Chapter 16




Angele had come to know, as others in like case have ever done, how
wretched indeed is that poor man that hangs on princes' favours. She had
saved the Queen's life upon May Day, and on the evening of that day the
Queen had sent for her, had made such high and tender acknowledgment of
her debt as would seem to justify for her perpetual honour. And what
Elizabeth said she meant; but in a life set in forests of complications
and opposing interests the political overlapped the personal in her
nature. Thus it was that she had kept the princes of the world dangling,
advancing towards marriage with them, retreating suddenly, setting off
one house against the other, allying herself to one European power
to-day, with another to-morrow, her own person and her crown the pawn
with which she played. It was not a beautiful thing in a woman, but it
was what a woman could do; and, denied other powers given to men--as to
her father--she resorted to astute but doubtful devices to advance her
diplomacy. Over all was self-infatuation, the bane of princes, the curse
of greatness, the source of wide injustice. It was not to be expected, as
Leicester had said, that Elizabeth, save for the whim of the moment,
would turn aside to confer benefit upon Angele or to keep her in mind,
unless constrained to do so for some political reason.

The girl had charmed the Queen, had, by saving her life, made England her
long debtor; but Leicester had judged rightly in believing that the Queen
might find the debt irksome; that her gratitude would be corroded by
other destructive emotions. It was true that Angele had saved her life,
but Michel had charmed her eye. He had proved himself a more gallant
fighter than any in her kingdom; and had done it, as he had said, in her
honour. So, as her admiration for Michel grew, her debt to Angele became
burdensome; and, despite her will, there stole into her mind the old
petulance and smothered anger against beauty and love and marriage. She
could ill bear that one near her person should not be content to flourish
in the light and warmth of her own favour, setting aside all other small
affections. So it was that she had sent Angele to her father and kept De
la Foret in the palace. Perplexed, troubled by new developments, the
birth of a son to Mary Queen of Scots, the demand of her Parliament that
she should marry, the pressure of foreign policy which compelled her to
open up again negotiations for marriage with the Duke of Anjou--all these
combined to detach her from the interest she had suddenly felt in Angele.
But, by instinct, she knew also that Leicester, through jealousy, had
increased the complication; and, fretful under the long influence he had
had upon her, she steadily lessened intercourse with him. The duel he
fought with Lempriere on May Day came to her ears through the Duke's
Daughter, and she seized upon it with sharp petulance. First she
ostentatiously gave housing and care to Lempriere, and went to visit him;
then, having refused Leicester audience, wrote to him.

"What is this I hear," she scrawled upon the paper, "that you have forced
a quarrel with the Lord of Rozel, and have well-ny ta'en his life! Is
swording then your dearest vice that you must urge it on a harmless
gentle man, and my visitor? Do you think you hold a charter of freedom
for your self-will? Have a care, Leicester, or, by God! you shall know
another sword surer than your own."

The rage of Leicester on receiving this knew no bounds; for though he had
received from Elizabeth stormy letters before, none had had in it the
cold irony of this missive. The cause of it? Desperation seized him. With
a mad disloyalty he read in every word of Elizabeth's letter, Michel de
la Foret, refugee. With madder fury he determined to strike for the
immediate ruin of De la Foret, and Angele with him--for had she not
thrice repulsed him as though he had been some village captain? After the
meeting in the maze he had kept his promise of visiting her "prison." By
every art, and without avail, he had through patient days sought to gain
an influence over her; for he saw that if he could but show the Queen
that the girl was open to his advances, accepted his protection, her ruin
would be certain--in anger Elizabeth would take revenge upon both
refugees. But however much he succeeded with Monsieur Aubert, he failed
wholly with Angele. She repulsed him still with the most certain
courtesy, with the greatest outward composure; but she had to make her
fight alone, for the Queen forbade intercourse with Michel, and she must
have despaired but for the messages sent now and then by the Duke's
Daughter.

Through M. Aubert, to whom Leicester was diligently courteous, and whom
he sought daily, discussing piously the question of religion so dear to
the old man's heart, he strove to foster in Angele's mind the suspicion
he had ventured at their meeting in the maze, that the Queen, through
personal interest in Michel, was saving his life to keep him in her
household. So well did he work on the old man's feelings that when he
offered his own protection to M. Aubert and Angele, whatever the issue
with De la Foret might be, he was met with an almost tearful response of
gratitude. It was the moment to convey a deep distrust of De la Foret to
the mind of the old refugee, and it was subtly done.

Were it not better to leave the Court where only danger surrounded them,
and find safety on Leicester's own estate, where no man living could
molest them? Were it not well to leave Michel de la Foret to his fate,
what ever it would be? Thrice within a week the Queen had sent for De la
Foret--what reason was there for that, unless the Queen had a secret
personal interest in him? Did M. Aubert think it was only a rare touch of
humour which had turned De la Foret into a preacher, and set his fate
upon a sermon to be preached before the Court? He himself had long held
high office, had been near to her Majesty, and he could speak with more
knowledge than he might use--it grieved him that Mademoiselle Aubert
should be placed in so painful a position.

