Part 6 out of 9
"Now, then, my queen, you demand it, and you shall hear it," cried
he. "You want to know the crime of which you are accused? Answer me
then, my lady! They accuse you of not always staying at night in
your sleeping-room. It is alleged that you sometimes leave it for
many hours; and that none of your women accompanied you when you
glided through the corridors and up the secret stairs to the lonely
tower, in which, was waiting for you your lover, who at the same
time entered the tower through the small street door."
"He knows all!" muttered Henry Howard; and again he laid his hand on
his sword, and was about to approach the queen.
Lady Jane held him back. "Wait for the issue," said she. "There is
still time to die!"
"He knows all!" thought the queen also; and now she felt within
herself the daring courage to risk all, that at least she might not
stand there a traitoress in the eyes of her lover.
"He shall not believe that I have been untrue to him," thought she.
"I will tell all--confess all, that he may know why I went and
"Now answer, my Lady Catharine!" thundered the king. "Answer, and
tell me whether you have been falsely accused. Is it true that you,
eight days ago, in the night between Monday and Tuesday, left your
sleeping-room at the hour of midnight, and went secretly to the
lonely tower? Is it true that you received there a man who is your
The queen looked at him in angry pride. "Henry, Henry, woe to you,
that you dare thus insult your own wife!" cried she.
"Answer me! You were not on that night in your sleeping-room?"
"No," said Catharine, with dignified composure, "I was not there."
The king sank back in his seat, and a real roar of fury sounded from
his lips. It made the women turn pale, and even the men felt
Catharine alone had not heeded it at all; she alone had heard
nothing save that cry of amazement which Thomas Seymour uttered; and
she saw only the angry and up-braiding looks which he threw across
at her. She answered these looks with a friendly and confident
smile, and pressed both her hands to her heart, as she looked at
"I will justify myself before him at least," thought she.
The king had recovered from his first shock. He again raised himself
up, and his countenance now exhibited a fearful, threatening
"You confess, then," asked he, "that you were not in your sleeping-
room on that night?"
"I have already said so," exclaimed Catharine, impatiently. The king
compressed his lips so violently, that they bled. "And a man was
with you?" asked he--"a man with whom you made an assignation, and
whom you received in the lonely tower?"
"A man was with me. But I did not receive him in the lonely tower;
and it was no assignation."
"Who was that man?" yelled the king. "Answer me! Tell me his name,
if you do not want me to strangle you myself!"
"King Henry, I fear death no longer!" said Catharine, with a
"Who was that man? Tell me his name!" yelled the king once more.
The queen raised herself more proudly, and her defiant look ran over
the whole assembly.
"The man," said she, solemnly, "who was with me on that night--he is
"He is named John Heywood!" said this individual; as he seriously
and proudly walked forward from behind the king's throne. "Yes,
Henry, your brother, the fool John Heywood, had on that night the
proud honor of accompanying your consort on her holy errand; but, I
assure you, that he was less like the king, than the king is just
now like the fool."
A murmur of surprise ran through the assembly. The king leaned back
in his royal seat speechless. "And now, King Henry," said Catharine,
calmly--"now I will tell you whither I went with John Heywood on
She was silent, and for a moment leaned back on her seat. She felt
that the looks of all were directed to her; she heard the king's
wrathful groan; she felt her lover's flashing, reproachful glances;
she saw the derisive smile of those haughty ladies, who had never
forgiven her--that she, from a simple baroness, had become queen.
But all this made her only still bolder and more courageous.
She had arrived at the turning-point of her life, where she must
risk everything to avoid sinking into the abyss.
But Lady Jane also had arrived at such a decisive moment of her
existence. She, too, said to herself: "I must at this hour risk all,
if I do not want to lose all." She saw Henry Howard's pale,
expectant face. She knew, if the queen now spoke, the whole web of
their conspiracy would be revealed to him.
She must, therefore, anticipate the queen. She must warn Henry
"Fear nothing!" whispered she to him. "We were prepared for that. I
have put into her hands the means of escape!"
"Will you now at last speak?" exclaimed the king, quivering with
impatience and rage. "Will you at last tell us where you were on
"I will tell!" exclaimed Catharine, rising up again boldly and
resolutely "But woe be to those who drive me to this! For I tell you
beforehand, from the accused I will become an accuser who demands
justice, if not before the throne of the King of England, yet before
the throne of the Lord of all kings! King Henry of England, do you
ask me whither I went on that night with John Heywood? I might,
perhaps, as your queen and consort, demand that you put this
question to me not before so many witnesses, but in the quiet of our
chamber; but you seek publicity, and I do not shun it. Well, hear
the truth, then, all of you! On that night, between Monday and
Tuesday, I was not in my sleeping-apartment, because I had a grave
and sacred duty to perform; because a dying woman called on me for
help and pity! Would you know, my lord and husband, who this dying
woman was? It was Anne Askew!"
"Anne Askew!" exclaimed the king in astonishment; and his
countenance exhibited a less wrathful expression.
"Anne Askew!" muttered the others; and John Heywood very well saw
how Bishop Gardiner's brow darkened, and how Chancellor Wriothesley
turned pale and cast down his eyes.
"Yes,I was with Anne Askew!" continued the queen--"with Anne Askew,
whom those pious and wise lords yonder had condemned, not so much on
account of her faith, but because they knew that I loved her. Anne
Askew was to die, because Catharine Parr loved her! She was to go to
the stake, that my heart also might burn with fiery pains! And
because it was so, I was obliged to risk everything in order to save
her. Oh, my king, say yourself, did I not owe it to this poor girl
to try everything in order to save her? On my account she was to
suffer these tortures. For they had shamefully stolen from me a
letter which Anne Askew, in the distress of her heart, had addressed
to me; and they showed this letter to you in order to cast suspicion
on me and accuse me to you. But your noble heart repelled the
suspicion; and now their wrath fell again on Anne Askew, and she
must suffer, because they did not find me punishable. She must atone
for having dared to write to me. They worked matters with you so
that she was put to the rack. But when my husband gave way to their
urging, yet the noble king remained still awake in him. 'Go,' said
he, 'rack her and kill her; but see first whether she will not
Henry looked astonished into her noble and defiant face. "Do you
know that?" asked he. "And yet we were alone, and no human being
present. Who could tell you that?"
"When man is no longer able to help, then God undertakes!" said
Catharine solemnly. "It was God who commanded me to go to Anne
Askew, and try whether I could save her. And I went. But though the
wife of a noble and great king, I am still but a weak and timid
woman. I was afraid to tread this gloomy and dangerous path alone; I
needed a strong manly arm to lean upon; and so John Heywood lent me
"And you were really with Anne Askew," interposed the king,
thoughtfully--"with that hardened sinner, who despised mercy, and in
the stubbornness of her soul would not be a partaker of the pardon
that I offered her?"
"My lord and husband," said the queen, with tears in her eyes, "she
whom you have just accused stands even now before the throne of the
Lord, and has received from her God the forgiveness of her sins!
Therefore, do you likewise pardon her; and may the flames of the
stake, to which yesterday the noble virgin body of this girl was
bound, have consumed also the wrath and hatred which had been
kindled in your heart against her! Anne Askew passed away like a
saint; for she forgave all her enemies and blessed her tormentors."
"Anne Askew was a damnable sinner, who dared resist the command of
her lord and king!" interrupted Bishop Gardiner, looking daggers at
"And dare you maintain, my lord, that you at that time fulfilled the
commands of your royal master simply and exactly?" asked Catharine.
"Did you keep within them with respect to Anne Askew? No! I say; for
the king had not ordered you to torture her; he had not bidden you
to lacerate in blasphemous wrath a noble human form, and distort
that likeness of God into a horrible caricature. And that, my lord,
you did! Before God and your king, I accuse you of it--I, the queen!
For you know, my lord and husband, I was there when Anne Askew was
racked. I saw her agony, and John Heywood saw it with me."
The eyes of all were now directed inquiringly to the king, of whose
ferocity and choler every one expected a violent outbreak.
But this time they were mistaken. The king was so well satisfied to
find his consort clear of the crime laid to her charge, that he
willingly forgave her for having committed a crime of less weighty
character. Besides, it filled him with respect to see his consort
confronting her accusers so boldly and proudly; and he felt toward
them just as burning wrath and hatred as he had before harbored
against the queen. He was pleased that the malignant and persistent
persecutors of his fair and proud wife should now be humbled by her
before the eyes of all his court.
Therefore he looked at her with an imperceptible smile, and said
with deep interest: "But how could this happen, my lady? By what
path did you get thither?"
"That is an inquiry which any one except the king is authorized to
make. King Henry alone knows the way that I went!" said Catharine,
with a slight smile.
John Heywood, who was still standing behind the king's throne, now
bent down close to Henry's ear, and spoke with him a long time in a
quick, low tone.
The king listened to him attentively; then he murmured so loud that
the bystanders could very well understand him: "By God, she is a
spirited and brave woman; and we should be obliged to confess that,
even were she not our queen!"
"Continue, my lady!" said he then aloud, turning to the queen with a
gracious look. "Relate to me, Catharine, what saw you then in the
"Oh, my king and lord, it horrifies me only to think of it," cried
she, shuddering and turning pale. "I saw a poor young woman who
writhed in fearful agony, and whose staring eyes were raised in mute
supplication to Heaven. She did not beg her tormentors for mercy;
she wanted from them no compassion and no pity; she did not scream
and whine from the pain, though her limbs cracked and her flesh
snapped apart like glass; she raised her clasped hands to God, and
her lips murmured low prayers, which, perhaps, made the angels of
heaven weep, but were not able to touch the hearts of her
tormentors. You had ordered her to be racked, if she would not
retract. They did not ask her whether she would do this--they racked
her. But her soul was strong and full of courage; and, under the
tortures of the executioner, her lips remained mute. Let theologians
say and determine whether Anne Askew's faith was a false one; but
this they will not dare deny: that in the noble enthusiasm of this
faith, she was a heroine who at least did not deny her God. At
length, worn out with so much useless exertion, the assistant
executioners discontinued their bloody work, to rest from the
tortures which they had prepared for Anne Askew. The lieutenant of
the Tower declared the work of the rack ended. The highest degrees
had been applied, and they had proved powerless; cruelty was obliged
to acknowledge itself conquered. But the priests of the Church, with
savage vehemence, demanded that she should be racked once more. Dare
deny that, ye lords, whom I behold standing there opposite with
faces pale as death! Yes, my king, the servants of the rack refused
to obey the servants of God; for in the hearts of the hangman's
drudges there was more pity than in the hearts of the priests! And
when they refused to proceed in their bloody work, and when the
lieutenant of the Tower, in virtue of the existing law, declared the
racking at an end, then I saw one of the first ministers of our
Church throw aside his sacred garments; then the priest of God
transformed himself into a hangman's drudge, who, with bloodthirsty
delight, lacerated anew the noble mangled body of the young girl,
and more cruel than the attendants of the rack, unsparingly they
broke and dislocated the limbs, which they had only squeezed in
their screws. [Footnote: Burnet's "History of the Reformation," vol.
i, p. 132.] Excuse me, my king, from sketching this scene of horror
still further! Horrified and trembling, I fled from that frightful
place, and returned to my room, shattered and sad at heart."
