to your father, and the rather that you, sweetheart, are
his child. Alas! alas!” she added, a sudden sadness passing over her
fine features, and her eyes filling with tears, “I ought the rather to
hold sympathy with thy kind heart, that my own poor father is uncertain
of my fate, and they say lies sick and sorrowful for my worthless sake!
But I will soon cheer him--the news of my happiness and advancement will
make him young again. And that I may cheer him the sooner”--she wiped
her eyes as she spoke--“I must be cheerful myself. My lord must not find
me insensible to his kindness, or sorrowful, when he snatches a visit to
his recluse, after so long an absence. Be merry, Janet; the night wears
on, and my lord must soon arrive. Call thy father hither, and call
Varney also. I cherish resentment against neither; and though I may have
some room to be displeased with both, it shall be their own fault if
ever a complaint against them reaches the Earl through my means. Call
them hither, Janet.”

Janet Foster obeyed her mistress; and in a few minutes after, Varney
entered the withdrawing-room with the graceful ease and unclouded
front of an accomplished courtier, skilled, under the veil of external
politeness, to disguise his own feelings and to penetrate those of
others. Anthony Foster plodded into the apartment after him, his natural
gloomy vulgarity of aspect seeming to become yet more remarkable, from
his clumsy attempt to conceal the mixture of anxiety and dislike with
which he looked on her, over whom he had hitherto exercised so severe a
control, now so splendidly attired, and decked with so many pledges
of the interest which she possessed in her husband’s affections. The
blundering reverence which he made, rather AT than TO the Countess, had
confession in it. It was like the reverence which the criminal makes to
the judge, when he at once owns his guilt and implores mercy--which
is at the same time an impudent and embarrassed attempt at defence or
extenuation, a confession of a fault, and an entreaty for lenity.

Varney, who, in right of his gentle blood, had pressed into the room
before Anthony Foster, knew better what to say than he, and said it with
more assurance and a better grace.

The Countess greeted him indeed with an appearance of cordiality, which
seemed a complete amnesty for whatever she might have to complain of.
She rose from her seat, and advanced two steps towards him, holding
forth her hand as she said, “Master Richard Varney, you brought me
this morning such welcome tidings, that I fear surprise and joy made me
neglect my lord and husband’s charge to receive you with distinction. We
offer you our hand, sir, in reconciliation.”

“I am unworthy to touch it,” said Varney, dropping on one knee, “save as
a subject honours that of a prince.”

He touched with his lips those fair and slender fingers, so richly
loaded with rings and jewels; then rising, with graceful gallantry, was
about to hand her to the chair of state, when she said, “No, good Master
Richard Varney, I take not my place there until my lord himself conducts
me. I am for the present but a disguised Countess, and will not take
dignity on me until authorized by him whom I derive it from.”

“I trust, my lady,” said Foster, “that in doing the commands of my lord
your husband, in your restraint and so forth, I have not incurred your
displeasure, seeing that I did but my duty towards your lord and mine;
for Heaven, as holy writ saith, hath given the husband supremacy and
dominion over the wife--I think it runs so, or something like it.”

“I receive at this moment so pleasant a surprise, Master Foster,”
 answered the Countess, “that I cannot but excuse the rigid fidelity
which secluded me from these apartments, until they had assumed an
appearance so new and so splendid.”

“Ay lady,” said Foster, “it hath cost many a fair crown; and that more
need not be wasted than is absolutely necessary, I leave you till my
lord’s arrival with good Master Richard Varney, who, as I think, hath
somewhat to say to you from your most noble lord and husband.--Janet,
follow me, to see that all be in order.”

“No, Master Foster,” said the Countess, “we will your daughter remains
here in our apartment--out of ear-shot, however, in case Varney bath
ought to say to me from my lord.”

Foster made his clumsy reverence, and departed, with an aspect which
seemed to grudge the profuse expense which had been wasted upon changing
his house from a bare and ruinous grange to an Asiastic palace. When he
was gone, his daughter took her embroidery frame, and went to establish
herself at the bottom of the apartment; while Richard Varney, with a
profoundly humble courtesy, took the lowest stool he could find, and
placing it by the side of the pile of cushions on which the Countess
had now again seated herself, sat with his eyes for a time fixed on the
ground, and in pro-found silence.

“I thought, Master Varney,” said the Countess, when she saw he was not
likely to open the conversation, “that you had something to communicate
from my lord and husband; so at least I understood Master Foster, and
therefore I removed my waiting-maid. If I am mistaken, I will recall
her to my side; for her needle is not so absolutely perfect in tent and
cross-stitch, but that my superintendence is advisable.”

“Lady,” said Varney, “Foster was partly mistaken in my purpose. It
was not FROM but OF your noble husband, and my approved and most noble
patron, that I am led, and indeed bound, to speak.”

“The theme is most welcome, sir,” said the Countess, “whether it be
of or from my noble husband. But be brief, for I expect his hasty
approach.”

“Briefly then, madam,” replied Varney, “and boldly, for my argument
requires both haste and courage--you have this day seen Tressilian?”

“I have, sir and what of that?” answered the lady somewhat sharply.

“Nothing that concerns me, lady,” Varney replied with humility. “But,
think you, honoured madam, that your lord will hear it with equal
equanimity?”

“And wherefore should he not? To me alone was Tressilian’s visit
embarrassing and painful, for he brought news of my good father’s
illness.”

“Of your father’s illness, madam!” answered Varney. “It must have been
sudden then--very sudden; for the messenger whom I dispatched, at my
lord’s instance, found the good knight on the hunting field, cheering
his beagles with his wonted jovial field-cry. I trust Tressilian has
but forged this news. He hath his reasons, madam, as you well know, for
disquieting your present happiness.”

“You do him injustice, Master Varney,” replied the Countess, with
animation--“you do him much injustice. He is the freest, the most open,
the most gentle heart that breathes. My honourable lord ever excepted, I
know not one to whom falsehood is more odious than to Tressilian.”

“I crave your pardon, madam,” said Varney, “I meant the gentleman no
injustice--I knew not how nearly his cause affected you. A man may, in
some circumstances, disguise the truth for fair and honest purpose; for
were it to be always spoken, and upon all occasions, this were no world
to live in.”

“You have a courtly conscience, Master Varney,” said the Countess, “and
your veracity will not, I think, interrupt your preferment in the world,
such as it is. But touching Tressilian--I must do him justice, for
I have done him wrong, as none knows better than thou. Tressilian’s
conscience is of other mould--the world thou speakest of has not that
which could bribe him from the way of truth and honour; and for living
in it with a soiled fame, the ermine would as soon seek to lodge in the
den of the foul polecat. For this my father loved him; for this I would
have loved him--if I could. And yet in this case he had what seemed
to him, unknowing alike of my marriage and to whom I was united, such
powerful reasons to withdraw me from this place, that I well trust he
exaggerated much of my father’s indisposition, and that thy better news
may be the truer.”

“Believe me they are, madam,” answered Varney. “I pretend not to be a
champion of that same naked virtue called truth, to the very outrance.
I can consent that her charms be hidden with a veil, were it but for
decency’s sake. But you must think lower of my head and heart than is
due to one whom my noble lord deigns to call his friend, if you suppose
I could wilfully and unnecessarily palm upon your ladyship a falsehood,
so soon to be detected, in a matter which concerns your happiness.”

“Master Varney,” said the Countess, “I know that my lord esteems you,
and holds you a faithful and a good pilot in those seas in which he has
spread so high and so venturous a sail. Do not suppose, therefore, I
meant hardly by you, when I spoke the truth in Tressilian’s vindication.
I am as you well know, country-bred, and like plain rustic truth better
than courtly compliment; but I must change my fashions with my sphere, I
presume.”

“True, madam,” said Varney, smiling; “and though you speak now in
jest, it will not be amiss that in earnest your present speech had some
connection with your real purpose. A court-dame--take the most noble,
the most virtuous, the most unimpeachable that stands around our Queen’s
throne--would, for example, have shunned to speak the truth, or what she
thought such, in praise of a discarded suitor, before the dependant and
confidant of her noble husband.”

“And wherefore,” said the Countess, colouring impatiently, “should I not
do justice to Tressilian’s worth, before my husband’s friend--before my
husband himself--before the whole world?”

“And with the same openness,” said Varney, “your ladyship will this
night tell my noble lord your husband that Tressilian has discovered
your place of residence, so anxiously concealed from the world, and that
he has had an interview with you?”

“Unquestionably,” said the Countess. “It will be the first thing I tell
him, together with every word that Tressilian said and that I answered.
I shall speak my own shame in this, for Tressilian’s reproaches, less
just than he esteemed them, were not altogether unmerited. I will speak,
therefore, with pain, but I will speak, and speak all.”

“Your ladyship will do your pleasure,” answered Varney; “but methinks
it were as well, since nothing calls for so frank a disclosure, to
spare yourself this pain, and my noble lord the disquiet, and Master
Tressilian, since belike he must be thought of in the matter, the danger
which is like to ensue.”

“I can see nought of all these terrible consequences,” said the lady
composedly, “unless by imputing to my noble lord unworthy thoughts,
which I am sure never harboured in his generous heart.”

“Far be it from me to do so,” said Varney. And then, after a moment’s
silence, he added, with a real or affected plainness of manner, very
different from his usual smooth courtesy, “Come, madam, I will show you
that a courtier dare speak truth as well as another, when it concerns
the weal of those whom he honours and regards, ay, and although it may
infer his own danger.” He waited as if to receive commands, or at least
permission, to go on; but as the lady remained silent, he proceeded,
but obviously with caution. “Look around you,” he said, “noble lady, and
observe the barriers with which this place is surrounded, the studious
mystery with which the brightest jewel that England possesses is
secluded from the admiring gaze. See with what rigour your walks are
circumscribed, and your movement restrained at the beck of yonder
churlish Foster. Consider all this, and judge for yourself what can be
the cause.

“My lord’s pleasure,” answered the Countess; “and I am bound to seek no
other motive.”

“His pleasure it is indeed,” said Varney; “and his pleasure arises out
of a love worthy of the object which inspires it. But he who possesses a
treasure, and who values it, is oft anxious, in proportion to the value
he puts upon it, to secure it from the depredations of others.”

“What needs all this talk, Master Varney?” said the lady, in reply. “You
would have me believe that my noble lord is jealous. Suppose it true, I
know a cure for jealousy.”

“Indeed, madam?” said Varney.

“It is,” replied the lady, “to speak the truth to my lord at all
times--to hold up my mind and my thoughts before him as pure as that
polished mirror--so that when he looks into my heart, he shall only see
his own features reflected there.”

“I am mute, madam,” answered Varney; “and as I have no reason to grieve
for Tressilian, who would have my heart’s blood were he able, I shall
reconcile myself easily to what may befall the gentleman in consequence
of your frank disclosure of his having presumed to intrude upon your
solitude. You, who know my lord so much better than I, will judge if he
be likely to bear the insult unavenged.”

“Nay, if I could think myself the cause of Tressilian’s ruin,” said the
Countess, “I who have already occasioned him so much distress, I might
be brought to be silent. And yet what will it avail, since he was seen
by Foster, and I think by some one else? No, no, Varney, urge it no
more. I will tell the whole matter to my lord; and with such pleading
for Tressilian’s folly, as shall dispose my lord’s generous heart rather
to serve than to punish him.”

“Your judgment, madam,” said Varney, “is far superior to mine,
especially as you may, if you will, prove the ice before you step on it,
by mentioning Tressilian’s name to my lord, and observing how he endures
it. For Foster and his attendant, they know not Tressilian by sight, and
I can easily give them some reasonable excuse for the appearance of an
unknown stranger.”

The lady paused for an instant, and then replied, “If, Varney, it
be indeed true that Foster knows not as yet that the man he saw was
Tressilian, I own I were unwilling he should learn what nowise concerns
him. He bears himself already with austerity enough, and I wish him not
to be judge or privy-councillor in my affairs.”

“Tush,” said Varney, “what has the surly groom to do with your
ladyship’s concerns?--no more, surely, than the ban-dog which watches
his courtyard. If he is in aught distasteful to your ladyship, I have
interest enough to have him exchanged for a seneschal that shall be more
agreeable to you.”

“Master Varney,” said the Countess, “let us drop this theme. When I
complain of the attendants whom my lord has placed around me, it must be
to my lord himself.--Hark! I hear the trampling of horse. He comes! he
comes!” she exclaimed, jumping up in ecstasy.

“I cannot think it is he,” said Varney; “or that you can hear the tread
of his horse through the closely-mantled casements.”

“Stop me not, Varney--my ears are keener than thine. It is he!”

“But, madam!--but, madam!” exclaimed Varney anxiously, and still placing
himself in her way, “I trust that what I have spoken in humble duty and
service will not be turned to my ruin? I hope that my faithful advice
will not be bewrayed to my prejudice? I implore that--”

“Content thee, man--content thee!” said the Countess, “and quit my
skirt--you are too bold to detain me. Content thyself, I think not of
thee.”

At this moment the folding-doors flew wide open, and a man of majestic
mien, muffled in the folds of a long dark riding-cloak, entered the
apartment.



CHAPTER VII.


     “This is he
     Who rides on the court-gale; controls its tides;
     Knows all their secret shoals and fatal eddies;
     Whose frown abases, and whose smile exalts.
     He shines like any rainbow--and, perchance,
     His colours are as transient.”--OLD PLAY.

There was some little displeasure and confusion on the Countess’s brow,
owing to her struggle with Varney’s pertinacity; but it was exchanged
for an expression of the purest joy and affection, as she threw herself
into the arms of the noble stranger who entered, and clasping him to her
bosom, exclaimed, “At length--at length thou art come!”

Varney discreetly withdrew as his lord entered, and Janet was about to
do the same, when her mistress signed to her to remain. She took her
place at the farther end of the apartment, and continued standing, as if
ready for attendance.

Meanwhile the Earl, for he was of no inferior rank, returned his lady’s
caress with the most affectionate ardour, but affected to resist when
she strove to take his cloak from him.

“Nay,” she said, “but I will unmantle you. I must see if you have kept
your word to me, and come as the great Earl men call thee, and not as
heretofore like a private cavalier.”

“Thou art like the rest of the world, Amy,” said the Earl, suffering her
to prevail in the playful contest; “the jewels, and feathers, and silk
are more to them than the man whom they adorn--many a poor blade looks
gay in a velvet scabbard.”

“But so cannot men say of thee, thou noble Earl,” said his lady, as the
cloak dropped on the floor, and showed him dressed as princes when they
ride abroad; “thou art the good and well-tried steel, whose inly worth
deserves, yet disdains, its outward ornaments. Do not think Amy can love
thee better in this glorious garb than she did when she gave her heart
to him who wore the russet-brown cloak in the woods of Devon.”

“And thou too,” said the Earl, as gracefully and majestically he led
his beautiful Countess towards the chair of state which was prepared
for them both--“thou too, my love, hast donned a dress which becomes
thy rank, though it cannot improve thy beauty. What think’st thou of our
court taste?”

The lady cast a sidelong glance upon the great mirror as they passed
it by, and then said, “I know not how it is, but I think not of my own
person while I look at the reflection of thine. Sit thou there,” she
said, as they approached the chair of state, “like a thing for men to
worship and to wonder at.”

“Ay, love,” said the Earl, “if thou wilt share my state with me.”

“Not so,” said the Countess; “I will sit on this footstool at thy feet,
that I may spell over thy splendour, and learn, for the first time, how
princes are attired.”

And with a childish wonder, which her youth and rustic education
rendered not only excusable but becoming, mixed as it was with a
delicate show of the most tender conjugal affection, she examined and
admired from head to foot the noble form and princely attire of him who
formed the proudest ornament of the court of England’s Maiden Queen,
renowned as it was for splendid courtiers, as well as for wise
counsellors. Regarding affectionately his lovely bride, and gratified by
her unrepressed admiration, the dark eye and noble features of the Earl
expressed passions more gentle than the commanding and aspiring
look which usually sat upon his broad forehead, and in the piercing
brilliancy of his dark eye; and he smiled at the simplicity which
dictated the questions she put to him concerning the various ornaments
with which he was decorated.

“The embroidered strap, as thou callest it, around my knee,” he said,
“is the English Garter, an ornament which kings are proud to wear. See,
here is the star which belongs to it, and here the Diamond George, the
jewel of the order. You have heard how King Edward and the Countess of
Salisbury--”

“Oh, I know all that tale,” said the Countess, slightly blushing, “and
how a lady’s garter became the proudest badge of English chivalry.”

“Even so,” said the Earl; “and this most honourable Order I had the good
hap to receive at the same time with three most noble associates, the
Duke of Norfolk, the Marquis of Northampton, and the Earl of Rutland.
I was the lowest of the four in rank--but what then? he that climbs a
ladder must begin at the first round.”

“But this other fair collar, so richly wrought, with some jewel like a
sheep hung by the middle attached to it, what,” said the young Countess,
“does that emblem signify?”

“This collar,” said the Earl, “with its double fusilles interchanged
with these knobs, which are supposed to present flint-stones sparkling
with fire, and sustaining the jewel you inquire about, is the badge of
the noble Order of the Golden Fleece, once appertaining to the House
of Burgundy it hath high privileges, my Amy, belonging to it, this most
noble Order; for even the King of Spain himself, who hath now succeeded
to the honours and demesnes of Burgundy, may not sit in judgment upon
a knight of the Golden Fleece, unless by assistance and consent of the
Great Chapter of the Order.”

“And is this an Order belonging to the cruel King of Spain?” said the
Countess. “Alas! my noble lord, that you will defile your noble English
breast by bearing such an emblem! Bethink you of the most unhappy Queen
Mary’s days, when this same Philip held sway with her in England, and of
the piles which were built for our noblest, and our wisest, and our most
truly sanctified prelates and divines--and will you, whom men call the
standard-bearer of the true Protestant faith, be contented to wear the
emblem and mark of such a Romish tyrant as he of Spain?”

“Oh, content you, my love,” answered the Earl; “we who spread our sails
to gales of court favour cannot always display the ensigns we love the
best, or at all times refuse sailing under colours which we like not.
Believe me, I am not the less good Protestant, that for policy I must
accept the honour offered me by Spain, in admitting me to this his
highest order of knighthood. Besides, it belongs properly to Flanders;
and Egmont, Orange, and others have pride in seeing it displayed on an
English bosom.”

“Nay, my lord, you know your own path best,” replied the Countess. “And
this other collar, to what country does this fair jewel belong?”

“To a very poor one, my love,” replied the Earl; “this is the Order of
Saint Andrew, revived by the last James of Scotland. It was bestowed
on me when it was thought the young widow of France and Scotland would
gladly have wedded an English baron; but a free coronet of England is
worth a crown matrimonial held at the humour of a woman, and owning only
the poor rocks and bogs of the north.”

The Countess paused, as if what the Earl last said had excited some
painful but interesting train of thought; and, as she still remained
silent, her husband proceeded:--

“And now, loveliest, your wish is gratified, and you have seen your
vassal in such of his trim array as accords with riding vestments; for
robes of state and coronets are only for princely halls.”

“Well, then,” said the Countess, “my gratified wish has, as usual, given
rise to a new one.”

“And what is it thou canst ask that I can deny?” said the fond husband.

“I wished to see my Earl visit this obscure and secret bower,” said the
Countess, “in all his princely array; and now, methinks I long to sit in
one of his princely halls, and see him enter dressed in sober russet, as
when he won poor Amy Robsart’s heart.”

“That is a wish easily granted,” said the Earl--“the sober russet shall
be donned to-morrow, if you will.”

“But shall I,” said the lady, “go with you to one of your castles, to
see how the richness of your dwelling will correspond with your peasant
habit?”

“Why, Amy,” said the Earl, looking around, “are not these apartments
decorated with sufficient splendour? I gave the most unbounded order,
and, methinks, it has been indifferently well obeyed; but if thou
canst tell me aught which remains to be done, I will instantly give
direction.”

“Nay, my lord, now you mock me,” replied the Countess; “the gaiety of
this rich lodging exceeds my imagination as much as it does my desert.
But shall not your wife, my love--at least one day soon--be surrounded
with the honour which arises neither from the toils of the mechanic
who decks her apartment, nor from the silks and jewels with which your
generosity adorns her, but which is attached to her place among the
matronage, as the avowed wife of England’s noblest Earl?”

“One day?” said her husband. “Yes, Amy, my love, one day this shall
surely happen; and, believe me, thou canst not wish for that day more
fondly than I. With what rapture could I retire from labours of state,
and cares and toils of ambition, to spend my life in dignity and honour
on my own broad domains, with thee, my lovely Amy, for my friend and
companion! But, Amy, this cannot yet be; and these dear but stolen
interviews are all I can give to the loveliest and the best beloved of
her sex.”

“But WHY can it not be?” urged the Countess, in the softest tones of
persuasion--“why can it not immediately take place--this more perfect,
this uninterrupted union, for which you say you wish, and which the laws
of God and man alike command? Ah! did you but desire it half as much
as you say, mighty and favoured as you are, who or what should bar your
attaining your wish?”

The Earl’s brow was overcast.

“Amy,” he said, “you speak of what you understand not. We that toil in
courts are like those who climb a mountain of loose sand--we dare make
no halt until some projecting rock affords us a secure footing and
resting-place. If we pause sooner, we slide down by our own weight,
an object of universal derision. I stand high, but I stand not secure
enough to follow my own inclination. To declare my marriage were to be
the artificer of my own ruin. But, believe me, I will reach a point, and
that speedily, when I can do justice to thee and to myself. Meantime,
poison not the bliss of the present moment, by desiring that which
cannot at present be, Let me rather know whether all here is managed
to thy liking. How does Foster bear himself to you?--in all things
respectful, I trust, else the fellow shall dearly rue it.”

“He reminds me sometimes of the necessity of this privacy,” answered
the lady, with a sigh; “but that is reminding me of your wishes, and
therefore I am rather bound to him than disposed to blame him for it.”

“I have told you the stern necessity which is upon us,” replied the
Earl. “Foster is, I note, somewhat sullen of mood; but Varney warrants
to me his fidelity and devotion to my service. If thou hast aught,
however, to complain of the mode in which he discharges his duty, he
shall abye it.”

“Oh, I have nought to complain of,” answered the lady, “so he discharges
his task with fidelity to you; and his daughter Janet is the kindest and
best companion of my solitude--her little air of precision sits so well
upon her!”

“Is she indeed?” said the Earl. “She who gives you pleasure must not
pass unrewarded.--Come hither, damsel.”

“Janet,” said the lady, “come hither to my lord.”

Janet, who, as we already noticed, had discreetly retired to some
distance, that her presence might be no check upon the private
conversation of her lord and lady, now came forward; and as she made
her reverential curtsy, the Earl could not help smiling at the contrast
which the extreme simplicity of her dress, and the prim demureness of
her looks, made with a very pretty countenance and a pair of black eyes,
that laughed in spite of their mistress’s desire to look grave.

“I am bound to you, pretty damsel,” said the Earl, “for the contentment
which your service hath given to this lady.” As he said this, he took
from his finger a ring of some price, and offered it to Janet Foster,
adding, “Wear this, for her sake and for mine.”

“I am well pleased, my lord,” answered Janet demurely, “that my poor
service hath gratified my lady, whom no one can draw nigh to without
desiring to please; but we of the precious Master Holdforth’s
congregation seek not, like the gay daughters of this world, to twine
gold around our fingers, or wear stones upon our necks, like the vain
women of Tyre and of Sidon.”

“Oh, what! you are a grave professor of the precise sisterhood, pretty
Mistress Janet,” said the Earl, “and I think your father is of the same
congregation in sincerity? I like you both the better for it; for I have
been prayed for, and wished well to, in your congregations. And you may
the better afford the lack of ornament, Mistress Janet, because your
fingers are slender, and your neck white. But here is what neither
Papist nor Puritan, latitudinarian nor precisian, ever boggles or makes
mouths at. E’en take it, my girl, and employ it as you list.”

So saying, he put into her hand five broad gold pieces of Philip and
Mary.

“I would not accept this gold either,” said Janet, “but that I hope to
find a use for it which will bring a blessing on us all.”

“Even please thyself, pretty Janet,” said the Earl, “and I shall be well
satisfied. And I prithee let them hasten the evening collation.”

“I have bidden Master Varney and Master Foster to sup with us, my lord,”
 said the Countess, as Janet retired to obey the Earl’s commands; “has it
your approbation?”

“What you do ever must have so, my sweet Amy,” replied her husband; “and
I am the better pleased thou hast done them this grace, because Richard
Varney is my sworn man, and a close brother of my secret council; and
for the present, I must needs repose much trust in this Anthony Foster.”

“I had a boon to beg of thee, and a secret to tell thee, my dear lord,”
 said the Countess, with a faltering accent.

“Let both be for to-morrow, my love,” replied the Earl. “I see they open
the folding-doors into the banqueting-parlour, and as I have ridden far
and fast, a cup of wine will not be unacceptable.”

So saying he led his lovely wife into the next apartment, where Varney
and Foster received them with the deepest reverences, which the first
paid after the fashion of the court, and the second after that of the
congregation. The Earl returned their salutation with the negligent
courtesy of one long used to such homage; while the Countess repaid it
with a punctilious solicitude, which showed it was not quite so familiar
to her.

The banquet at which the company seated themselves corresponded in
magnificence with the splendour of the apartment in which it was served
up, but no domestic gave his attendance. Janet alone stood ready to wait
upon the company; and, indeed, the board was so well supplied with all
that could be desired, that little or no assistance was necessary. The
Earl and his lady occupied the upper end of the table, and Varney and
Foster sat beneath the salt, as was the custom with inferiors. The
latter, overawed perhaps by society to which he was altogether unused,
did not utter a single syllable during the repast; while Varney, with
great tact and discernment, sustained just so much of the conversation
as, without the appearance of intrusion on his part, prevented it from
languishing, and maintained the good-humour of the Earl at the highest
pitch. This man was indeed highly qualified by nature to discharge the
part in which he found himself placed, being discreet and cautious on
the one hand, and, on the other, quick, keen-witted, and imaginative;
so that even the Countess, prejudiced as she was against him on many
accounts, felt and enjoyed his powers of conversation, and was more
disposed than she had ever hitherto found herself to join in the praises
which the Earl lavished on his favourite. The hour of rest at length
arrived, the Earl and Countess retired to their apartment, and all was
silent in the castle for the rest of the night.

Early on the ensuing morning, Varney acted as the Earl’s chamberlain as
well as his master of horse, though the latter was his proper office in
that magnificent household, where knights and gentlemen of good descent
were well contented to hold such menial situations, as nobles themselves
held in that of the sovereign. The duties of each of these charges were
familiar to Varney, who, sprung from an ancient but somewhat decayed
family, was the Earl’s page during his earlier and more obscure
fortunes, and, faithful to him in adversity, had afterwards contrived to
render himself no less useful to him in his rapid and splendid advance
to fortune; thus establishing in him an interest resting both on present
and past services, which rendered him an almost indispensable sharer of
his confidence.

“Help me to do on a plainer riding-suit, Varney,” said the Earl, as he
laid aside his morning-gown, flowered with silk and lined with sables,
“and put these chains and fetters there” (pointing to the collars of the
various Orders which lay on the table) “into their place of security--my
neck last night was well-nigh broke with the weight of them. I am half
of the mind that they shall gall me no more. They are bonds which knaves
have invented to fetter fools. How thinkest thou, Varney?”

“Faith, my good lord,” said his attendant, “I think fetters of gold are
like no other fetters--they are ever the weightier the welcomer.”

“For all that, Varney,” replied his master, “I am well-nigh resolved
they shall bind me to the court no longer. What can further service and
higher favour give me, beyond the high rank and large estate which I
have already secured? What brought my father to the block, but that he
could not bound his wishes within right and reason? I have, you know,
had mine own ventures and mine own escapes. I am well-nigh resolved to
tempt the sea no further, but sit me down in quiet on the shore.”

“And gather cockle-shells, with Dan Cupid to aid you,” said Varney.

“How mean you by that, Varney?” said the Earl somewhat hastily.

“Nay, my lord,” said Varney, “be not angry with me. If your lordship
is happy in a lady so rarely lovely that, in order to enjoy her company
with somewhat more freedom, you are willing to part with all you have
hitherto lived for, some of your poor servants may be sufferers; but
your bounty hath placed me so high, that I shall ever have enough to
maintain a poor gentleman in the rank befitting the high office he has
held in your lordship’s family.”

“Yet you seem discontented when I propose throwing up a dangerous game,
which may end in the ruin of both of us.”

“I, my lord?” said Varney; “surely I have no cause to regret your
lordship’s retreat! It will not be Richard Varney who will incur
the displeasure of majesty, and the ridicule of the court, when the
stateliest fabric that ever was founded upon a prince’s favour melts
away like a morning frost-work. I would only have you yourself to be
assured, my lord, ere you take a step which cannot be retracted, that
you consult your fame and happiness in the course you propose.”

“Speak on, then, Varney,” said the Earl; “I tell thee I have determined
nothing, and will weigh all considerations on either side.”

“Well, then, my lord,” replied Varney, “we will suppose the step taken,
the frown frowned, the laugh laughed, and the moan moaned. You have
retired, we will say, to some one of your most distant castles, so far
from court that you hear neither the sorrow of your friends nor the glee
of your enemies, We will suppose, too, that your successful rival will
be satisfied (a thing greatly to be doubted) with abridging and cutting
away the branches of the great tree which so long kept the sun from him,
and that he does not insist upon tearing you up by the roots. Well; the
late prime favourite of England, who wielded her general’s staff and
controlled her parliaments, is now a rural baron, hunting, hawking,
drinking fat ale with country esquires, and mustering his men at the
command of the high sheriff--”

“Varney, forbear!” said the Earl.

“Nay, my lord, you must give me leave to conclude my picture.--Sussex
governs England--the Queen’s health fails--the succession is to be
settled--a road is opened to ambition more splendid than ambition ever
dreamed of. You hear all this as you sit by the hob, under the shade of
your hall-chimney. You then begin to think what hopes you have fallen
from, and what insignificance you have embraced; and all that you
might look babies in the eyes of your fair wife oftener than once a
fortnight.”

“I say, Varney,” said the Earl, “no more of this. I said not that the
step, which my own ease and comfort would urge me to, was to be taken
hastily, or without due consideration to the public safety. Bear witness
to me, Varney; I subdue my wishes of retirement, not because I am moved
by the call of private ambition, but that I may preserve the position in
which I may best serve my country at the hour of need.--Order our horses
presently; I will wear, as formerly, one of the livery cloaks, and ride
before the portmantle. Thou shalt be master for the day, Varney--neglect
nothing that can blind suspicion. We will to horse ere men are stirring.
I will but take leave of my lady, and be ready. I impose a restraint on
my own poor heart, and wound one yet more dear to me; but the patriot
must subdue the husband.”

Having said this in a melancholy but firm accent, he left the dressing
apartment.

“I am glad thou art gone,” thought Varney, “or, practised as I am in the
follies of mankind, I had laughed in the very face of thee! Thou mayest
tire as thou wilt of thy new bauble, thy pretty piece of painted Eve’s
flesh there, I will not be thy hindrance. But of thine old bauble,
ambition, thou shalt not tire; for as you climb the hill, my lord, you
must drag Richard Varney up with you, and if he can urge you to the
ascent he means to profit by, believe me he will spare neither whip nor
spur, and for you, my pretty lady, that would be Countess outright, you
were best not thwart my courses, lest you are called to an old reckoning
on a new score. ‘Thou shalt be master,’ did he say? By my faith, he may
find that he spoke truer than he is aware of; and thus he who, in
the estimation of so many wise-judging men, can match Burleigh and
Walsingham in policy, and Sussex in war, becomes pupil to his own
menial--and all for a hazel eye and a little cunning red and white, and
so falls ambition. And yet if the charms of mortal woman could excuse
a man’s politic pate for becoming bewildered, my lord had the excuse
at his right hand on this blessed evening that has last passed over us.
Well--let things roll as they may, he shall make me great, or I will
make myself happy; and for that softer piece of creation, if she speak
not out her interview with Tressilian, as well I think she dare not, she
also must traffic with me for concealment and mutual support, in spite
of all this scorn. I must to the stables. Well, my lord, I order your
retinue now; the time may soon come that my master of the horse shall
order mine own. What was Thomas Cromwell but a smith’s son? and he died
my lord--on a scaffold, doubtless, but that, too, was in character.
And what was Ralph Sadler but the clerk of Cromwell? and he has gazed
eighteen fair lordships--VIA! I know my steerage as well as they.”

So saying, he left the apartment.

In the meanwhile the Earl had re-entered the bedchamber, bent on taking
a hasty farewell of the lovely Countess, and scarce daring to trust
himself in private with her, to hear requests again urged which he found
it difficult to parry, yet which his recent conversation with his master
of horse had determined him not to grant.

He found her in a white cymar of silk lined with furs, her little
feet unstockinged and hastily thrust into slippers; her unbraided hair
escaping from under her midnight coif, with little array but her own
loveliness, rather augmented than diminished by the grief which she felt
at the approaching moment of separation.

“Now, God be with thee, my dearest and loveliest!” said the Earl, scarce
tearing himself from her embrace, yet again returning to fold her again
and again in his arms, and again bidding farewell, and again returning
to kiss and bid adieu once more. “The sun is on the verge of the blue
horizon--I dare not stay. Ere this I should have been ten miles from
hence.”

Such were the words with which at length he strove to cut short their
parting interview. “You will not grant my request, then?” said the
Countess. “Ah, false knight! did ever lady, with bare foot in slipper,
seek boon of a brave knight, yet return with denial?”

“Anything, Amy, anything thou canst ask I will grant,” answered the
Earl--“always excepting,” he said, “that which might ruin us both.”

“Nay,” said the Countess, “I urge not my wish to be acknowledged in the
character which would make me the envy of England--as the wife, that
is, of my brave and noble lord, the first as the most fondly beloved of
English nobles. Let me but share the secret with my dear father! Let me
but end his misery on my unworthy account--they say he is ill, the good
old kind-hearted man!”

“They say?” asked the Earl hastily; “who says? Did not Varney convey to
Sir Hugh all we dare at present tell him concerning your happiness and
welfare? and has he not told you that the good old knight was following,
with good heart and health, his favourite and wonted exercise. Who has
dared put other thoughts into your head?”

“Oh, no one, my lord, no one,” said the Countess, something alarmed at
the tone, in which the question was put; “but yet, my lord, I would fain
be assured by mine own eyesight that my father is well.”

“Be contented, Amy; thou canst not now have communication with thy
father or his house. Were it not a deep course of policy to commit no
secret unnecessarily to the custody of more than must needs be, it were
sufficient reason for secrecy that yonder Cornish man, yonder Trevanion,
or Tressilian, or whatever his name is, haunts the old knight’s house,
and must necessarily know whatever is communicated there.”

“My lord,” answered the Countess, “I do not think it so. My father has
been long noted a worthy and honourable man; and for Tressilian, if
we can pardon ourselves the ill we have wrought him, I will wager the
coronet I am to share with you one day that he is incapable of returning
injury for injury.”

“I will not trust him, however, Amy,” said her husband--“by my honour,
I will not trust him, I would rather the foul fiend intermingle in our
secret than this Tressilian!”

“And why, my lord?” said the Countess, though she shuddered slightly at
the tone of determination in which he spoke; “let me but know why you
think thus hardly of Tressilian?”

“Madam,” replied the Earl, “my will ought to be a sufficient reason. If
you desire more, consider how this Tressilian is leagued, and with whom.
He stands high in the opinion of this Radcliffe, this Sussex, against
whom I am barely able to maintain my ground in the opinion of our
suspicious mistress; and if he had me at such advantage, Amy, as to
become acquainted with the tale of our marriage, before Elizabeth were
fitly prepared, I were an outcast from her grace for ever--a bankrupt at
once in favour and in fortune, perhaps, for she hath in her a touch of
her father Henry--a victim, and it may be a bloody one, to her offended
and jealous resentment.”

“But why, my lord,” again urged his lady, “should you deem thus
injuriously of a man of whom you know so little? What you do know
of Tressilian is through me, and it is I who assure you that in no
circumstances will he betray your secret. If I did him wrong in your
behalf, my lord, I am now the more concerned you should do him justice.
You are offended at my speaking of him, what would you say had I
actually myself seen him?”

“If you had,” replied the Earl, “you would do well to keep that
interview as secret as that which is spoken in a confessional. I seek no
one’s ruin; but he who thrusts himself on my secret privacy were better
look well to his future walk. The bear [The Leicester cognizance was the
ancient device adopted by his father, when Earl of Warwick, the bear and
ragged staff.] brooks no one to cross his awful path.”

“Awful, indeed!” said the Countess, turning very pale.

“You are ill, my love,” said the Earl, supporting her in his arms.
“Stretch yourself on your couch again; it is but an early day for you to
leave it. Have you aught else, involving less than my fame, my fortune,
and my life, to ask of me?”

“Nothing, my lord and love,” answered the Countess faintly; “something
there was that I would have told you, but your anger has driven it from
my recollection.”

“Reserve it till our next meeting, my love,” said the Earl fondly, and
again embracing her; “and barring only those requests which I cannot
and dare not grant, thy wish must be more than England and all its
dependencies can fulfil, if it is not gratified to the letter.”

Thus saying, he at length took farewell. At the bottom of the staircase
he received from Varney an ample livery cloak and slouched hat, in which
he wrapped himself so as to disguise his person and completely conceal
his features. Horses were ready in the courtyard for himself and Varney;
for one or two of his train, intrusted with the secret so far as to know
or guess that the Earl intrigued with a beautiful lady at that mansion,
though her name and duality were unknown to them, had already been
dismissed over-night.

Anthony Foster himself had in hand the rein of the Earl’s palfrey, a
stout and able nag for the road; while his old serving-man held the
bridle of the more showy and gallant steed which Richard Varney was to
occupy in the character of master.

As the Earl approached, however, Varney advanced to hold his master’s
bridle, and to prevent Foster from paying that duty to the Earl which he
probably considered as belonging to his own office. Foster scowled at
an interference which seemed intended to prevent his paying his court
to his patron, but gave place to Varney; and the Earl, mounting without
further observation, and forgetting that his assumed character of a
domestic threw him into the rear of his supposed master, rode pensively
out of the quadrangle, not without waving his hand repeatedly in answer
to the signals which were made by the Countess with her kerchief from
the windows of her apartment.

While his stately form vanished under the dark archway which led out of
the quadrangle, Varney muttered, “There goes fine policy--the servant
before the master!” then as he disappeared, seized the moment to speak a
word with Foster. “Thou look’st dark on me, Anthony,” he said, “as if I
had deprived thee of a parting nod of my lord; but I have moved him to
leave thee a better remembrance for thy faithful service. See here!
a purse of as good gold as ever chinked under a miser’s thumb and
fore-finger. Ay, count them, lad,” said he, as Foster received the gold
with a grim smile, “and add to them the goodly remembrance he gave last
night to Janet.”

“How’s this? how’s this?” said Anthony Foster hastily; “gave he gold to
Janet?”

“Ay, man, wherefore not?--does not her service to his fair lady require
guerdon?”

“She shall have none on’t,” said Foster; “she shall return it. I know
his dotage on one face is as brief as it is deep. His affections are as
fickle as the moon.”

“Why, Foster, thou art mad--thou dost not hope for such good fortune
as that my lord should cast an eye on Janet? Who, in the fiend’s name,
would listen to the thrush while the nightingale is singing?”

“Thrush or nightingale, all is one to the fowler; and, Master Varney,
you can sound the quail-pipe most daintily to wile wantons into his
nets. I desire no such devil’s preferment for Janet as you have brought
many a poor maiden to. Dost thou laugh? I will keep one limb of my
family, at least, from Satan’s clutches, that thou mayest rely on. She
shall restore the gold.”

“Ay, or give it to thy keeping, Tony, which will serve as well,”
 answered Varney; “but I have that to say which is more serious. Our lord
is returning to court in an evil humour for us.”

“How meanest thou?” said Foster. “Is he tired already of his pretty
toy--his plaything yonder? He has purchased her at a monarch’s ransom,
and I warrant me he rues his bargain.”

“Not a whit, Tony,” answered the master of the horse; “he dotes on her,
and will forsake the court for her. Then down go hopes, possessions, and
safety--church-lands are resumed, Tony, and well if the holders be not
called to account in Exchequer.”

“That were ruin,” said Foster, his brow darkening with apprehensions;
“and all this for a woman! Had it been for his soul’s sake, it were
something; and I sometimes wish I myself could fling away the world that
cleaves to me, and be as one of the poorest of our church.”

“Thou art like enough to be so, Tony,” answered Varney; “but I think
the devil will give thee little credit for thy compelled poverty, and so
thou losest on all hands. But follow my counsel, and Cumnor Place shall
be thy copyhold yet. Say nothing of this Tressilian’s visit--not a word
until I give thee notice.”

“And wherefore, I pray you?” asked Foster, suspiciously.

“Dull beast!” replied Varney. “In my lord’s present humour it were the
ready way to confirm him in his resolution of retirement, should he know
that his lady was haunted with such a spectre in his absence. He would
be for playing the dragon himself over his golden fruit, and then, Tony,
thy occupation is ended. A word to the wise. Farewell! I must follow
him.”

He turned his horse, struck him with the spurs, and rode off under the
archway in pursuit of his lord.

“Would thy occupation were ended, or thy neck broken, damned pander!”
 said Anthony Foster. “But I must follow his beck, for his interest and
mine are the same, and he can wind the proud Earl to his will. Janet
shall give me those pieces though; they shall be laid out in some way
for God’s service, and I will keep them separate in my strong chest,
till I can fall upon a fitting employment for them. No contagious vapour
shall breathe on Janet--she shall remain pure as a blessed spirit, were
it but to pray God for her father. I need her prayers, for I am at a
hard pass. Strange reports are abroad concerning my way of life.
The congregation look cold on me, and when Master Holdforth spoke of
hypocrites being like a whited sepulchre, which within was full of
dead men’s bones, methought he looked full at me. The Romish was a
comfortable faith; Lambourne spoke true in that. A man had but to
follow his thrift by such ways as offered--tell his beads, hear a mass,
confess, and be absolved. These Puritans tread a harder and a rougher
path; but I will try--I will read my Bible for an hour ere I again open
mine iron chest.”

Varney, meantime, spurred after his lord, whom he found waiting for him
at the postern gate of the park.

“You waste time, Varney,” said the Earl, “and it presses. I must be at
Woodstock before I can safely lay aside my disguise, and till then I
journey in some peril.”

“It is but two hours’ brisk riding, my lord,” said Varney. “For me,
I only stopped to enforce your commands of care and secrecy on yonder
Foster, and to inquire about the abode of the gentleman whom I would
promote to your lordship’s train, in the room of Trevors.”

“Is he fit for the meridian of the antechamber, think’st thou?” said the
Earl.

“He promises well, my lord,” replied Varney; “but if your lordship were
pleased to ride on, I could go back to Cumnor, and bring him to your
lordship at Woodstock before you are out of bed.”

“Why, I am asleep there, thou knowest, at this moment,” said the Earl;
“and I pray you not to spare horse-flesh, that you may be with me at my
levee.”

So saying, he gave his horse the spur, and proceeded on his journey,
while Varney rode back to Cumnor by the public road, avoiding the park.
The latter alighted at the door of the bonny Black Bear, and desired to
speak with Master Michael Lambourne, That respectable character was not
long of appearing before his new patron, but it was with downcast looks.

“Thou hast lost the scent,” said Varney, “of thy comrade Tressilian.
I know it by thy hang-dog visage. Is this thy alacrity, thou impudent
knave?”

“Cogswounds!” said Lambourne, “there was never a trail so finely
hunted. I saw him to earth at mine uncle’s here--stuck to him like
bees’-wax--saw him at supper--watched him to his chamber, and, presto!
he is gone next morning, the very hostler knows not where.”

“This sounds like practice upon me, sir,” replied Varney; “and if it
proves so, by my soul you shall repent it!”

“Sir, the best hound will be sometimes at fault,” answered Lambourne;
“how should it serve me that this fellow should have thus evanished?
You may ask mine host, Giles Gosling--ask the tapster and hostler--ask
Cicely, and the whole household, how I kept eyes on Tressilian while
he was on foot. On my soul, I could not be expected to watch him like a
sick nurse, when I had seen him fairly a-bed in his chamber. That will
be allowed me, surely.”

Varney did, in fact, make some inquiry among the household, which
confirmed the truth of Lambourne’s statement. Tressilian, it was
unanimously agreed, had departed suddenly and unexpectedly, betwixt
night and morning.

“But I will wrong no one,” said mine host; “he left on the table in
his lodging the full value of his reckoning, with some allowance to the
servants of the house, which was the less necessary that he saddled his
own gelding, as it seems, without the hostler’s assistance.”

Thus satisfied of the rectitude of Lambourne’s conduct, Varney began to
talk to him upon his future prospects, and the mode in which he meant
to bestow himself, intimating that he understood from Foster he was not
disinclined to enter into the household of a nobleman.

“Have you,” said he, “ever been at court?”

“No,” replied Lambourne; “but ever since I was ten years old, I have
dreamt once a week that I was there, and made my fortune.”

“It may be your own fault if your dream comes not true,” said Varney.
“Are you needy?”

“Um!” replied Lambourne; “I love pleasure.”

“That is a sufficient answer, and an honest one,” said Varney. “Know
you aught of the requisites expected from the retainer of a rising
courtier?”

“I have imagined them to myself, sir,” answered Lambourne; “as, for
example, a quick eye, a close mouth, a ready and bold hand, a sharp wit,
and a blunt conscience.”

“And thine, I suppose,” said Varney, “has had its edge blunted long
since?”

“I cannot remember, sir, that its edge was ever over-keen,” replied
Lambourne. “When I was a youth, I had some few whimsies; but I rubbed
them partly out of my recollection on the rough grindstone of the wars,
and what remained I washed out in the broad waves of the Atlantic.”

“Thou hast served, then, in the Indies?”

“In both East and West,” answered the candidate for court service, “by
both sea and land. I have served both the Portugal and the Spaniard,
both the Dutchman and the Frenchman, and have made war on our own
account with a crew of jolly fellows, who held there was no peace beyond
the Line.” [Sir Francis Drake, Morgan, and many a bold buccaneer of
those days, were, in fact, little better than pirates.]

“Thou mayest do me, and my lord, and thyself, good service,” said
Varney, after a pause. “But observe, I know the world--and answer me
truly, canst thou be faithful?”

“Did you not know the world,” answered Lambourne, “it were my duty to
say ay, without further circumstance, and to swear to it with life and
honour, and so forth. But as it seems to me that your worship is one who
desires rather honest truth than politic falsehood, I reply to you, that
I can be faithful to the gallows’ foot, ay, to the loop that dangles
from it, if I am well used and well recompensed--not otherwise.”

“To thy other virtues thou canst add, no doubt,” said Varney, in a
jeering tone, “the knack of seeming serious and religious, when the
moment demands it?”

“It would cost me nothing,” said Lambourne, “to say yes; but, to speak
on the square, I must needs say no. If you want a hypocrite, you may
take Anthony Foster, who, from his childhood, had some sort of phantom
haunting him, which he called religion, though it was that sort of
godliness which always ended in being great gain. But I have no such
knack of it.”

“Well,” replied Varney, “if thou hast no hypocrisy, hast thou not a nag
here in the stable?”

“Ay, sir,” said Lambourne, “that shall take hedge and ditch with my Lord
Duke’s best hunters. Then I made a little mistake on Shooter’s Hill,
and stopped an ancient grazier whose pouches were better lined than his
brain-pan, the bonny bay nag carried me sheer off in spite of the whole
hue and cry.”

“Saddle him then instantly, and attend me,” said Varney. “Leave thy
clothes and baggage under charge of mine host; and I will conduct thee
to a service, in which, if thou do not better thyself, the fault shall
not be fortune’s, but thine own.”

“Brave and hearty!” said Lambourne, “and I am mounted in an
instant.--Knave, hostler, saddle my nag without the loss of one second,
as thou dost value the safety of thy noddle.--Pretty Cicely, take half
this purse to comfort thee for my sudden departure.”

“Gogsnouns!” replied the father, “Cicely wants no such token from thee.
Go away, Mike, and gather grace if thou canst, though I think thou goest
not to the land where it grows.”

“Let me look at this Cicely of thine, mine host,” said Varney; “I have
heard much talk of her beauty.”

“It is a sunburnt beauty,” said mine host, “well qualified to stand out
rain and wind, but little calculated to please such critical gallants as
yourself. She keeps her chamber, and cannot encounter the glance of such
sunny-day courtiers as my noble guest.”

“Well, peace be with her, my good host,” answered Varney; “our horses
are impatient--we bid you good day.”

“Does my nephew go with you, so please you?” said Gosling.

“Ay, such is his purpose,” answered Richard Varney.

“You are right--fully right,” replied mine host--“you are, I say, fully
right, my kinsman. Thou hast got a gay horse; see thou light not unaware
upon a halter--or, if thou wilt needs be made immortal by means of
a rope, which thy purpose of following this gentleman renders not
unlikely, I charge thee to find a gallows as far from Cumnor as thou
conveniently mayest. And so I commend you to your saddle.”

The master of the horse and his new retainer mounted accordingly,
leaving the landlord to conclude his ill-omened farewell, to himself
and at leisure; and set off together at a rapid pace, which prevented
conversation until the ascent of a steep sandy hill permitted them to
resume it.

“You are contented, then,” said Varney to his companion, “to take court
service?”

“Ay, worshipful sir, if you like my terms as well as I like yours.”

“And what are your terms?” demanded Varney.

“If I am to have a quick eye for my patron’s interest, he must have a
dull one towards my faults,” said Lambourne.

“Ay,” said Varney, “so they lie not so grossly open that he must needs
break his shins over them.”

“Agreed,” said Lambourne. “Next, if I run down game, I must have the
picking of the bones.”

“That is but reason,” replied Varney, “so that your betters are served
before you.”

“Good,” said Lambourne; “and it only remains to be said, that if the law
and I quarrel, my patron must bear me out, for that is a chief point.”

“Reason again,” said Varney, “if the quarrel hath happened in your
master’s service.”

“For the wage and so forth, I say nothing,” proceeded Lambourne; “it is
the secret guerdon that I must live by.”

“Never fear,” said Varney; “thou shalt have clothes and spending money
to ruffle it with the best of thy degree, for thou goest to a household
where you have gold, as they say, by the eye.”

“That jumps all with my humour,” replied Michael Lambourne; “and it only
remains that you tell me my master’s name.”

“My name is Master Richard Varney,” answered his companion.

“But I mean,” said Lambourne, “the name of the noble lord to whose
service you are to prefer me.”

“How, knave, art thou too good to call me master?” said Varney hastily;
“I would have thee bold to others, but not saucy to me.”

“I crave your worship’s pardon,” said Lambourne, “but you seemed
familiar with Anthony Foster; now I am familiar with Anthony myself.”

“Thou art a shrewd knave, I see,” replied Varney. “Mark me--I do indeed
propose to introduce thee into a nobleman’s household; but it is upon
my person thou wilt chiefly wait, and upon my countenance that thou wilt
depend. I am his master of horse. Thou wilt soon know his name--it is
one that shakes the council and wields the state.”

“By this light, a brave spell to conjure with,” said Lambourne, “if a
man would discover hidden treasures!”

“Used with discretion, it may prove so,” replied Varney; “but mark--if
thou conjure with it at thine own hand, it may raise a devil who will
tear thee in fragments.”

“Enough said,” replied Lambourne; “I will not exceed my limits.”

The travellers then resumed the rapid rate of travelling which their
discourse had interrupted, and soon arrived at the Royal Park of
Woodstock. This ancient possession of the crown of England was then very
different from what it had been when it was the residence of the fair
Rosamond, and the scene of Henry the Second’s secret and illicit amours;
and yet more unlike to the scene which it exhibits in the present day,
when Blenheim House commemorates the victory of Marlborough, and no less
the genius of Vanbrugh, though decried in his own time by persons of
taste far inferior to his own. It was, in Elizabeth’s time, an ancient
mansion in bad repair, which had long ceased to be honoured with the
royal residence, to the great impoverishment of the adjacent village.
The inhabitants, however, had made several petitions to the Queen to
have the favour of the sovereign’s countenance occasionally bestowed
upon them; and upon this very business, ostensibly at least, was the
noble lord, whom we have already introduced to our readers, a visitor at
Woodstock.

Varney and Lambourne galloped without ceremony into the courtyard of the
ancient and dilapidated mansion, which presented on that morning a scene
of bustle which it had not exhibited for two reigns. Officers of the
Earl’s household, liverymen and retainers, went and came with all the
insolent fracas which attaches to their profession. The neigh of horses
and the baying of hounds were heard; for my lord, in his occupation of
inspecting and surveying the manor and demesne, was of course provided
with the means of following his pleasure in the chase or park, said to
have been the earliest that was enclosed in England, and which was well
stocked with deer that had long roamed there unmolested. Several of the
inhabitants of the village, in anxious hope of a favourable result from
this unwonted visit, loitered about the courtyard, and awaited the great
man’s coming forth. Their attention was excited by the hasty arrival of
Varney, and a murmur ran amongst them, “The Earl’s master of the
horse!” while they hurried to bespeak favour by hastily unbonneting, and
proffering to hold the bridle and stirrup of the favoured retainer and
his attendant.

“Stand somewhat aloof, my masters!” said Varney haughtily, “and let the
domestics do their office.”

The mortified citizens and peasants fell back at the signal; while
Lambourne, who had his eye upon his superior’s deportment, repelled
the services of those who offered to assist him, with yet more
discourtesy--“Stand back, Jack peasant, with a murrain to you, and let
these knave footmen do their duty!”

While they gave their nags to the attendants of the household, and
walked into the mansion with an air of superiority which long practice
and consciousness of birth rendered natural to Varney, and which
Lambourne endeavoured to imitate as well as he could, the poor
inhabitants of Woodstock whispered to each other, “Well-a-day! God save
us from all such misproud princoxes! An the master be like the men, why,
the fiend may take all, and yet have no more than his due.”

“Silence, good neighbours!” said the bailiff, “keep tongue betwixt
teeth; we shall know more by-and-by. But never will a lord come to
Woodstock so welcome as bluff old King Harry! He would horsewhip a
fellow one day with his own royal hand, and then fling him an handful
of silver groats, with his own broad face on them, to ‘noint the sore
withal.”

“Ay, rest be with him!” echoed the auditors; “it will be long ere this
Lady Elizabeth horsewhip any of us.”

“There is no saying,” answered the bailiff. “Meanwhile, patience, good
neighbours, and let us comfort ourselves by thinking that we deserve
such notice at her Grace’s hands.”

Meanwhile, Varney, closely followed by his new dependant, made his way
to the hall, where men of more note and consequence than those left in
the courtyard awaited the appearance of the Earl, who as yet kept his
chamber. All paid court to Varney, with more or less deference, as
suited their own rank, or the urgency of the business which brought them
to his lord’s levee. To the general question of, “When comes my lord
forth, Master Varney?” he gave brief answers, as, “See you not my boots?
I am but just returned from Oxford, and know nothing of it,” and the
like, until the same query was put in a higher tone by a personage of
more importance. “I will inquire of the chamberlain, Sir Thomas Copely,”
 was the reply. The chamberlain, distinguished by his silver key,
answered that the Earl only awaited Master Varney’s return to come down,
but that he would first speak with him in his private chamber. Varney,
therefore, bowed to the company, and took leave, to enter his lord’s
apartment.

There was a murmur of expectation which lasted a few minutes, and was
at length hushed by the opening of the folding-doors at the upper end or
the apartment, through which the Earl made his entrance, marshalled by
his chamberlain and the steward of his family, and followed by Richard
Varney. In his noble mien and princely features, men read nothing of
that insolence which was practised by his dependants. His courtesies
were, indeed, measured by the rank of those to whom they were addressed,
but even the meanest person present had a share of his gracious notice.
The inquiries which he made respecting the condition of the manor, of
the Queen’s rights there, and of the advantages and disadvantages which
might attend her occasional residence at the royal seat of Woodstock,
seemed to show that he had most earnestly investigated the matter of the
petition of the inhabitants, and with a desire to forward the interest
of the place.

“Now the Lord love his noble countenance!” said the bailiff, who had
thrust himself into the presence-chamber; “he looks somewhat pale. I
warrant him he hath spent the whole night in perusing our memorial.
Master Toughyarn, who took six months to draw it up, said it would take
a week to understand it; and see if the Earl hath not knocked the marrow
out of it in twenty-four hours!”

The Earl then acquainted them that he should move their sovereign
to honour Woodstock occasionally with her residence during her royal
progresses, that the town and its vicinity might derive, from her
countenance and favour, the same advantages as from those of her
predecessors. Meanwhile, he rejoiced to be the expounder of her
gracious pleasure, in assuring them that, for the increase of trade
and encouragement of the worthy burgesses of Woodstock, her Majesty was
minded to erect the town into a Staple for wool.

This joyful intelligence was received with the acclamations not only of
the better sort who were admitted to the audience-chamber, but of the
commons who awaited without.

The freedom of the corporation was presented to the Earl upon knee by
the magistrates of the place, together with a purse of gold pieces,
which the Earl handed to Varney, who, on his part, gave a share to
Lambourne, as the most acceptable earnest of his new service.

The Earl and his retinue took horse soon after to return to court,
accompanied by the shouts of the inhabitants of Woodstock, who made the
old oaks ring with re-echoing, “Long live Queen Elizabeth, and the noble
Earl of Leicester!” The urbanity and courtesy of the Earl even threw a
gleam of popularity over his attendants, as their haughty deportment had
formerly obscured that of their master; and men shouted, “Long life to
the Earl, and to his gallant followers!” as Varney and Lambourne, each
in his rank, rode proudly through the streets of Woodstock.



CHAPTER VIII.

HOST. I will hear you, Master Fenton; and I will, at the least, keep
your counsel.--MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.

It becomes necessary to return to the detail of those circumstances
which accompanied, and indeed occasioned, the sudden disappearance
of Tressilian from the sign of the Black Bear at Cumnor. It will be
recollected that this gentleman, after his rencounter with Varney, had
returned to Giles Gosling’s caravansary, where he shut himself up in his
own chamber, demanded pen, ink, and paper, and announced his purpose
to remain private for the day. In the evening he appeared again in the
public room, where Michael Lambourne, who had been on the watch for
him, agreeably to his engagement to Varney, endeavoured to renew his
acquaintance with him, and hoped he retained no unfriendly recollection
of the part he had taken in the morning’s scuffle.

But Tressilian repelled his advances firmly, though with civility.
“Master Lambourne,” said he, “I trust I have recompensed to your
pleasure the time you have wasted on me. Under the show of wild
bluntness which you exhibit, I know you have sense enough to understand
me, when I say frankly that the object of our temporary acquaintance
having been accomplished, we must be strangers to each other in future.”

“VOTO!” said Lambourne, twirling his whiskers with one hand, and
grasping the hilt of his weapon with the other; “if I thought that this
usage was meant to insult me--”

“You would bear it with discretion, doubtless,” interrupted Tressilian,
“as you must do at any rate. You know too well the distance that is
betwixt us, to require me to explain myself further. Good evening.”

So saying, he turned his back upon his former companion, and entered
into discourse with the landlord. Michael Lambourne felt strongly
disposed to bully; but his wrath died away in a few incoherent oaths
and ejaculations, and he sank unresistingly under the ascendency which
superior spirits possess over persons of his habits and description. He
remained moody and silent in a corner of the apartment, paying the most
marked attention to every motion of his late companion, against whom he
began now to nourish a quarrel on his own account, which he trusted to
avenge by the execution of his new master Varney’s directions. The hour
of supper arrived, and was followed by that of repose, when Tressilian,
like others, retired to his sleeping apartment.

He had not been in bed long, when the train of sad reveries, which
supplied the place of rest in his disturbed mind, was suddenly
interrupted by the jar of a door on its hinges, and a light was seen to
glimmer in the apartment. Tressilian, who was as brave as steel, sprang
from his bed at this alarm, and had laid hand upon his sword, when he
was prevented from drawing it by a voice which said, “Be not too rash
with your rapier, Master Tressilian. It is I, your host, Giles Gosling.”

At the same time, unshrouding the dark lantern, which had hitherto
only emitted an indistinct glimmer, the goodly aspect and figure of
the landlord of the Black Bear was visibly presented to his astonished
guest.

“What mummery is this, mine host?” said Tressilian. “Have you supped as
jollily as last night, and so mistaken your chamber? or is midnight a
time for masquerading it in your guest’s lodging?”

“Master Tressilian,” replied mine host, “I know my place and my time as
well as e’er a merry landlord in England. But here has been my hang-dog
kinsman watching you as close as ever cat watched a mouse; and here have
you, on the other hand, quarrelled and fought, either with him or with
some other person, and I fear that danger will come of it.”

“Go to, thou art but a fool, man,” said Tressilian. “Thy kinsman is
beneath my resentment; and besides, why shouldst thou think I had
quarrelled with any one whomsoever?”

“Oh, sir,” replied the innkeeper, “there was a red spot on thy very
cheek-bone, which boded of a late brawl, as sure as the conjunction of
Mars and Saturn threatens misfortune; and when you returned, the buckles
of your girdle were brought forward, and your step was quick and
hasty, and all things showed your hand and your hilt had been lately
acquainted.”

“Well, good mine host, if I have been obliged to draw my sword,” said
Tressilian, “why should such a circumstance fetch thee out of thy warm
bed at this time of night? Thou seest the mischief is all over.”

“Under favour, that is what I doubt. Anthony Foster is a dangerous man,
defended by strong court patronage, which hath borne him out in matters
of very deep concernment. And, then, my kinsman--why, I have told
you what he is; and if these two old cronies have made up their old
acquaintance, I would not, my worshipful guest, that it should be at
thy cost. I promise you, Mike Lambourne has been making very particular
inquiries at my hostler when and which way you ride. Now, I would have
you think whether you may not have done or said something for which you
may be waylaid, and taken at disadvantage.”

“Thou art an honest man, mine host,” said Tressilian, after a moment’s
consideration, “and I will deal frankly with thee. If these men’s malice
is directed against me--as I deny not but it may--it is because they are
the agents of a more powerful villain than themselves.”

“You mean Master Richard Varney, do you not?” said the landlord; “he was
at Cumnor Place yesterday, and came not thither so private but what he
was espied by one who told me.”

“I mean the same, mine host.”

“Then, for God’s sake, worshipful Master Tressilian,” said honest
Gosling, “look well to yourself. This Varney is the protector and patron
of Anthony Foster, who holds under him, and by his favour, some lease
of yonder mansion and the park. Varney got a large grant of the lands
of the Abbacy of Abingdon, and Cumnor Place amongst others, from his
master, the Earl of Leicester. Men say he can do everything with him,
though I hold the Earl too good a nobleman to employ him as some men
talk of. And then the Earl can do anything (that is, anything right or
fitting) with the Queen, God bless her! So you see what an enemy you
have made to yourself.”

“Well--it is done, and I cannot help it,” answered Tressilian.

“Uds precious, but it must be helped in some manner,” said the host.
“Richard Varney--why, what between his influence with my lord, and his
pretending to so many old and vexatious claims in right of the abbot
here, men fear almost to mention his name, much more to set themselves
against his practices. You may judge by our discourses the last night.
Men said their pleasure of Tony Foster, but not a word of Richard
Varney, though all men judge him to be at the bottom of yonder mystery
about the pretty wench. But perhaps you know more of that matter than
I do; for women, though they wear not swords, are occasion for many
a blade’s exchanging a sheath of neat’s leather for one of flesh and
blood.”

“I do indeed know more of that poor unfortunate lady than thou dost,
my friendly host; and so bankrupt am I, at this moment, of friends and
advice, that I will willingly make a counsellor of thee, and tell thee
the whole history, the rather that I have a favour to ask when my tale
is ended.”

“Good Master Tressilian,” said the landlord, “I am but a poor innkeeper,
little able to adjust or counsel such a guest as yourself. But as sure
as I have risen decently above the world, by giving good measure and
reasonable charges, I am an honest man; and as such, if I may not
be able to assist you, I am, at least, not capable to abuse your
confidence. Say away therefore, as confidently as if you spoke to your
father; and thus far at least be certain, that my curiosity--for I will
not deny that which belongs to my calling--is joined to a reasonable
degree of discretion.”

“I doubt it not, mine host,” answered Tressilian; and while his auditor
remained in anxious expectation, he meditated for an instant how he
should commence his narrative. “My tale,” he at length said, “to be
quite intelligible, must begin at some distance back. You have heard of
the battle of Stoke, my good host, and perhaps of old Sir Roger Robsart,
who, in that battle, valiantly took part with Henry VII., the Queen’s
grandfather, and routed the Earl of Lincoln, Lord Geraldin and his wild
Irish, and the Flemings whom the Duchess of Burgundy had sent over, in
the quarrel of Lambert Simnel?”

“I remember both one and the other,” said Giles Gosling; “it is sung
of a dozen times a week on my ale-bench below. Sir Roger Robsart of
Devon--oh, ay, ‘tis him of whom minstrels sing to this hour,--


     ‘He was the flower of Stoke’s red field,
     When Martin Swart on ground lay slain;
     In raging rout he never reel’d,
     But like a rock did firm remain.’

     [This verse, or something similar, occurs in a long ballad, or
     poem, on Flodden Field, reprinted by the late Henry Weber.]

“Ay, and then there was Martin Swart I have heard my grandfather talk
of, and of the jolly Almains whom he commanded, with their slashed
doublets and quaint hose, all frounced with ribands above the
nether-stocks. Here’s a song goes of Martin Swart, too, an I had but
memory for it:--


     ‘Martin Swart and his men,
     Saddle them, saddle them,
     Martin Swart and his men;
     Saddle them well.’”

     [This verse of an old song actually occurs in an old play where
     the singer boasts,

     “Courteously I can both counter and knack
     Of Martin Swart and all his merry men.”]

“True, good mine host--the day was long talked of; but if you sing so
loud, you will awake more listeners than I care to commit my confidence
unto.”

“I crave pardon, my worshipful guest,” said mine host, “I was oblivious.
When an old song comes across us merry old knights of the spigot, it
runs away with our discretion.”

“Well, mine host, my grandfather, like some other Cornishmen, kept a
warm affection to the House of York, and espoused the quarrel of this
Simnel, assuming the title of Earl of Warwick, as the county afterwards,
in great numbers, countenanced the cause of Perkin Warbeck, calling
himself the Duke of York. My grandsire joined Simnel’s standard, and was
taken fighting desperately at Stoke, where most of the leaders of that
unhappy army were slain in their harness. The good knight to whom he
rendered himself, Sir Roger Robsart, protected him from the immediate
vengeance of the king, and dismissed him without ransom. But he was
unable to guard him from other penalties of his rashness, being the
heavy fines by which he was impoverished, according to Henry’s mode of
weakening his enemies. The good knight did what he might to mitigate the
distresses of my ancestor; and their friendship became so strict, that
my father was bred up as the sworn brother and intimate of the present
Sir Hugh Robsart, the only son of Sir Roger, and the heir of his honest,
and generous, and hospitable temper, though not equal to him in martial
achievements.”

“I have heard of good Sir Hugh Robsart,” interrupted the host, “many a
time and oft; his huntsman and sworn servant, Will Badger, hath spoken
of him an hundred times in this very house. A jovial knight he is,
and hath loved hospitality and open housekeeping more than the present
fashion, which lays as much gold lace on the seams of a doublet as would
feed a dozen of tall fellows with beef and ale for a twelvemonth, and
let them have their evening at the alehouse once a week, to do good to
the publican.”

“If you have seen Will Badger, mine host,” said Tressilian, “you have
heard enough of Sir Hugh Robsart; and therefore I will but say, that the
hospitality you boast of hath proved somewhat detrimental to the estate
of his family, which is perhaps of the less consequence, as he has but
one daughter to whom to bequeath it. And here begins my share in the
tale. Upon my father’s death, now several years since, the good Sir Hugh
would willingly have made me his constant companion. There was a
time, however, at which I felt the kind knight’s excessive love for
field-sports detained me from studies, by which I might have profited
more; but I ceased to regret the leisure which gratitude and hereditary
friendship compelled me to bestow on these rural avocations. The
exquisite beauty of Mistress Amy Robsart, as she grew up from childhood
to woman, could not escape one whom circumstances obliged to be so
constantly in her company--I loved her, in short, mine host, and her
father saw it.”

“And crossed your true loves, no doubt?” said mine host. “It is the way
in all such cases; and I judge it must have been so in your instance,
from the heavy sigh you uttered even now.”

“The case was different, mine host. My suit was highly approved by
the generous Sir Hugh Robsart; it was his daughter who was cold to my
passion.”

“She was the more dangerous enemy of the two,” said the innkeeper. “I
fear me your suit proved a cold one.”

“She yielded me her esteem,” said Tressilian, “and seemed not unwilling
that I should hope it might ripen into a warmer passion. There was
a contract of future marriage executed betwixt us, upon her father’s
intercession; but to comply with her anxious request, the execution was
deferred for a twelvemonth. During this period, Richard Varney appeared
in the country, and, availing himself of some distant family connection
with Sir Hugh Robsart, spent much of his time in his company, until, at
length, he almost lived in the family.”

“That could bode no good to the place he honoured with his residence,”
 said Gosling.

“No, by the rood!” replied Tressilian. “Misunderstanding and misery
followed his presence, yet so strangely that I am at this moment at a
loss to trace the gradations of their encroachment upon a family which
had, till then, been so happy. For a time Amy Robsart received the
attentions of this man Varney with the indifference attached to common
courtesies; then followed a period in which she seemed to regard him
with dislike, and even with disgust; and then an extraordinary species
of connection appeared to grow up betwixt them. Varney dropped those
airs of pretension and gallantry which had marked his former approaches;
and Amy, on the other hand, seemed to renounce the ill-disguised disgust
with which she had regarded them. They seemed to have more of privacy
and confidence together than I fully liked, and I suspected that they
met in private, where there was less restraint than in our presence.
Many circumstances, which I noticed but little at the time--for I deemed
her heart as open as her angelic countenance--have since arisen on my
memory, to convince me of their private understanding. But I need not
detail them--the fact speaks for itself. She vanished from her father’s
house; Varney disappeared at the same time; and this very day I have
seen her in the character of his paramour, living in the house of his
sordid dependant Foster, and visited by him, muffled, and by a secret
entrance.”

“And this, then, is the cause of your quarrel? Methinks, you should
have been sure that the fair lady either desired or deserved your
interference.”

“Mine host,” answered Tressilian, “my father--such I must ever consider
Sir Hugh Robsart--sits at home struggling with his grief, or, if so
far recovered, vainly attempting to drown, in the practice of
his field-sports, the recollection that he had once a daughter--a
recollection which ever and anon breaks from him under circumstances the
most pathetic. I could not brook the idea that he should live in misery,
and Amy in guilt; and I endeavoured to-seek her out, with the hope of
inducing her to return to her family. I have found her, and when I have
either succeeded in my attempt, or have found it altogether unavailing,
it is my purpose to embark for the Virginia voyage.”

“Be not so rash, good sir,” replied Giles Gosling, “and cast not
yourself away because a woman--to be brief--IS a woman, and changes
her lovers like her suit of ribands, with no better reason than mere
fantasy. And ere we probe this matter further, let me ask you what
circumstances of suspicion directed you so truly to this lady’s
residence, or rather to her place of concealment?”

“The last is the better chosen word, mine host,” answered Tressilian;
“and touching your question, the knowledge that Varney held large grants
of the demesnes formerly belonging to the monks of Abingdon directed me
to this neighbourhood; and your nephew’s visit to his old comrade Foster
gave me the means of conviction on the subject.”

“And what is now your purpose, worthy sir?--excuse my freedom in asking
the question so broadly.”

“I purpose, mine host,” said Tressilian, “to renew my visit to the place
of her residence to-morrow, and to seek a more detailed communication
with her than I have had to-day. She must indeed be widely changed from
what she once was, if my words make no impression upon her.”

“Under your favour, Master Tressilian,” said the landlord, “you can
follow no such course. The lady, if I understand you, has already
rejected your interference in the matter.”

“It is but too true,” said Tressilian; “I cannot deny it.”

“Then, marry, by what right or interest do you process a compulsory
interference with her inclination, disgraceful as it may be to herself
and to her parents? Unless my judgment gulls me, those under whose
protection she has thrown herself would have small hesitation to reject
your interference, even if it were that of a father or brother; but as
a discarded lover, you expose yourself to be repelled with the strong
hand, as well as with scorn. You can apply to no magistrate for aid or
countenance; and you are hunting, therefore, a shadow in water, and will
only (excuse my plainness) come by ducking and danger in attempting to
catch it.”

“I will appeal to the Earl of Leicester,” said Tressilian, “against
the infamy of his favourite. He courts the severe and strict sect of
Puritans. He dare not, for the sake of his own character, refuse my
appeal, even although he were destitute of the principles of honour and
nobleness with which fame invests him. Or I will appeal to the Queen
herself.”

“Should Leicester,” said the landlord, “be disposed to protect his
dependant (as indeed he is said to be very confidential with Varney),
the appeal to the Queen may bring them both to reason. Her Majesty is
strict in such matters, and (if it be not treason to speak it) will
rather, it is said, pardon a dozen courtiers for falling in love with
herself, than one for giving preference to another woman. Coragio then,
my brave guest! for if thou layest a petition from Sir Hugh at the foot
of the throne, bucklered by the story of thine own wrongs, the favourite
Earl dared as soon leap into the Thames at the fullest and deepest, as
offer to protect Varney in a cause of this nature. But to do this
with any chance of success, you must go formally to work; and, without
staying here to tilt with the master of horse to a privy councillor, and
expose yourself to the dagger of his cameradoes, you should hie you to
Devonshire, get a petition drawn up for Sir Hugh Robsart, and make as
many friends as you can to forward your interest at court.”

“You have spoken well, mine host,” said Tressilian, “and I will profit
by your advice, and leave you to-morrow early.”

“Nay, leave me to-night, sir, before to-morrow comes,” said he landlord.
“I never prayed for a guest’s arrival more eagerly than I do to have
you safely gone, My kinsman’s destiny is most like to be hanged for
something, but I would not that the cause were the murder of an honoured
guest of mine. ‘Better ride safe in the dark,’ says the proverb, ‘than
in daylight with a cut-throat at your elbow.’ Come, sir, I move you for
your own safety. Your horse and all is ready, and here is your score.”

“It is somewhat under a noble,” said Tressilian, giving one to the host;
“give the balance to pretty Cicely, your daughter, and the servants of
the house.”

“They shall taste of your bounty, sir,” said Gosling, “and you should
taste of my daughter’s lips in grateful acknowledgment, but at this hour
she cannot grace the porch to greet your departure.”

“Do not trust your daughter too far with your guests, my good landlord,”
 said Tressilian.

“Oh, sir, we will keep measure; but I wonder not that you are jealous
of them all.--May I crave to know with what aspect the fair lady at the
Place yesterday received you?”

“I own,” said Tressilian, “it was angry as well as confused, and affords
me little hope that she is yet awakened from her unhappy delusion.”

“In that case, sir, I see not why you should play the champion of a
wench that will none of you, and incur the resentment of a favourite’s
favourite, as dangerous a monster as ever a knight adventurer
encountered in the old story books.”

“You do me wrong in the supposition, mine host--gross wrong,” said
Tressilian; “I do not desire that Amy should ever turn thought upon me
more. Let me but see her restored to her father, and all I have to do in
Europe--perhaps in the world--is over and ended.”

“A wiser resolution were to drink a cup of sack, and forget her,” said
the landlord. “But five-and-twenty and fifty look on those matters with
different eyes, especially when one cast of peepers is set in the skull
of a young gallant, and the other in that of an old publican. I pity
you, Master Tressilian, but I see not how I can aid you in the matter.”

“Only thus far, mine host,” replied Tressilian--“keep a watch on the
motions of those at the Place, which thou canst easily learn without
suspicion, as all men’s news fly to the ale-bench; and be pleased to
communicate the tidings in writing to such person, and to no other,
who shall bring you this ring as a special token. Look at it; it is of
value, and I will freely bestow it on you.”

“Nay, sir,” said the landlord, “I desire no recompense--but it seems an
unadvised course in me, being in a public line, to connect myself in a
matter of this dark and perilous nature. I have no interest in it.”

“You, and every father in the land, who would have his daughter released
from the snares of shame, and sin, and misery, have an interest deeper
than aught concerning earth only could create.”

“Well, sir,” said the host, “these are brave words; and I do pity from
my soul the frank-hearted old gentleman, who has minished his estate
in good housekeeping for the honour of his country, and now has his
daughter, who should be the stay of his age, and so forth, whisked up
by such a kite as this Varney. And though your part in the matter is
somewhat of the wildest, yet I will e’en be a madcap for company, and
help you in your honest attempt to get back the good man’s child, so far
as being your faithful intelligencer can serve. And as I shall be true
to you, I pray you to be trusty to me, and keep my secret; for it were
bad for the custom of the Black Bear should it be said the bear-warder
interfered in such matters. Varney has interest enough with the
justices to dismount my noble emblem from the post on which he swings so
gallantly, to call in my license, and ruin me from garret to cellar.”

“Do not doubt my secrecy, mine host,” said Tressilian; “I will retain,
besides, the deepest sense of thy service, and of the risk thou dost
run--remember the ring is my sure token. And now, farewell! for it was
thy wise advice that I should tarry here as short a time as may be.”

“Follow me, then, Sir Guest,” said the landlord, “and tread as gently as
if eggs were under your foot, instead of deal boards. No man must know
when or how you departed.”

By the aid of his dark lantern he conducted Tressilian, as soon as he
had made himself ready for his journey, through a long intricacy of
passages, which opened to an outer court, and from thence to a remote
stable, where he had already placed his guest’s horse. He then aided
him to fasten on the saddle the small portmantle which contained his
necessaries, opened a postern door, and with a hearty shake of the hand,
and a reiteration of his promise to attend to what went on at Cumnor
Place, he dismissed his guest to his solitary journey.



CHAPTER IX.


     Far in the lane a lonely hut he found,
     No tenant ventured on the unwholesome ground:
     Here smokes his forge, he bares his sinewy arm,
     And early strokes the sounding anvil warm;
     Around his shop the steely sparkles flew,
     As for the steed he shaped the bending shoe.--GAY’S TRIVIA.

As it was deemed proper by the traveller himself, as well as by Giles
Gosling, that Tressilian should avoid being seen in the neighbourhood of
Cumnor by those whom accident might make early risers, the landlord had
given him a route, consisting of various byways and lanes, which he was
to follow in succession, and which, all the turns and short-cuts duly
observed, was to conduct him to the public road to Marlborough.

But, like counsel of every other kind, this species of direction is much
more easily given than followed; and what betwixt the intricacy of the
way, the darkness of the night, Tressilian’s ignorance of the country,
and the sad and perplexing thoughts with which he had to contend, his
journey proceeded so slowly, that morning found him only in the vale of
Whitehorse, memorable for the defeat of the Danes in former days, with
his horse deprived of a fore-foot shoe, an accident which threatened to
put a stop to his journey by laming the animal. The residence of a
smith was his first object of inquiry, in which he received little
satisfaction from the dullness or sullenness of one or two peasants,
early bound for their labour, who gave brief and indifferent answers to
his questions on the subject. Anxious, at length, that the partner of
his journey should suffer as little as possible from the unfortunate
accident, Tressilian dismounted, and led his horse in the direction of a
little hamlet, where he hoped either to find or hear tidings of such an
artificer as he now wanted. Through a deep and muddy lane, he at length
waded on to the place, which proved only an assemblage of five or six
miserable huts, about the doors of which one or two persons, whose
appearance seemed as rude as that of their dwellings, were beginning
the toils of the day. One cottage, however, seemed of rather superior
aspect, and the old dame, who was sweeping her threshold, appeared
something less rude than her neighbours. To her Tressilian addressed the
oft-repeated question, whether there was a smith in this neighbourhood,
or any place where he could refresh his horse? The dame looked him in
the face with a peculiar expression as she replied, “Smith! ay, truly is
there a smith--what wouldst ha’ wi’ un, mon?”

“To shoe my horse, good dame,” answered Tressiliany; “you may see that
he has thrown a fore-foot shoe.”

“Master Holiday!” exclaimed the dame, without returning any direct
answer--“Master Herasmus Holiday, come and speak to mon, and please
you.”

“FAVETE LINGUIS,” answered a voice from within; “I cannot now come
forth, Gammer Sludge, being in the very sweetest bit of my morning
studies.”

“Nay, but, good now, Master Holiday, come ye out, do ye. Here’s a mon
would to Wayland Smith, and I care not to show him way to devil; his
horse hath cast shoe.”

“QUID MIHI CUM CABALLO?” replied the man of learning from within; “I
think there is but one wise man in the hundred, and they cannot shoe a
horse without him!”

And forth came the honest pedagogue, for such his dress bespoke him. A
long, lean, shambling, stooping figure was surmounted by a head thatched
with lank, black hair somewhat inclining to grey. His features had the
cast of habitual authority, which I suppose Dionysius carried with him
from the throne to the schoolmaster’s pulpit, and bequeathed as a legacy
to all of the same profession, A black buckram cassock was gathered at
his middle with a belt, at which hung, instead of knife or weapon, a
goodly leathern pen-and-ink case. His ferula was stuck on the other
side, like Harlequin’s wooden sword; and he carried in his hand the
tattered volume which he had been busily perusing.

On seeing a person of Tressilian’s appearance, which he was better
able to estimate than the country folks had been, the schoolmaster
unbonneted, and accosted him with, “SALVE, DOMINE. INTELLIGISNE LINGUAM
LATINAM?”

Tressilian mustered his learning to reply, “LINGUAE LATINAE HAUD PENITUS
IGNARUS, VENIA TUA, DOMINE ERUDITISSIME, VERNACULAM LIBENTIUS LOQUOR.”

The Latin reply had upon the schoolmaster the effect which the mason’s
sign is said to produce on the brethren of the trowel. He was at once
interested in the learned traveller, listened with gravity to his story
of a tired horse and a lost shoe, and then replied with solemnity, “It
may appear a simple thing, most worshipful, to reply to you that there
dwells, within a brief mile of these TUGURIA, the best FABER FERARIUS,
the most accomplished blacksmith, that ever nailed iron upon horse. Now,
were I to say so, I warrant me you would think yourself COMPOS VOTI, or,
as the vulgar have it, a made man.”

“I should at least,” said Tressilian, “have a direct answer to a plain
question, which seems difficult to be obtained in this country.”

“It is a mere sending of a sinful soul to the evil un,” said the old
woman, “the sending a living creature to Wayland Smith.”

“Peace, Gammer Sludge!” said the pedagogue; “PAUCA VERBA, Gammer Sludge;
look to the furmity, Gammer Sludge; CURETUR JENTACULUM, Gammer Sludge;
this gentleman is none of thy gossips.” Then turning to Tressilian, he
resumed his lofty tone, “And so, most worshipful, you would really think
yourself FELIX BIS TERQUE should I point out to you the dwelling of this
same smith?”

“Sir,” replied Tressilian, “I should in that case have all that I want
at present--a horse fit to carry me forward;--out of hearing of your
learning.” The last words he muttered to himself.

“O CAECA MENS MORTALIUM!” said the learned man “well was it sung by
Junius Juvenalis, ‘NUMINIBUS VOTA EXAUDITA MALIGNIS!’”

“Learned Magister,” said Tressilian, “your erudition so greatly exceeds
my poor intellectual capacity that you must excuse my seeking elsewhere
for information which I can better understand.”

“There again now,” replied the pedagogue, “how fondly you fly from him
that would instruct you! Truly said Quintilian--”

“I pray, sir, let Quintilian be for the present, and answer, in a word
and in English, if your learning can condescend so far, whether there is
any place here where I can have opportunity to refresh my horse until I
can have him shod?”

“Thus much courtesy, sir,” said the schoolmaster, “I can readily render
you, that although there is in this poor hamlet (NOSTRA PAUPERA REGNA)
no regular HOSPITIUM, as my namesake Erasmus calleth it, yet, forasmuch
as you are somewhat embued, or at least tinged, as it were, with good
letters, I will use my interest with the good woman of the house to
accommodate you with a platter of furmity--an wholesome food for which
I have found no Latin phrase--your horse shall have a share of the
cow-house, with a bottle of sweet hay, in which the good woman Sludge so
much abounds, that it may be said of her cow, FAENUM HABET IN CORNU;
and if it please you to bestow on me the pleasure of your company, the
banquet shall cost you NE SEMISSEM QUIDEM, so much is Gammer Sludge
bound to me for the pains I have bestowed on the top and bottom of her
hopeful heir Dickie, whom I have painfully made to travel through the
accidence.”

“Now, God yield ye for it, Master Herasmus,” said the good Gammer, “and
grant that little Dickie may be the better for his accident! And for the
rest, if the gentleman list to stay, breakfast shall be on the board in
the wringing of a dishclout; and for horse-meat, and man’s meat, I bear
no such base mind as to ask a penny.”

Considering the state of his horse, Tressilian, upon the whole, saw
no better course than to accept the invitation thus learnedly made and
hospitably confirmed, and take chance that when the good pedagogue had
exhausted every topic of conversation, he might possibly condescend to
tell him where he could find the smith they spoke of. He entered the
hut accordingly, and sat down with the learned Magister Erasmus Holiday,
partook of his furmity, and listened to his learned account of himself
for a good half hour, ere he could get him to talk upon any other topic,
The reader will readily excuse our accompanying this man of learning
into all the details with which he favoured Tressilian, of which the
following sketch may suffice.

He was born at Hogsnorton, where, according to popular saying, the pigs
play upon the organ; a proverb which he interpreted allegorically,
as having reference to the herd of Epicurus, of which litter Horace
confessed himself a porker. His name of Erasmus he derived partly from
his father having been the son of a renowned washerwoman, who had held
that great scholar in clean linen all the while he was at Oxford; a task
of some difficulty, as he was only possessed of two shirts, “the one,”
 as she expressed herself, “to wash the other,” The vestiges of one of
these CAMICIAE, as Master Holiday boasted, were still in his possession,
having fortunately been detained by his grandmother to cover the balance
of her bill. But he thought there was a still higher and overruling
cause for his having had the name of Erasmus conferred on him--namely,
the secret presentiment of his mother’s mind that, in the babe to be
christened, was a hidden genius, which should one day lead him to rival
the fame of the great scholar of Amsterdam. The schoolmaster’s surname
led him as far into dissertation as his Christian appellative. He was
inclined to think that he bore the name of Holiday QUASI LUCUS A NON
LUCENDO, because he gave such few holidays to his school. “Hence,” said
he, “the schoolmaster is termed, classically, LUDI MAGISTER, because he
deprives boys of their play.” And yet, on the other hand, he thought
it might bear a very different interpretation, and refer to his own
exquisite art in arranging pageants, morris-dances, May-day festivities,
and such-like holiday delights, for which he assured Tressilian he had
positively the purest and the most inventive brain in England; insomuch,
that his cunning in framing such pleasures had made him known to many
honourable persons, both in country and court, and especially to the
noble Earl of Leicester. “And although he may now seem to forget me,”
 he said, “in the multitude of state affairs, yet I am well assured that,
had he some pretty pastime to array for entertainment of the Queen’s
Grace, horse and man would be seeking the humble cottage of Erasmus
Holiday. PARVO CONTENTUS, in the meanwhile, I hear my pupils parse and
construe, worshipful sir, and drive away my time with the aid of the
Muses. And I have at all times, when in correspondence with foreign
scholars, subscribed myself Erasmus ab Die Fausto, and have enjoyed the
distinction due to the learned under that title: witness the erudite
Diedrichus Buckerschockius, who dedicated to me under that title his
treatise on the letter TAU. In fine, sir, I have been a happy and
distinguished man.”

“Long may it be so, sir!” said the traveller; “but permit me to ask, in
your own learned phrase, QUID HOC AD IPHYCLI BOVES? what has all this to
do with the shoeing of my poor nag?”

“FESTINA LENTE,” said the man of learning, “we will presently came to
that point. You must know that some two or three years past there came
to these parts one who called himself Doctor Doboobie, although it may
be he never wrote even MAGISTER ARTIUM, save in right of his hungry
belly. Or it may be, that if he had any degrees, they were of the
devil’s giving; for he was what the vulgar call a white witch, a cunning
man, and such like.--Now, good sir, I perceive you are impatient; but if
a man tell not his tale his own way, how have you warrant to think that
he can tell it in yours?”

“Well, then, learned sir, take your way,” answered Tressilian; “only let
us travel at a sharper pace, for my time is somewhat of the shortest.”

“Well, sir,” resumed Erasmus Holiday, with the most provoking
perseverance, “I will not say that this same Demetrius for so he wrote
himself when in foreign parts, was an actual conjurer, but certain it
is that he professed to be a brother of the mystical Order of the Rosy
Cross, a disciple of Geber (EX NOMINE CUJUS VENIT VERBUM VERNACULUM,
GIBBERISH). He cured wounds by salving the weapon instead of the sore;
told fortunes by palmistry; discovered stolen goods by the sieve and
shears; gathered the right maddow and the male fern seed, through use of
which men walk invisible; pretended some advances towards the panacea,
or universal elixir; and affected to convert good lead into sorry
silver.”

“In other words,” said Tressilian, “he was a quacksalver and common
cheat; but what has all this to do with my nag, and the shoe which he
has lost?”

