Chapter 8




Five minutes later, Lempriere of Rozel, as butler to the Queen, saw a
sight of which he told to his dying day. When, after varied troubles
hereafter set down, he went back to Jersey, he made a speech before the
Royal Court, in which he told what chanced while Elizabeth was at chapel.

"There stood I, butler to the Queen," he said, with a large gesture, "but
what knew I of butler's duties at Greenwich Palace! Her Majesty had given
me an office where all the work was done for me. Odds life, but when I
saw the Gentleman of the Rod and his fellow get down on their knees to
lay the cloth upon the table, as though it was an altar at Jerusalem, I
thought it time to say my prayers. There was naught but kneeling and
retiring. Now it was the salt-cellar, the plate, and the bread; then it
was a Duke's Daughter--a noble soul as ever lived--with a tasting-knife,
as beautiful as a rose; then another lady enters who glares at me, and
gets to her knees as does the other. Three times up and down, and then
one rubs the plate with bread and salt, as solemn as St. Ouen's when he
says prayers in the Royal Court. Gentles, that was a day for Jersey. For
there stood I as master of all, the Queen's butler, and the greatest
ladies of the land doing my will--though it was all Persian mystery to
me, save when the kettle-drums began to beat and the trumpet to blow, and
in walk bareheaded the Yeomen of the Guard, all scarlet, with a golden
rose on their backs, bringing in a course of twenty-four gold dishes; and
I, as Queen's butler, receiving them.

"Then it was I opened my mouth amazed at the endless dishes filled with
niceties of earth, and the Duke's Daughter pops onto my tongue a mouthful
of the first dish brought, and then does the same to every Yeoman of the
Guard that carried a dish--that her notorious Majesty be safe against the
hand of poisoners. There was I, fed by a Duke's Daughter; and thus was
Jersey honoured; and the Duke's Daughter whispers to me, as a dozen other
unmarried ladies enter, 'The Queen liked not the cut of your frieze
jerkin better than do I, Seigneur.' With that she joins the others, and
they all kneel down and rise up again, and lifting the meat from the
table, bear it into the Queen's private chamber.

"When they return, and the Yeomen of the Guard go forth, I am left alone
with these ladies, and there stand with twelve pair of eyes upon me,
little knowing what to do. There was laughter in the faces of some, and
looks less taking in the eyes of others; for my Lord Leicester was to
have done the duty I was set to do that day, and he the greatest gallant
of the kingdom, as all the world knows. What they said among themselves I
know not, but I heard Leicester's name, and I guessed that they were
mostly in the pay of his soft words. But the Duke's Daughter was on my
side, as was proved betimes when Leicester made trouble for us who went
from Jersey to plead the cause of injured folk. Of the Earl's enmity to
me--a foolish spite of a great nobleman against a Norman-Jersey
gentleman--and of how it injured others for the moment, you all know; but
we had him by the heels before the end of it, great earl and favourite as
he was."

In the same speech Lempriere told of his audience with the Queen, even as
she sat at dinner, and of what she said to him; but since his words give
but a partial picture of events, the relation must not be his.

When the Queen returned from chapel to her apartments, Lempriere was
called by an attendant, and he stood behind the Queen's chair until she
summoned him to face her. Then, having finished her meal, and dipped her
fingers in a bowl of rose-water, she took up the papers Leicester had
given her--the Duke's Daughter had read them aloud as she ate--and said:

"Now, my good Seigneur of Rozel, answer me these few questions: First,
what concern is it of yours whether this Michel de la Foret be sent back
to France, or die here in England?"

"I helped to save his life at sea--one good turn deserves another, your
high-born Majesty."

The Queen looked sharply at him, then burst out laughing.

"God's life, but here's a bull making epigrams!" she said. Then her
humour changed. "See you, my butler of Rozel, you shall speak the truth,
or I'll have you where that jerkin will fit you not so well a month
hence. Plain answers I will have to plain questions, or De Carteret of
St. Ouen's shall have his will of you and your precious pirate. So bear
yourself as you would save your head and your honours."

Lempriere of Rozel never had a better moment than when he met the Queen
of England's threats with faultless intrepidity. "I am concerned about my
head, but more about my honours, and most about my honour," he replied.
"My head is my own, my honours are my family's, for which I would give my
head when needed; and my honour defends both until both are naught--and
all are in the service of my Queen."

Smiling, Elizabeth suddenly leaned forward, and, with a glance of
satisfaction towards the Duke's Daughter, who was present, said:

"I had not thought to find so much logic behind your rampant skull," she
said. "You've spoken well, Rozel, and you shall speak by the book to the
end, if you will save your friends. What concern is it of yours whether
Michel de la Foret live or die?"

"It is a concern of one whom I've sworn to befriend, and that is my
concern, your ineffable Majesty." "Who is the friend?"

"Mademoiselle Aubert."

"The betrothed of this Michel de la Foret?"

"Even so, your exalted Majesty. But I made sure De la Foret was dead when
I asked her to be my wife."

"Lord, Lord, Lord, hear this vast infant, this hulking baby of a
Seigneur, this primeval innocence! Listen to him, cousin," said the
Queen, turning again to the Duke's Daughter. "Was ever the like of it in
any kingdom of this earth? He chooses a penniless exile--he, a butler to
the Queen, with three dove-cotes and the perquage--and a Huguenot withal.
He is refused; then comes the absent lover over sea, to shipwreck; and
our Seigneur rescues him, 'fends him; and when yon master exile is in
peril, defies his Queen's commands"--she tapped the papers lying beside
her on the table--"then comes to England with the lady to plead the case
before his outraged sovereign, with an outlawed buccaneer for comrade and
lieutenant. There is the case, is't not?"