Catharine ceased, exhausted, and sank back into her seat.
A breathless stillness reigned around. All faces were pale and
colorless. Gardiner and Wriothesley stood with their eyes fixed,
gloomy and defiant, expecting that the king's wrath would crush and
But the king scarcely thought of them; he thought only of his fair
young queen, whose boldness inspired him with respect, and whose
innocence and purity filled him with a proud and blissful joy.
He was, therefore, very much inclined to forgive those who in
reality had committed no offence further than this, that they had
carried out a little too literally and strictly the orders of their
A long pause had ensued--a pause full of expectation and anxiety for
all who were assembled in the hall. Only Catharine reclined calmly
in her chair, and with beaming eyes looked across to Thomas Seymour,
whose handsome countenance betrayed to her the gratification and
satisfaction which he felt at this clearing up of her mysterious
At last the king arose, and, bowing low before his consort, said in
a loud, full-toned voice: "I have deeply and bitterly injured you,
my noble wife; and as I publicly accused you, I will also publicly
ask your forgiveness! You have a right to be angry with me; for it
behooved me, above all, to believe with unshaken firmness in the
truth and honor of my wife. My lady, you have made a brilliant
vindication of yourself; and I, the king, first of all bow before
you, and beg that you may forgive me and impose some penance."
"Leave it to me, queen, to impose a penance on this repentant
sinner!" cried John Hey wood, gayly. "Your majesty is much too
magnanimous, much too timid, to treat him as roughly as my brother
King Henry deserves. Leave it to me, then, to punish him; for only
the fool is wise enough to punish the king after his deserts."
Catharine nodded to him with a grateful smile. She comprehended
perfectly John Heywood's delicacy and nice tact; she apprehended
that he wanted by a joke to relieve her from her painful situation,
and put an end to the king's public acknowledgment, which at the
same time must turn to her bitter reproach--bitter, though it were
"Well," said she, smiling, "what punishment, then, will you impose
upon the king?"
"The punishment of recognizing the fool as his equal!"
"God is my witness that I do so!" cried the king, almost solemnly.
"Fools we are, one and all, and we fall short of the renown which we
have before men."
"But my sentence is not yet complete, brother!" continued John
Heywood. "I furthermore give sentence, that you also forthwith allow
me to recite my poem to you, and that you open your ears in order to
hear what John Heywood, the wise, has indited!"
"You have, then, fulfilled my command, and composed a new
interlude?" cried the king, vivaciously.
"No interlude, but a wholly novel, comical affair--a play full of
lampoons and jokes, at which your eyes are to overflow, yet not with
weeping, but with laughter. To the right noble Earl of Surrey
belongs the proud honor of having presented to our happy England her
first sonnets. Well, now, I also will give her something new. I
present her the first comedy; and as he sings the beauty of his
Geraldine, so I celebrate the fame of Gammer Gurton's sewing-needle-
-Gammer Gurton's needle--so my piece is called; and you, King Henry,
shall listen to it as a punishment for your sins!"
"I will do so," cried the king, cheerfully, "provided you permit it,
Kate! But before I do so, I make also one more condition--a
condition for you, queen! Kate, you have disdained to impose a
penance on me, but grant me at least the pleasure of being allowed
to fulfil some wish of yours! Make me a request, that I may grant it
"Well, then, my lord and king," said Catharine with a charming
smile, "I beg you to think no more of the incidents of this day, and
to forgive those whom I accused, only because their accusation was
my vindication. They who brought charges against me have in this
hour felt contrition for their own fault. Let that suffice, king,
and forgive them, as I do!"
"You are a noble and great woman, Kate!" cried the king; and, as his
glance swept over toward Gardiner with an almost contemptuous
expression, he continued: "Your request is granted. But woe to them
who shall dare accuse you again! And have you nothing further to
"Nay, one thing more, my lord and husband!" She leaned nearer to the
king's ear, and whispered: "They have also accused your noblest and
most faithful servant; they have accused Cranmer. Condemn him not,
king, without having heard him; and if I may beg a favor of you, it
is this: talk with Cranmer yourself. Tell him of what they have
charged him, and hear his vindication."
"It shall be so, Kate," said the king, "and you shall be present!
But let this be a secret between us, Kate, and we will carry it out
in perfect silence. And now, then, John Heywood, let us hear your
composition; and woe to you, if it does not accomplish what you
promised--if it does not make us laugh! For you well know that you
are then inevitably exposed to the rods of our injured ladies."
"They shall have leave to whip me to death, if I do not make you
laugh!" cried John Heywood, gayly, as he drew out his manuscript.
Soon the hall rang again with loud laughter; and in the universal
merriment no one observed that Bishop Gardiner and Earl Douglas
slipped quietly away.
In the anteroom without, they stopped and looked at each other long
and silently; their countenances expressed the wrath and bitterness
which filled them; and they understood this mute language of their
"She must die!" said Gardiner in a short and quick tone. "She has
for once escaped from our snares; we will tie them all the tighter
"And I already hold in my hand the threads out of which we will form
these snares," said Earl Douglas. "We have to-day falsely accused
her of a love-affair. When we do it again, we shall speak the truth.
Did you see the looks that Catharine exchanged with the heretical
Earl Sudley, Thomas Seymour?"
"I saw them, earl!"
"For these looks she will die, my lord. The queen loves Thomas
Seymour, and this love will be her death."
"Amen!" said Bishop Gardiner, solemnly, as he raised his eyes
devoutly to heaven. "Amen! The queen has grievously and bitterly
injured us to-day; she has insulted and abused us before all the
court. We will requite her for it some day! The torture-chamber,
which she has depicted in such lively colors, may yet one day open
for her, too--not that she may behold another's agonies, but that
she may suffer agonies herself. We shall one day avenge ourselves!"
Miss Holland, the beautiful and much-admired mistress of the Duke of
Norfolk, was alone in her magnificently adorned boudoir. It was the
hour when ordinarily the duke was wont to be with her; for this
reason she was charmingly attired, and had wrapped herself in that
light and voluptuous negligee which the duke so much liked, because
it set off to so much advantage the splendid form of his friend.
But to-day the expected one did not make his appearance: in his
stead his valet had just come and brought the fair miss a note from
his master. This note she was holding in her hand, while with
passionate violence she now walked up and down her boudoir. A
glowing crimson blazed upon her cheeks, and her large, haughty eyes
darted wild flashes of wrath.
She was disdained--she, Lady Holland, was forced to endure the
disgrace of being dismissed by her lover.
There, there, in that letter which she held in her hand, and which
burned her fingers like red-hot iron--there it stood in black and
white, that he would see her no more; that he renounced her love;
that he released her.
Her whole frame shook as she thought of this. It was not the anguish
of a loving heart which made her tremble; it was the wounded pride
of the woman.
He had abandoned her. Her beauty, her youth no longer had the power
to enchain him--the man with white hairs and withered features.
He had written her that he was satiated and weary, not of her, but
only of love in general; that his heart had become old and withered
like his face: and that there was still in his breast no more room
for love, but only for ambition.
Was not that a revolting, an unheard-of outrage--to abandon the
finest woman in England for the sake of empty, cold, stern ambition?
She opened the letter once more. Once more she read that place. Then
grinding her teeth with tears of anger in her eyes: "He shall pay me
for this! I will take vengeance for this insult!" She thrust the
letter into her bosom, and touched the silver bell.
"Have my carriage brought round!" was her order to the servant who
entered; and he withdrew in silence.
"I will avenge myself!" muttered she, as with trembling hands she
wrapped herself in her large Turkish shawl. "I will avenge myself;
and, by the Eternal! it shall be a bloody and swift vengeance! I
will show him that I, too, am ambitious, and that my pride is not to
be humbled. He says he will forget me. Oh, I will compel him to
think of me, even though it be only to curse me!"
With hasty step she sped through the glittering apartments, which
the liberality of her lover had furnished so magnificently, and
descended to the carriage standing ready for her.
"To the Duchess of Norfolk's!" said she to the footman standing at
the door of the carriage, as she entered it.
The servant looked at her in astonishment and inquiringly.
"To the Duke of Norfolk; is it not, my lady?"
"No, indeed, to the duchess!" cried she with a frown, as she leaned
back on the cushion.
After a short time, the carriage drew up before the palace of the
duchess, and with haughty tread and commanding air she passed
through the porch.
"Announce me to the duchess immediately," was her order to the
lackey who was hurrying to meet her.
"Your name, my lady?"
"Miss Arabella Holland."
The servant stepped back, and stared at her in surprise.
"Miss Arabella Holland! and you order me to announce you to the
A contemptuous smile played a moment about the thin lips of the
beautiful miss. "I see you know me," said she, "and you wonder a
little to see me here. Wonder as much as you please, good friend;
only conduct me immediately to the duchess.
I doubt whether her ladyship receives calls to-day," stammered the
"Then go and ask; and, that I may learn her answer as soon as
possible, I will accompany you."
With a commanding air, she motioned to the servant to go before her;
and he could not summon up courage to gainsay this proud beauty.
In silence they traversed the suite of stately apartments, and at
length stood before a door hung with tapestry.
