Thus spoke Sussex while hastily casting around him a loose robe of sables, and adjusting his person in the best manner he could to meet the eye of his Sovereign. But no hurried attention bestowed on his apparel could remove the ghastly effects of long illness on a countenance which nature had marked with features rather strong than pleasing. Besides, he was low of stature, and, though broad-shouldered, athletic, and fit for martial achievements, his presence in a peaceful hall was not such as ladies love to look upon; a personal disadvantage, which was supposed to give Sussex, though esteemed and honoured by his Sovereign, considerable disadvantage when compared with Leicester, who was alike remarkable for elegance of manners and for beauty of person.
The Earl’s utmost dispatch only enabled him to meet the Queen as she entered the great hall, and he at once perceived there was a cloud on her brow. Her jealous eye had noticed the martial array of armed gentlemen and retainers with which the mansion-house was filled, and her first words expressed her disapprobation. “Is this a royal garrison, my Lord of Sussex, that it holds so many pikes and calivers? or have we by accident overshot Sayes Court, and landed at Our Tower of London?”
Lord Sussex hastened to offer some apology.
“It needs not,” she said. “My lord, we intend speedily to take up a certain quarrel between your lordship and another great lord of our household, and at the same time to reprehend this uncivilized and dangerous practice of surrounding yourselves with armed, and even with ruffianly followers, as if, in the neighbourhood of our capital, nay in the very verge of our royal residence, you were preparing to wage civil war with each other.—We are glad to see you so well recovered, my lord, though without the assistance of the learned physician whom we sent to you. Urge no excuse; we know how that matter fell out, and we have corrected for it the wild slip, young Raleigh. By the way, my lord, we will speedily relieve your household of him, and take him into our own. Something there is about him which merits to be better nurtured than he is like to be amongst your very military followers.”
To this proposal Sussex, though scarce understanding how the Queen came to make it could only bow and express his acquiescence. He then entreated her to remain till refreshment could be offered, but in this he could not prevail. And after a few compliments of a much colder and more commonplace character than might have been expected from a step so decidedly favourable as a personal visit, the Queen took her leave of Sayes Court, having brought confusion thither along with her, and leaving doubt and apprehension behind.
Then call them to our
presence. Face to face,
And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear
The accuser and accused freely speak;—
High-stomach’d are they both, and full of ire,
In rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.—Richard ii.