“Justice, my lord,” answered Tressilian, calmly but firmly.
“Justice,” said Leicester, “all men are entitled to. You, Master Tressilian, are peculiarly so, and be assured you shall have it.”
“I expect nothing less from your nobleness,” answered Tressilian; “but time presses, and I must speak with you to-night. May I wait on you in your chamber?”
“No,” answered Leicester sternly, “not under a roof, and that roof mine own. We will meet under the free cope of heaven.”
“You are discomposed or displeased, my lord,” replied Tressilian; “yet there is no occasion for distemperature. The place is equal to me, so you allow me one half-hour of your time uninterrupted.”
“A shorter time will, I trust, suffice,” answered Leicester. “Meet me in the Pleasance when the Queen has retired to her chamber.”
“Enough,” said Tressilian, and withdrew; while a sort of rapture seemed for the moment to occupy the mind of Leicester.
“Heaven,” he said, “is at last favourable to me, and has put within my reach the wretch who has branded me with this deep ignominy—who has inflicted on me this cruel agony. I will blame fate no more, since I am afforded the means of tracing the wiles by which he means still further to practise on me, and then of at once convicting and punishing his villainy. To my task—to my task! I will not sink under it now, since midnight, at farthest, will bring me vengeance.”
While these reflections thronged through Leicester’s mind, he again made his way amid the obsequious crowd, which divided to give him passage, and resumed his place, envied and admired, beside the person of his Sovereign. But could the bosom of him thus admired and envied have been laid open before the inhabitants of that crowded hall, with all its dark thoughts of guilty ambition, blighted affection, deep vengeance, and conscious sense of meditated cruelty, crossing each other like spectres in the circle of some foul enchantress, which of them, from the most ambitious noble in the courtly circle down to the most wretched menial who lived by shifting of trenchers, would have desired to change characters with the favourite of Elizabeth, and the Lord of Kenilworth?
New tortures awaited him as soon as he had rejoined Elizabeth.
“You come in time, my lord,” she said, “to decide a dispute between us ladies. Here has Sir Richard Varney asked our permission to depart from the Castle with his infirm lady, having, as he tells us, your lordship’s consent to his absence, so he can obtain ours. Certes, we have no will to withhold him from the affectionate charge of this poor young person; but you are to know that Sir Richard Varney hath this day shown himself so much captivated with these ladies of ours, that here is our Duchess of Rutland says he will carry his poor insane wife no farther than the lake, plunge her in to tenant the crystal palaces that the enchanted nymph told us of, and return a jolly widower, to dry his tears and to make up the loss among our train. How say you, my lord? We have seen Varney under two or three different guises—you know what are his proper attributes—think you he is capable of playing his lady such a knave’s trick?”