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John Heywood

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The Queen








From the niche in which John Heywood had hid himself he could survey the
entire corridor and all the doors opening into it--could see everything
and hear everything without being himself seen, for the projecting
pilaster completely shaded him.

So John Heywood stood and listened. All was quiet in the corridor. In
the distance was now and then heard the deadened sound of the music; and
the confused hum of many voices from the festive halls forced its way to
the listener's ear.

This was the only thing that John Heywood perceived. All else was still.
But this stillness did not last long. The corridor was lighted up, and
the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps was heard.

It was the gold-laced lackeys, who bore the large silver candelabra to
light the queen, who, with her train of ladies, was passing through the
corridor.

She looked wondrously beautiful. The glare of the candles borne before
her illumined her countenance, which beamed with cheerfulness. As
she passed the pillar behind which John Heywood was standing, she was
talking in unrestrained gayety with her second maid of honor; and a
clear and lively laugh rang from her lips, which disclosed both rows
of her dazzling white teeth. Her eyes sparkled; her checks were flushed
with a rich red; bright as stars glittered the diamonds in the diadem
that encircled her lofty brow; like liquid gold shone her dress of gold
brocade, the long trail of which, trimmed with black ermine, was borne
by two lovely pages.

Arrived at the door of her bed-chamber, the queen dismissed her pages
and lackeys, and permitted only the maid of honor to cross the threshold
of her chamber with her.

In harmless gossip the pages glided down the corridor and the staircase.
Then came the lackeys who bore the candelabra. They also left the
corridor.

Now all was quiet again. Still John Heywood stood and listened, firmly
resolved to speak to the queen yet that night, even should he be obliged
to wake her from sleep. Only he wanted to wait till the maid of honor
also had left the queen's room.

Now the door opened, and the maid of honor came out. She crossed the
corridor to that side where her own apartments were situated. John
Heywood heard her open the door and then slide the bolt on the inside.

"Now but a brief time longer, and I will go to the queen," muttered John
Heywood.

He was just going to leave his lurking-place, when he perceived a noise
as if a door were slowly and cautiously opened.

John Heywood cowered again close behind the pillar, and held his breath
to listen.

A bright light fell over the corridor. A dress came rustling nearer and
nearer.

John Heywood gazed astounded and amazed at the figure, which just
brushed past without seeing him.

That figure was Lady Jane Douglas--Lady Jane, who, on account of
indisposition, had retired from the feast in order to betake herself
to rest. Now, when all rested, she watched--when all laid aside their
festive garments, she had adorned herself with the same. Like the queen,
she wore a dress of gold brocade, trimmed with ermine, and, like her, a
diadem of diamonds adorned Lady Jane's brow.

Now she stood before the queen's door and listened. Then a fierce sneer
flitted across her deathly pale face, and her dark eyes flashed still
more.

"She sleeps," muttered she. "Only sleep, queen--sleep till we shall come
to wake you! Sleep, so that I can wake for you."

She raised her arm threateningly toward the door, and wildly shook her
head. Her long black ringlets encircled and danced around her sullen
brow like the snakes of the furies; and pale and colorless, and with
demon-like beauty, she resembled altogether the goddess of vengeance, in
scornful triumph preparing to tread her victim beneath her feet.

With a low laugh she now glided adown the corridor, but not to that
staircase yonder, but farther down to the end, where on the wall hung
a life-size picture of Henry the Sixth. She pressed on a spring; the
picture flew open, and through the door concealed behind it Lady Jane
left the corridor.

"She is going to the green-room to a meeting with Henry Howard!"
whispered John Heywood, who now stepped forth from behind the pillar.
"Oh, now I comprehend it all; now the whole of this devilish plot is
clear to me; Lady Jane is Earl Surrey's lady-love, and they want to make
the king believe that it is the queen. Doubtless this Surrey is with
them in the conspiracy, and perhaps he will call Jane Douglas by the
name of the queen. They will let the king see her but a moment. She
wears a gold brocade dress and a diamond diadem like the queen; and
thereby they hope to deceive Henry. She has the queen's form precisely;
and everybody knows the astonishing similarity and likeness of Lady
Jane's voice to that of the queen. Oh, oh, it is a tolerably cunning
plot! But nevertheless you shall not succeed, and you shall not yet
gain the victory. Patience, only patience! We likewise will be in the
green-room, and face to face with this royal counterfeit we will place
the genuine queen!"

With hurried step John Heywood also left the corridor, which was now
lonely and still, for the queen had gone to rest.

Yes, the queen slept, and yet over yonder in the green-room everything
was prepared for her reception.

It was to be a very brilliant and extraordinary reception; for the king,
in his own person, had betaken himself to that wing of the castle, and
the chief master of ceremonies, Earl Douglas, had accompanied him.

