Part 7 out of 11
PEOPLE"--"THE CASTLE OF KNOWLEDGE," etc. But neither to this
lore did the Countess's heart incline, and joyfully did she start
up from the listless task of turning over the leaves of the
pamphlets, and hastily did she scatter them through the floor,
when the hasty clatter of horses' feet, heard in the courtyard,
called her to the window, exclaiming, "It is Leicester!--it is my
noble Earl!--it is my Dudley!--every stroke of his horse's hoof
sounds like a note of lordly music!"
There was a brief bustle in the mansion, and Foster, with his
downward look and sullen manner, entered the apartment to say,
"That Master Richard Varney was arrived from my lord, having
ridden all night, and craved to speak with her ladyship
"Varney?" said the disappointed Countess; "and to speak with me?
--pshaw! But he comes with news from Leicester, so admit him
Varney entered her dressing apartment, where she sat arrayed in
her native loveliness, adorned with all that Janet's art and a
rich and tasteful undress could bestow. But the most beautiful
part of her attire was her profuse and luxuriant light-brown
locks, which floated in such rich abundance around a neck that
resembled a swan's, and over a bosom heaving with anxious
expectation, which communicated a hurried tinge of red to her
Varney entered the room in the dress in which he had waited on
his master that morning to court, the splendour of which made a
strange contrast with the disorder arising from hasty riding
during a dark night and foul ways. His brow bore an anxious and
hurried expression, as one who has that to say of which he doubts
the reception, and who hath yet posted on from the necessity of
communicating his tidings. The Countess's anxious eye at once
caught the alarm, as she exclaimed, "You bring news from my lord,
Master Varney--Gracious Heaven! is he ill?"
"No, madam, thank Heaven!" said Varney. "Compose yourself, and
permit me to take breath ere I communicate my tidings."
"No breath, sir," replied the lady impatiently; "I know your
theatrical arts. Since your breath hath sufficed to bring you
hither, it may suffice to tell your tale--at least briefly, and
in the gross."
"Madam," answered Varney, "we are not alone, and my lord's
message was for your ear only."
"Leave us, Janet, and Master Foster," said the lady; "but remain
in the next apartment, and within call."
Foster and his daughter retired, agreeably to the Lady
Leicester's commands, into the next apartment, which was the
withdrawing-room. The door which led from the sleeping-chamber
was then carefully shut and bolted, and the father and daughter
remained both in a posture of anxious attention, the first with a
stern, suspicious, anxious cast of countenance, and Janet with
folded hands, and looks which seemed divided betwixt her desire
to know the fortunes of her mistress, and her prayers to Heaven
for her safety. Anthony Foster seemed himself to have some idea
of what was passing through his daughter's mind, for he crossed
the apartment and took her anxiously by the hand, saying, "That
is right--pray, Janet, pray; we have all need of prayers, and
some of us more than others. Pray, Janet--I would pray myself,
but I must listen to what goes on within--evil has been brewing,
love--evil has been brewing. God forgive our sins, but Varney's
sudden and strange arrival bodes us no good."
Janet had never before heard her father excite or even permit her
attention to anything which passed in their mysterious family;
and now that he did so, his voice sounded in her ear--she knew
not why--like that of a screech-owl denouncing some deed of
terror and of woe. She turned her eyes fearfully towards the
door, almost as if she expected some sounds of horror to be
heard, or some sight of fear to display itself.
All, however, was as still as death, and the voices of those who
spoke in the inner chamber were, if they spoke at all, carefully
subdued to a tone which could not be heard in the next. At once,
however, they were heard to speak fast, thick, and hastily; and
presently after the voice of the Countess was heard exclaiming,
at the highest pitch to which indignation could raise it, "Undo
the door, sir, I command you!--undo the door!--I will have no
other reply!" she continued, drowning with her vehement accents
the low and muttered sounds which Varney was heard to utter
betwixt whiles. "What ho! without there!" she persisted,
accompanying her words with shrieks, "Janet, alarm the house!--
Foster, break open the door--I am detained here by a traitor!
Use axe and lever, Master Foster--I will be your warrant!"
"It shall not need, madam," Varney was at length distinctly heard
to say. "If you please to expose my lord's important concerns
and your own to the general ear, I will not be your hindrance."
The door was unlocked and thrown open, and Janet and her father
rushed in, anxious to learn the cause of these reiterated
When they entered the apartment Varney stood by the door grinding
his teeth, with an expression in which rage, and shame, and fear
had each their share. The Countess stood in the midst of her
apartment like a juvenile Pythoness under the influence of the
prophetic fury. The veins in her beautiful forehead started into
swoln blue lines through the hurried impulse of her articulation
--her cheek and neck glowed like scarlet--her eyes were like
those of an imprisoned eagle, flashing red lightning on the foes
which it cannot reach with its talons. Were it possible for one
of the Graces to have been animated by a Fury, the countenance
could not have united such beauty with so much hatred, scorn,
defiance, and resentment. The gesture and attitude corresponded
with the voice and looks, and altogether presented a spectacle
which was at once beautiful and fearful; so much of the sublime
had the energy of passion united with the Countess Amy's natural
loveliness. Janet, as soon as the door was open, ran to her
mistress; and more slowly, yet with more haste than he was wont,
Anthony Foster went to Richard Varney.
"In the Truth's name, what ails your ladyship?" said the former.
"What, in the name of Satan, have you done to her?" said Foster
to his friend.
"Who, I?--nothing," answered Varney, but with sunken head and
sullen voice; "nothing but communicated to her her lord's
commands, which, if the lady list not to obey, she knows better
how to answer it than I may pretend to do."
"Now, by Heaven, Janet!" said the Countess, "the false traitor
lies in his throat! He must needs lie, for he speaks to the
dishonour of my noble lord; he must needs lie doubly, for he
speaks to gain ends of his own, equally execrable and
"You have misapprehended me, lady," said Varney, with a sulky
species of submission and apology; "let this matter rest till
your passion be abated, and I will explain all."
"Thou shalt never have an opportunity to do so," said the
Countess.--"Look at him, Janet. He is fairly dressed, hath the
outside of a gentleman, and hither he came to persuade me it was
my lord's pleasure--nay, more, my wedded lord's commands--that I
should go with him to Kenilworth, and before the Queen and
nobles, and in presence of my own wedded lord, that I should
acknowledge him--HIM there--that very cloak-brushing, shoe-
cleaning fellow--HIM there, my lord's lackey, for my liege lord
and husband; furnishing against myself, Great God! whenever I
was to vindicate my right and my rank, such weapons as would hew
my just claim from the root, and destroy my character to be
regarded as an honourable matron of the English nobility!"
"You hear her, Foster, and you, young maiden, hear this lady,"
answered Varney, taking advantage of the pause which the Countess
had made in her charge, more for lack of breath than for lack of
matter--"you hear that her heat only objects to me the course
which our good lord, for the purpose to keep certain matters
secret, suggests in the very letter which she holds in her
Foster here attempted to interfere with a face of authority,
which he thought became the charge entrusted to him, "Nay, lady,
I must needs say you are over-hasty in this. Such deceit is not
utterly to be condemned when practised for a righteous end I and
thus even the patriarch Abraham feigned Sarah to be his sister
when they went down to Egypt."
"Ay, sir," answered the Countess; "but God rebuked that deceit
even in the father of His chosen people, by the mouth of the
heathen Pharaoh. Out upon you, that will read Scripture only to
copy those things which are held out to us as warnings, not as
"But Sarah disputed not the will of her husband, an it be your
pleasure," said Foster, in reply, "but did as Abraham commanded,
calling herself his sister, that it might be well with her
husband for her sake, and that his soul might live because of her
"Now, so Heaven pardon me my useless anger," answered the
Countess, "thou art as daring a hypocrite as yonder fellow is an
impudent deceiver! Never will I believe that the noble Dudley
gave countenance to so dastardly, so dishonourable a plan. Thus
I tread on his infamy, if indeed it be, and thus destroy its
remembrance for ever!"
So saying, she tore in pieces Leicester's letter, and stamped, in
the extremity of impatience, as if she would have annihilated the
minute fragments into which she had rent it.
"Bear witness," said Varney, collecting himself, "she hath torn
my lord's letter, in order to burden me with the scheme of his
devising; and although it promises nought but danger and trouble
to me, she would lay it to my charge, as if I had any purpose of
mine own in it."
"Thou liest, thou treacherous slave!" said the Countess in spite
of Janet's attempts to keep her silent, in the sad foresight that
her vehemence might only furnish arms against herself--"thou
liest," she continued.--"Let me go, Janet--were it the last word
I have to speak, he lies. He had his own foul ends to seek; and
broader he would have displayed them had my passion permitted me
to preserve the silence which at first encouraged him to unfold
his vile projects."
"Madam," said Varney, overwhelmed in spite of his effrontery, "I
entreat you to believe yourself mistaken."
"As soon will I believe light darkness," said the enraged
Countess. "Have I drunk of oblivion? Do I not remember former
passages, which, known to Leicester, had given thee the
preferment of a gallows, instead of the honour of his intimacy.
I would I were a man but for five minutes! It were space enough
to make a craven like thee confess his villainy. But go--begone!
Tell thy master that when I take the foul course to which such
scandalous deceits as thou hast recommended on his behalf must
necessarily lead me, I will give him a rival something worthy of
the name. He shall not be supplanted by an ignominious lackey,
whose best fortune is to catch a gift of his master's last suit
of clothes ere it is threadbare, and who is only fit to seduce a
suburb-wench by the bravery of new roses in his master's old
pantoufles. Go, begone, sir! I scorn thee so much that I am
ashamed to have been angry with thee."
Varney left the room with a mute expression of rage, and was
followed by Foster, whose apprehension, naturally slow, was
overpowered by the eager and abundant discharge of indignation
which, for the first time, he had heard burst from the lips of a
being who had seemed, till that moment, too languid and too
gentle to nurse an angry thought or utter an intemperate
expression. Foster, therefore, pursued Varney from place to
place, persecuting him with interrogatories, to which the other
replied not, until they were in the opposite side of the
quadrangle, and in the old library, with which the reader has
already been made acquainted. Here he turned round on his
persevering follower, and thus addressed him, in a tone tolerably
equal, that brief walk having been sufficient to give one so
habituated to command his temper time to rally and recover his
presence of mind.
"Tony," he said, with his usual sneering laugh, "it avails not to
deny it. The Woman and the Devil, who, as thine oracle Holdforth
will confirm to thee, cheated man at the beginning, have this day
proved more powerful than my discretion. Yon termagant looked so
tempting, and had the art to preserve her countenance so
naturally, while I communicated my lord's message, that, by my
faith, I thought I might say some little thing for myself. She
thinks she hath my head under her girdle now, but she is
deceived. Where is Doctor Alasco?"
