Part 5 out of 11
her, and seemed to laugh. At length one of the attendants, by
the Queen's order apparently, made a sign for the wherry to come
alongside, and the young man was desired to step from his own
skiff into the Queen's barge, which he performed with graceful
agility at the fore part of the boat, and was brought aft to the
Queen's presence, the wherry at the same time dropping into the
rear. The youth underwent the gaze of Majesty, not the less
gracefully that his self-possession was mingled with
embarrassment. The muddled cloak still hung upon his arm, and
formed the natural topic with which the Queen introduced the
"You have this day spoiled a gay mantle in our behalf, young man.
We thank you for your service, though the manner of offering it
was unusual, and something bold."
"In a sovereign's need," answered the youth, "it is each liege-
man's duty to be bold."
"God's pity! that was well said, my lord," said the Queen,
turning to a grave person who sat by her, and answered with a
grave inclination of the head, and something of a mumbled
assent.--"Well, young man, your gallantry shall not go
unrewarded. Go to the wardrobe keeper, and he shall have orders
to supply the suit which you have cast away in our service. Thou
shalt have a suit, and that of the newest cut, I promise thee, on
the word of a princess."
"May it please your Grace," said Walter, hesitating, "it is not
for so humble a servant of your Majesty to measure out your
bounties; but if it became me to choose--"
"Thou wouldst have gold, I warrant me," said the Queen,
interrupting him. "Fie, young man! I take shame to say that in
our capital such and so various are the means of thriftless
folly, that to give gold to youth is giving fuel to fire, and
furnishing them with the means of self-destruction. If I live
and reign, these means of unchristian excess shall be abridged.
Yet thou mayest be poor," she added, "or thy parents may be. It
shall be gold, if thou wilt, but thou shalt answer to me for the
Walter waited patiently until the Queen had done, and then
modestly assured her that gold was still less in his wish than
the raiment her Majesty had before offered.
"How, boy!" said the Queen, "neither gold nor garment? What is
it thou wouldst have of me, then?"
"Only permission, madam--if it is not asking too high an honour
--permission to wear the cloak which did you this trifling
"Permission to wear thine own cloak, thou silly boy!" said the
"It is no longer mine," said Walter; "when your Majesty's foot
touched it, it became a fit mantle for a prince, but far too rich
a one for its former owner."
The Queen again blushed, and endeavoured to cover, by laughing, a
slight degree of not unpleasing surprise and confusion.
"Heard you ever the like, my lords? The youth's head is turned
with reading romances. I must know something of him, that I may
send him safe to his friends.--What art thou?"
"A gentleman of the household of the Earl of Sussex, so please
your Grace, sent hither with his master of horse upon message to
In a moment the gracious expression which Elizabeth's face had
hitherto maintained, gave way to an expression of haughtiness and
"My Lord of Sussex," she said, "has taught us how to regard his
messages by the value he places upon ours. We sent but this
morning the physician in ordinary of our chamber, and that at no
usual time, understanding his lordship's illness to be more
dangerous than we had before apprehended. There is at no court
in Europe a man more skilled in this holy and most useful science
than Doctor Masters, and he came from Us to our subject.
Nevertheless, he found the gate of Sayes Court defended by men
with culverins, as if it had been on the borders of Scotland, not
in the vicinity of our court; and when he demanded admittance in
our name, it was stubbornly refused. For this slight of a
kindness, which had but too much of condescension in it, we will
receive, at present at least, no excuse; and some such we suppose
to have been the purport of my Lord of Sussex's message."
This was uttered in a tone and with a gesture which made Lord
Sussex's friends who were within hearing tremble. He to whom the
speech was addressed, however, trembled not; but with great
deference and humility, as soon as the Queen's passion gave him
an opportunity, he replied, "So please your most gracious
Majesty, I was charged with no apology from the Earl of Sussex."
"With what were you then charged, sir?" said the Queen, with the
impetuosity which, amid nobler qualities, strongly marked her
character. "Was it with a justification?--or, God's death! with
"Madam," said the young man, "my Lord of Sussex knew the offence
approached towards treason, and could think of nothing save of
securing the offender, and placing him in your Majesty's hands,
and at your mercy. The noble Earl was fast asleep when your most
gracious message reached him, a potion having been administered
to that purpose by his physician; and his Lordship knew not of
the ungracious repulse your Majesty's royal and most comfortable
message had received, until after he awoke this morning."
"And which of his domestics, then, in the name of Heaven,
presumed to reject my message, without even admitting my own
physician to the presence of him whom I sent him to attend?"
said the Queen, much surprised.
"The offender, madam, is before you," replied Walter, bowing very
low; "the full and sole blame is mine; and my lord has most
justly sent me to abye the consequences of a fault, of which he
is as innocent as a sleeping man's dreams can be of a waking
"What! was it thou?--thou thyself, that repelled my messenger
and my physician from Sayes Court?" said the Queen. "What could
occasion such boldness in one who seems devoted--that is, whose
exterior bearing shows devotion--to his Sovereign?"
"Madam," said the youth--who, notwithstanding an assumed
appearance of severity, thought that he saw something in the
Queen's face that resembled not implacability--"we say in our
country, that the physician is for the time the liege sovereign
of his patient. Now, my noble master was then under dominion of
a leech, by whose advice he hath greatly profited, who had issued
his commands that his patient should not that night be disturbed,
on the very peril of his life."
"Thy master hath trusted some false varlet of an empiric," said
"I know not, madam, but by the fact that he is now--this very
morning--awakened much refreshed and strengthened from the only
sleep he hath had for many hours."
The nobles looked at each other, but more with the purpose to see
what each thought of this news, than to exchange any remarks on
what had happened. The Queen answered hastily, and without
affecting to disguise her satisfaction, "By my word, I am glad he
is better. But thou wert over-bold to deny the access of my
Doctor Masters. Knowest thou not the Holy Writ saith, 'In the
multitude of counsel there is safety'?"
"Ay, madam," said Walter; "but I have heard learned men say that
the safety spoken of is for the physicians, not for the patient."
"By my faith, child, thou hast pushed me home," said the Queen,
laughing; "for my Hebrew learning does not come quite at a call.
--How say you, my Lord of Lincoln? Hath the lad given a just
interpretation of the text?"
"The word SAFETY, most gracious madam," said the Bishop of
Lincoln, "for so hath been translated, it may be somewhat
hastily, the Hebrew word, being--"
"My lord," said the Queen, interrupting him, "we said we had
forgotten our Hebrew.--But for thee, young man, what is thy name
"Raleigh is my name, most gracious Queen, the youngest son of a
large but honourable family of Devonshire."
"Raleigh?" said Elizabeth, after a moment's recollection. "Have
we not heard of your service in Ireland?"
"I have been so fortunate as to do some service there, madam,"
replied Raleigh; "scarce, however, of consequence sufficient to
reach your Grace's ears."
"They hear farther than you think of," said the Queen graciously,
"and have heard of a youth who defended a ford in Shannon against
a whole band of wild Irish rebels, until the stream ran purple
with their blood and his own."
"Some blood I may have lost," said the youth, looking down, "but
it was where my best is due, and that is in your Majesty's
The Queen paused, and then said hastily, "You are very young to
have fought so well, and to speak so well. But you must not
escape your penance for turning back Masters. The poor man hath
caught cold on the river for our order reached him when he was
just returned from certain visits in London, and he held it
matter of loyalty and conscience instantly to set forth again.
So hark ye, Master Raleigh, see thou fail not to wear thy muddy
cloak, in token of penitence, till our pleasure be further known.
And here," she added, giving him a jewel of gold, in the form of
a chess-man, "I give thee this to wear at the collar."
Raleigh, to whom nature had taught intuitively, as it were, those
courtly arts which many scarce acquire from long experience,
knelt, and, as he took from her hand the jewel, kissed the
fingers which gave it. He knew, perhaps, better than almost any
of the courtiers who surrounded her, how to mingle the devotion
claimed by the Queen with the gallantry due to her personal
beauty; and in this, his first attempt to unite them, he
succeeded so well as at once to gratify Elizabeth's personal
vanity and her love of power. [See Note 5. Court favour of Sir
His master, the Earl of Sussex, had the full advantage of the
satisfaction which Raleigh had afforded Elizabeth, on their first
"My lords and ladies," said the Queen, looking around to the
retinue by whom she was attended, "methinks, since we are upon
the river, it were well to renounce our present purpose of going
to the city, and surprise this poor Earl of Sussex with a visit.
He is ill, and suffering doubtless under the fear of our
displeasure, from which he hath been honestly cleared by the
frank avowal of this malapert boy. What think ye? were it not
an act of charity to give him such consolation as the thanks of a
Queen, much bound to him for his loyal service, may perchance
It may be readily supposed that none to whom this speech was
addressed ventured to oppose its purport.
"Your Grace," said the Bishop of Lincoln, "is the breath of our
nostrils." The men of war averred that the face of the Sovereign
was a whetstone to the soldier's sword; while the men of state
were not less of opinion that the light of the Queen's
countenance was a lamp to the paths of her councillors; and the
ladies agreed, with one voice, that no noble in England so well
deserved the regard of England's Royal Mistress as the Earl of
Sussex--the Earl of Leicester's right being reserved entire, so
some of the more politic worded their assent, an exception to
which Elizabeth paid no apparent attention. The barge had,
therefore, orders to deposit its royal freight at Deptford, at
the nearest and most convenient point of communication with Sayes
Court, in order that the Queen might satisfy her royal and
maternal solicitude, by making personal inquiries after the
health of the Earl of Sussex.
Raleigh, whose acute spirit foresaw and anticipated important
consequences from the most trifling events, hastened to ask the
Queen's permission to go in the skiff; and announce the royal
visit to his master; ingeniously suggesting that the joyful
surprise might prove prejudicial to his health, since the richest
and most generous cordials may sometimes be fatal to those who
have been long in a languishing state.
But whether the Queen deemed it too presumptuous in so young a
courtier to interpose his opinion unasked, or whether she was
moved by a recurrence of the feeling of jealousy which had been
instilled into her by reports that the Earl kept armed men about
his person, she desired Raleigh, sharply, to reserve his counsel
till it was required of him, and repeated her former orders to be
landed at Deptford, adding, "We will ourselves see what sort of
household my Lord of Sussex keeps about him."
