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


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


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


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


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


"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


"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


The earl's noble countenance remained calm and unmoved; his bright

beaming eye fearlessly encountered the eye of the king flashing with


"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


"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


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


"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


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


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


"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."

The Prisoner The Queen And Her Friend facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail