The Historical Nights Entertainment, Second Series by Rafael Sabatini
THE HISTORICAL NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENT, SECOND SERIES
by RAFAEL SABATINI
My Dear David,
Since the narratives collected here as well as in the preceding
volume under the title of the Historical Nights Entertainment—
narratives originally published in The Premier Magazine, which you so
ably edit—owe their being to your suggestion, it is fitting that some
acknowledgment of the fact should be made. To what is hardly less than
a duty, allow me to add the pleasure of dedicating to you, in earnest
of my friendship and esteem, not merely this volume, but the work of
which this volume is the second.
London, June, 1919.
King of Portugal
II. THE FALSE
Godunov and the
Pretended Son of
III. THE HERMOSA
Eposode of the
Story of the
V. THE END OF
THE “VERT GALANT”.
VI. THE BARREN
Murder of Amy
VII. SIR JUDAS.
The Betrayal of
Courtship of Ann
IX. THE PATH OF
EXILE. The Fall
X. THE TRAGEDY
and Jean Paul
The kindly reception accorded to the first volume of the Historical
Nights Entertainment, issued in December of 1917, has encouraged me to
prepare the second series here assembled.
As in the case of the narratives that made up the first volume, I
set out again with the same ambitious aim of adhering scrupulously in
every instance to actual, recorded facts; and once again I find it
desirable at the outset to reveal how far the achievement may have
fallen short of the admitted aim.
On the whole, I have to confess to having allowed myself perhaps a
wider latitude, and to having taken greater liberties than was the case
with the essays constituting the previous collection. This, however,
applies, where applicable, to the parts rather than to the whole.
The only entirely apocryphal narrative here included is the
first—“The Absolution.” This is one of those stories which, if resting
upon no sufficient authority to compel its acceptance, will,
nevertheless, resist all attempts at final refutation, having its roots
at least in the soil of fact. It is given in the rather discredited
Portuguese chronicles of Acenheiro, and finds place, more or less as
related here, in Duarte Galvao's “Chronicle of Affonso Henriques,”
whence it was taken by the Portuguese historical writer, Alexandre
Herculano, to be included in his “Lendas e Narrativas.” If it is to be
relegated to the Limbo of the ben trovato, at least I esteem it to
afford us a precious glimpse of the naive spirit of the age in which it
is set, and find in that my justification for including it.
The next to require apology is “His Insolence of Buckingham,” but
only in so far as the incident of the diamond studs is concerned. The
remainder of the narrative, the character of Buckingham, the details of
his embassy to Paris, and the particulars of his audacious courtship of
Anne of Austria, rest upon unassailable evidence. I would have omitted
the very apocryphal incident of the studs, but that I considered it of
peculiar interest as revealing the source of the main theme of one of
the most famous historical romances ever written—“The Three
Musketeers.” I give the story as related by La Rochefoucauld in his
“Memoirs,” whence Alexandre Dumas culled it that he might turn it to
such excellent romantic account. In La Rochefoucauld's narrative it is
the painter Gerbier who, in a far less heroic manner, plays the part
assigned by Dumas to d'Artagnan, and it is the Countess of Carlisle who
carries out the political theft which Dumas attributes to Milady. For
the rest, I do not invite you to attach undue credit to it, which is
not, however, to say that I account it wholly false.
In the case of “The Hermosa Fembra” I confess to having
blended together into one single narrative two historical episodes
closely connected in time and place. Susan's daughter was, in fact,
herself the betrayer of her father, and it was in penitence for that
unnatural act that she desired her skull to be exhibited as I describe.
Into the story of Susan's daughter I have woven that of another
New-Christian girl, who, like the Hermosa Fembra, her taken a Castilian
lover—in this case a youth of the house of Guzman. This youth was
driven into concealment in circumstances more or less as I describe
them. He overheard the judaizing of several New-Christians there
assembled, and bore word of it at once to Ojeda. The two episodes were
separated in fact by an interval of three years, and the first afforded
Ojeda a strong argument for the institution of the Holy Office in
Seville. Between the two there are many points of contact, and each
supplies what the other lacks to make an interesting narrative having
for background the introduction of the Inquisition to Castile. The
denouement I supply is entirely fictitious, and the introduction of
Torquemada is quite arbitrary. Ojeda was the inquisitor who dealt with
both cases. But if there I stray into fiction, at least I claim to have
sketched a faithful portrait of the Grand Inquisitor as I know him from
fairly exhaustive researches into his life and times.
The story of the False Demetrius is here related from the point of
view of my adopted solution of what is generally regarded as a
historical mystery. The mystery lies, of course, in the man's identity.
He has been held by some to have been the unfrocked monk, Grishka
Otropiev, by others to have been a son of Stephen Bathory, King of
Poland. I am not aware that the theory that he was both at one and the
same time has ever been put forward, and whilst admitting that it is
speculative, yet I claim that no other would appear so aptly to fit all
the known facts of his career or to shed light upon its mysteries.
Undoubtedly I have allowed myself a good deal of licence and
speculation in treating certain unwitnessed scenes in “The Barren
Wooing.” But the theory that I develop in it to account for the
miscarriage of the matrimonial plans of Queen Elizabeth and Robert
Dudley seems to me to be not only very fully warranted by de Quadra's
correspondence, but the only theory that will convincingly explain the
events. Elizabeth, as I show, was widely believed to be an accessory to
the murder of Amy Robsart. But in carefully following her words and
actions at that critical time, as reported by de Quadra, my reading of
the transaction is as given here. The most damning fact against
Elizabeth was held to be her own statement to de Quadra on the eve of
Lady Robert Dudley's murder to the effect that Lady Robert was “already
dead, or very nearly so.” This foreknowledge of the fate of that
unfortunate lady has been accepted as positive evidence that the Queen
was a party to the crime at Cumnor, which was to set her lover free to
marry again. Far from that, however, I account it positive proof of
Elizabeth's innocence of any such part in the deed. Elizabeth was far
too crafty and clear-sighted not to realize how her words must
incriminate her afterwards if she knew that the murder of Lady Robert
was projected. She must have been merely repeating what Dudley himself
had told her; and what he must have told her—and she believed—was
that his wife was at the point of a natural death. Similarly, Dudley
would not have told her this, unless his aim had been to procure his
wife's removal by means which would admit of a natural interpretation.
Difficulties encountered, much as I relate them—and for which there is
abundant evidence—drove his too-zealous agents to rather desperate
lengths, and thus brought suspicion, not only upon the guilty Dudley,
but also upon the innocent Queen. The manner of Amy's murder is pure
conjecture; but it should not be far from what actually took place. The
possibility of an accident—extraordinarily and suspiciously opportune
for Dudley as it would have been—could not be altogether ruled out but
for the further circumstance that Lady Robert had removed everybody
from Cumnor on that day. To what can this point—unless we accept an
altogether incredible chain of coincidence—but to some such plotting
as I here suggest?
In the remaining six essays in this volume the liberties taken with
the absolute facts are so slight as to require no apology or comment.
London, June, 1919.
I. THE ABSOLUTION. Aftonso Henriques,
first King of Portugal
In 1093 the Moors of the Almoravide dynasty, under the Caliph Yusuf,
swept irresistibly upwards into the Iberian Peninsula, recapturing
Lisbon and Santarem in the west, and pushing their conquest as far as
the river Mondego.
To meet this revival of Mohammedan power, Alfonso VI. Of Castile
summoned the chivalry of Christendom to his aid. Among the knights who
answered the call was Count Henry of Burgundy (grandson of Robert,
first Duke of Burgundy) to whom Alfonso gave his natural daughter
Theresa in marriage, together with the Counties of Oporto and Coimbra,
with the title of Count of Portugal.
That is the first chapter of the history of Portugal.
Count Henry fought hard to defend his southern frontiers from the
incursion of the Moors until his death in 1114. Thereafter his widow
Theresa became Regent of Portugal during the minority of their son,
Affonso Henriques. A woman of great energy, resource and ambition, she
successfully waged war against the Moors, and in other ways laid the
foundations upon which her son was to build the Kingdom of Portugal.
But her passionate infatuation for one of her knights—Don Fernando
Peres de Trava—and the excessive honours she bestowed upon him, made
enemies for her in the new state, and estranged her from her son.
In 1127 Alfonso VII. of Castile invaded Portugal, compelling Theresa
to recognize him as her suzerain. But Affonso Henriques, now aged
seventeen—and declared by the citizens of the capital to be of age and
competent to reign—incontinently refused to recognize the submission
made by his mother, and in the following year assembled an army for the
purpose of expelling her and her lover from the country. The warlike
Theresa resisted until defeated in the battle of San Mamede and taken
* * * * * *
He was little more than a boy, although four years were sped already
since, as a mere lad of fourteen, he had kept vigil throughout the
night over his arms in the Cathedral of Zamora, preparatory to
receiving the honour of knighthood at the hands of his cousin, Alfonso
VII. of Castile. Yet already he was looked upon as the very pattern of
what a Christian knight should be, worthy son of the father who had
devoted his life to doing battle against the Infidel, wheresoever he
might be found. He was well-grown and tall, and of a bodily strength
that is almost a byword to this day in that Portugal of which he was
the real founder and first king. He was skilled beyond the common wont
in all knightly exercises of arms and horsemanship, and equipped with
far more learning—though much of it was ill-digested, as this story
will serve to show—than the twelfth century considered useful or even
proper in a knight. And he was at least true to his time in that he
combined a fervid piety with a weakness of the flesh and an impetuous
arrogance that was to bring him under the ban of greater
excommunication at the very outset of his reign.
It happened that his imprisonment of his mother was not at all
pleasing in the sight of Rome. Dona Theresa had powerful friends, who
so used their influence at the Vatican on her behalf that the Holy
Father—conveniently ignoring the provocation she had given and the
scandalous, unmotherly conduct of which she had been guilty—came to
consider the behaviour of the Infante of Portugal as reprehensibly
unfilial, and commanded him to deliver Dona Theresa at once from
This Papal order, backed by a threat of excommunication in the event
of disobedience, was brought to the young prince by the Bishop of
Coimbra, whom he counted among his friends.
Affonso Henriques, ever impetuous and quick to anger, flushed
scarlet when he heard that uncompromising message. His dark eyes
smouldered as they considered the aged prelate.
“You come here to bid me let loose again upon this land of Portugal
that author of strife, to deliver over the people once more to the
oppression of the Lord of Trava?” he asked. “And you tell me that
unless by obeying this command I am false to the duty I owe this
country, you will launch the curse of Rome against me? You tell me
The bishop, deeply stirred, torn between his duty to the Holy See
and his affection for his prince, bowed his head and wrung his hands.
“What choice have I?” he asked, on a quavering note.
“I raised you from the dust.” Thunder was rumbling in the prince's
voice. “Myself I placed the episcopal ring upon your finger.”
“My lord, my lord! Could I forget? All that I have I owe to you—
save only my soul, which I owe to God; my faith, which I owe to Christ;
and my obedience, which I owe to our Holy Father the Pope.”
The prince considered him in silence, mastering his passionate,
impetuous nature. “Go,” he growled at last.
The prelate bowed his head, his eyes not daring to meet his
“God keep you, lord,” he almost sobbed, and so went out.
But though stirred by his affection for the prince to whom he owed
so much, though knowing in his inmost heart that Affonso Henriques was
in the right, the Bishop of Coimbra did not swerve from his duty to
Rome, which was as plain as it was unpalatable. Betimes next morning
word was brought to Affonso Henriques in the Alcazar of Coimbra that a
parchment was nailed to the door of the Cathedral, setting forth his
excommunication, and that the Bishop—either out of fear or out of
sorrow—had left the city, journeying northward towards Oporto.
Affonso Henriques passed swiftly from incredulity to anger; then
almost as swiftly came to a resolve, which was as mad and harebrained
as could have been expected from a lad in his eighteenth year who held
the reins of power. Yet by its very directness and its superb ignoring
of all obstacles, legal and canonical, it was invested with a certain
In full armour, a white cloak simply embroidered in gold at the edge
and knotted at the shoulder, he rode to the Cathedral, attended by his
half-brother Pedro Affonso, and two of his knights, Emigio Moniz and
Sancho Nunes. There on the great iron-studded doors he found, as he had
been warned, the Roman parchment pronouncing him accursed, its sonorous
Latin periods set forth in a fine round clerkly hand.
He swung down from his great horse and clanked up the Cathedral
steps, his attendants following. He had for witnesses no more than a
few loiterers, who had paused at sight of their prince.
The interdict had so far attracted no attention, for in the twelfth
century the art of letters was a mystery to which there were few
Affonso Henriques tore the sheepskin from its nails, and crumpled it
in his hand; then he passed into the Cathedral, and thence came out
presently into the cloisters. Overhead a bell was clanging by his
orders, summoning the chapter.
To the Infante, waiting there in the sun-drenched close, came
presently the canons, austere, aloof, majestic in their unhurried
progress through the fretted cloisters, with flowing garments and hands
tucked into their wide sleeves before them. In a semi- circle they
arrayed themselves before him, and waited impassively to learn his
will. Overhead the bell had ceased.
Affonso Henriques wasted no words.
“I have summoned you,” he announced, “to command that you proceed to
the election of a bishop.”
A rustle stirred through the priestly throng. The canons looked
askance at the prince and at one another. Then one of them spoke.
“Habemus episcopum,” he said gravely, and several instantly made
chorus: “We have a bishop.”
The eyes of the young sovereign kindled. “You are wrong,” he told
them. “You had a bishop, but he is here no longer. He has deserted his
see, after publishing this shameful thing” And he held aloft the
crumpled interdict. “As I am a God-fearing, Christian knight, I will
not live under this ban. Since the bishop who excommunicated me is
gone, you will at once elect another in his place who shall absolve
They stood before him, silent and impassive, in their priestly
dignity, and in their assurance that the law was on their side.
“Well?” the boy growled at them.
“Habemus episcopum,” droned a voice again.
“Amen,” boomed in chorus through the cloisters.
“I tell you that your bishop is gone,” he insisted, his voice
quivering now with anger, “and I tell you that he shall not return,
that he shall never set foot again within my city of Coimbra. Proceed
you therefore at once to the election of his successor.”
“Lord,” he was answered coldly by one of them, “no such election is
possible or lawful.”
“Do you dare stand before my face, and tell me this?” he roared,
infuriated by their cold resistance. He flung out an arm in a gesture
of terrible dismissal. “Out of my sight, you proud and evil men! Back
to your cells, to await my pleasure. Since in your arrogant,
stiff-necked pride you refuse to do my will, you shall receive the
bishop I shall myself select.”
He was so terrific in his rage that they dared not tell him that he
had no power, prince though he might be, to make such an election,
bowed to him, ever impassively, and with their hands still folded,
unhurried as they had come, they now turned and filed past him in
He watched them with scowling brows and tightened lips, Moniz and
Nunes silent behind him. Suddenly those dark, watchful eyes of his were
held by the last figure of all in that austere procession—a tall,
gaunt young man, whose copper-coloured skin and hawk-featured face
proclaimed his Moorish blood. Instantly, maliciously, it flashed
through the prince's boyish mind how he might make of this man an
instrument to humble the pride of that insolent clergy. He raised his
hand, and beckoned the cleric to him.
“What is your name?” he asked him.
“I am called Zuleyman, lord,” he was answered, and the name
confirmed—where, indeed, no confirmation was necessary—the fellow's
Affonso Henriques laughed. It would be an excellent jest to thrust
upon these arrogant priests, who refused to appoint a bishop of their
choice, a bishop who was little better than a blackamoor.
“Don Zuleyman,” said the prince, “I name you Bishop of Coimbra in
the room of the rebel who has fled. You will prepare to celebrate High
Mass this morning, and to pronounce my absolution.”
The Christianized Moor fell back a step, his face paling under its
copper skin to a sickly grey. In the background, the hindmost members
of the retreating clerical procession turned and stood at gaze, angered
and scandalized by what they heard, which was indeed a thing beyond
“Ah no, my lord! Ah no!” Don Zuleyman was faltering. “Not that!”
The prospect terrified him, and in his agitation he had recourse to
Latin. “Domine, non sum dignus,” he cried, and beat his breast.
But the uncompromising Affonso Henriques gave him back Latin for
“Dixi—I have spoken!” he answered sternly. “Do not fail me in
obedience, on your life.” And on that he clanked out again with his
attendants, well-pleased with his morning's work.
As he had disposed with boyish, almost irresponsible rashness, and
in flagrant contravention of all canon law, so it fell out. Don
Zuleyman, wearing the bishop's robes and the bishop's mitre, intoned
the Kyrie Eleison before noon that day in the Cathedral of Coimbra, and
pronounced the absolution of the Infante of Portugal, who knelt so
submissively and devoutly before him.
Affonso Henriques was very pleased with himself. He made a jest of
the affair, and invited his intimates to laugh with him. But Emigio
Moniz and the elder members of his council refused to laugh. They
looked with awe upon a deed that went perilously near to sacrilege, and
implored him to take their own sober view of the thing he had done.
“By the bones of St. James!” he cried. “A prince is not to be
brow-beaten by a priest.”
Such a view in the twelfth century was little short of
revolutionary. The chapter of the Cathedral of Coimbra held the
converse opinion that priests were not to be browbeaten by a prince,
and set themselves to make Affonso Henriques realize this to his bitter
cost. They dispatched to Rome an account of his unconscionable,
high-handed, incredible sacrilege, and invited Rome to administer
condign spiritual flagellation upon this errant child of Mother Church.
Rome made haste to vindicate her authority, and dispatched a legate to
the recalcitrant, audacious boy who ruled in Portugal. But the distance
being considerable, and means of travel inadequate and slow, it was not
until Don Zuleyman had presided in the See of Coimbra for a full two
months that the Papal Legate made his appearance in Affonso Henriques'
A very splendid Prince of the Church was Cardinal Corrado, the envoy
dispatched by Pope Honorius II., full armed with apostolic weapons to
reduce the rebellious Infante of Portugal into proper subjection.
His approach was heralded by the voice of rumour. Affonso Henriques
heard of it without perturbation. His conscience at ease in the
absolution which he had wrung from Mother Church after his own fashion,
he was entirely absorbed in preparations for a campaign against the
Moors which was to widen his dominions. Therefore when at length the
thunderbolt descended, it fell—so far as he was concerned—from a sky
It was towards dusk of a summer evening when the legate, in a litter
slung in line between two mules, entered Coimbra. He was attended by
two nephews, Giannino and Pierluigi da Corrado, both patricians of
Rome, and a little knot of servants. Empanoplied in his sacred office,
the cardinal had no need of the protection of men-at-arms upon a
journey through god-fearing lands.
He was borne straight to the old Moorish palace where the Infante
resided, and came upon him there amid a numerous company in the great
pillared hall. Against a background of battle trophies, livid weapons,
implements of war, and suits of mail both Saracen and Christian, with
which the bare walls were hung, moved a gaily-clad, courtly gathering
of nobles and their women-folk, when the great cardinal, clad from head
to foot in scarlet, entered unannounced.
Laughter rippled into silence. A hush descended upon the company,
which stood now at gaze, considering the imposing and unbidden guest.
Slowly the legate, followed by the two Roman youths, advanced down the
hall, the soft pad of his slippered feet and the rustle of his silken
robes being at first the only sound. On he came, until he stood before
the shallow dais, where in a massively carved chair sat the Infante of
Portugal, mistrustfully observing him. Affonso Henriques scented here
an enemy, an ally of his mother's, the bearer of a fresh declaration of
hostilities. Therefore of deliberate purpose he kept his seat, as if to
stress the fact that here he was the master.
“Lord Cardinal,” he greeted the legate, “be welcome to my land of
The cardinal bowed stiffly, resentful of this reception. In his long
journey across the Spains, princes and nobles had flocked to kiss his
hand, and bend the knee before him, seeking his blessing. Yet this mere
boy, beardless save for a silky down about his firm young cheeks,
retained his seat and greeted him with no more submissiveness than if
he had been the envoy of some temporal prince.
“I am the representative of our Holy Father,” he announced, in a
voice of stern reproof. “I am from Rome, with these my well- beloved
“From Rome?” quoth Affonso Henriques. For all his length of limb and
massive thews he could be impish upon occasion. He was impish now.
“Although no good has ever yet come to me from Rome, you make me
hopeful. His Holiness will have heard of the preparations I am making
for a war against the Infidel that shall carry the Cross where new
stands the Crescent, and sends me perhaps, a gift of gold or assist me
in this holy work.”
The mockery of it stung the legate sharply. His sallow, ascetic face
“It is not gold I bring you,” he answered, “but a lesson in the
faith which you would seem to have forgotten. I am come to teach you
your Christian duty, and to require of you immediate reparation of the
sacrilegious wrongs you have done. The Holy Father demands of you the
instant re-instatement of the Bishop of Coimbra, whom you have driven
out with threats of violence, and the degradation of the cleric you
blasphemously appointed Bishop in his stead.”
“And is that all?” quoth the boy, in a voice dangerously quiet.
“No.” Fearless in his sense of right, the legate towered before him.
“It is demanded of you further that you instantly release the lady,
your mother, from the unjust confinement in which you hold her.”
“That confinement is not unjust, as all here can witness,” the
Infante answered. “Rome may believe it, because lies have been carried
to Rome. Dona Theresa's life was a scandal, her regency an injustice to
my people. She and the infamous Lord of Trava lighted the torch of
civil war in these dominions. Learn here the truth, and carry it to
Rome. Thus shall you do worthy service.”
But the prelate was obstinate and proud.
“That is not the answer that our Holy Father awaits.”
“It is the answer that I send.”
“Rash, rebellious youth, beware!” The cardinal's anger flamed up,
and his voice swelled. “I come armed with spiritual weapons of
destruction. Do not abuse the patience of Mother Church, or you shall
feel the full weight of her wrath released against you.”
Exasperated, Affonso Henriques bounded to his feet, his face livid
now with passion, his eyes ablaze.
“Out! Away!” he cried. “Go, my lord, and go quickly, or as God
watches us I will add here and now yet another sacrilege to those of
which you accuse me.”
The prelate gathered his ample robes about him. If pale, he was
entirely calm once more. With stern dignity, he bowed to the angry
youth, and so departed, but with such outward impassivity that it would
have been difficult to say with whom lay the victory. If Affonso
Henriques thought that night that he had conquered, morning was to
shatter the illusion.
He was awakened early by a chamberlain at the urgent instances of
Emigio Moniz, who was demanding immediate audience. Affonso Henriques
sat up in bed, and bade him to be admitted.
The elderly knight and faithful counsellor came in, treading
heavily. His swarthy face was overcast, his mouth set in stern lines
under its grizzled beard.
“God keep you, lord,” was his greeting, so lugubriously delivered as
to sound like a pious, but rather hopeless, wish.
“And you, Emigio,” answered him the Infante. “You are early astir.
What is the cause?”
“III tidings, lord.” He crossed the room, unlatched and flung wide a
window. “Listen,” he bade the prince.
On the still morning air arose a sound like the drone of some
gigantic hive, or of the sea when the tide is making. Affonso Henriques
recognized it for the murmur of the multitude.
“What does it mean?” he asked, and thrust a sinewy leg from the bed.
“It means that the Papal Legate has done all that he threatened, and
something more. He has placed your city of Coimbra under a ban of
excommunication. The churches are closed, and until the ban is lifted
no priest Will be found to baptize, marry, shrive or perform any other
Sacrament of Holy Church. The people are stricken with terror, knowing
that they share the curse with you. They are massing below at the gates
of the alcazar, demanding to see you that they may implore you to lift
from them the horror of this excommunication.”
Affonso Henriques had come to his feet by now, and he stood there
staring at the old knight, his face blenched, his stout heart clutched
by fear of these impalpable, blasting weapons that were being used
“My God!” he groaned, and asked: “What must I do?”
Moniz was preternaturally grave. “It is of the first importance that
the people should be pacified.”
“There is one way only—by a promise that you will submit to the
will of the Holy Father, and by penance seek absolution for yourself
and your city.”
A red flush swept into the young cheeks that had been so pale.
“What?” he cried, his voice a roar. “Release my mother, depose
Zuleyman, recall that fugitive recreant who cursed me, and humble
myself to seek pardon at the hands of this insolent Italian cleric? May
my bones rot, may I roast for ever in hell-fire if I show myself such a
craven! And do you counsel it, Emigio—do you really counsel that?” He
was in a towering rage.
“Listen to that voice,” Emigio answered him, and waved a hand to the
open window. “How else will you silence it?”
Affonso Henriques sat down on the edge of the bed, and took his head
in his hands. He was checkmated—and yet....
He rose and beat his hands together, summoning chamberlain and pages
to help him dress and arm.
“Where is the legate lodged?” he asked Moniz.
“He is gone,” the knight answered him. “He left at cock-crow, taking
the road to Spain along the Mondego—so I learnt from the watch at the
“How came they to open for him?”
“His office, lord, is a key that opens all doors at any hour of day
or night. They dared not detain or delay him.”
“Ha!” grunted the Infante. “We will go after him, then.” And he made
haste to complete his dressing. Then he buckled on his great sword, and
In the courtyard of the alcazar, he summoned Sancho Nunes and a
half-dozen men-at-arms to attend him, mounted a charger and with Emigio
Moniz at his side and the others following, he rode out across the
draw-bridge into the open space that was thronged with the clamant
inhabitants of the stricken city.
A great cry went up when he showed himself—a mighty appeal to him
for mercy and the remission of the curse. Then silence fell, a silence
that invited him to answer and give comfort.
He reined in his horse, and standing in his stirrups very tall and
virile, he addressed them.
“People of Coimbra,” he announced, “I go to obtain this city's
absolution from the ban that has been laid upon it. I shall return
before sunset. Till then do you keep the peace.”
The voice of the multitude was raised again, this time to hail him
as the father and protector of the Portuguese, and to invoke the
blessing of Heaven upon his handsome head.
Riding between Moniz and Nunes, and followed by his glittering
men-at-arms, he crossed the city and took the road along the river by
which it was known that the legate had departed. All that morning they
rode briskly amain, the Infante fasting, as he had risen, yet
unconscious of hunger and of all else but the purpose that was
consuming him. He rode in utter silence, his face set, his brows stern;
and Moniz, watching him furtively the while, wondered what thoughts
were stirring in that rash, impetuous young brain, and was afraid.
Towards noon at last they overtook the legate's party. They espied
his mule-litter at the door of an inn in a little village some ten
miles beyond the foothills of the Bussaco range. The Infante reined up
sharply, a hoarse, fierce cry escaping him, akin to that of some
creature of the wild when it espies its prey.
Moniz put forth a hand to seize his arm.
“My lord, my lord,” he cried, fearfully. “What is your purpose?”
The prince looked him between the eyes, and his lips curled in a
smile that was not altogether sweet.
“I am going to beg Cardinal Corrado to have compassion on me,” he
answered, subtly mocking, and on that he swung down from his horse, and
tossed the reins to a man-at-arms.
Into the inn he clanked, Moniz and Nunes following closely. He
thrust aside the vinter who, not knowing him, would have hindered him,
great lord though he seemed, from disturbing the holy guest who was
honouring the house. He strode on, and into the room where the Cardinal
with his noble nephews sat at dinner.
At sight of him, fearing violence, Giannino and Pierluigi came
instantly to their feet, their hands upon their daggers. But Cardinal
da Corrado sat unmoved. He looked up, a smile of ineffable gentleness
upon his ascetic face.
“I had hoped that you would come after me, my son,” he said. “If you
come a penitent, then has my prayer been heard.”
“A penitent!” cried Affonso Henriques. He laughed wickedly, and
plucked his dagger from its sheath.
Sancho Nunes, in terror, set a detaining hand upon his prince's arm.
“My lord,” he cried in a voice that shook, “you will not strike the
Lord's anointed—that were to destroy yourself for ever.”
“A curse,” said Affonso Henriques, “perishes with him that uttered
it.” He could reason loosely, you see, this hot-blooded, impetuous
young cutter of Gordian knots. “And it imports above all else that the
curse should be lifted from my city of Coimbra.”
“It shall be, my son, as soon as you show penitence and a Christian
submission to the Holy Father's will,” said the undaunted Cardinal.
“God give me patience with you,” Affonso Henriques answered him.
“Listen to me now, lord Cardinal.” And he leaned forward on his dagger,
burying the point of it some inches into the deal table. “That you
should punish me with the weapons of the Faith for the sins that you
allege against me I can understand and suffer. There is reason in that,
perhaps. But will you tell me what reasons there can be in punishing a
whole city for an offence which, if it exists at all, is mine
alone?—and in punishing it by a curse so terrible that all the
consolations of religion are denied those true children of Mother
Church, that no priestly office may be performed within the city, that
men and women may not approach the altars of the Faith, that they must
die unshriven with their sins upon them, and so be damned through all
eternity? Where is the reason that urges this?”
The cardinal's smile had changed from one of benignity to one of
“Why, I will answer you. Out of their terror they will be moved to
revolt against you, unless you relieve them of the ban. Thus, Lord
Prince, I hold you in check. You make submission or else you are
Affonso Henriques considered him a moment. “You answer me indeed,”
said he, and then his voice swelled up in denunciation. “But this is
statecraft, not religion. And when a prince has no statecraft to match
that which is opposed to him, do you know what follows? He has recourse
to force, Lord Cardinal. You compel me to it; upon your own head the
The legate almost sneered. “What is the force of your poor lethal
weapons compared with the spiritual power I wield? Do you threaten me
with death? Do you think I fear it?” He rose in a surge of sudden
wrath, and tore open his scarlet robe. “Strike here with your poniard.
I wear no mail. Strike if you dare, and by the sacrilegious blow
destroy yourself in this world and the next.”
The Infante considered him. Slowly he sheathed his dagger, smiling a
little. Then he beat his hands together. His men-at-arms came in.
“Seize me those two Roman whelps,” he commanded, and pointed to
Giannino and Pierlulgi. “Seize them, and make them fast. About it!”
“Lord Prince!” cried the legate in a voice of appeal, wherein fear
and anger trembled.
It was the note of fear that heartened Affonso Henriques. “About
it!” he cried again, though needlessly, for already his men-at-arms
were at grips with the Cardinal's nephews. In a trice the kicking,
biting, swearing pair were overpowered, deprived of arms, and pinioned.
The men looked to their prince for further orders. In the background
Moniz and Nunes witnessed all with troubled countenances, whilst the
Cardinal, beyond the table, white to the lips, demanded in a quavering
voice to know what violence was intended, implored the Infante to
consider, and in the same breath threatened him with dread consequences
of this affront.
Affonso Henriques, unmoved, pointed through the window to a stalwart
oak that stood before the inn.
“Take them out there, and hang them unshriven,” he commanded.
The Cardinal swayed, and almost fell forward. He clutched the table,
speechless with terror for those lads who were as the very apple of his
eye, he who so fearlessly had bared his own breast to the steel.
The two comely Italian youths were dragged out writhing in their
At last the half-swooning legate found his voice. “Lord Prince,” he
gasped. “Lord Prince . . . you cannot do this infamy! You cannot! I
warn you that . . . that. . .” The threat perished unuttered, slain by
mounting terror. “Mercy! Have mercy, lord! as you hope for mercy!”
“What mercy do you practice, you who preach a gospe of mercy in the
world, and cry for mercy now?” the Infante asked him.
“But this is an infamy! What harm have those poor children done?
What concern is it of theirs that I have offended you in performing my
Swift into that opening flashed the home-thrust of the Infante's
“What harm have my people of Coimbra done? What concern is it of
theirs that I have offended you? Yet to master me you did not hesitate
to strike at them with the spiritual weapons that are yours. To master
you I do not hesitate to strike at your nephews with the lethal weapons
that are mine. When you shall have seen them hang you will understand
the things that argument could not make clear to you. In the vileness
of my act you will see a reflection of the vileness of your own, and
perhaps your heart will be touched, your monstrous pride abated.”
Outside, under the tree, the figures of the men-at-arms were moving.
Expeditiously, and with indifference, they went about the preparations
for the task entrusted to them.
The Cardinal writhed, and fought for breath. “Lord Prince, this must
not be!” He stretched forth supplicating hands. “Lord Prince, you must
release my nephews.”
“Lord Cardinal, you must absolve my people.”
“If . . . if you will first make submission. My duty . . . to the
Holy See . . . Oh God! Will nothing move you?”
“When they have been hanged you will understand, and out of your own
affliction learn compassion.” The Infante's voice was so cold, his mien
so resolute that the legate despaired of conquering his purpose.
Abruptly he capitulated, even as the halters went about the necks of
his two cherished lads.
“Stop!” he screamed. “Bid them stop! The curse shall be lifted.”
Affonso Henriques opened the window with a leisureliness which to
the legate seemed to belong to the realm of nightmare.
“Wait yet a moment,” the Infante called to those outside, about whom
by now a little knot of awe-stricken villagers had gathered. Then he
turned again to Cardinal Corrado, who had sunk to his chair like a man
exhausted, and sat now panting, his elbows on the table, his head in
his hands. “Here,” said the prince, “are the terms upon which you may
have their lives: Complete absolution, and Apostolic benediction for my
people and myself this very night, I on my side making submission to
the Holy Father's will to the extent of releasing my mother from
duress, with the condition that she leaves Portugal at once and does
not return. As for the banished bishop and his successor, matters must
remain as they are; but you can satisfy your conscience on that score
by yourself confirming the appointment of Don Zuleyman. Come, my lord,
I am being generous, I think. In the enlargement of my mother I afford
you the means of satisfying Rome. If you have learnt your lesson from
what I here proposed, your conscience should satisfy you of the rest.”
“Be it so,” the Cardinal answered hoarsely. “I will return with you
to Coimbra and do your will.”
Thereupon, without any tinge of mockery, but in completest sincerity
in token that the feud between them was now completely healed, Affonso
Henriques went down upon his knees, like the true and humble son of
Holy Church he accounted himself, to ask a blessing at the Cardinal's
II. THE FALSE DEMETRIUS. Boris
Godunov and the Pretended Son of Ivan the Terrible
The news of it first reached him whilst he sat at supper in the
great hall of his palace in the Kremlin. It came at a time when already
there was enough to distract his mind; for although the table before
him was spread and equipped as became an emperor's, the gaunt spectre
of famine stalked outside in the streets of Moscow, and men and women
were so reduced by it that cannibalism was alleged to be breaking out
Alone, save for the ministering pages, sat Boris Godunov under the
iron lamps that made of the table, with its white napery and vessels of
gold and silver plate, an island of light in the gloom of that vast
apartment. The air was fragrant with the scent of burning pine, for
although the time of year was May, the nights were chill, and a great
log-fire was blazing on the distant hearth. To him, as he sat there,
came his trusted Basmanov with those tidings which startled him at
first, seeming to herald that at last the sword of Nemesis was swung
above his sinful head.
Basmanov, a flush tinting the prominent cheek-bones of his sallow
face, an excited glitter in his long eyes, began by ordering the pages
out of earshot, then leaning forward quickly muttered forth his news.
At the first words of it, the Tsar's knife clashed into his golden
platter, and his short, powerful hands clutched the carved arms of his
great gilded chair. Quickly he controlled himself, and then as he
continued to listen he was moved to scorn, and a faint smile began to
stir under his grizzled beard.
A man had appeared in Poland—such was the burden of Basmanov's
story—coming none knew exactly whence, who claimed to be Demetrius,
the son of Ivan Vassielivitch, and lawful Tsar of Russia—Demetrius,
who was believed to have died at Uglich ten years ago, and whose
remains lay buried in Moscow, in the Church of St. Michael. This man
had found shelter in Lithuania, in the house of Prince Wisniowiecki,
and thither the nobles of Poland were now flocking to do him homage,
acknowledging him the son of Ivan the Terrible. He was said to be the
living image of the dead Tsar, save that he was swarthy and
black-haired, like the dowager Tsarina, and there were two warts on his
face, such as it was remembered had disfigured the countenance of the
Thus Basmanov, adding that he had dispatched a messenger into
Lithuania to obtain more precise confirmation of the story. That
messenger—chosen in consequence of something else that Basmanov had
been told—was Smirnoy Otrepiev.
The Tsar Boris sat back in his chair, his eyes on the gem encrusted
goblet, the stem of which his fingers were mechanically turning. There
was now no vestige of the smile on his round white face. It had grown
set and thoughtful.
“Find Prince Shuiski,” he said presently, “and send him to me here.”
Upon the tale the boyar had brought him he offered now no comment.
“We will talk of this again, Basmanov,” was all he said in
acknowledgment that he had heard, and in dismissal.
But when the boyar had gone, Boris Godunov heaved himself to his
feet, and strode over to the fire, his great head sunk between his
massive shoulders. He was a short, thick-set, bow-legged man, inclining
to corpulence. He set a foot, shod in red leather reversed with ermine,
upon an andiron, and, leaning an elbow on the carved overmantel, rested
his brow against his hand. His eyes stared into the very heart of the
fire, as if they beheld there the pageant of the past, upon which his
mind was bent.
Nineteen years were sped since Ivan the Terrible had passed away,
leaving two sons, Feodor Ivanovitch, who had succeeded him, and the
infant Demetrius. Feodor, a weakling who was almost imbecile, had
married Irene, the daughter of Boris Godunov, whereby it had fallen out
that Boris became the real ruler of Russia, the power behind the
throne. But his insatiable ambition coveted still more. He must wear
the crown as well as wield the sceptre; and this could not be until the
Ruric dynasty which had ruled Russia for nearly seven centuries should
be stamped out. Between himself and the throne stood his daughter's
husband and their child, and the boy Demetrius, who had been dispatched
with his mother, the dowager Tsarina, to Uglich. The three must be
Boris began with the last, and sought at first to drive him out of
the succession without bloodshed. He attempted to have him pronounced
illegitimate, on the ground that he was the son of Ivan's seventh wife
(the orthodox Church recognizing no wife as legitimate beyond the
third). But in this he failed. The memory of the terrible Tsar, the
fear of him, was still alive in superstitious Russia, and none dared to
dishonour his son. So Boris had recourse to other and surer means. He
dispatched his agents to Uglich, and presently there came thence a
story that the boy, whilst playing with a knife, had been taken with a
fit of epilepsy, and had fallen, running the blade into his throat. But
it was not a story that could carry conviction to the Muscovites, since
with it came the news that the town of Uglich had risen against the
emissaries of Boris, charging them with the murder of the boy, and
killing them out of hand.
Terrible had been the vengeance which Boris had exacted. Of the
luckless inhabitants of the town two hundred were put to death by his
orders, and the rest sent into banishment beyond the Ural Mountains,
whilst the Tsarina Maria, Demetrius's mother, for having said that her
boy was murdered at the instigation of Boris, was packed off to a
convent, and had remained there ever since in close confinement.
That had been in 1591. The next to go was Feodor's infant son, and
lastly—in 1598—Feodor himself, succumbing to a mysterious illness,
and leaving Boris a clear path to the throne. But he ascended it under
the burden of his daughter's curse. Feodor's widow had boldly faced her
father, boldly accused him of poisoning her husband to gratify his
remorseless ambitions, and on a passionate appeal to God to let it be
done by him as he had done by others she had departed to a convent,
swearing never to set eyes upon him again.
The thought of her was with him now, as he stood there looking into
the heart of the fire; and perhaps it was the memory of her curse that
turned his stout heart to water, and made him afraid where there could
surely be no cause for fear. For five years now had he been Tsar of
Russia, and in these five years he had taken such a grip of power as
was not lightly to be loosened.
Long he stood there, and there he was found by the magnificent
Prince Shuiski, whom he had bidden Basmanov to summon.
“You went to Uglich when the Tsarevitch Demetrius was slain,” said
Boris. His voice and mien were calm and normal. “Yourself you saw the
body. There is no possibility that you could have been mistaken in it?”
“Mistaken?” The boyar was taken aback by the question. He was a tall
man, considerably younger than Boris, who was in his fiftieth year. His
face was lean and saturnine, and there was something sinister in the
dark, close-set eyes under a single, heavy line of eyebrow.
Boris explained his question, telling him what he had learnt from
Basmanov. Basil Shuiski laughed. The story was an absurd one. Demetrius
was dead. Himself he had held the body in his arms, and no mistake was
Despite himself, a sigh of relief fluttered from the lips of Boris.
Shuiski was right. It was an absurd story, this. There was nothing to
fear. He had been a fool to have trembled for a moment.
Nevertheless, in the weeks that followed, he brooded more and more
over all that Basmanov had said. It was in the thought that the
nobility of Poland was flocking to the house of Wisniowiecki to do
honour to this false son of Ivan the Terrible, that Boris found the
chief cause of uneasiness. There was famine in Moscow, and empty
bellies do not make for loyalty. Then, too, the Muscovite nobles did
not love him. He had ruled too sternly, and had curbed their power.
There were men like Basil Shuiski who knew too much—greedy, ambitious
men, who might turn their knowledge to evil account. The moment might
be propitious to the pretender, however false his claim. Therefore
Boris dispatched a messenger to Wisniowiecki with the offer of a heavy
bribe if he would yield up the person of this false Demetrius.
But that messenger returned empty-handed. He had reached Bragin too
late. The pretender had already left the place, and was safely lodged
in the castle of George Mniszek, the Palatine of Sandomir, to whose
daughter Maryna he was betrothed. If these were ill tidings for Boris,
there were worse to follow soon. Within a few months he learned from
Sandomir that Demetrius had removed to Cracow, and that there he had
been publicly acknowledged by Sigismund III. of Poland as the son of
Ivan Vassielivitch, the rightful heir to the crown of Russia. He heard,
too, the story upon which this belief was founded. Demetrius had
declared that one of the agents employed by Boris Godunov to procure
his murder at Uglich had bribed his physician Simon to perform the
deed. Simon had pretended to agree as the only means of saving him. He
had dressed the son of a serf, who slightly resembled Demetrius, in
garments similar to those worn by the young prince, and thereafter cut
the lad's throat, leaving those who had found the body to presume it to
be the prince's. Meanwhile, Demetrius himself had been concealed by the
physician, and very shortly thereafter carried away from Uglich, to be
placed in safety in a monastery, where he had been educated.
Such, in brief, was the story with which Demetrius convinced the
court of Poland, and not a few who had known the boy at Uglich came
forward now to identify with him the grown man, who carried in his face
so strong a resemblance to Ivan the Terrible. That story which Boris
now heard was soon heard by all Russia, and Boris realized that
something must be done to refute it.
But something more than assurances—his own assurances—were
necessary if the Muscovites were to believe him. And so at last Boris
bethought him of the Tsarina Maria, the mother of the murdered boy. He
had her fetched to Moscow from her convent, and told her of this
pretender who was setting up a claim to the throne of Russia, supported
by the King of Poland.
She listened impassively, standing before him in the black robes and
conventual coif which his tyranny had imposed upon her. When he had
done, a faint smile swept over the face that had grown so hard in these
last twelve years since that day when her boy had been slain almost
under her very eyes.
“It is a circumstantial tale,” she said. “It is perhaps true. It is
“True!” He bounded from his seat. “True? What are you saying, woman?
Yourself you saw the boy dead.”
“I did, and I know who killed him.”
“But you saw him. You recognized him for your own, since you set the
people on to kill those whom you believed had slain him.”
“Yes,” she answered. And added the question: “What do you want of me
“What do I want?” He was amazed that she should ask, exasperated.
Had the conventual confinement turned her head? “I want your testimony.
I want you to denounce this fellow for the impostor that he is. The
people will believe you.”
“You think they will?” Interest had kindled in her glance.
“What else? Are you not the mother of Demetrius, and shall not a
mother know her own son?”
