Katherine smiled faintly, but not in displeasure.
"So gay a presence," she said, "must, I fear me, a little disturb these learners."
Hastings glanced at the prim demureness written on each blooming visage, and replied,—
"You wrong their ardour in such noble studies. I would wager that nothing less than my entering your bower on horseback, with helm on head and lance in rest, could provoke even a smile from one pair of the twenty rosy lips round which, methinks, I behold Cupido hovering in vain!"
The baroness bent her stately brows, and the twenty rosy lips were all tightly pursed up, to prevent the indecorous exhibition which the wicked courtier had provoked. But it would not do: one and all the twenty lips broke into a smile,—but a smile so tortured, constrained, and nipped in the bud, that it only gave an expression of pain to the features it was forbidden to enliven.
"And what brings the Lord Hastings hither?" asked the baroness, in a formal tone.
"Can you never allow for motive the desire of pleasure, fair dame?"
That peculiar and exquisite blush, which at moments changed the whole physiognomy of Katherine, flitted across her smooth cheek, and vanished. She said gravely,—
"So much do I allow it in you, my lord, that hence my question."
"Katherine!" exclaimed Hastings, in a voice of tender reproach, and attempting to seize her hand, forgetful of all other presence save that to which the blush, that spoke of old, gave back the ancient charm.
Katherine cast a hurried and startled glance over the maiden group, and her eye detected on the automaton faces one common expression of surprise. Humbled and deeply displeased, she rose from the awful chair, and then, as suddenly reseating herself, she said, with a voice and lip of the most cutting irony, "My lord chamberlain is, it seems, so habituated to lackey his king amidst the goldsmiths and grocers, that he forgets the form of language and respect of bearing which a noblewoman of repute is accustomed to consider seemly."
Hastings bit his lip, and his falcon eye shot indignant fire.
"Pardon, my Lady of Bonville and Harrington, I did indeed forget what reasons the dame of so wise and so renowned a lord hath to feel pride in the titles she hath won. But I see that my visit hath chanced out of season. My business, in truth, was rather with my lord, whose counsel in peace is as famous as his truncheon in war!"
"It is enough," replied Katherine, with a dignity that rebuked the taunt, "that Lord Bonville has the name of an honest man,—who never rose at court."
"Woman, without one soft woman-feeling!" muttered Hastings, between his ground teeth, as he approached the lady and made his profound obeisance. The words were intended only for Katherine's ear, and they reached it. Her bosom swelled beneath the brocaded gorget, and when the door closed on Hastings, she pressed her hands convulsively together, and her dark eyes were raised upward.
"My child, thou art entangling thy skein," said the lady of Bonville, as she passed one of the maidens, towards the casement, which she opened,—"the air to-day weighs heavily!"
CHAPTER VI. JOY FOR ADAM, AND HOPE FOR SIBYLL—AND POPULAR FRIAR BUNGEY!
Leaping on his palfrey, Hastings rode back to the Tower, dismounted at the gate, passed on to the little postern in the inner court, and paused not till he was in Warner's room. "How now, friend Adam? Thou art idle."
"Lord Hastings, I am ill."
"And thy child not with thee?"
"She is gone to her grace the duchess, to pray her to grant me leave to go home, and waste no more life on making gold."
"Home! Go hence! We cannot hear it! The duchess must not grant it. I will not suffer the king to lose so learned a philosopher."
"Then pray the king to let the philosopher achieve that which is in the power of labour." He pointed to the Eureka. "Let me be heard in the king's council, and prove to sufficing judges what this iron can do for England."
"Is that all? So be it. I will speak to his highness forthwith. But promise that thou wilt think no more of leaving the king's palace."
"Oh, no, no! If I may enter again into mine own palace, mine own royalty of craft and hope, the court or the dungeon all one to me!"
"Father," said Sibyll, entering, "be comforted. The duchess forbids thy departure, but we will yet flee—" She stopped short as she saw Hastings. He approached her timidly, and with so repentant, so earnest a respect in his mien and gesture, that she had not the heart to draw back the fair hand he lifted to his lips.
"No, flee not, sweet donzell; leave not the desert court, without the flower and the laurel, the beauty and the wisdom, that scent the hour, and foretype eternity. I have conferred with thy father,—I will obtain his prayer from the king. His mind shall be free to follow its own impulse, and thou"—he whispered—"pardon—pardon an offence of too much love. Never shall it wound again."
Her eyes, swimming with delicious tears, were fixed upon the floor. Poor child! with so much love, how could she cherish anger? With so much purity, how distrust herself? And while, at least, he spoke, the dangerous lover was sincere. So from that hour peace was renewed between Sibyll and Lord Hastings.—Fatal peace! alas for the girl who loves—and has no mother!
True to his word, the courtier braved the displeasure of the Duchess of Bedford, in inducing the king to consider the expediency of permitting Adam to relinquish alchemy, and repair his model. Edward summoned a deputation from the London merchants and traders, before whom Adam appeared and explained his device. But these practical men at first ridiculed the notion as a madman's fancy, and it required all the art of Hastings to overcome their contempt, and appeal to the native acuteness of the king. Edward, however, was only caught by Adam's incidental allusions to the application of his principle to ships. The merchant-king suddenly roused himself to attention, when it was promised to him that his galleys should cross the seas without sail, and against wind and tide.
"By Saint George!" said he, then, "let the honest man have his whim. Mend thy model, and every saint in the calendar speed thee! Master Heyford, tell thy comely wife that I and Hastings will sup with her to-morrow, for her hippocras is a rare dainty. Good day to you, worshipful my masters. Hastings, come hither; enough of these trifles,—I must confer with thee on matters really pressing,—this damnable marriage of gentle George's!"
And now Adam Warner was restored to his native element of thought; now the crucible was at rest, and the Eureka began to rise from its ruins. He knew not the hate that he had acquired in the permission he had gained; for the London deputies, on their return home, talked of nothing else for a whole week but the favour the king had shown to a strange man, half-maniac, half-conjuror, who had undertaken to devise a something which would throw all the artisans and journeymen out of work! From merchant to mechanic travelled the news, and many an honest man cursed the great scholar, as he looked at his young children, and wished to have one good blow at the head that was hatching such devilish malice against the poor! The name of Adam Warner became a byword of scorn and horror. Nothing less than the deep ditch and strong walls of the Tower could have saved him from the popular indignation; and these prejudices were skilfully fed by the jealous enmity of his fellow-student, the terrible Friar Bungey. This man, though in all matters of true learning and science worthy the utmost contempt Adam could heap upon him, was by no means of despicable abilities in the arts of imposing upon men. In his youth he had been an itinerant mountebank, or, as it was called, tregetour. He knew well all the curious tricks of juggling that then amazed the vulgar, and, we fear, are lost to the craft of our modern necromancers. He could clothe a wall with seeming vines, that vanished as you approached; he could conjure up in his quiet cell the likeness of a castle manned with soldiers, or a forest tenanted by deer. [See Chaucer, House of Time, Book III.; also the account given by Baptista Porta, of his own Magical Delusions, of which an extract may be seen in the "Curiosities of Literature" Art., Dreams at the Dawn of Philosophy.] Besides these illusions, probably produced by more powerful magic lanterns than are now used, the friar had stumbled upon the wondrous effects of animal magnetism, which was then unconsciously practised by the alchemists and cultivators of white or sacred magic. He was an adept in the craft of fortune-telling; and his intimate acquaintance with all noted characters in the metropolis, their previous history and present circumstances, enabled his natural shrewdness to hit the mark, at least now and then, in his oracular predictions. He had taken, for safety and for bread, the friar's robes, and had long enjoyed the confidence of the Duchess of Bedford, the traditional descendant of the serpent-witch, Melusina. Moreover, and in this the friar especially valued himself, Bungey had, in the course of his hardy, vagrant early life, studied, as shepherds and mariners do now, the signs of the weather; and as weather-glasses were then unknown, nothing could be more convenient to the royal planners of a summer chase or a hawking company than the neighbourhood of a skilful predictor of storm and sunshine. In fact, there was no part in the lore of magic which the popular seers found so useful and studied so much as that which enabled them to prognosticate the humours of the sky, at a period when the lives of all men were principally spent in the open air.
The fame of Friar Bungey had travelled much farther than the repute of Adam Warner: it was known in the distant provinces: and many a northern peasant grew pale as he related to his gaping listeners the tales he had heard of the Duchess Jacquetta's dread magician.
And yet, though the friar was an atrocious knave and a ludicrous impostor, on the whole he was by no means unpopular, especially in the metropolis, for he was naturally a jolly, social fellow; he often ventured boldly forth into the different hostelries and reunions of the populace, and enjoyed the admiration he there excited, and pocketed the groats he there collected. He had no pride,—none in the least, this Friar Bungey!—and was as affable as a magician could be to the meanest mechanic who crossed his broad horn palm. A vulgar man is never unpopular with the vulgar. Moreover, the friar, who was a very cunning person, wished to keep well with the mob: he was fond of his own impudent, cheating, burly carcass, and had the prudence to foresee that a time might come when his royal patrons might forsake him, and a mob might be a terrible monster to meet in his path; therefore he always affected to love the poor, often told their fortunes gratis, now and then gave them something to drink, and was esteemed a man exceedingly good-natured, because he did not always have the devil at his back.
Now Friar Bungey had naturally enough evinced from the first a great distaste and jealousy of Adam Warner; but occasionally profiting by the science of the latter, he suffered his resentment to sleep latent till it was roused into fury by learning the express favour shown to Adam by the king, and the marvellous results expected from his contrivance. His envy, then, forbade all tolerance and mercy; the world was not large enough to contain two such giants,—Bungey and Warner, the genius and the quack. To the best of our experience, the quacks have the same creed to our own day. He vowed deep vengeance upon his associate, and spared no arts to foment the popular hatred against him. Friar Bungey would have been a great critic in our day!
