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Undeceived

John Heywood

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Undeceived








Parliament, which had not for a long time now ventured to offer any
further opposition to the king's will--Parliament had acquiesced in his
decree. It had accused Earl Surrey of high treason; and, on the sole
testimony of his mother and his sister, he had been declared guilty of
lese majeste and high treason. A few words of discontent at his removal
from office, some complaining remarks about the numerous executions that
drenched England's soil with blood--that was all that the Duchess of
Richmond had been able to bring against him. That he, like his father,
bore the arms of the Kings of England--that was the only evidence of
high treason of which his mother the Duchess of Norfolk could charge
him. [Footnote: Tytler, p. 402. Burnet, vol. i, p. 95.]

These accusations were of so trivial a character, that the Parliament
well knew they were not the ground of his arrest, but only a pretext for
it--only a pretext, by which the king said to his pliant and trembling
Parliament: "This man is innocent; but I will that you condemn him, and
therefore you will account the accusation sufficient."

Parliament had not the courage to oppose the king's will. These members
of Parliament were nothing more than a flock of sheep, who, in trembling
dread of the sharp teeth of the dog, go straight along the path which
the dog shows them.

The king wanted them to condemn the Earl of Surrey, and they condemned
him.

They summoned him before their judgment-seat, and it was in vain that
he proved his innocence in a speech spirited and glowing with eloquence.
These noble members of Parliament would not see that he was innocent.

It is true, indeed, there were a few who were ashamed to bow their heads
so unreservedly beneath the king's sceptre, which dripped with blood
like a headsman's axe. There were still a few to whom the accusation
appeared insufficient; but they were outvoted; and in order to give
Parliament a warning example, the king, on the very same day, had these
obstinate ones arrested and accused of some pretended crime. For this
people, enslaved by the king's cruelty and savage barbarity, were
already so degenerate and debased in self-consciousness, that men were
always and without trouble found, who, in order to please the king and
his bloodthirstiness and sanctimonious hypocrisy, degraded themselves
to informers, and accused of crime those whom the king's dark frown had
indicated to them as offenders.

So Parliament had doomed the Earl of Surrey to die, and the king had
signed his death-warrant.

Early next morning he was to be executed; and in the Tower-yard the
workmen were already busy in erecting the scaffold on which the noble
earl was to be beheaded.

Henry Howard was alone in his cell. He had done with life and earthly
things. He had set his house in order and made his will; he had written
to his mother and sister, and forgiven them for their treachery and
accusation; he had addressed a letter to his father, in which he
exhorted him, in words as noble as they were touching, to steadfastness
and calmness, and bade him not to weep for him, for death was his
desire, and the grave the only refuge for which he longed.

He had then, as we have said, done with life; and earthly things no
longer disturbed him. He felt no regret and no fear. Life had left him
nothing more to wish; and he almost thanked the king that he would so
soon deliver him from the burden of existence.

The future had nothing more to offer him; why then should he desire
it? Why long for a life which could be for him now only an isolated,
desolate, and gloomy one? For Geraldine was lost to him! He knew not her
fate; and no tidings of her had penetrated to him through the solitary
prison walls. Did the queen still live? Or had the king in his wrath
murdered her on that very night when Henry was carried to the Tower, and
his last look beheld his beloved lying at her husband's feet, swooning
and rigid.

What had become of the queen--of Henry Howard's beloved Geraldine? He
knew nothing of her. He had hoped in vain for some note, some message
from her; but he had not dared to ask any one as to her fate. Perhaps
the king desisted from punishing her likewise. Perhaps his murderous
inclination had been satisfied by putting Henry Howard to death; and
Catharine escaped the scaffold. It might, therefore, have been ruinous
to her, had he, the condemned, inquired after her. Or, if she had gone
before him, then he was certain of finding her again, and of being
united with her forevermore beyond the grave.

He believed in a hereafter, for he loved; and death did not affright
him, for after death came the reunion with her, with Geraldine, who
either was already waiting for him there above, or would soon follow
him.

