Brother And Sister





Lightly on the tips of her toes the duchess stole toward her brother,

who did not yet observe her. The thick Turkish carpet made her steps

inaudible. She already stood behind the earl, and he had not yet noticed

her.



Now she bent over his shoulder, and fastened her sparkling eyes on the

paper in her brother's hand.



Then she read in a loud, sonorous voice the title of it: "Complaint,

because Geraldine never shows herself to her lover unless covered by

her veil." [Footnote: Sonnet by Surrey.--See Nott's Life and Works of

Surrey.] "Ah," said the duchess, laughing, "now, then, I have spied out

your secret, and you must surrender to me at discretion. So you are in

love; and Geraldine is the name of the chosen one to whom you address

your poems! I swear to you, my brother, you will repay me dear for this

secret."



"It is no secret at all, sister," said the earl, with a quiet smile,

as he rose from the divan and saluted the duchess. "It is so little a

secret, that I shall recite this sonnet at the court festival this very

evening. I shall not, therefore, need your secrecy, Rosabella."



"So the fair Geraldine never shows herself to you unless in a dark veil,

black as the night," said the duchess, musingly. "But tell me, brother,

who then is the fair Geraldine? Of the ladies at court, I know not a

single one who bears that name."



"So you see from that, the whole is only a fiction--a creation of my

fancy."



"No, indeed," said she, smiling; "one does not write with such warmth

and enthusiasm unless he is really in love. You sing your lady-love, and

you give her another name. That is very plain. Do not deny it, Henry,

for I know indeed that you have a lady-love. It may be read in your

eyes. And look you! it is on account of this dear one that I have come

to you. It pains me, Henry, that you have no confidence in me, and

allow me no share in your joys and sorrows. Do you not know, then, how

tenderly I love you, my dear, noble brother?"



She put her arm tenderly round his neck, and wanted to kiss him. He bent

his head back, and laying his hand on her rosy, round chin, he looked

inquiringly and smilingly into her eyes.



"You want something of me, Rosabella!" said he. "I have never yet

enjoyed your tenderness and sisterly affection, except when you needed

my services."



"How suspicious you are!" cried she, with a charming pout, as she shook

his hand away from her face. "I have come from wholly disinterested

sympathy; partly to warn you, partly to find out whether your love is

perchance fixed upon a lady that would render my warning useless."



"Well, so you see, Rosabella, that I was right, and that your tenderness

was not aimless. Now, then, you want to warn me? I have yet to learn

that I need any warning."



"Nay, brother! For it would certainly be very dangerous and mischievous

for you, if your love should chance not to be in accordance with the

command of the king."



A momentary flush spread over Henry Howard's face, and his brow

darkened.



"With the king's command?" asked he, in astonishment. "I did not know

that Henry the Eighth could control my heart. And, at any rate, I would

never concede him that right. Say quickly, then, sister, what is it?

What means this about the king's command, and what matrimonial scheme

have you women been again contriving? For I well know that you and my

mother have no rest with the thought of seeing me still unmarried. You

want to bestow on me, whether or no, the happiness of marriage; yet,

nevertheless, it appears to me that you both have sufficiently learned

from experience that this happiness is only imaginary, and that marriage

in reality is, at the very least, the vestibule of hell."



"It is true," laughed the duchess; "the only happy moment of my married

life was when my husband died. For in that I am more fortunate than my

mother, who has her tyrant still living about her. Ah, how I pity my

mother!"



"Dare not to revile our noble father!" cried the earl, almost

threateningly. "God alone knows how much he has suffered from our

mother, and how much he still suffers. He is not to blame for this

unhappy marriage. But you have not come to talk over these sad and

disgraceful family matters, sister! You wish to warn me, did you say?"



"Yes, warn you!" said the duchess, tenderly, as she took her brother's

hand and led him to the ottoman. "Come, let us sit down here, Henry, and

let us for once chat confidentially and cordially, as becomes brother

and sister. Tell me, who is Geraldine?"



