The Queen was walking in the long gallery of Hampton Court. The afternoon wa_till new, but rain was falling very fast, so that through the windows al_rees were blurred with mist, and all alleys ran with water, and it was ver_rey in the gallery. The Lady Mary was with her, and sat in a window-sea_eading in a book. The Queen, as she walked, was netting a silken purse of _urple colour; her gown was very richly embroidered of gold thread worked int_lack velvet, and the heavy day pressed heavily on her senses, so that sh_ought that silence more willingly. For three days she had had no news of he_ord, but that morning he was come back to Hampton, though she had not ye_een him, for it was ever his custom to put off all work of the day before h_ame to the Queen. Thus, if she were sad, she was tranquil; and, considerin_nly that her work of bringing him to God must begin again that night, she le_er thoughts rest upon the netting of her purse. The King, she had heard, wa_ith his council. Her uncle was come to Court, and Gardiner of Winchester, an_ranmer of Canterbury, along with Sir A. Wriothesley, and many other lords, s_hat she augured it would be a very full council, and that night there woul_e a great banquet if she was not mistaken.
She remembered that it was now many months since she had been shown for Quee_rom that very gallery in the window that opened upon the Cardinal's garden.
The King had led her by the hand. There had been a great crying out of man_eople of the lower sort that crowded the terrace before the garden. Now th_ain fell, and all was desolation. A yeoman in brown fustian ran bending hi_ead before the tempestuous rain. A rook, blown impotently backwards, essaye_lowly to cross towards the western trees. Her eyes followed him until a grea_ust blew him in a wider curve, backwards and up, and when again he steadie_imself he was no more than a blot on the wet greyness of the heavens.
There was an outcry at the door, and a woman ran in. She was crying out still: she was all in grey, with the white coif of the Queen's service. She fell dow_pon her knees, her hands held out.
'Pardon!' she cried. 'Pardon! Let not my brother come in. He prowls at th_oor.'
It was Mary Hall, she that had been Mary Lascelles. The Queen came over t_aise her up, and to ask what it was she sought. But the woman wept so loud, and so continually cried out that her brother was the fiend incarnate, tha_he Queen could ask no questions. The Lady Mary looked up over her boo_ithout stirring her body. Her eyes were awakened and sardonic.
The waiting-maid looked affrightedly over her shoulders at the door.
'Well, your brother shall not come in here,' the Queen said. 'What would h_ave done to you?'
'Pardon!' the woman cried out. 'Pardon!'
'Why, tell me of your fault,' the Queen said.
'I have given false witness!' Mary Hall blubbered out. 'I would not do it. Bu_ou do not know how they confuse a body. And they threaten with cords an_humbscrews.' She shuddered with her whole body. 'Pardon!' she cried out.
And then suddenly she poured forth a babble of lamentations, wringing he_ands, and rubbing her lips together. She was a woman passed of thirty, bu_hin still and fair like her brother in the face, for she was his twin.
'Ah,' she cried, 'he threated that if I would not give evidence I must go bac_o Lincolnshire. You do not know what it is to go back to Lincolnshire. Ah, God! the old father, the old house, the wet. My clothes were all mouldered. _as willing to give true evidence to save myself, but they twisted it t_alse. It was the Duke of Norfolk … '
The Lady Mary came slowly over the floor.
'Against whom did you give your evidence?' she said, and her voice was cold, hard, and commanding.
Mary Hall covered her face with her hands, and wailed desolately in a hig_ote, like a wolf's howl, that reverberated in that dim gallery.
The Lady Mary struck her a hard blow with the cover of her book upon the hand_nd the side of her head.
'Against whom did you give your evidence?' she said again.
The woman fell over upon one hand, the other she raised to shield herself. He_yes were flooded with great teardrops; her mouth was open in an agony. Th_ady Mary raised her book to strike again: its covers were of wood, and it_ngles bound with silver work. The woman screamed out, and then uttered—
'Against Dearham and one Mopock first. And then against Sir T. Culpepper.'
The Queen stood up to her height; her hand went over her heart; the nette_urse dropped to the floor soundlessly.
'God help me!' Mary Hall cried out. 'Dearham and Culpepper are both dead!'
The Queen sprang back three paces.
'How dead!' she cried. 'They were not even ill.'
'Upon the block,' the maid said. 'Last night, in the dark, in their gaols.'
The Queen let her hands fall slowly to her sides.
'Who did this?' she said, and Mary Hall answered—
'It was the King!'
The Lady Mary set her book under her arm.
'Ye might have known it was the King,' she said harshly. The Queen was a_till as a pillar of ebony and ivory, so black her dress was, and so white he_ace and pendant hands.
'I repent me! I repent me!' the maid cried out. 'When I heard that they wer_ead I repented me and came here. The old Duchess of Norfolk is in gaol: sh_urned the letters of Dearham! The Lady Rochford is in gaol, and old Si_icholas, and the Lady Cicely that was ever with the Queen; the Lord Edmun_oward shall to gaol and his lady.'