"Now the Lord have pity on us!" said the young courtier to
himself. "Good hearts, the Earl hath many a one round him; but
good heads are scarce with us--and he himself is too ill to give
direction. And Blount will be at his morning meal of Yarmouth
herrings and ale, and Tracy will have his beastly black puddings
and Rhenish; those thorough-paced Welshmen, Thomas ap Rice and
Evan Evans, will be at work on their leek porridge and toasted
cheese;--and she detests, they say, all coarse meats, evil
smells, and strong wines. Could they but think of burning some
rosemary in the great hall! but VOGUE LA GALERE, all must now be
trusted to chance. Luck hath done indifferent well for me this
morning; for I trust I have spoiled a cloak, and made a court
fortune. May she do as much for my gallant patron!"
The royal barge soon stopped at Deptford, and, amid the loud
shouts of the populace, which her presence never failed to
excite, the Queen, with a canopy borne over her head, walked,
accompanied by her retinue, towards Sayes Court, where the
distant acclamations of the people gave the first notice of her
arrival. Sussex, who was in the act of advising with Tressilian
how he should make up the supposed breach in the Queen's favour,
was infinitely surprised at learning her immediate approach. Not
that the Queen's custom of visiting her more distinguished
nobility, whether in health or sickness, could be unknown to him;
but the suddenness of the communication left no time for those
preparations with which he well knew Elizabeth loved to be
greeted, and the rudeness and confusion of his military
household, much increased by his late illness, rendered him
altogether unprepared for her reception.
Cursing internally the chance which thus brought her gracious
visitation on him unaware, he hastened down with Tressilian, to
whose eventful and interesting story he had just given an
"My worthy friend," he said, "such support as I can give your
accusation of Varney, you have a right to expect, alike from
justice and gratitude. Chance will presently show whether I can
do aught with our Sovereign, or whether, in very deed, my
meddling in your affair may not rather prejudice than serve you."
Thus spoke Sussex while hastily casting around him a loose robe
of sables, and adjusting his person in the best manner he could
to meet the eye of his Sovereign. But no hurried attention
bestowed on his apparel could remove the ghastly effects of long
illness on a countenance which nature had marked with features
rather strong than pleasing. Besides, he was low of stature,
and, though broad-shouldered, athletic, and fit for martial
achievements, his presence in a peaceful hall was not such as
ladies love to look upon; a personal disadvantage, which was
supposed to give Sussex, though esteemed and honoured by his
Sovereign, considerable disadvantage when compared with
Leicester, who was alike remarkable for elegance of manners and
for beauty of person.
The Earl's utmost dispatch only enabled him to meet the Queen as
she entered the great hall, and he at once perceived there was a
cloud on her brow. Her jealous eye had noticed the martial array
of armed gentlemen and retainers with which the mansion-house was
filled, and her first words expressed her disapprobation. "Is
this a royal garrison, my Lord of Sussex, that it holds so many
pikes and calivers? or have we by accident overshot Sayes Court,
and landed at Our Tower of London?"
Lord Sussex hastened to offer some apology.
"It needs not," she said. "My lord, we intend speedily to take
up a certain quarrel between your lordship and another great lord
of our household, and at the same time to reprehend this
uncivilized and dangerous practice of surrounding yourselves with
armed, and even with ruffianly followers, as if, in the
neighbourhood of our capital, nay in the very verge of our royal
residence, you were preparing to wage civil war with each other.
--We are glad to see you so well recovered, my lord, though
without the assistance of the learned physician whom we sent to
you. Urge no excuse; we know how that matter fell out, and we
have corrected for it the wild slip, young Raleigh. By the way,
my lord, we will speedily relieve your household of him, and take
him into our own. Something there is about him which merits to
be better nurtured than he is like to be amongst your very
To this proposal Sussex, though scarce understanding how the
Queen came to make it could only bow and express his
acquiescence. He then entreated her to remain till refreshment
could be offered, but in this he could not prevail. And after a
few compliments of a much colder and more commonplace character
than might have been expected from a step so decidedly favourable
as a personal visit, the Queen took her leave of Sayes Court,
having brought confusion thither along with her, and leaving
doubt and apprehension behind.
Then call them to our presence. Face to face,
And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear
The accuser and accused freely speak;--
High-stomach'd are they both, and full of ire,
In rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire. RICHARD II.
"I am ordered to attend court to-morrow," said Leicester,
speaking to Varney, "to meet, as they surmise, my Lord of Sussex.
The Queen intends to take up matters betwixt us. This comes of
her visit to Sayes Court, of which you must needs speak so
"I maintain it was nothing," said Varney; "nay, I know from a
sure intelligencer, who was within earshot of much that was said,
that Sussex has lost rather than gained by that visit. The Queen
said, when she stepped into the boat, that Sayes Court looked
like a guard-house, and smelt like an hospital. 'Like a cook's
shop in Ram's Alley, rather,' said the Countess of Rutland, who
is ever your lordship's good friend. And then my Lord of Lincoln
must needs put in his holy oar, and say that my Lord of Sussex
must be excused for his rude and old-world housekeeping, since he
had as yet no wife."
"And what said the Queen?" asked Leicester hastily.
"She took him up roundly," said Varney, "and asked what my Lord
Sussex had to do with a wife, or my Lord Bishop to speak on such
a subject. 'If marriage is permitted,' she said, 'I nowhere read
that it is enjoined.'"
"She likes not marriages, or speech of marriage, among
churchmen," said Leicester.
"Nor among courtiers neither," said Varney; but, observing that
Leicester changed countenance, he instantly added, "that all the
ladies who were present had joined in ridiculing Lord Sussex's
housekeeping, and in contrasting it with the reception her Grace
would have assuredly received at my Lord of Leicester's."
"You have gathered much tidings," said Leicester, "but you have
forgotten or omitted the most important of all. She hath added
another to those dangling satellites whom it is her pleasure to
keep revolving around her."
"Your lordship meaneth that Raleigh, the Devonshire youth," said
Varney--"the Knight of the Cloak, as they call him at court?"
"He may be Knight of the Garter one day, for aught I know," said
Leicester, "for he advances rapidly--she hath capped verses with
him, and such fooleries. I would gladly abandon, of my own free
will, the part--I have in her fickle favour; but I will not be
elbowed out of it by the clown Sussex, or this new upstart. I
hear Tressilian is with Sussex also, and high in his favour. I
would spare him for considerations, but he will thrust himself on
his fate. Sussex, too, is almost as well as ever in his health."
"My lord," replied Varney, "there will be rubs in the smoothest
road, specially when it leads uphill. Sussex's illness was to us
a godsend, from which I hoped much. He has recovered, indeed,
but he is not now more formidable than ere he fell ill, when he
received more than one foil in wrestling with your lordship. Let
not your heart fail you, my lord, and all shall be well."
"My heart never failed me, sir," replied Leicester.
"No, my lord," said Varney; "but it has betrayed you right often.
He that would climb a tree, my lord, must grasp by the branches,
not by the blossom."
"Well, well, well!" said Leicester impatiently; "I understand
thy meaning--my heart shall neither fail me nor seduce me. Have
my retinue in order--see that their array be so splendid as to
put down, not only the rude companions of Ratcliffe, but the
retainers of every other nobleman and courtier. Let them be well
armed withal, but without any outward display of their weapons,
wearing them as if more for fashion's sake than for use. Do thou
thyself keep close to me, I may have business for you."
The preparations of Sussex and his party were not less anxious
than those of Leicester.
"Thy Supplication, impeaching Varney of seduction," said the Earl
to Tressilian, "is by this time in the Queen's hand--I have sent
it through a sure channel. Methinks your suit should succeed,
being, as it is, founded in justice and honour, and Elizabeth
being the very muster of both. But--I wot not how--the gipsy"
(so Sussex was wont to call his rival on account of his dark
complexion) "hath much to say with her in these holyday times of
peace. Were war at the gates, I should be one of her white boys;
but soldiers, like their bucklers and Bilboa blades, get out of
fashion in peace time, and satin sleeves and walking rapiers bear
the bell. Well, we must be gay, since such is the fashion.--
Blount, hast thou seen our household put into their new
braveries? "But thou knowest as little of these toys as I do;
thou wouldst be ready enow at disposing a stand of pikes."
"My good lord," answered Blount, "Raleigh hath been here, and
taken that charge upon him--your train will glitter like a May
morning. Marry, the cost is another question. One might keep an
hospital of old soldiers at the charge of ten modern lackeys."
"He must not count cost to-day, Nicholas," said the Earl in
reply. "I am beholden to Raleigh for his care. I trust, though,
he has remembered that I am an old soldier, and would have no
more of these follies than needs must."
"Nay, I understand nought about it," said Blount; "but here are
your honourable lordship's brave kinsmen and friends coming in by
scores to wait upon you to court, where, methinks, we shall bear
as brave a front as Leicester, let him ruffle it as he will."
"Give them the strictest charges," said Sussex, "that they suffer
no provocation short of actual violence to provoke them into
quarrel. They have hot bloods, and I would not give Leicester
the advantage over me by any imprudence of theirs."
The Earl of Sussex ran so hastily through these directions, that
it was with difficulty Tressilian at length found opportunity to
express his surprise that he should have proceeded so far in the
affair of Sir Hugh Robsart as to lay his petition at once before
the Queen. "It was the opinion of the young lady's friends," he
said, "that Leicester's sense of justice should be first appealed
to, as the offence had been committed by his officer, and so he
had expressly told to Sussex."
"This could have been done without applying to me," said Sussex,
somewhat haughtily. "I at least, ought not to have been a
counsellor when the object was a humiliating reference to
Leicester; and I am suprised that you, Tressilian, a man of
honour, and my friend, would assume such a mean course. If you
said so, I certainly understood you not in a matter which sounded
so unlike yourself."
"My lord," said Tressilian, "the course I would prefer, for my
own sake, is that you have adopted; but the friends of this most
"Oh, the friends--the friends," said Sussex, interrupting him;
"they must let us manage this cause in the way which seems best.
This is the time and the hour to accumulate every charge against
Leicester and his household, and yours the Queen will hold a
heavy one. But at all events she hath the complaint before her."
Tressilian could not help suspecting that, in his eagerness to
strengthen himself against his rival, Sussex had purposely
adopted the course most likely to throw odium on Leicester,
without considering minutely whether it were the mode of
proceeding most likely to be attended with success. But the step
was irrevocable, and Sussex escaped from further discussing it by
dismissing his company, with the command, "Let all be in order at
eleven o'clock; I must be at court and in the presence by high
While the rival statesmen were thus anxiously preparing for their
approaching meeting in the Queen's presence, even Elizabeth
herself was not without apprehension of what might chance from
the collision of two such fiery spirits, each backed by a strong
and numerous body of followers, and dividing betwixt them, either
openly or in secret, the hopes and wishes of most of her court.