“You forget. He was ten years of age then—a child. Now he is a
grown man of three-and-twenty. How can I be sure? How can I be sure of
He swore a full round oath at her. “Because you saw him dead.”
“Yet I may have been mistaken. I thought I knew the agents of yours
who killed him. Yet you made me swear—as the price of my brothers'
lives—that I was mistaken. Perhaps I was more mistaken than we
thought. Perhaps my little Demetrius was not slain at all. Perhaps this
man's tale is true.”
“Perhaps . . .” He broke off to stare at her, mistrustfully,
searchingly. “What do you mean?” he asked her sharply.
Again that wan smile crossed the hard, sharp-featured face that once
had been so lovely. “I mean that if the devil came out of hell and
called himself my son, I should acknowledge him to your undoing.”
Thus the pent-up hate and bitterness of years of brooding upon her
wrongs broke forth. Taken aback, he quailed before it. His jaw dropped
foolishly, and he stared at her with wide, unblinking eyes.
“The people will believe me, you say—they will believe that a
mother should know her own son. Then are your hours of usurpation
If for a moment it appalled him, yet in the end, forewarned, he was
forearmed. It was foolish of her to let him look upon the weapon with
which she could destroy him. The result of it was that she went back to
her convent under close guard, and was thereafter confined with greater
rigour than hitherto.
Desperately Boris heard how the belief in Demetrius was gaining
ground in Russia with the people. The nobles might still be sceptical,
but Boris knew that he could not trust them, since they had no cause to
love him. He began perhaps to realize that it is not good to rule by
And then at last came Smirnoy Otrepiev back from Cracow, where he
had been sent by Basmanov to obtain with his own eyes confirmation of
the rumour which had reached the boyar on the score of the pretender's
The rumour, he declared, was right. The false Demetrius was none
other than his own nephew, Grishka Otrepiev, who had once been a monk,
but, unfrocked, had embraced the Roman heresy, and had abandoned
himself to licentious ways. You realize now why Smirnoy had been chosen
by Basmanov for this particular mission.
The news heartened Boris. At last he could denounce the impostor in
proper terms, and denounce him he did. He sent an envoy to Sigismund
III. to proclaim the fellow's true identity, and to demand his
expulsion from the Kingdom of Poland; and his denunciation was
supported by a solemn excommunication pronounced by the Patriarch of
Moscow against the unfrocked monk, Grishka Otrepiev, who now falsely
called himself Demetrius Ivanovitch.
But the denunciation did not carry the conviction that Boris
expected. It was reported that the Tsarevitch was a courtly,
accomplished man, speaking Polish and Latin, as well as Russian,
skilled in horsemanship and in the use of arms, and it was asked how an
unfrocked monk had come by these accomplishments. Moreover, although
Boris, fore-warned, had prevented the Tsarina Maria from supporting the
pretender out of motives of revenge, he had forgotten her two brothers;
he had not foreseen that, actuated by the same motives, they might do
that which he had prevented her from doing. This was what occurred. The
brothers Nagoy repaired to Cracow publicly to acknowledge Demetrius
their nephew, and to enrol themselves under his banner.
Against this Boris realized that mere words were useless. The sword
of Nemesis was drawn indeed. His sins had found him out. Nothing
remained him but to arm and go forth to meet the impostor, who was
advancing upon Moscow with a great host of Poles and Cossacks.
He appraised the support of the Nagoys at its right value. They,
too, had been at Uglich, and had seen the dead boy, almost seen him
slain. Vengeance upon himself was their sole motive. But was it
possible that Sigismund of Poland was really deceived, as well as the
Palatine of Sandomir, whose daughter was betrothed to the adventurer,
Prince Adam Wisniowiecki, in whose house the false Demetrius had first
made his appearance, and all those Polish nobles who flocked to his
banner? Or were they, too, moved by some ulterior motive which he could
That was the riddle that plagued Boris Godunov what time—in the
winter of 1604—he sent his armies to meet the invader. He sent them
because, crippled now by gout, even the satisfaction of leading them
was denied him. He was forced to stay at home in the gloomy apartments
of the Kremlin, fretted by care, with the ghosts of his evil past to
keep him company, and assure him that the hour of judgment was at hand.
With deepening rage he heard how town after town capitulated to the
adventurer, and mistrusting Basmanov, who was in command, he sent
Shuiski to replace him. In January of 1605 the armies met at
Dobrinichi, and Demetrius suffered a severe defeat, which compelled him
to fall back on Putioli. He lost all his infantry, and every Russian
taken in arms on the pretender's side was remorselessly hanged as Boris
Hope began to revive in the heart of Boris; but as months passed and
no decision came, those hopes faded again, and the canker of the past
gnawed at his vitals and sapped his strength. And then there was ever
present to his mind the nightmare riddle of the pretender's identity.
At last, one evening in April, he sent for Smirnoy Otrepiev to question
him again concerning that nephew of his. Otrepiev came in fear this
time. It is not good to be the uncle of a man who is giving so much
trouble to a great prince.
Boris glared at him from blood-injected eyes. His round, white face
was haggard, his cheeks sagged, and his fleshly body had lost all its
erstwhile firm vigour.
“I have sent for you to question you again,” he said, “touching this
lewd nephew of yours, this Grishka Otrepiev, this unfrocked monk, who
claims to be Tsar of Muscovy. Are you sure, man, that you have made no
mistake—are you sure?”
Otrepiev was shaken by the Tsar's manner, by the ferocity of his
mien. But he made answer: “Alas, Highness! I could not be mistaken. I
Boris grunted, and moved his body irritably in his chair. His
terrible eyes watched Otrepiev mistrustfully. He had reached the mental
stage in which he mistrusted everything and everybody.
“You lie, you dog,” he snarled savagely.
“Highness, I swear . . .”
“Lies!” Boris roared him down. “And here's the proof. Would
Sigismund of Poland have acknowledged him had he been what you say?
When I denounced him the unfrocked monk Grishka Otrepiev, would not
Sigismund have verified the statement had it been true?”
“The brothers Nagoy, the uncles of the dead Demetrius . . .”
Otrepiev was beginning, when again Boris interrupted him.
“Their acknowledgment of him came after Sigismund's, after—long
after—my denunciation.” He broke into oaths. “I say you lie. Will you
stand there and pelter with me, man? Will you wait until the rack pulls
you joint from joint before you speak the truth?”
“Highness!” cried Otrepiev, “I have served you faithfully these
“The truth, man; as you hope for life,” thundered the Tsar, “the
whole truth of this foul nephew of yours, if so be he is your nephew.”
And Otrepiev spoke the whole truth at last in his great dread. “He
is not my nephew.”
“Not?” It was a roar of rage. “You dared lie to me?”
Otrepiev's knees were loosened by terror, and he went down upon them
before the irate Tsar.
“I did not lie—not altogether. I told you a half-truth, Highness.
His name is Grishka Otrepiev; it is the name by which he always has
been known, and he is an unfrocked monk, all as I said, and the son of
my brother's wife.”
“Then . . . then . . .” Boris was bewildered. Suddenly he
understood. “And his father?”
“Was Stephen Bathory, King of Poland. Grishka Otrepiev is King
Stephen's natural son.”
Boris seemed to fight for breath for a moment.
“This is true?” he asked, and himself answered the question. “Of
course it is true. It is the light at last . . . at last. You may go.”
Otrepiev stumbled out, thankful, surprised to escape so lightly. He
could not know of how little account to Boris was the deception he had
practiced in comparison with the truth he had now revealed, a truth
that shed a fearful, dazzling light upon the dark mystery of the false
Demetrius. The problem that so long had plagued the Tsar was solved at
This pretended Demetrius, this unfrocked monk, was a natural son of
Stephen Bathory, and a Roman Catholic. Such men as Sigismund of Poland
and the Voyvode of Sandomir were not deceived on the score of his
identity. They, and no doubt other of the leading nobles of Poland,
knew the man for what he was, and because of it supported him, using
the fiction of his being Demetrius Ivanovitch to impose upon the
masses, and facilitate the pretenders occupation of the throne of
Russia. And the object of it was to set up in Muscovy a ruler who
should be a Pole and a Roman Catholic. Boris knew the bigotry of
Sigismund, who already had sacrificed a throne—that of Sweden—to his
devout conscience, and he saw clearly to the heart of this intrigue.
Had he not heard that a Papal Nuncio had been at Cracow, and that this
Nuncio had been a stout supporter of the pretender's claim? What could
be the Pope's concern in the Muscovite succession? Why should a Roman
priest support the claim of a prince to the throne of a country devoted
to the Greek faith?
At last all was clear indeed to Boris. Rome was at the bottom of
this business, whose true aim was the Romanization of Russia; and
Sigismund had fetched Rome into it, had set Rome on. Himself an elected
King of Poland, Sigismund may have seen in the ambitious son of Stephen
Bathory one who might perhaps supplant him on the Polish throne. To
divert his ambition into another channel he had fathered—if he had not
invented—this fiction that the pretender was the dead Demetrius.
Had that fool Smirnoy Otrepiev but dealt frankly with him from the
first, what months of annoyance might he not have been spared; how easy
it might have been to prick this bubble of imposture. But better late
than never. To-morrow he would publish the true facts, and all the
world should know the truth; and it was a truth that must give pause to
those fools in this superstitious Russia, so devoted to the Orthodox
Greek Church, who favoured the pretender. They should see the trap that
was being baited for them.
There was a banquet in the Kremlin that night to certain foreign
envoys, and Boris came to table in better spirits than he had been for
many a day. He was heartened by the thought of what was now to do, by
the conviction that he held the false Demetrius in the hollow of his
hand. There to those envoys he would announce to-night what to-morrow
he would announce to all Russia—tell them of the discovery he had
made, and reveal to his subjects the peril in which they stood. Towards
the close of the banquet he rose to address his guests, announcing that
he had an important communication for them. In silence they waited for
him to speak. And then, abruptly, with no word yet spoken, he sank back
into his chair, fighting for breath, clawing the air, his face
empurpling until suddenly the blood gushed copiously from his mouth and
He was vouchsafed time in which to strip off his splendid apparel
and wrap himself in a monk's robe, thus symbolizing the putting aside
of earthly vanities, and then he expired.
It has been now and then suggested that he was poisoned. His death
was certainly most opportune to Demetrius. But there is nothing in the
manner of it to justify the opinion that it resulted from anything
other than an apoplexy.
His death brought the sinister opportunist Shuiski back to Moscow to
place Boris's son Feodor on the throne. But the reign of this lad of
sixteen was very brief. Basmanov, who had gone back to the army, being
now inspired by jealousy and fear of the ambitious Shuiski, went over
at once to the pretender, and proclaimed him Tsar of Russia. Thereafter
events moved swiftly. Basmanov marched on Moscow, entered it in
triumph, and again proclaimed Demetrius, whereupon the people rose in
revolt against the son of the usurper Boris, stormed the Kremlin, and
strangled the boy and his mother.
Basil Shuiski would have shared their fate had he not bought his
life at the price of betrayal. Publicly he declared to the Muscovites
that the boy whose body he had seen at Uglich was not that of
Demetrius, but of a peasant's son, who had been murdered in his stead.
That statement cleared the last obstacle from the pretender's path,
and he advanced now to take possession of his throne. Yet before he
occupied it, he showed the real principles that actuated him, proved
how true had been Boris's conclusion. He ordered the arrest and
degradation of the Patriarch who had denounced and excommunicated him,
and in his place appointed Ignatius, Bishop of Riazan, a man suspected
of belonging to the Roman communion.
On the 30th of June of that year 1605, Demetrius made his triumphal
entry into Moscow. He went to prostrate himself before the tomb of Ivan
the Terrible, and then to visit the Tsarina Maria, who, after a brief
communion with him in private, came forth publicly to acknowledge him
as her son.
Just as Shuiski had purchased his life by a falsehood, so did she
purchase her enlargement from that convent where so long she had been a
prisoner, and restoration to the rank that was her proper due. After
all, she had cause for gratitude to Demetrius, who, in addition to
restoring her these things, had avenged her upon the hated Boris
His coronation followed in due season, and at last this amazing
adventurer found himself firmly seated upon the throne of Russia, with
Basmanov at his right hand to help and guide him. And at first all went
well, and the young Tsar earned a certain measure of popularity. If his
swarthy face was coarse-featured, yet his bearing was so courtly and
gracious that he won his way quickly to the hearts of his people. For
the rest he was of a tall, graceful figure, a fine horseman, and of a
knightly address at arms.
But he soon found himself in the impossible position of having to
serve two masters. On the one hand there was Russia, and the orthodox
Russians whose tsar he was, and on the other there were the Poles, who
had made him so at a price, and who now demanded payment. Because he
saw that this payment would be difficult and fraught with peril to
himself he would—after the common wont of princes who have attained
their objects—have repudiated the debt. And so he was disposed to
ignore, or at least to evade, the persistent reminders that reached him
from the Papal Nuncio, to whom he had promised the introduction into
Russia of the Roman faith.
But presently came a letter from Sigismund couched in different
terms. The King of Poland wrote to Demetrius that word had reached him
that Boris Godunov was still alive, and that he had taken refuge in
England, adding that he might be tempted to restore the fugitive to the
throne of Muscovy.
The threat contained in that bitter piece of sarcasm aroused
Demetrius to a sense of the responsibilities he had undertaken, which
were precisely as Boris Godunov had surmised. As a beginning he granted
the Jesuits permission to build a church within the sacred walls of the
Kremlin, whereby he gave great scandal. Soon followed other signs that
he was not a true son of the Orthodox Greek Church; he gave offence by
his indifference to public worship, by his neglect of Russian customs,
and by surrounding himself with Roman Catholic Poles, upon whom he
conferred high offices and dignities.
And there were those at hand ready to stir up public feeling against
him, resentful boyars quick to suspect that perhaps they had been
swindled. Foremost among these was the sinister turncoat Shuiski, who
had not derived from his perjury all the profit he expected, who
resented, above all, to see Basmanov—who had ever been his
rival—invested with a power second only to that of the Tsar himself.
Shuiski, skilled in intrigue, went to work in his underground,
burrowing fashion. He wrought upon the clergy, who in their turn
wrought upon the populace, and presently all was seething disaffection
under a surface apparently calm.
The eruption came in the following May, when Maryna, the daughter of
the Palatine of Sandomir, made her splendid entry into Moscow, the
bride-elect of the young Tsar. The dazzling procession and the feasting
that followed found little favour in the eyes of the Muscovites, who
now beheld their city aswarm with heretic Poles.
The marriage was magnificently solemnized on the 18th of May, 1606.
And now Shuiski applied a match to the train he had so skilfully laid.
Demetrius had caused a timber fort to be built before the walls of
Moscow for a martial spectacle which he had planned for the
entertainment of his bride. Shuiski put it abroad that the fort was
intended to serve as an engine of destruction, and that the martial
spectacle was a pretence, the real object being that from the fort the
Poles were to cast firebrands into the city, and then proceed to the
slaughter of the inhabitants.
No more was necessary to infuriate an already exasperated populace.
They flew to arms, and on the night of the 29th of May they stormed the
Kremlin, led on by the arch-traitor Shuiski himself, to the cry of
“Death to the heretic! Death to the impostor!”
They broke into the palace, and swarmed up the stairs into the
Tsar's bedchamber, slaying the faithful Basmanov, who stood sword in
hand to bar the way and give his master time to escape. The Tsar leapt
from a balcony thirty feet to the ground, broke his leg, and lay there
helpless, to be dispatched by his enemies, who presently discovered
He died firmly and fearlessly protesting that he was Demetrius
Ivanovitch. nevertheless, he was Grishka Otrepiev, the unfrocked monk.
It has been said that he was no more than an instrument in the hands
of priestcraft, and that because he played his part badly he met his
doom. But something more he was. He was an instrument indeed, not of
priestcraft, but of Fate, to bring home to Boris Godunov the hideous
sins that stained his soul, and to avenge his victims by personating
one of them. In that personation he had haunted Boris as effectively as
if he had been the very ghost of the boy murdered at Uglich, haunted
and tortured, and finally broken him so that he died.
That was the part assigned him by Fate in the mysterious scheme of
human things. And that part being played, the rest mattered little. In
the nature of him and of his position it was impossible that his
imposture should be other than ephemeral.
III. THE HERMOSA FEMBRA. An Eposode
of the Inquisition in Seville
Apprehension hung like a thundercloud over the city of Seville in
those early days of the year 1481. It had been growing since the
previous October, when the Cardinal of Spain and Frey Tomas de
Torquemada, acting jointly on behalf of the Sovereigns—Ferdinand and
Isabella—had appointed the first inquisitors for Castile, ordering
them to set up a Tribunal of the Faith in Seville, to deal with the
apostatizing said to be rampant among the New- Christians, or baptized
Jews, who made up so large a proportion of the population.
Among the many oppressive Spanish enactments against the Children of
Israel, it was prescribed that all should wear the distinguishing
circlet of red cloth on the shoulder of their gabardines; that they
should reside within the walled confines of their ghettos and never be
found beyond them after nightfall, and that they should not practice as
doctors, surgeons, apothecaries, or innkeepers. The desire to
emancipate themselves from these and other restrictions upon their
commerce with Christians and from the generally intolerable conditions
of bondage and ignominy imposed upon them, had driven many to accept
baptism and embrace Christianity.
But even such New-Christians as were sincere in their professions of
faith failed to find in this baptism the peace they sought. Bitter
racial hostility, though sometimes tempered, was never extinguished by
Hence the alarm with which they viewed the gloomy, funereal,
sinister pageant—the white-robed, black-mantled and hooded
inquisitors, with their attendant familiars and barefoot friars—
headed by a Dominican bearing the white Cross, which invaded the city
of Seville one day towards the end of December and took its way to the
Convent of St. Paul, there to establish the Holy Office of the
Inquisition. The fear of the New-Christians that they were to be the
object of the attentions of this dread tribunal had sufficed to drive
some thousands of them out of the city, to seek refuge in such feudal
lordships as those of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, the Marquis of Cadiz,
and the Count of Arcos.
This exodus had led to the publication by the newly appointed
inquisitors of the edict of 2nd January, in which they set forth that
inasmuch as it had come to their knowledge that many persons had
departed out of Seville in fear of prosecution upon grounds of
heretical pravity, they commanded the nobles of the Kingdom of Castile
that within fifteen days they should make an exact return of the
persons of both sexes who had sought refuge in their lordships or
jurisdictions; that they arrest all these and lodge them in the prison
of the Inquisition in Seville, confiscating their property, and holding
it at the disposal of the inquisitors; that none should shelter any
fugitive under pain of greater excommunication and of other penalties
by law established against abettors of heretics.
The harsh injustice that lay in this call to arrest men and women
merely because they had departed from Seville before departure was in
any way forbidden, revealed the severity with which the inquisitors
intended to proceed. It completed the consternation of the
New-Christians who had remained behind, and how numerous these were may
be gathered from the fact that in the district of Seville alone they
numbered a hundred thousand, many of them occupying, thanks to the
industry and talent characteristic of their race, positions of great
eminence. It even disquieted the well-favoured young Don Rodrigo de
Cardona, who in all his vain, empty, pampered and rather vicious life
had never yet known perturbation. Not that he was a New-Christian. He
was of a lineage that went back to the Visigoths, of purest red
Castilian blood, untainted by any strain of that dark-hued, unclean
fluid alleged to flow in Hebrew veins. But it happened that he was in
love with the daughter of the millionaire Diego de Susan, a girl whose
beauty was so extraordinary that she was known throughout Seville and
for many a mile around as la Hermosa Fembra; and he knew that such
commerce—licit or illicitly conducted—was disapproved by the holy
fathers. His relations with the girl had been perforce clandestine,
because the disapproval of the holy fathers was matched in thoroughness
by that of Diego de Susan. It had been vexatious enough on that account
not to be able to boast himself the favoured of the beautiful and
opulent Isabella de Susan; it was exasperating to discover now a new
and more imperative reason for this odious secrecy.
Never sped a lover to his mistress in a frame of mind more aggrieved
than that which afflicted Don Rodrigo as, tight-wrapped in his black
cloak, he gained the Calle de Ataud on that January night.
Anon, however, when by way of a garden gate and an easily escaladed
balcony he found himself in the presence of Isabella, the delight of
her effaced all other considerations. Her father was from home, as she
had told him in the note that summoned him; he was away at Palacios on
some merchant's errand, and would not return until the morrow. The
servants were all abed, and so Don Rodrigo might put off his cloak and
hat, and lounge at his ease upon the low Moorish divan, what time she
waited upon him with a Saracen goblet filled with sweet wine of Malaga.
The room in which she received him was one set apart for her own use,
her bower, a long, low ceilinged chamber, furnished with luxury and
taste. The walls were hung with tapestries, the floor spread with
costly Eastern rugs; on an inlaid Moorish table a tall, three- beaked
lamp of beaten copper charged with aromatic oil shed light and perfume
through the apartment.
Don Rodrigo sipped his wine, and his dark, hungry eyes followed her
as she moved about him with vaguely voluptuous, almost feline grace.
The wine, the heavy perfume of the lamp, and the beauty of her played
havoc among them with his senses, so that he forgot for the moment his
Castilian lineage and clean Christian blood, forgot that she derived
from the accursed race of the Crucifiers. All that he remembered was
that she was the loveliest woman in Seville, daughter to the wealthiest
man, and in that hour of weakness he decided to convert into reality
that which had hitherto been no more than an infamous presence. He
would loyally fulfil the false, disloyal promises he had made. He would
take her to wife. It was a sacrifice which her beauty and her wealth
should make worth while. Upon that impulse he spoke now, abruptly:
“Isabella, when will you marry me?”
She stood before him, looking down into his weak, handsome face, her
fingers interlacing his own. She merely smiled. The question did not
greatly move her. Not knowing him for the scoundrel that he was,
guessing nothing of the present perturbation of his senses, she found
it very natural that he should ask her to appoint the day.
“It is a question you must ask my father,” she answered him.
“I will,” said he, “to-morrow, on his return.” And he drew her down
But that father was nearer than either of them dreamed. At that very
moment the soft thud of the closing housedoor sounded through the
house. It brought her sharply to her feet, and loose from his coiling
arms, with quickened breath and blanching face. A moment she hung
there, tense, then sped to the door of the room, set it ajar and
Up the stairs came the sound of footsteps and of muttering voices.
It was her father, and others with him.
With ever-mounting fear she turned to Don Rodrigo, and breathed the
question: “If they should come here?”
The Castilian stood where he had risen by the divan, his face paler
now than its pale, aristocratic wont, his eyes reflecting the fear that
glittered in her own. He had no delusion as to what action Diego de
Susan would take upon discovering him. These Jewish dogs were quickly
stirred to passion, and as jealous as their betters of the honour of
their womenfolk. Already Don Rodrigo in imagination saw his clean red
Christian blood bespattering that Hebrew floor, for he had no weapon
save the heavy Toledo dagger at his girdle, and Diego de Susan was not
It was, he felt, a ridiculous position for a Hidalgo of Spain. But
his dignity was to suffer still greater damage. In another moment she
had bundled him into an alcove behind the arras at the chamber's end, a
tiny closet that was no better than a cupboard contrived for the
storing of household linen. She had-moved with a swift precision which
at another time might have provoked his admiration, snatching up his
cloak and hat, and other evidences of his presence, quenching the lamp,
and dragging him to that place of cramped concealment, which she
remained to share with him.
Came presently movements in the room beyond, and the voice of her
“We shall be securest from intrusion here. It is my daughter's room.
If you will give me leave, I will go down again to admit our other
Those other friends, as Don Rodrigo gathered, continued to arrive
for the next half-hour, until in the end there must have been some
twenty of them assembled in that chamber. The mutter of voices had
steadily increased, but so confused that no more than odd words,
affording no clue to the reason of this gathering, had reached the
And then quite suddenly a silence fell, and on that silence beat the
sharp, clear voice of Diego de Susan addressing them.
“My friends,” he said, “I have called you hither that we may concert
measures for the protection of ourselves and all New- Christians in
Seville from the fresh peril by which we are menaced. The edict of the
inquisitors reveals how much we have to fear. You may gather from it
that the court of the Holy Office is hardly likely to deal in justice,
and that the most innocent may find himself at any moment exposed to
its cruel mercies. Therefore it is for us now to consider how to
protect ourselves and our property from the unscrupulous activities of
this tribunal. You are the principal New Christian citizens of Seville;
you are wealthy, not only in property, but also in the goodwill of the
people, who trust and respect, and at need will follow, you. If nothing
less will serve, we must have recourse to arms; and so that we are
resolute and united, my friends, we shall prevail against the
Within the alcove, Don Rodrigo felt his skin roughening with horror
at this speech, which breathed sedition not only against the
Sovereigns, but against the very Church. And with his horror was blent
a certain increase of fear. If his situation had been perilous before,
it was tenfold more dangerous now. Discovery, since he had overheard
this treason, must mean his certain death. And Isabella, realizing the
same to the exclusion of all else, clutched his arm and cowered against
him in the dark.
There was worse to follow. Susan's address was received with a
murmur of applause, and then others spoke, and several were named, and
their presence thus disclosed. There was the influential Manuel Sauli,
who next to Susan was the wealthiest man in Seville; there was
Torralba, the Governor of Triana; Juan Abolafio, the farmer of the
royal customs, and his brother Fernandez, the licentiate, and there
were others—all of them men of substance, some even holding office
under the Crown. Not one was there who dissented from anything that
Susan had said; rather did each contribute some spur to the general
resolve. In the end it was concerted that each of those present should
engage himself to raise a proportion of the men, arms and money that
would be needed for their enterprise. And upon that the meeting was
dissolved, and they departed. Susan himself went with them. He had work
to do in the common cause, he announced, and he would do it that very
night in which it was supposed that he was absent at Palacios.
At last, when all had gone, and the house was still again, Isabella
and her lover crept forth from their concealment, and in the light of
the lamp which Susan had left burning each looked into the other's
white, startled face. So shaken was Don Rodrigo with horror of what he
had overheard, and with the terror of discovery, that it was with
difficulty he kept his teeth from chattering.
“Heaven protect us!” he gasped. “What Judaizing was this?”
“Judaizing!” she echoed. It was the term applied to apostacy, to the
relapse of New-Christians to Judaism, an offense to be expiated at the
stake. “Here was no Judaizing. Are you mad, Rodrigo? You heard no
single word that sinned against the Faith.”
“Did I not? I heard treason enough to.”
“No, nor treason either. You heard honourable, upright men
considering measures of defence against oppression, injustice, and evil
acquisitiveness masquerading in the holy garments of religion.”
He stared askance at her for a moment, then his full lips curled
into a sneer. “Of course you would seek to justify them,” he said. “You
are of that foul brood yourself. But you cannot think to cozen me, who
am of clean Old-christian blood and a true son of Mother Church. These
men plot evil against the Holy Inquisition. Is that not Judaizing when
it is done by Jews?”
She was white to the lips, and a new horror stared at him from her
great dark eyes; her lovely bosom rose and fell in tumult. Yet still
she sought to reason with him.
“They are not Jews—not one of them. Why, Perez is himself in holy
orders. All of them are Christians, and . . .”
“Newly-baptized!” he broke in, sneering viciously. “A defilement of
that holy sacrament to gain them worldly advantages. That is revealed
by what passed here just now. Jews they were born, the sons of Jews,
and Jews they remain under their cloak of mock Christianity, to be
damned as Jews in the end.” He was panting now with fiery indignation;
a holy zeal inflamed this profligate defiler. “God forgive me that ever
I entered here. Yet I do believe that it was His will that I should
come to overhear what is being plotted. Let me depart from hence.”
With a passionate gesture of abhorrence he swung towards the door.
Her clutch upon his arm arrested him.
“Whither do you go?” she asked trim sharply. He looked now into her
eyes, and of all that they contained he saw only fear; he saw nothing
of the hatred into which her love had been transmuted in that moment by
his unsparing insults to herself, her race and her home, by the purpose
which she clearly read in him.
“Whither?” he echoed, and sought to shake her off.
“Whither my Christian duty bids me.”
It was enough for her. Before he could prevent or suspect her
purpose, she had snatched the heavy Toledo blade from his girdle, and
armed with it stood between the door and him.
“A moment, Don Rodrigo. Do not attempt to advance, or, as Heaven
watches us, I strike, and it maybe that I shall kill you. We must talk
awhile before you go.”
Amazed, chapfallen, half-palsied, he stood before her, his fine
religious zeal wiped out by fear of that knife in her weak woman's
hand. Rapidly to-night was she coming into real knowledge of this
Castilian gentleman, whom with pride she had taken for her lover. It
was a knowledge that was to sear her presently with self-loathing and
self-contempt. But for the moment her only consideration was that, as a
direct result of her own wantonness, her father stood in mortal peril.
If he should perish through the deletion of this creature, she would
account herself his slayer.
“You have not considered that the deletion you intend will destroy
my father,” she said quietly.
“There is my Christian duty to consider,” answered he, but without
“Perhaps. But there is something you must set against it. Have you
no duty as a lover—no duty to me?”
“No earthly duty can weigh against a spiritual obligation. . . .”
“Ah, wait! Have patience. You have not well considered, that is
plain. In coming here in secret you wronged my father. You will not
trouble to deny it.
“Jointly we wronged him, you and I. Will you then take advantage of
something learnt whilst you were hiding there like a thief from the
consequences of what you did, and so do him yet this further wrong?”
“Must I wrong my conscience?” he asked her sullenly.
“Indeed, I fear you must.”
“Imperil my immortal soul?” He almost laughed.
“You talk in vain.”
“But I have something more than words for you.” With her left hand
she drew upon the fine gold chain about her neck, and brought forth a
tiny jewelled cross. Passing the chain over her head, she held it out.
“Take this,” she bade him. “Take it, I say. Now, with that sacred
symbol in your hand, make solemn oath to divulge no word of what you
have learnt here tonight, or else resign yourself to an unshriven
death. For either you take that oath, or I rouse the servants and have
you dealt with as one who has intruded here unbidden for an evil end.”
She backed away from him as she spoke, and threw wide the door. Then,
confronting him from the threshold, she admonished him again, her voice
no louder than a whisper. “Quick now! Resolve yourself. Will you die
here with all your sins upon you, and so destroy for all eternity the
immortal soul that urges you to this betrayal, or will you take the
oath that I require?”
He began an argument that was like a sermon of the Faith. But she
cut him short. “For the last time!” she bade him. “Will you decide?”
He chose the coward's part, of course, and did violence tomb fine
conscience. With the cross in his hand he repeated after her the words
of the formidable oath that she administered an oath which it must damn
his immortal soul to break. Because of that, because she imagined that
she had taken the measure of his faith, she returned him his dagger,
and let him go at last. She imagined that she had bound him fast in
irrefragable spiritual bonds.
And even on the morrow, when her father and all those who had been
present at that meeting at Susan's house were arrested by order of the
Holy Office of the Inquisition, she still clung to that belief. Yet
presently a doubt crept in, a doubt that she must at all costs resolve.
And so presently she called for her litter, and had herself carried to
the Convent of St. Paul, where she asked to see Frey Alonso de Ojeda,
the Prior of the Dominicans of Seville.
She was left to wait in a square, cheerless, dimly-lighted room
pervaded by a musty smell, that had for only furniture a couple of
chairs and a praying-stool, and for only ornament a great, gaunt
crucifix hanging upon one of its whitewashed walls.
Thither came presently two Dominican friars. One of these was a
harsh-featured man of middle height and square build, the
uncompromising zealot Ojeda. The other was tall and lean, stooping
slightly at the shoulders, haggard and pale of countenance, with
deep-set, luminous dark eyes, and a tender, wistful mouth. This was the
Queen's confessor, Frey Tomas de Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor of
Castile. He approached her, leaving Ojeda in the background, and stood
a moment regarding her with eyes of infinite kindliness and compassion.
“You are the daughter of that misguided man, Diego de Susan,” he
said, in a gentle voice. “God help and strengthen you, my child,
against the trials that may be in store for you. What do you seek at
our poor hands? Speak, child, without fear.”
“Father,” she faltered, “I come to implore your pity.”
“No need to implore it, child. Should I withhold pity who stand
myself in need of pity, being a sinner—as are we all.”
“It is for my father that I come to beg your mercy.”
“So I supposed.” A shade crossed the gentle, wistful face; the
tender melancholy deepened in the eyes that regarded her. “If your
father is innocent of what has been alleged against him, the benign
tribunal of the Holy Office will bring his innocence to light, and
rejoice therein; if he is guilty, if he has strayed— as we may all
stray unless fortified by heavenly grace—he shall be given the means
of expiation, that his salvation may be assured him.”
She shivered at the words. She knew the mercy in which the
inquisitors dealt, a mercy so spiritual that it took no account of the
temporal agonies inflicted to ensure it.
“My father is innocent of any sin against the Faith,” said she.
“Are you so sure?” croaked the harsh voice of Ojeda, breaking in.
“Consider well. Remember that your duty as a Christian is above your
duty as a daughter.”
Almost had she bluntly demanded the name of her father's accuser,
that thus she might reach the object of her visit. Betimes she checked
the rash impulse, perceiving that subtlety was here required; that a
direct question would close the door to all information. Skilfully,
then, she chose her line of attack.
“I am sure,” she exclaimed, “that he is a more fervent and pious
Christian—New-Christian though he be—than his accuser.”
The wistfulness faded from Torquemada's eyes. They grew keen, as
became the eyes of an inquisitor, the eyes of a sleuth, quick to fasten
on a spoor. But he shook his head.
Ojeda advanced. “That I cannot believe,” said he. “The deletion was
made from a sense of duty so pure that the delator did not hesitate to
confess the sin of his own commission through which he had discovered
the treachery of Don Diego and his associates.”
She could have cried out in anguish at this answer to her unspoken
question. Yet she controlled herself, and that no single doubt should
linger, she thrust boldly home.
“He confessed it?” she cried, seemingly aghast. The friar slowly
nodded. “Don Rodrigo confessed?” she insisted, as will the incredulous.
Abruptly the friar nodded again; and as abruptly checked,
“Don Rodrigo?” he echoed, and asked: “Who mentioned Don Rodrigo?”
But it was too late. His assenting nod had betrayed the truth, had
confirmed her worst fear. She swayed a little; the room swam round her,
she felt as she would swoon. Then blind indignation against that
forsworn betrayer surged to revive her. If it was through her weakness
and undutifulness that her father had been destroyed, through her
strength should he be avenged, though in doing so she pulled down and
“And he confessed to his own sin?” she was repeating slowly, ever on
that musing, incredulous note. “He dared confess himself a Judaizer?”
“A Judaizer!” Sheer horror now overspread the friar's grim
countenance. “A Judaizer! Don Rodrigo? Oh, impossible!”
“But I thought you said he had confessed.”
“Why, yes, but . . . but not to that.” Her pale lips smiled, sadly
“I see. He set limits of prudence upon his confession. He left out
his Judatting practices. He did not tell you, for instance, that this
deletion was an act of revenge against me who refused to marry him,
having discovered his unfaith, and fearing its consequences in this
world and the next.”
Ojeda stared at her in sheer, incredulous amazement.
And then Torquemada spoke: “Do you say that Don Rodrigo de Cardona
is a Judaizer? Oh, it is unbelievable.”
“Yet I could give you evidence that should convince you.”
“Then so you shall. It is your sacred duty, lest you become an
abettor of heresy, and yourself liable to the extreme penalty.”
It would be a half-hour later, perhaps, when she quitted the Convent
of St. Paul to return home, with Hell in her heart, knowing in life no
purpose but that of avenging the parent her folly had destroyed. As she
was being carried past the Alcazar, she espied across the open space a
tall, slim figure in black, in whom she recognized her lover, and
straightway she sent the page who paced beside her litter to call him
to her side. The summons surprised him after what had passed between
them; moreover, considering her father's present condition, he was
reluctant to be seen in attendance upon the beautiful, wealthy Isabella
de Susan. Nevertheless, urged on by curiosity, he went.
Her greeting increased his surprise.
“I am in deep distress, Rodrigo, as you may judge,” she told him
sadly. “You will have heard what has befallen my father?”
He looked at her sharply, yet saw nothing but loveliness rendered
more appealing by sorrow. Clearly she did not suspect him of betrayal;
did not realize that an oath extorted by violence—and an oath,
moreover, to be false to a sacred duty—could not be accounted binding.
“I . . . I heard of it an hour ago,” he lied a thought unsteadily.
“I . . . I commiserate you deeply.”
“I deserve commiseration,” answered she, “and so does my poor
father, and those others. It is plain that amongst those he trusted
there was a traitor, a spy, who went straight from that meeting to
inform against them. If I but had a list it were easy to discover the
betrayer. One need but ascertain who is the one of all who were present
whose arrest has been omitted.” Her lovely sorrowful eyes turned full
upon him. “What is to become of me now, alone in the world?” she asked
him. “My father was my only friend.”
The subtle appeal of her did its work swiftly. Besides, he saw here
a noble opportunity worth surely some little risk.
“Your only friend?” he asked her thickly. “Was there no one else? Is
there no one else, Isabella?”
“There was,” she said, and sighed heavily. “But after what befell
last night, when . . . You know what is in my mind. I was distraught
then, mad with fear for this poor father of mine, so that I could not
even consider his sin in its full heinousness, nor see how righteous
was your intent to inform against him. Yet I am thankful that it was
not by your deletion that he was taken. The thought of that is to-day
my only consolation.”
They had reached her house by now. Don Rodrigo put forth his arm to
assist her to alight from her litter, and begged leave to accompany her
within. But she denied him.
“Not now—though I am grateful to you, Rodrigo. Soon, if you will
come and comfort me, you may. I will send you word when I am more able
to receive you—that is, if I am forgiven for . . .”
“Not another word,” he begged her. “I honour you for what you did.
It is I who should sue to you for forgiveness.”
“You are very noble and generous, Don Rodrigo. God keep you!” And so
she left him.
She had found him—had she but known it—a dejected, miserable man
in the act of reckoning up all that he had lost. In betraying Susan he
had acted upon an impulse that sprang partly from rage, and partly from
a sense of religious duty. In counting later the cost to himself, he
cursed the folly of his rage, and began to wonder if such strict
observance of religious duty was really worth while to a man who had
his way to make in the world. In short, he was in the throes of
reaction. But now, in her unsuspicion, he found his hopes revive. She
need never know. The Holy Office preserved inviolate secrecy on the
score of deletions—since to do otherwise might be to discourage
delators— and there were no confrontations of accuser and accused,
such as took place in temporal courts. Don Rodrigo left the Calle de
Ataud better pleased with the world than he had been since morning.
On the morrow he went openly to visit her; but he was denied, a
servant announcing her indisposed. This fretted him, damped his hopes,
and thereby increased his longing. But on the next day he received from
her a letter which made him the most ample amends:
“Rodrigo,—There is a matter on which we must come early to an
understanding. Should my poor father be convicted of heresy and
sentenced, it follows that his property will be confiscated, since as
the daughter of a convicted heretic I may not inherit. For myself I
care little; but I am concerned for you, Rodrigo, since if in spite of
what has happened you would still wish to make me your wife, as you
declared on Monday, it would be my wish to come to you well cowered.
Now the inheritance which would be confiscated by the Holy Office from
the daughter of a heretic might not be so confiscated from the wife of
a gentleman of Castile. I say no more. Consider this well, and decide
as your heart dictates. I shall receive you to-morrow if you come to
She bade him consider well. But the matter really needed little
consideration. Diego de Susan was sure to go to the fire. His fortune
was estimated at ten million maravedis. That fortune, it seemed,
Rodrigo was given the chance to make his own by marrying the beautiful
Isabella at once, before sentence came to be passed upon her father.
The Holy Office might impose a fine, but would not go further where the
inheritance of a Castilian nobleman of clean lineage was concerned. He
was swayed between admiration of her shrewdness and amazement at his
own good fortune. Also his vanity was immensely flattered.
He sent her three lines to protest his undying love, and his resolve
to marry her upon the morrow, and went next day in person, as she had
bidden him, to carry out the resolve.
She received him in the mansion's best room, a noble chamber
furnished with a richness such as no other house in Seville could have
boasted. She had arrayed herself for the interview with an almost
wanton cunning that should enhance her natural endowments. Her
high-waisted gown, low-cut and close-fitting in the bodice, was of
cloth of gold, edged with miniver at skirt and cuffs and neck. On her
white bosom hung a priceless carcanet of limpid diamonds, and through
the heavy tresses of her bronze-coloured hair was coiled a string of
lustrous pearls. Never had Don Rodrigo found her more desirable; never
had he felt so secure and glad in his possession of her. The quickening
blood flushing now his olive face, he gathered her slim shapeliness
into his arms, kissing her cheek, her lips, her neck.
“My pearl, my beautiful, my wife!” he murmured, rapturously. Then
added the impatient question: “The priest? Where is the priest that
shall make us one?”
Deep, unfathomable eyes looked up to meet his burning glance.
Languorously she lay against his breast, and her red lips parted in a
smile that maddened him.
“You love me, Rodrigo—in spite of all?”
“Love you!” It was a throbbing, strangled cry, an almost
inarticulate ejaculation. “Better than life—better than salvation.”
She fetched a sigh, as of deep content, and nestled closer. “Oh, I
am glad—so glad—that your love for me is truly strong. I am about to
put it to the test, perhaps.”
He held her very close. “What is this test, beloved?”
“It is that I want this marriage knot so tied that it shall be
indissoluble save by death.”
“Why, so do I,” quoth he, who had so much to gain.
“And, therefore, because after all, though I profess Christianity,
there is Jewish blood in my veins, I would have a marriage that must
satisfy even my father when he regains his freedom, as I believe he
will—for, after all, he is not charged with any sin against the
She paused, and he was conscious of a premonitory chill upon his
“What do you mean?” he asked her, and his voice was strained.
“I mean—you'll not be angry with me?—I mean that I would have us
married not only by a Christian priest, and in the Christian manner,
but also and first of all by a Rabbi, and in accordance with the Jewish
Upon the words, she felt his encircling arms turn limp, and relax
their grip upon her, whereupon she clung to him the more tightly.
“Rodrigo! Rodrigo! If you truly love me, if you truly want me,
you'll not deny me this condition, for I swear to you that once I am
your wife you shall never hear anything again to remind you that I am
of Jewish blood.”
His face turned ghastly pale, his lips writhed and twitched, and
beads of sweat stood out upon his brow.
“My God!” he groaned. “What do you ask? I . . . I can't. It were a
desecration, a defilement.”
She thrust him from her in a passion. “You regard it so? You protest
love, and in the very hour when I propose to sacrifice all to you, you
will not make this little sacrifice for my sake, you even insult the
faith that was my forbears', if it is not wholly mine. I misjudged you,
else I had not bidden you here to- day. I think you had better leave
Trembling, appalled, a prey to an ineffable tangle of emotion, he
sought to plead, to extenuate his attitude, to move her from her own.
He ranted torrentially, but in vain. She stood as cold and aloof as
earlier she had been warm and clinging. He had proved the measure of
his love. He could go his ways.
The thing she proposed was to him, as he had truly said, a
desecration, a defilement. Yet to have dreamed yourself master of ten
million maravedis, and a matchless woman, is a dream not easily
relinquished. There was enough cupidity in his nature, enough neediness
in his condition, to make the realization of that dream worth the
defilement of the abominable marriage rites upon which she insisted.
But fear remained where Christian scruples were already half-effaced.
“You do not realize,” he cried. “If it were known that I so much as
contemplated this, the Holy Office would account it clear proof of
apostasy, and send me to the fire.”
“If that were your only objection it were easily overcome,” she
informed him coldly. “For who should ever inform against you? The Rabbi
who is waiting above-stairs dare not for his own life's sake betray us,
and who else will ever know?”
“You can be sure of that?”
He was conquered. But she played him yet awhile, compelling him in
his turn to conquer the reluctance which his earlier hesitation had
begotten in her, until it was he who pleaded insistently for this
Jewish marriage that filled him with such repugnance.
And so at last she yielded, and led him up to that bower of hers in
which the conspirators had met.
“Where is the Rabbi?” he asked impatiently, looking round that empty
“I will summon him if you are quite sure that you desire him.”
“Sure? Have I not protested enough? Can you still doubt me?”
“No,” she said. She stood apart, conning him steadily. “Yet I would
not have it supposed that you were in any way coerced to this.” They
were odd words; but he heeded not their oddness. He was hardly master
of the wits which in themselves were never of the brightest. “I require
you to declare that it is your own desire that our marriage should be
solemnized in accordance with the Jewish rites and the law of Moses.”
And he, fretted now by impatience, anxious to have this thing done
and ended, made answer hastily:
“Why, to be sure I do declare it to be my wish that we should be so
married—in the Jewish manner, and in accordance with the law of Moses.
And now, where is the Rabbi?” He caught a sound and saw a quiver in the
tapestries that masked the door of the alcove. “Ah! He is here, I
He checked abruptly, and recoiled as from a blow, throwing up his
hands in a convulsive gesture. The tapestry had been swept aside, and
forth stepped not the Rabbi he expected, but a tall, gaunt man,
stooping slightly at the shoulders, dressed in the white habit and
black cloak of the order of St. Dominic, his face lost in the shadows
of a black cowl. Behind him stood two lay brothers of the order, two
armed familiars of the Holy Office, displaying the white cross on their
Terrified by that apparition, evoked, as it seemed, by those
terribly damning words he had pronounced, Don Rodrigo stood blankly at
gaze a moment, not even seeking to understand how this dread thing had
come to pass.
The friar pushed back his cowl, as he advanced, and displayed the
tender, compassionate, infinitely wistful countenance of Frey Tomas de
Torquemada. And infinitely compassionate and wistful came the voice of
that deeply sincere and saintly man.
“My son, I was told this of you—that you were a Judaizer—yet
before I could bring myself to believe so incredible a thing in one of
your lineage, I required the evidence of my own senses. Oh, my poor
child, by what wicked counsels have you been led so far astray?” The
sweet, tender eyes of the inquisitor were luminous with unshed tears.
Sorrowing pity shook his gentle voice.
And then Don Rodrigo's terror changed to wrath, and this exploded.
He flung out an arm towards Isabella in passionate denunciation.
“It was that woman who bewitched and fooled and seduced me into
this. It was a trap she baited for my undoing.”
“It was, indeed. She had my consent to do so, to test the faith
which I was told you lacked. Had your heart been free of heretical
pravity the trap had never caught you; had your faith been strong, my
son, you could not have been seduced from loyalty to your Redeemers”
“Father! Hear me, I implore you!” He flung down upon his knees, and
held out shaking, supplicating hands.
“You shall be heard, my son. The Holy Office does not condemn any
man unheard. But what hope can you put in protestations? I had been
told that your life was disorderly and vain, and I grieved that it
should be so, trembled for you when I heard how wide you opened the
gates of your soul to evil. But remembering that age and reason will
often make good and penitent amends for the follies of early life, I
hoped and prayed for you. Yet that you should Judaize—that you should
be bound in wedlock by the unclean ties of Judaism—Oh!” The melancholy
voice broke off upon a sob, and Torquemada covered his pale face with
his hands—long, white, emaciated, almost transparent hands. “Pray now,
my child, for grace and strength,” he exhorted. “Offer up the little
temporal suffering that may yet be yours in atonement for your error,
and so that your heart be truly contrite and penitent, you shall
deserve salvation from that Divine Mercy which is boundless. You shall
have my prayers, my son. I can do no more. Take him hence.”
On the 6th of February of that year 1481, Seville witnessed the
first Auto de Fe, the sufferers being Diego de Susan, his fellow-conspirators, and Don Rodrigo de Cardona. The function presented but
little of the ghastly pomp that was soon to distinguish these
proceedings. But the essentials were already present.
In a procession headed by a Dominican bearing aloft the green Cross
of the Inquisition, swathed in a veil of crepe, behind whom walked two
by two the members of the Confraternity of St. Peter the Martyr, the
familiars of the Holy Office, came the condemned, candle in hand,
barefoot, in the ignominious yellow penitential sack. Hemmed about by
halberdiers, they were paraded through the streets to the Cathedral,
where Mass was said and a sermon of the faith preached to them by the
stern Ojeda. Thereafter they were conveyed beyond the city to the
meadows of Tablada, where the stake and faggots awaited them.
Thus the perjured accuser perished in the same holocaust with the
accused. Thus was Isabella de Susan, known as la Hermosa Fembra,
avenged by falseness upon the worthless lover who made her by falseness
the instrument of her father's ruin.
For herself, when all was over, she sought the refuge of a convent.
But she quitted it without professing. The past gave her no peace, and
she returned to the world to seek in excesses an oblivion which the
cloister denied her and only death could give. In her will she disposed
that her skull should be placed over the doorway of the house in the
Calle de Ataud, as a measure of posthumous atonement for her sins. And
there the fleshless, grinning skull of that once lovely head abode for
close upon four hundred years. It was still to be seen there when
Buonaparte's legions demolished the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
IV. THE PASTRY-COOK OF MADRIGAL. The
Story of the False Sebastian of Portugal
There is not in all that bitter tragi-comic record of human frailty
which we call History a sadder story than this of the Princess Anne,
the natural daughter of the splendid Don John of Austria, natural son
of the Emperor Charles V. and, so, half- brother to the bowelless King
Philip II. of Spain. Never was woman born to royal or semi-royal state
who was more utterly the victim of the circumstances of her birth.
Of the natural sons of princes something could be made, as witness
the dazzling career of Anne's own father; but for natural
daughters—and especially for one who, like herself, bore a double load
of cadency—there was little use or hope. Their royal blood set them in
a class apart; their bastardy denied them the worldly advantages of
that spurious eminence. Their royal blood prescribed that they must
mate with princes; their bastardy raised obstacles to their doing so.
Therefore, since the world would seem to hold no worthy place for them,
it was expedient to withdraw them from the world before its vanities
beglamoured them, and to immure them in convents, where they might
aspire with confidence to the sterile dignity of abbesshood.
Thus it befell with Anne. At the early age of six she had been sent
to the Benedictine convent at Burgos, and in adolescence removed thence
to the Monastery of Santa Maria la Real at Madrigal, where it was
foreordained that she should take the veil. She went unwillingly. She
had youth, and youth's hunger of life, and not even the repressive
conditions in which she had been reared had succeeded in extinguishing
her high spirit or in concealing from her the fact that she was
beautiful. On the threshold of that convent which by her dread uncle's
will was to be her living tomb, above whose gates her spirit may have
beheld the inscription, “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch' entrate!” she
made her protest, called upon the bishop who accompanied her to bear
witness that she did not go of her own free will.
But what she willed was a matter of no account. King Philip's was,
under God's, the only will in Spain. Still, less perhaps to soften the
sacrifice imposed upon her than because of what he accounted due to one
of his own blood, his Catholic Majesty accorded her certain privileges
unusual to members of religious communities: he granted her a little
civil list—two ladies-in- waiting and two grooms—and conferred upon
her the title of Excellency, which she still retained even when after
her hurried novitiate of a single year she had taken the veil. She
submitted where to have striven would have been to have spent herself
in vain; but her resignation was only of the body, and this dejected
body moved mechanically through the tasks and recreations that go to
make up the grey monotone of conventual existence; in which one day is
as another day, one hour as another hour; in which the seasons of the
year lose their significance; in which time has no purpose save for its
subdivision into periods devoted to sleeping and waking, to eating and
fasting, to praying and contemplating, until life loses all purpose and
object, and sterilizes itself into preparation for death.
Though they might command and compel her body, her spirit remained
unfettered in rebellion. Anon the claustral apathy might encompass her;
in time and by slow degrees she might become absorbed into the grey
spirit of the place. But that time was not yet. For the present she
must nourish her caged and starving soul with memories of glimpses
caught in passing of the bright, active, stirring world without; and
where memory stopped she had now beside her a companion to regale her
with tales of high adventure and romantic deeds and knightly feats,
which served but to feed and swell her yearnings.
This companion, Frey Miguel de Souza, was a Portuguese friar of the
order of St. Augustine, a learned, courtly man who had moved in the
great world and spoke with the authority of an eye- witness. And above
all he loved to talk of that last romantic King of Portugal, with whom
he had been intimate, that high- spirited, headstrong, gallant,
fair-haired lad Sebastian, who at the age of four-and-twenty had led
the disastrous overseas expedition against the Infidel, which had been
shattered on the field of Alcacer-el-Kebir some fifteen years ago.
He loved to paint for her in words the dazzling knightly pageants he
had seen along the quays at Lisbon, when that expedition was embarking
with crusader ardour, the files of Portuguese knights and men-at-arms,
the array of German and Italian mercenaries, the young king in his
bright armour, bare of head—an incarnation of St. Michael—moving
forward exultantly amid flowers and acclamations to take ship for
Africa. And she would listen with parted lips and glistening eyes, her
slim body bending forward in her eagerness to miss no word of this
great epic. Anon when he came to tell of that disastrous day of
Alcacer-el-Kebir, her dark, eager eyes would fill with tears. His tale
of it was hardly truthful. He did not say that military incompetence
and a presumptuous vanity which would listen to no counsels had been
the cause of a ruin that had engulfed the chivalry of Portugal, and
finally the very kingdom itself. He represented the defeat as due to
the overwhelming numbers of the Infidel, and dwelt at length upon the
closing scene, told her in fullest detail how Sebastian had scornfully
rejected the counsels of those who urged him to fly when all was lost,
how the young king, who had fought with a lion-hearted courage,
unwilling to survive the day's defeat, had turned and ridden back alone
into the Saracen host to fight his last fight and find a knightly
death. Thereafter he was seen no more.
It was a tale she never tired of hearing, and it moved her more and
more deeply each time she listened to it. She would ply him with
questions touching this Sebastian, who had been her cousin, concerning
his ways of life, his boyhood, and his enactments when he came to the
crown of Portugal. And all that Frey Miguel de Souza told her served
but to engrave more deeply upon her virgin mind the adorable image of
the knightly king. Ever present in the daily thoughts of this ardent
girl, his empanoplied figure haunted now her sleep, so real and vivid
that her waking senses would dwell fondly upon the dream-figure as upon
the memory of someone seen in actual life; likewise she treasured up
the memory of the dream—words he had uttered, words it would seem
begotten of the longings of her starved and empty heart, words of a
kind not calculated to bring peace to the soul of a nun professed. She
was enamoured, deeply, fervently, and passionately enamoured of a myth,
a mental image of a man who had been dust these fifteen years. She
mourned him with a fond widow's mourning; prayed daily and nightly for
the repose of his soul, and in her exaltation waited now almost
impatiently for death that should unite her with him. Taking joy in the
thought that she should go to him a maid, she ceased at last to resent
the maidenhood that had been imposed upon her.
One day a sudden, wild thought filled her with a strange excitement.
“Is it so certain that he is dead?” she asked. “When all is said,
none actually saw him die, and you tell me that the body surrendered by
Mulai-Ahmed-ben-Mahomet was disfigured beyond recognition. Is it not
possible that he may have survived?”
The lean, swarthy face of Frey Miguel grew pensive. He did not
impatiently scorn the suggestion as she had half-feared he would.
“In Portugal,” he answered slowly, “it is firmly believed that he
lives, and that one day he will come, like another Redeemer, to deliver
his country from the thrall of Spain.”
“Then . . . then . . .”
Wistfully, he smiled. “A people will always believe what it wishes
“But you, yourself?” she pressed him.
He did not answer her at once. The cloud of thought deepened on his
ascetic face. He half turned from her—they were standing in the shadow
of the fretted cloisters—and his pensive eyes roamed over the wide
quadrangle that was at once the convent garden and burial ground. Out
there in the sunshine amid the hum of invisible but ubiquitously
pulsating life, three nuns, young and vigorous, their arms bared to the
elbows, the skirts of their black habits shortened by a cincture of
rope, revealing feet roughly shod in wood, were at work with spade and
mattock, digging their own graves in memento mori. Amid the shadows of
the cloisters, within sight but beyond earshot, hovered Dona Maria de
Grado and Dona Luiza Nieto, the two nobly-born nuns appointed by King
Philip to an office as nearly akin to that of ladies-in- waiting as
claustral conditions would permit.
At length Frey Miguel seemed to resolve himself.
“Since you ask me, why should I not tell you? When I was on my way
to preach the funeral oration in the Cathedral at Lisbon, as befitted
one who had been Don Sebastian's preacher, I was warned by a person of
eminence to have a care of what I said of Don Sebastian, for not only
was he alive, but he would be secretly present at the Requiem.”
He met her dilating glance, noted the quivering of her parted lips.
“But that,” he added, “was fifteen years ago, and since then I have
had no sign. At first I thought it possible . . . there was a story
afloat that might have been true . . . But fifteen years!” He sighed,
and shook his head.
“What . . . what was the story?” She was trembling from head to
“On the night after the battle three horsemen rode up to the gates
of the fortified coast-town of Arzilla. When the timid guard refused to
open to them, they announced that one of them was King Sebastian, and
so won admittance. One of the three was wrapped in a cloak, his face
concealed, and his two companions were observed to show him the
deference due to royalty.”
“Why, then . . .” she was beginning.
“Ah, but afterwards,” he interrupted her, “afterwards, when all
Portugal was thrown into commotion by that tale, it was denied that
King Sebastian had been among these horsemen. It was affirmed to have
been no more than a ruse of those men's to gain the shelter of the
She questioned and cross-questioned him upon that, seeking to draw
from him the admission that it was possible denial and explanation
obeyed the wishes of the hidden prince.
“Yes, it is possible,” he admitted at length, “and it is believed by
many to be the fact. Don Sebastian was as sensitive as high- spirited.
The shame of his defeat may have hung so heavily upon him that he
preferred to remain in hiding, and to sacrifice a throne of which he
now felt himself unworthy. Half Portugal believes it so, and waits and
When Frey Miguel parted from her that day, he took with him the
clear conviction that not in all Portugal was there a soul who hoped
more fervently than she that Don Sebastian lived, or yearned more
passionately to acclaim him should he show himself. And that was much
to think, for the yearning of Portugal was as the yearning of the slave
Sebastian's mother was King Philip's sister, whereby King Philip had
claimed the succession, and taken possession of the throne of Portugal.
Portugal writhed under the oppressive heel of that foreign rule, and
Frey Miguel de Sousa himself, a deeply, passionately patriotic man, had
been foremost among those who had sought to liberate her. When Don
Antonio, the sometime Prior of Crato, Sebastian's natural cousin, and a
bold, ambitious, enterprising man, had raised the standard of revolt,
the friar had been the most active of all his coadjutators. In those
days Frey Miguel, who was the Provincial of his order, a man widely
renowned for his learning and experience of affairs, who had been
preacher to Don Sebastian and confessor to Don Antonio, had wielded a
vast influence in Portugal. That influence he had unstintingly exerted
on behalf of the Pretender, to whom he was profoundly devoted. After
Don Antonio's army had been defeated on land by the Duke of Alba, and
his fleet shattered in the Azores in 1582 by the Marquis of Santa Cruz,
Frey Miguel found himself deeply compromised by his active share in the
rebellion. He was arrested and suffered a long imprisonment in Spain.
In the end, because he expressed repentance, and because Philip II.,
aware of the man's gifts and worth, desired to attach him to himself by
gratitude, he was enlarged, and appointed Vicar of Santa Maria la Real,
where he was now become confessor, counsellor and confidant of the
Princess Anne of Austria.
But his gratitude to King Philip was not of a kind to change his
nature, to extinguish his devotion to the Pretender, Don Antonio— who,
restlessly ambitious, continued ceaselessly to plot abroad— or yet to
abate the fervour of his patriotism. The dream of his life was ever the
independence of Portugal, with a native prince upon the throne. And
because of Anne's fervent hope, a hope that grew almost daily into
conviction, that Sebastian had survived and would return one day to
claim his kingdom, those two at Madrigal, in that quiet eddy of the
great stream of life, were drawn more closely to each other.
But as the years passed, and Anne's prayers remained unanswered and
the deliverer did not come, her hopes began to fade again. Gradually
she reverted to her earlier frame of mind in which all hopes were set
upon a reunion with the unknown beloved in the world to come.
One evening in the spring of 1594—four years after the name of
Sebastian had first passed between the priest and the princess— Frey
Miguel was walking down the main street of Madrigal, a village whose
every inhabitant was known to him, when he came suddenly face to face
with a stranger. A stranger would in any case have drawn his attention,
but there was about this man something familiar to the friar, something
that stirred in him vague memories of things long forgotten. His garb
of shabby black was that of a common townsman, but there was something
in his air and glance, his soldierly carriage, and the tilt of his
bearded chin, that belied his garb. He bore upon his person the stamp
of intrepidity and assurance.
Both halted, each staring at the other, a faint smile on the lips of
the stranger—who, in the fading light, might have been of any age from
thirty to fifty—a puzzled frown upon the brow of the friar. Then the
man swept off his broad-brimmed hat.
“God save your paternity,” was his greeting.
“God save you, my son,” replied Frey Miguel, still pondering him. “I
seem to know you. Do I?”
The stranger laughed. “Though all the world forget, your paternity
should remember me”
And then Frey Miguel sucked in his breath sharply. “My God!” he
cried, and set a hand upon the fellow's shoulder, looking deeply into
those bold, grey eyes. “What make you here?”
“I am a pastry-cook.”
“A pastry-cook? You?”
“One must live, and it is a more honest trade than most. I was in
Valladolid, when I heard that your paternity was the Vicar of the
Convent here, and so for the sake of old times—of happier times— I
bethought me that I might claim your paternity's support.” He spoke
with a careless arrogance, half-tinged with mockery.
“Assuredly . . .” began the priest, and then he checked. “Where is
“Just down the street. Will your paternity honour me?”
Frey Miguel bowed, and together they departed.
For three days thereafter the convent saw the friar only in the
celebration of the Mass. But on the morning of the fourth, he went
straight from the sacristy to the parlour, and, despite the early hour,
desired to see her Excellency.
“Lady,” he told her, “I have great news; news that will rejoice your
heart.” She looked at him, and saw the feverish glitter in his sunken
eyes, the hectic flush on his prominent cheek-bones. “Don Sebastian
lives. I have seen him.”
A moment she stared at him as if she did not understand. Then she
paled until her face became as white as the nun's coil upon her brow;
her breath came in a faint moan, she stiffened, and swayed upon her
feet, and caught at the back of a prie-dieu to steady and save herself
from falling. He saw that he had blundered by his abruptness, that he
had failed to gauge the full depth of her feelings for the Hidden
Prince, and for a moment feared that she would swoon under the shock of
the news he had so recklessly delivered.
“What do you say? Oh, what do you say?” she moaned, her eyes
He repeated the news in more measured, careful terms, exerting all
the magnetism of his will to sustain her reeling senses. Gradually she
quelled the storm of her emotions.
“And you say that you have seen him? Oh!” Once more the colour
suffused her cheeks, and her eyes glowed, her expression became
radiant. “Where is he?”
“Here. Here in Madrigal.”
“In Madrigal?” She was all amazement. “But why in Madrigal?”
“He was in Valladolid, and there heard that I—his sometime preacher
and counsellor—was Vicar here at Santa Maria la Real. He came to seek
me. He comes disguised, under the false name of Gabriel de Espinosa,
and setting up as a pastry-cook until his term of penance shall be
completed, and he shall be free to disclose himself once more to his
impatiently awaiting people.”
It was bewildering, intoxicating news to her. It set her mind in
turmoil, made of her soul a battle-ground for mad hope and dreadful
fear. This dream-prince, who for four years had been the constant
companion of her thoughts, whom her exalted, ardent, imaginative,
starved Soul had come to love with a consuming passion, was a living
reality near at hand, to be seen in the flesh by the eyes of her body.
It was a thought that set her in an ecstasy of terror, so that she
dared not ask Frey Miguel to bring Don Sebastian to her. But she plied
him with questions, and so elicited from him a very circumstantial
Sebastian, after his defeat and escape, had made a vow upon the Holy
Sepulchre to lay aside the royal dignity of which he deemed that he had
proved himself unworthy, and to do penance for the pride that had
brought him down, by roaming the world in humble guise, earning his
bread by the labour of his hands and the sweat of his brow like any
common hind, until he should have purged his offense and rendered
himself worthy once more to resume the estate to which he had been
It was a tale that moved her pity to the point of tears. It exalted
her hero even beyond the eminence he had already held in her fond
dreams, particularly when to that general outline were added in the
days that followed details of the wanderings and sufferings of the
Hidden Prince. At last, some few weeks after that first startling
announcement of his presence, in the early days of August of that year
1594, Frey Miguel proposed to her the thing she most desired, yet dared
“I have told His Majesty of your attachment to his memory in all
these years in which we thought him dead, and he is deeply touched. He
desires your leave to come and prostrate himself at your feet.”
She crimsoned from brow to chin, then paled again; her bosom heaved
in tumult. Between dread and yearning she spoke a faint consent.
Next day he came, brought by Frey Miguel to the convent parlour,
where her Excellency waited, her two attendant nuns discreetly in the
background. Her eager, frightened eyes beheld a man of middle height,
dignified of mien and carriage, dressed with extreme simplicity, yet
without the shabbiness in which Frey Miguel had first discovered him.
His hair was of a light brown—the colour to which the golden locks
of the boy who had sailed for Africa some fifteen years ago might well
have faded—his beard of an auburn tint, and his eyes were grey. His
face was handsome, and save for the colour of his eyes and the high
arch of his nose presented none of the distinguishing and marring
features peculiar to the House of Austria, from which Don Sebastian
derived through his mother.
Hat in hand, he came forward, and went down on one knee before her.
“I am here to receive your Excellency's commands,” he said.
She steadied her shuddering knees and trembling lips.
“Are you Gabriel de Espinosa, who has come to Madrigal to set up as
a pastry-cook?” she asked him.
“To serve your Excellency.”
“Then be welcome, though I am sure that the trade you least
understand is that of a pastry-cook.”
The kneeling man bowed his handsome head, and fetched a deep sigh.
“If in the past I had better understood another trade, I should not
now be reduced to following this one.”
She urged him now to rise, hereafter the entertainment between them
was very brief on that first occasion. He departed upon a promise to
come soon again, and the undertaking on her side to procure for his
shop the patronage of the convent.
Thereafter it became his custom to attend the morning Mass
celebrated by Frey Miguel in the convent chapel—which was open to the
public—and afterwards to seek the friar in the sacristy and accompany
him thence to the convent parlour, where the Princess waited, usually
with one or another of her attendant nuns. These daily interviews were
brief at first, but gradually they lengthened until they came to
consume the hours to dinner- time, and presently even that did not
suffice, and Sebastian must come again later in the day.
And as the interviews increased and lengthened, so they grew also in
intimacy between the royal pair, and plans for Sebastian's future came
to be discussed. She urged him to proclaim himself. His penance had
been overlong already for what was really no fault at all, since it is
the heart rather than the deed that Heaven judges, and his heart had
been pure, his intention in making war upon the Infidel loftily pious.
Diffidently he admitted that it might be so, but both he and Frey
Miguel were of opinion that it would be wiser now to await the death of
Philip II., which, considering his years and infirmities, could not be
long delayed. Out of jealousy for his possessions, King Philip might
oppose Sebastian's claims.
Meanwhile these daily visits of Espinosa's, and the long hours he
spent in Anne's company gave, as was inevitable, rise to scandal,
within and without the convent. She was a nun professed, interdicted
from seeing any man but her confessor other than through the parlour
grating, and even then not at such length or with such constancy as
this. The intimacy between them—fostered and furthered by Frey
Miguel—had so ripened in a few weeks that Anne was justified in
looking upon him as her saviour from the living tomb to which she had
been condemned, in hoping that he would restore her to the life and
liberty for which she had ever yearned by taking her to Queen when his
time came to claim his own. What if she was a nun professed? Her
profession had been against her will, preceded by only one year of
novitiate, and she was still within the five probationary years
prescribed. Therefore, in her view, her vows were revocable.
But this was a matter beyond the general consideration or knowledge,
and so the scandal grew. Within the convent there was none bold enough,
considering Anne's royal rank, to offer remonstrance or advice,
particularly too, considering that her behaviour had the sanction of
Frey Miguel, the convent's spiritual adviser. But from without, from
the Provincial of the Order of St. Augustine, came at last a letter to
Anne, respectfully stern in tone, to inform her that the numerous
visits she received from a pastry-cook were giving rise to talk, for
which it would be wise to cease to give occasion. That recommendation
scorched her proud, sensitive soul with shame. She sent her servant
Roderos at once to fetch Frey Miguel, and placed the letter in his
The friar's dark eyes scanned it and grew troubled.
“It was to have been feared,” he said, and sighed.
“There is but one remedy, lest worse follow and all be ruined. Don
Sebastian must go.”
“Go?” Fear robbed her of breath. “Go where?”
“Away from Madrigal—anywhere—and at once; tomorrow at latest.” And
then, seeing the look of horror in her face, “What else, what else?” he
added, impatiently. “This meddlesome provincial may be stirring up
She fought down her emotion. “I . . . I shall see him before he
goes?” she begged.
“I don't know. It may not be wise. I must consider.” He flung away
in deepest perturbation, leaving her with a sense that life was
slipping from her.
That late September evening, as she sat stricken in her room, hoping
against hope for at least another glimpse of him, Dona Maria de Grado
brought word that Espinosa was even then in the convent in Frey
Miguel's cell. Fearful lest he should be smuggled thence without her
seeing him, And careless of the impropriety of the hour—it was already
eight o'clock and dusk was falling—she at once dispatched Roderos to
the friar, bidding him bring Espinosa to her in the parlour.
The friar obeyed, and the lovers—they were no less by now—came
face to face in anguish.
“My lord, my lord,” she cried, casting all prudence to the winds,
“what is decided?”
“That I leave in the morning,” he answered.
“To go where?” She was distraught.
“Where?” He shrugged. “To Valladolid at first, and then . . . where
“And when shall I see you again?”
“When . . . when God pleases.”
“Oh, I am terrified . . . if I should lose you . . . if I should
never see you more!” She was panting, distraught.
“Nay, lady, nay,” he answered. “I shall come for you when the time
is ripe. I shall return by All Saints, or by Christmas at the latest,
and I shall bring with me one who will avouch me.”
“What need any to avouch you to me?” she protested, on a note of
fierceness. “We belong to each other, you and I. But you are free to
roam the world, and I am caged here and helpless. . .”
“Ah, but I shall free you soon, and we'll go hence together. See.”
He stepped to the table. There was an ink-horn, a box of pounce, some
quills, and a sheaf of paper there. He took up a quill, and wrote with
labour, for princes are notoriously poor scholars:
“I, Don Sebastian, by the Grace of God King of Portugal, take to
wife the most serene Dona ulna of Austria, daughter of the most serene
Prince, Don John of Austria, by virtue of the disiensation which I hold
from two pontiffs.”
And he signed it—after the manner of the Kings of Portugal in all
ages—“El Rey”—the King.
“Will that content you, lady?” he pleaded, handing it to her.
“How shall this scrawl content me?”
“It is a bond I shall redeem as soon as Heaven will permit.”
Thereafter she fell to weeping, and he to protesting, until Frey
Miguel urged him to depart, as it grew late. And then she forgot her
own grief, and became all solicitude for him, until naught would
content her but she must empty into his hands her little store of
treasure—a hundred ducats and such jewels as she possessed, including
a gold watch set with diamonds and a ring bearing a cameo portrait of
King Philip, and last of all a portrait of herself, of the size of a
At last, as ten was striking, he was hurried away. Frey Miguel had
gone on his knees to him, and kissed his hand, what time he had
passionately urged him not to linger; and then Sebastian had done the
same by the Princess both weeping now. At last he was gone, and on the
arm of Dona Maria de Grado the forlorn Anne staggered back to her cell
to weep and pray.
In the days that followed she moved, pale and listless, oppressed by
her sense of loss and desolation, a desolation which at last she sought
to mitigate by writing to him to Valladolid, whither he had repaired.
Of all those letters only two survive.
“My king and lord,” she wrote in one of these, “alas! How we suffer
by absence! I am so filled with the pain of it that if I did not seek
the relief of writing to your Majesty and thus spend some moments in
communion with you, there would be an end to me. What I feel to-day is
what I feel every day when I recall the happy moments sodeliciously
spent, which are no more. This privation is for me so severe a
punishment of heaven that I should call it unjust, for without cause I
find myself deprived of the happiness missed by me for so many years
and purchased at the price of suffering and tears. Ah, my lord, how
willingly, nevertheless, would I not suffer all over again the
misfortunes that have crushed me if thus I might spare your Majesty the
least of them. May He who rules the world grant my prayers and set a
term to so great an unhappiness, and to the intolerable torment I
suffer through being deprived of the presence of your Majesty. It were
impossible for long to suffer so much pain and live.
“I belong to you, my lord; you know it already. The troth I plighted
to you I shall keep in life and in death, for death itself could not
tear it from my soul, and this immortal soul will harbour it through
eternity. . .”
Thus and much more in the same manner wrote the niece of King Philip
of Spain to Gabriel Espinosa, the pastry-cook, in his Valladolid
retreat. How he filled his days we do not know, beyond the fact that he
moved freely abroad. For it was in the streets of that town that
meddlesome Fate brought him face to face one day with Gregorio
Gonzales, under whom Espinosa had been a scullion once in the service
of the Count of Nyeba.
Gregorio hailed him, staring round-eyed; for although Espinosa's
garments were not in their first freshness they were far from being
those of a plebeian.
“In whose service may you be now?” quoth the intrigued Gregorio, so
soon as greetings had passed between them.
Espinosa shook off his momentary embarrassment, and took the hand of
his sometime comrade. “Times are changed, friend Gregorio. I am not in
anybody's service, rather do I require servants myself.”
“Why, what is your present situation?”
Loftily Espinosa put him off. “No matter for that,” he answered,
with a dignity that forbade further questions. He gathered his cloak
about him to proceed upon his way. “If there is anything you wish for I
shall be happy, for old times' sake, to oblige you.”
But Gregorio was by no means disposed to part from him. We do not
readily part from an old friend whom we rediscover in an unsuspected
state of affluence. Espinosa must home with Gregorio. Gregorio's wife
would be charmed to renew his acquaintance, and to hear from his own
lips of his improved and prosperous state. Gregorio would take no
refusal, and in the end Espinosa, yielding to his insistence, went with
him to the sordid quarter where Gregorio had his dwelling.
About an unclean table of pine, in a squalid room, sat the
three—Espinosa, Gregorio, and Gregorio's wife; but the latter
displayed none of the signs of satisfaction at Espinosa's prosperity
which Gregorio had promised. Perhaps Espinosa observed her evil envy,
and it may have been to nourish it—which is the surest way to punish
envy—that he made Gregorio a magnificent offer of employment.
“Enter my service,” said he, “and I will pay you fifty ducats down
and four ducats a month.”
Obviously they were incredulous of his affluence. To convince them
he displayed a gold watch—most rare possession—set with diamonds, a
ring of price, and other costly jewels. The couple stared now with
“But didn't you tell me when we were in Madrid together that you had
been a pastry-cook at Ocana?” burst from Gregorio.
Espinosa smiled. “How many kings and princes have been compelled to
conceal themselves under disguises?” he asked oracularly. And seeing
them stricken, he must play upon them further. Nothing, it seems, was
sacred to him—not even the portrait of that lovely, desolate royal
lady in her convent at Madrigal. Forth he plucked it, and thrust it to
them across the stains of wine and oil that befouled their table.
“Look at this beautiful lady, the most beautiful in Spain,” he bade
them. “A prince could not have a lovelier bride.”
“But she is dressed as a nun,” the woman protested. “How, then, can
“For kings there are no laws,” he told her with finality.
At last he departed, but bidding Gregorio to think of the offer he
had made him. He would come again for the cook's reply, leaving word
meanwhile of where he was lodged.
They deemed him mad, and were disposed to be derisive. Yet the
woman's disbelief was quickened into malevolence by the jealous fear
that what he had told them of himself might, after all, be true. Upon
that malevolence she acted forthwith, lodging an information with Don
Rodrigo de Santillan, the Alcalde of Valladolid.
Very late that night Espinosa was roused from his sleep to find his
room invaded by alguaziles—the police of the Alcalde. He was arrested
and dragged before Don Rodrigo to give an account of himself and of
certain objects of value found in his possession— more particularly of
a ring, on the cameo of which was carved a portrait of King Philip.
“I am Gabriel de Espinosa,” he answered firmly, “a pastry-cook of
“Then how come you by these jewels?”
“They were given me by Dona Ana of Austria to sell for her account.
That is the business that has brought me to Valladolid.”
“Is this Dona Ana's portrait?”
“And this lock of hair? Is that also Dona Ana's? And do you, then,
pretend that these were also given you to sell?”
“Why else should they be given me?”
Don Rodrigo wondered. They were useless things to steal, and as for
the lock of hair, where should the fellow find a buyer for that? The
Alcalde conned his man more closely, and noted that dignity of bearing,
that calm assurance which usually is founded upon birth and worth. He
sent him to wait in prison, what time he went to ransack the fellow's
house in Madrigal.
Don Rodrigo was prompt in acting; yet even so his prisoner
mysteriously found means to send a warning that enabled Frey Miguel to
forestall the Alcalde. Before Don Rodrigo's arrival, the friar had
abstracted from Espinosa's house a box of papers which he reduced to
ashes. Unfortunately Espinosa had been careless. Four letters not
confided to the box were discovered by the alguaziles. Two of them were
from Anne—one of which supplies the extract I have given; the other
two from Frey Miguel himself.
Those letters startled Don Rodrigo de Santillan. He was a shrewd
reasoner and well-informed. He knew how the justice of Castile was kept
on the alert by the persistent plottings of the Portuguese Pretender,
Don Antonio, sometime Prior of Crato. He was intimate with the past
life of Frey Miguel, knew his self- sacrificing patriotism and
passionate devotion to the cause of Don Antonio, remembered the firm
dignity of his prisoner, and leapt at a justifiable conclusion. The man
in his hands—the man whom the Princess Anne addressed in such
passionate terms by the title of Majesty—was the Prior of Crato. He
conceived that he had stumbled here upon something grave and dangerous.
He ordered the arrest of Frey Miguel, and then proceeded to visit Dona
Ana at the convent. His methods were crafty, and depended upon the
effect of surprise. He opened the interview by holding up before her
one of the letters he had found, asking her if she acknowledged it for
She stared a moment panic-stricken; then snatched it from his hands,
tore it across, and would have torn again, but that he caught her
wrists in a grip of iron to prevent her, with little regard in that
moment for the blood royal in her veins. King Philip was a stern
master, pitiless to blunderers, and Don Rodrigo knew he never would be
forgiven did he suffer that precious letter to be destroyed.
Overpowered in body and in spirit, she surrendered the fragments and
confessed the letter her own.
“What is the real name of this man, who calls himself a pastry-cook, and to whom you write in such terms as these?” quoth the
“He is Don Sebastian, King of Portugal.” And to that declaration she
added briefly the story of his escape from Alcacer-el-Kebir and
subsequent penitential wanderings.
Don Rodrigo departed, not knowing what to think or believe, but
convinced that it was time he laid the whole matter before King Philip.
His Catholic Majesty was deeply perturbed. He at once dispatched Don
Juan de Llano, the Apostolic Commissary of the Holy Office to Madrigal
to sift the matter, and ordered that Anne should be solitarily confined
in her cell, and her nuns-in- waiting and servants placed under arrest.
Espinosa, for greater security, was sent from Valladolid to the
prison of Medina del Campo. He was taken thither in a coach with an
escort of arquebusiers.
“Why convey a poor pastry-cook with so much honour?” he asked his
Within the coach he was accompanied by a soldier named Cervatos, a
travelled man, who fell into talk with him, and discovered that he
spoke both French and German fluently. But when Cervatos addressed him
in Portuguese the prisoner seemed confused, and replied that although
he had been in Portugal, he could not speak the language.
Thereafter, throughout that winter, examinations of the three chief
prisoners—Espinosa, Frey Miguel, and the Princess Anne— succeeded one
another with a wearisome monotony of results. The Apostolic Commissary
interrogated the princess and Frey Miguel; Don Rodrigo conducted the
examinations of Espinosa. But nothing was elicited that took the matter
forward or tended to dispel its mystery.
The princess replied with a candour that became more and more tinged
with indignation under the persistent and at times insulting
interrogatories. She insisted that the prisoner was Don Sebastian, and
wrote passionate letters to Espinosa, begging him for her honour's sake
to proclaim himself what he really was, declaring to him that the time
had come to cast off all disguise.
Yet the prisoner, unmoved by these appeals, persisted that he was
Gabriel de Espinosa, a pastry-cook. But the man's bearing, and the air
of mystery cloaking him, seemed in themselves to belie that
asseveration. That he could not be the Prior of Crato, Don Rodrigo had
now assured himself. He fenced skilfully under exurnination, ever
evading the magistrate's practiced point when it sought to pin him, and
he was no less careful to say nothing that should incriminate either of
the other two prisoners. He denied that he had ever given himself out
to be Don Sebastian, though he admitted that Frey Miguel and the
princess had persuaded themselves that he was that lost prince.
He pleaded ignorance when asked who were his parents, stating that
he had never known either of them—an answer this which would have
fitted the case of Don Sebastian, who was born after his father's
death, and quitted in early infancy by his mother.
As for Frey Miguel, he stated boldly under examination the
conviction that Don Sebastian had survived the African expedition, and
the belief that Espinosa might well be the missing monarch. He
protested that he had acted in good faith throughout, and without any
thought of disloyalty to the King of Spain.
Late one night, after he had been some three months in prison,
Espinosa was roused from sleep by an unexpected visit from the Alcalde.
At once he would have risen and dressed.
“Nay,” said Don Rodrigo, restraining him, “that is not necessary for
what is intended.”
It was a dark phrase which the prisoner, sitting up in bed with
tousled hair, and blinking in the light of the torches, instantly
interpreted into a threat of torture. His face grew white.
“It is impossible,” he protested. “The King cannot have ordered what
you suggest. His Majesty will take into account that I am a man of
honour. He may require my death, but in an honourable manner, and not
upon the rack. And as for its being used to make me speak, I have
nothing to add to what I have said already.”
The stern, dark face of the Alcalde was overspread by a grim smile.
“I would have you remark that you fall into contradictions.
Sometimes you pretend to be of humble and lowly origin, and sometimes a
person of honourable degree. To hear you at this moment one might
suppose that to submit you to torture would be to outrage your dignity.
What then . . .”
Don Rodrigo broke off suddenly to stare, then snatched a torch from
the hand of his alguaziles and held it close to the face of the
prisoner, who cowered now, knowing full well what it was the Alcalde
had detected. In that strong light Don Rodrigo saw that the prisoner's
hair and beard had turned grey at the roots, and so received the last
proof that he had to do with the basest of impostures. The fellow had
been using dyes, the supply of which had been cut short by his
imprisonment. Don Rodrigo departed well-satisfied with the results of
that surprise visit.
Thereafter Espinosa immediately shaved himself. But it was too late,
and even so, before many weeks were past his hair had faded to its
natural grey, and he presented the appearance of what in fact he was—a
man of sixty, or thereabouts.
Yet the torture to which he was presently submitted drew nothing
from him that could explain all that yet remained obscure. It was from
Frey Miguel, after a thousand prevarications and tergiversations, that
the full truth—known to himself alone—was extracted by the rack.
He confessed that, inspired by the love of country and the ardent
desire to liberate Portugal from the Spanish yoke, he had never
abandoned the hope of achieving this, and of placing Don Antonio, the
Prior of Crato, on the throne of his ancestors. He had devised a plan,
primarily inspired by the ardent nature of the Princess Anne and her
impatience of the conventual life. It was while casting about for the
chief instrument that he fortuitously met Espinosa in the streets of
Madrigal. Espinosa had been a soldier, and had seen the world. During
the war between Spain and Portugal he had served in the armies of King
Philip, had befriended Frey Miguel when the friar's convent was on the
point of being invaded by soldiery, and had rescued him from the peril
of it. Thus they had become acquainted, and Frey Miguel had had an
instance of the man's resource and courage. Further, he was of the
height of Don Sebastian and of the build to which the king might have
grown in the years that were sped, and he presented other superficial
resemblances to the late king. The colour of his hair and beard could
be corrected; and he might be made to play the part of the Hidden
Prince for whose return Portugal was waiting so passionately and
confidently. There had been other impostors aforetime, but they had
lacked the endowments of Espinosa, and their origins could be traced
without difficulty. In addition to these natural endowments, Espinosa
should be avouched by Frey Miguel than whom nobody in the world was
better qualified in such a matter—and by the niece of King Philip, to
whom he would be married when he raised his standard. It was arranged
that the three should go to Paris so soon as the arrangements were
complete, where the Pretender would be accredited by the exiled friends
of Don Antonio residing there— the Prior of Crato being a party to the
plot. From France Frey Miguel would have worked in Portugal through his
agents, and presently would have gone there himself to stir up a
national movement in favour of a pretender so fully accredited. Thus he
had every hope of restoring Portugal to her independence. Once this
should have been accomplished, Don Antonio would appear in Lisbon,
unmask the impostor, and himself assume the crown of the kingdom which
had been forcibly and definitely wrenched from Spain.
That was the crafty plan which the priest had laid with a singleness
of aim and a detachment from minor considerations that never hesitated
to sacrifice the princess, together with the chief instrument of the
intrigue. Was the liberation of a kingdom, the deliverance of a nation
from servitude, the happiness of a whole people, to weigh in the
balance against the fates of a natural daughter of Don John of Austria
and a soldier of fortune turned pastry-cook? Frey Miguel thought not,
and his plot might well have succeeded but for the base strain in
Espinosa and the man's overweening vanity, which had urged him to
dazzle the Gonzales at Valladolid. That vanity sustained him to the
end, which he suffered in October of 1595, a full year after his
arrest. To the last he avoided admissions that should throw light upon
his obscure identity and origin.
“If it were known who I am . . .” he would say, and there break off.
He was hanged, drawn and quartered, and he endured his fate with
calm fortitude. Frey Miguel suffered in the same way with the like
dignity, after having undergone degradation from his priestly dignity.
As for the unfortunate Princess Anne, crushed under a load of shame
and humiliation, she had gone to her punishment in the previous July.
The Apostolic Commissary notified her of the sentence which King Philip
had confirmed. She was to be transferred to another convent, there to
undergo a term of four years' solitary confinement in her cell, and to
fast on bread and water every Friday. She was pronounced incapable of
ever holding any office, and was to be treated on the expiry of her
term as an ordinary nun, her civil list abolished, her title of
Excellency to be extinguished, together with all other honours and
privileges conferred upon her by King Philip.
The piteous letters of supplication that she addressed to the King,
her uncle, still exist. But they left the cold, implacable Philip of
Spain unmoved. Her only sin was that, yielding to the hunger of her
starved heart, and chafingunder the ascetic life imposed upon her, she
had allowed herself to be fascinated by the prospect of becoming the
protectress of one whom she believed to be an unfortunate and romantic
prince, and of exchanging her convent for a throne.