'Why,' the Lady Mary said to the Queen, 'if you had not had such a fear o_epotism, your father and mother and grandmother and cousin had been her_bout you, and not so easily taken.'
The Queen stood still whilst all her hopes fell down.
'They have taken Lady Cicely that was ever with me,' she said.
'It was the Duke of Norfolk that pressed me most,' Mary Lascelles cried out.
'Aye, he would,' the Lady Mary answered.
The Queen tottered upon her feet.
'Ask her more,' she said. 'I will not speak with her.'
'The King in his council … ' the girl began.
'Is the King in his council upon these matters?' the Lady Mary asked.
'Aye, he sitteth there,' Mary Hall said. 'And he hath heard evidence of Mar_relyon the Queen's maid, how that the Queen's Highness did bid her begone o_he night that Sir T. Culpepper came to her room, before he came. And how tha_he Queen was very insistent that she should go, upon the score of fatigue an_he lateness of the hour. And she hath deponed that on other nights, too, thi_as happened, that the Queen's Highness, when she hath come late to bed, hat_qually done the same thing. And other her maids have deponed how the Quee_ath sent them from her presence and relieved them of tasks——'
'Well, well,' the Lady Mary said, 'often I have urged the Queen that sh_hould be less gracious. Better it had been if she had beat ye all as I hav_one; then had ye feared to betray her.'
'Aye,' Mary Hall said, 'it is a true thing that your Grace saith there.'
'Call me not your Grace,' the Lady Mary said. 'I will be no Grace in thi_ourt of wolves and hogs.'
That was the sole thing that she said to show she was of the Queen's party.
But ever she questioned the kneeling woman to know what evidence had bee_iven, and of the attitude of the lords.
The young Poins had sworn roundly that the Queen had bidden him to summon n_uards when her cousin had broken in upon her. Only Udal had said that he kne_othing of how Katharine had agreed with her cousin whilst they were i_incolnshire. It had been after his time there that Culpepper came. It ha_een after his time, too, and whilst he lay in chains at Pontefract tha_ulpepper had come to her door. He stuck to that tale, though the Duke o_orfolk had beat and threatened him never so.
'Why, what wolves Howards be,' the Lady Mary said, 'for it is only wolves, o_ll beasts, that will prey upon the sick of their kind.'
The Queen stood there, swaying back as if she were very sick, her eyes fas_losed, and the lids over them very blue.
It was only when the Lady Mary drew from the woman an account of the King'_emeanour that she showed a sign of hearing.
'His Highness,' the woman said, 'sate always mute.'
'His Highness would,' the Lady Mary said. 'He is in that at least royal—tha_e letteth jackals do his hunting.'
It was only when the Archbishop of Canterbury, reading from the indictment o_ulpepper, had uttered the words: 'did by the obtaining of the Lady Rochfor_eet with the Queen's Highness by night in a secret and vile place,' that th_ing had called out—
'Body of God! mine own bedchamber!' as if he were hatefully mocking th_rchbishop.
The Queen leant suddenly forward—
'Said he no more than that?' she cried eagerly.
'No more, oh your dear Grace,' the maid said. And the Queen shuddered an_hispered—
'No more!—And I have spoken to this woman to obtain no more than "no more."'
Again she closed her eyes, and she did not again speak, but hung her hea_orward as if she were thinking.
'Heaven help me!' the maid said.
'Why, think no more of Heaven,' the Lady Mary said, 'there is but the fire o_ell for such beasts as you.'
'Had you such a brother as mine——' Mary Hall began. But the Lady Mary crie_ut—
'Cease, dog! I have a worse father, but you have not found him force me t_ork vileness.'
'All the other Papists have done worse than I,' Mary Hall said, 'for they i_as that forced us by threats to speak.'
'Not one was of the Queen's side?' the Lady Mary said.
'Not one,' Mary Hall answered. 'Gardiner was more fierce against her than h_f Canterbury, the Duke of Norfolk than either.'
The Lady Mary said—
'Myself I did hear the Duke of Norfolk say, when I was drawn to give evidence, that he begged the King to let him tear my secrets from my heart. For so di_e abhor the abominable deeds done by his two nieces, Anne Boleyn an_atharine Howard, that he could no longer desire to live. And he said neithe_ould he live longer without some comfortable assurance of His Highness'_oyal favour. And so he fell upon me——'
The woman fell to silence. Without, the rain had ceased, and, like heav_urtains trailing near the ground, the clouds began to part and sweep away. _orn sounded, and there went a party of men with pikes across the terrace.
'Well, and what said you?' the Lady Mary said.
'Ask me not,' Mary Lascelles said woefully. She averted her eyes to the floo_t her side.
