These difficulties pressed on the unfortunate lady with overwhelming force on the morning which seemed to be the crisis of her fate. Overlooking every intermediate consideration, she had only desired to be at Kenilworth, and to approach her husband’s presence; and now, when she was in the vicinity of both, a thousand considerations arose at once upon her mind, startling her with accumulated doubts and dangers, some real, some imaginary, and all exalted and exaggerated by a situation alike helpless and destitute of aid and counsel.
A sleepless night rendered her so weak in the morning that she was altogether unable to attend Wayland’s early summons. The trusty guide became extremely distressed on the lady’s account, and somewhat alarmed on his own, and was on the point of going alone to Kenilworth, in the hope of discovering Tressilian, and intimating to him the lady’s approach, when about nine in the morning he was summoned to attend her. He found her dressed, and ready for resuming her journey, but with a paleness of countenance which alarmed him for her health. She intimated her desire that the horses might be got instantly ready, and resisted with impatience her guide’s request that she would take some refreshment before setting forward. “I have had,” she said, “a cup of water—the wretch who is dragged to execution needs no stronger cordial, and that may serve me which suffices for him. Do as I command you.” Wayland Smith still hesitated. “What would you have?” said she. “Have I not spoken plainly?”
“Yes, madam,” answered Wayland; “but may I ask what is your further purpose? I only wish to know, that I may guide myself by your wishes. The whole country is afloat, and streaming towards the Castle of Kenilworth. It will be difficult travelling thither, even if we had the necessary passports for safe-conduct and free admittance; unknown and unfriended, we may come by mishap. Your ladyship will forgive my speaking my poor mind—were we not better try to find out the maskers, and again join ourselves with them?” The Countess shook her head, and her guide proceeded, “Then I see but one other remedy.”
“Speak out, then,” said the lady, not displeased, perhaps, that he should thus offer the advice which she was ashamed to ask; “I believe thee faithful—what wouldst thou counsel?”
“That I should warn Master Tressilian,” said Wayland, “that you are in this place. I am right certain he would get to horse with a few of Lord Sussex’s followers, and ensure your personal safety.”
“And is it to me you advise,” said the Countess, “to put myself under the protection of Sussex, the unworthy rival of the noble Leicester?” Then, seeing the surprise with which Wayland stared upon her, and afraid of having too strongly intimated her interest in Leicester, she added, “And for Tressilian, it must not be—mention not to him, I charge you, my unhappy name; it would but double my misfortunes, and involve him in dangers