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The Acknowledgment








The Princess Elizabeth was sitting in her room, melancholy and absorbed
in thought. Her eyes were red with weeping; and she pressed her hand on
her heart, as if she would repress its cry of anguish.

With a disconsolate, perplexed look she gazed around her chamber, and
its solitude was doubly painful to her to-day, for it testified to her
forsaken condition, to the disgrace that still rested on her. For were
it not so, to-day would have been to the whole court a day of rejoicing,
of congratulations.

To-day was Elizabeth's birthday; fourteen years ago to-day, Anne
Boleyn's daughter had seen the light of this world.

"Anne Boleyn's daughter!" That was the secret of her seclusion. That
was why none of the ladies and lords of the court had remembered her
birthday; for that would have been at the same time a remembrance of
Anne Boleyn, of Elizabeth's beautiful and unfortunate mother, who had
been made to atone for her grandeur and prosperity by her death.

Moreover, the king had called his daughter Elizabeth a bastard, and
solemnly declared her unworthy of succeeding to the throne.

Her birthday, therefore, was to Elizabeth only a day of humiliation and
pain. Reclining on her divan, she thought of her despised and joyless
past, of her desolate and inglorious future.

She was a princess, and yet possessed not the rights of her birth; she
was a young maiden, and yet doomed, in sad resignation, to renounce all
the delights and enjoyments of youth, and to condemn her passionate
and ardent heart to the eternal sleep of death. For when the Infante of
Spain sued for her hand, Henry the Eighth had declared that the bastard
Elizabeth was unworthy of a princely husband. But in order to intimidate
other suitors also, he had loudly and openly declared that no subject
should dare be so presumptuous as to offer his hand to one of his
royal daughters, and he who dared to solicit them in marriage should be
punished as a traitor.

So Elizabeth was condemned to remain unmarried; and nevertheless she
loved; nevertheless she harbored only this one wish, to be the wife of
her beloved, and to be able to exchange the proud title of princess for
the name of Countess Seymour.

Since she loved him, a new world, a new sun had arisen on her; and
before the sweet and enchanting whispers of her love, even the proud and
alluring voices of her ambition had to be silent. She no longer thought
of it, that she would never be a queen; she was only troubled that she
could not be Seymour's wife.

She no longer wanted to rule, but she wanted to be happy. But her
happiness reposed on him alone--on Thomas Seymour.

Such were her thoughts, as she was in her chamber on the morning of
her birthday, alone and lonely; and her eyes reddened by tears, her
painfully convulsed lips, betrayed how much she had wept to-day; how
much this young girl of fourteen years had already suffered.

But she would think no more about it; she would not allow the lurking,
everywhere-prying, malicious, and wicked courtiers the triumph of seeing
the traces of her tears, and rejoicing at her pains and her humiliation.
She was a proud and resolute soul; she would rather have died than to
have accepted the sympathy and pity of the courtiers.

"I will work," said she. "Work is the best balm for all pains."

And she took up the elaborate silk embroidery which she had begun for
her poor, unfortunate friend, Anne of Cleves, Henry's divorced wife. But
the work occupied only her fingers, not her thoughts.

She threw it aside and seized her books. She took Petrarch's Sonnets;
and his love plaints and griefs enchained and stirred her own love-sick
heart.

With streaming tears, and yet smiling and full of sweet melancholy,
Elizabeth read these noble and tender poems. It appeared to her as if
Petrarch had only said what she herself so warmly felt. There were her
thoughts, her griefs. He had said them in his language; she must now
repeat them in her own. She seated herself, and with hands trembling
with enthusiasm, fluttering breath, perfectly excited and glowing,
in glad haste she began a translation of Petrarch's first sonnet.
[Footnote: Elizabeth, who even as a girl of twelve years old spoke four
languages, was very fond of composing verses, and of translating the
poems of foreign authors. But she kept her skill in this respect very
secret, and was always very angry if any one by chance saw one of
her poems. After her death there were found among her papers many
translations, especially of Petrarch's Sonnets, which were the work of
her earliest youth.--Leti, vol. i, p. 150.] A loud knock interrupted
her; and in the hastily opened door now appeared the lovely form of the
queen.