Life had nothing more to offer him. Death united him to his beloved. He
hailed death as his friend and savior, as the priest who was to unite
him to his Geraldine. He heard the great Tower clock of the prison which
with threatening stroke made known the hour; and each passing hour he
hailed with a joyous throb of the heart. The evening came and deep night
descended upon him--the last night that was allotted to him-the last
night that separated him from his Geraldine.

The turnkey opened the door to bring the earl a light, and to ask
whether he had any orders to give. Heretofore it had been the king's
special command not to allow him a light in his cell; and he had spent
these six long evenings and nights of his imprisonment in darkness. But
to-day they were willing to give him a light; to-day they were willing
to allow him everything that he might still desire. The life which he
must leave in a few hours was to be once more adorned for him with all
charms and enjoyments which he might ask for. Henry Howard had but to
wish, and the jailer was ready to furnish him everything.

But Henry Howard wished for nothing; he demanded nothing, save that they
would leave him alone-save that they would remove from his prison this
light which dazzled him, and which opposed to his enrapturing dreams the
disenchanting reality.

The king, who had wanted to impose a special punishment in condemning
him to darkness--the king had, contrary to his intention, become thereby
his benefactor. For with darkness came dreams and fantasies. With the
darkness came Geraldine.

When night and silence were all around him, then there was light within;
and an enchanting whisper and a sweet, enticing voice resounded within
him. The gates of his prison sprang open, and on the wings of thought
Henry Howard soared away from that dismal and desolate place. On the
wings of thought he came to her--to his Geraldine.

Again she was by him, in the large, silent hall. Again night lay upon
them, like a veil concealing, blessing, and enveloping them;--and threw
its protection over their embraces and their kisses. Solitude allowed
him to hear again the dear music of her voice, which sang for him so
enchanting a melody of love and ecstasy.

Henry Howard must be alone, so that he can hear his Geraldine. Deep
darkness must surround him, so that his Geraldine can come to him.

He demanded, therefore, for his last night, nothing further than to be
left alone, and without a light. The jailer extinguished the light and
left the cell. But he did not shove the great iron bolt across the
door. He did not put the large padlock on it, but he only left the door
slightly ajar, and did not lock it at all.

Henry Howard took no notice of this. What cared he, whether this gate
was locked or no-he who no longer had a desire for life and freedom!

He leaned back on his seat, and dreamed with eyes open. There below in
the yard they were working on the scaffold which Henry Howard was to
ascend as soon as day dawned. The dull monotony of the strokes of the
hammers fell on his ear. Now and then the torches, which lighted the
workmen at their melancholy task, allowed to shine up into his cell a
pale glimmer of light, which danced on the walls in ghost-like shapes.

"There are the ghosts of all those that Henry has put to death," thought
Henry Howard; "they gather around me; like will-o'-the-wisps, they
dance with me the dance of death, and in a few hours I shall be forever
theirs."

The dull noise of hammers and saws continued steadily on, and Henry
Howard sank deeper and deeper in reverie.

He thought, he felt, and desired nothing but Geraldine. His whole soul
was concentrated in that single thought of her. It seemed to him he
could bid his spirit see her, as though he could command his senses
to perceive her. Yes, she was there; he felt-he was conscious of her
presence. Again he lay at her feet, and leaned his head on her knee, and
listened again to those charming revelations of her love.

Completely borne away from the present, and from existence, he saw, he
felt, only her. The mystery of love was perfected, and, under the veil
of night, Geraldine had again winged her way to him, and he to her.

A happy smile played about his lips, which faltered forth rapturous
words of greeting. Overcome by a wonderful hallucination, he saw his
beloved approaching him; he stretched out his arms to clasp her; and it
did not arouse him when he felt instead of her only the empty air.

"Why do you float away from me again, Geraldine?" asked he, in a
low tone. "Wherefore do you withdraw from my arms, to whirl with the
will-o'-the-wisps in the death-dance? Come, Geraldine, come; my soul
burns for you. My heart calls you with its last faltering throb. Come,
Geraldine, oh, come!"

What was that? It was as though the door were gently opened, and the
latch again gently fastened. It was as though a foot were moving softly
over the floor-as though the shape of a human form shaded for a moment
the flickering light which danced around the walls.

