The King And The Priest
Choosing A Confessor
Henry The Eighth And His Wives
Le Roi Est Mort Vive La Reine!
Letter Fourth To Anne Boleyn
Gammer Gueton's Needle
Letter First To Anne Boleyn
Least ViewedLetter Fifteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Sixteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Eighteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Eleventh To Anne Boleyn
Letter Seventh To Anne Boleyn
Letter Sixth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Ninth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Fourteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Seventeenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Thirteenth To Anne Boleyn
It was many days since the king had been as well as he was to-day. For a
long time he had not enjoyed such refreshing sleep as on the day when he
signed the warrant for the queen's imprisonment. But he thought nothing
at all about it. Sleep seemed to have obliterated all recollection of it
from his memory. Like an anecdote which you listen to, and smile at for
the moment, but soon forget, so had the whole occurrence vanished
again from him. It was an anecdote of the moment--a transient
The king had slept well, and he had no care for anything else. He
stretched himself, and lay lounging on his couch, thinking with rapture
how fine it would be if he could enjoy such sweet and refreshing repose
every day, and if no bad dreams and no fear would frighten away sleep
from his eyes. He felt very serene and very good-humored; and had any
one now come to beg a favor of the king, he would have granted it in the
first joy after such invigorating sleep. But he was alone; no one was
with him; he must repress his gracious desires. But no. Was it not as
though something were stirring and breathing behind the curtains?
The king threw back the curtains, and a soft smile flitted over his
features; for before his bed sat the queen. There she sat with rosy
cheeks and sparkling eyes, and greeted him with a roguish smile.
"Ah, Kate, it is you!" cried the king. "Well, now, I understand how it
happened that I have had such a sound and refreshing sleep! You stood
by as my good angel, and scared the pains and bad dreams away from my
And as he said this, he reached out his hand and tenderly stroked her
velvet cheek. He did not at all recollect that he had already, as it
were, devoted that charming head to the scaffold, and that in a few
hours more those bright eyes were to behold naught but the night of
the dungeon. Sleep, as we have said, had lulled to rest also the
recollection of this; and the evil thoughts had not yet awoke again in
him. To sign an order of arrest or a death-warrant was with the king
such a usual and every-day matter, that it constituted no epoch in his
life, and neither burdened him with troubles of conscience nor made his
heart shudder and tremble.
But Catharine thought of it, and as the king's hand stroked her cheek,
it was as though death were just then touching her, never again to
release her. However, she overcame this momentary horror, and had the
courage to preserve her serene and innocent air.
"You call me your good angel, my husband," said she, with a smile; "but
yet I am nothing more than your little Puck, who bustles about you, and
now and then makes you laugh with his drolleries."
"And a dear little Puck you are, Katie," cried the king, who always
gazed upon his wife's rosy and fresh countenance with real satisfaction.
"Then I will prove myself this very day your Puck, and allow you no more
repose on your couch," said she, as she made a mock effort to raise him
up. "Do you know, my husband, why I came here? A butterfly has tapped
at my window. Only think now, a butterfly in winter! That betokens that
this time winter is spring; and the clerk of the weather above there has
confounded January with March. The butterfly has invited us, king; and
only see! the sun is winking into the window to us, and says we have but
to come out, as he has already dried the walks in the garden below, and
called forth a little grass on the plat. And your rolling chair stands
all ready, my lord and husband, and your Puck, as you see, has already
put on her furs, and clad herself in armor against the winter, which,
however, is not there!"
"Well, then, help me, my dearest Puck, so that I can arise, and obey
the command of the butterfly and the sun and my lovely wife," cried
the king, as he put his arm around Catharine's neck, and slowly raised
himself from the couch.
She busied herself about him with officious haste; she put her arm
tenderly on his shoulder and supported him, and properly arranged for
him the gold chain, which had slipped out of place on his doublet, and
playfully plaited the lace ruff which was about his neck.
"Is it your order, my husband, that your servants come?--the master of
ceremonies, who, without doubt, awaits your back in the anteroom--the
lord bishop--who a while ago made such a black-looking face at me? But
how! my husband, your face, too, is now in an eclipse? How? Has your
Puck perchance said something to put you out of tune?"