The band of Gentlemen Pensioners were all under arms, and a
reinforcement of the yeomen of the guard was brought down the
Thames from London. A royal proclamation was sent forth,
strictly prohibiting nobles of whatever degree to approach the
Palace with retainers or followers armed with shot or with long
weapons; and it was even whispered that the High Sheriff of Kent
had secret instructions to have a part of the array of the county
ready on the shortest notice.
The eventful hour, thus anxiously prepared for on all sides, at
length approached, and, each followed by his long and glittering
train of friends and followers, the rival Earls entered the
Palace Yard of Greenwich at noon precisely.
As if by previous arrangement, or perhaps by intimation that such
was the Queen's pleasure, Sussex and his retinue came to the
Palace from Deptford by water while Leicester arrived by land;
and thus they entered the courtyard from opposite sides. This
trifling circumstance gave Leicester a ascendency in the opinion
of the vulgar, the appearance of his cavalcade of mounted
followers showing more numerous and more imposing than those of
Sussex's party, who were necessarily upon foot. No show or sign
of greeting passed between the Earls, though each looked full at
the other, both expecting perhaps an exchange of courtesies,
which neither was willing to commence. Almost in the minute of
their arrival the castle-bell tolled, the gates of the Palace
were opened, and the Earls entered, each numerously attended by
such gentlemen of their train whose rank gave them that
privilege. The yeomen and inferior attendants remained in the
courtyard, where the opposite parties eyed each other with looks
of eager hatred and scorn, as if waiting with impatience for some
cause of tumult, or some apology for mutual aggression. But they
were restrained by the strict commands of their leaders, and
overawed, perhaps, by the presence of an armed guard of unusual
In the meanwhile, the more distinguished persons of each train
followed their patrons into the lofty halls and ante-chambers of
the royal Palace, flowing on in the same current, like two
streams which are compelled into the same channel, yet shun to
mix their waters. The parties arranged themselves, as it were
instinctively, on the different sides of the lofty apartments,
and seemed eager to escape from the transient union which the
narrowness of the crowded entrance had for an instant compelled
them to submit to. The folding doors at the upper end of the
long gallery were immediately afterwards opened, and it was
announced in a whisper that the Queen was in her presence-
chamber, to which these gave access. Both Earls moved slowly and
stately towards the entrance--Sussex followed by Tressilian,
Blount, and Raleigh, and Leicester by Varney. The pride of
Leicester was obliged to give way to court-forms, and with a
grave and formal inclination of the head, he paused until his
rival, a peer of older creation than his own, passed before him.
Sussex returned the reverence with the same formal civility, and
entered the presence-room. Tressilian and Blount offered to
follow him, but were not permitted, the Usher of the Black Rod
alleging in excuse that he had precise orders to look to all
admissions that day. To Raleigh, who stood back on the repulse
of his companions, he said, "You, sir, may enter," and he entered
"Follow me close, Varney," said the Earl of Leicester, who had
stood aloof for a moment to mark the reception of Sussex; and
advancing to the entrance, he was about to pass on, when Varney,
who was close behind him, dressed out in the utmost bravery of
the day, was stopped by the usher, as Tressilian and Blount had
been before him, "How is this, Master Bowyer?" said the Earl of
Leicester. "Know you who I am, and that this is my friend and
"Your lordship will pardon me," replied Bowyer stoutly; "my
orders are precise, and limit me to a strict discharge of my
"Thou art a partial knave," said Leicester, the blood mounting to
his face, "to do me this dishonour, when you but now admitted a
follower of my Lord of Sussex."
"My lord," said Bowyer, "Master Raleigh is newly admitted a sworn
servant of her Grace, and to him my orders did not apply."
"Thou art a knave--an ungrateful knave," said Leicester; "but he
that hath done can undo--thou shalt not prank thee in thy
This threat he uttered aloud, with less than his usual policy and
discretion; and having done so, he entered the presence-chamber,
and made his reverence to the Queen, who, attired with even more
than her usual splendour, and surrounded by those nobles and
statesmen whose courage and wisdom have rendered her reign
immortal, stood ready to receive the hommage of her subjects.
She graciously returned the obeisance of the favourite Earl, and
looked alternately at him and at Sussex, as if about to speak,
when Bowyer, a man whose spirit could not brook the insult he had
so openly received from Leicester, in the discharge of his
office, advanced with his black rad in his hand, and knelt down
"Why, how now, Bowyer?" said Elizabeth, "thy courtesy seems
"My Liege Sovereign," he said, while every courtier around
trembled at his audacity, "I come but to ask whether, in the
discharge of mine office, I am to obey your Highness's commands,
or those of the Earl of Leicester, who has publicly menaced me
with his displeasure, and treated me with disparaging terms,
because I denied entry to one of his followers, in obedience to
your Grace's precise orders?"
The spirit of Henry VIII. was instantly aroused in the bosom of
his daughter, and she turned on Leicester with a severity which
appalled him, as well as all his followers.
"God's death! my lord." such was her emphatic phrase, "what
means this? We have thought well of you, and brought you near to
our person; but it was not that you might hide the sun from our
other faithful subjects. Who gave you license to contradict our
orders, or control our officers? I will have in this court, ay,
and in this realm, but one mistress, and no master. Look to it
that Master Bowyer sustains no harm for his duty to me faithfully
discharged; for, as I am Christian woman and crowned Queen, I
will hold you dearly answerable.--Go, Bowyer, you have done the
part of an honest man and a true subject. We will brook no mayor
of the palace here.
Bowyer kissed the hand which she extended towards him, and
withdrew to his post! astonished at the success of his own
audacity. A smile of triumph pervaded the faction of Sussex;
that of Leicester seemed proportionally dismayed, and the
favourite himself, assuming an aspect of the deepest humility,
did not even attempt a word in his own esculpation.
He acted wisely; for it was the policy of Elizabeth to humble,
not to disgrace him, and it was prudent to suffer her, without
opposition or reply, to glory in the exertion of her authority.
The dignity of the Queen was gratified, and the woman began soon
to feel for the mortification which she had imposed on her
favourite. Her keen eye also observed the secret looks of
congratulation exchanged amongst those who favoured Sussex, and
it was no part of her policy to give either party a decisive
"What I say to my Lord of Leicester," she said, after a moment's
pause, "I say also to you, my Lord of Sussex. You also must
needs ruffle in the court of England, at the head of a faction of
"My followers, gracious Princess," said Sussex, "have indeed
ruffled in your cause in Ireland, in Scotland, and against yonder
rebellious Earls in the north. I am ignorant that--"
"Do you bandy looks and words with me, my lord?" said the Queen,
interrupting him; "methinks you might learn of my Lord of
Leicester the modesty to be silent, at least, under our censure.
I say, my lord, that my grandfather and my father, in their
wisdom, debarred the nobles of this civilized land from
travelling with such disorderly retinues; and think you, that
because I wear a coif, their sceptre has in my hand been changed
into a distaff? I tell you, no king in Christendom will less
brook his court to be cumbered, his people oppressed, and his
kingdom's peace disturbed, by the arrogance of overgrown power,
than she who now speaks with you.--My Lord of Leicester, and you,
my Lord of Sussex, I command you both to be friends with each
other; or by the crown I wear, you shall find an enemy who will
be too strong for both of you!"
"Madam," said the Earl of Leicester, "you who are yourself the
fountain of honour know best what is due to mine. I place it at
your disposal, and only say that the terms on which I have stood
with my Lord of Sussex have not been of my seeking; nor had he
cause to think me his enemy, until he had done me gross wrong."
"For me, madam," said the Earl of Sussex, "I cannot appeal from
your sovereign pleasure; but I were well content my Lord of
Leicester should say in what I have, as he terms it, wronged him,
since my tongue never spoke the word that I would not willingly
justify either on foot or horseback.
"And for me," said Leicester, "always under my gracious
Sovereign's pleasure, my hand shall be as ready to make good my
words as that of any man who ever wrote himself Ratcliffe."
"My lords," said the Queen, "these are no terms for this
presence; and if you cannot keep your temper, we will find means
to keep both that and you close enough. Let me see you join
hands, my lords, and forget your idle animosities."
The two rivals looked at each other with reluctant eyes, each
unwilling to make the first advance to execute the Queen's will.
"Sussex," said Elizabeth,"I entreat--Leicester, I command you."
Yet, so were her words accented, that the entreaty sounded like
command, and the command like entreaty. They remained still and
stubborn, until she raised her voice to a height which argued at
once impatience and absolute command.
"Sir Henry Lee," she said, to an officer in attendance, "have a
guard in present readiness, and man a barge instantly.--My Lords
of Sussex and Leicester, I bid you once more to join hands; and,
God's death! he that refuses shall taste of our Tower fare ere
he sees our face again. I will lower your proud hearts ere we
part, and that I promise, on the word of a Queen!"
"The prison?" said Leicester, "might be borne, but to lose your
Grace's presence were to lose light and life at once.--Here,
Sussex, is my hand."
"And here," said Sussex, "is mine in truth and honesty; but--"
"Nay, under favour, you shall add no more," said the Queen.
"Why, this is as it should be," she added, looking on them more
favourably; "and when you the shepherds of the people, unite to
protect them, it shall be well with the flock we rule over. For,
my lords, I tell you plainly, your follies and your brawls lead
to strange disorders among your servants.--My Lord of Leicester,
you have a gentleman in your household called Varney?"
"Yes, gracious madam," replied Leicester; "I presented him to
kiss your royal hand when you were last at Nonsuch."
"His outside was well enough," said the Queen, "but scarce so
fair, I should have thought, as to have caused a maiden of
honourable birth and hopes to barter her fame for his good looks,
and become his paramour. Yet so it is; this fellow of yours hath
seduced the daughter of a good old Devonshire knight, Sir Hugh
Robsart of Lidcote Hall, and she hath fled with him from her
father's house like a castaway.--My Lord of Leicester, are you
ill, that you look so deadly pale?"
"No, gracious madam," said Leicester; and it required every
effort he could make to bring forth these few words.
"You are surely ill, my lord?" said Elizabeth, going towards him
with hasty speech and hurried step, which indicated the deepest
concern. "Call Masters--call our surgeon in ordinary.--Where be
these loitering fools?--we lose the pride of our court through
their negligence.--Or is it possible, Leicester," she continued,
looking on him with a very gentle aspect, "can fear of my
displeasure have wrought so deeply on thee? Doubt not for a
moment, noble Dudley, that we could blame THEE for the folly of
thy retainer--thee, whose thoughts we know to be far otherwise
employed. He that would climb the eagle's nest, my lord, cares
not who are catching linnets at the foot of the precipice."