"The queen!" exclaimed Elizabeth with delight. "Have you come to me at
such an early morning hour?"

"And should I wait till evening to wish my Elizabeth happiness on her
festival? Should I first let the sun go down on this day, which gave
to England so noble and so fair a princess?" asked Catharine. "Or you
thought, perhaps, I did not know that this was your birthday, and that
to-day my Elizabeth advances from the years of childhood, as a proud
maiden full of hope?"

"Full of hope?" said Elizabeth, sadly. "Anne Boleyn's daughter has no
hopes: and when you speak of my birthday, you remind me at the same time
of my despised birth!"

"It shall be despised no longer!" said Catharine, and, as she put
her arm tenderly around Elizabeth's neck, she handed her a roll of
parchment.

"Take that, Elizabeth; and may this paper be to you the promise of a
joyful and brilliant future! At my request, the king has made this law,
and he therefore granted me the pleasure of bringing it to you."

Elizabeth opened the parchment and read, and a radiant expression
overspread her countenance.

"Acknowledged! I am acknowledged!" cried she. "The disgrace of my birth
is taken away! Elizabeth is no more a bastard--she is a royal princess!"

"And she may some day be a queen!" said Catharine, smiling.

"Oh," cried Elizabeth, "it is not that which stirs me with such joy. But
the disgrace of my birth is taken away; and I may freely hold up my head
and name my mother's name! Now thou mayst sleep calmly in thy grave, for
it is no longer dishonored! Anne Boleyn was no strumpet; she was King
Henry's lawful wife, and Elizabeth is the king's legitimate daughter! I
thank Thee, my God--I thank Thee!" And the young, passionate girl threw
herself on her knees, and raised her hands and her eyes to heaven.

"Spirit of my glorified mother," said she, solemnly, "I call thee! Come
to me! Overshadow me with thy smile, and bless me with thy breath! Queen
Anne of England, thy daughter is no longer a bastard, and no one dares
venture more to insult her. Thou wert with me when I wept and suffered,
my mother; and often in my disgrace and humiliation, it was as if I
heard thy voice, which whispered comfort to me; as if I saw thy heavenly
eyes, which poured peace and love into my breast! Oh, abide with me now
also, my mother--now, when my disgrace is taken away, abide with me
in my prosperity; and guard my heart, that it may be kept pure from
arrogance and pride, and remain humble in its joy! Anne Boleyn, they
laid thy beautiful, innocent head upon the block; but this parchment
sets upon it again the royal crown; and woe, woe to those who will now
still dare insult thy memory!"

She sprang from her knees and rushed to the wall opposite, on which was
a large oil painting, which represented Elizabeth herself as a child
playing with a dog.

"Oh, mother, mother!" said she, "this picture was the last earthly thing
on which thy looks rested; and to these painted lips of thy child thou
gavest thy last kiss, which thy cruel hangman would not allow to thy
living child. Oh, let me sip up this last kiss from that spot; let me
touch with my mouth the spot that thy lips have consecrated!"

She bent down and kissed the picture.

"And now come forth out of thy grave, my mother," said she, solemnly.
"I have been obliged so long to hide, so long to veil thee! Now thou
belongest to the world and to the light! The king has acknowledged me as
his lawful daughter; he cannot refuse me to have a likeness of my mother
in my room."

As she thus spoke, she pressed on a spring set in the broad gilt frame
of the picture; and suddenly the painting was seen to move and slowly
open like a door, so as to render visible another picture concealed
beneath it, which represented the unfortunate Anne Boleyn in bridal
attire, in the full splendor of her beauty, as Holbein had painted her,
at the desire of her husband the king.

