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fleetness of our heels, we escaped; but my Lady Howard hath got such a fright that she will scarce dare to open her mouth before the queen for some time to come.”
“ So much the better," observed his companion, drily.
“ I left her to calm herself at her leisure, and hastened through the private gate in the garden to seek you here by the secret way.
"You did right, my good lord,” said Cecil, as he sat himself down, somewhat abstractedly, leaning his head upon his hand.
“ And now, methinks, this fine fellow, who evidently liveth in the opinion that nothing is so good as that which he doeth, hath done for himself; and I shall not be sorry for one. I like not such whippersnappers-persons of no extraction-ignoble adventurers, who are ever thrusting themselves before their superiors, and winning from them such honours as they alone were born to possess. Indeed, this Raleigh is a most pestilent piece of conceit, and I mislike him hugely: I shall glory in his downfall; and I care not how low his pride is húmbled. Besides, when he hath been put out of the way, there will be only the haughty Essex to cope with; who must easily be overthrown, for he hath not the cunning of the other.”
“ Tush, my lord," exclaimed Cecil, with some impatience; “ see you not, that if Raleigh be quite removed, Essex will be paramount? Tis a business that must be managed with exceeding delicacy. Hark!" he cried, in a more subdued voice, rising quickly from his seat, and opening the secret door as the Lord Howard prepared to depart, “Here are visitors coming. Haste and tell my Lady Howard not to stir in this matter till I have seen her.” Then closing it upon his retreating associate, and unfastening the other door, he was in a minule very busily employed upon some writings on a table before him, when there came a knock; and as soon as he had called out to them that they might have admittance, there entered Sir Walter Raleigh, with a very courtier-like looking gentleman, most daintily attired.
“ Now I take this as exceeding kind of you, Sir Walter,” exclaimed Cecil, in a manner marvellously friendly, as he recognised his visitors. “And my worthy brother-in-law, my Lord Cobham, too! I know not which to be thankful for most-the presence of yourself or your friend. I pray you be seated.”
“ Indeed I have but called to acquaint you that her majesty hath signified her consent to my expedition," observed Raleigh.
“ Of that I am very heartily glad, believe me,” said Sir Robert, shaking Sir Walter by the hand with as much earnestness as if he had been the best friend he had in the world, “and knowing, as I do, your fitness to lead to a profitable and glorious issue all such armaments, in which, as far as I have heard of the best judges, is no man living your superior, I do build upon it great hopes of your advancement in the queen's favour; whereat none of all your friends will feel more infinite delight than myself. But sit, I pray you, and let us drink a bottle of Ippocras to your successful voyage.
“With all my heart ! exclaimed the Lord Cobham, cheerfully, as he flung himself carelessly into a chair, and did put aside his hat.
Such a proposition must be welcome for the sake of mine accomplished friend--but there is another consideration that claimeth to be taken into account-my throat is dry.”
“ A good consideration truly,” remarked Cecil with a smile, as he rang a silver bell that lay upon the table.
Nay, if you will have wine, I must leave you two to the enjoyment of it-my duties permitting me not to assist you in what would otherwise be mightily agreeable to me; for I must hurry to attend upon her majesty to the playhouse."
“Now sit you down," replied Sir Robert with great demonstration of friendship, preventing Sir Walter from leaving the room, “ it wanteth, to my certain knowledge, a good half hour to the time when her majesty is like to be ready, so your haste need not be so immediate-besides I take it hugely unkind of you, seeing that while I, who am of so notorious a gravity, for the sake of one to whose admirable qualities I stand so well affected, am inclined to unbend to a becoming sociality; you, who are well known to be the most absolute prince of good fellows, on the poor excuse of press of time, do seek to play the churl with my well-disposedness."
"l'faith, Raleigh, there must surely be time for a glass or two with my worthy brother-in-law,” said his friend, and then added very gravely, “and there is a very good reason why I think so.”
“Out with your reason, my good lord,” exclaimed Cecil, somewhat urgently, “out with your reason, if you love me, for I do truly hope it will be a convincing one."
“My throat, is dry,” sagely replied th Lord Cobham. “O’my life there is no standing against so grave an argument," said Sir Walter, laughingly as he uncovered and did sit himself down, “so I must e'en be indebted to your courtesy.”
