"My glass," replied the Doctor, "is not to be matched throughout the world. Even Cornelius Agrippa had not its like; nor was his famous mirror fit to compare with it. Hast heard aught of its history?"
"I would listen, Master Dee, for my knowledge thereof is but gathered from the vulgar report."
"Know then," said Dee, with an air of great pride and complacency, "that my stone was brought by the ministration of angels, in answer to fervent and oft-repeated prayer. One night, as I sate with Kelly, discoursing on the rise and fall of empires, the setting up and the downfall of estates, and many other matters of grave and weighty import, he looked uneasy for a while, saying that he felt a strange sensation, and, as it were, a heavy weight on his right shoulder, as though something sat there. He said a spirit, invisible at that time, was in all likelihood hearkening to our discourse, and wished to communicate with us. He then spake as though to some one behind him, and listened—'Sayest thou so' said he; 'then will I speedily apprise the Doctor.' He then told me it was the angel Uriel, who would bring us a wonderful glass or crystal, whereby a seer, properly gifted, would be enabled to see many wonderful things; but this surprising faculty I do not possess, by reason of a fiery sign not occupying the cusp of my ascendant and medium cosli. Edward Kelly was, however, permitted to supply this defect, and I might confidently rely, he said, on the truth of those revelations, which I was to note down for the benefit of mankind, and the establishing of a new dispensation upon the earth. None but good angels could enter into this glass, and they would teach me, as he then foretold, many things, whereby, gaining great honour and renown, kings and princes should be reproved of me, who was raised up for their sakes. At this revelation I was exceeding glad, and more so on finding the day following in my study this precious gem, which, as I once told the Emperor Rodolph, is of such value that no earthly kingdom is worthy to be 'compared to the virtue or dignity thereof. I well remember the time," said Dee, delighting to dwell on these recollections: "I was at Prague, the emperor having sent for me; I went up to the castle, where, in the Ritterstove, or guard chamber, I stayed a little; Octavius Spinola, that was the chamberlain, saluted me very courteously, having understood that I was he whom the emperor waited for. Returning to the privy-chamber, he came out again, leading me by the skirt through the dining-chamber and the privy-chamber, where the emperor sat at a table with a great chest and standish of silver, and my book and letters before him. Then craved I pardon, at his Majesty's hand, for my boldness in sending him my 'Monas Hieroglyphica,' dedicated to his father; but I did it of the sincere and entire good-will that I bare to his father Maximilian, and also unto his Majesty. He then thanked me very kindly, saying that he knew of my great endowments, and the esteem I had gotten of the learned; of this he had been informed by the Spanish ambassador. He said my book was rather too hard for his capacity; but he heard I had something to say to him, Quod esset pro sua utilitate. 'And so I have,' I replied, looking back to see first that we were alone. Hereupon, I began to declare how all my lifetime had been spent in learning, and with great pains and cost I had come to the best knowledge that man might attain to in this world. I had found, too, that no man living, neither any book, was able to teach me those truths that I desired and longed for. Therefore I concluded within myself to make intercession and prayer to the Giver of all wisdom to send unto me knowledge, whereby I might know the nature of His creatures, and also enjoy means to use them to His honour and glory. At length it pleased God to send me His light—the angel Uriel, whereby I was assured of His merciful and gracious answer. For the space of two years and a half, as I told his Majesty, angels had not ceased to minister unto me through this wonderful stone, whose history I related. Furthermore, I said that I had a message from them unto his, Majesty. 'The angel of the Lord hath appeared unto me,' I cried, 'and hath rebuked you for your sins; if you will hear, and believe me, you shall triumph; if you will not hear, the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, under whom you breathe and have your being, putteth His foot against your breast, and will throw you headlong from your seat.' Moreover, I said that if he would listen to me, and take me for his counsellor, his kingdom should be established, so that there would be none like unto it throughout the world. I was commanded, likewise, to show him the nature of the holy vision, and the manner thereof, which he might witness, and hear the words, though he could not see the fashion of the creatures in the glass. He thanked me, and said that he would thenceforward take me to his recommendation and care. Some more promises he used, though I could not well understand them, he spake so low. Perceiving, now, that he wished to make an end for this time, I made my obeisance and departed. But mark the favour of princes!—through the cabals of some, and the intrigues of his favourite and physician, one Doctor Curtz, who was fearful of my displacing him,—in the end I was not only prevented from further access to his Majesty, but banished the empire! Go to, go to," said Dee, much troubled at these thoughts, "I am something too much affected of these vain impressions, and the pomp of these earthly ones."
He arose, lifting an ebony cabinet on the table, which he unlocked with great solemnity. During this operation he fell to muttering many prayers; and with an air of great reverence he took out a richly-embossed casket, which being opened, there was displayed a fair crystal of an egg-shaped form, on which he gazed with a long and silent delight.
"A treasure beyond all price," said Bartholomew, eyeing it with rapture.
"Even so," said Dee, "and, by the grace of the Giver, I do hope to profit by it. Once it was removed from me. Listen. It was in the little chapel, or oratory, next the chambers which Lord William of Rosenberg had allotted us in his castle at Trebona. I had set the stone in its wonted place upon the table, or altar as we called it, when Kelly saw a great flame in the stone, which thing though he told me, I made no end of my usual prayer. But suddenly one seemed to come in at the south window of the chapel, right opposite to Kelly, while the stone was heaved up without hands, and set down again; wonderful to behold. After which I saw the man who came in at the window; he had his lower parts in a cloud, and, with open arms, flew towards Kelly; at which sight he shrunk back, and the creature took up between both hands the stone with its frame of gold, and mounted up the way he came. Kelly caught at it, but could not touch it; thereupon he was grievously alarmed, and had the tremor cordis for a good while after. This my angelical stone being taken away, I was mightily troubled, for the other stones in my possession being made through man's skill and device, I had not a safe warranty of their virtue, so that I might confidently trust in what they should disclose. I was afraid, too, of the intrusion of wicked spirits into them, who might impose on me with their delusions. This happened on a Friday, being the 24th of April 1587, as I find it recorded in my diary. But mark the manner of its return! The following month, on the 22d day, and on the same day of the week, about four hours post meridian, as I and Kelly were walking out through the orchard, down the river-side, he saw two little men fighting there furiously with swords; and one said to the other, 'Thou hast beguiled me.' As I drew near they did not abate their heat, but the fray seemed to wax even hotter than before. I at length said, 'Good friends, let me take up the matter between you;' whereupon they stayed, the elder of them saying, 'I sent a present to thy wife, and this fellow hath taken it away,' With this, they again fought until the other was wounded in his thigh, which seemed to bleed. Being in great pain, he took out of his bosom something that I guessed to be the very treasure that I had lost. 'Now will I make thee return it,' said the first speaker; with that the other, who was wounded, seemed to go suddenly out of sight, but came again ere I could answer a word. The elder of them then asked him, saying, 'Hast thou laid it under the right pillow of the bed where he lay yesternight?' With these words they both went towards a willow-tree on the right, by the new stairs, which tree seemed to cleave open, and as they went in it closed, and I never saw them more. With great haste I returned to my chamber, where, lifting up the right pillow, I found my precious stone; being greatly rejoiced, together with my wife, who joined me in thanking God for its return."
"An exceeding comfortable and gracious providence: being preserved, I doubt not, from the evil ones," said Bartholomew Hickman. "But I would fain give you a sample of my skill, if so be that you will prepare the crystal, charging it with due care and attention."
Then did the Doctor betake himself to the performance of sundry strange rites, consisting of many absurd forms and hard speeches, ever and anon ejaculating a fervent prayer for success, and a petition against doubt and deception. He spread a fair carpet on the table, disposing the candlesticks on each side, and a little behind the crystal. This was placed upon a cushion of black silk, a crucifix near, and the psalter before it, open at the service for the departed. After a profound silence for about the space of half an hour, Dee looked towards his visitor as if expecting that he should begin. The seer threw off his upper garment, and kneeling down, clad only in a short tunic of gray cloth, without ruff or belt, he betook himself, though with some agitation, to the repeating of a few short Latin prayers, intermingled with cabalistical jargon, and scraps of some unknown and uncouth tongue. The Doctor gave special heed thereto, hearkening as though not over-credulous in the boasted skill of his visitor. Presently the latter put his face close to the stone, binding it before his eyes with a white napkin, his head still resting on the table. Dee asked him softly, "What seest thou?"
"Nothing," said Bartholomew.
"Is the curtain not yet visible in the stone?"
"I cannot even see the curtain," replied the seer; "for all is dark."
Then Dee began to pray earnestly that some of his former friends might appear, whom he called by many outlandish names, such as Ave, Nalvage, Madini, and others. Immediately Bartholomew cried out—
"I see a glimmer!—Soft!"
The Doctor scarcely durst breathe, fearing to interrupt the opening of the vision.
"I see a golden curtain, partly drawn aside."
"The charge beginneth to work," said Dee. "'Tis the very appearance that was always vouchsafed to Kelly ere the spirits showed themselves in the glass. Note well what thou seest."
"There appeareth a white cloud, as a curdly vapour wreathing itself about a pillar of burning brass, but no creature is visible.—I hear a voice!"
