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It seemed an unspeakable smallness in a man of such high place in the
State, whose hand had tied and untied myriad knots of political and court
intrigue, that he should stoop to a game which any pettifogging hanger-on
might play-and reap scorn in the playing. By insidious arts, Leicester
had in his day turned the Queen's mind to his own will; had foiled the
diplomacy of the Spaniard, the German and the Gaul; had by subterranean
means checkmated the designs of the Medici; had traced his way through
plot and counter-plot, hated by most, loved by none save, maybe, his
Royal mistress to whom he was now more a custom than a cherished friend.
Year upon year he had built up his influence. None had championed him
save himself, and even from the consequences of rashness and folly he had
risen to a still higher place in the kingdom. But such as Leicester are
ever at last a sacrifice to the laborious means by which they achieve
their greatest ends-means contemptible and small.
To the great intriguers every little detail, every commonplace
insignificance is used--and must be used by them alone--to further their
dark causes. They cannot trust their projects to brave lieutenants, to
faithful subordinates. They cannot say, "Here is the end; this is the
work to be done; upon your shoulders be the burden!" They must "stoop to
conquer." Every miserable detail becomes of moment, until by-and-by the
art of intrigue and conspiracy begins to lose proportion in their minds.
The detail has ever been so important, conspiracy so much second nature,
that they must needs be intriguing and conspiring when the occasion is
trifling and the end negligible.
To all intriguers life has lost romance; there is no poem left in nature;
no ideal, personal, public or national, detains them in its wholesome
influence; no great purpose allures them; they have no causes for which
to die--save themselves. They are so honeycombed with insincerity and the
vice of thought, that by-and-by all colours are as one, all pathways the
same; because, whichever hue of light breaks upon their world they see it
through the grey-cloaked mist of falsehood; and whether the path be good
or bad they would still walk in it crookedly. How many men and women
Leicester had tracked or lured to their doom; over how many men and women
he had stepped to his place of power, history speaks not carefully; but
the traces of his deeds run through a thousand archives, and they suggest
plentiful sacrifices to a subverted character.
Favourite of a Queen, he must now stoop to set a trap for the ruin of as
simple a soul as ever stepped upon the soil of England; and his dark
purposes had not even the excuse of necessity on the one hand, of love or
passion on the other. An insane jealousy of the place the girl had won in
the consideration of the Queen, of her lover who, he thought, had won a
still higher place in the same influence, was his only motive for action
at first. His cruelty was not redeemed even by the sensuous interest the
girl might arouse in a reckless nature by her beauty and her charm.
So the great Leicester--the Gipsy, as the dead Sussex had called him--lay
in wait in Greenwich Park for Angele to pass, like some orchard thief in
the blossoming trees. Knowing the path by which she would come to her
father's cottage from the palace, he had placed himself accordingly. He
had thought he might have to wait long or come often for the perfect
opportunity; but it seemed as if Fate played his game for him, and that
once again the fruit he would pluck should fall into his palm.
Bright-eyed, and elated from a long talk with the Duke's Daughter, who
had given her a message from the Queen, Angele had abstractedly taken the
wrong path in the wood. Leicester saw that it would lead her into the
maze some distance off. Making a detour, he met her at the moment she
discovered her mistake. The light from the royal word her friend had
brought was still in her face; but it was crossed by perplexity now.
He stood still as though astonished at seeing her, a smile upon his face.
So perfectly did he play his part that she thought the meeting
accidental; and though in her heart she had a fear of the man and knew
how bitter an enemy he was of Michel's, his urbane power, his skilful
diplomacy of courtesy had its way. These complicated lives, instinct with
contradiction, have the interest of forbidden knowledge. The dark
experiences of life leave their mark and give such natures that touch of
mystery which allures even those who have high instincts and true
feelings, as one peeps over a hidden depth and wonders what lies beyond
the dark. So Angele, suddenly arrested, was caught by the sense of
mystery in the man, by the fascination of finesse, of dark power; and it
was womanlike that all on an instant she should dream of the soul of
goodness in things evil.
