Part 2 out of 11
back, turned as pale as death, and put her hands before her face.
Tressilian was himself for a moment much overcome, but seeming
suddenly to remember the necessity of using an opportunity which
might not again occur, he said in a low tone, "Amy, fear me not."
"Why should I fear you?" said the lady, withdrawing her hands
from her beautiful face, which was now covered with crimson,-
-"Why should I fear you, Master Tressilian?--or wherefore have
you intruded yourself into my dwelling, uninvited, sir, and
"Your dwelling, Amy!" said Tressilian. "Alas! is a prison your
dwelling?--a prison guarded by one of the most sordid of men, but
not a greater wretch than his employer!"
"This house is mine," said Amy--"mine while I choose to inhabit
it. If it is my pleasure to live in seclusion, who shall gainsay
"Your father, maiden," answered Tressilian, "your broken-hearted
father, who dispatched me in quest of you with that authority
which he cannot exert in person. Here is his letter, written
while he blessed his pain of body which somewhat stunned the
agony of his mind."
"The pain! Is my father then ill?" said the lady.
"So ill," answered Tressilian, "that even your utmost haste may
not restore him to health; but all shall be instantly prepared
for your departure, the instant you yourself will give consent."
"Tressilian," answered the lady, "I cannot, I must not, I dare
not leave this place. Go back to my father--tell him I will
obtain leave to see him within twelve hours from hence. Go back,
Tressilian--tell him I am well, I am happy--happy could I think
he was so; tell him not to fear that I will come, and in such a
manner that all the grief Amy has given him shall be forgotten
--the poor Amy is now greater than she dare name. Go, good
Tressilian--I have injured thee too, but believe me I have power
to heal the wounds I have caused. I robbed you of a childish
heart, which was not worthy of you, and I can repay the loss with
honours and advancement."
"Do you say this to me, Amy?--do you offer me pageants of idle
ambition, for the quiet peace you have robbed me of!--But be it
so I came not to upbraid, but to serve and to free you. You
cannot disguise it from me--you are a prisoner. Otherwise your
kind heart--for it was once a kind heart--would have been already
at your father's bedside.--Come, poor, deceived, unhappy maiden!
--all shall be forgot--all shall be forgiven. Fear not my
importunity for what regarded our contract--it was a dream, and I
have awaked. But come--your father yet lives--come, and one word
of affection, one tear of penitence, will efface the memory of
all that has passed."
"Have I not already said, Tressilian," replied she, "that I will
surely come to my father, and that without further delay than is
necessary to discharge other and equally binding duties?--Go,
carry him the news; I come as sure as there is light in heaven
--that is, when I obtain permission."
"Permission!--permission to visit your father on his sick-bed,
perhaps on his death-bed!" repeated Tressilian, impatiently;
"and permission from whom? From the villain, who, under disguise
of friendship, abused every duty of hospitality, and stole thee
from thy father's roof!"
"Do him no slander, Tressilian! He whom thou speakest of wears a
sword as sharp as thine--sharper, vain man; for the best deeds
thou hast ever done in peace or war were as unworthy to be named
with his, as thy obscure rank to match itself with the sphere he
moves in.--Leave me! Go, do mine errand to my father; and when
he next sends to me, let him choose a more welcome messenger."
"Amy," replied Tressilian calmly, "thou canst not move me by thy
reproaches. Tell me one thing, that I may bear at least one ray
of comfort to my aged friend:--this rank of his which thou dost
boast--dost thou share it with him, Amy?--does he claim a
husband's right to control thy motions?"
"Stop thy base, unmannered tongue!" said the lady; "to no
question that derogates from my honour do I deign an answer."
"You have said enough in refusing to reply," answered Tressilian;
"and mark me, unhappy as thou art, I am armed with thy father's
full authority to command thy obedience, and I will save thee
from the slavery of sin and of sorrow, even despite of thyself,
"Menace no violence here!" exclaimed the lady, drawing back from
him, and alarmed at the determination expressed in his look and
manner; "threaten me not, Tressilian, for I have means to repel
"But not, I trust, the wish to use them in so evil a cause?"
said Tressilian. "With thy will--thine uninfluenced, free, and
natural will, Amy, thou canst not choose this state of slavery
and dishonour. Thou hast been bound by some spell--entrapped by
some deceit--art now detained by some compelled vow. But thus I
break the charm--Amy, in the name of thine excellent, thy broken-
hearted father, I command thee to follow me!"
As he spoke he advanced and extended his arm, as with the purpose
of laying hold upon her. But she shrunk back from his grasp, and
uttered the scream which, as we before noticed, brought into the
apartment Lambourne and Foster.
The latter exclaimed, as soon as he entered, "Fire and fagot!
what have we here?" Then addressing the lady, in a tone betwixt
entreaty and command, he added, "Uds precious! madam, what make
you here out of bounds? Retire--retire--there is life and death
in this matter.--And you, friend, whoever you may be, leave this
house--out with you, before my dagger's hilt and your costard
become acquainted.--Draw, Mike, and rid us of the knave!"
"Not I, on my soul," replied Lambourne; "he came hither in my
company, and he is safe from me by cutter's law, at least till we
meet again.--But hark ye, my Cornish comrade, you have brought a
Cornish flaw of wind with you hither, a hurricanoe as they call
it in the Indies. Make yourself scarce--depart--vanish--or we'll
have you summoned before the Mayor of Halgaver, and that before
Dudman and Ramhead meet." [Two headlands on the Cornish coast.
The expressions are proverbial.]
"Away, base groom!" said Tressilian.--"And you, madam, fare you
well--what life lingers in your father's bosom will leave him at
the news I have to tell."
He departed, the lady saying faintly as he left the room,
"Tressilian, be not rash--say no scandal of me."
"Here is proper gear," said Foster. "I pray you go to your
chamber, my lady, and let us consider how this is to be answered
--nay, tarry not."
"I move not at your command, sir," answered the lady.
"Nay, but you must, fair lady," replied Foster; "excuse my
freedom, but, by blood and nails, this is no time to strain
courtesies--you MUST go to your chamber.--Mike, follow that
meddling coxcomb, and, as you desire to thrive, see him safely
clear of the premises, while I bring this headstrong lady to
reason. Draw thy tool, man, and after him."
"I'll follow him," said Michael Lambourne, "and see him fairly
out of Flanders; but for hurting a man I have drunk my morning's
draught withal, 'tis clean against my conscience." So saying, he
left the apartment.
Tressilian, meanwhile, with hasty steps, pursued the first path
which promised to conduct him through the wild and overgrown park
in which the mansion of Foster was situated. Haste and distress
of mind led his steps astray, and instead of taking the avenue
which led towards the village, he chose another, which, after he
had pursued it for some time with a hasty and reckless step,
conducted him to the other side of the demesne, where a postern
door opened through the wall, and led into the open country.
Tressilian paused an instant. It was indifferent to him by what
road he left a spot now so odious to his recollections; but it
was probable that the postern door was locked, and his retreat by
that pass rendered impossible.
"I must make the attempt, however," he said to himself; "the only
means of reclaiming this lost--this miserable--this still most
lovely and most unhappy girl, must rest in her father's appeal to
the broken laws of his country. I must haste to apprise him of
this heartrending intelligence."
As Tressilian, thus conversing with himself, approached to try
some means of opening the door, or climbing over it, he perceived
there was a key put into the lock from the outside. It turned
round, the bolt revolved, and a cavalier, who entered, muffled in
his riding-cloak, and wearing a slouched hat with a drooping
feather, stood at once within four yards of him who was desirous
of going out. They exclaimed at once, in tones of resentment and
surprise, the one "Varney!" the other "Tressilian!"
"What make you here?" was the stern question put by the stranger
to Tressilian, when the moment of surprise was past--"what make
you here, where your presence is neither expected nor desired?"
"Nay, Varney," replied Tressilian, "what make you here? Are you
come to triumph over the innocence you have destroyed, as the
vulture or carrion-crow comes to batten on the lamb whose eyes it
has first plucked out? Or are you come to encounter the merited
vengeance of an honest man? Draw, dog, and defend thyself!"
Tressilian drew his sword as he spoke, but Varney only laid his
hand on the hilt of his own, as he replied, "Thou art mad,
Tressilian. I own appearances are against me; but by every oath
a priest can make or a man can swear, Mistress Amy Robsart hath
had no injury from me. And in truth I were somewhat loath to
hurt you in this cause--thou knowest I can fight."
"I have heard thee say so, Varney," replied Tressilian; "but now,
methinks, I would fain have some better evidence than thine own
"That shall not be lacking, if blade and hilt be but true to me,"
answered Varney; and drawing his sword with the right hand, he
threw his cloak around his left, and attacked Tressilian with a
vigour which, for a moment, seemed to give him the advantage of
the combat. But this advantage lasted not long. Tressilian
added to a spirit determined on revenge a hand and eye admirably
well adapted to the use of the rapier; so that Varney, finding
himself hard pressed in his turn, endeavoured to avail himself of
his superior strength by closing with his adversary. For this
purpose, he hazarded the receiving one of Tressilian's passes in
his cloak, wrapped as it was around his arm, and ere his
adversary could, extricate his rapier thus entangled, he closed
with him, shortening his own sword at the same time, with the
purpose of dispatching him. But Tressilian was on his guard, and
unsheathing his poniard, parried with the blade of that weapon
the home-thrust which would otherwise have finished the combat,
and, in the struggle which followed, displayed so much address,
as might have confirmed, the opinion that he drew his origin from
Cornwall whose natives are such masters in the art of wrestling,
as, were the games of antiquity revived, might enable them to
challenge all Europe to the ring. Varney, in his ill-advised
attempt, received a fall so sudden and violent that his sword
flew several paces from his hand and ere he could recover his
feet, that of his antagonist was; pointed to his throat.
"Give me the instant means of relieving the victim of thy
treachery," said Tressilian, "or take the last look of your
Creator's blessed sun!"
And while Varney, too confused or too sullen to reply, made a
sudden effort to arise, his adversary drew back his arm, and
would have executed his threat, but that the blow was arrested by
the grasp of Michael Lambourne, who, directed by the clashing of
swords had come up just in time to save the life of Varney,
"Come, come, comrade;" said Lambourne, "here is enough done and
more than enough; put up your fox and let us be jogging. The
Black Bear growls for us."
"Off, abject!" said Tressilian, striking himself free of
Lambourne's grasp; "darest thou come betwixt me and mine enemy?"
"Abject! abject!" repeated Lambourne; "that shall be answered
with cold steel whenever a bowl of sack has washed out memory of
the morning's draught that we had together. In the meanwhile, do
you see, shog--tramp--begone--we are two to one."
