Henry VIII And His Court
Part 8 out of 9
He raved and roared with impatience. Through the halls of his palace
resounded his savage vituperation. It made every one tremble and
quake, for no one was sure that it was not he that was to fall that
day a victim to the king's fury. No one could know whether the
king's ever-increasing thirst for blood would not that day doom him.
With the most jealous strictness the king, from his sick-couch,
watched over his royal dignity; and the least fault against that
might arouse his wrath and bloodthirstiness. Woe to those who wanted
still to maintain that the pope was the head of the Church! Woe to
those who ventured to call God the only Lord of the Church, and
honored not the king as the Church's holy protector! The one, like
the other, were traitors and sinners, and he had Protestants and
Roman Catholics alike executed, however near they stood to his own
person, and however closely he was otherwise bound to them.
Whoever, therefore, could avoid it, kept himself far from the
dreaded person of the king; and whoever was constrained by duty to
be near him, trembled for his life, and commended his soul to God.
There were only four persons who did not fear the king, and who
seemed to be safe from his destroying wrath. There was the queen,
who nursed him with devoted attention, and John Heywood, who with
untiring zeal sustained Catharine in her difficult task, and who
still sometimes succeeded in winning a smile from the king. There
were, furthermore, Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and Earl Douglas.
Lady Jane Douglas was dead. The king had therefore forgiven her
father, and again shown himself gracious and friendly to the deeply-
bowed earl. Besides, it was such an agreeable and refreshing feeling
to the suffering king to have some one about him who suffered yet
more than he himself! It comforted him to know that there could be
agonies yet more horrible than those pains of the body under which
he languished. Earl Douglas suffered these agonies; and the king saw
with a kind of delight how his hair turned daily more gray, and his
features became more relaxed and feeble. Douglas was younger than
the king, and yet how old and gray his face was beside the king's
well-fed and blooming countenance!
Could the king have seen the bottom of his soul, he would have had
less sympathy with Earl Douglas's sorrow.
He considered him only as a tender father mourning the death of his
only child. He did not suspect that it was less the father that
Jane's painful death had smitten, than the ambitious man, the
fanatical Roman Catholic, the enthusiastic disciple of Loyola, who
with dismay saw all his plans frustrated, and the moment drawing
nigh when he would be divested of that power and consideration which
he enjoyed in the secret league of the disciples of Jesus. With him,
therefore, it was less the daughter, for whom he mourned, than the
king's seventh wife. And that Catharine wore the crown, and not his
daughter--not Jane Douglas--his it was that he could never forgive
He wanted to take vengeance on the queen for Jane's death; he wanted
to punish Catharine for his frustrated hopes, for his desires that
she had trampled upon. But Earl Douglas durst not himself venture to
make another attempt to prejudice the king's mind against his
consort. Henry had interdicted him from it under the penalty of his
wrath. With words of threatening, he had warned him from such an
attempt; and Earl Douglas very well knew that King Henry was
inflexible in his determination, when the matter under consideration
was the execution of a threatened punishment, Yet what Douglas durst
not venture, that Gardiner could venture--Gardiner, who, thanks to
the capriciousness of the sick king, had for the few days past
enjoyed again the royal favor so unreservedly that the noble
Archbishop Cranmer had received orders to leave the court and retire
to his episcopal residence at Lambeth.
Catharine had seen him depart with anxious forebodings; for Cranmer
had ever been her friend and her support. His mild and serene
countenance had ever been to her like a star of peace in the midst
of this tempest-tossed and passion-lashed court life; and his gentle
and noble words had always fallen like a soothing balm on her poor
She felt that with his departure she lost her noblest support, her
strengthening aid, and that she was now surrounded only by enemies
and opponents. True, she still had John Heywood, the faithful
friend, the indefatigable servant; but since Gardiner had exercised
his sinister influence over the king's mind, John Heywood durst
scarcely risk himself in Henry's presence. True, she had also Thomas
Seymour, her lover; but she knew and felt that she was everywhere
surrounded by spies and eavesdroppers, and that now it required
nothing more than an interview with Thomas Seymour--a few tender
words--perchance even only a look full of mutual understanding and
love, in order to send him and her to the scaffold.
She trembled not for herself, but for her lover. That made her
cautious and thoughtful. That gave her courage never to show Thomas
Seymour other than a cold, serious face; never to meet him otherwise
than in the circle of her court; never to smile on him; never to
give him her hand.
She was, however, certain of her future. She knew that a day would
come on which the king's death would deliver her from her burdensome
grandeur and her painful royal crown; when she should be free--free
to give her hand to the man whom alone on earth she loved, and to
become his wife.
She waited for that day, as the prisoner does for the hour of his
release; but like him she knew that a premature attempt to escape
from her dungeon would bring her only ruin and death, and not
She must be patient and wait. She must give up all personal
intercourse with her lover; and even his letters John Heywood could
bring her but very seldom, and only with the greatest caution. How
often already had not John Heywood conjured her to give up this
correspondence also! how often had he not with tears in his eyes
besought her to renounce this love, which might one day be her ruin
and her death! Catharine laughed at his gloomy forebodings, and
opposed to his dark prophecies a bravery reliant on the future, the
joyous courage of her love.
She would not die, for happiness and love were awaiting her; she
would not renounce happiness and love, for the sake of which she
could endure this life in other respects--this life of peril, of
resignation, of enmity, and of hatred.
But she wanted to live in order to be happy hereafter. This thought
made her brave and resolute; it gave her courage to defy her enemies
with serene brow and smiling lip; it enabled her to sit with bright
eye and rosy cheeks at the side of her dreaded and severe husband,
and, with cheerful wit and inexhaustible good-humor, jest away the
frown from his brow, and vexation from his soul.
But just because she could do this, she was a dangerous antagonist
to Douglas and Gardiner. Just on that account, it was to be their
highest effort to destroy this beautiful young woman, who durst defy
them and weaken their influence with the king. If they could but
succeed in rendering the king's mind more and more gloomy; if they
could but completely fill him again with fanatical religious zeal;
then, and then only, could they hope to attain their end; which end
was this: to bring back the king as a contrite, penitent, and humble
son of the only saving mother Church, and to make him again, from a
proud, vain, and imperious prince, an obedient and submissive son of
The king was to renounce this vain and blasphemous arrogance of
wishing to be himself head of his Church. He was to turn away from
the spirit of novelty and heresy, and again become a faithful and
But in order that they might attain this end, Catharine must be
removed from him; he must no longer behold her rosy and beautiful
face, and no longer allow himself to be diverted by her sensible
discourse and her keen wit.
"We shall not be able to overthrow the queen," said Earl Douglas to
Gardiner, as the two stood in the king's anteroom, and as
Catharine's cheerful chit-chat and the king's merry laugh came
pealing to them from the adjoining room. "No, no, Gardiner, she is
too powerful and too crafty. The king loves her very much; and she
is such an agreeable and refreshing recreation to him."
"Just on that account we must withdraw her from him," said Gardiner,
with a dark frown. "He must turn away his heart from this earthly
love; and after we shall have mortified this love in him, this
savage and arrogant man will return to us and to God, contrite and
humble." But we shall not be able to mortify it, friend. It is so
ardent and selfish a love.
"So much the greater will be the triumph, if our holy admonitions
are successful in touching his heart, Douglas. It is true he will
suffer very much if he is obliged to give up this woman. But he
needs precisely this suffering in order to become contrite and
penitent. His mind must first be entirely darkened, so that we can
illuminate it with the light of faith. He must first be rendered
perfectly isolated and comfortless in order to bring him back to the
holy communion of the Church, and to, find him again accessible to
the consolations of that faith which alone can save."
"Ah," sighed Douglas, "I fear that this will be a useless struggle.
The king is so vain of his self-constituted high-priesthood!"
"But he is such a weak man, and such a great sinner!" said Gardiner,
with a cold smile. "He trembles so much at death and God's judgment,
and our holy mother the Church can give him absolution, and by her
holy sacraments render death easy to him. He is a wicked sinner and
has stings of conscience. This it is that will bring him back again
to the bosom of the Catholic Church."
"But when will that come to pass? The king is sick, and any day may
put an end to his life. Woe to us, if he die before he has given the
power into our hands, and nominated us his executors! Woe to us, if
the queen is appointed regent, and the king selects the Seymours as
her ministers! Oh, my wise and pious father, the work that you wish
to do must be done soon, or it must remain forever unaccomplished."
"It shall be done this very day," said Gardiner, solemnly; and
bending down closer to the earl's ear, he continued: "we have lulled
the queen into assurance and self-confidence, and by this means she
shall be ruined this very day. She relies so strongly on her power
over the king's disposition, that she often summons up courage even
to contradict him, and to set her own will in opposition to his.
That shall be her ruin this very day! For mark well, earl; the king
is now again like a tiger that has been long fasting. He thirsts for
blood! The queen has an aversion to human blood, and she is
horrified when she hears of executions. So we must manage that these
opposing inclinations may come into contact, and contend with each
"Oh, I understand now," whispered Douglas; "and I bow in reverence
before the wisdom of your highness. You will let them both contend
with their own weapons."
"I will point out a welcome prey to his appetite for blood, and give
her silly compassion an opportunity to contend with the king for his
prey. Do you not think, earl, that this will be an amusing
spectacle, and one refreshing to the heart, to see how the tiger and
dove struggle with each other? And I tell you the tiger thirsts so
much for blood! Blood is the only balm that he applies to his aching
limbs, and by which alone he imagines that he can restore peace and
courage to his tortured conscience and his dread of death. Ah, ha!
we have told him that, with each new execution of a heretic, one of
his great sins would be blotted out, and that the blood of the
Calvinists serves to wash out of his account-book some of his evil
deeds. He would be so glad to be able to appear pure and guiltless
before the tribunal of his God! Therefore he needs very much
heretical blood. But hark--the hour strikes which summons me to the
royal chamber! There has been enough of the queen's laughing and
chit-chat. We will now endeavor to banish the smile forever from her
face. She is a heretic; and it is a pious work, well pleasing to
God, if we plunge her headlong into ruin!"
"May God be with your highness, and assist you by His grace, that
you may accomplish this sublime work!"
"God will be with us, my son, since for Him it is that we labor and
harass ourselves. To His honor and praise we bring these
misbelieving heretics to the stake, and make the air re-echo with
the agonizing shrieks of those who are racked and tortured. That is
music well pleasing to God; and the angels in heaven will triumph
and be glad when the heretical and infidel Queen Catharine also has
to strike up this music of the damned. Now I go to the holy labor of
love and godly wrath. Pray for me, my son, that I may succeed.
Remain here in the anteroom, and await my call; perhaps we shall
need you. Pray for us, and with us. Ah, we still owe this heretical
queen a grudge for Anne Askew. To-day we will pay her. Then she
accused us, to-day we will accuse her, and God and His host of
saints and angels are with us."
