Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Historical Nights Entertainment, Second Series by Rafael Sabatini

Part 2 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Don Rodrigo?" he echoed, and asked: "Who mentioned Don Rodrigo?"

But it was too late. His assenting nod had betrayed the truth,
had confirmed her worst fear. She swayed a little; the room swam
round her, she felt as she would swoon. Then blind indignation
against that forsworn betrayer surged to revive her. If it was
through her weakness and undutifulness that her father had been
destroyed, through her strength should he be avenged, though in
doing so she pulled down and destroyed herself.

"And he confessed to his own sin?" she was repeating slowly, ever
on that musing, incredulous note. "He dared confess himself a

"A Judaizer!" Sheer horror now overspread the friar's grim
countenance. "A Judaizer! Don Rodrigo? Oh, impossible!"

"But I thought you said he had confessed."

"Why, yes, but . . . but not to that." Her pale lips smiled,
sadly contemptuous.

"I see. He set limits of prudence upon his confession. He left
out his Judatting practices. He did not tell you, for instance,
that this deletion was an act of revenge against me who refused
to marry him, having discovered his unfaith, and fearing its
consequences in this world and the next."

Ojeda stared at her in sheer, incredulous amazement.

And then Torquemada spoke: "Do you say that Don Rodrigo de
Cardona is a Judaizer? Oh, it is unbelievable."

"Yet I could give you evidence that should convince you."

"Then so you shall. It is your sacred duty, lest you become an
abettor of heresy, and yourself liable to the extreme penalty."

It would be a half-hour later, perhaps, when she quitted the
Convent of St. Paul to return home, with Hell in her heart,
knowing in life no purpose but that of avenging the parent her
folly had destroyed. As she was being carried past the Alcazar,
she espied across the open space a tall, slim figure in black, in
whom she recognized her lover, and straightway she sent the page
who paced beside her litter to call him to her side. The summons
surprised him after what had passed between them; moreover,
considering her father's present condition, he was reluctant to
be seen in attendance upon the beautiful, wealthy Isabella de
Susan. Nevertheless, urged on by curiosity, he went.

Her greeting increased his surprise.

"I am in deep distress, Rodrigo, as you may judge," she told him
sadly. "You will have heard what has befallen my father?"

He looked at her sharply, yet saw nothing but loveliness rendered
more appealing by sorrow. Clearly she did not suspect him of
betrayal; did not realize that an oath extorted by violence--and
an oath, moreover, to be false to a sacred duty--could not be
accounted binding.

"I . . . I heard of it an hour ago," he lied a thought
unsteadily. "I . . . I commiserate you deeply."

"I deserve commiseration," answered she, "and so does my poor
father, and those others. It is plain that amongst those he
trusted there was a traitor, a spy, who went straight from that
meeting to inform against them. If I but had a list it were easy
to discover the betrayer. One need but ascertain who is the one
of all who were present whose arrest has been omitted." Her
lovely sorrowful eyes turned full upon him. "What is to become
of me now, alone in the world?" she asked him. "My father was
my only friend."

The subtle appeal of her did its work swiftly. Besides, he saw
here a noble opportunity worth surely some little risk.

"Your only friend?" he asked her thickly. "Was there no one else?
Is there no one else, Isabella?"

"There was," she said, and sighed heavily. "But after what befell
last night, when . . . You know what is in my mind. I was
distraught then, mad with fear for this poor father of mine, so
that I could not even consider his sin in its full heinousness,
nor see how righteous was your intent to inform against him. Yet
I am thankful that it was not by your deletion that he was taken.
The thought of that is to-day my only consolation."

They had reached her house by now. Don Rodrigo put forth his arm
to assist her to alight from her litter, and begged leave to
accompany her within. But she denied him.

"Not now--though I am grateful to you, Rodrigo. Soon, if you will
come and comfort me, you may. I will send you word when I am more
able to receive you--that is, if I am forgiven for . . ."

"Not another word," he begged her. "I honour you for what you
did. It is I who should sue to you for forgiveness."

"You are very noble and generous, Don Rodrigo. God keep you!" And
so she left him.

She had found him--had she but known it--a dejected, miserable
man in the act of reckoning up all that he had lost. In betraying
Susan he had acted upon an impulse that sprang partly from rage,
and partly from a sense of religious duty. In counting later the
cost to himself, he cursed the folly of his rage, and began to
wonder if such strict observance of religious duty was really
worth while to a man who had his way to make in the world. In
short, he was in the throes of reaction. But now, in her
unsuspicion, he found his hopes revive. She need never know.
The Holy Office preserved inviolate secrecy on the score of
deletions--since to do otherwise might be to discourage delators--
and there were no confrontations of accuser and accused, such as
took place in temporal courts. Don Rodrigo left the Calle de
Ataud better pleased with the world than he had been since

On the morrow he went openly to visit her; but he was denied, a
servant announcing her indisposed. This fretted him, damped his
hopes, and thereby increased his longing. But on the next day he
received from her a letter which made him the most ample amends:

"Rodrigo,--There is a matter on which we must come early to an
understanding. Should my poor father be convicted of heresy and
sentenced, it follows that his property will be confiscated,
since as the daughter of a convicted heretic I may not inherit.
For myself I care little; but I am concerned for you, Rodrigo,
since if in spite of what has happened you would still wish to
make me your wife, as you declared on Monday, it would be my wish
to come to you well cowered. Now the inheritance which would be
confiscated by the Holy Office from the daughter of a heretic
might not be so confiscated from the wife of a gentleman of
Castile. I say no more. Consider this well, and decide as your
heart dictates. I shall receive you to-morrow if you come to me.


She bade him consider well. But the matter really needed little
consideration. Diego de Susan was sure to go to the fire. His
fortune was estimated at ten million maravedis. That fortune, it
seemed, Rodrigo was given the chance to make his own by marrying
the beautiful Isabella at once, before sentence came to be passed
upon her father. The Holy Office might impose a fine, but would
not go further where the inheritance of a Castilian nobleman of
clean lineage was concerned. He was swayed between admiration of
her shrewdness and amazement at his own good fortune. Also his
vanity was immensely flattered.

He sent her three lines to protest his undying love, and his
resolve to marry her upon the morrow, and went next day in
person, as she had bidden him, to carry out the resolve.

She received him in the mansion's best room, a noble chamber
furnished with a richness such as no other house in Seville could
have boasted. She had arrayed herself for the interview with an
almost wanton cunning that should enhance her natural endowments.
Her high-waisted gown, low-cut and close-fitting in the bodice,
was of cloth of gold, edged with miniver at skirt and cuffs and
neck. On her white bosom hung a priceless carcanet of limpid
diamonds, and through the heavy tresses of her bronze-coloured
hair was coiled a string of lustrous pearls. Never had Don
Rodrigo found her more desirable; never had he felt so secure and
glad in his possession of her. The quickening blood flushing now
his olive face, he gathered her slim shapeliness into his arms,
kissing her cheek, her lips, her neck.

"My pearl, my beautiful, my wife!" he murmured, rapturously. Then
added the impatient question: "The priest? Where is the priest
that shall make us one?"

Deep, unfathomable eyes looked up to meet his burning glance.
Languorously she lay against his breast, and her red lips parted
in a smile that maddened him.

"You love me, Rodrigo--in spite of all?"

"Love you!" It was a throbbing, strangled cry, an almost
inarticulate ejaculation. "Better than life--better than

She fetched a sigh, as of deep content, and nestled closer. "Oh,
I am glad--so glad--that your love for me is truly strong. I am
about to put it to the test, perhaps."

He held her very close. "What is this test, beloved?"

"It is that I want this marriage knot so tied that it shall be
indissoluble save by death."

"Why, so do I," quoth he, who had so much to gain.

"And, therefore, because after all, though I profess
Christianity, there is Jewish blood in my veins, I would have a
marriage that must satisfy even my father when he regains his
freedom, as I believe he will--for, after all, he is not charged
with any sin against the faith."

She paused, and he was conscious of a premonitory chill upon his

"What do you mean?" he asked her, and his voice was strained.

"I mean--you'll not be angry with me?--I mean that I would have
us married not only by a Christian priest, and in the Christian
manner, but also and first of all by a Rabbi, and in accordance
with the Jewish rites."

Upon the words, she felt his encircling arms turn limp, and relax
their grip upon her, whereupon she clung to him the more tightly.

"Rodrigo! Rodrigo! If you truly love me, if you truly want me,
you'll not deny me this condition, for I swear to you that once I
am your wife you shall never hear anything again to remind you
that I am of Jewish blood."

His face turned ghastly pale, his lips writhed and twitched, and
beads of sweat stood out upon his brow.

"My God!" he groaned. "What do you ask? I . . . I can't. It were
a desecration, a defilement."

She thrust him from her in a passion. "You regard it so? You
protest love, and in the very hour when I propose to sacrifice
all to you, you will not make this little sacrifice for my sake,
you even insult the faith that was my forbears', if it is not
wholly mine. I misjudged you, else I had not bidden you here to-
day. I think you had better leave me."

Trembling, appalled, a prey to an ineffable tangle of emotion, he
sought to plead, to extenuate his attitude, to move her from her
own. He ranted torrentially, but in vain. She stood as cold and
aloof as earlier she had been warm and clinging. He had proved
the measure of his love. He could go his ways.

The thing she proposed was to him, as he had truly said, a
desecration, a defilement. Yet to have dreamed yourself master of
ten million maravedis, and a matchless woman, is a dream not
easily relinquished. There was enough cupidity in his nature,
enough neediness in his condition, to make the realization of
that dream worth the defilement of the abominable marriage rites
upon which she insisted. But fear remained where Christian
scruples were already half-effaced.

"You do not realize," he cried. "If it were known that I so much
as contemplated this, the Holy Office would account it clear
proof of apostasy, and send me to the fire."

"If that were your only objection it were easily overcome," she
informed him coldly. "For who should ever inform against you?
The Rabbi who is waiting above-stairs dare not for his own life's
sake betray us, and who else will ever know?"

"You can be sure of that?"