"I must beg you to wait here a moment, my lady, so that I can
announce you to the duchess, who is there in her boudoir."
"No, indeed; I will assume that office myself," said Miss Holland,
as with strong hand she pushed back the servant and opened the door.
The duchess was sitting at her writing-table, her back turned to the
door through which Arabella had entered. She did not turn round;
perhaps she had not heard the door open. She continued quietly
Miss Arabella Holland with stately step crossed the room, and now
stood close to the chair of the duchess.
"Duchess, I would like to speak with you," said she, coolly and
The duchess uttered a cry and looked up. "Miss Holland!" cried she
amazed, and hastily rising. "Miss Holland! you here with me, in my
house! What do you want here? How dare you cross my threshold?"
"I see you still hate me, my lady," said Arabella, smiling. "You
have not yet forgiven me that the duke, your husband, found more
delight in my young, handsome face, than in yours, now growing old--
that my sprightly, wanton disposition pleased him better than your
cold, stately air."
The duchess turned pale with rage, and her eyes darted lightning.
"Silence, you shameless creature! silence, or I will call my
servants to rid me of you!"
"You will not call them; for I have come to be reconciled with you,
and to offer you peace."
"Peace with you!" sneered the duchess--"peace with that shameless
woman who stole from me my husband, the father of my children?--who
loaded me with the disgrace of standing before the whole world as a
repudiated and despised wife, and of suffering myself to be compared
with you, that the world might decide which of us two was worthier
of his love? Peace with you, Miss Holland?--with the impudent
strumpet who squanders my husband's means in lavish luxury, and,
with scoffing boldness, robs my children of their lawful property?"
"It is true, the duke is very generous," said Miss Holland,
composedly. "He loaded me with diamonds and gold."
"And meanwhile I was doomed almost to suffer want," said the
duchess, grinding her teeth.
"Want of love, it may be, my lady, but not want of money; for you
are very magnificently fitted up; and every one knows that the
Duchess of Norfolk is rich enough to be able to spare the trifles
that her husband laid at my feet. By Heaven! my lady, I would not
have deemed it worth the trouble to stoop for them, if I had not
seen among these trifles his heart. The heart of a man is well worth
a woman's stooping for! You have neglected that, my lady, and
therefore you lost your husband's heart. I picked it up. That is
all. Why will you make a crime of that?"
"That is enough!" cried the duchess. "It does not become me to
dispute with you; I desire only to know what gave you the courage to
come to me?"
"My lady, do you hate me only? Or do you also hate the duke your
"She asks me whether I hate him!" cried the duchess, with a wild,
scornful laugh. "Yes, Miss Holland, yes! I hate him as ardently as I
despise you. I hate him so much that I would give my whole estate--
ay, years of my life--if I could punish him for the disgrace he has
put upon me."
"Then, my lady, we shall soon understand each other; for I too hate
him," said Miss Holland, quietly seating herself on the velvet
divan, and smiling as she observed the speechless astonishment of
"Yes, my lady, I hate him; and without doubt still more ardently,
still more intensely than you yourself; for I am young and fiery;
you are old, and have always managed to preserve a cool heart."
The duchess was convulsed with rage; but silently, and with an
effort, she gulped down the drop of wormwood which her wicked rival
mingled in the cup of joy which she presented to her.
"You do hate him, Miss Holland?" asked she, joyfully.
"I hate him, and I have come to league myself with you against him.
He is a traitor, a perfidious wretch, a perjurer. I will take
vengeance for my disgrace!"
"Ah, has he then deserted you also?"
"He has deserted me also."
"Well, then, God be praised!" cried the duchess, and her face beamed
with joy. "God is great and just; and He has punished you with the
same weapons with which you sinned! For your sake, he deserted me;
and for the sake of another woman, he forsakes you."
"Not so, my lady!" said Miss Holland, proudly. "A woman like me is
not forsaken on account of a woman; and he who loves me will love no
other after me. There, read his letter!"
She handed the duchess her husband's letter.
"And what do you want to do now?" asked the duchess, after she had
"I will have revenge, my lady! He says he no longer has a heart to
love; well, now, we will so manage, that he may no longer have a
head to think. Will you be my ally, my lady?
"And I also will be," said the Duchess of Richmond, who just then
opened the door and came out of the adjoining room.
Not a word of this entire conversation had escaped her, and she very
well understood that the question was not about some petty
vengeance, but her father's head. She knew that Miss Holland was not
a woman that, when irritated, pricked with a pin; but one that
grasped the dagger to strike her enemy a mortal blow.
"Yes, I too will be your ally," cried the Duchess of Richmond; "we
have all three been outraged by the same man. Let, then, our revenge
be a common one. The father has insulted you; the son, me. Well,
then, I will help you to strike the father, if you in return will
assist me to destroy the son."
"I will assist you," said Arabella, smiling; "for I also hate the
haughty Earl of Surrey, who prides himself on his virtue, as if it
were a golden fleece which God himself had stuck on his breast. I
hate him; for he never meets me but with proud disregard; and he
alone is to blame for his father's faithlessness."
"I was present when with tears he besought the duke, our father, to
free himself from your fetters, and give up this shameful and
disgraceful connection with you," said the young duchess.
Arabella answered nothing. But she pressed her hands firmly
together, and a slight pallor overspread her cheeks.
"And why are you angry with your brother?" asked the old duchess,
"Why am I angry with him, do you ask, my mother? I am not angry with
him; but I execrate him, and I have sworn to myself never to rest
till I have avenged myself. My happiness, my heart, and my future,
lay in his hands; and he has remorselessly trodden under his haughty
feet these--his sister's precious treasures. It lay with him to make
me the wife of the man I love; and he has not done it, though I lay
at his feet weeping and wringing my hands."
"But it was a great sacrifice that you demanded," said her mother.
"He had to give his hand to a woman he did not love, so that you
might be Thomas Seymour's wife."
"Mother, you defend him; and yet he it is that blames you daily; and
but yesterday it seemed to him perfectly right and natural that the
duke had forsaken you, our mother."
"Did he do that?" inquired the duchess, vehemently. "Well, now, as
he has forgotten that I am his mother, so will I forget that he is
my son. I am your ally! Revenge for our injured hearts! Vengeance on
father and son!"
She held out both hands, and the two young women laid their hands in
"Vengeance on father and son!" repeated they both; and their eyes
flashed, and crimson now mantled their cheeks.
"I am tired of living like a hermit in my palace, and of being
banished from court by the fear that I may encounter my husband
"You shall encounter him there no more," said her daughter,
"They shall not laugh and jeer at me," cried Arabella. "And when
they learn that he has forsaken me, they shall also know how I have
avenged myself for it."
"Thomas Seymour can never become my husband so long as Henry Howard
lives; for he has mortally offended him, as Henry has rejected the
hand of his sister. Perhaps I may become his wife, if Henry Howard
is no more," said the young duchess. "So let us consider. How shall
we begin, so as to strike them surely and certainly?"
"When three women are agreed, they may well be certain of their
success," said Arabella, shrugging her shoulders. "We live--God be
praised for it--under a noble and high-minded king, who beholds the
blood of his subjects with as much pleasure as he does the crimson
of his royal mantle, and who has never yet shrunk back when a death-
warrant was to be signed."
"But this time he will shrink back," said the old duchess. "He will
not dare to rob the noblest and most powerful family of his kingdom
of its head."
"That very risk will stimulate him," said the Duchess of Richmond,
laughing; "and the more difficult it is to bring down these heads,
so much the more impatiently will he hanker after it. The king hates
them both, and he will thank us, if we change his hatred into
"Then let us accuse both of high treason!" cried Arabella. "The duke
is a traitor; for I will and can swear that he has often enough
called the king a bloodthirsty tiger, a relentless tyrant, a man
without truth and without faith, although he coquettishly pretends
to be the fountain and rock of all faith."
"If he has said that, and you have heard him, you are in duty bound
to communicate it to the king, if you do not want to be a traitoress
yourself," exclaimed the young duchess, solemnly.
"And have you not noticed that the duke has for some time borne the
same coat-of-arms as the king?" asked the Duchess of Norfolk. "It is
not enough for his haughty and ambitious spirit to be the first
servant of this land; he strives to be lord and king of it."
"Tell that to the king, and by to-morrow the head of the traitor
falls. For the king is as jealous of his kingdom as ever a woman was
of her lover. Tell him that the duke bears his coat-of-arms, and his
destruction is certain."
"I will tell him so, daughter."
"We are sure of the father, but what have we for the son?"
"A sure and infallible means, that will as certainly dispatch him
into eternity as the hunter's tiny bullet slays the proudest stag.
Henry loves the queen; and I will furnish the king proof of that,"
said the young duchess.
"Then let us go to the king!" cried Arabella, impetuously.
"No, indeed! That would make a sensation, and might easily frustrate
our whole plan," said the Duchess of Richmond. "Let us first talk
with Earl Douglas, and hear his advice. Come; every minute is
precious! We owe it to our womanly honor to avenge ourselves. We
cannot and will not leave unpunished those who have despised our
love, wounded our honor, and trodden under foot the holiest ties of
The Princess Elizabeth was sitting in her room, melancholy and
absorbed in thought. Her eyes were red with weeping; and she pressed
her hand on her heart, as if she would repress its cry of anguish.
With a disconsolate, perplexed look she gazed around her chamber,
and its solitude was doubly painful to her to-day, for it testified
to her forsaken condition, to the disgrace that still rested on her.
For were it not so, to-day would have been to the whole court a day
of rejoicing, of congratulations.
To-day was Elizabeth's birthday; fourteen years ago to-day, Anne
Boleyn's daughter had seen the light of this world.
"Anne Boleyn's daughter!" That was the secret of her seclusion. That
was why none of the ladies and lords of the court had remembered her
birthday; for that would have been at the same time a remembrance of
Anne Boleyn, of Elizabeth's beautiful and unfortunate mother, who
had been made to atone for her grandeur and prosperity by her death.
Moreover, the king had called his daughter Elizabeth a bastard, and
solemnly declared her unworthy of succeeding to the throne.
Her birthday, therefore, was to Elizabeth only a day of humiliation
and pain. Reclining on her divan, she thought of her despised and
joyless past, of her desolate and inglorious future.
