Part 6 out of 11
"And how is that to be guarded against?" said Tressilian.
"Only by such caution as you would use against the devil,"
answered Wayland. "Let my lord's clerk of the kitchen kill his
lord's meat himself, and dress it himself, using no spice but
what he procures from the surest hands. Let the sewer serve it
up himself, and let the master of my lord's household see that
both clerk and sewer taste the dishes which the one dresses and
the other serves. Let my lord use no perfumes which come not
from well accredited persons; no unguents--no pomades. Let him,
on no account, drink with strangers, or eat fruit with them,
either in the way of nooning or otherwise. Especially, let him
observe such caution if he goes to Kenilworth--the excuse of his
illness, and his being under diet, will, and must, cover the
strangeness of such practice."
"And thou," said Tressilian, "what dost thou think to make of
"France, Spain, either India, East or West, shall be my refuge,"
said Wayland, "ere I venture my life by residing within ken of
Doboobie, Demetrius, or whatever else he calls himself for the
"Well," said Tressilian, "this happens not inopportunely. I had
business for you in Berkshire, but in the opposite extremity to
the place where thou art known; and ere thou hadst found out this
new reason for living private, I had settled to send thee thither
upon a secret embassage."
The artist expressed himself willing to receive his commands, and
Tressilian, knowing he was well acquainted with the outline of
his business at court, frankly explained to him the whole,
mentioned the agreement which subsisted betwixt Giles Gosling and
him, and told what had that day been averred in the presence-
chamber by Varney, and supported by Leicester.
"Thou seest," he added, "that, in the circumstances in which I am
placed, it behoves me to keep a narrow watch on the motions of
these unprincipled men, Varney and his complices, Foster and
Lambourne, as well as on those of my Lord Leicester himself, who,
I suspect, is partly a deceiver, and not altogether the deceived
in that matter. Here is my ring, as a pledge to Giles Gosling.
Here is besides gold, which shall be trebled if thou serve me
faithfully. Away down to Cumnor, and see what happens there."
"I go with double good-will," said the artist, "first, because I
serve your honour, who has been so kind to me; and then, that I
may escape my old master, who, if not an absolute incarnation of
the devil, has, at least, as much of the demon about him, in
will, word, and action; as ever polluted humanity. And yet let
him take care of me. I fly him now, as heretofore; but if, like
the Scottish wild cattle, I am vexed by frequent pursuit, I may
turn on him in hate and desperation. [A remnant of the wild
cattle of Scotland are preserved at Chillingham Castle, near
Wooler, in Northumberland, the seat of Lord Tankerville. They
fly before strangers; but if disturbed and followed, they turn
with fury on those who persist in annoying them.] Will your
honour command my nag to be saddled? I will but give the
medicine to my lord, divided in its proper proportions, with a
few instructions. His safety will then depend on the care of his
friends and domestics; for the past he is guarded, but let him
beware of the future."
Wayland Smith accordingly made his farewell visit to the Earl of
Sussex, dictated instructions as to his regimen, and precautions
concerning his diet, and left Sayes Court without waiting for
The moment comes--
It is already come--when thou must write
The absolute total of thy life's vast sum.
The constellations stand victorious o'er thee,
The planets shoot good fortune in fair junctions,
And tell thee, "Now's the time."
SCHILLER'S WALLENSTEIN, BY COLERIDGE.
When Leicester returned to his lodging, alter a day so important
and so harassing, in which, after riding out more than one gale,
and touching on more than one shoal, his bark had finally gained
the harbour with banner displayed, he seemed to experience as
much fatigue as a mariner after a perilous storm. He spoke not a
word while his chamberlain exchanged his rich court-mantle for a
furred night-robe, and when this officer signified that Master
Varney desired to speak with his lordship, he replied only by a
sullen nod. Varney, however, entered, accepting this signal as a
permission, and the chamberlain withdrew.
The Earl remained silent and almost motionless in his chair, his
head reclined on his hand, and his elbow resting upon the table
which stood beside him, without seeming to be conscious of the
entrance or of the presence of his confidant. Varney waited for
some minutes until he should speak, desirous to know what was the
finally predominant mood of a mind through which so many powerful
emotions had that day taken their course. But he waited in vain,
for Leicester continued still silent, and the confidant saw
himself under the necessity of being the first to speak. "May I
congratulate your lordship," he said, "on the deserved
superiority you have this day attained over your most formidable
Leicester raised his head, and answered sadly, but without anger,
"Thou, Varney, whose ready invention has involved me in a web of
most mean and perilous falsehood, knowest best what small reason
there is for gratulation on the subject."
"Do you blame me, my lord," said Varney, "for not betraying, on
the first push, the secret on which your fortunes depended, and
which you have so oft and so earnestly recommended to my safe
keeping? Your lordship was present in person, and might have
contradicted me and ruined yourself by an avowal of the truth;
but surely it was no part of a faithful servant to have done so
without your commands."
"I cannot deny it, Varney," said the Earl, rising and walking
across the room; "my own ambition has been traitor to my love."
"Say rather, my lord, that your love has been traitor to your
greatness, and barred you from such a prospect of honour and
power as the world cannot offer to any other. To make my
honoured lady a countess, you have missed the chance of being
He paused, and seemed unwilling to complete the sentence.
"Of being myself what?" demanded Leicester; "speak out thy
"Of being yourself a KING, my lord," replied Varney; "and King of
England to boot! It is no treason to our Queen to say so. It
would have chanced by her obtaining that which all true subjects
wish her--a lusty, noble, and gallant husband."
"Thou ravest, Varney," answered Leicester. "Besides, our times
have seen enough to make men loathe the Crown Matrimonial which
men take from their wives' lap. There was Darnley of Scotland."
"He!" said Varney; "a, gull, a fool, a thrice-sodden ass, who
suffered himself to be fired off into the air like a rocket on a
rejoicing day. Had Mary had the hap to have wedded the noble
Earl ONCE destined to share her throne, she had experienced a
husband of different metal; and her husband had found in her a
wife as complying and loving as the mate of the meanest squire
who follows the hounds a-horseback, and holds her husband's
bridle as he mounts."
"It might have been as thou sayest, Varney," said Leicester, a
brief smile of self-satisfaction passing over his anxious
countenance. "Henry Darnley knew little of women--with Mary, a
man who knew her sex might have had some chance of holding his
own. But not with Elizabeth, Varney for I thank God, when he
gave her the heart of a woman, gave her the head of a man to
control its follies. No, I know her. She will accept love-
tokens, ay, and requite them with the like--put sugared sonnets
in her bosom, ay, and answer them too--push gallantry to the very
verge where it becomes exchange of affection; but she writes NIL
ULTRA to all which is to follow, and would not barter one iota of
her own supreme power for all the alphabet of both Cupid and
"The better for you, my lord," said Varney--"that is, in the case
supposed, if such be her disposition; since you think you cannot
aspire to become her husband. Her favourite you are, and may
remain, if the lady at Cumnor place continues in her present
"Poor Amy!" said Leicester, with a deep sigh; "she desires so
earnestly to be acknowledged in presence of God and man!"
"Ay, but, my lord," said Varney, "is her desire reasonable? That
is the question. Her religious scruples are solved; she is an
honoured and beloved wife, enjoying the society of her husband at
such times as his weightier duties permit him to afford her his
company. What would she more? I am right sure that a lady so
gentle and so loving would consent to live her life through in a
certain obscurity--which is, after all, not dimmer than when she
was at Lidcote Hall--rather than diminish the least jot of her
lord's honours and greatness by a premature attempt to share
"There is something in what thou sayest," said Leicester, "and
her appearance here were fatal. Yet she must be seen at
Kenilworth; Elizabeth will not forget that she has so appointed."
"Let me sleep on that hard point," said Varney; "I cannot else
perfect the device I have on the stithy, which I trust will
satisfy the Queen and please my honoured lady, yet leave this
fatal secret where it is now buried. Has your lordship further
commands for the night?"
"I would be alone," said Leicester. "Leave me, and place my
steel casket on the table. Be within summons."
Varney retired, and the Earl, opening the window of his
apartment, looked out long and anxiously upon the brilliant host
of stars which glimmered in the splendour of a summer firmament.
The words burst from him as at unawares, "I had never more need
that the heavenly bodies should befriend me, for my earthly path
is darkened and confused."
It is well known that the age reposed a deep confidence in the
vain predictions of judicial astrology, and Leicester, though
exempt from the general control of superstition, was not in this
respect superior to his time, but, on the contrary, was
remarkable for the encouragement which he gave to the professors
of this pretended science. Indeed, the wish to pry into
futurity, so general among the human race, is peculiarly to be
found amongst those who trade in state mysteries and the
dangerous intrigues and cabals of courts. With heedful
precaution to see that it had not been opened, or its locks
tampered with, Leicester applied a key to the steel casket, and
drew from it, first, a parcel of gold pieces, which he put into a
silk purse; then a parchment inscribed with planetary signs, and
the lines and calculations used in framing horoscopes, on which
he gazed intently for a few moments; and, lastly, took forth a
large key, which, lifting aside the tapestry, he applied to a
little, concealed door in the corner of the apartment, and
opening it, disclosed a stair constructed in the thickness of the
"Alasco," said the Earl, with a voice raised, yet no higher
raised than to be heard by the inhabitant of the small turret to
which the stair conducted--"Alasco, I say, descend."
"I come, my lord," answered a voice from above. The foot of an
aged man was heard slowly descending the narrow stair, and Alasco
entered the Earl's apartment. The astrologer was a little man,
and seemed much advanced in age, for his heard was long and
white, and reached over his black doublet down to his silken
girdle. His hair was of the same venerable hue. But his
eyebrows were as dark as the keen and piercing black eyes which
they shaded, and this peculiarity gave a wild and singular cast
to the physiognomy of the old man. His cheek was still fresh and
ruddy, and the eyes we have mentioned resembled those of a rat in
acuteness and even fierceness of expression. His manner was not
without a sort of dignity; and the interpreter of the stars,
though respectful, seemed altogether at his ease, and even
assumed a tone of instruction and command in conversing with the
prime favourite of Elizabeth.
"Your prognostications have failed, Alasco," said the Earl, when
they had exchanged salutations--"he is recovering."
"My son," replied the astrologer, "let me remind you I warranted
not his death; nor is there any prognostication that can be
derived from the heavenly bodies, their aspects and their
conjunctions, which is not liable to be controlled by the will of
Heaven. ASTRA REGUNT HOMINES, SED REGIT ASTRA DEUS."