He was conquered. But she played him yet awhile, compelling him
in his turn to conquer the reluctance which his earlier
hesitation had begotten in her, until it was he who pleaded
insistently for this Jewish marriage that filled him with such

And so at last she yielded, and led him up to that bower of hers
in which the conspirators had met.

"Where is the Rabbi?" he asked impatiently, looking round that
empty room.

"I will summon him if you are quite sure that you desire him."

"Sure? Have I not protested enough? Can you still doubt me?"

"No," she said. She stood apart, conning him steadily. "Yet I
would not have it supposed that you were in any way coerced to
this." They were odd words; but he heeded not their oddness. He
was hardly master of the wits which in themselves were never of
the brightest. "I require you to declare that it is your own
desire that our marriage should be solemnized in accordance with
the Jewish rites and the law of Moses."

And he, fretted now by impatience, anxious to have this thing
done and ended, made answer hastily:

"Why, to be sure I do declare it to be my wish that we should be
so married--in the Jewish manner, and in accordance with the law
of Moses. And now, where is the Rabbi?" He caught a sound and saw
a quiver in the tapestries that masked the door of the alcove.
"Ah! He is here, I suppose...."

He checked abruptly, and recoiled as from a blow, throwing up his
hands in a convulsive gesture. The tapestry had been swept aside,
and forth stepped not the Rabbi he expected, but a tall, gaunt
man, stooping slightly at the shoulders, dressed in the white
habit and black cloak of the order of St. Dominic, his face lost
in the shadows of a black cowl. Behind him stood two lay
brothers of the order, two armed familiars of the Holy Office,
displaying the white cross on their sable doublets.

Terrified by that apparition, evoked, as it seemed, by those
terribly damning words he had pronounced, Don Rodrigo stood
blankly at gaze a moment, not even seeking to understand how this
dread thing had come to pass.

The friar pushed back his cowl, as he advanced, and displayed the
tender, compassionate, infinitely wistful countenance of Frey
Tomas de Torquemada. And infinitely compassionate and wistful
came the voice of that deeply sincere and saintly man.

"My son, I was told this of you--that you were a Judaizer--yet
before I could bring myself to believe so incredible a thing in
one of your lineage, I required the evidence of my own senses.
Oh, my poor child, by what wicked counsels have you been led so
far astray?" The sweet, tender eyes of the inquisitor were
luminous with unshed tears. Sorrowing pity shook his gentle

And then Don Rodrigo's terror changed to wrath, and this
exploded. He flung out an arm towards Isabella in passionate

"It was that woman who bewitched and fooled and seduced me into
this. It was a trap she baited for my undoing."

"It was, indeed. She had my consent to do so, to test the faith
which I was told you lacked. Had your heart been free of
heretical pravity the trap had never caught you; had your faith
been strong, my son, you could not have been seduced from loyalty
to your Redeemers"

"Father! Hear me, I implore you!" He flung down upon his knees,
and held out shaking, supplicating hands.

"You shall be heard, my son. The Holy Office does not condemn any
man unheard. But what hope can you put in protestations? I had
been told that your life was disorderly and vain, and I grieved
that it should be so, trembled for you when I heard how wide you
opened the gates of your soul to evil. But remembering that age
and reason will often make good and penitent amends for the
follies of early life, I hoped and prayed for you. Yet that you
should Judaize--that you should be bound in wedlock by the
unclean ties of Judaism--Oh!" The melancholy voice broke off upon
a sob, and Torquemada covered his pale face with his hands--long,
white, emaciated, almost transparent hands. "Pray now, my child,
for grace and strength," he exhorted. "Offer up the little
temporal suffering that may yet be yours in atonement for your
error, and so that your heart be truly contrite and penitent, you
shall deserve salvation from that Divine Mercy which is
boundless. You shall have my prayers, my son. I can do no more.
Take him hence."

On the 6th of February of that year 1481, Seville witnessed the
first Auto de Fe, the sufferers being Diego de Susan, his fellow-
conspirators, and Don Rodrigo de Cardona. The function presented
but little of the ghastly pomp that was soon to distinguish these
proceedings. But the essentials were already present.

In a procession headed by a Dominican bearing aloft the green
Cross of the Inquisition, swathed in a veil of crepe, behind whom
walked two by two the members of the Confraternity of St. Peter
the Martyr, the familiars of the Holy Office, came the condemned,
candle in hand, barefoot, in the ignominious yellow penitential
sack. Hemmed about by halberdiers, they were paraded through the
streets to the Cathedral, where Mass was said and a sermon of the
faith preached to them by the stern Ojeda. Thereafter they were
conveyed beyond the city to the meadows of Tablada, where the
stake and faggots awaited them.

Thus the perjured accuser perished in the same holocaust with the
accused. Thus was Isabella de Susan, known as la Hermosa Fembra,
avenged by falseness upon the worthless lover who made her by
falseness the instrument of her father's ruin.

For herself, when all was over, she sought the refuge of a
convent. But she quitted it without professing. The past gave her
no peace, and she returned to the world to seek in excesses an
oblivion which the cloister denied her and only death could give.
In her will she disposed that her skull should be placed over the
doorway of the house in the Calle de Ataud, as a measure of
posthumous atonement for her sins. And there the fleshless,
grinning skull of that once lovely head abode for close upon four
hundred years. It was still to be seen there when Buonaparte's
legions demolished the Holy Office of the Inquisition.


The Story of the False Sebastian of Portugal

There is not in all that bitter tragi-comic record of human
frailty which we call History a sadder story than this of the
Princess Anne, the natural daughter of the splendid Don John of
Austria, natural son of the Emperor Charles V. and, so, half-
brother to the bowelless King Philip II. of Spain. Never was
woman born to royal or semi-royal state who was more utterly the
victim of the circumstances of her birth.

Of the natural sons of princes something could be made, as
witness the dazzling career of Anne's own father; but for natural
daughters--and especially for one who, like herself, bore a
double load of cadency--there was little use or hope. Their royal
blood set them in a class apart; their bastardy denied them the
worldly advantages of that spurious eminence. Their royal blood
prescribed that they must mate with princes; their bastardy
raised obstacles to their doing so. Therefore, since the world
would seem to hold no worthy place for them, it was expedient to
withdraw them from the world before its vanities beglamoured
them, and to immure them in convents, where they might aspire
with confidence to the sterile dignity of abbesshood.

Thus it befell with Anne. At the early age of six she had been
sent to the Benedictine convent at Burgos, and in adolescence
removed thence to the Monastery of Santa Maria la Real at
Madrigal, where it was foreordained that she should take the
veil. She went unwillingly. She had youth, and youth's hunger of
life, and not even the repressive conditions in which she had
been reared had succeeded in extinguishing her high spirit or in
concealing from her the fact that she was beautiful. On the
threshold of that convent which by her dread uncle's will was to
be her living tomb, above whose gates her spirit may have beheld
the inscription, "Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch' entrate!" she
made her protest, called upon the bishop who accompanied her to
bear witness that she did not go of her own free will.

But what she willed was a matter of no account. King Philip's
was, under God's, the only will in Spain. Still, less perhaps to
soften the sacrifice imposed upon her than because of what he
accounted due to one of his own blood, his Catholic Majesty
accorded her certain privileges unusual to members of religious
communities: he granted her a little civil list--two ladies-in-
waiting and two grooms--and conferred upon her the title of
Excellency, which she still retained even when after her hurried
novitiate of a single year she had taken the veil. She submitted
where to have striven would have been to have spent herself in
vain; but her resignation was only of the body, and this dejected
body moved mechanically through the tasks and recreations that go
to make up the grey monotone of conventual existence; in which
one day is as another day, one hour as another hour; in which the
seasons of the year lose their significance; in which time has no
purpose save for its subdivision into periods devoted to sleeping
and waking, to eating and fasting, to praying and contemplating,
until life loses all purpose and object, and sterilizes itself
into preparation for death.

Though they might command and compel her body, her spirit
remained unfettered in rebellion. Anon the claustral apathy might
encompass her; in time and by slow degrees she might become
absorbed into the grey spirit of the place. But that time was not
yet. For the present she must nourish her caged and starving soul
with memories of glimpses caught in passing of the bright,
active, stirring world without; and where memory stopped she had
now beside her a companion to regale her with tales of high
adventure and romantic deeds and knightly feats, which served but
to feed and swell her yearnings.

This companion, Frey Miguel de Souza, was a Portuguese friar of
the order of St. Augustine, a learned, courtly man who had moved
in the great world and spoke with the authority of an eye-
witness. And above all he loved to talk of that last romantic
King of Portugal, with whom he had been intimate, that high-
spirited, headstrong, gallant, fair-haired lad Sebastian, who at
the age of four-and-twenty had led the disastrous overseas
expedition against the Infidel, which had been shattered on the
field of Alcacer-el-Kebir some fifteen years ago.

He loved to paint for her in words the dazzling knightly pageants
he had seen along the quays at Lisbon, when that expedition was
embarking with crusader ardour, the files of Portuguese knights
and men-at-arms, the array of German and Italian mercenaries, the
young king in his bright armour, bare of head--an incarnation of
St. Michael--moving forward exultantly amid flowers and
acclamations to take ship for Africa. And she would listen with
parted lips and glistening eyes, her slim body bending forward in
her eagerness to miss no word of this great epic. Anon when he
came to tell of that disastrous day of Alcacer-el-Kebir, her
dark, eager eyes would fill with tears. His tale of it was hardly
truthful. He did not say that military incompetence and a
presumptuous vanity which would listen to no counsels had been
the cause of a ruin that had engulfed the chivalry of Portugal,
and finally the very kingdom itself. He represented the defeat as
due to the overwhelming numbers of the Infidel, and dwelt at
length upon the closing scene, told her in fullest detail how
Sebastian had scornfully rejected the counsels of those who urged
him to fly when all was lost, how the young king, who had fought
with a lion-hearted courage, unwilling to survive the day's
defeat, had turned and ridden back alone into the Saracen host to
fight his last fight and find a knightly death. Thereafter he was
seen no more.

