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The Accusation








In vain had the king hoped to master his pains, or at least to forget
them, while he tried to sleep. Sleep had fled from the king's couch; and
as he now sat in his rolling-chair, sad, weary, and harassed with pain,
he thought, with gloomy spite, that the Duke of Norfolk told him but
yesterday that sleep was a thing under his control, and he could summon
it to him whenever it seemed good to him. This thought made him raving
with anger; and grinding his teeth, he muttered: "He can sleep; and I,
his lord and king--I am a beggar that in vain whines to God above for
a little sleep, a little forgetfulness of his pains! But it is this
traitorous Norfolk that prevents me from sleeping. Thoughts of him keep
me awake and restless. And I cannot crush this traitor with these hands
of mine; I am a king, and yet so powerless and weak, that I can find
no means of accusing this traitor, and convicting him of his sinful
and blasphemous deeds. Oh, where may I find him--that true friend, that
devoted servant, who ventures to understand my unuttered thoughts, and
fulfil the wishes to which I dare not give a name?"

Just as he was thus thinking, the door behind him opened and in walked
Earl Douglas. His countenance was proud and triumphant, and so wild a
joy gleamed from his eyes that even the king was surprised at it.

"Oh," said he, peevishly, "you call yourself my friend; and you are
cheerful, Douglas, while your king is a poor prisoner whom the gout has
chained with brazen bands to this chair."

"You will recover, my king, and go forth from this imprisonment as
the conqueror, dazzling and bright, that by his appearance under God's
blessing treads all his enemies in the dust--that triumphs over all
those who are against him, and would betray their king!"

"Are there, then, any such traitors, who threaten their king?" asked
Henry, with a dark frown.

"Ay, there are such traitors!"

"Name them to me!" said the king, trembling with passionate impatience.
"Name them to me, that my arm may crush them and my avenging justice
overtake the heads of the guilty."

"It is superfluous to mention them, for you, King Henry, the wise and
all-knowing--you know their names."

And bending down closer to the king's ear, Earl Douglas continued: "King
Henry, I certainly have a right to call myself your most faithful and
devoted servant, for I have read your thoughts. I have understood the
noble grief that disturbs your heart, and banishes sleep from your eyes
and peace from your soul. You saw the foe that was creeping in the dark;
you heard the low hiss of the serpent that was darting his venomous
sting at your heel. But you were so much the noble and intrepid king,
that you would not yourself become the accuser--nay, you would not once
draw back the foot menaced by the serpent. Great and merciful, like God
Himself, you smiled upon him whom you knew to be your enemy. But I, my
king--I have other duties. I am like the faithful dog, that has eyes
only for the safety of his master, and falls upon every one that comes
to menace him. I have seen the serpent that would kill you, and I will
bruise his head!"

"And what is the name of this serpent of which you speak?" asked
the king; and his heart beat so boisterously that he felt it on his
trembling lips.

"It is called," said Earl Douglas, earnestly and solemnly--"it is called
Howard!"

The king uttered a cry, and, forgetting his gout and his pains, arose
from his chair.

"Howard!" said he, with a cruel smile. "Say you that a Howard threatens
our life? Which one is it? Name me the traitor!"

"I name them both--father and son! I name the Duke of Norfolk and the
Earl of Surrey! I say that they both are traitors, who threaten the life
and honor of my king, and with blasphemous arrogance dare stretch out
their hands even to the crown!"

"Ah, I knew it, I knew it!" screamed the king. "And it was this that
made me sleepless, and ate into my body like red-hot iron."

And as he fastened on Douglas his eyes flashing with rage, he asked,
with a grim smile: "Can you prove that these Howards are traitors? Can
you prove that they aim at my crown?"

"I hope to be able to do so," said Douglas. "To be sure, there are no
great convincing facts--"

"Oh," said the king, interrupting him with a savage laugh, "there is no
need of great facts. Give into my hand but a little thread, and I will
make out of it a cord strong enough to haul the father and son up to the
gallows at one time."