"No, indeed!" said the king, gloomily; but he avoided meeting her
smiling glance and looking in her rosy face.
The evil thoughts had again awoke in him; and he now remembered the
warrant of arrest that he had given Gardiner. He remembered it, and
he regretted it. For she was so fair and lovely--his young queen; she
understood so well by her jests to smooth away care from his brow, and
affright vexation from his soul--she was such an agreeable and sprightly
pastime, such a refreshing means of driving away ennui.
Not for her sake did he regret what he had done, but only on his own
account. From selfishness alone, he repented having issued that order
for the queen's imprisonment. Catharine observed him. Her glance,
sharpened by inward fear, read his thoughts on his brow, and understood
the sigh which involuntarily arose from his breast.
She again seized courage; she might succeed in turning away by a smile
the sword that hung over her head.
"Come, my lord and husband," said she, cheerfully, "the sun beckons to
us, and the trees shake their heads indignantly because we are not yet
"Yes, come, Kate," said the king, rousing himself with an effort from
his brown study; "come, we will go down into God's free air. Perhaps
He is nearer to us there, and may illuminate us with good thoughts and
wholesome resolutions. Come, Kate."
The queen gave him her arm, and, supported on it, the king advanced a
few steps. But suddenly Catharine stood still; and as the king fastened
on her his inquiring look, she blushed and cast down her eyes.
"Well!" asked the king, "why do you linger?"
"Sire, I was considering your words; and what you say about the sun and
wholesome resolutions has touched my heart and startled my conscience.
My husband, you are right; God is there without, and I dare not venture
to behold the sun, which is God's eye, before I have made my confession
and received absolution. Sire, I am a great sinner, and my conscience
gives me no rest. Will you be my confessor, and listen to me?"
The king sighed. "Ah," thought he, "she is hurrying to destruction, and
by her own confession of guilt she will make it impossible for me to
hold her guiltless!"
"Speak!" said he aloud.
"First," said she, with downcast eyes--"first, I must confess to you
that I have to-day deceived you, my lord and king. Vanity and sinful
pride enticed me to this; and childish anger made me consummate what
vanity whispered to me. But I repent, my king; I repent from the bottom
of my soul, and I swear to you, my husband--yes, I swear to you by all
that is sacred to me, that it is the first and only time that I have
deceived you. And never will I venture to do it again, for it is a
dismal and awful feeling to stand before you with a guilty conscience."
"And in what have you deceived us, Kate?" asked the king; and his voice
Catharine drew from her dress a small roll of paper, and, humbly bowing,
handed it to the king. "Take and see for yourself, my husband," said
With hurried hand the king opened the paper, and then looked in utter
astonishment, now at its contents, and now at the blushing face of the
"What!" said he, "you give me a pawn from the chess-board! What does
"That means," said she, in a tone of utter contrition--"that means, that
I stole it from you, and thereby cheated you out of your victory. Oh,
pardon me, my husband! but I could no longer endure to lose always, and
I was afraid you would no more allow me the pleasure of playing with
you, when you perceived what a weak and contemptible antagonist I am.
And behold, this little pawn was my enemy! It stood near my queen and
threatened her with check, while it discovered check to my king from
your bishop. You were just going to make this move, which was to ruin
me, when Bishop Gardiner entered. You turned away your eyes and saluted
him. You were not looking on the game. Oh, my lord and husband, the
temptation was too alluring and seductive; and I yielded to it. Softly
I took the pawn from the board, and slipped it into my pocket. When
you looked again at the game, you seemed surprised at first; but your
magnanimous and lofty spirit had no suspicion of my base act; so you
innocently played on; and so I won the game of chess. Oh, my king, will
you pardon me, and not be angry with me?" The king broke out into a loud
laugh, and looked with an expression of tenderness at Catharine, who
stood before him with downcast eyes, abashed and blushing. This sight
only redoubled his merriment, and made him again and again roar out with
"And is that all your crime, Kate?" asked he, at length, drying his
eyes. "You have stolen a pawn from me--this is your first and only
"Is it not indeed great enough, sire? Did I not purloin it because I was
so high-minded as to want to win a game of chess from you? Is not the
whole court even now acquainted with my splendid luck? And does it not
know that I have been the victor to-day, whilst yet I was not entitled
to be so--whilst I deceived you so shamefully?"
