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Brother And Sister








Lightly on the tips of her toes the duchess stole toward her brother,
who did not yet observe her. The thick Turkish carpet made her steps
inaudible. She already stood behind the earl, and he had not yet noticed
her.

Now she bent over his shoulder, and fastened her sparkling eyes on the
paper in her brother's hand.

Then she read in a loud, sonorous voice the title of it: "Complaint,
because Geraldine never shows herself to her lover unless covered by
her veil." [Footnote: Sonnet by Surrey.--See Nott's Life and Works of
Surrey.] "Ah," said the duchess, laughing, "now, then, I have spied out
your secret, and you must surrender to me at discretion. So you are in
love; and Geraldine is the name of the chosen one to whom you address
your poems! I swear to you, my brother, you will repay me dear for this
secret."

"It is no secret at all, sister," said the earl, with a quiet smile,
as he rose from the divan and saluted the duchess. "It is so little a
secret, that I shall recite this sonnet at the court festival this very
evening. I shall not, therefore, need your secrecy, Rosabella."

"So the fair Geraldine never shows herself to you unless in a dark veil,
black as the night," said the duchess, musingly. "But tell me, brother,
who then is the fair Geraldine? Of the ladies at court, I know not a
single one who bears that name."

"So you see from that, the whole is only a fiction--a creation of my
fancy."

"No, indeed," said she, smiling; "one does not write with such warmth
and enthusiasm unless he is really in love. You sing your lady-love, and
you give her another name. That is very plain. Do not deny it, Henry,
for I know indeed that you have a lady-love. It may be read in your
eyes. And look you! it is on account of this dear one that I have come
to you. It pains me, Henry, that you have no confidence in me, and
allow me no share in your joys and sorrows. Do you not know, then, how
tenderly I love you, my dear, noble brother?"

She put her arm tenderly round his neck, and wanted to kiss him. He bent
his head back, and laying his hand on her rosy, round chin, he looked
inquiringly and smilingly into her eyes.

"You want something of me, Rosabella!" said he. "I have never yet
enjoyed your tenderness and sisterly affection, except when you needed
my services."

"How suspicious you are!" cried she, with a charming pout, as she shook
his hand away from her face. "I have come from wholly disinterested
sympathy; partly to warn you, partly to find out whether your love is
perchance fixed upon a lady that would render my warning useless."

"Well, so you see, Rosabella, that I was right, and that your tenderness
was not aimless. Now, then, you want to warn me? I have yet to learn
that I need any warning."

"Nay, brother! For it would certainly be very dangerous and mischievous
for you, if your love should chance not to be in accordance with the
command of the king."

A momentary flush spread over Henry Howard's face, and his brow
darkened.

"With the king's command?" asked he, in astonishment. "I did not know
that Henry the Eighth could control my heart. And, at any rate, I would
never concede him that right. Say quickly, then, sister, what is it?
What means this about the king's command, and what matrimonial scheme
have you women been again contriving? For I well know that you and my
mother have no rest with the thought of seeing me still unmarried. You
want to bestow on me, whether or no, the happiness of marriage; yet,
nevertheless, it appears to me that you both have sufficiently learned
from experience that this happiness is only imaginary, and that marriage
in reality is, at the very least, the vestibule of hell."

"It is true," laughed the duchess; "the only happy moment of my married
life was when my husband died. For in that I am more fortunate than my
mother, who has her tyrant still living about her. Ah, how I pity my
mother!"

"Dare not to revile our noble father!" cried the earl, almost
threateningly. "God alone knows how much he has suffered from our
mother, and how much he still suffers. He is not to blame for this
unhappy marriage. But you have not come to talk over these sad and
disgraceful family matters, sister! You wish to warn me, did you say?"

"Yes, warn you!" said the duchess, tenderly, as she took her brother's
hand and led him to the ottoman. "Come, let us sit down here, Henry, and
let us for once chat confidentially and cordially, as becomes brother
and sister. Tell me, who is Geraldine?"

"A phantom, an ideal! I have told you that already."

"You really love, then, no lady at this court?"

"No, none! There is among all these ladies, with whom the queen has
surrounded herself, not one whom I am able to love."

"Ah, your heart then is free, Henry; and you will be so much more easily
inclined to comply with the king's wish."

"What does the king wish?"

She laid her head on her brother's shoulder, and said in a low whisper:
"That the Howard and Seymour families be at last reconciled; that at
last they may reconcile the hatred, which has for centuries separated
them, by means of a firm and sincere bond of love."

"Ah, the king wants that!" cried the earl, scornfully.

"Forsooth, now, he has made a good beginning toward bringing about this
reconciliation. He has insulted me before all Europe, by removing me
from my command, and investing a Seymour with my rank and dignity; and
he requires that I in return shall love this arrogant earl, who has
robbed me of what is my due; who has long intrigued and besieged the
king's ears with lies and calumnies, till he has gained his end and
supplanted me."

"It is true the king recalled you from the army; but this was done in
order to give you the first place at his court--to appoint you lord
chamberlain to the queen."

Henry Howard trembled and was silent. "It is true," he then muttered; "I
am obliged to the king for this place."

"And then," continued the duchess, with an innocent air, "then I do not
believe either that Lord Hertford is to blame for your recall. To prove
this to you, he has made a proposal to the king, and to me also, which
is to testify to you and to all the world how great an honor Lord
Hertford esteems it to be allied to the Howards, and above all things to
you, by the most sacred bonds."

"Ah, that noble, magnanimous lord!" cried Henry Howard, with a bitter
laugh. "As matters do not advance well with laurels, he tries the
myrtles; since he can win no battles, he wants to make marriages. Now,
sister, let me hear what he has to propose."

"A double marriage, Henry. He asks my hand for his brother Thomas
Seymour, provided you choose his sister, Lady Margaret, for your wife."

"Never!" cried the earl. "Never will Henry Howard present his hand to a
daughter of that house; never condescend so far as to elevate a Seymour
to be his wife. That is well enough for a king--not for a Howard!"

"Brother, you insult the king!"

"Well, I insult him, then! He has insulted me, too, in arranging this
base scheme."

"Brother, reflect; the Seymours are powerful, and stand high in the
king's favor."

"Yes, in the king's favor they stand high! But the people know their
proud, cruel, and arrogant disposition; and the people and nobility
despise them. The Seymours have the voice of the king in their favor;
the Howards the voice of the whole country, and that is of more
consequence. The king can exalt the Seymours, for they stand far beneath
him. He cannot exalt the Howards, for they are his equals. Nor can he
degrade them. Catharine died on the scaffold--the king became thereby
only a hangman--our escutcheon was not sullied by that act!"

"These are very proud words, Henry!"

"They become a son of the Norfolks, Rosabella! Ah, see that petty Lord
Hertford, Earl Seymour. He covets a ducal coronet for his sister. He
wants to give her to me to wife; for as soon as our poor father dies, I
wear his coronet! The arrogant upstarts! For the sister's escutcheon, my
coronet; for the brother's, your coronet. Never, say I, shall that be!"

The duchess had become pale, and a tremor ran through her proud form.
Her eyes flashed, and an angry word was already suspended on her lips;
but she still held it back. She violently forced herself to calmness and
self-possession.

"Consider once more, Henry," said she, "do not decide at once. You speak
of our greatness; but you do not bear in mind the power of the Seymours.
I tell you they are powerful enough to tread us in the dust, despite all
our greatness. And they are not only powerful at the present; they will
be so in the future also; for it is well known in what disposition and
what way of thinking the Prince of Wales is trained up. The king is old,
weak, and failing; death lurks behind his throne, and will soon enough
press him in his arms. Then Edward is king. With him, the heresy of
Protestantism triumphs; and however great and numerous our party may be,
yet we shall be powerless and subdued. Yes, we shall be the oppressed
and persecuted."