Her punishment—poor soul—endured for close upon forty years, but
the most terrible part of it was not that which lay within the
prescription of King Philip, but that which arose from her own broken
and humiliated spirit. She had been uplifted a moment by a glorious
hope, to be cast down again into the blackest despair, to which a shame
unspeakable and a tortured pride were added.
Than hers, as I have said, there is in history no sadder story.
V. THE END OF THE “VERT GALANT”. The
Assassination of Henry IV
In the year 1609 died the last Duke of Cleves, and King Henry IV. of
France and Navarre fell in love with Charlotte de Montmorency.
In their conjunction these two events were to influence the
destinies of Europe. In themselves they were trivial enough, since it
was as much a commonplace that an old gentleman should die as that
Henry of Bearn should fall in love. Love had been the main relaxation
of his otherwise strenuous life, and neither the advancing years—he
was fifty-six at this date—nor the recriminations of Maria de' Medici,
his long-suffering Florentine wife, sufficed to curb his zest.
Possibly there may have been a husband more unfaithful than King
Henry; probably there was not. His gallantries were outrageous, his
taste in women catholic, and his illegitimate progeny outnumbered that
of his grandson, the English sultan Charles II. He differs, however,
from the latter in that he was not quite as Oriental in the manner of
his self-indulgence. Charles, by comparison, was a mere dullard who
turned Whitehall into a seraglio. Henry preferred the romantic manner,
the high adventure, and knew how to be gallant in two senses.
This gallantry of his is not, perhaps, seen to best advantage in the
affair of Charlotte de Montmorency To begin with he was, as I have
said, in his fifty-sixth year, an age at which it is difficult, without
being ridiculous, to unbridle a passion for a girl of twenty.
Unfortunately for him, Charlotte does not appear to have found him so.
On the contrary, her lovely, empty head was so turned by the flattery
of his addresses, that she came to reciprocate the passion she
Her family had proposed to marry her to the gay and witty Marshal de
Bassompierre; and although his heart was not at all engaged, the
marshal found the match extremely suitable, and was willing enough,
until the King declared himself. Henry used the most impudent
“Bassompierre, I will speak to you as a friend,” said he. “I am in
love, and desperately in love, with Mademoiselle de Montmorency. If you
should marry her I should hate you. If she should love me you would
hate me. A breach of our friendship would desolate me, for I love you
with sincere affection.”
That was enough for Bassompierre. He had no mind to go further with
a marriage of convenience which in the sequel would most probably give
him to choose between assuming the ridiculous role of a complacent
husband and being involved in a feud with his prince. He said as much,
and thanked the King for his frankness, whereupon Henry, liking him
more than ever for his good sense, further opened his mind to him.
“I am thinking of marrying her to my nephew, Conde. Thus I shall
have her in my family to be the comfort of my old age, which is coming
on. Conde, who thinks of nothing but hunting, shall have a hundred
thousand livres a year with which to amuse himself.”
Bassompierre understood perfectly the kind of bargain that was in
Henry's mind. As for the Prince de Conde, he appears to have been less
acute, no doubt because his vision was dazzled by the prospect of a
hundred thousand livres a year. So desperately poor was he that for
half that sum he would have taken Lucifer's own daughter to wife,
without stopping to consider the disadvantages it might entail.
The marriage was quietly celebrated at Chantilly in February of
1609. Trouble followed fast. Not only did Conde perceive at last
precisely what was expected of him, and indignantly rebel against it,
but the Queen, too, was carefully instructed in the matter by Concino
Concini and his wife Leonora Galigai, the ambitious adventurers who had
come from Florence in her train, and who saw in the King's weakness
their own opportunity.
The scandal that ensued was appalling. Never before had the
relations between Henry and his queen been strained so nearly to
breaking-point. And then, whilst the trouble of Henry's own making was
growing about him until it threatened to overwhelm him, he received a
letter from Vaucelas, his ambassador at Madrid, containing revelations
that changed his annoyance into stark apprehension.
When the last Duke of Cleves died a few months before, “leaving all
the world his heirs”—to use Henry's own phrase—the Emperor had
stepped in, and over-riding the rights of certain German princes had
bestowed the fief upon his own nephew, the Archduke Leopold. Now this
was an arrangement that did not suit Henry's policy at all, and being
then—as the result of a wise husbanding of resources—the most
powerful prince in Europe, Henry was not likely to submit tamely to
arrangements that did not suit him. His instructions to Vaucelas were
to keep open the difference between France and the House of Austria
arising out of this matter of Cleves. All Europe knew that Henry
desired to marry the Dauphin to the heiress of Lorraine, so that this
State might one day be united with France; and it was partly to support
this claim that he was now disposed to attach the German princes to his
Yet what Vaucelas told him in that letter was that certain agents at
the court of Spain, chief among whom was the Florentine ambassador,
acting upon instructions from certain members of the household of the
Queen of France, and from others whom Vaucelas said he dared not
mention, were intriguing to blast Henry's designs against the house of
Austria, and to bring him willy- nilly into a union with Spain. These
agents had gone so far in their utter disregard of Henry's own
intentions as to propose to the Council of Madrid that the alliance
should be cemented by a marriage between the Dauphin and the Infanta.
That letter sent Henry early one morning hot-foot to the Arsenal,
where Sully, his Minister of State, had his residence. Maximilien de
Bethune, Duke of Sully, was not merely the King's servant, he was his
closest friend, the very keeper of his soul; and the King leaned upon
him and sought his guidance not only in State affairs, but in the most
intimate and domestic matters. Often already had it fallen to Sully to
patch up the differences created between husband and wife by Henry's
The King, arriving like the whirlwind, turned everybody out of the
closet in which the duke—but newly risen—received him in bed-gown and
night-cap. Alone with his minister, Henry came abruptly to the matter.
“You have heard what is being said of me?” he burst out. He stood
with his back to the window, a sturdy, erect, soldierly figure, a
little above the middle height, dressed like a captain of fortune in
jerkin and long boots of grey leather, and a grey hat with a
wine-coloured ostrich plume. His countenance matched his raiment.
Keeneyed, broad of brow, with a high-bridged, pendulous nose, red lips,
a tuft of beard and a pair of grizzled, bristling moustachios, he
looked half-hero, half-satyr; half-Captain, half- Polichinelle.
Sully, tall and broad, the incarnation of respectability and
dignity, despite bed-gown and slippers and the nightcap covering his
high, bald crown, made no presence of misunderstanding him.
“Of you and the Princesse de Conde, you mean, sire?” quoth he, and
gravely he shook his head. “It is a matter that has filled me with
apprehension, for I foresee from it far greater trouble than from any
former attachment of yours.”
“So they have convinced you, too, Grand-Master?” Henry's tone was
almost sorrowful. “Yet I swear that all is greatly exaggerated. It is
the work of that dog Concini. Ventre St. Gris! If he has no respect for
me, at least he might consider how he slanders a child of such grace
and wit and beauty, a lady of her high birth and noble lineage.”
There was a dangerous quiver of emotion in his voice that was not
missed by the keen ears of Sully. Henry moved from the window, and
flung into a chair.
“Concini works to enrage the Queen against me, and to drive her to
take violent resolutions which might give colour to their pernicious
“Sire!” It was a cry of protest from Sully.
Henry laughed grimly at his minister's incredulity, and plucked
forth the letter from Vaucelas.
Sully read, and, aghast at what the letter told him, ejaculated:
“They must be mad!”
“Oh, no,” said the King. “They are not mad. They are most wickedly
sane, which is why their designs fill me with apprehension. What do you
infer, Grand-Master, from such deliberate plots against resolutions
from which they know that nothing can turn me while I have life?”
“What can I infer?” quoth Sully, aghast.
“In acting thus—in daring to act thus,” the King expounded, “they
proceed as if they knew that I can have but a short time to live.”
“What else? They plan events which cannot take place until I am
Sully stared at his master for a long moment, in stupefied silence,
his loyal Huguenot soul refusing to discount by flattery the truth that
“Sire,” he said at last, bowing his fine head, “you must take your
“Ay, but against whom? Who are these that Vaucelas says he dare not
name? Can you suggest another than . . .” He paused, shrinking in
horror from completing the utterance of his thought. Then, with an
abrupt gesture, he went on, ”. . . than the Queen herself?”
Sully quietly placed the letter on the table, and sat down. He took
his chin in his hand and looked squarely across at Henry.
“Sire, you have brought this upon yourself. You have exasperated her
Majesty; you have driven her in despair to seek and act upon the
councils of this scoundrel Concini. There never was an attachment of
yours that did not beget trouble with the Queen, but never such trouble
as I have been foreseeing from your attachment to the Princess of
Conde. Sire, will you not consider where you stand?”
“They are lies, I tell you,” Henry stormed. But Sully the
uncompromising gravely shook his head. “At least,” Henry amended, “they
are gross exaggerations. Oh, I confess to you, my friend, that I am
sick with love of her. Day and night I see nothing but her gracious
image. I sigh and fret and fume like any callow lad of twenty. I suffer
the tortures of the damned. And yet . . . and yet, I swear to you,
Sully, that I will curb this passion though it kill me. I will stifle
these fires, though they consume my soul to ashes. No harm shall come
to her from me. No harm has come yet. I swear it. These stories that
are put about are the inventions of Concini to set my wife against me.
Do you know how far he and his wife have dared to go? They have
persuaded the Queen to eat nothing that is not prepared in the kitchen
they have set up for her in their own apartments. What can you conclude
from that but that they suggest that I desire to poison her?”
“Why suffer it, sire?” quoth Sully gravely. “Send the pair packing
back to Florence, and so be rid of them.”
Henry rose in agitation. “I have a mind to. Ventre St. Gris! I have
a mind to. Yes, it is the only thing. You can manage it, Sully.
Disabuse her mind of her Suspicions regarding the Princess of Conde;
make my peace with her; convince her of my sincerity, of my firm
intention to have done with gallantry, so that she on her side will
make me the sacrifice of banishing the Concinis. You will do this, my
It was no less than Sully had been expecting from past experience,
and the task was one in which he was by now well- practiced; but the
situation had never before been quite so difficult. He rose.
“Why, surely, sire,” said he. “But her Majesty on her side may
require something more to reconcile her to the sacrifice. She may
reopen the question of her coronation so long and—in her view— so
Henry's face grew overcast, his brows knit. “I have always had an
instinct against it, as you know, Grand Master,” said he, “and this
instinct is strengthened by what that letter has taught me. If she will
dare so much, having so little real power, what might she not do if . .
.” He broke off, and fell to musing. “If she demands it we must yield,
I suppose,” he said at length. “But give her to understand that if I
discover any more of her designs with Spain I shall be provoked to the
last degree against her. And as an antidote to these machinations at
Madrid you may publish my intention to uphold the claims of the German
Princes in the matter of Cleves, and let all the world know that we are
arming to that end.”
He may have thought—as was long afterwards alleged—that the threat
itself should be sufficient, for there was at that time no power in
Europe that could have stood against his armies in the field.
On that they parted, with a final injunction from Sully that Henry
should see the Princesse de Conde no more.
“I swear to you, Grand Master, that I will use restraint and respect
the sacred tie I formed between my nephew and Charlotte solely so that
I might impose silence upon my own passion.”
And the good Sully writes in comment upon this: “I should have
relied absolutely upon these assurances had I not known how easy it is
for a heart tender and passionate as was his to deceive itself”—which
is the most amiable conceivable way of saying that he attached not the
slightest faith to the King's promise.
Nevertheless he went about the task of making the peace between the
royal couple with all the skill and tact that experience had taught
him; and he might have driven a good bargain on his master's behalf but
for his master's own weakness in supporting him. Maria de' Medici would
not hear of the banishment of the Concinis, to whom she was so deeply
attached. She insisted with perfect justice that she was a bitterly
injured woman, and refused to entertain any idea of reconciliation save
with the condition that arrangements for her coronation as Queen of
France—which was no more than her due—should be made at once, and
that the King should give an undertaking not to make himself ridiculous
any longer by his pursuit of the Princess of Conde. Of the matters
contained in the letter of Vaucelas she denied all knowledge, nor would
suffer any further inquisition.
From Henry's point of view this was anything but satisfactory. But
he yielded. Conscience made a coward of him. He had wronged her so much
in one way that he must make some compensating concessions to her in
another. This weakness was part of his mental attitude towards her,
which swung constantly between confidence and diffidence, esteem and
indifference, affection and coldness; at times he inclined to put her
from him entirely; at others he opined that no one on his Council was
more capable of the administration of affairs. Even in the indignation
aroused by the proof he held of her disloyalty, he was too just not to
admit the provocation he had given her. So he submitted to a
reconciliation on her own terms, and pledged himself to renounce
Charlotte. We have no right to assume from the sequel that he was not
sincere in the intention.
By the following May events proved the accuracy of Sully's judgment.
The court was at Fontainebleau when the last bulwark of Henry's
prudence was battered down by the vanity of that lovely fool,
Charlotte, who must be encouraging her royal lover to resume his
flattering homage. But both appear to have reckoned without the lady's
Henry presented Charlotte with jewels to the value of eighteen
thousand livres, purchased from Messier, the jeweller of the Pont au
Change; and you conceive what the charitable ladies of the Court had to
say about it. At the first hint of scandal Monsieur de Conde put
himself into a fine heat, and said things which pained and annoyed the
King exceedingly. Henry had amassed a considerable and varied
experience of jealous husbands in his time; but he had never met one
quite so intolerable as this nephew of his. He complained of it in a
letter to Sully.
“My friend,—Monsieur the Prince is here, but he acts like a man
possessed. You will be angry and ashamed at the things he says of me. I
shall end by losing all patience with him. In the meanwhile I am
obliged to taut to him with severity.”
More severe than any talk was Henry's instruction to Sully to
withhold payment of the last quarter of the prince's allowance, and to
give refusals to his creditors and purveyors. Thus he intended also, no
doubt, to make it clear to Conde that he did not receive a pension of a
hundred thousand livres a year for nothing.
“If this does not keep him in bounds,” Henry concluded, “we must
think of some other method, for he says the most injurious things of
So little did it keep the prince in bounds—as Henry understood the
phrase—that he immediately packed his belongings, and carried his wife
off to his country house. It was quite in vain that Henry wrote to him
representing that this conduct was dishonouring to them both, and that
the only place for a prince of the blood was the court of his
The end of it all was that the reckless and romantic Henry took to
night-prowling about the grounds of Conde's chateau. In the disguise of
a peasant you see his Majesty of France and Navarre, whose will was law
in Europe, shivering behind damp hedges, ankle-deep in wet grass,
spending long hours in love-lore, ecstatic contemplation of her lighted
window, and all—so far as we can gather—for no other result than the
aggravation of certain rheumatic troubles which should have reminded
him that he was no longer of an age to pursue these amorous
But where his stiffening joints failed, the Queen succeeded. Henry
had been spied upon, of course, as he always was when he strayed from
the path of matrimonial rectitude. The Concinis saw to that. And when
they judged the season ripe, they put her Majesty in possession of the
facts. So inflamed was she by this fresh breach of trust that war was
declared anew between the royal couple, and the best that Sully's wit
and labours could now accomplish was a sort of armed truce.
And then at last in the following November the Prince de Conde took
the desperate resolve of quitting France with his wife, without
troubling—as was his duty—to obtain the King's consent. On the last
night of that month, as Henry was at cards in the Louvre, the Chevalier
du Guet brought him the news of the prince's flight.
“I never in my life,” says Bassompierre, who was present, “saw a man
so distracted or in so violent a passion.”
He flung down his cards, and rose, sending his chair crashing over
behind him. “I am undone!” was his cry. “Undone! This madman has
carried off his wife—perhaps to kill her.” White and shaking, he
turned to Bassompierre. “Take care of my money,” he bade him, “and go
on with the game.”
He lurched out of the room, and dispatched a messenger to the
Arsenal to fetch M. de Sully. Sully obeyed the summons and came at
once, but in an extremely bad temper, for it was late at night, and he
was overburdened with work.
He found the King in the Queen's chamber, walking backward and
forward, his head sunk upon his breast, his hands clenched behind him.
The Queen, a squarely-built, square-faced woman, sat apart, attended by
a few of her ladies and one or two gentlemen of her train. Her
countenance was set and inscrutable, and her brooding eyes were fixed
upon the King.
“Ha, Grand Master!” was Henry's greeting, his voice harsh and
strained. “What do you say to this? What is to be done now?”
“Nothing at all, sire,” says Sully, as calm as his master was
“Nothing! What sort of advice is that?”
“The best advice that you can follow, sire. This affair should be
talked of as little as possible, nor should it appear to be of any
consequence to you, or capable of giving you the least uneasiness.”
The Queen cleared her throat huskily. “Good advice, Monsieur le
Duc,” she approved him. “He will be wise to follow it.” Her voice
strained, almost threatening. “But in this matter I doubt wisdom and he
have long since become strangers.”
That put him in a passion, and in a passion he left her to do the
maddest thing he had ever done. In the garb of a courier, and with a
patch over one eye to complete his disguise, he set out in pursuit of
the fugitives. He had learnt that they had taken the road to Landrecy,
which was enough for him. Stage by stage he followed them in that
flight to Flanders, picking up the trail as he went, and never pausing
until he had reached the frontier without overtaking them.
It was all most romantic, and the lady, when she learnt of it, shed
tears of mingled joy and rage, and wrote him impassioned letters in
which she addressed him as her knight, and implored him, as he loved
her, to come and deliver her from the detestable tyrant who held her in
thrall. Those perfervid appeals completed his undoing, drove him mad,
and blinded him to everything—even to the fact that his wife, too, was
shedding tears, and that these were of rage undiluted by any more
He began by sending Praslin to require the Archduke to order the
Prince of Conde to leave his dominions. And when the Archduke declined
with dignity to be guilty of any such breach of the law of nations,
Henry dispatched Cccuvres secretly to Brussels to carry off thence the
princess. But Maria de' Medici was on the alert, anti frustrated the
design by sending a warning of what was intended to the Marquis
Spinola, as a result of which the Prince de Conde and his wife were
housed for greater security in the Archduke's own palace.
Checkmated at all points, yet goaded further by the letters which he
continued to receive from that most foolish of princesses, Henry took
the wild decision that to obtain her he would invade the Low Countries
as the first step in the execution of that design of a war with Spain
which hitherto had been little more than a presence. The matter of the
Duchy of Cleves was a pretext ready to his hand. To obtain the woman he
desired he would set Europe in a blaze.
He took that monstrous resolve at the very beginning of the new
year, and in the months that followed France rang with preparations. It
rang, too, with other things which should have given him pause. It rang
with the voice of preachers giving expression to the popular vied; that
Cleves was not worth fighting for, that the war was unrighteous—a war
undertaken by Catholic France to defend Protestant interests against
the very champions of Catholicism in Europe. And soon it began to ring,
tool with prophecies of the King's approaching end.
These prognostics rained upon him from every quarter. Thomassin, and
the astrologer La Brosse, warned him of a message from the stars that
May would be fraught with danger for him. From Rome— from the very
pope himself Came notice of a conspiracy against him in which he was
told that the very highest in the land were engaged. From Embrun,
Bayonne, and Douai came messages of like purport, and early in May a
note was found one morning on the altar of the church of Montargis
announcing the King's approaching death.
But that is to anticipate. Meanwhile, Henry had pursued his
preparations undeterred by either warnings or prognostications. There
had been so many conspiracies against his life already that he was
become careless and indifferent in such matters. Yet surely there never
had been one that was so abundantly heralded from every quarter, or
ever one that was hatched under conditions so propitious as those which
he had himself created now. In his soul he was not at ease, and the
source of his uneasiness was the coronation of the Queen, for which the
preparations were now going forward.
He must have known that if danger of assassination threatened him
from any quarter it was most to be feared from those whose influence
with the Queen was almost such as to give them a control over her—the
Concinis and their unavowed but obvious ally the Duke of Epernon. If he
were dead, and the Queen so left that she could be made absolute regent
during the Dauphin's minority, it was those adventurers who would
become through her the true rulers of France, and so enrich themselves
and gratify to the full their covetous ambitions. He saw clearly that
his safety lay in opposing this coronation—already fixed for the 13th
May—which Maria de' Medici was so insistent should take place before
his departure for the wars. The matter so preyed upon his mind that
last he unburdened himself to Sully one day at the Arsenal.
“Oh, my friend,” he cried, “this coronation does not please me. My
heart tells me that some fatality will follow.”
He sat down, grasping the case of his reading-glass, whilst Sully
could only stare at him amazed by this out-burst. Thus he remained
awhile in deep thought. Then he started up again.
“Pardieu!” he cried. “I shall be murdered in this city. It is their
only resource. I see it plainly. This cursed coronation will be the
cause of my death.”
“What a thought, sir!”
“You think that I have been reading the almanach or paying heed to
the prophets, eh? But listen to me now, Grand Master.” And wrinkles
deepened about the bold, piercing eyes. “It is four months and more
since we announced our intention of going to war, and France has
resounded with our preparations. We have made no secret of it. Yet in
Spain not a finger has been lifted in preparation to resist us, not a
sword has been sharpened. Upon what does Spain build? Whence her
confidence that in despite of my firm resolve and my abundant
preparations, despite the fact announced that I am to march on the lath
of this month, despite the fact that my troops are already in Champagne
with a train of artillery so complete and well-furnished that France
has never seen the like of it, and perhaps never will again—whence the
confidence that despite all this there is no need to prepare defences?
Upon what do they build, I say, when they assume, as assume they must,
that there will be no war? Resolve me that, Grand Master.”
But Sully, overwhelmed, could only gasp and ejaculate.
“You had not thought of it, eh? Yet it is clear enough Spain builds
on my death. And who are the friends of Spain here in France? Who was
it intrigued with Spain in such a way and to such ends as in my
lifetime could never have been carried to an issue? Ha! You see.”
“I cannot, sire. It is too horrible. It is impossible!” cried that
loyal, honest gentleman. “And yet if you are convinced of it, you
should break off this coronation, your journey, and your war. If you
wish it so, it is not difficult to satisfy you.”
“Ay, that is it.” He came to his feet, and gripped the duke's
shoulder in his strong, nervous hand. “Break off this coronation, and
never let me hear of it again. That will suffice. Thus I can rid my
mind of apprehensions, and leave Paris with nothing to fear.”
“Very well. I will send at once to Notre Dame and to St. Denis, to
stop the preparations and dismiss the workmen.”
“Ah, wait.” The eyes that for a moment had sparkled with new hope,
grew dull again; the lines of care descended between the brows. “Oh,
what to decide! What to decide! It is what I wish, my friend. But how
will my wife take it?”
“Let her take it as she will. I cannot believe that she will
continue obstinate when she knows what apprehensions you have of
“Perhaps not, perhaps not,” he answered. But his tone was not
sanguine. “Try to persuade her, Sully. Without her consent I cannot do
this thing. But you will know how to persuade her. Go to her.”
Sully suspended the preparations for the coronation, and sought the
Queen. For three days, he tells us, he used prayers, entreaties, and
arguments with which to endeavour to move her. But all was labour lost.
Maria de' Medici was not to be moved. To all Sully's arguments she
opposed an argument that was unanswerable.
Unless she were crowned Queen of France, as was her absolute right,
she would be a person of no account and subject to the Council of
Regency during the King's absence, a position unworthy and intolerable
to her, the mother of the Dauphin.
And so it was Henry's part to yield. His hands were tied by the
wrongs that he had done, and the culminating wrong that he was doing
her by this very war, as he had himself openly acknowledged. He had
chanced one day to ask the Papal Nuncio what Rome thought of this war.
“Those who have the best information,” the Nuncio answered boldly,
“are of opinion that the principal object of the war is the Princess of
Conde, whom your Majesty wishes to bring back to France.”
Angered by this priestly insolence, Henry's answer had been an
impudently defiant acknowledgment of the truth of that allegation.
“Yes, by God!” he cried. “Yes—most certainly I want to have her
back, and I will have her back; no one shall hinder me, not even God's
viceregent on earth.”
Having uttered those words, which he knew to have been carried to
the Queen, and to have wounded her perhaps more deeply than anything
that had yet happened in this affair, his conscience left him, despite
his fears, powerless now to thwart her even to the extent of removing
those pernicious familiars of hers of whose plottings he had all but
And so the coronation was at last performed with proper pomp and
magnificence at St. Denis on Thursday, the 13th May. It had been
concerted that the festivities should last four days and conclude on
the Sunday with the Queen's public entry into Paris. On the Monday the
King was to set out to take command of his armies, which were already
marching upon the frontiers.
Thus Henry proposed, but the Queen—convinced by his own admission
of the real aim and object of the war, and driven by outraged pride to
hate the man who offered her this crowning insult, and determined that
at all costs it must be thwarted—had lent an ear to Concini's purpose
to avenge her, and was ready to repay infidelity with infidelity.
Concini and his fellow- conspirators had gone to work so confidently
that a week before the coronation a courier had appeared in Liege,
announcing that he was going with news of Henry's assassination to the
Princes of Germany, whilst at the same time accounts of the King's
death were being published in France and Italy.
Meanwhile, whatever inward misgivings Henry may have entertained,
outwardly at least he appeared serene and good-humoured at his wife's
coronation, gaily greeting her at the end of the ceremony by the title
of “Madam Regent.”
The little incident may have touched her, arousing her conscience.
For that night she disturbed his slumbers by sudden screams, and when
he sprang up in solicitous alarm she falteringly told him of a dream in
which she had seen him slain, and fell to imploring him with a
tenderness such as had been utterly foreign to her of late to take
great care of himself in the days to come. In the morning she renewed
those entreaties, beseeching him not to leave the Louvre that day,
urging that she had a premonition it would be fatal to him.
He laughed for answer. “You have heard of the predictions of La
Brosse,” said he. “Bah! You should not attach credit to such nonsense.”
Anon came the Duke of Vendome, his natural son by the Marquise de
Verneuil, with a like warning and a like entreaty, only to receive a
Being dull and indisposed as a consequence of last night's broken
rest, Henry lay down after dinner. But finding sleep denied him, he
rose, pensive and gloomy, and wandered aimlessly down, and out into the
courtyard. There an exempt of the guard, of whom he casually asked the
time, observing the King's pallor and listlessness, took the liberty of
suggesting that his Majesty might benefit if he took the air.
That chance remark decided Henry's fate. His eyes quickened
responsively. “You advise well,” said he. “Order my coach. I will go to
the Arsenal to see the Duc de Sully, who is indisposed.”
On the stones beyond the gates, where lackeys were wont to await
their masters, sat a lean fellow of some thirty years of age, in a
dingy, clerkly attire, so repulsively evil of countenance that he had
once been arrested on no better grounds than because it was deemed
impossible that a man with such a face could be other than a villain.
Whilst the coach was being got ready, Henry re-entered the Louvre,
and startled the Queen by announcing his intention. With fearful
insistence she besought him to countermand the order, and not to leave
“I will but go there and back,” he said, laughing at her fears. “I
shall have returned before you realize that I have gone.” And so he
went, never to return alive.
He sat at the back of the coach, and the weather being fine all the
curtains were drawn up so that he might view the decorations of the
city against the Queen's public entry on Sunday. The Duc d'Epernon was
on his right, the Duc de Montbazon and the Marquis de la Force on his
left. Lavordin and Roquelaure were in the right boot, whilst near the
left boot, opposite to Henry, sat Mirebeau and du Plessis Liancourt. He
was attended only by a small number of gentlemen on horseback, and some
The coach turned from the Rue St. Honore into the narrow Rue de la
Ferronerie, and there was brought to a halt by a block occasioned by
the meeting of two carts, one laden with hay, the other with wine. The
footmen went ahead with the exception of two. Of these, one advanced to
clear a way for the royal vehicle, whilst the other took the
opportunity to fasten his garter.
At that moment, gliding like a shadow between the coach and the
shops, came that shabby, hideous fellow who had been sitting on the
stones outside the Louvre an hour ago. Raising himself by deliberately
standing upon one of the spokes of the stationary wheel, he leaned over
the Duc d'Epernon, and, whipping a long, stout knife from his sleeve,
stabbed Henry in the breast. The King, who was in the act of reading a
letter, cried out, and threw up his arms in an instinctive warding
movement, thereby exposing his heart. The assassin stabbed again, and
this time the blade went deep.
With a little gasping cough, Henry sank together, and blood gushed
from his mouth.
The predictions were fulfilled; the tale borne by the courier riding
through Liege a week ago was made true, as were the stories of his
death already at that very hour circulating in Antwerp, Malines,
Brussels, and elsewhere.
The murderer aimed yet a third blow, but this at last was parried by
Epernon, whereupon the fellow stepped back from the coach, and stood
there, making no attempt to escape, or even to rid himself of the
incriminating knife. St. Michel, one of the King's
gentlemen-in-waiting, who had followed the coach, whipped out his sword
and would have slain him on the spot had he not been restrained by
Epernon. The footmen seized the fellow, and delivered him over to the
captain of the guard. He proved to be a school-master of
Angouleme—which was Epernon's country. His name was Ravaillac.
The curtains of the coach were drawn, the vehicle was put about, and
driven back to the Louvre, whilst to avoid all disturbance it was
announced to the people that the King was merely wounded.
But St. Michel went on to the Arsenal, taking with him the knife
that had stabbed his master, to bear the sinister tidings to Henry's
loyal and devoted friend. Sully knew enough to gauge exactly whence the
blow had proceeded. With anger and grief in his heart he got to horse,
ill as he was, and, calling together his people, set out presently for
the Louvre, with a train one hundred strong, which was presently
increased to twice that number by many of the King's faithful servants
who joined his company as he advanced. In the Rue de la Pourpointicre a
man in passing slipped a note into his hand.
It was a brief scrawl: “Monsieur, where are ye going? It is done. I
have seen him dead. If you enter the Louvre you will not escape any
more than he did.”
Nearing St. Innocent, the warning was repeated, this time by a
gentleman named du Jon, who stopped to mutter:
“Monsieur le Duc, our evil is without remedy. Look to yourself, for
this strange blow will have fearful consequences.”
Again in the Rue St. Honore another note was thrown him, whose
contents were akin to those of the first. Yet with misgivings mounting
swiftly to certainty, Sully rode amain towards the Louvre, his train by
now amounting to some three hundred horse. But at the end of the street
he was stopped by M. de Vitry, who drew rein as they met.
“Ah, monsieur,” Vitry greeted him, “where are you going with such a
following? They will never suffer you to enter the Louvre with more
than two or three attendants, which I would not advise you to do. For
this plot does not end here. I have seen some persons so little
sensible of the loss they have sustained that they cannot even simulate
the grief they should feel. Go back, monsieur. There is enough for you
to do without going to the Louvre.”
Persuaded by Vitry's solemnity, and by what he knew in his heart,
Sully faced about and set out to retrace his steps. But presently he
was overtaken by a messenger from the Queen, begging him to come at
once to her at the Louvre, and to bring as few persons as possible with
him. “This proposal,” he writes, “to go alone and deliver myself into
the hands of my enemies, who filled the Louvre, was not calculated to
allay my suspicions.”
Moreover he received word at that moment that an exempt of the
guards and a force of soldiers were already at the gates of the
Arsenal, that others had been sent to the Temple, where the powder was
stored, and others again to the treasurer of the Exchequer to stop all
the money there.
“Convey to the Queen my duty and service,” he bade the messenger,
“and assure her that until she acquaints me with her orders I shall
continue assiduously to attend the affairs of my office.” And with that
he went to shut himself up in the Bastille, whither he was presently
followed by a stream of her Majesty's envoys, all bidding him to the
Louvre. But Sully, ill as he was, and now utterly prostrated by all
that he had endured, put himself to bed and made of his indisposition a
Yet on the morrow he allowed himself to be persuaded to obey her
summons, receiving certain assurances that he had no ground for any
apprehensions. Moreover, he may by now have felt a certain security in
the esteem in which the Parisians held him. An attempt against him in
the Louvre itself would prove that the blow that had killed his master
was not the independent act of a fanatic, as it was being represented;
and vengeance would follow swiftly upon the heads of those who would
thus betray themselves of having made of that poor wretch's fanaticism
an instrument to their evil ends.
In that assurance he went, and he has left on record the burning
indignation aroused in him at the signs of satisfaction, complacency,
and even mirth that he discovered in that house of death. The Queen
herself, however, overwrought by the events, and perhaps
conscience-stricken by the tragedy which in the eleventh hour she had
sought to avert, burst into tears at sight of Sully, and brought in the
Dauphin, who flung himself upon the Duke's neck.
“My son,” the Queen addressed him, “this is Monsieur de Sully. You
must love him well, for he was one of the best and most faithful
servants of the King your father, and I entreat him to continue to
serve you in the same manner.”
Words so fair might have convinced a man less astute that all his
suspicions were unworthy. But, even then, the sequel would very quickly
have undeceived him. For very soon thereafter his fall was brought
about by the Concinis and their creatures, so that no obstacle should
remain between themselves and the full gratification of their fell
At once he saw the whole policy of the dead King subversed; he saw
the renouncing of all ancient alliances, and the union of the crowns of
France and Spain; the repealing of all acts of pacification; the
destruction of the Protestants; the dissipation of the treasures
amassed by Henry; the disgrace of those who would not receive the yoke
of the new favourites. All this Sully witnessed in his declining years,
and he witnessed, too, the rapid rise to the greatest power and dignity
in the State of that Florentine adventurer, Concino Concini—now
bearing the title of Marshal d'Ancre—who had so cunningly known how to
profit by a Queen's jealousy and a King's indiscretions.
As for the miserable Ravaillac, it is pretended that he maintained
under torture and to the very hour of his death that he had no
accomplices, that what he had done he had done to prevent an
unrighteous war against Catholicism and the Pope— which was, no doubt,
the falsehood with which those who used him played upon his fanaticism
and whetted him to their service. I say “pretended” because, after all,
complete records of his examinations are not discoverable, and there is
a story that when at the point of death, seeing himself abandoned by
those in whom perhaps he had trusted, he signified a desire to confess,
and did so confess; but the notary Voisin, who took his depositions in
articulo mortis, set them down in a hand so slovenly as to be
That may or may not be true. But the statement that when the
President du Harlay sought to pursue inquiries into certain allegations
by a woman named d'Escoman, which incriminated the Duc d'Epernon, he
received a royal order to desist, rests upon sound authority.
* * * * * *
That is the story of the assassination of Henry IV. re-told in the
light of certain records which appear to me to have been insufficiently
studied. They should suggest a train of speculation leading to
inferences which, whilst obvious, I hesitate to define absolutely.
“If it be asked,” says Perefixe, “who were the friends that
suggested to Ravaillac so damnable a design, history replies that it is
ignorant and that upon an action of Such consequences it is not
permissible to give suspicions and conjectures for certain truths. The
judges themselves who interrogated him dared not open their mouths, and
never mentioned the matter but with gestures of horror and amazement.”
VI. THE BARREN WOOING. The Murder of
There had been a banquet, followed by a masque, and this again by a
dance in which the young queen had paired off with Lord Robert Dudley,
who in repute was the handsomest man in Europe, just as in fact he was
the vainest, shallowest, and most unscrupulous. There had been homage
and flattery lavishly expressed, and there was a hint of masked
hostility from certain quarters to spice the adventure, and to thrill
her bold young spirit. Never yet in all the months of her reign since
her coronation in January of last year had she felt so much a queen,
and so conscious of the power of her high estate; never so much a
woman, and so conscious of the weakness of her sex. The interaction of
those conflicting senses wrought upon her like a heady wine. She leaned
more heavily upon the silken arm of her handsome Master of the Horse,
and careless in her intoxication of what might be thought or said,
she—who by the intimate favour shown him had already loosed the tongue
of Scandal and set it chattering in every court in Europe—drew him
forth from that thronged and glittering chamber of the Palace of
Whitehall into the outer solitude and friendly gloom.
And he, nothing loth to obey the suasion of that white hand upon his
arm, exultant, indeed, to parade before them all the power he had with
her, went willingly enough. Let Norfolk and Sussex scowl, let Arundel
bite his lip until it bled, and sober Cecil stare cold disapproval.
They should mend their countenances soon, and weigh their words or be
for ever silenced, when he was master in England. And that he would
soon be master he was assured to- night by every glance of her blue
eyes, by the pressure of that fair hand upon his arm, by the
languishing abandonment with which that warm young body swayed towards
him, as they passed out from the blaze of lights and the strains of
music into the gloom and silence of the gallery leading to the terrace.
“Out—let us go out, Robin. Let me have air,” she almost panted, as
she drew him on.
Assuredly he would be master soon. Indeed, he might have been master
already but for that wife of his, that stumbling-block to his ambition,
who practiced the housewifely virtues at Cumnor Place, and clung so
tenaciously and so inconsiderately to life in spite of all his plans to
relieve her of the burden of it.
For a year and more his name had been coupled with the Queen's in a
tale that hurt her honour as a woman and imperilled her dignity as a
sovereign. Already in October of 1559 Alvarez de Quadra, the Spanish
ambassador, had written home: “I have learnt certain things as to the
terms on which the Queen and Lord Robert stand towards each other which
I could not have believed.”
That was at a time when de Quadra was one of a dozen ambassadors who
were competing for her hand, and Lord Robert had, himself, appeared to
be an ally of de Quadra and an advocate of the Spanish marriage with
the Archduke Charles. But it was a presence which nowise deceived the
astute Spaniard, who employed a legion of spies to keep him well
“All the dallying with us,” he wrote, “all the dallying with the
Swede, all the dallying there will be with the rest, one after another,
is merely to keep Lord Robert's enemies in play until his villainy
about his wife can be executed.”
What that particular villainy was, the ambassador had already stated
earlier in his letter. “I have learnt from a person who usually gives
me true information that Lor d Robert has sent to have his wife
What had actually happened was that Sir Richard Verney—a trusted
retainer of Lord Robert's—had reported to Dr. Bayley, of New College,
Oxford, that Lady Robert Dudley was “sad and ailing,” and had asked him
for a potion. But the doctor was learned in more matters than physic.
He had caught an echo of the tale of Lord Robert's ambition; he had
heard a whisper that whatever suitors might come from overseas for
Elizabeth, she would marry none but “my lord”—as Lord Robert was now
commonly styled. More, he had aforetime heard rumours of the
indispositions of Lady Robert, yet had never found those rumours
verified by the fact. Some months ago, it had been reported that her
ladyship was suffering from cancer of the breast and likely soon to die
of it. Yet Dr. Bayley had reason to know that a healthier woman did not
live in Berkshire.
The good doctor was a capable deductive reasoner, and the conclusion
to which he came was that if they poisoned her under cover of his
potion—she standing in no need of physic—he might afterwards be
hanged as a cover for their crime. So he refused to prescribe as he was
invited, nor troubled to make a secret of invitation and refusal.
For awhile, then, Lord Robert had prudently held his hand; moreover,
the urgency there had been a year ago, when that host of foreign
suitors laid siege to Elizabeth of England, had passed, and his
lordship could afford to wait. But now of a sudden the urgency was
returned. Under the pressure brought to bear upon her to choose a
husband, Elizabeth had half-committed herself to marry the Archduke
Charles, promising the Spanish ambassador a definite answer within a
Lord Robert had felt the earth to be quaking under him; he had seen
the ruin of his high ambitions; he had watched with rage the expanding
mockery upon the countenances of Norfolk, Sussex, and those others who
hated and despised him; and he had cursed that wife of his who knew not
when to die. But for that obstinacy with which she clung to life he had
been the Queen's husband these many months, so making an end to
suspense and to the danger that lies in delay.
To-night the wantonness with which the Queen flaunted before the
eyes of all her court the predilection in which she held him, came not
merely to lull his recent doubts and fears, to feed his egregious
vanity, and to assure him that in her heart he need fear no rival; it
came also to set his soul Quiver impotent rage. He had but to put forth
his hands to possess himself of this splendid prize. Yet those hands of
his were bound while that woman lived at Cumnor. Conceive his feelings
as they stole away together like any pair of lovers.
Arm in arm they came by a stone gallery, where a stalwart scarlet
sentinel, a yeoman of the guard, with a Tudor rose embroidered in gold
upon his back, stood under a lamp set in the wall, with grounded pike
and body stiffly erect.
The tall young Queen was in crimson satin with cunningly-wrought
silver embroideries, trimmed with tufted silver fringe, her stomacher
stiff with silver bullion studded with gold rosettes and Roman pearls,
her bodice cut low to display her splendid neck, decked by a carcanet
of pearls and rubies, and surmounted by a fan-like cuff of guipure,
high behind and sloping towards the bust. Thus she appeared to the
sentinel as the rays of the single lamp behind him struck fire from her
red-gold hair. As if by her very gait to express the wantonness of her
mood, she pointed her toes and walked with head thrown back, smiling up
into the gipsy face of her companion, who was arrayed from head to foot
in shimmering ivory satin, with an elegance no man in England could
They came by that stone gallery to a little terrace above the Privy
Steps. A crescent moon hung low over the Lambeth marshes across the
river. From a barge that floated gay with lights in mid-stream came a
tinkle of lutes, and the sweet voice of a singing boy. A moment the
lovers stood at gaze, entranced by the beauty of the soft, tepid
September night, so subtly adapted to their mood. Then she fetched a
sigh, and hung more heavily upon his arm, leaned nearer to his tall,
vigorous, graceful figure.
“Robin, Robin!” was all she said, but in her voice throbbed a world
of passionate longing, an exquisite blend of delight and pain.
Judging the season ripe, his arm flashed round her, and drew her
fiercely close. For a moment she was content to yield, her head against
his stalwart shoulder, a very woman nestling to the mate of her choice,
surrendering to her master. Then the queen in her awoke and strangled
nature. Roughly she disengaged herself from his arm, and stood away,
her breathing quickened.
“God's Death, Robin!” There was a harsh note in the voice that
lately had cooed so softly. “You are strangely free, I think.”
But he, impudence incarnate, nothing abashed, accustomed to her
gusty moods, to her alternations between the two natures she had
inherited—from overbearing father and wanton mother—was determined at
all costs to take the fullest advantage of the hour, to make an end of
“I am not free, but enslaved—by love and worship of you. Would you
deny me; Would you?”
“Not I, but fate,” she answered heavily, and he knew that the woman
at Cumnor was in her mind.
“Fate will soon mend the wrong that fate has done—very soon now.”
He took her hand, and, melted again from her dignity, she let it lie in
his. “When that is done, sweet, then will I claim you for my own.”
“When that is done, Robin?” she questioned almost fearfully, as if a
sudden dread suspicion broke upon her mind. “When what is done?”
He paused a moment to choose his words, what time she stared
intently into the face that gleamed white in the surrounding gloom.
“When that poor ailing spirit is at rest.” And he added: “It will be
“Thou hast said the same aforetime, Robin. Yet it has not so fallen
“She has clung to life beyond what could have been believed of her
condition,” he explained, unconscious of any sinister ambiguity. “But
the end, I know, is very near—a matter but of days.”
“Of days!” she shivered, and moved forward to the edge of the
terrace, he keeping step beside her. Then she stood awhile in silence,
looking down at the dark oily surge of water. “You loved her once,
Robin?” she asked, in a queer, unnatural voice.
“I never loved but once,” answered that perfect courtier.
“Yet you married her—men say it was a love marriage. It was a
marriage, anyway, and you can speak so calmly of her death?” Her tone
was brooding. She sought understanding that should silence her own
lingering doubt of him.
“Where lies the blame? Who made me what I am?” Again his bold arm
encompassed her. Side by side they peered down through the gloom at the
rushing waters, and he seized an image from them. “Our love is like
that seething tide,” he said. “To resist it is to labour in agony
awhile, and then to perish.”
