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Undeceived

John Heywood

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Brother And Sister






Princess Elizabeth








The king sleeps. Let him sleep! He is old and infirm, and God
has severely punished the restless tyrant with a vacillating,
ever-disquieted, never-satisfied spirit, while He bound his body and
made the spirit prisoner of the body; while He made the ambitious king,
struggling for the infinite, a slave to his own flesh. How high soever
his thoughts soar, still the king remains a clumsy, confined, powerless
child of humanity; how much soever his conscience harasses him with
disquiet and dread, yet he must be calm and endure it. He cannot run
away from his conscience; God has fettered him by the flesh. The king is
sleeping! But the queen is not; and Jane Douglas is not; neither is
the Princess Elizabeth. She has watched with heart beating high. She is
restless, and, pacing her room up and down in strange confusion, waited
for the hour that she had appointed for the meeting. Now the hour had
arrived. A glowing crimson overspread the face of the young princess;
and her hand trembled as she took the light and opened the secret door
to the corridor. She stood still for a moment, hesitating; then, ashamed
of her irresolution, she crossed the corridor and ascended the small
staircase which led to the tower-chamber. With a hasty movement she
pushed open the door and entered the small slip that was at the end of
her journey, and Thomas Seymour was already there.

As she saw him, an involuntary trepidation came over her, and for the
first time she now became conscious of her hazardous step.

As Seymour, the ardent young man, approached her with a passionate
salutation, she stepped shyly back and pushed away his hand.

"How! you will not allow me to kiss your hand?" asked he, and she
thought she observed on his face a slight, scornful smile. "You make me
the happiest of mortals by inviting me to this interview, and now you
stand before me rigid and cold, and I am not once permitted to clasp you
in my arms, Elizabeth!"

Elizabeth! He had called her by her first name without her having
given him permission to do so. That offended her. In the midst of her
confusion, that aroused the pride of the princess, and made her aware
how much she must have forgotten her own dignity, when another could be
so forgetful of it.

She wished to regain it. At this moment she would have given a year of
her life if she had not taken this step--if she had not invited the earl
to this meeting.

She wanted to try and regain in his eyes her lost position, and again to
become to him the princess.

Pride in her was still mightier than love. She meant her lover should at
the same time bow before her as her favored servant.

Therefore she gravely said: "Earl Thomas Seymour, you have often begged
us for a private conversation; we now grant it to you. Speak, then! what
matter of importance have you to bring before us?"

And with an air of gravity she stepped to an easy-chair, on which she
seated herself slowly and solemnly like a queen, who gives audience to
her vassals.

Poor, innocent child, that in her unconscious trepidation wished to
intrench herself behind her grandeur, as behind a shield, which might
conceal her maidenly fear and girlish anxiety!

Thomas Seymour, however, divined her thoughts; and his proud and cold
heart revolted against this child's attempt to defy him.

He wanted to humble her; he wished to compel her to bow before him, and
implore his love as a gracious gift.

He therefore bowed low to the princess, and respectfully said: "Your
highness, it is true I have often besought you for an audience; but
you have so long refused me, that at last I could no longer summon up
courage to solicit it; and I let my wish be silent and my heart dumb.
Therefore seek not now, when these pains have been subdued, to excite
them again. My heart should remain dead, my lips mute. You have so
willed; and I have submitted to your will. Farewell, then, princess,
and may your days be happier and more serene than those of poor Thomas
Seymour!"

He bowed low before her, and then went slowly to the door. He had
already opened it and was about to step out, when a hand was suddenly
laid on his shoulder and drew him with vehement impetuosity back into
the room.

"Do you want to go?" asked Elizabeth, with fluttering breath and
trembling voice. "You want to leave me, and, flouting me, you want now,
it may be, to go to the Duchess of Richmond, your mistress, and
relate to her with a sneer that the Princess Elizabeth granted you an
interview, and that you have flouted her?"

"The Duchess of Richmond is not my mistress," said the earl, earnestly.

"No, not your mistress; but she will very soon be your wife!"

"She will never be my wife!"