But besides his jealousy, the fat friar had another motive for desiring poor Adam's destruction; he coveted his model! True, he despised the model, he jeered the model, he abhorred the model; but, nevertheless, for the model every string in his bowels fondly yearned. He believed that if that model were once repaired, and in his possession, he could do—what he knew not, but certainly all that was wanting to complete his glory, and to bubble the public.
Unconscious of all that was at work against him, Adam threw his whole heart and soul into his labour; and happy in his happiness, Sibyll once more smiled gratefully upon Hastings, from whom the rapture came.
CHAPTER VII. A LOVE SCENE.
More than ever chafed against Katherine, Hastings surrendered himself without reserve to the charm he found in the society of Sibyll. Her confidence being again restored, again her mind showed itself to advantage, and the more because her pride was further roused to assert the equality with rank and gold which she took from nature and from God.
It so often happens that the first love of woman is accompanied with a bashful timidity, which overcomes the effort, while it increases the desire, to shine, that the union of love and timidity has been called inseparable, in the hackneyed language of every love-tale. But this is no invariable rule, as Shakspeare has shown us in the artless Miranda, in the eloquent Juliet, in the frank and healthful Rosalind;—and the love of Sibyll was no common girl's spring-fever of sighs and blushes. It lay in the mind, the imagination, the intelligence, as well as in the heart and fancy. It was a breeze that stirred from the modest leaves of the rose all their diviner odour. It was impossible but what this strong, fresh young nature—with its free gayety when happy, its earnest pathos when sad, its various faculties of judgment and sentiment, and covert play of innocent wit—should not contrast forcibly, in the mind of a man who had the want to be amused and interested, with the cold pride of Katherine, the dull atmosphere in which her stiff, unbending virtue breathed unintellectual air, and still more with the dressed puppets, with painted cheeks and barren talk, who filled up the common world, under the name of women.
His feelings for Sibyll, therefore, took a more grave and respectful colour, and his attentions, if gallant ever, were those of a man wooing one whom he would make his wife, and studying the qualities to which he was disposed to intrust his happiness; and so pure was Sibyll's affection, that she could have been contented to have lived forever thus,—have seen and heard him daily, have talked but the words of friendship though with the thoughts of love; for some passions refine themselves through the very fire of the imagination into which the senses are absorbed, and by the ideal purification elevated up to spirit. Rapt in the exquisite happiness she now enjoyed, Sibyll perceived not, or, if perceiving, scarcely heeded; that the admirers, who had before fluttered round her, gradually dropped off; that the ladies of the court, the damsels who shared her light duties, grew distant and silent at her approach; that strange looks were bent on her; that sometimes when she and Hastings were seen together, the stern frowned and the godly crossed themselves.
The popular prejudices had reacted on the court. The wizard's daughter was held to share the gifts of her sire, and the fascination of beauty was imputed to evil spells. Lord Hastings was regarded—especially by all the ladies he had once courted and forsaken—as a man egregiously bewitched!
One day it chanced that Sibyll encountered Hastings in the walk that girded the ramparts of the Tower. He was pacing musingly, with folded arms, when he raised his eyes and beheld her.
"And whither go you thus alone, fair mistress?"
"The duchess bade me seek the queen, who is taking the air yonder. My lady has received some tidings she would impart to her highness."
"I was thinking of thee, fair damsel, when thy face brightened on my musings; and I was comparing thee to others who dwell in the world's high places, and marvelling at the whims of fortune."
Sibyll smiled faintly, and answered, "Provoke not too much the aspiring folly of my nature. Content is better than ambition."
"Thou ownest thy ambition?" asked Hastings, curiously.
"Ah, sir, who hath it not?"
"But for thy sweet sex ambition has so narrow and cribbed a field."
"Not so; for it lives in others. I would say," continued Sibyll, colouring, fearful that she had betrayed herself, "for example, that so long as my father toils for fame, I breathe in his hope, and am ambitious for his honour."
"And so, if thou wert wedded to one worthy of thee, in his ambition thou wouldst soar and dare?"
"Perhaps," answered Sibyll, coyly.
"But if thou wert wedded to sorrow and poverty and troublous care, thine ambition, thus struck dead, would of consequence strike dead thy love?"
"Nay, noble lord, nay; canst thou so wrong womanhood in me unworthy? for surely true ambition lives not only in the goods of fortune. Is there no nobler ambition than that of the vanity? Is there no ambition of the heart,—an ambition to console, to cheer the griefs of those who love and trust us; an ambition to build a happiness out of the reach of fate; an ambition to soothe some high soul, in its strife with a mean world,—to lull to sleep its pain, to smile to serenity its cares? Oh, methinks a woman's true ambition would rise the bravest when, in the very sight of death itself, the voice of him in whom her glory had dwelt through life should say, 'Thou fearest not to walk to the grave and to heaven by my side!"'
Sweet and thrilling were the tones in which these words were said, lofty and solemn the upward and tearful look with which they closed.
And the answer struck home to the native and original heroism of the listener's nature, before debased into the cynic sourness of worldly wisdom. Never had Katherine herself more forcibly recalled to Hastings the pure and virgin glory of his youth.
"Oh, Sibyll!" he exclaimed passionately, and yielding to the impulse of the moment,—"oh, that for me, as to me, such high words were said! Oh, that all the triumphs of a life men call prosperous were excelled by the one triumph of waking such an ambition in such a heart!"
Sibyll stood before him transformed,—pale, trembling, mute,—and Hastings, clasping her hand and covering it with kisses, said,—
"Dare I arede thy silence? Sibyll, thou lovest me—O Sibyll, speak!"
With a convulsive effort, the girl's lips moved, then closed, then moved again, into low and broken words.
"Why this, why this? Thou hadst promised not to—not to—"
"Not to insult thee by unworthy vows! Nor do I. But as my wife." He paused abruptly, alarmed at his own impetuous words, and scared by the phantom of the world that rose like a bodily thing before the generous impulse, and grinned in scorn of his folly.
But Sibyll heard only that one holy word of WIFE, and so sudden and so great was the transport it called forth, that her senses grew faint and dizzy, and she would have fallen to the earth but for the arms that circled her, and the breast upon which, now, the virgin might veil the blush that did not speak of shame.
With various feelings, both were a moment silent. But oh, that moment! what centuries of bliss were crowded into it for the nobler and fairer nature!
At last, gently releasing herself, she put her hands before her eyes, as if to convince herself she was awake, and then, turning her lovely face full upon the wooer, Sibyll said ingenuously,—
"Oh, my lord—oh, Hastings! if thy calmer reason repent not these words, if thou canst approve in me what thou didst admire in Elizabeth the queen, if thou canst raise one who has no dower but her heart to the state of thy wife and partner, by this hand, which I place fearlessly in thine, I pledge thee to such a love as minstrel hath never sung. No!" she continued, drawing loftily up her light stature,—"no, thou shalt not find me unworthy of thy name,—mighty though it is, mightier though it shall be. I have a mind that can share thine objects, I have pride that can exult in thy power, courage to partake thy dangers, and devotion—" she hesitated, with the most charming blush—"but of that, sweet lord, thou shalt judge hereafter! This is my dowry,—it is all!"
"And all I ask or covet," said Hastings. But his cheek had lost its first passionate glow. Lord of many a broad land and barony, victorious captain in many a foughten field, wise statesman in many a thoughtful stratagem, high in his king's favour, and linked with a nation's history,—William de Hastings at that hour was as far below as earth is to heaven the poor maiden whom he already repented to have so honoured, and whose sublime answer woke no echo from his heart.
Fortunately, as he deemed it, at that very instant he heard many steps rapidly approaching, and his own name called aloud by the voice of the king's body-squire.
"Hark! Edward summons me," he said, with a feeling of reprieve. "Farewell, dear Sibyll, farewell for a brief while,—we shall meet anon."
At this time they were standing in that part of the rampart walk which is now backed by the barracks of a modern soldiery, and before which, on the other side of the moat, lay a space that had seemed solitary and deserted; but as Hastings, in speaking his adieu, hurriedly pressed his lips on Sibyll's forehead, from a tavern without the fortress, and opposite the spot on which they stood, suddenly sallied a disorderly troop of half-drunken soldiers, with a gang of the wretched women that always continue the classic associations of a false Venus with a brutal Mars; and the last words of Hastings were scarcely spoken, before a loud laugh startled both himself and Sibyll, and a shudder came over her when she beheld the tinsel robes of the tymbesteres glittering in the sun, and heard their leader sing, as she darted from the arms of a reeling soldier,—
"Ha! death to the dove Is the falcon's love. Oh, sharp is the kiss of the falcon's beak!"
BOOK VII. THE POPULAR REBELLION.
CHAPTER I. THE WHITE LION OF MARCH SHAKES HIS MANE.
"And what news?" asked Hastings, as he found himself amidst the king's squires; while yet was heard the laugh of the tymbesteres, and yet gliding through the trees might be seen the retreating form of Sibyll.
"My lord, the king needs you instantly. A courier has just arrived from the North. The Lords St. John, Rivers, De Fulke, and Scales are already with his highness."
"In the great council chamber."
To that memorable room [it was from this room that Hastings was hurried to execution, June 13, 1483] in the White Tower, in which the visitor, on entrance, is first reminded of the name and fate of Hastings, strode the unprophetic lord.
