Thus called upon, Alwyn rose, and such was the good name he had already acquired, that every murmur hushed into eager silence.
"My lord mayor," he said, "there is a proverb in my country which says, 'Fish swim best that's bred in the sea;' which means, I take it, that men do best what they are trained for! Lord Warwick and his men are trained for fighting. Few of the fish about London Bridge are bred in that sea. Cry, 'London to the rescue!'—put on hauberk and helm, and you will have crowns enough to crack around you. What follows?—Master Stokton hath said it: pillage and rape for the city, gibbet and cord for mayor and aldermen. Do I say this, loving the House of Lancaster? No; as Heaven shall judge me, I think that the policy King Edward hath chosen, and which costs him his crown to-day, ought to make the House of York dear to burgess and trader. He hath sought to break up the iron rule of the great barons,—and never peace to England till that be done. He has failed; but for a day. He has yielded for a time; so must we. 'There's a time to squint, and a time to look even.' I advise that we march out to the earl, that we make honourable terms for the city, that we take advantage of one faction to gain what we have not gained with the other; that we fight for our profit, not with swords, where we shall be worsted, but in council and parliament, by speech and petition. New power is ever gentle and douce. What matters to us York or Lancaster?—all we want is good laws. Get the best we can from Lancaster, and when King Edward returns, as return he will, let him bid higher than Henry for our love. Worshipful my lords and brethren, while barons and knaves go to loggerheads, honest men get their own. Time grows under us like grass. York and Lancaster may pull down each other,—and what is left? Why, three things that thrive in all weather,—London, industry; and the people! We have fallen on a rough time. Well, what says the proverb? 'Boil stones in butter, and you may sup the broth.' I have done."
This characteristic harangue, which was fortunate enough to accord with the selfishness of each one, and yet give the manly excuse of sound sense and wise policy to all, was the more decisive in its effect, inasmuch as the young Alwyn, from his own determined courage, and his avowed distaste to the Lancaster faction, had been expected to favour warlike counsels. The mayor himself, who was faithfully and personally attached to Edward, with a deep sigh gave way to the feeling of the assembly. And the resolution being once come to, Henry Lee was the first to give it whatever advantage could be derived from prompt and speedy action.
"Go we forth at once," said he,—"go, as becomes us, in our robes of state, and with the insignia of the city. Never be it said that the guardians of the city of London could neither defend with spirit, nor make terms with honour. We give entrance to Lord Warwick. Well, then, it must be our own free act. Come! Officers of our court, advance."
"Stay a bit, stay a bit," whispered Stokton, digging sharp claws into Alwyn's arm; "let them go first,—a word with you, cunning Nick,—a word."
Master Stokton, despite the tremor of his nerves, was a man of such wealth and substance, that Alwyn might well take the request, thus familiarly made, as a compliment not to be received discourteously; moreover, he had his own reasons for hanging back from a procession which his rank in the city did not require him to join.
While, therefore, the mayor and the other dignitaries left the hall with as much state and order as if not going to meet an invading army, but to join a holiday festival, Nicholas and Stokton lingered behind.
"Master Alwyn," said Stokton, then, with a sly wink of his eye, "you have this day done yourself great credit; you will rise, I have my eye on you! I have a daughter, I have a daughter! Aha! a lad like you may come to great things!"
"I am much bounden to you, Master Stokton," returned Alwyn, somewhat abstractedly; "but what's your will?"
"My will!—hum, I say, Nicholas, what's your advice? Quite right not to go to blows. Odds costards! that mayor is a very tiger! But don't you think it would be wiser not to join this procession? Edward IV., an' he ever come back, has a long memory. He deals at my ware, too,—a good customer at a mercer's; and, Lord! how much money he owes the city!—hum!—I would not seem ungrateful."
"But if you go not out with the rest, there be other mercers who will have King Henry's countenance and favour; and it is easy to see that a new court will make vast consumption in mercery."
Master Stokton looked puzzled.
"That were a hugeous pity, good Nicholas; and, certes, there is Wat Smith, in Eastgate, who would cheat that good King Henry, poor man! which were a shame to the city; but, on the other hand, the Yorkists mostly pay on the nail (except King Edward, God save him!), and the Lancastrians are as poor as mice. Moreover, King Henry is a meek man, and does not avenge; King Edward, a hot and a stern man, and may call it treason to go with the Red Rose! I wish I knew how to decide! I have a daughter, an only daughter,—a buxom lass, and well dowered. I would I had a sharp son-in-law to advise me!"
"Master Stokton, in one word, then, he never goes far wrong who can run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Good-day to you, I have business elsewhere."
So saying, Nicholas rather hastily shook off the mercer's quivering fingers, and hastened out of the hall.
"Verily," murmured the disconsolate Stokton, "run with the hare, quotha!—that is, go with King Edward; but hunt with the hounds,—that is, go with King Henry. Odds costards; it's not so easily done by a plain man not bred in the North. I'd best go—home, and do nothing!"
With that, musing and bewildered, the poor man sneaked out, and was soon lost amidst the murmuring, gathering, and swaying crowds, many amongst which were as much perplexed as himself.
In the mean while, with his cloak muffled carefully round his face, and with a long, stealthy, gliding stride, Alwyn made his way through the streets, gained the river, entered a boat in waiting for him, and arrived at last at the palace of the Tower.
CHAPTER X. THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY OF THE EARL—THE ROYAL CAPTIVE IN THE TOWER—THE MEETING BETWEEN KING-MAKER AND KING.
All in the chambers of the metropolitan fortress exhibited the greatest confusion and dismay. The sentinels, it is true, were still at their posts, men-at-arms at the outworks, the bombards were loaded, the flag of Edward IV. still waved aloft from the battlements; but the officers of the fortress and the captains of its soldiery were, some assembled in the old hall, pale with fear, and wrangling with each other; some had fled, none knew whither; some had gone avowedly and openly to join the invading army.
Through this tumultuous and feeble force, Nicholas Alwyn was conducted by a single faithful servitor of the queen's (by whom he was expected); and one glance of his quick eye, as he passed along, convinced him of the justice of his counsels. He arrived at last, by a long and winding stair, at one of the loftiest chambers, in one of the loftiest towers, usually appropriated to the subordinate officers of the household.
And there, standing by the open casement, commanding some extended view of the noisy and crowded scene beyond, both on stream and land, he saw the queen of the fugitive monarch. By her side was the Lady Scrope, her most familiar friend and confidant, her three infant children, Elizabeth, Mary, and Cicely, grouped round her knees, playing with each other, and unconscious of the terrors of the times; and apart from the rest stood the Duchess of Bedford, conferring eagerly with Friar Bungey, whom she had summoned in haste, to know if his art could not yet prevail over enemies merely mortal.
The servitor announced Alwyn, and retired; the queen turned—"What news, Master Alwyn? Quick! What tidings from the lord mayor?"
"Gracious my queen and lady," said Alwyn, falling on his knees, "you have but one course to pursue. Below yon casement lies your barge, to the right see the round gray tower of Westminster Sanctuary; you have time yet, and but time!"
The old Duchess of Bedford turned her sharp, bright, gray eyes from the pale and trembling friar to the goldsmith, but was silent. The queen stood aghast. "Mean you," she faltered, at last, "that the city of London forsakes the king? Shame on the cravens!"
"Not cravens, my lady and queen," said Alwyn, rising. "He must have iron nails that scratches a bear,—and the white bear above all. The king has fled, the barons have fled, the soldiers have fled, the captains have fled,—the citizens of London alone fly not; but there is nothing save life and property left to guard."
"Is this thy boasted influence with the commons and youths of the city?"
"My humble influence, may it please your Grace (I say it now openly, and I will say it a year hence, when King Edward will hold his court in these halls once again), my influence, such as it is, has been used to save lives which resistance would waste in vain. Alack, alack! 'No gaping against an oven,' gracious lady! Your barge is below. Again I say there is yet time,—when the bell tolls the next hour that time will be past!"
"Then Jesu defend these children!" said Elizabeth, bending over her infants, and weeping bitterly; "I will go!"
"Hold!" said the Duchess of Bedford, "men desert us, but do the spirits also forsake us?—Speak, friar! canst thou yet do aught for us?—and if not, thinkest thou it is the right hour to yield and fly?"
"Daughter," said the friar, whose terror might have moved pity, "as I said before, thank yourself. This Warner, this—in short, the lesser magician hath been aided and cockered to countervail the greater, as I forewarned. Fly! run! fly! Verily and indeed it is the prosperest of all times to save ourselves; and the stars and the book and my familiar all call out, 'Off and away!'"
"'Fore heaven!" exclaimed Alwyn, who had hitherto been dumb with astonishment at this singular interlude, "sith he who hath shipped the devil must make the best of him, thou art for once an honest man and a wise counsellor. Hark! the second gun! The earl is at the gates of the city!"
The queen lingered no longer; she caught her youngest child in her arms; the Lady Scrope followed with the two others. "Come, follow, quick, Master Alwyn," said the duchess, who, now that she was compelled to abandon the world of prediction and soothsaying, became thoroughly the sagacious, plotting, ready woman of this life; "come, your face and name will be of service to us, an' we meet with obstruction."
Before Alwyn could reply, the door was thrown abruptly open, and several of the officers of the household rushed pell-mell into the royal presence.
"Gracious queen!" cried many voices at once, each with a different sentence of fear and warning, "fly! We cannot depend on the soldiers; the populace are up,—they shout for King Henry; Dr. Godard is preaching against you at St. Paul's Cross; Sir Geoffrey Gates has come out of the sanctuary, and with him all the miscreants and outlaws; the mayor is now with the rebels! Fly! the sanctuary, the sanctuary!"
"And who amongst you is of highest rank?" asked the duchess, calmly; for Elizabeth, completely overwhelmed, seemed incapable of speech or movement.
"I, Giles de Malvoisin, knight banneret," said an old warrior armed cap-a-pie, who had fought in France under the hero Talbot.
"Then, sir," said the duchess, with majesty, "to your hands I confide the eldest daughter of your king. Lead on!—we follow you. Elizabeth, lean on me."
With this, supporting Elizabeth, and leading her second grandchild, the duchess left the chamber.
The friar followed amidst the crowd, for well he knew that if the soldiers of Warwick once caught hold of him, he had fared about as happily as the fox amidst the dogs; and Alwyn, forgotten in the general confusion, hastened to Adam's chamber.
The old man, blessing any cause that induced his patroness to dispense with his astrological labours and restored him to the care of his Eureka, was calmly and quietly employed in repairing the mischief effected by the bungling friar; and Sibyll, who at the first alarm had flown to his retreat, joyfully hailed the entrance of the friendly goldsmith.
Alwyn was indeed perplexed what to advise, for the principal sanctuary would, no doubt, be crowded by ruffians of the worst character; and the better lodgments which that place, a little town in itself, [the Sanctuary of Westminster was fortified] contained, be already preoccupied by the Yorkists of rank; and the smaller sanctuaries were still more liable to the same objection. Moreover, if Adam should be recognized by any of the rabble that would meet them by the way, his fate, by the summary malice of a mob, was certain. After all, the Tower would be free from the populace; and as soon as, by a few rapid questions, Alwyn learned from Sibyll that she had reason to hope her father would find protection with Lord Warwick, and called to mind that Marmaduke Nevile was necessarily in the earl's train, he advised them to remain quiet and concealed in their apartments, and promised to see and provide for them the moment the Tower was yielded up to the new government.
The counsel suited both Sibyll and Warner. Indeed, the philosopher could not very easily have been induced to separate himself again from the beloved Eureka; and Sibyll was more occupied at that hour with thoughts and prayers for the beloved Hastings,—afar, a wanderer and an exile,—than with the turbulent events amidst which her lot was cast.
In the storms of a revolution which convulsed a kingdom and hurled to the dust a throne, Love saw but a single object, Science but its tranquil toil. Beyond the realm of men lies ever with its joy and sorrow, its vicissitude and change, the domain of the human heart. In the revolution, the toy of the scholar was restored to him; in the revolution, the maiden mourned her lover. In the movement of the mass, each unit hath its separate passion. The blast that rocks the trees shakes a different world in every leaf.
CHAPTER XI. THE TOWER IN COMMOTION.
On quitting the Tower, Alwyn regained the boat, and took his way to the city; and here, whatever credit that worthy and excellent personage may lose in certain eyes, his historian is bound to confess that his anxiety for Sibyll did not entirely distract his attention from interest or ambition. To become the head of his class, to rise to the first honours of his beloved city of London, had become to Nicholas Alwyn a hope and aspiration which made as much a part of his being as glory to a warrior, power to a king, a Eureka to a scholar; and, though more mechanically than with any sordid calculation or self-seeking, Nicholas Alwyn repaired to his ware in the Chepe. The streets, when he landed, already presented a different appearance from the disorder and tumult noticeable when he had before passed them. The citizens now had decided what course to adopt; and though the shops, or rather booths, were carefully closed, streamers of silk, cloth of arras and gold, were hung from the upper casements; the balconies were crowded with holiday gazers; the fickle populace (the same herd that had hooted the meek Henry when led to the Tower) were now shouting, "A Warwick!" "A Clarence!" and pouring throng after throng, to gaze upon the army, which, with the mayor and aldermen, had already entered the city. Having seen to the security of his costly goods, and praised his apprentices duly for their care of his interests, and their abstinence from joining the crowd, Nicholas then repaired to the upper story of his house, and set forth from his casements and balcony the richest stuffs he possessed. However, there was his own shrewd, sarcastic smile on his firm lips, as he said to his apprentices, "When these are done with, lay them carefully by against Edward of York's re-entry."
Meanwhile, preceded by trumpets, drums, and heralds, the Earl of Warwick and his royal son-in-law rode into the shouting city. Behind came the litter of the Duchess of Clarence, attended by the Earl of Oxford, Lord Fitzhugh, the Lords Stanley and Shrewsbury, Sir Robert de Lytton, and a princely cortege of knights, squires, and nobles; while, file upon file, rank upon rank, followed the long march of the unresisted armament.
Warwick, clad in complete armour of Milan steel,—save the helmet, which was borne behind him by his squire,—mounted on his own noble Saladin, preserved upon a countenance so well suited to command the admiration of a populace the same character as heretofore of manly majesty and lofty frankness. But to a nearer and more searching gaze than was likely to be bent upon him in such an hour, the dark, deep traces of care, anxiety, and passion might have been detected in the lines which now thickly intersected the forehead, once so smooth and furrowless; and his kingly eye, not looking, as of old, right forward as he moved, cast unquiet, searching glances about him and around, as he bowed his bare head from side to side of the welcoming thousands.
A far greater change, to outward appearance, was visible in the fair young face of the Duke of Clarence. His complexion, usually sanguine and blooming, like his elder brother's, was now little less pale than that of Richard. A sullen, moody, discontented expression, which not all the heartiness of the greetings he received could dispel, contrasted forcibly with the good-humoured, laughing recklessness, which had once drawn a "God bless him!" from all on whom rested his light-blue joyous eye. He was unarmed, save by a corselet richly embossed with gold. His short manteline of crimson velvet, his hosen of white cloth laced with gold, and his low horseman's boots of Spanish leather curiously carved and broidered, with long golden spurs; his plumed and jewelled cap; his white charger with housings enriched with pearls and blazing with cloth-of-gold; his broad collar of precious stones, with the order of St. George; his general's truncheon raised aloft, and his Plantagenet banner borne by the herald over his royal head, caught the eyes of the crowd only the more to rivet them on an aspect ill fitting the triumph of a bloodless victory. At his left hand, where the breadth of the streets permitted, rode Henry Lee, the mayor, uttering no word, unless appealed to, and then answering but with chilling reverence and dry monosyllables.
A narrow winding in the streets, which left Warwick and Clarence alone side by side, gave the former the opportunity he had desired.
"How, prince and son," he said in a hollow whisper, "is it with this brow of care that thou saddenest our conquest, and enterest the capital we gain without a blow?"
"By Saint George!" answered Clarence, sullenly, and in the same tone, "thinkest thou it chafes not the son of Richard of York, after such toils and bloodshed, to minister to the dethronement of his kin and the restoration of the foe of his race?"
"Thou shouldst have thought of that before," returned Warwick, but with sadness and pity in the reproach.
"Ay, before Edward of Lancaster was made my lord and brother," retorted Clarence, bitterly.
"Hush!" said the earl, "and calm thy brow. Not thus didst thou speak at Amboise; either thou wert then less frank or more generous. But regrets are vain: we have raised the whirlwind, and must rule it."
And with that, in the action of a man who would escape his own thoughts, Warwick made his black steed demivolte; and the crowd shouted again the louder at the earl's gallant horsemanship, and Clarence's dazzling collar of jewels.
While thus the procession of the victors, the nominal object of all this mighty and sudden revolution—of this stir and uproar, of these shining arms and flaunting banners, of this heaven or hell in the deep passions of men—still remained in his prison-chamber of the Tower, a true type of the thing factions contend for; absent, insignificant, unheeded, and, save by a few of the leaders and fanatical priests, absolutely forgotten!
To this solitary chamber we are now transported; yet solitary is a word of doubtful propriety; for though the royal captive was alone, so far as the human species make up a man's companionship and solace, though the faithful gentlemen, Manning, Bedle, and Allerton, had, on the news of Warwick's landing, been thrust from his chamber, and were now in the ranks of his new and strange defenders, yet power and jealousy had not left his captivity all forsaken. There was still the starling in its cage, and the fat, asthmatic spaniel still wagged its tail at the sound of its master's voice, or the rustle of his long gown. And still from the ivory crucifix gleamed the sad and holy face of the God, present alway, and who, by faith and patience, linketh evermore grief to joy,—but earth to heaven.
The august prisoner had not been so utterly cut off from all knowledge of the outer life as to be ignorant of some unwonted and important stir in the fortress and the city. The squire who had brought him his morning meal had been so agitated as to excite the captive's attention, and had then owned that the Earl of Warwick had proclaimed Henry king, and was on his march to London. But neither the squire nor any of the officers of the Tower dared release the illustrious captive, or even remove him as yet to the state apartments vacated by Elizabeth. They knew not what might be the pleasure of the stout earl or the Duke of Clarence, and feared over-officiousness might be their worst crime. But naturally imagining that Henry's first command, at the new position of things, might be for liberty, and perplexed whether to yield or refuse, they absented themselves from his summons, and left the whole tower in which he was placed actually deserted.
From his casement the king could see, however, the commotion, and the crowds upon the wharf and river, with the gleam of arms and banners; and hear the sounds of "A Warwick!" "A Clarence!" "Long live good Henry VI.!" A strange combination of names, which disturbed and amazed him much! But by degrees the unwonted excitement of perplexity and surprise settled back into the calm serenity of his most gentle mind and temper. That trust in an all-directing Providence, to which he had schooled himself, had (if we may so say with reverence) driven his beautiful soul into the opposite error, so fatal to the affairs of life,—the error that deadens and benumbs the energy of free will and the noble alertness of active duty. Why strain and strive for the things of this world? God would order all for the best. Alas! God hath placed us in this world, each, from king to peasant, with nerves and hearts and blood and passions to struggle with our kind; and, no matter how heavenly the goal, to labour with the million in the race!
"Forsooth," murmured the king, as, his hands clasped behind him, he paced slowly to and fro the floor, "this ill world seemeth but a feather, blown about by the winds, and never to be at rest. Hark! Warwick and King Henry,—the lion and the lamb! Alack, and we are fallen on no Paradise, where such union were not a miracle! Foolish bird!"—and with a pitying smile upon that face whose holy sweetness might have disarmed a fiend, he paused before the cage and contemplated his fellow-captive—"foolish bird, the uneasiness and turmoil without have reached even to thee. Thou beatest thy wings against the wires, thou turnest thy bright eyes to mine restlessly. Why? Pantest thou to be free, silly one, that the hawk may swoop on its defenceless prey? Better, perhaps, the cage for thee, and the prison for thy master. Well, out if thou wilt! Here at least thou art safe!" and opening the cage, the starling flew to his bosom, and nestled there, with its small clear voice mimicking the human sound,—
"Poor Henry, poor Henry! Wicked men, poor Henry!"
The king bowed his meek head over his favourite, and the fat spaniel, jealous of the monopolized caress, came waddling towards its master, with a fond whine, and looked up at him with eyes that expressed more of faith and love than Edward of York, the ever wooing and ever wooed, had read in the gaze of woman.
With those companions, and with thoughts growing more and more composed and rapt from all that had roused and vexed his interest in the forenoon, Henry remained till the hour had long passed for his evening meal. Surprised at last by a negligence which (to do his jailers justice) had never before occurred, and finding no response to his hand-bell, no attendant in the anteroom, the outer doors locked as usual, but the sentinel's tread in the court below hushed and still, a cold thrill for a moment shot through his blood.—"Was he left for hunger to do its silent work?" Slowly he bent his way from the outer rooms back to his chamber; and, as he passed the casement again, he heard, though far in the distance, through the dim air of the deepening twilight, the cry of "Long live King Henry!"
This devotion without, this neglect within, was a wondrous contrast! Meanwhile the spaniel, with that instinct of fidelity which divines the wants of the master, had moved snuffling and smelling round and round the chambers, till it stopped and scratched at a cupboard in the anteroom, and then with a joyful bark flew back to the king, and taking the hem of his gown between its teeth, led him towards the spot it had discovered; and there, in truth, a few of those small cakes, usually served up for the night's livery, had been carelessly left. They sufficed for the day's food, and the king, the dog, and the starling shared them peacefully together. This done, Henry carefully replaced his bird in its cage, bade the dog creep to the hearth and lie still; passed on to his little oratory, with the relics of cross and saint strewed around the solemn image,—and in prayer forgot the world! Meanwhile darkness set in: the streets had grown deserted, save where in some nooks and by-lanes gathered groups of the soldiery; but for the most part the discipline in which Warwick held his army had dismissed those stern loiterers to the various quarters provided for them, and little remained to remind the peaceful citizens that a throne had been uprooted, and a revolution consummated, that eventful day.
It was at this time that a tall man, closely wrapped in his large horseman's cloak, passed alone through the streets and gained the Tower. At the sound of his voice by the great gate, the sentinel started in alarm; a few moments more, and all left to guard the fortress were gathered round him. From these he singled out one of the squires who usually attended Henry, and bade him light his steps to the king's chamber. As in that chamber Henry rose from his knees, he saw the broad red light of a torch flickering under the chinks of the threshold; he heard the slow tread of approaching footsteps; the spaniel uttered a low growl, its eyes sparkling; the door opened, and the torch borne behind by the squire, and raised aloft so that its glare threw a broad light over the whole chamber, brought into full view the dark and haughty countenance of the Earl of Warwick.
The squire, at a gesture from the earl, lighted the sconces on the wall, the tapers on the table, and quickly vanished. King-maker and king were alone! At the first sight of Warwick, Henry had turned pale, and receded a few paces, with one hand uplifted in adjuration or command, while with the other he veiled his eyes,—whether that this startled movement came from the weakness of bodily nerves, much shattered by sickness and confinement, or from the sudden emotions called forth by the aspect of one who had wrought him calamities so dire. But the craven's terror in the presence of a living foe was, with all his meekness, all his holy abhorrence of wrath and warfare, as unknown to that royal heart as to the high blood of his hero-sire. And so, after a brief pause, and a thought that took the shape of prayer, not for safety from peril, but for grace to forgive the past, Henry VI. advanced to Warwick, who still stood dumb by the threshold, combating with his own mingled and turbulent emotions of pride and shame, and said, in a voice majestic even from its very mildness,—
"What tale of new woe and evil hath the Earl of Salisbury and Warwick come to announce to the poor captive who was once a king?"
"Forgive me! Forgiveness, Henry, my lord,—forgiveness!" exclaimed Warwick, falling on his knee. The meek reproach; the touching words; the mien and visage altered, since last beheld, from manhood into age; the gray hairs and bended form of the king, went at once to that proud heart; and as the earl bent over the wan, thin hand resigned to his lips, a tear upon its surface out-sparkled all the jewels that it wore.
"Yet no," continued the earl (impatient, as proud men are, to hurry from repentance to atonement, for the one is of humiliation and the other of pride),—"yet no, my liege, not now do I crave thy pardon. No; but when begirt, in the halls of thine ancestors, with the peers of England, the victorious banner of Saint George waving above the throne which thy servant hath rebuilt,—then, when the trumpets are sounding thy rights without the answer of a foe; then, when from shore to shore of fair England the shout of thy people echoes to the vault of heaven,—then will Warwick kneel again to King Henry, and sue for the pardon he hath not ignobly won!
"Alack, sir," said the king, with accents of mournful yet half-reproving kindness, "it was not amidst trump and banners that the Son of God set mankind the exemplar and pattern of charity to foes. When thy hand struck the spurs from my heel, when thou didst parade me through the booting crowd to this solitary cell, then, Warwick, I forgave thee, and prayed to Heaven for pardon for thee, if thou didst wrong me,—for myself, if a king's fault had deserved a subject's harshness. Rise, Sir Earl; our God is a jealous God, and the attitude of worship is for Him alone."
Warwick rose from his knee; and the king, perceiving and compassionating the struggle which shook the strong man's breast, laid his hand on the earl's shoulder, and said, "Peace be with thee!—thou hast done me no real harm. I have been as happy in these walls as in the green parks of Windsor; happier than in the halls of state or in the midst of wrangling armies. What tidings now?"
"My liege, is it possible that you know not that Edward is a fugitive and a beggar, and that Heaven hath permitted me to avenge at once your injuries and my own? This day, without a blow, I have regained your city of London; its streets are manned with my army. From the council of peers and warriors and prelates assembled at my house, I have stolen hither alone and in secret, that I might be the first to hail your Grace's restoration to the throne of Henry V."
The king's face so little changed at this intelligence, that its calm sadness almost enraged the impetuous Warwick, and with difficulty he restrained from giving utterance to the thought, "He is not worthy of a throne who cares so little to possess it!"
"Well-a-day!" said Henry, sighing, "Heaven then hath sore trials yet in store for mine old age! Tray, Tray!" and stooping, he gently patted his dog, who kept watch at his feet, still glaring suspiciously at Warwick, "we are both too old for the chase now!—Will you be seated, my lord?"
"Trust me," said the earl, as he obeyed the command, having first set chair and footstool for the king, who listened to him with downcast eyes and his head drooping on his bosom—"trust me, your later days, my liege, will be free from the storms of your youth. All chance of Edward's hostility is expired. Your alliance, though I seem boastful so to speak,—your alliance with one in whom the people can confide for some skill in war, and some more profound experience of the habits and tempers of your subjects than your former councillors could possess, will leave your honoured leisure free for the holy meditations it affects; and your glory, as your safety, shall be the care of men who can awe this rebellious world."