Thus in life we are often surprised out of long years of prejudice, and
even of dislike and suspicion, by some fortuitous incident, which might
have chanced to two who had every impulse towards each other, not such
antagonisms as lay between Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and this
Huguenot refugee. She had every cue to hate hum. Each moment of her life
in England had been beset with peril because of him-peril to the man she
loved, therefore peril to herself. And yet, so various is the nature of
woman, that, while steering straitly by one star, she levies upon the
light of other stars. Faithful and sincere, yet loving power, curious and
adventurous, she must needs, without intention, without purpose, stray
into perilous paths.
As Leicester stepped suddenly into Angele's gaze, she was only, as it
were, conscious of a presence in itself alluring by virtue of the history
surrounding it. She was surprised out of an instinctive dislike, and the
cue she had to loathe him was for the moment lost.
Unconsciously, unintentionally, she smiled at him now, then, realising,
retreated, shrinking from him, her face averted. Man or woman had found
in Leicester the delicate and intrepid gamester, exquisite in the choice
of detail, masterful in the breadth of method. And now, as though his
whole future depended on this interview, he brought to bear a life-long
skill to influence her. He had determined to set the Queen against her.
He did not know--not even he--that she had saved the Queen's life on that
auspicious May Day when Harry Lee had fought the white knight Michel de
la Foret and halved the honours of the lists with him. If he had but
known that the Queen had hid from him this fact--this vital thing
touching herself and England, he would have viewed his future with a
vaster distrust. But there could be no surer sign of Elizabeth's growing
coldness and intended breach than that she had hid from him the dreadful
incident of the poisoned glove, and the swift execution of the would-be
murderer, and had made Cecil her only confidant. But he did know that
Elizabeth herself had commanded Michel de la Foret to the lists; and his
mad jealousy impelled him to resort to a satanic cunning towards these
two fugitives, who seemed to have mounted within a few short days as far
as had he in thrice as many years to a high place in the regard of the
Majesty of England.
To disgrace them both; to sow distrust of the girl in the Queen's mind;
to make her seem the opposite of what she was; to drop in her own mind
suspicion of her lover; to drive her to some rash act, some challenge of
the Queen herself--that was his plan. He knew how little Elizabeth's
imperious spirit would brook any challenge from this fearless girl
concerning De la Foret. But to convince her that the Queen favoured
Michel in some shadowed sense, that De la Foret was privy to a dark
compact--so deep a plot was all worthy of a larger end. He had well
inspired the Court of France through its ambassador to urge the Medici to
press actively and bitterly for De la Foret's return to France and to the
beheading sword that waited for him; and his task had been made light by
international difficulties, which made the heart of Elizabeth's foreign
policy friendship with France and an alliance against Philip of Spain.
She had, therefore, opened up, even in the past few days, negotiations
once again for the long-talked-of marriage with the Duke of Anjou, the
brother of the King, son of the Medici. State policy was involved, and,
if De la Foret might be a counter, the pledge of exchange in the game, as
it were, the path would once more be clear.
He well believed that Elizabeth's notice of De la Foret was but a fancy
that would pass, as a hundred times before such fancies had come and
gone; but against that brighter prospect there lay the fact that never
before had she shown himself such indifference. In the past she had raged
against him, she had imprisoned him; she had driven him from her presence
in her anger, but always her paroxysms of rage had been succeeded by
paroxysms of tenderness. Now he saw a colder light in the sky, a greyer
horizon met his eye. So at every corner of the compass he played for the
breaking of the spell.
Yet as he now bowed low before Angele there seemed to show in his face a
very candour of surprise, of pleasure, joined to a something friendly and
protective in his glance and manner. His voice insinuated that bygones
should be bygones; it suggested that she had misunderstood him. It
pleaded against the injustice of her prejudice.
"So far from home!" he said with a smile.
