On that third night the Queen was with the Lady Mary, once more in he_hamber, having come down as before, from the chapel in the roof, to pray he_ubmit to her father's will. Mary had withstood her with a more good-humoure_rony; and, whilst she was in the midst of her pleadings, a letter marked mos_ressing was brought to her. The Queen opened it, and raised her eyebrows; sh_ooked down at the subscription and frowned. Then she cast it upon the table.
'Shall there never be an end of old things?' she said.
'Even what old things?' the Lady Mary asked.
The Queen shrugged her shoulders.
'It was not they I came to talk of,' she said. 'I would sleep early, for th_ing comes to-morrow and I have much to plead with you.'
'I am weary of your pleadings,' the Lady Mary said. 'You have pleaded enow. I_ou would be fresh for the King, be first fresh for me. Start a new hare.'
The Queen would have gainsaid her.
'I have said you have pleaded enow,' the Lady Mary said. 'And you have pleade_now. This no more amuses me. I will wager I guess from whom your letter was.'
Reluctantly the Queen held her peace; that day she had read in many ancien_ooks, as well profane as of the Fathers of the Church, and she had man_hings to say, and they were near her lips and warm in her heart. She was muc_inded to have good news to give the King against his coming on the morrow; the great good news that should set up in that realm once more abbeys an_hapters and the love of God. But she could not press these sayings upon th_irl, though she pleaded still with her blue eyes.
'Your letter is from Sir Nicholas Throckmorton,' the Lady Mary said. 'Even le_e read it.'
'You did know that that knight was come to Court again?' the Queen said.
'Aye; and that you would not see him, but like a fool did bid him depar_gain.'
'You will ever be calling me a fool,' Katharine retorted, 'for giving ear t_y conscience and hating spies and the suborners of false evidence.'
'Why,' the Lady Mary answered, 'I do call it a folly to refuse to give ear t_he tale of a man who has ridden far and fast, and at the risk of a penalty t_ell it you.'
'Why,' Katharine said, 'if I did forbid his coming to the Court under _enalty, it was because I would not have him here.'
'Yet he much loved you, and did you some service.'
'He did me a service of lies,' the Queen said, and she was angry. 'I would no_ave had him serve me. By his false witness Cromwell was cast down to make wa_or me. But I had rather have cast down Cromwell by the truth which is fro_od. Or I had rather he had never been cast down. And that I swear.'
'Well, you are a fool,' the Lady Mary said. 'Let me look upon this knight'_etter.'
'I have not read it,' Katharine said.
'Then will I,' the Lady Mary answered. She made across the room to where th_aper lay upon the table beside the great globe of the earth. She came back; she turned her round to the Queen; she made her a deep reverence, so that he_lack gown spread out stiffly around her, and, keeping her eyes ironically o_atharine's face, she mounted backward up to the chair that was beneath th_ais.
Katharine put her hand over her heart.
'What mean you?' she said. 'You have never sat there before.'
'That is not true,' the Lady Mary said harshly. 'For this last three days _ave practised how, thus backward, I might climb to this chair and, thu_eemly, sit in it.'
'Even then?' Katharine asked.
'Even then I will be asked no more questions,' her step-daughter answered.
'This signifieth that I ha' heard enow o' thy voice, Queen.'
Katharine did not dare to speak, for she knew well this girl's tyrannous an_apricious nature. But she was nearly faint with emotion and reached sideway_or the chair at the table; there she sat and gazed at the girl beneath th_ais, her lips parted, her body leaning forward.
Mary spread out the great sheet of Throckmorton's parchment letter upon he_lack knees. She bent forward so that the light from the mantel at the room- end might fall upon the writing.
'It seemeth,' she said ironically,'that one descrieth better at the humble en_f the room than here on high'—and she read whilst the Queen panted.
At last she raised her eyes and bent them darkly upon the Queen's face.
'Will you do what this knight asks?' she uttered. 'For what he asks seemet_rudent.'
'A' God's name,' Katharine said, 'let me not now hear of this man.'
'Why,' the Lady Mary answered coolly, 'if I am to be of the Queen's alliance _ust be of the Queen's council and my voice have a weight.'
'But will you? Will you?' Katharine brought out.
'Will you listen to my voice?' Mary said. 'I will not listen to yours. Hea_ow what this goodly knight saith. For, if I am to be your well-wisher, I mus_all him goodly that so well wishes to you.'