He found Edward not reclining on cushions and carpets, not womanlike in loose robes, not with his lazy smile upon his sleek beauty. The king had doffed his gown, and stood erect in the tight tunic, which gave in full perfection the splendid proportions of a frame unsurpassed in activity and strength. Before him, on the long table, lay two or three open letters, beside the dagger with which Edward had cut the silk that bound them. Around him gravely sat Lord Rivers, Anthony Woodville, Lord St. John, Raoul de Fulke, the young and valiant D'Eyncourt, and many other of the principal lords. Hastings saw at once that something of pith and moment had occurred; and by the fire in the king's eye, the dilation of his nostril, the cheerful and almost joyous pride of his mien and brow, the experienced courtier read the signs of WAR.
"Welcome, brave Hastings," said Edward, in a voice wholly changed from its wonted soft affectation,—loud, clear, and thrilling as it went through the marrow and heart of all who heard its stirring and trumpet accent,—"welcome now to the field as ever to the banquet! We have news from the North that bids us brace on the burgonet and buckle-to the brand,—a revolt that requires a king's arm to quell. In Yorkshire fifteen thousand men are in arms, under a leader they call Robin of Redesdale,—the pretext, a thrave of corn demanded by the Hospital of St. Leonard's, the true design that of treason to our realm. At the same time, we hear from our brother of Gloucester, now on the Border, that the Scotch have lifted the Lancaster Rose. There is peril if these two armies meet. No time to lose,—they are saddling our war-steeds; we hasten to the van of our royal force. We shall have warm work, my lords. But who is worthy of a throne that cannot guard it?"
"This is sad tidings indeed, sire," said Hastings, gravely.
"Sad! Say it not, Hastings! War is the chase of kings! Sir Raoul de Fulke, why lookest thou so brooding and sorrowful?"
"Sire, I but thought that had Earl Warwick been in England, this—"
"Ha!" interrupted Edward, haughtily and hastily, "and is Warwick the sun of heaven that no cloud can darken where his face may shine? The rebels shall need no foe, my realm no regent, while I, the heir of the Plantagenets, have the sword for one, the sceptre for the other. We depart this evening ere the sun be set."
"My liege," said the Lord St. John, gravely, "on what forces do you count to meet so formidable an array?"
"All England, Lord of St. John!"
"Alack! my liege, may you not deceive yourself! But in this crisis it is right that your leal and trusty subjects should speak out, and plainly. It seems that these insurgents clamour not against yourself, but against the queen's relations,—yes, my Lord Rivers, against you and your House,—and I fear me that the hearts of England are with them here."
"It is true, sire," put in Raoul de Fulke, boldly; "and if these—new men are to head your armies, the warriors of Towton will stand aloof,—Raoul de Fulke serves no Woodville's banner. Frown not, Lord de Scales! it is the griping avarice of you and yours that has brought this evil on the king. For you the commons have been pillaged; for you the daughters of peers have been forced into monstrous marriages, at war with birth and with nature herself; for you, the princely Warwick, near to the throne in blood, and front and pillar of our time-honoured order of seigneur and of knight, has been thrust from our suzerain's favour. And if now ye are to march at the van of war,—you to be avengers of the strife of which ye are the cause,—I say that the soldiers will lack heart, and the provinces ye pass through will be the country of a foe!"
"Vain man!" began Anthony Woodville, when Hastings laid his hand on his arm, while Edward, amazed at this outburst from two of the supporters on whom he principally counted, had the prudence to suppress his resentment, and remained silent,—but with the aspect of one resolved to command obedience, when he once deemed it right to interfere.
"Hold, Sir Anthony!" said Hastings, who, the moment he found himself with men, woke to all the manly spirit and profound wisdom that had rendered his name illustrious—"hold, and let me have the word; my Lords St. John and De Fulke, your charges are more against me than against these gentlemen, for I am a new man,—a squire by birth, and proud to derive mine honours from the same origin as all true nobility,—I mean the grace of a noble liege and the happy fortune of a soldier's sword. It may be" (and here the artful favourite, the most beloved of the whole court, inclined himself meekly)—"it may be that I have not borne those honours so mildly as to disarm blame. In the war to be, let me atone. My liege, hear your servant: give me no command,—let me be a simple soldier, fighting by your side. My example who will not follow?—proud to ride but as a man of arms along the track which the sword of his sovereign shall cut through the ranks of battle! Not you, Lord de Scales, redoubtable and invincible with lance and axe; let us new men soothe envy by our deeds; and you, Lords St. John and De Fulke, you shall teach us how your fathers led warriors who did not fight more gallantly than we will. And when rebellion is at rest, when we meet again in our suzerain's hall, accuse us new men, if you can find us faulty, and we will answer you as we best may."
This address, which could have come from no man with such effect as from Hastings, touched all present. And though the Woodvilles, father and son, saw in it much to gall their pride, and half believed it a snare for their humiliation, they made no opposition. Raoul de Fulke, ever generous as fiery, stretched forth his hand, and said,—
"Lord Hastings, you have spoken well. Be it as the king wills."
"My lords," returned Edward, gayly, "my will is that ye be friends while a foe is in the field. Hasten, then, I beseech you, one and all, to raise your vassals, and join our standard at Fotheringay. I will find ye posts that shall content the bravest."
The king made a sign to break up the conference, and dismissing even the Woodvilles, was left alone with Hastings.
"Thou hast served me at need, Will;" said the king. "But I shall remember" (and his eye flashed a tiger's fire) "the mouthing of those mock-pieces of the lords at Runnymede. I am no John, to be bearded by my vassals. Enough of them now. Think you Warwick can have abetted this revolt?"
"A revolt of peasants and yeomen! No, sire. If he did so, farewell forever to the love the barons bear him."
"Um! and yet Montagu, whom I dismissed ten days since to the Borders, hearing of disaffection, hath done nought to check it. But come what may, his must be a bold lance that shivers against a king's mail. And now one kiss of my lady Bessee, one cup of the bright canary, and then God and Saint George for the White Rose!"
CHAPTER II. THE CAMP AT OLNEY.
It was some weeks after the citizens of London had seen their gallant king, at the head of such forces as were collected in haste in the metropolis, depart from their walls to the encounter of the rebels. Surprising and disastrous had been the tidings in the interim. At first, indeed, there were hopes that the insurrection had been put down by Montagu, who had defeated the troops of Robin of Redesdale, near the city of York, and was said to have beheaded their leader. But the spirit of discontent was only fanned by an adverse wind. The popular hatred to the Woodvilles was so great, that in proportion as Edward advanced to the scene of action, the country rose in arms, as Raoul de Fulke had predicted. Leaders of lordly birth now headed the rebellion; the sons of the Lords Latimer and Fitzhugh (near kinsmen of the House of Nevile) lent their names to the cause and Sir John Coniers, an experienced soldier, whose claims had been disregarded by Edward, gave to the insurgents the aid of a formidable capacity for war. In every mouth was the story of the Duchess of Bedford's witchcraft; and the waxen figure of the earl did more to rouse the people than perhaps the earl himself could have done in person. [See "Parliamentary Rolls," vi. 232, for the accusation of witchcraft, and the fabrication of a necromantic image of Lord Warwick, circulated against the Duchess of Bedford. She herself quotes and complains of them.] As yet, however, language of the insurgents was tempered with all personal respect to the king; they declared in their manifestoes that they desired only the banishment of the Woodvilles and the recall of Warwick, whose name they used unscrupulously, and whom they declared they were on their way to meet. As soon as it was known that the kinsmen of the beloved earl were in the revolt, and naturally supposed that the earl himself must countenance the enterprise, the tumultuous camp swelled every hour, while knight after knight, veteran after veteran, abandoned the royal standard. The Lord d'Eyncourt (one of the few lords of the highest birth and greatest following over whom the Neviles had no influence, and who bore the Woodvilles no grudge) had, in his way to Lincolnshire,—where his personal aid was necessary to rouse his vassals, infected by the common sedition,—been attacked and wounded by a body of marauders, and thus Edward's camp lost one of its greatest leaders. Fierce dispute broke out in the king's councils; and when the witch Jacquetta's practices against the earl travelled from the hostile into the royal camp, Raoul de Fulke, St. John, and others, seized with pious horror, positively declared they would throw down their arms and retire to their castles, unless the Woodvilles were dismissed from the camp and the Earl of Warwick was recalled to England. To the first demand the king was constrained to yield; with the second he temporized. He marched from Fotheringay to Newark; but the signs of disaffection, though they could not dismay him as a soldier, altered his plans as a captain of singular military acuteness; he fell back on Nottingham, and despatched, with his own hands, letters to Clarence, the Archbishop of York, and Warwick. To the last he wrote touchingly.
"We do not believe" (said the letter) "that ye should be of any such disposition towards us as the rumour here runneth, considering the trust and affection we bear you,—and cousin, we think ye shall be to us welcome." [Paston Letters, ccxcviii. (Knight's edition), vol. ii. p. 59. See also Lingard, vol. iii. p. 522 (4to edition), note 43, for the proper date to be assigned to Edward's letter to Warwick, etc.]
But ere these letters reached their destination, the crown seemed well-nigh lost. At Edgecote the Earl of Pembroke was defeated and slain, and five thousand royalists were left on the field. Earl Rivers and his son, Sir John Woodville, [This Sir John Woodville was the most obnoxious of the queen's brothers, and infamous for the avarice which had led him to marry the old Duchess of Norfolk, an act which according to the old laws of chivalry would have disabled him from entering the lists of knighthood, for the ancient code disqualified and degraded any knight who should marry any old woman for her money! Lord Rivers was the more odious to the people at the time of the insurrection because, in his capacity of treasurer, he had lately tampered with the coin and circulation.] who in obedience to the royal order had retired to the earl's country seat of Grafton, were taken prisoners, and beheaded by the vengeance of the insurgents. The same lamentable fate befell the Lord Stafford, on whom Edward relied as one of his most puissant leaders; and London heard with dismay that the king, with but a handful of troops, and those lukewarm and disaffected, was begirt on all sides by hostile and marching thousands.