“With your worshipful patience,” replied the diffusive man of letters,
“you shall understand that presently--PATENTIA then, right worshipful,
which word, according to our Marcus Tullius, is ‘DIFFICILIUM RERUM
DIURNA PERPESSIO.’ This same Demetrius Doboobie, after dealing with the
country, as I have told you, began to acquire fame INTER MAGNATES, among
the prime men of the land, and there is likelihood he might have aspired
to great matters, had not, according to vulgar fame (for I aver not the
thing as according with my certain knowledge), the devil claimed his
right, one dark night, and flown off with Demetrius, who was never seen
or heard of afterwards. Now here comes the MEDULLA, the very marrow,
of my tale. This Doctor Doboobie had a servant, a poor snake, whom
he employed in trimming his furnace, regulating it by just
measure--compounding his drugs--tracing his circles--cajoling his
patients, ET SIC ET CAETERIS. Well, right worshipful, the Doctor being
removed thus strangely, and in a way which struck the whole country with
terror, this poor Zany thinks to himself, in the words of Maro, ‘UNO
AVULSO, NON DEFICIT ALTER;’ and, even as a tradesman’s apprentice sets
himself up in his master’s shop when he is dead or hath retired from
business, so doth this Wayland assume the dangerous trade of his defunct
master. But although, most worshipful sir, the world is ever prone to
listen to the pretensions of such unworthy men, who are, indeed, mere
SALTIM BANQUI and CHARLATANI, though usurping the style and skill
of doctors of medicine, yet the pretensions of this poor Zany, this
Wayland, were too gross to pass on them, nor was there a mere rustic,
a villager, who was not ready to accost him in the sense of Persius,
though in their own rugged words,--


     DILIUS HELLEBORUM CERTO COMPESCERE PUNCTO
     NESCIUS EXAMEN?  VETAT HOC NATURA VEDENDI;

which I have thus rendered in a poor paraphrase of mine own,--


     Wilt thou mix hellebore, who dost not know
     How many grains should to the mixture go?
     The art of medicine this forbids, I trow.

“Moreover, the evil reputation of the master, and his strange and
doubtful end, or at least sudden disappearance, prevented any, excepting
the most desperate of men, to seek any advice or opinion from the
servant; wherefore, the poor vermin was likely at first to swarf for
very hunger. But the devil that serves him, since the death of Demetrius
or Doboobie, put him on a fresh device. This knave, whether from the
inspiration of the devil, or from early education, shoes horses better
than e’er a man betwixt us and Iceland; and so he gives up his practice
on the bipeds, the two-legged and unfledged species called mankind, and
betakes him entirely to shoeing of horses.”

“Indeed! and where does he lodge all this time?” said Tressilian. “And
does he shoe horses well? Show me his dwelling presently.”

The interruption pleased not the Magister, who exclaimed, “O CAECA MENS
MORTALIUM!--though, by the way, I used that quotation before. But I
would the classics could afford me any sentiment of power to stop those
who are so willing to rush upon their own destruction. Hear but, I pray
you, the conditions of this man,” said he, in continuation, “ere you are
so willing to place yourself within his danger--”

“A’ takes no money for a’s work,” said the dame, who stood by,
enraptured as it were with the line words and learned apophthegms which
glided so fluently from her erudite inmate, Master Holiday. But this
interruption pleased not the Magister more than that of the traveller.

“Peace,” said he, “Gammer Sludge; know your place, if it be your will.
SUFFLAMINA, Gammer Sludge, and allow me to expound this matter to our
worshipful guest.--Sir,” said he, again addressing Tressilian, “this
old woman speaks true, though in her own rude style; for certainly this
FABER FERRARIUS, or blacksmith, takes money of no one.”

“And that is a sure sign he deals with Satan,” said Dame Sludge; “since
no good Christian would ever refuse the wages of his labour.”

“The old woman hath touched it again,” said the pedagogue; “REM ACU
TETIGIT--she hath pricked it with her needle’s point. This Wayland takes
no money, indeed; nor doth he show himself to any one.”

“And can this madman, for such I hold him,” said the traveller, “know
aught like good skill of his trade?”

“Oh, sir, in that let us give the devil his due--Mulciber himself, with
all his Cyclops, could hardly amend him. But assuredly there is little
wisdom in taking counsel or receiving aid from one who is but too
plainly in league with the author of evil.”

“I must take my chance of that, good Master Holiday,” said Tressilian,
rising; “and as my horse must now have eaten his provender, I must
needs thank you for your good cheer, and pray you to show me this man’s
residence, that I may have the means of proceeding on my journey.”

“Ay, ay, do ye show him, Master Herasmus,” said the old dame, who was,
perhaps, desirous to get her house freed of her guest; “a’ must needs go
when the devil drives.”

“DO MANUS,” said the Magister, “I submit--taking the world to witness,
that I have possessed this honourable gentleman with the full injustice
which he has done and shall do to his own soul, if he becomes thus a
trinketer with Satan. Neither will I go forth with our guest myself, but
rather send my pupil.--RICARDE! ADSIS, NEBULO.”

“Under your favour, not so,” answered the old woman; “you may peril your
own soul, if you list, but my son shall budge on no such errand. And I
wonder at you, Dominie Doctor, to propose such a piece of service for
little Dickie.”

“Nay, my good Gammer Sludge,” answered the preceptor, “Ricardus shall go
but to the top of the hill, and indicate with his digit to the stranger
the dwelling of Wayland Smith. Believe not that any evil can come to
him, he having read this morning, fasting, a chapter of the Septuagint,
and, moreover, having had his lesson in the Greek Testament.”

“Ay,” said his mother, “and I have sewn a sprig of witch’s elm in the
neck of un’s doublet, ever since that foul thief has begun his practices
on man and beast in these parts.”

“And as he goes oft (as I hugely suspect) towards this conjurer for his
own pastime, he may for once go thither, or near it, to pleasure us,
and to assist this stranger.--ERGO, HEUS RICARDE! ADSIS, QUAESO, MI
DIDASCULE.”

The pupil, thus affectionately invoked, at length came stumbling into
the room; a queer, shambling, ill-made urchin, who, by his stunted
growth, seemed about twelve or thirteen years old, though he was
probably, in reality, a year or two older, with a carroty pate in huge
disorder, a freckled, sunburnt visage, with a snub nose, a long
chin, and two peery grey eyes, which had a droll obliquity of vision,
approaching to a squint, though perhaps not a decided one. It was
impossible to look at the little man without some disposition to laugh,
especially when Gammer Sludge, seizing upon and kissing him, in spite of
his struggling and kicking in reply to her caresses, termed him her own
precious pearl of beauty.

“RICARDE,” said the preceptor, “you must forthwith (which is PROFECTO)
set forth so far as the top of the hill, and show this man of worship
Wayland Smith’s workshop.”

“A proper errand of a morning,” said the boy, in better language than
Tressilian expected; “and who knows but the devil may fly away with me
before I come back?”

“Ay, marry may un,” said Dame Sludge; “and you might have thought twice,
Master Domine, ere you sent my dainty darling on arrow such errand. It
is not for such doings I feed your belly and clothe your back, I warrant
you!”

“Pshaw--NUGAE, good Gammer Sludge,” answered the preceptor; “I ensure
you that Satan, if there be Satan in the case, shall not touch a thread
of his garment; for Dickie can say his PATER with the best, and may defy
the foul fiend--EUMENIDES, STYGIUMQUE NEFAS.”

“Ay, and I, as I said before, have sewed a sprig of the mountain-ash
into his collar,” said the good woman, “which will avail more than your
clerkship, I wus; but for all that, it is ill to seek the devil or his
mates either.”

“My good boy,” said Tressilian, who saw, from a grotesque sneer on
Dickie’s face, that he was more likely to act upon his own bottom than
by the instructions of his elders, “I will give thee a silver groat, my
pretty fellow, if you will but guide me to this man’s forge.”

The boy gave him a knowing side-look, which seemed to promise
acquiescence, while at the same time he exclaimed, “I be your guide to
Wayland Smith’s! Why, man, did I not say that the devil might fly off
with me, just as the kite there” (looking to the window) “is flying off
with one of grandam’s chicks?”

“The kite! the kite!” exclaimed the old woman in return, and forgetting
all other matters in her alarm, hastened to the rescue of her chickens
as fast as her old legs could carry her.

“Now for it,” said the urchin to Tressilian; “snatch your beaver, get
out your horse, and have at the silver groat you spoke of.”

“Nay, but tarry, tarry,” said the preceptor--“SUFFLAMINA, RICARDE!”

“Tarry yourself,” said Dickie, “and think what answer you are to make to
granny for sending me post to the devil.”

The teacher, aware of the responsibility he was incurring, bustled up in
great haste to lay hold of the urchin and to prevent his departure; but
Dickie slipped through his fingers, bolted from the cottage, and sped
him to the top of a neighbouring rising ground, while the preceptor,
despairing, by well-taught experience, of recovering his pupil by speed
of foot, had recourse to the most honied epithets the Latin vocabulary
affords to persuade his return. But to MI ANIME, CORCULUM MEUM, and
all such classical endearments, the truant turned a deaf ear, and kept
frisking on the top of the rising ground like a goblin by moonlight,
making signs to his new acquaintance, Tressilian, to follow him.

The traveller lost no time in getting out his horse and departing to
join his elvish guide, after half-forcing on the poor, deserted teacher
a recompense for the entertainment he had received, which partly allayed
that terror he had for facing the return of the old lady of the mansion.
Apparently this took place soon afterwards; for ere Tressilian and his
guide had proceeded far on their journey, they heard the screams of a
cracked female voice, intermingled with the classical objurgations of
Master Erasmus Holiday. But Dickie Sludge, equally deaf to the voice
of maternal tenderness and of magisterial authority, skipped on
unconsciously before Tressilian, only observing that “if they cried
themselves hoarse, they might go lick the honey-pot, for he had eaten up
all the honey-comb himself on yesterday even.”



CHAPTER X.


     There entering in, they found the goodman selfe
     Full busylie unto his work ybent,
     Who was to weet a wretched wearish elf,
     With hollow eyes and rawbone cheeks forspent,
     As if he had been long in prison pent.--THE FAERY QUEENE.

“Are we far from the dwelling of this smith, my pretty lad?” said
Tressilian to his young guide.

“How is it you call me?” said the boy, looking askew at him with his
sharp, grey eyes.

“I call you my pretty lad--is there any offence in that, my boy?”

“No; but were you with my grandam and Dominie Holiday, you might sing
chorus to the old song of


     ‘We three
     Tom-fools be.’”

“And why so, my little man?” said Tressilian.

“Because,” answered the ugly urchin, “you are the only three ever called
me pretty lad. Now my grandam does it because she is parcel blind by
age, and whole blind by kindred; and my master, the poor Dominie, does
it to curry favour, and have the fullest platter of furmity and the
warmest seat by the fire. But what you call me pretty lad for, you know
best yourself.”

“Thou art a sharp wag at least, if not a pretty one. But what do thy
playfellows call thee?”

“Hobgoblin,” answered the boy readily; “but for all that, I would rather
have my own ugly viznomy than any of their jolter-heads, that have no
more brains in them than a brick-bat.”

“Then you fear not this smith whom you are going to see?”

“Me fear him!” answered the boy. “If he were the devil folk think him, I
would not fear him; but though there is something queer about him, he’s
no more a devil than you are, and that’s what I would not tell to every
one.”

“And why do you tell it to me, then, my boy?” said Tressilian.

“Because you are another guess gentleman than those we see here every
day,” replied Dickie; “and though I am as ugly as sin, I would not have
you think me an ass, especially as I may have a boon to ask of you one
day.”

“And what is that, my lad, whom I must not call pretty?” replied
Tressilian.

“Oh, if I were to ask it just now,” said the boy, “you would deny it me;
but I will wait till we meet at court.”

“At court, Richard! are you bound for court?” said Tressilian.

“Ay, ay, that’s just like the rest of them,” replied the boy. “I warrant
me, you think, what should such an ill-favoured, scrambling urchin do at
court? But let Richard Sludge alone; I have not been cock of the roost
here for nothing. I will make sharp wit mend foul feature.”

“But what will your grandam say, and your tutor, Dominie Holiday?”

“E’en what they like,” replied Dickie; “the one has her chickens to
reckon, and the other has his boys to whip. I would have given them the
candle to hold long since, and shown this trumpery hamlet a fair pair of
heels, but that Dominie promises I should go with him to bear share in
the next pageant he is to set forth, and they say there are to be great
revels shortly.”

“And whereabouts are they to be held, my little friend?” said
Tressilian.

“Oh, at some castle far in the north,” answered his guide--“a world’s
breadth from Berkshire. But our old Dominie holds that they cannot go
forward without him; and it may be he is right, for he has put in order
many a fair pageant. He is not half the fool you would take him for,
when he gets to work he understands; and so he can spout verses like
a play-actor, when, God wot, if you set him to steal a goose’s egg, he
would be drubbed by the gander.”

“And you are to play a part in his next show?” said Tressilian, somewhat
interested by the boy’s boldness of conversation and shrewd estimate of
character.

“In faith,” said Richard Sludge, in answer, “he hath so promised me; and
if he break his word, it will be the worse for him, for let me take the
bit between my teeth, and turn my head downhill, and I will shake him
off with a fall that may harm his bones. And I should not like much to
hurt him neither,” said he, “for the tiresome old fool has painfully
laboured to teach me all he could. But enough of that--here are we at
Wayland Smith’s forge-door.”

“You jest, my little friend,” said Tressilian; “here is nothing but a
bare moor, and that ring of stones, with a great one in the midst, like
a Cornish barrow.”

“Ay, and that great flat stone in the midst, which lies across the top
of these uprights,” said the boy, “is Wayland Smith’s counter, that you
must tell down your money upon.”

“What do you mean by such folly?” said the traveller, beginning to be
angry with the boy, and vexed with himself for having trusted such a
hare-brained guide.

“Why,” said Dickie, with a grin, “you must tie your horse to that
upright stone that has the ring in’t, and then you must whistle three
times, and lay me down your silver groat on that other flat stone, walk
out of the circle, sit down on the west side of that little thicket
of bushes, and take heed you look neither to right nor to left for ten
minutes, or so long as you shall hear the hammer clink, and whenever
it ceases, say your prayers for the space you could tell a hundred--or
count over a hundred, which will do as well--and then come into the
circle; you will find your money gone and your horse shod.”

“My money gone to a certainty!” said Tressilian; “but as for the
rest--Hark ye, my lad, I am not your school-master, but if you play off
your waggery on me, I will take a part of his task off his hands, and
punish you to purpose.”

“Ay, when you catch me!” said the boy; and presently took to his
heels across the heath, with a velocity which baffled every attempt of
Tressilian to overtake him, loaded as he was with his heavy boots. Nor
was it the least provoking part of the urchin’s conduct, that he did not
exert his utmost speed, like one who finds himself in danger, or who is
frightened, but preserved just such a rate as to encourage Tressilian to
continue the chase, and then darted away from him with the swiftness of
the wind, when his pursuer supposed he had nearly run him down, doubling
at the same time, and winding, so as always to keep near the place from
which he started.

This lasted until Tressilian, from very weariness, stood still, and was
about to abandon the pursuit with a hearty curse on the ill-favoured
urchin, who had engaged him in an exercise so ridiculous. But the boy,
who had, as formerly, planted himself on the top of a hillock close
in front, began to clap his long, thin hands, point with his skinny
fingers, and twist his wild and ugly features into such an extravagant
expression of laughter and derision, that Tressilian began half to doubt
whether he had not in view an actual hobgoblin.

Provoked extremely, yet at the same time feeling an irresistible desire
to laugh, so very odd were the boy’s grimaces and gesticulations, the
Cornishman returned to his horse, and mounted him with the purpose of
pursuing Dickie at more advantage.

The boy no sooner saw him mount his horse, than he holloed out to him
that, rather than he should spoil his white-footed nag, he would come to
him, on condition he would keep his fingers to himself.

“I will make no conditions with thee, thou ugly varlet!” said
Tressilian; “I will have thee at my mercy in a moment.”

“Aha, Master Traveller,” said the boy, “there is a marsh hard by would
swallow all the horses of the Queen’s guard. I will into it, and
see where you will go then. You shall hear the bittern bump, and the
wild-drake quack, ere you get hold of me without my consent, I promise
you.”

Tressilian looked out, and, from the appearance of the ground behind
the hillock, believed it might be as the boy said, and accordingly
determined to strike up a peace with so light-footed and ready-witted an
enemy. “Come down,” he said, “thou mischievous brat! Leave thy mopping
and mowing, and, come hither. I will do thee no harm, as I am a
gentleman.”

The boy answered his invitation with the utmost confidence, and danced
down from his stance with a galliard sort of step, keeping his eye at
the same time fixed on Tressilian’s, who, once more dismounted, stood
with his horse’s bridle in his hand, breathless, and half exhausted with
his fruitless exercise, though not one drop of moisture appeared on the
freckled forehead of the urchin, which looked like a piece of dry and
discoloured parchment, drawn tight across the brow of a fleshless skull.

“And tell me,” said Tressilian, “why you use me thus, thou mischievous
imp? or what your meaning is by telling me so absurd a legend as you
wished but now to put on me? Or rather show me, in good earnest, this
smith’s forge, and I will give thee what will buy thee apples through
the whole winter.”

“Were you to give me an orchard of apples,” said Dickie Sludge, “I can
guide thee no better than I have done. Lay down the silver token on the
flat stone--whistle three times--then come sit down on the western side
of the thicket of gorse. I will sit by you, and give you free leave to
wring my head off, unless you hear the smith at work within two minutes
after we are seated.”

“I may be tempted to take thee at thy word,” said Tressilian, “if you
make me do aught half so ridiculous for your own mischievous sport;
however, I will prove your spell. Here, then, I tie my horse to this
upright stone. I must lay my silver groat here, and whistle three times,
sayest thou?”

“Ay, but thou must whistle louder than an unfledged ousel,” said the
boy, as Tressilian, having laid down his money, and half ashamed of the
folly he practised, made a careless whistle--“you must whistle louder
than that, for who knows where the smith is that you call for? He may be
in the King of France’s stables for what I know.”

“Why, you said but now he was no devil,” replied Tressilian.

“Man or devil,” said Dickie, “I see that I must summon him for you;”
 and therewithal he whistled sharp and shrill, with an acuteness of sound
that almost thrilled through Tressilian’s brain. “That is what I call
whistling,” said he, after he had repeated the signal thrice; “and now
to cover, to cover, or Whitefoot will not be shod this day.”

Tressilian, musing what the upshot of this mummery was to be, yet
satisfied there was to be some serious result, by the confidence with
which the boy had put himself in his power, suffered himself to be
conducted to that side of the little thicket of gorse and brushwood
which was farthest from the circle of stones, and there sat down; and as
it occurred to him that, after all, this might be a trick for stealing
his horse, he kept his hand on the boy’s collar, determined to make him
hostage for its safety.

“Now, hush and listen,” said Dickie, in a low whisper; “you will soon
hear the tack of a hammer that was never forged of earthly iron, for the
stone it was made of was shot from the moon.” And in effect Tressilian
did immediately hear the light stroke of a hammer, as when a farrier
is at work. The singularity of such a sound, in so very lonely a place,
made him involuntarily start; but looking at the boy, and discovering,
by the arch malicious expression of his countenance, that the urchin saw
and enjoyed his slight tremor, he became convinced that the whole was
a concerted stratagem, and determined to know by whom, or for what
purpose, the trick was played off.

Accordingly, he remained perfectly quiet all the time that the hammer
continued to sound, being about the space usually employed in fixing
a horse-shoe. But the instant the sound ceased, Tressilian, instead of
interposing the space of time which his guide had required, started up
with his sword in his hand, ran round the thicket, and confronted a man
in a farrier’s leathern apron, but otherwise fantastically attired in a
bear-skin dressed with the fur on, and a cap of the same, which almost
hid the sooty and begrimed features of the wearer. “Come back, come
back!” cried the boy to Tressilian, “or you will be torn to pieces; no
man lives that looks on him.” In fact, the invisible smith (now fully
visible) heaved up his hammer, and showed symptoms of doing battle.

But when the boy observed that neither his own entreaties nor the
menaces of the farrier appeared to change Tressilian’s purpose, but
that, on the contrary, he confronted the hammer with his drawn sword,
he exclaimed to the smith in turn, “Wayland, touch him not, or you will
come by the worse!--the gentleman is a true gentleman, and a bold.”

“So thou hast betrayed me, Flibbertigibbet?” said the smith; “it shall
be the worse for thee!”

“Be who thou wilt,” said Tressilian, “thou art in no danger from me,
so thou tell me the meaning of this practice, and why thou drivest thy
trade in this mysterious fashion.”

The smith, however, turning to Tressilian, exclaimed, in a threatening
tone, “Who questions the Keeper of the Crystal Castle of Light, the Lord
of the Green Lion, the Rider of the Red Dragon? Hence!--avoid thee, ere
I summon Talpack with his fiery lance, to quell, crush, and consume!”
 These words he uttered with violent gesticulation, mouthing, and
flourishing his hammer.

“Peace, thou vile cozener, with thy gipsy cant!” replied Tressilian
scornfully, “and follow me to the next magistrate, or I will cut thee
over the pate.”

“Peace, I pray thee, good Wayland!” said the boy. “Credit me, the
swaggering vein will not pass here; you must cut boon whids.” [“Give
good words.”--SLANG DIALECT.]

“I think, worshipful sir,” said the smith, sinking his hammer, and
assuming a more gentle and submissive tone of voice, “that when so poor
a man does his day’s job, he might be permitted to work it out after his
own fashion. Your horse is shod, and your farrier paid--what need you
cumber yourself further than to mount and pursue your journey?”

“Nay, friend, you are mistaken,” replied Tressilian; “every man has a
right to take the mask from the face of a cheat and a juggler; and your
mode of living raises suspicion that you are both.”

“If you are so determined; sir,” said the smith, “I cannot help myself
save by force, which I were unwilling to use towards you, Master
Tressilian; not that I fear your weapon, but because I know you to be
a worthy, kind, and well-accomplished gentleman, who would rather help
than harm a poor man that is in a strait.”

“Well said, Wayland,” said the boy, who had anxiously awaited the issue
of their conference. “But let us to thy den, man, for it is ill for thy
health to stand here talking in the open air.”

“Thou art right, Hobgoblin,” replied the smith; and going to the little
thicket of gorse on the side nearest to the circle, and opposite to that
at which his customer had so lately crouched, he discovered a trap-door
curiously covered with bushes, raised it, and, descending into the
earth, vanished from their eyes. Notwithstanding Tressilian’s curiosity,
he had some hesitation at following the fellow into what might be a den
of robbers, especially when he heard the smith’s voice, issuing from the
bowels of the earth, call out, “Flibertigibbet, do you come last, and be
sure to fasten the trap!”

“Have you seen enough of Wayland Smith now?” whispered the urchin
to Tressilian, with an arch sneer, as if marking his companion’s
uncertainty.

“Not yet,” said Tressilian firmly; and shaking off his momentary
irresolution, he descended into the narrow staircase, to which the
entrance led, and was followed by Dickie Sludge, who made fast the
trap-door behind him, and thus excluded every glimmer of daylight. The
descent, however, was only a few steps, and led to a level passage of
a few yards’ length, at the end of which appeared the reflection of a
lurid and red light. Arrived at this point, with his drawn sword in
his hand, Tressilian found that a turn to the left admitted him and
Hobgoblin, who followed closely, into a small, square vault, containing
a smith’s forge, glowing with charcoal, the vapour of which filled the
apartment with an oppressive smell, which would have been altogether
suffocating, but that by some concealed vent the smithy communicated
with the upper air. The light afforded by the red fuel, and by a lamp
suspended in an iron chain, served to show that, besides an anvil,
bellows, tongs, hammers, a quantity of ready-made horse-shoes, and other
articles proper to the profession of a farrier, there were also stoves,
alembics, crucibles, retorts, and other instruments of alchemy. The
grotesque figure of the smith, and the ugly but whimsical features of
the boy, seen by the gloomy and imperfect light of the charcoal fire and
the dying lamp, accorded very well with all this mystical apparatus,
and in that age of superstition would have made some impression on the
courage of most men.

But nature had endowed Tressilian with firm nerves, and his education,
originally good, had been too sedulously improved by subsequent study to
give way to any imaginary terrors; and after giving a glance around him,
he again demanded of the artist who he was, and by what accident he came
to know and address him by his name.

“Your worship cannot but remember,” said the smith, “that about three
years since, upon Saint Lucy’s Eve, there came a travelling juggler to a
certain hall in Devonshire, and exhibited his skill before a worshipful
knight and a fair company.--I see from your worship’s countenance, dark
as this place is, that my memory has not done me wrong.”

“Thou hast said enough,” said Tressilian, turning away, as wishing
to hide from the speaker the painful train of recollections which his
discourse had unconsciously awakened.

“The juggler,” said the smith, “played his part so bravely that the
clowns and clown-like squires in the company held his art to be little
less than magical; but there was one maiden of fifteen, or thereby, with
the fairest face I ever looked upon, whose rosy cheek grew pale, and her
bright eyes dim, at the sight of the wonders exhibited.”

“Peace, I command thee, peace!” said Tressilian.

“I mean your worship no offence,” said the fellow; “but I have cause to
remember how, to relieve the young maiden’s fears, you condescended
to point out the mode in which these deceptions were practised, and to
baffle the poor juggler by laying bare the mysteries of his art, as ably
as if you had been a brother of his order.--She was indeed so fair a
maiden that, to win a smile of her, a man might well--”

“Not a word more of her, I charge thee!” said Tressilian. “I do well
remember the night you speak of--one of the few happy evenings my life
has known.”

“She is gone, then,” said the smith, interpreting after his own fashion
the sigh with which Tressilian uttered these words--“she is gone, young,
beautiful, and beloved as she was!--I crave your worship’s pardon--I
should have hammered on another theme. I see I have unwarily driven the
nail to the quick.”

This speech was made with a mixture of rude feeling which inclined
Tressilian favourably to the poor artisan, of whom before he was
inclined to judge very harshly. But nothing can so soon attract the
unfortunate as real or seeming sympathy with their sorrows.

“I think,” proceeded Tressilian, after a minute’s silence, “thou wert in
those days a jovial fellow, who could keep a company merry by song, and
tale, and rebeck, as well as by thy juggling tricks--why do I find thee
a laborious handicraftsman, plying thy trade in so melancholy a dwelling
and under such extraordinary circumstances?”

“My story is not long,” said the artist, “but your honour had better
sit while you listen to it.” So saying, he approached to the fire a
three-footed stool, and took another himself; while Dickie Sludge, or
Flibbertigibbet, as he called the boy, drew a cricket to the smith’s
feet, and looked up in his face with features which, as illuminated by
the glow of the forge, seemed convulsed with intense curiosity. “Thou
too,” said the smith to him, “shalt learn, as thou well deservest at my
hand, the brief history of my life; and, in troth, it were as well tell
it thee as leave thee to ferret it out, since Nature never packed a
shrewder wit into a more ungainly casket.--Well, sir, if my poor story
may pleasure you, it is at your command, But will you not taste a stoup
of liquor? I promise you that even in this poor cell I have some in
store.”

“Speak not of it,” said Tressilian, “but go on with thy story, for my
leisure is brief.”

“You shall have no cause to rue the delay,” said the smith, “for
your horse shall be better fed in the meantime than he hath been this
morning, and made fitter for travel.”

With that the artist left the vault, and returned after a few minutes’
interval. Here, also, we pause, that the narrative may commence in
another chapter.



CHAPTER XI.


     I say, my lord, can such a subtilty
     (But all his craft ye must not wot of me,
     And somewhat help I yet to his working),
     That all the ground on which we ben riding,
     Till that we come to Canterbury town,
     He can all clean turnen so up so down,
     And pave it all of silver and of gold.
     --THE CANON’S YEOMAN’S PROLOGUE, CANTERBURY TALES.

THE artist commenced his narrative in the following terms:--

“I was bred a blacksmith, and knew my art as well as e’er a
black-thumbed, leathern-aproned, swart-faced knave of that noble
mystery. But I tired of ringing hammer-tunes on iron stithies, and went
out into the world, where I became acquainted with a celebrated juggler,
whose fingers had become rather too stiff for legerdemain, and who
wished to have the aid of an apprentice in his noble mystery. I served
him for six years, until I was master of my trade--I refer myself to
your worship, whose judgment cannot be disputed, whether I did not learn
to ply the craft indifferently well?”

“Excellently,” said Tressilian; “but be brief.”

“It was not long after I had performed at Sir Hugh Robsart’s, in your
worship’s presence,” said the artist, “that I took myself to the stage,
and have swaggered with the bravest of them all, both at the Black Bull,
the Globe, the Fortune, and elsewhere; but I know not how--apples were
so plenty that year that the lads in the twopenny gallery never took
more than one bite out of them, and threw the rest of the pippin at
whatever actor chanced to be on the stage. So I tired of it--renounced
my half share in the company, gave my foil to my comrade, my buskins to
the wardrobe, and showed the theatre a clean pair of heels.”

“Well, friend, and what,” said Tressilian, “was your next shift?”

“I became,” said the smith, “half partner, half domestic to a man
of much skill and little substance, who practised the trade of a
physicianer.”

“In other words,” said Tressilian, “you were Jack Pudding to a
quacksalver.”

“Something beyond that, let me hope, my good Master Tressilian,” replied
the artist; “and yet to say truth, our practice was of an adventurous
description, and the pharmacy which I had acquired in my first studies
for the benefit of horses was frequently applied to our human patients.
But the seeds of all maladies are the same; and if turpentine, tar,
pitch, and beef-suet, mingled with turmerick, gum-mastick, and one bead
of garlick, can cure the horse that hath been grieved with a nail, I see
not but what it may benefit the man that hath been pricked with a sword.
But my master’s practice, as well as his skill, went far beyond
mine, and dealt in more dangerous concerns. He was not only a bold,
adventurous practitioner in physic, but also, if your pleasure so
chanced to be, an adept who read the stars, and expounded the fortunes
of mankind, genethliacally, as he called it, or otherwise. He was a
learned distiller of simples, and a profound chemist--made several
efforts to fix mercury, and judged himself to have made a fair hit at
the philosopher’s stone. I have yet a programme of his on that subject,
which, if your honour understandeth, I believe you have the better, not
only of all who read, but also of him who wrote it.”

He gave Tressilian a scroll of parchment, bearing at top and bottom, and
down the margin, the signs of the seven planets, curiously intermingled
with talismanical characters and scraps of Greek and Hebrew. In the
midst were some Latin verses from a cabalistical author, written out so
fairly, that even the gloom of the place did not prevent Tressilian from
reading them. The tenor of the original ran as follows:--


     “Si fixum solvas, faciasque volare solutum,
     Et volucrem figas, facient te vivere tutum;
     Si pariat ventum, valet auri pondere centum;
     Ventus ubi vult spirat--Capiat qui capere potest.”

“I protest to you,” said Tressilian, “all I understand of this jargon is
that the last words seem to mean ‘Catch who catch can.’”

“That,” said the smith, “is the very principle that my worthy friend and
master, Doctor Doboobie, always acted upon; until, being besotted with
his own imaginations, and conceited of his high chemical skill, he
began to spend, in cheating himself, the money which he had acquired
in cheating others, and either discovered or built for himself, I could
never know which, this secret elaboratory, in which he used to seclude
himself both from patients and disciples, who doubtless thought his
long and mysterious absences from his ordinary residence in the town of
Farringdon were occasioned by his progress in the mystic sciences, and
his intercourse with the invisible world. Me also he tried to deceive;
but though I contradicted him not, he saw that I knew too much of his
secrets to be any longer a safe companion. Meanwhile, his name waxed
famous--or rather infamous, and many of those who resorted to him did so
under persuasion that he was a sorcerer. And yet his supposed advance in
the occult sciences drew to him the secret resort of men too powerful
to be named, for purposes too dangerous to be mentioned. Men cursed
and threatened him, and bestowed on me, the innocent assistant of his
studies, the nickname of the Devil’s foot-post, which procured me a
volley of stones as soon as ever I ventured to show my face in the
street of the village. At length my master suddenly disappeared,
pretending to me that he was about to visit his elaboratory in this
place, and forbidding me to disturb him till two days were past. When
this period had elapsed, I became anxious, and resorted to this vault,
where I found the fires extinguished and the utensils in confusion,
with a note from the learned Doboobius, as he was wont to style himself,
acquainting me that we should never meet again, bequeathing me his
chemical apparatus, and the parchment which I have just put into your
hands, advising me strongly to prosecute the secret which it
contained, which would infallibly lead me to the discovery of the grand
magisterium.”

“And didst thou follow this sage advice?” said Tressilian.

“Worshipful sir, no,” replied the smith; “for, being by nature cautious,
and suspicious from knowing with whom I had to do, I made so many
perquisitions before I ventured even to light a fire, that I at length
discovered a small barrel of gunpowder, carefully hid beneath the
furnace, with the purpose, no doubt, that as soon as I should commence
the grand work of the transmutation of metals, the explosion should
transmute the vault and all in it into a heap of ruins, which might
serve at once for my slaughter-house and my grave. This cured me of
alchemy, and fain would I have returned to the honest hammer and anvil;
but who would bring a horse to be shod by the Devil’s post? Meantime, I
had won the regard of my honest Flibbertigibbet here, he being then at
Farringdon with his master, the sage Erasmus Holiday, by teaching him
a few secrets, such as please youth at his age; and after much counsel
together, we agreed that, since I could get no practice in the ordinary
way, I should try how I could work out business among these
ignorant boors, by practising upon their silly fears; and, thanks to
Flibbertigibbet, who hath spread my renown, I have not wanted custom.
But it is won at too great risk, and I fear I shall be at length taken
up for a wizard; so that I seek but an opportunity to leave this vault,
when I can have the protection of some worshipful person against the
fury of the populace, in case they chance to recognize me.”

“And art thou,” said Tressilian, “perfectly acquainted with the roads in
this country?”

“I could ride them every inch by midnight,” answered Wayland Smith,
which was the name this adept had assumed.

“Thou hast no horse to ride upon,” said Tressilian.

“Pardon me,” replied Wayland; “I have as good a tit as ever yeoman
bestrode; and I forgot to say it was the best part of the mediciner’s
legacy to me, excepting one or two of the choicest of his medical
secrets, which I picked up without his knowledge and against his will.”

“Get thyself washed and shaved, then,” said Tressilian; “reform thy
dress as well as thou canst, and fling away these grotesque trappings;
and, so thou wilt be secret and faithful, thou shalt follow me for a
short time, till thy pranks here are forgotten. Thou hast, I think, both
address and courage, and I have matter to do that may require both.”

Wayland Smith eagerly embraced the proposal, and protested his devotion
to his new master. In a very few minutes he had made so great an
alteration in his original appearance, by change of dress, trimming his
beard and hair, and so forth, that Tressilian could not help remarking
that he thought he would stand in little need of a protector, since none
of his old acquaintance were likely to recognize him.

“My debtors would not pay me money,” said Wayland, shaking his head;
“but my creditors of every kind would be less easily blinded. And,
in truth, I hold myself not safe, unless under the protection of a
gentleman of birth and character, as is your worship.”

So saying, he led the way out of the cavern. He then called loudly for
Hobgoblin, who, after lingering for an instant, appeared with the horse
furniture, when Wayland closed and sedulously covered up the trap-door,
observing it might again serve him at his need, besides that the tools
were worth somewhat. A whistle from the owner brought to his side a nag
that fed quietly on the common, and was accustomed to the signal.

While he accoutred him for the journey, Tressilian drew his own girths
tighter, and in a few minutes both were ready to mount.

At this moment Sludge approached to bid them farewell.

“You are going to leave me, then, my old playfellow,” said the boy; “and
there is an end of all our game at bo-peep with the cowardly lubbards
whom I brought hither to have their broad-footed nags shed by the devil
and his imps?”

“It is even so,” said Wayland Smith, “the best friends must part,
Flibbertigibbet; but thou, my boy, art the only thing in the Vale of
Whitehorse which I shall regret to leave behind me.”

“Well, I bid thee not farewell,” said Dickie Sludge, “for you will be
at these revels, I judge, and so shall I; for if Dominie Holiday take me
not thither, by the light of day, which we see not in yonder dark hole,
I will take myself there!”

“In good time,” said Wayland; “but I pray you to do nought rashly.”

“Nay, now you would make a child, a common child of me, and tell me of
the risk of walking without leading-strings. But before you are a mile
from these stones, you shall know by a sure token that I have more of
the hobgoblin about me than you credit; and I will so manage that, if
you take advantage, you may profit by my prank.”

“What dost thou mean, boy?” said Tressilian; but Flibbertigibbet only
answered with a grin and a caper, and bidding both of them farewell,
and, at the same time, exhorting them to make the best of their way from
the place, he set them the example by running homeward with the same
uncommon velocity with which he had baffled Tressilian’s former attempts
to get hold of him.

“It is in vain to chase him,” said Wayland Smith; “for unless your
worship is expert in lark-hunting, we should never catch hold of
him--and besides, what would it avail? Better make the best of our way
hence, as he advises.”

They mounted their horses accordingly, and began to proceed at a round
pace, as soon as Tressilian had explained to his guide the direction in
which he desired to travel.

After they had trotted nearly a mile, Tressilian could not help
observing to his companion that his horse felt more lively under him
than even when he mounted in the morning.

“Are you avised of that?” said Wayland Smith, smiling. “That is owing
to a little secret of mine. I mixed that with an handful of oats which
shall save your worship’s heels the trouble of spurring these six hours
at least. Nay, I have not studied medicine and pharmacy for nought.”

“I trust,” said Tressilian, “your drugs will do my horse no harm?”

“No more than the mare’s milk; which foaled him,” answered the artist,
and was proceeding to dilate on the excellence of his recipe when he
was interrupted by an explosion as loud and tremendous as the mine which
blows up the rampart of a beleaguered city. The horses started, and the
riders were equally surprised. They turned to gaze in the direction from
which the thunder-clap was heard, and beheld, just over the spot they
had left so recently, a huge pillar of dark smoke rising high into the
clear, blue atmosphere. “My habitation is gone to wreck,” said Wayland,
immediately conjecturing the cause of the explosion. “I was a fool to
mention the doctor’s kind intentions towards my mansion before that limb
of mischief, Flibbertigibbet; I might have guessed he would long to put
so rare a frolic into execution. But let us hasten on, for the sound
will collect the country to the spot.”

So saying, he spurred his horse, and Tressilian also quickening his
speed, they rode briskly forward.

“This, then, was the meaning of the little imp’s token which he promised
us?” said Tressilian. “Had we lingered near the spot, we had found it a
love-token with a vengeance.”

“He would have given us warning,” said the smith. “I saw him look back
more than once to see if we were off--‘tis a very devil for mischief,
yet not an ill-natured devil either. It were long to tell your honour
how I became first acquainted with him, and how many tricks he played
me. Many a good turn he did me too, especially in bringing me customers;
for his great delight was to see them sit shivering behind the bushes
when they heard the click of my hammer. I think Dame Nature, when she
lodged a double quantity of brains in that misshapen head of his, gave
him the power of enjoying other people’s distresses, as she gave them
the pleasure of laughing at his ugliness.”

“It may be so,” said Tressilian; “those who find themselves severed from
society by peculiarities of form, if they do not hate the common bulk of
mankind, are at least not altogether indisposed to enjoy their mishaps
and calamities.”

“But Flibbertigibbet,” answered Wayland, “hath that about him which
may redeem his turn for mischievous frolic; for he is as faithful when
attached as he is tricky and malignant to strangers, and, as I said
before, I have cause to say so.”

Tressilian pursued the conversation no further, and they continued
their journey towards Devonshire without further adventure, until they
alighted at an inn in the town of Marlborough, since celebrated for
having given title to the greatest general (excepting one) whom Britain
ever produced. Here the travellers received, in the same breath, an
example of the truth of two old proverbs--namely, that ILL NEWS FLY
FAST, and that LISTENERS SELDOM HEAR A GOOD TALE OF THEMSELVES.

The inn-yard was in a sort of combustion when they alighted; insomuch,
that they could scarce get man or boy to take care of their horses, so
full were the whole household of some news which flew from tongue to
tongue, the import of which they were for some time unable to discover.
At length, indeed, they found it respected matters which touched them
nearly.

“What is the matter, say you, master?” answered, at length, the head
hostler, in reply to Tressilian’s repeated questions.--“Why, truly,
I scarce know myself. But here was a rider but now, who says that the
devil hath flown away with him they called Wayland Smith, that won’d
about three miles from the Whitehorse of Berkshire, this very blessed
morning, in a flash of fire and a pillar of smoke, and rooted up the
place he dwelt in, near that old cockpit of upright stones, as cleanly
as if it had all been delved up for a cropping.”

“Why, then,” said an old farmer, “the more is the pity; for that Wayland
Smith (whether he was the devil’s crony or no I skill not) had a good
notion of horses’ diseases, and it’s to be thought the bots will spread
in the country far and near, an Satan has not gien un time to leave his
secret behind un.”

“You may say that, Gaffer Grimesby,” said the hostler in return; “I have
carried a horse to Wayland Smith myself, for he passed all farriers in
this country.”

“Did you see him?” said Dame Alison Crane, mistress of the inn
bearing that sign, and deigning to term HUSBAND the owner thereof, a
mean-looking hop-o’-my-thumb sort or person, whose halting gait, and
long neck, and meddling, henpecked insignificance are supposed to have
given origin to the celebrated old English tune of “My name hath a lame
tame Crane.”

On this occasion he chirped out a repetition of his wife’s question,
“Didst see the devil, Jack Hostler, I say?”

“And what if I did see un, Master Crane?” replied Jack Hostler, for,
like all the rest of the household, he paid as little respect to his
master as his mistress herself did.

“Nay, nought, Jack Hostler,” replied the pacific Master Crane; “only if
you saw the devil, methinks I would like to know what un’s like?”

“You will know that one day, Master Crane,” said his helpmate, “an ye
mend not your manners, and mind your business, leaving off such idle
palabras.--But truly, Jack Hostler, I should be glad to know myself what
like the fellow was.”

“Why, dame,” said the hostler, more respectfully, “as for what he was
like I cannot tell, nor no man else, for why I never saw un.”

“And how didst thou get thine errand done,” said Gaffer Grimesby, “if
thou seedst him not?”

“Why, I had schoolmaster to write down ailment o’ nag,” said Jack
Hostler; “and I went wi’ the ugliest slip of a boy for my guide as ever
man cut out o’ lime-tree root to please a child withal.”

“And what was it?--and did it cure your nag, Jack Hostler?” was uttered
and echoed by all who stood around.

“Why, how can I tell you what it was?” said the hostler; “simply it
smelled and tasted--for I did make bold to put a pea’s substance into
my mouth--like hartshorn and savin mixed with vinegar; but then no
hartshorn and savin ever wrought so speedy a cure. And I am dreading
that if Wayland Smith be gone, the bots will have more power over horse
and cattle.”

The pride of art, which is certainly not inferior in its influence to
any other pride whatever, here so far operated on Wayland Smith, that,
notwithstanding the obvious danger of his being recognized, he could not
help winking to Tressilian, and smiling mysteriously, as if triumphing
in the undoubted evidence of his veterinary skill. In the meanwhile, the
discourse continued.

“E’en let it be so,” said a grave man in black, the companion of Gaffer
Grimesby; “e’en let us perish under the evil God sends us, rather than
the devil be our doctor.”

“Very true,” said Dame Crane; “and I marvel at Jack Hostler that he
would peril his own soul to cure the bowels of a nag.”

“Very true, mistress,” said Jack Hostler, “but the nag was my master’s;
and had it been yours, I think ye would ha’ held me cheap enow an I had
feared the devil when the poor beast was in such a taking. For the rest,
let the clergy look to it. Every man to his craft, says the proverb--the
parson to the prayer-book, and the groom to his curry-comb.

“I vow,” said Dame Crane, “I think Jack Hostler speaks like a good
Christian and a faithful servant, who will spare neither body nor soul
in his master’s service. However, the devil has lifted him in time, for
a Constable of the Hundred came hither this morning to get old Gaffer
Pinniewinks, the trier of witches, to go with him to the Vale of
Whitehorse to comprehend Wayland Smith, and put him to his probation. I
helped Pinniewinks to sharpen his pincers and his poking-awl, and I saw
the warrant from Justice Blindas.”

“Pooh--pooh--the devil would laugh both at Blindas and his warrant,
constable and witch-finder to boot,” said old Dame Crank, the Papist
laundress; “Wayland Smith’s flesh would mind Pinniewinks’ awl no
more than a cambric ruff minds a hot piccadilloe-needle. But tell me,
gentlefolks, if the devil ever had such a hand among ye, as to snatch
away your smiths and your artists from under your nose, when the good
Abbots of Abingdon had their own? By Our Lady, no!--they had their
hallowed tapers; and their holy water, and their relics, and what not,
could send the foulest fiends a-packing. Go ask a heretic parson to do
the like. But ours were a comfortable people.”

“Very true, Dame Crank,” said the hostler; “so said Simpkins of
Simonburn when the curate kissed his wife,--‘They are a comfortable
people,’ said he.”

“Silence, thou foul-mouthed vermin,” said Dame Crank; “is it fit for
a heretic horse-boy like thee to handle such a text as the Catholic
clergy?”

“In troth no, dame,” replied the man of oats; “and as you yourself are
now no text for their handling, dame, whatever may have been the case in
your day, I think we had e’en better leave un alone.”

At this last exchange of sarcasm, Dame Crank set up her throat, and
began a horrible exclamation against Jack Hostler, under cover of which
Tressilian and his attendant escaped into the house.

They had no sooner entered a private chamber, to which Goodman Crane
himself had condescended to usher them, and dispatched their worthy and
obsequious host on the errand of procuring wine and refreshment, than
Wayland Smith began to give vent to his self-importance.

“You see, sir,” said he, addressing Tressilian, “that I nothing fabled
in asserting that I possessed fully the mighty mystery of a farrier, or
mareschal, as the French more honourably term us. These dog-hostlers,
who, after all, are the better judges in such a case, know what credit
they should attach to my medicaments. I call you to witness, worshipful
Master Tressilian, that nought, save the voice of calumny and the hand
of malicious violence, hath driven me forth from a station in which I
held a place alike useful and honoured.”

“I bear witness, my friend, but will reserve my listening,” answered
Tressilian, “for a safer time; unless, indeed, you deem it essential
to your reputation to be translated, like your late dwelling, by the
assistance of a flash of fire. For you see your best friends reckon you
no better than a mere sorcerer.”

“Now, Heaven forgive them,” said the artist, “who confounded learned
skill with unlawful magic! I trust a man may be as skilful, or more so,
than the best chirurgeon ever meddled with horse-flesh, and yet may be
upon the matter little more than other ordinary men, or at the worst no
conjurer.”

“God forbid else!” said Tressilian. “But be silent just for the present,
since here comes mine host with an assistant, who seems something of the
least.”

Everybody about the inn, Dame Crane herself included, had been indeed
so interested and agitated by the story they had heard of Wayland Smith,
and by the new, varying, and more marvellous editions of the incident
which arrived from various quarters, that mine host, in his righteous
determination to accommodate his guests, had been able to obtain the
assistance of none of his household, saving that of a little boy, a
junior tapster, of about twelve years old, who was called Sampson.

“I wish,” he said, apologizing to his guests, as he set down a flagon
of sack, and promised some food immediately--“I wish the devil had flown
away with my wife and my whole family instead of this Wayland Smith,
who, I daresay, after all said and done, was much less worthy of the
distinction which Satan has done him.”

“I hold opinion with you, good fellow,” replied Wayland Smith; “and I
will drink to you upon that argument.”

“Not that I would justify any man who deals with the devil,” said mine
host, after having pledged Wayland in a rousing draught of sack, “but
that--saw ye ever better sack, my masters?--but that, I say, a man had
better deal with a dozen cheats and scoundrel fellows, such as this
Wayland Smith, than with a devil incarnate, that takes possession of
house and home, bed and board.”

The poor fellow’s detail of grievances was here interrupted by the
shrill voice of his helpmate, screaming from the kitchen, to which he
instantly hobbled, craving pardon of his guests. He was no sooner gone
than Wayland Smith expressed, by every contemptuous epithet in the
language, his utter scorn for a nincompoop who stuck his head under
his wife’s apron-string; and intimated that, saving for the sake of
the horses, which required both rest and food, he would advise his
worshipful Master Tressilian to push on a stage farther, rather than pay
a reckoning to such a mean-spirited, crow-trodden, henpecked coxcomb, as
Gaffer Crane.

The arrival of a large dish of good cow-heel and bacon something soothed
the asperity of the artist, which wholly vanished before a choice capon,
so delicately roasted that the lard frothed on it, said Wayland, like
May-dew on a lily; and both Gaffer Crane and his good dame became, in
his eyes, very painstaking, accommodating, obliging persons.

According to the manners of the times, the master and his attendant
sat at the same table, and the latter observed, with regret, how little
attention Tressilian paid to his meal. He recollected, indeed, the pain
he had given by mentioning the maiden in whose company he had first seen
him; but, fearful of touching upon a topic too tender to be tampered
with, he chose to ascribe his abstinence to another cause.

“This fare is perhaps too coarse for your worship,” said Wayland, as the
limbs of the capon disappeared before his own exertions; “but had you
dwelt as long as I have done in yonder dungeon, which Flibbertigibbet
has translated to the upper element, a place where I dared hardly broil
my food, lest the smoke should be seen without, you would think a fair
capon a more welcome dainty.”

“If you are pleased, friend,” said Tressilian, “it is well.
Nevertheless, hasten thy meal if thou canst, For this place is
unfriendly to thy safety, and my concerns crave travelling.”

Allowing, therefore, their horses no more rest than was absolutely
necessary for them, they pursued their journey by a forced march as far
as Bradford, where they reposed themselves for the night.

The next morning found them early travellers. And, not to fatigue the
reader with unnecessary particulars, they traversed without adventure
the counties of Wiltshire and Somerset, and about noon of the third day
after Tressilian’s leaving Cumnor, arrived at Sir Hugh Robsart’s seat,
called Lidcote Hall, on the frontiers of Devonshire.



CHAPTER XII.


     Ah me!  the flower and blossom of your house,
     The wind hath blown away to other towers.
     --JOANNA BAILLIE’S  FAMILY LEGEND.

The ancient seat of Lidcote Hall was situated near the village of
the same name, and adjoined the wild and extensive forest of Exmoor,
plentifully stocked with game, in which some ancient rights belonging to
the Robsart family entitled Sir Hugh to pursue his favourite amusement
of the chase. The old mansion was a low, venerable building, occupying
a considerable space of ground, which was surrounded by a deep moat. The
approach and drawbridge were defended by an octagonal tower, of ancient
brickwork, but so clothed with ivy and other creepers that it was
difficult to discover of what materials it was constructed. The angles
of this tower were each decorated with a turret, whimsically various
in form and in size, and, therefore, very unlike the monotonous stone
pepperboxes which, in modern Gothic architecture, are employed for
the same purpose. One of these turrets was square, and occupied as
a clock-house. But the clock was now standing still; a circumstance
peculiarly striking to Tressilian, because the good old knight, among
other harmless peculiarities, had a fidgety anxiety about the exact
measurement of time, very common to those who have a great deal of that
commodity to dispose of, and find it lie heavy upon their hands--just
as we see shopkeepers amuse themselves with taking an exact account of
their stock at the time there is least demand for it.

The entrance to the courtyard of the old mansion lay through an archway,
surmounted by the foresaid tower; but the drawbridge was down, and one
leaf of the iron-studded folding-doors stood carelessly open. Tressilian
hastily rode over the drawbridge, entered the court, and began to
call loudly on the domestics by their names. For some time he was only
answered by the echoes and the howling of the hounds, whose kennel lay
at no great distance from the mansion, and was surrounded by the same
moat. At length Will Badger, the old and favourite attendant of the
knight, who acted alike as squire of his body and superintendent of his
sports, made his appearance. The stout, weather-beaten forester showed
great signs of joy when he recognized Tressilian.

“Lord love you,” he said, “Master Edmund, be it thou in flesh and fell?
Then thou mayest do some good on Sir Hugh, for it passes the wit of
man--that is, of mine own, and the curate’s, and Master Mumblazen’s--to
do aught wi’un.”

“Is Sir Hugh then worse since I went away, Will?” demanded Tressilian.

“For worse in body--no; he is much better,” replied the domestic; “but
he is clean mazed as it were--eats and drinks as he was wont--but sleeps
not, or rather wakes not, for he is ever in a sort of twilight, that is
neither sleeping nor waking. Dame Swineford thought it was like the dead
palsy. But no, no, dame, said I, it is the heart, it is the heart.”

“Can ye not stir his mind to any pastimes?” said Tressilian.

“He is clean and quite off his sports,” said Will Badger; “hath neither
touched backgammon or shovel-board, nor looked on the big book of
harrowtry wi’ Master Mumblazen. I let the clock run down, thinking the
missing the bell might somewhat move him--for you know, Master Edmund,
he was particular in counting time--but he never said a word on’t, so
I may e’en set the old chime a-towling again. I made bold to tread on
Bungay’s tail too, and you know what a round rating that would ha’ cost
me once a-day; but he minded the poor tyke’s whine no more than a madge
howlet whooping down the chimney--so the case is beyond me.”

“Thou shalt tell me the rest within doors, Will. Meanwhile, let this
person be ta’en to the buttery, and used with respect. He is a man of
art.”

“White art or black art, I would,” said Will Badger, “that he had any
art which could help us.--Here, Tom Butler, look to the man of art;--and
see that he steals none of thy spoons, lad,” he added in a whisper to
the butler, who showed himself at a low window, “I have known as honest
a faced fellow have art enough to do that.”

He then ushered Tressilian into a low parlour, and went, at his desire,
to see in what state his master was, lest the sudden return of his
darling pupil and proposed son-in-law should affect him too strongly.
He returned immediately, and said that Sir Hugh was dozing in his
elbow-chair, but that Master Mumblazen would acquaint Master Tressilian
the instant he awaked.

“But it is chance if he knows you,” said the huntsman, “for he has
forgotten the name of every hound in the pack. I thought, about a week
since, he had gotten a favourable turn. ‘Saddle me old Sorrel,’ said he
suddenly, after he had taken his usual night-draught out of the great
silver grace-cup, ‘and take the hounds to Mount Hazelhurst to-morrow.’
Glad men were we all, and out we had him in the morning, and he rode to
cover as usual, with never a word spoken but that the wind was south,
and the scent would lie. But ere we had uncoupled’the hounds, he began
to stare round him, like a man that wakes suddenly out of a dream--turns
bridle, and walks back to Hall again, and leaves us to hunt at leisure
by ourselves, if we listed.”

“You tell a heavy tale, Will,” replied Tressilian; “but God must help
us--there is no aid in man.”

“Then you bring us no news of young Mistress Amy? But what need I
ask--your brow tells the story. Ever I hoped that if any man could or
would track her, it must be you. All’s over and lost now. But if ever I
have that Varney within reach of a flight-shot, I will bestow a forked
shaft on him; and that I swear by salt and bread.”

As he spoke, the door opened, and Master Mumblazen appeared--a withered,
thin, elderly gentleman, with a cheek like a winter apple, and his
grey hair partly concealed by a small, high hat, shaped like a cone,
or rather like such a strawberry-basket as London fruiterers exhibit at
their windows. He was too sententious a person to waste words on mere
salutation; so, having welcomed Tressilian with a nod and a shake of the
hand, he beckoned him to follow to Sir Hugh’s great chamber, which the
good knight usually inhabited. Will Badger followed, unasked, anxious to
see whether his master would be relieved from his state of apathy by the
arrival of Tressilian.

In a long, low parlour, amply furnished with implements of the chase,
and with silvan trophies, by a massive stone chimney, over which hung
a sword and suit of armour somewhat obscured by neglect, sat Sir Hugh
Robsart of Lidcote, a man of large size, which had been only kept within
moderate compass by the constant use of violent exercise, It seemed to
Tressilian that the lethargy, under which his old friend appeared to
labour, had, even during his few weeks’ absence, added bulk to his
person--at least it had obviously diminished the vivacity of his eye,
which, as they entered, first followed Master Mumblazen slowly to a
large oaken desk, on which a ponderous volume lay open, and then rested,
as if in uncertainty, on the stranger who had entered along with him.
The curate, a grey-headed clergyman, who had been a confessor in the
days of Queen Mary, sat with a book in his hand in another recess in the
apartment. He, too, signed a mournful greeting to Tressilian, and laid
his book aside, to watch the effect his appearance should produce on the
afflicted old man.

As Tressilian, his own eyes filling fast with tears, approached more
and more nearly to the father of his betrothed bride, Sir Hugh’s
intelligence seemed to revive. He sighed heavily, as one who awakens
from a state of stupor; a slight convulsion passed over his features;
he opened his arms without speaking a word, and, as Tressilian threw
himself into them, he folded him to his bosom.

“There is something left to live for yet,” were the first words he
uttered; and while he spoke, he gave vent to his feelings in a paroxysm
of weeping, the tears chasing each other down his sunburnt cheeks and
long white beard.

“I ne’er thought to have thanked God to see my master weep,” said Will
Badger; “but now I do, though I am like to weep for company.”

“I will ask thee no questions,” said the old knight; “no
questions--none, Edmund. Thou hast not found her--or so found her, that
she were better lost.”

Tressilian was unable to reply otherwise than by putting his hands
before his face.

“It is enough--it is enough. But do not thou weep for her, Edmund. I
have cause to weep, for she was my daughter; thou hast cause to rejoice,
that she did not become thy wife.--Great God! thou knowest best what is
good for us. It was my nightly prayer that I should see Amy and Edmund
wedded,--had it been granted, it had now been gall added to bitterness.”

“Be comforted, my friend,” said the curate, addressing Sir Hugh, “it
cannot be that the daughter of all our hopes and affections is the vile
creature you would bespeak her.”

“Oh, no,” replied Sir Hugh impatiently, “I were wrong to name broadly
the base thing she is become--there is some new court name for it, I
warrant me. It is honour enough for the daughter of an old Devonshire
clown to be the leman of a gay courtier--of Varney too--of Varney, whose
grandsire was relieved by my father, when his fortune was broken, at
the battle of--the battle of--where Richard was slain--out on my
memory!--and I warrant none of you will help me--”

“The battle of Bosworth,” said Master Mumblazen--“stricken between
Richard Crookback and Henry Tudor, grandsire of the Queen that now is,
PRIMO HENRICI SEPTIMI; and in the year one thousand four hundred and
eighty-five, POST CHRISTUM NATUM.”

“Ay, even so,” said the old knight; “every child knows it. But my poor
head forgets all it should remember, and remembers only what it would
most willingly forget. My brain has been at fault, Tressilian, almost
ever since thou hast been away, and even yet it hunts counter.”

“Your worship,” said the good clergyman, “had better retire to your
apartment, and try to sleep for a little space. The physician left
a composing draught; and our Great Physician has commanded us to use
earthly means, that we may be strengthened to sustain the trials He
sends us.”

“True, true, old friend,” said Sir Hugh; “and we will bear our trials
manfully--we have lost but a woman.--See, Tressilian,”--he drew from
his bosom a long ringlet of glossy hair,--“see this lock! I tell thee,
Edmund, the very night she disappeared, when she bid me good even, as
she was wont, she hung about my neck, and fondled me more than usual;
and I, like an old fool, held her by this lock, until she took her
scissors, severed it, and left it in my hand--as all I was ever to see
more of her!”

Tressilian was unable to reply, well judging what a complication of
feelings must have crossed the bosom of the unhappy fugitive at that
cruel moment. The clergyman was about to speak, but Sir Hugh interrupted
him.

“I know what you would say, Master Curate,--After all, it is but a lock
of woman’s tresses; and by woman, shame, and sin, and death came into
an innocent world.--And learned Master Mumblazen, too, can say scholarly
things of their inferiority.”

“C’EST L’HOMME,” said Master Mumblazen, “QUI SE BAST, ET QUI CONSEILLE.”

“True,” said Sir Hugh, “and we will bear us, therefore, like men who
have both mettle and wisdom in us.--Tressilian, thou art as welcome
as if thou hadst brought better news. But we have spoken too long
dry-lipped.--Amy, fill a cup of wine to Edmund, and another to me.” Then
instantly recollecting that he called upon her who could not hear,
he shook his head, and said to the clergyman, “This grief is to my
bewildered mind what the church of Lidcote is to our park: we may lose
ourselves among the briers and thickets for a little space, but from
the end of each avenue we see the old grey steeple and the grave of my
forefathers. I would I were to travel that road tomorrow!”

Tressilian and the curate joined in urging the exhausted old man to lay
himself to rest, and at length prevailed. Tressilian remained by his
pillow till he saw that slumber at length sunk down on him, and then
returned to consult with the curate what steps should be adopted in
these unhappy circumstances.

They could not exclude from these deliberations Master Michael
Mumblazen; and they admitted him the more readily, that besides what
hopes they entertained from his sagacity, they knew him to be so great
a friend to taciturnity, that there was no doubt of his keeping counsel.
He was an old bachelor, of good family, but small fortune, and distantly
related to the House of Robsart; in virtue of which connection, Lidcote
Hall had been honoured with his residence for the last twenty years. His
company was agreeable to Sir Hugh, chiefly on account of his profound
learning, which, though it only related to heraldry and genealogy, with
such scraps of history as connected themselves with these subjects,
was precisely of a kind to captivate the good old knight; besides the
convenience which he found in having a friend to appeal to when his
own memory, as frequently happened, proved infirm and played him false
concerning names and dates, which, and all similar deficiencies, Master
Michael Mumblazen supplied with due brevity and discretion. And,
indeed, in matters concerning the modern world, he often gave, in his
enigmatical and heraldic phrase, advice which was well worth attending
to, or, in Will Badger’s language, started the game while others beat
the bush.

“We have had an unhappy time of it with the good knight, Master Edmund,”
 said the curate. “I have not suffered so much since I was torn away from
my beloved flock, and compelled to abandon them to the Romish wolves.”

“That was in TERTIO MARIAE,” said Master Mumblazen.

“In the name of Heaven,” continued the curate, “tell us, has your
time been better spent than ours, or have you any news of that
unhappy maiden, who, being for so many years the principal joy of this
broken-down house, is now proved our greatest unhappiness? Have you not
at least discovered her place of residence?”

“I have,” replied Tressilian. “Know you Cumnor Place, near Oxford?”

“Surely,” said the clergyman; “it was a house of removal for the monks
of Abingdon.”

“Whose arms,” said Master Michael, “I have seen over a stone chimney in
the hall,--a cross patonce betwixt four martlets.”

“There,” said Tressilian, “this unhappy maiden resides, in company with
the villain Varney. But for a strange mishap, my sword had revenged all
our injuries, as well as hers, on his worthless head.”

“Thank God, that kept thine hand from blood-guiltiness, rash young man!”
 answered the curate. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will
repay it. It were better study to free her from the villain’s nets of
infamy.”

“They are called, in heraldry, LAQUEI AMORIS, or LACS D’AMOUR,” said
Mumblazen.

“It is in that I require your aid, my friends,” said Tressilian. “I
am resolved to accuse this villain, at the very foot of the throne, of
falsehood, seduction, and breach of hospitable laws. The Queen shall
hear me, though the Earl of Leicester, the villain’s patron, stood at
her right hand.”

“Her Grace,” said the curate, “hath set a comely example of continence
to her subjects, and will doubtless do justice on this inhospitable
robber. But wert thou not better apply to the Earl of Leicester, in the
first place, for justice on his servant? If he grants it, thou dost save
the risk of making thyself a powerful adversary, which will certainly
chance if, in the first instance, you accuse his master of the horse and
prime favourite before the Queen.”

“My mind revolts from your counsel,” said Tressilian. “I cannot brook
to plead my noble patron’s cause the unhappy Amy’s cause--before any one
save my lawful Sovereign. Leicester, thou wilt say, is noble. Be it so;
he is but a subject like ourselves, and I will not carry my plaint to
him, if I can do better. Still, I will think on what thou hast said; but
I must have your assistance to persuade the good Sir Hugh to make me his
commissioner and fiduciary in this matter, for it is in his name I must
speak, and not in my own. Since she is so far changed as to dote upon
this empty profligate courtier, he shall at least do her the justice
which is yet in his power.”

“Better she died CAELEBS and SINE PROLE,” said Mumblazen, with more
animation than he usually expressed, “than part, PER PALE, the noble
coat of Robsart with that of such a miscreant!”

“If it be your object, as I cannot question,” said the clergyman, “to
save, as much as is yet possible, the credit of this unhappy young
woman, I repeat, you should apply, in the first instance, to the Earl
of Leicester. He is as absolute in his household as the Queen in her
kingdom, and if he expresses to Varney that such is his pleasure, her
honour will not stand so publicly committed.”

“You are right, you are right!” said Tressilian eagerly, “and I thank
you for pointing out what I overlooked in my haste. I little thought
ever to have besought grace of Leicester; but I could kneel to the proud
Dudley, if doing so could remove one shade of shame from this unhappy
damsel. You will assist me then to procure the necessary powers from Sir
Hugh Robsart?”

The curate assured him of his assistance, and the herald nodded assent.

“You must hold yourselves also in readiness to testify, in case you are
called upon, the openhearted hospitality which our good patron exercised
towards this deceitful traitor, and the solicitude with which he
laboured to seduce his unhappy daughter.”

“At first,” said the clergyman, “she did not, as it seemed to me, much
affect his company; but latterly I saw them often together.”

“SEIANT in the parlour,” said Michael Mumblazen, “and PASSANT in the
garden.”

“I once came on them by chance,” said the priest, “in the South wood,
in a spring evening. Varney was muffled in a russet cloak, so that I saw
not his face. They separated hastily, as they heard me rustle amongst
the leaves; and I observed she turned her head and looked long after
him.”

“With neck REGUARDANT,” said the herald. “And on the day of her flight,
and that was on Saint Austen’s Eve, I saw Varney’s groom, attired in his
liveries, hold his master’s horse and Mistress Amy’s palfrey, bridled
and saddled PROPER, behind the wall of the churchyard.”

“And now is she found mewed up in his secret place of retirement,” said
Tressilian. “The villain is taken in the manner, and I well wish he may
deny his crime, that I may thrust conviction down his false throat! But
I must prepare for my journey. Do you, gentlemen, dispose my patron to
grant me such powers as are needful to act in his name.”

So saying, Tressilian left the room.

“He is too hot,” said the curate; “and I pray to God that He may grant
him the patience to deal with Varney as is fitting.”

“Patience and Varney,” said Mumblazen, “is worse heraldry than metal
upon metal. He is more false than a siren, more rapacious than a
griffin, more poisonous than a wyvern, and more cruel than a lion
rampant.”

“Yet I doubt much,” said the curate, “whether we can with propriety ask
from Sir Hugh Robsart, being in his present condition, any deed deputing
his paternal right in Mistress Amy to whomsoever--”

“Your reverence need not doubt that,” said Will Badger, who entered as
he spoke, “for I will lay my life he is another man when he wakes than
he has been these thirty days past.”

“Ay, Will,” said the curate, “hast thou then so much confidence in
Doctor Diddleum’s draught?”

“Not a whit,” said Will, “because master ne’er tasted a drop on’t,
seeing it was emptied out by the housemaid. But here’s a gentleman, who
came attending on Master Tressilian, has given Sir Hugh a draught that
is worth twenty of yon un. I have spoken cunningly with him, and a
better farrier or one who hath a more just notion of horse and dog
ailment I have never seen; and such a one would never be unjust to a
Christian man.”

“A farrier! you saucy groom--and by whose authority, pray?” said the
curate, rising in surprise and indignation; “or who will be warrant for
this new physician?”

“For authority, an it like your reverence, he had mine; and for warrant,
I trust I have not been five-and-twenty years in this house without
having right to warrant the giving of a draught to beast or body--I who
can gie a drench, and a ball, and bleed, or blister, if need, to my very
self.”

The counsellors of the house of Robsart thought it meet to carry this
information instantly to Tressilian, who as speedily summoned before
him Wayland Smith, and demanded of him (in private, however) by what
authority he had ventured to administer any medicine to Sir Hugh
Robsart?

“Why,” replied the artist, “your worship cannot but remember that I told
you I had made more progress into my master’s--I mean the learned Doctor
Doboobie’s--mystery than he was willing to own; and indeed half of his
quarrel and malice against me was that, besides that I got something too
deep into his secrets, several discerning persons, and particularly a
buxom young widow of Abingdon, preferred my prescriptions to his.”

“None of thy buffoonery, sir,” said Tressilian sternly. “If thou hast
trifled with us--much more, if thou hast done aught that may prejudice
Sir Hugh Robsart’s health, thou shalt find thy grave at the bottom of a
tin-mine.”

“I know too little of the great ARCANUM to convert the ore to
gold,” said Wayland firmly. “But truce to your apprehensions, Master
Tressilian. I understood the good knight’s case from what Master William
Badger told me; and I hope I am able enough to administer a poor dose
of mandragora, which, with the sleep that must needs follow, is all that
Sir Hugh Robsart requires to settle his distraught brains.”

“I trust thou dealest fairly with me, Wayland?” said Tressilian.

“Most fairly and honestly, as the event shall show,” replied the artist.
“What would it avail me to harm the poor old man for whom you are
interested?--you, to whom I owe it that Gaffer Pinniewinks is not even
now rending my flesh and sinews with his accursed pincers, and probing
every mole in my body with his sharpened awl (a murrain on the hands
which forged it!) in order to find out the witch’s mark?--I trust to
yoke myself as a humble follower to your worship’s train, and I only
wish to have my faith judged of by the result of the good knight’s
slumbers.”

Wayland Smith was right in his prognostication. The sedative draught
which his skill had prepared, and Will Badger’s confidence had
administered, was attended with the most beneficial effects. The
patient’s sleep was long and healthful, and the poor old knight awoke,
humbled indeed in thought and weak in frame, yet a much better judge of
whatever was subjected to his intellect than he had been for some time
past. He resisted for a while the proposal made by his friends that
Tressilian should undertake a journey to court, to attempt the recovery
of his daughter, and the redress of her wrongs, in so far as they might
yet be repaired. “Let her go,” he said; “she is but a hawk that goes
down the wind; I would not bestow even a whistle to reclaim her.” But
though he for some time maintained this argument, he was at length
convinced it was his duty to take the part to which natural affection
inclined him, and consent that such efforts as could yet be made
should be used by Tressilian in behalf of his daughter. He subscribed,
therefore, a warrant of attorney, such as the curate’s skill enabled him
to draw up; for in those simple days the clergy were often the advisers
of their flock in law as well as in gospel.

All matters were prepared for Tressilian’s second departure, within
twenty-four hours after he had returned to Lidcote Hall; but one
material circumstance had been forgotten, which was first called to the
remembrance of Tressilian by Master Mumblazen. “You are going to
court, Master Tressilian,” said he; “you will please remember that your
blazonry must be ARGENT and OR--no other tinctures will pass current.”
 The remark was equally just and embarrassing. To prosecute a suit at
court, ready money was as indispensable even in the golden days of
Elizabeth as at any succeeding period; and it was a commodity little at
the command of the inhabitants of Lidcote Hall. Tressilian was himself
poor; the revenues of good Sir Hugh Robsart were consumed, and even
anticipated, in his hospitable mode of living; and it was finally
necessary that the herald who started the doubt should himself solve it.
Master Michael Mumblazen did so by producing a bag of money, containing
nearly three hundred pounds in gold and silver of various coinage, the
savings of twenty years, which he now, without speaking a syllable upon
the subject, dedicated to the service of the patron whose shelter
and protection had given him the means of making this little hoard.
Tressilian accepted it without affecting a moment’s hesitation, and a
mutual grasp of the hand was all that passed betwixt them, to express
the pleasure which the one felt in dedicating his all to such a purpose,
and that which the other received from finding so material an obstacle
to the success of his journey so suddenly removed, and in a manner so
unexpected.

While Tressilian was making preparations for his departure early
the ensuing morning, Wayland Smith desired to speak with him, and,
expressing his hope that he had been pleased with the operation of his
medicine in behalf of Sir Hugh Robsart, added his desire to accompany
him to court. This was indeed what Tressilian himself had several times
thought of; for the shrewdness, alertness of understanding, and variety
of resource which this fellow had exhibited during the time they had
travelled together, had made him sensible that his assistance might be
of importance. But then Wayland was in danger from the grasp of law; and
of this Tressilian reminded him, mentioning something, at the same time,
of the pincers of Pinniewinks and the warrant of Master Justice Blindas.
Wayland Smith laughed both to scorn.

“See you, sir!” said he, “I have changed my garb from that of a farrier
to a serving-man; but were it still as it was, look at my moustaches.
They now hang down; I will but turn them up, and dye them with a
tincture that I know of, and the devil would scarce know me again.”

He accompanied these words with the appropriate action, and in less
than a minute, by setting up, his moustaches and his hair, he seemed
a different person from him that had but now entered the room. Still,
however, Tressilian hesitated to accept his services, and the artist
became proportionably urgent.

“I owe you life and limb,” he said, “and I would fain pay a part of the
debt, especially as I know from Will Badger on what dangerous service
your worship is bound. I do not, indeed, pretend to be what is called
a man of mettle, one of those ruffling tear-cats who maintain their
master’s quarrel with sword and buckler. Nay, I am even one of those who
hold the end of a feast better than the beginning of a fray. But I know
that I can serve your worship better, in such quest as yours, than any
of these sword-and-dagger men, and that my head will be worth an hundred
of their hands.”

Tressilian still hesitated. He knew not much of this strange fellow, and
was doubtful how far he could repose in him the confidence necessary
to render him a useful attendant upon the present emergency. Ere he
had come to a determination, the trampling of a horse was heard in the
courtyard, and Master Mumblazen and Will Badger both entered hastily
into Tressilian’s chamber, speaking almost at the same moment.

“Here is a serving-man on the bonniest grey tit I ever see’d in my
life,” said Will Badger, who got the start--“having on his arm a silver
cognizance, being a fire-drake holding in his mouth a brickbat, under
a coronet of an Earl’s degree,” said Master Mumblazen, “and bearing a
letter sealed of the same.”

Tressilian took the letter, which was addressed “To the worshipful
Master Edmund Tressilian, our loving kinsman--These--ride, ride,
ride--for thy life, for thy life, for thy life.” He then opened it, and
found the following contents:--

“MASTER TRESSILIAN, OUR GOOD FRIEND AND COUSIN, “We are at present
so ill at ease, and otherwise so unhappily circumstanced, that we are
desirous to have around us those of our friends on whose loving-kindness
we can most especially repose confidence; amongst whom we hold our good
Master Tressilian one of the foremost and nearest, both in good will and
good ability. We therefore pray you, with your most convenient speed, to
repair to our poor lodging, at Sayes Court, near Deptford, where we will
treat further with you of matters which we deem it not fit to commit
unto writing. And so we bid you heartily farewell, being your loving
kinsman to command,

“RATCLIFFE, EARL OF SUSSEX.” “Send up the messenger instantly, Will
Badger,” said Tressilian; and as the man entered the room, he exclaimed,
“Ah, Stevens, is it you? how does my good lord?”

“Ill, Master Tressilian,” was the messenger’s reply, “and having
therefore the more need of good friends around him.”

“But what is my lord’s malady?” said Tressilian anxiously; “I heard
nothing of his being ill.”

“I know not, sir,” replied the man; “he is very ill at ease. The
leeches are at a stand, and many of his household suspect foul
practice-witchcraft, or worse.”

“What are the symptoms?” said Wayland Smith, stepping forward hastily.

“Anan?” said the messenger, not comprehending his meaning.

“What does he ail?” said Wayland; “where lies his disease?”

The man looked at Tressilian, as if to know whether he should
answer these inquiries from a stranger, and receiving a sign in the
affirmative, he hastily enumerated gradual loss of strength, nocturnal
perspiration, and loss of appetite, faintness, etc.

“Joined,” said Wayland, “to a gnawing pain in the stomach, and a low
fever?”

“Even so,” said the messenger, somewhat surprised.

“I know how the disease is caused,” said the artist, “and I know the
cause. Your master has eaten of the manna of Saint Nicholas. I know
the cure too--my master shall not say I studied in his laboratory for
nothing.”

“How mean you?” said Tressilian, frowning; “we speak of one of the first
nobles of England. Bethink you, this is no subject for buffoonery.”

“God forbid!” said Wayland Smith. “I say that I know this disease, and
can cure him. Remember what I did for Sir Hugh Robsart.”

“We will set forth instantly,” said Tressilian. “God calls us.”

Accordingly, hastily mentioning this new motive for his instant
departure, though without alluding to either the suspicions of Stevens,
or the assurances of Wayland Smith, he took the kindest leave of Sir
Hugh and the family at Lidcote Hall, who accompanied him with prayers
and blessings, and, attended by Wayland and the Earl of Sussex’s
domestic, travelled with the utmost speed towards London.



CHAPTER XIII.


     Ay, I know you have arsenic,
     Vitriol, sal-tartre, argaile, alkaly,
     Cinoper:  I know all.--This fellow, Captain,
     Will come in time to be a great distiller,
     And give a say (I will not say directly,
     But very near) at the philosopher’s stone.   THE ALCHEMIST.

Tressilian and his attendants pressed their route with all dispatch.
He had asked the smith, indeed, when their departure was resolved on,
whether he would not rather choose to avoid Berkshire, in which he had
played a part so conspicuous? But Wayland returned a confident answer.
He had employed the short interval they passed at Lidcote Hall in
transforming himself in a wonderful manner. His wild and overgrown
thicket of beard was now restrained to two small moustaches on the
upper lip, turned up in a military fashion. A tailor from the village
of Lidcote (well paid) had exerted his skill, under his customer’s
directions, so as completely to alter Wayland’s outward man, and take
off from his appearance almost twenty years of age. Formerly, besmeared
with soot and charcoal, overgrown with hair, and bent double with the
nature of his labour, disfigured too by his odd and fantastic dress,
he seemed a man of fifty years old. But now, in a handsome suit of
Tressilian’s livery, with a sword by his side and a buckler on his
shoulder, he looked like a gay ruffling serving-man, whose age might
be betwixt thirty and thirty-five, the very prime of human life.
His loutish, savage-looking demeanour seemed equally changed, into a
forward, sharp, and impudent alertness of look and action.

When challenged by Tressilian, who desired to know the cause of a
metamorphosis so singular and so absolute, Wayland only answered by
singing a stave from a comedy, which was then new, and was supposed,
among the more favourable judges, to augur some genius on the part of
the author. We are happy to preserve the couplet, which ran exactly
thus,--


     “Ban, ban, ca Caliban--
     Get a new master--Be a new man.”

Although Tressilian did not recollect the verses, yet they reminded
him that Wayland had once been a stage player, a circumstance which,
of itself, accounted indifferently well for the readiness with which
he could assume so total a change of personal appearance. The artist
himself was so confident of his disguise being completely changed, or
of his having completely changed his disguise, which may be the more
correct mode of speaking, that he regretted they were not to pass near
his old place of retreat.

“I could venture,” he said, “in my present dress, and with your
worship’s backing, to face Master Justice Blindas, even on a day of
Quarter Sessions; and I would like to know what is become of Hobgoblin,
who is like to play the devil in the world, if he can once slip the
string, and leave his granny and his dominie.--Ay, and the scathed
vault!” he said; “I would willingly have seen what havoc the explosion
of so much gunpowder has made among Doctor Demetrius Doboobie’s retorts
and phials. I warrant me, my fame haunts the Vale of the Whitehorse long
after my body is rotten; and that many a lout ties up his horse, lays
down his silver groat, and pipes like a sailor whistling in a calm for
Wayland Smith to come and shoe his tit for him. But the horse will catch
the founders ere the smith answers the call.”

In this particular, indeed, Wayland proved a true prophet; and so easily
do fables rise, that an obscure tradition of his extraordinary practice
in farriery prevails in the Vale of Whitehorse even unto this day; and
neither the tradition of Alfred’s Victory, nor of the celebrated Pusey
Horn, are better preserved in Berkshire than the wild legend of Wayland
Smith. [See Note 2, Legend of Wayland Smith.]

The haste of the travellers admitted their making no stay upon their
journey, save what the refreshment of the horses required; and as many
of the places through which they passed were under the influence of the
Earl of Leicester, or persons immediately dependent on him, they thought
it prudent to disguise their names and the purpose of their journey.
On such occasions the agency of Wayland Smith (by which name we shall
continue to distinguish the artist, though his real name was Lancelot
Wayland) was extremely serviceable. He seemed, indeed, to have a
pleasure in displaying the alertness with which he could baffle
investigation, and amuse himself by putting the curiosity of tapsters
and inn-keepers on a false scent. During the course of their brief
journey, three different and inconsistent reports were circulated by him
on their account--namely, first, that Tressilian was the Lord Deputy of
Ireland, come over in disguise to take the Queen’s pleasure concerning
the great rebel Rory Oge MacCarthy MacMahon; secondly, that the said
Tressilian was an agent of Monsieur, coming to urge his suit to the
hand of Elizabeth; thirdly, that he was the Duke of Medina, come over,
incognito, to adjust the quarrel betwixt Philip and that princess.

Tressilian was angry, and expostulated with the artist on the various
inconveniences, and, in particular, the unnecessary degree of attention
to which they were subjected by the figments he thus circulated; but
he was pacified (for who could be proof against such an argument?) by
Wayland’s assuring him that a general importance was attached to his own
(Tressilian’s) striking presence, which rendered it necessary to give an
extraordinary reason for the rapidity and secrecy of his journey.

At length they approached the metropolis, where, owing to the more
general recourse of strangers, their appearance excited neither
observation nor inquiry, and finally they entered London itself.

It was Tressilian’s purpose to go down directly to Deptford, where Lord
Sussex resided, in order to be near the court, then held at Greenwich,
the favourite residence of Elizabeth, and honoured as her birthplace.
Still a brief halt in London was necessary; and it was somewhat
prolonged by the earnest entreaties of Wayland Smith, who desired
permission to take a walk through the city.

“Take thy sword and buckler, and follow me, then,” said Tressilian; “I
am about to walk myself, and we will go in company.”

This he said, because he was not altogether so secure of the fidelity
of his new retainer as to lose sight of him at this interesting moment,
when rival factions at the court of Elizabeth were running so high.
Wayland Smith willingly acquiesced in the precaution, of which he
probably conjectured the motive, but only stipulated that his master
should enter the shops of such chemists or apothecaries as he should
point out, in walking through Fleet Street, and permit him to make some
necessary purchases. Tressilian agreed, and obeying the signal of his
attendant, walked successively into more than four or five shops, where
he observed that Wayland purchased in each only one single drug, in
various quantities. The medicines which he first asked for were readily
furnished, each in succession, but those which he afterwards required
were less easily supplied; and Tressilian observed that Wayland more
than once, to the surprise of the shopkeeper, returned the gum or herb
that was offered to him, and compelled him to exchange it for the right
sort, or else went on to seek it elsewhere. But one ingredient, in
particular, seemed almost impossible to be found. Some chemists plainly
admitted they had never seen it; others denied that such a drug existed,
excepting in the imagination of crazy alchemists; and most of them
attempted to satisfy their customer, by producing some substitute,
which, when rejected by Wayland, as not being what he had asked
for, they maintained possessed, in a superior degree, the self-same
qualities. In general they all displayed some curiosity concerning the
purpose for which he wanted it. One old, meagre chemist, to whom
the artist put the usual question, in terms which Tressilian neither
understood nor could recollect, answered frankly, there was none of that
drug in London, unless Yoglan the Jew chanced to have some of it upon
hand.

“I thought as much,” said Wayland. And as soon as they left the shop,
he said to Tressilian, “I crave your pardon, sir, but no artist can work
without his tools. I must needs go to this Yoglan’s; and I promise you,
that if this detains you longer than your leisure seems to permit, you
shall, nevertheless, be well repaid by the use I will make of this rare
drug. Permit me,” he added, “to walk before you, for we are now to quit
the broad street and we will make double speed if I lead the way.”

Tressilian acquiesced, and, following the smith down a lane which turned
to the left hand towards the river, he found that his guide walked on
with great speed, and apparently perfect knowledge of the town, through
a labyrinth of by-streets, courts, and blind alleys, until at length
Wayland paused in the midst of a very narrow lane, the termination
of which showed a peep of the Thames looking misty and muddy, which
background was crossed saltierwise, as Mr. Mumblazen might have said, by
the masts of two lighters that lay waiting for the tide. The shop under
which he halted had not, as in modern days, a glazed window, but a
paltry canvas screen surrounded such a stall as a cobbler now occupies,
having the front open, much in the manner of a fishmonger’s booth of the
present day. A little old smock-faced man, the very reverse of a Jew in
complexion, for he was very soft-haired as well as beardless, appeared,
and with many courtesies asked Wayland what he pleased to want. He had
no sooner named the drug, than the Jew started and looked surprised.
“And vat might your vorship vant vith that drug, which is not named,
mein God, in forty years as I have been chemist here?”

“These questions it is no part of my commission to answer,” said
Wayland; “I only wish to know if you have what I want, and having it,
are willing to sell it?”

“Ay, mein God, for having it, that I have, and for selling it, I am a
chemist, and sell every drug.” So saying, he exhibited a powder, and
then continued, “But it will cost much moneys. Vat I ave cost its weight
in gold--ay, gold well-refined--I vill say six times. It comes from
Mount Sinai, where we had our blessed Law given forth, and the plant
blossoms but once in one hundred year.”

“I do not know how often it is gathered on Mount Sinai,” said Wayland,
after looking at the drug offered him with great disdain, “but I will
wager my sword and buckler against your gaberdine, that this trash you
offer me, instead of what I asked for, may be had for gathering any day
of the week in the castle ditch of Aleppo.”

“You are a rude man,” said the Jew; “and, besides, I ave no better than
that--or if I ave, I will not sell it without order of a physician, or
without you tell me vat you make of it.”

The artist made brief answer in a language of which Tressilian could not
understand a word, and which seemed to strike the Jew with the
utmost astonishment. He stared upon Wayland like one who has suddenly
recognized some mighty hero or dreaded potentate, in the person of an
unknown and unmarked stranger. “Holy Elias!” he exclaimed, when he had
recovered the first stunning effects of his surprise; and then passing
from his former suspicious and surly manner to the very extremity of
obsequiousness, he cringed low to the artist, and besought him to enter
his poor house, to bless his miserable threshold by crossing it.

“Vill you not taste a cup vith the poor Jew, Zacharias Yoglan?--Vill you
Tokay ave?--vill you Lachrymae taste?--vill you--”

“You offend in your proffers,” said Wayland; “minister to me in what I
require of you, and forbear further discourse.”

The rebuked Israelite took his bunch of keys, and opening with
circumspection a cabinet which seemed more strongly secured than the
other cases of drugs and medicines amongst which it stood, he drew out a
little secret drawer, having a glass lid, and containing a small portion
of a black powder. This he offered to Wayland, his manner conveying
the deepest devotion towards him, though an avaricious and jealous
expression, which seemed to grudge every grain of what his customer was
about to possess himself, disputed ground in his countenance with the
obsequious deference which he desired it should exhibit.

“Have you scales?” said Wayland.

The Jew pointed to those which lay ready for common use in the shop,
but he did so with a puzzled expression of doubt and fear, which did not
escape the artist.

“They must be other than these,” said Wayland sternly. “Know you not
that holy things lose their virtue if weighed in an unjust balance?”

The Jew hung his head, took from a steel-plated casket a pair of scales
beautifully mounted, and said, as he adjusted them for the artist’s
use, “With these I do mine own experiment--one hair of the high-priest’s
beard would turn them.”

“It suffices,” said the artist, and weighed out two drachms for himself
of the black powder, which he very carefully folded up, and put into his
pouch with the other drugs. He then demanded the price of the Jew, who
answered, shaking his head and bowing,--

“No price--no, nothing at all from such as you. But you will see the
poor Jew again? you will look into his laboratory, where, God help him,
he hath dried himself to the substance of the withered gourd of Jonah,
the holy prophet. You will ave pity on him, and show him one little step
on the great road?”

“Hush!” said Wayland, laying his finger mysteriously on his mouth; “it
may be we shall meet again. Thou hast already the SCHAHMAJM, as thine
own Rabbis call it--the general creation; watch, therefore, and pray,
for thou must attain the knowledge of Alchahest Elixir Samech ere I
may commune further with thee.” Then returning with a slight nod the
reverential congees of the Jew, he walked gravely up the lane, followed
by his master, whose first observation on the scene he had just
witnessed was, that Wayland ought to have paid the man for his drug,
whatever it was.

“I pay him?” said the artist. “May the foul fiend pay me if I do! Had
it not been that I thought it might displease your worship, I would have
had an ounce or two of gold out of him, in exchange of the same just
weight of brick dust.”

“I advise you to practise no such knavery while waiting upon me,” said
Tressilian.

“Did I not say,” answered the artist, “that for that reason alone I
forbore him for the present?--Knavery, call you it? Why, yonder wretched
skeleton hath wealth sufficient to pave the whole lane he lives in with
dollars, and scarce miss them out of his own iron chest; yet he goes mad
after the philosopher’s stone. And besides, he would have cheated a poor
serving-man, as he thought me at first, with trash that was not worth
a penny. Match for match, quoth the devil to the collier; if his false
medicine was worth my good crowns, my true brick dust is as well worth
his good gold.”

“It may be so, for aught I know,” said Tressilian, “in dealing amongst
Jews and apothecaries; but understand that to have such tricks of
legerdemain practised by one attending on me diminishes my honour, and
that I will not permit them. I trust thou hast made up thy purchases?”

“I have, sir,” replied Wayland; “and with these drugs will I, this very
day, compound the true orvietan, that noble medicine which is so seldom
found genuine and effective within these realms of Europe, for want
of that most rare and precious drug which I got but now from Yoglan.”
 [Orvietan, or Venice treacle, as it was sometimes called, was understood
to be a sovereign remedy against poison; and the reader must be
contented, for the time he peruses these pages, to hold the same
opinion, which was once universally received by the learned as well as
the vulgar.]

“But why not have made all your purchases at one shop?” said his master;
“we have lost nearly an hour in running from one pounder of simples to
another.”

“Content you, sir,” said Wayland. “No man shall learn my secret; and
it would not be mine long, were I to buy all my materials from one
chemist.”

They now returned to their inn (the famous Bell-Savage); and while the
Lord Sussex’s servant prepared the horses for their journey, Wayland,
obtaining from the cook the service of a mortar, shut himself up in
a private chamber, where he mixed, pounded, and amalgamated the drugs
which he had bought, each in its due proportion, with a readiness
and address that plainly showed him well practised in all the manual
operations of pharmacy.

By the time Wayland’s electuary was prepared the horses were ready, and
a short hour’s riding brought them to the present habitation of Lord
Sussex, an ancient house, called Sayes Court, near Deptford, which
had long pertained to a family of that name, but had for upwards of a
century been possessed by the ancient and honourable family of Evelyn.
The present representative of that ancient house took a deep interest
in the Earl of Sussex, and had willingly accommodated both him and his
numerous retinue in his hospitable mansion. Sayes Court was afterwards
the residence of the celebrated Mr. Evelyn, whose “Silva” is still the
manual of British planters; and whose life, manners, and principles, as
illustrated in his Memoirs, ought equally to be the manual of English
gentlemen.



