The garden, if bare of flowers, supplied their place by the various and brilliant-coloured garbs of the living beauties assembled on its straight walks and smooth sward. Under one of those graceful cloisters, which were the taste of the day, and had been recently built and gayly decorated, the earl was stopped in his path by a group of ladies playing at closheys (ninepins) of ivory; [Narrative of Louis of Bruges, Lord Grauthuse. Edited by Sir F. Madden, "Archaelogia," 1836.] and one of these fair dames, who excelled the rest in her skill, had just bowled down the central or crowned pin,—the king of the closheys. This lady, no less a person than Elizabeth, the Queen of England, was then in her thirty-sixth year,—ten years older than her lord; but the peculiar fairness and delicacy of her complexion still preserved to her beauty the aspect and bloom of youth. From a lofty headgear, embroidered with fleur-de-lis, round which wreathed a light diadem of pearls, her hair, of the pale yellow considered then the perfection of beauty, flowed so straight and so shining down her shoulders, almost to the knees, that it seemed like a mantle of gold. The baudekin stripes (blue and gold) of her tunic attested her royalty. The blue courtpie of satin was bordered with ermine, and the sleeves, sitting close to an arm of exquisite contour, shone with seed pearls. Her features were straight and regular, yet would have been insipid, but for an expression rather of cunning than intellect; and the high arch of her eyebrows, with a slight curve downward of a mouth otherwise beautiful, did not improve the expression, by an addition of something supercilious and contemptuous, rather than haughty or majestic.
"My lord of Warwick," said Elizabeth, pointing to the fallen closhey, "what would my enemies say if they heard I had toppled down the king?"
"They would content themselves with asking which of your Grace's brothers you would place in his stead," answered the hardy earl, unable to restrain the sarcasm.
The queen blushed, and glanced round her ladies with an eye which never looked direct or straight upon its object, but wandered sidelong with a furtive and stealthy expression, that did much to obtain for her the popular character of falseness and self-seeking. Her displeasure was yet more increased by observing the ill-concealed smile which the taunt had called forth.
"Nay, my lord," she said, after a short pause, "we value the peace of our roiaulme too much for so high an ambition. Were we to make a brother even the prince of the closheys, we should disappoint the hopes of a Nevile."
The earl disdained pursuing the war of words, and answering coldly, "The Neviles are more famous for making ingrates than asking favours. I leave your Highness to the closheys"—turned away, and strode towards the king, who, at the opposite end of the garden, was reclining on a bench beside a lady, in whose ear, to judge by her downcast and blushing cheek, he was breathing no unwelcome whispers.
"Mort-Dieu!" muttered the earl, who was singularly exempt, himself, from the amorous follies of the day, and eyed them with so much contempt that it often obscured his natural downright penetration into character, and never more than when it led him afterwards to underrate the talents of Edward IV.,—"Mort-Dieu! if, an hour before the battle of Towton, some wizard had shown me in his glass this glimpse of the gardens of the Tower, that giglet for a queen, and that squire of dames for a king, I had not slain my black destrier (poor Malech!), that I might conquer or die for Edward Earl of March."
"But see!" said the lady, looking up from the enamoured and conquering eyes of the king, "art thou not ashamed, my lord?—the grim earl comes to chide thee for thy faithlessness to thy queen, whom he loves so well."
"Pasque-Dieu! as my cousin Louis of France says or swears," answered the king, with an evident petulance in his altered voice, "I would that Warwick could be only worn with one's armour! I would as lief try to kiss through my vizor as hear him talk of glory and Towton, and King John and poor Edward II., because I am not always in mail. Go! leave us, sweet bonnibel! we must brave the bear alone!" The lady inclined her head, drew her hood round her face, and striking into the contrary path from that in which Warwick was slowly striding, gained the group round the queen, whose apparent freedom from jealousy, the consequence of cold affections and prudent calculation, made one principal cause of the empire she held over the powerful mind, but the indolent temper, of the gay and facile Edward.
The king rose as Warwick now approached him; and the appearance of these two eminent persons was in singular contrast. Warwick, though richly and even gorgeously attired,—nay, with all the care which in that age was considered the imperative duty a man of station and birth owed to himself,—held in lofty disdain whatever vagary of custom tended to cripple the movements or womanize the man. No loose flowing robes, no shoon half a yard long, no flaunting tawdriness of fringe and aiglet, characterized the appearance of the baron, who, even in peace, gave his address a half-martial fashion.
But Edward, who, in common with all the princes of the House of York, carried dress to a passion, had not only reintroduced many of the most effeminate modes in vogue under William the Red King, but added to them whatever could tend to impart an almost oriental character to the old Norman garb. His gown (a womanly garment which had greatly superseded, with men of the highest rank, not only the mantle but the surcoat) flowed to his heels, trimmed with ermine, and broidered with large flowers of crimson wrought upon cloth-of-gold. Over this he wore a tippet of ermine, and a collar or necklace of uncut jewels set in filigree gold; the nether limbs were, it is true, clad in the more manly fashion of tight-fitting hosen, but the folds of the gown, as the day was somewhat fresh, were drawn around so as to conceal the only part of the dress which really betokened the male sex. To add to this unwarlike attire, Edward's locks of a rich golden colour, and perfuming the whole air with odours, flowed not in curls, but straight to his shoulders, and the cheek of the fairest lady in his court might have seemed less fair beside the dazzling clearness of a complexion at once radiant with health and delicate with youth. Yet, in spite of all this effeminacy, the appearance of Edward IV. was not effeminate. From this it was preserved, not only by a stature little less commanding than that of Warwick himself, and of great strength and breadth of shoulder, but also by features, beautiful indeed, but pre-eminently masculine,—large and bold in their outline, and evincing by their expression all the gallantry and daring characteristic of the hottest soldier, next to Warwick, and without any exception the ablest captain, of the age.
"And welcome,—a merry welcome, dear Warwick, and cousin mine," said Edward, as Warwick slightly bent his proud knee to his king; "your brother, Lord Montagu, has but left us. Would that our court had the same, joyaunce for you as for him."
"Dear and honoured my liege," answered Warwick, his brow smoothing at once,—for his affectionate though hasty and irritable nature was rarely proof against the kind voice and winning smile of his young sovereign,—"could I ever serve you at the court as I can with the people, you would not complain that John of Montagu was a better courtier than Richard of Warwick. But each to his calling. I depart to-morrow for Calais, and thence to King Louis. And, surely, never envoy or delegate had better chance to be welcome than one empowered to treat of an alliance that will bestow on a prince deserving, I trust, his fortunes, the sister of the bravest sovereign in Christian Europe."
"Now, out on thy flattery, my cousin; though I must needs own I provoked it by my complaint of thy courtiership. But thou hast learned only half thy business, good Warwick; and it is well Margaret did not hear thee. Is not the prince of France more to be envied for winning a fair lady than having a fortunate soldier for his brother-in-law?"
"My liege," replied Warwick, smiling, "thou knowest I am a poor judge of a lady's fair cheek, though indifferently well skilled as to the valour of a warrior's stout arm. Algates, the Lady Margaret is indeed worthy in her excellent beauties to become the mother of brave men."
"And that is all we can wring from thy stern lip, man of iron? Well, that must content us. But to more serious matters." And the king, leaning his hand on the earl's arm, and walking with him slowly to and fro the terrace, continued: "Knowest thou not, Warwick, that this French alliance, to which thou hast induced us, displeases sorely our good traders of London?"
"Mort-Dieu!" returned Warwick, bluntly, "and what business have the flat-caps with the marriage of a king's sister? Is it for them to breathe garlic on the alliances of Bourbons and Plantagenets? Faugh! You have spoiled them, good my lord king,—you have spoiled them by your condescensions. Henry IV. staled not his majesty to consultations with the mayor of his city. Henry V. gave the knighthood of the hath to the heroes of Agincourt, not to the vendors of cloth and spices."
"Ah, my poor knights of the Bath!" said Edward, good-humouredly, "wilt thou never let that sore scar quietly over? Ownest thou not that the men had their merits?"
"What the merits were, I weet not," answered the earl,—"unless, peradventure, their wives were comely and young."
"Thou wrongest me, Warwick," said the king, carelessly; "Dame Cook was awry, Dame Philips a grandmother, Dame Jocelyn had lost her front teeth, and Dame Waer saw seven ways at once! But thou forgettest, man, the occasion of those honours,—the eve before Elizabeth was crowned,—and it was policy to make the city of London have a share in her honours. As to the rest," pursued the king, earnestly and with dignity, "I and my House have owed much to London. When the peers of England, save thee and thy friends, stood aloof from my cause, London was ever loyal and true. Thou seest not, my poor Warwick, that these burgesses are growing up into power by the decline of the orders above them. And if the sword is the monarch's appeal for his right, he must look to contented and honoured industry for his buckler in peace. This is policy,—policy, Warwick; and Louis XI. will tell thee the same truths, harsh though they grate in a warrior's ear."
The earl bowed his haughty head, and answered shortly, but with a touching grace, "Be it ever thine, noble king, to rule as it likes thee, and mine to defend with my blood even what I approve not with my brain! But if thou doubtest the wisdom of this alliance, it is not too late yet. Let me dismiss my following, and cross not the seas. Unless thy heart is with the marriage, the ties I would form are threads and cobwebs."
"Nay," returned Edward, irresolutely: "in these great state matters thy wit is elder than mine; but men do say the Count of Charolois is a mighty lord; and the alliance with Burgundy will be more profitable to staple and mart."
"Then, in God's name, so conclude it!" said the earl, hastily, but with so dark a fire in his eyes that Edward, who was observing him, changed countenance; "only ask me not, my liege, to advance such a marriage. The Count of Charolois knows me as his foe—shame were mine did I shun to say where I love, where I hate. That proud dullard once slighted me when we met at his father's court, and the wish next to my heart is to pay back my affront with my battle-axe. Give thy sister to the heir of Burgundy, and forgive me if I depart to my castle of Middleham."
Edward, stung by the sharpness of this reply, was about to answer as became his majesty of king, when Warwick more deliberately resumed: "Yet think well; Henry of Windsor is thy prisoner, but his cause lives in Margaret and his son. There is but one power in Europe that can threaten thee with aid to the Lancastrians; that power is France. Make Louis thy friend and ally, and thou givest peace to thy life and thy lineage; make Louis thy foe, and count on plots and stratagems and treason, uneasy days and sleepless nights. Already thou hast lost one occasion to secure that wiliest and most restless of princes, in rejecting the hand of the Princess Bona. Happily, this loss now can be retrieved. But alliance with Burgundy is war with France,—war more deadly because Louis is a man who declares it not; a war carried on by intrigue and bribe, by spies and minions, till some disaffection ripens the hour when young Edward of Lancaster shall land on thy coasts, with the Oriflamme and the Red Rose, with French soldiers and English malcontents. Wouldst thou look to Burgundy for help?—Burgundy will have enough to guard its own frontiers from the gripe of Louis the Sleepless. Edward, my king, my pupil in arms, Edward, my loved, my honoured liege, forgive Richard Nevile his bluntness, and let not his faults stand in bar of his counsels."
"You are right, as you are ever, safeguard of England, and pillar of my state," said the king, frankly, and pressing the arm he still held. "Go to France and settle all as thou wilt."
Warwick bent low and kissed the hand of his sovereign. "And," said he, with a slight, but a sad smile, "when I am gone, my liege will not repent, will not misthink me, will not listen to my foes, nor suffer merchant and mayor to sigh him back to the mechanics of Flanders?"
"Warwick, thou deemest ill of thy king's kingliness."
"Not of thy kingliness; but that same gracious quality of yielding to counsel which bows this proud nature to submission often makes me fear for thy firmness, when thy will is, won through thy heart. And now, good my liege, forgive me one sentence more. Heaven forefend that I should stand in the way of thy princely favours. A king's countenance is a sun that should shine on all. But bethink thee well, the barons of England are a stubborn and haughty race; chafe not thy most puissant peers by too cold a neglect of their past services, and too lavish a largess to new men."
"Thou aimest at Elizabeth's kin," interrupted Edward, withdrawing his hand from his minister's arm, "and I tell thee once for all times, that I would rather sink again to mine earldom of March, with a subject's right to honour where he loves, than wear crown and wield sceptre without a king's unquestioned prerogative to ennoble the line and blood of one he has deemed worthy of his throne. As for the barons, with whose wrath thou threatenest me, I banish them not. If they go in gloom from my court, why, let them chafe themselves sleek again."
"King Edward," said Warwick, moodily, "tried services merit not this contempt. It is not as the kith of the queen that I regret to see lands and honours lavished upon men rooted so newly to the soil that the first blast of the war-trump will scatter their greenness to the winds; but what sorrows me is to mark those who have fought against thee preferred to the stout loyalty that braved block and field for thy cause. Look round thy court; where are the men of bloody York and victorious Towton?—unrequited, sullen in their strongholds, begirt with their yeomen and retainers. Thou standest—thou, the heir of York—almost alone (save where the Neviles—whom one day thy court will seek also to disgrace and discard—vex their old comrades in arms by their defection)—thou standest almost alone among the favourites and minions of Lancaster. Is there no danger in proving to men that to have served thee is discredit, to have warred against thee is guerdon and grace?"
"Enough of this, cousin," replied the king, with an effort which preserved his firmness. "On this head we cannot agree. Take what else thou wilt of royalty,—make treaties and contract marriages, establish peace or proclaim war; but trench not on my sweetest prerogative to give and to forgive. And now, wilt thou tarry and sup with us? The ladies grow impatient of a commune that detains from their eyes the stateliest knight since the Round Table was chopped into fire-wood."
"No, my liege," said Warwick, whom flattery of this sort rather angered than soothed, "I have much yet to prepare. I leave your Highness to fairer homage and more witching counsels than mine." So saying, he kissed the king's hand, and was retiring, when he remembered his kinsman, whose humble interests in the midst of more exciting topics he had hitherto forgotten, and added, "May I crave, since you are so merciful to the Lancastrians, one grace for my namesake,—a Nevile whose father repented the side he espoused, a son of Sir Guy of Arsdale?"
"Ah," said the king, smiling maliciously, "it pleaseth us much to find that it is easier to the warm heart of our cousin Warwick to preach sententiaries of sternness to his king than to enforce the same by his own practice!"
"You misthink me, sire. I ask not that Marmaduke Nevile should supplant his superiors and elders; I ask not that he should be made baron and peer; I ask only that, as a young gentleman who hath taken no part himself in the wars, and whose father repented his error, your Grace should strengthen your following by an ancient name and a faithful servant. But I should have remembered me that his name of Nevile would have procured him a taunt in the place of advancement."
"Saw man ever so froward a temper?" cried Edward, not without reason. "Why, Warwick, thou art as shrewish to a jest as a woman to advice. Thy kinsman's fortunes shall be my care. Thou sayest thou hast enemies,—I weet not who they be. But to show what I think of them, I make thy namesake and client a gentleman of my chamber. When Warwick is false to Edward, let him think that Warwick's kinsman wears a dagger within reach of the king's heart day and night."
This speech was made with so noble and touching a kindness of voice and manner, that the earl, thoroughly subdued, looked at his sovereign with moistened eyes, and only trusting himself to say,—"Edward, thou art king, knight, gentleman, and soldier; and I verily trow that I love thee best when my petulant zeal makes me anger thee most,"—turned away with evident emotion, and passing the queen and her ladies with a lowlier homage than that with which he had before greeted them, left the garden. Edward's eye followed him musingly. The frank expression of his face vanished, and with the deep breath of a man who is throwing a weight from his heart, he muttered,—
"He loves me,—yes; but will suffer no one else to love me! This must end some day. I am weary of the bondage." And sauntering towards the ladies, he listened in silence, but not apparently in displeasure, to his queen's sharp sayings on the imperious mood and irritable temper of the iron-handed builder of his throne.
CHAPTER III. THE ANTECHAMBER.
As Warwick passed the door that led from the garden, he brushed by a young man, the baudekin stripes of whose vest announced his relationship to the king, and who, though far less majestic than Edward, possessed sufficient of family likeness to pass for a very handsome and comely person; but his countenance wanted the open and fearless expression which gave that of the king so masculine and heroic a character. The features were smaller, and less clearly cut, and to a physiognomical observer there was much that was weak and irresolute in the light blue eyes and the smiling lips which never closed firmly over the teeth. He did not wear the long gown then so much in vogue, but his light figure was displayed to advantage by a vest, fitting it exactly, descending half-way down the thigh, and trimmed at the border and the collar with ermine. The sleeves of the doublet were slit, so as to show the white lawn beneath, and adorned with aiglets and knots of gold.
Over the left arm hung a rich jacket of furs and velvet, something like that adopted by the modern hussar. His hat, or cap, was high and tiara-like, with a single white plume, and the ribbon of the Garter bound his knee. Though the dress of this personage was thus far less effeminate than Edward's, the effect of his appearance was infinitely more so,—partly, perhaps, from a less muscular frame, and partly from his extreme youth; for George Duke of Clarence was then, though initiated not only in the gayeties, but all the intrigues of the court, only in his eighteenth year. Laying his hand, every finger of which sparkled with jewels, on the earl's shoulder—"Hold!" said the young prince, in a whisper, "a word in thy ear, noble Warwick!"
The earl, who, next to Edward, loved Clarence the most of his princely House, and who always found the latter as docile as the other (when humour or affection seized him) was intractable, relaxed into a familiar smile at the duke's greeting, and suffered the young prince to draw him aside from the groups of courtiers with whom the chamber was filled, to the leaning-places (as they were called) of a large mullion window. In the mean while, as they thus conferred, the courtiers interchanged looks, and many an eye of fear and hate was directed towards the stately form of the earl. For these courtiers were composed principally of the kindred or friends of the queen, and though they dared not openly evince the malice with which they retorted Warwick's lofty scorn and undisguised resentment at their new fortunes, they ceased not to hope for his speedy humiliation and disgrace, reeking little what storm might rend the empire, so that it uprooted the giant oak, which still in some measure shaded their sunlight and checked their growth. True, however, that amongst these were mingled, though rarely, men of a hardier stamp and nobler birth,—some few of the veteran friends of the king's great father; and these, keeping sternly and loftily aloof from the herd, regarded Warwick with the same almost reverential and yet affectionate admiration which he inspired amongst the yeomen, peasants, and mechanics,—for in that growing but quiet struggle of the burgesses, as it will often happen in more civilized times, the great Aristocracy and the Populace were much united in affection, though with very different objects; and the Middle and Trading Class, with whom the earl's desire for French alliances and disdain of commerce had much weakened his popularity, alone shared not the enthusiasm of their countrymen for the lion-hearted minister.
Nevertheless, it must here be owned that the rise of Elizabeth's kindred introduced a far more intellectual, accomplished, and literary race into court favour than had for many generations flourished in so uncongenial a soil: and in this ante-chamber feud, the pride of education and mind retaliated with juster sarcasm the pride of birth and sinews.
Amongst those opposed to the earl, and fit in all qualities to be the head of the new movement,—if the expressive modern word be allowed us,—stood at that moment in the very centre of the chamber Anthony Woodville, in right of the rich heiress he had married the Lord Scales. As, when some hostile and formidable foe enters the meads where the flock grazes, the gazing herd gather slowly round their leader, so grouped the queen's faction slowly, and by degrees, round this accomplished nobleman, at the prolonged sojourn of Warwick.
"Gramercy!" said the Lord Scales, in a somewhat affected intonation of voice, "the conjunction of the bear and the young lion is a parlous omen, for the which I could much desire we had a wise astrologer's reading."
"It is said," observed one of the courtiers, "that the Duke of Clarence much affects either the lands or the person of the Lady Isabel."
"A passably fair damozel," returned Anthony, "though a thought or so too marked and high in her lineaments, and wholly unlettered, no doubt; which were a pity, for George of Clarence has some pretty taste in the arts and poesies. But as Occleve hath it—
'Gold, silver, jewel, cloth, beddyng, array,'
would make gentle George amorous of a worse-featured face than high-nosed Isabel; 'strange to spell or rede,' as I would wager my best destrier to a tailor's hobby, the damozel surely is."