“And to yield is to be swept away.”
“To happiness,” he cried, and reverted to his earlier prayer. “Say
that when . . . that afterwards, I may claim you for my own. Be true to
yourself, obey the voice of instinct, and so win to happiness.”
She looked up at him, seeking to scan the handsome face in that dim
light that baffled her, and he observed the tumultuous heave of her
“Can I trust thee, Robin? Can I trust thee? Answer me true!” she
implored him, adorably weak, entirely woman now.
“What does your own heart answer you?” quoth he, loaning close above
“I think I can, Robin. And, anyway, I must. I cannot help myself. I
am but a woman, after all,” she murmured, and sighed. “Be it as thou
wilt. Come to me again when thou art free.”
He bent lower, murmuring incoherently, and she put up a hand to pat
his swarthy bearded cheek.
“I shall make thee greater than any man in England, so thou make me
happier than any woman.”
He caught the hand in his and kissed it passionately, his soul
singing a triumph song within him. Norfolk and Sussex and those other
scowling ones should soon be whistled to the master's heel.
As they turned arm in arm into the gallery to retrace their steps,
they came suddenly face to face with a slim, sleek gentleman, who bowed
profoundly, a smile upon h is crafty, shaven, priestly face. In a
smooth voice and an accent markedly foreign, he explained that he, too,
sought the cool of the terrace, not thinking to intrude; and upon that,
bowing again, he passed on and effaced himself. It was Alvarez de
Quadra, Bishop of Aquila, the argus-eyed ambassador of Spain.
The young face of the Queen hardened.
“I would I were as well served abroad as the King of Spain is here,”
she said aloud, that the retreating ambassador might hear the dubious
compliment; and for my lord's ear alone she added under her breath:
“The spy! Philip of Spain will hear of this.”
“So that he hears something more, what shall it signify?” quoth my
lord, and laughed.
They paced the length of the gallery in silence, past the yeoman of
the guard, who kept his watch, and into the first antechamber. Perhaps
it was that meeting with de Quadra and my lord's answer to her comment
that prompted what now she asked: “What is it ails her, Robin?”
“A wasting sickness,” he answered, never doubting to whom the
“You said, I think, that . . . that the end is very near.”
He caught her meaning instantly. “Indeed, if she is not dead
already, she is very nearly so.”
He lied, for never had Amy Dudley been in better health. And yet he
spoke the truth, for in so much as her life depended upon his will, it
was as good as spent. This was, he knew, a decisive moment of his
career. The hour was big with fate. If now he were weak or hesitant,
the chance might slip away and be for ever lost to him. Elizabeth's
moods were as uncertain as were certain the hostile activities of my
lord's enemies. He must strike quickly whilst she was in her present
frame of mind, and bring her to wedlock, be it in public or in private.
But first he must shake off the paralysing encumbrance of that
house-wife down at Cumnor.
I believe—from evidence that I account abundant—that he considered
it with the cold remorselessness of the monstrous egotist he was. An
upstart, great-grandson to a carpenter, noble only in two descents, and
in both of them stained by the block, he found a queen—the victim of a
physical passion that took no account of the worthlessness underlying
his splendid exterior— reaching out a hand to raise him to a throne.
Being what he was, he weighed his young wife's life at naught in the
evil scales of his ambition. And yet he had loved her once, more truly
perhaps than he could now pretend to love the Queen.
It was some ten years since, as a lad of eighteen, he had taken Sir
John Robsart's nineteen-year-old daughter to wife. She had brought him
considerable wealth and still more devotion. Because of this devotion
she was content to spend her days at Cumnor, whilst he ruffled it at
court; content to take such crumbs of attention as he could spare her
upon occasion. And during the past year, whilst he had been plotting
her death, she had been diligently caring for his interests and
fostering the prosperity of the Berkshire estate. If he thought of this
at all, he allowed no weakly sentiment to turn him from his purpose.
There was too much at stake for that—a throne, no less.
And so, on the morning after that half-surrender of Elizabeth's, we
find my lord closeted with his henchman, Sir Richard Verney. Sir
Richard—like his master—was a greedy, unscrupulous, ambitious
scoundrel, prepared to go to any lengths for the sake of such worldly
advancement as it lay in my lord's power to give him. My lord perforce
used perfect frankness with this perfect servant.
“Thou'lt rise or fall with me, Dick,” quoth he. “Help me up, then,
and so mount with me. When I am King, as soon now I shall be, look to
me. Now to the thing that is to do. Thou'lt have guessed it.”
To Sir Richard it was an easy guess, considering how much already he
had been about this business. He signified as much.
My lord shifted in his elbow-chair, and drew his embroidered bedgown
of yellow satin closer about his shapely limbs.
“Hast failed me twice before, Richard,” said he. “God's death, man,
fail me not again, or the last chance may go the way of the others.
There's a magic in the number three. See that I profit by it, or I am
undone, and thou with me.”
“I'd not have failed before, but for that suspicious dotard Bayley,”
grumbled Verney. “Your lordship bade me see that all was covered.”
“Aye, aye. And I bid thee so again. On thy life, leave no footprints
by which we may be tracked. Bayley is not the only physician in Oxford.
About it, then, and swiftly. Time is the very soul of fortune in this
business, with the Spaniard straining at the leash, and Cecil and the
rest pleading his case with her. Succeed, and thy fortune's made; fail,
and trouble not to seek me again.”
Sir Richard bowed, and took his leave. As he reached the door, his
lordship stayed him. “If thou bungle, do not look to me. The court goes
to Windsor to-morrow. Bring me word there within the week.” He rose,
magnificently tall and stately, in his bedgown of embroidered yellow
satin, his handsome head thrown back, and went after his retainer.
“Thou'lt not fail me, Dick,” said he, a hand upon the lesser
scoundrel's shoulder. “There is much at issue for me, and for thee with
“I will not fail you, my lord,” Sir Richard rashly promised, and on
that they parted.
Sir Richard did not mean to fail. He knew the importance of
succeeding, and he appreciated the urgency of the business as much as
did my lord himself. But between his cold, remorseless will to succeed
and success itself there lay a gulf which it needed all his resource to
bridge. He paid a short visit to Lady Robert at Cumnor, and professed
deepest concern to find in her a pallor and an ailing air which no one
else had yet observed. He expressed himself on the subject to Mrs.
Buttelar and the other members of her ladyship's household, reproaching
them with their lack of care of their mistress. Mrs. Buttelar became
indignant under his reproaches.
“Nay, now, Sir Richard, do you wonder that my lady is sad and
downcast with such tales as are going of my lord's doings at court, and
of what there is 'twixt the Queen and him? Her ladyship may be too
proud to complain, but she suffers the more for that, poor lamb. There
was talk of a divorce awhile ago that got to her ears.”
“Old wives' tales,” snorted Sir Richard.
“Likely,” agreed Mrs. Buttelar. “Yet when my lord neither comes to
Cumnor, nor requires her ladyship to go to him, what is she to think,
Sir Richard made light of all, and went off to Oxford to find a
physician more accommodating than Dr. Bayley. But Dr. Bayley had talked
too much, and it was in vain that Sir Richard pleaded with each of the
two physicians he sought that her ladyship was ailing—“sad and
heavy”—and that he must have a potion for her.
Each in turn shook his head. They had no medicine for sorrow, was
their discreet answer. From his description of her condition, said
each, it was plain that her ladyship's sickness was of the mind, and,
considering the tales that were afloat, neither was surprised.
Sir Richard went back to his Oxford lodging with the feeling of a
man checkmated. For two whole days of that precious time he lay there
considering what to do. He thought of going to seek a physician in
Abingdon. But fearing no better success in that quarter, fearing,
indeed, that in view of the rumours abroad he would merely be
multiplying what my lord called “footprints,” he decided to take some
other way to his master's ends. He was a resourceful, inventive
scoundrel, and soon he had devised a plan.
On Friday he wrote from Oxford to Lady Robert, stating that he had a
communication for her on the subject of his lordship as secret as it
was urgent. That he desired to come to her at Cumnor again, but dared
not do so openly. He would come if she would contrive that her servants
should be absent, and he exhorted her to let no one of them know that
he was coming, else he might be ruined, out of his desire to serve her.
That letter he dispatched by the hand of his servant Nunweek,
desiring him to bring an answer. It was a communication that had upon
her ladyship's troubled mind precisely the effect that the rascal
conceived. There was about Sir Richard's personality nothing that could
suggest the villain. He was a smiling, blue- eyed, florid gentleman, of
a kindly manner that led folk to trust him. And on the occasion of his
late visit to Cumnor he had displayed such tender solicitude that her
ladyship—starved of affection as she was—had been deeply touched.
His letter so cunningly couched filled her with vague alarm and with
anxiety. She had heard so many and such afflicting rumours, and had
received in my lord's cruel neglect of her such circumstantial
confirmation of them, that she fastened avidly upon what she deemed the
chance of learning at last the truth. Sir Richard Verney had my lord's
confidence, and was much about the court in his attendance upon my
lord. He would know the truth, and what could this letter mean but that
he was disposed to tell it.
So she sent him back a line in answer, bidding him come on Sunday
afternoon. She would contrive to be alone in the house, so that he need
not fear being seen by any.
As she promised, so she performed, and on the Sunday packed off her
household to the fair that was being held at Abingdon that day, using
insistence with the reluctant, and particularly with one of her women,
a Mrs. Oddingsell, who expressed herself strongly against leaving her
ladyship alone in that lonely house. At length, however, the last of
them was got off, and my lady was left impatiently to await her secret
visitor. It was late afternoon when he arrived, accompanied by Nunweek,
whom he left to hold the horses under the chestnuts in the avenue.
Himself he reached the house across the garden, where the blighting
hand of autumn was already at work.
Within the porch he found her waiting, fretted by her impatience.
“It is very good in you to have come, Sir Richard,” was her gracious
“I am your ladyship's devoted servant,” was his sufficient answer,
and he doffed his plumed bonnet, and bowed 1ow before her. “We shall be
private in your bower above stairs,” he added.
“Why, we are private anywhere. I am all alone, as you desired.”
“That is very wise—most wise,” said he. “Will your ladyship lead
So they went up that steep, spiral staircase, which had loomed so
prominently in the plans the ingenious scoundrel had evolved. Across
the gallery on the first floor they entered a little room whose windows
overlooked the garden. This was her bower—an intimate cosy room,
reflecting on every hand the gentle, industrious personality of the
owner. On an oak table near the window were spread some papers and
account-books concerned with the estate—with which she had sought to
beguile the time of waiting. She led the way towards this, and, sinking
into the high-backed chair that stood before it, she looked up at him
expectantly. She was pale, there were dark stains under her eyes, and
wistful lines had crept into the sweet face of that neglected wife.
Contemplating his poor victim now, Sir Richard may have compared her
with the woman by whom my lord desired so impatiently to supplant her.
She was tall and beautifully shaped, despite an almost maidenly
slenderness. Her countenance was gentle and adorable, with its soft
grey eyes and light brown hair, and tender, wistful mouth.
It was not difficult to believe that Lord Robert had as ardently
desired her to wife five years ago as he now desired to be rid of her.
Then he obeyed the insistent spur of passion; now he obeyed the
remorseless spur of ambition. In reality, then as now, his beacon-light
was love of self.
Seeing her so frail and trusting, trembling in her anxious
impatience to hear the news of her lord which he had promised her, Sir
Richard may have felt some pang of pity. But, like my lord, he was of
those whose love of self suffers the rivalry of no weak emotion.
“Your news, Sir Richard,” she besought him, her dove-like glance
upon his florid face—less florid now than was its wont.
He leaned against the table, his back to the window. “Why, it is
briefly this,” said he. “My lord . . .” And then he checked, and fell
into a listening attitude.
“What was that? Did you hear anything, my lady?”
“No. What is it?” Her face betrayed alarm, her anxiety mounting
under so much mystery.
“Sh! Stay you here,” he enjoined. “If we are spied upon . . .” He
left the sentence there. Already he was moving quickly, stealthily,
towards the door. He paused before opening it. “Stay where you are, my
lady,” he enjoined again, so gravely that she could have no thought of
disobeying him. “I will return at once.”
He stepped out, closed the door, and crossed to the stairs. There he
stopped. From his pouch he had drawn a fine length of whipcord,
attached at one end to a tiny bodkin of needle sharpness. That bodkin
he drove into the edge of one of the panels of the wainscot, in line
with the topmost step; drawing the cord taut at a height of a foot or
so above this step, he made fast its other end to the newel-post at the
stair-head. He had so rehearsed the thing in his mind that the
performance of it occupied but a few seconds. Such dim light of that
autumn afternoon as reached the spot would leave that fine cord
Sir Richard went back to her ladyship. She had not moved in his
absence, so brief as scarcely to have left her time in which to resolve
upon disobeying his injunction.
“We move in secret like conspirators,” said he, “and so we are
easily affrighted.. I should have known it could be none but my lord
himself . . . here?”
“My lord!” she interrupted, coming excitedly to her feet. “Lord
“To be sure, my lady. It was he had need to visit you in secret—
for did the Queen have knowledge of his coming here, it would mean the
Tower for him. You cannot think what, out of love for you, his lordship
suffers. The Queen . . I,
“But do you say that he is here, man", her voice shrilled up in
“He is below, my lady. Such is his peril that he dared not set foot
in Cumnor until he was certain beyond doubt that you are here alone.”
“He is below!” she cried, and a flush dyed her pale cheeks, a light
of gladness quickened her sad eyes. Already she had gathered from his
cunning words a new and comforting explanation of the things reported
to her. “He is below!” she repeated. “Oh!” She turned from him, and in
an instant was speeding towards the door.
He stood rooted there, his nether lip between his teeth, his face a
ghastly white, whilst she ran on.
“My lord! Robin! Robin!” he heard her calling, as she crossed the
corridor. Then came a piercing scream that echoed through the silent
house; a pause; a crashing thud below; and—silence.
Sir Richard remained by the table, immovable. Blood was trickling
down his chin. He had sunk his teeth through his lip when that scream
rang out. A long moment thus, as if entranced, awe- stricken. Then he
braced himself, and went forward, reeling at first like a drunken man.
But by the time he had reached the stairs he was master of himself
again. Swiftly, for all his trembling fingers, he unfastened the cord's
end from the newel- post. The wrench upon it had already pulled the
bodkin from the wainscot. He went down that abrupt spiral staircase at
a moderate pace, mechanically coiling the length of whip-cord, and
bestowing it with the bodkin in his pouch again, and all the while his
eyes were fixed upon the grey bundle that lay so still at the stairs'
He came to it at last, and, pausing, looked more closely. He was
thankful that there was not the need to touch it. The position of the
brown-haired head was such as to leave no doubt of the complete success
of his design. Her neck was broken. Lord Robert Dudley was free to
marry the Queen.
Deliberately Sir Richard stepped over the huddled body of that poor
victim of a knave's ambition, crossed the hall, and passed out, closing
the door. An excellent day's work, thought he, most excellently
accomplished. The servants, returning from Abingdon Fair on that Sunday
evening, would find her there. They would publish the fact that in
their absence her ladyship had fallen downstairs and broken her neck,
and that was the end of the matter.
* * * * * *
But that was not the end at all. Fate, the ironic interloper, had
taken a hand in this evil game.
The court had moved a few days earlier to Windsor, and thither on
the Friday—the 6th of September—came Alvarez de Quadra to seek the
definite answer which the Queen had promised him on the subject of the
Spanish marriage. What he had seen that night at Whitehall, coupled
with his mistrust of her promises and experience of her fickleness, had
rendered him uneasy. Either she was trifling with him, or else she was
behaving in a manner utterly unbecoming the future wife of the
Archduke. In either case some explanation was necessary. De Quadra must
know where he stood. Having failed to obtain an audience before the
court left London, he had followed it to Windsor, cursing all women and
contemplating the advantages of the Salic law.
He found at Windsor an atmosphere of constraint, and it was not
until the morrow that he obtained an audience with the Queen. Even then
this was due to chance rather than to design on the part of Elizabeth.
For they met on the terrace as she was returning from hunting. She
dismissed those about her, including the stalwart Robert Dudley, and,
alone with de Quadra, invited him to speak.
“Madame,” he said, “I am writing to my master, and I desire to know
whether your Majesty would wish me to add anything to what you have
announced already as your intention regarding the Archduke.”
She knit her brows. The wily Spaniard fenced so closely that there
was no alternative but to come to grips.
“Why, sir,” she answered dryly, “you may tell his Majesty that I
have come to an absolute decision, which is that I will not marry the
The colour mounted to the Spaniard's sallow cheeks. Iron self-control alone saved him from uttering unpardonable words. Even so he
“This, madame, is not what you had led me to believe when last we
talked upon the subject.”
At another time Elizabeth might have turned upon him and rent him
for that speech. But it happened that she was in high good-humour that
afternoon, and disposed to indulgence. She laughed, surveying herself
in the small steel mirror that dangled from her waist.
“You are ungallant to remind me, my lord,” said she. “My sex, you
may have heard, is privileged to change of mind.”
“Then, madame, I pray that you may change it yet again.” His tone
“Your prayer will not be heard. This time I am resolved.”
De Quadra bowed. “The King, my master, will not be pleased, I fear.”
She looked him straightly in the face, her dark eyes kindling.
“God's death!” said she, “I marry to please myself, and not the King
“You are resolved on marriage then?” flashed he.
“And it please you,” she mocked him archly, her mood of joyousness
already conquering her momentary indignation.
“What pleases you must please me also, madame,” he answered, in a
tone so cold that it belied his words. “That it please you, is reason
enough why you should marry . . . Whom did your Majesty say?”
“Nay. I named no names. Yet one so astute might hazard a shrewd
guess.” Half-challenging, half-coy, she eyed him over her fan.
“A guess? Nay, madame. I might affront your Majesty.”
“If I were deluded by appearances. If I named a subject who signally
enjoys your royal favour.”
“You mean Lord Robert Dudley.” She paled a little, and her bosom's
heave was quickened. “Why should the guess affront me?”
“Because a queen—a wise queen, madame—does not mate with a
subject—particularly with one who has a wife already.”
He had stung her. He had wounded at once the pride of the woman and
the dignity of the queen, yet in a way that made it difficult for her
to take direct offense. She bit her lip and mastered her surge of
anger. Then she laughed, a thought sneeringly.
“Why, as to my Lord Robert's wife, it seems you are less well-informed than usual, sir. Lady Robert Dudley is dead, or very nearly
And as blank amazement overspread his face, she passed upon her way
and left him.
But anon, considering, she grew vaguely uneasy, and that very night
expressed her afflicting doubt to my lord, reporting to him de Quadra's
words. His lordship, who was mentally near-sighted, laughed.
“He'll change his tone before long,” said he.
She set her hands upon his shoulders, and looked up adoringly into
his handsome gipsy face. Never had he known her so fond as in these
last days since her surrender to him that night upon the terrace at
Whitehall, never had she been more the woman and less the queen in her
bearing towards him.
“You are sure, Robin? You are quite sure?” she pleaded.
He drew her close, she yielding herself to his embrace. “With so
much at stake could I be less than sure, sweet?” said he, and so
convinced her—the more easily since he afforded her the conviction she
That was on the night of Saturday, and early on Monday came the news
which justified him of his assurances. It was brought him to Windsor by
one of Amy's Cumnor servants, a fellow named Bowes, who, with the
others, had been away at Abingdon Fair yesterday afternoon, and had
returned to find his mistress dead at the stairs' foot—the result of
an accident, as all believed.
It was not quite the news that my lord had been expecting. It
staggered him a little that an accident so very opportune should have
come to resolve his difficulties, obviating the need for recourse to
those more dangerous measures with which he had charged Sir Richard
Verney. He perceived how suspicion might now fall upon himself, how his
enemies would direct it, and on the instant made provision. There and
then he seized a pen, and wrote to his kinsman, Sir Thomas Blount, who
even then was on his way to Cumnor. He stated in the letter what he had
learnt from Bowes, bade Blount engage the coroner to make the strictest
investigation, and send for Amy's natural brother, Appleyard. “Have no
respect to any living person,” was the final injunction of that letter
which he sent Blount by the hand of Bowes.
And, then, before he could carry to the Queen the news of this
accident which had broken his matrimonial shackles, Sir Richard Verney
arrived with the true account. He had expected praise and thanks from
his master. Instead, he met first dismay, and then anger and fierce
“My lord, this is unjust,” the faithful retainer protested. “Knowing
the urgency, I took the only way—contrived the accident.”
“Pray God,” said Dudley, “that the jury find it to have been an
accident; for if the truth should come to be discovered, I leave you to
the consequences. I warned you of that before you engaged in this. Look
for no help from me.”
“I look for none,” said Sir Richard, stung to hot contempt by the
meanness and cowardice so characteristic of the miserable egotist he
served. “Nor will there be the need, for I have left no footprints.
“I hope that may be so, for I tell you, man, that I have ordered a
strict inquiry, bidding them have no respect to any living person, and
to that I shall adhere.”
“And if, in spite of that, I am not hanged?” quoth Sir Richard, a
sneer upon his white face.
“Come to me again when the affair is closed, and we will talk of
Sir Richard went out, rage and disgust in his heart, leaving my lord
with rage and fear in his.
Grown calmer now, my lord dressed himself with care and sought the
Queen to tell her of the accident that had removed the obstacle to
their marriage. And that same night her Majesty coldly informed de
Quadra that Lady Robert Dudley had fallen down a flight of stairs and
broken her neck.
The Spaniard received the information with a countenance that was
“Your Majesty's gift of prophecy is not so widely known as it
deserves to be,” was his cryptic comment.
She stared at him blankly a moment. Then a sudden uneasy memory
awakened by his words, she drew him forward to a window embrasure apart
from those who had stood about her, and for greater security addressed
him, as he tells us, in Italian.
“I do not think I understand you, sir. Will you be plain with me?”
She stood erect and stiff, and frowned upon him after the manner of her
bullying father. But de Quadra held the trumps, and was not easily
“About the prophecy?” said he. “Why, did not your Majesty foretell
the poor lady's death a full day before it came to pass? Did you not
say that she was already dead, or nearly so?”
He saw her blench; saw fear stare from those dark eyes that could be
so very bold. Then her ever-ready anger followed swiftly.
“'Sblood, man! What do you imply?” she cried, and went on without
waiting for his answer. “The poor woman was sick and ill, and must soon
have succumbed; it will no doubt be found that the accident which
anticipated nature was due to her condition.”
Gently he shook his head, relishing her discomfiture, taking
satisfaction in torturing her who had flouted him and his master, in
punishing her whom he had every reason to believe guilty.
“Your Majesty, I fear, has been ill-informed on that score. The poor
lady was in excellent health—and like to have lived for many years—at
least, so I gather from Sir William Cecil, whose information is usually
She clutched his arm. “You told him what I had said?”
“It was indiscreet, perhaps. Yet, how was I to know . . . ?” He left
his sentence there. “I but expressed my chagrin at your decision on the
score of the Archduke—hardly a wise decision, if I may be so bold,” he
She caught the suggestion of a bargain, and became instantly
“You transcend the duties of your office, my lord,” she rebuked him,
and turned away.
But soon that night she was closeted with Dudley, and closely
questioning him about the affair. My lord was mightily vehement.
“I take Heaven to be my witness,” quoth he, when she all but taxed
him with having procured his lady's death, “that I am innocent of any
part in it. My injunctions to Blount, who has gone to Cumnor, are that
the matter be sifted without respect to any person, and if it can be
shown that this is other than the accident I deem it, the murderer
She flung her arms about his neck, and laid her head on his
shoulder. “Oh, Robin, Robin, I am full of fears,” she wailed, and was
nearer to tears than he had ever seen her.
But, anon, as the days passed their fears diminished, and finally
the jury at Cumnor—delayed in their finding, and spurred by my lord to
exhaustive inquiries—returned a verdict of “found dead,” which in all
the circumstances left his lordship—who was known, moreover, to have
been at Windsor when his lady died—fully acquitted. Both he and the
Queen took courage from that finding, and made no secret of it now that
they would very soon be wed.
But there were many whom that finding did not convince, who read my
lord too well, and would never suffer him to reap the fruits of his
evil deed. Prominent among these were Arundel—who himself had aimed at
the Queen's hand—Norfolk and Pembroke, and behind them was a great
mass of the people. Indignation against Lord Robert was blazing out,
fanned by such screaming preachers as Lever, who, from the London
pulpits, denounced the projected marriage, hinting darkly at the truth
of Amy Dudley's death.
What was hinted at home was openly expressed abroad, and in Paris
Mary Stuart ventured a cruel witticism that Elizabeth was to conserve
in her memory: “The Queen of England,” she said, “is about to marry her
horse-keeper, who has killed his wife to make a place for her.”
Yet Elizabeth persisted in her intent to marry Dudley, until the
sober Cecil conveyed to her towards the end of that month of September
some notion of the rebellion that was smouldering.
She flared out at him, of course. But he stood his ground.
“There is,” he reminded her, “this unfortunate matter of a prophecy,
as the Bishop of Aquila persists in calling it.”
“God's Body! Is the rogue blabbing?”
“What else did your Majesty expect from a man smarting under a sense
of injury? He has published it broadcast that on the day before Lady
Robert broke her neck, you told him that she was dead or nearly so. And
he argues from it a guilty foreknowledge on your Majesty's part of what
“A guilty foreknowledge!” She almost choked in rage, and then fell
to swearing as furiously in that moment as old King Harry at his worst.
“Madame!” he cried, shaken by her vehemence. “I but report the
phrase he uses. It is not mine.”
“Do you believe it?”
“I do not, madame. If I did I should not be here at present.”
“Does any subject of mine believe it?”
“They suspend their judgment. They wait to learn the truth from the
“That if your motive prove to be such as de Quadra and others
allege, they will be in danger of believing.”
“Be plain, man, in God's name. What exactly is alleged?”
He obeyed her very fully.
“That my lord contrived the killing of his wife so that he might
have liberty to marry your Majesty, and that your Majesty was privy to
the deed.” He spoke out boldly, and hurried on before she could let
loose her wrath. “It is still in your power, madame, to save your
honour, which is now in peril. But there is only one way in which you
can accomplish it. If you put from you all thought of marrying Lord
Robert, England will believe that de Quadra and those others lied. If
you persist and carry out your intention, you proclaim the truth of his
report; and you see what must inevitably follow.”
She saw indeed, and, seeing, was afraid.
Within a few hours of that interview she delivered her answer to
Cecil, which was that she had no intention of marrying Dudley.
Because of her fear she saved her honour by sacrificing her heart,
by renouncing marriage with the only man she could have taken for her
mate of all who had wooed her. Yet the wound of that renunciation was
slow to heal. She trifled with the notion of other marriages, but ever
and anon, in her despair, perhaps, we see her turning longing eyes
towards the handsome Lord Robert, later made Earl of Leicester. Once,
indeed, some six years after Amy's death, there was again some talk of
her marrying him, which was quickly quelled by a reopening of the
question of how Amy died. Between these two, between the fulfilment of
her desire and his ambition, stood the irreconcilable ghost of his poor
Perhaps it was some thought of this that found expression in her
passionate outburst when she learnt of the birth of Mary Stuart's
child: “The Queen of Scots is lighter of a fair son; and I am but a
VII. SIR JUDAS. The Betrayal of Sir
Sir Walter was met on landing at Plymouth from his ill-starred
voyage to El Dorado by Sir Lewis Stukeley, which was but natural,
seeing that Sir Lewis was not only Vice-Admiral of Devon, but also Sir
Walter's very good friend and kinsman.
If Sir Walter doubted whether it was in his quality as kinsman or as
Vice-Admiral that Sir Lewis met him, the cordiality of the latter's
embrace and the noble entertainment following at the house of Sir
Christopher Hare, near the port, whither Sir Lewis conducted him, set
this doubt at rest and relighted the lamp of hope in the despairing
soul of our adventurer. In Sir Lewis he saw only his kinsman—his very
good friend and kinsman, to insist upon Stukeley's own description of
himself—at a time when of all others in his crowded life he needed the
support of a kinsman and the guidance of a friend.
You know the story of this Sir Walter, who had been one of the
brightest ornaments of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and might have
added lustre to that of King James, had not his Sowship—to employ the
title bestowed upon that prince by his own queen—been too mean of soul
to appreciate the man's great worth. Courtier, philosopher, soldier,
man of letters and man of action alike, Ralegh was at once the greatest
prose-writer, and one of the greatest captains of his age, the last
survivor of that glorious company—whose other members were Drake and
Frobisher and Hawkins—that had given England supremacy upon the seas,
that had broken the power and lowered the pride of Spain.
His was a name that had resounded, to the honour and glory of
England, throughout the world, a name that, like Drake's, was a thing
of hate and terror to King Philip and his Spaniards; yet the King of
Scots, unclean of body and of mind, who had succeeded to the throne of
Elizabeth, must affect ignorance of that great name which shall never
die while England lives.
When the splendid courtier stood before him—for at fifty Sir Walter
was still handsome of person and magnificent of Apparel— James looked
him over and inquired who he might be. When they had told him:
“I've rawly heard of thee,” quoth the royal punster, who sought by
such atrocities of speech to be acclaimed a wit.
It was ominous of what must follow, and soon thereafter you see this
great and gallant gentleman arrested on a trumped-up charge of high
treason, bullied, vituperated, and insulted by venal, peddling lawyers,
and, finally, although his wit and sincerity had shattered every
fragment of evidence brought against him, sentenced to death. Thus far
James went; but he hesitated to go further, hesitated to carry out the
sentence. Sir Walter had too many friends in England then; the memory
of his glorious deeds was still too fresh in the public mind, and
execution might have been attended by serious consequences for King
James. Besides, one at least of the main objects was achieved. Sir
Walter's broad acres were confiscate by virtue of that sentence, and
King James wanted the land—filched thus from one who was England's
pride— to bestow it upon one of those golden calves of his who were
“I maun hae the land for Carr. I maun hae it,” was his brazen and
peevish answer to an appeal against the confiscation.
For thirteen years Sir Walter lay in the Tower, under that sentence
of death passed in 1603, enjoying after a season a certain liberty,
visited there by his dear lady and his friends, among whom was Henry,
Prince of Wales, who did not hesitate to publish that no man but his
father—whom he detested—would keep such a bird in a cage. He beguiled
the time in literary and scientific pursuits, distilling his essences
and writing that stupendous work of his, “The History of the World.”
Thus old age crept upon him; but far from quenching the fires of
enterprise within his adventurer's soul, it brought a restlessness that
urged him at last to make a bid for liberty. Despairing of winning it
from the clemency of James, he applied his wits to extracting it from
the King's cupidity.
Throughout his life, since the day when first he had brought himself
to the notice of a Queen by making of his cloak a carpet for her feet,
he had retained side by side with the dignity of the sage and the
greatness of the hero, the craft and opportunism of the adventurer. His
opportunity now was the straitened condition of the royal treasury, a
hint of which had been let fall by Winwood the Secretary of State. He
announced at once that he knew of a gold mine in Guiana, the El Dorado
of the Spaniards.
On his return from a voyage to Guiana in 1595, he had written of it
“There the common soldier shall fight for gold instead of pence, pay
himself with plates half a foot broad, whereas he breaks his bones in
other wars for provant and penury Those commanders and chieftains that
shoot at honour and abundance shall find here more rich and beautiful
cities, more temples adorned with golden images, more sepulchres filled
with treasure than either Cortez found in Mexico or Pizarro in Peru.”
Winwood now reminded him that as a consequence many expeditions had
gone out, but failed to discover any of these things.
“That,” said Ralegh, “is because those adventurers were ignorant
alike of the country and of the art of conciliating its inhabitants.
Were I permitted to go, I would make Guiana to England what Peru has
been to Spain.”
That statement, reported to James in his need, was enough to fire
his cupidity, and when Ralegh had further added that he would guarantee
to the Crown one-fifth of the treasure without asking any contribution
towards the adventure either in money or in ships, he was permitted to
come forth and prepare for the expedition.
His friends came to his assistance, and in March of 1617 he set sail
for E1 Dorado with a well-manned and wellequipped fleet of fourteen
ships, the Earls of Arundel and Pembroke standing sureties for his
From the outset the fates were unpropitious. Disaster closed the
adventure. Gondomar, the Ambassador of Spain at Whitehall, too
well-informed of what was afoot, had warned his master. Spanish ships
waited to frustrate Sir Walter, who was under pledge to avoid all
conflict with the forces of King Philip. But conflict there was, and
bloodshed in plenty, about the city of Manoa, which the Spaniards held
as the key to the country into which the English adventurers sought to
penetrate. Among the slain were the Governor of Manoa, who was
Gondomar's own brother, and Sir Walter's eldest son.
To Ralegh, waiting at the mouth of the Orinoco, came his beaten
forces in retreat, with the terrible news of a happening that meant his
ruin. Half-maddened, his anguish increased by the loss of his boy, he
upbraided them so fiercely that Keymis, who had been in charge of the
expedition, shut himself up in his cabin and shot himself with a
pocket-pistol. Mutiny followed, and Whitney—most trusted of Sir
Walter's captains—set sail for England, being followed by six other
ships of that fleet, which meanwhile had been reduced to twelve. With
the remaining five the stricken Sir Walter had followed more at
leisure. What need to hurry? Disgrace, and perhaps death, awaited him
in England. He knew the power of Spain with James, who was so set upon
a Spanish marriage for his heir, knew Spain's hatred of himself, and
what eloquence it would gather in the mouth of Gondomar, intent upon
avenging his brother's death.
He feared the worst, and so was glad upon landing to have by him a
kinsman upon whom he could lean for counsel and guidance in this the
darkest hour of all his life. Sitting late that night in the library of
Sir Christopher Hare's house, Sir Walter told his cousin in detail the
story of his misadventure, and confessed to his misgivings.
“My brains are broken,” was his cry.
Stukeley combed his beard in thought. He had little comfort to
“It was not expected,” said he, “that you would return.
“Not expected?” Sir Walter's bowed white head was suddenly flung
back. Indignation blazed in the eyes that age had left undimmed. “What
act in all my life justified the belief I should be false to honour? My
danger here was made quite plain, and Captain King would have had me
steer a course for France, where I had found a welcome and a harbour.
But to consent I must have been false to my Lords of Arundel and
Pembroke, who were sureties to the King for my return. Life is still
sweet to me, despite my three-score years and more, but honour is
And then, because life was sweet, he bluntly asked his cousin: “What
is the King's intent by me?”
“Nay, now,” said Stukeley, “who shall know what passes in the King's
mind? From the signs, I judge your case to be none so desperate. You
have good friends in plenty, among whom, although the poorest, count
myself the first. Anon, when you are rested, we'll to London by easy
stages, baiting at the houses of your friends, and enlisting their good
offices on your behalf.”
Ralegh took counsel on the matter with Captain King, a bluff,
tawny-bearded seaman, who was devoted to him body and soul.
“Sir Lewis proposes it, eh?” quoth the hardy seaman. “And Sir Lewis
is Vice-Admiral of Devon? He is not by chance bidden to escort you to
The Captain, clearly, had escaped the spell of Stukeley's
affability. Sir Walter was indignant. He had never held his kinsman in
great esteem, and had never been on the best of terms with him in the
past. Nevertheless, he was very far from suspecting him of what King
implied. To convince him that he did Sir Lewis an injustice, Ralegh put
the blunt question to his kinsman in King's presence.
“Nay,” said Sir Lewis, “I am not yet bidden to escort you. But as
Vice-Admiral of Devon I may at any moment be so bidden. It were wiser,
I hold, not to await such an order. Though even if it come,” he made
haste to add, “you may still count upon my friendship. I am your
kinsman first, and Vice-Admiral after.”
With a smile that irradiated his handsome, virile countenance, Sir
Walter held out his hand to clasp his cousin's in token of
appreciation. Captain King expressed no opinion save what might be
conveyed in a grunt and a shrug.
Guided now unreservedly by his cousin's counsel, Sir Walter set out
with him upon that journey to London. Captain King went with them, as
well as Sir Walter's body-servant, Cotterell, and a Frenchman named
Manourie, who had made his first appearance in the Plymouth household
on the previous day. Stukeley explained the fellow as a gifted man of
medicine, whom he had sent for to cure him of a trivial but
inconvenient ailment by which he was afflicted.
Journeying by slow stages, as Sir Lewis had directed, they came at
last to Brentford. Sir Walter, had he followed his own bent, would have
journeyed more slowly still, for in a measure, as he neared London,
apprehensions of what might await him there grew ever darker. He spoke
of them to King, and the blunt Captain said nothing to dispel them.
“You are being led like a sheep to the shambles,” he declared, “and
you go like a sheep. You should have landed in France, where you have
friends. Even now it is not too late. A ship could be procured . . .”
“And my honour could be sunk at sea,” Sir Walter harshly concluded,
in reproof of such counsel.
But at the inn at Brentford he was sought out by a visitor, who
brought him the like advice in rather different terms. This was De
Chesne, the secretary of the French envoy, Le Clerc. Cordially welcomed
by Ralegh, the Frenchman expressed his deep concern to see Sir Walter
“You conclude too hastily,” laughed Sir Walter.
“Monsieur, I do not conclude. I speak of what I am inform'.”
“Misinformed, sir. I am not a prisoner—at least, not yet,” he
added, with a sigh. “I travel of my own free will to London with my
good friend and kinsman Stukeley to lay the account of my voyage before
“Of your own free will? You travel of your own frets will? And you
are not a prisoner? Ha !” There was bitter mockery in De Chesne's short
laugh. “C'est bien drole!” And he explained: “Milord the Duke o
Buckingham, he has write in his master's name to the ambassador
Gondomar that you are taken and held at the disposal of the King of
Spain. Gondomar is to inform him whether King Philip wish that you be
sent to Spain to essay the justice of his Catholic Majesty, or that you
suffer here. Meanwhile your quarters are being made ready in the Tower.
Yet you tell me you are not prisoner! You go of your own free will to
London. Sir Walter, do not be deceive'. If you reach London, you are
Now here was news to shatter Sir Walter's last illusion. Yet
desperately he clung to the fragments of it. The envoy's secretary must
be at fault.
“'Tis yourself are at fault, Sir Walter, in that you trust those
about you,” the Frenchman insisted.
Sir Walter stared at him, frowning. “D'ye mean Stukeley?” quoth he,
half-indignant already at the mere suggestion.
“Sir Lewis, he is your kinsman.” De Chesne shrugged. “You should
know your family better than I. But who is this Manourie who
accompanies you? Where is he come from? What you know of him?”
Sir Walter confessed that he knew nothing.
“But I know much. He is a fellow of evil reputation. A spy who does
not scruple to sell his own people. And I know that letters of
commission from the Privy Council for your arrest were give' to him in
London ten days ago. Whether those letters were to himself, or he was
just the messenger to another, imports nothing. The fact is everything.
The warrant against you exists, and it is in the hands of one or
another of those that accompany you. I say no more. As I have tol' you,
you should know your own family. But of this be sure, they mean that
you go to the Tower, and so to your death. And now, Sir Walter, if I
show you the disease I also bring the remedy. I am command' by my
master to offer you a French barque which is in the Thames, and a safe
conduct to the Governor of Calais. In France you will find safety and
honour, as your worth deserve'.”
Up sprang Sir Walter from his chair, and flung off the cloak of
thought in which he had been mantled.
“Impossible,” he said. “Impossible! There is my plighted word to
return, and there are my Lords of Arundel and Pembroke, who are
sureties for me. I cannot leave them to suffer by my default.”
“They will not suffer at all,” De Chesne assured him. He was very
well informed. “King James has yielded to Spain partly because he
fears, partly because he will have a Spanish marriage for Prince
Charles, and will do nothing to trouble his good relations with King
Philip. But, after all, you have friends, whom his Majesty also fears.
If you escape' you would resolve all his perplexities. I do not believe
that any obstacle will be offer' to your escape— else why they permit
you to travel thus without any guard, and to retain your sword?”
Half distracted as he was by what he had learnt, yet Sir Walter
clung stoutly and obstinately to what he believed to be the only course
for a man of honour. And so he dismissed De Chesne with messages of
gratitude but refusal to his master, and sent for Captain King.
Together they considered all that the secretary had stated, and King
agreed with De Chesne's implied opinion that it was Sir Lewis himself
who held the warrant.
They sent for him at once, and Ralegh straightly taxed him with it.
Sir Lewis as straightly admitted it, and when King thereupon charged
him with deceit he showed no anger, but only the profoundest grief. He
sank into a chair, and took his head in his hands.
“What could I do? What could I do?” he cried. “The warrant came in
the very moment we were setting out. At first I thought of telling you;
and then I bethought me that to do so would be but to trouble your
mind, without being able to offer you help.”
Sir Walter understood what was implied. “Did you not say,” he asked,
“that you were my kinsman first and Vice-Admiral of Devon after?”
“Ay—and so I am. Though I must lose my office of Vice-Admiral,
which has cost me six hundred pounds, if I suffer you to escape, I'd
never hesitate if it were not for Manourie, who watches me as closely
as he watches you, and would baulk us at the last. And that is why I
have held my peace on the score of this warrant. What can it help that
I should trouble you with the matter until at the same time I can offer
you some way out?”
“The Frenchman has a throat, and throats can be slit,” said the
“So they can; and men can be hanged for slitting them,” returned Sir
Lewis, and thereafter resumed and elaborated his first argument, using
now such forceful logic and obvious sincerity that Sir Walter was
convinced. He was no less convinced, too, of the peril in which he
stood. He plied those wits of his, which had rarely failed him in an
extremity. Manourie was the difficulty. But in his time he had known
many of these agents who, without sentimental interest and purely for
the sake of gold, were ready to play such parts; and never yet had he
known one who was not to be corrupted. So that evening he desired
Manourie's company in the room above stairs that had been set apart for
Sir Walter's use. Facing him across the table at which both were
seated, Sir Walter thrust his clenched fist upon the board, and,
suddenly opening it, dazzled the Frenchman's beady eyes with the jewel
sparkling in his palm.
“Tell me, Manourie, are you paid as much as that to betray me?”
Manourie paled a little under his tan. He was a swarthy, sharp-featured fellow, slight and wiry. He looked into Sir Walter's grimly
smiling eyes, then again at the white diamond, from which the
candlelight was striking every colour of the rainbow. He made a shrewd
estimate of its price, and shook his black head. He had quite recovered
from the shock of Sir Walter's question.
“Not half as much,” he confessed, with impudence.
“Then you might find it more remunerative to serve me,” said the
knight. “This jewel is to be earned.”
The agent's eyes flickered; he passed his tongue over his lips. “As
how?” quoth he.
“Briefly thus: I have but learnt of the trammel in which I am taken.
I must have time to concert my measures of escape, and time is almost
at an end. You are skilled in drugs, so my kinsman tells me. Can you so
drug me as to deceive physicians that I am in extremis?”
Manourie considered awhile.
“I . . . I think I could,” he answered presently.
“And keep faith with me in this, at the price of, say .. two such
The venal knave gasped in amazement. This was not generosity; it was
prodigality. He recovered again, and swore himself Sir Walter's.
“About it, then.” Sir Walter rolled the gem across the board into
the clutch of the spy, which pounced to meet it. “Keep that in earnest.
The other will follow when we have cozened them.”
Next morning Sir Walter could not resume the journey. When Cotterell
went to dress him he found his master taken with vomits, and reeling
like a drunkard. The valet ran to fetch Sir Lewis, and when they
returned together they found Sir Walter on all fours gnawing the rushes
on the floor, his face livid and horribly distorted, his brow
glistening with sweat.
