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tionately. "But be cautious in thy proceedings, for if the queen know of his being with me, Walter will be ruined and I undone."
"Be cautious! will I not?" replied the light-hearted creature, with a toss of her little head. "I'll be as sly as a cat stealing of cream; and if her majesty find me out, I'll e'en give her leave to box my ears, as she did those of the lovely Mistress Bridges, who was guilty of having had the presumption to be admired by the imperial Essex. But Bess," continued she, turning round with an arch look, as she roached the door, "'tis a burning shame thou shouldst be in love. I marvel at it hugely. Well, if ever thou catchest me possessed of any of thy melancholy humours, I'll give thee leave to shut me up in a mouse-trap." And with a laugh as shrill and musical as the alarum of a silver bell, did the pretty piece of mirth and mischief leave the roof.
But her cousin was in no mood to join in her merriment; and immediately Alice was gone she sat herself down in a chair, and there stole over her fair countenance an expression of deep and right eloquent sadness. She sat with her arms crossed upon her lap, most dejectedly; and her soft eyes, swimming in tears, fixed upon the floor. And in that position did she continue for at least the fourth part of an hour, feeding reflection with the delicious food of memory, mingled with so many fearful forebodings as were sufficient, with their bitterness to spoil the sweetness of her thoughts. She wept not, neither did she smile; but it seemed as if in her admirable features there was going on a continual struggle between the most exquisite pleasure and the most direful apprehension, and the latter got such mastery as might suffice to give her lids as much moisture as they could carry, and impress on her well-favoured aspect, a character of more than ordinary grief. Anon, her eyes becoming overcharged, there was cast down upon each cheek a tear-drop, and the light falling thereon from the window near which she sat, did make its brilliancy so appa-/ rent, that it would have put to shame the brightest jewel that ever glittered in her stomacher; and these gems of purest water, as if enamoured of their fair resting-place, sought not to move from the spot where they had fallen; which gave to her the appearance of a most beautiful and moving Niobe.
Presently she heard a footstep in the corridor, and her heart thereupon began to beat with a more perceptible throbbing. The footstep approached, and the colour mounted to her cheek-it stopped at the door, and the cheek became pale as marble. In a moment the door opened quickly, and was as quickly closed; and, as a cavalier of a most noble appearance entered the room, with a half stifled cry of exultation, she rushed towards him, and sunk swooning upon his breast.
In truth, the cavalier was of a most valiant and commendable presence. His high and expansive forehead was partly concealed by his hat (in which was a little black feather, with a large ruby and pearl drop at the bottom of the sprig, in place of the button); yet sufficient of it was observable to denote the fine intellect that lay within. His eyes were large and intelligent-his nose somewhat long, yet not out of proportion-his lips delicately curved, with a fair moustache on the
upper lip, and a beard of moderate growth, handsomely rounded under the chin beneath, encircled by a frilled ruff; and his complexion was somewhat browned, as if by exposure to foreign climates, or hard service in the wars. His stature was six feet full, with limbs elegantly yet strongly moulded. He was apparelled in a white satin pinked vest, close sleeved to the wrist, having over the body of it a brown doublet, finely flowered, and embroidered with pearls; with a belt of the same colour and ornament, on the left side of which hung his sword, and on the other was seen the pommel of his dagger. His trunks, with his stockings and ribbon garters, were all of white, and fringed at the end; and his shoes were of buff, tied with white ribbons. He might be somewhere between thirty and forty years of age; that is to say, in the very prime and vigour of his life. And a braver soldier, a handsomer man, or a more accomplished gentleman, the court of Elizabeth did not contain at that time.
"Bess! Bess! dear, sweet, exquisite Bess!" cried he flinging down his hat, and pressing her in his arms. "By heaven! she hath swooned," he exclaimed, as he observed her head droop, and her cheek quite pallid: then, cautiously fastening the door, he bore his lovely burthen to where stood an ewer of water, which he began presently to sprinkle on her face, all the while using most endearing expressions and caresses, and exhibiting a truly earnest solicitude.
They have fastened thy boddice most infamously tight, dear Bess, and 'tis beyond my poor wit to loose it," said he earnestly, as he tried unavailingly to undo the fastenings of her robe. "S'blood, I have a good mind to rip it up with my dagger; and if she recover not quickly, I will. Dear, dear Bess!" he continued, with more emphasis, as he began vigorously to chafe her hands. "Revive thee, girl-revive! 'Tis I-'tis Walter-thy Walter, dear Bess. There is nothing to fear, believe me. We have no one near, the queen's in the council chamber, and I have well excused my attendance. Come, Bess, I say-sweetest! dearest! best! my heart! my life!-Ha, she revives!" he cried joyfully, as he observed signs of returning animation in her countenance. "Indeed I have a mind to scold thee-only I have no heart to do it."