"In his laboratory," answered Foster. "It is the hour he is
spoken not withal. We must wait till noon is past, or spoil his
important--what said I? important!--I would say interrupt his
"Ay, he studies the devil's divinity," said Varney; "but when I
want him, one hour must suffice as well as another. Lead the way
to his pandemonium."
So spoke Varney, and with hasty and perturbed steps followed
Foster, who conducted him through private passages, many of which
were well-nigh ruinous, to the opposite side of the quadrangle,
where, in a subterranean apartment, now occupied by the chemist
Alasco, one of the Abbots of Abingdon, who had a turn for the
occult sciences, had, much to the scandal of his convent,
established a laboratory, in which, like other fools of the
period, he spent much precious time, and money besides, in the
pursuit of the grand arcanum.
Anthony Foster paused before the door, which was scrupulously
secured within, and again showed a marked hesitation to disturb
the sage in his operations. But Varney, less scrupulous, roused
him by knocking and voice, until at length, slowly and
reluctantly, the inmate of the apartment undid the door. The
chemist appeared, with his eyes bleared with the heat and vapours
of the stove or alembic over which he brooded and the interior of
his cell displayed the confused assemblage of heterogeneous
substances and extraordinary implements belonging to his
profession. The old man was muttering, with spiteful impatience,
"Am I for ever to be recalled to the affairs of earth from those
"To the affairs of hell," answered Varney, "for that is thy
proper element.--Foster, we need thee at our conference."
"Foster slowly entered the room. Varney, following, barred the
door, and they betook themselves to secret council.
In the meanwhile, the Countess traversed the apartment, with
shame and anger contending on her lovely cheek.
"The villain," she said--"the cold-blooded, calculating slave!--
But I unmasked him, Janet--I made the snake uncoil all his folds
before me, and crawl abroad in his naked deformity; I suspended
my resentment, at the danger of suffocating under the effort,
until he had let me see the very bottom of a heart more foul than
hell's darkest corner.--And thou, Leicester, is it possible thou
couldst bid me for a moment deny my wedded right in thee, or
thyself yield it to another?--But it is impossible--the villain
has lied in all.--Janet, I will not remain here longer--I fear
him--I fear thy father. I grieve to say it, Janet--but I fear
thy father, and, worst of all, this odious Varney, I will escape
"Alas! madam, whither would you fly, or by what means will you
escape from these walls?"
"I know not, Janet," said the unfortunate young lady, looking
upwards! and clasping her hands together, "I know not where I
shall fly, or by what means; but I am certain the God I have
served will not abandon me in this dreadful crisis, for I am in
the hands of wicked men."
"Do not think so, dear lady," said Janet; "my father is stern and
strict in his temper, and severely true to his trust--but yet--"
At this moment Anthony Foster entered the apartment, bearing in
his hand a glass cup and a small flask. His manner was singular;
for, while approaching the Countess with the respect due to her
rank, he had till this time suffered to become visible, or had
been unable to suppress, the obdurate sulkiness of his natural
disposition, which, as is usual with those of his unhappy temper,
was chiefly exerted towards those over whom circumstances gave
him control. But at present he showed nothing of that sullen
consciousness of authority which he was wont to conceal under a
clumsy affectation of civility and deference, as a ruffian hides
his pistols and bludgeon under his ill-fashioned gaberdine. And
yet it seemed as if his smile was more in fear than courtesy, and
as if, while he pressed the Countess to taste of the choice
cordial, which should refresh her spirits after her late alarm,
he was conscious of meditating some further injury. His hand
trembled also, his voice faltered, and his whole outward
behaviour exhibited so much that was suspicious, that his
daughter Janet, after she had stood looking at him in
astonishment for some seconds, seemed at once to collect herself
to execute some hardy resolution, raised her head, assumed an
attitude and gait of determination and authority, and walking
slowly betwixt her father and her mistress, took the salver from
the hand of the former, and said in a low but marked and decided
tone, "Father, I will fill for my noble mistress, when such is
"Thou, my child?" said Foster, eagerly and apprehensively; "no,
my child--it is not THOU shalt render the lady this service."
"And why, I pray you," said Janet, "if it be fitting that the
noble lady should partake of the cup at all?"
"Why--why?" said the seneschal, hesitating, and then bursting
into passion as the readiest mode of supplying the lack of all
other reason--"why, because it is my pleasure, minion, that you
should not! Get you gone to the evening lecture."
"Now, as I hope to hear lecture again," replied Janet, "I will
not go thither this night, unless I am better assured of my
mistress's safety. Give me that flask, father"--and she took it
from his reluctant hand, while he resigned it as if conscience-
struck. "And now," she said, "father, that which shall benefit
my mistress, cannot do ME prejudice. Father, I drink to you."
Foster, without speaking a word, rushed on his daughter and
wrested the flask from her hand; then, as if embarrassed by what
he had done, and totally unable to resolve what he should do
next, he stood with it in his hand, one foot advanced and the
other drawn back, glaring on his daughter with a countenance in
which rage, fear, and convicted villainy formed a hideous
"This is strange, my father," said Janet, keeping her eye fixed
on his, in the manner in which those who have the charge of
lunatics are said to overawe their unhappy patients; "will you
neither let me serve my lady, nor drink to her myself?"
The courage of the Countess sustained her through this dreadful
scene, of which the import was not the less obvious that it was
not even hinted at. She preserved even the rash carelessness of
her temper, and though her cheek had grown pale at the first
alarm, her eye was calm and almost scornful. "Will YOU taste
this rare cordial, Master Foster? Perhaps you will not yourself
refuse to pledge us, though you permit not Janet to do so.
Drink, sir, I pray you."
"I will not," answered Foster.
"And for whom, then, is the precious beverage reserved, sir?"
said the Countess.
"For the devil, who brewed it!" answered Foster; and, turning on
his heel, he left the chamber.
Janet looked at her mistress with a countenance expressive in the
highest degree of shame, dismay, and sorrow.
"Do not weep for me, Janet," said the Countess kindly.
"No, madam," replied her attendant, in a voice broken by sobs,
"it is not for you I weep; it is for myself--it is for that
unhappy man. Those who are dishonoured before man--those who are
condemned by God--have cause to mourn; not those who are
innocent! Farewell, madam!" she said hastily assuming the
mantle in which she was wont to go abroad.
"Do you leave me, Janet?" said her mistress--"desert me in such
an evil strait?"
"Desert you, madam!" exclaimed Janet; and running back to her
mistress, she imprinted a thousand kisses on her hand--"desert
you I--may the Hope of my trust desert me when I do so! No,
madam; well you said the God you serve will open you a path for
deliverance. There is a way of escape. I have prayed night and
day for light, that I might see how to act betwixt my duty to
yonder unhappy man and that which I owe to you. Sternly and
fearfully that light has now dawned, and I must not shut the door
which God opens. Ask me no more. I will return in brief space."
So speaking, she wrapped herself in her mantle, and saying to the
old woman whom she passed in the outer room that she was going to
evening prayer, she left the house.
Meanwhile her father had reached once more the laboratory, where
he found the accomplices of his intended guilt. "Has the sweet
bird sipped?" said Varney, with half a smile; while the
astrologer put the same question with his eyes, but spoke not a
"She has not, nor she shall not from my hands," replied Foster;
"would you have me do murder in my daughter's presence?"
"Wert thou not told, thou sullen and yet faint-hearted slave,"
answered Varney, with bitterness, "that no MURDER as thou callest
it, with that staring look and stammering tone, is designed in
the matter? Wert thou not told that a brief illness, such as
woman puts on in very wantonness, that she may wear her night-
gear at noon, and lie on a settle when she should mind her
domestic business, is all here aimed at? Here is a learned man
will swear it to thee by the key of the Castle of Wisdom."
"I swear it," said Alasco, "that the elixir thou hast there in
the flask will not prejudice life! I swear it by that immortal
and indestructible quintessence of gold, which pervades every
substance in nature, though its secret existence can be traced by
him only to whom Trismegistus renders the key of the Cabala."
"An oath of force," said Varney. "Foster, thou wert worse than a
pagan to disbelieve it. Believe me, moreover, who swear by
nothing but by my own word, that if you be not conformable, there
is no hope, no, not a glimpse of hope, that this thy leasehold
may be transmuted into a copyhold. Thus, Alasco will leave your
pewter artillery untransmigrated, and I, honest Anthony, will
still have thee for my tenant."
"I know not, gentlemen," said Foster, "where your designs tend
to; but in one thing I am bound up,--that, fall back fall edge, I
will have one in this place that may pray for me, and that one
shall be my daughter. I have lived ill, and the world has been
too weighty with me; but she is as innocent as ever she was when
on her mother's lap, and she, at least, shall have her portion in
that happy City, whose walls are of pure gold, and the
foundations garnished with all manner of precious stones."
"Ay, Tony," said Varney, "that were a paradise to thy heart's
content.--Debate the matter with him, Doctor Alasco; I will be
with you anon."
So speaking, Varney arose, and taking the flask from the table,
he left the room.
"I tell thee, my son," said Alasco to Foster, as soon as Varney
had left them, "that whatever this bold and profligate railer may
say of the mighty science, in which, by Heaven's blessing, I have
advanced so far that I would not call the wisest of living
artists my better or my teacher--I say, howsoever yonder
reprobate may scoff at things too holy to be apprehended by men
merely of carnal and evil thoughts, yet believe that the city
beheld by St. John, in that bright vision of the Christian
Apocalypse, that new Jerusalem, of which all Christian men hope
to partake, sets forth typically the discovery of the GRAND
SECRET, whereby the most precious and perfect of nature's works
are elicited out of her basest and most crude productions; just
as the light and gaudy butterfly, the most beautiful child of the
summer's breeze, breaks forth from the dungeon of a sordid
"Master Holdforth said nought of this exposition," said Foster
doubtfully; "and moreover, Doctor Alasco, the Holy Writ says that
the gold and precious stones of the Holy City are in no sort for
those who work abomination, or who frame lies."
