Poems & Short Stories: 4,435
Forum Members: 67,986
Forum Posts: 1,216,101
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
Not far from the palace, in a secluded place hidden by laburnum, roses,
box and rhododendrons, there was a quaint and beautiful retreat. High up
on all sides of a circle of green the flowering trees and shrubs
interlaced their branches, and the grass, as smooth as velvet, was of
such a note as soothed the eye and quieted the senses. In one segment of
the verdant circle was a sort of open bower made of poles, up which roses
climbed and hung across in gay festoons; and in two other segments mossy
banks made resting-places. Here, in days gone by, when Robert Dudley,
Earl of Leicester, first drew the eyes of his Queen upon him, Elizabeth
came to listen to his vows of allegiance, which swam in floods of
passionate devotion to her person. Christopher Hatton, Sir Henry Lee, the
Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Sussex, a race of gallants, had knelt upon
this pleasant sward. Here they had declared a devotion that, historically
platonic, had a personal passion which, if rewarded by no personal
requital, must have been an expensive outlay of patience and emotion.
But those days had gone. Robert Dudley had advanced far past his fellows,
had locked himself into the chamber of the Queen's confidence, had for
long proved himself necessary to her, had mingled deference and
admiration with an air of monopoly, and had then advanced to an air of
possession, of suggested control. Then had begun his decline. England and
England's Queen could have but one ruler, and upon an occasion in the
past Elizabeth made it clear by the words she used: "God's death, my
Lord, I have wished you well; but my favour is not so locked up for you
that others shall not partake thereof; and, if you think to rule here, I
will take a course to see you forthcoming. I will have here but one
mistress and no master."
In these words she but declared what was the practice of her life, the
persistent passion of her rule. The world could have but one sun, and
every man or woman who sought its warmth must be a sun-worshipper. There
could be no divided faith, no luminaries in the sky save those which
lived by borrowed radiance.
Here in this bright theatre of green and roses poets had sung the praises
of this Queen to her unblushing and approving face; here ladies thrice as
beautiful as she had begged her to tell them the secret of her beauty, so
much greater than that of any living woman; and she was pleased even when
she knew they flattered but to gain her smile--it was the tribute that
power exacts. The place was a cenotaph of past romance and pleasure.
Every leaf of every tree and flower had impressions of glories, of love,
ambition and intrigue, of tears and laughter, of joyousness and ruin.
Never a spot in England where so much had been said and done, so far
reaching in effect and influence. But its glory was departed, its day was
done, it was a place of dreams and memories: the Queen came here no more.
Many years had withered since she had entered this charmed spot; and that
it remained so fine was but evidence of the care of those to whom she had
given strict orders seven years past, that in and out of season it must
be ever kept as it had erstwhile been. She had never entered the place
since the day the young Marquis of Wessex, whom she had imprisoned for
marrying secretly and without her consent, on his release came here, and,
with a concentrated bitterness and hate, had told her such truths as she
never had heard from man or woman since she was born. He had impeached
her in such cold and murderous terms as must have made wince even a woman
with no pride. To Elizabeth it was gall and wormwood. When he at last
demanded the life of the young wife who had died in enforced seclusion,
because she had married the man she loved, Elizabeth was so confounded
that she hastily left the place, saying no word in response. This attack
had been so violent, so deadly, that she had seemed unnerved, and forbore
to command him to the Tower or to death.
"You, in whose breast love never stirred, deny the right to others whom
God blessed with it," he cried. "Envious of mortal happiness that dare
exist outside your will or gift, you sunder and destroy. You, in whose
hands was power to give joy, gave death. What you have sown you shall
reap. Here on this spot I charge you with high treason, with treachery to
the people over whom you have power as a trust, which trust you have made
With such words as these he had assailed her, and for the first time in
her life she had been confounded. In safety he had left the place, and
taken his way to Italy, from which he had never returned, though she had
sent for him in kindness. Since that day Elizabeth had never come hither;
and by-and-by none of her Court came save the Duke's Daughter, and her
fool, who both made it their resort. Here the fool came upon the Friday
before Trinity Day, bringing with him Lempriere and Buonespoir, to whom
he had much attached himself.