At this instant a serving man entered, to whom orders were given for the bringing of the Ippocras; and Sir Walter Raleigh noticing a peculiar suit of armour, Sir Robert Cecil then did acquaint him how his father, the Lord Burghley, took great delight in making a collection of offensive and defensive arms, of different times and countries, the which he had that room built on purpose to receive, in preference to keeping them at his magnificent mansion at Theobald's, or at Burghley House; and when sir Walter, being very learned in these things, did explain to him the age and nature of some, he listened with exceeding respect. In truth, although Cecil was the youngest of the three, he was the very craftiest man in all her majesty's dominions. His appearance was in no ways prepossessing-being short of stature, and with a face not at all handsome, shrewd eyes, and a scanty beard ; yet by falling into the humours of the great-affecting a wonderful sincerity, and seeming of a serious turn, he had advanced himself to her majesty's confidence-nor was he inclined there to stop, for ambition was his ruling passion : and every thing he schemed about, had for its object, without making enemies, to get as much power as was possible into his own hands. All this time my Lord Cobham was arranging his bair, and trifling with his beard before a very polished coat of mail, that served him as a mirror.
The wine now having been brought in and poured out by the serving man before he left the room, into three tall Venetiap glasses, Sir
Robert Cecil standing up with his glass in his hand, said, with an abundance of humility.
“It ill becometh me, who am so little skilled in speech, to attempt what requireth such true eloquence as the praise of one who hath so distinguished himself in all manner of knightly and clerk-like accomplishments, as hath my most worthy and esteemed friend Sir Walter Raleigh; yet, as he knoweth full well that my deficiency proceedeth not from lack of love, but from lack of wit, he will, I doubt not, out of the generosity of his humour, be content with the assurance, that, as far as my humble judgment goeth, I do consider him an honour to this our age, and an example to the world, of an able commander by land or sea, a ripe and perfect scholar, and a most honourable gentleman; and knowing that he is about to command an important expedition against the enemy, he will, I question not, also allow me, from the very sincerity of my love, to wish him all that infinite success to which his great merits do entitle him.”
“In every word of this I gladly concur, and drink success to him with all my heart,” added my Lord Cobham; and both, thereupon, quickly drank off their glasses.
“Sir Robert Cecil," replied Sir Walter in a truly dignified and impressive manner, as he stood up to the table—“It would be but affectation in me were I to seem indifferent to applause; for, however it may be taken, I must acknowledge, that I love praise because I love to deserve it: and if I have not merited it to the exfent your goodness hath bestowed, believe me it was rather from want of ability than inclination: nevertheless I cannot say how much beholden to you I am for your good opinion, and, though as it seemeth to me, the success I may have cannot come up with your expectations, to prevent as much as lieth in my power your judgment from being called in question, I will, in all times to come, urge my poor qualifications to the utmost. I thank you for your good wishes-and my lord alsoand in return drink lo your prosperity.”
“Well said !” exclaimed the Lord Cobham, as his friend raised the wine to his lips, and each had reseated himself "the speech is worthy of the wine, and the wine deserveth the speech-therefore are they capitally matched. I only wish my Lord Essex had tasted some of this truly delicious Ippocras before we met him just now at the river's side-methinks he would have looked with a more pleasant countenance.”
“Saw you the Lord Essex as you came?". enquired Sir Robert, carelessly.
“We met somebody very like him,” replied the other, “only he did regard us with an aspect so Ethiopian, I had like to have taken him for a blackamoor.”
“Ah, my lord is doubtless a little out of humour," observed Cecil, significantly. “He is not in favour with the queen."
“O' my word, one would have thought he had fallen out with his own shadow for looking black at him, and resented it by looking the like at all he met,” said my Lord Cobham.
“Unfortunately, my good lord," replied the wily Cecil, “there are some men of such unhappy dispositions, that they cannot bear to
see superior merit taking the lead of them; and must therefore regard the object with a sullen and unfriendly gloominess."
“By this hand I thought so!” exclaimed Cobham.
