Henry VIII And His Court
Part 3 out of 9
But Catharine was a bold and dexterous rider, and the proud spirit
of her horse only afforded her delight, and gave the master of horse
an opportunity to praise her skill and coolness.
Catharine received with a sweet smile the encomiums of her beloved.
But the fly kept creeping on, and, impelled by a diabolic delight,
now penetrated the horse's ear. The poor, tormented animal made a
spring forward. This spring, instead of freeing him from his enemy,
made him penetrate the ear still farther, and sink his sting still
deeper into the soft fleshy part of the same.
Stung by the maddening pain, the horse cast off all control, and,
heedless of bridle and scorning the bit, dashed forward in a furious
run--forward over the meadow swift as an arrow, resistless as the
"On, on, to the queen's rescue!" thundered the master of horse, and
with mad haste, away flew he also over the meadow.
"To the help of the queen!" repeated Princess Elizabeth, and she
likewise spurred her horse and hurried forward, accompanied by the
But what is the speed of a horse ever so swift, but yet in his
senses, compared with the raving madness of a crazy courser, that,
despising all subjection, and mocking at the bridle, dashes ahead,
foaming with the sense of freedom and unrestraint, uncontrollable as
the surge lashed by the storm!
Already far behind them lay the meadows, far behind them the avenues
leading through the woods, and over brooks and ditches, over meadows
and wastes, Hector was dashing on.
The queen still sat firmly in the saddle; her cheeks were colorless;
her lips trembled; but her eye was still bright and clear. She had
not yet lost her presence of mind; she was perfectly conscious of
her danger. The din of screaming, screeching voices, which she heard
at first, had long since died away in silence behind her. An immense
solitude, the deep silence of the grave, was around her.
Naught was heard save the panting and snorting of the horse; naught
but the crash and clatter of his hoofs. Suddenly, however, this
sound seemed to find an echo. It was repeated over yonder. There was
the same snorting and panting; there was the same resounding
trampling of hoofs. And now, oh, now, struck on Catharine's car the
sound of a voice only too well loved, and made her scream aloud with
delight and desire.
But this cry frightened anew the enraged animal. For a moment,
exhausted and panting, he had slackened in his mad race; now he
sprang forward with renewed energy; now he flew on as if impelled by
the wings of the wind. But ever nearer and nearer sounded the loved
voice ever nearer the tramp of his horse.
They were now upon a large plain, shut in on all sides by woods.
While the queen's horse circled the plain in a wide circuit,
Seymour's, obedient to the rein, sped directly across it, and was
close behind the queen.
"Only a moment more! Only hold your arms firmly around the animal's
neck, that the shock may not hurl you off, when I lay hold of the
rein!" shouted Seymour, and he set his spurs into his horse's
flanks, so that he sprang forward with a wild cry.
This cry roused Hector to new fury. Panting for breath, he shot
forward with fearful leaps, now straight into the thicket of the
"I hear his voice no more," murmured Catharine. And at length
overcome with anxiety and the dizzy race, and worn out with her
exertions, she closed her eyes; her senses appeared to be about
But at this moment, a firm hand seized with iron grasp the rein of
her horse, so that he bowed his head, shaking, trembling, and almost
ashame, as the horse had found his lord and master.
"Saved! I am saved!" faltered Catharine, and breathless, scarcely in
her senses, she leaned her head on Seymour's shoulder.
He lifted her gently from the saddle, and placed her on the soft
moss beneath an ancient oak. Then he tied the horses to a bough, and
Catharine, trembling and faint, sank on her knees to rest after such
Thomas Seymour returned to Catharine. She still lay there with
closed eyes, pale and motionless.
He gazed on her long and steadily; his eyes drank in, in long
draughts, the sight of this beautiful and noble woman, and he forgot
at that moment that she was a queen.
He was at length alone with her. At last, after two years of
torture, of resignation, of dissimulation, God had granted him this
hour, for which he had so long yearned, which he had so long
considered unattainable. Now it was there, now it was his.
And had the whole court, had King Henry himself, come right then,
Thomas Seymour would not have heeded it; it would not have
affrighted him. The blood had mounted to his head and overcome his
reason. His heart, still agitated and beating violently from his
furious ride and his anxiety for Catharine, allowed him to hear no
other voice than that of passion.
He knelt by the queen and seized her hand.
Perhaps it was this touch which roused her from her unconsciousness.
She raised her eyes and gazed around with a perplexed look.
"Where am I?" breathed she in a low tone.
Thomas Seymour pressed her hand to his lips. "You are with the most
faithful and devoted of your servants, queen!"
"Queen!" This word roused her from her stupor, and caused her to
raise herself half up.
"But where is my court? Where is the Princess Elizabeth? Where are
all the eyes that heretofore watched me? Where are all the listeners
and spies who accompany the queen?"
"They are far away from here," said Seymour in a tone which betrayed
his secret delight. "They are far away from here, and need at least
an hour's time to come up with us. An hour, queen! are you aware
what that is to me? An hour of freedom, after two years of
imprisonment! An hour of happiness, after two years of daily
torture, daily endurance of the torments of hell!"
Catharine, who had at first smiled, had now become grave and sad.
Her eye rested on the cap which had fallen from her head and lay
near her on the grass.
She pointed with trembling finger to the crown, and said softly,
"Recognize you that sign, my lord?"
"I recognize it, my lady; but in this hour, I no longer shrink back
at it. There are moments in which life is at its crowning point, and
when one heeds not the abyss that threatens close beneath. Such an
hour is the present. I am aware that this hour makes me guilty of
high treason and may send me to the block; but nevertheless I will
not be silent. The fire which burns in my breast consumes me. I must
at length give it vent. My heart, that for years has burned upon a
funeral pyre, and which is so strong that in the midst of its
agonies it has still ever felt a sensation of its blessedness--my
heart must at length find death or favor. You shall hear me, queen!"
"No, no," said she, almost in anguish, "I will not, I cannot hear
you! Remember that I am Henry the Eighth's wife, and that it is
dangerous to speak to her. Silence, then, earl, silence, and let us
She would have arisen, but her own exhaustion and Lord Seymour's
hand caused her to sink back again.
"No, I will not be silent," said he. "I will not be silent until I
have told you all that rages and glows within me. The Queen of
England may either condemn me or pardon me, but she shall know that
to me she is not Henry the Eighth's wife, but only the most charming
and graceful, the noblest and loveliest woman in England. I will
tell her that I never recollect she is my queen, or, if I do so, it
is only to curse the king, who was presumptuous enough to set this
brightly sparkling jewel in his bloody crown."
Catharine, almost horrified, laid her hand on Seymour's lips.
"Silence, unhappy man, silence! Know you that it is your sentence of
death which you are now uttering? Your sentence of death, if any
soul hears you?"
"But no one hears me. No one save the queen, and God, who, however,
is perhaps more compassionate and merciful than the queen. Accuse me
then, queen; go and tell your king that Thomas Seymour is a traitor;
that he dares love the queen. The king will send me to the scaffold,
but I shall nevertheless deem myself happy, for I shall at least die
by your instrumentality. Queen, if I cannot live for you, then
beautiful it is to die for you!"
Catharine listened to him wholly stupefied, wholly intoxicated. This
was, for her, language wholly new and never heard before, at which
her heart trembled in blissful awe, which rushed around her in
enchanting melodies and lulled her into a sweet stupefaction. Now
she herself even forgot that she was queen, that she was the wife of
Henry, the bloodthirsty and the jealous. She was conscious only of
this, that the man whom she had so long loved, was now kneeling at
her side. With rapture she drank in his words, which struck upon her
ear like exquisite music.
Thomas Seymour continued. He told her all he had suffered. He told
her he had often resolved to die, in order to put an end to these
tortures, but that then a glance of her eye, a word from her lips,
had given him strength to live, and still longer endure these
tortures, which were at the same time so full of rapture.
"But now, queen, now my strength is exhausted, and it is for you to
give me life or death. To-morrow I will ascend the scaffold, or you
shall permit me to live, to live for you."
Catharine trembled and looked at him wellnigh astounded. He seemed
so proud and imperative, she almost felt a fear for him, but it was
the happy fear of a loving, meek woman before a strong, commanding
"Know you," said she, with a charming smile, "that you almost have
the appearance of wishing to command me to love you?"
"No, queen," said he, proudly, "I cannot command you to love me, but
I bid you tell me the truth. I bid you do this, for I am a man who
has the right to demand the truth of a woman face to face. And I
have told you, you are not the queen to me. You are but a beloved,
an adored woman. This love has nothing to do with your royalty, and
while I confess it to you, I do not think that you abase yourself
when you receive it. For the true love of a man is ever the holiest
gift that he can present to a woman, and if a beggar dedicates it to
a queen, she must feel herself honored by it. Oh, queen, I am a
beggar. I lie at your feet and raise my hands beseechingly to you;
but I want not charity, I want not your compassion and pity, which
may, perhaps, grant me an alms to lessen my misery. No, I want you
yourself. I require all or nothing. It will not satisfy me that you
forgive my boldness, and draw the veil of silence over my mad
attempt. No, I wish you to speak, to pronounce my condemnation or a
benediction on me. Oh, I know you are generous and compassionate,
and even if you despise my love and will not return it, yet, it may
be, you will not betray me. You will spare me, and be silent. But I
repeat it, queen, I do not accept this offer of your magnanimity.
You are to make me either a criminal or a god; for I am a criminal
if you condemn my love, a god if you return it."
"And do you know, earl," whispered Catharine, "that you are very
cruel? You want me to be either an accuser or an accomplice. You
leave me no choice but that of being either your murderess or a
perjured and adulterous woman--a wife who forgets her plighted faith
and her sacred duty, and defiles the crown which my husband has
placed upon my head with stains, which Henry will wash out with my
own blood and with yours also."
