Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

“I do perceive something in this more than meets your majesty's eye,” remarked a very old courtier, with an exquisitely solemn foolish physiognomy.

"Speak out, my Lord Bumble,” cried her majesty.

“ I hold it as most comfortable Christian doctrine, please your majesty,” said his lordship, advancing a little way on his gold-headed cane-for he stooped much, “that the mouth was made for the accommodation of honest victuals; and though I have lived in the reigns of your majesty's father Henry the Eighth, of pious, chaste, and glorious memory, and of his most excellent highness Edward the Sixth, who surely hath a throne in Heaven; and of our late illustrious Queen Mary, who was of a most princely disposition, as it becometh a queen to have, and which your majesty doth possess to an extent far beyond that which was exhibited by your majesty's predecessors, I never saw a gentleman, and, to speak the exact truth, I may add, any person of any degree whatsoever, who used his throat to imbibe villanous smoke; and therefore I hold it as most comfortable Christian doctrine that the mouth was made for the accommodation of honest victuals. Moreover, I never heard of any one with whom it was customary to make a smoke-jack of himself, but one, and he did do it not from liking, but from necessity.And who was he, my lord ?” enquired the queen.

“Please your majesty, it was no other than the devil-from whose machinations be your majesty ever carefully guarded."

“Amen, my Lord,” said the queen, gravely.

“Who, as the learned Dr. Thumpcushion hath stated,” added Lord Bumble, “ continually doth vomit smoke and brimstonedoubtless, much after the same fashion as yonder honourable gentleman, the captain of your majesty's guard-therefore I hold it as most comfortable Christian doctrine”

“Never mind the doctrine, my lord”-here put in the queen rather impatiently, while Sir Walter, with much ado, endeavoured to preserve a serious countenance—“Say at once what thou perceivest in this matter, that our poor wits are not master of.”

“I will come to the point without further preamble, since it be your majesty's excellent pleasure,” said the old courtier, “though I was going to say, that a thing which looketh so unnatural and so devilish, can be practised for no other end but to ensnare our souls and blind our eyes, that we may be the more easily caught and thrust into the bottomless pit, where it be the fashion of Satan and all his imps to smoke, and to teach others to smoke, like unto the manner of yonder estimable gentleman, Sir Walter Raleigh; therefore, I hold it as most comfortable Christian doctrine, that the mouth hath been made for the accommodation of honest victuals.”

“We have heard that before, my lord, so if thou meanest to enlighten us no further on this matter, hold thy peace, and Heaven will reward thee for it.”

“Yes, Heaven will reward me, certainly, as your majesty hath so piously remarked,” continued Lord Bumble; who, in addition to other infirmities consequent on old age, was exceedingly deaf"I am much bound to your majesty for your majesty's gracious consideration of my long service, and if your majesty doth not, Heaven will reward me, certainly. But I must say, of all your majesty's glorious family, none have I served with half the infinite satisfaction I find in attending on your majesty—though his excellent highness, Henry the Eighth, whose page I was, did say that I was inestimable before bedtime.”

“Ah, thou didst doubtless make a most admirable sleeping potion," observed her majesty.

As your majesty is pleased to say, he did justly appreciate my devotion,” proceeded his lordship. “But I am fearful I am somewhat wandering from the point.”

Thou hast found that out at last-a plague on thy tediousness !" exclaimed his royal mistress, angrily; but in a low voice.

" I have already stated enough to satisfy any reasonable personage that smoking is but a devilish pastime, and therefore not to be tolerated-but there is more mischief in it yet. I say it be unlawful and infinitely dangerous. For let it be observed that smoke is black

-which is likewise the colour the devil most affects—therefore to be avoided; that the accomplishment of smoking is an art—and the art being black, it standeth to reason it must be a black art-and I do uphold that the exercise of the black art in your majesty's presence is heathenish, treacherous, and abominable, and, consequently, that yonder noble gentleman, the captain of your majesty's guard, ought not to be allowed, as is evidently his intention, to bewitch your majesty and overthrow the state.”

“ Sir Walter Raleigh, dost hear that weighty accusation ?" asked the queen, the frown of impatience upon her face now giving way to an undisguised smile: 66 Hast thou had the audacity to practise the black art before us? hast the presumption to attempt to bewitch us and overthrow the state ?"