Stukeley, in alarm, ordered Cotterell to get his master back to bed
and to foment him, which was done. But on the next day there was no
improvement, and on the third things were in far more serious case. The
skin of his brow and arms and breast was inflamed, and covered with
horrible purple blotches—the result of an otherwise harmless ointment
with which the French empiric had supplied him.
When Stukeley beheld him thus disfigured, and lying apparently inert
and but half-conscious upon his bed, he backed away in terror. The
Vice-Admiral had seen afore-time the horrible manifestations of the
plague, and could not be mistaken here. He fled from the infected air
of his kinsman's chamber, and summoned what physicians were available
to pronounce and prescribe. The physicians came—three in number—but
manifested no eagerness to approach the patient closely. The mere sight
of him was enough to lead them to the decision that he was afflicted
with the plague in a singularly virulent form.
Presently one of them plucked up courage so far as to feel the pulse
of the apparently delirious patient. Its feebleness confirmed his
diagnosis; moreover the hand he held was cold and turgid. He was not to
know that Sir Walter had tightly wrapped about his upper arm the ribbon
from his poniard, and so he was entirely deceived.
The physicians withdrew, and delivered their verdict, whereupon Sir
Lewis at once sent word of it to the Privy Council.
That afternoon the faithful Captain King, sorely afflicted by the
news, came to visit his master, and was introduced to Sir Walter's
chamber by Manourie, who was in attendance upon him. To the seaman's
amazement he found Sir Walter sitting up in bed, surveying in a
hand-mirror a face that was horrible beyond description with the
complacent smile of one who takes satisfaction in his appearance. Yet
there was no fevered madness in the smiling eyes. They were alive with
intelligence, amounting, indeed, to craft.
“Ah, King!” was the glad welcome “The prophet David did make himself
a fool, and suffered spittle to fall upon his beard, to escape from the
hands of his enemies And there was Brutus, ay, and others as memorable
who have descended to such artifice.”
Though he laughed, it is clear that he was seeking to excuse an
unworthiness of which he was conscious.
“Artifice?” quoth King, aghast. “Is this artifice?”
“Ay—a hedge against my enemies, who will be afraid to approach me.”
King sat himself down by his master's bed. “A better hedge against
your enemies, Sir Walter, would have been the strip of sea 'twixt here
and France. Would to Heaven you had done as I advised ere you set foot
in this ungrateful land.”
“The omission may be repaired,” said Sir Walter.
Before the imminence of his peril, as now disclosed to him, Sir
Walter had been reconsidering De Chesne's assurance touching my Lords
of Arundel and Pembroke, and he had come to conclude—the more readily,
perhaps because it was as he would have it—that De Chesne was right;
that to break faith with them were no such great matter after all, nor
one for which they would be called upon to suffer. And so, now, when it
was all but too late, he yielded to the insistence of Captain King, and
consented to save himself by flight to France. King was to go about the
business of procuring a ship without loss of time. Yet there was no
need of desperate haste, as was shown when presently orders came to
Brentford for the disposal of the prisoner. The King, who was at
Salisbury, desired that Sir Walter should be conveyed to his own house
in London. Stukeley reported this to him, proclaiming it a sign of
royal favour. Sir Walter was not deceived. He knew the reason to be
fear lest he should infect the Tower with the plague by which he was
So the journey was resumed, and Sir Walter was brought to London,
and safely bestowed in his own house, but ever in the care of his
loving friend and kinsman. Manourie's part being fulfilled and the aim
accomplished, Sir Walter completed the promised payment by bestowing
upon him the second diamond—a form of eminently portable currency with
which the knight was well supplied. On the morrow Manourie was gone,
dismissed as a consequence of the part he had played.
It was Stukeley who told Sir Walter this—a very well informed and
injured Stukeley, who asked to know what he had done to forfeit the
knight's confidence that behind his back Sir Walter secretly concerted
means of escape. Had his cousin ceased to trust him?
Sir Walter wondered. Looking into that lean, crafty face, he
considered King's unquenchable mistrust of the man, bethought him of
his kinsman's general neediness, remembered past events that shed light
upon his ways and nature, and began now at last to have a sense of the
man's hypocrisy and double-dealing. Yet he reasoned in regard to him
precisely as he had reasoned in regard to Manourie. The fellow was
acquisitive, and therefore corruptible. If, indeed, he was so base that
he had been bought to betray Sir Walter, then he could be bought again
to betray those who had so bought him.
“Nay, nay,” said Sir Walter easily. “It is not lack of trust in you,
my good friend. But you are the holder of an office, and knowing as I
do the upright honesty of your character I feared to embarrass you with
things whose very knowledge must give you the parlous choice of being
false to that office or false to me.”
Stukeley broke forth into imprecations. He was, he vowed, the most
accursed and miserable of men that such a task as this should have
fallen to his lot. And he was a poor man, too, he would have his cousin
remember. It was unthinkable that he should use the knowledge he had
gained to attempt to frustrate Sir Walter's plans of escape to France.
And this notwithstanding that if Sir Walter escaped, it is certain he
would lose his office of Vice-Admiral and the six hundred pounds he had
paid for it.
“As to that, you shall be at no loss,” Sir Walter assured him. “I
could not suffer it. I pledge you my honour, Lewis, that you shall have
a thousand pounds from my wife on the day that I am safely landed in
France or Holland. Meanwhile, in earnest of what is to come, here is a
toy of value for you.” And he presented Sir Lewis with a jewel of
price, a great ruby encrusted in diamonds.
Thus reassured that he would be immune from pecuniary loss, Sir
Lewis was ready to throw himself whole-heartedly into Sir Walter's
plans, and to render him all possible assistance. True, this assistance
was a costly matter; there was this person to be bought and that one;
there were expenses here and expenses there, incurred by Sir Lewis on
his kinsman's behalf; and there were odd presents, too, which Stukeley
seemed to expect and which Sir Walter could not deny him. He had no
illusions now that King had been right; that here he was dealing with a
rogue who would exact the uttermost farthing for his services, but he
was gratified at the shrewdness with which he had taken his cousin's
measure, and did not grudge the bribes by which he was to escape the
De Chesne came again to the house in London, to renew his master's
offer of a ship to carry Sir Walter overseas, and such other assistance
as Sir Walter might require But by now the knight's arrangements were
complete. His servant Cotterell had come to inform him that his own
boatswain, now in London, was the owner of a ketch, at present lying at
Tilbury, admirably suited for the enterprise and entirely at Sir
Walter's disposal. It had been decided, then, with the agreement of
Captain King, that they should avail themselves of this; and
accordingly Cotterell was bidden desire the boatswain to have the craft
made ready for sea at once. In view of this, and anxious to avoid
unnecessarily compromising the French envoy, Sir Walter gratefully
declined the latter's offer.
And so we come at last to that July evening appointed for the
flight. Ralegh, who, having for some time discarded the use of
Manourie's ointment, had practically recovered his normal appearance,
covering his long white hair under a Spanish hat, and muffling the half
of his face in the folds of a cloak, came to Wapping Stairs—that
ill-omened place of execution of pirates and sea-rovers—accompanied by
Cotterell, who carried the knight's cloak-bag, and by Sir Lewis and Sir
Lewis's son. Out of solicitude for their dear friend and kinsman, the
Stukeleys could not part from him until he was safely launched upon his
voyage. At the head of the stairs they were met by Captain King; at the
foot of them a boat was waiting, as concerted, the boatswain at the
King greeted them with an air of obvious relief.
“You feared perhaps we should not come,” said Stukeley, with a sneer
at the Captain's avowed mistrust of him. “Yet now, I trust, you'll do
me the justice to admit that I have shown myself an honest man.”
The uncompromising King looked at him and frowned, misliking the
“I hope that you'll continue so,” he answered stiffly.
They went down the slippery steps to the boat, and then the shore
glided slowly past them as they pushed off into the stream of the
A moment later, King, whose suspicious eyes kept a sharp look- out,
observed another boat put off some two hundred yards higher up the
river. At first he saw it breast the stream as if proceeding towards
London Bridge, then abruptly swing about and follow them. Instantly he
drew the attention of Sir Walter to that pursuing wherry.
“What's this?” quoth Sir Walter harshly. “Are we betrayed?”
The watermen, taking fright at the words, hung now upon their oars.
“Put back,” Sir Walter bade them. “I'll not betray my friends to no
purpose. Put back, and let us home again.”
“Nay, now,” said Stukeley gravely, himself watching the wherry. “We
are more than a match for them in oars, even if their purpose be such
as you suspect—for which suspicion, when all is said, there is no
ground. On then!” He addressed himself to the watermen, whipping out a
pistol, and growing truculent in mien and voice. “To your oars! Row,
you dogs, or I'll pistol you where you sit.”
The men bent their backs forthwith, and the boat swept on. But Sir
Walter was still full of apprehensions, still questioning the wisdom of
keeping to their down-stream course if they were being followed.
“But are we followed?” cried the impatient Sir Lewis. “'Sdeath,
cousin, is not the river a highway for all the world to use, and must
every wherry that chances to go our way be in pursuit of us? If you are
to halt at every shadow, faith, you'll never accomplish anything. I vow
I am unfortunate in having a friend whom I would save so full of doubts
Sir Walter gave him reason, and even King came to conclude that he
had suspected him unjustly, whilst the rowers, under Stukeley's
suasion, now threw themselves heartily into their task, and onward sped
the boat through the deepening night, taking but little account of that
other wherry that hung ever in their wake. In this wise they came at
length to Greenwich on the last of the ebb. But here finding the water
beginning to grow against them, and wearied by the exertion into which
Stukeley's enthusiasm had flogged them, the watermen paused again,
declaring that they could not reach Gravesend before morning.
Followed a brief discussion, at the end of which Sir Walter bade
them put him ashore at Purfleet.
“And that's the soundest counsel,” quoth the boatswain. “For at
Purfleet we can get horses on to Tilbury.”
Stukeley was of the same opinion; but not so the more practical
“'Tis useless,” he declared to them. “At this hour how shall you get
horses to go by land?”
And now, Sir Walter, looking over his shoulder, saw the other wherry
bearing down upon them through the faintly opalescent mists of dawn. A
hail came to them across the water.
“Oh, 'Sdeath! We are betrayed!” cried Ralegh bitterly, and Stukeley
swore more fiercely still. Sir Walter turned to him. “Put ashore,” he
said shortly, “and let us home.”
“Ay, perhaps 'twere best. For to-night there's an end to the
enterprise, and if I am taken in your company now, what shall be said
to me for this active assistance in your escape?” His voice was gloomy,
his face drawn and white.
“Could you not plead that you had but pretended to go with me to
seize on my private papers?” suggested the ingenious mind of Ralegh.
“I could. But shall I be believed? Shall I?” His loom was deepening
Ralegh was stricken almost with remorse on his cousin's account. His
generous heart was now more concerned with the harm to his friends than
with his own doom. He desired to make amends to Stukeley, but had no
means save such as lay in the power of that currency he used. Having
naught else to give, he must give that. He plunged his hand into an
inner pocket, and brought forth a handful of jewels, which he thrust
upon his kinsman.
“Courage,” he urged him. “Up now, and we may yet win out and home,
so that all will be well with you at least, and you shall not suffer
for your friendship to me.”
Stukeley embraced him then, protesting his love and desire to serve
They came to land at last, just below Greenwich bridge, and almost
at the same moment the other wherry grounded immediately above them.
Men sprang from her, with the obvious intent of cutting off their
“Too late!” said Ralegh, and sighed, entirely without passion now
that the dice had fallen and showed that the game was lost. “You must
act on my suggestion to explain your presence, Lewis.”
“Indeed, there is no other course,” Sir Lewis agreed. “And you are
in the same case, Captain King. You must confess that you joined with
me but to betray Sir Walter. I'll bear you out. Thus, each supporting
the other . . .”
“I'll roast in Hell before I brand myself a traitor,” roared the
Captain furiously. “And were you an honest man, Sir Lewis, you'ld
understand my meaning.”
“So, so?” said Stukeley, in a quiet, wicked voice. And it was
observed that his son and one or two of the watermen had taken their
stand beside him as if in readiness for action. “Why, then, since you
will have it so, Captain, I arrest you, in the King's name, on a charge
of abetting treason.”
The Captain fell back a step, stricken a moment by sheer amazement.
Then he groped for a pistol to do at last what he realized he should
have done long since. Instantly he was overpowered. It was only then
that Sir Walter understood the thing that had happened, and with
understanding came fury. The old adventurer flung back his cloak, and
snatched at his rapier to put it through the vitals of his dear friend
and kinsman. But he was too late. Hands seized upon him, and he found
himself held by the men from the wherry, confronted by a Mr. William
Herbert, whom he knew for Stukeley's cousin, and he heard Mr. Herbert
formally asking him for the surrender of his sword.
Instantly he governed himself, repressed his fury. He looked coldly
at his kinsman, whose face showed white and evil in the growing light
of the early summer dawn “Sir Lewis,” was all he said, “these actions
will not turn out to your credit.”
He had no illusion left. His understanding was now a very full one.
His dear friend and kinsman had played him false throughout, intending
first to drain him of his resources before finally flinging the empty
husk to the executioner. Manourie had been in the plot; he had run with
the hare and hunted with the hounds; and Sir Walter's own servant
Cotterell had done no less. Amongst them they had “cozened the great
cozener”—to use Stukeley's own cynical expression. Even so, it was
only on his trial that Sir Walter plumbed the full depth of Stukeley's
baseness; for it was only then he learnt that his kinsman had been
armed by a warrant of immunity to assist his projects of escape, so
that he might the more effectively incriminate and betray him; and Sir
Walter discovered also that the ship in which he had landed, and other
matters, were to provide additional Judas' fees to this acquisitive
If to escape his enemies Sir Walter had had recourse to artifices
unworthy the great hero that he was, now that all hope was lost he
conducted himself with a dignity and cheerfulness beyond equal. So calm
and self-possessed and masterly was his defence from the charge of
piracy preferred at the request of Spain, and so shrewd in its
inflaming appeal to public opinion, that his judges were constrained to
abandon that line of prosecution, and could discover no way of giving
his head to King James save by falling back upon the thirteen-year old
sentence of death against him. Of this they now ordered execution.
Never a man who loved his life as dearly as Sir Walter loved it met
death as blithely. He dressed himself for the scaffold with that
elegance and richness which all his life he had observed. He wore a
ruff band and black velvet wrought nightgown over a doublet of
hair-coloured satin, a black wrought waistcoat, black cut taffety
breeches and ash-coloured silk stockings. Under his plumed hat he
covered his white locks with a wrought nightcap. This last he bestowed
on his way to the scaffold upon a bald- headed old man who had come to
take a last look of him, with the observation that he was more in need
of it than himself. When he had removed it, it was observed that his
hair was not curled as usual. This was a matter that had fretted his
barber Peter in the prison of the Gatehouse at Westminster that
morning. But Sir Walter had put him off with a laugh and a jest.
“Let them comb it that shall have it,” he had said of his own head.
Having taken his leave of the friends who had flocked about him with
the observation that he had a long journey before him, he called for
the axe, and, when presented to him, ran his fingers along the edge,
“Sharp medicine,” quoth he, “but a sound cure for all diseases.”
When presently the executioner bade him turn his head to the East:
“It is no great matter which way a man's head stands, so that his
heart lies right,” he said.
Thus passed one of Englanl's greatest heroes, indeed one of the very
makers of this England, and than his death there is no more shameful
blot upon the shameful reign of that pusillanimous James, unclean of
body and of soul, who sacrificed him to the King of Spain.
A spectator of his death, who suffered for his words—as men must
ever suffer for the regardless utterance of Truth—declared that
England had not such another head to cut off.
As for Stukeley, the acquisitiveness which had made a Judas of him
was destined, by a poetic justice, ever desired but rarely forthcoming
for knaves, soon to be his ruin. He was caught diminishing the gold
coin of the realm by the operation known to- day as “clipping,” and
with him was taken his creature Manourie, who, to save himself, turned
chief witness against Stukeley. Sir Lewis was sentenced to death, but
saved himself by purchasing his pardon at the cost of every ill-gotten
shilling he possessed, and he lived thereafter as bankrupt of means as
he was of honour.
Yet before all this happened, Sir Lewis had for his part in Sir
Walter Ralegh's death come to be an object of execration throughout the
land, and to be commonly known as “Sir Judas.” At Whitehall he suffered
rebuffs and insults that found a climax in the words addressed to him
by the Lord Admiral, to whom he went to give an account of his office.
“Base fellow, darest thou who art the contempt and scorn of men
offer thyself in my presence?”
For a man of honour there was but one course. Sir Judas was not a
man of honour. He carried his grievance to the King. James leered at
“What wouldst thou have me do? Wouldst thou have me hang him? On my
soul, if I should hang all that speak ill of thee, all the trees of the
country would not suffice, so great is the number.”
VIII. HIS INSOLENCE OF BUCKINGHAM.
George Villier's Courtship of Ann of Austria
He was Insolence incarnate.
Since the day when, a mere country lad, his singular good looks had
attracted the attention of King James—notoriously partial to
good-looking lads—and had earned him the office of cup-bearer to his
Majesty, the career of George Villiers is to be read in a series of
acts of violent and ever-increasing arrogance, expressing the vanity
and levity inherent in his nature. Scarcely was he established in the
royal favour than he distinguished himself by striking an offending
gentleman in the very presence of his sovereign—an act of such gross
disrespect to royalty that his hand would have paid forfeit, as by law
demanded, had not the maudlin king deemed him too lovely a fellow to be
so cruelly maimed.
Over the mind and will of King Charles his ascendancy became even
greater than it had been over that of King James; and it were easy to
show that the acts of George Villiers' life supplied the main planks of
that scaffold in Whitehall whereupon Charles Stuart came to lose his
head. Charles was indeed a martyr; a martyr chiefly to the reckless,
insolent, irresponsible vanity of this Villiers, who, from a simple
country squire with nothing but personal beauty to recommend him, had
risen to be, as Duke of Buckingham, the first gentleman in England.
The heady wine of power had gone to his brain, and so addled it
that, as John Chamberlain tells us, there was presently a touch of
craziness in him—of the variety, no doubt, known to modern
psychologists as megalomania He lost the sense of proportion, and was
without respect for anybody or anything. The Commons of England and the
immensely dignified Court of Spain—during that disgraceful,
pseudo-romantic adventure at Madrid—were alike the butts of this
parvenu's unmeasured arrogance But the crowning insolence of his career
was that tragicomedy the second act of which was played on a June
evening in an Amiens garden on the banks of the river Somme.
Three weeks ago—on the 14th May, 1625, to be precise—Buckingham
had arrived in Paris as Ambassador Extra-ordinary, charged with the
task of conducting to England the King of France's sister, Henrietta
Maria, who three days earlier had been married by proxy to King
The occasion enabled Buckingham to fling the reins on to the neck of
his mad vanity, to indulge to the very fullest his crazy passion for
ostentation and magnificence. Because the Court of France was
proverbially renowned for splendour and luxury, Buckingham felt it due
to himself to extinguish its brilliance by his own. On his first coming
to the Louvre he literally blazed. He wore a suit of white satin velvet
with a short cloak in the Spanish fashion, the whole powdered over with
diamonds to the value of some ten thousand pounds. An enormous diamond
clasped the heron's plume in his hat; diamonds flashed in the hilt of
his sword; diamonds studded his very spurs, which were of beaten gold;
the highest orders of England, Spain, and France flamed on his breast.
On the occasion of his second visit he wore a suit of purple satin, of
intent so lightly sewn with pearls that as he moved he shook them off
like raindrops, and left them to lie where they fell, as largesse for
pages and the lesser fry of the Court.
His equipages and retinue were of a kind to match his personal
effulgence. His coaches were lined with velvet and covered with cloth
of gold, and some seven hundred people made up his train. There were
musicians, watermen, grooms of the chamber, thirty chief yeomen, a
score of cooks, as many grooms, a dozen pages, two dozen footmen, six
outriders, and twenty gentlemen, each with his own attendants, all
arrayed as became the satellites of a star of such great magnitude.
Buckingham succeeded in his ambition. Paris, that hitherto had set
the fashion to the world, stared mouth-agape, dazzled by the splendour
of this superb and scintillating ambassador.
Another, by betraying consciousness of the figure that he cut, might
have made himself ridiculous. But Buckingham's insolent assurance was
proof against that peril. Supremely self-satisfied, he was conscious
only that what he did could not be better done, and he ruffled it with
an air of easy insouciance, as if in all this costly display there was
nothing that was not normal. He treated with princes, and even with the
gloomy Louis XIII., as with equals; and, becoming more and more
intoxicated with his very obvious success, he condescended to observe
approvingly the fresh beauty of the young Queen.
Anne of Austria, then in her twenty-fourth year, was said to be one
of the most beautiful women in Europe. She was of a good height and
carriage, slight, and very gracefully built, of a ravishing fairness of
skin and hair, whilst a look of wistfulness had come to invest with an
indefinable tenderness her splendid eyes. Her childless marriage to the
young King of France, which had endured now for ten years, had hardly
been successful. Gloomy, taciturn, easily moved to suspicion, and
difficult to convince of error, Louis XIII. held his wife aloof,
throwing up between himself and her a wall of coldness, almost of
There is a story—and Tallemant des Raux gives credit to it— that
in the early days of her reign as Queen of France, Richelieu had fallen
deeply in love with her, and that she, with the mischief of an
irresponsible young girl, had encouraged him, merely to betray him to a
ridicule which his proud spirit had never been able to forgive. Be that
or another the reason, the fact that Richelieu hated her, and subjected
her to his vindictive persecution, is beyond dispute. And it was he who
by a hundred suggestions poisoned against her the King's mind, and thus
kept ever open the gulf between the two.
The eyes of that neglected young wife dilated a little, and
admiration kindled in them, when they rested upon the dazzling figure
of my Lord of Buckingham. He must have seemed to her a figure of
romance, a prince out of a fairy-tale.
That betraying glance he caught, and it inflamed at once his
monstrous arrogance. To the scalps already adorning the belt of his
vanity he would add that of the love of a beautiful young queen.
Perhaps he was thrilled in his madness by the thought of the peril that
would spice such an adventure. Into that adventure he plunged
forthwith. He wooed her during the eight days that he abode in Paris,
flagrantly, openly, contemptuous of courtiers and of the very King
himself. At the Louvre, at the Hotel de Chevreuse, at the Luxembourg,
where the Queen-Mother held her Court, at the Hotel de Guise, and
elsewhere he was ever at the Queen's side.
Richelieu, whose hard pride and self-love had been wounded by the
Duke's cavalier behaviour, who despised the fellow for an upstart, and
may even have resented that so shallow a man should have been sent to
treat with a statesman of his own caliber—for other business beside
the marriage had brought Buckingham to Paris— suggested to the King
that the Duke's manner in approaching the Queen lacked a proper
deference, and the Queen's manner of receiving him a proper
circumspection. Therefore the King's long face became longer, his
gloomy eyes gloomier, as he looked on. Far, however, from acting as a
deterrent, the royal scowl was mere incense to the vanity of
Buckingham, a spur to goad him on to greater daring.
On the 2nd of June a splendid company of some four thousand French
nobles and ladies, besides Buckingham and his retinue, quitted Paris to
accompany Henrietta Maria, now Queen of England, on the first stage of
her journey to her new home. The King was not of the party. He had gone
with Richelieu to Fontainebieau, leaving it to the Queen and the
Queen-Mother to accompany his sister.
Buckingham missed no chance upon that journey of pressing his
attentions upon Anne of Austria. Duty dictated that his place should be
beside the carriage of Henrietta Maria. But duty did not apply to His
Insolence of Buckingham, so indifferent of whom he might slight or
offend. And then the devil took a hand in the game.
At Amiens, the Queen-Mother fell ill, so that the Court was
compelled to halt there for a few days to give her Majesty the repose
she required. Whilst Amiens was thus honoured by the presence of three
queens at one and the same time within its walls, the Duc de Chaulnes
gave an entertainment in the Citadel. Buckingham attended this, and in
the dance that followed the banquet it was Buckingham who led out the
Thereafter the royal party had returned to the Bishop's Palace,
where it was lodged, and a small company went out to take the evening
cool in the Bishop's fragrant gardens on the Somme, Buckingham ever at
the Queen's side. Anne of Austria was attended by her Mistress of the
Household, the beautiful, witty Marie de Rohan, Duchess of Chevreuse,
and by her equerry, Monsieur de Putange. Madame de Chevreuse had for
cavalier that handsome coxcomb, Lord Holland, who was one of
Buckingham's creatures, between whom and herself a certain transient
tenderness had sprung up. M. de Putange was accompanied by Madame de
Vernet, with whom at the time he was over head and ears in love.
Elsewhere about the spacious gardens other courtiers sauntered.
Now either Madame de Chevreuse and M. de Putange were too deeply
engrossed in their respective companions, or else the state of their
own hearts and the tepid, languorous eventide disposed them
complacently towards the affair of gallantry upon which their mistress
almost seemed to wish to be embarked. They forgot, it would seem, that
she was a queen, and remembered sympathetically that she was a woman,
and that she had for companion the most splendid cavalier in all the
world. Thus they committed the unpardonable fault of lagging behind,
and allowing her to pass out of their sight round the bend of an avenue
by the water.
No sooner did Buckingham realize that he was alone with the Queen,
that the friendly dusk and a screen of trees secured them from
observation, than, piling audacity up on audacity, he determined to
accomplish here and now the conquest of this lovely lady who had used
him so graciously and received his advances with such manifest
“How soft the night! How exquisite!” he sighed.
“Indeed,” she agreed. “And how still, but for the gentle murmur of
“The river!” he cried, on a new note. “That is no gentle murmur. The
river laughs, maliciously mocking. The river is evil.”
“Evil?” quoth she. He had checked in his step, and they stood now
side by side.
“Evil,” he repeated. “Evil and cruel. It goes to swell the sea that
soon shall divide me from you, and it mocks me, rejoicing wickedly in
the pain that will presently be mine.”
It took her aback. She laughed, a little breathlessly, to hide her
discomposure, and scarce knew how to answer him, scarce knew whether
she took pleasure or offense in his daring encroachment upon that royal
aloofness in which she dwelt, and in which her Spanish rearing had
taught her she must ever dwell.
“Oh, but Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, you will be with us again, perhaps
before so very long.”
His answer came in a swift, throbbing question, his lips so near her
face that she could feel his breath hot upon her cheek.
“Do you wish it, madame? Do you wish it? I implore you, of your
pity, say but that you wish it, and I will come, though I tear down
half a world to reach you.”
She recoiled in Wright and displeasure before a wooing so impetuous
and violently outspoken; though the displeasure was perhaps but a
passing emotion, the result of early training. Yet she contrived to
answer him with the proper icy dignity due to her position as a
princess of Spain, now Queen of France.
“Monsieur, you forget yourself. The Queen of France does not listen
to such words. You are mad, I think.”
“Yes, I am mad,” he flung back. “Mad with love—so mad that I have
forgot that you are a queen and I an ambassador. Under the ambassador
there is a man, under the queen a woman—our real selves, not the
titles with which Fate seeks to dissemble our true natures. And with
the whole strength of my true nature do I love you, so potently, so
overwhelmingly that I will not believe you sensible of no response.”
Thus torrentially he delivered himself, and swept her a little off
her feet. She was a woman, as he said; a queen, it is true; but also a
neglected, coldly-used wife; and no one had ever addressed her in
anything approaching this manner, no one had ever so much as suggested
that her existence could matter greatly, that in her woman's nature
there was the magic power of awakening passion and devotion. He was so
splendidly magnificent, so masterful and unrivalled, and he came thus
to lay his being, as it were, in homage at her feet. It touched her a
little, who knew so little of the real man. It cost her an effort to
repulse him, and the effort was not very convincing.
“Hush, monsieur, for pity's sake! You must not talk so to me. It . .
. it hurts.”
O fatal word! She meant that it was her dignity as Queen he wounded,
for she clung to that as to the anchor of salvation. But he in his
egregious vanity must of cours e misunderstand.
“Hurts!” he cried, and the rapture in his accents should have warned
her. “Because you resist it, because you fight against the commands of
your true self. Anne!” He seized her, and crushed her to him. “Anne!”
Wild terror gripped her at that almost brutal contact, and anger,
too, her dignity surging up in violent outraged rebellion. A scream,
loud and piercing, broke from her and rang through the still garden. It
brought him to his senses. It was as if he had been lifted up into the
air, and then suddenly allowed to fall.
He sprang away from her, an incoherent exclamation on his lips, and
when an instant later Monsieur de Putange came running up in alarm, his
hand upon his sword, those two stood with the width of the avenue
between them, Buckingham erect and defiant, the Queen breathing hard
and trembling, a hand upon her heaving breast as if to repress its
“Madame! Madame!” had been Putange's cry, as he sprang forward in
alarm and self-reproach.
He stood now almost between them, looking from one to the other in
bewilderment. Neither spoke.
“You cried out, Madame,” M. de Putange reminded her, and Buckingham
may well have wondered whether presently he would be receiving M. de
Putange's sword in his vitals. He must have known that his life now
hung upon her answer.
“I called you, that was all,” said the Queen, in a voice that she
strove to render calm. “I confess that I was startled to find myself
alone with M. I'Ambassadeur. Do not let it occur again, M. de Putange!”
The equerry bowed in silence. His itching fingers fell away from his
sword-hilt, and he breathed more freely. He had no illusions as to what
must have happened. But he was relieved there were to be no
complications. The others now coming up with them, the party thereafter
kept together until presently Buckingham and Lord Holland took their
On the morrow the last stage of the escorting journey was
accomplished. A little way beyond Amiens the Court took its leave of
Henrietta Maria, entrusting her now to Buckingham and his followers,
who were to convey her safely to Charles.
It was a very contrite and downcast Buckingham who came now to Anne
of Austria as she sat in her coach with the Princesse de Conti for only
“Madame,” he said, “I am come to take my leave.”
“Fare you well, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur,” she said, and her voice was
warm and gentle, as if to show him that she bore no malice.
“I am come to ask your pardon, madame,” he said, in a low voice.
“Oh, monsieur—no more, I beg you.” She looked down; her hands were
trembling, her cheeks going red and white by turns.
He put his head behind the curtains of the coach, so that none might
see him from outside, and looking at him now, she beheld tears in his
“Do not misunderstand me, madame. I ask your pardon only for having
discomposed you, startled you. As for what I said, it were idle to ask
pardon, since I could no more help saying it than I can help drawing
breath. I obeyed an instinct stronger than the will to live. I gave
expression to something that dominates my whole being, and will ever
dominate it as long as I have life. Adieu, madame! At need you know
where a servant who will gladly die for you is to be found.” He kissed
the hem of her robe, dashed the back of his hand across his eyes, and
was gone before she could say a word in answer.
She sat pale, and very thoughtful, and the Princesse de Conti,
watching her furtively, observed that her eyes were moist.
“I will answer for the Queen's virtue,” she stated afterwards, “but
I cannot speak so positively for the hardness of her heart, since
without doubt the Duke's tears affected her spirits.”
But it was not yet the end. As Buckingham was nearing Calais, he was
met by a courier from Whitehall, with instructions for him regarding
the negotiations he had been empowered to carry out with France in the
matter of an alliance against Spain— negotiations which had not
thriven with Louis and Richelieu, possibly because the ambassador was
ill-chosen. The instructions came too late to be of use, but in time to
serve as a pretext for Buckingham's return to Amiens. There he sought
an audience of the Queen-Mother, and delivered himself to her of a
futile message for the King. This chimerical business—as Madame de
Motteville shrewdly calls it—being accomplished, he came to the real
matter which had prompted him to use that pretext for his return, and
sought audience of Anne of Austria.
It was early morning, and the Queen was not yet risen. But the
levees at the Court of France were precisely what the word implies, and
they were held by royalty whilst still abed. It was not, therefore,
amazing that he should have been admitted to her presence. She was
alone save for her lady-in-waiting, Madame de Lannoi, who was, we are
told, aged, prudent and virtuous. Conceive, therefore, the outraged
feelings of this lady upon seeing the English duke precipitate himself
wildly into the room, and on his knees at the royal bedside seize the
coverlet and bear it to his lips.
Whilst the young Queen looked confused and agitated, Madame de
Lannoi became a pillar of icy dignity.
“M. le Duc,” says she, “it is not customary in France to kneel when
speaking to the Queen.”
“I care nothing for the customs of France, madame” he answered
rudely. “I am not a Frenchman.”
“That is too obvious, monsieur,” snapped the elderly, prudent and
virtuous countess. “Nevertheless, whilst in France perhaps monsieur
will perceive the convenience of conforming to French customs. Let me
call for a chair for Monsieur le Duc.”
“I do not want a chair, madame.”
The countess cast her eyes to Heaven, as if to say, “I suppose one
cannot expect anything else in a foreigner,” and let him kneel as he
insisted, placing herself, however, protectingly at the Queen's pillow.
Nevertheless, entirely unabashed, heeding Madame de Lannoi's
presence no more than if she had been part of the room's furniture, the
Duke delivered himself freely of what was in his mind. He had been
obliged to return to Amiens on a matter of State. It was unthinkable
that he should be so near to her Majesty and not hasten to cast himself
at her feet; and whilst gladdening the eyes of his body with the sight
of her matchless perfection, the image of which was ever before the
eyes of his soul, allow himself the only felicity life now held for
him—that of protesting himself her utter slave. This, and much more of
the kind, did he pour out, what time the Queen, embarrassed and annoyed
beyond utterance, could only stare at him in silence.
Apart from the matchless impudence of it, it was also of a rashness
beyond pardon. Unless Madame de Lannoi were the most circumspect of
women, here was a fine tale for Court gossips, and for the King's ears,
a tale that must hopelessly compromise the Queen. For that, Buckingham,
in his self-sufficiency and arrogance, appears to have cared nothing.
One suspects that it would have pleased his vanity to have his name
linked with the Queen's by the lips of scandal.
She found her tongue at last.
“Monsieur le Duc,” she said in her confusion, “it was not necessary,
it was not worth while, to have asked audience of me for this. You have
leave to go.”
He looked up in doubt, and saw only confusion; attributed it perhaps
to the presence of that third party to which himself he had been so
indifferent. He kissed the coverlet again, stumbled to his feet, and
reached the door. Thence he sent her a flaming glance of his bold eyes,
and hand on heart—
“Adieu, madame!” said he in tragic tones, and so departed.
Madame de Lannoi was discreet, and related at the time nothing of
what had passed at that interview. But that the interview itself had
taken place under such conditions was enough to set the tongue of
gossip wagging. An echo of it reached the King, together with the story
of that other business in the garden, and he was glad to know that the
Duke of Buckingham was back in London. Richelieu, to vent his own
malice against the Queen, sought to feed the King's suspicions.
“Why did she cry out, sire?” he will have asked. “What did M. de
Buckingham do to make her cry out?”
“I don't know. But whatever it was, she was no party to it since she
did cry out.”
Richelieu did not pursue the matter just then. But neither did he
abandon it. He had his agents in London and elsewhere, and he desired
of them a close report upon the Duke of Buckingham's movements, and the
fullest particulars of his private life.
Meanwhile, Buckingham had left behind him in France two faithful
agents of his own, with instructions to keep his memory green with the
Queen. For he intended to return upon one pretext or another before
very long, and complete the conquest. Those agents of his were Lord
Holland and the artist Balthazar Gerbier. It is to be presumed that
they served the Duke's interests well, and it is no less to be presumed
from that which followed that they found her Majesty willing enough to
hear news of that amazingly romantic fellow who had flashed across the
path of her grey life, touching it for a moment with his own flaming
radiance. In her loneliness she came to think of him with tenderness
and pity, in which pity for herself and her dull lot was also blent. He
was away, overseas; she might never see him again; therefore there
could be little harm in indulging the romantic tenderness he had
So one day, many months after his departure, she begged Gerbier— as
La Rochefoucauld tells us—to journey to London and bear the Duke a
trifling memento of her—a set of diamond studs. That love-token—for
it amounted to no less—Gerbier conveyed to England, and delivered to
Buckingham's head was so completely turned by the event, and his
desire to see Anne of Austria again became thereupon so overmastering,
that he at once communicated to France that he was coming over as the
ambassador of the King of England to treat of certain masters connected
with Spain. But Richelieu had heard from the French ambassador in
London that portraits of the Queen of France were excessively abundant
at York House, the Duke's residence, and he had considered it his duty
to inform the King. Louis was angry, but not with the Queen. To have
believed her guilty of any indiscretion would have hurt his gloomy
pride too deeply. All that he believed was that this was merely an
expression of Buckingham's fanfaronading, thrasonical disposition, a
form of vain, empty boasting peculiar to megalomaniacs.
As a consequence, the King of England was informed that the Duke of
Buckingham, for reasons well known to himself, would not be agreeable
as Charles's ambassador to his Most Christian Majesty. Upon learning
this, the vainglorious Buckingham was loud in proclaiming the reason
(“well known to himself") and in protesting that he would go to France
to see the Queen with the French King's consent or without it. This was
duly reported to Richelieu, and by Richelieu to King Louis. But his
Most Christian Majesty merely sneered, accounted it more empty boasting
on the part of the parvenu, and dismissed it from his mind.
Richelieu found this attitude singularly exasperating in a King who
was temperamentally suspicious. It so piqued and annoyed him, that when
considered in addition to his undying rancour against Anne of Austria,
it is easily believed he spared no pains to obtain something in the
nature of a proof that the Queen was not as innocent as Louis insisted
Now it happened that one of his London agents informed him, among
other matters connected with the Duke's private life, that he had a
bitter and secret enemy in the Countess of Carlisle, between whom and
himself there had been a passage of some tenderness too abruptly ended
by the Duke. Richelieu, acting upon this information, contrived to
enter into correspondence with Lady Carlisle, and in the course of this
correspondence he managed her so craftily—says La Rochefoucauld—that
very soon she was, whilst hardly realizing it, his Eminence's most
valuable spy near Buckingham. Richelieu informed her that he was mainly
concerned with information that would throw light upon the real
relations of Buckingharn and the Queen of France, and he persuaded her
that nothing was too insignificant to be communicated. Her resentment
of the treatment she had received from Buckingham, a resentment the
more bitter for being stifled—since for her reputation's sake she
dared not have given it expression—made her a very ready instrument in
Richelieu's hands, and there was no scrap of gossip she did not
carefully gather up and dispatch to him. But all was naught until one
day at last she was able to tell him something that set his pulses
beating more quickly than their habit.
She had it upon the best authority that a set of diamond studs
constantly worn of late by the Duke was a love-token from the Queen of
France sent over to Buckingham by a messenger of her own. Here, indeed,
was news. Here was a weapon by which the Queen might be destroyed.
Richelieu considered. If he could but obtain possession of the studs,
the rest would be easy. There would be an end—and such an end!—to the
King's obstinate, indolent faith in his wife's indifference to that
boastful, flamboyant English upstart. Richelieu held his peace for the
time being, and wrote to the Countess.
Some little time thereafter there was a sumptuous ball given at York
House, graced by the presence of King Charles and his young French
Queen. Lady Carlisle was present, and in the course of the evening
Buckingham danced with her. She was a very beautiful, accomplished and
ready-witted woman, and to-night his Grace found her charms so alluring
that he was almost disposed to blame himself for having perhaps treated
her too lightly. Yet she seemed at pains to show him that it was his to
take up again the affair at the point at which it had been dropped. She
was gay, arch, provoking and irresistible. So irresistible that
presently, yielding to the lure of her, the Duke slipped away from his
guests with the lady on his arm, and they found themselves at the foot
of the garden in the shadow of the water-gate that Inigo Jones had just
completed for him. My lady languished at his side, permitted him to
encircle her with a protecting arm, and for a moment lay heavily
against him. He caught her violently to him, and now her ladyship,
hitherto so yielding, with true feminine contrariness set herself to
resist him. A scuffle ensued between them. She broke from him at last,
and sped swift as a doe across the lawn towards the lights of the great
house, his Grace in pursuit between vexation and amusement.
But he did not overtake her, and it was with a sense of having been
fooled that he rejoined his guests. His questing eyes could discern her
nowhere. Presently he made inquiries, to be told that she had desired
her carriage to be called, and had left York House immediately upon
coming in from the garden.
He concluded that she was gone off in a pet. It was very odd. It
was, in fact, most flagrantly contradictory that she should have taken
offense at that which she had so obviously invited. But then she always
had been a perverse and provoking jade. With that reflection he put her
from his mind.
But anon, when his guests had departed, and the lights in the great
house were extinguished, Buckingham thought of the incident again.
Cogitating it, he sat in his room, his fingers combing his fine,
pointed, auburn beard. At last, with a shrug and a half- laugh, he rose
to undress for bed. And then a cry escaped him, and brought in his
valet from an adjoining room. The riband of diamond studs was gone.
Reckless and indifferent as he was, a sense of evil took him in the
moment of his discovery of that loss, so that he stood there pale,
staring, and moist of brow. It was no ordinary theft. There were upon
his person a dozen ornaments of greater value, any one of which could
have been more easily detached. This was the work of some French agent.
He had made no secret of whence those studs had come to him.
There his thoughts checked on a sudden. As in a flash of revelation,
he saw the meaning of Lady Carlisle's oddly contradictory behaviour.
The jade had fooled him. It was she who had stolen the riband. He sat
down again, his head in his hands, and swiftly, link by link, he pieced
together a complete chain.
Almost as swiftly he decided upon the course of action which he must
adopt so as to protect the Queen of France's honour. He was virtually
the ruler of England, master in these islands of an almost boundless
power. That power he would exert to the full this very night to thwart
those enemies of his own and of the Queen's, who worked so subtly in
concert. Many would be wronged, much harm would be done, the liberties
of some thousands of freeborn Englishmen would be trampled underfoot.
What did it matter? It was necessary that his Grace of Buckingham
should cover up an indiscretion.
“Set ink and paper yonder,” he bade his gaping valet. “Then go call
M. Gerbier. Rouse Lacy and Thom, and send them to me at once, and leave
word that I shall require a score of couriers to be in the saddle and
ready to set out in half an hour.”
Bewildered, the valet went off upon his errand. The Duke sat down to
write. And next morning English merchants learnt that the ports of
England were closed by the King's express command— delivered by his
minister, the Duke of Buckingham—that measures were being taken—were
already taken in all southern ports—so that no vessel of any kind
should leave the island until the King's further pleasure were made
known. Startled, the people wondered was this enactment the forerunner
of war. Had they known the truth, they might have been more startled
still, though in a different manner. As swiftly as couriers could
travel—and certainly well ahead of any messenger seeking escape
overseas— did this blockade spread, until the gates of England were
tight locked against the outgoing of those diamond studs whirls meant
the honour of the Queen of France.
And meanwhile a diamond-cutter was replacing the purloined stones by
others, matching them so closely that no man should be able to say
which were the originals and which the copies. Buckingham and Gerbier
between them guided the work. Soon it was accomplished, and a vessel
slipped down the Thames, allowed to pass by those who kept close watch
to enforce the royal decree, and made sail for Calais, which was
beginning to manifest surprise at this entire cessation of traffic from
England. From that vessel landed Gerbier, and rode straight to Paris,
carrying the Queen of France the duplicate studs, which were to replace
those which she had sent to Buckingham.
Twenty-four hours later the ports of England were unsealed, and
commerce was free and unhampered once more. But it was twenty- four
hours too late for Richelieu and his agent, the Countess of Carlisle.
His Eminence deplored a fine chance lost through the excessive power
that was wielded in England by the parvenu.