He spoke truth, for Varney had taken the opportunity to regain
his weapon, and Tressilian perceived it was madness to press the
quarrel further against such odds. He took his purse from his
side, and taking out two gold nobles, flung them to Lambourne.
"There, caitiff, is thy morning wage; thou shalt not say thou
hast been my guide unhired.--Varney, farewell! we shall meet
where there are none to come betwixt us." So saying, he turned
round and departed through the postern door.
Varney seemed to want the inclination, or perhaps the power (for
his fall had been a severe one), to follow his retreating enemy.
But he glared darkly as he disappeared, and then addressed
Lambourne. "Art thou a comrade of Foster's, good fellow?"
"Sworn friends, as the haft is to the knife," replied Michael
"Here is a broad piece for thee. Follow yonder fellow, and see
where he takes earth, and bring me word up to the mansion-house
here. Cautious and silent, thou knave, as thou valuest thy
"Enough said," replied Lambourne; "I can draw on a scent as well
as a sleuth-hound."
"Begone, then," said Varney, sheathing his rapier; and, turning
his back on Michael Lambourne, he walked slowly towards the
house. Lambourne stopped but an instant to gather the nobles
which his late companion had flung towards him so
unceremoniously, and muttered to himself, while he put them upon
his purse along with the gratuity of Varney, "I spoke to yonder
gulls of Eldorado. By Saint Anthony, there is no Eldorado for
men of our stamp equal to bonny Old England! It rains nobles, by
Heaven--they lie on the grass as thick as dewdrops--you may have
them for gathering. And if I have not my share of such
glittering dewdrops, may my sword melt like an icicle!"
He was a man
Versed in the world as pilot in his compass.
The needle pointed ever to that interest
Which was his loadstar, and he spread his sails
With vantage to the gale of others' passion.
THE DECEIVER, A TRAGEDY.
Antony Foster was still engaged in debate with his fair guest,
who treated with scorn every entreaty and request that she would
retire to her own apartment, when a whistle was heard at the
entrance-door of the mansion.
"We are fairly sped now," said Foster; "yonder is thy lord's
signal, and what to say about the disorder which has happened in
this household, by my conscience, I know not. Some evil fortune
dogs the heels of that unhanged rogue Lambourne, and he has
'scaped the gallows against every chance, to come back and be the
ruin of me!"
"Peace, sir," said the lady, "and undo the gate to your master.
--My lord! my dear lord!" she then exclaimed, hastening to the
entrance of the apartment; then added, with a voice expressive of
disappointment, "Pooh! it is but Richard Varney."
"Ay, madam," said Varney, entering and saluting the lady with a
respectful obeisance, which she returned with a careless mixture
of negligence and of displeasure, "it is but Richard Varney; but
even the first grey cloud should be acceptable, when it lightens
in the east, because it announces the approach of the blessed
"How! comes my lord hither to-night?" said the lady, in joyful
yet startled agitation; and Anthony Foster caught up the word,
and echoed the question. Varney replied to the lady, that his
lord purposed to attend her; and would have proceeded with some
compliment, when, running to the door of the parlour, she called
aloud, "Janet--Janet! come to my tiring-room instantly." Then
returning to Varney, she asked if her lord sent any further
commendations to her.
"This letter, honoured madam," said he, taking from his bosom a
small parcel wrapped in scarlet silk, "and with it a token to
the Queen of his Affections." With eager speed the lady hastened
to undo the silken string which surrounded the little packet, and
failing to unloose readily the knot with which it was secured,
she again called loudly on Janet, "Bring me a knife--scissors--
aught that may undo this envious knot!"
"May not my poor poniard serve, honoured madam?" said Varney,
presenting a small dagger of exquisite workmanship, which hung in
his Turkey-leather sword-belt.
"No, sir," replied the lady, rejecting the instrument which he
offered--"steel poniard shall cut no true-love knot of mine."
"It has cut many, however," said Anthony Foster, half aside, and
looking at Varney. By this time the knot was disentangled
without any other help than the neat and nimble fingers of Janet,
a simply-attired pretty maiden, the daughter of Anthony Foster,
who came running at the repeated call of her mistress. A
necklace of orient pearl, the companion of a perfumed billet, was
now hastily produced from the packet. The lady gave the one,
after a slight glance, to the charge of her attendant, while she
read, or rather devoured, the contents of the other.
"Surely, lady," said Janet, gazing with admiration at the neck-
string of pearls, "the daughters of Tyre wore no fairer neck-
jewels than these. And then the posy, 'For a neck that is
fairer'--each pearl is worth a freehold."
"Each word in this dear paper is worth the whole string, my girl.
But come to my tiring-room, girl; we must be brave, my lord comes
hither to-night.--He bids me grace you, Master Varney, and to me
his wish is a law. I bid you to a collation in my bower this
afternoon; and you, too, Master Foster. Give orders that all is
fitting, and that suitable preparations be made for my lord's
reception to-night." With these words she left the apartment.
"She takes state on her already," said Varney, "and distributes
the favour of her presence, as if she were already the partner of
his dignity. Well, it is wise to practise beforehand the part
which fortune prepares us to play--the young eagle must gaze at
the sun ere he soars on strong wing to meet it."
"If holding her head aloft," said Foster, "will keep her eyes
from dazzling, I warrant you the dame will not stoop her crest.
She will presently soar beyond reach of my whistle, Master
Varney. I promise you, she holds me already in slight regard."
"It is thine own fault, thou sullen, uninventive companion,"
answered Varney, "who knowest no mode of control save downright
brute force. Canst thou not make home pleasant to her, with
music and toys? Canst thou not make the out-of-doors frightful
to her, with tales of goblins? Thou livest here by the
churchyard, and hast not even wit enough to raise a ghost, to
scare thy females into good discipline."
"Speak not thus, Master Varney," said Foster; "the living I fear
not, but I trifle not nor toy with my dead neighbours of the
churchyard. I promise you, it requires a good heart to live so
near it. Worthy Master Holdforth, the afternoon's lecturer of
Saint Antonlin's, had a sore fright there the last time he came
to visit me."
"Hold thy superstitious tongue," answered Varney; "and while thou
talkest of visiting, answer me, thou paltering knave, how came
Tressilian to be at the postern door?"
"Tressilian!" answered Foster, "what know I of Tressilian? I
never heard his name."
"Why, villain, it was the very Cornish chough to whom old Sir
Hugh Robsart destined his pretty Amy; and hither the hot-brained
fool has come to look after his fair runaway. There must be some
order taken with him, for he thinks he hath wrong, and is not the
mean hind that will sit down with it. Luckily he knows nought of
my lord, but thinks he has only me to deal with. But how, in the
fiend's name, came he hither?"
"Why, with Mike Lambourne, an you must know," answered Foster.
"And who is Mike Lambourne?" demanded Varney. "By Heaven! thou
wert best set up a bush over thy door, and invite every stroller
who passes by to see what thou shouldst keep secret even from the
sun and air."
"Ay! ay! this is a courtlike requital of my service to you,
Master Richard Varney," replied Foster. "Didst thou not charge
me to seek out for thee a fellow who had a good sword and an
unscrupulous conscience? and was I not busying myself to find a
fit man--for, thank Heaven, my acquaintance lies not amongst such
companions--when, as Heaven would have it, this tall fellow, who
is in all his dualities the very flashing knave thou didst wish,
came hither to fix acquaintance upon me in the plenitude of his
impudence; and I admitted his claim, thinking to do you a
pleasure. And now see what thanks I get for disgracing myself by
converse with him!"
"And did he," said Varney, "being such a fellow as thyself, only
lacking, I suppose, thy present humour of hypocrisy, which lies
as thin over thy hard, ruffianly heart as gold lacquer upon rusty
iron--did he, I say, bring the saintly, sighing Tressilian in his
"They came together, by Heaven!" said Foster; "and Tressilian--
to speak Heaven's truth--obtained a moment's interview with our
pretty moppet, while I was talking apart with Lambourne."
"Improvident villain! we are both undone," said Varney. "She
has of late been casting many a backward look to her father's
halls, whenever her lordly lover leaves her alone. Should this
preaching fool whistle her back to her old perch, we were but
"No fear of that, my master," replied Anthony Foster; "she is in
no mood to stoop to his lure, for she yelled out on seeing him as
if an adder had stung her."
"That is good. Canst thou not get from thy daughter an inkling
of what passed between them, good Foster?"
"I tell you plain, Master Varney," said Foster, "my daughter
shall not enter our purposes or walk in our paths. They may suit
me well enough, who know how to repent of my misdoings; but I
will not have my child's soul committed to peril either for your
pleasure or my lord's. I may walk among snares and pitfalls
myself, because I have discretion, but I will not trust the poor
lamb among them."
"Why, thou suspicious fool, I were as averse as thou art that thy
baby-faced girl should enter into my plans, or walk to hell at
her father's elbow. But indirectly thou mightst gain some
intelligence of her?"
"And so I did, Master Varney," answered Foster; "and she said her
lady called out upon the sickness of her father."
"Good!" replied Varney; "that is a hint worth catching, and I
will work upon it. But the country must be rid of this
Tressilian. I would have cumbered no man about the matter, for I
hate him like strong poison--his presence is hemlock to me--and
this day I had been rid of him, but that my foot slipped, when,
to speak truth, had not thy comrade yonder come to my aid, and
held his hand, I should have known by this time whether you and I
have been treading the path to heaven or hell."
"And you can speak thus of such a risk!" said Foster. "You keep
a stout heart, Master Varney. For me, if I did not hope to live
many years, and to have time for the great work of repentance, I
would not go forward with you."
"Oh! thou shalt live as long as Methuselah," said Varney, "and
amass as much wealth as Solomon; and thou shalt repent so
devoutly, that thy repentance shall be more famous than thy
villainy--and that is a bold word. But for all this, Tressilian
must be looked after. Thy ruffian yonder is gone to dog him. It
concerns our fortunes, Anthony."
"Ay, ay," said Foster sullenly, "this it is to be leagued with
one who knows not even so much of Scripture, as that the labourer
is worthy of his hire. I must, as usual, take all the trouble
"Risk! and what is the mighty risk, I pray you?" answered
Varney. "This fellow will come prowling again about your demesne
or into your house, and if you take him for a house-breaker or a
park-breaker, is it not most natural you should welcome him with
cold steel or hot lead? Even a mastiff will pull down those who
come near his kennel; and who shall blame him?"