“Without attempting any defence, I will, at once throw myself upon your majesty's clemency, of which I have had such excellent experience,” replied Sir Walter-refraining awhile from his pipe. “But perhaps I may be allowed to observe, that if I have attempted to bewitch your majesty, I have followed the example of one who, with her admirable qualities, hath bewitched all her loving subjects.”

“There! he confesseth it, please your majesty,” cried the old courtier, pressing close to the queen, “therefore I do hold it very comfortable Christian doctrine"-

“Peace, fool!” cried her majesty, in a voice that not only made Lord Bumble hear, but astonished him so, that it sent him staggering two or three paces backwards, upon the delicate toes of some of the maids of honour; who, not liking so impressive a salutation, with features expressive of pain and anger, pushed him rudely out of the way, till he found himself beyond the circle, scarcely able to breathe, and in a complete consternation.

“I do not believe that he practiseth the black art,” here observed Mistress Alice, who was somewhat of a favourite with the queen, for her lively temper, and, more than all, because she never seemed

desirous of attracting the admiration of the noblemen and gentlemen of the court; “ Indeed I will do him the justice to say that I think him no conjuror.”

The queen laughed, and, as matter of course, the courtiers laughed also.

“Nay, be not so hard upon him, child," said her majesty, “remember he will have to lose his Barbary courser, which will sufficiently punish him for endeavouring to cajole the queen of England.”

“May it please your majesty,” said Sir Walter Raleigh, coming into the room with his pipe in his hand, “I have smoked out the quantity of tobacco agreed upon.”

“Haste thee and weigh the smoke then,” replied the queen with a chuckle of delight, which was echoed by those around her.

" I will tell your majesty the weight of the smoke in a few seconds," responded Raleigh, taking in his hand a small pair of ivory scales which stood on an adjoining table.

“Thou wilt never get so much smoke into such tiny balances, Sir Walter Raleigh,” observed her majesty with the same tone, “ so thou mayest as well acknowledge that the wager is ours.”

“Your majesty will be pleased to observe that the weight in this scale is the exact weight of the ashes left in the pipe,” replied Sir Walter, shewing the scales, in one of which he had put the ashes, at an even balance. “Now, if your majesty will graciously remember the weight of the unburnt tobacco upon which the experiment was made, by subtracting from it the weight of the ashes, which I have here ascertained, the sum produced will be the exact weight of the smoke."

Sir Walter Raleigh, with the scales still in his hand, wore on his noble features, at this moment, an expression of very evident satisfaction, as he turned round and looked down upon his audiencesome of whom seemed incredulous, others wondering, the rest puzzled what to think; but all were waiting in silence the effect of his announcement upon their sovereign, whose abler understanding perceived at once the accuracy of the result, though it was so different from what she had expected, and felt as if she could not enough admire the simplicity of the method which had so easily proved what she thought had been impossible.

“The gold is thine, Sir Walter Raleigh,” said she, rising from her chair with a dignity none knew better how to put on, as she placed a well filled purse in his hand, “and fairly is it won. There have been many labourers in the fire whose vast undertakings have ended in smoke; but thou art the first whose smoke was ever turned into

gold."

“ Well, I did not think he was such a superlative master of hocus pocus,” exclaimed Mistress Alice, with a wonderful elevation of her eyebrows. “Please your majesty, if you let him go on at this profitable rate, every conjuror in your dominions will hang himself in despair."

“Indeed 'tis a very pretty piece of conjuration," said Lady Blanche Somerset, opening her large blue eyes in a seeming astonishment; and all the rest, though they did in no way understand the matter, did rival each other in ready praise of Sir Walter Raleigh-except my Lord Bumble, who kept aloof, as if he had not yet recovered from his fright and surprise.

Sir Walter having put away the things he was using, placed his hand on his heart, and kneeling on one knee before her majesty, as she presented him the purse, said humbly, “I pray your majesty to pardon me, that the deep gratitude of my heart at this moment, at receiving such munificent and generous conduct from my sovereign, hath taken from my poor tongue all adequate expression. What Paris must have felt when he first beheld the beauteous Helen, I experience at witnessing such graces of behaviour-with the like of which was no princess ever blessed—therefore, if I make not too bold, I would implore your majesty, out of your right royal and princely disposition, and most admirable wisdom, to frame, in my behalf, such excuse for my silence as your majesty may think appropriate.”