From Nottingham, however, Edward made good his retreat to a village called Olney, which chanced at that time to be partially fortified with a wall and a strong gate. Here the rebels pursued him; and Edward, hearing that Sir Anthony Woodville, who conceived that the fate of his father and brother cancelled all motive for longer absence from the contest, was busy in collecting a force in the neighbourhood of Coventry, while other assistance might be daily expected from London, strengthened the fortifications as well as the time would permit, and awaited the assault of the insurgents.
It was at this crisis, and while throughout all England reigned terror and commotion, that one day, towards the end of July, a small troop of horsemen were seen riding rapidly towards the neighbourhood of Olney. As the village came in view of the cavalcade, with the spire of its church and its gray stone gateway, so also they beheld, on the pastures that stretched around wide and far, a moving forest of pikes and plumes.
"Holy Mother!" said one of the foremost riders, "good the knight and strong man though Edward be, it were sharp work to cut his way from that hamlet through yonder fields! Brother, we were more welcome, had we brought more bills and bows at our backs!"
"Archbishop," answered the stately personage thus addressed, "we bring what alone raises armies and disbands them,—a NAME that a People honours! From the moment the White Bear is seen on yonder archway side by side with the king's banner, that army will vanish as smoke before the wind."
"Heaven grant it, Warwick!" said the Duke of Clarence; "for though Edward hath used us sorely, it chafes me as Plantagenet and as prince to see how peasants and varlets can hem round a king."
"Peasants and varlets are pawns in the chessboard, cousin George," said the prelate; "and knight and bishop find them mighty useful when pushing forward to an attack. Now knight and bishop appear themselves and take up the game. Warwick," added the prelate, in a whisper, unheard by Clarence, "forget not, while appeasing rebellion, that the king is in your power."
"For shame, George! I think not now of the unkind king; I think only of the brave boy I dandled on my knee, and whose sword I girded on at Towton. How his lion heart must chafe, condemned to see a foe whom his skill as captain tells him it were madness to confront!"
"Ay, Richard Nevile, ay," said the prelate, with a slight sneer, "play the Paladin, and become the dupe; release the prince, and betray the people!"
"No! I can be true to both. Tush! brother, your craft is slight to the plain wisdom of bold honesty. You slacken your steeds, sirs; on! on! see the march of the rebels! On, for an Edward and a Warwick!" and, spurring to full speed, the little company arrived at the gates. The loud bugle of the new comers was answered by the cheerful note of the joyous warder, while dark, slow, and solemn over the meadows crept on the mighty crowd of the rebel army.
"We have forestalled the insurgents!" said the earl, throwing himself from his black steed. "Marmaduke Nevile, advance our banner; heralds, announce the Duke of Clarence, the Archbishop of York, and the Earl of Salisbury and Warwick."
Through the anxious town, along the crowded walls and housetops, into the hall of an old mansion (that then adjoined the church), where the king, in complete armour, stood at bay, with stubborn and disaffected officers, rolled the thunder cry, "A Warwick! a Warwick! all saved! a Warwick!"
Sharply, as he heard the clamour, the king turned upon his startled council. "Lords and captains!" said he, with that inexpressible majesty which he could command in his happier hours, "God and our Patron Saint have sent us at least one man who has the heart to fight fifty times the odds of yon miscreant rabble, by his king's side, and for the honour of loyalty and knighthood!"
"And who says, sire," answered Raoul de Fulke, "that we, your lords and captains, would not risk blood and life for our king and our knighthood in a just cause? But we will not butcher our countrymen for echoing our own complaint, and praying your Grace that a grasping and ambitious family which you have raised to power may no longer degrade your nobles and oppress your commons. We shall see if the Earl of Warwick blame us or approve."
"And I answer," said Edward, loftily, "that whether Warwick approve or blame, come as friend or foe, I will sooner ride alone through yonder archway, and carve out a soldier's grave amongst the ranks of rebellious war, than be the puppet of my subjects, and serve their will by compulsion. Free am I—free ever will I be, while the crown of the Plantagenet is mine, to raise those whom I love, to defy the threats of those sworn to obey me. And were I but Earl of March, instead of king of England, this hall should have swum with the blood of those who have insulted the friends of my youth, the wife of my bosom. Off, Hastings!—I need no mediator with my servants. Nor here, nor anywhere in broad England, have I my equal, and the king forgives or scorns—construe it as ye will, my lords—what the simple gentleman would avenge."
It were in vain to describe the sensation that this speech produced. There is ever something in courage and in will that awes numbers, though brave themselves. And what with the unquestioned valour of Edward; what with the effect of his splendid person, towering above all present by the head, and moving lightly, with each impulse, through the mass of a mail that few there could have borne unsinking, this assertion of absolute power in the midst of mutiny—an army marching to the gates—imposed an unwilling reverence and sullen silence mixed with anger, that, while it chafed, admired. They who in peace had despised the voluptuous monarch, feasting in his palace, and reclining on the lap of harlot-beauty, felt that in war all Mars seemed living in his person. Then, indeed, he was a king; and had the foe, now darkening the landscape, been the noblest chivalry of France, not a man there but had died for a smile from that haughty lip. But the barons were knit heart in heart with the popular outbreak, and to put down the revolt seemed to them but to raise the Woodvilles. The silence was still unbroken, save where the persuasive whisper of Lord Hastings might be faintly heard in remonstrance with the more powerful or the more stubborn of the chiefs, when the tread of steps resounded without, and, unarmed, bareheaded, the only form in Christendom grander and statelier than the king's strode into the hall.
Edward, as yet unaware what course Warwick would pursue, and half doubtful whether a revolt that had borrowed his name and was led by his kinsmen might not originate in his consent, surrounded by those to whom the earl was especially dear, and aware that if Warwick were against him all was lost, still relaxed not the dignity of his mien; and leaning on his large two-handed sword, with such inward resolves as brave kings and gallant gentlemen form, if the worst should befall, he watched the majestic strides of his great kinsman, and said, as the earl approached, and the mutinous captains louted low,—
"Cousin, you are welcome! for truly do I know that when you have aught whereof to complain, you take not the moment of danger and disaster. And whatever has chanced to alienate your heart from me, the sound of the rebel's trumpet chases all difference, and marries your faith to mine."
"Oh, Edward, my king, why did you so misjudge me in the prosperous hour!" said Warwick, simply, but with affecting earnestness: "since in the adverse hour you arede me well?"
As he spoke, he bowed his head, and, bending his knee, kissed the hand held out to him.
Edward's face grew radiant, and, raising the earl, he glanced proudly at the barons, who stood round, surprised and mute.
"Yes, my lords and sirs, see,—it is not the Earl of Warwick, next to our royal brethren the nearest subject to the throne, who would desert me in the day of peril!"
"Nor do we, sire," retorted Raoul de Fulke; "you wrong us before our mighty comrade if you so misthink us. We will fight for the king, but not for the queen's kindred; and this alone brings on us your anger."
"The gates shall be opened to ye. Go! Warwick and I are men enough for the rabble yonder."
The earl's quick eye and profound experience of his time saw at once the dissension and its causes. Nor, however generous, was he willing to forego the present occasion for permanently destroying an influence which he knew hostile to himself and hurtful to the realm. His was not the generosity of a boy, but of a statesman. Accordingly, as Raoul de Fulke ceased, he took up the word.
"My liege, we have yet an hour good ere the foe can reach the gates. Your brother and mine accompany me. See, they enter! Please you, a few minutes to confer with them; and suffer me, meanwhile, to reason with these noble captains."
Edward paused; but before the open brow of the earl fled whatever suspicion might have crossed the king's mind.
"Be it so, cousin; but remember this,—to councillors who can menace me with desertion at such an hour, I concede nothing."
Turning hastily away, he met Clarence and the prelate midway in the hall, threw his arm caressingly over his brother's shoulder, and, taking the archbishop by the hand, walked with them towards the battlements.
"Well, my friends," said Warwick, "and what would you of the king?"
"The dismissal of all the Woodvilles, except the queen; the revocation of the grants and land accorded to them, to the despoiling the ancient noble; and, but for your presence, we had demanded your recall."
"And, failing these, what your resolve?"
"To depart, and leave Edward to his fate. These granted, we doubt little but that the insurgents will disband. These not granted, we but waste our lives against a multitude whose cause we must approve."
"The cause! But ye know not the real cause," answered Warwick. "I know it; for the sons of the North are familiar to me, and their rising hath deeper meaning than ye deem. What! have they not decoyed to their head my kinsmen, the heirs of Latimer and Fitzhugh, and bold Coniers, whose steel calque should have circled a wiser brain? Have they not taken my name as their battle-cry? And do ye think this falsehood veils nothing but the simple truth of just complaint?"
"Was their rising, then," asked St. John, in evident surprise, "wholly unauthorized by you?"