"Of what avail, then, is your mystery?" inquired the Earl.
"Of much, my son," replied the old man, "since it can show the
natural and probable course of events, although that course moves
in subordination to an Higher Power. Thus, in reviewing the
horoscope which your Lordship subjected to my skill, you will
observe that Saturn, being in the sixth House in opposition to
Mars, retrograde in the House of Life, cannot but denote long and
dangerous sickness, the issue whereof is in the will of Heaven,
though death may probably be inferred. Yet if I knew the name of
the party I would erect another scheme."
"His name is a secret," said the Earl; "yet, I must own, thy
prognostication hath not been unfaithful. He has been sick, and
dangerously so, not, however, to death. But hast thou again cast
my horoscope as Varney directed thee, and art thou prepared to
say what the stars tell of my present fortune?"
"My art stands at your command," said the old man; "and here, my
son, is the map of thy fortunes, brilliant in aspect as ever
beamed from those blessed signs whereby our life is influenced,
yet not unchequered with fears, difficulties, and dangers."
"My lot were more than mortal were it otherwise," said the Earl.
"Proceed, father, and believe you speak with one ready to undergo
his destiny in action and in passion as may beseem a noble of
"Thy courage to do and to suffer must be wound up yet a strain
higher," said the old man. "The stars intimate yet a prouder
title, yet an higher rank. It is for thee to guess their
meaning, not for me to name it."
"Name it, I conjure you--name it, I command you!" said the Earl,
his eyes brightening as he spoke.
"I may not, and I will not," replied the old man. "The ire of
princes Is as the wrath of the lion. But mark, and judge for
thyself. Here Venus, ascendant in the House of Life, and
conjoined with Sol, showers down that flood of silver light,
blent with gold, which promises power, wealth, dignity, all that
the proud heart of man desires, and in such abundance that never
the future Augustus of that old and mighty Rome heard from his
HARUSPICES such a tale of glory, as from this rich text my lore
might read to my favourite son."
"Thou dost but jest with me, father," said the Earl, astonished
at the strain of enthusiasm in which the astrologer delivered his
"Is it for him to jest who hath his eye on heaven, who hath his
foot in the grave?" returned the old man solemnly.
The Earl made two or three strides through the apartment, with
his hand outstretched, as one who follows the beckoning signal of
some phantom, waving him on to deeds of high import. As he
turned, however, he caught the eye of the astrologer fixed on
him, while an observing glance of the most shrewd penetration
shot from under the penthouse of his shaggy, dark eyebrows.
Leicester's haughty and suspicious soul at once caught fire. He
darted towards the old man from the farther end of the lofty
apartment, only standing still when his extended hand was within
a foot of the astrologer's body.
"Wretch!" he said, "if you dare to palter with me, I will have
your skin stripped from your living flesh! Confess thou hast
been hired to deceive and to betray me--that thou art a cheat,
and I thy silly prey and booty!"
The old man exhibited some symptoms of emotion, but not more than
the furious deportment of his patron might have extorted from
"What means this violence, my lord?" he answered, "or in what
can I have deserved it at your hand?"
"Give me proof," said the Earl vehemently, "that you have not
tampered with mine enemies."
"My lord," replied the old man, with dignity, "you can have no
better proof than that which you yourself elected. In that
turret I have spent the last twenty-four hours under the key
which has been in your own custody. The hours of darkness I have
spent in gazing on the heavenly bodies with these dim eyes, and
during those of light I have toiled this aged brain to complete
the calculation arising from their combinations. Earthly food I
have not tasted--earthly voice I have not heard. You are
yourself aware I had no means of doing so; and yet I tell you--I
who have been thus shut up in solitude and study--that within
these twenty-four hours your star has become predominant in the
horizon, and either the bright book of heaven speaks false, or
there must have been a proportionate revolution in your fortunes
upon earth. If nothing has happened within that space to secure
your power, or advance your favour, then am I indeed a cheat, and
the divine art, which was first devised in the plains of Chaldea,
is a foul imposture."
"It is true," said Leicester, after a moment's reflection, "thou
wert closely immured; and it is also true that the change has
taken place in my situation which thou sayest the horoscope
"Wherefore this distrust then, my son?" said the astrologer,
assuming a tone of admonition; "the celestial intelligences brook
not diffidence, even in their favourites."
"Peace, father," answered Leicester, "I have erred in doubting
thee. Not to mortal man, nor to celestial intelligence--under
that which is supreme--will Dudley's lips say more in
condescension or apology. Speak rather to the present purpose.
Amid these bright promises thou hast said there was a threatening
aspect. Can thy skill tell whence, or by whose means, such
danger seems to impend?"
"Thus far only," answered the astrologer, "does my art enable me
to answer your query. The infortune is threatened by the
malignant and adverse aspect, through means of a youth, and, as I
think, a rival; but whether in love or in prince's favour, I know
not nor can I give further indication respecting him, save that
he comes from the western quarter."
"The western--ha!" replied Leicester, "it is enough--the tempest
does indeed brew in that quarter! Cornwall and Devon--Raleigh
and Tressilian--one of them is indicated-I must beware of both.
Father, if I have done thy skill injustice, I will make thee a
He took a purse of gold from the strong casket which stood before
him. "Have thou double the recompense which Varney promised. Be
faithful--be secret--obey the directions thou shalt receive from
my master of the horse, and grudge not a little seclusion or
restraint in my cause--it shall be richly considered.--Here,
Varney--conduct this venerable man to thine own lodging; tend him
heedfully in all things, but see that he holds communication with
Varney bowed, and the astrologer kissed the Earl's hand in token
of adieu, and followed the master of the horse to another
apartment, in which were placed wine and refreshments for his
The astrologer sat down to his repast, while Varney shut two
doors with great precaution, examined the tapestry, lest any
listener lurked behind it, and then sitting down opposite to the
sage, began to question him.
"Saw you my signal from the court beneath?"
"I did," said Alasco, for by such name he was at present called,
"and shaped the horoscope accordingly."
"And it passed upon the patron without challenge?" continued
"Not without challenge," replied the old man, "but it did pass;
and I added, as before agreed, danger from a discovered secret,
and a western youth."
"My lord's fear will stand sponsor to the one, and his conscience
to the other, of these prognostications," replied Varney. "Sure
never man chose to run such a race as his, yet continued to
retain those silly scruples! I am fain to cheat him to his own
profit. But touching your matters, sage interpreter of the
stars, I can tell you more of your own fortune than plan or
figure can show. You must be gone from hence forthwith."
"I will not," said Alasco peevishly. "I have been too much
hurried up and down of late--immured for day and night in a
desolate turret-chamber. I must enjoy my liberty, and pursue my
studies, which are of more import than the fate of fifty
statesmen and favourites that rise and burst like bubbles in the
atmosphere of a court."
"At your pleasure," said Varney, with a sneer that habit had
rendered familiar to his features, and which forms the principal
characteristic which painters have assigned to that of Satan--"at
your pleasure," he said; "you may enjoy your liberty and your
studies until the daggers of Sussex's followers are clashing
within your doublet and against your ribs." The old man turned
pale, and Varney proceeded. "Wot you not he hath offered a
reward for the arch-quack and poison-vender, Demetrius, who sold
certain precious spices to his lordship's cook? What! turn you
pale, old friend? Does Hali already see an infortune in the
House of Life? Why, hark thee, we will have thee down to an old
house of mine in the country, where thou shalt live with a
hobnailed slave, whom thy alchemy may convert into ducats, for to
such conversion alone is thy art serviceable."
"It is false, thou foul-mouthed railer," said Alasco, shaking
with impotent anger; "it is well known that I have approached
more nearly to projection than any hermetic artist who now lives.
There are not six chemists in the world who possess so near an
approximation to the grand arcanum--"
"Come, come," said Varney, interrupting him, "what means this, in
the name of Heaven? Do we not know one another? I believe thee
to be so perfect--so very perfect--in the mystery of cheating,
that, having imposed upon all mankind, thou hast at length in
some measure imposed upon thyself, and without ceasing to dupe
others, hast become a species of dupe to thine own imagination.
Blush not for it, man--thou art learned, and shalt have classical
'Ne quisquam Ajacem possit superare nisi Ajax.'
No one but thyself could have gulled thee; and thou hast gulled
the whole brotherhood of the Rosy Cross besides--none so deep in
the mystery as thou. But hark thee in thine ear: had the
seasoning which spiced Sussex's broth wrought more surely, I
would have thought better of the chemical science thou dost boast
"Thou art an hardened villain, Varney," replied Alasco; "many
will do those things who dare not speak of them."
"And many speak of them who dare not do them," answered Varney.
"But be not wroth--I will not quarrel with thee. If I did, I
were fain to live on eggs for a month, that I might feed without
fear. Tell me at once, how came thine art to fail thee at this
"The Earl of Sussex's horoscope intimates," replied the
astrologer, "that the sign of the ascendant being in combustion
"Away with your gibberish," replied Varney; "thinkest thou it is
the patron thou speakest with?"
"I crave your pardon," replied the old man, "and swear to you I
know but one medicine that could have saved the Earl's life; and
as no man living in England knows that antidote save myself--
moreover, as the ingredients, one of them in particular, are
scarce possible to be come by, I must needs suppose his escape
was owing to such a constitution of lungs and vital parts as was
never before bound up in a body of clay."
"There was some talk of a quack who waited on him," said Varney,
after a moment's reflection. "Are you sure there is no one in
England who has this secret of thine?"
"One man there was," said the doctor, "once my servant, who might
have stolen this of me, with one or two other secrets of art.
But content you, Master Varney, it is no part of my policy to
suffer such interlopers to interfere in my trade. He pries into
no mysteries more, I warrant you, for, as I well believe, he hath
been wafted to heaven on the wing of a fiery dragon--peace be
with him! But in this retreat of mine shall I have the use of
"Of a whole workshop, man," said Varney; "for a reverend father
abbot, who was fain to give place to bluff King Hal and some of
his courtiers, a score of years since, had a chemist's complete
apparatus, which he was obliged to leave behind him to his
successors. Thou shalt there occupy, and melt, and puff, and
blaze, and multiply, until the Green Dragon become a golden
goose, or whatever the newer phrase of the brotherhood may
"Thou art right, Master Varney," said the alchemist setting his
teeth close and grinding them together--"thou art right even in
thy very contempt of right and reason. For what thou sayest in
mockery may in sober verity chance to happen ere we meet again.