Yet that is not quite the end of the story. Buckingham's inflamed
and reckless mind would stop at nothing now to achieve the object of
his desires—go to France and see the Queen. Since the country was
closed to him, he would force a way into it, the red way of war. Blood
should flow, ruin and misery desolate the land, but in the end he would
go to Paris to negotiate a peace, and that should be his opportunity.
Other reasons there may have been, but none so dominant, none that
could not have been remved by negotiation. The pretexted casus belli
was the matter of the Protestants of La Rochelle, who were in rebellion
against their king.
To their aid sailed Buckingham with an English expedition. Disaster
and defeat awaited it. Its shattered remnant crept back in disgrace to
England, and the Duke found himself more detested by the people than he
had been already—which is saying much. He went off to seek comfort at
the hands of the two persons who really loved him—his doting King and
his splendid wife.
But the defeat had neither lessened his resolve nor chastened his
insolence. He prepared a second expedition in the very teeth of a
long-suffering nation's hostility, indifferent to the mutinies and
mutterings about him. What signified to him the will of a nation? He
desired to win to the woman whom he loved, and to accomplish that he
nothing recked that he should set Europe in a blaze, nothing recked
what blood should be poured out, what treasure dissipated.
Hatred of him by now was so widespread and vocal, that his friends,
fearing that soon it would pass from words to deeds, urged him to take
precautions, advised the wearing of a shirt of mail for greater safety.
But he laughed sneeringly, ever arrogant and scornful.
“It needs not. There are no Roman spirits left,” was his
He was mistaken. One morning after breakfast, as he was leaving the
house in the High Street, Portsmouth, where he lodged whilst
superintending the final preparations for that unpopular expedition,
John Felton, a self-appointed instrument of national vengeance, drove a
knife to the hilt into the Duke's breast.
“May the Lord have mercy on your soul!” was the pious exclamation
with which the slayer struck home. And, in all the circumstances, there
seems to have been occasion for the prayer.
IX. THE PATH OF EXILE. The Fall of
Tight-wrapped in his cloak against the icy whips of the black
winter's night, a portly gentleman, well advanced in years, picked his
way carefully down the wet, slippery steps of the jetty by the light of
a lanthorn, whose rays gleamed lividly on crushed brown seaweed and
trailing green sea slime. Leaning heavily upon the arm which a sailor
held out to his assistance, he stepped into the waiting boat that rose
and fell on the heaving black waters. A boathook scraped against the
stones, and the frail craft was pushed off.
The oars dipped, and the boat slipped away through the darkness,
steering a course for the two great poop lanterns that were swinging
rhythmically high up against the black background of the night. The
elderly gentleman, huddled now in the stern-sheets, looked behind
him—to look his last upon the England he had loved and served and
ruled. The lanthorn, shedding its wheel of yellow light upon the jetty
steps, was all of it that he could now see.
He sighed, and settled down again to face the poop lights, dancing
there above the invisible hull of the ship that was to carry Edward
Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, lately Lord Chancellor of England, into exile.
As a dying man looks down the foreshortened vista of his active life,
so may Edward Hyde—whose career had reached a finality but one degree
removed from the finality of death—have reviewed in that moment those
thirty years of sincere endeavour and high achievement since he had
been a law student in the Temple when Charles I. was King.
That King he had served faithfully, so faithfully that when the
desperate fortunes of the Royalist party made it necessary to place the
Prince of Wales beyond the reach of Cromwell, it was in Sir Edward
Hyde's care that the boy was sent upon his travels. The present was not
to be Hyde's first experience of exile. He had known it, and of a
bitter sort, in those impecunious days when the Second Charles, whose
steps he guided, was a needy, homeless outcast. A man less staunch and
loyal might have thrown over so profitless a service. He had talents
that would have commanded a price in the Roundhead market. Yet
staunchly adhering to the Stuart fortunes, labouring ceaselessly and
shrewdly in the Stuart interest, employing his great ability and
statecraft, he achieved at long length the restoration of the Stuarts
to the Throne of England. And for all those loyal, self-denying labours
in exile on the Stuart behalf, all the reward he had at the time was
that James Stuart, Duke of York, debauched his daughter.
Nor did Hyde's labours cease when he had made possible the
Restoration; it was Hyde who, when that Restoration was accomplished,
took in hand and carried out the difficult task of welding together the
old and the new conditions of political affairs. And it was Hyde who
was the scapegoat when things did not run the course that Englishmen
desired. As the head of the administration he was held responsible even
for those acts which he had strongly but vainly reprobated in Council.
It was Hyde who was blamed when Charles sold Dunkirk to the French, and
spent the money in harlotry; it was Hyde who was blamed because the
Queen was childless.
The reason for this last lay in the fact that the wrong done to
Hyde's daughter Anne had now been righted by marri age with the Duke of
York. Now the Duke of York was the heir-apparent, and the people, ever
ready to attach most credit to that which is most incredible and
fantastic, believed that to ensure the succession of his own
grandchildren Hyde had deliberately provided Charles with a barren
When the Dutch, sailing up the Thames, had burnt the ships of war at
Chatham, and Londoners heard the thunder of enemy guns, Hyde was openly
denounced as a traitor by a people stricken with terror and seeking a
victim in the blind, unreasoning way of public feeling. They broke his
windows, ravaged his garden, and erected a gibbet before the gates of
his superb mansion on the north side of Piccadilly.
Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, and Lord Chancellor of England,
commanded the love of his intimates, but did not possess those
qualities of cheap glitter that make for popularity with the masses.
Nor did he court popularity elsewhere. Because he was austere in his
morals, grave and sober in his conduct, he was hated by those who made
up the debauched court of his prince. Because he was deeply religious
in his principles, the Puritans mistrusted him for a bigot. Because he
was autocratic in his policy he was detested by the Commons, the day of
autocracy being done.
Yet might he have weathered the general hostility had Charles been
half as loyal to him as he had ever been loyal to Charles. For a time,
it is true, the King stood his friend, and might so have continued to
the end had not the women become mixed up in the business. As Evelyn,
the diarist, puts it, this great man's fall was the work of “the
buffoones and ladys of pleasure.”
It really is a very tangled story—this inner history of the fall of
Clarendon, with which the school-books are not concerned. In a sense,
it is also the story of the King's marriage and of Catherine of
Braganza, his unfortunate little ugly Queen, who must have suffered as
much as any woman wedded to a sultan in any country where the seraglio
is not a natural and proper institution.
If Clarendon could not be said to have brought about the marriage,
at least he had given it his suffrages when proposed by Portugal, which
was anxious to establish an alliance with England as some protection
against the predatory designs of Spain. He had been influenced by the
dowry offered—five hundred thousand pounds in money, Tangier, which
would give England a commanding position on the Mediterranean, and the
Island of Bombay. Without yet foreseeing that the possession of Bombay,
and the freedom to trade in the East Indies—which Portugal had
hitherto kept jealously to herself—were to enable England to build up
her great Indian Empire, yet the commercial advantages alone were
obvious enough to make the match desirable.
Catherine of Braganza sailed for England, and on the lath of May,
1662, Charles, attended by a splendid following, went to meet his bride
at Portsmouth. He was himself a very personable man, tall— he stood a
full six feet high—lean and elegantly vigorous. The ugliness of his
drawn, harsh-featured face was mitigated by the glory of full,
low-ridded, dark eyes, and his smile could be irresistibly captivating.
He was as graceful in manner as in person, felicitous of speech, and of
an indolent good temper that found expression in a charming urbanity.
Good temper and urbanity alike suffered rudely when he beheld the
wife they brought him. Catherine, who was in her twenty-fifth year, was
of an absurdly low stature, so long in the body and short in the legs
that, dressed as she was in an outlandish, full-skirted farthingale,
she had the appearance of being on her knees when she stood before him.
Her complexion was sallow, and though her eyes, like his own, were
fine, they were not fine enough to redeem the dull plainness of her
face. Her black hair was grotesquely dressed, with a long fore-top and
two great ribbon bows standing out, one on each side of her head, like
a pair of miniature wings.
It is little wonder that the Merry Monarch, the fastidious
voluptuary, with his nice discernment in women, should have checked in
his long stride, and halted a moment in consternation.
“Lord!” was his wry comment to Etheredge, who was beside him.
“They've brought me a bat, not a woman.”
But if she lacked beauty, she was well cowered, and Charles was in
desperate need of money.
“I suppose,” he told Clarendon anon, “I must swallow this black
draught to get the jam that goes with it.”
The Chancellor's grave eyes considered him almost sternly what time
he coldly recited the advantages of this marriage. If he did riot
presume to rebuke the ribaldry of his master, neither would he
condescend to smile at it. He was too honest ever to be a sycophant.
Catherine was immediately attended—in the words of Grammont—by six
frights who called themselves maids-of-honour, and a governess who was
a monster. With this retinue she repaired to Hampton Court, where the
honeymoon was spent, and where for a brief season the poor
woman—entirely enamoured of the graceful, long-legged rake she had
married—lived in a fool's paradise.
Disillusion was to follow soon enough. She might be, by he grace of
her dowry, Queen of England, but she was soon to discover that to King
Charles she was no more than a wife de jure. With wives de facto
Charles would people his seraglio as fancy moved him; and the present
wife defacto, the mistress of his heart, the first lady of his harem,
was that beautiful termagant, Barbara Villiers, wife of the
accommodating Roger Palmer, Earl of Castle- maine.
There was no lack—there never is in such cases—of those who out of
concern and love for the happily deluded wife lifted the veil for her,
and made her aware of the facts of his Majesty's association with my
Lady Castle-maine—an association dating back to the time when he was
still a homeless wanderer. The knowledge would appear to have troubled
the poor soul profoundly; but the climax of her distress was reached
when, on her coming to Whitehall, she found at the head of the list of
ladies-in-waiting assigned to her the name of my Lady Castlemaine. The
forlorn little woman's pride rose up before this outrage. She struck
out that offending name, and gave orders that the favourite was not to
be admitted to her presence.
But she reckoned without Charles. For all his urbane, good-tempered, debonair ways, there was an ugly cynical streak in his
nature, manifested now in the manner in which he dealt with this
situation. Himself he led his boldly handsome favourite by the hand
into his wife's presence, before the whole Court assembled, and himself
presented her to Catherine, what time that Court, dissolute and
profligate as it was, looked on in amazement at so outrageous a slight
to the dignity of a queen.
What followed may well have exceeded all expectations. Catherine
stiffened as if the blow dealt her had been physical. Gradually her
face paled until it was grey and drawn; tears of outraged pride and
mortification flooded her eyes. And then, as if something snapped
within her brain under this stress of bitter emotion, blood gushed from
her nostrils, and she sank back in a swoon into the arms of her
Confusion followed, and under cover of it Charles and his light of
love withdrew, realizing that if he lingered not all his easy skill in
handling delicate situations could avail him to save his royal dignity.
Naturally the experiment was not to be repeated. But since it was
his wish that the Countess of Castlemaine should be established as one
of the Queen's ladies—or, rather, since it was her ladyship's wish,
and since Charles was as wax in her ladyship's hands—it became
necessary to have the Queen instructed in what was, in her husband's
view, fitting. For this task he selected Clarendon. But the Chancellor,
who had so long and loyally played Mentor to Charles's Telemachus,
sought now to guide him in matters moral as he had hitherto guided him
in matters political.
Clarendon declined the office of mediator, and even expostulated
with Charles upon the unseemliness of the course upon which his Majesty
“Surely, sire, it is for her Majesty to say who shall and who shall
not be the ladies of her bedchamber. And I nothing marvel at her
decision in this instance.”
“Yet I tell you, my lord, that it is a decision that shall be
“By whom, sire?” the Chancellor asked him gravely.
“By her Majesty, of course.”
“Under coercion, of which you ask me to be the instrument,” said
Clarendon, in the tutorly manner he had used with the King from the
latter's boyhood. “Yourself, sire, at a time when your own wishes did
not warp your judgment, have condemned the very thing that now you are
urging. Yourself, sire, hotly blamed your cousin, King Louis, for
thrusting Mademoiselle de Valliere upon his queen. You will not have
forgotten the things you said then of King Louis.”
Charles remembered those unflattering criticisms which he was now
invited to apply to his own case. He bit his lip, admitting himself in
But anon—no doubt in obedience to the overbearing suasion of my
Lady Castlemaine—he returned to the attack, and sent the Chancellor
his orders in a letter demanding unquestioning obedience.
“Use your best endeavours,” wrote Charles, “to facilitate what I am
sure my honour is so much concerned in. And whosoever I find to be my
Lady Castlemaine's enemy in this matter, I do promise upon my word to
be his enemy so long as I live.”
My Lord Clarendon had few illusions on the score of mankind. He knew
his world from froth to dregs—having studied it under a variety of
conditions. Yet that letter from his King was a bitter draught. All
that Charles possessed and was he owed to Clarendon. Yet in such a
contest as this, Charles did not hesitate to pen that bitter,
threatening line: “Whosoever I find to be my Lady Castlemaine's enemy
in this matter, I do promise upon my word to be his enemy so long as I
All that Clarendon had done in the past was to count for nothing
unless he also did the unworthy thing that Charles now demanded. All
that he had accomplished in the service of his King was to be swept
into oblivion by the breath of a spiteful wanton.
Clarendon swallowed the draught and sought the Queen, upon that
odious embassy with whose ends he was so entirely out of sympathy. He
used arguments whose hollowness was not more obvious to the Queen than
That industrious and entertaining chronicler of trifles, Mr. Pepys,
tells us, scandalized, in his diary that on the following day the talk
of the Court was all upon a midnight scene between the royal couple in
the privacy of their own apartments, so stormy that the sounds of it
were plainly to be heard in the neighbouring chambers.
You conceive the poor little woman, smarting under the insult of
Charles's proposal by the mouth of Clarendon, assailing her royal
husband, and fiercely upbraiding him with his lack not merely of
affection but even of the respect that was her absolute due. And
Charles, his purpose set, urged to it by the handsome termagant whom he
dared not refuse, stirred out of his indolent good- nature, turning
upon her, storming back, and finally threatening her with the greater
disgrace of seeing herself pack ed home to Portugal, unless she would
submit to the lesser disgrace he thrust upon her here.
Whether by these or by other arguments he made his will prevail,
prevail it did. Catherine of Braganza swallowed her pride and
submitted. And a very complete submission it was. Lady Castlemaine was
not only installed as a Lady of the Bedchamber, but very soon we find
the Queen treating her with a friendliness that provoked comment and
The favourite's triumph was complete, and marked by an increasing
insolence, most marked in her demeanour towards the Chancellor, of
whose views on the subject, as expressed to the King, she was aware.
Consequently she hated him with all the spiteful bitterness that is
inseparable from the nature of such women. And she hated him the more
because, wrapped in his cold contempt, he moved in utter unconcern of
her hostility. In this hatred she certainly did not lack for allies,
members of that licentious court whose hostility towards the austere
Chancellor was begotten of his own scorn of them. Among them they
worked to pull him down.
The attempt to undermine his influence with the King proving
vain—for Charles was as well aware of its inspiration as of the
Chancellor's value to him—that crew of rakes went laboriously and
insidiously to work upon the public mind, which is to say the public
ignorance—most fruitful soil for scandal against the great. Who shall
say how far my lady and the Court were responsible for the lampoon
affixed one day to my Lord Clarendon's gatepost:
Three sights to be seen:
Dunkirk, Tangier, and a barren queen.
Her ladyship might well have considered the unpopularity of the
Chancellor as the crown of her triumph, had this triumph been as stable
as she could have wished. But, Charles being what he was, it follows
that her ladyship had frequent, if transient, anxious jealousies to mar
the perfection of her existence, to remind her how insecure is the
tenure of positions such as hers, ever at the mercy of the very caprice
And then, at long length, there came a day of horrid dread for her,
a day when she found herself bereft of her influence with her royal
lover, when pleadings and railings failed alike to sway him. In part
she owed it to an indiscretion of her own, but in far greater measure
to a child of sixteen, of a golden-headed, fresh, youthful loveliness,
and a nature that still found pleasure in dolls and kindred childish
things, yet of a quick and lively wit, and a clear, intelligent mind,
untroubled either by the assiduity of the royal attentions or the fact
that she was become the toast of the day.
This was Miss Frances Stewart, the daughter of Lord Blantyre, newly
come to Court as a Lady-in-Waiting to her Majesty. How profound an
impression her beauty made upon the admittedly impressionable old Pepys
you may study in his diary. He had a glimpse of her one day riding in
the Park with the King, and a troop of ladies, among whom my Lady
Castlemaine, looking, as he tells us, “mighty out of humour.” There was
a moment when Miss Stewart came very near to becoming Queen of England,
and although she never reached that eminence, yet her effigy not only
found its way into the coinage, but abides there to this day (more
perdurable than that of any actual queen) in the figure of Britannia,
for which she was the model.
Charles wooed her openly. It was never his way to study appearances
in these matters. He was so assiduous that it became customary in that
winter of 1666 for those seeking the King at Whitehall to inquire
whether he were above or below—“below” meaning Miss Stewart's
apartments on the ground-floor of the palace, in which apartments his
Majesty was a constant visitor. And since where the King goes the Court
follows, and where the King smiles there the Court fawns, it resulted
that this child now found herself queering it over a court that flocked
to her apartments. Gallants and ladies came there to flirt and to
gossip, to gamble and to pay homage.
About a great table in her splendid salon, a company of rustling,
iridescent fops in satin and heavy periwigs, and of ladies with curled
head-dresses and bare shoulders, played at basset one night in January.
Conversation rippled, breaking here and there into laughter, white,
jewelled hands reached out for cards, or for a share of the heaps of
gold that swept this way and that with the varying fortunes of the
My Lady Castlemaine, seated between Etheredge and Rochester, played
in silence, with lips tight-set and brooding eyes. She had lost, it is
true, some L1500 that night; yet, a prodigal gamester, and one who came
easily by money, she had been known to lose ten times that sum and yet
preserve her smile. The source of her ill-humour was not the game. She
played recklessly, her attention wandering; those handsome, brooding
eyes of hers were intent upon watching what went on at the other end of
the long room. There, at a smaller table, sat Miss Stewart, half a
dozen gallants hovering near her, engaged upon a game of cards of a
vastly different sort. Miss Stewart did not gamble. The only purpose
she could find for cards was to build castles; and here she was
building one with the assistance of her gallants, and under the
superintendence of his Grace of Buckingham, who was as skilled in this
as in other equally unstable forms of architecture.
Apart, over by the fire, in a great chair of gilt leather, lounged
the King, languidly observing this smaller party, a faint, indolent
smile o n his swarthy, saturnine countenance. Absently, with one hand
he stroked a little spaniel that was curled in his lap. A black boy in
a gorgeous, plumed turban and a long, crimson surcoat arabesqued in
gold—there were three or four such attendants about the
room—proffered him a cup of posses on a golden salver.
The King rose, thrust aside the little blackamoor, and with his
spaniel under his arm, sauntered across to Miss Stewart's table. Soon
he found himself alone with her—the others having removed themselves
on his approach, as jackals fall back before the coming of the lion.
The last to go, and with signs of obvious reluctance, was his Grace of
Richmond, a delicately-built, uncomely, but very glittering gentleman.
Charles faced her across the table, the tall house of cards standing
Miss invited his Majesty's admiration for my Lord of Buckingham's
architecture. Pouf! His Majesty blew, and the edifice rustled down to a
mere heap of cards again.
“Symbol of kingly power,” said Miss, pertly. “You demolish better
than you build, sire.”
“Oddsfish! If you challenge me, it were easy to prove you wrong,”
“Pray do. The cards are here.”
“Cards! Pooh! Card castles are well enough for Buckingham. But such
is not the castle I'll build you if you command me.”
“I command the King's Majesty? Mon Dieu! But it would be treason
“Not greater treason than to have enslaved me.” His fine eyes were
oddly ardent. “Shall I build you this castle, child?”
Miss looked at him, and looked away. Her eyelids fluttered
distractingly. She fetched a sigh.
“The castle that your Majesty would build for any but your Queen
must prove a prison.”
She rose, and, looking across the room, she met the handsome,
scowling eyes of the neglected favourite. “My Lady Castlemaine looks as
if she feared that fortune were not favouring her.” She was so artless
that Charles could not be sure there was a double meaning to her
speech. “Shall we go see how she is faring?” she added, with a
disregard for etiquette, whose artlessness he also doubted.
He yielded, of course. That was his way with beauty, especially with
beauty not yet reduced into possession. But the characteristic urbanity
with which he sauntered beside her across the room was no more than a
mask upon his chagrin. It was always thus that pretty Frances Stewart
used him. She always knew how to elude him and, always with that cursed
air of artlessness, uttered seemingly simple sentences that clung to
his mind to tantalize him.
“The castle your Majesty would build for any but your Queen must
prove a prison.” What had she meant by that? Must he take her to queen
before she would allow him to build a castle for her?
It was an insistent, haunting thought, wracking his mind. He knew
there was a party hostile to the Duke of York and Clarendon, which,
fearing the succession of the former, and, so, of the grandchildren of
the latter, as a result of Catherine of Braganza's childlessness,
strongly favoured the King's divorce.
It was a singular irony that my Lady Castlemaine should be largely
responsible for the existence of that party. In her hatred for
Clarendon, and her blind search for weapons that would slay the
Chancellor, she had, if not actually invented, at least helped to give
currency to the silly slander that Clarendon had deliberately chosen
for Charles a barren queen, so as to ensure the ultimate succession of
his own daughter's children. But she had never thought to see that
slander recoil upon her as it now did; she had never thought that a
party would come to rise up in consequence that would urge divorce upon
the King at the very moment when he was consumed by passion for the
unattainable, artlessly artful Frances Stewart.
It was Buckingham, greatly daring, who slyly made himself that
party's mouthpiece. The suggestion startled Charles, voicing, as
perhaps it did, the temptation by which he was secretly assailed. He
looked at Buckingham, frowning.
“I verily believe you are the wickedest dog in England.”
The impudent gallant made a leg. “For a subject, sire, I believe I
Charles—with whom the amusing word seems ever to have been more
compelling than the serious—laughed his soft, mellow laugh. Then he
sighed, and the frown of thought returned.
“It would be a wicked thing to make a poor lady miserable only
because she is my wife, and has no children by me, which is no fault of
He was a thoroughly bad husband, but his indolent good-nature shrank
from purchasing his desires at the price of so much ignominy to the
Queen. Before that could come to pass it would be necessary to give the
screw of temptation another turn or two. And it was Miss Stewart
herself who—in all innocence—supplied what was required in that
direction. Driven to bay by the importunities of Charles, she announced
at last that it was her intention to retire from Court, so as to
preserve herself from the temptations by which she was beset, and to
determine the uneasiness which, through no fault of her own, her
presence was occasioning the Queen; and she announced further, that, so
desperate had she been rendered that she would marry any gentleman of
fifteen hundred pounds a year who would have her in honour.
You behold Charles reduced to a state of panic. He sought to bribe
her with offers of any settlements she chose to name, or any title she
coveted, offering her these things at the nation's expense as freely
and lightly as the jewels he had tossed into her lap, or the collar of
pearls worth sixteen hundred pounds he had put about her neck. The
offers were ineffectual, and Charles, driven almost to distraction by
such invulnerable virtue, might now have yielded to the insidious
whispers of divorce and re- marriage had not my Lady Castlemaine taken
a hand in the game.
Her ladyship, dwelling already, as a consequence of that royal
infatuation for Miss Stewart, in the cold, rarefied atmosphere of a
neglect that amounted almost to disgrace, may have considered with
bitterness how her attempt to exploit her hatred of the Chancellor had
recoiled upon herself.
In the blackest hour of her despair, when hope seemed almost dead,
she made a discovery—or, rather, the King's page, the ineffable
Chiffinch, Lord Keeper of the Back Stairs and Grand- Eunuch of the
Royal Seraglio, who was her ladyship's friend, made it and communicated
it to her There had been one ardent respondent in the Duke of Richmond
to that proclamation of Miss Stewart's that she would marry any
gentleman of fifteen hundred pounds a year. Long enamoured of her, his
Grace saw here his opportunity, and he seized it. Consequently he was
now in constant attendance upon her, but very secretly, since he feared
the King's displeasure.
My Lady Castlemaine, having discovered this, and being well served
in the matter by Chiffinch, spied her opportunity. It came one cold
night towards the end of February of that year 1667. Charles, going
below at a late hour to visit Miss Stewart, when he judged that she
would be alone, was informed by her maid that Miss was not receiving, a
headache compelling her to keep her room.
His Majesty returned above in a very ill-humour, to find himself
confronted in his own apartments by my Lady Castlemaine. Chiffinch had
introduced her by the back-stairs entrance. Charles stiffened at sight
“I hope I may be allowed to pay my homage,” says she, on a note of
irony, “although the angelic Stewart has forbid you to see me at my own
house. I come to condole with you upon the affliction and grief into
which the new-fashioned chastity of the inhuman Stewart has reduced
“You are pleased to be amused, ma'am,” says Charles frostily.
“I will not,” she returned him, “make use of reproaches which would
disgrace myself; still less will I endeavour to excuse frailties in
myself which nothing can justify, since your constancy for me deprives
me of all defence.” Her ladyship, you see, had a considerable gift of
“In that case, may I ask you why you have come?”
“To open your eyes. Because I cannot bear that you should be made
the jest of your own Court.”
“Ah! You didn't know, of course, that you are being laughed at for
the gross manner in which you are being imposed upon by the Stewart's
affectations, any more than you know that whilst you are denied
admittance to her apartments, under the presence of some indisposition,
the Duke of Richmond is with her now.”
“That is false,” he was beginning, very indignantly.
“I do not desire you to take my word for it. If you will follow me,
you will no longer be the dupe of a false prude, who makes you act so
ridiculous a part.”
She took him, still half-resisting, by the hand, and in silence led
him, despite his reluctance, back by the way he had so lately come.
Outside her rival's door she left him, but she paused at the end of the
gallery to make sure that he had entered.
Within he found himself confronted by several of Miss Stewart's
chambermaids, who respectfully barred his way, one of them informing
him scarcely above a whisper that her mistress had been very ill since
his Majesty left, but that, being gone to bed, she was, God be thanked,
in a very fine sleep.
“That I must see,” said the King. And, since one of the women placed
herself before the door of the inner room, his Majesty unceremoniously
took her by the shoulders and put her aside.
He thrust open the door, and stepped without further ceremony into
the well-lighted bedroom. Miss Stewart occupied the handsome, canopied
bed. But far from being as he had been told, in “a very fine sleep,”
she was sitting up; and far from presenting an ailing appearance, she
looked radiantly well and very lovely in her diaphanous sleeping
toilet, with golden ringlets in distracting disarray Nor was she alone.
By her pillow sat one who, if at first to be presumed her physician,
proved upon scrutiny to be the Duke of Richmond.
The King's swarthy face turned a variety of colours, his languid
eyes lost all trace of languor. Those who knew his nature might have
expected that he would now deliver himself with that sneering sarcasm,
that indolent cynicism, which he used upon occasion. But he was too
deeply stirred for acting. His self- control deserted him entirely.
Exactly what he said has not been preserved for us. All that we are
told is that he signified his resentment in such terms as he had never
before used; and that his Grace, almost petrified by the King's most
royal rage, uttered never a word in answer. The windows of the room
overlooked the Thames. The King's eyes strayed towards them. Richmond
was slight of build, Charles vigorous and athletic. His Grace took the
door betimes lest the window should occur to his Majesty, and so he
left the lady alone with the outraged monarch.
Thereafter Charles did not have it all quite his own way. Miss
Stewart faced him in an indignation nothing less than his own, and she
was very far from attempting any such justification of herself, or her
conduct, as he may have expected.
“Will your Majesty be more precise as to the grounds of your
complaint?” she invited him challengingly.
That checked his wildness. It brought him up with a round turn. His
jaw fell, and he stared at her, lost now for words. Of this she took
the fullest advantage.
“If I am not allowed to receive visits from a man of the Duke of
Richmond's rank, who comes with honourable intentions, then I am a
slave in a free country. I know of no engagement that should prevent me
from disposing of my hand as I think fit. But if this is not permitted
me in your Majesty's dominions, I do not believe there is any power on
earth can prevent me going back to France, and throwing myself into a
convent, there to enjoy the peace denied me at this Court.”
With that she melted into tears, and his discomfiture was complete.
On his knees he begged her forgiveness for the injury he had done her.
But Miss was not in a forgiving humour.
“If your Majesty would graciously consent to leave me now in peace,”
said she, “you would avoid offending by a longer visit those who
accompanied or conducted you to my apartments.”
She had drawn a bow at a venture but shrewdly, and the shaft went
home Charles rose, red in the face. Swearing he would never speak to
her again, he stalked out.
Later, however, he considered. If he felt bitterly aggrieved, he
must also have realized that he had no just grounds for this, and that
in his conduct in Miss Stewart's room he had been entirely ridiculous.
She was rightly resolved against being lightly worn by any man. If
anything, the reflection must have fanned his passion. It was
impossible, he thought, that she should love that knock-kneed fellow,
Richmond, who had no graces either of body or of mind, and if she
suffered the man's suit, it must be, as she had all but said, so that
she might be delivered from the persecution to which his Majesty had
submitted her. The thought of her marrying Richmond, or, indeed,
anybody, was unbearable to Charles, and it may have stifled his last
scruple in the matter of the divorce.
His first measure next morning was to banish Richmond from the
Court. But Richmond had not stayed for the order to quit. The King's
messenger found him gone already.
Then Charles took counsel in the matter with the Chancellor.
Clarendon's habitual gravity was increased to sternness. He spoke to
the King—taking the fullest advantage of the tutelary position in
which for the last twenty-five years he had stood to him—much as he
had spoken when Charles had proposed to make Barbara Palmer a Lady of
the Queen's Bedchamber, saving that he was now even more
uncompromising. The King was not pleased with him. But just as he had
had his way, despite the Chancellor, in that other matter, so he would
have his way despite him now. This time, however, the Chancellor took
no risks. He feared too much the consequences for Charles, and he
determined to spare no effort to avoid a scandal, and to save the
already deeply-injured Queen. So he went secretly to work to outwit the
King. He made himself the protector of those lovers, the Duke of
Richmond and Miss Stewart, with the result that one dark night, a week
or two later, the lady stole away from the Palace of White-hall, and
made her way to the Bear Tavern, at the Bridge-foot, Westminster, where
Richmond awaited her with a coach. And so, by the secret favour of the
Lord Chancellor, they stole away to Kent and matrimony.
That was checkmate indeed to Charles who swore all manner of things
in his mortification. But it was not until some six weeks later that he
learnt by whose agency the thing had been accomplished. He learnt it,
not a doubt, from my Lady Castlemaine.
The estrangement between her ladyship and the King, which dated back
to the time of his desperate courtship of Miss Stewart, was at last
made up; and once again we see her ladyship triumphant, and firmly
established in the amorous King's affections. She had cause to be
grateful to the Chancellor for this. But her vindictive nature
remembered only the earlier injury still unavenged. Here at last was
her chance to pay off that score. Clarendon, beset by enemies on every
hand, yet trusting in the King whom he had served so well, stood his
ground unintimidated and unmoved—an oak that had weathered mightier
storms than this. He did not dream that he was in the power of an evil
woman. And that woman used her power. When all else failed, she told
the King of Clarendon's part in the flight of Miss Stewart, and lest
the King should be disposed to pardon the Chancellor out of
consideration for his motives, represented him as a self-seeker, and
charged him with having acted thus so as to make sure of keeping his
daughter's children by the Duke of York in the succession.
That was the end. Charles withdrew his protection, threw Clarendon
to the wolves. He sent the Duke of Albemarle to him with a command that
he should surrender his seals of office. The proud old man refused to
yield his seals to any but the King himself. He may have hoped that the
memory of all that lay between them would rise up once more when they
were face to face. So he came in person to Whitehall to make surrender.
He walked deliberately, firmly, and with head erect, through the
hostile throng of courtiers—“especially the buffoones and ladys of
pleasure,” as Evelyn says.
Of his departure thence, his disgrace now consummated, Pepys has
left us a vivid picture:
“When he went from the King on Monday morning my Lady Castlemaine
was in bed (though about twelve o'clock), and ran out in her smock into
her aviary looking into Whitehall Gardens; and thither her woman
brought her her nightgown; and she stood, blessing herself at the old
man's going away; and several of the gallants of Whitehall—of which
there were many staying to see the Chancellor's return—did talk to her
in her birdcage; among others Blandford, telling her she was the bird
Clarendon lingered, melancholy and disillusioned, at his fine house
in Piccadilly until, impeached by Parliament, he remembered Strafford's
fate, and set out to tread once more and for the remainder of his days
the path of exile.
Time avenged him. Two of his granddaughters—Mary and Anne— reigned
successively as queens in England.
X. THE TRAGEDY OF HERRENHAUSEN.
Count Philip Koenigsmark and the Princess Sophia Dorothea
He was accounted something of a scamp throughout Europe, and
particularly in England, where he had been associated with his brother
in the killing of Mr. Thynne. But the seventeenth century did not look
for excessively nice scruples in a soldier of fortune; and so it
condoned the lack of virtue in Count Philip Christof Koenigsmark for
the sake of his personal beauty, his elegance, his ready wit, and his
magnificent address. The court of Hanover made him warmly welcome,
counting itself the richer for his presence; whilst he, on his side,
was retained there by the Colonelcy in the Electoral Guard to which he
had been appointed, and by his deep and ill-starred affection for the
Princess Sophia Dorothea, the wife of the Electoral Prince, who later
was to reign in England as King George I.
His acquaintance with her dated back to childhood, for they had been
playmates at her father's ducal court of Zell, where Koenigsmark had
been brought up. With adolescence he had gone out into the world to
seek the broader education which it offered to men of quality and
spirit. He had fought bulls in Madrid, and the infidel overseas; he had
wooed adventure wherever it was to be met, until romance hung about him
like an aura. Thus Sophia met him again, a dazzling personality, whose
effulgence shone the more brightly against the dull background of that
gross Hanoverian court; an accomplished, graceful, self-reliant man of
the world, in whom she scarcely recognized her sometime playmate.
The change he found in her was no less marked, though of a different
kind. The sweet child he had known—she had been married in 1682, at
the age of sixteen—had come in her ten years of wedded life to the
fulfilment of the handsome promise of her maidenhood. But her beauty
was spiritualized by a certain wistfulness that had not been there
before, that should not have been there now had all been well. The
sprightliness inherent in her had not abated, but it had assumed a
certain warp of bitterness; humour, which is of the heart, had given
place in her to wit, which is of the mind, and this wit was barbed, and
a little reckless of how or where it offended.
Koenigsmark observed these changes that the years had wrought, and
knew enough of her story to account for them. He knew of her thwarted
love for her cousin, the Duke of Wolfenbuttel, thwarted for the sake of
dynastic ambition, to the end that by marrying her to the Electoral
Prince George the whole of the Duchy of Luneberg might be united. Thus,
for political reasons, she had been thrust into a union that was
mutually loveless; for Prince George had as little affection to bring
to it as herself. Yet for a prince the door to compensations is ever
open. Prince George's taste, as is notorious, was ever for ugly women,
and this taste he indulged so freely, openly, and grossly that the
coldness towards him with which Sophia had entered the alliance was
eventually converted into disgust and contempt.
Thus matters stood between that ill-matched couple; contempt on her
side, cold dislike on his, a dislike that was fully shared by his
father, the Elector, Ernest Augustus, and encouraged in the latter by
the Countess von Platen.
Madame von Platen, the wife of the Elector's chief minister of
state, was—with the connivance of her despicable husband, who saw
therein the means to his own advancement—the acknowledged mistress of
Ernest Augustus. She was a fleshly, gauche, vain, and ill-favoured
woman. Malevolence sat in the creases of her painted face, and peered
from her mean eyes. Yet, such as she was, the Elector Ernest loved her.
His son's taste for ugly women would appear to have been hereditary.
Between the Countess and Sophia there was a deadly feud. The
princess had mortally offended her father-in-law's favourite. Not only
had she never troubled to dissemble the loathing which that detestable
woman inspired in her, but she had actually given it such free and
stinging expression as had provoked against Madame von Platen the
derision of the court, a derision so ill-concealed that echoes of it
had reached its object, and made her aware of the source from whence it
It was into this atmosphere of hostility that the advent of the
elegant, romantic Koenigsmark took place. He found the stage set for
comedy of a grim and bitter kind, which he was himself, by his
recklessness, to convert into tragedy.
It began by the Countess von Platen's falling in love with him. It
was some time before he suspected it, though heaven knows he did not
lack for self-esteem. Perhaps it was this very self- esteem that
blinded him here to the appalling truth. Yet in the end understanding
came to him. When the precise significance of the fond leer of that
painted harridan's repellent coquetry was borne in upon him he felt the
skin of his body creep and roughen But he dissembled craftily. He was a
venal scamp, after all, and in the court of Hanover he saw
opportunities to employ his gifts and his knowledge of the great world
in such a way as to win to eminence. He saw that the Elector's
favourite could be of use to him; and it is not your adventurer's way
to look too closely into the nature of the ladder by which he has the
chance to climb.
Skilfully, craftily, then, he played the enamoured countess so long
as her fondness for him might be useful, her hostility detrimental. But
once the Colonelcy of the Electoral Guards was firmly in his grasp, and
an intimate friendship had ripened between himself and Prince
Charles—the Elector's younger son— sufficiently to ensure his future,
he plucked off the mask and allied himself with Sophia in her hostility
towards Madame von Platen. He did worse. Some little time thereafter,
whilst on a visit to the court of Poland, he made one night in his cups
a droll story of the amorous persecution which he had suffered at
Madame von Platen's hands.
It was a tale that set the profligate company in a roar. But there
was one present who afterwards sent a report of it to the Countess, and
you conceive the nature of the emotions it aroused in her. Her rage was
the greater for being stifled. It was obviously impossible for her to
appeal to her lover, the Elector, to avenge her. From the Elector,
above all others, must the matter be kept concealed. But not on that
account would she forgo the vengeance due. She would present a
reckoning in full ere all was done, and bitterly should the
presumptuous young adventurer who had flouted her be made to pay.
The opportunity was very soon to be afforded her. It arose more or
less directly out of an act in which she indulged her spite against
Sophia. This lay in throwing Melusina Schulemberg into the arms of the
Electoral Prince. Melusina, who was years afterwards to be created
Duchess of Kendal, had not yet attained to that completeness of lank,
bony hideousness that was later to distinguish her in England. But even
in youth she could boast of little attraction. Prince George, however,
was easily attracted. A dull, undignified libertine, addicted to
over-eating, heavy drinking, and low conversation, he found in Melusina
von Schulemberg an ideal mate. Her installation as maitresse en-titre
took place publicly at a ball given by Prince George at Herrenhausen, a
ball at which the Princess Sophia was present.
Accustomed, inured, as she was to the coarse profligacy of her
dullard husband, and indifferent to his philandering as her contempt of
him now left her, yet in the affront thus publicly offered her, she
felt that the limit of endurance had been reached. Next day it was
found that she had disappeared from Herrenhausen. She had fled to her
father's court at Zell.
But her father received her coldly; lectured her upon the freedom
and levity of her manners, which he condemned as unbecoming the dignity
of her rank; recommended her to use in future greater prudence, and a
proper, wifely submission; and, the homily delivered, packed her back
to her husband at Herrenhausen.
George's reception of her on her return was bitterly hostile. She
had been guilty of a more than usual, of an unpardonable want of
respect for him. She must learn what was due to her station, and to her
husband. He would thank her to instruct herself in these matters
against his return from Berlin, whither he was about to journey, and he
warned her that he would suffer no more tantrums of that kind.
Thus he delivered himself, with cold hate in his white, flabby,
frog-face and in the very poise of his squat, ungainly figure.
Thereafter he departed for Berlin, bearing hate of her with him, and
leaving hate and despair behind.
It was then, in this despair, that Sophia looked about her for a
true friend to lend her the aid she so urgently required; to rescue her
from her intolerable, soul-destroying fate. And at her elbow, against
this dreadful need, Destiny had placed her sometime playmate, her most
devoted friend—as she accounted him, and as, indeed, he was—the
elegant, reckless Koenigsmark, with his beautiful face, his golden
mane, and his unfathomable blue eyes.
Walking with him one summer day between clipped hedges in the formal
gardens of Herrenhausen—that palace as squat and ungraceful as those
who had built and who inhabited it—she opened her heart to him very
fully, allowed him, in her overwhelming need of sympathy, to see things
which for very shame she had hitherto veiled from all other eyes. She
kept nothing back; she dwelt upon her unhappiness with her boorish
husband, told him of slights and indignities innumerable, whose pain
she had hitherto so bravely dissembled, confessed, even, that he had
beaten her upon occasion.
Koenigsmark went red and white by turns, with the violent surge of
his emotions, and the deep sapphire eyes blazed with wrath when she
came at last to the culminating horror of blows endured.
“It is enough, madame,” he cried. “I swear to you, as Heaven hears
me, that he shall be punished.”
“Punished?” she echoed, checking in her stride, and looked at him
with a smile of sad incredulity. “It is not his punishment I seek, my
friend, but my own salvation.”
“The one can be accomplished with the other,” he answered hotly, and
struck the cut-steel hilt of his sword. “You shall be rid of this lout
as soon as ever I can come to him. I go after him to Berlin to-night.”
The colour all faded from her cheeks, her sensitive lips fell apart,
as she looked at him aghast.
“Why, what would you do? What do you mean?” she asked him.
“I will send him the length of my sword, and so make a widow of you,
She shook her head. “Princes do not fight,” she said, on a note of
“I shall so shame him that he will have no alternative—unless,
indeed, he is shameless. I will choose my occasion shrewdly, put an
affront on him one evening in his cups, when drink shall have made him
valiant enough to commit himself to a meeting. If even that will not
answer, and he still shields himself behind his rank—why, there are
other ways to serve him.” He was thinking, perhaps, of Mr. Thynne.
The heat of so much reckless, romantic fury on her behalf warmed the
poor lady, who had so long been chilled for want of sympathy, and
starved of love. Impulsively she caught his hand in hers.
“My friend, my friend!” she cried, on a note that quivered and
broke. “You are mad—wonderfully beautifully mad, but mad. What would
become of you if you did this?”
He swept the consideration aside by a contemptuous, almost angry
gesture. “Does that matter? I am concerned with what is to become of
you. I was born for your service, my princess, and the service being
rendered . . .” He shrugged and smiled, threw out his hands and let
them fall again to his sides in an eloquent gesture. He was the
complete courtier, the knight-errant, the romantic preux- chevalier all
She drew closer to him, took the blue lapels of his military coat in
her white hands, and looked pathetically up into his beautiful face. If
ever she wanted to kiss a man, she surely wanted to kiss Koenigsmark in
that moment, but as she might have kissed a loving brother, in token of
her deep gratitude for his devotion to her who had known so little true
“If you knew,” she said, “what balsam this proof of your friendship
has poured upon the wounds of my soul, you would understand my utter
lack of words in which to thank you. You dumbfound me, my friend; I can
find no expression for my gratitude.”
“I ask no gratitude,” quoth he. “I am all gratitude myself that you
should have come to me in the hour of your need. I but ask your leave
to serve you in my own way.”
She shook her head. She saw his blue eyes grow troubled.
He was about to speak, to protest, but she hurried on. “Serve me if
you will—God knows I need the service of a loyal friend—but serve me
as I shall myself decide—no other way.”
“But what alternative service can exist?” he asked, almost
“I have it in mind to escape from this horrible place—to quit
Hanover, never to return.”