"Mark you that?" said Sussex aside to Raleigh. "The devil aids
him surely; for all that would sink another ten fathom deep seems
but to make him float the more easily. Had a follower of mine
"Peace, my good lord," said Raleigh, "for God's sake, peace!
Wait the change of the tide; it is even now on the turn."
The acute observation of Raleigh, perhaps, did not deceive him;
for Leicester's confusion was so great, and, indeed, for the
moment, so irresistibly overwhelming, that Elizabeth, after
looking at him with a wondering eye, and receiving no
intelligible answer to the unusual expressions of grace and
affection which had escaped from her, shot her quick glance
around the circle of courtiers, and reading, perhaps, in their
faces something that accorded with her own awakened suspicions,
she said suddenly, "Or is there more in this than we see--or than
you, my lord, wish that we should see? Where is this Varney?
Who saw him?"
"An it please your Grace," said Bowyer, "it is the same against
whom I this instant closed the door of the presence-room."
"An it please me?" repeated Elizabeth sharply, not at that
moment in the humour of being pleased with anything.--"It does
NOT please me that he should pass saucily into my presence, or
that you should exclude from it one who came to justify himself
from an accusation."
"May it please you," answered the perplexed usher, "if I knew, in
such case, how to bear myself, I would take heed--"
"You should have reported the fellow's desire to us, Master
Usher, and taken our directions. You think yourself a great man,
because but now we chid a nobleman on your account; yet, after
all, we hold you but as the lead-weight that keeps the door fast.
Call this Varney hither instantly. There is one Tressilian also
mentioned in this petition. Let them both come before us."
She was obeyed, and Tressilian and Varney appeared accordingly.
Varney's first glance was at Leicester, his second at the Queen.
In the looks of the latter there appeared an approaching storm,
and in the downcast countenance of his patron he could read no
directions in what way he was to trim his vessel for the
encounter. He then saw Tressilian, and at once perceived the
peril of the situation in which he was placed. But Varney was as
bold-faced and ready-witted as he was cunning and unscrupulous--a
skilful pilot in extremity, and fully conscious of the advantages
which he would obtain could he extricate Leicester from his
present peril, and of the ruin that yawned for himself should he
fail in doing so.
"Is it true, sirrah," said the Queen, with one of those searching
looks which few had the audacity to resist, "that you have
seduced to infamy a young lady of birth and breeding, the
daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart of Lidcote Hall?"
Varney kneeled down, and replied, with a look of the most
profound contrition, "There had been some love passages betwixt
him and Mistress Amy Robsart."
Leicester's flesh quivered with indignation as he heard his
dependant make this avowal, and for one moment he manned himself
to step forward, and, bidding farewell to the court and the royal
favour, confess the whole mystery of the secret marriage. But he
looked at Sussex, and the idea of the triumphant smile which
would clothe his cheek upon hearing the avowal sealed his lips.
"Not now, at least," he thought, "or in this presence, will I
afford him so rich a triumph." And pressing his lips close
together, he stood firm and collected, attentive to each word
which Varney uttered, and determined to hide to the last the
secret on which his court-favour seemed to depend. Meanwhile,
the Queen proceeded in her examination of Varney.
"Love passages!" said she, echoing his last words; "what
passages, thou knave? and why not ask the wench's hand from her
father, if thou hadst any honesty in thy love for her?"
"An it please your Grace," said Varney, still on his knees, "I
dared not do so, for her father had promised her hand to a
gentleman of birth and honour--I will do him justice, though I
know he bears me ill-will--one Master Edmund Tressilian, whom I
now see in the presence."
"Soh!" replied the Queen. "And what was your right to make the
simple fool break her worthy father's contract, through your love
PASSAGES, as your conceit and assurance terms them?"
"Madam," replied Varney, "it is in vain to plead the cause of
human frailty before a judge to whom it is unknown, or that of
love to one who never yields to the passion"--he paused an
instant, and then added, in a very low and timid tone--"which she
inflicts upon all others."
Elizabeth tried to frown, but smiled in her own despite, as she
answered, "Thou art a marvellously impudent knave. Art thou
married to the girl?"
Leicester's feelings became so complicated and so painfully
intense, that it seemed to him as if his life was to depend on
the answer made by Varney, who, after a moment's real hesitation,
"Thou false villain!" said Leicester, bursting forth into rage,
yet unable to add another word to the sentence which he had begun
with such emphatic passion.
"Nay, my lord," said the Queen, "we will, by your leave, stand
between this fellow and your anger. We have not yet done with
him.--Knew your master, my Lord of Leicester, of this fair work
of yours? Speak truth, I command thee, and I will be thy warrant
from danger on every quarter."
"Gracious madam," said Varney, "to speak Heaven's truth, my lord
was the cause of the whole matter."
"Thou villain, wouldst thou betray me?" said Leicester.
"Speak on," said the Queen hastily, her cheek colouring, and her
eyes sparkling, as she addressed Varney--"speak on. Here no
commands are heard but mine."
"They are omnipotent, gracious madam," replied Varney; "and to
you there can be no secrets.--Yet I would not," he added, looking
around him, "speak of my master's concerns to other ears."
"Fall back, my lords," said the Queen to those who surrounded
her, "and do you speak on. What hath the Earl to do with this
guilty intrigue of thine? See, fellow, that thou beliest him
"Far be it from me to traduce my noble patron," replied Varney;
"yet I am compelled to own that some deep, overwhelming, yet
secret feeling hath of late dwelt in my lord's mind, hath
abstracted him from the cares of the household which he was wont
to govern with such religious strictness, and hath left us
opportunities to do follies, of which the shame, as in this case,
partly falls upon our patron. Without this, I had not had means
or leisure to commit the folly which has drawn on me his
displeasure--the heaviest to endure by me which I could by any
means incur, saving always the yet more dreaded resentment of
"And in this sense, and no other, hath he been accessory to thy
fault?" said Elizabeth.
"Surely, madam, in no other," replied Varney; "but since somewhat
hath chanced to him, he can scarce be called his own man. Look
at him, madam, how pale and trembling he stands! how unlike his
usual majesty of manner!--yet what has he to fear from aught I
can say to your Highness? Ah! madam, since he received that
"What packet, and from whence?" said the Queen eagerly.
"From whence, madam, I cannot guess; but I am so near to his
person that I know he has ever since worn, suspended around his
neck and next to his heart, that lock of hair which sustains a
small golden jewel shaped like a heart. He speaks to it when
alone--he parts not from it when he sleeps--no heathen ever
worshipped an idol with such devotion."
"Thou art a prying knave to watch thy master so closely," said
Elizabeth, blushing, but not with anger; "and a tattling knave to
tell over again his fooleries.--What colour might the braid of
hair be that thou pratest of?"
Varney replied, "A poet, madam, might call it a thread from the
golden web wrought by Minerva; but to my thinking it was paler
than even the purest gold--more like the last parting sunbeam of
the softest day of spring."
"Why, you are a poet yourself, Master Varney," said the Queen,
smiling. "But I have not genius quick enough to follow your rare
metaphors. Look round these ladies--is there"--(she hesitated,
and endeavoured to assume an air of great indifference)--"is
there here, in this presence, any lady, the colour of whose hair
reminds thee of that braid? Methinks, without prying into my
Lord of Leicester's amorous secrets, I would fain know what kind
of locks are like the thread of Minerva's web, or the--what was
it?--the last rays of the May-day sun."
Varney looked round the presence-chamber, his eye travelling from
one lady to another, until at length it rested upon the Queen
herself, but with an aspect of the deepest veneration. "I see no
tresses," he said, "in this presence, worthy of such similies,
unless where I dare not look on them."
"How, sir knave?" said the Queen; "dare you intimate--"
"Nay, madam," replied Varney, shading his eyes with his hand, "it
was the beams of the May-day sun that dazzled my weak eyes."
"Go to--go to," said the Queen; "thou art a foolish fellow"--and
turning quickly from him she walked up to Leicester.
Intense curiosity, mingled with all the various hopes, fears, and
passions which influence court faction, had occupied the
presence-chamber during the Queen's conference with Varney, as if
with the strength of an Eastern talisman. Men suspended every,
even the slightest external motion, and would have ceased to
breathe, had Nature permitted such an intermission of her
functions. The atmosphere was contagious, and Leicester, who saw
all around wishing or fearing his advancement or his fall forgot
all that love had previously dictated, and saw nothing for the
instant but the favour or disgrace which depended on the nod of
Elizabeth and the fidelity of Varney. He summoned himself
hastily, and prepared to play his part in the scene which was
like to ensue, when, as he judged from the glances which the
Queen threw towards him, Varney's communications, be they what
they might, were operating in his favour. Elizabeth did not long
leave him in doubt; for the more than favour with which she
accosted him decided his triumph in the eyes of his rival, and of
the assembled court of England. "Thou hast a prating servant of
this same Varney, my lord," she said; "it is lucky you trust him
with nothing that can hurt you in our opinion, for believe me, he
would keep no counsel."
"From your Highness," said Leicester, dropping gracefully on one
knee, "it were treason he should. I would that my heart itself
lay before you, barer than the tongue of any servant could strip
"What, my lord," said Elizabeth, looking kindly upon him, "is
there no one little corner over which you would wish to spread a
veil? Ah! I see you are confused at the question, and your
Queen knows she should not look too deeply into her servants'
motives for their faithful duty, lest she see what might, or at
least ought to, displease her."
Relieved by these last words, Leicester broke out into a torrent
of expressions of deep and passionate attachment, which perhaps,
at that moment, were not altogether fictitious. The mingled
emotions which had at first overcome him had now given way to the
energetic vigour with which he had determined to support his
place in the Queen's favour; and never did he seem to Elizabeth
more eloquent, more handsome, more interesting, than while,
kneeling at her feet, he conjured her to strip him of all his
dower, but to leave him the name of her servant.--"Take from the
poor Dudley," he exclaimed, "all that your bounty has made him,
and bid him be the poor gentleman he was when your Grace first
shone on him; leave him no more than his cloak and his sword, but
let him still boast he has--what in word or deed he never
forfeited--the regard of his adored Queen and mistress!"
"No, Dudley!" said Elizabeth, raising him with one hand, while
she extended the other that he might kiss it. "Elizabeth hath
not forgotten that, whilst you were a poor gentleman, despoiled
of your hereditary rank, she was as poor a princess, and that in
her cause you then ventured all that oppression had left you--
your life and honour. Rise, my lord, and let my hand go--rise,
and be what you have ever been, the grace of our court and the
support of our throne! Your mistress may be forced to chide your
misdemeanours, but never without owning your merits.--And so help
me God," she added, turning to the audience, who, with various
feelings, witnessed this interesting scene--"so help me God,
gentlemen, as I think never sovereign had a truer servant than I
have in this noble Earl!"
A murmur of assent rose from the Leicestrian faction, which the
friends of Sussex dared not oppose. They remained with their
eyes fixed on the ground, dismayed as well as mortified by the
public and absolute triumph of their opponents. Leicester's
first use of the familiarity to which the Queen had so publicly
restored him was to ask her commands concerning Varney's offence.
"although," he said, "the fellow deserves nothing from me but
displeasure, yet, might I presume to intercede--"
"In truth, we had forgotten his matter," said the Queen; "and it
was ill done of us, who owe justice to our meanest as well as to
our highest subject. We are pleased, my lord, that you were the
first to recall the matter to our memory.--Where is Tressilian,
the accuser?--let him come before us."
Tressilian appeared, and made a low and beseeming reference. His
person, as we have elsewhere observed, had an air of grace and
even of nobleness, which did not escape Queen Elizabeth's
critical observation. She looked at him with, attention as he
stood before her unabashed, but with an air of the deepest
"I cannot but grieve for this gentleman," she said to Leicester.
"I have inquired concerning him, and his presence confirms what I
heard, that he is a scholar and a soldier, well accomplished both
in arts and arms. We women, my lord, are fanciful in our choice
--I had said now, to judge by the eye, there was no comparison to
be held betwixt your follower and this gentleman. But Varney is
a well-spoken fellow, and, to say truth, that goes far with us of
the weaker sex.--look you, Master Tressilian, a bolt lost is not
a bow broken. Your true affection, as I will hold it to be, hath
been, it seems, but ill requited; but you have scholarship, and
you know there have been false Cressidas to be found, from the
Trojan war downwards. Forget, good sir, this Lady Light o' Love
--teach your affection to see with a wiser eye. This we say to
you, more from the writings of learned men than our own
knowledge, being, as we are, far removed by station and will from
the enlargement of experience in such idle toys of humorous
passion. For this dame's father, we can make his grief the less
by advancing his son-in-law to such station as may enable him to
give an honourable support to his bride. Thou shalt not be
forgotten thyself, Tressilian--follow our court, and thou shalt
see that a true Troilus hath some claim on our grace. Think of
what that arch-knave Shakespeare says--a plague on him, his toys
come into my head when I should think of other matters. Stay,
how goes it?
'Cressid was yours, tied with the bonds of heaven ;
These bonds of heaven are slipt, dissolved, and loosed,
And with another knot five fingers tied,
The fragments of her faith are bound to Diomed.'
You smile, my Lord of Southampton--perchance I make your player's
verse halt through my bad memory. But let it suffice let there
be no more of this mad matter."
And as Tressilian kept the posture of one who would willingly be
heard, though, at the same time, expressive of the deepest
reverence, the Queen added with some impatience, "What would the
man have? The wench cannot wed both of you? She has made her
election--not a wise one perchance--but she is Varney's wedded
"My suit should sleep there, most gracious Sovereign," said
Tressilian, "and with my suit my revenge. But I hold this
Varney's word no good warrant for the truth."
"Had that doubt been elsewhere urged," answered Varney, "my
"THY sword!" interrupted Tressilian scornfully; "with her
Grace's leave, my sword shall show--"
"Peace, you knaves, both!" said the Queen; "know you where you
are?--This comes of your feuds, my lords," she added, looking
towards Leicester and Sussex; "your followers catch your own
humour, and must bandy and brawl in my court and in my very
presence, like so many Matamoros.--Look you, sirs, he that speaks
of drawing swords in any other quarrel than mine or England's, by
mine honour, I'll bracelet him with iron both on wrist and
ankle!" She then paused a minute, and resumed in a milder tone,
"I must do justice betwixt the bold and mutinous knaves
notwithstanding.--My Lord of Leicester, will you warrant with
your honour--that is, to the best of your belief--that your
servant speaks truth in saying he hath married this Amy Robsart?"
This was a home-thrust, and had nearly staggered Leicester. But
he had now gone too far to recede, and answered, after a moment's
hesitation, "To the best of my belief--indeed on my certain
knowledge--she is a wedded wife."
"Gracious madam," said Tressilian, "may I yet request to know,
when and under what circumstances this alleged marriage--"
"Out, sirrah," answered the Queen; "ALLEGED marriage! Have you
not the word of this illustrious Earl to warrant the truth of
what his servant says? But thou art a loser--thinkest thyself
such at least--and thou shalt have indulgence; we will look into
the matter ourself more at leisure.--My Lord of Leicester, I
trust you remember we mean to taste the good cheer of your Castle
of Kenilworth on this week ensuing. We will pray you to bid our
good and valued friend, the Earl of Sussex, to hold company with
"If the noble Earl of Sussex," said Leicester, bowing to his
rival with the easiest and with the most graceful courtesy, "will
so far honour my poor house, I will hold it an additional proof
of the amicable regard it is your Grace's desire we should
entertain towards each other."
Sussex was more embarrassed. "I should," said he, "madam, be but
a clog on your gayer hours, since my late severe illness."
"And have you been indeed so very ill?" said Elizabeth, looking
on him with more attention than before; "you are, in faith,
strangely altered, and deeply am I grieved to see it. But be of
good cheer--we will ourselves look after the health of so valued
a servant, and to whom we owe so much. Masters shall order your
diet; and that we ourselves may see that he is obeyed, you must
attend us in this progress to Kenilworth."
This was said so peremptorily, and at the same time with so much
kindness, that Sussex, however unwilling to become the guest of
his rival, had no resource but to bow low to the Queen in
obedience to her commands, and to express to Leicester, with
blunt courtesy, though mingled with embarrassment, his acceptance
of his invitation. As the Earls exchanged compliments on the
occasion, the Queen said to her High Treasurer, "Methinks, my
lord, the countenances of these our two noble peers resemble
those of the two famed classic streams, the one so dark and sad,
the other so fair and noble. My old Master Ascham would have
chid me for forgetting the author. It is Caesar, as I think.
See what majestic calmness sits on the brow of the noble
Leicester, while Sussex seems to greet him as if he did our will
indeed, but not willingly."
"The doubt of your Majesty's favour," answered the Lord
Treasurer, "may perchance occasion the difference, which does
not--as what does?--escape your Grace's eye."
"Such doubt were injurious to us, my lord," replied the Queen.
"We hold both to be near and dear to us, and will with
impartiality employ both in honourable service for the weal of
our kingdom. But we will break their further conference at
present.--My Lords of Sussex and Leicester, we have a word more
with you. 'Tressilian and Varney are near your persons--you will
see that they attend you at Kenilworth. And as we shall then
have both Paris and Menelaus within our call, so we will have the
same fair Helen also, whose fickleness has caused this broil.--
Varney, thy wife must be at Kenilworth, and forthcoming at my
order.--My Lord of Leicester, we expect you will look to this."
The Earl and his follower bowed low and raised their heads,
without daring to look at the Queen, or at each other, for both
felt at the instant as if the nets and toils which their own
falsehood had woven were in the act of closing around them. The
Queen, however, observed not their confusion, but proceeded to
say, "My Lords of Sussex and Leicester, we require your presence
at the privy-council to be presently held, where matters of
importance are to be debated. We will then take the water for
our divertisement, and you, my lords, will attend us.--And that
reminds us of a circumstance.--Do you, Sir Squire of the Soiled
Cassock" (distinguishing Raleigh by a smile), "fail not to
observe that you are to attend us on our progress. You shall be
supplied with suitable means to reform your wardrobe."
And so terminated this celebrated audience, in which, as
throughout her life, Elizabeth united the occasional caprice of
her sex with that sense and sound policy in which neither man nor
woman ever excelled her.
Well, then--our course is chosen--spread the sail--
Heave oft the lead, and mark the soundings well--
Look to the helm, good master--many a shoal
Marks this stern coast, and rocks, where sits the Siren,
Who, like ambition, lures men to their ruin. THE SHIPWRECK.
During the brief interval that took place betwixt the dismissal
of the audience and the sitting of the privy-council, Leicester
had time to reflect that he had that morning sealed his own fate.
"It was impossible for him now," he thought, "after having, in
the face of all that was honourable in England, pledged his truth
(though in an ambiguous phrase) for the statement of Varney, to
contradict or disavow it, without exposing himself, not merely to
the loss of court-favour, but to the highest displeasure of the
Queen, his deceived mistress, and to the scorn and contempt at
once of his rival and of all his compeers." This certainty
rushed at once on his mind, together with all the difficulties
which he would necessarily be exposed to in preserving a secret
which seemed now equally essential to his safety, to his power,
and to his honour. He was situated like one who walks upon ice
ready to give way around him, and whose only safety consists in
moving onwards, by firm and unvacillating steps. The Queen's
favour, to preserve which he had made such sacrifices, must now
be secured by all means and at all hazards; it was the only plank
which he could cling to in the tempest. He must settle himself,
therefore, to the task of not only preserving, but augmenting the
Queen's partiality--he must be the favourite of Elizabeth, or a
man utterly shipwrecked in fortune and in honour. All other
considerations must be laid aside for the moment, and he repelled
the intrusive thoughts which forced on his mind the image of,
Amy, by saying to himself there would be time to think hereafter
how he was to escape from the labyrinth ultimately, since the
pilot who sees a Scylla under his bows must not for the time
think of the more distant dangers of Charybdis.
In this mood the Earl of Leicester that day assumed his chair at
the council table of Elizabeth; and when the hours of business
were over, in this same mood did he occupy an honoured place near
her during her pleasure excursion on the Thames. And never did
he display to more advantage his powers as a politician of the
first rank, or his parts as an accomplished courtier.
It chanced that in that day's council matters were agitated
touching the affairs of the unfortunate Mary, the seventh year of
whose captivity in England was now in doleful currency. There
had been opinions in favour of this unhappy princess laid before
Elizabeth's council, and supported with much strength of argument
by Sussex and others, who dwelt more upon the law of nations and
the breach of hospitality than, however softened or qualified,
was agreeable to the Queen's ear. Leicester adopted the contrary
opinion with great animation and eloquence, and described the
necessity of continuing the severe restraint of the Queen of
Scots, as a measure essential to the safety of the kingdom, and
particularly of Elizabeth's sacred person, the lightest hair of
whose head, he maintained, ought, in their lordships' estimation,
to be matter of more deep and anxious concern than the life and
fortunes of a rival, who, after setting up a vain and unjust
pretence to the throne of England, was now, even while in the
bosom of her country, the constant hope and theme of
encouragement to all enemies to Elizabeth, whether at home or
abroad. He ended by craving pardon of their lordships, if in the
zeal of speech he had given any offence, but the Queen's safety
was a theme which hurried him beyond his usual moderation of
Elizabeth chid him, but not severely, for the weight which he
attached unduly to her personal interests; yet she owned that,
since it had been the pleasure of Heaven to combine those
interests with the weal of her subjects, she did only her duty
when she adopted such measures of self-preservation as
circumstances forced upon her; and if the council in their wisdom
should be of opinion that it was needful to continue some
restraint on the person of her unhappy sister of Scotland, she
trusted they would not blame her if she requested of the Countess
of Shrewsbury to use her with as much kindness as might be
consistent with her safe keeping. And with this intimation of
her pleasure the council was dismissed.
