Chapter 10




Every man, if you bring him to the right point, if you touch him in the
corner where he is most sensitive, where he most lives, as it were; if
you prick his nerves with a needle of suggestion where all his passions,
ambitions and sentiments are at white heat, will readily throw away the
whole game of life in some mad act out of harmony with all he ever did.
It matters little whether the needle prick him by accident or blunder or
design, he will burst all bounds, and establish again the old truth that
each of us will prove himself a fool given perfect opportunity. Nor need
the occasion of this revolution be a great one; the most trivial event
may produce the great fire which burns up wisdom, prudence and habit.

The Earl of Leicester, so long counted astute, clearheaded, and
well-governed, had been suddenly foisted out of balance, shaken from his
imperious composure, tortured out of an assumed and persistent urbanity,
by the presence in Greenwich Palace of a Huguenot exile of no seeming
importance, save what the Medici grimly gave him by desiring his head. It
appeared absurd that the great Leicester, whose nearness to the throne
had made him the most feared, most notable, and, by virtue of his
opportunities, the most dramatic figure in England, should have sleepless
nights by reason of a fugitive like Michel de la Foret. On the surface it
was preposterous that he should see in the Queen's offer of service to
the refugee evidence that she was set to grant him special favours; it
was equally absurd that her offer of safety to him on pledge of his
turning preacher should seem proof that she meant to have him near her.
Elizabeth had left the presence-chamber without so much as a glance at
him, though she had turned and looked graciously at the stranger. He had
hastily followed her, and thereafter impatiently awaited a summons which
never came, though he had sent a message that his hours were at her
Majesty's disposal. Waiting, he saw Angele's father escorted from the
palace by a Gentleman Pensioner to a lodge in the park; he saw Michel de
la Foret taken to his apartments; he saw the Seigneur of Rozel walking in
the palace grounds with such possession as though they were his own,
self-content in every motion of his body.

Upon the instant the great Earl was incensed out of all proportion to the
affront of the Seigneur's existence. He suddenly hated Lempriere only
less than he hated Michel de la Foret. As he still waited irritably for a
summons from Elizabeth, he brooded on every word and every look she had
given him of late; he recalled her manner to him in the ante-chapel the
day before, and the admiring look she cast on De la Foret but now. He had
seen more in it than mere approval of courage and the self-reliant
bearing of a refugee of her own religion.

These were days when the soldier of fortune mounted to high places. He
needed but to carry the banner of bravery, and a busy sword, and his way
to power was not hindered by poor estate. To be gently born was the one
thing needful, and Michel de la Foret was gently born; and he had still
his sword, though he chose not to use it in Elizabeth's service. My Lord
knew it might be easier for a stranger like De la Foret, who came with no
encumbrance, to mount to place in the struggles of the Court, than for an
Englishman, whose increasing and ever-bolder enemies were undermining on
every hand, to hold his own.

He began to think upon ways and means to meet this sudden preference of
the Queen, made sharply manifest as he waited in the ante-chamber, by a
summons to the refugee to enter the Queen's apartments. When the refugee
came forth again he wore a sword the Queen had sent him, and a packet of
Latimer's sermons were under his arm. Leicester was unaware that
Elizabeth herself did not see De la Foret when he was thus hastily
called; but that her lady-in-waiting, the Duke's Daughter, who figured so
largely in the pictures Lempriere drew of his experiences at Greenwich
Palace, brought forth the sermons and the sword, with this message from
the Queen:

"The Queen says that it is but fair to the sword to be by Michel de la
Foret's side when the sermons are in his hand, that his choice have every
seeming of fairness. For her Majesty says it is still his choice between
the Sword and the Book till Trinity Day."

Leicester, however, only saw the sword at the side of the refugee and the
gold-bound book under his arm as he came forth, and in a rage he left the
palace and gloomily walked under the trees, denying himself to every one.

To seize De la Foret, and send him to the Medici, and then rely on
Elizabeth's favour for his pardon, as he had done in the past? That might
do, but the risk to England was too great. It would be like the Queen, if
her temper was up, to demand from the Medici the return of De la Foret,
and war might ensue. Two women, with two nations behind them, were not to
be played lightly against each other, trusting to their common sense and
humour.

As he walked among the trees, brooding with averted eyes, he was suddenly
faced by the Seigneur of Rozel, who also was shaken from his discretion
and the best interests of the two fugitives he was bound to protect, by a
late offence against his own dignity. A seed of rancour had been sown in
his mind which had grown to a great size and must presently burst into a
dark flower of vengeance. He, Lempriere of Rozel, with three dovecotes,
the perquage, and the office of butler to the Queen, to be called a
"farmer," to be sneered at--it was not in the blood of man, not in the
towering vanity of a Lempriere, to endure it at any price computable to
mortal mind.

Thus there were in England on that day two fools (there are as many now),
and one said:

"My Lord Leicester, I crave a word with you."

"Crave on, good fellow," responded Leicester with a look of boredom,
making to pass by.

"I am Lempriere, lord of Rozel, my lord--"

"Ah yes, I took you for a farmer," answered Leicester. "Instead of that,
I believe you keep doves, and wear a jerkin that fits like a king's. Dear
Lord, so does greatness come with girth!"

"The King that gave me dove-cotes gave me honour, and 'tis not for the
Earl of Leicester to belittle it."

"What is your coat of arms?" said Leicester with a faint smile, but in an
assumed tone of natural interest.

"A swan upon a sea of azure, two stars above, and over all a sword with a
wreath around its point," answered Lempriere simply, unsuspecting irony,
and touched by Leicester's flint where he was most like to flare up with
vanity.

"Ah!" said Leicester. "And the motto?"

"Mea spes supra stella--my hope is beyond the stars."

"And the wreath--of parsley, I suppose?"

Now Lempriere understood, and he shook with fury as he roared:

"Yes, by God, and to be got at the point of the sword, to put on the
heads of insolents like Lord Leicester!" His face was flaming, he was
like a cock strutting upon a stable mound.

There fell a slight pause, and then Leicester said: "To-morrow at
daylight, eh?"

"Now, my lord, now!"

"We have no seconds."

"'Sblood! 'Tis not your way, my lord, to be stickling in detail of
courtesy."

"'Tis not the custom to draw swords in secret, Lempriere of Rozel. Also
my teeth are not on edge to fight you."

Lempriere had already drawn his sword, and the look of his eyes was as
that of a mad bull in a ring. "You won't fight with me--you don't think
Rozel your equal?" His voice was high.

Leicester's face took on a hard, cruel look. "We cannot fight among the
ladies," he said quietly. Lempriere followed his glance, and saw the
Duke's Daughter and another in the trees near by.

He hastily put up his sword. "When, my lord?" he asked.

"You will hear from me to-night," was the answer, and Leicester went
forward hastily to meet the ladies--they had news no doubt.

Lempriere turned on his heel and walked quickly away among the trees
towards the quarters where Buonespoir was in durance, which was little
more severe than to keep him within the palace yard. There he found the
fool and the pirate in whimsical converse.

The fool had brought a letter of inquiry and warm greeting from Angele to
Buonespoir, who was laboriously inditing one in return. When Lempriere
entered the pirate greeted him jovially.

"In the very pinch of time you come," he said. "You have grammar and
syntax and etiquette."

"'Tis even so, Nuncio," said the fool. "Here is needed prosody potential.
Exhale!"

The three put their heads together above the paper.



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