"How beautiful and angelic that countenance is!" said Catharine,
stepping nearer. "How innocent and pure those features! Poor queen! Yet
thine enemies succeeded in casting suspicion on thee and bringing thee
to the scaffold. Oh, when I behold thee, I shudder; and my own future
rises up before me like a threatening spectre! Who can believe herself
safe and secure, when Anne Boleyn was not secure; when even she had
to die a dishonorable death? Ah, do but believe me, Elizabeth, it is a
melancholy lot to be Queen of England; and often indeed have I asked the
morning whether I, as still Queen of England, shall greet the evening.
But no--we will not talk of myself in this hour, but only of you,
Elizabeth--of your future and of your fortune. May this document be
acceptable to you, and realize all the wishes that slumber in your
bosom!"

"One great wish of mine it has fulfilled already," said Elizabeth, still
occupied with the picture. "It allows me to show my mother's likeness
unveiled! That I could one day do so was her last prayer and last wish,
which she intrusted to John Heywood for me. To him she committed this
picture. He alone knew the secret of it, and he has faithfully preserved
it."

"Oh, John Heywood is a trusty and true friend," said Catharine,
heartily; "and it was he who assisted me in inclining the king to our
plan and in persuading him to acknowledge you."

With an unutterable expression Elizabeth presented both hands to her. "I
thank you for my honor, and the honor of my mother," said she; "I will
love you for it as a daughter; and never shall your enemies find with me
an open ear and a willing heart. Let us two conclude with each other a
league offensive and defensive! Lot us keep true to each other; and the
enemies of the one shall be the enemies of the other also. And where
we see danger we will combat it in common; and we will watch over each
other with a true sisterly eye, and warn one another whenever a chance
flash brings to light an enemy who is stealing along in the darkness,
and wants with his dagger to assassinate us from behind."

"So be it!" said Catharine, solemnly. "We will remain inseparable, and
true to one another, and love each other as sisters!"

And as she imprinted a warm kiss on Elizabeth's lips, she continued:
"But now, princess, direct your looks once more to that document, of
which at first you read only the beginning. Do but believe me, it is
important enough for you to read it quite to the end; for it contains
various arrangements for your future, and settles on you a suite and a
yearly allowance, as is suitable for a royal princess."

"Oh, what care I for these things?" cried Elizabeth, merrily. "That is
my major-domo's concern, and he may attend to it."

"But there is yet another paragraph that will interest you more,"
said Catharine, with a slight smile; "for it is a full and complete
reparation to my proud and ambitious Elizabeth. You recollect the answer
which your father gave to the King of France when he solicited your hand
for the dauphin?"

"Do I recollect it!" cried Elizabeth, her features quickly becoming
gloomy. "King Henry said: 'Anne Boleyn's daughter is not worthy to
accept the hand of a royal prince.'"

"Well, then, Elizabeth, that the reparation made to you may be complete,
the king, while he grants you your lawful title and honor, has decreed
that you are permitted to marry only a husband of equal birth; to give
your hand only to a royal prince, if you would preserve your right of
succeeding to the throne, Oh, certainly, there could be no more complete
recantation of the affront once put upon you. And that he consented
to do this, you owe to the eloquent intercession of a true and trusty
friend; you have John Hey wood to thank for it."

"John Heywood!" cried Elizabeth, in a bitter tone.

"Oh, I thank you, queen, that it was not you who determined my father to
this decision. John Heywood did it, and you call him my friend? You
say that he is a true and devoted servant to us both? Beware of his
fidelity, queen, and build not on his devotedness; for I tell you his
soul is full of falsehood; and while he appears to bow before you in
humbleness, his eyes are only searching for the place on your heel where
he can strike you most surely and most mortally. Oh, he is a serpent, a
venomous serpent; and he has just wounded me mortally and incurably. But
no," continued she, energetically, "I will not submit to this fraud; I
will not be the slave of this injurious law! I will be free to love and
to hate as my heart demands; I will not be shackled, nor be compelled
to renounce this man, whom I perhaps love, and to marry that one, whom I
perhaps abhor."