If the most venerable sages of ancient days have spoken the
truth--if the most learned of our own have rightly received it;
if I have been accepted wherever I travelled in Germany, in
Poland, in Italy, and in the farther Tartary, as one to whom
nature has unveiled her darkest secrets; if I have acquired the
most secret signs and passwords of the Jewish Cabala, so that the
greyest beard in the synagogue would brush the steps to make them
clean for me;--if all this is so, and if there remains but one
step--one little step--betwixt my long, deep, and dark, and
subterranean progress, and that blaze of light which shall show
Nature watching her richest and her most glorious productions in
the very cradle--one step betwixt dependence and the power of
sovereignty--one step betwixt poverty and such a sum of wealth as
earth, without that noble secret, cannot minister from all her
mines in the old or the new-found world; if this be all so, is it
not reasonable that to this I dedicate my future life, secure,
for a brief period of studious patience, to rise above the mean
dependence upon favourites, and THEIR favourites, by which I am
"Now, bravo! bravo! my good father," said Varney, with the
usual sardonic expression of ridicule on his countenance; "yet
all this approximation to the philosopher's stone wringeth not
one single crown out of my Lord Leicester's pouch, and far less
out of Richard Varney's. WE must have earthly and substantial
services, man, and care not whom else thou canst delude with thy
"My son Varney," said the alchemist, "the unbelief, gathered
around thee like a frost-fog, hath dimmed thine acute perception
to that which is a stumbling-block to the wise, and which yet, to
him who seeketh knowledge with humility, extends a lesson so
clear that he who runs may read. Hath not Art, thinkest thou,
the means of completing Nature's imperfect concoctions in her
attempts to form the precious metals, even as by art we can
perfect those other operations of incubation, distillation,
fermentation, and similar processes of an ordinary description,
by which we extract life itself out of a senseless egg, summon
purity and vitality out of muddy dregs, or call into vivacity the
inert substance of a sluggish liquid?"
"I have heard all this before," said Varney, "and my heart is
proof against such cant ever since I sent twenty good gold pieces
(marry, it was in the nonage of my wit) to advance the grand
magisterium, all which, God help the while, vanished IN FUMO.
Since that moment, when I paid for my freedom, I defy chemistry,
astrology, palmistry, and every other occult art, were it as
secret as hell itself, to unloose the stricture of my purse-
strings. Marry, I neither defy the manna of Saint Nicholas, nor
can I dispense with it. The first task must be to prepare some
when thou gett'st down to my little sequestered retreat yonder,
and then make as much gold as thou wilt."
"I will make no more of that dose," said the alchemist,
"Then," said the master of the horse, "thou shalt be hanged for
what thou hast made already, and so were the great secret for
ever lost to mankind. Do not humanity this injustice, good
father, but e'en bend to thy destiny, and make us an ounce or two
of this same stuff; which cannot prejudice above one or two
individuals, in order to gain lifetime to discover the universal
medicine, which shall clear away all mortal diseases at once.
But cheer up, thou grave, learned, and most melancholy jackanape!
Hast thou not told me that a moderate portion of thy drug hath
mild effects, no ways ultimately dangerous to the human frame,
but which produces depression of spirits, nausea, headache, an
unwillingness to change of place--even such a state of temper as
would keep a bird from flying out of a cage were the door left
"I have said so, and it is true," said the alchemist. "This
effect will it produce, and the bird who partakes of it in such
proportion shall sit for a season drooping on her perch, without
thinking either of the free blue sky, or of the fair greenwood,
though the one be lighted by the rays of the rising sun, and the
other ringing with the newly-awakened song of all the feathered
inhabitants of the forest."
"And this without danger to life?" said Varney, somewhat
"Ay, so that proportion and measure be not exceeded; and so that
one who knows the nature of the manna be ever near to watch the
symptoms, and succour in case of need."
"Thou shalt regulate the whole," said Varney. "Thy reward shall
be princely, if thou keepest time and touch, and exceedest not
the due proportion, to the prejudice of her health; otherwise thy
punishment shall be as signal."
"The prejudice of HER health!" repeated Alasco; "it is, then, a
woman I am to use my skill upon?"
"No, thou fool," replied Varney, "said I not it was a bird--a
reclaimed linnet, whose pipe might soothe a hawk when in mid
stoop? I see thine eye sparkle, and I know thy beard is not
altogether so white as art has made it--THAT, at least, thou hast
been able to transmute to silver. But mark me, this is no mate
for thee. This caged bird is dear to one who brooks no rivalry,
and far less such rivalry as thine, and her health must over all
things be cared for. But she is in the case of being commanded
down to yonder Kenilworth revels, and it is most expedient--most
needful--most necessary that she fly not thither. Of these
necessities and their causes, it is not needful that she should
know aught; and it is to be thought that her own wish may lead
her to combat all ordinary reasons which can be urged for her
remaining a housekeeper."
"That is but natural," said the alchemist with a strange smile,
which yet bore a greater reference to the human character than
the uninterested and abstracted gaze which his physiognomy had
hitherto expressed, where all seemed to refer to some world
distant from that which was existing around him.
"It is so," answered Varney; "you understand women well, though
it may have been long since you were conversant amongst them.
Well, then, she is not to be contradicted; yet she is not to be
humoured. Understand me--a slight illness, sufficient to take
away the desire of removing from thence, and to make such of your
wise fraternity as may be called in to aid, recommend a quiet
residence at home, will, in one word, be esteemed good service,
and remunerated as such."
"I am not to be asked to affect the House of Life?" said the
"On the contrary, we will have thee hanged if thou dost," replied
"And I must," added Alasco, "have opportunity to do my turn, and
all facilities for concealment or escape, should there be
"All, all, and everything, thou infidel in all but the
impossibilities of alchemy. Why, man, for what dost thou take
The old man rose, and taking a light walked towards the end of
the apartment, where was a door that led to the small sleeping-
room destined for his reception during the night. At the door he
turned round, and slowly repeated Varney's question ere he
answered it. "For what do I take thee, Richard Varney? Why, for
a worse devil than I have been myself. But I am in your toils,
and I must serve you till my term be out."
"Well, well," answered Varney hastily, "be stirring with grey
light. It may be we shall not need thy medicine--do nought till
I myself come down. Michael Lambourne shall guide you to the
place of your destination." [See Note 7. Dr. Julio.]
When Varney heard the adept's door shut and carefully bolted
within, he stepped towards it, and with similar precaution
carefully locked it on the outside, and took the key from the
lock, muttering to himself, "Worse than THEE, thou poisoning
quacksalver and witch-monger, who, if thou art not a bounden
slave to the devil, it is only because he disdains such an
apprentice! I am a mortal man, and seek by mortal means the
gratification of my passions and advancement of my prospects;
thou art a vassal of hell itself--So ho, Lambourne!" he called
at another door, and Michael made his appearance with a flushed
cheek and an unsteady step.
"Thou art drunk, thou villain!" said Varney to him.
"Doubtless, noble sir," replied the unabashed Michael; "We have
been drinking all even to the glories of the day, and to my noble
Lord of Leicester and his valiant master of the horse. Drunk!
odds blades and poniards, he that would refuse to swallow a dozen
healths on such an evening is a base besognio, and a puckfoist,
and shall swallow six inches of my dagger!"
"Hark ye, scoundrel," said Varney, "be sober on the instant--I
command thee. I know thou canst throw off thy drunken folly,
like a fool's coat, at pleasure; and if not, it were the worse
Lambourne drooped his head, left the apartment, and returned in
two or three minutes with his face composed, his hair adjusted,
his dress in order, and exhibiting as great a difference from his
former self as if the whole man had been changed.
"Art thou sober now, and dost thou comprehend me?" said Varney
Lambourne bowed in acquiescence.
"Thou must presently down to Cumnor Place with the reverend man
of art who sleeps yonder in the little vaulted chamber. Here is
the key, that thou mayest call him by times. Take another trusty
fellow with you. Use him well on the journey, but let him not
escape you--pistol him if he attempt it, and I will be your
warrant. I will give thee letters to Foster. The doctor is to
occupy the lower apartments of the eastern quadrangle, with
freedom to use the old elaboratory and its implements. He is to
have no access to the lady, but such as I shall point out--only
she may be amused to see his philosophical jugglery. Thou wilt
await at Cumnor Place my further orders; and, as thou livest,
beware of the ale-bench and the aqua vitae flask. Each breath
drawn in Cumnor Place must be kept severed from common air."
"Enough, my lord--I mean my worshipful master, soon, I trust, to
be my worshipful knightly master. You have given me my lesson
and my license; I will execute the one, and not abuse the other.
I will be in the saddle by daybreak."
"Do so, and deserve favour. Stay--ere thou goest fill me a cup
of wine--not out of that flask, sirrah," as Lambourne was pouring
out from that which Alasco had left half finished, "fetch me a
Lambourne obeyed, and Varney, after rinsing his mouth with the
liquor, drank a full cup, and said, as he took up a lamp to
retreat to his sleeping apartment, "It is strange--I am as little
the slave of fancy as any one, yet I never speak for a few
minutes with this fellow Alasco, but my mouth and lungs feel as
if soiled with the fumes of calcined arsenic--pah!"
So saying, he left the apartment. Lambourne lingered, to drink a
cup of the freshly-opened flask. "It is from Saint John's-Berg,"
he said, as he paused on the draught to enjoy its flavour, "and
has the true relish of the violet. But I must forbear it now,
that I may one day drink it at my own pleasure." And he quaffed
a goblet of water to quench the fumes of the Rhenish wine,
retired slowly towards the door, made a pause, and then, finding
the temptation irresistible, walked hastily back, and took
another long pull at the wine flask, without the formality of a
"Were it not for this accursed custom," he said, "I might climb
as high as Varney himself. But who can climb when the room turns
round with him like a parish-top? I would the distance were
greater, or the road rougher, betwixt my hand and mouth! But I
will drink nothing to-morrow save water--nothing save fair
PISTOL. And tidings do I bring, and lucky joys,
And happy news of price.
FALSTAFF. I prithee now deliver them like to men of this world.
PISTOL. A foutra for the world, and worldlings base!
I speak of Africa, and golden joys. HENRY IV. PART II.
The public room of the Black Bear at Cumnor, to which the scene
of our story now returns, boasted, on the evening which we treat
of, no ordinary assemblage of guests. There had been a fair in
the neighbourhood, and the cutting mercer of Abingdon, with some
of the other personages whom the reader has already been made
acquainted with, as friends and customers of Giles Gosling, had
already formed their wonted circle around the evening fire, and
were talking over the news of the day.
