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Sighed and muttered: “The simple, fearful child
While she brooded thus There rode an armed warrior to the doors. Then on a sudden a cry, “ The king!” She sat Stiff-stricken. Then a voice, though changed, the king's: “Fear not, thou shalt be guarded till my death; If prophecy err not, I march to meet my doom. Thou hast not made my life so sweet to me, That I, the king, should greatly care to live; For thou hast spoiled the purpose of my life. How sad it were for Arthur, should he live, To sit once more within his lonely hall. Better the king's waste hearth and aching heart Than thou reseated in thy place of light, The mockery of my people, and their bane. I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere, But hither shall I never come again. Farewell!”
Then listening till those armed steps were gone,
Ye know me, then, that wicked one, who broke
do not shudder at me
Mingle with your rites; pray and be prayed for;
INTERVIEW BETWEEN AMY AND LORD
LEICESTER AT KENILWORTH.
[Amy Robsart was confined in a room in one of the towers, while Queen Elizabeth, attended by court-ladies and gentlemen, went on a hunting expedition. When they returned, Lord Leicester determined to see Amy. Disguised as a servant of Varney, who had free access to Amy's room under the character of her husband, Lord Leicester passed the sentinel in safety and entered the room.]
shevelled, was seated upon a sort of couch in an attitude of the deepest affliction, out of which she was startled by the opening of the door. She turned hastily round, and fixing her eye on Varney, exclaimed: “Wretch, art thou come to frame some new plan of villainy?"
Leicester cut short her reproaches by stepping forward and dropping his cloak, while he said in a voice rather of authority than of affection: “It is with me, madam, you have to commune, not with Sir Richard Varney."
The change effected on the countess's look and manner was like magic. Dudley!” she exclaimed, “Dudley! and art thou come
at last?” And with the speed of lightning she flew to her husband, hung round his neck, and, unheeding the presence of Varney, overwhelmed him with caresses, while she bathed his face in a flood of tears; muttering, at the same time, but in broken and disjointed monosyllables, the fondest expressions which Love teaches his votaries.
Leicester, as it seemed to him, had reason to be angry with his lady for transgressing his commands, and thus placing him in the perilous situation in which he had that morning stood. But what displeasure could keep its ground before these testimonies of affection from a being so lovely, that even the negligence of dress, and the withering effects of fear, grief, and fatigue, which would have impaired the beauty of others, rendered hers but the more interesting! He received and repaid her caresses with fondness mingled with melancholy, the last of which she seemed scarcely to observe, until the first transport of her own joy was over; when, . looking anxiously in his face, she asked if he was ill.
“Not in my body, Amy,” was his answer.
“ Then I will be well, too.—0 Dudley! I have been ill!-very ill, since we last met! I have been in sickness, in grief, and in danger. But thou art come, and all is joy and health, and safety!”
Alas! Amy,” said Leicester, “ thou hast undone me!”
“I, my lord ?” said Amy, her cheek at once losing its transient flush of joy—“how could I injure that which I love better than myself?
“I would not upbraid you, Amy,” replied the earl; “but are you not here contrary to my express commands—and does not your presence here endanger both yourself and me?"
“Does it, does it, indeed!” she exclaimed eagerly: "then why am I here a moment longer ? Oh, if you knew by what fears I was urged to quit Cumnor Place!—but I will say nothing of myselfonly that if it might be otherwise, I would not willingly return thither;—yet if it concern your safety-
“We will think, Amy, of some other retreat," said Leicester; "you shall go to one of my northern castles, under the personageit will be but needful, I trust, for a very few days—of Varney's wife.”
“How, my lord of Leicester!” said the lady disengaging herself from his embraces; “is it to your wife you give the dishonorable counsel to acknowledge herself the bride of another-and of all men, the bride of that Varney ?”
Madam, I speak it in earnest; Varney is my true and faithful servant, trusted in my deepest secrets. I had better lose my right hand than his service at this moment. You have no cause to scorn him as you do."
"I could assign one, my lord,” replied the countess; "and I see he shakes even under that assured look of his. But he that is necessary as your right hand to your safety, is free from any accusation of mine. May he be true to you; and that he may be true, trust him not too far. But it is enough to say, that I will not go with him unless by violence, nor would I acknowledge him as my husband, were all
“ It is a temporary deception, madam,” said Leicester, irritated by her opposition, “necessary for both our safeties, endangered by you through female caprice, or the premature desire to seize on a rank to which I gave you title, only under condition that our marriage, for a time, should continue secret. If my proposal disgust you, it is yourself has brought it on both of us.
There is no other remedy-you must do what your own impatient folly hath rendered necessary—I command you.”
“I cannot put your commands, my lord,” said Amy, “in balance with those of honor and conscience. I will not, in this instance, obey you. You may achieve your own dishonor, to which these crooked policies naturally tend, but I will do naught that can blemish mine.”
“My lord,” said Varney interposing, “my lady is too much prejudiced against me, unhappily, to listen to what I can offer, yet it may please her better than what she proposes. She has good interest with Master Edmund Tressilian, and could doubtless prevail on him to consent to be her companion to Lidcote Hall, and there she might remain in safety until time permitted the development of this mystery."
Leicester was silent, but stood looking eagerly on Amy, with eyes which seemed to glow as much with suspicion as displeasure.
The countess only said, “Would to God I were in my father's house! When I left it, I little thought I was leaving peace of mind and honor behind me."
Varney proceeded with a tone of deliberation, "Doubtless this will make it necessary to take strangers into my lord's counsels; but surely the countess will be warrant for the honor of Master Tressilian, and such of her father's family-_”
Peace, Varney,” said Leicester; “ by Heaven, I will strike my dagger into thee, if again thou namest Tressilian as a partner of my counsels!”
“And wherefore not ? ” said the countess; "unless they be counsels fitter for such as Varney, than for a man of stainless honor and integrity. My lord, my lord, bend no angry brows on me-it is the truth, and it is I who speak it. I once did Tressilian wrong for your sake. I will not do him the further injustice of being silent when his honor is brought into question. I can forbear," she said, looking at Varney, “ to pull the mask off hypocrisy, but I will not permit virtue to be slandered in my hearing."
There was a dead pause. Leicester stood displeased, yet undetermined, and too conscious of the weakness of his cause; while Varney, with a deep and hypocritical affectation of sorrow, mingled with humility, bent his eyes on the ground.
It was then that the Countess Amy displayed, in the midst of distress and difficulty, the natural energy of character, which would have rendered her, had fate allowed, a distinguished ornament of the rank which she held.
She walked up to Leicester with a composed step, a dignified air, and looks in which strong affection essayed in vain to shake the firmness of conscious truth and rectitude of principle. “You have spoken your mind, my lord,” she said, “in these difficulties with which, unhappily, I have found myself unable to comply. This gentleman-this person I should say--has hinted at another scheme, to which I object not, but as it displeases you. Will your lordship be pleased to hear what a young and timid woman, but your most affectionate wife, can suggest in the present extremity ?”