To the king, this excursion, which he had to make on foot, had been very
troublesome; and this inconvenience had made him only still more
furious and excited, and the last trace of compassion for his queen had
disappeared from the king's breast, for on Catharine's account he had
been obliged to make this long journey to the green-room; and with a
grim joy Henry thought only how terrible was to be his punishment for
Henry Howard and also for Catharine.

Now that Earl Douglas had brought him hither, the king no longer had any
doubts at all of the queen's guilt. It was no longer an accusation--it
was proof. For never in the world would Earl Douglas have dared to bring
him, the king, hither, if he were not certain that he would give him
here infallible proofs.

The king, therefore, no longer doubted; at last Henry Howard was in his
power, and he could no more escape him. So he was certain of being able
to bring these two hated enemies to the block, and of feeling his sleep
no longed disturbed by thoughts of his two powerful rivals.

The Duke of Norfolk had already passed the gates of the Tower, and his
son must soon follow him thither.

At this thought the king felt an ecstasy so savage and bloodthirsty,
that he wholly forgot that the same sword that was to strike Henry
Howard's head was drawn on his queen also.

They were now standing in the green-room, and the king leaned panting
and moaning on Earl Douglas's arm.

The large wide room, with its antique furniture and its faded glory, was
only gloomily and scantily lighted in the middle by the two wax candles
of the candelabrum that Earl Douglas had brought with him; while further
away it was enveloped in deep gloom, and seemed to the eye through this
gloom to stretch out to an interminable length.

"Through the door over there comes the queen," said Douglas; and he
himself shrank at the loud sound of his voice, which in the large,
desolate room became of awful fulness. "And that, there, is Henry
Howard's entrance. Oh, he knows that path very thoroughly; for he has
often enough already travelled it in the dark night, and his foot no
longer stumbles on any stone of offence!"

"But he will perchance stumble on the headsman's block!" muttered the
king, with a cruel laugh.

"I now take the liberty of asking one question more," said Douglas;
and the king did not suspect how stormily the earl's heart beat at this
question. "Is your majesty satisfied to see the earl and the queen
make their appearance at this meeting? Or, do you desire to listen to a
little of the earl's tender protestations?"

"I will hear not a little, but all!" said the king. "Ah, let us allow
the earl yet to sing his swan-like song before he plunges into the sea
of blood!"

"Then," said Earl Douglas, "then we must put out this light, and your
majesty must be content merely to hear the guilty ones, and not to see
them also. We will then betake ourselves to the boudoir here, which I
have opened for this purpose, and in which is an easy-chair for your
majesty. We will place this chair near the open door, and then your
majesty will be able to hear every word of their tender whisperings."

"But how shall we, if we extinguish this our only light, at last attain
to a sight of this dear loving pair, and be able to afford them the
dramatic surprise of our presence?"

"Sire, as soon as the Earl of Surrey enters, twenty men of the king's
bodyguard will occupy the anteroom through which the earl must pass;
and it needs but a call from you to have them enter the hall with their
torches. I have taken care also that before the private backgate of the
palace two coaches stand ready, the drivers of which know very well the
street that leads to the Tower!"

"Two coaches?" said the king, laughing. "Ah, ah, Douglas, how cruel we
are to separate the tender, loving pair on this journey which is yet to
be their last! Well, perhaps we can compensate them for it, and
allow these turtledoves to make the last trip--the trip to the
stake--together. No, no, we will not separate them in death. Together
they may lay their heads on the block."

The king laughed, quite delighted with his jest, while, leaning on the
earl's arm, he crossed to the little boudoir on the other side, and took
his place in the armchair set near the door.

"Now we must extinguish the light; and may it please your majesty to
await in silence the things that are to come."

The earl extinguished the light, and deep darkness and a grave-like
stillness now followed.

But this did not last long. Now was heard quite distinctly the sound of
footsteps. They came nearer and nearer--now a door was heard to open and
shut again, and it was as though some one were creeping softly along on
his toes in the hall.

"Henry Howard!" whispered Douglas.

The king could scarcely restrain the cry of savage, malicious delight
that forced its way to his lips.

The hated enemy was then in his power; he was convicted of the crime; he
was inevitably lost.

"Geraldine!" whispered a voice, "Geraldine!"

And as if his low call had already been sufficient to draw hither the
loved one, the secret door here quite close to the boudoir opened.
The rustling of a dress was very distinctly heard, and the sound of
footsteps.

"Geraldine!" repeated Earl Surrey.

"Here I am, my Henry!"

With an exclamation of delight, the woman rushed forward toward the
sound of the loved voice.

"The queen!" muttered Henry; and in spite of himself he felt his heart
seized with bitter grief.