And the pious and godly priest crossed himself, and with head humbly
bowed and a soft smile about his thin, bloodless lips, strode
through the hall in order to betake himself to the king's chamber.
THE KING AND THE PRIEST.
"God bless and preserve your majesty!"said Gardiner as he entered,
to the king, who just then was sitting with the queen at the chess-
board. With frowning brow and compressed lips he looked over the
game, which stood unfavorable for him, and threatened him with a
It was not wise in the queen not to let the king win; for his
superstitious and jealous temper looked upon such a won game of
chess as withal an assault on his own person. And he who ventured to
conquer him at chess was always to Henry a sort of traitor that
threatened his kingdom, and was rash enough to attempt to seize the
The queen very well knew that, but--Gardiner was right--she was too
self-confident. She trusted a little to her power over the king; she
imagined he would make an exception in her favor. And it was so dull
to be obliged ever to be the losing and conquered party at this
game; to permit the king always to appear as the triumphant victor,
and to bestow on his game praise which he did not deserve. Catharine
wanted to allow herself for once the triumph of having beaten her
husband. She fought him man to man; she irritated him by the ever-
approaching danger. The king, who at the beginning had been
cheerful, and laughed when Catharine took up one of his pieces--the
king now no longer laughed. It was no more a game. It was a serious
struggle; and he contended with his consort for the victory with
impassioned eagerness. Catharine did not even see the clouds which
were gathering on the king's brow. Her looks were directed only to
the chess-board; and, breathless with expectation and glowing with
eagerness, she considered the move she was about to make.
But Gardiner was very well aware of the king's secret anger; and he
comprehended that the situation was favorable for him.
With soft, sneaking step he approached the king, and, standing
behind him, looked over the game.
"You are checkmated in four moves, my husband!" said the queen with
a cheerful laugh, as she made her move.
A still darker frown gathered on the king's brow, and his lips were
"It is true, your majesty," said Gardiner. "You will soon have to
succumb. Danger threatens you from the queen."
Henry gave a start, and turned his face to Gardiner with an
expression of inquiry. In his exasperated mood against the queen,
the crafty priest's ambiguous remark struck him with double
Gardiner was a very skilful hunter; the very first arrow that he
shot had hit. But Catharine, too, had heard it whiz. Gardiner's
slow, ambiguous words had startled her from her artless security;
and as she now looked into the king's glowing, excited face, she
comprehended her want of prudence.
But it was too late to remedy it. The king's checkmate was
unavoidable; and Henry himself had already noticed his defeat.
"It is all right!" said the king, impetuously. "You have won,
Catharine, and, by the holy mother of God! you can boast of the rare
good fortune of having vanquished Henry of England!"
"I will not boast of it, my noble husband!" said she, with a smile.
"You have played with me as the lion does with the puppy, which he
does not crush only because he has compassion on him, and he pities
the poor little creature. Lion, I thank you. You have been
magnanimous to-day. You have let me win."
The king's face brightened a little. Gardiner saw it. He must
prevent Catharine from following up her advantage further.
"Magnanimity is an exalted, but a very dangerous virtue," said he,
gravely; "and kings above all things dare not exercise it; for
magnanimity pardons crimes committed, and kings are not here to
pardon, but to punish."
"Oh, no, indeed," said Catharine; "to be able to be magnanimous is
the noblest prerogative of kings; and since they are God's
representatives on earth, they too must exercise pity and mercy,
like God himself."
The king's brow again grew dark, and his sullen looks stared at the
Gardiner shrugged his shoulders, and made no reply. He drew a roll
of papers out of his gown and handed it to the king.
"Sire," said he, "I hope you do not share the queen's views; else it
would be bad for the quiet and peace of the country. Mankind cannot
be governed by mercy, but only through fear. Your majesty holds the
sword in his hands. If you hesitate to let it fall on evil-doers,
they will soon wrest it from your hands, and you will be powerless!"
"Those are very cruel words, your highness!" exclaimed Catharine,
who allowed herself to be carried away by her magnanimous heart, and
suspected that Gardiner had come to move the king to some harsh and
She wanted to anticipate his design; she wanted to move the king to
mildness. But the moment was unpropitious for her.
The king, whom she had just before irritated by her victory over
him, felt his vexation heightened by the opposition which she
offered to the bishop; for this opposition was at the same time
directed against himself. The king was not at all inclined to
exercise mercy; it was, therefore, a very wicked notion of the
queen's to praise mercy as the highest privilege of princes.
With a silent nod of the head, he took the papers from Gardiner's
hands, and opened them.
"Ah," said he, running over the pages, "your highness is right; men
do not deserve to be treated with mercy, for they are always ready
to abuse it. Because we have for a few weeks lighted no fagot-piles
and erected no scaffolds, they imagine that we are asleep; and they
begin their treasonable and mischievous doings with redoubled
violence, and raise their sinful fists against us, in order to mock
us. I see here an accusation against one who has presumed to say
that there is no king by the grace of God; and that the king is a
miserable and sinful mortal, just as well as the lowest beggar.
Well, we will concede this man his point--we will not be to him a
king by the grace of God, but a king by the wrath of God! We will
show him that we are not yet quite like the lowest beggar, for we
still possess at least wood enough to build a pile of fagots for
And as the king thus spoke, he broke out into a loud laugh, in which
Gardiner heartily chimed.
"Here I behold the indictment of two others who deny the king's
supremacy," continued Henry, still turning over the leaves of the
papers. "They revile me as a blasphemer, because I dare call myself
God's representative--the visible head of His holy Church; they say
that God alone is Lord of His Church, and that Luther and Calvin are
more exalted representatives of God than the king himself. Verily we
must hold our royalty and our God-granted dignity very cheap, if we
should not punish these transgressors, who blaspheme in our sacred
person God Himself."
He continued turning over the leaves. Suddenly a deep flush of anger
suffused his countenance, and a fierce curse burst from his lips. He
threw the paper on the table, and struck it with his clenched fist.
"Are all the devils let loose, then?" yelled he, in wrath. "Does
sedition blaze so wildly in my land, that we have no longer the
power to subdue it? Here a fanatical heretic on the public street
has warned the people not to read that holy book which I myself,
like a well-intentioned and provident father and guardian, wrote for
my people, and gave it them that they might be edified and exalted
thereby. And this book that felon has shown to the people, and said
to them: 'You call that the king's book; and you are right; for it
is a wicked book, a work of hell, and the devil is the king's
sponsor!' Ah, I see well we must again show our earnest and angry
face to this miserable, traitorous rabble, that it may again have
faith in the king. It is a wretched, disgusting, and contemptible
mob--this people! They are obedient and humble only when they
tremble and feel the lash. Only when they are trampled in the dust,
do they acknowledge that we are their master; and when we have
racked them and burnt, they have respect for our excellency. We
must, however, brand royalty on their bodies so that they may be
sensible of it as a reality. And by the eternal God, we will do
that! Give me the pen here that I may sign and ratify these
warrants. But dip the pen well, your highness, for there are eight
warrants, and I must write my name eight times. Ah, ah, it is a hard
and fatiguing occupation to be a king, and no day passes without
trouble and toil!"
"The Lord our God will bless this toil to you!" said Gardiner,
solemnly, as he handed the king the pen.
Henry was preparing to write, as Catharine laid her hand on his, and
"Do not sign them, my husband," said she, in a voice of entreaty.
"Oh, by all that is sacred to you, I conjure you not to let yourself
be carried away by your momentary vexation; let not the injured man
be mightier in you than the righteous king. Let the sun set and rise
on your wrath; and then, when you are perfectly calm, perfectly
composed--then pronounce judgment on these accused. For consider it
well, my husband, these are eight death-warrants that you are here
about to sign; and with these few strokes of the pen, you will tear
eight human beings from life, from family, and from the world; you
will take from the mother, her son; from the wife, her husband; and
from the infant children, their father. Consider it, Henry; it is so
weighty a responsibility that God has placed in your hand, and it is
presumptuous not to meet it in holy earnestness and undisturbed
tranquillity of mind."
"Now, by the holy mother!" cried the king, striking vehemently upon
the table, "I believe, forsooth, you dare excuse traitors and
blasphemers of their king! You have not heard then of what they are
"I have heard it," said Catharine, more and more warmly; "I have
heard, and I say, nevertheless, sign not those death-warrants, my
husband. It is true these poor creatures have grievously erred, but
they erred as human beings. Then let your punishment also be human.
It is not wise, O king, to want to avenge so bitterly a trifling
injury to your majesty. A king must be exalted above reviling and
calumny. Like the sun, he must shine upon the just and the unjust,
no one of whom is so mighty that he can cloud his splendor and dim
his glory. Punish evil-doers and criminals, but be noble and
magnanimous toward those who have injured your person."
"The king is no person that can be injured!" said Gardiner. "The
king is a sublime idea, a mighty, world-embracing thought. Whoever
injures the king, has not injured a person, but a divinely
instituted royalty--the universal thought that holds together the
"Whoever injures the king has injured God!" yelled the king; "and
whoever seizes our crown and reviles us, shall have his hand struck
off, and his tongue torn out, as is done to atheists and
"Well, strike off their hand then, mutilate them; but do not kill
them!" cried Catharine, passionately. "Ascertain at least whether
their crime is so grievous as they want to make you believe, my
husband. Oh, it is so easy now to be accused as a traitor and
atheist! All that is needed for it is an inconsiderate word, a
doubt, not as to God, but to his priests and this Church which you,
my king, have established; and of which the lofty and peculiar
structure is to many so new and unusual that they ask themselves in
doubt whether that is a Church of God or a palace of the king, and
that they lose themselves in its labyrinthine passages, and wander
about without being able to find the exit."
"Had they faith," said Gardiner, solemnly, "they would not lose
their way; and were God with them, the entrance would not be closed
"Oh, I well know that YOU are always inexorable!" cried Catharine,
angrily. "But it is not to you either that I intercede for mercy,
but to the king; and I tell you, sir bishop, it would be better for
you, and more worthy of a priest of Christian love, if you united
your prayers with mine, instead of wanting to dispose the king's
noble heart to severity. You are a priest; and you have learned in
your own life that there are many paths that lead to God, and that
we, one and all, doubt and are perplexed which of them is right."
"How!" screamed the king, as he rose from his seat and gazed at
Catharine with angry looks. "You mean, then, that the heretics also
may find themselves on a path that leads to God?"
