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“ He hath held us in contempt—he hath put a slight upon our authority," saying which the queen bounced off as before.
“ After her majesty hath been so bountiful a mistress to him," added her ladyship, “ I am quite shocked at such devilish ingratitude."
“ Ho !” said my lord, looking monstrously shocked also.
“ Where is Sir Robert Cecil ?” enquired the queen, " we must have speech with him instantly. It will go hard with him if he do not explain satisfactorily how he hath so much fallen short in his duty. We will have none such about us. We will favour no neglecters. We will not be served by such as can be dumb when treason stalks abroad. Send him to us, my lord, without fail. He hath been privy to these villanous goings on, and hath taken care to give us no hint of the matter."
“Humph!” cried my Lord Burghley very seriously, as he rose from the chair; then proceeded out of the chamber in search of his son, as his royal mistress had commanded him.
Her majesty continued in the same humour to stride backwards and forwards, letting out her anger without stint, now against the one and now against the other, but most prodigally against her fair namesake, for whom no punishment seemed with her to be ample enough; whilst the Lady Howard took care that her rage should not go out for lack of proper stirring. Sir Robert Cecil evidently had not been far off, for he knocked at the door in a little space after the Lord Burghley had left it.
“So, Sir Robert Cecill” exclaimed the queen angrily, as soon as he made his appearance before her, “ you must needs become an aider and abettor of treason."
"Iaid treason-I abet treason !" cried he in seeming consternation, as he humbly knelt before his sovereign. " What ill hap is mine to have such accusation brought against me by so good a mistress? I will be sworn on my life I never spoke or did aught against your majesty. Far from it, I find most exquisite delight in endeavouring to prove myself your majesty's faithfullest servant; and I would not change your service for that of any sovereign upon earth, were I tempted to it ever so. Indeed, please your majesty, if you take from me the reputation I have at all times diligently sought, of giving place to no man in honesty and obedience, I would not wish to live another hour: for without character I should be unworthy to breathe in the presence of one so exalted in excellence, and deprived of the pleasure all persons enjoy who are held in such honour as to be selected to do your majesty's bidding, life hath nothing left that can be esteemed after it. Let me humbly ask of what treason I am accused ?”
" The knowing of Raleigh's traitorous proceedings with that disgrace of our court, Elizabeth Throckmorton," replied the queen with exceeding bitterness, " whereof you told us nothing. What they have done is as black treason as ever was thought of—secrecy was all they required to succeed in their infamous designs, and by not declaring to us what you were privy to, that we might have it hindered, you allowed them to go on to the perfection of their iniquitous doings, and so became an aider and abettor of their treason."
“ Please your majesty,” said Cecil very earnestly,“ two reasons
had I, and good ones they seemed to me, that I should not make a stir in this business. In the first place, my knowledge amounted to little more than the common suspicion, of the which there was no certain proof-in the next place, I like not being a tale-bearer at the best of times--but I do stand in such respectful awe of your majesty's superhuman virtue, that I could not for the life of me break any matter to your majesty's modest ear that appeared tainted with indelicate meaning.”
" We do approve of your reasons, Sir Robert," replied the queen, " so far as to clear you of all offence in this. But now we charge you on your allegiance speak without extenuation whatever hath come to your knowledge."
“Since your majesty hath graciously given me leave, I will,” answered he. " I must premise that of their intercourse knew I nothing save what was the general gossip; but knowing how much the world is given to scandal, I took no heed of what I heard, bclieving, as I do, that Sir Walter Raleigh is too noble and discreet a gentleman to take to such dishonourable courses."
“My Lady Howard hath given us good proof of it, which she had from their own lips,” observed the queen impatiently.
“ Indeed, Sir Robert, I did by accident overhear all their infamous secrets, the which I thought it but proper in me to carry to her majesty,” said her attendant.