It was a day of light and warmth, and the place was like a basket of
roses. Having seen the two serving-men dispose, in a convenient place,
the refreshment which Lempriere's appetite compelled, the fool took
command of the occasion and made the two sit upon a bank, while he
prepared the repast.
Strangest of the notable trio was the dwarfish fool with his shaggy black
head, twisted mouth, and watchful, wandering eye, whose foolishness was
but the flaunting cover of shrewd observation and trenchant vision. Going
where he would, and saying what he listed, now in the Queen's inner
chamber, then in the midst of the Council, unconsidered, and the butt of
all, he paid for his bed and bounty by shooting shafts of foolery which
as often made his listeners shrink as caused their laughter. The Queen he
called Delicio, and Leicester, Obligato--as one who piped to another's
dance. He had taken to Buonespoir at the first glance, and had frequented
him, and Lempriere had presently been added to his favour. He had again
and again been messenger between them, as also of late between Angele and
Michel, whose case he viewed from a stand-point of great cheerfulness,
and treated them as children playing on the sands--as, indeed, he did the
Queen and all near to her. But Buonespoir, the pirate, was to him reality
and the actual, and he called him Bono Publico. At first Lempriere, ever
jealous of his importance, was inclined to treat him with elephantine
condescension; but he could not long hold out against the boon archness
of the jester, and he collapsed suddenly into as close a friendship as
that between himself and Buonespoir.
A rollicking spirt was his own fullest stock-in-trade, and it won him
like a brother.
So it was that here, in the very bosom of the forest, lured by the pipe
the fool played, Lempriere burst forth into song, in one hand a bottle of
canary, in the other a handful of comfits:
"Duke William was a Norman
(Spread the sail to the breeze!)
That did to England ride;
At Hastings by the Channel
(Drink the wine to the lees!)
Our Harold the Saxon died.
If there be no cakes from Normandy,
There'll be more ale in England!"
"Delicio shall never want while I have a penny of hers to spend," quoth
the fool, feeling for another tune. "Should conspirators prevail, and the
damnedest be, she hath yet the Manor of Rozel and my larder," urged
Lempriere, with a splutter through the canary.
"That shall be only when the Fifth wind comes--it is so ordained,
Nuncio!" said the fool blinking. Buonespoir set down his flagon. "And
what wind is the Fifth wind?" he asked, scratching his bullethead, his
child-like, widespread eyes smiling the question.
"There be now four winds--the North wind and his sisters, the East, the
West, and South. When God sends a Fifth wind, then conspirators shall
wear crowns. Till then Delicio shall sow and I shall reap, as is Heaven's
Lempriere lay back and roared with laughter. "Before Belial, there never
was such another as thou, fool. Conspirators shall die and not prevail,
for a man may not marry his sister, and the North wind shall have no
progeny. So there shall be no Fifth wind."
"Proved, proved," cried the fool. "The North wind shall go whistle for a
mate--there shall be no Fifth wind. So, Delicio shall still sail by the
compass, and shall still compass all, and yet be compassed by none; for
it is written, Who compasseth Delicio existeth not."
Buonespoir watched a lark soaring, as though its flight might lead him
through the fool's argument clearly. Lempriere closed his eye, and
struggled with it, his lips outpursed, his head sunk on his breast.
Suddenly his eyes opened, he brought the bottle of canary down with a
thud on the turf. "'Fore Michael and all angels, I have it, fool; I
travel, I conceive. De Carteret of St. Ouen's must have gone to the block
ere conceiving so. I must conceive thus of the argument. He who
compasseth the Queen existeth not, for compassing, he dieth."
"So it is by the hour-glass and the fortune told in the porringer. You
have conceived like a man, Nuncio."
"And conspirators, I conceive, must die, so long as there be honest men
to slay them," rejoined the Seigneur.