"Oh, for the son there is proof enough," said the earl, with a smile:
"and as regards the father, I will produce your majesty some accusers
against him, who will be important enough to bring the duke also to the
block. Will you allow me to bring them to you immediately?"

"Yes, bring them, bring them!" cried the king. "Every minute is precious
that may lead these traitors sooner to their punishment."

Earl Douglas stepped to the door and opened it. Three veiled female
figures entered and bowed reverentially.

"Ah," whispered the king, with a cruel smile, as he sank back again into
his chair, "they are the three Fates that spin the Howards' thread of
life, and will now, it is to be hoped, break it off. I will furnish them
with the scissors for it; and if they are not sharp enough, I will, with
my own royal hands, help them to break the thread."

"Sire," said Earl Douglas, as, at a sign from him, the three women
unveiled themselves--"sire, the wife, the daughter, and the mistress of
the Duke of Norfolk have come to accuse him of high treason. The mother
and the sister of the Earl of Surrey are here to charge him with a crime
equally worthy of death."

"Now verily," exclaimed the king, "it must be a grievous and blasphemous
sin which so much exasperates the temper of these noble women, and makes
them deaf to the voice of nature!"

"It is indeed such a sin," said the Duchess of Norfolk, in a solemn
tone; and, approaching a few paces nearer to the king, she continued:
"Sire, I accuse the duke, my divorced husband, of high treason and
disloyalty to his king. He has been so bold as to appropriate your own
royal coat-of-arms; and on his seal and equipage, and over the entrance
of his palace, are displayed the arms of the kings of England."

"That is true," said the king, who, now that he was certain of
the destruction of the Howards, had regained his calmness and
self-possession, and perfectly reassumed the air of a strict, impartial
judge. "Yes, he bears the royal arms on his shield, but yet, if we
remember rightly, the crown and paraph of our ancestor Edward the Third
are wanting."

"He has now added this crown and this paraph to his coat-of-arms," said
Miss Holland. "He says he is entitled to them; for that, like the
king, he also is descended in direct line from Edward the Third; and,
therefore, the royal arms belong likewise to him."

"If he says that, he is a traitor who presumes to call his king and
master his equal," cried the king, coloring up with a grim joy at now at
length having his enemy in his power.

"He is indeed a traitor," continued Miss Holland. "Often have I heard
him say he had the same right to the throne of England as Henry the
Eighth; and that a day might come when he would contend with Henry's son
for that crown."

"Ah," cried the king, and his eyes darted flashes so fierce that even
Earl Douglas shrank before them, "ah, he will contend with my son for
the crown of England! It is well, now; for now it is my sacred duty, as
a king and as a father, to crush this serpent that wants to bite me on
the heel; and no compassion and no pity ought now to restrain me longer.
And were there no other proofs of his guilt and his crime than these
words that he has spoken to you, yet are they sufficient, and will rise
up against him, like the hangman's aids who are to conduct him to the
block."

"But there are yet other proofs," said Miss Holland, laconically.

The king was obliged to unbutton his doublet. It seemed as though joy
would suffocate him.

"Name them!" commanded he.

"He dares deny the king's supremacy; he calls the Bishop of Rome the
sole head and holy Father of the Church."

"Ah, does he so?" exclaimed the king, laughing. "Well, we shall see now
whether this holy Father will save this faithful son from the scaffold
which we will erect for him. Yes, yes, we must give the world a new
example of our incorruptible justice, which overtakes every one, however
high and mighty he may be, and however near our throne he may stand.
Really, really, it grieves our heart to lay low this oak which we had
planted so near our throne, that we might lean upon it and support
ourselves by it; but justice demands this sacrifice, and we will make
it--not in wrath and spite, but only to meet the sacred and painful duty
of our royalty. We have greatly loved this duke, and it grieves us to
tear this love from our heart."

And with his hand, glittering with jewels, the king wiped from his eyes
the tears which were not there.

"But how?" asked the king, then, after a pause, "will you have the
courage to repeat your accusation publicly before Parliament? Will you,
his wife, and you, his mistress, publicly swear with a sacred oath to
the truth of your declaration?"

"I will do so," said the duchess, solemnly, "for he is no longer my
husband, no longer the father of my children, but simply the enemy of my
king; and to serve him is my most sacred duty."

"I will do so," cried Miss Holland, with a bewitching smile; "for he
is no longer my lover, but only a traitor, an atheist, who is audacious
enough to recognize as the holy head of Christendom that man at Rome who
has dared to hurl his curse against the sublime head of our king. It is
this, indeed, that has torn my heart from the duke, and that has made me
now hate him as ardently as I once loved him."

With a gracious smile, the king presented both his hands to the two
women. "You have done me a great service to-day, my ladies," said he,
"and I will find a way to reward you for it. I will give you, duchess,
the half of his estate, as though you were his rightful heir and lawful
widow. And you, Miss Holland, I will leave in undisputed possession of
all the goods and treasures that the enamored duke has given you."

The two ladies broke out into loud expressions of thanks and into
enthusiastic rapture over the liberal and generous king, who was so
gracious as to give them what they already had, and to bestow on them
what was already their own property.

"Well, and are you wholly mute, my little duchess," asked the king after
a pause, turning to the Duchess of Richmond, who had withdrawn to the
embrasure of a window.

"Sire," said the duchess, smiling, "I was only waiting for my cue."

"And this cue is--"

"Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey! As your majesty knows, I am a merry and
harmless woman; and I understand better how to laugh and joke than to
talk much seriously. The two noble and fair ladies have accused the
duke, my father; and they have done so in a very dignified and solemn
manner. I wish to accuse my brother, Henry Howard; but you must exercise
forbearance, if my words sound less solemn and elevated. They have told
you, sire, that the Duke of Norfolk is a traitor and a criminal who
denominates the Pope of Rome, and not you, my exalted king, the head of
the Church. Now, the Earl of Surrey is neither a traitor nor a papist;
and he has neither devised criminal plots against the throne of England,
nor has he denied the supremacy of the king. No, sire, the Earl of
Surrey is no traitor and no papist!"

The duchess paused, and looked with a malicious and droll smile into the
astonished faces of those present.

A dark frown gathered on the king's brow, and his eyes, which just
before had looked so cheerful, were now fixed with an angry expression
on the young duchess.

"Why, then, my lady, have you made your appearance here?" asked he.
"Why have you come here, if you have nothing further to say than what I
already know--that the Earl of Surrey is a very loyal subject, and a
man without any ambition, who neither courts the favor of my people nor
thinks of laying his traitorous hands on my crown?"

The young duchess shook her head with a smile. "I know not whether he
does all that," said she. "I have indeed heard that he said, with bitter
scorn, that you, my king, wanted to be the protector of religion, yet
you yourself were entirely without religion and without belief. Also, he
of late broke out into bitter curses against you, because you had robbed
him of his field-marshal's staff, and given it to Earl Hertford, that
noble Seymour. Also, he meant to see whether the throne of England were
so firm and steady that it had no need of his hand and his arm to prop
it. All that I have of course heard from him; but you are right, sire,
it is unimportant--it is not worth mentioning, and therefore I do not
even make it as an accusation against him."

"Ah, you are always a mad little witch, Rosabella!" cried the king, who
had regained his cheerfulness. "You say you will not accuse him, and yet
you make his head a plaything that you poise upon your crimson lips. But
take care, my little duchess--take care, that this head does not fall
from your lips with your laughing, and roll down to the ground; for I
will not stop it--this head of the Earl of Surrey, of whom you say that
he is no traitor."

"But is it not monotonous and tiresome, if we accuse the father and son
of the same crime?" asked the duchess, laughing. "Let us have a little
variation. Let the duke be a traitor; the son, my king, is by far a
worse criminal!"