"And why not?"

"Because I do not love her, princess."

A beam of delight passed over Elizabeth's pale, agitated face. "Why do
you call me princess?" asked she.

"Because you have come as a princess to favor your poor servant with an
audience. But, ah, it would be greatly abusing your princely grace did
I want to protract this audience still further. I therefore retire,
princess."

And again he approached the door. But Elizabeth rushed after him, and,
laying hold of his arms with both her hands, she wildly pushed him back.

Her eyes shot lightning; her lips trembled; a passionate warmth was
manifested in her whole being. Now she was the true daughter of her
father, inconsiderate and passionate in her wrath, destroying in her
ferocity.

"You shall not go," muttered she, with her teeth firmly set. "I will not
let you go! I will not let you confront me any longer with that cold,
smiling face. Scold me; cast on me the bitterest reproaches, because I
have dared to brave you so long; curse me, if you can! Anything but this
smiling calmness. It kills me; it pierces my heart like a dagger. For
you see well enough that I have no longer the power to withstand you;
you see well enough that I love you. Yes, I love you to ecstasy and to
desperation; with desire and dread. I love you as my demon and my angel.
I am angry, because you have so entirely crushed the pride of my heart.
I curse you, because you have made me so entirely your slave; and the
next moment I fall on my knees and beseech God to forgive me this crime
against you. I love you, I say--not as those soft, gentle-hearted women
love, with a smile on the lip; but with madness and desperation, with
jealousy and wrath. I love you as my father loved Anne Boleyn, whom, in
the hatred of his love and the cruel wrath of his jealousy, he made to
mount the scaffold, because he had been told that she was untrue to him.
Ah, had I the power, I would do as my father did; I would murder you, if
you should dare ever to cease to love me. And now, Thomas Seymour, now
say whether you have the courage to desire to leave me?"

She looked bewitching in the naming might of her passion; she was so
young, so ardent; and Thomas Seymour was so ambitious! In his eyes
Elizabeth was not merely the beautiful, charming maiden, who loved him:
she was more than that: she was the daughter of Henry the Eighth, the
Princess of England, perchance some day the heiress of the throne. It is
true, her father had disinherited her, and by act of Parliament declared
her unworthy of succeeding to the throne.[Footnote: Burnet, vol. i,
p. 138] But Henry's vacillating mind might change, and the disowned
princess might one day become queen.

The earl thought of this as he gazed on Elizabeth--as he saw her before
him, so charming, so young, and so glowing with passion. He thought of
it as he now clasped her in his arms, and pressed on her lips a burning
kiss.

"No, I will not go," whispered he. "I will never more depart from your
side, if you do not wish me to go. I am yours!--your slave, your vassal;
and I will never be anything else but this alone. They may betray me;
your father may punish me for high treason; yet will I exult in my good
fortune, for Elizabeth loves me, and it will be for Elizabeth that I
die!"

"You shall not die!" cried she, clinging fast to him. "You shall live,
live at my side, proud, great, and happy! You shall be my lord and my
master; and if I am ever queen, and I feel here in my heart that I must
become so, then will Thomas Seymour be King of England."

"That is to say, in the quiet and secrecy of your chamber I should
perhaps be so!" said he with a sigh. "But there without, before the
world, I shall still be ever only a servant; and at the best, I shall be
called the favorite."

"Never, never, that I swear to you! Said I not that I loved you?"

"But the love of a woman is so changeable! Who knows how long it will be
before you will tread under your feet poor Thomas Seymour, when once the
crown has adorned your brow."

She looked at him well-nigh horrified. "Can this be, then? Is it
possible that one can forget and forsake what he once loved?"

"Do you ask, Elizabeth? Has not your father already his sixth wife?"

"It is true," said she, as mournfully she dropped her head upon her
breast. "But I," said she, after a pause, "I shall not be like my father
in that. I shall love you eternally! And that you may have a guaranty of
my faithfulness, I offer myself to you as your wife."

Astonished, he looked inquiringly into her excited, glowing face! He did
not understand her.