"More miles from home," she replied, thinking of never-returning days in
France, "than I shall ever count again."
"But no, methinks the palace is within a whisper," he responded.
"Lord Leicester knows well I am a prisoner; that I no longer abide in the
palace," she answered.
He laughed lightly. "An imprisonment in a Queen's friendship. I bethink
me, it is three hours since I saw you go to the palace. It is a few
worthless seconds since you have got your freedom."
She nettled at his tone. "Lord Leicester takes great interest in my
unimportant goings and comings. I cannot think it is because I go and
He chose to misunderstand her meaning. Drawing closer he bent over her
shoulder. "Since your arrival here, my only diary is the tally of your
coming and going." Suddenly, as though by an impulse of great frankness,
he added in a low tone:
"And is it strange that I should follow you--that I should worship grace
and virtue? Men call me this and that. You have no doubt been filled with
dark tales of my misdeeds. Has there been one in the Court, even one,
who, living by my bounty or my patronage, has said one good word of me?
And why? For long years the Queen, who, maybe, might have been better
counselled, chose me for her friend, adviser--because I was true to her.
I have lived for the Queen, and living for her have lived for England.
Could I keep--I ask you, could I keep myself blameless in the midst of
flattery, intrigue, and conspiracy? I admit that I have played with fiery
weapons in my day; and must needs still do so. The incorruptible cannot
exist in the corrupted air of this Court. You have come here with the
light of innocence and truth about you. At first I could scarce believe
that such goodness lived, hardly understood it. The light half-blinded
and embarrassed; but, at last, I saw! You of all this Court have made me
see what sort of life I might have lived. You have made me dream the
dreams of youth and high unsullied purpose once again. Was it strange
that in the dark pathways of the Court I watched your footsteps come and
go, carrying radiance with you? No--Leicester has learned how sombre,
sinister, has been his past, by a presence which is the soul of beauty,
of virtue, and of happy truth. Lady, my heart is yours. I worship you."
Overborne for the moment by the eager, searching eloquence of his words,
she had listened bewildered to him. Now she turned upon him with panting
breath and said:
"My lord, my lord, I will hear no more. You know I love Monsieur de la
Foret, for whose sake I am here in England--for whose sake I still
"'Tis a labour of love but ill requited," he answered with suggestion in
"What mean you, my lord?" she asked sharply, a kind of blind agony in her
voice; for she felt his meaning, and though she did not believe him, and
knew in her soul he slandered, there was a sting, for slander ever
scorches where it touches.
"Can you not see?" he said. "May Day--why did the Queen command him to
the lists? Why does she keep him here-in the palace? Why, against the
will of France, her ally, does she refuse to send him forth? Why,
unheeding the laughter of the Court, does she favour this unimportant
stranger, brave though he be? Why should she smile upon him? . . . Can
you not see, sweet lady?"
"You know well why the Queen detains him here," she answered calmly now.
"In the Queen's understanding with France, exiles who preach the faith
are free from extradition. You heard what the Queen required of him--that
on Trinity Day he should preach before her, and upon this preaching
should depend his safety."
"Indeed, so her Majesty said with great humour," replied Leicester. "So
indeed she said; but when we hide our faces a thin veil suffices. The man
is a soldier--a soldier born. Why should he turn priest now? I pray you,
think again. He was quick of wit; the Queen's meaning was clear to him;
he rose with seeming innocence to the fly, and she landed him at the
first toss. But what is forward bodes no good to you, dear star of
heaven. I have known the Queen for half a lifetime. She has wild whims
and dangerous fancies, fills her hours of leisure with experiences--an
artist is the Queen. She means no good to you."
She had made as if to leave him, though her eyes searched in vain for the
path which she should take; but she now broke in impatiently:
"Poor, unnoted though I am, the Queen of England is my friend," she
answered. "What evil could she wish me? From me she has naught to fear. I
am not an atom in her world. Did she but lift her finger I am done. But
she knows that, humble though I be, I would serve her to my last breath;
because I know, my Lord Leicester, how many there are who serve her
foully, faithlessly; and there should be those by her who would serve her
His eyes half closed, he beat his toe upon the ground. He frowned, as
though he had no wish to hurt her by words which he yet must speak. With
calculated thought he faltered.