Katharine wrung her hands.
'Ye torture me,' she said.
'Well, I have been tortured,' Mary answered, 'and I have come through it an_ive.'
She swallowed in her throat, and thus, with her eyes upon the writing, brough_ut the words—
'This knight bids you beware of one Mary Lascelles or Hall, and her brother, Edward Lascelles, that is of the Archbishop's service.'
'I will not hear what Throckmorton says,' Katharine answered.
'Ay, but you shall,' Mary said, 'or I come down from this chair. I am no_inded to be allied to a Queen that shall be undone. That is not prudence.'
'God help me!' the Queen said.
'God helps most willingly them that take counsel with themselves an_rudence,' her step-daughter answered; 'and these are the words of th_night.' She held up the parchment and read out:
'"Therefore I—and you know how much your well-wisher I be—upon my bended knee_o pray you do one of two things: either to put out both these twain from you_ourts and presence, or if that you cannot or will not do, so richly to rewar_hem as that you shall win them to your service. For a little rotten frui_ill spread a great stink; a small ferment shall pollute a whole well. An_hese twain, I am advised, assured, convinced, and have convicted them, wil_pread such a rotten fog and mist about your reputation and so turn even you_ood and gracious actions to evil seeming that—I swear and vow, O most hig_overeign, for whom I have risked, as you wot, life, limb and the fel_ack——"'
The Lady Mary looked up at the Queen's face.
'Will you not listen to the pleadings of this man?' she said.
'I will so reward Lascelles and his sister as they have merited.' the Quee_aid. 'So much and no more. And not all the pleadings of this knight shal_ove me to listen to any witness that he brings against any man nor maid. S_elp me, God; for I do know how he served his master Cromwell.'
'For love of thee!' the Lady Mary said.
The Queen wrung her hands as if she would wash a stain from them.
'God help me!' she said. 'I prayed the King for the life of Privy Seal tha_as!'
'He would not hear thee,' the Lady Mary said. She looked long upon the Queen'_ace with unmoved and searching eyes.
'It is a new thing to me,' she said,'to hear that you prayed for Privy Seal'_ife.'
'Well, I prayed,' Katharine said, 'for I did not think he worked treaso_gainst the King.'
The Lady Mary straightened her back where she sat.
'I think I will not show myself less queenly than you,' she said. 'For I be o_ royal race. But hear this knight.'
And again she read:
'"I have it from the lips of the cornet that came with this Lascelles to fetc_his Mary Lascelles or Hall: I, Throckmorton, a knight, swear that I hear_ith mine own ears, how for ever as they rode, this Lascelles plied thi_ornet with questions about your high self. As thus: 'Did you favour an_entleman when you rode out, the cornet being of your guard?' or, 'Had h_eard a tale of one Pelham, a knight, of whom you should have taken _erchief?'—and this, that and the other, for ever, till the cornet spewed a_he hearing of him. Now, gracious and most high Sovereign Consort, what is i_hat this man seeketh?"'
Again the Lady Mary paused to look at the Queen.
'Why,' Katharine said, 'so mine enemies will talk of me. I had been the foo_ou styled me if I had not awaited it. But——' and she drew up her body highly.
'My life is such and such shall be that none such arrow shall pierce m_orslet.'
'God help you,' the Lady Mary said. 'What has your life to do with it, if yo_ill not cut out the tongues of slanderers?'
She laughed mirthlessly, and added—
'Now this knight concludes—and it is as if he writhed his hands and knelt an_hined and kissed your feet—he concludeth with a prayer that you will let hi_ome again to the Court. "For," says he, "I will clean your vessels, serve yo_t table, scrape the sweat off your horse, or do all that is vilest. Bu_uffer me to come that I may know and report to you what there is whispered i_hese jail places."'
Katharine Howard said—
'I had rather borrow Pelham's kerchief.'
The Lady Mary dropped the parchment on to the floor at her side.
'I rede you do as this knight wills,' she said; 'for, amidst the littl_ticklers of spies that are here, this knight, this emperor of spies, moves a_ pillow of shadow. He stalks amongst them as, in the night, the dread an_wful lion of Numidia. He shall be to you more a corslet of proof than all th_irtue that your life may borrow from the precepts of Diana. We, that ar_oyal and sit in high places, have our feet in such mire.'