But she continued, passionately: "Yes, you shall be my lord and my
husband! Come, my beloved, come! I have not called you to take upon
yourself the disgraceful role of the secret lover of a princess--I have
called you to be my husband. I wish a bond to unite us two, that is so
indissoluble that not even the wrath and will of my father, but only
death itself, can sever it. I will give you proof of my love and my
devotion; and you shall be forced to acknowledge that I truly love you.
Come, my beloved, that I may soon hail you as my husband!"

He looked at her as though petrified. "Whither will you lead me?"

"To the private chapel," said she, innocently. "I have written Cranmer
to await me there at daybreak. Let us hasten, then!"

"Cranmer! You have written to the archbishop?" cried Seymour, amazed.
"How! what say you? Cranmer awaits us in the private chapel?"

"Without doubt he is waiting for us, as I have written him to do so."

"And what is he to do? What do you want of him?"

She looked at him in astonishment. "What do I want of him? Why, that he
may marry us!"

The earl staggered back as if stunned. "And have you written him that
also?"

"Nay, indeed," said she, with a charming, childlike smile. "I know very
well that it is dangerous to trust such secrets to paper. I have only
written him to come in his official robes, because I have an important
secret to confess to him."

"Oh, God be praised! We are not lost," sighed Seymour.

"But how, I do not understand you?" asked she. "You do not extend me
your hand! You do not hasten to conduct me to the chapel!"

"Tell me, I conjure you, tell me only this one thing: have you ever
spoken to the archbishop of your--no--of our love? Have you ever
betrayed to him so much, as a syllable of that which stirs our hearts?"

She blushed deeply beneath the steady gaze which he fixed on her.
"Upbraid me, Seymour," whispered she. "But my heart was weak and
timorous; and as often as I tried to fulfil the holy duty, and confess
everything honestly and frankly to the archbishop, I could not do
it! The word died on my lips; and it was as though an invisible power
paralyzed my tongue."

"So, then, Cranmer knows nothing?"

"No, Seymour, he knows nothing as yet. But now he shall learn all;
now we will go before him and tell him that we love each other, and
constrain him, by our prayers, to bless our union, and join our hands."

"Impossible!" cried Seymour. "That can never be!"

"How! What do you say?" asked she in astonishment.

"I say that Cranmer will never be so insane, nay, so criminal, as to
fulfil your wish. I say that you can never be my wife."

She looked him full and square in the face. "Have you not then told me
that you loved me?" asked she. "Have I not sworn to you that I loved you
in return? Must we then not be married, in order to sanctify the union
of our hearts?"

Seymour sank his eyes to the ground before her pure innocent look, and
blushed for shame. She did not understand this blush; because he was
silent, she deemed him convinced.

"Come," said she, "come; Cranmer is waiting for us!"

He again raised his eyes and looked at her in amazement, "Do you not
see, then, this is all only a dream that can never become reality? Do
you not feel that this precious fantasy of your great and noble heart
will never be realized? How! are you then so little acquainted with your
father as not to know that he would destroy us both if we should dare to
set at naught his paternal and his royal authority? Your birth would not
secure you from his destroying fury, for you well know he is unyielding
and reckless in his wrath; and the voice of consanguinity sounds not so
loud in him that it would not be drowned by the thunder of his wrath.
Poor child, you have learned that already! Remember with what cruelty
he has already revenged himself on you for the pretended fault of your
mother; how he transferred to you his wrath against her. Remember that
he refused your hand to the Dauphin of France, not for the sake of
your happiness, but because he said you were not worthy of so exalted a
position. Anne Boleyn's bastard could never become Queen of France. And
after such a proof of his cruel wrath against you, will you dare cast
in his face this terrible insult?--compel him to recognize a subject, a
servant, as his son?"

"Oh, this servant is, however, the brother of a Queen of England!" said
she, shyly. "My father loved Jane Seymour too warmly not to forgive her
brother."

