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Lady Jane








All was quiet in the palace of Whitehall. Even the servants on guard in
the vestibule of the king's bedchamber had been a long time slumbering,
for the king had been snoring for several hours; and this majestical
sound was, to the dwellers in the palace, the joyful announcement that
for one fine night they were exempt from service, and might be free men.

The queen also had long since retired to her apartments, and dismissed
her ladies at an unusually early hour. She felt, she said, wearied by
the chase, and much needed rest. No one, therefore, was to disturb her,
unless the king should order it.

But the king, as we have said, slept, and the queen had no reason to
fear that her night's rest would be disturbed.

Deep silence reigned in the palace. The corridors were empty and
deserted, the apartments all silent.

Suddenly a figure tripped along softly and cautiously through the long
feebly lighted corridor. She was wrapped in a black mantle; a veil
concealed her face.

Scarcely touching the floor with her feet, she floated away, and glided
down a little staircase. Now she stops and listens. There is nothing to
hear; all is noiseless and still.

Then, on again. Now she wings her steps. For here she is sure of not
being heard. It is the unoccupied wing of the castle of Whitehall.
Nobody watches her here.

On, then, on, adown that corridor, descending those stairs. There she
stops before a door leading into the summer-house. She puts her ear to
the door, and listens. Then she claps her hands three times.

The sound is reechoed from the other side.

"Oh, he is there, he is there!" Forgotten now are her cares, forgotten
her pains and tears. He is there. She has him again.

She throws open the door. It is dark indeed in the chamber, but she sees
him, for the eye of love pierces the night; and if the sees him not, yet
she feels his presence.

She rests on his heart; he presses her closely to his breast. Leaning
on each other, they grope cautiously along through the dark, desolate
chamber to the divan at the upper end, and there, both locked in a happy
embrace, they sink upon the cushion.

"At last I have you again! and my arms again clasp this divine form, and
again my lips press this crimson mouth! Oh, my beloved, what an eternity
has this separation been! Six days! Six long nights of agony! Have you
not felt how my soul cried out for you, and was filled with trepidation;
how I stretched my arms out into the night, and let them fall
again disconsolate and trembling with anguish, because they clasped
nothing--naught but the cold, vacant night breeze! Did you not hear,
my beloved, how I cried to you with sighs and tears, how in glowing
dithyrambics I poured forth to you my longing, my love, my rapture? But
you, cruel you, remained ever cold, ever smiling. Your eyes were ever
flashing in all the pride and grandeur of a Juno. The roses on your
cheeks were not one whit the paler. No, no, you have not longed for me;
your heart has not felt this painful, blissful anguish. You are first
and above all things the proud, cold queen, and next, next the loving
woman."

"How unjust and hard you are, my Henry!" whispered she softly. "I have
indeed suffered; and perhaps my pains have been more cruel and bitter
than yours, for I--I had to let them consume me within. You could pour
them forth, you could stretch out your arms after me, you could utter
lamentations and sighs. You were not, like me, condemned to laugh, and
to jest, and to listen with apparently attentive ear to all those often
heard and constantly repeated phrases of praise and adoration from those
about me. You were at least free to suffer. I was not. It is true I
smiled, but amidst the pains of death. It is true my cheeks did not
blanch, but rouge was the veil with which I covered their paleness; and
then, Henry, in the midst of my pains and longings, I had, too, a sweet
consolation--your letters, your poems, which fell like the dew of heaven
upon my sick soul, and restored it to health, for new torments and new
hopes. Oh, how I love them--those poems, in whose noble and enchanting
language your love and our sufferings are reechoed! How my whole soul
flew forth to meet them when I received them, and how pressed I my
lips thousands and thousands of times on the paper which seemed to me
redolent with your breath and your sighs! How I love that good, faithful
Jane, the silent messenger of our love! When I behold her entering my
chamber, with the unsullied paper in hand, she is to me the dove with
the olive-leaf, that brings me peace and happiness, and I rush to her,
and press her to my bosom; and give her all the kisses I would give you,
and feel how poor and powerless I am, because I cannot repay her all the
happiness that she brings me. Ah, Henry, how many thanks do we owe to
poor Jane!"

"Why do you call her poor, when she can be near you, always behold yon,
always hear you?"

"I call her poor, because she is unhappy. For she loves, Henry--she
loves to desperation, to madness, and she is not loved. She is pining
away with grief and pain, and wrings her hands in boundless woe. Have
you not noticed how pale she is, and how her eyes become daily more
dim?"