"Alliance!" said the king, who had caught but that one word; "of what speakest thou, Sir Earl?"
"These missives will explain all, my liege; this letter from my lady the Queen Margaret, and this from your gracious son, the Prince of Wales."
"Edward! my Edward!" exclaimed the king, with a father's burst of emotion. "Thou hast seen him, then,—bears he his health well, is he of cheer and heart?"
"He is strong and fair, and full of promise, and brave as his grandsire's sword."
"And knows he—knows he well—that we all are the potter's clay in the hands of God?"
"My liege," said Warwick, embarrassed, "he has as much devotion as befits a Christian knight and a goodly prince."
"Ah," sighed the king, "ye men of arms have strange thoughts on these matters;" and cutting the silk of the letters, he turned from the warrior. Shading his face with his hand, the earl darted his keen glance on the features of the king, as, drawing near to the table, the latter read the communications which announced his new connection with his ancient foe.
But Henry was at first so affected by the sight of Margaret's well-known hand, that he thrice put down her letter and wiped the moisture from his eyes.
"My poor Margaret, how thou hast suffered!" he murmured; "these very characters are less firm and bold than they were. Well, well!" and at last he betook himself resolutely to the task. Once or twice his countenance changed, and he uttered an exclamation of surprise. But the proposition of a marriage between Prince Edward and the Lady Anne did not revolt his forgiving mind, as it had the haughty and stern temper of his consort. And when he had concluded his son's epistle, full of the ardour of his love and the spirit of his youth, the king passed his left hand over his brow, and then extending his right to Warwick, said, in accents which trembled with emotion, "Serve my son, since he is thine, too; give peace to this distracted kingdom, repair my errors, press not hard upon those who contend against us, and Jesu and His saints will bless this bond!"
The earl's object, perhaps, in seeking a meeting with Henry so private and unwitnessed, had been that none, not even his brother, might hearken to the reproaches he anticipated to receive, or say hereafter that he heard Warwick, returned as victor and avenger to his native land, descend, in the hour of triumph, to extenuation and excuse. So affronted, imperilled, or to use his own strong word, "so despaired," had he been in the former rule of Henry, that his intellect, which, however vigorous in his calmer moods, was liable to be obscured and dulled by his passions, had half confounded the gentle king with his ferocious wife and stern councillors, and he had thought he never could have humbled himself to the man, even so far as knighthood's submission to Margaret's sex had allowed him to the woman. But the sweetness of Henry's manners and disposition, the saint-like dignity which he had manifested throughout this painful interview, and the touching grace and trustful generosity of his last words,—words which consummated the earl's large projects of ambition and revenge,—had that effect upon Warwick which the preaching of some holy man, dwelling upon the patient sanctity of the Saviour, had of old on a grim Crusader, all incapable himself of practising such meek excellence, and yet all moved and penetrated by its loveliness in another; and, like such Crusader, the representation of all mildest and most forgiving singularly stirred up in the warrior's mind images precisely the reverse,—images of armed valour and stern vindication, as if where the Cross was planted sprang from the earth the standard and the war-horse!
"Perish your foes! May war and storm scatter them as the chaff! My liege, my royal master," continued the earl, in a deep, low, faltering voice, "why knew I not thy holy and princely heart before? Why stood so many between Warwick's devotion and a king so worthy to command it? How poor, beside thy great-hearted fortitude and thy Christian heroism, seems the savage valour of false Edward! Shame upon one who can betray the trust thou hast placed in him! Never will I!—Never! I swear it! No! though all England desert thee, I will stand alone with my breast of mail before thy throne! Oh, would that my triumph had been less peaceful and less bloodless! would that a hundred battlefields were yet left to prove how deeply—deeply in his heart of hearts—Warwick feels the forgiveness of his king!"
"Not so, not so, not so! not battlefields, Warwick!" said Henry. "Ask not to serve the king by shedding one subject's blood."
"Your pious will be obeyed!" replied Warwick. "We will see if mercy can effect in others what thy pardon effects in me. And now, my liege, no longer must these walls confine thee. The chambers of the palace await their sovereign. What ho, there!" and going to the door he threw it open, and agreeably to the orders he had given below, all the officers left in the fortress stood crowded together in the small anteroom, bareheaded, with tapers in their hands, to conduct the monarch to the halls of his conquered foe.
At the sudden sight of the earl, these men, struck involuntarily and at once by the grandeur of his person and his animated aspect, burst forth with the rude retainer's cry, "A Warwick! a Warwick!"
"Silence!" thundered the earl's deep voice. "Who names the subject in the sovereign's presence? Behold your king!" The men, abashed by the reproof, bowed their heads and sank on their knees, as Warwick took a taper from the table, to lead the way from the prison.
Then Henry turned slowly, and gazed with a lingering eye upon the walls which even sorrow and solitude had endeared. The little oratory, the crucifix, the relics, the embers burning low on the hearth, the rude time-piece,—all took to his thoughtful eye an almost human aspect of melancholy and omen; and the bird, roused, whether by the glare of the lights, or the recent shout of the men, opened its bright eyes, and fluttering restlessly to and fro, shrilled out its favourite sentence, "Poor Henry! poor Henry!—wicked men!—who would be a king?"
"Thou hearest it, Warwick?" said Henry, shaking his head.
"Could an eagle speak, it would have another cry than the starling," returned the earl, with a proud smile.
"Why, look you," said the king, once more releasing the bird, which settled on his wrist, "the eagle had broken his heart in the narrow cage, the eagle had been no comforter for a captive; it is these gentler ones that love and soothe us best in our adversities. Tray, Tray, fawn not now, sirrah, or I shall think thou hast been false in thy fondness heretofore! Cousin, I attend you."
And with his bird on his wrist, his dog at his heels, Henry VI. followed the earl to the illuminated hall of Edward, where the table was spread for the royal repast, and where his old friends, Manning, Bedle, and Allerton, stood weeping for joy; while from the gallery raised aloft, the musicians gave forth the rough and stirring melody which had gradually fallen out of usage, but which was once the Norman's national air, and which the warlike Margaret of Anjou had retaught her minstrels,—"THE BATTLE HYMN OF ROLLO."
BOOK XI. THE NEW POSITION OF THE KING-MAKER
CHAPTER I. WHEREIN MASTER ADAM WARNER IS NOTABLY COMMENDED AND ADVANCED—AND GREATNESS SAYS TO WISDOM, "THY DESTINY BE MINE, AMEN."
The Chronicles inform us, that two or three days after the entrance of Warwick and Clarence,—namely, on the 6th of October,—those two leaders, accompanied by the Lords Shrewsbury, Stanley, and a numerous and noble train, visited the Tower in formal state, and escorted the king, robed in blue velvet, the crown on his head, to public thanksgivings at St. Paul's, and thence to the Bishop's Palace, [not to the Palace at Westminster, as some historians, preferring the French to the English authorities, have asserted,—that palace was out of repair] where he continued chiefly to reside.
The proclamation that announced the change of dynasty was received with apparent acquiescence through the length and breadth of the kingdom, and the restoration of the Lancastrian line seemed yet the more firm and solid by the magnanimous forbearance of Warwick and his councils. Not one execution that could be termed the act of a private revenge stained with blood the second reign of the peaceful Henry. One only head fell on the scaffold,—that of the Earl of Worcester. [Lord Warwick himself did not sit in judgment on Worcester. He was tried and condemned by Lord Oxford. Though some old offences in his Irish government were alleged against him, the cruelties which rendered him so odious were of recent date. He had (as we before took occasion to relate) impaled twenty persons after Warwick's flight into France. The "Warkworth Chronicle" says, "He was ever afterwardes greatly behated among the people for this disordynate dethe that he used, contrary to the laws of the lande."] This solitary execution, which was regarded by all classes as a due concession to justice, only yet more illustrated the general mildness of the new rule.
It was in the earliest days of this sudden restoration that Alwyn found the occasion to serve his friends in the Tower. Warwick was eager to conciliate all the citizens, who, whether frankly or grudgingly, had supported his cause; and, amongst these, he was soon informed of the part taken in the Guildhall by the rising goldsmith. He sent for Alwyn to his house in Warwick-lane, and after complimenting him on his advance in life and repute, since Nicholas had waited on him with baubles for his embassy to France, he offered him the special rank of goldsmith to the king.
The wary, yet honest, trader paused a moment in some embarrassment before he answered,—
"My good lord, you are noble and gracious eno' to understand and forgive me when I say that I have had, in the upstart of my fortunes, the countenance of the late King Edward and his queen; and though the public weal made me advise my fellow-citizens not to resist your entry, I would not, at least, have it said that my desertion had benefited my private fortunes."
Warwick coloured, and his lip curled. "Tush, man, assume not virtues which do not exist amongst the sons of trade, nor, much I trow, amongst the sons of Adam. I read thy mind. Thou thinkest it unsafe openly to commit thyself to the new state. Fear not,—we are firm."
"Nay, my lord," returned Alwyn, "it is not so. But there are many better citizens than I, who remember that the Yorkists were ever friends to commerce. And you will find that only by great tenderness to our crafts you can win the heart of London, though you have passed its gates."