"I swore to be her friend," answered Lempriere stubbornly, "and I have
done according to my word."

"There's not another nobleman in my kingdom who would not have thought
twice about the matter, with the lady aboard his ship on the high
seas-'tis a miraculous chivalry, cousin," she added to the Duke's
Daughter, who bowed, settled herself again on her velvet cushion, and
looked out of the corner of her eyes at Lempriere.

"You opposed Sir Hugh Pawlett's officers who went to arrest this De la
Foret," continued Elizabeth. "Call you that serving your Queen? Pawlett
had our commands."

"I opposed them but in form, that the matter might the more surely be
brought to your Majesty's knowledge."

"It might easily have brought you to the Tower, man."

"I had faith that your Majesty would do right in this, as in all else. So
I came hither to tell the whole story to your judicial Majesty."

"Our thanks for your certificate of character," said the Queen, with
amused irony. "What is your wish? Make your words few and plain."

"I desire before all that Michel de la Foret shall not be returned to the
Medici, most radiant Majesty."

"That's plain. But there are weighty matters 'twixt France and England,
and De la Foret may turn the scale one way or another. What follows,
beggar of Rozel?"

"That Mademoiselle Aubert and her father may live without let or
hindrance in Jersey."

"That you may eat sour grapes ad eternam? Next?"

"That Buonespoir be pardoned all offences and let live in Jersey on
pledge that he sin no more, not even to raid St. Ouen's cellars of the
muscadella reserved for your generous Majesty."

There was such humour in Lempriere's look as he spoke of the muscadella
that the Queen questioned him closely upon Buonespoir's raid; and so
infectious was his mirth, as he told the tale, that Elizabeth, though she
stamped her foot in assumed impatience, smiled also.

"You shall have your Buonespoir, Seigneur," she said; "but for his future
you shall answer as well as he."

"For what he does in Jersey Isle, your commiserate Majesty?"

"For crime elsewhere, if he be caught, he shall march to Tyburn, friend,"
she answered. Then she hurriedly added: "Straightway go and bring
Mademoiselle and her father hither. Orders are given for their disposal.
And to-morrow at this hour you shall wait upon me in their company. I
thank you for your services as butler this day, Monsieur of Rozel. You do
your office rarely."

As the Seigneur left Elizabeth's apartments, he met the Earl of Leicester
hurrying thither, preceded by the Queen's messenger. Leicester stopped
and said, with a slow malicious smile: "Farming is good, then--you have
fine crops this year on your holding?"

The point escaped Lempriere at first, for the favourite's look was all
innocence, and he replied: "You are mistook, my lord. You will remember I
was in the presence-chamber an hour ago, my lord. I am Lempriere,
Seigneur of Rozel, butler to her Majesty."

"But are you, then? I thought you were a farmer and raised cabbages."
Smiling, Leicester passed on.

For a moment the Seigneur stood pondering the Earl's words and angrily
wondering at his obtuseness. Then suddenly he knew he had been mocked,
and he turned and ran after his enemy; but Leicester had vanished into
the Queen's apartments.

The Queen's fool was standing near, seemingly engaged in the light
occupation of catching imaginary flies, buzzing with his motions. As
Leicester disappeared he looked from under his arm at Lempriere. "If a
bird will not stop for the salt to its tail, then the salt is damned,
Nuncio; and you must cry David! and get thee to the quarry."

Lempriere stared at him swelling with rage; but the quaint smiling of the
fool conquered him, and instead of turning on his heel, he spread himself
like a Colossus and looked down in grandeur. "And wherefore cry David!
and get quarrying?" he asked. "Come, what sense is there in thy words,
when I am wroth with yonder nobleman?"

"Oh, Nuncio, Nuncio, thou art a child of innocence and without history.
The salt held not the bird for the net of thy anger, Nuncio; so it is
meet that other ways be found. David the ancient put a stone in a sling
and Goliath laid him down like an egg in a nest--therefore, Nuncio, get
thee to the quarry. Obligato, which is to say Leicester yonder, hath no
tail--the devil cut it off and wears it himself. So let salt be damned,
and go sling thy stone!"

Lempriere was good-humoured again. He fumbled in his purse and brought
forth a gold-piece. "Fool, thou hast spoken like a man born sensible and
infinite. I understand thee like a book. Thou hast not folly and thou
shalt not be answered as if thou wast a fool. But in terms of gold shalt
thou have reply." He put the gold-piece in the fool's hand and slapped
him on the shoulder.

"Why now, Nuncio," answered the other, "it is clear that there is a fool
at Court, for is it not written that a fool and his money are soon
parted? And this gold-piece is still hot with running 'tween thee and
me."

Lempriere roared. "Why, then, for thy hit thou shalt have another
gold-piece, gossip. But see"--his voice lowered--"know you where is my
friend, Buonespoir, the pirate? Know you where he is in durance?"

"As I know marrow in a bone I know where he hides, Nuncio, so come with
me," answered the fool.

"If De Carteret had but thy sense, we could live at peace in Jersey,"
rejoined Lempriere, and strode ponderously after the light-footed fool
who capered forth singing:


"Come hither, O come hither,
There's a bride upon her bed;
They have strewn her o'er with roses,
There are roses 'neath her head:
Life is love and tears and laughter,
But the laughter it is dead
Sing the way to the Valley, to the Valley!
Hey, but the roses they are red!"



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