"Notest thou yon gaudy popinjay?" whispered the Lord of St. John to one of his Towton comrades, as, leaning against the wall, they overheard the sarcasms of Anthony, and the laugh of the courtiers, who glassed their faces and moods to his. "Is the time so out of joint that Master Anthony Woodville can vent his scurrile japes on the heiress of Salisbury and Warwick in the king's chamber?"
"And prate of spelling and reading as if they were the cardinal virtues?" returned his sullen companion. "By my halidame, I have two fair daughters at home who will lack husbands, I trow, for they can only spin and be chaste,—two maidenly gifts out of bloom with the White Rose."
In the mean while, unwitting, or contemptuous, of the attention they excited, Warwick and Clarence continued yet more earnestly to confer.
"No, George, no," said the earl, who, as the descendant of John of Gaunt, and of kin to the king's blood, maintained, in private, a father's familiarity with the princes of York, though on state occasions, and when in the hearing of others, he sedulously marked his deference for their rank—"no, George, calm and steady thy hot mettle, for thy brother's and England's sake. I grieve as much as thou to hear that the queen does not spare even thee in her froward and unwomanly peevishness. But there is a glamour in this, believe me, that must melt away soon or late, and our kingly Edward recover his senses."
"Glamour!" said Clarence; "thinkest thou, indeed, that her mother, Jacquetta, has bewitched the king? One word of thy belief in such spells, spread abroad amongst the people, would soon raise the same storm that blew Eleanor Cobham from Duke Humphrey's bed, along London streets in her penance-shift."
"Troth," said the earl, indifferently, "I leave such grave questions as these to prelate and priest; the glamour I spoke of is that of a fair face over a wanton heart; and Edward is not so steady a lover that this should never wear out."
"It amates me much, noble cousin, that thou leavest the court in this juncture. The queen's heart is with Burgundy, the city's hate is with France; and when once thou art gone, I fear that the king will be teased into mating my sister with the Count of Charolois."
"Ho!" exclaimed Warwick, with an oath so loud that it rung through the chamber, and startled every ear that heard it. Then, perceiving his indiscretion, he lowered his tone into a deep and hollow whisper, and griped the prince's arm almost fiercely as he spoke.
"Could Edward so dishonour my embassy, so palter and juggle with my faith, so flout me in the eyes of Christendom, I would—I would—" he paused, and relaxed his hold of the duke, and added, with an altered voice—"I would leave his wife and his lemans, and yon things of silk, whom he makes peers (that is easy) but cannot make men, to guard his throne from the grandson of Henry V. But thy fears, thy zeal, thy love for me, dearest prince and cousin, make thee misthink Edward's kingly honour and knightly faith. I go with the sure knowledge that by alliance with France I shut the House of Lancaster from all hope of this roiaulme."
"Hadst thou not better, at least, see my sister Margaret? She has a high spirit, and she thinks thou mightest, at least, woo her assent, and tell her of the good gifts of her lord to be!"
"Are the daughters of York spoiled to this by the manners and guise of a court, in which beshrew me if I well know which the woman and whom the man? Is it not enough to give peace to broad England, root to her brother's stem? Is it not enough to wed the son of a king, the descendant of Charlemagne and Saint Louis? Must I go bonnet in hand and simper forth the sleek personals of the choice of her kith and House; swear the bridegroom's side-locks are as long as King Edward's, and that he bows with the grace of Master Anthony Woodville? Tell her this thyself, gentle Clarence, if thou wilt: all Warwick could say would but anger her ear, if she be the maid thou bespeakest her."
The Duke of Clarence hesitated a moment, and then, colouring slightly, said, "If, then, the daughter's hand be the gift of her kith alone, shall I have thy favour when the Lady Isabel—"
"George," interrupted Warwick, with a fond and paternal smile, "when we have made England safe, there is nothing the son of Richard of York can ask of Warwick in vain. Alas!" he added mournfully, "thy father and mine were united in the same murtherous death, and I think they will smile down on us from their seats in heaven when a happier generation cements that bloody union with a marriage bond!"
Without waiting for further parlance, the earl turned suddenly away, threw his cap on his towering head, and strode right through the centre of the whispering courtiers, who shrunk, louting low, from his haughty path, to break into a hubbub of angry exclamations or sarcastic jests at his unmannerly bearing, as his black plume disappeared in the arch of the vaulted door.
While such the scene in the interior chambers of the palace, Marmaduke, with the frank simpleness which belonged to his youth and training, had already won much favour and popularity, and he was laughing loud with a knot of young men by the shovel-board when Warwick re-entered. The earl, though so disliked by the courtiers more immediately about the person of the king, was still the favourite of the less elevated knights and gentry who formed the subordinate household and retainers; and with these, indeed, his manner, so proud and arrogant to his foes and rivals, relapsed at once into the ease of the manly and idolized chief. He was pleased to see the way made by his young namesake, and lifting his cap, as he nodded to the group and leaned his arm upon Marmaduke's shoulder, he said, "Thanks, and hearty thanks, to you, knights and gentles, for your courteous reception of an old friend's young son. I have our king's most gracious permission to see him enrolled one of the court you grace. Ah, Master Falconer, and how does thy worthy uncle?—braver knight never trod. What young gentleman is yonder?—a new face and a manly one; by your favour, present him. The son of a Savile! Sir, on my return, be not the only Savile who shuns our table of Warwick Court. Master Dacres, commend me to the lady, your mother; she and I have danced many a measure together in the old time,—we all live again in our children. Good den to you, sirs. Marmaduke, follow me to the office,—you lodge in the palace. You are gentleman to the most gracious and, if Warwick lives, to the most puissant of Europe's sovereigns. I shall see Montagu at home; he shall instruct thee in thy duties, and requite thee for all discourtesies on the archery-ground."
BOOK III. IN WHICH THE HISTORY PASSES FROM THE KING'S COURT TO THE STUDENT'S CELL, AND RELATES THE PERILS THAT BEFELL A PHILOSOPHER FOR MEDDLING WITH THE AFFAIRS OF THE WORLD.
CHAPTER I. THE SOLITARY SAGE AND THE SOLITARY MAID.
While such the entrance of Marmaduke Nevile into a court, that if far less intellectual and refined than those of later days, was yet more calculated to dazzle the fancy, to sharpen the wit, and to charm the senses,—for round the throne of Edward IV. chivalry was magnificent, intrigue restless, and pleasure ever on the wing,—Sibyll had ample leisure in her solitary home to muse over the incidents that had preceded the departure of the young guest. Though she had rejected Marmaduke's proffered love, his tone, so suddenly altered, his abrupt, broken words and confusion, his farewell, so soon succeeding his passionate declaration, could not fail to wound that pride of woman which never sleeps till modesty is gone. But this made the least cause of the profound humiliation which bowed down her spirit. The meaning taunt conveyed in the rhyme of the tymbesteres pierced her to the quick; the calm, indifferent smile of the stranger, as he regarded her, the beauty of the dame he attended, woke mingled and contrary feelings, but those of jealousy were perhaps the keenest: and in the midst of all she started to ask herself if indeed she had suffered her vain thoughts to dwell too tenderly upon one from whom the vast inequalities of human life must divide her evermore. What to her was his indifference? Nothing,—yet had she given worlds to banish that careless smile from her remembrance.
Shrinking at last from the tyranny of thoughts till of late unknown, her eye rested upon the gipsire which Alwyn had sent her by the old servant. The sight restored to her the holy recollection of her father, the sweet joy of having ministered to his wants. She put up the little treasure, intending to devote it all to Warner; and after bathing her heavy eyes, that no sorrow of hers might afflict the student, she passed with a listless step into her father's chamber.
There is, to the quick and mercurial spirits of the young, something of marvellous and preternatural in that life within life, which the strong passion of science and genius forms and feeds,—that passion so much stronger than love, and so much more self-dependent; which asks no sympathy, leans on no kindred heart; which lives alone in its works and fancies, like a god amidst his creations.
The philosopher, too, had experienced a great affliction since they met last. In the pride of his heart he had designed to show Marmaduke the mystic operations of his model, which had seemed that morning to open into life; and when the young man was gone, and he made the experiment alone, alas! he found that new progress but involved him in new difficulties. He had gained the first steps in the gigantic creation of modern days, and he was met by the obstacle that baffled so long the great modern sage. There was the cylinder, there the boiler; yet, work as he would, the steam failed to keep the cylinder at work. And now, patiently as the spider re-weaves the broken web, his untiring ardour was bent upon constructing a new cylinder of other materials. "Strange," he said to himself, "that the heat of the mover aids not the movement;" and so, blundering near the truth, he laboured on.
Sibyll, meanwhile, seated herself abstractedly on a heap of fagots piled in the corner, and seemed busy in framing characters on the dusty floor with the point of her tiny slipper. So fresh and fair and young she seemed, in that murky atmosphere, that strange scene, and beside that worn man, that it might have seemed to a poet as if the youngest of the Graces were come to visit Mulciber at his forge.
The man pursued his work, the girl renewed her dreams, the dark evening hour gradually stealing over both. The silence was unbroken, for the forge and the model were now at rest, save by the grating of Adam's file upon the metal, or by some ejaculation of complacency now and then vented by the enthusiast. So, apart from the many-noised, gaudy, babbling world without, even in the midst of that bloody, turbulent, and semi-barbarous time, went on (the one neglected and unknown, the other loathed and hated) the two movers of the ALL that continues the airy life of the Beautiful from age to age,—the Woman's dreaming Fancy and the Man's active Genius.
CHAPTER II. MASTER ADAM WARNER GROWS A MISER, AND BEHAVES SHAMEFULLY.
For two or three days nothing disturbed the outward monotony of the recluse's household. Apparently all had settled back as before the advent of the young cavalier. But Sibyll's voice was not heard singing, as of old, when she passed the stairs to her father's room. She sat with him in his work no less frequently and regularly than before; but her childish spirits no longer broke forth in idle talk or petulant movements, vexing the good man from his absorption and his toils. The little cares and anxieties, which had formerly made up so much of Sibyll's day by forethought of provision for the morrow, were suspended; for the money transmitted to her by Alwyn in return for the emblazoned manuscripts was sufficient to supply their modest wants for months to come. Adam, more and more engrossed in his labours, did not appear to perceive the daintier plenty of his board, nor the purchase of some small comforts unknown for years. He only said one morning, "It is strange, girl, that as that gathers in life (and he pointed to the model), it seems already to provide, to my fantasy, the luxuries it will one day give to us all in truth. Methought my very bed last night seemed wondrous easy, and the coverings were warmer, for I woke not with the cold."
"Ah," thought the sweet daughter, smiling through moist eyes, "while my cares can smooth thy barren path through life, why should I cark and pine?"
Their solitude was now occasionally broken in the evenings by the visits of Nicholas Alwyn. The young goldsmith was himself not ignorant of the simpler mathematics; he had some talent for invention, and took pleasure in the construction of horologes, though, properly speaking, not a part of his trade. His excuse for his visits was the wish to profit by Warner's mechanical knowledge; but the student was so rapt in his own pursuits, that he gave but little instruction to his visitor. Nevertheless Alwyn was satisfied, for he saw Sibyll. He saw her in the most attractive phase of her character,—the loving, patient, devoted daughter; and the view of her household virtues affected more and more his honest English heart. But, ever awkward and embarrassed, he gave no vent to his feelings. To Sibyll he spoke little, and with formal constraint; and the girl, unconscious of her conquest, was little less indifferent to his visits than her abstracted father.
But all at once Adam woke to a sense of the change that had taken place; all at once he caught scent of gold, for his works were brought to a pause for want of some finer and more costly materials than the coins in his own possession (the remnant of Marmaduke's gift) enabled him to purchase. He had stolen out at dusk, unknown to Sibyll, and lavished the whole upon the model; but in vain! The model in itself was, indeed, completed; his invention had mastered the difficulty that it had encountered. But Adam had complicated the contrivance by adding to it experimental proofs of the agency it was intended to exercise. It was necessary in that age, if he were to convince others, to show more than the principle of his engine,—he must show also something of its effects; turn a mill without wind or water, or set in motion some mimic vehicle without other force than that the contrivance itself supplied. And here, at every step, new obstacles arose. It was the misfortune to science in those days, not only that all books and mathematical instruments were enormously dear, but that the students, still struggling into light, through the glorious delusions of alchemy and mysticism, imagined that, even in simple practical operations, there were peculiar virtues in virgin gold and certain precious stones. A link in the process upon which Adam was engaged failed him; his ingenuity was baffled, his work stood still; and in poring again and again over the learned manuscripts—alas! now lost—in which certain German doctors had sought to explain the pregnant hints of Roger Bacon, he found it inculcated that the axle of a certain wheel must be composed of a diamond. Now, in truth, it so happened that Adam's contrivance, which (even without the appliances which were added in illustration of the theory) was infinitely more complicated than modern research has found necessary, did not even require the wheel in question, much less the absent diamond; it happened, also, that his understanding, which, though so obtuse in common life, was in these matters astonishingly clear, could not trace any mathematical operations by which the diamond axle would in the least correct the difficulty that had suddenly started up; and yet the accursed diamond began to haunt him,—the German authority was so positive on the point, and that authority had in many respects been accurate. Nor was this all,—the diamond was to be no vulgar diamond; it was to be endowed, by talismanic skill, with certain properties and virtues; it was to be for a certain number of hours exposed to the rays of the full moon; it was to be washed in a primitive and wondrous elixir, the making of which consumed no little of the finest gold. This diamond was to be to the machine what the soul is to the body,—a glorious, all-pervading, mysterious principle of activity and life. Such were the dreams that obscured the cradle of infant science! And Adam, with all his reasoning powers, big lore in the hard truths of mathematics, was but one of the giant children of the dawn. The magnificent phrases and solemn promises of the mystic Germans got firm hold of his fancy. Night and day, waking or sleeping, the diamond, basking in the silence of the full moon, sparkled before his eyes. Meanwhile all was at a stand. In the very last steps of his discovery he was arrested. Then suddenly looking round for vulgar moneys to purchase the precious gem, and the materials for the soluble elixir, he saw that MONEY had been at work around him,—that he had been sleeping softly and faring sumptuously. He was seized with a divine rage. How had Sibyll dared to secrete from him this hoard; how presumed to waste upon the base body what might have so profited the eternal mind? In his relentless ardour, in his sublime devotion and loyalty to his abstract idea, there was a devouring cruelty, of which this meek and gentle scholar was wholly unconscious. The grim iron model, like a Moloch, ate up all things,—health, life, love; and its jaws now opened for his child. He rose from his bed,—it was daybreak,—he threw on his dressing-robe, he strode into his daughter's room; the gray twilight came through the comfortless, curtainless casement, deep sunk into the wall. Adam did not pause to notice that the poor child, though she had provoked his anger by refitting his dismal chamber, had spent nothing in giving a less rugged frown to her own.
The scanty worm-worn furniture, the wretched pallet, the poor attire folded decently beside,—nothing save that inexpressible purity and cleanliness which, in the lowliest hovel, a pure and maiden mind gathers round it; nothing to distinguish the room of her whose childhood had passed in courts from the but of the meanest daughter of drudgery and toil! No,—he who had lavished the fortunes of his father and big child into the grave of his idea—no—he saw nothing of this self-forgetful penury—the diamond danced before him! He approached the bed; and oh! the contrast of that dreary room and peasant pallet to the delicate, pure, enchanting loveliness of the sleeping inmate. The scanty covering left partially exposed the snow-white neck and rounded shoulder; the face was pillowed upon the arm, in an infantine grace; the face was slightly flushed, and the fresh red lips parted into a smile,—for in her sleep the virgin dreamed,—a happy dream! It was a sight to have touched a father's heart, to have stopped his footstep, and hushed his breath into prayer. And call not Adam hard—unnatural—that he was not then, as men far more harsh than he—for the father at that moment was not in his breast, the human man was gone—he himself, like his model, was a machine of iron!—his life was his one idea!
"Wake, child, wake!" he said, in a loud but hollow voice. "Where is the gold thou hast hidden from me? Wake! confess!"
Roused from her gracious dreams thus savagely, Sibyll started, and saw the eager, darkened face of her father. Its expression was peculiar and undefinable, for it was not threatening, angry, stern; there was a vacancy in the eyes, a strain in the features, and yet a wild, intense animation lighting and pervading all,—it was as the face of one walking in his sleep, and, at the first confusion of waking, Sibyll thought indeed that such was her father's state. But the impatience with which he shook the arm he grasped, and repeated, as he opened convulsively his other hand, "The gold, Sibyll, the gold! Why didst thou hide it from me?" speedily convinced her that her father's mind was under the influence of the prevailing malady that made all its weakness and all its strength.
"My poor father!" she said pityingly, "wilt thou not leave thyself the means whereby to keep strength and health for thine high hopes? Ah, Father, thy Sibyll only hoarded her poor gains for thee!"
"The gold!" said Adam, mechanically, but in a softer voice,—"all—all thou hast! How didst thou get it,—how?"
"By the labours of these hands. Ah, do not frown on me!"
"Thou—the child of knightly fathers—thou labour!" said Adam, an instinct of his former state of gentle-born and high-hearted youth flashing from his eyes. "It was wrong in thee!"
"Dost thou not labour too?"
"Ay, but for the world. Well, the gold!"
Sibyll rose, and modestly throwing over her form the old mantle which lay on the pallet, passed to a corner of the room, and opening a chest, took from it the gipsire, and held it out to her father.
"If it please thee, dear and honoured sir, so be it; and Heaven prosper it in thy hands!"
Before Adam's clutch could close on the gipsire, a rude hand was laid on his shoulder, the gipsire was snatched from Sibyll, and the gaunt, half-clad form of old Madge interposed between the two.
"Eh, sir!" she said, in her shrill, cracked tone, "I thought when I heard your door open, and your step hurrying down, you were after no good deeds. Fie, master, fie! I have clung to you when all reviled, and when starvation within and foul words without made all my hire; for I ever thought you a good and mild man, though little better than stark wode. But, augh! to rob your child thus, to leave her to starve and pine! We old folks are used to it. Look round, look round! I remember this chamber, when ye first came to your father's hall. Saints of heaven! There stood the brave bed all rustling with damask of silk; on those stone walls once hung fine arras of the Flemings,—a marriage gift to my lady from Queen Margaret, and a mighty show to see, and good for the soul's comforts, with Bible stories wrought on it. Eh, sir! don't you call to mind your namesake, Master Adam, in his brave scarlet hosen, and Madam Eve, in her bonny blue kirtle and laced courtpie? and now—now look round, I say, and see what you have brought your child to!"
"Hush! hush! Madge, bush!" cried Sibyll, while Adam gazed in evident perturbation and awakening shame at the intruder, turning his eyes round the room as she spoke, and heaving from time to time short, deep sighs.
"But I will not hush," pursued the old woman; "I will say my say, for I love ye both, and I loved my poor mistress who is dead and gone. Ah, sir, groan! it does you good. And now when this sweet damsel is growing up, now when you should think of saving a marriage dower for her (for no marriage where no pot boils), do you rend from her the little that she has drudged to gain!—She! Oh, out on your heart! And for what,—for what, sir? For the neighbours to set fire to your father's house, and the little ones to—"
"Forbear, woman!" cried Adam, in a voice of thunder; "forbear! Heavens!" And he waved his hand as he spoke, with so unexpected a majesty that Madge was awed into sudden silence, and, darting a look of compassion at Sibyll, she hobbled from the room. Adam stood motionless an instant; but when he felt his child's soft arms round his neck, when he heard her voice struggling against tears, praying him not to heed the foolish words of the old servant,—to take—to take all, that it would be easy to gain more,—the ice of his philosophy melted at once; the man broke forth, and, clasping Sibyll to his heart, and kissing her cheek, her lips, her hands, he faltered out, "No! no! forgive me! Forgive thy cruel father! Much thought has maddened me, I think,—it has indeed! Poor child, poor Sibyll," and he stroked her cheek gently, and with a movement of pathetic pity—"poor child, thou art pale, and so slight and delicate! And this chamber—and thy loneliness—and—ah! my life hath been a curse to thee, yet I meant to bequeath it a boon to all!