"No, I have not seen it, for I see naught but you, and Lady Jane is to
me a lifeless image, as are all other women. But what! You tremble; and
your whole frame writhes in my arms, as if in a convulsion! And what is
that? Are you weeping?"

"Oh, I weep, because I am so happy. I weep, because I was thinking how
fearful the suffering must be, to give the whole heart away, and receive
nothing in return, naught but death! Poor Jane!"

"What is she to us? We, we love each other. Come, dear one, let me kiss
the tears from your eyes; let me drink this nectar, that it may inspire
me, and transfigure me to a god! Weep no more--no, weep not; or, if you
will do so, be it only in the excess of rapture, and because word and
heart are too poor to hold all this bliss!"

"Yes, yes, let us shout for joy; let us be lost in blessedness!"
exclaimed she passionately, as with frantic violence she threw herself
on his bosom.

Both were now silent, mutely resting on each other's heart.

Oh, how sweet this silence; how entrancing this noiseless, sacred night!
How the trees without there murmur and rustle, as if they were singing a
heavenly lullaby to the lovers! how inquisitively the pale crescent moon
peeps through the window, as though she were seeking the twain whose
blessed confidante she is!

But happiness is so swift-winged, and time flies so fast, when love is
their companion!

Even now they must part again--now they must again say farewell. "Not
yet, beloved, stay yet! See, the night is still dark; and hark, the
castle clock is just striking two. No, go not yet."

"I must, Henry, I must; the hours are past in which I can be happy."

"Oh, you cold, proud soul! Does the head already long again for the
crown; and can you wait no longer for the purple to again cover your
shoulders? Come, let me kiss your shoulder; and think now, dear, that my
crimson lips are also a purple robe."

"And a purple robe for which I would gladly give my crown and my life!"
cried she, with the utmost enthusiasm, as she folded him in her arms.

"Do you love me, then? Do you really love me?"

"Yes, I love you!"

"Can you swear to me that you love no one except me?"

"I can swear it, as true as there is a God above us, who hears my oath."

"Bless you for it, you dear, you only one--oh, how shall I call
you?--you whose name I may not utter! Oh, do you know that it is cruel
never to name the name of the loved one? Withdraw that prohibition;
grudge me not the painfully sweet pleasure of being able at least to
call you by your name!"

"No," said she, with a shudder; "for know you not that the sleep-walkers
awake out of their dreams when they are called by name? I am a
somnambulist, who, with smiling courage, moves along a dizzy height;
call me by name, and I shall awake, and, shuddering, plunge into the
abyss beneath. Ah, Henry, I hate my name, for it is pronounced by other
lips than yours. For you I will not be named as other men call me.
Baptize me, my Henry; give me another name--a name which is our secret,
and which no one knows besides us."

"I name you Geraldine; and as Geraldine I will praise and laud you
before all the world. I will, in spite of all these spies and listeners,
repeat again and again that I love you, and no one, not the king
himself, shall be able to forbid me."

"Hush!" said she, with a shudder, "speak not of him! Oh, I conjure you,
my Henry, be cautious; think that you have sworn to me ever to think of
the danger that threatens us, and will, without doubt, dash us in pieces
if you, by only a sound, a look, or a smile, betray the sweet secret
that unites us two. Are you still aware what you have sworn to me?"

"I am aware of it! But it is an unnatural Draconian law. What! even when
I am alone with you, shall I never be allowed to address you otherwise
than with that reverence and restrain which is due the queen? Even when
no one can hear us, may I, by no syllable, by none, not the slightest
intimation, remind you of our love?"

"No, no, do it not; for this castle has everywhere eyes and ears, and
everywhere are spies and listeners behind the tapestry; behind the
curtains; everywhere are they concealed and lurking, watching every
feature, every smile, every word, whether it may not afford ground for
suspicion. No, no, Henry; swear to me by our love that you will never,
unless here in this room, address me otherwise than your queen. Swear
to me that, beyond these walls, you will be to me only the respectful
servant of your queen, and at the same time the proud earl and lord,
of whom it is said that never has a woman been able to touch his heart.
Swear to me that you will not, by a look, by a smile, by even the
gentlest pressure of the hand, betray what beyond this room is a crime
for both of us. Let this room be the temple of our love; but when we
once pass its threshold, we will not profane the sweet mysteries of our
happiness, by allowing unholy eyes to behold even a single ray of it.
Shall it be so, my Henry?

