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The winter passed, with much running to and fro, in foul weather and fair; and still the sounds of war came no nearer to Raglan, which lay like a great lion in a desert that the hunter dared not arouse. The whole of Wales, except a castle or two, remained subject to the king; and this he owed in great measure to the influence and devotion of the Somersets, his obligation to whom he seemed more and more bent on acknowledging.
One day in early summer lady Margaret was sitting in her parlour, busy with her embroidery, and Dorothy was by her side assisting her, when lord Herbert, who had been absent for many days, walked in.
'How does my lady Glamorgan?' he said gaily.
'What mean you, my Herbert?' returned his wife, looking in his eyes somewhat eagerly.
'Thy Herbert am I no more; neither plume I myself any more in the spare feathers of my father. Thou art, my dove, as thou deservest to be, countess of Glamorgan, in the right of thine own husband, first earl of the same; for such being the will of his majesty, I doubt not thou wilt give thy consent thereto, and play the countess graciously. Come, Dorothy, art not proud to be cousin to an earl?'
'I am proud that you should call me cousin, my lord,' answered Dorothy; 'but truly to me it is all one whether you be called Herbert or Glamorgan. So thou remain thou, cousin, and my friend, the king may call thee what he will, and if thou art pleased, so am I.'
It was the first time she had ever thou'd him, and she turned pale at her own daring.
'St. George! but thou hast well spoken, cousin!' cried the earl. 'Hath she not, wife?'
'So well that if she often saith as well, I shall have much ado not to hate her,' replied lady Glamorgan. 'When didst thou ever cry "well spoken" to thy mad Irishwoman, Ned?'
'All thou dost is well, my lady. Thou hast all the titles to my praises already in thy pocket. Besides, cousin Dorothy is young and meek, and requireth a little encouragement.'
'Whereas thy wife is old and bold, and cares no more for thy good word, my new lord of Glamorgan?'
Dorothy looked so grave that they both fell a-laughing.
'I would thou couldst teach her a merry jest or two, Margaret,' said the earl. 'We are decent people enough in Raglan, but she is much too sober for us. Cheer up, Dorothy! Good times are at hand: that thou mayest not doubt it, listen--but this is only for thy ear, not for thy tongue: the king hath made thy cousin, that is me, Edward Somerset, the husband of this fair lady, generalissimo of his three armies, and admiral of a fleet, and truly I know not what all, for I have yet but run my eye over the patent. And, wife, I verily do believe the king but bides his time to make my father duke of Somerset, and then one day thou wilt be a duchess, Margaret. Think on that!'
Lady Glamorgan burst into tears.
'I would I might have a kiss of my Molly!' she cried.
She had never before in Dorothy's hearing uttered the name of her child since her death. New dignity, strange as it may seem to some, awoke suddenly the thought of the darling to whom titles were but words, and the ice was broken. A pause followed.
'Yes, Margaret, thou art right,' said Glamorgan at length; 'it is all but folly; yet as the marks of a king's favour, such honours are precious.'
As to what a king's favour itself might be worth, that my lord of Glamorgan lived to learn.
'It is I who pay for them,' said his wife.
'How so, my dove?'
'Do they not cost me thee, Herbert--and cost me very dear? Art not ever from my sight? Wish I not often as I lay awake in the dark, that we were all in heaven and well over with the foolery of it? The angels keep Molly in mind of us!'
'Yes, my Peggy, it is hard on thee, and hard on me too,' said the earl tenderly, 'yet not so hard as upon our liege lord, the king, who selleth his plate and jewels.'
'Pooh! what of that then, Herbert? An' he would leave me thee, he might have all mine, and welcome; for thou knowest, Ned, I but hold them for thee to sell when thou wilt.'
'I know; and the time may come, though, thank God, it is not yet. What wouldst thou say, countess, if with all thy honours thou did yet come to poverty? Canst be poor and merry, think'st thou?'
'So thou wert with me, Herbert--Glamorgan, I would say, but my lips frame not themselves to the word. I like not the title greatly, but when it means thee to me, then shall I love it.'
'Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers? O sweet content!'
--sang the earl in a mellow tenor voice.
'My lord, an' I have leave to speak,' said Dorothy, 'did you not say the diamond in that ring Richard Heywood sent me was of some worth?'