"I shall be just to all men," answered the earl, dryly; "but if the flat-caps are false, there are eno' of bonnets of steel to watch over the Red Rose!"
"You are said, my lord," returned Alwyn, bluntly, "to love the barons, the knights, the gentry, the yeomen, and the peasants, but to despise the traders,—I fear me that report in this is true."
"I love not the trader spirit, man,—the spirit that cheats, and cringes, and haggles, and splits straws for pence, and roasts eggs by other men's blazing rafters. Edward of York, forsooth, was a great trader! It was a sorry hour for England when such as ye, Nick Alwyn, left your green villages for loom and booth. But thus far have I spoken to you as a brave fellow, and of the north countree. I have no time to waste on words. Wilt thou accept mine offer, or name another boon in my power? The man who hath served me wrongs me,—till I have served him again!"
"My lord, yes; I will name such a boon,—safety, and, if you will, some grace and honour, to a learned scholar now in the Tower, one Adam Warner, whom—"
"Now in the Tower! Adam Warner! And wanting a friend, I no more an exile! That is my affair, not thine. Grace, honour,—ay, to his heart's content. And his noble daughter? Mort Dieu! she shall choose her bridegroom among the best of England. Is she, too, in the fortress?"
"Yes," said Alwyn, briefly, not liking the last part of the earl's speech.
The earl rang the bell on his table. "Send hither Sir Marmaduke Nevile."
Alwyn saw his former rival enter, and heard the earl commission him to accompany, with a fitting train, his own litter to the Tower. "And you, Alwyn, go with your foster-brother, and pray Master Warner and his daughter to be my guests for their own pleasure. Come hither, my rude Northman,—come. I see I shall have many secret foes in this city: wilt not thou at least be Warwick's open friend?"
Alwyn found it hard to resist the charm of the earl's manner and voice; but, convinced in his own mind that the age was against Warwick, and that commerce and London would be little advantaged by the earl's rule, the trading spirit prevailed in his breast.
"Gracious my lord," he said, bending his knee in no servile homage, "he who befriends my order, commands me."
The proud noble bit his lip, and with a silent wave of his hand dismissed the foster-brothers.
"Thou art but a churl at best, Nick," said Marmaduke, as the door closed on the young men. "Many a baron would have sold his father's hall for such words from the earl's lip."
"Let barons sell their free conduct for fair words. I keep myself unshackled to join that cause which best fills the market and reforms the law. But tell me, I pray thee, Sir Knight, what makes Warner and his daughter so dear to your lord?"
"What! know you not?—and has she not told you?—Ah, what was I about to say?"
"Can there be a secret between the earl and the scholar?" asked Alwyn, in wonder.
"If there be, it is our place to respect it," returned the Nevile, adjusting his manteline; "and now we must command the litter."
In spite of all the more urgent and harassing affairs that pressed upon him, the earl found an early time to attend to his guests. His welcome to Sibyll was more than courteous,—it was paternal. As she approached him, timidly and with a downcast eye, he advanced, placed his hand upon her head,—
"The Holy Mother ever have thee in her charge, child!—This is a father's kiss, young mistress," added the earl, pressing his lips to her forehead; "and in this kiss, remember that I pledge to thee care for thy fortunes, honour for thy name, my heart to do thee service, my arm to shield from wrong! Brave scholar, thy lot has become interwoven with my own. Prosperous is now my destiny,—my destiny be thine! Amen!"
He turned then to Warner, and without further reference to a past which so galled his proud spirit, he made the scholar explain to him the nature of his labours. In the mind of every man who has passed much of his life in successful action, there is a certain, if we may so say, untaught mathesis,—but especially among those who have been bred to the art of war. A great soldier is a great mechanic, a great mathematician, though he may know it not; and Warwick, therefore, better than many a scholar comprehended the principle upon which Adam founded his experiments. But though he caught also a glimpse of the vast results which such experiments in themselves were calculated to effect, his strong common-sense perceived yet more clearly that the time was not ripe for such startling inventions.
"My friend," he said, "I comprehend thee passably. It is clear to me, that if thou canst succeed in making the elements do the work of man with equal precision, but with far greater force and rapidity, thou must multiply eventually, and, by multiplying, cheapen, all the products of industry; that thou must give to this country the market of the world; and that thine would be the true alchemy that turneth all to gold."
"Mighty intellect, thou graspest the truth!" exclaimed Adam.
"But," pursued the earl, with a mixture of prejudice and judgment, "grant thee success to the full, and thou wouldst turn this bold land of yeomanry and manhood into one community of griping traders and sickly artisans. Mort Dieu! we are over-commerced as it is,—the bow is already deserted for the ell-measure. The town populations are ever the most worthless in war. England is begirt with mailed foes; and if by one process she were to accumulate treasure and lose soldiers, she would but tempt invasion and emasculate defenders. Verily, I avise and implore thee to turn thy wit and scholarship to a manlier occupation!"
"My life knows no other object; kill my labour and thou destroyest me," said Adam, in a voice of gloomy despair. Alas, it seemed that, whatever the changes of power, no change could better the hopes of science in an age of iron! Warwick was moved. "Well," he said, after a pause, "be happy in thine own way. I will do my best at least to protect thee. To-morrow resume thy labours; but this day, at least, thou must feast with me."
And at his banquet that day, among the knights and barons, and the abbots and the warriors, Adam sat on the dais near the earl, and Sibyll at "the mess" of the ladies of the Duchess of Clarence. And ere the feast broke up, Warwick thus addressed his company:—
"My friends, though I, and most of us reared in the lap of war, have little other clerkship than sufficed our bold fathers before us, yet in the free towns of Italy and the Rhine,—yea, and in France, under her politic king,—we may see that a day is dawning wherein new knowledge will teach many marvels to our wiser sons. Wherefore it is good that a State should foster men who devote laborious nights and weary days to the advancement of arts and letters, for the glory of our common land. A worthy gentleman, now at this board, hath deeply meditated contrivances which may make our English artisans excel the Flemish loons, who now fatten upon our industry to the impoverishment of the realm. And, above all, he also purposes to complete an invention which may render our ship-craft the most notable in Europe. Of this I say no more at present; but I commend our guest, Master Adam Warner, to your good service, and pray you especially, worshipful sirs of the Church now present, to shield his good name from that charge which most paineth and endangereth honest men. For ye wot well that the commons, from ignorance, would impute all to witchcraft that passeth their understanding. Not," added the earl, crossing himself, "that witchcraft does not horribly infect the land, and hath been largely practised by Jacquetta of Bedford, and her confederates, Bungey and others. But our cause needeth no such aid; and all that Master Warner purposes is in behalf of the people, and in conformity with Holy Church. So this wassail to his health and House."
This characteristic address being received with respect, though with less applause than usually greeted the speeches of the great earl, Warwick added, in a softer and more earnest tone, "And in the fair demoiselle, his daughter, I pray you to acknowledge the dear friend of my beloved lady and child, Anne, Princess of Wales; and for the sake of her highness and in her name, I arrogate to myself a share with Master Warner in this young donzell's guardianship and charge. Know ye, my gallant gentles and fair squires, that he who can succeed in achieving, either by leal love or by bold deeds, as best befit a wooer, the grace of my young ward, shall claim from my hands a knight's fee, with as much of my best land as a bull's hide can cover; and when heaven shall grant safe passage to the Princess Anne and her noble spouse, we will hold at Smithfield a tourney in honor of Saint George and our ladies, wherein, pardie, I myself would be sorely tempted to provoke my jealous countess, and break a lance for the fame of the demoiselle whose fair face is married to a noble heart."
That evening, in the galliard, many an admiring eye turned to Sibyll, and many a young gallant, recalling the earl's words, sighed to win her grace. There had been a time when such honour and such homage would have, indeed, been welcome; but now ONE saw them not, and they were valueless. All that, in her earlier girlhood, Sibyll's ambition had coveted, when musing on the brilliant world, seemed now well-nigh fulfilled,—her father protected by the first noble of the land, and that not with the degrading condescension of the Duchess of Bedford, but as Power alone should protect Genius, honoured while it honours; her gentle birth recognized; her position elevated; fair fortunes smiling after such rude trials; and all won without servility or abasement. But her ambition having once exhausted itself in a diviner passion, all excitement seemed poor and spiritless compared to the lonely waiting at the humble farm for the voice and step of Hastings. Nay, but for her father's sake, she could almost have loathed the pleasure and the pomp, and the admiration and the homage, which seemed to insult the reverses of the wandering exile.
The earl had designed to place Sibyll among Isabel's ladies, but the haughty air of the duchess chilled the poor girl; and pleading the excuse that her father's health required her constant attendance, she prayed permission to rest with Warner wherever he might be lodged. Adam himself, now that the Duchess of Bedford and Friar Bungey were no longer in the Tower, entreated permission to return to the place where he had worked the most successfully upon the beloved Eureka; and, as the Tower seemed a safer residence than any private home could be, from popular prejudice and assault, Warwick kindly offered apartments, far more commodious than they had yet occupied, to be appropriated to the father and daughter. Several attendants were assigned to them, and never was man of letters or science more honoured now than the poor scholar who, till then, had been so persecuted and despised.