"Father, dear father, speak not thus. You break my heart. Here, here, take the gold—or rather, for thou must not venture out to insult again, let me purchase with it what thou needest. Tell me, trust me—"
"No!" exclaimed Adam, with that hollow energy by which a man resolves to impose restraint on himself; "I will not, for all that science ever achieved,—I will not lay this shame on my soul! Spend this gold on thyself, trim this room, buy thee raiment,—all that thou needest,—I order, I command it! And hark thee, if thou gettest more, hide it from me, hide it well; men's desires are foul tempters! I never knew, in following wisdom, that I had a vice. I wake and find myself a miser and a robber!"
And with these words he fled from the girl's chamber, gained his own, and locked the door.
CHAPTER III. A STRANGE VISITOR.—ALL AGES OF THE WORLD BREED WORLD-BETTERS.
Sibyll, whose soft heart bled for her father, and who now reproached herself for having concealed from him her little hoard, began hastily to dress that she might seek him out, and soothe the painful feelings which the honest rudeness of Madge had aroused. But before her task was concluded, there pealed a loud knock at the outer door. She heard the old housekeeper's quivering voice responding to a loud clear tone; and presently Madge herself ascended the stairs to Warner's room, followed by a man whom Sibyll instantly recognized—for he was not one easily to be forgotten—as their protector from the assault of the mob. She drew back hastily as he passed her door, and in some wonder and alarm awaited the descent of Madge. That venerable personage having with some difficulty induced her master to open his door and admit the stranger, came straight into her young lady's chamber. "Cheer up, cheer up, sweetheart," said the old woman; "I think better days will shine soon; for the honest man I have admitted says he is but come to tell Master Warner something that will redound much to his profit. Oh, he is a wonderful fellow, this same Robin! You saw how he turned the cullions from burning the old house!"
"What! you know this man, Madge! What is he, and who?"
Madge looked puzzled. "That is more than I can say, sweet mistress. But though he has been but some weeks in the neighbourhood, they all hold him in high count and esteem. For why—it is said he is a rich man and a kind one. He does a world of good to the poor."
While Sibyll listened to such explanations as Madge could give her, the stranger, who had carefully closed the door of the student's chamber, after regarding Adam for a moment with silent but keen scrutiny, thus began,—
"When last we met, Adam Warner, it was with satchells on our backs. Look well at me!"
"Troth," answered Adam, languidly, for he was still under the deep dejection that had followed the scene with Sibyll, "I cannot call you to mind, nor seems it veritable that our schooldays passed together, seeing that my hair is gray and men call me old; but thou art in all the lustihood of this human life."
"Nathless," returned the stranger, "there are but two years or so between thine age and mine. When thou wert poring over the crabbed text, and pattering Latin by the ell, dost thou not remember a lack-grace good-for-naught, Robert Hilyard, who was always setting the school in an uproar, and was finally outlawed from that boy-world, as he hath been since from the man's world, for inciting the weak to resist the strong?"
"Ah," exclaimed Adam, with a gleam of something like joy on his face, "art thou indeed that riotous, brawling, fighting, frank-hearted, bold fellow, Robert Hilyard? Ha! ha!—those were merry days! I have known none like them—" The old schoolfellows shook hands heartily.
"The world has not fared well with thee in person or pouch, I fear me, poor Adam," said Hilyard; "thou canst scarcely have passed thy fiftieth year, and yet thy learned studies have given thee the weight of sixty; while I, though ever in toil and bustle, often wanting a meal, and even fearing the halter, am strong and hearty as when I shot my first fallow buck in the king's forest, and kissed the forester's pretty daughter. Yet, methinks, Adam, if what I hear of thy tasks be true, thou and I have each been working for one end; thou to make the world other than it is, and I to—"
"What! hast thou, too, taken nourishment from the bitter milk of Philosophy,—thou, fighting Rob?"
"I know not whether it be called philosophy, but marry, Edward of York would call it rebellion; they are much the same, for both war against rules established!" returned Hilyard, with more depth of thought than his careless manner seemed to promise. He paused, and laying his broad brown hand on Warner's shoulder, resumed, "Thou art poor, Adam!"
"Very poor,—very, very!"
"Does thy philosophy disdain gold?"
"What can philosophy achieve without it? She is a hungry dragon, and her very food is gold!"
"Wilt thou brave some danger—thou went ever a fearless boy when thy blood was up, though so meek and gentle—wilt thou brave some danger for large reward?"
"My life braves the scorn of men, the pinchings of famine, and, it may be, the stake and the fagot. Soldiers brave not the dangers that are braved by a wise man in an unwise age!"
"Gramercy! thou hast a hero's calm aspect while thou speakest, and thy words move me! Listen! Thou wert wont, when Henry of Windsor was King of England, to visit and confer with him on learned matters. He is now a captive in the Tower; but his jailers permit him still to receive the visits of pious monks and harmless scholars. I ask thee to pay him such a visit, and for this office I am empowered, by richer men than myself, to award thee the guerdon of twenty broad pieces of gold."
"Twenty!—A mine! a Tmolus!" exclaimed Adam, in uncontrollable glee. "Twenty! O true friend, then my work will be born at last!"
"But hear me further, Adam, for I will not deceive thee; the visit hath its peril! Thou must first see if the mind of King Henry, for king he is, though the usurper wear his holy crown, be clear and healthful. Thou knowest he is subject to dark moods,—suspension of man's reason; and if he be, as his friends hope, sane and right-judging, thou wilt give him certain papers, which, after his hand has signed them, thou wilt bring back to me. If in this thou succeedest, know that thou mayst restore the royalty of Lancaster to the purple and the throne; that thou wilt have princes and earls for favourers and protectors to thy learned life; that thy fortunes and fame are made! Fail, be discovered,—and Edward of York never spares!—thy guerdon will be the nearest tree and the strongest rope!"
"Robert," said Adam, who had listened to this address with unusual attention, "thou dealest with me plainly, and as man should deal with man. I know little of stratagem and polity, wars and kings; and save that King Henry, though passing ignorant in the mathematics, and more given to alchemists than to solid seekers after truth, was once or twice gracious to me, I could have no choice, in these four walls, between an Edward and a Henry on the throne. But I have a king whose throne is in mine own breast, and, alack, it taxeth me heavily, and with sore burdens."
"I comprehend," said the visitor, glancing round the room,—"I comprehend: thou wantest money for thy books and instruments, and thy melancholic passion is thy sovereign. Thou wilt incur the risk?"
"I will," said Adam. "I would rather seek in the lion's den for what I lack than do what I well-nigh did this day."
"What crime was that, poor scholar?" said Robin, smiling.
"My child worked for her bread and my luxuries—I would have robbed her, old schoolfellow. Ha, ha! what is cord and gibbet to one so tempted?"
A tear stood in the bright gray eyes of the bluff visitor. "Ah, Adam," he said sadly, "only by the candle held in the skeleton hand of Poverty can man read his own dark heart. But thou, Workman of Knowledge, hast the same interest as the poor who dig and delve. Though strange circumstance hath made me the servant and emissary of Margaret, think not that I am but the varlet of the great." Hilyard paused a moment, and resumed,—
"Thou knowest, peradventure, that my race dates from an elder date than these Norman nobles, who boast their robber-fathers. From the renowned Saxon Thane, who, free of hand and of cheer, won the name of Hildegardis, [Hildegardis, namely, old German, a person of noble or generous disposition. Wotton's "Baronetage," art. Hilyard, or Hildyard, of Pattrington.] our family took its rise. But under these Norman barons we sank with the nation to which we belonged. Still were we called gentlemen, and still were dubbed knights. But as I grew up to man's estate, I felt myself more Saxon than gentleman, and, as one of a subject and vassal race, I was a son of the Saxon people. My father, like thee, was a man of thought and bookcraft. I dare own to thee that he was a Lollard; and with the religion of those bold foes to priest-vice, goes a spirit that asks why the people should be evermore the spoil and prey of lords and kings. Early in my youth, my father, fearing rack and fagot in England, sought refuge in the Hans town of Lubeck. There I learned grave truths,—how liberty can be won and guarded. Later in life I saw the republics of Italy, and I asked why they were so glorious in all the arts and craft of civil life, while the braver men of France and England seemed as savages by the side of the Florentine burgess, nay, of the Lombard vine-dresser. I saw that, even when those republics fell a victim to some tyrant or podesta, their men still preserved rights and uttered thoughts which left them more free and more great than the Commons of England after all their boasted wars. I came back to my native land and settled in the North, as my franklin ancestry before me. The broad lands of my forefathers had devolved on the elder line, and gave a knight's fee to Sir Robert Hilyard, who fell afterwards at Towton for the Lancastrians. But I had won gold in the far countree, and I took farm and homestead near Lord Warwick's tower of Middleham. The feud between Lancaster and York broke forth; Earl Warwick summoned his retainers, myself amongst them, since I lived upon his land; I sought the great earl, and I told him boldly—him whom the Commons deemed a friend, and a foe to all malfaisance and abuse—I told him that the war he asked me to join seemed to me but a war of ambitious lords, and that I saw not how the Commons were to be bettered, let who would be king. The earl listened and deigned to reason; and when he saw I was not convinced, he left me to my will; for he is a noble chief, and I admired even his angry pride, when he said, 'Let no man fight for Warwick whose heart beats not in his cause.' I lived afterwards to discharge my debt to the proud earl, and show him how even the lion may be meshed, and how even the mouse may gnaw the net. But to my own tragedy. So I quitted those parts, for I feared my own resolution near so great a man; I made a new home not far from the city of York. So, Adam, when all the land around bristled with pike and gisarme, and while my own cousin and namesake, the head of my House, was winning laurels and wasting blood—I, thy quarrelsome, fighting friend—lived at home in peace with my wife and child (for I was now married, and wife and child were dear to me), and tilled my lands. But in peace I was active and astir, for my words inflamed the bosoms of labourers and peasants, and many of them, benighted as they were, thought with me. One day—I was absent from home, selling my grain in the marts of York—one day there entered the village a young captain, a boy-chief, Edward Earl of March, beating for recruits. Dost thou heed me, Adam? Well, man—well, the peasants stood aloof from tromp and banner, and they answered, to all the talk of hire and fame, 'Robin Hilyard tells us we have nothing to gain but blows,—leave us to hew and to delve.' Oh, Adam, this boy, this chief, the Earl of March, now crowned King Edward, made but one reply, 'This Robin Hilyard must be a wise man,—show me his house.' They pointed out the ricks, the barns, the homestead, and in five minutes all—all were in flames. 'Tell the hilding, when he returns, that thus Edward of March, fair to friends and terrible to foes, rewards the coward who disaffects the men of Yorkshire to their chief.' And by the blazing rafters, and the pale faces of the silent crowd, he rode on his way to battle and the throne!"