CHAPTER XIV.


     This is rare news thou tell’st me, my good fellow;
     There are two bulls fierce battling on the green
     For one fair heifer--if the one goes down,
     The dale will be more peaceful, and the herd,
     Which have small interest in their brulziement,
     May pasture there in peace.     --OLD PLAY.

Sayes Court was watched like a beleaguered fort; and so high rose the
suspicions of the time, that Tressilian and his attendants were stopped
and questioned repeatedly by sentinels, both on foot and horseback,
as they approached the abode of the sick Earl. In truth, the high rank
which Sussex held in Queen Elizabeth’s favour, and his known and avowed
rivalry of the Earl of Leicester, caused the utmost importance to be
attached to his welfare; for, at the period we treat of, all men doubted
whether he or the Earl of Leicester might ultimately have the higher
rank in her regard.

Elizabeth, like many of her sex, was fond of governing by factions, so
as to balance two opposing interests, and reserve in her own hand the
power of making either predominate, as the interest of the state, or
perhaps as her own female caprice (for to that foible even she was not
superior), might finally determine. To finesse--to hold the cards--to
oppose one interest to another--to bridle him who thought himself
highest in her esteem, by the fears he must entertain of another equally
trusted, if not equally beloved, were arts which she used throughout
her reign, and which enabled her, though frequently giving way to the
weakness of favouritism, to prevent most of its evil effects on her
kingdom and government.

The two nobles who at present stood as rivals in her favour possessed
very different pretensions to share it; yet it might be in general said
that the Earl of Sussex had been most serviceable to the Queen, while
Leicester was most dear to the woman. Sussex was, according to the
phrase of the times, a martialist--had done good service in Ireland and
in Scotland, and especially in the great northern rebellion, in 1569,
which was quelled, in a great measure, by his military talents. He was,
therefore, naturally surrounded and looked up to by those who wished to
make arms their road to distinction. The Earl of Sussex, moreover, was
of more ancient and honourable descent than his rival, uniting in
his person the representation of the Fitz-Walters, as well as of
the Ratcliffes; while the scutcheon of Leicester was stained by the
degradation of his grandfather, the oppressive minister of Henry VII.,
and scarce improved by that of his father, the unhappy Dudley, Duke of
Northumberland, executed on Tower Hill, August 22, 1553. But in person,
features, and address, weapons so formidable in the court of a
female sovereign, Leicester had advantages more than sufficient to
counterbalance the military services, high blood, and frank bearing of
the Earl of Sussex; and he bore, in the eye of the court and kingdom,
the higher share in Elizabeth’s favour, though (for such was her uniform
policy) by no means so decidedly expressed as to warrant him against the
final preponderance of his rival’s pretensions. The illness of Sussex
therefore happened so opportunely for Leicester, as to give rise to
strange surmises among the public; while the followers of the one Earl
were filled with the deepest apprehensions, and those of the other with
the highest hopes of its probable issue. Meanwhile--for in that old time
men never forgot the probability that the matter might be determined
by length of sword--the retainers of each noble flocked around their
patron, appeared well armed in the vicinity of the court itself, and
disturbed the ear of the sovereign by their frequent and alarming
debates, held even within the precincts of her palace. This preliminary
statement is necessary, to render what follows intelligible to the
reader. [See Note 3. Leicester and Sussex.]

On Tressilian’s arrival at Sayes Court, he found the place filled with
the retainers of the Earl of Sussex, and of the gentlemen who came to
attend their patron in his illness. Arms were in every hand, and a deep
gloom on every countenance, as if they had apprehended an immediate
and violent assault from the opposite faction. In the hall, however,
to which Tressilian was ushered by one of the Earl’s attendants,
while another went to inform Sussex of his arrival, he found only two
gentlemen in waiting. There was a remarkable contrast in their dress,
appearance, and manners. The attire of the elder gentleman, a person
as it seemed of quality and in the prime of life, was very plain and
soldierlike, his stature low, his limbs stout, his bearing ungraceful,
and his features of that kind which express sound common sense, without
a grain of vivacity or imagination. The younger, who seemed about
twenty, or upwards, was clad in the gayest habit used by persons of
quality at the period, wearing a crimson velvet cloak richly ornamented
with lace and embroidery, with a bonnet of the same, encircled with a
gold chain turned three times round it, and secured by a medal. His hair
was adjusted very nearly like that of some fine gentlemen of our own
time--that is, it was combed upwards, and made to stand as it were on
end; and in his ears he wore a pair of silver earrings, having each a
pearl of considerable size. The countenance of this youth, besides being
regularly handsome and accompanied by a fine person, was animated and
striking in a degree that seemed to speak at once the firmness of
a decided and the fire of an enterprising character, the power of
reflection, and the promptitude of determination.

Both these gentlemen reclined nearly in the same posture on benches
near each other; but each seeming engaged in his own meditations, looked
straight upon the wall which was opposite to them, without speaking to
his companion. The looks of the elder were of that sort which convinced
the beholder that, in looking on the wall, he saw no more than the side
of an old hall hung around with cloaks, antlers, bucklers, old pieces
of armour, partisans, and the similar articles which were usually the
furniture of such a place. The look of the younger gallant had in it
something imaginative; he was sunk in reverie, and it seemed as if the
empty space of air betwixt him and the wall were the stage of a theatre
on which his fancy was mustering his own DRAMATIS PERSONAE, and treating
him with sights far different from those which his awakened and earthly
vision could have offered.

At the entrance of Tressilian both started from their musing, and
made him welcome--the younger, in particular, with great appearance of
animation and cordiality.

“Thou art welcome, Tressilian,” said the youth. “Thy philosophy stole
thee from us when this household had objects of ambition to offer; it
is an honest philosophy, since it returns thee to us when there are only
dangers to be shared.”

“Is my lord, then, so greatly indisposed?” said Tressilian.

“We fear the very worst,” answered the elder gentleman, “and by the
worst practice.”

“Fie,” replied Tressilian, “my Lord of Leicester is honourable.”

“What doth he with such attendants, then, as he hath about him?” said
the younger gallant. “The man who raises the devil may be honest, but he
is answerable for the mischief which the fiend does, for all that.”

“And is this all of you, my mates,” inquired Tressilian, “that are about
my lord in his utmost straits?”

“No, no,” replied the elder gentleman, “there are Tracy, Markham, and
several more; but we keep watch here by two at once, and some are weary
and are sleeping in the gallery above.”

“And some,” said the young man, “are gone down to the Dock yonder at
Deptford, to look out such a hull; as they may purchase by clubbing
their broken fortunes; and as soon as all is over, we will lay our noble
lord in a noble green grave, have a blow at those who have hurried him
thither, if opportunity suits, and then sail for the Indies with heavy
hearts and light purses.”

“It may be,” said Tressilian, “that I will embrace the same purpose, so
soon as I have settled some business at court.”

“Thou business at court!” they both exclaimed at once, “and thou make
the Indian voyage!”

“Why, Tressilian,” said the younger man, “art thou not wedded, and
beyond these flaws of fortune, that drive folks out to sea when their
bark bears fairest for the haven?--What has become of the lovely
Indamira that was to match my Amoret for truth and beauty?”

“Speak not of her!” said Tressilian, averting his face.

“Ay, stands it so with you?” said the youth, taking his hand very
affectionately; “then, fear not I will again touch the green wound.
But it is strange as well as sad news. Are none of our fair and merry
fellowship to escape shipwreck of fortune and happiness in this sudden
tempest? I had hoped thou wert in harbour, at least, my dear Edmund. But
truly says another dear friend of thy name,


     ‘What man that sees the ever whirling wheel
     Of Chance, the which all mortal things doth sway,
     But that thereby doth find and plainly feel,
     How Mutability in them doth play
     Her cruel sports to many men’s decay.’”

The elder gentleman had risen from his bench, and was pacing the
hall with some impatience, while the youth, with much earnestness
and feeling, recited these lines. When he had done, the other wrapped
himself in his cloak, and again stretched himself down, saying, “I
marvel, Tressilian, you will feed the lad in this silly humour. If there
were ought to draw a judgment upon a virtuous and honourable household
like my lord’s, renounce me if I think not it were this piping,
whining, childish trick of poetry, that came among us with Master Walter
Wittypate here and his comrades, twisting into all manner of uncouth and
incomprehensible forms of speech, the honest plain English phrase which
God gave us to express our meaning withal.”

“Blount believes,” said his comrade, laughing, “the devil woo’d Eve
in rhyme, and that the mystic meaning of the Tree of Knowledge refers
solely to the art of clashing rhymes and meting out hexameters.” [See
Note 4. Sir Walter Raleigh.]

At this moment the Earl’s chamberlain entered, and informed Tressilian
that his lord required to speak with him.

He found Lord Sussex dressed, but unbraced, and lying on his couch, and
was shocked at the alteration disease had made in his person. The Earl
received him with the most friendly cordiality, and inquired into the
state of his courtship. Tressilian evaded his inquiries for a moment,
and turning his discourse on the Earl’s own health, he discovered, to
his surprise, that the symptoms of his disorder corresponded minutely
with those which Wayland had predicated concerning it. He hesitated not,
therefore, to communicate to Sussex the whole history of his attendant,
and the pretensions he set up to cure the disorder under which he
laboured. The Earl listened with incredulous attention until the name
of Demetrius was mentioned, and then suddenly called to his secretary to
bring him a certain casket which contained papers of importance. “Take
out from thence,” he said, “the declaration of the rascal cook whom we
had under examination, and look heedfully if the name of Demetrius be
not there mentioned.”

The secretary turned to the passage at once, and read, “And said
declarant, being examined, saith, That he remembers having made the
sauce to the said sturgeon-fish, after eating of which the said noble
Lord was taken ill; and he put the usual ingredients and condiments
therein, namely--”

“Pass over his trash,” said the Earl, “and see whether he had not been
supplied with his materials by a herbalist called Demetrius.”

“It is even so,” answered the secretary. “And he adds, he has not since
seen the said Demetrius.”

“This accords with thy fellow’s story, Tressilian,” said the Earl; “call
him hither.”

On being summoned to the Earl’s presence, Wayland Smith told his former
tale with firmness and consistency.

“It may be,” said the Earl, “thou art sent by those who have begun this
work, to end it for them; but bethink, if I miscarry under thy medicine,
it may go hard with thee.”

“That were severe measure,” said Wayland, “since the issue of medicine,
and the end of life, are in God’s disposal. But I will stand the risk. I
have not lived so long under ground to be afraid of a grave.”

“Nay, if thou be’st so confident,” said the Earl of Sussex, “I will take
the risk too, for the learned can do nothing for me. Tell me how this
medicine is to be taken.”

“That will I do presently,” said Wayland; “but allow me to condition
that, since I incur all the risk of this treatment, no other physician
shall be permitted to interfere with it.”

“That is but fair,” replied the Earl; “and now prepare your drug.”

While Wayland obeyed the Earl’s commands, his servants, by the artist’s
direction, undressed their master, and placed him in bed.

“I warn you,” he said, “that the first operation of this medicine will
be to produce a heavy sleep, during which time the chamber must be kept
undisturbed, as the consequences may otherwise he fatal. I myself will
watch by the Earl with any of the gentlemen of his chamber.”

“Let all leave the room, save Stanley and this good fellow,” said the
Earl.

“And saving me also,” said Tressilian. “I too am deeply interested in
the effects of this potion.”

“Be it so, good friend,” said the Earl. “And now for our experiment; but
first call my secretary and chamberlain.”

“Bear witness,” he continued, when these officers arrived--“bear witness
for me, gentlemen, that our honourable friend Tressilian is in no way
responsible for the effects which this medicine may produce upon me, the
taking it being my own free action and choice, in regard I believe it to
be a remedy which God has furnished me by unexpected means to recover me
of my present malady. Commend me to my noble and princely Mistress;
and say that I live and die her true servant, and wish to all about her
throne the same singleness of heart and will to serve her, with more
ability to do so than hath been assigned to poor Thomas Ratcliffe.”

He then folded his hands, and seemed for a second or two absorbed
in mental devotion, then took the potion in his hand, and, pausing,
regarded Wayland with a look that seemed designed to penetrate his very
soul, but which caused no anxiety or hesitation in the countenance or
manner of the artist.

“Here is nothing to be feared,” said Sussex to Tressilian, and swallowed
the medicine without further hesitation.

“I am now to pray your lordship,” said Wayland, “to dispose yourself
to rest as commodiously as you can; and of you, gentlemen, to remain as
still and mute as if you waited at your mother’s deathbed.”

The chamberlain and secretary then withdrew, giving orders that all
doors should be bolted, and all noise in the house strictly prohibited.
Several gentlemen were voluntary watchers in the hall, but none remained
in the chamber of the sick Earl, save his groom of the chamber, the
artist, and Tressilian.--Wayland Smith’s predictions were speedily
accomplished, and a sleep fell upon the Earl, so deep and sound that
they who watched his bedside began to fear that, in his weakened state,
he might pass away without awakening from his lethargy. Wayland Smith
himself appeared anxious, and felt the temples of the Earl slightly,
from time to time, attending particularly to the state of his
respiration, which was full and deep, but at the same time easy and
uninterrupted.



CHAPTER XV.


     You loggerheaded and unpolish’d grooms,
     What, no attendance, no regard, no duty?
     Where is the foolish knave I sent before?
     --TAMING OF THE SHREW.

There is no period at which men look worse in the eyes of each other, or
feel more uncomfortable, than when the first dawn of daylight finds them
watchers. Even a beauty of the first order, after the vigils of a ball
are interrupted by the dawn, would do wisely to withdraw herself from
the gaze of her fondest and most partial admirers. Such was the pale,
inauspicious, and ungrateful light which began to beam upon those who
kept watch all night in the hall at Sayes Court, and which mingled its
cold, pale, blue diffusion with the red, yellow, and smoky beams of
expiring lamps and torches. The young gallant, whom we noticed in our
last chapter, had left the room for a few minutes, to learn the cause of
a knocking at the outward gate, and on his return was so struck with
the forlorn and ghastly aspects of his companions of the watch that
he exclaimed, “Pity of my heart, my masters, how like owls you look!
Methinks, when the sun rises, I shall see you flutter off with your eyes
dazzled, to stick yourselves into the next ivy-tod or ruined steeple.”

“Hold thy peace, thou gibing fool,” said Blount; “hold thy peace. Is
this a time for jeering, when the manhood of England is perchance dying
within a wall’s breadth of thee?”

“There thou liest,” replied the gallant.

“How, lie!” exclaimed Blount, starting up, “lie! and to me?”

“Why, so thou didst, thou peevish fool,” answered the youth; “thou didst
lie on that bench even now, didst thou not? But art thou not a hasty
coxcomb to pick up a wry word so wrathfully? Nevertheless, loving and,
honouring my lord as truly as thou, or any one, I do say that, should
Heaven take him from us, all England’s manhood dies not with him.”

“Ay,” replied Blount, “a good portion will survive with thee,
doubtless.”

“And a good portion with thyself, Blount, and with stout Markham here,
and Tracy, and all of us. But I am he will best employ the talent Heaven
has given to us all.”

“As how, I prithee?” said Blount; “tell us your mystery of multiplying.”

“Why, sirs,” answered the youth, “ye are like goodly land, which bears
no crop because it is not quickened by manure; but I have that rising
spirit in me which will make my poor faculties labour to keep pace with
it. My ambition will keep my brain at work, I warrant thee.”

“I pray to God it does not drive thee mad,” said Blount; “for my part,
if we lose our noble lord, I bid adieu to the court and to the camp
both. I have five hundred foul acres in Norfolk, and thither will I, and
change the court pantoufle for the country hobnail.”

“O base transmutation!” exclaimed his antagonist; “thou hast already got
the true rustic slouch--thy shoulders stoop, as if thine hands were at
the stilts of the plough; and thou hast a kind of earthy smell about
thee, instead of being perfumed with essence, as a gallant and courtier
should. On my soul, thou hast stolen out to roll thyself on a hay mow!
Thy only excuse will be to swear by thy hilts that the farmer had a fair
daughter.”

“I pray thee, Walter,” said another of the company, “cease thy raillery,
which suits neither time nor place, and tell us who was at the gate just
now.”

“Doctor Masters, physician to her Grace in ordinary, sent by her
especial orders to inquire after the Earl’s health,” answered Walter.

“Ha! what?” exclaimed Tracy; “that was no slight mark of favour. If the
Earl can but come through, he will match with Leicester yet. Is Masters
with my lord at present?”

“Nay,” replied Walter, “he is half way back to Greenwich by this time,
and in high dudgeon.”

“Thou didst not refuse him admittance?” exclaimed Tracy.

“Thou wert not, surely, so mad?” ejaculated Blount.

“I refused him admittance as flatly, Blount, as you would refuse a penny
to a blind beggar--as obstinately, Tracy, as thou didst ever deny access
to a dun.”

“Why, in the fiend’s name, didst thou trust him to go to the gate?” said
Blount to Tracy.

“It suited his years better than mine,” answered Tracy; “but he has
undone us all now thoroughly. My lord may live or die, he will never
have a look of favour from her Majesty again.”

“Nor the means of making fortunes for his followers,” said the young
gallant, smiling contemptuously;--“there lies the sore point that will
brook no handling. My good sirs, I sounded my lamentations over my lord
somewhat less loudly than some of you; but when the point comes of
doing him service, I will yield to none of you. Had this learned leech
entered, think’st thou not there had been such a coil betwixt him and
Tressilian’s mediciner, that not the sleeper only, but the very dead
might have awakened? I know what larurm belongs to the discord of
doctors.”

“And who is to take the blame of opposing the Queen’s orders?” said
Tracy; “for, undeniably, Doctor Masters came with her Grace’s positive
commands to cure the Earl.”

“I, who have done the wrong, will bear the blame,” said Walter.

“Thus, then, off fly the dreams of court favour thou hast nourished,”
 said Blount, “and despite all thy boasted art and ambition, Devonshire
will see thee shine a true younger brother, fit to sit low at the board,
carve turn about with the chaplain, look that the hounds be fed, and see
the squire’s girths drawn when he goes a-hunting.”

“Not so,” said the young man, colouring, “not while Ireland and the
Netherlands have wars, and not while the sea hath pathless waves. The
rich West hath lands undreamed of, and Britain contains bold hearts to
venture on the quest of them. Adieu for a space, my masters. I go to
walk in the court and look to the sentinels.”

“The lad hath quicksilver in his veins, that is certain,” said Blount,
looking at Markham.

“He hath that both in brain and blood,” said Markham, “which may either
make or mar him. But in closing the door against Masters, he hath done
a daring and loving piece of service; for Tressilian’s fellow hath ever
averred that to wake the Earl were death, and Masters would wake the
Seven Sleepers themselves, if he thought they slept not by the regular
ordinance of medicine.”

Morning was well advanced when Tressilian, fatigued and over-watched,
came down to the hall with the joyful intelligence that the Earl
had awakened of himself, that he found his internal complaints much
mitigated, and spoke with a cheerfulness, and looked round with a
vivacity, which of themselves showed a material and favourable change
had taken place. Tressilian at the same time commanded the attendance of
one or two of his followers, to report what had passed during the night,
and to relieve the watchers in the Earl’s chamber.

When the message of the Queen was communicated to the Earl of Sussex, he
at first smiled at the repulse which the physician had received from his
zealous young follower; but instantly recollecting himself, he commanded
Blount, his master of the horse, instantly to take boat, and go down
the river to the Palace of Greenwich, taking young Walter and Tracy with
him, and make a suitable compliment, expressing his grateful thanks to
his Sovereign, and mentioning the cause why he had not been enabled to
profit by the assistance of the wise and learned Doctor Masters.

“A plague on it!” said Blount, as he descended the stairs; “had he sent
me with a cartel to Leicester I think I should have done his errand
indifferently well. But to go to our gracious Sovereign, before whom all
words must be lacquered over either with gilding or with sugar, is such
a confectionary matter as clean baffles my poor old English brain.--Come
with me, Tracy, and come you too, Master Walter Wittypate, that art the
cause of our having all this ado. Let us see if thy neat brain, that
frames so many flashy fireworks, can help out a plain fellow at need
with some of thy shrewd devices.”

“Never fear, never fear,” exclaimed the youth, “it is I will help you
through; let me but fetch my cloak.”

“Why, thou hast it on thy shoulders,” said Blount,--“the lad is mazed.”

“No, No, this is Tracy’s old mantle,” answered Walter. “I go not with
thee to court unless as a gentleman should.”

“Why,” Said Blount, “thy braveries are like to dazzle the eyes of none
but some poor groom or porter.”

“I know that,” said the youth; “but I am resolved I will have my own
cloak, ay, and brush my doublet to boot, ere I stir forth with you.”

“Well, well,” said Blount, “here is a coil about a doublet and a cloak.
Get thyself ready, a God’s name!”

They were soon launched on the princely bosom of the broad Thames, upon
which the sun now shone forth in all its splendour.

“There are two things scarce matched in the universe,” said Walter to
Blount--“the sun in heaven, and the Thames on the earth.”

“The one will light us to Greenwich well enough,” said Blount, “and the
other would take us there a little faster if it were ebb-tide.”

“And this is all thou thinkest--all thou carest--all thou deemest the
use of the King of Elements and the King of Rivers--to guide three such
poor caitiffs as thyself, and me, and Tracy, upon an idle journey of
courtly ceremony!”

“It is no errand of my seeking, faith,” replied Blount, “and I could
excuse both the sun and the Thames the trouble of carrying me where
I have no great mind to go, and where I expect but dog’s wages for my
trouble--and by my honour,” he added, looking out from the head of the
boat, “it seems to me as if our message were a sort of labour in vain,
for, see, the Queen’s barge lies at the stairs as if her Majesty were
about to take water.”

It was even so. The royal barge, manned with the Queen’s watermen
richly attired in the regal liveries, and having the Banner of England
displayed, did indeed lie at the great stairs which ascended from the
river, and along with it two or three other boats for transporting such
part of her retinue as were not in immediate attendance on the royal
person. The yeomen of the guard, the tallest and most handsome men whom
England could produce, guarded with their halberds the passage from
the palace-gate to the river side, and all seemed in readiness for the
Queen’s coming forth, although the day was yet so early.

“By my faith, this bodes us no good,” said Blount; “it must be some
perilous cause puts her Grace in motion thus untimeously, By my counsel,
we were best put back again, and tell the Earl what we have seen.”

“Tell the Earl what we have seen!” said Walter; “why what have we seen
but a boat, and men with scarlet jerkins, and halberds in their hands?
Let us do his errand, and tell him what the Queen says in reply.”

So saying, he caused the boat to be pulled towards a landing-place
at some distance from the principal one, which it would not, at that
moment, have been thought respectful to approach, and jumped on shore,
followed, though with reluctance, by his cautious and timid companions.
As they approached the gate of the palace, one of the sergeant porters
told them they could not at present enter, as her Majesty was in the act
of coming forth. The gentlemen used the name of the Earl of Sussex; but
it proved no charm to subdue the officer, who alleged, in reply, that
it was as much as his post was worth to disobey in the least tittle the
commands which he had received.

“Nay, I told you as much before,” said Blount; “do, I pray you, my dear
Walter, let us take boat and return.”

“Not till I see the Queen come forth,” returned the youth composedly.

“Thou art mad, stark mad, by the Mass!” answered Blount.

“And thou,” said Walter, “art turned coward of the sudden. I have seen
thee face half a score of shag-headed Irish kerns to thy own share of
them; and now thou wouldst blink and go back to shun the frown of a fair
lady!”

At this moment the gates opened, and ushers began to issue forth in
array, preceded and flanked by the band of Gentlemen Pensioners. After
this, amid a crowd of lords and ladies, yet so disposed around her that
she could see and be seen on all sides, came Elizabeth herself, then in
the prime of womanhood, and in the full glow of what in a Sovereign was
called beauty, and who would in the lowest rank of life have been truly
judged a noble figure, joined to a striking and commanding physiognomy.
She leant on the arm of Lord Hunsdon, whose relation to her by her
mother’s side often procured him such distinguished marks of Elizabeth’s
intimacy.

The young cavalier we have so often mentioned had probably never yet
approached so near the person of his Sovereign, and he pressed forward
as far as the line of warders permitted, in order to avail himself of
the present opportunity. His companion, on the contrary, cursing his
imprudence, kept pulling him backwards, till Walter shook him off
impatiently, and letting his rich cloak drop carelessly from one
shoulder; a natural action, which served, however, to display to the
best advantage his well-proportioned person. Unbonneting at the same
time, he fixed his eager gaze on the Queen’s approach, with a mixture of
respectful curiosity and modest yet ardent admiration, which suited
so well with his fine features that the warders, struck with his rich
attire and noble countenance, suffered him to approach the ground over
which the Queen was to pass, somewhat closer than was permitted
to ordinary spectators. Thus the adventurous youth stood full in
Elizabeth’s eye--an eye never indifferent to the admiration which she
deservedly excited among her subjects, or to the fair proportions of
external form which chanced to distinguish any of her courtiers.

Accordingly, she fixed her keen glance on the youth, as she approached
the place where he stood, with a look in which surprise at his boldness
seemed to be unmingled with resentment, while a trifling accident
happened which attracted her attention towards him yet more strongly.
The night had been rainy, and just where the young gentleman stood a
small quantity of mud interrupted the Queen’s passage. As she hesitated
to pass on, the gallant, throwing his cloak from his shoulders, laid
it on the miry spot, so as to ensure her stepping over it dry-shod.
Elizabeth looked at the young man, who accompanied this act of devoted
courtesy with a profound reverence, and a blush that overspread his
whole countenance. The Queen was confused, and blushed in her turn,
nodded her head, hastily passed on, and embarked in her barge without
saying a word.

“Come along, Sir Coxcomb,” said Blount; “your gay cloak will need the
brush to-day, I wot. Nay, if you had meant to make a footcloth of your
mantle, better have kept Tracy’s old drab-debure, which despises all
colours.”

“This cloak,” said the youth, taking it up and folding it, “shall never
be brushed while in my possession.”

“And that will not be long, if you learn not a little more economy; we
shall have you in CUERPO soon, as the Spaniard says.”

Their discourse was here interrupted by one of the band of Pensioners.

“I was sent,” said he, after looking at them attentively, “to a
gentleman who hath no cloak, or a muddy one.--You, sir, I think,”
 addressing the younger cavalier, “are the man; you will please to follow
me.”

“He is in attendance on me,” said Blount--“on me, the noble Earl of
Sussex’s master of horse.”

“I have nothing to say to that,” answered the messenger; “my orders are
directly from her Majesty, and concern this gentleman only.”

So saying, he walked away, followed by Walter, leaving the others
behind, Blount’s eyes almost starting from his head with the excess of
his astonishment. At length he gave vent to it in an exclamation, “Who
the good jere would have thought this!” And shaking his head with a
mysterious air, he walked to his own boat, embarked, and returned to
Deptford.

The young cavalier was in the meanwhile guided to the water-side by the
Pensioner, who showed him considerable respect; a circumstance which,
to persons in his situation, may be considered as an augury of no small
consequence. He ushered him into one of the wherries which lay ready to
attend the Queen’s barge, which was already proceeding; up the river,
with the advantage of that flood-tide of which, in the course of their
descent, Blount had complained to his associates.

The two rowers used their oars with such expedition at the signal of
the Gentleman Pensioner, that they very soon brought their little skiff
under the stern of the Queen’s boat, where she sat beneath an awning,
attended by two or three ladies, and the nobles of her household. She
looked more than once at the wherry in which the young adventurer was
seated, spoke to those around her, and seemed to laugh. At length one
of the attendants, by the Queen’s order apparently, made a sign for the
wherry to come alongside, and the young man was desired to step from
his own skiff into the Queen’s barge, which he performed with graceful
agility at the fore part of the boat, and was brought aft to the Queen’s
presence, the wherry at the same time dropping into the rear. The
youth underwent the gaze of Majesty, not the less gracefully that his
self-possession was mingled with embarrassment. The muddled cloak still
hung upon his arm, and formed the natural topic with which the Queen
introduced the conversation.

“You have this day spoiled a gay mantle in our behalf, young man.
We thank you for your service, though the manner of offering it was
unusual, and something bold.”

“In a sovereign’s need,” answered the youth, “it is each liegeman’s duty
to be bold.”

“God’s pity! that was well said, my lord,” said the Queen, turning to
a grave person who sat by her, and answered with a grave inclination
of the head, and something of a mumbled assent.--“Well, young man, your
gallantry shall not go unrewarded. Go to the wardrobe keeper, and he
shall have orders to supply the suit which you have cast away in our
service. Thou shalt have a suit, and that of the newest cut, I promise
thee, on the word of a princess.”

“May it please your Grace,” said Walter, hesitating, “it is not for so
humble a servant of your Majesty to measure out your bounties; but if it
became me to choose--”

“Thou wouldst have gold, I warrant me,” said the Queen, interrupting
him. “Fie, young man! I take shame to say that in our capital such and
so various are the means of thriftless folly, that to give gold to
youth is giving fuel to fire, and furnishing them with the means of
self-destruction. If I live and reign, these means of unchristian excess
shall be abridged. Yet thou mayest be poor,” she added, “or thy parents
may be. It shall be gold, if thou wilt, but thou shalt answer to me for
the use on’t.”

Walter waited patiently until the Queen had done, and then modestly
assured her that gold was still less in his wish than the raiment her
Majesty had before offered.

“How, boy!” said the Queen, “neither gold nor garment? What is it thou
wouldst have of me, then?”

“Only permission, madam--if it is not asking too high an
honour--permission to wear the cloak which did you this trifling
service.”

“Permission to wear thine own cloak, thou silly boy!” said the Queen.

“It is no longer mine,” said Walter; “when your Majesty’s foot touched
it, it became a fit mantle for a prince, but far too rich a one for its
former owner.”

The Queen again blushed, and endeavoured to cover, by laughing, a slight
degree of not unpleasing surprise and confusion.

“Heard you ever the like, my lords? The youth’s head is turned with
reading romances. I must know something of him, that I may send him safe
to his friends.--What art thou?”

“A gentleman of the household of the Earl of Sussex, so please your
Grace, sent hither with his master of horse upon message to your
Majesty.”

In a moment the gracious expression which Elizabeth’s face had hitherto
maintained, gave way to an expression of haughtiness and severity.

“My Lord of Sussex,” she said, “has taught us how to regard his messages
by the value he places upon ours. We sent but this morning the physician
in ordinary of our chamber, and that at no usual time, understanding his
lordship’s illness to be more dangerous than we had before apprehended.
There is at no court in Europe a man more skilled in this holy and most
useful science than Doctor Masters, and he came from Us to our subject.
Nevertheless, he found the gate of Sayes Court defended by men with
culverins, as if it had been on the borders of Scotland, not in the
vicinity of our court; and when he demanded admittance in our name, it
was stubbornly refused. For this slight of a kindness, which had but too
much of condescension in it, we will receive, at present at least, no
excuse; and some such we suppose to have been the purport of my Lord of
Sussex’s message.”

This was uttered in a tone and with a gesture which made Lord Sussex’s
friends who were within hearing tremble. He to whom the speech was
addressed, however, trembled not; but with great deference and humility,
as soon as the Queen’s passion gave him an opportunity, he replied, “So
please your most gracious Majesty, I was charged with no apology from
the Earl of Sussex.”

“With what were you then charged, sir?” said the Queen, with the
impetuosity which, amid nobler qualities, strongly marked her character.
“Was it with a justification?--or, God’s death! with a defiance?”

“Madam,” said the young man, “my Lord of Sussex knew the offence
approached towards treason, and could think of nothing save of securing
the offender, and placing him in your Majesty’s hands, and at your
mercy. The noble Earl was fast asleep when your most gracious message
reached him, a potion having been administered to that purpose by his
physician; and his Lordship knew not of the ungracious repulse your
Majesty’s royal and most comfortable message had received, until after
he awoke this morning.”

“And which of his domestics, then, in the name of Heaven, presumed
to reject my message, without even admitting my own physician to
the presence of him whom I sent him to attend?” said the Queen, much
surprised.

“The offender, madam, is before you,” replied Walter, bowing very low;
“the full and sole blame is mine; and my lord has most justly sent me
to abye the consequences of a fault, of which he is as innocent as a
sleeping man’s dreams can be of a waking man’s actions.”

“What! was it thou?--thou thyself, that repelled my messenger and my
physician from Sayes Court?” said the Queen. “What could occasion such
boldness in one who seems devoted--that is, whose exterior bearing shows
devotion--to his Sovereign?”

“Madam,” said the youth--who, notwithstanding an assumed appearance
of severity, thought that he saw something in the Queen’s face that
resembled not implacability--“we say in our country, that the physician
is for the time the liege sovereign of his patient. Now, my noble master
was then under dominion of a leech, by whose advice he hath greatly
profited, who had issued his commands that his patient should not that
night be disturbed, on the very peril of his life.”

“Thy master hath trusted some false varlet of an empiric,” said the
Queen.

“I know not, madam, but by the fact that he is now--this very
morning--awakened much refreshed and strengthened from the only sleep he
hath had for many hours.”

The nobles looked at each other, but more with the purpose to see what
each thought of this news, than to exchange any remarks on what had
happened. The Queen answered hastily, and without affecting to disguise
her satisfaction, “By my word, I am glad he is better. But thou wert
over-bold to deny the access of my Doctor Masters. Knowest thou not the
Holy Writ saith, ‘In the multitude of counsel there is safety’?”

“Ay, madam,” said Walter; “but I have heard learned men say that the
safety spoken of is for the physicians, not for the patient.”

“By my faith, child, thou hast pushed me home,” said the Queen,
laughing; “for my Hebrew learning does not come quite at a call.--How
say you, my Lord of Lincoln? Hath the lad given a just interpretation of
the text?”

“The word SAFETY, most gracious madam,” said the Bishop of Lincoln, “for
so hath been translated, it may be somewhat hastily, the Hebrew word,
being--”

“My lord,” said the Queen, interrupting him, “we said we had forgotten
our Hebrew.--But for thee, young man, what is thy name and birth?”

“Raleigh is my name, most gracious Queen, the youngest son of a large
but honourable family of Devonshire.”

“Raleigh?” said Elizabeth, after a moment’s recollection. “Have we not
heard of your service in Ireland?”

“I have been so fortunate as to do some service there, madam,” replied
Raleigh; “scarce, however, of consequence sufficient to reach your
Grace’s ears.”

“They hear farther than you think of,” said the Queen graciously, “and
have heard of a youth who defended a ford in Shannon against a whole
band of wild Irish rebels, until the stream ran purple with their blood
and his own.”

“Some blood I may have lost,” said the youth, looking down, “but it was
where my best is due, and that is in your Majesty’s service.”

The Queen paused, and then said hastily, “You are very young to have
fought so well, and to speak so well. But you must not escape your
penance for turning back Masters. The poor man hath caught cold on the
river for our order reached him when he was just returned from certain
visits in London, and he held it matter of loyalty and conscience
instantly to set forth again. So hark ye, Master Raleigh, see thou fail
not to wear thy muddy cloak, in token of penitence, till our pleasure be
further known. And here,” she added, giving him a jewel of gold, in the
form of a chess-man, “I give thee this to wear at the collar.”

Raleigh, to whom nature had taught intuitively, as it were, those
courtly arts which many scarce acquire from long experience, knelt, and,
as he took from her hand the jewel, kissed the fingers which gave it.
He knew, perhaps, better than almost any of the courtiers who surrounded
her, how to mingle the devotion claimed by the Queen with the gallantry
due to her personal beauty; and in this, his first attempt to unite
them, he succeeded so well as at once to gratify Elizabeth’s personal
vanity and her love of power. [See Note 5. Court favour of Sir Walter
Raleigh.]

His master, the Earl of Sussex, had the full advantage of the
satisfaction which Raleigh had afforded Elizabeth, on their first
interview.

“My lords and ladies,” said the Queen, looking around to the retinue by
whom she was attended, “methinks, since we are upon the river, it were
well to renounce our present purpose of going to the city, and surprise
this poor Earl of Sussex with a visit. He is ill, and suffering
doubtless under the fear of our displeasure, from which he hath been
honestly cleared by the frank avowal of this malapert boy. What think
ye? were it not an act of charity to give him such consolation as
the thanks of a Queen, much bound to him for his loyal service, may
perchance best minister?”

It may be readily supposed that none to whom this speech was addressed
ventured to oppose its purport.

“Your Grace,” said the Bishop of Lincoln, “is the breath of our
nostrils.” The men of war averred that the face of the Sovereign was a
whetstone to the soldier’s sword; while the men of state were not less
of opinion that the light of the Queen’s countenance was a lamp to the
paths of her councillors; and the ladies agreed, with one voice, that no
noble in England so well deserved the regard of England’s Royal Mistress
as the Earl of Sussex--the Earl of Leicester’s right being reserved
entire, so some of the more politic worded their assent, an exception
to which Elizabeth paid no apparent attention. The barge had, therefore,
orders to deposit its royal freight at Deptford, at the nearest and most
convenient point of communication with Sayes Court, in order that
the Queen might satisfy her royal and maternal solicitude, by making
personal inquiries after the health of the Earl of Sussex.

Raleigh, whose acute spirit foresaw and anticipated important
consequences from the most trifling events, hastened to ask the Queen’s
permission to go in the skiff; and announce the royal visit to his
master; ingeniously suggesting that the joyful surprise might prove
prejudicial to his health, since the richest and most generous cordials
may sometimes be fatal to those who have been long in a languishing
state.

But whether the Queen deemed it too presumptuous in so young a courtier
to interpose his opinion unasked, or whether she was moved by a
recurrence of the feeling of jealousy which had been instilled into her
by reports that the Earl kept armed men about his person, she desired
Raleigh, sharply, to reserve his counsel till it was required of him,
and repeated her former orders to be landed at Deptford, adding, “We
will ourselves see what sort of household my Lord of Sussex keeps about
him.”

“Now the Lord have pity on us!” said the young courtier to himself.
“Good hearts, the Earl hath many a one round him; but good heads are
scarce with us--and he himself is too ill to give direction. And Blount
will be at his morning meal of Yarmouth herrings and ale, and Tracy
will have his beastly black puddings and Rhenish; those thorough-paced
Welshmen, Thomas ap Rice and Evan Evans, will be at work on their leek
porridge and toasted cheese;--and she detests, they say, all coarse
meats, evil smells, and strong wines. Could they but think of burning
some rosemary in the great hall! but VOGUE LA GALERE, all must now be
trusted to chance. Luck hath done indifferent well for me this morning;
for I trust I have spoiled a cloak, and made a court fortune. May she do
as much for my gallant patron!”

The royal barge soon stopped at Deptford, and, amid the loud shouts of
the populace, which her presence never failed to excite, the Queen,
with a canopy borne over her head, walked, accompanied by her retinue,
towards Sayes Court, where the distant acclamations of the people gave
the first notice of her arrival. Sussex, who was in the act of advising
with Tressilian how he should make up the supposed breach in the Queen’s
favour, was infinitely surprised at learning her immediate approach.
Not that the Queen’s custom of visiting her more distinguished nobility,
whether in health or sickness, could be unknown to him; but the
suddenness of the communication left no time for those preparations with
which he well knew Elizabeth loved to be greeted, and the rudeness and
confusion of his military household, much increased by his late illness,
rendered him altogether unprepared for her reception.

Cursing internally the chance which thus brought her gracious visitation
on him unaware, he hastened down with Tressilian, to whose eventful and
interesting story he had just given an attentive ear.

“My worthy friend,” he said, “such support as I can give your accusation
of Varney, you have a right to expect, alike from justice and gratitude.
Chance will presently show whether I can do aught with our Sovereign,
or whether, in very deed, my meddling in your affair may not rather
prejudice than serve you.”

Thus spoke Sussex while hastily casting around him a loose robe of
sables, and adjusting his person in the best manner he could to meet the
eye of his Sovereign. But no hurried attention bestowed on his apparel
could remove the ghastly effects of long illness on a countenance which
nature had marked with features rather strong than pleasing. Besides, he
was low of stature, and, though broad-shouldered, athletic, and fit for
martial achievements, his presence in a peaceful hall was not such as
ladies love to look upon; a personal disadvantage, which was supposed to
give Sussex, though esteemed and honoured by his Sovereign, considerable
disadvantage when compared with Leicester, who was alike remarkable for
elegance of manners and for beauty of person.

The Earl’s utmost dispatch only enabled him to meet the Queen as she
entered the great hall, and he at once perceived there was a cloud
on her brow. Her jealous eye had noticed the martial array of armed
gentlemen and retainers with which the mansion-house was filled, and her
first words expressed her disapprobation. “Is this a royal garrison, my
Lord of Sussex, that it holds so many pikes and calivers? or have we by
accident overshot Sayes Court, and landed at Our Tower of London?”

Lord Sussex hastened to offer some apology.

“It needs not,” she said. “My lord, we intend speedily to take up a
certain quarrel between your lordship and another great lord of our
household, and at the same time to reprehend this uncivilized and
dangerous practice of surrounding yourselves with armed, and even with
ruffianly followers, as if, in the neighbourhood of our capital, nay in
the very verge of our royal residence, you were preparing to wage civil
war with each other.--We are glad to see you so well recovered, my lord,
though without the assistance of the learned physician whom we sent
to you. Urge no excuse; we know how that matter fell out, and we have
corrected for it the wild slip, young Raleigh. By the way, my lord, we
will speedily relieve your household of him, and take him into our own.
Something there is about him which merits to be better nurtured than he
is like to be amongst your very military followers.”

To this proposal Sussex, though scarce understanding how the Queen
came to make it could only bow and express his acquiescence. He then
entreated her to remain till refreshment could be offered, but in this
he could not prevail. And after a few compliments of a much colder and
more commonplace character than might have been expected from a step so
decidedly favourable as a personal visit, the Queen took her leave
of Sayes Court, having brought confusion thither along with her, and
leaving doubt and apprehension behind.



CHAPTER XVI.


     Then call them to our presence.  Face to face,
     And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear
     The accuser and accused freely speak;--
     High-stomach’d are they both, and full of ire,
     In rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.--RICHARD II.

“I am ordered to attend court to-morrow,” said Leicester, speaking to
Varney, “to meet, as they surmise, my Lord of Sussex. The Queen intends
to take up matters betwixt us. This comes of her visit to Sayes Court,
of which you must needs speak so lightly.”

“I maintain it was nothing,” said Varney; “nay, I know from a sure
intelligencer, who was within earshot of much that was said, that Sussex
has lost rather than gained by that visit. The Queen said, when she
stepped into the boat, that Sayes Court looked like a guard-house, and
smelt like an hospital. ‘Like a cook’s shop in Ram’s Alley, rather,’
said the Countess of Rutland, who is ever your lordship’s good friend.
And then my Lord of Lincoln must needs put in his holy oar, and say
that my Lord of Sussex must be excused for his rude and old-world
housekeeping, since he had as yet no wife.”

“And what said the Queen?” asked Leicester hastily.

“She took him up roundly,” said Varney, “and asked what my Lord Sussex
had to do with a wife, or my Lord Bishop to speak on such a subject. ‘If
marriage is permitted,’ she said, ‘I nowhere read that it is enjoined.’”

“She likes not marriages, or speech of marriage, among churchmen,” said
Leicester.

“Nor among courtiers neither,” said Varney; but, observing that
Leicester changed countenance, he instantly added, “that all the ladies
who were present had joined in ridiculing Lord Sussex’s housekeeping,
and in contrasting it with the reception her Grace would have assuredly
received at my Lord of Leicester’s.”

“You have gathered much tidings,” said Leicester, “but you have
forgotten or omitted the most important of all. She hath added another
to those dangling satellites whom it is her pleasure to keep revolving
around her.”

“Your lordship meaneth that Raleigh, the Devonshire youth,” said
Varney--“the Knight of the Cloak, as they call him at court?”

“He may be Knight of the Garter one day, for aught I know,” said
Leicester, “for he advances rapidly--she hath capped verses with him,
and such fooleries. I would gladly abandon, of my own free will, the
part--I have in her fickle favour; but I will not be elbowed out of
it by the clown Sussex, or this new upstart. I hear Tressilian is
with Sussex also, and high in his favour. I would spare him for
considerations, but he will thrust himself on his fate. Sussex, too, is
almost as well as ever in his health.”

“My lord,” replied Varney, “there will be rubs in the smoothest road,
specially when it leads uphill. Sussex’s illness was to us a godsend,
from which I hoped much. He has recovered, indeed, but he is not now
more formidable than ere he fell ill, when he received more than one
foil in wrestling with your lordship. Let not your heart fail you, my
lord, and all shall be well.”

“My heart never failed me, sir,” replied Leicester.

“No, my lord,” said Varney; “but it has betrayed you right often. He
that would climb a tree, my lord, must grasp by the branches, not by the
blossom.”

“Well, well, well!” said Leicester impatiently; “I understand thy
meaning--my heart shall neither fail me nor seduce me. Have my retinue
in order--see that their array be so splendid as to put down, not only
the rude companions of Ratcliffe, but the retainers of every other
nobleman and courtier. Let them be well armed withal, but without any
outward display of their weapons, wearing them as if more for fashion’s
sake than for use. Do thou thyself keep close to me, I may have business
for you.”

The preparations of Sussex and his party were not less anxious than
those of Leicester.

“Thy Supplication, impeaching Varney of seduction,” said the Earl to
Tressilian, “is by this time in the Queen’s hand--I have sent it through
a sure channel. Methinks your suit should succeed, being, as it is,
founded in justice and honour, and Elizabeth being the very muster of
both. But--I wot not how--the gipsy” (so Sussex was wont to call his
rival on account of his dark complexion) “hath much to say with her in
these holyday times of peace. Were war at the gates, I should be one of
her white boys; but soldiers, like their bucklers and Bilboa blades, get
out of fashion in peace time, and satin sleeves and walking rapiers bear
the bell. Well, we must be gay, since such is the fashion.--Blount, hast
thou seen our household put into their new braveries? But thou knowest
as little of these toys as I do; thou wouldst be ready enow at disposing
a stand of pikes.”

“My good lord,” answered Blount, “Raleigh hath been here, and taken that
charge upon him--your train will glitter like a May morning. Marry, the
cost is another question. One might keep an hospital of old soldiers at
the charge of ten modern lackeys.”

“He must not count cost to-day, Nicholas,” said the Earl in reply. “I
am beholden to Raleigh for his care. I trust, though, he has remembered
that I am an old soldier, and would have no more of these follies than
needs must.”

“Nay, I understand nought about it,” said Blount; “but here are your
honourable lordship’s brave kinsmen and friends coming in by scores to
wait upon you to court, where, methinks, we shall bear as brave a front
as Leicester, let him ruffle it as he will.”

“Give them the strictest charges,” said Sussex, “that they suffer no
provocation short of actual violence to provoke them into quarrel. They
have hot bloods, and I would not give Leicester the advantage over me by
any imprudence of theirs.”

The Earl of Sussex ran so hastily through these directions, that it was
with difficulty Tressilian at length found opportunity to express his
surprise that he should have proceeded so far in the affair of Sir Hugh
Robsart as to lay his petition at once before the Queen. “It was the
opinion of the young lady’s friends,” he said, “that Leicester’s
sense of justice should be first appealed to, as the offence had been
committed by his officer, and so he had expressly told to Sussex.”

“This could have been done without applying to me,” said Sussex,
somewhat haughtily. “I at least, ought not to have been a counsellor
when the object was a humiliating reference to Leicester; and I am
suprised that you, Tressilian, a man of honour, and my friend, would
assume such a mean course. If you said so, I certainly understood you
not in a matter which sounded so unlike yourself.”

“My lord,” said Tressilian, “the course I would prefer, for my own sake,
is that you have adopted; but the friends of this most unhappy lady--”

“Oh, the friends--the friends,” said Sussex, interrupting him; “they
must let us manage this cause in the way which seems best. This is the
time and the hour to accumulate every charge against Leicester and his
household, and yours the Queen will hold a heavy one. But at all events
she hath the complaint before her.”

Tressilian could not help suspecting that, in his eagerness to
strengthen himself against his rival, Sussex had purposely adopted the
course most likely to throw odium on Leicester, without considering
minutely whether it were the mode of proceeding most likely to be
attended with success. But the step was irrevocable, and Sussex escaped
from further discussing it by dismissing his company, with the command,
“Let all be in order at eleven o’clock; I must be at court and in the
presence by high noon precisely.”

While the rival statesmen were thus anxiously preparing for their
approaching meeting in the Queen’s presence, even Elizabeth herself was
not without apprehension of what might chance from the collision of
two such fiery spirits, each backed by a strong and numerous body of
followers, and dividing betwixt them, either openly or in secret, the
hopes and wishes of most of her court. The band of Gentlemen Pensioners
were all under arms, and a reinforcement of the yeomen of the guard
was brought down the Thames from London. A royal proclamation was sent
forth, strictly prohibiting nobles of whatever degree to approach the
Palace with retainers or followers armed with shot or with long weapons;
and it was even whispered that the High Sheriff of Kent had secret
instructions to have a part of the array of the county ready on the
shortest notice.

The eventful hour, thus anxiously prepared for on all sides, at length
approached, and, each followed by his long and glittering train of
friends and followers, the rival Earls entered the Palace Yard of
Greenwich at noon precisely.

As if by previous arrangement, or perhaps by intimation that such was
the Queen’s pleasure, Sussex and his retinue came to the Palace from
Deptford by water while Leicester arrived by land; and thus they entered
the courtyard from opposite sides. This trifling circumstance gave
Leicester a ascendency in the opinion of the vulgar, the appearance
of his cavalcade of mounted followers showing more numerous and more
imposing than those of Sussex’s party, who were necessarily upon foot.
No show or sign of greeting passed between the Earls, though each looked
full at the other, both expecting perhaps an exchange of courtesies,
which neither was willing to commence. Almost in the minute of their
arrival the castle-bell tolled, the gates of the Palace were opened, and
the Earls entered, each numerously attended by such gentlemen of their
train whose rank gave them that privilege. The yeomen and inferior
attendants remained in the courtyard, where the opposite parties eyed
each other with looks of eager hatred and scorn, as if waiting with
impatience for some cause of tumult, or some apology for mutual
aggression. But they were restrained by the strict commands of their
leaders, and overawed, perhaps, by the presence of an armed guard of
unusual strength.

In the meanwhile, the more distinguished persons of each train followed
their patrons into the lofty halls and ante-chambers of the royal
Palace, flowing on in the same current, like two streams which are
compelled into the same channel, yet shun to mix their waters. The
parties arranged themselves, as it were instinctively, on the different
sides of the lofty apartments, and seemed eager to escape from the
transient union which the narrowness of the crowded entrance had for an
instant compelled them to submit to. The folding doors at the upper
end of the long gallery were immediately afterwards opened, and it was
announced in a whisper that the Queen was in her presence-chamber, to
which these gave access. Both Earls moved slowly and stately towards
the entrance--Sussex followed by Tressilian, Blount, and Raleigh, and
Leicester by Varney. The pride of Leicester was obliged to give way to
court-forms, and with a grave and formal inclination of the head, he
paused until his rival, a peer of older creation than his own, passed
before him. Sussex returned the reverence with the same formal civility,
and entered the presence-room. Tressilian and Blount offered to follow
him, but were not permitted, the Usher of the Black Rod alleging in
excuse that he had precise orders to look to all admissions that day. To
Raleigh, who stood back on the repulse of his companions, he said, “You,
sir, may enter,” and he entered accordingly.

“Follow me close, Varney,” said the Earl of Leicester, who had stood
aloof for a moment to mark the reception of Sussex; and advancing to
the entrance, he was about to pass on, when Varney, who was close behind
him, dressed out in the utmost bravery of the day, was stopped by the
usher, as Tressilian and Blount had been before him, “How is this,
Master Bowyer?” said the Earl of Leicester. “Know you who I am, and that
this is my friend and follower?”

“Your lordship will pardon me,” replied Bowyer stoutly; “my orders are
precise, and limit me to a strict discharge of my duty.”

“Thou art a partial knave,” said Leicester, the blood mounting to his
face, “to do me this dishonour, when you but now admitted a follower of
my Lord of Sussex.”

“My lord,” said Bowyer, “Master Raleigh is newly admitted a sworn
servant of her Grace, and to him my orders did not apply.”

“Thou art a knave--an ungrateful knave,” said Leicester; “but he that
hath done can undo--thou shalt not prank thee in thy authority long!”

This threat he uttered aloud, with less than his usual policy and
discretion; and having done so, he entered the presence-chamber, and
made his reverence to the Queen, who, attired with even more than her
usual splendour, and surrounded by those nobles and statesmen whose
courage and wisdom have rendered her reign immortal, stood ready
to receive the hommage of her subjects. She graciously returned the
obeisance of the favourite Earl, and looked alternately at him and at
Sussex, as if about to speak, when Bowyer, a man whose spirit could
not brook the insult he had so openly received from Leicester, in the
discharge of his office, advanced with his black rad in his hand, and
knelt down before her.

“Why, how now, Bowyer?” said Elizabeth, “thy courtesy seems strangely
timed!”

“My Liege Sovereign,” he said, while every courtier around trembled
at his audacity, “I come but to ask whether, in the discharge of mine
office, I am to obey your Highness’s commands, or those of the Earl of
Leicester, who has publicly menaced me with his displeasure, and
treated me with disparaging terms, because I denied entry to one of his
followers, in obedience to your Grace’s precise orders?”

The spirit of Henry VIII. was instantly aroused in the bosom of his
daughter, and she turned on Leicester with a severity which appalled
him, as well as all his followers.

“God’s death! my lord.” such was her emphatic phrase, “what means this?
We have thought well of you, and brought you near to our person; but it
was not that you might hide the sun from our other faithful subjects.
Who gave you license to contradict our orders, or control our officers?
I will have in this court, ay, and in this realm, but one mistress, and
no master. Look to it that Master Bowyer sustains no harm for his duty
to me faithfully discharged; for, as I am Christian woman and crowned
Queen, I will hold you dearly answerable.--Go, Bowyer, you have done the
part of an honest man and a true subject. We will brook no mayor of the
palace here.”

Bowyer kissed the hand which she extended towards him, and withdrew
to his post, astonished at the success of his own audacity. A smile
of triumph pervaded the faction of Sussex; that of Leicester seemed
proportionally dismayed, and the favourite himself, assuming an
aspect of the deepest humility, did not even attempt a word in his own
esculpation.

He acted wisely; for it was the policy of Elizabeth to humble, not to
disgrace him, and it was prudent to suffer her, without opposition or
reply, to glory in the exertion of her authority. The dignity of
the Queen was gratified, and the woman began soon to feel for the
mortification which she had imposed on her favourite. Her keen eye also
observed the secret looks of congratulation exchanged amongst those who
favoured Sussex, and it was no part of her policy to give either party a
decisive triumph.

“What I say to my Lord of Leicester,” she said, after a moment’s pause,
“I say also to you, my Lord of Sussex. You also must needs ruffle in the
court of England, at the head of a faction of your own?”

“My followers, gracious Princess,” said Sussex, “have indeed ruffled in
your cause in Ireland, in Scotland, and against yonder rebellious Earls
in the north. I am ignorant that--”

“Do you bandy looks and words with me, my lord?” said the Queen,
interrupting him; “methinks you might learn of my Lord of Leicester the
modesty to be silent, at least, under our censure. I say, my lord, that
my grandfather and my father, in their wisdom, debarred the nobles of
this civilized land from travelling with such disorderly retinues; and
think you, that because I wear a coif, their sceptre has in my hand been
changed into a distaff? I tell you, no king in Christendom will less
brook his court to be cumbered, his people oppressed, and his kingdom’s
peace disturbed, by the arrogance of overgrown power, than she who now
speaks with you.--My Lord of Leicester, and you, my Lord of Sussex, I
command you both to be friends with each other; or by the crown I wear,
you shall find an enemy who will be too strong for both of you!”

“Madam,” said the Earl of Leicester, “you who are yourself the fountain
of honour know best what is due to mine. I place it at your disposal,
and only say that the terms on which I have stood with my Lord of Sussex
have not been of my seeking; nor had he cause to think me his enemy,
until he had done me gross wrong.”

“For me, madam,” said the Earl of Sussex, “I cannot appeal from your
sovereign pleasure; but I were well content my Lord of Leicester should
say in what I have, as he terms it, wronged him, since my tongue never
spoke the word that I would not willingly justify either on foot or
horseback.

“And for me,” said Leicester, “always under my gracious Sovereign’s
pleasure, my hand shall be as ready to make good my words as that of any
man who ever wrote himself Ratcliffe.”

“My lords,” said the Queen, “these are no terms for this presence; and
if you cannot keep your temper, we will find means to keep both that and
you close enough. Let me see you join hands, my lords, and forget your
idle animosities.”

The two rivals looked at each other with reluctant eyes, each unwilling
to make the first advance to execute the Queen’s will.

“Sussex,” said Elizabeth, “I entreat--Leicester, I command you.”

Yet, so were her words accented, that the entreaty sounded like command,
and the command like entreaty. They remained still and stubborn, until
she raised her voice to a height which argued at once impatience and
absolute command.

“Sir Henry Lee,” she said, to an officer in attendance, “have a guard
in present readiness, and man a barge instantly.--My Lords of Sussex and
Leicester, I bid you once more to join hands; and, God’s death! he that
refuses shall taste of our Tower fare ere he sees our face again. I will
lower your proud hearts ere we part, and that I promise, on the word of
a Queen!”

“The prison?” said Leicester, “might be borne, but to lose your Grace’s
presence were to lose light and life at once.--Here, Sussex, is my
hand.”

“And here,” said Sussex, “is mine in truth and honesty; but--”

“Nay, under favour, you shall add no more,” said the Queen. “Why, this
is as it should be,” she added, looking on them more favourably; “and
when you the shepherds of the people, unite to protect them, it shall
be well with the flock we rule over. For, my lords, I tell you plainly,
your follies and your brawls lead to strange disorders among your
servants.--My Lord of Leicester, you have a gentleman in your household
called Varney?”

“Yes, gracious madam,” replied Leicester; “I presented him to kiss your
royal hand when you were last at Nonsuch.”

“His outside was well enough,” said the Queen, “but scarce so fair, I
should have thought, as to have caused a maiden of honourable birth and
hopes to barter her fame for his good looks, and become his paramour.
Yet so it is; this fellow of yours hath seduced the daughter of a good
old Devonshire knight, Sir Hugh Robsart of Lidcote Hall, and she hath
fled with him from her father’s house like a castaway.--My Lord of
Leicester, are you ill, that you look so deadly pale?”

“No, gracious madam,” said Leicester; and it required every effort he
could make to bring forth these few words.

“You are surely ill, my lord?” said Elizabeth, going towards him with
hasty speech and hurried step, which indicated the deepest concern.
“Call Masters--call our surgeon in ordinary.--Where be these loitering
fools?--we lose the pride of our court through their negligence.--Or
is it possible, Leicester,” she continued, looking on him with a very
gentle aspect, “can fear of my displeasure have wrought so deeply on
thee? Doubt not for a moment, noble Dudley, that we could blame THEE
for the folly of thy retainer--thee, whose thoughts we know to be far
otherwise employed. He that would climb the eagle’s nest, my lord, cares
not who are catching linnets at the foot of the precipice.”

“Mark you that?” said Sussex aside to Raleigh. “The devil aids him
surely; for all that would sink another ten fathom deep seems but to
make him float the more easily. Had a follower of mine acted thus--”

“Peace, my good lord,” said Raleigh, “for God’s sake, peace! Wait the
change of the tide; it is even now on the turn.”

The acute observation of Raleigh, perhaps, did not deceive him; for
Leicester’s confusion was so great, and, indeed, for the moment, so
irresistibly overwhelming, that Elizabeth, after looking at him with
a wondering eye, and receiving no intelligible answer to the unusual
expressions of grace and affection which had escaped from her, shot her
quick glance around the circle of courtiers, and reading, perhaps, in
their faces something that accorded with her own awakened suspicions,
she said suddenly, “Or is there more in this than we see--or than you,
my lord, wish that we should see? Where is this Varney? Who saw him?”

“An it please your Grace,” said Bowyer, “it is the same against whom I
this instant closed the door of the presence-room.”

“An it please me?” repeated Elizabeth sharply, not at that moment in the
humour of being pleased with anything.--“It does NOT please me that he
should pass saucily into my presence, or that you should exclude from it
one who came to justify himself from an accusation.”

“May it please you,” answered the perplexed usher, “if I knew, in such
case, how to bear myself, I would take heed--”

“You should have reported the fellow’s desire to us, Master Usher, and
taken our directions. You think yourself a great man, because but now we
chid a nobleman on your account; yet, after all, we hold you but as the
lead-weight that keeps the door fast. Call this Varney hither instantly.
There is one Tressilian also mentioned in this petition. Let them both
come before us.”

She was obeyed, and Tressilian and Varney appeared accordingly. Varney’s
first glance was at Leicester, his second at the Queen. In the looks
of the latter there appeared an approaching storm, and in the downcast
countenance of his patron he could read no directions in what way he
was to trim his vessel for the encounter. He then saw Tressilian, and
at once perceived the peril of the situation in which he was placed.
But Varney was as bold-faced and ready-witted as he was cunning and
unscrupulous--a skilful pilot in extremity, and fully conscious of the
advantages which he would obtain could he extricate Leicester from his
present peril, and of the ruin that yawned for himself should he fail in
doing so.

“Is it true, sirrah,” said the Queen, with one of those searching looks
which few had the audacity to resist, “that you have seduced to infamy
a young lady of birth and breeding, the daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart of
Lidcote Hall?”

Varney kneeled down, and replied, with a look of the most profound
contrition, “There had been some love passages betwixt him and Mistress
Amy Robsart.”

Leicester’s flesh quivered with indignation as he heard his dependant
make this avowal, and for one moment he manned himself to step forward,
and, bidding farewell to the court and the royal favour, confess the
whole mystery of the secret marriage. But he looked at Sussex, and the
idea of the triumphant smile which would clothe his cheek upon hearing
the avowal sealed his lips. “Not now, at least,” he thought, “or in this
presence, will I afford him so rich a triumph.” And pressing his lips
close together, he stood firm and collected, attentive to each word
which Varney uttered, and determined to hide to the last the secret on
which his court-favour seemed to depend. Meanwhile, the Queen proceeded
in her examination of Varney.

“Love passages!” said she, echoing his last words; “what passages, thou
knave? and why not ask the wench’s hand from her father, if thou hadst
any honesty in thy love for her?”

“An it please your Grace,” said Varney, still on his knees, “I dared not
do so, for her father had promised her hand to a gentleman of birth and
honour--I will do him justice, though I know he bears me ill-will--one
Master Edmund Tressilian, whom I now see in the presence.”

“Soh!” replied the Queen. “And what was your right to make the simple
fool break her worthy father’s contract, through your love PASSAGES, as
your conceit and assurance terms them?”

“Madam,” replied Varney, “it is in vain to plead the cause of human
frailty before a judge to whom it is unknown, or that of love to one who
never yields to the passion”--he paused an instant, and then added, in a
very low and timid tone--“which she inflicts upon all others.”

Elizabeth tried to frown, but smiled in her own despite, as she
answered, “Thou art a marvellously impudent knave. Art thou married to
the girl?”

Leicester’s feelings became so complicated and so painfully intense,
that it seemed to him as if his life was to depend on the answer made by
Varney, who, after a moment’s real hesitation, answered, “Yes.”

“Thou false villain!” said Leicester, bursting forth into rage, yet
unable to add another word to the sentence which he had begun with such
emphatic passion.

“Nay, my lord,” said the Queen, “we will, by your leave, stand between
this fellow and your anger. We have not yet done with him.--Knew your
master, my Lord of Leicester, of this fair work of yours? Speak truth, I
command thee, and I will be thy warrant from danger on every quarter.”

“Gracious madam,” said Varney, “to speak Heaven’s truth, my lord was the
cause of the whole matter.”

“Thou villain, wouldst thou betray me?” said Leicester.

“Speak on,” said the Queen hastily, her cheek colouring, and her eyes
sparkling, as she addressed Varney--“speak on. Here no commands are
heard but mine.”

“They are omnipotent, gracious madam,” replied Varney; “and to you there
can be no secrets.--Yet I would not,” he added, looking around him,
“speak of my master’s concerns to other ears.”

“Fall back, my lords,” said the Queen to those who surrounded her, “and
do you speak on. What hath the Earl to do with this guilty intrigue of
thine? See, fellow, that thou beliest him not!”

“Far be it from me to traduce my noble patron,” replied Varney; “yet
I am compelled to own that some deep, overwhelming, yet secret feeling
hath of late dwelt in my lord’s mind, hath abstracted him from the
cares of the household which he was wont to govern with such religious
strictness, and hath left us opportunities to do follies, of which the
shame, as in this case, partly falls upon our patron. Without this, I
had not had means or leisure to commit the folly which has drawn on me
his displeasure--the heaviest to endure by me which I could by any means
incur, saving always the yet more dreaded resentment of your Grace.”

“And in this sense, and no other, hath he been accessory to thy fault?”
 said Elizabeth.

“Surely, madam, in no other,” replied Varney; “but since somewhat hath
chanced to him, he can scarce be called his own man. Look at him,
madam, how pale and trembling he stands! how unlike his usual majesty of
manner!--yet what has he to fear from aught I can say to your Highness?
Ah! madam, since he received that fatal packet!”

“What packet, and from whence?” said the Queen eagerly.

“From whence, madam, I cannot guess; but I am so near to his person that
I know he has ever since worn, suspended around his neck and next to his
heart, that lock of hair which sustains a small golden jewel shaped
like a heart. He speaks to it when alone--he parts not from it when he
sleeps--no heathen ever worshipped an idol with such devotion.”

“Thou art a prying knave to watch thy master so closely,” said
Elizabeth, blushing, but not with anger; “and a tattling knave to tell
over again his fooleries.--What colour might the braid of hair be that
thou pratest of?”

Varney replied, “A poet, madam, might call it a thread from the golden
web wrought by Minerva; but to my thinking it was paler than even the
purest gold--more like the last parting sunbeam of the softest day of
spring.”

“Why, you are a poet yourself, Master Varney,” said the Queen, smiling.
“But I have not genius quick enough to follow your rare metaphors. Look
round these ladies--is there”--(she hesitated, and endeavoured to assume
an air of great indifference)--“is there here, in this presence, any
lady, the colour of whose hair reminds thee of that braid? Methinks,
without prying into my Lord of Leicester’s amorous secrets, I would
fain know what kind of locks are like the thread of Minerva’s web, or
the--what was it?--the last rays of the May-day sun.”

Varney looked round the presence-chamber, his eye travelling from one
lady to another, until at length it rested upon the Queen herself, but
with an aspect of the deepest veneration. “I see no tresses,” he said,
“in this presence, worthy of such similies, unless where I dare not look
on them.”

“How, sir knave?” said the Queen; “dare you intimate--”

“Nay, madam,” replied Varney, shading his eyes with his hand, “it was
the beams of the May-day sun that dazzled my weak eyes.”

“Go to--go to,” said the Queen; “thou art a foolish fellow”--and turning
quickly from him she walked up to Leicester.

Intense curiosity, mingled with all the various hopes, fears,
and passions which influence court faction, had occupied the
presence-chamber during the Queen’s conference with Varney, as if with
the strength of an Eastern talisman. Men suspended every, even the
slightest external motion, and would have ceased to breathe, had Nature
permitted such an intermission of her functions. The atmosphere was
contagious, and Leicester, who saw all around wishing or fearing his
advancement or his fall forgot all that love had previously dictated,
and saw nothing for the instant but the favour or disgrace which
depended on the nod of Elizabeth and the fidelity of Varney. He summoned
himself hastily, and prepared to play his part in the scene which was
like to ensue, when, as he judged from the glances which the Queen threw
towards him, Varney’s communications, be they what they might, were
operating in his favour. Elizabeth did not long leave him in doubt; for
the more than favour with which she accosted him decided his triumph in
the eyes of his rival, and of the assembled court of England. “Thou hast
a prating servant of this same Varney, my lord,” she said; “it is lucky
you trust him with nothing that can hurt you in our opinion, for believe
me, he would keep no counsel.”

“From your Highness,” said Leicester, dropping gracefully on one knee,
“it were treason he should. I would that my heart itself lay before you,
barer than the tongue of any servant could strip it.”

“What, my lord,” said Elizabeth, looking kindly upon him, “is there no
one little corner over which you would wish to spread a veil? Ah! I see
you are confused at the question, and your Queen knows she should not
look too deeply into her servants’ motives for their faithful duty, lest
she see what might, or at least ought to, displease her.”

Relieved by these last words, Leicester broke out into a torrent of
expressions of deep and passionate attachment, which perhaps, at that
moment, were not altogether fictitious. The mingled emotions which had
at first overcome him had now given way to the energetic vigour with
which he had determined to support his place in the Queen’s favour;
and never did he seem to Elizabeth more eloquent, more handsome, more
interesting, than while, kneeling at her feet, he conjured her to strip
him of all his dower, but to leave him the name of her servant.--“Take
from the poor Dudley,” he exclaimed, “all that your bounty has made him,
and bid him be the poor gentleman he was when your Grace first shone on
him; leave him no more than his cloak and his sword, but let him still
boast he has--what in word or deed he never forfeited--the regard of his
adored Queen and mistress!”

“No, Dudley!” said Elizabeth, raising him with one hand, while she
extended the other that he might kiss it. “Elizabeth hath not forgotten
that, whilst you were a poor gentleman, despoiled of your hereditary
rank, she was as poor a princess, and that in her cause you then
ventured all that oppression had left you--your life and honour. Rise,
my lord, and let my hand go--rise, and be what you have ever been, the
grace of our court and the support of our throne! Your mistress may
be forced to chide your misdemeanours, but never without owning your
merits.--And so help me God,” she added, turning to the audience, who,
with various feelings, witnessed this interesting scene--“so help me
God, gentlemen, as I think never sovereign had a truer servant than I
have in this noble Earl!”

A murmur of assent rose from the Leicestrian faction, which the friends
of Sussex dared not oppose. They remained with their eyes fixed on the
ground, dismayed as well as mortified by the public and absolute triumph
of their opponents. Leicester’s first use of the familiarity to
which the Queen had so publicly restored him was to ask her commands
concerning Varney’s offence, “although,” he said, “the fellow deserves
nothing from me but displeasure, yet, might I presume to intercede--”

“In truth, we had forgotten his matter,” said the Queen; “and it was
ill done of us, who owe justice to our meanest as well as to our highest
subject. We are pleased, my lord, that you were the first to recall the
matter to our memory.--Where is Tressilian, the accuser?--let him come
before us.”

Tressilian appeared, and made a low and beseeming reference. His
person, as we have elsewhere observed, had an air of grace and even of
nobleness, which did not escape Queen Elizabeth’s critical observation.
She looked at him with, attention as he stood before her unabashed, but
with an air of the deepest dejection.

“I cannot but grieve for this gentleman,” she said to Leicester. “I have
inquired concerning him, and his presence confirms what I heard, that he
is a scholar and a soldier, well accomplished both in arts and arms. We
women, my lord, are fanciful in our choice--I had said now, to judge by
the eye, there was no comparison to be held betwixt your follower and
this gentleman. But Varney is a well-spoken fellow, and, to say truth,
that goes far with us of the weaker sex.--look you, Master Tressilian, a
bolt lost is not a bow broken. Your true affection, as I will hold it to
be, hath been, it seems, but ill requited; but you have scholarship, and
you know there have been false Cressidas to be found, from the Trojan
war downwards. Forget, good sir, this Lady Light o’ Love--teach your
affection to see with a wiser eye. This we say to you, more from the
writings of learned men than our own knowledge, being, as we are, far
removed by station and will from the enlargement of experience in such
idle toys of humorous passion. For this dame’s father, we can make his
grief the less by advancing his son-in-law to such station as may
enable him to give an honourable support to his bride. Thou shalt not be
forgotten thyself, Tressilian--follow our court, and thou shalt see
that a true Troilus hath some claim on our grace. Think of what that
arch-knave Shakespeare says--a plague on him, his toys come into my head
when I should think of other matters. Stay, how goes it?


     ‘Cressid was yours, tied with the bonds of heaven;
     These bonds of heaven are slipt, dissolved, and loosed,
     And with another knot five fingers tied,
     The fragments of her faith are bound to Diomed.’

You smile, my Lord of Southampton--perchance I make your player’s verse
halt through my bad memory. But let it suffice let there be no more of
this mad matter.”

And as Tressilian kept the posture of one who would willingly be heard,
though, at the same time, expressive of the deepest reverence, the Queen
added with some impatience, “What would the man have? The wench
cannot wed both of you? She has made her election--not a wise one
perchance--but she is Varney’s wedded wife.”

“My suit should sleep there, most gracious Sovereign,” said Tressilian,
“and with my suit my revenge. But I hold this Varney’s word no good
warrant for the truth.”

“Had that doubt been elsewhere urged,” answered Varney, “my sword--”

“THY sword!” interrupted Tressilian scornfully; “with her Grace’s leave,
my sword shall show--”

“Peace, you knaves, both!” said the Queen; “know you where you
are?--This comes of your feuds, my lords,” she added, looking towards
Leicester and Sussex; “your followers catch your own humour, and must
bandy and brawl in my court and in my very presence, like so many
Matamoros.--Look you, sirs, he that speaks of drawing swords in any
other quarrel than mine or England’s, by mine honour, I’ll bracelet
him with iron both on wrist and ankle!” She then paused a minute,
and resumed in a milder tone, “I must do justice betwixt the bold and
mutinous knaves notwithstanding.--My Lord of Leicester, will you warrant
with your honour--that is, to the best of your belief--that your servant
speaks truth in saying he hath married this Amy Robsart?”

This was a home-thrust, and had nearly staggered Leicester. But he had
now gone too far to recede, and answered, after a moment’s hesitation,
“To the best of my belief--indeed on my certain knowledge--she is a
wedded wife.”

“Gracious madam,” said Tressilian, “may I yet request to know, when and
under what circumstances this alleged marriage--”

“Out, sirrah,” answered the Queen; “ALLEGED marriage! Have you not the
word of this illustrious Earl to warrant the truth of what his servant
says? But thou art a loser--thinkest thyself such at least--and thou
shalt have indulgence; we will look into the matter ourself more at
leisure.--My Lord of Leicester, I trust you remember we mean to taste
the good cheer of your Castle of Kenilworth on this week ensuing. We
will pray you to bid our good and valued friend, the Earl of Sussex, to
hold company with us there.”

“If the noble Earl of Sussex,” said Leicester, bowing to his rival with
the easiest and with the most graceful courtesy, “will so far honour my
poor house, I will hold it an additional proof of the amicable regard it
is your Grace’s desire we should entertain towards each other.”

Sussex was more embarrassed. “I should,” said he, “madam, be but a clog
on your gayer hours, since my late severe illness.”

“And have you been indeed so very ill?” said Elizabeth, looking on him
with more attention than before; “you are, in faith, strangely altered,
and deeply am I grieved to see it. But be of good cheer--we will
ourselves look after the health of so valued a servant, and to whom we
owe so much. Masters shall order your diet; and that we ourselves
may see that he is obeyed, you must attend us in this progress to
Kenilworth.”

This was said so peremptorily, and at the same time with so much
kindness, that Sussex, however unwilling to become the guest of his
rival, had no resource but to bow low to the Queen in obedience to
her commands, and to express to Leicester, with blunt courtesy, though
mingled with embarrassment, his acceptance of his invitation. As the
Earls exchanged compliments on the occasion, the Queen said to her High
Treasurer, “Methinks, my lord, the countenances of these our two noble
peers resemble those of the two famed classic streams, the one so dark
and sad, the other so fair and noble. My old Master Ascham would have
chid me for forgetting the author. It is Caesar, as I think. See what
majestic calmness sits on the brow of the noble Leicester, while Sussex
seems to greet him as if he did our will indeed, but not willingly.”

“The doubt of your Majesty’s favour,” answered the Lord Treasurer, “may
perchance occasion the difference, which does not--as what does?--escape
your Grace’s eye.”

“Such doubt were injurious to us, my lord,” replied the Queen. “We hold
both to be near and dear to us, and will with impartiality employ both
in honourable service for the weal of our kingdom. But we will break
their further conference at present.--My Lords of Sussex and Leicester,
we have a word more with you. ‘Tressilian and Varney are near your
persons--you will see that they attend you at Kenilworth. And as we
shall then have both Paris and Menelaus within our call, so we will
have the same fair Helen also, whose fickleness has caused this
broil.--Varney, thy wife must be at Kenilworth, and forthcoming at my
order.--My Lord of Leicester, we expect you will look to this.”

The Earl and his follower bowed low and raised their heads, without
daring to look at the Queen, or at each other, for both felt at the
instant as if the nets and toils which their own falsehood had woven
were in the act of closing around them. The Queen, however, observed
not their confusion, but proceeded to say, “My Lords of Sussex and
Leicester, we require your presence at the privy-council to be presently
held, where matters of importance are to be debated. We will then take
the water for our divertisement, and you, my lords, will attend us.--And
that reminds us of a circumstance.--Do you, Sir Squire of the Soiled
Cassock” (distinguishing Raleigh by a smile), “fail not to observe
that you are to attend us on our progress. You shall be supplied with
suitable means to reform your wardrobe.”

And so terminated this celebrated audience, in which, as throughout her
life, Elizabeth united the occasional caprice of her sex with that sense
and sound policy in which neither man nor woman ever excelled her.



CHAPTER XVII.


     Well, then--our course is chosen--spread the sail--
     Heave oft the lead, and mark the soundings well--
     Look to the helm, good master--many a shoal
     Marks this stern coast, and rocks, where sits the Siren,
     Who, like ambition, lures men to their ruin.--THE SHIPWRECK.

During the brief interval that took place betwixt the dismissal of the
audience and the sitting of the privy-council, Leicester had time to
reflect that he had that morning sealed his own fate. “It was impossible
for him now,” he thought, “after having, in the face of all that was
honourable in England, pledged his truth (though in an ambiguous phrase)
for the statement of Varney, to contradict or disavow it, without
exposing himself, not merely to the loss of court-favour, but to the
highest displeasure of the Queen, his deceived mistress, and to the
scorn and contempt at once of his rival and of all his compeers.” This
certainty rushed at once on his mind, together with all the difficulties
which he would necessarily be exposed to in preserving a secret which
seemed now equally essential to his safety, to his power, and to his
honour. He was situated like one who walks upon ice ready to give way
around him, and whose only safety consists in moving onwards, by firm
and unvacillating steps. The Queen’s favour, to preserve which he
had made such sacrifices, must now be secured by all means and at all
hazards; it was the only plank which he could cling to in the tempest.
He must settle himself, therefore, to the task of not only preserving,
but augmenting the Queen’s partiality--he must be the favourite of
Elizabeth, or a man utterly shipwrecked in fortune and in honour. All
other considerations must be laid aside for the moment, and he repelled
the intrusive thoughts which forced on his mind the image of, Amy, by
saying to himself there would be time to think hereafter how he was to
escape from the labyrinth ultimately, since the pilot who sees a Scylla
under his bows must not for the time think of the more distant dangers
of Charybdis.

In this mood the Earl of Leicester that day assumed his chair at the
council table of Elizabeth; and when the hours of business were over,
in this same mood did he occupy an honoured place near her during her
pleasure excursion on the Thames. And never did he display to more
advantage his powers as a politician of the first rank, or his parts as
an accomplished courtier.

It chanced that in that day’s council matters were agitated touching the
affairs of the unfortunate Mary, the seventh year of whose captivity in
England was now in doleful currency. There had been opinions in favour
of this unhappy princess laid before Elizabeth’s council, and supported
with much strength of argument by Sussex and others, who dwelt more upon
the law of nations and the breach of hospitality than, however softened
or qualified, was agreeable to the Queen’s ear. Leicester adopted the
contrary opinion with great animation and eloquence, and described the
necessity of continuing the severe restraint of the Queen of Scots, as
a measure essential to the safety of the kingdom, and particularly
of Elizabeth’s sacred person, the lightest hair of whose head, he
maintained, ought, in their lordships’ estimation, to be matter of more
deep and anxious concern than the life and fortunes of a rival, who,
after setting up a vain and unjust pretence to the throne of England,
was now, even while in the bosom of her country, the constant hope and
theme of encouragement to all enemies to Elizabeth, whether at home or
abroad. He ended by craving pardon of their lordships, if in the zeal
of speech he had given any offence, but the Queen’s safety was a theme
which hurried him beyond his usual moderation of debate.

Elizabeth chid him, but not severely, for the weight which he attached
unduly to her personal interests; yet she owned that, since it had been
the pleasure of Heaven to combine those interests with the weal of
her subjects, she did only her duty when she adopted such measures of
self-preservation as circumstances forced upon her; and if the council
in their wisdom should be of opinion that it was needful to continue
some restraint on the person of her unhappy sister of Scotland, she
trusted they would not blame her if she requested of the Countess of
Shrewsbury to use her with as much kindness as might be consistent with
her safe keeping. And with this intimation of her pleasure the council
was dismissed.

Never was more anxious and ready way made for “my Lord of Leicester,”
 than as he passed through the crowded anterooms to go towards the
river-side, in order to attend her Majesty to her barge--never was
the voice of the ushers louder, to “make room, make room for the
noble Earl”--never were these signals more promptly and reverently
obeyed--never were more anxious eyes turned on him to obtain a glance
of favour, or even of mere recognition, while the heart of many a humble
follower throbbed betwixt the desire to offer his congratulations, and
the fear of intruding himself on the notice of one so infinitely above
him. The whole court considered the issue of this day’s audience,
expected with so much doubt and anxiety, as a decisive triumph on the
part of Leicester, and felt assured that the orb of his rival satellite,
if not altogether obscured by his lustre, must revolve hereafter in a
dimmer and more distant sphere. So thought the court and courtiers, from
high to low; and they acted accordingly.

On the other hand, never did Leicester return the general greeting with
such ready and condescending courtesy, or endeavour more successfully
to gather (in the words of one who at that moment stood at no great
distance from him) “golden opinions from all sorts of men.”

For all the favourite Earl had a bow a smile at least, and often a kind
word. Most of these were addressed to courtiers, whose names have long
gone down the tide of oblivion; but some, to such as sound strangely in
our ears, when connected with the ordinary matters of human life,
above which the gratitude of posterity has long elevated them. A few of
Leicester’s interlocutory sentences ran as follows:--

“Poynings, good morrow; and how does your wife and fair daughter? Why
come they not to court?--Adams, your suit is naught; the Queen will
grant no more monopolies. But I may serve you in another matter.--My
good Alderman Aylford, the suit of the City, affecting Queenhithe,
shall be forwarded as far as my poor interest can serve.--Master Edmund
Spenser, touching your Irish petition, I would willingly aid you, from
my love to the Muses; but thou hast nettled the Lord Treasurer.”

“My lord,” said the poet, “were I permitted to explain--”

“Come to my lodging, Edmund,” answered the Earl “not to-morrow, or next
day, but soon.--Ha, Will Shakespeare--wild Will!--thou hast given my
nephew Philip Sidney, love-powder; he cannot sleep without thy Venus and
Adonis under his pillow! We will have thee hanged for the veriest wizard
in Europe. Hark thee, mad wag, I have not forgotten thy matter of the
patent, and of the bears.”

The PLAYER bowed, and the Earl nodded and passed on--so that age would
have told the tale; in ours, perhaps, we might say the immortal had done
homage to the mortal. The next whom the favourite accosted was one of
his own zealous dependants.

“How now, Sir Francis Denning,” he whispered, in answer to his exulting
salutation, “that smile hath made thy face shorter by one-third than
when I first saw it this morning.--What, Master Bowyer, stand you back,
and think you I bear malice? You did but your duty this morning; and if
I remember aught of the passage betwixt us, it shall be in thy favour.”

Then the Earl was approached, with several fantastic congees, by a
person quaintly dressed in a doublet of black velvet, curiously slashed
and pinked with crimson satin. A long cock’s feather in the velvet
bonnet, which he held in his hand, and an enormous ruff; stiffened to
the extremity of the absurd taste of the times, joined with a sharp,
lively, conceited expression of countenance, seemed to body forth a
vain, harebrained coxcomb, and small wit; while the rod he held, and
an assumption of formal authority, appeared to express some sense
of official consequence, which qualified the natural pertness of his
manner. A perpetual blush, which occupied rather the sharp nose than the
thin cheek of this personage, seemed to speak more of “good life,” as
it was called, than of modesty; and the manner in which he approached to
the Earl confirmed that suspicion.

“Good even to you, Master Robert Laneham,” said Leicester, and seemed
desirous to pass forward, without further speech.

“I have a suit to your noble lordship,” said the figure, boldly
following him.

“And what is it, good master keeper of the council-chamber door?”

“CLERK of the council-chamber door,” said Master Robert Laneham, with
emphasis, by way of reply, and of correction.

“Well, qualify thine office as thou wilt, man,” replied the Earl; “what
wouldst thou have with me?”

“Simply,” answered Laneham, “that your lordship would be, as heretofore,
my good lord, and procure me license to attend the Summer Progress
unto your lordship’s most beautiful and all-to-be-unmatched Castle of
Kenilworth.”

“To what purpose, good Master Laneham?” replied the Earl; “bethink you,
my guests must needs be many.”

“Not so many,” replied the petitioner, “but that your nobleness will
willingly spare your old servitor his crib and his mess. Bethink you,
my lord, how necessary is this rod of mine to fright away all those
listeners, who else would play at bo-peep with the honourable council,
and be searching for keyholes and crannies in the door of the chamber,
so as to render my staff as needful as a fly-flap in a butcher’s shop.”

“Methinks you have found out a fly-blown comparison for the honourable
council, Master Laneham,” said the Earl; “but seek not about to justify
it. Come to Kenilworth, if you list; there will be store of fools there
besides, and so you will be fitted.”

“Nay, an there be fools, my lord,” replied Laneham, with much glee, “I
warrant I will make sport among them, for no greyhound loves to cote a
hare as I to turn and course a fool. But I have another singular favour
to beseech of your honour.”

“Speak it, and let me go,” said the Earl; “I think the Queen comes forth
instantly.”

“My very good lord, I would fain bring a bed-fellow with me.”

“How, you irreverent rascal!” said Leicester.

“Nay, my lord, my meaning is within the canons,” answered his
unblushing, or rather his ever-blushing petitioner. “I have a wife as
curious as her grandmother who ate the apple. Now, take her with me
I may not, her Highness’s orders being so strict against the officers
bringing with them their wives in a progress, and so lumbering the court
with womankind. But what I would crave of your lordship is to find room
for her in some mummery, or pretty pageant, in disguise, as it were; so
that, not being known for my wife, there may be no offence.”

“The foul fiend seize ye both!” said Leicester, stung into
uncontrollable passion by the recollections which this speech
excited--“why stop you me with such follies?”

The terrified clerk of the chamber-door, astonished at the burst of
resentment he had so unconsciously produced, dropped his staff of office
from his hand, and gazed on the incensed Earl with a foolish face of
wonder and terror, which instantly recalled Leicester to himself.

“I meant but to try if thou hadst the audacity which befits thine
office,” said he hastily. “Come to Kenilworth, and bring the devil with
thee, if thou wilt.”

“My wife, sir, hath played the devil ere now, in a Mystery, in Queen
Mary’s time; but me shall want a trifle for properties.”

“Here is a crown for thee,” said the Earl,--“make me rid of thee--the
great bell rings.”

Master Robert Laneham stared a moment at the agitation which he had
excited, and then said to himself, as he stooped to pick up his staff
of office, “The noble Earl runs wild humours to-day. But they who give
crowns expect us witty fellows to wink at their unsettled starts; and,
by my faith, if they paid not for mercy, we would finger them tightly!”
 [See Note 6. Robert Laneham.]

Leicester moved hastily on, neglecting the courtesies he had hitherto
dispensed so liberally, and hurrying through the courtly crowd, until
he paused in a small withdrawing-room, into which he plunged to draw a
moment’s breath unobserved, and in seclusion.

“What am I now,” he said to himself, “that am thus jaded by the words
of a mean, weather-beaten, goose-brained gull! Conscience, thou art a
bloodhound, whose growl wakes us readily at the paltry stir of a rat
or mouse as at the step of a lion. Can I not quit myself, by one
bold stroke, of a state so irksome, so unhonoured? What if I kneel to
Elizabeth, and, owning the whole, throw myself on her mercy?”

As he pursued this train of thought, the door of the apartment opened,
and Varney rushed in.

“Thank God, my lord, that I have found you!” was his exclamation.

“Thank the devil, whose agent thou art,” was the Earl’s reply.

“Thank whom you will, my lord,” replied Varney; “but hasten to the
water-side. The Queen is on board, and asks for you.”

“Go, say I am taken suddenly ill,” replied Leicester; “for, by Heaven,
my brain can sustain this no longer!”

“I may well say so,” said Varney, with bitterness of expression, “for
your place, ay, and mine, who, as your master of the horse, was to have
attended your lordship, is already filled up in the Queen’s barge. The
new minion, Walter Raleigh, and our old acquaintance Tressilian were
called for to fill our places just as I hastened away to seek you.”

“Thou art a devil, Varney,” said Leicester hastily; “but thou hast the
mastery for the present--I follow thee.”

Varney replied not, but led the way out of the palace, and towards the
river, while his master followed him, as if mechanically; until, looking
back, he said in a tone which savoured of familiarity at least, if not
of authority, “How is this, my lord? Your cloak hangs on one side--your
hose are unbraced--permit me--”

“Thou art a fool, Varney, as well as a knave,” said Leicester, shaking
him off, and rejecting his officious assistance. “We are best thus, sir;
when we require you to order our person, it is well, but now we want you
not.”

So saying, the Earl resumed at once his air of command, and with it his
self-possession--shook his dress into yet wilder disorder--passed before
Varney with the air of a superior and master, and in his turn led the
way to the river-side.

The Queen’s barge was on the very point of putting off, the seat
allotted to Leicester in the stern, and that to his master of the horse
on the bow of the boat, being already filled up. But on Leicester’s
approach there was a pause, as if the bargemen anticipated some
alteration in their company. The angry spot was, however, on the Queen’s
cheek, as, in that cold tone with which superiors endeavour to veil
their internal agitation, while speaking to those before whom it would
be derogation to express it, she pronounced the chilling words, “We have
waited, my Lord of Leicester.”