“Not that I would wish to insinuate aught against the noble lord,” continued the other, "for he is doubtless of too honourable a nature to have evil intentions against those of whose rising power he may be jealous—though I have heard it said that he beareth no good will to our excellent friend, but of the truth of it can I say nothing. Indeed, in justice to him, I can fairly assert that he hath many estimable qualities, and sheweth a very princely liberality-nevertheless, truth compelleth me to say--but your glasses are empty,” said he, suddenly breaking off his discourse, and pouring out the wine.
“What were you about to advance, Sir Robert Cecil ?” enquired Raleigh, very earnestly. “ As far as I have had means of judging of the Lord Essex, he is a brave and honourable gentleman, but if he hath said aught or done aught against me, I should be glad to know of it.”
“I pray you excuse me there, Sir Walter," quickly replied the other. “ Believe me, I am no maker of mischief. It would grieve me much to see two such notable good servants of her majesty at variance; and truly your high spirits are apt enough to quarrel without being set on. The Earl of Essex hath a bountiful disposition, as I have said, and if he inclineth at times to be envious of another's greater merit and better fortune, there be not one of us without our faults; and it is but Christian charity to look over such. How like you the wine ?''
“'Tis of very curious flavour,” responded Raleigh, yet, though he answered to the purpose, he did seem as if he was thinking of another matter.
“In truth, 'tis excellent good," said the Lord Cobham, looking at it through the delicate glass in which it sparkled beautifully, and then sipping it that the flavour might dwell upon his tongue, "very exquisite stuff, by this hand! I know not where I should meet with a better wine-indeed, with Ippocras of such admirable quality never came I acquainted. If it be not demanding too much of your courtesy, I pray you tell me of what vintner might you get such brave liquor?"
"Of mine own knowledge know I not, my good lord," answered Cecil, “yet will I make it my business to enquire. Believe me, I am marvellously well pleased it hath taken your fancy, as it sheweth its excellence; for, for a singular fine taste in wine, of all men living commend me to the Lord Cobham. Let me replenish your glass.”
“I am infinitely bound to you—but, in very honesty, Sir Robert, I am but an indifferent judge,” said my lord with some humility, yet it was evident he was well pleased with the compliment.
"Your modesty maketh you undervalue yourself,” replied Sir Robert, “I have heard your judgment approved of beyond all comparison.”
“'Tis indifferent—'tis indifferent,” responded the other carelessly. “Nay, but I have stayed too long," exclaimed Sir Walter Raleigh, jumping up of a sudden from a sort of reverie, and making preparations to depart.
“Not a whit," responded Cecil, “there is ample time to get to Whitehall before the queen hath need of your attendance. Another glass, I pray you.”
“There, then !" cried Raleigh, tossing off the wine as his friend was making ready, “and now we must tarry no longer. Come, my lord." “Be advised of me, and think no more of what my
foolish tongue hath let out concerning the Lord Essex," said the crafty Cecil in an under tone, with a face of much concern, as he walked by the side of Sir Walter towards the gates—the Lord Cobham following at some distance. “For your own sake, I would not have you quarrel. He hath great power of friends, and—not that I think so ill of that honourable lord as to imagine he would do-aught dishonest against you remember he is the late Lord Leicester's kinsman, like enough, may have been his pupil-and, as it may be known to you, “the gypsy did practise very devilish arts against those whom he misliked.
“If I mistake him not, he is of a nobler spirit than to follow so base an example," replied Sir Walter.
“So think I," added Cecil quickly-"yet appearances are oft deceitful, and for mine own part, I do confess to you I put no great trust in him, he being so nearly allied to one who was so badly disposed. Pardon my zeal, if while I counsel you to keep on good terms with him, if it may be done without injury to your honour, I do earnestly advise you to be on your guard."
“I take your caution in exceeding good part,” responded Raleigh, 6 and will not fail to bear it in mind.”
“I hope you will be worthily entertained of the players,” said Sir Robert Cecil, as a few minutes afterwards he stood at the gates with his two friends, "for though the gravity of my disposition inclineth not to such amusements, I am well pleased that others should enjoy them."
In a moment after, the Lord Cobham and Sir Walter Raleigh were making all haste to the water side, and the wily Cecil, with his mind filled with ambitious schemes and cunning plots, returned into the house.