Never was more anxious and ready way made for "my Lord of
Leicester," than as he passed through the crowded anterooms to go
towards the river-side, in order to attend her Majesty to her
barge--never was the voice of the ushers louder, to "make room,
make room for the noble Earl"--never were these signals more
promptly and reverently obeyed--never were more anxious eyes
turned on him to obtain a glance of favour, or even of mere
recognition, while the heart of many a humble follower throbbed
betwixt the desire to offer his congratulations, and the fear of
intruding himself on the notice of one so infinitely above him.
The whole court considered the issue of this day's audience,
expected with so much doubt and anxiety, as a decisive triumph on
the part of Leicester, and felt assured that the orb of his rival
satellite, if not altogether obscured by his lustre, must revolve
hereafter in a dimmer and more distant sphere. So thought the
court and courtiers, from high to low; and they acted
On the other hand, never did Leicester return the general
greeting with such ready and condescending courtesy, or endeavour
more successfully to gather (in the words of one who at that
moment stood at no great distance from him) "golden opinions from
all sorts of men."
For all the favourite Earl had a bow a smile at least, and often
a kind word. Most of these were addressed to courtiers, whose
names have long gone down the tide of oblivion; but some, to such
as sound strangely in our ears, when connected with the ordinary
matters of human life, above which the gratitude of posterity has
long elevated them. A few of Leicester's interlocutory sentences
ran as follows:--
"Poynings, good morrow; and how does your wife and fair daughter?
Why come they not to court?--Adams, your suit is naught; the
Queen will grant no more monopolies. But I may serve you in
another matter.--My good Alderman Aylford, the suit of the City,
affecting Queenhithe, shall be forwarded as far as my poor
interest can serve.--Master Edmund Spenser, touching your Irish
petition, I would willingly aid you, from my love to the Muses;
but thou hast nettled the Lord Treasurer."
"My lord, " said the poet, "were I permitted to explain--"
"Come to my lodging, Edmund," answered the Earl "not to-morrow,
or next day, but soon.--Ha, Will Shakespeare--wild Will!--thou
hast given my nephew Philip Sidney, love-powder; he cannot sleep
without thy Venus and Adonis under his pillow! We will have thee
hanged for the veriest wizard in Europe. Hark thee, mad wag, I
have not forgotten thy matter of the patent, and of the bears."
The PLAYER bowed, and the Earl nodded and passed on--so that age
would have told the tale; in ours, perhaps, we might say the
immortal had done homage to the mortal. The next whom the
favourite accosted was one of his own zealous dependants.
"How now, Sir Francis Denning," he whispered, in answer to his
exulting salutation, "that smile hath made thy face shorter by
one-third than when I first saw it this morning.--What, Master
Bowyer, stand you back, and think you I bear malice? You did but
your duty this morning; and if I remember aught of the passage
betwixt us, it shall be in thy favour."
Then the Earl was approached, with several fantastic congees, by
a person quaintly dressed in a doublet of black velvet, curiously
slashed and pinked with crimson satin. A long cock's feather in
the velvet bonnet, which he held in his hand, and an enormous
ruff; stiffened to the extremity of the absurd taste of the
times, joined with a sharp, lively, conceited expression of
countenance, seemed to body forth a vain, harebrained coxcomb,
and small wit; while the rod he held, and an assumption of formal
authority, appeared to express some sense of official
consequence, which qualified the natural pertness of his manner.
A perpetual blush, which occupied rather the sharp nose than the
thin cheek of this personage, seemed to speak more of "good
life," as it was called, than of modesty; and the manner in which
he approached to the Earl confirmed that suspicion.
"Good even to you, Master Robert Laneham," said Leicester, and
seemed desirous to pass forward, without further speech.
"I have a suit to your noble lordship," said the figure, boldly
"And what is it, good master keeper of the council-chamber door?"
"CLERK of the council-chamber door," said Master Robert Laneham,
with emphasis, by way of reply, and of correction.
"Well, qualify thine office as thou wilt, man," replied the Earl;
"what wouldst thou have with me?"
"Simply," answered Laneham, "that your lordship would be, as
heretofore, my good lord, and procure me license to attend the
Summer Progress unto your lordship's most beautiful and all-to-
be-unmatched Castle of Kenilworth."
"To what purpose, good Master Laneham?" replied the Earl;
"bethink you, my guests must needs be many."
"Not so many," replied the petitioner, "but that your nobleness
will willingly spare your old servitor his crib and his mess.
Bethink you, my lord, how necessary is this rod of mine to fright
away all those listeners, who else would play at bo-peep with the
honourable council, and be searching for keyholes and crannies in
the door of the chamber, so as to render my staff as needful as a
fly-flap in a butcher's shop."
"Methinks you have found out a fly-blown comparison for the
honourable council, Master Laneham," said the Earl; "but seek not
about to justify it. Come to Kenilworth, if you list; there will
be store of fools there besides, and so you will be fitted."
"Nay, an there be fools, my lord," replied Laneham, with much
glee, "I warrant I will make sport among them, for no greyhound
loves to cote a hare as I to turn and course a fool. But I have
another singular favour to beseech of your honour."
"Speak it, and let me go," said the Earl; "I think the Queen
comes forth instantly."
"My very good lord, I would fain bring a bed-fellow with me."
"How, you irreverent rascal!" said Leicester.
"Nay, my lord, my meaning is within the canons," answered his
unblushing, or rather his ever-blushing petitioner. "I have a
wife as curious as her grandmother who ate the apple. Now, take
her with me I may not, her Highness's orders being so strict
against the officers bringing with them their wives in a
progress, and so lumbering the court with womankind. But what I
would crave of your lordship is to find room for her in some
mummery, or pretty pageant, in disguise, as it were; so that, not
being known for my wife, there may be no offence."
"The foul fiend seize ye both!" said Leicester, stung into
uncontrollable passion by the recollections which this speech
excited--"why stop you me with such follies?"
The terrified clerk of the chamber-door, astonished at the burst
of resentment he had so unconsciously produced, dropped his staff
of office from his hand, and gazed on the incensed Earl with a
foolish face of wonder and terror, which instantly recalled
Leicester to himself.
"I meant but to try if thou hadst the audacity which befits thine
office," said he hastily. "Come to Kenilworth, and bring the
devil with thee, if thou wilt."
"My wife, sir, hath played the devil ere now, in a Mystery, in
Queen Mary's time; but me shall want a trifle for properties."
"Here is a crown for thee," said the Earl,--"make me rid of thee
--the great bell rings."
Master Robert Laneham stared a moment at the agitation which he
had excited, and then said to himself, as he stooped to pick up
his staff of office, "The noble Earl runs wild humours to-day.
But they who give crowns expect us witty fellows to wink at their
unsettled starts; and, by my faith, if they paid not for mercy,
we would finger them tightly!" [See Note 6. Robert Laneham.]
Leicester moved hastily on, neglecting the courtesies he had
hitherto dispensed so liberally, and hurrying through the courtly
crowd, until he paused in a small withdrawing-room, into which he
plunged to draw a moment's breath unobserved, and in seclusion.
"What am I now," he said to himself, "that am thus jaded by the
words of a mean, weather-beaten, goose-brained gull! Conscience,
thou art a bloodhound, whose growl wakes us readily at the paltry
stir of a rat or mouse as at the step of a lion. Can I not quit
myself, by one bold stroke, of a state so irksome, so unhonoured?
What if I kneel to Elizabeth, and, owning the whole, throw myself
on her mercy?"
As he pursued this train of thought, the door of the apartment
opened, and Varney rushed in.
"Thank God, my lord, that I have found you!" was his
"Thank the devil, whose agent thou art," was the Earl's reply.
"Thank whom you will, my lord," replied Varney; "but hasten to
the water-side. The Queen is on board, and asks for you."
"Go, say I am taken suddenly ill," replied Leicester; "for, by
Heaven, my brain can sustain this no longer!"
"I may well say so," said Varney, with bitterness of expression,
"for your place, ay, and mine, who, as your master of the horse,
was to have attended your lordship, is already filled up in the
Queen's barge. The new minion, Walter Raleigh, and our old
acquaintance Tressilian were called for to fill our places just
as I hastened away to seek you."
"Thou art a devil, Varney," said Leicester hastily; "but thou
hast the mastery for the present--I follow thee."
Varney replied not, but led the way out of the palace, and
towards the river, while his master followed him, as if
mechanically; until, looking back, he said in a tone which
savoured of familiarity at least, if not of authority, "How is
this, my lord? Your cloak hangs on one side--your hose are
"Thou art a fool, Varney, as well as a knave," said Leicester,
shaking him off, and rejecting his officious assistance. "We are
best thus, sir; when we require you to order our person, it is
well, but now we want you not."
So saying, the Earl resumed at once his air of command, and with
it his self-possession--shook his dress into yet wilder disorder
--passed before Varney with the air of a superior and master, and
in his turn led the way to the river-side.
The Queen's barge was on the very point of putting off, the seat
allotted to Leicester in the stern, and that to his master of the
horse on the bow of the boat, being already filled up. But on
Leicester's approach there was a pause, as if the bargemen
anticipated some alteration in their company. The angry spot
was, however, on the Queen's cheek, as, in that cold tone with
which superiors endeavour to veil their internal agitation, while
speaking to those before whom it would be derogation to express
it, she pronounced the chilling words, "We have waited, my Lord
"Madam, and most gracious Princess," said Leicester, "you, who
can pardon so many weaknesses which your own heart never knows,
can best bestow your commiseration on the agitations of the
bosom, which, for a moment, affect both head and limbs. I came
to your presence a doubting and an accused subject; your goodness
penetrated the clouds of defamation, and restored me to my
honour, and, what is yet dearer, to your favour--is it wonderful,
though for me it is most unhappy, that my master of the horse
should have found me in a state which scarce permitted me to make
the exertion necessary to follow him to this place, when one
glance of your Highness, although, alas! an angry one, has had
power to do that for me in which Esculapius might have failed?"