A lively, bustling, arch fellow, whose pack, and oaken ellwand
studded duly with brass points, denoted him to be of Autolycus's
profession, occupied a good deal of the attention, and furnished
much of the amusement, of the evening. The pedlars of those
days, it must be remembered, were men of far greater importance
than the degenerate and degraded hawkers of our modern times. It
was by means of these peripatetic venders that the country trade,
in the finer manufactures used in female dress particularly, was
almost entirely carried on; and if a merchant of this description
arrived at the dignity of travelling with a pack-horse, he was a
person of no small consequence, and company for the most
substantial yeoman or franklin whom he might meet in his
The pedlar of whom we speak bore, accordingly, an active and
unrebuked share in the merriment to which the rafters of the
bonny Black Bear of Cumnor resounded. He had his smile with
pretty Mistress Cicely, his broad laugh with mine host, and his
jest upon dashing Master Goldthred, who, though indeed without
any such benevolent intention on his own part, was the general
butt of the evening. The pedlar and he were closely engaged in a
dispute upon the preference due to the Spanish nether-stock over
the black Gascoigne hose, and mine host had just winked to the
guests around him, as who should say, "You will have mirth
presently, my masters," when the trampling of horses was heard in
the courtyard, and the hostler was loudly summoned, with a few of
the newest oaths then in vogue to add force to the invocation.
Out tumbled Will Hostler, John Tapster, and all the militia of
the inn, who had slunk from their posts in order to collect some
scattered crumbs of the mirth which was flying about among the
customers. Out into the yard sallied mine host himself also, to
do fitting salutation to his new guests; and presently returned,
ushering into the apartment his own worthy nephew, Michael
Lambourne, pretty tolerably drunk, and having under his escort
the astrologer. Alasco, though still a little old man, had, by
altering his gown to a riding-dress, trimming his beard and
eyebrows, and so forth, struck at least a score of years from his
apparent age, and might now seem an active man of sixty, or
little upwards. He appeared at present exceedingly anxious, and
had insisted much with Lambourne that they should not enter the
inn, but go straight forward to the place of their destination.
But Lambourne would not be controlled. "By Cancer and
Capricorn," he vociferated, "and the whole heavenly host, besides
all the stars that these blessed eyes of mine have seen sparkle
in the southern heavens, to which these northern blinkers are but
farthing candles, I will be unkindly for no one's humour--I will
stay and salute my worthy uncle here. Chesu! that good blood
should ever be forgotten betwixt friends!--A gallon of your best,
uncle, and let it go round to the health of the noble Earl of
Leicester! What! shall we not collogue together, and warm the
cockles of our ancient kindness?--shall we not collogue, I say?"
"With all my heart, kinsman," said mine host, who obviously
wished to be rid of him; "but are you to stand shot to all this
This is a question has quelled many a jovial toper, but it moved
not the purpose of Lambourne's soul, "Question my means, nuncle?"
he said, producing a handful of mixed gold and silver pieces;
"question Mexico and Peru--question the Queen's exchequer--God
save her Majesty!--she is my good Lord's good mistress."
"Well, kinsman," said mine host, "it is my business to sell wine
to those who can buy it--so, Jack Tapster, do me thine office.
But I would I knew how to come by money as lightly as thou dost,
"Why, uncle," said Lambourne, "I will tell thee a secret. Dost
see this little old fellow here? as old and withered a chip as
ever the devil put into his porridge--and yet, uncle, between you
and me--he hath Potosi in that brain of his--'sblood! he can
coin ducats faster than I can vent oaths."
"I will have none of his coinage in my purse, though, Michael,"
said mine host; "I know what belongs to falsifying the Queen's
"Thou art an ass, uncle, for as old as thou art.--Pull me not by
the skirts, doctor, thou art an ass thyself to boot--so, being
both asses, I tell ye I spoke but metaphorically."
"Are you mad?' said the old man; "is the devil in you? Can you
not let us begone without drawing all men's eyes on us?"
"Sayest thou?" said Lambourne. "Thou art deceived now--no man
shall see you, an I give the word.--By heavens, masters, an any
one dare to look on this old gentleman, I will slash the eyes out
of his head with my poniard!--So sit down, old friend, and be
merry; these are mine ingles--mine ancient inmates, and will
betray no man."
"Had you not better withdraw to a private apartment, nephew?"
said Giles Gosling. "You speak strange matter," he added, "and
there be intelligencers everywhere."
"I care not for them," said the magnanimous Michael--
"intelligencers? pshaw! I serve the noble Earl of Leicester.
--Here comes the wine.--Fill round, Master Skinker, a carouse to
the health of the flower of England, the noble Earl of Leicester!
I say, the noble Earl of Leicester! He that does me not reason
is a swine of Sussex, and I'll make him kneel to the pledge, if I
should cut his hams and smoke them for bacon."
None disputed a pledge given under such formidable penalties; and
Michael Lambourne, whose drunken humour was not of course
diminished by this new potation, went on in the same wild way,
renewing his acquaintance with such of the guests as he had
formerly known, and experiencing a reception in which there was
now something of deference mingled with a good deal of fear; for
the least servitor of the favourite Earl, especially such a man
as Lambourne, was, for very sufficient reasons, an object both of
the one and of the other.
In the meanwhile, the old man, seeing his guide in this
uncontrollable humour, ceased to remonstrate with him, and
sitting down in the most obscure corner of the room, called for a
small measure of sack, over which he seemed, as it were, to
slumber, withdrawing himself as much as possible from general
observation, and doing nothing which could recall his existence
to the recollection of his fellow-traveller, who by this time had
got into close intimacy with his ancient comrade, Goldthred of
"Never believe me, bully Mike," said the mercer, "if I am not as
glad to see thee as ever I was to see a customer's money! Why,
thou canst give a friend a sly place at a mask or a revel now,
Mike; ay, or, I warrant thee, thou canst say in my lord's ear,
when my honourable lord is down in these parts, and wants a
Spanish ruff or the like--thou canst say in his ear, There is
mine old friend, young Lawrence Goldthred of Abingdon, has as
good wares, lawn, tiffany, cambric, and so forth--ay, and is as
pretty a piece of man's flesh, too, as is in Berkshire, and will
ruffle it for your lordship with any man of his inches; and thou
"I can say a hundred d--d lies besides, mercer," answered
Lambourne; "what, one must not stand upon a good word for a
"Here is to thee, Mike, with all my heart," said the mercer; "and
thou canst tell one the reality of the new fashions too. Here
was a rogue pedlar but now was crying up the old-fashioned
Spanish nether-stock over the Gascoigne hose, although thou seest
how well the French hose set off the leg and knee, being adorned
with parti-coloured garters and garniture in conformity."
"Excellent, excellent," replied Lambourne; "why, thy limber bit
of a thigh, thrust through that bunch of slashed buckram and
tiffany, shows like a housewife's distaff when the flax is half
"Said I not so?" said the mercer, whose shallow brain was now
overflowed in his turn; "where, then, where be this rascal
pedlar?--there was a pedlar here but now, methinks.--Mine host,
where the foul fiend is this pedlar?"
"Where wise men should be, Master Goldthred," replied Giles
Gosling; "even shut up in his private chamber, telling over the
sales of to-day, and preparing for the custom of to-morrow."
"Hang him, a mechanical chuff!" said the mercer; "but for shame,
it were a good deed to ease him of his wares--a set of peddling
knaves, who stroll through the land, and hurt the established
trader. There are good fellows in Berkshire yet, mine host--your
pedlar may be met withal on Maiden Castle."
"Ay," replied mine host, laughing, "and he who meets him may meet
his match--the pedlar is a tall man."
"Is he?" said Goldthred.
"Is he?" replied the host; "ay, by cock and pie is he--the very
pedlar he who raddled Robin Hood so tightly, as the song says,--
'Now Robin Hood drew his sword so good,
The pedlar drew his brand,
And he hath raddled him, Robin Hood,
Till he neither could see nor stand.'"
"Hang him, foul scroyle, let him pass," said the mercer; "if he
be such a one, there were small worship to be won upon him.--And
now tell me, Mike--my honest Mike, how wears the Hollands you won
"Why, well, as you may see, Master Goldthred," answered Mike; "I
will bestow a pot on thee for the handsel.--Fill the flagon,
"Thou wilt win no more Hollands, think, on such wager, friend
Mike," said the mercer; "for the sulky swain, Tony Foster, rails
at thee all to nought, and swears you shall ne'er darken his
doors again, for that your oaths are enough to blow the roof off
a Christian man's dwelling."
"Doth he say so, the mincing, hypocritical miser?" vociferated
Lambourne. "Why, then, he shall come down and receive my
commands here, this blessed night, under my uncle's roof! And I
will ring him such a black sanctus, that he shall think the devil
hath him by the skirts for a month to come, for barely hearing
"Nay, now the pottle-pot is uppermost, with a witness!" said the
mercer. "Tony Foster obey thy whistle! Alas! good Mike, go
"I tell thee what, thou thin-faced gull," said Michael Lambourne,
in high chafe, "I will wager thee fifty angels against the first
five shelves of thy shop, numbering upward from the false light,
with all that is on them, that I make Tony Foster come down to
this public-house before we have finished three rounds."
"I will lay no bet to that amount," said the mercer, something
sobered by an offer which intimated rather too private a
knowledge on Lambourne's part of the secret recesses of his shop.
"I will lay no such wager," he said; "but I will stake five
angels against thy five, if thou wilt, that Tony Foster will not
leave his own roof, or come to ale-house after prayer time, for
thee, or any man."
"Content," said Lambourne.--"Here, uncle, hold stakes, and let
one of your young bleed-barrels there--one of your infant
tapsters--trip presently up to The Place, and give this letter to
Master Foster, and say that I, his ingle, Michael Lambourne, pray
to speak with him at mine uncle's castle here, upon business of
grave import.--Away with thee, child, for it is now sundown, and
the wretch goeth to bed with the birds to save mutton-suet--
Shortly after this messenger was dispatched--an interval which
was spent in drinking and buffoonery--he returned with the answer
that Master Foster was coming presently.
"Won, won!" said Lambourne, darting on the stakes.
"Not till he comes, if you please," said the mercer, interfering.
"Why, 'sblood, he is at the threshold," replied Michael.--"What
said he, boy?"
"If it please your worship," answered the messenger, "he looked
out of window, with a musquetoon in his hand, and when I
delivered your errand, which I did with fear and trembling, he
said, with a vinegar aspect, that your worship might be gone to
the infernal regions."