“ I'm all amazed !” cried Sir Robert Cecil, looking in as absolute an astonishment as was ever beheld. “I marvel at it infinitely! who could have thought it? How impossible it doth seem that one so superlatively wise and learned as is your majesty's captain of the guard, should have committed himself so abominably! Indeed, it maketh me afraid of mine own honesty. I shall tremble for myself, knowing as I do that if they who have such wonderful store of learning cannot keep upright, we who fall short of such gifts cannot but tumble. Of all men few have I regarded with the like admiration I felt for Sir Walter Raleigh, for in truth he did always appear to me a most inestimable sweet gentleman. I am heartily grieved'
“Proceed with what you have to say on this infamous matter," said the queen sharply.
“That will I without further loss of time," replied the wily Cecil. “ It chanced that my Lord Henry Howard and I going to the Bankside, got into a pair of oars just as the barge containing Mistress Throckmorton left the shore. My lord directed my attention to some one who sat in the barge cloaked up very close, whom I had not noticed, for in truth I had such respect for Mistress Elizabeth, believing, from her nearness to your majesty's person, that she was of a most honourable nature, that I could not entertain suspicion of wrong in anything that she did, and was not curious about her proceedings."
" Who was that person, think you ?” eagerly enquired the queen.
“That know I not of mine own knowledge," answered Cecil, “ for we being of the other side of the water could not have a very distinct sight of things so far off. I do not think it was Sir Walter
Raleigh for a reason I will presently explain. The barge made for Durham House, which, knowing the suspicions that were afloat, created in us no small astonishment. Then we saw him in the cloak, land, with Mistress Alice and her cousin; and these three went up the steps into the house. This seeing, we knew not what to make of it; so for the satisfaction of my lord's curiosity and my own, we waited at a convenient distance. In half an hour or less, the three returned to the barge and went on their way; and I, thinking it could be nothing more than a passing visit, thought so light of it that we watched them no more. He in the cloak could not have been Sir Walter Raleigh, because my father did have speech of him at your majesty's command in his own house, at the very time I saw this person on the river. Knowing this, as I soon found out, I did not see any wrong in the visit of these young women with another person to Durham House; but my Lord Howard did offer me a wager, that Mistress Elizabeth had gone there to be married, and that he in the cloak was no other than her father, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who had good reason for seeking concealment, as it was given out he was like to perish for want of proper nursing."
“Now is it all made clear to us,” exclaimed the queen, her face crimsoning with rage. “We have been cozened, cheated, and imposed upon; and doubtless they now laugh in their sleeves at finding us gulled so easily. By God's wounds, we'll let them know what it is to make sport of their sovereign.”
"I wonder at their baseness,” cried her ladyship with much asperity.
ko'Tis not enough for them to do us the foulest dishonour we have received since we have been a crowned queen,” continued her majesty, seemingly waxing more wrath every minute, “they must needs play a trick upon us! We are thought to be worthy no better hap by this false woman than for a stale to catch her woodcock Raleigh !”
“O'Tis marvellous strange how such extreme impudency can exist," said Cecil very gravely.
• Get you to his chaplain, Sir Robert,” added the queen. “He is one Burrel, in some repute for his learning, and doubtless may be found at Durham House. Question him of this marriage : for we would know if it hath taken place. If he answer you to the purpose, you shall come away and do him no hindrance-but if he be contumacious, or seem to hold back what he knoweth—straight with him to prison : he shall there have time to repent him of his meddlesomeness. Delay not to report to us the minute you get aught worth the telling."
“ I will be the most zealous intelligencer in your majesty's dominions,” replied Cecil.
“My Lady Howard, we are for the presence chamber," said the queen, and straightway she passed haughtily out at the door with her attendant, but not before the latter and Sir Robert Cecil had, unseen hy her majesty, exchanged a look in which there appeared a wonderful deal of meaning.
I cannot eat but little meat,
My stomach is not good;
With him that wears a hood.
I nothing am a cold,
GAMMER GURTON'S NEEDLE.
My masters, are you mad? or what are you? Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night?-SHAKSPEARE.