"I mean," cried she, passionately, "that Jesus Christ, too, was
called an atheist, and executed. I mean that Stephen was stoned by
Paul, and that, nevertheless, both are now honored as saints and
prayed to as such. I mean, that Socrates was not damned because he
lived before Christ, and so could not be acquainted with his
religion; and that Horace and Julius Caesar, Phidias and Plato, must
yet be called great and noble spirits, even though they were
heathen. Yes, my lord and husband, I mean that it behooves us well
to exercise gentleness in matters of religion, and that faith is not
to be obtruded on men by main force as a burden, but is to be
bestowed upon them as a benefit through their own conviction."
"So you do not hold these eight accused to be criminals worthy of
death?" asked Henry with studied calmness, and a composure
maintained with difficulty.
"No, my husband! I hold that they are poor, erring mortals, who seek
the right path, and would willingly travel it; and who, therefore,
ask in doubt all along, 'Is this the right way?'"
"It is enough!" said the king, as he beckoned Gardiner to him, and,
leaning on his arm, took a few steps across the room. "We will speak
no more of these matters. They are too grave for us to wish to
decide them in the presence of our gay young queen. The heart of
woman is always inclined to gentleness and forgiveness. You should
have borne that in mind, Gardiner, and not have spoken of these
matters in the queen's presence."
"Sire, it was, however, the hour that you appointed for consultation
on these matters."
"Was it the hour!" exclaimed the king, quickly. "Well, then we did
wrong to devote it to anything else than grave employments; and you
will pardon me, queen, if I beg you to leave me alone with the
bishop. Affairs of state must not be postponed."
He presented Catharine his hand, and with difficulty, and yet with a
smiling countenance, conducted her to the door. As she stopped, and,
looking him in the eye with an expression inquiring and anxious,
opened her lips to speak to him, he made an impatient gesture with
his hand, and a dark frown gathered on his brow.
"It is late," said he, hastily, "and we have business of state."
Catharine did not venture to speak; she bowed in silence and left
the room. The king watched her with sullen brow and angry looks.
Then he turned round to Gardiner.
"Now," asked he, "what do you think of the queen?"
"I think," said Gardiner, so slowly and so deliberately that each
word had time to penetrate the king's sensitive heart like the prick
of a needle--"I think that she does not deem them criminals that
call the holy book which you have written a work of hell; and that
she has a great deal of sympathy for those heretics who will not
acknowledge your supremacy."
"By the holy mother, I believe she herself would speak thus, and
avow herself among my enemies, if she were not my wife!" cried the
king, in whose heart rage began already to seethe like lava in a
"She does it already, although she is your wife, sire! She imagines
her exalted position renders her unamenable, and protects her from
your righteous wrath; therefore she does what no one else dares do,
and speaks what in the mouth of any other would be the blackest
"What does she? and what says she?" cried the king. "Do not hesitate
to tell me, your highness. It behooves me well to know what my wife
does and says."
"Sire, she is not merely the secret patroness of heretics and
reformers, but she is also a professor of their faith. She listens
to their false doctrine with eager mind, and receives the cursed
priests of this sect into her apartments, in order to hear their
fanatical discourse and hellish inspiration. She speaks of these
heretics as true believers and Christians; and denominates Luther
the light that God has sent into the world to illuminate the gloom
and falsehood of the Church with the splendor of truth and love--
that Luther, sire, who dared write you such shameful and insulting
letters, and ridiculed in such a brutal manner your royalty and your
"She is a heretic; and when you say that, you say everything!"
screamed the king. The volcano was ripe for an eruption, and the
seething lava must at last have an outlet. "Yes, she is a heretic!"
repeated the king; "and yet we have sworn to exterminate these
atheists from our land."
"She very well knows that she is secure from your wrath," said
Gardiner, with a shrug of his shoulders. "She relies on the fact
that she is the queen, and that in the heart of her exalted husband
love is mightier than the faith."
"Nobody shall suppose that he is secure from my wrath, and no one
shall rely on the security afforded him by my love. She is a proud,
arrogant, and audacious woman!" cried the king, whose looks were
just then fixed again on the chess-board, and whose spite was
heightened by the remembrance of the lost game. "She ventures to
brave us, and to have a will other than ours. By the holy mother, we
will endeavor to break her stubbornness, and bend her proud neck
beneath our will! Yes, I will show the world that Henry of England
is still the immovable and incorruptible. I will give the heretics
an evidence that I am in reality the defender and protector of the
faith and of religion in my land, and that nobody stands too high to
be struck by my wrath, and to feel the sword of justice on his neck.
She is a heretic; and we have sworn to destroy heretics with fire
and sword. We shall keep our oath."
"And God will bless you with His blessing. He will surround your
head with a halo of fame; and the Church will praise you as her most
glorious pastor, her exalted head."
"Be it so!" said the king, as with youthful alacrity he strode
across the room; and, stepping to his writing-table, with a vigorous
and fleet hand he wrote down a few lines. Gardiner stood in the
middle of the room with his hands folded; and his lips murmured in
an undertone a prayer, while his large flashing eyes were fastened
on the king with a curious and penetrating expression.
"Here, your highness," the king then said, "take this paper--take it
and order everything necessary. It is an arrest-warrant; and before
the night draws on, the queen shall be in the Tower."
"Verily, the Lord is mighty in you!" cried Gardiner, as he took the
paper; "the heavenly hosts sing their hallelujah and look down with
rapture on the hero who subdues his own heart to serve God and the
"Take it and speed you!" said the king, hastily. "In a few hours
everything must be done. Give Earl Douglas the paper, and bid him go
with it to the lord-lieutenant of the Tower, so that he himself may
repair hither with the yeomen of the guard. For this woman is yet a
queen, and even in the criminal I will still recognize the queen.
The lord-lieutenant himself must conduct her to the Tower. Hasten
then, say I! But, hark you, keep all this a secret, and let nobody
know anything of it till the decisive moment arrives. Otherwise her
friends might take a notion to implore my mercy for this sinner; and
I abhor this whining and crying. Silence, then, for I am tired and
need rest and sleep. I have, as you say, just done a work well
pleasing to God; perhaps He may send me, as a reward for it,
invigorating and strengthening sleep, which I have now so long
desired in vain."
And the king threw back the curtains of his couch, and, supported by
Gardiner, laid himself on the downy cushion.
Gardiner drew the curtains again, and thrust the fatal paper into
his pocket. Even in his hands it did not seem to him secure enough.
What! might not some curious eye fasten on it, and divine its
contents? Might not some impertinent and shameless friend of the
queen snatch this paper from him, and carry it to her and give her
warning? No, no, it was not secure enough in his hands. He must hide
it in the pocket of his gown. There, no one could find it, no one
So there he hid it. In the gown with its large folds it was safe;
and, after he had thus concealed the precious paper, he left the
room with rapid strides, in order to acquaint Earl Douglas with the
glorious result of his plans.
Not a single time did he look back. Had he done so, he would have
sprung back into that room as a tiger pounces on his prey. He would
have plunged, as the hawk stoops at the dove, at that piece of white
paper that lay there on the floor, exactly on the spot where
Gardiner was before standing when he placed into his pocket the
arrest-warrant written by the king.
Ah, even the gown of a priest is not always close enough to conceal
a dangerous secret; and even the pocket of a bishop may sometimes
have holes in it.
Gardiner went away with the proud consciousness of having the order
of arrest in his pocket; and that fatal paper lay on the floor in
the middle of the king's chamber.
"Who will come to pick it up? Who will become the sharer of this
dangerous secret? To whom will this mute paper proclaim the shocking
news that the queen has fallen into disgrace, and is this very day
to be dragged to the Tower as a prisoner?
All is still and lonely in the king's apartment. Nothing is
stirring, not even the heavy damask curtains of the royal couch.
The king sleeps. Even vexation and anger are a good lullaby; they
have so agitated and prostrated the king, that he has actually
fallen asleep from weariness.
Ah, the king should have been thankful to his wife for his vexation
at the lost game of chess, and his wrath at Catharine's heretical
sentiments. These had fatigued him; these had lulled him to sleep.
The warrant of arrest still lay on the floor. Now, quite softly,
quite cautiously, the door opens. Who is it that dares venture to
enter the king's room unsummoned and unannounced?
There are only three persons who dare venture that: the queen,
Princess Elizabeth, and John Heywood the fool. Which of the three is
It is Princess Elizabeth, who comes to salute her royal father.
Every forenoon at this hour she had found the king in his room.
Where was he then to-day? As she looked around the room with an
inquiring and surprised air, her eye fell on that paper which lay
there on the floor. She picked it up, and examined it with childish
curiosity. What could this paper contain? Surely it was no secret--
else, it would not lie here on the floor.
She opened it and read. Her fine countenance expressed horror and
amazement; a low exclamation escaped her lips. But Elizabeth had a
strong and resolute soul; and the unexpected and the surprising did
not dull her clear vision, nor cloud her sharp wit. The queen was in
danger. The queen was to be imprisoned. THAT, this dreadful paper
shrieked in her ear; but she durst not allow herself to be stunned
by it. She must act; she must warn the queen.
She hid the paper in her bosom, and light as a zephyr she floated
away again out of the chamber.
With flashing eyes and cheeks reddened by her rapid race Elizabeth
entered the queen's chamber; with passionate vehemence she clasped
her in her arms and tenderly kissed her.
"Catharine, my queen, and my mother," said she, "we have sworn to
stand by and protect each other when danger threatens us. Fate is
gracious to me, for it has given into my hand the means of making
good my oath this very day. Take that paper and read! It is an order
for your imprisonment, made out by the king himself. When you have
read it, then let us consider what is to be done, and how we can
avert the danger from you."
"An order of imprisonment!" said Catharine, with a shudder, as she
read it. "An order of imprisonment--that is to say, a death-warrant!
For when once the threshold of that frightful Tower is crossed, it
denotes that it is never to be left again; and if a queen is
arrested and accused, then is she also already condemned. Oh, my
God, princess, do you comprehend that--to have to die while life
still throbs so fresh and warm in our veins? To be obliged to go to
death, while the future still allures us with a thousand hopes, a
thousand wishes? My God, to have to descend into the desolate prison
and into the gloomy grave, while the world greets us with alluring
voices, and spring-tide has scarcely awoke in our heart!"
Streams of tears burst from her eyes, and she hid her face in her
"Weep not, queen," whispered Elizabeth, herself trembling and pale
as death. "Weep not; but consider what is to be done. Each minute,
and the danger increases; each minute brings the evil nearer to us."
"You are right," said Catharine, as she again raised her head, and
shook the tears from her eyes. "Yes, you are right; it is not time
to weep and wail. Death is creeping upon me; but I--I will not die.
I live still; and so long as there is a breath in me I will fight
against death. God will assist me; God will help me to overcome this
danger also, as I have already done so many others."