"So help me Heaven! if I would resort to arms to redress a wrong, think not that I myself would be absent from the field! No, my lords, friends, and captains, time presses; a few words must suffice to explain what as yet may be dark to you. I have letters from Montagu and others, which reached me the same day as the king's, and which clear up the purpose of our misguided countrymen. Ye know well that ever in England, but especially since the reign of Edward III., strange, wild notions of some kind of liberty other than that we enjoy have floated loose through the land. Among the commons, a half-conscious recollection that the nobles are a different race from themselves feeds a secret rancour and mislike, which, at any fair occasion for riot, shows itself bitter and ruthless,—as in the outbreak of Cade and others. And if the harvest fail, or a tax gall, there are never wanting men to turn the popular distress to the ends of private ambition or state design. Such a man has been the true head and front of this commotion."
"Speak you of Robin of Redesdale, now dead?" asked one of the captains.
"He is not dead. [The fate of Robin of Redesdale has been as obscure as most of the incidents in this most perplexed part of English history. While some of the chroniclers finish his career according to the report mentioned in the text, Fabyan not only more charitably prolongs his life, but rewards him with the king's pardon; and according to the annals of his ancient and distinguished family (who will pardon, we trust, a license with one of their ancestry equally allowed by history and romance), as referred to in Wotton's "English Baronetage" (Art. "Hilyard"), and which probably rests upon the authority of the life of Richard III., in Stowe's "Annals," he is represented as still living in the reign of that king. But the whole account of this famous demagogue in Wotton is, it must be owned, full of historical mistakes.] Montagu informs me that the report was false. He was defeated off York, and retired for some days into the woods; but it is he who has enticed the sons of Latimer and Fitzhugh into the revolt, and resigned his own command to the martial cunning of Sir John Coniers. This Robin of Redesdale is no common man. He hath had a clerkly education, he hath travelled among the Free Towns of Italy, he hath deep purpose in all he doth; and among his projects is the destruction of the nobles here, as it was whilome effected in Florence, the depriving us of all offices and posts, with other changes, wild to think of and long to name."
"And we would have suffered this man to triumph!" exclaimed De Fulke: "we have been to blame."
"Under fair pretence he has gathered numbers, and now wields an army. I have reason to know that, had he succeeded in estranging ye from Edward, and had the king fallen, dead or alive, into his hands, his object would have been to restore Henry of Windsor, but on conditions that would have left king and baron little more than pageants in the state. I knew this man years ago. I have watched him since; and, strange though it may seem to you, he hath much in him that I admire as a subject and should fear were I a king. Brief, thus runs my counsel: For our sake and the realm's safety, we must see this armed multitude disbanded; that done, we must see the grievances they with truth complain of fairly redressed. Think not, my lords, I avenge my own wrongs alone, when I go with you in your resolve to banish from the king's councils the baleful influence of the queen's kin. Till that be compassed, no peace for England. As a leprosy, their avarice crawls over the nobler parts of the state, and devours while it sullies. Leave this to me; and, though we will redress ourselves, let us now assist our king!"
With one voice the unruly officers clamoured their assent to all the earl urged, and expressed their readiness to sally at once from the gates, and attack the rebels.
"But," observed an old veteran, "what are we amongst so many? Here a handful—there an army!"
"Fear not, reverend sir," answered Warwick, with an assured smile; "is not this army in part gathered from my own province of Yorkshire? Is it not formed of men who have eaten of my bread and drunk of my cup? Let me see the man who will discharge one arrow at the walls which contain Richard Nevile of Warwick. Now each to your posts,—I to the king."
Like the pouring of new blood into a decrepit body seemed the arrival, at that feeble garrison, of the Earl of Warwick. From despair into the certainty of triumph leaped every heart. Already at the sight of his banner floating by the side of Edward's, the gunner had repaired to his bombard, the archer had taken up his bow; the village itself, before disaffected, poured all its scanty population—women, and age, and children—to the walls. And when the earl joined the king upon the ramparts, he found that able general sanguine and elated, and pointing out to Clarence the natural defences of the place. Meanwhile, the rebels, no doubt apprised by their scouts of the new aid, had already halted in their march, and the dark swarm might be seen indistinctly undulating, as bees ere they settle, amidst the verdure of the plain.
"Well, cousin," said the king, "have ye brought these Hotspurs to their allegiance?"
"Sire, yes," said Warwick, gravely; "but we have here no force to resist yon army."
"Bring you not succours?" said the king, astonished. "You must have passed through London. Have you left no troops upon the road?"
"I had no time, sire; and London is well-nigh palsied with dismay. Had I waited to collect troops, I might have found a king's head blackening over those gates."
"Well," returned Edward, carelessly, "few or many, one gentleman is more worth than a hundred varlets. 'We are eno' for glory,' as Henry said at Agincourt."
"No, sire; you are too skilful and too wise to believe your boast. These men we cannot conquer,—we must disperse them."
"By what spell?"
"By their king's word to redress their complaints."
"And banish my queen?"
"Heaven forbid that man should part those whom God has joined," returned Warwick. "Not my lady, your queen, but my lady's kindred."
"Rivers is dead, and gallant John," said Edward, sadly; "is not that enough for revenge?"
"It is not revenge that we require, but pledges for the land's safety," answered Warwick. "And to be plain, without such a promise these walls may be your tomb."
Edward walked apart, strongly debating within himself. In his character were great contrasts: no man was more frank in common, no man more false when it suited; no man had more levity in wanton love, or more firm affection for those he once thoroughly took to his heart. He was the reverse of grateful for service yielded, yet he was warm in protecting those on whom service was conferred. He was resolved not to give up the Woodvilles, and after a short self-commune, he equally determined not to risk his crown and life by persevering in resistance to the demand for their downfall. Inly obstinate, outwardly yielding, he concealed his falsehood with his usual soldierly grace.
"Warwick," he said, returning to the earl's side, "you cannot advise me to what is misbeseeming, and therefore in this strait I resign my conduct to your hands. I will not unsay to yon mutinous gentlemen what I have already said; but what you judge it right to promise in my name to them or to the insurgents, I will not suppose that mime honour will refuse to concede. But go not hence, O noblest friend that ever stood by a king's throne!—go not hence till the grasp of your hand assures me that all past unkindness is gone and buried; yea, and by this hand, and while its pressure is warm in mine, bear not too hard on thy king's affection for his lady's kindred."
"Sire," said Warwick, though his generous nature well-nigh melted into weakness, and it was with an effort that he adhered to his purpose,—"sire, if dismissed for a while, they shall not be degraded. And if it be, on consideration, wise to recall from the family of Woodville your grants of lands and lordships, take from your Warwick—who, rich in his king's love, hath eno' to spare—take the double of what you would recall. Oh, be frank with me, be true, be steadfast, Edward, and dispose of my lands, whenever you would content a favourite."
"Not to impoverish thee, my Warwick," answered Edward, smiling, "did I call thee to my aid; for the rest, my revenues as Duke of York are at least mine to bestow. Go now to the hostile camp,—go as sole minister and captain-general of this realm; go with all powers and honours a king can give; and when these districts are at peace, depart to our Welsh provinces, as chief justiciary of that principality. Pembroke's mournful death leaves that high post in my gift. It cannot add to your greatness, but it proves to England your sovereign's trust."
"And while that trust is given," said Warwick, with tears in his eyes, "may Heaven strengthen my arm in battle, and sharpen my brain in council! But I play the laggard. The sun wanes westward; it should not go down while a hostile army menaces the son of Richard of York."
The earl rode rapidly away, reached the broad space where his followers still stood, dismounted, but beside their steeds,—
"Trumpets advance, pursuivants and heralds go before! Marmaduke, mount! The rest I need not. We ride to the insurgent camp."
CHAPTER III. THE CAMP OF THE REBELS.
The rebels had halted about a mile from the town, and were already pitching their tents for the night. It was a tumultuous, clamorous, but not altogether undisciplined array; for Coniers was a leader of singular practice in reducing men into the machinery of war, and where his skill might have failed, the prodigious influence and energy of Robin of Redesdale ruled the passions and united the discordant elements. This last was, indeed, in much worthy the respect in which Warwick held his name. In times more ripe for him, he would have been a mighty demagogue and a successful regenerator. His birth was known but to few; his education and imperious temper made him vulgarly supposed of noble origin; but had he descended from a king's loins, Robert Hilyard had still been the son of the Saxon people. Warwick overrated, perhaps, Hilyard's wisdom; for, despite his Italian experience, his ideas were far from embracing any clear and definite system of democracy. He had much of the frantic levelism and jacquerie of his age and land, and could probably not have explained to himself all the changes he desired to effect; but, coupled with his hatred to the nobles, his deep and passionate sympathy with the poor, his heated and fanatical chimeras of a republic, half-political and half-religious, he had, with no uncommon inconsistency, linked the cause of a dethroned king. For as the Covenanters linked with the Stuarts against the succeeding and more tolerant dynasty, never relinquishing their own anti-monarchic theories; as in our time, the extreme party on the popular side has leagued with the extreme of the aristocratic, in order to crush the medium policy, as a common foe,—so the bold leveller united with his zeal for Margaret the very cause which the House of Lancaster might be supposed the least to favour. He expected to obtain from a sovereign dependent upon a popular reaction for restoration, great popular privileges. And as the Church had deserted the Red Rose for the White, he sought to persuade many of the Lollards, ever ready to show their discontent, that Margaret (in revenge on the hierarchy) would extend the protection they had never found in the previous sway of her husband and Henry V. Possessed of extraordinary craft, and even cunning in secular intrigues, energetic, versatile, bold, indefatigable, and, above all, marvellously gifted with the arts that inflame, stir up, and guide the physical force of masses, Robert Hilyard had been, indeed, the soul and life of the present revolt; and his prudent moderation in resigning the nominal command to those whose military skill and high birth raised a riot into the dignity of rebellion, had given that consistency and method to the rising which popular movements never attain without aristocratic aid.