“Madam, and most gracious Princess,” said Leicester, “you, who can
pardon so many weaknesses which your own heart never knows, can best
bestow your commiseration on the agitations of the bosom, which, for a
moment, affect both head and limbs. I came to your presence a doubting
and an accused subject; your goodness penetrated the clouds of
defamation, and restored me to my honour, and, what is yet dearer, to
your favour--is it wonderful, though for me it is most unhappy, that
my master of the horse should have found me in a state which scarce
permitted me to make the exertion necessary to follow him to this place,
when one glance of your Highness, although, alas! an angry one, has had
power to do that for me in which Esculapius might have failed?”

“How is this?” said Elizabeth hastily, looking at Varney; “hath your
lord been ill?”

“Something of a fainting fit,” answered the ready-witted Varney, “as
your Grace may observe from his present condition. My lord’s haste would
not permit me leisure even to bring his dress into order.”

“It matters not,” said Elizabeth, as she gazed on the noble face and
form of Leicester, to which even the strange mixture of passions by
which he had been so lately agitated gave additional interest; “make
room for my noble lord. Your place, Master Varney, has been filled up;
you must find a seat in another barge.”

Varney bowed, and withdrew.

“And you, too, our young Squire of the Cloak,” added she, looking at
Raleigh, “must, for the time, go to the barge of our ladies of honour.
As for Tressilian, he hath already suffered too much by the caprice of
women that I should aggrieve him by my change of plan, so far as he is
concerned.”

Leicester seated himself in his place in the barge, and close to the
Sovereign. Raleigh rose to retire, and Tressilian would have been so
ill-timed in his courtesy as to offer to relinquish his own place to his
friend, had not the acute glance of Raleigh himself, who seemed no in
his native element, made him sensible that so ready a disclamation of
the royal favour might be misinterpreted. He sat silent, therefore,
whilst Raleigh, with a profound bow, and a look of the deepest
humiliation, was about to quit his place.

A noble courtier, the gallant Lord Willoughby, read, as he thought,
something in the Queen’s face which seemed to pity Raleigh’s real or
assumed semblance of mortification.

“It is not for us old courtiers,” he said, “to hide the sunshine from
the young ones. I will, with her Majesty’s leave, relinquish for an
hour that which her subjects hold dearest, the delight of her Highness’s
presence, and mortify myself by walking in starlight, while I forsake
for a brief season the glory of Diana’s own beams. I will take place
in the boat which the ladies occupy, and permit this young cavalier his
hour of promised felicity.”

The Queen replied, with an expression betwixt mirth and earnest, “If you
are so willing to leave us, my lord, we cannot help the mortification.
But, under favour, we do not trust you--old and experienced as you
may deem yourself--with the care of our young ladies of honour. Your
venerable age, my lord,” she continued, smiling, “may be better assorted
with that of my Lord Treasurer, who follows in the third boat, and by
whose experience even my Lord Willoughby’s may be improved.”

Lord Willoughby hid his disappointment under a smile--laughed, was
confused, bowed, and left the Queen’s barge to go on board my Lord
Burleigh’s. Leicester, who endeavoured to divert his thoughts from all
internal reflection, by fixing them on what was passing around, watched
this circumstance among others. But when the boat put off from the
shore--when the music sounded from a barge which accompanied them--when
the shouts of the populace were heard from the shore, and all reminded
him of the situation in which he was placed, he abstracted his thoughts
and feelings by a strong effort from everything but the necessity of
maintaining himself in the favour of his patroness, and exerted his
talents of pleasing captivation with such success, that the Queen,
alternately delighted with his conversation, and alarmed for his health,
at length imposed a temporary silence on him, with playful yet anxious
care, lest his flow of spirits should exhaust him.

“My lords,” she said, “having passed for a time our edict of silence
upon our good Leicester, we will call you to counsel on a gamesome
matter, more fitted to be now treated of, amidst mirth and music, than
in the gravity of our ordinary deliberations. Which of you, my lords,”
 said she, smiling, “know aught of a petition from Orson Pinnit,
the keeper, as he qualifies himself, of our royal bears? Who stands
godfather to his request?”

“Marry, with Your Grace’s good permission, that do I,” said the Earl of
Sussex. “Orson Pinnit was a stout soldier before he was so mangled by
the skenes of the Irish clan MacDonough; and I trust your Grace will
be, as you always have been, good mistress to your good and trusty
servants.”

“Surely,” said the Queen, “it is our purpose to be so, and in especial
to our poor soldiers and sailors, who hazard their lives for little pay.
We would give,” she said, with her eyes sparkling, “yonder royal palace
of ours to be an hospital for their use, rather than they should call
their mistress ungrateful. But this is not the question,” she said,
her voice, which had been awakened by her patriotic feelings, once more
subsiding into the tone of gay and easy conversation; “for this Orson
Pinnit’s request goes something further. He complains that, amidst the
extreme delight with which men haunt the play-houses, and in especial
their eager desire for seeing the exhibitions of one Will Shakespeare
(whom I think, my lords, we have all heard something of), the manly
amusement of bear-baiting is falling into comparative neglect, since men
will rather throng to see these roguish players kill each other in
jest, than to see our royal dogs and bears worry each other in bloody
earnest.--What say you to this, my Lord of Sussex?”

“Why, truly, gracious madam,” said Sussex, “you must expect little from
an old soldier like me in favour of battles in sport, when they are
compared with battles in earnest; and yet, by my faith, I wish Will
Shakespeare no harm. He is a stout man at quarter-staff, and single
falchion, though, as I am told, a halting fellow; and he stood, they
say, a tough fight with the rangers of old Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecot,
when he broke his deer-park and kissed his keeper’s daughter.”

“I cry you mercy, my Lord of Sussex,” said Queen Elizabeth, interrupting
him; “that matter was heard in council, and we will not have this
fellow’s offence exaggerated--there was no kissing in the matter, and
the defendant hath put the denial on record. But what say you to his
present practice, my lord, on the stage? for there lies the point, and
not in any ways touching his former errors, in breaking parks, or the
other follies you speak of.”

“Why, truly, madam,” replied Sussex, “as I said before, I wish the
gamesome mad fellow no injury. Some of his whoreson poetry (I crave your
Grace’s pardon for such a phrase) has rung in mine ears as if the lines
sounded to boot and saddle. But then it is all froth and folly--no
substance or seriousness in it, as your Grace has already well touched.
What are half a dozen knaves, with rusty foils and tattered targets,
making but a mere mockery of a stout fight, to compare to the royal game
of bear-baiting, which hath been graced by your Highness’s countenance,
and that of your royal predecessors, in this your princely kingdom,
famous for matchless mastiffs and bold bearwards over all Christendom?
Greatly is it to be doubted that the race of both will decay, if
men should throng to hear the lungs of an idle player belch forth
nonsensical bombast, instead of bestowing their pence in encouraging the
bravest image of war that can be shown in peace, and that is the sports
of the Bear-garden. There you may see the bear lying at guard, with his
red, pinky eyes watching the onset of the mastiff, like a wily captain
who maintains his defence that an assailant may be tempted to venture
within his danger. And then comes Sir Mastiff, like a worthy champion,
in full career at the throat of his adversary; and then shall Sir Bruin
teach him the reward for those who, in their over-courage, neglect the
policies of war, and, catching him in his arms, strain him to his breast
like a lusty wrestler, until rib after rib crack like the shot of a
pistolet. And then another mastiff; as bold, but with better aim and
sounder judgment, catches Sir Bruin by the nether lip, and hangs fast,
while he tosses about his blood and slaver, and tries in vain to shake
Sir Talbot from his hold. And then--”

“Nay, by my honour, my lord,” said the Queen, laughing, “you have
described the whole so admirably that, had we never seen a bear-baiting,
as we have beheld many, and hope, with Heaven’s allowance, to see many
more, your words were sufficient to put the whole Bear-garden before our
eyes.--But come, who speaks next in this case?--My Lord of Leicester,
what say you?”

“Am I then to consider myself as unmuzzled, please your Grace?” replied
Leicester.

“Surely, my lord--that is, if you feel hearty enough to take part in our
game,” answered Elizabeth; “and yet, when I think of your cognizance of
the bear and ragged staff, methinks we had better hear some less partial
orator.”

“Nay, on my word, gracious Princess,” said the Earl, “though my brother
Ambrose of Warwick and I do carry the ancient cognizance your Highness
deigns to remember, I nevertheless desire nothing but fair play on all
sides; or, as they say, ‘fight dog, fight bear.’ And in behalf of the
players, I must needs say that they are witty knaves, whose rants and
jests keep the minds of the commons from busying themselves with
state affairs, and listening to traitorous speeches, idle rumours,
and disloyal insinuations. When men are agape to see how Marlow,
Shakespeare, and other play artificers work out their fanciful plots, as
they call them, the mind of the spectators is withdrawn from the conduct
of their rulers.”

“We would not have the mind of our subjects withdrawn from the
consideration of our own conduct, my lord,” answered Elizabeth; “because
the more closely it is examined, the true motives by which we are guided
will appear the more manifest.”

“I have heard, however, madam,” said the Dean of St. Asaph’s, an eminent
Puritan, “that these players are wont, in their plays, not only to
introduce profane and lewd expressions, tending to foster sin and
harlotry; but even to bellow out such reflections on government, its
origin and its object, as tend to render the subject discontented, and
shake the solid foundations of civil society. And it seems to be,
under your Grace’s favour, far less than safe to permit these naughty
foul-mouthed knaves to ridicule the godly for their decent gravity,
and, in blaspheming heaven and slandering its earthly rulers, to set at
defiance the laws both of God and man.”

“If we could think this were true, my lord,” said Elizabeth, “we should
give sharp correction for such offences. But it is ill arguing against
the use of anything from its abuse. And touching this Shakespeare, we
think there is that in his plays that is worth twenty Bear-gardens;
and that this new undertaking of his Chronicles, as he calls them, may
entertain, with honest mirth, mingled with useful instruction, not only
our subjects, but even the generation which may succeed to us.”

“Your Majesty’s reign will need no such feeble aid to make it remembered
to the latest posterity,” said Leicester. “And yet, in his way,
Shakespeare hath so touched some incidents of your Majesty’s happy
government as may countervail what has been spoken by his reverence
the Dean of St. Asaph’s. There are some lines, for example--I would
my nephew, Philip Sidney, were here; they are scarce ever out of his
mouth--they are spoken in a mad tale of fairies, love-charms, and I wot
not what besides; but beautiful they are, however short they may and
must fall of the subject to which they bear a bold relation--and Philip
murmurs them, I think, even in his dreams.”

“You tantalize us, my lord,” said the Queen--“Master Philip Sidney is,
we know, a minion of the Muses, and we are pleased it should be so.
Valour never shines to more advantage than when united with the true
taste and love of letters. But surely there are some others among our
young courtiers who can recollect what your lordship has forgotten amid
weightier affairs.--Master Tressilian, you are described to me as a
worshipper of Minerva--remember you aught of these lines?”

Tressilian’s heart was too heavy, his prospects in life too fatally
blighted, to profit by the opportunity which the Queen thus offered
to him of attracting her attention; but he determined to transfer the
advantage to his more ambitious young friend, and excusing himself
on the score of want of recollection, he added that he believed the
beautiful verses of which my Lord of Leicester had spoken were in the
remembrance of Master Walter Raleigh.

At the command of the Queen, that cavalier repeated, with accent and
manner which even added to their exquisite delicacy of tact and beauty
of description, the celebrated vision of Oberon:--


     “That very time I saw (but thou couldst not),
     Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
     Cupid, allarm’d:  a certain aim he took
     At a fair vestal, throned by the west;
     And loos’d his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
     As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts:
     But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft
     Quench’d in the chaste beams of the watery moon;
     And the imperial vot’ress passed on,
     In maiden meditation, fancy free.”

The voice of Raleigh, as he repeated the last lines, became a little
tremulous, as if diffident how the Sovereign to whom the homage was
addressed might receive it, exquisite as it was. If this diffidence was
affected, it was good policy; but if real, there was little occasion
for it. The verses were not probably new to the Queen, for when was ever
such elegant flattery long in reaching the royal ear to which it was
addressed? But they were not the less welcome when repeated by such a
speaker as Raleigh. Alike delighted with the matter, the manner, and
the graceful form and animated countenance of the gallant young reciter,
Elizabeth kept time to every cadence with look and with finger. When
the speaker had ceased, she murmured over the last lines as if scarce
conscious that she was overheard, and as she uttered the words,

“In maiden meditation, fancy free,” she dropped into the Thames the
supplication of Orson Pinnit, keeper of the royal bears, to find more
favourable acceptance at Sheerness, or wherever the tide might waft it.

Leicester was spurred to emulation by the success of the young
courtier’s exhibition, as the veteran racer is roused when a
high-mettled colt passes him on the way. He turned the discourse on
shows, banquets, pageants, and on the character of those by whom these
gay scenes were then frequented. He mixed acute observation with light
satire, in that just proportion which was free alike from malignant
slander and insipid praise. He mimicked with ready accent the manners of
the affected or the clownish, and made his own graceful tone and manner
seem doubly such when he resumed it. Foreign countries--their customs,
their manners, the rules of their courts---the fashions, and even the
dress of their ladies-were equally his theme; and seldom did he conclude
without conveying some compliment, always couched in delicacy, and
expressed with propriety, to the Virgin Queen, her court, and her
government. Thus passed the conversation during this pleasure voyage,
seconded by the rest of the attendants upon the royal person, in gay
discourse, varied by remarks upon ancient classics and modern authors,
and enriched by maxims of deep policy and sound morality, by the
statesmen and sages who sat around and mixed wisdom with the lighter
talk of a female court.

When they returned to the Palace, Elizabeth accepted, or rather
selected, the arm of Leicester to support her from the stairs where they
landed to the great gate. It even seemed to him (though that might arise
from the flattery of his own imagination) that during this short
passage she leaned on him somewhat more than the slippiness of the
way necessarily demanded. Certainly her actions and words combined to
express a degree of favour which, even in his proudest day he had not
till then attained. His rival, indeed, was repeatedly graced by the
Queen’s notice; but it was in manner that seemed to flow less from
spontaneous inclination than as extorted by a sense of his merit. And in
the opinion of many experienced courtiers, all the favour she showed
him was overbalanced by her whispering in the ear of the Lady Derby that
“now she saw sickness was a better alchemist than she before wotted
of, seeing it had changed my Lord of Sussex’s copper nose into a golden
one.”

The jest transpired, and the Earl of Leicester enjoyed his triumph,
as one to whom court-favour had been both the primary and the ultimate
motive of life, while he forgot, in the intoxication of the moment, the
perplexities and dangers of his own situation. Indeed, strange as it may
appear, he thought less at that moment of the perils arising from his
secret union, than of the marks of grace which Elizabeth from time to
time showed to young Raleigh. They were indeed transient, but they were
conferred on one accomplished in mind and body, with grace, gallantry,
literature, and valour. An accident occurred in the course of the
evening which riveted Leicester’s attention to this object.

The nobles and courtiers who had attended the Queen on her pleasure
expedition were invited, with royal hospitality, to a splendid banquet
in the hall of the Palace. The table was not, indeed, graced by the
presence of the Sovereign; for, agreeable to her idea of what was at
once modest and dignified, the Maiden Queen on such occasions was wont
to take in private, or with one or two favourite ladies, her light and
temperate meal. After a moderate interval, the court again met in the
splendid gardens of the Palace; and it was while thus engaged that
the Queen suddenly asked a lady, who was near to her both in place and
favour, what had become of the young Squire Lack-Cloak.

The Lady Paget answered, “She had seen Master Raleigh but two or
three minutes since standing at the window of a small pavilion or
pleasure-house, which looked out on the Thames, and writing on the glass
with a diamond ring.”

“That ring,” said the Queen, “was a small token I gave him to make
amends for his spoiled mantle. Come, Paget, let us see what use he has
made of it, for I can see through him already. He is a marvellously
sharp-witted spirit.” They went to the spot, within sight of which,
but at some distance, the young cavalier still lingered, as the fowler
watches the net which he has set. The Queen approached the window, on
which Raleigh had used her gift to inscribe the following line:--


     “Fain would I climb, but that I fear to fall.”

The Queen smiled, read it twice over, once with deliberation to Lady
Paget, and once again to herself. “It is a pretty beginning,” she said,
after the consideration of a moment or two; “but methinks the muse
hath deserted the young wit at the very outset of his task. It were
good-natured--were it not, Lady Paget?--to complete it for him. Try your
rhyming faculties.”

Lady Paget, prosaic from her cradle upwards as ever any lady of the
bedchamber before or after her, disclaimed all possibility of assisting
the young poet.

“Nay, then, we must sacrifice to the Muses ourselves,” said Elizabeth.

“The incense of no one can be more acceptable,” said Lady Paget; “and
your Highness will impose such obligation on the ladies of Parnassus--”

“Hush, Paget,” said the Queen, “you speak sacrilege against the immortal
Nine--yet, virgins themselves, they should be exorable to a Virgin
Queen--and therefore--let me see how runs his verse--


     ‘Fain would I climb, but that I fear to fall.’

Might not the answer (for fault of a better) run thus?--


     ‘If thy mind fail thee, do not climb at all.’”

The dame of honour uttered an exclamation of joy and surprise at so
happy a termination; and certainly a worse has been applauded, even when
coming from a less distinguished author.

The Queen, thus encouraged, took off a diamond ring, and saying, “We
will give this gallant some cause of marvel when he finds his couplet
perfected without his own interference,” she wrote her own line beneath
that of Raleigh.

The Queen left the pavilion; but retiring slowly, and often looking
back, she could see the young cavalier steal, with the flight of a
lapwing, towards the place where he had seen her make a pause. “She
stayed but to observe,” as she said, “that her train had taken;” and
then, laughing at the circumstance with the Lady Paget, she took the way
slowly towards the Palace. Elizabeth, as they returned, cautioned her
companion not to mention to any one the aid which she had given to the
young poet, and Lady Paget promised scrupulous secrecy. It is to be
supposed that she made a mental reservation in favour of Leicester,
to whom her ladyship transmitted without delay an anecdote so little
calculated to give him pleasure.

Raleigh, in the meanwhile, stole back to the window, and read, with a
feeling of intoxication, the encouragement thus given him by the Queen
in person to follow out his ambitious career, and returned to Sussex
and his retinue, then on the point of embarking to go up the river,
his heart beating high with gratified pride, and with hope of future
distinction.

The reverence due to the person of the Earl prevented any notice being
taken of the reception he had met with at court, until they had landed,
and the household were assembled in the great hall at Sayes Court; while
that lord, exhausted by his late illness and the fatigues of the day,
had retired to his chamber, demanding the attendance of Wayland, his
successful physician. Wayland, however, was nowhere to be found; and
while some of the party were, with military impatience, seeking him and
cursing his absence, the rest flocked around Raleigh to congratulate him
on his prospects of court-favour.

He had the good taste and judgment to conceal the decisive circumstance
of the couplet to which Elizabeth had deigned to find a rhyme; but other
indications had transpired, which plainly intimated that he had made
some progress in the Queen’s favour. All hastened to wish him joy on the
mended appearance of his fortune--some from real regard, some, perhaps,
from hopes that his preferment might hasten their own, and most from a
mixture of these motives, and a sense that the countenance shown to any
one of Sussex’s household was, in fact, a triumph to the whole. Raleigh
returned the kindest thanks to them all, disowning, with becoming
modesty, that one day’s fair reception made a favourite, any more than
one swallow a summer. But he observed that Blount did not join in the
general congratulation, and, somewhat hurt at his apparent unkindness,
he plainly asked him the reason.

Blount replied with equal sincerity--“My good Walter, I wish thee as
well as do any of these chattering gulls, who are whistling and whooping
gratulations in thine ear because it seems fair weather with thee. But
I fear for thee, Walter” (and he wiped his honest eye), “I fear for thee
with all my heart. These court-tricks, and gambols, and flashes of fine
women’s favour are the tricks and trinkets that bring fair fortunes to
farthings, and fine faces and witty coxcombs to the acquaintance of dull
block and sharp axes.”

So saying, Blount arose and left the hall, while Raleigh looked after
him with an expression that blanked for a moment his bold and animated
countenance.

Stanley just then entered the hall, and said to Tressilian, “My lord is
calling for your fellow Wayland, and your fellow Wayland is just come
hither in a sculler, and is calling for you, nor will he go to my lord
till he sees you. The fellow looks as he were mazed, methinks; I would
you would see him immediately.”

Tressilian instantly left the hall, and causing Wayland Smith to be
shown into a withdrawing apartment, and lights placed, he conducted the
artist thither, and was surprised when he observed the emotion of his
countenance.

“What is the matter with you, Smith?” said Tressilian; “have you seen
the devil?”

“Worse, sir, worse,” replied Wayland; “I have seen a basilisk. Thank
God, I saw him first; for being so seen, and seeing not me, he will do
the less harm.”

“In God’s name, speak sense,” said Tressilian, “and say what you mean.”

“I have seen my old master,” said the artist. “Last night a friend whom
I had acquired took me to see the Palace clock, judging me to be curious
in such works of art. At the window of a turret next to the clock-house
I saw my old master.”

“Thou must needs have been mistaken,” said Tressilian.

“I was not mistaken,” said Wayland; “he that once hath his features by
heart would know him amongst a million. He was anticly habited; but he
cannot disguise himself from me, God be praised! as I can from him.
I will not, however, tempt Providence by remaining within his ken.
Tarleton the player himself could not so disguise himself but that,
sooner or later, Doboobie would find him out. I must away to-morrow;
for, as we stand together, it were death to me to remain within reach of
him.”

“But the Earl of Sussex?” said Tressilian.

“He is in little danger from what he has hitherto taken, provided
he swallow the matter of a bean’s size of the orvietan every morning
fasting; but let him beware of a relapse.”

“And how is that to be guarded against?” said Tressilian.

“Only by such caution as you would use against the devil,” answered
Wayland. “Let my lord’s clerk of the kitchen kill his lord’s meat
himself, and dress it himself, using no spice but what he procures from
the surest hands. Let the sewer serve it up himself, and let the master
of my lord’s household see that both clerk and sewer taste the dishes
which the one dresses and the other serves. Let my lord use no perfumes
which come not from well accredited persons; no unguents--no pomades.
Let him, on no account, drink with strangers, or eat fruit with them,
either in the way of nooning or otherwise. Especially, let him observe
such caution if he goes to Kenilworth--the excuse of his illness, and
his being under diet, will, and must, cover the strangeness of such
practice.”

“And thou,” said Tressilian, “what dost thou think to make of thyself?”

“France, Spain, either India, East or West, shall be my refuge,” said
Wayland, “ere I venture my life by residing within ken of Doboobie,
Demetrius, or whatever else he calls himself for the time.”

“Well,” said Tressilian, “this happens not inopportunely. I had business
for you in Berkshire, but in the opposite extremity to the place where
thou art known; and ere thou hadst found out this new reason for living
private, I had settled to send thee thither upon a secret embassage.”

The artist expressed himself willing to receive his commands, and
Tressilian, knowing he was well acquainted with the outline of his
business at court, frankly explained to him the whole, mentioned the
agreement which subsisted betwixt Giles Gosling and him, and told
what had that day been averred in the presence-chamber by Varney, and
supported by Leicester.

“Thou seest,” he added, “that, in the circumstances in which I am
placed, it behoves me to keep a narrow watch on the motions of these
unprincipled men, Varney and his complices, Foster and Lambourne, as
well as on those of my Lord Leicester himself, who, I suspect, is partly
a deceiver, and not altogether the deceived in that matter. Here is my
ring, as a pledge to Giles Gosling. Here is besides gold, which shall be
trebled if thou serve me faithfully. Away down to Cumnor, and see what
happens there.”

“I go with double good-will,” said the artist, “first, because I serve
your honour, who has been so kind to me; and then, that I may escape my
old master, who, if not an absolute incarnation of the devil, has, at
least, as much of the demon about him, in will, word, and action; as
ever polluted humanity. And yet let him take care of me. I fly him now,
as heretofore; but if, like the Scottish wild cattle, I am vexed by
frequent pursuit, I may turn on him in hate and desperation. [A remnant
of the wild cattle of Scotland are preserved at Chillingham Castle, near
Wooler, in Northumberland, the seat of Lord Tankerville. They fly before
strangers; but if disturbed and followed, they turn with fury on those
who persist in annoying them.] Will your honour command my nag to be
saddled? I will but give the medicine to my lord, divided in its proper
proportions, with a few instructions. His safety will then depend on the
care of his friends and domestics; for the past he is guarded, but let
him beware of the future.”

Wayland Smith accordingly made his farewell visit to the Earl of Sussex,
dictated instructions as to his regimen, and precautions concerning his
diet, and left Sayes Court without waiting for morning.



CHAPTER XVIII.


     The moment comes--
     It is already come--when thou must write
     The absolute total of thy life’s vast sum.
     The constellations stand victorious o’er thee,
     The planets shoot good fortune in fair junctions,
     And tell thee, “Now’s the time.”
      --SCHILLER’S WALLENSTEIN, BY COLERIDGE.

When Leicester returned to his lodging, alter a day so important and so
harassing, in which, after riding out more than one gale, and touching
on more than one shoal, his bark had finally gained the harbour with
banner displayed, he seemed to experience as much fatigue as a mariner
after a perilous storm. He spoke not a word while his chamberlain
exchanged his rich court-mantle for a furred night-robe, and when this
officer signified that Master Varney desired to speak with his lordship,
he replied only by a sullen nod. Varney, however, entered, accepting
this signal as a permission, and the chamberlain withdrew.

The Earl remained silent and almost motionless in his chair, his head
reclined on his hand, and his elbow resting upon the table which stood
beside him, without seeming to be conscious of the entrance or of the
presence of his confidant. Varney waited for some minutes until he
should speak, desirous to know what was the finally predominant mood of
a mind through which so many powerful emotions had that day taken their
course. But he waited in vain, for Leicester continued still silent,
and the confidant saw himself under the necessity of being the first
to speak. “May I congratulate your lordship,” he said, “on the deserved
superiority you have this day attained over your most formidable rival?”

Leicester raised his head, and answered sadly, but without anger, “Thou,
Varney, whose ready invention has involved me in a web of most mean
and perilous falsehood, knowest best what small reason there is for
gratulation on the subject.”

“Do you blame me, my lord,” said Varney, “for not betraying, on the
first push, the secret on which your fortunes depended, and which
you have so oft and so earnestly recommended to my safe keeping? Your
lordship was present in person, and might have contradicted me and
ruined yourself by an avowal of the truth; but surely it was no part of
a faithful servant to have done so without your commands.”

“I cannot deny it, Varney,” said the Earl, rising and walking across the
room; “my own ambition has been traitor to my love.”

“Say rather, my lord, that your love has been traitor to your greatness,
and barred you from such a prospect of honour and power as the world
cannot offer to any other. To make my honoured lady a countess, you have
missed the chance of being yourself--”

He paused, and seemed unwilling to complete the sentence.

“Of being myself what?” demanded Leicester; “speak out thy meaning,
Varney.”

“Of being yourself a KING, my lord,” replied Varney; “and King of
England to boot! It is no treason to our Queen to say so. It would have
chanced by her obtaining that which all true subjects wish her--a lusty,
noble, and gallant husband.”

“Thou ravest, Varney,” answered Leicester. “Besides, our times have
seen enough to make men loathe the Crown Matrimonial which men take from
their wives’ lap. There was Darnley of Scotland.”

“He!” said Varney; “a, gull, a fool, a thrice-sodden ass, who suffered
himself to be fired off into the air like a rocket on a rejoicing day.
Had Mary had the hap to have wedded the noble Earl ONCE destined to
share her throne, she had experienced a husband of different metal; and
her husband had found in her a wife as complying and loving as the mate
of the meanest squire who follows the hounds a-horseback, and holds her
husband’s bridle as he mounts.”

“It might have been as thou sayest, Varney,” said Leicester, a brief
smile of self-satisfaction passing over his anxious countenance. “Henry
Darnley knew little of women--with Mary, a man who knew her sex might
have had some chance of holding his own. But not with Elizabeth, Varney
for I thank God, when he gave her the heart of a woman, gave her the
head of a man to control its follies. No, I know her. She will accept
love-tokens, ay, and requite them with the like--put sugared sonnets
in her bosom, ay, and answer them too--push gallantry to the very verge
where it becomes exchange of affection; but she writes NIL ULTRA to all
which is to follow, and would not barter one iota of her own supreme
power for all the alphabet of both Cupid and Hymen.”

“The better for you, my lord,” said Varney--“that is, in the case
supposed, if such be her disposition; since you think you cannot aspire
to become her husband. Her favourite you are, and may remain, if the
lady at Cumnor place continues in her present obscurity.”

“Poor Amy!” said Leicester, with a deep sigh; “she desires so earnestly
to be acknowledged in presence of God and man!”

“Ay, but, my lord,” said Varney, “is her desire reasonable? That is
the question. Her religious scruples are solved; she is an honoured and
beloved wife, enjoying the society of her husband at such times as his
weightier duties permit him to afford her his company. What would she
more? I am right sure that a lady so gentle and so loving would consent
to live her life through in a certain obscurity--which is, after all,
not dimmer than when she was at Lidcote Hall--rather than diminish the
least jot of her lord’s honours and greatness by a premature attempt to
share them.”

“There is something in what thou sayest,” said Leicester, “and her
appearance here were fatal. Yet she must be seen at Kenilworth;
Elizabeth will not forget that she has so appointed.”

“Let me sleep on that hard point,” said Varney; “I cannot else perfect
the device I have on the stithy, which I trust will satisfy the Queen
and please my honoured lady, yet leave this fatal secret where it is now
buried. Has your lordship further commands for the night?”

“I would be alone,” said Leicester. “Leave me, and place my steel casket
on the table. Be within summons.”

Varney retired, and the Earl, opening the window of his apartment,
looked out long and anxiously upon the brilliant host of stars which
glimmered in the splendour of a summer firmament. The words burst from
him as at unawares, “I had never more need that the heavenly bodies
should befriend me, for my earthly path is darkened and confused.”

It is well known that the age reposed a deep confidence in the vain
predictions of judicial astrology, and Leicester, though exempt from the
general control of superstition, was not in this respect superior to his
time, but, on the contrary, was remarkable for the encouragement which
he gave to the professors of this pretended science. Indeed, the wish to
pry into futurity, so general among the human race, is peculiarly to
be found amongst those who trade in state mysteries and the dangerous
intrigues and cabals of courts. With heedful precaution to see that it
had not been opened, or its locks tampered with, Leicester applied a key
to the steel casket, and drew from it, first, a parcel of gold pieces,
which he put into a silk purse; then a parchment inscribed with
planetary signs, and the lines and calculations used in framing
horoscopes, on which he gazed intently for a few moments; and, lastly,
took forth a large key, which, lifting aside the tapestry, he applied to
a little, concealed door in the corner of the apartment, and opening it,
disclosed a stair constructed in the thickness of the wall.

“Alasco,” said the Earl, with a voice raised, yet no higher raised than
to be heard by the inhabitant of the small turret to which the stair
conducted--“Alasco, I say, descend.”

“I come, my lord,” answered a voice from above. The foot of an aged man
was heard slowly descending the narrow stair, and Alasco entered the
Earl’s apartment. The astrologer was a little man, and seemed much
advanced in age, for his heard was long and white, and reached over
his black doublet down to his silken girdle. His hair was of the same
venerable hue. But his eyebrows were as dark as the keen and piercing
black eyes which they shaded, and this peculiarity gave a wild and
singular cast to the physiognomy of the old man. His cheek was still
fresh and ruddy, and the eyes we have mentioned resembled those of a
rat in acuteness and even fierceness of expression. His manner was not
without a sort of dignity; and the interpreter of the stars, though
respectful, seemed altogether at his ease, and even assumed a tone
of instruction and command in conversing with the prime favourite of
Elizabeth.

“Your prognostications have failed, Alasco,” said the Earl, when they
had exchanged salutations--“he is recovering.”

“My son,” replied the astrologer, “let me remind you I warranted not
his death; nor is there any prognostication that can be derived from
the heavenly bodies, their aspects and their conjunctions, which is not
liable to be controlled by the will of Heaven. ASTRA REGUNT HOMINES, SED
REGIT ASTRA DEUS.”

“Of what avail, then, is your mystery?” inquired the Earl.

“Of much, my son,” replied the old man, “since it can show the
natural and probable course of events, although that course moves in
subordination to an Higher Power. Thus, in reviewing the horoscope which
your Lordship subjected to my skill, you will observe that Saturn, being
in the sixth House in opposition to Mars, retrograde in the House of
Life, cannot but denote long and dangerous sickness, the issue whereof
is in the will of Heaven, though death may probably be inferred. Yet if
I knew the name of the party I would erect another scheme.”

“His name is a secret,” said the Earl; “yet, I must own, thy
prognostication hath not been unfaithful. He has been sick, and
dangerously so, not, however, to death. But hast thou again cast my
horoscope as Varney directed thee, and art thou prepared to say what the
stars tell of my present fortune?”

“My art stands at your command,” said the old man; “and here, my son, is
the map of thy fortunes, brilliant in aspect as ever beamed from those
blessed signs whereby our life is influenced, yet not unchequered with
fears, difficulties, and dangers.”

“My lot were more than mortal were it otherwise,” said the Earl.
“Proceed, father, and believe you speak with one ready to undergo his
destiny in action and in passion as may beseem a noble of England.”

“Thy courage to do and to suffer must be wound up yet a strain higher,”
 said the old man. “The stars intimate yet a prouder title, yet an higher
rank. It is for thee to guess their meaning, not for me to name it.”

“Name it, I conjure you--name it, I command you!” said the Earl, his
eyes brightening as he spoke.

“I may not, and I will not,” replied the old man. “The ire of princes is
as the wrath of the lion. But mark, and judge for thyself. Here Venus,
ascendant in the House of Life, and conjoined with Sol, showers down
that flood of silver light, blent with gold, which promises power,
wealth, dignity, all that the proud heart of man desires, and in such
abundance that never the future Augustus of that old and mighty Rome
heard from his HARUSPICES such a tale of glory, as from this rich text
my lore might read to my favourite son.”

“Thou dost but jest with me, father,” said the Earl, astonished at the
strain of enthusiasm in which the astrologer delivered his prediction.

“Is it for him to jest who hath his eye on heaven, who hath his foot in
the grave?” returned the old man solemnly.

The Earl made two or three strides through the apartment, with his hand
outstretched, as one who follows the beckoning signal of some phantom,
waving him on to deeds of high import. As he turned, however, he caught
the eye of the astrologer fixed on him, while an observing glance of
the most shrewd penetration shot from under the penthouse of his shaggy,
dark eyebrows. Leicester’s haughty and suspicious soul at once caught
fire. He darted towards the old man from the farther end of the lofty
apartment, only standing still when his extended hand was within a foot
of the astrologer’s body.

“Wretch!” he said, “if you dare to palter with me, I will have your skin
stripped from your living flesh! Confess thou hast been hired to deceive
and to betray me--that thou art a cheat, and I thy silly prey and
booty!”

The old man exhibited some symptoms of emotion, but not more than the
furious deportment of his patron might have extorted from innocence
itself.

“What means this violence, my lord?” he answered, “or in what can I have
deserved it at your hand?”

“Give me proof,” said the Earl vehemently, “that you have not tampered
with mine enemies.”

“My lord,” replied the old man, with dignity, “you can have no better
proof than that which you yourself elected. In that turret I have spent
the last twenty-four hours under the key which has been in your own
custody. The hours of darkness I have spent in gazing on the heavenly
bodies with these dim eyes, and during those of light I have toiled this
aged brain to complete the calculation arising from their combinations.
Earthly food I have not tasted--earthly voice I have not heard. You are
yourself aware I had no means of doing so; and yet I tell you--I
who have been thus shut up in solitude and study--that within these
twenty-four hours your star has become predominant in the horizon, and
either the bright book of heaven speaks false, or there must have been
a proportionate revolution in your fortunes upon earth. If nothing has
happened within that space to secure your power, or advance your favour,
then am I indeed a cheat, and the divine art, which was first devised in
the plains of Chaldea, is a foul imposture.”

“It is true,” said Leicester, after a moment’s reflection, “thou wert
closely immured; and it is also true that the change has taken place in
my situation which thou sayest the horoscope indicates.”

“Wherefore this distrust then, my son?” said the astrologer, assuming a
tone of admonition; “the celestial intelligences brook not diffidence,
even in their favourites.”

“Peace, father,” answered Leicester, “I have erred in doubting thee.
Not to mortal man, nor to celestial intelligence--under that which is
supreme--will Dudley’s lips say more in condescension or apology. Speak
rather to the present purpose. Amid these bright promises thou hast said
there was a threatening aspect. Can thy skill tell whence, or by whose
means, such danger seems to impend?”

“Thus far only,” answered the astrologer, “does my art enable me to
answer your query. The infortune is threatened by the malignant and
adverse aspect, through means of a youth, and, as I think, a rival; but
whether in love or in prince’s favour, I know not nor can I give further
indication respecting him, save that he comes from the western quarter.”

“The western--ha!” replied Leicester, “it is enough--the tempest
does indeed brew in that quarter! Cornwall and Devon--Raleigh and
Tressilian--one of them is indicated-I must beware of both. Father, if I
have done thy skill injustice, I will make thee a lordly recompense.”

He took a purse of gold from the strong casket which stood before him.
“Have thou double the recompense which Varney promised. Be faithful--be
secret--obey the directions thou shalt receive from my master of the
horse, and grudge not a little seclusion or restraint in my cause--it
shall be richly considered.--Here, Varney--conduct this venerable man
to thine own lodging; tend him heedfully in all things, but see that he
holds communication with no one.”

Varney bowed, and the astrologer kissed the Earl’s hand in token of
adieu, and followed the master of the horse to another apartment, in
which were placed wine and refreshments for his use.

The astrologer sat down to his repast, while Varney shut two doors with
great precaution, examined the tapestry, lest any listener lurked behind
it, and then sitting down opposite to the sage, began to question him.

“Saw you my signal from the court beneath?”

“I did,” said Alasco, for by such name he was at present called, “and
shaped the horoscope accordingly.”

“And it passed upon the patron without challenge?” continued Varney.

“Not without challenge,” replied the old man, “but it did pass; and I
added, as before agreed, danger from a discovered secret, and a western
youth.”

“My lord’s fear will stand sponsor to the one, and his conscience to the
other, of these prognostications,” replied Varney. “Sure never man chose
to run such a race as his, yet continued to retain those silly scruples!
I am fain to cheat him to his own profit. But touching your matters,
sage interpreter of the stars, I can tell you more of your own fortune
than plan or figure can show. You must be gone from hence forthwith.”

“I will not,” said Alasco peevishly. “I have been too much hurried
up and down of late--immured for day and night in a desolate
turret-chamber. I must enjoy my liberty, and pursue my studies, which
are of more import than the fate of fifty statesmen and favourites that
rise and burst like bubbles in the atmosphere of a court.”

“At your pleasure,” said Varney, with a sneer that habit had rendered
familiar to his features, and which forms the principal characteristic
which painters have assigned to that of Satan--“at your pleasure,” he
said; “you may enjoy your liberty and your studies until the daggers
of Sussex’s followers are clashing within your doublet and against your
ribs.” The old man turned pale, and Varney proceeded. “Wot you not he
hath offered a reward for the arch-quack and poison-vender, Demetrius,
who sold certain precious spices to his lordship’s cook? What! turn you
pale, old friend? Does Hali already see an infortune in the House of
Life? Why, hark thee, we will have thee down to an old house of mine
in the country, where thou shalt live with a hobnailed slave, whom thy
alchemy may convert into ducats, for to such conversion alone is thy art
serviceable.”

“It is false, thou foul-mouthed railer,” said Alasco, shaking with
impotent anger; “it is well known that I have approached more nearly
to projection than any hermetic artist who now lives. There are not six
chemists in the world who possess so near an approximation to the grand
arcanum--”

“Come, come,” said Varney, interrupting him, “what means this, in the
name of Heaven? Do we not know one another? I believe thee to be so
perfect--so very perfect--in the mystery of cheating, that, having
imposed upon all mankind, thou hast at length in some measure imposed
upon thyself, and without ceasing to dupe others, hast become a species
of dupe to thine own imagination. Blush not for it, man--thou art
learned, and shalt have classical comfort:

‘Ne quisquam Ajacem possit superare nisi Ajax.’

No one but thyself could have gulled thee; and thou hast gulled the
whole brotherhood of the Rosy Cross besides--none so deep in the mystery
as thou. But hark thee in thine ear: had the seasoning which spiced
Sussex’s broth wrought more surely, I would have thought better of the
chemical science thou dost boast so highly.”

“Thou art an hardened villain, Varney,” replied Alasco; “many will do
those things who dare not speak of them.”

“And many speak of them who dare not do them,” answered Varney. “But be
not wroth--I will not quarrel with thee. If I did, I were fain to live
on eggs for a month, that I might feed without fear. Tell me at once,
how came thine art to fail thee at this great emergency?”

“The Earl of Sussex’s horoscope intimates,” replied the astrologer,
“that the sign of the ascendant being in combustion--”

“Away with your gibberish,” replied Varney; “thinkest thou it is the
patron thou speakest with?”

“I crave your pardon,” replied the old man, “and swear to you I know but
one medicine that could have saved the Earl’s life; and as no man
living in England knows that antidote save myself--moreover, as the
ingredients, one of them in particular, are scarce possible to be come
by, I must needs suppose his escape was owing to such a constitution of
lungs and vital parts as was never before bound up in a body of clay.”

“There was some talk of a quack who waited on him,” said Varney, after
a moment’s reflection. “Are you sure there is no one in England who has
this secret of thine?”

“One man there was,” said the doctor, “once my servant, who might have
stolen this of me, with one or two other secrets of art. But content
you, Master Varney, it is no part of my policy to suffer such
interlopers to interfere in my trade. He pries into no mysteries more,
I warrant you, for, as I well believe, he hath been wafted to heaven on
the wing of a fiery dragon--peace be with him! But in this retreat of
mine shall I have the use of mine elaboratory?”

“Of a whole workshop, man,” said Varney; “for a reverend father abbot,
who was fain to give place to bluff King Hal and some of his courtiers,
a score of years since, had a chemist’s complete apparatus, which he was
obliged to leave behind him to his successors. Thou shalt there occupy,
and melt, and puff, and blaze, and multiply, until the Green Dragon
become a golden goose, or whatever the newer phrase of the brotherhood
may testify.”

“Thou art right, Master Varney,” said the alchemist setting his teeth
close and grinding them together--“thou art right even in thy very
contempt of right and reason. For what thou sayest in mockery may in
sober verity chance to happen ere we meet again. If the most venerable
sages of ancient days have spoken the truth--if the most learned of
our own have rightly received it; if I have been accepted wherever I
travelled in Germany, in Poland, in Italy, and in the farther Tartary,
as one to whom nature has unveiled her darkest secrets; if I have
acquired the most secret signs and passwords of the Jewish Cabala, so
that the greyest beard in the synagogue would brush the steps to make
them clean for me;--if all this is so, and if there remains but one
step--one little step--betwixt my long, deep, and dark, and subterranean
progress, and that blaze of light which shall show Nature watching her
richest and her most glorious productions in the very cradle--one
step betwixt dependence and the power of sovereignty--one step betwixt
poverty and such a sum of wealth as earth, without that noble secret,
cannot minister from all her mines in the old or the new-found world; if
this be all so, is it not reasonable that to this I dedicate my future
life, secure, for a brief period of studious patience, to rise above the
mean dependence upon favourites, and THEIR favourites, by which I am now
enthralled!”

“Now, bravo! bravo! my good father,” said Varney, with the usual
sardonic expression of ridicule on his countenance; “yet all this
approximation to the philosopher’s stone wringeth not one single crown
out of my Lord Leicester’s pouch, and far less out of Richard Varney’s.
WE must have earthly and substantial services, man, and care not whom
else thou canst delude with thy philosophical charlatanry.”

“My son Varney,” said the alchemist, “the unbelief, gathered around thee
like a frost-fog, hath dimmed thine acute perception to that which is a
stumbling-block to the wise, and which yet, to him who seeketh knowledge
with humility, extends a lesson so clear that he who runs may read.
Hath not Art, thinkest thou, the means of completing Nature’s imperfect
concoctions in her attempts to form the precious metals, even as by
art we can perfect those other operations of incubation, distillation,
fermentation, and similar processes of an ordinary description, by
which we extract life itself out of a senseless egg, summon purity and
vitality out of muddy dregs, or call into vivacity the inert substance
of a sluggish liquid?”

“I have heard all this before,” said Varney, “and my heart is proof
against such cant ever since I sent twenty good gold pieces (marry,
it was in the nonage of my wit) to advance the grand magisterium, all
which, God help the while, vanished IN FUMO. Since that moment, when I
paid for my freedom, I defy chemistry, astrology, palmistry, and every
other occult art, were it as secret as hell itself, to unloose the
stricture of my purse-strings. Marry, I neither defy the manna of Saint
Nicholas, nor can I dispense with it. The first task must be to prepare
some when thou gett’st down to my little sequestered retreat yonder, and
then make as much gold as thou wilt.”

“I will make no more of that dose,” said the alchemist, resolutely.

“Then,” said the master of the horse, “thou shalt be hanged for what
thou hast made already, and so were the great secret for ever lost to
mankind. Do not humanity this injustice, good father, but e’en bend
to thy destiny, and make us an ounce or two of this same stuff; which
cannot prejudice above one or two individuals, in order to gain lifetime
to discover the universal medicine, which shall clear away all mortal
diseases at once. But cheer up, thou grave, learned, and most melancholy
jackanape! Hast thou not told me that a moderate portion of thy drug
hath mild effects, no ways ultimately dangerous to the human frame, but
which produces depression of spirits, nausea, headache, an unwillingness
to change of place--even such a state of temper as would keep a bird
from flying out of a cage were the door left open?”

“I have said so, and it is true,” said the alchemist. “This effect will
it produce, and the bird who partakes of it in such proportion shall sit
for a season drooping on her perch, without thinking either of the free
blue sky, or of the fair greenwood, though the one be lighted by the
rays of the rising sun, and the other ringing with the newly-awakened
song of all the feathered inhabitants of the forest.”

“And this without danger to life?” said Varney, somewhat anxiously.

“Ay, so that proportion and measure be not exceeded; and so that one who
knows the nature of the manna be ever near to watch the symptoms, and
succour in case of need.”

“Thou shalt regulate the whole,” said Varney. “Thy reward shall be
princely, if thou keepest time and touch, and exceedest not the due
proportion, to the prejudice of her health; otherwise thy punishment
shall be as signal.”

“The prejudice of HER health!” repeated Alasco; “it is, then, a woman I
am to use my skill upon?”

“No, thou fool,” replied Varney, “said I not it was a bird--a reclaimed
linnet, whose pipe might soothe a hawk when in mid stoop? I see thine
eye sparkle, and I know thy beard is not altogether so white as art has
made it--THAT, at least, thou hast been able to transmute to silver. But
mark me, this is no mate for thee. This caged bird is dear to one who
brooks no rivalry, and far less such rivalry as thine, and her health
must over all things be cared for. But she is in the case of
being commanded down to yonder Kenilworth revels, and it is most
expedient--most needful--most necessary that she fly not thither. Of
these necessities and their causes, it is not needful that she should
know aught; and it is to be thought that her own wish may lead her
to combat all ordinary reasons which can be urged for her remaining a
housekeeper.”

“That is but natural,” said the alchemist with a strange smile,
which yet bore a greater reference to the human character than the
uninterested and abstracted gaze which his physiognomy had hitherto
expressed, where all seemed to refer to some world distant from that
which was existing around him.

“It is so,” answered Varney; “you understand women well, though it may
have been long since you were conversant amongst them. Well, then, she
is not to be contradicted; yet she is not to be humoured. Understand
me--a slight illness, sufficient to take away the desire of removing
from thence, and to make such of your wise fraternity as may be called
in to aid, recommend a quiet residence at home, will, in one word, be
esteemed good service, and remunerated as such.”

“I am not to be asked to affect the House of Life?” said the chemist.

“On the contrary, we will have thee hanged if thou dost,” replied
Varney.

“And I must,” added Alasco, “have opportunity to do my turn, and all
facilities for concealment or escape, should there be detection?”

“All, all, and everything, thou infidel in all but the impossibilities
of alchemy. Why, man, for what dost thou take me?”

The old man rose, and taking a light walked towards the end of the
apartment, where was a door that led to the small sleeping-room destined
for his reception during the night. At the door he turned round, and
slowly repeated Varney’s question ere he answered it. “For what do
I take thee, Richard Varney? Why, for a worse devil than I have been
myself. But I am in your toils, and I must serve you till my term be
out.”

“Well, well,” answered Varney hastily, “be stirring with grey light.
It may be we shall not need thy medicine--do nought till I myself
come down. Michael Lambourne shall guide you to the place of your
destination.” [See Note 7. Dr. Julio.]

When Varney heard the adept’s door shut and carefully bolted within, he
stepped towards it, and with similar precaution carefully locked it
on the outside, and took the key from the lock, muttering to himself,
“Worse than THEE, thou poisoning quacksalver and witch-monger, who,
if thou art not a bounden slave to the devil, it is only because he
disdains such an apprentice! I am a mortal man, and seek by mortal means
the gratification of my passions and advancement of my prospects; thou
art a vassal of hell itself--So ho, Lambourne!” he called at another
door, and Michael made his appearance with a flushed cheek and an
unsteady step.

“Thou art drunk, thou villain!” said Varney to him.

“Doubtless, noble sir,” replied the unabashed Michael; “We have been
drinking all even to the glories of the day, and to my noble Lord of
Leicester and his valiant master of the horse. Drunk! odds blades and
poniards, he that would refuse to swallow a dozen healths on such an
evening is a base besognio, and a puckfoist, and shall swallow six
inches of my dagger!”

“Hark ye, scoundrel,” said Varney, “be sober on the instant--I command
thee. I know thou canst throw off thy drunken folly, like a fool’s coat,
at pleasure; and if not, it were the worse for thee.”

Lambourne drooped his head, left the apartment, and returned in two or
three minutes with his face composed, his hair adjusted, his dress in
order, and exhibiting as great a difference from his former self as if
the whole man had been changed.

“Art thou sober now, and dost thou comprehend me?” said Varney sternly.

Lambourne bowed in acquiescence.

“Thou must presently down to Cumnor Place with the reverend man of art
who sleeps yonder in the little vaulted chamber. Here is the key, that
thou mayest call him by times. Take another trusty fellow with you. Use
him well on the journey, but let him not escape you--pistol him if he
attempt it, and I will be your warrant. I will give thee letters to
Foster. The doctor is to occupy the lower apartments of the eastern
quadrangle, with freedom to use the old elaboratory and its implements.
He is to have no access to the lady, but such as I shall point out--only
she may be amused to see his philosophical jugglery. Thou wilt await
at Cumnor Place my further orders; and, as thou livest, beware of the
ale-bench and the aqua vitae flask. Each breath drawn in Cumnor Place
must be kept severed from common air.”

“Enough, my lord--I mean my worshipful master, soon, I trust, to be my
worshipful knightly master. You have given me my lesson and my license;
I will execute the one, and not abuse the other. I will be in the saddle
by daybreak.”

“Do so, and deserve favour. Stay--ere thou goest fill me a cup of
wine--not out of that flask, sirrah,” as Lambourne was pouring out from
that which Alasco had left half finished, “fetch me a fresh one.”

Lambourne obeyed, and Varney, after rinsing his mouth with the liquor,
drank a full cup, and said, as he took up a lamp to retreat to his
sleeping apartment, “It is strange--I am as little the slave of fancy
as any one, yet I never speak for a few minutes with this fellow Alasco,
but my mouth and lungs feel as if soiled with the fumes of calcined
arsenic--pah!”

So saying, he left the apartment. Lambourne lingered, to drink a cup of
the freshly-opened flask. “It is from Saint John’s-Berg,” he said, as he
paused on the draught to enjoy its flavour, “and has the true relish of
the violet. But I must forbear it now, that I may one day drink it at my
own pleasure.” And he quaffed a goblet of water to quench the fumes of
the Rhenish wine, retired slowly towards the door, made a pause, and
then, finding the temptation irresistible, walked hastily back, and took
another long pull at the wine flask, without the formality of a cup.

“Were it not for this accursed custom,” he said, “I might climb as high
as Varney himself. But who can climb when the room turns round with
him like a parish-top? I would the distance were greater, or the road
rougher, betwixt my hand and mouth! But I will drink nothing to-morrow
save water--nothing save fair water.”



CHAPTER XIX.


     PISTOL.  And tidings do I bring, and lucky joys,
     And happy news of price.
     FALSTAFF.  I prithee now deliver them like to men of this world.
     PISTOL.  A foutra for the world, and worldlings base!
     I speak of Africa, and golden joys.    --HENRY IV. PART II.

The public room of the Black Bear at Cumnor, to which the scene of
our story now returns, boasted, on the evening which we treat of,
no ordinary assemblage of guests. There had been a fair in the
neighbourhood, and the cutting mercer of Abingdon, with some of the
other personages whom the reader has already been made acquainted with,
as friends and customers of Giles Gosling, had already formed their
wonted circle around the evening fire, and were talking over the news of
the day.

A lively, bustling, arch fellow, whose pack, and oaken ellwand studded
duly with brass points, denoted him to be of Autolycus’s profession,
occupied a good deal of the attention, and furnished much of the
amusement, of the evening. The pedlars of those days, it must be
remembered, were men of far greater importance than the degenerate
and degraded hawkers of our modern times. It was by means of these
peripatetic venders that the country trade, in the finer manufactures
used in female dress particularly, was almost entirely carried on; and
if a merchant of this description arrived at the dignity of travelling
with a pack-horse, he was a person of no small consequence, and company
for the most substantial yeoman or franklin whom he might meet in his
wanderings.

The pedlar of whom we speak bore, accordingly, an active and unrebuked
share in the merriment to which the rafters of the bonny Black Bear
of Cumnor resounded. He had his smile with pretty Mistress Cicely, his
broad laugh with mine host, and his jest upon dashing Master Goldthred,
who, though indeed without any such benevolent intention on his own
part, was the general butt of the evening. The pedlar and he were
closely engaged in a dispute upon the preference due to the Spanish
nether-stock over the black Gascoigne hose, and mine host had just
winked to the guests around him, as who should say, “You will have mirth
presently, my masters,” when the trampling of horses was heard in the
courtyard, and the hostler was loudly summoned, with a few of the newest
oaths then in vogue to add force to the invocation. Out tumbled Will
Hostler, John Tapster, and all the militia of the inn, who had slunk
from their posts in order to collect some scattered crumbs of the mirth
which was flying about among the customers. Out into the yard sallied
mine host himself also, to do fitting salutation to his new guests; and
presently returned, ushering into the apartment his own worthy nephew,
Michael Lambourne, pretty tolerably drunk, and having under his escort
the astrologer. Alasco, though still a little old man, had, by altering
his gown to a riding-dress, trimming his beard and eyebrows, and so
forth, struck at least a score of years from his apparent age, and
might now seem an active man of sixty, or little upwards. He appeared at
present exceedingly anxious, and had insisted much with Lambourne that
they should not enter the inn, but go straight forward to the place of
their destination. But Lambourne would not be controlled. “By Cancer and
Capricorn,” he vociferated, “and the whole heavenly host, besides all
the stars that these blessed eyes of mine have seen sparkle in the
southern heavens, to which these northern blinkers are but farthing
candles, I will be unkindly for no one’s humour--I will stay and salute
my worthy uncle here. Chesu! that good blood should ever be forgotten
betwixt friends!--A gallon of your best, uncle, and let it go round to
the health of the noble Earl of Leicester! What! shall we not collogue
together, and warm the cockles of our ancient kindness?--shall we not
collogue, I say?”

“With all my heart, kinsman,” said mine host, who obviously wished to be
rid of him; “but are you to stand shot to all this good liquor?”

This is a question has quelled many a jovial toper, but it moved not
the purpose of Lambourne’s soul, “Question my means, nuncle?” he said,
producing a handful of mixed gold and silver pieces; “question Mexico
and Peru--question the Queen’s exchequer--God save her Majesty!--she is
my good Lord’s good mistress.”

“Well, kinsman,” said mine host, “it is my business to sell wine to
those who can buy it--so, Jack Tapster, do me thine office. But I would
I knew how to come by money as lightly as thou dost, Mike.”

“Why, uncle,” said Lambourne, “I will tell thee a secret. Dost see this
little old fellow here? as old and withered a chip as ever the devil put
into his porridge--and yet, uncle, between you and me--he hath Potosi
in that brain of his--‘sblood! he can coin ducats faster than I can vent
oaths.”

“I will have none of his coinage in my purse, though, Michael,” said
mine host; “I know what belongs to falsifying the Queen’s coin.”

“Thou art an ass, uncle, for as old as thou art.--Pull me not by the
skirts, doctor, thou art an ass thyself to boot--so, being both asses, I
tell ye I spoke but metaphorically.”

“Are you mad?” said the old man; “is the devil in you? Can you not let
us begone without drawing all men’s eyes on us?”

“Sayest thou?” said Lambourne. “Thou art deceived now--no man shall see
you, an I give the word.--By heavens, masters, an any one dare to look
on this old gentleman, I will slash the eyes out of his head with
my poniard!--So sit down, old friend, and be merry; these are mine
ingles--mine ancient inmates, and will betray no man.”

“Had you not better withdraw to a private apartment, nephew?” said
Giles Gosling. “You speak strange matter,” he added, “and there be
intelligencers everywhere.”

“I care not for them,” said the magnanimous Michael--“intelligencers?
pshaw! I serve the noble Earl of Leicester.--Here comes the wine.--Fill
round, Master Skinker, a carouse to the health of the flower of England,
the noble Earl of Leicester! I say, the noble Earl of Leicester! He that
does me not reason is a swine of Sussex, and I’ll make him kneel to the
pledge, if I should cut his hams and smoke them for bacon.”

None disputed a pledge given under such formidable penalties; and
Michael Lambourne, whose drunken humour was not of course diminished
by this new potation, went on in the same wild way, renewing his
acquaintance with such of the guests as he had formerly known, and
experiencing a reception in which there was now something of deference
mingled with a good deal of fear; for the least servitor of the
favourite Earl, especially such a man as Lambourne, was, for very
sufficient reasons, an object both of the one and of the other.

In the meanwhile, the old man, seeing his guide in this uncontrollable
humour, ceased to remonstrate with him, and sitting down in the most
obscure corner of the room, called for a small measure of sack, over
which he seemed, as it were, to slumber, withdrawing himself as much as
possible from general observation, and doing nothing which could recall
his existence to the recollection of his fellow-traveller, who by this
time had got into close intimacy with his ancient comrade, Goldthred of
Abingdon.

“Never believe me, bully Mike,” said the mercer, “if I am not as glad to
see thee as ever I was to see a customer’s money! Why, thou canst give
a friend a sly place at a mask or a revel now, Mike; ay, or, I warrant
thee, thou canst say in my lord’s ear, when my honourable lord is down
in these parts, and wants a Spanish ruff or the like--thou canst say in
his ear, There is mine old friend, young Lawrence Goldthred of Abingdon,
has as good wares, lawn, tiffany, cambric, and so forth--ay, and is as
pretty a piece of man’s flesh, too, as is in Berkshire, and will ruffle
it for your lordship with any man of his inches; and thou mayest say--”

“I can say a hundred d--d lies besides, mercer,” answered Lambourne;
“what, one must not stand upon a good word for a friend!”

“Here is to thee, Mike, with all my heart,” said the mercer; “and thou
canst tell one the reality of the new fashions too. Here was a rogue
pedlar but now was crying up the old-fashioned Spanish nether-stock over
the Gascoigne hose, although thou seest how well the French hose set
off the leg and knee, being adorned with parti-coloured garters and
garniture in conformity.”

“Excellent, excellent,” replied Lambourne; “why, thy limber bit of a
thigh, thrust through that bunch of slashed buckram and tiffany, shows
like a housewife’s distaff when the flax is half spun off!”

“Said I not so?” said the mercer, whose shallow brain was now overflowed
in his turn; “where, then, where be this rascal pedlar?--there was a
pedlar here but now, methinks.--Mine host, where the foul fiend is this
pedlar?”

“Where wise men should be, Master Goldthred,” replied Giles Gosling;
“even shut up in his private chamber, telling over the sales of to-day,
and preparing for the custom of to-morrow.”

“Hang him, a mechanical chuff!” said the mercer; “but for shame, it
were a good deed to ease him of his wares--a set of peddling knaves, who
stroll through the land, and hurt the established trader. There are good
fellows in Berkshire yet, mine host--your pedlar may be met withal on
Maiden Castle.”

“Ay,” replied mine host, laughing, “and he who meets him may meet his
match--the pedlar is a tall man.”

“Is he?” said Goldthred.

“Is he?” replied the host; “ay, by cock and pie is he--the very pedlar
he who raddled Robin Hood so tightly, as the song says,--


     ‘Now Robin Hood drew his sword so good,
     The pedlar drew his brand,
     And he hath raddled him, Robin Hood,
     Till he neither could see nor stand.’”

“Hang him, foul scroyle, let him pass,” said the mercer; “if he be such
a one, there were small worship to be won upon him.--And now tell me,
Mike--my honest Mike, how wears the Hollands you won of me?”

“Why, well, as you may see, Master Goldthred,” answered Mike; “I will
bestow a pot on thee for the handsel.--Fill the flagon, Master Tapster.”

“Thou wilt win no more Hollands, think, on such wager, friend Mike,”
 said the mercer; “for the sulky swain, Tony Foster, rails at thee all to
nought, and swears you shall ne’er darken his doors again, for that your
oaths are enough to blow the roof off a Christian man’s dwelling.”

“Doth he say so, the mincing, hypocritical miser?” vociferated
Lambourne. “Why, then, he shall come down and receive my commands here,
this blessed night, under my uncle’s roof! And I will ring him such a
black sanctus, that he shall think the devil hath him by the skirts for
a month to come, for barely hearing me.”

“Nay, now the pottle-pot is uppermost, with a witness!” said the mercer.
“Tony Foster obey thy whistle! Alas! good Mike, go sleep--go sleep.”

“I tell thee what, thou thin-faced gull,” said Michael Lambourne, in
high chafe, “I will wager thee fifty angels against the first five
shelves of thy shop, numbering upward from the false light, with all
that is on them, that I make Tony Foster come down to this public-house
before we have finished three rounds.”

“I will lay no bet to that amount,” said the mercer, something
sobered by an offer which intimated rather too private a knowledge on
Lambourne’s part of the secret recesses of his shop. “I will lay no such
wager,” he said; “but I will stake five angels against thy five, if thou
wilt, that Tony Foster will not leave his own roof, or come to ale-house
after prayer time, for thee, or any man.”

“Content,” said Lambourne.--“Here, uncle, hold stakes, and let one
of your young bleed-barrels there--one of your infant tapsters--trip
presently up to The Place, and give this letter to Master Foster, and
say that I, his ingle, Michael Lambourne, pray to speak with him at mine
uncle’s castle here, upon business of grave import.--Away with thee,
child, for it is now sundown, and the wretch goeth to bed with the birds
to save mutton-suet--faugh!”

Shortly after this messenger was dispatched--an interval which was spent
in drinking and buffoonery--he returned with the answer that Master
Foster was coming presently.

“Won, won!” said Lambourne, darting on the stakes.

“Not till he comes, if you please,” said the mercer, interfering.

“Why, ‘sblood, he is at the threshold,” replied Michael.--“What said he,
boy?”

“If it please your worship,” answered the messenger, “he looked out of
window, with a musquetoon in his hand, and when I delivered your errand,
which I did with fear and trembling, he said, with a vinegar aspect,
that your worship might be gone to the infernal regions.”

“Or to hell, I suppose,” said Lambourne--“it is there he disposes of all
that are not of the congregation.”

“Even so,” said the boy; “I used the other phrase as being the more
poetical.”

“An ingenious youth,” said Michael; “shalt have a drop to whet thy
poetical whistle. And what said Foster next?”

“He called me back,” answered the boy, “and bid me say you might come to
him if you had aught to say to him.”

“And what next?” said Lambourne.

“He read the letter, and seemed in a fluster, and asked if your worship
was in drink; and I said you were speaking a little Spanish, as one who
had been in the Canaries.”

“Out, you diminutive pint-pot, whelped of an overgrown reckoning!”
 replied Lambourne--“out! But what said he then?”

“Why,” said the boy, “he muttered that if he came not your worship would
bolt out what were better kept in; and so he took his old flat cap,
and threadbare blue cloak, and, as I said before, he will be here
incontinent.”

“There is truth in what he said,” replied Lambourne, as if speaking to
himself--“my brain has played me its old dog’s trick. But corragio--let
him approach!--I have not rolled about in the world for many a day to
fear Tony Foster, be I drunk or sober.--Bring me a flagon of cold water
to christen my sack withal.”

While Lambourne, whom the approach of Foster seemed to have recalled to
a sense of his own condition, was busied in preparing to receive him,
Giles Gosling stole up to the apartment of the pedlar, whom he found
traversing the room in much agitation.

“You withdrew yourself suddenly from the company,” said the landlord to
the guest.

“It was time, when the devil became one among you,” replied the pedlar.

“It is not courteous in you to term my nephew by such a name,” said
Gosling, “nor is it kindly in me to reply to it; and yet, in some sort,
Mike may be considered as a limb of Satan.”

“Pooh--I talk not of the swaggering ruffian,” replied the pedlar; “it is
of the other, who, for aught I know--But when go they? or wherefore come
they?”

“Marry, these are questions I cannot answer,” replied the host.
“But look you, sir, you have brought me a token from worthy Master
Tressilian--a pretty stone it is.” He took out the ring, and looked at
it, adding, as he put it into his purse again, that it was too rich a
guerdon for anything he could do for the worthy donor. He was, he said,
in the public line, and it ill became him to be too inquisitive into
other folk’s concerns. He had already said that he could hear nothing
but that the lady lived still at Cumnor Place in the closest seclusion,
and, to such as by chance had a view of her, seemed pensive and
discontented with her solitude. “But here,” he said, “if you are
desirous to gratify your master, is the rarest chance that hath occurred
for this many a day. Tony Foster is coming down hither, and it is but
letting Mike Lambourne smell another wine-flask, and the Queen’s command
would not move him from the ale-bench. So they are fast for an hour or
so. Now, if you will don your pack, which will be your best excuse, you
may, perchance, win the ear of the old servant, being assured of the
master’s absence, to let you try to get some custom of the lady; and
then you may learn more of her condition than I or any other can tell
you.”

“True--very true,” answered Wayland, for he it was; “an excellent
device, but methinks something dangerous--for, say Foster should
return?”

“Very possible indeed,” replied the host.

“Or say,” continued Wayland, “the lady should render me cold thanks for
my exertions?”

“As is not unlikely,” replied Giles Gosling. “I marvel Master Tressilian
will take such heed of her that cares not for him.”

“In either case I were foully sped,” said Wayland, “and therefore I do
not, on the whole, much relish your device.”

“Nay, but take me with you, good master serving-man,” replied mine host.
“This is your master’s business, and not mine, you best know the risk to
be encountered, or how far you are willing to brave it. But that which
you will not yourself hazard, you cannot expect others to risk.”

“Hold, hold,” said Wayland; “tell me but one thing--goes yonder old man
up to Cumnor?”

“Surely, I think so?” said the landlord; “their servant said he was to
take their baggage thither. But the ale-tap has been as potent for him
as the sack-spigot has been for Michael.”

“It is enough,” said Wayland, assuming an air of resolution. “I will
thwart that old villain’s projects; my affright at his baleful aspect
begins to abate, and my hatred to arise. Help me on with my pack, good
mine host.--And look to thyself, old Albumazar; there is a malignant
influence in thy horoscope, and it gleams from the constellation Ursa
Major.”

So saying, he assumed his burden, and, guided by the landlord through
the postern gate of the Black Bear, took the most private way from
thence up to Cumnor Place.



CHAPTER XX.


     CLOWN. You have of these pedlars, that have more in’em than
     you’d think, sister.--WINTER’S TALE, ACT IV., SCENE 3.

In his anxiety to obey the Earl’s repeated charges of secrecy, as well
as from his own unsocial and miserly habits, Anthony Foster was more
desirous, by his mode of housekeeping, to escape observation than to
resist intrusive curiosity. Thus, instead of a numerous household, to
secure his charge, and defend his house, he studied as much as possible
to elude notice by diminishing his attendants; so that, unless when
there were followers of the Earl, or of Varney, in the mansion, one
old male domestic, and two aged crones, who assisted in keeping the
Countess’s apartments in order, were the only servants of the family.

It was one of these old women who opened the door when Wayland knocked,
and answered his petition, to be admitted to exhibit his wares to the
ladies of the family, with a volley of vituperation, couched in what is
there called the JOWRING dialect. The pedlar found the means of
checking this vociferation by slipping a silver groat into her hand, and
intimating the present of some stuff for a coif, if the lady would buy
of his wares.

“God ield thee, for mine is aw in littocks. Slocket with thy pack into
gharn, mon--her walks in gharn.” Into the garden she ushered the pedlar
accordingly, and pointing to an old, ruinous garden house, said, “Yonder
be’s her, mon--yonder be’s her. Zhe will buy changes an zhe loikes
stuffs.”

“She has left me to come off as I may,” thought Wayland, as he heard the
hag shut the garden-door behind him. “But they shall not beat me,
and they dare not murder me, for so little trespass, and by this fair
twilight. Hang it, I will on--a brave general never thought of his
retreat till he was defeated. I see two females in the old garden-house
yonder--but how to address them? Stay--Will Shakespeare, be my friend in
need. I will give them a taste of Autolycus.” He then sung, with a good
voice, and becoming audacity, the popular playhouse ditty,--


     “Lawn as white as driven snow,
     Cyprus black as e’er was crow,
     Gloves as sweet as damask roses,
     Masks for faces and for noses.”

“What hath fortune sent us here for an unwonted sight, Janet?” said the
lady.

“One of those merchants of vanity, called pedlars,” answered Janet,
demurely, “who utters his light wares in lighter measures. I marvel old
Dorcas let him pass.”

“It is a lucky chance, girl,” said the Countess; “we lead a heavy life
here, and this may while off a weary hour.”

“Ay, my gracious lady,” said Janet; “but my father?”

“He is not my father, Janet, nor I hope my master,” answered the lady.
“I say, call the man hither--I want some things.”

“Nay,” replied Janet, “your ladyship has but to say so in the next
packet, and if England can furnish them they will be sent. There will
come mischief on’t--pray, dearest lady, let me bid the man begone!”

“I will have thee bid him come hither,” said the Countess;--“or stay,
thou terrified fool, I will bid him myself, and spare thee a chiding.”

“Ah! well-a-day, dearest lady, if that were the worst,” said Janet
sadly; while the lady called to the pedlar, “Good fellow, step
forward--undo thy pack; if thou hast good wares, chance has sent thee
hither for my convenience and thy profit.”

“What may your ladyship please to lack?” said Wayland, unstrapping his
pack, and displaying its contents with as much dexterity as if he had
been bred to the trade. Indeed he had occasionally pursued it in the
course of his roving life, and now commended his wares with all the
volubility of a trader, and showed some skill in the main art of placing
prices upon them.

“What do I please to lack?” said the lady, “why, considering I have not
for six long months bought one yard of lawn or cambric, or one trinket,
the most inconsiderable, for my own use, and at my own choice, the
better question is, What hast thou got to sell? Lay aside for me that
cambric partlet and pair of sleeves--and those roundells of gold fringe,
drawn out with cyprus--and that short cloak of cherry-coloured fine
cloth, garnished with gold buttons and loops;--is it not of an absolute
fancy, Janet?”

“Nay, my lady,” replied Janet, “if you consult my poor judgment, it is,
methinks, over-gaudy for a graceful habit.”

“Now, out upon thy judgment, if it be no brighter, wench,” said the
Countess. “Thou shalt wear it thyself for penance’ sake; and I promise
thee the gold buttons, being somewhat massive, will comfort thy father,
and reconcile him to the cherry-coloured body. See that he snap them not
away, Janet, and send them to bear company with the imprisoned angels
which he keeps captive in his strong-box.”

“May I pray your ladyship to spare my poor father?” said Janet.

“Nay, but why should any one spare him that is so sparing of his own
nature?” replied the lady.--“Well, but to our gear. That head garniture
for myself, and that silver bodkin mounted with pearl; and take off two
gowns of that russet cloth for Dorcas and Alison, Janet, to keep the old
wretches warm against winter comes.--And stay--hast thou no perfumes and
sweet bags, or any handsome casting bottles of the newest mode?”

“Were I a pedlar in earnest, I were a made merchant,” thought Wayland,
as he busied himself to answer the demands which she thronged one on
another, with the eagerness of a young lady who has been long secluded
from such a pleasing occupation. “But how to bring her to a moment’s
serious reflection?” Then as he exhibited his choicest collection of
essences and perfumes, he at once arrested her attention by observing
that these articles had almost risen to double value since the
magnificent preparations made by the Earl of Leicester to entertain the
Queen and court at his princely Castle of Kenilworth.

“Ha!” said the Countess hastily; “that rumour, then, is true, Janet.”

“Surely, madam,” answered Wayland; “and I marvel it hath not reached
your noble ladyship’s ears. The Queen of England feasts with the noble
Earl for a week during the Summer’s Progress; and there are many who
will tell you England will have a king, and England’s Elizabeth--God
save her!--a husband, ere the Progress be over.”

“They lie like villains!” said the Countess, bursting forth impatiently.

“For God’s sake, madam, consider,” said Janet, trembling with
apprehension; “who would cumber themselves about pedlar’s tidings?”

“Yes, Janet!” exclaimed the Countess; “right, thou hast corrected me
justly. Such reports, blighting the reputation of England’s brightest
and noblest peer, can only find currency amongst the mean, the abject,
and the infamous!”

“May I perish, lady,” said Wayland Smith, observing that her violence
directed itself towards him, “if I have done anything to merit this
strange passion! I have said but what many men say.”

By this time the Countess had recovered her composure, and endeavoured,
alarmed by the anxious hints of Janet, to suppress all appearance of
displeasure. “I were loath,” she said, “good fellow, that our Queen
should change the virgin style so dear to us her people--think not of
it.” And then, as if desirous to change the subject, she added, “And
what is this paste, so carefully put up in the silver box?” as she
examined the contents of a casket in which drugs and perfumes were
contained in separate drawers.

“It is a remedy, Madam, for a disorder of which I trust your ladyship
will never have reason to complain. The amount of a small turkey-bean,
swallowed daily for a week, fortifies the heart against those black
vapours which arise from solitude, melancholy, unrequited affection,
disappointed hope--”

“Are you a fool, friend?” said the Countess sharply; “or do you think,
because I have good-naturedly purchased your trumpery goods at your
roguish prices, that you may put any gullery you will on me? Who ever
heard that affections of the heart were cured by medicines given to the
body?”

“Under your honourable favour,” said Wayland, “I am an honest man, and
I have sold my goods at an honest price. As to this most precious
medicine, when I told its qualities, I asked you not to purchase it, so
why should I lie to you? I say not it will cure a rooted affection
of the mind, which only God and time can do; but I say that this
restorative relieves the black vapours which are engendered in the body
of that melancholy which broodeth on the mind. I have relieved many with
it, both in court and city, and of late one Master Edmund Tressilian, a
worshipful gentleman in Cornwall, who, on some slight received, it was
told me, where he had set his affections, was brought into that state of
melancholy which made his friends alarmed for his life.”

He paused, and the lady remained silent for some time, and then asked,
with a voice which she strove in vain to render firm and indifferent in
its tone, “Is the gentleman you have mentioned perfectly recovered?”

“Passably, madam,” answered Wayland; “he hath at least no bodily
complaint.”

“I will take some of the medicine, Janet,” said the Countess. “I too
have sometimes that dark melancholy which overclouds the brain.”

“You shall not do so, madam,” said Janet; “who shall answer that this
fellow vends what is wholesome?”

“I will myself warrant my good faith,” said Wayland; and taking a part
of the medicine, he swallowed it before them. The Countess now bought
what remained, a step to which Janet, by further objections, only
determined her the more obstinately. She even took the first dose upon
the instant, and professed to feel her heart lightened and her spirits
augmented--a consequence which, in all probability, existed only in
her own imagination. The lady then piled the purchases she had made
together, flung her purse to Janet, and desired her to compute the
amount, and to pay the pedlar; while she herself, as if tired of the
amusement she at first found in conversing with him, wished him good
evening, and walked carelessly into the house, thus depriving Wayland of
every opportunity to speak with her in private. He hastened, however, to
attempt an explanation with Janet.

“Maiden,” he said, “thou hast the face of one who should love her
mistress. She hath much need of faithful service.”

“And well deserves it at my hands,” replied Janet; “but what of that?”

“Maiden, I am not altogether what I seem,” said the pedlar, lowering his
voice.

“The less like to be an honest man,” said Janet.

“The more so,” answered Wayland, “since I am no pedlar.”

“Get thee gone then instantly, or I will call for assistance,” said
Janet; “my father must ere this be returned.”

“Do not be so rash,” said Wayland; “you will do what you may repent of.
I am one of your mistress’s friends; and she had need of more, not that
thou shouldst ruin those she hath.”

“How shall I know that?” said Janet.

“Look me in the face,” said Wayland Smith, “and see if thou dost not
read honesty in my looks.”

And in truth, though by no means handsome, there was in his physiognomy
the sharp, keen expression of inventive genius and prompt intellect,
which, joined to quick and brilliant eyes, a well-formed mouth, and an
intelligent smile, often gives grace and interest to features which are
both homely and irregular. Janet looked at him with the sly simplicity
of her sect, and replied, “Notwithstanding thy boasted honesty, friend,
and although I am not accustomed to read and pass judgment on such
volumes as thou hast submitted to my perusal, I think I see in thy
countenance something of the pedlar-something of the picaroon.”

“On a small scale, perhaps,” said Wayland Smith, laughing. “But this
evening, or to-morrow, will an old man come hither with thy father, who
has the stealthy step of the cat, the shrewd and vindictive eye of
the rat, the fawning wile of the spaniel, the determined snatch of the
mastiff--of him beware, for your own sake and that of your distress.
See you, fair Janet, he brings the venom of the aspic under the assumed
innocence of the dove. What precise mischief he meditates towards you I
cannot guess, but death and disease have ever dogged his footsteps. Say
nought of this to thy mistress; my art suggests to me that in her state
the fear of evil may be as dangerous as its operation. But see that
she take my specific, for” (he lowered his voice, and spoke low but
impressively in her ear) “it is an antidote against poison.--Hark, they
enter the garden!”

In effect, a sound of noisy mirth and loud talking approached the garden
door, alarmed by which Wayland Smith sprung into the midst of a thicket
of overgrown shrubs, while Janet withdrew to the garden-house that
she might not incur observation, and that she might at the same time
conceal, at least for the present, the purchases made from the supposed
pedlar, which lay scattered on the floor of the summer-house.

Janet, however, had no occasion for anxiety. Her father, his old
attendant, Lord Leicester’s domestic, and the astrologer, entered
the garden in tumult and in extreme perplexity, endeavouring to quiet
Lambourne, whose brain had now become completely fired with liquor, and
who was one of those unfortunate persons who, being once stirred with
the vinous stimulus, do not fall asleep like other drunkards, but
remain partially influenced by it for many hours, until at length, by
successive draughts, they are elevated into a state of uncontrollable
frenzy. Like many men in this state also, Lambourne neither lost the
power of motion, speech, or expression; but, on the contrary, spoke with
unwonted emphasis and readiness, and told all that at another time he
would have been most desirous to keep secret.

“What!” ejaculated Michael, at the full extent of his voice, “am I to
have no welcome, no carouse, when I have brought fortune to your old,
ruinous dog-house in the shape of a devil’s ally, that can change
slate-shivers into Spanish dollars?--Here, you, Tony Fire-the-Fagot,
Papist, Puritan, hypocrite, miser, profligate, devil, compounded of all
men’s sins, bow down and reverence him who has brought into thy house
the very mammon thou worshippest.”

“For God’s sake,” said Foster, “speak low--come into the house--thou
shalt have wine, or whatever thou wilt.”

“No, old puckfoist, I will have it here,” thundered the inebriated
ruffian--“here, AL FRESCO, as the Italian hath it. No, no, I will not
drink with that poisoning devil within doors, to be choked with the
fumes of arsenic and quick-silver; I learned from villain Varney to
beware of that.”

“Fetch him wine, in the name of all the fiends!” said the alchemist.

“Aha! and thou wouldst spice it for me, old Truepenny, wouldst thou not?
Ay, I should have copperas, and hellebore, and vitriol, and aqua fortis,
and twenty devilish materials bubbling in my brain-pan like a charm to
raise the devil in a witch’s cauldron. Hand me the flask thyself, old
Tony Fire-the-Fagot--and let it be cool--I will have no wine mulled at
the pile of the old burnt bishops. Or stay, let Leicester be king if
he will--good--and Varney, villain Varney, grand vizier--why,
excellent!--and what shall I be, then?--why, emperor--Emperor Lambourne!
I will see this choice piece of beauty that they have walled up here
for their private pleasures; I will have her this very night to serve my
wine-cup and put on my nightcap. What should a fellow do with two
wives, were he twenty times an Earl? Answer me that, Tony boy, you old
reprobate, hypocritical dog, whom God struck out of the book of life,
but tormented with the constant wish to be restored to it--you old
bishop-burning, blasphemous fanatic, answer me that.”

“I will stick my knife to the haft in him,” said Foster, in a low tone,
which trembled with passion.

“For the love of Heaven, no violence!” said the astrologer. “It cannot
but be looked closely into.--Here, honest Lambourne, wilt thou pledge me
to the health of the noble Earl of Leicester and Master Richard Varney?”

“I will, mine old Albumazar--I will, my trusty vender of ratsbane. I
would kiss thee, mine honest infractor of the Lex Julia (as they said
at Leyden), didst thou not flavour so damnably of sulphur, and such
fiendish apothecary’s stuff.--Here goes it, up seyes--to Varney and
Leicester two more noble mounting spirits--and more dark-seeking,
deep-diving, high-flying, malicious, ambitious miscreants--well, I say
no more, but I will whet my dagger on his heart-spone that refuses to
pledge me! And so, my masters--”

Thus speaking, Lambourne exhausted the cup which the astrologer had
handed to him, and which contained not wine, but distilled spirits. He
swore half an oath, dropped the empty cup from his grasp, laid his hand
on his sword without being able to draw it, reeled, and fell without
sense or motion into the arms of the domestic, who dragged him off to
his chamber, and put him to bed.

In the general confusion, Janet regained her lady’s chamber unobserved,
trembling like an aspen leaf, but determined to keep secret from the
Countess the dreadful surmises which she could not help entertaining
from the drunken ravings of Lambourne. Her fears, however, though they
assumed no certain shape, kept pace with the advice of the pedlar; and
she confirmed her mistress in her purpose of taking the medicine which
he had recommended, from which it is probable she would otherwise
have dissuaded her. Neither had these intimations escaped the ears
of Wayland, who knew much better how to interpret them. He felt much
compassion at beholding so lovely a creature as the Countess, and whom
he had first seen in the bosom of domestic happiness, exposed to the
machinations of such a gang of villains. His indignation, too, had been
highly excited by hearing the voice of his old master, against whom he
felt, in equal degree, the passions of hatred and fear. He nourished
also a pride in his own art and resources; and, dangerous as the task
was, he that night formed a determination to attain the bottom of the
mystery, and to aid the distressed lady, if it were yet possible. From
some words which Lambourne had dropped among his ravings, Wayland
now, for the first time, felt inclined to doubt that Varney had acted
entirely on his own account in wooing and winning the affections of this
beautiful creature. Fame asserted of this zealous retainer that he
had accommodated his lord in former love intrigues; and it occurred
to Wayland Smith that Leicester himself might be the party chiefly
interested. Her marriage with the Earl he could not suspect; but even
the discovery of such a passing intrigue with a lady of Mistress Amy
Robsart’s rank was a secret of the deepest importance to the stability
of the favourite’s power over Elizabeth. “If Leicester himself should
hesitate to stifle such a rumour by very strange means,” said he to
himself, “he has those about him who would do him that favour without
waiting for his consent. If I would meddle in this business, it must
be in such guise as my old master uses when he compounds his manna of
Satan, and that is with a close mask on my face. So I will quit Giles
Gosling to-morrow, and change my course and place of residence as often
as a hunted fox. I should like to see this little Puritan, too, once
more. She looks both pretty and intelligent to have come of such a
caitiff as Anthony Fire-the-Fagot.”

Giles Gosling received the adieus of Wayland rather joyfully than
otherwise. The honest publican saw so much peril in crossing the course
of the Earl of Leicester’s favourite that his virtue was scarce able to
support him in the task, and he was well pleased when it was likely to
be removed from his shoulders still, however, professing his good-will,
and readiness, in case of need, to do Mr. Tressilian or his emissary any
service, in so far as consisted with his character of a publican.



CHAPTER XXI.


     Vaulting ambition, that o’erleaps itself,
     And falls on t’other side.        --MACBETH.

The splendour of the approaching revels at Kenilworth was now the
conversation through all England; and everything was collected at home,
or from abroad, which could add to the gaiety or glory of the prepared
reception of Elizabeth at the house of her most distinguished favourite,
Meantime Leicester appeared daily to advance in the Queen’s favour. He
was perpetually by her side in council--willingly listened to in the
moments of courtly recreation--favoured with approaches even to familiar
intimacy--looked up to by all who had aught to hope at court--courted by
foreign ministers with the most flattering testimonies of respect
from their sovereigns,--the ALTER EGO, as it seemed, of the stately
Elizabeth, who was now very generally supposed to be studying the time
and opportunity for associating him, by marriage, into her sovereign
power.

Amid such a tide of prosperity, this minion of fortune and of the
Queen’s favour was probably the most unhappy man in the realm which
seemed at his devotion. He had the Fairy King’s superiority over his
friends and dependants, and saw much which they could not. The character
of his mistress was intimately known to him. It was his minute and
studied acquaintance with her humours, as well as her noble faculties,
which, joined to his powerful mental qualities, and his eminent external
accomplishments, had raised him so high in her favour; and it was that
very knowledge of her disposition which led him to apprehend at every
turn some sudden and overwhelming disgrace. Leicester was like a pilot
possessed of a chart which points out to him all the peculiarities of
his navigation, but which exhibits so many shoals, breakers, and reefs
of rocks, that his anxious eye reaps little more from observing them
than to be convinced that his final escape can be little else than
miraculous.

In fact, Queen Elizabeth had a character strangely compounded of the
strongest masculine sense, with those foibles which are chiefly supposed
proper to the female sex. Her subjects had the full benefit of her
virtues, which far predominated over her weaknesses; but her courtiers,
and those about her person, had often to sustain sudden and embarrassing
turns of caprice, and the sallies of a temper which was both jealous and
despotic. She was the nursing-mother of her people, but she was also
the true daughter of Henry VIII.; and though early sufferings and an
excellent education had repressed and modified, they had not altogether
destroyed, the hereditary temper of that “hard-ruled king.” “Her mind,”
 says her witty godson, Sir John Harrington, who had experienced both the
smiles and the frowns which he describes, “was ofttime like the gentle
air that cometh from the western point in a summer’s morn--‘twas sweet
and refreshing to all around her. Her speech did win all affections. And
again, she could put forth such alterations, when obedience was lacking,
as left no doubting WHOSE daughter she was. When she smiled, it was a
pure sunshine, that every one did choose to bask in, if they could; but
anon came a storm from a sudden gathering of clouds, and the thunder
fell in a wondrous manner on all alike.” [Nugae Antiquae, vol.i.,
pp.355, 356-362.]

This variability of disposition, as Leicester well knew, was chiefly
formidable to those who had a share in the Queen’s affections, and
who depended rather on her personal regard than on the indispensable
services which they could render to her councils and her crown. The
favour of Burleigh or of Walsingham, of a description far less striking
than that by which he was himself upheld, was founded, as Leicester was
well aware, on Elizabeth’s solid judgment, not on her partiality, and
was, therefore, free from all those principles of change and decay
necessarily incident to that which chiefly arose from personal
accomplishments and female predilection. These great and sage statesmen
were judged of by the Queen only with reference to the measures they
suggested, and the reasons by which they supported their opinions in
council; whereas the success of Leicester’s course depended on all those
light and changeable gales of caprice and humour which thwart or favour
the progress of a lover in the favour of his mistress, and she, too, a
mistress who was ever and anon becoming fearful lest she should forget
the dignity, or compromise the authority, of the Queen, while she
indulged the affections of the woman. Of the difficulties which
surrounded his power, “too great to keep or to resign,” Leicester
was fully sensible; and as he looked anxiously round for the means
of maintaining himself in his precarious situation, and sometimes
contemplated those of descending from it in safety, he saw but little
hope of either. At such moments his thoughts turned to dwell upon his
secret marriage and its consequences; and it was in bitterness against
himself, if not against his unfortunate Countess, that he ascribed
to that hasty measure, adopted in the ardour of what he now called
inconsiderate passion, at once the impossibility of placing his power on
a solid basis, and the immediate prospect of its precipitate downfall.

“Men say,” thus ran his thoughts, in these anxious and repentant
moments, “that I might marry Elizabeth, and become King of England. All
things suggest this. The match is carolled in ballads, while the rabble
throw their caps up. It has been touched upon in the schools--whispered
in the presence-chamber--recommended from the pulpit--prayed for in the
Calvinistic churches abroad--touched on by statists in the very council
at home. These bold insinuations have been rebutted by no rebuke, no
resentment, no chiding, scarce even by the usual female protestation
that she would live and die a virgin princess. Her words have been
more courteous than ever, though she knows such rumours are abroad--her
actions more gracious, her looks more kind--nought seems wanting to
make me King of England, and place me beyond the storms of court-favour,
excepting the putting forth of mine own hand to take that crown imperial
which is the glory of the universe! And when I might stretch that hand
out most boldly, it is fettered down by a secret and inextricable bond!
And here I have letters from Amy,” he would say, catching them up with
a movement of peevishness, “persecuting me to acknowledge her openly--to
do justice to her and to myself--and I wot not what. Methinks I have
done less than justice to myself already. And she speaks as if Elizabeth
were to receive the knowledge of this matter with the glee of a mother
hearing of the happy marriage of a hopeful son! She, the daughter of
Henry, who spared neither man in his anger nor woman in his desire--she
to find herself tricked, drawn on with toys of passion to the verge of
acknowledging her love to a subject, and he discovered to be a married
man!--Elizabeth to learn that she had been dallied with in such fashion,
as a gay courtier might trifle with a country wench--we should then see,
to our ruin, FURENS QUID FAEMINA!”

