“I will lay down my head on the block,” answered Tressilian.
“Pshaw!” replied the Queen, “God’s light! thou speakest like a fool. What head falls in England but by just sentence of English law? I ask thee, man—if thou hast sense to understand me—wilt thou, if thou shalt fail in this improbable attempt of thine, render me a good and sufficient reason why thou dost undertake it?”
Tressilian paused, and again hesitated; because he felt convinced that if, within the interval demanded, Amy should become reconciled to her husband, he would in that case do her the worst of offices by again ripping up the whole circumstances before Elizabeth, and showing how that wise and jealous princess had been imposed upon by false testimonials. The consciousness of this dilemma renewed his extreme embarrassment of look, voice, and manner; he hesitated, looked down, and on the Queen repeating her question with a stern voice and flashing eye, he admitted with faltering words, “That it might be—he could not positively—that is, in certain events—explain the reasons and grounds on which he acted.”
“Now, by the soul of King Henry,” said the Queen, “this is either moonstruck madness or very knavery!—Seest thou, Raleigh, thy friend is far too Pindaric for this presence. Have him away, and make us quit of him, or it shall be the worse for him; for his flights are too unbridled for any place but Parnassus, or Saint Luke’s Hospital. But come back instantly thyself, when he is placed under fitting restraint.—We wish we had seen the beauty which could make such havoc in a wise man’s brain.”
Tressilian was again endeavouring to address the Queen, when Raleigh, in obedience to the orders he had received, interfered, and with Blount’s assistance, half led, half forced him out of the presence-chamber, where he himself indeed began to think his appearance did his cause more harm than good.
When they had attained the antechamber, Raleigh entreated Blount to see Tressilian safely conducted into the apartments allotted to the Earl of Sussex’s followers, and, if necessary, recommended that a guard should be mounted on him.
“This extravagant passion,” he said, “and, as it would seem, the news of the lady’s illness, has utterly wrecked his excellent judgment. But it will pass away if he be kept quiet. Only let him break forth again at no rate; for he is already far in her Highness’s displeasure, and should she be again provoked, she will find for him a worse place of confinement, and sterner keepers.”
“I judged as much as that he was mad,” said Nicholas Blount, looking down upon his own crimson stockings and yellow roses, “whenever I saw him wearing yonder damned boots, which stunk so in her nostrils. I will but see him stowed, and be back with you presently. But, Walter, did the Queen ask who I was?—methought she glanced an eye at me.”
“Twenty—twenty eye-glances she sent! and I told her all—how thou wert a brave soldier, and a—But for God’s sake, get off Tressilian!”