In the principal tent of the encampment the leaders of the insurrection were assembled.
There was Sir John Coniers, who had married one of the Neviles, the daughter of Fauconberg, Lord High Admiral, but who had profited little by this remote connection with Warwick; for, with all his merit, he was a greedy, grasping man, and he had angered the hot earl in pressing his claims too imperiously. This renowned knight was a tall, gaunt man, whose iron frame sixty winters had not bowed. There were the young heirs of Latimer and Fitzhugh, in gay gilded armour and scarlet mantelines; and there, in a plain cuirass, trebly welded, and of immense weight, but the lower limbs left free and unincumbered in thick leathern hose, stood Robin of Redesdale. Other captains there were, whom different motives had led to the common confederacy. There might be seen the secret Lollard, hating either Rose, stern and sour, and acknowledging no leader but Hilyard, whom he knew as a Lollard's son; there might be seen the ruined spendthrift, discontented with fortune, and regarding civil war as the cast of a die,—death for the forfeiture, lordships for the gain; there, the sturdy Saxon squire, oppressed by the little baron of his province, and rather hopeful to abase a neighbour than dethrone a king of whom he knew little, and for whom he cared still less; and there, chiefly distinguished from the rest by grizzled beard, upturned mustache, erect mien, and grave, not thoughtful aspect, were the men of a former period,—the soldiers who had fought against the Maid of Are,—now without place, station, or hope in peaceful times, already half robbers by profession, and decoyed to any standard that promised action, pay, or plunder.
The conclave were in high and warm debate.
"If this be true," said Coniers, who stood at the head of the table, his helmet, axe, truncheon, and a rough map of the walls of Olney before him—"if this be true, if our scouts are not deceived, if the Earl of Warwick is in the village, and if his banner float beside King Edward's,—I say, bluntly, as soldiers should speak, that I have been deceived and juggled!"
"And by whom, Sir Knight and cousin?" said the heir of Fitzhugh, reddening.
"By you, young kinsman, and this hot-mouthed dare-devil, Robin of Redesdale! Ye assured me, both, that the earl approved the rising; that he permitted the levying yon troops in his name; that he knew well the time was come to declare against the Woodvilles, and that no sooner was an army mustered than he would place himself at its bead; and I say, if this be not true, you have brought these gray hairs into dishonour!"
"And what, Sir John Coniers," exclaimed Robin, rudely, "what honour had your gray hairs till the steel cap covered them? What honour, I say, under lewd Edward and his lusty revellers? You were thrown aside, like a broken scythe, Sir John Coniers! You were forsaken in your rust! Warwick himself, your wife's great kinsman, could do nought in your favour! You stand now, leader of thousands, lord of life and death, master of Edward and the throne! We have done this for you, and you reproach us!"
"And," began the heir of Fitzhugh, encouraged by the boldness of Hilyard, "we had all reason to believe my noble uncle, the Earl of Warwick, approved our emprise. When this brave fellow (pointing to Robin) came to inform me that, with his own eyes, he had seen the waxen effigies of my great kinsman, the hellish misdeed of the queen's witch-dam, I repaired to my Lord Montagu; and though that prudent courtier refused to declare openly, he let me see that war with the Woodvilles was not unwelcome to him."
"Yet this same Montagu," observed one of the ringleaders, "when Hilyard was well-nigh at the gates of York, sallied out and defeated him, sans ruth, sans ceremony."
"Yes, but he spared my life, and beheaded the dead body of poor Hugh Withers in my stead: for John Nevile is cunning, and he picks his nuts from the brennen without lesing his own paw. It was not the hour for him to join us, so he beat us civilly, and with discretion. But what hath he done since? He stands aloof while our army swells, while the bull of the Neviles and the ragged staff of the earl are the ensigns of our war, and while Edward gnaws out his fierce heart in yon walls of Olney. How say ye, then, that Warwick, even if now in person with the king, is in heart against us? Nay, he may have entered Olney but to capture the tyrant."
"If so," said Coniers, "all is as it should be: but if Earl Warwick, who, though he hath treated me ill, is a stour carle, and to be feared if not loved, join the king, I break this wand, and ye will seek out another captain."
"And a captain shall be found!" cried Robin. "Are we so poor in valour, that when one man leaves us we are headless and undone? What if Warwick so betray us and himself,—he brings no forces. And never, by God's blessing, should we separate till we have redressed the wrongs of our countrymen!"
"Good!" said the Saxon squire, winking, and looking wise,—"not till we have burned to the ground the Baron of Bullstock's castle!"
"Not," said a Lollard, sternly, "till we have shortened the purple gown of the churchman; not till abbot and bishop have felt on their backs the whip wherewith they have scourged the godly believer and the humble saint."
"Not," added Robin, "till we have assured bread to the poor man, and the filling of the flesh-pot, and the law to the weak, and the scaffold to the evil-doer."
"All this is mighty well," said, bluntly, Sir Geoffrey Gates, the leader of the mercenaries, a skilful soldier, but a predatory and lawless bravo; "but who is to pay me and my tall fellows?"
At this pertinent question, there was a general hush of displeasure and disgust.
"For, look you, my masters," continued Sir Geoffrey, "as long as I and my comrades here believed that the rich earl, who hath half England for his provant, was at the head or the tail of this matter, we were contented to wait a while; but devil a groat hath yet gone into my gipsire; and as for pillage, what is a farm or a homestead? an' it were a church or a castle there might be pickings."
"There is much plate of silver, and a sack or so of marks and royals, in the stronghold of the Baron of Bullstock," quoth the Saxon squire, doggedly hounding on to his revenge.
"You see, my friends," said Coniers, with a smile, and shrugging his shoulders, "that men cannot gird a kingdom with ropes of sand. Suppose we conquer and take captive—nay, or slay—King Edward, what then?"
"The Duke of Clarence, male heir to the throne," said the heir of Latimer, "is Lord Warwick's son-in-law, and therefore akin to you, Sir John."
"That is true," observed Coniers, musingly.
"Not ill thought of, sir," said Sir Geoffrey Gates; "and my advice is to proclaim Clarence king and Warwick lord protector. We have some chance of the angels then."
"Besides," said the heir of Fitzhugh, "our purpose once made clear, it will be hard either for Warwick or Clarence to go against us,—harder still for the country not to believe them with us. Bold measures are our wisest councillors."
"Um!" said the Lollard, "Lord Warwick is a good man, and has never, though his brother be a bishop, abetted the Church tyrannies. But as for George of Clarence—"
"As for Clarence," said Hilyard, who saw with dismay and alarm that the rebellion he designed to turn at the fitting hour to the service of Lancaster, might now only help to shift from one shoulder to the other the hated dynasty of York—"as for Clarence, he hath Edward's vices without his manhood." He paused, and seeing that the crisis had ripened the hour for declaring himself, his bold temper pushed at once to its object. "No!" he continued, folding his arms, raising his head, and comprehending the whole council in his keen and steady gaze,—"no! lords and gentlemen, since speak I must in this emergency, hear me calmly. Nothing has prospered in England since we abandoned our lawful king. If we rid ourselves of Edward, let it not be to sink from a harlot-monger to a drunkard. In the Tower pines our true lord, already honoured as a saint. Hear me, I say,—hear me out! On the frontiers an army that keeps Gloucester at bay hath declared for Henry and Margaret. Let us, after seizing Olney, march thither at once, and unite forces. Margaret is already prepared to embark for England. I have friends in London who will attack the Tower, and deliver Henry. To you, Sir John Coniers, in the queen's name, I promise an earldom and the garter; to you, the heirs of Latimer and Fitzhugh, the high posts that beseem your birth; to all of you, knights and captains, just share and allotment in the confiscated lands of the Woodvilles and the Yorkists; to you, brethren," and addressing the Lollards, his voice softened into a meaning accent that, compelled to worship in secret, they yet understood, "shelter from your foes and mild laws; and to you, brave soldiers, that pay which a king's coffers alone can supply. Wherefore I say, down with all subject-banners! up with the Red Rose and the Antelope, and long live Henry the Sixth!"
This address, however subtle in its adaptation to the various passions of those assembled, however aided by the voice, spirit, and energy of the speaker, took too much by surprise those present to produce at once its effect.
The Lollards remembered the fires lighted for their martyrs by the House of Lancaster; and though blindly confident in Hilyard, were not yet prepared to respond to his call. The young heir of Fitzhugh, who had, in truth, but taken arms to avenge the supposed wrongs of Warwick, whom he idolized, saw no object gained in the rise of Warwick's enemy, Queen Margaret. The mercenaries called to mind the woful state of Henry's exchequer in the former time. The Saxon squire muttered to himself, "And what the devil is to become of the castle of Bullstock?" But Sir Henry Nevile (Lord Latimer's son), who belonged to that branch of his House which had espoused the Lancaster cause, and who was in the secret councils of Hilyard, caught up the cry, and said, "Hilyard doth not exceed his powers; and he who strikes for the Red Rose shall carve out his own lordship from the manors of every Yorkist that he slays." Sir John Coniers hesitated: poor, long neglected, ever enterprising and ambitious, he was dazzled by the proffered bribe; but age is slow to act, and he expressed himself with the measured caution of gray hairs.
"A king's name," said he, "is a tower of strength, especially when marching against a king; but this is a matter for general assent and grave forethought."
