Part 3 out of 4
all; but for the present, I shall confine myself to such portions of it
as bear upon your own perilous position--and I therefore hold myself out
as a lesson to you. Again, I bid you look upon this ravaged countenance,
and say, if by any stretch of fancy you can persuade yourself it was
once as comely as your own. You find it difficult to believe my
words--yet such was the fact. Ay," he continued, in a tone of
profoundest melancholy, "I was once proud of the gifts nature had
vouchsafed me; too proud, alas! and I was punished for my vanity and
self-boasting. In those days I loved--and was beloved in return--by a
damsel beautiful as Aveline. After my horrible punishment, I beheld her
no more. Knowing she must regard me with aversion, I shunned her. I
desired not to be an object of pity. Bring this home to your own breast,
Sir Jocelyn, and think how direful would be your lot to be driven for
ever from her you love. Yet, such has been my case."
"I cannot bear the contemplation--it were madness," cried the young man.
There was a brief pause, after which Lanyere resumed his story.
"At the time of being cast into the Fleet Prison, my prospects were fair
enough. When I came forth I was utterly ruined. Existence was a burden
to me, and I should have ended my days by my own hand, if the insatiable
desire of vengeance had not bound me to the world. For this alone I
consented to live--to bear the agonies of blighted love--to endure the
scorn and taunts of all with whom I was brought into contact. Nay, I
attached myself to him who had so deeply wronged me, to ensure revenge
upon him. My great fear was, lest I should be robbed of this precious
morsel; and you may remember that I struck up your sword when it had
touched his breast. He must die by no other hand than mine."
"Your vengeance has been tardy," observed Sir Jocelyn.
"True," replied the other. "I have delayed it for several reasons, but
chiefly because I would have it complete. The work is begun, and its
final accomplishment will not be long postponed. I will not destroy him
till I have destroyed the superstructure on which he has built his
fortunes--till all has crumbled beneath him--and he is beggared and
dishonoured. I have begun the work, I say. Look here!" he cried, taking
a parchment from his doublet. "You would give much for this deed, Sir
Jocelyn. This makes me lord of a large property in Norfolk, with which
you are well acquainted."
"You cannot mean the Mounchensey estates?" cried Sir Jocelyn. "Yet now I
look at the instrument, it is so."
"I obtained this assignment by stratagem," said the promoter; "and I
have thereby deprived Sir Giles of the most valuable portion of his
spoils; and though; he thinks to win it back again, he will find himself
deceived. My measures are too well taken. This is the chief prop of the
fabric it has taken him so long to rear, and ere long I will shake it
wholly in pieces."
"But if you have become unlawfully possessed of this property, as would
appear to be the case by your own showing, you cannot hope to retain
it," said the young knight.
"Trust me, Sir Jocelyn, I shall prove a better title to it than Sir
Giles could exhibit," rejoined Lanyere; "but this is not a time for full
explanation. If I carry out my schemes, you will not be the last person
benefited by them."
"Again, I ask you, what possible interest you can feel in me?" demanded
the young knight with curiosity.
"Next to myself, you have been most injured by Sir Giles, and even more
than myself are you an object of dislike to him. These would suffice to
excite my sympathy towards you; but I have other and stronger reasons
for my friendly feeling towards you, which in due season you shall
"All your proceedings are mysterious," observed Sir Jocelyn.
"They must needs be so from the circumstances in which I am placed. I am
compelled to veil them as I do my hateful features from the prying eyes
of men: but they will be made clear anon, and you will then understand
me and my motives better. Ha! what is this?" he suddenly exclaimed, as a
noise outside attracted his attention. "Fly! fly! there is danger."
But the warning was too late. Ere the young man, who stood irresolute,
could effect his retreat from the back of the cottage, the door was
thrown open, and a serjeant-at-arms, with three attendants in black
gowns and flat caps, and having black staves in their hands, entered the
Sir Jocelyn had partly drawn his sword, but restored it to the scabbard
on a glance from Lanyere.
"Resistance must not be offered," said the latter, in a low tone. "You
will only make a bad matter worse."
The serjeant-at-arms, a tall, thin man, with a sinister aspect, advanced
towards the young knight, and touching him with his wand, said--"I
attach your person, Sir Jocelyn Mounchensey, in virtue of a warrant,
which I hold from the High Court of Star-Chamber."
"I yield myself your prisoner, Sir," replied Sir Jocelyn. "Whither am I
to be taken?"
"You will be taken before the Lords of the Council in the first
instance, and afterwards, in all probability, be consigned to the
custody of the wardens of his Majesty's gaol of the Fleet," replied the
"I would fain know the nature of my offence?" said Sir Jocelyn.
"You will learn that when the interrogatories are put to you," replied
the official. "But I am told you have disparaged the dignity of the High
Court, and that is an offence ever severely punished. Your accuser is
Sir Giles Mompesson."
Having said thus much, the serjeant-at-arms turned to the promoter, and
inquired, "Are you not Clement Lanyere?"
"Why do you ask?" rejoined the other.
"Because if you are he, I must request you to accompany me to Sir Giles
"Lanyere is my name," replied the other; "and if I decline to attend
you, as you request, it is from no disrespect to you, but from distaste
to the society into which you propose to bring me. Your warrant does not
extend to me?"
"It does not, Sir," replied the serjeant-at-arms. "Nevertheless--"
"Arrest him!" cried a voice at the back of the house,--and a window
being thrown open, the face of Sir Giles Mompesson appeared at
it--"Arrest him!" repeated the extortioner.
The serjeant-at-arms made a movement, as if of compliance; but Lanyere
bent towards him, and whispered a few words in his ear, on hearing which
the official respectfully retired.
"Why are not my injunctions obeyed, Sir?" demanded Sir Giles,
furiously, from the window.
"Because he has rendered me good reason why he may not be molested by
us--or by any one else," replied the officer, significantly.
Lanyere looked with a smile of triumph at the extortioner, and then
turning to Sir Jocelyn, who seemed half disposed to make an attack upon
his enemy, said in an under-tone, "Harm him not. Leave him to me."
After which he quitted the cottage.
Sir Giles then signed to the serjeant-at-arms to remove his prisoner,
and disappeared; and the attendants, in sable cloaks, closing round Sir
Jocelyn, the party went forth.
The Old Fleet Prison.
Mention is made of a prison-house standing near the River Fleet as early
as the reign of Richard I.; and this was one of the oldest jails in
London, as its first wardens, whose names are on record, Nathaniel de
Leveland, and Robert his son, paid, in 1198, a fine of sixty marks for
its custody; affirming "that it had been their inheritance ever since
the Conquest, and praying that they might not be hindered therein by the
counter-fine of Osbert de Longchamp," to whom it had been granted by the
The next warden of the Fleet, in the days of John, was Simon
Fitz-Robert, Archdeacon of Wells,--probably a near relative of Robert de
Leveland, as the wardship of the daughter of the said Robert, as well as
the custody of the jail, was also committed to him. The freehold of the
prison continued in the Leveland family for upwards of three centuries;
until, in the reign of Philip and Mary it was, sold to John Heath for
L2300--a large sum in those days, but not more than the value of the
property, which from the way it was managed produced a large revenue to
The joint wardens of the Fleet at the time of our history were Sir
Henry Lello and John Eldred; but their office was executed by deputy in
the person of Joachim Tunstall, by whom it was rented. As will naturally
be supposed, it was the object of every deputy-warden to make as much as
he could out of the unfortunate individuals committed to his charge; and
some idea of the infamous practices of those persons may be gathered,
from a petition presented to the Lords of the Council in 1586 by the
then prisoners of the Fleet. In this it is stated that the warden had
"let and set to farm the victualling and lodging of all the house and
prison of the Fleet to one John Harvey, and the other profits of the
said Fleet he had let to one Thomas Newport, the deputy there under the
warden; and these being very poor men, having neither land nor any trade
to live by, nor any certain wages of the said warden, and being also
greedy of gain, did live by bribing and extortion. That they did most
shamefully extort and exact from the prisoners, raising new customs,
fines, and payments, for their own advantage. That they cruelly used
them, shutting them up in close prisons when they found fault with their
wicked dealings; not suffering them to come and go as they ought to do;
with other abominable misdemeanours, which, without reformation, might
be the poor prisoners' utter undoing."
In consequence of this petition, a commission of inquiry into the
alleged abuses was appointed; but little good was effected by it, for
only seven years later further complaints were made against the warden,
charging him with "murders and other grave misdemeanours." Still no
redress was obtained; nor was it likely it would be, when the cries of
the victims of this abominable system of oppression were so easily
stifled. The most arbitrary measures were resorted to by the officers of
the prison, and carried out with perfect impunity. Their authority was
not to be disputed; and it has been shown how obedience was enforced.
Fines were inflicted and payment made compulsory, so that the wealthy
prisoner was soon reduced to beggary. Resistance to the will of the
jailers, and refusal to submit to their exactions, were severely
punished. Loaded with fetters, and almost deprived of food, the
miserable captive was locked up in a noisome subterranean dungeon; and,
if he continued obstinate, was left to rot there. When he expired, his
death was laid to the jail-fever. Rarely were these dark prison secrets
divulged, though frequently hinted at.
The moral condition of the prisoners was frightful. As the greater
portion of them consisted of vicious and disorderly characters, these
contaminated the whole mass, so that the place became a complete sink of
abomination. Drunkenness, smoking, dicing, card-playing, and every kind
of licence were permitted, or connived at; and the stronger prisoners
were allowed to plunder the weaker. Such was the state of things in the
Fleet Prison at the period of our history, when its misgovernment was
greater than it had ever previously been, and the condition of its
inmates incomparably worse.
During the rebellion of Wat Tyler, the greater part of the buildings
constituting the ancient prison were burnt down, and otherwise
destroyed; and, when rebuilt, the jail was strengthened and considerably
enlarged. Its walls were of stone, now grim and hoary with age; and on
the side next to the Fleet there was a large square structure,
resembling Traitor's Gate at the Tower, and forming the sole entrance to
the prison. To this gate state-offenders were brought by water after
committal by the Council of the Star-Chamber.
Nothing could be sterner or gloomier than the aspect of the prison on
this side--gray and frowning walls, with a few sombre buildings peeping
above them, and a black gateway, with a yawning arch, as if looking
ready to devour the unfortunate being who approached it. Passing through
a wicket, contrived in the ponderous door, a second gate was arrived at,
and this brought the captive to the porter's lodge, where he was
delivered up to the jailers, and assigned a room in one of the wards,
according to his means of paying for it. The best of these lodgings were
but indifferent; and the worst were abominable and noisome pits.
On entering the outer ward, a strange scene presented itself to the
view. Motley groups were scattered about--most of the persons composing
them being clad in threadbare doublets and tattered cloaks, and wearing
caps, from which the feathers and ornaments had long since disappeared;
but there were a few--probably new coiners--in somewhat better attire.