It was a tale she never tired of hearing, and it moved her more
and more deeply each time she listened to it. She would ply him
with questions touching this Sebastian, who had been her cousin,
concerning his ways of life, his boyhood, and his enactments when
he came to the crown of Portugal. And all that Frey Miguel de
Souza told her served but to engrave more deeply upon her virgin
mind the adorable image of the knightly king. Ever present in the
daily thoughts of this ardent girl, his empanoplied figure
haunted now her sleep, so real and vivid that her waking senses
would dwell fondly upon the dream-figure as upon the memory of
someone seen in actual life; likewise she treasured up the memory
of the dream--words he had uttered, words it would seem begotten
of the longings of her starved and empty heart, words of a kind
not calculated to bring peace to the soul of a nun professed. She
was enamoured, deeply, fervently, and passionately enamoured of a
myth, a mental image of a man who had been dust these fifteen
years. She mourned him with a fond widow's mourning; prayed daily
and nightly for the repose of his soul, and in her exaltation
waited now almost impatiently for death that should unite her
with him. Taking joy in the thought that she should go to him a
maid, she ceased at last to resent the maidenhood that had been
imposed upon her.

One day a sudden, wild thought filled her with a strange

"Is it so certain that he is dead?" she asked. "When all is said,
none actually saw him die, and you tell me that the body
surrendered by Mulai-Ahmed-ben-Mahomet was disfigured beyond
recognition. Is it not possible that he may have survived?"

The lean, swarthy face of Frey Miguel grew pensive. He did not
impatiently scorn the suggestion as she had half-feared he would.

"In Portugal," he answered slowly, "it is firmly believed that he
lives, and that one day he will come, like another Redeemer, to
deliver his country from the thrall of Spain."

"Then . . . then . . ."

Wistfully, he smiled. "A people will always believe what it
wishes to believe."

"But you, yourself?" she pressed him.

He did not answer her at once. The cloud of thought deepened on
his ascetic face. He half turned from her--they were standing in
the shadow of the fretted cloisters--and his pensive eyes roamed
over the wide quadrangle that was at once the convent garden and
burial ground. Out there in the sunshine amid the hum of
invisible but ubiquitously pulsating life, three nuns, young and
vigorous, their arms bared to the elbows, the skirts of their
black habits shortened by a cincture of rope, revealing feet
roughly shod in wood, were at work with spade and mattock,
digging their own graves in memento mori. Amid the shadows of the
cloisters, within sight but beyond earshot, hovered Dona Maria de
Grado and Dona Luiza Nieto, the two nobly-born nuns appointed by
King Philip to an office as nearly akin to that of ladies-in-
waiting as claustral conditions would permit.

At length Frey Miguel seemed to resolve himself.

"Since you ask me, why should I not tell you? When I was on my
way to preach the funeral oration in the Cathedral at Lisbon, as
befitted one who had been Don Sebastian's preacher, I was warned
by a person of eminence to have a care of what I said of Don
Sebastian, for not only was he alive, but he would be secretly
present at the Requiem."

He met her dilating glance, noted the quivering of her parted

"But that," he added, "was fifteen years ago, and since then I
have had no sign. At first I thought it possible . . . there was
a story afloat that might have been true . . . But fifteen
years!" He sighed, and shook his head.

"What . . . what was the story?" She was trembling from head to

"On the night after the battle three horsemen rode up to the
gates of the fortified coast-town of Arzilla. When the timid
guard refused to open to them, they announced that one of them
was King Sebastian, and so won admittance. One of the three was
wrapped in a cloak, his face concealed, and his two companions
were observed to show him the deference due to royalty."

"Why, then . . ." she was beginning.

"Ah, but afterwards," he interrupted her, "afterwards, when all
Portugal was thrown into commotion by that tale, it was denied
that King Sebastian had been among these horsemen. It was
affirmed to have been no more than a ruse of those men's to gain
the shelter of the city."

She questioned and cross-questioned him upon that, seeking to
draw from him the admission that it was possible denial and
explanation obeyed the wishes of the hidden prince.

"Yes, it is possible," he admitted at length, "and it is believed
by many to be the fact. Don Sebastian was as sensitive as high-
spirited. The shame of his defeat may have hung so heavily upon
him that he preferred to remain in hiding, and to sacrifice a
throne of which he now felt himself unworthy. Half Portugal
believes it so, and waits and hopes."

When Frey Miguel parted from her that day, he took with him the
clear conviction that not in all Portugal was there a soul who
hoped more fervently than she that Don Sebastian lived, or
yearned more passionately to acclaim him should he show himself.
And that was much to think, for the yearning of Portugal was as
the yearning of the slave for freedom.

Sebastian's mother was King Philip's sister, whereby King Philip
had claimed the succession, and taken possession of the throne of
Portugal. Portugal writhed under the oppressive heel of that
foreign rule, and Frey Miguel de Sousa himself, a deeply,
passionately patriotic man, had been foremost among those who had
sought to liberate her. When Don Antonio, the sometime Prior of
Crato, Sebastian's natural cousin, and a bold, ambitious,
enterprising man, had raised the standard of revolt, the friar
had been the most active of all his coadjutators. In those days
Frey Miguel, who was the Provincial of his order, a man widely
renowned for his learning and experience of affairs, who had been
preacher to Don Sebastian and confessor to Don Antonio, had
wielded a vast influence in Portugal. That influence he had
unstintingly exerted on behalf of the Pretender, to whom he was
profoundly devoted. After Don Antonio's army had been defeated on
land by the Duke of Alba, and his fleet shattered in the Azores
in 1582 by the Marquis of Santa Cruz, Frey Miguel found himself
deeply compromised by his active share in the rebellion. He was
arrested and suffered a long imprisonment in Spain. In the end,
because he expressed repentance, and because Philip II., aware of
the man's gifts and worth, desired to attach him to himself by
gratitude, he was enlarged, and appointed Vicar of Santa Maria la
Real, where he was now become confessor, counsellor and confidant
of the Princess Anne of Austria.

But his gratitude to King Philip was not of a kind to change his
nature, to extinguish his devotion to the Pretender, Don Antonio--
who, restlessly ambitious, continued ceaselessly to plot abroad--
or yet to abate the fervour of his patriotism. The dream of his
life was ever the independence of Portugal, with a native prince
upon the throne. And because of Anne's fervent hope, a hope that
grew almost daily into conviction, that Sebastian had survived
and would return one day to claim his kingdom, those two at
Madrigal, in that quiet eddy of the great stream of life, were
drawn more closely to each other.

But as the years passed, and Anne's prayers remained unanswered
and the deliverer did not come, her hopes began to fade again.
Gradually she reverted to her earlier frame of mind in which all
hopes were set upon a reunion with the unknown beloved in the
world to come.

One evening in the spring of 1594--four years after the name of
Sebastian had first passed between the priest and the princess--
Frey Miguel was walking down the main street of Madrigal, a
village whose every inhabitant was known to him, when he came
suddenly face to face with a stranger. A stranger would in any
case have drawn his attention, but there was about this man
something familiar to the friar, something that stirred in him
vague memories of things long forgotten. His garb of shabby black
was that of a common townsman, but there was something in his air
and glance, his soldierly carriage, and the tilt of his bearded
chin, that belied his garb. He bore upon his person the stamp of
intrepidity and assurance.

Both halted, each staring at the other, a faint smile on the lips
of the stranger--who, in the fading light, might have been of any
age from thirty to fifty--a puzzled frown upon the brow of the
friar. Then the man swept off his broad-brimmed hat.

"God save your paternity," was his greeting.

"God save you, my son," replied Frey Miguel, still pondering him.
"I seem to know you. Do I?"

The stranger laughed. "Though all the world forget, your
paternity should remember me"

And then Frey Miguel sucked in his breath sharply. "My God!" he
cried, and set a hand upon the fellow's shoulder, looking deeply
into those bold, grey eyes. "What make you here?"

"I am a pastry-cook."

"A pastry-cook? You?"

"One must live, and it is a more honest trade than most. I was in
Valladolid, when I heard that your paternity was the Vicar of the
Convent here, and so for the sake of old times--of happier times--
I bethought me that I might claim your paternity's support." He
spoke with a careless arrogance, half-tinged with mockery.

"Assuredly . . ." began the priest, and then he checked. "Where
is your shop?"

"Just down the street. Will your paternity honour me?"

Frey Miguel bowed, and together they departed.

For three days thereafter the convent saw the friar only in the
celebration of the Mass. But on the morning of the fourth, he
went straight from the sacristy to the parlour, and, despite the
early hour, desired to see her Excellency.

"Lady," he told her, "I have great news; news that will rejoice
your heart." She looked at him, and saw the feverish glitter in
his sunken eyes, the hectic flush on his prominent cheek-bones.
"Don Sebastian lives. I have seen him."

A moment she stared at him as if she did not understand. Then she
paled until her face became as white as the nun's coil upon her
brow; her breath came in a faint moan, she stiffened, and swayed
upon her feet, and caught at the back of a prie-dieu to steady
and save herself from falling. He saw that he had blundered by
his abruptness, that he had failed to gauge the full depth of her
feelings for the Hidden Prince, and for a moment feared that she
would swoon under the shock of the news he had so recklessly

"What do you say? Oh, what do you say?" she moaned, her eyes

He repeated the news in more measured, careful terms, exerting
all the magnetism of his will to sustain her reeling senses.
Gradually she quelled the storm of her emotions.

"And you say that you have seen him? Oh!" Once more the colour
suffused her cheeks, and her eyes glowed, her expression became
radiant. "Where is he?"

"Here. Here in Madrigal."

"In Madrigal?" She was all amazement. "But why in Madrigal?"

"He was in Valladolid, and there heard that I--his sometime
preacher and counsellor--was Vicar here at Santa Maria la Real.
He came to seek me. He comes disguised, under the false name of
Gabriel de Espinosa, and setting up as a pastry-cook until his
term of penance shall be completed, and he shall be free to
disclose himself once more to his impatiently awaiting people."

It was bewildering, intoxicating news to her. It set her mind in
turmoil, made of her soul a battle-ground for mad hope and
dreadful fear. This dream-prince, who for four years had been the
constant companion of her thoughts, whom her exalted, ardent,
imaginative, starved Soul had come to love with a consuming
passion, was a living reality near at hand, to be seen in the
flesh by the eyes of her body. It was a thought that set her in
an ecstasy of terror, so that she dared not ask Frey Miguel to
bring Don Sebastian to her. But she plied him with questions, and
so elicited from him a very circumstantial story.