Who shall tell Adam's serene delight? Alchemy and astrology at rest, no imperious duchess, no hateful Bungey, his free mind left to its congenial labours! And Sibyll, when they met, strove to wear a cheerful brow, praying him only never to speak to her of Hastings. The good old man, relapsing into his wonted mechanical existence, hoped she had forgotten a girl's evanescent fancy.
But the peculiar distinction showed by the earl to Warner confirmed the reports circulated by Bungey,—"that he was, indeed, a fearful nigromancer, who had much helped the earl in his emprise." The earl's address to his guests in behalf both of Warner and Sibyll, the high state accorded to the student, reached even the Sanctuary; for the fugitives there easily contrived to learn all the gossip of the city. Judge of the effect the tale produced upon the envious Bungey! judge of the representations it enabled him to make to the credulous duchess! It was clear now to Jacquetta as the sun in noonday that Warwick rewarded the evil-predicting astrologer for much dark and secret service, which Bungey, had she listened to him, might have frustrated; and she promised the friar that, if ever again she had the power, Warner and the Eureka should be placed at his sole mercy and discretion.
The friar himself, however, growing very weary of the dulness of the Sanctuary, and covetous of the advantages enjoyed by Adam, began to meditate acquiescence in the fashion of the day, and a transfer of his allegiance to the party in power. Emboldened by the clemency of the victors, learning that no rewards for his own apprehension had been offered, hoping that the stout earl would forget or forgive the old offence of the waxen effigies, and aware of the comparative security his friar's gown and cowl afforded him, he resolved one day to venture forth from his retreat. He even flattered himself that he could cajole Adam—whom he really believed the possessor of some high and weird secrets, but whom otherwise he despised as a very weak creature—into forgiving his past brutalities, and soliciting the earl to take him into favour.
At dusk, then, and by the aid of one of the subalterns of the Tower, whom he had formerly made his friend, the friar got admittance into Warner's chamber. Now it so chanced that Adam, having his own superstitions, had lately taken it into his head that all the various disasters which had befallen the Eureka, together with all the little blemishes and defects that yet marred its construction, were owing to the want of the diamond bathed in the mystic moonbeams, which his German authority had long so emphatically prescribed; and now that a monthly stipend far exceeding his wants was at his disposal, and that it became him to do all possible honour to the earl's patronage, he resolved that the diamond should be no longer absent from the operations it was to influence. He obtained one of passable size and sparkle, exposed it the due number of nights to the new moon, and had already prepared its place in the Eureka, and was contemplating it with solemn joy, when Bungey entered.
"Mighty brother," said the friar, bowing to the ground, "be merciful as thou art strong! Verily thou hast proved thyself the magician, and I but a poor wretch in comparison,—for lo! thou art rich and honoured, and I poor and proscribed. Deign to forgive thine enemy, and take him as thy slave by right of conquest. Oh, Cogsbones! oh, Gemini! what a jewel thou hast got!"
"Depart! thou disturbest me," said Adam, oblivious, in his absorption, of the exact reasons for his repugnance, but feeling indistinctly that something very loathsome and hateful was at his elbow; and, as he spoke, he fitted the diamond into its socket.
"What! a jewel, a diamond—in the—in the—in the—MECHANICAL!" faltered the friar, in profound astonishment, his mouth watering at the sight. If the Eureka were to be envied before, how much more enviable now. "If ever I get thee again, O ugly talisman," he muttered to himself, "I shall know where to look for something better than a pot to boil eggs."
"Depart, I say!" repeated Adam, turning round at last, and shuddering as he now clearly recognized the friar, and recalled his malignity. "Darest thou molest me still?"
The friar abjectly fell on his knees, and, after a long exordium of penitent excuses, entreated the scholar to intercede in his favour with the earl.
"I want not all thy honours and advancement, great Adam, I want only to serve thee, trim thy furnace, and hand thee thy tools, and work out my apprenticeship under thee, master. As for the earl, he will listen to thee, I know, if thou tellest him that I had the trust of his foe, the duchess; that I can give him all her closest secrets; that I—"
"Avaunt! Thou art worse than I deemed thee, wretch! Cruel and ignorant I knew thee,—and now mean and perfidious! I work with thee! I commend to the earl a living disgrace to the name of scholar! Never! If thou wantest bread and alms, those I can give, as a Christian gives to want; but trust and honour, and learned repute and noble toils, those are not for the impostor and the traitor. There, there, there!" And he ran to the closet, took out a handful of small coins, thrust them into the friar's hands, and, pushing him to the door, called to the servants to see his visitor to the gates. The friar turned round with a scowl. He did not dare to utter a threat, but he vowed a vow in his soul, and went his way.
It chanced, some days after this, that Adam, in one of his musing rambles about the precincts of the Tower, which (since it was not then inhabited as a palace) was all free to his rare and desultory wanderings, came by some workmen employed in repairing a bombard; and as whatever was of mechanical art always woke his interest, he paused, and pointed out to them a very simple improvement which would necessarily tend to make the balls go farther and more direct to their object. The principal workman, struck with his remarks, ran to one of the officers of the Tower; the officer came to listen to the learned man, and then went to the earl of Warwick to declare that Master Warner had the most wonderful comprehension of military mechanism. The earl sent for Warner, seized at once upon the very simple truth he suggested as to the proper width of the bore, and holding him in higher esteem than he had ever done before, placed some new cannon he was constructing under his superintendence. As this care occupied but little of his time, Warner was glad to show gratitude to the earl, looking upon the destructive engines as mechanical contrivances, and wholly unconscious of the new terror he gave to his name.
Soon did the indignant and conscience-stricken Duchess of Bedford hear, in the Sanctuary, that the fell wizard she had saved from the clutches of Bungey was preparing the most dreadful, infallible, and murtherous instruments of war against the possible return of her son-in-law!
Leaving Adam to his dreams, and his toils, and his horrible reputation, we return to the world upon the surface,—the Life of Action.
CHAPTER II. THE PROSPERITY OF THE OUTER SHOW—THE CARES OF THE INNER MAN.
The position of the king-maker was, to a superficial observer, such as might gratify to the utmost the ambition and the pride of man. He had driven from the land one of the most gorgeous princes and one of the boldest warriors that ever sat upon a throne. He had changed a dynasty without a blow. In the alliances of his daughters, whatever chanced, it seemed certain that by one or the other his posterity would be the kings of England.
The easiness of his victory appeared to prove of itself that the hearts of the people were with him; and the parliament that he hastened to summon confirmed by law the revolution achieved by a bloodless sword. [Lingard, Hume, etc.]
Nor was there aught abroad which menaced disturbance to the peace at home. Letters from the Countess of Warwick and Lady Anne announced their triumphant entry at Paris, where Margaret of Anjou was received with honours never before rendered but to a queen of France.
A solemn embassy, meanwhile, was preparing to proceed from Paris to London to congratulate Henry, and establish a permanent treaty of peace and commerce, [Rymer, xi., 682-690] while Charles of Burgundy himself (the only ally left to Edward) supplicated for the continuance of amicable relations with England, stating that they were formed with the country, not with any special person who might wear the crown; [Hume, Comines] and forbade his subjects by proclamation to join any enterprise for the recovery of his throne which Edward might attempt.
The conduct of Warwick, whom the parliament had declared, conjointly with Clarence, protector of the realm during the minority of the Prince of Wales, was worthy of the triumph he had obtained. He exhibited now a greater genius for government than he had yet displayed; for all his passions were nerved to the utmost, to consummate his victory and sharpen his faculties. He united mildness towards the defeated faction with a firmness which repelled all attempt at insurrection. [Habington.]
In contrast to the splendour that surrounded his daughter Anne, all accounts spoke of the humiliation to which Charles subjected the exiled king; and in the Sanctuary, amidst homicides and felons, the wife of the earl's defeated foe gave birth to a male child, baptized and christened (says the chronicler) "as the son of a common man." For the Avenger and his children were regal authority and gorgeous pomp, for the fugitive and his offspring were the bread of the exile, or the refuge of the outlaw.
But still the earl's prosperity was hollow, the statue of brass stood on limbs of clay. The position of a man with the name of subject, but the authority of king, was an unpopular anomaly in England. In the principal trading-towns had been long growing up that animosity towards the aristocracy of which Henry VII. availed himself to raise a despotism (and which, even in our day, causes the main disputes of faction); but the recent revolution was one in which the towns had had no share. It was a revolution made by the representative of the barons and his followers. It was connected with no advancement of the middle class; it seemed to the men of commerce but the violence of a turbulent and disappointed nobility. The very name given to Warwick's supporters was unpopular in the towns. They were not called the Lancastrians, or the friends of King Henry,—they were styled then, and still are so, by the old chronicler, "The Lord's Party." Most of whatever was still feudal—the haughtiest of the magnates, the rudest of the yeomanry, the most warlike of the knights—gave to Warwick the sanction of their allegiance; and this sanction was displeasing to the intelligence of the towns.