"But what will you do? where can you begin? You know not the
accusation. You know not who accuses you, nor with what you are
"Yet I suspect it!" said the queen, musingly. "When I now recall to
mind the king's angry countenance, and the malicious smile of that
malignant priest, I believe I know the accusation. Yes--everything
is now clear to me. Ah, it is the heretic that they would sentence
to death. Well, now, my lord bishop, I still live; and--we will see
which of us two will gain the victory!"
With proud step and glowing cheeks she hurried to the door.
Elizabeth held her hack. "Whither are you going?" cried she, in
"To the king!" said she, with a proud smile. "He has heard the
bishop; now he shall hear me also. The king's disposition is fickle
and easily changed. We will now see which cunning is the stronger--
the cunning of the priest or the cunning of the woman. Elizabeth,
pray for me. I go to the king; and you will either see me free and
happy, or never again."
She imprinted a passionate kiss on Elizabeth's lips, and hurriedly
left the chamber.
It was many days since the king had been as well as he was to-day.
For a long time he had not enjoyed such refreshing sleep as on the
day when he signed the warrant for the queen's imprisonment. But he
thought nothing at all about it. Sleep seemed to have obliterated
all recollection of it from his memory. Like an anecdote which you
listen to, and smile at for the moment, but soon forget, so had the
whole occurrence vanished again from him. It was an anecdote of the
moment--a transient interlude--nothing further.
The king had slept well, and he had no care for anything else. He
stretched himself, and lay lounging on his couch, thinking with
rapture how fine it would be if he could enjoy such sweet and
refreshing repose every day, and if no bad dreams and no fear would
frighten away sleep from his eyes. He felt very serene and very
good-humored; and had any one now come to beg a favor of the king,
he would have granted it in the first joy after such invigorating
sleep. But he was alone; no one was with him; he must repress his
gracious desires. But no. Was it not as though something were
stirring and breathing behind the curtains? The king threw back the
curtains, and a soft smile flitted over his features; for before his
bed sat the queen. There she sat with rosy cheeks and sparkling
eyes, and greeted him with a roguish smile.
"Ah, Kate, it is you!" cried the king. "Well, now, I understand how
it happened that I have had such a sound and refreshing sleep! You
stood by as my good angel, and scared the pains and bad dreams away
from my couch."
And as he said this, he reached out his hand and tenderly stroked
her velvet cheek. He did not at all recollect that he had already,
as it were, devoted that charming head to the scaffold, and that in
a few hours more those bright eyes were to behold naught but the
night of the dungeon. Sleep, as we have said, had lulled to rest
also the recollection of this; and the evil thoughts had not yet
awoke again in him. To sign an order of arrest or a death-warrant
was with the king such a usual and every-day matter, that it
constituted no epoch in his life, and neither burdened him with
troubles of conscience nor made his heart shudder and tremble.
But Catharine thought of it, and as the king's hand stroked her
cheek, it was as though death were just then touching her, never
again to release her. However, she overcame this momentary horror,
and had the courage to preserve her serene and innocent air.
"You call me your good angel, my husband," said she, with a smile;
"but yet I am nothing more than your little Puck, who bustles about
you, and now and then makes you laugh with his drolleries."
"And a dear little Puck you are, Katie," cried the king, who always
gazed upon his wife's rosy and fresh countenance with real
"Then I will prove myself this very day your Puck, and allow you no
more repose on your couch," said she, as she made a mock effort to
raise him up. "Do you know, my husband, why I came here? A butterfly
has tapped at my window. Only think now, a butterfly in winter! That
betokens that this time winter is spring; and the clerk of the
weather above there has confounded January with March. The butterfly
has invited us, king; and only see! the sun is winking into the
window to us, and says we have but to come out, as he has already
dried the walks in the garden below, and called forth a little grass
on the plat. And your rolling chair stands all ready, my lord and
husband, and your Puck, as you see, has already put on her furs, and
clad herself in armor against the winter, which, however, is not
"Well, then, help me, my dearest Puck, so that I can arise, and obey
the command of the butterfly and the sun and my lovely wife," cried
the king, as he put his arm around Catharine's neck, and slowly
raised himself from the couch.
She busied herself about him with officious haste; she put her arm
tenderly on his shoulder and supported him, and properly arranged
for him the gold chain, which had slipped out of place on his
doublet, and playfully plaited the lace ruff which was about his
"Is it your order, my husband, that your servants come?--the master
of ceremonies, who, without doubt, awaits your back in the anteroom-
-the lord bishop--who a while ago made such a black-looking face at
me? But how! my husband, your face, too, is now in an eclipse? How?
Has your Puck perchance said something to put you out of tune?"
"No, indeed!" said the king, gloomily; but he avoided meeting her
smiling glance and looking in her rosy face.
The evil thoughts had again awoke in him; and he now remembered the
warrant of arrest that he had given Gardiner. He remembered it, and
he regretted it. For she was so fair and lovely--his young queen;
she understood so well by her jests to smooth away care from his
brow, and affright vexation from his soul--she was such an agreeable
and sprightly pastime, such a refreshing means of driving away
Not for her sake did he regret what he had done, but only on his own
account. From selfishness alone, he repented having issued that
order for the queen's imprisonment. Catharine observed him. Her
glance, sharpened by inward fear, read his thoughts on his brow, and
understood the sigh which involuntarily arose from his breast.
She again seized courage; she might succeed in turning away by a
smile the sword that hung over her head.
"Come, my lord and husband," said she, cheerfully, "the sun beckons
to us, and the trees shake their heads indignantly because we are
not yet there."
"Yes, come, Kate," said the king, rousing himself with an effort
from his brown study; "come, we will go down into God's free air.
Perhaps He is nearer to us there, and may illuminate us with good
thoughts and wholesome resolutions. Come, Kate."
The queen gave him her arm, and, supported on it, the king advanced
a few steps. But suddenly Catharine stood still; and as the king
fastened on her his inquiring look, she blushed and cast down her
"Well!" asked the king, "why do you linger?"
"Sire, I was considering your words; and what you say about the sun
and wholesome resolutions has touched my heart and startled my
conscience. My husband, you are right; God is there without, and I
dare not venture to behold the sun, which is God's eye, before I
have made my confession and received absolution. Sire, I am a great
sinner, and my conscience gives me no rest. Will you be my
confessor, and listen to me?"
The king sighed. "Ah," thought he, "she is hurrying to destruction,
and by her own confession of guilt she will make it impossible for
me to hold her guiltless!"
"Speak!" said he aloud.
"First," said she, with downcast eyes--"first, I must confess to you
that I have to-day deceived you, my lord and king. Vanity and sinful
pride enticed me to this; and childish anger made me consummate what
vanity whispered to me. But I repent, my king; I repent from the
bottom of my soul, and I swear to you, my husband--yes, I swear to
you by all that is sacred to me, that it is the first and only time
that I have deceived you. And never will I venture to do it again,
for it is a dismal and awful feeling to stand before you with a
"And in what have you deceived us, Kate?" asked the king; and his
Catharine drew from her dress a small roll of paper, and, humbly
bowing, handed it to the king. "Take and see for yourself, my
husband," said she.
With hurried hand the king opened the paper, and then looked in
utter astonishment, now at its contents, and now at the blushing
face of the queen.
"What!" said he, "you give me a pawn from the chess-board! What does
"That means," said she, in a tone of utter contrition--"that means,
that I stole it from you, and thereby cheated you out of your
victory. Oh, pardon me, my husband! but I could no longer endure to
lose always, and I was afraid you would no more allow me the
pleasure of playing with you, when you perceived what a weak and
contemptible antagonist I am. And behold, this little pawn was my
enemy! It stood near my queen and threatened her with check, while
it discovered check to my king from your bishop. You were just going
to make this move, which was to ruin me, when Bishop Gardiner
entered. You turned away your eyes and saluted him. You were not
looking on the game. Oh, my lord and husband, the temptation was too
alluring and seductive; and I yielded to it. Softly I took the pawn
from the board, and slipped it into my pocket. When you looked again
at the game, you seemed surprised at first; but your magnanimous and
lofty spirit had no suspicion of my base act; so you innocently
played on; and so I won the game of chess. Oh, my king, will you
pardon me, and not be angry with me?" The king broke out into a loud
laugh, and looked with an expression of tenderness at Catharine, who
stood before him with downcast eyes, abashed and blushing. This
sight only redoubled his merriment, and made him again and again
roar out with laughter.
"And is that all your crime, Kate?" asked he, at length, drying his
eyes. "You have stolen a pawn from me--this is your first and only
"Is it not indeed great enough, sire? Did I not purloin it because I
was so high-minded as to want to win a game of chess from you? Is
not the whole court even now acquainted with my splendid luck? And
does it not know that I have been the victor to-day, whilst yet I
was not entitled to be so--whilst I deceived you so shamefully?"
"Now, verily," said the king, solemnly, "happy are the men who are
not worse deceived by their wives than you have deceived me to-day;
and happy are the women whose confessions are so pure and innocent
as yours have been to-day! Do but lift up your eyes again, my Katie;
that sin is forgiven you; and by God and by your king it shall be
accounted to you as a virtue."
He laid his hand on her head, as if in blessing, and gazed at her
long and silently. Then, said he, laughingly:
"According to this, then, my Kate, I should have been the victor of
to-day, and not have lost that game of chess."
"No," said she, dolefully, "I must have lost it, if I had not stolen
Again the king laughed. Catharine said, earnestly:
"Do but believe me, my husband, Bishop Gardiner alone was the cause
of my fall. Because he was by, I did not want to lose. My pride
revolted to think that this haughty and arrogant priest was to be
witness of my defeat. In mind, I already saw the cold and
contemptuous smile with which he would look down on me, the
vanquished; and my heart rose in rebellion at the thought of being
humbled before him. And now I have arrived at the second part of my
fault which I want to confess to you to-day. Sire, I must
acknowledge another great fault to you. I have grievously offended
against you to-day, in that I contradicted you, and withstood your
wise and pious words. Ah, my husband, it was not done to spite you,
but only to vex and annoy the haughty priest. For I must confess to
you, my king, I hate this Bishop of Winchester--ay, yet more--I have
a dread of him; for my foreboding heart tells me that he is my
enemy, that he is watching each of my looks, each of my words, so
that he can make from them a noose to strangle me. He is the evil
destiny that creeps up behind me and would one day certainly destroy
me, if your beneficent hand and your almighty arm did not protect
Oh, when I behold him, my husband, I would always gladly fly to your
heart, and say to you: 'Protect me, my king, and have compassion on
me! Have faith in me and love me; for if you do not, I am lost! The
evil fiend is there to destroy me.'"
And, as she thus spoke, she clung affectionately to the king's side,
and, leaning her head on his breast, looked up to him with a glance
of tender entreaty and touching devotion.