Henry Howard saw it not.

He saw naught but his Geraldine, whom he with so much fervency and
longing wished by his side. He spread his arms; he called her with all
the ardor, all the enthusiasm of a lover.

Now he uttered a cry of ecstasy. His prayer of love was answered. The
dream had become a reality. His arms no longer clasped the empty air;
they pressed to his breast the woman whom he loved, and for whom he was
to die.

He pressed his lips to her mouth and she returned his kisses. He threw
his arms around her form, and she pressed him fast, fast to her bosom.

Was this a reality? Or was it madness that was creeping upon him and
seizing upon his brain, and deceiving him with fantasies so enchanting?

Henry Howard shuddered as he thought this, and, falling upon his knees,
he cried in a voice trembling with agony and love: "Geraldine, have pity
on me! Tell me that this is no dream, that I am not mad--that you are
really--you are Geraldine--you--the king's consort, whose knees I now
clasp! Speak, oh speak, my Geraldine!"

"I am she!" softly whispered she. "I am Geraldine--am the woman whom you
love, and to whom you have sworn eternal truth and eternal love! Henry
Howard, my beloved, I now remind you of your oath! Your life belongs to
me. This you have vowed, and I now come to demand of you that which is
my own!"

"Ay, my life belongs to you, Geraldine! But it is a miserable,
melancholy possession, which you will call yours only a few hours
longer."

She threw her arms closely around his neck; she raised him to her heart;
she kissed his mouth, his eyes. He felt her tears, which trickled like
hot fountains over his face; he heard her sighs, which struggled from
her breast like death-groans.

"You must not die!" murmured she, amid her tears. "No, Henry, you must
live, so that I too can live; so that I shall not become mad from agony
and sorrow for you! My God, my God, do you not then feel how I love you?
Know you not, then, that your life is my life, and your death my death?"

He leaned his head on her shoulder, and, wholly intoxicated with
happiness, he scarcely heard what she was speaking.

She was again there! What cared he for all the rest?

"Geraldine," softly whispered he, "do you recollect still how we first
met each other? how our hearts were united in one throb, how our lips
clung to each other in one kiss? Geraldine, my life, my loved one, we
then swore that naught could separate us, that our love should survive
the grave! Geraldine, do you remember that still?"

"I remember it, my Henry! But you shall not die yet; and not in death,
but in life, shall your love for me be proved! Ay, we will live, live!
And your life shall be my life, and where you are, there will I be also!
Henry, do you remember that you vowed this to me with a solemn oath!"

"I remember it, but I cannot keep my word, my Geraldine! Hear you how
they are sawing and hammering there below? Know you what that indicates,
dearest?"

"I know it, Henry! It is the scaffold that they are building there
below. The scaffold for you and me. For I too will die if you will not
live; and the axe that seeks your neck shall find mine also, if you wish
not that we both live!"

"Do I wish it! But how can we, beloved?"

"We can, Henry, we can! All is ready for the flight! It is all arranged,
everything prepared! The king's signet-ring has opened to me the gates
of the prison; the omnipotence of gold has won over your jailer. He
will not see it, when two persons instead of one leave this dungeon.
Unmolested and without hinderance, we will both leave the Tower by ways
known only to him, over secret corridors and staircases, and will go
aboard a boat which is ready to take us to a ship, which lies in the
harbor prepared to sail, and which as soon as we are aboard weighs
anchor and puts to sea with us. Come, Henry, come! Lay your arm in mine,
and let us leave this prison!"

She threw both her arms around his neck, and drew him forward. He
pressed her fast to his heart and whispered: "Yes, come, come, my
beloved! Let us fly! To you belongs my life, you alone!"

He raised her up in his arms, and hastened with her to the door. He
pushed it hastily open with his foot and hurried forward down the
corridor; but having arrived just at the first turn he reeled back in
horror.

Before the door wore standing soldiers with shouldered arms. There
stood also the lieutenant of the Tower, and two servants behind him
with lighted candles. Geraldine gave a scream, and with anxious haste
rearranged the thick veil that had slipped from her head.