Classes in all times have a keen instinct of their own class-interests. The revolution which the earl had effected was the triumph of aristocracy; its natural results would tend to strengthen certainly the moral, and probably the constitutional, power already possessed by that martial order. The new parliament was their creature, Henry VI. was a cipher, his son a boy with unknown character, and according to vulgar scandal, of doubtful legitimacy, seemingly bound hand and foot in the trammels of the archbaron's mighty House; the earl himself had never scrupled to evince a distaste to the change in society which was slowly converting an agricultural into a trading population.
It may be observed, too, that a middle class as rarely unites itself with the idols of the populace as with the chiefs of a seignorie. The brute attachment of the peasants and the mobs to the gorgeous and lavish earl seemed to the burgesses the sign of a barbaric clanship, opposed to that advance in civilization towards which they half unconsciously struggled.
And here we must rapidly glance at what, as far as a statesman may foresee, would have been the probable result of Warwick's ascendancy, if durable and effectual. If attached, by prejudice and birth, to the aristocracy, he was yet by reputation and habit attached also to the popular party,—that party more popular than the middle class,—the majority, the masses. His whole life had been one struggle against despotism in the crown. Though far from entertaining such schemes as in similar circumstances might have occurred to the deep sagacity of an Italian patrician for the interest of his order, no doubt his policy would have tended to this one aim,—the limitation of the monarchy by the strength of an aristocracy endeared to the agricultural population, owing to that population its own powers of defence, with the wants and grievances of that population thoroughly familiar, and willing to satisfy the one and redress the other: in short, the great baron would have secured and promoted liberty according to the notions of a seigneur and a Norman, by making the king but the first nobleman of the realm. Had the policy lasted long enough to succeed, the subsequent despotism, which changed a limited into an absolute monarchy under the Tudors, would have been prevented, with all the sanguinary reaction in which the Stuarts were the sufferers. The earl's family, and his own "large father-like heart," had ever been opposed to religious persecution; and timely toleration to the Lollards might have prevented the long-delayed revenge of their posterity, the Puritans. Gradually, perhaps, might the system he represented (of the whole consequences of which he was unconscious) have changed monarchic into aristocratic government, resting, however, upon broad and popular institutions; but no doubt, also, the middle, or rather the commercial class, with all the blessings that attend their power, would have risen much more slowly than when made as they were already, partially under Edward IV., and more systematically under Henry VIL, the instrument for destroying feudal aristocracy, and thereby establishing for a long and fearful interval the arbitrary rule of the single tyrant. Warwick's dislike to the commercial biases of Edward was, in fact, not a patrician prejudice alone. It required no great sagacity to perceive that Edward had designed to raise up a class that, though powerful when employed against the barons, would long be impotent against the encroachments of the crown; and the earl viewed that class not only as foes to his own order, but as tools for the destruction of the ancient liberties.
Without presuming to decide which policy, upon the whole, would have been the happier for England,—the one that based a despotism on the middle class, or the one that founded an aristocracy upon popular affection,—it was clear to the more enlightened burgesses of the great towns, that between Edward of York and the Earl of Warwick a vast principle was at stake, and the commercial king seemed to them a more natural ally than the feudal baron; and equally clear it is to us, now, that the true spirit of the age fought for the false Edward, and against the honest earl.
Warwick did not, however, apprehend any serious results from the passive distaste of the trading towns. His martial spirit led him to despise the least martial part of the population. He knew that the towns would not rise in arms so long as their charters were respected; and that slow, undermining hostility which exists only in opinion, his intellect, so vigorous in immediate dangers, was not far-sighted enough to comprehend. More direct cause for apprehension would there have been to a suspicious mind in the demeanour of the earl's colleague in the Protectorate,—the Duke of Clarence. It was obviously Warwick's policy to satisfy this weak but ambitious person. The duke was, as before agreed, declared heir to the vast possessions of the House of York. He was invested with the Lieutenancy of Ireland, but delayed his departure to his government till the arrival of the Prince of Wales. The personal honours accorded him in the mean while were those due to a sovereign; but still the duke's brow was moody, though, if the earl noticed it, Clarence rallied into seeming cheerfulness, and reiterated pledges of faith and friendship.
The manner of Isabel to her father was varying and uncertain: at one time hard and cold; at another, as if in the reaction of secret remorse, she would throw herself into his arms, and pray him, weepingly, to forgive her wayward humours. But the curse of the earl's position was that which he had foreseen before quitting Amboise, and which, more or less, attends upon those who from whatever cause suddenly desert the party with which all their associations, whether of fame or friendship, have been interwoven. His vengeance against one had comprehended many still dear to him. He was not only separated from his old companions in arms, but he had driven their most eminent into exile. He stood alone amongst men whom the habits of an active life had indissolubly connected, in his mind, with recollections of wrath and wrong. Amidst that princely company which begirt him, he hailed no familiar face. Even many of those who most detested Edward (or rather the Woodvilles) recoiled from so startling a desertion to the Lancastrian foe. It was a heavy blow to a heart already bruised and sore, when the fiery Raoul de Fulke, who had so idolized Warwick, that, despite his own high lineage, he had worn his badge upon his breast, sought him at the dead of night, and thus said,—
"Lord of Salisbury and Warwick, I once offered to serve thee as a vassal, if thou wouldst wrestle with lewd Edward for the crown which only a manly brow should wear; and hadst thou now returned, as Henry of Lancaster returned of old, to gripe the sceptre of the Norman with a conqueror's hand, I had been the first to cry, 'Long live King Richard, namesake and emulator of Coeur de Lion!' But to place upon the throne yon monk-puppet, and to call on brave hearts to worship a patterer of aves and a counter of beads; to fix the succession of England in the adulterous offspring of Margaret, the butcher-harlot [One of the greatest obstacles to the cause of the Red Rose was the popular belief that the young prince was not Henry's son. Had that belief not been widely spread and firmly maintained, the lords who arbitrated between Henry VI. and Richard Duke of York, in October, 1460, could scarcely have come to the resolution to set aside the Prince of Wales altogether, to accord Henry the crown for his life, and declare the Duke of York his heir. Ten years previously (in November, 1450), before the young prince was born or thought of, and the proposition was really just and reasonable, it was moved in the House of Commons to declare Richard Duke of York next heir to Henry; which, at least, by birthright, he certainly was; but the motion met with little favour and the mover was sent to the Tower.]; to give the power of the realm to the men against whom thou thyself hast often led me to strive with lance and battle-axe, is to open a path which leads but to dishonour, and thither Raoul de Fulke follows not even the steps of the Lord of Warwick. Interrupt me not! speak not! As thou to Edward, so I now to thee, forswear allegiance, and I bid thee farewell forever!"
"I pardon thee," answered Warwick; "and if ever thou art wronged as I have been, thy heart will avenge me. Go!" But when this haughty visitor was gone, the earl covered his face with his hands, and groaned aloud. A defection perhaps even more severely felt came next. Katherine de Bonville had been the earl's favourite sister; he wrote to her at the convent to which she had retired, praying her affectionately to come to London, "and cheer his vexed spirit, and learn the true cause, not to be told by letter, which had moved him to things once farthest from his thought." The messenger came back, the letter unopened; for Katherine had left the convent, and fled into Burgundy, distrustful, as it seemed to Warwick, of her own brother. The nature of this lion-hearted man was, as we have seen, singularly kindly, frank, and affectionate; and now in the most critical, the most anxious, the most tortured period of his life, confidence and affection were forbidden to him. What had he not given for one hour of the soothing company of his wife, the only being in the world to whom his pride could have communicated the grief of his heart, or the doubts of his conscience! Alas! never on earth should he hear that soft voice again! Anne, too, the gentle, childlike Anne, was afar; but she was happy,—a basker in the brief sunshine, and blind to the darkening clouds. His elder child, with her changeful moods, added but to his disquiet and unhappiness. Next to Edward, Warwick of all the House of York had loved Clarence, though a closer and more domestic intimacy had weakened the affection by lessening the esteem. But looking further into the future, he now saw in this alliance the seeds of many a rankling sorrow. The nearer Anne and her spouse to power and fame, the more bitter the jealousy of Clarence and his wife. Thus, in the very connections which seemed most to strengthen his House, lay all which must destroy the hallowed unity and peace of family and home.
The Archbishop of York had prudently taken no part whatever in the measures that had changed the dynasty. He came now to reap the fruits; did homage to Henry VI., received the Chancellor's seals, and recommenced intrigues for the Cardinal's hat. But between the bold warrior and the wily priest there could be but little of the endearment of brotherly confidence and love. With Montagu alone could the earl confer in cordiality and unreserve; and their similar position, and certain points of agreement in their characters, now more clearly brought out and manifest, served to make their friendship for each other firmer and more tender, in the estrangement of all other ties, than ever it had been before. But the marquis was soon compelled to depart from London, to his post as warden of the northern marches; for Warwick had not the rash presumption of Edward, and neglected no precaution against the return of the dethroned king.