"Well, my son," said the Doctor, "and what is your inference from
"That those," said Foster, "who distil poisons, and administer
them in secrecy, can have no portion in those unspeakable
"You are to distinguish, my son," replied the alchemist, "betwixt
that which is necessarily evil in its progress and in its end
also, and that which, being evil, is, nevertheless, capable of
working forth good. If, by the death of one person, the happy
period shall be brought nearer to us, in which all that is good
shall be attained, by wishing its presence--all that is evil
escaped, by desiring its absence--in which sickness, and pain,
and sorrow shall be the obedient servants of human wisdom, and
made to fly at the slightest signal of a sage--in which that
which is now richest and rarest shall be within the compass of
every one who shall be obedient to the voice of wisdom--when the
art of healing shall be lost and absorbed in the one universal
medicine when sages shall become monarchs of the earth, and death
itself retreat before their frown,--if this blessed consummation
of all things can be hastened by the slight circumstance that a
frail, earthly body, which must needs partake corruption, shall
be consigned to the grave a short space earlier than in the
course of nature, what is such a sacrifice to the advancement of
the holy Millennium?"
"Millennium is the reign of the Saints," said Foster, somewhat
"Say it is the reign of the Sages, my son," answered Alasco; "or
rather the reign of Wisdom itself."
"I touched on the question with Master Holdforth last exercising
night," said Foster; "but he says your doctrine is heterodox, and
a damnable and false exposition."
"He is in the bonds of ignorance, my son," answered Alasco, "and
as yet burning bricks in Egypt; or, at best, wandering in the dry
desert of Sinai. Thou didst ill to speak to such a man of such
matters. I will, however, give thee proof, and that shortly,
which I will defy that peevish divine to confute, though he
should strive with me as the magicians strove with Moses before
King Pharaoh. I will do projection in thy presence, my son,--in
thy very presence--and thine eyes shall witness the truth."
"Stick to that, learned sage," said Varney, who at this moment
entered the apartment; "if he refuse the testimony of thy tongue,
yet how shall he deny that of his own eyes?"
"Varney!" said the adept--"Varney already returned! Hast thou
--" he stopped short.
"Have I done mine errand, thou wouldst say?" replied Varney. "I
have! And thou," he added, showing more symptoms of interest
than he had hitherto exhibited, "art thou sure thou hast poured
forth neither more nor less than the just measure?"
"Ay," replied the alchemist, "as sure as men can be in these nice
proportions, for there is diversity of constitutions."
"Nay, then," said Varney, "I fear nothing. I know thou wilt not
go a step farther to the devil than thou art justly considered
for--thou wert paid to create illness, and wouldst esteem it
thriftless prodigality to do murder at the same price. Come, let
us each to our chamber we shall see the event to-morrow."
"What didst thou do to make her swallow it?" said Foster,
"Nothing," answered Varney, "but looked on her with that aspect
which governs madmen, women, and children. They told me in St.
Luke's Hospital that I have the right look for overpowering a
refractory patient. The keepers made me their compliments on't;
so I know how to win my bread when my court-favour fails me."
"And art thou not afraid," said Foster, "lest the dose be
"If so," replied Varney, "she will but sleep the sounder, and the
fear of that shall not break my rest. Good night, my masters."
Anthony Foster groaned heavily, and lifted up his hands and eyes.
The alchemist intimated his purpose to continue some experiment
of high import during the greater part of the night, and the
others separated to their places of repose.
Now God be good to me in this wild pilgrimage!
All hope in human aid I cast behind me.
Oh, who would be a woman?--who that fool,
A weeping, pining, faithful, loving woman?
She hath hard measure still where she hopes kindest,
And all her bounties only make ingrates. LOVE'S PILGRIMAGE.
The summer evening was closed, and Janet, just when her longer
stay might have occasioned suspicion and inquiry in that zealous
household, returned to Cumnor Place, and hastened to the
apartment in which she had left her lady. She found her with her
head resting on her arms, and these crossed upon a table which
stood before her. As Janet came in, she neither looked up nor
Her faithful attendant ran to her mistress with the speed of
lightning, and rousing her at the same time with her hand,
conjured the Countess, in the most earnest manner, to look up and
say what thus affected her. The unhappy lady raised her head
accordingly, and looking on her attendant with a ghastly eye, and
cheek as pale as clay--"Janet," she said, "I have drunk it."
"God be praised!" said Janet hastily--"I mean, God be praised
that it is no worse; the potion will not harm you. Rise, shake
this lethargy from your limbs, and this despair from your mind."
"Janet," repeated the Countess again, "disturb me not--leave me
at peace--let life pass quietly. I am poisoned."
"You are not, my dearest lady," answered the maiden eagerly.
"What you have swallowed cannot injure you, for the antidote has
been taken before it, and I hastened hither to tell you that the
means of escape are open to you."
"Escape!" exclaimed the lady, as she raised herself hastily in
her chair, while light returned to her eye and life to her cheek;
"but ah! Janet, it comes too late."
"Not so, dearest lady. Rise, take mine arm, walk through the
apartment; let not fancy do the work of poison! So; feel you not
now that you are possessed of the full use of your limbs?"
"The torpor seems to diminish," said the Countess, as, supported
by Janet, she walked to and fro in the apartment; "but is it then
so, and have I not swallowed a deadly draught? Varney was here
since thou wert gone, and commanded me, with eyes in which I read
my fate, to swallow yon horrible drug. O Janet! it must be
fatal; never was harmless draught served by such a cup-bearer!"
"He did not deem it harmless, I fear," replied the maiden; "but
God confounds the devices of the wicked. Believe me, as I swear
by the dear Gospel in which we trust, your life is safe from his
practice. Did you not debate with him?"
"The house was silent," answered the lady--"thou gone--no other
but he in the chamber--and he capable of every crime. I did but
stipulate he would remove his hateful presence, and I drank
whatever he offered.--But you spoke of escape, Janet; can I be so
"Are you strong enough to bear the tidings, and make the effort?"
said the maiden.
"Strong!" answered the Countess. "Ask the hind, when the fangs
of the deerhound are stretched to gripe her, if she is strong
enough to spring over a chasm. I am equal to every effort that
may relieve me from this place."
"Hear me, then," said Janet. "One whom I deem an assured friend
of yours has shown himself to me in various disguises, and sought
speech of me, which--for my mind was not clear on the matter
until this evening--I have ever declined. He was the pedlar who
brought you goods--the itinerant hawker who sold me books;
whenever I stirred abroad I was sure to see him. The event of
this night determined me to speak with him. He awaits even now
at the postern gate of the park with means for your flight.--But
have you strength of body?--have you courage of mind?--can you
undertake the enterprise?"
"She that flies from death," said the lady, "finds strength of
body--she that would escape from shame lacks no strength of mind.
The thoughts of leaving behind me the villain who menaces both my
life and honour would give me strength to rise from my deathbed."
"In God's name, then, lady," said Janet, "I must bid you adieu,
and to God's charge I must commit you!"
"Will you not fly with me, then, Janet?" said the Countess,
anxiously. "Am I to lose thee? Is this thy faithful service?"
"Lady, I would fly with you as willingly as bird ever fled from
cage, but my doing so would occasion instant discovery and
pursuit. I must remain, and use means to disguise the truth for
some time. May Heaven pardon the falsehood, because of the
"And am I then to travel alone with this stranger?" said the
lady. "Bethink thee, Janet, may not this prove some deeper and
darker scheme to separate me perhaps from you, who are my only
"No, madam, do not suppose it," answered Janet readily; "the
youth is an honest youth in his purpose to you, and a friend to
Master Tressilian, under whose direction he is come hither."
"If he be a friend of Tressilian," said the Countess, "I will
commit myself to his charge as to that of an angel sent from
heaven; for than Tressilian never breathed mortal man more free
of whatever was base, false, or selfish. He forgot himself
whenever he could be of use to others. Alas! and how was he
With eager haste they collected the few necessaries which it was
thought proper the Countess should take with her, and which
Janet, with speed and dexterity, formed into a small bundle, not
forgetting to add such ornaments of intrinsic value as came most
readily in her way, and particularly a casket of jewels, which
she wisely judged might prove of service in some future
emergency. The Countess of Leicester next changed her dress for
one which Janet usually wore upon any brief journey, for they
judged it necessary to avoid every external distinction which
might attract attention. Ere these preparations were fully made,
the moon had arisen in the summer heaven, and all in the mansion
had betaken themselves to rest, or at least to the silence and
retirement of their chambers.
There was no difficulty anticipated in escaping, whether from the
house or garden, provided only they could elude observation.
Anthony Foster had accustomed himself to consider his daughter as
a conscious sinner might regard a visible guardian angel, which,
notwithstanding his guilt, continued to hover around him; and
therefore his trust in her knew no bounds. Janet commanded her
own motions during the daytime, and had a master-key which opened
the postern door of the park, so that she could go to the village
at pleasure, either upon the household affairs, which were
entirely confided to her management, or to attend her devotions
at the meeting-house of her sect. It is true the daughter of
Foster was thus liberally entrusted under the solemn condition
that she should not avail herself of these privileges to do
anything inconsistent with the safe-keeping of the Countess; for
so her residence at Cumnor Place had been termed, since she began
of late to exhibit impatience of the restrictions to which she
was subjected. Nor is there reason to suppose that anything
short of the dreadful suspicions which the scene of that evening
had excited could have induced Janet to violate her word or
deceive her father's confidence. But from what she had
witnessed, she now conceived herself not only justified, but
imperatively called upon, to make her lady's safety the principal
object of her care, setting all other considerations aside.
The fugitive Countess with her guide traversed with hasty steps
the broken and interrupted path, which had once been an avenue,
now totally darkened by the boughs of spreading trees which met
above their head, and now receiving a doubtful and deceiving
light from the beams of the moon, which penetrated where the axe
had made openings in the wood. Their path was repeatedly
interrupted by felled trees, or the large boughs which had been
left on the ground till time served to make them into fagots and
billets. The inconvenience and difficulty attending these
interruptions, the breathless haste of the first part of their
route, the exhausting sensations of hope and fear, so much
affected the Countess's strength, that Janet was forced to
propose that they should pause for a few minutes to recover
breath and spirits. Both therefore stood still beneath the
shadow of a huge old gnarled oak-tree, and both naturally looked
back to the mansion which they had left behind them, whose long,
dark front was seen in the gloomy distance, with its huge stacks
of chimneys, turrets, and clock-house, rising above the line of
the roof, and definedly visible against the pure azure blue of
the summer sky. One light only twinkled from the extended and
shadowy mass, and it was placed so low that it rather seemed to
glimmer from the ground in front of the mansion than from one of
the windows. The Countess's terror was awakened. "They follow
us!" she said, pointing out to Janet the light which thus
Less agitated than her mistress, Janet perceived that the gleam
was stationary, and informed the Countess, in a whisper, that the
light proceeded from the solitary cell in which the alchemist
pursued his occult experiments. "He is of those," she added,
"who sit up and watch by night that they may commit iniquity.