All these wore debtors. Recklessness and effrontery were displayed in
their countenances, and their discourse was full of ribaldry and
profanity. At one side of this ward there was a large kitchen, where
eating and drinking were constantly going forward at little tables, as
at a tavern or cookshop, and where commons were served out to the poorer
Near this was a large hall, which served as the refectory of the
prisoners for debt. It was furnished with side benches of oak, and had
two long tables of the same wood; but both benches and tables were in a
filthy state, and the floor was never cleansed. Indeed, every part of
the prison was foul enough to breed a pestilence; and the place was
seldom free from fever in consequence. The upper part of the refectory
was traversed by a long corridor, on either side of which were the
The arrangements of the inner ward were nearly similar, and differed
only from the outer, in so far that the accommodations were superior,
as they had need to be, considering the price asked for them; but even
here nothing like cleanliness could be found. In this ward was the
chapel. At a grated window in the gate stood the poor debtors rattling
their begging-boxes, and endeavouring by their cries to obtain alms from
Below the warden's lodgings, which adjoined the gate, and which were now
occupied by the deputy, Joachim Tunstall, was a range of subterranean
dungeons, built below the level of the Fleet. Frequently flooded by the
river, these dungeons were exceedingly damp and unwholesome; and they
were reserved for such prisoners as had incurred the censure of the
inexorable Court of Star-Chamber. It was in one of the deepest and most
dismal of these cells that the unfortunate Sir Ferdinando Mounchensey
breathed his last.
Allusion has been previously made to the influence exercised within the
Fleet by Sir Giles Mompesson. Both the wardens were his friends, and
ever ready to serve him; their deputy was his creature, and subservient
to his will in all things; while the jailers and their assistants took
his orders, whatever they might be, as if from a master. Thus he was
enabled to tyrannize over the objects of his displeasure, who could
never be secure from his malice.
By the modes of torture he adopted through his agents, he could break
the most stubborn spirit, and subdue the strongest. It was matter of
savage satisfaction to him to witness the sufferings of his victims; and
he never ceased from persecution till he had obtained whatever he
desired. The barbarities carried out in pursuance of the atrocious
sentences of the Court of Star-Chamber were to him pleasant spectacles;
and the bleeding and mutilated wretches, whom his accusations had
conducted to the pillory, when brought back to their dungeons, could not
escape his hateful presence--worse to them, from his fiendish derision
of their agonies, than that of the executioner.
How Sir Jocelyn was brought to the Fleet.
After his arrest by the serjeant-at-arms, Sir Jocelyn was taken, in the
first instance, to the Star-Chamber, where some of the Lords of the
Council were sitting at the time, and examined respecting the "libellous
language and false scandal" he had used in reference to the proceedings
of that high and honourable court. The young knight did not attempt to
deny the truth of the charge brought against him, neither did he express
contrition, or sue for forgiveness; but though he demanded to be
confronted with his accusers, the request was refused him; and he was
told they would appear in due time. Several interrogatories were then
addressed to him, which he answered in a manner calculated, in the
judgment of his hearers, to aggravate the original offence. After this,
he was required to subscribe the minutes of his confession, as it was
styled; and a warant for his committal to the Fleet Prison, and close
confinement within it, was made out.
Consigned once more to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms, he was
placed on board a barge, of ill-omened appearance, being covered with
black cloth, like a Venetian gondola, and kept for offenders against
the Star-Chamber. In this he was rowed down the Thames, and up the
Fleet, to the entrance of the prison. The progress of the well-known
sable barge up the narrow river having been noted by the passengers
along its banks, as well as by those crossing Fleet Bridge, some
curiosity was felt to ascertain whom it contained; and a crowd collected
in front of the prison gate to witness the disembarkation.
When the young knight's title, and the nature of his offence, which
latter did not appear so enormous in their eyes as in those of the Lords
of the Council, became known to the bystanders, much sympathy was
expressed for him; and it might have found a manifestation in more than
words, but for the guard, who kept back the throng.
At this juncture, Sir Jocelyn heard his own name pronounced in familiar
tones, and looking round for the speaker, perceived a person placed in a
tub close beside him. The individual who occupied this singular and
degrading position was the ill-starred Dick Taverner, who, it appeared,
had made an attempt to escape from prison on the third day after he had
been brought thither, and was punished, according to the custom of the
place, by being bound hand and foot, set within a tub, and exposed to
public gaze and derision.
"Alas! Sir Jocelyn!" ejaculated the apprentice, "but for you I should
not have been here. I undertook a thankless office, and have been
rightly served for my folly. We have both found our way to the Fleet,
but I much doubt if either of us will find his way out of it. As for me,
I liked the appearance of the place, and the society it seems to
furnish, so little, that I resolved to make a clearance of it at once;
and accordingly I managed to scramble up yonder lofty wall, in the hope
of effecting my deliverance, without asking for a licence to go abroad
from the warden; but, unfortunately, in dropping down from so great a
height I sprained my ankle, and fell again into the hands of the
Philistines--and here I am, like the Cynic philosopher in his tub."
Sir Jocelyn would have addressed a few words of consolation to the poor
fellow, but at this moment the wicket was opened, and he was pushed
through it by the attendants of the serjeant-at-arms, who were
apprehensive of the crowd. The small aperture that had given him
admittance to the prison was instantly closed, and all chance of rescue
The prisoner being thus effectually secured, the officials felt more
easy; and smiling at each other, they proceeded deliberately to the
porter's lodge, at the entrance of which stood a huge, powerfully-built,
ill-favoured man, evidently chosen for the post of porter from his
personal strength and the savageness of his disposition.
With a growl like that of a mastiff, to the black broad muzzle of which
animal his own features bore a remarkable resemblance, the porter
greeted the new comers, and ushered them into an apartment built of
stone, octagonal in shape, with a vaulted roof, narrow windows like
loopholes, and a great stone fireplace. Its walls, which resembled those
of an ancient guardroom, were appropriately enough garnished with
fetters; mixed up with which, as if to inspire greater terror among the
beholders, were an executioner's heavy whip, with many knotted thongs,
several knives, with strange blades, the purpose of which was obvious
enough, and branding-irons.
As Sir Jocelyn was brought into the lodge by his guards, an elderly man,
with a bald head and gray beard and moustaches, and possessing, in spite
of his years, a most repulsive physiognomy, advanced to meet him. His
doublet and hose were of murrey-colour; and his inflamed visage,
blood-shot eyes, fiery nose, and blotchy forehead, were in keeping with
the hue of his apparel. This was Joachim Tunstall, Deputy Warden of the
Behind him were some half-dozen jailers, attired in garments of
dark-brown frieze, and each having a large bunch of keys at his girdle.
All of them were stout, hard-featured men, and bore upon their
countenances the stamp of their vocation.
The warrant for Sir Jocelyn's committal to the Fleet was delivered by
the serjeant-at-arms to the deputy-warden; and the latter having duly
perused it, was conferring with one of the jailers as to where the
prisoner should be conducted, when a side-door was suddenly opened, and
Sir Giles Mompesson issuing from it, tapped the deputy-warden on the
"You need not consider where the prisoner is to be lodged, Master
Tunstall," he said, looking fixedly at Mounchensey all the while. "The
dungeon he is to occupy is the darkest, the deepest and the dampest in
the Fleet. It is that in which his father died. You know it well,
Grimbald," he added, to one of the burliest of the jailers. "Take him
thither at once, and I will go with you to see him safely bestowed.
"Pass on, Sir," he continued, with a smile of fiendish satisfaction, as
Mounchensey was led forth by the jailer.
Night had come on, and Aveline was anxiously expecting the arrival of
her lover, when a loud knocking was heard at the door of the cottage;
and before the summons could be answered by Anthony Rocke, two persons
entered, and pushing past the old serving-man, who demanded their
business, and vainly endeavoured to oppose their progress, forced their
way into the presence of his mistress. Dame Sherborne was in an inner
room, but, alarmed by the noise, she flew to the aid of her charge, and
reached her at the same moment with the intruders. Her lamp threw its
light full upon their countenances; and when she found who they were,
she screamed and nearly let it fall, appearing to stand much more in
need of support than Aveline herself.
The foremost of the two was Sir Giles Mompesson, and his usually stern
and sinister features had acquired a yet more inauspicious cast, from
the deathlike paleness that bespread them, as well as from the fillet
bound round his injured brow. The other was an antiquated coxcomb, aping
the airs and graces of a youthful gallant, attired in silks and velvets
fashioned in the newest French mode, and exhaling a mingled perfume of
civet, musk, and ambergris; and in him Aveline recognised the amorous
old dotard, who had stared at her so offensively during the visit she
had been forced to make to the extortioner.
Sir Francis's deportment was not a whit less impertinent or
objectionable now than heretofore. After making a profound salutation to
Aveline, which he thought was executed in the most courtly style, and
with consummate grace, he observed in a loud whisper to his partner,
"'Fore heaven! a matchless creature! a divinity! Introduce me in due
form, Sir Giles."
"Suffer me to make known to you Sir Francis Mitchell, fair mistress,"
said Mompesson. "He is so ravished by your charms that he can neither
eat, drink, nor sleep; and he professes to me, his friend and partner,
that he must die outright, unless you take pity on him. Is it not so,
Sir Francis? Nay, plead your own cause, man. You will do it better than
I, who am little accustomed to tune my voice to the ear of beauty."
During this speech, the old usurer conducted himself in a manner that,
under other circumstances, must have moved Aveline's mirth; but it now
only excited her disgust and indignation. Sighing, groaning placing his
hand upon his heart, languishingly regarding her, and turning up his
eyes till the whites alone were visible, he ended by throwing himself at
her feet, seizing her hand, and attempting to cover it with kisses.
"Deign to listen to me, peerless and adorable damsel!" he cried in the
most impassioned accents he could command, though he wheezed terribly
all the while, and was ever and anon interrupted by a fit of coughing.
"Incline your ear to me, I beseech you. Sir Giles has in no respect
exaggerated my sad condition. Ever since I beheld you I have been able
to do nothing else than--ough! ough!--dwell upon your surpassing
attractions. Day and night your lovely image has been constantly before
me. You have driven sleep from my eyelids, and rest from my--(ough!
ough!)--frame. Your lustrous eyes have lighted up such a fire in my
breast as can never be extinguished, unless--(ough! ough! ough!)--plague
take this cough! I owe it to you, fair mistress of my heart, as well as
my other torments. But as I was about to say, the raging flame you have
kindled in my breast will utterly consume me, unless--(ough! ough!
Here he was well-nigh choked, and Sir Giles had to come to his
"What my worthy friend and partner would declare, if his cough permitted
him, fair Mistress Aveline," urged the extortioner, "is that he places
his life and fortune at your disposal. His desires are all centred in
you, and it rests with you to make him the happiest or most miserable of
mankind. Speak I not your sentiments, Sir Francis?"
"In every particular, good Sir Giles," replied the other, as soon as he
could recover utterance. "And now, most adorable damsel, what say you in
answer? You are too gentle, I am sure, to condemn your slave to endless
tortures. Nay, motion me not to rise. I have that to say will disarm
your frowns, and turn them into smiles of approval and assent. (O, this
accursed rheumatism!" he muttered to himself, "I shall never be able to
get up unaided!) I love you, incomparable creature--love you to
distraction; and as your beauty has inflicted such desperate wounds upon
my heart, so I am sure your gentleness will not fail to cure them.