He would then pause, and call for Varney, whose advice was now more
frequently resorted to than ever, because the Earl remembered the
remonstrances which he had made against his secret contract. And their
consultation usually terminated in anxious deliberation how, or in what
manner, the Countess was to be produced at Kenilworth. These communings
had for some time ended always in a resolution to delay the Progress
from day to day. But at length a peremptory decision became necessary.

“Elizabeth will not be satisfied without her presence,” said the Earl.
“Whether any suspicion hath entered her mind, as my own apprehensions
suggest, or whether the petition of Tressilian is kept in her memory
by Sussex or some other secret enemy, I know not; but amongst all the
favourable expressions which she uses to me, she often recurs to the
story of Amy Robsart. I think that Amy is the slave in the chariot, who
is placed there by my evil fortune to dash and to confound my triumph,
even when at the highest. Show me thy device, Varney, for solving the
inextricable difficulty. I have thrown every such impediment in the
way of these accursed revels as I could propound even with a shade of
decency, but to-day’s interview has put all to a hazard. She said to
me kindly, but peremptorily, ‘We will give you no further time for
preparations, my lord, lest you should altogether ruin yourself. On
Saturday, the 9th of July, we will be with you at Kenilworth. We pray
you to forget none of our appointed guests and suitors, and in especial
this light-o’-love, Amy Robsart. We would wish to see the woman who
could postpone yonder poetical gentleman, Master Tressilian, to your
man, Richard Varney.’--Now, Varney, ply thine invention, whose forge
hath availed us so often for sure as my name is Dudley, the danger
menaced by my horoscope is now darkening around me.”

“Can my lady be by no means persuaded to bear for a brief space the
obscure character which circumstances impose on her?” Said Varney after
some hesitation.

“How, sirrah? my Countess term herself thy wife!--that may neither stand
with my honour nor with hers.”

“Alas! my lord,” answered Varney, “and yet such is the quality in which
Elizabeth now holds her; and to contradict this opinion is to discover
all.”

“Think of something else, Varney,” said the Earl, in great agitation;
“this invention is nought. If I could give way to it, she would not; for
I tell thee, Varney, if thou knowest it not, that not Elizabeth on the
throne has more pride than the daughter of this obscure gentleman of
Devon. She is flexible in many things, but where she holds her honour
brought in question she hath a spirit and temper as apprehensive as
lightning, and as swift in execution.”

“We have experienced that, my lord, else had we not been thus
circumstanced,” said Varney. “But what else to suggest I know not.
Methinks she whose good fortune in becoming your lordship’s bride, and
who gives rise to the danger, should do somewhat towards parrying it.”

“It is impossible,” said the Earl, waving his hand; “I know neither
authority nor entreaties would make her endure thy name for an hour.

“It is somewhat hard, though,” said Varney, in a dry tone; and, without
pausing on that topic, he added, “Suppose some one were found to
represent her? Such feats have been performed in the courts of as
sharp-eyed monarchs as Queen Elizabeth.”

“Utter madness, Varney,” answered the Earl; “the counterfeit would be
confronted with Tressilian, and discovery become inevitable.”

“Tressilian might be removed from court,” said the unhesitating Varney.

“And by what means?”

“There are many,” said Varney, “by which a statesman in your situation,
my lord, may remove from the scene one who pries into your affairs, and
places himself in perilous opposition to you.”

“Speak not to me of such policy, Varney,” said the Earl hastily, “which,
besides, would avail nothing in the present case. Many others there
be at court to whom Amy may be known; and besides, on the absence
of Tressilian, her father or some of her friends would be instantly
summoned hither. Urge thine invention once more.”

“My lord, I know not what to say,” answered Varney; “but were I myself
in such perplexity, I would ride post down to Cumnor Place, and compel
my wife to give her consent to such measures as her safety and mine
required.”

“Varney,” said Leicester, “I cannot urge her to aught so repugnant
to her noble nature as a share in this stratagem; it would be a base
requital to the love she bears me.”

“Well, my lord,” said Varney, “your lordship is a wise and an honourable
man, and skilled in those high points of romantic scruple which are
current in Arcadia perhaps, as your nephew, Philip Sidney, writes. I
am your humble servitor--a man of this world, and only happy that my
knowledge of it, and its ways, is such as your lordship has not scorned
to avail yourself of. Now I would fain know whether the obligation lies
on my lady or on you in this fortunate union, and which has most reason
to show complaisance to the other, and to consider that other’s wishes,
conveniences, and safety?”

“I tell thee, Varney,” said the Earl, “that all it was in my power to
bestow upon her was not merely deserved, but a thousand times overpaid,
by her own virtue and beauty; for never did greatness descend upon a
creature so formed by nature to grace and adorn it.”

“It is well, my lord, you are so satisfied,” answered Varney, with his
usual sardonic smile, which even respect to his patron could not at
all times subdue; “you will have time enough to enjoy undisturbed the
society of one so gracious and beautiful--that is, so soon as such
confinement in the Tower be over as may correspond to the crime of
deceiving the affections of Elizabeth Tudor. A cheaper penalty, I
presume, you do not expect.”

“Malicious fiend!” answered Leicester, “do you mock me in my
misfortune?--Manage it as thou wilt.”

“If you are serious, my lord,” said Varney, “you must set forth
instantly and post for Cumnor Place.”

“Do thou go thyself, Varney; the devil has given thee that sort of
eloquence which is most powerful in the worst cause. I should stand
self-convicted of villainy, were I to urge such a deceit. Begone, I tell
thee; must I entreat thee to mine own dishonour?”

“No, my lord,” said Varney; “but if you are serious in entrusting me
with the task of urging this most necessary measure, you must give me
a letter to my lady, as my credentials, and trust to me for backing
the advice it contains with all the force in my power. And such is my
opinion of my lady’s love for your lordship, and of her willingness to
do that which is at once to contribute to your pleasure and your safety,
that I am sure she will condescend to bear for a few brief days the name
of so humble a man as myself, especially since it is not inferior in
antiquity to that of her own paternal house.”

Leicester seized on writing materials, and twice or thrice commenced
a letter to the Countess, which he afterwards tore into fragments. At
length he finished a few distracted lines, in which he conjured her, for
reasons nearly concerning his life and honour, to consent to bear the
name of Varney for a few days, during the revels at Kenilworth. He
added that Varney would communicate all the reasons which rendered this
deception indispensable; and having signed and sealed these credentials,
he flung them over the table to Varney with a motion that he should
depart, which his adviser was not slow to comprehend and to obey.

Leicester remained like one stupefied, till he heard the trampling of
the horses, as Varney, who took no time even to change his dress, threw
himself into the saddle, and, followed by a single servant, set off for
Berkshire. At the sound the Earl started from his seat, and ran to the
window, with the momentary purpose of recalling the unworthy commission
with which he had entrusted one of whom he used to say he knew no
virtuous property save affection to his patron. But Varney was already
beyond call; and the bright, starry firmament, which the age considered
as the Book of Fate, lying spread before Leicester when he opened the
casement, diverted him from his better and more manly purpose.

“There they roll, on their silent but potential course,” said the Earl,
looking around him, “without a voice which speaks to our ear, but not
without influences which affect, at every change, the indwellers of this
vile, earthly planet. This, if astrologers fable not, is the very crisis
of my fate! The hour approaches of which I was taught to beware--the
hour, too, which I was encouraged to hope for. A King was the word--but
how?--the crown matrimonial. All hopes of that are gone--let them go.
The rich Netherlands have demanded me for their leader, and, would
Elizabeth consent, would yield to me THEIR crown. And have I not such
a claim even in this kingdom? That of York, descending from George of
Clarence to the House of Huntingdon, which, this lady failing, may have
a fair chance--Huntingdon is of my house.--But I will plunge no deeper
in these high mysteries. Let me hold my course in silence for a while,
and in obscurity, like a subterranean river; the time shall come that I
will burst forth in my strength, and bear all opposition before me.”

While Leicester was thus stupefying the remonstrances of his own
conscience, by appealing to political necessity for his apology, or
losing himself amidst the wild dreams of ambition, his agent left
town and tower behind him on his hasty journey to Berkshire. HE also
nourished high hope. He had brought Lord Leicester to the point which
he had desired, of committing to him the most intimate recesses of
his breast, and of using him as the channel of his most confidential
intercourse with his lady. Henceforward it would, he foresaw, be
difficult for his patron either to dispense with his services, or refuse
his requests, however unreasonable. And if this disdainful dame, as
he termed the Countess, should comply with the request of her husband,
Varney, her pretended husband, must needs become so situated with
respect to her, that there was no knowing where his audacity might be
bounded perhaps not till circumstances enabled him to obtain a triumph,
which he thought of with a mixture of fiendish feelings, in which
revenge for her previous scorn was foremost and predominant. Again
he contemplated the possibility of her being totally intractable, and
refusing obstinately to play the part assigned to her in the drama at
Kenilworth.

“Alasco must then do his part,” he said. “Sickness must serve her
Majesty as an excuse for not receiving the homage of Mrs. Varney--ay,
and a sore and wasting sickness it may prove, should Elizabeth continue
to cast so favourable an eye on my Lord of Leicester. I will not forego
the chance of being favourite of a monarch for want of determined
measures, should these be necessary. Forward, good horse,
forward--ambition and haughty hope of power, pleasure, and revenge
strike their stings as deep through my bosom as I plunge the rowels in
thy flanks. On, good horse, on--the devil urges us both forward!”



CHAPTER XXII.


     Say that my beauty was but small,
     Among court ladies all despised,
     Why didst thou rend it from that hall
     Where, scornful Earl, ‘twas dearly prized?

     No more thou com’st with wonted speed,
     Thy once beloved bride to see;
     But be she alive, or be she dead,
     I fear, stern Earl, ‘s the same to thee.
     CUMNOR HALL, by WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.

The ladies of fashion of the present, or of any other period, must have
allowed that the young and lovely Countess of Leicester had, besides her
youth and beauty, two qualities which entitled her to a place amongst
women of rank and distinction. She displayed, as we have seen in her
interview with the pedlar, a liberal promptitude to make unnecessary
purchases, solely for the pleasure of acquiring useless and showy
trifles which ceased to please as soon as they were possessed; and she
was, besides, apt to spend a considerable space of time every day in
adorning her person, although the varied splendour of her attire could
only attract the half satirical praise of the precise Janet, or an
approving glance from the bright eyes which witnessed their own beams of
triumph reflected from the mirror.

The Countess Amy had, indeed, to plead for indulgence in those frivolous
tastes, that the education of the times had done little or nothing for a
mind naturally gay and averse to study. If she had not loved to
collect finery and to wear it, she might have woven tapestry or sewed
embroidery, till her labours spread in gay profusion all over the walls
and seats at Lidcote Hall; or she might have varied Minerva’s labours
with the task of preparing a mighty pudding against the time that Sir
Hugh Robsart returned from the greenwood. But Amy had no natural genius
either for the loom, the needle, or the receipt-book. Her mother had
died in infancy; her father contradicted her in nothing; and Tressilian,
the only one that approached her who was able or desirous to attend
to the cultivation of her mind, had much hurt his interest with her by
assuming too eagerly the task of a preceptor, so that he was regarded by
the lively, indulged, and idle girl with some fear and much respect, but
with little or nothing of that softer emotion which it had been his hope
and his ambition to inspire. And thus her heart lay readily open, and
her fancy became easily captivated by the noble exterior and graceful
deportment and complacent flattery of Leicester, even before he was
known to her as the dazzling minion of wealth and power.

The frequent visits of Leicester at Cumnor, during the earlier part of
their union, had reconciled the Countess to the solitude and privacy
to which she was condemned; but when these visits became rarer and more
rare, and when the void was filled up with letters of excuse, not always
very warmly expressed, and generally extremely brief, discontent and
suspicion began to haunt those splendid apartments which love had fitted
up for beauty. Her answers to Leicester conveyed these feelings too
bluntly, and pressed more naturally than prudently that she might
be relieved from this obscure and secluded residence, by the Earl’s
acknowledgment of their marriage; and in arranging her arguments with
all the skill she was mistress of, she trusted chiefly to the warmth of
the entreaties with which she urged them. Sometimes she even ventured
to mingle reproaches, of which Leicester conceived he had good reason to
complain.

“I have made her Countess,” he said to Varney; “surely she might wait
till it consisted with my pleasure that she should put on the coronet?”

The Countess Amy viewed the subject in directly an opposite light.

“What signifies,” she said, “that I have rank and honour in reality, if
I am to live an obscure prisoner, without either society or observance,
and suffering in my character, as one of dubious or disgraced
reputation? I care not for all those strings of pearl, which you fret me
by warping into my tresses, Janet. I tell you that at Lidcote Hall, if
I put but a fresh rosebud among my hair, my good father would call me
to him, that he might see it more closely; and the kind old curate would
smile, and Master Mumblazen would say something about roses gules. And
now I sit here, decked out like an image with gold and gems, and no one
to see my finery but you, Janet. There was the poor Tressilian, too--but
it avails not speaking of him.”

“It doth not indeed, madam,” said her prudent attendant; “and verily
you make me sometimes wish you would not speak of him so often, or so
rashly.”

“It signifies nothing to warn me, Janet,” said the impatient and
incorrigible Countess; “I was born free, though I am now mewed up like
some fine foreign slave, rather than the wife of an English noble.
I bore it all with pleasure while I was sure he loved me; but now my
tongue and heart shall be free, let them fetter these limbs as they
will. I tell thee, Janet, I love my husband--I will love him till
my latest breath--I cannot cease to love him, even if I would, or if
he--which, God knows, may chance--should cease to love me. But I
will say, and loudly, I would have been happier than I now am to
have remained in Lidcote Hall, even although I must have married poor
Tressilian, with his melancholy look and his head full of learning,
which I cared not for. He said, if I would read his favourite volumes,
there would come a time that I should be glad of having done so. I think
it is come now.”

“I bought you some books, madam,” said Janet, “from a lame fellow who
sold them in the Market-place--and who stared something boldly, at me, I
promise you.”

“Let me see them, Janet,” said the Countess; “but let them not be of
your own precise cast,--How is this, most righteous damsel?--‘A PAIR OF
SNUFFERS FOR THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK’--‘HANDFULL OF MYRRH AND HYSSOP TO
PUT A SICK SOUL TO PURGATION’--‘A DRAUGHT OF WATER FROM THE VALLEY OF
BACA’--‘FOXES AND FIREBRANDS’--what gear call you this, maiden?”

“Nay, madam,” said Janet, “it was but fitting and seemly to put grace in
your ladyship’s way; but an you will none of it, there are play-books,
and poet-books, I trow.”

The Countess proceeded carelessly in her examination, turning over such
rare volumes as would now make the fortune of twenty retail booksellers.
Here was a “BOKE OF COOKERY, IMPRINTED BY RICHARD LANT,” and “SKELTON’S
BOOKS”--“THE PASSTIME OF THE PEOPLE”--“THE CASTLE OF KNOWLEDGE,” etc.
But neither to this lore did the Countess’s heart incline, and joyfully
did she start up from the listless task of turning over the leaves of
the pamphlets, and hastily did she scatter them through the floor, when
the hasty clatter of horses’ feet, heard in the courtyard, called her to
the window, exclaiming, “It is Leicester!--it is my noble Earl!--it
is my Dudley!--every stroke of his horse’s hoof sounds like a note of
lordly music!”

There was a brief bustle in the mansion, and Foster, with his downward
look and sullen manner, entered the apartment to say, “That Master
Richard Varney was arrived from my lord, having ridden all night, and
craved to speak with her ladyship instantly.”

“Varney?” said the disappointed Countess; “and to speak with me?--pshaw!
But he comes with news from Leicester, so admit him instantly.”

Varney entered her dressing apartment, where she sat arrayed in her
native loveliness, adorned with all that Janet’s art and a rich and
tasteful undress could bestow. But the most beautiful part of her attire
was her profuse and luxuriant light-brown locks, which floated in such
rich abundance around a neck that resembled a swan’s, and over a bosom
heaving with anxious expectation, which communicated a hurried tinge of
red to her whole countenance.

Varney entered the room in the dress in which he had waited on his
master that morning to court, the splendour of which made a strange
contrast with the disorder arising from hasty riding during a dark night
and foul ways. His brow bore an anxious and hurried expression, as one
who has that to say of which he doubts the reception, and who hath
yet posted on from the necessity of communicating his tidings. The
Countess’s anxious eye at once caught the alarm, as she exclaimed, “You
bring news from my lord, Master Varney--Gracious Heaven! is he ill?”

“No, madam, thank Heaven!” said Varney. “Compose yourself, and permit me
to take breath ere I communicate my tidings.”

“No breath, sir,” replied the lady impatiently; “I know your theatrical
arts. Since your breath hath sufficed to bring you hither, it may
suffice to tell your tale--at least briefly, and in the gross.”

“Madam,” answered Varney, “we are not alone, and my lord’s message was
for your ear only.”

“Leave us, Janet, and Master Foster,” said the lady; “but remain in the
next apartment, and within call.”

Foster and his daughter retired, agreeably to the Lady Leicester’s
commands, into the next apartment, which was the withdrawing-room. The
door which led from the sleeping-chamber was then carefully shut and
bolted, and the father and daughter remained both in a posture of
anxious attention, the first with a stern, suspicious, anxious cast of
countenance, and Janet with folded hands, and looks which seemed divided
betwixt her desire to know the fortunes of her mistress, and her prayers
to Heaven for her safety. Anthony Foster seemed himself to have some
idea of what was passing through his daughter’s mind, for he crossed
the apartment and took her anxiously by the hand, saying, “That is
right--pray, Janet, pray; we have all need of prayers, and some of us
more than others. Pray, Janet--I would pray myself, but I must listen to
what goes on within--evil has been brewing, love--evil has been brewing.
God forgive our sins, but Varney’s sudden and strange arrival bodes us
no good.”

Janet had never before heard her father excite or even permit her
attention to anything which passed in their mysterious family; and now
that he did so, his voice sounded in her ear--she knew not why--like
that of a screech-owl denouncing some deed of terror and of woe. She
turned her eyes fearfully towards the door, almost as if she expected
some sounds of horror to be heard, or some sight of fear to display
itself.

All, however, was as still as death, and the voices of those who spoke
in the inner chamber were, if they spoke at all, carefully subdued to a
tone which could not be heard in the next. At once, however, they were
heard to speak fast, thick, and hastily; and presently after the voice
of the Countess was heard exclaiming, at the highest pitch to which
indignation could raise it, “Undo the door, sir, I command you!--undo
the door!--I will have no other reply!” she continued, drowning with her
vehement accents the low and muttered sounds which Varney was heard
to utter betwixt whiles. “What ho! without there!” she persisted,
accompanying her words with shrieks, “Janet, alarm the house!--Foster,
break open the door--I am detained here by a traitor! Use axe and lever,
Master Foster--I will be your warrant!”

“It shall not need, madam,” Varney was at length distinctly heard to
say. “If you please to expose my lord’s important concerns and your own
to the general ear, I will not be your hindrance.”

The door was unlocked and thrown open, and Janet and her father rushed
in, anxious to learn the cause of these reiterated exclamations.

When they entered the apartment Varney stood by the door grinding his
teeth, with an expression in which rage, and shame, and fear had each
their share. The Countess stood in the midst of her apartment like a
juvenile Pythoness under the influence of the prophetic fury. The veins
in her beautiful forehead started into swoln blue lines through the
hurried impulse of her articulation--her cheek and neck glowed like
scarlet--her eyes were like those of an imprisoned eagle, flashing red
lightning on the foes which it cannot reach with its talons. Were it
possible for one of the Graces to have been animated by a Fury, the
countenance could not have united such beauty with so much hatred,
scorn, defiance, and resentment. The gesture and attitude corresponded
with the voice and looks, and altogether presented a spectacle which was
at once beautiful and fearful; so much of the sublime had the energy
of passion united with the Countess Amy’s natural loveliness. Janet,
as soon as the door was open, ran to her mistress; and more slowly, yet
with more haste than he was wont, Anthony Foster went to Richard Varney.

“In the Truth’s name, what ails your ladyship?” said the former.

“What, in the name of Satan, have you done to her?” said Foster to his
friend.

“Who, I?--nothing,” answered Varney, but with sunken head and sullen
voice; “nothing but communicated to her her lord’s commands, which, if
the lady list not to obey, she knows better how to answer it than I may
pretend to do.”

“Now, by Heaven, Janet!” said the Countess, “the false traitor lies
in his throat! He must needs lie, for he speaks to the dishonour of my
noble lord; he must needs lie doubly, for he speaks to gain ends of his
own, equally execrable and unattainable.”

“You have misapprehended me, lady,” said Varney, with a sulky species
of submission and apology; “let this matter rest till your passion be
abated, and I will explain all.”

“Thou shalt never have an opportunity to do so,” said the
Countess.--“Look at him, Janet. He is fairly dressed, hath the outside
of a gentleman, and hither he came to persuade me it was my lord’s
pleasure--nay, more, my wedded lord’s commands--that I should go with
him to Kenilworth, and before the Queen and nobles, and in presence of
my own wedded lord, that I should acknowledge him--HIM there--that very
cloak-brushing, shoe-cleaning fellow--HIM there, my lord’s lackey,
for my liege lord and husband; furnishing against myself, Great God!
whenever I was to vindicate my right and my rank, such weapons as would
hew my just claim from the root, and destroy my character to be regarded
as an honourable matron of the English nobility!”

“You hear her, Foster, and you, young maiden, hear this lady,” answered
Varney, taking advantage of the pause which the Countess had made in her
charge, more for lack of breath than for lack of matter--“you hear that
her heat only objects to me the course which our good lord, for the
purpose to keep certain matters secret, suggests in the very letter
which she holds in her hands.”

Foster here attempted to interfere with a face of authority, which he
thought became the charge entrusted to him, “Nay, lady, I must needs say
you are over-hasty in this. Such deceit is not utterly to be condemned
when practised for a righteous end; and thus even the patriarch Abraham
feigned Sarah to be his sister when they went down to Egypt.”

“Ay, sir,” answered the Countess; “but God rebuked that deceit even in
the father of His chosen people, by the mouth of the heathen Pharaoh.
Out upon you, that will read Scripture only to copy those things which
are held out to us as warnings, not as examples!”

“But Sarah disputed not the will of her husband, an it be your
pleasure,” said Foster, in reply, “but did as Abraham commanded, calling
herself his sister, that it might be well with her husband for her sake,
and that his soul might live because of her beauty.”

“Now, so Heaven pardon me my useless anger,” answered the Countess,
“thou art as daring a hypocrite as yonder fellow is an impudent
deceiver! Never will I believe that the noble Dudley gave countenance
to so dastardly, so dishonourable a plan. Thus I tread on his infamy, if
indeed it be, and thus destroy its remembrance for ever!”

So saying, she tore in pieces Leicester’s letter, and stamped, in the
extremity of impatience, as if she would have annihilated the minute
fragments into which she had rent it.

“Bear witness,” said Varney, collecting himself, “she hath torn my
lord’s letter, in order to burden me with the scheme of his devising;
and although it promises nought but danger and trouble to me, she would
lay it to my charge, as if I had any purpose of mine own in it.”

“Thou liest, thou treacherous slave!” said the Countess in spite of
Janet’s attempts to keep her silent, in the sad foresight that her
vehemence might only furnish arms against herself--“thou liest,” she
continued.--“Let me go, Janet--were it the last word I have to speak,
he lies. He had his own foul ends to seek; and broader he would have
displayed them had my passion permitted me to preserve the silence which
at first encouraged him to unfold his vile projects.”

“Madam,” said Varney, overwhelmed in spite of his effrontery, “I entreat
you to believe yourself mistaken.”

“As soon will I believe light darkness,” said the enraged Countess.
“Have I drunk of oblivion? Do I not remember former passages, which,
known to Leicester, had given thee the preferment of a gallows, instead
of the honour of his intimacy. I would I were a man but for five
minutes! It were space enough to make a craven like thee confess his
villainy. But go--begone! Tell thy master that when I take the foul
course to which such scandalous deceits as thou hast recommended on
his behalf must necessarily lead me, I will give him a rival something
worthy of the name. He shall not be supplanted by an ignominious lackey,
whose best fortune is to catch a gift of his master’s last suit
of clothes ere it is threadbare, and who is only fit to seduce a
suburb-wench by the bravery of new roses in his master’s old pantoufles.
Go, begone, sir! I scorn thee so much that I am ashamed to have been
angry with thee.”

Varney left the room with a mute expression of rage, and was followed by
Foster, whose apprehension, naturally slow, was overpowered by the eager
and abundant discharge of indignation which, for the first time, he had
heard burst from the lips of a being who had seemed, till that moment,
too languid and too gentle to nurse an angry thought or utter an
intemperate expression. Foster, therefore, pursued Varney from place to
place, persecuting him with interrogatories, to which the other replied
not, until they were in the opposite side of the quadrangle, and in the
old library, with which the reader has already been made acquainted.
Here he turned round on his persevering follower, and thus addressed
him, in a tone tolerably equal, that brief walk having been sufficient
to give one so habituated to command his temper time to rally and
recover his presence of mind.

“Tony,” he said, with his usual sneering laugh, “it avails not to deny
it. The Woman and the Devil, who, as thine oracle Holdforth will
confirm to thee, cheated man at the beginning, have this day proved more
powerful than my discretion. Yon termagant looked so tempting, and had
the art to preserve her countenance so naturally, while I communicated
my lord’s message, that, by my faith, I thought I might say some little
thing for myself. She thinks she hath my head under her girdle now, but
she is deceived. Where is Doctor Alasco?”

“In his laboratory,” answered Foster. “It is the hour he is spoken not
withal. We must wait till noon is past, or spoil his important--what
said I? important!--I would say interrupt his divine studies.”

“Ay, he studies the devil’s divinity,” said Varney; “but when I want
him, one hour must suffice as well as another. Lead the way to his
pandemonium.”

So spoke Varney, and with hasty and perturbed steps followed Foster,
who conducted him through private passages, many of which were
well-nigh ruinous, to the opposite side of the quadrangle, where, in a
subterranean apartment, now occupied by the chemist Alasco, one of the
Abbots of Abingdon, who had a turn for the occult sciences, had, much
to the scandal of his convent, established a laboratory, in which,
like other fools of the period, he spent much precious time, and money
besides, in the pursuit of the grand arcanum.

Anthony Foster paused before the door, which was scrupulously secured
within, and again showed a marked hesitation to disturb the sage in
his operations. But Varney, less scrupulous, roused him by knocking
and voice, until at length, slowly and reluctantly, the inmate of the
apartment undid the door. The chemist appeared, with his eyes bleared
with the heat and vapours of the stove or alembic over which he brooded
and the interior of his cell displayed the confused assemblage of
heterogeneous substances and extraordinary implements belonging to his
profession. The old man was muttering, with spiteful impatience, “Am I
for ever to be recalled to the affairs of earth from those of heaven?”

“To the affairs of hell,” answered Varney, “for that is thy proper
element.--Foster, we need thee at our conference.”

Foster slowly entered the room. Varney, following, barred the door, and
they betook themselves to secret council.

In the meanwhile, the Countess traversed the apartment, with shame and
anger contending on her lovely cheek.

“The villain,” she said--“the cold-blooded, calculating slave!--But I
unmasked him, Janet--I made the snake uncoil all his folds before me,
and crawl abroad in his naked deformity; I suspended my resentment, at
the danger of suffocating under the effort, until he had let me see the
very bottom of a heart more foul than hell’s darkest corner.--And thou,
Leicester, is it possible thou couldst bid me for a moment deny my
wedded right in thee, or thyself yield it to another?--But it is
impossible--the villain has lied in all.--Janet, I will not remain here
longer--I fear him--I fear thy father. I grieve to say it, Janet--but
I fear thy father, and, worst of all, this odious Varney, I will escape
from Cumnor.”

“Alas! madam, whither would you fly, or by what means will you escape
from these walls?”

“I know not, Janet,” said the unfortunate young lady, looking upwards!
and clasping her hands together, “I know not where I shall fly, or by
what means; but I am certain the God I have served will not abandon me
in this dreadful crisis, for I am in the hands of wicked men.”

“Do not think so, dear lady,” said Janet; “my father is stern and strict
in his temper, and severely true to his trust--but yet--”

At this moment Anthony Foster entered the apartment, bearing in his
hand a glass cup and a small flask. His manner was singular; for, while
approaching the Countess with the respect due to her rank, he had till
this time suffered to become visible, or had been unable to suppress,
the obdurate sulkiness of his natural disposition, which, as is usual
with those of his unhappy temper, was chiefly exerted towards those over
whom circumstances gave him control. But at present he showed nothing
of that sullen consciousness of authority which he was wont to conceal
under a clumsy affectation of civility and deference, as a ruffian hides
his pistols and bludgeon under his ill-fashioned gaberdine. And yet it
seemed as if his smile was more in fear than courtesy, and as if, while
he pressed the Countess to taste of the choice cordial, which should
refresh her spirits after her late alarm, he was conscious of meditating
some further injury. His hand trembled also, his voice faltered, and his
whole outward behaviour exhibited so much that was suspicious, that his
daughter Janet, after she had stood looking at him in astonishment for
some seconds, seemed at once to collect herself to execute some
hardy resolution, raised her head, assumed an attitude and gait of
determination and authority, and walking slowly betwixt her father and
her mistress, took the salver from the hand of the former, and said in
a low but marked and decided tone, “Father, I will fill for my noble
mistress, when such is her pleasure.”

“Thou, my child?” said Foster, eagerly and apprehensively; “no, my
child--it is not THOU shalt render the lady this service.”

“And why, I pray you,” said Janet, “if it be fitting that the noble lady
should partake of the cup at all?”

“Why--why?” said the seneschal, hesitating, and then bursting into
passion as the readiest mode of supplying the lack of all other
reason--“why, because it is my pleasure, minion, that you should not!
Get you gone to the evening lecture.”

“Now, as I hope to hear lecture again,” replied Janet, “I will not go
thither this night, unless I am better assured of my mistress’s safety.
Give me that flask, father”--and she took it from his reluctant hand,
while he resigned it as if conscience-struck. “And now,” she said,
“father, that which shall benefit my mistress, cannot do ME prejudice.
Father, I drink to you.”

Foster, without speaking a word, rushed on his daughter and wrested the
flask from her hand; then, as if embarrassed by what he had done, and
totally unable to resolve what he should do next, he stood with it in
his hand, one foot advanced and the other drawn back, glaring on his
daughter with a countenance in which rage, fear, and convicted villainy
formed a hideous combination.

“This is strange, my father,” said Janet, keeping her eye fixed on his,
in the manner in which those who have the charge of lunatics are said to
overawe their unhappy patients; “will you neither let me serve my lady,
nor drink to her myself?”

The courage of the Countess sustained her through this dreadful scene,
of which the import was not the less obvious that it was not even hinted
at. She preserved even the rash carelessness of her temper, and though
her cheek had grown pale at the first alarm, her eye was calm and almost
scornful. “Will YOU taste this rare cordial, Master Foster? Perhaps you
will not yourself refuse to pledge us, though you permit not Janet to do
so. Drink, sir, I pray you.”

“I will not,” answered Foster.

“And for whom, then, is the precious beverage reserved, sir?” said the
Countess.

“For the devil, who brewed it!” answered Foster; and, turning on his
heel, he left the chamber.

Janet looked at her mistress with a countenance expressive in the
highest degree of shame, dismay, and sorrow.

“Do not weep for me, Janet,” said the Countess kindly.

“No, madam,” replied her attendant, in a voice broken by sobs, “it is
not for you I weep; it is for myself--it is for that unhappy man. Those
who are dishonoured before man--those who are condemned by God--have
cause to mourn; not those who are innocent! Farewell, madam!” she said
hastily assuming the mantle in which she was wont to go abroad.

“Do you leave me, Janet?” said her mistress--“desert me in such an evil
strait?”

“Desert you, madam!” exclaimed Janet; and running back to her mistress,
she imprinted a thousand kisses on her hand--“desert you I--may the Hope
of my trust desert me when I do so! No, madam; well you said the God you
serve will open you a path for deliverance. There is a way of escape. I
have prayed night and day for light, that I might see how to act betwixt
my duty to yonder unhappy man and that which I owe to you. Sternly and
fearfully that light has now dawned, and I must not shut the door which
God opens. Ask me no more. I will return in brief space.”

So speaking, she wrapped herself in her mantle, and saying to the old
woman whom she passed in the outer room that she was going to evening
prayer, she left the house.

Meanwhile her father had reached once more the laboratory, where
he found the accomplices of his intended guilt. “Has the sweet bird
sipped?” said Varney, with half a smile; while the astrologer put the
same question with his eyes, but spoke not a word.

“She has not, nor she shall not from my hands,” replied Foster; “would
you have me do murder in my daughter’s presence?”

“Wert thou not told, thou sullen and yet faint-hearted slave,” answered
Varney, with bitterness, “that no MURDER as thou callest it, with that
staring look and stammering tone, is designed in the matter? Wert thou
not told that a brief illness, such as woman puts on in very wantonness,
that she may wear her night-gear at noon, and lie on a settle when
she should mind her domestic business, is all here aimed at? Here is a
learned man will swear it to thee by the key of the Castle of Wisdom.”

“I swear it,” said Alasco, “that the elixir thou hast there in the flask
will not prejudice life! I swear it by that immortal and indestructible
quintessence of gold, which pervades every substance in nature, though
its secret existence can be traced by him only to whom Trismegistus
renders the key of the Cabala.”

“An oath of force,” said Varney. “Foster, thou wert worse than a pagan
to disbelieve it. Believe me, moreover, who swear by nothing but by my
own word, that if you be not conformable, there is no hope, no, not
a glimpse of hope, that this thy leasehold may be transmuted into a
copyhold. Thus, Alasco will leave your pewter artillery untransmigrated,
and I, honest Anthony, will still have thee for my tenant.”

“I know not, gentlemen,” said Foster, “where your designs tend to; but
in one thing I am bound up,--that, fall back fall edge, I will have one
in this place that may pray for me, and that one shall be my daughter.
I have lived ill, and the world has been too weighty with me; but she is
as innocent as ever she was when on her mother’s lap, and she, at least,
shall have her portion in that happy City, whose walls are of pure gold,
and the foundations garnished with all manner of precious stones.”

“Ay, Tony,” said Varney, “that were a paradise to thy heart’s
content.--Debate the matter with him, Doctor Alasco; I will be with you
anon.”

So speaking, Varney arose, and taking the flask from the table, he left
the room.

“I tell thee, my son,” said Alasco to Foster, as soon as Varney had
left them, “that whatever this bold and profligate railer may say of the
mighty science, in which, by Heaven’s blessing, I have advanced so
far that I would not call the wisest of living artists my better or my
teacher--I say, howsoever yonder reprobate may scoff at things too holy
to be apprehended by men merely of carnal and evil thoughts, yet believe
that the city beheld by St. John, in that bright vision of the Christian
Apocalypse, that new Jerusalem, of which all Christian men hope to
partake, sets forth typically the discovery of the GRAND SECRET, whereby
the most precious and perfect of nature’s works are elicited out of
her basest and most crude productions; just as the light and gaudy
butterfly, the most beautiful child of the summer’s breeze, breaks forth
from the dungeon of a sordid chrysalis.”

“Master Holdforth said nought of this exposition,” said Foster
doubtfully; “and moreover, Doctor Alasco, the Holy Writ says that the
gold and precious stones of the Holy City are in no sort for those who
work abomination, or who frame lies.”

“Well, my son,” said the Doctor, “and what is your inference from
thence?”

“That those,” said Foster, “who distil poisons, and administer them in
secrecy, can have no portion in those unspeakable riches.”

“You are to distinguish, my son,” replied the alchemist, “betwixt that
which is necessarily evil in its progress and in its end also, and that
which, being evil, is, nevertheless, capable of working forth good. If,
by the death of one person, the happy period shall be brought nearer
to us, in which all that is good shall be attained, by wishing its
presence--all that is evil escaped, by desiring its absence--in which
sickness, and pain, and sorrow shall be the obedient servants of human
wisdom, and made to fly at the slightest signal of a sage--in which that
which is now richest and rarest shall be within the compass of every one
who shall be obedient to the voice of wisdom--when the art of healing
shall be lost and absorbed in the one universal medicine when sages
shall become monarchs of the earth, and death itself retreat before
their frown,--if this blessed consummation of all things can be hastened
by the slight circumstance that a frail, earthly body, which must
needs partake corruption, shall be consigned to the grave a short space
earlier than in the course of nature, what is such a sacrifice to the
advancement of the holy Millennium?”

“Millennium is the reign of the Saints,” said Foster, somewhat
doubtfully.

“Say it is the reign of the Sages, my son,” answered Alasco; “or rather
the reign of Wisdom itself.”

“I touched on the question with Master Holdforth last exercising night,”
 said Foster; “but he says your doctrine is heterodox, and a damnable and
false exposition.”

“He is in the bonds of ignorance, my son,” answered Alasco, “and as yet
burning bricks in Egypt; or, at best, wandering in the dry desert of
Sinai. Thou didst ill to speak to such a man of such matters. I will,
however, give thee proof, and that shortly, which I will defy that
peevish divine to confute, though he should strive with me as the
magicians strove with Moses before King Pharaoh. I will do projection
in thy presence, my son,--in thy very presence--and thine eyes shall
witness the truth.”

“Stick to that, learned sage,” said Varney, who at this moment entered
the apartment; “if he refuse the testimony of thy tongue, yet how shall
he deny that of his own eyes?”

“Varney!” said the adept--“Varney already returned! Hast thou--” he
stopped short.

“Have I done mine errand, thou wouldst say?” replied Varney. “I have!
And thou,” he added, showing more symptoms of interest than he had
hitherto exhibited, “art thou sure thou hast poured forth neither more
nor less than the just measure?”

“Ay,” replied the alchemist, “as sure as men can be in these nice
proportions, for there is diversity of constitutions.”

“Nay, then,” said Varney, “I fear nothing. I know thou wilt not go a
step farther to the devil than thou art justly considered for--thou wert
paid to create illness, and wouldst esteem it thriftless prodigality to
do murder at the same price. Come, let us each to our chamber we shall
see the event to-morrow.”

“What didst thou do to make her swallow it?” said Foster, shuddering.

“Nothing,” answered Varney, “but looked on her with that aspect which
governs madmen, women, and children. They told me in St. Luke’s Hospital
that I have the right look for overpowering a refractory patient. The
keepers made me their compliments on’t; so I know how to win my bread
when my court-favour fails me.”

“And art thou not afraid,” said Foster, “lest the dose be
disproportioned?”

“If so,” replied Varney, “she will but sleep the sounder, and the fear
of that shall not break my rest. Good night, my masters.”

Anthony Foster groaned heavily, and lifted up his hands and eyes. The
alchemist intimated his purpose to continue some experiment of high
import during the greater part of the night, and the others separated to
their places of repose.



CHAPTER XXIII.


     Now God be good to me in this wild pilgrimage!
     All hope in human aid I cast behind me.
     Oh, who would be a woman?--who that fool,
     A weeping, pining, faithful, loving woman?
     She hath hard measure still where she hopes kindest,
     And all her bounties only make ingrates.     LOVE’S PILGRIMAGE.

The summer evening was closed, and Janet, just when her longer stay
might have occasioned suspicion and inquiry in that zealous household,
returned to Cumnor Place, and hastened to the apartment in which she
had left her lady. She found her with her head resting on her arms, and
these crossed upon a table which stood before her. As Janet came in, she
neither looked up nor stirred.

Her faithful attendant ran to her mistress with the speed of lightning,
and rousing her at the same time with her hand, conjured the Countess,
in the most earnest manner, to look up and say what thus affected
her. The unhappy lady raised her head accordingly, and looking on her
attendant with a ghastly eye, and cheek as pale as clay--“Janet,” she
said, “I have drunk it.”

“God be praised!” said Janet hastily--“I mean, God be praised that it is
no worse; the potion will not harm you. Rise, shake this lethargy from
your limbs, and this despair from your mind.”

“Janet,” repeated the Countess again, “disturb me not--leave me at
peace--let life pass quietly. I am poisoned.”

“You are not, my dearest lady,” answered the maiden eagerly. “What you
have swallowed cannot injure you, for the antidote has been taken before
it, and I hastened hither to tell you that the means of escape are open
to you.”

“Escape!” exclaimed the lady, as she raised herself hastily in her
chair, while light returned to her eye and life to her cheek; “but ah!
Janet, it comes too late.”

“Not so, dearest lady. Rise, take mine arm, walk through the apartment;
let not fancy do the work of poison! So; feel you not now that you are
possessed of the full use of your limbs?”

“The torpor seems to diminish,” said the Countess, as, supported by
Janet, she walked to and fro in the apartment; “but is it then so, and
have I not swallowed a deadly draught? Varney was here since thou wert
gone, and commanded me, with eyes in which I read my fate, to swallow
yon horrible drug. O Janet! it must be fatal; never was harmless draught
served by such a cup-bearer!”

“He did not deem it harmless, I fear,” replied the maiden; “but God
confounds the devices of the wicked. Believe me, as I swear by the dear
Gospel in which we trust, your life is safe from his practice. Did you
not debate with him?”

“The house was silent,” answered the lady--“thou gone--no other but he
in the chamber--and he capable of every crime. I did but stipulate he
would remove his hateful presence, and I drank whatever he offered.--But
you spoke of escape, Janet; can I be so happy?”

“Are you strong enough to bear the tidings, and make the effort?” said
the maiden.

“Strong!” answered the Countess. “Ask the hind, when the fangs of the
deerhound are stretched to gripe her, if she is strong enough to spring
over a chasm. I am equal to every effort that may relieve me from this
place.”

“Hear me, then,” said Janet. “One whom I deem an assured friend of yours
has shown himself to me in various disguises, and sought speech of me,
which--for my mind was not clear on the matter until this evening--I
have ever declined. He was the pedlar who brought you goods--the
itinerant hawker who sold me books; whenever I stirred abroad I was sure
to see him. The event of this night determined me to speak with him.
He awaits even now at the postern gate of the park with means for your
flight.--But have you strength of body?--have you courage of mind?--can
you undertake the enterprise?”

“She that flies from death,” said the lady, “finds strength of body--she
that would escape from shame lacks no strength of mind. The thoughts of
leaving behind me the villain who menaces both my life and honour would
give me strength to rise from my deathbed.”

“In God’s name, then, lady,” said Janet, “I must bid you adieu, and to
God’s charge I must commit you!”

“Will you not fly with me, then, Janet?” said the Countess, anxiously.
“Am I to lose thee? Is this thy faithful service?”

“Lady, I would fly with you as willingly as bird ever fled from cage,
but my doing so would occasion instant discovery and pursuit. I must
remain, and use means to disguise the truth for some time. May Heaven
pardon the falsehood, because of the necessity!”

“And am I then to travel alone with this stranger?” said the lady.
“Bethink thee, Janet, may not this prove some deeper and darker scheme
to separate me perhaps from you, who are my only friend?”

“No, madam, do not suppose it,” answered Janet readily; “the youth is an
honest youth in his purpose to you, and a friend to Master Tressilian,
under whose direction he is come hither.”

“If he be a friend of Tressilian,” said the Countess, “I will commit
myself to his charge as to that of an angel sent from heaven; for than
Tressilian never breathed mortal man more free of whatever was base,
false, or selfish. He forgot himself whenever he could be of use to
others. Alas! and how was he requited?”

With eager haste they collected the few necessaries which it was thought
proper the Countess should take with her, and which Janet, with speed
and dexterity, formed into a small bundle, not forgetting to add such
ornaments of intrinsic value as came most readily in her way, and
particularly a casket of jewels, which she wisely judged might prove of
service in some future emergency. The Countess of Leicester next changed
her dress for one which Janet usually wore upon any brief journey, for
they judged it necessary to avoid every external distinction which might
attract attention. Ere these preparations were fully made, the moon
had arisen in the summer heaven, and all in the mansion had betaken
themselves to rest, or at least to the silence and retirement of their
chambers.

There was no difficulty anticipated in escaping, whether from the house
or garden, provided only they could elude observation. Anthony Foster
had accustomed himself to consider his daughter as a conscious sinner
might regard a visible guardian angel, which, notwithstanding his guilt,
continued to hover around him; and therefore his trust in her knew no
bounds. Janet commanded her own motions during the daytime, and had a
master-key which opened the postern door of the park, so that she could
go to the village at pleasure, either upon the household affairs, which
were entirely confided to her management, or to attend her devotions
at the meeting-house of her sect. It is true the daughter of Foster was
thus liberally entrusted under the solemn condition that she should not
avail herself of these privileges to do anything inconsistent with the
safe-keeping of the Countess; for so her residence at Cumnor Place
had been termed, since she began of late to exhibit impatience of the
restrictions to which she was subjected. Nor is there reason to suppose
that anything short of the dreadful suspicions which the scene of that
evening had excited could have induced Janet to violate her word or
deceive her father’s confidence. But from what she had witnessed, she
now conceived herself not only justified, but imperatively called upon,
to make her lady’s safety the principal object of her care, setting all
other considerations aside.

The fugitive Countess with her guide traversed with hasty steps the
broken and interrupted path, which had once been an avenue, now totally
darkened by the boughs of spreading trees which met above their head,
and now receiving a doubtful and deceiving light from the beams of the
moon, which penetrated where the axe had made openings in the wood.
Their path was repeatedly interrupted by felled trees, or the large
boughs which had been left on the ground till time served to make them
into fagots and billets. The inconvenience and difficulty attending
these interruptions, the breathless haste of the first part of their
route, the exhausting sensations of hope and fear, so much affected the
Countess’s strength, that Janet was forced to propose that they should
pause for a few minutes to recover breath and spirits. Both therefore
stood still beneath the shadow of a huge old gnarled oak-tree, and both
naturally looked back to the mansion which they had left behind them,
whose long, dark front was seen in the gloomy distance, with its huge
stacks of chimneys, turrets, and clock-house, rising above the line
of the roof, and definedly visible against the pure azure blue of the
summer sky. One light only twinkled from the extended and shadowy mass,
and it was placed so low that it rather seemed to glimmer from the
ground in front of the mansion than from one of the windows. The
Countess’s terror was awakened. “They follow us!” she said, pointing out
to Janet the light which thus alarmed her.

Less agitated than her mistress, Janet perceived that the gleam was
stationary, and informed the Countess, in a whisper, that the light
proceeded from the solitary cell in which the alchemist pursued his
occult experiments. “He is of those,” she added, “who sit up and watch
by night that they may commit iniquity. Evil was the chance which sent
hither a man whose mixed speech of earthly wealth and unearthly or
superhuman knowledge hath in it what does so especially captivate my
poor father. Well spoke the good Master Holdforth--and, methought,
not without meaning that those of our household should find therein a
practical use. ‘There be those,’ he said, ‘and their number is legion,
who will rather, like the wicked Ahab, listen to the dreams of the false
prophet Zedekiah, than to the words of him by whom the Lord has spoken.’
And he further insisted--‘Ah, my brethren, there be many Zedekiahs among
you--men that promise you the light of their carnal knowledge, so you
will surrender to them that of your heavenly understanding. What are
they better than the tyrant Naas, who demanded the right eye of those
who were subjected to him?’ And further he insisted--”

It is uncertain how long the fair Puritan’s memory might have supported
her in the recapitulation of Master Holdforth’s discourse; but the
Countess now interrupted her, and assured her she was so much recovered
that she could now reach the postern without the necessity of a second
delay.

They set out accordingly, and performed the second part of their journey
with more deliberation, and of course more easily, than the first hasty
commencement. This gave them leisure for reflection; and Janet now,
for the first time, ventured to ask her lady which way she proposed to
direct her flight. Receiving no immediate answer--for, perhaps, in the
confusion of her mind this very obvious subject of deliberation had
not occurred to the Countess---Janet ventured to add, “Probably to your
father’s house, where you are sure of safety and protection?”

“No, Janet,” said the lady mournfully; “I left Lidcote Hall while
my heart was light and my name was honourable, and I will not return
thither till my lord’s permission and public acknowledgment of our
marriage restore me to my native home with all the rank and honour which
he has bestowed on me.”

“And whither will you, then, madam?” said Janet.

“To Kenilworth, girl,” said the Countess, boldly and freely. “I will see
these revels--these princely revels--the preparation for which makes the
land ring from side to side. Methinks, when the Queen of England feasts
within my husband’s halls, the Countess of Leicester should be no
unbeseeming guest.”

“I pray God you may be a welcome one!” said Janet hastily.

“You abuse my situation, Janet,” said the Countess, angrily, “and you
forget your own.”

“I do neither, dearest madam,” said the sorrowful maiden; “but have you
forgotten that the noble Earl has given such strict charges to keep
your marriage secret, that he may preserve his court-favour? and can you
think that your sudden appearance at his castle, at such a juncture, and
in such a presence, will be acceptable to him?”

“Thou thinkest I would disgrace him,” said the Countess; “nay, let go my
arm, I can walk without aid and work without counsel.”

“Be not angry with me, lady,” said Janet meekly, “and let me still
support you; the road is rough, and you are little accustomed to walk in
darkness.”

“If you deem me not so mean as may disgrace my husband,” said the
Countess, in the same resentful tone, “you suppose my Lord of Leicester
capable of abetting, perhaps of giving aim and authority to, the base
proceedings of your father and Varney, whose errand I will do to the
good Earl.”

“For God’s sake, madam, spare my father in your report,” said Janet;
“let my services, however poor, be some atonement for his errors!”

“I were most unjust, dearest Janet, were it otherwise,” said the
Countess, resuming at once the fondness and confidence of her manner
towards her faithful attendant, “No, Janet, not a word of mine shall do
your father prejudice. But thou seest, my love, I have no desire but
to throw my self on my husband’s protection. I have left the abode he
assigned for me, because of the villainy of the persons by whom I was
surrounded; but I will disobey his commands in no other particular. I
will appeal to him alone--I will be protected by him alone; to no other,
than at his pleasure, have I or will I communicate the secret union
which combines our hearts and our destinies. I will see him, and receive
from his own lips the directions for my future conduct. Do not argue
against my resolution, Janet; you will only confirm me in it. And to own
the truth, I am resolved to know my fate at once, and from my husband’s
own mouth; and to seek him at Kenilworth is the surest way to attain my
purpose.”

While Janet hastily revolved in her mind the difficulties and
uncertainties attendant on the unfortunate lady’s situation, she was
inclined to alter her first opinion, and to think, upon the whole, that
since the Countess had withdrawn herself from the retreat in which she
had been placed by her husband, it was her first duty to repair to his
presence, and possess him with the reasons for such conduct. She knew
what importance the Earl attached to the concealment of their marriage,
and could not but own, that by taking any step to make it public
without his permission, the Countess would incur, in a high degree, the
indignation of her husband. If she retired to her father’s house without
an explicit avowal of her rank, her situation was likely greatly to
prejudice her character; and if she made such an avowal, it might
occasion an irreconcilable breach with her husband. At Kenilworth,
again, she might plead her cause with her husband himself, whom Janet,
though distrusting him more than the Countess did, believed incapable
of being accessory to the base and desperate means which his dependants,
from whose power the lady was now escaping, might resort to, in order to
stifle her complaints of the treatment she had received at their hands.
But at the worst, and were the Earl himself to deny her justice and
protection, still at Kenilworth, if she chose to make her wrongs public,
the Countess might have Tressilian for her advocate, and the Queen for
her judge; for so much Janet had learned in her short conference with
Wayland. She was, therefore, on the whole, reconciled to her lady’s
proposal of going towards Kenilworth, and so expressed herself;
recommending, however, to the Countess the utmost caution in making her
arrival known to her husband.

“Hast thou thyself been cautious, Janet?” said the Countess; “this
guide, in whom I must put my confidence, hast thou not entrusted to him
the secret of my condition?”

“From me he has learned nothing,” said Janet; “nor do I think that he
knows more than what the public in general believe of your situation.”

“And what is that?” said the lady.

“That you left your father’s house--but I shall offend you again if I go
on,” said Janet, interrupting herself.

“Nay, go on,” said the Countess; “I must learn to endure the evil report
which my folly has brought upon me. They think, I suppose, that I have
left my father’s house to follow lawless pleasure. It is an error which
will soon be removed--indeed it shall, for I will live with spotless
fame, or I shall cease to live.--I am accounted, then, the paramour of
my Leicester?”

“Most men say of Varney,” said Janet; “yet some call him only the
convenient cloak of his master’s pleasures; for reports of the profuse
expense in garnishing yonder apartments have secretly gone abroad, and
such doings far surpass the means of Varney. But this latter opinion is
little prevalent; for men dare hardly even hint suspicion when so high a
name is concerned, lest the Star Chamber should punish them for scandal
of the nobility.”

“They do well to speak low,” said the Countess, “who would mention the
illustrious Dudley as the accomplice of such a wretch as Varney.--We
have reached the postern. Ah! Janet, I must bid thee farewell! Weep not,
my good girl,” said she, endeavouring to cover her own reluctance to
part with her faithful attendant under an attempt at playfulness; “and
against we meet again, reform me, Janet, that precise ruff of thine for
an open rabatine of lace and cut work, that will let men see thou hast
a fair neck; and that kirtle of Philippine chency, with that bugle lace
which befits only a chambermaid, into three-piled velvet and cloth of
gold--thou wilt find plenty of stuffs in my chamber, and I freely bestow
them on you. Thou must be brave, Janet; for though thou art now but
the attendant of a distressed and errant lady, who is both nameless and
fameless, yet, when we meet again, thou must be dressed as becomes the
gentlewoman nearest in love and in service to the first Countess in
England.”

“Now, may God grant it, dear lady!” said Janet--“not that I may go
with gayer apparel, but that we may both wear our kirtles over lighter
hearts.”

By this time the lock of the postern door had, after some hard
wrenching, yielded to the master-key; and the Countess, not without
internal shuddering, saw herself beyond the walls which her husband’s
strict commands had assigned to her as the boundary of her walks.
Waiting with much anxiety for their appearance, Wayland Smith stood
at some distance, shrouding himself behind a hedge which bordered the
high-road.

“Is all safe?” said Janet to him anxiously, as he approached them with
caution.

“All,” he replied; “but I have been unable to procure a horse for the
lady. Giles Gosling, the cowardly hilding, refused me one on any terms
whatever, lest, forsooth, he should suffer. But no matter; she must
ride on my palfrey, and I must walk by her side until I come by another
horse. There will be no pursuit, if you, pretty Mistress Janet, forget
not thy lesson.”

“No more than the wise widow of Tekoa forgot the words which Joab put
into her mouth,” answered Janet. “Tomorrow, I say that my lady is unable
to rise.”

“Ay; and that she hath aching and heaviness of the head a throbbing at
the heart, and lists not to be disturbed. Fear not; they will take the
hint, and trouble thee with few questions--they understand the disease.”

“But,” said the lady, “My absence must be soon discovered, and they
will murder her in revenge. I will rather return than expose her to such
danger.”

“Be at ease on my account, madam,” said Janet; “I would you were as
sure of receiving the favour you desire from those to whom you must make
appeal, as I am that my father, however angry, will suffer no harm to
befall me.”

The Countess was now placed by Wayland upon his horse, around the saddle
of which he had placed his cloak, so folded as to make her a commodious
seat.

“Adieu, and may the blessing of God wend with you!” said Janet, again
kissing her mistress’s hand, who returned her benediction with a
mute caress. They then tore themselves asunder, and Janet, addressing
Wayland, exclaimed, “May Heaven deal with you at your need, as you are
true or false to this most injured and most helpless lady!”

“Amen! dearest Janet,” replied Wayland; “and believe me, I will so
acquit myself of my trust as may tempt even your pretty eyes, saintlike
as they are, to look less scornfully on me when we next meet.”

The latter part of this adieu was whispered into Janet’s ear and
although she made no reply to it directly, yet her manner, influenced,
no doubt, by her desire to leave every motive in force which could
operate towards her mistress’s safety, did not discourage the hope which
Wayland’s words expressed. She re-entered the postern door, and locked
it behind her; while, Wayland taking the horse’s bridle in his hand,
and walking close by its head, they began in silence their dubious and
moonlight journey.

Although Wayland Smith used the utmost dispatch which he could make,
yet this mode of travelling was so slow, that when morning began to dawn
through the eastern mist, he found himself no farther than about ten
miles distant from Cumnor. “Now, a plague upon all smooth-spoken
hosts!” said Wayland, unable longer to suppress his mortification and
uneasiness. “Had the false loon, Giles Gosling, but told me plainly two
days since that I was to reckon nought upon him, I had shifted better
for myself. But your hosts have such a custom of promising whatever is
called for that it is not till the steed is to be shod you find they are
out of iron. Had I but known, I could have made twenty shifts; nay, for
that matter, and in so good a cause, I would have thought little to have
prigged a prancer from the next common--it had but been sending back
the brute to the headborough. The farcy and the founders confound every
horse in the stables of the Black Bear!”

The lady endeavoured to comfort her guide, observing that the dawn would
enable him to make more speed.

“True, madam,” he replied; “but then it will enable other folk to take
note of us, and that may prove an ill beginning of our journey. I
had not cared a spark from anvil about the matter had we been further
advanced on our way. But this Berkshire has been notoriously haunted,
ever since I knew the country, with that sort of malicious elves who
sit up late and rise early for no other purpose than to pry into other
folk’s affairs. I have been endangered by them ere now. But do not
fear,” he added, “good madam; for wit, meeting with opportunity, will
not miss to find a salve for every sore.”

The alarms of her guide made more impression on the Countess’s mind than
the comfort which he judged fit to administer along with it. She looked
anxiously around her, and as the shadows withdrew from the landscape,
and the heightening glow of the eastern sky promised the speedy rise of
the sun, expected at every turn that the increasing light would expose
them to the view of the vengeful pursuers, or present some dangerous
and insurmountable obstacle to the prosecution of their journey. Wayland
Smith perceived her uneasiness, and, displeased with himself for having
given her cause of alarm, strode on with affected alacrity, now talking
to the horse as one expert in the language of the stable, now whistling
to himself low and interrupted snatches of tunes, and now assuring
the lady there was no danger, while at the same time he looked sharply
around to see that there was nothing in sight which might give the
lie to his words while they were issuing from his mouth. Thus did
they journey on, until an unexpected incident gave them the means of
continuing their pilgrimage with more speed and convenience.



CHAPTER XXIV.


     RICHARD. A horse!--A horse!--my kingdom for a horse!
     CATESBY......My lord, I’ll help you to a horse.  --RICHARD III.

Our travellers were in the act of passing a small thicket of trees close
by the roadside, when the first living being presented himself whom
they had seen since their departure from Cumnor Place. This was a stupid
lout, seemingly a farmer’s boy, in a grey jerkin, with his head bare,
his hose about his heels, and huge startups upon his feet. He held by
the bridle what of all things they most wanted--a palfrey, namely, with
a side-saddle, and all other garniture for a woman’s mounting; and he
hailed Wayland Smith with, “Zur, be ye zure the party?”

“Ay, that I be, my lad,” answered Wayland, without an instant’s
hesitation; and it must be owned that consciences trained in a stricter
school of morality might have given way to an occasion so tempting.
While he spoke, he caught the rein out of the boy’s hand, and almost at
the same time helped down the Countess from his own horse, and aided
her to mount on that which chance had thus presented for her acceptance.
Indeed, so naturally did the whole take place, that the Countess, as it
afterwards appeared, never suspected but that the horse had been
placed there to meet them by the precaution of the guide or some of his
friends.

The lad, however, who was thus hastily dispossessed of his charge, began
to stare hard, and scratch his head, as if seized with some qualms of
conscience for delivering up the animal on such brief explanation. “I
be right zure thou be’st the party,” said he, muttering to himself, “but
thou shouldst ha zaid BEANS, thou knawest.”

“Ay, ay,” said Wayland, speaking at a venture; “and thou BACON, thou
knowest.”

“Noa, noa,” said the lad; “bide ye--bide ye--it was PEAS a should ha
said.”

“Well, well,” answered Wayland, “Peas be it, a God’s name! though Bacon
were the better password.”

And being by this time mounted on his own horse, he caught the rein of
the palfrey from the uncertain hold of the hesitating young boor, flung
him a small piece of money, and made amends for lost time by riding
briskly off without further parley. The lad was still visible from the
hill up which they were riding, and Wayland, as he looked back, beheld
him standing with his fingers in his hair as immovable as a guide-post,
and his head turned in the direction in which they were escaping from
him. At length, just as they topped the hill, he saw the clown stoop to
lift up the silver groat which his benevolence had imparted. “Now this
is what I call a Godsend,” said Wayland; “this is a bonny, well-ridden
bit of a going thing, and it will carry us so far till we get you as
well mounted, and then we will send it back time enough to satisfy the
Hue and Cry.”

But he was deceived in his expectations; and fate, which seemed at first
to promise so fairly, soon threatened to turn the incident which he thus
gloried in into the cause of their utter ruin.

They had not ridden a short mile from the place where they left the
lad before they heard a man’s voice shouting on the wind behind them,
“Robbery! robbery!--Stop thief!” and similar exclamations, which
Wayland’s conscience readily assured him must arise out of the
transaction to which he had been just accessory.

“I had better have gone barefoot all my life,” he said; “it is the Hue
and Cry, and I am a lost man. Ah! Wayland, Wayland, many a time thy
father said horse-flesh would be the death of thee. Were I once safe
among the horse-coursers in Smithfield, or Turnbull Street, they should
have leave to hang me as high as St. Paul’s if I e’er meddled more with
nobles, knights, or gentlewomen.”

Amidst these dismal reflections, he turned his head repeatedly to see by
whom he was chased, and was much comforted when he could only discover
a single rider, who was, however, well mounted, and came after them at
a speed which left them no chance of escaping, even had the lady’s
strength permitted her to ride as fast as her palfrey might have been
able to gallop.

“There may be fair play betwixt us, sure,” thought Wayland, “where there
is but one man on each side, and yonder fellow sits on his horse more
like a monkey than a cavalier. Pshaw! if it come to the worse, it will
be easy unhorsing him. Nay, ‘snails! I think his horse will take the
matter in his own hand, for he has the bridle betwixt his teeth. Oons,
what care I for him?” said he, as the pursuer drew yet nearer; “it is
but the little animal of a mercer from Abingdon, when all is over.”

Even so it was, as the experienced eye of Wayland had descried at a
distance. For the valiant mercer’s horse, which was a beast of mettle,
feeling himself put to his speed, and discerning a couple of horses
riding fast at some hundred yards’ distance before him, betook himself
to the road with such alacrity as totally deranged the seat of his
rider, who not only came up with, but passed at full gallop, those
whom he had been pursuing, pulling the reins with all his might, and
ejaculating, “Stop! stop!” an interjection which seemed rather to
regard his own palfrey than what seamen call “the chase.” With the same
involuntary speed, he shot ahead (to use another nautical phrase) about
a furlong ere he was able to stop and turn his horse, and then rode back
towards our travellers, adjusting, as well as he could, his disordered
dress, resettling himself in the saddle, and endeavouring to substitute
a bold and martial frown for the confusion and dismay which sat upon his
visage during his involuntary career.

Wayland had just time to caution the lady not to be alarmed, adding,
“This fellow is a gull, and I will use him as such.”

When the mercer had recovered breath and audacity enough to confront
them, he ordered Wayland, in a menacing tone, to deliver up his palfrey.

“How?” said the smith, in King Cambyses’ vein, “are we commanded to
stand and deliver on the king’s highway? Then out, Excalibur, and tell
this knight of prowess that dire blows must decide between us!”

“Haro and help, and hue and cry, every true man!” said the mercer. “I am
withstood in seeking to recover mine own.”

“Thou swearest thy gods in vain, foul paynim,” said Wayland, “for I
will through with mine purpose were death at the end on’t. Nevertheless,
know, thou false man of frail cambric and ferrateen, that I am he, even
the pedlar, whom thou didst boast to meet on Maiden Castle moor, and
despoil of his pack; wherefore betake thee to thy weapons presently.”

“I spoke but in jest, man,” said Goldthred; “I am an honest shopkeeper
and citizen, who scorns to leap forth on any man from behind a hedge.”

“Then, by my faith, most puissant mercer,” answered Wayland, “I am sorry
for my vow, which was, that wherever I met thee I would despoil thee of
thy palfrey, and bestow it upon my leman, unless thou couldst defend it
by blows of force. But the vow is passed and registered, and all I
can do for thee is to leave the horse at Donnington, in the nearest
hostelry.”

“But I tell thee, friend,” said the mercer, “it is the very horse on
which I was this day to carry Jane Thackham, of Shottesbrok, as far as
the parish church yonder, to become Dame Goldthred. She hath jumped out
of the shot-window of old Gaffer Thackham’s grange; and lo ye, yonder
she stands at the place where she should have met the palfrey, with
her camlet riding-cloak and ivory-handled whip, like a picture of Lot’s
wife. I pray you, in good terms, let me have back the palfrey.”

“Grieved am I,” said Wayland, “as much for the fair damsel as for thee,
most noble imp of muslin. But vows must have their course; thou wilt
find the palfrey at the Angel yonder at Donnington. It is all I may do
for thee with a safe conscience.”

“To the devil with thy conscience!” said the dismayed mercer. “Wouldst
thou have a bride walk to church on foot?”

“Thou mayest take her on thy crupper, Sir Goldthred,” answered Wayland;
“it will take down thy steed’s mettle.”

“And how if you--if you forget to leave my horse, as you propose?” said
Goldthred, not without hesitation, for his soul was afraid within him.

“My pack shall be pledged for it--yonder it lies with Giles Gosling,
in his chamber with the damasked leathern hangings, stuffed full with
velvet, single, double, treble-piled--rash-taffeta, and parapa--shag,
damask, and mocado, plush, and grogram--”

“Hold! hold!” exclaimed the mercer; “nay, if there be, in truth and
sincerity, but the half of these wares--but if ever I trust bumpkin with
bonny Bayard again!”

“As you list for that, good Master Goldthred, and so good morrow to
you--and well parted,” he added, riding on cheerfully with the lady,
while the discountenanced mercer rode back much slower than he came,
pondering what excuse he should make to the disappointed bride, who
stood waiting for her gallant groom in the midst of the king’s highway.

“Methought,” said the lady, as they rode on, “yonder fool stared at me
as if he had some remembrance of me; yet I kept my muffler as high as I
might.”

“If I thought so,” said Wayland, “I would ride back and cut him over the
pate; there would be no fear of harming his brains, for he never had
so much as would make pap to a sucking gosling. We must now push on,
however, and at Donnington we will leave the oaf’s horse, that he may
have no further temptation to pursue us, and endeavour to assume such a
change of shape as may baffle his pursuit if he should persevere in it.”

The travellers reached Donnington without further alarm, where it became
matter of necessity that the Countess should enjoy two or three hours’
repose, during which Wayland disposed himself, with equal address and
alacrity, to carry through those measures on which the safety of their
future journey seemed to depend.

Exchanging his pedlar’s gaberdine for a smock-frock, he carried the
palfrey of Goldthred to the Angel Inn, which was at the other end of the
village from that where our travellers had taken up their quarters. In
the progress of the morning, as he travelled about his other business,
he saw the steed brought forth and delivered to the cutting mercer
himself, who, at the head of a valorous posse of the Hue and Cry, came
to rescue, by force of arms, what was delivered to him without any
other ransom than the price of a huge quantity of ale, drunk out by his
assistants, thirsty, it would seem, with their walk, and concerning
the price of which Master Goldthred had a fierce dispute with the
headborough, whom he had summoned to aid him in raising the country.

Having made this act of prudent as well as just restitution, Wayland
procured such change of apparel for the lady, as well as himself, as
gave them both the appearance of country people of the better class; it
being further resolved, that in order to attract the less observation,
she should pass upon the road for the sister of her guide. A good but
not a gay horse, fit to keep pace with his own, and gentle enough for
a lady’s use, completed the preparations for the journey; for making
which, and for other expenses, he had been furnished with sufficient
funds by Tressilian. And thus, about noon, after the Countess had been
refreshed by the sound repose of several hours, they resumed their
journey, with the purpose of making the best of their way to Kenilworth,
by Coventry and Warwick. They were not, however, destined to travel far
without meeting some cause of apprehension.

It is necessary to premise that the landlord of the inn had informed
them that a jovial party, intended, as he understood, to present some
of the masques or mummeries which made a part of the entertainment with
which the Queen was usually welcomed on the royal Progresses, had left
the village of Donnington an hour or two before them in order to
proceed to Kenilworth. Now it had occurred to Wayland that, by attaching
themselves in some sort to this group as soon as they should overtake
them on the road, they would be less likely to attract notice than if
they continued to travel entirely by themselves. He communicated his
idea to the Countess, who, only anxious to arrive at Kenilworth without
interruption, left him free to choose the manner in which this was to
be accomplished. They pressed forward their horses, therefore, with the
purpose of overtaking the party of intended revellers, and making the
journey in their company; and had just seen the little party, consisting
partly of riders, partly of people on foot, crossing the summit of a
gentle hill, at about half a mile’s distance, and disappearing on
the other side, when Wayland, who maintained the most circumspect
observation of all that met his eye in every direction, was aware that
a rider was coming up behind them on a horse of uncommon action,
accompanied by a serving-man, whose utmost efforts were unable to keep
up with his master’s trotting hackney, and who, therefore, was fain
to follow him at a hand gallop. Wayland looked anxiously back at these
horsemen, became considerably disturbed in his manner, looked back
again, and became pale, as he said to the lady, “That is Richard
Varney’s trotting gelding; I would know him among a thousand nags. This
is a worse business than meeting the mercer.”

“Draw your sword,” answered the lady, “and pierce my bosom with it,
rather than I should fall into his hands!”

“I would rather by a thousand times,” answered Wayland, “pass it through
his body, or even mine own. But to say truth, fighting is not my best
point, though I can look on cold iron like another when needs must be.
And indeed, as for my sword--(put on, I pray you)--it is a poor Provant
rapier, and I warrant you he has a special Toledo. He has a serving-man,
too, and I think it is the drunken ruffian Lambourne! upon the horse on
which men say--(I pray you heartily to put on)--he did the great robbery
of the west country grazier. It is not that I fear either Varney or
Lambourne in a good cause--(your palfrey will go yet faster if you urge
him)--but yet--(nay, I pray you let him not break off into a gallop,
lest they should see we fear them, and give chase--keep him only at the
full trot)--but yet, though I fear them not, I would we were well rid
of them, and that rather by policy than by violence. Could we once reach
the party before us, we may herd among them, and pass unobserved, unless
Varney be really come in express pursuit of us, and then, happy man be
his dole!”

While he thus spoke, he alternately urged and restrained his horse,
desirous to maintain the fleetest pace that was consistent with the
idea of an ordinary journey on the road, but to avoid such rapidity of
movement as might give rise to suspicion that they were flying.

At such a pace they ascended the gentle hill we have mentioned, and
looking from the top, had the pleasure to see that the party which had
left Donnington before them were in the little valley or bottom on the
other side, where the road was traversed by a rivulet, beside which was
a cottage or two. In this place they seemed to have made a pause, which
gave Wayland the hope of joining them, and becoming a part of their
company, ere Varney should overtake them. He was the more anxious, as
his companion, though she made no complaints, and expressed no fear,
began to look so deadly pale that he was afraid she might drop from her
horse. Notwithstanding this symptom of decaying strength, she pushed on
her palfrey so briskly that they joined the party in the bottom of the
valley ere Varney appeared on the top of the gentle eminence which they
had descended.

They found the company to which they meant to associate themselves in
great disorder. The women with dishevelled locks, and looks of great
importance, ran in and out of one of the cottages, and the men stood
around holding the horses, and looking silly enough, as is usual in
cases where their assistance is not wanted.

Wayland and his charge paused, as if out of curiosity, and then
gradually, without making any inquiries, or being asked any questions,
they mingled with the group, as if they had always made part of it.

They had not stood there above five minutes, anxiously keeping as much
to the side of the road as possible, so as to place the other travellers
betwixt them and Varney, when Lord Leicester’s master of the horse,
followed by Lambourne, came riding fiercely down the hill, their horses’
flanks and the rowels of their spurs showing bloody tokens of the rate
at which they travelled. The appearance of the stationary group around
the cottages, wearing their buckram suits in order to protect their
masking dresses, having their light cart for transporting their scenery,
and carrying various fantastic properties in their hands for the more
easy conveyance, let the riders at once into the character and purpose
of the company.

“You are revellers,” said Varney, “designing for Kenilworth?”

“RECTE QUIDEM, DOMINE SPECTATISSIME,” answered one of the party.

“And why the devil stand you here?” said Varney, “when your utmost
dispatch will but bring you to Kenilworth in time? The Queen dines at
Warwick to-morrow, and you loiter here, ye knaves.”

“I very truth, sir,” said a little, diminutive urchin, wearing a vizard
with a couple of sprouting horns of an elegant scarlet hue, having,
moreover, a black serge jerkin drawn close to his body by lacing,
garnished with red stockings, and shoes so shaped as to resemble cloven
feet--“in very truth, sir, and you are in the right on’t. It is my
father the Devil, who, being taken in labour, has delayed our present
purpose, by increasing our company with an imp too many.”

“The devil he has!” answered Varney, whose laugh, however, never
exceeded a sarcastic smile.

“It is even as the juvenal hath said,” added the masker who spoke first;
“Our major devil--for this is but our minor one--is even now at LUCINA,
FER OPEM, within that very TUGURIUM.”

“By Saint George, or rather by the Dragon, who may be a kinsman of the
fiend in the straw, a most comical chance!” said Varney. “How sayest
thou, Lambourne, wilt thou stand godfather for the nonce? If the devil
were to choose a gossip, I know no one more fit for the office.”

“Saving always when my betters are in presence,” said Lambourne,
with the civil impudence of a servant who knows his services to be so
indispensable that his jest will be permitted to pass muster.

“And what is the name of this devil, or devil’s dam, who has timed her
turns so strangely?” said Varney. “We can ill afford to spare any of our
actors.”

“GAUDET NOMINE SIBYLLAE,” said the first speaker; “she is called Sibyl
Laneham, wife of Master Robert Laneham--”

“Clerk to the Council-chamber door,” said Varney; “why, she is
inexcusable, having had experience how to have ordered her matters
better. But who were those, a man and a woman, I think, who rode so
hastily up the hill before me even now? Do they belong to your company?”

Wayland was about to hazard a reply to this alarming inquiry, when the
little diablotin again thrust in his oar.

“So please you,” he said, coming close up to Varney, and speaking so as
not to be overheard by his companions, “the man was our devil major, who
has tricks enough to supply the lack of a hundred such as Dame Laneham;
and the woman, if you please, is the sage person whose assistance is
most particularly necessary to our distressed comrade.”

“Oh, what! you have got the wise woman, then?” said Varney. “Why, truly,
she rode like one bound to a place where she was needed. And you have a
spare limb of Satan, besides, to supply the place of Mistress Laneham?”

“Ay, sir,” said the boy; “they are not so scarce in this world as your
honour’s virtuous eminence would suppose. This master-fiend shall spit a
few flashes of fire, and eruct a volume or two of smoke on the spot, if
it will do you pleasure--you would think he had AEtna in his abdomen.”

“I lack time just now, most hopeful imp of darkness, to witness his
performance,” said Varney; “but here is something for you all to drink
the lucky hour--and so, as the play says, ‘God be with Your labour!’”

Thus speaking, he struck his horse with the spurs, and rode on his way.

Lambourne tarried a moment or two behind his master, and rummaged his
pouch for a piece of silver, which he bestowed on the communicative imp,
as he said, for his encouragement on his path to the infernal regions,
some sparks of whose fire, he said, he could discover flashing from him
already. Then having received the boy’s thanks for his generosity he
also spurred his horse, and rode after his master as fast as the fire
flashes from flint.

“And now,” said the wily imp, sidling close up to Wayland’s horse,
and cutting a gambol in the air which seemed to vindicate his title to
relationship with the prince of that element, “I have told them who YOU
are, do you in return tell me who I am?”

“Either Flibbertigibbet,” answered Wayland Smith, “or else an imp of the
devil in good earnest.”

“Thou hast hit it,” answered Dickie Sludge. “I am thine own
Flibbertigibbet, man; and I have broken forth of bounds, along with my
learned preceptor, as I told thee I would do, whether he would or not.
But what lady hast thou got with thee? I saw thou wert at fault the
first question was asked, and so I drew up for thy assistance. But I
must know all who she is, dear Wayland.”

“Thou shalt know fifty finer things, my dear ingle,” said Wayland;
“but a truce to thine inquiries just now. And since you are bound for
Kenilworth, thither will I too, even for the love of thy sweet face and
waggish company.”

“Thou shouldst have said my waggish face and sweet company,” said
Dickie; “but how wilt thou travel with us--I mean in what character?”

“E’en in that thou hast assigned me, to be sure--as a juggler; thou
knowest I am used to the craft,” answered Wayland.

“Ay, but the lady?” answered Flibbertigibbet. “Credit me, I think she IS
one and thou art in a sea of troubles about her at this moment, as I can
perceive by thy fidgeting.”

“Oh, she, man!--she is a poor sister of mine,” said Wayland; “she can
sing and play o’ the lute would win the fish out o’ the stream.”

“Let me hear her instantly,” said the boy, “I love the lute rarely; I
love it of all things, though I never heard it.”

“Then how canst thou love it, Flibbertigibbet?” said Wayland.

“As knights love ladies in old tales,” answered Dickie--“on hearsay.”

“Then love it on hearsay a little longer, till my sister is recovered
from the fatigue of her journey,” said Wayland; muttering afterwards
betwixt his teeth, “The devil take the imp’s curiosity! I must keep fair
weather with him, or we shall fare the worse.”

He then proceeded to state to Master Holiday his own talents as a
juggler, with those of his sister as a musician. Some proof of his
dexterity was demanded, which he gave in such a style of excellence,
that, delighted at obtaining such an accession to their party, they
readily acquiesced in the apology which he offered when a display of his
sister’s talents was required. The new-comers were invited to partake
of the refreshments with which the party were provided; and it was with
some difficulty that Wayland Smith obtained an opportunity of being
apart with his supposed sister during the meal, of which interval he
availed himself to entreat her to forget for the present both her
rank and her sorrows, and condescend, as the most probable chance of
remaining concealed, to mix in the society of those with whom she was to
travel.

The Countess allowed the necessity of the case, and when they resumed
their journey, endeavoured to comply with her guide’s advice, by
addressing herself to a female near her, and expressing her concern for
the woman whom they were thus obliged to leave behind them.

“Oh, she is well attended, madam,” replied the dame whom she addressed,
who, from her jolly and laughter-loving demeanour, might have been the
very emblem of the Wife of Bath; “and my gossip Laneham thinks as little
of these matters as any one. By the ninth day, an the revels last so
long, we shall have her with us at Kenilworth, even if she should travel
with her bantling on her back.”

There was something in this speech which took away all desire on the
Countess of Leicester’s part to continue the conversation. But having
broken the charm by speaking to her fellow-traveller first, the good
dame, who was to play Rare Gillian of Croydon in one of the interludes,
took care that silence did not again settle on the journey, but
entertained her mute companion with a thousand anecdotes of revels, from
the days of King Harry downwards, with the reception given them by
the great folk, and all the names of those who played the principal
characters; but ever concluding with “they would be nothing to the
princely pleasures of Kenilworth.”

“And when shall we reach Kenilworth? said the Countess, with an
agitation which she in vain attempted to conceal.

“We that have horses may, with late riding, get to Warwick to-night, and
Kenilworth may be distant some four or five miles. But then we must
wait till the foot-people come up; although it is like my good Lord of
Leicester will have horses or light carriages to meet them, and bring
them up without being travel-toiled, which last is no good preparation,
as you may suppose, for dancing before your betters. And yet, Lord help
me, I have seen the day I would have tramped five leagues of lea-land,
and turned an my toe the whole evening after, as a juggler spins a
pewter platter on the point of a needle. But age has clawed me somewhat
in his clutch, as the song says; though, if I like the tune and like
my partner, I’ll dance the hays yet with any merry lass in Warwickshire
that writes that unhappy figure four with a round O after it.”

If the Countess was overwhelmed with the garrulity of this good dame,
Wayland Smith, on his part, had enough to do to sustain and parry the
constant attacks made upon him by the indefatigable curiosity of his
old acquaintance Richard Sludge. Nature had given that arch youngster a
prying cast of disposition, which matched admirably with his sharp wit;
the former inducing him to plant himself as a spy on other people’s
affairs, and the latter quality leading him perpetually to interfere,
after he had made himself master of that which concerned him not.
He spent the livelong day in attempting to peer under the Countess’s
muffler, and apparently what he could there discern greatly sharpened
his curiosity.

“That sister of thine, Wayland,” he said, “has a fair neck to have been
born in a smithy, and a pretty taper hand to have been used for twirling
a spindle--faith, I’ll believe in your relationship when the crow’s egg
is hatched into a cygnet.”

“Go to,” said Wayland, “thou art a prating boy, and should be breeched
for thine assurance.”

“Well,” said the imp, drawing off, “all I say is--remember you have kept
a secret from me, and if I give thee not a Roland for thine Oliver, my
name is not Dickon Sludge!”

This threat, and the distance at which Hobgoblin kept from him for the
rest of the way, alarmed Wayland very much, and he suggested to his
pretended sister that, on pretext of weariness, she should express a
desire to stop two or three miles short of the fair town of Warwick,
promising to rejoin the troop in the morning. A small village inn
afforded them a resting-place, and it was with secret pleasure that
Wayland saw the whole party, including Dickon, pass on, after a
courteous farewell, and leave them behind.

“To-morrow, madam,” he said to his charge, “we will, with your leave,
again start early, and reach Kenilworth before the rout which are to
assemble there.”

The Countess gave assent to the proposal of her faithful guide; but,
somewhat to his surprise, said nothing further on the subject, which
left Wayland under the disagreeable uncertainty whether or no she had
formed any plan for her own future proceedings, as he knew her situation
demanded circumspection, although he was but imperfectly acquainted with
all its peculiarities. Concluding, however, that she must have friends
within the castle, whose advice and assistance she could safely trust,
he supposed his task would be best accomplished by conducting her
thither in safety, agreeably to her repeated commands.



CHAPTER XXV.


     Hark, the bells summon, and the bugle calls,
     But she the fairest answers not--the tide
     Of nobles and of ladies throngs the halls,
     But she the loveliest must in secret hide.
     What eyes were thine, proud Prince, which in the gleam
     Of yon gay meteors lost that better sense,
     That o’er the glow-worm doth the star esteem,
     And merit’s modest blush o’er courtly insolence?
     --THE GLASS SLIPPER.

The unfortunate Countess of Leicester had, from her infancy upwards,
been treated by those around her with indulgence as unbounded as
injudicious. The natural sweetness of her disposition had saved her from
becoming insolent and ill-humoured; but the caprice which preferred
the handsome and insinuating Leicester before Tressilian, of whose high
honour and unalterable affection she herself entertained so firm an
opinion--that fatal error, which ruined the happiness of her life, had
its origin in the mistaken kindness; that had spared her childhood the
painful but most necessary lesson of submission and self-command. From
the same indulgence it followed that she had only been accustomed to
form and to express her wishes, leaving to others the task of fulfilling
them; and thus, at the most momentous period of her life, she was alike
destitute of presence of mind, and of ability to form for herself any
reasonable or prudent plan of conduct.

These difficulties pressed on the unfortunate lady with overwhelming
force on the morning which seemed to be the crisis of her fate.
Overlooking every intermediate consideration, she had only desired to be
at Kenilworth, and to approach her husband’s presence; and now, when
she was in the vicinity of both, a thousand considerations arose at once
upon her mind, startling her with accumulated doubts and dangers, some
real, some imaginary, and all exalted and exaggerated by a situation
alike helpless and destitute of aid and counsel.

A sleepless night rendered her so weak in the morning that she was
altogether unable to attend Wayland’s early summons. The trusty guide
became extremely distressed on the lady’s account, and somewhat alarmed
on his own, and was on the point of going alone to Kenilworth, in
the hope of discovering Tressilian, and intimating to him the lady’s
approach, when about nine in the morning he was summoned to attend her.
He found her dressed, and ready for resuming her journey, but with a
paleness of countenance which alarmed him for her health. She intimated
her desire that the horses might be got instantly ready, and resisted
with impatience her guide’s request that she would take some refreshment
before setting forward. “I have had,” she said, “a cup of water--the
wretch who is dragged to execution needs no stronger cordial, and that
may serve me which suffices for him. Do as I command you.” Wayland Smith
still hesitated. “What would you have?” said she. “Have I not spoken
plainly?”

“Yes, madam,” answered Wayland; “but may I ask what is your further
purpose? I only wish to know, that I may guide myself by your wishes.
The whole country is afloat, and streaming towards the Castle of
Kenilworth. It will be difficult travelling thither, even if we had the
necessary passports for safe-conduct and free admittance; unknown
and unfriended, we may come by mishap. Your ladyship will forgive my
speaking my poor mind--were we not better try to find out the maskers,
and again join ourselves with them?” The Countess shook her head, and
her guide proceeded, “Then I see but one other remedy.”

“Speak out, then,” said the lady, not displeased, perhaps, that he
should thus offer the advice which she was ashamed to ask; “I believe
thee faithful--what wouldst thou counsel?”

“That I should warn Master Tressilian,” said Wayland, “that you are in
this place. I am right certain he would get to horse with a few of Lord
Sussex’s followers, and ensure your personal safety.”

“And is it to ME you advise,” said the Countess, “to put myself under
the protection of Sussex, the unworthy rival of the noble Leicester?”
 Then, seeing the surprise with which Wayland stared upon her, and afraid
of having too strongly intimated her interest in Leicester, she added,
“And for Tressilian, it must not be--mention not to him, I charge you,
my unhappy name; it would but double MY misfortunes, and involve HIM in
dangers beyond the power of rescue.” She paused; but when she observed
that Wayland continued to look on her with that anxious and uncertain
gaze which indicated a doubt whether her brain was settled, she assumed
an air of composure, and added, “Do thou but guide me to Kenilworth
Castle, good fellow, and thy task is ended, since I will then judge what
further is to be done. Thou hast yet been true to me--here is something
that will make thee rich amends.”

She offered the artist a ring containing a valuable stone. Wayland
looked at it, hesitated a moment, and then returned it. “Not,” he said,
“that I am above your kindness, madam, being but a poor fellow, who have
been forced, God help me! to live by worse shifts than the bounty of
such a person as you. But, as my old master the farrier used to say to
his customers, ‘No cure, no pay.’ We are not yet in Kenilworth Castle,
and it is time enough to discharge your guide, as they say, when you
take your boots off. I trust in God your ladyship is as well assured of
fitting reception when you arrive, as you may hold yourself certain
of my best endeavours to conduct you thither safely. I go to get the
horses; meantime, let me pray you once more, as your poor physician as
well as guide, to take some sustenance.”

“I will--I will,” said the lady hastily. “Begone, begone instantly!--It
is in vain I assume audacity,” said she, when he left the room; “even
this poor groom sees through my affectation of courage, and fathoms the
very ground of my fears.”

She then attempted to follow her guide’s advice by taking some food, but
was compelled to desist, as the effort to swallow even a single morsel
gave her so much uneasiness as amounted well-nigh to suffocation. A
moment afterwards the horses appeared at the latticed window. The lady
mounted, and found that relief from the free air and change of place
which is frequently experienced in similar circumstances.

It chanced well for the Countess’s purpose that Wayland Smith, whose
previous wandering and unsettled life had made him acquainted with
almost all England, was intimate with all the byroads, as well as direct
communications, through the beautiful county of Warwick. For such and so
great was the throng which flocked in all directions towards Kenilworth,
to see the entry of Elizabeth into that splendid mansion of her prime
favourite, that the principal roads were actually blocked up and
interrupted, and it was only by circuitous by-paths that the travellers
could proceed on their journey.

The Queen’s purveyors had been abroad, sweeping the farms and villages
of those articles usually exacted during a royal Progress, and for which
the owners were afterwards to obtain a tardy payment from the Board
of Green Cloth. The Earl of Leicester’s household officers had been
scouring the country for the same purpose; and many of his friends and
allies, both near and remote, took this opportunity of ingratiating
themselves by sending large quantities of provisions and delicacies
of all kinds, with game in huge numbers, and whole tuns of the best
liquors, foreign and domestic. Thus the highroads were filled with
droves of bullocks, sheep, calves, and hogs, and choked with loaded
wains, whose axle-trees cracked under their burdens of wine-casks and
hogsheads of ale, and huge hampers of grocery goods, and slaughtered
game, and salted provisions, and sacks of flour. Perpetual stoppages
took place as these wains became entangled; and their rude drivers,
swearing and brawling till their wild passions were fully raised, began
to debate precedence with their wagon-whips and quarterstaves, which
occasional riots were usually quieted by a purveyor, deputy-marshal’s
man, or some other person in authority, breaking the heads of both
parties.

Here were, besides, players and mummers, jugglers and showmen, of every
description, traversing in joyous bands the paths which led to the
Palace of Princely Pleasure; for so the travelling minstrels had termed
Kenilworth in the songs which already had come forth in anticipation of
the revels which were there expected. In the midst of this motley show,
mendicants were exhibiting their real or pretended miseries, forming a
strange though common contrast betwixt the vanities and the sorrows
of human existence. All these floated along with the immense tide
of population whom mere curiosity had drawn together; and where the
mechanic, in his leathern apron, elbowed the dink and dainty dame, his
city mistress; where clowns, with hobnailed shoes, were treading on the
kibes of substantial burghers and gentlemen of worship; and where Joan
of the dairy, with robust pace, and red, sturdy arms, rowed her way
unward, amongst those prim and pretty moppets whose sires were knights
and squires.