Evil was the chance which sent hither a man whose mixed speech of
earthly wealth and unearthly or superhuman knowledge hath in it
what does so especially captivate my poor father. Well spoke the
good Master Holdforth--and, methought, not without meaning that
those of our household should find therein a practical use.
'There be those,' he said, 'and their number is legion, who will
rather, like the wicked Ahab, listen to the dreams of the false
prophet Zedekiah, than to the words of him by whom the Lord has
spoken.' And he further insisted--'Ah, my brethren, there be many
Zedekiahs among you--men that promise you the light of their
carnal knowledge, so you will surrender to them that of your
heavenly understanding. What are they better than the tyrant
Naas, who demanded the right eye of those who were subjected to
him?' And further he insisted--"
It is uncertain how long the fair Puritan's memory might have
supported her in the recapitulation of Master Holdforth's
discourse; but the Countess now interrupted her, and assured her
she was so much recovered that she could now reach the postern
without the necessity of a second delay.
They set out accordingly, and performed the second part of their
journey with more deliberation, and of course more easily, than
the first hasty commencement. This gave them leisure for
reflection; and Janet now, for the first time, ventured to ask
her lady which way she proposed to direct her flight. Receiving
no immediate answer--for, perhaps, in the confusion of her mind
this very obvious subject of deliberation had not occurred to the
Countess---Janet ventured to add, "Probably to your father's
house, where you are sure of safety and protection?"
"No, Janet," said the lady mournfully; "I left Lidcote Hall while
my heart was light and my name was honourable, and I will not
return thither till my lord's permission and public
acknowledgment of our marriage restore me to my native home with
all the rank and honour which he has bestowed on me."
"And whither will you, then, madam?" said Janet.
"To Kenilworth, girl," said the Countess, boldly and freely. "I
will see these revels--these princely revels--the preparation for
which makes the land ring from side to side. Methinks, when the
Queen of England feasts within my husband's halls, the Countess
of Leicester should be no unbeseeming guest."
"I pray God you may be a welcome one!" said Janet hastily.
"You abuse my situation, Janet," said the Countess, angrily, "and
you forget your own."
"I do neither, dearest madam," said the sorrowful maiden; "but
have you forgotten that the noble Earl has given such strict
charges to keep your marriage secret, that he may preserve his
court-favour? and can you think that your sudden appearance at
his castle, at such a juncture, and in such a presence, will be
acceptable to him?"
"Thou thinkest I would disgrace him," said the Countess; "nay,
let go my arm, I can walk without aid and work without counsel."
"Be not angry with me, lady," said Janet meekly, "and let me
still support you; the road is rough, and you are little
accustomed to walk in darkness."
"If you deem me not so mean as may disgrace my husband," said the
Countess, in the same resentful tone, "you suppose my Lord of
Leicester capable of abetting, perhaps of giving aim and
authority to, the base proceedings of your father and Varney,
whose errand I will do to the good Earl."
"For God's sake, madam, spare my father in your report," said
Janet; "let my services, however poor, be some atonement for his
"I were most unjust, dearest Janet, were it otherwise," said the
Countess, resuming at once the fondness and confidence of her
manner towards her faithful attendant, "No, Janet, not a word of
mine shall do your father prejudice. But thou seest, my love, I
have no desire but to throw my self on my husband's protection.
I have left the abode he assigned for me, because of the villainy
of the persons by whom I was surrounded; but I will disobey his
commands in no other particular. I will appeal to him alone--I
will be protected by him alone; to no other, than at his
pleasure, have I or will I communicate the secret union which
combines our hearts and our destinies. I will see him, and
receive from his own lips the directions for my future conduct.
Do not argue against my resolution, Janet; you will only confirm
me in it. And to own the truth, I am resolved to know my fate at
once, and from my husband's own mouth; and to seek him at
Kenilworth is the surest way to attain my purpose."
While Janet hastily revolved in her mind the difficulties and
uncertainties attendant on the unfortunate lady's situation, she
was inclined to alter her first opinion, and to think, upon the
whole, that since the Countess had withdrawn herself from the
retreat in which she had been placed by her husband, it was her
first duty to repair to his presence, and possess him with the
reasons for such conduct. She knew what importance the Earl
attached to the concealment of their marriage, and could not but
own, that by taking any step to make it public without his
permission, the Countess would incur, in a high degree, the
indignation of her husband. If she retired to her father's house
without an explicit avowal of her rank, her situation was likely
greatly to prejudice her character; and if she made such an
avowal, it might occasion an irreconcilable breach with her
husband. At Kenilworth, again, she might plead her cause with
her husband himself, whom Janet, though distrusting him more than
the Countess did, believed incapable of being accessory to the
base and desperate means which his dependants, from whose power
the lady was now escaping, might resort to, in order to stifle
her complaints of the treatment she had received at their hands.
But at the worst, and were the Earl himself to deny her justice
and protection, still at Kenilworth, if she chose to make her
wrongs public, the Countess might have Tressilian for her
advocate, and the Queen for her judge; for so much Janet had
learned in her short conference with Wayland. She was,
therefore, on the whole, reconciled to her lady's proposal of
going towards Kenilworth, and so expressed herself; recommending,
however, to the Countess the utmost caution in making her arrival
known to her husband,
"Hast thou thyself been cautious, Janet?" said the Countess;
"this guide, in whom I must put my confidence, hast thou not
entrusted to him the secret of my condition?"
"From me he has learned nothing," said Janet; "nor do I think
that he knows more than what the public in general believe of
"And what is that?" said the lady.
"That you left your father's house--but I shall offend you again
if I go on," said Janet, interrupting herself.
"Nay, go on," said the Countess; "I must learn to endure the evil
report which my folly has brought upon me. They think, I
suppose, that I have left my father's house to follow lawless
pleasure. It is an error which will soon be removed--indeed it
shall, for I will live with spotless fame, or I shall cease to
live.--I am accounted, then, the paramour of my Leicester?"
"Most men say of Varney," said Janet; "yet some call him only the
convenient cloak of his master's pleasures; for reports of the
profuse expense in garnishing yonder apartments have secretly
gone abroad, and such doings far surpass the means of Varney.
But this latter opinion is little prevalent; for men dare hardly
even hint suspicion when so high a name is concerned, lest the
Star Chamber should punish them for scandal of the nobility."
"They do well to speak low," said the Countess, "who would
mention the illustrious Dudley as the accomplice of such a wretch
as Varney.--We have reached the postern. Ah! Janet, I must bid
thee farewell! Weep not, my good girl," said she, endeavouring
to cover her own reluctance to part with her faithful attendant
under an attempt at playfulness; "and against we meet again,
reform me, Janet, that precise ruff of thine for an open rabatine
of lace and cut work, that will let men see thou hast a fair
neck; and that kirtle of Philippine chency, with that bugle lace
which befits only a chambermaid, into three-piled velvet and
cloth of gold--thou wilt find plenty of stuffs in my chamber, and
I freely bestow them on you. Thou must be brave, Janet; for
though thou art now but the attendant of a distressed and errant
lady, who is both nameless and fameless, yet, when we meet again,
thou must be dressed as becomes the gentlewoman nearest in love
and in service to the first Countess in England."
"Now, may God grant it, dear lady!" said Janet--"not that I may
go with gayer apparel, but that we may both wear our kirtles over
By this time the lock of the postern door had, after some hard
wrenching, yielded to the master-key; and the Countess, not
without internal shuddering, saw herself beyond the walls which
her husband's strict commands had assigned to her as the boundary
of her walks. Waiting with much anxiety for their appearance,
Wayland Smith stood at some distance, shrouding himself behind a
hedge which bordered the high-road.
"Is all safe?" said Janet to him anxiously, as he approached
them with caution.
"All," he replied; "but I have been unable to procure a horse for
the lady. Giles Gosling, the cowardly hilding, refused me one on
any terms whatever, lest, forsooth, he should suffer. But no
matter; she must ride on my palfrey, and I must walk by her side
until I come by another horse. There will be no pursuit, if you,
pretty Mistress Janet, forget not thy lesson."
"No more than the wise widow of Tekoa forgot the words which Joab
put into her mouth," answered Janet. "Tomorrow, I say that my
lady is unable to rise."
"Ay; and that she hath aching and heaviness of the head a
throbbing at the heart, and lists not to be disturbed. Fear not;
they will take the hint, and trouble thee with few questions--
they understand the disease,"
"But," said the lady, "My absence must be soon discovered, and
they will murder her in revenge. I will rather return than
expose her to such danger."
"Be at ease on my account, madam," said Janet; "I would you were
as sure of receiving the favour you desire from those to whom you
must make appeal, as I am that my father, however angry, will
suffer no harm to befall me."
The Countess was now placed by Wayland upon his horse, around the
saddle of which he had placed his cloak, so folded as to make her
a commodious seat.
"Adieu, and may the blessing of God wend with you!" said Janet,
again kissing her mistress's hand, who returned her benediction
with a mute caress. They then tore themselves asunder, and
Janet, addressing Wayland, exclaimed, "May Heaven deal with you
at your need, as you are true or false to this most injured and
most helpless lady!"
"Amen! dearest Janet," replied Way]and; "and believe me, I will
so acquit myself of my trust as may tempt even your pretty eyes,
saintlike as they are, to look less scornfully on me when we next
The latter part of this adieu was whispered into Janet's ear and
although she made no reply to it directly, yet her manner,
influenced, no doubt, by her desire to leave every motive in
force which could operate towards her mistress's safety, did not
discourage the hope which Wayland's words expressed. She
re-entered the postern door, and locked it behind her; while,
Wayland taking the horse's bridle in his hand, and walking close
by its head, they began in silence their dubious and moonlight
Although Wayland Smith used the utmost dispatch which he could
make, yet this mode of travelling was so slow, that when morning
began to dawn through the eastern mist, he found himself no
farther than about ten miles distant from Cumnor. "Now, a plague
upon all smooth-spoken hosts!" said Wayland, unable longer to
suppress his mortification and uneasiness. "Had the false loon,
Giles Gosling, but told me plainly two days since that I was to
reckon nought upon him, I had shifted better for myself. But
your hosts have such a custom of promising whatever is called for
that it is not till the steed is to be shod you find they are out
of iron. Had I but known, I could have made twenty shifts; nay,
for that matter, and in so good a cause, I would have thought
little to have prigged a prancer from the next common--it had but
been sending back the brute to the headborough. The farcy and
the founders confound every horse in the stables of the Black
The lady endeavoured to comfort her guide, observing that the
dawn would enable him to make more speed.