"Walter! dear Walter!" murmured the beautiful woman, fixing upon him a look of most impassioned tenderness, directly she recovered sufficient consciousness of where and with whom she was; and then throwing her arms around his neck, and resting her head upon his shoulder, began to sob violently.
"Now, Bess, this is unkind of thee," said Sir Walter in rather a reproaching tone; but immediately added with a kinder voice, "but what aileth thee, sweetest?"
'Oh, I have undone thee-I have undone thee quite!" exclaimed she, as plainly as her sobs would allow.
"Not while I wear a sword, dear Bess, and am free to go where I will," he replied.
"The queen will know all, dear Walter-she must discover it soon."
"Why so, dear Bess !" enquired Sir Walter.
"Alas! I cannot tell thee-no, indeed, I cannot tell thee, dear
Walter," said Mistress Elizabeth, sobbing more violently; "but I must leave this place. Do take me away. I cannot stay here but a very short time longer without utter destruction to thy fortunes. Oh! take me away, Walter-take me away!"
"It shall be as thou desirest, sweetest," replied Raleigh, stooping down and kissing her cheek. "I have already arranged with thy father for a private marriage before I embark on a voyage, the good results of which I hope will win my pardon from the queen."
Thanks, dear Walter," exclaimed she, looking gratefully upon him through her tears; "thou art always good, and noble, and generous but I am fearful it will be thy utter undoing."
"Think not of it, Bess," said her lover kindly, "and then it cannot fright thee. But the danger is none so imminent. Ishall not let her majesty know of our marriage if it can be helped. Thou shalt get away from here as if on a visit to thy father in Aldgate, and so excite no suspicion; in the meantime, I will increase my attentions to the queen, so that she shall have no reason to quarrel with my behaviour; and when thou art secure in thy asylum, I shall start in my good ships for the voyage I intend."
"I would not have thee anger the queen for worlds," observed the other, "for it is in her power to make thy fortunes, or mar them. Elizabeth hath a very woman's heart in some things, though she be masculine enough in others; and she loveth the adulation of handsome men. She much regardeth thee, dear Walter, I know, and from that I am fearful that her knowledge of thy marriage will deeply affect thy prosperity. Indeed, I would rather die than that thou shouldst receive injury for my sake."
"O'my life, thou art a most admirable creature," exclaimed Sir Walter, as he rapturously pressed her within his arms, "and I should be totally unworthy of possessing that rich argosie, thy affections, were I not to risk my life, and all that to it do belong, in endeavouring to secure thy peace of mind. I fear not consequences in such a case, dear Bess. As for the queen, I know that flattery is rarely unacceptable to her; and her name and thine being the same, I can easily quiet the scruples of my conscience, if they say aught against my insincerity, by imagining that it is to thee my homage is addressed."
"I care not, Walter, what thou sayest or what thou doest, as long as thou holdest thy proper quality and station in the court," replied the devoted woman; and then, with a sudden look of right earnest affection, continued, "thy proper quality, said I?-nay, if thou attainest that, by my troth, thou wouldst be king of them all."
"Oh, thou outrageous flatterer," cried Raleigh, sportively shaking his head at her.
"'Tis no flattery, dear Walter-'tis the very truth," said Mistress Elizabeth fondly. "And who can look on thy noble form clad in these princely vestments, and not say the same? But above all, who can regard thy noble mind-that costly jewel in a rich case-and deny thy pre-eminence?"
"Bess! Bess! if thou goest on at this rate," replied Sir Walter with an assumed gravity, "I shall be reduced to follow the obsolete custom
of blushing, which will bear hardly upon me, seeing that I lack blushes most abominably."
At this moment a quick light footstep was heard proceeding along the corridor, and Mistress Elizabeth, as soon as she recognised it, disengaged herself from the embraces of her lover, hastened to the door, which she immediately unfastened, and opening it, gave entrance to her cousin Alice.
"A plague on this love, say I," exclaimed she laughingly, as she bounced into the room nearly out of breath.
"What's the matter, Alice?" enquired her cousin anxiously. 'Ay, what's the matter, sweet coz !" added Sir Walter. "Coz! coz, indeed!" cried Alice, somewhat disdainfully, yet with an arch glance of her eye, as she turned sharp round upon the last speaker-"I prythee keep thy coz-ening for those who will listen to thee. I'll have none on't."