The king bent down and kissed her brow. "Oh, sancta simplicitas,"
softly murmured he--"she knows not how nigh she is to the truth, and
how much reason she has for her evil forebodings!" Then he asked
aloud: "So, Kate, you believe that Gardiner hates you?"
"I do not believe it, I know it!" said she. "He wounds me whenever
he can; and though his wounds are made only with pins, that comes
only from this, that he is afraid that you might discover it if he
drew a dagger on me, whilst you might not notice the pin with which
he secretly wounds me. And what was his coming here to-day other
than a new assault on me? He knows very well--and I have never made
a secret of it--that I am an enemy to this Roman Catholic religion
the pope of which has dared to hurl his ban against my lord and
husband; and that I seek with lively interest to be instructed as to
the doctrine and religion of the so-called reformers."
"They say that you are a heretic," said the king, gravely.
"Gardiner says that! But if I am so, you are so too, my king; for
your belief is mine. If I am so, so too is Cranmer, the noble
Archbishop of Canterbury; for he is my spiritual adviser and helper.
But Gardiner wishes that I were a heretic, and he wants me likewise
to appear so to you. See, my husband, why it was that he laid those
eight death-warrants before you awhile ago. There were eight, all
heretics, whom you were to condemn--not a single papist among them;
and yet I know that the prisons are full of papists, who, in the
fanaticism of their persecuted faith, have spoken words just as
worthy of punishment as those unfortunate ones whom you were to-day
to send from life to death by a stroke of your pen. Sire, I should
have prayed you just as fervently, just as suppliantly, had they
been papists whom you were to sentence to death! But Gardiner wanted
a proof of my heresy; and therefore he selected eight heretics, for
whom I was to oppose your hard decree."
"It is true," said the king, thoughtfully; "there was not a single
papist among them! But tell me, Kate--are you really a heretic, and
an adversary of your king?"
With a sweet smile she looked deep into his eyes, and humbly crossed
her arms over her beautiful breast.
"Your adversary!" whispered she. "Are you not my husband and my
lord? Was not the woman made to be subject to the man? The man was
created after the likeness of God, and the woman after the likeness
of man. So the woman is only the man's second self; and he must have
compassion on her in love; and he must give her of his spirit, and
influence her understanding from his understanding. Therefore your
duty is to instruct me, my husband; and mine is, to learn of you.
And of all the women in the world, to no one is this duty made so
easy as to me; for God has been gracious to me and given me as my
husband a king whose prudence, wisdom, and learning are the wonder
of all the world." [Footnote: The queen's own words, as they have
been given by all historical writers. See on this point Burnet, vol.
I, p. 84; Tytler, p. 413; Larrey's "Histoire d'Angleterre," vol. II,
p. 201; Leti, vol. I, p. 154, (death-sign) Historical. The king's
own words.] "What a sweet little flatterer you are, Kate!" said the
king, with a smile; "and with what a charming voice you want to
conceal the truth from us! The truth is, that you yourself are a
very learned little body, who has no need at all to learn anything
from others, but who would be well able to instruct others."
"Oh, if it is so, as you say," cried Catharine, "well, then would I
teach the whole world to love my king as I do, and to be subject to
him in humility, faithfulness, and obedience, as I am."
And as she thus spoke, she threw both her arms about the king's
neck, and leaned her head with a languishing expression upon his
The king kissed her, and pressed her fast to his heart. He thought
no longer of the danger that was hovering over Catharine's head; he
thought only that he loved her, and that life would be very
desolate, very tedious and sad without her.
"And now, my husband," said Catharine, gently disengaging herself
from him--"now, since I have confessed to you and received
absolution from you--now let us go down into the garden, so that
God's bright sun may shine into our hearts fresh and glad. Come, my
husband, your chair is ready; and the bees and the butterflies, the
gnats and the flies, have already practised a hymn, with which they
are going to greet you, my husband."
Laughing and jesting, she drew him along to the adjoining room,
where the courtiers and the rolling-chair were standing ready; and
the king mounted his triumphal car, and allowed himself to be rolled
through the carpeted corridors, and down the staircases, transformed
into broad inclined planes of marble, into the garden.
The air had the freshness of winter and the warmth of spring. The
grass like a diligent weaver was already beginning to weave a carpet
over the black level of the square; and already here and there a
tiny blossom, curious and bashful, was peeping out and appeared to
be smiling in astonishment at its own premature existence. The sun
seemed so warm and bright; the heavens were so blue!
At the king's side went Catharine, with such rosy cheeks and
sparkling eyes. Those eyes were always directed to her husband; and
her charming prattle was to the king like the melodious song of
birds, and made his heart leap for pleasure and delight. But how?
What noise all at once drowned Catharine's sweet prattle? And what
was it that flashed up there at the end of that large alley which
the royal pair with their suite had just entered?
It was the noise of soldiers advancing; and shining helmets and
coats-of-mail flashed in the sunlight.
One band of soldiers held the outlet from the alley; another
advanced up it in close order. At their head were seen striding
along Gardiner and Earl Douglas, and at their side the lieutenant of
The king's countenance assumed a lowering and angry expression and
his cheeks were suffused with crimson. With the quickness of youth
he rose from his chair, and, raised to his full height, he looked
with flaming eyes at the procession.
The queen seized his hand and pressed it to her breast.
"Ah," said she, with a low whisper, "protect me, my husband, for
fear already overpowers me again! It is my enemy--it is Gardiner--
that comes, and I tremble."
"You shall no longer tremble before him, Kate!" said the king. "Woe
to them, that dare make King Henry's consort tremble! I will speak
And almost roughly pushing aside the queen, the king, utterly
heedless in his violent excitement of the pain of his foot, went in
a quick pace to meet the advancing troop.
He ordered them by his gesture to halt, and called Gardiner and
Douglas to him. "What want you here? And what means this strange
array?" asked he, in a rough tone.
The two courtiers stared at him with looks of amazement, and durst
not answer him.
"Well!" asked the king, with ever-rising wrath, "will you at length
tell me by what right you intrude into my garden with an armed host-
-specially at the same hour that I am here with my consort? Verily,
there is no sufficient excuse for such a gross violation of the
reverence which you owe your king and master; and I marvel, my lord
master of ceremonies, that you did not seek to prevent this
Earl Douglas muttered a few words of apology, which the king did not
understand, or did not want to understand.
"The duty of a master of ceremonies is to protect his king from
every annoyance, and you, Earl Douglas, offer it to me yourself.
Perchance you want thereby to show that you are weary of your
office. Well, then, my lord, I dismiss you from it, and that your
presence may not remind me of this morning's transaction, you will
leave the court and London! Farewell, my lord!"
Earl Douglas, turning pale and trembling, staggered a few steps
backward, and gazed at the king with astonishment. He wanted to
speak, but Henry, with a commanding wave of the hand, bade him be
"And now for you, my lord bishop!" said the king, and his eyes were
turned on Gardiner with an expression so wrathful and contemptuous,
that he turned pale and looked down to the ground. "What means this
strange train with which the priest of God approaches his royal
master to-day? And under what impulse of Christian love are you
going to hold to-day a heretic hunt in the garden of your king?"
"Sire," said Gardiner, completely beside himself, "your majesty well
knows why I come; it was at your majesty's command that I with Earl
Douglas and the lieutenant of the Tower came, in order to--"
"Dare not to speak further!" yelled the king, who became still more
angry because Gardiner would not understand him and comprehend the
altered state of his mind. "How dare you make a pretence of my
commands, whilst I, full of just amazement, question you as to the
cause of your appearance? That is to say, you want to charge your
king with falsehood. You want to excuse yourself by accusing me. Ah,
my worthy lord bishop, this time you are thwarted in your plan, and
I disavow you and your foolish attempt. No! there is nobody here
whom you shall arrest; and, by the holy mother of God, were your
eyes not blind, you would have seen that here, where the king is
taking an airing with his consort, there could be no one whom these
catchpolls had to look for! The presence of the royal majesty is
like the presence of God; it dispenses happiness and peace about it;
and whoever is touched by his glory, is graced and sanctified
"But, your majesty," screamed Gardiner, whom anger and disappointed
hope had made forgetful of all considerations, "you wanted me to
arrest the queen; you yourself gave me the order for it; and now
when I come to execute your will--now you repudiate me."
The king uttered a yell of rage, and with lifted arm moved some
steps toward Gardiner.
But suddenly he felt his arm held back. It was Catharine, who had
hurried up to the king. "Oh, my husband," said she, in a low
whisper, "whatever he may have done, spare him! Still he is a priest
of the Lord; and so let his sacred robe protect him, though
perchance his deeds condemn him!"
"Ah, do you plead for him?" cried the king. "Really, my poor wife,
you suspect not how little ground you have to pity him, and to beg
my mercy for him. [Footnote: The king's own words,--See Leti, vol.
I, p. 133,] But you are right. We will respect his cassock, and
think no more of what a haughty and intriguing man is wrapped in
it.--But beware, priest, that you do not again remind me of that. My
wrath would then inevitably strike you; and I should have as little
mercy for you as you say I ought to show to other evil-doers. And in
as much as you are a priest, be penetrated with a sense of the
gravity of your office and the sacredness of your calling. Your
episcopal see is at Winchester, and I think your duties call you
thither. We no longer need you, for the noble Archbishop of
Canterbury is coming back to us, and will have to fulfil the duties
of his office near us and the queen. Farewell!"
He turned his back on Gardiner, and, supported on Catharine's arm,
returned to his rolling-chair.
"Kate," said he, "just now a lowering cloud stood in your sky, but,
thanks to your smile and your innocent face, it has passed
harmlessly over. We thinks we still owe you special thanks for this;
and we would like to show you that by some office of love. Is there
nothing that would give you special delight, Kate?"
"Oh, yes," said she, with fervor. "Two great desires burn in my
"Then name them, Kate; and, by the mother of God, if it is in the
power of a king to fulfil them, I will do it."
Catharine seized his hand and pressed it to her heart.
"Sire," said she, "they wanted to have you sign eight death-warrants
to-day. Oh, my husband, make of these eight criminals eight happy,
thankful subjects; teach them to love that king whom they have
reviled--teach their children, their wives and mothers to pray for
you, whilst you restore life and freedom to these fathers, these
sons and husbands, and while you, great and merciful, like Deity,
"So shall it be!" cried the king, cheerfully. "Our hand shall have
to-day no other work than to rest in yours; and we will spare it
from making these eight strokes of the pen. The eight evil-doers are
pardoned; and they shall be free this very day."
With an exclamation of rapturous delight Catharine pressed Henry's
hand to her lips, and her face shone with pure happiness.
"And your second wish?" asked the king.
"My second wish," said she, with a smile, "pleads for the freedom of
a poor prisoner--for the freedom of a human heart, sire."
