Part 9 out of 11
are a scholar, sir," she said, "and of some note, as I have
heard; yet you seem wondrous slow in reading text hand. How say
you, are these certificates true or no?"
"Madam," said Tressilian, with obvious embarrassment and
hesitation, anxious to avoid admitting evidence which he might
afterwards have reason to confute, yet equally desirous to keep
his word to Amy, and to give her, as he had promised, space to
plead her own cause in her own way--"Madam--Madam, your Grace
calls on me to admit evidence which ought to be proved valid by
those who found their defence upon them."
"Why, Tressilian, thou art critical as well as poetical," said
the Queen, bending on him a brow of displeasure; "methinks these
writings, being produced in the presence of the noble Earl to
whom this Castle pertains, and his honour being appealed to as
the guarantee of their authenticity, might be evidence enough for
thee. But since thou listest to be so formal--Varney, or rather
my Lord of Leicester, for the affair becomes yours" (these words,
though spoken at random, thrilled through the Earl's marrow and
bones), "what evidence have you as touching these certificates?"
Varney hastened to reply, preventing Leicester--"So please your
Majesty, my young Lord of Oxford, who is here in presence, knows
Master Anthony Foster's hand and his character."
The Earl of Oxford, a young unthrift, whom Foster had more than
once accommodated with loans on usurious interest, acknowledged,
on this appeal, that he knew him as a wealthy and independent
franklin, supposed to be worth much money, and verified the
certificate produced to be his handwriting.
"And who speaks to the Doctor's certificate?" said the Queen.
"Alasco, methinks, is his name."
Masters, her Majesty's physician (not the less willingly that he
remembered his repulse from Sayes Court, and thought that his
present testimony might gratify Leicester, and mortify the Earl
of Sussex and his faction), acknowledged he had more than once
consulted with Doctor Alasco, and spoke of him as a man of
extraordinary learning and hidden acquirements, though not
altogether in the regular course of practice. The Earl of
Huntingdon, Lord Leicester's brother-in-law, and the old Countess
of Rutland, next sang his praises, and both remembered the thin,
beautiful Italian hand in which he was wont to write his
receipts, and which corresponded to the certificate produced as
"And now, I trust, Master Tressilian, this matter is ended," said
the Queen. "We will do something ere the night is older to
reconcile old Sir Hugh Robsart to the match. You have done your
duty something more than boldly; but we were no woman had we not
compassion for the wounds which true love deals, so we forgive
your audacity, and your uncleansed boots withal, which have well-
nigh overpowered my Lord of Leicester's perfumes."
So spoke Elizabeth, whose nicety of scent was one of the
characteristics of her organization, as appeared long afterwards
when she expelled Essex from her presence, on a charge against
his boots similar to that which she now expressed against those
But Tressilian had by this time collected himself, astonished as
he had at first been by the audacity of the falsehood so feasibly
supported, and placed in array against the evidence of his own
eyes. He rushed forward, kneeled down, and caught the Queen by
the skirt of her robe. "As you are Christian woman," he said,
"madam, as you are crowned Queen, to do equal justice among your
subjects--as you hope yourself to have fair hearing (which God
grant you) at that last bar at which we must all plead, grant me
one small request! Decide not this matter so hastily. Give me
but twenty-four hours' interval, and I will, at the end of that
brief space, produce evidence which will show to demonstration
that these certificates, which state this unhappy lady to be now
ill at ease in Oxfordshire, are false as hell!"
"Let go my train, sir!" said Elizabeth, who was startled at his
vehemence, though she had too much of the lion in her to fear;
"the fellow must be distraught. That witty knave, my godson
Harrington, must have him into his rhymes of Orlando Furioso!
And yet, by this light, there is something strange in the
vehemence of his demand.--Speak, Tressilian, what wilt thou do
if, at the end of these four-and-twenty hours, thou canst not
confute a fact so solemnly proved as this lady's illness?"
"I will lay down my head on the block," answered Tressilian.
"Pshaw!" replied the Queen, "God's light! thou speakest like a
fool. What head falls in England but by just sentence of English
law? I ask thee, man--if thou hast sense to understand me--wilt
thou, if thou shalt fail in this improbable attempt of thine,
render me a good and sufficient reason why thou dost undertake
Tressilian paused, and again hesitated; because he felt convinced
that if, within the interval demanded, Amy should become
reconciled to her husband, he would in that case do her the worst
of offices by again ripping up the whole circumstances before
Elizabeth, and showing how that wise and jealous princess had
been imposed upon by false testimonials. The consciousness of
this dilemma renewed his extreme embarrassment of look, voice,
and manner; he hesitated, looked down, and on the Queen repeating
her question with a stern voice and flashing eye, he admitted
with faltering words, "That it might be--he could not positively
--that is, in certain events--explain the reasons and grounds on
which he acted."
"Now, by the soul of King Henry," said the Queen, "this is either
moonstruck madness or very knavery!--Seest thou, Raleigh, thy
friend is far too Pindaric for this presence. Have him away, and
make us quit of him, or it shall be the worse for him; for his
flights are too unbridled for any place but Parnassus, or Saint
Luke's Hospital. But come back instantly thyself, when he is
placed under fitting restraint.--We wish we had seen the beauty
which could make such havoc in a wise man's brain."
Tressilian was again endeavouring to address the Queen, when
Raleigh, in obedience to the orders he had received, interfered,
and with Blount's assistance, half led, half forced him out of
the presence-chamber, where he himself indeed began to think his
appearance did his cause more harm than good.
When they had attained the antechamber, Raleigh entreated Blount
to see Tressilian safely conducted into the apartments allotted
to the Earl of Sussex's followers, and, if necessary, recommended
that a guard should be mounted on him.
"This extravagant passion," he said, "and, as it would seem, the
news of the lady's illness, has utterly wrecked his excellent
judgment. But it will pass away if he be kept quiet. Only let
him break forth again at no rate; for he is already far in her
Highness's displeasure, and should she be again provoked, she
will find for him a worse place of confinement, and sterner
"I judged as much as that he was mad," said Nicholas Blount,
looking down upon his own crimson stockings and yellow roses,
"whenever I saw him wearing yonder damned boots, which stunk so
in her nostrils. I will but see him stowed, and be back with you
presently. But, Walter, did the Queen ask who I was?--methought
she glanced an eye at me."
"Twenty--twenty eye-glances she sent! and I told her all--how
thou wert a brave soldier, and a-- But for God's sake, get off
"I will--I will," said Blount; "but methinks this court-haunting
is no such bad pastime, after all. We shall rise by it, Walter,
my brave lad. Thou saidst I was a good soldier, and a-- what
besides, dearest Walter?"
"An all unutterable-codshead. For God's sake, begone!"
Tressilian, without further resistance or expostulation followed,
or rather suffered himself to be conducted by Blount to Raleigh's
lodging, where he was formally installed into a small truckle-bed
placed in a wardrobe, and designed for a domestic. He saw but
too plainly that no remonstrances would avail to procure the help
or sympathy of his friends, until the lapse of the time for which
he had pledged himself to remain inactive should enable him
either to explain the whole circumstances to them, or remove from
him every pretext or desire of further interference with the
fortunes of Amy, by her having found means to place herself in a
state of reconciliation with her husband.
With great difficulty, and only by the most patient and mild
remonstrances with Blount, he escaped the disgrace and
mortification of having two of Sussex's stoutest yeomen quartered
in his apartment. At last, however, when Nicholas had seen him
fairly deposited in his truckle-bed, and had bestowed one or two
hearty kicks, and as hearty curses, on the boots, which, in his
lately acquired spirit of foppery, he considered as a strong
symptom, if not the cause, of his friend's malady, he contented
himself with the modified measure of locking the door on the
unfortunate Tressilian, whose gallant and disinterested efforts
to save a female who had treated him with ingratitude thus
terminated for the present in the displeasure of his Sovereign
and the conviction of his friends that he was little better than
The wisest Sovereigns err like private men,
And royal hand has sometimes laid the sword
Of chivalry upon a worthless shoulder,
Which better had been branded by the hangman.
What then?--Kings do their best; and they and we
Must answer for the intent, and not the event. OLD PLAY.
"It is a melancholy matter," said the Queen, when Tressilian was
withdrawn, "to see a wise and learned man's wit thus pitifully
unsettled. Yet this public display of his imperfection of brain
plainly shows us that his supposed injury and accusation were
fruitless; and therefore, my Lord of Leicester, we remember your
suit formerly made to us in behalf of your faithful servant
Varney, whose good gifts and fidelity, as they are useful to you,
ought to have due reward from us, knowing well that your
lordship, and all you have, are so earnestly devoted to our
service. And we render Varney the honour more especially that we
are a guest, and, we fear, a chargeable and troublesome one,
under your lordship's roof; and also for the satisfaction of the
good old Knight of Devon, Sir Hugh Robsart, whose daughter he
hath married, and we trust the especial mark of grace which we
are about to confer may reconcile him to his son-in-law.--Your
sword, my Lord of Leicester."
The Earl unbuckled his sword, and taking it by the point,
presented on bended knee the hilt to Elizabeth.
She took it slowly drew it from the scabbard, and while the
ladies who stood around turned away their eyes with real or
affected shuddering, she noted with a curious eye the high polish
and rich, damasked ornaments upon the glittering blade.
"Had I been a man," she said, "methinks none of my ancestors
would have loved a good sword better. As it is with me, I like
to look on one, and could, like the Fairy of whom I have read in
some Italian rhymes--were my godson Harrington here, he could
tell me the passage--even trim my hair, and arrange my head-gear,
in such a steel mirror as this is.--Richard Varney, come forth,
and kneel down. In the name of God and Saint George, we dub thee
knight! Be Faithful, Brave, and Fortunate. Arise, Sir Richard
[The incident alluded to occurs in the poem of Orlando Innamorato
of Boiardo, libro ii. canto 4, stanza 25.
"Non era per ventura," etc.
It may be rendered thus:--
As then, perchance, unguarded was the tower,
So enter'd free Anglante's dauntless knight.
No monster and no giant guard the bower
In whose recess reclined the fairy light,
Robed in a loose cymar of lily white,
And on her lap a sword of breadth and might,
In whose broad blade, as in a mirror bright,
Like maid that trims her for a festal night,
The fairy deck'd her hair, and placed her coronet aright.
Elizabeth's attachment to the Italian school of poetry was
singularly manifested on a well-known occasion. Her godson, Sir
John Harrington, having offended her delicacy by translating some
of the licentious passages of the Orlando Furioso, she imposed on
him, as a penance, the task of rendering the WHOLE poem into
Varney arose and retired, making a deep obeisance to the
Sovereign who had done him so much honour.