"True, madam," he replied; "but then it will enable other folk to
take note of us, and that may prove an ill beginning of our
journey. I had not cared a spark from anvil about the matter had
we been further advanced on our way. But this Berkshire has been
notoriously haunted, ever since I knew the country, with that
sort of malicious elves who sit up late and rise early for no
other purpose than to pry into other folk's affairs. I have been
endangered by them ere now. But do not fear," he added, "good
madam; for wit, meeting with opportunity, will not miss to find a
salve for every sore."
The alarms of her guide made more impression on the Countess's
mind than the comfort which he judged fit to administer along
with it. She looked anxiously around her. and as the shadows
withdrew from the landscape, and the heightening glow of the
eastern sky promised the speedy rise of the sun, expected at
every turn that the increasing light would expose them to the
view of the vengeful pursuers, or present some dangerous and
insurmountable obstacle to the prosecution of their journey.
Wayland Smith perceived her uneasiness, and, displeased with
himself for having given her cause of alarm, strode on with
affected alacrity, now talking to the horse as one expert in the
language of the stable, now whistling to himself low and
interrupted snatches of tunes, and now assuring the lady there
was no danger, while at the same time he looked sharply around to
see that there was nothing in sight which might give the lie to
his words while they were issuing from his mouth. Thus did they
journey on, until an unexpected incident gave them the means of
continuing their pilgrimage with more speed and convenience.
RICHARD. A horse!--A horse!--my kingdom for a horse!
CATESBY. .....My lord, I'll help you to a horse. RICHARD III.
Our travellers were in the act of passing a small thicket of
trees close by the roadside, when the first living being
presented himself whom they had seen since their departure from
Cumnor Place. This was a stupid lout, seemingly a farmer's boy,
in a grey jerkin, with his head bare, his hose about his heels,
and huge startups upon his feet. He held by the bridle what of
all things they most wanted--a palfrey, namely, with a side-
saddle, and all other garniture for a woman's mounting; and he
hailed Wayland Smith with, "Zur, be ye zure the party?"
"Ay, that I be, my lad," answered Wayland, without an instant's
hesitation; and it must be owned that consciences trained in a
stricter school of morality might have given way to an occasion
so tempting. While he spoke, he caught the rein out of the boy's
hand, and almost at the same time helped down the Countess from
his own horse, and aided her to mount on that which chance had
thus presented for her acceptance. Indeed, so naturally did the
whole take place, that the Countess, as it afterwards appeared,
never suspected but that the horse had been placed there to meet
them by the precaution of the guide or some of his friends.
The lad, however, who was thus hastily dispossessed of his
charge, began to stare hard, and scratch his head, as if seized
with some qualms of conscience for delivering up the animal on
such brief explanation. "I be right zure thou be'st the party,"
said he, muttering to himself, "but thou shouldst ha zaid BEANS,
"Ay, ay," said Wayland, speaking at a venture; "and thou BACON,
"Noa, noa," said the lad; "bide ye--bide ye--it was PEAS a should
"Well, well," answered Wayland, "Peas be it, a God's name!
though Bacon were the better password."
And being by this time mounted on his own horse, he caught the
rein of the palfrey from the uncertain hold of the hesitating
young boor, flung him a small piece of money, and made amends for
lost time by riding briskly off without further parley. The lad
was still visible from the hill up which they were riding, and
Wayland, as he looked back, beheld him standing with his fingers
in his hair as immovable as a guide-post, and his head turned in
the direction in which they were escaping from him. At length,
just as they topped the hill, he saw the clown stoop to lift up
the silver groat which his benevolence had imparted. "Now this
is what I call a Godsend," said Wayland; "this is a bonny, well-
ridden bit of a going thing, and it will carry us so far till we
get you as well mounted, and then we will send it back time
enough to satisfy the Hue and Cry."
But he was deceived in his expectations; and fate, which seemed
at first to promise so fairly, soon threatened to turn the
incident which he thus gloried in into the cause of their utter
They had not ridden a short mile from the place where they left
the lad before they heard a man's voice shouting on the wind
behind them, "Robbery! robbery!--Stop thief!" and similar
exclamations, which Wayland's conscience readily assured him must
arise out of the transaction to which he had been just accessory.
"I had better have gone barefoot all my life," he said; "it is
the Hue and Cry, and I am a lost man. Ah! Wayland, Wayland,
many a time thy father said horse-flesh would be the death of
thee. Were I once safe among the horse-coursers in Smithfield, or
Turnbull Street, they should have leave to hang me as high as St.
Paul's if I e'er meddled more with nobles, knights, or
Amidst these dismal reflections, he turned his head repeatedly to
see by whom he was chased, and was much comforted when he could
only discover a single rider, who was, however, well mounted, and
came after them at a speed which left them no chance of escaping,
even had the lady's strength permitted her to ride as fast as her
palfrey might have been able to gallop.
"There may be fair play betwixt us, sure," thought Wayland,
"where there is but one man on each side, and yonder fellow sits
on his horse more like a monkey than a cavalier. Pshaw! if it
come to the worse, it will be easy unhorsing him. Nay, 'snails!
I think his horse will take the matter in his own hand, for he
has the bridle betwixt his teeth. Oons, what care I for him?"
said he, as the pursuer drew yet nearer; "it is but the little
animal of a mercer from Abingdon, when all is over."
Even so it was, as the experienced eye of Wayland had descried at
a distance. For the valiant mercer's horse, which was a beast of
mettle, feeling himself put to his speed, and discerning a couple
of horses riding fast at some hundred yards' distance before him,
betook himself to the road with such alacrity as totally deranged
the seat of his rider, who not only came up with, but passed at
full gallop, those whom he had been pursuing, pulling the reins
with all his might, and ejaculating, "Stop! stop!" an
interjection which seemed rather to regard his own palfrey than
what seamen call "the chase." With the same involuntary speed,
he shot ahead (to use another nautical phrase) about a furlong
ere he was able to stop and turn his horse, and then rode back
towards our travellers, adjusting, as well as he could, his
disordered dress, resettling himself in the saddle, and
endeavouring to substitute a bold and martial frown for the
confusion and dismay which sat upon his visage during his
Wayland had just time to caution the lady not to be alarmed,
adding, "This fellow is a gull, and I will use him as such."
When the mercer had recovered breath and audacity enough to
confront them, he ordered Wayland, in a menacing tone, to deliver
up his palfrey.
"How?" said the smith, in King Cambyses' vein, "are we commanded
to stand and deliver on the king's highway? Then out, Excalibur,
and tell this knight of prowess that dire blows must decide
"Haro and help, and hue and cry, every true man!" said the
mercer. "I am withstood in seeking to recover mine own."
"Thou swearest thy gods in vain, foul paynim," said Wayland, "for
I will through with mine purpose were death at the end on't.
Nevertheless, know, thou false man of frail cambric and
ferrateen, that I am he, even the pedlar, whom thou didst boast
to meet on Maiden Castle moor, and despoil of his pack;
wherefore betake thee to thy weapons presently."
"I spoke but in jest, man," said Goldthred; "I am an honest
shopkeeper and citizen, who scorns to leap forth on any man from
behind a hedge."
"Then, by my faith, most puissant mercer," answered Wayland, "I
am sorry for my vow, which was, that wherever I met thee I would
despoil thee of thy palfrey, and bestow it upon my leman, unless
thou couldst defend it by blows of force. But the vow is passed
and registered, and all I can do for thee is to leave the horse
at Donnington, in the nearest hostelry."
"But I tell thee, friend," said the mercer, "it is the very horse
on which I was this day to carry Jane Thackham, of Shottesbrok,
as far as the parish church yonder, to become Dame Goldthred.
She hath jumped out of the shot-window of old Gaffer Thackham's
grange; and lo ye, yonder she stands at the place where she
should have met the palfrey, with her camlet riding-cloak and
ivory-handled whip, like a picture of Lot's wife. I pray you, in
good terms, let me have back the palfrey."
"Grieved am I," said Wayland, "as much for the fair damsel as for
thee, most noble imp of muslin. But vows must have their course;
thou wilt find the palfrey at the Angel yonder at Donnington. It
is all I may do for thee with a safe conscience."
"To the devil with thy conscience!" said the dismayed mercer.
"Wouldst thou have a bride walk to church on foot?"
"Thou mayest take her on thy crupper, Sir Goldthred," answered
Wayland; "it will take down thy steed's mettle."
"And how if you--if you forget to leave my horse, as you
propose?" said Goldthred, not without hesitation, for his soul
was afraid within him.
"My pack shall be pledged for it--yonder it lies with Giles
Gosling, in his chamber with the damasked leathern hangings,
stuffed full with velvet, single, double, treble-piled--rash-
taffeta, and parapa--shag, damask, and mocado, plush, and
"Hold! hold!" exclaimed the mercer; "nay, if there be, in truth
and sincerity, but the half of these wares--but if ever I trust
bumpkin with bonny Bayard again!"
"As you list for that, good Master Goldthred, and so good morrow
to you--and well parted," he added, riding on cheerfully with the
lady, while the discountenanced mercer rode back much slower than
he came, pondering what excuse he should make to the disappointed
bride, who stood waiting for her gallant groom in the midst of
the king's highway.
"Methought," said the lady, as they rode on, "yonder fool stared
at me as if he had some remembrance of me; yet I kept my muffler
as high as I might."
"If I thought so," said Wayland, "I would ride back and cut him
over the pate; there would be no fear of harming his brains, for
he never had so much as would make pap to a sucking gosling. We
must now push on, however, and at Donnington we will leave the
oaf's horse, that he may have no further temptation to pursue us,
and endeavour to assume such a change of shape as may baffle his
pursuit if he should persevere in it."
The travellers reached Donnington without further alarm, where it
became matter of necessity that the Countess should enjoy two or
three hours' repose, during which Wayland disposed himself, with
equal address and alacrity, to carry through those measures on
which the safety of their future journey seemed to depend.