Devotion like mine must meet its reward. Your answer, divinest creature!
and let it be favourable to my hopes, I conjure you!"
"I have no other answer to give," replied Aveline, coldly, and with an
offended look, "except such as any maiden, thus unwarrantably and
unseasonably importuned, would make. Your addresses are utterly
distasteful to me, and I pray you to desist them. If you have any real
wish to oblige me, you will at once free me from your presence."
"Your hand, Sir Giles--your hand!" cried the old usurer, raising
himself to his feet with difficulty, "So, you are not to be moved by my
sufferings--by my prayers, cruel and proud beauty?" he continued,
regarding her with a mortified and spiteful look. "You are
"Utterly so," she replied.
"Anthony Rocke!" cried Dame Sherborne, "show the gentlemen to the
door--and bolt it upon them," she added, in a lower tone.
"Not so fast, Madam--not so fast!" exclaimed Sir Francis. "We will not
trouble old Anthony just yet. Though his fair young mistress is
indisposed to listen to the pleadings of love, it follows not she will
be equally insensible to the controlling power of her father's delegated
authority. Her hand must be mine, either freely, or by compulsion. Let
her know on what grounds I claim it, Sir Giles."
"Your claim cannot be resisted, Sir Francis," rejoined the other; "and
if you had followed my counsel, you would not have condescended to play
the abject wooer, but have adopted the manlier course, and demanded her
hand as your right."
"Nay, Sir Giles, you cannot wonder at me, knowing how infatuated I am by
this rare and admirable creature. I was unwilling to assert my rights
till all other means of obtaining her hand had failed. But now I have no
"Whence is your authority derived?" inquired Aveline, trembling as she
put the question.
"From your dead father," said Sir Giles, sternly. "His last solemn
injunctions to you were, that you should wed the man to whom he had
promised you; provided your hand were claimed by him within a year after
his death. With equal solemnity you bound yourself to fulfil his wishes.
The person to whom you were thus sacredly contracted is Sir Francis
Mitchell; and now, in your father's name, and by your father's
authority, he demands fulfilment of the solemn pledge."
"O, this is wholly impossible!--I will not believe it!" almost shrieked
Aveline, throwing herself into Dame Sherborne's arms.
"It is some wicked device to ensnare you, I am convinced," said the old
lady, clasping her to her breast. "But we defy them, as we do the Prince
of Darkness, and all his iniquities. Avoid thee, thou wicked old
sinner!--thou worse than the benighted heathen! Get hence! I say,
Sathanas!" she ejaculated to Sir Francis.
"Ay, I am well assured it is all a fabrication," said Anthony Rocke. "My
master had too much consideration and tenderness for his daughter to
promise her to a wretched old huncks like this, with one foot in the
grave already. Besides, I knew he held both him and Sir Giles Mompesson
in utter abomination and contempt. The thing is, therefore, not only
improbable, but altogether impossible."
"Hold thy peace, sirrah!" cried Sir Francis, foaming with rage, "or I
will cut thy scurril tongue out of thy throat. Huncks, indeed! As I am a
true gentleman, if thou wert of my own degree, thou shouldst answer for
the opprobrious expression."
"What proof have you that my father entered into any such engagement
with you?" inquired Aveline, turning to Sir Francis. "Your bare
assertion will scarcely satisfy me."
"Neither will it satisfy me," remarked Anthony. "Let him produce his
"You are acquainted with your father's handwriting, I presume, fair
maiden?" rejoined Sir Francis. "And it may be that your insolent and
incredulous serving-man is also acquainted with it. Look at this
document, and declare whether it be not, as I assert, traced in Hugh
Calveley's characters. Look at it, I say, thou unbelieving hound," he
added, to Anthony, "and contradict me if thou canst."
"It is my master's writing, I am compelled to admit," replied the old
serving-man, with a groan.
"Are you prepared to render obedience to your father's behests, maiden?"
demanded Sir Giles, menacingly.
"O, give me counsel! What shall I say to them?" cried Aveline,
appealing to Dame Sherborne. "Would that Sir Jocelyn were here!"
"It is in vain to expect his coming," rejoined Sir Giles, with a bitter
laugh. "We have taken good care to keep him out of the way."
"There is no help then!" said Aveline, despairingly. "I must submit."
"We triumph," whispered Sir Giles to his partner.
"Talk not of submission, my dear young lady," implored Anthony Rocke.
"Resist them to the last. I will shed my best blood in your defence. If
my master did give them that paper he must have been out of his senses,
and you need not, therefore, regard it as other than the act of a
"Peace, shallow-pated fool!" cried Sir Giles. "And do you, fair
mistress, attend to me, and you shall learn under what circumstances
that contract was made, and how it becomes binding upon you. Deeply
indebted to Sir Francis, your father had only one means of discharging
his obligations. He did hesitate to avail himself of it. He promised you
to his creditor, and obtained his own release. Will you dishonour his
memory by a refusal?"
"O, if this tale be true, I have no escape from misery!" exclaimed
Aveline. "And it wears the semblance of probability."
"I take upon me to declare it to be false," cried Anthony Rocke.
"Another such insolent speech shall cost thee thy life, sirrah!" cried
Sir Giles, fiercely.
"Read over the paper again, my dear young lady," said Dame Sherborne.
"You may, perhaps, find something in it not yet discovered, which may
help you to a better understanding of your father's wishes."
"Ay, read it!--read it!" cried the old usurer, giving her the paper.
"You will perceive in what energetic terms your father enjoins
compliance on your part with his commands; and what awful denunciations
he attaches to your disobedience. Read it, I say, and fancy he is
speaking to you from the grave in these terms--'Take this man for thy
husband, O my daughter, and take my blessing with him. Reject him, and
my curse shall alight upon thy head.'"
But Aveline was too much engrossed to heed him. Suddenly her eye caught
something she had not previously noticed, and she exclaimed,--"I have
detected the stratagem. I knew this authority could never be committed
"What mean you, fair mistress?" cried Sir Francis, surprised and
alarmed. "My name may not appear upon the face of the document; but,
nevertheless, I am the person referred to by it."
"The document itself disproves your assertion," cried Aveline, with
"How so?" demanded Sir Giles, uneasily.
"Why, see you not that he to whom my father designed to give my hand was
named Osmond Mounchensey?"
"Osmond Mounchensey!" exclaimed Sir Giles, starting.
"This is pure invention!" cried Sir Francis. "There is no such name on
the paper--no name at all, in short--nor could there be any, for reasons
I will presently explain."
"Let your own eyes convince you to the contrary," she rejoined,
extending the paper to him and revealing to his astounded gaze and to
that of his partner, who looked petrified with surprise, the name
plainly written as she had described it.
"How came it there?" cried Sir Giles, as soon as he could command
"I cannot say," replied Sir Francis. "I only know it was not there when
I--that is, when I received it. It must be Clement Lanyere's handiwork,"
he added in a whisper.
"I see not how that can be," replied the other, in a like low tone. "The
alteration must have been made since it has been in your possession. It
could not have escaped my observation."
"Nor mine," cried Sir Francis. "'T is passing strange!"
"Your infamous project is defeated," cried Aveline. "Let the rightful
claimant appear, and it will be time enough to consider what I will
do.--But I can hold no further discourse with you, and command your
"And think you we mean to return empty-handed, fair mistress?" said Sir
Giles, resuming all his wonted audacity. "Be not deceived. By fair means
or foul you shall be the bride of Sir Francis Mitchell. I have sworn it,
and I will keep my oath!"
"As I am a true gentleman, it will infinitely distress me to resort to
extremities, fair mistress," said the old usurer, "and I still trust you
will listen to reason. If I have put in practice a little harmless
stratagem, what matters it? All is fair in love. And if you knew all,
you would be aware that I have already paid so dearly for you that I
cannot afford to lose you. Cost what it will, you must be mine."
"Never!" exclaimed Aveline, resolutely.
"You will soon alter your tone, when you find how little power of
refusal is left you, fair mistress," said Sir Giles. "A litter is
waiting for you without. Will it please you to enter it?"
"Not unless by force--and you dare to offer me violence," she replied.
"I advise you not to put our forbearance to the test," said Sir Giles.
"I should be grieved to impose any restraint upon you," subjoined Sir
Francis; "and I trust you will not compel me to act against my
inclinations. Let me lead you to the litter."
As he advanced towards her, Aveline drew quickly back, and Dame
Sherborne uttered a loud scream; but her cries brought no other help
than could be afforded by old Anthony Rocke, who, planting himself
before his young mistress, menaced Sir Francis to retire.
But this state of things was only of brief duration. It speedily
appeared that the two extortioners had abundant assistance at hand to
carry out their infamous design. A whistle was sounded by Sir Giles; and
at the call the cottage door was burst open by some half dozen of the
myrmidons, headed by Captain Bludder.
Any resistance that the old serving-man could offer was speedily
overcome. Knocked down by a pike, he was gagged and pinioned, and
carried out of the house. The cries of Aveline and the elderly dame were
stifled by scarves tied over their heads; and both being in a fainting
condition from fright, they were borne to the litter which was standing
at the door, and being shut up within it, were conveyed as quickly as
might be to Sir Giles Mompesson's mansion, near the Fleet. Thither,
also, was old Anthony Rocke taken, closely guarded on the way by two of
The "Stone Coffin."
A dreadful dungeon! the last and profoundest of the range of
subterranean cells already described as built below the level of the
river Fleet: a relict, in fact, of the ancient prison which had escaped
the fury of Wat Tyler and his followers, when the rest of the structure
was destroyed by them. Not inaptly was the dungeon styled the "Stone
Coffin." Those immured within it seldom lived long.
A chill like that of death smote Sir Jocelyn, as he halted before the
door of this horrible place. Preceded by Grimbald the jailer, with a
lamp in one hand and a bunch of large keys in the other, and closely
followed by the deputy-warden and Sir Giles Mompesson, our young knight
had traversed an underground corridor with cells on one side of it, and
then, descending a flight of stone steps, had reached a still lower pit,
in which the dismal receptacle was situated. Here he remained up to the
ankles in mud and water, while Grimbald unlocked the ponderous door, and
with a grin revealed the interior of the cavernous recess.
Nothing more dank and noisome could be imagined than the dungeon.
Dripping stone-walls, a truckle-bed with a mouldy straw-mattrass,
rotting litter scattered about, a floor glistening and slippery with
ooze, and a deep pool of water, like that outside, at the further
end,--these constituted the materials of the frightful picture presented
to the gaze. No wonder Sir Jocelyn should recoil, and refuse to enter
"You don't seem to like your lodgings, worshipful Sir," said Grimbald,
still grinning, as he held up the lamp; "but you will soon get used to
the place, and you will not lack company--rats, I mean: they come from
the Fleet in swarms. Look! a score of 'em are making off
yonder--swimming to their holes. But they will come back again with some
of their comrades, when you are left alone, and without a light. Unlike
other vermin, the rats of the Fleet are extraordinarily sociable--ho!
