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The Star-Chamber, Volume 1 by W. Harrison Ainsworth

Part 4 out of 4

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"I know not what I doubt, or what I believe," exclaimed Lady Roos

"Then believe what I tell you, Bess," said her husband. "This is the
countess's handmaiden, Gillian Greenford."

"An impudent lie!" cried Lady Lake.

"A truth, my lady," interposed Diego. "A truth to which I am ready to

"No doubt of it, thou false knave, and double traitor! thou art worthy
of thy lord. There is no lie, however absurd and improbable, which he
can invent, that thou wilt not support. Thou art ready now to perjure
thyself for him; but let him place little reliance on thee, for thou
wilt do the same thing for us to-morrow."

"I scarcely think it probable, my lady," Diego replied, bowing.

Lady Lake turned from him in supreme disgust.

"Admitting for a moment the possibility of your lordship's assertion
being correct," said Lady Roos, "how comes Gillian Greenford (for so
methinks you name her) in her mistress's attire?"

"'T is easily explained, chuck," Lord Roos rejoined. "Anxious, no doubt,
to set herself off to advantage, she hath made free with the countess's
wardrobe. Your own favourite attendant, Sarah Swarton, hath often
arranged herself in your finest fardingales, kirtlets, and busk-points,
as Diego will tell you. Is it not so, rascal?"

"'T is precisely as my lord hath stated, my lady," said the Spaniard to
Lady Roos. "When Sarah Swarton hath been so habited, I have more than
once mistaken her for your ladyship."

"Yet Sarah is very unlike me," said Lady Roos.

"That only shows how deceptive appearances are, chuck, and how little we
ought to trust to them," observed Lord Roos.

"How can you suffer yourself to be thus duped, Elizabeth?" said Lady

"Because her ladyship would rather believe me than you, Madam," rejoined
Lord Roos. "But she is _not_ duped."

"Heaven forgive him!" exclaimed Diego, aside.

"And supposing it were Gillian, how would the case be mended, as far as
you are concerned, Elizabeth?" said Lady Lake. "Are you not as much
injured by one as by the other?"

"It may be," replied her daughter, "but I am jealous only of the
Countess. I would kneel to any other woman, and thank her, who would
tear my husband from her embraces!"

"Weak fool! I disown you," exclaimed Lady Lake, angrily.

"What a wife!" cried Diego, apart. "His lordship is quite unworthy of
her. Now I should appreciate such devotion."

At this juncture there was a slight movement on the part of Lady
Exeter, and something like a sigh escaped her.

"She revives!" whispered Lady Lake to her daughter. "We shall soon learn
the truth. I will find a means to make her speak. Well, my lord," she
added aloud, and speaking in a sarcastic tone, "if you will have it so,
it is idle to dispute it. But what will the Countess say, when she
discovers your infidelity?"

On this a brisker movement took place on the couch, and a hand was
raised as if to snatch away the 'kerchief.

"We have her," whispered Lady Lake triumphantly to her daughter.
"Surely," she proceeded aloud, "the Countess will deeply resent the
transfer of your affections to her handmaiden."

Lord Roos saw the peril in which he stood. A moment more and Lady Lake
had gained her point, and the Countess betrayed herself.

"Lady Exeter will place little reliance on any representations you may
make, Madam," he said, giving particular significance to his words,
"except so far as they concern herself, and then she will take care to
refute them. As to the circumstance of Gillian Greenford visiting me,
fainting in my arms (from excess of timidity, poor girl!) and being
discovered by you and Lady Roos in that position, the Countess will
laugh at it when it comes to her knowledge--as why should she do
otherwise? But she will feel very differently when she finds that you
and your daughter insist that it was she herself, and not her
handmaiden, whom you beheld. Rely on it, Madam, Lady Exeter will
contradict that assertion, and disprove it."

"Let it be disproved now. Let the person on that couch disclose her
features, and we shall then see whether she be the Countess or Gillian."

"Ay, let her do that, my lord,--let her speak to us," urged Lady Roos.

"Diablo! how is this request to be complied with, I marvel?" said Diego

But Lord Roos was too experienced a player to be defeated by this turn
in the game.

"Gillian has already been sufficiently annoyed," he cried; "and shall
not submit to this ordeal. Besides, she has relapsed into insensibility,
as you see."

"She does what your lordship wills her, it is clear," said Lady Lake,
contemptuously. "We know what construction to put upon your refusal."

"I care not what construction you put upon it," cried Lord Roos, losing
patience. "You and Lady Roos may think what you please, and act as you
please. Enough for me, you can prove nothing."

"Why, this is more like yourself, my lord," retorted Lady Lake,
derisively. "Having thrown aside the mask, you will be spared the
necessity of further subterfuge. The Countess, doubtless, will imitate
your example, lay aside her feigned insensibility, and defy us. She need
be under no apprehension; since she has your own warrant that we can
prove nothing."

"Your purpose, I perceive, is to irritate me, Madam," cried Lord Roos,
fiercely; "and so far you are likely to succeed, though you fail in all
else. I have no mask to throw off; but if you will have me declare
myself your enemy, I am ready to do so. Henceforth, let there be no
terms kept between us--let it be open warfare."

"Be it so, my lord. And you will soon find who will be worsted in the

"Oh, do not proceed to these fearful extremities, dear mother, and
dearest husband!" cried Lady Roos, turning from one to the other
imploringly. "Cease these provocations, I pray of you. Be friends, and
not enemies."

"As you please--peace or war; it is the same to me," said Lord Roos.
"Meantime, I am wearied of this scene, and must put an end to it.
Diego!" And beckoning his servant to him, he whispered some directions
in his ear.

"My lord shall be obeyed," said Diego, as he received his commission.
"Gillian shall be conveyed with all care to her chamber."

"We must have some proof that she has been here," thought Lady Lake.
But how to obtain it? I have it. "Take these," she added in a whisper to
her daughter, and giving a pair of scissors; "and contrive, if possible,
to sever a lock of her hair before she be removed."

By a look Lady Roos promised compliance.

While this was passing, Diego had approached the couch; and fastening
the kerchief securely round the Countess's face, he raised her in his
arms, and moved towards the secret staircase, the tapestried covering of
which was held aside by Lord Roos to give him passage.

Rapidly as the Spaniard moved, he did not outstrip Lady Roos, whose
design being favoured by the escape from its confinement of one of the
Countess's long dark tresses, she had no difficulty of possessing,
herself of it in the manner prescribed by her mother. Lady Exeter was
aware of the loss she had sustained, and uttered a stifled cry; but this
was attributed to the fright natural to the occasion by Lord Roos, who
had not noticed what had taken place, and only caused him to hurry
Diego's departure. But before the latter had wholly disappeared with his
burthen, the perfumed and silken tress of hair was delivered to Lady
Lake, who muttered triumphantly as she received it--"This will convict
her. She cannot escape us now."

The prize was scarcely concealed when Lord Roos, sheathing the sword
which he had hitherto held drawn, advanced towards his mother-in-law.

"Now that the object of your disquietude is removed, Madam, it will not
be necessary to prolong this interview," he said.

"Have we then your lordship's permission to depart?" rejoined Lady Lake,
coldly. "We are not, I presume, to avail ourselves of the private means
of exit contrived for your amorous adventures, lest we should make other

"Your ladyship will leave by the way you entered," rejoined Lord Roos.
"I will attend you to the door--and unfasten it for you."

"Before we go, I would have a word with my husband--it may be my last,"
said Lady Roos to her mother. "I pray you withdraw a little, that we may
be alone."

"Better not," rejoined Lady Lake. But unable to resist her daughter's
imploring looks, she added, "Well, as you will. But it is useless."

With this she proceeded to the little passage, and remained there.

As Lady Roos turned to her husband, she saw, from the stern and
inflexible look he had assumed, that any appeal made to him would be
unavailing, and she attempted none. A moment elapsed before she could
utter a word, and then it was only a murmur to heaven for guidance and

"What say you, Elizabeth?" demanded Lord Roos, thinking she had
addressed him.

"I asked for support from on High, William, and it has been accorded to
me," she replied in a low sweet voice. "I can now speak to you. It is
not to weary you with supplications or reproaches that I thus detain
you. I have something to impart to you, and I am sure you will eagerly
listen to it. Come nearer, that we may not be overheard."

Lord Roos, whose curiosity was aroused by her manner, obeyed her.

"I am all attention," he said.

"I feel I am in your way, William," she rejoined, in a deep whisper;
"and that you desire my death. Nay, interrupt me not; I am sure you
desire it; and I am equally sure that the desire will be gratified, and
that you will kill me."

"Kill you, Bess!" cried Lord Roos, startled. "How can you imagine aught
so frightful?"

"There is a power granted to those who love deeply as I do, of seeing
into the hearts of those they love, and reading their secrets. I have
read yours, William. Nay, be not alarmed. I have kept it to myself
hitherto, and will keep it to the end. You wish me dead, I say; and you
shall have your wish--but not in the way you propose. Having lost your
love, I am become indifferent to life--or, rather, life is grown
intolerable to me. But though death may be a release, it must not come
from your hand."

"You cannot mean to destroy yourself, Elizabeth?" cried Lord Roos,

"I mean to trouble you no longer. I mean to make the last and greatest
sacrifice I can for you; and to save you from a crime--or, if you must
share the crime, at least to screen you from punishment. Look, here!"
she added, producing a small phial. "Bid me drink of this, and ere
to-morrow you are free, and I am at rest. Shall I do it?"

"No--no," rejoined Lord Roos, snatching the phial from her. "Live, Bess,

"Am I to live for you, William?" she cried, with inexpressible joy.

He made no answer, but averted his head.

"In mercy give me back the phial," she exclaimed, again plunged into the
depths of despair.

"I must refuse your request," he replied.

"Have you done, Elizabeth?" demanded Lady Lake, coming forth from the

"A moment more, mother," cried Lady Roos. "One word--one look!" she
added to her husband.

But he neither spoke to her, nor regarded her.

"I am ready to accompany you now, mother," said the poor lady faintly.

"Nerve yourself, weak-hearted girl," said Lady Lake, in a low tone.
"Revenge is ours."

"If I could only strike her without injuring him, I should not heed,"
thought Lady Roos. "But where he suffers, I must also suffer, and yet
more acutely."

And scarcely able to support herself, she followed her mother to the
door of the ante-chamber, which was unlocked, and thrown open for them
by her husband. He did not bid her farewell!

As Lady Lake passed forth, she paused for a moment, and said--

"To-morrow, my Lord, we will ascertain whether the tress of hair we have
obtained from the fair visitant to your chamber, matches with that of
Gillian Greenford or with the raven locks of the Countess of Exeter."

And satisfied with the effect produced by this menace, she departed with
her daughter, before Lord Roos could utter a reply.


The Fountain Court.

On the morning after the eventful passage in his life, previously
related, our newly-created knight was standing, in a pensive attitude,
beside the beautiful fountain, adorned with two fair statues,
representing the Queen of Love and her son, heretofore described as
placed in the centre of the great quadrangle of the Palace of Theobalds.
Sir Jocelyn was listening to the plashing of the sparkling jets of
water, as they rose into the air, and fell back into the broad marble
basin, and appeared to be soothed by the pleasant sound. His breast had
been agitated by various and conflicting emotions. In an incredibly
short space of time events had occurred, some of which seemed likely to
influence the whole of his future career; while one of them, though it
had advanced him far beyond what he could have anticipated, appeared
likely to mar altogether his prospects of happiness.

Though the difficulties, therefore, that surrounded him had been
unexpectedly overcome; though, by the exertions of the Conde de
Gondomar, who had followed up his first success with wonderful
promptitude and perseverance, and had dexterously contrived, by all the
insidious arts of which lie was so perfect a master, to ingratiate his
protege still further with the King, without the protege himself being
aware of the manner in which he was served; though James himself
appeared greatly pleased with him, at the banquet in the evening, to
which, owing to the skilful management of the Spanish ambassador, he was
invited, and bestowed such marked attention upon him, that the envy and
jealousy of most of the courtiers were excited by it; though he seemed
on the high-road to still greater favour, and was already looked upon as
a rising favourite, who might speedily supplant others above him in this
ever-changing sphere, if he did not receive a check; though his present
position was thus comparatively secure, and his prospects thus
brilliant, he felt ill at ease, and deeply dissatisfied with himself. He
could not acquit himself of blame for the part he had played, though
involuntarily, in the arrest of Hugh Calveley. It was inexpressibly
painful to him; and he felt it as a reproach from which he could not
free himself, to have risen, however unexpectedly on his own part, by
the unfortunate Puritan's fall. How could he ever face Aveline again!
She must regard him with horror and detestation, as the involuntary
cause of her father's destruction. A bar had been placed between them,
which nothing could ever remove. And though, on the one hand, he was
suddenly exalted far beyond his hopes; yet on the other he was as
suddenly cast down, and threatened to be for ever deprived of the bliss
he had in view, the possession of which he coveted far more than wealth
or grandeur. Additional complexity had been given to his position from
the circumstance that, at De Gondomar's secret instance, of which, like
all the rest, he was unaware, he had been appointed as officer in
custody of Hugh Calveley, until the latter, who was still detained a
close prisoner in the porter's lodge, should be removed to the Tower, or
the Fleet, as his Majesty might direct. This post he would have
declined, had there been a possibility of doing so. Any plan he might
have formed of aiding the prisoner's escape was thus effectually
prevented, as he could not violate his duty; and it was probably with
this view that the wily ambassador had obtained him the appointment. In
fact, he had unconsciously become little more than a puppet in the hands
of the plotting Spaniard, who pulled the strings that moved him at
pleasure, regardless of the consequences. What De Gondomar's ulterior
designs were with him had not yet become manifest.

These perplexing thoughts swept through Sir Jocelyn's breast, as he
stood by the marble fountain, and listened to the sound of its falling

While thus occupied, he perceived two persons issue from the arched
entrance fronting the gate (adjoining the porter's lodge, in which the
prisoner was still detained), and make their way slowly across the
quadrangle, in the direction of the cloister on its eastern side, above
which were apartments assigned to the Secretary of State, Sir Thomas

The foremost of the two was merely a yeoman of the guard, and would not
for a moment have attracted Sir Jocelyn's attention, if it had not been
for a female who accompanied him, and whom he was evidently conducting
to Sir Thomas Lake's rooms, as Sir Jocelyn not only saw the man point
towards them, but heard him mention the Secretary of State's name.

Something whispered him that this closely-hooded female,--the lower part
of whose face was shrouded in a muffler, so that the eyes alone were
visible,--was Aveline. Little could be discerned of the features; but
the exquisitely-proportioned figure, so simply yet so tastefully
arrayed, could only be hers; and if he _could_ have doubted that it was
Aveline, the suddenness with which her looks were averted as she beheld
him, and the quickness with which she stepped forward, so as even to
outstrip her companion--these circumstances, coupled with the violent
throbbing of his own heart, convinced him he was right. He would have
flown after her, if he had dared; would have poured forth all his
passionate feelings to her, had he been permitted; would have offered
her his life, to deal with as she pleased; but his fears restrained him,
and he remained riveted to the spot, gazing after her until she entered
the great hall on the ground floor, beneath the Secretary of State's
apartments. Why she sought Sir Thomas Lake he could easily understand.
It was only from him that authority to visit her father could be

After remaining irresolute for a few minutes, during which the
magnificent structure around him faded entirely from his view like a
vision melting into air, and he heard no more the pleasant plashing of
the fountain, he proceeded to the great hall near the cloister, resolved
to wait there till her return.


Sir Thomas Lake.

A grave-looking man, of a melancholy and severe aspect, and attired in a
loose robe of black velvet, was seated alone in a chamber, the windows
of which opened upon the Fountain Court, which we have just quitted. He
wore a silken skull-cap, from beneath which a few gray hairs escaped;
his brow was furrowed with innumerable wrinkles, occasioned as much by
thought and care as by age; his pointed beard and moustaches were almost
white, contrasting strikingly with his dark, jaundiced complexion, the
result of an atrabilarious temperament; his person was extremely
attenuated, and his hands thin and bony. He had once been tall, but
latterly had lost much of his height, in consequence of a curvature of
the spine, which bowed down his head almost upon his breast, and fixed
it immoveably in that position. His features were good, but, as we have
stated, were stamped with melancholy, and sharpened by severity.

This person was Sir Thomas Lake, Secretary of State.

The table at which he sat was strewn over with official documents and
papers. He was not, however, examining any of them, but had just broken
the seal of a private packet which he had received from his wife, when
an usher entered, and intimated that a young maiden, who was without,
solicited a moment's audience. The request would have been refused, if
the man had not gone on to say that he believed the applicant was the
daughter of the crazy Puritan, who had threatened the King's life on the
previous day. On hearing this, Sir Thomas consented to see her, and she
was admitted accordingly.

As soon as the usher had retired, Aveline unmuffled herself, and, cold
and apathetic as he was, Sir Thomas could not help being struck by her
surpassing beauty, unimpaired even by the affliction under which she
laboured; and he consequently softened in some degree the customary
asperity of his tones in addressing her.

"Who are you, maiden, and what seek you?" he demanded, eyeing her with

"I am daughter to the unfortunate Hugh Calveley, now a prisoner in the
palace," she replied.

"I am sorry to hear it," rejoined Sir Thomas, resuming his habitually
severe expression; "for you are the daughter of a very heinous offender.
The enormity of Hugh Calveley's crime, which is worse than parricide,
deprives him of all human sympathy and compassion. In coming to me you
do not, I presume, intend to weary me with prayers for mercy; for none
is deserved, and none will be shown. For my own part, I shall not utter
a word in mitigation of the dreadful sentence certain to be pronounced
upon him; nor shall I advise the slightest clemency to be shown him on
the part of his Majesty. Such an offender cannot be too severely
punished. I do not say this," he continued, somewhat softening his
harshness, "to aggravate the distress and shame you naturally feel; but
I wish to check at once any hopes you may have formed. Yet though I have
no pity for him, I have much for you, since, doubtless, you are innocent
of all knowledge of your father's atrocious design--happily prevented.
And I would therefore say to you, shut out all feelings for him from
your heart. The man who raises his hand against his sovereign cuts off
by the act all ties of kindred and love. Affection is changed to
abhorrence; and such detestation does his horrible offence inspire, that
those of his own blood are bound to shun him, lest he derive comfort and
consolation from their presence. Thus considered, you are no longer his
daughter, for he has himself severed the links between you. You no
longer owe him filial duty and regard, for to such he is no more
entitled. Leave him to his fate; and, if possible, for ever obliterate
his memory from your breast."

"You counsel what I can never perform, honourable Sir," replied Aveline;
"and were he even branded like Cain, I could not shut my heart towards
him. Nothing can make me forget that I am his daughter. That his
offence will be dreadfully expiated, I do not doubt; but if I can
alleviate his sufferings in any way, I will do so; and I will never
cease to plead for mercy for him. And O, honourable Sir! you regard his
offence in a darker light than it deserves. You treat him as if he had
actually accomplished the direful purpose attributed to him; whereas,
nothing has been proven against him beyond the possession of a weapon,
which he might keep about his person for self-defence."

"The plea you urge is futile, maiden," rejoined Sir Thomas; "he is
judged out of his own mouth, for his own lips have avowed his criminal

"Still, it was but the intention, honourable Sir!"

"In such cases, the intention is equal to the crime--at least in the
eyes of law and justice. No plea will save Hugh Calveley. Of that rest

"One plea may be urged for him, which, whether it avail or not, is the
truth, and shall be made. It is painful to speak of my father as I must
now do; but there is no help for it. Of late years he has been subject
to strange mental hallucinations, which have bordered close upon
madness, if they have not reached that terrible point. Nocturnal vigils,
fastings, and prayers have affected his health. He has denied himself
sufficient rest, and has only partaken of food barely sufficient to
sustain nature, and no more. The consequence has been that strange
fancies have troubled his brain; that at dead of night, when alone in
his chamber, he has imagined that visions have appeared to him; that
voices have spoken--awful voices--talking of prophecies, lamentations,
and judgments, and charging him with a mighty and terrible mission. All
these things I have heard from his own lips, and I have heard and seen
much more, which has satisfied me that his intellects are disordered,
and that he cannot be held accountable for his actions."

"If such be the case, he should have been kept under restraint, and not
suffered to go abroad," said Sir Thomas. "Such madmen are highly
mischievous and dangerous. Much blame rests with you, maiden."

"The whole blame is mine!" she exclaimed. "I confess my error--my
crime--and will atone for it willingly with my life, provided he be
spared. If a sacrifice must be made, let me be the victim."

"There is no sacrifice, and no victim," returned Sir Thomas gravely,
though he was not unmoved by her filial devotion. "There is an offender,
and there will be justice; and justice must be satisfied. Inexorable as
fate, her dread sentences cannot be averted."

"O, honourable Sir! you may one day recall those words; for which of us
can hold himself free from offence? My father is not guilty in the eyes
of Heaven; or if he be, I am equally culpable, since I ought to have
prevented the commission of the crime. O, I shall never forgive myself
that I did not follow him when he parted from me yesterday!"

"Let me hear how that occurred, maiden?" asked Sir Thomas.

"It chanced in this way, Sir. I have already described my father's state
of mind, and the distempered view he has been accustomed to take of all
things. Yesterday, May-day sports were held in the village of Tottenham,
where we dwelt; and as such things are an abomination in his sight, he
took upon him to reprove the actors in the pastimes. They who witnessed
his conduct on that occasion would hardly hold him to be under the due
control of reason. Amongst the spectators was the son of an old friend,
whose name having accidentally reached my father, he invited him into
the house, and a misunderstanding having arisen between them, the latter
suddenly left--dismissed almost with rudeness. On his departure, my
father was greatly disturbed--more so than I have ever seen him. After
awhile, he withdrew to his own chamber, as was his habit, to pray, and I
hoped would become tranquillized; but the very reverse happened, for
when he reappeared, I saw at once that a fearful change had taken place
in him. His eye blazed with preternatural light, his gestures were wild
and alarming, and his language full of menace and denunciation. He again
spoke of his mission from Heaven, and said that its execution could no
longer be delayed."

"This should have been a warning to you," observed Sir Thomas, knitting
his brows.

"It should, honourable Sir. But I did not profit by it. I knew and felt
that he was no longer under the dominion of reason--that he was
labouring under some terrible delusion that approached its crisis; but I
did not check him. I yielded passive obedience to his injunction, that I
should depart instantly with an old servant to London; and I agreed to
tarry at a house, which he mentioned, till I heard from him. I had sad
forebodings that I should never hear from him again--or if I _did_, that
the tidings would be worse than none at all; but I obeyed. I could not,
indeed, resist his will. I set forth with my attendant, and my father
parted with us at the door. He placed money in my hand, and bade me
farewell! but in such a tone, and with such a look, that I felt his
senses were gone, and I would have stayed him, but it was then too late.
Breaking from my embrace, he sprang upon his horse, which was ready
saddled, and rode off, taking the direction of Edmonton; while I, with a
heart full of distress and misgiving, pursued my way to London. Ere
midnight, my sad presentiments were verified. A messenger traced me out,
bringing intelligence of the direful event that had happened, and
informing me that my father was a prisoner at Theobalds. As soon as I
could procure means of reaching the palace, I set forth, and arrived
here about an hour ago, when, failing in my efforts to obtain an
interview with my father, who is closely confined, and none suffered to
come near him save with authority from the Secretary of State, I sought
an audience of you, honourable Sir, in the hope that you would grant me
permission to see him."

"If I do grant it, the interview must take place in the presence of the
officer to whom his custody has been committed," replied Sir Thomas.
"With this restriction, I am willing to sign an order for you."

"Be it as you please, honourable Sir; and take my heartfelt gratitude
for the grace."

Sir Thomas struck a small bell upon the table, and the usher appeared at
the summons.

"Bid the officer in charge of Hugh Calveley attend me," he said.

The man bowed, and departed.

Sir Thomas Lake then turned to the paper which he had just opened before
Aveline's appearance, and was soon so much engrossed by it that he
seemed quite unconscious of her presence. His countenance became
gloomier and more austere as he read on, and an expression of
pain--almost a groan--escaped him. He appeared then to feel sensible
that he had committed an indiscretion, for he laid down the paper, and,
as if forcibly diverting himself from its contents, addressed Aveline.

"What you have said respecting your father's condition of mind," he
observed, "by no means convinces me that it is so unsound as to render
him irresponsible for his actions. It were to put a charitable
construction upon his conduct to say that no one but a madman could be
capable of it; but there was too much consistency in what he has said
and done to admit of such an inference. But for the interposition of
another person he owned that he would have killed the King; and the
disappointment he exhibited, and the language he used, prove such to
have been his fixed intention. His mind may have been disturbed; but
what of that? All who meditate great crimes, it is to be hoped, are not
entirely masters of themselves. Yet for that reason they are not to be
exempt from punishment. He who is sane enough to conceive an act of
wickedness, to plan its execution, and to attempt to perpetrate it,
although he may be in other respects of unsettled mind, is equally
amenable to the law, and ought equally to suffer for his criminality
with him who has a wiser and sounder head upon his shoulders."

Aveline attempted no reply, but the tears sprang to her eyes.

At this moment the door was thrown open by the usher to admit Sir
Jocelyn Mounchensey.

The emotion displayed by the young couple when thus brought together
passed unnoticed by the Secretary of State, as he was occupied at the
moment in writing the authority for Aveline, and did not raise his eyes
towards them.

"Are you the officer to whom my father's custody has been entrusted?"
exclaimed Aveline, as soon as she could give utterance to her surprise.

"Why do you ask that question, mistress?" demanded Sir Thomas, looking
up. "What can it signify to you who hath custody of your father,
provided good care be taken of him? There is a Latin maxim which his
Majesty cited at the banquet last night--_Etiam aconito inest
remedium_--and which may be freely rendered by our homely saying, that
'It is an ill wind that bloweth nobody good luck;' and this hath proved
true with Sir Jocelyn Mounchensey--for the gust that hath wrecked your
father hath driven him into port, where he now rides securely in the
sunshine of the King's favour. Nor is this to be wondered at, since it
was by Sir Jocelyn that his Majesty's life was preserved."

"The King preserved by him!" exclaimed Aveline, in bewilderment.

"Ay, marry and indeed, young mistress," rejoined Sir Thomas. "He
arrested the fell traitor; was knighted on the spot for the service, by
the King; was invited afterwards to the grand banquet in the evening,
and received with more distinction than any other guest; and he is now,
as you find, entrusted with the custody of the prisoner. Thus, if your
father has done little good to himself, he hath done much to Sir

Aveline could not repress an exclamation of anguish.

"No more of this, I entreat, Sir Thomas," cried Sir Jocelyn.

"It is right she should hear the truth," replied the Secretary of State.
"Here is her authority for admittance to her father," he continued,
giving it to him. "It must take place in your presence, Sir Jocelyn. And
you will pay strict attention to what they say," he added in a low tone,
"for you will have to report all that passes between them to the
council. Something may arise to implicate the girl herself, so let
naught escape you. Be vigilant in your office, as is needful. I mention
this as you are new to it. If the prisoner continues obstinate, as he
hath hitherto shown himself, threaten him with the torture. The rack
will certainly be applied when he reaches the Tower. I need not give you
further instructions I think, Sir Jocelyn. Be pleased to return to me
when the interview is over."

Upon this, he bowed gravely, and sounded the bell for the usher. Unable
to offer any remonstrance, Sir Jocelyn approached Aveline, who could
scarcely support herself, with the intention of offering her assistance;
but she shrank from him, and again muffling her face, went forth, while
he slowly followed her.


The forged Confession.

Some little time had elapsed since Aveline's departure on her sorrowful
errand, and Sir Thomas Lake was still alone, and once more deeply
engrossed in the consideration of the document, which, it will be
recollected, had occasioned him so much disquietude; and the feeling by
no means diminished when the usher entered and announced Lady Lake.
Severe and inflexible as we have described him, the Secretary of State
was generally yielding enough towards his lady, of whom he stood in
great awe, and whom he treated with the utmost deference; but on this
occasion, contrary to habitude, he received her very coldly, and without
rising motioned her to a seat beside him. Disregarding the want of
attention, which, under other circumstances, she would have resented,
Lady Lake took the seat indicated without remark, and continued silent
till the usher had retired. Then turning quickly towards her husband,
and fixing an inquiring look upon him, she said in a low voice--

"What think you of this document, Sir Thomas?"

"This forgery?" he rejoined in the same tone, but without raising his
eyes towards her.

"Ay, this forgery, if you choose to call it so," she returned. "Let me
have your opinion upon it? Is it as it should be? Are its expressions
such as would be used by a guilty woman, like the Countess, imploring
pity, and seeking to shield herself from disgrace? Do you find fault
with it? Can it be amended in any particular?"

"I find such grave fault with it," replied the Secretary of State, still
without looking up, "that I would amend it by casting it into the
flames. Lady Lake, it is my duty to warn you. This is a fearful crime
you would commit, and severely punishable by the law. You may excuse it
to yourself, because you have an end in view which seems to justify the
means; but the excuse will not avail you with others. You have said that
in a conflict with one so cunning and unscrupulous as our noble
son-in-law, you are compelled to fight him with his own weapons--to meet
trick with trick, manoevre with manoeuvre; but take my word for it, you
would more easily defeat him by straight-forward means. Be ruled by me
in this one instance. Abandon a scheme which must inevitably lead to
consequences I shudder to contemplate; and let this fabricated
confession be destroyed."

"Give it me," she cried, snatching the paper from him. "You were ever
timid, Sir Thomas; and if you had not lacked courage, this expedient
would not have been necessary. Odious and dangerous as it is, the
measure is forced upon me, and I shall not shrink from it. But you
shall not be called upon to play any part in the transaction. I alone
will do it. I alone will be responsible for all that may ensue."

"We shall all be responsible!" he rejoined. "You will not only ruin
yourself, but all your family, if this fearful step be taken. Hitherto
we have had right on our side, but henceforth we shall be more culpable
than the others."

"I am resolved upon the course," cried Lady Lake; "and all your
arguments--all your warnings will not dissuade me from it, so you may
spare your breath, Sir Thomas. As you see, I have omitted the charge of
witchcraft, and have only made the Countess confess her criminality with
Lord Roos, and of this we have had abundant proofs; nay, we should have
them still, if those condemnatory letters of hers, which had come into
our possession, had not been stolen. That mischance necessitates the
present measure. Having managed to deprive us of our weapons, Lord Roos
thinks himself secure. But he will find his mistake when this document
is produced to confound him."

"I tremble at the thought," groaned the Secretary of State.

"These fears are worse than womanish," exclaimed his lady. "Shake them
off, and be yourself. Who is to prove that the confession proceeds not
from the Countess? Not she herself; since no one will believe her. Not
Lord Roos; for he will be equally discredited. Not Diego; for his
testimony would be valueless. The Countess's hand-writing has been so
skilfully imitated, that the falsification cannot be detected. Compare
it with this note written by herself to Lady Roos, and which, though it
proves nothing, has so far answered my purpose. Compare, I say, the
writing of the confession and the signature with this note, and declare
if you can discern any difference between them. As to the signatures of
Lord Roos and Diego affixed to the document, they are equally well

"That the forgery is skilfully executed, I do not deny," replied the
Secretary of State; "and that circumstance, though it does not lessen
the crime, may lessen the chance of detection. Since nothing I can urge
will turn you from your design, and you are determined to employ this
dangerous instrument, at least be cautious in its use. Terrify Lord Roos
with it, if you choose. Threaten to lay it before the Earl of
Exeter--before the King himself--in case of our son-in-law's
non-compliance with your demands. But beware how you proceed further. Do
not part with it for a moment; so that, if need be, you may destroy it.
Do you heed me, my lady?"

"I do, Sir Thomas," she replied. "Be assured I will act with due
caution.--I am glad to find you are coming round to my views, and are
disposed to countenance the measure."

"I countenance it!" exclaimed the Secretary of State, in alarm. "No such
thing. I disapprove of it entirely, and cannot sufficiently reprehend
it. But, as I well know, when you have once made up your mind, the fiend
himself cannot turn you from your purpose, I give you the best counsel I
can under the circumstances. I wash my hands of it altogether. Would to
Heaven I had never been consulted upon it--never even been made
acquainted with the project. However, as you have gone so far with me
you may go a step further, and let me know what story you mean to attach
to this confession? How will you feign to have obtained it?"

"The statement I shall make will be this, and it will be borne out by so
many corroborative circumstances that it will be impossible to
contradict it. You observe that the document is dated on the 10th of
April last. It is not without reason that it is so dated. On that day I
and our daughter, Lady Roos, attended by her maid, Sarah Swarton,
proceeded to the Earl of Exeter's residence at Wimbledon, for the
purpose of having an interview with the Countess, and we then saw her in
the presence of Lord Roos and his servant Diego."

"But you gained nothing by the journey?" remarked her husband.

"Your pardon, Sir Thomas," she rejoined; "I gained this confession. On
the way back I reflected upon what had occurred, and I thought how
flushed with triumph I should have been if, instead of meeting with
discomfiture, I had gained my point--if I had brought the haughty
Countess to her knees--had compelled her to write out and sign a full
avowal of her guilt, coupled with supplications for forgiveness from my
injured daughter and myself--and as a refinement of revenge, had forced
Lord Roos and his servant to attest by their signatures the truth of the
confession! I thought of this--and incensed that I had not done it,
resolved it _should_ be done."

"An ill resolve!" muttered her husband.

"In Luke Hatton, our apothecary, I had the man for my purpose," pursued
Lady Lake. "Aware of his marvellous talent for imitating any writing he
pleased--aware, also, that I could entirely rely upon him, I resolved to
call in his aid."

"Imprudent woman! You have placed yourself wholly in his power," groaned
Sir Thomas. "Suppose he should betray the terrible trust you have
reposed in him?"

"He will not betray it," replied Lady Lake. "He is too deeply implicated
in the matter not to keep silence for his own sake. But to proceed. The
document, such as you see it, was drawn out by myself and transcribed by
Luke Hatton, and the writing so admirably counterfeited that Lady
Exeter herself may well doubt if it be not her own. Then, as to the
circumstances, they will all bear me out. We were known to have been at
Wimbledon on the day in question. We were known to have had an interview
with Lady Exeter, at which Lord Roos and Diego were present. The
interview was private, and therefore no one can tell what took place at
it; but the probabilities are that what I shall assert really did

Sir Thomas signified his assent, and she went on.

"The plot is well contrived, and, with prudent management, cannot fail
of success. We have the time of the supposed occurrence--the actors in
it--and the scene--for I shall describe the particular room in which the
interview really did take place, and I shall further bring forward Sarah
Swarton, who will declare that she was concealed behind the hangings,
and heard the Countess read over the confession before she signed it."

"Another party to the affair--and a woman!" ejaculated Sir Thomas. "The
dangers of discovery are multiplied a hundredfold."

"The danger exists only in your imagination," said his Lady. "Come,
admit, Sir Thomas, that the scheme is well contrived, and that they must
be cunning indeed if they escape from the meshes I have woven for them."

"You have displayed ingenuity enough, I am free to own, if it had been
directed to a better end; but in the best contrived scheme some flaw is
ever found, which is sure to mar it."

"You can detect no flaw in this I am persuaded, Sir Thomas. If you can,
let me know it?"

"Nay, it is only when too late that such things are found out. The
supposed armour of proof is then found wanting at some vital point.
However, I will say no more," he observed, perceiving her impatience.
"What is done cannot be undone. Have you prepared our daughter? Will she
consent to aid you?"

"She will," replied Lady Lake. "I had some difficulty with her at first,
but I found means to overrule her scruples, and she consented at last to
act as I desired, provided all other means failed of accomplishing the
object in view. And they _have_ failed since we have lost those letters,
for though I have one other proof left which might perhaps be adduced, I
do not attach much importance to it."

"What is it?" inquired Sir Thomas, quickly.

"You shall know anon," she answered. "Suffice it, I have done all I
could to avoid having recourse to the present measure; and have
delayed--its execution to the last moment."

"But that proof of which you were speaking?" cried Sir Thomas. "Let me
hear it? Perhaps it may obviate the necessity of this dangerous

"I do not think so. But you shall judge. Last night, our daughter and
myself obtained secret admittance to Lord Roos's chamber, and we found
the Countess there, and fainting in his arms."

"Why that is enough to convict them. You want nothing more."

"Hear me to an end, and you will change your opinion. Placing the
inanimate Countess on a couch, and covering her face with a
handkerchief, Lord Roos had the effrontery to assert that we were
mistaken; insisting that it was not Lady Exeter we beheld--but her
hand-maiden, Gillian Greenford; and he appealed to the perfidious knave,
Diego, in confirmation of his assertion."

"But you did not leave without satisfying yourselves of the truth?"
demanded Sir Thomas.

"His lordship took care we should have no means of doing so," she
answered. "He caused Diego to convey her away by a secret staircase."

"'Sdeath! that was unlucky. You have no proof then that it was the
Countess you beheld?"

"Nothing beyond a lock of her hair, which was secured by Lady Roos as
the man was removing her."

"That may be enough," cried the Secretary of State; "and prevent the
necessity of resorting to this frightful expedient. We must see the
girl, and interrogate her. Gillian Greenford you say she is called. She
shall be brought hither at once."

"It is possible she may be without," returned Lady Lake. "Before I came
here, I summoned her in your name."

"We will see," cried Sir Thomas, striking upon the bell. And the usher,
appearing to the summons, informed him that in effect the damsel in
question was in attendance. "She seems much alarmed, Sir Thomas," said
the usher, "and has with her a young man, who appears to take a tender
interest in her, and wishes to be present at the investigation."

"Let him come in with her," said the Secretary of State. And seeing the
usher pause, he inquired if he had anything further to say.

"His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador and my Lord Roos are without, and
desire admittance," replied the man.

Sir Thomas consulted his lady by a look; and as she made no objection,
he signified his pleasure that they should be admitted, and accordingly
the door was thrown open for the entrance of all the persons mentioned.

Gillian came first, and seemed much embarrassed by the situation in
which she found herself. She had been well tutored for the part she had
to play; but the instructions she had received entirely fled from her
mind as she found herself in the presence of two such awful personages
as Sir Thomas Lake and his lady, both of whom fixed keen glances upon
her. Feeling ready to drop with fright, she looked at Dick Taverner, as
if imploring his support. But this Dick declined to afford. His jealousy
having been roused by what he had heard, he determined to be governed in
his conduct towards her by the result of the investigation. Accordingly,
though it cost him an effort, he held back. As the Conde de Gondomar
appeared, Sir Thomas Lake arose, and made him a profound salutation,
which was returned with equal ceremony by the Spanish Ambassador. The
latter, however, did not take a seat, but remained standing with Lord
Roos, whose presence was acknowledged by a cold and distant bow from his
father-in-law. The young nobleman did not appear in the slightest degree
disconcerted by the reception he met with, or apprehensive of the result
of the investigation. He jested apart with De Gondomar; and both he and
the Spanish Ambassador appeared greatly amused by Gillian's
embarrassment. Behind him stood his servant Diego.

"You are handmaiden to the Countess of Exeter, I presume?" demanded Lady
Lake of the damsel.

"I am, my lady," she answered.

"The girl does not look as if the imputations cast upon her character
can be true," observed Sir Thomas Lake.

As this was said, poor Gillian became suffused with blushes, and hung
her head.

"Before I put any further questions to her," remarked Lady Lake, "I
will ask Lord Roos if he still persists in affirming that it was this
damsel who visited him last night?"

Dick Taverner looked as if his fate depended upon the response the young
nobleman might make to the inquiry.

"I must decline to answer your ladyship's question," returned Lord Roos.

"Why cannot he speak out?" muttered Dick. "This uncertainty is worse
than anything."

"What says the damsel herself," observed Sir Thomas Lake. "Does she
admit the charge?"

"You cannot expect her to do that, Sir Thomas," interposed Lord Roos.

"I expect her to answer my question," rejoined the Secretary of State,
sharply. "Were you in Lord Roos's room last night?" he added, to

"Oh, dear! I am ready to faint," she exclaimed. "Catch me, Dick--catch

"Answer 'yes' or 'no,' or I won't," he rejoined.

"Well, then, 'yes!' if I must say something," she replied.

Poor Dick fell back, as if struck by a shot.

"I don't believe it," cried Sir Thomas.

"Nor I either," said Dick, recovering himself. "I don't believe she
could do such a wicked thing. Besides, it was the foreign ambassador,
there," he added, pointing to De Gondomar, "who seemed most enamoured
of her yesterday; and I shouldn't have been so much surprised if she had
gone to see him. Perhaps she did," he continued, addressing the poor
damsel, who again hung her head.

"I can take upon me to affirm that such was not the case," observed De

"Have you the lock of hair with you?" whispered Sir Thomas to his lady.

"I have," she replied, taking a small packet from her bosom.

The movement did not pass unnoticed by Lord Roos and the Spanish
Ambassador, between whom an almost imperceptible smile passed.

"If you have put all the interrogations you desire to make to Gillian,
Madam," said Lord Roos to his mother-in-law, "perhaps she may be
permitted to depart? The situation cannot be agreeable to her."

"A moment more, my lord," cried Lady Lake. "If I detain her it is to
clear her character. I know her to be perfectly innocent."

At this announcement, Dick Taverner's countenance brightened, and he
extended his arms towards Gillian, who gladly availed herself of his

"I am quite sure she was not the person I surprised in your chamber last
night," continued Lady Lake.

"Indeed, Madam! How do you arrive at that conviction?"

"Because that person's hair was jet black, whereas Gillian's, as we
see, is of the exactly opposite colour."

Dick Taverner could not help pressing his lips against the back of the
pretty damsel's neck as this was uttered.

"Your proof of this, Madam?" demanded Lord Roos.

"Behold it!" she cried. "This look of hair was cut off before your
visitant escaped, and has remained in my possession ever since. Ha! how
is this?" she exclaimed, as she unfolded the packet, and disclosed a
tress of fair hair, evidently matching Gillian's lint-white locks. "What
transformation has taken place! Witchcraft has been practised. This is
the Countess's work."

"The minion must have been there, after all," cried Dick Taverner,
thrusting Gillian from him.

"The charge of witchcraft will not serve your turn, Madam," said Lord
Roos derisively. "The explanation is simple. Your eyes have deceived

"Most palpably," cried the Conde de Gondomar, who had caught Gillian in
his arms, as the jealous apprentice cast her from him. "I am afraid her
ladyship cannot see very clearly."

"I see clearly enough that a trick has been practised upon me," Lady
Lake rejoined sharply. "But let Lord Roos look to himself. I will have
my revenge, and a terrible one it shall be."

"Do not commit yourself," said Sir Thomas in a low tone.

"Your business here is at an end, fair maiden," said the Conde de
Gondomar to Gillian; "and as your lover abandons you, I am ready to take
charge of you."

So saying he led her forth, followed by Lord Roos, whose smile of
triumph exasperated his mother-in-law almost beyond endurance.

For a moment Dick Tayerner remained irresolute; but his mistress had no
sooner disappeared, than he rushed after her, vowing he would have her
back if it cost him his life.


The Puritan's Prison.

Hugh Calveley, it has already been intimated, was lodged in a vault
beneath the gateway. The place was commonly used as a sort of black-hole
for the imprisonment of any refractory member of the royal household, or
soldier on guard guilty of neglect of duty. Circular in shape, it
contained a large pillar, to which iron rings and chains were attached.
The walls were of stone, the roof arched with ribs springing from the
pillar that supported it, and the floor was paved. Window there was
none; but air was admitted through a small grated aperture in the roof;
and thus imperfectly ventilated, it will not be wondered at that the
vault should be damp. Moisture constantly trickled down the walls, and
collected in pools on the broken pavement; but unwholesome as it was,
and altogether unfit for occupation, it was deemed good enough for those
generally thrust into it, and far too good for its present tenant.

As the prisoner exhibited no violence, the thongs with which his hands
were bound were removed on his entrance to the vault, and he was allowed
the free use of his limbs. The breast-plate in which he was clad was
taken from him, and his vesture was again closely searched, but no
further discovery was made either of concealed weapon, or of any paper
or letter tending to show that he had accomplices in his dread design.
The only thing found upon him, indeed, was a small Bible, and this,
after it had been examined, he was permitted to retain. To the
interrogatories put to him by Master Dendy, the serjeant-at-arms, he
returned the briefest answers; and when he had said as much as he
thought fit, he obstinately refused to make further reply.

Incensed at his perversity, and determined to extort a full confession,
in order that it might be laid before the King, the serjeant-at-arms
ordered the manacles to be applied. But though the torture was
exquisite, he bore it with firmness, and without uttering a groan;
maintaining the same determined silence as before. Had he dared, Master
Dendy would have had recourse to severer measures; but having no warrant
for any such proceeding, he was obliged to content himself with threats.
To these Hugh Calveley replied by a grim smile of contempt; but as the
serjeant-at-arms was departing to make his report to Sir Thomas Lake, he
said, "I have something to disclose; but it is for the King's ear

"Better reveal it to me," rejoined Dendy, halting. "I have it in my
power to render your situation far more tolerable, or to inflict
greater torment upon you. Make your choice."

"Deal with me as you please," returned Hugh Calveley sternly. "What I
have to say is to the King, and to the King only; and though you break
every bone in my body with your engines, and tear off my flesh with
red-hot pincers, you shall not force the secret from me."

Master Dendy looked at him, and felt disposed to place him in the
dreadful instrument of torture called Skeffington's irons, which was
hanging against the wall; but the consideration that had hitherto
restrained him--namely, that he was without authority for the step, and
might be called to account for it--weighed with him still; wherefore he
contented himself with ordering the prisoner to be chained to the
pillar; and having seen the injunction obeyed, he left him.

In this miserable plight Hugh Calveley remained for some hours, without
light and without food. How the time was passed none knew; but the two
yeomen of the guard who entered the vault found him on his knees
absorbed in prayer. They brought a lamp with them, and refreshments of a
better kind than those usually afforded to a prisoner, and set them
before him. But he refused to partake of them. The only favour he
besought was permission to read his Bible; and the lamp placed within
reach, he was soon deeply engrossed in the perusal of those pages from
which, when earnestly sought, consolation has ever been derived under
the most trying circumstances.

Sir Jocelyn had forborne to visit the prisoner from a fear that his
presence might be painful; but the office imposed upon him by the King
left him no alternative; and about midnight he descended to the vault,
to ascertain from personal inspection that Hugh Calveley was in safe
custody. The door was unlocked by the halberdier stationed at it, and
the young man found himself alone with the prisoner. He was
inexpressibly shocked by the spectacle he beheld, as he had no idea how
severely the unfortunate Puritan had been treated, nor of the sort of
prison in which he was confined.

Hugh Calveley, who was still intently reading the Bible, which he had
placed upon his knee while he held the lamp near it, to throw the light
upon its leaves, did not appear to be disturbed by the opening of the
door, nor did he raise his eyes. But, at last, a deep groan issuing from
the breast of the young man aroused him, and he held up the lamp to
ascertain who was near. On discovering that it was Sir Jocelyn, he
knitted his brow, and, after sternly regarding him for a moment,
returned to his Bible, without uttering a word; but finding the other
maintained his post, he demanded, almost fiercely, why he was disturbed?

"Can I do aught for your relief?" rejoined the young man. "At least, I
can have those chains taken off."

"Thou speakest as one in authority," cried Hugh Calveley, regarding
him, fixedly. "Art thou appointed to be my jailer?"

Sir Jocelyn made no answer, but averted his head.

"This only was wanting to fill up the measure of my scorn for thee,"
pursued the Puritan. "Thou art worthy of thine office. But show me no
favour, for I will receive none at thy hands. I would rather wear these
fetters to my death, however much they may gall my limbs, than have them
struck off by thee. I would rather rot in this dungeon--ay, though it
were worse than it is--than owe my liberation to thee. The sole favour
thou canst show me is to rid me of thy presence, which is hateful to me,
and chases holy thoughts from my breast, putting evil in their place."

"Why should this be so, O friend of my father?" exclaimed Sir Jocelyn.
"And why should my presence be hateful to you? There is no man living
whom I would less willingly offend than yourself; and in all I have
done, where you have been concerned, I have had no free agency. Judge me
not then too harshly. I commiserate your situation from the depths of my
heart, and would relieve it were it possible."

"Then wherefore persist in troubling me?" rejoined Hugh Calveley. "Have
I not good cause for my dislike of you? You have disappointed the
expectations I had formed of you. You failed me when I put your
professions to the test. You thwarted my design at the moment when its
success was certain, and when the tyrant was completely in my power. But
for you I should not be here, loaded with these fetters; or if I were, I
should be consoled by the thought that I had liberated my country from
oppression, instead of being crushed by the sense of failure. What seek
you from me, miserable time-server? Have you not had your reward for the
service you have rendered the King? Is he not grateful enough? I have
served as your stepping-stone to promotion. What more can I do?"

"You can cease to do me injustice," returned Sir Jocelyn. "Honours,
procured as mine have been, are valueless, and I would rather be without
them. I sought them not. They have been forced upon me. Look at the
matter fairly, and you will see that all these consequences, whether for
good or ill, have sprung from your own desperate act."

"It may be so," rejoined the Puritan. "I will not dispute it. But though
ill has accrued to me, and good to you, I would not change positions
with you. You will wear the tyrant's fetters for ever. I shall soon be
free from mine."

"Have you nothing to say concerning your daughter?" demanded the young

"Nothing," replied the Puritan, with an expression of deep pain, which,
however, he checked by a mighty effort. "I have done with the world, and
desire not to be brought back to it."

"And you refuse to be freed from your chains?"

"My sole desire, as I have said, is to be freed from you."

"That wish, at least, shall be granted," replied Sir Jocelyn, as, with a
sad heart, he departed.


The Secret.

Thrice was the guard relieved during that long night, and as often was
the prisoner visited. On the first occasion, he was found to be still
engaged with his Bible, and he so continued during the whole time the
man remained in the vault.

The next who came discovered him on his knees, praying loudly and
fervently, and, unwilling to disturb him, left him at his devotions.

But the third who entered was struck with terror at the prisoner's
appearance. He had risen from the ground, and was standing as erect as
the fetters would permit, with his hands outstretched, and his eyes
fixed on vacancy. He was muttering something, but his words were
unintelligible. He looked like one who beheld a vision; and this
impression was produced upon the man, who half expected some awful shape
to reveal itself to him. But whatever it might be, spirit of good or
ill, it was visible to the Puritan alone.

After gazing at him for some minutes, in mixed wonderment and fright,
the halberdier ventured to draw near him. As he touched him, the Puritan
uttered a fearful cry, and attempted to spring forward, as if to grasp
some vanishing object, but being checked in the effort by the chain, he
fell heavily to the ground, and seemed to sustain severe injury; for
when the man raised him, and set him against the pillar, though he made
no complaint, it was evident he suffered excruciating pain. The
halberdier poured out a cup of wine, and offered it to him; but, though
well-nigh fainting, he peremptorily refused it.

From this moment a marked change was perceptible in his looks. The hue
of his skin became cadaverous; his eyes grew dim and glassy; and his
respiration was difficult. Everything betokened that his sufferings
would be speedily over, and that, however he might deserve it, Hugh
Calveley would be spared the disgrace of death by the hands of the
executioner. The halberdier was not unaware of his condition, and his
first impulse was to summon assistance; but he was deterred from doing
so by the earnest entreaty of the Puritan to be left alone; and thinking
this the most merciful course he could pursue under the circumstances,
he yielded to the request, scarcely expecting to behold him alive again.

It was by this same man that the door of the vault was opened to Sir
Jocelyn and Aveline.

The shock experienced by the maiden at the sight of her father had
well-nigh overcome her. She thought him dead, and such was Sir Jocelyn's
first impression. The unfortunate Puritan was still propped against the
pillar, as the halberdier had left him, but his head had fallen to one
side, and his arms hung listlessly down. With a piercing shriek his
daughter flew towards him, and kneeling beside him, raised his head
gently, and gazing eagerly into his face, perceived that he still lived,
though the spirit seemed ready to wing its flight from its fleshly

The situation was one to call forth every latent energy in Aveline's
character. Controlling her emotion, she uttered no further cry, but set
herself, with calmness, to apply such restoratives as were at hand to
her father. After bathing his temples and chafing his hands, she had the
satisfaction, ere long, of seeing him open his eyes. At first, he seemed
to have a difficulty in fixing his gaze upon her, but her voice reached
his ears, and the feeble pressure of his hand told that he knew her.

The power of speech returned to him at length, and he faintly murmured,
"My child, I am glad to see you once more. I thought all was over; but
it has pleased Heaven to spare me for a few moments to give you my
blessing. Bow down your head, O my daughter, and take it; and though
given by a sinner like myself, it shall profit you! May the merciful
God, who pardoneth all that repent, even at the last hour, and watcheth
over the orphan, bless you, and protect you!"

"Amen!" exclaimed Jocelyn, fervently.

"Who was it spoke?" demanded the Puritan. And as no answer was returned,
he repeated the inquiry.

"It was I--Jocelyn Mounchensey, the son of your old friend," replied the
young man.

"Come nigh to me, Jocelyn," said the dying man. "I have done you wrong,
and entreat your pardon."

"O, talk not thus!" cried Jocelyn, springing towards him. "I have
nothing to forgive, but much to be forgiven."

"You have a noble heart, Jocelyn," rejoined Hugh Calveley; "and in that
respect resemble your father. In his name, I conjure you to listen to
me. You will not refuse my dying request. I have a sacred trust to
commit to you."

"Name it!" cried the young man; "and rest assured it shall be

"Give me some wine," gasped the Puritan, faintly. "My strength is
failing fast, and it may revive me."

And with, great effort he swallowed a few drops from the cup filled for
him by Jocelyn. Still, his appearance was so alarming, that the young
man could not help urging him not to delay.

"I understand," replied Hugh Calveley, slightly pressing his hand. "You
think I have no time to lose; and you are right. My child, then, is the
trust I would confide to you. Son, behold thy sister! Daughter, behold
thy brother!"

"I will be more than a brother to her," cried Sir Jocelyn, earnestly.

"More thou canst not be," rejoined Hugh Calveley; "unless--"

"Unless what?" demanded Sir Jocelyn.

"I cannot explain," cried the Puritan, with an expression of agony;
"there is not time. Suffice it, she is already promised in marriage."

"Father!" exclaimed Aveline, in surprise, and with something of
reproach. "I never heard of such an engagement before. It has been made
without my consent."

"I charge you to fulfil it, nevertheless, my child, if it be required,"
said Hugh Calveley, solemnly. "Promise me this, or I shall not die
content. Speak! Let me hear you."

And she reluctantly gave the required promise.

Sir Jocelyn uttered an exclamation of anguish.

"What afflicts you, my son?" demanded the Puritan.

"To whom have you promised your daughter in marriage?" inquired the
young man. "You have constituted me her brother, and I am therefore
entitled to inquire."

"You will learn when the demand is made," said the Puritan. "You will
then know why I have given the promise, and the nature of the obligation
imposed upon my daughter to fulfil it."

"But is this obligation ever to remain binding?" demanded Sir Jocelyn.

"If the claim be not made within a year after my death, she is
discharged from it," replied Hugh Calveley.

"O, thanks, father, thanks!" exclaimed Aveline.

At this moment the door of the vault was thrown open, and two persons
entered, the foremost of whom Sir Jocelyn instantly recognised as the
King. The other was his Majesty's physician, Doctor Mayerne Turquet. A
glance sufficed to explain to the latter the state of the Puritan.

"Ah! parbleu! the man is dying, your Majesty," he exclaimed.

"Deeing! is he?" cried James. "The mair reason he suld tell his secret,
to us without procrastination. Harkye, prophet of ill!" he continued, as
he strode forward. "The judgment of Heaven ye predicated for us, seems
to have fallen on your ainsell, and to have laid you low, even afore our
arm could touch you. Ye have gude reason to be thankful you have escaped
the woodie; sae e'en make a clean breast of it, confess your enormities,
and reveal to us the secret matter whilk we are tauld ye hae to

"Let all else withdraw a few paces," said Hugh Calveley, "and do thou, O
King, approach me. What I have to say is for thine ear alone."

"There will be no danger in granting his request?" inquired James of
his physician.

"None whatever," replied Doctor Mayerne Turquet. "The only danger is in
delay. Your Majesty should lose no time. The man is passing rapidly
away. A few moments more, and he will have ceased to exist."

On a sign from the King, Sir Jocelyn then stepped aside, but Aveline
refused to quit her father, even for a moment.

As James drew near, Hugh Calveley raised himself a little in order to
address him. "I say unto thee, O King," he cried, "as Elijah said unto
Ahab, 'Because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the
Lord--behold! I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy
posterity. And I will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the
son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the
provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to

"Now the muckle Diel seize thee, villain!" exclaimed James furiously.
"Is it to listen to thy texts that thou hast brought me hither?" And as
Hugh Calveley, exhausted by the effort he had made, fell back with a
groan, he bent his head towards him, crying, "The secret, man, the
secret! or the tormenter shall wring it from thee?"

The Puritan essayed to speak, but his voice was so low that it did not
reach the ears of the King.

"What sayest thou?" he demanded. "Speak louder. Saul of our body!" he
exclaimed, after a moment's pause, during which the sudden alteration
that took place in the prisoner's features made him suspect that all was
over. "Our belief is he will never speak again. He hath escaped us, and
ta'en his secret wi' him."

A loud shriek burst from Aveline, as she fell upon her father's lifeless

"Let us forth," cried the King, stopping his ears. "We carena to be
present at scenes like this. We hae had a gude riddance o' this traitor,
though we wad hae gladly heard what he had to tell. Sir Jocelyn
Mounchensey, ye will see that this young woman be cared for; and when ye
have caused her to be removed elsewhere, follow us to the tennis-court,
to which we shall incontinently adjourn."

So saying, he quitted the vault with his physician.


Luke Hatton.

Feigning sudden indisposition (and the excuse was not altogether without
foundation), the Countess of Exeter quitted Theobalds Palace on the day
after her unlucky visit to Lord Roos's chamber, and proceeded to her
husband's residence at Wimbledon, where she was speedily joined by her
lover, who brought her word of the advantage he had gained over their

"I have fairly checkmated my gracious mother-in-law," he cried, with a
laugh; "and it would have diverted you as much as it did me and De
Gondomar, who was present on the occasion, if you could have witnessed
her rage and mortification, when she discovered the change that had been
effected; and that in place of your magnificent black ringlet (which I
now wear next my heart, and shall ever keep as a love-token), she had
only a sorry specimen of your hand-maiden's lint-white locks. As I live,
it was truly laughable. The good lady would have annihilated me if she
could; and threatened me with terrible reprisals. At first, she tried to
attribute the transformation, which she could not otherwise account for,
to witchcraft; and though I derided the charge, I must needs say, the
trick was so cleverly performed, that it _did_ look like magic. The
packet containing the tress of hair had never been out of her own
keeping. This she affirmed; and it was true. But there was a friendly
hand to open it nevertheless; to purloin its priceless treasure; and to
substitute something of a similar kind, though of comparatively little
value in its place. That hand,--one not likely to be suspected, was no
other than that of my lady's confidential attendant, Sarah Swarton. The
juggle was played by her at the instance of Diego. Anticipating some
such occurrence as the present, and desirous of having a spy upon the
movements of our enemies, I some time since directed Diego to pay secret
court to Sarah, and my forethought has now been rewarded. The main
difficulty lay with poor Gillian. She was greatly embarrassed by her
situation; and her perplexity was increased by the presence of a jealous
lover in the shape of an apprentice, who refused to leave her till his
doubts should be satisfied. This was awkward, as the story could not be
very well reconciled so as to suit all parties. Accordingly, when the
discovery was made, which seemed to proclaim the poor girl's infidelity,
the youth's rage and consternation were nearly equal to Lady Lake's; a
circumstance that added considerable zest to the comedy. But I see it
does not divert you so much as I expected, and therefore, to relieve
your mind, I may tell you that the jealous varlet soon repented of his
rash determination, and pursuing his mistress, whom Do Gondomar had
considerately taken under his protection, prevailed upon her to give the
amorous ambassador the slip, and return with him to her father's abode
at Tottenham."

"I am right glad to hear it," said the Countess. "Though I have seen so
little of Gillian, I cannot help taking an interest in her; she is so
pretty, and so innocent in appearance, and her manners are so artless
and engaging. I owe her some reparation for the mischief I have done
her, and will not neglect to make it. I am sorry I ever was induced by
you to take her into my service; and I am thankful to hear she has
escaped De Gondomar's snares."

"You are wonderfully interested about her, methinks, Frances; and I hope
she will be grateful for your consideration," rejoined Lord Roos, with a
laugh. "But I should not be surprised if De Gondomar still gained his
point. It is not his way to give up a pursuit he has once undertaken.
However, to leave the pretty damsel to her fate, which will depend
entirely on her own conduct, let us return to ourselves. We have good
reason to be satisfied with the issue of this adventure of the lock of
hair. Nevertheless, that recurrence to the charge of witchcraft on the
part of my vindictive mother-in-law shows the extent of her malice, and
I cannot doubt that in threatening me with reprisals she will be as good
as her word. It behoves us, therefore, to be beforehand with her. What
she may intend I cannot say, but I am satisfied she has a formidable
scheme on foot, and that nothing but her husband's interposition
prevented its disclosure when she was so violently incensed against me."

"You fill me with terror, William," exclaimed the Countess. "Will this
woman's hostility towards me never cease?"

"Never," replied Lord Roos, with a sudden change of manner, and laying
aside the levity he had hitherto exhibited. "There is but one way of
ending the struggle. Luke Hatton can help us to it. Persuaded we should
require him, I have brought him with me. He waits in the hall below with
Diego. Shall I summon him to our conference?"

"On no account," exclaimed Lady Exeter hastily; "I will not see him. You
have done wrong to bring that poisoner here, my lord. You will destroy

"Listen to me, Frances," replied Lord Roos. "The next step taken by Lady
Lake will be fatal to us. There must be no delay, no irresolution on our
part, or all is lost. I cannot depend upon myself, or I would not call
in another's aid. You will comprehend how wanting in firmness I am, when
I tell you what happened the other night. Incredible as it may sound, my
wife, in order to prove her devotion to me and to free me from further
annoyance on her part, offered to take poison; and but for my
interference (fool that I was to stay her!) would have drained the
phial containing the deadly potion. The weakness was momentary, and I
reproached myself for it when too late. But it convinced me that a
firmer hand than mine must be employed in the task."

"And can you, after what you have related, William,--can you seriously
meditate the destruction of a fond woman, who has generosity enough to
lay down her life for you? This is more incredible than the rest--more
monstrously wicked."

"Wicked it may be; but the excuse--if I have any--lies in my
overwhelming passion for you, Frances," replied Lord Roos in a frenzied
tone. "And it seems decided by the relentless destiny that governs me,
that the continued indulgence of the fatal passion shall only be
purchased at the price of my soul. That penalty I am prepared to pay
rather than lose you. I will become obdurate, will turn my heart to
stone, so that it shall no more melt at the tears of this fond, foolish
woman; and I will slay her without remorse. Any other obstacle between
us shall be removed;--be it her mother, her father--your husband! I will
immolate a hundred victims at the altar of our love. I will shrink from
nothing to make you mine for ever. For I would rather share eternal bale
with you, Frances, than immortal bliss with another."

"You almost make me fancy some evil being has obtained possession of
you, William," said the Countess, gazing at him with affright.

"It may be that the Fiend himself hath accepted my wild offer," he
rejoined gloomily; "but if my wish be granted it matters not."

"I will not listen to such fearful impiety," said the Countess,
shuddering. "Let us dismiss this subject for the present, and recur to
it when you are calmer."

"It cannot be postponed, Frances. Time presses, and even now Lady Lake
may have got the start of us. I shall be calm enough when this is over.
Will you consent to see Luke Hatton?"

"Why need I see him?" inquired the Countess with increasing uneasiness.
"Why will you force his hateful presence upon me? If the deed must be
done, why can you not alone undertake it?"

"I will tell why I cannot," he replied in a sombre tone, and regarding
her fixedly. "I must have a partner in the crime. It will bind us to
each other in links not to be severed. I shall have no fear of losing
you then, Countess. I go to bring Luke Hatton to you."

And without waiting for her reply he strode out of the room. Lady Exeter
would have arrested him, but she had not the nerve to do so, and with an
exclamation of anguish she fell back in her chair.

"What dominion sin has usurped over me!" she mentally ejaculated. "I
have lost the power of resisting its further encroachment. I see the
enormity of the offence I am about to commit, and though my soul revolts
at it, I cannot hold back. I am as one on the brink of a precipice, who
beholds the dreadful gulf before him, into which another step must
plunge him, yet is too giddy to retreat, and must needs fall over. Pity
me, kind Heaven! I am utterly helpless without thy aid."

While the unhappy lady thus unavailingly deplored the sad position in
which her own misconduct had placed her, and from which she felt wholly
incapable of extricating herself; while in this wretched frame of mind,
she awaited her lover's return,--with, as we have shown, some remains of
good struggling with the evil in her bosom,--we will cast a hasty glance
round the chamber in which she sat. And we are prompted to do this, not
because it merits particular description, but because it was the room
referred to by Lady Lake as the scene of the confession she had forged.

The apartment, then, was spacious and handsomely furnished in the heavy
taste of the period, with but little to distinguish it from other rooms
visited by us in the course of this story. Like most of them, it had a
gloomy air, caused by the dark hue of its oaken panels, and the heavy
folds of its antiquated and faded tapestry. The latter was chiefly hung
against the lower end of the chamber, and served as a screen to one of
the doors. At the opposite end, there was a wide and deep bay window,
glowing with stained glass, amid the emblazonry of which might be
discerned the proud escutcheon of the house of Exeter, with the two
lions rampant forming its supporters. On the right of the enormous
carved mantel-piece, which, with its pillars, statues, 'scutcheons, and
massive cornice, mounted to the very ceiling, was hung a portrait of the
Earl of Exeter--a grave, dignified personage, clad in the attire of
Elizabeth's time; and on the left, was a likeness of the Countess
herself, painted in all the pride of her unequalled beauty, and
marvellous in resemblance then; but how different in expression from her
features now!

In the recess of the window stood an oak table, covered with a piece of
rich carpet fringed with gold, on which a massive silver inkstand and
materials for writing were placed; and this table was seized upon by
Lady Lake as a feature in her plot. Here she would have it the
confession was signed by the Countess.

Another point in reference to this scheme must not be passed unnoticed.
We have mentioned the heavy hangings at the lower end of the room.
According to the plotter, it was behind these that Sarah Swarton--the
intended witness of the imaginary scene--was concealed. The principal
subjects represented on the arras were the Judgment of Solomon, and the
Temptation of our first Parents in the Garden by the Serpent. The
hangings had evidently not been removed for years, and did not reach
within two feet of the ground--a circumstance that had escaped the
attention of Lady Lake--proving the truth of her husband's observation,
that in the best contrived plot some imperfection will exist certain to
operate in its detection.

To return to the unhappy Countess. So lost was she in reflection, that
she did not remark Lord Roos's return till made aware of it by a slight
touch on the shoulder. When she raised her eyes, they fell upon an
object that inspired her with the dread and aversion that a noxious
reptile might have produced. She had never seen Luke Hatton before; and
if she had figured him to her mind at all, it was not as anything
agreeable; but she was not prepared for so hideous and revolting a
personage as he appeared to be. His face was like an ugly mask, on which
a sardonic grin was stamped. His features were large and gaunt, and he
had the long, hooked nose, and the sharp-pointed bestial ears of a
satyr, with leering eyes--betokening at once sensuality and cunning. He
had the chin and beard of a goat, and crisply-curled hair of a pale
yellow colour. With all this, there was something sordid in his looks as
well as his attire, which showed that to his other vices he added that
of avarice. A mock humility, belied by the changeless sneer upon his
countenance, distinguished his deportment. It could be seen at once
that, however cringing he might be, he despised the person he addressed.
Moreover, in spite of all his efforts to control it, there was something
sarcastic in his speech. His doublet and hose, both of which had endured
some service, and were well-nigh threadbare, were tawny-coloured; and he
wore a short yellow cloak, a great ruff of the same colour, and carried
a brown steeple-crowned hat in his hand.

"I await your ladyship's commands," said Luke Hatton, bowing

"I have none to give you," Lady Exeter rejoined with irrepressible
disgust. "I have not sent for you. Go hence."

Not at all abashed by this reception, Luke Hatton maintained his place,
and threw an inquiring glance at Lord Roos.

"My dear Countess," said the young nobleman, seating himself negligently
upon a tabouret beside her, "I must pray you not to dismiss this worthy
man so hastily. You will find him eminently serviceable; and as to his
trustworthiness, I have the best reasons for feeling satisfied of it,
because I hold in my hand a noose, which, whenever I please, I can
tighten round his neck. Of this he is quite aware, and therefore he
will serve us faithfully, as well from fear as from gratitude."

"Her ladyship may place entire confidence in me," remarked Luke Hatton,
with a grin. "This is not the first affair of the kind in which I have
been engaged. I have prepared potions and powders which Mistress Turner
(with whose reputation your ladyship must needs be acquainted) used to
vend to her customers. My draughts have removed many a troublesome
husband, and silenced many a jealous wife. I have helped many an heir to
the speedy enjoyment of an inheritance, which, but for my assistance,
would not have come to him for years. The lover with a rival in his way,
who has come to me, has soon been freed from all anxiety on that score.
The courtier, eager for a post which a superior held, has gained it by
my aid. Yet none of those whom I have thus benefited have been
suspected. Your ladyship, I repeat, need have no fears of me--and no
scruples with me. State your wishes, and they shall be implicitly

"I have no wish, except to be relieved of a presence which is
disagreeable to me," replied the Countess.

Again Luke Hatton consulted Lord Roos with a regard.

"I find I must act for her ladyship," said the young nobleman. "You will
take, therefore, the instructions I shall give you, as proceeding from
her. What two names do you find upon that paper?"

"Those of your lordship's wife and mother-in-law," returned Luke Hatton.

"You comprehend what her ladyship would have done with those persons?"
said Lord Roos, looking at him steadfastly.

"Perfectly," replied Luke Hatton.

"O, do not give this fatal order, my Lord!" cried Lady Exeter,

"How many days do you require to effect their removal?" demanded Lord
Roos, without appearing to notice her remark.

"I do not require many hours," replied Luke Hatton; "but it will be well
not to be too precipitate. Neither must they die at the same time. All
precaution shall be taken. The names are placed in a particular order.
Is it so the Countess would have them taken? In that case I must
commence with Lady Roos."

"Wretch! dost thou dare to make such an appeal to me?" cried Lady Exeter
rising. "Begone, instantly, I say. Thou hast no order whatever from me;
or if thou fanciest so, I revoke it."

"The order cannot be revoked," cried Lord Roos, grasping her arm. "This
is not a time for hesitation or repentance. Having commenced the work,
you must go through with it--whether you will or not."

"Whether I will or not!" exclaimed Lady Exeter, regarding him with
angry surprise. "Have I heard you aright, my Lord? Am I to be forced
into association in this foul deed? Have I sunk so low in your esteem
that you venture to treat me thus?"

"Pardon me, Frances--pardon me!" he cried, imploringly. "I have said
more than I intended. If I appear to exercise undue influence over you
now, you will forgive me hereafter, because the situation is one that
requires decision, and that quality I possess in a higher degree than
yourself. Luke Hatton must obey the orders given him. And you must
sanction them."

"Never!" she exclaimed, emphatically.

"Then we part for ever," cried Lord Roos. "No matter what the pang may
be--nor what befals me--I will go. Farewell for ever, Countess!"

"Stay!" she cried. "We must not part thus."

"Then you consent?" he exclaimed. "Luke Hatton receives his orders from

"Ask me not that question!" she cried, with a shudder.

"If her ladyship will but sign this," said Luke Hatton, holding towards
her the paper on which the names were written, "it will suffice for me."

"You hear what he says, Frances. You will do it?" cried Lord Roos. "'Tis
but a few strokes of a pen."

"Those few strokes will cost me my soul," she rejoined. "But if it must
he so, it must. Give me the pen."

And as Lord Roos complied, she signed the paper.

"Nov you may go," said Lord Roos to Luke Hatton, who received the paper
with a diabolical grin. "You may count upon your reward."

"In a week's time, my lord," said Luke Hatton, still grinning, and
shifting his glance from the half-fainting Countess to the young
nobleman; "in a week's time" he repeated, "you will have to put on
mourning for your wife--and in a month for your mother-in-law."

And with a cringing bow, and moving with a soft cat-like footstep, he
quitted the room, leaving the guilty pair alone together.


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