“I am not worthy of you, Amy,” he said, “that could weigh aught which ambition has to give against such a heart as thine. I have a bitter penance to perform, in disentangling, before sneering foes and astounded friends, all the meshes of my own deceitful policy. And the Queen—but let her take my head, as she has threatened.”
“Take your head, my lord!” said the Countess, “because you used the freedom and liberty of an English subject in choosing a wife? For shame! it is this distrust of the Queen’s justice, this apprehension of danger, which cannot but be imaginary, that, like scarecrows, have induced you to forsake the straightforward path, which, as it is the best, is also the safest.”
“Ah, Amy, thou little knowest!” said Dudley but instantly checking himself, he added, “Yet she shall not find in me a safe or easy victim of arbitrary vengeance. I have friends—I have allies—I will not, like Norfolk, be dragged to the block as a victim to sacrifice. Fear not, Amy; thou shalt see Dudley bear himself worthy of his name. I must instantly communicate with some of those friends on whom I can best rely; for, as things stand, I may be made prisoner in my own Castle.”
“Oh, my good lord,” said Amy, “make no faction in a peaceful state! There is no friend can help us so well as our own candid truth and honour. Bring but these to our assistance, and you are safe amidst a whole army of the envious and malignant. Leave these behind you, and all other defence will be fruitless. Truth, my noble lord, is well painted unarmed.”
“But Wisdom, Amy,” answered Leicester, “is arrayed in panoply of proof. Argue not with me on the means I shall use to render my confession—since it must be called so—as safe as may be; it will be fraught with enough of danger, do what we will.—Varney, we must hence.—Farewell, Amy, whom I am to vindicate as mine own, at an expense and risk of which thou alone couldst be worthy. You shall soon hear further from me.”
He embraced her fervently, muffled himself as before, and accompanied Varney from the apartment. The latter, as he left the room, bowed low, and as he raised his body, regarded Amy with a peculiar expression, as if he desired to know how far his own pardon was included in the reconciliation which had taken place betwixt her and her lord. The Countess looked upon him with a fixed eye, but seemed no more conscious of his presence than if there had been nothing but vacant air on the spot where he stood.
“She has brought me to the crisis,” he muttered—“she or I am lost. There was something—I wot not if it was fear or pity—that prompted me to avoid this fatal crisis. It is now decided—she or I must perish.”
While he thus spoke, he observed, with surprise, that a boy, repulsed by the sentinel, made up to Leicester, and spoke with him. Varney was one of those politicians whom not the slightest appearances escape without inquiry. He asked the sentinel what the lad wanted with him, and received for answer that the boy had wished him to transmit a parcel to the mad lady; but that he cared not to take charge of it, such communication being beyond his commission, His curiosity satisfied in that particular, he approached his patron, and heard him say, “Well, boy, the packet shall be delivered.”