The king laughed. "A human heart? Does that then run about on the
street, so that it can be caught and made a prisoner of?"
"Sire, you have found it, and incarcerated it in your daughter's
bosom. You want to put Elizabeth's heart in fetters, and by an
unnatural law compel her to renounce her freedom of choice. Only
think--to want to bid a woman's heart, before she can love, to
inquire first about the genealogical tree, and to look at the coat-
of-arms before she notices the man!"
"Oh, women, women, what foolish children you are, though!" cried the
king, laughingly. "The question is about thrones, and you think
about your hearts! But come, Kate, you shall still further explain
that to me; and we will not take back our word, for we have given it
you from a free and glad heart."
He took the queen's arm, and, supported on it, walked slowly up the
alley with her. The lords and ladies of the court followed them in
silence and at a respectful distance; and no one suspected that this
woman, who was stepping along so proud and magnificent, had but just
now escaped an imminent peril of her life; that this man, who was
leaning on her arm with such devoted tenderness, had but a few hours
before resolved on her destruction. [Footnote: All this plot
instigated by Gardiner against the queen is, in minutest details,
historically true, and is found substantially the same in all
historical works.] And whilst chatting confidentially together they
both wandered through the avenues, two others with drooping head and
pale face left the royal castle, which was to be to them henceforth
a lost paradise. Sullen spite and raging hate were in their hearts,
but yet they were obliged to endure in silence; they were obliged to
smile and to seem harmless, in order not to prepare a welcome feast
for the malice of the court. They felt the spiteful looks of all
these courtiers, although they passed by them with down-cast eyes.
They imagined they heard their malicious whispers, their derisive
laughter; and it pierced their hearts like the stab of a dagger.
At length they had surmounted it--at length the palace lay behind
them, and they were at least free to pour out in words the agony
that consumed them--free to be able to break out into bitter
execrations, into curses and lamentations.
"Lost! all is lost!" said Earl Douglas to himself in a hollow voice.
"I am thwarted in all my plans. I have sacrificed to the Church my
life, my means, ay, even my daughter, and it has all been in vain.
And, like a beggar, I now stand on the street forsaken and without
comfort; and our holy mother the Church will no longer heed the son
who loved her and sacrificed himself for her, since he was so
unfortunate, and his sacrifice unavailing."
"Despair not!" said Gardiner, solemnly. "Clouds gather above us; but
they are dispersed again. And after the day of storm, comes again
the day of light. Our day also will come, my friend. Now, we go
hence, our heads strewn with ashes, and bowed at heart; but, believe
me, we shall one day come again with shining face and exultant
heart; and the flaming sword of godly wrath will glitter in our
hands, and a purple robe will enfold us, dyed in the blood of
heretics whom we offer up to the Lord our God as a well-pleasing
sacrifice. God spares us for a better time; and our banishment,
believe me, friend, is but a refuge that God has prepared for us
this evil time which we are approaching."
"You speak of an evil time, and nevertheless you hope, your
highness?" asked Douglas, gloomily.
"And nevertheless I hope!" said Gardiner, with a strange and
horrible smile, and, bending down closer to Douglas, he whispered:
"the king has only a few days more to live. He does not suspect how
near he is to his death, and nobody has the courage to tell him. But
his physician has confided it to me. His vital forces are consumed,
and death stands already before his door to throttle him."
"And when he is dead," said Earl Douglas, shrugging his shoulders,
"his son Edward will be king, and those heretical Seymours will
control the helm of state! Call you that hope, your highness?"
"I call it so."
"Do you not know that Edward, young as he is, is nevertheless a
fanatical adherent of the heretical doctrine, and at the same time a
furious opponent of the Church in which alone is salvation?"
"I know it, but I know also that Edward is a feeble boy; and there
is current in our Church a holy prophecy which predicts that his
reign is only of short duration. God only knows what his death will
be, but the Church has often before seen her enemies die a sudden
death. Death has been often before this the most effective ally of
our holy mother the Church. Believe me, then, my son and hope, for I
tell you Edward's rule will be of short duration. And after him she
will ascend the throne, the noble and devout Mary, the rigid
Catholic, who hates heretics as much as Edward loves them. Oh,
friend, when Mary ascends the throne, we shall rise from our
humiliation, and the dominion will be ours. Then will all England
become, as it were, a single great temple, and the fagot-piles about
the stake are the altars on which we will consume the heretics, and
their shrieks of agony are the holy psalms which we will make them
strike up to the honor of God and His holy Church. Hope for this
time, for I tell you it will soon come."
"If you say so, your highness, then it will come to pass," said
Douglas, significantly. "I will then hope and wait. I will save
myself from evil days in Scotland, and wait for the good."
"And I go, as this king by the wrath of God has commanded, to my
episcopal seat. The wrath of God will soon call Henry hence. May his
dying hour be full of torment, and may the Holy Father's curse be
realized and fulfilled in him! Farewell! We go with palms of peace
forced on us; but we will return with the naming sword, and our
hands will be dripping with heretic blood."
They once more shook hands and silently departed, and before evening
came on they had both left London. [Footnote: Gardiner's prophecy
was soon fulfilled. A few days after Gardiner had fallen into
disgrace Henry, the Eighth died, and his son Edward, yet a minor,
ascended the throne. But his rule was of brief duration. After a
reign of scarcely six years, he died a youth of the age of sixteen
years, and his sister Mary, called the Catholic, ascended the
throne. Her first act was to release Gardiner, who under Edward's
reign had been confined as a prisoner in the Tower, and to appoint
him her minister, and later, to the place of lord chancellor. He was
one of the most furious persecutors of the Reformers. Once he said
at a council in the presence of the bigoted queen; "These heretics
have a soul so black that it can be washed clean only in their own
blood." He it was, too, who urged the queen to such severe and
odious measures against the Princess Elizabeth, and caused her to be
a second time declared a bastard and unworthy of succeeding to the
throne. When Mary died, Gardiner performed, in Westminster Abbey,
where she was entombed, the service for the dead in the presence of
her successor, Queen Elizabeth. Gardiner's discourse was an
enthusiastic eulogium of the deceased queen, and he set forth, as
her special merit, that she hated the heretics so ardently and had
so many of them executed. He closed with an invective against the
Protestants, in which he so little spared the young queen, and spoke
of her in such injurious terms, that he was that very day committed
to prison.--Leti. vol. I, p. 314.] A short time after this eventful
walk in the garden of Whitehall, the queen entered the apartments of
the Princess Elizabeth, who hastened to meet her with a burst of
joy, and clasped her wildly in her arms.
"Saved!" whispered she. "The danger is overcome, and again you are
the mighty queen, the adored wife!"
"And I have you to thank that I am so, princess! Without that
warrant of arrest which you brought me, I was lost. Oh, Elizabeth,
but what a martyrdom it was! To smile and jest, whilst my heart
trembled with dread and horror; to appear innocent and
unembarrassed, whilst it seemed to me as if I heard already the whiz
of the axe that was about to strike my neck! Oh, my God, I passed
through the agonies and the dread of a whole lifetime in that one
hour! My soul has been harassed till it is wearied to death, and my
strength is exhausted. I could weep, weep continually over this
wretched, deceitful world, in which to wish right and to do good
avail nothing; but in which you must dissemble and lie, deceive and
disguise yourself, if you do not want to fall a victim to wickedness
and mischief. But ah, Elizabeth, even my tears I dare shed only in
secret, for a queen has no right to be melancholy. She must seem
ever cheerful, ever happy and contented; and only God and the still,
silent night know her sighs and her tears."
"And you may let me also see them, queen," said Elizabeth, heartily;
"for you well know you may trust and rely on me."
Catharine kissed her fervently. "You have done me a great service
to-day, and I have come," said she, "to thank you, not with sounding
words only, but by deeds. Elizabeth, your wish will be fulfilled.
The king will repeal the law which was to compel you to give your
hand only to a husband of equal birth."
"Oh," cried Elizabeth, with flashing eyes, "then I shall, perhaps,
some day be able to make him whom I love a king." Catharine smiled.
"You have a proud and ambitious heart," said she. "God has endowed
you with extraordinary ability. Cultivate it and seek to increase
it; for my prophetic heart tells me that you are destined to become,
one day, Queen of England. [Footnote: Catharine's own words.--See
Leti, vol. I, p. 172.] But who knows whether then you will still
wish to elevate him whom you now love, to be your husband? A queen,
as you will be, sees with other eyes than those of a young,
inexperienced maiden. Perchance I may not have done right in moving
the king to alter this law; for I am not acquainted with the man
that you love; and who knows whether he is worthy that you should
bestow on him your heart, so innocent and pure?"
Elizabeth threw both her arms about Catharine's neck, and clung
tenderly to her. "Oh," said she, "he would be worthy to be loved
even by you, Catharine; for he is the noblest and handsomest
cavalier in the whole world; and though he is no king, yet he is a
king's brother-in-law, and will some day be a king's uncle."
Catharine felt her heart, as it were, convulsed, and a slight tremor
ran through her frame. "And am I not to learn his name?" asked she.
"Yes, I will tell you it now; for now there is no longer danger in
knowing it. The name of him whom I love, queen, is Thomas Seymour."
Catharine uttered a scream, and pushed Elizabeth passionately away
from her heart. "Thomas Seymour?" cried she, in a menacing tone.
"What! do you dare love Thomas Seymour?"
"And why should I not dare?" asked the young girl in astonishment.
"Why should I not give him my heart, since, thanks to your
intercession, I am no longer bound to choose a husband of equal
birth? Is not Thomas Seymour one of the first of this land? Does not
all England look on him with pride and tenderness? Does not every
woman to whom he deigns a look, feel herself honored? Does not the
king himself smile and feel more pleased at heart, when Thomas
Seymour, that young, bold, and spirited hero, stands by his side?"
"You are right!" said Catharine, whose heart every one of these
enthusiastic words, lacerated like the stab of a dagger--"yes, you
are right. He is worthy of being loved by you--and you could hit
upon no better choice. It was only the first surprise that made me
see things otherwise than they are. Thomas Seymour is the brother of
a queen: why then should he not also be the husband of a royal
With a bashful blush, Elizabeth hid her smiling face in Catharine's
bosom. She did not see with what an expression of alarm and agony
the queen observed her; how her lips were convulsively compressed,
and her cheeks covered with a death-like pallor.
"And he?" asked she, in a low tone. "Does Thomas Seymour love you?"
Elizabeth raised her head and looked at the questioner in amazement
"How!" said she. "Is it possible, then, to love, if you are not
"You are right," sighed Catharine. "One must be very humble and
silly to be able to do that."
"My God! how pale you are, queen!" cried Elizabeth, who just now
noticed Catharine's pale face. "Your features are distorted; your
lips tremble. My God! what does this mean?"