"Let it be so, then," cried the earl, almost joyfully. "Let my head
fall, no matter how or when, if you but love me; for then I shall
still be immortal; for a moment in your arms is an eternity of
"But I have already told you that not only your head, but mine also,
is concerned in this matter. You know the king's harsh and cruel
disposition. The mere suspicion is enough to condemn me. Ah, if he
knew what we have just now spoken here, he would condemn me, as he
condemned Catharine Howard, though I am not guilty as she was. Ah, I
shudder at the thought of the block; and you, Earl Seymour, you
would bring me to the scaffold, and yet you say you love me!"
Seymour sunk his head mournfully upon his breast and sighed deeply.
"You have pronounced my sentence, queen, and though you are too
noble to tell me the truth, yet I have guessed it. No, you do not
love me, for you see with keen eyes the danger that threatens you,
and you fear for yourself. No, you love me not, else you would think
of nothing save love alone. The dangers would animate you, and the
sword which hangs over your head you would not see, or you would
with rapture grasp its edge and say, 'What is death to me, since I
am happy! What care I for dying, since I have felt immortal
happiness!' Ah, Catharine, you have a cold heart and a cool head.
May God preserve them both to you; then will you pass through life
quietly and safely; but you will yet be a poor, wretched woman, and
when you come to die, they will place a royal crown upon your
coffin, but love will not weep for you. Farewell, Catharine, Queen
of England, and since you cannot love him, give Thomas Seymour, the
traitor, your sympathy at least."
He bowed low and kissed her feet, then he arose and walked with firm
step to the tree where he had tied the horses. But now Catharine
arose, now she flew to him, and grasping his hand, asked, trembling
and breathless, "What are you about to do? whither are you going?"
"To the king, my lady."
"And what will you do there?"
"I will show him a traitor who has dared love the queen. You have
just killed my heart; he will kill only my body. That is less
painful, and I will thank him for it."
Catharine uttered a cry, and with passionate vehemence drew him back
to the place where she had been resting.
"If you do what you say, you will kill me," said she, with trembling
lips. "Hear me, hear! The moment you mount your horse to go to the
king, I mount mine too; but not to follow you, not to return to
London, but to plunge with my horse down yonder precipice. Oh, fear
nothing; they will not accuse you of my murder. They will say that I
plunged down there with my horse, and that the raging animal caused
"Queen, take good heed, consider well what you say!" exclaimed
Thomas Seymour, his countenance clearing up and his face flaming
with delight. "Bear in mind that your words must be either a
condemnation or an avowal. I wish death, or your love! Not the love
of a queen, who thinks to be gracious to her subject, when for the
moment she elevates him to herself; but the love of a woman who bows
her head in meekness and receives her lover as at the same time her
lord. Oh, Catharine, be well on your guard! If you come to me with
the pride of a queen, if there be even one thought in you which
tells you that you are bestowing a favor on a subject as you take
him to your heart, then be silent and let me go hence. I am proud,
and as nobly born as yourself, and however love throws me conquered
at your feet, yet it shall not bow my head in the dust! But if you
say that you love me, Catharine, for that I will consecrate my whole
life to you. I will be your lord, but your slave also. There shall
be in me no thought, no feeling, no wish that is not devoted and
subservient to you. And when I say that I will he your lord, I mean
not thereby that I will not lie forever at your feet and bow my head
in the dust, and say to you: Tread on it, if it seem good to you,
for I am your slave!"
And speaking thus, he dropped on his knees and pressed to her feet
his face, whose glowing and noble expression ravished Catharine's
She hent down to him, and gently lifting his head, looked with an
indescribable expression of happiness and love deep into his beaming
"Do you love me?" asked Seymour, as he put his arm softly around her
slender waist, and arose from his kneeling attitude.
"I love you!" said she, with a firm voice and a happy smile. "I love
you, not as a queen, but as a woman; and if perchance this love
hring us both to the scaffold, well then we shall at least die
together, to meet again there above!"
"No, think not now of dying, Catharine, think of living--of the
beautiful, enchanting future which is beckoning to us. Think of the
days which will soon come, and in which our love will no longer
require secresy or a veil, but when we will manifest it to the whole
world, and can proclaim our happiness from a full glad breast! Oh,
Catharine, let us hope that compassionate and merciful death will
loose at last the unnatural bonds that bind you to that old man.
Then, when Henry is no more, then will you be mine, mine with yonr
entire being, with your whole life; and instead of a proud regal
crown, a crown of myrtle shall adorn your head! Swear that to me,
Catharine; swear that you will become my wife, as soon as death has
set you free."
The queen shuddered and her cheeks. grew pale. "Oh," said she with a
sigh, "death then is our hope and perhaps the scaffold our end!"
"No, Catharine, love is our hope, and happiness our end. Think of
life, of our future! God grant my request. Swear to me here in the
face of God, and of sacred and calm nature around us, swear to me,
that from the day when death frees you from your husband you will be
mine, my wife, my consort! Swear to me, that you, regardless of
etiquette and unmindful of tyrannical custom, will be Lord Seymour's
wife, before the knell for Henry's death has died away. We will find
a priest, who may bless our love and sanctify the covenant that we
have this day concluded for eternity! Swear to me, that, till that
wished--for day, you will keep for me your truth and love, and never
forget that my honor is yours also, that your happiness is also
"I swear it!" said Catharine, solemnly. "You may depend upon me at
all times and at all hours. Never will I be untrue to you; never
will I have a thought that is not yours. I will love you as Thomas
Seymour deserves to be loved, that is with a devoted and faithful
heart. It will be my pride to subject myself to you, and with glad
soul will I serve and follow you, as your true and obedient wife."
"I accept your oath!" said Seymour, solemnly. "But in return I swear
that I will honor and esteem you as my queen and mistress. I swear
to you that you shall never find a more obedient subject, a more
unselfish counsellor, a more faithful husband, a braver champion,
than I will be. 'My life for my queen, my entire heart for my
beloved'; this henceforth shall be my motto, and may I be disowned
and despised by God and by you, if ever I violate this oath."
"Amen!" said Catharine, with a bewitching smile.
Then both were silent. It was that silence which only love and
happiness knows--that silence which is so rich in thoughts and
feelings, and therefore so poor in words!
The wind rustled whisperingly in the trees, among whose dark
branches here and there a bird's warbling or flute-like notes
resounded. The sun threw his emerald light over the soft velvety
carpet of the ground, which, rising and falling in gentle,
undulating lines, formed lovely little hollows and hillocks, on
which now and then was seen here and there the slender and stately
figure of a hart, or a roe, that, looking around searchingly with
his bright eyes, started back frightened into the thicket on
observing these two human figures and the group of horses encamped
Suddenly this quiet was interrupted by the loud sound of the
hunter's horn, and in the distance were heard confused cries and
shouts, which were echoed by the dense forest and repeated in a
With a sigh the queen raised her head from the earl's shoulder.
The dream was at an end; the angel came with flaming sword to drive
her from paradise.
For she was no longer worthy of paradise. The fatal word had been
spoken, and while it brought her love, it had perjured her.
Henry's wife, his by her vow taken before the altar, had betrothed
herself to another, and given him the love that she owed her
"It is passed," said he, mournfully. "These sounds call me back to
my slavery. We must both resume our roles. I must become queen
"But first swear to me that you will never forget this hour; that
you will ever think upon the oaths which we have mutually sworn."
She looked at him almost astounded. "My God! can truth and love be
"You will remain ever true, Catharine?"
She smiled. "See, now, my jealous lord, do I address such questions
"Oh, queen, you well know that you possess the charm that binds
"Who knows?" said she dreamily, as she raised her enthusiastic look
to heaven, and seemed to follow the bright silvery clouds which were
sailing slowly across the blue ether.
Then her eyes fell on her beloved, and laying her hand softly upon
his shoulder, she said: "Love is like God--eternal, primeval, and
ever present! But you must believe in it to feel its presence; you
must trust it to be worthy of its blessing!"
But the hallooing and the clangor of the horns came nearer and
nearer. Even now was heard the barking of the dogs and the tramp of
The earl had untied the horses, and led Hector, who was now quiet
and gentle as a lamb, to his mistress.
"Queen," said Thomas Seymour, "two delinquents now approach you!
Hector is my accomplice, and had it not been that the fly I now see
on his swollen ear had made him raving, I should be the most
pitiable and unhappy man in your kingdom, while now I am the
happiest and most enviable."
The queen made no answer, but she put both her arms around the
animal's neck and kissed him.
"Henceforth," said she, "then I will ride only Hector, and when he
is old and unfit for service--"
"He shall be tended and cared for in the stud of Countess Catharine
Seymour!" interrupted Thomas Seymour, as he held the queen's stirrup
and assisted her into the saddle.
The two rode in silence toward the sound of the voices and horns,
both too much occupied by their own thoughts to interrupt them by
"He loves me!" thought Catharine. "I am a happy, enviable woman, for
Thomas Seymour loves me."
"She loves me!" thought he, with a proud, triumphant smile. "I
shall, therefore, one day become Regent of England."
Just then they came out on the large level meadow, through which
they had previously ridden, and over which now came, scattered here
and there in motley confusion, the entire royal suite, Princess
Elizabeth at the head.
"One thing more!" whispered Catharine. "If you ever need a messenger
to me, apply to John Heywood. He is a friend whom we can trust."
And she sprang forward to meet the princess, to recount to her all
the particulars of her adventure, and her happy rescue by the master
Elizabeth, however, listened to her with glowing looks and thoughts
distracted, and as the queen then turned to the rest of her suite,
and, surrounded by her ladies and lords, received their
congratulations, a slight sign from the princess called Thomas
Seymour to her side.
She allowed her horse to curvet some paces forward, by which she and
the earl found themselves separated a little from the rest, and were
sure of being overheard by no one.
"My lord," said she, in a vehement, almost threatening voice, "you
have often and in vain besought me to grant you an interview. I have
denied you. You intimated that you had many things to say to me, for
which we must be alone, and which must reach no listener's ear.
Well, now, to-day I grant you an interview, and I am at last
inclined to listen to you."
She paused and waited for a reply. But the earl remained silent. He
only made a deep and respectful bow, bending to the very neck of his
horse. "Well and good; I will go to this rendezvous were it but to
blind Elizabeth's eyes, that she may not see what she never ought to
see. That was all."
The young princess cast on him an angry look, and a dark scowl
gathered on her brow. "You understand well how to control your joy,"
said she; "and any one to see you just now would think--"
"That Thomas Seymour is discreet enough not to let even his rapture
be read in his countenance at this dangerous court," interrupted the
earl in a low murmur. "When, princess, may I see you and where?"
"Wait for the message that John Heywood will bring you to-day,"
whispered Elizabeth, as she sprang forward and again drew near the
"John Heywood, again!" muttered the earl. "The confidant of both,
and so my hangman, if he wishes to be!"
"LE ROI S'ENNUIT."
King Henry was alone in his study. He had spent a few hours in
writing on a devout and edifying book, which he was preparing for
his subjects, and which, in virtue of his dignity as supreme lord of
the Church, he designed to commend to their reading instead of the
He now laid down his pen, and, with infinite complacency, looked
over the written sheets, which were to be to his people a new proof
of his paternal love and care, and so convince them that Henry the
Eighth was not only the noblest and most virtuous of kings, but also
But this reflection failed to make the king more cheerful to-day;
perhaps because he had already indulged in it too frequently. To be
alone, annoyed and disturbed him--there were in his breast so many
secret and hidden voices, whose whispers he dreaded, and which,
therefore, he sought to drown--there were so many recollections of
blood, which ever and again rose before him, however often he tried
to wash them out in fresh blood, and which the king was afraid of,
though he assumed the appearance of never repenting, never feeling
With hasty hand he touched the gold bell standing by him, and his
face brightened as he saw the door open immediately, and Earl
Douglas make his appearance on the threshold.
"Oh, at length!" said the lord, who had very well understood the
expression of Henry's features; "at length, the king condescends to
be gracious to his people."
"I gracious?" asked the king, utterly astonished. "Well, how am I
"By your majesty's resting at length from his exertions, and giving
a little thought to his valuable and needful health. When you
remember, sire, that England's weal depends solely and alone on the
weal of her king, and that you must be and remain healthy, that your
people, likewise may be healthy."
The king smiled with satisfaction. It never came into his head to
doubt the earl's words. It seemed to him perfectly natural that the
weal of his people depended on his person; but yet it was always a
lofty and beautiful song, and he loved to have his courtiers repeat
The king, as we have said, smiled, but there was something unusual
in that smile, which did not escape the earl.
"He is in the condition of a hungry anaconda," said Earl Douglas to
himself. "He is on the watch for prey, and he will be bright and
lively again just as soon as he has tasted a little human flesh and
blood. Ah, luckily we are well supplied in that way. Therefore, we
will render unto the king what is the king's. But we must be
cautious and go to work warily."
He approached the king and imprinted a kiss on his hand.
"I kiss this hand," said he, "which has been to-day the fountain
through which the wisdom of the head has been poured forth on this
blessed paper. I kiss this paper, which will announce and explain to
happy England God's pure and unadulterated word; but yet I say let
this suffice for the present, my king; take rest; remember awhile
that you are not only a sage, but also a man."
"Yes and truly a weak and decrepit one!" sighed the king, as with
difficulty he essayed to rise, and in so doing leaned so heavily and
the earl's arm that he almost broke down under the monstrous load.
"Decrepit!" said Earl Douglas, reproachfully. "Your majesty moves
to-day with as much ease and freedom as a youth, and my arm was by
no means needed to help you up."
"Nevertheless, we are growing old!" said the king, who, from his
weariness, was unusually sentimental and low-spirited to-day.
"Old!" repeated Earl Douglas. "Old, with those eyes darting fire,
and that lofty brow, and that face, in every feature so noble! No,
your majesty, kings have this in common with the gods--they never
"And therein they resemble parrots to a hair!" said John Heywood,
who just then entered the room. "I own a parrot which my great-
grandfather inherited from his great-grandfather, who was hair-
dresser to Henry the Fourth, and which to-day still sings with the
same volubility as he did a hundred years ago: 'Long live the king!
long live this paragon of virtue, sweetness, beauty, and mercy! Long
live the king!' He has cried this for hundreds of years, and he has
repeated it for Henry the Fifth and Henry the Sixth, for Henry the
Seventh and Henry the Eighth! And wonderful, the kings have changed,
but the song of praise has always been appropriate, and has ever
been only the simple truth! Just like yours, my Lord Douglas! Your
majesty may depend upon it, he speaks the truth, for he is near akin
to my parrot, which always calls him 'My cousin,' and has taught him
his immortal song of praise to kings."
The king laughed, while Earl Douglas cast at John Heywood a sharp,
"He is an impudent imp, is he not, Douglas?" said the king.
"He is a fool!" replied he, with a shrug.
"Exactly, and therefore I just now told you the truth. For you know
children and fools speak the truth. And I became a fool just on this
account, that the king, whom you all deceive by your lies, may have
about him some creature, besides his looking-glass, to tell him the
"Well, and what truth will you serve up for me today?"
"It is already served, your majesty. So lay aside for a little your
regal crown and your high priesthood, and conclude to be for awhile
a carnivorous beast. It is very easy to become a king. For that,
nothing more is necessary than to be born of a queen under a canopy.
But it is very difficult to be a man who has a good digestion. It
requires a healthy stomach and a light conscience. Come, King Henry,
and let us see whether you are not merely a king, but also a man
that has a good stomach." And with a merry laugh he took the king's
other arm and led him with the earl into the dining-room.
The king, who was an extraordinary eater, silently beckoned his
suite to take their places at the table, after he had seated himself
in his gilded chair. With grave and solemn air he then received from
the hands of the master of ceremonies the ivory tablet on which was
the bill of fare for the day. The king's dinner was a solemn and
important affair. A multitude of post-wagons and couriers were ever
on the way to bring from the remotest ends of the earth dainties for
the royal table. The bill of fare, therefore, to-day, as ever,
exhibited the choicest and rarest dishes; and always when the king
found one of his favorite ones written down he made an assenting and
approving motion of the head, which always lighted up the face of
the master of ceremonies like a sunbeam. There were birds' nests
brought from the East Indies by a fast-sailing vessel, built
specially for the purpose. There were hens from Calcutta and
truffles from Languedoc, which the poet-king, Francis the First of
France, had the day before sent to his royal brother as a special
token of affection. There was the sparkling wine of Champagne, and
the fiery wine of the Island of Cyprus, which the Republic of Venice
had sent to the king as a mark of respect. There were the heavy
wines of the Rhine, which looked like liquid gold, and diffused the
fragrance of a whole bouquet of flowers, and with which the
Protestant princes of Northern Germany hoped to fuddle the king,
whom they would have gladly placed at the head of their league.
There, too, were the monstrous, gigantic partridge pastries, which
the Duke of Burgundy had sent, and the glorious fruits of the south,
from the Spanish coast, with which the Emperor Charles the Fifth
supplied the King of England's table. For it was well known that, in
order to make the King of England propitious, it was necessary first
to satiate him; that his palate must first be tickled, in order to
gain his head or his heart.
But to-day all these things seemed insufficient to give the king the
blissful pleasure which, at other times, was wont to be with him
when he sat at table. He heard John Heywood's jests and biting
epigrams with a melancholy smile, and a cloud was on his brow.
To be in cheerful humor, the king absolutely needed the presence of
ladies. He needed them as the hunter needs the roe to enjoy the
pleasure of the chase--that pleasure which consists in killing the
defenceless and in declaring war against the innocent and peaceful.
The crafty courtier, Earl Douglas, readily divined Henry's
dissatisfaction, and understood the secret meaning of his frowns and
sighs. He hoped much from them, and was firmly resolved to draw some
advantage therefrom, to the benefit of his daughter, and the harm of
"Your majesty," said he, "I am just on the point of turning traitor,
and accusing my king of an injustice."
The king turned his flashing eyes upon him, and put his hand,
sparkling with jewelled rings, to the golden goblet filled with
"Of an injustice--me--your king?" asked he, with stammering tongue.
"Yes, of an injustice, inasmuch as you are for me God's visible
representative on earth. I would blame God if He withdrew from us
for a day the brightness of the sun, the gorgeousness and perfume of
His flowers, for since we children of men are accustomed to enjoy
these glories, we have in a certain measure gained a right to them.
So I accuse you because you have withdrawn from us the embodied
flowers and the incarnate suns; because you have been so cruel,
sire, as to send the queen to Epping Forest."
"Not so; the queen wanted to ride," said Henry, peevishly. "The
spring weather attracted her, and since I, alas! do not possess
God's exalted attribute of ubiquity, I was, no doubt, obliged to
come to the resolution of being deprived of her presence. There is
no horse capable of carrying the King of England."
"There is Pegasus, however, and in masterly manner you know how to
manage him. But how, your majesty! the queen wanted to ride, though
she was deprived of your presence thereby? She wanted to ride,
though this pleasure-ride was at the same time a separation from
you? Oh how cold and selfish are women's hearts! Were I a woman, I
would never depart from your side, I would covert no greater
happiness than to be near you, and to listen to that high and
exalted wisdom which pours from your inspired lips. Were I a woman--
"Earl, I opine that your wish is perfectly fulfilled," said John
Heywood seriously. "You make in all respects the impression of an
All laughed. But the king did not laugh; he remained serious and
looked gloomily before him.
