Part 3 out of 5
into the courtyard. There an exempt of the guard, of whom he
casually asked the time, observing the King's pallor and
listlessness, took the liberty of suggesting that his Majesty
might benefit if he took the air.
That chance remark decided Henry's fate. His eyes quickened
responsively. "You advise well," said he. "Order my coach. I will
go to the Arsenal to see the Duc de Sully, who is indisposed."
On the stones beyond the gates, where lackeys were wont to await
their masters, sat a lean fellow of some thirty years of age, in
a dingy, clerkly attire, so repulsively evil of countenance that
he had once been arrested on no better grounds than because it
was deemed impossible that a man with such a face could be other
than a villain.
Whilst the coach was being got ready, Henry re-entered the
Louvre, and startled the Queen by announcing his intention. With
fearful insistence she besought him to countermand the order, and
not to leave the palace.
"I will but go there and back," he said, laughing at her fears.
"I shall have returned before you realize that I have gone." And
so he went, never to return alive.
He sat at the back of the coach, and the weather being fine all
the curtains were drawn up so that he might view the decorations
of the city against the Queen's public entry on Sunday. The Duc
d'Epernon was on his right, the Duc de Montbazon and the Marquis
de la Force on his left. Lavordin and Roquelaure were in the
right boot, whilst near the left boot, opposite to Henry, sat
Mirebeau and du Plessis Liancourt. He was attended only by a
small number of gentlemen on horseback, and some footmen.
The coach turned from the Rue St. Honore into the narrow Rue de
la Ferronerie, and there was brought to a halt by a block
occasioned by the meeting of two carts, one laden with hay, the
other with wine. The footmen went ahead with the exception of
two. Of these, one advanced to clear a way for the royal vehicle,
whilst the other took the opportunity to fasten his garter.
At that moment, gliding like a shadow between the coach and the
shops, came that shabby, hideous fellow who had been sitting on
the stones outside the Louvre an hour ago. Raising himself by
deliberately standing upon one of the spokes of the stationary
wheel, he leaned over the Duc d'Epernon, and, whipping a long,
stout knife from his sleeve, stabbed Henry in the breast. The
King, who was in the act of reading a letter, cried out, and
threw up his arms in an instinctive warding movement, thereby
exposing his heart. The assassin stabbed again, and this time the
blade went deep.
With a little gasping cough, Henry sank together, and blood
gushed from his mouth.
The predictions were fulfilled; the tale borne by the courier
riding through Liege a week ago was made true, as were the
stories of his death already at that very hour circulating in
Antwerp, Malines, Brussels, and elsewhere.
The murderer aimed yet a third blow, but this at last was parried
by Epernon, whereupon the fellow stepped back from the coach, and
stood there, making no attempt to escape, or even to rid himself
of the incriminating knife. St. Michel, one of the King's
gentlemen-in-waiting, who had followed the coach, whipped out his
sword and would have slain him on the spot had he not been
restrained by Epernon. The footmen seized the fellow, and
delivered him over to the captain of the guard. He proved to be a
school-master of Angouleme--which was Epernon's country. His name
The curtains of the coach were drawn, the vehicle was put about,
and driven back to the Louvre, whilst to avoid all disturbance it
was announced to the people that the King was merely wounded.
But St. Michel went on to the Arsenal, taking with him the knife
that had stabbed his master, to bear the sinister tidings to
Henry's loyal and devoted friend. Sully knew enough to gauge
exactly whence the blow had proceeded. With anger and grief in
his heart he got to horse, ill as he was, and, calling together
his people, set out presently for the Louvre, with a train one
hundred strong, which was presently increased to twice that
number by many of the King's faithful servants who joined his
company as he advanced. In the Rue de la Pourpointicre a man in
passing slipped a note into his hand.
It was a brief scrawl: "Monsieur, where are ye going? It is done.
I have seen him dead. If you enter the Louvre you will not escape
any more than he did."
Nearing St. Innocent, the warning was repeated, this time by a
gentleman named du Jon, who stopped to mutter:
"Monsieur le Duc, our evil is without remedy. Look to yourself,
for this strange blow will have fearful consequences."
Again in the Rue St. Honore another note was thrown him, whose
contents were akin to those of the first. Yet with misgivings
mounting swiftly to certainty, Sully rode amain towards the
Louvre, his train by now amounting to some three hundred horse.
But at the end of the street he was stopped by M. de Vitry, who
drew rein as they met.
"Ah, monsieur," Vitry greeted him, "where are you going with such
a following? They will never suffer you to enter the Louvre with
more than two or three attendants, which I would not advise you
to do. For this plot does not end here. I have seen some persons
so little sensible of the loss they have sustained that they
cannot even simulate the grief they should feel. Go back,
monsieur. There is enough for you to do without going to the
Persuaded by Vitry's solemnity, and by what he knew in his heart,
Sully faced about and set out to retrace his steps. But presently
he was overtaken by a messenger from the Queen, begging him to
come at once to her at the Louvre, and to bring as few persons as
possible with him. "This proposal," he writes, "to go alone and
deliver myself into the hands of my enemies, who filled the
Louvre, was not calculated to allay my suspicions."
Moreover he received word at that moment that an exempt of the
guards and a force of soldiers were already at the gates of the
Arsenal, that others had been sent to the Temple, where the
powder was stored, and others again to the treasurer of the
Exchequer to stop all the money there.
"Convey to the Queen my duty and service," he bade the messenger,
"and assure her that until she acquaints me with her orders I
shall continue assiduously to attend the affairs of my office."
And with that he went to shut himself up in the Bastille, whither
he was presently followed by a stream of her Majesty's envoys,
all bidding him to the Louvre. But Sully, ill as he was, and now
utterly prostrated by all that he had endured, put himself to bed
and made of his indisposition a sufficient excuse.
Yet on the morrow he allowed himself to be persuaded to obey her
summons, receiving certain assurances that he had no ground for
any apprehensions. Moreover, he may by now have felt a certain
security in the esteem in which the Parisians held him. An
attempt against him in the Louvre itself would prove that the
blow that had killed his master was not the independent act of a
fanatic, as it was being represented; and vengeance would follow
swiftly upon the heads of those who would thus betray themselves
of having made of that poor wretch's fanaticism an instrument to
their evil ends.
In that assurance he went, and he has left on record the burning
indignation aroused in him at the signs of satisfaction,
complacency, and even mirth that he discovered in that house of
death. The Queen herself, however, overwrought by the events, and
perhaps conscience-stricken by the tragedy which in the eleventh
hour she had sought to avert, burst into tears at sight of Sully,
and brought in the Dauphin, who flung himself upon the Duke's
"My son," the Queen addressed him, "this is Monsieur de Sully.
You must love him well, for he was one of the best and most
faithful servants of the King your father, and I entreat him to
continue to serve you in the same manner."
Words so fair might have convinced a man less astute that all his
suspicions were unworthy. But, even then, the sequel would very
quickly have undeceived him. For very soon thereafter his fall
was brought about by the Concinis and their creatures, so that no
obstacle should remain between themselves and the full gratification
of their fell ambitions.
At once he saw the whole policy of the dead King subversed; he
saw the renouncing of all ancient alliances, and the union of the
crowns of France and Spain; the repealing of all acts of
pacification; the destruction of the Protestants; the dissipation
of the treasures amassed by Henry; the disgrace of those who
would not receive the yoke of the new favourites. All this Sully
witnessed in his declining years, and he witnessed, too, the
rapid rise to the greatest power and dignity in the State of that
Florentine adventurer, Concino Concini--now bearing the title of
Marshal d'Ancre--who had so cunningly known how to profit by a
Queen's jealousy and a King's indiscretions.
As for the miserable Ravaillac, it is pretended that he
maintained under torture and to the very hour of his death that
he had no accomplices, that what he had done he had done to
prevent an unrighteous war against Catholicism and the Pope--
which was, no doubt, the falsehood with which those who used him
played upon his fanaticism and whetted him to their service. I
say "pretended" because, after all, complete records of his
examinations are not discoverable, and there is a story that when
at the point of death, seeing himself abandoned by those in whom
perhaps he had trusted, he signified a desire to confess, and did
so confess; but the notary Voisin, who took his depositions in
articulo mortis, set them down in a hand so slovenly as to be
That may or may not be true. But the statement that when the
President du Harlay sought to pursue inquiries into certain
allegations by a woman named d'Escoman, which incriminated the
Duc d'Epernon, he received a royal order to desist, rests upon
* * * * * *
That is the story of the assassination of Henry IV. re-told in
the light of certain records which appear to me to have been
insufficiently studied. They should suggest a train of speculation
leading to inferences which, whilst obvious, I hesitate to define
"If it be asked," says Perefixe, "who were the friends that
suggested to Ravaillac so damnable a design, history replies that
it is ignorant and that upon an action of Such consequences it is
not permissible to give suspicions and conjectures for certain
truths. The judges themselves who interrogated him dared not open
their mouths, and never mentioned the matter but with gestures of
horror and amazement."
VI. THE BARREN WOOING
The Murder of Amy Robsart
There had been a banquet, followed by a masque, and this again by
a dance in which the young queen had paired off with Lord Robert
Dudley, who in repute was the handsomest man in Europe, just as
in fact he was the vainest, shallowest, and most unscrupulous.
There had been homage and flattery lavishly expressed, and there
was a hint of masked hostility from certain quarters to spice the
adventure, and to thrill her bold young spirit. Never yet in all
the months of her reign since her coronation in January of last
year had she felt so much a queen, and so conscious of the power
of her high estate; never so much a woman, and so conscious of
the weakness of her sex. The interaction of those conflicting
senses wrought upon her like a heady wine. She leaned more
heavily upon the silken arm of her handsome Master of the Horse,
and careless in her intoxication of what might be thought or
said, she--who by the intimate favour shown him had already
loosed the tongue of Scandal and set it chattering in every court
in Europe--drew him forth from that thronged and glittering
chamber of the Palace of Whitehall into the outer solitude and
And he, nothing loth to obey the suasion of that white hand upon
his arm, exultant, indeed, to parade before them all the power he
had with her, went willingly enough. Let Norfolk and Sussex
scowl, let Arundel bite his lip until it bled, and sober Cecil
stare cold disapproval. They should mend their countenances soon,
and weigh their words or be for ever silenced, when he was master
in England. And that he would soon be master he was assured to-
night by every glance of her blue eyes, by the pressure of that
fair hand upon his arm, by the languishing abandonment with which
that warm young body swayed towards him, as they passed out from
the blaze of lights and the strains of music into the gloom and
silence of the gallery leading to the terrace.