"How is this?" said Elizabeth hastily, looking at Varney; "hath
your lord been ill?"
"Something of a fainting fit," answered the ready-witted Varney,
"as your Grace may observe from his present condition. My lord's
haste would not permit me leisure even to bring his dress into
"It matters not," said Elizabeth, as she gazed on the noble face
and form of Leicester, to which even the strange mixture of
passions by which he had been so lately agitated gave additional
interest; "make room for my noble lord. Your place, Master
Varney, has been filled up; you must find a seat in another
Varney bowed, and withdrew.
"And you, too, our young Squire of the Cloak," added she, looking
at Raleigh, "must, for the time, go to the barge of our ladies of
honour. As for Tressilian, he hath already suffered too much by
the caprice of women that I should aggrieve him by my change of
plan, so far as he is concerned."
Leicester seated himself in his place in the barge, and close to
the Sovereign. Raleigh rose to retire, and Tressilian would have
been so ill-timed in his courtesy as to offer to relinquish his
own place to his friend, had not the acute glance of Raleigh
himself, who seemed no in his native element, made him sensible
that so ready a disclamation of the royal favour might be
misinterpreted. He sat silent, therefore, whilst Raleigh, with a
profound bow, and a look of the deepest humiliation, was about to
quit his place.
A noble courtier, the gallant Lord Willoughby, read, as he
thought, something in the Queen's face which seemed to pity
Raleigh's real or assumed semblance of mortification.
"It is not for us old courtiers," he said, "to hide the sunshine
from the young ones. I will, with her Majesty's leave,
relinquish for an hour that which her subjects hold dearest, the
delight of her Highness's presence, and mortify myself by walking
in starlight, while I forsake for a brief season the glory of
Diana's own beams. I will take place in the boat which the
ladies occupy, and permit this young cavalier his hour of
The Queen replied, with an expression betwixt mirth and earnest,
"If you are so willing to leave us, my lord, we cannot help the
mortification. But, under favour, we do not trust you--old and
experienced as you may deem yourself--with the care of our young
ladies of honour. Your venerable age, my lord," she continued,
smiling, "may be better assorted with that of my Lord Treasurer,
who follows in the third boat, and by whose experience even my
Lord Willoughby's may be improved."
Lord Willoughby hid his disappointment under a smile--laughed,
was confused, bowed, and left the Queen's barge to go on board my
Lord Burleigh's. Leicester, who endeavoured to divert his
thoughts from all internal reflection, by fixing them on what was
passing around, watched this circumstance among others. But when
the boat put off from the shore--when the music sounded from a
barge which accompanied them--when the shouts of the populace
were heard from the shore, and all reminded him of the situation
in which he was placed, he abstracted his thoughts and feelings
by a strong effort from everything but the necessity of
maintaining himself in the favour of his patroness, and exerted
his talents of pleasing captivation with such success, that the
Queen, alternately delighted with his conversation, and alarmed
for his health, at length imposed a temporary silence on him,
with playful yet anxious care, lest his flow of spirits should
"My lords," she said, "having passed for a time our edict of
silence upon our good Leicester, we will call you to counsel on a
gamesome matter, more fitted to be now treated of, amidst mirth
and music, than in the gravity of our ordinary deliberations.
Which of you, my lords," said she, smiling, "know aught of a
petition from Orson Pinnit, the keeper, as he qualifies himself,
of our royal bears? Who stands godfather to his request?"
"Marry, with Your Grace's good permission, that do I," said the
Earl of Sussex. "Orson Pinnit was a stout soldier before he was
so mangled by the skenes of the Irish clan MacDonough; and I
trust your Grace will be, as you always have been, good mistress
to your good and trusty servants."
"Surely," said the Queen, "it is our purpose to be so, and in
especial to our poor soldiers and sailors, who hazard their lives
for little pay. We would give," she said, with her eyes
sparkling, "yonder royal palace of ours to be an hospital for
their use, rather than they should call their mistress
ungrateful. But this is not the question," she said, her voice,
which had been awakened by her patriotic feelings, once more
subsiding into the tone of gay and easy conversation; "for this
Orson Pinnit's request goes something further. He complains
that, amidst the extreme delight with which men haunt the play-
houses, and in especial their eager desire for seeing the
exhibitions of one Will Shakespeare (whom I think, my lords, we
have all heard something of), the manly amusement of bear-baiting
is falling into comparative neglect, since men will rather throng
to see these roguish players kill each other in jest, than to see
our royal dogs and bears worry each other in bloody earnest.--
What say you to this, my Lord of Sussex?"
"Why, truly, gracious madam," said Sussex, "you must expect
little from an old soldier like me in favour of battles in sport,
when they are compared with battles in earnest; and yet, by my
faith, I wish Will Shakespeare no harm. He is a stout man at
quarter-staff, and single falchion, though, as I am told, a
halting fellow; and he stood, they say, a tough fight with the
rangers of old Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecot, when he broke his
deer-park and kissed his keeper's daughter."
"I cry you mercy, my Lord of Sussex," said Queen Elizabeth,
interrupting him; "that matter was heard in council, and we will
not have this fellow's offence exaggerated--there was no kissing
in the matter, and the defendant hath put the denial on record.
But what say you to his present practice, my lord, on the stage?
for there lies the point, and not in any ways touching his former
errors, in breaking parks, or the other follies you speak of."
"Why, truly, madam," replied Sussex, "as I said before, I wish
the gamesome mad fellow no injury. Some of his whoreson poetry
(I crave your Grace's pardon for such a phrase) has rung in mine
ears as if the lines sounded to boot and saddle. But then it is
all froth and folly--no substance or seriousness in it, as your
Grace has already well touched. What are half a dozen knaves,
with rusty foils and tattered targets, making but a mere mockery
of a stout fight, to compare to the royal game of bear-baiting,
which hath been graced by your Highness's countenance, and that
of your royal predecessors, in this your princely kingdom, famous
for matchless mastiffs and bold bearwards over all Christendom?
Greatly is it to be doubted that the race of both will decay, if
men should throng to hear the lungs of an idle player belch forth
nonsensical bombast, instead of bestowing their pence in
encouraging the bravest image of war that can be shown in peace,
and that is the sports of the Bear-garden. There you may see the
bear lying at guard, with his red, pinky eyes watching the onset
of the mastiff, like a wily captain who maintains his defence
that an assailant may be tempted to venture within his danger.
And then comes Sir Mastiff, like a worthy champion, in full
career at the throat of his adversary; and then shall Sir Bruin
teach him the reward for those who, in their over-courage,
neglect the policies of war, and, catching him in his arms,
strain him to his breast like a lusty wrestler, until rib after
rib crack like the shot of a pistolet. And then another mastiff;
as bold, but with better aim and sounder judgment, catches Sir
Bruin by the nether lip, and hangs fast, while he tosses about
his blood and slaver, and tries in vain to shake Sir Talbot from
his hold. And then--"
"Nay, by my honour, my lord," said the Queen, laughing, "you have
described the whole so admirably that, had we never seen a bear-
baiting, as we have beheld many, and hope, with Heaven's
allowance, to see many more, your words were sufficient to put
the whole Bear-garden before our eyes.--But come, who speaks next
in this case?--My Lord of Leicester, what say you?"
"Am I then to consider myself as unmuzzled, please your Grace?"
"Surely, my lord--that is, if you feel hearty enough to take part
in our game," answered Elizabeth; "and yet, when I think of your
cognizance of the bear and ragged staff, methinks we had better
hear some less partial orator."
"Nay, on my word, gracious Princess," said the Earl, "though my
brother Ambrose of Warwick and I do carry the ancient cognizance
your Highness deigns to remember, I nevertheless desire nothing
but fair play on all sides; or, as they say, 'fight dog, fight
bear.' And in behalf of the players, I must needs say that they
are witty knaves, whose rants and jests keep the minds of the
commons from busying themselves with state affairs, and listening
to traitorous speeches, idle rumours, and disloyal insinuations.
When men are agape to see how Marlow, Shakespeare, and other play
artificers work out their fanciful plots, as they call them, the
mind of the spectators is withdrawn from the conduct of their
"We would not have the mind of our subjects withdrawn from the
consideration of our own conduct, my lord," answered Elizabeth;
"because the more closely it is examined, the true motives by
which we are guided will appear the more manifest."
"I have heard, however, madam," said the Dean of St. Asaph's, an
eminent Puritan, "that these players are wont, in their plays,
not only to introduce profane and lewd expressions, tending to
foster sin and harlotry; but even to bellow out such reflections
on government, its origin and its object, as tend to render the
subject discontented, and shake the solid foundations of civil
society. And it seems to be, under your Grace's favour, far less
than safe to permit these naughty foul-mouthed knaves to ridicule
the godly for their decent gravity, and, in blaspheming heaven
and slandering its earthly rulers, to set at defiance the laws
both of God and man."
"If we could think this were true, my lord," said Elizabeth, "we
should give sharp correction for such offences. But it is ill
arguing against the use of anything from its abuse. And touching
this Shakespeare, we think there is that in his plays that is
worth twenty Bear-gardens; and that this new undertaking of his
Chronicles, as he calls them, may entertain, with honest mirth,
mingled with useful instruction, not only our subjects, but even
the generation which may succeed to us."
"Your Majesty's reign will need no such feeble aid to make it
remembered to the latest posterity," said Leicester. "And yet,
in his way, Shakespeare hath so touched some incidents of your
Majesty's happy government as may countervail what has been
spoken by his reverence the Dean of St. Asaph's. There are some
lines, for example--I would my nephew, Philip Sidney, were here;
they are scarce ever out of his mouth--they are spoken in a mad
tale of fairies, love-charms, and I wot not what besides; but
beautiful they are, however short they may and must fall of the
subject to which they bear a bold relation--and Philip murmurs
them, I think, even in his dreams."
"You tantalize us, my lord," said the Queen--"Master Philip
Sidney is, we know, a minion of the Muses, and we are pleased it
should be so. Valour never shines to more advantage than when
united with the true taste and love of letters. But surely there
are some others among our young courtiers who can recollect what
your lordship has forgotten amid weightier affairs.--Master
Tressilian, you are described to me as a worshipper of Minerva--
remember you aught of these lines?"
Tressilian's heart was too heavy, his prospects in life too
fatally blighted, to profit by the opportunity which the Queen
thus offered to him of attracting her attention; but he
determined to transfer the advantage to his more ambitious young
friend, and excusing himself on the score of want of
recollection, he added that he believed the beautiful verses of
which my Lord of Leicester had spoken were in the remembrance of
Master Walter Raleigh.
