“I am ordered to attend court to-morrow,” said Leicester, speaking to Varney, “to meet, as they surmise, my Lord of Sussex. The Queen intends to take up matters betwixt us. This comes of her visit to Sayes Court, of which you must needs speak so lightly.”
“I maintain it was nothing,” said Varney; “nay, I know from a sure intelligencer, who was within earshot of much that was said, that Sussex has lost rather than gained by that visit. The Queen said, when she stepped into the boat, that Sayes Court looked like a guard-house, and smelt like an hospital. ‘Like a cook’s shop in Ram’s Alley, rather,’ said the Countess of Rutland, who is ever your lordship’s good friend. And then my Lord of Lincoln must needs put in his holy oar, and say that my Lord of Sussex must be excused for his rude and old-world housekeeping, since he had as yet no wife.”
“And what said the Queen?” asked Leicester hastily.
“She took him up roundly,” said Varney, “and asked what my Lord Sussex had to do with a wife, or my Lord Bishop to speak on such a subject. ’If marriage is permitted,’ she said, ‘I nowhere read that it is enjoined.’”
“She likes not marriages, or speech of marriage, among churchmen,” said Leicester.
“Nor among courtiers neither,” said Varney; but, observing that Leicester changed countenance, he instantly added, “that all the ladies who were present had joined in ridiculing Lord Sussex’s housekeeping, and in contrasting it with the reception her Grace would have assuredly received at my Lord of Leicester’s.”
“You have gathered much tidings,” said Leicester, “but you have forgotten or omitted the most important of all. She hath added another to those dangling satellites whom it is her pleasure to keep revolving around her.”
“Your lordship meaneth that Raleigh, the Devonshire youth,” said Varney—“the Knight of the Cloak, as they call him at court?”
“He may be Knight of the Garter one day, for aught I know,” said Leicester, “for he advances rapidly—she hath capped verses with him, and such fooleries. I would gladly abandon, of my own free will, the part—I have in her fickle favour; but I will not be elbowed out of it by the clown Sussex, or this new upstart. I hear Tressilian is with Sussex also, and high in his favour. I would spare him for considerations, but he will thrust himself on his fate. Sussex, too, is almost as well as ever in his health.”
“My lord,” replied Varney, “there will be rubs in the smoothest road, specially when it leads uphill. Sussex’s illness was to us a godsend, from which I hoped much. He has recovered, indeed, but he is not now more formidable than ere he fell ill, when he received more than one foil in wrestling with your lordship. Let not your heart fail you, my lord, and all shall be well.”
“My heart never failed me, sir,” replied Leicester.
“No, my lord,” said Varney; “but it has betrayed you right often. He that would climb a tree, my lord, must grasp by the branches, not by the blossom.”