She was a princess, and yet possessed not the rights of her birth;
she was a young maiden, and yet doomed, in sad resignation, to
renounce all the delights and enjoyments of youth, and to condemn
her passionate and ardent heart to the eternal sleep of death. For
when the Infante of Spain sued for her hand, Henry the Eighth had
declared that the bastard Elizabeth was unworthy of a princely
husband. But in order to intimidate other suitors also, he had
loudly and openly declared that no subject should dare be so
presumptuous as to offer his hand to one of his royal daughters, and
he who dared to solicit them in marriage should be punished as a
So Elizabeth was condemned to remain unmarried; and nevertheless she
loved; nevertheless she harbored only this one wish, to be the wife
of her beloved, and to be able to exchange the proud title of
princess for the name of Countess Seymour.
Since she loved him, a new world, a new sun had arisen on her; and
before the sweet and enchanting whispers of her love, even the proud
and alluring voices of her ambition had to be silent. She no longer
thought of it, that she would never be a queen; she was only
troubled that she could not be Seymour's wife.
She no longer wanted to rule, but she wanted to be happy. But her
happiness reposed on him alone--on Thomas Seymour.
Such were her thoughts, as she was in her chamber on the morning of
her birthday, alone and lonely; and her eyes reddened by tears, her
painfully convulsed lips, betrayed how much she had wept to-day; how
much this young girl of fourteen years had already suffered.
But she would think no more about it; she would not allow the
lurking, everywhere-prying, malicious, and wicked courtiers the
triumph of seeing the traces of her tears, and rejoicing at her
pains and her humiliation. She was a proud and resolute soul; she
would rather have died than to have accepted the sympathy and pity
of the courtiers.
"I will work," said she. "Work is the best balm for all pains."
And she took up the elaborate silk embroidery which she had begun
for her poor, unfortunate friend, Anne of Cleves, Henry's divorced
wife. But the work occupied only her fingers, not her thoughts.
She threw it aside and seized her books. She took Petrarch's
Sonnets; and his love plaints and griefs enchained and stirred her
own love-sick heart.
With streaming tears, and yet smiling and full of sweet melancholy,
Elizabeth read these noble and tender poems. It appeared to her as
if Petrarch had only said what she herself so warmly felt. There
were her thoughts, her griefs. He had said them in his language; she
must now repeat them in her own. She seated herself, and with hands
trembling with enthusiasm, fluttering breath, perfectly excited and
glowing, in glad haste she began a translation of Petrarch's first
sonnet. [Footnote: Elizabeth, who even as a girl of twelve years old
spoke four languages, was very fond of composing verses, and of
translating the poems of foreign authors. But she kept her skill in
this respect very secret, and was always very angry if any one by
chance saw one of her poems. After her death there were found among
her papers many translations, especially of Petrarch's Sonnets,
which were the work of her earliest youth.--Leti, vol. i, p. 150.] A
loud knock interrupted her; and in the hastily opened door now
appeared the lovely form of the queen.
"The queen!" exclaimed Elizabeth with delight. "Have you come to me
at such an early morning hour?"
"And should I wait till evening to wish my Elizabeth happiness on
her festival? Should I first let the sun go down on this day, which
gave to England so noble and so fair a princess?" asked Catharine.
"Or you thought, perhaps, I did not know that this was your
birthday, and that to-day my Elizabeth advances from the years of
childhood, as a proud maiden full of hope?"
"Full of hope?" said Elizabeth, sadly. "Anne Boleyn's daughter has
no hopes: and when you speak of my birthday, you remind me at the
same time of my despised birth!"
"It shall be despised no longer!" said Catharine, and, as she put
her arm tenderly around Elizabeth's neck, she handed her a roll of
"Take that, Elizabeth; and may this paper be to you the promise of a
joyful and brilliant future! At my request, the king has made this
law, and he therefore granted me the pleasure of bringing it to
Elizabeth opened the parchment and read, and a radiant expression
overspread her countenance.
"Acknowledged! I am acknowledged!" cried she. "The disgrace of my
birth is taken away! Elizabeth is no more a bastard--she is a royal
"And she may some day be a queen!" said Catharine, smiling.
"Oh," cried Elizabeth, "it is not that which stirs me with such joy.
But the disgrace of my birth is taken away; and I may freely hold up
my head and name my mother's name! Now thou mayst sleep calmly in
thy grave, for it is no longer dishonored! Anne Boleyn was no
strumpet; she was King Henry's lawful wife, and Elizabeth is the
king's legitimate daughter! I thank Thee, my God--I thank Thee!" And
the young, passionate girl threw herself on her knees, and raised
her hands and her eyes to heaven.
"Spirit of my glorified mother," said she, solemnly, "I call thee!
Come to me! Overshadow me with thy smile, and bless me with thy
breath! Queen Anne of England, thy daughter is no longer a bastard,
and no one dares venture more to insult her. Thou wert with me when
I wept and suffered, my mother; and often in my disgrace and
humiliation, it was as if I heard thy voice, which whispered comfort
to me; as if I saw thy heavenly eyes, which poured peace and love
into my breast! Oh, abide with me now also, my mother--now, when my
disgrace is taken away, abide with me in my prosperity; and guard my
heart, that it may be kept pure from arrogance and pride, and remain
humble in its joy! Anne Boleyn, they laid thy beautiful, innocent
head upon the block; but this parchment sets upon it again the royal
crown; and woe, woe to those who will now still dare insult thy
She sprang from her knees and rushed to the wall opposite, on which
was a large oil painting, which represented Elizabeth herself as a
child playing with a dog.
"Oh, mother, mother!" said she, "this picture was the last earthly
thing on which thy looks rested; and to these painted lips of thy
child thou gavest thy last kiss, which thy cruel hangman would not
allow to thy living child. Oh, let me sip up this last kiss from
that spot; let me touch with my mouth the spot that thy lips have
She bent down and kissed the picture.
"And now come forth out of thy grave, my mother," said she,
solemnly. "I have been obliged so long to hide, so long to veil
thee! Now thou belongest to the world and to the light! The king has
acknowledged me as his lawful daughter; he cannot refuse me to have
a likeness of my mother in my room."
As she thus spoke, she pressed on a spring set in the broad gilt
frame of the picture; and suddenly the painting was seen to move and
slowly open like a door, so as to render visible another picture
concealed beneath it, which represented the unfortunate Anne Boleyn
in bridal attire, in the full splendor of her beauty, as Holbein had
painted her, at the desire of her husband the king.
"How beautiful and angelic that countenance is!" said Catharine,
stepping nearer. "How innocent and pure those features! Poor queen!
Yet thine enemies succeeded in casting suspicion on thee and
bringing thee to the scaffold. Oh, when I behold thee, I shudder;
and my own future rises up before me like a threatening spectre! Who
can believe herself safe and secure, when Anne Boleyn was not
secure; when even she had to die a dishonorable death? Ah, do but
believe me, Elizabeth, it is a melancholy lot to be Queen of
England; and often indeed have I asked the morning whether I, as
still Queen of England, shall greet the evening. But no--we will not
talk of myself in this hour, but only of you, Elizabeth--of your
future and of your fortune. May this document be acceptable to you,
and realize all the wishes that slumber in your bosom!"
"One great wish of mine it has fulfilled already," said Elizabeth,
still occupied with the picture. "It allows me to show my mother's
likeness unveiled! That I could one day do so was her last prayer
and last wish, which she intrusted to John Heywood for me. To him
she committed this picture. He alone knew the secret of it, and he
has faithfully preserved it."
"Oh, John Heywood is a trusty and true friend," said Catharine,
heartily; "and it was he who assisted me in inclining the king to
our plan and in persuading him to acknowledge you."
With an unutterable expression Elizabeth presented both hands to
her. "I thank you for my honor, and the honor of my mother," said
she; "I will love you for it as a daughter; and never shall your
enemies find with me an open ear and a willing heart. Let us two
conclude with each other a league offensive and defensive! Lot us
keep true to each other; and the enemies of the one shall be the
enemies of the other also. And where we see danger we will combat it
in common; and we will watch over each other with a true sisterly
eye, and warn one another whenever a chance flash brings to light an
enemy who is stealing along in the darkness, and wants with his
dagger to assassinate us from behind."
"So be it!" said Catharine, solemnly. "We will remain inseparable,
and true to one another, and love each other as sisters!"
And as she imprinted a warm kiss on Elizabeth's lips, she continued:
"But now, princess, direct your looks once more to that document, of
which at first you read only the beginning. Do but believe me, it is
important enough for you to read it quite to the end; for it
contains various arrangements for your future, and settles on you a
suite and a yearly allowance, as is suitable for a royal princess."
"Oh, what care I for these things?" cried Elizabeth, merrily. "That
is my major-domo's concern, and he may attend to it."
"But there is yet another paragraph that will interest you more,"
said Catharine, with a slight smile; "for it is a full and complete
reparation to my proud and ambitious Elizabeth. You recollect the
answer which your father gave to the King of France when he
solicited your hand for the dauphin?"
"Do I recollect it!" cried Elizabeth, her features quickly becoming
gloomy. "King Henry said: 'Anne Boleyn's daughter is not worthy to
accept the hand of a royal prince.'"
"Well, then, Elizabeth, that the reparation made to you may be
complete, the king, while he grants you your lawful title and honor,
has decreed that you are permitted to marry only a husband of equal
birth; to give your hand only to a royal prince, if you would
preserve your right of succeeding to the throne, Oh, certainly,
there could be no more complete recantation of the affront once put
upon you. And that he consented to do this, you owe to the eloquent
intercession of a true and trusty friend; you have John Hey wood to
thank for it."
"John Heywood!" cried Elizabeth, in a bitter tone.
"Oh, I thank you, queen, that it was not you who determined my
father to this decision. John Heywood did it, and you call him my
friend? You say that he is a true and devoted servant to us both?
Beware of his fidelity, queen, and build not on his devotedness; for
I tell you his soul is full of falsehood; and while he appears to
bow before you in humbleness, his eyes are only searching for the
place on your heel where he can strike you most surely and most
mortally. Oh, he is a serpent, a venomous serpent; and he has just
wounded me mortally and incurably. But no," continued she,
energetically, "I will not submit to this fraud; I will not be the
slave of this injurious law! I will be free to love and to hate as
my heart demands; I will not be shackled, nor be compelled to
renounce this man, whom I perhaps love, and to marry that one, whom
I perhaps abhor."