"Is there, then, a still worse and more execrable crime than to be a
traitor to his king and master, and to speak of the anointed of the Lord
without reverence and love?"

"Yes, your majesty, there is a still worse crime; and of that I accuse
the Earl of Surrey. He is an adulterer!"

"An adulterer!" repeated the king, with an expression of abhorrence.
"Yes, my lady, you are right; that is a more execrable and unnatural
crime, and we shall judge it strictly. For it shall not be said that
modesty and virtue found no protector in the king of this land, and that
he will not as a judge punish and crash all those who dare sin against
decency and morals. Oh, the Earl of Surrey is an adulterer, is he?"

"That is to say, sire, he dares with his sinful love to pursue a
virtuous and chaste wife. He dares to raise his wicked looks to a woman
who stands as high above him as the sun above mortals, and who, at least
by the greatness and high position of her husband, should be secure from
all impure desires and lustful wishes."

"Ah," cried the king, indignantly, "I see already whither that tends. It
is always the same accusation; and now I say, as you did just now, let
us have a little variation! The accusation I have already often heard;
but the proofs are always wanting."

"Sire, this time, it may be, we can give the proofs," said the duchess,
earnestly. "Would you know, my noble king, who the Geraldine is to whom
Henry Howard addresses his love-songs? Shall I tell you the real name
of this woman to whom, in the presence of your sacred person and of your
whole court, he uttered his passionate protestations of love and his
oath of eternal faithfulness? Well, now, this Geraldine--so adored, so
deified--is the queen!"

"That is not true!" cried the king, crimson with anger; and he clenched
his hands so firmly about the arms of his chair that it cracked. "That
is not true, my lady!"

"It is true!" said the duchess, haughtily and saucily. "It is true,
sire, for the Earl of Surrey has confessed to me myself that it is the
queen whom he loves, and that Geraldine is only a melodious appellation
for Catharine."

"He has confessed it to you yourself?" inquired the king, with gasping
breath. "Ah, he dares love his king's wife? Woe to him, woe!"

He raised his clenched fist threateningly to heaven, and his eyes darted
lightning. "But how!" said he, after a pause--"has he not recently read
before us a poem to his Geraldine, in which he thanks her for her love,
and acknowledges himself eternally her debtor for the kiss she gave
him?"

"He has read before your majesty such a poem to Geraldine."

The king uttered a low cry, and raised himself in his seat. "Proofs,"
said he, in a hoarse, hollow voice--"proofs--or, I tell you, your own
head shall atone for this accusation!"

"This proof, your majesty, I will give you!" said Earl Douglas,
solemnly. "It pleases your majesty, in the fulness of your gentleness
and mercy, to want to doubt the accusation of the noble duchess. Well,
now, I will furnish you infallible proof that Henry Howard, Earl of
Surrey, really loves the queen, and that he really dares to extol and
adore the king's wife as his Geraldine. You shall with your own ears,
sire, hear how Earl Surrey swears his love to the queen."

The scream which the king now uttered was so frightful, and gave
evidence of so much inward agony and rage, that it struck the earl dumb,
and made the cheeks of the ladies turn pale.

"Douglas, Douglas, beware how you rouse the lion!" gasped the king. "The
lion might rend you yourself in pieces!"

"This very night I will give you the proof that you demand, sire. This
very night you shall hear how Earl Surrey, sitting at the feet of his
Geraldine, swears to her his love."

"It is well!" said the king. "This night, then! Woe to you, Douglas, if
you cannot redeem your word!"

"I will do so, your majesty. For this, it is only necessary that you
will be graciously pleased to swear to me that you will not, by a sigh
or a breath, betray yourself. The earl is suspicious; and the fear of
an evil conscience has sharpened his ear. He would recognize you by your
sigh, and his lips would not speak those words and avowals which you
desire to hear."

"I swear to you that I will not by any sigh or breath betray my
presence!" said the king, solemnly. "I swear this to you by the
holy mother of God! But now let that suffice. Air--air--I suffocate!
Everything swims before my eyes. Open the window, that a little air may
flow in! Ah! that is good! This air at least is pure, and not infected
with sin and slander!"

And the king had Earl Douglas roll him to the opened window, and
inspired in long draughts that pure fresh air. Then he turned to the
ladies with an agreeable smile.

"My ladies," said he, "I thank you! You have to-day shown yourselves my
true and devoted friends! I shall ever remember it, and I beg of you,
if at any time you need a friend and protector, to apply to us with all
confidence. We shall never forget what great service you have to-day
rendered us."

He nodded to them in a friendly manner, whilst, with a majestic wave of
the hand, he dismissed them, and concluded the audience.

"And now, Douglas," exclaimed the king, vehemently, as soon as the
ladies had retired--"now I have had enough of this dreadful torture! Oh,
you say I am to punish the traitors--these Surreys--and you inflict on
me the most frightful pains of the rack!"

"Sire, there was no other means of delivering up this Surrey to you. You
were wishing that he were a criminal; and I shall prove to you that he
is so."

"Oh, I shall then be able at least to tread his hated head under my
feet," said the king, grinding his teeth. "I shall no more tremble
before this malicious enemy, who goes about among my people with his
hypocritical tongue, while I, tortured with pain, sit in the dungeon of
my sickroom. Yes, yes, I thank you, Douglas, that you will hand him over
to my arm of vengeance; and my soul is full of joy and serenity at it.
Ah, why were you obliged to cloud this fair, this sublime hour? Why was
it necessary to weave the queen into this gloomy web of guilt and crime?
Her cheerful smile and her radiant looks have ever been an enjoyment so
dear to my eyes."

"Sire, I do not by any means say that the queen is guilty. Only there
was no other means to prove to you Earl Surrey's guilt than that you
should hear for yourself his confession of love to the queen."

"And I will hear it!" cried the king, who had now already overcome the
sentimental emotion of his heart.

"Yes, I will have full conviction of Surrey's guilt; and woe to the
queen, should I find her also guilty! This night, then, earl! But
till then, silence and secrecy! We will have father and son seized and
imprisoned at the same hour; for otherwise the imprisonment of the one
might easily serve as a warning to the other, and he might escape my
just wrath. Ah, they are so sly--these Howards--and their hearts are so
full of cunning and malice! But now they shall escape me no more; now
they are ours! How it does me good to think that! And how briskly
and lightly my heart leaps! It is as though a stream of new life were
rushing through my veins, and a new power were infused into my blood.
Oh, it was these Howards that made me sick. I shall be well again when I
know that they are in the Tower. Yes, yes, my heart leaps with joy, and
this is to be a happy and blessed day. Call the queen hither to me,
that I may once more enjoy her rosy face before I make it turn pale with
terror. Yes, let the queen come, and let her adorn herself; I want to
see her once more in the full splendor of her youth and her royalty,
before her star goes out in darkness. I will once more delight myself
with her before I make her weep. Ah, know you, Douglas, that there is no
enjoyment keener, more devilish, and more heavenly, than to see such a
person who smiles and suspects nothing, while she is already condemned;
who still adorns her head with roses, while the executioner is already
sharpening the axe that is to lay that head low; who still has hopes of
the future, and of joy and happiness, while her hour of life has already
run out; while I have already bidden her stop and descend into the
grave! So, call the queen to me; and tell her that we are in a merry
mood, and want to jest and laugh with her! Call all the ladies and lords
of our court; and have the royal saloons opened; and let them be radiant
with the brilliancy of the lights; and let us have music--loud, crashing
music--for we want at least to make this a merry day for us since it
seems as though we should have a sad and unhappy night. Yes, yes, a
merry day we will have; and after that, let come what come may! The
saloons shall resound with laughter and joyfulness; and naught but
rejoicing and fun shall be heard in the great royal saloons. And invite
also the Duke of Norfolk, my noble cousin, who shares with me my royal
coat-of-arms. Yes, invite him, that I may enjoy once more his haughty
and imposing beauty and grandeur before this august sun is extinguished
and leaves us again in night and darkness. Then invite also Wriothesley,
the high chancellor, and let him bring with him a few gallant and brave
soldiers of our body-guard. They are to be the noble duke's suite, when
he wishes to leave our feast and go homeward--homeward--if not to his
palace, yet to the Tower, and to the grave. Go, go, Douglas, and attend
to all this for me! And send me here directly my merry fool, John
Heywood. He must pass away the time for me till the feast begins. He
must make me laugh and be gay."