"Or to hell, I suppose," said Lambourne--"it is there he disposes
of all that are not of the congregation."
"Even so," said the boy; "I used the other phrase as being the
"An ingenious youth," said Michael; "shalt have a drop to whet
thy poetical whistle. And what said Foster next?"
"He called me back," answered the boy, "and bid me say you might
come to him if you had aught to say to him."
"And what next?" said Lambourne.
"He read the letter, and seemed in a fluster, and asked if your
worship was in drink; and I said you were speaking a little
Spanish, as one who had been in the Canaries."
"Out, you diminutive pint-pot, whelped of an overgrown
reckoning!" replied Lambourne--"out! But what said he then?"
"Why," said the boy, "he muttered that if he came not your
worship would bolt out what were better kept in; and so he took
his old flat cap, and threadbare blue cloak, and, as I said
before, he will be here incontinent."
"There is truth in what he said," replied Lambourne, as if
speaking to himself--"my brain has played me its old dog's trick.
But corragio--let him approach!--I have not rolled about in the
world for many a day to fear Tony Foster, be I drunk or sober.--
Bring me a flagon of cold water to christen my sack withal."
While Lambourne, whom the approach of Foster seemed to have
recalled to a sense of his own condition, was busied in preparing
to receive him, Giles Gosling stole up to the apartment of the
pedlar, whom he found traversing the room in much agitation.
"You withdrew yourself suddenly from the company," said the
landlord to the guest.
"It was time, when the devil became one among you," replied the
"It is not courteous in you to term my nephew by such a name,"
said Gosling, "nor is it kindly in me to reply to it; and yet, in
some sort, Mike may be considered as a limb of Satan."
"Pooh--I talk not of the swaggering ruffian," replied the pedlar;
"it is of the other, who, for aught I know--But when go they? or
wherefore come they?"
"Marry, these are questions I cannot answer," replied the host.
"But look you, sir, you have brought me a token from worthy
Master Tressilian--a pretty stone it is." He took out the ring,
and looked at it, adding, as he put it into his purse again, that
it was too rich a guerdon for anything he could do for the worthy
donor. He was, he said, in the public line, and it ill became
him to be too inquisitive into other folk's concerns. He had
already said that he could hear nothing but that the lady lived
still at Cumnor Place in the closest seclusion, and, to such as
by chance had a view of her, seemed pensive and discontented with
her solitude. "But here," he said, "if you are desirous to
gratify your master, is the rarest chance that hath occurred for
this many a day. Tony Foster is coming down hither, and it is
but letting Mike Lambourne smell another wine-flask, and the
Queen's command would not move him from the ale-bench. So they
are fast for an hour or so. Now, if you will don your pack,
which will be your best excuse, you may, perchance, win the ear
of the old servant, being assured of the master's absence, to let
you try to get some custom of the lady; and then you may learn
more of her condition than I or any other can tell you."
"True--very true," answered Wayland, for he it was; "an excellent
device, but methinks something dangerous--for, say Foster should
"Very possible indeed," replied the host.
"Or say," continued Way]and, "the lady should render me cold
thanks for my exertions?"
"As is not unlikely," replied Giles Gosling. "I marvel Master
Tressilian will take such heed of her that cares not for him."
"In either case I were foully sped," said Wayland, "and therefore
I do not, on the whole, much relish your device."
"Nay, but take me with you, good master serving-man," replied
mine host. "This is your master's business, and not mine:, you
best know the risk to be encountered, or how far you are willing
to brave it. But that which you will not yourself hazard, you
cannot expect others to risk."
"Hold, hold," said Wayland; "tell me but one thing--goes yonder
old man up to Cumnor?"
"Surely, I think so?" said the landlord; "their servant said he
was to take their baggage thither. But the ale-tap has been as
potent for him as the sack-spigot has been for Michael."
"It is enough," said Wayland, assuming an air of resolution. "I
will thwart that old villain's projects; my affright at his
baleful aspect begins to abate, and my hatred to arise. Help me
on with my pack, good mine host.--And look to thyself, old
Albumazar; there is a malignant influence in thy horoscope, and
it gleams from the constellation Ursa Major."
So saying, he assumed his burden, and, guided by the landlord
through the postern gate of the Black Bear, took the most private
way from thence up to Cumnor Place.
CLOWN. You have of these pedlars, that have more in'em than
you'd think, sister.--WINTER'S TALE, ACT IV., SCENE 3.
In his anxiety to obey the Earl's repeated charges of secrecy, as
well as from his own unsocial and miserly habits, Anthony Foster
was more desirous, by his mode of housekeeping, to escape
observation than to resist intrusive curiosity. Thus, instead of
a numerous household, to secure his charge, and defend his house,
he studied as much as possible to elude notice by diminishing his
attendants; so that, unless when there were followers of the
Earl, or of Varney, in the mansion, one old male domestic, and
two aged crones, who assisted in keeping the Countess's
apartments in order, were the only servants of the family.
It was one of these old women who opened the door when Wayland
knocked, and answered his petition, to be admitted to exhibit his
wares to the ladies of the family, with a volley of vituperation,
couched in what is there called the JOWRING dialect. The pedlar
found the means of checking this vociferation by slipping a
silver groat into her hand, and intimating the present of some
stuff for a coif, if the lady would buy of his wares.
"God ield thee, for mine is aw in littocks. Slocket with thy
pack into gharn, mon--her walks in gharn." Into the garden she
ushered the pedlar accordingly, and pointing to an old, ruinous
garden house, said, "Yonder be's her, mon--yonder be's her. Zhe
will buy changes an zhe loikes stuffs."
"She has left me to come off as I may," thought Wayland, as he
heard the hag shut the garden-door behind him. "But they shall
not beat me, and they dare not murder me, for so little trespass,
and by this fair twilight. Hang it, I will on--a brave general
never thought of his retreat till he was defeated. I see two
females in the old garden-house yonder--but how to address them?
Stay--Will Shakespeare, be my friend in need. I will give them a
taste of Autolycus." He then sung, with a good voice, and
becoming audacity, the popular playhouse ditty,--
"Lawn as white as driven snow,
Cyprus black as e'er was crow,
Gloves as sweet as damask roses,
Masks for faces and for noses."
"What hath fortune sent us here for an unwonted sight, Janet?"
said the lady.
"One of those merchants of vanity, called pedlars," answered
Janet, demurely, "who utters his light wares in lighter measures.
I marvel old Dorcas let him pass."
"It is a lucky chance, girl," said the Countess; "we lead a heavy
life here, and this may while off a weary hour."
"Ay, my gracious lady," said Janet; "but my father?"
"He is not my father, Janet, nor I hope my master," answered the
lady. "I say, call the man hither--I want some things."
"Nay," replied Janet, "your ladyship has but to say so in the
next packet, and if England can furnish them they will be sent.
There will come mischief on't--pray, dearest lady, let me bid the
"I will have thee bid him come hither," said the Countess;--"or
stay, thou terrified fool, I will bid him myself, and spare thee
"Ah! well-a-day, dearest lady, if that were the worst," said
Janet sadly; while the lady called to the pedlar, "Good fellow,
step forward--undo thy pack; if thou hast good wares, chance has
sent thee hither for my convenience and thy profit."
"What may your ladyship please to lack?" said Wayland,
unstrapping his pack, and displaying its contents with as much
dexterity as if he had been bred to the trade. Indeed he had
occasionally pursued it in the course of his roving life, and now
commended his wares with all the volubility of a trader, and
showed some skill in the main art of placing prices upon them.
"What do I please to lack?" said the lady, "why, considering I
have not for six long months bought one yard of lawn or cambric,
or one trinket, the most inconsiderable, for my own use, and at
my own choice, the better question is, What hast thou got to
sell? Lay aside for me that cambric partlet and pair of sleeves
--and those roundells of gold fringe, drawn out with cyprus--and
that short cloak of cherry-coloured fine cloth, garnished with
gold buttons and loops;--is it not of an absolute fancy, Janet?"
"Nay, my lady," replied Janet, "if you consult my poor judgment,
it is, methinks, over-gaudy for a graceful habit."
"Now, out upon thy judgment, if it be no brighter, wench," said
the Countess. "Thou shalt wear it thyself for penance' sake; and
I promise thee the gold buttons, being somewhat massive, will
comfort thy father, and reconcile him to the cherry-coloured
body. See that he snap them not away, Janet, and send them to
bear company with the imprisoned angels which he keeps captive in
"May I pray your ladyship to spare my poor father?" said Janet.
"Nay, but why should any one spare him that is so sparing of his
own nature?" replied the lady.--"Well, but to our gear. That
head garniture for myself, and that silver bodkin mounted with
pearl; and take off two gowns of that russet cloth for Dorcas and
Alison, Janet, to keep the old wretches warm against winter
comes.--And stay--hast thou no perfumes and sweet bags, or any
handsome casting bottles of the newest mode?"
"Were I a pedlar in earnest, I were a made merchant," thought
Wayland, as he busied himself to answer the demands which she
thronged one on another, with the eagerness of a young lady who
has been long secluded from such a pleasing occupation. "But how
to bring her to a moment's serious reflection?" Then as he
exhibited his choicest collection of essences and perfumes, he at
once arrested her attention by observing that these articles had
almost risen to double value since the magnificent preparations
made by the Earl of Leicester to entertain the Queen and court at
his princely Castle of Kenilworth.
"Ha!" said the Countess hastily; "that rumour, then, is true,
"Surely, madam," answered Wayland; "and I marvel it hath not
reached your noble ladyship's ears. The Queen of England feasts
with the noble Earl for a week during the Summer's Progress; and
there are many who will tell you England will have a king, and
England's Elizabeth--God save her!--a husband, ere the Progress
"They lie like villains!" said the Countess, bursting forth
"For God's sake, madam, consider," said Janet, trembling with
apprehension; "who would cumber themselves about pedlar's
"Yes, Janet!" exclaimed the Countess; "right, thou hast
corrected me justly. Such reports, blighting the reputation of
England's brightest and noblest peer, can only find currency
amongst the mean, the abject, and the infamous!"
"May I perish, lady," said Wayland Smith, observing that her
violence directed itself towards him, "if I have done anything to
merit this strange passion! I have said but what many men say."
By this time the Countess had recovered her composure, and
endeavoured, alarmed by the anxious hints of Janet, to suppress
all appearance of displeasure. "I were loath," she said, "good
fellow, that our Queen should change the virgin style so dear to
us her people--think not of it." And then, as if desirous to
change the subject, she added, "And what is this paste, so
carefully put up in the silver box?" as she examined the
contents of a casket in which drugs and perfumes were contained
in separate drawers.