"A phantom, an ideal! I have told you that already."



"You really love, then, no lady at this court?"



"No, none! There is among all these ladies, with whom the queen has

surrounded herself, not one whom I am able to love."



"Ah, your heart then is free, Henry; and you will be so much more easily

inclined to comply with the king's wish."



"What does the king wish?"



She laid her head on her brother's shoulder, and said in a low whisper:

"That the Howard and Seymour families be at last reconciled; that at

last they may reconcile the hatred, which has for centuries separated

them, by means of a firm and sincere bond of love."



"Ah, the king wants that!" cried the earl, scornfully.



"Forsooth, now, he has made a good beginning toward bringing about this

reconciliation. He has insulted me before all Europe, by removing me

from my command, and investing a Seymour with my rank and dignity; and

he requires that I in return shall love this arrogant earl, who has

robbed me of what is my due; who has long intrigued and besieged the

king's ears with lies and calumnies, till he has gained his end and

supplanted me."



"It is true the king recalled you from the army; but this was done in

order to give you the first place at his court--to appoint you lord

chamberlain to the queen."



Henry Howard trembled and was silent. "It is true," he then muttered; "I

am obliged to the king for this place."



"And then," continued the duchess, with an innocent air, "then I do not

believe either that Lord Hertford is to blame for your recall. To prove

this to you, he has made a proposal to the king, and to me also, which

is to testify to you and to all the world how great an honor Lord

Hertford esteems it to be allied to the Howards, and above all things to

you, by the most sacred bonds."



"Ah, that noble, magnanimous lord!" cried Henry Howard, with a bitter

laugh. "As matters do not advance well with laurels, he tries the

myrtles; since he can win no battles, he wants to make marriages. Now,

sister, let me hear what he has to propose."



"A double marriage, Henry. He asks my hand for his brother Thomas

Seymour, provided you choose his sister, Lady Margaret, for your wife."



"Never!" cried the earl. "Never will Henry Howard present his hand to a

daughter of that house; never condescend so far as to elevate a Seymour

to be his wife. That is well enough for a king--not for a Howard!"



"Brother, you insult the king!"



"Well, I insult him, then! He has insulted me, too, in arranging this

base scheme."



"Brother, reflect; the Seymours are powerful, and stand high in the

king's favor."



"Yes, in the king's favor they stand high! But the people know their

proud, cruel, and arrogant disposition; and the people and nobility

despise them. The Seymours have the voice of the king in their favor;

the Howards the voice of the whole country, and that is of more

consequence. The king can exalt the Seymours, for they stand far beneath

him. He cannot exalt the Howards, for they are his equals. Nor can he

degrade them. Catharine died on the scaffold--the king became thereby

only a hangman--our escutcheon was not sullied by that act!"



"These are very proud words, Henry!"



"They become a son of the Norfolks, Rosabella! Ah, see that petty Lord

Hertford, Earl Seymour. He covets a ducal coronet for his sister. He

wants to give her to me to wife; for as soon as our poor father dies, I

wear his coronet! The arrogant upstarts! For the sister's escutcheon, my

coronet; for the brother's, your coronet. Never, say I, shall that be!"



The duchess had become pale, and a tremor ran through her proud form.

Her eyes flashed, and an angry word was already suspended on her lips;

but she still held it back. She violently forced herself to calmness and

self-possession.



"Consider once more, Henry," said she, "do not decide at once. You speak

of our greatness; but you do not bear in mind the power of the Seymours.

I tell you they are powerful enough to tread us in the dust, despite all

our greatness. And they are not only powerful at the present; they will

be so in the future also; for it is well known in what disposition and

what way of thinking the Prince of Wales is trained up. The king is old,

weak, and failing; death lurks behind his throne, and will soon enough

press him in his arms. Then Edward is king. With him, the heresy of

Protestantism triumphs; and however great and numerous our party may be,

yet we shall be powerless and subdued. Yes, we shall be the oppressed

and persecuted."



"We shall then know how to fight, and if it must be so, to die also!"

cried her brother. "It is more honorable to die on the battle-field than

to purchase life and humiliation."



"Yes, it is honorable to die on the field of battle; but, Henry, it is a

disgrace to come to an end upon the scaffold. And that, my brother, may

be your fate, if you do not this time bend your pride; if you do not

grasp the hand that Lord Hertford extends to you in reconciliation, but

mortally offend him. He will take bloody vengeance, when once he comes

into power."



"Let him do it, if he can; my life is in God's hand! My head belongs

to the king, but my heart to myself; and that I will never degrade to

merchandise, which I may barter for a little security and royal favor."



"Brother, I conjure you, consider it!" cried the duchess, no longer able

to restrain her passionate disposition, and all ablaze in her savage

wrath. "Dare not in proud arrogance to destroy my future also! You may

die on the scaffold, if you choose; but I--I will be happy; I will

at last, after so many years of sorrow and disgrace, have my share of

life's joys also. It is my due, and I will not relinquish it; and you

shall not be allowed to tear it from me. Know, then, my brother, I love

Thomas Seymour; all my desire, all my hope is fixed on him; and I will

not tear this love out of my heart; I will not give him up."



"Well, if you love him, marry him, then!" exclaimed her brother. "Become

the wife of this Thomas Seymour! Ask the duke, our father, for his

consent to this marriage, and I am certain he will not refuse you,

for he is prudent and cautious, and will, better than I, calculate the

advantages which a connection with the Seymours may yield our family. Do

that, sister, and marry your dearly beloved. I do not hinder you."



"Yes, you do hinder me--you alone!" cried his sister, flaming with

wrath. "You will refuse Margaret's hand; you will give the Seymours

mortal offence. You thereby make my union with Thomas Seymour

impossible! In the proud selfishness of your haughtiness, you see not

that you are dashing to atoms my happiness, while you are thinking only

of your desire to offend the Seymours. But I tell you, I love Thomas

Seymour--nay, I adore him. He is my happiness, my future, my eternal

bliss. Therefore have pity on me, Henry! Grant me this happiness, which

I implore you for as Heaven's blessing. Prove to me that you love me,

and are willing to make this sacrifice for me. Henry, on my knees,

I conjure you! Give me the man I love; bend your proud head; become

Margaret Seymour's husband, that Thomas Seymour may become mine."



She had actually sunk upon her knees; and her face deluged with

tears, bewitchingly beautiful in her passionate emotion, she looked up

imploringly to her brother.



But the earl did not lift her up; on the contrary, with a smile, he fell

back a step. "How long is it now, duchess," asked he, mockingly, "since

you swore that your secretary, Mr. Wilford, was the man whom you loved?

Positively, I believed you--I believed it till I one day found you in

the arms of your page. On that day, I swore to myself never to believe

you again, though you vowed to me, with an oath ever so sacred, that

you loved a man. Well, now, you love a man; but what one, is a matter of

indifference. To-day his name is Thomas, tomorrow Archibald, or Edward

as you please!"



For the first time the earl drew the veil away from his heart, and let

his sister see all the contempt and anger that he felt toward her.



The duchess also felt wounded by his words, as by a red-hot iron.



She sprang from her knees; and with flurried breath, with looks flashing

with rage, every muscle of her countenance convulsed and trembling,

there she stood before her brother. She was a woman no more; she was a

lioness, that, without compassion or pity, will devour him who has dared

irritate her.



"Earl of Surrey, you are a shameless wretch!" said she, with compressed,

quivering lips. "Were I a man, I would slap you in the face, and call

you a scoundrel. But, by the eternal God, you shall not say that you

have done this with impunity! Once more, and for the last time, I now

ask you, will you comply with Lord Hertford's wish? Will you marry Lady

Margaret, and accompany me with Thomas Seymour to the altar?"