Hilyard paused, and the anguish of his countenance was terrible to behold.
"I returned to find a heap of ashes; I returned to find my wife a maniac; I returned to find my child—my boy—great God!—he had run to hide himself, in terror at the torches and the grim men; they had failed to discover him, till, too late, his shrieks, amidst the crashing walls, burst on his mother's ear,—and the scorched, mangled, lifeless corpse lay on that mother's bosom!"
Adam rose; his figure was transformed. Not the stooping student, but the knight-descended man, seemed to tower in the murky chamber; his hand felt at his side, as for a sword; he stifled a curse, and Hilyard, in that suppressed low voice which evinces a strong mind in deep emotion, continued his tale.
"Blessed be the Divine Intercessor, the mother of the dead died too! Behold me, a lonely, ruined, wifeless, childless wretch! I made all the world my foe! The old love of liberty (alone left me) became a crime; I plunged into the gloom of the forest, a robber-chief, sparing—no, never-never—never one York captain, one spurred knight, one belted lord! But the poor, my Saxon countrymen, they had suffered, and were safe!
"One dark twilight—thou hast heard the tale, every village minstrel sets it to his viol—a majestic woman, a hunted fugitive, crossed my path; she led a boy in her hand, a year or so younger than my murdered child. 'Friend!' said the woman, fearlessly, 'save the son of your king; I am Margaret, Queen of England!' I saved them both. From that hour the robber-chief, the Lollard's son, became a queen's friend. Here opened, at least, vengeance against the fell destroyer. Now see you why I seek you, why tempt you into danger? Pause, if you will, for my passion heats my blood,—and all the kings since Saul, it may be, are not worth one scholar's life! And yet," continued Hilyard, regaining his ordinary calm tone, "and yet, it seemeth to me, as I said at first, that all who labour have in this a common cause and interest with the poor. This woman-king, though bloody man, with his wine-cups and his harlots, this usurping York—his very existence flaunts the life of the sons of toil. In civil war and in broil, in strife that needs the arms of the people, the people shall get their own."
"I will go," said Adam, and he advanced to the door. Hilyard caught his arm. "Why, friend, thou hast not even the documents, and how wouldst thou get access to the prison? Listen to me; or," added the conspirator, observing poor Adam's abstracted air, "or let me rather speak a word to thy fair daughter; women have ready wit, and are the pioneers to the advance of men! Adam, Adam! thou art dreaming!"—He shook the philosopher's arm roughly.
"I heed you," said Warner, meekly.
"The first thing required," renewed Hilyard, "is a permit to see King Henry. This is obtained either from the Lord Worcester, governor of the Tower, a cruel man, who may deny it, or the Lord Hastings, Edward's chamberlain, a humane and gentle one, who will readily grant it. Let not thy daughter know why thou wouldst visit Henry; let her suppose it is solely to make report of his health to Margaret; let her not know there is scheming or danger,—so, at least, her ignorance will secure her safety. But let her go to the lord chamberlain, and obtain the order for a learned clerk to visit the learned prisoner—to—ha! well thought of—this strange machine is, doubtless, the invention of which thy neighbours speak; this shall make thy excuse; thou wouldst divert the prisoner with thy mechanical—comprehendest thou, Adam?"
"Ah, King Henry will see the model, and when he is on the throne—"
"He will protect the scholar!" interrupted Hilyard. "Good! good! Wait here; I will confer with thy daughter." He gently pushed aside Adam, opened the door, and on descending the stairs, found Sibyll by the large casement where she had stood with Marmaduke, and heard the rude stave of the tymbesteres.
The anxiety the visit of Hilyard had occasioned her was at once allayed, when he informed her that he had been her father's schoolmate, and desired to become his friend. And when he drew a moving picture of the exiled condition of Margaret and the young prince, and their natural desire to learn tidings of the health of the deposed king, her gentle heart, forgetting the haughty insolence with which her royal mistress had often wounded and chilled her childhood, felt all the generous and compassionate sympathy the conspirator desired to awaken. "The occasion," added Hilyard, "for learning the poor captive's state now offers! He hath heard of your father's labours; he desires to learn their nature from his own lips. He is allowed to receive, by an order from King Edward's chamberlain, the visits of those scholars in whose converse he was ever wont to delight. Wilt thou so far aid the charitable work as to seek the Lord Hastings, and crave the necessary license? Thou seest that thy father has wayward and abstract moods; he might forget that Henry of Windsor is no longer king, and might give him that title in speaking to Lord Hastings,—a slip of the tongue which the law styles treason."
"Certes," said Sibyll, quickly, "if my father would seek the poor captive, I will be his messenger to my Lord Hastings. But oh, sir, as thou hast known my father's boyhood, and as thou hopest for mercy in the last day, tempt to no danger one so guileless!"
Hilyard winced as he interrupted her hastily,
"There is no danger if thou wilt obtain the license. I will say more,—a reward awaits him, that will not only banish his poverty but save his life."
"Ay! seest thou not, fair mistress, that Adam Warner is dying, not of the body's hunger, but of the soul's? He craveth gold, that his toils may reap their guerdon. If that gold be denied, his toils will fret him to the grave!"
"Alas! alas! it is true."
"That gold he shall honourably win! Nor is this all. Thou wilt see the Lord Hastings: he is less learned, perhaps, than Worcester, less dainty in accomplishments and gifts than Anthony Woodville, but his mind is profound and vast; all men praise him save the queen's kin. He loves scholars; he is mild to distress; he laughs at the superstitions of the vulgar. Thou wilt see the Lord Hastings, and thou mayst interest him in thy father's genius and his fate!"
"There is frankness in thy voice, and I will trust thee," answered Sibyll. "When shall I seek this lord?"
"This day, if thou wilt. He lodges at the Tower, and gives access, it is said, to all who need his offices, or seek succour from his power."
"This day, then, be it!" answered Sibyll, calmly.
Hilyard gazed at her countenance, rendered so noble in its youthful resignation, in its soft firmness of expression, and muttering, "Heaven prosper thee, maiden; we shall meet tomorrow," descended the stairs, and quitted the house.
His heart smote him when he was in the street. "If evil should come to this meek scholar, to that poor child's father, it would be a sore sin to my soul. But no; I will not think it. The saints will not suffer this bloody Edward to triumph long; and in this vast chessboard of vengeance and great ends, we must move men to and fro, and harden our natures to the hazard of the game."
Sibyll sought her father; his mind had flown back to the model. He was already living in the life that the promised gold would give to the dumb thought. True that all the ingenious additions to the engine—additions that were to convince the reason and startle the fancy—were not yet complete (for want, of course, of the diamond bathed in moonbeams); but still there was enough in the inventions already achieved to excite curiosity and obtain encouragement. So, with care and diligence and sanguine hope the philosopher prepared the grim model for exhibition to a man who had worn a crown, and might wear again. But with that innocent and sad cunning which is so common with enthusiasts of one idea, the sublime dwellers of the narrow border between madness and inspiration, Adam, amidst his excitement, contrived to conceal from his daughter all glimpse of the danger he ran, of the correspondence of which he was to be the medium,—or rather, may we think that he had forgotten both! Not the stout Warwick himself, in the roar of battle, thought so little of peril to life and limb as that gentle student, in the reveries of his lonely closet; and therefore, all unsuspicious, and seeing but diversion to Adam's recent gloom of despair, an opening to all his bright prospects, Sibyll attired herself in her holiday garments, drew her wimple closely round her face, and summoning Madge to attend her, bent her way to the Tower. Near York House, within view of the Sanctuary and the Palace of Westminster, they took a boat, and arrived at the stairs of the Tower.
CHAPTER IV. LORD HASTINGS.
William Lord Hastings was one of the most remarkable men of the age. Philip de Comines bears testimony to his high repute for wisdom and virtue. Born the son of a knight of ancient lineage but scanty lands, he had risen, while yet in the prime of life, to a rank and an influence second, perhaps, only to the House of Nevile. Like Lord Montagu, he united in happy combination the talents of a soldier and a courtier. But as a statesman, a schemer, a thinker, Montagu, with all his craft, was inferior to Hastings. In this, the latter had but two equals,—namely, George, the youngest of the Nevile brothers, Archbishop of York; and a boy, whose intellect was not yet fully developed, but in whom was already apparent to the observant the dawn of a restless, fearless, calculating, and subtle genius. That boy, whom the philosophers of Utrecht had taught to reason, whom the lessons of Warwick had trained to arms, was Richard, Duke of Gloucester, famous even now for his skill in the tilt-yard and his ingenuity in the rhetoric of the schools.