And, chuckling at his own jest, Grimbald turned to Sir Giles Mompesson,
who, with Joachim Tunstall, was standing at the summit of the steps, as
if unwilling to venture into the damp region below, and observed--"The
worshipful gentleman does not like the appearance of his quarters, it
seems, Sir Giles; but we cannot give him better,--and, though the cell
might be somewhat more comfortable if it were drier, and perhaps more
wholesome, yet it is uncommonly quiet, and double the size of any other
in the Fleet. I never could understand why it should be called the
'Stone Coffin'--but so it is. Some prisoners have imagined they would
get their death with cold from a single night passed within it--but
that's a mistaken notion altogether."
"You have proof to the contrary in Sir Ferdinando Mounchensey, father of
the present prisoner," said Sir Giles, in a derisive tone. "He occupied
that cell for more than six months. Did he not, good Grimbald? You had
charge of him, and ought to know?"
"One hundred and sixty days exactly, counting from the date of his
arrival to the hour of his death, was Sir Ferdinando an inmate of the
'Stone Coffin,'" said the jailer, slowly and sententiously; "and he
appeared to enjoy his health quite as well as could be expected--at all
events, he did so at first. I do not think it was quite so damp in his
days--but there couldn't be much difference. In any case, the worthy
knight made no complaints; perhaps because he thought there would be no
use in making 'em. Ah! worshipful Sir," he added to Sir Jocelyn, in a
tone of affected sympathy which only made his mockery more offensive,
"your father was a goodly man, of quite as noble a presence as yourself,
though rather stouter and broader in the shoulders, when he first came
here; but he was sadly broken down at the last--quite a skeleton. You
would hardly have known him."
"He lost the use of his limbs, if I remember right, Grimbald?" remarked
Sir Giles, willing to prolong the scene, which appeared to afford him
"Entirely lost the use of 'em," replied the jailer. "But what of that?
He didn't require to take exercise. A friend was permitted to visit him,
and that was more grace than the Council usually allows to such
"It was far more than an offender like Sir Ferdinando deserved," said
Sir Giles; "and, if I had known it, he should have had no such
indulgence. Star-Chamber delinquents cannot expect to be treated like
ordinary prisoners. If they do, they will be undeceived when brought
here--eh, Master Tunstall?"
"Most true, Sir Giles, most true!" replied the deputy-warden.
"Star-Chamber prisoners will get little indulgence from me, I warrant
"Unless they bribe you well--eh, Master Joachim?" whispered Sir Giles,
"Rest easy on that score, Sir Giles. I am incorruptible, unless you
allow it," rejoined the other, obsequiously.
"My poor father!" ejaculated Sir Jocelyn. "And thou wert condemned
without a crime to a death of lingering agony within this horrible cell!
The bare idea of it is madness. But Heaven, though its judgments be
slow, will yet avenge thee upon thy murderers!"
"Take heed what you say, prisoner," observed Grimbald, changing his
manner, and speaking with great harshness. "Every word you utter against
the decrees of the Star-Chamber, will be reported to the Council, and
will be brought up against you; so you had best be cautious. Tour father
was _not_ murdered. He was immured in this cell in pursuance of a
sentence of the High Court, and he died before his term of captivity had
expired, that is all."
"O, the days and nights of anguish and despair he must have endured
during that long captivity!" exclaimed Sir Jocelyn, before whose gaze a
vision of his dying father seemed to pass, filling him with unutterable
"Days and nights which will henceforth be your own," roared Sir Giles;
"and you will then comprehend the nature of your father's feelings. But
he escaped what you will _not_ escape--exposure on the pillory, branding
on the cheek, loss of ears, slitting of the nose, and it may be,
scourging. The goodly appearance you have inherited from your sire will
not be long left when the tormentor takes you in hand. Ha! ha!"
"One censured by the Star-Chamber must wear a paper on his breast at the
pillory. You must not forget that mark of infamy, Sir Giles," said the
"No, no; I forget it not," laughed the extortioner. "How ingeniously
devised are our Star-Chamber punishments, Master Joachim, and how well
they meet the offences. Infamous libellers and slanderers of the State,
like Sir Jocelyn, are ever punished in one way; but new crimes require
new manner of punishment. You recollect the case of Traske, who
practised Judaism, and forbade the use of swine's flesh, and who was
sentenced to be fed upon nothing but pork during his confinement."
"I recollect it perfectly," cried Tunstall, "a just judgment. The wretch
abhorred the food, and would have starved himself rather than take it;
but we forced the greasy morsels down his throat. Ha! ha! You are merry,
Sir Giles, very merry; I have not seen you so gleesome this many a
day--scarcely since the time when Clement Lanyere underwent his
"Ah! the accursed traitor!" exclaimed Sir Giles, with an explosion of
rage. "Would he had to go through it again! If I catch him, he
shall--and I am sure to lay hands upon him soon. But to our present
prisoner. You will treat him in all respects as his father was treated,
Master Joachim--but no one must come nigh him."
"No one shall approach him save with an order from the Council, Sir
Giles," replied the other.
"Not even then," said the extortioner decisively. "My orders alone must
be attended to!"
"Hum!" ejaculated the deputy-warden, somewhat perplexed. "Well, I will
follow out your instructions as strictly as I can, Sir Giles. I suppose
you have nothing more to say to the prisoner, and Grimbald may as well
lock him up."
And, receiving a nod of assent from the other, he called to the jailer
to finish his task.
But Sir Jocelyn resolutely refused to enter the cell, and demanded a
room in one of the upper wards.
"You shall have no other chamber than this," said Sir Giles, in a
"I did not address myself to you, Sir, but to the deputy-warden,"
rejoined Sir Jocelyn. "Master Joachim Tunstall, you well know I am not
sentenced by the Star-Chamber, or any other court, to confinement within
this cell. I will not enter it; and I order you, at your peril, to
provide me with a better chamber. This is wholly unfit for occupation."
"Do not argue the point, Grimbald, but force him into the cell," roared
"Fair and softly, Sir Giles, fair and softly," replied the jailer. "Now,
prisoner, you hear what is said--are you prepared to obey?"
And he was about to lay hands rudely upon Sir Jocelyn, when the latter,
pushing him aside, ran nimbly up the steps, and seizing Sir Giles by the
throat, dragged him downward.
Notwithstanding the resistance of the extortioner, whose efforts at
liberation were seconded by Grimbald, our young knight succeeded in
forcing his enemy into the dungeon, and hurled him to the further end of
it. During the struggle, Sir Jocelyn had managed to possess himself of
the other's sword, and he now pointed it at his breast.
"You have constituted yourself my jailer," he cried, "and by the soul of
him who perished in this loathsome cell, by your instrumentality, I will
send you instantly to account for your crimes on High, unless you
promise to assign me a different chamber!"
"I promise it," replied Sir Giles. "You shall have the best in the
Fleet. Let me go forth, and you shall choose one for yourself."
"I will not trust you, false villain," cried Sir Jocelyn. "Give orders
to the deputy-warden, and if he pledges his word they shall be obeyed, I
will take it. Otherwise you die."
"Bid Master Tunstall come to me, Grimbald," gasped the extortioner.
"I am here, Sir Giles, I am here," replied the deputy-warden, cautiously
entering the cell. "What would you have me do?"
"Free me from this restraint," cried Sir Giles, struggling to regain his
Sir Jocelyn shortened his sword in order to give him a mortal thrust,
but his purpose was prevented by Grimbald. With his heavy bunch of keys
the jailer struck the young knight upon the head, and stretched him
insensible upon the ground.
A Secret Friend.
When Sir Jocelyn again became conscious, he found he had been
transported to a different cell, which, in comparison with the "Stone
Coffin," was clean and comfortable. The walls were of stone, and the
pallet on which he was laid was of straw, but the place was dry, and
free from the noisome effluvium pervading the lower dungeon. The
consideration shown him originated in the conviction on the part of the
deputy-warden, that the young man must die if left in his wounded state
in that unwholesome vault, and so the removal took place, in spite of
the objections raised to it by Sir Giles Mompesson, who would have
willingly let him perish. But Master Tunstall dreaded an inquiry, as the
prisoner had not yet been sentenced by the Council.
After glancing round his cell, and endeavouring recal the events that
had conducted him to it, Sir Jocelyn tried to raise himself, but found
his limbs so stiff that he could not accomplish his object, and he sank
back with a groan. At this moment the door opened, and Grimbald,
accompanied by a repulsive-looking personage, with a face like a
grinning mask, advanced towards the pallet.
"This is the wounded man, Master Luke Hatton," said the jailer; "you
will exert your best skill to cure him; and you must use dispatch, in
case he should be summoned before the Council."
"The Council must come to him if they desire to interrogate him now,"
replied Luke Hatton; adding, after he had examined the injuries received
by the young knight, "He is badly hurt, but not so severely as I
expected. I will undertake to set him upon his legs in three days. I did
as much for Sir Giles Mompesson, and he was wounded in the same manner."
"Why, this is the young knight who struck down Sir Giles at the jousts,"
said Grimbald. "Strange! you should have two mortal enemies to deal
"Is this Sir Jocelyn Mounchensey?" inquired Luke Hatton, with apparent
curiosity. "You did not tell me so before."
"Perhaps I ought not to have told you so now," returned the other. "But
do you take any interest in him?"
"Not much," replied the apothecary; "but I have heard his name often
mentioned of late. You need not be uneasy about this young man being
summoned before the Star-Chamber. The great case of the Countess of
Exeter against Lady Lake comes on before the King and the Lords of the
Council to-morrow or next day, and it will occupy all their attention.
They will have no time for aught else."
"What think you will be the judgment in that case?" inquired Grimbald.
"I have my own opinion," returned the apothecary, with a significant
smile; "but I care not to reveal it. I am a witness in the case myself,
and something may depend on my evidence. You asked me just now whether I
took any interest in this young man. I will tell you what surprised me
to find him here. Sir Francis Mitchell has taken it into his head to rob
him of his intended bride."
"Ah! indeed!" exclaimed the jailer, with a laugh. "The old dotard does
not mean to marry her?"
"By my troth but he does--and the wedding is to be a grand one. I will
tell you more about it anon."
At this moment Sir Jocelyn, who had hitherto remained with his eyes
closed, uttered a cry of anguish, and again vainly endeavoured to raise
"Aveline married to Sir Francis?" he cried. "Said you she was to be
forced into a union with that hoary miscreant? It must be prevented."
"I see not how it can be, Sir Jocelyn," replied Luke Hatton, "since she
is in the power of Sir Giles Mompesson. Besides which, the 'hoary
miscreant,' as you style him, will take means to ensure her
"Means! what means?" demanded Sir Jocelyn, writhing in agony.
"A love-potion," replied Luke Hatton, calmly, "I am about to prepare a
philter for her, and will answer for its effect. She will be the old
knight's, and without opposition."
"Infernal villain! and that I should be lying here, unable to give her
And overcome by the intensity of his emotion, as well as by acute bodily
suffering, Sir Jocelyn relapsed into insensibility.