"Out--let us go out, Robin. Let me have air," she almost panted,
as she drew him on.
Assuredly he would be master soon. Indeed, he might have been
master already but for that wife of his, that stumbling-block to
his ambition, who practiced the housewifely virtues at Cumnor
Place, and clung so tenaciously and so inconsiderately to life in
spite of all his plans to relieve her of the burden of it.
For a year and more his name had been coupled with the Queen's in
a tale that hurt her honour as a woman and imperilled her dignity
as a sovereign. Already in October of 1559 Alvarez de Quadra, the
Spanish ambassador, had written home: "I have learnt certain
things as to the terms on which the Queen and Lord Robert stand
towards each other which I could not have believed."
That was at a time when de Quadra was one of a dozen ambassadors
who were competing for her hand, and Lord Robert had, himself,
appeared to be an ally of de Quadra and an advocate of the
Spanish marriage with the Archduke Charles. But it was a presence
which nowise deceived the astute Spaniard, who employed a legion
of spies to keep him well informed.
"All the dallying with us," he wrote, "all the dallying with the
Swede, all the dallying there will be with the rest, one after
another, is merely to keep Lord Robert's enemies in play until
his villainy about his wife can be executed."
What that particular villainy was, the ambassador had already
stated earlier in his letter. "I have learnt from a person who
usually gives me true information that Lor d Robert has sent to
have his wife poisoned."
What had actually happened was that Sir Richard Verney--a trusted
retainer of Lord Robert's--had reported to Dr. Bayley, of New
College, Oxford, that Lady Robert Dudley was "sad and ailing,"
and had asked him for a potion. But the doctor was learned in
more matters than physic. He had caught an echo of the tale of
Lord Robert's ambition; he had heard a whisper that whatever
suitors might come from overseas for Elizabeth, she would marry
none but "my lord"--as Lord Robert was now commonly styled. More,
he had aforetime heard rumours of the indispositions of Lady
Robert, yet had never found those rumours verified by the fact.
Some months ago, it had been reported that her ladyship was
suffering from cancer of the breast and likely soon to die of it.
Yet Dr. Bayley had reason to know that a healthier woman did not
live in Berkshire.
The good doctor was a capable deductive reasoner, and the
conclusion to which he came was that if they poisoned her under
cover of his potion--she standing in no need of physic--he might
afterwards be hanged as a cover for their crime. So he refused to
prescribe as he was invited, nor troubled to make a secret of
invitation and refusal.
For awhile, then, Lord Robert had prudently held his hand;
moreover, the urgency there had been a year ago, when that host
of foreign suitors laid siege to Elizabeth of England, had
passed, and his lordship could afford to wait. But now of a
sudden the urgency was returned. Under the pressure brought to
bear upon her to choose a husband, Elizabeth had half-committed
herself to marry the Archduke Charles, promising the Spanish
ambassador a definite answer within a few days.
Lord Robert had felt the earth to be quaking under him; he had
seen the ruin of his high ambitions; he had watched with rage the
expanding mockery upon the countenances of Norfolk, Sussex, and
those others who hated and despised him; and he had cursed that
wife of his who knew not when to die. But for that obstinacy with
which she clung to life he had been the Queen's husband these
many months, so making an end to suspense and to the danger that
lies in delay.
To-night the wantonness with which the Queen flaunted before the
eyes of all her court the predilection in which she held him,
came not merely to lull his recent doubts and fears, to feed his
egregious vanity, and to assure him that in her heart he need
fear no rival; it came also to set his soul Quiver impotent rage.
He had but to put forth his hands to possess himself of this
splendid prize. Yet those hands of his were bound while that
woman lived at Cumnor. Conceive his feelings as they stole away
together like any pair of lovers.
Arm in arm they came by a stone gallery, where a stalwart scarlet
sentinel, a yeoman of the guard, with a Tudor rose embroidered in
gold upon his back, stood under a lamp set in the wall, with
grounded pike and body stiffly erect.
The tall young Queen was in crimson satin with cunningly-wrought
silver embroideries, trimmed with tufted silver fringe, her
stomacher stiff with silver bullion studded with gold rosettes
and Roman pearls, her bodice cut low to display her splendid
neck, decked by a carcanet of pearls and rubies, and surmounted
by a fan-like cuff of guipure, high behind and sloping towards
the bust. Thus she appeared to the sentinel as the rays of the
single lamp behind him struck fire from her red-gold hair. As if
by her very gait to express the wantonness of her mood, she
pointed her toes and walked with head thrown back, smiling up
into the gipsy face of her companion, who was arrayed from head
to foot in shimmering ivory satin, with an elegance no man in
England could have matched.
They came by that stone gallery to a little terrace above the
Privy Steps. A crescent moon hung low over the Lambeth marshes
across the river. From a barge that floated gay with lights in
mid-stream came a tinkle of lutes, and the sweet voice of a
singing boy. A moment the lovers stood at gaze, entranced by the
beauty of the soft, tepid September night, so subtly adapted to
their mood. Then she fetched a sigh, and hung more heavily upon
his arm, leaned nearer to his tall, vigorous, graceful figure.
"Robin, Robin!" was all she said, but in her voice throbbed a
world of passionate longing, an exquisite blend of delight and
Judging the season ripe, his arm flashed round her, and drew her
fiercely close. For a moment she was content to yield, her head
against his stalwart shoulder, a very woman nestling to the mate
of her choice, surrendering to her master. Then the queen in her
awoke and strangled nature. Roughly she disengaged herself from
his arm, and stood away, her breathing quickened.
"God's Death, Robin!" There was a harsh note in the voice that
lately had cooed so softly. "You are strangely free, I think."
But he, impudence incarnate, nothing abashed, accustomed to her
gusty moods, to her alternations between the two natures she had
inherited--from overbearing father and wanton mother--was
determined at all costs to take the fullest advantage of the
hour, to make an end of suspense.
"I am not free, but enslaved--by love and worship of you. Would
you deny me; Would you?"
"Not I, but fate," she answered heavily, and he knew that the
woman at Cumnor was in her mind.
"Fate will soon mend the wrong that fate has done--very soon
now." He took her hand, and, melted again from her dignity, she
let it lie in his. "When that is done, sweet, then will I claim
you for my own."
"When that is done, Robin?" she questioned almost fearfully, as
if a sudden dread suspicion broke upon her mind. "When what is
He paused a moment to choose his words, what time she stared
intently into the face that gleamed white in the surrounding
"When that poor ailing spirit is at rest." And he added: "It will
"Thou hast said the same aforetime, Robin. Yet it has not so
"She has clung to life beyond what could have been believed of
her condition," he explained, unconscious of any sinister
ambiguity. "But the end, I know, is very near--a matter but of
"Of days!" she shivered, and moved forward to the edge of the
terrace, he keeping step beside her. Then she stood awhile in
silence, looking down at the dark oily surge of water. "You loved
her once, Robin?" she asked, in a queer, unnatural voice.
"I never loved but once," answered that perfect courtier.
"Yet you married her--men say it was a love marriage. It was a
marriage, anyway, and you can speak so calmly of her death?" Her
tone was brooding. She sought understanding that should silence
her own lingering doubt of him.
"Where lies the blame? Who made me what I am?" Again his bold arm
encompassed her. Side by side they peered down through the gloom
at the rushing waters, and he seized an image from them. "Our
love is like that seething tide," he said. "To resist it is to
labour in agony awhile, and then to perish."
"And to yield is to be swept away."
"To happiness," he cried, and reverted to his earlier prayer.
"Say that when . . . that afterwards, I may claim you for my own.
Be true to yourself, obey the voice of instinct, and so win to
She looked up at him, seeking to scan the handsome face in that
dim light that baffled her, and he observed the tumultuous heave
of her white breast.
"Can I trust thee, Robin? Can I trust thee? Answer me true!" she
implored him, adorably weak, entirely woman now.
"What does your own heart answer you?" quoth he, loaning close
"I think I can, Robin. And, anyway, I must. I cannot help myself.
I am but a woman, after all," she murmured, and sighed. "Be it as
thou wilt. Come to me again when thou art free."
He bent lower, murmuring incoherently, and she put up a hand to
pat his swarthy bearded cheek.
"I shall make thee greater than any man in England, so thou make
me happier than any woman."
He caught the hand in his and kissed it passionately, his soul
singing a triumph song within him. Norfolk and Sussex and those
other scowling ones should soon be whistled to the master's heel.
As they turned arm in arm into the gallery to retrace their
steps, they came suddenly face to face with a slim, sleek
gentleman, who bowed profoundly, a smile upon h is crafty,
shaven, priestly face. In a smooth voice and an accent markedly
foreign, he explained that he, too, sought the cool of the
terrace, not thinking to intrude; and upon that, bowing again, he
passed on and effaced himself. It was Alvarez de Quadra, Bishop
of Aquila, the argus-eyed ambassador of Spain.
The young face of the Queen hardened.
"I would I were as well served abroad as the King of Spain is
here," she said aloud, that the retreating ambassador might hear
the dubious compliment; and for my lord's ear alone she added
under her breath: "The spy! Philip of Spain will hear of this."
"So that he hears something more, what shall it signify?" quoth
my lord, and laughed.
They paced the length of the gallery in silence, past the yeoman
of the guard, who kept his watch, and into the first antechamber.
