The Intercession





"And now, Kate," said the king, when all had withdrawn, and he was again

alone with her, "now let us forget everything, save that we love each

other."



He embraced her and with ardor pressed her to his breast. Wearied to

death, she bowed her head on his shoulder and lay there like a shattered

rose, completely broken, completely passive.



"You give me no kiss, Kate?" said Henry, with a smile. "Are you then yet

angry with me that I did not comply with your first request? But what

would you have me do, child? How, indeed, shall I keep the crimson of my

royal mantle always fresh and bright, unless I continually dye it anew

in the blood of criminals? Only he who punishes and destroys is truly

a king, and trembling mankind will acknowledge him as such. The

tender-hearted and gracious king it despises, and his pitiful weakness

it laughs to scorn. Bah! Humanity is such a wretched, miserable thing,

that it only respects and acknowledges him who makes it tremble. And

people are such contemptible, foolish children, that they have respect

only for him who makes them feel the lash daily, and every now and then

whips a few of them to death. Look at me, Kate: where is there a king

who has reigned longer and more happily than I? whom the people love

more and obey better than me? This arises from the fact that I have

already signed more than two hundred death-warrants, [Footnote: Tytler,

p. 428. Leti, vol. i, p. 187.] and because every one believes that,

if he does not obey me, I will without delay send his head after the

others!"



"Oh, you say you love me," murmured Catharine, "and you speak only of

blood and death while you are with me."



The king laughed. "You are right, Kate," said he, "and yet, believe me,

there are other thoughts slumbering in the depths of my heart, and

could you look down into it, you would not accuse me of coldness and

unkindness. I love you truly, my dear, virgin bride, and, to prove it,

you shall now ask a favor of me. Yes, Kate, make me a request, and,

whatever it may be, I pledge you my royal word, it shall be granted you.

Now, Kate, think, what will please you? Will you have brilliants, or a

castle by the sea, or, perhaps, a yacht? Would you like fine horses, or

it may be some one has offended you, and you would like his head? If so,

tell me, Kate, and you shall have his head; a wink from me, and it

drops at your feet. For I am almighty and all-powerful, and no one is

so innocent and pure, that my will cannot find in him a crime which will

cost him his life. Speak, then, Kate; what would you have? What will

gladden your heart?"



Catharine smiled in spite of her secret fear and horror. "Sire," said

she, "you have given me so many brilliants, that I can shine and glitter

with them, as night does with her stars. If you give me a castle by the

sea, that is, at the same time, banishing me from Whitehall and your

presence; I wish, therefore, for no castle of my own. I wish only to

dwell with you in your castles, and my king's abode shall be my only

residence."



"Beautifully and wisely spoken," said the king; "I will remember these

words if ever your enemies endeavor to send you to a dwelling and a

castle other than that which your king occupies. The Tower is also a

castle, Kate, but I give you my royal word you shall never occupy that

castle. You want no treasures and no castles? It is, then, somebody's

head that you demand of me?"



"Yes, sire, it is the head of some one!"



"Ah, I guessed it, then," said the king with a laugh. "Now speak,

my little bloodthirsty queen, whose head will you have? Who shall be

brought to the block?"



"Sire, it is true I ask you for the head of a person," said Catharine,

in a tender, earnest tone, "but I wish not that head to fall, but to be

lifted up. I beg you for a human life--not to destroy it, but, on the

contrary, to adorn it with happiness and joy. I wish to drag no one to

prison, but to restore to one, dearly beloved, the freedom, happiness,

and splendid position which belong to her. Sire, you have permitted me

to ask a favor. Now, then, I beg you to call the Princess Elizabeth to

court. Let her reside with us at Whitehall. Allow her to be ever near

me, and share my happiness and glory. Sire, only yesterday the Princess

Elizabeth was far above me in rank and position, but since your

all-powerful might and grace have to-day elevated me above all other

women, I may now love the Princess Elizabeth as my sister and dearest

friend. Grant me this, my king! Let Elizabeth come to us at Whitehall,

and enjoy at our court the honor which is her due." [Footnote: Leti,

vol. i. p. 147. Tytler. p. 410.]



The king did not reply immediately; but in his quiet and smiling air

one could read that his young consort's request had not angered him.

Something like an emotion flitted across his face, and his eyes were

for a moment dimmed with tears. Perhaps just then a pale, soul-harrowing

phantom passed before his mind, and a glance at the past showed him the

beautiful and unfortunate mother [Footnote: Ann Boleyn] of Elizabeth,

whom he had sentenced to a cruel death at the hands of the public

executioner, and whose last word nevertheless was a blessing and a

message of love for him.



He passionately seized Catharine's hand and pressed it to his lips. "I

thank you! You are unselfish and generous. That is a very rare quality,

and I shall always highly esteem you for it. But you are also brave and

courageous, for you have dared what nobody before you has dared; you

have twice on the same evening interceded for one condemned and one

fallen into disgrace. The fortunate, and those favored by me, have

always had many friends, but I have never yet seen that the unfortunate

and the exiled have also found friends. You are different from these

miserable, cringing courtiers; different from this deceitful and

trembling crowd, that with chattering teeth fall down and worship me

as their god and lord; different from these pitiful, good-for-nothing

mortals, who call themselves my people, and who allow me to yoke them

up, because they are like the ox, which is obedient and serviceable,

only because he is so stupid as not to know his own might and strength.

Ah, believe me, Kate, I would be a milder and more merciful king, if the

people were not such an utterly stupid and contemptible thing; a dog,

which is so much the more submissive and gentle the more you maltreat

him. You, Kate, you are different, and I am glad of it. You know, I have

forever banished Elizabeth from my court and from my heart, and still

you intercede for her. That is noble of you, and I love you for it, and

grant you your request. And that you may see how I love and trust you,

I will now reveal to you a secret: I have long since wished to have

Elizabeth with me, but I was ashamed, even to myself, of this weakness.

I have long yearned once again to look into my daughter's large deep

eyes, to be a kind and tender father to her, and make some amends to her

for the wrong I perhaps may have done to her mother. For sometimes, in

sleepless nights, Anne's beautiful face comes up before me and gazes at

me with mournful, mild look, and my whole heart shudders before it.

But I could not confess this to anybody, for then they might say that I

repented what I had done. A king must be infallible, like God himself,

and never, through regret or desire to compensate, confess that he is a

weak, erring mortal, like others. You see why I repressed my longing and

parental tenderness, which was suspected by no one, and appeared to be

a heartless father, because nobody would help me and make it easy for

me to be a tender father. Ah, these courtiers! They are so stupid, that

they can understand only just what is echoed in our words; but what

our heart says, and longs for, of that they know nothing. But you know,

Kate; you are an acute woman, and a high-minded one besides. Come, Kate,

a thankful father gives you this kiss, and this, ay, this, your husband

gives you, my beautiful, charming queen."





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