"Mark the words and repeat them steadily," said the Doctor, who drew nearer that he might hear the purport of the revelation.
"Sanctum signatum et ad tempus," said the voice.
"The sense of this may be understood diversely. By which sense may we be guided?" said Dee, as though speaking to some invisible thing within the glass. Presently the seer again repeated—
"'Sanctum, quia hoc velle suum; sigillatum, quid determinatum ad tempus;' the voice ceaseth:—but these be hard speeches, Master Dee. I hear again, 'Ad tempus et ad tempus (inquam) quia rerum consummatio—All things are at hand—
"'The seat is prepared. Justice hath determined. The time is short.'"
"Seest thou no creature?" anxiously inquired the Doctor.
"None. But the pillar openeth as though it were cleft. Now a woman cometh forth out of the pedestal, covered with a cloud. I can see her face dimly at times through this veil, which seemeth to pass over as a thin cloud before the dazzling sun. She standeth as though in a hollow shell, glistening with such fair colours that no earthly brightness may be comparable to it. She now seemeth to wrap the air about her as a garment. She entereth into a thick cloud and disappears. There now cometh one like unto a little girl, her hair turned up before, and flowing behind in long and bright curls. Her raiment sparkles like unto changeable silk, green and red."
"'Tis Madini," said Dee, with great delight. "Note well what she sayeth, for she is my good angel."
"She sitteth down. Her lips move as though she were speaking, but I hear nothing."
"I will speak to her," said Dee; "for she will answer me through thy ministry, if it really be Madini. Art thou Madini, that has appeared to me beforetime?"
"I think she answereth,'Yes.' But her voice is very feeble."
"I would thou shouldest resolve me three things," said the Doctor, again addressing himself towards the glass. "To wit—Whereto shall I direct my journey, and how shall I cause it to prosper? Secondly, I would speedily be instructed in that great and heavenly mystery, the powder of projection, which I have been oft promised, but never understood aright by reason of my feeble apprehensions, or inability to accomplish the grand and sublime arcanum. Thirdly, How may I find the treasure which was shown to me in a dream three several times; but where it is hidden is withheld from me?"
"She says she will answer so far as the will of him that sent her will permit; but she hath a short continuance, and her answer must be brief. With respect to the country, make thine own choice, and thou shalt be directed in it for thy good. The other questions she says she cannot solve, but will send one of the seven who bear rule over the seals of the metals and their matrix. She hath departed, yet I saw her not. She went like a sudden stroke of light; and now there cometh a man clad in sober apparel, with an inkhorn at his girdle. He holdeth a pen, as though he would write, but his face is veiled."
"'Tis a motion that I should bring my tablets," said the Doctor.
"Now he is writing," continued the seer. "He showeth me a roll of parchment. But the glass becometh dim, and I think that evil spirits are troubling us, for the whole seems to waver, like the glowing air over the furnace."
The Doctor now fell to his prayers, when Bartholomew assured him the glass grew brighter, gradually becoming still, like the subsiding of waves after some accidental disturbance. He could now see the writing distinctly, and the veil was also removed.
"Give me the words to the very letter," said Dee earnestly, as he prepared to write.
"It runs thus:—'The most noble and divine magister; the beginning and continuation of life. Watch well, and gather him so at the highest; for in one hour he descendeth or ascendeth from the purpose.
"'Take common Audcal, purge and work it by Rlodnr, of four divers digestions, continuing the last digestion for fourteen days in one and a swift proportion, until it be Dlasod fixed, a most red and luminous body, the image of resurrection. Take also Lulo of Red Roxtan, and work him through the four fiery degrees, until thou have his Audcal, and then gather him. Then double every degree of your Rlodnr, and by the law of mixture and conjunction work them diligently together. Notwithstanding backward through every degree, multiply the lower and last Rlodnr, his due office finished by one degree more than the highest. So doth it become Darr, the thing you seek for; a holy, just, glorious, red, and dignified Dlasod.'"
"Methinks I have heard this before," said Dee, "and understood it not. I am truly in great perplexity for want of money; but still I understand not the purport of these symbols, the which, I beseech thee, now vouchsafe to thine unworthy servant."
"'See thou take the season,'" said the voice, "'and get her while it is yet time. If ye let the harvest pass, ye shall desire to gather and shall not be able.'"
"Take pity on mine infirmities, and make it plain," supplicated the Doctor, who now began to fear the usual evasions and disappointments.
"'Before I go,'" replied the vision, "'I will not be hidden from thee. Read thy lesson.'"
"I read, 'Take common Audcal' and so on."
"'What is Audcal?' inquireth the spirit."
"Alas! I know not; but thou knowest."
"'It is gold, and Dlasod is sulphur.'"
"Take also, it says, Lulo of Red Roxtan."
"'Roxtan is pure and simple wine in herself, and Lulo is her mother.'"
"There is yet in these words no slight ambiguity."
"'Lulo is tartar of red wine, and Audcal is his mercury. Darr, in the angelical tongue, is the true name of the stone.'"
"He said before that Audcal was gold," said Dee, addressing the seer.
"Be thankful," replied Bartholomew, "and keep what thou hast received."
The Doctor was for the present satisfied; but a little reflection afterwards, and another trial, left him as ignorant and as poor as ever.
He now returned thanks in the Latin tongue, it being his general custom at the end of each revelation, or motion, as it was called.
"Deo nostro omnipotenti sit omnis Laus, Honor, Gloria, et Jubilatio." Unto which the seer responded, "Amen."
"Now for the third question."
"He goeth to one side," said Bartholomew, "and the curtain hideth him. Now he returneth, leading an old man blindfolded, who answereth him in manner following, as though to questions put by the first:—'It is within, and by a garden belonging to the new lodge in Aldport Park. It is in three parts or places.' He now seems to pause. Again he speaks—'Many roots and trees do hinder the gathering of it; but if he be wise, and understand these things, he may obtain his pleasure. One part was laid by Sir James Stanley, the warden, an hundred years ago. Another portion was hidden by an aged nun. The remainder was left by the Romans, and may be found under the foundations of the castle in the park. The time is short, and the treasure guarded; but he shall overcome. Listen:—'Nine with twice seven northerly, and ACER shall disappear. The mystical number added to the number enfolding itself; this shall be added to its own towards the rising sun. Then turn half-round, and note well thy right foot. What thou seest gather, and it shall lead thee on to perfection'"
"Ask him the amount or worth of the treasure," said Dee, whose cupidity gloated over the bare thoughts of this vast hoard.
"He says, it is 'two thousand and a half, besides odd money.'"
"How? In gold or silver?"
"'More than three parts thereof are in gold.'"
"Most humbly and heartily do I thank thee, oh"——
Dee was opening out another form of thanksgiving, when the seer interrupted his hypocritical and blasphemous addresses.
"The old man goeth aside, groping his way as though it were dark. Now all is dim, and the curtain covereth the stone, by which we are warned to retire."
The needful and concluding ceremonies being gone through, the crystal was returned to its place. After pondering awhile, the Doctor put many questions to his guest about his residence, worldly calling, and so forth. He offered him L50 yearly, besides lodging, and a fair proportion of gold when the celestial and highest projection should be completed. Bartholomew was not hard at making a bargain, and the Doctor began to hope that, by a patient waiting and trust in the efficacy of these strange delusions, he should at length accomplish his desires.
A low tap at the door again betokened the presence of Lettice, who came to announce a warm friend of the Doctor's, one Master Eccleston. On being admitted, the latter brought with him a low, ferret-eyed personage, whose leering aspect betrayed an inward consciousness of great cunning and self-satisfaction therewith. Dee received his guests with becoming dignity, inquiring to what good fortune he was indebted for their visit.
"Thou mayest remain, Hickman," said he to his new acquaintance.
Eccleston proceeded to business as follows:—
"You may readily remember that I once happened a sore mischance—to wit, by losing a horse I had but lately bought, and which, through your good offices, kindly and without fee administered, I again got back, to my great joy and comfort. I was telling of this but few days agone to a friend of mine, one Barnabas Hardcastle, whom I have made bold to bring before your reverence. He but laughed at me for my pains, and would in no wise believe it, but mark how he was served! Within this hour, he tells me that he has lost his mare, and would fain have the like help to its recovery."
"Hast thou lost thy beast?" inquired the Doctor.
"Verily I have," said Barnabas, making a respectful acknowledgment to the Doctor's dignified address. "It was but this morning she was safe as Mancastle is in the dirt, hard by Mr Lever's house yonder, in the fields. 'Tis a grievous loss, Master Dee, seeing that I was offered a score of pounds for the beast last Martinmas."
The Doctor opened his tables, and erected a scheme or figure of the heavens, to the very minute when this communication was made. Ere it was finished he gave a sharp and shrewd glance at the stranger, saying—
"The latter part of the sign Scorpio ascendeth, and it is not safe to give judgment. Mars, lord thereof, is in evil aspect with Venus, lady of the seventh and sixth likewise, or house of servants. Yet is Mercury lord of the tenth, and free from affliction. I will therefore try my skill, though I should fail. The beast thou lackest is either taken by a servant or lost through his neglect. Stay. The Dragon's Tail, which I have just placed, being located in the seventh, thy mare is certainly lost, and will never be recovered."