He saw with his inward eye how they held each other in their embrace. He
heard their kisses and the low whisper of their tender vows, and all
the agonies of jealousy and wrath filled his soul. But yet the king
prevailed upon himself to be silent and swallow down his rage. He wanted
to hear everything, to know everything.

He clenched his hands convulsively, and pressed his lips firmly together
to hold in his panting breath. He wanted to hear.

How happy they both were! Henry had wholly forgotten that he had come
to reproach her for her long silence; she did not think about this being
the last time she might see her lover.

They were with each other, and this hour was theirs. What did the whole
world matter to them? What cared they whether or not mischief and ruin
threatened them hereafter?

They sat by each other on the divan, quite near the boudoir. They jested
and laughed; and Henry Howard kissed away the tears that the happiness
of the present caused his Geraldine to shed.

He swore to her eternal and unchanging love. In blissful silence she
drank in the music of his words; and then she reiterated, with jubilant
joy, his vows of love.

The king could scarcely restrain his fury.

The heart of Earl Douglas leaped with satisfaction and gratification.
"A lucky thing that Jane has no suspicion of our presence," thought
he--"otherwise she would have been less unrestrained and ardent, and the
king's ear would have imbibed less poison."

Lady Jane thought not at all of her father; she scarcely remembered that
this very night would destroy her hated rival the queen.

Henry Howard had called her his Geraldine only. Jane had entirely forgot
that it was not she to whom her lover had given this name.

But he himself finally reminded her of it.

"Do you know, Geraldine," said Earl Surrey--and his voice, which had
been hitherto so cheerful and sprightly, was now sad--"do you know,
Geraldine, that I have had doubts of you? Oh, those were frightful,
horrible hours; and in the agony of my heart I came at last to the
resolution of going to the king and accusing myself of this love that
was consuming my heart. Oh, fear naught! I would not have accused you.
I would have even denied that love which you have so often and with such
transporting reality sworn to me. I would have done it in order to see
whether my Geraldine could at last gain courage and strength to lover.
He saw how he pressed her hands to his lips; how he put his hand to her
head to raise it from the floor."

The king was speechless with rage. He could only lift his arm to beckon
the soldiers to approach; to point to Henry Howard, who had not yet
succeeded in raising the queen's head from the floor.

"Arrest him!" said Earl Douglas, lending words to the king's mute sign.
"In the king's name arrest him, and conduct him to the Tower!"

"Yes, arrest him!" said the king; and, as with youthful speed he walked
up to Henry Howard and put his hand heavily on his shoulder, he
with terrible calmness continued: "Henry Howard, your wish shall be
fulfilled; you shall mount the scaffold for which you have so much
longed!"

The earl's noble countenance remained calm and unmoved; his bright
beaming eye fearlessly encountered the eye of the king flashing with
wrath.

"Sire," said he, "my life is in your hand, and I very well know that you
will not spare it. I do not even ask you to do so. But spare this noble
and beautiful woman, whose only crime is that she has followed the voice
of her heart. Sire, I alone am the guilty one. Punish me, then--torture
me, if you like--but be merciful to her."

The king broke out into a loud laugh. "Ah, he begs for her!" said
he. "This little Earl Surrey presumes to think that his sentimental
love-plaint can exercise an influence on the heart of his judge! No,
no, Henry Howard; you know me better. You say, indeed, that I am a cruel
man, and that blood cleaves to my crown. Well, now, it is our pleasure
to set in our crown a new blood-red ruby; and if we want to take it from
Geraldine's heart's blood, your sonnets will not hinder us from doing
so, my good little earl. That is all the reply I have to make to you;
and I think it will be the last time that we shall meet on earth!"

"There above we shall see each other again, King Henry of England!"
said Earl Surrey, solemnly. "There. But still this hour was hers, and
she would enjoy it. She clung fast to his breast; she drew him with
irresistible force to her heart, which now trembled no longer for love,
but from a nameless anxiety.

"Let us fly! Let us fly!" repeated she, breathlessly. "See! This hour is
yet ours. Let us avail ourselves of it; for who knows whether the next
will still belong to us?"

"No! it is no longer yours," yelled the king, as he sprang like a roused
lion from his seat. "Your hours are numbered, and the next already
belongs to the hangman!"

A piercing shriek burst from Geraldine's lips. Then was heard a dull
fall.

"She has fainted," muttered Earl Douglas.

"Geraldine, Geraldine, my loved one!" cried Henry Howard. "My God, my
God! she is dying! You have killed her! Woe to you!"

"Woe to yourself!" said the king, solemnly. "Here with the light! Here,
you folks!"

The door of the anteroom opened, and in it appeared four soldiers with
torches in their hands.

"Light the candles, and guard the door!" said the king, whose dazzled
eyes were not yet able to bear this bright glare of light which now
suddenly streamed through the room.