'Now before God on His throne,' Katharine Howard said, 'if you be of roya_lood, I will teach you a lesson. For hear me——'
'No, I will hear thee no more,' the Lady Mary answered; 'I will teach thee.
For thou art not the only one in this land to be proud. I will show thee suc_ pride as shall make thee blush.'
She stood up and came slowly down the steps of the dais. She squared back he_houlders and folded her hands before her; she erected her head, and her eye_ere dark. When she was come to where the Queen sat, she kneeled down.
'I acknowledge thee to be my mother,' she said, 'that have married the King, my father. I pray you that you do take me by the hand and set me in that sea_hat you did raise for me. I pray you that you do style me a princess, roya_gain in this land. And I pray you to lesson me and teach me that which yo_ould have me do as well as that which it befits me to do. Take me by th_and.'
'Nay, it is my lord that should do this,' the Queen whispered. Before that sh_ad started to her feet; her face had a flush of joy; her eyes shone with he_ransparent faith. She brushed back a strand of hair from her brow; she folde_er hands on her breasts and raised her glance upwards to seek the dwelling- place of Almighty God and the saints in their glorious array.
'It is my lord should do this!' she said again.
'Speak no more words,' the Lady Mary said. 'I have heard enow of th_leadings. You have heard me say that.'
She continued upon her knees.
'It is thou or none!' she said. 'It is thou or none shall witness this m_umiliation and my pride. Take me by the hand. My patience will not last fo_ver.'
The Queen set her hand between the girl's. She raised her to her feet.
When the Lady Mary stood high and shadowy, in black, with her white fac_eneath that dais, she looked down upon the Queen.
'Now, hear me!' she said. 'In this I have been humble to you; but I have bee_ost proud. For I have in my veins a greater blood than thine or the King's, my father's. For, inasmuch as Tudor blood is above Howard's, so my mother's, that was royal of Spain, is above Tudor's. And this it is to be royal——
'I have had you, a Queen, kneel before me. It is royal to receiv_etitions—more royal still it is to grant them. And in this, further, I a_ore proud. For, hearing you say that you had prayed the King for Cromwell'_ife, I thought, this is a virtue-mad Queen. She shall most likel_all!—Prudence biddeth me not to be of her party. But shall I, who am royal, be prudent? Shall I, who am of the house of Aragon, be more afraid than thou, a Howard?
'I tell you—No! If you will be undone for the sake of virtue, blindly, an_ike a fool, unknowing the consequences, I, Mary of Aragon and England, wil_ake alliance with thee, knowing that the alliance is dangerous. And, since i_s more valiant to go to a doom knowingly than blindfold, so I do show mysel_ore valiant than thou. For well I know—since I saw my mother die—that virtu_s a thing profitless, and impracticable in this world. But you—you think i_hall set up temporal monarchies and rule peoples. Therefore, what you do yo_o for profit. I do it for none.'
'Now, by the Mother of God,' Katharine Howard said, 'this is the gladdest da_f my life.'
'Pray you,' Mary said, 'get you gone from my sight and hearing, for I endur_ll the appearance and sound of joy. And, Queen, again I bid you beware o_alling any day fortunate till its close. For, before midnight you may b_uined utterly. I have known more Queens than thou. Thou art the fifth I hav_nown.'
'For the rest, what you will I will do: submission to the King and suc_ozening as he will ask of me. God keep you, for you stand in need of it.'
At supper that night there sat all such knights and lordlings as ate at th_ing's expense in the great hall that was in the midmost of the castle, looking on to the courtyard. There were not such a many of them, maybe forty; from the keeper of the Queen's records, the Lord d'Espahn, who sat at th_able head, down to the lowest of all, the young Poins, who sat far below th_alt-cellar. The greater lords of the Queen's household, like the Lord Dacr_f the North, did not eat at this common table, or only when the Queen hersel_here ate, which she did at midday when there was a feast.
Nevertheless, this eating was conducted with gravity, the Lord d'Espah_eeping a vigilant eye down the table, which was laid with a fair white cloth.
It cost a man a fine to be drunk before the white meats were eaten—unless, indeed, a man came drunk to the board—and the salt-cellar of state stoo_-midmost of the cloth. It was of silver from Holland, and represented a glob_f the earth, opened at the top, and supported by knights' bannerets.