Sebastian, after his defeat and escape, had made a vow upon the
Holy Sepulchre to lay aside the royal dignity of which he deemed
that he had proved himself unworthy, and to do penance for the
pride that had brought him down, by roaming the world in humble
guise, earning his bread by the labour of his hands and the sweat
of his brow like any common hind, until he should have purged his
offense and rendered himself worthy once more to resume the
estate to which he had been born.

It was a tale that moved her pity to the point of tears. It
exalted her hero even beyond the eminence he had already held in
her fond dreams, particularly when to that general outline were
added in the days that followed details of the wanderings and
sufferings of the Hidden Prince. At last, some few weeks after
that first startling announcement of his presence, in the early
days of August of that year 1594, Frey Miguel proposed to her the
thing she most desired, yet dared not beg.

"I have told His Majesty of your attachment to his memory in all
these years in which we thought him dead, and he is deeply
touched. He desires your leave to come and prostrate himself at
your feet."

She crimsoned from brow to chin, then paled again; her bosom
heaved in tumult. Between dread and yearning she spoke a faint

Next day he came, brought by Frey Miguel to the convent parlour,
where her Excellency waited, her two attendant nuns discreetly in
the background. Her eager, frightened eyes beheld a man of middle
height, dignified of mien and carriage, dressed with extreme
simplicity, yet without the shabbiness in which Frey Miguel had
first discovered him.

His hair was of a light brown--the colour to which the golden
locks of the boy who had sailed for Africa some fifteen years ago
might well have faded--his beard of an auburn tint, and his eyes
were grey. His face was handsome, and save for the colour of his
eyes and the high arch of his nose presented none of the
distinguishing and marring features peculiar to the House of
Austria, from which Don Sebastian derived through his mother.

Hat in hand, he came forward, and went down on one knee before

"I am here to receive your Excellency's commands," he said.

She steadied her shuddering knees and trembling lips.

"Are you Gabriel de Espinosa, who has come to Madrigal to set up
as a pastry-cook?" she asked him.

"To serve your Excellency."

"Then be welcome, though I am sure that the trade you least
understand is that of a pastry-cook."

The kneeling man bowed his handsome head, and fetched a deep

"If in the past I had better understood another trade, I should
not now be reduced to following this one."

She urged him now to rise, hereafter the entertainment between
them was very brief on that first occasion. He departed upon a
promise to come soon again, and the undertaking on her side to
procure for his shop the patronage of the convent.

Thereafter it became his custom to attend the morning Mass
celebrated by Frey Miguel in the convent chapel--which was open
to the public--and afterwards to seek the friar in the sacristy
and accompany him thence to the convent parlour, where the
Princess waited, usually with one or another of her attendant
nuns. These daily interviews were brief at first, but gradually
they lengthened until they came to consume the hours to dinner-
time, and presently even that did not suffice, and Sebastian must
come again later in the day.

And as the interviews increased and lengthened, so they grew also
in intimacy between the royal pair, and plans for Sebastian's
future came to be discussed. She urged him to proclaim himself.
His penance had been overlong already for what was really no
fault at all, since it is the heart rather than the deed that
Heaven judges, and his heart had been pure, his intention in
making war upon the Infidel loftily pious. Diffidently he
admitted that it might be so, but both he and Frey Miguel were of
opinion that it would be wiser now to await the death of Philip
II., which, considering his years and infirmities, could not be
long delayed. Out of jealousy for his possessions, King Philip
might oppose Sebastian's claims.

Meanwhile these daily visits of Espinosa's, and the long hours he
spent in Anne's company gave, as was inevitable, rise to scandal,
within and without the convent. She was a nun professed,
interdicted from seeing any man but her confessor other than
through the parlour grating, and even then not at such length or
with such constancy as this. The intimacy between them--fostered
and furthered by Frey Miguel--had so ripened in a few weeks that
Anne was justified in looking upon him as her saviour from the
living tomb to which she had been condemned, in hoping that he
would restore her to the life and liberty for which she had ever
yearned by taking her to Queen when his time came to claim his
own. What if she was a nun professed? Her profession had been
against her will, preceded by only one year of novitiate, and she
was still within the five probationary years prescribed.
Therefore, in her view, her vows were revocable.

But this was a matter beyond the general consideration or
knowledge, and so the scandal grew. Within the convent there
was none bold enough, considering Anne's royal rank, to offer
remonstrance or advice, particularly too, considering that her
behaviour had the sanction of Frey Miguel, the convent's
spiritual adviser. But from without, from the Provincial of
the Order of St. Augustine, came at last a letter to Anne,
respectfully stern in tone, to inform her that the numerous
visits she received from a pastry-cook were giving rise to talk,
for which it would be wise to cease to give occasion. That
recommendation scorched her proud, sensitive soul with shame. She
sent her servant Roderos at once to fetch Frey Miguel, and placed
the letter in his hands.

The friar's dark eyes scanned it and grew troubled.

"It was to have been feared," he said, and sighed.

"There is but one remedy, lest worse follow and all be ruined.
Don Sebastian must go."

"Go?" Fear robbed her of breath. "Go where?"

"Away from Madrigal--anywhere--and at once; tomorrow at latest."
And then, seeing the look of horror in her face, "What else, what
else?" he added, impatiently. "This meddlesome provincial may be
stirring up trouble already."

She fought down her emotion. "I . . . I shall see him before he
goes?" she begged.

"I don't know. It may not be wise. I must consider." He flung
away in deepest perturbation, leaving her with a sense that life
was slipping from her.

That late September evening, as she sat stricken in her room,
hoping against hope for at least another glimpse of him, Dona
Maria de Grado brought word that Espinosa was even then in the
convent in Frey Miguel's cell. Fearful lest he should be smuggled
thence without her seeing him, And careless of the impropriety of
the hour--it was already eight o'clock and dusk was falling--she
at once dispatched Roderos to the friar, bidding him bring
Espinosa to her in the parlour.

The friar obeyed, and the lovers--they were no less by now--came
face to face in anguish.

"My lord, my lord," she cried, casting all prudence to the winds,
"what is decided?"

"That I leave in the morning," he answered.

"To go where?" She was distraught.

"Where?" He shrugged. "To Valladolid at first, and then . . .
where God pleases."

"And when shall I see you again?"

"When . . . when God pleases."

"Oh, I am terrified . . . if I should lose you . . . if I should
never see you more!" She was panting, distraught.

"Nay, lady, nay," he answered. "I shall come for you when the
time is ripe. I shall return by All Saints, or by Christmas at
the latest, and I shall bring with me one who will avouch me."

"What need any to avouch you to me?" she protested, on a note of
fierceness. "We belong to each other, you and I. But you are free
to roam the world, and I am caged here and helpless. . ."

"Ah, but I shall free you soon, and we'll go hence together.
See." He stepped to the table. There was an ink-horn, a box of
pounce, some quills, and a sheaf of paper there. He took up a
quill, and wrote with labour, for princes are notoriously poor

"I, Don Sebastian, by the Grace of God King of Portugal, take to
wife the most serene Dona ulna of Austria, daughter of the most
serene Prince, Don John of Austria, by virtue of the disiensation
which I hold from two pontiffs."

And he signed it--after the manner of the Kings of Portugal in
all ages--"El Rey"--the King.

"Will that content you, lady?" he pleaded, handing it to her.

"How shall this scrawl content me?"

"It is a bond I shall redeem as soon as Heaven will permit."

Thereafter she fell to weeping, and he to protesting, until Frey
Miguel urged him to depart, as it grew late. And then she forgot
her own grief, and became all solicitude for him, until naught
would content her but she must empty into his hands her little
store of treasure--a hundred ducats and such jewels as she
possessed, including a gold watch set with diamonds and a ring
bearing a cameo portrait of King Philip, and last of all a
portrait of herself, of the size of a playing-card.

At last, as ten was striking, he was hurried away. Frey Miguel
had gone on his knees to him, and kissed his hand, what time he
had passionately urged him not to linger; and then Sebastian had
done the same by the Princess both weeping now. At last he was
gone, and on the arm of Dona Maria de Grado the forlorn Anne
staggered back to her cell to weep and pray.

In the days that followed she moved, pale and listless, oppressed
by her sense of loss and desolation, a desolation which at last
she sought to mitigate by writing to him to Valladolid, whither
he had repaired. Of all those letters only two survive.

"My king and lord," she wrote in one of these, "alas! How we
suffer by absence! I am so filled with the pain of it that if I
did not seek the relief of writing to your Majesty and thus spend
some moments in communion with you, there would be an end to me.
What I feel to-day is what I feel every day when I recall the
happy moments sodeliciously spent, which are no more. This
privation is for me so severe a punishment of heaven that I
should call it unjust, for without cause I find myself deprived
of the happiness missed by me for so many years and purchased at
the price of suffering and tears. Ah, my lord, how willingly,
nevertheless, would I not suffer all over again the misfortunes
that have crushed me if thus I might spare your Majesty the least
of them. May He who rules the world grant my prayers and set a
term to so great an unhappiness, and to the intolerable torment I
suffer through being deprived of the presence of your Majesty. It
were impossible for long to suffer so much pain and live.

"I belong to you, my lord; you know it already. The troth I
plighted to you I shall keep in life and in death, for death
itself could not tear it from my soul, and this immortal soul
will harbour it through eternity. . ."

Thus and much more in the same manner wrote the niece of King
Philip of Spain to Gabriel Espinosa, the pastry-cook, in his
Valladolid retreat. How he filled his days we do not know,
beyond the fact that he moved freely abroad. For it was in the
streets of that town that meddlesome Fate brought him face to
face one day with Gregorio Gonzales, under whom Espinosa had been
a scullion once in the service of the Count of Nyeba.

Gregorio hailed him, staring round-eyed; for although Espinosa's
garments were not in their first freshness they were far from
being those of a plebeian.

