Part 3 out of 4
demands.' 'The greater reason he should relieve himself by speedy
acknowledgment of the justice of his sentence,' said the King. 'The
matter rests not with us, but with himself.' 'But he is a gentleman,
Sire,' I persisted, 'to whom truth is dearer than life, and who would
rather languish in misery for thrice the term he is likely to last, than
forfeit his own self-esteem by admitting falsehood and injustice.' 'Then
let him perish in his pride and obstinacy,' cried the King impatiently.
And thereupon he dismissed me."
"O Sir!" exclaimed Jocelyn, rising and throwing, his arms round the
Puritan's neck; "you, then, were the friend who tended my poor father in
his last moments. Heaven bless you for it!"
"Yes, Jocelyn, it was I who heard your father's latest sigh," the
Puritan replied, returning his embrace, "and your own name was breathed
with it. His thoughts were of his son far away--too young to share his
distresses, or to comprehend them."
"Alas! alas!" cried Jocelyn mournfully.
"Lament not for your father, Jocelyn," said the Puritan, solemnly; "he
is reaping the reward of his earthly troubles in heaven! Be comforted, I
say. The tyrant can no longer oppress him. He is beyond the reach of his
malice. He can be arraigned at no more unjust tribunals. He is where no
cruel and perfidious princes, no iniquitous judges, no griping
extortioners shall ever enter."
Jocelyn endeavoured to speak, but his emotion overpowered him.
"I have already told you that your father rendered me a service
impossible to be adequately requited," pursued the Puritan. "What that
service was I will one day inform you. Suffice it now, that it bound me
to him in chains firmer than brass. Willingly would I have laid down my
life for him, if he had desired it. Gladly would I have taken his place
in the Fleet prison, if that could have procured him liberation. Unable
to do either, I watched over him while he lived--and buried him when
"O Sir, you have bound me to you as strongly as you were bound to my
father," cried Jocelyn. "For the devotion shown to him, I hold myself
eternally your debtor."
The Puritan regarded him steadfastly for a moment.
"What if I were to put these professions to the test?" he asked.
"Do so," Jocelyn replied earnestly. "My life is yours!"
"Your life!" exclaimed Hugh Calveley, grasping his arm almost fiercely,
while his eye blazed. "Consider what you offer."
"I need not consider," Jocelyn rejoined. "I repeat my life is yours, if
you demand it."
"Perhaps I _shall_ demand it," cried Hugh Calveley. "Ere long, perhaps."
"Demand it when you will," Jocelyn said.
"Father!" Aveline interposed, "do not let the young man bind himself by
this promise. Release him, I pray of you."
"The promise cannot be recalled, my child," the Puritan replied. "But I
shall never claim its fulfilment save for some high and holy purpose."
"Are you sure your purpose _is_ holy, father?" Aveline said in a low
"What mean you, child?" cried Hugh Calveley, knitting his brows. "I am
but an instrument in the hands of Heaven, appointed to do its work; and
as directed, so I must act. Heaven may make me the scourge of the
oppressor and evil-doer, or the sword to slay the tyrant. I may die a
martyr for my faith, or do battle for it with carnal weapons. For all
these I am ready; resigning myself to the will of God. Is it for
nothing, think'st thou, that this young man--the son of my dear departed
friend--has been brought hither at this particular conjuncture? Is it
for nothing that, wholly unsolicited, he has placed his life at my
disposal, and in doing so has devoted himself to a great cause? Like
myself he hath wrongs to avenge, and the Lord of Hosts will give him
"But not in the way you propose, father," Aveline rejoined. "Heaven
will assuredly give you both satisfaction for the wrongs you have
endured; but it must choose its own means of doing so, and its own
"It _hath_ chosen the means, and the time is coming quickly," cried the
Puritan, his eye again kindling with fanatical light. "'The Lord will
cut off from Israel head and tail.'"
"These things are riddles to me," observed Jocelyn, who had listened to
what was passing with great uneasiness. "I would solicit an
"You shall have it, my son," Hugh Calveley replied. "But not now. My
hour for solitary prayer and self-communion is come, and I must withdraw
to my chamber. Go forth into the garden, Jocelyn--and do thou attend
him, Aveline. I will join you when my devotions are ended."
So saying he quitted the room, while the youthful pair went forth as
How the promise was cancelled.
It was a large garden, once fairly laid out and planted, but now sadly
neglected. The broad terrace walk was overgrown with weeds; the stone
steps and the carved balusters were broken in places, and covered with
moss; the once smooth lawn was unconscious of the scythe; the parterres
had lost their quaint devices; and the knots of flowers--tre-foil,
cinque-foil, diamond, and cross-bow--were no longer distinguishable in
their original shapes. The labyrinths of the maze were inextricably
tangled, and the long green alleys wanted clearing out.
But all this neglect passed unnoticed by Jocelyn, so completely was he
engrossed by the fair creature at his side. Even the noise of the May
Games, which, temporarily interrupted by Hugh Calveley, had recommenced
with greater vigour than ever--the ringing of the church bells, the
shouts of the crowd, and the sounds of the merry minstrelsy, scarcely
reached his ear. For the first time he experienced those delicious
sensations which new-born love excites within the breast; and the
enchantment operated upon him so rapidly and so strongly, that he was
overpowered by its spell almost before aware of it. It seemed that he
had never really lived till this moment; never, at least, comprehended
the bliss afforded by existence in the companionship of a being able to
awaken the transports he now experienced. A new world seemed suddenly
opened to him, full of love, hope, sunshine, of which he and Aveline
were the sole inhabitants. Hitherto his life had been devoid of any
great emotion. The one feeling latterly pervading it had been a sense of
deep wrong, coupled with the thirst of vengeance. No tenderer influence
had softened his almost rugged nature; and his breast continued arid as
the desert. Now the rock had been stricken, and the living waters gushed
forth abundantly. Not that in Norfolk, and even in the remote part of
the county where his life had been passed, female beauty was rare.
Nowhere, indeed, is the flower of loveliness more thickly sown than in
that favoured part of our isle. But all such young damsels as he had
beheld had failed to move him; and if any shaft had been aimed at his
breast it had fallen wide of the mark. Jocelyn Mounchensey was not one
of those highly susceptible natures--quick to receive an impression,
quicker to lose it. Neither would he have been readily caught by the
lures spread for youth by the designing of the sex. Imbued with
something of the antique spirit of chivalry, which yet, though but
slightly, influenced the age in which he lived, he was ready and able to
pay fervent homage to his mistress's sovereign beauty (supposing he had
one), and maintain its supremacy against all questioners, but utterly
incapable of worshipping at any meaner shrine. Heart-whole, therefore,
when he encountered the Puritan's daughter, he felt that in her he had
found an object he had long sought, to whom he could devote himself
heart and soul; a maiden whose beauty was without peer, and whose mental
qualities corresponded with her personal attractions.
Nor was it a delusion under which he laboured. Aveline Calveley was all
his imagination painted her. Purity of heart, gentleness of disposition,
intellectual endowments, were as clearly revealed by her speaking
countenance as the innermost depths of a fountain are by the pellucid
medium through which they are viewed. Hers was a virgin heart, which,
like his own, had received no previous impression. Love for her father
alone had swayed her; though all strong demonstrations of filial
affection had been checked by that father's habitually stern manner.
Brought up by a female relative in Cheshire, who had taken charge of her
on her mother's death, which had occurred during her infancy, she had
known little of her father till late years, when she had come to reside
with him, and, though devout by nature, she could ill reconcile herself
to the gloomy notions of religion he entertained, or to the ascetic mode
of life he practised. With no desire to share in the pomps and vanities
of life, she could not be persuaded that cheerfulness was incompatible
with righteousness; nor could all the railings she heard against them
make her hate those who differed from her in religious opinions. Still
she made no complaint. Entirely obedient to her father's will, she
accommodated herself, as far as she could, to the rule of life
prescribed by him. Aware of his pertinacity of opinion, she seldom or
ever argued a point with him, even if she thought right might be on her
side; holding it better to maintain peace by submission, than to hazard
wrath by disputation. The discussion on the May Games was an exception
to her ordinary conduct, and formed one of the few instances in which
she had ventured to assert her own opinion in opposition to that of her
Of late, indeed, she had felt great uneasiness about him. Much changed,
he seemed occupied by some dark, dread thought, which partially revealed
itself in wrathful exclamations and muttered menaces. He seemed to
believe himself chosen by Heaven as an instrument of vengeance against
oppression; and her fears were excited lest he might commit some
terrible act under this fatal impression. She was the more confirmed in
the idea from the eagerness with which he had grasped at Jocelyn's rash
promise, and she determined to put the young man upon his guard.
If, in order to satisfy the reader's curiosity, we are obliged to
examine the state of Aveline's heart, in reference to Jocelyn, we must
state candidly that no such ardent flame was kindled within it as burnt
in the breast of the young man. That such a flame might arise was very
possible, nay even probable, seeing that the sparks of love were there;
and material for combustion was by no means wanting. All that was
required was, that those sparks should be gently fanned--not heedlessly
Little was said by the two young persons, as they slowly paced the
terrace. Both felt embarrassed: Jocelyn longing to give utterance to his
feelings, but restrained by timidity--Aveline trembling lest more might
be said than she ought to hear, or if obliged to hear, than she could
rightly answer. Thus they walked on in silence. But it was a silence
more eloquent than words, since each comprehended what the other felt.
How much they would have said was proclaimed by the impossibility they
found of saying anything!
At length, Jocelyn stopped, and plucking a flower, observed, as he
proffered it for her acceptance, "My first offering to you was rejected.
May this be more fortunate."
"Make me a promise, and I will accept it," she replied.
"Willingly,", cried Jocelyn, venturing to take her hand, and gazing at
her tenderly. "Most willingly."
"You are far too ready to promise," she rejoined with a sad, sweet
smile. "What I desire is this. Recall your hasty pledge to my father,
and aid me in dissuading him from the enterprise in which he would
As the words were uttered the Puritan stepped from behind the alley
which had enabled him to approach them unperceived, and overhear their
"Hold!" he exclaimed in a solemn tone, and regarding Jocelyn with great
earnestness. "That promise is sacred. It was made in a father's name,
and must be fulfilled. As to my purpose it is unchangeable."
The enthusiast's influence over Jocelyn would have proved irresistible
but for the interposition of Aveline.
"Be not controlled by him," she said in a low tone to the young man;
adding to her father, "For my sake, let the promise be cancelled."
"Let him ask it, and it shall be," rejoined the Puritan, gazing steadily
at the young man, as if he would penetrate his soul. "Do you hesitate?"
he cried in accents of deep disappointment, perceiving Jocelyn waver.
"You cannot misunderstand his wishes, father," said Aveline.
"Let him speak for himself," Hugh Calveley exclaimed angrily. "Jocelyn
Mounchensey!" he continued, folding his arms upon his breast, and
regarding the young man fixedly as before, "son of my old friend! son
of him who died in my arms! son of him whom I committed to the earth! if
thou hast aught of thy father's true spirit, thou wilt rigidly adhere to
a pledge voluntarily given, and which, uttered as it was uttered by
thee, has all the sanctity, all the binding force of a vow before
Heaven, where it is registered, and approved by him who is gone before
Greatly moved by this appeal, Jocelyn might have complied with it, but
Aveline again interposed.
"Not so, father," she cried. "The spirits of the just made perfect--and
of such is the friend you mention--would never approve of the design
with which you would link this young man, in consequence of a promise
rashly made. Discharge him from it, I entreat you."
Her energy shook even the Puritan's firmness.
"Be it as thou wilt, daughter," he said, after the pause of a few
moments, during which he waited for Jocelyn to speak; but, as the young
man said nothing, he rightly interpreted his silence,--"be it as thou
wilt, since he, too, wills it so. I give him back his promise. But let
me see him no more."
"Sir, I beseech you--" cried Jocelyn.
But he was cut short by the Puritan, who, turning from him
contemptuously, said to his daughter--"Let him depart immediately."
Aveline signed to the young man to go; but finding him remain
motionless, she took him by the hand, and led him some way along the
terrace. Then, releasing her hold, she bade him farewell!
"Wherefore have you done this?" inquired Jocelyn reproachfully.
"Question me not; but be satisfied I have acted for the best," she
replied. "O Jocelyn!" she continued anxiously, "if an opportunity should
occur to you of serving my father, do not neglect it."
"Be assured I will not," the young man replied. "Shall we not meet
again?" he asked, in a tone of deepest anxiety.
"Perhaps," she answered. "But you must go. My father will become
impatient. Again farewell!"
On this they separated: the young man sorrowfully departing, while her
footsteps retreated in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile the May games went forward on the green with increased spirit
and merriment, and without the slightest hinderance. More than once the
mummers had wheeled their mazy rounds, with Gillian and Dick Taverner
footing it merrily in the midst of them. More than once the audacious
'prentice, now become desperately enamoured of his pretty partner, had
ventured to steal a kiss from her lips. More than once he had whispered
words of love in her ear; though, as yet, he had obtained no tender
response. Once--and once only--had he taken her hand; but then he had
never quitted it afterwards. In vain other swains claimed her for a
dance. Dick refused to surrender his prize. They breakfasted together in
a little bower made of green boughs, the most delightful and lover-like
retreat imaginable. Dick's appetite, furious an hour ago, was now clean
gone. He could eat nothing. He subsisted on love alone. But as she was
prevailed upon to sip from a foaming tankard of Whitsun ale, he quaffed
the remainder of the liquid with rapture. This done, they resumed their
merry sports, and began to dance, again. The bells continued to ring
blithely, the assemblage to shout, and the minstrels to play. A strange
contrast to what was passing in the Puritan's garden.
The magnificent palace of Theobalds, situated near Cheshunt, in
Hertfordshire, originally the residence of the great Lord Treasurer
Burleigh, and the scene of his frequent and sumptuous entertainments to
Queen Elizabeth and the ambassadors to her Court, when she "was seen,"
says Stow, "in as great royalty, and served as bountifully and
magnificently as at any other time or place, all at his lordship's
charge; with rich shows, pleasant devices, and all manner of sports, to
the great delight of her Majesty and her whole train, with great thanks
from all who partook of it, and as great commendations from all that
heard of it abroad:"--this famous and delightful palace, with its
stately gardens, wherein Elizabeth had so often walked and held converse
with her faithful counsellor; and its noble parks and chases, well
stocked with deer, wherein she had so often hunted; came into possession
of James the First, in the manner we shall proceed to relate, some years
before the date of this history.
James first made acquaintance with Theobalds during his progress from
Scotland to assume the English crown, and it was the last point at
which he halted before entering the capital of his new dominions. Here,
for four days, he and his crowd of noble attendants were guests of Sir
Robert Cecil, afterwards Earl of Salisbury, who proved himself the
worthy son of his illustrious and hospitable sire by entertaining the
monarch and his numerous train in the same princely style that the Lord
Treasurer had ever displayed towards Queen Elizabeth. An eyewitness has
described the King's arrival at Theobalds on this occasion. "Thus,
then," says John Savile, "for his Majesty's coming up the walk, there
came before him some of the nobility, barons, knights, esquires,
gentlemen, and others, amongst whom was the sheriff of Essex, and most
of his men, the trumpets sounding next before his highness, sometimes
one, sometimes another; his Majesty riding not continually betwixt the
same two, but sometimes one, sometimes another, as seemed best to his
highness; the whole nobility of our land and Scotland round about him
observing no place of superiority, all bare-headed, all of whom alighted
from their horses at their entrance into the first court, save only his
Majesty alone, who rid along still, four noblemen laying their hands
upon his steed, two before and two behind. In this manner he came to the
court door, where I myself stood. At the entrance into that court stood
many noblemen, amongst whom was Sir Robert Cecil, who there meeting his
Majesty conducted him into his house, all which was practised with as
great applause of the people as could be, hearty prayer, and throwing up
of hats. His Majesty had not stayed above an hour in his chamber, but
hearing the multitude throng so fast into the uppermost court to see his
highness, he showed himself openly out of his chamber window by the
space of half an hour together; after which time he went into the
labyrinth-like garden to walk, where he secreted himself in the
Meander's compact of bays, rosemary, and the like overshadowing his
walk, to defend him from the heat of the sun till supper time, at which
was such plenty of provision for all sorts of men in their due places as
struck me with admiration. And first, to begin with the ragged
regiments, and such as were debarred the privilege of any court, these
were so sufficiently rewarded with beef, veal, mutton, bread, and beer,
that they sung holiday every day, and kept a continual feast. As for
poor maimed and distressed soldiers, which repaired thither for
maintenance, the wine, money, and meat which they had in very bounteous
sort, hath become a sufficient spur to them to blaze it abroad since
their coming to London." The reader will marvel at the extraordinary and
unstinting hospitality practised in those days, which, as we have shown,
was exhibited to all comers, irrespective of rank, even to the "ragged
regiments," and which extended its bounties in the shape of alms to the
wounded and disabled veteran. We find no parallel to it in modern times.
Theobalds produced a highly favourable impression upon James, who,
passionately attached to the chase, saw in its well-stocked parks the
means of gratifying his tastes to the fullest extent. Its contiguity to
Enfield Chase was also a great recommendation; and its situation,
beautiful in itself, was retired, and yet within easy distance of the
metropolis. It appeared to him to combine all the advantages of a royal
hunting-seat with all the splendours of a palace; and his predilections
were confirmed by a second visit paid by him to it in 1606, when he was
accompanied by his brother-in-law, Christianus, King of Denmark, and
when the two monarchs were gloriously entertained by the Earl of
Salisbury. The Danish king drank inordinately; so did the whole of his
suite: and they soon inoculated the English Court with their sottish
tastes. Bonnie King Jamie himself got _fou_ twice a-day; and, melancholy
to relate, the ladies of the Court followed the royal example, and,
"abandoning their sobriety, were seen to roll about in intoxication." So
says Sir John Harington, who has given a very diverting account of the
orgies at Theobalds, and the inebriate extravagances of Christianus.
"One day," writes Sir John, "a great feast was held; and after dinner
the representation of Solomon's Temple and the coming of the Queen of
Sheba was made, or (as I may better say) was meant to have been made
before their Majesties, by device of the Earl of Salisbury and others.
But alas! as all earthly things do fail to poor mortals in enjoyment, so
did prove our presentment thereof. The lady that did play the Queen's
part did carry most precious gifts to both their Majesties, but
forgetting the steps arising to the canopy, overset her casket into his
Danish Majesty's lap, and fell at his feet, though I rather think it was
into his face. Much was the hurry and confusion. Cloths and napkins were
at hand to make all clean. His Majesty then got up, and would dance with
the Queen of Sheba; but he fell down and humbled himself before her, and
was carried to an inner chamber, and laid on a bed of state. The
entertainment and show went forward, and most of the presenters went
backward, or fell down; wine did so occupy their upper chambers." Worthy
Sir John seems to have been greatly scandalized, as he well might be, at
these shameless proceedings, and he exclaims pathetically, "The Danes
have again conquered the Britons; for I see no man, or woman either,
that can command himself or herself." Nor does he fail to contrast these
"strange pageantries" with what occurred of the same sort, in the same
place, in Queen Elizabeth's time, observing, "I never did see such lack
of good order, discretion, and sobriety as I have now done."
Having set his heart upon Theobalds, James offered the Earl of
Salisbury, in exchange for it, the palace and domains of Hatfield; and
the proposal being accepted (it could not very well be refused), the
delivery of the much-coveted place was made on the 22nd May, 1607; the
Prince Joinville, brother to the Duke de Guise, being present on the
occasion, where fresh festivities were held, accompanied by an
indifferent Masque from Ben Jonson. Whether the King or the Earl had the
best of the bargain, we are not prepared to decide.
Enchanted with his acquisition, James commenced the work of improvement
and embellishment by enlarging the park, appropriating a good slice of
Enfield Chace, with parts of Northaw and Cheshunt Commons, and
surrounding the whole with a high brick wall ten miles in circumference.
Within this ring he found ample scope for the indulgence of his hunting
propensities, since it contained an almost inexhaustible stock of the
finest deer in the kingdom; and within it might be heard the sound of
his merry horn, and the baying of his favourite stag-hounds, whenever he
could escape from the cares of state, or the toils of the
council-chamber. His escapes from these demands upon his time were so
frequent, and the attraction of the woods of Theobalds so irresistible,
that remonstrances were made to him on the subject; but they proved
entirely ineffectual. He declared he would rather return to Scotland
than forego his amusements.
Theobalds, in the time of its grandeur, might be styled the
Fontainebleau of England. Though not to be compared with Windsor Castle
in grandeur of situation, or magnificence of forest scenery, still it
was a stately residence, and worthy of the monarch of a mighty country.
Crowned with four square towers of considerable height and magnitude,
each with a lion and vane on the top; it had besides, a large,
lantern-shaped central turret, proudly domineering over the others, and
"made with timber of excellent workmanship, curiously wrought with
divers pinnacles at each corner, wherein were hung twelve bells for
chimage, and a clock with chimes of sundry work." The whole structure
was built, says the survey, "of excellent brick, with coigns, jambs, and
cornices of stone." Approached from the south by a noble avenue of
trees, planted in double rows, and a mile in length, it presented a
striking and most picturesque appearance, with its lofty towers, its
great gilded vanes, supported, as we have said, by lions, its crowd of
twisted chimnies, its leaded and arched walks, its balconies, and its
immense bay windows. Nor did it lose its majestic and beautiful aspect
as you advanced nearer, and its vast proportions became more fully
developed. Then you perceived its grand though irregular facades, its
enormous gates, its cloistered walks, and its superb gardens; and
comprehended that with its five courts and the countless apartments they
contained, to say nothing of the world of offices, that the huge edifice
comprised a town within itself--and a well-peopled town too. The members
of the household, and the various retainers connected with it, were
multitudinous as the rooms themselves.
One charm and peculiarity of the palace, visible from without, consisted
in the arched walks before referred to, placed high up on the building,
on every side. Screened from the weather, these walks looked upon the
different courts and gardens, and commanded extensive views of the
lovely sylvan scenery around. Hence Cheshunt and Waltham Abbey, Enfield,
and other surrounding villages, could be distinguished through the green
vistas of the park.
On the south, facing the grand avenue, was "a large open cloister, built
upon several large fair pillars of stone, arched over with seven arches,
with a fair rail, and balusters, well painted with the Kings and Queens
of England, and the pedigree of the old Lord Burleigh, and divers other
The body of the palace consisted of two large quadrangles: one of which,
eighty-six feet square, was denominated the Fountain Court, from the
circumstance of a fountain of black and white marble standing within
it. The other quadrangle, somewhat larger, being one hundred and ten
feet square, was called the Middle Court. In addition to these, there
were three other smaller courts, respectively entitled the Dial Court,
the Buttery Court, and the Dove-house Court, wherein the offices were
On the east side of the Fountain Court stood an arched cloister; and on
the ground-floor there was a spacious hall, paved with marble, and
embellished with a curiously-carved ceiling. Adjoining it were the
apartments assigned to the Earl of Salisbury as Keeper of Theobalds, the
council-chamber, and the chambers of Sir Lewis Lewkener, Master of the
Ceremonies, and Sir John Finett. Above was the presence-chamber,
wainscotted with oak, painted in liver-colour and gilded, having rich
pendents from the ceiling, and vast windows resplendent with armorial
bearings. Near this were the privy-chamber and the King's bed-chamber,
together with a wide gallery, one hundred and twenty-three feet in
length, wainscotted and roofed like the presence-chamber, but yet more
gorgeously fretted and painted. Its walls were ornamented with stags'
heads with branching antlers. On the upper floor were the rooms assigned
to the Duke of Lennox, as Lord Chamberlain, and close to them was one of
the external leaded walks before alluded to, sixty-two feet long-and
eleven wide, which, from its eminent position, carried the gaze to Ware.
In the Middle-court were the Queen's apartments, comprising her chapel,
presence-chamber, and other rooms, and over them a gallery nearly equal
in length to that reserved for the King. In this quadrangle, also, were
Prince Charles's lodgings. Over the latter was the Green Gallery, one
hundred and nine feet in length, and proportionately wide. And above the
gallery was another external covered walk, wherein were two "lofty
arches of brick, of no small ornament to the house, and rendering it
comely and pleasant to all that passed by."
The gardens were enchanting, and in perfect keeping with the palace.
Occupying several acres. They seemed infinitely larger than they were,
since they abounded in intricate alleys, labyrinths, and mazes; so that
you were easily lost within them, and sometimes wanted a clue to come
forth. They contained some fine canals, fountains, and statues. In
addition to the great gardens were the priory-gardens, with other
inclosures for pheasants, aviaries, and menageries; for James was very
fond of wild beasts, and had a collection of them worthy of a zoological
garden. In one of his letters to Buckingham when the latter was at
Madrid, we find him inquiring about the elephant, camels, and wild
asses. He had always a camel-house at Theobalds. To close our
description, we may add that the tennis-court, _manege_ stable kennels,
and falconry were on a scale of magnitude proportionate to the palace.
Beneath the wide-spreading branches of a noble elm, forming part of the
great avenue, and standing at a short distance from the principal,
entrance to the palace, were collected together, one pleasant afternoon
in May, a small group of persons, consisting almost entirely of the
reader's acquaintances. Chief amongst them was Jocelyn Mounchensey, who,
having dismounted and fastened his horse to the branch, was leaning
against the large trunk of the tree, contemplating the magnificent
structure we have attempted to describe. Unacquainted as yet with its
internal splendours, he had no difficulty in comprehending them from
what he beheld from without. The entrance gates were open, and a wide
archway beyond leading to the great quadrangle, gave him a view of its
beautiful marble fountain in the midst, ornamented with exquisite
statues of Venus and Cupid. Numerous officers of the household, pages,
ushers, and serving-men in the royal liveries, with now and then some
personage of distinction, were continually passing across the Fountain
Court. Gaily attired courtiers, in doublets of satin and mantles of
velvet, were lounging in the balconies of the presence-chamber, staring
at Jocelyn and his companions for, want of better occupation. Other
young nobles, accompanied by richly-habited dames--some of them the
highest-born and loveliest in the land--were promenading to and fro upon
the garden terrace on the right, chattering and laughing loudly. There
was plenty of life and movement everywhere. Even in the Lord
Chamberlain's walk, which, as we have said, was contrived in the upper
part of the structure, and formed a sort of external gallery, three
persons might be discerned; and to save the reader any speculation, we
will tell him that these persons were the Duke of Lennox (Lord
Chamberlain), the Conde de Gondomar (the Spanish lieger-ambassador), and
the Lord Roos. In front of the great gates were stationed four warders
with the royal badge woven in gold on the front and back of their
crimson doublets, with roses in their velvet hats, roses in their
buskins, and halberts over their shoulders. Just within the gates stood
a gigantic porter, a full head and shoulders taller than the burly
warders themselves. From the summit of the lofty central tower of the
palace floated the royal banner, discernible by all the country round.
On the other side of the tree against which Jocelyn was leaning, and
looking down the long avenue, rather than towards the palace, stood Dick
Taverner, who however bestowed little attention upon his master, being
fully occupied by a more attractive object close at hand. Dickon, it
appeared, had succeeded in inducing Gillian Greenford to accompany him
in the expedition to Theobalds, and as the fair damsel could not of
course go alone, she had cajoled her good-natured old grandsire into
conveying her thither; and she was now seated behind him upon a pillion
placed on the back of a strong, rough-coated, horse. Dick was in
raptures at his success. The ride from Tottenham had been delightful.
They had tarried for a short time to drink a cup of ale at the Bell at
Edmonton, where Dick meant to have breakfasted, though chance had so
agreeably prevented him, and where the liquor was highly approved by the
old farmer, who became thenceforth exceedingly chatty, and talked of
nothing else but good Queen Bess and her frequent visits to Theobalds in
the old Lord Burleigh's time, during the rest of the journey. Little
heed was paid to his garrulity by the young couple. They let him talk
on, feigning to listen, but in reality noting scarce a word he said. As
they entered the park of Theobalds, however, they found their tongues,
and Gillian became loud in her admiration of the beautiful glades that
opened before them, and of the dappled denizens of the wood that tripped
lightsomely across the sward, or hurried towards the thickets. The park,
indeed, looked beautiful with its fine oaks in their freshly-opened
foliage of the tenderest green, its numerous spreading beeches, its
scattered thorns white with blossom, and the young fern just springing
from the seed in the brakes. No wonder Gillian was delighted. Dick was
equally enchanted, and regretted he was not like King James, master of a
great park, that he might hunt within it at his pleasure. Of course, if
he had been king, Gillian would naturally have been his queen, and have
hunted with him. Old Greenford, too, admired the scene, and could not
but admit that the park was improved, though he uttered something like a
groan as he thought that Queen Elizabeth and the Lord Treasurer could be
seen in it no longer.
After riding for a couple of miles along a road which led them over
beautifully undulating ground, affording glimpses of every variety of
forest scenery--sometimes plunging them into the depths of groves, where
the path was covered by over-arching trees--sometimes crossing the open
chace, studded by single aged oaks of the largest size--sometimes,
skirting the margin of a pool, fringed with flags, reeds, and bulrushes
for the protection of the water-fowl--now passing the large heronry, to
the strict preservation of which James attached the utmost importance;
they at length approached the long avenue leading to the palace. At its
entrance they found Jocelyn waiting for them.
The young man, who cared not for their company, had ridden on in
advance. The strange events of the morning gave him plenty of material
for reflection, and he longed to commune with himself. Accordingly,
when the others stopped at Edmonton, he quitted them, promising to halt
till they came up, before entering the precincts of the palace. If his
ride was not so agreeable as their's, it at least enabled him to regain,
in some degree, his composure of mind, which had been greatly disturbed
by his abrupt parting with Aveline. Her image was constantly before him,
and refusing to be dismissed, connected itself with every object he
beheld. At first he despaired of meeting her again; but as he gradually
grew calmer, his hopes revived, and difficulties which seemed
insuperable began to disperse. By the time Dick Taverner and his
companions came up, he felt some disposition to talk, and Gillian's
hearty merriment and high spirits helped to enliven him. Having
ascertained, from one of the royal keepers whom he had encountered, that
the King, with a large company, was out hawking on the banks of the New
River, which was cut through the park, and that he would in all
probability return through the great avenue to the palace, he proposed
that they should station themselves somewhere within it, in order to see
him pass. This arrangement pleased all parties, so proceeding slowly up
the avenue, they took up a position as described.
More than an hour, however, elapsed, and still James, who no doubt was
pleased with his sport, came not.
Without being aware of their high quality, or having the slightest
notion that the Conde Gondomar was one of them, Jocelyn had remarked the
three personages in the Lord Chamberlain's Walk. He had seen them pause,
and apparently look towards the little group of which he himself formed
part. Shortly after this, two of the party retired, leaving the third
alone in the gallery. By-and-by these two individuals were seen to cross
the Fountain Court, and passing through the great gates, to direct their
steps towards the avenue.
As they approached, Jocelyn recognised one of them as Lord Roos, whom he
had seen play so singular a part at Madame Bonaventure's ordinary. The
other was wholly unknown to him. But that he was a person of the utmost
distinction he felt convinced, as well from his haughty bearing and
sumptuous attire, as from the evident respect paid him by his companion.
In stature he was rather short, being somewhat under the ordinary
standard; but his figure was admirably proportioned, and was displayed
to the greatest advantage by his rich habiliments. His doublet was of
sea-green satin, embroidered with silver and black, with rich open
sleeves, and his Spanish cloak was of velvet of the same colour and
similarly embroidered. His hose were of tawny silk, and the plumes in
his bonnet black, striped with white. He was decorated with the order of
the Golden Fleece, and bore at his side a genuine blade of Toledo, with
a handle of rarest workmanship. Bound his throat he wore a large, triple
ruff, edged with pointed lace. His face was oval in shape, his
complexion of a rich olive hue, his eyes large, dark, and keen, his
features singularly handsome, and his looks penetrating. His hair was
raven-black, cut short, and removed from the forehead.
Lord Roos and his companion passed close to Jocelyn without appearing to
notice him; but they halted before Gillian, regarding her with insolent
admiration. Evidently she was the object that had brought them forth.
The poor damsel was terribly confused by their ardent glances and
libertine scrutiny, and blushed to her very temples. As to Dick
Taverner, he trembled with rage and jealousy, and began to repent having
brought his treasure into such a dangerous neighbourhood.
The person who seemed to be most struck with Gillian's charms was the
wearer of the Spanish mantle.
"En verdad!" he exclaimed, "that is the loveliest piece of rusticity I
have seen since I came to England. I thought mine eyes did not deceive
me, as to her beauty, when I caught sight of her from the Lord
"The Conde de Gondomar hath ever an eagle's eye for a pretty woman,"
Lord Roos replied, laughing.
"The Conde de Gondomar!" mentally ejaculated Jocelyn, who had overheard
what he said. "Why, this is he to whom the ring must be shown. The
opportunity must not be lost."
Accordingly, regardless of the impropriety of the proceeding, he
uncovered his head, and advancing towards the Spaniard said--
"I believe I have the honour of addressing the Conde de Gondomar?"
"What means this intrusion, Sir?" Lord Roos demanded insolently. "What
have you to say to his Excellency?"
"I bring him a token, my lord," the young man replied, exhibiting the
ring, given him by the masked horseman, to the ambassador.
"Ha!" exclaimed De Gondomar, glancing at the ring, and then regarding
Jocelyn steadfastly, "I must speak with this young man, my lord."
"And abandon the damsel?" demanded Lord Roos.
"No--no--you must take care of her," De Gondomar replied in a low tone.
"Can you not induce Lady Exeter to take her into her service?"
"I will try," Lord Roos replied. "And see!" he added, pointing down the
avenue, "the royal party is returning, so I can at once ascertain
whether her ladyship will second your Excellency's designs."
"Do so," said De Gondomar, "and I shall be for ever indebted to you.
This girl has quite taken my fancy, and I must not lose her. And now,
Sir," he added, stepping aside with Jocelyn, "you have brought me the
token from my assured agent, and I understand from it that you are a
person upon whom I may rely."
"In all that beseems a gentleman and a man of honour and loyalty your
Excellency may rely on me," Jocelyn replied.
"I shall require nothing inconsistent with those principles," the
Spanish Ambassador said. "This point disposed of, let me know how I can
serve you, for I presume you have some request to prefer?"
"Your Excellency can very materially serve me," Jocelyn returned. "I am
"I thought as much," De Gondomar observed with a smile. "Since you have
placed yourself under my protection, I will do my best to hold you
harmless. But who is your enemy?"
"I have two deadly enemies, Sir Giles Mompesson and Sir Francis
Mitchell," Jocelyn rejoined.
"I know them well--instruments of Buckingham," said De Gondomar. "They
are indeed dangerous enemies."
"I have another yet more dangerous," returned Jocelyn. "I have reason to
fear that, by boldness of speech I have incurred the enmity of the
Marquis of Buckingham himself."
"Ah! this, indeed, is serious," said De Gondomar.
"I am threatened with arrest by the Star-Chamber," pursued Jocelyn; "so
your Excellency will perceive that my position is fraught with extreme
peril. Still I persuade myself, if I could obtain a hearing of the
King, I should be able to set my enemies at defiance and obtain my
De Gondomar smiled somewhat scornfully.
"You will obtain little in that way," he said, "and your enemies will
crush you effectually. But you must explain to me precisely how you are
circumstanced, and I will then consider what can be done for you. And
begin by acquainting me with your name and condition, for as yet I am
entirely ignorant whom I am addressing."
Upon this Jocelyn succinctly related to the Ambassador all such
particulars of his history as have been laid before the reader. De
Gondomar listened to him with attention, and put some questions to him
as he proceeded. At its close his countenance brightened.
"You are in an awkward dilemma, it must be owned, Master Jocelyn
Mounchensey," he said. "But I think I can protect you in spite of them
all--in spite of Buckingham himself. Luckily, he is not at Theobalds at
present--so the coast is clear for action. The first blow is half the
battle. I must present you to the King without delay. And see, his
Majesty approaches. Stand close behind me, and act as I advise you by a
King James the First.
Meantime the royal cavalcade came slowly up the avenue. It was very
numerous, and all the more brilliant in appearance, since it comprised
nearly as many high-born dames as nobles. Amongst the distinguished
foreigners who with their attendants swelled the party were the Venetian
lieger-ambassador Giustiniano, and the Marquis de Tremouille, of the
family des Ursins, ambassador from France.
These exalted personages rode close behind the King, and one or the
other of them was constantly engaged in conversation with him.
Giustiniano had one of those dark, grave, handsome countenances
familiarized to us by the portraits of Titian and Tintoretto, and even
the King's jests failed in making him smile. He was apparelled entirely
in black velvet, with a cloak bordered with the costly fur of the black
fox. All his followers were similarly attired. The sombre Venetian
presented a striking contrast to his vivacious companion, the gay and
graceful De Tremouille, who glittered in white satin, embroidered with
leaves of silver, while the same colour and the same ornaments were
adopted by his retinue.
No order of precedence was observed by the court nobles. Each rode as
he listed. Prince Charles was absent, and so was the supreme favourite
Buckingham; but their places were supplied by some of the chief
personages of the realm, including the Earls of Arundel, Pembroke, and
Montgomery, the Marquis of Hamilton, and the Lords Haddington, Fenton,
and Doncaster. Intermingled with the nobles, the courtiers of lesser
rank, and the ambassadors' followers, were the ladies, most of whom
claimed attention from personal charms, rich attire, and the grace and
skill with which they managed their horses.
Perhaps the most beautiful amongst them was the young Countess of
Exeter, whose magnificent black eyes did great execution. The lovely
Countess was mounted on a fiery Spanish barb, given to her by De
Gondomar. Forced into a union with a gouty and decrepit old husband, the
Countess of Exeter might have pleaded this circumstance in extenuation
of some of her follies. It was undoubtedly an argument employed by her
admirers, who, in endeavouring to shake her fidelity to her lord, told
her it was an infamy that she should be sacrificed to such an old dotard
as he. Whether these arguments prevailed in more cases than one we shall
not inquire too nicely; but, if court-scandal may be relied on, they
did--Buckingham and De Gondomar being both reputed to have been her
The last, however, in the list, and the one who appeared to be most
passionately enamoured of the beautiful Countess, and to receive the
largest share of her regard, was Lord Roos; and as this culpable
attachment and its consequences connect themselves intimately with our
history we have been obliged to advert to them thus particularly. Lord
Roos was a near relative of the Earl of Exeter; and although the infirm
and gouty old peer had been excessively jealous of his lovely young wife
on former occasions, when she had appeared to trifle with his honour, he
seemed perfectly easy and unsuspicious now, though there was infinitely
more cause for distrust. Possibly he had too much reliance on Lord
Roos's good feelings and principles to suspect him.
Very different was Lady Roos's conduct. This unhappy lady, whom we have
already mentioned as the daughter of Sir Thomas Lake, Secretary of
State, had the misfortune to be sincerely attached to her handsome but
profligate husband, whose neglect and frequent irregularities she had
pardoned, until the utter estrangement, occasioned by his passion for
the Countess of Exeter, filled her with such trouble, that, overpowered
at length by anguish, she complained to her mother Lady Lake,--an
ambitious and imperious woman, whose vanity had prompted her to bring
about this unfortunate match. Expressing the greatest indignation at the
treatment her daughter had experienced, Lady Lake counselled her to
resent it, undertaking herself to open the eyes of the injured Earl of
Exeter to his wife's infidelity; but she was dissuaded from her purpose
by Sir Thomas Lake. Though generally governed by his wife, Sir Thomas
succeeded, in this instance, in over-ruling her design of proceeding at
once to extremities with the guilty pair, recommending that, in the
first instance, Lord Roos should be strongly remonstrated with by Lady
Lake and her daughter, when perhaps his fears might be aroused, if his
sense of duty could not be awakened.
This final appeal had not yet been made; but an interview had taken
place between Lady Roos and her husband, at which, with many passionate
entreaties, she had implored him to shake off the thraldom in which he
had bound himself, and to return to her, when all should be forgiven and
forgotten,--but without effect.
Thus matters stood at present.
As we have seen, though the Countess of Exeter formed one of the chief
ornaments of the hawking party, Lord Roos had not joined it; his absence
being occasioned by a summons from the Conde de Gondomar, with some of
whose political intrigues he was secretly mixed up. Whether the Countess
missed him or not, we pretend not to say. All we are able to declare is,
she was in high spirits, and seemed in no mood to check the advances of
other aspirants to her favour. Her beautiful and expressive features
beamed with constant smiles, and her lustrous black eyes seemed to
create a flame wherever their beams alighted.
But we must quit this enchantress and her spells, and proceed with the
description of the royal party. In the rear of those on horseback walked
the falconers, in liveries of green cloth, with bugles hanging from the
shoulder; each man having a hawk upon his fist, completely 'tired in its
hood, bells, varvels, and jesses. At the heels of the falconers, and
accompanied by a throng of varlets, in russet jerkins, carrying staves,
came two packs of hounds,--one used for what was termed, in the language
of falconry, the Flight at the River,--these were all water-spaniels;
and the other, for the Flight at the Field. Nice music they made, in
spite of the efforts of the varlets in russet to keep them quiet.
Hawking, in those days, was what shooting is in the present;
fowling-pieces being scarcely used, if at all. Thus the varieties of the
hawk-tribe were not merely employed in the capture of pheasants,
partridges, grouse, rails, quails, and other game, besides water-fowl,
but in the chase of hares; and in all of these pursuits the falconers
were assisted by dogs. Game, of course, could only be killed at
particular seasons of the year; and wild-geese, wild-ducks, woodcocks,
and snipes in the winter; but spring and summer pastime was afforded by
the crane, the bustard, the heron, the rook, and the kite; while, at
the same periods, some of the smaller description of water-fowl offered
excellent sport on lake or river.
A striking and picturesque sight that cavalcade presented, with its
nodding plumes of many colours, its glittering silks and velvets, its
proud array of horsemen, and its still prouder array of lovely women,
whose personal graces and charms baffle description, while they invite
it. Pleasant were the sounds that accompanied the progress of the train:
the jocund laugh, the musical voices of women, the jingling of bridles,
the snorting and trampling of steeds, the baying of hounds, the shouts
of the varlets, and the winding of horns.
But having, as yet, omitted the principal figure, we must hasten to
describe him by whom the party was headed. The King, then, was mounted
on a superb milk-white steed, with wide-flowing mane and tail, and of
the easiest and gentlest pace. Its colour was set off by its red
chanfrein, its nodding crest of red feathers, its broad poitrinal with
red tassels, and its saddle with red housings. Though devoted to the
chase, as we have shown, James was but an indifferent horseman; and his
safety in the saddle was assured by such high-bolstered bows in front
and at the back, that it seemed next to impossible he could be shaken
out of them. Yet, in spite of all these precautions, accidents had
befallen him. On one occasion, Sir Symonds D'Ewes relates that he was
thrown headlong into a pond; and on another, we learn from a different
source that he was cast over his horse's head into the New River, and
narrowly escaped drowning, his boots alone being visible above the ice
covering the stream. Moreover the monarch's attire was excessively stiff
and cumbrous, and this, while it added to the natural ungainliness of
his person, prevented all freedom of movement, especially on horseback.
His doublet, which on the present occasion was of green velvet,
considerably frayed,--for he was by no means particular about the
newness of his apparel,--was padded and quilted so as to be
dagger-proof; and his hose were stuffed in the same manner, and
preposterously large about the hips. Then his ruff was triple-banded,
and so stiffly starched, that the head was fixed immovably amidst its
Though not handsome, James's features were thoughtful and intelligent,
with a gleam of cunning in the eye, and an expression of sarcasm about
the mouth, and they contained the type of the peculiar physiognomy that
distinguished all his unfortunate line. His beard was of a yellowish
brown, and scantily covered his chin, and his thin moustaches were of a
yet lighter hue. His hair was beginning to turn gray, but his complexion
was ruddy and hale, proving that, but for his constant ebriety and
indulgence in the pleasures of the table, he might have attained a good
old age--if, indeed, his life was not unfairly abridged. His large eyes
were for ever rolling about, and his tongue was too big for his mouth,
causing him to splutter in utterance, besides giving him a disagreeable
appearance when eating; while his legs were so weak, that he required
support in walking. Notwithstanding these defects, and his general
coarseness of manner, James was not without dignity, and could, when he
chose, assume a right royal air and deportment. But these occasions were
rare. As is well known, his pedantry and his pretensions to superior
wisdom and discrimination, procured him the title of the "Scottish
Solomon." His general character will be more fully developed as we
proceed; and we shall show the perfidy and dissimulation which he
practised in carrying out his schemes, and tried to soften down under
the plausible appellation of "King-craft."
James was never seen to greater advantage than on occasions like the
present. His hearty enjoyment of the sport he was engaged in; his
familiarity with all around him, even with the meanest varlets by whom
he was attended, and for whom he had generally some droll nickname; his
complete abandonment of all the etiquette which either he or his master
of the ceremonies observed elsewhere; his good-tempered vanity and
boasting about his skill as a woodsman,--all these things created an
impression in his favour, which was not diminished in those who were not
brought much into contact with him in other ways. When hunting or
hawking, James was nothing more than a hearty country gentleman engaged
in the like sports.
The cavalcade came leisurely on, for the King proceeded no faster than
would allow the falconers to keep easily up with those on horseback. He
was in high good humour, and laughed and jested sometimes with one
ambassador, sometimes with the other, and having finished a learned
discussion on the manner of fleeing a hawk at the river and on the
field, as taught by the great French authorities, Martin, Malopin, and
Aime Cassian, with the Marquis de Tremouille, had just begun a similar
conversation with Giustiniano as to the Italian mode of manning,
hooding, and reclaiming a falcon, as practised by Messer Francesco
Sforzino Vicentino, when he caught sight of the Conde de Gondomar,
standing where we left him at the side of the avenue, on which he came
to a sudden halt, and the whole cavalcade stopped at the same time.
"Salud! Conde magnifico!" exclaimed King James, as the Spaniard advanced
to make his obeisance to him; "how is it that we find you standing under
the shade of the tree friendly to the vine,--_amictoe vitibus ulmi_ as
Ovid hath it? Is it that yon blooming Chloe," he continued, leering
significantly at Gillian, "hath more attraction for you than our court
dames? Troth! the quean is not ill-favoured; but ye ha' lost a gude
day's sport, Count, forbye ither losses which we sall na particularize.
We hae had a noble flight at the heron, and anither just as guid after
the bustard. God's santy! the run the lang-leggit loon gave us. Lady
Exeter, on her braw Spanish barb--we ken whose gift it is--was the only
one able to keep with us; and it was her leddyship's ain peregrine
falcon that checked the fleeing carle at last. By our faith the Countess
understands the gentle science weel. She cared not to soil her dainty
gloves by rewarding her hawk with a _soppa_, as his Excellency
Giustiniano would term it, of the bustard's heart, bluid, and brains.
But wha hae ye gotten wi' ye?" he added, for the first time noticing
"A young gentleman in whom I am much interested, and whom I would crave
permission to present to your Majesty," replied De Gondomar.
"Saul of our body, Count, the permission is readily granted," replied
James, evidently much pleased with the young man's appearance. "Ye shall
bring him to us in the privy-chamber before we gang to supper, and
moreover ye shall hae full licence to advance what you please in his
behoof. He is a weel-grown, weel-favoured laddie, almost as much sae as
our ain dear dog Steenie; but we wad say to him, in the words of the
'O formose puer, nimium ne crede colori!'
Gude pairts are better than gude looks; not that the latter are to be
undervalued, but baith should exist in the same person. We shall soon
discover whether the young man hath been weel nurtured, and if all
correspond we shall not refuse him the light of our countenance."
"I tender your Majesty thanks for the favour you have conferred upon
him," replied De Gondomar.
"But ye have not yet tauld us the youth's name, Count?" said the King.
"Your Majesty, I trust, will not think I make a mystery where none is
needed, if I say that my protege claims your gracious permission to
preserve, for the moment, his incognito," De Gondomar replied. "When I
present him of course his name will be declared."
"Be it as you will, Count," James replied. "We ken fu' weel ye hae gude
reason for a' ye do. Fail not in your attendance on us at the time
As De Gondomar with a profound obeisance drew back, the King put his
steed in motion. General attention having been thus called to Jocelyn,
all eyes were turned towards him, his appearance and attire were
criticised, and much speculation ensued as to what could be the Spanish
Ambassador's motive for undertaking the presentation.
Meanwhile, Lord Roos had taken advantage of the brief halt of the
hunting party to approach the Countess of Exeter, and pointing out
Gillian to her, inquired in a low tone, and in a few words, to which,
however, his looks imparted significance, whether she would take the
pretty damsel into her service as tire-woman or handmaiden. The Countess
seemed surprised at the request, and, after glancing at the Beauty of
Tottenham, was about to refuse it, when Lord Roos urged in a whisper,
"'T is for De Gondomar I ask the favour."
"In that case I readily assent," the Countess replied. "I will go speak
to the damsel at once, if you desire it. How pretty she is! No wonder
his inflammable Excellency should be smitten by her." And detaching her
barb, as she spoke, from the cavalcade, she moved towards Gillian,
accompanied by Lord Roos. The pretty damsel was covered with fresh
confusion at the great lady's approach; and was, indeed, so greatly
alarmed, that she might have taken to her heels, if she had been on the
ground, and not on the pillion behind her grandsire.
"Be not abashed, my pretty maiden," the Countess said, in a kind and
encouraging tone; "there is nothing to be afraid of. Aware that I am in
want of a damsel like yourself, to tire my hair and attend upon me, Lord
Roos has drawn my attention to you; and if I may trust to
appearances--as I think I may," she added, with a very flattering and
persuasive smile, "in your case--you are the very person to suit me,
provided you are willing to enter my service. I am the Countess of
"A Countess!" exclaimed Gillian. "Do you hear that, grandsire? The
beautiful lady is a countess. What an honour it would be to serve her!"
"It might be," the old man replied, with hesitation, and in a whisper;
"yet I do not exactly like the manner of it."
"Don't accept the offer, Gillian. Don't go," said Dick Taverner, whose
breast was full of uneasiness.
"Your answer, my pretty maiden?" the Countess said, with a winning
"I am much beholden to you, my lady," Gillian replied, "and it will
delight me to serve you as you propose--that is, if I have my
grandsire's consent to it."
"And the good man, I am sure, has your welfare too much at heart to
withhold it," the Countess replied. "But follow me to the palace, and we
will confer further upon the matter. Inquire for the Countess of
Exeter's apartments." And with another gracious smile, she rejoined the
cavalcade, leaving Lord Roos behind. He thanked her with a look for her
"O Gillian, I am sure ill will come of this," Dick Taverner exclaimed.
"Wherefore should it?" she rejoined, almost beside herself with delight
at the brilliant prospect suddenly opened before her. "My fortune is
"You are right, my pretty damsel, it is," Lord Roos remarked. "Fail not
to do as the Countess has directed you, and I will answer for the rest."
"You hear what the kind young nobleman says, grandsire?" Gillian
whispered in his ear. "You cannot doubt his assurance?"
"I hear it all," old Greenford replied; "but I know not what to think. I
suppose we must go to the palace."
"To be sure we must," Gillian cried; "I will go there alone, if you will
not go with me."
Satisfied with what he had heard, Lord Roos moved away, nodding approval
The cavalcade, as we have said, was once more in motion, but before it
had proceeded far, it was again, most unexpectedly, brought to a halt.
Suddenly stepping from behind a large tree which had concealed him from
view, a man in military habiliments, with grizzled hair and beard, and
an exceedingly resolute and stern cast of countenance, planted himself
directly in the monarch's path, and extending his hand towards him,
exclaimed, in a loud voice,
"Stand! O King!"
"Who art thou, fellow? and what wouldst thou?" demanded James, who had
checked his horse with such suddenness as almost to throw himself out
of his high-holstered saddle.
"I have a message to deliver to thee from Heaven," replied Hugh
"Aha!" exclaimed James, recovering in some degree, for he thought he had
a madman to deal with. "What may thy message be?"
And willing to gain a character for courage, though it was wholly
foreign to his nature, he motioned those around him to keep back. "Thy
message, fellow!" he repeated.
"Hear, then, what Heaven saith to thee," the Puritan replied. "Have I
not brought thee out of a land of famine into a land of plenty? Thou
oughtest, therefore, to have judged my people righteously! But thou hast
perverted justice, and not relieved the oppressed. Therefore, unless
thou repent, I will rend thy kingdom from thee, and from thy posterity
after thee! Thus saith the Lord, whose messenger I am."
Consequences of the Puritan's warning.
Coupling Hugh Calveley's present strange appearance and solemn warning
with his previous denunciations uttered in secret, and his intimations
of some dread design, with which he had sought to connect the young man
himself, intimating that its execution would jeopardize his life;
putting these things together, we say, Jocelyn could not for an instant
doubt that the King was in imminent danger, and he felt called upon to
interfere, even though he should be compelled to act against his
father's friend, and the father of Aveline. No alternative, in fact, was
allowed him. As a loyal subject, his duty imperiously required him to
defend his sovereign; and perceiving that no one (in consequence of the
King's injunctions) advanced towards the Puritan, Jocelyn hastily
quitted the Conde de Gondomar, and rushing forward stationed himself
between the monarch and his bold admonisher; and so near to the latter,
that he could easily prevent any attack being made by him upon James.
Evidently disconcerted by the movement, Hugh Calveley signed to the
young man to stand aside, but Jocelyn refused compliance; the rather
that he suspected from the manner in which the other placed his hand in
his breast that he had some weapon concealed about his person. Casting a
look of bitterest reproach at him, which plainly as words
said--"Ungrateful boy, thou hast prevented my purpose," the Puritan
folded his hands upon his breast with an air of deep disappointment.
"Fly!" cried Jocelyn, in a tone calculated only to reach his ears. "I
will defend you with my life. Waste not another moment--fly!"
But Hugh Calveley regarded him with cold disdain, and though he moved
not his lips, he seemed to say, "You have destroyed me; and I will not
remove the guilt of my destruction from your head."
The Puritan's language and manner had filled James with astonishment and
fresh alarm; but feeling secure in the propinquity of Jocelyn to the
object of his uneasiness, and being closely environed by his retinue,
the foremost of whom had drawn their swords and held themselves in
readiness to defend him from the slightest hostile attempt, it was not
unnatural that even so timorous a person as he, should regain his
confidence. Once more, therefore, he restrained by his gestures the
angry impetuosity of the nobles around him, who were burning to chastise
the rash intruder, and signified his intention of questioning him before
any measures were adopted against him.
"Let him be," he cried. "He is some puir demented creature fitter for
Bedlam than anywhere else; and we will see that he be sent thither; but
molest him not till we hae spoken wi' him, and certified his condition
more fully. Quit not the position ye hae sae judiciously occupied, young
Sir, albeit against our orders," he cried to Jocelyn. "Dinna draw your
blade unless the fellow seeks to come till us. Not that we are under ony
apprehension; but there are bluidthirsty traitors even in our pacific
territories, and as this may be ane of them, it is weel not to neglect
due precaution. And now, man," he added, raising his voice, and
addressing the Puritan, who still maintained a steadfast and unmoved
demeanour, with his eye constantly fixed upon his interrogator. "Ye say
ye are a messenger frae heaven. An it be sae,--whilk we take leave to
doubt, rather conceiving ye to be an envoy from the Prince of Darkness
than an ambassador from above,--an ill choice hath been made in ye. Unto
what order of prophets do ye conceive yourself to belong?"
To this interrogation, propounded in a jeering tone, the Puritan deigned
no reply; but an answer was given for him by Archee, the court jester,
who had managed in the confusion to creep up to his royal master's side.
"He belongs to the order of Melchisedec," said Archee. A reply that
occasioned some laughter among the nobles, in which the King joined
"Tut, fule! ye are as daft as the puir body before us," cried James.
"Ken ye not that Melchisedec was a priest and not a prophet; while to
judge frae yon fellow's abulyiements, if he belongs to any church at
all, it maun be to the church militant. And yet, aiblins, ye are na sae
far out after a'. Like aneuch, he may be infected with the heresy of the
Melchisedecians,--a pestilent sect, who plagued the early Christian
Church sairly, placing their master aboon our Blessed Lord himself, and
holding him to be identical wi' the Holy Ghaist. Are ye a
"I am a believer in the Gospel," the Puritan replied. "And am willing to
seal my faith in it with my blood. I am sent hither to warn thee, O
King, and thou wilt do well not to despise my words. Repent ere it be
too late. Wonderfully hath thy life been preserved. Dedicate the
remainder of thy days to the service of the Most High. Persecute not His
people, and revile them not. Purge thy City of its uncleanness and
idolatry, and thy Court of its corruption. Profane not the Sabbath"--
"I see how it is," interrupted Archee with a scream; "the man hath been
driven stark wud by your Majesty's Book of Sports."
"A book devised by the devil," cried Hugh Calveley, catching at the
suggestion; "and which ought to be publicly burnt by the hangman,
instead of being read in the churches. How much, mischief hath that
book done! How many abominations hath it occasioned! And, alas! how much
persecution hath it caused; for have not many just men, and sincere
preachers of the Word, been prosecuted in thy Court, misnamed of
justice, and known, O King! as the Star-Chamber; suffering stripes and
imprisonment for refusing to read thy mischievous proclamation to their
"I knew it!--I knew it!" screamed Archee, delighted with the effect he
had produced. "Take heed, sirrah," he cried to the Puritan, "that ye
make not acquaintance wi' 'that Court misnamed of justice' yer ain
"He is liker to be arraigned at our court styled the King's Bench, and
hanged, drawn, and quartered afterwards," roared James, far more enraged
at the disrespectful mention made of his manifesto, than by anything
that had previously occurred. "The man is not sae doited as we supposed
"He is not sane enough to keep his neck from the halter," rejoined
Archee. "Your Majesty should spare him, since you are indirectly the
cause of his malady."
"Intercede not for me," cried Hugh Calveley. "I would not accept any
grace at the tyrant's hands. Let him hew me in pieces, and my blood
shall cry out for vengeance upon his head."
"By our halidame! a dangerous traitor!" exclaimed James.
"Hear me, O King!" thundered the Puritan. "For the third and last time I
lift up my voice to warn thee. Visions have appeared to me in the night,
and mysterious voices have whispered in mine ear. They have revealed to
me strange and terrible things--but not more strange and terrible than
true. They have told me how thy posterity shall suffer for the injustice
thou doest to thy people. They have shown me a scaffold which a King
shall mount--and a block whereon a royal head shall be laid. But it
shall be better for that unfortunate monarch, though he be brought to
judgment by his people, than for him who shall be brought to judgment by
his God. Yet more. I have seen in my visions two Kings in exile: one of
whom shall be recalled, but the other shall die in a foreign land. As to
thee, thou mayst live on yet awhile in fancied security. But destruction
shall suddenly overtake thee. Thou shalt be stung to death by the
serpent thou nourishest in thy bosom."
Whatever credit might be attached to them, the Puritan's prophetic
forebodings produced, from the manner in which they were delivered, a
strong impression upon all his auditors. Unquestionably the man was in
earnest, and spoke like one who believed that a mission had been
entrusted to him. No interruption was offered to his speech, even by the
King, though the latter turned pale as these terrible coming events
were shadowed forth before him.
"His words are awsome," he muttered, "and gar the flesh creep on our
banes. Will nane o' ye stap his tongue?"
"Better hae stapt it afore this," said Archee; "he has said ower meikle,
or not aneuch, The Deil's malison on thee, fellow, for a prophet of ill!
Hast thou aught to allege why his Majesty should not tuck thee up with a
"I have spoken," responded the Puritan; "let the King do with me what he
"Seize him! arrest him! ye are nearest to him, Sir," shouted the king to
The command could not be disobeyed. As Jocelyn drew near, and laid his
hand upon Hugh Calveley, the latter looked reproachfully at him, saying,
"Thou doest well, son of my old friend."
Jocelyn was unable to reply, for a crowd now pressed forward on all
sides, completely surrounding the prisoner. Some of the nobles
threatened him with their swords, and the warders, who had come up from
the gateway, thrust at him with their partizans. Jocelyn had great
difficulty in shielding him from the infuriated throng.
"Touch him not!" he cried, clearing a space around them with the point
of his sword. "His Majesty has committed him to my custody, and I am
responsible for him. Pardon me if I disarm you, Sir," he added in an
undertone to the prisoner.
"Here is my sword," replied Hugh Calveley, unbuckling his belt and
delivering up the weapon it sustained to Jocelyn; "it hath never been
dishonoured, and," he added, lowering his voice, "it hath been twice
drawn in thy father's defence."
The reproach cut Jocelyn to the heart.
At this moment the crowd drew aside to allow the King's approach.
"Hath he been searched to see whether any deadly or offensive weapon is
concealed about him?" demanded James.
"He cannot have any more offensive weapon than his tongue," cried
Archee, who accompanied his royal master. "I counsel your Majesty to
deprive him of that."
"There is something hidden in his breast," cried one of the warders,
searching in his jerkin, and at length drawing forth a short, clumsy
pistol, or dag, as the weapon was then called. "It is loaded, an please
your Majesty," the man continued, after examining it.
Exclamations of horror arose from those around, and Jocelyn had again
some difficulty in protecting the prisoner from their fury.
"A dag!" ejaculated James, "a loaded dag, crammed to the muzzle wi'
bullets, nae doubt. Haud it down, man! haud it down! it may fire off of
itsel', and accomplish the villain's murtherous and sacrilegious design.
And sae this was to be the instrument of our destruction! Dost thou
confess thy guilt, thou bluid-thirsty traitor, or shall the torture
force the truth from thee?"
"The torture will force nothing from me," replied Hugh Calveley. "But I
tell thee, tyrant, that I would have slain thee, had not my hand been
"Heard ye ever the like o' that?" exclaimed James, his ruddy cheek
blanched with fright, and his voice quavering. "Why, he exceedeth in
audacity the arch-traitor Fawkes himsel'. And what stayed thy hand,
villain?" he demanded,--"what stayed thy hand, thou blood-thirsty
"The presence of this youth, Jocelyn Mounchensey," rejoined Hugh
Calveley. "Had he not come between us when he did, and checked my
purpose, I had delivered my country from oppression. I told thee,
tyrant, thou hadst been marvellously preserved. Thy preserver stands
"Heaven defend us!" exclaimed James, trembling. "What an escape we hae
had. There hath been a special interposition o' Providence in our
behoof. Our gratitude is due to Him who watcheth ower us."
"And in some degree to him who hath been made the instrument of your
Majesty's preservation," observed the Conde de Gondomar, who formed one
of the group near the King. "Since the foul traitor hath proclaimed the
name of my young protege", there can be no need for further concealment.
Master Jocelyn Mounchensey hath been singularly fortunate in rendering
your Majesty a service, and may for ever congratulate himself on his
share--accidental though it be--in this affair."
"By my halidame! he shall have reason for congratulation," cried James,
graciously regarding the young man.
"Ay, let him rise by my fall. 'Tis meet he should," cried the Puritan,
bitterly. "Shower thy honours upon him, tyrant. Give him wealth and
titles. I could not wish him worse misfortune than thy favour."
"Hold thy scurril tongue, villain, or it shall be torn out by the
roots," said James. "Thou shalt see that I can as promptly reward those
that serve me, as thou shalt presently feel I can severely punish those
that seek to injure me. Hark ye, Count!" he added to the Spanish
Ambassador, while those around drew back a little, seeing it was his
Majesty's pleasure to confer with him in private, "this youth--this
Jocelyn Mounchensey, hath gentle bluid in his veins?--he comes of a good
"He is the representative of an old Norfolk family," De Gondomar
"What! the son of Sir Ferdinando?" demanded James, a shade crossing his
countenance, which did not escape the wily ambassador's notice.
"You have guessed right, Sire," he said. "This is Sir Ferdinando's son;
and, if I may be permitted to say so, your Majesty owes him some
reparation for the wrongs done his father."
"How! Count!" exclaimed James, with a look of slight displeasure. "Do
you venture to question our judgments on hearsay--for ye can know
naething o' your ain knowledge?"
"I know enough to be satisfied that misrepresentations were made to your
Majesty respecting this young man's father," De Gondomar replied; "for I
am well assured that if you ever erred at all, it must have been through
ignorance, and want of due information. This was what I designed to
explain more fully than I can well do now, when I availed myself of your
Majesty's gracious permission to bring the young man into your presence;
and I should then have taken leave to express how much he merited your
Majesty's favour and protection. Fortune, however, has outrun my wishes,
and given him a stronger claim upon you than any I could urge."
"Ye are right, Count," rejoined James cautiously. "He hath the strongest
claim upon us, and he shall not find us ungrateful. We will confer wi'
Steenie--wi' Buckingham, we mean--about him."
"Pardon me, Sire," said De Gondomar, "if I venture to suggest that your
Majesty hath an admirable opportunity, which I should be sorry to see
neglected, of showing your goodness and clemency, and silencing for ever
the voice of calumny, which will sometimes be raised against you."
"What mean ye, Count?" cried James. "Ye wad na hae me pardon yon
"Most assuredly not, Sire," De Gondomar rejoined. "But I would urge some
present mark of favour for him who hath saved you from the traitor's
fell designs. And I am emboldened to ask this, because I feel assured it
must be consonant to your Majesty's own inclinations to grant the
"It is sae, Count," rejoined James. "We only desired to consult wi'
Buckingham to ascertain whether he had ony objections; but as this is
altogether unlikely, we will follow our ain inclinations and do as your
De Gondomar could scarcely conceal his satisfaction.
At this moment Lord Roos pressed towards the King.
"I have something to say in reference to this young man, my liege," he
"In his favour?" demanded the King.
"Yes, yes; in his favour, Sire," said De Gondomar, looking hard at the
young nobleman. "You need not trouble his Majesty further, my lord. He
is graciously pleased to accede to our wishes."
"Ay, ay; nae mair need be said," cried James. "Let the young man stand
And as Jocelyn obeyed the injunction which was immediately communicated
to him by De Gondomar, the King bade him kneel down, and taking Lord
Roos's sword, touched him with it upon the shoulder, exclaiming, "Arise!
"You are safe now," whispered De Gondomar. "This is the first blow, and
it has been well struck."
So confused was the new-made knight by the honour thus unexpectedly
conferred upon him, that when he rose to his feet he could scarcely
command himself sufficiently to make the needful obeisance, and tender
thanks to the King. For a moment, his brow was flushed with pride, and
his breast beat high; but the emotions were instantly checked, as he
thought how the title had been purchased. Looking towards the prisoner,
he beheld him in the hands of the warders, to whose custody he had been
committed, with his arms bound behind him by thongs. His gaze had never
quitted the young man during the ceremony which had just taken place,
and he still regarded him sternly and reproachfully.
"Let the prisoner be removed, and kept in a place of safety till our
pleasure respecting him be made known," cried James. "And now, my lords
and ladies, let us forward to the palace."
And the cavalcade was once more put in motion, and passing through the
great gateway entered the Fountain Court, where the nobility of both
sexes dismounted, while their attendants and the falconers and varlets
passed off to the offices.
The prisoner was conveyed to the porter's lodge, and strictly guarded,
till some secure chamber could be prepared for him. On the way thither
Jocelyn contrived to approach him, and to say in a low tone--"Can I do
aught for Aveline?"
"Concern not yourself about her, _Sir_ Jocelyn," rejoined Hugh Calveley,
with stern contempt. "She is in a place of safety. You will never behold
Wife and Mother-in-Law.
Quick steps descended the narrow staircase--steps so light and cautious
that they made no sound. Before drawing aside the arras that covered the
secret entrance to the chamber, the lady paused to listen; and hearing
nothing to alarm her, she softly raised a corner of the woof and looked
What did she behold? A young man seated beside a carved oak table, with
his back towards her. He was reading a letter, the contents of which
seemed greatly to disturb him, for he more than once dashed it aside,
and then compelled himself to resume its perusal. No one else was in the
room, which was spacious and lofty, though somewhat sombre, being wholly
furnished with dark oak; while the walls were hung with ancient
tapestry. Heavy curtains were drawn before the deep bay windows,
increasing the gloom. The chamber was lighted by a brass lamp suspended
from the moulded ceiling, the ribs of which were painted, and the
bosses, at the intersections, gilded. Near the concealed entrance where
the lady stood was placed a large curiously-carved ebony cabinet,
against which leaned a suit of tilting armour and a lance; while on its
summit were laid a morion, a brigandine, greaves, gauntlets, and other
pieces of armour. On the right of the cabinet the tapestry was looped
aside, disclosing a short flight of steps, terminated by the door of an
Almost as the lady set foot within the room, which she did after a brief
deliberation, dropping the arras noiselessly behind her, the young man
arose. Her entrance had not been perceived, so violently was he
agitated. Crushing the letter which had excited him so much between his
fingers, and casting it furiously from him, he gave vent to an
incoherent expression of rage. Though naturally extremely handsome, his
features at this moment were so distorted by passion that they looked
almost hideous. In person he was slight and finely-formed; and the
richness of his attire proclaimed him of rank.
The lady who, unperceived, had witnessed his violent emotion was
remarkably beautiful. Her figure was superb; and she had the whitest
neck and arms imaginable, and the smallest and most delicately-formed
hands. Her features derived something of haughtiness from a slightly
aquiline nose and a short curled upper lip. Her eyes were
magnificent--large, dark, and almost Oriental in shape and splendour.
Jetty brows, and thick, lustrous, raven hair, completed the catalogue of
her charms. Her dress was of white brocade, over which she wore a loose
robe of violet-coloured velvet, with open hanging sleeves, well
calculated to display the polished beauty of her arms. Her ruff was of
point lace, and round her throat she wore a carcanet of pearls, while
other precious stones glistened in her dusky tresses.
This beautiful dame, whose proud lips were now more compressed than
usual, and whose dark eyes emitted fierce rays--very different from
their customary tender and voluptuous glances--was the Countess of
Exeter. He whom she looked upon was Lord Roos, and the chamber she had
just entered was the one assigned to the young nobleman in the Palace of
She watched him for some time with curiosity. At length his rage found
vent in words.
"Perdition seize them both!" he exclaimed, smiting his forehead with his
clenched hand. "Was ever man cursed with wife and mother-in-law like
mine! They will, perforce, drive me to desperate measures, which I would
willingly avoid; but if nothing else will keep them quiet, the grave
must. Ay, the grave," he repeated in a hollow voice; "it is not my fault
if I am compelled to send them thither. Fools to torment me thus!"
Feeling she had heard more than she ought, the Countess would have
retired; but as retreat might have betrayed her, she deemed it better to
announce her presence by saying,
"You are not alone, my Lord."
Startled by her voice, Lord Roos instantly turned, and regarded her with
"You here, Frances?" he exclaimed; "I did not expect you so soon."
"I came before the hour, because--but you seem greatly agitated. Has
"Little more than what happens daily," he replied. "And yet it _is_
more; for the crisis has arrived, and a fearful crisis it is. O,
Frances!" he continued vehemently, "how dear you are to me. To preserve
your love I would dare everything, even my soul's welfare. I would
hesitate at no crime to keep you ever near me. Let those beware who
would force you from me."
"What means this passion, my Lord?" inquired the Countess.
"It means that since there are those who will mar our happiness; who,
jealous of our loves, will utterly blight and destroy them; who will
tear us forcibly asunder, recking little of the anguish they occasion:
since we have enemies who will do this; who will mortally wound us--let
us no longer hesitate, but strike the first blow. We must rid ourselves
of them at any cost, and in any way."
"I will not affect to misunderstand you, my Lord," the Countess replied,
her beautiful features beginning to exhibit traces of terror. "But has
it arrived at this point? Is the danger imminent and inevitable?"
"Imminent, but not inevitable," Lord Roos rejoined. "It _can_ be
avoided, as I have hinted, in one way, and in one way only. There is a
letter I have just received from my wife; wherein, after her usual
upbraidings, remonstrances, and entreaties, she concludes by saying,
that if I continue deaf to her prayers, and refuse to break off entirely
with you, and return to her, our 'criminal attachment,'--for so she
terms our love--should be divulged to the deluded Earl of Exeter, who
will know how to redress her wrongs, and avenge his own injured honour.
What answer, save one, can be returned to that letter, Frances? If we
set her at defiance, as we have hitherto done, she will act, for she is
goaded on by that fury, her mother. We must gain a little time, in order
that the difficulties now besetting us may be effectually removed."
"I shudder to think of it, William," said the Countess, trembling and
turning deathly pale. "No; it must not be. Rather than such a crime
should be committed, I will comply with their demand."
"And leave me?" cried Lord Roos, bitterly. "Frances, your affection is
not equal to mine, or you could not entertain such a thought for a
moment. You almost make me suspect," he added, sternly, "that you have
transferred your love to another. Ah! beware! beware! I am not to be
trifled with, like your husband."
"I forgive you the doubt, my Lord--unjust though it be--because your
mind is disturbed; but were you calm enough to view the matter as it
really is, you would perceive that my resolution has nothing in it
inconsistent with affection for you; but rather that my very love for
you compels me to the step. What _I_ propose is best for both of us. The
remedy you suggest would work our ruin here and hereafter; would drive
us from society, and render us hateful to each other. My soul revolts at
it. And though I myself have received a mortal affront from your wife's
mother, Lady Lake; though she has poured forth all the malice of which
she is capable upon my devoted head; yet I would rather forgive
her--rather sue for pity from her than go the fearful length you
propose. No, William. The pang of parting from you will indeed be
terrible, but it must be endured. Fate wills it so, and it is therefore
useless to struggle against it."
"O, recall those words, Frances!" cried the young nobleman, throwing
himself at her feet, and clasping her hands passionately. "Recall them,
I implore' of you. In uttering them you pronounce my doom--a doom more
dreadful than death, which would be light in comparison with losing you.
Plunge this sword to my heart," he exclaimed, plucking the shining
weapon from his side, and presenting it to her. "Free me from my misery
at once, but do not condemn me to lingering agony."
"Rise, William! rise, I pray of you," ejaculated the Countess, overcome
by the intensity of his emotion, "and put up your sword. The love you
display for me deserves an adequate return, and it shall meet it. Come
what will, I will not leave you. But, O! let us not plunge deeper in
guilt if it can be avoided."
"But how _can_ it be avoided?" cried Lord Roos. "Will _they_ listen to
our prayers? Will _they_ pity us? Will _they_ hesitate at our
"I know not--I know not," replied the Countess, bewildered; "but I stand
appalled before the magnitude of the offence."
"They will _not_ spare us," pursued Lord Roos; "and therefore we cannot
"In my turn I bend to you, William," said the Countess, sinking on her
knee before him, and taking his hand. "By the love you bear me, I
beseech you not to harm your wife! We have wronged her deeply--let us
not have her death to answer for. If the blow _must_ fall, let it be
upon the mother's head. I have less compassion for her."
"Lady Lake deserves no compassion," replied Lord Roos, raising the
Countess, and embracing her tenderly, "for she is the cause of all this
mischief. It is to her agency we owe the storm which threatens us with
ruin. But things have gone too far now to show compunction for either of
them. Our security demands that both should be removed."
"I may now say as you have just said, William, and with, far greater
reason," cried the Countess, "that you love me not, or you would not
refuse my request."
"How can I comply with it?" he rejoined. "Nothing were done, if only
partly done. Know you the charge that Lady Roos means to bring against
you? Though alike false and improbable, it is one to find easy credence
with the King; and it has been framed with that view. You will
understand this, when I tell you what it is. In this letter," he added,
picking up the paper he had thrown down, and unfolding it, "she accuses
you of practising sorcery to enslave my affections. She declares you
have bewitched me; and that she has proof of the manner in which it was
done, and of the sinful compact you have entered into for the purpose."
"O William! this is false--utterly false!" exclaimed the Countess, in
"I know it," he rejoined. "You have no need to practise other
enchantments with me than those you possess by nature. But what I tell
you will show you the extent of their malice, and steel your heart, as
it hath already steeled mine, against them."
"But this accusation is too monstrous. It will not be believed," cried
"Monstrous as it is, it is more likely to be believed--more certain to
be maintained--than the other which they lay at our door. We may deny
all their assertions; may intimidate or give the lie to the witnesses
they may produce against us; may stamp as forgeries your letters which
have unluckily fallen into their hands; but if this charge of witchcraft
be once brought against you, it will not fall to the ground. The King
will listen to it, because it flatters his prejudices; and even my voice
would fail to save you from condemnation--from the stake."
"Horrible!" exclaimed Lady Exeter spreading her hands before her eyes,
as if to exclude some dreadful object. "O to live in an age when such
enormities can be perpetrated! when such frightful weapons can be used
against the innocent--for I _am_ innocent, at least of this offence. All
seems against me; all doors of escape--save _one_--closed. And whither
does that door lead? To the Bottomless Pit, if there be truth in aught
we are told by Heaven."
Lord Roos seemed unable or unwilling to reply; and a deep pause ensued
for a few moments, during which the guilty pair shunned each other's
regards. It was broken at length by Lady Exeter, who said,
reproachfully, "You should have burnt my letters, William. Without them,
they would have had no evidence against me. Imprudent that you were, you
have destroyed me!"
"Reproach me not, Prances," he rejoined. "I admit my imprudence, and
blame myself severely for it. But I could not part with a line I had
received from you. I inclosed the letters in a little coffer, which I
deposited in a secret drawer of that cabinet, as in a place of perfect
safety. The coffer and its contents mysteriously disappeared. How it was
purloined I cannot inform you."
"Do your suspicions alight on no one?" she inquired.
"They have fallen on several; but I have no certainty that I have been
right in any instance," he replied. "That I have some spy near me, I am
well aware; and if I detect him, he shall pay for his perfidy with his
"Hist!" cried Lady Exeter. "Did you not hear a noise?"
"No," he rejoined. "Where?"
She pointed to the little passage leading to the ante-chamber. He
instantly went thither, and examined the place, but without discovering
"There is no one," he said, as he returned. "No one, in fact, could have
obtained admittance without my knowledge, for my Spanish servant, Diego,
in whom I can place full confidence, is stationed without."
"I distrust that man, William," she observed. "When I asked whom you
thought had removed the letters, my own suspicions had attached to him."
"I do not think he would have done it," Lord Roos replied. "He has ever
served me faithfully; and, besides, I have a guarantee for his fidelity
in the possession of a secret on which his own life hangs. I can dispose
of him as I please."
"Again that sound!" exclaimed the Countess. "I am sure some one is
"Your ears have deceived you," said the young nobleman, after examining
the spot once more, and likewise the secret entrance by which the
Countess had approached the chamber. "I heard nothing, and can find
nothing. Your nerves are shaken, and make you fanciful."
"It may be so," she rejoined. But it was evident she was not convinced,
for she lowered her tones almost to a whisper as she continued. It might
be that the question she designed to put was one she dared not ask
aloud. "What means do you purpose to employ in the execution of your
"The same as those employed by Somerset and his Countess in the removal
of Sir Thomas Overbury; but more expeditious and more certain," he
replied under his breath.
"Dreadful!" she exclaimed, with a shudder. "But the same judgment that
overtook the Somersets may overtake us. Such crimes are never hidden."
"Crimes fouler than theirs have never been brought to light, and never
will. There was one in which Somerset himself was concerned, involving
the destruction of a far higher personage than Overbury; and this dare
not even be hinted at."
"Because the greatest person in the land was connected with it,"
returned the Countess, "I conclude you refer to the death of Prince
"I do," answered Lord Roos. "Somerset would never have been questioned
about Overbury, if his fall had not been resolved upon by the King."
"One other question, and I ask no more," said the Countess, scarcely
able to syllable her words. "Who is to administer the deadly draught?"
"Luke Hatton, Lady Lake's apothecary. He is a creature of mine, and
entirely devoted to me."
"Our lives will be in his hands ever afterwards," said the Countess, in
a deep whisper.
"They will be in safe keeping," he rejoined, endeavouring to reassure
"O, William! I would I could prevail upon you to defer this project."
"To what end? The sooner it is done the better. It cannot, indeed, be
deferred. I shall send for Luke Hatton to-night."
At this announcement, the Countess, who had gradually been growing
fainter and becoming paler, lost all power of supporting herself, and,
uttering a cry, fell into his outstretched arms in a state of complete
While Lord Roos, half distracted, was considering what means he could
adopt for her restoration, a man, with an almost tawny complexion, hair
and eyes to match, and habited in the young nobleman's livery of crimson
and white, suddenly entered from the ante-chamber.
"How dare you come in unsummoned, Diego?" cried Lord Roos, furiously.
"Begone instantly, sirrah!".
"I crave your lordship's pardon," replied the Spanish servant; "but I
was obliged to apprise you that your wife, the Baroness Roos, and Lady
Lake are without, and will not be denied admission."
"Damnation!" exclaimed Lord Roos. "What brings them here at such an
hour? But you must on no account admit them, Diego--at least, till I
have had time to remove the Countess to her own chamber. What a cursed
Diego instantly withdrew, apparently to obey his lord's command; but he
had scarcely entered the little passage when two ladies pushed past him,
and made their way into the room. They arrived just in time to intercept
Lord Roos, who was conveying his insensible burthen towards the secret
The young nobleman was as much confounded by their appearance as if two
spectres had risen before him. Both ladies were very richly attired, and
the younger of the two was by no means destitute of beauty, though of a
pale and pensive character. The elder had a full, noble figure, haughty
features, now lighted up with a smile of triumph as she gazed on Lord
Roos. Very different was the expression of the other, who seemed so much
grieved and agitated by what she beheld, as to be almost ready to lapse
into the same condition as the Countess.
If Lord Roos could have seen the grin upon Diego's swarthy visage, as he
stood at the entrance of the passage leading to the ante-chamber, he
would have had little doubt to whom he was indebted for this surprise.
It is needless to say that the ladies who had thus broken upon Lord
Roos's privacy, and obtained full confirmation of their suspicions (if
they had any doubts remaining) were his wife and mother-in-law.
The Tress of Hair.
How to extricate himself from the dilemma in which he was placed, Lord
Roos scarcely knew. But he had a good deal of self-possession, and it
did not desert him on the present trying occasion. After such
consideration as circumstances permitted, he could discern only one
chance of escape, and though well-nigh hopeless, he resolved to adopt
it. If consummate audacity could carry him through--and it was required
in the present emergency--he had no lack of it.
Hitherto, not a word had passed between him and the intruders on his
privacy. Lady Lake seemed to enjoy his confusion too much to do anything
to relieve it, and his wife was obliged to regulate her movements by
those of her mother. Without breaking the silence, which by this time
had become painfully oppressive, he proceeded to deposit the still
inanimate person of the Countess of Exeter upon a couch, and, casting a
handkerchief, as if undesignedly, over her face, he marched quickly up
to the spot where Diego was standing, and said to him, in a deep,
determined tone, but so low as not to be overheard by the others:
"You have betrayed me, villain; and unless you obey me unhesitatingly,
and corroborate all my assertions, however startling they may appear,
you shall pay for your treachery with your life."
This done, he turned towards the two ladies, and with more calmness than
might have been expected, addressed himself to Lady Lake:
"You imagine you have made an important discovery, Madam," he said; "a
discovery which will place me and a noble lady, whose reputation you and
your daughter seek to injure, in great perplexity. And you conclude
that, being completely (as you fancy) in your power, I shall consent to
any terms you and Lady Roos may propose, rather than suffer you to go
forth from this chamber and reveal what you have seen in it. Is it not
"Ay, my lord," Lady Lake replied, bitterly. "You have stated the matter
correctly enough, except in one particular. We do not _imagine_ we have
made a discovery; because we are quite sure of it. We do not _fancy_ you
will agree to our terms; because we are certain you will only too gladly
screen yourself and the partner of your guilt from exposure and
disgrace, at any sacrifice. And allow me to observe, that the tone
adopted by your lordship is neither befitting the circumstances in which
you are placed, nor the presence in which you stand. Some sense of shame
must at least be left you--some show of respect (if nothing more) ought
to be observed towards your injured wife. Were I acting alone in this
matter, I would show you and my lady of Exeter no consideration
whatever; but I cannot resist the pleadings of my daughter; and for her
sake--and _hers_ alone--I am content to suspend the blow, unless forced
to strike; in which case, nothing shall stay my hands."
"I thank your ladyship for your clemency," said Lord Roos, with mock
"O, my dear lord! do not for ever close the door between us!" cried Lady
Roos. "Return to me, and all shall be forgiven."
"Peace, Elizabeth!" exclaimed Lady Lake, impatiently. "Know you not,
from sad experience, that your husband is inaccessible to all gentle
entreaty? His heart is steeled to pity. Solicit not that which is your
right, and which must be conceded, whether he like or not. Let him bend
the knee to you. Let him promise amendment, and implore pardon, and it
will then be for you to consider whether you will extend forgiveness to
Lady Roos looked as if she would fain interrupt her mother, but she was
too much under her subjection to offer a remark.
"It is time to undeceive you, Madam," said Lord Roos, wholly unmoved by
what was said. "I am not in the strait you suppose; and have not the
slightest intention of soliciting Lady Roos's pardon, or making any
promise to her."
"O mother! you see that even _you_ fail to move him," said Lady Roos,
tearfully. "What is to happen to me?"
"You will make me chide you, daughter, if you exhibit this weakness,"
cried Lady Lake, angrily. "Let me deal with him. In spite of your
affected confidence, my lord, you cannot be blind to the position in
which you stand. And though you yourself personally may be careless of
the consequences of a refusal of our demands, you cannot, I conceive, be
equally indifferent to the fate of the Countess of Exeter, which that
refusal will decide."
"I am so little indifferent to the safety of the Countess, Madam, that I
cannot sufficiently rejoice that she is out of the reach of your
"How, my lord!" exclaimed Lady Lake, astounded at his assurance. "Out of
reach, when she is here! You cannot mean," she added, with an
undefinable expression of satisfaction, "that she is dead?"
"Dead!" ejaculated Lady Roos; "the Countess dead! I thought she was only
in a swoon."
"What riddle is it you would have us read, my lord?" demanded Lady Lake.
"No riddle whatever, Madam," replied Lord Roos. "I only mean to assert
that the person you behold upon that couch is not the Countess of
"Not the Countess!" exclaimed Lady Roos. "Oh, if this were possible!
But no, no! I cannot be deceived."
"I now see the reason why her face has been covered with a 'kerchief,"
cried Lady Lake. "But it shall not save her from our scrutiny."
So saying, she advanced towards the couch, with the intention of
removing the covering, when Lord Roos barred her approach.
"Not a step nearer, Madam," he cried, in a peremptory tone. "I will not
allow you to gratify your curiosity further. You and Lady Roos may make
the most of what you have seen; and proclaim abroad any tale your
imaginations may devise forth. You will only render yourselves
ridiculous, and encounter derision in lieu of sympathy. No one will
credit your assertions, because I shall be able to prove that, at this
moment, Lady Exeter is in a different part of the palace."
"This bold falsehood will not serve your turn, my lord. Whoever she may
be, the person on that couch shall be seized, and we shall then
ascertain the truth."
And she would have moved towards the door, if Lord Roos had not caught
hold of her arm, while at the same time he drew his sword. Thinking from
his fierce looks and menacing gestures that her mother might be
sacrificed to his fury, Lady Roos fell on her knees before him,
imploring pity; and she continued in this supplicating posture till Lady
Lake angrily bade her rise.
"You have come here without my permission, Madam," Lord Roos cried
furiously to his mother-in-law, "and you shall not depart until I
choose. Secure the door, Diego, and bring me the key. It is well," he
continued, as the injunction was obeyed.
Lady Lake submitted without resistance to the constraint imposed upon
her. She could not well do otherwise; for though her screams would have
brought aid, it might have arrived too late. And, after all, she did not
intend to settle matters in this way. But she betrayed no symptoms of
fear, and, as we have stated, ordered her daughter to discontinue her
"And now, Madam," said Lord Roos, releasing Lady Lake, as he took the
key from Diego, "I will tell you who that person is," pointing to the
"Add not to the number of falsehoods you have already told, my lord,"
rejoined Lady Lake, contemptuously. "I am perfectly aware who she is."
"But I would fain hear his explanation, mother," said Lady Roos.
"What explanation can be offered?" cried Lady Lake. "Do you doubt the
evidence of your senses?"