'I did, cousin. It is a stone of the finest water, and of good weight, though truly I weighed it not.'
'Then would I cast it in the king's treasury, an' if your lordship would condescend to be the bearer of such a small offering.'
'No, child; the king robs not orphans.'
'Did the King of Kings rob the poor widow that cast in her two mites, then?'
'No; but perhaps the priests did. Still, as I say, the hour may come when all our mites may be wanted, and thine be accepted with the rest, but my father and I have yet much to give, and shall have given it before that hour come. Besides, as to thee, Dorothy, what would that handsome roundhead of thine say, if instead of keeping well the ring he gave thee, thou had turned it to the use he liked the least?'
'He will never ask me concerning it,' said Dorothy, with a faint smile.
'Be not over-sure of it, child. My lady asks me many things I never thought to tell her before the priest made us one. Dorothy, I have no right and no wish to spy into thy future, and fright thee with what, if it come at all, will come peacefully as June weather. I have not constructed thy horoscope to cast thy nativity, and therefore I speak as one of the ignorant; but let me tell thee, for I do say it confidently, that if these wars were once over, and the king had his own again, there will be few men in his three kingdoms so worthy of the hand and heart of Dorothy Vaughan as that same roundhead fellow, Richard Heywood. I would to God he were as good a catholic as he is a mistaken puritan! And now, my lady, may I not send thy maiden from us, for I would talk with thee alone of certain matters--not from distrust of Dorothy, but that they are not my own to impart, therefore I pray her absence.'
The parliament having secured the assistance of the Scots, and their forces having, early in the year, entered England, the king on his side was now meditating an attempt to secure the assistance of the Irish catholics, to which the devotion of certain of the old catholic houses at home encouraged him. But it was a game of terrible danger, for if he lost it, he lost everything; and that it should transpire before maturity would be to lose it absolutely; for the Irish catholics had, truly or falsely, been charged with such enormities during the rebellion, that they had become absolutely hateful in the eyes of all English protestants, and any alliance with them must cost him far more in protestants than he could gain by it in catholics. It was necessary therefore that he should go about it with the utmost caution; and indeed in his whole management of it, the wariness far exceeded the dignity, and was practised at the expense of his best friends. But the poor king was such a believer in his father's pet doctrine of the divine right of his inheritance, that not only would he himself sacrifice everything to the dim shadow of royalty which usurped the throne of his conscience, but would, without great difficulty or compunction, though not always without remorse, accept any sacrifice which a subject might have devotion enough to bring to the altar before which Charles Stuart acted as flamen.
In this my story of hearts rather than fortunes, it is not necessary to follow the river of public events through many of its windings, although every now and then my track will bring me to a ferry, where the boat bearing my personages will be seized by the force of the current, and carried down the stream while crossing to the other bank.
It must have been, I think, in view of his slowly-maturing intention to employ lord Herbert in a secret mission to Ireland with the object above mentioned, that the king had sought to bind him yet more closely to himself by conferring on him the title of Glamorgan. It was not, however, until the following year, when his affairs seemed on the point of becoming desperate, that he proceeded, possibly with some protestant compunctions, certainly with considerable protestant apprehension, to carry out his design. Towards this had pointed the relaxation of his measures against the catholic rebels for some time previous, and may to some have indicated hopes entertained of them. It must be remembered that while these catholics united to defend the religion of their country, they, like the Scots who had joined the parliament, professed a sincere attachment to their monarch, and in the persons of their own enemies had certainly taken up arms against many of his.
Meantime the Scots had invaded England, and the parliament had largely increased their forces in the hope of a decisive engagement; but the king refused battle and gained time. In the north prince Rupert made some progress, and brought on the battle of Marston Moor, where the victory was gained by Cromwell, after all had been regarded as lost by the other parliamentary generals. On the other hand, the king gained an important advantage in the west country over Essex and his army.
The trial and execution of Laud, who died in the beginning of the following year, obeying the king rather than his rebellious lords, was a terrible sign to the house of Raglan of what the presbyterian party was capable of. But to Dorothy it would have given a yet keener pain, had she not begun to learn that neither must the excesses of individuals be attributed to their party, nor those of his party taken as embodying the mind of every one who belongs to it. At the same time the old insuperable difficulty returned; how could Richard belong to such a party?
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