"Now, verily," said the king, solemnly, "happy are the men who are not
worse deceived by their wives than you have deceived me to-day; and
happy are the women whose confessions are so pure and innocent as yours
have been to-day! Do but lift up your eyes again, my Katie; that sin is
forgiven you; and by God and by your king it shall be accounted to you
as a virtue."
He laid his hand on her head, as if in blessing, and gazed at her long
and silently. Then, said he, laughingly:
"According to this, then, my Kate, I should have been the victor of
to-day, and not have lost that game of chess."
"No," said she, dolefully, "I must have lost it, if I had not stolen the
Again the king laughed. Catharine said, earnestly:
"Do but believe me, my husband, Bishop Gardiner alone was the cause of
my fall. Because he was by, I did not want to lose. My pride revolted
to think that this haughty and arrogant priest was to be witness of
my defeat. In mind, I already saw the cold and contemptuous smile with
which he would look down on me, the vanquished; and my heart rose in
rebellion at the thought of being humbled before him. And now I have
arrived at the second part of my fault which I want to confess to you
to-day. Sire, I must acknowledge another great fault to you. I have
grievously offended against you to-day, in that I contradicted you, and
withstood your wise and pious words. Ah, my husband, it was not done
to spite you, but only to vex and annoy the haughty priest. For I must
confess to you, my king, I hate this Bishop of Winchester--ay, yet
more--I have a dread of him; for my foreboding heart tells me that he
is my enemy, that he is watching each of my looks, each of my words,
so that he can make from them a noose to strangle me. He is the evil
destiny that creeps up behind me and would one day certainly destroy me,
if your beneficent hand and your almighty arm did not protect me.
"Oh, when I behold him, my husband, I would always gladly fly to your
heart, and say to you: 'Protect me, my king, and have compassion on me!
Have faith in me and love me; for if you do not, I am lost! The evil
fiend is there to destroy me.'"
And, as she thus spoke, she clung affectionately to the king's side,
and, leaning her head on his breast, looked up to him with a glance of
tender entreaty and touching devotion.
The king bent down and kissed her brow. "Oh, sancta simplicitas," softly
murmured he--"she knows not how nigh she is to the truth, and how much
reason she has for her evil forebodings!" Then he asked aloud: "So,
Kate, you believe that Gardiner hates you?"
"I do not believe it, I know it!" said she. "He wounds me whenever he
can; and though his wounds are made only with pins, that comes only from
this, that he is afraid that you might discover it if he drew a dagger
on me, whilst you might not notice the pin with which he secretly wounds
me. And what was his coming here to-day other than a new assault on me?
He knows very well--and I have never made a secret of it--that I am an
enemy to this Roman Catholic religion the pope of which has dared to
hurl his ban against my lord and husband; and that I seek with lively
interest to be instructed as to the doctrine and religion of the
"They say that you are a heretic," said the king, gravely.
"Gardiner says that! But if I am so, you are so too, my king; for your
belief is mine. If I am so, so too is Cranmer, the noble Archbishop
of Canterbury; for he is my spiritual adviser and helper. But Gardiner
wishes that I were a heretic, and he wants me likewise to appear so to
you. See, my husband, why it was that he laid those eight death-warrants
before you awhile ago. There were eight, all heretics, whom you were to
condemn--not a single papist among them; and yet I know that the prisons
are full of papists, who, in the fanaticism of their persecuted faith,
have spoken words just as worthy of punishment as those unfortunate ones
whom you were to-day to send from life to death by a stroke of your pen.
Sire, I should have prayed you just as fervently, just as suppliantly,
had they been papists whom you were to sentence to death! But Gardiner
wanted a proof of my heresy; and therefore he selected eight heretics,
for whom I was to oppose your hard decree."
"It is true," said the king, thoughtfully; "there was not a single
papist among them! But tell me, Kate--are you really a heretic, and an
adversary of your king?"
With a sweet smile she looked deep into his eyes, and humbly crossed her
arms over her beautiful breast.
"Your adversary!" whispered she. "Are you not my husband and my lord?