Dee looked earnestly at the man, who, gathering his features into a grin of contempt, could scarcely refrain from an unmannerly burst of laughter.
"Now, o' my troth," said he, "I was but minded to try the skill of your prophet, and to show your folly. The roan mare is safe, and I left her but an hour ago with my lad, who is walking her to and fro just out of the town-fields by Withy Grove, until I have done mine errand."
"Thou art a bold man to say so," replied the Doctor angrily, and with a glance as though it were meant to annihilate this contemner of the celestial art. "I tell thee she is lost, and shall never be got back: a reward thou hast well earned for thy folly."
With a scornful and malicious grin did Master Barnabas receive this denunciation, taking his departure with little ceremony, as if fearful of some mischance. Eccleston, much scandalised at his friend's proceedings, followed him down-stairs, not caring to stay longer with the Doctor.
As Bartholomew and he sate discoursing on the future, and forming many projects, more particularly about the hidden treasures, without which, Dee said, he could not continue his search for the elixir, as he was nigh beggared, they heard a swift footstep on the stairs. Presently in rushed Eccleston followed by Lettice, who strove to prevent this intrusion. The Doctor frowned on his entrance, but, Eccleston, breathless and much agitated, could with difficulty declare his errand.
"Hardcastle—Hardcastle—I say. He has lost his beast."
"Why, I told him so," said the Doctor, with great composure.
"But he has lost her!"
"I know it," replied Dee.
"I have just left him in great anger, swearing by things both visible and invisible that he will have his own again; that we are confederate in the matter: and that he will cite us both before the chapter or the Star-Chamber."
"How hath it happened?" said Dee, scrawling listlessly with his pen.
"I went with him to the boy, thinking I would see the end on't. By the way he did use many taunts and ill-natured speeches about my pursuit after the great arcanum, and belief in the celestial sciences; together with many unpleasant hints that the money we have expended in the adventure will never be got back. Discoursing thus, we came near to the place where he expected to find the boy. Sure enough he was there, and fast asleep on the ground; but the mare was gone, the bridle being left on the lad's arm, which his master banged about his shoulders until he awaked. Pray, Master Dee, be pleased to help him to his mare. I owe him moneys, for which he, taking advantage of the debt, may put me in prison."
"The scoffer shall not go unpunished, nor shall he that revileth partake of the blessing. Go thy way, and tell him he may not recover his goods."
Eccleston departed with this heavy message, and Bartholomew was again left communing with the Doctor.
The matter that still occupied their thoughts was the treasure at Aldport Lodge. With this in their possession they might reasonably expect that great progress would be made in their search for the philosopher's stone and the vivifying elixir. These important articles obtained, the hidden secrets of nature would be at their command, and their schemes and wishes might then be pursued with the certainty of success. The night but one following, at the precise time when the moon came to a trine aspect with Saturn and Jupiter, was appointed for the discovery. The hour of Saturn commenced five minutes before midnight, and the heavenly influences were then singularly disposed in favour of their undertaking.
With dazzling anticipations of future prosperity and success they separated: one to indulge in dreams so chimerical and vast that even Fancy herself drew back, dazzled with her own brightness; the other to an obscure lodging in the Old Millgate, where he committed himself to the keeping of a straw pallet and a coverlet of which the rats had for some time before held undisputed possession.
The night fixed upon for their search proved drizzling and misty. Bartholomew, wrapped in a thick cloak, sallied out of a low postern towards the college. The path was more dangerous and uneven than at present, and many a grim witness of good-fellowship with his clay had the red cloth hose of Master Bartholomew Hickman ere he arrived at the arched doorway which admitted him into Dee's lodging. We have no means of ascertaining with any degree of certainty the musings and ruminations of the seer in his progress, not having the power, or skill it may be, like unto many profound and praiseworthy historians, who can portray the form and colour of the mind as well as the cut and capacity of the doublet. Suffice it to say, that he was so fully occupied in conning over his errand as not to be aware that a certain malicious personage was dodging his steps—to wit, our worthy owner of the mare, Barnabas Hardcastle, who kept a strict watch about the premises, hoping to find some clue to the discovery of his beast.
An hour elapsed ere they came forth; the Doctor bearing a covered light, and after him the little spare form of Bartholomew Hickham, carrying under his cloak sundry implements for the search.
Passing through the churchyard, they turned into the Dean's Gate, creeping near the houses, whose overhanging gables poured down a copious shower from their dripping eaves. The streets echoed but to the tread of these adventurers, and to the howl of a solitary watch-dog roused by their approach. They passed the gate without difficulty; the Doctor was supposed to have been called forth on clerical duties, and the porter accordingly permitted their egress, merely inquiring the probable time of their return.
A few straggling houses were built nigh to the ditch and outworks; beyond these the way was open towards the park. Here they arrived in due time, entering in by a side wicket, which led them round to the back part of the house by the gardens.
The proprietorship of the Lodge had latterly fallen to the lot of Edward Mosley, by a deed of partition between his brother Oswald Mosley and himself, a mercer of great note in Manchester, one Adam Smythe; these parties having purchased, jointly, the lands of Nether and Over Aldport from Thomas Rowe of Hartford, who had them of Sir Randle Brereton, the next purchaser from William, Earl of Derby. The house and grounds, about ninety-five acres, of Nether and Over Aldport, formerly belonged to the warden of the college for the time being, and were held, by a rent of four marks per annum only, from the Lord de la Warre. It was enjoyed uninterruptedly by them until the dissolution of this community in the first of Edward VI., when it was granted to the Earl of Derby along with the rest of the college lands.
Elizabeth, however, in the twenty-first year of her reign, granted a new foundation to the college: but the Earl of Derby, who still kept possession of the college-house and some portion of the lands, suffered the warden and ministers for some time to lodge there.
The house at Aldport was moated round, and a drawbridge stood before the main entrance. The mansion was built of timber and plaster, with huge projecting stone chimneys, gable ends, and deep casements—a fitting residence in those days for rank and nobility.
Outside the moat was an extensive garden, laid out in a sumptuous style, beyond which appeared a mound of considerable elevation and extent, the site of Mancastle, famous in history as one of the strongholds of the Romans, some account of which may be found in the legend of "Sir Tarquin."
"I have been thinking," said Dee, after being silent for a space, "that no savour of dishonesty can attach to our appropriation of this great treasure, seeing the house and all this fair and goodly inheritance did once appertain to the wardens of our college, of which patrimony we have been most unjustly deprived by the statute of King Edward. My gracious mistress, our Queen, not having reinstated me into this my lawful possession, I have made bold to remind her Majesty of our wrongs, and to supplicate her clemency thereupon."
Bartholomew felt fully satisfied of the right they had to these spoils, his conscience being easily quieted on the score of appropriation.
"The rain becomes heavier, and it is more chill and showery than before. The mist, too, is driving north-east," said the Doctor. "The clouds are cumbrous and broken, coiling, as they roll, into huge masses that will ere long bring some of the dark Atlantic on their tails. Seest thou not, Bartholomew, as though it were a grim pile of hills on the horizon?"
"I see as it might be a heavy wall of clouds gathering about us; and I think the wind comes on more fitful and squally. These heavy lunges betoken an angry and vicious humour in the air that will not be long in bursting."
"We shall have it about our ears speedily. We must to work while it is yet a-brewing below."
The dark pointed roofs and chimneys of the Lodge might be distinguished in grotesque masses, changeless and unvarying, against the ever-shifting darkness of the sky. A pale star sometimes looked out as if by stealth, but was obscured almost ere its brightness could be developed. The wind, as it rushed by, broke into short and irregular gusts, like scouts from the main body, betokening its approach. The rain had ceased, save a few hasty drops at intervals plashing heavily on the moat.
"What is that?" said Bartholomew in a whisper, pointing to the water. A light had glanced on its surface, and as suddenly had it disappeared.
"Again!" Dee smiled as he looked upwards to a star just twinkling through the cloud. Like some benignant spirit, as it alighted on the dark bosom of the moat, the short sharp gust fluttering over, it seemed to hover there for a while ere it departed.
Turning out of the path, they approached a thick yew-tree flanking one corner of the garden.
"I think we may climb here, Master Dee, with little risk;—there seems a fair gap beside its trunk."
They scrambled up a high bank, thrusting themselves, with some difficulty, through the opening. The Doctor now, looking round, began to recite his instructions:—"'Nine with twice seven northerly, and ACER, shall disappear. The mystical number added to the number enfolding itself. This shall be added to its own, towards the rising of the sun. Then turn half-round, and note well thy right foot;—what thou seest gather, and it shall lead thee on to perfection.' Good; but from what point shall we begin to count?" said the divine, in great perplexity.
"I know not," said Bartholomew, "unless it be from the sycamore tree at the opposite corner yonder by the old wall."
"Thou knowest the ground hereabout?" said the Doctor hastily.
"Peradventure I may," replied the other. "Being told aforetime of treasure that was hidden, I have wandered often, at odd times, round the garden."