"Ay, I have a mastiff's work and a mastiff's wage among you,"
said Foster. "Here have you, Master Varney, secured a good
freehold estate out of this old superstitious foundation; and I
have but a poor lease of this mansion under you, voidable at your
"Ay, and thou wouldst fain convert thy leasehold into a copyhold
--the thing may chance to happen, Anthony Foster, if thou dost
good service for it. But softly, good Anthony--it is not the
lending a room or two of this old house for keeping my lord's
pretty paroquet--nay, it is not the shutting thy doors and
windows to keep her from flying off that may deserve it.
Remember, the manor and tithes are rated at the clear annual
value of seventy-nine pounds five shillings and fivepence
halfpenny, besides the value of the wood. Come, come, thou must
be conscionable; great and secret service may deserve both this
and a better thing. And now let thy knave come and pluck off my
boots. Get us some dinner, and a cup of thy best wine. I must
visit this mavis, brave in apparel, unruffled in aspect, and gay
They parted and at the hour of noon, which was then that of
dinner, they again met at their meal, Varney gaily dressed like a
courtier of the time, and even Anthony Foster improved in
appearance, as far as dress could amend an exterior so
This alteration did not escape Varney. Then the meal was
finished, the cloth removed, and they were left to their private
discourse--"Thou art gay as a goldfinch, Anthony," said Varney,
looking at his host; "methinks, thou wilt whistle a jig anon.
But I crave your pardon, that would secure your ejection from the
congregation of the zealous botchers, the pure-hearted weavers,
and the sanctified bakers of Abingdon, who let their ovens cool
while their brains get heated."
"To answer you in the spirit, Master Varney," said Foster, "were
--excuse the parable--to fling sacred and precious things before
swine. So I will speak to thee in the language of the world,
which he who is king of the world, hath taught thee, to
understand, and to profit by in no common measure."
"Say what thou wilt, honest Tony," replied Varney; "for be it
according to thine absurd faith, or according to thy most
villainous practice, it cannot choose but be rare matter to
qualify this cup of Alicant. Thy conversation is relishing and
poignant, and beats caviare, dried neat's-tongue, and all other
provocatives that give savour to good liquor."
"Well, then, tell me," said Anthony Foster, "is not our good lord
and master's turn better served, and his antechamber more
suitably filled, with decent, God-fearing men, who will work his
will and their own profit quietly, and without worldly scandal,
than that he should be manned, and attended, and followed by such
open debauchers and ruffianly swordsmen as Tidesly, Killigrew,
this fellow Lambourne, whom you have put me to seek out for you,
and other such, who bear the gallows in their face and murder in
their right hand--who are a terror to peaceable men, and a
scandal to my lord's service?"
"Oh, content you, good Master Anthony Foster," answered Varney;
"he that flies at all manner of game must keep all kinds of
hawks, both short and long-winged. The course my lord holds is
no easy one, and he must stand provided at all points with trusty
retainers to meet each sort of service. He must have his gay
courtier, like myself, to ruffle it in the presence-chamber, and
to lay hand on hilt when any speaks in disparagement of my lord's
"Ay," said Foster, "and to whisper a word for him into a fair
lady's ear, when he may not approach her himself."
"Then," said Varney, going on without appearing to notice the
interruption, "he must have his lawyers--deep, subtle pioneers
--to draw his contracts, his pre-contracts, and his post-
contracts, and to find the way to make the most of grants of
church-lands, and commons, and licenses for monopoly. And he
must have physicians who can spice a cup or a caudle. And he
must have his cabalists, like Dec and Allan, for conjuring up the
devil. And he must have ruffling swordsmen, who would fight the
devil when he is raised and at the wildest. And above all,
without prejudice to others, he must have such godly, innocent,
puritanic souls as thou, honest Anthony, who defy Satan, and do
his work at the same time."
"You would not say, Master Varney," said Foster, "that our good
lord and master, whom I hold to be fulfilled in all nobleness,
would use such base and sinful means to rise, as thy speech
"Tush, man," said Varney, "never look at me with so sad a brow.
You trap me not--nor am I in your power, as your weak brain may
imagine, because I name to you freely the engines, the springs,
the screws, the tackle, and braces, by which great men rise in
stirring times. Sayest thou our good lord is fulfilled of all
nobleness? Amen, and so be it--he has the more need to have
those about him who are unscrupulous in his service, and who,
because they know that his fall will overwhelm and crush them,
must wager both blood and brain, soul and body, in order to keep
him aloft; and this I tell thee, because I care not who knows
"You speak truth, Master Varney," said Anthony Foster. "He that
is head of a party is but a boat on a wave, that raises not
itself, but is moved upward by the billow which it floats upon."
"Thou art metaphorical, honest Anthony," replied Varney; "that
velvet doublet hath made an oracle of thee. We will have thee to
Oxford to take the degrees in the arts. And, in the meantime,
hast thou arranged all the matters which were sent from London,
and put the western chambers into such fashion as may answer my
"They may serve a king on his bridal-day," said Anthony; "and I
promise you that Dame Amy sits in them yonder as proud and gay as
if she were the Queen of Sheba."
"'Tis the better, good Anthony," answered Varney; "we must found
our future fortunes on her good liking."
"We build on sand then," said Anthony Foster; "for supposing that
she sails away to court in all her lord's dignity and authority,
how is she to look back upon me, who am her jailor as it were, to
detain her here against her will, keeping her a caterpillar on an
old wall, when she would fain be a painted butterfly in a court
"Fear not her displeasure, man," said Varney. "I will show her
all thou hast done in this matter was good service, both to my
lord and her; and when she chips the egg-shell and walks alone,
she shall own we have hatched her greatness."
"Look to yourself, Master Varney," said Foster, "you may
misreckon foully in this matter. She gave you but a frosty
reception this morning, and, I think, looks on you, as well as
me, with an evil eye."
"You mistake her, Foster--you mistake her utterly. To me she is
bound by all the ties which can secure her to one who has been
the means of gratifying both her love and ambition. Who was it
that took the obscure Amy Robsart, the daughter of an
impoverished and dotard knight--the destined bride of a
moonstruck, moping enthusiast, like Edmund Tressilian, from her
lowly fates, and held out to her in prospect the brightest
fortune in England, or perchance in Europe? Why, man, it was I
--as I have often told thee--that found opportunity for their
secret meetings. It was I who watched the wood while he beat for
the deer. It was I who, to this day, am blamed by her family as
the companion of her flight; and were I in their neighbourhood,
would be fain to wear a shirt of better stuff than Holland linen,
lest my ribs should be acquainted with Spanish steel. Who
carried their letters?--I. Who amused the old knight and
Tressilian?--I. Who planned her escape?--it was I. It was I, in
short, Dick Varney, who pulled this pretty little daisy from its
lowly nook, and placed it in the proudest bonnet in Britain."
"Ay, Master Varney," said Foster; "but it may be she thinks that
had the matter remained with you, the flower had been stuck so
slightly into the cap, that the first breath of a changeable
breeze of passion had blown the poor daisy to the common."
"She should consider," said Varney, smiling, "the true faith I
owed my lord and master prevented me at first from counselling
marriage; and yet I did counsel marriage when I saw she would not
be satisfied without the--the sacrament, or the ceremony--which
callest thou it, Anthony?"
"Still she has you at feud on another score," said Foster; "and I
tell it you that you may look to yourself in time. She would not
hide her splendour in this dark lantern of an old monastic house,
but would fain shine a countess amongst countesses."
"Very natural, very right," answered Varney; "but what have I to
do with that?--she may shine through horn or through crystal at
my lord's pleasure, I have nought to say against it."
"She deems that you have an oar upon that side of the boat,
Master Varney," replied Foster, "and that you can pull it or no,
at your good pleasure. In a word, she ascribes the secrecy and
obscurity in which she is kept to your secret counsel to my lord,
and to my strict agency; and so she loves us both as a sentenced
man loves his judge and his jailor."
"She must love us better ere she leave this place, Anthony,"
answered Varney. "If I have counselled for weighty reasons that
she remain here for a season, I can also advise her being brought
forth in the full blow of her dignity. But I were mad to do so,
holding so near a place to my lord's person, were she mine enemy.
Bear this truth in upon her as occasion offers, Anthony, and let
me alone for extolling you in her ear, and exalting you in her
opinion--KA ME, KA THEE--it is a proverb all over the world. The
lady must know her friends, and be made to judge of the power
they have of being her enemies; meanwhile, watch her strictly,
but with all the outward observance that thy rough nature will
permit. 'Tis an excellent thing that sullen look and bull-dog
humour of thine; thou shouldst thank God for it, and so should my
lord, for when there is aught harsh or hard-natured to be done,
thou dost it as if it flowed from thine own natural doggedness,
and not from orders, and so my lord escapes the scandal.--But,
hark--some one knocks at the gate. Look out at the window--let
no one enter--this were an ill night to be interrupted."
"It is he whom we spoke of before dinner," said Foster, as he
looked through the casement; "it is Michael Lambourne."
"Oh, admit him, by all means," said the courtier; "he comes to
give some account of his guest; it imports us much to know the
movements of Edmund Tressilian.--Admit him, I say, but bring him
not hither; I will come to you presently in the Abbot's library."
Foster left the room, and the courtier, who remained behind,
paced the parlour more than once in deep thought, his arms folded
on his bosom, until at length he gave vent to his meditations in
broken words, which we have somewhat enlarged and connected, that
his soliloquy may be intelligible to the reader.
"'Tis true," he said, suddenly stopping, and resting his right
hand on the table at which they had been sitting, "this base
churl hath fathomed the very depth of my fear, and I have been
unable to disguise it from him. She loves me not--I would it
were as true that I loved not her! Idiot that I was, to move her
in my own behalf, when wisdom bade me be a true broker to my
lord! And this fatal error has placed me more at her discretion
than a wise man would willingly be at that of the best piece of
painted Eve's flesh of them all. Since the hour that my policy
made so perilous a slip, I cannot look at her without fear, and
hate, and fondness, so strangely mingled, that I know not
whether, were it at my choice, I would rather possess or ruin
her. But she must not leave this retreat until I am assured on
what terms we are to stand. My lord's interest--and so far it is
mine own, for if he sinks I fall in his train--demands
concealment of this obscure marriage; and besides, I will not
lend her my arm to climb to her chair of state, that she may set
her foot on my neck when she is fairly seated. I must work an
interest in her, either through love or through fear; and who
knows but I may yet reap the sweetest and best revenge for her
former scorn?--that were indeed a masterpiece of courtlike art!