Was not the woman made to be subject to the man? The man was created
after the likeness of God, and the woman after the likeness of man. So
the woman is only the man's second self; and he must have compassion
on her in love; and he must give her of his spirit, and influence her
understanding from his understanding. Therefore your duty is to instruct
me, my husband; and mine is, to learn of you. And of all the women in
the world, to no one is this duty made so easy as to me; for God has
been gracious to me and given me as my husband a king whose prudence,
wisdom, and learning are the wonder of all the world." [Footnote: The
queen's own words, as they have been given by all historical writers.
See on this point Burnet, vol. I, p. 84; Tytler, p. 413; Larrey's
"Histoire d'Angleterre," vol. II, p. 201; Leti, vol. I, p. 154,
(death-sign) Historical. The king's own words.] "What a sweet little
flatterer you are, Kate!" said the king, with a smile; "and with what a
charming voice you want to conceal the truth from us! The truth is, that
you yourself are a very learned little body, who has no need at all
to learn anything from others, but who would be well able to instruct
"Oh, if it is so, as you say," cried Catharine, "well, then would I
teach the whole world to love my king as I do, and to be subject to him
in humility, faithfulness, and obedience, as I am."
And as she thus spoke, she threw both her arms about the king's neck,
and leaned her head with a languishing expression upon his breast.
The king kissed her, and pressed her fast to his heart. He thought no
longer of the danger that was hovering over Catharine's head; he thought
only that he loved her, and that life would be very desolate, very
tedious and sad without her.
"And now, my husband," said Catharine, gently disengaging herself from
him--"now, since I have confessed to you and received absolution from
you--now let us go down into the garden, so that God's bright sun may
shine into our hearts fresh and glad. Come, my husband, your chair is
ready; and the bees and the butterflies, the gnats and the flies, have
already practised a hymn, with which they are going to greet you, my
Laughing and jesting, she drew him along to the adjoining room, where
the courtiers and the rolling-chair were standing ready; and the king
mounted his triumphal car, and allowed himself to be rolled through
the carpeted corridors, and down the staircases, transformed into broad
inclined planes of marble, into the garden.
The air had the freshness of winter and the warmth of spring. The grass
like a diligent weaver was already beginning to weave a carpet over the
black level of the square; and already here and there a tiny blossom,
curious and bashful, was peeping out and appeared to be smiling in
astonishment at its own premature existence. The sun seemed so warm and
bright; the heavens were so blue!
At the king's side went Catharine, with such rosy cheeks and sparkling
eyes. Those eyes were always directed to her husband; and her charming
prattle was to the king like the melodious song of birds, and made his
heart leap for pleasure and delight. But how? What noise all at once
drowned Catharine's sweet prattle? And what was it that flashed up there
at the end of that large alley which the royal pair with their suite had
It was the noise of soldiers advancing; and shining helmets and
coats-of-mail flashed in the sunlight.
One band of soldiers held the outlet from the alley; another advanced up
it in close order. At their head were seen striding along Gardiner and
Earl Douglas, and at their side the lieutenant of the Tower.
The king's countenance assumed a lowering and angry expression and his
cheeks were suffused with crimson. With the quickness of youth he rose
from his chair, and, raised to his full height, he looked with flaming
eyes at the procession.
The queen seized his hand and pressed it to her breast.
"Ah," said she, with a low whisper, "protect me, my husband, for fear
already overpowers me again! It is my enemy--it is Gardiner--that comes,
and I tremble."
"You shall no longer tremble before him, Kate!" said the king. "Woe to
them, that dare make King Henry's consort tremble! I will speak with
And almost roughly pushing aside the queen, the king, utterly heedless
in his violent excitement of the pain of his foot, went in a quick pace
to meet the advancing troop.
He ordered them by his gesture to halt, and called Gardiner and Douglas
to him. "What want you here? And what means this strange array?" asked
he, in a rough tone.
The two courtiers stared at him with looks of amazement, and durst not
"Well!" asked the king, with ever-rising wrath, "will you at length
tell me by what right you intrude into my garden with an armed
host--specially at the same hour that I am here with my consort?