"Must only honest men slay conspirators? Oh, Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego!" wheezed Buonespoir with a grin. He placed his hand upon his
head in self-pity. "Buonespoir, art thou damned by muscadella?" he
"But thou art purged of the past, Bono Publico," answered the fool.
"Since Delicio hath looked upon thee she hath shredded the Tyburn lien
upon thee--thou art flushed like a mountain spring; and conspirators
shall fall down by thee if thou, passant, dost fall by conspirators in
the way. Bono Publico, thou shalt live by good company. Henceforth
contraband shall be spurned and the book of grace opened."
Buonespoir's eyes laughed like a summer sky, but he scratched his head
and turned over the rose-stem in his mouth reflectively. "So be it, then,
if it must be; but yesterday the Devon sea-sweeper, Francis Drake,
overhauled me in my cottage, coming from the Queen, who had infused him
of me. 'I have heard of you from a high masthead,' said he. 'If the
Spanish main allure you, come with me. There be galleons yonder still;
they shall cough up doubloons.' 'It hath a sound of piracy,' said I. 'I
am expurgated. My name is written on clean paper now, blessed be the name
of the Queen!' 'Tut, tut, Buonesperado,' laughed he, 'you shall forget
that Tyburn is not a fable if you care to have doubloons reminted at the
Queen's mint. It is meet Spanish Philip's head be molted to oblivion, and
Elizabeth's raised, so that good silver be purged of Popish alloy.' But
that I had sworn by the little finger of St. Peter when the moon was
full, never to leave the English seas, I also would have gone with Drake
of Devon this day. It is a man and a master of men that Drake of Devon."
"'Tis said that when a man hath naught left but life, and hath treated
his honour like a poor relation, he goes to the Spanish main with Drake
and Grenville," said Lempriere.
"Then must Obligato go, for he hath such credentials," said the fool,
blowing thistle-down in the air. "Yesterday was no Palm Sunday to
Leicester. Delicio's head was high. 'Imperial Majesty,' quoth Obligato,
his knees upon the rushes, 'take my life but send me not forth into
darkness where I shall see my Queen no more. By the light of my Queen's
eyes have I walked, and pains of hell are my Queen's displeasure.'
'Methinks thy humbleness is tardy,' quoth Delicio. 'No cock shall crow by
my nest,' said she. 'And, by the mantle of Elijah, I am out with sour
faces and men of phlegm and rheum. I will be gay once more. So get thee
gone to Kenilworth, and stray not from it on thy peril. Take thy malaise
with thee, and I shall laugh again.' Behold he goeth. So that was the end
of Obligato, and now cometh another tune."
"She hath good cheer?" asked Lempriere eagerly. "I have never seen
Delicio smile these seven years as she smiled to-day; and when she kissed
Amicitia I sent for my confessor and made my will. Delicio hath come to
spring-time, and the voice of the turtle is in her ear."
"Amicitia--and who is Amicitia?" asked Lempriere, well flushed with wine.
"She who hath brought Obligato to the diminuendo and finale," answered
the fool; "even she who hath befriended the Huguenottine of the black
"Ah, she, the Duke's Daughter--v'la, that is a flower of a lady! Did she
not say that my jerkin fitted neatly when I did act as butler to her
adorable Majesty three months syne? She hath no mate in the world save
Mademoiselle Aubert, whom I brought hither to honour and to fame."
"To honour and fame, was it--but by the hill of desperandum, Nuncio,"
said the fool, prodding him with his stick of bells.
"'Desperandum'! I know not Latin; it amazes me," said Lempriere, waving a
"She--the Huguenottine--was a-mazed also, and from the maze was played by
"How so! how so!" cried the Seigneur, catching at his meaning. "Did
Leicester waylay and siege? 'Sblood, had I known this, I'd have broached
him and swallowed him even on crutches."