"It is a remedy, Madam, for a disorder of which I trust your
ladyship will never have reason to complain. The amount of a
small turkey-bean, swallowed daily for a week, fortifies the
heart against those black vapours which arise from solitude,
melancholy, unrequited affection, disappointed hope--"
"Are you a fool, friend?" said the Countess sharply; "or do you
think, because I have good-naturedly purchased your trumpery
goods at your roguish prices, that you may put any gullery you
will on me? Who ever heard that affections of the heart were
cured by medicines given to the body?"
"Under your honourable favour," said Wayland, "I am an honest
man, and I have sold my goods at an honest price. As to this
most precious medicine, when I told its qualities, I asked you
not to purchase it, so why should I lie to you? I say not it
will cure a rooted affection of the mind, which only God and time
can do; but I say that this restorative relieves the black
vapours which are engendered in the body of that melancholy which
broodeth on the mind. I have relieved many with it, both in
court and city, and of late one Master Edmund Tressilian, a
worshipful gentleman in Cornwall, who, on some slight received,
it was told me, where he had set his affections, was brought into
that state of melancholy which made his friends alarmed for his
He paused, and the lady remained silent for some time, and then
asked, with a voice which she strove in vain to render firm and
indifferent in its tone, "Is the gentleman you have mentioned
"Passably, madam," answered Wayland; "he hath at least no bodily
"I will take some of the medicine, Janet," said the Countess. "I
too have sometimes that dark melancholy which overclouds the
"You shall not do so, madam," said Janet; "who shall answer that
this fellow vends what is wholesome?"
"I will myself warrant my good faith," said Wayland; and taking a
part of the medicine, he swallowed it before them. The Countess
now bought what remained, a step to which Janet, by further
objections, only determined her the more obstinately. She even
took the first dose upon the instant, and professed to feel her
heart lightened and her spirits augmented--a consequence which,
in all probability, existed only in her own imagination. The
lady then piled the purchases she had made together, flung her
purse to Janet, and desired her to compute the amount, and to pay
the pedlar; while she herself, as if tired of the amusement she
at first found in conversing with him, wished him good evening,
and walked carelessly into the house, thus depriving Wayland of
every opportunity to speak with her in private. He hastened,
however, to attempt an explanation with Janet.
"Maiden," he said, "thou hast the face of one who should love her
mistress. She hath much need of faithful service."
"And well deserves it at my hands," replied Janet; "but
what of that?"
"Maiden, I am not altogether what I seem," said the pedlar,
lowering his voice.
"The less like to be an honest man," said Janet.
"The more so," answered Wayland, "since I am no pedlar."
"Get thee gone then instantly, or I will call for assistance,"
said Janet; "my father must ere this be returned."
"Do not be so rash," said Wayland; "you will do what you may
repent of. I am one of your mistress's friends; and she had need
of more, not that thou shouldst ruin those she hath."
"How shall I know that?" said Janet.
"Look me in the face," said Wayland Smith, "and see if thou dost
not read honesty in my looks."
And in truth, though by no means handsome, there was in his
physiognomy the sharp, keen expression of inventive genius and
prompt intellect, which, joined to quick and brilliant eyes, a
well-formed mouth, and an intelligent smile, often gives grace
and interest to features which are both homely and irregular.
Janet looked at him with the sly simplicity of her sect, and
replied, "Notwithstanding thy boasted honesty, friend, and
although I am not accustomed to read and pass judgment on such
volumes as thou hast submitted to my perusal, I think I see in
thy countenance something of the pedlar-something of the
"On a small scale, perhaps," said Wayland Smith, laughing. "But
this evening, or to-morrow, will an old man come hither with thy
father, who has the stealthy step of the cat, the shrewd and
vindictive eye of the rat, the fawning wile of the spaniel, the
determined snatch of the mastiff--of him beware, for your own
sake and that of your distress. See you, fair Janet, he brings
the venom of the aspic under the assumed innocence of the dove.
What precise mischief he meditates towards you I cannot guess,
but death and disease have ever dogged his footsteps. Say nought
of this to thy mistress; my art suggests to me that in her state
the fear of evil may be as dangerous as its operation. But see
that she take my specific, for" (he lowered his voice, and spoke
low but impressively in her ear) "it is an antidote against
poison.--Hark, they enter the garden!"
In effect, a sound of noisy mirth and loud talking approached the
garden door, alarmed by which Wayland Smith sprung into the midst
of a thicket of overgrown shrubs, while Janet withdrew to the
garden-house that she might not incur observation, and that she
might at the same time conceal, at least for the present, the
purchases made from the supposed pedlar, which lay scattered on
the floor of the summer-house.
Janet, however, had no occasion for anxiety. Her father, his old
attendant, Lord Leicester's domestic, and the astrologer, entered
the garden in tumult and in extreme perplexity, endeavouring to
quiet Lambourne, whose brain had now become completely fired with
liquor, and who was one of those unfortunate persons who, being
once stirred with the vinous stimulus, do not fall asleep like
other drunkards, but remain partially influenced by it for many
hours, until at length, by successive draughts, they are elevated
into a state of uncontrollable frenzy. Like many men in this
state also, Lambourne neither lost the power of motion, speech,
or expression; but, on the contrary, spoke with unwonted emphasis
and readiness, and told all that at another time he would have
been most desirous to keep secret.
"What!" ejaculated Michael, at the full extent of his voice, "am
I to have no welcome, no carouse, when I have brought fortune to
your old, ruinous dog-house in the shape of a devil's ally, that
can change slate-shivers into Spanish dollars?--Here, you, Tony
Fire-the-Fagot, Papist, Puritan, hypocrite, miser, profligate,
devil, compounded of all men's sins, bow down and reverence him
who has brought into thy house the very mammon thou worshippest."
"For God's sake," said Foster, "speak low--come into the house--
thou shalt have wine, or whatever thou wilt."
"No, old puckfoist, I will have it here," thundered the
inebriated ruffian--"here, AL FRESCO, as the Italian hath it. No,
no, I will not drink with that poisoning devil within doors, to
be choked with the fumes of arsenic and quick-silver; I learned
from villain Varney to beware of that."
"Fetch him wine, in the name of all the fiends!" said the
"Aha! and thou wouldst spice it for me, old Truepenny, wouldst
thou not? Ay, I should have copperas, and hellebore, and
vitriol, and aqua fortis, and twenty devilish materials bubbling
in my brain-pan like a charm to raise the devil in a witch's
cauldron. Hand me the flask thyself, old Tony Fire-the-Fagot--and
let it be cool--I will have no wine mulled at the pile of the old
burnt bishops. Or stay, let Leicester be king if he will--good--
and Varney, villain Varney, grand vizier--why, excellent!--and
what shall I be, then?--why, emperor--Emperor Lambourne! I will
see this choice piece of beauty that they have walled up here for
their private pleasures; I will have her this very night to serve
my wine-cup and put on my nightcap. What should a fellow do with
two wives, were he twenty times an Earl? Answer me that, Tony
boy, you old reprobate, hypocritical dog, whom God struck out of
the book of life, but tormented with the constant wish to be
restored to it--you old bishop-burning, blasphemous fanatic,
answer me that."
"I will stick my knife to the haft in him," said Foster, in a low
tone, which trembled with passion.
"For the love of Heaven, no violence!" said the astrologer. "It
cannot but be looked closely into.--Here, honest Lambourne, wilt
thou pledge me to the health of the noble Earl of Leicester and
Master Richard Varney?"
"I will, mine old Albumazar--I will, my trusty vender of
ratsbane. I would kiss thee, mine honest infractor of the Lex
Julia (as they said at Leyden), didst thou not flavour so
damnably of sulphur, and such fiendish apothecary's stuff.--Here
goes it, up seyes--to Varney and Leicester two more noble
mounting spirits--and more dark-seeking, deep-diving, high-
flying, malicious, ambitious miscreants--well, I say no more, but
I will whet my dagger on his heart-spone that refuses to pledge
me! And so, my masters--"
Thus speaking, Lambourne exhausted the cup which the astrologer
had handed to him, and which contained not wine, but distilled
spirits. He swore half an oath, dropped the empty cup from his
grasp, laid his hand on his sword without being able to draw it,
reeled, and fell without sense or motion into the arms of the
domestic, who dragged him off to his chamber, and put him to bed.
In the general confusion, Janet regained her lady's chamber
unobserved, trembling like an aspen leaf, but determined to keep
secret from the Countess the dreadful surmises which she could
not help entertaining from the drunken ravings of Lambourne. Her
fears, however, though they assumed no certain shape, kept pace
with the advice of the pedlar; and she confirmed her mistress in
her purpose of taking the medicine which he had recommended, from
which it is probable she would otherwise have dissuaded her.
Neither had these intimations escaped the ears of Wayland, who
knew much better how to interpret them. He felt much compassion
at beholding so lovely a creature as the Countess, and whom he
had first seen in the bosom of domestic happiness, exposed to the
machinations of such a gang of villains. His indignation, too,
had been highly excited by hearing the voice of his old master,
against whom he felt, in equal degree, the passions of hatred and
fear. He nourished also a pride in his own art and resources;
and, dangerous as the task was, he that night formed a
determination to attain the bottom of the mystery, and to aid the
distressed lady, if it were yet possible. From some words which
Lambourne had dropped among his ravings, Wayland now, for the
first time, felt inclined to doubt that Varney had acted entirely
on his own account in wooing and winning the affections of this
beautiful creature. Fame asserted of this zealous retainer that
he had accommodated his lord in former love intrigues; and it
occurred to Wayland Smith that Leicester himself might be the
party chiefly interested. Her marriage with the Earl he could
not suspect; but even the discovery of such a passing intrigue
with a lady of Mistress Amy Robsart's rank was a secret of the
deepest importance to the stability of the favourite's power over
Elizabeth. "If Leicester himself should hesitate to stifle such
a rumour by very strange means," said he to himself, "he has
those about him who would do him that favour without waiting for
his consent. If I would meddle in this business, it must be in
such guise as my old master uses when he compounds his manna of
Satan, and that is with a close mask on my face. So I will quit
Giles Gosling to-morrow, and change my course and place of
residence as often as a hunted fox. I should like to see this
little Puritan, too, once more. She looks both pretty and
intelligent to have come of such a caitiff as Anthony Fire-the-
Giles Gosling received the adieus of Wayland rather joyfully than
otherwise. The honest publican saw so much peril in crossing the
course of the Earl of Leicester's favourite that his virtue was
scarce able to support him in the task, and he was well pleased
when it was likely to be removed from his shoulders still,
however, professing his good-will, and readiness, in case of
need, to do Mr. Tressilian or his emissary any service, in so far
as consisted with his character of a publican.