"The buckling of the spur, and what other rites remain," said the
Queen, "may be finished to-morrow in the chapel; for we intend
Sir Richard Varney a companion in his honours. And as we must
not be partial in conferring such distinction, we mean on this
matter to confer with our cousin of Sussex."
That noble Earl, who since his arrival at Kenilworth, and indeed
since the commencement of this Progress, had found himself in a
subordinate situation to Leicester, was now wearing a heavy cloud
on his brow; a circumstance which had not escaped the Queen, who
hoped to appease his discontent, and to follow out her system of
balancing policy by a mark of peculiar favour, the more
gratifying as it was tendered at a moment when his rival's
triumph appeared to be complete.
At the summons of Queen Elizabeth, Sussex hastily approached her
person; and being asked on which of his followers, being a
gentleman and of merit, he would wish the honour of knighthood to
be conferred, he answered, with more sincerity than policy, that
he would have ventured to speak for Tressilian, to whom he
conceived he owed his own life, and who was a distinguished
soldier and scholar, besides a man of unstained lineage, "only,"
he said, "he feared the events of that night--" And then he
"I am glad your lordship is thus considerate," said Elizabeth.
"The events of this night would make us, in the eyes of our
subjects, as mad as this poor brain-sick gentleman himself--for
we ascribe his conduct to no malice--should we choose this moment
to do him grace."
"In that case," said the Earl of Sussex, somewhat
discountenanced, your Majesty will allow me to name my master of
the horse, Master Nicholas Blount, a gentleman of fair estate and
ancient name, who has served your Majesty both in Scotland and
Ireland, and brought away bloody marks on his person, all
honourably taken and requited."
The Queen could not help shrugging her shoulders slightly even at
this second suggestion; and the Duchess of Rutland, who read in
the Queen's manner that she had expected that Sussex would have
named Raleigh, and thus would have enabled her to gratify her own
wish while she honoured his recommendation, only waited the
Queen's assent to what he had proposed, and then said that she
hoped, since these two high nobles had been each permitted to
suggest a candidate for the honours of chivalry, she, in behalf
of the ladies in presence, might have a similar indulgence.
"I were no woman to refuse you such a boon," said the Queen,
"Then," pursued the Duchess, "in the name of these fair ladies
present, I request your Majesty to confer the rank of knighthood
on Walter Raleigh, whose birth, deeds of arms, and promptitude to
serve our sex with sword or pen, deserve such distinction from us
"Gramercy, fair ladies," said Elizabeth, smiling, "your boon is
granted, and the gentle squire Lack-Cloak shall become the good
knight Lack-Cloak, at your desire. Let the two aspirants for the
honour of chivalry step forward."
Blount was not as yet returned from seeing Tressilian, as he
conceived, safely disposed of; but Raleigh came forth, and
kneeling down, received at the hand of the Virgin Queen that
title of honour, which was never conferred on a more
distinguished or more illustrious object.
Shortly afterwards Nicholas Blount entered, and hastily apprised
by Sussex, who met him at the door of the hall, of the Queen's
gracious purpose regarding him, he was desired to advance towards
the throne. It is a sight sometimes seen, and it is both
ludicrous and pitiable; when an honest man of plain common sense
is surprised, by the coquetry of a pretty woman, or any other
cause, into those frivolous fopperies which only sit well upon
the youthful, the gay, and those to whom long practice has
rendered them a second nature. Poor Blount was in this
situation. His head was already giddy from a consciousness of
unusual finery, and the supposed necessity of suiting his manners
to the gaiety of his dress; and now this sudden view of promotion
altogether completed the conquest of the newly inhaled spirit of
foppery over his natural disposition, and converted a plain,
honest, awkward man into a coxcomb of a new and most ridiculous
The knight-expectant advanced up the hall, the whole length of
which he had unfortunately to traverse, turning out his toes with
so much zeal that he presented his leg at every step with its
broadside foremost, so that it greatly resembled an old-fashioned
table-knife with a curved point, when seen sideways. The rest of
his gait was in proportion to this unhappy amble; and the implied
mixture of bashful rear and self-satisfaction was so unutterably
ridiculous that Leicester's friends did not suppress a titter, in
which many of Sussex's partisans were unable to resist joining,
though ready to eat their nails with mortification. Sussex
himself lost all patience, and could not forbear whispering into
the ear of his friend, "Curse thee! canst thou not walk like a
man and a soldier?" an interjection which only made honest
Blount start and stop, until a glance at his yellow roses and
crimson stockings restored his self-confidence, when on he went
at the same pace as before.
The Queen conferred on poor Blount the honour of knighthood with
a marked sense of reluctance. That wise Princess was fully aware
of the propriety of using great circumspection and economy in
bestowing those titles of honour, which the Stewarts, who
succeeded to her throne, distributed with an imprudent liberality
which greatly diminished their value. Blount had no sooner
arisen and retired than she turned to the Duchess of Rutland.
"Our woman wit," she said, "dear Rutland, is sharper than that of
those proud things in doublet and hose. Seest thou, out of these
three knights, thine is the only true metal to stamp chivalry's
"Sir Richard Varney, surely--the friend of my Lord of Leicester
--surely he has merit," replied the Duchess.
"Varney has a sly countenance and a smooth tongue," replied the
Queen; "I fear me he will prove a knave. But the promise was of
ancient standing. My Lord of Sussex must have lost his own wits,
I think, to recommend to us first a madman like Tressilian, and
then a clownish fool like this other fellow. I protest, Rutland,
that while he sat on his knees before me, mopping and mowing as
if he had scalding porridge in his mouth, I had much ado to
forbear cutting him over the pate, instead of striking his
"Your Majesty gave him a smart ACCOLADE," said the Duchess; "we
who stood behind heard the blade clatter on his collar-bone, and
the poor man fidgeted too as if he felt it."
"I could not help it, wench," said the Queen, laughing. "But we
will have this same Sir Nicholas sent to Ireland or Scotland, or
somewhere, to rid our court of so antic a chevalier; he may be a
good soldier in the field, though a preposterous ass in a
The discourse became then more general, and soon after there was
a summons to the banquet.
In order to obey this signal, the company were under the
necessity of crossing the inner court of the Castle, that they
might reach the new buildings containing the large banqueting-
room, in which preparations for supper were made upon a scale of
profuse magnificence, corresponding to the occasion.
The livery cupboards were loaded with plate of the richest
description, and the most varied--some articles tasteful, some
perhaps grotesque, in the invention and decoration, but all
gorgeously magnificent, both from the richness of the work and
value of the materials. Thus the chief table was adorned by a
salt, ship-fashion, made of mother-of-pearl, garnished with
silver and divers warlike ensigns and other ornaments, anchors,
sails, and sixteen pieces of ordnance. It bore a figure of
Fortune, placed on a globe, with a flag in her hand. Another
salt was fashioned of silver, in form of a swan in full sail.
That chivalry might not be omitted amid this splendour, a silver
Saint George was presented, mounted and equipped in the usual
fashion in which he bestrides the dragon. The figures were
moulded to be in some sort useful. The horse's tail was managed
to hold a case of knives, while the breast of the dragon
presented a similar accommodation for oyster knives,
In the course of the passage from the hall of reception to the
banqueting-room, and especially in the courtyard, the new-made
knights were assailed by the heralds, pursuivants, minstrels,
etc., with the usual cry of LARGESSE, LARGESSE, CHEVALIERS TRES
HARDIS! an ancient invocation, intended to awaken the bounty of
the acolytes of chivalry towards those whose business it was to
register their armorial bearings, and celebrate the deeds by
which they were illustrated. The call was, of course, liberally
and courteously answered by those to whom it was addressed.
Varney gave his largesse with an affectation of complaisance and
humility. Raleigh bestowed his with the graceful ease peculiar
to one who has attained his own place, and is familiar with its
dignity. Honest Blount gave what his tailor had left him of his
half-year's rent, dropping some pieces in his hurry, then
stooping down to look for them, and then distributing them
amongst the various claimants, with the anxious face and mien of
the parish beadle dividing a dole among paupers.
The donations were accepted with the usual clamour and VIVATS of
applause common on such occasions; but as the parties gratified
were chiefly dependants of Lord Leicester, it was Varney whose
name was repeated with the loudest acclamations. Lambourne,
especially, distinguished himself by his vociferations of "Long
life to Sir Richard Varney!--Health and honour to Sir Richard!--
Never was a more worthy knight dubbed!"--then, suddenly sinking
his voice, he added--"since the valiant Sir Pandarus of Troy,"--a
winding-up of his clamorous applause which set all men a-laughing
who were within hearing of it.
It is unnecessary to say anything further of the festivities of
the evening, which were so brilliant in themselves, and received
with such obvious and willing satisfaction by the Queen, that
Leicester retired to his own apartment with all the giddy
raptures of successful ambition. Varney, who had changed his
splendid attire, and now waited on his patron in a very modest
and plain undress, attended to do the honours of the Earl's
"How! Sir Richard," said Leicester, smiling, "your new rank
scarce suits the humility of this attendance."
"I would disown that rank, my Lord," said Varney, "could I think
it was to remove me to a distance from your lordship's person."
"Thou art a grateful fellow," said Leicester; "but I must not
allow you to do what would abate you in the opinion of others."
While thus speaking, he still accepted without hesitation the
offices about his person, which the new-made knight seemed to
render as eagerly as if he had really felt, in discharging the
task, that pleasure which his words expressed.
"I am not afraid of men's misconstruction," he said, in answer to
Leicester's remark, "since there is not--(permit me to undo the
collar)--a man within the Castle who does not expect very soon to
see persons of a rank far superior to that which, by your
goodness, I now hold, rendering the duties of the bedchamber to
you, and accounting it an honour."
"It might, indeed, so have been"--said the Earl, with an
involuntary sigh; and then presently added, "My gown, Varney; I
will look out on the night. Is not the moon near to the full?"
"I think so, my lord, according to the calendar," answered
There was an abutting window, which opened on a small projecting
balcony of stone, battlemented as is usual in Gothic castles.
The Earl undid the lattice, and stepped out into the open air.
The station he had chosen commanded an extensive view of the lake
and woodlands beyond, where the bright moonlight rested on the
clear blue waters and the distant masses of oak and elm trees.