He was not, however, suffered to remain long in this state. Stimulants
applied by Luke Hatton soon restored him to consciousness. The first
object his gaze fell upon was the apothecary, and he was about to vent
his fury upon him in words, when the latter, cautiously raising his
finger to his lips, said in a whisper--"I am a friend. Grimbald is only
at the door, and a single exclamation on your part will betray me." He
then leaned down, and bringing his lips almost close to the young
knight's ear, whispered--"What I said before the jailer was correct. I
have been applied to by Sir Francis for a philter to be administered to
Mistress Aveline, and I have promised it to him; but I am secretly in
the service of Clement Lanyere, and will defeat the old usurer's
Sir Jocelyn could not repress a cry of delight, and Grimbald entered the
Showing how judgment was given by King James in the Star-Chamber, in the
great cause of the Countess of Exeter against Sir Thomas and Lady Lake.
Five days had King James and the whole of the Privy Council been sitting
within the Star-Chamber; and the great cause that had occupied them
during the whole of that time was drawing to an end--little remaining
for his Majesty to do in it, except to pronounce sentence.
The cause to which James and his Councillors had lent a hearing so long
and patient, was no other than that of the Countess of Exeter against
Sir Thomas Lake and his Lady. Throughout it, whether prompted or not as
to the course he pursued, the Monarch displayed great sagacity and
penetration. Prior to the trial, and when the preliminary statements had
alone been laid before him, he determined personally to investigate the
matter, and without acquainting any one with his design, while out
hunting, he rode over to the Earl of Exeter's residence at
Wimbledon--the place, it will be recollected, where the forged
confession was alleged to have been signed by the Countess--and
proceeded to examine the particular chamber indicated by Lady Lake and
Sarah Swarton as the scene of the transaction. He was accompanied by
Buckingham, and some other lords high in his favour. On examination it
was found that the chamber was of such size, and the lower part of it,
where Sarah was reported to have been concealed, was so distant from the
large bay window, that any conversation held there must have been
inaudible to her; as was proved, upon experiment, by the King and his
attendants. But the crowning circumstance was the discovery made by
James himself--for his courtiers were too discreet to claim any share in
it--that the hangings did not reach within two feet of the floor, and
consequently could not have screened a secret witness from view; while
it was further ascertained that the arras had been entirely undisturbed
for several years. On making this discovery, James rubbed his hands with
great glee, and exclaimed--"Aha! my Lady Lake and her handmaiden may
forswear themselves if they choose--but they will not convince me. Oaths
cannot confound my sight."
This asseveration he repeated during the trial, at which he proffered
his own testimony in favour of the plaintiff; and indeed it was evident
from the first, however much he might seek to disguise it, that he was
strongly biassed towards the Countess. Not content, however, with the
discovery he had made at Wimbledon, James had secretly despatched a
serjeant-at-arms to Rome, where Lord Roos had taken up his residence
after leaving England, and obtained from him and from his confidential
servant Diego, a statement incriminating Lady Lake, and denouncing the
confession as a wicked forgery. Luke Hatton, moreover, who had gone
over, as already intimated, to the side of the Countess, and who took
care to hide his own complicity in the dark affair, and to give a very
different colour to his conduct from what really belonged to it--Luke
Hatton, we say, became a most important witness against the Lakes, and
it was said to be owing to his crafty insinuations that the King
conceived the idea of visiting Wimbledon as before-mentioned.
Notwithstanding all this, there were many irreconcileable
contradictions, and the notoriously bad character of Lord Roos, his
cruel treatment of his wife, and his passionate devotion to the
Countess, led many to suspect that, after all, he and Lady Exeter were
the guilty parties they were represented. Moreover, by such as had any
knowledge of the man, Luke Hatton was not esteemed a credible witness;
and it was generally thought that his testimony ought not to be received
by the King, or accepted only with the greatest caution.
But the opinions favourable to Lady Lake and her husband underwent an
entire change in the early part of the trial, when, to the surprise of
all, and to the inexpressible dismay of her parents, Lady Roos, who had
been included in the process by the Countess, made a confession, wherein
she admitted that the document produced by her mother against Lady
Exeter, was fabricated, and that all the circumstances said to be
connected with it at the time of its supposed signature, were groundless
and imaginary. The unfortunate lady's motive for making this revelation
was the desire of screening her husband; and so infatuated was she by
her love of him, that she allowed herself to be persuaded--by the artful
suggestions, it was whispered, of Luke Hatton--that this would be the
means of accomplishing their reconciliation, and that she would be
rewarded for her devotion by his returning regard. If such was her
belief, she was doomed to disappointment. She never beheld him again.
Lord Roos died abroad soon after the trial took place; nor did his
ill-fated lady long survive him.
Thus, it will be seen, all circumstances were adverse to the Lakes. But
in spite of the difficulties surrounding her, and the weight of
evidence, true or false, brought against her, no concession could be
obtained from Lady Lake, and she stoutly protested her innocence, and
retaliated in most forcible terms upon her accusers. She gave a flat
contradiction to her daughter, and poured terrible maledictions on her
head, ceasing them not until silenced by command of the King. The
fearful charges brought by her ladyship against Luke Hatton produced
some effect, and were listened to; but, as they could only be
substantiated by herself and Sarah Swarton, they fell to the ground;
since here again Lady Roos refused to be a witness against her husband.
Unwilling to admit his wife's criminality, though urged by the King to
do so in order to save himself, Sir Thomas Lake was unable to make a
successful defence; and he seemed so much bowed down by affliction and
perplexity, that sympathy was generally felt for him. Indeed, his
dignified deportment and reserve gave him some claim to consideration.
In this way was the trial brought to a close, after three days'
Now, let a glance be cast round the room wherein the lords of the
Council were deliberating upon their judgment.
It was the Star-Chamber.
Situated on the south-eastern side of Westminster Hall, near the river,
this famous room,--wherein the secret councils of the kingdom were then
held, and had been held during many previous reigns,--was more
remarkable for the beauty of its ceiling than for size or splendour.
That ceiling was of oak, richly carved and gilt, and disposed in
squares, in the midst of which were roses, portculises, pomegranates,
and fleurs-de-lys. Over the door leading to the chamber was placed a
star, in allusion to its name, with the date 1602. Its walls were
covered with ancient tapestry, and it had many windows looking towards
the river, and filled with painted glass.
Though it would appear to be obvious enough, much doubt has been
entertained as to the derivation of the name of this celebrated Court.
"Some think it so called," writes the author of a learned treatise on
its jurisdiction, before cited, "of _Crimen Stellionatus_, because it
handleth such things and cases as are strange and unusual: some of
_Stallen_. I confess I am in that point a Platonist in opinion, that
_nomina natura fiunt potius quam vaga impositone_. And so I doubt not
but _Camera-Stellata_ (for so I find it called in our ancient
Year-books) is most aptly named; not because the Star-Chamber, where the
Court is kept, is so adorned with stars gilded, as some would have
it--for surely the chamber is so adorned because it is the seal of that
Court, _et denominatio_, being _a praestantiori magis dignum trahit ad
se minus_; and it was so fitly called, because the stars have no light
but what is cast upon them from the sun by reflection, being his
representative body, and, as his Majesty was pleased to say when he sat
there in his royal person, representation must need cease when the
person is present. So in the presence of his great majesty, the which is
the sun of honour and glory, the shining of those stars is put out, they
not having any power to pronounce any sentence in this Court--for the
judgment is the King's only; but by way of advice they deliver their
opinions, which his wisdom alloweth or disalloweth, increaseth or
moderateth at his royal pleasure." This explanation, which seems rather
given for the purpose of paying a fulsome compliment to James, in whose
reign the treatise in question was written, is scarcely satisfactory;
and we have little doubt that the name originated in the circumstance of
the roof of the chamber being embellished with gilded stars. We are told
in Strype's Stowe, that the Star-Chamber was "so called, either by
derivation from the old English word _Steoran_, which signifieth to
steer or rule, as doth the pilot of a ship; because the King and Council
did sit here, as it were, at the _stern_, and did govern in the ship of
the Commonwealth. Some derive in from _Stellio_, which signifies that
starry and subtle beast so called. From which cometh the word
_stellionatus_, that signifieth _cosenage_; because that crime was
chiefly punishable in this Court by an extraordinary power, as it was in
the civil law. Or, because the roof of this Court was garnished with
gilded stars, as the room itself was starry, or full of windows and
lights. In which respect some of the Latin Records name it _Camera
Stellata;_ the French _Chambre des Etoiles;_ and the English the Starred
Chamber." The derivation of the name, we repeat, seems to us
sufficiently simple and obvious; but as it has been matter of
controversy, we have thought it worth while to advert to the
To proceed. In a chair of state, elevated above the table round which
the Lords of the Council were gathered, and having a canopy over it, sat
the King, calmly watching them as they pursued their deliberations,--his
own mind being completely made up as to the sentence he should
pronounce--and ever and anon stealing a glance at Lady Lake and her
husband, who were seated behind a bar that crossed the room below the
Council-table. The defendants, or prisoners--for such in effect they
were--were under the guard of a pursuivant and a serjeant-at-arms. A
little behind them was Sarah Swarton; but, though faint and frightened,
and scarcely able to sustain herself, she was not allowed a seat. On a
raised bench at the side sat the beautiful Countess of Exeter, radiant
with smiles and triumph. She was receiving the congratulations of
several dames of high rank by whom she was accompanied. Amongst the
Judges of the Court were the Lord Chancellor, who sat immediately under
the King, with his mace and seal before him; the Lord Treasurer and the
Keeper of the Privy Seal; the President of the Council; the Judges; the
Archbishop of Canterbury, and eight bishops and other prelates; and all
the dukes, marquises, earls, and barons composing the Privy Council, to
the number of forty. Besides these, there were present Prince Charles,
three of the lieger ambassadors, and many other distinguished persons.
Though all had gone against her, Lady Lake's spirit was still
undiminished, and she eyed the Council imperiously; but her husband's
regards were fixed upon the ground, and his head rested upon his breast.
After some further time had been needlessly consumed by the Council in
stating their opinions to the King, he prepared to deliver judgment. On
this the defendants arose, and profound silence reigned throughout the
Court as James addressed them.
The sentence was to this effect:--A fine of upwards of L22,000 was
imposed upon Sir Thomas, with a further censure of imprisonment in the
Tower, during the King's pleasure. Lady Lake was to be imprisoned with
him. A public recognition of their offence, for reparation of the
Countess's injured honour, was to be made by them, in the most ample
manner His Majesty could devise. Sarah Swarton was adjudged to the
Fleet. "Thence," ran the sentence, "to be whipped at the cart's tail to
Westminster, and afterwards from the same place to Cheapside. At
Cheapside to be branded with F.A. (signifying _false accusation_), one
letter on either cheek. To do public penance in Saint Martin's Church.
To be detained in the Fleet till they do weary of her; and then to be
sent to Bridewell, there to spend and end her days."
When the poor handmaiden heard this severe sentence, she uttered a cry
of despair, and fell down on the floor in a swoon.
Thereupon the delinquents were removed; and as Lady Lake withdrew, a
look passed between her and the Countess, which, in spite of the
assurance of the latter, made her turn pale, and tremble.