Perhaps it was that meeting with de Quadra and my lord's answer
to her comment that prompted what now she asked: "What is it ails
"A wasting sickness," he answered, never doubting to whom the
"You said, I think, that . . . that the end is very near."
He caught her meaning instantly. "Indeed, if she is not dead
already, she is very nearly so."
He lied, for never had Amy Dudley been in better health. And yet
he spoke the truth, for in so much as her life depended upon his
will, it was as good as spent. This was, he knew, a decisive
moment of his career. The hour was big with fate. If now he were
weak or hesitant, the chance might slip away and be for ever lost
to him. Elizabeth's moods were as uncertain as were certain the
hostile activities of my lord's enemies. He must strike quickly
whilst she was in her present frame of mind, and bring her to
wedlock, be it in public or in private. But first he must shake
off the paralysing encumbrance of that house-wife down at Cumnor.
I believe--from evidence that I account abundant--that he
considered it with the cold remorselessness of the monstrous
egotist he was. An upstart, great-grandson to a carpenter, noble
only in two descents, and in both of them stained by the block,
he found a queen--the victim of a physical passion that took no
account of the worthlessness underlying his splendid exterior--
reaching out a hand to raise him to a throne. Being what he was,
he weighed his young wife's life at naught in the evil scales of
his ambition. And yet he had loved her once, more truly perhaps
than he could now pretend to love the Queen.
It was some ten years since, as a lad of eighteen, he had taken
Sir John Robsart's nineteen-year-old daughter to wife. She had
brought him considerable wealth and still more devotion. Because
of this devotion she was content to spend her days at Cumnor,
whilst he ruffled it at court; content to take such crumbs of
attention as he could spare her upon occasion. And during the
past year, whilst he had been plotting her death, she had been
diligently caring for his interests and fostering the prosperity
of the Berkshire estate. If he thought of this at all, he allowed
no weakly sentiment to turn him from his purpose. There was too
much at stake for that--a throne, no less.
And so, on the morning after that half-surrender of Elizabeth's,
we find my lord closeted with his henchman, Sir Richard Verney.
Sir Richard--like his master--was a greedy, unscrupulous,
ambitious scoundrel, prepared to go to any lengths for the sake
of such worldly advancement as it lay in my lord's power to give
him. My lord perforce used perfect frankness with this perfect
"Thou'lt rise or fall with me, Dick," quoth he. "Help me up,
then, and so mount with me. When I am King, as soon now I shall
be, look to me. Now to the thing that is to do. Thou'lt have
To Sir Richard it was an easy guess, considering how much already
he had been about this business. He signified as much.
My lord shifted in his elbow-chair, and drew his embroidered
bedgown of yellow satin closer about his shapely limbs.
"Hast failed me twice before, Richard," said he. "God's death,
man, fail me not again, or the last chance may go the way of the
others. There's a magic in the number three. See that I profit by
it, or I am undone, and thou with me."
"I'd not have failed before, but for that suspicious dotard
Bayley," grumbled Verney. "Your lordship bade me see that all was
"Aye, aye. And I bid thee so again. On thy life, leave no
footprints by which we may be tracked. Bayley is not the only
physician in Oxford. About it, then, and swiftly. Time is the
very soul of fortune in this business, with the Spaniard
straining at the leash, and Cecil and the rest pleading his case
with her. Succeed, and thy fortune's made; fail, and trouble not
to seek me again."
Sir Richard bowed, and took his leave. As he reached the door,
his lordship stayed him. "If thou bungle, do not look to me. The
court goes to Windsor to-morrow. Bring me word there within the
week." He rose, magnificently tall and stately, in his bedgown of
embroidered yellow satin, his handsome head thrown back, and went
after his retainer. "Thou'lt not fail me, Dick," said he, a hand
upon the lesser scoundrel's shoulder. "There is much at issue for
me, and for thee with me."
"I will not fail you, my lord," Sir Richard rashly promised, and
on that they parted.
Sir Richard did not mean to fail. He knew the importance of
succeeding, and he appreciated the urgency of the business as
much as did my lord himself. But between his cold, remorseless
will to succeed and success itself there lay a gulf which it
needed all his resource to bridge. He paid a short visit to Lady
Robert at Cumnor, and professed deepest concern to find in her a
pallor and an ailing air which no one else had yet observed. He
expressed himself on the subject to Mrs. Buttelar and the other
members of her ladyship's household, reproaching them with their
lack of care of their mistress. Mrs. Buttelar became indignant
under his reproaches.
"Nay, now, Sir Richard, do you wonder that my lady is sad and
downcast with such tales as are going of my lord's doings at
court, and of what there is 'twixt the Queen and him? Her
ladyship may be too proud to complain, but she suffers the more
for that, poor lamb. There was talk of a divorce awhile ago that
got to her ears."
"Old wives' tales," snorted Sir Richard.
"Likely," agreed Mrs. Buttelar. "Yet when my lord neither comes
to Cumnor, nor requires her ladyship to go to him, what is she to
think, poor soul?"
Sir Richard made light of all, and went off to Oxford to find a
physician more accommodating than Dr. Bayley. But Dr. Bayley had
talked too much, and it was in vain that Sir Richard pleaded with
each of the two physicians he sought that her ladyship was
ailing--"sad and heavy"--and that he must have a potion for her.
Each in turn shook his head. They had no medicine for sorrow, was
their discreet answer. From his description of her condition,
said each, it was plain that her ladyship's sickness was of the
mind, and, considering the tales that were afloat, neither was
Sir Richard went back to his Oxford lodging with the feeling of a
man checkmated. For two whole days of that precious time he lay
there considering what to do. He thought of going to seek a
physician in Abingdon. But fearing no better success in that
quarter, fearing, indeed, that in view of the rumours abroad he
would merely be multiplying what my lord called "footprints," he
decided to take some other way to his master's ends. He was a
resourceful, inventive scoundrel, and soon he had devised a plan.
On Friday he wrote from Oxford to Lady Robert, stating that he
had a communication for her on the subject of his lordship as
secret as it was urgent. That he desired to come to her at Cumnor
again, but dared not do so openly. He would come if she would
contrive that her servants should be absent, and he exhorted her
to let no one of them know that he was coming, else he might be
ruined, out of his desire to serve her.
That letter he dispatched by the hand of his servant Nunweek,
desiring him to bring an answer. It was a communication that had
upon her ladyship's troubled mind precisely the effect that the
rascal conceived. There was about Sir Richard's personality
nothing that could suggest the villain. He was a smiling, blue-
eyed, florid gentleman, of a kindly manner that led folk to trust
him. And on the occasion of his late visit to Cumnor he had
displayed such tender solicitude that her ladyship--starved of
affection as she was--had been deeply touched.
His letter so cunningly couched filled her with vague alarm and
with anxiety. She had heard so many and such afflicting rumours,
and had received in my lord's cruel neglect of her such
circumstantial confirmation of them, that she fastened avidly
upon what she deemed the chance of learning at last the truth.
Sir Richard Verney had my lord's confidence, and was much about
the court in his attendance upon my lord. He would know the
truth, and what could this letter mean but that he was disposed
to tell it.
So she sent him back a line in answer, bidding him come on Sunday
afternoon. She would contrive to be alone in the house, so that
he need not fear being seen by any.
As she promised, so she performed, and on the Sunday packed off
her household to the fair that was being held at Abingdon that
day, using insistence with the reluctant, and particularly with
one of her women, a Mrs. Oddingsell, who expressed herself
strongly against leaving her ladyship alone in that lonely house.
At length, however, the last of them was got off, and my lady was
left impatiently to await her secret visitor. It was late
afternoon when he arrived, accompanied by Nunweek, whom he left
to hold the horses under the chestnuts in the avenue. Himself he
reached the house across the garden, where the blighting hand of
autumn was already at work.
Within the porch he found her waiting, fretted by her impatience.
"It is very good in you to have come, Sir Richard," was her
"I am your ladyship's devoted servant," was his sufficient
answer, and he doffed his plumed bonnet, and bowed 1ow before
her. "We shall be private in your bower above stairs," he added.
"Why, we are private anywhere. I am all alone, as you desired."
"That is very wise--most wise," said he. "Will your ladyship lead
So they went up that steep, spiral staircase, which had loomed so
prominently in the plans the ingenious scoundrel had evolved.
Across the gallery on the first floor they entered a little room
whose windows overlooked the garden. This was her bower--an
intimate cosy room, reflecting on every hand the gentle,
industrious personality of the owner. On an oak table near the
window were spread some papers and account-books concerned with
the estate--with which she had sought to beguile the time of
waiting. She led the way towards this, and, sinking into the
high-backed chair that stood before it, she looked up at him
expectantly. She was pale, there were dark stains under her eyes,
and wistful lines had crept into the sweet face of that neglected
Contemplating his poor victim now, Sir Richard may have compared
her with the woman by whom my lord desired so impatiently to
supplant her. She was tall and beautifully shaped, despite an
almost maidenly slenderness. Her countenance was gentle and
adorable, with its soft grey eyes and light brown hair, and
tender, wistful mouth.
It was not difficult to believe that Lord Robert had as ardently
desired her to wife five years ago as he now desired to be rid of
her. Then he obeyed the insistent spur of passion; now he obeyed
the remorseless spur of ambition. In reality, then as now, his
beacon-light was love of self.
Seeing her so frail and trusting, trembling in her anxious
impatience to hear the news of her lord which he had promised
her, Sir Richard may have felt some pang of pity. But, like my
lord, he was of those whose love of self suffers the rivalry of
no weak emotion.
"Your news, Sir Richard," she besought him, her dove-like glance
upon his florid face--less florid now than was its wont.
He leaned against the table, his back to the window. "Why, it is
briefly this," said he. "My lord . . ." And then he checked, and
fell into a listening attitude.
"What was that? Did you hear anything, my lady?"
"No. What is it?" Her face betrayed alarm, her anxiety mounting
under so much mystery.