The moon rode high in the heavens, attended by thousands and
thousands of inferior luminaries. All seemed already to be
hushed in the nether world, excepting occasionally the voice of
the watch (for the yeomen of the guard performed that duty
wherever the Queen was present in person) and the distant baying
of the hounds, disturbed by the preparations amongst the grooms
and prickers for a magnificent hunt, which was to be the
amusement of the next day.
Leicester looked out on the blue arch of heaven, with gestures
and a countenance expressive of anxious exultation, while Varney,
who remained within the darkened apartment, could (himself
unnoticed), with a secret satisfaction, see his patron stretch
his hands with earnest gesticulation towards the heavenly bodies.
"Ye distant orbs of living fire," so ran the muttered invocation
of the ambitious Earl, "ye are silent while you wheel your mystic
rounds; but Wisdom has given to you a voice. Tell me, then, to
what end is my high course destined? Shall the greatness to
which I have aspired be bright, pre-eminent, and stable as your
own; or am I but doomed to draw a brief and glittering train
along the nightly darkness, and then to sink down to earth, like
the base refuse of those artificial fires with which men emulate
He looked on the heavens in profound silence for a minute or two
longer, and then again stepped into the apartment, where Varney
seemed to have been engaged in putting the Earl's jewels into a
"What said Alasco of my horoscope?" demanded Leicester. "You
already told me; but it has escaped me, for I think but lightly
of that art."
"Many learned and great men have thought otherwise," said Varney;
"and, not to flatter your lordship, my own opinion leans that
"Ay, Saul among the prophets?" said Leicester. "I thought thou
wert sceptical in all such matters as thou couldst neither see,
hear, smell, taste, or touch, and that thy belief was limited by
"Perhaps, my lord," said Varney, "I may be misled on the present
occasion by my wish to find the predictions of astrology true.
Alasco says that your favourite planet is culminating, and that
the adverse influence--he would not use a plainer term--though
not overcome, was evidently combust, I think he said, or
"It is even so," said Leicester, looking at an abstract of
astrological calculations which he had in his hand; "the stronger
influence will prevail, and, as I think, the evil hour pass away.
Lend me your hand, Sir Richard, to doff my gown; and remain an
instant, if it is not too burdensome to your knighthood, while I
compose myself to sleep. I believe the bustle of this day has
fevered my blood, for it streams through my veins like a current
of molten lead. Remain an instant, I pray you--I would fain feel
my eyes heavy ere I closed them."
Varney officiously assisted his lord to bed, and placed a massive
silver night-lamp, with a short sword, on a marble table which
stood close by the head of the couch. Either in order to avoid
the light of the lamp, or to hide his countenance from Varney,
Leicester drew the curtain, heavy with entwined silk and gold, so
as completely to shade his face. Varney took a seat near the
bed, but with his back towards his master, as if to intimate that
he was not watching him, and quietly waited till Leicester
himself led the way to the topic by which his mind was engrossed.
"And so, Varney," said the Earl, after waiting in vain till his
dependant should commence the conversation, "men talk of the
Queen's favour towards me?"
"Ay, my good lord," said Varney; "of what can they else, since it
is so strongly manifested?"
"She is indeed my good and gracious mistress," said Leicester,
after another pause; "but it is written, 'Put not thy trust in
"A good sentence and a true," said Varney, "unless you can unite
their interest with yours so absolutely that they must needs sit
on your wrist like hooded hawks."
"I know what thou meanest," said Leicester impatiently, "though
thou art to-night so prudentially careful of what thou sayest to
me. Thou wouldst intimate I might marry the Queen if I would?"
"It is your speech, my lord, not mine," answered Varney; "but
whosesoever be the speech, it is the thought of ninety-nine out
of an hundred men throughout broad England."
"Ay, but," said Leicester, turning himself in his bed, "the
hundredth man knows better. Thou, for example, knowest the
obstacle that cannot be overleaped."
"It must, my lord, if the stars speak true," said Varney
"What, talkest thou of them," said Leicester, "that believest not
in them or in aught else?"
"You mistake, my lord, under your gracious pardon," said Varney;
"I believe in many things that predict the future. I believe, if
showers fall in April, that we shall have flowers in May; that if
the sun shines, grain will ripen; and I believe in much natural
philosophy to the same effect, which, if the stars swear to me, I
will say the stars speak the truth. And in like manner, I will
not disbelieve that which I see wished for and expected on earth,
solely because the astrologers have read it in the heavens."
"Thou art right," said Leicester, again tossing himself on his
couch "Earth does wish for it. I have had advices from the
reformed churches of Germany--from the Low Countries--from
Switzerland--urging this as a point on which Europe's safety
depends. France will not oppose it. The ruling party in
Scotland look to it as their best security. Spain fears it, but
cannot prevent it. And yet thou knowest it is impossible."
"I know not that, my lord," said Varney; "the Countess is
"Villain!" said Leicester, starting up on his couch, and seizing
the sword which lay on the table beside him, "go thy thoughts
that way?--thou wouldst not do murder?"
"For whom, or what, do you hold me, my lord?" said Varney,
assuming the superiority of an innocent man subjected to unjust
suspicion. "I said nothing to deserve such a horrid imputation
as your violence infers. I said but that the Countess was ill.
And Countess though she be--lovely and beloved as she is--surely
your lordship must hold her to be mortal? She may die, and your
lordship's hand become once more your own."
"Away! away!" said Leicester; "let me have no more of this."
"Good night, my lord," said Varney, seeming to understand this as
a command to depart; but Leicester's voice interrupted his
"Thou 'scapest me not thus, Sir Fool," said he; "I think thy
knighthood has addled thy brains. Confess thou hast talked of
impossibilities as of things which may come to pass."
"My lord, long live your fair Countess," said Varney; "but
neither your love nor my good wishes can make her immortal. But
God grant she live long to be happy herself, and to render you
so! I see not but you may be King of England notwithstanding."
"Nay, now, Varney, thou art stark mad," said Leicester.
"I would I were myself within the same nearness to a good estate
of freehold," said Varney. "Have we not known in other countries
how a left-handed marriage might subsist betwixt persons of
differing degree?--ay, and be no hindrance to prevent the husband
from conjoining himself afterwards with a more suitable partner?"
"I have heard of such things in Germany," said Leicester.
"Ay, and the most learned doctors in foreign universities justify
the practice from the Old Testament," said Varney. "And after
all, where is the harm? The beautiful partner whom you have
chosen for true love has your secret hours of relaxation and
affection. Her fame is safe her conscience may slumber securely.
You have wealth to provide royally for your issue, should Heaven
bless you with offspring. Meanwhile you may give to Elizabeth
ten times the leisure, and ten thousand times the affection, that
ever Don Philip of Spain spared to her sister Mary; yet you know
how she doted on him though so cold and neglectful. It requires
but a close mouth and an open brow, and you keep your Eleanor and
your fair Rosamond far enough separate. Leave me to build you a
bower to which no jealous Queen shall find a clew."
Leicester was silent for a moment, then sighed, and said, "It is
impossible. Good night, Sir Richard Varney--yet stay. Can you
guess what meant Tressilian by showing himself in such careless
guise before the Queen to-day?--to strike her tender heart, I
should guess, with all the sympathies due to a lover abandoned by
his mistress and abandoning himself."
Varney, smothering a sneering laugh, answered, "He believed
Master Tressilian had no such matter in his head."
"How!" said Leicester; "what meanest thou? There is ever
knavery in that laugh of thine, Varney."
"I only meant, my lord," said Varney, "that Tressilian has taken
the sure way to avoid heart-breaking. He hath had a companion--a
female companion--a mistress--a sort of player's wife or sister,
as I believe--with him in Mervyn's Bower, where I quartered him
for certain reasons of my own."
"A mistress!--meanest thou a paramour?"
"Ay, my lord; what female else waits for hours in a gentleman's
"By my faith, time and space fitting, this were a good tale to
tell," said Leicester. "I ever distrusted those bookish,
hypocritical, seeming-virtuous scholars. Well--Master Tressilian
makes somewhat familiar with my house; if I look it over, he is
indebted to it for certain recollections. I would not harm him
more than I can help. Keep eye on him, however, Varney."
"I lodged him for that reason," said Varney, "in Mervyn's Tower,
where he is under the eye of my very vigilant, if he were not
also my very drunken, servant, Michael Lambourne, whom I have
told your Grace of."
"Grace!" said Leicester; "what meanest thou by that epithet?"
"It came unawares, my lord; and yet it sounds so very natural
that I cannot recall it."
"It is thine own preferment that hath turned thy brain," said
Leicester, laughing; "new honours are as heady as new wine."
"May your lordship soon have cause to say so from experience,"
said Varney; and wishing his patron good night, he withdrew."
[See Note 8. Furniture of Kenilworth.]
Here stands the victim--there the proud betrayer,
E'en as the hind pull'd down by strangling dogs
Lies at the hunter's feet--who courteous proffers
To some high dame, the Dian of the chase,
To whom he looks for guerdon, his sharp blade,
To gash the sobbing throat. THE WOODSMAN.
We are now to return to Mervyn's Bower, the apartment, or rather
the prison, of the unfortunate Countess of Leicester, who for
some time kept within bounds her uncertainty and her impatience.
She was aware that, in the tumult of the day, there might be some
delay ere her letter could be safely conveyed to the hands of
Leicester, and that some time more might elapse ere he could
extricate himself from the necessary attendance on Elizabeth, to
come and visit her in her secret bower. "I will not expect him,"
she said, "till night; he cannot be absent from his royal guest,
even to see me. He will, I know, come earlier if it be possible,
but I will not expect him before night." And yet all the while
she did expect him; and while she tried to argue herself into a
contrary belief, each hasty noise of the hundred which she heard
sounded like the hurried step of Leicester on the staircase,
hasting to fold her in his arms.
The fatigue of body which Amy had lately undergone, with the
agitation of mind natural to so cruel a state of uncertainty,
began by degrees strongly to affect her nerves, and she almost
feared her total inability to maintain the necessary self-command
through the scenes which might lie before her. But although
spoiled by an over-indulgent system of education, Amy had
naturally a mind of great power, united with a frame which her
share in her father's woodland exercises had rendered uncommonly
healthy. She summoned to her aid such mental and bodily
resources; and not unconscious how much the issue of her fate
might depend on her own self-possession, she prayed internally
for strength of body and for mental fortitude, and resolved at
the same time to yield to no nervous impulse which might weaken
Yet when the great bell of the Castle, which was placed in
Caesar's Tower, at no great distance from that called Mervyn's,
began to send its pealing clamour abroad, in signal of the
arrival of the royal procession, the din was so painfully acute
to ears rendered nervously sensitive by anxiety, that she could
hardly forbear shrieking with anguish, in answer to every
stunning clash of the relentless peal.