With an expression of firm, energetic resolve, she took the roll of
parchment and handed it back to Catharine. "Queen, take this
parchment back again; return it to my father, and tell him that I
thank him for his provident goodness, but will decline the brilliant
lot which this act offers me. I love freedom so much, that even a
royal crown cannot allure me when I am to receive it with my hands
bound and my heart not free."
"Poor child!" sighed Catharine, "you know not, then, that the royal
crown always binds us in fetters and compresses our heart in iron
clamps? Ah, you want to be free, and yet a queen! Oh, believe me,
Elizabeth, none are less free than sovereigns! No one has less the
right and the power to live according to the dictates of his heart
than a prince."
"Then," exclaimed Elizabeth, with flashing eyes, "then I renounce
the melancholy fortune of being, perchance, one day queen. Then I do
not subscribe to this law, which wants to guide my heart and limit
my will. What! shall the daughter of King Henry of England allow her
ways to be traced out by a miserable strip of parchment? and shall a
sheet of paper be able to intrude itself between me and my heart? I
am a royal princess; and why will they compel me to give my hand
only to a king's son? Ay, you are right; it is not my father that
has made this law, for my father's proud soul has never been willing
to submit to any such constraint of miserable etiquette. He has
loved where he pleased; and no Parliament--no law--has been able to
hinder him in this respect. I will be my father's own daughter. I
will not submit to this law!"
"Poor child!" said Catharine, "nevertheless you will be obliged to
learn well how to submit; for one is not a princess without paying
for it. No one asks whether our heart bleeds. They throw a purple
robe over it, and though it be reddened with our heart's blood, who
then sees and suspects it? You are yet so young, Elizabeth; you yet
hope so much!"
"I hope so much, because I have already suffered so much--my eyes
have been already made to shed so many tears. I have already in my
childhood had to take before-hand my share of the pain and sorrow of
life; now I will demand my share of life's pleasure and enjoyment
"And who tells you that you shall not have it? This love forces on
you no particular husband; it but gives you the proud right, once
disputed, of seeking your husband among the princes of royal blood."
"Oh," cried Elizabeth, with flashing eyes, "if I should ever really
be a queen, I should be prouder to choose a husband whom I might
make a king, than such a one as would make me a queen. [Footnote:
Elizabeth's own words,--Leti, vol. ii, p. 62.] Oh, say yourself,
Catharine, must it not be a high and noble pleasure to confer glory
and greatness on one we love, to raise him in the omnipotence of our
love high above all other men, and to lay our own greatness, our own
glory, humbly at his feet, that he may be adorned therewith and make
his own possession what is ours?"
"By Heaven, you are as proud and ambitious as a man!" said
Catharine, smiling. "Your father's own daughter! So thought Henry
when he gave his hand to Anne Boleyn; so thought he when he exalted
me to be his queen. But it behooves him thus to think and act, for
he is a man."
"He thought thus, because he loved--not because he was a man."
"And you, too, Elizabeth--do you, too, think thus because you love?"
"Yes, I love!" exclaimed Elizabeth, as with an impulsive movement
she threw herself into Catharine's arms, and hid her blushing face
in the queen's bosom. "Yes, I love! I love like my father--
regardless of my rank, of my birth; but feeling only that my lover
is of equally high birth in the nobility of his sentiment, in his
genius and noble mind; that he is my superior in all the great and
fine qualities which should adorn a man, and yet are conferred on so
few. Judge now, queen, whether that law there can make me happy. He
whom I love is no prince--no son of a king."
"Poor Elizabeth!" said Catharine, clasping the young girl fervently
in her arms.
"And why do you bewail my fate, when it is in your power to make me
happy?" asked Elizabeth, urgently.
"It was you who prevailed on the king to relieve me of the disgrace
that rested on me; you will also have power over him to set aside
this clause which contains my heart's sentence of condemnation."
Catharine shook her head with a sigh. "My power does not reach so
far," said she, sadly. "Ah, Elizabeth, why did you not put
confidence in me? Why did you not let me know sooner that your heart
cherished a love which is in opposition to this law? Why did you not
tell your friend your dangerous secret?"
"Just because it is dangerous I concealed it from you; and just on
that account I do not even now mention the name of the loved one.
Queen, you shall not through me become a guilty traitoress against
your husband; for you well know that he punishes every secret
concealed from him as an act of high treason. No, queen; if I am a
criminal, you shall not he my accomplice. Ah, it is always dangerous
to be the confidant of such a secret. You see that in John Heywood.
He alone was my confidant, and he betrayed me. I myself put the
weapons into his hands, and he turned them against me."
"No, no," said Catharine, thoughtfully; "John Heywood is true and
trusty, and incapable of treachery."
"He has betrayed me!" exclaimed Elizabeth, impetuously. "He knew--he
only--that I love, and that my beloved, though of noble, still is
not of princely birth. Yet it was he, as you said yourself, who
moved the king to introduce this paragraph into the act of
"Then, without doubt, he has wished to save you from an error of
"No, he has been afraid of the danger of being privy to this secret,
and at the cost of my heart and my happiness he wanted to escape
this danger. But oh, Catharine, you are a noble, great and strong
woman; you are incapable of such petty fear--such low calculation;
therefore, stand by me; be my savior and protectress! By virtue of
that oath which we have just now mutually taken--by virtue of that
mutual clasp of the hands just given--I call you to my help and my
assistance. Oh, Catharine, allow me this high pleasure, so full of
blessing, of being at some time, perhaps, able to make him whom I
love great and powerful by my will. Allow me this intoxicating
delight of being able with my hand to offer to his ambition at once
power and glory--it may be even a crown. Oh, Catharine, on my knees
I conjure you--assist me to repeal this hated law, which wants to
bind my heart and my hand!"
In passionate excitement she had fallen before the queen, and was
holding up her hands imploringly to her.
Catharine, smiling, bent down and raised her up in her arms.
"Enthusiast," said she, "poor young enthusiast! Who knows whether
you will thank me for it one day, if I accede to your wish; and
whether you will not some time curse this hour which has brought
you, perhaps, instead of the hoped-for pleasure, only a knowledge of
your delusion and misery?"
"And were it even so," cried Elizabeth, energetically, "still it is
better to endure a wretchedness we ourselves have chosen, than to be
forced to a happy lot. Say, Catharine--say, will you lend me your
assistance? Will you induce the king to withdraw this hated clause?
If you do it not, queen, I swear to you, by the soul of my mother,
that I will not submit to this law; that I will solemnly, before all
the world, renounce the privilege that is offered me; that I--"
"You are a dear, foolish child," interrupted Catharine--"a child,
that in youthful presumption might dare wish to fetch the lightnings
down from heaven, and borrow from Jupiter his thunderbolt. Oh, you
are still too young and inexperienced to know that fate regards not
our murmurs and our sighs, and, despite our reluctance and our
refusal, still leads us in its own ways, not our own. You will have
to learn that yet, poor child!"
"But I will not!" cried Elizabeth, stamping on the floor with all
the pettishness of a child. "I will not ever and eternally be the
victim of another's will; and fate itself shall not have power to
make me its slave!"
"Well, we will see now," said Catharine, smiling. "We will try this
time, at least, to contend against fate; and I will assist you if I
"And I will love you for it as my mother and my sister at once,"
cried Elizabeth, as with ardor she threw herself into Catharine's
arms. "Yes, I will love you for it; and I will pray God that He may
one day give me the opportunity to show my gratitude, and to reward
you for your magnanimity and goodness."
For a few days past the king's gout had grown worse, and, to his
wrath and grief, it confined him as a prisoner to his rolling chair.
The king was, therefore, very naturally gloomy and dejected, and
hurled the lightnings of his wrath on all those who enjoyed the
melancholy prerogative of being in his presence. His pains, instead
of softening his disposition, seemed only to heighten still more his
natural ferocity; and often might he heard through the palace of
Whitehall the king's angry growl, and his loud, thundering
invectives, which no longer spared any one, nor showed respect for
any rank or dignity.
Earl Douglas, Gardiner, and Wriothesley very well knew how to take
advantage of this wrathful humor of the king for their purposes, and
to afford the cruel monarch, tortured with pain, one satisfaction at
least--the satisfaction of making others suffer also.
Never had there been seen in England so many burnt at the stake as
in those days of the king's sickness; never had the prisons been so
crowded; never had so much blood flowed as King Henry now caused to
be shed. [Footnote: During the king's reign, and at the instigation
of the clergy, twenty-eight hundred persons were burnt and executed,
because they would not recognize the religious institutions
established by the king as the only right and true ones.--Leti, vol.
i, p. 34.] But all this did not yet suffice to appease the blood-
thirstiness of the king, and his friends and counsellors, and his
Still there remained untouched two mighty pillars of Protestantism
that Gardiner and Wriothesley had to overthrow. These were the queen
and Archbishop Cranmer.
Still there were two powerful and hated enemies whom the Seymours
had to overcome; these were the Duke of Norfolk and his son, the
Earl of Surrey.
But the various parties that in turn besieged the king's ear and
controlled it, were in singular and unheard-of opposition, and at
the same time inflamed with bitterest enmity, and they strove to
supplant each other in the favor of the king.
To the popish party of Gardiner and Earl Douglas, everything
depended on dispossessing the Seymours of the king's favor; and
they, on the other hand, wanted above all things to continue in
power the young queen, already inclined to them, and to destroy for
the papists one of their most powerful leaders, the Duke of Norfolk.
The one party controlled the king's ear through the queen; the
other, through his favorite, Earl Douglas.
Never had the king been more gracious and affable to his consort--
never had he required more Earl Douglas's presence than in those
days of his sickness and bodily anguish.
But there was yet a third party that occupied an important place in
the king's favor--a power which every one feared, and which seemed
to keep itself perfectly independent and free from all foreign
influences. This power was John Heywood, the king's fool, the
epigrammatist, who was dreaded by the whole court.
Only one person had influence with him. John Heywood was the friend
of the queen. For the moment, then, it appeared as if the "heretical
party," of which the queen was regarded as the head, was the most
powerful at court.
It was therefore very natural for the popish party to cherish an
ardent hatred against the queen; very natural for them to be
contriving new plots and machinations to ruin her and hurl her from
But Catharine knew very well the danger that threatened her, and she
was on her guard. She watched her every look, her every word; and
Gardiner and Douglas could not examine the queen's manner of life
each day and hour more suspiciously than she herself did.
She saw the sword that hung daily over her head; and, thanks to her
prudence and presence of mind, thanks to the ever-thoughtful
watchfulness and cunning of her friend Heywood! she had still known
how to avoid the falling of that sword.
Since that fatal ride in the wood of Epping Forest, she had not
again spoken to Thomas Seymour alone; for Catharine very well knew
that everywhere, whithersoever she turned her steps, some spying eye
might follow her, some listener's ear might be concealed, which
might hear her words, however softly whispered, and repeat them
where they might be interpreted into a sentence of death against
She had, therefore, renounced the pleasure of speaking to her lover
otherwise than before witnesses, and of seeing him otherwise than in
the presence of her whole court.
What need had she either for secret meetings? What mattered it to
her pure and innocent heart that she was not permitted to be alone
with him? Still she might see him, and drink courage and delight
from the sight of his haughty and handsome face; still she might be
near him, and could listen to the music of his voice, and intoxicate
her heart with his fine, euphonious and vigorous discourse.
Catharine, the woman of eight-and-twenty, had preserved the
enthusiasm and innocence of a young girl of fourteen. Thomas Seymour
was her first love; and she loved him with that purity and guileless
warmth which is indeed peculiar to the first love only.
It sufficed her, therefore, to see him; to be near him; to know that
he loved her; that he was true to her; that all his thoughts and
wishes belonged to her, as hers to him.
And that she knew. For there ever remained to her the sweet
enjoyment of his letters--of those passionately written avowals of
his love. If she was not permitted to say also to him how warmly and
ardently she returned this love, yet she could write it to him.
It was John Heywood, the true and discreet friend, that brought her
these letters, and bore her answers to him, stipulating, as a reward
for this dangerous commission, that they both should regard him as
the sole confidant of their love; that both should burn up the
letters which he brought them. He had not been able to hinder
Catharine from this unhappy passion, but wanted at least to preserve
her from the fatal consequences of it. Since he knew that this love
needed a confidant, he assumed this role, that Catharine, in the
vehemence of her passion and in the simplicity of her innocent
heart, might not make others sharers of her dangerous secret.
John Heywood therefore watched over Catharine's safety and
happiness, as she watched over Thomas Seymour and her friends. He
protected and guarded her with the king, as she guarded Cranmer, and
protected him from the constantly renewed assaults of his enemies.
This it was that they could never forgive the queen--that she had
delivered Cranmer, the noble and liberal-minded Archbishop of
Canterbury, from their snares. More than once Catharine had
succeeded in destroying their intriguing schemes, and in rending the
nets that Gardiner and Earl Douglas, with so sly and skilful a hand,
had spread for Cranmer.
If, therefore, they would overthrow Cranmer, they must first
overthrow the queen. For this there was a real means--a means of
destroying at once the queen and the hated Seymours, who stood in
the way of the papists.
If they could prove to the king that Catharine entertained criminal
intercourse with Thomas Seymour, then were they both lost; then were
the power and glory of the papists secured.
But whence to fetch the proofs of this dangerous secret, which the
crafty Douglas had read only in Catharine's eyes, and for which he
had no other support than his bare conviction? How should they begin
to influence the queen to some inconsiderate step, to a speaking
witness of her love?
Time hung so heavily on the king's hands! It would have been so easy
to persuade him to some cruel deed--to a hasty sentence of death!
But it was not the blood of the Seymours for which the king
thirsted. Earl Douglas very well knew that. He who observed the king
day and night--he who examined and sounded his every sigh, each of
his softly murmured words, every twitch of his mouth, every wrinkle
of his brow--he well knew what dark and bloody thoughts stirred the
king's soul, and whose blood it was for which he thirsted.
The royal tiger would drink the blood of the Howards; and that they
still lived in health, and abundance, and glory, while he, their
king and master, lonely and sad, was tossing on his couch in pain
and agony--that was the worm which gnawed at the king's heart, which
made his pains yet more painful, his tortures yet keener.
The king was jealous--jealous of the power and greatness of the
Howards. It filled him with gloomy hatred to think that the Duke of
Norfolk, when he rode through the streets of London, was everywhere
received with the acclamations and rejoicing of the people, while
he, the king, was a prisoner in his palace. It was a gnawing pain
for him to know that Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was praised as
the handsomest and greatest man of England; that he was called the
noblest poet; the greatest scholar; while yet he, the king, had also
composed his poems and written his learned treatises, aye, even a
particular devout book, which he had printed for his people, and
ordered them to read instead of the Bible. [Footnote: Burnet, vol.
i, p. 95.]
It was the Howards who everywhere disputed his fame. The Howards
supplanted him in the favor of his people, and usurped the love and
admiration which were due to the king alone, and which should be
directed toward no one but him. He lay on his bed of pain, and
without doubt the people would have forgotten him, if he had not by
the block, the stake, and the scaffold, daily reminded them of
himself. He lay on his bed of pain, while the duke, splendid and
magnificent, exhibited himself to the people and transported them
with enthusiasm by the lavish and kingly generosity with which he
scattered his money among the populace.
Yes, the Duke of Norfolk was the king's dangerous rival. The crown
was not secure upon his head so long as the Howards lived. And who
could conjecture whether in time to come, when Henry closed his
eyes, the exultant love of the people might not call to the throne
the Duke of Norfolk, or his noble son, the Earl of Surrey, instead
of the rightful heir--instead of the little boy Edward, Henry's only
When the king thought of that, he had a feeling as though a stream
of fire were whirling up to his brain; and he convulsively clenched
his hands, and screamed and roared that he would take vengeance--
vengeance on those hated Howards, who wanted to snatch the crown
from his son.
Edward, the little boy of tender age--he alone was the divinely
consecrated, legitimate heir to the king's crown. It had cost his
father so great a sacrifice to give his people this son and
successor! In order to do it, he had sacrificed Jane Seymour, his
own beloved wife; he had let the mother be put to death, in order to
preserve the son, the heir of his crown.
And the people did not once thank the king for this sacrifice that
Jane Seymour's husband had made for them. The people received with
shouts the Duke of Norfolk, the father of that adulterous queen whom
Henry loved so much that her infidelity had struck him like the stab
of a poisoned dagger.
These were the thoughts that occupied the king on his bed of pain,
and upon which he dwelt with all the wilfulness and moodiness of a
"We shall have to sacrifice these Howards to him!" said Earl Douglas
to Gardiner, as they had just again listened to a burst of rage from
their royal master. "If we would at last succeed in ruining the
queen, we must first destroy the Howards."
The pious bishop looked at him inquiringly, and in astonishment.
Earl Douglas smiled. "Your highness is too exalted and noble to be
always able to comprehend the things of this world. Your look, which
seeks only God and heaven, does not always see the petty and pitiful
things that happen here on the earth below."
"Oh, but," said Gardiner, with a cruel smile, "I see them, and it
charms my eye when I see how God's vengeance punishes the enemies of
the Church here on earth. Set up then, by all means, a stake or a
scaffold for these Howards, if their death can be to us a means to
our pious and godly end. You are certain of my blessing and my
assistance. Only I do not quite comprehend how the Howards can stand
in the way of our plots which are formed against the queen, inasmuch
as they are numbered among the queen's enemies, and profess
themselves of the Church in which alone is salvation."
"The Earl of Surrey is an apostate, who has opened his ear and heart
to the doctrines of Calvin!"
"Then let his head fall, for he is a criminal before God, and no one
ought to have compassion on him! And what is there that we lay to
the charge of the father?"
"The Duke of Norfolk is well-nigh yet more dangerous than his son;
for although a Catholic, he has not nevertheless the right faith;
and his soul is full of unholy sympathy and injurious mildness. He
bewails those whose blood is shed because they were devoted to the
false doctrine of the priests of Baal; and-he calls us both the
"Well, then, cried Gardiner with an uneasy, dismal smile," we will
show him that he has called us by the right name; we will rend him
"Besides, as we have said, the Howards stand in the way of our
schemes in relation to the queen," said Earl Douglas, earnestly.
"The king's mind is so completely filled with this one hatred and
this one jealousy, that there is no room in it for any other
feeling, for any other hate. It is true he signs often enough these
death-warrants which we lay before him; but he does it, as the lion,
with utter carelessness and without anger, crushes the little mouse
that is by chance under his paws. But if the lion is to rend in
pieces his equal, he must beforehand be put into a rage. When he is
raging, then you must let him have his prey. The Howards shall be
his first prey. But, then, we must exert ourselves, that when the
lion again shakes his mane his wrath may fall upon Catharine Parr
and the Seymours."
"The Lord our God will be with us, and enlighten us, that we may
find the right means to strike His enemies a sure blow!" exclaimed
Gardiner, devoutly folding his hands.
"I believe the right means are already found," said Earl Douglas,
with a smile; "and even before this day descends to its close, the
gates of the Tower will open to receive this haughty and soft-
hearted Duke of Norfolk and this apostate Earl Surrey. Perchance we
may even succeed in striking at one blow the queen together with the
Howards. See! an equipage stops before the grand entrance, and I see
the Duchess of Norfolk and her daughter, the Duchess of Richmond,
getting out of the carriage. Only see! they are making signs to us.
I have promised to conduct these two noble and pious ladies to the
king, and I shall do so. Whilst we are there, pray for us, your
highness, that our words, like well-aimed arrows, may strike the
king's heart, and then rebound upon the queen and the Seymours!"