"Sh! Stay you here," he enjoined. "If we are spied upon . . ." He
left the sentence there. Already he was moving quickly,
stealthily, towards the door. He paused before opening it. "Stay
where you are, my lady," he enjoined again, so gravely that she
could have no thought of disobeying him. "I will return at once."
He stepped out, closed the door, and crossed to the stairs. There
he stopped. From his pouch he had drawn a fine length of
whipcord, attached at one end to a tiny bodkin of needle
sharpness. That bodkin he drove into the edge of one of the
panels of the wainscot, in line with the topmost step; drawing
the cord taut at a height of a foot or so above this step, he
made fast its other end to the newel-post at the stair-head. He
had so rehearsed the thing in his mind that the performance of it
occupied but a few seconds. Such dim light of that autumn
afternoon as reached the spot would leave that fine cord
Sir Richard went back to her ladyship. She had not moved in his
absence, so brief as scarcely to have left her time in which to
resolve upon disobeying his injunction.
"We move in secret like conspirators," said he, "and so we are
easily affrighted.. I should have known it could be none but my
lord himself . . . here?"
"My lord!" she interrupted, coming excitedly to her feet. "Lord
"To be sure, my lady. It was he had need to visit you in secret--
for did the Queen have knowledge of his coming here, it would
mean the Tower for him. You cannot think what, out of love for
you, his lordship suffers. The Queen . . I,
"But do you say that he is here, man", her voice shrilled up in
"He is below, my lady. Such is his peril that he dared not set
foot in Cumnor until he was certain beyond doubt that you are
"He is below!" she cried, and a flush dyed her pale cheeks, a
light of gladness quickened her sad eyes. Already she had
gathered from his cunning words a new and comforting explanation
of the things reported to her. "He is below!" she repeated. "Oh!"
She turned from him, and in an instant was speeding towards the
He stood rooted there, his nether lip between his teeth, his face
a ghastly white, whilst she ran on.
"My lord! Robin! Robin!" he heard her calling, as she crossed the
corridor. Then came a piercing scream that echoed through the
silent house; a pause; a crashing thud below; and--silence.
Sir Richard remained by the table, immovable. Blood was trickling
down his chin. He had sunk his teeth through his lip when that
scream rang out. A long moment thus, as if entranced, awe-
stricken. Then he braced himself, and went forward, reeling at
first like a drunken man. But by the time he had reached the
stairs he was master of himself again. Swiftly, for all his
trembling fingers, he unfastened the cord's end from the newel-
post. The wrench upon it had already pulled the bodkin from the
wainscot. He went down that abrupt spiral staircase at a moderate
pace, mechanically coiling the length of whip-cord, and bestowing
it with the bodkin in his pouch again, and all the while his eyes
were fixed upon the grey bundle that lay so still at the stairs'
He came to it at last, and, pausing, looked more closely. He was
thankful that there was not the need to touch it. The position of
the brown-haired head was such as to leave no doubt of the
complete success of his design. Her neck was broken. Lord Robert
Dudley was free to marry the Queen.
Deliberately Sir Richard stepped over the huddled body of that
poor victim of a knave's ambition, crossed the hall, and passed
out, closing the door. An excellent day's work, thought he, most
excellently accomplished. The servants, returning from Abingdon
Fair on that Sunday evening, would find her there. They would
publish the fact that in their absence her ladyship had fallen
downstairs and broken her neck, and that was the end of the
* * * * * *
But that was not the end at all. Fate, the ironic interloper, had
taken a hand in this evil game.
The court had moved a few days earlier to Windsor, and thither on
the Friday--the 6th of September--came Alvarez de Quadra to seek
the definite answer which the Queen had promised him on the
subject of the Spanish marriage. What he had seen that night at
Whitehall, coupled with his mistrust of her promises and
experience of her fickleness, had rendered him uneasy. Either she
was trifling with him, or else she was behaving in a manner
utterly unbecoming the future wife of the Archduke. In either
case some explanation was necessary. De Quadra must know where he
stood. Having failed to obtain an audience before the court left
London, he had followed it to Windsor, cursing all women and
contemplating the advantages of the Salic law.
He found at Windsor an atmosphere of constraint, and it was not
until the morrow that he obtained an audience with the Queen.
Even then this was due to chance rather than to design on the
part of Elizabeth. For they met on the terrace as she was
returning from hunting. She dismissed those about her, including
the stalwart Robert Dudley, and, alone with de Quadra, invited
him to speak.
"Madame," he said, "I am writing to my master, and I desire to
know whether your Majesty would wish me to add anything to what
you have announced already as your intention regarding the
She knit her brows. The wily Spaniard fenced so closely that
there was no alternative but to come to grips.
"Why, sir," she answered dryly, "you may tell his Majesty that I
have come to an absolute decision, which is that I will not marry
The colour mounted to the Spaniard's sallow cheeks. Iron self-
control alone saved him from uttering unpardonable words. Even so
he spoke sternly:
"This, madame, is not what you had led me to believe when last we
talked upon the subject."
At another time Elizabeth might have turned upon him and rent him
for that speech. But it happened that she was in high good-humour
that afternoon, and disposed to indulgence. She laughed,
surveying herself in the small steel mirror that dangled from her
"You are ungallant to remind me, my lord," said she. "My sex, you
may have heard, is privileged to change of mind."
"Then, madame, I pray that you may change it yet again." His tone
"Your prayer will not be heard. This time I am resolved."
De Quadra bowed. "The King, my master, will not be pleased, I
She looked him straightly in the face, her dark eyes kindling.
"God's death!" said she, "I marry to please myself, and not the
King your master."
"You are resolved on marriage then?" flashed he.
"And it please you," she mocked him archly, her mood of
joyousness already conquering her momentary indignation.
"What pleases you must please me also, madame," he answered, in a
tone so cold that it belied his words. "That it please you, is
reason enough why you should marry . . . Whom did your Majesty
"Nay. I named no names. Yet one so astute might hazard a shrewd
guess." Half-challenging, half-coy, she eyed him over her fan.
"A guess? Nay, madame. I might affront your Majesty."
"If I were deluded by appearances. If I named a subject who
signally enjoys your royal favour."
"You mean Lord Robert Dudley." She paled a little, and her
bosom's heave was quickened. "Why should the guess affront me?"
"Because a queen--a wise queen, madame--does not mate with a
subject--particularly with one who has a wife already."
He had stung her. He had wounded at once the pride of the woman
and the dignity of the queen, yet in a way that made it difficult
for her to take direct offense. She bit her lip and mastered her
surge of anger. Then she laughed, a thought sneeringly.
"Why, as to my Lord Robert's wife, it seems you are less well-
informed than usual, sir. Lady Robert Dudley is dead, or very
And as blank amazement overspread his face, she passed upon her
way and left him.
But anon, considering, she grew vaguely uneasy, and that very
night expressed her afflicting doubt to my lord, reporting to him
de Quadra's words. His lordship, who was mentally near-sighted,
"He'll change his tone before long," said he.
She set her hands upon his shoulders, and looked up adoringly
into his handsome gipsy face. Never had he known her so fond as
in these last days since her surrender to him that night upon the
terrace at Whitehall, never had she been more the woman and less
the queen in her bearing towards him.
"You are sure, Robin? You are quite sure?" she pleaded.
He drew her close, she yielding herself to his embrace. "With so
much at stake could I be less than sure, sweet?" said he, and so
convinced her--the more easily since he afforded her the
conviction she desired.
That was on the night of Saturday, and early on Monday came the
news which justified him of his assurances. It was brought him to
Windsor by one of Amy's Cumnor servants, a fellow named Bowes,
who, with the others, had been away at Abingdon Fair yesterday
afternoon, and had returned to find his mistress dead at the
stairs' foot--the result of an accident, as all believed.
It was not quite the news that my lord had been expecting. It
staggered him a little that an accident so very opportune should
have come to resolve his difficulties, obviating the need for
recourse to those more dangerous measures with which he had
charged Sir Richard Verney. He perceived how suspicion might now
fall upon himself, how his enemies would direct it, and on the
instant made provision. There and then he seized a pen, and wrote
to his kinsman, Sir Thomas Blount, who even then was on his way
to Cumnor. He stated in the letter what he had learnt from Bowes,
bade Blount engage the coroner to make the strictest investigation,
and send for Amy's natural brother, Appleyard. "Have no respect
to any living person," was the final injunction of that letter
which he sent Blount by the hand of Bowes.
And, then, before he could carry to the Queen the news of this
accident which had broken his matrimonial shackles, Sir Richard
Verney arrived with the true account. He had expected praise and
thanks from his master. Instead, he met first dismay, and then
anger and fierce reproaches.
"My lord, this is unjust," the faithful retainer protested.
"Knowing the urgency, I took the only way--contrived the
"Pray God," said Dudley, "that the jury find it to have been an
accident; for if the truth should come to be discovered, I leave
you to the consequences. I warned you of that before you engaged
in this. Look for no help from me."
"I look for none," said Sir Richard, stung to hot contempt by the
meanness and cowardice so characteristic of the miserable egotist
he served. "Nor will there be the need, for I have left no
"I hope that may be so, for I tell you, man, that I have ordered
a strict inquiry, bidding them have no respect to any living
person, and to that I shall adhere."
"And if, in spite of that, I am not hanged?" quoth Sir Richard, a
sneer upon his white face.
"Come to me again when the affair is closed, and we will talk of
Sir Richard went out, rage and disgust in his heart, leaving my
lord with rage and fear in his.
Grown calmer now, my lord dressed himself with care and sought
the Queen to tell her of the accident that had removed the
obstacle to their marriage. And that same night her Majesty
coldly informed de Quadra that Lady Robert Dudley had fallen down
a flight of stairs and broken her neck.
The Spaniard received the information with a countenance that was
"Your Majesty's gift of prophecy is not so widely known as it
deserves to be," was his cryptic comment.