"Lead the way, then; it may be this same Acer is the tree of which thou speakest. Time passes, and I would not miss this lucky hour for all my hopes of preferment."
Preceded by his guide, the Doctor soon came within range of a noble sycamore that threw out its huge branches in all the pride of a long and undisturbed occupation.
"'Nine with twice seven northerly, and Acer shall disappear.' Shall I stride the ground so many steps, or is there a mystic and hidden signification couched in these numbers?"
"I know not," said Bartholomew; "but we had best make the trial."
The Doctor, with great earnestness, began to stride out the number northerly, but the sycamore did not disappear; its long bare boughs were still seen throwing out their leafless and haggard extremities against the lowering sky.
They now took counsel, when Bartholomew suggested that, as numbers were often used symbolically, they must look elsewhere for a solution. It might be the exact number of trees lying between the great sycamore and the place signified. "And there they be," said the seer, pointing to a goodly row of small twigs newly planted. "Now count them northerly, beginning as at first."
This being done, the Doctor was greatly comforted on finding himself fairly soused up to the knees in a deep ditch or drain, from whence all appearance of the sycamore was effectually excluded.
"Now," said the adept, still standing as before, "the mystical number, which is three, added to the most excellent number, which I take to be three times three, or the number enfolding itself, will make twelve; but there be no trees eastward, or towards the rising sun."
"Then try the steps once more," said Bartholomew, "and take heed they are of the right length,—proper easy-going steps. Stay, I will count them myself."
Leaving his companion in the ditch, the seer counted forth his number with due care, halting at the last step.
"Now stand in my place, turn half-round, and gather from thy right foot."
Dee, having cleared the bog, placed himself in the required position. Stooping down, he groped diligently by his right foot, but was aware of nothing but a crabbed stump, that resisted every attempt they could use for its dislodgment.
"Bring the mattock," said the Doctor, cautiously uncovering the light. But though Bartholomew tugged with great energy, the Doctor helping, it was to little purpose, for the stump was immovable.
"We had best try the probe." Saying this, the warder drew forth an instrument in shape something like unto a large auger. He could by this means easily ascertain if anything hard were below, or any symptons of concealed treasure. As they were thus engaged a hollow voice, to their terrified apprehensions issuing from the ground, cried out—
The treasure-hunters came to a full pause. The wind and rain at the same time beat so heavily they could not ascertain the sequel to this injunction.
"'Tis Nargal, the spirit who guards hidden treasures," said Dee: "we can approach him only by prayers and fumigations."
"Then must we return?" said Bartholomew, apparently unwilling to desist.
"Hark!" said the Doctor, listening.
They heard a moan, as that of some one in great pain. Presently a faint shriek stole through a pause in the blast.
"'Tis like the groan of a mandrake," he continued: "they do ever lament and bewail thus when gathered. I doubt not but this tree is of that accursed nature."
Again the voice was articulate.
"To-morrow thou mayest return at this hour; but I will not yield my treasure save thou bring me gold!"
"Who art thou?"
"I am the guardian of the treasure; and
"Gold I have. Bring gold with thee; Or thou shalt get no gold from me."
"What is thy demand?" inquired Dee, in a hollow voice, like that of an exorcist.
"Prop thy purse with fifty nobles;—then dig, and I will tell thee."
The two worthies were somewhat startled at this demand. It was more than their joint forces could muster. Yet two thousand and more broad pieces, besides other valuables, which lay there for the gathering, was too profitable a return to make them easily give up the adventure. Accordingly, after some further questions which the demon as resolutely refused to answer, they departed, first replacing the earth and other matters they had disturbed, in their former position.
Early on the following morning the eager divine applied to his friend Eccleston for another loan, assuring him it was the last; while from the produce of the treasure he would be enabled to pay his former advances, with a copious interest thereon. The needy expectant was loath to furnish him with another supply, though in the end he was prevailed on to borrow from his friends, at an exorbitant interest, for one day only.
This important preliminary being arranged, the night was anxiously awaited, and though more than usually tardy in its approach, twilight at length threw her mantle of grey over the world's cares and perplexities, and night, that universal coverlet of all things, whether good or evil, did wrap them gently about.
And a night of more loveliness and lustre never was unveiled to the eye of mortals.
The stars were walking in brightness—so clear and sparkling that each seemed a ray or an emblem of that ineffably glorious Beam whose uncreated splendour no eye can see and live. Those bright clusters that we now behold have been the same through all generations, and they have seen "all things that are done under the sun." Fixed as the everlasting hills, their bounds and their habitation have been unchanged. The same lights were in the heavens when Abraham looked up from the plains of Mamre, as now when the Arab and the Ishmaelite are in the desert. The bands of Orion are not loosed, nor the sweet influences of the Pleiades unbound. The same glittering groups which the patriarch beheld beam nightly on our tabernacles. They have shone upon the world's heroes and the world's demigods—bright links in the oblivion of ages. And the numerous hosts we gaze upon will present the same glowing and immutable forms to cheer and gladden the eyes and hearts of coming generations.
Some feeling of this nature was probably rising in the Doctor's bosom as they once more took the open path to Aldport, and he looked on the wide hemisphere about him—the heavens, with their glowing constellations, all spread out without an obscurity or an obstruction. He felt for one moment the folly and futility of earthly things, and his heart seemed to wither in the immensity into which it was plunged.
It was like a faint glimpse of eternity, and he shrunk back from the abyss, all his own vast world of thought, feeling, and desire, lost in that immeasurable space. But the dazzling dream of ambition again passed before him. The portals of universal empire and immortality were thrown open. He drove back the unwelcome intruder, but the phantom he pursued again fluttered from his grasp.
They had marked the spot on their former visit, and Dee, with the fifty gold pieces in his purse, Bartholomew Hickman acting as chief workman, began his unholy proceedings: not, however, without some fear of the demon whom these moneys were to propitiate. Bartholomew laboured with great diligence, but the earth was much easier to remove than before, and the old stump soon gave way, making but a slight resistance. This was attributed to some charm wrought by the treasure they carried, and was looked upon as a favourable omen—an unloosing of the fetters which guarded the deposit. Every spadeful of earth was carefully examined, and the probe thrust down anxiously and with great caution. About a yard in depth had been taken away when the spade struck upon something hard. The strokes were redoubled, and a narrow flag appeared. Raising this obstacle they beheld a wooden coffer. Dee sung out a Latin prayer as usual; for he failed not to pour out his thanks with great fervour for any selfish indulgence that fell in his way, or, as he imagined, was granted to him by the special favour of Heaven.
"There," said Bartholomew, raising the box, which from its weight and capacity promised a rich reward, "I think we have now what will season our labours well. What think you, Master Dee?"
But the Doctor was absorbed in visions of future greatness, now bursting on him with a glory and rapidity almost painful to contemplate. He seized the shrine, scarcely giving his helpmate time to fill up and conceal their depredations.
"But the fifty pieces—have you got them safe?" inquired Bartholomew.
"They are in my pouch. I do think the demon hath forgotten to demand them."
"Fear not, he will be ready enough to ask for his own. What comes o'er the devil's back will sooner or later go under his belly!"
"Let us pack and begone," said the Doctor, fearful of losing his treasure.
The box was presently swung over the seer's shoulders, Dee following to keep all safe, though not without many apprehensions and misgivings of heart. He feared lest the spirit might appear again for his own; or, at least, for the fifty pieces of gold, which were his right.
Just as they came to the gap by the yew-tree, and Bartholomew was resting against the trunk, a voice from behind them shouted—
"Stop!—What make ye here, ye villains?"
Dee turned round and the light flashed upon two armed men, masked, who evidently came towards them with no friendly intent.
"Put down that box," said the foremost.
Bartholomew was proceeding to surrender at discretion, but Dee first inquired their errand.
"We can tell ye that in a twinkling," said the malicious intruders, "after we have stepped up to the lodge, and given them a pretty guess at the quality of the knaves who be robbing of their garden. Nay, Doctor, we take no excuse, unless we take our share of the spoil with it. To work, or ye budge not hence without discovery."
This was a provoking interruption—their all depended on a favourable issue to this adventure. Dee therefore offered terms of capitulation as follows:—
"I'll give you five-and-twenty gold pieces on the spot if ye will let us pass."
"Five-and-twenty!—why, that box may hold five-and-twenty hundred," said the freebooter with a whistle, by way of derision.
"Perhaps not," said the Doctor, warily; "it is not yet tried, and may not be opened here without risk. Come to my lodgings to-morrow, and we will share in the product."
"Nay," returned the rogue, sharply, "a pullet in the pen is worth a hundred in the fen. Come, we will deal kindly with thee: give us fifty, and pass on."
Dee willingly opened his pouch, and threw the gold into the fellow's greasy cap, which he held out for the purpose. Immediately they took to their heels and departed.
"The demon was more kind, and of a different nature from those that do generally haunt these hidden treasures," said the Doctor, as he trudged along, following closely at Bartholomew's heels. "If he had not warned me to bring the gold, these thieves must needs have opened the box. Had they seen the vast hoard which it contains I should not have been released for thrice the sum."
With mutual congratulations on their good fortune, and many pious thanksgivings on the part of Dee, they arrived, without farther molestation, at the college, where Lettice was ill-humouredly awaiting their return.