The throng and confusion was, however, of a gay and cheerful character.
All came forth to see and to enjoy, and all laughed at the trifling
inconveniences which at another time might have chafed their temper.
Excepting the occasional brawls which we have mentioned among that
irritable race the carmen, the mingled sounds which arose from the
multitude were those of light-hearted mirth and tiptoe jollity. The
musicians preluded on their instruments--the minstrels hummed their
songs--the licensed jester whooped betwixt mirth and madness, as he
brandished his bauble--the morrice-dancers jangled their bells--the
rustics hallooed and whistled-men laughed loud, and maidens giggled
shrill; while many a broad jest flew like a shuttlecock from one party,
to be caught in the air and returned from the opposite side of the road
by another, at which it was aimed.

No infliction can be so distressing to a mind absorbed in melancholy,
as being plunged into a scene of mirth and revelry, forming an
accompaniment so dissonant from its own feelings. Yet, in the case of
the Countess of Leicester, the noise and tumult of this giddy scene
distracted her thoughts, and rendered her this sad service, that
it became impossible for her to brood on her own misery, or to form
terrible anticipations of her approaching fate. She travelled on like
one in a dream, following implicitly the guidance of Wayland, who,
with great address, now threaded his way through the general throng of
passengers, now stood still until a favourable opportunity occurred
of again moving forward, and frequently turning altogether out of the
direct road, followed some circuitous bypath, which brought them into
the highway again, after having given them the opportunity of traversing
a considerable way with greater ease and rapidity.

It was thus he avoided Warwick, within whose Castle (that fairest
monument of ancient and chivalrous splendour which yet remains uninjured
by time) Elizabeth had passed the previous night, and where she was
to tarry until past noon, at that time the general hour of dinner
throughout England, after which repast she was to proceed to Kenilworth,
In the meanwhile, each passing group had something to say in the
Sovereign’s praise, though not absolutely without the usual mixture
of satire which qualifies more or less our estimate of our neighbours,
especially if they chance to be also our betters.

“Heard you,” said one, “how graciously she spoke to Master Bailiff and
the Recorder, and to good Master Griffin the preacher, as they kneeled
down at her coach-window?”

“Ay, and how she said to little Aglionby, ‘Master Recorder, men would
have persuaded me that you were afraid of me, but truly I think, so well
did you reckon up to me the virtues of a sovereign, that I have more
reason to be afraid of you.’ and then with what grace she took the
fair-wrought purse with the twenty gold sovereigns, seeming as though
she would not willingly handle it, and yet taking it withal.”

“Ay, ay,” said another, “her fingers closed on it pretty willingly
methought, when all was done; and methought, too, she weighed them for a
second in her hand, as she would say, I hope they be avoirdupois.”

“She needed not, neighbour,” said a third; “it is only when the
corporation pay the accounts of a poor handicraft like me, that they put
him off with clipped coin. Well, there is a God above all--little Master
Recorder, since that is the word, will be greater now than ever.”

“Come, good neighbour,” said the first speaker “be not envious. She is
a good Queen, and a generous; she gave the purse to the Earl of
Leicester.”

“I envious?--beshrew thy heart for the word!” replied the handicraft.
“But she will give all to the Earl of Leicester anon, methinks.”

“You are turning ill, lady,” said Wayland Smith to the Countess of
Leicester, and proposed that she should draw off from the road, and halt
till she recovered. But, subduing her feelings at this and different
speeches to the same purpose, which caught her ear as they passed on,
she insisted that her guide should proceed to Kenilworth with all
the haste which the numerous impediments of their journey permitted.
Meanwhile, Wayland’s anxiety at her repeated fits of indisposition, and
her obvious distraction of mind, was hourly increasing, and he became
extremely desirous that, according to her reiterated requests, she
should be safely introduced into the Castle, where, he doubted not, she
was secure of a kind reception, though she seemed unwilling to reveal on
whom she reposed her hopes.

“An I were once rid of this peril,” thought he, “and if any man shall
find me playing squire of the body to a damosel-errant, he shall have
leave to beat my brains out with my own sledge-hammer!”

At length the princely Castle appeared, upon improving which, and the
domains around, the Earl of Leicester had, it is said, expended sixty
thousand pounds sterling, a sum equal to half a million of our present
money.

The outer wall of this splendid and gigantic structure enclosed seven
acres, a part of which was occupied by extensive stables, and by a
pleasure garden, with its trim arbours and parterres, and the rest
formed the large base-court or outer yard of the noble Castle. The
lordly structure itself, which rose near the centre of this spacious
enclosure, was composed of a huge pile of magnificent castellated
buildings, apparently of different ages, surrounding an inner court, and
bearing in the names attached to each portion of the magnificent mass,
and in the armorial bearings which were there blazoned, the emblems
of mighty chiefs who had long passed away, and whose history, could
Ambition have lent ear to it, might have read a lesson to the haughty
favourite who had now acquired and was augmenting the fair domain. A
large and massive Keep, which formed the citadel of the Castle, was of
uncertain though great antiquity. It bore the name of Caesar, perhaps
from its resemblance to that in the Tower of London so called. Some
antiquaries ascribe its foundation to the time of Kenelph, from whom the
Castle had its name, a Saxon King of Mercia, and others to an early era
after the Norman Conquest. On the exterior walls frowned the scutcheon
of the Clintons, by whom they were founded in the reign of Henry I.; and
of the yet more redoubted Simon de Montfort, by whom, during the Barons’
wars, Kenilworth was long held out against Henry III. Here Mortimer,
Earl of March, famous alike for his rise and his fall, had once gaily
revelled in Kenilworth, while his dethroned sovereign, Edward
II., languished in its dungeons. Old John of Gaunt, “time-honoured
Lancaster,” had widely extended the Castle, erecting that noble and
massive pile which yet bears the name of Lancaster’s Buildings; and
Leicester himself had outdone the former possessors, princely and
powerful as they were, by erecting another immense structure, which now
lies crushed under its own ruins, the monument of its owner’s ambition.
The external wall of this royal Castle was, on the south and west sides,
adorned and defended by a lake partly artificial, across which Leicester
had constructed a stately bridge, that Elizabeth might enter the Castle
by a path hitherto untrodden, instead of the usual entrance to the
northward, over which he had erected a gatehouse or barbican, which
still exists, and is equal in extent, and superior in architecture, to
the baronial castle of many a northern chief.

Beyond the lake lay an extensive chase, full of red deer, fallow deer,
roes, and every species of game, and abounding with lofty trees, from
amongst which the extended front and massive towers of the Castle were
seen to rise in majesty and beauty. We cannot but add, that of this
lordly palace, where princes feasted and heroes fought, now in the
bloody earnest of storm and siege, and now in the games of chivalry,
where beauty dealt the prize which valour won, all is now desolate.
The bed of the lake is but a rushy swamp; and the massive ruins of the
Castle only serve to show what their splendour once was, and to impress
on the musing visitor the transitory value of human possessions, and the
happiness of those who enjoy a humble lot in virtuous contentment.

It was with far different feelings that the unfortunate Countess of
Leicester viewed those grey and massive towers, when she first beheld
them rise above the embowering and richly-shaded woods, over which
they seemed to preside. She, the undoubted wife of the great Earl, of
Elizabeth’s minion, and England’s mighty favourite, was approaching
the presence of her husband, and that husband’s sovereign, under the
protection, rather than the guidance, of a poor juggler; and though
unquestioned Mistress of that proud Castle, whose lightest word ought
to have had force sufficient to make its gates leap from their massive
hinges to receive her, yet she could not conceal from herself the
difficulty and peril which she must experience in gaining admission into
her own halls.

The risk and difficulty, indeed, seemed to increase every moment, and
at length threatened altogether to put a stop to her further progress at
the great gate leading to a broad and fair road, which, traversing the
breadth of the chase for the space of two miles, and commanding several
most beautiful views of the Castle and lake, terminated at the newly
constructed bridge, to which it was an appendage, and which was destined
to form the Queen’s approach to the Castle on that memorable occasion.

Here the Countess and Wayland found the gate at the end of this avenue,
which opened on the Warwick road, guarded by a body of the Queen’s
mounted yeomen of the guard, armed in corselets richly carved and
gilded, and wearing morions instead of bonnets, having their carabines
resting with the butt-end on their thighs. These guards, distinguished
for strength and stature, who did duty wherever the Queen went in
person, were here stationed under the direction of a pursuivant, graced
with the Bear and Ragged Staff on his arm, as belonging to the Earl of
Leicester, and peremptorily refused all admittance, excepting to such as
were guests invited to the festival, or persons who were to perform some
part in the mirthful exhibitions which were proposed.

The press was of consequence great around the entrance, and persons
of all kinds presented every sort of plea for admittance; to which the
guards turned an inexorable ear, pleading, in return to fair words,
and even to fair offers, the strictness of their orders, founded on the
Queen’s well-known dislike to the rude pressing of a multitude. With
those whom such reasons did not serve they dealt more rudely, repelling
them without ceremony by the pressure of their powerful, barbed horses,
and good round blows from the stock of their carabines. These last
manoeuvres produced undulations amongst the crowd, which rendered
Wayland much afraid that he might perforce be separated from his charge
in the throng. Neither did he know what excuse to make in order to
obtain admittance, and he was debating the matter in his head with great
uncertainty, when the Earl’s pursuivant, having cast an eye upon him,
exclaimed, to his no small surprise, “Yeomen, make room for the fellow
in the orange-tawny cloak.--Come forward, Sir Coxcomb, and make haste.
What, in the fiend’s name, has kept you waiting? Come forward with your
bale of woman’s gear.”

While the pursuivant gave Wayland this pressing yet uncourteous
invitation, which, for a minute or two, he could not imagine was applied
to him, the yeomen speedily made a free passage for him, while, only
cautioning his companion to keep the muffler close around her face, he
entered the gate leading her palfrey, but with such a drooping crest,
and such a look of conscious fear and anxiety, that the crowd, not
greatly pleased at any rate with the preference bestowed upon them,
accompanied their admission with hooting and a loud laugh of derision.

Admitted thus within the chase, though with no very flattering notice
or distinction, Wayland and his charge rode forward, musing what
difficulties it would be next their lot to encounter, through the
broad avenue, which was sentinelled on either side by a long line of
retainers, armed with swords, and partisans richly dressed in the Earl
of Leicester’s liveries, and bearing his cognizance of the Bear and
Ragged Staff, each placed within three paces of each other, so as to
line the whole road from the entrance into the park to the bridge. And,
indeed, when the lady obtained the first commanding view of the Castle,
with its stately towers rising from within a long, sweeping line of
outward walls, ornamented with battlements and turrets and platforms at
every point of defence, with many a banner streaming from its walls, and
such a bustle of gay crests and waving plumes disposed on the terraces
and battlements, and all the gay and gorgeous scene, her heart,
unaccustomed to such splendour, sank as if it died within her, and for a
moment she asked herself what she had offered up to Leicester to deserve
to become the partner of this princely splendour. But her pride and
generous spirit resisted the whisper which bade her despair.

“I have given him,” she said, “all that woman has to give. Name and
fame, heart and hand, have I given the lord of all this magnificence
at the altar, and England’s Queen could give him no more. He is my
husband--I am his wife--whom God hath joined, man cannot sunder. I
will be bold in claiming my right; even the bolder, that I come thus
unexpected, and thus forlorn. I know my noble Dudley well! He will be
something impatient at my disobeying him, but Amy will weep, and Dudley
will forgive her.”

These meditations were interrupted by a cry of surprise from her guide
Wayland, who suddenly felt himself grasped firmly round the body by a
pair of long, thin black arms, belonging to some one who had dropped
himself out of an oak tree upon the croup of his horse, amidst the
shouts of laughter which burst from the sentinels.

“This must be the devil, or Flibbertigibbet again!” said Wayland, after
a vain struggle to disengage himself, and unhorse the urchin who clung
to him; “do Kenilworth oaks bear such acorns?”

“In sooth do they, Master Wayland,” said his unexpected adjunct, “and
many others, too hard for you to crack, for as old as you are, without
my teaching you. How would you have passed the pursuivant at the upper
gate yonder, had not I warned him our principal juggler was to follow
us? And here have I waited for you, having clambered up into the tree
from the top of the wain; and I suppose they are all mad for want of me
by this time.”

“Nay, then, thou art a limb of the devil in good earnest,” said Wayland.
“I give thee way, good imp, and will walk by thy counsel; only, as thou
art powerful be merciful.”

As he spoke, they approached a strong tower, at the south extremity of
the long bridge we have mentioned, which served to protect the outer
gateway of the Castle of Kenilworth.

Under such disastrous circumstances, and in such singular company, did
the unfortunate Countess of Leicester approach, for the first time, the
magnificent abode of her almost princely husband.



CHAPTER XXVI.


     SNUG.   Have you the lion’s part written?  pray, if it be, give
     it me, for I am slow of study.
     QUINCE. You may do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring.
     --MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

When the Countess of Leicester arrived at the outer gate of the Castle
of Kenilworth, she found the tower, beneath which its ample portal arch
opened, guarded in a singular manner. Upon the battlements were placed
gigantic warders, with clubs, battle-axes, and other implements of
ancient warfare, designed to represent the soldiers of King Arthur;
those primitive Britons, by whom, according to romantic tradition,
the Castle had been first tenanted, though history carried back its
antiquity only to the times of the Heptarchy.

Some of these tremendous figures were real men, dressed up with vizards
and buskins; others were mere pageants composed of pasteboard and
buckram, which, viewed from beneath, and mingled with those that
were real, formed a sufficiently striking representation of what was
intended. But the gigantic porter who waited at the gate beneath, and
actually discharged the duties of warder, owed none of his terrors to
fictitious means. He was a man whose huge stature, thews, sinews, and
bulk in proportion, would have enabled him to enact Colbrand, Ascapart,
or any other giant of romance, without raising himself nearer to heaven
even by the altitude of a chopin. The legs and knees of this son of Anak
were bare, as were his arms from a span below the shoulder; but his
feet were defended with sandals, fastened with cross straps of scarlet
leather studded with brazen knobs. A close jerkin of scarlet velvet
looped with gold, with short breeches of the same, covered his body and
a part of his limbs; and he wore on his shoulders, instead of a cloak,
the skin of a black bear. The head of this formidable person was
uncovered, except by his shaggy, black hair, which descended on either
side around features of that huge, lumpish, and heavy cast which are
often annexed to men of very uncommon size, and which, notwithstanding
some distinguished exceptions, have created a general prejudice against
giants, as being a dull and sullen kind of persons. This tremendous
warder was appropriately armed with a heavy club spiked with steel. In
fine, he represented excellently one of those giants of popular romance,
who figure in every fairy tale or legend of knight-errantry.

The demeanour of this modern Titan, when Wayland Smith bent his
attention to him, had in it something arguing much mental embarrassment
and vexation; for sometimes he sat down for an instant on a massive
stone bench, which seemed placed for his accommodation beside the
gateway, and then ever and anon he started up, scratching his huge head,
and striding to and fro on his post, like one under a fit of impatience
and anxiety. It was while the porter was pacing before the gate in this
agitated manner, that Wayland, modestly, yet as a matter of course (not,
however, without some mental misgiving), was about to pass him, and
enter the portal arch. The porter, however, stopped his progress,
bidding him, in a thundering voice, “Stand back!” and enforcing his
injunction by heaving up his steel-shod mace, and dashing it on the
ground before Wayland’s horse’s nose with such vehemence that the
pavement flashed fire, and the archway rang to the clamour. Wayland,
availing himself of Dickie’s hints, began to state that he belonged to a
band of performers to which his presence was indispensable, that he had
been accidentally detained behind, and much to the same purpose. But
the warder was inexorable, and kept muttering and murmuring something
betwixt his teeth, which Wayland could make little of; and addressing
betwixt whiles a refusal of admittance, couched in language which was
but too intelligible. A specimen of his speech might run thus:--“What,
how now, my masters?” (to himself)--“Here’s a stir--here’s a
coil.”--(Then to Wayland)--“You are a loitering knave, and shall have no
entrance.”--(Again to himself)--“Here’s a throng--here’s a thrusting.--I
shall ne’er get through with it--Here’s a--humph--ha.”--(To
Wayland)--“Back from the gate, or I’ll break the pate of thee.”--(Once
more to himself)--“Here’s a--no--I shall never get through it.”

“Stand still,” whispered Flibbertigibbet into Wayland’s ear, “I know
where the shoe pinches, and will tame him in an instant.”

He dropped down from the horse, and skipping up to the porter, plucked
him by the tail of the bearskin, so as to induce him to decline his huge
head, and whispered something in his ear. Not at the command of the lord
of some Eastern talisman did ever Afrite change his horrid frown into
a look of smooth submission more suddenly than the gigantic porter
of Kenilworth relaxed the terrors of his looks at the instant
Flibbertigibbet’s whisper reached his ears. He flung his club upon the
ground, and caught up Dickie Sludge, raising him to such a distance from
the earth as might have proved perilous had he chanced to let him slip.

“It is even so,” he said, with a thundering sound of exultation--“it is
even so, my little dandieprat. But who the devil could teach it thee?”

“Do not thou care about that,” said Flibbertigibbet--“but--” he looked
at Wayland and the lady, and then sunk what he had to say in a
whisper, which needed not be a loud one, as the giant held him for his
convenience close to his ear. The porter then gave Dickie a warm caress,
and set him on the ground with the same care which a careful housewife
uses in replacing a cracked china cup upon her mantelpiece, calling out
at the same time to Wayland and the lady, “In with you--in with you! and
take heed how you come too late another day when I chance to be porter.”

“Ay, ay, in with you,” added Flibbertigibbet; “I must stay a short space
with mine honest Philistine, my Goliath of Gath here; but I will be with
you anon, and at the bottom of all your secrets, were they as deep and
dark as the Castle dungeon.”

“I do believe thou wouldst,” said Wayland; “but I trust the secret will
be soon out of my keeping, and then I shall care the less whether thou
or any one knows it.”

They now crossed the entrance tower, which obtained the name of the
Gallery-tower, from the following circumstance: The whole bridge,
extending from the entrance to another tower on the opposite side of
the lake, called Mortimer’s Tower, was so disposed as to make a spacious
tilt-yard, about one hundred and thirty yards in length, and ten in
breadth, strewed with the finest sand, and defended on either side by
strong and high palisades. The broad and fair gallery, destined for the
ladies who were to witness the feats of chivalry presented on this area,
was erected on the northern side of the outer tower, to which it gave
name. Our travellers passed slowly along the bridge or tilt-yard, and
arrived at Mortimer’s Tower, at its farthest extremity, through which
the approach led into the outer or base-court of the Castle. Mortimer’s
Tower bore on its front the scutcheon of the Earl of March, whose daring
ambition overthrew the throne of Edward II., and aspired to share his
power with the “She-wolf of France,” to whom the unhappy monarch was
wedded. The gate, which opened under this ominous memorial, was guarded
by many warders in rich liveries; but they offered no opposition to the
entrance of the Countess and her guide, who, having passed by license of
the principal porter at the Gallery-tower, were not, it may be supposed,
liable to interruption from his deputies. They entered accordingly, in
silence, the great outward court of the Castle, having then full before
them that vast and lordly pile, with all its stately towers, each gate
open, as if in sign of unlimited hospitality, and the apartments filled
with noble guests of every degree, besides dependants, retainers,
domestics of every description, and all the appendages and promoters of
mirth and revelry.

Amid this stately and busy scene Wayland halted his horse, and looked
upon the lady, as if waiting her commands what was next to be done,
since they had safely reached the place of destination. As she remained
silent, Wayland, after waiting a minute or two, ventured to ask her, in
direct terms, what were her next commands. She raised her hand to her
forehead, as if in the act of collecting her thoughts and resolution,
while she answered him in a low and suppressed voice, like the murmurs
of one who speaks in a dream--“Commands? I may indeed claim right to
command, but who is there will obey me!”

Then suddenly raising her head, like one who has formed a decisive
resolution, she addressed a gaily-dressed domestic, who was crossing the
court with importance and bustle in his countenance, “Stop, sir,” she
said; “I desire to speak with, the Earl of Leicester.”

“With whom, an it please you?” said the man, surprised at the demand;
and then looking upon the mean equipage of her who used towards him such
a tone of authority, he added, with insolence, “Why, what Bess of Bedlam
is this would ask to see my lord on such a day as the present?”

“Friend,” said the Countess, “be not insolent--my business with the Earl
is most urgent.”

“You must get some one else to do it, were it thrice as urgent,” said
the fellow. “I should summon my lord from the Queen’s royal presence
to do YOUR business, should I?--I were like to be thanked with a
horse-whip. I marvel our old porter took not measure of such ware with
his club, instead of giving them passage; but his brain is addled with
getting his speech by heart.”

Two or three persons stopped, attracted by the fleering way in which the
serving-man expressed himself; and Wayland, alarmed both for himself and
the lady, hastily addressed himself to one who appeared the most civil,
and thrusting a piece of money into his hand, held a moment’s counsel
with him on the subject of finding a place of temporary retreat for the
lady. The person to whom he spoke, being one in some authority, rebuked
the others for their incivility, and commanding one fellow to take care
of the strangers’ horses, he desired them to follow him. The Countess
retained presence of mind sufficient to see that it was absolutely
necessary she should comply with his request; and leaving the rude
lackeys and grooms to crack their brutal jests about light heads,
light heels, and so forth, Wayland and she followed in silence the
deputy-usher, who undertook to be their conductor.

They entered the inner court of the Castle by the great gateway, which
extended betwixt the principal Keep, or Donjon, called Caesar’s Tower,
and a stately building which passed by the name of King Henry’s Lodging,
and were thus placed in the centre of the noble pile, which presented
on its different fronts magnificent specimens of every species of
castellated architecture, from the Conquest to the reign of Elizabeth,
with the appropriate style and ornaments of each.

Across this inner court also they were conducted by their guide to a
small but strong tower, occupying the north-east angle of the building,
adjacent to the great hall, and filling up a space betwixt the immense
range of kitchens and the end of the great hall itself. The lower
part of this tower was occupied by some of the household officers of
Leicester, owing to its convenient vicinity to the places where their
duty lay; but in the upper story, which was reached by a narrow, winding
stair, was a small octangular chamber, which, in the great demand for
lodgings, had been on the present occasion fitted up for the reception
of guests, though generally said to have been used as a place of
confinement for some unhappy person who had been there murdered.
Tradition called this prisoner Mervyn, and transferred his name to the
tower. That it had been used as a prison was not improbable; for the
floor of each story was arched, the walls of tremendous thickness, while
the space of the chamber did not exceed fifteen feet in diameter. The
window, however, was pleasant, though narrow, and commanded a delightful
view of what was called the Pleasance; a space of ground enclosed
and decorated with arches, trophies, statues, fountains, and other
architectural monuments, which formed one access from the Castle
itself into the garden. There was a bed in the apartment, and other
preparations for the reception of a guest, to which the Countess paid
but slight attention, her notice being instantly arrested by the sight
of writing materials placed on the table (not very commonly to be found
in the bedrooms of those days), which instantly suggested the idea of
writing to Leicester, and remaining private until she had received his
answer.

The deputy-usher having introduced them into this commodious apartment,
courteously asked Wayland, whose generosity he had experienced, whether
he could do anything further for his service. Upon receiving a gentle
hint that some refreshment would not be unacceptable, he presently
conveyed the smith to the buttery-hatch, where dressed provisions of all
sorts were distributed, with hospitable profusion, to all who asked for
them. Wayland was readily supplied with some light provisions, such as
he thought would best suit the faded appetite of the lady, and did not
omit the opportunity of himself making a hasty but hearty meal on more
substantial fare. He then returned to the apartment in the turret, where
he found the Countess, who had finished her letter to Leicester, and in
lieu of a seal and silken thread, had secured it with a braid of her own
beautiful tresses, fastened by what is called a true-love knot.

“Good friend,” said she to Wayland, “whom God hath sent to aid me at my
utmost need, I do beseech thee, as the last trouble you shall take
for an unfortunate lady, to deliver this letter to the noble Earl of
Leicester. Be it received as it may,” she said, with features agitated
betwixt hope and fear, “thou, good fellow, shalt have no more cumber
with me. But I hope the best; and if ever lady made a poor man rich,
thou hast surely deserved it at my hand, should my happy days ever come
round again. Give it, I pray you, into Lord Leicester’s own hand, and
mark how he looks on receiving it.”

Wayland, on his part, readily undertook the commission, but anxiously
prayed the lady, in his turn, to partake of some refreshment; in which
he at length prevailed, more through importunity and her desire to see
him begone on his errand than from any inclination the Countess felt to
comply with his request. He then left her, advising her to lock her door
on the inside, and not to stir from her little apartment; and went to
seek an opportunity of discharging her errand, as well as of carrying
into effect a purpose of his own, which circumstances had induced him to
form.

In fact, from the conduct of the lady during the journey--her long fits
of profound silence, the irresolution and uncertainty which seemed to
pervade all her movements, and the obvious incapacity of thinking and
acting for herself under which she seemed to labour--Wayland had formed
the not improbable opinion that the difficulties of her situation had in
some degree affected her understanding.

When she had escaped from the seclusion of Cumnor Place, and the dangers
to which she was there exposed, it would have seemed her most rational
course to retire to her father’s, or elsewhere at a distance from the
power of those by whom these dangers had been created. When, instead of
doing so, she demanded to be conveyed to Kenilworth, Wayland had been
only able to account for her conduct by supposing that she meant to
put herself under the tutelage of Tressilian, and to appeal to the
protection of the Queen. But now, instead of following this natural
course, she entrusted him with a letter to Leicester, the patron of
Varney, and within whose jurisdiction at least, if not under his express
authority, all the evils she had already suffered were inflicted upon
her. This seemed an unsafe and even a desperate measure, and Wayland
felt anxiety for his own safety, as well as that of the lady, should he
execute her commission before he had secured the advice and countenance
of a protector.

He therefore resolved, before delivering the letter to Leicester, that
he would seek out Tressilian, and communicate to him the arrival of
the lady at Kenilworth, and thus at once rid himself of all further
responsibility, and devolve the task of guiding and protecting this
unfortunate lady upon the patron who had at first employed him in her
service.

“He will be a better judge than I am,” said Wayland, “whether she is
to be gratified in this humour of appeal to my Lord of Leicester, which
seems like an act of insanity; and, therefore, I will turn the matter
over on his hands, deliver him the letter, receive what they list to
give me by way of guerdon, and then show the Castle of Kenilworth a pair
of light heels; for, after the work I have been engaged in, it will be,
I fear, neither a safe nor wholesome place of residence, and I would
rather shoe colts an the coldest common in England than share in their
gayest revels.”



CHAPTER XXVII.


     In my time I have seen a boy do wonders.
     Robin, the red tinker, had a boy
     Would ha run through a cat-hole. --THE COXCOMB.

Amid the universal bustle which filled the Castle and its environs, it
was no easy matter to find out any individual; and Wayland was still
less likely to light upon Tressilian, whom he sought so anxiously,
because, sensible of the danger of attracting attention in the
circumstances in which he was placed, he dared not make general
inquiries among the retainers or domestics of Leicester. He learned,
however, by indirect questions, that in all probability Tressilian must
have been one of a large party of gentlemen in attendance on the Earl
of Sussex, who had accompanied their patron that morning to Kenilworth,
when Leicester had received them with marks of the most formal respect
and distinction. He further learned that both Earls, with their
followers, and many other nobles, knights, and gentlemen, had taken
horse, and gone towards Warwick several hours since, for the purpose of
escorting the Queen to Kenilworth.

Her Majesty’s arrival, like other great events, was delayed from hour
to hour; and it was now announced by a breathless post that her Majesty,
being detained by her gracious desire to receive the homage of her
lieges who had thronged to wait upon her at Warwick, it would be the
hour of twilight ere she entered the Castle. The intelligence released
for a time those who were upon duty, in the immediate expectation of the
Queen’s appearance, and ready to play their part in the solemnities with
which it was to be accompanied; and Wayland, seeing several horsemen
enter the Castle, was not without hopes that Tressilian might be of the
number. That he might not lose an opportunity of meeting his patron
in the event of this being the case, Wayland placed himself in the
base-court of the Castle, near Mortimer’s Tower, and watched every one
who went or came by the bridge, the extremity of which was protected by
that building. Thus stationed, nobody could enter or leave the Castle
without his observation, and most anxiously did he study the garb and
countenance of every horseman, as, passing from under the opposite
Gallery-tower, they paced slowly, or curveted, along the tilt-yard, and
approached the entrance of the base-court.

But while Wayland gazed thus eagerly to discover him whom he saw not, he
was pulled by the sleeve by one by whom he himself would not willingly
have been seen.

This was Dickie Sludge, or Flibbertigibbet, who, like the imp whose name
he bore, and whom he had been accoutred in order to resemble, seemed
to be ever at the ear of those who thought least of him. Whatever were
Wayland’s internal feelings, he judged it necessary to express pleasure
at their unexpected meeting.

“Ha! is it thou, my minikin--my miller’s thumb--my prince of
cacodemons--my little mouse?”

“Ay,” said Dickie, “the mouse which gnawed asunder the toils, just when
the lion who was caught in them began to look wonderfully like an ass.”

“Thy, thou little hop-the-gutter, thou art as sharp as vinegar this
afternoon! But tell me, how didst thou come off with yonder jolterheaded
giant whom I left thee with? I was afraid he would have stripped thy
clothes, and so swallowed thee, as men peel and eat a roasted chestnut.”

“Had he done so,” replied the boy, “he would have had more brains in
his guts than ever he had in his noddle. But the giant is a courteous
monster, and more grateful than many other folk whom I have helped at a
pinch, Master Wayland Smith.”

“Beshrew me, Flibbertigibbet,” replied Wayland, “but thou art sharper
than a Sheffield whittle! I would I knew by what charm you muzzled
yonder old bear.”

“Ay, that is in your own manner,” answered Dickie; “you think fine
speeches will pass muster instead of good-will. However, as to this
honest porter, you must know that when we presented ourselves at the
gate yonder, his brain was over-burdened with a speech that had been
penned for him, and which proved rather an overmatch for his gigantic
faculties. Now this same pithy oration had been indited, like sundry
others, by my learned magister, Erasmus Holiday, so I had heard it often
enough to remember every line. As soon as I heard him blundering and
floundering like a fish upon dry land, through the first verse, and
perceived him at a stand, I knew where the shoe pinched, and helped him
to the next word, when he caught me up in an ecstasy, even as you saw
but now. I promised, as the price of your admission, to hide me under
his bearish gaberdine, and prompt him in the hour of need. I have just
now been getting some food in the Castle, and am about to return to
him.”

“That’s right--that’s right, my dear Dickie,” replied Wayland;
“haste thee, for Heaven’s sake! else the poor giant will be utterly
disconsolate for want of his dwarfish auxiliary. Away with thee,
Dickie!”

“Ay, ay!” answered the boy--“away with Dickie, when we have got what
good of him we can. You will not let me know the story of this lady,
then, who is as much sister of thine as I am?”

“Why, what good would it do thee, thou silly elf?” said Wayland.

“Oh, stand ye on these terms?” said the boy. “Well, I care not greatly
about the matter--only, I never smell out a secret but I try to be
either at the right or the wrong end of it, and so good evening to ye.”

“Nay, but, Dickie,” said Wayland, who knew the boy’s restless and
intriguing disposition too well not to fear his enmity--“stay, my dear
Dickie--part not with old friends so shortly! Thou shalt know all I know
of the lady one day.”

“Ay!” said Dickie; “and that day may prove a nigh one. Fare thee well,
Wayland--I will to my large-limbed friend, who, if he have not so sharp
a wit as some folk, is at least more grateful for the service which
other folk render him. And so again, good evening to ye.”

So saying, he cast a somerset through the gateway, and lighting on
the bridge, ran with the extraordinary agility which was one of his
distinguishing attributes towards the Gallery-tower, and was out of
sight in an instant.

“I would to God I were safe out of this Castle again!” prayed Wayland
internally; “for now that this mischievous imp has put his finger in the
pie, it cannot but prove a mess fit for the devil’s eating. I would to
Heaven Master Tressilian would appear!”

Tressilian, whom he was thus anxiously expecting in one direction, had
returned to Kenilworth by another access. It was indeed true, as Wayland
had conjectured, that in the earlier part of the day he had accompanied
the Earls on their cavalcade towards Warwick, not without hope that he
might in that town hear some tidings of his emissary. Being disappointed
in this expectation, and observing Varney amongst Leicester’s
attendants, seeming as if he had some purpose of advancing to and
addressing him, he conceived, in the present circumstances, it was
wisest to avoid the interview. He, therefore, left the presence-chamber
when the High-Sheriff of the county was in the very midst of his dutiful
address to her Majesty; and mounting his horse, rode back to Kenilworth
by a remote and circuitous road, and entered the Castle by a small
sallyport in the western wall, at which he was readily admitted as
one of the followers of the Earl of Sussex, towards whom Leicester had
commanded the utmost courtesy to be exercised. It was thus that he
met not Wayland, who was impatiently watching his arrival, and whom he
himself would have been at least equally desirous to see.

Having delivered his horse to the charge of his attendant, he walked
for a space in the Pleasance and in the garden, rather to indulge in
comparative solitude his own reflections, than to admire those singular
beauties of nature and art which the magnificence of Leicester had there
assembled. The greater part of the persons of condition had left the
Castle for the present, to form part of the Earl’s cavalcade; others,
who remained behind, were on the battlements, outer walls, and towers,
eager to view the splendid spectacle of the royal entry. The garden,
therefore, while every other part of the Castle resounded with the human
voice, was silent but for the whispering of the leaves, the emulous
warbling of the tenants of a large aviary with their happier companions
who remained denizens of the free air, and the plashing of the
fountains, which, forced into the air from sculptures of fatastic and
grotesque forms, fell down with ceaseless sound into the great basins of
Italian marble.

The melancholy thoughts of Tressilian cast a gloomy shade on all the
objects with which he was surrounded. He compared the magnificent scenes
which he here traversed with the deep woodland and wild moorland which
surrounded Lidcote Hall, and the image of Amy Robsart glided like a
phantom through every landscape which his imagination summoned up.
Nothing is perhaps more dangerous to the future happiness of men of deep
thought and retired habits than the entertaining an early, long, and
unfortunate attachment. It frequently sinks so deep into the mind that
it becomes their dream by night and their vision by day--mixes itself
with every source of interest and enjoyment; and when blighted and
withered by final disappointment, it seems as if the springs of the
heart were dried up along with it. This aching of the heart, this
languishing after a shadow which has lost all the gaiety of its
colouring, this dwelling on the remembrance of a dream from which
we have been long roughly awakened, is the weakness of a gentle and
generous heart, and it was that of Tressilian.

He himself at length became sensible of the necessity of forcing other
objects upon his mind; and for this purpose he left the Pleasance,
in order to mingle with the noisy crowd upon the walls, and view the
preparation for the pageants. But as he left the garden, and heard the
busy hum, mixed with music and laughter, which floated around him, he
felt an uncontrollable reluctance to mix with society whose feelings
were in a tone so different from his own, and resolved, instead of doing
so, to retire to the chamber assigned him, and employ himself in study
until the tolling of the great Castle bell should announce the arrival
of Elizabeth.

Tressilian crossed accordingly by the passage betwixt the immense range
of kitchens and the great hall, and ascended to the third story of
Mervyn’s Tower, and applying himself to the door of the small apartment
which had been allotted to him, was surprised to find it was locked. He
then recollected that the deputy-chamberlain had given him a master-key,
advising him, in the present confused state of the Castle, to keep his
door as much shut as possible. He applied this key to the lock, the bolt
revolved, he entered, and in the same instant saw a female form seated
in the apartment, and recognized that form to be, Amy Robsart. His first
idea was that a heated imagination had raised the image on which it
doted into visible existence; his second, that he beheld an apparition;
the third and abiding conviction, that it was Amy herself, paler,
indeed, and thinner, than in the days of heedless happiness, when
she possessed the form and hue of a wood-nymph, with the beauty of a
sylph--but still Amy, unequalled in loveliness by aught which had ever
visited his eyes.

The astonishment of the Countess was scarce less than that of
Tressilian, although it was of shorter duration, because she had heard
from Wayland that he was in the Castle. She had started up at his first
entrance, and now stood facing him, the paleness of her cheeks having
given way to a deep blush.

“Tressilian,” she said, at length, “why come you here?”

“Nay, why come you here, Amy,” returned Tressilian, “unless it be at
length to claim that aid, which, as far as one man’s heart and arm can
extend, shall instantly be rendered to you?”

She was silent a moment, and then answered in a sorrowful rather than an
angry tone, “I require no aid, Tressilian, and would rather be injured
than benefited by any which your kindness can offer me. Believe me, I am
near one whom law and love oblige to protect me.”

“The villain, then, hath done you the poor justice which remained in his
power,” said Tressilian, “and I behold before me the wife of Varney!”

“The wife of Varney!” she replied, with all the emphasis of scorn. “With
what base name, sir, does your boldness stigmatize the--the--the--” She
hesitated, dropped her tone of scorn, looked down, and was confused and
silent; for she recollected what fatal consequences might attend her
completing the sentence with “the Countess of Leicester,” which were
the words that had naturally suggested themselves. It would have been
a betrayal of the secret, on which her husband had assured her that his
fortunes depended, to Tressilian, to Sussex, to the Queen, and to the
whole assembled court. “Never,” she thought, “will I break my promised
silence. I will submit to every suspicion rather than that.”

The tears rose to her eyes, as she stood silent before Tressilian;
while, looking on her with mingled grief and pity, he said, “Alas! Amy,
your eyes contradict your tongue. That speaks of a protector, willing
and able to watch over you; but these tell me you are ruined, and
deserted by the wretch to whom you have attached yourself.”

She looked on him with eyes in which anger sparkled through her tears,
but only repeated the word “wretch!” with a scornful emphasis.

“Yes, WRETCH!” said Tressilian; “for were he aught better, why are you
here, and alone, in my apartment? why was not fitting provision made for
your honourable reception?”

“In your apartment?” repeated Amy--“in YOUR apartment? It shall
instantly be relieved of my presence.” She hastened towards the door;
but the sad recollection of her deserted state at once pressed on her
mind, and pausing on the threshold, she added, in a tone unutterably
pathetic, “Alas! I had forgot--I know not where to go--”

“I see--I see it all,” said Tressilian, springing to her side, and
leading her back to the seat, on which she sunk down. “You DO need
aid--you do need protection, though you will not own it; and you shall
not need it long. Leaning on my arm, as the representative of your
excellent and broken-hearted father, on the very threshold of the Castle
gate, you shall meet Elizabeth; and the first deed she shall do in
the halls of Kenilworth shall be an act of justice to her sex and her
subjects. Strong in my good cause, and in the Queen’s justice, the
power of her minion shall not shake my resolution. I will instantly seek
Sussex.”

“Not for all that is under heaven!” said the Countess, much alarmed,
and feeling the absolute necessity of obtaining time, at least, for
consideration. “Tressilian, you were wont to be generous. Grant me one
request, and believe, if it be your wish to save me from misery and from
madness, you will do more by making me the promise I ask of you, than
Elizabeth can do for me with all her power.”

“Ask me anything for which you can allege reason,” said Tressilian; “but
demand not of me--”

“Oh, limit not your boon, dear Edmund!” exclaimed the Countess--“you
once loved that I should call you so--limit not your boon to reason; for
my case is all madness, and frenzy must guide the counsels which alone
can aid me.”

“If you speak thus wildly,” said Tressilian, astonishment again
overpowering both his grief and his resolution, “I must believe you
indeed incapable of thinking or acting for yourself.”

“Oh, no!” she exclaimed, sinking on one knee before him, “I am not
mad--I am but a creature unutterably miserable, and, from circumstances
the most singular, dragged on to a precipice by the arm of him who
thinks he is keeping me from it--even by yours, Tressilian--by
yours, whom I have honoured, respected--all but loved--and yet loved,
too--loved, too, Tressilian--though not as you wished to be.”

There was an energy, a self-possession, an abandonment in her voice
and manner, a total resignation of herself to his generosity, which,
together with the kindness of her expressions to himself, moved him
deeply. He raised her, and, in broken accents, entreated her to be
comforted.

“I cannot,” she said, “I will not be comforted, till you grant me
my request! I will speak as plainly as I dare. I am now awaiting the
commands of one who has a right to issue them. The interference of a
third person--of you in especial, Tressilian--will be ruin--utter ruin
to me. Wait but four-and-twenty hours, and it may be that the poor
Amy may have the means to show that she values, and can reward, your
disinterested friendship--that she is happy herself, and has the means
to make you so. It is surely worth your patience, for so short a space?”

Tressilian paused, and weighing in his mind the various probabilities
which might render a violent interference on his part more prejudicial
than advantageous, both to the happiness and reputation of Amy;
considering also that she was within the walls of Kenilworth, and could
suffer no injury in a castle honoured with the Queen’s residence, and
filled with her guards and attendants--he conceived, upon the whole,
that he might render her more evil than good service by intruding upon
her his appeal to Elizabeth in her behalf. He expressed his resolution
cautiously, however, doubting naturally whether Amy’s hopes of
extricating herself from her difficulties rested on anything stronger
than a blinded attachment to Varney, whom he supposed to be her seducer.

“Amy,” he said, while he fixed his sad and expressive eyes on hers,
which, in her ecstasy of doubt, terror, and perplexity, she cast up
towards him, “I have ever remarked that when others called thee girlish
and wilful, there lay under that external semblance of youthful and
self-willed folly deep feeling and strong sense. In this I will confide,
trusting your own fate in your own hands for the space of twenty-four
hours, without my interference by word or act.”

“Do you promise me this, Tressilian?” said the Countess. “Is it possible
you can yet repose so much confidence in me? Do you promise, as you are
a gentleman and a man of honour, to intrude in my matters neither by
speech nor action, whatever you may see or hear that seems to you to
demand your interference? Will you so far trust me?”

“I will upon my honour,” said Tressilian; “but when that space is
expired--”

“Then that space is expired,” she said, interrupting him, “you are free
to act as your judgment shall determine.”

“Is there nought besides which I can do for you, Amy?” said Tressilian.

“Nothing,” said she, “save to leave me,--that is, if--I blush to
acknowledge my helplessness by asking it--if you can spare me the use of
this apartment for the next twenty-four hours.”

“This is most wonderful!” said Tressilian; “what hope or interest can
you have in a Castle where you cannot command even an apartment?”

“Argue not, but leave me,” she said; and added, as he slowly and
unwillingly retired, “Generous Edmund! the time may come when Amy may
show she deserved thy noble attachment.”



CHAPTER XXVIII.


     What, man, ne’er lack a draught, when the full can
     Stands at thine elbow, and craves emptying!--
     Nay, fear not me, for I have no delight
     To watch men’s vices, since I have myself
     Of virtue nought to boast of--I’m a striker,
     Would have the world strike with me, pell-mell, all.
     --PANDEMONIUM.

Tressilian, in strange agitation of mind, had hardly stepped down the
first two or three steps of the winding staircase, when, greatly to his
surprise and displeasure, he met Michael Lambourne, wearing an impudent
familiarity of visage, for which Tressilian felt much disposed to throw
him down-stairs; until he remembered the prejudice which Amy, the only
object of his solicitude, was likely to receive from his engaging in any
act of violence at that time and in that place.

He therefore contented himself with looking sternly upon Lambourne, as
upon one whom he deemed unworthy of notice, and attempted to pass him in
his way downstairs, without any symptom of recognition. But Lambourne,
who, amidst the profusion of that day’s hospitality, had not failed
to take a deep though not an overpowering cup of sack, was not in the
humour of humbling himself before any man’s looks. He stopped Tressilian
upon the staircase without the least bashfulness or embarrassment, and
addressed him as if he had been on kind and intimate terms:--“What, no
grudge between us, I hope, upon old scores, Master Tressilian?--nay,
I am one who remembers former kindness rather than latter feud. I’ll
convince you that I meant honestly and kindly, ay, and comfortably by
you.”

“I desire none of your intimacy,” said Tressilian--“keep company with
your mates.”

“Now, see how hasty he is!” said Lambourne; “and how these gentles, that
are made questionless out of the porcelain clay of the earth, look down
upon poor Michael Lambourne! You would take Master Tressilian now for
the most maid-like, modest, simpering squire of dames that ever made
love when candles were long i’ the stuff--snuff; call you it? Why, you
would play the saint on us, Master Tressilian, and forget that even now
thou hast a commodity in thy very bedchamber, to the shame of my lord’s
castle, ha! ha! ha! Have I touched you, Master Tressilian?”

“I know not what you mean,” said Tressilian, inferring, however, too
surely, that this licentious ruffian must have been sensible of Amy’s
presence in his apartment; “‘i but if,” he continued, “thou art
varlet of the chambers, and lackest a fee, there is one to leave mine
unmolested.”

Lambourne looked at the piece of gold, and put it in his pocket saying,
“Now, I know not but you might have done more with me by a kind word
than by this chiming rogue. But after all he pays well that pays with
gold; and Mike Lambourne was never a makebate, or a spoil-sport, or the
like. E’en live, and let others live, that is my motto-only, I would not
let some folks cock their beaver at me neither, as if they were made
of silver ore, and I of Dutch pewter. So if I keep your secret, Master
Tressilian, you may look sweet on me at least; and were I to want a
little backing or countenance, being caught, as you see the best of us
may be, in a sort of peccadillo--why, you owe it me--and so e’en make
your chamber serve you and that same bird in bower beside--it’s all one
to Mike Lambourne.”

“Make way, sir,” said Tressilian, unable to bridle his indignation, “you
have had your fee.”

“Um!” said Lambourne, giving place, however, while he sulkily muttered
between his teeth, repeating Tressilian’s words, “Make way--and you
have had your fee; but it matters not, I will spoil no sport, as I said
before. I am no dog in the manger--mind that.”

He spoke louder and louder, as Tressilian, by whom he felt himself
overawed, got farther and farther out of hearing.

“I am no dog in the manger; but I will not carry coals neither--mind
that, Master Tressilian; and I will have a peep at this wench whom
you have quartered so commodiously in your old haunted room--afraid of
ghosts, belike, and not too willing to sleep alone. If I had done this
now in a strange lord’s castle, the word had been, The porter’s lodge
for the knave! and, have him flogged--trundle him downstairs like a
turnip! Ay, but your virtuous gentlemen take strange privileges over
us, who are downright servants of our senses. Well--I have my Master
Tressilian’s head under my belt by this lucky discovery, that is one
thing certain; and I will try to get a sight of this Lindabrides of his,
that is another.”



CHAPTER XXIX.


     Now fare thee well, my master--if true service
     Be guerdon’d with hard looks, e’en cut the tow-line,
     And let our barks across the pathless flood
     Hold different courses--THE SHIPWRECK.

Tressilian walked into the outer yard of the Castle scarce knowing what
to think of his late strange and most unexpected interview with Amy
Robsart, and dubious if he had done well, being entrusted with the
delegated authority of her father, to pass his word so solemnly to leave
her to her own guidance for so many hours. Yet how could he have denied
her request--dependent as she had too probably rendered herself upon
Varney? Such was his natural reasoning. The happiness of her future
life might depend upon his not driving her to extremities; and since no
authority of Tressilian’s could extricate her from the power of Varney,
supposing he was to acknowledge Amy to be his wife, what title had he
to destroy the hope of domestic peace, which might yet remain to her,
by setting enmity betwixt them? Tressilian resolved, therefore,
scrupulously to observe his word pledged to Amy, both because it had
been given, and because, as he still thought, while he considered and
reconsidered that extraordinary interview, it could not with justice or
propriety have been refused.

In one respect, he had gained much towards securing effectual protection
for this unhappy and still beloved object of his early affection. Amy
was no longer mewed up in a distant and solitary retreat under the
charge of persons of doubtful reputation. She was in the Castle of
Kenilworth, within the verge of the Royal Court for the time, free from
all risk of violence, and liable to be produced before Elizabeth on
the first summons. These were circumstances which could not but assist
greatly the efforts which he might have occasion to use in her behalf.

While he was thus balancing the advantages and perils which attended her
unexpected presence in Kenilworth, Tressilian was hastily and anxiously
accosted by Wayland, who, after ejaculating, “Thank God, your worship is
found at last!” proceeded with breathless caution to pour into his ear
the intelligence that the lady had escaped from Cumnor Place.

“And is at present in this Castle,” said Tressilian. “I know it, and
I have seen her. Was it by her own choice she found refuge in my
apartment?”

“No,” answered Wayland; “but I could think of no other way of safely
bestowing her, and was but too happy to find a deputy-usher who knew
where you were quartered--in jolly society truly, the hall on the one
hand, and the kitchen on the other!”

“Peace, this is no time for jesting,” answered Tressilian sternly.

“I wot that but too well,” said the artist, “for I have felt these three
days as if I had a halter round my neck. This lady knows not her own
mind--she will have none of your aid--commands you not to be named to
her--and is about to put herself into the hands of my Lord Leicester.
I had never got her safe into your chamber, had she known the owner of
it.”

“Is it possible,” said Tressilian. “But she may have hopes the Earl will
exert his influence in her favour over his villainous dependant.”

“I know nothing of that,” said Wayland; “but I believe, if she is to
reconcile herself with either Leicester or Varney, the side of the
Castle of Kenilworth which will be safest for us will be the outside,
from which we can fastest fly away. It is not my purpose to abide an
instant after delivery of the letter to Leicester, which waits but your
commands to find its way to him. See, here it is--but no--a plague on
it--I must have left it in my dog-hole, in the hay-loft yonder, where I
am to sleep.”

“Death and fury!” said Tressilian, transported beyond his usual
patience; “thou hast not lost that on which may depend a stake more
important than a thousand such lives as thine?”

“Lost it!” answered Wayland readily; “that were a jest indeed! No, sir,
I have it carefully put up with my night-sack, and some matters I have
occasion to use; I will fetch it in an instant.”

“Do so,” said Tressilian; “be faithful, and thou shalt be well rewarded.
But if I have reason to suspect thee, a dead dog were in better case
than thou!”

Wayland bowed, and took his leave with seeming confidence and alacrity,
but, in fact, filled with the utmost dread and confusion. The letter was
lost, that was certain, notwithstanding the apology which he had made to
appease the impatient displeasure of Tressilian. It was lost--it might
fall into wrong hands--it would then certainly occasion a discovery
of the whole intrigue in which he had been engaged; nor, indeed, did
Wayland see much prospect of its remaining concealed, in any event. He
felt much hurt, besides, at Tressilian’s burst of impatience.

“Nay, if I am to be paid in this coin for services where my neck is
concerned, it is time I should look to myself. Here have I offended, for
aught I know, to the death, the lord of this stately castle, whose word
were as powerful to take away my life as the breath which speaks it
to blow out a farthing candle. And all this for a mad lady, and a
melancholy gallant, who, on the loss of a four-nooked bit of paper, has
his hand on his poignado, and swears death and fury!--Then there is the
Doctor and Varney.--I will save myself from the whole mess of them. Life
is dearer than gold. I will fly this instant, though I leave my reward
behind me.”

These reflections naturally enough occurred to a mind like Wayland’s,
who found himself engaged far deeper than he had expected in a train
of mysterious and unintelligible intrigues, in which the actors seemed
hardly to know their own course. And yet, to do him justice, his
personal fears were, in some degree, counterbalanced by his compassion
for the deserted state of the lady.

“I care not a groat for Master Tressilian,” he said; “I have done more
than bargain by him, and I have brought his errant-damosel within his
reach, so that he may look after her himself. But I fear the poor thing
is in much danger amongst these stormy spirits. I will to her chamber,
and tell her the fate which has befallen her letter, that she may write
another if she list. She cannot lack a messenger, I trow, where there
are so many lackeys that can carry a letter to their lord. And I will
tell her also that I leave the Castle, trusting her to God, her own
guidance, and Master Tressilian’s care and looking after. Perhaps she
may remember the ring she offered me--it was well earned, I trow; but
she is a lovely creature, and--marry hang the ring! I will not bear
a base spirit for the matter. If I fare ill in this world for my
good-nature, I shall have better chance in the next. So now for the
lady, and then for the road.”

With the stealthy step and jealous eye of the cat that steals on her
prey, Wayland resumed the way to the Countess’s chamber, sliding along
by the side of the courts and passages, alike observant of all around
him, and studious himself to escape observation. In this manner he
crossed the outward and inward Castle yard, and the great arched
passage, which, running betwixt the range of kitchen offices and the
hall, led to the bottom of the little winding-stair that gave access to
the chambers of Mervyn’s Tower.

The artist congratulated himself on having escaped the various perils of
his journey, and was in the act of ascending by two steps at once, when
he observed that the shadow of a man, thrown from a door which stood
ajar, darkened the opposite wall of the staircase. Wayland drew back
cautiously, went down to the inner courtyard, spent about a quarter of
an hour, which seemed at least quadruple its usual duration, in walking
from place to place, and then returned to the tower, in hopes to find
that the lurker had disappeared. He ascended as high as the suspicious
spot--there was no shadow on the wall; he ascended a few yards
farther--the door was still ajar, and he was doubtful whether to advance
or retreat, when it was suddenly thrown wide open, and Michael Lambourne
bolted out upon the astonished Wayland. “Who the devil art thou? and
what seekest thou in this part of the Castle? march into that chamber,
and be hanged to thee!”

“I am no dog, to go at every man’s whistle,” said the artist, affecting
a confidence which was belied by a timid shake in his voice.

“Sayest thou me so?--Come hither, Lawrence Staples.”

A huge, ill-made and ill-looked fellow, upwards of six feet high,
appeared at the door, and Lambourne proceeded: “If thou be’st so fond of
this tower, my friend, thou shalt see its foundations, good twelve feet
below the bed of the lake, and tenanted by certain jolly toads, snakes,
and so forth, which thou wilt find mighty good company. Therefore, once
more I ask you in fair play, who thou art, and what thou seekest here?”

“If the dungeon-grate once clashes behind me,” thought Wayland, “I am a
gone man.” He therefore answered submissively, “He was the poor juggler
whom his honour had met yesterday in Weatherly Bottom.”

“And what juggling trick art thou playing in this tower? Thy gang,” said
Lambourne, “lie over against Clinton’s buildings.”

“I came here to see my sister,” said the juggler, “who is in Master
Tressilian’s chamber, just above.”

“Aha!” said Lambourne, smiling, “here be truths! Upon my honour, for a
stranger, this same Master Tressilian makes himself at home among us,
and furnishes out his cell handsomely, with all sorts of commodities.
This will be a precious tale of the sainted Master Tressilian, and will
be welcome to some folks, as a purse of broad pieces to me.--Hark ye,
fellow,” he continued, addressing Wayland, “thou shalt not give Puss
a hint to steal away we must catch her in her form. So, back with that
pitiful sheep-biting visage of thine, or I will fling thee from the
window of the tower, and try if your juggling skill can save your
bones.”

“Your worship will not be so hardhearted, I trust,” said Wayland; “poor
folk must live. I trust your honour will allow me to speak with my
sister?”

“Sister on Adam’s side, I warrant,” said Lambourne; “or, if otherwise,
the more knave thou. But sister or no sister, thou diest on point of
fox, if thou comest a-prying to this tower once more. And now I think of
it--uds daggers and death!--I will see thee out of the Castle, for this
is a more main concern than thy jugglery.”

“But, please your worship,” said Wayland, “I am to enact Arion in the
pageant upon the lake this very evening.”

“I will act it myself by Saint Christopher!” said Lambourne. “Orion,
callest thou him?--I will act Orion, his belt and his seven stars
to boot. Come along, for a rascal knave as thou art--follow me! Or
stay--Lawrence, do thou bring him along.”

Lawrence seized by the collar of the cloak the unresisting juggler;
while Lambourne, with hasty steps, led the way to that same sallyport,
or secret postern, by which Tressilian had returned to the Castle, and
which opened in the western wall at no great distance from Mervyn’s
Tower.

While traversing with a rapid foot the space betwixt the tower and the
sallyport, Wayland in vain racked his brain for some device which might
avail the poor lady, for whom, notwithstanding his own imminent danger,
he felt deep interest. But when he was thrust out of the Castle, and
informed by Lambourne, with a tremendous oath, that instant death would
be the consequence of his again approaching it, he cast up his hands
and eyes to heaven, as if to call God to witness he had stood to the
uttermost in defence of the oppressed; then turned his back on the proud
towers of Kenilworth, and went his way to seek a humbler and safer place
of refuge.

Lawrence and Lambourne gazed a little while after Wayland, and then
turned to go back to their tower, when the former thus addressed his
companion: “Never credit me, Master Lambourne, if I can guess why thou
hast driven this poor caitiff from the Castle, just when he was to bear
a part in the show that was beginning, and all this about a wench.”

“Ah, Lawrence,” replied Lambourne, “thou art thinking of Black Joan
Jugges of Slingdon, and hast sympathy with human frailty. But, corragio,
most noble Duke of the Dungeon and Lord of Limbo, for thou art as dark
in this matter as thine own dominions of Little-ease. My most reverend
Signior of the Low Countries of Kenilworth, know that our most notable
master, Richard Varney, would give as much to have a hole in this same
Tressilian’s coat, as would make us some fifty midnight carousals, with
the full leave of bidding the steward go snick up, if he came to startle
us too soon from our goblets.”

“Nay, an that be the case, thou hast right,” said Lawrence Staples,
the upper-warder, or, in common phrase, the first jailer, of Kenilworth
Castle, and of the Liberty and Honour belonging thereto. “But how
will you manage when you are absent at the Queen’s entrance, Master
Lambourne; for methinks thou must attend thy master there?”

“Why thou, mine honest prince of prisons, must keep ward in my absence.
Let Tressilian enter if he will, but see thou let no one come out. If
the damsel herself would make a break, as ‘tis not unlike she may, scare
her back with rough words; she is but a paltry player’s wench after
all.”

“Nay for that matter,” said Lawrence, “I might shut the iron wicket upon
her that stands without the double door, and so force per force she will
be bound to her answer without more trouble.”

“Then Tressilian will not get access to her,” said Lambourne, reflecting
a moment. “But ‘tis no matter; she will be detected in his chamber, and
that is all one. But confess, thou old bat’s-eyed dungeon-keeper, that
you fear to keep awake by yourself in that Mervyn’s Tower of thine?”

“Why, as to fear, Master Lambourne,” said the fellow, “I mind it not the
turning of a key; but strange things have been heard and seen in that
tower. You must have heard, for as short time as you have been in
Kenilworth, that it is haunted by the spirit of Arthur ap Mervyn, a
wild chief taken by fierce Lord Mortimer when he was one of the Lords
Marchers of Wales, and murdered, as they say, in that same tower which
bears his name.”

“Oh, I have heard the tale five hundred times,” said Lambourne, “and how
the ghost is always most vociferous when they boil leeks and stirabout,
or fry toasted cheese, in the culinary regions. Santo Diavolo, man, hold
thy tongue, I know all about it!”

“Ay, but thou dost not, though,” said the turnkey, “for as wise as thou
wouldst make thyself. Ah, it is an awful thing to murder a prisoner in
his ward!--you that may have given a man a stab in a dark street know
nothing of it. To give a mutinous fellow a knock on the head with the
keys, and bid him be quiet, that’s what I call keeping order in the
ward; but to draw weapon and slay him, as was done to this Welsh lord,
THAT raises you a ghost that will render your prison-house untenantable
by any decent captive for some hundred years. And I have that regard
for my prisoners, poor things, that I have put good squires and men of
worship, that have taken a ride on the highway, or slandered my Lord of
Leicester, or the like, fifty feet under ground, rather than I would
put them into that upper chamber yonder that they call Mervyn’s Bower.
Indeed, by good Saint Peter of the Fetters, I marvel my noble lord, or
Master Varney, could think of lodging guests there; and if this Master
Tressilian could get any one to keep him company, and in especial a
pretty wench, why, truly, I think he was in the right on’t.”

“I tell thee,” said Lambourne, leading the way into the turnkey’s
apartment, “thou art an ass. Go bolt the wicket on the stair, and
trouble not thy noddle about ghosts. Give me the wine stoup, man; I am
somewhat heated with chafing with yonder rascal.”

While Lambourne drew a long draught from a pitcher of claret, which he
made use of without any cup, the warder went on, vindicating his own
belief in the supernatural.

“Thou hast been few hours in this Castle, and hast been for the whole
space so drunk, Lambourne, that thou art deaf, dumb, and blind. But we
should hear less of your bragging were you to pass a night with us at
full moon; for then the ghost is busiest, and more especially when a
rattling wind sets in from the north-west, with some sprinkling of rain,
and now and then a growl of thunder. Body o’ me, what crackings and
clashings, what groanings and what howlings, will there be at such times
in Mervyn’s Bower, right as it were over our heads, till the matter of
two quarts of distilled waters has not been enough to keep my lads and
me in some heart!”

“Pshaw, man!” replied Lambourne, on whom his last draught, joined to
repeated visitations of the pitcher upon former occasions, began to make
some innovation, “thou speakest thou knowest not what about spirits. No
one knows justly what to say about them; and, in short, least said may
in that matter be soonest amended. Some men believe in one thing, some
in another--it is all matter of fancy. I have known them of all sorts,
my dear Lawrence Lock-the-door, and sensible men too. There’s a great
lord--we’ll pass his name, Lawrence--he believes in the stars and the
moon, the planets and their courses, and so forth, and that they twinkle
exclusively for his benefit, when in sober, or rather in drunken truth,
Lawrence, they are only shining to keep honest fellows like me out
of the kennel. Well, sir, let his humour pass; he is great enough to
indulge it. Then, look ye, there is another--a very learned man, I
promise you, and can vent Greek and Hebrew as fast as I can Thieves’
Latin he has an humour of sympathies and antipathies--of changing lead
into gold, and the like; why, via, let that pass too, and let him pay
those in transmigrated coin who are fools enough to let it be current
with them. Then here comest thou thyself, another great man, though
neither learned nor noble, yet full six feet high, and thou, like a
purblind mole, must needs believe in ghosts and goblins, and such like.
Now, there is, besides, a great man--that is, a great little man, or a
little great man, my dear Lawrence--and his name begins with V, and what
believes he? Why, nothing, honest Lawrence--nothing in earth, heaven, or
hell; and for my part, if I believe there is a devil, it is only because
I think there must be some one to catch our aforesaid friend by the back
‘when soul and body sever,’ as the ballad says; for your antecedent will
have a consequent--RARO ANTECEDENTEM, as Doctor Bircham was wont to say.
But this is Greek to you now, honest Lawrence, and in sooth learning is
dry work. Hand me the pitcher once more.”

“In faith, if you drink more, Michael,” said the warder, “you will be
in sorry case either to play Arion or to wait on your master on such a
solemn night; and I expect each moment to hear the great bell toll for
the muster at Mortimer’s Tower, to receive the Queen.”

While Staples remonstrated, Lambourne drank; and then setting down the
pitcher, which was nearly emptied, with a deep sigh, he said, in an
undertone, which soon rose to a high one as his speech proceeded, “Never
mind, Lawrence; if I be drunk, I know that shall make Varney uphold
me sober. But, as I said, never mind; I can carry my drink discreetly.
Moreover, I am to go on the water as Orion, and shall take cold unless
I take something comfortable beforehand. Not play Orion? Let us see the
best roarer that ever strained his lungs for twelve pence out-mouth
me! What if they see me a little disguised? Wherefore should any man be
sober to-night? answer me that. It is matter of loyalty to be merry;
and I tell thee there are those in the Castle who, if they are not merry
when drunk, have little chance to be merry when sober--I name no names,
Lawrence. But your pottle of sack is a fine shoeing-horn to pull on a
loyal humour, and a merry one. Huzza for Queen Elizabeth!--for the
noble Leicester!--for the worshipful Master Varney!--and for Michael
Lambourne, that can turn them all round his finger!”

So saying, he walked downstairs, and across the inner court.

The warder looked after him, shook his head, and while he drew close and
locked a wicket, which, crossing the staircase, rendered it impossible
for any one to ascend higher than the story immediately beneath Mervyn’s
Bower, as Tressilian’s chamber was named, he thus soliloquized with
himself--“It’s a good thing to be a favourite. I well-nigh lost mine
office, because one frosty morning Master Varney thought I smelled of
aqua vitae; and this fellow can appear before him drunk as a wineskin,
and yet meet no rebuke. But then he is a pestilent clever fellow withal,
and no one can understand above one half of what he says.”



CHAPTER XXX.


     Now bid the steeple rock--she comes, she comes!--
     Speak for us, bells--speak for us, shrill-tongued tuckets.
     Stand to thy linstock, gunner; let thy cannon
     Play such a peal, as if a paynim foe
     Came stretch’d in turban’d ranks to storm the ramparts.
     We will have pageants too--but that craves wit,
     And I’m a rough-hewn soldier.--THE VIRGIN QUEEN--A TRAGI-COMEDY.

Tressilian, when Wayland had left him, as mentioned in the last chapter,
remained uncertain what he ought next to do, when Raleigh and Blount
came up to him arm in arm, yet, according to their wont, very eagerly
disputing together. Tressilian had no great desire for their society
in the present state of his feelings, but there was no possibility of
avoiding them; and indeed he felt that, bound by his promise not to
approach Amy, or take any step in her behalf, it would be his best
course at once to mix with general society, and to exhibit on his brow
as little as he could of the anguish and uncertainty which sat heavy
at his heart. He therefore made a virtue of necessity, and hailed his
comrades with, “All mirth to you, gentlemen! Whence come ye?”

“From Warwick, to be sure,” said Blount; “we must needs home to change
our habits, like poor players, who are fain to multiply their persons to
outward appearance by change of suits; and you had better do the like,
Tressilian.”

“Blount is right,” said Raleigh; “the Queen loves such marks of
deference, and notices, as wanting in respect, those who, not arriving
in her immediate attendance, may appear in their soiled and ruffled
riding-dress. But look at Blount himself, Tressilian, for the love of
laughter, and see how his villainous tailor hath apparelled him--in
blue, green, and crimson, with carnation ribbons, and yellow roses in
his shoes!”

“Why, what wouldst thou have?” said Blount. “I told the cross-legged
thief to do his best, and spare no cost; and methinks these things are
gay enough--gayer than thine own. I’ll be judged by Tressilian.”

“I agree--I agree,” said Walter Raleigh. “Judge betwixt us, Tressilian,
for the love of heaven!”

Tressilian, thus appealed to, looked at them both, and was immediately
sensible at a single glance that honest Blount had taken upon the
tailor’s warrant the pied garments which he had chosen to make, and
was as much embarrassed by the quantity of points and ribbons which
garnished his dress, as a clown is in his holiday clothes; while the
dress of Raleigh was a well-fancied and rich suit, which the wearer bore
as a garb too well adapted to his elegant person to attract particular
attention. Tressilian said, therefore, “That Blount’s dress was finest,
but Raleigh’s the best fancied.”

Blount was satisfied with his decision. “I knew mine was finest,” he
said; “if that knave Doublestitch had brought me home such a simple
doublet as that of Raleigh’s, I would have beat his brains out with his
own pressing-iron. Nay, if we must be fools, ever let us be fools of the
first head, say I.”

“But why gettest thou not on thy braveries, Tressilian?” said Raleigh.

“I am excluded from my apartment by a silly mistake,” said Tressilian,
“and separated for the time from my baggage. I was about to seek thee,
to beseech a share of thy lodging.”

“And welcome,” said Raleigh; “it is a noble one. My Lord of Leicester
has done us that kindness, and lodged us in princely fashion. If his
courtesy be extorted reluctantly, it is at least extended far. I would
advise you to tell your strait to the Earl’s chamberlain--you will have
instant redress.”

“Nay, it is not worth while, since you can spare me room,” replied
Tressilian--“I would not be troublesome. Has any one come hither with
you?”

“Oh, ay,” said Blount; “Varney and a whole tribe of Leicestrians,
besides about a score of us honest Sussex folk. We are all, it seems, to
receive the Queen at what they call the Gallery-tower, and witness some
fooleries there; and then we’re to remain in attendance upon the Queen
in the Great Hall--God bless the mark!--while those who are now waiting
upon her Grace get rid of their slough, and doff their riding-suits.
Heaven help me, if her Grace should speak to me, I shall never know what
to answer!”

“And what has detained them so long at Warwick?” said Tressilian,
unwilling that their conversation should return to his own affairs.

“Such a succession of fooleries,” said Blount, “as were never seen at
Bartholomew-fair. We have had speeches and players, and dogs and bears,
and men making monkeys and women moppets of themselves--I marvel the
Queen could endure it. But ever and anon came in something of ‘the
lovely light of her gracious countenance,’ or some such trash. Ah!
vanity makes a fool of the wisest. But come, let us on to this same
Gallery-tower--though I see not what thou Tressilian, canst do with thy
riding-dress and boots.”

“I will take my station behind thee, Blount,” said Tressilian, who
saw that his friend’s unusual finery had taken a strong hold of his
imagination; “thy goodly size and gay dress will cover my defects.”

“And so thou shalt, Edmund,” said Blount. “In faith I am glad thou
thinkest my garb well-fancied, for all Mr. Wittypate here; for when one
does a foolish thing, it is right to do it handsomely.”

So saying, Blount cocked his beaver, threw out his leg, and marched
manfully forward, as if at the head of his brigade of pikemen, ever and
anon looking with complaisance on his crimson stockings, and the huge
yellow roses which blossomed on his shoes. Tressilian followed, wrapt
in his own sad thoughts, and scarce minding Raleigh, whose quick fancy,
amused by the awkward vanity of his respectable friend, vented itself in
jests, which he whispered into Tressilian’s ear.

In this manner they crossed the long bridge, or tilt-yard, and took
their station, with other gentlemen of quality, before the outer gate
of the Gallery, or Entrance-tower. The whole amounted to about forty
persons, all selected as of the first rank under that of knighthood, and
were disposed in double rows on either side of the gate, like a guard of
honour, within the close hedge of pikes and partisans which was formed
by Leicester’s retainers, wearing his liveries. The gentlemen carried no
arms save their swords and daggers. These gallants were as gaily dressed
as imagination could devise; and as the garb of the time permitted
a great display of expensive magnificence, nought was to be seen but
velvet and cloth of gold and silver, ribbons, leathers, gems, and golden
chains. In spite of his more serious subjects of distress, Tressilian
could not help feeling that he, with his riding-suit, however handsome
it might be, made rather an unworthy figure among these “fierce
vanities,” and the rather because he saw that his deshabille was
the subject of wonder among his own friends, and of scorn among the
partisans of Leicester.

We could not suppress this fact, though it may seem something at
variance with the gravity of Tressilian’s character; but the truth is,
that a regard for personal appearance is a species of self-love,
from which the wisest are not exempt, and to which the mind clings so
instinctively that not only the soldier advancing to almost inevitable
death, but even the doomed criminal who goes to certain execution, shows
an anxiety to array his person to the best advantage. But this is a
digression.

It was the twilight of a summer night (9th July, 1575), the sun having
for some time set, and all were in anxious expectation of the Queen’s
immediate approach. The multitude had remained assembled for many
hours, and their numbers were still rather on the increase. A profuse
distribution of refreshments, together with roasted oxen, and barrels of
ale set a-broach in different places of the road, had kept the populace
in perfect love and loyalty towards the Queen and her favourite, which
might have somewhat abated had fasting been added to watching. They
passed away the time, therefore, with the usual popular amusements of
whooping, hallooing, shrieking, and playing rude tricks upon each other,
forming the chorus of discordant sounds usual on such occasions. These
prevailed all through the crowded roads and fields, and especially
beyond the gate of the Chase, where the greater number of the common
sort were stationed; when, all of a sudden, a single rocket was seen to
shoot into the atmosphere, and, at the instant, far heard over flood and
field, the great bell of the Castle tolled.

Immediately there was a pause of dead silence, succeeded by a deep hum
of expectation, the united voice of many thousands, none of whom spoke
above their breath--or, to use a singular expression, the whisper of an
immense multitude.

“They come now, for certain,” said Raleigh. “Tressilian, that sound is
grand. We hear it from this distance as mariners, after a long voyage,
hear, upon their night-watch, the tide rush upon some distant and
unknown shore.”

“Mass!” answered Blount, “I hear it rather as I used to hear mine own
kine lowing from the close of Wittenswestlowe.”

“He will assuredly graze presently,” said Raleigh to Tressilian; “his
thought is all of fat oxen and fertile meadows. He grows little better
than one of his own beeves, and only becomes grand when he is provoked
to pushing and goring.”

“We shall have him at that presently,” said Tressilian, “if you spare
not your wit.”

“Tush, I care not,” answered Raleigh; “but thou too, Tressilian, hast
turned a kind of owl, that flies only by night--hast exchanged thy songs
for screechings, and good company for an ivy-tod.”

“But what manner of animal art thou thyself, Raleigh,” said Tressilian,
“that thou holdest us all so lightly?”

“Who--I?” replied Raleigh. “An eagle am I, that never will think of dull
earth while there is a heaven to soar in, and a sun to gaze upon.”

“Well bragged, by Saint Barnaby!” said Blount; “but, good Master Eagle,
beware the cage, and beware the fowler. Many birds have flown as high
that I have seen stuffed with straw and hung up to scare kites.--But
hark, what a dead silence hath fallen on them at once!”

“The procession pauses,” said Raleigh, “at the gate of the Chase, where
a sibyl, one of the FATIDICAE, meets the Queen, to tell her fortune. I
saw the verses; there is little savour in them, and her Grace has been
already crammed full with such poetical compliments. She whispered to
me, during the Recorder’s speech yonder, at Ford-mill, as she entered
the liberties of Warwick, how she was ‘PERTAESA BARBARAE LOQUELAE.’”

“The Queen whispered to HIM!” said Blount, in a kind of soliloquy; “Good
God, to what will this world come!”

His further meditations were interrupted by a shout of applause from the
multitude, so tremendously vociferous that the country echoed for miles
round. The guards, thickly stationed upon the road by which the Queen
was to advance, caught up the acclamation, which ran like wildfire to
the Castle, and announced to all within that Queen Elizabeth had entered
the Royal Chase of Kenilworth. The whole music of the Castle sounded
at once, and a round of artillery, with a salvo of small arms, was
discharged from the battlements; but the noise of drums and trumpets,
and even of the cannon themselves, was but faintly heard amidst the
roaring and reiterated welcomes of the multitude.

As the noise began to abate, a broad glare of light was seen to appear
from the gate of the Park, and broadening and brightening as it came
nearer, advanced along the open and fair avenue that led towards the
Gallery-tower; and which, as we have already noticed, was lined on
either hand by the retainers of the Earl of Leicester. The word was
passed along the line, “The Queen! The Queen! Silence, and stand fast!”
 Onward came the cavalcade, illuminated by two hundred thick waxen
torches, in the hands of as many horsemen, which cast a light like that
of broad day all around the procession, but especially on the principal
group, of which the Queen herself, arrayed in the most splendid manner,
and blazing with jewels, formed the central figure. She was mounted on a
milk-white horse, which she reined with peculiar grace and dignity; and
in the whole of her stately and noble carriage you saw the daughter of
an hundred kings.

The ladies of the court, who rode beside her Majesty, had taken especial
care that their own external appearance should not be more glorious than
their rank and the occasion altogether demanded, so that no inferior
luminary might appear to approach the orbit of royalty. But their
personal charms, and the magnificence by which, under every prudential
restraint, they were necessarily distinguished, exhibited them as
the very flower of a realm so far famed for splendour and beauty. The
magnificence of the courtiers, free from such restraints as prudence
imposed on the ladies, was yet more unbounded.

Leicester, who glittered like a golden image with jewels and cloth of
gold, rode on her Majesty’s right hand, as well in quality of her host
as of her master of the horse. The black steed which he mounted had
not a single white hair on his body, and was one of the most renowned
chargers in Europe, having been purchased by the Earl at large expense
for this royal occasion. As the noble animal chafed at the slow pace
of the procession, and, arching his stately neck, champed on the silver
bits which restrained him, the foam flew from his mouth, and speckled
his well-formed limbs as if with spots of snow. The rider well became
the high place which he held, and the proud steed which he bestrode; for
no man in England, or perhaps in Europe, was more perfect than Dudley in
horsemanship, and all other exercises belonging to his quality. He
was bareheaded as were all the courtiers in the train; and the red
torchlight shone upon his long, curled tresses of dark hair, and on his
noble features, to the beauty of which even the severest criticism
could only object the lordly fault, as it may be termed, of a forehead
somewhat too high. On that proud evening those features wore all the
grateful solicitude of a subject, to show himself sensible of the high
honour which the Queen was conferring on him, and all the pride and
satisfaction which became so glorious a moment. Yet, though neither eye
nor feature betrayed aught but feelings which suited the occasion, some
of the Earl’s personal attendants remarked that he was unusually pale,
and they expressed to each other their fear that he was taking more
fatigue than consisted with his health.

Varney followed close behind his master, as the principal esquire in
waiting, and had charge of his lordship’s black velvet bonnet, garnished
with a clasp of diamonds and surmounted by a white plume. He kept his
eye constantly on his master, and, for reasons with which the reader is
not unacquainted, was, among Leicester’s numerous dependants, the one
who was most anxious that his lord’s strength and resolution should
carry him successfully through a day so agitating. For although Varney
was one of the few, the very few moral monsters who contrive to lull
to sleep the remorse of their own bosoms, and are drugged into moral
insensibility by atheism, as men in extreme agony are lulled by opium,
yet he knew that in the breast of his patron there was already awakened
the fire that is never quenched, and that his lord felt, amid all the
pomp and magnificence we have described, the gnawing of the worm that
dieth not. Still, however, assured as Lord Leicester stood, by Varney’s
own intelligence, that his Countess laboured under an indisposition
which formed an unanswerable apology to the Queen for her not appearing
at Kenilworth, there was little danger, his wily retainer thought, that
a man so ambitious would betray himself by giving way to any external
weakness.

The train, male and female, who attended immediately upon the Queen’s
person, were, of course, of the bravest and the fairest--the highest
born nobles, and the wisest counsellors, of that distinguished reign,
to repeat whose names were but to weary the reader. Behind came a
long crowd of knights and gentlemen, whose rank and birth, however
distinguished, were thrown into shade, as their persons into the rear of
a procession whose front was of such august majesty.

Thus marshalled, the cavalcade approached the Gallery-tower, which
formed, as we have often observed, the extreme barrier of the Castle.

It was now the part of the huge porter to step forward; but the lubbard
was so overwhelmed with confusion of spirit--the contents of one immense
black jack of double ale, which he had just drunk to quicken his memory,
having treacherously confused the brain it was intended to clear--that
he only groaned piteously, and remained sitting on his stone seat; and
the Queen would have passed on without greeting, had not the gigantic
warder’s secret ally, Flibbertigibbet, who lay perdue behind him, thrust
a pin into the rear of the short femoral garment which we elsewhere
described.

The porter uttered a sort of yell, which came not amiss into his part,
started up with his club, and dealt a sound douse or two on each side
of him; and then, like a coach-horse pricked by the spur, started off
at once into the full career of his address, and by dint of active
prompting on the part of Dickie Sludge, delivered, in sounds of gigantic
intonation, a speech which may be thus abridged--the reader being to
suppose that the first lines were addressed to the throng who approached
the gateway; the conclusion, at the approach of the Queen, upon sight of
whom, as struck by some heavenly vision, the gigantic warder dropped his
club, resigned his keys, and gave open way to the Goddess of the night,
and all her magnificent train.


     “What stir, what turmoil, have we for the nones?
     Stand back, my masters, or beware your bones!
     Sirs, I’m a warder, and no man of straw,
     My voice keeps order, and my club gives law.

     Yet soft--nay, stay--what vision have we here?
     What dainty darling’s this--what peerless peer?
     What loveliest face, that loving ranks unfold,
     Like brightest diamond chased in purest gold?
     Dazzled and blind, mine office I forsake,
     My club, my key, my knee, my homage take.
     Bright paragon, pass on in joy and bliss;--
     Beshrew the gate that opes not wide at such a sight as this!”

     [This is an imitation of Gascoigne’s verses spoken by the
     Herculean porter, as mentioned in the text.  The original may be
     found in the republication of the Princely Pleasures of
     Kenilworth, by the same author, in the History of Kenilworth
     already quoted.  Chiswick, 1821.]

Elizabeth received most graciously the homage of the Herculean porter,
and, bending her head to him in requital, passed through his guarded
tower, from the top of which was poured a clamorous blast of warlike
music, which was replied to by other bands of minstrelsy placed at
different points on the Castle walls, and by others again stationed
in the Chase; while the tones of the one, as they yet vibrated on
the echoes, were caught up and answered by new harmony from different
quarters.

Amidst these bursts of music, which, as if the work of enchantment,
seemed now close at hand, now softened by distant space, now wailing so
low and sweet as if that distance were gradually prolonged until only
the last lingering strains could reach the ear, Queen Elizabeth crossed
the Gallery-tower, and came upon the long bridge, which extended from
thence to Mortimer’s Tower, and which was already as light as day, so
many torches had been fastened to the palisades on either side. Most
of the nobles here alighted, and sent their horses to the neighbouring
village of Kenilworth, following the Queen on foot, as did the gentlemen
who had stood in array to receive her at the Gallery-tower.

On this occasion, as at different times during the evening, Raleigh
addressed himself to Tressilian, and was not a little surprised at
his vague and unsatisfactory answers; which, joined to his leaving his
apartment without any assigned reason, appearing in an undress when
it was likely to be offensive to the Queen, and some other symptoms of
irregularity which he thought he discovered, led him to doubt whether
his friend did not labour under some temporary derangement.

Meanwhile, the Queen had no sooner stepped on the bridge than a new
spectacle was provided; for as soon as the music gave signal that she
was so far advanced, a raft, so disposed as to resemble a small floating
island, illuminated by a great variety of torches, and surrounded by
floating pageants formed to represent sea-horses, on which sat Tritons,
Nereids, and other fabulous deities of the seas and rivers, made its
appearance upon the lake, and issuing from behind a small heronry where
it had been concealed, floated gently towards the farther end of the
bridge.

On the islet appeared a beautiful woman, clad in a watchet-coloured
silken mantle, bound with a broad girdle inscribed with characters like
the phylacteries of the Hebrews. Her feet and arms were bare, but her
wrists and ankles were adorned with gold bracelets of uncommon size.
Amidst her long, silky black hair she wore a crown or chaplet of
artificial mistletoe, and bore in her hand a rod of ebony tipped with
silver. Two Nymphs attended on her, dressed in the same antique and
mystical guise.

The pageant was so well managed that this Lady of the Floating Island,
having performed her voyage with much picturesque effect, landed at
Mortimer’s Tower with her two attendants just as Elizabeth presented
herself before that outwork. The stranger then, in a well-penned speech,
announced herself as that famous Lady of the Lake renowned in the
stories of King Arthur, who had nursed the youth of the redoubted Sir
Lancelot, and whose beauty ‘had proved too powerful both for the wisdom
and the spells of the mighty Merlin. Since that early period she had
remained possessed of her crystal dominions, she said, despite the
various men of fame and might by whom Kenilworth had been successively
tenanted. ‘The Saxons, the Danes, the Normans, the Saintlowes, the
Clintons, the Montforts, the Mortimers, the Plantagenets, great though
they were in arms and magnificence, had never, she said, caused her
to raise her head from the waters which hid her crystal palace. But a
greater than all these great names had now appeared, and she came in
homage and duty to welcome the peerless Elizabeth to all sport which the
Castle and its environs, which lake or land, could afford.

The Queen received this address also with great courtesy, and made
answer in raillery, “We thought this lake had belonged to our own
dominions, fair dame; but since so famed a lady claims it for hers,
we will be glad at some other time to have further communing with you
touching our joint interests.”

With this gracious answer the Lady of the Lake vanished, and Arion,
who was amongst the maritime deities, appeared upon his dolphin. But
Lambourne, who had taken upon him the part in the absence of Wayland,
being chilled with remaining immersed in an element to which he was not
friendly, having never got his speech by heart, and not having, like the
porter, the advantage of a prompter, paid it off with impudence, tearing
off his vizard, and swearing, “Cogs bones! he was none of Arion or Orion
either, but honest Mike Lambourne, that had been drinking her Majesty’s
health from morning till midnight, and was come to bid her heartily
welcome to Kenilworth Castle.”

This unpremeditated buffoonery answered the purpose probably better than
the set speech would have done. The Queen laughed heartily, and swore
(in her turn) that he had made the best speech she had heard that day.
Lambourne, who instantly saw his jest had saved his bones, jumped on
shore, gave his dolphin a kick, and declared he would never meddle with
fish again, except at dinner.

At the same time that the Queen was about to enter the Castle, that
memorable discharge of fireworks by water and land took place, which
Master Laneham, formerly introduced to the reader, has strained all his
eloquence to describe.

“Such,” says the Clerk of the Council-chamber door “was the blaze of
burning darts, the gleams of stars coruscant, the streams and hail of
fiery sparks, lightnings of wildfire, and flight-shot of thunderbolts,
with continuance, terror, and vehemency, that the heavens thundered, the
waters surged, and the earth shook; and for my part, hardy as I am, it
made me very vengeably afraid.”

[See Laneham’s Account of the Queen’s Entertainment at Killingworth
Castle, in 1575, a very diverting tract, written by as great a coxcomb
as ever blotted paper. [See Note 6] The original is extremely rare,
but it has been twice reprinted; once in Mr. Nichols’s very curious and
interesting collection of the Progresses and Public Processions of
Queen Elizabeth, vol.i. and more lately in a beautiful antiquarian
publication, termed KENILWORTH ILLUSTRATED, printed at Chiswick, for
Meridew of Coventry and Radcliffe of Birmingham. It contains reprints
of Laneham’s Letter, Gascoigne’s Princely Progress, and other scarce
pieces, annotated with accuracy and ability. The author takes the
liberty to refer to this work as his authority for the account of the
festivities.

I am indebted for a curious ground-plan of the Castle of Kenilworth,
as it existed in Queen Elizabeth’s time, to the voluntary kindness of
Richard Badnall Esq. of Olivebank, near Liverpool. From his obliging
communication, I learn that the original sketch was found among the
manuscripts of the celebrated J. J. Rousseau, when he left England.
These were entrusted by the philosopher to the care of his friend
Mr. Davenport, and passed from his legatee into the possession of Mr.
Badnall.]



CHAPTER XXXI.


     Nay, this is matter for the month of March,
     When hares are maddest.  Either speak in reason,
     Giving cold argument the wall of passion,
     Or I break up the court.      --BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.

It is by no means our purpose to detail minutely all the princely
festivities of Kenilworth, after the fashion of Master Robert Laneham,
whom we quoted in the conclusion of the last chapter. It is sufficient
to say that under discharge of the splendid fireworks, which we
have borrowed Laneham’s eloquence to describe, the Queen entered the
base-court of Kenilworth, through Mortimer’s Tower, and moving on
through pageants of heathen gods and heroes of antiquity, who offered
gifts and compliments on the bended knee, at length found her way to
the Great Hall of the Castle, gorgeously hung for her reception with the
richest silken tapestry, misty with perfumes, and sounding to strains
of soft and delicious music. From the highly-carved oaken roof hung
a superb chandelier of gilt bronze, formed like a spread eagle, whose
outstretched wings supported three male and three female figures,
grasping a pair of branches in each hand. The Hall was thus illuminated
by twenty-four torches of wax. At the upper end of the splendid
apartment was a state canopy, overshadowing a royal throne, and beside
it was a door, which opened to a long suite of apartments, decorated
with the utmost magnificence for the Queen and her ladies, whenever it
should be her pleasure to be private.

The Earl of Leicester having handed the Queen up to her throne, and
seated her there, knelt down before her, and kissing the hand which she
held out, with an air in which romantic and respectful gallantry was
happily mingled with the air of loyal devotion, he thanked her, in terms
of the deepest gratitude, for the highest honour which a sovereign could
render to a subject. So handsome did he look when kneeling before her,
that Elizabeth was tempted to prolong the scene a little longer than
there was, strictly speaking, necessity for; and ere she raised him,
she passed her hand over his head, so near as almost to touch his long,
curled, and perfumed hair, and with a movement of fondness that seemed
to intimate she would, if she dared, have made the motion a slight
caress.

[To justify what may be considered as a high-coloured picture, the
author quotes the original of the courtly and shrewd Sir James Melville,
being then Queen Mary’s envoy at the court of London.

“I was required,” says Sir James, “to stay till I had seen him made
Earle of Leicester, and Baron of Denbigh, with great solemnity; herself
(Elizabeth) helping to put on his ceremonial, he sitting on his knees
before her, keeping a great gravity and a discreet behaviour; but she
could not refrain from putting her hand to his neck to kittle (i.e.,
tickle) him, smilingly, the French Ambassador and I standing beside
her.”--MELVILLE’S MEMOIRS, BANNATYNE EDITION, p. 120.]

She at length raised him, and standing beside the throne, he explained
to her the various preparations which had been made for her amusement
and accommodation, all of which received her prompt and gracious
approbation. The Earl then prayed her Majesty for permission that he
himself, and the nobles who had been in attendance upon her during the
journey, might retire for a few minutes, and put themselves into a guise
more fitting for dutiful attendance, during which space those gentlemen
of worship (pointing to Varney, Blount, Tressilian, and others), who
had already put themselves into fresh attire, would have the honour of
keeping her presence-chamber.

“Be it so, my lord,” answered the Queen; “you could manage a theatre
well, who can thus command a double set of actors. For ourselves, we
will receive your courtesies this evening but clownishly, since it is
not our purpose to change our riding attire, being in effect something
fatigued with a journey which the concourse of our good people hath
rendered slow, though the love they have shown our person hath, at the
same time, made it delightful.”

Leicester, having received this permission, retired accordingly, and
was followed by those nobles who had attended the Queen to Kenilworth
in person. The gentlemen who had preceded them, and were, of course,
dressed for the solemnity, remained in attendance. But being most of
them of rather inferior rank, they remained at an awful distance
from the throne which Elizabeth occupied. The Queen’s sharp eye soon
distinguished Raleigh amongst them, with one or two others who were
personally known to her, and she instantly made them a sign to approach,
and accosted them very graciously. Raleigh, in particular, the adventure
of whose cloak, as well as the incident of the verses, remained on
her mind, was very graciously received; and to him she most frequently
applied for information concerning the names and rank of those who
were in presence. These he communicated concisely, and not without some
traits of humorous satire, by which Elizabeth seemed much amused. “And
who is yonder clownish fellow?” she said, looking at Tressilian, whose
soiled dress on this occasion greatly obscured his good mien.