Exchanging his pedlar's gaberdine for a smock-frock, he carried
the palfrey of Goldthred to the Angel Inn, which was at the other
end of the village from that where our travellers had taken up
their quarters. In the progress of the morning, as he travelled
about his other business, he saw the steed brought forth and
delivered to the cutting mercer himself, who, at the head of a
valorous posse of the Hue and Cry, came to rescue, by force of
arms, what was delivered to him without any other ransom than the
price of a huge quantity of ale, drunk out by his assistants,
thirsty, it would seem, with their walk, and concerning the price
of which Master Goldthred had a fierce dispute with the
headborough, whom he had summoned to aid him in raising the
Having made this act of prudent as well as just restitution,
Wayland procured such change of apparel for the lady, as well as
himself, as gave them both the appearance of country people of
the better class; it being further resolved, that in order to
attract the less observation, she should pass upon the road for
the sister of her guide. A good but not a gay horse, fit to keep
pace with his own, and gentle enough for a lady's use, completed
the preparations for the journey; for making which, and for other
expenses, he had been furnished with sufficient funds by
Tressilian. And thus, about noon, after the Countess had been
refreshed by the sound repose of several hours, they resumed
their journey, with the purpose of making the best of their way
to Kenilworth, by Coventry and Warwick. They were not, however,
destined to travel far without meeting some cause of
It is necessary to premise that the landlord of the inn had
informed them that a jovial party, intended, as he understood, to
present some of the masques or mummeries which made a part of the
entertainment with which the Queen was usually welcomed on the
royal Progresses, had left the village of Donnington an hour or
two before them in order to proceed to Kenilworth. Now it had
occurred to Wayland that, by attaching themselves in some sort to
this group as soon as they should overtake them on the road, they
would be less likely to attract notice than if they continued to
travel entirely by themselves. He communicated his idea to the
Countess, who, only anxious to arrive at Kenilworth without
interruption, left him free to choose the manner in which this
was to be accomplished. They pressed forward their horses,
therefore, with the purpose of overtaking the party of intended
revellers, and making the journey in their company; and had just
seen the little party, consisting partly of riders, partly of
people on foot, crossing the summit of a gentle hill, at about
half a mile's distance, and disappearing on the other side, when
Wayland, who maintained the most circumspect observation of all
that met his eye in every direction, was aware that a rider was
coming up behind them on a horse of uncommon action, accompanied
by a serving-man, whose utmost efforts were unable to keep up
with his master's trotting hackney, and who, therefore, was fain
to follow him at a hand gallop. Wayland looked anxiously back at
these horsemen, became considerably disturbed in his manner,
looked back again, and became pale, as he said to the lady, "That
is Richard Varney's trotting gelding; I would know him among a
thousand nags. This is a worse business than meeting the
"Draw your sword," answered the lady, "and pierce my bosom with
it, rather than I should fall into his hands!"
"I would rather by a thousand times," answered Wayland, "pass it
through his body, or even mine own. But to say truth, fighting
is not my best point, though I can look on cold iron like another
when needs must be. And indeed, as for my sword--(put on, I pray
you)--it is a poor Provant rapier, and I warrant you he has a
special Toledo. He has a serving-man, too, and I think it is the
drunken ruffian Lambourne! upon the horse on which men say--(I
pray you heartily to put on)--he did the great robbery of the
west country grazier. It is not that I fear either Varney or
Lambourne in a good cause--(your palfrey will go yet faster if
you urge him)--but yet--(nay, I pray you let him not break off
into a gallop, lest they should see we fear them, and give chase
--keep him only at the full trot)--but yet, though I fear them
not, I would we were well rid of them, and that rather by policy
than by violence. Could we once reach the party before us, we
may herd among them, and pass unobserved, unless Varney be really
come in express pursuit of us, and then, happy man be his dole!"
While he thus spoke, he alternately urged and restrained his
horse, desirous to maintain the fleetest pace that was consistent
with the idea of an ordinary journey on the road, but to avoid
such rapidity of movement as might give rise to suspicion that
they were flying.
At such a pace they ascended the gentle hill we have mentioned,
and looking from the top, had the pleasure to see that the party
which had left Donnington before them were in the little valley
or bottom on the other side, where the road was traversed by a
rivulet, beside which was a cottage or two. In this place they
seemed to have made a pause, which gave Wayland the hope of
joining them, and becoming a part of their company, ere Varney
should overtake them. He was the more anxious, as his companion,
though she made no complaints, and expressed no fear, began to
look so deadly pale that he was afraid she might drop from her
horse. Notwithstanding this symptom of decaying strength, she
pushed on her palfrey so briskly that they joined the party in
the bottom of the valley ere Varney appeared on the top of the
gentle eminence which they had descended.
They found the company to which they meant to associate
themselves in great disorder. The women with dishevelled locks,
and looks of great importance, ran in and out of one of the
cottages, and the men stood around holding the horses, and
looking silly enough, as is usual in cases where their assistance
is not wanted.
Wayland and his charge paused, as if out of curiosity, and then
gradually, without making any inquiries, or being asked any
questions, they mingled with the group, as if they had always
made part of it.
They had not stood there above five minutes, anxiously keeping as
much to the side of the road as possible, so as to place the
other travellers betwixt them and Varney, when Lord Leicester's
master of the horse, followed by Lambourne, came riding fiercely
down the hill, their horses' flanks and the rowels of their spurs
showing bloody tokens of the rate at which they travelled. The
appearance of the stationary group around the cottages, wearing
their buckram suits in order to protect their masking dresses,
having their light cart for transporting their scenery, and
carrying various fantastic properties in their hands for the more
easy conveyance, let the riders at once into the character and
purpose of the company.
"You are revelIers," said Varney, "designing for Kenilworth?"
"RECTE QUIDEM, DOMINE SPECTATISSIME," answered one of the party.
"And why the devil stand you here?" said Varney, "when your
utmost dispatch will but bring you to Kenilworth in time? The
Queen dines at Warwick to-morrow, and you loiter here, ye
"I very truth, sir," said a little, diminutive urchin, wearing a
vizard with a couple of sprouting horns of an elegant scarlet
hue, having, moreover, a black serge jerkin drawn close to his
body by lacing, garnished with red stockings, and shoes so shaped
as to resemble cloven feet--"in very truth, sir, and you are in
the right on't. It is my father the Devil, who, being taken in
labour, has delayed our present purpose, by increasing our
company with an imp too many,"
"The devil he has!" answered Varney, whose laugh, however, never
exceeded a sarcastic smile.
"It is even as the juvenal hath said," added the masker who spoke
first; "Our major devil--for this is but our minor one--is even
now at LUCINA, FER OPEM, within that very TUGURIUM."
"By Saint George, or rather by the Dragon, who may be a kinsman
of the fiend in the straw, a most comical chance!" said Varney.
"How sayest thou, Lambourne, wilt thou stand godfather for the
nonce? If the devil were to choose a gossip, I know no one more
fit for the office."
"Saving always when my betters are in presence," said Lambourne,
with the civil impudence of a servant who knows his services to
be so indispensable that his jest will be permitted to pass
"And what is the name of this devil, or devil's dam, who has
timed her turns so strangely?" said Varney. "We can ill afford
to spare any of our actors."
"GAUDET NOMINE SIBYLLAE," said the first speaker; "she is called
Sibyl Laneham, wife of Master Robert Laneham--"
"Clerk to the Council-chamber door," said Varney; "why, she is
inexcusable, having had experience how to have ordered her
matters better. But who were those, a man and a woman, I think,
who rode so hastily up the hill before me even now? Do they
belong to your company?"
Wayland was about to hazard a reply to this alarming inquiry,
when the little diablotin again thrust in his oar.
"So please you," he said, coming close up to Varney, and speaking
so as not to be overheard by his companions, "the man was our
devil major, who has tricks enough to supply the lack of a
hundred such as Dame Laneham; and the woman, if you please, is
the sage person whose assistance is most particularly necessary
to our distressed comrade."
"Oh, what! you have got the wise woman, then?" said Varney.
"Why, truly, she rode like one bound to a place where she was
needed. And you have a spare limb of Satan, besides, to supply
the place of Mistress Laneham?"
"Ay, sir," said the boy; "they are not so scarce in this world as
your honour's virtuous eminence would suppose. This master-fiend
shall spit a few flashes of fire, and eruct a volume or two of
smoke on the spot, if it will do you pleasure--you would think he
had AEtna in his abdomen."
"I lack time just now, most hopeful imp of darkness, to witness
his performance," said Varney; "but here is something for you all
to drink the lucky hour--and so, as the play says, 'God be with
Thus speaking, he struck his horse with the spurs, and rode on
Lambourne tarried a moment or two behind his master, and rummaged
his pouch for a piece of silver, which he bestowed on the
communicative imp, as he said, for his encouragement on his path
to the infernal regions, some sparks of whose fire, he said, he
could discover flashing from him already. Then having received
the boy's thanks for his generosity he also spurred his horse,
and rode after his master as fast as the fire flashes from flint.
"And now," said the wily imp, sidling close up to Wayland's
horse, and cutting a gambol in the air which seemed to vindicate
his title to relationship with the prince of that element, "I
have told them who YOU are, do you in return tell me who I am?"
"Either Flibbertigibbet," answered Wayland Smith, "or else an imp
of the devil in good earnest."
"Thou hast hit it," answered Dickie Sludge. "I am thine own
Flibbertigibbet, man; and I have broken forth of bounds, along
with my learned preceptor, as I told thee I would do, whether he
would or not. But what lady hast thou got with thee? I saw thou
wert at fault the first question was asked, and so I drew up for
thy assistance. But I must know all who she is, dear Wayland."
"Thou shalt know fifty finer things, my dear ingle," said
Wayland; "but a truce to thine inquiries just now. And since you
are bound for Kenilworth, thither will I too, even for the love
of thy sweet face and waggish company."
"Thou shouldst have said my waggish face and sweet company," said
Dickie;" but how wilt thou travel with us--I mean in what
"E'en in that thou hast assigned me, to be sure--as a juggler;
thou knowest I am used to the craft," answered Wayland.
"Ay, but the lady?" answered Flibbertigibbet. "Credit me, I
think she IS one and thou art in a sea of troubles about her at
this moment, as I can perceive by thy fidgeting."
"Oh, she, man!--she is a poor sister of mine," said Wayland; "she
can sing and play o' the lute would win the fish out o' the
"Let me hear her instantly," said the boy, "I love the lute
rarely; I love it of all things, though I never heard it."
"Then how canst thou love it, Flibbertigibbet?" said Wayland.
"As knights love ladies in old tales," answered Dickie--"on
"Then love it on hearsay a little longer, till my sister is
recovered from the fatigue of her journey," said Wayland;
muttering afterwards betwixt his teeth, "The devil take the imp's
curiosity! I must keep fair weather with him, or we shall fare
He then proceeded to state to Master Holiday his own talents as a
juggler, with those of his sister as a musician. Some proof of
his dexterity was demanded, which he gave in such a style of
excellence, that, delighted at obtaining such an accession to
their party, they readily acquiesced in the apology which he
offered when a display of his sister's talents was required. The
new-comers were invited to partake of the refreshments with which
the party were provided; and it was with some difficulty that
Wayland Smith obtained an opportunity of being apart with his
supposed sister during the meal, of which interval he availed
himself to entreat her to forget for the present both her rank
and her sorrows, and condescend, as the most probable chance of
remaining concealed, to mix in the society of those with whom she
was to travel.