"We shall then know how to fight, and if it must be so, to die also!"
cried her brother. "It is more honorable to die on the battle-field than
to purchase life and humiliation."

"Yes, it is honorable to die on the field of battle; but, Henry, it is a
disgrace to come to an end upon the scaffold. And that, my brother, may
be your fate, if you do not this time bend your pride; if you do not
grasp the hand that Lord Hertford extends to you in reconciliation, but
mortally offend him. He will take bloody vengeance, when once he comes
into power."

"Let him do it, if he can; my life is in God's hand! My head belongs
to the king, but my heart to myself; and that I will never degrade to
merchandise, which I may barter for a little security and royal favor."

"Brother, I conjure you, consider it!" cried the duchess, no longer able
to restrain her passionate disposition, and all ablaze in her savage
wrath. "Dare not in proud arrogance to destroy my future also! You may
die on the scaffold, if you choose; but I--I will be happy; I will
at last, after so many years of sorrow and disgrace, have my share of
life's joys also. It is my due, and I will not relinquish it; and you
shall not be allowed to tear it from me. Know, then, my brother, I love
Thomas Seymour; all my desire, all my hope is fixed on him; and I will
not tear this love out of my heart; I will not give him up."

"Well, if you love him, marry him, then!" exclaimed her brother. "Become
the wife of this Thomas Seymour! Ask the duke, our father, for his
consent to this marriage, and I am certain he will not refuse you,
for he is prudent and cautious, and will, better than I, calculate the
advantages which a connection with the Seymours may yield our family. Do
that, sister, and marry your dearly beloved. I do not hinder you."

"Yes, you do hinder me--you alone!" cried his sister, flaming with
wrath. "You will refuse Margaret's hand; you will give the Seymours
mortal offence. You thereby make my union with Thomas Seymour
impossible! In the proud selfishness of your haughtiness, you see not
that you are dashing to atoms my happiness, while you are thinking only
of your desire to offend the Seymours. But I tell you, I love Thomas
Seymour--nay, I adore him. He is my happiness, my future, my eternal
bliss. Therefore have pity on me, Henry! Grant me this happiness, which
I implore you for as Heaven's blessing. Prove to me that you love me,
and are willing to make this sacrifice for me. Henry, on my knees,
I conjure you! Give me the man I love; bend your proud head; become
Margaret Seymour's husband, that Thomas Seymour may become mine."

She had actually sunk upon her knees; and her face deluged with
tears, bewitchingly beautiful in her passionate emotion, she looked up
imploringly to her brother.

But the earl did not lift her up; on the contrary, with a smile, he fell
back a step. "How long is it now, duchess," asked he, mockingly, "since
you swore that your secretary, Mr. Wilford, was the man whom you loved?
Positively, I believed you--I believed it till I one day found you in
the arms of your page. On that day, I swore to myself never to believe
you again, though you vowed to me, with an oath ever so sacred, that
you loved a man. Well, now, you love a man; but what one, is a matter of
indifference. To-day his name is Thomas, tomorrow Archibald, or Edward
as you please!"

For the first time the earl drew the veil away from his heart, and let
his sister see all the contempt and anger that he felt toward her.

The duchess also felt wounded by his words, as by a red-hot iron.

She sprang from her knees; and with flurried breath, with looks flashing
with rage, every muscle of her countenance convulsed and trembling,
there she stood before her brother. She was a woman no more; she was a
lioness, that, without compassion or pity, will devour him who has dared
irritate her.

"Earl of Surrey, you are a shameless wretch!" said she, with compressed,
quivering lips. "Were I a man, I would slap you in the face, and call
you a scoundrel. But, by the eternal God, you shall not say that you
have done this with impunity! Once more, and for the last time, I now
ask you, will you comply with Lord Hertford's wish? Will you marry Lady
Margaret, and accompany me with Thomas Seymour to the altar?"