"I will go and fulfil your orders, sire," said Earl Douglas. "I will
order the feast, and impart your commands to the queen and your court.
And first of all, I will send John Heywood to you. But pardon me, your
majesty, if I venture to remind you that you have given me your royal
word not to betray our secret by a single syllable, or even by a sigh."

"I gave my word, and I will keep it!" said the king. "Go now, Earl
Douglas, and do what I have bidden you!"

Wholly exhausted by this paroxysm of cruel delight, the king sank back
in his seat, and moaning and groaning he rubbed his leg, the piercing
pains of which he had for a moment forgotten, but which now reminded him
of their presence with so much the more cruel fury.

"Ah, ah!" moaned the king. "He boasts of being able to sleep when he
pleases. Well, this time we will be the one to lull this haughty earl to
sleep. But it will be a sleep out of which he is never to awake again!"

While the king thus wailed and suffered, Earl Douglas hastened with
quick, firm step through the suite of royal apartments. A proud,
triumphant smile played about his lips, and a joyful expression of
victory flashed from his eyes.

"Triumph! triumph! we shall conquer!" said he, as he now entered his
daughter's chamber and extended his hand to Lady Jane. "Jane, we have at
last reached the goal, and you will soon be King Henry's seventh wife!"

A rosy shimmer flitted for a moment over Lady Jane's pale, colorless
cheeks, and a smile played about her lips--a smile, however, which was
more sad than loud sobs could have been.

"Ah," said she in a low tone, "I fear only that my poor head will be too
weak to wear a royal crown."

"Courage, courage, Jane, lift up your head, and be again my strong,
proud daughter!"

"But, I suffer so much, my father," sighed she. "It is hell that burns
within me!"

"But soon, Jane, soon you shall feel again the bliss of heaven! I had
forbidden you to grant Henry Howard a meeting, because it might bring us
danger. Well, then, now your tender heart shall be satisfied. To-night
you shall embrace your lover again!"

"Oh," murmured she, "he will again call me his Geraldine, and it will
not be I, but the queen, that he kisses in my arms!"

"Yes, to-day, it will still be so, Jane; but I swear to you that to-day
is the last time that you are obliged to receive him thus."

"The last time that I see him?" asked Jane, with an expression of alarm.

"No, Jane, only the last time that Henry Howard loves in you the queen,
and not you yourself."

"Oh, he will never love me!" murmured she, sadly.

"He will love you, for you it will be that will save his life. Hasten,
then. Jane, haste! Write him quickly one of those tender notes that you
indite with so masterly a hand. Invite him to a meeting to-night at the
usual time and place."

"Oh, I shall at last have him again!" whispered Lady Jane; and she
stepped to the writing-table and with trembling hand began to write.

But suddenly she stopped, and looked at her father sharply and
suspiciously.

"You swear to me, my father, that no danger threatens him if he comes?"

"I swear to you, Jane, that you shall be the one to save his life!
I swear to you, Jane, that you shall take vengeance on the
queen--vengeance for all the agony, the humiliation and despair that you
have suffered by her. To-day she is yet Queen of England! To-morrow she
will be nothing more than a criminal, who sighs in the confinement of
the Tower for the hour of her execution. And you will be Henry's seventh
queen. Write, then, my daughter, write! And may love dictate to you the
proper words!"





Next: The Feast Of Death

Previous: Intrigues



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