Shortly afterwards, when the small apartment was at once
enlightened by the shower of artificial fires with which the air
was suddenly filled, and which crossed each other like fiery
spirits, each bent on his own separate mission, or like
salamanders executing a frolic dance in the region of the Sylphs,
the Countess felt at first as if each rocket shot close by her
eyes, and discharged its sparks and flashes so nigh that she
could feel a sense of the heat. But she struggled against these
fantastic terrors, and compelled herself to arise, stand by the
window, look out, and gaze upon a sight which at another time
would have appeared to her at once captivating and fearful. The
magnificent towers of the Castle were enveloped in garlands of
artificial fire, or shrouded with tiaras of pale smoke. The
surface of the lake glowed like molten iron, while many fireworks
(then thought extremely wonderful, though now common), whose
flame continued to exist in the opposing element, dived and rose,
hissed and roared, and spouted fire, like so many dragons of
enchantment sporting upon a burning lake.
Even Amy was for a moment interested by what was to her so new a
scene. "I had thought it magical art," she said, "but poor
Tressilian taught me to judge of such things as they are. Great
God! and may not these idle splendours resemble my own hoped-for
happiness--a single spark, which is instantly swallowed up by
surrounding darkness--a precarious glow, which rises but for a
brief space into the air, that its fall may be the lower? O
Leicester! after all--all that thou hast said--hast sworn--that
Amy was thy love, thy life, can it be that thou art the magician
at whose nod these enchantments arise, and that she sees them as
an outcast, if not a captive?"
The sustained, prolonged, and repeated bursts of music, from so
many different quarters, and at so many varying points of
distance, which sounded as if not the Castle of Kenilworth only,
but the whole country around, had been at once the scene of
solemnizing some high national festival, carried the same
oppressive thought still closer to her heart, while some notes
would melt in distant and falling tones, as if in compassion for
her sorrows, and some burst close and near upon her, as if
mocking her misery, with all the insolence of unlimited mirth.
"These sounds," she said, "are mine--mine, because they are HIS;
but I cannot say, Be still, these loud strains suit me not; and
the voice of the meanest peasant that mingles in the dance would
have more power to modulate the music than the command of her who
is mistress of all."
By degrees the sounds of revelry died away, and the Countess
withdrew from the window at which she had sat listening to them.
It was night, but the moon afforded considerable light in the
room, so that Amy was able to make the arrangement which she
judged necessary. There was hope that Leicester might come to
her apartment as soon as the revel in the Castle had subsided;
but there was also risk she might be disturbed by some
unauthorized intruder. She had lost confidence in the key since
Tressilian had entered so easily, though the door was locked on
the inside; yet all the additional security she could think of
was to place the table across the door, that she might be warned
by the noise should any one attempt to enter. Having taken these
necessary precautions, the unfortunate lady withdrew to her
couch, stretched herself down on it, mused in anxious
expectation, and counted more than one hour after midnight, till
exhausted nature proved too strong for love, for grief, for fear,
nay, even for uncertainty, and she slept.
Yes, she slept. The Indian sleeps at the stake in the intervals
between his tortures; and mental torments, in like manner,
exhaust by long continuance the sensibility of the sufferer, so
that an interval of lethargic repose must necessarily ensue, ere
the pangs which they inflict can again be renewed.
The Countess slept, then, for several hours, and dreamed that she
was in the ancient house at Cumnor Place, listening for the low
whistle with which Leicester often used to announce his presence
in the courtyard when arriving suddenly on one of his stolen
visits. But on this occasion, instead of a whistle, she heard
the peculiar blast of a bugle-horn, such as her father used to
wind on the fall of the stag, and which huntsmen then called a
MORT. She ran, as she thought, to a window that looked into the
courtyard, which she saw filled with men in mourning garments.
The old Curate seemed about to read the funeral service.
Mumblazen, tricked out in an antique dress, like an ancient
herald, held aloft a scutcheon, with its usual decorations of
skulls, cross-bones, and hour-glasses, surrounding a coat-of-
arms, of which she could only distinguish that it was surmounted
with an Earl's coronet. The old man looked at her with a ghastly
smile, and said, "Amy, are they not rightly quartered?" Just as
he spoke, the horns again poured on her ear the melancholy yet
wild strain of the MORT, or death-note, and she awoke.
The Countess awoke to hear a real bugle-note, or rather the
combined breath of many bugles, sounding not the MORT. but the
jolly REVEILLE, to remind the inmates of the Castle of Kenilworth
that the pleasures of the day were to commence with a magnificent
stag-hunting in the neighbouring Chase. Amy started up from her
couch, listened to the sound, saw the first beams of the summer
morning already twinkle through the lattice of her window, and
recollected, with feelings of giddy agony, where she was, and how
"He thinks not of me," she said; "he will not come nigh me! A
Queen is his guest, and what cares he in what corner of his huge
Castle a wretch like me pines in doubt, which is fast fading into
despair?" At once a sound at the door, as of some one attempting
to open it softly, filled her with an ineffable mixture of joy
and fear; and hastening to remove the obstacle she had placed
against the door, and to unlock it, she had the precaution to
ask! "Is it thou, my love?"
"Yes, my Countess," murmured a whisper in reply.
She threw open the door, and exclaiming, "Leicester!" flung her
arms around the neck of the man who stood without, muffled in his
"No--not quite Leicester," answered Michael Lambourne, for he it
was, returning the caress with vehemence--"not quite Leicester,
my lovely and most loving duchess, but as good a man."
With an exertion of force, of which she would at another time
have thought herself incapable, the Countess freed herself from
the profane and profaning grasp of the drunken debauchee, and
retreated into the midst of her apartment. where despair gave
her courage to make a stand.
As Lambourne, on entering, dropped the lap of his cloak from his
face, she knew Varney's profligate servant, the very last person,
excepting his detested master, by whom she would have wished to
be discovered. But she was still closely muffled in her
travelling dress, and as Lambourne had scarce ever been admitted
to her presence at Cumnor Place, her person, she hoped, might not
be so well known to him as his was to her, owing to Janet's
pointing him frequently out as he crossed the court, and telling
stories of his wickedness. She might have had still greater
confidence in her disguise had her experience enabled her to
discover that he was much intoxicated; but this could scarce have
consoled her for the risk which she might incur from such a
character in such a time, place, and circumstances.
Lambourne flung the door behind him as he entered, and folding
his arms, as if in mockery of the attitude of distraction into
which Amy had thrown herself, he proceeded thus: "Hark ye, most
fair Calipolis--or most lovely Countess of clouts, and divine
Duchess of dark corners--if thou takest all that trouble of
skewering thyself together, like a trussed fowl, that there may
be more pleasure in the carving, even save thyself the labour. I
love thy first frank manner the best---like thy present as
little"--(he made a step towards her, and staggered)--"as little
as--such a damned uneven floor as this, where a gentleman may
break his neck if he does not walk as upright as a posture-master
on the tight-rope."
"Stand back!" said the Countess; "do not approach nearer to me
on thy peril!"
"My peril!--and stand back! Why, how now, madam? Must you have
a better mate than honest Mike Lambourne? I have been in
America, girl, where the gold grows, and have brought off such a
"Good friend," said the Countess, in great terror at the
ruffian's determined and audacious manner, "I prithee begone, and
"And so I will, pretty one, when we are tired of each other's
company--not a jot sooner." He seized her by the arm, while,
incapable of further defence, she uttered shriek upon shriek.
"Nay, scream away if you like it," said he, still holding her
fast; "I have heard the sea at the loudest, and I mind a
squalling woman no more than a miauling kitten. Damn me! I have
heard fifty or a hundred screaming at once, when there was a town
The cries of the Countess, however, brought unexpected aid in the
person of Lawrence Staples, who had heard her exclamations from
his apartment below, and entered in good time to save her from
being discovered, if not from more atrocious violence. Lawrence
was drunk also from the debauch of the preceding night, but
fortunately his intoxication had taken a different turn from that
"What the devil's noise is this in the ward?" he said. "What!
man and woman together in the same cell?--that is against rule.
I will have decency under my rule, by Saint Peter of the
"Get thee downstairs, thou drunken beast," said Lambourne; "seest
thou not the lady and I would be private?"
"Good sir, worthy sir!" said the Countess, addressing the
jailer, "do but save me from him, for the sake of mercy!"
"She speaks fairly," said the jailer, "and I will take her part.
I love my prisoners; and I have had as good prisoners under my
key as they have had in Newgate or the Compter. And so, being
one of my lambkins, as I say, no one shall disturb her in her
pen-fold. So let go the woman: or I'll knock your brains out
with my keys."
"I'll make a blood-pudding of thy midriff first," answered
Lambourne, laying his left hand on his dagger, but still
detaining the Countess by the arm with his right. "So have at
thee, thou old ostrich, whose only living is upon a bunch of iron
Lawrence raised the arm of Michael, and prevented him from
drawing his dagger; and as Lambourne struggled and strove to
shake him off; the Countess made a sudden exertion on her side,
and slipping her hand out of the glove on which the ruffian still
kept hold, she gained her liberty, and escaping from the
apartment, ran downstairs; while at the same moment she heard the
two combatants fall on the floor with a noise which increased her
terror. The outer wicket offered no impediment to her flight,
having been opened for Lambourne's admittance; so that she
succeeded in escaping down the stair, and fled into the
Pleasance, which seemed to her hasty glance the direction in
which she was most likely to avoid pursuit.
Meanwhile, Lawrence and Lambourne rolled on the floor of the
apartment, closely grappled together. Neither had, happily,
opportunity to draw their daggers; but Lawrence found space
enough to clash his heavy keys across Michael's face, and Michael
in return grasped the turnkey so felly by the throat that the
blood gushed from nose and mouth, so that they were both gory and
filthy spectacles when one of the other officers of the
household, attracted by the noise of the fray, entered the room,
and with some difficulty effected the separation of the
"A murrain on you both," said the charitable mediator, "and
especially on you, Master Lambourne! What the fiend lie you here
for, fighting on the floor like two butchers' curs in the kennel
of the shambles?"
Lambourne arose, and somewhat sobered by the interposition of a
third party, looked with something less than his usual brazen
impudence of visage. "We fought for a wench, an thou must know,"
was his reply.
"A wench! Where is she?" said the officer.
"Why, vanished, I think," said Lambourne, looking around him,
"unless Lawrence hath swallowed her, That filthy paunch of his
devours as many distressed damsels and oppressed orphans as e'er
a giant in King Arthur's history. They are his prime food; he
worries them body, soul, and substance."