In a very remarkable letter, subsequently addressed by Lady Lake to her
successful opponent in this great case, she said:--"I wish my submission
could make you an innocent woman, and wash you as white as a swan; but
it must be your own submission unto God, and many prayers, and tears,
and afflictions, which, seeing you have not outwardly, examine your
heart, and think on times past, and remember what I have written to you
heretofore. The same I do now again, for I yet nothing doubt, but that,
although the Lord Roos was sent away, and is dead, yet truth lives." The
truth, however, was never fully brought to light; and that justice which
the vindictive lady expected was denied her.
The two warrants.
At the conclusion of the trial, James was observed to smile, and
Buckingham, who had drawn near the chair of state, ventured to inquire
what it was that entertained his Majesty.
"Our fancy has been tickled by a curious conceit," answered the King.
"We discern a singular similitude between the case we hae just heard,
and the transgression of our first parents."
"How so, your Majesty?" asked the favourite.
"As thus," replied James. "Sir Thomas Lake may be likened to our gude
Father Adam, wha fell into sin frae listening to the beguilements of
Eve--Mither Eve being represented by his dochter, my Lady Roos--and ye
will own that there cannot be a closer resemblance to the wily auld
serpent than we find in my Lady Lake."
"Excellent!" cried Buckingham, joining in the royal laughter; "but
before your Majesty quits that seat, I must entreat you to perform that
which I know you delight in--an act of justice."
"Anither act of justice, ye should say, my Lord," returned James in a
tone of slight rebuke; "seeing we hae just delivered a maist memorable
judgment in a case which has cost us five days of incessant labour and
anxious consideration. But what is it ye require at our hands? In whose
behalf are we to exercise our prerogative?"
"In that of Sir Jocelyn Mounchensey, my gracious Liege," replied
Buckingham, "who has been committed to the Fleet for contempt of this
high and honourable Court, and can only be released by your Majesty's
warrant. As I was myself present on the occasion, when the intemperate
expressions laid to his charge were used, I can affirm that he was
goaded on by his enemies to utter them; and that in his calmer moments
he must have regretted his rashness."
"Ye shall have the warrant, my Lord," said James, with a smile. "And it
does ye meikle credit to have made the request. The punishment Sir
Jocelyn has already endured is amply sufficient for the offence; and we
hae nae fears of its being repeated. A single visit to the Fleet is
eneuch for any man. But in respect to Sir Jocelyn, I am happy to say
that his Excellency the Conde de Gondomar has quite set him right in our
gude opinion; and has satisfactorily proved to us that the spy we
suspected him to be was anither person, wha shall be nameless. Ha! here
comes the Count himself," he exclaimed, as the Spanish Ambassador
approached. "Your Excellency will be glad to hear, after the handsome
manner you have spoken of him, that it is our intention to restore Sir
Jocelyn to the favour he previously enjoyed. My Lord of Buckingham is
to have a warrant for his release from the Fleet, and we shall trust to
see him soon at Court as heretofore."
"While your Majesty is in this gracious mood," said De Gondomar, bending
lowly, "suffer me to prefer a request respecting a person of very
inferior consequence to Sir Jocelyn--but one in whom I nevertheless take
an interest--and who is likewise a prisoner in the Fleet."
"And ye require a warrant for his liberation--ah, Count?"
"Your Majesty has said it," replied De Gondomar, again bending lowly.
"What is the nature of his offence?" demanded the King.
"A trifling outrage upon myself," returned the Ambassador;--"a mere
nothing, your Majesty."
"Ah! I know whom you mean. You refer to that rascally apprentice, Dick
Taverner," cried James. "Call ye his attack upon you a trifling
outrage--a mere nothing, Count. I call it a riot--almost a rebellion--to
assault an ambassador."
"Whatever it may be, I am content to overlook it," said De Gondomar;
"and, in sooth, the knaves had received some provocation."
"Aweel, since your Excellency is disposed to view it in that light,"
rejoined James--"since ye display such generosity towards your enemies,
far be it from us to oppose your wishes. The order for the 'prentice's
release shall be made out at the same time as Sir Jocelyn's. My Lord of
Buckingham will give orders to that effect to the Clerk of the Court,
and we will attach our sign manual to the warrants. And now--have ye not
done?" he continued, observing that Buckingham still lingered. "Have ye
any mair requests to prefer?"
"I had some request to make on the part of the Prince, my Liege,"
replied the Marquis; "but his Highness, I perceive, is about to speak to
As he said this, Prince Charles, who had occupied a seat among the
Council, drew near, and stepping upon the elevation on which the chair
of state was placed, so as to bring himself on a level with his royal
father, made a long and apparently important communication to him in a
very low tone. James listened to what was said by his son with great
attention, and seemed much surprised and indignant at the circumstances,
whatever they were, related to him. Ever and anon, he could not repress
a great oath, and, but for the entreaties of Charles, would have given
vent to an explosion of choler, which must have betrayed the secret
reposed to his keeping. Calming himself, however, as well as he could,
he at length said, in a low tone--"We confide the matter to you, since
you desire it, for we are assured our dear son will act worthily and
well as our representative. Ye shall be clothed with our authority, and
have power to punish these heinous offenders as ye see fit. We will
confirm your judgments, whatever they be, and sae will our Preevy
"I must have power to pardon, as well as to punish, my gracious Liege,"
"Ye shall hae baith," answered the King; "but the distinction is
needless, since the ane is comprehended in the ither. Ye shall have our
ain seal, and act as if ye were King yersel'--as ye will be ane of these
days. Will that content ye?"
"Perfectly," replied Charles, gratefully kissing his royal father's
hand. And, descending from the platform, he proceeded to join Buckingham
and De Gondomar, with whom he held a brief whispered conference.
Meanwhile, the two warrants were made out, and received the royal
signature; after which James quitted the Court, and the Council broke
The warrants having been delivered by the clerk to Buckingham, were
entrusted by the latter to Luke Hatton, who, it appeared, was waiting
for them in the outer gallery; and, after the latter had received some
directions respecting them from the Marquis, he hastened away.
As he passed through New Palace-yard, Luke Hatton encountered a tall
man muffled in a long black cloak. A few words were exchanged between
them, and, the information gained by the individual in the cloak seemed
perfectly satisfactory to him. So he went his way, while Luke Hatton
repaired to the Fleet Prison.
There he was at once admitted to the ward wherein Sir Jocelyn was
confined, and announced to him the glad tidings of his restoration to
freedom. By this time Sir Jocelyn was perfectly recovered from the
injuries he had received from the jailer, during his struggle with Sir
Giles Mompesson, so that there was no obstacle to his removal, and his
natural wish was to quit the prison at once; but such cogent reasons
were assigned by Luke Hatton for his remaining there for another day,
that he could not but acquiesce in them. Indeed, when all the
circumstances were explained to him, as they were, by the apothecary, he
could not but approve of the plan, which, it appeared, was about to be
acted upon in the next day for the punishment of his enemies; and it
then became evident why Sir Giles should not be made acquainted with his
release, which must be the case if the warrant were immediately acted
upon. Neither the deputy-warden nor the jailer--both of whom, as he
knew, were the extortioner's creatures--were to be informed of it till
the last moment. Certain disclosures respecting Clement Lanyere, which
were made by Luke Hatton to the young knight, affected him very deeply,
and plunged him for a long time in painful thought.
Quitting the cell of the more important prisoner, Luke Hatton proceeded
to that of the apprentice, whom he acquainted with his good fortune,
holding out to him certain prospects of future happiness, which drove
poor Dick nearly distracted. At the suggestion of his new friend, the
'prentice wrote a letter to Gillian Greenford, conjuring her, by the
love she bore him, and by their joint hopes of a speedy union,
implicitly to comply with the directions of the bearer of the
note--whatever they might be: and, armed with this, Luke Hatton quitted
the Meet, and, procuring a horse, rode off, at a rapid pace, to
The Silver Coffer.
Within Sir Giles Mompesson's vast and gloomy mansion, it has been said
there were certain rooms which, from their size and splendour, formed a
striking contrast to the rest of the habitation. Never used,--except on
extraordinary occasions, when their owner gave a grand entertainment
with some ulterior object,--these apartments, notwithstanding their
magnificence, partook in some degree of the chilling and inhospitable
character of the house. Even when brilliantly lighted up, they wanted
warmth and comfort; and though the banquets given within them were
sumptuous and profuse, and the wine flowed without stint, the guests
went away dissatisfied, and railing against their ostentatious host.
Thus, though the stone walls were hung with rich tapestry, the dust had
gathered thickly upon its folds, while portions of the rugged masonry
were revealed to view. The furniture was massive, but cumbrous and
ill-assorted; and the gilded ceiling and Venetian mirrors, from want of
care, had become tarnished and dim.
Such as they were, however, these apartments were assigned to Aveline,
when she was forcibly brought to the extortioner's habitation, as
before narrated. Allowed to range within them at pleasure, she was kept
strictly within their limits. The doors were constantly guarded by one
or other of the myrmidons; and any communication with the external world
was impossible, because the windows were partially grated, and looked
into a court-yard. Beyond this, she was subjected to no restraint; and
her own attendants, Dame Sherborne and old Anthony Rocke, were suffered
to remain with her.
Had it not been for her exposure to the annoyance of frequent from Sir
Francis Mitchell, and her anxiety about Sir Jocelyn, Aveline would not
have found her confinement so intolerable. But the enamoured old usurer
persecuted her at all hours, and she could never be free from the
intrusion, since the doors could not be shut against him. Sometimes, he
came accompanied by his partner, though more frequently alone, but ever
with the same purpose,--namely, that of protesting the violence of his
passion, and seeking to soften her obduracy. As may be well supposed,
his pleadings, however urged, were wholly ineffectual, and excited no
other feelings, except those of detestation, in her bosom. Such a state
of things could not endure for ever; and her only hope was, that finding
all his efforts to move her fruitless, he would in time desist from
them. Not that she was without other fearful apprehensions, which were
shared by her attendants.
Nearly a fortnight had thus passed by, when, one day, during which she
had seen nothing of her tormentor, and was rejoicing at the
circumstance, the repast usually served at noon was brought in by a
fresh serving-man. Something in this person's manner, and in the meaning
glance he fixed upon her attracted her attention; otherwise, he was a
man of singularly unprepossessing appearance. She addressed a few words
to him, but he made no reply, and became suddenly as reserved as his
predecessor had been. This deportment, however, it presently appeared,
was only assumed. While placing a flask of wine on the table, the man
said in a low tone--"I am a friend of Sir Jocelyn. Constrain yourself,
or you will betray me. Sir Francis is watching us from an eyelet-hole in
the door. Drink of this," he added, pouring wine into a goblet.
"Is it medicated?" she asked in a whisper, regarding him anxiously.
"It is supposed to be so," he answered, with a scarcely perceptible
smile. "Drink, I say. If you do not, you will mar my project. 'Tis
well!" he added, as she raised the goblet to her lips. "A few words must
explain my design. Sir Francis will fancy you have swallowed a
love-potion. Take care not to undeceive him, for on that belief rests
your safety. When he presents himself, as he will do shortly, do not
repulse him as heretofore. Smile on him as kindly as you can; and though
the task of duping him may be difficult and distasteful to you, shrink
not from it. The necessity of the case justifies the deception. If he
presses his suit, no longer refuse him your hand."