"Ah, ah, you do not know your father! He has no heart for the past; or,
if he has, it is only to take vengeance for an injury or a fault, but
not to reward love. King Henry would be capable of sentencing Anne
Boleyn's daughter to death, and of sending to the block and rack
Catharine Howard's brothers, because these two queens once grieved him
and wounded his heart; but he would not forgive me the least offence on
account of my being the brother of a queen who loved him faithfully and
tenderly till her death. But I speak not of myself. I am a warrior, and
have too often looked death in the face to fear him now. I speak only of
you, Elizabeth. You have no right to perish thus. This noble head must
not be laid upon the block. It is destined to wear a royal crown. A
fortune still higher than love awaits you--fame and power! I must not
draw you away from this proud future. The Princess Elizabeth, though
abused and disowned, may yet one day mount the throne of England. The
Countess Seymour never! she disinherits herself! Follow, then, your high
destiny. Earl Seymour retires before a throne."

"That is to say, you disdained me?" asked she, angrily stamping the
floor with her foot. "That is to say, the proud Earl Seymour holds the
bastard too base for his coronet! That is to say, you love me not!"

"No, it means that I love you more than myself--better and more purely
than any other man can love you; for this love is so great that it makes
my selfishness and my ambition silent, and allows me to think only of
you and your future."

"Ah," sighed she, mournfully, "if you really loved me, you would not
consider--you would not see the danger, nor fear death. You would think
of nothing, and know nothing, save love."

"Because I think of love, I think of you," said Seymour. "I think that
you are to move along over the world, great, powerful, and glorious, and
that I will lend you my arm for this. I think of this, that my queen of
the future needs a general who will win victories for her, and that
I will be that general. But when this goal is reached--when you are
queen--then you have the power from one of your subjects to make a
husband; then it rests with your own will to elevate me to be the
proudest, the happiest, and the most enviable of all men. Extend me your
hand, then, and I will thank and praise God that he is so gracious to
me; and my whole existence will be spent in the effort to give you the
happiness that you are so well entitled to demand."

"And until then?" asked she, mournfully.

"Until then, we will be constant, and love each other!" cried he, as he
gently pressed her in his arms. She gently repelled him. "Will you also
be true to me till then?"

"True till death!"

"They have told me that you would marry the Duchess of Richmond, in
order thereby to at length put an end to the ancient hatred between the
Howards and Seymours."

Thomas Seymour frowned, and his countenance grew dark. "Believe me, this
hatred is invincible," said he; "and no matrimonial alliance could wash
it away. It is an inheritance from many years in our families; and I am
firmly resolved not to renounce my inheritance. I shall just as little
marry the Duchess of Richmond, as Henry Howard will my sister, the
Countess of Shrewsbury."

"Swear that to me! Swear to me, that you say the truth, and that this
haughty and coquettish duchess shall never be your wife. Swear it to me,
by all that is sacred to you!"

"I swear it by my love!" exclaimed Thomas Seymour, solemnly.

"I shall then at least have one sorrow the less," sighed Elizabeth.
"I shall have no occasion to be jealous. And is it not true," she then
said, "is it not true we shall often see each other? We will both keep
this secret of this tower faithfully and sacredly; and after days full
of privation and disappointment, we will here keep festival the nights
full of blissful pleasure and sweet transport. But why do you smile,
Seymour?"

"I smile, because you are pure and innocent as an angel," said he, as
he reverently kissed her hand. "I smile, because you are an exalted,
godlike child, whom one ought to adore upon his knees, and to whom one
ought to pray, as to the chaste goddess Vesta! Yes, my dear, beloved
child, here we will, as you say, pass nights full of blissful pleasure;
and may I be reprobate and damned, if I should ever be capable of
betraying this sweet, guileless confidence with which you favor me, and
sully your angel purity!"

"Ah, we will be very happy, Seymour!" said she, smiling. "I lack only
one thing--a friend, to whom I can tell my happiness, to whom I can
speak of you. Oh, it often seems to me as if this love, which must
always be concealed, always shut up, must at last burst my breast; as if
this secret must with violence break a passage, and roar like a tempest
over the whole world. Seymour, I want a confidante of my happiness and
my love."