"In whose service may you be now?" quoth the intrigued Gregorio,
so soon as greetings had passed between them.

Espinosa shook off his momentary embarrassment, and took the hand
of his sometime comrade. "Times are changed, friend Gregorio. I
am not in anybody's service, rather do I require servants

"Why, what is your present situation?"

Loftily Espinosa put him off. "No matter for that," he answered,
with a dignity that forbade further questions. He gathered his
cloak about him to proceed upon his way. "If there is anything
you wish for I shall be happy, for old times' sake, to oblige

But Gregorio was by no means disposed to part from him. We do not
readily part from an old friend whom we rediscover in an
unsuspected state of affluence. Espinosa must home with Gregorio.
Gregorio's wife would be charmed to renew his acquaintance, and
to hear from his own lips of his improved and prosperous state.
Gregorio would take no refusal, and in the end Espinosa, yielding
to his insistence, went with him to the sordid quarter where
Gregorio had his dwelling.

About an unclean table of pine, in a squalid room, sat the
three--Espinosa, Gregorio, and Gregorio's wife; but the latter
displayed none of the signs of satisfaction at Espinosa's
prosperity which Gregorio had promised. Perhaps Espinosa observed
her evil envy, and it may have been to nourish it--which is the
surest way to punish envy--that he made Gregorio a magnificent
offer of employment.

"Enter my service," said he, "and I will pay you fifty ducats
down and four ducats a month."

Obviously they were incredulous of his affluence. To convince
them he displayed a gold watch--most rare possession--set with
diamonds, a ring of price, and other costly jewels. The couple
stared now with dazzled eyes.

"But didn't you tell me when we were in Madrid together that you
had been a pastry-cook at Ocana?" burst from Gregorio.

Espinosa smiled. "How many kings and princes have been compelled
to conceal themselves under disguises?" he asked oracularly. And
seeing them stricken, he must play upon them further. Nothing, it
seems, was sacred to him--not even the portrait of that lovely,
desolate royal lady in her convent at Madrigal. Forth he plucked
it, and thrust it to them across the stains of wine and oil that
befouled their table.

"Look at this beautiful lady, the most beautiful in Spain," he
bade them. "A prince could not have a lovelier bride."

"But she is dressed as a nun," the woman protested. "How, then,
can she marry?"

"For kings there are no laws," he told her with finality.

At last he departed, but bidding Gregorio to think of the offer
he had made him. He would come again for the cook's reply,
leaving word meanwhile of where he was lodged.

They deemed him mad, and were disposed to be derisive. Yet the
woman's disbelief was quickened into malevolence by the jealous
fear that what he had told them of himself might, after all, be
true. Upon that malevolence she acted forthwith, lodging an
information with Don Rodrigo de Santillan, the Alcalde of

Very late that night Espinosa was roused from his sleep to find
his room invaded by alguaziles--the police of the Alcalde. He was
arrested and dragged before Don Rodrigo to give an account of
himself and of certain objects of value found in his possession--
more particularly of a ring, on the cameo of which was carved a
portrait of King Philip.

"I am Gabriel de Espinosa," he answered firmly, "a pastry-cook of

"Then how come you by these jewels?"

"They were given me by Dona Ana of Austria to sell for her
account. That is the business that has brought me to Valladolid."

"Is this Dona Ana's portrait?"

"It is."

"And this lock of hair? Is that also Dona Ana's? And do you,
then, pretend that these were also given you to sell?"

"Why else should they be given me?"

Don Rodrigo wondered. They were useless things to steal, and as
for the lock of hair, where should the fellow find a buyer for
that? The Alcalde conned his man more closely, and noted that
dignity of bearing, that calm assurance which usually is founded
upon birth and worth. He sent him to wait in prison, what time he
went to ransack the fellow's house in Madrigal.

Don Rodrigo was prompt in acting; yet even so his prisoner
mysteriously found means to send a warning that enabled Frey
Miguel to forestall the Alcalde. Before Don Rodrigo's arrival,
the friar had abstracted from Espinosa's house a box of papers
which he reduced to ashes. Unfortunately Espinosa had been
careless. Four letters not confided to the box were discovered by
the alguaziles. Two of them were from Anne--one of which supplies
the extract I have given; the other two from Frey Miguel himself.

Those letters startled Don Rodrigo de Santillan. He was a shrewd
reasoner and well-informed. He knew how the justice of Castile
was kept on the alert by the persistent plottings of the
Portuguese Pretender, Don Antonio, sometime Prior of Crato. He
was intimate with the past life of Frey Miguel, knew his self-
sacrificing patriotism and passionate devotion to the cause of
Don Antonio, remembered the firm dignity of his prisoner, and
leapt at a justifiable conclusion. The man in his hands--the man
whom the Princess Anne addressed in such passionate terms by the
title of Majesty--was the Prior of Crato. He conceived that he
had stumbled here upon something grave and dangerous. He ordered
the arrest of Frey Miguel, and then proceeded to visit Dona Ana
at the convent. His methods were crafty, and depended upon the
effect of surprise. He opened the interview by holding up
before her one of the letters he had found, asking her if she
acknowledged it for her own.

She stared a moment panic-stricken; then snatched it from his
hands, tore it across, and would have torn again, but that he
caught her wrists in a grip of iron to prevent her, with little
regard in that moment for the blood royal in her veins. King
Philip was a stern master, pitiless to blunderers, and Don
Rodrigo knew he never would be forgiven did he suffer that
precious letter to be destroyed.

Overpowered in body and in spirit, she surrendered the fragments
and confessed the letter her own.

"What is the real name of this man, who calls himself a pastry-
cook, and to whom you write in such terms as these?" quoth the

"He is Don Sebastian, King of Portugal." And to that declaration
she added briefly the story of his escape from Alcacer-el-Kebir
and subsequent penitential wanderings.

Don Rodrigo departed, not knowing what to think or believe, but
convinced that it was time he laid the whole matter before King
Philip. His Catholic Majesty was deeply perturbed. He at once
dispatched Don Juan de Llano, the Apostolic Commissary of the
Holy Office to Madrigal to sift the matter, and ordered that Anne
should be solitarily confined in her cell, and her nuns-in-
waiting and servants placed under arrest.

Espinosa, for greater security, was sent from Valladolid to the
prison of Medina del Campo. He was taken thither in a coach with
an escort of arquebusiers.

"Why convey a poor pastry-cook with so much honour?" he asked his
guards, half-mockingly.

Within the coach he was accompanied by a soldier named Cervatos,
a travelled man, who fell into talk with him, and discovered that
he spoke both French and German fluently. But when Cervatos
addressed him in Portuguese the prisoner seemed confused, and
replied that although he had been in Portugal, he could not speak
the language.

Thereafter, throughout that winter, examinations of the three
chief prisoners--Espinosa, Frey Miguel, and the Princess Anne--
succeeded one another with a wearisome monotony of results. The
Apostolic Commissary interrogated the princess and Frey Miguel;
Don Rodrigo conducted the examinations of Espinosa. But nothing
was elicited that took the matter forward or tended to dispel its

The princess replied with a candour that became more and more
tinged with indignation under the persistent and at times
insulting interrogatories. She insisted that the prisoner was Don
Sebastian, and wrote passionate letters to Espinosa, begging him
for her honour's sake to proclaim himself what he really was,
declaring to him that the time had come to cast off all disguise.

Yet the prisoner, unmoved by these appeals, persisted that he was
Gabriel de Espinosa, a pastry-cook. But the man's bearing, and
the air of mystery cloaking him, seemed in themselves to belie
that asseveration. That he could not be the Prior of Crato, Don
Rodrigo had now assured himself. He fenced skilfully under
exurnination, ever evading the magistrate's practiced point when
it sought to pin him, and he was no less careful to say nothing
that should incriminate either of the other two prisoners. He
denied that he had ever given himself out to be Don Sebastian,
though he admitted that Frey Miguel and the princess had
persuaded themselves that he was that lost prince.

He pleaded ignorance when asked who were his parents, stating
that he had never known either of them--an answer this which
would have fitted the case of Don Sebastian, who was born after
his father's death, and quitted in early infancy by his mother.

As for Frey Miguel, he stated boldly under examination the conviction
that Don Sebastian had survived the African expedition, and the
belief that Espinosa might well be the missing monarch. He
protested that he had acted in good faith throughout, and without
any thought of disloyalty to the King of Spain.

Late one night, after he had been some three months in prison,
Espinosa was roused from sleep by an unexpected visit from the
Alcalde. At once he would have risen and dressed.

"Nay," said Don Rodrigo, restraining him, "that is not necessary
for what is intended."

It was a dark phrase which the prisoner, sitting up in bed with
tousled hair, and blinking in the light of the torches, instantly
interpreted into a threat of torture. His face grew white.

"It is impossible," he protested. "The King cannot have ordered
what you suggest. His Majesty will take into account that I am a
man of honour. He may require my death, but in an honourable
manner, and not upon the rack. And as for its being used to make
me speak, I have nothing to add to what I have said already."

The stern, dark face of the Alcalde was overspread by a grim

"I would have you remark that you fall into contradictions.
Sometimes you pretend to be of humble and lowly origin, and
sometimes a person of honourable degree. To hear you at this
moment one might suppose that to submit you to torture would be
to outrage your dignity. What then . . ."

Don Rodrigo broke off suddenly to stare, then snatched a torch
from the hand of his alguaziles and held it close to the face of
the prisoner, who cowered now, knowing full well what it was the
Alcalde had detected. In that strong light Don Rodrigo saw that
the prisoner's hair and beard had turned grey at the roots, and
so received the last proof that he had to do with the basest of
impostures. The fellow had been using dyes, the supply of which
had been cut short by his imprisonment. Don Rodrigo departed
well-satisfied with the results of that surprise visit.

Thereafter Espinosa immediately shaved himself. But it was too
late, and even so, before many weeks were past his hair had faded
to its natural grey, and he presented the appearance of what in
fact he was--a man of sixty, or thereabouts.