Let me but once be her counsel-keeper--let her confide to me a
secret, did it but concern the robbery of a linnet's nest, and,
fair Countess, thou art mine own!" He again paced the room in
silence, stopped, filled and drank a cup of wine, as if to
compose the agitation of his mind, and muttering, "Now for a
close heart and an open and unruffled brow," he left the
The dews of summer night did fall,
The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
Silver'd the walls of Cumnor Hall,
And many an oak that grew thereby. MICKLE.
[This verse is the commencement of the ballad already quoted, as
what suggested the novel.]
Four apartments; which, occupied the western side of the old
quadrangle at Cumnor Place, had been fitted up with extraordinary
splendour. This had been the work of several days prior to that
on which our story opened. Workmen sent from London, and not
permitted to leave the premises until the work was finished, had
converted the apartments in that side of the building from the
dilapidated appearance of a dissolved monastic house into the
semblance of a royal palace. A mystery was observed in all these
arrangements: the workmen came thither and returned by night,
and all measures were taken to prevent the prying curiosity of
the villagers from observing or speculating upon the changes
which were taking place in the mansion of their once indigent but
now wealthy neighbour, Anthony Foster. Accordingly, the secrecy
desired was so far preserved, that nothing got abroad but vague
and uncertain reports, which were received and repeated, but
without much credit being attached to them.
On the evening of which we treat, the new and highly-decorated
suite of rooms were, for the first time, illuminated, and that
with a brilliancy which might have been visible half-a-dozen
miles off, had not oaken shutters, carefully secured with bolt
and padlock, and mantled with long curtains of silk and of
velvet, deeply fringed with gold, prevented the slightest gleam
of radiance front being seen without.
The principal apartments, as we have seen, were four in number,
each opening into the other. Access was given to them by a large
scale staircase, as they were then called, of unusual length and
height, which had its landing-place at the door of an
antechamber, shaped somewhat like a gallery. This apartment the
abbot had used as an occasional council-room, but it was now
beautifully wainscoted with dark, foreign wood of a brown colour,
and bearing a high polish, said to have been brought from the
Western Indies, and to have been wrought in London with infinite
difficulty and much damage to the tools of the workmen. The dark
colour of this finishing was relieved by the number of lights in
silver sconces which hung against the walls, and by six large and
richly-framed pictures, by the first masters of the age. A massy
oaken table, placed at the lower end of the apartment, served to
accommodate such as chose to play at the then fashionable game of
shovel-board; and there was at the other end an elevated gallery
for the musicians or minstrels, who might be summoned to increase
the festivity of the evening.
From this antechamber opened a banqueting-room of moderate size,
but brilliant enough to dazzle the eyes of the spectator with the
richness of its furniture. The walls, lately so bare and
ghastly, were now clothed with hangings of sky-blue velvet and
silver; the chairs were of ebony, richly carved, with cushions
corresponding to the hangings; and the place of the silver
sconces which enlightened the ante-chamber was supplied by a huge
chandelier of the same precious metal. The floor was covered
with a Spanish foot-cloth, or carpet, on which flowers and fruits
were represented in such glowing and natural colours, that you
hesitated to place the foot on such exquisite workmanship. The
table, of old English oak, stood ready covered with the finest
linen; and a large portable court-cupboard was placed with the
leaves of its embossed folding-doors displayed, showing the
shelves within, decorated with a full display of plate and
porcelain. In the midst of the table stood a salt-cellar of
Italian workmanship--a beautiful and splendid piece of plate
about two feet high, moulded into a representation of the giant
Briareus, whose hundred hands of silver presented to the guests
various sorts of spices, or condiments, to season their food
The third apartment was called the withdrawing-room. It was hung
with the finest tapestry, representing the fall of Phaeton; for
the looms of Flanders were now much occupied on classical
subjects. The principal seat of this apartment was a chair of
state, raised a step or two from the floor, and large enough to
contain two persons. It was surmounted by a canopy, which, as
well as the cushions, side-curtains, and the very footcloth, was
composed of crimson velvet, embroidered with seed-pearl. On the
top of the canopy were two coronets, resembling those of an earl
and countess. Stools covered with velvet, and some cushions
disposed in the Moorish fashion, and ornamented with Arabesque
needle-work, supplied the place of chairs in this apartment,
which contained musical instruments, embroidery frames, and other
articles for ladies' pastime. Besides lesser lights, the
withdrawing-room was illuminated by four tall torches of virgin
wax, each of which was placed in the grasp of a statue,
representing an armed Moor, who held in his left arm a round
buckler of silver, highly polished, interposed betwixt his breast
and the light, which was thus brilliantly reflected as from a
The sleeping chamber belonging to this splendid suite of
apartments was decorated in a taste less showy, but not less
rich, than had been displayed in the others. Two silver lamps,
fed with perfumed oil, diffused at once a delicious odour and a
trembling twilight-seeming shimmer through the quiet apartment.
It was carpeted so thick that the heaviest step could not have
been heard, and the bed, richly heaped with down, was spread with
an ample coverlet of silk and gold; from under which peeped forth
cambric sheets and blankets as white as the lambs which yielded
the fleece that made them. The curtains were of blue velvet,
lined with crimson silk, deeply festooned with gold, and
embroidered with the loves of Cupid and Psyche. On the toilet
was a beautiful Venetian mirror, in a frame of silver filigree,
and beside it stood a gold posset-dish to contain the night-
draught. A pair of pistols and a dagger, mounted with gold, were
displayed near the head of the bed, being the arms for the night,
which were presented to honoured guests, rather, it may be
supposed, in the way of ceremony than from any apprehension of
danger. We must not omit to mention, what was more to the credit
of the manners of the time, that in a small recess, illuminated
by a taper, were disposed two hassocks of velvet and gold,
corresponding with the bed furniture, before a desk of carved
ebony. This recess had formerly been the private oratory of the
abbot; but the crucifix was removed, and instead there were
placed on the desk, two Books of Common Prayer, richly bound, and
embossed with silver. With this enviable sleeping apartment,
which was so far removed from every sound save that of the wind
sighing among the oaks of the park, that Morpheus might have
coveted it for his own proper repose, corresponded two wardrobes,
or dressing-rooms as they are now termed, suitably furnished, and
in a style of the same magnificence which we have already
described. It ought to be added, that a part of the building in
the adjoining wing was occupied by the kitchen and its offices,
and served to accommodate the personal attendants of the great
and wealthy nobleman, for whose use these magnificent
preparations had been made.
The divinity for whose sake this temple had been decorated was
well worthy the cost and pains which had been bestowed. She was
seated in the withdrawing-room which we have described, surveying
with the pleased eye of natural and innocent vanity the splendour
which had been so suddenly created, as it were, in her honour.
For, as her own residence at Cumnor Place formed the cause of the
mystery observed in all the preparations for opening these
apartments, it was sedulously arranged that, until she took
possession of them, she should have no means of knowing what was
going forward in that part of the ancient building, or of
exposing herself to be seen by the workmen engaged in the
decorations. She had been, therefore, introduced on that evening
to a part of the mansion which she had never yet seen, so
different from all the rest that it appeared, in comparison, like
an enchanted palace. And when she first examined and occupied
these splendid rooms, it was with the wild and unrestrained joy
of a rustic beauty who finds herself suddenly invested with a
splendour which her most extravagant wishes had never imagined,
and at the same time with the keen feeling of an affectionate
heart, which knows that all the enchantment that surrounds her is
the work of the great magician Love.
The Countess Amy, therefore--for to that rank she was exalted by
her private but solemn union with England's proudest Earl--had
for a time flitted hastily from room to room, admiring each new
proof of her lover and her bridegroom's taste, and feeling that
admiration enhanced as she recollected that all she gazed upon
was one continued proof of his ardent and devoted affection.
"How beautiful are these hangings! How natural these paintings,
which seem to contend with life! How richly wrought is that
plate, which looks as if all the galleons of Spain had been
intercepted on the broad seas to furnish it forth! And oh,
Janet!" she exclaimed repeatedly to the daughter of Anthony
Foster, the close attendant, who, with equal curiosity, but
somewhat less ecstatic joy, followed on her mistress's footsteps
--"oh, Janet! how much more delightful to think that all these
fair things have been assembled by his love, for the love of me!
and that this evening--this very evening, which grows darker
every instant, I shall thank him more for the love that has
created such an unimaginable paradise, than for all the wonders
"The Lord is to be thanked first," said the pretty Puritan, "who
gave thee, lady, the kind and courteous husband whose love has
done so much for thee. I, too, have done my poor share. But if
you thus run wildly from room to room, the toil of my crisping
and my curling pins will vanish like the frost-work on the window
when the sun is high."
"Thou sayest true, Janet," said the young and beautiful Countess,
stopping suddenly from her tripping race of enraptured delight,
and looking at herself from head to foot in a large mirror, such
as she had never before seen, and which, indeed, had few to match
it even in the Queen's palace--"thou sayest true, Janet!" she
answered, as she saw, with pardonable self-applause, the noble
mirror reflect such charms as were seldom presented to its fair
and polished surface; "I have more of the milk-maid than the
countess, with these cheeks flushed with haste, and all these
brown curls, which you laboured to bring to order, straying as
wild as the tendrils of an unpruned vine. My falling ruff is
chafed too, and shows the neck and bosom more than is modest and
seemly. Come, Janet; we will practise state--we will go to the
withdrawing-room, my good girl, and thou shalt put these rebel
locks in order, and imprison within lace and cambric the bosom
that beats too high."
They went to the withdrawing apartment accordingly, where the
Countess playfully stretched herself upon the pile of Moorish
cushions, half sitting, half reclining, half wrapt in her own
thoughts, half listening to the prattle of her attendant.
While she was in this attitude, and with a corresponding
expression betwixt listlessness and expectation on her fine and
intelligent features, you might have searched sea and land
without finding anything half so expressive or half so lovely.
The wreath of brilliants which mixed with her dark-brown hair did
not match in lustre the hazel eye which a light-brown eyebrow,
pencilled with exquisite delicacy, and long eyelashes of the same
colour, relieved and shaded. The exercise she had just taken,
her excited expectation and gratified vanity, spread a glow over
her fine features, which had been sometimes censured (as beauty
as well as art has her minute critics) for being rather too pale.
The milk-white pearls of the necklace which she wore, the same
which she had just received as a true-love token from her
husband, were excelled in purity by her teeth, and by the colour
of her skin, saving where the blush of pleasure and self-
satisfaction had somewhat stained the neck with a shade of light
crimson.--"Now, have done with these busy fingers, Janet," she
said to her handmaiden, who was still officiously employed in
bringing her hair and her dress into order--"have done, I say. I
must see your father ere my lord arrives, and also Master Richard
Varney, whom my lord has highly in his esteem--but I could tell
that of him would lose him favour."