Bartholomew threw down his burden in the study, where the Doctor, cautiously guarding against intrusion, wrenched open the chest. His rage and agony may be conceived when he found the treasure transformed into a heap of stones, bearing the following malicious doggerel on their front:—
"My mare is lost, but I've the gold; My mare is better lost than sold. Full fifty pieces, broad and bright, My bullies bring me home to-night. My trap is baited!—Springs it well, I get the kernel, thou the shell!
"From thy loving,
"BARNABUS HARDCASTLE, Armiger."
 "Johan Glaston," vol. ii. fol. 535.
 Vide Casaubon's folio concerning Dee's intercourse with spirits.
"Petruchio. Pray, have you not a daughter Call'd Katharina, fair and virtuous? Baptista. I have a daughter, sir, call'd Katharina,"
Taming of the Shrew, Act II. Scene I.
"What sudden chance is this, quoth he, That I to love must subject be, Which never thereto would agree, But still did it defie?"
King Cophetua and the Beggar-maid.
"Yet she was coy, and would not believe That he did love her so; No, nor at any time would she Any countenance to him show."
The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington.
The wonderful exploits of Edward Kelly, one of which is recorded in the following narrative, would, if collected, fill a volume of no ordinary dimensions. He was for a considerable time the companion and associate of John Dee, by courtesy called Doctor, from his great acquirements, performing for him the office of seer, a faculty not possessed by Dee, who was in consequence obliged to have recourse to Kelly for the revelations he has published respecting the world of spirits. These curious transactions may be found in Casaubon's work, entitled "A true and faithful Relation of what passed for many Years between Dr John Dee and some Spirits,"—opening out another dark page in the history of imposture and credulity. Dee says that he was brought into unison with Kelly by the mediation of the angel Uriel. Afterwards he found himself deceived by him in his opinion that these spirits, which ministered unto him, were messengers of the Deity. They had several quarrels before-time; but when he found Kelly degenerating into the worst species of the magic art for purposes of avarice and fraud, he broke off all connection with him, and would never afterwards be seen in his company. Kelly, being discountenanced by the Doctor, betook himself to the meanest practices of magic, in all which money and the works of the devil appear to have been his chief aim. Many wicked and abominable transactions are recorded of him. Wever, in his "Funereal Monuments," records that Kelly, in company with one Paul Waring, who acted with him in all his conjurations, went to the churchyard of Walton-le-Dale, near Preston, where they had information of a person being interred who was supposed to have hidden a considerable sum of money, and to have died without disclosing where it was deposited. They entered the churchyard exactly at midnight, and having had the grave pointed out in the preceding day, they opened it and the coffin, exorcising the spirit of the deceased until it again animated the body, which rose out of the grave and stood upright before them. It not only satisfied their wicked desires, it is said, but delivered several strange predictions concerning persons in the neighbourhood, which were literally and exactly fulfilled.
In "Lilly's Memoirs" we have the following account of him:—
"Kelly outwent the Doctor—viz., about the elixir and philosopher's stone, which neither he nor his master attained by their own labour and industry. It was in this manner Kelly obtained it, as I had it related from an ancient minister, who new the certainty thereof from an old English merchant resident in Germany, at what time both Kelly and Dee were there.
"Dee and Kelly being on the confines of the emperor's dominions, in a city where resided many English merchants, with whom they had much familiarity, there happened an old friar to come to Dr Dee's lodging, knocking at the door. Dee peeped down the stairs:—'Kelly,' says he, 'tell the old man I am not at home.' Kelly did so. The friar said, 'I will take another time to wait on him.' Some few days after, he came again. Dee ordered Kelly, if it were the same person, to deny him again. He did so; at which the friar was very angry. 'Tell thy master I came to speak with him and to do him good, because he is a great scholar and famous;—but now tell him, he put forth a book, and dedicated it to the emperor. It is called 'Monas Hieroglyphicas.' He understands it not. I wrote it myself. I came to instruct him therein, and in some other more profound things. Do thou, Kelly, come along with me; I will make thee more famous than thy master Dee. Kelly was very apprehensive of what the friar delivered, and thereupon suddenly retired from Dee, and wholly applied unto the friar, and of him either had the elixir ready made, or the perfect method of its preparation and making. The poor friar lived a very short time after; whether he died a natural death, or was otherwise poisoned or made away by Kelly, the merchant who related this did not certainly know."
Kelly was born at Worcester, and had been an apothecary. He had a sister who lived there for some time after his death, and who used to exhibit some gold made by her brother's projection. "It was vulgarly reported that he had a compact with the devil, which he outlived, and was seized at midnight by infernal spirits, who carried him off in sight of his family, at the instant he was meditating a mischievous design against the minister of the parish, with whom he was greatly at enmity."
It would have been easy to select a more historical statement of facts respecting Kelly; but the following tale, the events of one day only, will, we hope, be more interesting to the generality of readers. It exhibits a curious display of the intrigues and devices by which these impostors acquired an almost unlimited power over the minds of their fellow-men. Human credulity once within their grasp, they could wield this tremendous engine at their will, directing it either to good or bad intents, but more often to purposes of fraud and self-aggrandisement.
* * * * *
In the ancient and well-thriven town of Manchester formerly dwelt a merchant of good repute, Cornelius Ethelstoun by name. Plain dealing and an honest countenance withal, had won for him a character of no ordinary renown. His friezes were the handsomest; his stuffs and camlets were not to be sampled in the market, or even throughout the world; insomuch that the courtly dames of Venice, and the cumbrous vrows of Amsterdam and the Hague, might be seen flaunting in goodly attire gathered from the store-houses of Master Cornelius.
His coffers glittered with broad ducats, and his cabinets with the rarest productions of the East. His warehouses were crammed, even to satiety, and his trestles groaned under heaps of rich velvets, costly brocades, and other profitable returns to his foreign adventures. But, alas!—and whose heart holdeth not communion with that word!—Cornelius was unhappy. He had one daughter, whom "he loved passing well;" yet, as common report did acknowledge, the veriest shrew that ever went unbridled. In vain did his riches and his revenues increase; in vain was plenty poured into his lap, and all that wealth could compass accumulate in lavish profusion. Of what avail was this outward and goodly show against the cruel and wayward temper of his daughter?
Kate—by this name we would distinguish her, as veritable historians are silent on her sponsorial appellation—Kate was unhappily fair and well-favoured. Her hair was dark as the raven-plume; but her skin, white as the purest statuary marble, grew fairer beneath the black and glossy wreaths twining gracefully about her neck. Her cheek was bright as the first blush of the morning, and ever and anon, as a deeper hue was thrown upon its rich but softened radiance, she looked like a vision from Mahomet's paradise—a being nurtured by a warmer sky and fiercer suns than our cold climate can sustain. She had lovers, but all approach was denied, and, one by one, they stood afar off and gazed. Her pretty mouth, lovely even in the proudest glance of petulance and scorn, was so oftentimes moulded into the same aspect that it grew puckered and contemptuous, rendering her disposition but too manifest; and yet—wouldest thou believe it, gentle reader?—she was in love!
Now it so fell out that on the very morning from which we date this first passage of our history, Cornelius awoke earlier than he was wont. His brow wore an aspect of more than ordinary care. It was but too evident that his pillow had been disturbed. Thoughts of more than usual perplexity had deprived him of his usual measure of repose. His very beard looked abrupt and agitated; his dress bore marks of indifference and haste. A slight, but tremulous movement of the head, in general but barely visible, was now advanced into a decided shake. With a step somewhat nimbler than aforetime, he made, as custom had long rendered habitual, his first visit to the counting-house.
The unwearied and indefatigable Timothy Dodge sat there, with the same crooked spectacles, and, as it might seem, mending the same pen which the same knife had nibbed for at least half-a-century. The tripod on which rested this grey Sidrophel of accompts looked of the like hard and impenetrable material, as though it were grown into his similitude, forming but a lower adjunct to his person. It was evident they had not parted company for the last twenty years. Nature had formed him awry. A boss or hump, of considerable elevation, extended like a huge promontory on one shoulder; from the other depended an arm longer by some inches than its fellow. As it described a greater arc its activity was proportionate. His grey and restless eyes followed the merchant's track with unwearied fidelity; yet was he a man full sparing of words—the ever ready "Anon, master," being the chief burden of his replications. It was like the troll of an old ballad—a sort of inveterate drawl tripping unwittingly from the tongue.
The sun was just peeping through the long dim casement as Cornelius stepped over the threshold of his sanctuary. In it lay hidden the mysteries of many a goodly tome, more precious in his eyes than the rarest and richest that Dee's library could boast. No mean value, inasmuch as this celebrated scholar and mathematician, who was lately appointed warden of the college, had the most costly store of book-furniture that individual ever possessed.
"Good morrow, Dodge."
The pen was twice nibbed ere the usual rejoinder.
"Are the camlets arrived from the country?" inquired the merchant.
"Anon, master—this forenoon may be."
"Is the accompt against Anthony Hardcastle discharged?"
"No," ejaculated the grim fixture.