"Yet do you not think it strange," he said at last, "that Monsieur de la
Foret should be within the palace ever, and that you should be banished
from the palace? Have you never seen the fly and the spider in the web?
Do you not know that they who have the power to bless or ban, to give joy
or withhold it, appear to give when they mean to withhold? God bless us
all--how has your innocence involved your judgment!"
She suddenly flushed to the eyes. "I have wit enough," she said acidly,
"to feel that truth which life's experience may not have taught me. It is
neither age nor evil that teaches one to judge 'twixt black and white.
God gives the true divination to human hearts that need."
It was a contest in which Leicester revelled--simplicity and
single-mindedness against the multifarious and double-tongued. He had
made many efforts in his time to conquer argument and prejudice. When he
chose, none could be more insinuating or turn the flank of a proper
argument by more adroit suggestion. He used his power now.
"You think she means well by you? You think that she, who has a thousand
ladies of a kingdom at her call, of the best and most beautiful--and
even," his voice softened, "though you are more beautiful than all, that
beauty would soften her towards you? When was it Elizabeth loved beauty?
When was it that her heart warmed towards those who would love or wed?
Did she not imprison me, even in these palace grounds, for one whole year
because I sought to marry? Has she not a hundred times sent from her
presence women with faces like flowers because they were in contrast to
her own? Do you see love blossoming at this Court? God's Son! but she
would keep us all like babes in Eden an' she could, unmated and unloved."
He drew quickly to her and leant over her, whispering down her shoulder.
"Do you think there is any reason why all at once she should change her
mind and cherish lovers?"
She looked up at him fearlessly and firmly.
"In truth, I do. My Lord Leicester, you have lived in the circle of her
good pleasure, near to her noble Majesty, as you say, for half a
lifetime. Have you not found a reason why now or any time she should
cherish love and lovers? Ah, no, you have seen her face, you have heard
her voice, but you have not known her heart!"
"Ah, opportunity lacked," he said in irony and with a reminiscent smile.
"I have been busy with State affairs, I have not sat on cushions,
listening to royal fingers on the virginals. Still, I ask you, do you
think there is a reason why from her height she should stoop down to
rescue you or give you any joy? Wherefore should the Queen do aught to
serve you? Wherefore should she save your lover?"
It was on Angele's lips to answer, "Because I saved her life on May Day."
It was on her lips to tell of the poisoned glove, but she only smiled,
"But, yes, I think, my lord, there is a reason, and in that reason I have
Leicester saw how firmly she was fixed in her idea, how rooted was her
trust in the Queen's intentions towards her; and he guessed there was
something hidden which gave her such supreme confidence.
"If she means to save him, why does she not save him now? Why not end the
business in a day--not stretch it over these long mid-summer weeks?"
"I do not think it strange," she answered. "He is a political prisoner.
Messages must come and go between England and France. Besides, who
calleth for haste? Is it I who have most at stake? It is not the first
time I have been at Court, my lord. In these high places things are
orderly,"--a touch of sarcasm came into her tone,--"life is not a mighty
rushing wind, save to those whom vexing passion drives to hasty deeds."
She made to move on once more, but paused, still not certain of her way.
"Permit me to show you," he said with a laugh and a gesture towards a
path. "Not that--this is the shorter. I will take you to a turning which
leads straight to your durance--and another which leads elsewhere."
She could not say no, because she had, in very truth, lost her way, and
she might wander far and be in danger. Also, she had no fear of him.
Steeled to danger in the past, she was not timid; but, more than all, the
game of words between them had had its fascination. The man himself, by
virtue of what he was, had his fascination also. The thing inherent in
all her sex, to peep over the hedge, to skirt dangerous fires lightly, to
feel the warmth distantly and not be scorched--that was in her, too; and
she lived according to her race and the long predisposition of the ages.