Yet the torture to which he was presently submitted drew nothing from
him that could explain all that yet remained obscure. It was from
Frey Miguel, after a thousand prevarications and tergiversations,
that the full truth--known to himself alone--was extracted by the

He confessed that, inspired by the love of country and the ardent
desire to liberate Portugal from the Spanish yoke, he had never
abandoned the hope of achieving this, and of placing Don Antonio,
the Prior of Crato, on the throne of his ancestors. He had
devised a plan, primarily inspired by the ardent nature of the
Princess Anne and her impatience of the conventual life. It was
while casting about for the chief instrument that he fortuitously
met Espinosa in the streets of Madrigal. Espinosa had been a
soldier, and had seen the world. During the war between Spain and
Portugal he had served in the armies of King Philip, had
befriended Frey Miguel when the friar's convent was on the point
of being invaded by soldiery, and had rescued him from the peril
of it. Thus they had become acquainted, and Frey Miguel had had
an instance of the man's resource and courage. Further, he was of
the height of Don Sebastian and of the build to which the king
might have grown in the years that were sped, and he presented
other superficial resemblances to the late king. The colour of
his hair and beard could be corrected; and he might be made to
play the part of the Hidden Prince for whose return Portugal was
waiting so passionately and confidently. There had been other
impostors aforetime, but they had lacked the endowments of
Espinosa, and their origins could be traced without difficulty.
In addition to these natural endowments, Espinosa should be
avouched by Frey Miguel than whom nobody in the world was better
qualified in such a matter--and by the niece of King Philip, to
whom he would be married when he raised his standard. It was
arranged that the three should go to Paris so soon as the
arrangements were complete, where the Pretender would be
accredited by the exiled friends of Don Antonio residing there--
the Prior of Crato being a party to the plot. From France Frey
Miguel would have worked in Portugal through his agents, and
presently would have gone there himself to stir up a national
movement in favour of a pretender so fully accredited. Thus he
had every hope of restoring Portugal to her independence. Once
this should have been accomplished, Don Antonio would appear in
Lisbon, unmask the impostor, and himself assume the crown of the
kingdom which had been forcibly and definitely wrenched from

That was the crafty plan which the priest had laid with a
singleness of aim and a detachment from minor considerations that
never hesitated to sacrifice the princess, together with the
chief instrument of the intrigue. Was the liberation of a
kingdom, the deliverance of a nation from servitude, the
happiness of a whole people, to weigh in the balance against the
fates of a natural daughter of Don John of Austria and a soldier
of fortune turned pastry-cook? Frey Miguel thought not, and his
plot might well have succeeded but for the base strain in
Espinosa and the man's overweening vanity, which had urged him to
dazzle the Gonzales at Valladolid. That vanity sustained him to
the end, which he suffered in October of 1595, a full year after
his arrest. To the last he avoided admissions that should throw
light upon his obscure identity and origin.

"If it were known who I am . . ." he would say, and there break

He was hanged, drawn and quartered, and he endured his fate with
calm fortitude. Frey Miguel suffered in the same way with the
like dignity, after having undergone degradation from his
priestly dignity.

As for the unfortunate Princess Anne, crushed under a load of
shame and humiliation, she had gone to her punishment in the
previous July. The Apostolic Commissary notified her of the
sentence which King Philip had confirmed. She was to be
transferred to another convent, there to undergo a term of four
years' solitary confinement in her cell, and to fast on bread and
water every Friday. She was pronounced incapable of ever holding
any office, and was to be treated on the expiry of her term as an
ordinary nun, her civil list abolished, her title of Excellency
to be extinguished, together with all other honours and
privileges conferred upon her by King Philip.

The piteous letters of supplication that she addressed to the
King, her uncle, still exist. But they left the cold, implacable
Philip of Spain unmoved. Her only sin was that, yielding to the
hunger of her starved heart, and chafingunder the ascetic life
imposed upon her, she had allowed herself to be fascinated by the
prospect of becoming the protectress of one whom she believed to
be an unfortunate and romantic prince, and of exchanging her
convent for a throne.

Her punishment--poor soul--endured for close upon forty years,
but the most terrible part of it was not that which lay within
the prescription of King Philip, but that which arose from her
own broken and humiliated spirit. She had been uplifted a moment
by a glorious hope, to be cast down again into the blackest
despair, to which a shame unspeakable and a tortured pride were

Than hers, as I have said, there is in history no sadder story.


The Assassination of Henry IV

In the year 1609 died the last Duke of Cleves, and King Henry IV.
of France and Navarre fell in love with Charlotte de Montmorency.

In their conjunction these two events were to influence the
destinies of Europe. In themselves they were trivial enough,
since it was as much a commonplace that an old gentleman should
die as that Henry of Bearn should fall in love. Love had been the
main relaxation of his otherwise strenuous life, and neither the
advancing years--he was fifty-six at this date--nor the
recriminations of Maria de' Medici, his long-suffering Florentine
wife, sufficed to curb his zest.

Possibly there may have been a husband more unfaithful than King
Henry; probably there was not. His gallantries were outrageous,
his taste in women catholic, and his illegitimate progeny
outnumbered that of his grandson, the English sultan Charles II.
He differs, however, from the latter in that he was not quite as
Oriental in the manner of his self-indulgence. Charles, by
comparison, was a mere dullard who turned Whitehall into a
seraglio. Henry preferred the romantic manner, the high
adventure, and knew how to be gallant in two senses.

This gallantry of his is not, perhaps, seen to best advantage in
the affair of Charlotte de Montmorency To begin with he was, as I
have said, in his fifty-sixth year, an age at which it is
difficult, without being ridiculous, to unbridle a passion for a
girl of twenty. Unfortunately for him, Charlotte does not appear
to have found him so. On the contrary, her lovely, empty head was
so turned by the flattery of his addresses, that she came to
reciprocate the passion she inspired.

Her family had proposed to marry her to the gay and witty Marshal
de Bassompierre; and although his heart was not at all engaged,
the marshal found the match extremely suitable, and was willing
enough, until the King declared himself. Henry used the most
impudent frankness.

"Bassompierre, I will speak to you as a friend," said he. "I am in
love, and desperately in love, with Mademoiselle de Montmorency.
If you should marry her I should hate you. If she should love me
you would hate me. A breach of our friendship would desolate me,
for I love you with sincere affection."

That was enough for Bassompierre. He had no mind to go further
with a marriage of convenience which in the sequel would most
probably give him to choose between assuming the ridiculous role
of a complacent husband and being involved in a feud with his
prince. He said as much, and thanked the King for his frankness,
whereupon Henry, liking him more than ever for his good sense,
further opened his mind to him.

"I am thinking of marrying her to my nephew, Conde. Thus I shall
have her in my family to be the comfort of my old age, which is
coming on. Conde, who thinks of nothing but hunting, shall have a
hundred thousand livres a year with which to amuse himself."

Bassompierre understood perfectly the kind of bargain that was in
Henry's mind. As for the Prince de Conde, he appears to have been
less acute, no doubt because his vision was dazzled by the
prospect of a hundred thousand livres a year. So desperately poor
was he that for half that sum he would have taken Lucifer's own
daughter to wife, without stopping to consider the disadvantages
it might entail.

The marriage was quietly celebrated at Chantilly in February of
1609. Trouble followed fast. Not only did Conde perceive at last
precisely what was expected of him, and indignantly rebel against
it, but the Queen, too, was carefully instructed in the matter by
Concino Concini and his wife Leonora Galigai, the ambitious
adventurers who had come from Florence in her train, and who saw
in the King's weakness their own opportunity.

The scandal that ensued was appalling. Never before had the
relations between Henry and his queen been strained so nearly to
breaking-point. And then, whilst the trouble of Henry's own
making was growing about him until it threatened to overwhelm
him, he received a letter from Vaucelas, his ambassador at
Madrid, containing revelations that changed his annoyance into
stark apprehension.

When the last Duke of Cleves died a few months before, "leaving
all the world his heirs"--to use Henry's own phrase--the Emperor
had stepped in, and over-riding the rights of certain German
princes had bestowed the fief upon his own nephew, the Archduke
Leopold. Now this was an arrangement that did not suit Henry's
policy at all, and being then--as the result of a wise husbanding
of resources--the most powerful prince in Europe, Henry was not
likely to submit tamely to arrangements that did not suit him.
His instructions to Vaucelas were to keep open the difference
between France and the House of Austria arising out of this
matter of Cleves. All Europe knew that Henry desired to marry the
Dauphin to the heiress of Lorraine, so that this State might one
day be united with France; and it was partly to support this
claim that he was now disposed to attach the German princes to
his interests.

Yet what Vaucelas told him in that letter was that certain agents
at the court of Spain, chief among whom was the Florentine
ambassador, acting upon instructions from certain members of the
household of the Queen of France, and from others whom Vaucelas
said he dared not mention, were intriguing to blast Henry's
designs against the house of Austria, and to bring him willy-
nilly into a union with Spain. These agents had gone so far in
their utter disregard of Henry's own intentions as to propose to
the Council of Madrid that the alliance should be cemented by a
marriage between the Dauphin and the Infanta.

That letter sent Henry early one morning hot-foot to the Arsenal,
where Sully, his Minister of State, had his residence. Maximilien
de Bethune, Duke of Sully, was not merely the King's servant, he
was his closest friend, the very keeper of his soul; and the King
leaned upon him and sought his guidance not only in State affairs,
but in the most intimate and domestic matters. Often already had
it fallen to Sully to patch up the differences created between
husband and wife by Henry's persistent infidelities.

The King, arriving like the whirlwind, turned everybody out of
the closet in which the duke--but newly risen--received him in
bed-gown and night-cap. Alone with his minister, Henry came
abruptly to the matter.

"You have heard what is being said of me?" he burst out. He stood
with his back to the window, a sturdy, erect, soldierly figure, a
little above the middle height, dressed like a captain of fortune
in jerkin and long boots of grey leather, and a grey hat with a
wine-coloured ostrich plume. His countenance matched his raiment.
Keeneyed, broad of brow, with a high-bridged, pendulous nose, red
lips, a tuft of beard and a pair of grizzled, bristling
moustachios, he looked half-hero, half-satyr; half-Captain, half-

Sully, tall and broad, the incarnation of respectability and
dignity, despite bed-gown and slippers and the nightcap covering
his high, bald crown, made no presence of misunderstanding him.