"I cannot do it," murmured Aveline, with a shudder.
"You MUST," rejoined Luke Hatton--for it was he--"or incur worse
dangers. Provoked by your resistance, Sir Francis has lost all patience,
and is determined to accomplish his purpose. Knowing my skill as a
brewer of philters, he has applied to me, and I have promised him aid.
But have no fear. Though employed by him, I am devoted to you, and will
effect your deliverance--ay, and avenge you upon your persecutors at the
same time--if you follow my instructions exactly. Raise the goblet to
your lips again. Quaff its contents without apprehension--they are
perfectly harmless. Force smiles to your features--give tenderness to
your tones, and softness to your glances--and all will be won."
And with a grin, which, though intended to encourage her, somewhat
alarmed Aveline, he took up the flask of wine and departed.
As her singular adviser had predicted, it was not long before the old
usurer made his appearance, evidently full of eagerness to ascertain
whether any change had been wrought in her disposition towards him by
the wonder-working draught. Dissembling her aversion as well as she
could, and assuming looks very foreign to her feelings, she easily
succeeded in persuading him that the philter had taken effect, and that
all obstacles to his happiness were removed. Transported with rapture,
he fell upon his knees, and besought her to crown his felicity by
consenting to their union on the following day. Bewildered by various
emotions, yet still managing to play her part, she returned an answer,
which he construed into an affirmative; and now quite beside himself
with delight, the amorous old dotard left her.
The alteration in Aveline's manner and deportment towards her
persecutor, did not escape the notice of her attendants, and greatly
perplexed them. Dame Sherborne ventured to remonstrate with her, hoping
she could not be in earnest; and old Anthony Rocke bluntly told her he
would rather see her in her grave than the bride of such a hoary
reprobate as Sir Francis. Aware that her actions were watched, Aveline
thought it best to dissemble, even with her attendants; and they were
both convinced she was either bewitched or had lost her senses; and in
either case bitterly deplored her fate.
Nor must it be supposed that Aveline herself was without much secret
misgiving, however skilfully and courageously she might act her part.
The appearance of Luke Hatton, as we have more than once remarked, was
calculated to inspire distrust in all brought in contact with him; and
with no other proofs of his sincerity except such as were furnished by
the circumstances, she might well entertain suspicion of him. While
professing devotion, he might intend to betray her. In that event, if
driven to extremity, she resolved to liberate herself by the only means
that would then be left her.
In the evening, Luke Hatton paid her a second visit; and on this
occasion comported himself with as much caution as at first. He
applauded her conduct towards Sir Francis, whom he stated to be most
effectually duped, and counselled her to persevere in the same course;
adding, with his customary sardonic grin, that grand preparations were
making for the wedding-feast, but he thought the cook's labours likely
to be thrown away.
Next day, Aveline found all her counsellor had told her was correct.
Several of the rooms, hitherto thrown open to her--in especial the great
banquetting-chamber--were now closed; and it was evident from the sounds
that reached her ear--footsteps hurrying to and fro, loud impatient
voices, and noises occasioned by the removal of furniture, and the
placing of chairs and tables, together with the clatter of plates and
dishes--that preparations for a festival were going on actively within
them. Nothing could equal the consternation and distress exhibited by
Dame Sherborne and old Anthony Rocke; but, faithful to her scheme,
Aveline (however she desired it) did not relieve their anxiety.
At noon, Luke Hatton came again. He seemed in great glee; and informed
her that all was going on as well as could be desired. He counselled her
to make two requests of Sir Francis. First, that he should endow her
with ten thousand marks, to be delivered to her before the nuptials;
secondly, that she should be permitted to shroud her features and person
in a veil during the marriage ceremony. Without inquiring the meaning of
these requests, which, indeed, she partly conjectured, Aveline promised
ready compliance; and her adviser left her, but not till he had once
more proffered her the supposed philter, and caused her to place the cup
containing it to her lips.
Ere long, he was succeeded by Sir Francis, arrayed like a bridegroom, in
doublet and hose of white satin, thickly laid with silver lace, and a
short French mantle of sky-blue velvet, branched with silver flowers,
white roses in his shoes, and drooping white plumes, arranged _a
l'Espagnolle,_ in his hat. Besides this, he was trimmed, curled, oiled,
and would have got himself ground young again, had such a process been
But though he could not effect this, he did the next thing to it, and
employed all the restoratives suggested by Luke Hatton. He bathed in
milk, breakfasted on snail-broth, and swallowed a strange potion
prepared for him by the apothecary, which the latter affirmed would make
a new man of him and renovate all his youthful ardour. It certainly had
produced an extraordinary effect; and when he presented himself before
Aveline, his gestures were so extravagant, and his looks so wild and
unpleasant, that it was with the utmost difficulty she repressed a
scream. His cheeks were flushed, as if with fever, and his eyes dilated
and burning with unnatural lustre. He spoke almost incoherently, tossing
his arms about, and performing the antics of a madman. The philter; it
was clear, had been given him, and he was now under its influence.
Amid all this strange frenzy, so alarming to Aveline, he dwelt upon
nothing but his inextinguishable passion, and never for a moment
withdrew his fevered gaze from her. He told her he would be her slave
for life, proud to wear her chains; and that she should be absolute
mistress of his house and all his possessions. On this she mustered up
resolution to prefer the requests she had been counselled to make; and
Sir Francis, who was in no mood to refuse her anything, at once acceded
to them. He laughed at the notion of the veil--said it was a delicate
fancy, and quite charmed him--but as to the ten thousand marks, they
were utterly unworthy of her acceptance, and she should have thrice the
amount delivered to her in a silver coffer before the ceremony. With
these, and a great many other professions, he released her from his
presence, which had become well-nigh insupportable.
After a while, a magnificent bridal-dress of white satin, richly trimmed
with lace, together with a thick white veil of the largest size,
calculated to envelope her whole person, were brought her by a young
damsel, who told her she was engaged to serve her as tire-woman; adding,
that "she hoped she would be able to satisfy her ladyship, as she had
already served the Countess of Exeter in that capacity."
"Why do you call me 'ladyship' child?" said Aveline, without looking at
her. "I have no right to any such title."
"But you soon will have," replied the young tire-woman; "as the bride of
Sir Francis, you must needs be my Lady Mitchell."
Checking the rejoinder that rose to her lips, Aveline cast her eyes, for
the first time, on the speaker; and then, to her great surprise,
perceived it to be her village acquaintance, Gillian Greenford. A
significant glance from the blue eyes of the pretty damsel impressed her
with the necessity of caution, and seemed to intimate that Gillian
herself was likewise in the plot. And so it presently appeared she was;
for when the damsel had an opportunity of talking quite in private to
her new mistress, she informed her of the real motive of her coming
"I am engaged, by one who wishes you well, to take your place, sweet
Mistress Aveline, and to be married in your stead to Sir Francis
Mitchell," she said.
"And have you really consented to such an arrangement?" rejoined
Aveline. "Is it possible you can sacrifice yourself thus?"
"I am not to be sacrificed," returned the damsel quickly. "If it were
so, I would never have agreed to the scheme. But I am told I shall get a
"Oh, then the ten thousand marks are for you!" interrupted the other. "I
now see the meaning of that part of the plan. But what else do you hope
"The deliverance of my unfortunate lover, Dick Taverner, from the
Fleet," she answered.
"But how is your marrying this wicked old usurer to effect your object?"
inquired Aveline. "You may save me by the proposed stratagem; but you
will destroy your own happiness, and all your lover's hopes."
"No, no, I shall not," replied Gillian, hastily; "I can't tell how it's
to be managed, but I am quite sure no harm will happen to me, and that
Dick's restoration to liberty will be the reward of the service--if such
it may be called--that I am about to render you. He wrote to me so
"At least, tell me by whom you are engaged, and I can then judge of the
probability of the rest happening in the way you anticipate?"
"Do not question me further, sweet mistress," replied the damsel, "for I
am bound to secrecy. But thus much I may declare--I am the agent of one,
who, for some purposes of his own--be they what they may--is determined
to counteract all Sir Francis's vile machinations against you, as well
as those of his partner, Sir Giles Mompesson, against your lover, Sir
Jocelyn Mounchensey. Ah! you understand me now, I perceive, sweet
mistress! You have been guarded by this unseen but watchful friend,
during the whole of your confinement in this dreadful habitation; and he
has kept an equal watch over your lover in the Fleet."
"What! Is Sir Jocelyn a prisoner in the Fleet?" exclaimed Aveline. "I
knew it not!"
"He is; but the period of his deliverance approaches," replied Gillian.
"The secret friend I spoke of has bided his time, and the hour is at
hand when full measure of revenge will be dealt upon those two wicked
oppressors. He has long worked towards it; and I myself, am to be an
humble instrument towards the great end."
"You astonish me!" cried Aveline, greatly surprised at the change in the
damsel's manner as well as by what she said.
"Do not perplex yourself, fair mistress," pursued Gillian. "All will be
speedily made known to you. But now, no more time must be lost, and we
must each assume the character we have to enact. As I am to be the
bride, and you the tire-woman, you must condescend to aid me in putting
on these rich robes and then disguise yourself in my rustic attire. We
are both pretty nearly of a size, so there is little risk of detection
in that particular; and if you can but conceal your features for a short
while, on Sir Francis's entrance, the trick will never be discovered.
All the rest has been arranged; and I am a mere puppet in the hands of
others, to be played as they direct. Bless us! how beautiful this dress
is, to-be-sure!--what satin!--and what lace! The Countess of Exeter has
just such another. Have you heard that her ladyship has gained her cause
against those wicked Lakes, who conspired against her? But what am I
saying--when I know you cannot have heard of it! Well, then, it occupied
five days in the Star-Chamber; and Sir Thomas and his lady are sent to
the Tower, and Sarah Swarton to the Fleet. Poor creature! she is to be
whipped and branded, and to do penance in Saint Martin's church.
Dreadful! but I won't think of it. I wonder how this dress will become
me! How astounded Dick Taverner would be, if he could only see me in it!
Mayhap he will--there's no saying. And now, fair mistress, may I crave
While Gillian was thus running on, she had partially disrobed herself,
and very soon afterwards was decked out in the rich attire, the effect
of which upon her own person she was so desirous of ascertaining. When
her toilet was complete, she could not help running up to a mirror, and
on seeing the reflection of her well-formed figure now displayed to
unwonted advantage, she clapped her hands and cried out with girlish
Allowing her to gratify her feelings of vanity by the contemplation of
her pretty person for a few minutes, Aveline felt it necessary to recal
her to her situation, and her own transformation into the tire-woman was
speedily effected,--Gillian's dress fitting her exactly. The
light-hearted damsel was quite as much pleased with this change as with
the other--and vowed that Aveline looked far better in the rustic gown,
than she herself did in the silken attire.
But time pressed; and as Sir Francis might surprise them, they hastened
to complete their arrangements. Gillian's comely features, as well as
her sumptuous robe, had to be obscured by the envious veil; and as it
was thrown over her, she could not help heaving a sigh. Aveline then put
on the muffler which had been worn by the country damsel, and their
disguises were complete.