"Oh, do not do so, good my lady!" replied Janet; "leave him to
God, who punishes the wicked in His own time; but do not you
cross Varney's path, for so thoroughly hath he my lord's ear,
that few have thriven who have thwarted his courses."
"And from whom had you this, my most righteous Janet?" said the
Countess; "or why should I keep terms with so mean a gentleman as
Varney, being as I am, wife to his master and patron?"
"Nay, madam," replied Janet Foster, "your ladyship knows better
than I; but I have heard my father say he would rather cross a
hungry wolf than thwart Richard Varney in his projects. And he
has often charged me to have a care of holding commerce with
"Thy father said well, girl, for thee," replied the lady, "and I
dare swear meant well. It is a pity, though, his face and manner
do little match his true purpose--for I think his purpose may be
"Doubt it not, my lady," answered Janet--"doubt not that my
father purposes well, though he is a plain man, and his blunt
looks may belie his heart."
"I will not doubt it, girl, were it only for thy sake; and yet he
has one of those faces which men tremble when they look on. I
think even thy mother, Janet--nay, have done with that poking-
iron--could hardly look upon him without quaking."
"If it were so, madam," answered Janet Foster, "my mother had
those who could keep her in honourable countenance. Why, even
you, my lady, both trembled and blushed when Varney brought the
letter from my lord."
"You are bold, damsel," said the Countess, rising from the
cushions on which she sat half reclined in the arms of her
attendant. "Know that there are causes of trembling which have
nothing to do with fear.--But, Janet," she added, immediately
relapsing into the good-natured and familiar tone which was
natural to her, "believe me, I will do what credit I can to your
father, and the rather that you, sweetheart, are his child.
Alas! alas!" she added, a sudden sadness passing over her fine
features, and her eyes filling with tears, "I ought the rather to
hold sympathy with thy kind heart, that my own poor father is
uncertain of my fate, and they say lies sick and sorrowful for my
worthless sake! But I will soon cheer him--the news of my
happiness and advancement will make him young again. And that I
may cheer him the sooner"--she wiped her eyes as she spoke--"I
must be cheerful myself. My lord must not find me insensible to
his kindness, or sorrowful, when he snatches a visit to his
recluse, after so long an absence. Be merry, Janet; the night
wears on, and my lord must soon arrive. Call thy father hither,
and call Varney also. I cherish resentment against neither; and
though I may have some room to be displeased with both, it shall
be their own fault if ever a complaint against them reaches the
Earl through my means. Call them hither, Janet."
Janet Foster obeyed her mistress; and in a few minutes after,
Varney entered the withdrawing-room with the graceful ease and
unclouded front of an accomplished courtier, skilled, under the
veil of external politeness, to disguise his own feelings and to
penetrate those of others. Anthony Foster plodded into the
apartment after him, his natural gloomy vulgarity of aspect
seeming to become yet more remarkable, from his clumsy attempt to
conceal the mixture of anxiety and dislike with which he looked
on her, over whom he had hitherto exercised so severe a control,
now so splendidly attired, and decked with so many pledges of the
interest which she possessed in her husband's affections. The
blundering reverence which he made, rather AT than TO the
Countess, had confession in it. It was like the reverence which
the criminal makes to the judge, when he at once owns his guilt
and implores mercy--which is at the same time an impudent and
embarrassed attempt at defence or extenuation, a confession of a
fault, and an entreaty for lenity.
Varney, who, in right of his gentle blood, had pressed into the
room before Anthony Foster, knew better what to say than he, and
said it with more assurance and a better grace.
The Countess greeted him indeed with an appearance of cordiality,
which seemed a complete amnesty for whatever she might have to
complain of. She rose from her seat, and advanced two steps
towards him, holding forth her hand as she said, "Master Richard
Varney, you brought me this morning such welcome tidings, that I
fear surprise and joy made me neglect my lord and husband's
charge to receive you with distinction. We offer you our hand,
sir, in reconciliation."
"I am unworthy to touch it," said Varney, dropping on one knee,
"save as a subject honours that of a prince."
He touched with his lips those fair and slender fingers, so
richly loaded with rings and jewels; then rising, with graceful
gallantry, was about to hand her to the chair of state, when she
said, "No, good Master Richard Varney, I take not my place there
until my lord himself conducts me. I am for the present but a
disguised Countess, and will not take dignity on me until
authorized by him whom I derive it from."
"I trust, my lady," said Foster, "that in doing the commands of
my lord your husband, in your restraint and so forth, I have not
incurred your displeasure, seeing that I did but my duty towards
your lord and mine; for Heaven, as holy writ saith, hath given
the husband supremacy and dominion over the wife--I think it runs
so, or something like it."
"I receive at this moment so pleasant a surprise, Master Foster,"
answered the Countess, "that I cannot but excuse the rigid
fidelity which secluded me from these apartments, until they had
assumed an appearance so new and so splendid."
"Ay lady," said Foster, "it hath cost many a fair crown; and that
more need not be wasted than is absolutely necessary, I leave you
till my lord's arrival with good Master Richard Varney, who, as I
think, hath somewhat to say to you from your most noble lord and
husband.--Janet, follow me, to see that all be in order."
"No, Master Foster," said the Countess, "we will your daughter
remains here in our apartment--out of ear-shot, however, in case
Varney bath ought to say to me from my lord."
Foster made his clumsy reverence, and departed, with an aspect
which seemed to grudge the profuse expense which had been wasted
upon changing his house from a bare and ruinous grange to an
Asiastic palace. When he was gone, his daughter took her
embroidery frame, and went to establish herself at the bottom of
the apartment; while Richard Varney, with a profoundly humble
courtesy, took the lowest stool he could find, and placing it by
the side of the pile of cushions on which the Countess had now
again seated herself, sat with his eyes for a time fixed on the
ground, and in pro-found silence
"I thought, Master Varney," said the Countess, when she saw he
was not likely to open the conversation, "that you had something
to communicate from my lord and husband; so at least I understood
Master Foster, and therefore I removed my waiting-maid. If I am
mistaken, I will recall her to my side; for her needle is not so
absolutely perfect in tent and cross-stitch, but that my
superintendence is advisable."
"Lady," said Varney, "Foster was partly mistaken in my purpose.
It was not FROM but OF your noble husband, and my approved and
most noble patron, that I am led, and indeed bound, to speak."
"The theme is most welcome, sir," said the Countess, "whether it
be of or from my noble husband. But be brief, for I expect his
"Briefly then, madam," replied Varney, "and boldly, for my
argument requires both haste and courage--you have this day seen
"I have, sir and what of that?" answered the lady somewhat
"Nothing that concerns me, lady," Varney replied with humility.
"But, think you, honoured madam, that your lord will hear it with
"And wherefore should he not? To me alone was Tressilian's visit
embarrassing and painful, for he brought news of my good father's
"Of your father's illness, madam!" answered Varney. "It must
have been sudden then--very sudden; for the messenger whom I
dispatched, at my lord's instance, found the good knight on the
hunting field, cheering his beagles with his wonted jovial field-
cry. I trust Tressilian has but forged this news. He hath his
reasons, madam, as you well know, for disquieting your present
"You do him injustice, Master Varney," replied the Countess, with
animation--"you do him much injustice. He is the freest, the
most open, the most gentle heart that breathes. My honourable
lord ever excepted, I know not one to whom falsehood is more
odious than to Tressilian."
"I crave your pardon, madam," said Varney, "I meant the gentleman
no injustice--I knew not how nearly his cause affected you. A
man may, in some circumstances, disguise the truth for fair and
honest purpose; for were it to be always spoken, and upon all
occasions, this were no world to live in."
"You have a courtly conscience, Master Varney," said the
Countess, "and your veracity will not, I think, interrupt your
preferment in the world, such as it is. But touching Tressilian
--I must do him justice, for I have done him wrong, as none knows
better than thou. Tressilian's conscience is of other mould--the
world thou speakest of has not that which could bribe him from
the way of truth and honour; and for living in it with a soiled
fame, the ermine would as soon seek to lodge in the den of the
foul polecat. For this my father loved him; for this I would
have loved him--if I could. And yet in this case he had what
seemed to him, unknowing alike of my marriage and to whom I was
united, such powerful reasons to withdraw me from this place,
that I well trust he exaggerated much of my father's
indisposition, and that thy better news may be the truer."
"Believe me they are, madam," answered Varney. "I pretend not to
be a champion of that same naked virtue called truth, to the very
outrance. I can consent that her charms be hidden with a veil,
were it but for decency's sake. But you must think lower of my
head and heart than is due to one whom my noble lord deigns to
call his friend, if you suppose I could wilfully and
unnecessarily palm upon your ladyship a falsehood, so soon to be
detected, in a matter which concerns your happiness."
"Master Varney," said the Countess, "I know that my lord esteems
you, and holds you a faithful and a good pilot in those seas in
which he has spread so high and so venturous a sail. Do not
suppose, therefore, I meant hardly by you, when I spoke the truth
in Tressilian's vindication. I am as you well know, country-
bred, and like plain rustic truth better than courtly compliment;
but I must change my fashions with my sphere, I presume."
"True, madam," said Varney, smiling; "and though you speak now in
jest, it will not be amiss that in earnest your present speech
had some connection with your real purpose. A court-dame--take
the most noble, the most virtuous, the most unimpeachable that
stands around our Queen's throne--would, for example, have
shunned to speak the truth, or what she thought such, in praise
of a discarded suitor, before the dependant and confidant of her
"And wherefore," said the Countess, colouring impatiently,
"should I not do justice to Tressilian's worth, before my
husband's friend--before my husband himself--before the whole
"And with the same openness," said Varney, "your ladyship will
this night tell my noble lord your husband that Tressilian has
discovered your place of residence, so anxiously concealed from
the world, and that he has had an interview with you?"
"Unquestionably," said the Countess. "It will be the first thing
I tell him, together with every word that Tressilian said and
that I answered. I shall speak my own shame in this, for
Tressilian's reproaches, less just than he esteemed them, were
not altogether unmerited. I will speak, therefore, with pain,
but I will speak, and speak all."
"Your ladyship will do your pleasure," answered Varney; "but
methinks it were as well, since nothing calls for so frank a
disclosure, to spare yourself this pain, and my noble lord the
disquiet, and Master Tressilian, since belike he must be thought
of in the matter, the danger which is like to ensue."
"I can see nought of all these terrible consequences," said the
lady composedly, "unless by imputing to my noble lord unworthy
thoughts, which I am sure never harboured in his generous heart."