"It is nothing!" said Catharine, with a smile full of agony. "The
excitement and alarm of to-day have exhausted my strength. That is
all. Besides, a new grief threatens us, of which you as yet know
nothing. The king is ill. A sudden dizziness seized him, and made
him fall almost lifeless at my side. I came to bring you the king's
message; now duty calls me to my husband's sickbed. Farewell,
She waved a good-by to her with her hand, and with hurried step left
the room. She summoned up courage to conceal the agonies of her
soul, and to pass proud and stately through the halls. To the
courtiers bowing before her, she would still be the queen, and no
one should suspect what agony was torturing her within like flames
of fire. But at last arrived at her boudoir--at last sure of being
overheard and observed by no one--she was no longer the queen, but
only the agonized, passionate woman.
She sank on her knees, and cried, with a heart-rending wail of
anguish: "My God, my God, grant that I may become mad, so that I may
no longer know that he has forsaken me!"
After days of secret torture and hidden tears, after nights of
sobbing anguish and wailing sorrow, Catharine had at last attained
to inward peace; she had at last taken a firm and decisive
The king was sick unto death; and however much she had suffered and
endured from him, still he was her husband; and she would not stand
by his deathbed as a perjured and deceitful woman; she would not be
constrained to cast down her eyes before the failing gaze of the
dying king. She would renounce her love--that love, which, however,
had been as pure and chaste as a maiden's prayer--that love, which
was as unapproachably distant as the blush of morn, and yet had
stood above her so vast and brilliant, and had irradiated the gloomy
pathway of her life with celestial light.
She would make the greatest of sacrifices; she would give her lover
to another. Elizabeth loved him. Catharine would not investigate and
thoroughly examine the point, whether Thomas Seymour returned her
love, and whether the oath he had taken to her, the queen, was
really nothing more than a fancy of the brain, or a falsehood. No,
she did not believe it; she did not believe that Thomas Seymour was
capable of treachery, of double-dealing. But Elizabeth loved him;
and she was young and beautiful, and a great future lay before her.
Catharine loved Thomas Seymour strongly enough not to want to
deprive him of this future, but gladly to present herself a
sacrifice to the happiness of her lover. What was she--the woman
matured in grief and suffering--in comparison with this youthful and
fresh blossom, Elizabeth? What had she to offer her beloved further
than a life of retirement, of love, and of quiet happiness? When
once the king is dead and sets her free, Edward the Sixth ascends
the throne; and Catharine then is nothing more than the forgotten
and disregarded widow of a king; while Elizabeth, the king's sister,
may perhaps bring a crown as her dower to him whom she loves.
Thomas Seymour was ambitious. Catharine knew that. A day might come
when he would repent of having chosen the widow of a king instead of
the heiress to a throne.
Catharine would anticipate that day. She would of her own free-will
resign her lover to Princess Elizabeth. She had by a struggle
brought her mind to this sacrifice; she had pressed her hands firmly
on her heart, so as not to hear how it wailed and wept.
She went to Elizabeth, and said to her with a sweet smile: "To-day I
will bring your lover to you, princess. The king has fulfilled his
promise. He has to-day with his last dying strength signed this act,
which gives you liberty to choose your husband, not from the ranks
of princes alone, but to follow your own heart in your choice. I
will give this act to your lover, and assure him of my assistance
and aid. The king is suffering very much to-day, and his
consciousness fails more and more. But be certain, if he is in a
condition to hear me, I will spend all my powers of persuasion in
inclining him to your wish, and in moving him to give his consent to
your marriage with Earl Sudley. I now go to receive the earl. So
tarry in your room, princess, for Seymour will soon come to bring
you the act."
Whilst she thus spoke, it seemed to her as though her heart were
pierced by red-hot daggers; as though a two-edged sword were
cleaving her breast. But Catharine had a strong and courageous soul.
She had sworn to herself to endure this torture to the end; and she
endured it. No writhing of her lips, no sigh, no outcry, betrayed
the pain that she was suffering. And if, indeed, her cheeks were
pale, and her eye dim, they were so because she had spent nights
watching by her husband's sick-bed, and because she was mourning for
the dying king.
She had the heroism to embrace tenderly this young maiden to whom
she was just going to present her love as a sacrifice, and to listen
with a smile to the enthusiastic words of gratitude, of rapture and
expectant happiness which Elizabeth addressed to her.
With tearless eyes and firm step she returned to her own apartments;
and her voice did not at all tremble, as she bade the chamberlain in
attendance to summon to her the master of horse, Earl Sudley. Only
she had a feeling as though her heart was broken and crushed; and
quite softly, quite humbly, she whispered: "I shall die when he is
gone. But so long as he is here, I will live; and he shall not have
a suspicion of what I suffer!"
And while Catharine suffered so dreadfully, Elizabeth was jubilant
with delight and rapture; for at last she stood at the goal of her
wishes, and this very day she was to become the betrothed of her
lover. Oh, how slow and sluggish crept those minutes along! How many
eternities had she still to wait before he would come--he, her
lover, and soon her husband! Was he already with the queen? Could
she expect him already? She stood as if spellbound at the window,
and looked down into the courtyard. Through that great gateway over
there he must come; through that door yonder he must go, in order to
reach the queen's apartments.
She uttered an exclamation, and a glowing blush flitted across her
face. There, there, he was. Yonder drew up his equipage; his gold-
laced lackeys opened the door and he alighted. How handsome he was,
and how magnificent to look upon! How noble and proud his tall
figure! How regularly beautiful his fresh, youthful face! How saucy
the haughty smile about his mouth; and how his eyes flamed and
flashed and shone in wantonness and youthful happiness. His look
glanced for a moment at Elizabeth's window. He saluted her, and then
entered the door leading to the wing of the palace of Whitehall
occupied by the queen. Elizabeth's heart beat so violently that she
felt almost suffocated. Now he must have reached the great
staircase--now he was above it--now he was entering the queen's
apartments--he traverses the first, the second, the third chamber.
In the fourth Catharine was waiting for him.
Elizabeth would have given a year of her life to hear what Catharine
would say to him, and what reply he would make to the surprising
intelligence--a year of her life to be able to see his rapture, his
astonishment, and his delight. He was so handsome when he smiled, so
bewitching when his eyes blazed with love and pleasure.
Elizabeth was a young, impulsive child. She had a feeling as if she
must suffocate in the agony of expectation; her heart leaped into
her mouth; her breath was stifled in her breast, she was so
impatient for happiness.
"Oh, if he does not come soon I shall die!" murmured she. "Oh, if I
could only at least see him, or only hear him!" All at once she
stopped; her eyes flashed up, and a bewitching smile flitted across
her features. "Yes," said she, "I will see him, and I will hear him.
I can do it, and I will do it. I have the key which the queen gave
me, and which opens the door that separates my rooms from hers. With
that key I may reach her bed-chamber, and next to the bed-chamber is
her boudoir, in which, without doubt, she will receive the earl. I
will enter quite softly, and, hiding myself behind the hanging which
separates the bed-chamber from the boudoir, I shall be able to see
him, and hear everything that he says!"
She laughed out loud and merrily, like a child, and sprang for the
key, which lay on her writing-table. Like a trophy of victory she
swung it high above her on her hand and cried, "I will see him!"
Then light, joyful, and with beaming eye, she left the room.
She had conjectured rightly. Catharine received the earl in her
boudoir. She sat on the divan standing opposite the door which led
into the reception-room. That door was open, and so Catharine had a
perfect view of the whole of that large space. She could see the
earl as he traversed it. She could once more enjoy, with a rapture
painfully sweet, his proud beauty, and let her looks rest on him
with love and adoration. But at length he crossed the threshold of
the boudoir; and now there was an end of her happiness, of her sweet
dream, and of her hopes and her rapture. She was nothing more than
the queen, the wife of a dying king; no longer Earl Seymour's
beloved, no longer his future and his happiness.
She had courage to greet him with a smile; and her voice did not
tremble when she bade him shut the door leading into the hall, and
drop the hanging. He did so, gazing at her with looks of surprise.
He did not comprehend that she dared give him an interview; for the
king was still alive, and even with his tongue faltering in death he
might destroy them both.
Why did she not wait till the morrow? On the morrow the king might
be already dead; and then they could see each other without
constraint and without danger. Then was she his, and naught could
longer stand in the way between them and happiness. Now, when the
king was near his death--now he loved her only--he loved but
Catharine. His ambition had decided his heart. Death had become the
judge over Seymour's double affection and divided heart, and with
King Henry's death Elizabeth's star had also paled.
Catharine was the widow of a king; and without doubt this tender
husband had appointed his young and adored wife Regent during the
minority of the Prince of Wales. Catharine then would have still
five years of unlimited sway, of royal authority and sovereign
power. If Catharine were his wife, then would he, Thomas Seymour,
share this power; and the purple robes of royalty, which rested on
her shoulders, would cover him also; and he would help her bear that
crown which doubtless might sometimes press heavily on her tender
brow. He would, in reality, be the regent, and Catharine would be so
only in name. She, the Queen of England, and he, king of this queen.
What a proud, intoxicating thought was that! And what plans, what
hopes might not be twined with it! Five years of sway--was not that
a time long enough to undermine the throne of the royal boy and to
sap his authority? Who could conjecture whether the people, once
accustomed to the regency of the queen, might not prefer to remain
under her sceptre, instead of committing themselves to this feeble
youth? The people must be constrained so to think, and to make
Catharine, Thomas Seymour's wife, their reigning queen.
The king was sick unto death, and Catharine was, without doubt, the
regent--perchance some day the sovereign queen.
Princess Elizabeth was only a poor princess, entirely without a
prospect of the throne; for before her came Catharine, came Edward,
and finally Mary, Elizabeth's eldest sister. Elizabeth had not the
least prospect of the throne, and Catharine the nearest and best
Thomas Seymour pondered this as he traversed the apartments of the
queen; and when he entered her presence, he had convinced himself
that he loved the queen only, and that it was she alone whom he had
always loved. Elizabeth was forgotten and despised. She had no
prospect of the throne--why, then, should he love her?
The queen, as we have said, ordered him to shut the door of the
boudoir and to drop the hanging. At the same moment that he did
this, the hanging of the opposite door, leading into the sleeping
apartment, moved--perhaps only the draught of the closing door had
done it. Neither the queen nor Seymour noticed it. They were both
too much occupied with themselves. They saw not how the hanging
again and again gently shook and trembled. They saw not how it was
gently opened a little in the middle; nor did they see the sparkling
eyes which suddenly peeped through the opening in the hanging; nor
suspected they that it was the Princess Elizabeth who had stepped
behind the curtain, the better to see and hear what was taking place
in the boudoir.