"It is true," muttered he, "she seemed excited with joy about this
excursion, and in her eyes shone a fire I have seldom seen there.
There must be some peculiar circumstance connected with this ride.
Who accompanied the queen?"
"Princess Elizabeth," said John Heywood, who had heard everything,
and saw clearly the arrow that the earl had shot at the queen.
"Princess Elizabeth, her true and dear friend, who never leaves her
side. Besides, her maids of honor, who, like the dragon in the
fable, keep watch over the beautiful princess."
"Who else is in the queen's company?" inquired Henry, sullenly.
"The master of horse, Earl of Sudley," said Douglas, "and--"
"That is an observation in the highest degree superfluous,"
interrupted John Heywood; "it is perfectly well understood by itself
that the master of horse accompanies the queen. That is just as much
his office as it is yours to sing the song of your cousin, my
"He is right," said the king quickly. "Thomas Seymour must accompany
her, and it is my will also. Thomas Seymour is a faithful servant,
and this he has inherited from his sister Jane, my much loved queen,
now at rest with God, that he is devoted to his king in steadfast
"The time has not yet come when one may assail the Seymours,"
thought the earl. "The king is yet attached to them; so he will feel
hostile toward the foes of the Seymours. Let us then begin our
attack on Henry Howard--that is to say, on the queen."
"Who accompanied the queen besides?" inquired Henry the Eighth,
emptying the golden beaker at a draught, as though he would thereby
cool the fire which already began to blaze within him. But the fiery
Rhenish wine instead of cooling only heated him yet more; it drove,
like a tempest, the fire kindled in his jealous heart in bright
flames to his head, and made his brain glow like his heart.
"Who else accompanied her beside these?" asked Earl Douglas
carelessly. "Well, I think, the lord chamberlain, Earl of Surrey."
A dark scown gathered on the king's brow. The lion had scented his
"The lord chamberlain is not in the queen's train!" said John
"No," exclaimed Earl Douglas. "The poor earl. That will make him
"And why think you that will make him sad?" asked the king in a
voice very like the roll of distant thunder.
"Because the Earl of Surrey is accustomed to live in the sunshine of
royal favor, sire; because he resembles that flower which always
turns its head to the sun, and receives from it vigor, color, and
"Let him take care that the sun does not scorch him," muttered the
"Earl," said John Heywood, "you must put on your spectacles so that
you can see better. This time you have confounded the sun with one
of its satellites. Earl Surrey is far too prudent a man to be so
foolish as to gaze at the sun, and thereby blind his eyes and parch
his brain. And so he is satisfied to worship one of the planets that
circle round the sun."
"What does the fool intend to say by that?" asked the earl
"The wise will thereby give you to understand that you have this
time mistaken your daughter for the queen," said John Heywood,
emphasizing sharply every word, "and that it has happened to you, as
to many a great astrologer, you have taken a planet for a sun."
Earl Douglas cast a dark, spiteful look at John Heywood, who
answered it with one equally piercing and furious.
Their eyes were firmly fixed on each other's, and in those eyes they
both read all the hatred and all the bitterness which were working
in the depths of their souls. Both knew that they had from that hour
sworn to each other an enmity burning and full of danger.
The king had noticed nothing of this dumb but significant scene. He
was looking down, brooding over his gloomy thoughts, and the storm-
clouds rolling around his brow gathered darker and darker.
With an impetuous movement he arose from his seat, and this time he
needed no helping hand to stand up. Wrath was the mighty lever that
threw him up.
The courtiers arose from their seats in silence, and nobody besides
John Heywood observed the look of understanding which Earl Douglas
exchanged with Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and Wriothesley, the
"Ah, why is not Cranmer here?" said John Heywood to himself. "I see
the three tiger-cats prowling, so there must be prey to devour
somewhere. Well, I will at any rate keep my ears open wide enough to
hear their roaring."
"The dinner is over, gentlemen!" said the king hastily; and the
courtiers and gentlemen in waiting silently withdrew to the
Only Earl Douglas, Gardiner, and Wriothesley, remained in the hall,
while John Heywood crept softly into the king's cabinet and
concealed himself behind the hanging of gold brocade which covered
the door leading from the king's study to the outer anteroom.
"My lords," said the king, "follow me into my cabinet. As we are
dull, the most advisable thing for us to do is to divert ourselves
while we occupy ourselves with the weal of our beloved subjects, and
consult concerning their happiness and what is conducive to their
welfare. Follow me then, and we will hold a general consultation."
"Earl Douglas, your arm!" and as the king leaned on it and walked
slowly toward the cabinet, at the entrance of which the lord
chancellor and the Bishop of Winchester were waiting for him, he
asked in a low voice: "You say that Henry Howard dares ever intrude
himself into the queen's presence?"
"Sire, I did not say that; I meant only that he is constantly to be
seen in the queen's presence."
"Oh, you mean that she perhaps authorizes him to do so," said the
king, grinding his teeth.
"Sire, I hold the queen to be a noble and dutiful wife."
"I should be quite inclined to lay your head at your feet if you did
not!" said the king, in whose face the first lightning of the
bursting cloud of wrath began to flash.
"My head belongs to the king!" said Earl Douglas respectfully. "Let
him do with it as he pleases."
"But Howard--you mean, then, that Howard loves the queen?"
"Yes, sire, I dare affirm that."
"Now, by the Mother of God, I will tread the serpent under my feet,
as I did his sister!" exclaimed Henry, fiercely. "The Howards are an
ambitious, dangerous, and hypocritical race."
"A race that never forgets that a daughter of their house has sat on
"But they shall forget it," cried the king, "and I must wash these
proud and haughty thoughts out of their brain with their own blood.
They have not then learned, from the example of their sister, how I
punish disloyalty. This insolent race needs another fresh example.
Well, they shall have it. Only put the means in my hand, Douglas,
only a little hook that I can strike into the flesh of these
Howards, and I tell you, with that little hook I will drag them to
the scaffold. Give me proof of the earl's criminal love, and I
promise you that for this I will grant you what you ask."
"Sire, I will give you this proof."
"In four days, sire! At the great contest of the poets, which you
have ordered to take place on the queen's birthday."
"I thank you, Douglas, I thank you," said the king with an
expression almost of joy. In four days you will have rid me of the
troublesome race of Howards."
"But, sire, if I cannot give the proof you demand without accusing
one other person?"
The king, who was just about to pass the door of his cabinet, stood
still, and looked steadily into the earl's eyes. "Then," said he, in
a tone peculiarly awful, "you mean the queen? Well, if she is
guilty, I will punish her. God has placed the sword in my hand that
I may bear it to His honor and to the terror of mankind. If the
queen has sinned, she will be punished. Furnish me the proof of
Howard's guilt, and do not trouble yourself if we thereby discover
the guilt of others. We shall not timidly shrink back, but let
justice take its course."
THE QUEEN'S FRIEND.
Earl Douglas, Gardiner, and Wriothesley, had accompanied the king
into his cabinet.
At last the great blow was to be struck, and the plan of the three
enemies of the queen, so long matured and well-considered, was to be
at length put in execution. Therefore, as they followed the king,
who with unwonted activity preceded them, they exchanged with each
other one more look of mutual understanding.
By that look Earl Douglas said, "The hour has come. Be ready!"
And the looks of his friends responded, "We are ready!"
John Heywood, who, hidden behind the hangings, saw and observed
everything, could not forbear a slight shudder at the sight of these
four men, whose dark and hard features seemed incapable of being
touched by any ray of pity or mercy.
There was first the king, that man with the Protean countenance,
across which storm and sunshine, God and the devil traced each
minute new lines; who could be now an inspired enthusiast, and now a
bloodthirsty tyrant; now a sentimental wit, and anon a wanton
reveler; the king, on whose constancy nobody, not even himself,
could rely; ever ready, as it suited his caprice or his interest, to
betray his most faithful friend, and to send to the scaffold to-day
those whom but yesterday he had caressed and assured of his
unchanging affection; the king, who considered himself privileged to
indulge with impunity his low appetites, his revengeful impulses,
his bloodthirsty inclinations; who was devout from vanity, because
devotion afforded him an opportunity of identifying himself with
God, and of regarding himself in some sort the patron of Deity.
There was Earl Douglas, the crafty courtier with ever-smiling face,
who seemed to love everybody, while in fact he hated all; who
assumed the appearance of perfect harmlessness, and seemed to be
indifferent to everything but pleasure, while nevertheless secretly
he held in his hand all the strings of that great net which
encompassed alike court and king--Earl Douglas, whom the king loved
for this alone, because he generally gave him the title of grand and
wise high-priest of the Church, and who was, notwithstanding this,
Loyola's vicegerent, and a true and faithful adherent of that pope
who had damned the king as a degenerate son and given him over to
the wrath of God.
Lastly, there were the two men with dark, malignant looks, with
inflexible, stony faces, which u ere never lighted up by a smile, or
a gleam of joy; who always condemned, always punished, and whose
countenances never brightened save when the dying shriek of the
condemned, or the groans of some poor wretch upon the rack, fell
upon their ears; who were the tormentors of humanity, while they
called themselves the ministers and servants of God.
"Sire," said Gardiner, when the king had slowly taken his seat upon
the ottoman--"sire, let us first ask the blessing of the Lord our
God on this hour of conference. May God, who is love, but who is
wrath also, may He enlighten and bless us!"
The king devoutly folded his hands, but it was only a prayer of
wrath that animated his soul.
"Grant, O God, that I may punish Thine enemies, and everywhere dash
in pieces the guilty!"
"Amen!" said Gardiner, as he repeated with solemn earnestness the
"Send us the thunderbolt of Thy wrath," prayed Wriothesley, "that we
may teach the world to recognize Thy power and glory!"
Earl Douglas took care not to pray aloud. What he had to request of
God was not allowed to reach the ear of the king.