The manners of Lord Hastings had contributed to his fortunes. Despite the newness of his honours, even the haughtiest of the ancient nobles bore him no grudge, for his demeanour was at once modest and manly. He was peculiarly simple and unostentatious in his habits, and possessed that nameless charm which makes men popular with the lowly and welcome to the great. [On Edward's accession so highly were the services of Hastings appreciated by the party, that not only the king, but many of the nobility, contributed to render his wealth equal to his new station, by grants of lands and moneys. Several years afterwards, when he went with Edward into France, no less than two lords, nine knights, fifty-eight squires, and twenty gentlemen joined his train.—Dugdale: Baronage, p. 583. Sharon Turner: History of England, vol. iii. p. 380.] But in that day a certain mixture of vice was necessary to success; and Hastings wounded no self-love by the assumption of unfashionable purism. He was regarded with small favour by the queen, who knew him as the companion of Edward in his pleasures, and at a later period accused him of enticing her faithless lord into unworthy affections. And certain it is, that he was foremost amongst the courtiers in those adventures which we call the excesses of gayety and folly, though too often leading to Solomon's wisdom and his sadness. But profligacy with Hastings had the excuse of ardent passions: he had loved deeply, and unhappily, in his earlier youth, and he gave in to the dissipation of the time with the restless eagerness common to strong and active natures when the heart is not at ease; and under all the light fascination of his converse; or the dissipation of his life, lurked the melancholic temperament of a man worthy of nobler things. Nor was the courtly vice of the libertine the only drawback to the virtuous character assigned to Hastings by Comines. His experience of men had taught him something of the disdain of the cynic, and he scrupled not at serving his pleasures or his ambition by means which his loftier nature could not excuse to his clear sense. [See Comines, book vi., for a curious anecdote of what Mr. Sharon Turner happily calls "the moral coquetry" of Hastings,—an anecdote which reveals much of his character.] Still, however, the world, which had deteriorated, could not harden him. Few persons so able acted so frequently from impulse; the impulses were for the most part affectionate and generous, but then came the regrets of caution and experience; and Hastings summoned his intellect to correct the movement of his heart,—in other words, reflection sought to undo what impulse had suggested. Though so successful a gallant, he had not acquired the ruthless egotism of the sensualist; and his conduct to women often evinced the weakness of giddy youth rather than the cold deliberation of profligate manhood. Thus in his veriest vices there was a spurious amiability, a seductive charm; while in the graver affairs of life the intellectual susceptibility of his nature served but to quicken his penetration and stimulate his energies, and Hastings might have said, with one of his Italian contemporaries, "That in subjection to the influences of women he had learned the government of men." In a word, his powers to attract, and his capacities to command, may be guessed by this,—that Lord Hastings was the only man Richard III. seems to have loved, when Duke of Gloucester, [Sir Thomas More, "Life of Edward V.," speaks of "the great love" Richard bore to Hastings.] and the only man he seems to have feared, when resolved to be King of England.
Hastings was alone in the apartments assigned to him in the Tower, when his page, with a peculiar smile, announced to him the visit of a young donzell, who would not impart her business to his attendants.
The accomplished chamberlain looked up somewhat impatiently from the beautiful manuscripts, enriched with the silver verse of Petrarch, which lay open on his table, and after muttering to himself, "It is only Edward to whom the face of a woman never is unwelcome," bade the page admit the visitor. The damsel entered, and the door closed upon her.
"Be not alarmed, maiden," said Hastings, touched by the downcast bend of the hooded countenance, and the unmistakable and timid modesty of his visitor's bearing. "What hast thou to say to me?"
At the sound of his voice, Sibyll Warner started, and uttered a faint exclamation. The stranger of the pastime-ground was before her. Instinctively she drew the wimple yet more closely round her face, and laid her hand upon the bolt of the door as if in the impulse of retreat.
The nobleman's curiosity was roused. He looked again and earnestly on the form that seemed to shrink from his gaze; then rising slowly, he advanced, and laid his band on her arm. "Donzell, I recognize thee," he said, in a voice that sounded cold and stern. "What service wouldst thou ask me to render thee? Speak! Nay! I pray thee, speak."
"Indeed, good my lord," said Sibyll, conquering her confusion; and, lifting her wimple, her dark blue eyes met those bent on her, with fearless truth and innocence, "I knew not, and you will believe me,—I knew not till this moment that I had such cause for gratitude to the Lord Hastings. I sought you but on the behalf of my father, Master Adam Warner, who would fain have the permission accorded to other scholars, to see the Lord Henry of Windsor, who was gracious to him in other days, and to while the duress of that princely captive with the show of a quaint instrument he has invented."
"Doubtless," answered Hastings, who deserved his character (rare in that day) for humanity and mildness—"doubt less it will pleasure me, nor offend his grace the king, to show all courtesy and indulgence to the unhappy gentleman and lord, whom the weal of England condemns us to hold incarcerate. I have heard of thy father, maiden, an honest and simple man, in whom we need not fear a conspirator; and of thee, young mistress, I have heard also, since we parted."
"Of me, noble sir?"
"Of thee," said Hastings, with a smile; and, placing a seat for her, he took from the table an illuminated manuscript. "I have to thank thy friend Master Alwyn for procuring me this treasure!"
"What, my lord!" said Sibyll, and her eyes glistened, "were you—you the—the—"
"The fortunate person whom Alwyn has enriched at so slight a cost? Yes. Do not grudge me my good fortune in this. Thou hast nobler treasures, methinks, to bestow on another!"
"My good lord!"
"Nay, I must not distress thee. And the young gentleman has a fair face; may it bespeak a true heart!"
These words gave Sibyll an emotion of strange delight. They seemed spoken sadly, they seemed to betoken a jealous sorrow; they awoke the strange, wayward woman-feeling, which is pleased at the pain that betrays the woman's influence: the girl's rosy lips smiled maliciously. Hastings watched her, and her face was so radiant with that rare gleam of secret happiness,—so fresh, so young, so pure, and withal so arch and captivating, that hackneyed and jaded as he was in the vulgar pursuit of pleasure, the sight moved better and tenderer feelings than those of the sensualist. "Yes," he muttered to himself, "there are some toys it were a sin to sport with and cast away amidst the broken rubbish of gone passions!"
He turned to the table, and wrote the order of admission to Henry's prison, and as he gave it to Sibyll, he said, "Thy young gallant, I see, is at the court now. It is a perilous ordeal, and especially to one for whom the name of Nevile opens the road to advancement and honour. Men learn betimes in courts to forsake Love for Plutus, and many a wealthy lord would give his heiress to the poorest gentleman who claims kindred to the Earl of Salisbury and Warwick."
"May my father's guest so prosper," answered Sibyll, "for he seems of loyal heart and gentle nature!"
"Thou art unselfish, sweet mistress," said Hastings; and, surprised by her careless tone, he paused a moment: "or art thou, in truth, indifferent? Saw I not thy hand in his, when even those loathly tymbesteres chanted warning to thee for loving, not above thy merits, but, alas, it may be, above thy fortunes?"
Sibyll's delight increased. Oh, then, he had not applied that hateful warning to himself! He guessed not her secret. She blushed, and the blush was so chaste and maidenly, while the smile that went with it was so ineffably animated and joyous, that Hastings exclaimed, with unaffected admiration, "Surely, fair donzell, Petrarch dreamed of thee, when he spoke of the woman-blush and the angel-smile of Laura. Woe to the man who would injure thee! Farewell! I would not see thee too often, unless I saw thee ever."
He lifted her hand to his lips with a chivalrous respect as he spoke; opened the door, and called his page to attend her to the gates.
Sibyll was more flattered by the abrupt dismissal than if he had knelt to detain her. How different seemed the world as her light step wended homeward!
CHAPTER V. MASTER ADAM WARNER AND KING HENRY THE SIXTH.
The next morning Hilyard revisited Warner with the letters for Henry. The conspirator made Adam reveal to him the interior mechanism of the Eureka, to which Adam, who had toiled all night, had appended one of the most ingenious contrivances he had as yet been enabled (sans the diamond) to accomplish, for the better display of the agencies which the engine was designed to achieve. This contrivance was full of strange cells and recesses, in one of which the documents were placed. And there they lay, so well concealed as to puzzle the minutest search, if not aided by the inventor, or one to whom he had communicated the secrets of the contrivance.
After repeated warnings and exhortations to discretion, Hilyard then, whose busy, active mind had made all the necessary arrangements, summoned a stout-looking fellow, whom he had left below, and with his aid conveyed the heavy machine across the garden, to a back lane, where a mule stood ready to receive the burden.
"Suffer this trusty fellow to guide thee, dear Adam; he will take thee through ways where thy brutal neighbours are not likely to meet and molest thee. Call all thy wits to the surface. Speed and prosper!"
"Fear not," said Adam, disdainfully. "In the neighbourhood of kings, science is ever safe. Bless thee, child," and he laid his hand upon Sibyll's head, for she had accompanied them thus far in silence, "now go in."
"I go with thee, Father," said Sibyll, firmly. "Master Hilyard, it is best so," she whispered; "what if my father fall into one of his reveries?"
"You are right: go with him, at least, to the Tower gate. Hard by is the house of a noble dame and a worthy, known to our friend Hugh, where thou mayest wait Master Warner's return. It will not suit thy modesty and sex to loiter amongst the pages and soldiery in the yard. Adam, thy daughter must wend with thee."
Adam had not attended to this colloquy, and mechanically bowing his head, he set off, and was greatly surprised, on gaining the river-side (where a boat was found large enough to accommodate not only the human passengers, but the mule and its burden), to see Sibyll by his side.
The imprisonment of the unfortunate Henry, though guarded with sufficient rigour against all chances of escape, was not, as the reader has perceived, at this period embittered by unnecessary harshness. His attendants treated him with respect, his table was supplied more abundantly and daintily than his habitual abstinence required, and the monks and learned men whom he had favoured, were, we need not repeat, permitted to enliven his solitude with their grave converse.
On the other hand, all attempts at correspondence between Margaret or the exiled Lancastrians and himself had been jealously watched, and when detected, the emissaries had been punished with relentless severity. A man named Hawkins had been racked for attempting to borrow money for the queen from the great London merchant, Sir Thomas Cook. A shoemaker had been tortured to death with red-hot pincers for abetting her correspondence with her allies. Various persons had been racked for similar offences; but the energy of Margaret and the zeal of her adherents were still unexhausted and unconquered.
Either unconscious or contemptuous of the perils to which he was subjected, the student, with his silent companions, performed the voyage, and landed in sight of the Fortress-Palatine. And now Hugh stopped before a house of good fashion, knocked at the door, which was opened by an old servitor, disappeared for a few moments, and returning, informed Sibyll, in a meaning whisper, that the gentlewoman within was a good Lancastrian, and prayed the donzell to rest in her company till Master Warner's return.