The queen had arisen and advanced a few steps to meet the earl. As
she now stood before him--as their eyes met, she felt her courage
sink and her heart fail.
She was compelled to look down at the floor to prevent him from
seeing the tears which involuntarily came into her eyes. With a
silent salutation she offered him her hand. Thomas Seymour pressed
it impulsively to his lips, and looked with passionate tenderness
into her face. She struggled to collect all her strength, that her
heart might not betray itself. With a hurried movement she withdrew
her hand from him, and took from the table a roll of paper
containing the new act of succession signed by the king.
"My lord," said she, "I have called you hither, because I would like
to intrust a commission to you. I beg you to carry this parchment to
the Princess Elizabeth, and be pleased to deliver it to her. But
before you do that, I will make you acquainted with its contents.
This parchment contains a new law relative to the succession, which
has already received the sanction of the king. By virtue of this,
the royal princesses are no longer under the necessity of uniting
themselves with a husband who is a sovereign prince, if they wish to
preserve their hereditary claim on the throne unimpaired. The king
gives the princesses the right to follow their own hearts; and their
claim to the succession is not to suffer thereby, if the husband
chosen is neither a king nor a prince. That, my lord, is the
contents of this parchment which you are to carry to the princess,
and without doubt you will thank me for making you the messenger of
these glad tidings."
"And why," asked he, in astonishment--"why does your majesty believe
that this intelligence should fill me with special thankfulness?"
She collected all her powers; she prayed to her own heart for
strength and self-control.
"Because the princess has made me the confidante of her love, and
because I am consequently aware of the tender tie which binds you to
her," said she, gently; and she felt that all the blood had fled
from her cheeks.
The earl looked into her face in mute astonishment. Then his
inquiring and searching glance swept all around the room.
"We are overheard, then?" asked he, in a low voice.
"We are not alone?"
"We are alone," said Catharine, aloud. "Nobody can hear us, and God
alone is witness of our conversation."
Elizabeth, who stood behind the hanging, felt her cheeks glow with
shame, and she began to repent what she had done. But she was
nevertheless, as it were, spellbound to that spot. It was certainly
mean and unworthy of a princess to eavesdrop, but she was at that
time but a young girl who loved, and who wanted to observe her
lover. So she stayed; she laid her hand on her anxiously-throbbing
heart, and murmured to herself: "What will he say? What means this
anxious dread that comes over me?"
"Well," said Thomas Seymour, in an entirely altered tone, "if we are
alone, then this mask which hides my face may fall; then the cuirass
which binds my heart may he loosened. Hail, Catharine, my star and
my hope! No one, you say, hears us, save God alone; and God knows
our love, and He knows with what longing, and what ecstasy, I have
sighed for this hour--for this hour, which at length again unites me
to you. My God, it is an eternity since I have seen you, Catharine;
and my heart thirsted for you as a famishing man for a refreshing
draught. Catharine, my beloved, blessed be you, that you have at
last called me to you!"
He opened his arms for her, but she repulsed him sharply. "You are
mistaken in the name, earl," said she, bitterly. "You say Catharine,
and mean Elizabeth! It is the princess that you love: to Elizabeth
belongs your heart, and she has devoted her heart to you. Oh, earl,
I will favor this love, and be certain I will not cease from prayer
and supplication till I have inclined the king to your wishes, till
he has given his consent to your marriage with the Princess
Thomas Seymour laughed. "This is a masquerade, Catharine; and you
still wear a mask over your beautiful and charming face. (Oh, away
with that mask, queen! I want to behold you as you are. I want to
see again your own beautiful self; I want to see the woman who
belongs to me, and who has sworn to be mine, and who has, with a
thousand sacred oaths, vowed to love me, to be true to me, and to
follow me as her husband and her lord. Or how, Catharine! Can you
have forgotten your oath? Can you have become untrue to your own
heart? Do you want to cast me away, and throw me, like a ball of
which you are tired, to another?"
"Oh," said she, quite unconsciously, "I--I can never forget and
never be untrue."
"Well, then, my Catharine, the bride and wife of my future, what
then are you speaking to me of Elizabeth?--of this little princess,
who sighs for love as the flower-bud for the sun, and takes the
first man whom she finds in her way for the sun after which she
pines? What care we for Elizabeth, my Catharine? And what have we to
do with that child in this hour of long-wished-for reunion?"
"Oh, he calls me a child!" murmured Elizabeth. "I am nothing but a
child to him!" And she pressed her hands on her mouth in order to
repress her cry of anger and anguish, and to prevent them from
hearing her teeth, which were chattering as though she were in a
With irresistible force Thomas Seymour drew Catharine into his arms.
"Avoid me no longer," said he, in tender entreaty. "The hour has
come which is finally to determine our destiny! The king is at the
point of death, and my Catharine will at length be free--free to
follow her own heart. At this hour I remind you of your oath! Do you
remember still that day when you referred me to this hour? Do you
still know, Catharine, how you vowed to be my wife and to receive me
as the lord of your future? Oh, my beloved, that crown which weighed
down your head will soon be taken away. Now I yet stand before you
as your subject, but in a few hours it will be your lord and your
husband that stands before you; and he will ask: 'Catharine, my
wife, have you kept with me the faith you swore to me? Have you been
guiltless of perjury in respect of your vows and your love? Have you
preserved my honor, which is your honor also, clear from every spot;
and can you, free from guilt, look me in the eye?"
He gazed at her with proud, flashing eyes, and before his commanding
look her firmness and her pride melted away like ice before the
sunshine. Again he was the master, whose right it was to rule her
heart; and she again the lowly handmaid, whose sweetest happiness it
was to submit and bow to the will of her lover.
"I can look you frankly in the eye," murmured she, "and no guilt
burdens my conscience. I have loved naught but you, and my God only
dwells near you in my heart." Wholly overcome, wholly intoxicated
with happiness, she leaned her head upon his shoulder, and as he
clasped her in his arms, as he covered with kisses her now
unresisting lips, she felt only that she loved him unutterably, and
that there was no happiness for her except with him.
It was a sweet dream, a moment of most exquisite ecstasy. But it was
only a moment. A hand was laid violently on her shoulder, a hoarse
angry voice called her name; and as she looked up, she encountered
the wild glance of Elizabeth, who stood before her with deathly pale
cheeks, with trembling lips, with expanded nostrils, and eyes
darting flashes of wrath and hatred.
"This, then, is the friendly service which you swore to me?" said
she, gnashing her teeth. "Did you steal into my confidence, and with
scoffing mouth spy out the secrets of my heart, in order to go away
and betray them to your paramour? That you might in his arms
ridicule this pitiable maiden, who allowed herself for the moment to
be betrayed by her heart, and took a felon for an honorable man!
Woe, woe to you, Catharine, for I tell you I will have no compassion
on the adulteress, who mocks at me, and betrays my father!"
She was raving; completely beside herself with anger, she dashed
away the hand which Catharine laid on her shoulder, and sprang back
from the touch of her enemy like an irritated lioness.
Her father's blood fumed and raged within her, and, a true daughter
of Henry the Eighth, she concealed in her heart only bloodthirsty
and revengeful thoughts.
She cast on Thomas Seymour a look of dark wrath, and a contemptuous
smile played about her lips. "My lord," said she, "you have called
me a child who allows herself to be easily deceived, because she
longs so much for the sun and for happiness. You are right: I was a
child; and I was foolish enough to take a miserable liar for a
noble-man, who was worthy of the proud fortune of being loved by a
king's daughter. Yes, you are right; that was a childish dream.
Thanks to you, I have now awoke from it; and you have matured the
child into a woman, who laughs at the folly of her youth, and
despises to-day what she adored yesterday. I have nothing to do with
you; and you are even too insignificant and too contemptible for my
anger. But I tell you, you have played a hazardous game, and you
will lose. You courted a queen and a princess, and you will gain
neither of them: not the one, for she despises you; not the other,
for she ascends the scaffold!"
With a wild laugh she was hurrying to the door, but Catharine with a
strong hand held her back and compelled her to remain. "What are you
going to do?" asked she, with perfect calmness and composure.
"What am I going to do?" asked Elizabeth, her eyes flashing like
those of a lioness. "You ask me what I will do? I will go to my
father, and tell him what I have here witnessed! He will listen to
me; and his tongue will still have strength enough to pronounce your
sentence of death! Oh, my mother died on the scaffold, and yet she
was innocent. We will see, forsooth, whether you will escape the
scaffold--you, who are guilty!"
"Well, then, go to your father," said Catharine; "go and accuse me.
But first you shall hear me. This man whom I loved, I wanted to
renounce, in order to give him to you. By the confession of your
love, you had crushed my happiness and my future. But I was not
angry with you. I understood you heart, for Thomas Seymour is worthy
of being loved. But you are right; for the king's wife it was a
sinful love, however innocent and pure I may have been. On that
account I wanted to renounce it; on that account I wanted, on the
first confession from you, to silently sacrifice myself. You
yourself have now made it an impossibility. Go, then, and accuse us
to your father, and fear not that I will belie my heart. Now, that
the crisis has come, it shall find me prepared; and on the scaffold
I will still account myself blest, for Thomas Seymour loves me!"
"Ay, he loves you, Catharine!" cried he, completely overcome and
enchanted by her noble, majestic bearing.
"He loves you so warmly and ardently, that death with you seems to
him an enviable lot; and he would not exchange it for any throne nor
for any crown."
And as he thus spoke, he put his arms around Catharine's neck, and
impetuously drew her to his heart.
Elizabeth uttered a fierce scream, and sprang to the door. But what
noise was that which all at once drew nigh; which suddenly, like a
wild billow, came roaring on, and filled the anterooms and the
halls? What were these affrighted, shrieking voices calling? What
were they screaming to the queen, and the physicians, and the
Elizabeth stopped amazed, and listened. Thomas Seymour and
Catharine, arm linked in arm, stood near her. They scarcely heard
what was taking place; they looked at each other and smiled, and
dreamed of love and death and an eternity of happiness.
Now the door flew open; there was seen John Heywood's pale face:
there were the maids of honor and the court officials. And all
shrieked and all wailed: "The king is dying! He is struck with
apoplexy! The king is at the point of death!"
"The king calls you! The king desires to die in the arms of his
wife!" said John Heywood, and, as he quietly pushed Elizabeth aside
and away from the door as she was pressing violently forward, he
added: "The king will see nobody but his wife and the priest; and he
has authorized me to call the queen!"
He opened the door; and through the lines of weeping and wailing
court officials and servants, Catharine moved on, to go to the
death-bed of her royal husband.
"LE ROI EST MORT--VIVE LA REINE!"
King Henry lay a-dying. That life full of sin, full of blood and
crime, full of treachery and cunning, full of hypocrisy and
sanctimonious cruelty--that life was at last lived out. That hand,
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