“A poet, if it please your Grace,” replied Raleigh.

“I might have guessed that from his careless garb,” said Elizabeth.
“I have known some poets so thoughtless as to throw their cloaks into
gutters.”

“It must have been when the sun dazzled both their eyes and their
judgment,” answered Raleigh.

Elizabeth smiled, and proceeded, “I asked that slovenly fellow’s name,
and you only told me his profession.”

“Tressilian is his name,” said Raleigh, with internal reluctance, for
he foresaw nothing favourable to his friend from the manner in which she
took notice of him.

“Tressilian!” answered Elizabeth. “Oh, the Menelaus of our romance. Why,
he has dressed himself in a guise that will go far to exculpate his fair
and false Helen. And where is Farnham, or whatever his name is--my Lord
of Leicester’s man, I mean--the Paris of this Devonshire tale?”

With still greater reluctance Raleigh named and pointed out to her
Varney, for whom the tailor had done all that art could perform in
making his exterior agreeable; and who, if he had not grace, had a sort
of tact and habitual knowledge of breeding, which came in place of it.

The Queen turned her eyes from the one to the other. “I doubt,” she
said, “this same poetical Master Tressilian, who is too learned, I
warrant me, to remember whose presence he was to appear in, may be one
of those of whom Geoffrey Chaucer says wittily, the wisest clerks are
not the wisest men. I remember that Varney is a smooth-tongued varlet. I
doubt this fair runaway hath had reasons for breaking her faith.”

To this Raleigh durst make no answer, aware how little he should benefit
Tressilian by contradicting the Queen’s sentiments, and not at all
certain, on the whole, whether the best thing that could befall him
would not be that she should put an end at once by her authority to this
affair, upon which it seemed to him Tressilian’s thoughts were fixed
with unavailing and distressing pertinacity. As these reflections
passed through his active brain, the lower door of the hall opened, and
Leicester, accompanied by several of his kinsmen, and of the nobles who
had embraced his faction, re-entered the Castle Hall.

The favourite Earl was now apparelled all in white, his shoes being of
white velvet; his under-stocks (or stockings) of knit silk; his upper
stocks of white velvet, lined with cloth of silver, which was shown at
the slashed part of the middle thigh; his doublet of cloth of
silver, the close jerkin of white velvet, embroidered with silver and
seed-pearl, his girdle and the scabbard of his sword of white velvet
with golden buckles; his poniard and sword hilted and mounted with gold;
and over all a rich, loose robe of white satin, with a border of golden
embroidery a foot in breadth. The collar of the Garter, and the azure
garter itself around his knee, completed the appointments of the Earl
of Leicester; which were so well matched by his fair stature, graceful
gesture, fine proportion of body, and handsome countenance, that at that
moment he was admitted by all who saw him as the goodliest person whom
they had ever looked upon. Sussex and the other nobles were also richly
attired, but in point of splendour and gracefulness of mien Leicester
far exceeded them all.

Elizabeth received him with great complacency. “We have one piece of
royal justice,” she said, “to attend to. It is a piece of justice, too,
which interests us as a woman, as well as in the character of mother and
guardian of the English people.”

An involuntary shudder came over Leicester as he bowed low, expressive
of his readiness to receive her royal commands; and a similar cold fit
came over Varney, whose eyes (seldom during that evening removed from
his patron) instantly perceived from the change in his looks, slight as
that was, of what the Queen was speaking. But Leicester had wrought
his resolution up to the point which, in his crooked policy, he judged
necessary; and when Elizabeth added, “it is of the matter of Varney
and Tressilian we speak--is the lady here, my lord?” his answer was
ready--“Gracious madam, she is not.”

Elizabeth bent her brews and compressed her lips. “Our orders were
strict and positive, my lord,” was her answer--

“And should have been obeyed, good my liege,” replied Leicester, “had
they been expressed in the form of the lightest wish. But--Varney, step
forward--this gentleman will inform your Grace of the cause why the
lady” (he could not force his rebellious tongue to utter the words--HIS
WIFE) “cannot attend on your royal presence.”

Varney advanced, and pleaded with readiness, what indeed he firmly
believed, the absolute incapacity of the party (for neither did he dare,
in Leicester’s presence, term her his wife) to wait on her Grace.

“Here,” said he, “are attestations from a most learned physician, whose
skill and honour are well known to my good Lord of Leicester, and from
an honest and devout Protestant, a man of credit and substance, one
Anthony Foster, the gentleman in whose house she is at present bestowed,
that she now labours under an illness which altogether unfits her for
such a journey as betwixt this Castle and the neighbourhood of Oxford.”

“This alters the matter,” said the Queen, taking the certificates in
her hand, and glancing at their contents.--“Let Tressilian come
forward.--Master Tressilian, we have much sympathy for your situation,
the rather that you seem to have set your heart deeply on this Amy
Robsart, or Varney. Our power, thanks to God, and the willing obedience
of a loving people, is worth much, but there are some things which it
cannot compass. We cannot, for example, command the affections of a
giddy young girl, or make her love sense and learning better than a
courtier’s fine doublet; and we cannot control sickness, with which it
seems this lady is afflicted, who may not, by reason of such infirmity,
attend our court here, as we had required her to do. Here are the
testimonials of the physician who hath her under his charge, and the
gentleman in whose house she resides, so setting forth.”

“Under your Majesty’s favour,” said Tressilian hastily, and in his alarm
for the consequence of the imposition practised on the Queen forgetting
in part at least his own promise to Amy, “these certificates speak not
the truth.”

“How, sir!” said the Queen--“impeach my Lord of Leicester’s veracity!
But you shall have a fair hearing. In our presence the meanest of
our subjects shall be heard against the proudest, and the least known
against the most favoured; therefore you shall be heard fairly, but
beware you speak not without a warrant! Take these certificates in your
own hand, look at them carefully, and say manfully if you impugn the
truth of them, and upon what evidence.”

As the Queen spoke, his promise and all its consequences rushed on the
mind of the unfortunate Tressilian, and while it controlled his natural
inclination to pronounce that a falsehood which he knew from the
evidence of his senses to be untrue, gave an indecision and irresolution
to his appearance and utterance which made strongly against him in
the mind of Elizabeth, as well as of all who beheld him. He turned
the papers over and over, as if he had been an idiot, incapable of
comprehending their contents. The Queen’s impatience began to become
visible. “You are a scholar, sir,” she said, “and of some note, as I
have heard; yet you seem wondrous slow in reading text hand. How say
you, are these certificates true or no?”

“Madam,” said Tressilian, with obvious embarrassment and hesitation,
anxious to avoid admitting evidence which he might afterwards have
reason to confute, yet equally desirous to keep his word to Amy, and to
give her, as he had promised, space to plead her own cause in her own
way--“Madam--Madam, your Grace calls on me to admit evidence which ought
to be proved valid by those who found their defence upon them.”

“Why, Tressilian, thou art critical as well as poetical,” said the
Queen, bending on him a brow of displeasure; “methinks these writings,
being produced in the presence of the noble Earl to whom this Castle
pertains, and his honour being appealed to as the guarantee of their
authenticity, might be evidence enough for thee. But since thou listest
to be so formal--Varney, or rather my Lord of Leicester, for the affair
becomes yours” (these words, though spoken at random, thrilled through
the Earl’s marrow and bones), “what evidence have you as touching these
certificates?”

Varney hastened to reply, preventing Leicester--“So please your Majesty,
my young Lord of Oxford, who is here in presence, knows Master Anthony
Foster’s hand and his character.”

The Earl of Oxford, a young unthrift, whom Foster had more than once
accommodated with loans on usurious interest, acknowledged, on this
appeal, that he knew him as a wealthy and independent franklin, supposed
to be worth much money, and verified the certificate produced to be his
handwriting.

“And who speaks to the Doctor’s certificate?” said the Queen. “Alasco,
methinks, is his name.”

Masters, her Majesty’s physician (not the less willingly that he
remembered his repulse from Sayes Court, and thought that his present
testimony might gratify Leicester, and mortify the Earl of Sussex and
his faction), acknowledged he had more than once consulted with Doctor
Alasco, and spoke of him as a man of extraordinary learning and hidden
acquirements, though not altogether in the regular course of practice.
The Earl of Huntingdon, Lord Leicester’s brother-in-law, and the old
Countess of Rutland, next sang his praises, and both remembered the
thin, beautiful Italian hand in which he was wont to write his receipts,
and which corresponded to the certificate produced as his.

“And now, I trust, Master Tressilian, this matter is ended,” said the
Queen. “We will do something ere the night is older to reconcile old Sir
Hugh Robsart to the match. You have done your duty something more than
boldly; but we were no woman had we not compassion for the wounds which
true love deals, so we forgive your audacity, and your uncleansed
boots withal, which have well-nigh overpowered my Lord of Leicester’s
perfumes.”

So spoke Elizabeth, whose nicety of scent was one of the characteristics
of her organization, as appeared long afterwards when she expelled Essex
from her presence, on a charge against his boots similar to that which
she now expressed against those of Tressilian.

But Tressilian had by this time collected himself, astonished as he had
at first been by the audacity of the falsehood so feasibly supported,
and placed in array against the evidence of his own eyes. He rushed
forward, kneeled down, and caught the Queen by the skirt of her robe.
“As you are Christian woman,” he said, “madam, as you are crowned Queen,
to do equal justice among your subjects--as you hope yourself to have
fair hearing (which God grant you) at that last bar at which we must all
plead, grant me one small request! Decide not this matter so hastily.
Give me but twenty-four hours’ interval, and I will, at the end of that
brief space, produce evidence which will show to demonstration that
these certificates, which state this unhappy lady to be now ill at ease
in Oxfordshire, are false as hell!”

“Let go my train, sir!” said Elizabeth, who was startled at his
vehemence, though she had too much of the lion in her to fear; “the
fellow must be distraught. That witty knave, my godson Harrington, must
have him into his rhymes of Orlando Furioso! And yet, by this light,
there is something strange in the vehemence of his demand.--Speak,
Tressilian, what wilt thou do if, at the end of these four-and-twenty
hours, thou canst not confute a fact so solemnly proved as this lady’s
illness?”

“I will lay down my head on the block,” answered Tressilian.

“Pshaw!” replied the Queen, “God’s light! thou speakest like a fool.
What head falls in England but by just sentence of English law? I ask
thee, man--if thou hast sense to understand me--wilt thou, if thou
shalt fail in this improbable attempt of thine, render me a good and
sufficient reason why thou dost undertake it?”

Tressilian paused, and again hesitated; because he felt convinced that
if, within the interval demanded, Amy should become reconciled to her
husband, he would in that case do her the worst of offices by again
ripping up the whole circumstances before Elizabeth, and showing
how that wise and jealous princess had been imposed upon by false
testimonials. The consciousness of this dilemma renewed his extreme
embarrassment of look, voice, and manner; he hesitated, looked down, and
on the Queen repeating her question with a stern voice and flashing
eye, he admitted with faltering words, “That it might be--he could not
positively--that is, in certain events--explain the reasons and grounds
on which he acted.”

“Now, by the soul of King Henry,” said the Queen, “this is either
moonstruck madness or very knavery!--Seest thou, Raleigh, thy friend is
far too Pindaric for this presence. Have him away, and make us quit of
him, or it shall be the worse for him; for his flights are too unbridled
for any place but Parnassus, or Saint Luke’s Hospital. But come back
instantly thyself, when he is placed under fitting restraint.--We wish
we had seen the beauty which could make such havoc in a wise man’s
brain.”

Tressilian was again endeavouring to address the Queen, when Raleigh, in
obedience to the orders he had received, interfered, and with Blount’s
assistance, half led, half forced him out of the presence-chamber, where
he himself indeed began to think his appearance did his cause more harm
than good.

When they had attained the antechamber, Raleigh entreated Blount to see
Tressilian safely conducted into the apartments allotted to the Earl of
Sussex’s followers, and, if necessary, recommended that a guard should
be mounted on him.

“This extravagant passion,” he said, “and, as it would seem, the news of
the lady’s illness, has utterly wrecked his excellent judgment. But it
will pass away if he be kept quiet. Only let him break forth again at
no rate; for he is already far in her Highness’s displeasure, and
should she be again provoked, she will find for him a worse place of
confinement, and sterner keepers.”

“I judged as much as that he was mad,” said Nicholas Blount, looking
down upon his own crimson stockings and yellow roses, “whenever I saw
him wearing yonder damned boots, which stunk so in her nostrils. I will
but see him stowed, and be back with you presently. But, Walter, did the
Queen ask who I was?--methought she glanced an eye at me.”

“Twenty--twenty eye-glances she sent! and I told her all--how thou wert
a brave soldier, and a--But for God’s sake, get off Tressilian!”

“I will--I will,” said Blount; “but methinks this court-haunting is no
such bad pastime, after all. We shall rise by it, Walter, my brave lad.
Thou saidst I was a good soldier, and a--what besides, dearest Walter?”

“An all unutterable-codshead. For God’s sake, begone!”

Tressilian, without further resistance or expostulation followed, or
rather suffered himself to be conducted by Blount to Raleigh’s lodging,
where he was formally installed into a small truckle-bed placed in a
wardrobe, and designed for a domestic. He saw but too plainly that
no remonstrances would avail to procure the help or sympathy of his
friends, until the lapse of the time for which he had pledged himself
to remain inactive should enable him either to explain the whole
circumstances to them, or remove from him every pretext or desire of
further interference with the fortunes of Amy, by her having found means
to place herself in a state of reconciliation with her husband.

With great difficulty, and only by the most patient and mild
remonstrances with Blount, he escaped the disgrace and mortification of
having two of Sussex’s stoutest yeomen quartered in his apartment.
At last, however, when Nicholas had seen him fairly deposited in his
truckle-bed, and had bestowed one or two hearty kicks, and as hearty
curses, on the boots, which, in his lately acquired spirit of foppery,
he considered as a strong symptom, if not the cause, of his friend’s
malady, he contented himself with the modified measure of locking the
door on the unfortunate Tressilian, whose gallant and disinterested
efforts to save a female who had treated him with ingratitude thus
terminated for the present in the displeasure of his Sovereign and the
conviction of his friends that he was little better than a madman.



CHAPTER XXXII.


     The wisest Sovereigns err like private men,
     And royal hand has sometimes laid the sword
     Of chivalry upon a worthless shoulder,
     Which better had been branded by the hangman.
     What then?--Kings do their best; and they and we
     Must answer for the intent, and not the event.--OLD PLAY.

“It is a melancholy matter,” said the Queen, when Tressilian was
withdrawn, “to see a wise and learned man’s wit thus pitifully
unsettled. Yet this public display of his imperfection of brain plainly
shows us that his supposed injury and accusation were fruitless; and
therefore, my Lord of Leicester, we remember your suit formerly made
to us in behalf of your faithful servant Varney, whose good gifts and
fidelity, as they are useful to you, ought to have due reward from us,
knowing well that your lordship, and all you have, are so earnestly
devoted to our service. And we render Varney the honour more especially
that we are a guest, and, we fear, a chargeable and troublesome one,
under your lordship’s roof; and also for the satisfaction of the good
old Knight of Devon, Sir Hugh Robsart, whose daughter he hath married,
and we trust the especial mark of grace which we are about to confer may
reconcile him to his son-in-law.--Your sword, my Lord of Leicester.”

The Earl unbuckled his sword, and taking it by the point, presented on
bended knee the hilt to Elizabeth.

She took it slowly drew it from the scabbard, and while the ladies who
stood around turned away their eyes with real or affected shuddering,
she noted with a curious eye the high polish and rich, damasked
ornaments upon the glittering blade.

“Had I been a man,” she said, “methinks none of my ancestors would have
loved a good sword better. As it is with me, I like to look on one, and
could, like the Fairy of whom I have read in some Italian rhymes--were
my godson Harrington here, he could tell me the passage--even trim
my hair, and arrange my head-gear, in such a steel mirror as this
is.--Richard Varney, come forth, and kneel down. In the name of God and
Saint George, we dub thee knight! Be Faithful, Brave, and Fortunate.
Arise, Sir Richard Varney.”


     [The incident alluded to occurs in the poem of Orlando Innamorato
     of Boiardo, libro ii. canto 4, stanza 25.

     “Non era per ventura,” etc.

It may be rendered thus:--


     As then, perchance, unguarded was the tower,
     So enter’d free Anglante’s dauntless knight.
     No monster and no giant guard the bower
     In whose recess reclined the fairy light,
     Robed in a loose cymar of lily white,
     And on her lap a sword of breadth and might,
     In whose broad blade, as in a mirror bright,
     Like maid that trims her for a festal night,
     The fairy deck’d her hair, and placed her coronet aright.

Elizabeth’s attachment to the Italian school of poetry was singularly
manifested on a well-known occasion. Her godson, Sir John Harrington,
having offended her delicacy by translating some of the licentious
passages of the Orlando Furioso, she imposed on him, as a penance, the
task of rendering the WHOLE poem into English.]

Varney arose and retired, making a deep obeisance to the Sovereign who
had done him so much honour.

“The buckling of the spur, and what other rites remain,” said the Queen,
“may be finished to-morrow in the chapel; for we intend Sir Richard
Varney a companion in his honours. And as we must not be partial in
conferring such distinction, we mean on this matter to confer with our
cousin of Sussex.”

That noble Earl, who since his arrival at Kenilworth, and indeed since
the commencement of this Progress, had found himself in a subordinate
situation to Leicester, was now wearing a heavy cloud on his brow; a
circumstance which had not escaped the Queen, who hoped to appease his
discontent, and to follow out her system of balancing policy by a mark
of peculiar favour, the more gratifying as it was tendered at a moment
when his rival’s triumph appeared to be complete.

At the summons of Queen Elizabeth, Sussex hastily approached her person;
and being asked on which of his followers, being a gentleman and of
merit, he would wish the honour of knighthood to be conferred, he
answered, with more sincerity than policy, that he would have ventured
to speak for Tressilian, to whom he conceived he owed his own life, and
who was a distinguished soldier and scholar, besides a man of unstained
lineage, “only,” he said, “he feared the events of that night--” And
then he stopped.

“I am glad your lordship is thus considerate,” said Elizabeth. “The
events of this night would make us, in the eyes of our subjects, as mad
as this poor brain-sick gentleman himself--for we ascribe his conduct to
no malice--should we choose this moment to do him grace.”

“In that case,” said the Earl of Sussex, somewhat discountenanced, “your
Majesty will allow me to name my master of the horse, Master Nicholas
Blount, a gentleman of fair estate and ancient name, who has served your
Majesty both in Scotland and Ireland, and brought away bloody marks on
his person, all honourably taken and requited.”

The Queen could not help shrugging her shoulders slightly even at this
second suggestion; and the Duchess of Rutland, who read in the Queen’s
manner that she had expected that Sussex would have named Raleigh, and
thus would have enabled her to gratify her own wish while she honoured
his recommendation, only waited the Queen’s assent to what he had
proposed, and then said that she hoped, since these two high nobles had
been each permitted to suggest a candidate for the honours of chivalry,
she, in behalf of the ladies in presence, might have a similar
indulgence.

“I were no woman to refuse you such a boon,” said the Queen, smiling.

“Then,” pursued the Duchess, “in the name of these fair ladies present,
I request your Majesty to confer the rank of knighthood on Walter
Raleigh, whose birth, deeds of arms, and promptitude to serve our sex
with sword or pen, deserve such distinction from us all.”

“Gramercy, fair ladies,” said Elizabeth, smiling, “your boon is
granted, and the gentle squire Lack-Cloak shall become the good knight
Lack-Cloak, at your desire. Let the two aspirants for the honour of
chivalry step forward.”

Blount was not as yet returned from seeing Tressilian, as he conceived,
safely disposed of; but Raleigh came forth, and kneeling down, received
at the hand of the Virgin Queen that title of honour, which was never
conferred on a more distinguished or more illustrious object.

Shortly afterwards Nicholas Blount entered, and hastily apprised by
Sussex, who met him at the door of the hall, of the Queen’s gracious
purpose regarding him, he was desired to advance towards the throne. It
is a sight sometimes seen, and it is both ludicrous and pitiable; when
an honest man of plain common sense is surprised, by the coquetry of a
pretty woman, or any other cause, into those frivolous fopperies
which only sit well upon the youthful, the gay, and those to whom long
practice has rendered them a second nature. Poor Blount was in this
situation. His head was already giddy from a consciousness of unusual
finery, and the supposed necessity of suiting his manners to the gaiety
of his dress; and now this sudden view of promotion altogether completed
the conquest of the newly inhaled spirit of foppery over his natural
disposition, and converted a plain, honest, awkward man into a coxcomb
of a new and most ridiculous kind.

The knight-expectant advanced up the hall, the whole length of which he
had unfortunately to traverse, turning out his toes with so much zeal
that he presented his leg at every step with its broadside foremost,
so that it greatly resembled an old-fashioned table-knife with a curved
point, when seen sideways. The rest of his gait was in proportion
to this unhappy amble; and the implied mixture of bashful rear and
self-satisfaction was so unutterably ridiculous that Leicester’s friends
did not suppress a titter, in which many of Sussex’s partisans
were unable to resist joining, though ready to eat their nails with
mortification. Sussex himself lost all patience, and could not forbear
whispering into the ear of his friend, “Curse thee! canst thou not walk
like a man and a soldier?” an interjection which only made honest Blount
start and stop, until a glance at his yellow roses and crimson stockings
restored his self-confidence, when on he went at the same pace as
before.

The Queen conferred on poor Blount the honour of knighthood with a
marked sense of reluctance. That wise Princess was fully aware of the
propriety of using great circumspection and economy in bestowing those
titles of honour, which the Stewarts, who succeeded to her throne,
distributed with an imprudent liberality which greatly diminished their
value. Blount had no sooner arisen and retired than she turned to the
Duchess of Rutland. “Our woman wit,” she said, “dear Rutland, is sharper
than that of those proud things in doublet and hose. Seest thou, out of
these three knights, thine is the only true metal to stamp chivalry’s
imprint upon?”

“Sir Richard Varney, surely--the friend of my Lord of Leicester--surely
he has merit,” replied the Duchess.

“Varney has a sly countenance and a smooth tongue,” replied the Queen;
“I fear me he will prove a knave. But the promise was of ancient
standing. My Lord of Sussex must have lost his own wits, I think, to
recommend to us first a madman like Tressilian, and then a clownish fool
like this other fellow. I protest, Rutland, that while he sat on his
knees before me, mopping and mowing as if he had scalding porridge in
his mouth, I had much ado to forbear cutting him over the pate, instead
of striking his shoulder.”

“Your Majesty gave him a smart ACCOLADE,” said the Duchess; “we who
stood behind heard the blade clatter on his collar-bone, and the poor
man fidgeted too as if he felt it.”

“I could not help it, wench,” said the Queen, laughing. “But we will
have this same Sir Nicholas sent to Ireland or Scotland, or somewhere,
to rid our court of so antic a chevalier; he may be a good soldier in
the field, though a preposterous ass in a banqueting-hall.”

The discourse became then more general, and soon after there was a
summons to the banquet.

In order to obey this signal, the company were under the necessity of
crossing the inner court of the Castle, that they might reach the new
buildings containing the large banqueting-room, in which preparations
for supper were made upon a scale of profuse magnificence, corresponding
to the occasion.

The livery cupboards were loaded with plate of the richest description,
and the most varied--some articles tasteful, some perhaps grotesque, in
the invention and decoration, but all gorgeously magnificent, both from
the richness of the work and value of the materials. Thus the chief
table was adorned by a salt, ship-fashion, made of mother-of-pearl,
garnished with silver and divers warlike ensigns and other ornaments,
anchors, sails, and sixteen pieces of ordnance. It bore a figure of
Fortune, placed on a globe, with a flag in her hand. Another salt was
fashioned of silver, in form of a swan in full sail. That chivalry might
not be omitted amid this splendour, a silver Saint George was presented,
mounted and equipped in the usual fashion in which he bestrides the
dragon. The figures were moulded to be in some sort useful. The horse’s
tail was managed to hold a case of knives, while the breast of the
dragon presented a similar accommodation for oyster knives.

In the course of the passage from the hall of reception to the
banqueting-room, and especially in the courtyard, the new-made knights
were assailed by the heralds, pursuivants, minstrels, etc., with the
usual cry of LARGESSE, LARGESSE, CHEVALIERS TRES HARDIS! an ancient
invocation, intended to awaken the bounty of the acolytes of chivalry
towards those whose business it was to register their armorial bearings,
and celebrate the deeds by which they were illustrated. The call was,
of course, liberally and courteously answered by those to whom it was
addressed. Varney gave his largesse with an affectation of complaisance
and humility. Raleigh bestowed his with the graceful ease peculiar to
one who has attained his own place, and is familiar with its dignity.
Honest Blount gave what his tailor had left him of his half-year’s rent,
dropping some pieces in his hurry, then stooping down to look for them,
and then distributing them amongst the various claimants, with the
anxious face and mien of the parish beadle dividing a dole among
paupers.

The donations were accepted with the usual clamour and VIVATS of
applause common on such occasions; but as the parties gratified were
chiefly dependants of Lord Leicester, it was Varney whose name
was repeated with the loudest acclamations. Lambourne, especially,
distinguished himself by his vociferations of “Long life to Sir Richard
Varney!--Health and honour to Sir Richard!--Never was a more worthy
knight dubbed!”--then, suddenly sinking his voice, he added--“since the
valiant Sir Pandarus of Troy,”--a winding-up of his clamorous applause
which set all men a-laughing who were within hearing of it.

It is unnecessary to say anything further of the festivities of the
evening, which were so brilliant in themselves, and received with such
obvious and willing satisfaction by the Queen, that Leicester retired
to his own apartment with all the giddy raptures of successful ambition.
Varney, who had changed his splendid attire, and now waited on his
patron in a very modest and plain undress, attended to do the honours of
the Earl’s COUCHER.

“How! Sir Richard,” said Leicester, smiling, “your new rank scarce suits
the humility of this attendance.”

“I would disown that rank, my Lord,” said Varney, “could I think it was
to remove me to a distance from your lordship’s person.”

“Thou art a grateful fellow,” said Leicester; “but I must not allow you
to do what would abate you in the opinion of others.”

While thus speaking, he still accepted without hesitation the offices
about his person, which the new-made knight seemed to render as eagerly
as if he had really felt, in discharging the task, that pleasure which
his words expressed.

“I am not afraid of men’s misconstruction,” he said, in answer to
Leicester’s remark, “since there is not--(permit me to undo the
collar)--a man within the Castle who does not expect very soon to see
persons of a rank far superior to that which, by your goodness, I now
hold, rendering the duties of the bedchamber to you, and accounting it
an honour.”

“It might, indeed, so have been”--said the Earl, with an involuntary
sigh; and then presently added, “My gown, Varney; I will look out on the
night. Is not the moon near to the full?”

“I think so, my lord, according to the calendar,” answered Varney.

There was an abutting window, which opened on a small projecting balcony
of stone, battlemented as is usual in Gothic castles. The Earl undid the
lattice, and stepped out into the open air. The station he had chosen
commanded an extensive view of the lake and woodlands beyond, where the
bright moonlight rested on the clear blue waters and the distant masses
of oak and elm trees. The moon rode high in the heavens, attended by
thousands and thousands of inferior luminaries. All seemed already to
be hushed in the nether world, excepting occasionally the voice of the
watch (for the yeomen of the guard performed that duty wherever the
Queen was present in person) and the distant baying of the hounds,
disturbed by the preparations amongst the grooms and prickers for a
magnificent hunt, which was to be the amusement of the next day.

Leicester looked out on the blue arch of heaven, with gestures and a
countenance expressive of anxious exultation, while Varney, who remained
within the darkened apartment, could (himself unnoticed), with a
secret satisfaction, see his patron stretch his hands with earnest
gesticulation towards the heavenly bodies.

“Ye distant orbs of living fire,” so ran the muttered invocation of the
ambitious Earl, “ye are silent while you wheel your mystic rounds; but
Wisdom has given to you a voice. Tell me, then, to what end is my high
course destined? Shall the greatness to which I have aspired be bright,
pre-eminent, and stable as your own; or am I but doomed to draw a brief
and glittering train along the nightly darkness, and then to sink down
to earth, like the base refuse of those artificial fires with which men
emulate your rays?”

He looked on the heavens in profound silence for a minute or two longer,
and then again stepped into the apartment, where Varney seemed to have
been engaged in putting the Earl’s jewels into a casket.

“What said Alasco of my horoscope?” demanded Leicester. “You already
told me; but it has escaped me, for I think but lightly of that art.”

“Many learned and great men have thought otherwise,” said Varney; “and,
not to flatter your lordship, my own opinion leans that way.”

“Ay, Saul among the prophets?” said Leicester. “I thought thou wert
sceptical in all such matters as thou couldst neither see, hear, smell,
taste, or touch, and that thy belief was limited by thy senses.”

“Perhaps, my lord,” said Varney, “I may be misled on the present
occasion by my wish to find the predictions of astrology true. Alasco
says that your favourite planet is culminating, and that the adverse
influence--he would not use a plainer term--though not overcome, was
evidently combust, I think he said, or retrograde.”

“It is even so,” said Leicester, looking at an abstract of astrological
calculations which he had in his hand; “the stronger influence will
prevail, and, as I think, the evil hour pass away. Lend me your hand,
Sir Richard, to doff my gown; and remain an instant, if it is not
too burdensome to your knighthood, while I compose myself to sleep.
I believe the bustle of this day has fevered my blood, for it streams
through my veins like a current of molten lead. Remain an instant, I
pray you--I would fain feel my eyes heavy ere I closed them.”

Varney officiously assisted his lord to bed, and placed a massive silver
night-lamp, with a short sword, on a marble table which stood close by
the head of the couch. Either in order to avoid the light of the lamp,
or to hide his countenance from Varney, Leicester drew the curtain,
heavy with entwined silk and gold, so as completely to shade his face.
Varney took a seat near the bed, but with his back towards his master,
as if to intimate that he was not watching him, and quietly waited
till Leicester himself led the way to the topic by which his mind was
engrossed.

“And so, Varney,” said the Earl, after waiting in vain till his
dependant should commence the conversation, “men talk of the Queen’s
favour towards me?”

“Ay, my good lord,” said Varney; “of what can they else, since it is so
strongly manifested?”

“She is indeed my good and gracious mistress,” said Leicester, after
another pause; “but it is written, ‘Put not thy trust in princes.’”

“A good sentence and a true,” said Varney, “unless you can unite their
interest with yours so absolutely that they must needs sit on your wrist
like hooded hawks.”

“I know what thou meanest,” said Leicester impatiently, “though thou art
to-night so prudentially careful of what thou sayest to me. Thou wouldst
intimate I might marry the Queen if I would?”

“It is your speech, my lord, not mine,” answered Varney; “but
whosesoever be the speech, it is the thought of ninety-nine out of an
hundred men throughout broad England.”

“Ay, but,” said Leicester, turning himself in his bed, “the hundredth
man knows better. Thou, for example, knowest the obstacle that cannot be
overleaped.”

“It must, my lord, if the stars speak true,” said Varney composedly.

“What, talkest thou of them,” said Leicester, “that believest not in
them or in aught else?”

“You mistake, my lord, under your gracious pardon,” said Varney; “I
believe in many things that predict the future. I believe, if showers
fall in April, that we shall have flowers in May; that if the sun
shines, grain will ripen; and I believe in much natural philosophy to
the same effect, which, if the stars swear to me, I will say the stars
speak the truth. And in like manner, I will not disbelieve that which
I see wished for and expected on earth, solely because the astrologers
have read it in the heavens.”

“Thou art right,” said Leicester, again tossing himself on his couch
“Earth does wish for it. I have had advices from the reformed churches
of Germany--from the Low Countries--from Switzerland--urging this as a
point on which Europe’s safety depends. France will not oppose it. The
ruling party in Scotland look to it as their best security. Spain fears
it, but cannot prevent it. And yet thou knowest it is impossible.”

“I know not that, my lord,” said Varney; “the Countess is indisposed.”

“Villain!” said Leicester, starting up on his couch, and seizing
the sword which lay on the table beside him, “go thy thoughts that
way?--thou wouldst not do murder?”

“For whom, or what, do you hold me, my lord?” said Varney, assuming the
superiority of an innocent man subjected to unjust suspicion. “I said
nothing to deserve such a horrid imputation as your violence infers. I
said but that the Countess was ill. And Countess though she be--lovely
and beloved as she is--surely your lordship must hold her to be mortal?
She may die, and your lordship’s hand become once more your own.”

“Away! away!” said Leicester; “let me have no more of this.”

“Good night, my lord,” said Varney, seeming to understand this as a
command to depart; but Leicester’s voice interrupted his purpose.

“Thou ‘scapest me not thus, Sir Fool,” said he; “I think thy knighthood
has addled thy brains. Confess thou hast talked of impossibilities as of
things which may come to pass.”

“My lord, long live your fair Countess,” said Varney; “but neither your
love nor my good wishes can make her immortal. But God grant she live
long to be happy herself, and to render you so! I see not but you may be
King of England notwithstanding.”

“Nay, now, Varney, thou art stark mad,” said Leicester.

“I would I were myself within the same nearness to a good estate of
freehold,” said Varney. “Have we not known in other countries how
a left-handed marriage might subsist betwixt persons of differing
degree?--ay, and be no hindrance to prevent the husband from conjoining
himself afterwards with a more suitable partner?”

“I have heard of such things in Germany,” said Leicester.

“Ay, and the most learned doctors in foreign universities justify the
practice from the Old Testament,” said Varney. “And after all, where is
the harm? The beautiful partner whom you have chosen for true love has
your secret hours of relaxation and affection. Her fame is safe her
conscience may slumber securely. You have wealth to provide royally for
your issue, should Heaven bless you with offspring. Meanwhile you may
give to Elizabeth ten times the leisure, and ten thousand times the
affection, that ever Don Philip of Spain spared to her sister Mary; yet
you know how she doted on him though so cold and neglectful. It requires
but a close mouth and an open brow, and you keep your Eleanor and your
fair Rosamond far enough separate. Leave me to build you a bower to
which no jealous Queen shall find a clew.”

Leicester was silent for a moment, then sighed, and said, “It is
impossible. Good night, Sir Richard Varney--yet stay. Can you guess what
meant Tressilian by showing himself in such careless guise before the
Queen to-day?--to strike her tender heart, I should guess, with all
the sympathies due to a lover abandoned by his mistress and abandoning
himself.”

Varney, smothering a sneering laugh, answered, “He believed Master
Tressilian had no such matter in his head.”

“How!” said Leicester; “what meanest thou? There is ever knavery in that
laugh of thine, Varney.”

“I only meant, my lord,” said Varney, “that Tressilian has taken the
sure way to avoid heart-breaking. He hath had a companion--a female
companion--a mistress--a sort of player’s wife or sister, as I
believe--with him in Mervyn’s Bower, where I quartered him for certain
reasons of my own.”

“A mistress!--meanest thou a paramour?”

“Ay, my lord; what female else waits for hours in a gentleman’s
chamber?”

“By my faith, time and space fitting, this were a good tale to tell,”
 said Leicester. “I ever distrusted those bookish, hypocritical,
seeming-virtuous scholars. Well--Master Tressilian makes somewhat
familiar with my house; if I look it over, he is indebted to it for
certain recollections. I would not harm him more than I can help. Keep
eye on him, however, Varney.”

“I lodged him for that reason,” said Varney, “in Mervyn’s Tower, where
he is under the eye of my very vigilant, if he were not also my very
drunken, servant, Michael Lambourne, whom I have told your Grace of.”

“Grace!” said Leicester; “what meanest thou by that epithet?”

“It came unawares, my lord; and yet it sounds so very natural that I
cannot recall it.”

“It is thine own preferment that hath turned thy brain,” said Leicester,
laughing; “new honours are as heady as new wine.”

“May your lordship soon have cause to say so from experience,” said
Varney; and wishing his patron good night, he withdrew. [See Note 8.
Furniture of Kenilworth.]



CHAPTER XXXIII.


     Here stands the victim--there the proud betrayer,
     E’en as the hind pull’d down by strangling dogs
     Lies at the hunter’s feet--who courteous proffers
     To some high dame, the Dian of the chase,
     To whom he looks for guerdon, his sharp blade,
     To gash the sobbing throat.       --THE WOODSMAN.

We are now to return to Mervyn’s Bower, the apartment, or rather the
prison, of the unfortunate Countess of Leicester, who for some time kept
within bounds her uncertainty and her impatience. She was aware that, in
the tumult of the day, there might be some delay ere her letter could be
safely conveyed to the hands of Leicester, and that some time more might
elapse ere he could extricate himself from the necessary attendance on
Elizabeth, to come and visit her in her secret bower. “I will not expect
him,” she said, “till night; he cannot be absent from his royal guest,
even to see me. He will, I know, come earlier if it be possible, but I
will not expect him before night.” And yet all the while she did expect
him; and while she tried to argue herself into a contrary belief, each
hasty noise of the hundred which she heard sounded like the hurried step
of Leicester on the staircase, hasting to fold her in his arms.

The fatigue of body which Amy had lately undergone, with the agitation
of mind natural to so cruel a state of uncertainty, began by degrees
strongly to affect her nerves, and she almost feared her total inability
to maintain the necessary self-command through the scenes which might
lie before her. But although spoiled by an over-indulgent system of
education, Amy had naturally a mind of great power, united with a
frame which her share in her father’s woodland exercises had rendered
uncommonly healthy. She summoned to her aid such mental and bodily
resources; and not unconscious how much the issue of her fate might
depend on her own self-possession, she prayed internally for strength of
body and for mental fortitude, and resolved at the same time to yield to
no nervous impulse which might weaken either.

Yet when the great bell of the Castle, which was placed in Caesar’s
Tower, at no great distance from that called Mervyn’s, began to send
its pealing clamour abroad, in signal of the arrival of the royal
procession, the din was so painfully acute to ears rendered nervously
sensitive by anxiety, that she could hardly forbear shrieking with
anguish, in answer to every stunning clash of the relentless peal.

Shortly afterwards, when the small apartment was at once enlightened by
the shower of artificial fires with which the air was suddenly filled,
and which crossed each other like fiery spirits, each bent on his own
separate mission, or like salamanders executing a frolic dance in the
region of the Sylphs, the Countess felt at first as if each rocket shot
close by her eyes, and discharged its sparks and flashes so nigh that
she could feel a sense of the heat. But she struggled against these
fantastic terrors, and compelled herself to arise, stand by the window,
look out, and gaze upon a sight which at another time would have
appeared to her at once captivating and fearful. The magnificent towers
of the Castle were enveloped in garlands of artificial fire, or shrouded
with tiaras of pale smoke. The surface of the lake glowed like molten
iron, while many fireworks (then thought extremely wonderful, though now
common), whose flame continued to exist in the opposing element, dived
and rose, hissed and roared, and spouted fire, like so many dragons of
enchantment sporting upon a burning lake.

Even Amy was for a moment interested by what was to her so new a scene.
“I had thought it magical art,” she said, “but poor Tressilian taught me
to judge of such things as they are. Great God! and may not these idle
splendours resemble my own hoped-for happiness--a single spark, which is
instantly swallowed up by surrounding darkness--a precarious glow,
which rises but for a brief space into the air, that its fall may be the
lower? O Leicester! after all--all that thou hast said--hast sworn--that
Amy was thy love, thy life, can it be that thou art the magician
at whose nod these enchantments arise, and that she sees them as an
outcast, if not a captive?”

The sustained, prolonged, and repeated bursts of music, from so many
different quarters, and at so many varying points of distance, which
sounded as if not the Castle of Kenilworth only, but the whole country
around, had been at once the scene of solemnizing some high national
festival, carried the same oppressive thought still closer to her heart,
while some notes would melt in distant and falling tones, as if in
compassion for her sorrows, and some burst close and near upon her, as
if mocking her misery, with all the insolence of unlimited mirth. “These
sounds,” she said, “are mine--mine, because they are HIS; but I cannot
say, Be still, these loud strains suit me not; and the voice of the
meanest peasant that mingles in the dance would have more power to
modulate the music than the command of her who is mistress of all.”

By degrees the sounds of revelry died away, and the Countess withdrew
from the window at which she had sat listening to them. It was night,
but the moon afforded considerable light in the room, so that Amy was
able to make the arrangement which she judged necessary. There was hope
that Leicester might come to her apartment as soon as the revel in the
Castle had subsided; but there was also risk she might be disturbed by
some unauthorized intruder. She had lost confidence in the key since
Tressilian had entered so easily, though the door was locked on the
inside; yet all the additional security she could think of was to place
the table across the door, that she might be warned by the noise should
any one attempt to enter. Having taken these necessary precautions, the
unfortunate lady withdrew to her couch, stretched herself down on it,
mused in anxious expectation, and counted more than one hour after
midnight, till exhausted nature proved too strong for love, for grief,
for fear, nay, even for uncertainty, and she slept.

Yes, she slept. The Indian sleeps at the stake in the intervals between
his tortures; and mental torments, in like manner, exhaust by long
continuance the sensibility of the sufferer, so that an interval of
lethargic repose must necessarily ensue, ere the pangs which they
inflict can again be renewed.

The Countess slept, then, for several hours, and dreamed that she was
in the ancient house at Cumnor Place, listening for the low whistle with
which Leicester often used to announce his presence in the courtyard
when arriving suddenly on one of his stolen visits. But on this
occasion, instead of a whistle, she heard the peculiar blast of a
bugle-horn, such as her father used to wind on the fall of the stag, and
which huntsmen then called a MORT. She ran, as she thought, to a
window that looked into the courtyard, which she saw filled with men
in mourning garments. The old Curate seemed about to read the funeral
service. Mumblazen, tricked out in an antique dress, like an ancient
herald, held aloft a scutcheon, with its usual decorations of skulls,
cross-bones, and hour-glasses, surrounding a coat-of-arms, of which she
could only distinguish that it was surmounted with an Earl’s coronet.
The old man looked at her with a ghastly smile, and said, “Amy, are they
not rightly quartered?” Just as he spoke, the horns again poured on her
ear the melancholy yet wild strain of the MORT, or death-note, and she
awoke.

The Countess awoke to hear a real bugle-note, or rather the combined
breath of many bugles, sounding not the MORT. but the jolly REVEILLE, to
remind the inmates of the Castle of Kenilworth that the pleasures of the
day were to commence with a magnificent stag-hunting in the neighbouring
Chase. Amy started up from her couch, listened to the sound, saw the
first beams of the summer morning already twinkle through the lattice
of her window, and recollected, with feelings of giddy agony, where she
was, and how circumstanced.

“He thinks not of me,” she said; “he will not come nigh me! A Queen is
his guest, and what cares he in what corner of his huge Castle a wretch
like me pines in doubt, which is fast fading into despair?” At once a
sound at the door, as of some one attempting to open it softly, filled
her with an ineffable mixture of joy and fear; and hastening to remove
the obstacle she had placed against the door, and to unlock it, she had
the precaution to ask! “Is it thou, my love?”

“Yes, my Countess,” murmured a whisper in reply.

She threw open the door, and exclaiming, “Leicester!” flung her arms
around the neck of the man who stood without, muffled in his cloak.

“No--not quite Leicester,” answered Michael Lambourne, for he it was,
returning the caress with vehemence--“not quite Leicester, my lovely and
most loving duchess, but as good a man.”

With an exertion of force, of which she would at another time have
thought herself incapable, the Countess freed herself from the profane
and profaning grasp of the drunken debauchee, and retreated into the
midst of her apartment where despair gave her courage to make a stand.

As Lambourne, on entering, dropped the lap of his cloak from his face,
she knew Varney’s profligate servant, the very last person, excepting
his detested master, by whom she would have wished to be discovered. But
she was still closely muffled in her travelling dress, and as Lambourne
had scarce ever been admitted to her presence at Cumnor Place, her
person, she hoped, might not be so well known to him as his was to her,
owing to Janet’s pointing him frequently out as he crossed the court,
and telling stories of his wickedness. She might have had still greater
confidence in her disguise had her experience enabled her to discover
that he was much intoxicated; but this could scarce have consoled her
for the risk which she might incur from such a character in such a time,
place, and circumstances.

Lambourne flung the door behind him as he entered, and folding his
arms, as if in mockery of the attitude of distraction into which Amy
had thrown herself, he proceeded thus: “Hark ye, most fair Calipolis--or
most lovely Countess of clouts, and divine Duchess of dark corners--if
thou takest all that trouble of skewering thyself together, like a
trussed fowl, that there may be more pleasure in the carving, even save
thyself the labour. I love thy first frank manner the best---like thy
present as little”--(he made a step towards her, and staggered)--“as
little as--such a damned uneven floor as this, where a gentleman may
break his neck if he does not walk as upright as a posture-master on the
tight-rope.”

“Stand back!” said the Countess; “do not approach nearer to me on thy
peril!”

“My peril!--and stand back! Why, how now, madam? Must you have a better
mate than honest Mike Lambourne? I have been in America, girl, where the
gold grows, and have brought off such a load on’t--”

“Good friend,” said the Countess, in great terror at the ruffian’s
determined and audacious manner, “I prithee begone, and leave me.”

“And so I will, pretty one, when we are tired of each other’s
company--not a jot sooner.” He seized her by the arm, while, incapable
of further defence, she uttered shriek upon shriek. “Nay, scream away if
you like it,” said he, still holding her fast; “I have heard the sea
at the loudest, and I mind a squalling woman no more than a miauling
kitten. Damn me! I have heard fifty or a hundred screaming at once, when
there was a town stormed.”

The cries of the Countess, however, brought unexpected aid in the person
of Lawrence Staples, who had heard her exclamations from his apartment
below, and entered in good time to save her from being discovered,
if not from more atrocious violence. Lawrence was drunk also from the
debauch of the preceding night, but fortunately his intoxication had
taken a different turn from that of Lambourne.

“What the devil’s noise is this in the ward?” he said. “What! man and
woman together in the same cell?--that is against rule. I will have
decency under my rule, by Saint Peter of the Fetters!”

“Get thee downstairs, thou drunken beast,” said Lambourne; “seest thou
not the lady and I would be private?”

“Good sir, worthy sir!” said the Countess, addressing the jailer, “do
but save me from him, for the sake of mercy!”

“She speaks fairly,” said the jailer, “and I will take her part. I love
my prisoners; and I have had as good prisoners under my key as they have
had in Newgate or the Compter. And so, being one of my lambkins, as I
say, no one shall disturb her in her pen-fold. So let go the woman: or
I’ll knock your brains out with my keys.”

“I’ll make a blood-pudding of thy midriff first,” answered Lambourne,
laying his left hand on his dagger, but still detaining the Countess by
the arm with his right. “So have at thee, thou old ostrich, whose only
living is upon a bunch of iron keys.”

Lawrence raised the arm of Michael, and prevented him from drawing his
dagger; and as Lambourne struggled and strove to shake him off; the
Countess made a sudden exertion on her side, and slipping her hand
out of the glove on which the ruffian still kept hold, she gained her
liberty, and escaping from the apartment, ran downstairs; while at the
same moment she heard the two combatants fall on the floor with a noise
which increased her terror. The outer wicket offered no impediment to
her flight, having been opened for Lambourne’s admittance; so that she
succeeded in escaping down the stair, and fled into the Pleasance, which
seemed to her hasty glance the direction in which she was most likely to
avoid pursuit.

Meanwhile, Lawrence and Lambourne rolled on the floor of the apartment,
closely grappled together. Neither had, happily, opportunity to draw
their daggers; but Lawrence found space enough to clash his heavy keys
across Michael’s face, and Michael in return grasped the turnkey so
felly by the throat that the blood gushed from nose and mouth, so that
they were both gory and filthy spectacles when one of the other officers
of the household, attracted by the noise of the fray, entered the room,
and with some difficulty effected the separation of the combatants.

“A murrain on you both,” said the charitable mediator, “and especially
on you, Master Lambourne! What the fiend lie you here for, fighting on
the floor like two butchers’ curs in the kennel of the shambles?”

Lambourne arose, and somewhat sobered by the interposition of a third
party, looked with something less than his usual brazen impudence of
visage. “We fought for a wench, an thou must know,” was his reply.

“A wench! Where is she?” said the officer.

“Why, vanished, I think,” said Lambourne, looking around him, “unless
Lawrence hath swallowed her, That filthy paunch of his devours as
many distressed damsels and oppressed orphans as e’er a giant in King
Arthur’s history. They are his prime food; he worries them body, soul,
and substance.”

“Ay, ay! It’s no matter,” said Lawrence, gathering up his huge, ungainly
form from the floor; “but I have had your betters, Master Michael
Lambourne, under the little turn of my forefinger and thumb, and I shall
have thee, before all’s done, under my hatches. The impudence of thy
brow will not always save thy shin-bones from iron, and thy foul,
thirsty gullet from a hempen cord.” The words were no sooner out of his
mouth, when Lambourne again made at him.

“Nay, go not to it again,” said the sewer, “or I will call for him shall
tame you both, and that is Master Varney--Sir Richard, I mean. He is
stirring, I promise you; I saw him cross the court just now.”

“Didst thou, by G--!” said Lambourne, seizing on the basin and ewer
which stood in the apartment. “Nay, then, element, do thy work. I
thought I had enough of thee last night, when I floated about for Orion,
like a cork on a fermenting cask of ale.”

So saying, he fell to work to cleanse from his face and hands the signs
of the fray, and get his apparel into some order.

“What hast thou done to him?” said the sewer, speaking aside to the
jailer; “his face is fearfully swelled.”

“It is but the imprint of the key of my cabinet--too good a mark for
his gallows-face. No man shall abuse or insult my prisoners; they are my
jewels, and I lock them in safe casket accordingly.--And so, mistress,
leave off your wailing.--Why! why, surely, there was a woman here!”

“I think you are all mad this morning,” said the sewer. “I saw no woman
here, nor no man neither in a proper sense, but only two beasts rolling
on the floor.”

“Nay, then I am undone,” said the jailer; “the prison’s broken, that is
all. Kenilworth prison is broken,” he continued, in a tone of maudlin
lamentation, “which was the strongest jail betwixt this and the Welsh
Marches--ay, and a house that has had knights, and earls, and kings
sleeping in it, as secure as if they had been in the Tower of London.
It is broken, the prisoners fled, and the jailer in much danger of being
hanged!”

So saying, he retreated down to his own den to conclude his
lamentations, or to sleep himself sober. Lambourne and the sewer
followed him close; and it was well for them, since the jailer, out of
mere habit, was about to lock the wicket after him, and had they not
been within the reach of interfering, they would have had the pleasure
of being shut up in the turret-chamber, from which the Countess had been
just delivered.

That unhappy lady, as soon as she found herself at liberty, fled, as
we have already mentioned, into the Pleasance. She had seen this
richly-ornamented space of ground from the window of Mervyn’s Tower; and
it occurred to her, at the moment of her escape, that among its numerous
arbours, bowers, fountains, statues, and grottoes, she might find some
recess in which she could lie concealed until she had an opportunity of
addressing herself to a protector, to whom she might communicate as much
as she dared of her forlorn situation, and through whose means she might
supplicate an interview with her husband.

“If I could see my guide,” she thought, “I would learn if he had
delivered my letter. Even did I but see Tressilian, it were better to
risk Dudley’s anger, by confiding my whole situation to one who is the
very soul of honour, than to run the hazard of further insult among the
insolent menials of this ill-ruled place. I will not again venture into
an enclosed apartment. I will wait, I will watch; amidst so many human
beings there must be some kind heart which can judge and compassionate
what mine endures.”

In truth, more than one party entered and traversed the Pleasance. But
they were in joyous groups of four or five persons together, laughing
and jesting in their own fullness of mirth and lightness of heart.

The retreat which she had chosen gave her the easy alternative of
avoiding observation. It was but stepping back to the farthest recess of
a grotto, ornamented with rustic work and moss-seats, and terminated by
a fountain, and she might easily remain concealed, or at her pleasure
discover herself to any solitary wanderer whose curiosity might lead
him to that romantic retirement. Anticipating such an opportunity, she
looked into the clear basin which the silent fountain held up to her
like a mirror, and felt shocked at her own appearance, and doubtful at;
the same time, muffled and disfigured as her disguise made her seem to
herself, whether any female (and it was from the compassion of her own
sex that she chiefly expected sympathy) would engage in conference with
so suspicious an object. Reasoning thus like a woman, to whom external
appearance is scarcely in any circumstances a matter of unimportance,
and like a beauty, who had some confidence in the power of her own
charms, she laid aside her travelling cloak and capotaine hat, and
placed them beside her, so that she could assume them in an instant, ere
one could penetrate from the entrance of the grotto to its extremity, in
case the intrusion of Varney or of Lambourne should render such disguise
necessary. The dress which she wore under these vestments was somewhat
of a theatrical cast, so as to suit the assumed personage of one of the
females who was to act in the pageant, Wayland had found the means
of arranging it thus upon the second day of their journey, having
experienced the service arising from the assumption of such a character
on the preceding day. The fountain, acting both as a mirror and ewer,
afforded Amy the means of a brief toilette, of which she availed herself
as hastily as possible; then took in her hand her small casket of
jewels, in case she might find them useful intercessors, and retiring to
the darkest and most sequestered nook, sat down on a seat of moss,
and awaited till fate should give her some chance of rescue, or of
propitiating an intercessor.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


     Have you not seen the partridge quake,
     Viewing the hawk approaching nigh?
     She cuddles close beneath the brake,
     Afraid to sit, afraid to fly,   --PRIOR.

It chanced, upon that memorable morning, that one of the earliest of
the huntress train, who appeared from her chamber in full array for the
chase, was the Princess for whom all these pleasures were instituted,
England’s Maiden Queen. I know not if it were by chance, or out of the
befitting courtesy due to a mistress by whom he was so much honoured,
that she had scarcely made one step beyond the threshold of her
chamber ere Leicester was by her side, and proposed to her, until the
preparations for the chase had been completed, to view the Pleasance,
and the gardens which it connected with the Castle yard.

To this new scene of pleasures they walked, the Earl’s arm affording his
Sovereign the occasional support which she required, where flights
of steps, then a favourite ornament in a garden, conducted them from
terrace to terrace, and from parterre to parterre. The ladies in
attendance, gifted with prudence, or endowed perhaps with the amiable
desire of acting as they would be done by, did not conceive their duty
to the Queen’s person required them, though they lost not sight of her,
to approach so near as to share, or perhaps disturb, the conversation
betwixt the Queen and the Earl, who was not only her host, but also her
most trusted, esteemed, and favoured servant. They contented themselves
with admiring the grace of this illustrious couple, whose robes of state
were now exchanged for hunting suits, almost equally magnificent.

Elizabeth’s silvan dress, which was of a pale blue silk, with silver
lace and AIGUILLETTES, approached in form to that of the ancient
Amazons, and was therefore well suited at once to her height and to
the dignity of her mien, which her conscious rank and long habits of
authority had rendered in some degree too masculine to be seen to the
best advantage in ordinary female weeds. Leicester’s hunting suit of
Lincoln green, richly embroidered with gold, and crossed by the gay
baldric which sustained a bugle-horn, and a wood-knife instead of a
sword, became its master, as did his other vestments of court or of war.
For such were the perfections of his form and mien, that Leicester was
always supposed to be seen to the greatest advantage in the character
and dress which for the time he represented or wore.

The conversation of Elizabeth and the favourite Earl has not reached
us in detail. But those who watched at some distance (and the eyes of
courtiers and court ladies are right sharp) were of opinion that on no
occasion did the dignity of Elizabeth, in gesture and motion, seem
so decidedly to soften away into a mien expressive of indecision and
tenderness. Her step was not only slow, but even unequal, a thing most
unwonted in her carriage; her looks seemed bent on the ground; and there
was a timid disposition to withdraw from her companion, which external
gesture in females often indicates exactly the opposite tendency in
the secret mind. The Duchess of Rutland, who ventured nearest, was even
heard to aver that she discerned a tear in Elizabeth’s eye and a blush
on her cheek; and still further, “She bent her looks on the ground to
avoid mine,” said the Duchess, “she who, in her ordinary mood, could
look down a lion.” To what conclusion these symptoms led is sufficiently
evident; nor were they probably entirely groundless. The progress of
a private conversation betwixt two persons of different sexes is often
decisive of their fate, and gives it a turn very different perhaps
from what they themselves anticipated. Gallantry becomes mingled with
conversation, and affection and passion come gradually to mix with
gallantry. Nobles, as well as shepherd swains, will, in such a trying
moment, say more than they intended; and Queens, like village maidens,
will listen longer than they should.

Horses in the meanwhile neighed and champed the bits with impatience in
the base-court; hounds yelled in their couples; and yeomen, rangers, and
prickers lamented the exhaling of the dew, which would prevent the scent
from lying. But Leicester had another chase in view--or, to speak more
justly towards him, had become engaged in it without premeditation, as
the high-spirited hunter which follows the cry of the hounds that have
crossed his path by accident. The Queen, an accomplished and handsome
woman, the pride of England, the hope of France and Holland, and the
dread of Spain, had probably listened with more than usual favour to
that mixture of romantic gallantry with which she always loved to be
addressed; and the Earl had, in vanity, in ambition, or in both, thrown
in more and more of that delicious ingredient, until his importunity
became the language of love itself.

“No, Dudley,” said Elizabeth, yet it was with broken accents--“no, I
must be the mother of my people. Other ties, that make the lowly maiden
happy, are denied to her Sovereign. No, Leicester, urge it no more.
Were I as others, free to seek my own happiness, then, indeed--but it
cannot--cannot be. Delay the chase--delay it for half an hour--and leave
me, my lord.”

“How! leave you, madam?” said Leicester,--“has my madness offended you?”

“No, Leicester, not so!” answered the Queen hastily; “but it is madness,
and must not be repeated. Go--but go not far from hence; and meantime
let no one intrude on my privacy.”

While she spoke thus, Dudley bowed deeply, and retired with a slow
and melancholy air. The Queen stood gazing after him, and murmured to
herself, “Were it possible--were it BUT possible!--but no--no; Elizabeth
must be the wife and mother of England alone.”

As she spoke thus, and in order to avoid some one whose step she heard
approaching, the Queen turned into the grotto in which her hapless, and
yet but too successful, rival lay concealed.

The mind of England’s Elizabeth, if somewhat shaken by the agitating
interview to which she had just put a period, was of that firm and
decided character which soon recovers its natural tone. It was like one
of those ancient Druidical monuments called Rocking-stones. The finger
of Cupid, boy as he is painted, could put her feelings in motion; but
the power of Hercules could not have destroyed their equilibrium. As she
advanced with a slow pace towards the inmost extremity of the grotto,
her countenance, ere she had proceeded half the length, had recovered
its dignity of look, and her mien its air of command.

It was then the Queen became aware that a female figure was placed
beside, or rather partly behind, an alabaster column, at the foot of
which arose the pellucid fountain which occupied the inmost recess of
the twilight grotto. The classical mind of Elizabeth suggested the story
of Numa and Egeria, and she doubted not that some Italian sculptor had
here represented the Naiad whose inspirations gave laws to Rome. As she
advanced, she became doubtful whether she beheld a statue, or a form
of flesh and blood. The unfortunate Amy, indeed, remained motionless,
betwixt the desire which she had to make her condition known to one of
her own sex, and her awe for the stately form which approached her,
and which, though her eyes had never before beheld, her fears instantly
suspected to be the personage she really was. Amy had arisen from her
seat with the purpose of addressing the lady who entered the grotto
alone, and, as she at first thought, so opportunely. But when she
recollected the alarm which Leicester had expressed at the Queen’s
knowing aught of their union, and became more and more satisfied that
the person whom she now beheld was Elizabeth herself, she stood with
one foot advanced and one withdrawn, her arms, head, and hands perfectly
motionless, and her cheek as pallid as the alabaster pedestal against
which she leaned. Her dress was of pale sea-green silk, little
distinguished in that imperfect light, and somewhat resembled the
drapery of a Grecian Nymph, such an antique disguise having been thought
the most secure, where so many maskers and revellers were assembled; so
that the Queen’s doubt of her being a living form was well justified by
all contingent circumstances, as well as by the bloodless cheek and the
fixed eye.

Elizabeth remained in doubt, even after she had approached within a few
paces, whether she did not gaze on a statue so cunningly fashioned that
by the doubtful light it could not be distinguished from reality. She
stopped, therefore, and fixed upon this interesting object her princely
look with so much keenness that the astonishment which had kept Amy
immovable gave way to awe, and she gradually cast down her eyes, and
drooped her head under the commanding gaze of the Sovereign. Still,
however, she remained in all respects, saving this slow and profound
inclination of the head, motionless and silent.

From her dress, and the casket which she instinctively held in her hand,
Elizabeth naturally conjectured that the beautiful but mute figure which
she beheld was a performer in one of the various theatrical pageants
which had been placed in different situations to surprise her with their
homage; and that the poor player, overcome with awe at her presence, had
either forgot the part assigned her, or lacked courage to go through
it. It was natural and courteous to give her some encouragement; and
Elizabeth accordingly said, in a tone of condescending kindness, “How
now, fair Nymph of this lovely grotto, art thou spell-bound and struck
with dumbness by the charms of the wicked enchanter whom men term Fear?
We are his sworn enemy, maiden, and can reverse his charm. Speak, we
command thee.”

Instead of answering her by speech, the unfortunate Countess dropped
on her knee before the Queen, let her casket fall from her hand, and
clasping her palms together, looked up in the Queen’s face with such a
mixed agony of fear and supplication, that Elizabeth was considerably
affected.

“What may this mean?” she said; “this is a stronger passion than befits
the occasion. Stand up, damsel--what wouldst thou have with us?”

“Your protection, madam,” faltered forth the unhappy petitioner.

“Each daughter of England has it while she is worthy of it,” replied the
Queen; “but your distress seems to have a deeper root than a forgotten
task. Why, and in what, do you crave our protection?”

Amy hastily endeavoured to recall what she were best to say, which might
secure herself from the imminent dangers that surrounded her, without
endangering her husband; and plunging from one thought to another,
amidst the chaos which filled her mind, she could at length, in answer
to the Queen’s repeated inquiries in what she sought protection, only
falter out, “Alas! I know not.”

“This is folly, maiden,” said Elizabeth impatiently; for there was
something in the extreme confusion of the suppliant which irritated her
curiosity, as well as interested her feelings. “The sick man must tell
his malady to the physician; nor are WE accustomed to ask questions so
oft without receiving an answer.”

“I request--I implore,” stammered forth the unfortunate Countess--“I
beseech your gracious protection--against--against one Varney.” She
choked well-nigh as she uttered the fatal word, which was instantly
caught up by the Queen.

“What, Varney--Sir Richard Varney--the servant of Lord Leicester! what,
damsel, are you to him, or he to you?”

“I--I--was his prisoner--and he practised on my life--and I broke forth
to--to--”

“To throw thyself on my protection, doubtless,” said Elizabeth. “Thou
shalt have it--that is, if thou art worthy; for we will sift this matter
to the uttermost. Thou art,” she said, bending on the Countess an eye
which seemed designed to pierce her very inmost soul--“thou art Amy,
daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart of Lidcote Hall?”

“Forgive me--forgive me, most gracious Princess!” said Amy, dropping
once more on her knee, from which she had arisen.

“For what should I forgive thee, silly wench?” said Elizabeth; “for
being the daughter of thine own father? Thou art brain-sick, surely.
Well I see I must wring the story from thee by inches. Thou didst
deceive thine old and honoured father--thy look confesses it--cheated
Master Tressilian--thy blush avouches it--and married this same Varney.”

Amy sprung on her feet, and interrupted the Queen eagerly with, “No,
madam, no! as there is a God above us, I am not the sordid wretch you
would make me! I am not the wife of that contemptible slave--of that
most deliberate villain! I am not the wife of Varney! I would rather be
the bride of Destruction!”

The Queen, overwhelmed in her turn by Amy’s vehemence, stood silent for
an instant, and then replied, “Why, God ha’ mercy, woman! I see thou
canst talk fast enough when the theme likes thee. Nay, tell me, woman,”
 she continued, for to the impulse of curiosity was now added that of an
undefined jealousy that some deception had been practised on her--“tell
me, woman--for, by God’s day, I WILL know--whose wife, or whose
paramour, art thou! Speak out, and be speedy. Thou wert better daily
with a lioness than with Elizabeth.”

Urged to this extremity, dragged as it were by irresistible force to the
verge of the precipice which she saw, but could not avoid--permitted
not a moment’s respite by the eager words and menacing gestures of the
offended Queen, Amy at length uttered in despair, “The Earl of Leicester
knows it all.”

“The Earl of Leicester!” said Elizabeth, in utter astonishment. “The
Earl of Leicester!” she repeated with kindling anger. “Woman, thou art
set on to this--thou dost belie him--he takes no keep of such things
as thou art. Thou art suborned to slander the noblest lord and the
truest-hearted gentleman in England! But were he the right hand of our
trust, or something yet dearer to us, thou shalt have thy hearing, and
that in his presence. Come with me--come with me instantly!”

As Amy shrunk back with terror, which the incensed Queen interpreted as
that of conscious guilt, Elizabeth rapidly advanced, seized on her arm,
and hastened with swift and long steps out of the grotto, and along
the principal alley of the Pleasance, dragging with her the terrified
Countess, whom she still held by the arm, and whose utmost exertions
could but just keep pace with those of the indignant Queen.

Leicester was at this moment the centre of a splendid group of lords and
ladies, assembled together under an arcade, or portico, which closed
the alley. The company had drawn together in that place, to attend the
commands of her Majesty when the hunting-party should go forward, and
their astonishment may be imagined when, instead of seeing Elizabeth
advance towards them with her usual measured dignity of motion, they
beheld her walking so rapidly that she was in the midst of them ere they
were aware; and then observed, with fear and surprise, that her features
were flushed betwixt anger and agitation, that her hair was loosened by
her haste of motion, and that her eyes sparkled as they were wont when
the spirit of Henry VIII. mounted highest in his daughter. Nor were they
less astonished at the appearance of the pale, attenuated, half-dead,
yet still lovely female, whom the Queen upheld by main strength with
one hand, while with the other she waved aside the ladies and nobles
who pressed towards her, under the idea that she was taken suddenly ill.
“Where is my Lord of Leicester?” she said, in a tone that thrilled with
astonishment all the courtiers who stood around. “Stand forth, my Lord
of Leicester!”

If, in the midst of the most serene day of summer, when all is light and
laughing around, a thunderbolt were to fall from the clear blue vault of
heaven, and rend the earth at the very feet of some careless traveller,
he could not gaze upon the smouldering chasm, which so unexpectedly
yawned before him, with half the astonishment and fear which Leicester
felt at the sight that so suddenly presented itself. He had that
instant been receiving, with a political affectation of disavowing
and misunderstanding their meaning, the half-uttered, half-intimated
congratulations of the courtiers upon the favour of the Queen, carried
apparently to its highest pitch during the interview of that morning,
from which most of them seemed to augur that he might soon arise from
their equal in rank to become their master. And now, while the subdued
yet proud smile with which he disclaimed those inferences was yet
curling his cheek, the Queen shot into the circle, her passions excited
to the uttermost; and supporting with one hand, and apparently without
an effort, the pale and sinking form of his almost expiring wife,
and pointing with the finger of the other to her half-dead features,
demanded in a voice that sounded to the ears of the astounded statesman
like the last dread trumpet-call that is to summon body and spirit to
the judgment-seat, “Knowest thou this woman?”

As, at the blast of that last trumpet, the guilty shall call upon the
mountains to cover them, Leicester’s inward thoughts invoked the stately
arch which he had built in his pride to burst its strong conjunction,
and overwhelm them in its ruins. But the cemented stones, architrave and
battlement, stood fast; and it was the proud master himself who, as
if some actual pressure had bent him to the earth, kneeled down before
Elizabeth, and prostrated his brow to the marble flag-stones on which
she stood.

“Leicester,” said Elizabeth, in a voice which trembled with passion,
“could I think thou hast practised on me--on me thy Sovereign--on me thy
confiding, thy too partial mistress, the base and ungrateful deception
which thy present confusion surmises--by all that is holy, false lord,
that head of thine were in as great peril as ever was thy father’s!”

Leicester had not conscious innocence, but he had pride to support him.
He raised slowly his brow and features, which were black and swoln with
contending emotions, and only replied, “My head cannot fall but by the
sentence of my peers. To them I will plead, and not to a princess who
thus requites my faithful service.”

“What! my lords,” said Elizabeth, looking around, “we are defied, I
think--defied in the Castle we have ourselves bestowed on this proud
man!--My Lord Shrewsbury, you are Marshal of England, attach him of high
treason.”

“Whom does your Grace mean?” said Shrewsbury, much surprised, for he had
that instant joined the astonished circle.

“Whom should I mean, but that traitor Dudley, Earl of Leicester!--Cousin
of Hunsdon, order out your band of gentlemen pensioners, and take him
into instant custody. I say, villain, make haste!”

Hunsdon, a rough old noble, who, from his relationship to the Boleyns,
was accustomed to use more freedom with the Queen than almost any other
dared to do, replied bluntly, “And it is like your Grace might order me
to the Tower to-morrow for making too much haste. I do beseech you to be
patient.”

“Patient--God’s life!” exclaimed the Queen--“name not the word to me;
thou knowest not of what he is guilty!”

Amy, who had by this time in some degree recovered herself, and who saw
her husband, as she conceived, in the utmost danger from the rage of an
offended Sovereign, instantly (and alas! how many women have done the
same) forgot her own wrongs and her own danger in her apprehensions for
him, and throwing herself before the Queen, embraced her knees, while
she exclaimed, “He is guiltless, madam--he is guiltless; no one can lay
aught to the charge of the noble Leicester!”

“Why, minion,” answered the Queen, “didst not thou thyself say that the
Earl of Leicester was privy to thy whole history?”

“Did I say so?” repeated the unhappy Amy, laying aside every
consideration of consistency and of self-interest. “Oh, if I did, I
foully belied him. May God so judge me, as I believe he was never privy
to a thought that would harm me!”

“Woman!” said Elizabeth, “I will know who has moved thee to this; or
my wrath--and the wrath of kings is a flaming fire--shall wither and
consume thee like a weed in the furnace!”

As the Queen uttered this threat, Leicester’s better angel called
his pride to his aid, and reproached him with the utter extremity
of meanness which would overwhelm him for ever if he stooped to take
shelter under the generous interposition of his wife, and abandoned
her, in return for her kindness, to the resentment of the Queen. He had
already raised his head with the dignity of a man of honour to avow
his marriage, and proclaim himself the protector of his Countess, when
Varney, born, as it appeared, to be his master’s evil genius, rushed
into the presence with every mark of disorder on his face and apparel.

“What means this saucy intrusion?” said Elizabeth.

Varney, with the air of a man altogether overwhelmed with grief and
confusion, prostrated himself before her feet, exclaiming, “Pardon, my
Liege, pardon!--or at least let your justice avenge itself on me, where
it is due; but spare my noble, my generous, my innocent patron and
master!”

Amy, who was yet kneeling, started up as she saw the man whom she deemed
most odious place himself so near her, and was about to fly towards
Leicester, when, checked at once by the uncertainty and even timidity
which his looks had reassumed as soon as the appearance of his confidant
seemed to open a new scene, she hung back, and uttering a faint scream,
besought of her Majesty to cause her to be imprisoned in the lowest
dungeon of the Castle--to deal with her as the worst of criminals--“but
spare,” she exclaimed, “my sight and hearing what will destroy the
little judgment I have left--the sight of that unutterable and most
shameless villain!”

“And why, sweetheart?” said the Queen, moved by a new impulse; “what
hath he, this false knight, since such thou accountest him, done to
thee?”

“Oh, worse than sorrow, madam, and worse than injury--he has sown
dissension where most there should be peace. I shall go mad if I look
longer on him!”

“Beshrew me, but I think thou art distraught already,” answered the
Queen.--“My Lord Hunsdon, look to this poor distressed young woman, and
let her be safely bestowed, and in honest keeping, till we require her
to be forthcoming.”

Two or three of the ladies in attendance, either moved by compassion
for a creature so interesting, or by some other motive, offered their
services to look after her; but the Queen briefly answered, “Ladies,
under favour, no. You have all (give God thanks) sharp ears and nimble
tongues; our kinsman Hunsdon has ears of the dullest, and a tongue
somewhat rough, but yet of the slowest.--Hunsdon, look to it that none
have speech of her.”

“By Our Lady,” said Hunsdon, taking in his strong, sinewy arms the
fading and almost swooning form of Amy, “she is a lovely child! and
though a rough nurse, your Grace hath given her a kind one. She is safe
with me as one of my own ladybirds of daughters.”

So saying, he carried her off; unresistingly and almost unconsciously,
his war-worn locks and long, grey beard mingling with her light-brown
tresses, as her head reclined on his strong, square shoulder. The Queen
followed him with her eye. She had already, with that self-command which
forms so necessary a part of a Sovereign’s accomplishments, suppressed
every appearance of agitation, and seemed as if she desired to banish
all traces of her burst of passion from the recollection of those who
had witnessed it. “My Lord of Hunsdon says well,” she observed, “he is
indeed but a rough nurse for so tender a babe.”

“My Lord of Hunsdon,” said the Dean of St. Asaph--“I speak it not in
defamation of his more noble qualities--hath a broad license in speech,
and garnishes his discourse somewhat too freely with the cruel and
superstitious oaths which savour both of profaneness and of old
Papistrie.”

“It is the fault of his blood, Mr. Dean,” said the Queen, turning
sharply round upon the reverend dignitary as she spoke; “and you may
blame mine for the same distemperature. The Boleyns were ever a hot and
plain-spoken race, more hasty to speak their mind than careful to
choose their expressions. And by my word--I hope there is no sin in that
affirmation--I question if it were much cooled by mixing with that of
Tudor.”

As she made this last observation she smiled graciously, and stole her
eyes almost insensibly round to seek those of the Earl of Leicester, to
whom she now began to think she had spoken with hasty harshness upon the
unfounded suspicion of a moment.

The Queen’s eye found the Earl in no mood to accept the implied offer
of conciliation. His own looks had followed, with late and rueful
repentance, the faded form which Hunsdon had just borne from the
presence. They now reposed gloomily on the ground, but more--so at least
it seemed to Elizabeth--with the expression of one who has received an
unjust affront, than of him who is conscious of guilt. She turned her
face angrily from him, and said to Varney, “Speak, Sir Richard, and
explain these riddles--thou hast sense and the use of speech, at least,
which elsewhere we look for in vain.”

As she said this, she darted another resentful glance towards Leicester,
while the wily Varney hastened to tell his own story.

“Your Majesty’s piercing eye,” he said, “has already detected the cruel
malady of my beloved lady, which, unhappy that I am, I would not suffer
to be expressed in the certificate of her physician, seeking to conceal
what has now broken out with so much the more scandal.”

“She is then distraught?” said the Queen. “Indeed we doubted not of
it; her whole demeanour bears it out. I found her moping in a corner of
yonder grotto; and every word she spoke--which indeed I dragged from her
as by the rack--she instantly recalled and forswore. But how came she
hither? Why had you her not in safe-keeping?”

“My gracious Liege,” said Varney, “the worthy gentleman under whose
charge I left her, Master Anthony Foster, has come hither but now, as
fast as man and horse can travel, to show me of her escape, which
she managed with the art peculiar to many who are afflicted with this
malady. He is at hand for examination.”

“Let it be for another time,” said the Queen. “But, Sir Richard, we envy
you not your domestic felicity; your lady railed on you bitterly, and
seemed ready to swoon at beholding you.”

“It is the nature of persons in her disorder, so please your Grace,”
 answered Varney, “to be ever most inveterate in their spleen against
those whom, in their better moments, they hold nearest and dearest.”

“We have heard so, indeed,” said Elizabeth, “and give faith to the
saying.”

“May your Grace then be pleased,” said Varney, “to command my
unfortunate wife to be delivered into the custody of her friends?”

Leicester partly started; but making a strong effort, he subdued his
emotion, while Elizabeth answered sharply, “You are something too hasty,
Master Varney. We will have first a report of the lady’s health and
state of mind from Masters, our own physician, and then determine what
shall be thought just. You shall have license, however, to see her, that
if there be any matrimonial quarrel betwixt you--such things we have
heard do occur, even betwixt a loving couple--you may make it up,
without further scandal to our court or trouble to ourselves.”

Varney bowed low, and made no other answer.

Elizabeth again looked towards Leicester, and said, with a degree of
condescension which could only arise out of the most heartfelt interest,
“Discord, as the Italian poet says, will find her way into peaceful
convents, as well as into the privacy of families; and we fear our
own guards and ushers will hardly exclude her from courts. My Lord of
Leicester, you are offended with us, and we have right to be offended
with you. We will take the lion’s part upon us, and be the first to
forgive.”

Leicester smoothed his brow, as by an effort; but the trouble was too
deep-seated that its placidity should at once return. He said, however,
that which fitted the occasion, “That he could not have the happiness of
forgiving, because she who commanded him to do so could commit no injury
towards him.”

Elizabeth seemed content with this reply, and intimated her pleasure
that the sports of the morning should proceed. The bugles sounded, the
hounds bayed, the horses pranced--but the courtiers and ladies sought
the amusement to which they were summoned with hearts very different
from those which had leaped to the morning’s REVIELLE. There was doubt,
and fear, and expectation on every brow, and surmise and intrigue in
every whisper.

Blount took an opportunity to whisper into Raleigh’s ear, “This storm
came like a levanter in the Mediterranean.”

“VARIUM ET MUTABILE,” answered Raleigh, in a similar tone.

“Nay, I know nought of your Latin,” said Blount; “but I thank God
Tressilian took not the sea during that hurricane. He could scarce have
missed shipwreck, knowing as he does so little how to trim his sails to
a court gale.”

“Thou wouldst have instructed him!” said Raleigh.

“Why, I have profited by my time as well as thou, Sir Walter,” replied
honest Blount. “I am knight as well as thou, and of the earlier
creation.”

“Now, God further thy wit,” said Raleigh. “But for Tressilian, I would I
knew what were the matter with him. He told me this morning he would not
leave his chamber for the space of twelve hours or thereby, being bound
by a promise. This lady’s madness, when he shall learn it, will not, I
fear, cure his infirmity. The moon is at the fullest, and men’s brains
are working like yeast. But hark! they sound to mount. Let us to horse,
Blount; we young knights must deserve our spurs.”



CHAPTER XXXV.


     Sincerity,
     Thou first of virtues!  let no mortal leave
     Thy onward path, although the earth should gape,
     And from the gulf of hell destruction cry,
     To take dissimulation’s winding way.    --DOUGLAS.

It was not till after a long and successful morning’s sport, and a
prolonged repast which followed the return of the Queen to the Castle,
that Leicester at length found himself alone with Varney, from whom he
now learned the whole particulars of the Countess’s escape, as they
had been brought to Kenilworth by Foster, who, in his terror for the
consequences, had himself posted thither with the tidings. As Varney,
in his narrative, took especial care to be silent concerning those
practices on the Countess’s health which had driven her to so desperate
a resolution, Leicester, who could only suppose that she had adopted
it out of jealous impatience to attain the avowed state and appearance
belonging to her rank, was not a little offended at the levity with
which his wife had broken his strict commands, and exposed him to the
resentment of Elizabeth.

“I have given,” he said, “to this daughter of an obscure Devonshire
gentleman the proudest name in England. I have made her sharer of my bed
and of my fortunes. I ask but of her a little patience, ere she launches
forth upon the full current of her grandeur; and the infatuated woman
will rather hazard her own shipwreck and mine--will rather involve me
in a thousand whirlpools, shoals, and quicksands, and compel me to
a thousand devices which shame me in mine own eyes--than tarry for a
little space longer in the obscurity to which she was born. So lovely,
so delicate, so fond, so faithful, yet to lack in so grave a matter the
prudence which one might hope from the veriest fool--it puts me beyond
my patience.”

“We may post it over yet well enough,” said Varney, “if my lady will be
but ruled, and take on her the character which the time commands.”

“It is but too true, Sir Richard,” said Leicester; “there is indeed no
other remedy. I have heard her termed thy wife in my presence,
without contradiction. She must bear the title until she is far from
Kenilworth.”

“And long afterwards, I trust,” said Varney; then instantly added, “For
I cannot but hope it will be long after ere she bear the title of Lady
Leicester--I fear me it may scarce be with safety during the life of
this Queen. But your lordship is best judge, you alone knowing what
passages have taken place betwixt Elizabeth and you.”

“You are right, Varney,” said Leicester. “I have this morning been both
fool and villain; and when Elizabeth hears of my unhappy marriage, she
cannot but think herself treated with that premeditated slight which
women never forgive. We have once this day stood upon terms little short
of defiance; and to those, I fear, we must again return.”

“Is her resentment, then, so implacable?” said Varney.

“Far from it,” replied the Earl; “for, being what she is in spirit and
in station, she has even this day been but too condescending, in giving
me opportunities to repair what she thinks my faulty heat of temper.”

“Ay,” answered Varney; “the Italians say right--in lovers’ quarrels, the
party that loves most is always most willing to acknowledge the greater
fault. So then, my lord, if this union with the lady could be concealed,
you stand with Elizabeth as you did?”

Leicester sighed, and was silent for a moment, ere he replied.

“Varney, I think thou art true to me, and I will tell thee all. I do NOT
stand where I did. I have spoken to Elizabeth--under what mad impulse
I know not--on a theme which cannot be abandoned without touching
every female feeling to the quick, and which yet I dare not and cannot
prosecute. She can never, never forgive me for having caused and
witnessed those yieldings to human passion.”

“We must do something, my lord,” said Varney, “and that speedily.”

“There is nought to be done,” answered Leicester, despondingly. “I am
like one that has long toiled up a dangerous precipice, and when he is
within one perilous stride of the top, finds his progress arrested
when retreat has become impossible. I see above me the pinnacle which I
cannot reach--beneath me the abyss into which I must fall, as soon as
my relaxing grasp and dizzy brain join to hurl me from my present
precarious stance.”

“Think better of your situation, my lord,” said Varney; “let us try the
experiment in which you have but now acquiesced. Keep we your marriage
from Elizabeth’s knowledge, and all may yet be well. I will instantly go
to the lady myself. She hates me, because I have been earnest with your
lordship, as she truly suspects, in opposition to what she terms her
rights. I care not for her prejudices--she SHALL listen to me; and I
will show her such reasons for yielding to the pressure of the times
that I doubt not to bring back her consent to whatever measures these
exigencies may require.”

“No, Varney,” said Leicester; “I have thought upon what is to be done,
and I will myself speak with Amy.”

It was now Varney’s turn to feel upon his own account the terrors
which he affected to participate solely on account of his patron. “Your
lordship will not yourself speak with the lady?”

“It is my fixed purpose,” said Leicester. “Fetch me one of the
livery-cloaks; I will pass the sentinel as thy servant. Thou art to have
free access to her.”

“But, my lord--”

“I will have no BUTS,” replied Leicester; “it shall be even thus, and
not otherwise. Hunsdon sleeps, I think, in Saintlowe’s Tower. We can go
thither from these apartments by the private passage, without risk of
meeting any one. Or what if I do meet Hunsdon? he is more my friend than
enemy, and thick-witted enough to adopt any belief that is thrust on
him. Fetch me the cloak instantly.”

Varney had no alternative save obedience. In a few minutes Leicester was
muffled in the mantle, pulled his bonnet over his brows, and followed
Varney along the secret passage of the Castle which communicated with
Hunsdon’s apartments, in which there was scarce a chance of meeting
any inquisitive person, and hardly light enough for any such to have
satisfied their curiosity. They emerged at a door where Lord Hunsdon
had, with military precaution, placed a sentinel, one of his own
northern retainers as it fortuned, who readily admitted Sir Richard
Varney and his attendant, saying only, in his northern dialect, “I
would, man, thou couldst make the mad lady be still yonder; for her
moans do sae dirl through my head that I would rather keep watch on a
snowdrift, in the wastes of Catlowdie.”

They hastily entered, and shut the door behind them.

“Now, good devil, if there be one,” said Varney, within himself,
“for once help a votary at a dead pinch, for my boat is amongst the
breakers!”

The Countess Amy, with her hair and her garments dishevelled, was seated
upon a sort of couch, in an attitude of the deepest affliction, out of
which she was startled by the opening of the door. Size turned hastily
round, and fixing her eye on Varney, exclaimed, “Wretch! art thou come
to frame some new plan of villainy?”

Leicester cut short her reproaches by stepping forward and dropping his
cloak, while he said, in a voice rather of authority than of affection,
“It is with me, madam, you have to commune, not with Sir Richard
Varney.”

The change effected on the Countess’s look and manner was like magic.
“Dudley!” she exclaimed, “Dudley! and art thou come at last?” And with
the speed of lightning she flew to her husband, clung round his neck,
and unheeding the presence of Varney, overwhelmed him with caresses,
while she bathed his face in a flood of tears, muttering, at the
same time, but in broken and disjointed monosyllables, the fondest
expressions which Love teaches his votaries.

Leicester, as it seemed to him, had reason to be angry with his lady
for transgressing his commands, and thus placing him in the perilous
situation in which he had that morning stood. But what displeasure could
keep its ground before these testimonies of affection from a being so
lovely, that even the negligence of dress, and the withering effects
of fear, grief, and fatigue, which would have impaired the beauty of
others, rendered hers but the more interesting. He received and repaid
her caresses with fondness mingled with melancholy, the last of which
she seemed scarcely to observe, until the first transport of her own joy
was over, when, looking anxiously in his face, she asked if he was ill.

“Not in my body, Amy,” was his answer.

“Then I will be well too. O Dudley! I have been ill!--very ill, since
we last met!--for I call not this morning’s horrible vision a meeting.
I have been in sickness, in grief, and in danger. But thou art come, and
all is joy, and health, and safety!”

“Alas, Amy,” said Leicester, “thou hast undone me!”

“I, my lord?” said Amy, her cheek at once losing its transient flush of
joy--“how could I injure that which I love better than myself?”

“I would not upbraid you, Amy,” replied the Earl; “but are you not
here contrary to my express commands--and does not your presence here
endanger both yourself and me?”

“Does it, does it indeed?” she exclaimed eagerly; “then why am I here a
moment longer? Oh, if you knew by what fears I was urged to quit Cumnor
Place! But I will say nothing of myself--only that if it might be
otherwise, I would not willingly return THITHER; yet if it concern your
safety--”

“We will think, Amy, of some other retreat,” said Leicester; “and you
shall go to one of my northern castles, under the personage--it will be
but needful, I trust, for a very few days--of Varney’s wife.”

“How, my Lord of Leicester!” said the lady, disengaging herself from
his embraces; “is it to your wife you give the dishonourable counsel to
acknowledge herself the bride of another--and of all men, the bride of
that Varney?”

“Madam, I speak it in earnest--Varney is my true and faithful servant,
trusted in my deepest secrets. I had better lose my right hand than his
service at this moment. You have no cause to scorn him as you do.”

“I could assign one, my lord,” replied the Countess; “and I see he
shakes even under that assured look of his. But he that is necessary as
your right hand to your safety is free from any accusation of mine. May
he be true to you; and that he may be true, trust him not too much or
too far. But it is enough to say that I will not go with him unless by
violence, nor would I acknowledge him as my husband were all--”

“It is a temporary deception, madam,” said Leicester, irritated by her
opposition, “necessary for both our safeties, endangered by you through
female caprice, or the premature desire to seize on a rank to which
I gave you title only under condition that our marriage, for a time,
should continue secret. If my proposal disgust you, it is yourself has
brought it on both of us. There is no other remedy--you must do what
your own impatient folly hath rendered necessary--I command you.”

“I cannot put your commands, my lord,” said Amy, “in balance with those
of honour and conscience. I will NOT, in this instance, obey you.
You may achieve your own dishonour, to which these crooked policies
naturally tend, but I will do nought that can blemish mine. How could
you again, my lord, acknowledge me as a pure and chaste matron, worthy
to share your fortunes, when, holding that high character, I had
strolled the country the acknowledged wife of such a profligate fellow
as your servant Varney?”

“My lord,” said Varney interposing, “my lady is too much prejudiced
against me, unhappily, to listen to what I can offer, yet it may please
her better than what she proposes. She has good interest with Master
Edmund Tressilian, and could doubtless prevail on him to consent to
be her companion to Lidcote Hall, and there she might remain in safety
until time permitted the development of this mystery.”

Leicester was silent, but stood looking eagerly on Amy, with eyes which
seemed suddenly to glow as much with suspicion as displeasure.

The Countess only said, “Would to God I were in my father’s house!
When I left it, I little thought I was leaving peace of mind and honour
behind me.”

Varney proceeded with a tone of deliberation. “Doubtless this will make
it necessary to take strangers into my lord’s counsels; but surely the
Countess will be warrant for the honour of Master Tressilian, and such
of her father’s family--”

“Peace, Varney,” said Leicester; “by Heaven I will strike my dagger into
thee if again thou namest Tressilian as a partner of my counsels!”

“And wherefore not!” said the Countess; “unless they be counsels fitter
for such as Varney, than for a man of stainless honour and integrity. My
lord, my lord, bend no angry brows on me; it is the truth, and it is I
who speak it. I once did Tressilian wrong for your sake; I will not do
him the further injustice of being silent when his honour is brought in
question. I can forbear,” she said, looking at Varney, “to pull the
mask off hypocrisy, but I will not permit virtue to be slandered in my
hearing.”

There was a dead pause. Leicester stood displeased, yet undetermined,
and too conscious of the weakness of his cause; while Varney, with a
deep and hypocritical affectation of sorrow, mingled with humility, bent
his eyes on the ground.

It was then that the Countess Amy displayed, in the midst of distress
and difficulty, the natural energy of character which would have
rendered her, had fate allowed, a distinguished ornament of the rank
which she held. She walked up to Leicester with a composed step, a
dignified air, and looks in which strong affection essayed in vain to
shake the firmness of conscious, truth and rectitude of principle. “You
have spoken your mind, my lord,” she said, “in these difficulties,
with which, unhappily, I have found myself unable to comply. This
gentleman--this person I would say--has hinted at another scheme, to
which I object not but as it displeases you. Will your lordship be
pleased to hear what a young and timid woman, but your most affectionate
wife, can suggest in the present extremity?”

Leicester was silent, but bent his head towards the Countess, as an
intimation that she was at liberty to proceed.