'By God, but I will know,' the Lady Mary snarled. 'You shall tell me.' She ha_hat of royal bearing from her sire that the woman was amazed at her words, and, awakening like one in a dream, she rehearsed the evidence that had bee_hreated from her.
She had told of the lascivious revels and partings, in the maid's garret a_he old Duchess's, when Katharine had been a child there. She had told ho_arnock the musicker had called her his mistress, and how Dearham, Katharine'_ousin, had beaten him. And how Dearham had given Katharine a half of a silve_oin.
'Well, that is all true,' the Lady Mary said. 'How did you perjure yourself?'
'In the matter of the Queen's age,' the woman faltered.
'How that?' the Lady Mary asked.
'The Duke would have me say that she was more than a young child.'
The Lady Mary said, 'Ah! ah! there is the yellow dog!' She thought for _oment.
'And you said?' she asked at last.
'The Duke threated me and threated me. And say I, "Your Grace must know ho_oung she was." And says he, "I would swear that at that date she was n_hild, but that I do not know how many of these nauseous Howard brats ther_e. Nor yet the order in which they came. But this I will swear that I thin_here has been some change of the Queen with a whelp that died in the litter, that she might seem more young. And of a surety she was always learned beyon_er assumed years, so that it was not to be believed."'
Mary Lascelles closed her eyes and appeared about to faint.
'Speak on, dog,' Mary said.
The woman roused herself to say with a solemn piteousness—
'This I swear that before this trial, when my brother pressed me and threate_e thus to perjure myself, I abhorred it and spat in his face. There was non_ore firm—nor one half so firm as I—against him. But oh, the Duke and th_error—and to be in a ring of so many villainous men… .'
'So that you swore that the Queen's Highness, to your knowledge, was olde_han a child,' the Lady Mary pressed her.
'Ay; they would have me say that it was she that commanded to have thes_evels… .'
She leaned forward with both her hands on the floor, in the attitude of _east that goes four-footed. She cried out—
'Ask me no more! ask me no more!'
'Tell! tell! Beast!' the Lady Mary said.
'They threated me with torture,' the woman panted. 'I could do no less. _eard Margot Poins scream.'
'They have tortured her?' the Lady Mary said.
'Ay, and she was in her pains elsewise,' the woman said.
'Did she say aught?' the Lady Mary said.
'No! no!' the woman panted. Her hair had fallen loose in her coif, it depende_n to her shoulder.
'Tell on! tell on!' the Lady Mary said.
'They tortured her, and she did not say one word more, but ever in her agon_ried out, "Virtuous! virtuous!" till her senses went.'
Mary Hall again raised herself to her knees.
'Let me go, let me go,' she moaned. 'I will not speak before the Queen. I ha_een as loyal as Margot Poins… . But I will not speak before the Queen. I lov_er as well as Margot Poins. But … I will not——'
She cried out as the Lady Mary struck her, and her face was lamentable wit_ts opened mouth. She scrambled to one knee; she got on both, and ran to th_oor. But there she cried out—
'My brother!' and fell against the wall. Her eyes were fixed upon the Lad_ary with a baleful despair, she gasped and panted for breath.
'It is upon you if I speak,' she said. 'Merciful God, do not bid me spea_efore the Queen!'
She held out her hands as if she had been praying.
'Have I not proved that I loved this Queen?' she said. 'Have I not fled her_o warn her? Is it not my life that I risk? Merciful God! Merciful God! Bid m_ot to speak.'
'Speak!' the Lady Mary said.
The woman appealed to the Queen with her eyes streaming, but Katharine stoo_ilent and like a statue with sightless eyes. Her lips smiled, for she though_f her Redeemer; for this woman she had neither ears nor eyes.
'Speak!' the Lady Mary said.
'God help you, be it on your head,' the woman cried out, 'that I speak befor_he Queen. It was the King that bade me say she was so old. I would not say i_efore the Queen, but you have made me!'
The Lady Mary's hands fell powerless to her sides, the book from her opene_ingers jarred on the hard floor.
'Merciful God!' she said. 'Have I such a father?'
'It was the King!' the woman said. 'His Highness came to life when he hear_hese words of the Duke's, that the Queen was older than she reported. H_ould have me say that the Queen's Highness was of a marriageable age an_ontracted to her cousin Dearham.'
'Merciful God!' the Lady Mary said again. 'Dear God, show me some way to tea_rom myself the sin of my begetting. I had rather my mother's confessor ha_een my father than the King! Merciful God!'
'Never was woman pressed as I was to say this thing. And well ye wot—bette_han I did before—what this King is. I tell you—and I swear it——'
She stopped and trembled, her eyes, from which the colour had gone, wide ope_nd lustreless, her face pallid and ashen, her mouth hanging open. The Quee_as moving towards her.
She came very slowly, her hands waving as if she sought support from the air, but her head was erect.
'What will you do?' the Lady Mary said. 'Let us take counsel!'
Katharine Howard said no word. It was as if she walked in her sleep.