Most women like her--as good as she--have peeped and stretched out hands
to the alluring fire and come safely through, wiser and no better. But
many, too, bewildered and confused by what they see--as light from a
mirror flashed into the eye half blinds--have peeped over the hedge and,
miscalculating their power of self-control, have entered in, and returned
no more into the quiet garden of unstraying love.
Leicester quickly put on an air of gravity. "I warn you that danger lies
before you. If you cross the Queen--and you will cross the Queen when you
know the truth, as I know it--you will pay a heavy price for refusing
Leicester as your friend."
She made a protesting motion and seemed about to speak, but suddenly,
with a passionate gesture, Leicester added: "Let them go their way.
Monsieur de la Foret will be tossed aside before another winter comes. Do
you think he can abide here in the midst of plot and intrigue, and hated
by the people of the Court? He is doomed. But more, he is unworthy of
you; while I can serve you well, and I can love you well." She shrank
away from him. "No, do not turn from me, for in very truth, Leicester's
heart has been pierced by the inevitable arrow. You think I mean you
He paused with a sudden impulse continued: "No! no! And if there be a
saving grace in marriage, marriage it shall be, if you will but hear me.
You shall be my wife--Leicester's wife. As I have mounted to power so I
will hold power with you--with you, the brightest spirit that ever
England saw. Worthy of a kingdom with you beside me, I shall win to
greater, happier days; and at Kenilworth, where kings and queens have
lodged, you shall be ruler. We will leave this Court until Elizabeth,
betrayed by those who know not how to serve her, shall send for me again.
Here--the power behind the throne--you and I will sway this realm through
the aging, sentimental Queen. Listen, and look at me in the eyes--I speak
the truth, you read my heart. You think I hated you and hated De la
Foret. By all the gods, it's true I hated him, because I saw that he
would come between me and the Queen. A man must have one great passion.
Life itself must be a passion. Power was my passion--power, not the
Queen. You have broken all that down. I yield it all to you--for your
sake and my own. I would steal from life yet before my sun goes to its
setting a few years of truth and honesty and clear design. At heart I am
a patriot--a loyal Englishman. Your cause--the cause of
Protestantism--did I not fight for it at Rochelle? Have I not ever urged
the Queen to spend her revenue for your cause, to send her captains and
her men to fight for it?"
She raised her head in interest, and her lips murmured: "Yes, yes, I know
you did that."
He saw his advantage and pursued it. "See, I will be honest with
you--honest, at last, as I have wished in vain to be, for honesty was
misunderstood. It is not so with you--you understand. Dear, light of
womanhood, I speak the truth now. I have been evil in my day I admit
it--evil because I was in the midst of evil. I betrayed because I was
betrayed; I slew, else I should have been slain. We have had dark days in
England, privy conspiracy and rebellion; and I have had to thread my way
through dreadful courses by a thousand blind paths. Would it be no joy to
you if I, through your influence, recast my life--remade my policy,
renewed my youth--pursuing principle where I have pursued opportunity?
Angele, come to Kenilworth with me. Leave De la Foret to his fate. The
way to happiness is with me. Will you come?"
He had made his great effort. As he spoke he almost himself believed that
he told the truth. Under the spell of his own emotional power it seemed
as though he meant to marry her, as though he could find happiness in the
union. He had almost persuaded himself to be what he would have her to
believe he might be.