Verily, there is no sufficient excuse for such a gross violation of
the reverence which you owe your king and master; and I marvel, my lord
master of ceremonies, that you did not seek to prevent this indecorum!"
Earl Douglas muttered a few words of apology, which the king did not
understand, or did not want to understand.
"The duty of a master of ceremonies is to protect his king from every
annoyance, and you, Earl Douglas, offer it to me yourself. Perchance you
want thereby to show that you are weary of your office. Well, then, my
lord, I dismiss you from it, and that your presence may not remind me
of this morning's transaction, you will leave the court and London!
Farewell, my lord!"
Earl Douglas, turning pale and trembling, staggered a few steps
backward, and gazed at the king with astonishment. He wanted to speak,
but Henry, with a commanding wave of the hand, bade him be silent.
"And now for you, my lord bishop!" said the king, and his eyes were
turned on Gardiner with an expression so wrathful and contemptuous, that
he turned pale and looked down to the ground. "What means this strange
train with which the priest of God approaches his royal master to-day?
And under what impulse of Christian love are you going to hold to-day a
heretic hunt in the garden of your king?"
"Sire," said Gardiner, completely beside himself, "your majesty well
knows why I come; it was at your majesty's command that I with Earl
Douglas and the lieutenant of the Tower came, in order to--"
"Dare not to speak further!" yelled the king, who became still more
angry because Gardiner would not understand him and comprehend the
altered state of his mind. "How dare you make a pretence of my commands,
whilst I, full of just amazement, question you as to the cause of your
appearance? That is to say, you want to charge your king with falsehood.
You want to excuse yourself by accusing me. Ah, my worthy lord bishop,
this time you are thwarted in your plan, and I disavow you and your
foolish attempt. No! there is nobody here whom you shall arrest; and,
by the holy mother of God, were your eyes not blind, you would have seen
that here, where the king is taking an airing with his consort, there
could be no one whom these catchpolls had to look for! The presence of
the royal majesty is like the presence of God; it dispenses happiness
and peace about it; and whoever is touched by his glory, is graced and
"But, your majesty," screamed Gardiner, whom anger and disappointed hope
had made forgetful of all considerations, "you wanted me to arrest the
queen; you yourself gave me the order for it; and now when I come to
execute your will--now you repudiate me."
The king uttered a yell of rage, and with lifted arm moved some steps
But suddenly he felt his arm held back. It was Catharine, who had
hurried up to the king. "Oh, my husband," said she, in a low whisper,
"whatever he may have done, spare him! Still he is a priest of the
Lord; and so let his sacred robe protect him, though perchance his deeds
"Ah, do you plead for him?" cried the king. "Really, my poor wife, you
suspect not how little ground you have to pity him, and to beg my mercy
for him. [Footnote: The king's own words,--See Leti, vol. I, p. 133,]
But you are right. We will respect his cassock, and think no more of
what a haughty and intriguing man is wrapped in it.--But beware, priest,
that you do not again remind me of that. My wrath would then inevitably
strike you; and I should have as little mercy for you as you say I ought
to show to other evil-doers. And in as much as you are a priest, be
penetrated with a sense of the gravity of your office and the sacredness
of your calling. Your episcopal see is at Winchester, and I think your
duties call you thither. We no longer need you, for the noble Archbishop
of Canterbury is coming back to us, and will have to fulfil the duties
of his office near us and the queen. Farewell!"
He turned his back on Gardiner, and, supported on Catharine's arm,
returned to his rolling-chair.
"Kate," said he, "just now a lowering cloud stood in your sky, but,
thanks to your smile and your innocent face, it has passed harmlessly
over. We thinks we still owe you special thanks for this; and we would
like to show you that by some office of love. Is there nothing that
would give you special delight, Kate?"
"Oh, yes," said she, with fervor. "Two great desires burn in my heart."
"Then name them, Kate; and, by the mother of God, if it is in the power
of a king to fulfil them, I will do it."
Catharine seized his hand and pressed it to her heart.
"Sire," said she, "they wanted to have you sign eight death-warrants
to-day. Oh, my husband, make of these eight criminals eight happy,
thankful subjects; teach them to love that king whom they have
reviled--teach their children, their wives and mothers to pray for you,
whilst you restore life and freedom to these fathers, these sons and
husbands, and while you, great and merciful, like Deity, pardon them."