"Ay, ay! It's no matter," said Lawrence, gathering up his huge,
ungainly form from the floor; "but I have had your betters,
Master Michael Lambourne, under the little turn of my forefinger
and thumb, and I shall have thee, before all's done, under my
hatches. The impudence of thy brow will not always save thy
shin-bones from iron, and thy foul, thirsty gullet from a hempen
cord." The words were no sooner out of his mouth, when Lambourne
again made at him.
"Nay, go not to it again," said the sewer, "or I will call for
him shall tame you both, and that is Master Varney--Sir Richard,
I mean. He is stirring, I promise you; I saw him cross the court
"Didst thou, by G--!" said Lambourne, seizing on the basin and
ewer which stood in the apartment. "Nay, then, element, do thy
work. I thought I had enough of thee last night, when I floated
about for Orion, like a cork on a fermenting cask of ale."
So saying, he fell to work to cleanse from his face and hands the
signs of the fray, and get his apparel into some order.
"What hast thou done to him?" said the sewer, speaking aside to
the jailer; "his face is fearfully swelled."
"It is but the imprint of the key of my cabinet--too good a mark
for his gallows-face. No man shall abuse or insult my prisoners;
they are my jewels, and I lock them in safe casket accordingly.
--And so, mistress, leave off your wailing.--Why! why, surely,
there was a woman here!"
"I think you are all mad this morning," said the sewer. "I saw
no woman here, nor no man neither in a proper sense, but only two
beasts rolling on the floor."
"Nay, then I am undone," said the jailer; "the prison's broken,
that is all. Kenilworth prison is broken," he continued, in a
tone of maudlin lamentation, "which was the strongest jail
betwixt this and the Welsh Marches--ay, and a house that has had
knights, and earls, and kings sleeping in it, as secure as if
they had been in the Tower of London. It is broken, the
prisoners fled, and the jailer in much danger of being hanged!"
So saying, he retreated down to his own den to conclude his
lamentations, or to sleep himself sober. Lambourne and the sewer
followed him close; and it was well for them, since the jailer,
out of mere habit, was about to lock the wicket after him, and
had they not been within the reach of interfering, they would
have had the pleasure of being shut up in the turret-chamber,
from which the Countess had been just delivered.
That unhappy lady, as soon as she found herself at liberty, fled,
as we have already mentioned, into the Pleasance. She had seen
this richly-ornamented space of ground from the window of
Mervyn's Tower; and it occurred to her, at the moment of her
escape, that among its numerous arbours, bowers, fountains,
statues, and grottoes, she might find some recess in which she
could lie concealed until she had an opportunity of addressing
herself to a protector, to whom she might communicate as much as
she dared of her forlorn situation, and through whose means she
might supplicate an interview with her husband.
"If I could see my guide," she thought, "I would learn if he had
delivered my letter. Even did I but see Tressilian, it were
better to risk Dudley's anger, by confiding my whole situation to
one who is the very soul of honour, than to run the hazard of
further insult among the insolent menials of this ill-ruled
place. I will not again venture into an enclosed apartment. I
will wait, I will watch; amidst so many human beings there must
be some kind heart which can judge and compassionate what mine
In truth, more than one party entered and traversed the
Pleasance. But they were in joyous groups of four or five
persons together, laughing and jesting in their own fullness of
mirth and lightness of heart.
The retreat which she had chosen gave her the easy alternative of
avoiding observation. It was but stepping back to the farthest
recess of a grotto, ornamented with rustic work and moss-seats,
and terminated by a fountain, and she might easily remain
concealed, or at her pleasure discover herself to any solitary
wanderer whose curiosity might lead him to that romantic
retirement. Anticipating such an opportunity, she looked into
the clear basin which the silent fountain held up to her like a
mirror, and felt shocked at her own appearance, and doubtful at;
the same time, muffled and disfigured as her disguise made her
seem to herself, whether any female (and it was from the
compassion of her own sex that she chiefly expected sympathy)
would engage in conference with so suspicious an object.
Reasoning thus like a woman, to whom external appearance is
scarcely in any circumstances a matter of unimportance, and like
a beauty, who had some confidence in the power of her own charms,
she laid aside her travelling cloak and capotaine hat, and placed
them beside her, so that she could assume them in an instant, ere
one could penetrate from the entrance of the grotto to its
extremity, in case the intrusion of Varney or of Lambourne should
render such disguise necessary. The dress which she wore under
these vestments was somewhat of a theatrical cast, so as to suit
the assumed personage of one of the females who was to act in the
pageant, Wayland had found the means of arranging it thus upon
the second day of their journey, having experienced the service
arising from the assumption of such a character on the preceding
day. The fountain, acting both as a mirror and ewer, afforded
Amy the means of a brief toilette, of which she availed herself
as hastily as possible; then took in her hand her small casket of
jewels, in case she might find them useful intercessors, and
retiring to the darkest and most sequestered nook, sat down on a
seat of moss, and awaited till fate should give her some chance
of rescue, or of propitiating an intercessor.
Have you not seen the partridge quake,
Viewing the hawk approaching nigh?
She cuddles close beneath the brake,
Afraid to sit, afraid to fly, PRIOR.
It chanced, upon that memorable morning, that one of the earliest
of the huntress train, who appeared from her chamber in full
array for the chase, was the Princess for whom all these
pleasures were instituted, England's Maiden Queen. I know not if
it were by chance, or out of the befitting courtesy due to a
mistress by whom he was so much honoured, that she had scarcely
made one step beyond the threshold of her chamber ere Leicester
was by her side, and proposed to her, until the preparations for
the chase had been completed, to view the Pleasance, and the
gardens which it connected with the Castle yard.
To this new scene of pleasures they walked, the Earl's arm
affording his Sovereign the occasional support which she
required, where flights of steps, then a favourite ornament in a
garden, conducted them from terrace to terrace, and from parterre
to parterre. The ladies in attendance, gifted with prudence, or
endowed perhaps with the amiable desire of acting as they would
be done by, did not conceive their duty to the Queen's person
required them, though they lost not sight of her, to approach so
near as to share, or perhaps disturb, the conversation betwixt
the Queen and the Earl, who was not only her host, but also her
most trusted, esteemed, and favoured servant. They contented
themselves with admiring the grace of this illustrious couple,
whose robes of state were now exchanged for hunting suits, almost
Elizabeth's silvan dress, which was of a pale blue silk, with
silver lace and AIGUILLETTES, approached in form to that of the
ancient Amazons, and was therefore well suited at once to her
height and to the dignity of her mien, which her conscious rank
and long habits of authority had rendered in some degree too
masculine to be seen to the best advantage in ordinary female
weeds. Leicester's hunting suit of Lincoln green, richly
embroidered with gold, and crossed by the gay baldric which
sustained a bugle-horn, and a wood-knife instead of a sword,
became its master, as did his other vestments of court or of war.
For such were the perfections of his form and mien, that
Leicester was always supposed to be seen to the greatest
advantage in the character and dress which for the time he
represented or wore.
The conversation of Elizabeth and the favourite Earl has not
reached us in detail. But those who watched at some distance
(and the eyes of courtiers and court ladies are right sharp) were
of opinion that on no occasion did the dignity of Elizabeth, in
gesture and motion, seem so decidedly to soften away into a mien
expressive of indecision and tenderness. Her step was not only
slow, but even unequal, a thing most unwonted in her carriage;
her looks seemed bent on the ground; and there was a timid
disposition to withdraw from her companion, which external
gesture in females often indicates exactly the opposite tendency
in the secret mind. The Duchess of Rutland, who ventured
nearest, was even heard to aver that she discerned a tear in
Elizabeth's eye and a blush on her cheek; and still further, "She
bent her looks on the ground to avoid mine," said the Duchess,
"she who, in her ordinary mood, could look down a lion." To what
conclusion these symptoms led is sufficiently evident; nor were
they probably entirely groundless. The progress of a private
conversation betwixt two persons of different sexes is often
decisive of their fate, and gives it a turn very different
perhaps from what they themselves anticipated. Gallantry becomes
mingled with conversation, and affection and passion come
gradually to mix with gallantry. Nobles, as well as shepherd
swains, will, in such a trying moment, say more than they
intended; and Queens, like village maidens, will listen longer
than they should.
Horses in the meanwhile neighed and champed the bits with
impatience in the base-court; hounds yelled in their couples; and
yeomen, rangers, and prickers lamented the exhaling of the dew,
which would prevent the scent from lying. But Leicester had
another chase in view--or, to speak more justly towards him, had
become engaged in it without premeditation, as the high-spirited
hunter which follows the cry of the hounds that have crossed his
path by accident. The Queen, an accomplished and handsome woman,
the pride of England, the hope of France and Holland, and the
dread of Spain, had probably listened with more than usual favour
to that mixture of romantic gallantry with which she always loved
to be addressed; and the Earl had, in vanity, in ambition, or in
both, thrown in more and more of that delicious ingredient, until
his importunity became the language of love itself.
"No, Dudley," said Elizabeth, yet it was with broken accents--
"no, I must be the mother of my people. Other ties, that make
the lowly maiden happy, are denied to her Sovereign. No,
Leicester, urge it no more. Were I as others, free to seek my
own happiness, then, indeed--but it cannot--cannot be. Delay the
chase--delay it for half an hour--and leave me, my lord."
"How! leave you, madam?" said Leicester,--"has my madness
"No, Leicester, not so!" answered the Queen hastily; "but it is
madness, and must not be repeated. Go--but go not far from
hence; and meantime let no one intrude on my privacy."
While she spoke thus, Dudley bowed deeply, and retired with a
slow and melancholy air. The Queen stood gazing after him, and
murmured to herself, "Were it possible--were it BUT possible!--
but no--no; Elizabeth must be the wife and mother of England
As she spoke thus, and in order to avoid some one whose step she
heard approaching, the Queen turned into the grotto in which her
hapless, and yet but too successful, rival lay concealed.