At the command of the Queen, that cavalier repeated, with accent
and manner which even added to their exquisite delicacy of tact
and beauty of description, the celebrated vision of Oberon:--
"That very time I saw (but thou couldst not),
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid, allarm'd: a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal, throned by the west;
And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts:
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery moon;
And the imperial vot'ress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy free."
The voice of Raleigh, as he repeated the last lines, became a
little tremulous, as if diffident how the Sovereign to whom the
homage was addressed might receive it, exquisite as it was. If
this diffidence was affected, it was good policy; but if real,
there was little occasion for it. The verses were not probably
new to the Queen, for when was ever such elegant flattery long in
reaching the royal ear to which it was addressed? But they were
not the less welcome when repeated by such a speaker as Raleigh.
Alike delighted with the matter, the manner, and the graceful
form and animated countenance of the gallant young reciter,
Elizabeth kept time to every cadence with look and with finger.
When the speaker had ceased, she murmured over the last lines as
if scarce conscious that she was overheard, and as she uttered
"In maiden meditation, fancy free," she dropped into the Thames
the supplication of Orson Pinnit, keeper of the royal bears, to
find more favourable acceptance at Sheerness, or wherever the
tide might waft it.
Leicester was spurred to emulation by the success of the young
courtier's exhibition, as the veteran racer is roused when a
high-mettled colt passes him on the way. He turned the discourse
on shows, banquets, pageants, and on the character of those by
whom these gay scenes were then frequented. He mixed acute
observation with light satire, in that just proportion which was
free alike from malignant slander and insipid praise. He
mimicked with ready accent the manners of the affected or the
clownish, and made his own graceful tone and manner seem doubly
such when he resumed it. Foreign countries--their customs, their
manners, the rules of their courts---the fashions, and even the
dress of their ladies-were equally his theme; and seldom did he
conclude without conveying some compliment, always couched in
delicacy, and expressed with propriety, to the Virgin Queen, her
court, and her government. Thus passed the conversation during
this pleasure voyage, seconded by the rest of the attendants upon
the royal person, in gay discourse, varied by remarks upon
ancient classics and modern authors, and enriched by maxims of
deep policy and sound morality, by the statesmen and sages who
sat around and mixed wisdom with the lighter talk of a female
When they returned to the Palace, Elizabeth accepted, or rather
selected, the arm of Leicester to support her from the stairs
where they landed to the great gate. It even seemed to him
(though that might arise from the flattery of his own
imagination) that during this short passage she leaned on him
somewhat more than the slippiness of the way necessarily
demanded. Certainly her actions and words combined to express a
degree of favour which, even in his proudest day he had not till
then attained. His rival, indeed, was repeatedly graced by the
Queen's notice; but it was in manner that seemed to flow less
from spontaneous inclination than as extorted by a sense of his
merit. And in the opinion of many experienced courtiers, all the
favour she showed him was overbalanced by her whispering in the
ear of the Lady Derby that "now she saw sickness was a better
alchemist than she before wotted of, seeing it had changed my
Lord of Sussex's copper nose into a golden one."
The jest transpired, and the Earl of Leicester enjoyed his
triumph, as one to whom court-favour had been both the primary
and the ultimate motive of life, while he forgot, in the
intoxication of the moment, the perplexities and dangers of his
own situation. Indeed, strange as it may appear, he thought less
at that moment of the perils arising from his secret union, than
of the marks of grace which Elizabeth from time to time showed to
young Raleigh. They were indeed transient, but they were
conferred on one accomplished in mind and body, with grace,
gallantry, literature, and valour. An accident occurred in the
course of the evening which riveted Leicester's attention to this
The nobles and courtiers who had attended the Queen on her
pleasure expedition were invited, with royal hospitality, to a
splendid banquet in the hall of the Palace. The table was not,
indeed, graced by the presence of the Sovereign; for, agreeable
to her idea of what was at once modest and dignified, the Maiden
Queen on such occasions was wont to take in private, or with one
or two favourite ladies, her light and temperate meal. After a
moderate interval, the court again met in the splendid gardens of
the Palace; and it was while thus engaged that the Queen suddenly
asked a lady, who was near to her both in place and favour, what
had become of the young Squire Lack-Cloak.
The Lady Paget answered, "She had seen Master Raleigh but two or
three minutes since standing at the window of a small pavilion or
pleasure-house, which looked out on the Thames, and writing on
the glass with a diamond ring."
"That ring," said the Queen, "was a small token I gave him to
make amends for his spoiled mantle. Come, Paget, let us see what
use he has made of it, for I can see through him already. He is
a marvellously sharp-witted spirit." They went to the spot,
within sight of which, but at some distance, the young cavalier
still lingered, as the fowler watches the net which he has set.
The Queen approached the window, on which Raleigh had used her
gift, to inscribe the following line:--
"Fain would I climb, but that I fear to fall."
The Queen smiled, read it twice over, once with deliberation to
Lady Paget, and once again to herself. "It is a pretty
beginning," she said, after the consideration of a moment or two;
"but methinks the muse hath deserted the young wit at the very
outset of his task. It were good-natured--were it not, Lady
Paget?--to complete it for him. Try your rhyming faculties."
Lady Paget, prosaic from her cradle upwards as ever any lady of
the bedchamber before or after her, disclaimed all possibility of
assisting the young poet.
"Nay, then, we must sacrifice to the Muses ourselves," said
"The incense of no one can be more acceptable," said Lady Paget;
"and your Highness will impose such obligation on the ladies of
"Hush, Paget," said the Queen, "you speak sacrilege against the
immortal Nine--yet, virgins themselves, they should be exorable
to a Virgin Queen--and therefore--let me see how runs his verse--
'Fain would I climb, but that I fear to fall.'
Might not the answer (for fault of a better) run thus?--
'If thy mind fail thee, do not climb at all.'"
The dame of honour uttered an exclamation of joy and surprise at
so happy a termination; and certainly a worse has been applauded,
even when coming from a less distinguished author.
The Queen, thus encouraged, took off a diamond ring, and saying,
"We will give this gallant some cause of marvel when he finds his
couplet perfected without his own interference," she wrote her
own line beneath that of Raleigh.
The Queen left the pavilion; but retiring slowly, and often
looking back, she could see the young cavalier steal, with the
flight of a lapwing, towards the place where he had seen her make
a pause. "She stayed but to observe," as she said, "that her
train had taken;" and then, laughing at the circumstance with the
Lady Paget, she took the way slowly towards the Palace.
Elizabeth, as they returned, cautioned her companion not to
mention to any one the aid which she had given to the young poet,
and Lady Paget promised scrupulous secrecy. It is to be supposed
that she made a mental reservation in favour of Leicester, to
whom her ladyship transmitted without delay an anecdote so little
calculated to give him pleasure.
Raleigh, in the meanwhile, stole back to the window, and read,
with a feeling of intoxication, the encouragement thus given him
by the Queen in person to follow out his ambitious career, and
returned to Sussex and his retinue, then on the point of
embarking to go up the river, his heart beating high with
gratified pride, and with hope of future distinction.
The reverence due to the person of the Earl prevented any notice
being taken of the reception he had met with at court, until they
had landed, and the household were assembled in the great hall at
Sayes Court; while that lord, exhausted by his late illness and
the fatigues of the day, had retired to his chamber, demanding
the attendance of Wayland, his successful physician. Wayland,
however, was nowhere to be found; and while some of the party
were, with military impatience, seeking him and cursing his
absence, the rest flocked around Raleigh to congratulate him on
his prospects of court-favour.
He had the good taste and judgment to conceal the decisive
circumstance of the couplet to which Elizabeth had deigned to
find a rhyme; but other indications had transpired, which plainly
intimated that he had made some progress in the Queen's favour.
All hastened to wish him joy on the mended appearance of his
fortune--some from real regard, some, perhaps, from hopes that
his preferment might hasten their own, and most from a mixture of
these motives, and a sense that the countenance shown to any one
of Sussex's household was, in fact, a triumph to the whole.
Raleigh returned the kindest thanks to them all, disowning, with
becoming modesty, that one day's fair reception made a favourite,
any more than one swallow a summer. But he observed that Blount
did not join in the general congratulation, and, somewhat hurt at
his apparent unkindness, he plainly asked him the reason.
Blount replied with equal sincerity--"My good Walter, I wish thee
as well as do any of these chattering gulls, who are whistling
and whooping gratulations in thine ear because it seems fair
weather with thee. But I fear for thee, "Walter" (and he wiped
his honest eye), "I fear for thee with all my heart. These
court-tricks, and gambols, and flashes of fine women's favour are
the tricks and trinkets that bring fair fortunes to farthings,
and fine faces and witty coxcombs to the acquaintance of dull
block and sharp axes."
So saying, Blount arose and left the hall, while Raleigh looked
after him with an expression that blanked for a moment his bold
and animated countenance.
Stanley just then entered the hall, and said to Tressilian, "My
lord is calling for your fellow Wayland, and your fellow Wayland
is just come hither in a sculler, and is calling for you, nor
will he go to my lord till he sees you. The fellow looks as he
were mazed, methinks; I would you would see him immediately."
Tressilian instantly left the hall, and causing Wayland Smith to
be shown into a withdrawing apartment, and lights placed, he
conducted the artist thither, and was surprised when he observed
the emotion of his countenance.
"What is the matter with you, Smith?" said Tressilian; "have you
seen the devil?"
"Worse, sir, worse," replied Wayland; "I have seen a basilisk.
Thank God, I saw him first; for being so seen, and seeing not me,
he will do the less harm."
"In God's name, speak sense," said Tressilian, "and say what you
"I have seen my old master," said the artist. "Last night a
friend whom I had acquired took me to see the Palace clock,
judging me to be curious in such works of art. At the window of
a turret next to the clock-house I saw my old master."
"Thou must needs have been mistaken," said Tressilian.
"I was not mistaken," said Wayland; "he that once hath his
features by heart would know him amongst a million. He was
anticly habited; but he cannot disguise himself from me, God be
praised! as I can from him. I will not, however, tempt
Providence by remaining within his ken. Tarleton the player
himself could not so disguise himself but that, sooner or later,
Doboobie would find him out. I must away to-morrow; for, as we
stand together, it were death to me to remain within reach of
"But the Earl of Sussex?" said Tressilian.
"He is in little danger from what he has hitherto taken, provided
he swallow the matter of a bean's size of the orvietan every
morning fasting; but let him beware of a relapse."