"Of you and the Princesse de Conde, you mean, sire?" quoth he,
and gravely he shook his head. "It is a matter that has filled me
with apprehension, for I foresee from it far greater trouble than
from any former attachment of yours."

"So they have convinced you, too, Grand-Master?" Henry's tone was
almost sorrowful. "Yet I swear that all is greatly exaggerated.
It is the work of that dog Concini. Ventre St. Gris! If he has no
respect for me, at least he might consider how he slanders a
child of such grace and wit and beauty, a lady of her high birth
and noble lineage."

There was a dangerous quiver of emotion in his voice that was not
missed by the keen ears of Sully. Henry moved from the window,
and flung into a chair.

"Concini works to enrage the Queen against me, and to drive her
to take violent resolutions which might give colour to their
pernicious designs."

"Sire!" It was a cry of protest from Sully.

Henry laughed grimly at his minister's incredulity, and plucked
forth the letter from Vaucelas.

"Read that."

Sully read, and, aghast at what the letter told him, ejaculated:
"They must be mad!"

"Oh, no," said the King. "They are not mad. They are most wickedly
sane, which is why their designs fill me with apprehension. What
do you infer, Grand-Master, from such deliberate plots against
resolutions from which they know that nothing can turn me while
I have life?"

"What can I infer?" quoth Sully, aghast.

"In acting thus--in daring to act thus," the King expounded,
"they proceed as if they knew that I can have but a short time to


"What else? They plan events which cannot take place until I am

Sully stared at his master for a long moment, in stupefied
silence, his loyal Huguenot soul refusing to discount by flattery
the truth that he perceived.

"Sire," he said at last, bowing his fine head, "you must take
your measures."

"Ay, but against whom? Who are these that Vaucelas says he dare
not name? Can you suggest another than . . ." He paused,
shrinking in horror from completing the utterance of his thought.
Then, with an abrupt gesture, he went on, ". . . than the Queen

Sully quietly placed the letter on the table, and sat down. He
took his chin in his hand and looked squarely across at Henry.

"Sire, you have brought this upon yourself. You have exasperated
her Majesty; you have driven her in despair to seek and act upon
the councils of this scoundrel Concini. There never was an
attachment of yours that did not beget trouble with the Queen,
but never such trouble as I have been foreseeing from your
attachment to the Princess of Conde. Sire, will you not consider
where you stand?"

"They are lies, I tell you," Henry stormed. But Sully the
uncompromising gravely shook his head. "At least," Henry amended,
"they are gross exaggerations. Oh, I confess to you, my friend,
that I am sick with love of her. Day and night I see nothing but
her gracious image. I sigh and fret and fume like any callow lad
of twenty. I suffer the tortures of the damned. And yet . . . and
yet, I swear to you, Sully, that I will curb this passion though
it kill me. I will stifle these fires, though they consume my
soul to ashes. No harm shall come to her from me. No harm has
come yet. I swear it. These stories that are put about are the
inventions of Concini to set my wife against me. Do you know how
far he and his wife have dared to go? They have persuaded the
Queen to eat nothing that is not prepared in the kitchen they
have set up for her in their own apartments. What can you
conclude from that but that they suggest that I desire to poison

"Why suffer it, sire?" quoth Sully gravely. "Send the pair
packing back to Florence, and so be rid of them."

Henry rose in agitation. "I have a mind to. Ventre St. Gris! I
have a mind to. Yes, it is the only thing. You can manage it,
Sully. Disabuse her mind of her Suspicions regarding the Princess
of Conde; make my peace with her; convince her of my sincerity,
of my firm intention to have done with gallantry, so that she on
her side will make me the sacrifice of banishing the Concinis.
You will do this, my friend?"

It was no less than Sully had been expecting from past
experience, and the task was one in which he was by now well-
practiced; but the situation had never before been quite so
difficult. He rose.

"Why, surely, sire," said he. "But her Majesty on her side may
require something more to reconcile her to the sacrifice. She may
reopen the question of her coronation so long and--in her view--
so unreasonably postponed."

Henry's face grew overcast, his brows knit. "I have always had an
instinct against it, as you know, Grand Master," said he, "and
this instinct is strengthened by what that letter has taught me.
If she will dare so much, having so little real power, what might
she not do if . . ." He broke off, and fell to musing. "If she
demands it we must yield, I suppose," he said at length. "But
give her to understand that if I discover any more of her designs
with Spain I shall be provoked to the last degree against her.
And as an antidote to these machinations at Madrid you may
publish my intention to uphold the claims of the German Princes
in the matter of Cleves, and let all the world know that we are
arming to that end."

He may have thought--as was long afterwards alleged--that the
threat itself should be sufficient, for there was at that time no
power in Europe that could have stood against his armies in the

On that they parted, with a final injunction from Sully that
Henry should see the Princesse de Conde no more.

"I swear to you, Grand Master, that I will use restraint and
respect the sacred tie I formed between my nephew and Charlotte
solely so that I might impose silence upon my own passion."

And the good Sully writes in comment upon this: "I should have
relied absolutely upon these assurances had I not known how easy
it is for a heart tender and passionate as was his to deceive
itself"--which is the most amiable conceivable way of saying that
he attached not the slightest faith to the King's promise.

Nevertheless he went about the task of making the peace between
the royal couple with all the skill and tact that experience had
taught him; and he might have driven a good bargain on his
master's behalf but for his master's own weakness in supporting
him. Maria de' Medici would not hear of the banishment of the
Concinis, to whom she was so deeply attached. She insisted with
perfect justice that she was a bitterly injured woman, and
refused to entertain any idea of reconciliation save with the
condition that arrangements for her coronation as Queen of
France--which was no more than her due--should be made at once,
and that the King should give an undertaking not to make himself
ridiculous any longer by his pursuit of the Princess of Conde. Of
the matters contained in the letter of Vaucelas she denied all
knowledge, nor would suffer any further inquisition.

From Henry's point of view this was anything but satisfactory.
But he yielded. Conscience made a coward of him. He had wronged
her so much in one way that he must make some compensating
concessions to her in another. This weakness was part of his
mental attitude towards her, which swung constantly between
confidence and diffidence, esteem and indifference, affection and
coldness; at times he inclined to put her from him entirely; at
others he opined that no one on his Council was more capable of
the administration of affairs. Even in the indignation aroused
by the proof he held of her disloyalty, he was too just not to
admit the provocation he had given her. So he submitted to a
reconciliation on her own terms, and pledged himself to renounce
Charlotte. We have no right to assume from the sequel that he was
not sincere in the intention.

By the following May events proved the accuracy of Sully's
judgment. The court was at Fontainebleau when the last bulwark of
Henry's prudence was battered down by the vanity of that lovely
fool, Charlotte, who must be encouraging her royal lover to
resume his flattering homage. But both appear to have reckoned
without the lady's husband.

Henry presented Charlotte with jewels to the value of eighteen
thousand livres, purchased from Messier, the jeweller of the Pont
au Change; and you conceive what the charitable ladies of the
Court had to say about it. At the first hint of scandal Monsieur
de Conde put himself into a fine heat, and said things which
pained and annoyed the King exceedingly. Henry had amassed a
considerable and varied experience of jealous husbands in his
time; but he had never met one quite so intolerable as this
nephew of his. He complained of it in a letter to Sully.

"My friend,--Monsieur the Prince is here, but he acts like a man
possessed. You will be angry and ashamed at the things he says of
me. I shall end by losing all patience with him. In the meanwhile
I am obliged to taut to him with severity."

More severe than any talk was Henry's instruction to Sully to
withhold payment of the last quarter of the prince's allowance,
and to give refusals to his creditors and purveyors. Thus he
intended also, no doubt, to make it clear to Conde that he did
not receive a pension of a hundred thousand livres a year for

"If this does not keep him in bounds," Henry concluded, "we must
think of some other method, for he says the most injurious things
of me."

So little did it keep the prince in bounds--as Henry understood
the phrase--that he immediately packed his belongings, and
carried his wife off to his country house. It was quite in vain
that Henry wrote to him representing that this conduct was
dishonouring to them both, and that the only place for a prince
of the blood was the court of his sovereign.

The end of it all was that the reckless and romantic Henry took
to night-prowling about the grounds of Conde's chateau. In the
disguise of a peasant you see his Majesty of France and Navarre,
whose will was law in Europe, shivering behind damp hedges,
ankle-deep in wet grass, spending long hours in love-lore,
ecstatic contemplation of her lighted window, and all--so far as
we can gather--for no other result than the aggravation of
certain rheumatic troubles which should have reminded him that he
was no longer of an age to pursue these amorous pernoctations.

But where his stiffening joints failed, the Queen succeeded.
Henry had been spied upon, of course, as he always was when he
strayed from the path of matrimonial rectitude. The Concinis saw
to that. And when they judged the season ripe, they put her
Majesty in possession of the facts. So inflamed was she by this
fresh breach of trust that war was declared anew between the
royal couple, and the best that Sully's wit and labours could now
accomplish was a sort of armed truce.

And then at last in the following November the Prince de Conde
took the desperate resolve of quitting France with his wife,
without troubling--as was his duty--to obtain the King's consent.
On the last night of that month, as Henry was at cards in the
Louvre, the Chevalier du Guet brought him the news of the
prince's flight.

"I never in my life," says Bassompierre, who was present, "saw a
man so distracted or in so violent a passion."

He flung down his cards, and rose, sending his chair crashing
over behind him. "I am undone!" was his cry. "Undone! This madman
has carried off his wife--perhaps to kill her." White and
shaking, he turned to Bassompierre. "Take care of my money," he
bade him, "and go on with the game."

He lurched out of the room, and dispatched a messenger to the
Arsenal to fetch M. de Sully. Sully obeyed the summons and came
at once, but in an extremely bad temper, for it was late at
night, and he was overburdened with work.

He found the King in the Queen's chamber, walking backward and
forward, his head sunk upon his breast, his hands clenched behind
him. The Queen, a squarely-built, square-faced woman, sat apart,
attended by a few of her ladies and one or two gentlemen of her
train. Her countenance was set and inscrutable, and her brooding
eyes were fixed upon the King.