The mind of England's Elizabeth, if somewhat shaken by the
agitating interview to which she had just put a period, was of
that firm and decided character which soon recovers its natural
tone. It was like one of those ancient Druidical monuments
called Rocking-stones. The finger of Cupid, boy as he is
painted, could put her feelings in motion; but the power of
Hercules could not have destroyed their equilibrium. As she
advanced with a slow pace towards the inmost extremity of the
grotto, her countenance, ere she had proceeded half the length,
had recovered its dignity of look, and her mien its air of
It was then the Queen became aware that a female figure was
placed beside, or rather partly behind, an alabaster column, at
the foot of which arose the pellucid fountain which occupied the
inmost recess of the twilight grotto. The classical mind of
Elizabeth suggested the story of Numa and Egeria, and she doubted
not that some Italian sculptor had here represented the Naiad
whose inspirations gave laws to Rome. As she advanced, she
became doubtful whether she beheld a statue, or a form of flesh
and blood. The unfortunate Amy, indeed, remained motionless,
betwixt the desire which she had to make her condition known to
one of her own sex, and her awe for the stately form which
approached her, and which, though her eyes had never before
beheld, her fears instantly suspected to be the personage she
really was. Amy had arisen from her seat with the purpose of
addressing the lady who entered the grotto alone, and, as she at
first thought, so opportunely. But when she recollected the
alarm which Leicester had expressed at the Queen's knowing aught
of their union, and became more and more satisfied that the
person whom she now beheld was Elizabeth herself, she stood with
one foot advanced and one withdrawn, her arms, head, and hands
perfectly motionless, and her cheek as pallid as the alabaster
pedestal against which she leaned. Her dress was of pale sea-
green silk, little distinguished in that imperfect light, and
somewhat resembled the drapery of a Grecian Nymph, such an
antique disguise having been thought the most secure, where so
many maskers and revellers were assembled; so that the Queen's
doubt of her being a living form was well justified by all
contingent circumstances, as well as by the bloodless cheek and
the fixed eye.
Elizabeth remained in doubt, even after she had approached within
a few paces, whether she did not gaze on a statue so cunningly
fashioned that by the doubtful light it could not be
distinguished from reality. She stopped, therefore, and fixed
upon this interesting object her princely look with so much
keenness that the astonishment which had kept Amy immovable gave
way to awe, and she gradually cast down her eyes, and drooped her
head under the commanding gaze of the Sovereign. Still, however,
she remained in all respects, saving this slow and profound
inclination of the head, motionless and silent.
From her dress, and the casket which she instinctively held in
her hand, Elizabeth naturally conjectured that the beautiful but
mute figure which she beheld was a performer in one of the
various theatrical pageants which had been placed in different
situations to surprise her with their homage; and that the poor
player, overcome with awe at her presence, had either forgot the
part assigned her, or lacked courage to go through it. It was
natural and courteous to give her some encouragement; and
Elizabeth accordingly said, in a, tone of condescending kindness,
"How now, fair Nymph of this lovely grotto, art thou spell-bound
and struck with dumbness by the charms of the wicked enchanter
whom men term Fear? We are his sworn enemy, maiden, and can
reverse his charm. Speak, we command thee."
Instead of answering her by speech, the unfortunate Countess
dropped on her knee before the Queen, let her casket fall from
her hand, and clasping her palms together, looked up in the
Queen's face with such a mixed agony of fear and supplication,
that Elizabeth was considerably affected.
"What may this mean?" she said; "this is a stronger passion than
befits the occasion. Stand up, damsel--what wouldst thou have
"Your protection, madam," faltered forth the unhappy petitioner.
"Each daughter of England has it while she is worthy of it,"
replied the Queen; "but your distress seems to have a deeper root
than a forgotten task. Why, and in what, do you crave our
Amy hastily endeavoured to recall what she were best to say,
which might secure herself from the imminent dangers that
surrounded her, without endangering her husband; and plunging
from one thought to another, amidst the chaos which filled her
mind, she could at length, in answer to the Queen's repeated
inquiries in what she sought protection, only falter out, "Alas!
I know not."
"This is folly, maiden," said Elizabeth impatiently; for there
was something in the extreme confusion of the suppliant which
irritated her curiosity, as well as interested her feelings.
"The sick man must tell his malady to the physician; nor are WE
accustomed to ask questions so oft without receiving an answer."
"I request--I implore," stammered forth the unfortunate Countess
--"I beseech your gracious protection--against--against one
Varney." She choked well-nigh as she uttered the fatal word,
which was instantly caught up by the Queen.
"What, Varney--Sir Richard Varney--the servant of Lord Leicester!
what, damsel, are you to him, or he to you?"
"I--I--was his prisoner--and he practised on my life--and I broke
"To throw thyself on my protection, doubtless," said Elizabeth.
"Thou shalt have it--that is, if thou art worthy; for we will
sift this matter to the uttermost. Thou art," she said, bending
on the Countess an eye which seemed designed to pierce her very
inmost soul--"thou art Amy, daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart of
"Forgive me--forgive me, most gracious Princess!" said Amy,
dropping once more on her knee, from which she had arisen.
"For what should I forgive thee, silly wench?" said Elizabeth;
"for being the daughter of thine own father? Thou art brain-
sick, surely. Well I see I must wring the story from thee by
inches. Thou didst deceive thine old and honoured father--thy
look confesses it--cheated Master Tressilian--thy blush avouches
it--and married this same Varney."
Amy sprung on her feet, and interrupted the Queen eagerly with,
"No, madam, no! as there is a God above us, I am not the sordid
wretch you would make me! I am not the wife of that contemptible
slave--of that most deliberate villain! I am not the wife of
Varney! I would rather be the bride of Destruction!"
The Queen, overwhelmed in her turn by Amy's vehemence, stood
silent for an instant, and then replied, "Why, God ha' mercy,
woman! I see thou canst talk fast enough when the theme likes
thee. Nay, tell me, woman," she continued, for to the impulse of
curiosity was now added that of an undefined jealousy that some
deception had been practised on her--"tell me, woman--for, by
God's day, I WILL know--whose wife, or whose paramour, art thou!
Speak out, and be speedy. Thou wert better daily with a lioness
than with Elizabeth."
Urged to this extremity, dragged as it were by irresistible force
to the verge of the precipice which she saw, but could not avoid
--permitted not a moment's respite by the eager words and
menacing gestures of the offended Queen, Amy at length uttered in
despair, "The Earl of Leicester knows it all."
"The Earl of Leicester!" said Elizabeth, in utter astonishment.
"The Earl of Leicester!" she repeated with kindling anger.
"Woman, thou art set on to this--thou dost belie him--he takes no
keep of such things as thou art. Thou art suborned to slander
the noblest lord and the truest-hearted gentleman in England!
But were he the right hand of our trust, or something yet dearer
to us, thou shalt have thy hearing, and that in his presence.
Come with me--come with me instantly!"
As Amy shrunk back with terror, which the incensed Queen
interpreted as that of conscious guilt, Elizabeth rapidly
advanced, seized on her arm, and hastened with swift and long
steps out of the grotto, and along the principal alley of the
Pleasance, dragging with her the terrified Countess, whom she
still held by the arm, and whose utmost exertions could but just
keep pace with those of the indignant Queen.
Leicester was at this moment the centre of a splendid group of
lords and ladies, assembled together under an arcade, or portico,
which closed the alley. The company had drawn together in that
place, to attend the commands of her Majesty when the hunting-
party should go forward, and their astonishment may be imagined
when, instead of seeing Elizabeth advance towards them with her
usual measured dignity of motion, they beheld her walking so
rapidly that she was in the midst of them ere they were aware;
and then observed, with fear and surprise, that her features were
flushed betwixt anger and agitation, that her hair was loosened
by her haste of motion, and that her eyes sparkled as they were
wont when the spirit of Henry VIII. mounted highest in his
daughter. Nor were they less astonished at the appearance of the
pale, attenuated, half-dead, yet still lovely female, whom the
Queen upheld by main strength with one hand, while with the other
she waved aside the ladies and nobles who pressed towards her,
under the idea that she was taken suddenly ill. "Where is my
Lord of Leicester?" she said, in a tone that thrilled with
astonishment all the courtiers who stood around. "Stand forth,
my Lord of Leicester!"
If, in the midst of the most serene day of summer, when all is
light and laughing around, a thunderbolt were to fall from the
clear blue vault of heaven, and rend the earth at the very feet
of some careless traveller, he could not gaze upon the
smouldering chasm, which so unexpectedly yawned before him, with
half the astonishment and fear which Leicester felt at the sight
that so suddenly presented itself. He had that instant been
receiving, with a political affectation of disavowing and
misunderstanding their meaning, the half-uttered, half-intimated
congratulations of the courtiers upon the favour of the Queen,
carried apparently to its highest pitch during the interview of
that morning, from which most of them seemed to augur that he
might soon arise from their equal in rank to become their master.
And now, while the subdued yet proud smile with which he
disclaimed those inferences was yet curling his cheek, the Queen
shot into the circle, her passions excited to the uttermost; and
supporting with one hand, and apparently without an effort, the
pale and sinking form of his almost expiring wife, and pointing
with the finger of the other to her half-dead features, demanded
in a voice that sounded to the ears of the astounded statesman
like the last dread trumpet-call that is to summon body and
spirit to the judgment-seat, "Knowest thou this woman?"
As, at the blast of that last trumpet, the guilty shall call upon
the mountains to cover them, Leicester's inward thoughts invoked
the stately arch which he had built in his pride to burst its
strong conjunction, and overwhelm them in its ruins. But the
cemented stones, architrave and battlement, stood fast; and it
was the proud master himself who, as if some actual pressure had
bent him to the earth, kneeled down before Elizabeth, and
prostrated his brow to the marble flag-stones on which she stood.
"Leicester," said Elizabeth, in a voice which trembled with
passion, "could I think thou hast practised on me--on me thy
Sovereign--on me thy confiding, thy too partial mistress, the
base and ungrateful deception which thy present confusion
surmises--by all that is holy, false lord, that head of thine
were in as great peril as ever was thy father's!"
Leicester had not conscious innocence, but he had pride to
support him. He raised slowly his brow and features, which were
black and swoln with contending emotions, and only replied, "My
head cannot fall but by the sentence of my peers. To them I will
plead, and not to a princess who thus requites my faithful
"What! my lords," said Elizabeth, looking around, "we are
defied, I think--defied in the Castle we have ourselves bestowed
on this proud man!--My Lord Shrewsbury, you are Marshal of
England, attach him of high treason."
"Whom does your Grace mean?" said Shrewsbury, much surprised,
for he had that instant joined the astonished circle.
"Whom should I mean, but that traitor Dudley, Earl of Leicester!
--Cousin of Hunsdon, order out your band of gentlemen pensioners,
and take him into instant custody. I say, villain, make haste!"
Hunsdon, a rough old noble, who, from his relationship to the
Boleyns, was accustomed to use more freedom with the Queen than
almost any other dared to do, replied bluntly, "And it is like
your Grace might order me to the Tower to-morrow for making too
much haste. I do beseech you to be patient."