The hall was all of stone, with creamy walls, only marked above the iro_orch-holds with brandons of soot. A scutcheon of the King's arms was abov_ne end-door, with the Queen's above the other. Over each window were notabl_eers' antlers, and over each side-door, that let in the servers from th_ourtyard, was a scutcheon with the arms of a king deceased that had visite_he castle. The roof was all gilded and coloured, and showed knaves' face_eering and winking, so that when a man was in drink, and looked upwards wit_is head on his chair back, these appeared to have life. The hall was calle_he Dacre Hall, because the Lords Dacre of the North had built it to be a_ffering to various kings that died whilst it was a-building.
Such knights as had pages had them behind their chairs, holding napkins an_eady to fill the horns with wine or beer. From kitchens or from buttery- hatches the servers ran continually across the courtyard and across the tile_loor, for the table was set back against the farther wall, all the knight_eing on the wall side, since there were not so many, and thus it was easie_o come to them. There was a great clatter with the knives going and the fee_n the tiles, but little conversing, for in that keen air eating was th_rincipal thing, and in five minutes a boar or a sheep's head would b_tripped till the skull alone was shown.
It was in this manner that Thomas Culpepper came into the hall when they wer_ll well set to, without having many eyes upon him. But the Lord d'Espahn wa_ware, suddenly, of one that stood beside him.
'Gentleman, will you have a seat?' he said. 'Tell me your name and estate, that I may appoint you one.' He was a grave lord, with a pointed nose, dente_t the end, a grey, square beard, and fresh colours on his face. He wore hi_onnet because he was the highest there, and because there were currents o_ir at the openings of the doors.
Thomas Culpepper's face was of a chalky white. Somewhere Lascelles had foun_or him a suit of green and red stockings. His red beard framed his face, bu_is lips were pursed.
'Your seat I will have,' he said, 'for I am the Queen's cousin, T. Culpepper.'
The Lord d'Espahn looked down upon his platter.
'You may not have my seat,' he said. 'But you shall have this seat at my righ_and that is empty. It is a very honourable seat, but mine you may not hav_or it is the Queen's own that I hold, being her vicar here.'
'Your seat I will have,' Culpepper said.
The Lord d'Espahn was set upon keeping order and quiet in that place more tha_n any other thing. He looked again down upon his platter, and then he wa_ware of a voice that whispered in his ear—
'A' God's name, humour him, for he is very mad,' and, turning his eyes _ittle, he saw that it was Lascelles above his chair head.
'Your seat I will have,' Culpepper said again. 'And this fellow, that tells m_e is the most potent lord there is here, shall serve behind my chair.'
The Lord d'Espahn took up his knife and fork in one hand and his manchet o_read in the other. He made as if to bow to Culpepper, who pushed him by th_houlder away. Some lordlings saw this and wondered, but in the noise non_eard their words. At the foot of the table the squires said that the Lor_'Espahn must have been found out in a treason. Only the young Poins said tha_hat was the Queen's cousin, come from Scotland, withouten leave, for love o_he Queen through whom he was sick in the wits. This news ran through th_astle by means of servers, cooks, undercooks, scullions, maids, tiring-maids, and maids of honour, more swiftly than it progressed up the table where me_ad the meats to keep their minds upon.
Culpepper sat, flung back in his chair, his eyes, lacklustre and open, upo_he cloth where his hands sprawled out. He said few words—only when the Lor_'Espahn's server carved boar's head for him, he took one piece in his mout_nd then threw the plate full into the server's face. This caused grea_ffence amongst the serving-men, for this server was a portly fellow that ha_erved the Lord d'Espahn many years, and had a face like a ram's, so grave i_as. Having drunk a little of his wine, Culpepper turned out the rest upon th_loth; his salt he brushed off his plate with his sleeve. That was remembere_or long afterwards by many men and women. And it was as if he could no_wallow, for he put down neither meat nor drink, but sat, deadly and pale, s_hat some said that he was rabid. Once he turned his head to ask the Lor_'Espahn—
'If a quean prove forsworn, and turn to a Queen, what should her true lov_o?'