"Grant, O God," prayed he in his heart, "grant that my work may
prosper, and that this dangerous queen may ascend the scaffold, to
make room for my daughter, who is destined to bring back into the
arms of our holy mother, the Church--guilty and faithless king."
"Now my lords," said the king, fetching a long breath, "now tell me
how stand matters in my kingdom, and at my court?"
"Badly," said Gardiner. "Unbelief again lifts up its head. It is a
hydra. If you strike off one of its heads, two others immediately
spring up in its place. This cursed sect of reformists and atheists
multiplies day by day, and our prisons are no longer sufficient to
contain them; and when we drag them to the stake, their joyful and
courageous death always makes fresh proselytes and fresh apostates."
"Yes, matters are bad," said the Lord Chancellor Wriothesley; "in
vain have we promised pardon and forgiveness to all those who would
return penitent and contrite; they laugh to scorn our offers of
pardon, and prefer a death of torture to the royal clemency. What
avails it that we have burnt to death Miles Coverdale, who had the
hardihood to translate the Bible? His death appears to have been
only the tocsin that aroused other fanatics, and, without our being
able to divine or suspect where all these books come from, they have
overflowed and deluged the whole land; and we now already have more
than four translations of the Bible. The people read them with
eagerness; and the corrupt seek of mental illumination and free-
thinking waxes daily more powerful and more pernicious."
"And now you, Earl Douglas?" asked the king, when the lord
chancellor ceased. "These noble lords have told me how matters stand
in my kingdom. You will advise me what is the aspect of things at my
"Sire," said Earl Douglas, slowly and solemnly--for he wished each
word to sink into the king's breast like a poisoned arrow--"sire,
the people but follow the example which the court sets them. How can
you require faith of the people, when under their own eyes the court
turns faith to ridicule, and when infidels find at court aid and
"You accuse, but give no names," said the king, impatiently. "Who
dares at my court be a protector of heretics?"
"Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury!" said the three men, as with one
mouth. The signal-word was spoken, the standard of a bloody struggle
"Cranmer?" repeated the king thoughtfully. "He has, however, always
been a faithful servant and an attentive friend to me. It was he who
delivered me from the unholy bond with Catharine of Aragon: it was
he too who warned me of Catharine Howard, and furnished me with
proofs of her guilt. Of what misdemeanor do you accuse him?"
"He denies the six articles," said Gardiner, whose malicious face
now glowed with bitter hatred. "He reprobates auricular confession,
and believes not that the voluntarily taken vows of celibacy are
"If he does that, then he is a traitor!" cried the king, who was
fond of always throwing a reverence for chastity and modesty, as a
kind of holy mantle, over his own profligate and lewd life; and whom
nothing more embittered than to encounter another on that path of
vice which he himself, by virtue of his royal prerogative, and his
crown by the grace of God, could travel in perfect safety.
"If he does that, then he is a traitor! My arm of vengeance will
smite him!" repeated the king again. "It was I who gave my people
the six articles, as a sacred and authoritative declaration of
faith; and I will not suffer this only true and right doctrine to be
assailed and obscured. But you are mistaken, my lords. I am
acquainted with Cranmer, and I know that he is loyal and faithful."
"And yet it is he," said Gardiner, "who confirms these heretics in
their obduracy and stiff-neckedness. He is the cause why these lost
wretches do not, from the fear of divine wrath at least, return to
you, their sovereign and high-priest. For he preaches to them that
God is love and mercy; he teaches them that Christ came into the
world in order to bring to the world love and the forgiveness of
sins, and that they alone are Christ's true disciples and servants
who emulate His love. Do you not see then, sire, that this is a
covert and indirect accusation against yourself, and that while he
praises pardoning love, he at the same time condemns and accuses
your righteous and punitory wrath?"
The king did not answer immediately, but sat with his eyes fixed,
grave and pondering. The fanatical priest had gone too far; and,
without being aware of it, it was he himself who was that very
instant accusing the king.
Earl Douglas felt this. He read in the king's face that he was just
then in one of those moments of contrition which sometimes came over
him when his soul held involuntary intercourse with itself. It was
necessary to arouse the sleeping tiger and point out to him some
prey, so as to make him again bloodthirsty.
"It would be proper if Cranmer preached only Christian love," said
he. "Then would he be only a faithful servant of his Lord, and a
follower of his king. But he gives to the world an abominable
example of a disobedient and perfidious servant; he denies the truth
of the six articles, not in words, but in deeds. You have ordered
that the priests of the Church remain single. Now, then, the
Archbishop of Canterbury is married!"
"Married!" cried the king, his visage glowing with rage. "Ah, I will
chastise him, this transgressor of my holy laws! A minister of the
Church, a priest, whose whole life should be naught but an
exhibition of holiness, an endless communion with God, and whose
high calling it is to renounce fleshly lusts and earthly desires!
And he is married! I will make him feel the whole weight of my royal
anger! He shall learn from his own experience that the king's
justice is inexorable, and that in every case he smites the head of
the sinner, be he who he may!"
"Your majesty is the embodiment of wisdom and justice," said
Douglas, "and your faithful servants well know, if the royal justice
is sometimes tardy in smiting guilty offenders, this happens not
through your will, but through your servants who venture to stay the
arm of justice."
"When and where has this happened?" asked Henry; and his face
flushed with rage and excitement. "Where is the offender whom I have
not punished? Where in my realm lives a being who has sinned against
God or his king, and whom I have not dashed to atoms?"
"Sire," said Gardiner solemnly, "Anne Askew is yet alive."
"She lives to mock at your wisdom and to scoff at your holy creed!"
"She lives, because Bishop Cranmer wills that she should not die,"
said Douglas, shrugging his shoulders. The king broke out into a
short, dry laugh. "Ah, Cranmer wills not that Anne Askew die!" said
he, sneering. "He wills not that this girl, who has so fearfully
offended against her king, and against God, should he punished!"
"Yes, she has offended fearfully, and yet two years have passed away
since her offence," cried Gardiner--"two years which she has spent
in deriding God and mocking the king!"
"Ah," said the king, "we have still hoped to turn this young,
misguided creature from the ways of sin and error to the path of
wisdom and repentance. We wished for once to give our people a
shining example of our willingness to forgive those who repent and
renounce their heresy, and to restore them to a participation of our
royal favor. Therefore it was that we commissioned you, my lord
hishop, by virtue of your prayers and your forcible and convincing
words, to pluck this poor child from the claws of the devil, who has
charmed her ear."
"But she is unbending," said Gardiner, grinding his teeth. "In vain
have I depicted to her the pains of hell, which await her if she
return not to the faith; in vain have I subjected her to every
variety of torture and penance; in vain have I sent to her in prison
other converts, and had them pray with her night and day
incessantly; she remains unyielding, hard as stone, and neither the
fear of punishment nor the prospect of freedom and happiness has the
power to soften that marble heart."
"There is one means yet untried," said Wriothesley--"a means,
moreover, which is a more effective preacher of repentance than the
most enthusiastic orators and the most fervent prayers, and which I
have to thank for bringing back to God and the faith many of the
most hardened heretics."
"And this means is--"
"The rack, your majesty."
"Ah, the rack!" replied the king, with an involuntary shudder.
"All means are good that lead to the holy end!" said Gardiner,
devoutly folding his hands.
"The soul must be saved, though the body be pierced with wounds!"
"The people must be convinced," said Douglas, "that the lofty spirit
of the king spares not even those who are under the protection of
influential and might personages. The people murmur that this time
justice is not permitted to prevail, because Archbishop Cranmer
protects Anne Askew, and the queen is her friend."
"The queen is never the friend of a criminal!" said Henry,
"Perchance she does not consider Anne Askew a criminal," responded
Karl Douglas, with a slight smile. "It is known, indeed, that the
queen is a great friend of the Reformation; and the people, who dare
not call her a heretic--the people call her 'the Protestant.'"
"Is it, then, really believed that it is Catharine who protects Anne
Askew, and keeps her from the stake?" inquired the king,
"It is so thought, your majesty."
"They shall soon see that they are mistaken, and that Henry the
Eighth well deserves to be called the Defender of the Faith and the
Head of his Church!" cried the king, with burning rage. "For when
have I shown myself so long-suffering and weak in punishing, that
people believe me inclined to pardon and deal gently? Have I not
sent to the scaffold even Thomas More and Cromwell, two renowned and
in a certain respect noble and high-minded men, because they dared
defy my supremacy and oppose the doctrine and ordinance which I
commanded them to believe? Have I not sent to the block two of my
queens--two beautiful young women, in whom my heart was well
pleased, even when I punished them--because they had provoked my
wrath? Who, after such brilliant examples of our annihilating
justice, who dare accuse us of forbearance?"
"But at that time, sire," said Douglas, in his soft, insinuating
voice, "but at that time no queen as yet stood at your side who
called heretics true believers, and favored traitors with her
The king frowned, and his wrathful look encountered the friendly and
submissive countenance of the earl. "You know I hate these covert
attacks," said he. "If you can tax the queen with any crime, well
now, do so. If you cannot, hold your peace!"
"The queen is a noble and virtuous lady," said the earl, "only she
sometimes permits herself to be led away by her magnanimous spirit.
Or how, your majesty, can it possibly be with your permission that
my lady the queen maintains a correspondence with Anne Askew?"
"What say you? The queen in correspondence with Anne Askew?" cried
the king in a voice of thunder. "That is a lie, a shameless lie,
hatched up to ruin the queen; for it is very well known that the
poor king, who has been so often deceived, so often imposed upon,
believes himself to have at last found in this woman a being whom he
can trust, and in whom he can put faith. And they grudge him that.
They wish to strip him of this last hope also, that his heart may
harden entirely to stone, and no emotion of pity evermore find
access to him. Ah, Douglas, Douglas, beware of my wrath, if you
cannot prove what you say!"