The Countess allowed the necessity of the case, and when they
resumed their journey, endeavoured to comply with her guide's
advice, by addressing herself to a female near her, and
expressing her concern for the woman whom they were thus obliged
to leave behind them.
"Oh, she is well attended, madam," replied the dame whom she
addressed, who, from her jolly and laughter-loving demeanour,
might have been the very emblem of the Wife of Bath; "and my
gossip Laneham thinks as little of these matters as any one. By
the ninth day, an the revels last so long, we shall have her with
us at Kenilworth, even if she should travel with her bantling on
There was something in this speech which took away all desire on
the Countess of Leicester's part to continue the conversation.
But having broken the charm by speaking to her fellow-traveller
first, the good dame, who was to play Rare Gillian of Croydon in
one of the interludes, took care that silence did not again
settle on the journey, but entertained her mute companion with a
thousand anecdotes of revels, from the days of King Harry
downwards, with the reception given them by the great folk, and
all the names of those who played the principal characters; but
ever concluding with "they would be nothing to the princely
pleasures of Kenilworth."
"And when shall we reach Kenilworth? said the Countess, with an
agitation which she in vain attempted to conceal.
"We that have horses may, with late riding, get to Warwick to-
night, and Kenilworth may be distant some four or five miles.
But then we must wait till the foot-people come up; although it
is like my good Lord of Leicester will have horses or light
carriages to meet them, and bring them up without being travel-
toiled, which last is no good preparation, as you may suppose,
for dancing before your betters. And yet, Lord help me, I have
seen the day I would have tramped five leagues of lea-land, and
turned an my toe the whole evening after, as a juggler spins a
pewter platter on the point of a needle. But age has clawed me
somewhat in his clutch, as the song says; though, if I like the
tune and like my partner, I'll dance the hays yet with any merry
lass in Warwickshire that writes that unhappy figure four with a
round O after it."
If the Countess was overwhelmed with the garrulity of this good
dame, Wayland Smith, on his part, had enough to do to sustain and
parry,the constant attacks made upon him by the indefatigable
curiosity of his old acquaintance Richard Sludge. Nature had
given that arch youngster a prying cast of disposition, which
matched admirably with his sharp wit; the former inducing him to
plant himself as a spy on other people's affairs, and the latter
quality leading him perpetually to interfere, after he had made
himself master of that which concerned him not. He spent the
livelong day in attempting to peer under the Countess's muffler,
and apparently what he could there discern greatly sharpened his
"That sister of thine, Wayland," he said, "has a fair neck to
have been born in a smithy, and a pretty taper hand to have been
used for twirling a spindle--faith, I'll believe in your
relationship when the crow's egg is hatched into a cygnet."
"Go to," said Wayland, "thou art a prating boy, and should be
breeched for thine assurance."
"Well," said the imp, drawing off, "all I say is--remember you
have kept a secret from me, and if I give thee not a Roland for
thine Oliver, my name is not Dickon Sludge!"
This threat, and the distance at which Hobgoblin kept from him
for the rest of the way, alarmed Wayland very much, and he
suggested to his pretended sister that, on pretext of weariness,
she should express a desire to stop two or three miles short of
the fair town of Warwick, promising to rejoin the troop in the
morning. A small village inn afforded them a resting-place, and
it was with secret pleasure that Wayland saw the whole party,
including Dickon, pass on, after a courteous farewell, and leave
"To-morrow, madam," he said to his charge, "we will, with your
leave, again start early, and reach Kenilworth before the rout
which are to assemble there."
The Countess gave assent to the proposal of her faithful guide;
but, somewhat to his surprise, said nothing further on the
subject, which left Wayland under the disagreeable uncertainty
whether or no she had formed any plan for her own future
proceedings, as he knew her situation demanded circumspection,
although he was but imperfectly acquainted with all its
peculiarities. Concluding, however, that she must have friends
within the castle, whose advice and assistance she could safely
trust, he supposed his task would be best accomplished by
conducting her thither in safety, agreeably to her repeated
Hark, the bells summon, and the bugle calls,
But she the fairest answers not--the tide
Of nobles and of ladies throngs the halls,
But she the loveliest must in secret hide.
What eyes were thine, proud Prince, which in the gleam
Of yon gay meteors lost that better sense,
That o'er the glow-worm doth the star esteem,
And merit's modest blush o'er courtly insolence?
THE GLASS SLIPPER.
The unfortunate Countess of Leicester had, from her infancy
upwards, been treated by those around her with indulgence as
unbounded as injudicious. The natural sweetness of her
disposition had saved her from becoming insolent and ill-
humoured; but the caprice which preferred the handsome and
insinuating Leicester before Tressilian, of whose high honour and
unalterable affection she herself entertained so firm an opinion
--that fatal error, which ruined the happiness of her life, had
its origin in the mistaken kindness; that had spared her
childhood the painful but most necessary lesson of submission and
self-command. From the same indulgence it followed that she had
only been accustomed to form and to express her wishes, leaving
to others the task of fulfilling them; and thus, at the most
momentous period of her life, she was alike destitute of presence
of mind, and of ability to form for herself any reasonable or
prudent plan of conduct.
These difficulties pressed on the unfortunate lady with
overwhelming force on the morning which seemed to be the crisis
of her fate. Overlooking every intermediate consideration, she
had only desired to be at Kenilworth, and to approach her
husband's presence; and now, when she was in the vicinity of
both, a thousand considerations arose at once upon her mind,
startling her with accumulated doubts and dangers, some real,
some imaginary, and all exalted and exaggerated by a situation
alike helpless and destitute of aid and counsel.
A sleepless night rendered her so weak in the morning that she
was altogether unable to attend Wayland's early summons. The
trusty guide became extremely distressed on the lady's account,
and somewhat alarmed on his own, and was on the point of going
alone to Kenilworth, in the hope of discovering Tressilian, and
intimating to him the lady's approach, when about nine in the
morning he was summoned to attend her. He found her dressed, and
ready for resuming her journey, but with a paleness of
countenance which alarmed him for her health. She intimated her
desire that the horses might be got instantly ready, and resisted
with impatience her guide's request that she would take some
refreshment before setting forward. "I have had," she said, "a
cup of water--the wretch who is dragged to execution needs no
stronger cordial, and that may serve me which suffices for him.
Do as I command you." Wayland Smith still hesitated. "What
would you have?" said she. "Have I not spoken plainly?"
"Yes, madam," answered Wayland; "but may I ask what is your
further purpose? I only wish to know, that I may guide myself by
your wishes. The whole country is afloat, and streaming towards
the Castle of Kenilworth. It will be difficult travelling
thither, even if we had the necessary passports for safe-conduct
and free admittance; unknown and unfriended, we may come by
mishap. Your ladyship will forgive my speaking my poor mind--
were we not better try to find out the maskers, and again join
ourselves with them?" The Countess shook her head, and her guide
proceeded, "Then I see but one other remedy."
"Speak out, then," said the lady, not displeased, perhaps, that
he should thus offer the advice which she was ashamed to ask; "I
believe thee faithful--what wouldst thou counsel?"
"That I should warn Master Tressilian," said Wayland, "that you
are in this place. I am right certain he would get to horse with
a few of Lord Sussex's followers, and ensure your personal
"And is it to ME you advise," said the Countess, "to put myself
under the protection of Sussex, the unworthy rival of the noble
Leicester?" Then, seeing the surprise with which Wayland stared
upon her, and afraid of having too strongly intimated her
interest in Leicester, she added, "And for Tressilian, it must
not be--mention not to him, I charge you, my unhappy name; it
would but double MY misfortunes, and involve HIM in dangers
beyond the power of rescue." She paused; but when she observed
that Wayland continued to look on her with that anxious and
uncertain gaze which indicated a doubt whether her brain was
settled, she assumed an air of composure, and added, "Do thou but
guide me to Kenilworth Castle, good fellow, and thy task is
ended, since I will then judge what further is to be done. Thou
hast yet been true to me--here is something that will make thee
She offered the artist a ring containing a valuable stone.
Wayland looked at it, hesitated a moment, and then returned it.
"Not," he said, "that I am above your kindness, madam, being but
a poor fellow, who have been forced, God help me! to live by
worse shifts than the bounty of such a person as you. But, as my
old master the farrier used to say to his customers, 'No cure, no
pay.' We are not yet in Kenilworth Castle, and it is time enough
to discharge your guide, as they say, when you take your boots
off. I trust in God your ladyship is as well assured of fitting
reception when you arrive, as you may hold yourself certain of my
best endeavours to conduct you thither safely. I go to get the
horses; meantime, let me pray you once more, as your poor
physician as well as guide, to take some sustenance."
"I will--I will," said the lady hastily. "Begone, begone
instantly!--It is in vain I assume audacity," said she, when he
left the room; "even this poor groom sees through my affectation
of courage, and fathoms the very ground of my fears."
She then attempted to follow her guide's advice by taking some
food, but was compelled to desist, as the effort to swallow even
a single morsel gave her so much uneasiness as amounted well-nigh
to suffocation. A moment afterwards the horses appeared at the
latticed window. The lady mounted, and found that relief from
the free air and change of place which is frequently experienced
in similar circumstances.
It chanced well for the Countess's purpose that Wayland Smith,
whose previous wandering and unsettled life had made him
acquainted with almost all England, was intimate with all the by-
roads, as well as direct communications, through the beautiful
county of Warwick. For such and so great was the throng which
flocked in all directions towards Kenilworth, to see the entry of
Elizabeth into that splendid mansion of her prime favourite, that
the principal roads were actually blocked up and interrupted, and
it was only by circuitous by-paths that the travellers could
proceed on their journey.
The Queen's purveyors had been abroad, sweeping the farms and
villages of those articles usually exacted during a royal
Progress, and for which the owners were afterwards to obtain a
tardy payment from the Board of Green Cloth. The Earl of
Leicester's household officers had been scouring the country for
the same purpose; and many of his friends and allies, both near
and remote, took this opportunity of ingratiating themselves by
sending large quantities of provisions and delicacies of all
kinds, with game in huge numbers, and whole tuns of the best
liquors, foreign and domestic. Thus the highroads were filled
with droves of bullocks, sheep, calves, and hogs, and choked with
loaded wains, whose axle-trees cracked under their burdens of
wine-casks and hogsheads of ale, and huge hampers of grocery
goods, and slaughtered game, and salted provisions, and sacks of
flour. Perpetual stoppages took place as these wains became
entangled; and their rude drivers, swearing and brawling till
their wild passions were fully raised, began to debate precedence
with their wagon-whips and quarterstaves, which occasional riots
were usually quieted by a purveyor, deputy-marshal's man, or some
other person in authority, breaking the heads of both parties.