Before any other (for ideas did not rush at once to words in those days) found his tongue, a mighty uproar was heard without. It did not syllable itself into distinct sound; it uttered no name; it was such a shout as numbers alone could raise; and to such a shout would some martial leader have rejoiced to charge to battle, so full of depth and fervour, and enthusiasm and good heart, it seemed, leaping from rank to rank, from breast to breast, from earth to heaven. With one accord the startled captains made to the entrance of the tent, and there they saw, in the broad space before them, inclosed by the tents which were grouped in a wide semicircle,—for the mass of the hardy rebel army slept in the open air, and the tents were but for leaders,—they saw, we say, in that broad space, a multitude kneeling, and in the midst, upon his good steed Saladin, bending graciously down, the martial countenance, the lofty stature, of the Earl of Warwick. Those among the captains who knew him not personally recognized him by the popular description,—by the black war-horse, whose legendary fame had been hymned by every minstrel; by the sensation his appearance had created; by the armourial insignia of his heralds, grouped behind him, and whose gorgeous tabards blazed with his cognizance and quarterings in azure, or, and argent. The sun was slowly setting, and poured its rays upon the bare head of the mighty noble, gathering round it in the hazy atmosphere like a halo. The homage of the crowd to that single form, unarmed, and scarce attended, struck a death-knell to the hopes of Hilyard,—struck awe into all his comrades! The presence of that one man seemed to ravish from them, as by magic, a vast army; power, and state, and command left them suddenly to be absorbed in HIM! Captains, they were troopless,—the wielder of men's hearts was amongst them, and from his barb assumed reign, as from his throne!
"Gads my life!" said Coniers, turning to his comrades, "we have now, with a truth, the earl amongst us; but unless he come to lead us on to Olney, I would as lief see the king's provost at my shoulder."
"The crowd separates, he rides this way!" said the heir of Fitzhugh. "Shall we go forth to meet him?"
"Not so!" exclaimed Hilyard, "we are still the leaders of this army; let him find us deliberating on the siege of Olney!"
"Right!" said Coniers; "and if there come dispute, let not the rabble hear it."
The captains re-entered the tent, and in grave silence awaited the earl's coming; nor was this suspense long. Warwick, leaving the multitude in the rear, and taking only one of the subaltern officers in the rebel camp as his guide and usher, arrived at the tent, and was admitted into the council.
The captains, Hilyard alone excepted, bowed with great reverence as the earl entered.
"Welcome, puissant sir and illustrious kinsman!" said Coniers, who had decided on the line to be adopted; "you are come at last to take the command of the troops raised in your name, and into your hands I resign this truncheon."
"I accept it, Sir John Coniers," answered Warwick, taking the place of dignity; "and since you thus constitute me your commander, I proceed at once to my stern duties. How happens it, knights and gentlemen, that in my absence ye have dared to make my name the pretext of rebellion? Speak thou, my sister's son!"
"Cousin and lord," said the heir of Fitzhugh, reddening but not abashed, "we could not believe but what you would smile on those who have risen to assert your wrongs and defend your life." And he then briefly related the tale of the Duchess of Bedford's waxen effigies, and pointed to Hilyard as the eye-witness.
"And," began Sir Henry Nevile, "you, meanwhile, were banished, seemingly, from the king's court; the dissensions between you and Edward sufficiently the land's talk, the king's vices the land's shame!
"Nor did we act without at least revealing our intentions to my uncle and your brother, the Lord Montagu," added the heir of Fitzhugh.
"Meanwhile," said Robin of Redesdale, "the commons were oppressed, the people discontented, the Woodvilles plundering, and the king wasting our substance on concubines and minions. We have had cause eno' for our rising!" The earl listened to each speaker in stern silence.
"For all this," he said at last, "you have, without my leave or sanction, levied armed men in my name, and would have made Richard Nevile seem to Europe a traitor, without the courage to be a rebel! Your lives are in my power, and those lives are forfeit to the laws."
"If we have incurred your disfavour from our over-zeal for you," said the son of Lord Fitzhugh, touchingly, "take our lives, for they are of little worth." And the young nobleman unbuckled his sword, and laid it on the table.
"But," resumed Warwick, not seeming to heed his nephew's humility, "I, who have ever loved the people of England, and before king and parliament have ever pleaded their cause,—I, as captain-general and first officer of these realms, here declare, that whatever motives of ambition or interest may have misled men of mark and birth, I believe that the commons at least never rise in arms without some excuse for their error. Speak out then, you, their leaders; and, putting aside all that relates to me as the one man, say what are the grievances of which the many would complain."
And now there was silence, for the knights and gentlemen knew little of the complaints of the populace; the Lollards did not dare to expose their oppressed faith, and the squires and franklins were too uneducated to detail the grievances they had felt. But then the immense superiority of the man of the people at once asserted itself; and Hilyard, whose eye the earl had hitherto shunned, lifted his deep voice. With clear precision, in indignant but not declamatory eloquence, he painted the disorders of the time,—the insolent exactions of the hospitals and abbeys, the lawless violence of each petty baron, the weakness of the royal authority in restraining oppression, its terrible power in aiding the oppressor. He accumulated instance on instance of misrule; he showed the insecurity of property, the adulteration of the coin, the burden of the imposts; he spoke of wives and maidens violated, of industry defrauded, of houses forcibly entered, of barns and granaries despoiled, of the impunity of all offenders, if high-born, of the punishment of all complaints, if poor and lowly. "Tell us not," he said, "that this is the necessary evil of the times, the hard condition of mankind. It was otherwise, Lord Warwick, when Edward first swayed; for you then made yourself dear to the people by your justice. Still men talk, hereabouts, of the golden rule of Earl Warwick; but since you have been, though great in office, powerless in deed, absent in Calais, or idle at Middleham, England hath been but the plaything of the Woodvilles, and the king's ears have been stuffed with flattery as with wool. And," continued Hilyard, warming with his subject, and, to the surprise of the Lollards, entering boldly on their master-grievance—"and this is not all. When Edward ascended the throne, there was, if not justice, at least repose, for the persecuted believers who hold that God's word was given to man to read, study, and digest into godly deeds. I speak plainly. I speak of that faith which your great father Salisbury and many of the House of York were believed to favour,—that faith which is called the Lollard, and the oppression of which, more than aught else, lost to Lancaster the hearts of England. But of late, the Church, assuming the power it ever grasps the most under the most licentious kings (for the sinner prince hath ever the tyrant priest!), hath put in vigour old laws for the wronging man's thought and conscience; [The Lollards had greatly contributed to seat Edward on the throne; and much of the subsequent discontent, no doubt, arose from their disappointment, when, as Sharon Turner well expresses it, "his indolence allied him to the Church," and he became "hereticorum severissimus hostis."—CROYL., p. 564.] and we sit at our doors under the shade, not of the vine-tree, but the gibbet. For all these things we have drawn the sword; and if now, you, taking advantage of the love borne to you by the sons of England, push that sword back into the sheath, you, generous, great, and princely though you be, well deserve the fate that I foresee and can foretell. Yes!" cried the speaker, extending his arms, and gazing fixedly on the proud face of the earl, which was not inexpressive of emotion—"yes! I see you, having deserted the people, deserted by them also in your need; I see you, the dupe of an ungrateful king, stripped of power and honour, an exile and an outlaw; and when you call in vain upon the people, in whose hearts you now reign, remember, O fallen star, son of the morning! that in the hour of their might you struck down the people's right arm, and paralyzed their power. And now, if you will, let your friends and England's champions glut the scaffolds of your woman-king!"
He ceased. A murmur went round the conclave; every breast breathed hard, every eye turned to Warwick. That mighty statesman mastered the effect which the thrilling voice of the popular pleader produced on him; but at that moment he had need of all his frank and honourable loyalty to remind him that he was there but to fulfil a promise and discharge a trust,—that he was the king's delegate, not the king's judge.
"You have spoken, bold men," said he, "as, in an hour when the rights of princes are weighed in one scale, the subject's sword in the other, I, were I king, would wish free men to speak. And now you, Robert Hilyard, and you, gentlemen, hear me, as envoy to King Edward IV. To all of you I promise complete amnesty and entire pardon. His highness believes you misled, not criminal, and your late deeds will not be remembered in your future services. So much for the leaders. Now for the commons. My liege the king is pleased to recall me to the high powers I once exercised, and to increase rather than to lessen them. In his name, I pledge myself to full and strict inquiry into all the grievances Robin of Redesdale hath set forth, with a view to speedy and complete redress. Nor is this all. His highness, laying aside his purpose of war with France, will have less need of impost on his subjects, and the burdens and taxes will be reduced. Lastly, his grace, ever anxious to content his people, hath most benignly empowered me to promise that, whether or not ye rightly judge the queen's kindred, they will no longer have part or weight in the king's councils. The Duchess of Bedford, as beseems a lady so sorrowfully widowed, will retire to her own home; and the Lord Scales will fulfil a mission to the court of Spain. Thus, then, assenting to all reasonable demands, promising to heal all true grievances, proffering you gracious pardon, I discharge my duty to king and to people. I pray that these unhappy sores may be healed evermore, under the blessing of God and our patron saint; and in the name of Edward IV., Lord Suzerain of England and of France, I break up this truncheon and disband this army!"
Among those present, this moderate and wise address produced a general sensation of relief; for the earl's disavowal of the revolt took away all hope of its success. But the common approbation was not shared by Hilyard. He sprang upon the table, and, seizing the broken fragments of the truncheon, which the earl had snapped as a willow twig, exclaimed, "And thus, in the name of the people, I seize the command that ye unworthily resign! Oh, yes, what fools were yonder drudges of the hard hand and the grimed brow and the leathern jerkin, to expect succour from knight and noble!"
So saying, he bounded from the tent, and rushed towards the multitude at the distance.