"And where is the piece of Genoa velvet Dame Margery looked out yesterday for her mistress's wedding-suit? I do bethink me it is a good ell too long at the measure."
"Six ells, three nails, and an odd inch, besides the broad thumbs," replied Timothy.
"Right:—she reckoned on a good snip for waste; but let no more be sent than the embroiderer calls for."
"Not a thread," grunted Dodge.
A pause ensued. Some question was evidently hesitating on the merchant's tongue. Twice did his lips move, but the word fell unuttered. The affair was, however, finally disposed of as follows:—
"Hast heard of aught, Timothy, touching the private matter that I unfolded yesterday?" Cornelius put on as careless an aspect as the disquietude of his brow could needs carry, but the inquiry was evidently one of no ordinary interest. He twisted the points of his doublet, tied and untied the silk cords from his ruff, waiting Dodge's answer in a posture not much belying the anxiety he wished to conceal.
"Why, master, an' it were of woman's humours, the old seer himself could not unriddle their pranks."
Cornelius sighed, making the following hasty reply:—
"Thinkest thou this same seer could not give me a lift from out my trouble?"
"This same seer, I wot," replied Dodge, "is sore perplexed: some evil and mischievous aspect doth afflict the horoscope of the nation—Mars being conjunct with Venus and the Dragon's tail. Now, look to it, master, it is no light matter that will move him; but almost or ere I showed him the first glimpse of the business he waxed furious, and said that he cared not if all the unwed hussies in Christendom were hung up in a row, like rats on a string."
"It is Kate's birthday," answered the merchant, "to-night being the feast of St Bartlemy; but, as thou knowest well, the astrologer that cast her figure gave no hope of her amendment should this day pass and never a husband. Who would yoke with a colt untamed? O Timothy! it were well nigh to make an old man weep. I am a withered trunk. Better had I been childless than have this proud wench to trouble mine house."
The old man here wept, and it was a grievous thing to see his wrinkled cheeks become, as it were, but the sluices and channels of his tears. Timothy, too, was something moved from his common posture; and once he endeavoured to turn, as though he would hide his face from his master's trouble.
He sought to speak, but an evil and husky sort of humour settled in his throat, and he waited silently the subsiding of the sorrow he could not quell.
Cornelius raised his head: a sudden thought seemed to animate him. A ray had penetrated the gloomy envelope of his mind; and he peered through the casement intently eyeing the cool atmosphere.
"I'll visit the cunning man myself, Timothy. If he hear me not, then can I but return, weeping as I went." And with this speech he hastily departed.
Now on this, the morrow of St Bartlemy, it so happened that Kate also arose before the usual hour, and in a mood even more than ordinarily strange and untoward. Her maiden was like to find it a task of no slight enterprise, the attempt to adorn Kate's pretty person. Not a garment would fit. She threw the whole furniture of her clothes-press on a heap, and stamped on them for very rage. She looked hideous in her brown Venice waistcoat; frightful in her orange tiffany farthingale;—absolutely unbearable in her black velvet hood, wire ruff, and taffety gown. So that in the end she was nigh going to bed again in the sulks, had not a jacket of crimson satin, with slashed bodice, embroidered in gold twist, taken her fancy. Her little steel mirror, not always the object of such complacency, did for once reflect a beam of good humour, which so bewitched Kate that for the next five minutes she found herself settling into the best possible temper in the world.
"Give me my kerchief, lace scarf, and green silk hood, and my petticoat with the border newly purfled. Hark! 'Tis the bell for prayers. Be quick with my pantofles:—not those, wench—the yellow silk with silver spangles. Now my rings and crystal bracelets. I would not miss early matins to-day for the best jewel on an alderman's thumb."
"Anon, lady," replied her waiting-woman, with a sort of pert affectation of meekness. But what should cause Kate to be so wonderfully attentive to her devotions was a matter on which Janet could have no suspicions, or at least would not dare to show them if she had.
Kate, being now attired, tripped forth, accompanied by her maid. As she passed the half-closed door of the counting-house, Timothy, with one of his most leaden looks, full of unmeaning, stood edgeways in the opening, his lower side in advance, with the long arm ready for action.
"Fair mistress, Master Kelly would fain have a token to-day. He hath sent you a rare device!"
"And what the better shall I be of his mummeries?" hastily replied the lady. Timothy drew from his large leathern purse a curiously-twisted ribband.
"He twined this knot for your comfort. Throw it over your left shoulder, and it shall write the first letter of your gallant's name. A cypher of rare workmanship."
Kate, apparently in anger, snatched the magic ribband, and, peradventure it might be from none other design than to rid herself of the mystical love-knot, but she tossed it from her with an air of great contumely, when, by some disagreeable and untoward accident, it chanced to fly over the self-same shoulder to which Timothy had referred. He made no reply, but followed the token with his little grey eyes, apparently without any sort of aim or concernment. Kate's eyes followed too; but verily it were a marvellous thing to behold how the ribband shaped itself as it fell, and yet to see how she stamped and stormed. Quick as the burst of her proud temper she kicked aside the bauble, but not until the curl of the letter had been sufficiently manifest. Timothy drew back into his den, leaving the fair maid to the indulgence of her humours. But in the end Kate's wrath was not over-difficult to assuage. With an air somewhat dubious and disturbed she hastily thrust the token behind her stomacher and departed.
The merchant's house being nigh unto the market cross, Kate's prettily-spangled feet were soon safely conducted over the low stepping-stones placed at convenient distances for the transit of foot-passengers through the unpaved streets. Near a sort of style, guarding the entrance to the churchyard, rose an immense pile of buildings, cumbrous and uncouth. These were built something in the fashion of an inverted pyramid; to wit, the smaller area occupying the basement, and the larger spreading out into the topmost story. As she turned the corner of this vast hive of habitation—for many families were located therein—a gay cavalier, sumptuously attired, swept round at the same moment. Man and maid stood still for one instant. With unpropitious courtesy, an unlucky gust turned aside Kate's veil of real Flanders point; and the two innocents, like silly sheep, were staring into each other's eyes without either apology or rebuke. It did seem as though Kate were not without knowledge of the courtly beau: a rich and glowing vermilion came across her neck and face, like the gorgeous blush of evening upon the cold bosom of a snow-cloud. But the youth eyed her with a cool and deliberate glance, stepping aside carelessly as he passed by. She seemed to writhe with some concealed anguish; yet her lip curled proudly, and her bosom heaved, as though striving to throw off, with one last and desperate struggle, the oppression that she endured. In this disturbed and unquiet frame did Kate pass on to her orisons.
It may be needful to pause for a brief space in our narrative, whilst we give some account of this goodly spark who had so unexpectedly, as it might seem, unfitted the lady for the due exercise of her morning devotions.
His dress was elegant and becoming, and of the most costly materials. His hat was high and tapering, encircled by a rich band of gold and rare stones. It was further ornamented by a black feather, drooping gently towards the left shoulder. The brim was rather narrow; but then a profusion of curls fell from beneath, partly hiding his lace collar of beautiful workmanship and of the newest device. His beard was small and pointed; and his whiskers displayed that graceful wave peculiar to the high-bred gallants of the age. His neck was long, and the elegant disposal of his head would have turned giddy the heads of half the dames in the Queen's court. He wore a crimson cloak, richly embroidered: this was lined throughout with blue silk, and thrown negligently on one side. His doublet was grey, with slit sleeves; the arm parts, towards the shoulder, wide and slashed;—but who shall convey an adequate idea of the brilliant green breeches, tied far below the knee with yellow ribbands, red cloth hose, and great shoe-roses? For ourselves we own our incompetence, and proceed, glancing next at his goodly person. In size he was not tall nor unwieldy, but of a reasonable stature, such as denotes health, activity, and a frame capable of great endurance. He stepped proudly along, his very gait indicating superiority.
The town gallants looked on his person with envy, and on his light rapier with mistrust. In sooth, he was a proper man for stealing a lady's heart, either in hall or bower. Many had been his victims;—many were then in the last extremities of love. But of him it was currently spoken that he had never yet been subjected to its influence.
There be divers modes of falling into love. Some slip in through means of themselves; to wit, from sheer vanity, being never so well pleased as when they are the objects of admiration. Some from sheer contradiction, and from the well-known tendency of extremes to meet. Some, for very idlesse; and some for very love. But in none of these modes had the boy Cupid made arrow-holes through the heart of our illustrious hero; for, as we before intimated, no yielding place did seem visible, as the common discourse testified. How far this report was true the sequel of our history will set forth.