"No, I will not, and I will never do it!" exclaimed her brother,
solemnly. "The Howards bow not before the Seymours; and never will Henry
Howard marry a wife that he does not love!"

"Ah, you love her not!" said she, breathless, gnashing her teeth. "You
do not love Lady Margaret; and for this reason must your sister renounce
her love, and give up this man whom she adores. Ah, you love not this
sister of Thomas Seymour? She is not the Geraldine whom you adore--to
whom you dedicate your verses! Well, now, I will find her out--your
Geraldine. I will discover her; and then, woe to you and to her! You
refuse me your hand to lead me to the altar with Thomas Seymour; well,
now, I will one day extend you my hand to conduct you and your Geraldine
to the scaffold!"

And as she saw how the earl startled and turned pale, she continued with
a scornful laugh: "Ah, you shrink, and horror creeps over you! Does
your conscience admonish you that the hero, rigid in virtue, may yet
sometimes make a false step? You thought to hide your secret, if you
enveloped it in the veil of night, like your Geraldine, who, as you
wailingly complain in that poem there, never shows herself to you
without a veil as black as night. Just wait, wait! I will strike a light
for you, before which all your night-like veils shall be torn in shreds;
I will light up the night of your secret with a torch which will be
large enough to set on fire the fagot piles about the stake to which you
and your Geraldine are to go!"

"Ah, now you let me see for the first time your real countenance," said
Henry Howard, shrugging his shoulders. "The angel's mask falls from your
face; and I behold the fury that was hidden beneath it. Now you are your
mother's own daughter; and at this moment I comprehend for the first
time what my father has suffered, and why he shunned not even the
disgrace of a divorce, just to be delivered from such a Megaera."

"Oh, I thank you, thank you!" cried she, with a savage laugh. "You are
filling up the measure of your iniquity. It is not enough that you drive
your sister to despair; you revile your mother also! You say that we are
furies; well, indeed, for we shall one day be such to you, and we will
show you our Medusa-face, before which you will be stiffened to stone.
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, from this hour out, I am your implacable
enemy; look out for the head on your shoulders, for my hand is raised
against it, and in my hand is a sword! Guard well the secret that sleeps
in your breast; for you have transformed me to a vampire that will suck
your heart's blood. You have reviled my mother, and I will go hence and
tell her of it. She will believe me; for she well knows that you hate
her, and that you are a genuine son of your father; that is to say, a
canting hypocrite, a miserable fellow, who carries virtue on the lips
and crime in the heart."

"Cease, I say, cease," cried the earl, "if you do not want me to forget
that you are a woman and my sister!"

"Forget it by all means," said she, scornfully. "I have forgotten long
since that you are my brother, as you have long since forgotten that you
are the son of your mother. Farewell, Earl of Surrey; I leave you and
your palace, and will from this hour out abide with my mother, the
divorced wife of the Duke of Norfolk. But mark you this: we two are
separated from you in our love--but not in our hate! Our hatred to
you remains eternal and unchangeable; and one day it will crush you!
Farewell, Earl of Surrey; we meet again in the king's presence!"

She rushed to the door. Henry Howard did not hold her back. He looked
after her with a smile as she left the cabinet, and murmured, almost
compassionately: "Poor woman! I have, perhaps, cheated her out of a
lover, and she will never forgive me that. Well, let it be so! Let
her, as much as she pleases, be my enemy, and torment me with petty
pin-prickings, if she be but unable to harm her. I hope, though, that I
have guarded well my secret, and she could not suspect the real cause
of my refusal. Ah, I was obliged to wrap myself in that foolish family
pride, and make haughtiness a cloak for my love. Oh, Geraldine, thee
would I choose, wert thou the daughter of a peasant; and I would not
hold my escutcheon tarnished, if for thy sake I must draw a pale
athwart it.--But hark! It is striking four! My service begins! Farewell,
Geraldine, I must to the queen!"