"So shall it be!" cried the king, cheerfully. "Our hand shall have
to-day no other work than to rest in yours; and we will spare it
from making these eight strokes of the pen. The eight evil-doers are
pardoned; and they shall be free this very day."
With an exclamation of rapturous delight Catharine pressed Henry's hand
to her lips, and her face shone with pure happiness.
"And your second wish?" asked the king.
"My second wish," said she, with a smile, "pleads for the freedom of a
poor prisoner--for the freedom of a human heart, sire."
The king laughed. "A human heart? Does that then run about on the
street, so that it can be caught and made a prisoner of?"
"Sire, you have found it, and incarcerated it in your daughter's bosom.
You want to put Elizabeth's heart in fetters, and by an unnatural law
compel her to renounce her freedom of choice. Only think--to want to
bid a woman's heart, before she can love, to inquire first about the
genealogical tree, and to look at the coat-of-arms before she notices
"Oh, women, women, what foolish children you are, though!" cried the
king, laughingly. "The question is about thrones, and you think about
your hearts! But come, Kate, you shall still further explain that to me;
and we will not take back our word, for we have given it you from a free
and glad heart."
He took the queen's arm, and, supported on it, walked slowly up the
alley with her. The lords and ladies of the court followed them in
silence and at a respectful distance; and no one suspected that this
woman, who was stepping along so proud and magnificent, had but just now
escaped an imminent peril of her life; that this man, who was leaning
on her arm with such devoted tenderness, had but a few hours before
resolved on her destruction. [Footnote: All this plot instigated by
Gardiner against the queen is, in minutest details, historically true,
and is found substantially the same in all historical works.] And whilst
chatting confidentially together they both wandered through the avenues,
two others with drooping head and pale face left the royal castle, which
was to be to them henceforth a lost paradise. Sullen spite and raging
hate were in their hearts, but yet they were obliged to endure in
silence; they were obliged to smile and to seem harmless, in order not
to prepare a welcome feast for the malice of the court. They felt the
spiteful looks of all these courtiers, although they passed by them with
down-cast eyes. They imagined they heard their malicious whispers,
their derisive laughter; and it pierced their hearts like the stab of a
At length they had surmounted it--at length the palace lay behind them,
and they were at least free to pour out in words the agony that consumed
them--free to be able to break out into bitter execrations, into curses
"Lost! all is lost!" said Earl Douglas to himself in a hollow voice. "I
am thwarted in all my plans. I have sacrificed to the Church my life,
my means, ay, even my daughter, and it has all been in vain. And, like a
beggar, I now stand on the street forsaken and without comfort; and our
holy mother the Church will no longer heed the son who loved her
and sacrificed himself for her, since he was so unfortunate, and his
"Despair not!" said Gardiner, solemnly. "Clouds gather above us; but
they are dispersed again. And after the day of storm, comes again the
day of light. Our day also will come, my friend. Now, we go hence, our
heads strewn with ashes, and bowed at heart; but, believe me, we shall
one day come again with shining face and exultant heart; and the flaming
sword of godly wrath will glitter in our hands, and a purple robe will
enfold us, dyed in the blood of heretics whom we offer up to the Lord
our God as a well-pleasing sacrifice. God spares us for a better time;
and our banishment, believe me, friend, is but a refuge that God has
prepared for us this evil time which we are approaching."
"You speak of an evil time, and nevertheless you hope, your highness?"
asked Douglas, gloomily.
"And nevertheless I hope!" said Gardiner, with a strange and horrible
smile, and, bending down closer to Douglas, he whispered: "the king has
only a few days more to live. He does not suspect how near he is to his
death, and nobody has the courage to tell him. But his physician has
confided it to me. His vital forces are consumed, and death stands
already before his door to throttle him."
"And when he is dead," said Earl Douglas, shrugging his shoulders, "his
son Edward will be king, and those heretical Seymours will control the
helm of state! Call you that hope, your highness?"
"I call it so."
"Do you not know that Edward, young as he is, is nevertheless a
fanatical adherent of the heretical doctrine, and at the same time a
furious opponent of the Church in which alone is salvation?"