Now, this gay gallant being the wonder and admiration of the whole place, many were the unthrifty hours spent in such profitless discourse by the wives and daughters of the townsfolk, to the great discomfort and discredit of their liege lords. He was at present abiding in the college, where John Dee had apartments distinct from the warden's house, along with his former coadjutor and seer, Edward Kelly. Since the last quarrel between these two confederates, they had long been estranged; but Kelly had recently come for a season to visit his old master: when the Doctor returned from Trebona, in Bohemia, whence he had been invited back to his own country by Queen Elizabeth, he having received great honours and emoluments from foreign princes. This youth, being son to the governor of the castle at Trebona, was about to travel for his improvement and understanding in foreign manners. At the suit of his parents, Dee undertook the charge of his education and safe return. Since then young Rodolf had generally resided under Dr Dee's roof, and accompanied him on his accession to the wardenship. His accent was decidedly foreign, though he had resided some years in Britain, but not sufficiently so for Mancestrian ears to distinguish it from a sort of lisping euphuism then fashionable at court and amongst the higher ranks of society. An appearance of mystery was connected with his person. His birthplace and condition were not generally divulged, and though of an open and gallant bearing, yet on this head he was not very communicative. Mystery begets wonder and excitement—a sort of interest usually attached to subjects not easily understood. When it emanates from an object capable of enthralling the affections, this feeling soon kindles admiration, and admiration ripens into love. No wonder, then, if all tender and compassionate dames were ready to open upon him their dread artillery of sighs and glances, and the more especially as it soon began to be manifest that success was nigh hopeless. The heart entrenched, the wearer was impenetrable.
Kate's oddly-assorted brain had not failed to run a-rambling at times after the gallant stranger. He had heard much of her beauty, and likewise of her uncertain humours. Each fancied the opposite party impregnable; and this alone, if none other motive had arisen, formed a sufficiently strong temptation to begin the attack. Kate was particularly punctual at church, and once or twice he caught an equivocating glance towards the warden's seat, and he really did at times fancy he should like to play at "taming the shrew." Kate was sure the stranger slighted her. He treated her, and her only, with an air of neglect she could not altogether account for, and she was in month's mind to make the young cavalier crouch at her feet. How this was to be contrived could only be guessed at by a woman, and we will not let the reader into all the secrets of Kate's sanctuary. Suffice it to say, that in so harmlessly attempting to beguile her prey into the snare, the lady fell over head and ears into it herself. In a word Kate was in love! And this was the more grievous, inasmuch as her lofty bearing hitherto would not allow her to whisper the matter even to her own bosom; and the pent-up and smothering flame was making sad havoc with poor Kate's repose.
She had ofttimes suspected the state of her heart; but instead of sighing, pining, and twanging her guitar to love-sick ditties, she would fly into so violent a rage at her own folly that nothing might quell the disturbance until fairly worn out by its own vehemency. No one suspected the truth—yes, one forsooth—gentle reader, canst thou guess? It was no less a personage than our one-shouldered friend Timothy Dodge! How the cunning rogue had contrived to get at the secret is more than we dare tell. Sure enough he had it; and as certain too that another should be privy to the fact—to wit, Edward Kelly the seer. Dodge was a fitting tool for this intriguer, and well able to help him out at a pinch.
Affairs were in this position when our story commenced. Rodolf had formidable auxiliaries at hand, had he been disposed to make the attack; but his stay was now short—Kate was petulant and perverse—the siege might be tedious. Just on the verge of relinquishing he met Kate, as we have before seen, going to church. He caught her for the once completely off her guard, and the rich blush that ensued set a crowd of odd fancies jingling through his brain. It was just as the old chimes were ringing their doleful chant from the steeple, but these hindered not a whit the other changes that were set agoing. Not aware of the alteration in his course, he was much amazed when he found himself striding somewhat irreverently down the great aisle of the church, towards the choir, from whence the low chanting of the psalms announced that service was already begun.
It was the opening of a bright autumnal day. The softened lights streamed playfully athwart the grim and shadowy masses that lay on the chequered pavement, like the smiles of infancy sporting on the dark bosom of the tomb. The screen formed a rich foreground, in half-shadow, before the east window. The first beam of the morning, clothed in tenfold brightness, burst through the variegated tracery. Prophets, saints, and martyrs shone there, gloriously portrayed in heaven's own light.
Rodolf approached the small door leading into the choir,
when his vacant eye almost unconsciously alighted on a female form kneeling just within the recess. A ray, from her patron saint belike, darting through the eastern oriel, came full upon her dark and glowing eye. She turned towards the stranger, but in a moment her head was bent as lowly as before, and the ray had lost its power. Rodolf suddenly retreated. Passing through a side door, he left the church, directing his steps towards the low and dark corridors of the college. Near the entrance to his chamber, on a narrow bench, sate a well-caparisoned page tuning his lute. His attire was costly, and his raiment all redolent with the most fragrant perfume. This youth, when very young, was sent over as the companion, or rather at that time as the playmate of his master. He was now dignified with the honourable title of page, and his affection for Rodolf was unbounded.
"Boy," said the cavalier, something moodily, "come into the chamber. Stay—fetch me a sack-posset, prythee. I am oppressed, and weary with my morning's ramble."
Now the boy did marvel much at his master's sudden return, but more especially at the great fatigue consequent on that short interval;—knowing, too, that a particularly copious and substantial breakfast had anticipated his departure.
"And yet, Altdorff, I am not in a mood for much drink. Give us a touch of those chords. I feel sad at times, and vapourish."
They entered into a well-furnished apartment. The ceiling was composed of cross-beams curiously wrought. On one of these was represented a grim head in the act of devouring a child—which tradition affirmed was the great giant Tarquin at his morning's repast. The room was fitted up with cumbrous elegance. A few pieces of faded tapestry covered one side of the apartment. In a recess stood a tester bed, ornamented with black velvet, together with curtains of black stuff and a figured coverlet. A wainscot cupboard displayed its curiously-carved doors, near to which hung two pictures, or tables as they were called, representing the fair Lucretia and Mary Magdalen. A backgammon-board lay on the window-seat; three shining tall-backed, oaken chairs, with a table of the same well-wrought material, and irons beautifully embossed, and a striped Turkey rug, formed a sumptuous catalogue, when we consider the manner of furnishing that generally prevailed in those days.
The page sat on a corner seat beneath the window. He struck a few wild chords.
"Not that—not that, good Altdorff. It bids one linger too much of home-longings."
Here the boy's eyes glistened, and a tremulous motion of the lip showed how his heart bounded at the word.
"Prythee, give us the song thou wast conning yesterday."
The page began with a low prelude, but was again interrupted.
"Nay, 'tis not thus. Give me that wild love-ditty thou knowest so well. I did use to bid thee be silent when thou wouldest have worried mine ears with it. But in sooth the morning looks so languishing and tender that it constrains the bosom, I verily think, to its own softness."
The page seemed to throw his whole soul into the wild melody which followed this request. We give it, with a few verbal alterations, as follows:—
Fair star, that beamest In my ladye's bower, Pale ray, that streamest In her lonely tower; Bright cloud, when like the eye of Heaven Floating in depths of azure light, Let me but on her beauty gaze Like ye unchidden. Day and night I'd watch, till no intruding rays Should bless my sight.
Fond breeze, that rovest Where my ladye strays, Odours thou lovest Wafting to her praise; Lone brook, that with soft music bubblest, Chaining her soul to harmony; Let me but round her presence steal Like ye unseen, a breath I'd be, Content none other joy to feel Than circling thee!
"In good sooth, thou canst govern the cadence well. Thou hast more skill of love than thine age befits. But, mayhap, 'tis thy vocation, boy. Hast thou had visitors betimes this morning!"
"None, good master, but Kelly."
"What of him?"
"Some business that waited your return. I thought you had knowledge of the matter."
"Are there any clients astir so early at his chamber, thinkest thou?"
"None, save the rich merchant that dwells hard by, Cornelius Ethelstoun."
"Cornelius!" repeated the cavalier, in a disturbed and inquiring tone—"hath he departed?"
"Nay, I heard not his footsteps since I watched the old man tapping warily at the prophet's door."
Rodolf hastily replaced his hat, and his short and impatient rap was heard at the seer's chamber.
It occupied the north-eastern angle of the building, in the gloomiest part of the house; overlooking, on one side, a small courtyard, barricadoed by walls and battlements of stout masonry, along which were ridges of long rank grass waving in all the pride of uncropped luxuriance. Another window overlooked the dark-flowing Irk, lazily rolling beneath the perpendicular rock on which the college was built—the very site of the once formidable station of Mancunium, the heart and centre of the Roman power in that vast district.
No answer being rendered to this hasty summons, Rodolf raised the latch, but marvelled not a little when he beheld the room apparently deserted. Voices were, however, heard in the inner apartment. Ere he could well draw back the door slowly opened, nor could he avoid hearing the following termination to some weighty conference.
"An hundred broad pieces—good! Ere night, thou sayest?"
"Ere the curfew," replied Cornelius.
"Look thee—'tis but a slender space for mine art to work, and"—The seer, as he uttered this with great solemnity, entered the antechamber. The gallant stood there, just meditating a retreat. A flush of anger and confusion passed for a moment over Kelly's visage. Quickly recovering his self-possession, with a severe aspect, he stood before the intruder.
"Art come to listen or to watch?" abruptly interrogated the seer. "Both be rare accomplishments truly for a youth of thy breeding."
"Nay, good Master Kelly; I came but at thy bidding, and mine ears are not the heavier or the wiser for what they have heard, I trow."
"I thought thee safe at morning prayers."
"Nay," replied Rodolf. "There be too many bright eyes and blushing cheeks for the seasoning of a man's devotions."
"Cornelius, thou mayest retire. What mine art can compass shall not be lacking at thy need."