"Patient--God's life!" exclaimed the Queen--"name not the word
to me; thou knowest not of what he is guilty!"
Amy, who had by this time in some degree recovered herself, and
who saw her husband, as she conceived, in the utmost danger from
the rage of an offended Sovereign, instantly (and alas! how
many women have done the same) forgot her own wrongs and her own
danger in her apprehensions for him, and throwing herself before
the Queen, embraced her knees, while she exclaimed, "He is
guiltless, madam--he is guiltless; no one can lay aught to the
charge of the noble Leicester!"
"Why, minion," answered the Queen, "didst not thou thyself say
that the Earl of Leicester was privy to thy whole history?"
"Did I say so?" repeated the unhappy Amy, laying aside every
consideration of consistency and of self-interest. "Oh, if I
did, I foully belied him. May God so judge me, as I believe he
was never privy to a thought that would harm me!"
"Woman!" said Elizabeth, "I will know who has moved thee to
this; or my wrath--and the wrath of kings is a flaming fire--
shall wither and consume thee like a weed in the furnace!"
As the Queen uttered this threat, Leicester's better angel called
his pride to his aid, and reproached him with the utter extremity
of meanness which would overwhelm him for ever if he stooped to
take shelter under the generous interposition of his wife, and
abandoned her, in return for her kindness, to the resentment of
the Queen. He had already raised his head with the dignity of a
man of honour to avow his marriage, and proclaim himself the
protector of his Countess, when Varney, born, as it appeared, to
be his master's evil genius, rushed into the presence with every
mark of disorder on his face and apparel.
"What means this saucy intrusion?" said Elizabeth.
Varney, with the air of a man altogether overwhelmed with grief
and confusion, prostrated himself before her feet, exclaiming,
"Pardon, my Liege, pardon!--or at least let your justice avenge
itself on me, where it is due; but spare my noble, my generous,
my innocent patron and master!"
Amy, who was yet kneeling, started up as she saw the man whom she
deemed most odious place himself so near her, and was about to
fly towards Leicester, when, checked at once by the uncertainty
and even timidity which his looks had reassumed as soon as the
appearance of his confidant seemed to open a new scene, she hung
back, and uttering a faint scream, besought of her Majesty to
cause her to be imprisoned in the lowest dungeon of the Castle--
to deal with her as the worst of criminals--"but spare," she
exclaimed, "my sight and hearing what will destroy the little
judgment I have left--the sight of that unutterable and most
"And why, sweetheart?" said the Queen, moved by a new impulse;
"what hath he, this false knight, since such thou accountest him,
done to thee?"
"Oh, worse than sorrow, madam, and worse than injury--he has sown
dissension where most there should be peace. I shall go mad if I
look longer on him!"
"Beshrew me, but I think thou art distraught already," answered
the Queen.--"My Lord Hunsdon, look to this poor distressed young
woman, and let her be safely bestowed, and in honest keeping,
till we require her to be forthcoming."
Two or three of the ladies in attendance, either moved by
compassion for a creature so interesting, or by some other
motive, offered their services to look after her; but the Queen
briefly answered, "Ladies, under favour, no. You have all (give
God thanks) sharp ears and nimble tongues; our kinsman Hunsdon
has ears of the dullest, and a tongue somewhat rough, but yet of
the slowest.--Hunsdon, look to it that none have speech of her."
"By Our Lady," said Hunsdon, taking in his strong, sinewy arms
the fading and almost swooning form of Amy, "she is a lovely
child! and though a rough nurse, your Grace hath given her a
kind one. She is safe with me as one of my own ladybirds of
So saying, he carried her off; unresistingly and almost
unconsciously, his war-worn locks and long, grey beard mingling
with her light-brown tresses, as her head reclined on his strong,
square shoulder. The Queen followed him with her eye. She had
already, with that self-command which forms so necessary a part
of a Sovereign's accomplishments, suppressed every appearance of
agitation, and seemed as if she desired to banish all traces of
her burst of passion from the recollection of those who had
witnessed it. "My Lord of Hunsdon says well," she observed, "he
is indeed but a rough nurse for so tender a babe."
"My Lord of Hunsdon," said the Dean of St. Asaph--"I speak it not
in defamation of his more noble qualities--hath a broad license
in speech, and garnishes his discourse somewhat too freely with
the cruel and superstitious oaths which savour both of
profaneness and of old Papistrie."
"It is the fault of his blood, Mr. Dean," said the Queen, turning
sharply round upon the reverend dignitary as she spoke; "and you
may blame mine for the same distemperature. The Boleyns were
ever a hot and plain-spoken race, more hasty to speak their mind
than careful to choose their expressions. And by my word--I hope
there is no sin in that affirmation--I question if it were much
cooled by mixing with that of Tudor."
As she made this last observation she smiled graciously, and
stole her eyes almost insensibly round to seek those of the Earl
of Leicester, to whom she now began to think she had spoken with
hasty harshness upon the unfounded suspicion of a moment.
The Queen's eye found the Earl in no mood to accept the implied
offer of conciliation. His own looks had followed, with late and
rueful repentance, the faded form which Hunsdon had just borne
from the presence. They now reposed gloomily on the ground, but
more--so at least it seemed to Elizabeth--with the expression of
one who has received an unjust affront, than of him who is
conscious of guilt. She turned her face angrily from him, and
said to Varney, "Speak, Sir Richard, and explain these riddles--
thou hast sense and the use of speech, at least, which elsewhere
we look for in vain."
As she said this, she darted another resentful glance towards
Leicester, while the wily Varney hastened to tell his own story.
"Your Majesty's piercing eye," he said, "has already detected the
cruel malady of my beloved lady, which, unhappy that I am, I
would not suffer to be expressed in the certificate of her
physician, seeking to conceal what has now broken out with so
much the more scandal."
"She is then distraught?" said the Queen. "Indeed we doubted
not of it; her whole demeanour bears it out. I found her moping
in a corner of yonder grotto; and every word she spoke--which
indeed I dragged from her as by the rack--she instantly recalled
and forswore. But how came she hither? Why had you her not in
"My gracious Liege," said Varney, "the worthy gentleman under
whose charge I left her, Master Anthony Foster, has come hither
but now, as fast as man and horse can travel, to show me of her
escape, which she managed with the art peculiar to many who are
afflicted with this malady. He is at hand for examination."
"Let it be for another time," said the Queen. "But, Sir Richard,
we envy you not your domestic felicity; your lady railed on you
bitterly, and seemed ready to swoon at beholding you."
"It is the nature of persons in her disorder, so please your
Grace," answered Varney, "to be ever most inveterate in their
spleen against those whom, in their better moments, they hold
nearest and dearest."
"We have heard so, indeed," said Elizabeth, "and give faith to
"May your Grace then be pleased," said Varney, " to command my
unfortunate wife to be delivered into the custody of her
Leicester partly started; but making a strong effort, he subdued
his emotion, while Elizabeth answered sharply, "You are something
too hasty, Master Varney. We will have first a report of the
lady's health and state of mind from Masters, our own physician,
and then determine what shall be thought just. You shall have
license, however, to see her, that if there be any matrimonial
quarrel betwixt you--such things we have heard do occur, even
betwixt a loving couple--you may make it up, without further
scandal to our court or trouble to ourselves."
Varney bowed low, and made no other answer.
Elizabeth again looked towards Leicester, and said, with a degree
of condescension which could only arise out of the most heartfelt
interest, "Discord, as the Italian poet says, will find her way
into peaceful convents, as well as into the privacy of families;
and we fear our own guards and ushers will hardly exclude her
from courts. My Lord of Leicester, you are offended with us, and
we have right to be offended with you. We will take the lion's
part upon us, and be the first to forgive."
Leicester smoothed his brow, as by an effort; but the trouble was
too deep-seated that its placidity should at once return. He
said, however, that which fitted the occasion, "That he could not
have the happiness of forgiving, because she who commanded him to
do so could commit no injury towards him."
Elizabeth seemed content with this reply, and intimated her
pleasure that the sports of the morning should proceed. The
bugles sounded, the hounds bayed, the horses pranced --but the
courtiers and ladies sought the amusement to which they were
summoned with hearts very different from those which had leaped
to the morning's REVIELLE. There was doubt, and fear, and
expectation on every brow, and surmise and intrigue in every
Blount took an opportunity to whisper into Raleigh's ear, "This
storm came like a levanter in the Mediterranean."
"VARIUM ET MUTABILE," answered Raleigh, in a similar tone.
"Nay, I know nought of your Latin," said Blount; "but I thank God
Tressilian took not the sea during that hurricane. He could
scarce have missed shipwreck, knowing as he does so little how to
trim his sails to a court gale."
"Thou wouldst have instructed him!" said Raleigh.
"Why, I have profited by my time as well as thou, Sir Walter,"
replied honest Blount. "I am knight as well as thou, and of the
"Now, God further thy wit," said Raleigh. "But for Tressilian, I
would I knew what were the matter with him. He told me this
morning he would not leave his chamber for the space of twelve
hours or thereby, being bound by a promise. This lady's madness,
when he shall learn it, will not, I fear, cure his infirmity.
The moon is at the fullest, and men's brains are working like
yeast. But hark! they sound to mount. Let us to horse, Blount;
we young knights must deserve our spurs."
Thou first of virtues! let no mortal leave
Thy onward path, although the earth should gape,
And from the gulf of hell destruction cry,
To take dissimulation's winding way. DOUGLAS.
It was not till after a long and successful morning's sport, and
a prolonged repast which followed the return of the Queen to the
Castle, that Leicester at length found himself alone with Varney,
from whom he now learned the whole particulars of the Countess's
escape, as they had been brought to Kenilworth by Foster, who, in
his terror for the consequences, had himself posted thither with
the tidings. As Varney, in his narrative, took especial care to
be silent concerning those practices on the Countess's health
which had driven her to so desperate a resolution, Leicester, who
could only suppose that she had adopted it out of jealous
impatience to attain the avowed state and appearance belonging to
her rank, was not a little offended at the levity with which his
wife had broken his strict commands, and exposed him to the
resentment of Elizabeth.
"I have given," he said, "to this daughter of an obscure
Devonshire gentleman the proudest name in England. I have made
her sharer of my bed and of my fortunes. I ask but of her a
little patience, ere she launches forth upon the full current of
her grandeur; and the infatuated woman will rather hazard her own
shipwreck and mine--will rather involve me in a thousand
whirlpools, shoals, and quicksands, and compel me to a thousand
devices which shame me in mine own eyes--than tarry for a little
space longer in the obscurity to which she was born. So lovely,
so delicate, so fond, so faithful, yet to lack in so grave a
matter the prudence which one might hope from the veriest fool--
it puts me beyond my patience."