"Far be it from me to do so," said Varney. And then, after a
moment's silence, he added, with a real or affected plainness of
manner, very different from his usual smooth courtesy, "Come,
madam, I will show you that a courtier dare speak truth as well
as another, when it concerns the weal of those whom he honours
and regards, ay, and although it may infer his own danger." He
waited as if to receive commands, or at least permission, to go
on; but as the lady remained silent, he proceeded, but obviously
with caution. "Look around you," he said, "noble lady, and
observe the barriers with which this place is surrounded, the
studious mystery with which the brightest jewel that England
possesses is secluded from the admiring gaze. See with what
rigour your walks are circumscribed. and your movement
restrained at the beck of yonder churlish Foster. Consider all
this, and judge for yourself what can be the cause.
"My lord's pleasure," answered the Countess; "and I am bound to
seek no other motive."
"His pleasure it is indeed," said Varney; "and his pleasure
arises out of a love worthy of the object which inspires it. But
he who possesses a treasure, and who values it, is oft anxious,
in proportion to the value he puts upon it, to secure it from the
depredations of others."
"What needs all this talk, Master Varney?" said the lady, in
reply. "You would have me believe that my noble lord is
jealous. Suppose it true, I know a cure for jealousy."
"Indeed, madam?" said Varney.
"It is," replied the lady, "to speak the truth to my lord at all
times--to hold up my mind and my thoughts before him as pure as
that polished mirror--so that when he looks into my heart, he
shall only see his own features reflected there."
"I am mute, madam answered Varney; "and as I have no reason to
grieve for Tressilian, who would have my heart's blood were he
able, I shall reconcile myself easily to what may befall the
gentleman in consequence of your frank disclosure of his having
presumed to intrude upon your solitude. You, who know my lord so
much better than I, will judge if he be likely to bear the insult
"Nay, if I could think myself the cause of Tressilian's ruin,"
said the Countess, "I who have already occasioned him so much
distress, I might be brought to be silent. And yet what will it
avail, since he was seen by Foster, and I think by some one else?
No, no, Varney, urge it no more. I will tell the whole matter to
my lord; and with such pleading for Tressilian's folly, as shall
dispose my lord's generous heart rather to serve than to punish
"Your judgment, madam," said Varney, "is far superior to mine,
especially as you may, if you will, prove the ice before you step
on it, by mentioning Tressilian's name to my lord, and observing
how he endures it. For Foster and his attendant, they know not
Tressilian by sight, and I can easily give them some reasonable
excuse for the appearance of an unknown stranger."
The lady paused for an instant, and then replied, "If, Varney, it
be indeed true that Foster knows not as yet that the man he saw
was Tressilian, I own I were unwilling he should learn what
nowise concerns him. He bears himself already with austerity
enough, and I wish him not to be judge or privy-councillor in my
"Tush," said Varney, "what has the surly groom to do with your
ladyship's concerns?--no more, surely, than the ban-dog which
watches his courtyard. If he is in aught distasteful to your
ladyship, I have interest enough to have him exchanged for a
seneschal that shall be more agreeable to you."
"Master Varney," said the Countess, "let us drop this theme.
When I complain of the attendants whom my lord has placed around
me, it must be to my lord himself.--Hark! I hear the trampling
of horse. He comes! he comes!" she exclaimed, jumping up in
"I cannot think it is he," said Varney; "or that you can hear the
tread of his horse through the closely-mantled casements."
"Stop me not, Varney--my ears are keener than thine. It is he!"
"But, madam!--but, madam!" exclaimed Varney anxiously, and still
placing himself in her way, "I trust that what I have spoken in
humble duty and service will not be turned to my ruin? I hope
that my faithful advice will not be bewrayed to my prejudice? I
"Content thee, man--content thee!" said the Countess, "and quit
my skirt--you are too bold to detain me. Content thyself, I
think not of thee."
At this moment the folding-doors flew wide open, and a man of
majestic mien, muffled in the folds of a long dark riding-cloak,
entered the apartment.
This is he
Who rides on the court-gale; controls its tides;
Knows all their secret shoals and fatal eddies;
Whose frown abases, and whose smile exalts.
He shines like any rainbow--and, perchance,
His colours are as transient." OLD PLAY.
There was some little displeasure and confusion on the Countess's
brow, owing to her struggle with Varney's pertinacity; but it was
exchanged for an expression of the purest joy and affection, as
she threw herself into the arms of the noble stranger who
entered, and clasping him to her bosom, exclaimed, "At length--at
length thou art come!"
Varney discreetly withdrew as his lord entered, and Janet was
about to do the same, when her mistress signed to her to remain.
She took her place at the farther end of the apartment, and
continued standing, as if ready for attendance.
Meanwhile the Earl, for he was of no inferior rank, returned his
lady's caress with the most affectionate ardour, but affected to
resist when she strove to take his cloak from him.
"Nay," she said, "but I will unmantle you. I must see if you
have kept your word to me, and come as the great Earl men call
thee, and not as heretofore like a private cavalier."
"Thou art like the rest of the world, Amy," said the Earl,
suffering her to prevail in the playful contest; "the jewels, and
feathers, and silk are more to them than the man whom they adorn
--many a poor blade looks gay in a velvet scabbard."
"But so cannot men say of thee, thou noble Earl," said his lady,
as the cloak dropped on the floor, and showed him dressed as
princes when they ride abroad; "thou art the good and well-tried
steel, whose inly worth deserves, yet disdains, its outward
ornaments. Do not think Amy can love thee better in this
glorious garb than she did when she gave her heart to him who
wore the russet-brown cloak in the woods of Devon."
"And thou too," said the Earl, as gracefully and majestically he
led his beautiful Countess towards the chair of state which was
prepared for them both--"thou too, my love, hast donned a dress
which becomes thy rank, though it cannot improve thy beauty.
What think'st thou of our court taste?"
The lady cast a sidelong glance upon the great mirror as they
passed it by, and then said, "I know not how it is, but I think
not of my own person while I look at the reflection of thine.
Sit thou there," she said, as they approached the chair of state,
"like a thing for men to worship and to wonder at."
"Ay, love," said the Earl, "if thou wilt share my state with me."
"Not so," said the Countess; "I will sit on this footstool at thy
feet, that I may spell over thy splendour, and learn, for the
first time, how princes are attired."
And with a childish wonder, which her youth and rustic education
rendered not only excusable but becoming, mixed as it was with a
delicate show of the most tender conjugal affection, she examined
and admired from head to foot the noble form and princely attire
of him who formed the proudest ornament of the court of England's
Maiden Queen, renowned as it was for splendid courtiers, as well
as for wise counsellors. Regarding affectionately his lovely
bride, and gratified by her unrepressed admiration, the dark eye
and noble features of the Earl expressed passions more gentle
than the commanding and aspiring look which usually sat upon his
broad forehead, and in the piercing brilliancy of his dark eye;
and he smiled at the simplicity which dictated the questions she
put to him concerning the various ornaments with which he was
"The embroidered strap, as thou callest it, around my knee," he
said, "is the English Garter, an ornament which kings are proud
to wear. See, here is the star which belongs to it, and here the
Diamond George, the jewel of the order. You have heard how King
Edward and the Countess of Salisbury--"
"Oh, I know all that tale," said the Countess, slightly blushing,
"and how a lady's garter became the proudest badge of English
"Even so," said the Earl; "and this most honourable Order I had
the good hap to receive at the same time with three most noble
associates, the Duke of Norfolk, the Marquis of Northampton, and
the Earl of Rutland. I was the lowest of the four in rank--but
what then? he that climbs a ladder must begin at the first
"But this other fair collar, so richly wrought, with some jewel
like a sheep hung by the middle attached to it, what," said the
young Countess, "does that emblem signify?"
"This collar," said the Earl, "with its double fusilles
interchanged with these knobs, which are supposed to present
flint-stones sparkling with fire, and sustaining the jewel you
inquire about, is the badge of the noble Order of the Golden
Fleece, once appertaining to the House of Burgundy it hath high
privileges, my Amy, belonging to it, this most noble Order; for
even the King of Spain himself, who hath now succeeded to the
honours and demesnes of Burgundy, may not sit in judgment upon a
knight of the Golden Fleece, unless by assistance and consent of
the Great Chapter of the Order."
"And is this an Order belonging to the cruel King of Spain?"
said the Countess. "Alas! my noble lord, that you will defile
your noble English breast by bearing such an emblem! Bethink you
of the most unhappy Queen Mary's days, when this same Philip held
sway with her in England, and of the piles which were built for
our noblest, and our wisest, and our most truly sanctified
prelates and divines--and will you, whom men call the standard-
bearer of the true Protestant faith, be contented to wear the
emblem and mark of such a Romish tyrant as he of Spain?"
"Oh, content you, my love," answered the Earl; "we who spread our
sails to gales of court favour cannot always display the ensigns
we love the best, or at all times refuse sailing under colours
which we like not. Believe me, I am not the less good
Protestant, that for policy I must accept the honour offered me
by Spain, in admitting me to this his highest order of
knighthood. Besides, it belongs properly to Flanders; and
Egmont, Orange, and others have pride in seeing it displayed on
an English bosom."
"Nay, my lord, you know your own path best," replied the
Countess. "And this other collar, to what country does this fair
"To a very poor one, my love," replied the Earl; "this is the
Order of Saint Andrew, revived by the last James of Scotland. It
was bestowed on me when it was thought the young widow of France
and Scotland would gladly have wedded an English baron; but a
free coronet of England is worth a crown matrimonial held at the
humour of a woman, and owning only the poor rocks and bogs of the
The Countess paused, as if what the Earl last said had excited
some painful but interesting train of thought; and, as she still
remained silent, her husband proceeded:--
"And now, loveliest, your wish is gratified, and you have seen
your vassal in such of his trim array as accords with riding
vestments; for robes of state and coronets are only for princely
"Well, then," said the Countess, "my gratified wish has, as
usual, given rise to a new one."
"And what is it thou canst ask that I can deny?" said the fond
"I wished to see my Earl visit this obscure and secret bower,"
said the Countess, "in all his princely array; and now, methinks
I long to sit in one of his princely halls, and see him enter
dressed in sober russet, as when he won poor Amy Robsart's
"That is a wish easily granted," said the Earl--"the sober russet
shall be donned to-morrow, if you will."
"But shall I," said the lady, "go with you to one of your
castles, to see how the richness of your dwelling will correspond
with your peasant habit?"
"Why, Amy," said the Earl, looking around, "are not these
apartments decorated with sufficient splendour? I gave the most
unbounded order, and, methinks, it has been indifferently well
obeyed; but if thou canst tell me aught which remains to be done,
I will instantly give direction."
