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“Don Rodrigo?” he echoed, and asked: “Who mentioned Don Rodrigo?”

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

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

“A Judaizer!” Sheer horror now overspread the friar’s grim countenance. “A Judaizer! Don Rodrigo? Oh, impossible!”

“But I thought you said he had confessed.”

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

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

Ojeda stared at her in sheer, incredulous amazement.

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

“Yet I could give you evidence that should convince you.”

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

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

Her greeting increased his surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Isabella.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You love me, Rodrigo–in spite of all?”

“Love you!” It was a throbbing, strangled cry, an almost inarticulate ejaculation. “Better than life–better than salvation.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You can be sure of that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV. THE PASTRY-COOK OF MADRIGAL

The Story of the False Sebastian of Portugal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then . . . then . . .”

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

“But you, yourself?” she pressed him.

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

At length Frey Miguel seemed to resolve himself.

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

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

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

“What . . . what was the story?” She was trembling from head to foot.

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

“Why, then . . .” she was beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“God save your paternity,” was his greeting.

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

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

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

“I am a pastry-cook.”

“A pastry-cook? You?”

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

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

“Just down the street. Will your paternity honour me?”

Frey Miguel bowed, and together they departed.

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

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

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

“What do you say? Oh, what do you say?” she moaned, her eyes half-closed.

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

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

“Here. Here in Madrigal.”

“In Madrigal?” She was all amazement. “But why in Madrigal?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am here to receive your Excellency’s commands,” he said.

She steadied her shuddering knees and trembling lips.

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

“To serve your Excellency.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go?” Fear robbed her of breath. “Go where?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That I leave in the morning,” he answered.

“To go where?” She was distraught.

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

“And when shall I see you again?”

“When . . . when God pleases.”

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

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

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

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

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

And he signed it–after the manner of the Kings of Portugal in all ages–“El Rey”–the King.

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

“How shall this scrawl content me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why, what is your present situation?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am Gabriel de Espinosa,” he answered firmly, “a pastry-cook of Madrigal.”

“Then how come you by these jewels?”

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

“Is this Dona Ana’s portrait?”

“It is.”

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

“Why else should they be given me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If it were known who I am . . .” he would say, and there break off.

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

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

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

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

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

V. THE END OF THE “VERT GALANT”

The Assassination of Henry IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sire!” It was a cry of protest from Sully.

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

“Read that.”

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

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

“What can I infer?” quoth Sully, aghast.

“In acting thus–in daring to act thus,” the King expounded, “they proceed as if they knew that I can have but a short time to live.”

“Sire!”

“What else? They plan events which cannot take place until I am dead.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More severe than any talk was Henry’s instruction to Sully to withhold payment of the last quarter of the prince’s allowance, and to give refusals to his creditors and purveyors. Thus he intended also, no doubt, to make it clear to Conde that he did not receive a pension of a hundred thousand livres a year for nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nothing at all, sire,” says Sully, as calm as his master was excited.

“Nothing! What sort of advice is that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What a thought, sir!”

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

But Sully, overwhelmed, could only gasp and ejaculate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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