Vaulting ambition, that o'erleaps itself,
And falls on t'other side. MACBETH.
The splendour of the approaching revels at Kenilworth was now the
conversation through all England; and everything was collected at
home, or from abroad, which could add to the gaiety or glory of
the prepared reception of Elizabeth at the house of her most
distinguished favourite, Meantime Leicester appeared daily to
advance in the Queen's favour. He was perpetually by her side in
council--willingly listened to in the moments of courtly
recreation--favoured with approaches even to familiar intimacy--
looked up to by all who had aught to hope at court--courted by
foreign ministers with the most flattering testimonies of respect
from their sovereigns,--the ALTER EGO, as it seemed, of the
stately Elizabeth, who was now very generally supposed to be
studying the time and opportunity for associating him, by
marriage, into her sovereign power.
Amid such a tide of prosperity, this minion of fortune and of the
Queen's favour was probably the most unhappy man in the realm
which seemed at his devotion. He had the Fairy King's
superiority over his friends and dependants, and saw much which
they could not. The character of his mistress was intimately
known to him. It was his minute and studied acquaintance with
her humours, as well as her noble faculties, which, joined to his
powerful mental qualities, and his eminent external
accomplishments, had raised him so high in her favour; and it was
that very knowledge of her disposition which led him to apprehend
at every turn some sudden and overwhelming disgrace. Leicester
was like a pilot possessed of a chart which points out to him all
the peculiarities of his navigation, but which exhibits so many
shoals, breakers, and reefs of rocks, that his anxious eye reaps
little more from observing them than to be convinced that his
final escape can be little else than miraculous.
In fact, Queen Elizabeth had a character strangely compounded of
the strongest masculine sense, with those foibles which are
chiefly supposed proper to the female sex. Her subjects had the
full benefit of her virtues, which far predominated over her
weaknesses; but her courtiers, and those about her person, had
often to sustain sudden and embarrassing turns of caprice, and
the sallies of a temper which was both jealous and despotic. She
was the nursing-mother of her people, but she was also the true
daughter of Henry VIII.; and though early sufferings and an
excellent education had repressed and modified, they had not
altogether destroyed, the hereditary temper of that "hard-ruled
king." "Her mind," says her witty godson, Sir John Harrington,
who had experienced both the smiles and the frowns which he
describes, "was ofttime like the gentle air that cometh from the
western point in a summer's morn--'twas sweet and refreshing to
all around her. Her speech did win all affections. And again,
she could put forth such alterations, when obedience was lacking,
as left no doubting WHOSE daughter she was. When she smiled, it
was a pure sunshine, that every one did choose to bask in, if
they could; but anon came a storm from a sudden gathering of
clouds, and the thunder fell in a wondrous manner on all alike."
[Nugae Antiquae, vol.i., pp.355, 356-362.]
This variability of disposition, as Leicester well knew, was
chiefly formidable to those who had a share in the Queen's
affections, and who depended rather on her personal regard than
on the indispensable services which they could render to her
councils and her crown. The favour of Burleigh or of Walsingham,
of a description far less striking than that by which he was
himself upheld, was founded, as Leicester was well aware, on
Elizabeth's solid judgment, not on her partiality, and was,
therefore, free from all those principles of change and decay
necessarily incident to that which chiefly arose from personal
accomplishments and female predilection. These great and sage
statesmen were judged of by the Queen only with reference to the
measures they suggested, and the reasons by which they supported
their opinions in council; whereas the success of Leicester's
course depended on all those light and changeable gales of
caprice and humour which thwart or favour the progress of a lover
in the favour of his mistress, and she, too, a mistress who was
ever and anon becoming fearful lest she should forget the
dignity, or compromise the authority, of the Queen, while she
indulged the affections of the woman. Of the difficulties which
surrounded his power, "too great to keep or to resign," Leicester
was fully sensible; and as he looked anxiously round for the
means of maintaining himself in his precarious situation, and
sometimes contemplated those of descending from it in safety, he
saw but little hope of either. At such moments his thoughts
turned to dwell upon his secret marriage and its consequences;
and it was in bitterness against himself, if not against his
unfortunate Countess, that he ascribed to that hasty measure,
adopted in the ardour of what he now called inconsiderate
passion, at once the impossibility of placing his power on a
solid basis, and the immediate prospect of its precipitate
"Men say," thus ran his thoughts, in these anxious and repentant
moments, "that I might marry Elizabeth, and become King of
England. All things suggest this. The match is carolled in
ballads, while the rabble throw their caps up. It has been
touched upon in the schools--whispered in the presence-chamber--
recommended from the pulpit--prayed for in the Calvinistic
churches abroad--touched on by statists in the very council at
home. These bold insinuations have been rebutted by no rebuke,
no resentment, no chiding, scarce even by the usual female
protestation that she would live and die a virgin princess. Her
words have been more courteous than ever, though she knows such
rumours are abroad--her actions more gracious, her looks more
kind--nought seems wanting to make me King of England, and place
me beyond the storms of court-favour, excepting the putting forth
of mine own hand to take that crown imperial which is the glory
of the universe! And when I might stretch that hand out most
boldly, it is fettered down by a secret and inextricable bond!
And here I have letters from Amy," he would say, catching them up
with a movement of peevishness, "persecuting me to acknowledge
her openly--to do justice to her and to myself--and I wot not
what. Methinks I have done less than justice to myself already.
And she speaks as if Elizabeth were to receive the knowledge of
this matter with the glee of a mother hearing of the happy
marriage of a hopeful son! She, the daughter of Henry, who
spared neither man in his anger nor woman in his desire--she to
find herself tricked, drawn on with toys of passion to the verge
of acknowledging her love to a subject, and he discovered to be a
married man!--Elizabeth to learn that she had been dallied with
in such fashion, as a gay courtier might trifle with a country
wench--we should then see, to our ruin, FURENS QUID FAEMINA!"
He would then pause, and call for Varney, whose advice was now
more frequently resorted to than ever, because the Earl
remembered the remonstrances which he had made against his secret
contract. And their consultation usually terminated in anxious
deliberation how, or in what manner, the Countess was to be
produced at Kenilworth. These communings had for some time ended
always in a resolution to delay the Progress from day to day.
But at length a peremptory decision became necessary.
"Elizabeth will not be satisfied without her presence," said the
Earl. "Whether any suspicion hath entered her mind, as my own
apprehensions suggest, or whether the petition of Tressilian is
kept in her memory by Sussex or some other secret enemy, I know
not; but amongst all the favourable expressions which she uses to
me, she often recurs to the story of Amy Robsart. I think that
Amy is the slave in the chariot, who is placed there by my evil
fortune to dash and to confound my triumph, even when at the
highest. Show me thy device, Varney, for solving the
inextricable difficulty. I have thrown every such impediment in
the way of these accursed revels as I could propound even with a
shade of decency, but to-day's interview has put all to a hazard.
She said to me kindly, but peremptorily, 'We will give you no
further time for preparations, my lord, lest you should
altogether ruin yourself. On Saturday, the 9th of July, we will
be with you at Kenilworth. We pray you to forget none of our
appointed guests and suitors, and in especial this light-o'-love,
Amy Robsart. We would wish to see the woman who could postpone
yonder poetical gentleman, Master Tressilian, to your man,
Richard Varney.'--Now, Varney, ply thine invention, whose forge
hath availed us so often for sure as my name is Dudley, the
danger menaced by my horoscope is now darkening around me."
"Can my lady be by no means persuaded to bear for a brief space
the obscure character which circumstances impose on her?" Said
Varney after some hesitation.
"How, sirrah? my Countess term herself thy wife!--that may
neither stand with my honour nor with hers."
"Alas! my lord," answered Varney, "and yet such is the quality
in which Elizabeth now holds her; and to contradict this opinion
is to discover all."
"Think of something else, Varney," said the Earl, in great
agitation; "this invention is nought. If I could give way to it,
she would not; for I tell thee, Varney, if thou knowest it not,
that not Elizabeth on the throne has more pride than the daughter
of this obscure gentleman of Devon. She is flexible in many
things, but where she holds her honour brought in question she
hath a spirit and temper as apprehensive as lightning, and as
swift in execution."
"We have experienced that, my lord, else had we not been thus
circumstanced," said Varney. "But what else to suggest I know
not. Methinks she whose good fortune in becoming your lordship's
bride, and who gives rise to the danger, should do somewhat
towards parrying it."
"It is impossible," said the Earl, waving his hand; "I know
neither authority nor entreaties would make her endure thy name
for an hour.
"It is somewhat hard, though," said Varney, in a dry tone; and,
without pausing on that topic, he added, "Suppose some one were
found to represent her? Such feats have been performed in the
courts of as sharp-eyed monarchs as Queen Elizabeth."
"Utter madness, Varney," answered the Earl; "the counterfeit
would be confronted with Tressilian, and discovery become
"Tressilian might be removed from court," said the unhesitating
"And by what means?"
"There are many," said Varney, "by which a statesman in your
situation, my lord, may remove from the scene one who pries into
your affairs, and places himself in perilous opposition to you."
"Speak not to me of such policy, Varney," said the Earl hastily,
"which, besides, would avail nothing in the present case. Many
others there be at court to whom Amy may be known; and besides,
on the absence of Tressilian, her father or some of her friends
would be instantly summoned hither. Urge thine invention once
"My lord, I know not what to say," answered Varney; "but were I
myself in such perplexity, I would ride post down to Cumnor
Place, and compel my wife to give her consent to such measures as
her safety and mine required."
"Varney," said Leicester, "I cannot urge her to aught so
repugnant to her noble nature as a share in this stratagem; it
would be a base requital to the love she bears me."
"Well, my lord," said Varney, "your lordship is a wise and an
honourable man, and skilled in those high points of romantic
scruple which are current in Arcadia perhaps, as your nephew,
Philip Sidney, writes. I am your humble servitor--a man of this
world, and only happy that my knowledge of it, and its ways, is
such as your lordship has not scorned to avail yourself of. Now
I would fain know whether the obligation lies on my lady or on
you in this fortunate union, and which has most reason to show
complaisance to the other, and to consider that other's wishes,
conveniences, and safety?"