“There hath been but one cause for all these evils, my lord,” she
proceeded, “and it resolves itself into the mysterious duplicity with
which you, have been induced to surround yourself. Extricate yourself at
once, my lord, from the tyranny of these disgraceful trammels. Be like
a true English gentleman, knight, and earl, who holds that truth is the
foundation of honour, and that honour is dear to him as the breath of
his nostrils. Take your ill-fated wife by the hand, lead her to the
footstool of Elizabeth’s throne--say that in a moment of infatuation,
moved by supposed beauty, of which none perhaps can now trace even the
remains, I gave my hand to this Amy Robsart. You will then have done
justice to me, my lord, and to your own honour and should law or power
require you to part from me, I will oppose no objection, since I may
then with honour hide a grieved and broken heart in those shades from
which your love withdrew me. Then--have but a little patience, and Amy’s
life will not long darken your brighter prospects.”

There was so much of dignity, so much of tenderness, in the Countess’s
remonstrance, that it moved all that was noble and generous in the
soul of her husband. The scales seemed to fall from his eyes, and the
duplicity and tergiversation of which he had been guilty stung him at
once with remorse and shame.

“I am not worthy of you, Amy,” he said, “that could weigh aught which
ambition has to give against such a heart as thine. I have a bitter
penance to perform, in disentangling, before sneering foes and astounded
friends, all the meshes of my own deceitful policy. And the Queen--but
let her take my head, as she has threatened.”

“Take your head, my lord!” said the Countess, “because you used the
freedom and liberty of an English subject in choosing a wife? For shame!
it is this distrust of the Queen’s justice, this apprehension of danger,
which cannot but be imaginary, that, like scarecrows, have induced you
to forsake the straightforward path, which, as it is the best, is also
the safest.”

“Ah, Amy, thou little knowest!” said Dudley but instantly checking
himself, he added, “Yet she shall not find in me a safe or easy victim
of arbitrary vengeance. I have friends--I have allies--I will not, like
Norfolk, be dragged to the block as a victim to sacrifice. Fear not,
Amy; thou shalt see Dudley bear himself worthy of his name. I must
instantly communicate with some of those friends on whom I can best
rely; for, as things stand, I may be made prisoner in my own Castle.”

“Oh, my good lord,” said Amy, “make no faction in a peaceful state!
There is no friend can help us so well as our own candid truth and
honour. Bring but these to our assistance, and you are safe amidst a
whole army of the envious and malignant. Leave these behind you, and all
other defence will be fruitless. Truth, my noble lord, is well painted
unarmed.”

“But Wisdom, Amy,” answered Leicester, “is arrayed in panoply of
proof. Argue not with me on the means I shall use to render my
confession--since it must be called so--as safe as may be; it will
be fraught with enough of danger, do what we will.--Varney, we must
hence.--Farewell, Amy, whom I am to vindicate as mine own, at an expense
and risk of which thou alone couldst be worthy. You shall soon hear
further from me.”

He embraced her fervently, muffled himself as before, and accompanied
Varney from the apartment. The latter, as he left the room, bowed low,
and as he raised his body, regarded Amy with a peculiar expression,
as if he desired to know how far his own pardon was included in the
reconciliation which had taken place betwixt her and her lord. The
Countess looked upon him with a fixed eye, but seemed no more conscious
of his presence than if there had been nothing but vacant air on the
spot where he stood.

“She has brought me to the crisis,” he muttered--“she or I am lost.
There was something--I wot not if it was fear or pity--that prompted me
to avoid this fatal crisis. It is now decided--she or I must PERISH.”

While he thus spoke, he observed, with surprise, that a boy, repulsed by
the sentinel, made up to Leicester, and spoke with him. Varney was one
of those politicians whom not the slightest appearances escape without
inquiry. He asked the sentinel what the lad wanted with him, and
received for answer that the boy had wished him to transmit a parcel
to the mad lady; but that he cared not to take charge of it, such
communication being beyond his commission, His curiosity satisfied in
that particular, he approached his patron, and heard him say, “Well,
boy, the packet shall be delivered.”

“Thanks, good Master Serving-man,” said the boy, and was out of sight in
an instant.

Leicester and Varney returned with hasty steps to the Earl’s private
apartment, by the same passage which had conducted them to Saintlowe’s
Tower.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


     I have said
     This is an adulteress--I have said with whom:
     More, she’s a traitor, and Camillo is
     A federary with her, and one that knows
     What she should shame to know herself.   --WINTER’S TALE.

They were no sooner in the Earl’s cabinet than, taking his tablets from
his pocket, he began to write, speaking partly to Varney, and partly
to himself--“There are many of them close bounden to me, and especially
those in good estate and high office--many who, if they look back
towards my benefits, or forward towards the perils which may
befall themselves, will not, I think, be disposed to see me stagger
unsupported. Let me see--Knollis is sure, and through his means Guernsey
and Jersey. Horsey commands in the Isle of Wight. My brother-in-law,
Huntingdon, and Pembroke, have authority in Wales. Through Bedford I
lead the Puritans, with their interest, so powerful in all the boroughs.
My brother of Warwick is equal, well-nigh, to myself, in wealth,
followers, and dependencies. Sir Owen Hopton is at my devotion; he
commands the Tower of London, and the national treasure deposited there.
My father and grand-father needed never to have stooped their heads to
the block had they thus forecast their enterprises.--Why look you so
sad, Varney? I tell thee, a tree so deep-rooted is not so easily to be
torn up by the tempest.”

“Alas! my lord,” said Varney, with well-acted passion, and then resumed
the same look of despondency which Leicester had before noted.

“Alas!” repeated Leicester; “and wherefore alas, Sir Richard? Doth your
new spirit of chivalry supply no more vigorous ejaculation when a noble
struggle is impending? Or, if ALAS means thou wilt flinch from the
conflict, thou mayest leave the Castle, or go join mine enemies,
whichever thou thinkest best.”

“Not so, my lord,” answered his confidant; “Varney will be found
fighting or dying by your side. Forgive me, if, in love to you, I see
more fully than your noble heart permits you to do, the inextricable
difficulties with which you are surrounded. You are strong, my lord,
and powerful; yet, let me say it without offence, you are so only by
the reflected light of the Queen’s favour. While you are Elizabeth’s
favourite, you are all, save in name, like an actual sovereign. But let
her call back the honours she has bestowed, and the prophet’s gourd did
not wither more suddenly. Declare against the Queen, and I do not say
that in the wide nation, or in this province alone, you would find
yourself instantly deserted and outnumbered; but I will say, that even
in this very Castle, and in the midst of your vassals, kinsmen, and
dependants, you would be a captive, nay, a sentenced captive, should she
please to say the word. Think upon Norfolk, my lord--upon the powerful
Northumberland--the splendid Westmoreland;--think on all who have made
head against this sage Princess. They are dead, captive, or fugitive.
This is not like other thrones, which can be overturned by a combination
of powerful nobles; the broad foundations which support it are in the
extended love and affections of the people. You might share it with
Elizabeth if you would; but neither yours, nor any other power, foreign
or domestic, will avail to overthrow, or even to shake it.”

He paused, and Leicester threw his tablets from him with an air of
reckless despite. “It may be as thou sayest,” he said? “and, in sooth,
I care not whether truth or cowardice dictate thy forebodings. But it
shall not be said I fell without a struggle. Give orders that those of
my retainers who served under me in Ireland be gradually drawn into the
main Keep, and let our gentlemen and friends stand on their guard, and
go armed, as if they expected arm onset from the followers of Sussex.
Possess the townspeople with some apprehension; let them take arms, and
be ready, at a given signal, to overpower the Pensioners and Yeomen of
the Guard.”

“Let me remind you, my lord,” said Varney, with the same appearance of
deep and melancholy interest, “that you have given me orders to prepare
for disarming the Queen’s guard. It is an act of high treason, but you
shall nevertheless be obeyed.”

“I care not,” said Leicester desperately--“I care not. Shame is behind
me, ruin before me; I must on.”

Here there was another pause, which Varney at length broke with the
following words: “It is come to the point I have long dreaded. I must
either witness, like an ungrateful beast, the downfall of the best and
kindest of masters, or I must speak what I would have buried in the
deepest oblivion, or told by any other mouth than mine.”

“What is that thou sayest, or wouldst say?” replied the Earl; “we have
no time to waste on words when the times call us to action.”

“My speech is soon made, my lord--would to God it were as soon answered!
Your marriage is the sole cause of the threatened breach with your
Sovereign, my lord, is it not?”

“Thou knowest it is!” replied Leicester. “What needs so fruitless a
question?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” said Varney; “the use lies here. Men will wager
their lands and lives in defence of a rich diamond, my lord; but were it
not first prudent to look if there is no flaw in it?”

“What means this?” said Leicester, with eyes sternly fixed on his
dependant; “of whom dost thou dare to speak?”

“It is--of the Countess Amy, my lord, of whom I am unhappily bound to
speak; and of whom I WILL speak, were your lordship to kill me for my
zeal.”

“Thou mayest happen to deserve it at my hand,” said the Earl; “but speak
on, I will hear thee.”

“Nay, then, my lord, I will be bold. I speak for my own life as well as
for your lordship’s. I like not this lady’s tampering and trickstering
with this same Edmund Tressilian. You know him, my lord. You know he had
formerly an interest in her, which it cost your lordship some pains to
supersede. You know the eagerness with which he has pressed on the suit
against me in behalf of this lady, the open object of which is to drive
your lordship to an avowal of what I must ever call your most unhappy
marriage, the point to which my lady also is willing, at any risk, to
urge you.”

Leicester smiled constrainedly. “Thou meanest well, good Sir Richard,
and wouldst, I think, sacrifice thine own honour, as well as that of any
other person, to save me from what thou thinkest a step so terrible. But
remember”--he spoke these words with the most stern decision--“you speak
of the Countess of Leicester.”

“I do, my lord,” said Varney; “but it is for the welfare of the Earl of
Leicester. My tale is but begun. I do most strongly believe that this
Tressilian has, from the beginning of his moving in her cause, been in
connivance with her ladyship the Countess.”

“Thou speakest wild madness, Varney, with the sober face of a preacher.
Where, or how, could they communicate together?”

“My lord,” said Varney, “unfortunately I can show that but too well.
It was just before the supplication was presented to the Queen, in
Tressilian’s name, that I met him, to my utter astonishment, at the
postern gate which leads from the demesne at Cumnor Place.”

“Thou met’st him, villain! and why didst thou not strike him dead?”
 exclaimed Leicester.

“I drew on him, my lord, and he on me; and had not my foot slipped, he
would not, perhaps, have been again a stumbling-block in your lordship’s
path.”

Leicester seemed struck dumb with surprise. At length he answered,
“What other evidence hast thou of this, Varney, save thine own
assertion?--for, as I will punish deeply, I will examine coolly and
warily. Sacred Heaven!--but no--I will examine coldly and warily--coldly
and warily.” He repeated these words more than once to himself, as if in
the very sound there was a sedative quality; and again compressing his
lips, as if he feared some violent expression might escape from them, he
asked again, “What further proof?”

“Enough, my lord,” said Varney, “and to spare. I would it rested with me
alone, for with me it might have been silenced for ever. But my servant,
Michael Lambourne, witnessed the whole, and was, indeed, the means of
first introducing Tressilian into Cumnor Place; and therefore I took him
into my service, and retained him in it, though something of a debauched
fellow, that I might have his tongue always under my own command.” He
then acquainted Lord Leicester how easy it was to prove the circumstance
of their interview true, by evidence of Anthony Foster, with the
corroborative testimonies of the various persons at Cumnor, who had
heard the wager laid, and had seen Lambourne and Tressilian set off
together. In the whole narrative, Varney hazarded nothing fabulous,
excepting that, not indeed by direct assertion, but by inference, he led
his patron to suppose that the interview betwixt Amy and Tressilian at
Cumnor Place had been longer than the few minutes to which it was in
reality limited.

“And wherefore was I not told of all this?” said Leicester sternly. “Why
did all of ye--and in particular thou, Varney--keep back from me such
material information?”

“Because, my lord,” replied Varney, “the Countess pretended to Foster
and to me that Tressilian had intruded himself upon her; and I concluded
their interview had been in all honour, and that she would at her own
time tell it to your lordship. Your lordship knows with what unwilling
ears we listen to evil surmises against those whom we love; and I thank
Heaven I am no makebate or informer, to be the first to sow them.”

“You are but too ready to receive them, however, Sir Richard,” replied
his patron. “How knowest thou that this interview was not in all honour,
as thou hast said? Methinks the wife of the Earl of Leicester might
speak for a short time with such a person as Tressilian without injury
to me or suspicion to herself.”

“Questionless, my lord,” answered Varney, “Had I thought otherwise,
I had been no keeper of the secret. But here lies the rub--Tressilian
leaves not the place without establishing a correspondence with a poor
man, the landlord of an inn in Cumnor, for the purpose of carrying off
the lady. He sent down an emissary of his, whom I trust soon to have
in right sure keeping under Mervyn’s Tower--Killigrew and Lambsbey are
scouring the country in quest of him. The host is rewarded with a ring
for keeping counsel--your lordship may have noted it on Tressilian’s
hand--here it is. This fellow, this agent, makes his way to the place
as a pedlar; holds conferences with the lady, and they make their escape
together by night; rob a poor fellow of a horse by the way, such was
their guilty haste, and at length reach this Castle, where the Countess
of Leicester finds refuge--I dare not say in what place.”

“Speak, I command thee,” said Leicester--“speak, while I retain sense
enough to hear thee.”

“Since it must be so,” answered Varney, “the lady resorted immediately
to the apartment of Tressilian, where she remained many hours, partly in
company with him, and partly alone. I told you Tressilian had a paramour
in his chamber; I little dreamed that paramour was--”

“Amy, thou wouldst say,” answered Leicester; “but it is false, false as
the smoke of hell! Ambitious she may be--fickle and impatient--‘tis a
woman’s fault; but false to me!--never, never. The proof--the proof of
this!” he exclaimed hastily.

“Carrol, the Deputy Marshal, ushered her thither by her own desire, on
yesterday afternoon; Lambourne and the Warder both found her there at an
early hour this morning.”

“Was Tressilian there with her?” said Leicester, in the same hurried
tone.

“No, my lord. You may remember,” answered Varney, “that he was that
night placed with Sir Nicholas Blount, under a species of arrest.”

“Did Carrol, or the other fellows, know who she was?” demanded
Leicester.

“No, my lord,” replied Varney; “Carrol and the Warder had never seen the
Countess, and Lambourne knew her not in her disguise. But in seeking
to prevent her leaving the cell, he obtained possession of one of her
gloves, which, I think, your lordship may know.”

He gave the glove, which had the Bear and Ragged Staff, the Earl’s
impress, embroidered upon it in seed-pearls.

“I do--I do recognize it,” said Leicester. “They were my own gift. The
fellow of it was on the arm which she threw this very day around my
neck!” He spoke this with violent agitation.

“Your lordship,” said Varney, “might yet further inquire of the lady
herself respecting the truth of these passages.”

“It needs not--it needs not,” said the tortured Earl; “it is written
in characters of burning light, as if they were branded on my very
eyeballs! I see her infamy-I can see nought else; and--gracious
Heaven!--for this vile woman was I about to commit to danger the lives
of so many noble friends, shake the foundation of a lawful throne, carry
the sword and torch through the bosom of a peaceful land, wrong the
kind mistress who made me what I am, and would, but for that hell-framed
marriage, have made me all that man can be! All this I was ready to do
for a woman who trinkets and traffics with my worst foes!--And thou,
villain, why didst thou not speak sooner?”

“My lord,” said Varney, “a tear from my lady would have blotted out
all I could have said. Besides, I had not these proofs until this very
morning, when Anthony Foster’s sudden arrival with the examinations
and declarations, which he had extorted from the innkeeper Gosling and
others, explained the manner of her flight from Cumnor Place, and my own
researches discovered the steps which she had taken here.”

“Now, may God be praised for the light He has given! so full, so
satisfactory, that there breathes not a man in England who shall call
my proceeding rash, or my revenge unjust.--And yet, Varney, so young,
so fair, so fawning, and so false! Hence, then, her hatred to thee, my
trusty, my well-beloved servant, because you withstood her plots, and
endangered her paramour’s life!”

“I never gave her any other cause of dislike, my lord,” replied Varney.
“But she knew that my counsels went directly to diminish her influence
with your lordship; and that I was, and have been, ever ready to peril
my life against your enemies.”

“It is too, too apparent,” replied Leicester “yet with what an air of
magnanimity she exhorted me to commit my head to the Queen’s mercy,
rather than wear the veil of falsehood a moment longer! Methinks the
angel of truth himself can have no such tones of high-souled impulse.
Can it be so, Varney?--can falsehood use thus boldly the language of
truth?--can infamy thus assume the guise of purity? Varney, thou hast
been my servant from a child. I have raised thee high--can raise
thee higher. Think, think for me!--thy brain was ever shrewd and
piercing--may she not be innocent? Prove her so, and all I have yet done
for thee shall be as nothing--nothing, in comparison of thy recompense!”

The agony with which his master spoke had some effect even on the
hardened Varney, who, in the midst of his own wicked and ambitious
designs, really loved his patron as well as such a wretch was capable
of loving anything. But he comforted himself, and subdued his
self-reproaches, with the reflection that if he inflicted upon the Earl
some immediate and transitory pain, it was in order to pave his way to
the throne, which, were this marriage dissolved by death or otherwise,
he deemed Elizabeth would willingly share with his benefactor. He
therefore persevered in his diabolical policy; and after a moment’s
consideration, answered the anxious queries of the Earl with a
melancholy look, as if he had in vain sought some exculpation for the
Countess; then suddenly raising his head, he said, with an expression
of hope, which instantly communicated itself to the countenance of his
patron--“Yet wherefore, if guilty, should she have perilled herself
by coming hither? Why not rather have fled to her father’s, or
elsewhere?--though that, indeed, might have interfered with her desire
to be acknowledged as Countess of Leicester.”

“True, true, true!” exclaimed Leicester, his transient gleam of hope
giving way to the utmost bitterness of feeling and expression; “thou
art not fit to fathom a woman’s depth of wit, Varney. I see it all. She
would not quit the estate and title of the wittol who had wedded her.
Ay, and if in my madness I had started into rebellion, or if the angry
Queen had taken my head, as she this morning threatened, the wealthy
dower which law would have assigned to the Countess Dowager of Leicester
had been no bad windfall to the beggarly Tressilian. Well might she
goad me on to danger, which could not end otherwise than profitably to
her,--Speak not for her, Varney! I will have her blood!”

“My lord,” replied Varney, “the wildness of your distress breaks forth
in the wildness of your language.”

“I say, speak not for her!” replied Leicester; “she has dishonoured
me--she would have murdered me--all ties are burst between us. She shall
die the death of a traitress and adulteress, well merited both by the
laws of God and man! And--what is this casket,” he said, “which was even
now thrust into my hand by a boy, with the desire I would convey it
to Tressilian, as he could not give it to the Countess? By Heaven! the
words surprised me as he spoke them, though other matters chased them
from my brain; but now they return with double force. It is her casket
of jewels!--Force it open, Varney--force the hinges open with thy
poniard!”

“She refused the aid of my dagger once,” thought Varney, as he
unsheathed the weapon, “to cut the string which bound a letter, but now
it shall work a mightier ministry in her fortunes.”

With this reflection, by using the three-cornered stiletto-blade as a
wedge, he forced open the slender silver hinges of the casket. The
Earl no sooner saw them give way than he snatched the casket from Sir
Richard’s hand, wrenched off the cover, and tearing out the splendid
contents, flung them on the floor in a transport of rage, while he
eagerly searched for some letter or billet which should make the
fancied guilt of his innocent Countess yet more apparent. Then stamping
furiously on the gems, he exclaimed, “Thus I annihilate the miserable
toys for which thou hast sold thyself, body and soul--consigned thyself
to an early and timeless death, and me to misery and remorse for
ever!--Tell me not of forgiveness, Varney--she is doomed!”

So saying, he left the room, and rushed into an adjacent closet, the
door of which he locked and bolted.

Varney looked after him, while something of a more human feeling seemed
to contend with his habitual sneer. “I am sorry for his weakness,” he
said, “but love has made him a child. He throws down and treads on
these costly toys-with the same vehemence would he dash to pieces this
frailest toy of all, of which he used to rave so fondly. But that taste
also will be forgotten when its object is no more. Well, he has no eye
to value things as they deserve, and that nature has given to Varney.
When Leicester shall be a sovereign, he will think as little of the
gales of passion through which he gained that royal port, as ever
did sailor in harbour of the perils of a voyage. But these tell-tale
articles must not remain here--they are rather too rich vails for the
drudges who dress the chamber.”

While Varney was employed in gathering together and putting them into a
secret drawer of a cabinet that chanced to be open, he saw the door of
Leicester’s closet open, the tapestry pushed aside, and the Earl’s face
thrust out, but with eyes so dead, and lips and cheeks so bloodless
and pale, that he started at the sudden change. No sooner did his eyes
encounter the Earl’s, than the latter withdrew his head and shut the
door of the closet. This manoeuvre Leicester repeated twice, without
speaking a word, so that Varney began to doubt whether his brain was
not actually affected by his mental agony. The third time, however, he
beckoned, and Varney obeyed the signal. When he entered, he soon
found his patron’s perturbation was not caused by insanity, but by
the fullness of purpose which he entertained contending with various
contrary passions. They passed a full hour in close consultation;
after which the Earl of Leicester, with an incredible exertion, dressed
himself, and went to attend his royal guest.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


     You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting
     With most admired disorder.      --MACBETH.

It was afterwards remembered that during the banquets and revels which
occupied the remainder of this eventful day the bearing of Leicester and
of Varney were totally different from their usual demeanour. Sir Richard
Varney had been held rather a man of counsel and of action than a votary
of pleasure. Business, whether civil or military, seemed always to be
his proper sphere; and while in festivals and revels, although he well
understood how to trick them up and present them, his own part was that
of a mere spectator; or if he exercised his wit, it was in a rough,
caustic, and severe manner, rather as if he scoffed at the exhibition
and the guests than shared the common pleasure.

But upon the present day his character seemed changed. He mixed among
the younger courtiers and ladies, and appeared for the moment to be
actuated by a spirit of light-hearted gaiety, which rendered him a match
for the liveliest. Those who had looked upon him as a man given up
to graver and more ambitious pursuits, a bitter sneerer and passer of
sarcasms at the expense of those who, taking life as they find it,
were disposed to snatch at each pastime it presents, now perceived with
astonishment that his wit could carry as smooth an edge as their own,
his laugh be as lively, and his brow as unclouded. By what art of
damnable hypocrisy he could draw this veil of gaiety over the black
thoughts of one of the worst of human bosoms must remain unintelligible
to all but his compeers, if any such ever existed; but he was a man of
extraordinary powers, and those powers were unhappily dedicated in all
their energy to the very worst of purposes.

It was entirely different with Leicester. However habituated his
mind usually was to play the part of a good courtier, and appear gay,
assiduous, and free from all care but that of enhancing the pleasure
of the moment, while his bosom internally throbbed with the pangs of
unsatisfied ambition, jealousy, or resentment, his heart had now a
yet more dreadful guest, whose workings could not be overshadowed or
suppressed; and you might read in his vacant eye and troubled brow that
his thoughts were far absent from the scenes in which he was compelling
himself to play a part. He looked, moved, and spoke as if by a
succession of continued efforts; and it seemed as if his will had in
some degree lost the promptitude of command over the acute mind and
goodly form of which it was the regent. His actions and gestures,
instead of appearing the consequence of simple volition, seemed, like
those of an automaton, to wait the revolution of some internal machinery
ere they could be performed; and his words fell from him piecemeal,
interrupted, as if he had first to think what he was to say, then how
it was to be said, and as if, after all, it was only by an effort of
continued attention that he completed a sentence without forgetting both
the one and the other.

The singular effects which these distractions of mind produced upon the
behaviour and conversation of the most accomplished courtier of England,
as they were visible to the lowest and dullest menial who approached his
person, could not escape the notice of the most intelligent Princess of
the age. Nor is there the least doubt that the alternate negligence and
irregularity of his manner would have called down Elizabeth’s severe
displeasure on the Earl of Leicester, had it not occurred to her to
account for it by supposing that the apprehension of that displeasure
which she had expressed towards him with such vivacity that very morning
was dwelling upon the spirits of her favourite, and, spite of his
efforts to the contrary, distracted the usual graceful tenor of his mien
and the charms of his conversation. When this idea, so flattering to
female vanity, had once obtained possession of her mind, it proved a
full and satisfactory apology for the numerous errors and mistakes of
the Earl of Leicester; and the watchful circle around observed with
astonishment, that, instead of resenting his repeated negligence, and
want of even ordinary attention (although these were points on which she
was usually extremely punctilious), the Queen sought, on the contrary,
to afford him time and means to recollect himself, and deigned to assist
him in doing so, with an indulgence which seemed altogether inconsistent
with her usual character. It was clear, however, that this could not
last much longer, and that Elizabeth must finally put another and more
severe construction on Leicester’s uncourteous conduct, when the Earl
was summoned by Varney to speak with him in a different apartment.

After having had the message twice delivered to him, he rose, and was
about to withdraw, as it were, by instinct; then stopped, and turning
round, entreated permission of the Queen to absent himself for a brief
space upon matters of pressing importance.

“Go, my lord,” said the Queen. “We are aware our presence must occasion
sudden and unexpected occurrences, which require to be provided for on
the instant. Yet, my lord, as you would have us believe ourself your
welcome and honoured guest, we entreat you to think less of our good
cheer, and favour us with more of your good countenance than we have
this day enjoyed; for whether prince or peasant be the guest, the
welcome of the host will always be the better part of the entertainment.
Go, my lord; and we trust to see you return with an unwrinkled brow, and
those free thoughts which you are wont to have at the disposal of your
friends.”

Leicester only bowed low in answer to this rebuke, and retired. At the
door of the apartment he was met by Varney, who eagerly drew him apart,
and whispered in his ear, “All is well!”

“Has Masters seen her?” said the Earl.

“He has, my lord; and as she would neither answer his queries, nor
allege any reason for her refusal, he will give full testimony that she
labours under a mental disorder, and may be best committed to the charge
of her friends. The opportunity is therefore free to remove her as we
proposed.”

“But Tressilian?” said Leicester.

“He will not know of her departure for some time,” replied Varney; “it
shall take place this very evening, and to-morrow he shall be cared
for.”

“No, by my soul,” answered Leicester; “I will take vengeance on him with
mine own hand!”

“You, my lord, and on so inconsiderable a man as Tressilian! No, my
lord, he hath long wished to visit foreign parts. Trust him to me--I
will take care he returns not hither to tell tales.”

“Not so, by Heaven, Varney!” exclaimed Leicester. “Inconsiderable do you
call an enemy that hath had power to wound me so deeply that my whole
after-life must be one scene of remorse and misery?--No; rather than
forego the right of doing myself justice with my own hand on that
accursed villain, I will unfold the whole truth at Elizabeth’s
footstool, and let her vengeance descend at once on them and on myself.”

Varney saw with great alarm that his lord was wrought up to such a pitch
of agitation, that if he gave not way to him he was perfectly capable of
adopting the desperate resolution which he had announced, and which was
instant ruin to all the schemes of ambition which Varney had formed
for his patron and for himself. But the Earl’s rage seemed at once
uncontrollable and deeply concentrated, and while he spoke his eyes
shot fire, his voice trembled with excess of passion, and the light foam
stood on his lip.

His confidant made a bold and successful effort to obtain the mastery of
him even in this hour of emotion. “My lord,” he said, leading him to
a mirror, “behold your reflection in that glass, and think if these
agitated features belong to one who, in a condition so extreme, is
capable of forming a resolution for himself.”

“What, then, wouldst thou make me?” said Leicester, struck at the change
in his own physiognomy, though offended at the freedom with which Varney
made the appeal. “Am I to be thy ward, thy vassal,--the property and
subject of my servant?”

“No, my lord,” said Varney firmly, “but be master of yourself, and of
your own passion. My lord, I, your born servant, am ashamed to see how
poorly you bear yourself in the storm of fury. Go to Elizabeth’s
feet, confess your marriage--impeach your wife and her paramour of
adultery--and avow yourself, amongst all your peers, the wittol who
married a country girl, and was cozened by her and her book-learned
gallant. Go, my lord--but first take farewell of Richard Varney, with
all the benefits you ever conferred on him. He served the noble, the
lofty, the high-minded Leicester, and was more proud of depending on him
than he would be of commanding thousands. But the abject lord who stoops
to every adverse circumstance, whose judicious resolves are scattered
like chaff before every wind of passion, him Richard Varney serves not.
He is as much above him in constancy of mind as beneath him in rank and
fortune.”

Varney spoke thus without hypocrisy, for though the firmness of mind
which he boasted was hardness and impenetrability, yet he really felt
the ascendency which he vaunted; while the interest which he actually
felt in the fortunes of Leicester gave unusual emotion to his voice and
manner.

Leicester was overpowered by his assumed superiority it seemed to the
unfortunate Earl as if his last friend was about to abandon him. He
stretched his hand towards Varney as he uttered the words, “Do not leave
me. What wouldst thou have me do?”

“Be thyself, my noble master,” said Varney, touching the Earl’s hand
with his lips, after having respectfully grasped it in his own; “be
yourself, superior to those storms of passion which wreck inferior
minds. Are you the first who has been cozened in love--the first whom a
vain and licentious woman has cheated into an affection, which she
has afterwards scorned and misused? And will you suffer yourself to be
driven frantic because you have not been wiser than the wisest men whom
the world has seen? Let her be as if she had not been--let her pass from
your memory, as unworthy of ever having held a place there. Let your
strong resolve of this morning, which I have both courage, zeal,
and means enough to execute, be like the fiat of a superior being, a
passionless act of justice. She hath deserved death--let her die!”

While he was speaking, the Earl held his hand fast, compressed his lips
hard, and frowned, as if he laboured to catch from Varney a portion of
the cold, ruthless, and dispassionate firmness which he recommended.
When he was silent, the Earl still continued to rasp his hand, until,
with an effort at calm decision, he was able to articulate, “Be it
so--she dies! But one tear might be permitted.”

“Not one, my lord,” interrupted Varney, who saw by the quivering eye and
convulsed cheek of his patron that he was about to give way to a burst
of emotion--“not a tear--the time permits it not. Tressilian must be
thought of--”

“That indeed is a name,” said the Earl, “to convert tears into blood.
Varney, I have thought on this, and I have determined--neither entreaty
nor argument shall move me--Tressilian shall be my own victim.”

“It is madness, my lord; but you are too mighty for me to bar your
way to your revenge. Yet resolve at least to choose fitting time and
opportunity, and to forbear him until these shall be found.”

“Thou shalt order me in what thou wilt,” said Leicester, “only thwart me
not in this.”

“Then, my lord,” said Varney, “I first request of you to lay aside the
wild, suspected, and half-frenzied demeanour which hath this day drawn
the eyes of all the court upon you, and which, but for the Queen’s
partial indulgence, which she hath extended towards you in a degree
far beyond her nature, she had never given you the opportunity to atone
for.”

“Have I indeed been so negligent?” said Leicester, as one who awakes
from a dream. “I thought I had coloured it well. But fear nothing, my
mind is now eased--I am calm. My horoscope shall be fulfilled; and that
it may be fulfilled, I will tax to the highest every faculty of my mind.
Fear me not, I say. I will to the Queen instantly--not thine own looks
and language shall be more impenetrable than mine. Hast thou aught else
to say?”

“I must crave your signet-ring,” said Varney gravely, “in token to those
of your servants whom I must employ, that I possess your full authority
in commanding their aid.”

Leicester drew off the signet-ring which he commonly used, and gave it
to Varney, with a haggard and stern expression of countenance, adding
only, in a low, half-whispered tone, but with terrific emphasis, the
words, “What thou dost, do quickly.”

Some anxiety and wonder took place, meanwhile, in the presence-hall, at
the prolonged absence of the noble Lord of the Castle, and great was
the delight of his friends when they saw him enter as a man from whose
bosom, to all human seeming, a weight of care had been just removed.
Amply did Leicester that day redeem the pledge he had given to Varney,
who soon saw himself no longer under the necessity of maintaining a
character so different from his own as that which he had assumed in the
earlier part of the day, and gradually relapsed into the same grave,
shrewd, caustic observer of conversation and incident which constituted
his usual part in society.

With Elizabeth, Leicester played his game as one to whom her natural
strength of talent and her weakness in one or two particular points were
well known. He was too wary to exchange on a sudden the sullen personage
which he had played before he retired with Varney; but on approaching
her it seemed softened into a melancholy, which had a touch of
tenderness in it, and which, in the course of conversing with Elizabeth,
and as she dropped in compassion one mark of favour after another to
console him, passed into a flow of affectionate gallantry, the most
assiduous, the most delicate, the most insinuating, yet at the same time
the most respectful, with which a Queen was ever addressed by a subject.
Elizabeth listened as in a sort of enchantment. Her jealousy of power
was lulled asleep; her resolution to forsake all social or domestic
ties, and dedicate herself exclusively to the care of her people, began
to be shaken; and once more the star of Dudley culminated in the court
horizon.

But Leicester did not enjoy this triumph over nature, and over
conscience, without its being embittered to him, not only by the
internal rebellion of his feelings against the violence which he
exercised over them, but by many accidental circumstances, which, in
the course of the banquet, and during the subsequent amusements of the
evening, jarred upon that nerve, the least vibration of which was agony.

The courtiers were, for example, in the Great Hall, after having left
the banqueting-room, awaiting the appearance of a splendid masque,
which was the expected entertainment of this evening, when the Queen
interrupted a wild career of wit which the Earl of Leicester was running
against Lord Willoughby, Raleigh, and some other courtiers, by saying,
“We will impeach you of high treason, my lord, if you proceed in this
attempt to slay us with laughter. And here comes a thing may make us all
grave at his pleasure, our learned physician Masters, with news belike
of our poor suppliant, Lady Varney;--nay, my lord, we will not have you
leave us, for this being a dispute betwixt married persons, we do not
hold our own experience deep enough to decide thereon without good
counsel.--How now, Masters, what thinkest thou of the runaway bride?”

The smile with which Leicester had been speaking, when the Queen
interrupted him, remained arrested on his lips, as if it had been carved
there by the chisel of Michael Angelo or of Chantrey; and he listened to
the speech of the physician with the same immovable cast of countenance.

“The Lady Varney, gracious Sovereign,” said the court physician Masters,
“is sullen, and would hold little conference with me touching the state
of her health, talking wildly of being soon to plead her own cause
before your own presence, and of answering no meaner person’s
inquiries.”

“Now the heavens forfend!” said the Queen; “we have already suffered
from the misconstructions and broils which seem to follow this poor
brain-sick lady wherever she comes.--Think you not so, my lord?” she
added, appealing to Leicester with something in her look that indicated
regret, even tenderly expressed, for their disagreement of that morning.
Leicester compelled himself to bow low. The utmost force he could
exert was inadequate to the further effort of expressing in words his
acquiescence in the Queen’s sentiment.

“You are vindictive,” she said, “my lord; but we will find time and
place to punish you. But once more to this same trouble-mirth, this Lady
Varney. What of her health, Masters?”

“She is sullen, madam, as I already said,” replied Masters, “and refuses
to answer interrogatories, or be amenable to the authority of the
mediciner. I conceive her to be possessed with a delirium, which I
incline to term rather HYPOCHONDRIA than PHRENESIS; and I think she were
best cared for by her husband in his own house, and removed from all
this bustle of pageants, which disturbs her weak brain with the most
fantastic phantoms. She drops hints as if she were some great person in
disguise--some Countess or Princess perchance. God help them, such are
often the hallucinations of these infirm persons!”

“Nay, then,” said the Queen, “away with her with all speed. Let Varney
care for her with fitting humanity; but let them rid the Castle of her
forthwith she will think herself lady of all, I warrant you. It is pity
so fair a form, however, should have an infirm understanding.--What
think you, my lord?”

“It is pity indeed,” said the Earl, repeating the words like a task
which was set him.

“But, perhaps,” said Elizabeth, “you do not join with us in our opinion
of her beauty; and indeed we have known men prefer a statelier and more
Juno-like form to that drooping fragile one that hung its head like a
broken lily. Ay, men are tyrants, my lord, who esteem the animation
of the strife above the triumph of an unresisting conquest, and, like
sturdy champions, love best those women who can wage contest with
them.--I could think with you, Rutland, that give my Lord of Leicester
such a piece of painted wax for a bride, he would have wished her dead
ere the end of the honeymoon.”

As she said this, she looked on Leicester so expressively that, while
his heart revolted against the egregious falsehood, he did himself so
much violence as to reply in a whisper that Leicester’s love was more
lowly than her Majesty deemed, since it was settled where he could never
command, but must ever obey.

The Queen blushed, and bid him be silent; yet looked as of she expected
that he would not obey her commands. But at that moment the flourish of
trumpets and kettle-drums from a high balcony which overlooked the hall
announced the entrance of the maskers, and relieved Leicester from the
horrible state of constraint and dissimulation in which the result of
his own duplicity had placed him.

The masque which entered consisted of four separate bands, which
followed each other at brief intervals, each consisting of six principal
persons and as many torch-bearers, and each representing one of the
various nations by which England had at different times been occupied.

The aboriginal Britons, who first entered, were ushered in by two
ancient Druids, whose hoary hair was crowned with a chaplet of oak, and
who bore in their hands branches of mistletoe. The maskers who followed
these venerable figures were succeeded by two Bards, arrayed in white,
and bearing harps, which they occasionally touched, singing at the
same time certain stanzas of an ancient hymn to Belus, or the Sun. The
aboriginal Britons had been selected from amongst the tallest and most
robust young gentlemen in attendance on the court. Their masks were
accommodated with long, shaggy beards and hair; their vestments were
of the hides of wolves and bears; while their legs, arms, and the upper
parts of their bodies, being sheathed in flesh-coloured silk, on which
were traced in grotesque lines representations of the heavenly bodies,
and of animals and other terrestrial objects, gave them the lively
appearance of our painted ancestors, whose freedom was first trenched
upon by the Romans.

The sons of Rome, who came to civilize as well as to conquer, were next
produced before the princely assembly; and the manager of the revels had
correctly imitated the high crest and military habits of that celebrated
people, accommodating them with the light yet strong buckler and the
short two-edged sword, the use of which had made them victors of the
world. The Roman eagles were borne before them by two standard-bearers,
who recited a hymn to Mars, and the classical warriors followed with the
grave and haughty step of men who aspired at universal conquest.

The third quadrille represented the Saxons, clad in the bearskins which
they had brought with them from the German forests, and bearing in
their hands the redoubtable battle-axes which made such havoc among the
natives of Britain. They were preceded by two Scalds, who chanted the
praises of Odin.

Last came the knightly Normans, in their mail-shirts and hoods of steel,
with all the panoply of chivalry, and marshalled by two Minstrels, who
sang of war and ladies’ love.

These four bands entered the spacious hall with the utmost order,
a short pause being made, that the spectators might satisfy their
curiosity as to each quadrille before the appearance of the next. They
then marched completely round the hall, in order the more fully to
display themselves, regulating their steps to organs, shalms, hautboys,
and virginals, the music of the Lord Leicester’s household. At length
the four quadrilles of maskers, ranging their torch-bearers behind them,
drew up in their several ranks on the two opposite sides of the hall,
so that the Romans confronting the Britons, and the Saxons the Normans,
seemed to look on each other with eyes of wonder, which presently
appeared to kindle into anger, expressed by menacing gestures. At the
burst of a strain of martial music from the gallery the maskers drew
their swords on all sides, and advanced against each other in the
measured steps of a sort of Pyrrhic or military dance, clashing their
swords against their adversaries’ shields, and clattering them against
their blades as they passed each other in the progress of the dance. It
was a very pleasant spectacle to see how the various bands, preserving
regularity amid motions which seemed to be totally irregular, mixed
together, and then disengaging themselves, resumed each their own
original rank as the music varied.

In this symbolical dance were represented the conflicts which had taken
place among the various nations which had anciently inhabited Britain.

At length, after many mazy evolutions, which afforded great pleasure to
the spectators, the sound of a loud-voiced trumpet was heard, as if
it blew for instant battle, or for victory won. The maskers instantly
ceased their mimic strife, and collecting themselves under their
original leaders, or presenters, for such was the appropriate phrase,
seemed to share the anxious expectation which the spectators experienced
concerning what was next to appear.

The doors of the hall were thrown wide, and no less a person entered
than the fiend-born Merlin, dressed in a strange and mystical attire,
suited to his ambiguous birth and magical power.

About him and behind him fluttered or gambolled many extraordinary
forms, intended to represent the spirits who waited to do his powerful
bidding; and so much did this part of the pageant interest the menials
and others of the lower class then in the Castle, that many of them
forgot even the reverence due to the Queen’s presence, so far as to
thrust themselves into the lower part of the hall.

The Earl of Leicester, seeing his officers had some difficulty to repel
these intruders, without more disturbance than was fitting where the
Queen was in presence, arose and went himself to the bottom of the
hall; Elizabeth, at the same time, with her usual feeling for the common
people, requesting that they might be permitted to remain undisturbed
to witness the pageant. Leicester went under this pretext; but his real
motive was to gain a moment to himself, and to relieve his mind, were it
but for one instant, from the dreadful task of hiding, under the guise
of gaiety and gallantry, the lacerating pangs of shame, anger, remorse,
and thirst for vengeance. He imposed silence by his look and sign upon
the vulgar crowd at the lower end of the apartment; but instead of
instantly returning to wait on her Majesty, he wrapped his cloak around
him, and mixing with the crowd, stood in some degree an undistinguished
spectator of the progress of the masque.

Merlin having entered, and advanced into the midst of the hall, summoned
the presenters of the contending bands around him by a wave of his
magical rod, and announced to them, in a poetical speech, that the isle
of Britain was now commanded by a Royal Maiden, to whom it was the will
of fate that they should all do homage, and request of her to pronounce
on the various pretensions which each set forth to be esteemed the
pre-eminent stock, from which the present natives, the happy subjects of
that angelical Princess, derived their lineage.

In obedience to this mandate, the bands, each moving to solemn music,
passed in succession before Elizabeth, doing her, as they passed, each
after the fashion of the people whom they represented, the lowest
and most devotional homage, which she returned with the same gracious
courtesy that had marked her whole conduct since she came to Kenilworth.

The presenters of the several masques or quadrilles then alleged, each
in behalf of his own troop, the reasons which they had for claiming
pre-eminence over the rest; and when they had been all heard in turn,
she returned them this gracious answer: “That she was sorry she was not
better qualified to decide upon the doubtful question which had been
propounded to her by the direction of the famous Merlin, but that it
seemed to her that no single one of these celebrated nations could claim
pre-eminence over the others, as having most contributed to form the
Englishman of her own time, who unquestionably derived from each of them
some worthy attribute of his character. Thus,” she said, “the Englishman
had from the ancient Briton his bold and tameless spirit of freedom;
from the Roman his disciplined courage in war, with his love of letters
and civilization in time of peace; from the Saxon his wise and equitable
laws; and from the chivalrous Norman his love of honour and courtesy,
with his generous desire for glory.”

Merlin answered with readiness that it did indeed require that so many
choice qualities should meet in the English, as might render them in
some measure the muster of the perfections of other nations, since that
alone could render them in some degree deserving of the blessings they
enjoyed under the reign of England’s Elizabeth.

The music then sounded, and the quadrilles, together with Merlin and his
assistants, had begun to remove from the crowded hall, when Leicester,
who was, as we have mentioned, stationed for the moment near the bottom
of the hall, and consequently engaged in some degree in the crowd, felt
himself pulled by the cloak, while a voice whispered in his ear, “My
Lord, I do desire some instant conference with you.”



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


     How is’t with me, when every noise appals me?  --MACBETH.

“I desire some conference with you.” The words were simple in
themselves, but Lord Leicester was in that alarmed and feverish state
of mind when the most ordinary occurrences seem fraught with alarming
import; and he turned hastily round to survey the person by whom
they had been spoken. There was nothing remarkable in the speaker’s
appearance, which consisted of a black silk doublet and short mantle,
with a black vizard on his face; for it appeared he had been among the
crowd of masks who had thronged into the hall in the retinue of Merlin,
though he did not wear any of the extravagant disguises by which most of
them were distinguished.

“Who are you, or what do you want with me?” said Leicester, not without
betraying, by his accents, the hurried state of his spirits.

“No evil, my lord,” answered the mask, “but much good and honour, if
you will rightly understand my purpose. But I must speak with you more
privately.”

“I can speak with no nameless stranger,” answered Leicester, dreading he
knew not precisely what from the request of the stranger; “and those
who are known to me must seek another and a fitter time to ask an
interview.”

He would have hurried away, but the mask still detained him.

“Those who talk to your lordship of what your own honour demands have a
right over your time, whatever occupations you may lay aside in order to
indulge them.”

“How! my honour? Who dare impeach it?” said Leicester.

“Your own conduct alone can furnish grounds for accusing it, my lord,
and it is that topic on which I would speak with you.”

“You are insolent,” said Leicester, “and abuse the hospitable license
of the time, which prevents me from having you punished. I demand your
name!”

“Edmund Tressilian of Cornwall,” answered the mask. “My tongue has been
bound by a promise for four-and-twenty hours. The space is passed,--I
now speak, and do your lordship the justice to address myself first to
you.”

The thrill of astonishment which had penetrated to Leicester’s very
heart at hearing that name pronounced by the voice of the man he most
detested, and by whom he conceived himself so deeply injured, at first
rendered him immovable, but instantly gave way to such a thirst for
revenge as the pilgrim in the desert feels for the water-brooks. He had
but sense and self-government enough left to prevent his stabbing to
the heart the audacious villain, who, after the ruin he had brought
upon him, dared, with such unmoved assurance, thus to practise upon
him further. Determined to suppress for the moment every symptom of
agitation, in order to perceive the full scope of Tressilian’s purpose,
as well as to secure his own vengeance, he answered in a tone so altered
by restrained passion as scarce to be intelligible, “And what does
Master Edmund Tressilian require at my hand?”

“Justice, my lord,” answered Tressilian, calmly but firmly.

“Justice,” said Leicester, “all men are entitled to. YOU, Master
Tressilian, are peculiarly so, and be assured you shall have it.”

“I expect nothing less from your nobleness,” answered Tressilian; “but
time presses, and I must speak with you to-night. May I wait on you in
your chamber?”

“No,” answered Leicester sternly, “not under a roof, and that roof mine
own. We will meet under the free cope of heaven.”

“You are discomposed or displeased, my lord,” replied Tressilian; “yet
there is no occasion for distemperature. The place is equal to me, so
you allow me one half-hour of your time uninterrupted.”

“A shorter time will, I trust, suffice,” answered Leicester. “Meet me in
the Pleasance when the Queen has retired to her chamber.”

“Enough,” said Tressilian, and withdrew; while a sort of rapture seemed
for the moment to occupy the mind of Leicester.

“Heaven,” he said, “is at last favourable to me, and has put within my
reach the wretch who has branded me with this deep ignominy--who has
inflicted on me this cruel agony. I will blame fate no more, since I am
afforded the means of tracing the wiles by which he means still further
to practise on me, and then of at once convicting and punishing his
villainy. To my task--to my task! I will not sink under it now, since
midnight, at farthest, will bring me vengeance.”

While these reflections thronged through Leicester’s mind, he again made
his way amid the obsequious crowd, which divided to give him passage,
and resumed his place, envied and admired, beside the person of his
Sovereign. But could the bosom of him thus admired and envied have been
laid open before the inhabitants of that crowded hall, with all its dark
thoughts of guilty ambition, blighted affection, deep vengeance, and
conscious sense of meditated cruelty, crossing each other like spectres
in the circle of some foul enchantress, which of them, from the most
ambitious noble in the courtly circle down to the most wretched menial
who lived by shifting of trenchers, would have desired to change
characters with the favourite of Elizabeth, and the Lord of Kenilworth?

New tortures awaited him as soon as he had rejoined Elizabeth.

“You come in time, my lord,” she said, “to decide a dispute between us
ladies. Here has Sir Richard Varney asked our permission to depart from
the Castle with his infirm lady, having, as he tells us, your lordship’s
consent to his absence, so he can obtain ours. Certes, we have no will
to withhold him from the affectionate charge of this poor young person;
but you are to know that Sir Richard Varney hath this day shown himself
so much captivated with these ladies of ours, that here is our Duchess
of Rutland says he will carry his poor insane wife no farther than the
lake, plunge her in to tenant the crystal palaces that the enchanted
nymph told us of, and return a jolly widower, to dry his tears and to
make up the loss among our train. How say you, my lord? We have seen
Varney under two or three different guises--you know what are his proper
attributes--think you he is capable of playing his lady such a knave’s
trick?”

Leicester was confounded, but the danger was urgent, and a reply
absolutely necessary. “The ladies,” he said, “think too lightly of one
of their own sex, in supposing she could deserve such a fate; or too ill
of ours, to think it could be inflicted upon an innocent female.”

“Hear him, my ladies,” said Elizabeth; “like all his sex, he would
excuse their cruelty by imputing fickleness to us.”

“Say not US, madam,” replied the Earl. “We say that meaner women, like
the lesser lights of heaven, have revolutions and phases; but who shall
impute mutability to the sun, or to Elizabeth?”

The discourse presently afterwards assumed a less perilous tendency, and
Leicester continued to support his part in it with spirit, at whatever
expense of mental agony. So pleasing did it seem to Elizabeth, that the
Castle bell had sounded midnight ere she retired from the company, a
circumstance unusual in her quiet and regular habits of disposing of
time. Her departure was, of course, the signal for breaking up the
company, who dispersed to their several places of repose, to dream over
the pastimes of the day, or to anticipate those of the morrow.

The unfortunate Lord of the Castle, and founder of the proud festival,
retired to far different thoughts. His direction to the valet who
attended him was to send Varney instantly to his apartment. The
messenger returned after some delay, and informed him that an hour had
elapsed since Sir Richard Varney had left the Castle by the postern gate
with three other persons, one of whom was transported in a horse-litter.

“How came he to leave the Castle after the watch was set?” said
Leicester. “I thought he went not till daybreak.”

“He gave satisfactory reasons, as I understand,” said the domestic, “to
the guard, and, as I hear, showed your lordship’s signet--”

“True--true,” said the Earl; “yet he has been hasty. Do any of his
attendants remain behind?”

“Michael Lambourne, my lord,” said the valet, “was not to be found when
Sir Richard Varney departed, and his master was much incensed at his
absence. I saw him but now saddling his horse to gallop after his
master.”

“Bid him come hither instantly,” said Leicester; “I have a message to
his master.”

The servant left the apartment, and Leicester traversed it for some time
in deep meditation. “Varney is over-zealous,” he said, “over-pressing.
He loves me, I think; but he hath his own ends to serve, and he is
inexorable in pursuit of them. If I rise, he rises; and he hath shown
himself already but too, eager to rid me of this obstacle which seems
to stand betwixt me and sovereignty. Yet I will not stoop to bear this
disgrace. She shall be punished, but it shall be more advisedly. I
already feel, even in anticipation, that over-haste would light the
flames of hell in my bosom. No--one victim is enough at once, and that
victim already waits me.”

He seized upon writing materials, and hastily traced these words:--

“Sir Richard Varney, we have resolved to defer the matter entrusted to
your care, and strictly command you to proceed no further in relation
to our Countess until our further order. We also command your instant
return to Kenilworth as soon as you have safely bestowed that with which
you are entrusted. But if the safe-placing of your present charge shall
detain you longer than we think for, we command you in that case to send
back our signet-ring by a trusty and speedy messenger, we having present
need of the same. And requiring your strict obedience in these things,
and commending you to God’s keeping, we rest your assured good friend
and master,

“R. LEICESTER. “Given at our Castle of Kenilworth, the tenth of July, in
the year of Salvation one thousand five hundred and seventy-five.”

As Leicester had finished and sealed this mandate, Michael Lambourne,
booted up to mid-thigh, having his riding-cloak girthed around him
with a broad belt, and a felt cap on his head, like that of a courier,
entered his apartment, ushered in by the valet.

“What is thy capacity of service?” said the Earl.

“Equerry to your lordship’s master of the horse,” answered Lambourne,
with his customary assurance.

“Tie up thy saucy tongue, sir,” said Leicester; “the jests that may suit
Sir Richard Varney’s presence suit not mine. How soon wilt thou overtake
thy master?”

“In one hour’s riding, my lord, if man and horse hold good,” said
Lambourne, with an instant alteration of demeanour, from an approach to
familiarity to the deepest respect. The Earl measured him with his eye
from top to toe.

“I have heard of thee,” he said “men say thou art a prompt fellow in
thy service, but too much given to brawling and to wassail to be trusted
with things of moment.”

“My lord,” said Lambourne, “I have been soldier, sailor, traveller, and
adventurer; and these are all trades in which men enjoy to-day, because
they have no surety of to-morrow. But though I may misuse mine own
leisure, I have never neglected the duty I owe my master.”

“See that it be so in this instance,” said Leicester, “and it shall do
thee good. Deliver this letter speedily and carefully into Sir Richard
Varney’s hands.”

“Does my commission reach no further?” said Lambourne.

“No,” answered Leicester; “but it deeply concerns me that it be
carefully as well as hastily executed.”

“I will spare neither care nor horse-flesh,” answered Lambourne, and
immediately took his leave.

“So, this is the end of my private audience, from which I hoped so
much!” he muttered to himself, as he went through the long gallery, and
down the back staircase. “Cogs bones! I thought the Earl had wanted a
cast of mine office in some secret intrigue, and it all ends in carrying
a letter! Well, his pleasure shall be done, however; and as his lordship
well says, it may do me good another time. The child must creep ere he
walk, and so must your infant courtier. I will have a look into
this letter, however, which he hath sealed so sloven-like.” Having
accomplished this, he clapped his hands together in ecstasy, exclaiming,
“The Countess the Countess! I have the secret that shall make or mar
me.--But come forth, Bayard,” he added, leading his horse into the
courtyard, “for your flanks and my spurs must be presently acquainted.”

Lambourne mounted, accordingly, and left the Castle by the postern gate,
where his free passage was permitted, in consequence of a message to
that effect left by Sir Richard Varney.

As soon as Lambourne and the valet had left the apartment, Leicester
proceeded to change his dress for a very plain one, threw his mantle
around him, and taking a lamp in his hand, went by the private passage
of communication to a small secret postern door which opened into the
courtyard, near to the entrance of the Pleasance. His reflections were
of a more calm and determined character than they had been at any late
period, and he endeavoured to claim, even in his own eyes, the character
of a man more sinned against than sinning.

“I have suffered the deepest injury,” such was the tenor of his
meditations, “yet I have restricted the instant revenge which was in my
power, and have limited it to that which is manly and noble. But shall
the union which this false woman has this day disgraced remain an
abiding fetter on me, to check me in the noble career to which my
destinies invite me? No; there are other means of disengaging such ties,
without unloosing the cords of life. In the sight of God, I am no longer
bound by the union she has broken. Kingdoms shall divide us, oceans roll
betwixt us, and their waves, whose abysses have swallowed whole navies,
shall be the sole depositories of the deadly mystery.”

By such a train of argument did Leicester labour to reconcile his
conscience to the prosecution of plans of vengeance, so hastily adopted,
and of schemes of ambition, which had become so woven in with every
purpose and action of his life that he was incapable of the effort of
relinquishing them, until his revenge appeared to him to wear a face of
justice, and even of generous moderation.

In this mood the vindictive and ambitious Earl entered the superb
precincts of the Pleasance, then illumined by the full moon. The broad,
yellow light was reflected on all sides from the white freestone, of
which the pavement, balustrades, and architectural ornaments of the
place were constructed; and not a single fleecy cloud was visible in the
azure sky, so that the scene was nearly as light as if the sun had but
just left the horizon. The numerous statues of white marble glimmered
in the pale light like so many sheeted ghosts just arisen from their
sepulchres, and the fountains threw their jets into the air as if they
sought that their waters should be brightened by the moonbeams ere they
fell down again upon their basins in showers of sparkling silver. The
day had been sultry, and the gentle night-breeze which sighed along the
terrace of the Pleasance raised not a deeper breath than the fan in the
hand of youthful beauty. The bird of summer night had built many a nest
in the bowers of the adjacent garden, and the tenants now indemnified
themselves for silence during the day by a full chorus of their
own unrivalled warblings, now joyous, now pathetic, now united, now
responsive to each other, as if to express their delight in the placid
and delicious scene to which they poured their melody.

Musing on matters far different from the fall of waters, the gleam of
moonlight, or the song of the nightingale, the stately Leicester walked
slowly from the one end of the terrace to the other, his cloak wrapped
around him, and his sword under his arm, without seeing anything
resembling the human form.

“I have been fooled by my own generosity,” he said, “if I have suffered
the villain to escape me--ay, and perhaps to go to the rescue of the
adulteress, who is so poorly guarded.”

These were his thoughts, which were instantly dispelled when, turning
to look back towards the entrance, he saw a human form advancing slowly
from the portico, and darkening the various objects with its shadow, as
passing them successively, in its approach towards him.

“Shall I strike ere I again hear his detested voice?” was Leicester’s
thought, as he grasped the hilt of the sword. “But no! I will see which
way his vile practice tends. I will watch, disgusting as it is, the
coils and mazes of the loathsome snake, ere I put forth my strength and
crush him.”

His hand quitted the sword-hilt, and he advanced slowly towards
Tressilian, collecting, for their meeting, all the self-possession he
could command, until they came front to front with each other.

Tressilian made a profound reverence, to which the Earl replied with
a haughty inclination of the head, and the words, “You sought secret
conference with me, sir; I am here, and attentive.”

“My lord,” said Tressilian, “I am so earnest in that which I have to
say, and so desirous to find a patient, nay, a favourable hearing, that
I will stoop to exculpate myself from whatever might prejudice your
lordship against me. You think me your enemy?”

“Have I not some apparent cause?” answered Leicester, perceiving that
Tressilian paused for a reply.

“You do me wrong, my lord. I am a friend, but neither a dependant nor
partisan, of the Earl of Sussex, whom courtiers call your rival; and it
is some considerable time since I ceased to consider either courts or
court intrigues as suited to my temper or genius.”

“No doubt, sir,” answered Leicester “there are other occupations more
worthy a scholar, and for such the world holds Master Tressilian. Love
has his intrigues as well as ambition.”

“I perceive, my lord,” replied Tressilian, “you give much weight to my
early attachment for the unfortunate young person of whom I am about to
speak, and perhaps think I am prosecuting her cause out of rivalry, more
than a sense of justice.”

“No matter for my thoughts, sir,” said the Earl; “proceed. You have as
yet spoken of yourself only--an important and worthy subject doubtless,
but which, perhaps, does not altogether so deeply concern me that I
should postpone my repose to hear it. Spare me further prelude, sir, and
speak to the purpose if indeed you have aught to say that concerns me.
When you have done, I, in my turn, have something to communicate.”

“I will speak, then, without further prelude, my lord,” answered
Tressilian, “having to say that which, as it concerns your lordship’s
honour, I am confident you will not think your time wasted in listening
to. I have to request an account from your lordship of the unhappy Amy
Robsart, whose history is too well known to you. I regret deeply that I
did not at once take this course, and make yourself judge between me and
the villain by whom she is injured. My lord, she extricated herself
from an unlawful and most perilous state of confinement, trusting to the
effects of her own remonstrance upon her unworthy husband, and extorted
from me a promise that I would not interfere in her behalf until she had
used her own efforts to have her rights acknowledged by him.”

“Ha,” said Leicester, “remember you to whom you speak?”

“I speak of her unworthy husband, my lord,” repeated Tressilian, “and
my respect can find no softer language. The unhappy young woman is
withdrawn from my knowledge, and sequestered in some secret place of
this Castle--if she be not transferred to some place of seclusion better
fitted for bad designs. This must be reformed, my lord--I speak it as
authorized by her father--and this ill-fated marriage must be avouched
and proved in the Queen’s presence, and the lady placed without
restraint and at her own free disposal. And permit me to say it concerns
no one’s honour that these most just demands of mine should be complied
with so much as it does that of your lordship.”

The Earl stood as if he had been petrified at the extreme coolness
with which the man, whom he considered as having injured him so deeply,
pleaded the cause of his criminal paramour, as if she had been an
innocent woman and he a disinterested advocate; nor was his wonder
lessened by the warmth with which Tressilian seemed to demand for her
the rank and situation which she had disgraced, and the advantages of
which she was doubtless to share with the lover who advocated her cause
with such effrontery. Tressilian had been silent for more than a
minute ere the Earl recovered from the excess of his astonishment; and
considering the prepossessions with which his mind was occupied, there
is little wonder that his passion gained the mastery of every other
consideration. “I have heard you, Master Tressilian,” said he, “without
interruption, and I bless God that my ears were never before made to
tingle by the words of so frontless a villain. The task of chastising
you is fitter for the hangman’s scourge than the sword of a nobleman,
but yet--Villain, draw and defend thyself!”

As he spoke the last words, he dropped his mantle on the ground, struck
Tressilian smartly with his sheathed sword, and instantly drawing his
rapier, put himself into a posture of assault. The vehement fury of his
language at first filled Tressilian, in his turn, with surprise equal
to what Leicester had felt when he addressed him. But astonishment gave
place to resentment when the unmerited insults of his language were
followed by a blow which immediately put to flight every thought save
that of instant combat. Tressilian’s sword was instantly drawn; and
though perhaps somewhat inferior to Leicester in the use of the weapon,
he understood it well enough to maintain the contest with great spirit,
the rather that of the two he was for the time the more cool, since he
could not help imputing Leicester’s conduct either to actual frenzy or
to the influence of some strong delusion.

The rencontre had continued for several minutes, without either party
receiving a wound, when of a sudden voices were heard beneath the
portico which formed the entrance of the terrace, mingled with the steps
of men advancing hastily. “We are interrupted,” said Leicester to his
antagonist; “follow me.”

At the same time a voice from the portico said, “The jackanape is
right--they are tilting here.”

Leicester, meanwhile, drew off Tressilian into a sort of recess behind
one of the fountains, which served to conceal them, while six of
the yeomen of the Queen’s guard passed along the middle walk of the
Pleasance, and they could hear one say to the rest, “We shall never find
them to-night among all these squirting funnels, squirrel cages, and
rabbit-holes; but if we light not on them before we reach the farther
end, we will return, and mount a guard at the entrance, and so secure
them till morning.”

“A proper matter,” said another, “the drawing of swords so near the
Queen’s presence, ay, and in her very palace as ‘twere! Hang it, they
must be some poor drunken game-cocks fallen to sparring--‘twere pity
almost we should find them--the penalty is chopping off a hand, is it
not?--‘twere hard to lose hand for handling a bit of steel, that comes
so natural to one’s gripe.”

“Thou art a brawler thyself, George,” said another; “but take heed, for
the law stands as thou sayest.”

“Ay,” said the first, “an the act be not mildly construed; for thou
knowest ‘tis not the Queen’s palace, but my Lord of Leicester’s.”

“Why, for that matter, the penalty may be as severe,” said another “for
an our gracious Mistress be Queen, as she is, God save her, my Lord of
Leicester is as good as King.”

“Hush, thou knave!” said a third; “how knowest thou who may be within
hearing?”

They passed on, making a kind of careless search, but seemingly more
intent on their own conversation than bent on discovering the persons
who had created the nocturnal disturbance.

They had no sooner passed forward along the terrace, than Leicester,
making a sign to Tressilian to follow him, glided away in an opposite
direction, and escaped through the portico undiscovered. He conducted
Tressilian to Mervyn’s Tower, in which he was now again lodged; and
then, ere parting with him, said these words, “If thou hast courage to
continue and bring to an end what is thus broken off, be near me when
the court goes forth to-morrow; we shall find a time, and I will give
you a signal when it is fitting.”

“My lord,” said Tressilian, “at another time I might have inquired the
meaning of this strange and furious inveteracy against me. But you have
laid that on my shoulder which only blood can wash away; and were you
as high as your proudest wishes ever carried you, I would have from you
satisfaction for my wounded honour.”

On these terms they parted, but the adventures of the night were not yet
ended with Leicester. He was compelled to pass by Saintlowe’s Tower, in
order to gain the private passage which led to his own chamber; and in
the entrance thereof he met Lord Hunsdon half clothed, and with a naked
sword under his arm.

“Are you awakened, too, with this ‘larum, my Lord of Leicester?” said
the old soldier. “‘Tis well. By gog’s nails, the nights are as noisy as
the day in this Castle of yours. Some two hours since I was waked by
the screams of that poor brain-sick Lady Varney, whom her husband
was forcing away. I promise you it required both your warrant and the
Queen’s to keep me from entering into the game, and cutting that Varney
of yours over the head. And now there is a brawl down in the Pleasance,
or what call you the stone terrace-walk where all yonder gimcracks
stand?”

The first part of the old man’s speech went through the Earl’s heart
like a knife; to the last he answered that he himself had heard the
clash of swords, and had come down to take order with those who had been
so insolent so near the Queen’s presence.

“Nay, then,” said Hunsdon, “I will be glad of your lordship’s company.”

Leicester was thus compelled to turn back with the rough old Lord to the
Pleasance, where Hunsdon heard from the yeomen of the guard, who were
under his immediate command, the unsuccessful search they had made for
the authors of the disturbance; and bestowed for their pains some round
dozen of curses on them, as lazy knaves and blind whoresons. Leicester
also thought it necessary to seem angry that no discovery had been
effected; but at length suggested to Lord Hunsdon, that after all it
could only be some foolish young men who had been drinking healths
pottle-deep, and who should be sufficiently scared by the search which
had taken place after them. Hunsdon, who was himself attached to his
cup, allowed that a pint-flagon might cover many of the follies which it
had caused, “But,” added he, “unless your lordship will be less liberal
in your housekeeping, and restrain the overflow of ale, and wine, and
wassail, I foresee it will end in my having some of these good fellows
into the guard-house, and treating them to a dose of the strappado. And
with this warning, good night to you.”

Joyful at being rid of his company, Leicester took leave of him at the
entrance of his lodging, where they had first met, and entering the
private passage, took up the lamp which he had left there, and by its
expiring light found the way to his own apartment.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


     Room!  room!  for my horse will wince
     If he comes within so many yards of a prince;
     For to tell you true, and in rhyme,
     He was foal’d in Queen Elizabeth’s time;
     When the great Earl of Lester
     In his castle did feast her.
     --BEN JONSON, MASQUE OF OWLS.

The amusement with which Elizabeth and her court were next day to be
regaled was an exhibition by the true-hearted men of Coventry, who were
to represent the strife between the English and the Danes, agreeably
to a custom long preserved in their ancient borough, and warranted for
truth by old histories and chronicles. In this pageant one party of the
townsfolk presented the Saxons and the other the Danes, and set forth,
both in rude rhymes and with hard blows, the contentions of these two
fierce nations, and the Amazonian courage of the English women, who,
according to the story, were the principal agents in the general
massacre of the Danes, which took place at Hocktide, in the year of God
1012. This sport, which had been long a favourite pastime with the
men of Coventry, had, it seems, been put down by the influence of
some zealous clergymen of the more precise cast, who chanced to have
considerable influence with the magistrates. But the generality of the
inhabitants had petitioned the Queen that they might have their play
again, and be honoured with permission to represent it before her
Highness. And when the matter was canvassed in the little council which
usually attended the Queen for dispatch of business, the proposal,
although opposed by some of the stricter sort, found favour in the eyes
of Elizabeth, who said that such toys occupied, without offence, the
minds of many who, lacking them, might find worse subjects of pastime;
and that their pastors, however commendable for learning and godliness,
were somewhat too sour in preaching against the pastimes of their flocks
and so the pageant was permitted to proceed.

Accordingly, after a morning repast, which Master Laneham calls an
ambrosial breakfast, the principal persons of the court in attendance
upon her Majesty pressed to the Gallery-tower, to witness the approach
of the two contending parties of English and Danes; and after a signal
had been given, the gate which opened in the circuit of the Chase was
thrown wide to admit them. On they came, foot and horse; for some of
the more ambitious burghers and yeomen had put themselves into fantastic
dresses, imitating knights, in order to resemble the chivalry of the two
different nations. However, to prevent fatal accidents, they were not
permitted to appear on real horses, but had only license to accoutre
themselves with those hobby-horses, as they are called, which anciently
formed the chief delight of a morrice-dance, and which still are
exhibited on the stage, in the grand battle fought at the conclusion
of Mr. Bayes’s tragedy. The infantry followed in similar disguises.
The whole exhibition was to be considered as a sort of anti-masque, or
burlesque of the more stately pageants in which the nobility and gentry
bore part in the show, and, to the best of their knowledge, imitated
with accuracy the personages whom they represented. The Hocktide play
was of a different character, the actors being persons of inferior
degree, and their habits the better fitted for the occasion, the more
incongruous and ridiculous that they were in themselves. Accordingly
their array, which the progress of our tale allows us no time to
describe, was ludicrous enough; and their weapons, though sufficiently
formidable to deal sound blows, were long alder-poles instead of lances,
and sound cudgels for swords; and for fence, both cavalry and infantry
were well equipped with stout headpieces and targets, both made of thick
leather.

Captain Coxe, that celebrated humorist of Coventry, whose library of
ballads, almanacs, and penny histories, fairly wrapped up in parchment,
and tied round for security with a piece of whipcord, remains still
the envy of antiquaries, being himself the ingenious person under
whose direction the pageant had been set forth, rode valiantly on his
hobby-horse before the bands of English, high-trussed, saith Laneham,
and brandishing his long sword, as became an experienced man of war, who
had fought under the Queen’s father, bluff King Henry, at the siege of
Boulogne. This chieftain was, as right and reason craved, the first to
enter the lists, and passing the Gallery at the head of his myrmidons,
kissed the hilt of his sword to the Queen, and executed at the same
time a gambade, the like whereof had never been practised by two-legged
hobby-horse. Then passing on with all his followers of cavaliers and
infantry, he drew them up with martial skill at the opposite extremity
of the bridge, or tilt-yard, until his antagonist should be fairly
prepared for the onset.

This was no long interval; for the Danish cavalry and infantry, no way
inferior to the English in number, valour, and equipment, instantly
arrived, with the northern bagpipe blowing before them in token of their
country, and headed by a cunning master of defence, only inferior to the
renowned Captain Coxe, if to him, in the discipline of war. The Danes,
as invaders, took their station under the Gallery-tower, and opposite
to that of Mortimer; and when their arrangements were completely made, a
signal was given for the encounter.

Their first charge upon each other was rather moderate, for either party
had some dread of being forced into the lake. But as reinforcements came
up on either side, the encounter grew from a skirmish into a blazing
battle. They rushed upon one another, as Master Laneham testifies, like
rams inflamed by jealousy, with such furious encounter that both parties
were often overthrown, and the clubs and targets made a most horrible
clatter. In many instances that happened which had been dreaded by the
more experienced warriors who began the day of strife. The rails which
defended the ledges of the bridge had been, perhaps on purpose, left but
slightly fastened, and gave way under the pressure of those who thronged
to the combat, so that the hot courage of many of the combatants
received a sufficient cooling. These incidents might have occasioned
more serious damage than became such an affray, for many of the
champions who met with this mischance could not swim, and those who
could were encumbered with their suits of leathern and of paper armour;
but the case had been provided for, and there were several boats in
readiness to pick up the unfortunate warriors and convey them to the dry
land, where, dripping and dejected, they comforted themselves with the
hot ale and strong waters which were liberally allowed to them, without
showing any desire to re-enter so desperate a conflict.

Captain Coxe alone, that paragon of Black-Letter antiquaries, after
twice experiencing, horse and man, the perilous leap from the bridge
into the lake, equal to any extremity to which the favourite heroes of
chivalry, whose exploits he studied in an abridged form, whether Amadis,
Belianis, Bevis, or his own Guy of Warwick, had ever been subjected
to--Captain Coxe, we repeat, did alone, after two such mischances, rush
again into the heat of conflict, his bases and the footcloth of his
hobby-horse dropping water, and twice reanimated by voice and example
the drooping spirits of the English; so that at last their victory over
the Danish invaders became, as was just and reasonable, complete and
decisive. Worthy he was to be rendered immortal by the pen of Ben
Jonson, who, fifty years afterwards, deemed that a masque, exhibited at
Kenilworth, could be ushered in by none with so much propriety as by the
ghost of Captain Coxe, mounted upon his redoubted hobby-horse.

These rough, rural gambols may not altogether agree with the reader’s
preconceived idea of an entertainment presented before Elizabeth, in
whose reign letters revived with such brilliancy, and whose court,
governed by a female whose sense of propriety was equal to her strength
of mind, was no less distinguished for delicacy and refinement than her
councils for wisdom and fortitude. But whether from the political wish
to seem interested in popular sports, or whether from a spark of old
Henry’s rough, masculine spirit, which Elizabeth sometimes displayed,
it is certain the Queen laughed heartily at the imitation, or rather
burlesque, of chivalry which was presented in the Coventry play. She
called near her person the Earl of Sussex and Lord Hunsdon, partly
perhaps to make amends to the former for the long and private audiences
with which she had indulged the Earl of Leicester, by engaging him in
conversation upon a pastime which better suited his taste than those
pageants that were furnished forth from the stores of antiquity. The
disposition which the Queen showed to laugh and jest with her military
leaders gave the Earl of Leicester the opportunity he had been watching
for withdrawing from the royal presence, which to the court around, so
well had he chosen his time, had the graceful appearance of leaving his
rival free access to the Queen’s person, instead of availing himself of
his right as her landlord to stand perpetually betwixt others and the
light of her countenance.

Leicester’s thoughts, however, had a far different object from
mere courtesy; for no sooner did he see the Queen fairly engaged in
conversation with Sussex and Hunsdon, behind whose back stood Sir
Nicholas Blount, grinning from ear to ear at each word which was spoken,
than, making a sign to Tressilian, who, according to appointment,
watched his motions at a little distance, he extricated himself from the
press, and walking towards the Chase, made his way through the crowds of
ordinary spectators, who, with open mouth, stood gazing on the battle
of the English and the Danes. When he had accomplished this, which was
a work of some difficulty, he shot another glance behind him to see that
Tressilian had been equally successful; and as soon as he saw him also
free from the crowd, he led the way to a small thicket, behind which
stood a lackey, with two horses ready saddled. He flung himself on the
one, and made signs to Tressilian to mount the other, who obeyed without
speaking a single word.

Leicester then spurred his horse, and galloped without stopping until
he reached a sequestered spot, environed by lofty oaks, about a mile’s
distance from the Castle, and in an opposite direction from the scene to
which curiosity was drawing every spectator. He there dismounted, bound
his horse to a tree, and only pronouncing the words, “Here there is no
risk of interruption,” laid his cloak across his saddle, and drew his
sword.

Tressilian imitated his example punctually, yet could not forbear
saying, as he drew his weapon, “My lord, as I have been known to many as
one who does not fear death when placed in balance with honour, methinks
I may, without derogation, ask wherefore, in the name of all that is
honourable, your lordship has dared to offer me such a mark of disgrace
as places us on these terms with respect to each other?”

“If you like not such marks of my scorn,” replied the Earl, “betake
yourself instantly to your weapon, lest I repeat the usage you complain
of.”

“It shall not need, my lord,” said Tressilian. “God judge betwixt us!
and your blood, if you fall, be on your own head.”

He had scarce completed the sentence when they instantly closed in
combat.

But Leicester, who was a perfect master of defence among all other
exterior accomplishments of the time, had seen on the preceding night
enough of Tressilian’s strength and skill to make him fight with more
caution than heretofore, and prefer a secure revenge to a hasty one.
For some minutes they fought with equal skill and fortune, till, in
a desperate lunge which Leicester successfully put aside, Tressilian
exposed himself at disadvantage; and in a subsequent attempt to close,
the Earl forced his sword from his hand, and stretched him on the
ground. With a grim smile he held the point of his rapier within two
inches of the throat of his fallen adversary, and placing his foot at
the same time upon his breast, bid him confess his villainous wrongs
towards him, and prepare for death.

“I have no villainy nor wrong towards thee to confess,” answered
Tressilian, “and am better prepared for death than thou. Use thine
advantage as thou wilt, and may God forgive you! I have given you no
cause for this.”

“No cause!” exclaimed the Earl, “no cause!--but why parley with such a
slave? Die a liar, as thou hast lived!”

He had withdrawn his arm for the purpose of striking the fatal blow,
when it was suddenly seized from behind.

The Earl turned in wrath to shake off the unexpected obstacle, but was
surprised to find that a strange-looking boy had hold of his sword-arm,
and clung to it with such tenacity of grasp that he could not shake him
of without a considerable struggle, in the course of which Tressilian
had opportunity to rise and possess himself once more of his weapon.
Leicester again turned towards him with looks of unabated ferocity, and
the combat would have recommenced with still more desperation on both
sides, had not the boy clung to Lord Leicester’s knees, and in a shrill
tone implored him to listen one moment ere he prosecuted this quarrel.

“Stand up, and let me go,” said Leicester, “or, by Heaven, I will pierce
thee with my rapier! What hast thou to do to bar my way to revenge?”

“Much--much!” exclaimed the undaunted boy, “since my folly has been
the cause of these bloody quarrels between you, and perchance of worse
evils. Oh, if you would ever again enjoy the peace of an innocent mind,
if you hope again to sleep in peace and unhaunted by remorse, take so
much leisure as to peruse this letter, and then do as you list.”

While he spoke in this eager and earnest manner, to which his singular
features and voice gave a goblin-like effect, he held up to Leicester
a packet, secured with a long tress of woman’s hair of a beautiful
light-brown colour. Enraged as he was, nay, almost blinded with fury to
see his destined revenge so strangely frustrated, the Earl of Leicester
could not resist this extraordinary supplicant. He snatched the letter
from his hand--changed colour as he looked on the superscription--undid
with faltering hand the knot which secured it--glanced over the
contents, and staggering back, would have fallen, had he not rested
against the trunk of a tree, where he stood for an instant, his eyes
bent on the letter, and his sword-point turned to the ground, without
seeming to be conscious of the presence of an antagonist towards whom
he had shown little mercy, and who might in turn have taken him at
advantage. But for such revenge Tressilian was too noble-minded. He
also stood still in surprise, waiting the issue of this strange fit of
passion, but holding his weapon ready to defend himself in case of need
against some new and sudden attack on the part of Leicester, whom he
again suspected to be under the influence of actual frenzy. The boy,
indeed, he easily recognized as his old acquaintance Dickon, whose face,
once seen, was scarcely to be forgotten; but how he came hither at so
critical a moment, why his interference was so energetic, and, above
all, how it came to produce so powerful an effect upon Leicester, were
questions which he could not solve.

But the letter was of itself powerful enough to work effects yet more
wonderful. It was that which the unfortunate Amy had written to her
husband, in which she alleged the reasons and manner of her flight from
Cumnor Place, informed him of her having made her way to Kenilworth
to enjoy his protection, and mentioned the circumstances which had
compelled her to take refuge in Tressilian’s apartment, earnestly
requesting he would, without delay, assign her a more suitable asylum.
The letter concluded with the most earnest expressions of devoted
attachment and submission to his will in all things, and particularly
respecting her situation and place of residence, conjuring him only that
she might not be placed under the guardianship or restraint of Varney.
The letter dropped from Leicester’s hand when he had perused it. “Take
my sword,” he said, “Tressilian, and pierce my heart, as I would but now
have pierced yours!”

“My lord,” said Tressilian, “you have done me great wrong, but something
within my breast ever whispered that it was by egregious error.”

“Error, indeed!” said Leicester, and handed him the letter; “I have been
made to believe a man of honour a villain, and the best and purest of
creatures a false profligate.--Wretched boy, why comes this letter now,
and where has the bearer lingered?”

“I dare not tell you, my lord,” said the boy, withdrawing, as if to keep
beyond his reach; “but here comes one who was the messenger.”

Wayland at the same moment came up; and interrogated by Leicester,
hastily detailed all the circumstances of his escape with Amy, the fatal
practices which had driven her to flight, and her anxious desire to
throw herself under the instant protection of her husband--pointing
out the evidence of the domestics of Kenilworth, “who could not,” he
observed, “but remember her eager inquiries after the Earl of Leicester
on her first arrival.”

“The villains!” exclaimed Leicester; “but oh, that worst of villains,
Varney!--and she is even now in his power!”

“But not, I trust in God,” said Tressilian, “with any commands of fatal
import?”

“No, no, no!” exclaimed the Earl hastily. “I said something in madness;
but it was recalled, fully recalled, by a hasty messenger, and she is
now--she must now be safe.”

“Yes,” said Tressilian, “she MUST be safe, and I MUST be assured of her
safety. My own quarrel with you is ended, my lord; but there is another
to begin with the seducer of Amy Robsart, who has screened his guilt
under the cloak of the infamous Varney.”

“The SEDUCER of Amy!” replied Leicester, with a voice like thunder; “say
her husband!--her misguided, blinded, most unworthy husband! She is
as surely Countess of Leicester as I am belted Earl. Nor can you, sir,
point out that manner of justice which I will not render her at my own
free will. I need scarce say I fear not your compulsion.”

The generous nature of Tressilian was instantly turned from
consideration of anything personal to himself, and centred at once
upon Amy’s welfare. He had by no means undoubting confidence in the
fluctuating resolutions of Leicester, whose mind seemed to him agitated
beyond the government of calm reason; neither did he, notwithstanding
the assurances he had received, think Amy safe in the hands of his
dependants. “My lord,” he said calmly, “I mean you no offence, and am
far from seeking a quarrel. But my duty to Sir Hugh Robsart compels me
to carry this matter instantly to the Queen, that the Countess’s rank
may be acknowledged in her person.”

“You shall not need, sir,” replied the Earl haughtily; “do not dare
to interfere. No voice but Dudley’s shall proclaim Dudley’s infamy. To
Elizabeth herself will I tell it; and then for Cumnor Place with the
speed of life and death!”

So saying, he unbound his horse from the tree, threw himself into the
saddle, and rode at full gallop towards the Castle.

“Take me before you, Master Tressilian,” said the boy, seeing Tressilian
mount in the same haste; “my tale is not all told out, and I need your
protection.”

Tressilian complied, and followed the Earl, though at a less furious
rate. By the way the boy confessed, with much contrition, that in
resentment at Wayland’s evading all his inquiries concerning the lady,
after Dickon conceived he had in various ways merited his confidence,
he had purloined from him in revenge the letter with which Amy had
entrusted him for the Earl of Leicester. His purpose was to have
restored it to him that evening, as he reckoned himself sure of meeting
with him, in consequence of Wayland’s having to perform the part of
Arion in the pageant. He was indeed something alarmed when he saw to
whom the letter was addressed; but he argued that, as Leicester did
not return to Kenilworth until that evening, it would be again in the
possession of the proper messenger as soon as, in the nature of things,
it could possibly be delivered. But Wayland came not to the pageant,
having been in the interim expelled by Lambourne from the Castle; and
the boy, not being able to find him, or to get speech of Tressilian, and
finding himself in possession of a letter addressed to no less a person
than the Earl of Leicester, became much afraid of the consequences
of his frolic. The caution, and indeed the alarm, which Wayland had
expressed respecting Varney and Lambourne, led him to judge that the
letter must be designed for the Earl’s own hand, and that he might
prejudice the lady by giving it to any of the domestics. He made an
attempt or two to obtain an audience of Leicester; but the singularity
of his features and the meanness of his appearance occasioned his being
always repulsed by the insolent menials whom he applied to for that
purpose. Once, indeed, he had nearly succeeded, when, in prowling
about, he found in the grotto the casket, which he knew to belong to the
unlucky Countess, having seen it on her journey; for nothing escaped his
prying eye. Having striven in vain to restore it either to Tressilian
or the Countess, he put it into the hands, as we have seen, of Leicester
himself, but unfortunately he did not recognize him in his disguise.

At length the boy thought he was on the point of succeeding when the
Earl came down to the lower part of the hall; but just as he was about
to accost him, he was prevented by Tressilian. As sharp in ear as in
wit, the boy heard the appointment settled betwixt them, to take place
in the Pleasance, and resolved to add a third to the party, in hope
that, either in coming or returning, he might find an opportunity of
delivering the letter to Leicester; for strange stories began to flit
among the domestics, which alarmed him for the lady’s safety. Accident,
however, detained Dickon a little behind the Earl, and as he reached
the arcade he saw them engaged in combat; in consequence of which he
hastened to alarm the guard, having little doubt that what bloodshed
took place betwixt them might arise out of his own frolic. Continuing to
lurk in the portico, he heard the second appointment which Leicester at
parting assigned to Tressilian; and was keeping them in view during
the encounter of the Coventry men, when, to his surprise, he recognized
Wayland in the crowd, much disguised, indeed, but not sufficiently so to
escape the prying glance of his old comrade. They drew aside out of the
crowd to explain their situation to each other. The boy confessed to
Wayland what we have above told; and the artist, in return, informed him
that his deep anxiety for the fate of the unfortunate lady had brought
him back to the neighbourhood of the Castle, upon his learning
that morning, at a village about ten miles distant, that Varney
and Lambourne, whose violence he dreaded, had both left Kenilworth
over-night.

While they spoke, they saw Leicester and Tressilian separate themselves
from the crowd, dogged them until they mounted their horses, when the
boy, whose speed of foot has been before mentioned, though he could not
possibly keep up with them, yet arrived, as we have seen, soon enough
to save Tressilian’s life. The boy had just finished his tale when they
arrived at the Gallery-tower.



CHAPTER XL.


     High o’er the eastern steep the sun is beaming,
     And darkness flies with her deceitful shadows;--
     So truth prevails o’er falsehood.   --OLD PLAY.

As Tressilian rode along the bridge, lately the scene of so much riotous
sport, he could not but observe that men’s countenances had singularly
changed during the space of his brief absence. The mock fight was over,
but the men, still habited in their masking suits, stood together in
groups, like the inhabitants of a city who have been just startled by
some strange and alarming news.

When he reached the base-court, appearances were the same--domestics,
retainers, and under-officers stood together and whispered, bending
their eyes towards the windows of the Great Hall, with looks which
seemed at once alarmed and mysterious.

Sir Nicholas Blount was the first person of his own particular
acquaintance Tressilian saw, who left him no time to make inquiries, but
greeted him with, “God help thy heart, Tressilian! thou art fitter for a
clown than a courtier thou canst not attend, as becomes one who follows
her Majesty. Here you are called for, wished for, waited for--no man but
you will serve the turn; and hither you come with a misbegotten brat on
thy horse’s neck, as if thou wert dry nurse to some sucking devil, and
wert just returned from airing.”

“Why, what is the matter?” said Tressilian, letting go the boy, who
sprung to ground like a feather, and himself dismounting at the same
time.

“Why, no one knows the matter,” replied Blount; “I cannot smell it out
myself, though I have a nose like other courtiers. Only, my Lord of
Leicester has galloped along the bridge as if he would have rode over
all in his passage, demanded an audience of the Queen, and is closeted
even now with her, and Burleigh and Walsingham--and you are called for;
but whether the matter be treason or worse, no one knows.”

“He speaks true, by Heaven!” said Raleigh, who that instant appeared;
“you must immediately to the Queen’s presence.”

“Be not rash, Raleigh,” said Blount, “remember his boots.--For Heaven’s
sake, go to my chamber, dear Tressilian, and don my new bloom-coloured
silken hose; I have worn them but twice.”

“Pshaw!” answered Tressilian; “do thou take care of this boy, Blount; be
kind to him, and look he escapes you not--much depends on him.”

So saying, he followed Raleigh hastily, leaving honest Blount with the
bridle of his horse in one hand, and the boy in the other. Blount gave a
long look after him.

“Nobody,” he said, “calls me to these mysteries--and he leaves me here
to play horse-keeper and child-keeper at once. I could excuse the one,
for I love a good horse naturally; but to be plagued with a bratchet
whelp.--Whence come ye, my fair-favoured little gossip?”

“From the Fens,” answered the boy.

“And what didst thou learn there, forward imp?”

“To catch gulls, with their webbed feet and yellow stockings,” said the
boy.

“Umph!” said Blount, looking down on his own immense roses. “Nay, then,
the devil take him asks thee more questions.”

Meantime Tressilian traversed the full length of the Great Hall,
in which the astonished courtiers formed various groups, and were
whispering mysteriously together, while all kept their eyes fixed on
the door which led from the upper end of the hall into the Queen’s
withdrawing apartment. Raleigh pointed to the door. Tressilian knocked,
and was instantly admitted. Many a neck was stretched to gain a view
into the interior of the apartment; but the tapestry which covered
the door on the inside was dropped too suddenly to admit the slightest
gratification of curiosity.

Upon entrance, Tressilian found himself, not without a strong
palpitation of heart, in the presence of Elizabeth, who was walking to
and fro in a violent agitation, which she seemed to scorn to conceal,
while two or three of her most sage and confidential counsellors
exchanged anxious looks with each other, but delayed speaking till her
wrath abated. Before the empty chair of state in which she had been
seated, and which was half pushed aside by the violence with which she
had started from it, knelt Leicester, his arms crossed, and his
brows bent on the ground, still and motionless as the effigies upon a
sepulchre. Beside him stood the Lord Shrewsbury, then Earl Marshal of
England, holding his baton of office. The Earl’s sword was unbuckled,
and lay before him on the floor.

“Ho, sir!” said the Queen, coming close up to Tressilian, and stamping
on the floor with the action and manner of Henry himself; “you knew of
this fair work--you are an accomplice in this deception which has been
practised on us--you have been a main cause of our doing injustice?”
 Tressilian dropped on his knee before the Queen, his good sense showing
him the risk of attempting any defence at that moment of irritation.
“Art dumb, sirrah?” she continued; “thou knowest of this affair dost
thou not?”

“Not, gracious madam, that this poor lady was Countess of Leicester.”

“Nor shall any one know her for such,” said Elizabeth. “Death of my
life! Countess of Leicester!--I say Dame Amy Dudley; and well if she
have not cause to write herself widow of the traitor Robert Dudley.”

“Madam,” said Leicester, “do with me what it may be your will to do, but
work no injury on this gentleman; he hath in no way deserved it.”

“And will he be the better for thy intercession,” said the Queen,
leaving Tressilian, who slowly arose, and rushing to Leicester, who
continued kneeling--“the better for thy intercession, thou doubly
false--thou d