“But to go whither?”
“Does it matter? Anywhere away from this hateful court, and this
hateful life; anywhere, since my father will not let me find shelter at
Zell, as I had hoped. Had it not been for the thought of my children, I
should have fled long ago. For the sake of those two little ones I have
suffered patiently through all these years. But the limit of endurance
has been reached and passed. Take me away. Koenigsmark!” She was
clutching his lapels again. “If you would really serve me, help me to
His hands descended upon hers, and held them prisoned against his
breast. A flush crept into his fair cheeks, there was a sudden kindling
of the eyes that looked down into her own piteous ones. These
sensitive, romantic natures are quickly stirred to passion, ever ready
to yield to the adventure of it.
“My princess,” he said, “you may count upon your Koenigsmark while
he has life.” Disengaging her hands from his lapels, but still holding
them, he bowed low over them, so low that his heavy golden mane tumbled
forward on either side of his handsome head to form a screen under
cover of which he pressed his lips upon her fingers.
She let him have his will with her hands. It was little enough
reward for so much devotion.
“I thank you again,” she breathed. “And now I must think—I must
consider where I can count upon finding refuge.”
That cooled his ardour a little. His own high romantic notion was,
no doubt, to fling her there and then upon the withers of his horse,
and so ride out into the wide world to carve a kingdom for her with his
sword. Her sober words dispelled the dream, revealed to him that it was
not quite intended he should hereafter be her custodian. And there for
the moment the matter was suspended.
Both had behaved quite recklessly. Each should have remembered that
an Electoral Princess is not wise to grant a protracted interview,
accompanied by lapel-holding, hand-holding, and hand- kissings, within
sight of the windows of a palace. And, as it happened, behind one of
those windows lurked the Countess von Platen, watching them jealously,
and without any disposition to construe the meeting innocently. Was she
not the deadly enemy of both? Had not the Princess whetted satire upon
her, and had not Koenigsmark scorned the love she proffered him, and
then unpardonably published it in a ribald story to excite the mirth of
That evening the Countess purposefully sought her lover, the
“Your son is away in Prussia,” quoth she. “Who guards his honour in
“George's honour?” quoth the Elector, bulging eyes staring at the
Countess. He did not laugh, as might have been expected at the notion
of guarding something whose existence was not easily discerned. He had
no sense of humour, as his appearance suggested. He was a short, fat
man with a face shaped like a pear—narrow in the brow and heavy in the
jowl. “What the devil do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean that this foreign adventurer, Koenigsmark, and Sophia grow
“Sophia!” Thick eyebrows were raised until they almost met the line
of his ponderous peruke. His face broke into malevolent creases
expressive of contempt.
“That white-faced ninny! Bah!” Her very virtue was matter for his
“It is these white-faced ninnies can be most sly,” replied the
Countess, out of her worldly wisdom. “Listen a moment now.” And she
related, with interest rather than discount, you may be sure, what she
had witnessed that afternoon.
The malevolence deepened in his face. He had never loved Sophia, and
he felt none the kinder towards her for her recent trip to Zell. Then,
too, being a libertine, and the father of a libertine, it logically
followed that unchastity in his women- folk was in his eyes the
He heaved himself out of his deep chair. “How far has this gone?” he
Prudence restrained the Countess from any over-statement that might
afterwards be disproved. Besides, there was not the need, if she could
trust her senses. Patience and vigilance would presently afford her all
the evidence required to damn the pair. She said as much, and promised
the Elector that she would exercise herself the latter quality in his
son's service. Again the Elector did not find it grotesque that his
mistress should appoint herself the guardian of his son's honour.
The Countess went about that congenial task with zeal—though
George's honour was the least thing that concerned her. What concerned
her was the dishonour of Sophia, and the ruin of Koenigsmark. So she
watched assiduously, and set others, too, to watch for her and to
report. And almost daily now she had for the Elector a tale of
whisperings and hand-pressings, and secret stolen meetings between the
guilty twain. The Elector enraged, and would have taken action, but
that the guileful Countess curbed him. All this was not enough. An
accusation that could not be substantiated would ruin all chance of
punishing the offenders, might recoil, indeed, upon the accusers by
bringing the Duke of Zell to his daughter's aid. So they must wait yet
awhile until they held more absolute proof of this intrigue.
And then at last one day the Countess sped in haste to the Elector
with word that Koenigsmark and the Princess had shut themselves up
together in the garden pavilion. Let him come at once, and he should so
discover them for himself, and thus at last be able to take action. The
Countess was flushed with triumph. Be that meeting never so
innocent—and Madame von Platen could not, being what she was, and
having seen what she had seen, conceive it innocent—it was in an
Electoral Princess an unforgivable indiscretion, to take the most
charitable view, which none would dream of taking. So the Elector,
fiercely red in the face, hurried off to the pavilion with Madame von
Platen following. He came too late, despite the diligence of his spy.
Sophia had been there, but her interview with the Count had been a
brief one. She had to tell him that at last she was resolved in all
particulars. She would seek a refuge at the court of her cousin, the
Duke of Wolfenbuttel, who, she was sure—for the sake of what once had
lain between them—would not now refuse to shelter and protect her. Of
Koenigsmark she desired that he should act as her escort to her
Koenigsmark was ready, eager. In Hanover he would leave nothing that
he regretted. At Wolfenbuttelyy, having served Sophia faithfully, his
ever-growing, romantic passion for her might find expression. She would
make all dispositions, and advise him when she was ready to set out.
But they must use caution, for they were being spied upon. Madame von
Platen's over-eagerness had in part betrayed her. It was, indeed, their
consciousness of espionage which had led to this dangerous meeting in
the seclusion of the pavilion, and which urged him to linger after
Sophia had left him. They were not to be seen to emerge together.
The young Dane sat alone on the window-seat, his chin in his hands,
his eyes dreamy, a faint smile on his shapely lips, when Ernest
Augustus burst furiously in, the Countess von Platen lingering just
beyond the threshold. The Elector's face was apoplectically purple from
rage and haste, his breath came in wheezing gasps. His bulging eyes
swept round the chamber, and fastened finally, glaring, upon the
“Where is the Princess?” he blurted out.
The Count espied Madame von Platen in the back ground, and had the
scent of mischief very strong. But he preserved an air of innocent
mystification. He rose and answered with courteous ease:
“Your Highness is seeking her? Shall I ascertain for you?”
At a loss, Ernest Augustus stared a moment, then flung a glance over
his shoulder at the Countess.
“I was told that her Highness was here,” he said.
“Plainly,” said Koenigsmark, with perfect calm, “you have been
misinformed.” And his quiet glance and gesture invited the Elector to
look round for himself.
“How long have you been here yourself?” Feeling at a disadvantage,
the Elector avoided the direct question that was in his mind.
“Half an hour at least.”
“And in that time you have not seen the Princess?”
“Seen the Princess?” Koenigsmark's brows were knit perplexedly. “I
scarcely understand your Highness.”
The Elector moved a step and trod on a soft substance. He looked
down, then stooped, and rose again, holding in his hand a woman's
“What's this?” quoth he. “Whose glove is this?”
If Koenigsmark's heart missed a beat—as well it may have done— he
did not betray it outwardly. He smiled; indeed he almost laughed.
“Your Highness is amusing himself at my expense by asking me
questions that only a seer could answer.”
The Elector was still considering him with his ponderously
suspicious glance, when quick steps approached. A serving-maid, one of
Sophia's women, appeared in the doorway of the pavilion.
“What do you want?” the Elector snapped at her.
“A glove her Highness lately dropped here,” was the timid answer,
innocently precipitating the very discovery which the woman had been
too hastily dispatched to avert.
The Elector flung the glove at her, and there was a creak of evil
laughter from him. When she had departed' he turned again to
“You fence skilfully,” said he, sneering, “too skilfully for an
honest man. Will you now tell me without any more of this, precisely
what the Princess Sophia was doing here with you?”
Koenigsmark drew himself stiffly up, looking squarely into the
furnace of the Elector's face.
“Your Highness assumes that the Princess was here with me, and a
prince is not to be contradicted, even when he insults a lady whose
spotless purity is beyond his understanding. But your Highness can
hardly expect me to become in never so slight a degree a party to that
insult by vouchsafing any answer to your question.”
“That is your last word, sir?” The Elector shook with suppressed
“Your Highness cannot think that words are necessary?”
The bulging eyes grew narrow, the heavy nether lip was thrust forth
in scorn and menace.
“You are relieved, sir, of your duties in the Electoral Guard, and
as that is the only tie binding you to Hanover, we see no reason why
your sojourn here should be protracted.”
Koenigsmark bowed stiffly, formally. “It shall end, your Highness,
as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements for my departure—in a
week at most.”
“You are accorded three days, sir.” The Elector turned, and waddled
out, leaving Koenigsmark to breathe freely again. The three days should
suffice for the Princess also. It was very well.
The Elector, too, thought that it was very well. He had given this
troublesome fellow his dismissal, averted a scandal, and placed his
daughter-in-law out of the reach of harm. Madame von Platen was the
only one concerned who thought that it was not well at all, the
consummation being far from that which she had desired. She had dreamt
of a flaming scandal, that should utterly consume her two enemies,
Sophia and Koenigsmark. Instead, she saw them both escaping, and the
fact that she was—as she may have supposed—effectively separating two
loving hearts could be no sort of adequate satisfaction for such bitter
spite as hers. Therefore she plied her wicked wits to force an issue
more germane to her desires.
The course she took was fraught with a certain peril. Yet confident
that at worst she could justify it, and little fearing that the worst
would happen, she boldly went to work. She forged next day a brief note
in which the Princess Sophia urgently bade Koenigsmark to come to her
at ten o'clock that night in her own apartments, and with threat and
bribe induced the waiting woman of the glove to bear that letter.
Now it so happened that Koenigsmark, through the kind offices of
Sophia's maid-of-honour, Mademoiselle de Knesebeck, who was in the
secret of their intentions, had sent the Princess a note that morning,
briefly stating the urgency of departure, and begging her so to arrange
that she could leave Herrenhausen with him on the morrow. He imagined
the note now brought him to be in answer to that appeal of his. Its
genuineness he never doubted, being unacquainted with Sophia's writing.
He was aghast at the rashness which dictated such an acsignation, yet
never hesitated as to keeping it. It was not his way to hesitate. He
trusted to the gods who watch over the destinies of the bold.
And meanwhile Madame von Platen was reproaching her lover with
having dealt too softly with the Dane.
“Bah!” said the Elector. “To-morrow he goes his ways, and we are rid
of him. Is not that enough?”
“Enough, if, soon as he goes, he goes not too late already,” quoth
“Now what will you be hinting?” he asked her peevishly.
“I'll be more plain. I will tell you what I know. It is this.
Koenigsmark has an assignation with the Princess Sophia this very night
at ten o'clock—and where do you suppose? In her Highness's own
The Elector came to his feet with an oath. “That is not true!” he
cried. “It cannot be!”
“Then I'll say no more,” quoth Jezebel, and snapped her thin lips.
“Ah, but you shall. How do you know this?”
“That I cannot tell you without betraying a confidence. Let it
suffice you that I do know it. Consider now whether in banishing this
profligate you have sufficiently avenged the honour of your son.”
“My God, if I thought this were true....” He choked with rage, stood
shaking a moment, then strode to the door, calling.
“The truth is easily ascertained,” said Madame. “Conceal yourself in
the Rittersaal, and await his coming forth. But you had best go
attended, for it is a very reckless rogue, and he has been known
aforetime to practice murder.”
Whilst the Elector, acting upon this advice, was getting his men
together, Koenigsmark was wasting precious moments in Sophia's
antechamber, whilst Mademoiselle de Knesebeck apprised her Highness of
his visit. Sophia had already retired to bed, and the amazing
announcement of the Count's presence there startled her into a fear of
untoward happenings. She was overwhelmed, too, by the rashness of this
step of his, coming after the events of yesterday. If it should be
known that he had visited her thus, terrible consequences might ensue.
She rose, and with Mademoiselle de Knesebeck's aid made ready to
receive him. Yet for all that she made haste, the precious
irreclaimable moments sped.
She came to him at last, Mademoiselle de Knesebeck following, for
“What is it?” she asked him breathlessly. “What brings you here at
such an hour?”
“What brings me?” quoth he, surprised at that reception. “Why, your
“My letter? What letter?”
A sense of doom, of being trapped, suddenly awoke in him. He plucked
forth the treacherous note, and proffered it.
“Why, what does this mean?” She swept a white hand over her eyes and
brows, as if to brush away some thing that obscured her vision. “That
is not mine. I never wrote it. How could you dream I should be
imprudent as to bid you hither, and at such an hour How could you dream
“You are right,” said he, and laughed, perhaps to ease her alarm,
perhaps in sheer bitter mirth. “It will be, no doubt, the work of our
friend, Madame von Platen. I had best begone. For the rest, my
travelling chaise will wait from noon until sunset to-morrow by the
Markt Kirck in Hanover, and I shall wait within it. I shall hope to
conduct you safely to Wolfenbuttelyy.”
“I will come, I will come. But go now—oh, go!”
He looked very deeply into her eyes—a valedictory glance against
the worst befalling him. Then he took her hand, bowed over it and
kissed it, and so departed.
He crossed the outer ante-room, descended the short flight of
stairs, and pushed open the heavy door of the Hall of Knights. He
passed through, and thrust the door behind him, then stood a moment
looking round the vast apartment. If he was too late to avoid the
springs of the baited trap, it was here that they should snap upon him.
Yet all was still. A single lamp on a table in the middle of the vast
chamber shed a feeble, flickering light, yet sufficient to assure him
that no one waited here. He sighed relief, wrapped his cloak about him,
and set out swiftly to cross the hall.
But even as he passed, four shadows detached themselves from the
tall stove, resolved themselves into armed men, and sprang after him.
He heard them, wheeled about, flung off his cloak, and disengaged
his sword, all with the speed of lightning and the address of the man
who for ten years had walked amid perils, and learned to depend upon
his blade. That swift action sealed his doom. Their orders were to take
him living or dead, and standing in awe of his repute, they were not
the men to incur risks. Even as he came on guard, a partisan grazed his
head, and another opened his breast.
He went down, coughing and gasping, blood dabbling his bright golden
hair, and staining the priceless Mechlin at his throat, yet his right
hand still desperately clutching his useless sword.
His assassins stood about him, their partisans levelled to strike
again, and summoned him to yield. Then, beside one of them, he suddenly
beheld the Countess von Platen materializing out of the surrounding
shadows as it seemed, and behind her the squat, ungraceful figure of
the Elector. He fought for breath. “I am slain,” he gasped, “and as I
am to appear before my Maker I swear to you that the Princess Sophia is
innocent. Spare her at least, your Highness.”
“Innocent!” said the Elector hoarsely. “Then what did you now in her
“It was a trap set for us by this foul hag, who . . .”
The heel of the vindictive harridan ground viciously upon the lips
of the dying man and choked his utterance. Thereafter the halberts
finished him off, and he was buried there and then, in lime, under the
floor of the Hall of Knights, under the very spot where he had fallen,
which was long to remain imbrued with his blood.
Thus miserably perished the glittering Koenigsmark, a martyr to his
own irrepressible romanticism.
As for Sophia, better might it have been for her had she shared his
fate that night. She was placed under arrest next morning, and Prince
George was summoned back from Berlin at once.
The evidence may have satisfied him that his honour had not
suffered, for he was disposed to let the matter drop, content that they
should remain in the forbidding relations which had existed between
them before this happening. But Sophia was uncompromising in her demand
for strict justice.
“If I am guilty, I am unworthy of you,” she told him. “If innocent,
you are unworthy of me.”
There was no more to be said. A consistory court was assembled to
divorce them. But since with the best intentions there was no faintest
evidence of her adultery, this court had to be content to pronounce the
divorce upon the ground of her desertion.
She protested against the iniquity of this. But she protested in
vain. She was carried off into the grim captivity of a castle on the
Ahlen, to drag out in that melancholy duress another thirty- two years
Her death took place in November of 1726. And the story runs that on
her death-bed she delivered to a person of trust a letter to her
sometime husband, now King George I. of England. Seven months later, as
King George was on his way to his beloved Hanover, that letter was
placed in his carriage as it crossed the frontier into Germany. It
contained Sophia's dying declaration of innocence, and her solemn
summons to King George to stand by her side before the judgment-seat of
Heaven within a year, and there make answer in her presence for the
wrongs he had done her, for her blighted life and her miserable death.
King George's answer to that summons was immediate. The reading of
that letter brought on the apoplectic seizure of which he died in his
carriage next day—the 9th of June, 1727—on the road to Osnabruck.
XI. THE TYRANNICIDE. Charlotte
Corday and Jean Paul Morat
Tyrannicide was the term applied to her deed by Adam Lux, her lover
in the sublimest and most spiritual sense of the word—for he never so
much as spoke to her, and she never so much as knew of his existence.
The sudden spiritual passion which inflamed him when he beheld her
in the tumbril on her way to the scaffold is a fitting corollary to her
action. She in her way and he in his were alike sublime; her tranquil
martyrdom upon the altar of Republicanism and his exultant martyrdom
upon the altar of Love were alike splendidly futile.
It is surely the strangest love-story enshrined in history. It has
its pathos, yet leaves no regrets behind, for there is no
might-have-been which death had thwarted. Because she died, he loved
her; because he loved her, he died. That is all, but for the details
which I am now to give you.
The convent-bred Marie Charlotte Corday d'Armont was the daughter of
a landless squire of Normandy, a member of the chetive noblesse, a man
of gentle birth, whose sadly reduced fortune may have predisposed him
against the law of entail or primogeniture— the prime cause of the
inequality out of which were sprung so many of the evils that afflicted
France. Like many of his order and condition he was among the earliest
converts to Republicanism— the pure, ideal republicanism, demanding
constitutional government of the people by the people, holding
monarchical and aristocratic rule an effete and parasitic anachronism.
From M. de Corday Charlotte absorbed the lofty Republican doctrines
to which anon she was to sacrifice her life; and she rejoiced when the
hour of awakening sounded and the children of France rose up and
snapped the fetters in which they had been trammelled for centuries by
an insolent minority of their fellow- countrymen.
In the early violence of the revolution she thought she saw a
transient phase—horrible, but inevitable in the dread convulsion of
that awakening. Soon this would pass, and the sane, ideal government of
her dreams would follow—must follow, since among the people's elected
representatives was a goodly number of unselfish, single-minded men of
her father's class of life; men of breeding and education, impelled by
a lofty altruistic patriotism; men who gradually came to form a party
presently to be known as the Girondins.
But the formation of one party argues the formation of at least
another. And this other in the National Assembly was that of the
Jacobins, less pure of motive, less restrained in deed, a party in
which stood pre-eminent such ruthless, uncompromising men as
Robespierre, Danton,—and Marat.
Where the Girondins stood for Republicanism, the Jacobins stood for
Anarchy. War was declared between the two. The Girondins arraigned
Marat and Robespierre for complicity in the September massacres, and
thereby precipitated their own fall. The triumphant acquittal of Marat
was the prelude to the ruin of the Girondins, and the proscription of
twenty-nine deputies followed at once as the first step. These fled
into the country, hoping to raise an army that should yet save France,
and several of the fugitives made their way to Caen. Thence by
pamphlets and oratory they laboured to arouse true Republican
enthusiasm. They were gifted, able men, eloquent speakers and skilled
writers, and they might have succeeded but that in Paris sat another
man no less gifted, and with surer knowledge of the temper of the
proletariat, tirelessly wielding a vitriolic pen, skilled in the art of
inflaming the passions of the mob.
That man was Jean Paul Marat, sometime medical practitioner,
sometime professor of literature, a graduate of the Scottish University
of St. Andrews, author of some scientific and many sociological works,
inveterate pamphleteer and revolutionary journalist, proprietor and
editor of L'Ami du Peuple, and idol of the Parisian rabble, who had
bestowed upon him the name borne by his gazette, so that he was known
as The People's Friend.
Such was the foe of the Girondins, and of the pure, altruistic,
Utopian Republicanism for which they stood; and whilst he lived and
laboured, their own endeavours to influence the people were all in
vain. From his vile lodging in the Rue de l'Ecole de Medecine in Paris
he span with his clever, wicked pen a web that paralysed their high
endeavours and threatened finally to choke them.
He was not alone, of course. He was one of the dread triumvirate in
which Danton and Robespierre were his associates. But to the Girondins
he appeared by far the most formidable and ruthless and implacable of
the three, whilst to Charlotte Corday—the friend and associate now of
the proscribed Girondins who had sought refuge in Caen—he loomed so
vast and terrible as to eclipse his associates entirely. To her young
mind, inflamed with enthusiasm for the religion of Liberty as preached
by the Girondins, Marat was a loathly, dangerous heresiarch,
threatening to corrupt that sublime new faith with false, anarchical
doctrine, and to replace the tyranny that had been overthrown by a
tyranny more odious still.
She witnessed in Caen the failure of the Girondin attempt to raise
an army with which to deliver Paris from the foul clutches of the
Jacobins. An anguished spectator of this failure, she saw in it a sign
that Liberty was being strangled at its birth. On the lips of her
friends the Girondins she caught again the name of Marat, the murderer
of Liberty; and, brooding, she reached a conclusion embodied in a
phrase of a letter which she wrote about that time.
“As long as Marat lives there will never be any safety for the
friends of law and humanity.”
From that negative conclusion to its positive, logical equivalent it
was but a step. That step she took. She may have considered awhile the
proposition thus presented to her, or resolve may have come to her with
realization. She understood that a great sacrifice was necessary; that
who undertook to rid France of that unclean monster must go prepared
for self-immolation. She counted the cost calmly and soberly—for calm
and sober was now her every act.
She made her packages, and set out one morning by the Paris coach
from Caen, leaving a note for her father, in which she had written:
“I am going to England, because I do not believe that it will be
possible for a long time to live happily and tranquilly in France. On
leaving I post this letter to you. When you receive it I shall no
longer be here. Heaven denied us the happiness of living together, as
it has denied us other happinesses. May it show itself more clement to
our country. Good-by, dear Father. Embrace my sister for me, and do not
That was all. The fiction that she was going to England was intended
to save him pain. For she had so laid her plans that her identity
should remain undisclosed. She would seek Marat in the very Hall of the
Convention, and publicly slay him in his seat. Thus Paris should behold
Nemesis overtaking the false Republican in the very Assembly which he
corrupted, and anon should adduce a moral from the spectacle of the
monster's death. For herself she counted upon instant destruction at
the hands of the furious spectators. Thus, thinking to die
unidentified, she trusted that her father, hearing, as all France must
hear, the great tidings that Marat was dead, would never connect her
with the instrument of Fate shattered by the fury of the mob.
You realize, then, how great and how terrible was the purpose of
this maid of twenty-five, who so demurely took her seat in the Paris
diligence on that July morning of the Year 2 of the Republic—1793, old
style. She was becomingly dressed in brown cloth, a lace fichu folded
across her well-developed breast, a conical hat above her light brown
hair. She was of a good height and finely proportioned, and her
carriage as full of dignity as of grace. Her skin was of such white
loveliness that a contemporary compares it with the lily. Like Athene,
she was gray-eyed, and, like Athene, noble-featured, the oval of her
face squaring a little at the chin, in which there was a cleft. Calm
was her habit, calm her slow-moving eyes, calm and deliberate her
movements, and calm the mind reflected in all this.
And as the heavy diligence trundles out of Caen and takes the open
country and the Paris road, not even the thought of the errand upon
which she goes, of her death-dealing and death- receiving mission, can
shake that normal calm. Here is no wild exaltation, no hysterical
obedience to hotly-conceived impulse. Here is purpose, as cold as it is
lofty, to liberate France and pay with her life for the privilege of
That lover of hers, whom we are presently to see, has compared her
ineptly with Joan of Arc, that other maid of France. But Joan moved
with pomp in a gorgeous pageantry, amid acclamations, sustained by the
heady wine of combat and of enthusiasm openly indulged, towards a goal
of triumph. Charlotte travelled quietly in the stuffy diligence with
the quiet conviction that her days were numbered.
So normal did she appear to her travelling companions, that one
among them, with an eye for beauty, pestered her with amorous
attentions, and actually proposed marriage to her before the coach had
rolled over the bridge of Neuilly into Paris two days later.
She repaired to the Providence Inn in the Rue des Vieux Augustine,
where she engaged a room on the first floor, and then she set out in
quest of the Deputy Duperret. She had a letter of introduction to him
from the Girondin Barbaroux, with whom she had been on friendly terms
at Caen. Duperret was to assist her to obtain an interview with the
Minister of the Interior. She had undertaken to see the latter on the
subject of certain papers relating to the affairs of a nun of Caen, an
old convent friend of her own, and she was in haste to discharge this
errand, so as to be free for the great task upon which she was come.
From inquiries that she made, she learnt at once that Marat was ill,
and confined to his house. This rendered necessary a change of plans,
and the relinquishing of her project of affording him a spectacular
death in the crowded hall of the Convention.
The next day, which was Friday, she devoted to furthering the
business of her friend the nun. On Saturday morning she rose early, and
by six o'clock she was walking in the cool gardens of the Palais Royal,
considering with that almost unnatural calm of hers the ways and means
of accomplishing her purpose in the unexpected conditions that she
Towards eight o'clock, when Paris was awakening to the business of
the day and taking down its shutters, she entered a cutler's shop in
the Palais Royal, and bought for two francs a stout kitchen knife in a
shagreen case. She then returned to her hotel to breakfast, and
afterwards, dressed in her brown travelling- gown and conical hat, she
went forth again, and, hailing a hackney carnage, drove to Marat's
house in the Rue de l'Ecole de Medecine.
But admittance to that squalid dwelling was denied her. The Citizen
Marat was ill, she was told, and could receive no visitors. It was
Simonne Everard, the triumvir's mistress—later to be known as the
Widow Marat—who barred her ingress with this message.
Checked, she drove back to the Providence Inn and wrote a letter to
“Paris, 13th July, Year 2 of the Republic. “Citizen,—I have arrived
from Caen. Your love for your country leads me to assume that you will
be anxious to hear of the unfortunate events which are taking place in
that part of the Republic. I shall therefore call upon you towards one
o'clock. Have the kindness to receive me, and accord me a moment's
audience. I shall put you in the way of rendering a great service to
France. “Marie Corday.”
Having dispatched that letter to Marat, she sat until late afternoon
waiting vainly for an answer. Despairing at last of receiving any, she
wrote a second note, more peremptory in tone:
“I wrote to you this morning, Marat. Have you received my letter?
May I hope for a moment's audience? If you have received my letter, I
hope you will not refuse me, considering the importance of the matter.
It should suffice for you that I am very unfortunate to give me the
right to your protection.”
Having changed into a gray-striped dimity gown—you observe this
further manifestation of a calm so complete that it admits of no
departure from the ordinary habits of life—she goes forth to deliver
in person this second letter, the knife concealed in the folds of the
muslin fichu crossed high upon her breast.
In a mean, brick-paved, ill-lighted, and almost unfurnished room of
that house in the Rue de l'Ecole de Medecine, the People's Friend is
seated in a bath. It is no instinct of cleanliness he is obeying, for
in all France there is no man more filthy in his person and his habits
than this triumvir. His bath is medicated. The horrible, loathsome
disease that corrodes his flesh demands these long immersions to quiet
the gnawing pains which distract his active, restless mind. In these
baths he can benumb the torment of the body with which he is
For Marat is an intellect, and nothing more—leastways, nothing more
that matters. What else there is to him of trunk and limbs and organs
he has neglected until it has all fallen into decay. His very lack of
personal cleanliness, the squalor in which he lives, the insufficient
sleep which he allows himself, his habit of careless feeding at
irregular intervals, all have their source in his contempt for the
physical part of him. This talented man of varied attainments,
accomplished linguist, skilled physician, able naturalist and profound
psychologist, lives in his intellect alone, impatient of all physical
interruptions. If he consents to these immersions, if he spends whole
days seated in this medicated bath, it is solely because it quenches or
cools the fires that are devouring him, and thus permits him to bend
his mind to the work that ishis life. But his long-suffering body is
avenging upon the mind the neglect to which it has been submitted. The
morbid condition of the former is being communicated to the latter,
whence results that disconcerting admixture of cold, cynical cruelty
and exalted sensibility which marked his nature in the closing years of
In his bath, then, sat the People's Friend on that July evening,
immersed to the hips, his head swathed in a filthy turban, his
emaciated body cased in a sleeveless waistcoat. He is fifty years of
age, dying of consumption and other things, so that, did Charlotte but
know it, there is no need to murder him. Disease and Death have marked
him for their own, and grow impatient.
A board covering the bath served him for writing-table; an empty
wooden box at his side bore an inkstand, some pens, sheets of paper,
and two or three copies of L'Ami do Peuple. There was no sound in the
room but the scratch and splutter of his quill. He was writing
diligently, revising and editing a proof of the forthcoming issue of
A noise of voices raised in the outer room invaded the quiet in
which he was at work, and gradually penetrated his absorption, until it
disturbed and irritated him. He moved restlessly in his bath, listened
a moment, then, with intent to make an end of the interruption, he
raised a hoarse, croaking voice to inquire what might be taking place.
The door opened, and Simonne, his mistress and household drudge,
entered the room. She was fully twenty years younger than himself, and
under the slattern appearance which life in that house had imposed upon
her there were vestiges of a certain comeliness.
“There is a young woman here from Caen, who demands insistently to
see you upon a matter of national importance.”
The dull eyes kindle at the mention of Caen; interest quickens in
that leaden-hued countenance. Was it not in Caen that those old foes of
his, the Girondins, were stirring up rebellion?
“She says,” Simonne continued, “that she wrote a letter to you this
morning, and she brings you a second note herself. I have told her that
you will not receive anyone, and . . .”
“Give me the note,” he snapped. Setting down his pen, he thrust out
an unclean paw to snatch the folded sheet from Simonne's hand. He
spread it, and read, his bloodless lips compressed, his eyes narrowing
“Let her in,” he commanded sharply, and Simonne obeyed him without
more ado. She admitted Charlotte, and left them alone together—the
avenger and her victim. For a moment each regarded the other. Marat
beheld a handsome young woman, elegantly attired. But these things had
no interest for the People's Friend. What to him was woman and the lure
of beauty? Charlotte beheld a feeble man of a repulsive hideousness,
and was full satisfied, for in this outward loathsomeness she imagined
a confirmation of the vileness of the mind she was come to blot out.
Then Marat spoke. “So you are from Caen, child?” he said. “And what
is doing in Caen that makes you so anxious to see me?”
She approached him.
“Rebellion is stirring there, Citizen Marat.”
“Rebellion, ha!” It was a sound between a laugh and a croak. “Tell
me what deputies are sheltered in Caen. Come, child, their names.” He
took up and dipped his quill, and drew a sheet of paper towards him.
She approached still nearer; she came to stand close beside him,
erect and calm. She recited the names of her friends, the Girondins,
whilst hunched there in his bath his pen scratched briskly.
“So many for the guillotine,” he snarled, when it was done.
But whilst he was writing, she had drawn the knife from her fichu,
and as he uttered those words of doom to others his own doom descended
upon him in a lightning stroke. Straight driven by that strong young
arm, the long, stout blade was buried to its black hilt in his breast.
He looked at her with eyes in which there was a faint surprise as he
sank back. Then he raised his voice for the last time.
“Help, chere amie! Help!” he cried, and was for ever silent.
The hand still grasping the pen trailed on the ground beside the
bath at the end of his long, emaciated arm. His body sank sideways in
the same direction, the head lolling nervelessly upon his right
shoulder, whilst from the great rent in his breast the blood gushed
forth, embruing the water of his bath, trickling to the brick-paved
floor, bespattering—symbolically almost—a copy of L'Ami du Peuple,
the journal to which he had devoted so much of his uneasy life.
In answer to that cry of his came now Simonne in haste. A glance
sufficed to reveal to her the horrible event, and, like a tigress, she
sprang upon the unresisting slayer, seizing her by the head, and
calling loudly the while for assistance. Came instantly from the
anteroom Jeanne, the old cook, the Fortress of the house, and Laurent
Basse, a folder of Marat's paper; and now Charlotte found herself
confronted by four maddened, vociferous beings, at whose hands she may
well have expected to receive the death for which she was prepared.
Laurent, indeed, snatched up a chair, and felled her by a blow of it
across her head. He would, no doubt, have proceeded in his fury to have
battered her to death, but for the arrival of gens d'armes and the
police commissioner of the district, who took her in their protecting
The soul of Paris was convulsed by the tragedy when it became known.
All night terror and confusion were abroad. All night the revolutionary
rabble, in angry grief, surged about and kept watch upon the house
wherein the People's Friend lay dead.
That night, and for two days and nights thereafter, Charlotte Corday
lay in the Prison of the Abbaye, supporting with fortitude the
indignities that for a woman were almost inseparable from revolutionary
incarceration. She preserved throughout her imperturbable calm, based
now upon a state of mind content in the contemplation of accomplished
purpose, duty done. She had saved France, she believed; saved Liberty,
by slaying the man who would have strangled it. In that illusion she
was content. Her own life was a small price to pay for the splendid
Some of her time of waiting she spent in writing letters to her
friends, in which tranquilly and sanely she dwelt upon what she had
done, expounding fully the motives that had impelled her, dwelling upon
the details of the execution, and of all that had followed. Among the
letters written by her during those “days of the preparation of peace
”—as she calls that period, dating in such terms a long epistle to
Barbaroux—was one to the Committee of Public Safety, in which she begs
that a miniature-painter may be sent to her to paint her portrait, so
that she may leave this token of remembrance to her friends. It is only
in this, as the end approaches, that we see in her conduct any thought
for her own self, any suggestion that she is anything more than a
instrument in the hands of Fate.
On the 15th, at eight o'clock in the morning, her trial began before
the Revolutionary Tribunal. A murmur ran through the hall as she
appeared in her gown of grey-striped dimity, composed and calm—always
The trial opened with the examination of witnesses; into that of the
cutler, who had sold her the knife, she broke impatiently.
“These details are a waste of time. It is I who killed Marat.”
The audience gasped, and rumbled ominously. Montane turned to
“What was the object of your visit to Paris?” he asks.
“To kill Marat.”
“What motives induced you to this horrible deed?”
“His many crimes.”
“Of what crimes do you accuse him?”
“That he instigated the massacre of September; that he kept alive
the fires of civil war, so that he might be elected dictator; that he
sought to infringe upon the sovereignty of the People by causing the
arrest and imprisonment of the deputies to the Convention on May 31st.”
“What proof have you of this?”
“The future will afford the proof. Marat hid his designs behind a
mask of patriotism.”
Montane shifted the ground of his interrogatory.
“Who were your accomplices in this atrocious act?”
“I have none.”
Montane shook his head. “You cannot convince anyone that a person of
your age and sex could have conceived such a crime unless instigated by
some person or persons whom you are unwilling to name.”
Charlotte almost smiled. “That shows but a poor knowledge of the
human heart. It is easier to carry out such a project upon the strength
of one's own hatred than upon that of others.” And then, raising her
voice, she proclaimed: “I killed one man to save a hundred thousand; I
killed a villain to save innocents; I killed a savage Wild-beast to
give repose to France. I was a Republican before the Revolution. I
never lacked for energy.”
What more was there to say? Her guilt was completely established.
Her fearless self-ossession was not to be ruffled. Yet Fouquier-Tinville, the dread prosecutor, made the attempt. Beholding her so
virginal and fair and brave, feeling perhaps that the Tribunal had not
had the best of it, he sought with a handful of revolutionary filth to
restore the balance. He rose slowly, his ferrety eyes upon her.
“How many children have you had?” he rasped, sardonic, his tone a
slur, an insult.
Faintly her cheeks crimsoned. But her voice was composed,
disdainful, as she answered coldly:
“Have I not stated that I am not married?”
A leer, a dry laugh, a shrug from Tinville to complete the
impression he sought to convey, and he sat down again.
It was the turn of Chauveau de la Garde, the advocate instructed to
defend her. But what defence was possible? And Chauveau had been
intimidated. He had received a note from the jury ordering him to
remain silent, another from the President bidding him declare her mad.
Yet Chauveau took a middle course. His brief speech is admirable; it
satisfied his self-respect, without derogating from his client. It
uttered the whole truth.
“The prisoner,” he said, “confesses with calm the horrible crime she
has committed; she confesses with calm its premeditation; she confesses
its most dreadful details; in short, she confesses everything, and does
riot seek to justify herself. That, citizens of the jury, is her whole
defence. This imperturbable calm, this utter abnegation of self, which
displays no remorse even in the very presence of death, are contrary to
nature. They can only be explained by the excitement of political
fanaticism which armed her hand. It is for you, citizens of the jury,
to judge what weight that moral consideration should have in the scales
The jury voted her guilty, and Tinville rose to demand the full
sentence of the law.
It was the end. She was removed to the Conciergerie, the antechamber
of the guillotine. A constitutional priest was sent to her, but she
dismissed him with thanks, not requiring his ministrations. She
preferred the painter Hauer, who had received the Revolutionary
Tribunal's permission to paint her portrait in accordance with her
request. And during the sitting, which lasted half an hour, she
conversed with him quietly on ordinary topics, the tranquillity of her
spirit unruffled by any fear of the death that was so swiftly
The door opened, and Sanson, the public executioner, came in. He
carried the red smock worn by those convicted of assassination. She
showed no dismay; no more, indeed, than a faint surprise that the time
spent with Hauer should have gone so quickly. She begged for a few
moments in which to write a note, and, the request being granted,
acquitted herself briskly of that task, then announcing herself ready,
she removed her cap that Sanson might cut her luxuriant hair. Yet
first, taking his scissors, she herself cut off a lock and gave it to
Hauer for remembrance. When Sanson would have bound her hands, she
begged that she might be allowed to wear gloves, as her wrists were
bruised and cut by the cord with which she had been pinioned in Marat's
house. He answered that she might do so if she wished, but that it was
unnecessary, as he could bind her without causing pain.
“To be sure,” she said, “those others had not your experience,” and
she proffered her bare wrists to his cord without further demur. “If
this toilet of death is performed by rude hands,” she commented, “at
least it leads to immortality.”
She mounted the tumbril awaiting in the prison yard, and, disdaining
the chair offered her by Sanson, remained standing, to show herself
dauntless to the mob and brave its rage. And fierce was that rage,
indeed. So densely thronged were the streets that the tumbril proceeded
at a crawl, and the people surging about the cart screamed death and
insult at the doomed woman. It took two hours to reach the Place de la
Revolution, and meanwhile a terrific summer thunderstorm had broken
over Paris, and a torrential rain had descended upon the densely packed
streets. Charlotte's garments were soaked through and through, so that
her red smock, becoming glued now to her body and fitting her like a
skin, threw into relief its sculptural beauty, whilst a reflection of
the vivid crimson of the garment faintly tinged her cheeks, and thus
heightened her appearance of complete composure.
And it is now in the Rue St. Honore that at long last we reach the
opening of our tragic love-story.
A tall, slim, fair young man, named Adam Lux—sent to Paris by the
city of Mayence as Deputy Extraordinary to the National Convention—
was standing there in the howling press of spectators. He was an
accomplished, learned young gentleman, doctor at once of philosophy and
of medicine, although in the latter capacity he had never practiced
owing to an extreme sensibility of nature, which rendered anatomical
work repugnant to him. He was a man of a rather exalted imagination,
unhappily married—the not uncommon fate of such delicate
temperaments—and now living apart from his wife. He had heard, as all
Paris had heard, every detail of the affair, and of the trial, and he
waited there, curious to see this woman, with whose deed he was
secretly in sympathy.
The tumbril slowly approached, the groans and execrations swelled up
around him, and at last he beheld her—beautiful, serene, full of life,
a still smile upon her lips. For a long moment he gazed upon her,
standing as if stricken into stone. Then heedless of those about him,
he bared his head, and thus silently saluted and paid homage to her.
She did not see him. He had not thought that she would. He saluted her
as the devout salute the unresponsive image of a saint. The tumbril
crawled on. He turned his head, and followed her with his eyes for
awhile; then, driving his elbows into the ribs of those about him, he
clove himself a passage through the throng, and so followed,
bare-headed now, with fixed gaze, a man entranced.
He was at the foot of the scaffold when her head fell. To the last
he had seen that noble countenance preserve its immutable calm, and in
the hush that followed the sibilant fall of the great knife his voice
suddenly rang out.
“She is greater than Brutus!” was his cry; and he added, addressing
those who stared at him in stupefaction: “It were beautiful to have
died with her!”
He was suffered to depart unmolested. Chiefly, perhaps because at
that moment the attention of the crowd was upon the executioner's
attendant, who, in holding up Charlotte's truncated head, slapped the
cheek with his hand. The story runs that the dead face reddened under
the blow. Scientists of the day disputed over this, some arguing from
it a proof that consciousness does not at once depart the brain upon
That night, while Paris slept, its walls were secretly placarded
with copies of a eulogy of Charlotte Corday, the martyr of
Republicanism, the deliverer of France, in which occurs the comparison
with Joan of Arc, that other great heroine of France. This was the work
of Adam Lux. He made no secret of it. The vision of her had so wrought
upon the imagination of this susceptible dreamer, had fired his spirit
with such enthusiasm, that he was utterly reckless in yielding to his
emotions, in expressing the phrenetic, immaterial love with which in
her last moments of life she had inspired him.
Two days after her execution he issued a long manifesto, in which he
urged the purity of her motive as the fullest justification of her act,
placed her on the level of Brutus and Cato, and passionately demanded
for her the honour and veneration of posterity. It is in this manifesto
that he applies euphemistically to her deed the term “tyrannicide.”
That document he boldly signed with his own name, realizing that he
would pay for that temerity with his life.
He was arrested on the 24th of July—exactly a week from the day on
which he had seen her die. He had powerful friends, and they exerted
themselves to obtain for him a promise of pardon and release if he
would publicly retract what he had written. But he laughed the proposal
to scorn, ardently resolved to follow into death the woman who had
aroused the hopeless, immaterial love that made his present torment.
Still his friends strove for him. His trial was put off. A doctor
named Wetekind was found to testify that Adam Lux was mad, that the
sight of Charlotte Corday had turned his head. He wrote a paper on this
plea, recommending that clemency be shown to the young doctor on the
score of his affliction, and that he should be sent to a hospital or to
America. Adam Lux was angry when he heard of this, and protested
indignantly against the allegations of Dr. Wetekind. He wrote to the
Journal de la Montagne, which published his declaration on the 26th of
September, to the effect that he was not mad enough to desire to live,
and that his anxiety to meet death half-way was a crowning proof of his
He languished on in the prison of La Force until the 10th of
October, when at last he was brought to trial. He stood it joyously, in
a mood of exultation at his approaching deliverance. He assured the
court that he did not fear the guillotine, and that all ignominy had
been removed from such a death by the pure blood of Charlotte.
They sentenced him to death, and he thanked them for the boon.
“Forgive me, sublime Charlotte,” he exclaimed, “if I should find it
impossible to exhibit at the last the courage and gentleness that were
yours. I glory in your superiority, for it is right that the adored
should be above the adorer.”
Yet his courage did not fail him. Far from it, indeed; if hers had
been a mood of gentle calm, his was one of ecstatic exaltation. At five
o'clock that same afternoon he stepped from the tumbril under the gaunt
shadow of the guillotine. He turned to the people, his eyes bright, a
flush on his cheeks.
“At last I am to have the happiness of dying for Charlotte,” he told
them, and mounted the scaffold with the eager step of the bridegroom on
his way to the nuptial altar.