Sibyll, accordingly, after pressing her father's hand without fear—for she had deemed the sole danger Adam risked was from the rabble by the way—followed Hugh into a fair chamber, strewed with rushes, where an aged dame, of noble air and aspect, was employed at her broidery frame. This gentlewoman, the widow of a nobleman who had fallen in the service of Henry, received her graciously, and Hugh then retired to complete his commission. The student, the mule, the model, and the porter pursued their way to the entrance of that part of the gloomy palace inhabited by Henry. Here they were stopped, and Adam, after rummaging long in vain for the chamberlain's passport, at last happily discovered it, pinned to his sleeve, by Sibyll's forethought. On this a gentleman was summoned to inspect the order, and in a few moments Adam was conducted to the presence of the illustrious prisoner.
"And what," said a subaltern officer, lolling by the archway of the (now styled) "Bloody Tower," hard by the turret devoted to the prisoner, [The Wakefield Tower] and speaking to Adam's guide, who still mounted guard by the model,—"what may be the precious burden of which thou art the convoy?"
"Marry, sir," said Hugh, who spoke in the strong Yorkshire dialect, which we are obliged to render into intelligible English—"marry, I weet not,—it is some curious puppet-box, or quiet contrivance, that Master Warner, whom they say is a very deft and ingenious personage, is permitted to bring hither for the Lord Henry's diversion."
"A puppet-box!" said the officer, with much animated curiosity. "'Fore the Mass! that must be a pleasant sight. Lift the lid, fellow!"
"Please your honour, I do not dare," returned Hugh,—"I but obey orders."
"Obey mine, then. Out of the way," and the officer lifted the lid of the pannier with the point of his dagger, and peered within. He drew back, much disappointed. "Holy Mother!" said he, "this seemeth more like an instrument of torture than a juggler's merry device. It looks parlous ugly!"
"Hush!" said one of the lazy bystanders, with whom the various gateways and courts of the Palace-Fortress were crowded, "hush—thy cap and thy knee, sir!"
The officer started; and, looking round, perceived a young man of low stature, followed by three or four knights and nobles, slowly approaching towards the arch, and every cap in the vicinity was off, and every knee bowed.
The eye of this young man was already bent, with a searching and keen gaze, upon the motionless mule, standing patiently by the Wakefield Tower; and turning from the mule to the porter, the latter shrunk, and grew pale, at that dark, steady, penetrating eye, which seemed to pierce at once into the secrets and hearts of men.
"Who may this young lord be?" he whispered to the officer.
"Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, man," was the answer. "Uncover, varlet!"
"Surely," said the prince, pausing by the gate, "surely this is no sumpter-mule, bearing provisions to the Lord Henry of Windsor. It would be but poor respect to that noble person, whom, alas the day! his grace the king is unwillingly compelled to guard from the malicious designs of rebels and mischief-seekers, that one not bearing the king's livery should attend to any of the needful wants of so worshipful a lord and guest!"
"My lord," said the officer at the gate, "one Master Adam Warner hath just, by permission, been conducted to the Lord Henry's presence, and the beast beareth some strange and grim-looking device for my lord's diversion."
The singular softness and urbanity which generally characterized the Duke of Gloucester's tone and bearing at that time,—which in a court so full of factions and intrigues made him the enemy of none and seemingly the friend of all, and, conjoined with abilities already universally acknowledged, had given to his very boyhood a pre-eminence of grave repute and good opinion, which, indeed, he retained till the terrible circumstances connected with his accession to the throne, under the bloody name of Richard the Third, roused all men's hearts and reasons into the persuasion that what before had seemed virtue was but dissimulation,—this singular sweetness, we say, of manner and voice, had in it, nevertheless, something that imposed and thrilled and awed. And in truth, in our common and more vulgar intercourse with life, we must have observed, that where external gentleness of bearing is accompanied by a repute for iron will, determined resolution, and a serious, profound, and all-inquiring intellect, it carries with it a majesty wholly distinct from that charm which is exercised by one whose mildness of nature corresponds with the outward humility; and, if it does not convey the notion of falseness, bears the appearance of that perfect self-possession, that calm repose of power, which intimidates those it influences far more than the imperious port and the loud voice. And they who best knew the duke, knew also that, despite this general smoothness of mien, his temperament was naturally irritable, quick, and subject to stormy gusts of passion, the which defects his admirers praised him for labouring hard and sedulously to keep in due control. Still, to a keen observer, the constitutional tendencies of that nervous temperament were often visible, even in his blandest moments, even when his voice was most musical, his smile most gracious. If something stung or excited him, an uneasy gnawing of the nether lip, a fretful playing with his dagger, drawing it up and down from its sheath, [Pol. Virg. 565] a slight twitching of the muscles of the face, and a quiver of the eyelid, betokened the efforts he made at self-command; and now, as his dark eyes rested upon Hugh's pale countenance, and then glanced upon the impassive mule, dozing quietly under the weight of poor Adam's model, his hand mechanically sought his dagger-hilt, and his face took a sinister and sombre expression.
"Thy name, friend?"
"Hugh Withers, please you, my lord duke."
"Um! North country, by thine accent. Dost thou serve this Master Warner?"
"No, my lord, I was only hired with my mule to carry—"
"Ah, true! to carry what thy pannier contains; open it. Holy Paul! a strange jonglerie indeed! This Master Adam Warner,—methinks, I have heard his name—a learned man—um—let me see his safe conduct. Right,—it is Lord Hastings's signature." But still the prince held the passport, and still suspiciously eyed the Eureka and its appliances, which, in their complicated and native ugliness of doors, wheels, pipes, and chimney, were exposed to his view. At this moment, one of the attendants of Henry descended the stairs of the Wakefield Tower, with a request that the model might be carried up to divert the prisoner.
Richard paused a moment, as the officer hesitatingly watched his countenance before giving the desired permission. But the prince, turning to him, and smoothing his brow, said mildly, "Certes! all that can divert the Lord Henry must be innocent pastime. And I am well pleased that he hath this cheerful mood for recreation. It gainsayeth those who would accuse us of rigour in his durance. Yes, this warrant is complete and formal;" and the prince returned the passport to the officer, and walked slowly on through that gloomy arch ever more associated with Richard of Gloucester's memory, and beneath the very room in which our belief yet holds that the infant sons of Edward IV. breathed their last; still, as Gloucester moved, he turned and turned, and kept his eye furtively fixed upon the porter.
"Lovell," he said to one of the gentlemen who attended him, and who was among the few admitted to his more peculiar intimacy, "that man is of the North."
"Well, my lord?"
"The North was always well affected to the Lancastrians. Master Warner hath been accused of witchcraft. Marry, I should like to see his device—um; Master Catesby, come hither,—approach, sir. Go back, and the instant Adam Warner and his contrivance are dismissed, bring them both to me in the king's chamber. Thou understandest? We too would see his device,—and let neither man nor mechanical, when once they reappear, out of thine eye's reach. For divers and subtle are the contrivances of treasonable men!"
Catesby bowed, and Richard, without speaking further, took his way to the royal apartments, which lay beyond the White Tower, towards the river, and are long since demolished.
Meanwhile the porter, with the aid of one of the attendants, had carried the model into the chamber of the august captive. Henry, attired in a loose robe, was pacing the room with a slow step, and his head sunk on his bosom,—while Adam with much animation was enlarging on the wonders of the contrivance he was about to show him. The chamber was commodious, and furnished with sufficient attention to the state and dignity of the prisoner; for Edward, though savage and relentless when his blood was up, never descended into the cool and continuous cruelty of detail.
The chamber may yet be seen,—its shape a spacious octagon; but the walls now rude and bare were then painted and blazoned with scenes from the Old Testament. The door opened beneath the pointed arch in the central side (not where it now does), giving entrance from a small anteroom, in which the visitor now beholds the receptacle for old rolls and papers. At the right, on entering, where now, if our memory mistake not, is placed a press, stood the bed, quaintly carved, and with hangings of damascene. At the farther end the deep recess which faced the ancient door was fitted up as a kind of oratory. And there were to be seen, besides the crucifix and the Mass-book, a profusion of small vessels of gold and crystal, containing the relics, supposed or real, of saint and martyr, treasures which the deposed king had collected in his palmier days at a sum that, in the minds of his followers, had been better bestowed on arms and war-steeds. A young man named Allerton—one of the three gentlemen personally attached to Henry, to whom Edward had permitted general access, and who, in fact, lodged in other apartments of the Wakefield Tower, and might be said to share his captivity—was seated before a table, and following the steps of his musing master, with earnest and watchful eyes.
One of the small spaniels employed in springing game—for Henry, despite his mildness, had been fond of all the sports of the field—lay curled round on the floor, but started up, with a shrill bark, at the entrance of the bearer of the model, while a starling in a cage by the window, seemingly delighted at the disturbance, flapped his wings, and screamed out, "Bad men! Bad world! Poor Henry!"
The captive paused at that cry, and a sad and patient smile of inexpressible melancholy and sweetness hovered over his lips. Henry still retained much of the personal comeliness he possessed at the time when Margaret of Anjou, the theme of minstrel and minne singer, left her native court of poets for the fatal throne of England. But beauty, usually so popular and precious a gift to kings, was not in him of that order which commanded the eye and moved the admiration of a turbulent people and a haughty chivalry. The features, if regular, were small; their expression meek and timid; the form, though tall, was not firm-knit and muscular; the lower limbs were too thin, the body had too much flesh, the delicate hands betrayed the sickly paleness of feeble health; there was a dreamy vagueness in the clear soft blue eyes, and a listless absence of all energy in the habitual bend, the slow, heavy, sauntering tread,—all about that benevolent aspect, that soft voice, that resigned mien, and gentle manner, spoke the exquisite, unresisting goodness, which provoked the lewd to taunt, the hardy to despise, the insolent to rebel; for the foes of a king in stormy times are often less his vices than his virtues.
"And now, good my lord," said Adam, hastening, with eager hands, to assist the bearer in depositing the model on the table—"now will I explain to you the contrivance which it hath cost me long years of patient toil to shape from thought into this iron form."