Under the warmth and convincing force of his words her pulses had beat
faster, her heart had throbbed in her throat, her eyes had glistened; but
not with that light which they had shed for Michel de la Foret. How
different was this man's wooing--its impetuous, audacious, tender
violence, with that quiet, powerful, almost sacred gravity of her
Camisard lover! It is this difference--the weighty, emotional
difference--between a desperate passion and a pure love which has ever
been so powerful in twisting the destinies of a moiety of the world to
misery, who otherwise would have stayed contented, inconspicuous and
good. Angele would have been more than human if she had not felt the
spell of the ablest intriguer, of the most fascinating diplomatist of his
Before he spoke of marriage the thrill--the unconvincing thrill though it
was--of a perilous temptation was upon her; but the very thing most meant
to move her only made her shudder; for in her heart of hearts she knew
that he was ineradicably false. To be married to one constitutionally
untrue would be more terrible a fate for her than to be linked to him in
a lighter, more dissoluble a bond. So do the greatest tricksters of this
world overdo their part, so play the wrong card when every past
experience suggests it is the card to play. He knew by the silence that
followed his words, and the slow, steady look she gave him, that she was
not won nor on the way to the winning.
"My lord," she said at last, and with a courage which steadied her
affrighted and perturbed innocence, "you are eloquent, you are fruitful
of flattery, of those things which have, I doubt not, served you well in
your day. But, if you see your way to a better life, it were well you
should choose one of nobler mould than I. I am not made for sacrifice, to
play the missioner and snatch brands from the burning. I have enough to
do to keep my own feet in the ribbon-path of right. You must look
elsewhere for that guardian influence which is to make of you a paragon."
"No, no," he answered sharply, "you think the game not worth the
candle--you doubt me and what I can do for you; my sincerity, my power
"Indeed, yes, I doubt both," she answered gravely, "for you would have me
believe that I have power to lead you. With how small a mind you credit
me! You think, too, that you sway this kingdom; but I know that you stand
upon a cliff's edge, and that the earth is fraying 'neath your tread. You
dare to think that you have power to drag down with you the man who
honours me with--"
"With his love, you'd say. Yet he will leave you fretting out your soul
until the sharp-edged truth cuts your heart in twain. Have you no pride?
I care not what you say of me--say your worst, and I will not resent it,
for I will still prove that your way lies with me."
She gave a bitter sigh, and touched her forehead with trembling fingers.
"If words could prove it, I had been convinced but now, for they are well
devised, and they have music too; but such a music, my lord, as would
drown the truth in the soul of a woman. Your words allure, but you have
learned the art of words. You yourself--oh, my lord, you who have tasted
all the pleasures of this world, could you then have the heart to steal
from one who has so little that little which gives her happiness?"
"You know not what can make you happy--I can teach you that. By God's
Son! but you have wit and intellect and are a match for a prince, not for
a cast off Camisard. I shall ere long be Lord--Lieutenant of these
Isles-of England and Ireland. Come to my nest. We will fly far--ah, your
eye brightens, your heart leaps to mine--I feel it now, I--"
"Oh, have done, have done," she passionately broke in; "I would rather
die, be torn upon the rack, burnt at the stake, than put my hand in
yours! And you do not wish it--you speak but to destroy, not to cherish.
While you speak to me I see all those"--she made a gesture as though to
put something from her "all those to whom you have spoken as you have
done to me. I hear the myriad falsehoods you have told--one whelming
confusion. I feel the blindness which has crept upon them--those poor
women--as you have sown the air with the dust of the passion which you
call love. Oh, you never knew what love meant, my lord! I doubt if, when
you lay in your mother's arms, you turned to her with love. You never did
one kindly act for love, no generous thought was ever born in you by
love. Sir, I know it as though it were written in a book; your life has
been one long calculation--your sympathy or kindness a calculated thing.
Good-nature, emotion you may have had, but never the divine thing by
which the world is saved. Were there but one little place where that Eden
flower might bloom within your heart, you could not seek to ruin that
love which lives in mine and fills it, conquering all the lesser part of
me. I never knew of how much love I was capable until I heard you speak
today. Out of your life's experience, out of all that you have learned of
women good and evil, you--for a selfish, miserable purpose--would put the
gyves upon my wrists, make me a pawn in your dark game; a pawn which you
would lose without a thought as the game went on.