"Guard yourself well against desiring to seek such a one!" exclaimed
Seymour, anxiously. "A secret that three know, is a secret no more; and
one day your confidante will betray us."

"Not so; I know a woman who would be incapable of that--a woman who
loves me well enough to keep my secret as faithfully as I myself; a
woman who could be more than merely a confidante, who could be the
protectress of our love. Oh, believe me, if we could gain her to our
side, then our future would be a happy and a blessed one, and we might
easily succeed in obtaining the king's consent to our marriage."

"And who is this woman?"

"It is the queen."

"The queen!" cried Thomas Seymour, with such an expression of horror
that Elizabeth trembled; "the queen your confidante? But that is
impossible! That would be plunging us both inevitably into ruin. Unhappy
child, be very careful not to mention even a single word, a syllable of
your relation to me. Be very careful not to betray to her, even by the
slightest intimation, that Thomas Seymour is not indifferent to you! Ah,
her wrath would dash to pieces you and me!"

"And why do you believe that?" asked Elizabeth, gloomily. "Why do you
suppose that Catharine would fly into a passion because Earl Seymour
loves me? Or how?--it is she, perhaps, that you love, and you dare not
therefore let her know that you have sworn your love to me also? Ah,
I now see through it all; I understand it all! You love the queen--her
only. For that reason you will not go to the chapel with me; for that
reason you swore that you would not marry the Duchess of Richmond;
and therefore--oh, my presentiment did not deceive me--therefore that
furious ride in Epping Forest to-day. Ah, the queen's horse must of
course become raving, and run away, that his lordship, the master of
horse, might follow his lady, and with her got lost in the thicket
of the woods!--And now," said she, her eyes flashing with anger, and
raising her hand to heaven as if taking an oath, "now I say to you: Take
heed to yourself! Take heed to yourself, Seymour, that you do not, even
by a single word or a single syllable, betray your secret, for that
word would crush you! Yes, I feel it, that I am no bastard, that I am
my father's own daughter; I feel it in this wrath and this jealousy that
rages within me! Take heed to yourself, Seymour, for I will go hence
and accuse you to the king, and the traitor's head will fall upon the
scaffold!"

She was beside herself. With clenched fists and a threatening air she
paced the room up and down. Tears gushed from her eyes; but she shook
them out of her eyelashes, so that they fell scattering about her like
pearls. Her father's impetuous and untractable nature stirred within
her, and his blood seethed in her veins.

But Thomas Seymour had already regained his self-command and composure.
He approached the princess and despite her struggles clasped her in his
arms.

"Little fool!" said he, between his kisses. "Sweet, dear fool, how
beautiful you are in your anger, and how I love you for it! Jealousy is
becoming to love; and I do not complain, though you are unjust and cruel
toward me. The queen has much too cold and proud a heart ever to be
loved by any man. Ah, only to think this is already treason to her
virtue and modesty; and surely she has not deserved this from us two,
that we should disdain and insult her. She is the first that has always
been just to you; and to me she has ever been only a gracious mistress!"

"It is true," murmured Elizabeth, completely ashamed; "she is a true
friend and mother; and I have her to thank for my present position at
this court."

Then, after a pause, she said, smiling, and extending her hand to the
earl: "You are right. It would be a crime to suspect her; and I am a
fool. Forgive me, Seymour, forgive my absurd and childish anger; and I
promise you in return to betray our secret to no one, not even to the
queen."

"Do you swear that to me?"

"I swear it to you! and I swear to you more than that: I will never
again be jealous of her."

"Then you do but simple justice to yourself and to the queen also," said
the earl, with a smile, as he drew her again to his arms.

But she pushed him gently back. "I must now away. The morning dawns, and
the archbishop awaits me in the royal chapel."

"And what will you say to him, beloved?"

"I will make my confession to him."

"How! so you will then betray our love to him?"

"Oh," said she, with a bewitching smile, "that is a secret between us
and God; and only to Him alone can we confess it; because He alone can
absolve us from it. Farewell, then, Seymour, farewell, and think of me
till we see each other again! But when--say, when shall we meet again?"