"No, I will not, and I will never do it!" exclaimed her brother,

solemnly. "The Howards bow not before the Seymours; and never will Henry

Howard marry a wife that he does not love!"



"Ah, you love her not!" said she, breathless, gnashing her teeth. "You

do not love Lady Margaret; and for this reason must your sister renounce

her love, and give up this man whom she adores. Ah, you love not this

sister of Thomas Seymour? She is not the Geraldine whom you adore--to

whom you dedicate your verses! Well, now, I will find her out--your

Geraldine. I will discover her; and then, woe to you and to her! You

refuse me your hand to lead me to the altar with Thomas Seymour; well,

now, I will one day extend you my hand to conduct you and your Geraldine

to the scaffold!"



And as she saw how the earl startled and turned pale, she continued with

a scornful laugh: "Ah, you shrink, and horror creeps over you! Does

your conscience admonish you that the hero, rigid in virtue, may yet

sometimes make a false step? You thought to hide your secret, if you

enveloped it in the veil of night, like your Geraldine, who, as you

wailingly complain in that poem there, never shows herself to you

without a veil as black as night. Just wait, wait! I will strike a light

for you, before which all your night-like veils shall be torn in shreds;

I will light up the night of your secret with a torch which will be

large enough to set on fire the fagot piles about the stake to which you

and your Geraldine are to go!"



"Ah, now you let me see for the first time your real countenance," said

Henry Howard, shrugging his shoulders. "The angel's mask falls from your

face; and I behold the fury that was hidden beneath it. Now you are your

mother's own daughter; and at this moment I comprehend for the first

time what my father has suffered, and why he shunned not even the

disgrace of a divorce, just to be delivered from such a Megaera."



"Oh, I thank you, thank you!" cried she, with a savage laugh. "You are

filling up the measure of your iniquity. It is not enough that you drive

your sister to despair; you revile your mother also! You say that we are

furies; well, indeed, for we shall one day be such to you, and we will

show you our Medusa-face, before which you will be stiffened to stone.

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, from this hour out, I am your implacable

enemy; look out for the head on your shoulders, for my hand is raised

against it, and in my hand is a sword! Guard well the secret that sleeps

in your breast; for you have transformed me to a vampire that will suck

your heart's blood. You have reviled my mother, and I will go hence and

tell her of it. She will believe me; for she well knows that you hate

her, and that you are a genuine son of your father; that is to say, a

canting hypocrite, a miserable fellow, who carries virtue on the lips

and crime in the heart."



"Cease, I say, cease," cried the earl, "if you do not want me to forget

that you are a woman and my sister!"



"Forget it by all means," said she, scornfully. "I have forgotten long

since that you are my brother, as you have long since forgotten that you

are the son of your mother. Farewell, Earl of Surrey; I leave you and

your palace, and will from this hour out abide with my mother, the

divorced wife of the Duke of Norfolk. But mark you this: we two are

separated from you in our love--but not in our hate! Our hatred to

you remains eternal and unchangeable; and one day it will crush you!

Farewell, Earl of Surrey; we meet again in the king's presence!"



She rushed to the door. Henry Howard did not hold her back. He looked

after her with a smile as she left the cabinet, and murmured, almost

compassionately: "Poor woman! I have, perhaps, cheated her out of a

lover, and she will never forgive me that. Well, let it be so! Let

her, as much as she pleases, be my enemy, and torment me with petty

pin-prickings, if she be but unable to harm her. I hope, though, that I

have guarded well my secret, and she could not suspect the real cause

of my refusal. Ah, I was obliged to wrap myself in that foolish family

pride, and make haughtiness a cloak for my love. Oh, Geraldine, thee

would I choose, wert thou the daughter of a peasant; and I would not

hold my escutcheon tarnished, if for thy sake I must draw a pale

athwart it.--But hark! It is striking four! My service begins! Farewell,

Geraldine, I must to the queen!"