"Sire, I can prove it! For Lady Jane herself, no longer ago than
yesterday, was made to give up a note from Anne Askew to the queen."
The king remained silent for a while, and gazed fixedly on the
ground. His three confidants observed him with breathless, trembling
At length the king raised his head again, and turned his gaze, which
was now grave and steady, upon the lord chancellor. "My Lord
Chancellor Wriothesley," said he, "I empower you to conduct Anne
Askew to the torture-room, and try whether the torments which are
prepared for the body are perchance able to bring this erring soul
to an acknowledgment of her faults. My Lord Bishop Gardiner, I
promise my word that I will give attention to your accusation
against the Archbishop of Canterbury, and that, if it be well
founded, he shall not escape punishment. My Lord Douglas, I will
give my people and all the world proof that I am still God's
righteous and avenging vice-gerent on earth, and that no
consideration can restrain my wrath, no after-thought stay my arm,
whenever it is ready to fall and smite the head of the guilty. And
now, my lords, let us declare this session at an end. Let us breathe
a little from these exertions, and seek some recreation for one
"My Lords Gardiner and Wriothesley, you are now at liberty. You,
Douglas, will accompany me into the small reception-room. I want to
see bright and laughing faces around me. Call John Heywood, and if
you meet any ladies in the palace, of course I beg them to shed on
us a little of that sunshine which you say is peculiarly woman's."
He laughed, and, leaning on the earl's arm, left the cabinet.
Gardiner and Wriothesley stood there in silence, watching the king,
who slowly and heavily traversed the adjacent hall, and whose cheery
and laughing voice came ringing back to them.
"He is a weathercock, turning every moment from side to side," said
Gardiner, with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders.
"He calls himself God's sword of vengeance, but he is nothing more
than a weak tool, which we bend and use at our will," muttered
Wriothesley, with a hoarse laugh. "Poor, pitiful fool, deeming
himself so mighty and sturdy; imagining himself a free king, ruling
by his sovereign will alone, and yet he is but our servant and
drudge! Our great work is approaching its end, and we shall one day
triumph. Anne Askew's death is the sign of a new covenant, which
will deliver England and trample the heretics like dust beneath our
feet. And when at length we shall have put down Cranmer, and brought
Catharine Parr to the scaffold, then will we give King Henry a queen
who will reconcile him with God and the Church, out of which is no
"Amen, so be it!" said Gardiner; and arm in arm they both left the
Deep stillness now reigned in that little spot, and nobody saw John
Heywood as he now came from behind the hanging, and, completely worn
out and faint, slipped for a moment into a chair.
"Now I know, so far at least, the plan of these blood-thirsty tiger-
cats," muttered he. "They wish to give Henry a popish queen; and so
Cranmer must be overthrown, that, when they have deprived the queen
of this powerful prop, they may destroy her also and tread her in
the dust. But as God liveth, they shall not succeed in this! God is
just, and He will at last punish these evil-doers. And supposing
there is no God, then will we try a little with the devil himself.
No, they shall not destroy the noble Cranmer and this beautiful,
high-minded queen. I forbid it--I, John Heywood, the king's fool. I
will see everything, observe everything, hear everything. They shall
find me everywhere on their path; and when they poison the king's
ear with their diabolical whisperings, I will heal it again with my
merry deviltries. The king's fool will be the guardian angel of the
After so much care and excitement, the king needed an hour of
recreation and amusement. Since the fair young queen was seeking
these far away in the chase, and amid the beauties of Nature, Henry
must, no doubt, be content to seek them for himself, and in a way
different from the queen's. His unwieldiness and his load of flesh
prevented him from pursuing the joys of life beyond his own halls;
so the lords and ladies of his court had to bring them hither to
him, and station the flitting goddess of Joy, with her wings
fettered, in front of the king's trundle-chair.
The gout had that day again overcome that mighty king of earth; and
a heavy, grotesque mass it was which sat there in the elbow-chair.
But the courtiers still called him a fine-looking and fascinating
man; and the ladies still smiled on him and said, by their sighs and
by their looks, that they loved him; that he was ever to them the
same handsome and captivating man that he was twenty years before,
when yet young, fine-looking, and slim. How they smile upon him, and
ogle him! How Lady Jane, the maiden otherwise so haughty and so
chaste, does wish to ensnare him with her bright eyes as with a net!
How bewitchingly does the Duchess of Richmond, that fair and
voluptuous woman, laugh at the king's merry jests and double
Poor king! whose corpulency forbids him to dance as he once had done
with so much pleasure and so much dexterity! Poor king! whose age
forbids him to sing as once he had done to the delight both of the
court and himself!
But there are yet, however, pleasant, precious, joyous hours, when
the man revives some little in the king; when even youth once more
again awakes within him, and smiles in a few dear, blessed
pleasures. The king still has at least eyes to perceive beauty, and
a heart to feel it.
How beautiful Lady Jane is, this white lily with the dark, star-like
eyes! How beautiful Lady Richmond, this full-blown red rose with the
And they both smile at him; and when the king swears he loves them,
they bashfully cast down their eyes and sigh.
"Do you sigh, Jane, because you love me?"
"Oh, sire, you mock me. It would be a sin for me to love you, for
Queen Catharine is living."
"Yes, she is living!" muttered the king; and his brow darkened; and
for a moment the smile disappeared from his lips.
Lady Jane had committed a mistake. She had reminded the king of his
wife when it was yet too soon to ask for her death.
John Heywood read this in the countenance of his royal master, and
resolved to take advantage of it. He wished to divert the attention
of the king, and to draw it away from the beautiful, captivating
women who were juggling him with their bewitching charms.
"Yes, the queen lives!" said he, joyfully, "and God be praised for
it! For how tedious and dull it would be at this court had we not
our fair queen, who is as wise as Methuselah, and innocent and good
as a new-born babe! Do you not, Lady Jane, say with me, God be
praised that Queen Catharine is living?"
"I say so with you!" said Jane, with ill-concealed vexation.
"And you, King Henry, do you not say it too?"
"Of course, fool!"
"Ah, why am I not King Henry?" sighed John Heywood. "King, I envy
you, not your crown, or your royal mantle; not your attendants or
your money. I envy you only this, that you can say, 'God be praised
that my wife is still alive!' while I never know but one phrase,'God
have pity, my wife is still alive!' Ah, it is very seldom, king,
that I have heard a married man speak otherwise! You are in that
too, as in all things else, an exception, King Henry; and your
people have never loved you more warmly and purely than when you
say, 'I thank God that my consort is alive!' Believe me, you are
perhaps the only man at your court who speaks after this manner,
however ready they may be to be your parrots, and re-echo what the
lord high-priest says."
"The only man that loves his wife?" said Lady Richmond. "Behold now
the rude babbler! Do you not believe, then, that we women deserve to
"I am convinced that you do not."
"And for what do you take us, then?"
"For cats, which God, since He had no more cat-skin, stuck into a
"Take care, John, that we do not show you our claws!" cried the
"Do it anyhow, my lady! I will then make a cross, and ye will
disappear. For devils, you well know, cannot endure the sight of the
holy cross, and ye are devils."
John Heywood, who was a remarkably fine singer, seized the mandolin,
which lay near him, and began to sing.
It was a song, possible only in those days, and at Henry's
voluptuous and at the same time canting court--a song full of the
most wanton allusions, of the most cutting jests against both monks
and women; a song which made Henry laugh, and the ladies blush; and
in which John Heywood had poured forth in glowing dithyrambics all
his secret indignation against Gardiner, the sneaking hypocrite of a
priest, and against Lady Jane, the queen's false and treacherous
But the ladies laughed not. They darted flashing glances at John
Heywood; and Lady Richmond earnestly and resolutely demanded the
punishment of the perfidious wretch who dared to defame women. The
king laughed still harder. The rage of the ladies was so exceedingly
"Sire," said the beautiful Richmond, "he has insulted not us, but
the whole sex; and in the name of our sex, I demand revenge for the
"Yes, revenge!" cried Lady Jane, hotly.
"Revenge!" repeated the rest of the ladies.
"See, now, what pious and gentle-hearted doves ye are!" cried John
The king said, laughingly: "Well, now, you shall have your will--you
shall chastise him."
"Yes, yes, scourge me with rods, as they once scourged the Messiah,
because He told the Pharisees the truth. See here! I am already
putting on the crown of thorns."
He took the king's velvet cap with solemn air, and put it on.
"Yes, whip him, whip him!" cried the king, laughing, as he pointed
to the gigantic vases of Chinese porcelain, containing enormous
bunches of roses, on whose long stems arose a real forest of
"Pull the large bouquets to pieces; take the roses in your hand, and
whip him with the stems!" said the king, and his eyes glistened with
inhuman delight, for the scene promised to be quite interesting. The
rose-stems were long and hard, and the thorns on them pointed and
sharp as daggers. How nicely they would pierce the flesh, and how he
would yell and screw his face, the good-natured fool!
"Yes, yes, let him take off his coat, and we will whip him!" cried
the Duchess of Richmond; and the women, all joining in the cry,
rushed like furies upon John Heywood, and forced him to lay aside
his silk upper garment. Then they hurried to the vases, snatched out
the bouquets, and with busy hands picked out the longest and
stoutest stems. And loud were their exclamations of satisfaction, if
the thorns were right and sharp, such as would penetrate the flesh
of the offender right deeply. The king's laughter and shouts of
approval animated them more and more, and made them more excited and
furious. Their cheeks glowed, their eyes glared; they resembled
Bacchantes circling the god of riotous joviality with their shouts
of "Evoe! evoe!"
"Not yet! do not strike yet!" cried the king. "You must first
strengthen yourselves for the exertion, and fire your arms for a
He took the large golden beaker which stood before him and, tasting
it, presented it to Lady Jane.
"Drink, my lady, drink, that your arm may be strong!"