"When there is a night like this one, beloved, when the moon is not in
the heavens. Oh, then I could wish there were a change of the moon every
week," said she, with the charming innocence of a child. "Farewell,
Seymour, farewell; we must part."

She clung to his tall, sturdy form as the ivy twines around the trunk of
an oak. Then they parted. The princess slipped again softly and
unseen into her apartments, and thence into the royal chapel; the earl
descended again the spiral staircase which led to the secret door of the
garden.

Unobserved and unseen he returned to his palace; even his valet, who
slept in the anteroom, did not see him, as the earl crept past him
lightly on his toes, and betook himself to his sleeping-room.

But no sleep came to his eyes that night, and his soul was restless and
full of fierce torment. He was angry with himself, and accused himself
of treachery and perfidy; and then again, full of proud haughtiness, he
still tried to excuse himself and to silence his conscience, which was
sitting in judgment on him.

"I love her--her only!" said he to himself. "Catharine possesses my
heart, my soul; I am ready to devote my whole life to her. Yes, I love
her! I have this day so sworn to her; and she is mine for all eternity!"

"And Elizabeth?" asked his conscience. "Have you not sworn truth and
love to her also?"

"No!" said he. "I have only received her oath; I have not given her mine
in return. And when I vowed never to marry the Duchess of Richmond; when
I swore this 'by my love,' then I thought only of Catharine--of that
proud, beautiful, charming woman, at once maidenly and voluptuous;
but not of this young, inexperienced, wild child--of this unattractive
little princess!"

"But the princess may one day become a queen," whispered his ambition.

"That, however, is very doubtful," replied he to himself. "But it is
certain that Catharine will one day be the regent, and if I am at that
time her husband, then I am Regent of England."

This was the secret of his duplicity and his double treachery. Thomas
Seymour loved nothing but himself, nothing but his ambition. He was
capable of risking his life for a woman; but for renown and greatness he
would have gladly sacrificed this woman.

For him there was only one aim, one struggle: to be come great and
powerful above all the nobles of the kingdom--to be the first man in
England. And to reach this aim, he would be afraid of no means; he would
shrink from no treachery and no sin.

Like the disciples of Loyola, he said, in justification of himself, "the
end sanctifies the means."

And thus for him every means was right which conducted him to the end;
that is to say, to greatness and glory.

He was firmly convinced that he loved the queen ardently; and in his
nobler hours he did really love her. Depending on the moment, a son of
the hour, in him feeling and will varied with the rapidity of lightning,
and he ever was wholly and completely that with which the moment
inflamed him.

When, therefore, he stood before the queen, he did not lie when he swore
that he loved her passionately. He really loved her, with double warmth,
since she had to his mind in some sort identified herself with his
ambition. He adored her, because she was the means that might conduct
him to his end; because she might some day hold in her hands the sceptre
of England. And on the day when this came to pass, he wished to be
her lover and her lord. She had accepted him as her lord, and he was
entirely certain of his future sway.

Consequently he loved the queen, but his proud and ambitious heart could
never be so completely animated by one love as that there should not
be room in it for a second, provided this second love presented him a
favorable chance for the attainment of the aim of his life.

Princess Elizabeth had this chance. And if the queen would certainly
become one day Regent of England, yet Elizabeth might some day perchance
become queen thereof. Of course, it was as yet only a perhaps, but one
might manage out of this perhaps to make a reality. Besides, this young,
passionate child loved him, and Thomas Seymour was himself too young
and too easily excitable to be able to despise a love that presented him
with such enticing promises and bright dreams of the future.

"It does not become a man to live for love alone," said he to himself as
he now thought over the events of the night. "He must struggle for the
highest and wish to reach the greatest, and no means of attaining this
end ought he to leave unemployed. Besides, my heart is large enough to
satisfy a twofold love. I love them both--both of these fair women who
fetch me a crown. Let fate decide to which of the two I shall one day
belong!"





Next: Henry Howard Earl Of Surrey

Previous: The Prisoner



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