Sometimes as the two talked Angele would join them; and then there was a
sudden silence, which made her flush with embarrassment, anxiety or
anger. In vain did she assume a cold composure, in vain school herself to
treat Leicester with a precise courtesy; in vain her heart protested the
goodness of De la Foret and high uprightness of the Queen; the persistent
suggestions of the dark Earl worked upon her mind in spite of all. Why
had the Queen forbidden her to meet Michel, or write to him, or to
receive letters from him? Why had the Queen, who had spoken such
gratitude, deserted her? And now even the Duke's Daughter wrote to her no
more, sent her no further messages. She felt herself a prisoner, and that
the Queen had forgotten her debt. She took to wandering to that part of
the palace-grounds where she could see the windows of the tower her lover
inhabited. Her old habit of cheerful talk deserted her, and she brooded.
It was long before she heard of the duel between the Seigneur and Lord
Leicester--the Duke's Daughter had kept this from her, lest she should be
unduly troubled--and when, in anxiety, she went to the house where
Lempriere had been quartered, he had gone, none could tell her whither.
Buonespoir was now in close confinement, by secret orders of Leicester,
and not allowed to walk abroad; and thus with no friend save her father,
now so much under the influence of the Earl, she was bitterly solitary.
Bravely she fought the growing care and suspicion in her heart; but she
was being tried beyond her strength. Her father had urged her to make
personal appeal to the Queen; and at times, despite her better judgment,
she was on the verge of doing so. Yet what could she say? She could not
go to the Queen of England and cry out, like a silly milk-maid: "You have
taken my lover--give him back to me!" What proof had she that the Queen
wanted her lover? And if she spoke, the impertinence of the suggestion
might send back to the fierce Medici that same lover, to lose his head.

Leicester, who now was playing the game as though it were a hazard for
states and kingdoms, read the increasing trouble in her face; and waited
confidently for the moment when in desperation she would lose her
self-control and go to the Queen.

But he did not reckon with the depth of the girl's nature and her true
sense of life. Her brain told her that what she was tempted to do she
should not; that her only way was to wait; to trust that the Queen of
England was as much true woman as Queen, and as much Queen as true woman;
and that the one was held in high equipoise by the other. Besides,
Trinity Day would bring the end of it all, and that was not far off. She
steeled her will to wait till then, no matter how dark the sky might be.

As time went on, Leicester became impatient. He had not been able to
induce M. Aubert to compel Angele to accept a quiet refuge at Kenilworth;
he saw that this plan would not work, and he deployed his mind upon
another. If he could but get Angele to seek De la Foret in his apartment
in the palace, and then bring the matter to Elizabeth's knowledge with
sure proof, De la Foret's doom would be sealed. At great expense,
however; for, in order to make the scheme effective, Angele should visit
De la Foret at night. This would mean the ruin of the girl as well. Still
that could be set right; because, once De la Foret was sent to the Medici
the girl's character could be cleared; and, if not, so much the surer
would she come at last to his protection. What he had professed in cold
deliberation had become in some sense a fact. She had roused in him an
eager passion. He might even dare, when De la Foret was gone, to confess
his own action in the matter to the Queen, once she was again within his
influence. She had forgiven him more than that in the past, when he had
made his own mad devotion to herself excuse for his rashness or
misconduct.

He waited opportunity, he arranged all details carefully, he secured the
passive agents of his purpose; and when the right day came he acted.

About ten o'clock one night, a half-hour before the closing of the palace
gates, when no one could go in or go out save by permit of the Lord
Chamberlain, a footman from a surgeon of the palace came to Angele,
bearing a note which read:


"Your friend is very ill, and asks for you. Come hither alone; and
now, if you would come at all."

Her father was confined to bed with some ailment of the hour, and
asleep--it were no good to awaken him. Her mind was at once made up.
There was no time to ask permission of the Queen. She knew the surgeon's
messengers by sight, this one was in the usual livery, and his master's
name was duly signed. In haste she made herself ready, and went forth
into the night with the messenger, her heart beating hard, a pitiful
anxiety shaking her. Her steps were fleet between the lodge and the
palace. They were challenged nowhere, and the surgeon's servant, entering
a side door of the palace, led her hastily through gloomy halls and
passages where they met no one, though once in a dark corridor some one
brushed against her. She wondered why there were no servants to show the
way, why the footman carried no torch or candle; but haste and urgency
seemed due excuse, and she thought only of Michel, and that she would
soon see him-dying, dead perhaps before she could touch his hand! At last
they emerged into a lighter and larger hallway, where her guide suddenly
paused, and said to Angel, motioning towards a door: "Enter. He is
there."

For a moment she stood still, scarce able to breathe, her heart hurt her
so. It seemed to her as though life itself was arrested. As the servant,
without further words, turned and left her, she knocked, opened the door
without awaiting a reply, and stepping into semidarkness, said softly:

"Michel! Michel!"




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