The merchant, with a profound obeisance, withdrew. The seer adjusted his beard, carefully brushed the down from his velvet cap, and sate for a while as if abstracted from all outward intercourse. His keen quick eye became fixed, its lustre imperceptibly waning. A cloud seemed to pass gradually over his sharp features, until their expression was absorbed, giving place to a look of mere lifeless inanity. A spectator might have fancied himself gazing at a sage of some remote era, conjured up from his dark resting-place. The wand of death seemed to have withered his shrunk visage for ages under the dim shadow of the grave.
Rodolf, aware that he was not to be interrupted when the gift was upon him, waited patiently the result of the seer's revelations. A considerable time had elapsed when the cloud began to roll away. His features gradually reassumed the attributes of life, as each separately felt the returning animation. His eyes rested full on the cavalier.
"I have had a vision, Rodolf."
"To me is it not spoken?" inquired he.
"Yea, to thee!" The seer said this in a tone so hollow and energetic, and with a look of such thrilling awe, that even Rodolf shuddered. He seemed to feel his glance.
"Listen. The spirit warned me thus:—
"'The stranger that hither comes o'er the broad sea Shall wed on the night of St Bartlemy.'"
"Nay, Master Kelly, thine art faileth this once, forsooth. To-night is the saint's vigil, yet lurk I not in the beam of a woman's favour; and ere another year I may be cured of the simples at my father's dwelling in the old castle."
"The vision hath spoken, and it setteth not forth idle tales. Come to me anon, I will anoint and prepare my beryl and my divining mirror. Thou shall thyself behold some of the mysteries touching which I have warned thee beforetime. About noon return to my chamber."
Rodolf withdrew into his own apartment. His countenance looked anxious and disturbed. He sat down, but his restlessness seemed to increase. His posture was not the most easy and graceful that might be desired, nor calculated to set off his personal advantages, though now become the more needful, if, as the seer predicted, he should wive ere night—albeit his bride were yet unsought—nor wooed, nor won! Nothing could be more destructive to that easy self-satisfaction, that seductive and insinuating carriage, so essential to the fine gentleman of every age. There was a sort of angular irregularity in his movements, neither pleasant nor becoming; and his agitation so far overcame his better breeding that he really did cram his beard between at least three of his fingers. His rapier had, moreover, poked its way through his cloak, and the bright shoe-roses were nigh ruined, from the sudden crossings and disarrangements they had undergone. A considerable time had now elapsed; in the meanwhile his impatience had risen to an alarming height, insomuch that we would not have answered for the safety of his red cloth hose and silken doublet, had not noon been happily announced.
Raising the latch of the seer's chamber with considerable eagerness, he found the room completely dark. An unseen hand led him to a seat. Soon he heard a low murmuring chant, as though from voices at a remote distance. By degrees the words grew more articulate, shaping themselves into the same quaint distich that Kelly had repeated,—
"The stranger that hither comes o'er the broad sea Shall wed on the night of St Bartlemy."
This was answered in a voice of considerable pathos; a burst of soft music filling up the interval. Gradually the eye began to feel sensible of the presence of surrounding objects, though in the ordinary way nothing could be distinguished; a faculty peculiarly sensitive with the loss of sight, and not quite dormant in the general mass of mankind. A faint gleam was soon perceptible, like the first blush of morning, apparently on the opposite side of the chamber. Becoming brighter, flashes of a dim, rainbow-coloured light crept slowly by, like the aurora sweeping over an illuminated cloud. Suddenly he saw, or his eyes deceived him, a female form shaping itself from these chaotic elements. But it was observed only during the short intervals when the beams seemed to kindle with unusual brightness. Every flash, however, rendered the appearance more distinct. Dazzled and bewildered, the heated senses were become the victims of their own credulity, the mind receiving back its own reactions. Taking its impression probably from the occurrences of the morning, the eye rapidly moulded the figure into the likeness of Kate. Her eyes were turned upon him, beaming with that soft and melting expression he had so recently beheld. It was but momentary, or he could have persuaded himself that she looked on him with an air the most tender and compassionate. Never did fancy portray her in a form so lovely. Deep and indelible was the impression; and though it might be
"The imagination Become impregnate with her own desire,"
yet she had performed her office well. Not all the realities, all the blandishments that woman ever displayed, even the most resistless, could have wrought half so dexterously or gained such swift access to the heart. The vision faded, and a momentary darkness ensued. Suddenly a blaze of light irradiated the apartment. Rodolf beheld, for one short glimpse, a Gothic hall. Kate was there, and a lover kneeling at her feet. Madness seized him, agonising and intense. In vain he sought the features of his tormentor; the vision had departed, and with it his repose.
A new and overwhelming emotion had overpowered him. It arose with the speed and impetuosity of a whirlwind. All just and sober anticipations, reflections, possibilities, and a thousand calm resolves, were swept as bubbles before the full burst of the torrent.
His first impulse was to seek his mistress. But—she had another lover! The bare possibility of this event came o'er his bosom like the icy chill of the grave. He shuddered as it passed; but the pang was too keen to return with the same intensity.
Soon a low murmur, like the distant sough of the wind, gradually approached. A faint light flashed through the chamber. He saw his own wild woods and the distant castle. It was just visible, dimly outlined on the horizon, as he had last beheld it in the cold grey beam that accompanied his departure. It arose tranquilly on his spirit. The voice of other years visited his soul. His eyes filled—he could have wept in the very overflowing of his delight. He dashed his hand across his forehead; but the pageant had disappeared.
Daylight once more shone into the apartment; but nothing was discerned, save a dark curtain concealing one extremity of the room, and the seer sitting at his elbow.
"Boy, what sawest thou?" said Kelly, not raising his head as he spoke, but intently poring over a grim volume of cabalistic symbols.
"In troth, I am hard put to it, Master Kelly. The maid I have just seen is accounted the veriest shrew in the parish, and one whom no man may approach with a safe warranty. I am like to lose all hope of wiving, if this be the maiden I am to woo. And yet"—The form of the comely suitor he had seen kneeling at her feet just then flashed on his mind, yet cared he not to show the seer how much the phantom had disturbed him.
"Idle tales?" said Kelly. "I wot not but half the gay gallants in the town would give the best jewel in their caps to have one sweet look, one pretty smile from her cruel mouth. 'Tis but the report of those whom she hath slighted with loathing and contempt, that hath raised this apprehension in her disfavour. The churls know not what is hidden beneath this outward habit of her perverse nature, and she careth not to discover. Should some youth of noble bearing and condition but woo her as she deserves, thou shouldest see her tamed, ay, and loving too, as the very idol of her worship, or I would forfeit my best gift."
"But she hath a lover!" said Rodolf, gravely.
"Peradventure she hath, but not of her own choosing, or mine art fails me. Look, this figure is the horoscope of her birth. Thou hast some knowledge of the celestial sciences. The directions are so close worked that should this night pass and Kate go unwed—indicated by Venus coming to a trine of the sun on the cusp of the seventh house, she will refuse all her suitors, and her whole patrimony pass into the hands of a stranger; but"—he raised his voice with a solemn and emphatic enunciation—"to-night! look to it! If not thine she may be another's."
The listener's brain seemed on a whirl; thought hurrying on thought, until the mind lost all power of discrimination. The succession of images was too rapid. All individuality was gone. He felt as though not one idea was left out of the busy crowd on which to rest his own identity. He seemed a mere passive existence, unable either to execute the functions of thought or volition.
"Go, for a brief space. Thou mayest return at sunset. Yet"—the seer fixed a penetrating glance on the youth as he retired—"go not nigh the merchant's dwelling, unless thou wouldest mar thy fortune. To-night—remember!"
In the dim solitude of his chamber Rodolf sought in vain to allay the feverish excitement he had endured. He seemed left to the sport and caprice of a power he could not control. The coursers of the imagination grew wilder with restraint: he recklessly flung the reins upon their neck; but this did not tire their impetuosity. His brain glowed like a furnace; he seemed hastening fast on to the verge of either folly or madness. He threw himself on the couch, when the voice of Altdorff came like a winged harmony upon his spirit. The page was seated in the narrow cloisters,—the lute, his untiring companion, enticing a few chords from his touch, playful and gentle as the feelings that awaked them; some old and quaint chant, scarce worth the telling, but cherished in the heart's inmost shrine, from the hallowed nature of its associations. A deep slumber crept heavily on the cavalier, but the merchant's daughter still haunted him: sometimes snatched away from his embrace just as a rosy smile was kindling on her lips; at others, she met him with frowns and menace, but ere he could speak to her she had disappeared. Then was he tottering on the battlements of some old turret, when a storm arose, the maiden crept to his side, but in an instant, with a hideous crash, she was borne away by the rude grasp of the tempest. He awoke, with a mortifying discovery that the crash had been of a somewhat less equivocal nature. A cabinet of costly workmanship lay overturned at his feet, and a rich vase, breathing odours, strewed the floor in a thousand fragments.
The noise brought up several of the college servitors; to rid himself from the annoyance he ascended the roof, then protected by low battlements, and leaded, so that a person might walk round the building and pursue his meditations without interruption.