"Yes, it shall be so!" said he, with a troubled voice; "although I must
confess that this dreadful illusion often tortures me almost to death.
Oh, Geraldine, when I meet you elsewhere, when I observe the eye so icy
and immovable, with which you meet my look, I feel as it were my heart
convulsed; and I say to myself: 'This is not she, whom I love--not the
tender, passionate woman, whom in the darkness of the night I sometimes
lock in my arms. This is Catharine, the queen, but not my loved one. A
woman cannot so disguise herself; art goes not so far as to falsify the
entire nature, the innermost being and life of a person.' Oh, there have
been hours, awful, horrible hours, when it seemed to me as though all
this were a delusion, a mystification--as though in some way an evil
demon assumed the queen's form by night to mock me, poor frenzied
visionary, with a happiness that has no existence, but lives only in my
imagination. When such thoughts come to me, I feel a frenzied fury, a
crushing despair, and I could, regardless of my oath and even the danger
that threatens you, rush to you, and, before all the courtly rabble and
the king himself, ask: 'Are you really what you seem? Are you, Catharine
Parr, King Henry's wife--nothing more, nothing else than that? Or are
you, my beloved, the woman who is mine in her every thought, her every
breath; who has vowed to me eternal love and unchanging truth; and whom
I, in spite of the whole world, and the king, press to my heart as my
own?'"

"Unhappy man, if you ever venture that, you doom us both to death!"

"Be it so, then! In death you will at least be mine, and no one would
longer dare separate us, and your eyes would no longer look so cold and
strangely upon me, as they often now do. Oh, I conjure you, gaze not
upon me at all, if you cannot do it otherwise than with those cold,
proud looks, that benumb my heart. Turn away your eyes, and speak to me
with averted face."

"Then, men will say that I hate you, Henry."

"It is more agreeable to me for them to say you abhor me than for them
to see that I am wholly indifferent to you; that I am to you nothing
more than the Earl of Surrey, your lord chamberlain."

"No, no, Henry. They shall see that you are more to me than merely that.
Before the whole assembled court I will give you a token of my love.
Will you then believe, you dear, foolish enthusiast, that I love you,
and that it is no demon that rests here in your arms and swears that she
loves nothing but you? Say, will you then believe me?"

"I will believe you! But no, there is no need of any sign, or any
assurance. Nay, I know it; I feel indeed the sweet reality that cuddles
to my side, warm, and filling me with happiness; and it is only the
excess of happiness that makes me incredulous."

"I will convince you thoroughly; and you shall doubt no more, not even
in the intoxication of happiness. Listen, then. The king, as you know,
is about to hold a great tournament and festival of the poets, and it
will take place in a few days. Now, then, at this fete I will publicly,
in the presence of the king and his court, give you a rosette that I
wear on my shoulder, and in the silver fringe of which you will find a
note from me. Will that satisfy you, my Henry?"

"And do you still question it, my dear? Do you question it, when you
will make me proud and happy above all others of your court?"

He pressed her closely to his heart and kissed her. But suddenly she
writhed in his arms, and started up in wild alarm.

"Day is breaking, day is breaking! See there! a red streak is spreading
over the clouds. The sun is coming; day is coming, and already begins to
dawn."

He endeavored to detain her still; but she tore herself passionately
away, and again enveloped her head in her veil.

"Yes," said he, "day is breaking and it is growing light! Let me then,
for a moment at least, see your face. My soul thirsts for it as the
parched earth for the dew. Come, it is light here at the window. Let me
see your eyes."

She tore herself vehemently away. "No, no, you must be gone! Hark, it is
already three o'clock. Soon everything will be astir in the castle. Did
it not seem as if some person passed by the door here? Haste, haste, if
you do not wish me to die of dread!" She threw his cloak over him; she
drew his hat over his brow; then once more she threw her arms around
his neck and pressed on his lips a burning kiss. "Farewell, my beloved!
farewell, Henry Howard! When we see each other again to-day, you are the
Earl of Surrey, and I, the queen--not your loved one--not the woman who
loves you! Happiness is past, and suffering awakes anew. Farewell."

She herself opened the glass door, and pushed her lover out.

"Farewell, Geraldine; good-night, my dear! Day comes, and I again greet
you as my queen, and I shall have to endure again the torture of your
cold looks and your haughty smiles."





Next: Loyola's General

Previous: Gammer Gueton's Needle



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