And they all drank, and with animated smiles pressed their lips on
the spot which the king's mouth had touched. And now their eyes had
a brighter flame, and their cheeks a more fiery glow.
A strange and exciting sight it was, to see those beautiful women
burning with malicious joy and thirst for vengeance, who for the
moment had laid aside all their elegant attitudes, their lofty and
haughty airs, to transform themselves into wanton Bacchantes, bent
on chastising the offender, who had so often and so bitterly lashed
them all with his tongue.
"Ah, I would a painter were here!" said the king. "He should paint
us a picture of the chaste nymphs of Diana pursuing Actaeon. You are
"But they are not the chaste nymphs, king; no, far from it," cried
Heywood; laughing, "and between these fair women and Diana I find no
resemblance, but only a difference."
"And in what consists the difference, John?"
"Herein, sire, that Diana carried her horn at her side; but these
fair ladies make their husbands wear their horns on the forehead!"
A loud peal of laughter from the gentlemen, a yell of rage from the
ladies, was the reply of this new epigram of John Heywood. They
arranged themselves in two rows, and thus formed a lane through
which John Heywood had to pass.
"Come, John Heywood, come and receive your punishment"; and they
raised their thorny rods threateningly, and flourished them with
angry gestures high above their heads.
The scene was becoming to John in all respects very piquant, for
these rods had very sharp thorns, and only a thin linen shirt
covered his back.
With bold step, however, he approached the fatal passage through
which he was to pass.
Already he beheld the rods drawn back; and it seemed to him as if
the thorns were even now piercing his back.
He halted, and turned with a laugh to the king. "Sire, since you
have condemned me to die by the hands of these nymphs, I claim the
right of every condemned criminal--a last favor."
"The which we grant you, John."
"I demand that I may put on these fair women one condition--one
condition on which they may whip me. Does your majesty grant me
"I grant it!"
"And you solemnly pledge me the word of a king that this condition
shall be faithfully kept and fulfilled?"
"My solemn, kingly word for it!"
"Now, then," said John Heywood, as he entered the passage, "now,
then, my ladies, my condition is this: that one of you who has had
the most lovers, and has oftenest decked her husband's head with
horns, let her lay the first stroke on my back." [Footnote: Flogel's
"Geschichte der Hofnarren," p.899]
A deep silence followed. The raised arms of the fair women sank. The
roses fell from their hands and dropped to the ground. Just before
so bloodthirsty and revengeful, they seemed now to have become the
softest and gentlest of beings.
But could their looks have killed, their fire certainly would have
consumed poor John Heywood, who now gazed at them with an insolent
sneer, and advanced into the very midst of their lines.
"Now, my ladies, you strike him not?" asked the king.
"No, your majesty, we despise him too much even to wish to chastise
him," said the Duchess of Richmond.
"Shall your enemy who has injured you go thus unpunished?" asked the
king. "No, no, my ladies; it shall not be said that there is a man
in my kingdom whom I have let escape when so richly deserving
punishment. We will, therefore, impose some other punishment on him.
He calls himself a poet, and has often boasted that he could make
his pen fly as fast as his tongue! Now, then, John, show us in this
manner that you are no liar! I command you to write, for the great
court festival which takes place in a few days, a new interlude; and
one indeed, hear you, John, which is calculated to make the greatest
growler merry, and over which these ladies will be forced to laugh
so heartily, that they will forget all their ire!"
"Oh," said John dolefully, "what an equivocal and lewd poem it must
be to please these ladies and make them laugh! My king, we must,
then, to please these dear ladies, forget a little our chastity,
modesty, and maiden bashfulness, and speak in the spirit of the
ladies--that is to say, as lasciviously as possible."
"You are a wretch!" said Lady Jane; "a vulgar hypocritical fool."
"Earl Douglas, your daughter is speaking to you," said John Heywood,
calmly. "She flatters you much, your tender daughter."
"Now then, John, you have heard my orders, and will you obey them?
In four days will this festival begin; I give you two days more. In
six days, then, you have to write a new interlude. And if he fails
to do it, my ladies, you shall whip him until you bring the blood;
and that without any condition." Just then was heard without a
flourish of trumpets and the clatter of horse-hoofs.
"The queen has returned," said John Heywood, with a countenance
beaming with joy, as he fixed his smiling gaze full of mischievous
satisfaction on Lady Jane.
"Nothing further now remains for you to do, but dutifully to meet
your mistress upon the great staircase, for, as you so wisely said
before, the queen still lives."
Without waiting for an answer, John Heywood ran out and rushed
through the anteroom and down the steps to meet the queen. Lady Jane
watched him with a dark, angry look; and as she turned slowly to the
door to go and meet the queen, she muttered low between her
closely-pressed lips: "The fool must die, for he is the queen's
The queen was just ascending the steps of the great public
staircase, and she greeted John Heywood with a friendly smile.
"My lady," said he aloud, "I have a few words in private to say to
you, in the name of his majesty."
"Words in private!" repeated Catharine, as she stopped upon the
terrace of the palace. "Well, then, fall back, my lords and ladies;
we wish to receive his majesty's mysterious message."
The royal train silently and respectfully withdrew into the large
anteroom of the palace, while the queen remained alone with John
Heywood on the terrace.
"Now, speak, John."
"Queen, heed well my words, and grave them deep on your memory! A
conspiracy is forged against you, and in a few days, at the great
festival, it will be ripe for execution. Guard well, therefore,
every word you utter, ay, even your very thoughts. Beware of every
dangerous step, for you may be certain that a listener stands behind
you! And if you need a confidant, confide in no one but me! I tell
you, a great danger lies before you, and only by prudence and
presence of mind will you be able to avoid it."
This time the queen did not laugh at her friend's warning voice. She
was serious; she even trembled.
She had lost her proud sense of security and her serene confidence--
she was no longer guiltless--she had a dangerous secret to keep,
consequently she felt a dread of discovery; and she trembled not
merely for herself, but also for him whom she loved.
"And in what consists this plot?" asked she, with agitation.
"I do not yet understand it; I only know that it exists. But I will
search it out, and if your enemies lurk about you with watchful
eyes, well, then, I will have spying eyes to observe them."
"And is it I alone that they threaten?"
"No, queen, your friend also."
Catharine trembled. "What friend, John?"
"Ah, the archbishop!" replied she, drawing a deep breath.
"And is he all, John? Does their enmity pursue only me and him?"
"Only you two!" said John Heywood, sadly, for he had fully
understood the queen's sigh of relief, and he knew that she had
trembled for another. "But remember, queen, that Cranmer's
destruction would be likewise your own; and that as you protect the
archbishop, he also will protect you with the king--you, queen, and
Catharine gave a slight start, and the crimson on her cheek grew
deeper. "I shall always be mindful of that, and ever be a true and
real friend to him and to you; for you two are my only friends: is
it not so?"
"No, your majesty, I spoke to you of yet a third, of Thomas
"Oh, he!" cried she with a sweet smile. Then she said suddenly, and
in a low quick voice: "You say I must trust no one here but you.
Now, then, I will give you a proof of my confidence. Await me in the
green summer-house at twelve o'clock to-night. You must be my
attendant on a dangerous excursion. Have you courage, John?"
"Courage to lay down my life for you, queen!"
"Come, then, but bring your weapon with you."
"At your command! and is that your only order for to-day?"
"That is all, John! only," added she, with hesitation and a slight
blush, "only, if you perchance meet Earl Sudley, you may say to him
that I charged you to greet him in my name."
"Oh!" sighed John Hey wood, sadly.
"He has to-day saved my life, John," said she, as if excusing
herself. "It becomes me well, then, to be grateful to him."
And giving him a friendly nod, she stepped into the porch of the
"Now let anybody say again, that chance is not the most mischievous
and spiteful of all devils!" muttered John Heywood. "This devil,
chance, throws in the queen's way the very person she ought most to
avoid; and she must be, as in duty bound, very grateful to a lover.
Oh, oh, so he has saved her life? But who knows whether he may not
be one day the cause of her losing it!"
He dropped his head gloomily upon his breast, when suddenly he heard
behind him a low voice calling his name; and as he turned, he saw
the young Princess Elizabeth hastening toward him with a hurried
step. She was at that moment very beautiful. Her eyes gleamed with
the fire of passion; her cheeks glowed; and about her crimson lips
there played a gentle, happy smile. She wore, according to the
fashion of the time, a close-fitting high-necked dress, which showed
off to perfection the delicate lines of her slender and youthful
form, while the wide standing collar concealed the somewhat too
great length of her neck, and made her ruddy, as yet almost childish
face stand out as it were from a pedestal. On either side of her
high, thoughtful brow, fell, in luxurious profusion, light flaxen
curls; her head was covered with a black velvet cap, from which a
white feather drooped to her shoulders.
She was altogether a charming and lovely apparition, full of
nobleness and grace, full of fire and energy; and yet, in spite of
her youthfulness, not wanting in a certain grandeur and dignity.
Elizabeth, though still almost a child, and frequently bowed and
humbled by misfortune, yet ever remained her father's own daughter.
And though Henry had declared her a bastard and excluded her from
the succession to the throne, yet she bore the stamp of her royal
blood in her high, haughty brow; in her keen, flashing eye.
As she now stood before John Heywood, she was not, however, the
haughty, imperious princess, but merely the shy, blushing maiden,
who feared to trust her first girlish secret to another's ear, and
ventured only with trembling hand to draw aside the veil which
concealed her heart.
"John Heywood," said she, "you have often told me that you loved me;
and I know that my poor unfortunate mother trusted you, and summoned
you as a witness of her innocence. You could not at that time save
the mother, but will you now serve Anne Boleyn's daughter, and be
her faithful friend?"
"I will," said Heywood, solemnly, "and as true as there is a God
above us, you shall never find me a traitor."