With an expression of firm, energetic resolve, she took the roll of
parchment and handed it back to Catharine. "Queen, take this parchment
back again; return it to my father, and tell him that I thank him for
his provident goodness, but will decline the brilliant lot which this
act offers me. I love freedom so much, that even a royal crown cannot
allure me when I am to receive it with my hands bound and my heart not
free."

"Poor child!" sighed Catharine, "you know not, then, that the royal
crown always binds us in fetters and compresses our heart in iron
clamps? Ah, you want to be free, and yet a queen! Oh, believe me,
Elizabeth, none are less free than sovereigns! No one has less the right
and the power to live according to the dictates of his heart than a
prince."

"Then," exclaimed Elizabeth, with flashing eyes, "then I renounce the
melancholy fortune of being, perchance, one day queen. Then I do not
subscribe to this law, which wants to guide my heart and limit my will.
What! shall the daughter of King Henry of England allow her ways to be
traced out by a miserable strip of parchment? and shall a sheet of
paper be able to intrude itself between me and my heart? I am a royal
princess; and why will they compel me to give my hand only to a king's
son? Ay, you are right; it is not my father that has made this law,
for my father's proud soul has never been willing to submit to any such
constraint of miserable etiquette. He has loved where he pleased; and no
Parliament--no law--has been able to hinder him in this respect. I will
be my father's own daughter. I will not submit to this law!"

"Poor child!" said Catharine, "nevertheless you will be obliged to learn
well how to submit; for one is not a princess without paying for it. No
one asks whether our heart bleeds. They throw a purple robe over it, and
though it be reddened with our heart's blood, who then sees and suspects
it? You are yet so young, Elizabeth; you yet hope so much!"

"I hope so much, because I have already suffered so much--my eyes have
been already made to shed so many tears. I have already in my childhood
had to take before-hand my share of the pain and sorrow of life; now I
will demand my share of life's pleasure and enjoyment also."

"And who tells you that you shall not have it? This love forces on you
no particular husband; it but gives you the proud right, once disputed,
of seeking your husband among the princes of royal blood."

"Oh," cried Elizabeth, with flashing eyes, "if I should ever really be a
queen, I should be prouder to choose a husband whom I might make a king,
than such a one as would make me a queen. [Footnote: Elizabeth's own
words,--Leti, vol. ii, p. 62.] Oh, say yourself, Catharine, must it not
be a high and noble pleasure to confer glory and greatness on one we
love, to raise him in the omnipotence of our love high above all other
men, and to lay our own greatness, our own glory, humbly at his feet,
that he may be adorned therewith and make his own possession what is
ours?"

"By Heaven, you are as proud and ambitious as a man!" said Catharine,
smiling. "Your father's own daughter! So thought Henry when he gave his
hand to Anne Boleyn; so thought he when he exalted me to be his queen.
But it behooves him thus to think and act, for he is a man."

"He thought thus, because he loved--not because he was a man."

"And you, too, Elizabeth--do you, too, think thus because you love?"

"Yes, I love!" exclaimed Elizabeth, as with an impulsive movement she
threw herself into Catharine's arms, and hid her blushing face in the
queen's bosom. "Yes, I love! I love like my father--regardless of my
rank, of my birth; but feeling only that my lover is of equally high
birth in the nobility of his sentiment, in his genius and noble mind;
that he is my superior in all the great and fine qualities which should
adorn a man, and yet are conferred on so few. Judge now, queen, whether
that law there can make me happy. He whom I love is no prince--no son of
a king."

"Poor Elizabeth!" said Catharine, clasping the young girl fervently in
her arms.

"And why do you bewail my fate, when it is in your power to make me
happy?" asked Elizabeth, urgently.