Here were, besides, players and mummers, jugglers and showmen, of
every description, traversing in joyous bands the paths which led
to the Palace of Princely Pleasure; for so the travelling
minstrels had termed Kenilworth in the songs which already had
come forth in anticipation of the revels which were there
expected. In the midst of this motley show, mendicants were
exhibiting their real or pretended miseries, forming a strange
though common contrast betwixt the vanities and the sorrows of
human existence. All these floated along with the immense tide
of population whom mere curiosity had drawn together; and where
the mechanic, in his leathern apron, elbowed the dink and dainty
dame, his city mistress; where clowns, with hobnailed shoes, were
treading on the kibes of substantial burghers and gentlemen of
worship; and where Joan of the dairy, with robust pace, and red,
sturdy arms, rowed her way unward, amongst those prim and pretty
moppets whose sires were knights and squires.
The throng and confusion was, however, of a gay and cheerful
character. All came forth to see and to enjoy, and all laughed
at the trifling inconveniences which at another time might have
chafed their temper. Excepting the occasional brawls which we
have mentioned among that irritable race the carmen, the mingled
sounds which arose from the multitude were those of light-hearted
mirth and tiptoe jollity. The musicians preluded on their
instruments--the minstrels hummed their songs--the licensed
jester whooped betwixt mirth and madness, as he brandished his
bauble--the morrice-dancers jangled their bells--the rustics
hallooed and whistled-men laughed loud, and maidens giggled
shrill; while many a broad jest flew like a shuttlecock from one
party, to be caught in the air and returned from the opposite
side of the road by another, at which it was aimed.
No infliction can be so distressing to a mind absorbed in
melancholy, as being plunged into a scene of mirth and revelry,
forming an accompaniment so dissonant from its own feelings.
Yet, in the case of the Countess of Leicester, the noise and
tumult of this giddy scene distracted her thoughts, and rendered
her this sad service, that it became impossible for her to brood
on her own misery, or to form terrible anticipations of her
approaching fate. She travelled on like one in a dream,
following implicitly the guidance of Wayland, who, with great
address, now threaded his way through the general throng of
passengers, now stood still until a favourable opportunity
occurred of again moving forward, and frequently turning
altogether out of the direct road, followed some circuitous by-
path, which brought them into the highway again, after having
given them the opportunity of traversing a considerable way with
greater ease and rapidity.
It was thus he avoided Warwick, within whose Castle (that fairest
monument of ancient and chivalrous splendour which yet remains
uninjured by time) Elizabeth had passed the previous night, and
where she was to tarry until past noon, at that time the general
hour of dinner throughout England, after which repast she was to
proceed to Kenilworth, In the meanwhile, each passing group had
something to say in the Sovereign's praise, though not absolutely
without the usual mixture of satire which qualifies more or less
our estimate of our neighbours, especially if they chance to be
also our betters.
"Heard you," said. one, "how graciously she spoke to Master
Bailiff and the Recorder, and to good Master Griffin the
preacher, as they kneeled down at her coach-window?"
"Ay, and how she said to little Aglionby, 'Master Recorder, men
would have persuaded me that you were afraid of me, but truly I
think, so well did you reckon up to me the virtues of a
sovereign, that I have more reason to be afraid of you.' and then
with what grace she took the fair-wrought purse with the twenty
gold sovereigns, seeming as though she would not willingly handle
it, and yet taking it withal."
"Ay, ay," said another, "her fingers closed on it pretty
willingly methought, when all was done; and methought, too, she
weighed them for a second in her hand, as she would say, I hope
they be avoirdupois."
"She needed not, neighbour," said a third; "it is only when the
corporation pay the accounts of a poor handicraft like me, that
they put him off with clipped coin. Well, there is a God above
all--little Master Recorder, since that is the word, will be
greater now than ever."
"Come, good neighbour," said the first speaker "be not envious.
She is a good Queen, and a generous; she gave the purse to the
Earl of Leicester."
"I envious?--beshrew thy heart for the word!" replied the
handicraft. "But she will give all to the Earl of Leicester
"You are turning ill, lady," said Wayland Smith to the Countess
of Leicester, and proposed that she should draw off from the
road, and halt till she recovered. But, subduing her feelings at
this and different speeches to the same purpose, which caught her
ear as they passed on, she insisted that her guide should proceed
to Kenilworth with all the haste which the numerous impediments
of their journey permitted. Meanwhile, Wayland's anxiety at her
repeated fits of indisposition, and her obvious distraction of
mind, was hourly increasing, and he became extremely desirous
that, according to her reiterated requests, she should be safely
introduced into the Castle, where, he doubted not, she was secure
of a kind reception, though she seemed unwilling to reveal on
whom she reposed her hopes.
"An I were once rid of this peril," thought he, "and if any man
shall find me playing squire of the body to a damosel-errant, he
shall have leave to beat my brains out with my own sledge-
At length the princely Castle appeared, upon improving which, and
the domains around, the Earl of Leicester had, it is said,
expended sixty thousand pounds sterling, a sum equal to half a
million of our present money.
The outer wall of this splendid and gigantic structure enclosed
seven acres, a part of which was occupied by extensive stables,
and by a pleasure garden, with its trim arbours and parterres,
and the rest formed the large base-court or outer yard of the
noble Castle. The lordly structure itself, which rose near the
centre of this spacious enclosure, was composed of a huge pile of
magnificent castellated buildings, apparently of different ages,
surrounding an inner court, and bearing in the names attached to
each portion of the magnificent mass, and in the armorial
bearings which were there blazoned, the emblems of mighty chiefs
who had long passed away, and whose history, could Ambition have
lent ear to it, might have read a lesson to the haughty favourite
who had now acquired and was augmenting the fair domain. A large
and massive Keep, which formed the citadel of the Castle, was of
uncertain though great antiquity. It bore the name of Caesar,
perhaps from its resemblance to that in the Tower of London so
called. Some antiquaries ascribe its foundation to the time of
Kenelph, from whom the Castle had its name, a Saxon King of
Mercia, and others to an early era after the Norman Conquest. On
the exterior walls frowned the scutcheon of the Clintons, by whom
they were founded in the reign of Henry I.; and of the yet more
redoubted Simon de Montfort, by whom, during the Barons' wars,
Kenilworth was long held out against Henry III. Here Mortimer,
Earl of March, famous alike for his rise and his fall, had once
gaily revelled in Kenilworth, while his dethroned sovereign,
Edward II., languished in its dungeons. Old John of Gaunt,
"time-honoured Lancaster," had widely extended the Castle,
erecting that noble and massive pile which yet bears the name of
Lancaster's Buildings; and Leicester himself had outdone the
former possessors, princely and powerful as they were, by
erecting another immense structure, which now lies crushed under
its own ruins, the monument of its owner's ambition. The
external wall of this royal Castle was, on the south and west
sides, adorned and defended by a lake partly artificial, across
which Leicester had constructed a stately bridge, that Elizabeth
might enter the Castle by a path hitherto untrodden, instead of
the usual entrance to the northward, over which he had erected a
gatehouse or barbican, which still exists, and is equal in
extent, and superior in architecture, to the baronial castle of
many a northern chief.
Beyond the lake lay an extensive chase, full of red deer, fallow
deer, roes, and every species of game, and abounding with lofty
trees, from amongst which the extended front and massive towers
of the Castle were seen to rise in majesty and beauty. We cannot
but add, that of this lordly palace, where princes feasted and
heroes fought, now in the bloody earnest of storm and siege, and
now in the games of chivalry, where beauty dealt the prize which
valour won, all is now desolate. The bed of the lake is but a
rushy swamp; and the massive ruins of the Castle only serve to
show what their splendour once was, and to impress on the musing
visitor the transitory value of human possessions, and the
happiness of those who enjoy a humble lot in virtuous
It was with far different feelings that the unfortunate Countess
of Leicester viewed those grey and massive towers, when she first
beheld them rise above the embowering and richly-shaded woods,
over which they seemed to preside. She, the undoubted wife of
the great Earl, of Elizabeth's minion, and England's mighty
favourite, was approaching the presence of her husband, and that
husband's sovereign, under the protection, rather than the
guidance, of a poor juggler; and though unquestioned Mistress of
that proud Castle, whose lightest word ought to have had force
sufficient to make its gates leap from their massive hinges to
receive her, yet she could not conceal from herself the
difficulty and peril which she must experience in gaining
admission into her own halls.
The risk and difficulty, indeed, seemed to increase every moment,
and at length threatened altogether to put a stop to her further
progress at the great gate leading to a broad and fair road,
which, traversing the breadth of the chase for the space of two
miles, and commanding several most beautiful views of the Castle
and lake, terminated at the newly constructed bridge, to which it
was an appendage, and which was destined to form the Queen's
approach to the Castle on that memorable occasion.
Here the Countess and Wayland found the gate at the end of this
avenue, which opened on the Warwick road, guarded by a body of
the Queen's mounted yeomen of the guard, armed in corselets
richly carved and gilded, and wearing morions instead of bonnets,
having their carabines resting with the butt-end on their thighs.
These guards, distinguished for strength and stature, who did
duty wherever the Queen went in person, were here stationed under
the direction of a pursuivant, graced with the Bear and Ragged
Staff on his arm, as belonging to the Earl of Leicester, and
peremptorily refused all admittance, excepting to such as were
guests invited to the festival, or persons who were to perform
some part in the mirthful exhibitions which were proposed.
The press was of consequence great around the entrance, and
persons of all kinds presented every sort of plea for admittance;
to which the guards turned an inexorable ear, pleading, in return
to fair words, and even to fair offers, the strictness of their
orders, founded on the Queen's well-known dislike to the rude
pressing of a multitude. With those whom such reasons did not
serve,they dealt more rudely, repelling them without ceremony by
the pressure of their powerful, barbed horses, and good round
blows from the stock of their carabines. These last manoeuvres
produced undulations amongst the crowd, which rendered Wayland
much afraid that he might perforce be separated from his charge
in the throng. Neither did he know what excuse to make in order
to obtain admittance, and he was debating the matter in his head
with great uncertainty, when the Earl's pursuivant, having cast
an eye upon him, exclaimed, to his no small surprise, "Yeomen,
make room for the fellow in the orange-tawny cloak.--Come
forward, Sir Coxcomb, and make haste. What, in the fiend's name,
has kept you waiting? Come forward with your bale of woman's
While the pursuivant gave Wayland this pressing yet uncourteous
invitation, which, for a minute or two, he could not imagine was
applied to him, the yeomen speedily made a free passage for him,