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accusation brought against me by so good a mistress? I will be sworn on my life I never spoke or did ought 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, believing, 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.
66 That will I without further loss of time," replied the wily Cecil.
6 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 Mis
tress 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.
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. 66 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.
6 I wonder at their baseness,” cried her ladyship with much asperity.
66'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 !”
“ 'Tis marvellous strange how such extreme impudency can exist,” said Cecil very gravely.
6 Get you to his chaplain, Sir Robert,” added