"It was you who prevailed on the king to relieve me of the disgrace that
rested on me; you will also have power over him to set aside this clause
which contains my heart's sentence of condemnation."

Catharine shook her head with a sigh. "My power does not reach so far,"
said she, sadly. "Ah, Elizabeth, why did you not put confidence in me?
Why did you not let me know sooner that your heart cherished a love
which is in opposition to this law? Why did you not tell your friend
your dangerous secret?"

"Just because it is dangerous I concealed it from you; and just on that
account I do not even now mention the name of the loved one. Queen, you
shall not through me become a guilty traitoress against your husband;
for you well know that he punishes every secret concealed from him as an
act of high treason. No, queen; if I am a criminal, you shall not he
my accomplice. Ah, it is always dangerous to be the confidant of such a
secret. You see that in John Heywood. He alone was my confidant, and he
betrayed me. I myself put the weapons into his hands, and he turned them
against me."

"No, no," said Catharine, thoughtfully; "John Heywood is true and
trusty, and incapable of treachery."

"He has betrayed me!" exclaimed Elizabeth, impetuously. "He knew--he
only--that I love, and that my beloved, though of noble, still is not of
princely birth. Yet it was he, as you said yourself, who moved the king
to introduce this paragraph into the act of succession."

"Then, without doubt, he has wished to save you from an error of your
heart."

"No, he has been afraid of the danger of being privy to this secret,
and at the cost of my heart and my happiness he wanted to escape this
danger. But oh, Catharine, you are a noble, great and strong woman; you
are incapable of such petty fear--such low calculation; therefore, stand
by me; be my savior and protectress! By virtue of that oath which we
have just now mutually taken--by virtue of that mutual clasp of
the hands just given--I call you to my help and my assistance. Oh,
Catharine, allow me this high pleasure, so full of blessing, of being at
some time, perhaps, able to make him whom I love great and powerful by
my will. Allow me this intoxicating delight of being able with my hand
to offer to his ambition at once power and glory--it may be even a
crown. Oh, Catharine, on my knees I conjure you--assist me to repeal
this hated law, which wants to bind my heart and my hand!"

In passionate excitement she had fallen before the queen, and was
holding up her hands imploringly to her.

Catharine, smiling, bent down and raised her up in her arms.
"Enthusiast," said she, "poor young enthusiast! Who knows whether you
will thank me for it one day, if I accede to your wish; and whether
you will not some time curse this hour which has brought you, perhaps,
instead of the hoped-for pleasure, only a knowledge of your delusion and
misery?"

"And were it even so," cried Elizabeth, energetically, "still it is
better to endure a wretchedness we ourselves have chosen, than to
be forced to a happy lot. Say, Catharine--say, will you lend me your
assistance? Will you induce the king to withdraw this hated clause? If
you do it not, queen, I swear to you, by the soul of my mother, that I
will not submit to this law; that I will solemnly, before all the world,
renounce the privilege that is offered me; that I--"

"You are a dear, foolish child," interrupted Catharine--"a child, that
in youthful presumption might dare wish to fetch the lightnings down
from heaven, and borrow from Jupiter his thunderbolt. Oh, you are still
too young and inexperienced to know that fate regards not our murmurs
and our sighs, and, despite our reluctance and our refusal, still leads
us in its own ways, not our own. You will have to learn that yet, poor
child!"

"But I will not!" cried Elizabeth, stamping on the floor with all the
pettishness of a child. "I will not ever and eternally be the victim
of another's will; and fate itself shall not have power to make me its
slave!"

"Well, we will see now," said Catharine, smiling. "We will try this
time, at least, to contend against fate; and I will assist you if I
can."

"And I will love you for it as my mother and my sister at once," cried
Elizabeth, as with ardor she threw herself into Catharine's arms. "Yes,
I will love you for it; and I will pray God that He may one day give
me the opportunity to show my gratitude, and to reward you for your
magnanimity and goodness."





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