It was getting deep into the evening. The prudent citizens had long closed their houses, and many of the more sober sort had retired to rest. Nothing disturbed the silence of the streets, but now and then the riotous singing of some prodigal gallants returning late from the tavern, with more wine in their pates than wit, with perchance, the hoarse bawling of some of the city watch, chiding them for disturbing the night with their catterwauling; or mayhap, a score of disorderly apprentices for the sake of diversion screaming fire, murder, and the like, from different places, till the whole neighbourhood was in an uproar, and the watch running to and fro in strange perplexity as to where was the mischief. Now you might hear some particular clock striking the hour, and anon there was such a striking from all parts that it seemed as if there would be no end to it; like unto when chanticleer croweth in the early morning, there answereth to him another, and he is taken up by a third, and 80 on till the whole of the cocks round about have tried the strength of their voices.
So it fared in the city, and in Eastcheap more especially—which of all places was most noted for mad pranks and merry doings; but whilst such goings on proceeded outside, the little back parlour of Geoffrey Sarsnet the mercer, as oft did echo with a very similar merriment. There he sat before an oak table having on it a bowl and drinking horns, looking very portly in a buff jerkin; a jolly face and a merry eye seeming to mock the gravity of his grey beard and bald pate; and a loud short laugh bursting from his mouth ever and anon, said plain enough, of all conscience, that his thoughts were none of the saddest. Opposite to him, in singular fine contrast, sat the meagre form of the miser of St. Mary Axe, who, by the complacency of his withered aspect had evidently forgiven Joanna the loss of the Venetian chain.
“Margery! Margery!" bawled the mercer, after he had looked into the bowl and found it empty of liquor. “By cock and pye, I'm no lover of jolly good ale and old, if we hav'n't drained it as dry as-as dry as thy wit, thou ghost of a pickled herring. Haw! haw! haw!"
80146 Thith a know going, I
“ Forsooth, thou art in a most facetious vein gossip,” replied Gregory Vellum, who cared not for being laughed at when he had aught to gain by joining in the mirth.
“If I be not in the vein the vein be in me," said the jolly mercer, with another laugh as loud as the preceding. " Here, Margery," cried he again; then sinking his voice, added, “ Hang these old women, say I! They be as deaf as thy conscience, and as slow as thy comprehension. Is't not so, thou delectable pippin-face?"
“ In truth, they be exceedingly deaf and slow," answered the scrivener, with a wonderful gravity.
“ The young ones for me-ey, Gregory!" continued the old fellow, with a knowing wink of his eye. « They have ears for any thing; and as for going, I doubt them not, at an ambling pace, they would beat any colt that runs. Haw! hawl haw! Why, Margery, I say."
“How, now ?—what do you lack, sweet master?" exclaimed a little old woman with a very pointed nose and chin, and sharp grey eyes, who appeared at the door.
" Another bowl, Margery I” replied Geoffrey Sarsnet. “And, prythee, brew it delicately, with good store of nutmeg and a famous toast in it.”
“ That will I, kind heart, and quickly," answered the old dame, fetching the empty vessel.
“ l'faith, Margery, thou lookest as innocent as a sucking donkey," said the jolly mercer, with his usual laugh, as he gazed upon her uncomely face.
“An't please your goodness, I was always noticed for the innocency of my looks,” replied the old dame very demurely.
“ I doubt it not,” cried her master; “ and thine innocency was always respected, I'll be bound for it. Haw! haw! haw!"
“ Indeed, you may say that,” responded she. “For it is a most notable truth that no longer ago than five-and-twenty year last Martinmas,”
“Thou must then have seen a good forty years at least an excellent fine age for innocency;" and then the old fellow chuckled again mightily. . “Fie on you for saying so, and I not fifty yet!" said Margery, her yellow physiognomy blushing with indignation at such an insinuation of her antiquity--the which, however, was no great way from the truth. “No longer ago than five-and-twenty year last Martinmas,"
“ Thou wert put in the stocks for a wanton-an excellent fine proof of innocency, o' my life! Haw! haw! haw!" And then he gave the table a slap that made the horns jump again.
“What I! I that have ever been the discreetest and virtuousest of virgins!” exclaimed the old woman, in a seeming monstrous to-do. “I'll be upon my oath I was never put in the stocks.”
“Well, thou hast had exceeding good luck, then," replied the mercer, winking at his companion, and endeavouring to keep a grave face; but he succeeded not, for he presently burst out in the same short loud laugh as at first.