"I tell thee, Varney," said the Earl, "that all it was in my
power to bestow upon her was not merely deserved, but a thousand
times overpaid, by her own virtue and beauty; for never did
greatness descend upon a creature so formed by nature to grace
and adorn it."
"It is well, my lord, you are so satisfied," answered Varney,
with his usual sardonic smile, which even respect to his patron
could not at all times subdue; "you will have time enough to
enjoy undisturbed the society of one so gracious and beautiful--
that is, so soon as such confinement in the Tower be over as may
correspond to the crime of deceiving the affections of Elizabeth
Tudor. A cheaper penalty, I presume, you do not expect."
"Malicious fiend!" answered Leicester, "do you mock me in my
misfortune?--Manage it as thou wilt."
"If you are serious, my lord," said Varney, "you must set forth
instantly and post for Cumnor Place."
"Do thou go thyself, Varney; the devil has given thee that sort
of eloquence which is most powerful in the worst cause. I should
stand self-convicted of villainy, were I to urge such a deceit.
Begone, I tell thee; must I entreat thee to mine own dishonour?"
"No, my lord," said Varney; "but if you are serious in entrusting
me with the task of urging this most necessary measure, you must
give me a letter to my lady, as my credentials, and trust to me
for backing the advice it contains with all the force in my
power. And such is my opinion of my lady's love for your
lordship, and of her willingness to do that which is at once to
contribute to your pleasure and your safety, that I am sure she
will condescend to bear for a few brief days the name of so
humble a man as myself, especially since it is not inferior in
antiquity to that of her own paternal house."
Leicester seized on writing materials, and twice or thrice
commenced a letter to the Countess, which he afterwards tore into
fragments. At length he finished a few distracted lines, in
which he conjured her, for reasons nearly concerning his life and
honour, to consent to bear the name of Varney for a few days,
during the revels at Kenilworth. He added that Varney would
communicate all the reasons which rendered this deception
indispensable; and having signed and sealed these credentials, he
flung them over the table to Varney with a motion that he should
depart, which his adviser was not slow to comprehend and to obey.
Leicester remained like one stupefied, till he heard the
trampling of the horses, as Varney, who took no time even to
change his dress, threw himself into the saddle, and, followed by
a single servant, set off for Berkshire. At the sound the Earl
started from his seat, and ran to the window, with the momentary
purpose of recalling the unworthy commission with which he had
entrusted one of whom he used to say he knew no virtuous property
save affection to his patron. But Varney was already beyond
call; and the bright, starry firmament, which the age considered
as the Book of Fate, lying spread before Leicester when he opened
the casement, diverted him from his better and more manly
"There they roll, on their silent but potential course," said the
Earl, looking around him, "without a voice which speaks to our
ear, but not without influences which affect, at every change,
the indwellers of this vile, earthly planet. This, if
astrologers fable not, is the very crisis of my fate! The hour
approaches of which I was taught to beware--the hour, too, which
I was encouraged to hope for. A King was the word--but how?--the
crown matrimonial. All hopes of that are gone--let them go. The
rich Netherlands have demanded me for their leader, and, would
Elizabeth consent, would yield to me THEIR crown. And have I not
such a claim even in this kingdom? That of York, descending from
George of Clarence to the House of Huntingdon, which, this lady
failing, may have a fair chance--Huntingdon is of my house.--But
I will plunge no deeper in these high mysteries. Let me hold my
course in silence for a while, and in obscurity, like a
subterranean river; the time shall come that I will burst forth
in my strength, and bear all opposition before me."
While Leicester was thus stupefying the remonstrances of his own
conscience, by appealing to political necessity for his apology,
or losing himself amidst the wild dreams of ambition, his agent
left town and tower behind him on his hasty journey to Berkshire.
HE also nourished high hope. He had brought Lord Leicester to
the point which he had desired, of committing to him the most
intimate recesses of his breast, and of using him as the channel
of his most confidential intercourse with his lady. Henceforward
it would, he foresaw, be difficult for his patron either to
dispense with his services, or refuse his requests, however
unreasonable. And if this disdainful dame, as he termed the
Countess, should comply with the request of her husband, Varney,
her pretended husband, must needs become so situated with respect
to her, that there was no knowing where his audacity might be
bounded perhaps not till circumstances enabled him to obtain a
triumph, which he thought of with a mixture of fiendish feelings,
in which revenge for her previous scorn was foremost and
predominant. Again he contemplated the possibility of her being
totally intractable, and refusing obstinately to play the part
assigned to her in the drama at Kenilworth.
"Alasco must then do his part," he said. "Sickness must serve
her Majesty as an excuse for not receiving the homage of Mrs.
Varney--ay, and a sore and wasting sickness it may prove, should
Elizabeth continue to cast so favourable an eye on my Lord of
Leicester. I will not forego the chance of being favourite of a
monarch for want of determined measures, should these be
necessary. Forward, good horse, forward--ambition and haughty
hope of power, pleasure, and revenge strike their stings as deep
through my bosom as I plunge the rowels in thy flanks. On, good
horse, on--the devil urges us both forward!"
Say that my beauty was but small,
Among court ladies all despised,
Why didst thou rend it from that hall
Where, scornful Earl, 'twas dearly prized?
No more thou com'st with wonted speed,
Thy once beloved bride to see;
But be she alive, or be she dead,
I fear, stern Earl, 's the same to thee.
CUMNOR HALL, by WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.
The ladies of fashion of the present, or of any other period,
must have allowed that the young and lovely Countess of Leicester
had, besides her youth and beauty, two qualities which entitled
her to a place amongst women of rank and distinction. She
displayed, as we have seen in her interview with the pedlar, a
liberal promptitude to make unnecessary purchases, solely for the
pleasure of acquiring useless and showy trifles which ceased to
please as soon as they were possessed; and she was, besides, apt
to spend a considerable space of time every day in adorning her
person, although the varied splendour of her attire could only
attract the half satirical praise of the precise Janet, or an
approving glance from the bright eyes which witnessed their own
beams of triumph reflected from the mirror.
The Countess Amy had, indeed, to plead for indulgence in those
frivolous tastes, that the education of the times had done little
or nothing for a mind naturally gay and averse to study. If she
had not loved to collect finery and to wear it, she might have
woven tapestry or sewed embroidery, till her labours spread in
gay profusion all over the walls and seats at Lidcote Hall; or
she might have varied Minerva's labours with the task of
preparing a mighty pudding against the time that Sir Hugh Robsart
returned from the greenwood. But Amy had no natural genius
either for the loom, the needle, or the receipt-book. Her mother
had died in infancy; her father contradicted her in nothing; and
Tressilian, the only one that approached her who was able or
desirous to attend to the cultivation of her mind, had much hurt
his interest with her by assuming too eagerly the task of a
preceptor, so that he was regarded by the lively, indulged, and
idle girl with some fear and much respect, but with little or
nothing of that softer emotion which it had been his hope and his
ambition to inspire. And thus her heart lay readily open, and
her fancy became easily captivated by the noble exterior and
graceful deportment and complacent flattery of Leicester, even
before he was known to her as the dazzling minion of wealth and
The frequent visits of Leicester at Cumnor, during the earlier
part of their union, had reconciled the Countess to the solitude
and privacy to which she was condemned; but when these visits
became rarer and more rare, and when the void was filled up with
letters of excuse, not always very warmly expressed, and
generally extremely brief, discontent and suspicion began to
haunt those splendid apartments which love had fitted up for
beauty. Her answers to Leicester conveyed these feelings too
bluntly, and pressed more naturally than prudently that she might
be relieved from this obscure and secluded residence, by the
Earl's acknowledgment of their marriage; and in arranging her
arguments with all the skill she was mistress of, she trusted
chiefly to the warmth of the entreaties with which she urged
them. Sometimes she even ventured to mingle reproaches, of which
Leicester conceived he had good reason to complain.
"I have made her Countess," he said to Varney; "surely she might
wait till it consisted with my pleasure that she should put on
The Countess Amy viewed the subject in directly an opposite
"What signifies," she said, "that I have rank and honour in
reality, if I am to live an obscure prisoner, without either
society or observance, and suffering in my character, as one of
dubious or disgraced reputation? I care not for all those
strings of pearl, which you fret me by warping into my tresses,
Janet. I tell you that at Lidcote Hall, if I put but a fresh
rosebud among my hair, my good father would call me to him, that
he might see it more closely; and the kind old curate would
smile, and Master Mumblazen would say something about roses
gules. And now I sit here, decked out like an image with gold
and gems, and no one to see my finery but you, Janet. There was
the poor Tressilian, too--but it avails not speaking of him."
"It doth not indeed, madam," said her prudent attendant; "and
verily you make me sometimes wish you would not speak of him so
often, or so rashly."
"It signifies nothing to warn me, Janet," said the impatient and
incorrigible Countess; "I was born free, though I am now mewed up
like some fine foreign slave, rather than the wife of an English
noble. I bore it all with pleasure while I was sure he loved me;
but now my tongue and heart shall be free, let them fetter these
limbs as they will. I tell thee, Janet, I love my husband--I
will love him till my latest breath--I cannot cease to love him,
even if I would, or if he--which, God knows, may chance--should
cease to love me. But I will say, and loudly, I would have been
happier than I now am to have remained in Lidcote Hall, even
although I must have married poor Tressilian, with his melancholy
look and his head full of learning, which I cared not for. He
said, if I would read his favourite volumes, there would come a
time that I should be glad of having done so. I think it is come
"I bought you some books, madam," said Janet, "from a lame fellow
who sold them in the Market-place--and who stared something
boldly, at me, I promise you."
"Let me see them, Janet," said the Countess; "but let them not be
of your own precise cast,--How is this, most righteous damsel?--
'A PAIR OF SNUFFERS FOR THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK'--'HANDFULL OF
MYRRH AND HYSSOP TO PUT A SICK SOUL TO PURGATION'--'A DRAUGHT OF
WATER FROM THE VALLEY OF BACA'--'FOXES AND FIREBRANDS'--what gear
call you this, maiden?"
"Nay, madam," said Janet, "it was but fitting and seemly to put
grace in your ladyship's way; but an you will none of it, there
are play-books, and poet-books, I trow."
The Countess proceeded carelessly in her examination, turning
over such rare volumes as would now make the fortune of twenty
retail booksellers. Here was a "BOKE OF COOKERY, IMPRINTED BY
RICHARD LANT," and "SKELTON'S BOOKS"--"THE PASSTIME OF THE