"I know it, but I know also that Edward is a feeble boy; and there is
current in our Church a holy prophecy which predicts that his reign is
only of short duration. God only knows what his death will be, but the
Church has often before seen her enemies die a sudden death. Death has
been often before this the most effective ally of our holy mother the
Church. Believe me, then, my son and hope, for I tell you Edward's rule
will be of short duration. And after him she will ascend the throne, the
noble and devout Mary, the rigid Catholic, who hates heretics as much
as Edward loves them. Oh, friend, when Mary ascends the throne, we shall
rise from our humiliation, and the dominion will be ours. Then will all
England become, as it were, a single great temple, and the fagot-piles
about the stake are the altars on which we will consume the heretics,
and their shrieks of agony are the holy psalms which we will make them
strike up to the honor of God and His holy Church. Hope for this time,
for I tell you it will soon come."
"If you say so, your highness, then it will come to pass," said Douglas,
significantly. "I will then hope and wait. I will save myself from evil
days in Scotland, and wait for the good."
"And I go, as this king by the wrath of God has commanded, to my
episcopal seat. The wrath of God will soon call Henry hence. May his
dying hour be full of torment, and may the Holy Father's curse be
realized and fulfilled in him! Farewell! We go with palms of peace
forced on us; but we will return with the naming sword, and our hands
will be dripping with heretic blood."
They once more shook hands and silently departed, and before evening
came on they had both left London. [Footnote: Gardiner's prophecy was
soon fulfilled. A few days after Gardiner had fallen into disgrace
Henry, the Eighth died, and his son Edward, yet a minor, ascended the
throne. But his rule was of brief duration. After a reign of scarcely
six years, he died a youth of the age of sixteen years, and his sister
Mary, called the Catholic, ascended the throne. Her first act was
to release Gardiner, who under Edward's reign had been confined as a
prisoner in the Tower, and to appoint him her minister, and later, to
the place of lord chancellor. He was one of the most furious persecutors
of the Reformers. Once he said at a council in the presence of the
bigoted queen; "These heretics have a soul so black that it can be
washed clean only in their own blood." He it was, too, who urged the
queen to such severe and odious measures against the Princess Elizabeth,
and caused her to be a second time declared a bastard and unworthy
of succeeding to the throne. When Mary died, Gardiner performed, in
Westminster Abbey, where she was entombed, the service for the dead in
the presence of her successor, Queen Elizabeth. Gardiner's discourse was
an enthusiastic eulogium of the deceased queen, and he set forth, as her
special merit, that she hated the heretics so ardently and had so many
of them executed. He closed with an invective against the Protestants,
in which he so little spared the young queen, and spoke of her in such
injurious terms, that he was that very day committed to prison.--Leti.
vol. I, p. 314.] A short time after this eventful walk in the garden of
Whitehall, the queen entered the apartments of the Princess Elizabeth,
who hastened to meet her with a burst of joy, and clasped her wildly in
"Saved!" whispered she. "The danger is overcome, and again you are the
mighty queen, the adored wife!"
"And I have you to thank that I am so, princess! Without that warrant
of arrest which you brought me, I was lost. Oh, Elizabeth, but what a
martyrdom it was! To smile and jest, whilst my heart trembled with dread
and horror; to appear innocent and unembarrassed, whilst it seemed to
me as if I heard already the whiz of the axe that was about to strike my
neck! Oh, my God, I passed through the agonies and the dread of a whole
lifetime in that one hour! My soul has been harassed till it is wearied
to death, and my strength is exhausted. I could weep, weep continually
over this wretched, deceitful world, in which to wish right and to do
good avail nothing; but in which you must dissemble and lie, deceive and
disguise yourself, if you do not want to fall a victim to wickedness and
mischief. But ah, Elizabeth, even my tears I dare shed only in secret,
for a queen has no right to be melancholy. She must seem ever cheerful,
ever happy and contented; and only God and the still, silent night know
her sighs and her tears."
"And you may let me also see them, queen," said Elizabeth, heartily;
"for you well know you may trust and rely on me."