So there, alone, in pomp and in power, vengeance consummated, ambition gratified, but love denied; with an aching heart and a fearless front; amidst old foes made prosperous, and old friends alienated and ruined, stood the king-maker! and, day by day, the untimely streaks of gray showed more and more amidst the raven curls of the strong man.
CHAPTER III. FURTHER VIEWS INTO THE HEART OF MAN, AND THE CONDITIONS OF POWER.
But woe to any man who is called to power with exaggerated expectations of his ability to do good! Woe to the man whom the populace have esteemed a popular champion, and who is suddenly made the guardian of law! The Commons of England had not bewailed the exile of the good earl simply for love of his groaning table and admiration of his huge battle-axe,—it was not merely either in pity, or from fame, that his "name had sounded in every song," and that, to use the strong expression of the chronicler, the people "judged that the sun was clearly taken from the world when he was absent."
They knew him as one who had ever sought to correct the abuses of power, to repair the wrongs of the poor; who even in war had forbidden his knights to slay the common men. He was regarded, therefore, as a reformer; and wonderful indeed were the things, proportioned to his fame and his popularity, which he was expected to accomplish; and his thorough knowledge of the English character, and experience of every class,—especially the lowest as the highest,—conjoined with the vigour of his robust understanding, unquestionably enabled him from the very first to put a stop to the lawless violences which had disgraced the rule of Edward. The infamous spoliations of the royal purveyors ceased; the robber-like excesses of the ruder barons and gentry were severely punished; the country felt that a strong hand held the reins of power. But what is justice when men ask miracles? The peasant and mechanic were astonished that wages were not doubled, that bread was not to be had for asking, that the disparities of life remained the same,—the rich still rich, the poor still poor. In the first days of the revolution, Sir Geoffrey Gates, the freebooter, little comprehending the earl's merciful policy, and anxious naturally to turn a victory into its accustomed fruit of rapine and pillage, placed himself at the head of an armed mob, marched from Kent to the suburbs of London, and, joined by some of the miscreants from the different Sanctuaries, burned and pillaged, ravished and slew. The earl quelled this insurrection with spirit and ease; [Hall, Habington] and great was the praise he received thereby. But all-pervading is the sympathy the poor feel for the poor. And when even the refuse of the populace once felt the sword of Warwick, some portion of the popular enthusiasm must have silently deserted him.
Robert Hilyard, who had borne so large a share in the restoration of the Lancastrians, now fixed his home in the metropolis; and anxious as ever to turn the current to the popular profit, he saw with rage and disappointment that as yet no party but the nobles had really triumphed. He had longed to achieve a revolution that might be called the People's; and he had abetted one that was called "the Lord's doing." The affection he had felt for Warwick arose principally from his regarding him as an instrument to prepare society for the more democratic changes he panted to effect; and, lo! he himself had been the instrument to strengthen the aristocracy. Society resettled after the storm, the noble retained his armies, the demagogue had lost his mobs! Although through England were scattered the principles which were ultimately to destroy feudalism, to humble the fierce barons into silken lords, to reform the Church, to ripen into a commonwealth through the representative system,—the principles were but in the germ; and when Hilyard mingled with the traders or the artisans of London, and sought to form a party which might comprehend something of steady policy and definite object, he found himself regarded as a visionary fanatic by some, as a dangerous dare-devil by the rest. Strange to say, Warwick was the only man who listened to him with attention; the man behind the age and the man before the age ever have some inch of ground in common both desired to increase liberty; both honestly and ardently loved the masses; but each in the spirit of his order,—Warwick defended freedom as against the throne, Hilyard as against the barons. Still, notwithstanding their differences, each was so convinced of the integrity of the other,—that it wanted only a foe in the field to unite them as before. The natural ally of the popular baron was the leader of the populace.
Some minor, but still serious, griefs added to the embarrassment of the earl's position. Margaret's jealousy had bound him to defer all rewards to lords and others, and encumbered with a provisional council all great acts of government, all grants of offices, lands, or benefits. [Sharon Turner] And who knows not the expectations of men after a successful revolution? The royal exchequer was so empty that even the ordinary household was suspended; [See Ellis: Original Letters from Harleian Manuscripts, second series, vol. i., letter 42.] and as ready money was then prodigiously scarce, the mighty revenues of Warwick barely sufficed to pay the expenses of the expedition which, at his own cost, had restored the Lancastrian line. Hard position, both to generosity and to prudence, to put off and apologize to just claims and valiant service!
With intense, wearying, tortured anxiety, did the earl await the coming of Margaret and her son. The conditions imposed on him in their absence crippled all his resources. Several even of the Lancastrian nobles held aloof, while they saw no authority but Warwick's. Above all, he relied upon the effect that the young Prince of Wales's presence, his beauty, his graciousness, his frank spirit—mild as his fathers, bold as his grandsire's—would create upon all that inert and neutral mass of the public, the affection of which, once gained, makes the solid strength of a government. The very appearance of that prince would at once dispel the slander on his birth. His resemblance to his heroic grandfather would suffice to win him all the hearts by which, in absence, he was regarded as a stranger, a dubious alien. How often did the earl groan forth, "If the prince were but here, all were won!" Henry was worse than a cipher,—he was an eternal embarrassment. His good intentions, his scrupulous piety, made him ever ready to interfere. The Church had got hold of him already, and prompted him to issue proclamations against the disguised Lollards, which would have lost him at one stroke half his subjects. This Warwick prevented, to the great discontent of the honest prince. The moment required all the prestige that an imposing presence and a splendid court could bestow. And Henry, glad of the poverty of his exchequer, deemed it a sin to make a parade of earthly glory. "Heaven will punish me again," said he, meekly, "if, just delivered from a dungeon, I gild my unworthy self with all the vanities of perishable power."
There was not a department which the chill of this poor king's virtue did not somewhat benumb. The gay youths, who had revelled in the alluring court of Edward IV., heard, with disdainful mockery, the grave lectures of Henry on the length of their lovelocks and the beakers of their shoes. The brave warriors presented to him for praise were entertained with homilies on the guilt of war. Even poor Adam was molested and invaded by Henry's pious apprehensions that he was seeking, by vain knowledge, to be superior to the will of Providence.
Yet, albeit perpetually irritating and chafing the impetuous spirit of the earl, the earl, strange to say, loved the king more and more. This perfect innocence, this absence from guile and self-seeking, in the midst of an age never excelled for fraud, falsehood, and selfish simulation, moved Warwick's admiration as well as pity. Whatever contrasted Edward IV. had a charm for him. He schooled his hot temper, and softened his deep voice, in that holy presence; and the intimate persuasion of the hollowness of all worldly greatness, which worldly greatness itself had forced upon the earl's mind, made something congenial between the meek saint and the fiery warrior. For the hundredth time groaned Warwick, as he quitted Henry's presence,—
"Would that my gallant son-in-law were come! His spirit will soon learn how to govern; then Warwick may be needed no more! I am weary, sore weary of the task of ruling men!"
"Holy Saint Thomas!" bluntly exclaimed Marmaduke, to whom these sad words were said,—"whenever you visit the king you come back—pardon me, my lord—half unmanned. He would make a monk of you!"
"Ah," said Warwick, thoughtfully, "there have been greater marvels than that. Our boldest fathers often died the meekest shavelings. An' I had ruled this realm as long as Henry,—nay, an' this same life I lead now were to continue two years, with its broil and fever,—I could well conceive the sweetness of the cloister and repose. How sets the wind? Against them still! against them still! I cannot bear this suspense!"
The winds had ever seemed malignant to Margaret of Anjou, but never more than now. So long a continuance of stormy and adverse weather was never known in the memory of man; and we believe that it has scarcely its parallel in history.
The earl's promise to restore King Henry was fulfilled in October. From November to the following April, Margaret, with the young and royal pair, and the Countess of Warwick, lay at the seaside, waiting for a wind. [Fabyan, 502.] Thrice, in defiance of all warnings from the mariners of Harfleur, did she put to sea, and thrice was she driven back on the coast of Normandy, her ships much damaged. Her friends protested that this malice of the elements was caused by sorcery, [Hall, Warkworth Chronicle]—a belief which gained ground in England, exhilarated the Duchess of Bedford, and gave new fame to Bungey, who arrogated all the merit, and whose weather wisdom, indeed, had here borne out his predictions. Many besought Margaret not to tempt Providence, not to trust the sea; but the queen was firm to her purpose, and her son laughed at omens,—yet still the vessels could only leave the harbour to be driven back upon the land.
Day after day the first question of Warwick, when the sun rose, was, "How sets the wind?" Night after night, ere he retired to rest, "Ill sets the wind!" sighed the earl. The gales that forbade the coming of the royal party sped to the unwilling lingerers courier after courier, envoy after envoy; and at length Warwick, unable to bear the sickening suspense at distance, went himself to Dover [Hall], and from its white cliffs looked, hour by hour, for the sails which were to bear "Lancaster and its fortunes." The actual watch grew more intolerable than the distant expectation, and the earl sorrowfully departed to his castle of Warwick, at which Isabel and Clarence then were. Alas! where the old smile of home?