"She made him raise the siege, she turned his own guns upon him, and in
the end hath driven him hence." By rough questioning Lempriere got from
the fool by snatches the story of the meeting in the maze, which had left
Leicester standing with the jester's ribboned bells in his hand. Then the
Seigneur got to his feet, and hugged the fool, bubbling with laughter.
"By all the blood of all the saints, I will give thee burial in my own
grave when all's done," he spluttered; "for there never was such fooling,
never such a wise fool come since Confucius and the Khan. Good be with
you, fool, and thanks be for such a lady. Thanks be also for the Duke's
Daughter. Ah, how she laid Leicester out! She washed him up the shore
like behemoth, and left him gaping."
Buonespoir intervened. "And what shall come of it? What shall be the end?
The Honeyflower lies at anchor--there be three good men in waiting,
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and--"
The Seigneur interrupted. "There's little longer waiting. All's well! Her
high hereditary Majesty smiled on me when she gave Leicester conge and
fiery quittance. She hath me in favour, and all shall be well with Michel
and Angele. O fool, fool, fantastic and flavoured fool, sing me a song of
good content, for if this business ends not with crescendo and
bell-ringing, I am no butler to the Queen nor keep good company!"
Seating themselves upon the mossy bank, their backs to the westward sun,
the fool peered into the green shadows and sang with a soft melancholy an
ancient song that another fool had sung to the first Tudor:
"When blows the wind and drives the sleet,
And all the trees droop down;
When all the world is sad,
'tis meet Good company be known:
And in my heart good company
Sits by the fire and sings to me.
"When warriors return, and one
That went returns no more;
When dusty is the road we run,
And garners have no store;
One ingle-nook right warm shall be
Where my heart hath good company.
"When man shall flee and woman fail,
And folly mock and hope deceive,
Let cowards beat the breast and wail,
I'll homeward hie; I will not grieve:
I'll draw the blind, I'll there set free
My heart's beloved boon company.
"When kings shall favour, ladies call
My service to their side;
When roses grow upon the wall
Of life, with love inside;
I'll get me home with joy to be
In my heart's own good company!"
"Oh, benignant fool, well done! 'twould draw me from my meals," said a
voice behind the three; and, turning hastily about, they saw, smiling and
applausive, the Duke's Daughter. Beside her was Angele.
The three got to their feet, and each made obeisance after his
kind-Buonespoir ducking awkwardly, his blue eyes bulging with pleasure,
Lempriere swelling with vanity and spreading wide acknowledgment of their
presence, the fool condescending a wave of welcome. "Oh! abundant
Amicitia!" cried the fool to the Duke's Daughter, "thou art saved by so
doing. So get thee to thanksgiving and God's mercy."
"Wherefore am I saved by being drawn from my meals by thy music, fool?"
she asked, linking her arm in Angele's.
"Because thou art more enamoured of lampreys than of man; and it is
written that thou shalt love thy fellow man, and he that loveth not is
lost: therefore thou art lost if thou lingerest at meals."
"Is it so, then? And this lady--what thinkest thou? Must she also abstain
and seek good company?"
"No, verily, Amicitia, for she is good company itself, and so she may
sleep in the larder and have no fear."
"And what think you--shall she be happy? Shall she have gifts of fate?"
"Discriminately so, Amicitia. She shall have souvenirs and no suspicions
of Fate. But she shall not linger here, for all lingerers in Delicio's
Court are spied upon--not for their soul's good. She shall go hence,
"Ay, princely lady, she shall go hence," interposed Lempriere, who had
panted to speak, and could bear silence no longer. "Her high Majesty will
kiss her on the brow, and in Jersey Isle she shall blossom and bloom and
know bounty--or never more shall I have privilege and perquage."
He lumbered forward and kissed Angele's hand as though conferring
distinction, but with great generosity. "I said that all should go well,
and so it shall. Rozel shall prevail. The Queen knows on what rock to
build, as I made warrant for her, and will still do so."