The soldiers obeyed his orders. A pause ensued. The king had put his
hand before his eyes, and was struggling for breath and self-control.

When at length he let his hand glide down, his features had assumed a
perfectly calm, almost a serene expression.

With a hasty glance he surveyed the room. He saw the queen in her dress
glistening with gold; he saw how she lay on the floor, stretched at full
length, her face turned to the ground, motionless and rigid.

He saw Henry Howard, who knelt by his beloved and was busy about her
with all the anxiety and agony of an acknowledge of her love openly and
frankly; whether her heart had the power to burst that iron band which
the deceitful rules of the world had placed around it; whether she
would acknowledge her lover when he was willing to die for her. "Yes,
Geraldine, I wanted to do it, that I might finally know which feeling
is stronger in you--love or pride--and whether you could then still
preserve the mask of indifference, when death was hovering over your
lover's head. Oh, Geraldine, I should deem it a fairer fate to die
united with you, than to be obliged to still longer endure this life of
constraint and hateful etiquette."

"No, no," said she, trembling, "we will not die. My God, life is indeed
so beautiful when you are by my side! And who knows whether a felicitous
and blissful future may not still await us?"

"Oh, should we die, then should we be certain of this blissful future,
my Geraldine. There, above, there is no more separation--no more
renunciation for us. There above, you are mine, and the bloody image of
your husband no longer stands between us."

"It shall no longer do so, even here on earth," whispered Geraldine.
"Come, my beloved; let us fly far, far hence, where no one knows
us--where we can cast from us all this hated splendor, to live for each
other and for love."

She threw her arms about her lover, and in the ecstasy of her love she
had wholly forgotten that she could never indeed think to flee with him,
that he belonged to her only so long as he saw her not.

An inexplicable anxiety overpowered her heart; and in this anxiety she
forgot everything--even the queen and the vengeance she had vowed.

She now remembered her father's words, and she trembled for her lover's
life.

If now her father had not told her the truth--if now he had
notwithstanding sacrificed Henry Howard in order to ruin the queen--if
she was not able to save him, and through her fault he were to perish on
the scaffold--above Henry the Eighth will no more be the judge, but
the condemned criminal; "and your bloody and accursed deeds will witness
against you!"

The king laughed. "You avail yourself of your advantage," said he.
"Because you have nothing more to lose and the scaffold is sure of you,
you do not stick at heaping up the measure of your sins a little more,
and you revile your legitimate, God-appointed king! But you should bear
in mind, earl, that before the scaffold there is yet the rack, and that
it is very possible indeed that a painful question might there be put
to the noble Earl Surrey, to which his agonies might prevent him from
returning an answer. Now, away with you! We have nothing more to say to
each other on earth!"

He motioned to the soldiers, who approached the Earl of Surrey. As they
reached their hands toward him, he turned on them a look so proud and
commanding that they involuntarily recoiled a step.

"Follow me!" said Henry Howard, calmly; and, without even deigning the
king a single look more, with head proudly erect, he walked to the door.

Geraldine still lay on the ground--her face turned to the floor. She
stirred not. She seemed to have fallen into a deep swoon.

Only as the door with a sullen sound closed behind Earl Surrey, a low
wail and moan was perceived--such as is wont to struggle forth at the
last hour from the breast of the dying.

The king did not heed it. He still gazed, with eyes stern and flashing
with anger, toward the door through which Earl Surrey had passed.

"He is unyielding," muttered he. "Not even the rack affrights him;
and in his blasphemous haughtiness he moves along in the midst of the
soldiers, not as a prisoner, but as a commander. Oh, these Howards are
destined to torment me; and even their death will scarcely be a full
satisfaction to me."

"Sire," said Earl Douglas, who had observed the king with a keen,
penetrating eye, and knew that he had now reached the height of
his wrath, at which he shrank from no deed of violence and no
cruelty--"sire, you have sent Earl Surrey to the Tower. But what shall
be done with the queen, who lies there on the floor in a swoon?"

The king roused himself from his reverie; and his bloodshot eyes were
fixed on Geraldine's motionless form with so dark an expression of hate
and rage, that Earl Douglas exultingly said to himself: "The queen is
lost! He will be inexorable!"

"Ah, the queen!" cried Henry, with a savage laugh. "Yea, verily, I
forgot the queen. I did not think of this charming Geraldine! But you
are right, Douglas; we must think of her and occupy ourselves a little
with her! Did you not say that a second coach was ready? Well, then, we
will not hinder Geraldine from accompanying her beloved. She shall be
where he is--in the Tower, and on the scaffold! We will therefore
wake this sentimental lady and show her the last duty of a cavalier by
conducting her to her carriage!"

He was about to approach the figure of the queen lying on the floor.
Earl Douglas held him back.