Catharine kissed her fervently. "You have done me a great service
to-day, and I have come," said she, "to thank you, not with sounding
words only, but by deeds. Elizabeth, your wish will be fulfilled. The
king will repeal the law which was to compel you to give your hand only
to a husband of equal birth."
"Oh," cried Elizabeth, with flashing eyes, "then I shall, perhaps, some
day be able to make him whom I love a king." Catharine smiled. "You
have a proud and ambitious heart," said she. "God has endowed you with
extraordinary ability. Cultivate it and seek to increase it; for my
prophetic heart tells me that you are destined to become, one day, Queen
of England. [Footnote: Catharine's own words.--See Leti, vol. I, p.
172.] But who knows whether then you will still wish to elevate him whom
you now love, to be your husband? A queen, as you will be, sees with
other eyes than those of a young, inexperienced maiden. Perchance I may
not have done right in moving the king to alter this law; for I am
not acquainted with the man that you love; and who knows whether he is
worthy that you should bestow on him your heart, so innocent and pure?"
Elizabeth threw both her arms about Catharine's neck, and clung tenderly
to her. "Oh," said she, "he would be worthy to be loved even by you,
Catharine; for he is the noblest and handsomest cavalier in the whole
world; and though he is no king, yet he is a king's brother-in-law, and
will some day be a king's uncle."
Catharine felt her heart, as it were, convulsed, and a slight tremor ran
through her frame. "And am I not to learn his name?" asked she.
"Yes, I will tell you it now; for now there is no longer danger in
knowing it. The name of him whom I love, queen, is Thomas Seymour."
Catharine uttered a scream, and pushed Elizabeth passionately away from
her heart. "Thomas Seymour?" cried she, in a menacing tone. "What! do
you dare love Thomas Seymour?"
"And why should I not dare?" asked the young girl in astonishment. "Why
should I not give him my heart, since, thanks to your intercession, I
am no longer bound to choose a husband of equal birth? Is not Thomas
Seymour one of the first of this land? Does not all England look on
him with pride and tenderness? Does not every woman to whom he deigns
a look, feel herself honored? Does not the king himself smile and
feel more pleased at heart, when Thomas Seymour, that young, bold, and
spirited hero, stands by his side?"
"You are right!" said Catharine, whose heart every one of these
enthusiastic words, lacerated like the stab of a dagger--"yes, you are
right. He is worthy of being loved by you--and you could hit upon no
better choice. It was only the first surprise that made me see things
otherwise than they are. Thomas Seymour is the brother of a queen: why
then should he not also be the husband of a royal princess?"
With a bashful blush, Elizabeth hid her smiling face in Catharine's
bosom. She did not see with what an expression of alarm and agony the
queen observed her; how her lips were convulsively compressed, and her
cheeks covered with a death-like pallor.
"And he?" asked she, in a low tone. "Does Thomas Seymour love you?"
Elizabeth raised her head and looked at the questioner in amazement
"How!" said she. "Is it possible, then, to love, if you are not loved?"
"You are right," sighed Catharine. "One must be very humble and silly to
be able to do that."
"My God! how pale you are, queen!" cried Elizabeth, who just now noticed
Catharine's pale face. "Your features are distorted; your lips tremble.
My God! what does this mean?"
"It is nothing!" said Catharine, with a smile full of agony. "The
excitement and alarm of to-day have exhausted my strength. That is all.
Besides, a new grief threatens us, of which you as yet know nothing.
The king is ill. A sudden dizziness seized him, and made him fall almost
lifeless at my side. I came to bring you the king's message; now duty
calls me to my husband's sickbed. Farewell, Elizabeth."
She waved a good-by to her with her hand, and with hurried step left the
room. She summoned up courage to conceal the agonies of her soul, and to
pass proud and stately through the halls. To the courtiers bowing before
her, she would still be the queen, and no one should suspect what agony
was torturing her within like flames of fire. But at last arrived at her
boudoir--at last sure of being overheard and observed by no one--she was
no longer the queen, but only the agonized, passionate woman.
She sank on her knees, and cried, with a heart-rending wail of anguish:
"My God, my God, grant that I may become mad, so that I may no longer
know that he has forsaken me!"
Next: The Catastrophe
Previous: The King And The Priest