"Ye knights and lords, men of blood and birth, were but the tools of a manlier and wiser Cade!" said Warwick, calmly. "Follow me."
The earl strode from the tent, sprang upon his steed, and was in the midst of the troops with his heralds by his side, ere Hilyard had been enabled to begin the harangue he had intended. Warwick's trumpets sounded to silence; and the earl himself, in his loud clear voice, briefly addressed the immense audience. Master, scarcely less than Hilyard, of the popular kind of eloquence, which—short, plain, generous, and simple—cuts its way at once through the feelings to the policy, Warwick briefly but forcibly recapitulated to the commons the promises he had made to the captains; and as soon as they heard of taxes removed, the coinage reformed, the corn thrave abolished, the Woodvilles dismissed, and the earl recalled to power, the rebellion was at an end. They answered with a joyous shout his order to disperse and retire to their homes forthwith. But the indomitable Hilyard, ascending a small eminence, began his counter-agitation. The earl saw his robust form and waving hand, he saw the crowd sway towards him; and too well acquainted with mankind to suffer his address, he spurred to the spot, and turning to Marmaduke, said, in a loud voice, "Marmaduke Nevile, arrest that man in the king's name!"
Marmaduke sprang from his steed, and laid his hand on Hilyard's shoulder. Not one of the multitude stirred on behalf of their demagogue. As before the sun recede the stars, all lesser lights had died in the blaze of Warwick's beloved name. Hilyard griped his dagger, and struggled an instant; but when he saw the awe and apathy of the armed mob, a withering expression of disdain passed over his hardy face.
"Do ye suffer this?" he said. "Do ye suffer me, who have placed swords in your hands, to go forth in bonds, and to the death?"
"The stout earl wrongs no man," said a single voice, and the populace echoed the word.
"Sir, then, I care not for life, since liberty is gone. I yield myself your prisoner."
"A horse for my captive!" said Warwick, laughing; "and hear me promise you, that he shall go unscathed in goods and in limbs. God wot, when Warwick and the people meet, no victim should be sacrificed! Hurrah for King Edward and fair England!"
He waved his plumed cap as he spoke, and within the walls of Olney was heard the shout that answered.
Slowly the earl and his scanty troop turned the rein; as he receded, the multitude broke up rapidly, and when the moon rose, that camp was a solitude. [The dispersion of the rebels at Olney is forcibly narrated by a few sentences, graphic from their brief simplicity, in the "Pictorial History of England," Book V, p. 104. "They (Warwick, etc.) repaired in a very friendly manner to Olney, where they found Edward in a most unhappy condition; his friends were dead or scattered, flying for their lives, or hiding themselves in remote places: the insurgents were almost upon him. A word from Warwick sent the insurgents quietly back to the North."]
Such—for our nature is ever grander in the individual than the mass—such is the power of man above mankind!
CHAPTER IV. THE NORMAN EARL AND THE SAXON DEMAGOGUE CONFER.
On leaving the camp, Warwick rode in advance of his train, and his countenance was serious and full of thought. At length, as a turn in the road hid the little band from the view of the rebels, the earl motioned to Marmaduke to advance with his prisoner. The young Nevile then fell back, and Robin and Warwick rode breast to breast out of hearing of the rest.
"Master Hilyard, I am well content that my brother, when you fell into his hands, spared your life out of gratitude for the favour you once showed to mine."
"Your noble brother, my lord," answered Robin, dryly, "is, perhaps, not aware of the service I once rendered you. Methinks he spared me rather, because, without me, an enterprise which has shaken the Woodvilles from their roots around the throne, and given back England to the Neviles, had been nipped in the bud!—Your brother is a deep thinker!"
"I grieve to hear thee speak thus of the Lord Montagu. I know that he hath wilier devices than become, in my eyes, a well-born knight and a sincere man; but he loves his king, and his ends are juster than his means. Master Hilyard, enough of the past evil. Some months after the field of Hexham, I chanced to fall, when alone, amongst a band of roving and fierce Lancastrian outlaws. Thou, their leader, recognizing the crest on my helm, and mindful of some slight indulgence once shown to thy strange notions of republican liberty, didst save me from the swords of thy followers: from that time I have sought in vain to mend thy fortunes. Thou hast rejected all mine offers, and I know well that thou hast lent thy service to the fatal cause of Lancaster. Many a time I might have given thee to the law; but gratitude for thy aid in the needful strait, and to speak sooth, my disdain of all individual efforts to restore a fallen House, made me turn my eyes from transgressions which, once made known to the king, had placed thee beyond pardon. I see now that thou art a man of head and arm to bring great danger upon nations; and though this time Warwick bids thee escape and live, if once more thou offend, know me only as the king's minister. The debt between us is now cancelled. Yonder lies the path that conducts to the forest. Farewell. Yet stay!—poverty may have led thee into treason?"
"Poverty," interrupted Hilyard,—"poverty, Lord Warwick, leads men to sympathize with the poor, and therefore I have done with riches." He paused, and his breast heaved. "Yet," he added sadly, "now that I have seen the cowardice and ingratitude of men, my calling seems over, and my spirit crushed."
"Alas!" said Warwick, "whether man be rich or poor, ingratitude is the vice of men; and you, who have felt it from the mob, menace me with it from the king. But each must carve out his own way through this earth, without over care for applause or blame; and the tomb is the sole judge of mortal memory."
Robin looked hard at the earl's face, which was dark and gloomy, as he thus spoke, and approaching nearer, he said, "Lord Warwick, I take from you liberty and life the more willingly, because a voice I cannot mistake tells me, and hath long told, that, sooner or later, time will bind us to each other. Unlike other nobles, you have owed your power not so much to lordship, land, and birth, and a king's smile, as to the love you have nobly won; you alone, true knight and princely Christian,—you alone, in war, have spared the humble; you alone, stalwart and resistless champion, have directed your lance against your equals, and your order hath gone forth to the fierce of heart, 'Never smite the commons!' In peace, you alone have stood up in your haughty parliament for just law or for gentle mercy; your castle hath had a board for the hungry and a shelter for the houseless; your pride, which hath bearded kings and humbled upstarts, hath never had a taunt for the lowly; and therefore I—son of the people—in the people's name, bless you living, and sigh to ask whether a people's gratitude will mourn you dead! Beware Edward's false smile, beware Clarence's fickle faith, beware Gloucester's inscrutable wile! Mark, the sun sets!—and while we speak, yon dark cloud gathers over your plumed head."
He pointed to the heavens as he ceased, and a low roll of gathering thunder seemed to answer his ominous warning. Without tarrying for the earl's answer, Hilyard shook the reins of his steed, and disappeared in the winding of the lane through which he took his way.
CHAPTER V. WHAT FAITH EDWARD IV. PURPOSETH TO KEEP WITH EARL AND PEOPLE.
Edward received his triumphant envoy with open arms and profuse expressions of gratitude. He exerted himself to the utmost in the banquet that crowned the day, not only to conciliate the illustrious new comers, but to remove from the minds of Raoul de Fulke and his officers all memory of their past disaffection. No gift is rarer or more successful in the intrigues of life than that which Edward eminently possessed,—namely, the hypocrisy of frankness. Dissimulation is often humble, often polished, often grave, sleek, smooth, decorous; but it is rarely gay and jovial, a hearty laughter, a merry, cordial, boon companion. Such, however, was the felicitous craft of Edward IV.; and, indeed, his spirits were naturally so high, his good humour so flowing, that this joyous hypocrisy cost him no effort. Elated at the dispersion of his foes, at the prospect of his return to his ordinary life of pleasure, there was something so kindly and so winning in his mirth, that he subjugated entirely the fiery temper of Raoul de Fulke and the steadier suspicions of the more thoughtful St. John. Clarence, wholly reconciled to Edward, gazed on him with eyes swimming with affection, and soon drank himself into uproarious joviality. The archbishop, more reserved, still animated the society by the dry and epigrammatic wit not uncommon to his learned and subtle mind. But Warwick in vain endeavoured to shake off an uneasy, ominous gloom. He was not satisfied with Edward's avoidance of discussion upon the grave matters involved in the earl's promise to the insurgents, and his masculine spirit regarded with some disdain, and more suspicion, a levity that he considered ill-suited to the emergence.
The banquet was over, and Edward, having dismissed his other attendants, was in his chamber with Lord Hastings, whose office always admitted him to the wardrobe of the king.
Edward's smile had now left his lip; he paced the room with a hasty stride, and then suddenly opening the casement, pointed to the landscape without, which lay calm and suffused in moonlight.
"Hastings," said he, abruptly, "a few hours since and the earth grew spears! Behold the landscape now!"
"So vanish all the king's enemies!"
"Ay, man, ay,—if at the king's word, or before the king's battle-axe; but at a subject's command—No, I am not a king while another scatters armies in my realm at his bare will. 'Fore Heaven, this shall not last!"
Hastings regarded the countenance of Edward, changed from affable beauty into terrible fierceness, with reflections suggested by his profound and mournful wisdom. "How little a man's virtues profit him in the eyes of men!" thought he. "The subject saves the crown, and the crown's wearer never pardons the presumption!"
"You do not speak, sir!" exclaimed Edward, irritated and impatient. "Why gaze you thus on me?"
"Beau sire," returned the favourite, calmly, "I was seeking to discover if your pride spoke, or your nobler nature."
"Tush!" said the king, petulantly, "the noblest part of a king's nature is his pride as king!" Again he strode the chamber, and again halted. "But the earl hath fallen into his own snare,—he hath promised in my name what I will not perform. Let the people learn that their idol hath deceived them. He asks me to dismiss from the court the queen's mother and kindred!"