"Nay, my lord, now you mock me," replied the Countess; "the
gaiety of this rich lodging exceeds my imagination as much as it
does my desert. But shall not your wife, my love--at least one
day soon--be surrounded with the honour which arises neither from
the toils of the mechanic who decks her apartment, nor from the
silks and jewels with which your generosity adorns her, but which
is attached to her place among the matronage, as the avowed wife
of England's noblest Earl?"
"One day?" said her husband. "Yes, Amy, my love, one day this
shall surely happen; and, believe me, thou canst not wish for
that day more fondly than I. With what rapture could I retire
from labours of state, and cares and toils of ambition, to spend
my life in dignity and honour on my own broad domains, with thee,
my lovely Amy, for my friend and companion! But, Amy, this
cannot yet be; and these dear but stolen interviews are all I can
give to the loveliest and the best beloved of her sex."
"But WHY can it not be?" urged the Countess, in the softest
tones of persuasion--"why can it not immediately take place--this
more perfect, this uninterrupted union, for which you say you
wish, and which the laws of God and man alike command? Ah! did
you but desire it half as much as you say, mighty and favoured as
you are, who or what should bar your attaining your wish?"
The Earl's brow was overcast.
"Amy," he said, "you speak of what you understand not. We that
toil in courts are like those who climb a mountain of loose sand
--we dare make no halt until some projecting rock affords us a
secure footing and resting-place. If we pause sooner, we slide
down by our own weight, an object of universal derision. I stand
high, but I stand not secure enough to follow my own inclination.
To declare my marriage were to be the artificer of my own ruin.
But, believe me, I will reach a point, and that speedily, when I
can do justice to thee and to myself. Meantime, poison not the
bliss of the present moment, by desiring that which cannot at
present be, Let me rather know whether all here is managed to thy
liking. How does Foster bear himself to you?--in all things
respectful, I trust, else the fellow shall dearly rue it."
"He reminds me sometimes of the necessity of this privacy,"
answered the lady, with a sigh; "but that is reminding me of your
wishes, and therefore I am rather bound to him than disposed to
blame him for it."
"I have told you the stern necessity which is upon us," replied
the Earl. "Foster is, I note, somewhat sullen of mood; but
Varney warrants to me his fidelity and devotion to my service.
If thou hast aught, however, to complain of the mode in which he
discharges his duty, he shall abye it."
"Oh, I have nought to complain of," answered the lady, "so he
discharges his task with fidelity to you; and his daughter Janet
is the kindest and best companion of my solitude--her little air
of precision sits so well upon her!"
"Is she indeed?" said the Earl. "She who gives you pleasure
must not pass unrewarded.--Come hither, damsel."
"Janet," said the lady, "come hither to my lord."
Janet, who, as we already noticed, had discreetly retired to some
distance, that her presence might be no check upon the private
conversation of her lord and lady, now came forward; and as she
made her reverential curtsy, the Earl could not help smiling at
the contrast which the extreme simplicity of her dress, and the
prim demureness of her looks, made with a very pretty countenance
and a pair of black eyes, that laughed in spite of their
mistress's desire to look grave.
"I am bound to you, pretty damsel," said the Earl, "for the
contentment which your service hath given to this lady." As he
said this, he took from his finger a ring of some price, and
offered it to Janet Foster, adding, "Wear this, for her sake and
"I am well pleased, my lord," answered Janet demurely, "that my
poor service hath gratified my lady, whom no one can draw nigh to
without desiring to please; but we of the precious Master
Holdforth's congregation seek not, like the gay daughters of this
world, to twine gold around our fingers, or wear stones upon our
necks, like the vain women of Tyre and of Sidon."
"Oh, what! you are a grave professor of the precise sisterhood,
pretty Mistress Janet," said the Earl, "and I think your father
is of the same congregation in sincerity? I like you both the
better for it; for I have been prayed for, and wished well to, in
your congregations. And you may the better afford the lack of
ornament, Mistress Janet, because your fingers are slender, and
your neck white. But here is what neither Papist nor Puritan,
latitudinarian nor precisian, ever boggles or makes mouths at.
E'en take it, my girl, and employ it as you list."
So saying, he put into her hand five broad gold pieces of Philip
"I would not accept this gold either," said Janet, "but that I
hope to find a use for it which will bring a blessing on us all."
"Even please thyself, pretty Janet," said the Earl, "and I shall
be well satisfied. And I prithee let them hasten the evening
"I have bidden Master Varney and Master Foster to sup with us, my
lord," said the Countess, as Janet retired to obey the Earl's
commands; "has it your approbation?"
"What you do ever must have so, my sweet Amy," replied her
husband; "and I am the better pleased thou hast done them this
grace, because Richard Varney is my sworn man, and a close
brother of my secret council; and for the present, I must needs
repose much trust in this Anthony Foster."
"I had a boon to beg of thee, and a secret to tell thee, my dear
lord," said the Countess, with a faltering accent.
"Let both be for to-morrow, my love," replied the Earl. "I see
they open the folding-doors into the banqueting-parlour, and as I
have ridden far and fast, a cup of wine will not be
So saying he led his lovely wife into the next apartment, where
Varney and Foster received them with the deepest reverences,
which the first paid after the fashion of the court, and the
second after that of the congregation. The Earl returned their
salutation with the negligent courtesy of one long used to such
homage; while the Countess repaid it with a punctilious
solicitude, which showed it was not quite so familiar to her.
The banquet at which the company seated themselves corresponded
in magnificence with the splendour of the apartment in which it
was served up, but no domestic gave his attendance. Janet alone
stood ready to wait upon the company; and, indeed, the board was
so well supplied with all that could be desired, that little or
no assistance was necessary. The Earl and his lady occupied the
upper end of the table, and Varney and Foster sat beneath the
salt, as was the custom with inferiors. The latter, overawed
perhaps by society to which he was altogether unused, did not
utter a single syllable during the repast; while Varney, with
great tact and discernment, sustained just so much of the
conversation as, without the appearance of intrusion on his part,
prevented it from languishing, and maintained the good-humour of
the Earl at the highest pitch. This man was indeed highly
qualified by nature to discharge the part in which he found
himself placed, being discreet and cautious on the one hand, and,
on the other, quick, keen-witted, and imaginative; so that even
the Countess, prejudiced as she was against him on many accounts,
felt and enjoyed his powers of conversation, and was more
disposed than she had ever hitherto found herself to join in the
praises which the Earl lavished on his favourite. The hour of
rest at length arrived, the Earl and Countess retired to their
apartment, and all was silent in the castle for the rest of the
Early on the ensuing morning, Varney acted as the Earl's
chamberlain as well as his master of horse, though the latter was
his proper office in that magnificent household, where knights
and gentlemen of good descent were well contented to hold such
menial situations, as nobles themselves held in that of the
sovereign. The duties of each of these charges were familiar to
Varney, who, sprung from an ancient but somewhat decayed family,
was the Earl's page during his earlier and more obscure fortunes,
and, faithful to him in adversity, had afterwards contrived to
render himself no less useful to him in his rapid and splendid
advance to fortune; thus establishing in him an interest resting
both on present and past services, which rendered him an almost
indispensable sharer of his confidence.
"Help me to do on a plainer riding-suit, Varney," said the Earl,
as he laid aside his morning-gown, flowered with silk and lined
with sables, "and put these chains and fetters there" (pointing
to the collars of the various Orders which lay on the table)
"into their place of security--my neck last night was well-nigh
broke with the weight of them. I am half of the mind that they
shall gall me no more. They are bonds which knaves have invented
to fetter fools. How thinkest thou, Varney?"
"Faith, my good lord," said his attendant, "I think fetters of
gold are like no other fetters--they are ever the weightier the
"For all that, Varney," replied his master, "I am well-nigh
resolved they shall bind me to the court no longer. What can
further service and higher favour give me, beyond the high rank
and large estate which I have already secured? What brought my
father to the block, but that he could not bound his wishes
within right and reason? I have, you know, had mine own ventures
and mine own escapes. I am well-nigh resolved to tempt the sea
no further, but sit me down in quiet on the shore."
"And gather cockle-shells, with Dan Cupid to aid you," said
"How mean you by that, Varney?" said the Earl somewhat hastily.
"Nay, my lord," said Varney, "be not angry with me. If your
lordship is happy in a lady so rarely lovely that, in order to
enjoy her company with somewhat more freedom, you are willing to
part with all you have hitherto lived for, some of your poor
servants may be sufferers; but your bounty hath placed me so
high, that I shall ever have enough to maintain a poor gentleman
in the rank befitting the high office he has held in your
"Yet you seem discontented when I propose throwing up a dangerous
game, which may end in the ruin of both of us."
"I, my lord?" said Varney; "surely I have no cause to regret
your lordship's retreat! It will not be Richard Varney who will
incur the displeasure of majesty, and the ridicule of the court,
when the stateliest fabric that ever was founded upon a prince's
favour melts away like a morning frost-work. I would only have
you yourself to be assured, my lord, ere you take a step which
cannot be retracted, that you consult your fame and happiness in
the course you propose."
"Speak on, then, Varney," said the Earl; "I tell thee I have
determined nothing, and will weigh all considerations on either
"Well, then, my lord," replied Varney, "we will suppose the step
taken, the frown frowned, the laugh laughed, and the moan moaned.
You have retired, we will say, to some one of your most distant
castles, so far from court that you hear neither the sorrow of
your friends nor the glee of your enemies, We will suppose, too,
that your successful rival will be satisfied (a thing greatly to
be doubted) with abridging and cutting away the branches of the
great tree which so long kept the sun from him, and that he does
not insist upon tearing you up by the roots. Well; the late
prime favourite of England, who wielded her general's staff and
controlled her parliaments, is now a rural baron, hunting,
hawking, drinking fat ale with country esquires, and mustering
his men at the command of the high sheriff--"
"Varney, forbear!" said the Earl.
"Nay, my lord, you must give me leave to conclude my picture.