"I'faith, Alice, if thy wit be always so sharp, thou wilt lead apes in the next world, depend on't," said Raleigh.
"I don't know, sweet sir, whether there be apes in the next world," said she, with a curtsey to the ground, "but o'my word there be nothing else to lead in this, as I can see.' At this Sir Walter good humouredly did laugh outright; in which he was heartily joined by his merry companion.
"But what brought thee into the room so post-haste, Alice?" enquired Mistress Elizabeth.
"Marry, matter enough," replied she: "there be the queen's majesty in her chamber enquiring most piteously for her captain of the guard, and sending the ushers and the grooms in all directions after the lost sheep. I being asked if I knew where he was to be found, did innocently answer, that having for some time past suspected him of the criminal intention of setting the Thames on fire, I did opine that he might be met with in the buttery, begging the loan of a waxtaper for the nonce."
"I'll give thee a beating for that," cried Sir Walter laughingly, as following her round the chamber, with his glove he did whip her over the shoulder, while she, ducking her pretty head, cried out, and sought to avoid the blows.
Help, good coz, help!" she cried to her cousin, who stood by, shewing by her sweet smiling countenance that she did mightily enjoy the scene. "Help! or this valiant Sir Walter Raleigh, who maketh war upon women, will get the better of me."
"Nay, Alice, I'll help thee not-for thou dost richly deserve all that thou receivest," said Mistress Elizabeth.
"Confess that thou hast slandered me, thou pretty mischief," exclaimed Raleigh, holding up the glove threateningly, as she crouched down at his feet.
"I will confess, holy father," replied she, with an admirable mock seriousness, as she put her palms together, and turned up her brilliant eyes to his-all the while a smile playing about her dimpled cheek that gave to her face an expression of archness infinitely pleas¬ ant to look upon.
"In the first place, holy father, the queen is not in her chamber, because she is still with the lords of the council."
"Oh, thou abominable transgressor!" cried Sir Walter, with all the seriousness he could assume.
"In the second place, she hath not sent for thee, because she requireth thee not."
"Daughter! daughter! thy iniquity is palpable," said he with the same gravity.
"In the last place, I have just met with master secretary, who saith that the council is about to break up, and enquired if I had seen thee. Thereupon I sent him where I knew he would not find thee, and hastened to where I knew I should."
"Thou must do penance for this," observed Raleigh; then somewhat maliciously added, "therefore I do condemn thee to the scarcely endurable punishment of holding thy tongue for a whole hour." "I' faith thou hast it this time, Alice!" exclaimed Mistress Elizabeth, with undisguised glee.
"And now, beauties, I must be under the painful necessity of hurrying my departure," said Sir Walter, taking up his hat, and gallantly bowing to the fair cousins; then smiling triumphantly on the laughing Alice, who had remained on the floor where he had left her, wearing the most pitiful face that eye ever beheld, he was about to make his exit, when Mistress Elizabeth rushed before him.
"Stop, Walter," cried she, hastily, "till I see if the coast be clear for thee," as she opened the door, and looking out cautiously, immediately added, in a more subdued voice,-"'tis as it should be; and now, dear Walter, let me once more entreat of thee to keep on good terms with the queen."
"I will strive all I can, dear Bess,"replied her lover, affectionately raising her hand to his lips, "and be sure that thou make proper and speedy preparations for thy departure from this place."
'I will not fail," said the beautiful woman; and, in the next moment, she was watching the noble form of her affianced husband retreating with hasty strides along the corridor.
Sir Walter Raleigh proceeded onwards, passing several doors on each side of him, and various passages that led to divers parts of the palace, till he came to a staircase of fair proportions, the balastrades of which were finely carved, having at their extremities rampant lions, most ingeniously wrought out of the solid wood. At the bottom of this flight of steps he passed sundry of the yeomen of the guard, placed there upon duty, who gave him instant salutation; and still advancing, met with pages, grooms, and ushers, hastening on their business, who, with great show of respect, did do him reverence. With these were sometimes mingled the higher officers of the palace, and gentlemen and noblemen of the court, either intent upon their duties, or discoursing with one another, as they walked carelessly along, and with them he did exchange abundance of courtesies. As he was turning sharply round a corner, he came suddenly against a courtier of a very notable aspect, and of right commendable habiliments; his face was fair to look upon, and dressed with a constant smile. An observer might suppose him of an ingenuous nature, and