In vain had the king hoped to master his pains, or at least to
forget them, while he tried to sleep. Sleep had fled from the king's
couch; and as he now sat in his rolling-chair, sad, weary, and
harassed with pain, he thought, with gloomy spite, that the Duke of
Norfolk told him but yesterday that sleep was a thing under his
control, and he could summon it to him whenever it seemed good to
him. This thought made him raving with anger; and grinding his
teeth, he muttered: "He can sleep; and I, his lord and king--I am a
beggar that in vain whines to God above for a little sleep, a little
forgetfulness of his pains! But it is this traitorous Norfolk that
prevents me from sleeping. Thoughts of him keep me awake and
restless. And I cannot crush this traitor with these hands of mine;
I am a king, and yet so powerless and weak, that I can find no means
of accusing this traitor, and convicting him of his sinful and
blasphemous deeds. Oh, where may I find him--that true friend, that
devoted servant, who ventures to understand my unuttered thoughts,
and fulfil the wishes to which I dare not give a name?"
Just as he was thus thinking, the door behind him opened and in
walked Earl Douglas. His countenance was proud and triumphant, and
so wild a joy gleamed from his eyes that even the king was surprised
"Oh," said he, peevishly, "you call yourself my friend; and you are
cheerful, Douglas, while your king is a poor prisoner whom the gout
has chained with brazen bands to this chair."
"You will recover, my king, and go forth from this imprisonment as
the conqueror, dazzling and bright, that by his appearance under
God's blessing treads all his enemies in the dust--that triumphs
over all those who are against him, and would betray their king!"
"Are there, then, any such traitors, who threaten their king?" asked
Henry, with a dark frown.
"Ay, there are such traitors!"
"Name them to me!" said the king, trembling with passionate
impatience. "Name them to me, that my arm may crush them and my
avenging justice overtake the heads of the guilty."
"It is superfluous to mention them, for you, King Henry, the wise
and all-knowing--you know their names."
And bending down closer to the king's ear, Earl Douglas continued:
"King Henry, I certainly have a right to call myself your most
faithful and devoted servant, for I have read your thoughts. I have
understood the noble grief that disturbs your heart, and banishes
sleep from your eyes and peace from your soul. You saw the foe that
was creeping in the dark; you heard the low hiss of the serpent that
was darting his venomous sting at your heel. But you were so much
the noble and intrepid king, that you would not yourself become the
accuser--nay, you would not once draw back the foot menaced by the
serpent. Great and merciful, like God Himself, you smiled upon him
whom you knew to be your enemy. But I, my king--I have other duties.
I am like the faithful dog, that has eyes only for the safety of his
master, and falls upon every one that comes to menace him. I have
seen the serpent that would kill you, and I will bruise his head!"
"And what is the name of this serpent of which you speak?" asked the
king; and his heart beat so boisterously that he felt it on his
"It is called," said Earl Douglas, earnestly and solemnly--"it is
The king uttered a cry, and, forgetting his gout and his pains,
arose from his chair.
"Howard!" said he, with a cruel smile. "Say you that a Howard
threatens our life? Which one is it? Name me the traitor!"
"I name them both--father and son! I name the Duke of Norfolk and
the Earl of Surrey! I say that they both are traitors, who threaten
the life and honor of my king, and with blasphemous arrogance dare
stretch out their hands even to the crown!"
"Ah, I knew it, I knew it!" screamed the king. "And it was this that
made me sleepless, and ate into my body like red-hot iron."
And as he fastened on Douglas his eyes flashing with rage, he asked,
with a grim smile: "Can you prove that these Howards are traitors?
Can you prove that they aim at my crown?"
"I hope to be able to do so," said Douglas. "To be sure, there are
no great convincing facts--"
"Oh," said the king, interrupting him with a savage laugh, "there is
no need of great facts. Give into my hand but a little thread, and I
will make out of it a cord strong enough to haul the father and son
up to the gallows at one time."
"Oh, for the son there is proof enough," said the earl, with a
smile: "and as regards the father, I will produce your majesty some
accusers against him, who will be important enough to bring the duke
also to the block. Will you allow me to bring them to you
"Yes, bring them, bring them!" cried the king. "Every minute is
precious that may lead these traitors sooner to their punishment."
Earl Douglas stepped to the door and opened it. Three veiled female
figures entered and bowed reverentially.
"Ah," whispered the king, with a cruel smile, as he sank back again
into his chair, "they are the three Fates that spin the Howards'
thread of life, and will now, it is to be hoped, break it off. I
will furnish them with the scissors for it; and if they are not
sharp enough, I will, with my own royal hands, help them to break
"Sire," said Earl Douglas, as, at a sign from him, the three women
unveiled themselves--"sire, the wife, the daughter, and the mistress
of the Duke of Norfolk have come to accuse him of high treason. The
mother and the sister of the Earl of Surrey are here to charge him
with a crime equally worthy of death."
"Now verily," exclaimed the king, "it must be a grievous and
blasphemous sin which so much exasperates the temper of these noble
women, and makes them deaf to the voice of nature!"
"It is indeed such a sin," said the Duchess of Norfolk, in a solemn
tone; and, approaching a few paces nearer to the king, she
continued: "Sire, I accuse the duke, my divorced husband, of high
treason and disloyalty to his king. He has been so bold as to
appropriate your own royal coat-of-arms; and on his seal and
equipage, and over the entrance of his palace, are displayed the
arms of the kings of England."
"That is true," said the king, who, now that he was certain of the
destruction of the Howards, had regained his calmness and self-
possession, and perfectly reassumed the air of a strict, impartial
judge. "Yes, he bears the royal arms on his shield, but yet, if we
remember rightly, the crown and paraph of our ancestor Edward the
Third are wanting."
"He has now added this crown and this paraph to his coat-of-arms,"
said Miss Holland. "He says he is entitled to them; for that, like
the king, he also is descended in direct line from Edward the Third;
and, therefore, the royal arms belong likewise to him."
"If he says that, he is a traitor who presumes to call his king and
master his equal," cried the king, coloring up with a grim joy at
now at length having his enemy in his power.
"He is indeed a traitor," continued Miss Holland. "Often have I
heard him say he had the same right to the throne of England as
Henry the Eighth; and that a day might come when he would contend
with Henry's son for that crown."
"Ah," cried the king, and his eyes darted flashes so fierce that
even Earl Douglas shrank before them, "ah, he will contend with my
son for the crown of England! It is well, now; for now it is my
sacred duty, as a king and as a father, to crush this serpent that
wants to bite me on the heel; and no compassion and no pity ought
now to restrain me longer. And were there no other proofs of his
guilt and his crime than these words that he has spoken to you, yet
are they sufficient, and will rise up against him, like the
hangman's aids who are to conduct him to the block."
"But there are yet other proofs," said Miss Holland, laconically.
The king was obliged to unbutton his doublet. It seemed as though
joy would suffocate him.
"Name them!" commanded he.
"He dares deny the king's supremacy; he calls the Bishop of Rome the
sole head and holy Father of the Church."
"Ah, does he so?" exclaimed the king, laughing. "Well, we shall see
now whether this holy Father will save this faithful son from the
scaffold which we will erect for him. Yes, yes, we must give the
world a new example of our incorruptible justice, which overtakes
every one, however high and mighty he may be, and however near our
throne he may stand. Really, really, it grieves our heart to lay low
this oak which we had planted so near our throne, that we might lean
upon it and support ourselves by it; but justice demands this
sacrifice, and we will make it--not in wrath and spite, but only to
meet the sacred and painful duty of our royalty. We have greatly
loved this duke, and it grieves us to tear this love from our
And with his hand, glittering with jewels, the king wiped from his
eyes the tears which were not there.
"But how?" asked the king, then, after a pause, "will you have the
courage to repeat your accusation publicly before Parliament? Will
you, his wife, and you, his mistress, publicly swear with a sacred
oath to the truth of your declaration?"
"I will do so," said the duchess, solemnly, "for he is no longer my
husband, no longer the father of my children, but simply the enemy
of my king; and to serve him is my most sacred duty."
"I will do so," cried Miss Holland, with a bewitching smile; "for he
is no longer my lover, but only a traitor, an atheist, who is
audacious enough to recognize as the holy head of Christendom that
man at Rome who has dared to hurl his curse against the sublime head
of our king. It is this, indeed, that has torn my heart from the
duke, and that has made me now hate him as ardently as I once loved
With a gracious smile, the king presented both his hands to the two
women. "You have done me a great service to-day, my ladies," said
he, "and I will find a way to reward you for it. I will give you,
duchess, the half of his estate, as though you were his rightful
heir and lawful widow. And you, Miss Holland, I will leave in
undisputed possession of all the goods and treasures that the
enamored duke has given you."
The two ladies broke out into loud expressions of thanks and into
enthusiastic rapture over the liberal and generous king, who was so
gracious as to give them what they already had, and to bestow on
them what was already their own property.
"Well, and are you wholly mute, my little duchess," asked the king
after a pause, turning to the Duchess of Richmond, who had withdrawn
to the embrasure of a window.
"Sire," said the duchess, smiling, "I was only waiting for my cue."
"And this cue is--"
"Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey! As your majesty knows, I am a merry
and harmless woman; and I understand better how to laugh and joke
than to talk much seriously. The two noble and fair ladies have
accused the duke, my father; and they have done so in a very
dignified and solemn manner. I wish to accuse my brother, Henry
Howard; but you must exercise forbearance, if my words sound less
solemn and elevated. They have told you, sire, that the Duke of
Norfolk is a traitor and a criminal who denominates the Pope of
Rome, and not you, my exalted king, the head of the Church. Now, the
Earl of Surrey is neither a traitor nor a papist; and he has neither
devised criminal plots against the throne of England, nor has he
denied the supremacy of the king. No, sire, the Earl of Surrey is no
traitor and no papist!"
The duchess paused, and looked with a malicious and droll smile into
the astonished faces of those present.
A dark frown gathered on the king's brow, and his eyes, which just
before had looked so cheerful, were now fixed with an angry
expression on the young duchess.
"Why, then, my lady, have you made your appearance here?" asked he.
"Why have you come here, if you have nothing further to say than
what I already know--that the Earl of Surrey is a very loyal
subject, and a man without any ambition, who neither courts the
favor of my people nor thinks of laying his traitorous hands on my
The young duchess shook her head with a smile. "I know not whether
he does all that," said she. "I have indeed heard that he said, with
bitter scorn, that you, my king, wanted to be the protector of
religion, yet you yourself were entirely without religion and
without belief. Also, he of late broke out into bitter curses
against you, because you had robbed him of his field-marshal's
staff, and given it to Earl Hertford, that noble Seymour. Also, he
meant to see whether the throne of England were so firm and steady
that it had no need of his hand and his arm to prop it. All that I
have of course heard from him; but you are right, sire, it is
unimportant--it is not worth mentioning, and therefore I do not even
make it as an accusation against him."
"Ah, you are always a mad little witch, Rosabella!" cried the king,
who had regained his cheerfulness. "You say you will not accuse him,
and yet you make his head a plaything that you poise upon your
crimson lips. But take care, my little duchess--take care, that this
head does not fall from your lips with your laughing, and roll down
to the ground; for I will not stop it--this head of the Earl of
Surrey, of whom you say that he is no traitor."
"But is it not monotonous and tiresome, if we accuse the father and
son of the same crime?" asked the duchess, laughing. "Let us have a
little variation. Let the duke be a traitor; the son, my king, is by
far a worse criminal!"
"Is there, then, a still worse and more execrable crime than to be a
traitor to his king and master, and to speak of the anointed of the
Lord without reverence and love?"
"Yes, your majesty, there is a still worse crime; and of that I
accuse the Earl of Surrey. He is an adulterer!"
"An adulterer!" repeated the king, with an expression of abhorrence.
"Yes, my lady, you are right; that is a more execrable and unnatural
crime, and we shall judge it strictly. For it shall not be said that
modesty and virtue found no protector in the king of this land, and
that he will not as a judge punish and crash all those who dare sin
against decency and morals. Oh, the Earl of Surrey is an adulterer,
"That is to say, sire, he dares with his sinful love to pursue a
virtuous and chaste wife. He dares to raise his wicked looks to a
woman who stands as high above him as the sun above mortals, and
who, at least by the greatness and high position of her husband,
should be secure from all impure desires and lustful wishes."
"Ah," cried the king, indignantly, "I see already whither that
tends. It is always the same accusation; and now I say, as you did
just now, let us have a little variation! The accusation I have
already often heard; but the proofs are always wanting."
"Sire, this time, it may be, we can give the proofs," said the
duchess, earnestly. Would you know, my noble king, who the Geraldine
is to whom Henry Howard addresses his love-songs? Shall I tell you
the real name of this woman to whom, in the presence of your sacred
person and of your whole court, he uttered his passionate
protestations of love and his oath of eternal faithfulness? Well,
now, this Geraldine--so adored, so deified--is the queen!"
"That is not true!" cried the king, crimson with anger; and he
clenched his hands so firmly about the arms of his chair that it
cracked. "That is not true, my lady!"
"It is true!" said the duchess, haughtily and saucily. "It is true,
sire, for the Earl of Surrey has confessed to me myself that it is
the queen whom he loves, and that Geraldine is only a melodious
appellation for Catharine."
"He has confessed it to you yourself?" inquired the king, with
gasping breath. "Ah, he dares love his king's wife? Woe to him,
He raised his clenched fist threateningly to heaven, and his eyes
darted lightning. "But how!" said he, after a pause--" has he not
recently read before us a poem to his Geraldine, in which he thanks
her for her love, and acknowledges himself eternally her debtor for
the kiss she gave him?"
"He has read before your majesty such a poem to Geraldine."
The king uttered a low cry, and raised himself in his seat.
"Proofs," said he, in a hoarse, hollow voice--"proofs--or, I tell
you, your own head shall atone for this accusation!"
"This proof, your majesty, I will give you!" said Earl Douglas,
solemnly. "It pleases your majesty, in the fulness of your
gentleness and mercy, to want to doubt the accusation of the noble
duchess. Well, now, I will furnish you infallible proof that Henry
Howard, Earl of Surrey, really loves the queen, and that he really
dares to extol and adore the king's wife as his Geraldine. You shall
with your own ears, sire, hear how Earl Surrey swears his love to
The scream which the king now uttered was so frightful, and gave
evidence of so much inward agony and rage, that it struck the earl
dumb, and made the cheeks of the ladies turn pale.
"Douglas, Douglas, beware how you rouse the lion!" gasped the king.
"The lion might rend you yourself in pieces!"
"This very night I will give you the proof that you demand, sire.
This very night you shall hear how Earl Surrey, sitting at the feet
of his Geraldine, swears to her his love."
"It is well!" said the king. "This night, then! Woe to you, Douglas,
if you cannot redeem your word!"
"I will do so, your majesty. For this, it is only necessary that you
will be graciously pleased to swear to me that you will not, by a
sigh or a breath, betray yourself. The earl is suspicious; and the
fear of an evil conscience has sharpened his ear. He would recognize
you by your sigh, and his lips would not speak those words and
avowals which you desire to hear."
"I swear to you that I will not by any sigh or breath betray my
presence!" said the king, solemnly. "I swear this to you by the holy
mother of God! But now let that suffice. Air--air--I suffocate!
Everything swims before my eyes. Open the window, that a little air
may flow in! Ah! that is good! This air at least is pure, and not
infected with sin and slander!"
And the king had Earl Douglas roll him to the opened window, and
inspired in long draughts that pure fresh air. Then he turned to the
ladies with an agreeable smile.
"My ladies," said he, "I thank you! You have to-day shown yourselves
my true and devoted friends! I shall ever remember it, and I beg of
you, if at any time you need a friend and protector, to apply to us
with all confidence. We shall never forget what great service you
have to-day rendered us."
He nodded to them in a friendly manner, whilst, with a majestic wave
of the hand, he dismissed them, and concluded the audience.
"And now, Douglas," exclaimed the king, vehemently, as soon as the
ladies had retired--"now I have had enough of this dreadful torture!
Oh, you say I am to punish the traitors--these Surreys--and you
inflict on me the most frightful pains of the rack!"
"Sire, there was no other means of delivering up this Surrey to you.
You were wishing that he were a criminal; and I shall prove to you
that he is so."
"Oh, I shall then be able at least to tread his hated head under my
feet" said the king, grinding his teeth. "I shall no more tremble
before this malicious enemy, who goes about among my people with his
hypocritical tongue, while I, tortured with pain, sit in the dungeon
of my sickroom. Yes, yes, I thank you, Douglas, that you will hand
him over to my arm of vengeance; and my soul is full of joy and
serenity at it. Ah, why were you obliged to cloud this fair, this
sublime hour? Why was it necessary to weave the queen into this
gloomy web of guilt and crime? Her cheerful smile and her radiant
looks have ever been an enjoyment so dear to my eyes."
"Sire, I do not by any means say that the queen is guilty. Only
there was no other means to prove to you Earl Surrey's guilt than
that you should hear for yourself his confession of love to the
"And I will hear it!" cried the king, who had now already overcome
the sentimental emotion of his heart.
"Yes, I will have full conviction of Surrey's guilt; and woe to the
queen, should I find her also guilty! This night, then, earl! But
till then, silence and secrecy! We will have father and son seized
and imprisoned at the same hour; for otherwise the imprisonment of
the one might easily serve as a warning to the other, and he might
escape my just wrath. Ah, they are so sly--these Howards--and their
hearts are so full of cunning and malice! But now they shall escape
me no more; now they are ours! How it does me good to think that!
And how briskly and lightly my heart leaps! It is as though a stream
of new life were rushing through my veins, and a new power were
infused into my blood. Oh, it was these Howards that made me sick. I
shall be well again when I know that they are in the Tower. Yes,
yes, my heart leaps with joy, and this is to be a happy and blessed
day. Call the queen hither to me, that I may once more enjoy her
rosy face before I make it turn pale with terror. Yes, let the queen
come, and let her adorn herself; I want to see her once more in the
full splendor of her youth and her royalty, before her star goes out
in darkness. I will once more delight myself with her before I make
her weep. Ah, know you, Douglas, that there is no enjoyment keener,
more devilish, and more heavenly, than to see such a person who
smiles and suspects nothing, while she is already condemned; who
still adorns her head with roses, while the executioner is already
sharpening the axe that is to lay that head low; who still has hopes
of the future, and of joy and happiness, while her hour of life has
already run out; while I have already bidden her stop and descend
into the grave! So, call the queen to me; and tell her that we are
in a merry mood, and want to jest and laugh with her! Call all the
ladies and lords of our court; and have the royal saloons opened;
and let them be radiant with the brilliancy of the lights; and let
us have music--loud, crashing music--for we want at least to make
this a merry day for us since it seems as though we should have a
sad and unhappy night. Yes, yes, a merry day we will have; and after
that, let come what come may! The saloons shall resound with
laughter and joyfulness; and naught but rejoicing and fun shall be
heard in the great royal saloons. And invite also the Duke of
Norfolk, my noble cousin, who shares with me my royal coat-of-arms.
Yes, invite him, that I may enjoy once more his haughty and imposing
beauty and grandeur before this august sun is extinguished and
leaves us again in night and darkness. Then invite also Wriothesley,
the high chancellor, and let him bring with him a few gallant and
brave soldiers of our body-guard. They are to be the noble duke's
suite, when he wishes to leave our feast and go homeward--homeward--
if not to his palace, yet to the Tower, and to the grave. Go, go,
Douglas, and attend to all this for me! And send me here directly my
merry fool, John Heywood. He must pass away the time for me till the
feast begins. He must make me laugh and be gay."
"I will go and fulfil your orders, sire," said Earl Douglas. "I will
order the feast, and impart your commands to the queen and your
court. And first of all, I will send John Heywood to you. But pardon
me, your majesty, if I venture to remind you that you have given me
your royal word not to betray our secret by a single syllable, or
even by a sigh."
"I gave my word, and I will keep it!" said the king. "Go now, Earl
Douglas, and do what I have bidden you!"
Wholly exhausted by this paroxysm of cruel delight, the king sank
back in his seat, and moaning and groaning he rubbed his leg, the
piercing pains of which he had for a moment forgotten, but which now
reminded him of their presence with so much the more cruel fury.
"Ah, ah!" moaned the king. "He boasts of being able to sleep when he
pleases. Well, this time we will be the one to lull this haughty
earl to sleep. But it will be a sleep out of which he is never to
While the king thus wailed and suffered, Earl Douglas hastened with
quick, firm step through the suite of royal apartments. A proud,
triumphant smile played about his lips, and a joyful expression of
victory flashed from his eyes.