And while he betook himself to his dressing-room, to put on his state

robes for the great court feast, the Duchess of Richmond returned to her

own apartments, trembling and quivering with rage. She traversed these

with precipitate haste, and entered her boudoir, where Earl Douglas was

waiting for her.



"Well," said he, stepping toward her with his soft, lurking smile, "has

he consented?"



"No," said she, gnashing her teeth. "He swore he would never enter into

an alliance with the Seymours."



"I well knew that," muttered the earl. "And what do you decide upon now,

my lady?"



"I will have revenge! He wants to hinder me from being happy; I will for

that make him unhappy!"



"You will do well in that, my lady; for he is an apostate and perjurer;

an unfaithful son of the Church. He inclines to the heretical sect, and

has forgotten the faith of his fathers."



"I know it!" said she, breathlessly.



Earl Douglas looked at her in astonishment, and continued: "But he is

not merely an atheist, he is a traitor also; and more than once he has

reviled his king, to whom he, in his pride of heart, believes himself

far superior."



"I know it!" repeated she.



"So proud is he," continued the earl, "so full of blasphemous

haughtiness, that he might lay his hands upon the crown of England."



"I know it!" said the duchess again. But as she saw the earl's

astonished and doubting looks, she added, with an inhuman smile: "I know

everything that you want that I should know! Only impute crimes to him;

only accuse him; I will substantiate everything, testify to everything

that will bring him to ruin. My mother is our ally; she hates the father

as hotly as I the son. Bring your accusation, then, Earl Douglas; we are

your witnesses!"



"Nay, indeed, my lady," said he, with a gentle, insinuating smile. "I

know nothing at all; I have heard nothing; how, then, can I bring

an accusation? You know all; to you he has spoken. You must be his

accuser!"



"Well, then, conduct me to the king!" said she.



"Will you allow me to give you some more advice first?"



"Do so, Earl Douglas."



"Be very cautious in the choice of your means. Do not waste them all

at once, so that if your first thrust does not hit, you may not be

afterward without weapons. It is better, and far less dangerous, to

surely kill the enemy that you hate with a slow, creeping poison,

gradually and day by day, than to murder him at once with a dagger,

which may, however, break on a rib and become ineffective. Tell, then,

what you know, not at once, but little by little. Administer your drug

which is to make the king furious, gradually; and if you do not hit

your enemy to-day, think that you will do it so much the more surely

to-morrow. Nor do you forget that we have to punish, not merely the

heretic Henry Howard, but above all things the heretical queen, whose

unbelief will call down the wrath of the Most High upon this land."



"Come to the king," said she, hastily. "On the way you can tell me what

I ought to make known and what conceal. I will do implicitly what you

say. Now, Henry Howard," said she softly to herself, "hold yourself

ready; the contest begins! In your pride and selfishness you have

destroyed the happiness of my life--my eternal felicity. I loved Thomas

Seymour; I hoped by his side to find the happiness that I have so long

and so vainly sought in the crooked paths of life. By this love my soul

would have been saved and restored to virtue. My brother has willed

otherwise. He has, therefore, condemned me to be a demon, instead of

an angel. I will fulfil my destiny. I will be an evil spirit to him."

[Footnote: The Earl of Surrey, by his refusal to marry Margaret Seymour,

gave occasion to the rupture of the proposed alliance between Thomas

Seymour and the Duchess of Richmond, his sister. After that the duchess

mortally hated him and combined with his enemies against him. The

Duchess of Richmond is designated by all the historians of her time

as "the most beautiful woman of her century, but also a shameless

Messalina."--See Tytler, p. 890. Also Burnet, vol. i, p. 134; Leti, vol.

i, p. 83; and Nott's Life of Henry Howard.]





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