--Sussex governs England--the Queen's health fails--the
succession is to be settled--a road is opened to ambition more
splendid than ambition ever dreamed of. You hear all this as you
sit by the hob, under the shade of your hall-chimney. You then
begin to think what hopes you have fallen from, and what
insignificance you have embraced; and all that you might look
babies in the eyes of your fair wife oftener than once a
"I say, Varney," said the Earl, "no more of this. I said not
that the step, which my own ease and comfort would urge me to,
was to be taken hastily, or without due consideration to the
public safety. Bear witness to me, Varney; I subdue my wishes of
retirement, not because I am moved by the call of private
ambition, but that I may preserve the position in which I may
best serve my country at the hour of need.--Order our horses
presently; I will wear, as formerly, one of the livery cloaks,
and ride before the portmantle. Thou shalt be master for the
day, Varney--neglect nothing that can blind suspicion. We will
to horse ere men are stirring. I will but take leave of my lady,
and be ready. I impose a restraint on my own poor heart, and
wound one yet more dear to me; but the patriot must subdue the
Having said this in a melancholy but firm accent, he left the
"I am glad thou art gone," thought Varney, "or, practised as I am
in the follies of mankind, I had laughed in the very face of
thee! Thou mayest tire as thou wilt of thy new bauble, thy
pretty piece of painted Eve's flesh there, I will not be thy
hindrance. But of thine old bauble, ambition, thou shalt not
tire; for as you climb the hill, my lord, you must drag Richard
Varney up with you, and if he can urge you to the ascent he means
to profit by, believe me he will spare neither whip nor spur, and
for you, my pretty lady, that would be Countess outright, you
were best not thwart my courses, lest you are called to an old
reckoning on a new score. 'Thou shalt be master,' did he say?
By my faith, he may find that he spoke truer than he is aware of;
and thus he who, in the estimation of so many wise-judging men,
can match Burleigh and Walsingham in policy, and Sussex in war,
becomes pupil to his own menial--and all for a hazel eye and a
little cunning red and white, and so falls ambition. And yet if
the charms of mortal woman could excuse a man's politic pate for
becoming bewildered, my lord had the excuse at his right hand on
this blessed evening that has last passed over us. Well--let
things roll as they may, he shall make me great, or I will make
myself happy; and for that softer piece of creation, if she speak
not out her interview with Tressilian, as well I think she dare
not, she also must traffic with me for concealment and mutual
support, in spite of all this scorn. I must to the stables.
Well, my lord, I order your retinue now; the time may soon come
that my master of the horse shall order mine own. What was
Thomas Cromwell but a smith's son? and he died my lord--on a
scaffold, doubtless, but that, too, was in character. And what
was Ralph Sadler but the clerk of Cromwell? and he has gazed
eighteen fair lordships--VIA! I know my steerage as well as
So saying, he left the apartment.
In the meanwhile the Earl had re-entered the bedchamber, bent on
taking a hasty farewell of the lovely Countess, and scarce daring
to trust himself in private with her, to hear requests again
urged which he found it difficult to parry, yet which his recent
conversation with his master of horse had determined him not to
He found her in a white cymar of silk lined with furs, her little
feet unstockinged and hastily thrust into slippers; her unbraided
hair escaping from under her midnight coif, with little array but
her own loveliness, rather augmented than diminished by the grief
which she felt at the approaching moment of separation.
"Now, God be with thee, my dearest and loveliest!" said the
Earl, scarce tearing himself from her embrace, yet again
returning to fold her again and again in his arms, and again
bidding farewell, and again returning to kiss and bid adieu once
more. "The sun is on the verge of the blue horizon--I dare not
stay. Ere this I should have been ten miles from hence."
Such were the words with which at length he strove to cut short
their parting interview. "You will not grant my request, then?"
said the Countess. "Ah, false knight! did ever lady, with bare
foot in slipper, seek boon of a brave knight, yet return with
"Anything, Amy, anything thou canst ask I will grant," answered
the Earl--"always excepting," he said, "that which might ruin us
"Nay," said the Countess, "I urge not my wish to be acknowledged
in the character which would make me the envy of England--as the
wife, that is, of my brave and noble lord, the first as the most
fondly beloved of English nobles. Let me but share the secret
with my dear father! Let me but end his misery on my unworthy
account--they say he is ill, the good old kind-hearted man!"
"They say?" asked the Earl hastily; "who says? Did not Varney
convey to Sir Hugh all we dare at present tell him concerning
your happiness and welfare? and has he not told you that the
good old knight was following, with good heart and health, his
favourite and wonted exercise. Who has dared put other thoughts
into your head?"
"Oh, no one, my lord, no one," said the Countess, something
alarmed at the tone, in which the question was put; "but yet, my
lord, I would fain be assured by mine own eyesight that my father
"Be contented, Amy; thou canst not now have communication with
thy father or his house. Were it not a deep course of policy to
commit no secret unnecessarily to the custody of more than must
needs be, it were sufficient reason for secrecy that yonder
Cornish man, yonder Trevanion, or Tressilian, or whatever his
name is, haunts the old knight's house, and must necessarily know
whatever is communicated there."
"My lord," answered the Countess, "I do not think it so. My
father has been long noted a worthy and honourable man; and for
Tressilian, if we can pardon ourselves the ill we have wrought
him, I will wager the coronet I am to share with you one day that
he is incapable of returning injury for injury."
"I will not trust him, however, Amy," said her husband--"by my
honour, I will not trust him, I would rather the foul fiend
intermingle in our secret than this Tressilian!"
"And why, my lord?" said the Countess, though she shuddered
slightly at the tone of determination in which he spoke; "let me
but know why you think thus hardly of Tressilian?"
"Madam," replied the Earl, "my will ought to be a sufficient
reason. If you desire more, consider how this Tressilian is
leagued, and with whom. He stands high in the opinion of this
Radcliffe, this Sussex, against whom I am barely able to maintain
my ground in the opinion of our suspicious mistress; and if he
had me at such advantage, Amy, as to become acquainted with the
tale of our marriage, before Elizabeth were fitly prepared, I
were an outcast from her grace for ever--a bankrupt at once in
favour and in fortune, perhaps, for she hath in her a touch of
her father Henry--a victim, and it may be a bloody one, to her
offended and jealous resentment."
"But why, my lord," again urged his lady, "should you deem thus
injuriously of a man of whom you know so little? What you do
know of Tressilian is through me, and it is I who assure you that
in no circumstances will be betray your secret. If I did him
wrong in your behalf, my lord, I am now the more concerned you
should do him justice. You are offended at my speaking of him,
what would you say had I actually myself seen him?"
"If you had," replied the Earl, "you would do well to keep that
interview as secret as that which is spoken in a confessional. I
seek no one's ruin; but he who thrusts himself on my secret
privacy were better look well to his future walk. The bear [The
Leicester cognizance was the ancient device adopted by his
father, when Earl of Warwick, the bear and ragged staff.] brooks
no one to cross his awful path."
"Awful, indeed!" said the Countess, turning very pale.
"You are ill, my love," said the Earl, supporting her in his
arms. "Stretch yourself on your couch again; it is but an early
day for you to leave it. Have you aught else, involving less
than my fame, my fortune, and my life, to ask of me?"
"Nothing, my lord and love," answered the Countess faintly;
"something there was that I would have told you, but your anger
has driven it from my recollection."
"Reserve it till our next meeting, my love," said the Earl
fondly, and again embracing her; "and barring only those requests
which I cannot and dare not grant, thy wish must be more than
England and all its dependencies can fulfil, if it is not
gratified to the letter."
Thus saying, he at length took farewell. At the bottom of the
staircase he received from Varney an ample livery cloak and
slouched hat, in which he wrapped himself so as to disguise his
person and completely conceal his features. Horses were ready in
the courtyard for himself and Varney; for one or two of his
train, intrusted with the secret so far as to know or guess that
the Earl intrigued with a beautiful lady at that mansion, though
her name and duality were unknown to them, had already been
Anthony Foster himself had in hand the rein of the Earl's
palfrey, a stout and able nag for the road; while his old
serving-man held the bridle of the more showy and gallant steed
which Richard Varney was to occupy in the character of master.
As the Earl approached, however, Varney advanced to hold his
master's bridle, and to prevent Foster from paying that duty to
the Earl which he probably considered as belonging to his own
office. Foster scowled at an interference which seemed intended
to prevent his paying his court to his patron, but gave place to
Varney; and the Earl, mounting without further observation, and
forgetting that his assumed character of a domestic threw him
into the rear of his supposed master, rode pensively out of the
quadrangle, not without waving his hand repeatedly in answer to
the signals which were made by the Countess with her kerchief
from the windows of her apartment.
While his stately form vanished under the dark archway which led
out of the quadrangle, Varney muttered, "There goes fine policy
--the servant before the master!" then as he disappeared, seized
the moment to speak a word with Foster. "Thou look'st dark on
me, Anthony," he said, "as if I had deprived thee of a parting
nod of my lord; but I have moved him to leave thee a better
remembrance for thy faithful service. See here! a purse of as
good gold as ever chinked under a miser's thumb and fore-finger.
Ay, count them, lad," said he, as Foster received the gold with a
grim smile, "and add to them the goodly remembrance he gave last
night to Janet."
"How's this? how's this?" said Anthony Foster hastily; "gave he
gold to Janet?"
"Ay, man, wherefore not?--does not her service to his fair lady
"She shall have none on't," said Foster; "she shall return it. I
know his dotage on one face is as brief as it is deep. His
affections are as fickle as the moon."
"Why, Foster, thou art mad--thou dost not hope for such good
fortune as that my lord should cast an eye on Janet? Who, in the
fiend's name, would listen to the thrush while the nightingale is
"Thrush or nightingale, all is one to the fowler; and, Master
Varney, you can sound the quail-pipe most daintily to wile
wantons into his nets. I desire no such devil's preferment for
Janet as you have brought many a poor maiden to. Dost thou
laugh? I will keep one limb of my family, at least, from Satan's
clutches, that thou mayest rely on. She shall restore the gold."
"Ay, or give it to thy keeping, Tony, which will serve as well,"
answered Varney; "but I have that to say which is more serious.
Our lord is returning to court in an evil humour for us."
"How meanest thou?" said Foster. "Is he tired already of his
pretty toy--his plaything yonder? He has purchased her at a
monarch's ransom, and I warrant me he rues his bargain."
"Not a whit, Tony," answered the master of the horse; "he dotes
on her, and will forsake the court for her. Then down go hopes,
possessions, and safety--church-lands are resumed, Tony, and well
if the holders be not called to account in Exchequer."
"That were ruin," said Foster, his brow darkening with
apprehensions; "and all this for a woman! Had it been for his
soul's sake, it were something; and I sometimes wish I myself
could fling away the world that cleaves to me, and be as one of
the poorest of our church."
"Thou art like enough to be so, Tony," answered Varney; "but I
think the devil will give thee little credit for thy compelled
poverty, and so thou losest on all hands. But follow my counsel,
and Cumnor Place shall be thy copyhold yet. Say nothing of this
Tressilian's visit--not a word until I give thee notice."
"And wherefore, I pray you?" asked Foster, suspiciously.
"Dull beast!" replied Varney. "In my lord's present humour it