"If you must fight, my lord, if you must ruin Monsieur de la Foret and a
poor Huguenot girl, do it by greater means than this. You have power, you
say. Use it then; destroy us, if you will. Send us to the Medici: bring
us to the block, murder us--that were no new thing to Lord Leicester. But
do not stoop to treachery and falsehood to thrust us down. Oh, you have
made me see the depths of shame to-day! But yet," her voice suddenly
changed, a note of plaintive force filled it--"I have learned much this
hour--more than I ever knew. Perhaps it is that we come to knowledge only
through fire and tears." She smiled sadly. "I suppose that sometime some
day, this page of life would have scorched my sight. Oh, my lord, what
was there in me that you dared speak so to me? Was there naught to have
stayed your tongue and stemmed the tide in which you would engulf me?" He
had listened as in a dream at first. She had read him as he might read
himself, had revealed him with the certain truth, as none other had done
in all his days. He was silent for a long moment, then raised his hand in
"You have a strange idea of what makes offence and shame. I offered you
marriage," he said complacently. "And when I come to think upon it, after
all that you have said, fair Huguenot, I see no cause for railing. You
call me this and that; to you I am a liar, a rogue, a cut-throat, what
you will; and yet, and yet, I will have my way--I will have my way in the
"You offered me marriage--and meant it not. Do I not know? Did you rely
so little on your compelling powers, my lord, that you must needs resort
to that bait? Do you think that you will have your way to-morrow if you
have failed to-day?"
With a quick change of tone and a cold, scornful laugh he rejoined: "Do
you intend to measure swords with me?"
"No, no, my lord," she answered quietly; "what should one poor unfriended
girl do in contest with the Earl of Leicester? But yet, in very truth, I
have friends, and in my hour of greatest need I shall go seeking."
She was thinking of the Queen. He guessed her thought.
"You will not be so mad," he said urbanely again. "Of what can you
complain to the Queen? Tut, tut, you must seek other friends than the
Majesty of England!"
"Then, my lord, I will," she answered bravely. "I will seek the help of
such a Friend as fails not when all fails, even He who putteth down the
mighty from their seats and exalteth the humble."
"Well, well, if I have not touched your heart," he answered gallantly, "I
at least have touched your wit and intellect. Once more I offer you
alliance. Think well before you decline."
He had no thought that he would succeed, but it was ever his way to
return to the charge. It had been the secret of his life's success so
far. He had never taken a refusal. He had never believed that when man or
woman said no that no was meant; and, if it were meant, he still believed
that constant dropping would wear away the stone. He still held that
persistence was the greatest lever in the world, that unswerving
persistence was the master of opportunity.
They had now come to two paths in the park leading different ways.
"This road leads to Kenilworth, this to your prison," he said with a slow
gesture, his eyes fixed upon hers. "I will go to my prison, then," she
said, stepping forward, "and alone, by your leave."
Leicester was a good sportsman. Though he had been beaten all along the
line, he hid his deep chagrin, choked down the rage that was in him.
Smiling, he bowed low.
"I will do myself the honour to visit your prison to-morrow," he said.
"My father will welcome you, my lord," she answered, and, gathering up
her skirt, ran down the pathway.
He stood unmoving, and watched her disappear. "But I shall have my way
with them both," he said aloud.
The voice of a singer sounded in the green wood. Half consciously
Leicester listened. The words came shrilling through the trees:
"Oh, love, it is a lily flower,
(Sing, my captain, sing, my lady!)
The sword shall cleave it,
Life shall leave it
Who shall know the hour?
(Sing, my lady, still!)"
"Brother, well met--most happily met!" he cried. "And why well met,
fool?" asked Leicester. "Prithee, my work grows heavy, brother. I seek
another fool for the yoke. Here are my bells for you. I will keep my cap.
And so we will work together, fool: you for the morning, I for the
afternoon, and the devil take the night-time! So God be with you,
With a laugh he leaped into the undergrowth, and left Leicester standing
with the bells in his hand.
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