His vanity was incorrigible, but through it ran so child-like a spirit
that it bred friendship and repulsed not. The Duke's Daughter pressed the
arm of Angele, who replied:
"Indeed it has been so according to your word, and we are--I am--shall
ever be beholden. In storm you have been with us, so true a pilot and so
brave a sailor; and if we come to port and the quiet shore, there shall
be spread a feast of remembrance which shall never grow cold, Seigneur."
"One ingle-nook right warm shall be
Where my heart hath good company,"
Swelling with pride he nodded, and said: "I will reach him and discover
myself to him, and bring him, if he stray, most undoubted and infallible
lady," and with an air of mystery he made a heavily respectful exit.
Left alone, the two ladies seated themselves in the bower of roses, and
for a moment were silent. Presently the Duke's Daughter laughed aloud.
"In what seas of dear conceit swims your leviathan Seigneur,
Angele stole a hand into the cool palm of the other. "He was builded for
some lonely sea all his own. Creation cheated him. But God give me ever
such friends as he, and I shall indeed 'have good company' and fear no
issue." She sighed.
"Remains there still a fear? Did you not have good promise in the Queen's
words that night?"
"Ay, so it seemed, and so it seemed before--on May Day, and yet--"
"And yet she banished you, and tried you, and kept you heart-sick? Sweet,
know you not how bitter a thing it is to owe a debt of love to one whom
we have injured? So it was with her. The Queen is not a saint, but very
woman. Marriage she hath ever contemned and hated; men she hath desired
to keep her faithful and impassioned servitors. So does power blind us.
And the braver the man, the more she would have him in her service, at
her feet, the centre of the world."
"I had served her in a crisis, an hour of peril. Was naught due me?"
The Duke's Daughter drew her close. "She never meant but that all should
be well. And because you had fastened on her feelings as never I have
seen another of your sex, so for the moment she resented it; and because
De la Foret was yours--ah, if you had each been naught to the other, how
easy it would have run! Do you not understand?"
"Nay, then, and yea, then--and I put it from me. See, am I not happy now?
Upon your friendship I build."
"Sweet, I did what I could. Leicester filled her ears with poison every
day, mixed up your business and great affairs with France, sought to
convey that you both were not what you are; until at last I
countermarched him." She laughed merrily. "Ay, I can laugh now, but it
was all hanging by a thread, when my leech sent his letter that brought
you to the palace. It had grieved me that I might not seek you, or write
to you in all those sad days; but the only way to save you was by keeping
the Queen's command; for she had known of Leicester's visits to you, of
your meeting in the maze, and she was set upon it that alone, all alone,
you should be tried to the last vestige of your strength. If you had
"If I had failed--" Angele closed her eyes and shuddered. "I had not
cared for myself, but Michel--"
"If you had failed, there had been no need to grieve for Michel. He then
had not grieved for thee. But see, the wind blows fair, and in my heart
I have no fear of the end. You shall go hence in peace. This morning the
Queen was happier than I have seen her these many years: a light was in
her eye brighter than showeth to the Court. She talked of this place,
recalled the hours spent here, spoke even softly of Leicester. And that
gives me warrant for the future. She has relief in his banishment, and
only recalls older and happier days when, if her cares were no greater,
they were borne by the buoyancy of girlhood and youth. Of days spent
here she talked until mine own eyes went blind. She said it was a place
for lovers, and if she knew any two lovers who were true lovers, and had
been long parted, she would send them here."
"There be two true lovers, and they have been long parted," murmured
"But she commanded these lovers not to meet till Trinity Day, and she
brooks not disobedience even in herself. How could she disobey her own
commands? But"--her eyes were on the greenwood and the path that led into
the circle--"but she would shut her eyes to-day, and let the world move
on without her, let lovers thrive, and birds be nesting without heed or
hap. Disobedience shall thrive when the Queen connives at it--and so I
leave you to your disobedience, sweet."
With a laugh she sprang to her feet, and ran. Amazed and bewildered
Angele gazed after her. As she stood looking she heard her name called
Turning, she saw Michel. They were alone.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.