She stared at him blankly a moment. Then a sudden uneasy memory
awakened by his words, she drew him forward to a window embrasure
apart from those who had stood about her, and for greater
security addressed him, as he tells us, in Italian.
"I do not think I understand you, sir. Will you be plain with
me?" She stood erect and stiff, and frowned upon him after the
manner of her bullying father. But de Quadra held the trumps, and
was not easily intimidated.
"About the prophecy?" said he. "Why, did not your Majesty
foretell the poor lady's death a full day before it came to pass?
Did you not say that she was already dead, or nearly so?"
He saw her blench; saw fear stare from those dark eyes that could
be so very bold. Then her ever-ready anger followed swiftly.
"'Sblood, man! What do you imply?" she cried, and went on without
waiting for his answer. "The poor woman was sick and ill, and
must soon have succumbed; it will no doubt be found that the
accident which anticipated nature was due to her condition."
Gently he shook his head, relishing her discomfiture, taking
satisfaction in torturing her who had flouted him and his master,
in punishing her whom he had every reason to believe guilty.
"Your Majesty, I fear, has been ill-informed on that score. The
poor lady was in excellent health--and like to have lived for
many years--at least, so I gather from Sir William Cecil, whose
information is usually exact."
She clutched his arm. "You told him what I had said?"
"It was indiscreet, perhaps. Yet, how was I to know . . . ?" He
left his sentence there. "I but expressed my chagrin at your
decision on the score of the Archduke--hardly a wise decision, if
I may be so bold," he added slyly.
She caught the suggestion of a bargain, and became instantly
"You transcend the duties of your office, my lord," she rebuked
him, and turned away.
But soon that night she was closeted with Dudley, and closely
questioning him about the affair. My lord was mightily vehement.
"I take Heaven to be my witness," quoth he, when she all but
taxed him with having procured his lady's death, "that I am
innocent of any part in it. My injunctions to Blount, who has
gone to Cumnor, are that the matter be sifted without respect to
any person, and if it can be shown that this is other than the
accident I deem it, the murderer shall hang."
She flung her arms about his neck, and laid her head on his
shoulder. "Oh, Robin, Robin, I am full of fears," she wailed, and
was nearer to tears than he had ever seen her.
But, anon, as the days passed their fears diminished, and finally
the jury at Cumnor--delayed in their finding, and spurred by my
lord to exhaustive inquiries--returned a verdict of "found dead,"
which in all the circumstances left his lordship--who was known,
moreover, to have been at Windsor when his lady died--fully
acquitted. Both he and the Queen took courage from that finding,
and made no secret of it now that they would very soon be wed.
But there were many whom that finding did not convince, who read
my lord too well, and would never suffer him to reap the fruits
of his evil deed. Prominent among these were Arundel--who himself
had aimed at the Queen's hand--Norfolk and Pembroke, and behind
them was a great mass of the people. Indignation against Lord
Robert was blazing out, fanned by such screaming preachers as
Lever, who, from the London pulpits, denounced the projected
marriage, hinting darkly at the truth of Amy Dudley's death.
What was hinted at home was openly expressed abroad, and in Paris
Mary Stuart ventured a cruel witticism that Elizabeth was to
conserve in her memory: "The Queen of England," she said, "is
about to marry her horse-keeper, who has killed his wife to make
a place for her."
Yet Elizabeth persisted in her intent to marry Dudley, until the
sober Cecil conveyed to her towards the end of that month of
September some notion of the rebellion that was smouldering.
She flared out at him, of course. But he stood his ground.
"There is," he reminded her, "this unfortunate matter of a
prophecy, as the Bishop of Aquila persists in calling it."
"God's Body! Is the rogue blabbing?"
"What else did your Majesty expect from a man smarting under a
sense of injury? He has published it broadcast that on the day
before Lady Robert broke her neck, you told him that she was dead
or nearly so. And he argues from it a guilty foreknowledge on
your Majesty's part of what was planned."
"A guilty foreknowledge!" She almost choked in rage, and then
fell to swearing as furiously in that moment as old King Harry at
"Madame!" he cried, shaken by her vehemence. "I but report the
phrase he uses. It is not mine."
"Do you believe it?"
"I do not, madame. If I did I should not be here at present."
"Does any subject of mine believe it?"
"They suspend their judgment. They wait to learn the truth from
"That if your motive prove to be such as de Quadra and others
allege, they will be in danger of believing."
"Be plain, man, in God's name. What exactly is alleged?"
He obeyed her very fully.
"That my lord contrived the killing of his wife so that he might
have liberty to marry your Majesty, and that your Majesty was
privy to the deed." He spoke out boldly, and hurried on before
she could let loose her wrath. "It is still in your power,
madame, to save your honour, which is now in peril. But there is
only one way in which you can accomplish it. If you put from you
all thought of marrying Lord Robert, England will believe that de
Quadra and those others lied. If you persist and carry out your
intention, you proclaim the truth of his report; and you see what
must inevitably follow."
She saw indeed, and, seeing, was afraid.
Within a few hours of that interview she delivered her answer to
Cecil, which was that she had no intention of marrying Dudley.
Because of her fear she saved her honour by sacrificing her
heart, by renouncing marriage with the only man she could have
taken for her mate of all who had wooed her. Yet the wound of
that renunciation was slow to heal. She trifled with the notion
of other marriages, but ever and anon, in her despair, perhaps,
we see her turning longing eyes towards the handsome Lord Robert,
later made Earl of Leicester. Once, indeed, some six years after
Amy's death, there was again some talk of her marrying him, which
was quickly quelled by a reopening of the question of how Amy
died. Between these two, between the fulfilment of her desire and
his ambition, stood the irreconcilable ghost of his poor murdered
Perhaps it was some thought of this that found expression in her
passionate outburst when she learnt of the birth of Mary Stuart's
child: "The Queen of Scots is lighter of a fair son; and I am but
a barren stock."
VII. SIR JUDAS
The Betrayal of Sir Walter Ralegh
Sir Walter was met on landing at Plymouth from his ill-starred
voyage to El Dorado by Sir Lewis Stukeley, which was but natural,
seeing that Sir Lewis was not only Vice-Admiral of Devon, but
also Sir Walter's very good friend and kinsman.
If Sir Walter doubted whether it was in his quality as kinsman or
as Vice-Admiral that Sir Lewis met him, the cordiality of the
latter's embrace and the noble entertainment following at the
house of Sir Christopher Hare, near the port, whither Sir Lewis
conducted him, set this doubt at rest and relighted the lamp of
hope in the despairing soul of our adventurer. In Sir Lewis he
saw only his kinsman--his very good friend and kinsman, to insist
upon Stukeley's own description of himself--at a time when of all
others in his crowded life he needed the support of a kinsman and
the guidance of a friend.
You know the story of this Sir Walter, who had been one of the
brightest ornaments of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and might
have added lustre to that of King James, had not his Sowship--to
employ the title bestowed upon that prince by his own queen--been
too mean of soul to appreciate the man's great worth. Courtier,
philosopher, soldier, man of letters and man of action alike,
Ralegh was at once the greatest prose-writer, and one of the
greatest captains of his age, the last survivor of that glorious
company--whose other members were Drake and Frobisher and
Hawkins--that had given England supremacy upon the seas, that had
broken the power and lowered the pride of Spain.
His was a name that had resounded, to the honour and glory of
England, throughout the world, a name that, like Drake's, was a
thing of hate and terror to King Philip and his Spaniards; yet
the King of Scots, unclean of body and of mind, who had succeeded
to the throne of Elizabeth, must affect ignorance of that great
name which shall never die while England lives.
When the splendid courtier stood before him--for at fifty Sir
Walter was still handsome of person and magnificent of Apparel--
James looked him over and inquired who he might be. When they had
"I've rawly heard of thee," quoth the royal punster, who sought
by such atrocities of speech to be acclaimed a wit.
It was ominous of what must follow, and soon thereafter you see
this great and gallant gentleman arrested on a trumped-up charge
of high treason, bullied, vituperated, and insulted by venal,
peddling lawyers, and, finally, although his wit and sincerity
had shattered every fragment of evidence brought against him,
sentenced to death. Thus far James went; but he hesitated to go
further, hesitated to carry out the sentence. Sir Walter had too
many friends in England then; the memory of his glorious deeds
was still too fresh in the public mind, and execution might have
been attended by serious consequences for King James. Besides,
one at least of the main objects was achieved. Sir Walter's broad
acres were confiscate by virtue of that sentence, and King James
wanted the land--filched thus from one who was England's pride--
to bestow it upon one of those golden calves of his who were
"I maun hae the land for Carr. I maun hae it," was his brazen and
peevish answer to an appeal against the confiscation.
For thirteen years Sir Walter lay in the Tower, under that
sentence of death passed in 1603, enjoying after a season a
certain liberty, visited there by his dear lady and his friends,
among whom was Henry, Prince of Wales, who did not hesitate to
publish that no man but his father--whom he detested--would keep
such a bird in a cage. He beguiled the time in literary and
scientific pursuits, distilling his essences and writing that
stupendous work of his, "The History of the World." Thus old age
crept upon him; but far from quenching the fires of enterprise
within his adventurer's soul, it brought a restlessness that
urged him at last to make a bid for liberty. Despairing of
winning it from the clemency of James, he applied his wits to
extracting it from the King's cupidity.
Throughout his life, since the day when first he had brought
himself to the notice of a Queen by making of his cloak a carpet
for her feet, he had retained side by side with the dignity of
the sage and the greatness of the hero, the craft and opportunism
of the adventurer. His opportunity now was the straitened
condition of the royal treasury, a hint of which had been let
fall by Winwood the Secretary of State. He announced at once that
he knew of a gold mine in Guiana, the El Dorado of the Spaniards.
On his return from a voyage to Guiana in 1595, he had written of
"There the common soldier shall fight for gold instead of pence,
pay himself with plates half a foot broad, whereas he breaks his
bones in other wars for provant and penury Those commanders and
chieftains that shoot at honour and abundance shall find here
more rich and beautiful cities, more temples adorned with golden
images, more sepulchres filled with treasure than either Cortez
found in Mexico or Pizarro in Peru."