"Sire," said he, "it is my duty--as your faithful subject, who loves
you and trembles for your welfare--it is my duty to implore you to spare
yourself and preserve your precious and adored person from the venomous
sting of anger and grief. I conjure you, therefore, do not deign to
look again on this woman, who has so deeply injured you. Give me your
orders--what am I to do with her--and allow me first of all to accompany
you to your apartments."

"You are right," said the king, "she is not worthy of having my eyes
rest on her again; and she is even too contemptible for my anger!
We will call the soldiers that they may conduct this traitoress and
adulteress to the tower, as they have done her paramour."

"Yet for that there is needed still a formality. The queen will not be
admitted into the Tower without the king's written and sealed order."

"Then I will draw up that order."

"Sire, in that cabinet yonder may be found the necessary
writing-materials, if it please your majesty."

The king leaned in silence on the earl's arm, and allowed himself to be
led again into the cabinet.

With officious haste Earl Douglas made the necessary arrangements. He
rolled the writing-table up to the king; he placed the large sheet of
white paper in order, and slipped the pen into the king's hand.

"What shall I write?" asked the king, who, by the exertion of his
night's excursion, and of his anger and vexation, began at length to be
exhausted.

"An order for the queen's imprisonment, sire."

The king wrote. Earl Douglas stood behind him, with eager attention, in
breathless expectation, his look steadily fixed on the paper over which
the king's hand, white, fleshy, and sparkling with diamonds, glided
along in hasty characters.

He had at length reached his goal. When at last he should hold in his
hand the paper which the king was then writing--when he had induced
Henry to return to his apartments before the imprisonment of the queen
had taken place--then was he victorious. Not that woman there would he
then imprison; but, with the warrant in his hand, he would go to the
real queen, and take her to the Tower.

Once in the Tower, the queen could no longer defend herself; for the
king would see her no more; and if before the Parliament she protested
her innocence in ever so sacred oaths, still the king's testimony must
convict her; for he had himself surprised her with her paramour.

No, there was no escape for the queen. She had once succeeded in
clearing herself of an accusation, and proving her innocence, by a
rebutting alibi. But this time she was irretrievably lost, and no alibi
could deliver her.

The king completed his work and arose, whilst Douglas, at his command,
was employed in setting the king's seal to the fatal paper.

From the hall was heard a slight noise, as though some person were
cautiously moving about there.

Earl Douglas did not notice it; he was just in the act of pressing the
signet hard on the melted sealing-wax.

The king heard it, and supposed that it was Geraldine, and that she was
just waking from her swoon and rising.

He stepped to the door of the hall, and looked toward the place where
she was lying. But no--she had not yet risen; she still lay stretched at
full length on the floor.

"She has come to; but she still pretends to be in a swoon," thought the
king; and he turned to Douglas.

"We are done," said he; "the warrant for imprisonment is prepared, and
the sentence of the adulterous queen is spoken. We have done with her
forever; and never shall she again behold our face, or again hear our
voice. She is sentenced and damned, and the royal mercy has nothing
more to do with this sinner. A curse on the adulteress! A curse on
the shameless woman who deceived her husband, and gave herself up to a
traitorous paramour! Woe to her, and may shame and disgrace forever mark
her name, which--"

Suddenly the king stopped and listened. The noise that he had heard
just, before was now repeated louder and quicker; it came nearer and
nearer.

And now the door opened and a figure entered--a figure which made the
king stare with astonishment and admiration. It came nearer and nearer,
light, graceful, and with the freshness of youth; a gold-brocade dress
enveloped it; a diadem of diamonds sparkled on the brow; and brighter
yet than the diamonds beamed the eyes.

No, the king was not mistaken. It was the queen, She was standing
before him--and yet she still lay motionless and stiff upon the floor
yonder.

The king uttered a cry, and, turning pale, reeled a step backward.

"The queen!" exclaimed Douglas, in terror; and he trembled so violently
that the paper in his hand rattled and fluttered.

"Yes, the queen!" said Catharine, with a haughty smile. "The queen, who
comes to scold her husband, that, contrary to his physician's orders, he
still refrains from his slumbers at so late an hour of the night."

"And the fool!" said John Heywood, as with humorous pathos he stepped
forward from behind the queen--"the fool, who comes to ask Earl Douglas
how he dared deprive John Heywood of his office, and usurp the place
of king's fool to Henry, and deceive his most gracious majesty with all
manner of silly pranks and carnival tricks."

"And who"--asked the king, in a voice quivering with rage, fastening his
flashing looks on Douglas with an annihilating expression--"who, then,
is that woman there? Who has dared with such cursed mummery to deceive
the king, and calumniate the queen?"

"Sire," said Earl Douglas, who very well knew that his future and
that of his daughter depended on the present moment, and whom this
consciousness had speedily restored to his self-possession and
calmness--"sire, I beseech your majesty for a moment of private
explanation; and I shall be entirely successful in vindicating myself."

"Do not grant it him, brother Henry," said John Heywood; "he is a
dangerous juggler; and who knows whether he may not yet, in his private
conversation, convince you that he is king, and you nothing more than
his lickspittle, fawning, hypocritical servant Earl Archibald Douglas."

"My lord and husband, I beg you to hear the earl's justification," said
Catharine, as she extended her hand to the king with a bewitching smile.

"It would be cruel to condemn him unheard, I will hear him, but it shall
be done in your presence, Kate, and you yourself shall decide whether or
not his justification is sufficient."

"No indeed, my husband; let me remain an entire stranger to this night's
conspiracy, so that spite and anger may not fill my heart and rob me of
the supreme confidence which I need, to be able to walk on at your side
happy and smiling in the midst of my enemies."

"You are right, Kate," said the king, thoughtfully. "You have many
enemies at our court; and we have to accuse ourselves that we have not
always succeeded in stopping our ear to their malicious whisperings, and
in keeping ourselves pure from the poisonous breath of their calumny.
Our heart is still too artless, and we cannot even yet comprehend that
men are a disgusting, corrupt race, which one should tread beneath his
feet, but never take to his heart. Come, Earl Douglas, I will hear you;
but woe to you, if you are unable to justify yourself!"

He retired to the embrasure of the large window of the boudoir. Earl
Douglas followed him thither, and let the heavy velvet curtain drop
behind them.

"Sire," said he, hardily and resolutely, "the question now is this:
Whose head would you rather give over to the executioner, mine or the
Earl of Surrey's? You have the choice between the two. You are aware
that I have ventured for a moment to deceive you. Well, send me to the
Tower then, and set free the noble Henry Howard, that he may henceforth
disturb your sleep and poison your days; that he may further court the
love of the people, and perhaps some day rob your son of the throne that
belongs to him. Here is my head, sire; it is forfeited to the headsman's
axe, and Earl Surrey is free!"

"No, he is not free, and never shall be!" said the king, grinding his
teeth.

"Then, my king, I am justified; and instead of being angry with me, you
will thank me? It is true I have played a hazardous game, but I did so
in the service of my king. I did it because I loved him, and because I
read on your lofty clouded brow the thoughts that begirt with darkness
my master's soul, and disturbed the sleep of his nights. You wanted to
have Henry Howard in your power; and this crafty and hypocritical earl
knew how to conceal his guilt so securely under the mask of virtue and
loftiness of soul! But I knew him, and behind this mask I had seen his
face distorted with passion and crime. I wanted to unmask him; but for
this, it was necessary that I should deceive first him, and then for the
hour even yourself. I knew that he burned with an adulterous love for
the queen, and I wanted to avail myself of the madness of this passion,
in order to bring him surely and unavoidably to a richly-deserved
punishment. But I would not draw the pure and exalted person of the
queen into this net with which we wanted to surround Earl Surrey. I was
obliged, then, to seek a substitute for her; and I did so. There was
at your court a woman whose whole heart belongs, after God, to the king
alone; and who so much adores him, that she would be ready at any hour
gladly to sacrifice for the king her heart's blood, her whole being--ay,
if need be, even her honor itself--a woman, sire, who lives by your
smile, and worships you as her redeemer and savior--a woman whom you
might, as you pleased, make a saint or a strumpet; and who, to please
you, would be a shameless Phyrne or a chaste veiled nun."

"Tell me her name, Douglas," said the king, "tell me it! It is a rare
and precious stroke of fortune to be so loved; and it would be a sin not
to want to enjoy this good fortune."

"Sire, I will tell you her name when you have first forgiven me," said
Douglas, whose heart leaped for joy, and who well understood that the
king's anger was already mollified and the danger now almost overcome.
"I said to this woman: 'You are to do the king a great service; you are
to deliver him from a powerful and dangerous foe! You are to save him
from Henry Howard!' 'Tell me what I must do!' cried she, her looks
beaming with joy. 'Henry Howard loves the queen. You must be the queen
to him. You must receive his letters, and answer them in the queen's
name. You must grant him interviews by night, and, favored by the
darkness of the night, make him believe that it is the queen whom he
holds in his arms. He must be convinced that the queen is his lady-love;
and in his thoughts, as in his deeds, he must be placed before the king
as a traitor and criminal whose head is forfeited to the headsman's axe.
One day we will let the king be a witness of a meeting that Henry Howard
believes he has with the queen; it will then be in his power to punish
his enemy for his criminal passion, which is worthy of death!' And as
I thus spoke to the woman, sire, she said with a sad smile: 'It is a
disgraceful and dishonorable part that you assign me; but I undertake
it, for you say I may thereby render a service to the king. I shall
disgrace myself for him; but he will perhaps bestow upon me in return a
gracious smile; and then I shall be abundantly rewarded.'"

"But this woman is an angel!" cried the king, ardently--"an angel whom
we should kneel to and adore. Tell me her name, Douglas!"

"Sire, as soon as you have forgiven me! You know now all my guilt and
all my crime. For, as I bade that noble woman, so it came to pass, and
Henry Howard has gone to the Tower in the firm belief that it was the
queen whom he just now held in his arms."

"But why did you leave me in this belief, Douglas? Why did you fill my
heart with wrath against the noble and virtuous queen also?"

"Sire, I dared not reveal the deception to you before you had sentenced
Surrey, for your noble and just moral sense would have been reluctant to
punish him on account of a crime that he had not committed; and in
your first wrath you would also have blamed this noble woman who has
sacrificed herself for her king."

"It is true," said the king, "I should have misjudged this noble woman,
and, instead of thanking her, I should have destroyed her."

"Therefore, my king, I quietly allowed you to make out an order for
the queen's incarceration. But you remember well, sire, I begged you
to return to your apartments before the queen was arrested. Well, now,
there I should have disclosed to you the whole secret, which I could not
tell you in the presence of that woman. For she would die of shame
if she suspected that you knew of her love for the king, so pure and
self-sacrificing, and cherished in such heroic silence."

"She shall never know it, Douglas! But now at length satisfy my desire.
Tell me her name."

"Sire, you have forgiven me, then? You are no longer angry with me that
I dared to deceive you?"

"I am no longer angry with you, Douglas; for you have acted rightly. The
plan, which you have contrived and carried out with such happy results,
was as crafty as it was daring."

"I thank you, sire; and I will now tell you the name. That woman, sire,
who at my wish gave herself up a sacrifice to this adulterous earl, who
endured his kisses, his embraces, his vows of love, in order to render a
service to her king--that woman was my daughter, Lady Jane Douglas!"

"Lady Jane!" cried the king. "No, no, this is a new deception. That
haughty, chaste, and unapproachable Lady Jane--that wonderfully
beautiful marble statue really has then a heart in her breast, and that
heart belongs to me? Lady Jane, the pure and chaste virgin, has made
for me this prodigious sacrifice, of receiving this hated Surrey as her
lover, in order, like a second Delilah, to deliver him into my hand? No,
Douglas, you are lying to me. Lady Jane has not done that!"

"May it please your majesty to go yourself and take a look at that
fainting woman, who was to Henry Howard the queen."

The king did not reply to him; but he drew back the curtain and
reentered the cabinet, in which the queen was waiting with John Heywood.

Henry did not notice them. With youthful precipitation he crossed the
cabinet and the hall. Now he stood by the figure of Geraldine still
lying on the floor.

She was no longer in a swoon. She had long since regained her
consciousness; and terrible were the agonies and tortures that rent her
heart. Henry Howard had incurred the penalty of the headsman's axe, and
it was she that had betrayed him.

But her father had sworn to her that she should save her lover.

She durst not die then. She must live to deliver Henry Howard.

There were burning, as it were, the fires of hell in her poor heart;
but she was not at liberty to heed these pains. She could not think of
herself--only of him--of Henry Howard, whom she must deliver, whom she
must save from an ignominious death.

For him she sent up her fervent prayers to God; for him her heart
trembled with anxiety and agony, as the king now advanced to her, and,
bending down, gazed into her eyes with a strange expression, at once
scrutinizing and smiling.

"Lady Jane," said he then, as he presented her his hand, "arise from the
ground and allow your king to express to you his thanks for your sublime
and wonderful sacrifice! Verily, it is a fair lot to be a king; for then
one has at least the power of punishing traitors, and of rewarding those
that serve us. I have to-day done the one, and I will not neglect to do
the other also. Stand up, then, Lady Jane; it does not become you to lie
on your knees before me."

"Oh, let me kneel, my king," said she, passionately; "let me beseech
you for mercy, for pity! Have compassion, King Henry--compassion on the
anxiety and agony which I endure. It is not possible that this is all a
reality! that this juggling is to be changed into such terrible earnest!
Tell me, King Henry--I conjure you by the agonies which I suffer for
your sake--tell me, what will you do with Henry Howard? Why have you
sent him to the Tower?"

"To punish the traitor as he deserves," said the king, as he cast a dark
and angry look across at Douglas, who had also approached his daughter,
and was now standing close by her.

Lady Jane uttered a heartrending cry, and sank down again, senseless and
completely exhausted.

The king frowned. "It is possible," said he--"and I almost believe
it--that I have been deceived in many ways this evening, and that now
again my guilelessness has been played upon in order to impose upon me
a charming story. However, I have given my word to pardon; and it shall
not be said that Henry the Eighth, who calls himself God's vicegerent,
has ever broken his word; nor even that he has punished those whom he
has assured of exemption from punishment. My Lord Douglas, I will fulfil
my promise. I forgive you."

He extended his hand to Douglas, who kissed it fervently. The king bent
down closer to him. "Douglas," whispered he, "you are as cunning as a
serpent; and I now see through your artfully-woven web! You wanted
to destroy Surrey, but the queen was to sink into the abyss with him.
Because I am indebted to you for Surrey, I forgive you what you have
done to the queen. But take heed to yourself, take heed that I do not
meet you again on the same track; do not ever try again, by a look, a
word, ay, even by a smile, to cast suspicion on the queen. The slightest
attempt would cost you your life! That I swear to you by the holy mother
of God; and you know that I have never yet broken that oath. As regards
Lady Jane, we do not want to consider that she has misused the name of
our illustrious and virtuous consort in order to draw this lustful and
adulterous earl into the net which you had set for him; she obeyed your
orders, Douglas; and we will not now decide what other motives besides
have urged her to this deed. She may settle that with God and her own
conscience, and it does not behoove us to decide about it."

"But it behooves me, perhaps, my husband, to ask by what right Lady Jane
has dared to appear here in this attire, and to present to a certain
degree a counterfeit of her queen?" asked Catharine in a sharp tone. "I
may well be allowed to ask what has made my maid of honor, who left the
festive hall sick, now all at once so well that she goes roaming about
the castle in the night time, and in a dress which seems likely to be
mistaken for mine? Sire, was this dress perchance a craftily-devised
stratagem, in order to really confound us with one another? You are
silent, my lord and king. It is true, then, they have wanted to carry
out a terrible plot against me; and, without the assistance of my
faithful and honest friend, John Heywood, who brought me here, I should
without doubt be now condemned and lost, as the Earl of Surrey is."

"Ah, John, it was you then that brought a little light into this
darkness?" cried the king, with a cheerful laugh, as he laid his hand on
Heywood's shoulder. "Now, verily, what the wise and prudent did not see,
that the fool has seen through!"

"King Henry of England," said John Heywood, solemnly, "many call
themselves wise, and yet they are fools; and many assume the mask of
folly, because fools are allowed to be wise."

"Kate," said the king, "you are right; this was a bad night for you, but
God and the fool have saved you and me. We will both be thankful for
it. But it is well if you do as you before wished, and ask and inquire
nothing more concerning the mysteries of this night. It was brave in you
to come here, and I will be mindful of it. Come, my little queen, give
me your arm and conduct me to my apartments. I tell you, child, it gives
me joy to be able to lean on your arm, and see your dear sprightly face
blanched by no fear or terrors of conscience. Come, Kate, you alone
shall lead me, and to you alone will I trust myself."

"Sire, you are too heavy for the queen," said the fool, as he put his
neck under the other arm. "Let me share with her the burden of royalty."

"But before we go," said Catharine, "I have, my husband, one request.
Will you grant it?"

"I will grant you everything that you may ask, provided you will not
require me to send you to the Tower."

"Sire, I wish to dismiss my maid of honor, Lady Jane Douglas, from
my service--that is all," said the queen, as her eyes glanced with an
expression of contempt, and yet at the same time of pain, at the form of
her friend of other days, prostrate on the floor.

"She is dismissed!" said the king. "You will choose another maid of
honor to-morrow. Come, Kate!"

And the king, supported by his consort and John Heywood, left the room
with slow and heavy steps.

Earl Douglas watched them with a sullen, hateful expression. As the door
closed after them he raised his arm threateningly toward heaven, and his
trembling lips uttered a fierce curse and execration.

"Vanquished! vanquished again!" muttered he, gnashing his teeth.
"Humbled by this woman whom I hate, and whom I will yet destroy! Yes,
she has conquered this time; but we will commence the struggle anew, and
our envenomed weapon shall nevertheless strike her at last!"

Suddenly he felt a hand laid heavily on his shoulder, and a pair of
glaring, flaming eyes gazed at him.

"Father," said Lady Jane, as she threw her right hand threateningly
toward heaven--"father, as true as there is a God above us, I will
accuse you yourself to the king as a traitor--I will betray to him all
your accursed plots--if you do not help me to deliver Henry Howard!"

Her father looked with an expression almost melancholy in her face,
painfully convulsed and pale as marble. "I will help you!" said he. "I
will do it, if you will help me also, and further my plans."

"Oh, only save Henry Howard, and I will sign myself away to the devil
with my heart's blood!" said Jane Douglas, with a horrible smile.
"Save his life, or, if you have not the power to do that, then at least
procure me the happiness of being able to die with him."





Next: Undeceived

Previous: The Feast Of Death



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