She clung to business as of old, and rated in her
usual fashion, “one who minded not to giving
up some matter of account.” But death crept
on. Her face became haggard, and her frame shrank
almost to a skeleton. At last, her taste for finery
disappeared, and she refused to change her dresses
for a week together. A strange melancholy settled
down on her: “she held in her hand,”
says one who saw her in her last days, “a golden
cup, which she often put to her lips: but in
truth her heart seemed too full to need more filling.”
Gradually her mind gave way. She lost her memory,
the violence of her temper became unbearable, her
very courage seemed to forsake her. She called
for a sword to lie constantly beside her, and thrust
it from time to time through the arras, as if she
heard murderers stirring there. Food and rest
became alike distasteful. She sate day and night
propped up with pillows on a stool, her finger on
her lip, her eyes fixed on the floor, without a word.
If she once broke the silence, it was with a flash
of her old queenliness. Cecil asserted that she
“must” go to bed, and the word roused
her like a trumpet. “Must!” she exclaimed;
a word to be addressed to princes?
Little man, little man! thy father, if he had been
alive, durst not have used that word.” Then,
as her anger spent itself, she sank into her old dejection.
“Thou art so presumptuous,” she said,
“because thou knowest I shall die.”
She rallied once more when the ministers beside her
bed named Lord Beauchamp, the heir to the Suffolk
claim, as a possible successor. “I will
have no rogue’s son,” she cried hoarsely,
“in my seat.” But she gave no sign,
save a motion of the head, at the mention of the King
of Scots. She was in fact fast becoming insensible;
and early the next morning the life of Elizabeth,
a life so great, so strange and lonely in its greatness,
passed quietly away.
[Notes: Mountjoy. The Queen’s
lieutenant in Ireland, who had had considerable success
in dealing with the Irish rebels.
This chill of ... the renascence. In her irreligion,
as well as in her brilliancy and fancy, Elizabeth
might fitly be called the child or product of the
Pagan renascence or new birth, as the return to the
freedom of classic literature, so powerful in the England
of her day, was called.
Thy father = the great Lord Burghley, who guided
the counsels of the Queen throughout all the earlier
part of her reign.
The Suffolk claim, i.e., the claim derived
from Mary, the sister of Henry VIII., who married
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. James, who
succeeded Elizabeth, was descended from the elder sister,
Margaret, married to James IV. of Scotland.]
* * * *
AND THE GAEL.