And while he betook himself to his dressing-room, to put on his state
robes for the great court feast, the Duchess of Richmond returned to her
own apartments, trembling and quivering with rage. She traversed these
with precipitate haste, and entered her boudoir, where Earl Douglas was
waiting for her.

"Well," said he, stepping toward her with his soft, lurking smile, "has
he consented?"

"No," said she, gnashing her teeth. "He swore he would never enter into
an alliance with the Seymours."

"I well knew that," muttered the earl. "And what do you decide upon now,
my lady?"

"I will have revenge! He wants to hinder me from being happy; I will for
that make him unhappy!"

"You will do well in that, my lady; for he is an apostate and perjurer;
an unfaithful son of the Church. He inclines to the heretical sect, and
has forgotten the faith of his fathers."

"I know it!" said she, breathlessly.

Earl Douglas looked at her in astonishment, and continued: "But he is
not merely an atheist, he is a traitor also; and more than once he has
reviled his king, to whom he, in his pride of heart, believes himself
far superior."

"I know it!" repeated she.

"So proud is he," continued the earl, "so full of blasphemous
haughtiness, that he might lay his hands upon the crown of England."

"I know it!" said the duchess again. But as she saw the earl's
astonished and doubting looks, she added, with an inhuman smile: "I know
everything that you want that I should know! Only impute crimes to him;
only accuse him; I will substantiate everything, testify to everything
that will bring him to ruin. My mother is our ally; she hates the father
as hotly as I the son. Bring your accusation, then, Earl Douglas; we are
your witnesses!"

"Nay, indeed, my lady," said he, with a gentle, insinuating smile. "I
know nothing at all; I have heard nothing; how, then, can I bring
an accusation? You know all; to you he has spoken. You must be his
accuser!"

"Well, then, conduct me to the king!" said she.

"Will you allow me to give you some more advice first?"

"Do so, Earl Douglas."

"Be very cautious in the choice of your means. Do not waste them all
at once, so that if your first thrust does not hit, you may not be
afterward without weapons. It is better, and far less dangerous, to
surely kill the enemy that you hate with a slow, creeping poison,
gradually and day by day, than to murder him at once with a dagger,
which may, however, break on a rib and become ineffective. Tell, then,
what you know, not at once, but little by little. Administer your drug
which is to make the king furious, gradually; and if you do not hit
your enemy to-day, think that you will do it so much the more surely
to-morrow. Nor do you forget that we have to punish, not merely the
heretic Henry Howard, but above all things the heretical queen, whose
unbelief will call down the wrath of the Most High upon this land."

"Come to the king," said she, hastily. "On the way you can tell me what
I ought to make known and what conceal. I will do implicitly what you
say. Now, Henry Howard," said she softly to herself, "hold yourself
ready; the contest begins! In your pride and selfishness you have
destroyed the happiness of my life--my eternal felicity. I loved Thomas
Seymour; I hoped by his side to find the happiness that I have so long
and so vainly sought in the crooked paths of life. By this love my soul
would have been saved and restored to virtue. My brother has willed
otherwise. He has, therefore, condemned me to be a demon, instead of
an angel. I will fulfil my destiny. I will be an evil spirit to him."
[Footnote: The Earl of Surrey, by his refusal to marry Margaret Seymour,
gave occasion to the rupture of the proposed alliance between Thomas
Seymour and the Duchess of Richmond, his sister. After that the duchess
mortally hated him and combined with his enemies against him. The
Duchess of Richmond is designated by all the historians of her time
as "the most beautiful woman of her century, but also a shameless
Messalina."--See Tytler, p. 890. Also Burnet, vol. i, p. 134; Leti, vol.
i, p. 83; and Nott's Life of Henry Howard.]





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Previous: Henry Howard Earl Of Surrey



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