"We may post it over yet well enough," said Varney, "if my lady
will be but ruled, and take on her the character which the time
"It is but too true, Sir Richard," said Leicester; "there is
indeed no other remedy. I have heard her termed thy wife in my
presence, without contradiction. She must bear the title until
she is far from Kenilworth."
"And long afterwards, I trust," said Varney; then instantly
added, "For I cannot but hope it will be long after ere she bear
the title of Lady Leicester--I fear me it may scarce be with
safety during the life of this Queen. But your lordship is best
judge, you alone knowing what passages have taken place betwixt
Elizabeth and you."
"You are right, Varney," said Leicester. "I have this morning
been both fool and villain; and when Elizabeth hears of my
unhappy marriage, she cannot but think herself treated with that
premeditated slight which women never forgive. We have once this
day stood upon terms little short of defiance; and to those, I
fear, we must again return."
"Is her resentment, then, so implacable?" said Varney.
"Far from it," replied the Earl; "for, being what she is in
spirit and in station, she has even this day been but too
condescending, in giving me opportunities to repair what she
thinks my faulty heat of temper."
"Ay," answered Varney; "the Italians say right--in lovers'
quarrels, the party that loves most is always most willing to
acknowledge the greater fault. So then, my lord, if this union
with the lady could be concealed, you stand with Elizabeth as you
Leicester sighed, and was silent for a moment, ere he replied.
"Varney, I think thou art true to me, and I will tell thee all.
I do NOT stand where I did. I have spoken to Elizabeth--under
what mad impulse I know not--on a theme which cannot be abandoned
without touching every female feeling to the quick, and which yet
I dare not and cannot prosecute. She can never, never forgive me
for having caused and witnessed those yieldings to human
"We must do something, my lord," said Varney, "and that
"There is nought to be done," answered Leicester, despondingly.
"I am like one that has long toiled up a dangerous precipice, and
when he is within one perilous stride of the top, finds his
progress arrested when retreat has become impossible. I see
above me the pinnacle which I cannot reach--beneath me the abyss
into which I must fall, as soon as my relaxing grasp and dizzy
brain join to hurl me from my present precarious stance."
"Think better of your situation, my lord," said Varney; "let us
try the experiment in which you have but now acquiesced. Keep we
your marriage from Elizabeth's knowledge, and all may yet be
well. I will instantly go to the lady myself. She hates me,
because I have been earnest with your lordship, as she truly
suspects, in opposition to what she terms her rights. I care not
for her prejudices--she SHALL listen to me; and I will show her
such reasons for yielding to the pressure of the times that I
doubt not to bring back her consent to whatever measures these
exigencies may require."
"No, Varney," said Leicester; "I have thought upon what is to be
done, and I will myself speak with Amy."
It was now Varney's turn to feel upon his own account the terrors
which he affected to participate solely on account of his patron.
"Your lordship will not yourself speak with the lady?"
"It is my fixed purpose," said Leicester. "Fetch me one of the
livery-cloaks; I will pass the sentinel as thy servant. Thou art
to have free access to her."
"But, my lord--"
"I will have no BUTS," replied Leicester; "it shall be even thus,
and not otherwise. Hunsdon sleeps, I think, in Saintlowe's
Tower. We can go thither from these apartments by the private
passage, without risk of meeting any one. Or what if I do meet
Hunsdon? he is more my friend than enemy, and thick-witted
enough to adopt any belief that is thrust on him. Fetch me the
Varney had no alternative save obedience. In a few minutes
Leicester was muffled in the mantle, pulled his bonnet over his
brows, and followed Varney along the secret passage of the Castle
which communicated with Hunsdon's apartments, in which there was
scarce a chance of meeting any inquisitive person, and hardly
light enough for any such to have satisfied their curiosity.
They emerged at a door where Lord Hunsdon had, with military
precaution, placed a sentinel, one of his own northern retainers
as it fortuned, who readily admitted Sir Richard Varney and his
attendant, saying only, in his northern dialect, "I would, man,
thou couldst make the mad lady be still yonder; for her moans do
sae dirl through my head that I would rather keep watch on a
snowdrift, in the wastes of Catlowdie."
They hastily entered, and shut the door behind them.
"Now, good devil, if there be one," said Varney, within himself,
"for once help a votary at a dead pinch, for my boat is amongst
The Countess Amy, with her hair and her garments dishevelled, was
seated upon a sort of couch, in an attitude of the deepest
affliction, out of which she was startled by the opening of the
door. Size turned hastily round, and fixing her eye on Varney,
exclaimed, "Wretch! art thou come to frame some new plan of
Leicester cut short her reproaches by stepping forward and
dropping his cloak, while he said, in a voice rather of authority
than of affection, "It is with me, madam, you have to commune,
not with Sir Richard Varney."
The change effected on the Countess's look and manner was like
magic. "Dudley!" she exclaimed, "Dudley! and art thou come at
last?" And with the speed of lightning she flew to her husband,
clung round his neck, and unheeding the presence of Varney,
overwhelmed him with caresses, while she bathed his face in a
flood of tears, muttering, at the same time, but in broken and
disjointed monosyllables, the fondest expressions which Love
teaches his votaries.
Leicester, as it seemed to him, had reason to be angry with his
lady for transgressing his commands, and thus placing him in the
perilous situation in which he had that morning stood. But what
displeasure could keep its ground before these testimonies of
affection from a being so lovely, that even the negligence of
dress, and the withering effects of fear, grief, and fatigue,
which would have impaired the beauty of others, rendered hers but
the more interesting. He received and repaid her caresses with
fondness mingled with melancholy, the last of which she seemed
scarcely to observe, until the first transport of her own joy was
over, when, looking anxiously in his face, she asked if he was
"Not in my body, Amy," was his answer.
"Then I will be well too. O Dudley! I have been ill!--very ill,
since we last met!--for I call not this morning's horrible vision
a meeting. I have been in sickness, in grief, and in danger.
But thou art come, and all is joy, and health, and safety!"
"Alas, Amy," said Leicester, "thou hast undone me!"
"I, my lord?" said Amy, her cheek at once losing its transient
flush of joy--"how could I injure that which I love better than
"I would not upbraid you, Amy," replied the Earl; "but are you
not here contrary to my express commands--and does not your
presence here endanger both yourself and me?"
"Does it, does it indeed?" she exclaimed eagerly; "then why am I
here a moment longer? Oh, if you knew by what fears I was urged
to quit Cumnor Place! But I will say nothing of myself--only
that if it might be otherwise, I would not willingly return
THITHER; yet if it concern your safety--"
"We will think, Amy, of some other retreat," said Leicester; "and
you shall go to one of my northern castles, under the personage--
it will be but needful, I trust, for a very few days--of Varney's
"How, my Lord of Leicester!" said the lady, disengaging herself
from his embraces; "is it to your wife you give the dishonourable
counsel to acknowledge herself the bride of another--and of all
men, the bride of that Varney?"
"Madam, I speak it in earnest--Varney is my true and faithful
servant, trusted in my deepest secrets. I had better lose my
right hand than his service at this moment. You have no cause to
scorn him as you do."
"I could assign one, my lord," replied the Countess; "and I see
he shakes even under that assured look of his. But he that is
necessary as your right hand to your safety is free from any
accusation of mine. May he be true to you; and that he may be
true, trust him not too much or too far. But it is enough to say
that I will not go with him unless by violence, nor would I
acknowledge him as my husband were all--"
"It is a temporary deception, madam," said Leicester, irritated
by her opposition, "necessary for both our safeties, endangered
by you through female caprice, or the premature desire to seize
on a rank to which I gave you title only under condition that our
marriage, for a time, should continue secret. If my proposal
disgust you, it is yourself has brought it on both of us. There
is no other remedy--you must do what your own impatient folly
hath rendered necessary--I command you."
"I cannot put your commands, my lord," said Amy, "in balance with
those of honour and conscience. I will NOT, in this instance,
obey you. You may achieve your own dishonour, to which these
crooked policies naturally tend, but I will do nought that can
blemish mine. How could you again, my lord, acknowledge me as a
pure and chaste matron, worthy to share your fortunes, when,
holding that high character, I had strolled the country the
acknowledged wife of such a profligate fellow as your servant
"My lord," said Varney interposing, "my lady is too much
prejudiced against me, unhappily, to listen to what I can offer,
yet it may please her better than what she proposes. She has
good interest with Master Edmund Tressilian, and could doubtless
prevail on him to consent to be her companion to Lidcote Hall,
and there she might remain in safety until time permitted the
development of this mystery."
Leicester was silent, but stood looking eagerly on Amy, with eyes
which seemed suddenly to glow as much with suspicion as
The Countess only said, "Would to God I were in my father's
house! When I left it, I little thought I was leaving peace of
mind and honour behind me."
Varney proceeded with a tone of deliberation. "Doubtless this
will make it necessary to take strangers into my lord's counsels;
but surely the Countess will be warrant for the honour of Master
Tressilian, and such of her father's family--"
"Peace, Varney," said Leicester; "by Heaven I will strike my
dagger into thee if again thou namest Tressilian as a partner of
"And wherefore not!" said the Countess; "unless they be counsels
fitter for such as Varney, than for a man of stainless honour and
integrity. My lord, my lord, bend no angry brows on me; it is
the truth, and it is I who speak it. I once did Tressilian wrong
for your sake; I will not do him the further injustice of being
silent when his honour is brought in question. I can forbear,"
she said, looking at Varney, "to pull the mask off hypocrisy, but
I will not permit virtue to be slandered in my hearing."
There was a dead pause. Leicester stood displeased, yet
undetermined, and too conscious of the weakness of his cause;
while Varney, with a deep and hypocritical affectation of sorrow,
mingled with humility, bent his eyes on the ground.
It was then that the Countess Amy displayed, in the midst of
distress and difficulty, the natural energy of character which
would have rendered her, had fate allowed, a distinguished
ornament of the rank which she held. She walked up to Leicester
with a composed step, a dignified air, and looks in which strong
affection essayed in vain to shake the firmness of conscious,
truth and rectitude of principle. "You have spoken your mind, my
lord," she said, "in these difficulties, with which, unhappily, I
have found myself unable to comply. This gentleman--this person
I would say--has hinted at another scheme, to which I object not
but as it displeases you. Will your lordship be pleased to hear