Winwood now reminded him that as a consequence many expeditions
had gone out, but failed to discover any of these things.
"That," said Ralegh, "is because those adventurers were ignorant
alike of the country and of the art of conciliating its
inhabitants. Were I permitted to go, I would make Guiana to
England what Peru has been to Spain."
That statement, reported to James in his need, was enough to fire
his cupidity, and when Ralegh had further added that he would
guarantee to the Crown one-fifth of the treasure without asking
any contribution towards the adventure either in money or in
ships, he was permitted to come forth and prepare for the
His friends came to his assistance, and in March of 1617 he set
sail for E1 Dorado with a well-manned and wellequipped fleet of
fourteen ships, the Earls of Arundel and Pembroke standing
sureties for his return.
From the outset the fates were unpropitious. Disaster closed the
adventure. Gondomar, the Ambassador of Spain at Whitehall, too
well-informed of what was afoot, had warned his master. Spanish
ships waited to frustrate Sir Walter, who was under pledge to
avoid all conflict with the forces of King Philip. But conflict
there was, and bloodshed in plenty, about the city of Manoa,
which the Spaniards held as the key to the country into which the
English adventurers sought to penetrate. Among the slain were the
Governor of Manoa, who was Gondomar's own brother, and Sir
Walter's eldest son.
To Ralegh, waiting at the mouth of the Orinoco, came his beaten
forces in retreat, with the terrible news of a happening that
meant his ruin. Half-maddened, his anguish increased by the loss
of his boy, he upbraided them so fiercely that Keymis, who had
been in charge of the expedition, shut himself up in his cabin
and shot himself with a pocket-pistol. Mutiny followed, and
Whitney--most trusted of Sir Walter's captains--set sail for
England, being followed by six other ships of that fleet, which
meanwhile had been reduced to twelve. With the remaining five the
stricken Sir Walter had followed more at leisure. What need to
hurry? Disgrace, and perhaps death, awaited him in England. He
knew the power of Spain with James, who was so set upon a Spanish
marriage for his heir, knew Spain's hatred of himself, and what
eloquence it would gather in the mouth of Gondomar, intent upon
avenging his brother's death.
He feared the worst, and so was glad upon landing to have by him
a kinsman upon whom he could lean for counsel and guidance in
this the darkest hour of all his life. Sitting late that night in
the library of Sir Christopher Hare's house, Sir Walter told his
cousin in detail the story of his misadventure, and confessed to
"My brains are broken," was his cry.
Stukeley combed his beard in thought. He had little comfort to
"It was not expected," said he, "that you would return.
"Not expected?" Sir Walter's bowed white head was suddenly flung
back. Indignation blazed in the eyes that age had left undimmed.
"What act in all my life justified the belief I should be false
to honour? My danger here was made quite plain, and Captain King
would have had me steer a course for France, where I had found a
welcome and a harbour. But to consent I must have been false to
my Lords of Arundel and Pembroke, who were sureties to the King
for my return. Life is still sweet to me, despite my three-score
years and more, but honour is sweeter still."
And then, because life was sweet, he bluntly asked his cousin:
"What is the King's intent by me?"
"Nay, now," said Stukeley, "who shall know what passes in the
King's mind? From the signs, I judge your case to be none so
desperate. You have good friends in plenty, among whom, although
the poorest, count myself the first. Anon, when you are rested,
we'll to London by easy stages, baiting at the houses of your
friends, and enlisting their good offices on your behalf."
Ralegh took counsel on the matter with Captain King, a bluff,
tawny-bearded seaman, who was devoted to him body and soul.
"Sir Lewis proposes it, eh?" quoth the hardy seaman. "And Sir
Lewis is Vice-Admiral of Devon? He is not by chance bidden to
escort you to London?"
The Captain, clearly, had escaped the spell of Stukeley's
affability. Sir Walter was indignant. He had never held his
kinsman in great esteem, and had never been on the best of terms
with him in the past. Nevertheless, he was very far from
suspecting him of what King implied. To convince him that he did
Sir Lewis an injustice, Ralegh put the blunt question to his
kinsman in King's presence.
"Nay," said Sir Lewis, "I am not yet bidden to escort you. But as
Vice-Admiral of Devon I may at any moment be so bidden. It were
wiser, I hold, not to await such an order. Though even if it
come," he made haste to add, "you may still count upon my
friendship. I am your kinsman first, and Vice-Admiral after."
With a smile that irradiated his handsome, virile countenance,
Sir Walter held out his hand to clasp his cousin's in token of
appreciation. Captain King expressed no opinion save what might
be conveyed in a grunt and a shrug.
Guided now unreservedly by his cousin's counsel, Sir Walter set
out with him upon that journey to London. Captain King went with
them, as well as Sir Walter's body-servant, Cotterell, and a
Frenchman named Manourie, who had made his first appearance in
the Plymouth household on the previous day. Stukeley explained
the fellow as a gifted man of medicine, whom he had sent for to
cure him of a trivial but inconvenient ailment by which he was
Journeying by slow stages, as Sir Lewis had directed, they came
at last to Brentford. Sir Walter, had he followed his own bent,
would have journeyed more slowly still, for in a measure, as he
neared London, apprehensions of what might await him there grew
ever darker. He spoke of them to King, and the blunt Captain said
nothing to dispel them.
"You are being led like a sheep to the shambles," he declared,
"and you go like a sheep. You should have landed in France, where
you have friends. Even now it is not too late. A ship could be
procured . . ."
"And my honour could be sunk at sea," Sir Walter harshly
concluded, in reproof of such counsel.
But at the inn at Brentford he was sought out by a visitor, who
brought him the like advice in rather different terms. This was
De Chesne, the secretary of the French envoy, Le Clerc. Cordially
welcomed by Ralegh, the Frenchman expressed his deep concern to
see Sir Walter under arrest.
"You conclude too hastily," laughed Sir Walter.
"Monsieur, I do not conclude. I speak of what I am inform'."
"Misinformed, sir. I am not a prisoner--at least, not yet," he
added, with a sigh. "I travel of my own free will to London with
my good friend and kinsman Stukeley to lay the account of my
voyage before the King."
"Of your own free will? You travel of your own frets will? And
you are not a prisoner? Ha !" There was bitter mockery in De
Chesne's short laugh. "C'est bien drole!" And he explained:
"Milord the Duke o Buckingham, he has write in his master's name
to the ambassador Gondomar that you are taken and held at the
disposal of the King of Spain. Gondomar is to inform him whether
King Philip wish that you be sent to Spain to essay the justice
of his Catholic Majesty, or that you suffer here. Meanwhile your
quarters are being made ready in the Tower. Yet you tell me you
are not prisoner! You go of your own free will to London. Sir
Walter, do not be deceive'. If you reach London, you are lost."
Now here was news to shatter Sir Walter's last illusion. Yet
desperately he clung to the fragments of it. The envoy's secretary
must be at fault.
"'Tis yourself are at fault, Sir Walter, in that you trust those
about you," the Frenchman insisted.
Sir Walter stared at him, frowning. "D'ye mean Stukeley?" quoth
he, half-indignant already at the mere suggestion.
"Sir Lewis, he is your kinsman." De Chesne shrugged. "You should
know your family better than I. But who is this Manourie who
accompanies you? Where is he come from? What you know of him?"
Sir Walter confessed that he knew nothing.
"But I know much. He is a fellow of evil reputation. A spy who
does not scruple to sell his own people. And I know that letters
of commission from the Privy Council for your arrest were give'
to him in London ten days ago. Whether those letters were to
himself, or he was just the messenger to another, imports
nothing. The fact is everything. The warrant against you exists,
and it is in the hands of one or another of those that accompany
you. I say no more. As I have tol' you, you should know your own
family. But of this be sure, they mean that you go to the Tower,
and so to your death. And now, Sir Walter, if I show you the
disease I also bring the remedy. I am command' by my master to
offer you a French barque which is in the Thames, and a safe
conduct to the Governor of Calais. In France you will find safety
and honour, as your worth deserve'."
Up sprang Sir Walter from his chair, and flung off the cloak of
thought in which he had been mantled.
"Impossible," he said. "Impossible! There is my plighted word to
return, and there are my Lords of Arundel and Pembroke, who are
sureties for me. I cannot leave them to suffer by my default."
"They will not suffer at all," De Chesne assured him. He was very
well informed. "King James has yielded to Spain partly because he
fears, partly because he will have a Spanish marriage for Prince
Charles, and will do nothing to trouble his good relations with
King Philip. But, after all, you have friends, whom his Majesty
also fears. If you escape' you would resolve all his perplexities.
I do not believe that any obstacle will be offer' to your escape--
else why they permit you to travel thus without any guard, and to
retain your sword?"
Half distracted as he was by what he had learnt, yet Sir Walter
clung stoutly and obstinately to what he believed to be the only
course for a man of honour. And so he dismissed De Chesne with
messages of gratitude but refusal to his master, and sent for
Captain King. Together they considered all that the secretary had
stated, and King agreed with De Chesne's implied opinion that it
was Sir Lewis himself who held the warrant.
They sent for him at once, and Ralegh straightly taxed him with
it. Sir Lewis as straightly admitted it, and when King thereupon
charged him with deceit he showed no anger, but only the
profoundest grief. He sank into a chair, and took his head in his
"What could I do? What could I do?" he cried. "The warrant came
in the very moment we were setting out. At first I thought of
telling you; and then I bethought me that to do so would be but
to trouble your mind, without being able to offer you help."
Sir Walter understood what was implied. "Did you not say," he
asked, "that you were my kinsman first and Vice-Admiral of Devon
"Ay--and so I am. Though I must lose my office of Vice-Admiral,
which has cost me six hundred pounds, if I suffer you to escape,
I'd never hesitate if it were not for Manourie, who watches me as
closely as he watches you, and would baulk us at the last. And
that is why I have held my peace on the score of this warrant.
What can it help that I should trouble you with the matter until
at the same time I can offer you some way out?"
"The Frenchman has a throat, and throats can be slit," said the
"So they can; and men can be hanged for slitting them," returned
Sir Lewis, and thereafter resumed and elaborated his first
argument, using now such forceful logic and obvious sincerity
that Sir Walter was convinced. He was no less convinced, too, of
the peril in which he stood. He plied those wits of his, which
had rarely failed him in an extremity. Manourie was the
difficulty. But in his time he had known many of these agents
who, without sentimental interest and purely for the sake of
gold, were ready to play such parts; and never yet had he known
one who was not to be corrupted. So that evening he desired
Manourie's company in the room above stairs that had been set
apart for Sir Walter's use. Facing him across the table at which
both were seated, Sir Walter thrust his clenched fist upon the
board, and, suddenly opening it, dazzled the Frenchman's beady
eyes with the jewel sparkling in his palm.
"Tell me, Manourie, are you paid as much as that to betray me?"
Manourie paled a little under his tan. He was a swarthy, sharp-
featured fellow, slight and wiry. He looked into Sir Walter's
grimly smiling eyes, then again at the white diamond, from which
the candlelight was striking every colour of the rainbow. He made
a shrewd estimate of its price, and shook his black head. He had
quite recovered from the shock of Sir Walter's question.
"Not half as much," he confessed, with impudence.
"Then you might find it more remunerative to serve me," said the
knight. "This jewel is to be earned."
The agent's eyes flickered; he passed his tongue over his lips.
"As how?" quoth he.
"Briefly thus: I have but learnt of the trammel in which I am
taken. I must have time to concert my measures of escape, and
time is almost at an end. You are skilled in drugs, so my kinsman
tells me. Can you so drug me as to deceive physicians that I am
Manourie considered awhile.
"I . . . I think I could," he answered presently.
"And keep faith with me in this, at the price of, say .. two such
The venal knave gasped in amazement. This was not generosity; it
was prodigality. He recovered again, and swore himself Sir
"About it, then." Sir Walter rolled the gem across the board into
the clutch of the spy, which pounced to meet it. "Keep that in
earnest. The other will follow when we have cozened them."
Next morning Sir Walter could not resume the journey. When
Cotterell went to dress him he found his master taken with
vomits, and reeling like a drunkard. The valet ran to fetch Sir
Lewis, and when they returned together they found Sir Walter on
all fours gnawing the rushes on the floor, his face livid and
horribly distorted, his brow glistening with sweat.
Stukeley, in alarm, ordered Cotterell to get his master back to
bed and to foment him, which was done. But on the next day there
was no improvement, and on the third things were in far more
serious case. The skin of his brow and arms and breast was
inflamed, and covered with horrible purple blotches--the result
of an otherwise harmless ointment with which the French empiric
had supplied him.
When Stukeley beheld him thus disfigured, and lying apparently
inert and but half-conscious upon his bed, he backed away in
terror. The Vice-Admiral had seen afore-time the horrible
manifestations of the plague, and could not be mistaken here. He
fled from the infected air of his kinsman's chamber, and summoned
what physicians were available to pronounce and prescribe. The
physicians came--three in number--but manifested no eagerness to
approach the patient closely. The mere sight of him was enough to
lead them to the decision that he was afflicted with the plague
in a singularly virulent form.
Presently one of them plucked up courage so far as to feel the
pulse of the apparently delirious patient. Its feebleness
confirmed his diagnosis; moreover the hand he held was cold and
turgid. He was not to know that Sir Walter had tightly wrapped
about his upper arm the ribbon from his poniard, and so he was
The physicians withdrew, and delivered their verdict, whereupon
Sir Lewis at once sent word of it to the Privy Council.
That afternoon the faithful Captain King, sorely afflicted by the
news, came to visit his master, and was introduced to Sir Walter's
chamber by Manourie, who was in attendance upon him. To the seaman's
amazement he found Sir Walter sitting up in bed, surveying in a
hand-mirror a face that was horrible beyond description with the
complacent smile of one who takes satisfaction in his appearance.
Yet there was no fevered madness in the smiling eyes. They were
alive with intelligence, amounting, indeed, to craft.
"Ah, King!" was the glad welcome "The prophet David did make
himself a fool, and suffered spittle to fall upon his beard, to
escape from the hands of his enemies And there was Brutus, ay,
and others as memorable who have descended to such artifice."
Though he laughed, it is clear that he was seeking to excuse an
unworthiness of which he was conscious.
"Artifice?" quoth King, aghast. "Is this artifice?"
"Ay--a hedge against my enemies, who will be afraid to approach
King sat himself down by his master's bed. "A better hedge
against your enemies, Sir Walter, would have been the strip of
sea 'twixt here and France. Would to Heaven you had done as I
advised ere you set foot in this ungrateful land."
"The omission may be repaired," said Sir Walter.
Before the imminence of his peril, as now disclosed to him, Sir
Walter had been reconsidering De Chesne's assurance touching my
Lords of Arundel and Pembroke, and he had come to conclude--the
more readily, perhaps because it was as he would have it--that De
Chesne was right; that to break faith with them were no such
great matter after all, nor one for which they would be called
upon to suffer. And so, now, when it was all but too late, he
yielded to the insistence of Captain King, and consented to save
himself by flight to France. King was to go about the business of
procuring a ship without loss of time. Yet there was no need of
desperate haste, as was shown when presently orders came to
Brentford for the disposal of the prisoner. The King, who was at
Salisbury, desired that Sir Walter should be conveyed to his own
house in London. Stukeley reported this to him, proclaiming it a
sign of royal favour. Sir Walter was not deceived. He knew the
reason to be fear lest he should infect the Tower with the plague
by which he was reported stricken.
So the journey was resumed, and Sir Walter was brought to London,
and safely bestowed in his own house, but ever in the care of his
loving friend and kinsman. Manourie's part being fulfilled and
the aim accomplished, Sir Walter completed the promised payment
by bestowing upon him the second diamond--a form of eminently
portable currency with which the knight was well supplied. On the
morrow Manourie was gone, dismissed as a consequence of the part
he had played.
It was Stukeley who told Sir Walter this--a very well informed
and injured Stukeley, who asked to know what he had done to
forfeit the knight's confidence that behind his back Sir Walter
secretly concerted means of escape. Had his cousin ceased to
Sir Walter wondered. Looking into that lean, crafty face, he
considered King's unquenchable mistrust of the man, bethought him
of his kinsman's general neediness, remembered past events that
shed light upon his ways and nature, and began now at last to have
a sense of the man's hypocrisy and double-dealing. Yet he reasoned
in regard to him precisely as he had reasoned in regard to Manourie.
The fellow was acquisitive, and therefore corruptible. If, indeed,
he was so base that he had been bought to betray Sir Walter, then
he could be bought again to betray those who had so bought him.
"Nay, nay," said Sir Walter easily. "It is not lack of trust in
you, my good friend. But you are the holder of an office, and
knowing as I do the upright honesty of your character I feared to
embarrass you with things whose very knowledge must give you the
parlous choice of being false to that office or false to me."
Stukeley broke forth into imprecations. He was, he vowed, the
most accursed and miserable of men that such a task as this
should have fallen to his lot. And he was a poor man, too,
he would have his cousin remember. It was unthinkable that he
should use the knowledge he had gained to attempt to frustrate
Sir Walter's plans of escape to France. And this notwithstanding
that if Sir Walter escaped, it is certain he would lose his
office of Vice-Admiral and the six hundred pounds he had paid for
"As to that, you shall be at no loss," Sir Walter assured him. "I
could not suffer it. I pledge you my honour, Lewis, that you
shall have a thousand pounds from my wife on the day that I am
safely landed in France or Holland. Meanwhile, in earnest of what
is to come, here is a toy of value for you." And he presented Sir
Lewis with a jewel of price, a great ruby encrusted in diamonds.
Thus reassured that he would be immune from pecuniary loss, Sir
Lewis was ready to throw himself whole-heartedly into Sir
Walter's plans, and to render him all possible assistance. True,
this assistance was a costly matter; there was this person to be
bought and that one; there were expenses here and expenses there,
incurred by Sir Lewis on his kinsman's behalf; and there were odd
presents, too, which Stukeley seemed to expect and which Sir
Walter could not deny him. He had no illusions now that King had
been right; that here he was dealing with a rogue who would exact
the uttermost farthing for his services, but he was gratified at
the shrewdness with which he had taken his cousin's measure, and
did not grudge the bribes by which he was to escape the scaffold.
De Chesne came again to the house in London, to renew his
master's offer of a ship to carry Sir Walter overseas, and such
other assistance as Sir Walter might require But by now the
knight's arrangements were complete. His servant Cotterell had
come to inform him that his own boatswain, now in London, was the
owner of a ketch, at present lying at Tilbury, admirably suited
for the enterprise and entirely at Sir Walter's disposal. It had
been decided, then, with the agreement of Captain King, that they
should avail themselves of this; and accordingly Cotterell was
bidden desire the boatswain to have the craft made ready for sea
at once. In view of this, and anxious to avoid unnecessarily
compromising the French envoy, Sir Walter gratefully declined the
And so we come at last to that July evening appointed for the
flight. Ralegh, who, having for some time discarded the use of
Manourie's ointment, had practically recovered his normal
appearance, covering his long white hair under a Spanish hat, and
muffling the half of his face in the folds of a cloak, came to
Wapping Stairs--that ill-omened place of execution of pirates and
sea-rovers--accompanied by Cotterell, who carried the knight's
cloak-bag, and by Sir Lewis and Sir Lewis's son. Out of
solicitude for their dear friend and kinsman, the Stukeleys could
not part from him until he was safely launched upon his voyage.
At the head of the stairs they were met by Captain King; at the
foot of them a boat was waiting, as concerted, the boatswain at
King greeted them with an air of obvious relief.
"You feared perhaps we should not come," said Stukeley, with a
sneer at the Captain's avowed mistrust of him. "Yet now, I trust,
you'll do me the justice to admit that I have shown myself an
The uncompromising King looked at him and frowned, misliking the
"I hope that you'll continue so," he answered stiffly.
They went down the slippery steps to the boat, and then the shore
glided slowly past them as they pushed off into the stream of the
A moment later, King, whose suspicious eyes kept a sharp look-
out, observed another boat put off some two hundred yards higher
up the river. At first he saw it breast the stream as if
proceeding towards London Bridge, then abruptly swing about and
follow them. Instantly he drew the attention of Sir Walter to
that pursuing wherry.
"What's this?" quoth Sir Walter harshly. "Are we betrayed?"
The watermen, taking fright at the words, hung now upon their
"Put back," Sir Walter bade them. "I'll not betray my friends to
no purpose. Put back, and let us home again."
"Nay, now," said Stukeley gravely, himself watching the wherry.
"We are more than a match for them in oars, even if their purpose
be such as you suspect--for which suspicion, when all is said,
there is no ground. On then!" He addressed himself to the
watermen, whipping out a pistol, and growing truculent in mien
and voice. "To your oars! Row, you dogs, or I'll pistol you where
The men bent their backs forthwith, and the boat swept on. But
Sir Walter was still full of apprehensions, still questioning the
wisdom of keeping to their down-stream course if they were being
"But are we followed?" cried the impatient Sir Lewis. "'Sdeath,
cousin, is not the river a highway for all the world to use, and
must every wherry that chances to go our way be in pursuit of us?
If you are to halt at every shadow, faith, you'll never
accomplish anything. I vow I am unfortunate in having a friend
whom I would save so full of doubts and fears."
Sir Walter gave him reason, and even King came to conclude that
he had suspected him unjustly, whilst the rowers, under
Stukeley's suasion, now threw themselves heartily into their
task, and onward sped the boat through the deepening night,
taking but little account of that other wherry that hung ever in
their wake. In this wise they came at length to Greenwich on the
last of the ebb. But here finding the water beginning to grow
against them, and wearied by the exertion into which Stukeley's
enthusiasm had flogged them, the watermen paused again, declaring
that they could not reach Gravesend before morning.
Followed a brief discussion, at the end of which Sir Walter bade
them put him ashore at Purfleet.
"And that's the soundest counsel," quoth the boatswain. "For at
Purfleet we can get horses on to Tilbury."
Stukeley was of the same opinion; but not so the more practical
"'Tis useless," he declared to them. "At this hour how shall you
get horses to go by land?"
And now, Sir Walter, looking over his shoulder, saw the other
wherry bearing down upon them through the faintly opalescent
mists of dawn. A hail came to them across the water.
"Oh, 'Sdeath! We are betrayed!" cried Ralegh bitterly, and
Stukeley swore more fiercely still. Sir Walter turned to him.
"Put ashore," he said shortly, "and let us home."
"Ay, perhaps 'twere best. For to-night there's an end to the
enterprise, and if I am taken in your company now, what shall be
said to me for this active assistance in your escape?" His voice
was gloomy, his face drawn and white.
"Could you not plead that you had but pretended to go with me to
seize on my private papers?" suggested the ingenious mind of
"I could. But shall I be believed? Shall I?" His loom was
deepening to despair.
Ralegh was stricken almost with remorse on his cousin's account.
His generous heart was now more concerned with the harm to his
friends than with his own doom. He desired to make amends to
Stukeley, but had no means save such as lay in the power of that
currency he used. Having naught else to give, he must give that.
He plunged his hand into an inner pocket, and brought forth a
handful of jewels, which he thrust upon his kinsman.
"Courage," he urged him. "Up now, and we may yet win out and
home, so that all will be well with you at least, and you shall
not suffer for your friendship to me."
Stukeley embraced him then, protesting his love and desire to
They came to land at last, just below Greenwich bridge, and
almost at the same moment the other wherry grounded immediately
above them. Men sprang from her, with the obvious intent of
cutting off their retreat.
"Too late!" said Ralegh, and sighed, entirely without passion
now that the dice had fallen and showed that the game was lost.
"You must act on my suggestion to explain your presence, Lewis."
"Indeed, there is no other course," Sir Lewis agreed. "And you are
in the same case, Captain King. You must confess that you joined
with me but to betray Sir Walter. I'll bear you out. Thus, each
supporting the other . . ."
"I'll roast in Hell before I brand myself a traitor," roared the
Captain furiously. "And were you an honest man, Sir Lewis, you'ld
understand my meaning."
"So, so?" said Stukeley, in a quiet, wicked voice. And it was
observed that his son and one or two of the watermen had taken
their stand beside him as if in readiness for action. "Why, then,
since you will have it so, Captain, I arrest you, in the King's
name, on a charge of abetting treason."
The Captain fell back a step, stricken a moment by sheer
amazement. Then he groped for a pistol to do at last what he
realized he should have done long since. Instantly he was
overpowered. It was only then that Sir Walter understood the
thing that had happened, and with understanding came fury. The
old adventurer flung back his cloak, and snatched at his rapier
to put it through the vitals of his dear friend and kinsman. But
he was too late. Hands seized upon him, and he found himself held
by the men from the wherry, confronted by a Mr. William Herbert,
whom he knew for Stukeley's cousin, and he heard Mr. Herbert
formally asking him for the surrender of his sword.
Instantly he governed himself, repressed his fury. He looked
coldly at his kinsman, whose face showed white and evil in the
growing light of the early summer dawn "Sir Lewis," was all he
said, "these actions will not turn out to your credit."
He had no illusion left. His understanding was now a very full
one. His dear friend and kinsman had played him false throughout,
intending first to drain him of his resources before finally
flinging the empty husk to the executioner. Manourie had been in
the plot; he had run with the hare and hunted with the hounds;
and Sir Walter's own servant Cotterell had done no less. Amongst
them they had "cozened the great cozener"--to use Stukeley's own
cynical expression. Even so, it was only on his trial that Sir
Walter plumbed the full depth of Stukeley's baseness; for it was
only then he learnt that his kinsman had been armed by a warrant
of immunity to assist his projects of escape, so that he might
the more effectively incriminate and betray him; and Sir Walter
discovered also that the ship in which he had landed, and other
matters, were to provide additional Judas' fees to this
If to escape his enemies Sir Walter had had recourse to artifices
unworthy the great hero that he was, now that all hope was lost
he conducted himself with a dignity and cheerfulness beyond
equal. So calm and self-possessed and masterly was his defence
from the charge of piracy preferred at the request of Spain, and
so shrewd in its inflaming appeal to public opinion, that his
judges were constrained to abandon that line of prosecution, and
could discover no way of giving his head to King James save by
falling back upon the thirteen-year old sentence of death against
him. Of this they now ordered execution.
Never a man who loved his life as dearly as Sir Walter loved it
met death as blithely. He dressed himself for the scaffold with
that elegance and richness which all his life he had observed. He
wore a ruff band and black velvet wrought nightgown over a
doublet of hair-coloured satin, a black wrought waistcoat, black
cut taffety breeches and ash-coloured silk stockings. Under his
plumed hat he covered his white locks with a wrought nightcap.
This last he bestowed on his way to the scaffold upon a bald-
headed old man who had come to take a last look of him, with the
observation that he was more in need of it than himself. When he
had removed it, it was observed that his hair was not curled as
usual. This was a matter that had fretted his barber Peter in the
prison of the Gatehouse at Westminster that morning. But Sir
Walter had put him off with a laugh and a jest.
"Let them comb it that shall have it," he had said of his own
Having taken his leave of the friends who had flocked about him
with the observation that he had a long journey before him, he
called for the axe, and, when presented to him, ran his fingers
along the edge, and smiled.
"Sharp medicine," quoth he, "but a sound cure for all diseases."
When presently the executioner bade him turn his head to the
"It is no great matter which way a man's head stands, so that his
heart lies right," he said.
Thus passed one of Englanl's greatest heroes, indeed one of the
very makers of this England, and than his death there is no more
shameful blot upon the shameful reign of that pusillanimous
James, unclean of body and of soul, who sacrificed him to the
King of Spain.
A spectator of his death, who suffered for his words--as men must
ever suffer for the regardless utterance of Truth--declared that
England had not such another head to cut off.
As for Stukeley, the acquisitiveness which had made a Judas of
him was destined, by a poetic justice, ever desired but rarely
forthcoming for knaves, soon to be his ruin. He was caught
diminishing the gold coin of the realm by the operation known to-
day as "clipping," and with him was taken his creature Manourie,
who, to save himself, turned chief witness against Stukeley. Sir
Lewis was sentenced to death, but saved himself by purchasing his
pardon at the cost of every ill-gotten shilling he possessed, and
he lived thereafter as bankrupt of means as he was of honour.
Yet before all this happened, Sir Lewis had for his part in Sir
Walter Ralegh's death come to be an object of execration
throughout the land, and to be commonly known as "Sir Judas." At
Whitehall he suffered rebuffs and insults that found a climax in
the words addressed to him by the Lord Admiral, to whom he went
to give an account of his office.
"Base fellow, darest thou who art the contempt and scorn of men
offer thyself in my presence?"
For a man of honour there was but one course. Sir Judas was not a
man of honour. He carried his grievance to the King. James leered
"What wouldst thou have me do? Wouldst thou have me hang him? On
my soul, if I should hang all that speak ill of thee, all the
trees of the country would not suffice, so great is the number."
VIII. HIS INSOLENCE OF BUCKINGHAM
George Villier's Courtship of Ann of Austria
He was Insolence incarnate.
Since the day when, a mere country lad, his singular good looks
had attracted the attention of King James--notoriously partial to
good-looking lads--and had earned him the office of cup-bearer to
his Majesty, the career of George Villiers is to be read in a