The Lord d'Espahn never made any answer, but wagged his beard from side t_ide, and Culpepper repeated his question three separate times. Finally, th_latters were raised, and the Lord d'Espahn went away to the sound o_rumpets. Many of the lords there came peering round Culpepper to see wha_port he might yield. Lascelles went away, following the scarlet figure of th_oung Poins, working his hand into the boy's arm and whispering to him. Th_ervers and disservers went to their work of clearing the board.
But Culpepper sat there without word or motion, so that none of those lord_ad any sport out of him. Some of them went away to roast pippins at the Wido_mnot's, some to speak with the alchemist that, on the roof, watched th_tars. So one and the other left the room; the torches burned out, most o_hem, and, save for two lords of the Archbishop's following, who said boldl_hat they would watch and care for this man, because he was the Queen'_ousin, and there might be advancement in it, Culpepper was left alone.
His sword he had not with him, but he had his dagger, and, just as he drew it, appearing about to stab himself in the heart, there ran across the hall th_lack figure of Lascelles, so that he appeared to have been watching through _indow, and the two lords threw themselves upon Culpepper's arm. And all thre_egan to tell him that there was better work for him to do than that o_tabbing himself; and Lascelles brought with him a flagon of _aqua vitæ_ fro_olland, and poured out a little for Culpepper to drink. And one of the lord_aid that his room was up in the gallery near the Queen's, and, if Culpeppe_ould go with him there, they might make good cheer. Only he must be silent i_he going thither; afterwards it would not so much matter, for they would b_ast the guards. So, linking their arms in his, they wound up and across th_ourtyard, where the torchmen that waited on their company of diners to ligh_hem, blessed God that the sitting was over, and beat their torches ou_gainst the ground.
In the shadow of the high walls, and some in the moonlight, the serving-me_eld their parliament. They discoursed of these things, and some said that i_as a great pity that T. Culpepper was come to Court. For he was an idl_raggart, and where he was disorder grew, and that was a pity, since the Quee_ad made the Court orderly, and servants were little beaten. But some sai_hat like sire was like child, and that great disorders there were in th_ourt, but quiet ones, and the Queen the centre. But these were mostly th_leaners of dishes and the women that swept rooms and spread new rushes. Upo_he whole, the cooks blessed the Queen, along with all them that had to d_ith feeding and the kitchens. They thanked God for her because she ha_rought back the old fasts. For, as they argued, your fast brings honours t_ooks, since, after a meagre day, your lord cometh to his trencher with _etter appetite, and then is your cook commended. The Archbishop's cooks wer_he hottest in this contention, for they had the most reason to know. Th_tablemen, palfreniers, and falconers' mates were, most part of them, politicians more than the others, and these wondered to have seen, throug_heir peep-holes and door-cracks, the Queen's cousin go away with these lord_hat were of the contrary party. Some said that T. Culpepper was her emissar_o win them over to her interests, and some, that always cousins, uncles, an_in were the bitterest foes a Queen had, as witness the case of Queen Ann_oleyn and the Yellow Dog of Norfolk who had worked to ruin her. And some sai_t was marvellous that there they could sit or stand and talk of suc_hings—for a year or so ago all the Court was spies, so that the hayme_istrusted them that forked down the straw, and meat-servers them with th_ine. But now each man could talk as he would, and it made greatly fo_ellowship when a man could sit against a wall, unbutton in the warm nights, and say what he listed.
The light of the great fires grew dull in the line of kitchen windows; sweethearting couples came in through the great gateway from the grass-slope_eneath the castle walls. There was a little bustle when four horsemen rode i_o say that the King's Highness was but nine miles from the castle, an_orchmen must be there to light him in towards midnight. But the Queen shoul_ot be told for her greater pleasure and surprise. Then all these servingme_tood up and shook themselves, and said—'To bed.' For, on the morrow, with th_ing back, there would surely be great doings and hard work. And to mews an_ennels and huts, in the straw and beds of rushes, these men betoo_hemselves. The young lords came back laughing from Widow Amnot's at th_astle foot; there was not any light to be seen save one in all that courtyar_ull of windows. The King's torchmen slumbered in the guard-room where the_waited his approach. Darkness, silence, and deep shadow lay everywhere, though overhead the sky was pale with moonlight, and, from high in the air, the thin and silvery tones of the watchman's horn on the roof filtered down a_he quarter hours. A drowsy bell marked the hours, and the cries and drilling_f the night birds vibrated from very high.