"Ha, Grand Master!" was Henry's greeting, his voice harsh and
strained. "What do you say to this? What is to be done now?"

"Nothing at all, sire," says Sully, as calm as his master was

"Nothing! What sort of advice is that?"

"The best advice that you can follow, sire. This affair should be
talked of as little as possible, nor should it appear to be of
any consequence to you, or capable of giving you the least

The Queen cleared her throat huskily. "Good advice, Monsieur le
Duc," she approved him. "He will be wise to follow it." Her voice
strained, almost threatening. "But in this matter I doubt wisdom
and he have long since become strangers."

That put him in a passion, and in a passion he left her to do the
maddest thing he had ever done. In the garb of a courier, and
with a patch over one eye to complete his disguise, he set out in
pursuit of the fugitives. He had learnt that they had taken the
road to Landrecy, which was enough for him. Stage by stage he
followed them in that flight to Flanders, picking up the trail as
he went, and never pausing until he had reached the frontier
without overtaking them.

It was all most romantic, and the lady, when she learnt of it,
shed tears of mingled joy and rage, and wrote him impassioned
letters in which she addressed him as her knight, and implored
him, as he loved her, to come and deliver her from the detestable
tyrant who held her in thrall. Those perfervid appeals completed
his undoing, drove him mad, and blinded him to everything--even
to the fact that his wife, too, was shedding tears, and that
these were of rage undiluted by any more tender emotion.

He began by sending Praslin to require the Archduke to order the
Prince of Conde to leave his dominions. And when the Archduke
declined with dignity to be guilty of any such breach of the law
of nations, Henry dispatched Cccuvres secretly to Brussels to
carry off thence the princess. But Maria de' Medici was on the
alert, anti frustrated the design by sending a warning of what
was intended to the Marquis Spinola, as a result of which the
Prince de Conde and his wife were housed for greater security in
the Archduke's own palace.

Checkmated at all points, yet goaded further by the letters which
he continued to receive from that most foolish of princesses,
Henry took the wild decision that to obtain her he would invade
the Low Countries as the first step in the execution of that
design of a war with Spain which hitherto had been little more
than a presence. The matter of the Duchy of Cleves was a pretext
ready to his hand. To obtain the woman he desired he would set
Europe in a blaze.

He took that monstrous resolve at the very beginning of the
new year, and in the months that followed France rang with
preparations. It rang, too, with other things which should have
given him pause. It rang with the voice of preachers giving
expression to the popular vied; that Cleves was not worth
fighting for, that the war was unrighteous--a war undertaken by
Catholic France to defend Protestant interests against the very
champions of Catholicism in Europe. And soon it began to ring,
tool with prophecies of the King's approaching end.

These prognostics rained upon him from every quarter. Thomassin,
and the astrologer La Brosse, warned him of a message from the
stars that May would be fraught with danger for him. From Rome--
from the very pope himself Came notice of a conspiracy against
him in which he was told that the very highest in the land
were engaged. From Embrun, Bayonne, and Douai came messages of
like purport, and early in May a note was found one morning on
the altar of the church of Montargis announcing the King's
approaching death.

But that is to anticipate. Meanwhile, Henry had pursued his
preparations undeterred by either warnings or prognostications.
There had been so many conspiracies against his life already that
he was become careless and indifferent in such matters. Yet
surely there never had been one that was so abundantly heralded
from every quarter, or ever one that was hatched under conditions
so propitious as those which he had himself created now. In his
soul he was not at ease, and the source of his uneasiness was the
coronation of the Queen, for which the preparations were now
going forward.

He must have known that if danger of assassination threatened him
from any quarter it was most to be feared from those whose
influence with the Queen was almost such as to give them a
control over her--the Concinis and their unavowed but obvious
ally the Duke of Epernon. If he were dead, and the Queen so left
that she could be made absolute regent during the Dauphin's
minority, it was those adventurers who would become through her
the true rulers of France, and so enrich themselves and gratify
to the full their covetous ambitions. He saw clearly that his
safety lay in opposing this coronation--already fixed for the
13th May--which Maria de' Medici was so insistent should take
place before his departure for the wars. The matter so preyed
upon his mind that last he unburdened himself to Sully one day at
the Arsenal.

"Oh, my friend," he cried, "this coronation does not please me.
My heart tells me that some fatality will follow."

He sat down, grasping the case of his reading-glass, whilst Sully
could only stare at him amazed by this out-burst. Thus he remained
awhile in deep thought. Then he started up again.

"Pardieu!" he cried. "I shall be murdered in this city. It is
their only resource. I see it plainly. This cursed coronation
will be the cause of my death."

"What a thought, sir!"

"You think that I have been reading the almanach or paying heed
to the prophets, eh? But listen to me now, Grand Master." And
wrinkles deepened about the bold, piercing eyes. "It is four
months and more since we announced our intention of going to war,
and France has resounded with our preparations. We have made no
secret of it. Yet in Spain not a finger has been lifted in
preparation to resist us, not a sword has been sharpened. Upon
what does Spain build? Whence her confidence that in despite of
my firm resolve and my abundant preparations, despite the fact
announced that I am to march on the lath of this month, despite
the fact that my troops are already in Champagne with a train of
artillery so complete and well-furnished that France has never
seen the like of it, and perhaps never will again--whence the
confidence that despite all this there is no need to prepare
defences? Upon what do they build, I say, when they assume, as
assume they must, that there will be no war? Resolve me that,
Grand Master."

But Sully, overwhelmed, could only gasp and ejaculate.

"You had not thought of it, eh? Yet it is clear enough Spain
builds on my death. And who are the friends of Spain here in
France? Who was it intrigued with Spain in such a way and to
such ends as in my lifetime could never have been carried to an
issue? Ha! You see."

"I cannot, sire. It is too horrible. It is impossible!" cried
that loyal, honest gentleman. "And yet if you are convinced of
it, you should break off this coronation, your journey, and your
war. If you wish it so, it is not difficult to satisfy you."

"Ay, that is it." He came to his feet, and gripped the duke's
shoulder in his strong, nervous hand. "Break off this coronation,
and never let me hear of it again. That will suffice. Thus I can
rid my mind of apprehensions, and leave Paris with nothing to

"Very well. I will send at once to Notre Dame and to St. Denis,
to stop the preparations and dismiss the workmen."

"Ah, wait." The eyes that for a moment had sparkled with new
hope, grew dull again; the lines of care descended between the
brows. "Oh, what to decide! What to decide! It is what I wish, my
friend. But how will my wife take it?"

"Let her take it as she will. I cannot believe that she will
continue obstinate when she knows what apprehensions you have of

"Perhaps not, perhaps not," he answered. But his tone was not
sanguine. "Try to persuade her, Sully. Without her consent I
cannot do this thing. But you will know how to persuade her. Go
to her."

Sully suspended the preparations for the coronation, and sought
the Queen. For three days, he tells us, he used prayers, entreaties,
and arguments with which to endeavour to move her. But all was
labour lost. Maria de' Medici was not to be moved. To all Sully's
arguments she opposed an argument that was unanswerable.

Unless she were crowned Queen of France, as was her absolute
right, she would be a person of no account and subject to the
Council of Regency during the King's absence, a position unworthy
and intolerable to her, the mother of the Dauphin.

And so it was Henry's part to yield. His hands were tied by the
wrongs that he had done, and the culminating wrong that he was
doing her by this very war, as he had himself openly acknowledged.
He had chanced one day to ask the Papal Nuncio what Rome thought
of this war.

"Those who have the best information," the Nuncio answered
boldly, "are of opinion that the principal object of the war is
the Princess of Conde, whom your Majesty wishes to bring back to

Angered by this priestly insolence, Henry's answer had been an
impudently defiant acknowledgment of the truth of that allegation.

"Yes, by God!" he cried. "Yes--most certainly I want to have her
back, and I will have her back; no one shall hinder me, not even
God's viceregent on earth."

Having uttered those words, which he knew to have been carried to
the Queen, and to have wounded her perhaps more deeply than
anything that had yet happened in this affair, his conscience
left him, despite his fears, powerless now to thwart her even to
the extent of removing those pernicious familiars of hers of
whose plottings he had all but positive evidence.

And so the coronation was at last performed with proper pomp and
magnificence at St. Denis on Thursday, the 13th May. It had been
concerted that the festivities should last four days and conclude
on the Sunday with the Queen's public entry into Paris. On the
Monday the King was to set out to take command of his armies,
which were already marching upon the frontiers.

Thus Henry proposed, but the Queen--convinced by his own
admission of the real aim and object of the war, and driven by
outraged pride to hate the man who offered her this crowning
insult, and determined that at all costs it must be thwarted--had
lent an ear to Concini's purpose to avenge her, and was ready to
repay infidelity with infidelity. Concini and his fellow-
conspirators had gone to work so confidently that a week before
the coronation a courier had appeared in Liege, announcing that
he was going with news of Henry's assassination to the Princes of
Germany, whilst at the same time accounts of the King's death
were being published in France and Italy.

Meanwhile, whatever inward misgivings Henry may have entertained,
outwardly at least he appeared serene and good-humoured at his
wife's coronation, gaily greeting her at the end of the ceremony
by the title of "Madam Regent."

The little incident may have touched her, arousing her conscience.
For that night she disturbed his slumbers by sudden screams, and
when he sprang up in solicitous alarm she falteringly told him
of a dream in which she had seen him slain, and fell to imploring
him with a tenderness such as had been utterly foreign to her of
late to take great care of himself in the days to come. In the
morning she renewed those entreaties, beseeching him not to leave
the Louvre that day, urging that she had a premonition it would
be fatal to him.

He laughed for answer. "You have heard of the predictions of La
Brosse," said he. "Bah! You should not attach credit to such

Anon came the Duke of Vendome, his natural son by the Marquise de
Verneuil, with a like warning and a like entreaty, only to
receive a like answer.

Being dull and indisposed as a consequence of last night's broken
rest, Henry lay down after dinner. But finding sleep denied him,
he rose, pensive and gloomy, and wandered aimlessly down, and out

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest