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Before returning to the state apartments, Henry took a turn on the
ramparts on the north side of the castle, between the Curfew Tower
and the Winchester Tower, and lingered for a short time on the bastion
commanding that part of the acclivity where the approach, called the
Hundred Steps, is now contrived. Here he cautioned the sentinels to be
doubly vigilant throughout the night, and having gazed for a moment at
the placid stream flowing at the foot of the castle, and tinged with the
last rays of the setting sun, he proceeded to the royal lodgings, and
entered the banquet chamber, where supper was already served.
Wolsey sat on his right hand, but he did not vouchsafe him a single
word, addressing the whole of his discourse to the Duke of Suffolk, who
was placed on his left. As soon as the repast was over, he retired to
his closet. But the cardinal would not be so repulsed, and sent one of
his gentlemen to crave a moment's audience of the king, which with some
reluctance was accorded.
"Well, cardinal," cried Henry, as Wolsey presented himself, and the
usher withdrew. "You are playing a deep game with me, as you think; but
take heed, for I see through it." "I pray you dismiss these suspicions
from your mind, my liege," said Wolsey. "No servant was ever more
faithful to his master than I have been to you."
"No servant ever took better care of himself," cried the king fiercely.
"Not alone have you wronged me to enrich yourself, but you are ever
intriguing with my enemies. I have nourished in my breast a viper; but I
will cast you off--will crush you as I would the noxious reptile."
And he stamped upon the floor, as if he could have trampled the cardinal
beneath his foot.
"Beseech you calm yourself, my liege," replied Wolsey, in the soft and
deprecatory tone which he had seldom known to fail with the king. "I
have never thought of my own aggrandisement, but as it was likely to
advance your power. For the countless benefits I have received at your
hands, my soul overflows with gratitude. You have raised me from the
meanest condition to the highest. You have made me your confidant, your
adviser, your treasurer, and with no improper boldness I say it, your
friend. But I defy the enemies who have poisoned your ears against me,
to prove that I have ever abused the trust placed in me. The sole fault
that can be imputed to me is, that I have meddled more with temporal
matters than with spiritual, and it is a crime for which I must answer
before Heaven. But I have so acted because I felt that I might thereby
best serve your highness. If I have aspired to the papal throne--which
you well know I have--it has been that I might be yet a more powerful
friend to your majesty, and render you what you are entitled to be, the
first prince in Christendom."
"Tut, tut!" exclaimed the king, who was, nevertheless, moved by the
"The gifts I have received from foreign princes," pursued Wolsey, seeing
the effect he had produced, "the wealth I have amassed, have all been
with a view of benefiting your majesty." "Humph!" exclaimed the king.
"To prove that I speak the truth, sire," continued the wily cardinal,
"the palace at Hampton Court, which I have just completed--"
"And at a cost more lavish than I myself should have expended on it,"
interrupted the king angrily.
"If I had destined it for myself, I should not have spent a tithe of
what I have done," rejoined Wolsey. "Your highness's unjust accusations
force me to declare my intentions somewhat prematurely. Deign," he
cried, throwing at the king's feet, "deign to accept that palace and all
within it. You were pleased, during your late residence there, to express
your approval of it. And I trust it will find equal favour in your eyes,
now that it is your own."
"By holy Mary, a royal gift!" cried Henry. "Rise, You are not the
grasping, selfish person you have been represented."
"Declare as much to my enemies, sire, and I shall be more content. You
will find the palace better worth acceptance than at first sight might
"How so?" cried the king.
"Your highness will be pleased to take this key," said the cardinal; "it
is the key of the cellar."
"You have some choice wine there," cried Henry significantly; "given you
by some religious house, or sent you by some foreign potentate, ha!"
"It is wine that a king might prize," replied the cardinal. "Your
majesty will find a hundred hogsheads in that cellar, and each hogshead
filled with gold."
"You amaze me!" cried the king, feigning astonishment. "And all this you
freely give me?"
"Freely and fully, sire," replied Wolsey. "Nay, I have saved it for you.
Men think I have cared for myself, whereas I have cared only for your
majesty. Oh! my dear liege, by the devotion I have just approved to you,
and which I would also approve, if needful, with my life, I beseech you
to consider well before you raise Anne Boleyn to the throne. In giving
you this counsel, I know I hazard the favour I have just regained. But
even at that hazard, I must offer it. Your infatuation blinds you to
the terrible consequences of the step. The union is odious to all your
subjects, but most of all to those not tainted with the new heresies and
opinions. It will never be forgiven by the Emperor Charles the Fifth,
who will seek to avenge the indignity offered to his illustrious
relative; while Francis will gladly make it a pretext for breaking his
truce with you. Add to this the displeasure of the Apostolic See, and it
must be apparent that, powerful as you are, your position will be one of
"Thus far advanced, I cannot honourably abandon the divorce," said
"Nor do I advise its abandonment, sire," replied Wolsey; "but do not let
it be a means of injuring you with all men. Do not let a mal-alliance
place your very throne in jeopardy; as, with your own subjects and all
foreign powers against you, must necessarily be the case."
"You speak warmly, cardinal," said Henry.
"My zeal prompts me to do so," replied Wolsey. "Anne Boleyn is in no
respect worthy of the honour you propose her."
"And whom do you think more worthy?" demanded Henry.
"Those whom I have already recommended to your majesty, the Duchess
d'Alencon, or the Princess Renee," replied Wolsey; "by a union with
either of whom you would secure the cordial co-operation of Francis,
and the interests of the see of Rome, which, in the event of a war with
Spain, you may need."
"No, Wolsey," replied Henry, taking a hasty turn across the chamber; "no
considerations of interests or security shall induce me to give up Anne.
I love her too well for that. Let the lion Charles roar, the fox Francis
snarl, and the hydra-headed Clement launch forth his flames, I will
remain firm to my purpose. I will not play the hypocrite with you,
whatever I may do with others. I cast off Catherine that I may wed Anne,
because I cannot otherwise obtain her. And shall I now, when I
have dared so much, and when the prize is within my grasp, abandon
it?--Never! Threats, expostulations, entreaties are alike unavailing."
"I grieve to hear it, my liege," replied Wolsey, heaving a deep sigh.
"It is an ill-omened union, and will bring woe to you, woe to your
realm, and woe to the Catholic Church."
"And woe to you also, false cardinal," cried Anne Boleyn, throwing aside
the arras, and stepping forward. "I have overheard what has passed;
and from my heart of hearts I thank you, Henry, for the love you have
displayed for me. But I here solemnly vow never to give my hand to you
till Wolsey is dismissed from your counsels."
"Anne!" exclaimed the king.
"My own enmity I could forego," pursued Anne vehemently, "but I cannot
forgive him his duplicity and perfidy towards you. He has just proffered
you his splendid palace of Hampton, and his treasures; and wherefore?--I
will tell you: because he feared they would be wrested from him. His
jester had acquainted him with the discovery just made of the secret
hoard, and he was therefore compelled to have recourse to this desperate
move. But I was apprized of his intentions by Will Sommers, and have
come in time to foil him."
"By my faith, I believe you are right, sweetheart," said the king.
"Go, tell your allies, Francis and Clement, that the king's love for me
outweighs his fear of them," cried Anne, laughing spitefully. "As for
you, I regard you as nothing."
"Vain woman, your pride will be abased," rejoined Wolsey bitterly.
"Vain man, you are already abased," replied Anne. "A few weeks ago I
would have made terms with you. Now I am your mortal enemy, and will
never rest till I have procured your downfall."
"The king will have an amiable consort, truly," sneered Wolsey.
"He will have one who can love him and hate his foes," replied Anne;
"and not one who would side with them and thee, as would be the case
with the Duchess d'Alencon or the Princess Renee. Henry, you know the
sole terms on which you can procure my hand."
The king nodded a playful affirmative.
"Then dismiss him at once, disgrace him," said Anne.
"Nay, nay," replied Henry, "the divorce is not yet passed. You are
angered now, and will view matters more coolly to-morrow."
"I shall never change my resolution," she replied.
"If my dismissal and disgrace can save my sovereign, I pray him to
sacrifice me without hesitation," said Wolsey; "but while I have liberty
of speech with him, and aught of power remaining, I will use it to his
advantage. I pray your majesty suffer me to retire."
And receiving a sign of acquiescence from the king, he withdrew, amid
the triumphant laughter of Anne.
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