Not a minute too soon. At this juncture a tap was heard at a door
communicating with the adjoining apartment, and the voice of the old
usurer was heard inquiring whether his bride was ready. An answer in the
affirmative was given by Aveline, and, with a throbbing heart and
faltering steps, Gillian prepared to obey the summons.
The door was thrown open, and mustering up all her resolution, she
passed through it. Both Sir Francis and his partner were waiting to
receive her. The latter was richly attired, but had not changed the
sombre hue of his habiliments, even for the anticipated ceremonial,
being clad, as usual, in black. In this respect he offered marked
contrast to the gay apparel of the antiquated bridegroom, as well as by
the calmness of his deportment and the stern gravity of his looks.
Behind them stood Luke Hatton, bearing a heavy silver coffer, of antique
"What means this veil?" cried Sir Giles, gazing suspiciously at Gillian
as she emerged from the inner room, followed cautiously by Aveline, who
was wrapped in the muffler. "Why are the bride's features thus hidden?"
"A mere whim, Sir Giles--a pleasant fancy," replied the old usurer. "But
she must have her way. I mean to indulge her in everything."
"You are wrong," rejoined the extortioner. "Make her feel you will be
her master. Bid her take it off."
"On no account whatever, Sir Giles. I have only won her by submission,
and shall I spoil all at the last moment, by opposing her inclinations?
Of a truth not."
"Who is the maiden with her?" demanded Sir Giles, scrutinizing Aveline,
with a keen glance. "Why does she wear a muffler? Is that a whim,
"Perchance it is," replied Sir Francis; "but I have given no consent to
it. She is only the tire-woman."
"Come, mistress, unmuffle. Let us see your face," cried Sir Giles,
striding towards the terrified maiden, who thought discovery was now
But Luke Hatton interposed to save her.
"Prevent this rudeness," he whispered, plucking Sir Francis's cloak.
"Prevent it instantly. If her whim be thwarted, I will not answer for
"Desist, Sir Giles--desist, I pray you!" cried the old usurer, in alarm.
"It is my bride's wish that her attendant be not interfered with--and
"Well, be it as you will," replied the extortioner, testily. "But I
would not permit the impertinence were I in your case. The bride must
raise her veil when she stands before the priest."
"She shall do as she pleases," replied Sir Francis, gallantly. "If she
desires to hide her blushes, I will not put any compulsion upon her to
disclose them. Come, fair mistress," he added, taking the trembling hand
of the veiled maiden, "the priest awaits us in the further chamber,
where the ceremony is to take place, and where several of the noble and
illustrious guests who have consented to grace our nuptials are already
assembled. Some of the most illustrious personages in the land will be
present--the Marquis of Buckingham, and perhaps Prince Charles himself.
His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador has promised to come. Let us on,
then. Yet, ere we proceed further, I have to request your acceptance of
that silver coffer. The thirty thousand marks within it constitute your
As he spoke Luke Hatton advanced, and, holding the coffer towards the
veiled damsel, so that she could touch it, said--"Place your hand upon
this silver box, and take possession of it, fair mistress. I am a
witness that Sir Francis Mitchell has freely bestowed it, with its
contents, upon you. It will remain in my custody till you require me to
deliver it up to you."
How the Marriage was interrupted.
After the presentation of the silver casket, as before described, the
whole of the bridal party, with the exception of Aveline, who contrived
to remain behind, passed on into the adjoining chamber, where the priest
was understood to be in waiting to perform the marriage ceremony.
Apprehensive of the consequences of the discovery which must inevitably
be soon made, Aveline would have flown back to her own room, but was
deterred, from the strange noises and confusion she heard within it.
Uncertain how to act, she at last resolved upon attempting an escape
from the house, and was hurrying forward, in the hope of gaining the
corridor unperceived, but the sound of voices outside again drove her
back; and, in this new dilemma, she had nothing left but to take refuge
behind the tapestry covering the walls, which being fortunately loose
and hanging upon the ground, effectually concealed her.
Scarcely was she screened from observation in this manner, when the door
was thrown open, and a crowd of young gallants--evidently, from their
bearing and the richness of their attire, of high rank--entered the
apartment. Without exposing herself, Aveline was enabled, through the
folds of the tapestry, to command a view of what was going forward. The
youthful nobles--for such they were--who had just come in, were laughing
loudly; and their jests were chiefly at the expense of the old usurer,
whose marriage they had been invited to attend.
After looking round for a moment, as if in search of some one to direct
them whither to go, the foremost of them clapped his hands, whereupon
the thick curtains which, in lieu of a door, guarded the entrance to the
other room, were drawn aside, and disclosed a group of persons collected
together within that chamber. In the midst of them were the bride and
bridegroom--the former still enveloped in her veil--together with the
priest and his assistant. At this sight, the band of youthful nobles set
up a shout of laughter, and rushed tumultuously forward, while the
curtains, dropping to their place, closed upon the scene.
Presently the outer door again opened, and this time to admit three
persons, all of whom were magnificently dressed, and apparently of yet
higher rank than those who had preceded them. As they were masked, their
features could not be discerned; but they were all distinguished by rare
personal grace. One of them, indeed, was remarkable for symmetry of
figure, and his finely-proportioned limbs were arrayed in habiliments
of the most splendid material, adorned with pearls and precious stones,
and richly embroidered. Yet he did not seem to hold the chief place
among them: that, by common consent, seemed accorded to a young man clad
in black velvet, who, by the majesty of his deportment and the gravity
of his manner, appeared to exercise a certain sway over his companions,
and to be treated by them, when he spoke, with marked respect. The third
individual was habited in a Spanish-cloak of murrey-velvet, lined with
cloth of silver, branched with murrey-flowers, and wore a chain of gold,
richly set with precious stones, round his neck, from which depended the
order of the Golden Fleece.
There was something in the presence of these three important personages
that gave Aveline a feeling of security, such as she had not experienced
since her forcible detention by the two extortioners, and she almost
felt inclined to throw herself at the feet of the one who appeared to be
the principal of them, and solicit his protection. But before she could
execute her half-formed design, the party had approached the entrance of
the nuptial chamber; and the curtain being raised for their admittance,
excluded them, the next moment, from her view.
All now appearing quiet, she again ventured from her hiding-place, and
speeded towards the door communicating with the gallery. But her
departure was unexpectedly interrupted by the sudden entrance of
another masked personage, tall in stature, and habited entirely in
black; and in him she could not fail to recognise the messenger employed
by Sir Giles Mompesson to bring her, in the first instance, to his
habitation. Circumstances had subsequently occurred to induce her to
change her opinion respecting this mysterious individual. Nevertheless,
his appearance at this juncture would have caused her to utter a cry of
terror, if she had not been reassured by the timely appearance of one
upon whom she had reliance, and who raised his finger to his lips in
token of silence. This was Luke Hatton, who, at the very moment that
Lanyere appeared, issued from the chamber where the marriage ceremony
was being performed.
"Be not alarmed, fair maiden," said Lanyere, in a low voice, "you are in
no danger; and all your troubles, I trust, are well-nigh ended. I
thought you were in the marriage-chamber. Give me your hand. You must
assist at the mock ceremonial taking place within there. I have no time
for explanations; and indeed they are needless, since all will be
speedily made clear to you. Divest yourself, I pray you, of this
muffler. It is part of my plan that your features should now be
revealed. You will understand why, anon."
With this, he led her quickly towards the entrance of the inner chamber;
and, pushing aside the curtain, advanced a few steps beyond it, still
holding her by the hand, and followed by Luke Hatton.
The apartment, which was of considerable size and splendidly furnished,
was full of wedding-guests, grouped around that portion of it which was
railed off for the accommodation of those more immediately connected
with the ceremonial, amongst whom, as a matter of course, was Sir Giles
Somewhat apart from the others were the three important persons who had
arrived last; and the most exalted among them was seated on a raised
chair, contemplating the scene, while his companions stood near him.
They had now taken off their masks; and, even in that agitating moment
Aveline recognised in the trio the Marquis of Buckingham, the Conde de
Gondomar, and Prince Charles. All the rest of the company remained
standing; and some of the young nobles formed a small semicircle behind
the royal chair.
Lanyere's entrance with his fair companion could not have been better
timed. They arrived at the particular juncture when Sir Francis, having
presented the wedding-ring to the priest was in the act of receiving it
back from him, in order that it might be placed upon the finger of the
bride; and the noise made by the promoter, who still wore his vizard,
drew all eyes upon him, and upon the damsel by whom he was accompanied.
A smile of intelligence passed between Prince Charles and Buckingham;
and some remark was made by the latter, to which the Prince replied by a
gesture, seeming to intimate that the interruption was not altogether
unexpected by him. De Gondomar's looks also betrayed that he was
likewise in the secret.
Others of the company laughed as if in anticipation of a jest; but the
majority looked surprised--but none so much so as Sir Giles Mompesson.
As his eye fell upon the dark and ominous figure of Lanyere, and shifted
from him to Aveline, he appeared transported with rage; and dashing the
ring from the hand of the astonished bridegroom (who, having his back
toward the newcomers, was unaware of what was going forward),
exclaimed--"Proceed no further! We have been deceived! Look there!"
"Where? where?" cried Sir Francis. "What is the matter, Sir Giles? You
quite terrify me with your fierce looks. Help me to pick up the ring,
and let the ceremony go on."
"It is well for you that it is _not_ completed," replied Sir Giles,
almost black in the face with choler. "You know not whom you are about
to wed. But we will soon see. Off with your veil, minion! Off with it, I
"Sir Giles, I will not permit this liberty," cried the old usurer. "You
shall not touch her. Whom should it be but my own dear, delectable
"Look round, I say, and credit your own eyes, since you doubt my
assertions!" roared Sir Giles.
"Ten thousand furies!" ejaculated Sir Francis, as he complied with the
injunction. "Why, there she is, in good truth, when I thought she was by
my side. Whom, then, have I been about to take to my bosom?"
"It matters not," replied Sir Giles. "She you desired to wed is yonder,
and must take the other's place. That is--but I forget," he added,
suddenly checking himself, and lowering his tone, "naught can be done,
except according to rule, in this presence. Your vanity must needs be
gratified by bringing together all this courtly company to witness your
marriage. And now they will only mock you."
"S'death! you are right, Sir Giles," rejoined the old usurer. "I am
become a mere laughing-stock to my guests. But at least I will see my
false bride's features. You hear what I say, Madam," he added to
Gillian--"let me behold your face without more ado."
As he uttered the command, the damsel threw off her veil, and stood
blushing, half-smiling and half-abashed, before the assemblage. Her
natural charms, heightened by her attire, and by the peculiar situation
in which she was placed, elicited general admiration.
"As I live, 'tis the pretty tirewoman from Tottenham, engaged by Luke
Hatton to attend on Aveline," cried Sir Francis; "but, 'fore Heaven, I
have gained by the exchange. I like her better than the other, and will
go through with the ceremony. Proceed, Sir Priest."
At this declaration there was a shout of laughter from the assemblage;
but the merriment was increased, when Do Gondomar, stepping up to the
bride, said, "I forbid the marriage. She belongs to me."