"I believe you, John; I know that I may trust you. Listen then, I
will now tell you my secret--a secret which no one but God knows,
and the betrayal of which might bring me to the scaffold. Will you
then swear to me, that you will never, under any pretext, and from
any motive whatsoever, betray to anybody, so much as a single word
of what I am now about to tell you? Will you swear to me, never to
intrust this secret to any one, even on your death-bed, and not to
betray it even in the confessional?"
"Now as regards that, princess," said John, with a laugh, "you are
perfectly safe. I never go to confession, for confession is a
highly-spiced dish of popery on which I long since spoilt my
stomach; and as concerns my deathbed, one cannot, under the blessed
and pious reign of Henry the Eighth, altogether know whether he will
be really a participant of any kind, or whether he may not make a
far more speedy and convenient trip into eternity by the aid of the
"Oh, be serious, John--do, I pray you! Let the fool's mask, under
which you hide your sober and honest face, not hide it from me also.
Be serious, John, and swear to me that you will keep my secret."
"Well, then, I swear, princess; I swear by your mother's spirit to
betray not a word of what you are going to tell me."
"I thank you, John. Now lean this way nearer to me, lest the breeze
may catch a single word of mine and bear it farther. John, I love!"
She saw the half-surprised, half-incredulous smile which played
around John Heywood's lips. "Oh," continued she, passionately, "you
believe me not. You consider my fourteen years, and you think the
child knows nothing yet of a maiden's feelings. But remember, John,
that those girls who live under a warm sun are early ripened by his
glowing rays, and are already wives and mothers when they should
still be dreaming children. Well, now, I too am the daughter of a
torrid zone, only mine has not been the sun of prosperity, and it
has been sorrow and misfortune which have matured my heart. Believe
me, John, I love! A glowing, consuming fire rages within me; it is
at once my delight and my misery, my happiness and my future.
"The king has robbed me of a brilliant and glorious future; let them
not, then, grudge me a happy one, at least. Since I am never to be a
queen, I will at least be a happy and beloved wife. If I am
condemned to live in obscurity and lowliness, at the very least, I
must not be prohibited from adorning this obscure and inglorious
existence with flowers, which thrive not at the foot of the throne,
and to illuminate it with stars more sparkling than the refulgence
of the most radiant kingly crown."
"Oh, you are mistaken about your own self!" said John Heywood,
sorrowfully. "You choose the one only because the other is denied.
You would love only because you cannot rule; and since your heart,
which thirsts for fame and honor, can find no other satisfaction,
you would quench its thirst with some other draught, and would
administer love as an opiate to lull to rest its burning pains.
Believe me, princess, you do not yet know yourself! You were not
born to be merely a loving wife, and your brow is much too high and
haughty to wear only a crown of myrtle. Therefore, consider well
what you do, princess! Be not carried away by your father's
passionate blood, which boils in your veins also. Think well before
you act. Your foot is yet on one of the steps to the throne. Draw it
not back voluntarily. Maintain your position; then, the next step
brings you again one stair higher up. Do not voluntarily renounce
your just claim, but abide in patience the coming of the day of
retribution and justice. Only do not yourself make it impossible,
that there may then be a full and glorious reparation. PRINCESS
Elizabeth may yet one day be queen, provided she has not exchanged
her name for one less glorious and noble."
"John Heywood," said she, with a bewitching smile, "I have told you
I love him."
"Well, love him as much as you please, but do it in silence, and
tell him not of it; but teach your love resignation."
"John, he knows it already."
"Ah, poor princess! you are still but a child, that sticks its hands
in the fire with smiling bravery and scorches them, because it knows
not that fire burns."
"Let it burn, John, burn! and let the flames curl over my head!
Better be consumed in fire than perish slowly and horribly with a
deadly chill! I love him, I tell you, and he already knows it!"
"Well, then, love him, but, at least, do not marry him!" cried John
"Marry!" cried she, with astonishment. "Marry! I had never thought
She dropped her head upon her breast, and stood there, silent and
"I am much afraid I made a blunder, then!" muttered John Heywood. "I
have suggested a new thought to her. Ah, ah, King Henry has done
well in appointing me his fool! Just when we deem ourselves the
wisest, we are the greatest fools!"
"John," said Elizabeth, as she raised her head again and smiled to
him in a glow of excitement, "John, you are entirely right; if we
love, we must marry."
"But I said just the contrary, princess!"
"All right!" said she, resolutely. "All this belongs to the future;
we will busy ourselves with the present. I have promised my lover an
"An interview!" cried John Heywood, in amazement. "You will not be
so foolhardy as to keep your promise?"
"John Heywood," said she, with an air of approaching solemnity,
"King Henry's daughter will never make a promise without fulfilling
it. For better or for worse, I will always keep my plighted word,
even if the greatest misery and ruin were the result!"
John Heywood ventured to offer no further opposition. There was at
this moment something peculiarly lofty, proud, and truly royal in
her air, which impressed him with awe, and before which he bowed.
"I have granted him an interview because he wished it," said
Elizabeth; "and, John, I will confess it to you, my own heart longed
for it. Seek not, then, to shake my resolution; it is as firm as a
rock. But if you are not willing to stand by me, say so, and I will
then look about me for another friend, who loves me enough to impose
silence on his thoughts."
"But who, perhaps, will go and betray you. No, no, it has been once
resolved upon, and unalterably; so no one but I must be your
confidant. Tell me, then, what I am to do, and I will obey you."
"You know, John, that my apartments are situated in yonder wing,
overlooking the garden. Well, in my dressing-room, behind one of the
large wall pictures, I have discovered a door leading into a lonely,
dark corridor. From this corridor there is a passage up into yonder
tower. It is unoccupied and deserted. Nobody ever thinks of entering
that part of the castle, and the quiet of the grave reigns
throughout those apartments, which nevertheless are furnished with a
magnificence truly regal. There will I receive him."
"But how shall he make his way thither?"
"Oh, do not be concerned; I have thought over that many days since;
and while I was refusing my lover the interview for which he again
and again implored me, I was quietly preparing everything so as to
be able one day to grant it to him. Today this object is attained,
and today have I fulfilled his wish, voluntarily and unasked; for I
saw he had no more courage to ask again. Listen, then. From the
tower, a spiral staircase leads down to a small door, through which
you gain entrance into the garden. I have a key to this door. Here
it is. Once in possession of this key, he has nothing further to do
but remain behind in the park this evening, instead of leaving the
castle; and by means of this he will come to me, for I will wait for
him in the tower, in the large room directly opposite the staircase
landing. Here, take the key; give it to him, and repeat to him all
that I have said."
"Well, princess, there remains for you now only to appoint the hour
at which you will receive him there."
"The hour," said she, as she turned away her blushing face. "You
understand, John, that it is not feasible to receive him there by
day, because there is by day not a single moment in which I am not
"You will then receive him by night!" said John Heywood, sadly. "At
"At midnight! And now you know all; and I beg you, John, hasten and
carry him my message; for, look, the sun is setting, and it will
soon be night."
She nodded to him with a smile, and turned to go.
"Princess, you have forgotten the most important point. You have not
yet told me his name."
"My God! and you do not guess it? John Heywood, who has such sharp
eyes, sees not that there is at this court but a single one that
deserves to be loved by a daughter of the king!"
"And the name of this single one is--"
"Thomas Seymour, Earl of Sudley!" whispered Elizabeth, as she turned
away quickly and entered the castle.
"Oh, Thomas Seymour!" said John Heywood, utterly astounded. As if
paralyzed with horror, he stood there motionless, staring up at the
sky and repealing over and over, "Thomas Seymour! Thomas Seymour! So
he is a sorcerer who administers a love-potion to all the women, and
befools them with his handsome, saucy face. Thomas Seymour! The
queen loves him; the princess loves him; and then there is this
Duchess of Richmond, who will by all means be his wife! This much,
however, is certain, he is a traitor who deceives both, because to
both he has made the same confession of love. And there again is
that imp, chance, which compels me to be the confidant of both these
women. But I will be well on my guard against executing both my
commissions to this sorcerer. Let him at any rate become the husband
of the princess; perhaps this would be the surest means of freeing
the queen from her unfortunate love."
He was silent, and still gazed up thoughtfully at the sky. "Yes,"
said he then, quite cheerfully, "thus shall it be. I will combat the
one love with the other. For the queen to love him, is dangerous. I
will therefore so conduct matters that she must hate him. I will
remain her confidant. I will receive her letters and her
commissions, but I will burn her letters and not execute her
commissions. I am not at liberty to tell her that the faithless
Thomas Seymour is false to her, for I have solemnly pledged my word
to the princess never to breathe her secret to any one; and I will
and must keep my word. Smile and love, then; dream on thy sweet
dream of love, queen; I wake for thee; I will cause the dark cloud
resting on thee to pass by. It may, perhaps, touch thine heart; but
thy noble and beautiful head--that at least it shall not be allowed
to crush; that--"
"Now, then, what are you staring up at the sky for, as if you read
there a new epigram with which to make the king laugh, and the
parsons rave?" asked a voice near him; and a hand was laid heavily
on his shoulder.
John Heywood did not look round at all; he remained in the same
attitude, gazing up steadily at the sky. He had very readily
recognized the voice of him who had addressed him; he knew very well
that he who stood near him was no other than the bold sorcerer whom
he was just then cursing at the bottom of his heart; no other than
Thomas Seymour, Earl of Sudley.
"Say, John, is it really an epigram?" asked Thomas Seymour again.
"An epigram on the hypocritical, lustful, and sanctimonious priestly
rabble, that with blasphemous hypocrisy fawn about the king, and are
ever watchful how they can set a trap for one of us honorable and
brave men? Is that what Heaven is now revealing to you?"
"No, my lord, I am only looking at a hawk which hovers about there
in the clouds. I saw him mount, earl, and only think of the wonder--
Back to Full Books