“Rise, Sir Walter Raleigh,” said the queen, graciously raising him from the ground; for, in truth, though waxing old, she did find exceeding delight in having such handsome gallants at her feet. The wager was honourably won--therefore our bestowing it doth call for no gratitude. We are now disposed for a stroll through yonder pleasant walks, and require thy attendance." So saying, she led the way, with a becoming stateliness, through the glass doors, and stepped out into the garden, closely followed by her captain of the guard-the rest staying behind, as they had not been invited. After some little time passed in the queen's garden, her majesty proceeded through divers passages, and through the new gallery in the palace, till she reached St. James's Park.

“ Hath Master Edmund Spenser, our poet laureate, of whom thou hast so ost spoke to us so fair, been well cared for, since at thy request we granted him an interview?” enquired her majesty, as they walked along.

I believe that my Lord Burghley never did anything for him, or paid him his salary, please your majesty,” replied Sir Walter. “But I marvel not at that, seeing that my lord treasurer hath not seemed in any great degree affected towards the inestimable sweet delights of poetry and philosophy; and yet one would naturally suppose, that serving a mistress who hath so perfect a knowledge and so exquisite a taste in those divine enjoyments--the very Minerva of our thrice fortunate English land-he would have imbibed sufficient inclination towards them as to foster such as possess them most for the true glorification of his illustrious sovereign, and to the great advancement of his own honour."

Ah, my Lord Burghley is certainly somewhat deficient in such matters; nevertheless he is an excellent statesman and a faithful servant,” observed the queen. “We will, however, not allow Master Spenser to think himself unesteemed of us, for we remember well he did read to us divers passages from a poem called “The Fairy Queen,' of which we entertain a very favourable consideration."

“Your majesty playeth ever the part of the true judge of merit, and its most liberal patroness," exclaimed Raleigh, “and happy are

those poetic spirits who were born to flourish under such excellent auspicies. Surely they might aptly be addressed in the words of Lucan his Pharsalia,

Vos quoque, qui fortes animos belloque peremptos
Laudibus in longum, vates, diffunditis evum,

Plurima securi fudistis carmina Bardi. It has been left for your majesty's right glorious reign to produce two such unrivalled geniuses as Master Edmund Spenser and Master William Shakspeare—the one as an epic poet, who writeth to advance the admiration of that which is chivalrous and noble, hath no peer; the other as an inventor of plays--the which in this country he may justly be said to be the originator-for judgment, wit, imagination, and knowledge of human nature; standeth above all in these realms. Master Spenser hath fellowship with such noble spirits as Homer and Virgil, and Master Shakspeare deserveth to stand on equal terms with Sophocles and Menander.”

“We take great delight in the productions of this Shakspeare as exhibited at the playhouse,” replied her majesty, “and do intend this afternoon to partake of the same amusement."

“ It is an entertainment worthy of your majesty's enjoyment, responded Sir Walter, “sor I take it that players are a sort of looking-glasses, who shew humanity under all its fashions, as it is made to appear by the dramatist, to whom these fashions are familiar; and they who essay to know the world, its conduct and apparelling, will find no more direct way than the playhouse, where Master Shakspeare and some few who travel in his footsteps, are in requisition. Nor are your majesty's players undeserving of laudable mention, for without tuition or previous example, they have raised the art from little better than absolute vagrancy, to a profession honourable with the court, and in good esteem with the people.”

“Ah-there is one Burbage, is there not, of notable excellence in this art ?” enquired the queen. “We have marked him oft. He that playeth the crook-backed king.”

"The same, please your majesty,” said Raleigh, “which sheweth your majesty's exquisite discrimination, for he beareth away the palm from them all; being of an exceeding ingenious nature, and of a very happy facility in taking upon himself the characters of others -which he sheweth not only when appearing as Richard the Third, though it be a most superlative piece of acting, as your majesty hath justly conceived-but in divers other parts in which he hath exhibited a similar excellence.”

They walked on for some two or three minutes without saying ever a word.

“ Rememberest thou those lines of Virgil," asked her majesty, “ beginning

Fortunate senex ! hic inter flumina nota

Et fontes sacros ?” “How could I fail, please your majesty,” replied Sir Walter, “ seeing that they form one of the sweetest pieces of pastoral ever written by that truly famous poet, who hath for his epitaph

« ZurückWeiter »