Henry Howard also had uttered a cry, but not on account of the soldiers
and the frustrated flight.

His eyes, stretched wide open, stared at this figure at his side, now so
closely veiled.

It seemed to him as though like a spectre a strange face had risen up
close by him--as though it were not the beloved head of the queen that
rested there on his shoulder. He had seen this face only as a vision, as
the fantasy of a dream; but he knew with perfect certainty that it was
not her countenance, not the countenance of his Geraldine.

The lieutenant of the Tower motioned to his servants, and they carried
the lighted candles into the earl's cell.

Then he gave Henry Howard his hand and silently led him back into the
prison.

Henry Howard exhibited no reluctance to follow him; but his hand had
seized Geraldine's arm, and he drew her along with him; his eye rested
on her with a penetrating expression, and seemed to threaten her.

They were now again in the room which they had before left with such
blessed hopes.

The lieutenant of the Tower motioned to the servants to retire, then
turned with solemn earnestness to Earl Surrey.

"My lord," said he, "it is at the king's command that I bring you these
lights. His majesty knows all that has happened here this night. He knew
that a plot was formed to rescue you; and while they believed they were
deceiving him, the plotters themselves were deceived. They had succeeded
under various artful false pretences in influencing the king to give his
signet-ring to one of his lords. But his majesty was already warned,
and he already knew that it was not a man, as they wanted to make him
believe, but a woman, who came, not to take leave of you, but to deliver
you from prison.--My lady, the jailer whom you imagined that you had
bribed was a faithful servant of the king. He betrayed your plot to me;
and it was I who ordered him to make a show of favoring your deed. You
will not be able to release Earl Surrey; but if such is your command, I
will myself see you to the ship that lies in the harbor for you ready to
sail. No one will hinder you, my lady, from embarking on it; Earl Surrey
is not permitted to accompany you!--My lord, soon the night is at an
end, and you know that it will be your last night. The king has ordered
that I am not to prevent this lady, if she wishes to spend this night
with you in your room. But she is allowed to do so only on the condition
that the lights in your room remain burning. That is the king's express
will, and these are his own words: 'Tell Earl Surrey that I allow him to
love his Geraldine, but that he is to open his eyes to see her! That he
may see, you will give him a light; and I command him not to extinguish
it so long as Geraldine is with him. Otherwise he may confound her with
another woman; for in the dark one cannot distinguish even a harlequin
from a queen!'--You have now to decide, my lord, whether this lady
remains with you, or whether she goes, and the light shall be put out!"

"She shall remain with me, and I very much need the light!" said Earl
Surrey; and his penetrating look rested steadily on the veiled figure,
which shook at his words, as if in an ague.

"Have you any other wish besides this, my lord?"

"None, save that I may be left alone with her."

The lieutenant bowed and left the room.

They wore now alone again, and stood confronting each other in silence.
Naught was heard but the beating of their hearts, and the sighs of
anguish that burst from Geraldine's trembling lips.

It was an awful, a terrible pause. Geraldine would gladly have given her
life could she thereby have extinguished the light and veiled herself in
impenetrable darkness.

But the earl would see. With an angry, haughty look, he stepped up
to her, and, as with commanding gesture lie raised his arm, Geraldine
shuddered and submissively bowed her head.

"Unveil your face!" said he, in a tone of command. She did not stir. She
murmured a prayer, then raised her clasped hands to Henry and in a low
moan, said: "Mercy! mercy!"

He extended his hand and seized the veil.

"Mercy!" repeated she, in a voice of still deeper supplication--of still
greater distress.

But he was inexorable. He tore the veil from her face and stared at her.
Then with a wild shriek he reeled back and covered his face with his
hands.

Jane Douglas durst not breathe or stir. She was pale as marble; her
large, burning eyes were fastened with an unutterable expression of
entreaty upon her lover, who stood before her with covered head, and
crushed with anguish. She loved him more than her life, more than her
eternal salvation; and yet she it was that had brought him to this hour
of agony.

At length Earl Surrey let his hands fall from his face, and with a
fierce movement dashed the tears from his eyes.

As he looked at her, Jane Douglas wholly involuntarily sank upon her
knees, and raised her hands imploringly to him. "Henry Howard," said
she, in a low whisper, "I am Geraldine! Me have you loved; my letters
have you read with ecstasy, and to me have you often sworn that you
loved my mind yet more than my appearance. And often has my heart been
filled with rapture, when you told me you would love me however my face
might change, however old age or sickness might alter my features. You
remember, Henry, how I once asked you whether you would cease to love
me, if now God suddenly put a mask before my face, so that you could not
recognize my features. You replied to me: 'Nevertheless, I should love
and adore you; for what in you ravishes me, is not your face, but you
yourself--yourself with your glorious being and nature. It is your soul
and your heart which can never change, which lie before me like a holy
book, clear and bright!' That was your reply to me then, as you swore
to love me eternally. Henry Howard, I now remind you of your oath! I am
your Geraldine. It is the same soul, the same heart; only God has put a
mask upon my face!"

Earl Surrey had listened to her with eager attention, with increasing
amazement.

"It is she! It is really!" cried he, as she ceased. "It is Geraldine!"

And wholly overcome, wholly speechless with anguish, he sank into a
seat.

Geraldine flew to him; she crouched at his feet; she seized his drooping
hand and covered it with kisses. And amid streaming tears, often
interrupted by her sighs and her sobs, she recounted to him the sad and
unhappy history of her love; she unveiled before him the whole web of
cunning and deceit, that her father had drawn around them both. She laid
her whole heart open and unveiled before him. She told him of her love,
of her agonies, of her ambition, and her remorse. She accused herself;
but she pleaded her love as an excuse, and with streaming tears,
clinging to his knees, she implored him for pity, for forgiveness.

He thrust her violently from him, and stood up in order to escape
her touch. His noble countenance glowed with anger: his eyes darted
lightning; his long flowing hair shaded his lofty brow and his face like
a sombre veil. He was beautiful in his wrath, beautiful as the archangel
Michael trampling the dragon beneath his feet. And thus he bent down
his head toward her; thus he gazed at her with flashing and contemptuous
looks.

"I forgive you?" said he. "Never will that be! Ha, shall I forgive
you?--you, who have made my entire life a ridiculous lie, and
transformed the tragedy of my love into a disgusting farce? Oh,
Geraldine, how I have loved you; and now you have become to me a
loathsome spectre, before which my soul shudders, and which I must
execrate! You have crushed my life, and even robbed my death of its
sanctity; for now it is no longer the martyrdom of my love, but only the
savage mockery of my credulous heart. Oh, Geraldine, how beautiful it
would have been to die for you!--to go to death with your name upon
my lips!--to bless you!--to thank you for my happy lot, as the axe was
already uplifted to smite off my head! How beautiful to think that death
does not separate us, but is only the way to an eternal union; that we
should lose each other but a brief moment here, to find each other again
forevermore!"

Geraldine writhed at his feet like a worm trodden upon; and her groans
of distress and her smothered moans were the heartrending accompaniment
of his melancholy words.

"But that is now all over!" cried Henry Howard; and his face, which was
before convulsed with grief and agony, now glowed again with wrath. "You
have poisoned my life and my death; and I shall curse you for it, and my
last word will be a malediction on the harlequin Geraldine!"

"Have pity!" groaned Jane. "Kill me, Henry; stamp my head beneath your
feet; only let this torture end!"

"Nay, no pity!" yelled he, wildly; "no pity for this impostor, who has
stolen my heart and crept like a thief into my love! Arise, and leave
this room; for you fill me with horror; and when I behold you, I feel
only that I must curse you! Ay, a curse on you and shame, Geraldine!
Curse on the kisses that I have impressed on your lips--on the tears of
rapture that I have wept on your bosom. When I ascend the scaffold, I
will curse you, and my last words shall be: 'Woe to Geraldine!--for she
is my murderess!'"

He stood there before her with arm raised on high, proud and great in
his wrath. She felt the destroying lightning of his eyes, though she
durst not look up at him, but lay at his feet moaning and convulsed, and
concealing her face in her veil, as she shuddered at her own picture.

"And this be my last word to you Geraldine," said Henry Howard, panting
for breath: "Go hence under the burden of my curse, and live--if you
can!"

She unveiled her head, and raised her countenance toward him. A
contemptuous smile writhed about her deathly pale lips. "Live!" said
she. "Have we not sworn to die with each other? Your curse does not
release me from my oath, and when you descend into the grave, Jane
Douglas will stand upon its brink, to wail and weep until you make a
little place for her there below; until she has softened your heart and
you take her again, as your Geraldine, into your grave. Oh, Henry! in
the grave, I no longer wear the face of Jane Douglas--that hated face,
which I would tear with my nails. In the grave, I am Geraldine again.
There I may again lie close to your heart, and again you will say to
me: 'I love not your face and your external form! I love you yourself;
I love your heart and mind; and that can never change; and can never be
otherwise!'"

"Silence!" said he, roughly; "silence, if you do not want me to run
mad! Cast not my own words in my face. They defile me, for falsehood has
desecrated and trodden them in the mire. No! I will not make room for
you in my grave. I will not again call you Geraldine. You are Jane
Douglas, and I hate you, and I hurl my curse upon your criminal head! I
tell you--"

He suddenly paused, and a slight convulsion ran through his whole frame.

Jane Douglas uttered a piercing scream, and sprang from her knees.

Day had broken; and from the prison-tower sounded the dismal, plaintive
stroke of the death-bell.

"Do you hear, Jane Douglas?" said Surrey. "That bell summons me to
death. You it is that has poisoned my last hour. I was happy when I
loved you. I die in despair, for I despise and hate you."

"No, no, you dare not die!" cried she, clinging to him with passionate
anguish. "You dare not go to the grave with that fierce curse upon your
lips. I cannot be your murderess. Oh, it is not possible that they will
put you to death--you, the beautiful, the noble and the virtuous Earl
Surrey. My God, what have you done to excite their wrath? You are
innocent; and they know it. They cannot execute you; for it would be
murder! You have committed no offence; you have been guilty of nothing;
no crime attaches to your noble person. It is indeed no crime to love
Jane Douglas, and me have you loved--me alone."

"No, not you," said he proudly; "I have nothing to do with Lady Jane
Douglas. I loved the queen, and I believed she returned my love. That is
my crime."

The door opened: and in solemn silence the lieutenant of the Tower
entered with the priests and his assistants. In the door was seen the
bright-red dress of the headsman, who was standing upon the threshold
with face calm and unmoved.

"It is time!" solemnly said the lieutenant.

The priest muttered his prayers, and the assistants swung their censers.
Without, the death-bell kept up its wail; and from the court was heard
the hum of the mob, which, curious and bloodthirsty as it ever is, had
streamed hither to behold with laughing mouth the blood of the man who
but yesterday was its favorite.

Earl Surrey stood there a moment in silence. His features worked and
were convulsed, and a deathlike pallor covered his cheeks.

He trembled, not at death, but at dying. It seemed to him that he
already felt on his neck the cold broad-axe which that frightful man
there held in his hand. Oh, to die on the battle-field--what a boon it
would have been! To come to an end on the scaffold--what a disgrace was
this!

"Henry Howard, my son, are you prepared to die?" asked the priest. "Have
you made your peace with God? Do you repent of your sins, and do you
acknowledge death as a righteous expiation and punishment? Do you
forgive your enemies, and depart hence at peace with yourself and with
mankind?"

"I am prepared to die," said Surrey, with a proud smile; "the other
questions, my father, I will answer to my God."

"Do you confess that you were a wicked traitor? And do you beg the
forgiveness of your noble and righteous, your exalted and good king, for
the blasphemous injury to his sacred majesty?"

Earl Surrey looked him steadily in the eye. "Do you know what crime I am
accused of?"

The priest cast down his eyes, and muttered a few unintelligible words.

With a haughty movement of the head, Henry Howard turned from the priest
to the lieutenant of the Tower.

"Do you know my crime, my lord?" said he.

But the lord lieutenant also dropped his eyes, and remained silent.

Henry Howard smiled. "Well, now, I will tell you. I have, as it becomes
me, my father's son, borne the arms of our house on my shield and over
the entrance of my palace, and it has been discovered that the king
bears the same arms that we do. That is my high treason! I have said
that the king is deceived in many of his servants, and often promotes
his favorites to high honors which they do not deserve. That is my
offence against his majesty; and it is that for which I shall lay my
head upon the block. [Footnote: These two insignificant accusations were
the only points that could be made out against the Earl of Surrey.
Upon these charges, brought by his mother and sister, he was
executed.--Tytler, p. 492; Burnet, vol. I, p. 75; Leti, vol. I, p. 108.]
But make yourself easy; I shall myself add to my crimes one more, so
that they may be grievous enough to make the conscience of the righteous
and generous king quiet. I have given up my heart to a wretched and
criminal love, and the Geraldine whom I have sung in many a poem,
and have celebrated even before the king, was nothing but a miserable
coquettish strumpet!"

Jane Douglas gave a scream, and sank upon the ground as if struck by
lightning.

"Do you repent of this sin, my son?" asked the priest. "Do you turn your
heart away from this sinful love, in order to turn it to God?"

"I not only repent of this love, but I execrate it! and now, my father,
let us go; for you see, indeed, my lord is becoming impatient. He bears
in mind that the king will find no rest until the Howards also have gone
to rest. Ah, King Henry! King Henry! Thou callest thyself the mighty
king of the world, and yet thou tremblest before the arms of thy
subject! My lord, if you go to the king to-day, give him Henry Howard's
greeting; and tell him, I wish his bed may be as easy to him as the
grave will be to me. Now, come, my lords! It is time."

With head proudly erect and calm step, he turned to the door. But now
Jane Douglas sprang from the ground; now she rushed to Henry Howard and
clung to him with all the might of her passion and agony. "I leave you
not!" cried she, breathless and pale as death. "You dare not repulse me,
for you have sworn that we shall live and die together."

He hurled her from him in fierce wrath, and drew himself up before her,
lofty and threatening.

"I forbid you to follow me!" cried he, in a tone of command. She reeled
back against the wall and looked at him, trembling and breathless.

He was still lord over her soul; she was still subject to him in love
and obedience. She could not therefore summon up courage to defy his
command.

She beheld him as he left the room and passed down the corridor with his
dreadful train; she heard their footsteps gradually die away; and then
suddenly in the yard sounded the hollow roll of the drum.

Jane Douglas fell on her knees to pray, but her lips trembled so much
that she could find no words for her prayer.

The roll of the drum ceased in the court below, and only the death-bell
still continued to wail and wail. She heard a voice speaking loud and
powerful words.

It was his voice; it was Henry Howard that was speaking. And now again
the hollow roll of the drums drowned his voice.

"He dies! He dies, and I am not with him!" cried she, with a shriek; and
she gathered herself up, and as if borne by a whirlwind she dashed out
of the room, through the corridor, and down the stairs.

There she stood in the court. That dreadful black pile above there, in
the midst of this square crowded with men--that was the scaffold.
Yonder she beheld him prostrate on his knees. She beheld the axe in the
headsman's hand; she saw him raise it for the fatal stroke.

She was a woman no longer, but a lioness! Not a drop of blood was in her
cheeks. Her nostrils were expanded and her eyes darted lightning.

She drew out a dagger that she had concealed in her bosom, and made a
path through the amazed, frightened, yielding crowd.

With one spring she had rushed up the steps of the scaffold. She now
stood by him on the top of it--close by that kneeling figure.

There was a flash through the air. She heard a peculiar whiz--then a
hollow blow. A red vapor-like streak of blood spurted up, and covered
Jane Douglas with its crimson flood.

"I come, Henry, I come!" cried she, with a wild shout. "I shall be with
thee in death!" And again there was a flash through the air. It was the
dagger that Jane Douglas plunged into her heart.

She had struck well. No sound--no groan burst from her lips. With a
proud smile she sank by her lover's headless corpse, and with a last
dying effort she said to the horrified headsman: "Let me share his
grave! Henry Howard, in life and in death I am with thee!"





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Previous: The Queen



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